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What did Peter mean in Acts 2:39 when he said “the promise is to you and to your children”? Did he command infants to be baptized?

Hello J,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

Some believe that Acts 2:39 proves the necessity of infant baptism. Acts 2:39 reads: “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (emp. added). But notice the verse before it in Acts 2:38, which reads: “Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

When Peter said, “the promise is to you and to your children,” he was not speaking specifically about infants or implying that young children needed to respond to the commands of Acts 2:38. Peter’s presentation was designed for the people who shared responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ (verse 36), a group that certainly did not include children. Peter assured his listeners that the promise of salvation was not limited to them, but would be available to every future generation.

There are similar promises to Acts 2:39 that occur in Isaiah 44:3, “I will pour my Spirit on thy seed, and my blessing on thine offspring;” and in Isaiah 59:21, “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord from henceforth and for ever.”  In these and similar places their descendants or posterity are denoted. It does not refer merely to children as children.

Infants cannot repent of their sins. Peter commanded the members of his audience to repent, so the applicability of his message was clearly not to infants.

In His service,

The BibleAsk Team

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