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A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism

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by R. Scott Clark




Among Western Christians there are four major views on baptism: 1


Baptism is the means of spiritual renewal and initial justification and sanctification through the infusion of grace received in it, in such a way that one cannot be saved ordinarily without it. Baptism communicates saving grace, by the working of its own power. Children of all church members and unbaptized adult converts must be baptized (Roman Catholic).2

Baptism is a public testimony to one's faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who have reached the age of discretion can make such a profession of faith. Therefore, only those who are able to confess Christ should be baptized. (Baptist). 3

Baptism is so closely related to the gospel that through it, Christians receive eternal life and without baptism there can be no assurance of salvation. Both the children of believers and unbaptized adult believers should be baptized (Lutheran). 4

Baptism is a means of sanctifying grace and a gospel ministry to the people of God. It is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace illustrating what Christ has done for his people and sealing salvation to the same. Therefore covenant children of believing parents as well as unbaptized adult converts should be baptized. (Reformed).5


Protestants uniformly reject the Roman Catholic view of baptism as unbiblical and sub-Christian since it replaces faith as the instrument of justification. Among Bible-believing Protestant churches, the Baptist view is easily the most common and the Reformed view is probably the least well known. The view labeled Lutheran is probably somewhere in the middle in popularity.6


Unfortunately, many Bible-believing Christians assume that all infant baptizing (paedobaptist) churches are identical.7 This essay is intended in part to change that perception. I believe (perhaps naively) that if more Bible-believing Christians understood the Reformed view of baptism, they would accept our explanation of what God's Word says about baptism. I also intend to give Reformed believers a clearer understanding of what God's Word says about baptism and to answer objections which are often made against the Reformed position.


Is Infant Baptism Protestant?


In short, yes. All the Protestant Reformers including Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin held to infant baptism. Though these three great Protestants disagreed on many things, they all agreed on the Protestant doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. They also agreed that infant baptism is a biblical practice and the best expression of the Protestant gospel.8 In fact, infant baptism has been the practice of the historic Christian church since the Apostolic period.9 Of course the historic practice of the church does not settle the question. Historic practice, however, suggests a certain presumption in favor of infant baptism. Nevertheless, tradition alone is not sufficient reason for any practice in the church. Therefore Reformed Christians practice covenant baptism because we are commanded to do so in both the Old and New Covenant Scriptures. 10


We believe that the Bible alone is the Spirit inspired, infallible, Word of God written. God's Word alone is the source of our faith.11 Comparing our ideas with God's clear revelation in the Bible is the only way to safety and certainty.


Why Do Christians Reach Different Conclusions?


Christians study the same Bible, but we often read it differently. Sometimes we begin with different assumptions about the nature of things and authority. These different methods and starting points lead to different conclusions.


True Bible study requires comparing Scripture with Scripture and especially comparing clearer passages with those which are less clear. True Bible study requires a submissive attitude to the clear teaching of God's Word.12 Bible study is not just looking for isolated texts which seem to prove one's point. Rather, Bible study means that we must do exegesis, that is, understand what the biblical writer is saying, why, and to whom.


What is the Covenant of Grace?


In the gospels our Lord Jesus left us two great signs to be observed until he returns, the Lord's Supper and Baptism.13 These two new covenant signs broadly correspond to the old covenant signs of circumcision and Passover.14 We call baptism and the Lord's supper covenant signs because that is what God himself calls them. They are signs of his covenant relationship to those he loves, his people.


The term covenant is a very frequent word in the Bible. In fact, God's covenant with believers is so important that it is nearly impossible to correctly understand the Bible while ignoring it.15 The covenant of grace describes the way God relates to his people. It involves a binding oath between the LORD and his people in which he promises his people to be their God and his people, in response to God's grace, swear complete fidelity to the LORD. The covenant of grace was signed and sealed in blood.


