Scripture Verses: Genesis 17:2-7, Matthew 3:13-17, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:38-41, and Hebrews 6:13-19.
Before we go forward with the paedo baptism discussion, we must define a couple of terms and get a couple of presuppositions out on the table.
Firstly, we must understand that all of Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ and is the outworking of the “Covenant of Grace” – God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham.
Secondly, when speaking of “covenant,” I am speaking of, as O. Palmer Robertson defined: “a bond in blood sovereignly administered.” A covenant is an unbreakable promise. Hence when ANE cultures made covenants they spoke in terms of “cutting” a covenant which itself speaks to the brokenness which is consequent when the vow is broken. (See: Genesis 15). This unbreakable promise is accompanied by the sign of “cut” pieces which is a self-maledictory oath. Lastly, what happens when one breaks a covenant? Answer: One is broken. That we do break unbreakable promises so easily only testifies to how broken we are. The Bible is clear that to be an unbreakable promise breaker. Is very, very bad.
Borrowing from Francis Schaefer’s article on infant baptism, here’s why I believe the children of believing parents are to be baptized.
The Covenant of Grace is spiritual (not merely physical). The promise to Abraham (to whom circumcision was given as a sign to the Covenant) that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, that he would be a blessing to the nations, and that he would be the father of many nations was/is spiritual (faith) over and against physical (circumcision). In Romans 4 Paul shows that the offspring of Abraham are those who believe God. One is not merely a child of Abraham outwardly (having been circumcised), but one is a child inwardly (having a circumcised heart).
The Covenant Grace is unchangeable. An unbreakable promise is irrevocable and unchangeable; this is what the author of Hebrews calls an “anchor for the soul.” That the Covenant is unchangeable means: that the promise never changed in various dispensations or in the coming of Christ who fulfilled the promise and is the promised ‘seed’ through whom the nations would be blessed AND that the recipients of the sign of the Covenant have not changed either. Children were included in the Covenant in the OT, and thus they should be included in the Covenant in the NT.
The Covenant of Grace is accompanied by a sign and seal
. Abraham received the Covenant with a sign and seal. This is, in essence, a ‘sacrament.’ The sacrementum was the oath a Roman legionnaire soldier to be loyal to his general. Rather than being an oath that we take to God, the sacrament is God’s oath to his people. As there has always been one Covenant of Grace there has been one sacrament attesting to that Covenant. In the OT it was circumcision, and in the NT it is baptism. In particular we see the link between baptism and circumcision in Colossians 2:11-12 “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
The Covenant of Grace does not weaken the family (and community). If those who purport ‘faith-baptism’ are correct, what naturally results is twofold: firstly there must be a marked division in the Covenant of Grace (in that now we are to be suspicious of our children’s expressions of faith) and secondly, the NT family must be a weaker unit than it was in the OT. One would expect the Covenant and NT family to be stronger than it was in the OT not weaker.
The Covenant of Grace is fulfilled in Christ. We find, rather that the Covenant is stronger and more inclusive because of what Christ has done. Consider the following:
- Circumcision was for males only; baptism includes men and women, boys and girls.
- Circumcision was for the nation of Israel only. Baptism is for the Kingdom of God which includes people of every tribe and nation.
- Circumcision signified cleansing. Baptism, too, signifies cleansing.
- Circumcision is a ‘bloody’ event. Baptism, because the blood of Jesus has been shed, is bloodless.
- Circumcision looked forward to the coming of the promised Seed. Baptism looks back to the finished work of the promised Seed, Jesus.
- Circumcision for children born within the community of the Covenant did not necessitate “believer’s circumcision.” Baptism, too, is to be administered to the children of the Covenant.
- Circumcision was a sign of partaking in the benefits of the Covenant of Grace. Baptism is a sign of partaking in the benefits of the Covenant of Grace.
To be a Christian means one now sees that they have been (and continue to be) an “unbreakable promise breaker,” and so one has surrendered to the Unbreakable Promise Maker who made an unbreakable promise to save unbreakable promise fakers.