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Turretin: Infant Baptism Proved Because Infants Belong to the Kingdom of Heaven

Turretin’s fourth argument for infant baptism is from Matthew 19:13 where the attempt is made to hand a child to Jesus ignorer for him to lay his hands on them and pray for them.

Matt. 19:13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

The question asked from this is “Why is it right that Jesus would call children to him but that we should not call them to baptism, which is the sign of our union with him?”

If Christ has received these little ones into his arms should the Church therefore keep them away? Christ willingly, without compulsion, receives these little ones, yet the guardian of the oracles of Christ keeps those same little ones away from him. This is event of circumstances that lead to fencing the little ones from the one who first called them is a grave injustice. 

The critic of infant baptism argues that Christ is referring to their state of humility and not their age. This is what they understand Christ to mean by the term “child”. They are correct when they understand Jesus to be calling people to humility as that of a child in Matthew 18

Matt. 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

When Christ speaks he summons a child who becomes the model of what Jesus is communicating. Using the child as an example, he is speaking to those who are humble spiritually, and innocent like children. The proud are to be humble before God for he will raise the humble but bring down the proud. (Ps 62:9) But Matthew 19 is a different account than Matthew 18.

In Matthew 19, children are brought to Jesus for him to bless them and lay hands on them. But here the disciples, who stop parents (assumed) from bringing their children to Jesus, find themselves in error. They are rebuked by Jesus. Perhaps the child being brought to Jesus is old enough and a child who wanted to be touched by Jesus and not an infant? The word Matthew uses for children in 19:13 is paidion, which can have various meanings such as a child, infant, toddler, child like in mind (1 Cor 14:20) etc. Compare the uses of the same word in Luke 1:59 & 9:47 to see how it can be used differently.

Luke 1:59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father,

Luke 9:47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side

However the word brefos is an unborn, embryo, fetus, new-born, infant, or babe. Here are some uses

Luke 1:41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth  was filled with the Holy Spirit,

Luke 2:12 And  this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 18:15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

Luke is helpful to clarify that the child brought to Jesus is an infant. The infant is the one Jesus rebukes the disciples for hindering access to him. They are the one Jesus desires to take into his arms. Some contemporary evangelical churches err when they use this text as a basis for their “baby dedication” ceremonies. They have missed the whole point. Christ has called the little ones to him to lay hands on them, would he not also give them the sign of union with him in baptism?

Christ tells the disciples not to hinder the children to come to him, and he still says this to the church today “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

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