God made a covenant of grace with Adam, after the fall, in the garden.16 He made a promise to save and preserve Noah through the flood and us after it.17 He promised to be a God to Abraham and his children.18 With each the promise God attached conditions. The first is saving faith, which God works in us (Romans 4:3). The second is to make use of the covenant signs and seals. In Genesis 17 the LORD spoke to Abraham about his covenant:


I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-those who are not your offspring....My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.19


The LORD gave a bloody mark as a sign to Abraham that he and his children belonged to the LORD. Similarly, in Exodus 12:1-13; vv.21-29, 43-51; God remembered his covenant with Abraham.20


The LORD also instituted an annual celebration to remind his people how he mercifully and graciously redeemed his people from bondage in Egypt. 21 As a sign and seal of his saving grace he instituted the sacrament of Passover along with many other feasts. 22


The Passover had many of the same characteristics as the circumcision. Both were bloody and associated with God's covenant promises. Passover (like the other feasts) differed from circumcision, however, in the same way that baptism and the LORD's supper differ: circumcision, the first covenant sign was applied to infants and adults alike, and was a mark of entrance into God's covenant people.


The Passover feast was restricted to those who are able to understand God's redeeming acts because it was a sign designed to nurture and lead to growth. It was not a sign of entrance into visible covenant assembly of God's people, but served as a means of renewing the covenant of grace.


Is There Still A Covenant of Grace?


Just as God made a covenant with Abraham, he promised a new covenant to come later. 23 He made this new covenant in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The Lord Jesus consciously and specifically established "the new covenant." 25 The Apostle Paul said he was "a servant of the new covenant." 26 How can this be if there is but one covenant of grace? The new covenant is new, as contrasted with Moses, but not as contrasted with Abraham or Adam. 27


This is the point of Galatians 3:1-29; 4:21-31, and 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 where Paul says that the glory of the Old Covenant was fading but the glory of the New Covenant is permanent. The message of Hebrews chapters 3-10 is that the Old Covenant (under Moses) was preparatory to the New Covenant. The fundamental theme of Hebrews 11 is that Abraham had a new covenant faith, that is, he anticipated a heavenly city and to the redemption which we have in Christ. 28


The Promise Remains, The Circumstances Change


Now that the promise of the covenant of grace has been fulfilled the circumstances of the covenant have changed. We who live on this side of the cross view things differently because we live in the days of fulfillment. In biblical terms, we live in the "last days." 29 We have the completed Bible and the gift of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 30


The old covenant was designed to direct attention forward to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. 31 The old signs like Passover and circumcision along with the other bloody sacrifices and ceremonies have been replaced. Yet we still live in covenantal arrangement with God, and the bloody pictures of Christ have been replaced with bloodless signs (reminders) and seals.


Why is the Covenant of Grace Important?


Because it is a comprehensive category in Scripture, without which the Bible cannot be understood rightly. For example, because God administers his salvation through the covenant, and because there is but one Covenant of Grace, there is one salvation, one gracious promise (Christ) and people of God. Thus, the covenant of grace unifies all of Scripture. 32 God made a salvation promise to Adam and Eve. 33 He repeated the promise to Abraham, whom Paul called "the father" of all believers. 34 All believers are saved because of God's faithfulness to his covenant promise. 35


The covenant of grace is important because it also explains the Christian life. The God we serve is he who graciously and sovereignly saved us. Just as the way of salvation for Adam was the same as for us (faith in the finished work of Christ), the moral standards of the Christian life are substantially the same from age to age.


The covenant of grace is central to our self-understanding as Christians. God is covenant making and keeping God, and we are his covenant people.


How Were Covenants Made?


Circumcision was the sign given to Abraham. 36 The covenant and the sign were so closely identified that the Lord called the sign of circumcision, "My covenant." Anyone who did not take the sign would be "cut off" from the covenant people. 37 In the old covenant Scriptures the phrase "to make a covenant" was expressed with the words: "to cut a covenant," that is, to perform the cutting away of the foreskin of the penis of the uncircumcised adult male or the eight-day old Hebrew infant. 38 To be circumcised was to be identified with God and to be "cut off" from the world and to be included with God's visible covenant people.


