(Mar 16:16 KJV) He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
This passage is often used by those who oppose infant baptism to show that the order of events must first be “believe” and then “be baptised.” Obviously infants cannot believe, and therefore shouldn’t be baptised.
But the text isn’t speaking about infants, and the logic fails when treating other texts with the same logic.
Belief Should Always Go Before Baptism or Why Baptize Infants? by Douglas Bannerman has some interesting insights:
The promise and the warning apply only to the case under consideration. You can no more rightly infer from these words, it is purely a matter of inference at the most, that the infants of believers should not be baptized, than that they cannot be saved, because they cannot believe. Yet ‘He that believeth not shall be condemned.’ You might just as well argue from the Apostle’s rule: ‘He that will not work neither let him eat,’ that because infants do not work they should get nothing to eat.
(2Th 3:10 KJV) For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
In both cases, the words apply to those only in reference to whom they are spoken. And the historical situation makes it perfectly clear how the first disciples would understand Christ’s command about ‘discipling the nations.’
If we are asked: ‘Why baptize unconscious babes?’ our answer is: Because it is in accordance with Scripture principle, and Scripture precedent in the Church of God from the days of Abraham to the days of Christ. If unconscious babes were circumcised, as we know, according to the will of God, on the ground of their parents’ faith, why should they not be baptized on the ground of their parents’ faith?
(Act 2:39 KJV) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Christians, from the outset, baptised infants, and nowhere does the Bible exclude them.