Infant Baptism

Infant baptism is disputed among Christians.


A

The reason is that those who believe in paedobaptism read the Bible differently than those who don't. They see a far greater degree of continuity between the various covenants God has established between Himself and man since the beginning.

This continuity sees only one people of God since the beginning governed by Him through various covenants.


Children were included in all of these covenants and are still included in the New Covenant in Christ's blood.


We begin in the creation of man in the image of God. Our God is Triune and has created mankind to reflect that trinity. God the Father is from none, and the Son is begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son and proceeds from both, so God created Adam first, and Eve from Adam and children from them both.


The interrelation of the Trinity can be described as covenantal since it is an existence in the unity of truth and love. That same relationship existed between God and man until the fall, and ought also to exist within the human family (Mal 2:14,15). The family is one, a covenanted unity.

We see unity, but also the disunity of sin revealing itself in the family of Adam. Cain, who was of the evil one (1 Jh 3:12) murdered Abel who was seed of the woman and a son of God. In the line of Cain we see the steady progression into even greater viciousness, but in the line of Seth we see holiness maintained climaxing in Enoch and Noah. God maintained the church through and in the descendants of the righteous.


After the flood God continued in the same way in righteous Shem down to Abraham. God made a covenant with him, and with his descendants after him, to be a God to him and his descendants after him (Gen 17:7). God also made a covenant with Israel to whom He made the same promises (Deut 7:9). These covenants would be maintained by God despite human failure, but His human covenant partners still had to fulfil the conditions of those covenants. The same is true in the church. The promises are to the believers and their children (Ac 2:39). But just as there were covenant breakers among Abraham's descendants (Gen 21:9,10,12; 25:23; 36:6-8) so there were in Israel (Rom 9:6 ) and in the church (1 Jh 2:19).


The principle is this: the form of this world as modified by the fall will continue until the end. Just as the headship of the man and the submission of the woman, hard labour and physical death have not been abrogated after the death of Christ, so the genealogical principle will continue until the end. Some will be born into the covenantal relationship, but spiritually not belong, who will be removed from it either in this life or the life to come.


That does not mean that there is no change with the coming of Christ. In Him the new world has broken into the old. There is a change to a spiritual family, a spiritual people characterised by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but this people continues under the old form of the unity of the physical family as a reflection of the Triune God. There is a tendency among some to over-spiritualise the New Covenant in which the physical family disappears and only the spiritual family remains. While the earth continues both will continue side by side and the former will be in service of the latter.


B

The nature of the physical family as a covenantal unity in the image of God, and in covenant with God, determines the status of the children, which is holy. The status of holiness is only possible through the blood of Christ which confers that status (1 Cor 1:2; 6:11; Heb 10:10,14,29), but that is only possible in the New Covenant in Christ's blood. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says the unbelieving spouse of a believer is made holy else their children would be unclean, but now they are holy. What the Apostle Paul is arguing here is that due to the covenantal unity of the parents and the holiness of the believer the holiness of the believer is extended first to the spouse and so to their children. If then the children too are declared to be holy they have a right to be considered part of God's covenant people and to be baptised.


This right to be baptised includes the non-elect children of believers. Among those who baptise their children there is disagreement about the various covenants God has made and how they relate to the New Covenant in Christ's blood. Many distinguish a Covenant of Redemption made in eternity between God and the Lord Jesus Christ to redeem the elect fallen sinners.

This covenant from eternity comes to expression in the Covenant of Grace which speaks of the redemption of sinners beginning with the promise of redemption in Genesis 3:15 and culminating in the redemption in Christ.


This Covenant of Grace was administered under various covenants God made with man, the Abrahamic, Mosaic and New Covenants, but these administrations are not identical to the Covenant of Grace. We have to be careful not to over-spiritualise them, for God certainly included in the various administrations of this covenant such family members as Ishmael and Esau, who were rejected, and even Abraham's servants. We see this same pattern appearing in Israel and also under the New Covenant (Acts 2:39; 10:44,48; 16:15,33; 1 Cor 7:14).


Children of believers are born into a family, which is in covenant with God as family, and so ought to receive the sign of the covenant. These administrations of the Covenant of Grace include the non elect as these administrations all participate in the form of this world. All of these are conditional upon faith. The promises of God come first, but the response is required. Only the elect will respond with faith and those who reject the conditions of these administrations become covenant breakers and lose the promised blessings.


C

The inclusion of circumcision in the sign of baptism also argues for the right of the children of believers to be baptised.

The redemptive covenant that first gained a covenant entry sign was the Abrahamic Covenant, which was circumcision. That sign was applied to Abraham and his male descendants. The male children had to be circumcised on the eighth day (the seventh day in our counting) (Gen 17:9-14). This sign and its stipulations was continued under the Mosaic Covenant (Lev 12:3), which means that the Abrahamic covenant continued in force while the Mosaic Covenant was also in force. Israel was always known as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with whom God made His covenant three times so that it would be certain. That covenant still continues in force under the New Covenant in Christ's blood, where all believers are children of Abraham and have been 'circumcised' in Christ (cf. Rom 4; Gal 3; Phlp 3:3 Col 2:11).

That sign meant the cutting off of the sinful nature, depicted in this sign by the cutting off of the flesh of the foreskin (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4) and it called those who were circumcised to the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:11).


The entry sign into the New Covenant in Christ's blood is baptism. This sign comes in the place of circumcision because the shedding of blood came to an end in the death of Christ. Nevertheless, the sign is still there in its significance in the sign of baptism. Baptism signifies the cutting off of the sinful flesh as it symbolises the Lord's death. He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh so that God could condemn sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3). Our union with Him in baptism is our union with Him in His ' circumcision'.


However, the sign of baptism is far richer than that of circumcision, for it symbolises our burial and our rising to new life with Him as well (Rom 6:1-14; Gal 2:19,20; Phlp 3:3; Col 2:11,12). Baptism then is the sign of the New Covenant which replaces and includes circumcision. It too calls us to faith, the faith that our Lord Jesus Christ showed in His death. Our children are no less children of the Kingdom of God than the children of Israel as the Lord Jesus Christ said (Mat 19:13,14). Just as they were circumcised and called to faith, so should our children be baptised and called to faith.


We conclude then that believers and their children are to be included in the New Covenant in Christ's blood. The Lord said that the Kingdom of God belonged to such. He acted in keeping with the creation intent of God and in keeping with the covenant making intent of God in this. The apostles did as well. The church does well to follow in their footsteps.


Pastor John Kroeze

 

 

 

 

 

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