“Household baptisms” are baptisms of believers

INTRODUCTION. One of the arguments used to justify the practice of Paedobaptism (Paedobaptism is the practice of sprinkling water on the head of an infant or a small child and calling that New Testament baptism) is based on the so-called “household baptisms” in the New Testament. Household baptisms appear in Acts 16:15 with Lydia’s household, in Acts 16:33 with the household of the Philippian jailer, and in 1 Corinthians 1:16 with the household of Stephanas in Corinth. This post will take a critical look at these passages and assess whether “household baptisms” provide any justification for the practice of Paedobaptism. The material used here will (hopefully) be part of a more complete work critiquing all the arguments attempting to justify Paedobaptism.


In my own words, the justification for Paedobaptism from household baptisms states that, in the New Testament there are clearly cases where whole households were baptized. These households are assumed to have contained infants or small children who could not repent or believe, but who were nevertheless baptized. From this, the Paedobaptists infer that it is biblically justified to sprinkle all infants and small children of believers.


To critique this Paedobaptist argument, we will question its major assumption, namely that there were unbelieving small children or infants in these households who were “baptized” (actually, sprinkled). It will be shown that, not only were there no unbelieving infants and small children (thus eliminating the need to sprinkle rather than properly immerse them), but in fact all those baptized were believers. The reason the members of these household were baptized was because the members were believers.

LYDIA’S HOUSEHOLD, ACTS 16:14-15. We begin by examining the verses about Lydia in Acts 16. In Acts 16:15, the Scriptures read, “And when she (Lydia) and her household had been baptized.” So, it is obvious that Lydia’s household was baptized. But now, for the Paedobaptist argument for infant baptism to hold, it must be shown that Lydia’s household included an unbelieving infant or small child. What is the evidence for this case?

  • The most obvious clue against there being infants or small children in the household is that no children are mentioned in Acts 16:14-15. None. At all. So, for there to be any children, they must be inferred and inserted into the household. Is there any good reason to infer that there were small children?
  • If there were children in Lydia’s household, there would need to be a father. This would necessitate Lydia having a husband, but there is no mention of a husband for Lydia. Ever. In the whole text, there is no suggestion that Lydia has a husband. In his typical detailed fashion, Luke tells us (16:14) Lydia’s name, where she is from (Thyatira), what she does for a living (seller of purple fabrics), that she was a worshiper of God, and that she was listening to Paul. Then, after “the Lord opened her heart” (16:14), we find out that Lydia has been judged to be faithful to the Lord (16:15), that she has a house that can accommodate a few travelers, and that she can invite male strangers into her home. In those days, it would have been scandalous for a woman to invite men into her home without her husband’s consent, unless, of course, there was no husband to ask.
  • All of this evidence suggests not that Lydia was a mother of infants or small children, but rather that she was a single woman, a merchant of some means, whose heart had been opened by the Lord as Paul proclaimed the gospel to her by the river. There is no evidence for any unbelieving infants or small children.
  • But it must be remembered that the central figure in this gospel scene is not an imaginary infant or small child, but is Lydia, the new believer. “The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (16:14). This certainly means that Lydia believed in the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation. Then, following her coming to faith, she was baptized (16:15). According to the pattern given throughout the book of Acts, Lydia believed and was baptized (confirm Acts 2, twice in Acts 8, Acts 9 (Saul), Acts 10, twice in Acts 16, Acts 18, and Acts 19). And the only reason that Lydia was baptized was because she had believed in the Lord Jesus.
  • Now, since the only reason the apostle Paul ever baptized anyone was because they had believed in the Lord Jesus, we can conclude that all in Lydia’s “household” were baptized because they had believed in the Lord Jesus, just as Lydia had.

CONCLUSION ABOUT LYDIA’S HOUSEHOLD, ACTS 16:14-15. After examining this occurrence of a “household baptism,” we have seen, first, that there is no valid reason to infer that there are unbelieving infants or small children in Lydia’s household in this scene, and second, that the reason that Lydia’s household was baptized was because Lydia’s household believed. Thus, the household baptism in Acts 16:15 provides no justification whatsoever for Paedobaptism and, in fact, is correctly understood as portraying household faith.

THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER’S HOUSEHOLD, ACTS 16:31-34. Once again, we see the occurrence of a household baptism in Acts 16:33. (As a technical note, the word for “household” does not appear in the Greek in 16:33, but it is certainly allowed and implied. The Greek actually reads “he was baptized and all his.”) An examination of this passage will reveal that it provides no support for Paedobaptism.

Paul answers the jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” with a clear call to faith in Jesus: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (16:31). Any salvation for this jailer or his household is clearly dependent on believing in the Lord Jesus. If the jailer (or his household) is to be saved, he must believe in Jesus.

Having given the jailer the key to being saved, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house (Acts 16:32).” In the same way that Peter had preached to Cornelius and all those who had gathered in his house in Acts 10, now Paul preaches the word of the gospel to the jailer and all those in his house. Paul told the jailer to believe in Jesus (16:31), and now Paul is giving him the details of the gospel. He is explaining to him about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and calling him (and his whole household) to faith in Jesus, the risen Savior. And because of what happens in 16:33 and what we read in 16:34, we know that the jailer and his household believed in God.

