Why I Changed My Mind About Baptism

Editor’s Note: What doctrine or issue have you changed your mind about? The Gospel Coalition posed that question to several pastors, theologians, and other thinkers in order to gain a better understanding of what leads to shifts along the theological spectrum.

Previously in this series:

* * * * * * * * * *

When I was 10 or so, my parents came to Christ. Up to that time, we were unchurched. Although I had been baptized in the Lutheran Church in which my mother had grown up, we had gone to church only three or four times until my parents were converted. However, with their conversion, we suddenly began going to church and found ourselves at a Plymouth Brethren assembly in Fanwood, New Jersey. There, during a evangelistic crusade, I first professed faith in Christ, was baptized by immersion, and had my first spiritual formation.

Prior to high school, we moved to northern Virginia where we went to a Bible church, and I eventually ended up in an independent Baptist school. During a chapel service I felt called to preach, a calling that eventually led me to attend Liberty University for a year before transferring to Bob Jones University.

Baptized, Again

As part of my undergraduate training as a pastoral studies major, I had to do an internship, which I did at my independent Baptist church back in northern Virginia. During my internship, our pastor convinced me that I had not been scripturally baptized. He certainly wouldn’t have counted my Lutheran baptism, but even my Plymouth Brethren baptism was suspect. Because I had not been baptized by a Baptist, I was not part of the unbroken spiritual baptism chain going back to John the Baptist (for those who recognize this, it is the Landmark Baptist view). So I was baptized again.

But during that internship year I read Lorraine Boettner’s The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. And that book scattered seeds in my mind that came to fruition when I was working on my Master of Arts degree at Bob Jones University. I was taking a class in Colonial American Church History and reading a lot of Jonathan Edwards. After reading Edwards’s sermon “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” I realized that I was a five-point Calvinist. Or better, I realized that the doctrines of grace that emphasized the divine priority in all our spiritual good—from election to redemption to calling to perseverance—were biblical and had to be embraced.

Not Pagan Babies

In 1994, my wife and I moved to Philadelphia so that I could attend Westminster Seminary and pursue a doctoral program where I could continue studying Jonathan Edwards. Though I had come to Philadelphia hoping that we might join a Presbyterian church, that transition was too much for my GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) wife. So we ended up at a little Baptist church that was going through the process of reformation. The pastor was a Bob Jones graduate, which made it acceptable to her; the doctrine was staunchly Calvinistic, which made it acceptable to me. And in our four years there, together we came to embrace confessionalism, catechesis, covenant theology, and the importance of Presbyterian polity.

In fact, we were Presbyterian in everything—except baptism. But God brought something into our lives that caused us to wrestle with the whole issue of baptism: babies. As our children were born every other year from 1997 to 2003, we began to wonder about their spiritual status. They weren’t really pagan children. Because they were born to us as believing parents, they would be raised in the context of the church and the Christian faith. Yet there wasn’t a biblical basis for “baby dedication” (where is that in the New Testament?) so that wasn’t an option.

As a result, with our first child’s birth in 1997, we began to wrestle with how the Westminster Confession of Faith could say both that “baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament” (28.1) and that “not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized” (28.4). If baptism is a New Testament sacrament and if babies are to baptized, then I needed to have some reason to believe from the New Testament. Arguments from the Old Testament that relied or admitted the silence of the New Testament on the issue weren’t persuasive to me. I needed to see it in the New Testament.

Significance of Households

Fast forward four years. Our third child was born, and I was writing my dissertation, not on Jonathan Edwards as I had planned, but on Robert Lewis Dabney, the 19th-century southern Presbyterian theologian. I was focusing on Dabney’s public theology and was struck by the significance of households. Whether dealing with slavery and race, gender relations, education, church and state, Dabney repeatedly fell back to the significance of households in God’s purpose and plans.

I began to notice a pattern. In Genesis 17, God made promises to Abraham, the believing household head, and then signed and sealed those promises through household circumcision. And in Acts 16, God dealt with Lydia and the Philippian jailer (believing household heads), and then signed and sealed those promises through household baptism. The pattern was not babies per se; I was looking for the wrong thing. God’s pattern was to deal with households and to grant those households the sign of circumcision or baptism.

Other texts came into play at that point. According to 1 Corinthians 7:14 God views our children as “holy”—separated to his work and his purposes, “clean” and not “unclean” or pagan—as a result of their relationship with us as believing household heads. Acts 2:38-39 says that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not to discrete individuals who believed, but to households who believed: “the promise is to you and your children.” This language echoed through the Old Testament indicating God’s promise to households, but here it was in the New Testament. And Colossians 2:11-12 seemed to equate circumcision and baptism in such a way that the succession of the New Testament sign was established.

Here was a fairly strong New Testament rationale. It changed my mind and led us into the Presbyterian Church in America. And it is an argument that I have taught now repeatedly over ten years and through my book, On Being Presbyterian. But it is all of a piece of the grace of God at work in my life, showing me his grace in every part of my life, even to my children after me. It is, after all, all of grace.

  • http://theoldadam.com/ the Old Adam

    Grace. The most important word in the whole piece.

    God’s grace comes BEFORE our faith. That’s the proper order and that’s why we can dare to Baptize infants.

    Christ commanded Baptism. So, He is in it…for us…regardless of our age or understanding. God acts, for us.

    It’s very odd how many Christians say that Jesus is alive and living in their hearts…but yet they believe that He could not be present in a bowl of water, accompanied by His Word of promise.

    Excellent post.

  • dave lathrop

    Good Post. I agree that the scriptures, while not giving us any exact guidelines for the age that baptism should be administered, does provide us with the principle of a having household faith. Which is why most paedobaptists only baptize infants who have at least one believing parent.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Actually, Romans 9 says that it is not “children of the flesh” (i.e. physical descendants) who are “children of the promise” (i.e. in covenant with God) but the those on whom God has grace (i.e. the elect). The NT tells us that physical descent does not put us in a covenant with God. This is why infant baptism and the “household faith” that is used to bolster it is a “Judaizing of the NT” (Paul K. Jewett).

      • Andrew

        Hi John Carpenter,

        How do you think that Abraham’s phsyical descendents were saved before the coming of Christ?

        If you agree that they were saved by grace through faith just like Abraham then you must admit that all Abraham’s physical offspring rightly participated in the outward covenant administration grounded on the promise of God, but only those who believed participated in the essense of the covenant and proved to be “children of promise”.

        The point is that an outward administration of the covenant to the physical decendents of believers is not at all inconsistant with the verse you site…OTHERWISE GOD ORDAINED AND COMMANDED SOMETHING INCONSISTANT FROM THE TIME OF ABRAHAM TO CHRIST!

        You might also want to wrestle with passages such as John 15, 1 Corinthians 10, Rom. 11, Heb. 10:29 and context, all which point to an outward administration of the new covenant in continuity with what has come before.

        • Tamika May

          Very well stated, Andrew. My thoughts as well.

      • Sean Michael Lucas

        Hi, John:

        I actually think you are misreading Romans 9. Paul’s point there is that Israel was the visible people of God and as such they were in covenant with God. But within the visible people of God, there was an elect people, “the children of promise,” the “invisible church,” if you will. In other words, the point is about election and how it relates to covenant.

        In my mind, Romans 9 explains a great deal not just about Israel, but also about the church. As we look at our churches–the visible people of God–there are those who have been admitted who are hypocrites and those who are or will become apostates. We can’t tell them out right now.

        Even more, the principle of inclusion (I would argue) in the NT is the same as the OT: in the OT, the visible people of God includes those believing household heads and their children who have been admitted to Israel via circumcision; in the NT, the visible people of God includes believing household heads and their children admitted to the church by baptism. But the church, like Israel, is still a mixed multitude; the elect, the truly regenerate–only God can see them. They are the true “children of promise.”

        • David Journeycake

          @Sean Michael Lucas,
          You are correct in your Romans 9 comment and correct about the visible church being comprised of a mixed multitude. But that isn’t an argument for infant baptism, and the mistake lies in thinking the old covenant is administered the same way as the new.

