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Babies – and BAPTISTS!

17/01/2023

Catechism Class. Lord’s Day 27 Q74 – Baptism

Here’s the question – Q74: “Should infants, too, be baptised?”  The answer is, “Yes. Infants as well as adults belong to God’s covenant and congregation. Through Christ’s blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults. Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant, they must be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the old covenant by circumcision, in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.” 

So the catechist, like most of the reformers believes that baptism is for believers, and the children of believers. He links this to wheat he has taught us about ‘the promise of the gospel’ in Q66. That covenant promise was given at first to Abraham, in Genesis 17:7 . It was reiterated by Isaiah in Isaiah 44:1-3  and in Psalm 22:10 That promise is not abrogated or reversed by anything in the New Testament. When Peter spoke to Jews in Acts chapter two, he simply assumed that they would know that God’s salvation has been promised to believers, and to the children of believers. READ: Acts 2:38-38  

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How does that promise of the Gospel apply to and affect our Christian families? No Christian would deny that children born into Christian homes have a wonderfully privileged position. That could be what Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy

  • Covenant children are (or should be) different from the children of pagan, secular families, with different values and a different outlook on life. They are HOLY, said Paul, separated from the world and kept away from its filth. Now, none of these means that they are Christians. They are not, as yet perhaps, the recipients of salvation, of regeneration, – but they are the recipients of the Promise of Salvation, just as certainly ‘Children of the Covenant’ as were the children of Abraham. 
  • Covenant Children are to ‘obey their parents in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:1). Of course, as a general principle, parents should discipline their children and children should learn to obey them, at the very least for their own safety. But these parents in Ephesus to whom Paul in writing are Christians, and their children are to obey them IN THE LORD. The children of Christian homes have an obligation to obey GOD, and to receive Christian instruction from their parents – and to obey them in that respect. 

Now, when God gave that covenant promise to Abraham, he marked it with a sign, the sign of the covenant was circumcision, the cutting away of sinful flesh and the shedding of blood. Genesis 17:9-14   But circumcision was dome away with in the New Covenant and replaced with Baptism, the sign of the covenant promise. READ Colossians 2:11-13  So, just as Abraham applied the sign of the covenant to his children, we are to apply the sign of the covenant to the children of believers. Paul distinctly tells us that WE are the children of Abraham! Galatians 3:6-8  Remember, baptism is not about me, or my decision for Christ, or my testimony, baptism is to point us to Christ, and to help us to focus on the promise of the gospel, the washing away of our sins, by God’s grace, through faith in Christ alone. The Christian parent who presents their infant child to be baptised does so knowing that their little baby is an inheritor of Adam’s sin, and that sin must be atoned for. Some day that little baby will have to come to Christ and be saved, and have his sins forgiven, if he is ever to be a member of  God’s true church. At baptism, they acknowledge that Christ is the only Saviour, and they enter into a Covenant with the Lord, that as they are faithful in bringing that child up in a loving Christian home, and within the visible church, instructing him in all righteousness, the Lord will, in due course, and in His Sovereign timing, draw that child to Himself for salvation.

But some of our baptistic brothers and sisters in the Lord will ask us directly, “Where is the verse in the New Testament that commands us to baptise babies?”  It’s like a “gotcha question.” We can of course point them to that verse I quoted from Colossians a few moments ago. Or we can mention the instances of household baptisms in Acts, for example in  Acts 16:31.  We know that the jailer and his family heard the Gospel. Acts 16:32 We know that the jailer believed and was saved. There is the evidence of a changed life, for the man who once had ruthlessly and illegally cast Paul and Silas into the darkest deepest part of the prison, and placed them in stocks, was now washing their wounds and feeding them. V33-35. We know that the jailer was baptised, as was his house. and he was baptised at once, he and all his family. We know that the whole family rejoiced at what the Lord had done. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. BUT we do NOT know the spiritual condition of his family, other than the fact that they had been promised that through faith in Christ they could be saved. They had heard the Gospel preached. They had been baptised. They rejoiced with the jailer at HIS conversion.

But the wording of verse 34 is crucial. The ESV is very clear, and the account given by Luke in Acts is very precise. The jailer rejoiced, and his whole family rejoiced with him, because HE (the JAILER) had been saved. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. The phrase used in the Greek is πεπιστευκως τω θεω – (pepisteukoos to Theo) he believed in God. πεπιστευκως is SINGULAR. There is only one logical conclusion to be drawn from this, and it is that when the jailer believed and was saved, his household, (whatever the membership of that household was) was brought within the terms of the Covenant of Grace, and to seal that relationship, were baptised, as are our covenant children today, who have all the privileges of that covenant relationship enjoyed by the jailer’s family.

Furthermore, the burden of proof, that baptism is NOT to be offered to the children of believers, rests upon the credobaptists, not those who believe and practise baptism as the sign of the covenant. That sign of the covenant, established with Abraham, for his children (which we are) was applied to children for thousands of years, – if it was to be suddenly forbidden in the Covenant people of God, would there not be a direct command, telling those early believers to STOP including children within the covenant, and STOP marking them with the covenant sign – a hugely staggering change in doctrine and practice for those believers who were gathered into the Christian Church after Pentecost? So, – as credo baptists would say, “Where’s the verse!” Where’s the verse where the first Christians were ordered to stop including their children in the Covenant with God, after 2000 years of doing so?  

So, when the catechist asks us if our children are also to be baptised, we answer enthusiastically, with a resounding YES! Baptism is an outward sign of inclusion in the covenant community of God, just as circumcision was in the Old Testament. 

Before we finish, some caution is needed. 

Firstly, baptism, is never a CHRISTENING, and believers who practise infant baptism should never refer to it as such, even in casual conversation. ‘Christening’ gives the false impression that babies, by the mere act of splashing a little water upon them, become Christians. When Credo-Baptist brothers and sisters hear covenant baptists using the word they simply assume that they think baptism saves, and as we have seen, that is very far from what they believe.  While Baptism brings a person within the fold of the visible church for instruction in righteousness, it DOES NOT MAKE THAT PERSON A CHRISTIAN. 

Secondly, covenant baptists offer baptism to believers in Christ, and to the infants of believers. Not to unbelievers or to the infant children of unbelievers. For those who are not able to make a credible profession of faith in Christ, we can offer a simple service of thanksgiving, directing our praise to God, for his mercy in the preservation of the life of the mother and baby, and for the baby’s safe delivery, and we can pray for that family and child, that they too, would one day turn to Christ, in repentance and faith, and find salvation.

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