A gracEmail subscriber writes, “You recall that male babies in Israel were circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant with his chosen people. When Christ ushered in the new covenant, did he instruct us to exclude infants from receiving baptism as the new covenant sign?”
Although circumcision and water baptism both serve as covenant signs, one for Jews and the other for Christians, baptism, unlike circumcision, is intended for all nations and for both males and females (Gen. 17:9-14; see Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 16:14-15). A person entered the “old covenant” community of Israel by natural birth. Entrance into the “new covenant” community requires a second, “new” birth which is “from above” (Matt. 3:7-9; John 3:1-7).
In view of these fundamental differences, I would rephrase your question to ask, “When Christ instituted the new covenant, did he include infants, by mere fact of their birth, into the covenant people?” This question is not about baptism as much as it is about covenant. Can a person participate in covenant through Christ apart from personal repentance and personal faith?
Those Christians who do not practice infant baptism point out that the New Testament never specifically mentions anyone baptizing babies. Those Christians who do baptize their infants point out that the New Testament reflects the first generation of the gospel and scarcely mentions the status of babies born to believing parents. We cannot settle the question of infant baptism based on the silence of the Scriptures, but need rather to inquire deeply and thoroughly into baptism’s purpose and meaning relative to the gospel.