But now I have come to see that the "battle of Bavaria" was fought at the wrong level. Since coming to Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, I have taught about ten four-week membership classes. Almost every time, there have been Lutherans or Catholics or Presbyterians or Covenanters or the like who were "baptized" as infants but want to join our church. Month by month my understanding of why I accept believer baptism has increased. And now I see that I never got to the root in Bavaria.
Here's the way my thought has progressed. There have been three stages (not unlike childhood, adolescence and maturity).
First I saw that every baptism recorded in the Bible was the baptism of an adult who had professed faith in Christ. Nowhere in Scripture is there any instance of an infant being baptized. The "household baptisms" (mentioned in Acts 16:15, 33 and 1 Corinthians 1:16 are exceptions to this only if one assumes that the "household" included infants. But, in fact, Luke steers us away from this assumption in Act 16:32 by saying that Paul first "spoke the word of the Lord. . .to all that were in his [the jailer's] house," and then baptized them.
Besides the absence of infant baptism in Scripture, I also notice (as every Baptist schoolboy knows) that the order of Peter's command was "Repent, and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). I saw no reason ever to reverse the order.
But I gradually came to see that these observations were only suggestive, not compelling. That no infant baptism are recorded does not prove there weren't any. And that Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized," to an adult audience does not rule out the possibility of his saying something different about infants. So I grew up to my second stage and decided, "I had better turn away from the examples of baptism to the teaching about baptism." Perhaps the meaning of Luke's narrative would be clarified by the exposition of Paul and Peter.
Of course Romans 6:1-11 came to mind. But this was Professor Goppelt's favorite weapon, because it contains not a word about faith or about any conscious response to God until verse 11; and there the response came after baptism. So he uses Roman 6 as the classic defense of infant baptism. To me it goes either way in isolation.
But Colossians 2:12 and 1 Peter 3:21 seemed to me to be devastating to the pedobaptist viewpoint. Paul compares baptism with circumcision and says, "You were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." This says clearly: in baptism we are raised through faith. Baptism is effectual as an expression of faith. I did not see how an infant could properly accept this sign of faith.
Then 1 Peter 3:21 said, "Baptism. . . saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." This text frightens many Baptists away because it seems to come close to the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican notion that the rite in and of itself saves. But in fleeing from this text we throw away a powerful argument for believer baptism. For as J.D.G. Dunn says, this is the closest thing we have to a definition which includes faith. Baptism is "an appeal to God." That is, baptism is the cry of faith to God. In that senses and to that degree, it is part of God's means of salvation. This should not scare us off any more than the sentence, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord. . . you will be saved." The movement of the lips in the air and the movement of the body in water save only in the sense that they express the appeal and faith of the heart toward God.