Implied in the act of circumcision is the taking of an oath: "If I do not keep the covenant, may the destruction which is illustrated by the cutting of the foreskin, actually happen to me."39 This is why the Lord spoke of covenant breakers being "cut off" in Genesis 17:14. In Exodus 4:25, 12:15,30:33,38; Leviticus 7:20-25; Psalm 37; Ezekiel 14:8-17, 25:7-16. Scripture used the same verb for "cutting off" of covenant breakers as it did for the "cutting" of a covenant in Genesis 15:18.


The Lord placed himself under this curse in Genesis 15:17-21. He sealed his promise to Abraham by passing between the pieces as a sign that he would keep his promise. He received the curse upon himself in the Lord Jesus Christ who was "stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted...cut off from the land of the living."40 Galatians 3:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21 clearly teach that Jesus became sin and endured the curses of covenant breaking for those who believe.41


Since the covenant of grace was made by God, it is he who gets to set its terms. God's Word says that before we were "in Christ" we were dead in sins and trespasses. As dead people we could no more save ourselves than Israel could get herself out of Egypt.42 Because God is sovereign, he has the final say about who receives Baptism and the Lord's supper and how they receive it.


What are the Relations Between the Covenants?


The Lord Jesus has fulfilled the bloody signs and types of circumcision and has replaced them with bloodless signs.43 Christ's death was the reality to which the old signs and seals pointed.


Now, Christ having died, there is no need for the old sacraments and feasts. Scripture teaches that, by faith, all believers died with Christ.44 If Christ died an accursed death and we died with Christ, then by faith in Christ we have undergone the curse implied by circumcision. Colossians 2:20; Philippians 3:3 explicitly say that by faith, in Christ's death, all believers have undergone circumcision.


Romans 6:2-10 says that we are baptized into Christ's death. That is, when the sign of the covenant is applied, the recipient is identified with Jesus' death and the cursedness of Christ.


The main difference between the old and new covenants is that what the old covenant promised through ceremonies and sacrifices, have been fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus. The New Covenant Scriptures refer constantly to the Old Covenant. Romans 3:21, 9:27, 11:13-32; Luke 24:27; Hebrews 9:15, and the whole of chapter 11 all teach that the covenant of grace instituted by God through Abraham continues into the new covenant. God's Word clearly teaches that new covenant believers are the new covenant Israel.45 Everyone who believes is the true son of Abraham.46 Romans 9:6-9 teaches that a Jew is one who loves the Messiah Jesus and trusts him only for salvation.47


Thus we cannot say that there are two completely different "churches" or peoples of God. Paul teaches clearly in Romans 2:29; 4 [all]; 9:6-9 and Jesus teaches explicitly in John 8:31-58 no one is saved by being Jewish.48


What is the Connection Between Circumcision and Baptism?


The connection between baptism and circumcision is quite clear in Colossians 2:11-12. The connection is not direct, but indirect and the point of contact between them is Christ and baptism is the sign and seal of that circumcision. In v.11 Paul says "in him [i.e. in Christ] you were also circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ" and in v.12 he says exactly how it is that we were circumcised in and by Christ: "having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith...."49 For Paul, in the New covenant, our union with Christ is our circumcision. In baptism, we are identified with Christ's baptism/circumcision, as it were, on the cross. Neither baptism nor circumcision effects this union (ex opere operato), rather God the Spirit unites us to Christ, makes us alive and gives us faith.


The point not to be missed is that, in Paul's mind, baptism and circumcision are both signs and seals of Christ's baptism/circumcision on the cross for us. By faith, we are united to Christ's circumcision and by union with Christ we become participants in his circumcision/baptism. Because circumcision pointed forward to Christ's death and baptism looks back to Christ's death, they are closely linked in Paul's mind and almost interchangeable. Paul's point here is to teach us about our union with Christ, but along the way we see how he thinks about baptism and circumcision and his thinking should inform ours.


