Romans 6 is the pivotal "baptism" section of the New Testament.
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. . . .
"For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. . . .
"Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. " (Romans 6:1-4, 6,7,13, NIV)
Versus 2-3 of this chapter states that baptism represents dying to our "old", human nature self. Verse 4 states that after baptism, we are to walk in newness of life. Verses 6-7 says that baptism frees the believer from "walking" in sin--it frees him from a life directed by human nature to a life guided by Holy Spirit. Verse 13 says we are to present ourselves to God as growing representatives of His righteousness. and so on...
The theme of Romans 6 is how baptism and receiving God's Spirit is the pivotal event of a Christian's life. We become "slaves" to God (verses 16-18), dedicated to serving Him and becoming like Him in character. From this chapter we see that repentance ( see verse 21) is integrally tied to baptism. It is a SIGN of our conviction that we've disobeyed God and want to change our lives. This chapter also leads us to conclude that since infants cannot understand the nature of sin, repent, begin to bring fruits of repentance then ask for baptism, that baptism is something they are not qualified for.
In Acts 2:38 we notice the formula: Repent, baptism, receive the holy spirit.
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (holy spirit). 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. " (Romans 2:38-39)
Notice that baptism is given as an important step before receiving the Holy Spirit. While verse 39 mentions that the promise of the Spirit is for people and their children, this can only mean that when the children reach an age of maturity to REPENT, they too like their parents can be baptized and be converted.
Repentance requires an acknowledgment of sin and its disobedience to God's way of life. Peter was telling the crowd that they had sinned in killing Jesus and that they should repent---and become converted. In Acts 8:12-17 Philip baptized men and women who heard the word of God and respond. Philip's baptism prepared the people to receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:36-38 Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch after explaining scriptures to him. In Acts 9:18 Saul, who became Paul, is baptized after being struck down of God and caused to repent during three days of not eating (verse 9) and reflecting on his life. Note Verse 5, which says Paul "kicks against the goads," meaning he was fighting his conscience.
Other scriptures make passing remarks on baptism, or comment on it like 1Corinthians 1:13-17, 1Corinthians 10:1, 1Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:5, Ephesians 5:26, Colossians 2:12, Hebrews 6:2, 1Peter 3:18-20.
The primary purpose of New Testament baptism is to show that one is repentant (the acknowledging that God exists, Jesus died for our sins and that we need to change our lives) and wishes to receive God's Spirit. There is only one example in the New Testament of a baptism that did NOT represent repentance---that of Jesus' baptism at the hands of John. Therefore in the vast majority of cases repentance and acknowledgment that one has sinned comes before baptism. We do not find baptism representing something other than an outward manifestation of an inward change of heart.
There are NO overt examples of children being baptized in the New Testament. The biggest church in the world---the Catholic Church, encourages the practice of infant baptism. Infant baptism to them is a sacrament (a religious act that confers grace on the person receiving it). From one of their sites on the Internet, www.catholic.com, in an article on Infant Baptism we read:
"Fundamentalists say the Catholic Church is wrong to baptize infants. Baptism, they say, is for adults and older children only because it is to be administered only after one has undergone a "born again" experience--that is, after one has "accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior....
"Since the New Testament era, the Catholic Church has always understood baptism differently, of course, seeing it as a sacrament which accomplishes several things, the first of which is the remission of sin, both original sin and actual sin (only original sin in the case of infants and young children, since they are incapable of actual sin; and both original and actual sin in the case of older persons) . . . "
While there are no direct scriptures that show infants being baptized, here are some references the Catholics use to justify their practice, along with my comments.
In Luke 18:15-16 Jesus blesses little children and infants brought to Him. There is no mention of any type of baptism that Jesus performed here. Catholics believe this act renders infants suitable for the Kingdom of God. As we've seen above, baptism is usually always after repentance--something infants cannot do. True baptism is given to a person who CHOOSES to repent and have this ceremony performed on them. Infant baptism is not like this---rather, the infant does not choose but is forced (in a sense) to undergo this procedure. Secondly, Jesus is not forgiving the children of sin or washing away what the Catholics call "original" sin. True, Jesus is blessing the children (bestowing His favor or grace) but no baptism by water (either by sprinkling, as the Catholic believe, or by immersion) is mentioned nor is any giving of the Holy Spirit to them. To use this scripture to justify infant baptism is unwarranted and is to read into God's word a pre-conceived practice.
In Acts 2:38-39 the promise of the Holy Spirit is made to people and their children. As stated above, the formula Repentance - Baptism - Receive the Holy Spirit, is the context of this section of scripture. Peter calls all those listening to him to REPENT, meaning to think about one's life and acknowledge that they are living contrary to God's way. Infants simply cannot do this. It was the adults in the crowd, not the children, that were charged with calling for Jesus' death (verses 22-23).
Given the meaning of baptism in the New Testament, scriptures such as Acts 2:39, Acts 16:33, 1Corinthians 1:16 become clear. These scriptures talk about a "whole household" being baptized. This means that the members of the household which are able to comprehend the message of Christ, respond, and choose to be Christians are those that are baptized.