Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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Is the Lord's commandment in the Holy Book of Genesis 17 (regarding circumcision and eight day old boys) a symbol of Baptism at Infancy?

Circumcision was definitely a symbol of baptism by which the circumcised became a member of God's people according to God's covenant with our father Abraham (Gen 17:11). St. Paul says "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Col 2:11). Circumcision is putting away of the filth of the flesh, but baptism is the burial of the flesh altogether. Baptism does not say: Here is something to be taken away; but everything is dead, and must be buried with the Lord Jesus Christ in His tomb, and the man must rise anew with the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism teaches us that by death we pass into the new life. St. Peter says "There is also an antitype which now saves us; baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 3:21).

As for the baptism of children, children are baptized according to the belief of their parents as you have noted in the Holy Book of Genesis 17. Note also on the day of the Passover, the children were saved through the blood of the Passover lamb from the hand of the angel who killed every firstborn son. The blood of the Passover lamb was a symbol of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us" (1 Cor 5:7). So what was the belief of the children who were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb? No doubt they knew nothing, but they were saved by the faith of their parents who believed in the blood and its effectiveness.

The crossing of the sea at the time of Moses was a symbol of Baptism. St. Paul says "all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor 10:2). The sea was crossed by adults who were aware of God's promise to Moses and by their children who again had no idea what was going on. We do practice Baptism at Infancy for several reasons.

  1. We do believe that infants are born carrying the original sin so we are concerned about their eternal life "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." (John 3:5). So how can we deter children from being baptized and expose them to God's judgment.

  2. The words of the Lord "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16) are meant to the adults who are capable of understanding the significance of faith. Therefore, we do not baptize adults unless they believe. As for children, we apply the Lord's words, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." (Mt 19:14). If we reject the baptism of children we are in fact denying the necessity of baptism for salvation.

  3. The Holy Bible includes implicit references to children being baptized. When baptizing the jailer of Philippi, St. Paul and St. Silas said to him "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31). This means that the jailer's belief would be the first step, which would lead his household to salvation. It is said immediately after that "Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized." (Acts 16:32-33). About Lydia the seller of purple the Holy Bible says, "And when she and her household were baptized" (Acts 16:15). St. Paul said "Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas" (1 Cor 1:16). In the Holy Book of Acts 2:36-39; the Holy Bible did not mention that there were no children among those who were baptized on the day of Pentecost the call was for all who were present adults and children. Those old enough to understand repented but there is nothing to say they prevented the children from being baptized.
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