One of the reasons that Paul so strongly opposed the imposition of circumcision upon Christians by the Judaizers is that, by faith, we have already been circumcised in Christ, of which baptism is the sign and seal.50 We were already identified as belonging to God and we have undergone the curse in Christ. So actual physical circumcision is, in the new covenant, unnecessary. Paul tells those who wish to circumcise themselves, to go the whole way and emasculate themselves.51


Acts 2.38,39 equates circumcision and baptism. In Acts 2.38 the Apostle Peter calls for repentance, faith in Christ and baptism by Jews who are hearing his preaching. In v.39 he gives the reason for this action: "the promise is to you and to your children, and all who are far off...." The Apostle Peter consciously uses the same formula in his preaching as the LORD himself used when he instituted the sign of circumcision in Genesis 17, which the Jews listening understood precisely.


What are the Relations Between Faith and Circumcision?


Romans 4:1-8,13-25 teaches that Abraham was justified by grace alone, through faith alone and not by works and yet God required that Abraham take the sign (mark) of circumcision. Romans 4:11 says that circumcision was a sign and a seal of "the righteousness that he (Abraham) had by faith while he was still uncircumcised." Circumcision was a sign of God's covenantal relationship to Abraham and to Abraham's children, all who believe in Christ.52 The meaning of circumcision was spiritual and not just outward. Circumcision as a sign of faith and entrance into the covenant people as a member was also applied to children.53


What is the Relationship Between Faith and Baptism?


Acts 2:38,39 says,


Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and for your children and for many who are-for all whom the Lord our God will call (italics mine).


For adult converts, baptism is a sign of what Christ has done for them, forgiven them and washed them. Adult converts are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is through faith in Christ. Baptism is a sign of our new standing with God through faith. Notice, v.39 "The promise (of salvation to those who believe) is for you and for your children."


Our faith is in the Christ who died for us. Baptism is a sign of being united to him in his death by faith. Peter says that the flood waters of Noah symbolize baptism, because baptism is a sign of dying to sin, the washing away of sin by Christ's blood, and living by faith in Christ.54


Everyone, (adults and children), who has been baptized must be united by faith to Christ for salvation. Unbaptized, adult converts, profess their faith before baptism. Children of believers who received the sign in infancy profess their faith as soon as they are able. Both are responsible before God to be faithful to the grace represented by the sign and seal they have received.55


What Does Baptism Do?


Baptism and the Lord's supper proclaim the same message as the written Word of God: salvation is God's free gift, it is not earned or deserved. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.56 Just as God the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, so also God ordained, in his Word, baptism and the Lord's supper.


Covenant signs were given to strengthen our trust in Christ. Baptism and the Lord's supper have no more or less power than the written Word of God.57 In the Scriptures baptism and the Lord's Supper are considered to be signs and seals of the covenant of grace between God and his people. As signs, the covenant signs are visible reminders of the great act of redemption which God has accomplished. As seals, they are God's way of separating his people from those in the world, and they give to us God's promise that, in example, as surely as we are washed by the water we are by faith washed by the blood of Christ. Just as in the preaching of the Word, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith by the use of these covenant signs and seals.


Baptism is not an end in itself. Rather, it is only the beginning of a life of faith and faithful discipleship in Jesus. As Peter reminds, it is not baptism which saves. It is


...not the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.58


Because sacraments are signs and seals, they do not, in themselves, save. They testify to God's grace, they point us to Christ, and seal to us his salvation. Just as circumcision did not save, neither does baptism.59


Where Does the New Covenant Teach Infant Baptism?


From the point of view of the covenant of grace, every command to baptize, is a command to baptize the children of believers.


Because the promise of the covenant of grace, God is a God not only to adult believers, but also to their children. That is why, in 1 Corinthians 7:14, Paul said that children of believers are "holy." Paul deliberately used Old Covenant, ceremonial, language to teach the Corinthians that their children shouldn't be considered outside of the visible people of God. To use old covenant language, children of believers are "clean," and therefore have a right to share in the blessings of being a part of the visible people of God, including baptism.