          Yes, we baptize those who later prove to have been false, but we do so only because they *manifested the evidence of the new covenant* (faith and trust in Christ) and we don’t have the ability to discern the wheat from the tares. But that doesn’t mean the new covenant is comprised of people the same way the old covenant was. The old was external and national; the new is strictly internal and individualistic (Rom 2:28-29).

          You wrote: “in the OT, the visible people of God includes those believing household heads and their children who have been admitted to Israel via circumcision”—that was only true of foreigners. The emphasis was never on heads of households or even households. Everyone born a Jew was part of the old covenant. It was just a capital offense if the sign of that covenant wasn’t administered to them.

  • Chas Jay

    This is an excellent article for discussion. I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight at a Southern Baptist Church in Louisiana and so fondly remember being baptized just as much as I remember so clearly the very moment I asked Christ to be my Lord and Savior.
    I’ve been a member at two Presbyterian churches and now I’m back at a SBC church. Whenever we had baptismal services at the Presbyterian churches, I always felt that the babies were being robbed of the memory of being baptized, one which they should chose, not an adult for them.

    • Rebekah

      Hello Chas!
      I enjoyed your response, and thought I’d add my thoughts to yours.
      I was actually baptized as an infant, and I’m so thankful my parents did so. I might not have the memory of being baptized, but I always had the promise of God’s presence and love in my life to look to when I had doubts or felt alone. To me, whether I remember my baptism or not is irrelevant. What matters is that I’ve been adopted into the covenant of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. My acceptance of Christ has never been marked by one particular event, but by many events throughout my life. Regardless of how long I live, I believe there isn’t any point where I will completely be in full understanding of Christ’s gracious and relentless love for me, because it’s too amazing to comprehend.
      That’s a few of many reasons my husband and I are going to baptize our children… Coming to faith isn’t so much an event as a journey, and the truth is, everyday I have to make the choice to serve Jesus.
      Hope this makes sense, and perhaps gives a little insight from someone who was one of those unconsciously baptized babies =)

    • Michael

      Well said. Baptism is a momentous time in a new believers life which they will carry with them forever.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Chas:

      I would actually turn this around and say that when my children have professed their own faith, it was a great gift to be able to say to them, “Before you even knew anything about the Bible, Christ, or the Gospel, God gave you a wonderful sign that declared to you every day that if you would believe in him, he would save you!” Far from robbing them from anything, they have been given a precious gift in their infant baptisms.

      Plus, each time we have a baptism at our church, it gives our children an opportunity to see and hear the Gospel promises declared once again. They reflect meaningfully on what God has done for them twenty times a year or so. Hope that helps.

      • Ellen Ridsdale

        Hi Sean Michael Lucas,

        Thank you for your comments. Could you please explain to me if there is a difference for children of Baptist parents. Did God not promise in his word to save any who would believe? Is the promise exclusive to those who hold to paedobaptism only?
        I would very much appreciate your comments on this topic.
        Thank you

  • http://www.nlfhouston.org Eric D. Shin

    Thanks for your writing…

    However, if you consider the mode of baptism that was used during the NT times, then you will have a very difficult time establishing your point about baptizing infants who have at least one believing parent. The mode of baptism cannot be separated from the doctrine of baptism. In fact, the mode will help us understand God’s heart and original intention and desire for the baptism.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Eric:

      I would respectfully disagree with you here. If mode was as significant as you say, I think there would be clear instruction in the NT about it. As it is, Baptists place a lot of weight on the usage of baptizo; but as James Dale has shown in several volumes, baptizo doesn’t demand immersion as an exclusive meaning.

    • Solomon Tingsam Li


      I would also affirm Dr. Lucas’ point on immersion. Biblically speaking, the word baptizo most certainly has a range of meanings. For instance, the word was used in 1 Cor. 10 where Paul says that Israel was baptized as they passed through the Red Sea.

      However, that obviously does not mean immersion considering that the Egyptians were the ones immersed. With that, there is definitely some flexibility in the application of the word and therefore of the mode.

  • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

    The only children I know who are not pagan are those born of the Spirit. Neither the family or the baptismal can make a child a member of the New Covenant. Only the Spirit of God make bring children into (new) covenant relationship to God in Christ. Sadly, the easy believism of the credo baptist and household baptism both end up deluding people to think they are God’s children when in reality they are yet under God’s wrath.

    Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV
    Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more

    • Nick

      Uh, Moe, you forgot verses 35-37 of Jeremiah 31. Perhaps you might wish to read 37.

      • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

        Nick, Not at all. All true offspring are of faith and that we know is a gift of God. Those Old Covenant Jews who contended with the Son of God in the Gospels claiming they were Abraham’s true seed heard him. The flesh profits nothing. See Luke 3.

        • Johnny

          1. The passage in Jer 31 has direct connection to the Mosaic Covenant, not the Abrahamic (compare Galatians 3-4). Circumcision came prior to the Mosaic administration, and it was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (which was a filling up, so to speak, of the protevangelium in Gen 3:15, i.e., the gracious promise of God to save His people through a Mediator, i.e., the Covenant of Grace. Ultimately, the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham/Gen 3:15/the Cov. of Grace. It’s “newness” is in relation to the Moses, not Abraham, and in the sense of Christ fulfilling all aspects of the Covenants of Works and Grace.
          2. The covenant sign is not mentioned in Jer 31. That text says zero about the prohibition of administering the sign of the covenant to the children of believers.
          3. The NT says zero about prohibiting the covenant sign of the NT to the children of believers; rather, it seems to strongly assume it.
          4. Everyone who applies the sign of the covenant to children understands that the flesh profits nothing…that’s the whole point! Grace is needed. Did God realize that the flesh profits nothing when he gave told Abraham to apply the sign of the covenant to infants? Of course He did. The point is that this is an entirely faulty argument. The true offspring have ALWAYS been those who are faith.

          • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

            Johnny, Your second point is truly problematic. You make an assumption that is not rooted in the plain teaching of God’s word. You posited; “2. The covenant sign is not mentioned in Jer 31. That text says zero about the prohibition of administering the sign of the covenant to the children of believers.” Can you prove without the use of GNC that the baptism commanded by Jesus to all who would believe and repent is a replacement for circumcision of the flesh and that it is to be applied to both male and female? Perhaps you have a better biblical answer than did Charles Hodge. – Thank you in advance.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Moe:

      By “pagan,” I meant that my children weren’t outside the church. For the first ten years of my life, I had been raised pagan, despite my baptism as a child. From my oldest son’s earliest memory (he is 15), he has always been present with the visible church and receiving the benefits of the covenant.

      • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

        Sean, I have to respectfully disagree. We have 5 children. They are all adults. One is in the new covenant having received the circumcision of the heart and the indwelling of the Spirit. The others are no more in the new covenant than were Esau and Ishmael partakers of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

  • http://blog.herreidbaptist.com Brandon Jones

    I was pleased to see the other point of view on baptism show up here in order to have a more rounded discussion. Unfortunately, the Landmark Baptist view is alive and well today, so I wish the author would have made it clearer that such a view is not the norm among the vast majority of Baptists.

    One issue the article does raise is how Baptists address the status of children in their household. Baptists in the seventeenth century had many thoughts on this. For more on what they say on that issue as well as the meaning of believer baptism, checkout my book “Waters of Promise: Finding Meaning in Believer Baptism” (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2012). For more on what the book is about, visit: http://blog.herreidbaptist.com/2012/10/my-book-waters-of-promise-is-now.html

  • Barry Bright

    I believe the danger in infant baptism is the belief by many that it provides salvation. I was baptized as an infant and was a nominal Christian until I was 25. I’m glad that I was baptized again, by immersion as Jesus was, as a public proclamation of the change that had taken place in my heart.

    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking read and will lead me into more study on the subject. Thanks for writing it.

    • Phil

      Barry: Please show is in Scripture where the purpose of baptism is “a public proclamation of the change that had taken place in [the believer’s] heart.” (i.e., show us chapter/verse where you see that reason).

