Baptism is a hot topic around the internet right now, and I’m not really wanting to join any debates, but all this talk of Baptism gives me an opportunity to talk about my credo-baptistic convictions.
Ligon Duncan has summarized the paedo-baptist viewpoint in three points. Take the time to read over his summary. It will be a guide for us in this post. Again, I’m not in this for a debate, especially with someone like Ligon Duncan, who I am sure would soundly thrash me with his exegetical and hermeneutical skills. Rather, I want to take his three points, understanding that they are not complete statements of his view, but a summary outline of the paedo-baptist position, and explain why I don’t think that view holds water, at least not enough to baptize anyone in, which is probably why they sprinkle. 🙂
By way of introduction, let me simply say that I tried to become a Presbyterian. I really, really tried…hard. I read Children of the Promise by Robert Booth, Christian Baptism by John Murray, William the Baptist by James Chaney, and The Communion of Saints by Philip Ryken (contains a chapter titled ‘Baptized into Communion’). I also listened intently to R. C. Sproul’s Covenant Baptism series, read many articles about infant baptism on the internet, and talked with several paedo-baptist friends. So when I read Ligon Duncan’s summary of paedo-baptist beliefs, I was reminded of the internal debate that lead me to discover exactly why it is that I am a Baptist.
1. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly makes a promise to believers and to their children (Genesis 17:7; Acts 2:39).
In the Old Testament, God does explicitly make a promise to Abraham and his offspring. The promise is that Abraham’s descendants and their households, those who have received the sign of circumcision, will live in the land that God has given them.
In the New Testament, however, the promise that we see is for everyone. Note the words of Peter, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Act 2:39 ESV) The paedo-baptist seems to cut his exegesis of this verse off at the word ‘children’. (He really doesn’t, but he might as well.) But if we follow the verse to the end, we understand that the verse does not teach that there is a promise of a covenant relationship available only to those present along with their children, but rather that Peter is instead stating matter-of-factly that the promise extends beyond those present, to a group of people defined as “…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” So the promise is for you, if the Lord should call you, your children, if the Lord should call them, and everyone in the world, if the Lord should call them. And if the Lord does not call any particular person in the world, then we know that the promise was not for them. The extent of the promise is not based upon familial relationships, but upon the sovereign pleasure of God in calling whomever He chooses.
The promise that is made to God’s called out people is not identified in Acts 2:39. We have to back up a verse to see what the promise is. “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” (Act 2:38 ESV) The promise is forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
2. God, in both the Old and New Testaments, explicitly attaches specific signs (respectively, circumcision [Genesis 17:10] and baptism [Acts 2:38, cf. Colossians 2:11-12], to this promise that he gives to believers and their children.
Again, in the Old Testament, the promise is for Abraham’s descendants and their households to live in Canaan. The sign that every male is supposed to bear is the sign of circumcision. Here, I would like to especially emphasize the point that only male children were to bear the sign of the promise.
In the New Testament, the sign of the promise is Baptism. But it is only given to those who are the recipients of the promise (forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit). Those who have been called out by God. Until their sins have been forgiven and they have received the Holy Spirit, they have not received the promise. Therefore, they are not to be given the sign of the promise. I may deal with Col. 2:11-14 at a later date…this is running kind of long. In any case, I believe that that passage shows this same pattern…we were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, and that is very closely related to God’s forgiveness of our sins.
3. Therefore, since God has given an explicit promise to believers and their children, in the New Testament, and attached a sign to this promise, and enjoined us (in the new covenant) to administer that sign [baptism, Matthew 28:19-20], then we should give the sign of the promise he has made to believers and their children, to believers and their children, in humble obedience to biblical command and example. QED.
Therefore, since God has shown us who the proper recipients of the promise are, those who are called out, repent, trust in Christ, experience the forgiveness of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, only they are the proper recipients of baptism.
I know there are probably many problems in this post for some of you, but these are some of the biblical convictions that make me a Baptist.
Pilgrim, bring it on!