The Difference Between Infant and Adult Faith

Infant Baptism2 (610x352)What is faith?

It’s important to understand what faith is–and what faith isn’t. If we don’t know what faith is, then we can misunderstand who may or may not have it.

Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.

  • Within this verse, what does it mean to rely on our own understanding?


  • In this verse, is relying on your own understanding good or bad?


  • What is the one word in this verse that describes faith?


John 3:18a: The one who believes in him [Jesus Christ] is not condemned.

  • But this trust, this belief, is not in some abstract being or god but specifically in whom?


Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.

  • How sure is faith?


  • Can your intellect or emotions cause you to doubt what God had promised you in Christ Jesus?


  • If so, how should we respond?


Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not your own doing, it is God’s gift; not from works, so that no one may boast.

  • Can we do something to get faith?


  • According to this verse, what is faith?


  • If faith is a gift, who then decides who gets it and how someone will receive it?


Faith as Our Lutheran Fathers Describe It

“Faith makes us righteous, not because it is such a good work or such a fine virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy gospel” (Formula of Concord III, para 13).

“A king gives you a castle. If you do not accept it, then it is not the king’s fault, nor is he guilty of a lie. But you have deceived yourself and the fault is yours. The king certainly gave it” (Luther’s Works, Volume 40, p. 367).


Can Infants Believe?

If faith is a gift from God (and it is!), then God can choose to whom He gives that gift and how–even to infants. So, what confronts us now is if God chooses to give faith to infants and little children. (Note: In today’s lesson, we won’t delve into how God chooses to give His gift of faith.)

Psalm 22:9: Yes, it was you [God] who brought me [David] forth from the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.

Psalm 71:5-6: For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. I have leaned on you from birth; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.

Matthew 18:6 [And parallels in Mark 9:42-43 and Luke 17:2]: [Jesus speaking:] “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

  • Can infants have faith, that is, believe in Jesus?


  • Jesus spoke of little ones who believe in Him. What does this mean about infants and children having faith?


If children cannot believe, then why are adults supposed to have a child-like (not childish) faith, which is identified by Christ as saving faith? 


Luke 1:15, 41: [Referring to John the Baptizer:] He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb…. When Elizabeth [pregnant with John the Baptizer] heard Mary’s greeting [recently pregnant with Jesus], he baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

The circumstances of John the Baptizer’s conception and birth are unique. So, we shouldn’t presume too much from it.

  • Based on this passage, is it possible for the Holy Spirit to inhabit a child?


  • Based on this passage, is it possible for a child to respond with joy in the presence of the Lord?


  • What does this mean about the possibility of infants having faith?


Adult Faith

The faith that an infant has and the faith that an adult has is the same faith: It is trust in Christ Jesus. What is different is an adult’s ability to doubt and disbelieve, which is far greater than an infant’s. 

  • Discuss: What do adults know and experience, which infants do not know or have experienced, that may call into question their faith?



  • What does this mean about the faith that we should have?



The Scriptures, especially the New Testament, speak about the need for a mature and strong faith. We are expected grow in the faith.


1 Peter 2:2: Like newborn infants, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in your salvation.


Read Hebrews 5:11-14


2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


  • Are we supposed to grow in faith and in the faith?




Receiving the Word within Christ’s Church, Christ wants each Christian to grow in the fullness of the faith. This is something that Christ does for you and in you through His Church.


Ephesians 4:11-13:


And he [Christ] gave [note this is the primary verb in these four verses] some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, and still others to be pastors and teachers: to equip [noun] the saints, for service work/ministry, and for building [noun] the body of Christ until we arrive [secondary verb] at unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, into a mature man, into the measure and maturity of Christ’s fullness, so we may no longer be infants [brephos], tossed by the waves and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning and the craftiness of deceitful schemes. [Pastor’s own translation]


These verses are regularly misused to show that a pastor is supposed to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” From our current-day translations, one can only come to that conclusion, for the verbs and punctuation say that!

However, in the Greek, the word for “equip” is a noun, not a verb (but I don’t know how to translate that idea using a noun instead of a verb!). The only verb up to that point is the verb “give,” which shows Christ as the doer. Thus, what Christ “gives” modifies the nouns “equip,” “work,” and “building.” Because the only verb up to that point is “gives,” that means these verses are not about what a pastor is supposed to do and what the laity are supposed to do. In fact, such an understanding undermines the point that Paul makes and takes away from Christ. Christ does all these things for His people through His Church!


Ephesians 4.11-14


  • Who is the source behind growing in Christian maturity?


  • What does Christian maturity look like?


  • How do we grow into the “maturity of Christ’s fullness”?


  • Based on the flow of these verses, does such growth take place apart from Christ’s Church?


Ephesians 4:15: Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in every way into Him who is the head: Christ.

  • What does speaking the truth in love involve?


  • Should mature Christians want others to speak the truth to them in love?


  • Does this mean that growing in greater fullness of who Christ is always something pleasant?


Colossians 3:16: Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Note: “spiritual” does not mean spiritual as we often think of the word. Instead, “spiritual” denotes the Holy Spirit’s involvement.

  • According to this verse, how does the Word [logos] of Christ dwell richly in us?


  • What does teaching and admonishing mean?


  • One of the ways we are to be taught and admonished is by “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” According to this verse, what purpose does the hymns we sing in church have?


  • Should a mature Christian want to be taught and admonished by what he sings?