    • Bill

      Barry – You are correct in that danger of assumption of salvation. But since you mentioned that you want to study this some more, you will find that the covenant baptism mentioned here is not salvation. You may also discover that the baptism done by John the Baptist was a baptism of repentance, not the same as Father, Son, and Holy spirit. This you can find out by reading the gospels and Acts. Also, some say Jesus was baptized by imerssion either by assuming the case because “there was much water” or by stating every instance of the word baptizo means imerssion. I have read some pretty good challenges to that assumption.
      God bless you on your studies. I was totally into this for about a year solid.

      • Barry Bright

        Thank you, Bill. I’m astounded at how ignorant I am regarding this subject. I look forward to the blessings of investing some time on it.

        With that being said, if Jesus’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, why was it so? Jesus did not need to repent. At first glance, it appears that His baptism was associated with His commission for ministry. It also seems that His baptism allowed Him to further identify with the sinners He came to save and that their (our) subsequent baptism would allow them (us) to further identify with Him, being buried with Him and rising to new life.

        I think Romans 6:3-5 and Colossians 2:12 make a compelling case for baptism by immersion for the purpose of identifying with Christ in His death and rising with Him in His resurrection to new life.

        • Bill

          Barry – I hesitate to jump back into this because of the size of participants, number of comments, etc. Would rather this just be a one to one simple learning dialogue.
          You are right about those two texts with descriptive language that describes imersion into water. But you can also remember that the baptism is Father, son, and Holy Spirit, and there are descriptions and referenes to the Holy Spirit being poured out on the people. Using this analogy can support pouring water on a head instead of imersion.
          Yes, Jesus start of ministry was his baptism. But all references made to John the Baptists baptisms both by Christ and Paul refer to it as one of repentence. I don’t know exactly Christs motive at the time, but most of what I see in the gospel is is Christ submitting to what other Jews were doing at the time, and for many Jews, that is what they were doing. I will also add that it was probably not the first or last time some were baptized: prosolyte for converted Jews, this one for repentence, and then again after the apostles follow up to the great commission which we now consider Christian baptism.

  • Matt

    This is definitely one of those areas that provides great discussion. I still shy away from infant baptism because I have not been able to reconcile it with verses like Matthew 3:6 / Mark 1:5, where along with baptism was the confession/repentance of sins. With infants, there is no choice to be baptized, no confession of sins – basically no personal choice at all. Just curious how we consider infant baptism in light of those scriptures?

    • Phil

      Matt: Reconciling those Scriptures isn’t hard, once you see that adults were circumcised on the OT as well. When a man came to faith in the God of Israel (just like Matt. 3:6) he and his household were commanded to receive the covenant sign, circumcision. There is no verse that told covenant believers in Israel to let the children grow up an decide on their own whether to be circumcised or not. It was *very* hard for me to get this until suddenly — like election — it just clicked. I’m so Americanized that the whole idea of covenant headship/representation (of the father or believing parent in this case) was really hard for me to “get”. So many churches are so hyper-individualized that any doctrine with covenant headship-by-another was really outside my modern thinking. But we see covenant headship from Adam, throughout the OT, and even unto Christ, our covenant head and mediator. So the idea that a parent is the household covenant head is not at all inconsistent *Biblically*. So, just as in the OT where God accepted that the household covenant head spoke for his children, such an easily fit into the issue of parental representative headship in the NT.

      • Matt

        Phil: I understand that part in the Old Testament and it definitely is not something I had considered before with regards to infant baptism – but we are also talking about a new covenant relationship between Christ and His new church established in the New Testament. Let me ask you one question – do you believe then, that once you baptize an infant, they no longer need to make a personal choice for baptism later on? Where does that fit in with your new understanding?

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Matt:

      I actually wouldn’t consider John’s baptism a model of Christian baptism because it wasn’t baptism into the trinitarian name. Apparently, the Apostle Paul agreed with me on this (see Acts 19:1-7).

      In terms of being “re-baptized,” there is only one baptism (Eph 4:1-6). Why would they need to be baptized again when God kept his promises in their baptism to be a God to them and to grant them salvation in response to their faith (Acts 16:31)?

  • Duncan

    Excellent article, Dr. Lucas. Our paths toward the same conclusion are very similar, at least in terms of our theological journey. I began in the Church of Christ, then became to be a Calvinistic Baptist, and now finally a fellow member of the PCA. I agree wholeheartedly that the household principle is vastly misunderstood in our individualistic society. Me must follow the contours of Scripture and see that our God is a Covenant keeping God, and that His Covenant has never excluded the precious children of His people.

    That being said, I’m still relatively new to being Presbyterian (~1 year) and I’m now looking forward to picking up your book!

    • http://www.newhopec.com Jon Marq

      Hi Duncan, your story sounds like my story. I began in the CofC and even served as a minister and missionary for many years until I embraced Reformed Theology. I would like to hear more of your story. Email me at pastor@newhopec.com

    • http://www.theothoughts.com Lisa Robinson

      Duncan, I agree. I have a similar trajectory as well. As one who was opposed to paedo-baptism for years, I’ve come to learn that my opposition overlooked some key concepts: 1) the definition of the new covenant community as including unregenerate children (and others) and 2) relationship of covenant to households. And because there is support in the NT, I’ve really softened my position on this. There’s also a misunderstanding that baptism means salvation, which is not the position of paedo-baptism. I’m also new to the PCA and still wrestling though some of this.

  • Brandon Tucker

    Baptism is an important part of a believer’s sanctification. It serves as accountability and motivation for spiritual warfare and “taking hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). I hurt for my Presbyterian brothers and sisters who were baptized as an infant. Unless they change their view they will never “make the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”. Thankfully salvation is God’s work, not man’s therefore it does not depend on our mode of baptism.

    • Chad Damewood

      I’m a small b baptist and I think your premise is absurd.

      • Brandon Tucker

        Read the text. The “good confession in the presence of many witnesses” is almost certainly referring to his baptism (it’s in the context of “the calling”). Paul is using Timothy’s confession that he made through his baptism as motivation to “fight the good fight of the faith”. Listen to what Phillip Graham Ryken (a pedobaptist even!) says about this passage:

        “Christian baptism has always been part of the public worship of the church. By mentioning his confession in this way, Paul was appealing to Timothy’s sense of honor. He had made a public confession of his faith in Jesus Christ and had vowed to follow him to the death. Not only that, but he had made his vow in the presence of the church.” – REC 1 Timothy page 271.

        This is an example of baptism being a part of our sanctification. It’s something a Christian should be able to look back on for assurance and motivation for the “good fight of the faith”.

        • Davis Morgan

          I’m sorry but you are eisegeting baptism into the text, there’s no mention of it anywhere in 1 Timothy! If anything, Paul’s reminding of him of the confession he made as a “man of God” which certainly would have included his public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus as a ordained minister. That’s the context of Paul’s words there, no Timothy’s baptism.

          • Brandon Tucker

            I’m not going out on a limb here. This is the view of every credible commentator I have checked (John Stott, William Hendriksen, John MacArthur, Phillip Graham Ryken).

            The exegetical ground is the context of the inward calling and outward confession. Paul is clearly referring to a single event (look at the next verse when he compares it to another single event). This is not eisegesis. My main point is that baptism is an important part of our sanctification which every credobaptist would (should) affirm.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Then why is there not one account of a baby being baptized in the NT? The command to baptize is to baptize disciples (Mt. 28:18f). There is no authority to baptize anyone else.

    Further, we know from “The Didache” that the early church did not baptize babies. As a matter of historical fact, it’s relatively certain that infant baptism was a development from the mid- to late second century. Infant baptizers want to continue to argue as they did before the discovery of “The Didache”. But they can’t.

    • Dan Kern

      John Carpenter,

      J.V. Fesko has written a wonderful book entitled, “Word, Water, and Spirit” where he addresses this point, at least in part. He points to 1 Corinthians 10:1 where the Hebrews passed through the sea and were “baptized” as Paul calls it. This exodus was an OT baptism and surely infants were present. One thing we need to keep in mind when discussing baptism, is that it’s rooten in the OT.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, John:

      I would say, as a church historian, that the Didache is not an exhaustive manual of church practice. Plus, it was a regional guide; worship practices were fairly fluid and based on regional preferences until well into the fourth century.

