Covenant (or Infant) Baptism is the act of baptizing infants as a covenantal commitment of the whole family and congregation, acknowledging God’s sovereignty and the free gift of God’s grace. It is seen as a carry-over of the Old Testament tradition of circumcision, which was designed to mark children as belonging to God’s covenantal family:
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12
The New Testament includes accounts of baptism being practiced as a family covenant, such as in Acts 16:15 and 1 Corinthians 1:16.
As a sign and seal of God’s grace, Covenant Baptism symbolically hems the child into God’s family of faith. Many families who baptize their infants encourage those children later to profess their faith publicly as an acceptance of their Infant Baptism. This often occurs at the culmination of the child’s Confirmation Class.
Believer’s Baptism is the act of being submerged in water as an acknowledgement of and participation with God’s saving and transformative work in the person. (Acts 10:47-48 and Romans 6:1-4). It is an intentionally public ceremony: an outward sign of the inward working of God’s grace in a person’s life. According to Scripture, the effect of God’s grace on an individual is like being born again, with a new life and identity in Christ.
Jesus himself explained this concept in his conversation with Nicodemus:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3-5
This truth was confirmed in the early Church:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Which is Correct?
Here at Stanwich Church, we acknowledge the Biblical basis for both types of baptism. If you have already been baptized as an infant, you may rededicate your baptismal vows as an adult. You may also dedicate your child in infancy so that later he or she may choose to do a Believer’s Baptism.
We encourage you to study the Scriptures individually or in your household, talk with the pastors, and pray about how God might be leading you in your understanding of this wonderful blessing called baptism.