Jesus made the same argument in Mark 10:14. He says that the Kingdom of God "belongs" to children of believers. In Acts 2:39, Peter specifically includes children in the fulfillment of the promise. In Ephesians 6:1 Paul addresses children as if they were in the covenant people of God .60


From this perspective, Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38,39 are direct commands to baptize infants. It is true that there is no explicit command "baptize infants." There is no such command because there is no need for such a command. Neither is there an explicit verse which states God is One in three persons, but God's Word teaches the existence of the Trinity throughout.


Nowhere in Scripture, however, is there a declaration that children are no longer to receive a covenant sign. If one needs an explicit command to baptize children then we should stop admitting women to the Lord's table, since there is no direct command to allow women to come to the table. This is clearly absurd.


The proper question therefore, is not where does Scripture explicitly teach infant baptism, but rather where does it reverse God's command to Abraham to administer the covenant sign and seal to children of believing parents. For two thousand years God's people had been applying the sign of God's covenant to the children of believers. Every faithful Jew understood circumcision to be a visible reminder that he was a part of the people of God. To fail to circumcise one's sons, would be to declare them to be cut off from God's people, grace and promises. To fail to circumcise one's children was unthinkable.


Some argue that because the new covenant is new children should no longer receive the sign of the covenant. It is true that changes attend the institution of the new covenant. Formerly the sign of admission was applied to males only. Now, males and females receive the sign of admission. These are changes which flow from the change from typical, promissory signs (circumcision) to signs of fulfillment (baptism). Thus, the change from circumcision to baptism was a change in circumstances, not substance.


To exclude the children of believing parents from the sign of admission to the visible covenant people or to say that God no longer wishes children to be considered a part of the visible community of God's people is no mere change in circumstance but rather a radical change in God's way of dealing with his people.


To change God's clear command to Abraham, one would expect a clear Word from God on the subject, but nowhere does God's Word tell believers to stop applying the sign of the covenant to their children. Since the new covenant Scriptures never tell us not to apply the covenant sign to our children, we have every reason to believe that the children of believers must receive the sign of entrance into the covenant people.


The Apostles Baptized the Children of Believers


In fact, there is a good deal of positive evidence in the New Testament Scriptures that baptism was applied to infants.


In both the old covenant and the new covenant, God speaks to households and "saves" them. In the language of the Bible, one's house does not refer incidentally, but primarily to the children.61 The emphasis on "household" or "family" points to a continuity between the Old Covenant corporate view-point and that of the New covenant.62 Children are viewed as being part of a covenant household, a covenantal unit. The sign, in Scripture, is applied to the whole household unit.63


Scripture uses this household formula in several clear passages which show a great deal of unity between old covenant practice and New Covenant (baptismal) practice.64 We know that when Luke wrote Acts he was selective in his reporting. So it is important to note that proportionally, when we compare the number of household baptisms to other baptisms in Acts, household baptisms are common. In Acts, as with circumcision in the old covenant, baptism is a household affair and the household texts prove it.


Lydia, the Jailer, and Crispus.


In Philippi, in a "place of prayer," Paul and his co-workers met Lydia, a Gentile who was called "a God-fearer," i.e. someone on the fringes of the synagogue but not a full-member.65 After hearing the gospel, "the Lord opened her heart" and "she and the members of her household were baptized." It cannot be argued reasonably that there were no children in this "household." 66


Paul was jailed for his ministry to a demon possessed girl. Jesus delivered them from jail by sending an earthquake. Their jailer hears the gospel and professed his faith.


Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized....he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God -he and his whole family (Acts 16: 33,34).


As in the case of Lydia, Luke communicated the covenantal nature of baptism through the use of the oikos (household formula).


After Paul had been rejected by the synagogue in Corinth he went "next door" to the house of Titius Justus, another "God-fearing" Gentile. There "Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).