      In terms of no babies, read the article again. Looking for the wrong thing–the emphasis is household baptism, not necessarily infant baptism.

  • Garet R

    I appreciate the post here. Making the case for pedo-baptism is difficult to do, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be tasked with doing it.

    The strongest arguments against pedo-baptism are:
    1. Zero NT evidence or support for the practice. There is nothing within the text of the NT to say it was practiced, mandated, or even considered. Additionally, all the forms of NT baptism given are by immersion of a new believer. To a point this is the strongest case against pedo-baptism.

    2. As multiple authors have showed (Ferguson most pointedly in “Baptism in the Early Church”) the practice pedo-baptism didn’t arise until around AD 300. It only became normative in the Church towards the end of that century and following the ministry of Augustine of Hippo. The archeological data we have from these time shows us bapistries made for adults (or teens…but they were considered adults) that was done by immersion.

    The case of pedo-baptism rests, ultimately, on a two part move where there is an attempt to show that grace isn’t sufficient and an sacramental view of baptism. As a thorough-going Baptist I reject both of these points. The view of baptism as the new circumcision seems a difficult point to make in applying it to children, specifically babies. Ultimately, since one can’t satisify a NT case for the practice or find evidences in the early church, perhaps it is the only argument they can make.

    • Bill

      Garret – I struggled with this topic for about a year before coming to peace on infant baptism. I know we can’t make a decision on this just based on history outside of scripture, but I strongly suggest you do more research on your second item. There is much written contrary to this statement. Every Baptist view I read on this topic always seemed to say the same thing with the same conclusion as if it was taught at Baptist seminary and never questioned.
      Imersion is similar: I always head a circular reasoning such that every instance of baptizo in the NT means imersion because well, baptism is imersion. And with that topic as also, many scholars find that baptizo doesn’t always mean imersion both in and out of scripture.

    • Phil

      Garet: Ferguson is wrong then. Over 100 years before Augstine was even born, Origen (184 – 254AD) wrote in 248 AD: “The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants.” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9). Origen connects paedobaptism as a practice of the Apostles, and the NT is repleat with evidence that baptism was practiced before the earthly ministry of Christ.

      At some point we’re going to have to get honest and stop blaming Augustine as if he invented paedobaptism (i.e., covenant family baptism) out of thin air. Nowhere close, folks.

  • http://vantilman.blogspot.com Andrew

    Interesting that of he three texts mentioned in the second to last paragraph none explicitly support infant baptism.

    In my opinion this is a poor reading of Acts 2:38,29 – the promise is “Repent and believe and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. ie. if your Children repent and believe they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    This promise is valid for “everyone wwhom the Lord our God calls to himself”, but it is contingent on belief and repentance (also gifts of God, but that is another issue).

    Colossians 2:10-11, The circumcision of our heart coincides with our regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit – baptism merely symbolizes the death of the old man and resurrection to a new life with a new heart that desires to follow God’s commands.
    (see Jeremiah 9:25 & Ezekiel 36:26,27)

    1 Corinthians 7:14 – Seems silly but on the theme of households I would have to ask if the wife should baptize her unbelieving Husband as well if he consents?

    It has been interesting having these discussions on TGC regarding infant baptism, but I have yet to see a convincing argument from the paedo-baptist camp. Though it has been interesting I think it would be more profitable to focus on our common saviour, Jesus Christ than creating controversy over denomenational issues.

    Titus 3:9 comes to mind –> “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.”

    I am a proud big “C” Christian, small ‘b’ baptist. Let’s lift up the name of Jesus folks!

    • Rowland

      I agree with what you have said but for that it is a foolish controversy. It is spiritually helpful when we intellectually fight to submit to truth though the labor is not decisive for our submission. So i pray that God himself will cause us to settle on the grounds we should on this issue.

  • Brantley Rutz

    I haven’t studied this extensively, so pardon me if this question sounds ignorant, but if the argument for paedobaptism is that OT covenant member’s children were circumcised, which would be male children, then why are female infants baptized?

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Brantley:

      Because of the more extensive blessings of the NT era, both men and women are baptized. Hope that helps.

  • http://www.benjaminpglaser.wordpress.com Benjamin P. Glaser

    As far as mode is concerned one of the important notes that needs to be remembered is that water baptism was not a Christian invention, but long had been part of Jewish rites in bringing proselytes into the covenant family, including their children.

  • http://www.newhopec.com Jon Marq

    Instead of “either/or” our church adopted a “both/and” Dual-Practice approach to baptism. :-) http://newhopec.com/#/constitution/article-ii

    • http://www.growinginworship.com Paul Ellsworth

      Is this normal, Jon? Do you have any idea if Presbyterian churches do this? I’m “against” paedobaptism and do not believe it is biblical… I’m wondering, though, whether Presbyterians normally baptize after a profession of faith by a baptized infant… in any circumstances? For example, what if they stray and then return, what if they are baptized by a different church, etc.

      Not looking for a defense of either practice, I’m just wondering what is common :)

      • http://www.newhopec.com Jon Marq

        We are still finding our way. Not quite Presbyterian, but still evangelical and reformed.

        Basically, what we mean by dual-practice is that we recognize that while baptism ought to unite us in Christ to one another, it often divides us from one another. So one solution is dual-practice baptism. We respect the consciences of Christian parents/guardians to have their children baptized as infants/children before they make a profession of faith OR to have them baptized after they make a profession of faith. This grows out of our understanding of covenant household baptism (oikobaptism). So we have baptized “both” infants and children “and” some adolescents and adults. But, as a rule, we discourage anything resembling re-baptism. We believe one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

        [From what I gather, Presbyterian churches do not encourage, and would not allow(?) “re-baptism” after a profession of faith, especially if a person experienced covenant baptism as an infant in one of their congregations.]

    • Kraig

      Excellent! As someone who is like-minded, we are not “both/and” or “dual-practice.” Our view stands on its own! We believe that a disciple is anyone who is being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded, and that baptism is an initiatory rite that sets apart a person as a disciple and welcomes him/her into the visible church community, and that baptism should be done by immersion when possible.

      I came to this view after studying all relevant texts and themes in the Bible and reading nearly every “go-to” book from all perspectives of the subject. I grew up presbyterian, became baptist an an adult, studied at both presbyterian and baptist institutions, and just could not be completely convinced by the traditional presbyterian or baptist arguments (even though both make strong arguments).

  • David

    Am I correct in reading the following and interpreting it to mean that you see baptism as the sealing of covenant inclusion?

    “And in Acts 16, God dealt with Lydia and the Philippian jailer (believing household heads), and then signed and sealed those promises through household baptism.”

    If so, then it sounds good, but it’s not biblical as the passage below reveals.

    “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

    (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

    What are your thoughts about this?

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, David:

      Sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant of grace. They serve to sign the content of the promise–pointing us to Christ–and to seal the promise–serving as a sign of authenticity of the promise. That’s what both baptism and the Lord’s Supper do.

      In terms of how sacraments “seal” and whether that relates to Eph 1:13-14, I have never really thought about it.

  • Charmaine Nymann

    I find it very interesting from reading the comments,that just because there is not a SPECIFIC reference to infant baptism in the NT, folks like to just write it off. Have you ever stopped to think about the uproar that would have happened among the Jews if their children were suddenly cut out of the covenant that they had been a part of since Abraham? Don’t you think there would be some historical documentation of that? Why did God not plainly command us in the NT to stop giving the sign of the covenant to our children? What about the fact that the Bible clearly teaches that baptism replaces circumcision? And the fact that entire households were baptized? Are we to then assume there were NO infants in those homes that were filled with parents, grandparents and servants? Of course not – we are to assume, as anywhere throughout scripture, that households included infants.