What happens next? In 16:33, the jailer washes Paul’s and Silas’ wounds (Maybe they go to the same place of prayer in the river where Paul first spoke the word to Lydia.) and then, since they have believed the message that Paul proclaimed, the jailer and his whole household are immediately baptized.

Their coming to faith is then celebrated with a meal as they “rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household” (16:34). Again, the reason that the whole household was baptized was because the whole household had believed, as is explicitly stated here.

CONCLUSION, ACTS 16:31-34. This passage about the Philippian jailer provides no justification for Paedobaptism. In fact, the only way to see Paedobaptism in this passage would be to forcibly introduce it into the text. Instead, what we see here is the power of the gospel to convert a hard and cruel man, and his household, to faith in Jesus Christ.

THE HOUSEHOLD OF STEPHANAS, 1 CORINTHIANS 1:16; 16:15. The final occurrence of household baptism is the household of Stephanas in 1 Corinthians 1:16. Paul writes, “Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.” Who is Stephanas, and does this baptism offer the Paedobaptist a justification for the practice of baptizing babies?

We find out who Stephanas and his household are by simply reading 1 Cor. 16:15-16: “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.” It becomes immediately obvious from this glowing commendation from Paul and his testimony to their usefulness in his ministry, that “the household of Stephanas” was a household of believers, and that the reason Paul baptized them (1 Cor. 1:16) was because they had believed the gospel. No further comment needs to be made.

CONCLUSION, THE HOUSEHOLD OF STEPHANAS, 1 COR. 1:16; 16:15. Once again, there is no hint of Paedobaptism here in this text. Instead, we see that Paul baptized the household of Stephanas because the household of Stephanas believed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. As is true of all baptism in the New Testament, the reason whole households are baptized is because whole households believed. There is no baptism in the New Testament apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ


Upon examination of the “household baptisms” in the New Testament, it has been shown that there is no basis for the Paedobaptist claim that these passages can be understood as justifying Paedobaptism. There are no hidden infants or small children in these household baptisms that were somehow given a faithless sprinkling. In these occurrences, the reason whole households were baptized because whole households believed. As is true of all baptisms in the New Testament, there is no baptism apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

SDG                 rmb                 1/21/2022                   #487

Thoughts on baptism from Matthew 28:19-20 – Part 1

“Buried unto death in Christ, rise again to walk in newness of life.” – my pastor when I was baptized thirty-one years ago at the age of thirty-one.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus Christ giving the Great Commission to His church in Matthew 28:19-20.

Yesterday morning, our church celebrated the baptism of three new disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. One was a lady in her early thirties who had lived an immoral life before Christ. In her testimony, she herself compared herself to the “woman at the well” in John 4. But then she met Jesus, and had professed faith in Him, and had now found a good church where she could grow in her relationship with Jesus and could be taught what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. As a testimony to her faith in Christ, she was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where she will be nurtured and grow.

The next person baptized was ethnically Vietnamese. He was a young man 17 years old who had been raised in a Bible-believing home where Christ was honored as Lord. His parents were strong believers and had taught their son that he must personally place his faith in Jesus. And so, there came a day when this young man repented of his sins and placed his faith in Jesus. Now, as a testimony of his faith in Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

The third person baptized was a Chinese man in his thirties. He had been born in northern China and, five years ago, had come to the United States to earn his PhD. When he came to this country, he was under tremendous stress. He and his wife had a newborn and there were issues with his visa and his job was stressful. As a result, he had almost experienced an emotional breakdown. At that time, he had met some Christians from our church and had begun to hear about Jesus. He committed to read the Bible from cover to cover to find out about Christianity. Then there came the day when he told his friend, “I believe in Jesus.” And so, in obedience to the command of Jesus, he was baptized into Christ, and also baptized into His body, the church, where he will be nurtured and grow.

These three stories are very different and are about three very different people. Externally they are about as different as people can be. Their journeys varied widely, as the Lord drew them to Himself (John 6:44). But the destination was the same. They were journeying toward Jesus and toward the salvation that Jesus offers to anyone who will repent of their sin and believe in Him.


This is the beauty that is contained in the Great Commission which Jesus has given to His church. A person is far from God, living their life separated from Him by their sins (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 4:17-19). They may be living in open rebellion against God, or they may be outwardly “good” people who simply do not believe in Jesus, or they may be people who have never heard of Jesus and so remain ignorant of their sin and ignorant of His salvation. But regardless of why they are lost, and regardless of where they are in their wanderings, the path to salvation is clear and is the same.

First, a follower of Jesus proclaims to the sinner the gospel of salvation and tells the sinner of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, at some point, the sinner’s ears are opened so that he hears the gospel and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation. Now the sinner has passed from death to life (John 5:24) and has been born again (John 3:3, 5), and has been saved (Acts 16:31). Thus, the sinner has become a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Now that this person is a disciple of Jesus, what happens next? He is to be publicly baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as a testimony of his new faith in Jesus. This is explicitly stated in Matthew 28:19, and there is absolutely no ambiguity. And the disciple is to join themselves with a local church where she can be taught “all things that the Lord commanded us.” The proper place for every disciple of the Lord Jesus is the local church. The church is where the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) grows into a mature and obedient and reproducing believer.

