Thursday, April 28, 2011

Paedobaptism Defended, Part 5

Today we conclude our short five part evaluation of the standard anti-paedobaptist objections. I say "short" because anyone familiar with the subject and the vast amount of biblical and doctrinal ramifications,  will know that waaaaaay more could easily have been said. I did save the best for last, however. It seemed logical to me to demonstrate how the Scripture very plainly deals with all of the other objections first. By doing that we have already cleared the way for the bulk of what could be said here. Plus we have shown that Scripture does indeed speak to the subject. So without further ado:

5. Infant baptism is not in Scripture.

By this, the objector usually means that we have no clear-cut, explicit command or example in the New Testament to baptize our children. What these objectors are asking for is a verse that flatly says, "Thou shalt baptize thy newborn offspring." Yet if everything we noted yesterday is true (and it is true), then we DO have clear Bible warrant, both in precept and by example to baptize our children. If, as we demonstrated yesterday, baptism is the New Testament form of circumcision (and circumcision was explicitly commanded to be applied to infants), then we actually have very explicit Biblical command to baptize our children.

Baptists frequently overlook the fact that they have biases and these biases color how they view things. If they don't acknowledge this, they are simply naive. The same force of logic and appeal to Scripture which a Baptist uses to argue for the Trinity is what I use to argue for paedobaptism. It is simply impossible that their rejection of the continuity of the covenant of grace in the Old and New Testaments should not affect their doctrine of the Church and therefore their doctrine of the Church's sacraments.

God instituted the family and purposes to save not only individuals, but families as well. This is not only true in the Old Testament. It is taught and exemplified in the New. Paul said to the Philippian jailer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household” (Acts 16:31). This is why circumcision was done not only to those who professed faith, but on their descendants as well. This is why we read in the New Testament of households being baptized, not just individuals. Thus we find that Scripture reporting that not only the Philippian jailer was baptized, but also his entire family (Acts 16:33). Of Lydia we read, “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home” (Acts 16:15). Paul remembers the family of Stephanas. He says, “Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else” (1 Corinthians 1:16). Since we have seen that Scripture teaches that circumcision and baptism are essentially the same sacrament, how can anyone claim that there were no infants present in these households?

Moreover, the VERY FIRST TIME that baptism in Christ's name was ever administered, Peter explicitly says, "The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:39). Every Jew present that day would have instinctively known that God's covenant is with him and his children. Had children been barred from baptism, there would have been an uproar. The absence of any mention of the issue here actually argues for the paedobaptist position.

So what does it mean to put the mark of God's ownership upon a child? Does it mean that he is automatically a Christian? Does it mean that he is magically regenerated? No, it means that we believe that God has promised to call His people from among our descendants. We express faith in God’s promise by presenting our children for baptism.

God commanded Abraham to circumcise both Ishmael and Isaac in Genesis 17, yet Ishmael remained a reprobate. It was with Isaac that God established his covenant (Genesis 17:19). Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Both of them were circumcised, yet only Jacob was elect.
Think of what Paul says about this. He writes, "Rebecca’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that Gods purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.' Just as it is written: 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated'" (Romans 9:18).

Although God made His covenant with Abraham and his descendants, ultimately the covenant was made with the Lord Jesus Christ. “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). That is why those who are elect believers in Christ are called Abraham's children by faith. 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29). “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

So it is that we present all our children for baptism, because God himself has commanded it. Not all who are baptized are elect, not all will be believers. Even in the Old Testament, not everyone who was circumcised was a believer. We place the mark of God’s ownership on them, because we are to dedicate ourselves and all that is ours to the Lord of the Covenant. We place no trust in the outward sign. Rather, we prayerfully look to our gracious Father that he may, in his own good time, save our children.

Something should also be said about the Church's historic practice. There is no doubt that the Church in her earliest days baptized children. There are clear indications of the practice in the writings of Irenaeus. It was not until the Anabaptists of the 1500's that anyone who claimed to be within the pale of Christianity ever rejected the practice. Moreover, credo-baptists should chew on this: Are we to believe that God forsook His entire Church to error for over 1500 years? He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. Yet that is what must have happened if the Baptist position is true. Ever greater is this problem: No one has ever questioned that for baptism to be valid, it has to be administered by one who was, in turn, validly baptized as well. Yet if the Baptist assertion is true, that there was no valid baptism in the Church for over 1500 years, then no one is validly baptized today.

The five objections we replied to were:
1. Infant baptism is a remnant of Popery.
2.Infant baptism does not accurately reflect the nature of the Church.
3.Infant baptism is inconsistent with the message of the Gospel.
4.Infant baptism is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision.
5. Infant baptism is not taught in Scripture.

In conclusion, let me say this: The doctrine of baptism may not be, under normal circumstances, an issue to break fellowship over. But that does not mean that it is not important. The same may be said of the several eschatological schemes believed by devout men and women of God throughout the ages. This, again, does not mean that the doctrines are not important. I am more and more convinced that nearly all of the division in the Church today, in doctrine and practice, is a result of brushing off theology as nonessential and divisive. The Church has always been united by Word and Sacrament. Once these are neglected for other things, no matter how appealing or apparently edifying, we all suffer. And no one suffers more than our children. On any given Sunday in pulpits around the world, one will hear congregations exhorted to train their children "in the way that they should go" so that "when they are old they will not depart." Yet the tried and true practices of baptizing and catechizing children are neglected with reckless abandon. Baptists always insist on "believe and be baptized" in that order. Yet when Christ told His Apostles to disciple the nations, He told them that this was to be done by "baptizing them and teaching them" in that order. Baptizing our children is part of obedience to the Great Commission.


  1. The logical objection that you make, i.e., that the credobaptist position requires us to assume that the church was in error for its first fifteen centuries, is exactly what led to the bizarre doctrine of Baptist Succession. There a small number of Baptists, often nicknamed Landmarkers, who hold that there was a secret chain of Baptist believers down through the Christian Era, beginning with John the Baptist. It is a clearly cultic mentality.

  2. I have encountered this notion before. As weird as it sounds, at least someone was honest enough to dream it up to validate their doctrinal position.


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