    I am from a Reformed church and we feel that the baptism of our children is a sign and seal, but it does NOT save our children, just as circumcision did not save in the OT. We, as aprents, are accountable to the church and God, and are to promise to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. What many may not know, is that in our church, our children make a ‘public profession of faith’ when they come of an age where they can understand and embrace the gospel teachings for themselves, having been taught from infancy as their parents promised. They take classes in doctrine and church membership and then, after being interviewed by the church elders, are welcomed into full communicant membership in the church after a special service where they profess their faith publicly. They are then allowed to partake in communion, may vote, and are held accountable for their lives in regards to church discipline as well . . . it is a very solemn and memorable event,(just as one commenter said that he feels that people are being robbed of the memory of believer’s baptism if baptized as infants, I wanted to clear that up).

    A great book to read is “What Christian Parents Should Know ABout Infant Baptism” by John P. Sartelle – it’s only 28 pages long and doesn’t take long to read. I don’t recommend this book to necessarily try to change minds, but that you might actually understand more of where paedobaptists are coming from. Please also read Acts 2:39 where Peter said at Pentecost “For the promise is for you AND FOR YOUR CHILDREN. . . “, and 1 Cor. 7:14 – Paul calls children of believers “holy” or “set apart. And there are many more, but I will close for now.

    • Kraig

      Charmaine, I would like to address the points you raise. To begin with, please know that I am ok with baptizing infants and young children. The points you raise, however, I have found unconvincing in my journey of understanding the issue.
      (1) Credobaptists do not write off infant baptism simply because there is no specific NT example. Credobaptists believe that each person should make a profession of faith before being baptized. Baptism, for them, is something that is done after a person repents and believes in Jesus for the first time.
      (2) The Jewish uproar argument is worthless because it is mere speculation. Before Christ founded his church, there were no Jewish Christians, and most Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. For that reason, it was a big deal for any Jew to become a Christ-follower. One thing we know for sure is that some Jewish Christians continued the practice of circumcision, and were adament that Gentiles do the same. In the mind of those Jewish Christians, at least, circumcision was not replaced by anything.
      (3) I don’t wish to counsel God and speculate as to why he would have commanded a certain thing or not, but your premises assume your conclusion is true, which is a logical fallacy.
      (4) The Bible does not clearly teach that baptism replaces circumcision. It is best to never use the word “clearly” in an argument, because that is an emotional word. There is a similarity between circumcision and baptism in that they both point to a spiritual reality (circumcised heart, union with Christ), but there are also dis-similarities between the two, both in picture and practice. For example:
      (a) Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant–it is used with the “this is the covenant” language. In the NT, however, the “this is the covenant” language is used only for the Lord’s Supper. So the sign of the NC is the Lord’s Supper, which points to the body and blood of Jesus that was sacrificed for us.
      (b) Circumcision was practiced on males only. For good reason too, as it pointed to the promise that God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist, would make Abraham the father of many nations and bring about the promised offspring, not through works of the flesh (e.g. Ishmael), but through his power and grace (e.g. Isaac, Jesus). It also pointed to the need for a circumcised heart, that is, faith and obedience. Baptism is practiced on males and females. For good reason too, as it points to union with Christ in his death and resurrection–a union that is available for male and female from every nation.
      (5) The household baptisms, while certainly helping the case for baptizing infants and young children, should not carry too much weight because speculation is still required. We don’t know the ages of all people in these households. Even if there were infants, the text does not necessarily tell us that the infants were baptized. If we assumed for the moment credobaptism, then the argument could be made that the household baptisms included all who made a profession of faith. In some cultures, a family would make that decision together, that is, whatever the head of household decided would become the beliefs of the whole household. Some missionaries have encountered situations where an entire village would believe together, but not one individual would profess faith until the village elders decided they would all believe.
      (a) There is, however, a pattern of God saving entire households from judgment, a pattern that seems to continue in those household baptisms. Credobaptists have their work cut out for them in dealing with this pattern, as the pattern favors including children in the covenant community.
      (b) How that principle continues in the NC, however, must be weighed against the fact that Jesus described his message as one that could divide families, as well as the themes of God’s people being born spiritually and not biologically.
      (6) The sign and seal language is used of circumcision but not of baptism. In the NC, the seal is the Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our salvation.
      (7) The communicant/non-communicant membership thing is not found in Bible. A person is either part of the community or not. In my opinion, a mis-application of 1 Cor 11 has resulted in churches not wanting baptized children to participate in the Lord’s Supper. The OT pattern, however, is for children to participate in the Passover. The Lord’s Supper is an act of covenant renewal that is good for all baptized disciples to partake in. There is also no NT precedent for a local church voting process. If a 12-year-old goes through the profession of faith thing, I would still not want them voting on calling a pastor or anything else important. Perhaps it is wiser for each household in a church to have one vote, when matters are voted upon. I think discretion is required in this respect.
      (8) Acts 2:39 does include the “you and your children” formula, but it also qualifies it with “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” It is possible, even probable, that the formula is speaking to the promise enduring time and generations. The promise is good today, tomorrow, and every day until the Lord returns. As long as it is called today (and it always is), anyone anywhere can repent and be baptized and receive the promised Holy Spirit. Acts 2 really does favor the credobaptist position.
      (9) 1 Cor 7:14 is an interesting verse. The context is a marriage with only one believing spouse. If the verse is going to be used as justification for baptizing children when one parent is a believer, then it must also be used as justification for baptizing the unbelieving spouse when the other spouse is a believer. The verse says that both the unbelieving spouse and the children are “holy” because of the believing spouse/parent.

      Again, I am ok with baptizing infants and young children of believers, and would make the argument from Scripture on the basis that they are disciples. But the arguments you set forth are, in my opinion, incorrect or uncompelling.

      • Bill

        Kraig – You make good points, but I am wondering how is it then you are OK with infant baptism based on those points? I am curious to know because I think you and I think the same in some ways.
        My background is I studied this for a year and now I am at peace with infant baptism, but like yourself, I hold to some of the same items as you. For example, the OT over and over uses the word covenant when discussing circumcision, but never mentions the word covenant with baptism but yet, both sides consider it a covenant sign. Household baptisms in Acts – yes, the message of salvation is addressed to households, but you can’t prove or disprove anything about the age of the members. Acts 2:39 – What is for their children as well as for them? If they believe, they will receive the Holy Spirit. Same as saying,”When they are 16, if they pass the test, they can drive”. Doesn’t mean they can drive now, its just they get the same promise, same as everyone else.

        • Kraig

          Bill, the short answer is that infants and young children connected to the visible church are disciples, and baptism is the rite that sets people apart as disciples.

          A disciple, in my opinion and based on Jesus’ commission, is any person who is being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded. There is a spectrum in life for all people in regard to intellectual development and independence. I don’t think there is a special level of independence or development a person must achieve in order to be part of the visible church and considered a disciple. Even though infants, young children, and handicapped persons have not achieved independence and high development, they can still be taught to obey all that Jesus commanded (in a simpler way than that of a normal adult, of course).

          In my study of the NT, I find there to be a distinction between a disciple and a believer, and the visible and spiritual church. Every believer is a disciple, but not all disciples are believers. Disciples are all those who are part of the visible church, some of whom will fall away. Before any person falls away, they are considered a disciple and member of the visible church. It seems the apostles gave disciples the benefit of the doubt that they were born of God, unless they taught a false gospel, fell into gross error, or chose to leave the church.

          There are more reasons that led me to this position, but this format is not the place to explain them all. If you or anyone want to discuss more: kraigvd_at_gmail.

          • Charmaine Nymann

            Thanks for your comments – I know that I don’t have the ‘theological’ background as you seem to, but I simply believe the scriptures as I see them, and as I have been taught, and don’t try to over analyze as so many seem to be doing in this thread. It is certainly not worth fighting over!