These patterns were identical with what occurred in Israel for 2000 years: The adult Gentile converts were circumcised along with their male children in accordance with Genesis 17:10-14. Certainly those adult converts had to confess their faith.67 Both believing adults and their children are described by the word "household."68


Abraham is a New Covenant Figure


It is also important to remember that not everything which was given before Jesus is eliminated in the New Covenant. The fact that our Bibles are divided into the Old and new Testaments, gives some believers the impression that everything which occurs before Jesus' birth is part of the Old Covenant. This is not accurate.


When the Bible uses the term "old covenant" it refers to the period of Moses until the beginning of the New Covenant. Not everything which happens in the Bible before Jesus-namely the period of Adam to Abraham-belongs in the old covenant proper.69


Jesus said in John 7:22 that circumcision was not from Moses, but from the Patriarchs.70 That means that circumcision does not belong, originally to the Old Covenant (Moses) but to Abraham.


Abraham has a very special relationship to New Covenant believers. In Romans 4:1-25, Paul says that Abraham is the "Father" of those who believe. Likewise, in Galatians 3:29 all believers are said to be "Abraham's offspring and heirs according to the promise." 71


In many ways, Abraham is a New Covenant figure. Believers are his spiritual descendants. 72 He is said to have looked forward to Jesus' first coming.73 He is a model of faith for believers in Hebrews 11:8-19; Galatians chapters 3 and 4. So what is true of Abraham is usually true of New Covenant believers. Just as Abraham's faith in Jesus (John 8:56) sets the pattern for New Covenant believers, so also his circumcision, and that of Isaac, sets the pattern for New Covenant baptism.


But Wasn't Circumcision a Sign of External Blessings Only?


In Romans 4:9-11 Paul says that Abraham believed before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a sign of God's grace to him. Abraham loved God, not the promised land. Hebrews teaches us repeatedly that Abraham and Moses and other believers who were born before Jesus, looked for a heavenly city and not simply at the earthly Canaan.74


Believers born before Jesus received no blessing apart from faith. Like New Covenant baptism, the meaning of circumcision was spiritual and not just outward.75


How Can We Baptize Children Who Don't Understand What is Happening to Them?


Did the babies circumcised under Abraham and Moses understand what was happening to them? Of course not. How were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob saved? By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.76 The fact God require children of the believers to understand the sign of admission to the visible covenant community before it was given, doesn't mean that they did not need to understand it as they grew up. They certainly did. The same responsibility rests with every Christian today. Every time Christians come to the Lord's table, they renew the covenant, receive the promise of the Gospel again, take up their oath of obedience to God and renew their baptism.


In fact, every complaint raised against Covenant baptism can be raised against covenant circumcision. If those complaints were invalid for circumcision, they are invalid for baptism.


Isn't Repentance and Faith Required Before Baptism?


It is true, that when speaking to adult Jews (Acts 2:38) Peter commanded, "Repent and be baptized everyone of you for the forgiveness of your sins." It does not follow, however, that only adults who can understand and follow this command may receive the sign of entrance into the covenant community. This would have eliminated all infant circumcisions. Obviously, God commanded circumcision of the children of believers.


Substitute the word "circumcised" for the word "baptized" in Acts 2:38. To Jews, whose Bible was the Old Covenant Scriptures, this would have made perfect sense: Renounce sin and receive the sign of the covenant. The case in Acts 2:38 is parallel to that of the foreigner who took the sign of entrance into the covenant people Israel. He had to turn from his old ways and embrace the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The fact that adults were required to make a profession of faith before circumcision, did not prevent the Lord from demanding that they circumcise their infant sons.77


Nor should one ignore Acts 2:39 where Peter gives the positive reason for baptism:


The promise is to you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call (italics mine).


God's Word says the promise is to the children of believers as well as to those old enough to repent. Peter was deliberately repeating the Abrahamic-covenant promise in Genesis 17:7 and commanding them to baptize their children.


