Water Power

So my wife and I have come upon the crossroad of either having our son infant baptized or waiting for him to come of age and make the decision on his own. I grew up believing in credobaptism, namely what’s commonly called believer’s or confession baptism, that one must be a Christian in which repentance, faith, and confession must precede baptism. There are many such instances in the New Testament where an apostle baptizes a new Christian after hearing and believing, for Apostle Paul and Peter both define baptism as an expression of one’s appeal to God in repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ.

On the flip side is pedobaptism, infant baptism, which hinges on the “believe and you and your household will be saved” instances in the New Testament, and also that baptism in the new covenant has replaced circumcision, thus, just like the Old Testament, baptism too can extend from one’s faith in Christ onto one’s family and household. Of course, baptism does not save as not everyone who was circumcised was saved in the OT, for such would exclude women. I never really held onto the entire household thing because an infant isn’t mentioned, but others say that that naturally includes children and infants. In my eyes it’s a moot point because both sides of the argument can use the example to their own advantage. However, Peter says in his sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 that the promise is for you and your children.

Ever since we discovered that the Lord was giving us a child, his baptism has been on my mind. My Presbyterian church believes in infant baptism, but I had always leaned towards Baptist views like John Piper. My parents had me dedicated when I was a baby, but I don’t think they intended to give my life for service to the church like Hannah did for Samuel. In any case, I was baptized as a teenager and gave a testimony, or confession of faith, beforehand, thus the origin of my credobaptism belief.

So when presented with the opportunity to baptize CJ on Easter Sunday, I became a bit worried as I knew I did not believe in infant baptism, but my wife and I needed to wrestle with it because we wanted to do what God wants us to do. We read up on the topic of baptism, attended our church’s infant baptism class, and spoke to a few trusted friends and learned some new and interesting facts and inferences for each side.

  • Luke writes in Acts that before the jailer and his house(hold) were saved, the gospel was preached to him and all who were in his house, indicating that no such infants were baptized since they can’t hear the gospel.
  • In Matthew, Jesus tells the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, teaching them all that Jesus had commanded them. If this is to be taken literally, which it should, then this says that baptism comes before making one a disciple, which brings up the question of whether one can be saved, but not a disciple yet.
  • There are numerous instances in Acts where thousands become saved and are then immediately baptized by the Apostles. This I knew, but if one imagines the process of baptizing three thousand believers in one day, aside from a quick profession of faith, it’s not possible to interview every single person to make sure they’re repentant disciples of Christ before baptizing.
  • I can’t say this any better, so I’ll just quote Justin Taylor from hereIs baptism a means of grace or not? Because if it is, we’re essentially telling the youngest of baby Christians (new converts of whatever age) to continue living without breathing, without taking in grace through God’s appointed means.
  • Jesus calls us to have faith like a child, but how old?
  • Infant baptism wasn’t argued at all by any of the apostles, perhaps indicating that, not that it wasn’t an issue, but that it wasn’t an issue to the point that it was acceptable and didn’t need any further exploration or discussion.

I’ve learned much about baptism and after much prayer, my wife and I feel that we’re able to make the right decision that God calls us to make whether to baptize CJ as an infant or to wait and have him make that decision on his own. Times like this cause us to refine and solidify our faith in Jesus Christ and help us to be better parents to our son.

*I have done further reading from the Westminster Confession of Faith and have gathered the following:

XXVIII. Of Baptism

A) Baptism- a sacrament that represents a relationship or union with the Triune God.

  • Signifies:

1. Admission into the visible Church.

2. The Grace of the covenant.

3. Regeneration.

4. Remission of sins.

5. The duty of new obedience.

  • Baptism represents that in which man is essentially passive.
  • Baptism is union with God, and because such a union is created only once, there can be only one baptism.
  • The outward element of baptism is water, and that the person baptized is to be baptized into the triune name.
  • Immersion is not essential to baptism; can take the form of immersion, sprinkling, or pouring.

B) Baptizing Children (small infants)

  • God commanded believers to give the sign and seal of circumcision to their children. Baptism is now that sign and seal. God did not revoke his command to give the sign and seal to the children of believers.
  • New Testament Evidence:
    • “The promise is to you and to your children.” (Acts 2:38-39)
    • Jews of the Berean synagogue tested Paul’s doctrine by the Old Testament. (Acts 17:11)
    • Children of a Christian married to an unbeliever are holy. (1 Cor 7:14)

C) The Efficacy of Baptism

  • It is sinful to neglect the ordinance of baptism. God’s wrath against Moses from not circumcising his children (Ex. 4:24-26).
  • Salvation is not absolutely inseparable from baptism, nor is salvation guaranteed by it.
  • The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of administration of it. Simon was baptized, but still bonded by iniquity (Acts 8:13-23).
  • God commanded believers to give the sign and seal of the covenant to their children even though it could be presumed that they were, or would be, in union with Christ. Esau never received the grace of which he had the sign and seal, and Jacob did not experience the efficacy of the sacrament until his conversion many years later.
  • The purpose of baptism is not to effect union with Christ, but rather to confirm and testify such.
  • Infant baptism does have a profound effect upon those who are converted long after their baptism.
  • (1) Baptism, then effectual calling into union with Christ, and then efficacy of baptism, or (2) effectual calling, then baptism, and then the efficacy of baptism.

* Here’s a great article from a Baptist minister who accepts paedobaptism.

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3 Responses to Water Power

  1. Peter Ong says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful post Matt, and I wish I had read this before CJ’s baptism. I think one of echo of the OT is the circumcision as a sign and seal extended to the child, the question I often ask is why would God choose the circumcision at the very beginning of life instead of waiting till the child became an adult or confessing Israelite. But there is something significant about the covenant that is extended as a means of grace. I agree with Justin Taylor’s read on it and that baptism is a means of grace that we are raising the child as a believer and the second part that is so important is the confirmation of faith that is another means of grace for admittance as a communicant member and also invited to the Lord’s table. So, when the time comes CJ will have that moment to be confirmed or “seal of ordinance” for the continued work of grace in his life.

    • msuhu says:

      Thanks Peter. That’s an excellent point about the timing of circumcision and the covenant. My tunnel vision is deteriorating and I’m beginning to see more how God’s character of grace is so prevalent and omniscient in our lives.

  2. Pingback: EJ’s (Not) Infant Baptism [Water Power Part 2] | msuhu

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