            The argument for infant baptism just makes far more sense to me – the covenant God made with Abraham was “to a thousand generations” – God knew it would not be a thousand generations till He sent Jesus, so I believe chldren of beleivers are still part of that covenenant, and will be to the end of time. We are to hold all things up in light of scripture, and that includes the OT in regards to the NT. . . and the fact that the jailer and his household were baptized – yes, we must assume there were infants or young children, and he, as the spiritual head, would have had his household, including infants/children baptized, and from there would teach them what that baptism meant. It’s so simple to me, maybe because I see the beauty in infant babptism, and everything that goes with it, and the solemnity in our church’s ‘profession of faith’.(BTW, our youth are usually approx. 18 years old when they do it. They first go through catechism classes till about age 16 and then, if they choose, go to pre-confession classes and then decide to make a public profession of faith – or not – at that time . . . I agree that we should not have 12 year olds voting, and I agree that heads of household should vote, though, sadly, that is not the case in our specific church – I always have my husband vote for me, but our professing daugheters here at home do vote)

            We have many friends who are Brethren and Baptist and who believe in credo-baptism, and we have pretty much agreed to disagree on this since we know this is not a salvation issue – and we have celebrated and witnessed their children’s credobaptism, and they our infant baptsims and professions of faith – even though we may not agree on these matters, we know these are important steps in our families’ Christian walk . . . now, having said that, I find it very interesting when I hear statistics from James Dobson and Ken Ham and other evangelicals about the number of youth that walk away from the church by the time they are out of college or university. I am not saying that those from Reformed churches don’t, because I know they do as well, but the statistics are much, much lower in that regard. Certainly not the 80% that KH and JD claim. I honestly believe it is partly because there is such a rich heritage in Reformed doctrine, in having your infants baptized, and the promise we, as parents, make before the church, to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We teach our children the catechism, and Bible doctrine is a huge part of our daily lives, as is church doctrine. We hold our children accountable before God from day one, and don’t ‘wait’ for them to have a lightbulb moment where they are suddenly saved before we hold them accountable . . . we remind them of the covenant they are part of daily,through Christian schooling/homeschooling, catechism classes, twice to church on Sunday (we are Sabbatarians as well). I don’t see this in many evangelical families ( though I know there are many that are not paedos that also teach the catechism, etc)Sadly, we have seen many evangelicals whose chldren are adults who have wandered from the Lord – there is no accountability there because there has been no baptism, or if there has been credo-baptism, it seems weak. They don’t have the classes and the teaching of the catechism from childhood. It should come from the parents, but how many fathers actually DO teach the catechism if the church doesn’t? Obviously, this is my opinion speaking here :-)

            Well, the day will come when we wil rejoice in heaven with our Saviour, credos and paedos together, and it will not matter any longer, will it? In the meantime, we must embrace one another as fellow believers and not judge one another in this matter – for baptism is not a means of salvation and neither ‘camp’ is sinning in what they are doing. I will continue to support my credo friends and rejoice in their children’s steps of faith, as they do mine – ultimately, how our children live out their daily walk as beleivers is the key, isn’t it? That is the true heritage – “by their fruits you shall know them”.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      Charmaine: “I am from a Reformed church and we feel that the baptism of our children is a sign and seal, but it does NOT save our children”

      That’s definitely a lot better teaching than Lutheran teaching!!

  • Jackson Condrey

    I don’t mean to sound polemic, but I’m afraid that people who deny infant baptism don’t understand or simply don’t know church history. Infant baptism has always been the norm, and it’s by far the most common practice even today. There are approximately 2 billion Christians on the planet today. Of those, I’d guess that roughly 80-90% practice infant baptism. Catholics do it. Orthodox do it. Most Protestants do it; for example, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Episcopalians (I guess that’s the same thing as Anglicans, really) all practice infant baptism. The only Christians that don’t, as far as I can tell, are the Baptists, Pentecostals, and non-denominational (who are really Baptists). Christians who deny infant baptism are definitely in the minority, especially when you throw in 2000 years of church history. Not that truth is a numbers game, but it certainly got me to rethink my view of baptism.

  • Jackie Struve

    In my understanding, infant dedication is really the parent’s dedicating themselves to bring up their child in a Biblical Christian manner. True baptism has to involve the individual making that decision to obey Christ and follow His example and be baptised. It is a symbol of the fact that we have died to sin and have been raised to newness of life. No-one but the individual can make that decision and give that witness of their committment to Christ.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “our pastor convinced me that I had not been scripturally baptized. He certainly wouldn’t have counted my Lutheran baptism”

    Good pastor, this fellow.

    Here’s the positive: At least you didn’t stay in Lutheranism.

  • Brian Park

    I think this is an example of how our culture affects our interpretation of Scripture more than we often realize—in this specific case, the credobaptist view reflecting Western (dare I say, “American”) individualism. Personal salvation becomes the sole category for understanding this sacrament while the massive biblical themes of covenant and community are dismissed out of hand.

    As expected, credobaptists will note that the NT doesn’t record a single instance of an infant being baptized. Can you point to a single reference of an adult with at least one believing parent being baptized? No? Then perhaps Acts and much of the NT is describing a unique period in redemptive history where the New Covenant is unfolding as many “first generation” Christians come to faith in the resurrected Christ.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “As expected, credobaptists will note that the NT doesn’t record a single instance of an infant being baptized.”

    Given that factual observation and stipulation by both paedo’s and credo’s, paedo’s should simply extend Christian liberty and charity to the credo brothers and sisters in Christ whose convictions are to only baptize repentant believers.

    • Brian Park

      Selective quoting … not a very fair tactic in discussing doctrine, TUAD. Why not include my statement about the total absence of any adults with at least one believing parent being baptized in the NT? I would also consider that factual.

      As for your plea for charity, my personal observation is that the credobaptist camp has been far less gracious toward the paedobaptist camp on this non-cardinal doctrine. Mark Dever’s recent statement that paedobaptists are “sinning” comes to mind.

      • Truth Unites… and Divides

        Selective quoting … not a very fair tactic in discussing doctrine, TUAD.

        Because anybody can reference your entire comment directly above.

        What matters is what I quoted from a paedo: “As expected, credobaptists will note that the NT doesn’t record a single instance of an infant being baptized.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Truth Unites:

      Actually, paedobaptists do extend that liberty to credobaptists. If they join our churches, we accept their baptisms as valid. It is actually the other way around in terms of liberty: credobaptists would make a believer who was baptized as an infant be rebaptized (as my story shows, multiple times!)

  • http://creideamhamhain.wordpress.com/ Joshua Bovis

    1. There is nowhere in the NT that explicitly commands or forbids infant baptism.
    2. So in the absence of commands or prohibitions, both sides are forced to rely on inferences which are implicit in Scripture.
    3. In the OT is almost universally agreed that circumcision in the OT was a sign of the Old covenant and baptism is a sign of the new covenant. (Both sides tend to agree)
    4. Both are signs of some kind of covenant that God made with people.
    5. Abraham received the sign after he has believed and repented, It is given after he has faith, God not only permits but explicitly commands that the infant son of Abraham receive the sign of this same covenant, and not only to Isaac, and Jacob, but when Moses delays circumcise his child, God was going to kill him for withholding the sign of the covenant from his infant son.
    Here in the OT,we have explicit Biblical teaching that God has commanded that a sign of faith be administered to a person who does not yet possess what the sign signifies. So the sign of redemption is commanded to be given to infants, not to all, but only those who are in the covenant community (the OT Church).
    6. We recognise again that there are differences between the two:
    • In the OT only boys received it
    • In the NT the sign is to be administered to males as well as females.
    6.As the NT labours over and over again, the New Covenant is a better covenant. It is more inclusive than the Old Covenant.
    So it seems strange that in general terms, if the New Covenant is more inclusive than the Old Covenant, why would a practice of including the children of believers in the reception of the sign of the covenant of redemption that has been practiced for 2000 years suddenly be repealed and abrogated in the NT without a single word?

    The burden of proof here is on those who say that at the point of including children of believers in the reception of the covenant sign of the promise of God for redemption, that there is this radical change in the history of redemption. That a practice that is normal and normative for two thousand years suddenly stops without a word in the NT.

    The reason why there is no explicit command to baptise infants of believers in the NT is because it is clearly assumed by any Jewish or early Christian believer that the same practice and principle of including children of believers in the reception of the covenant sign would continue unless God said “stop!”

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “There is nowhere in the NT that explicitly commands or forbids infant baptism.”

      Given the lack of *explicit* commands to baptise infants in the NT, then Christian liberty and charity from paedo’s to credo’s would seem to be in order.