The beauty of this transformed life was pictured for us Sunday in our church when these three disciples testified to their faith in Jesus and told of their journey to Him. From different directions they had entered through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13-14) of faith in the Lord Jesus, and they had been publicly baptized into Christ, and now they were in the place of nurturing and teaching where they would grow into “oaks of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3). This is such a beautiful picture of what Jesus came to do, “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10) by bringing them to faith and then placing them in healthy local churches.


Having talked about the biblical picture of what happens when a person comes to faith in Christ, I wanted to talk about two different views and practices that occur in many churches which do not correspond to the teaching of the Great Commission, and which thus result in great confusion in even identifying disciples and determining if they are obeying what Jesus commanded. The first practice that I will discuss is Paedobaptism, which is the practice of many Protestant churches of sprinkling infants with a little bit of water and calling that baptism. The second practice that we will explore is what I will call “revivalism.” Revivalism is a particular practice of evangelism which assumes that, when an “evangelist” proclaims a standard message, there will be instantaneous conversions, which will be punctuated by “praying the sinner’s prayer” and thus guaranteeing the sinner an eternity in heaven.

I will expand on these ideas in two future articles.

SDG                 rmb                 12/20/2021                 #471

The divide on baptism – Part 1

This is the first of a series of articles considering the fundamental divide among Protestant churches over the practice of baptism. This first article considers the matter of different administrations of the rite. rmb

Last night (Tuesday) we were continuing in our Bible study of 1 Corinthians and the study guide we are using spoke to the subject of baptism. There was a sentence in the “Theological Soundings” section of the guide which read,

“Different Christian traditions vary on some of the nuances of the administration and implications of baptism, yet almost all agree that it is an outward sign of an inward reality, and it is a physical representation of the work of the gospel in the life of the converted believer.”

Anyone who knows anything about how different “Christian traditions” view baptism would immediately see that this sentence is not true at any level. I do not know why the author wrote this sentence into the guide, but it is completely untrue. Let me explain.


There is a fundamental divide on the subject of baptism that renders the above sentence false, and that divide is expressed this way: Does the church practice (and presumably believe in) infant baptism or does the church practice biblical baptism? There is an immense chasm fixed between these two positions.

Now, where does a given church land in regard to the practice of baptism? Simply put, if the church is Baptist or baptistic, they will practice biblical baptism, and if they are not, they will practice infant baptism. It is really that simple. The reason this is simple is because, if you trace back any denomination or “tradition” to its roots on the practice of baptism, you will find that all those which sprung from medieval Catholicism practice infant baptism, because medieval Catholicism practiced infant baptism. (Of course, all Catholics today continue to practice infant baptism.)  This includes Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Church of Christ, Presbyterians, and Anglicans, and there are others.

Before we go into the details, it must be acknowledged that this difference in the practices of baptism is not a “nuance of administration and implication.” The administration of infant baptism (IB) is essentially and fundamentally different from that of biblical baptism (BB), and the implications of doing infant baptism (IB) or biblical baptism (BB) are vast and deep with regard to the theology and practice in the life of the church.


But is this claim of vast differences justified, or are the differences more subtle and nuanced? Let’s consider the different administrations of the rite. The IB position has the parents of the infant bring their child to an officiant of the church, who sprinkles or dabs some water on the head of the utterly passive and defenseless infant. In this way, the speechless, unconverted, unbelieving infant is considered a member of the body of Christ and is deemed by the church to have been “baptized.” Also, because the child has now been baptized as an infant, they are strongly discouraged (or forbidden) from ever seeking any future expression of baptism, based on Ephesians 4:5, “There is one baptism.” That is the basic IB position.

For the church that administers BB, the person who is coming forward for baptism comes by themselves into the baptismal waters. The candidate for baptism is then asked to publicly declare why they are coming for baptism, and this may include the delivery of a personal testimony describing the person’s journey to faith and salvation in Christ. At the very least, the candidate must confess with their mouth their personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Upon their profession of faith, that they are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the person is then immersed under the water, symbolizing their death to their old life of sin, and they are raised up out of the water, symbolizing their new life in Christ. Some variation of Romans 6:4 is often quoted by the baptizing pastor. “Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

I still remember my pastor’s words upon my baptism when I came to faith at thirty-one.

As we were standing in the baptistry of the church, he said, “And, Roy, who is your Lord and Savior?”

“Jesus Christ”

On the basis of my profession of faith, he said, “In imitation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His divine command, I baptize you, my brother in Christ, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Buried unto death in Christ (I went under the water), rise again to walk in newness of life (I came up out of the water).”


As we compare these two administrations of baptism, it is obvious they could not be more different. They are not different in nuance; they are different entirely. They are miles apart. More importantly, one administration is biblical, and one is not. Which one should we practice? We should obviously practice the one that the word of God teaches.

In this article we looked at the differences in administration of baptism. In future articles we will look at other aspects of this divide.

SDG                 rmb                 6/16/2021                   #416