The conditions of membership in the church of God naturally divide themselves into two classes: those of admission into the church, and those of continuance in its fellowship. We shall here examine the first of these.
When we go to the history of the church as given by inspiration, we find the conditions into it very clearly expressed. We find in the very beginning of our investigation that the Lord added people to the church. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Strictly rendered, so scholars tell us, the text reads, “And the Lord was adding to the church daily those being saved.”
This language implies that the Lord saved the people and added them to the church by one and the same process. They were not first saved and then added, nor first added and afterwards saved, but they were saved in being added and added by being saved. Hence, it was not a formal adding to a local congregation by extending the hand of fellowship after salvation from sin, but an adding to the one body of Christ in the obtaining of salvation by obedience to the gospel.
We find that while the first members of the church were added by the Lord, they were added through certain agencies. These were both human and divine. We find the Holy Spirit, the gospel, and the preachers all present and all active in this work. What the Lord did, therefore, He did through these agencies, and he yet accomplishes the same work in the same way. There is not a case in the entire history of the church where one was added to it without all of these agencies. Let him who thinks to the contrary attempt to find it.
Those whom the Lord added heard the gospel, believed in Jesus as their risen and exalted Saviour, repented of their sins, and were baptized. These facts will not be questioned. None were baptized but those who “gladly received his word” (Acts 2:41). There were no infants baptized, then, since they could not have “gladly received his word.” Not only were there no infants baptized and added to the church on this occasion, but there were none added subsequently. This the inspired text clearly implies and absolutely demands.
Those whom the Lord added were being saved—saved from sin. In the Commission, Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). As recorded by Luke, repentance is added, and the salvation promised expressed by the term “remission of sins” (Luke 24:47). The salvation of the Commission, then, is a salvation from past sins by their remission and conditioned on faith, repentance, and baptism. Those whom the Lord added believed, repented and were baptized. Hence, they were saved from their past sins. All whom the Lord added to the church were thus saved.
Infants are not thus saved. Hence, no infants were added. If infants were among those added to the church, they were saved from sin in being added. If saved in being added, they were unsaved before. Therefore, being added to the church was necessary for their salvation. If infants were unsaved then, before being added to the church, they are unsaved now before they are added. Hence, if they die out of the church they are lost. Unless one is prepared for these conclusions, and we know not who is, he must forever relinquish the idea that among those added to the church by the Lord were infants. Then remember that this was a continuous work, from day to day, and there is no place for the admission of infants into the primitive church.
With the above statement, we find all the subsequent inspired history of the church agreeing. Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ to them, and “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women” (Acts 8:12). There were no infants, then, baptized in Samaria.
“And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). No infants among these. Thus we find the continuous history of the church. The gospel was heard, believed, obeyed. But it is claimed that there are some exceptions found to this rule. These are claimed to be found in the conversion of the household of Lydia and that of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:15, 40).
It is said that Lydia was baptized “and her household;” but to say that her household consisted in whole or in part of little children is an assumption wholly groundless, and mere assertions can never be accepted by those who love the truth when they conflict with a clearly expressed law of the kingdom of God.
The argument claimed in the conversion of the jailer is of the same nature. “The jailer and his house were baptized. His house contained infants. Therefore, infants were baptized.” No one can fail to see the unsupported assumption in the minor premise; hence, the erroneous conclusion.
But instead of this assumption, there are facts stated which forbid infants being among the number baptized.
The jailer and his house were preached to—“all that were in his house”— infants are not preached to, therefore there were no infants in his house.
The jailer and his house believed—“believing in God with all his house.” Infants do not believe, therefore there were no infants.
The jailer and his house rejoiced—“he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” “Rejoiced” and “believing in God” sustain like relations to the expression “with all his house.” But infants do not rejoice in a religious sense. Hence, there were no infants there.
We see, then, that the jailer and his house were preached to, the jailer and his house believed, the jailer and his house were baptized, the jailer and his house rejoiced. Hence, there were none baptized who were not old enough to be preached to, to believe, and to rejoice in the salvation that is in Christ.
In this short investigation, we have found the following:
That so far as the character of those entering the church is revealed, they were baptized penitent believers and saved from past sins.
That this was in harmony with the clearly expressed law of the kingdom.
That no exceptions have been found to these examples and this law; hence, we conclude that faith, repentance, and baptism were conditions of admission into the church of God. Faith and baptism were constantly connected together in the New Testament churches. Christ did not ordain infant baptism. The opinion that it was “left to the free development of the Christian spirit” is worth nothing to those who take the Word of God as their guide.