      • http://creideamhamhain.wordpress.com Joshua Bovis

        Of course!
        It is not a first order issue.
        For me the tipping point was the answer to this question:
        What does baptism symbolise?
        a. A person’s response to the Lord Jesus Christ (faith & Repentance)
        b. The Sovereignty and promises of God as well as a person’s response to the Lord Jesus Christ?

        It it is a. I could never agree with infant baptism. I think b.is correct. I have good mates who are Bappoes (Australian term for Baptist) and this is never an issue as it is not a gospel issue.

    • John S

      Good stuff. However there is much discontinuity as well. The OT kingdom was a physical one and circumcision is a physical act. In the New Covenenant the kingdom is spiritual and circumcision is of the heart. Israel is not in the Middle East but in every nation. Uncircumscribed Gentiles become priests. The tabernacle was a tent, now it is the hearts of men. The sacrifices have ceased, etc. The New Covenant is ‘not like the covenant that I made with their fathers’.

      These things were outrageous changes to Jews, I’m not sure how ‘believe, then take the sign’ would be more radical a change. The OT shadows, after the reality in Christ, are seen in full light and thus differently. The covenant sign doesn’t stop ‘without a word’, it stops when the Word is given (along with a new covenant sign). There is a ‘new way’ about the new covenant. It is new, after all.

      I could ask, in light of the radical changes of kingdom life through Christ, why would you want to continue anything of the Old Covenant unless it is specifically instructed as part of the New Covenant? I’d say that’s where the burden of proof lies, respectfully.

      Though I haven’t done alot of study I’d see the covenant sign for a child as the blessing of living where the gospel is proclaimed and believed and a home where Christ is King, a spiritual proximity not a physical construct.

  • Jackson Condrey

    For everyone saying that there are no examples of infants being baptized in the NT- there are no examples of women receiving communion either. Should we deny the Lord’s supper to women? There aren’t any examples, right?

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “For everyone saying that there are no examples of infants being baptized in the NT- there are no examples of women receiving communion either. Should we deny the Lord’s supper to women? There aren’t any examples, right?”

      More great logic: There are no examples of dogs being baptized in the NT. Should we deny baptism to dogs? There aren’t any examples, right?

      • Andrew W

        This comment proves the very point it is trying to argue against: that we have no specific precedent from which to base practice, and therefore must explore the theology (and history) in general rather than argue from the lack of example.

        An analogy: Jesus did not specifically teach about cannibalism or birthday presents, nor do we have specific reference to him performing or avoiding either practice. From this fact alone, we can draw none of the following conclusions:
        – cannibalism is good
        – cannibalism is evil
        – birthday presents are good
        – birthday presents are evil
        – birthday presents and cannibalism are morally equivalent in God’s sight
        – birthday presents and cannibalism are not morally equivalent in God’s sight

        • Jackson Condrey

          Precisely. I’m afraid TUAD missed the point.

        • Tuad

          “An analogy: Jesus did not specifically teach about cannibalism or birthday presents, nor do we have specific reference to him performing or avoiding either practice. From this fact alone, we can draw none of the following conclusions:”

          Precisely. Which leads to a greater point, which is also more helpful: paedos should refrain from condemnation and instead extend Christian liberty and charity to credos.

          • Josiah

            TUAD–does this go the other way as well? Should credos not re-baptize those who were baptized as infants because of Christian liberty and charity? After all, that is saying that their baptism as an infant was no baptism at all. It seems that the “condemnation” goes both ways, although I think that language is far too strong.

            • Truth Unites… and Divides

              “TUAD–does this go the other way as well?”


              “After all, that is saying that their baptism as an infant was no baptism at all.”

              Rebaptismal Candidate: “Pastor, I would like to be baptized again. I was baptized as an infant, but I want to be baptized again.

              Credo pastor: “Why?”

              Rebaptismal Candidate: “I love the love of Scripture in this church, in our denomination. In reading the New Testament there is not one single recorded instance of an infant ever being baptized. All baptisms in the NT were of people who repented of their sins and confessed Jesus as Lord. When I was an infant I didn’t even know what sin was, let alone repent of it. I didn’t even know who Jesus was. My parents were well-meaning, and the clergyman was well-meaning when they baptized me as an infant, but I really think it was ridiculous to be perfectly candid.”

              Credo Pastor: “Yes, let’s baptise you again. Curious. Why do you say your infant baptism was ridiculous?”

              Rebaptismal Candidate: “Well, have you heard that in England and in other countries there are people who are paying money, money!, to have de-baptismal certificates issued to them in regards to their infant baptism when they were forcibly baptised by their parents and the clergyman? They’re paying to have their infant baptism taken off the records!

              Me? My infant baptism wasn’t voluntary, I didn’t repent, and I didn’t even know Jesus. I want to be baptized again according to a plain reading of the New Testament: Of my own volition, with contrition and repentance, and confessing Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

              I want to be baptized again!”

            • Chris


              Credos should re-baptize those baptized as infants if credos do not understand infant baptism to be a valid baptism. You can argue that credos are wrong in their belief about baptism, but how can you say they are wrong for living it out?

              With respect,


            • Truth Unites… and Divides

              “It seems that the “condemnation” goes both ways, although I think that language is far too strong.”

              Paedo’s are condemning Credo’s as committing sin for not baptizing their infant babies. Two paedo’s on this thread have stated this.

              Hence, the repeated call that paedos refrain from Pharasaic condemnation, and instead extend Christian liberty and charity to credos.

            • Jackson Condrey

              This seems like a fun game. Let’s try it out in another scenario, TUAD.

              Young Theology Student: “Professor, I think I’ve uncovered the true, New Testament practice of the Lord’s Supper.”

              Seminary Professor: “Oh? Go on.”

              Young Theology Student: “Well, every other church body in history has gotten it wrong, until now. Until I figured it all out.”

              Seminary Professor, intrigued and a little concerned: “What are you talking about?”

              YTS: “I don’t think we should commune women. There are no explicit commands from Scripture to do so. And we haven’t got a single clear example in the New Testament of women receiving the Lord’s Supper. Therefore, I’m quite sure that the true biblical model is to commune only males.”

              SP: “Um, let’s think this through a little bit. Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that nobody has ever seen this before? Surely, somebody would’ve gotten it right before now. Besides, you’re arguing from silence. I could just as easily say that there are no examples of women being refused communion in Scripture.”

              YTS: “Never mind that. There are three gospel accounts where all of the communicants are men. Not a single woman in sight. That’s got to mean something. It’s in Scripture for a reason, right Professor?”

              SP: [choosing his words carefully] “I think you’re taking the wrong lesson from the text. Besides, Paul talks a lot about the Lord’s Supper in his letter to the Corinthians. The whole church was apparently taking communion. Don’t you think there were women in that church?”

              YTS: “No, that’s not explicit enough. If women were taking communion, surely there’d be a verse about it somewhere. Clearly, the Scriptural practice is to give the Lord’s Supper to men only. Every example we’ve got points to that.”

              SP: [exasperated]: “But this position puts you at odds with all of church history, not to mention every Christian living today! Everybody gives communion to women!”

              YTS: “I don’t care. Scripture has spoken.”

              SP: “No, your interpretation of Scripture is simply wrong. Think again, please.”

            • Jackson Condrey

              The scenario I just wrote out is exactly the same logic Baptists/”Bible”/Pentecostal Christians use to deny infant baptism.

            • Josiah


              This is precisely my point–they don’t understand infant baptism to be a valid baptism, and therefore re-baptize. They should do what is in keeping with their theology. It is just that through that very theology and the act of re-baptism in light of it, they are declaring paedobaptism to be contrary to the will of God, and therefore a sin.
              I think it is undeniable that many baptists would declare infant baptism to be a sin. “Condemnation,” as TUAD calls it, on this issue therefore goes both ways, and to single out paedobaptists as somehow the bad guys here is inaccurate. Of course we should treat each other with charity; at the same time, one position is correct and in keeping with the will of God and the other is incorrect and contrary to His will. We have to treat with charity even those we believe to be wrong–and that goes both ways!
              By the way, Jackson Condrey, you make a really interesting point about the Lord’s Supper.