Isn't Faith Necessary for Entering the Christian Life?


This question seems to imply that somehow faith was not as necessary for Moses or Abraham. Such an implication is false. Hebrews chapter 11 teaches that all the heroes of the faith who lived before Jesus birth obeyed God in faith.78 If faith was necessary in the Old Covenant and yet infants received the sign of the covenant, then the fact that adults needed to express their faith by circumcision does not rule out the children of believers receiving the sign of the covenant in the New Covenant.


The point of view expressed in this objection denies the unity of the Covenant of Grace. It argues that God deals with his people in two substantially different ways in the Bible.


To say that baptism is primarily an expression of my faith also misunderstands faith, salvation, and the sign of God's grace. Baptism is God's sign which he applies to me through the Church whether as infant or adult. It is God's sign of what he has done. Baptism is not, primarily, a sign of my faith. Baptism is a sign (and seal) of God's grace.79 Circumcision is always a sign of the grace of God in making the covenant with Abraham. So also baptism is a sign of God's grace which includes adult converts or infant children of believers.


Should Infants Come to the Lord's Table?


God has instituted two types of sacraments. Circumcision, like baptism was a sacrament of initiation into the visible covenant community. The Passover feast (along with the other feasts), like the Lord's Supper, was a sign of covenant renewal for strengthening God's people. So different sacraments perform different functions and have different participants and different requirements.80


It is clear, from the institution of the Passover, that the children who participated had to be old enough to understand the significance of the Passover. 81 This same requirement was not made of infants to be circumcised. This distinction flows from the different functions of the signs and seals. Circumcision was a sign of entrance into the covenant applied to infants and to adults neither of whom had ever been circumcised. By its nature circumcision, (and baptism as its replacement), cannot be applied again. 82 The Lord's supper, however, by its nature is intended to be celebrated repeatedly in the life of the believer. 83 This is because the sign and seal of initiation distinct from the sign and seal of renewal.


This same principle was also in effect in the New Covenant community. It is latent in the Apostle Paul's principle that one who partakes of the Lord's supper must be aware of the Spiritual nature of the supper (1 Corinthians 11:29). On this principle (each sign has its own function) it is proper for infants to be baptized but improper to permit infants to partake in the supper.




The answer to questions about baptism lies in God's nature. He does not change and his promises do not change. He does not change the way he saves his people. Only the circumstances change, in which that promise is administered.


God is a faithful, gracious, loving, patient, kind, merciful, covenant (promise) making and keeping God.84 Our gracious covenant God made a covenant-promise to give Abraham a "seed" and to send a Savior, which he fulfilled in Jesus Christ. 85 In Christ, we become Abraham's descendants and heirs. The same promise God made to Abraham, he has made to us,


I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your children after you for the generations to come, to be your God and your children's God.86


God was gracious to Abraham, God is gracious to us. He has given us visible reminders and marks of that grace, one of those is baptism.


Be a Berean, search the Scriptures to see if what has been said here is true.87 The Word of God is, after all, our absolute rule for faith and life. If you are a Christian parent who has not presented your children for baptism, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.


If you have made a profession of faith in Jesus as your Savior and Lord, but have not been baptized, I urge you to find a Biblical and confessionally Reformed church in your area and seek membership and baptism.


If you are baptized, but have neglected God's grace, by neglecting your baptism, by not living gratefully, by not serving and loving Jesus with all your heart, I call you to turn away from your ingratitude, confess your sins, ask and receive God's forgiveness.88


Christian, your baptism is good news, a reminder and promise that, if you believe, you have been bought with a price and sprinkled with the blood of Christ.89 Rejoice in God's grace and be faithful to God's Word. If your children have received covenant baptism, be sure to take your oath seriously. Remember, you have sworn an oath to bring up your children "in the training and instruction of the Lord." by catechizing them at home in God's Word and in a Reformed confession such as the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) or the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) and by enrolling them in catechism instruction in a confessionally faithful Reformed congregation.90

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