Why I baptize the children of believing parents.

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:

  1. Circumcision was for males only; baptism includes men and women, boys and girls.
  2. Circumcision was for the nation of Israel only. Baptism is for the Kingdom of God which includes people of every tribe and nation.
  3. Circumcision signified cleansing. Baptism, too, signifies cleansing.
  4. Circumcision is a ‘bloody’ event. Baptism, because the blood of Jesus has been shed, is bloodless.
  5. Circumcision looked forward to the coming of the promised Seed. Baptism looks back to the finished work of the promised Seed, Jesus.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Justification by Vomit

I collapsed across the finish line after last year’s Christmas services, and after a day of familial and gastronomic mirth, I prepared for the re-entry into ministry life.
Re-entries are usually violent and ungraceful. The transition from vacation to normal life passes from the lightness of vacation through the atmosphere of responsibility, falling back to the firmness through gravity’s pull, and slamming into the mass and density of life. Ah, the impact crater spreads debris and shockwaves for miles.

For a pastor, the fall back into the desperate pace of church life is marked with the shocking regularity of Sunday morning. Thankfully in my case, God put a stop to that. The day after we returned, I got sick as a dog. Being bedridden led me to an awareness that, though I had apprehended it, I had never been able to articulate it, and now I am (thanks to my good friend, Ping) able to relate it to you: I realized that I am only free when I am sick.

C.S. Lewis has written, that his “ideal happiness…would be to read the [Renaissance] Italian epic — to be always convalescent from some small illness and always seated in a window that overlooked the sea, there to read these poems eight hours of each happy day.”* Lewis speaks of the same principle. Illness provides a justifiable excuse to rest. A “small illness” is too ambiguous a thing for me to mediate. I’m always of the assumption that I can push through some measure of difficulty. What I need (and needed) was something a little more definitive.
The humble desperation of either trying not to vomit or desperately sprinting to the toilet is wonderfully centering. You really don’t care about anything else. You don’t worry whether there are empty nurseries or if there is toilet paper in the church bathroom or the bulletin is typo-free or if the overheads are correct. You don’t care whether or not your sermon is “finished” or the light bulbs have been fixed or doggone it, that that person who has dropped in unannounced is just so disappointed in the church or me, and they’ve just got to let me know — something.
“Sorry,” I say, “I can’t answer your question, hear your concern, listen to you complain– I’ve got to throw up now.” How incredibly freeing! But it’s also brilliant. Because, at this very moment, I am not being insensitive or ungracious, I am actually loving them, by getting away from them as quickly as possible so that they won’t get sick either. And what is the response to this terse, “Not…now!”? It is sympathy and kindness and concern. Is that incredible or what?
I have framed this new principle into one of the classic formations of Reformed theology. You’ve heard of soli Deo gloria or perhaps the three solas: fide, gratia, scriptura? Well let us add to it: sola aegrotus “by illness alone” or its theological cousin and more widely recognizable, soli vomitio, “vomit alone.” I really think this has potential.

There is also the universalist approach which sadly is more definitive, less debatable, and absolute; it is called: sola morte.

*This quote is pulled from Alan Jacobs excellent book on the life and thought of C.S. Lewis entitled, The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis.

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