            • Chris


              I understand what you are saying and agree with you in regards to charity being needed on both sides. I so quickly forget that I am speaking to a brother in these discussions.


    • Jackson Condrey

      I’m just pointing out that there doesn’t have to be an explicit example in order for it to be the correct practice. Infants have always been baptized since the beginning of the Church, and it’s the practice of the overwhelming majority today.

      Here, check out these quotes from some early church fathers.

      John Chrystostom
      “You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

      “What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).

      “The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).

      Cyprian of Carthage

      “As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).

      “If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

      I’ll stop there, but there are tons more. I won’t cite the scriptural passages used by paedobaptists since I’m sure you already know them.

      Re: dogs. No, we shouldn’t baptize dogs. The Christian Church has never done such a thing. Moreover, the grace bestowed in baptism is for people, not for animals. On the other hand, the Church has always baptized infants. Not baptizing infants puts you out of step with all of church history and the vast majority of Christians today.

      • John S

        So let me ask, is it a sin for Christian parents not to baptize their infant child?

        • John H.

          Yes. I would concur with the Westminster Confession, 28.5 – “Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.” Scripture proof: all commands to baptize, plus Luke 7:30 in principle. Give praise to God, we have a Savior for sinners and a Shepherd for saints who leads us into the truth.

        • Truth Unites… and Divides

          “So let me ask, is it a sin for Christian parents not to baptize their infant child?”

          Credos: “No.”

          Paedos: Crickets chirping so far.

          • John H.

            TUAD, I think the time lapse for the moderation of comments explains why you did not see an answer to the question before you posted. Blessings.

          • Jackson Condrey

            TUAD, what’s your take on the quotes above? How did so many leaders of the ancient church get so confused about baptizing infants? Could it be possible that they’re not confused? How do you explain the prevalence of infant baptism throughout history?

      • Jackson Condrey


  • ryan sinke

    Moe,you said only those of the faith are true offspring of God. Paul talking to pagans in Acts 17 refers to them as the offspring of God
    Add that with 2cor 5 19-21 Jeremiah will make much more sense. Infant baptism is putting yourself back under law. Thinking you can do something to make God feel different towards you. If baptism replaces circumcision? We all know how Paul felt about circumcision! The covenant God made was with Jesus, not man. For we all all in christ.

    • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

      Ryan, Jesus informed a Jewish leader named Nicodemus that he could not comprehend (see, understand, “get it”) unless the Spirit of God give him life. Nicodemus was a Jew, outwardly a child of the covenant. He was circumcised outwardly. Yet inwardly his heart remained uncircumcised. Unless God circumcise his heart he would remain a child of the devil and outside of Israel which is above.

      See Gal 4:26-31.

      26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband. 28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman. 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

      By the way, baptism does not replace circumcision of the flesh. Covenant theology taught you that not God’s Word. The circumcision of the heart and the indwelling Spirit are required for entrance into the “new covenant” that is sealed by the blood of Christ. Baptized children and adults whose hearts are uncircumcised remain children of the devil and in bondage to sin.

      Tell your kids the truth. Unless they are born again they are enemies of God and his Christ.

      In His love.

    • Bill

      Interesting…I often think the credo view is “putting yourself back under the law”.
      You have to be a certain age, you have to be able to vocalize a confession first, you have to follow a certain mode, etc.

      But yet its not a real good Law example because scripture doesn’t give us a specific age despite the fact some churches will give one, the post confession idea is mostly based on new church/new Christian examples, and the mode is based off the assumption that baptizo always means imersion even though many scholars don’t agree.

      • Chris


        With the paedo view, one believes in a certain age for baptism – infancy, you have to be a child of at least one believing parent, and you are normally sprinkled, etc. There are guidelines/rules both sides follow. So haven’t both sides “put themselves back under law” if your first paragraph is correct?

        With respect,

  • Gilbert T. Zinke

    To Brian Park:
    Yes, the Christ, in Mark 1:9 and parallels. Would you have us imagine that Mary and Joseph were unbelievers?

    To Sean Michael Lucas, writer of the original article:

    “They brought him [the infant Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to to the Lord” (Luke 2:22).
    This was clearly a formal ceremony in which a 40-day old infant was presented to God. If that is not a baby dedication, what is the distinction? Note that this event is distinct from, and in addition to, the circumcision that happened 32 days earlier. Note that neither of these events eliminated the need for Jesus to be baptized as an adult.

    To the several others who see a seamless continuity of covenant between the testaments, with baptism replacing circumcision:
    John the Baptist was calling on covenant people–whether circumcised or female, but no Gentiles!–to accept baptism, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). Matthew notes that confession of (personal) sins was part of the procedure. This, of course became a problem when Jesus presented himself for baptism. John the Baptist balked in that 1)John felt a need to be baptized by Jesus (Matthew 3:14, perhaps because Jesus was holier than John?), and 2)Jesus had no sins to confess (breaking John’s usual procedure, Matthew 3:6). In the wisdom and providence of God, the Holy Spirit had John himself confess that Jesus, bearing no sins of his own would bear the sins of others (John 1:29).

    On the day of Pentecost “Those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”(Acts 2:41) Note the one-for-one correlation between receiving the word–another thing infants cannot do–and being baptized. Note also that the report counted “souls,” –not households–that joined the community.

    There is nothing in the “household conversion” passages in Acts that would set side the principles of personal confession of sin or personal reception of the word (i.e. belief). On the contrary Lydia, was single and hopefully had no infant. Paul and Silas said to the Philippian jailer, “‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.’ and they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house [Did they wake up an infant to hear them preach?]. And he took them that same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and his family. Then he brought them up into his house”–So far the preaching, washing and baptizing were in the jail or outdoors–“and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” I see the very same people 1) hearing the word, 2) being baptized and 3) rejoicing.

    As much as the NT has a concern for the salvation of households–and we should as well–it rightly focuses on the individual hearing the word, confessing sin, believing in God and acting in obedience. That is equally true in the OT. This Biblical valuing of the individual has shaped Western Civilization, not vice versa.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Gilbert:

      A couple of things. I would hesitate to use Jesus’ presentation at the temple as a template for baby dedication. That presentation was part of the required OT ceremonies for the firstborn as laid out in Exodus and Leviticus.

      Also, Jesus didn’t *need* to be baptized as an adult, unless you think he had to repent and believe and be baptized. He was baptized in his role as the Son of Man, identifying with the people he had come to save as the one who came to bear their sins of which they were repenting. Jesus’ baptism is not any kind of model for ours.

      And you need to read the article again: Acts 16 is about household baptism. Neither Lydia’s household nor the jailer’s household expressed faith according to the text; they were baptized because their representative head put his/her faith in God.

      • Gilbert T. Zinke


        I sense that you are a fair-minded, sharp thinker, and I have appreciated your several posts so far.

        Please elaborate on where you find the distinction between “disciple” and “believer” beyond “in my study of the NT.” Specific passages would be helpful.

        Most of our evangelical culture tends to allow the category of “believer” to include those that mentally assent, while possibly lacking commitment. They would then distinguish a “disciple” as one that has at least a minimal level of commitment, one who has consciously entrusted his/her life to Jesus. Some would go further to say –based on the meaning of the word “disciple”—that a believer is trained to become a disciple through a process of “discipleship,” (an extra-Biblical word).

        I currently doubt all of those distinctions, considering a believer = a disciple. It seems startling to me that you seem to define a disciple as one who is providentially (or by choice) under the influence of the Gospel and the believing community, but has not yet rejected God. Please help me see what you are seeing.

        Please also reconcile your position with the words of our Lord:
        “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be My disciple,” (Luke 14:26~27). Then, after two illustrations of counting the cost, He concludes,
        “So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33; ESV but capitalizations and underlines are mine).

        Your brother,

        • Kraig

          Gil, good feedback, and good point on how some use the term “believer” to mean a person who merely acknowledges things to be true. I am using “believer” to mean a person who is born again and sealed with the Holy Spirit, so perhaps believer is not the best term to use.
          My definition of a disciple is based on Jesus’ commission in Mt 28: A disciple is one who is (1) baptized and (2) taught to obey all that Jesus commanded. Furthermore, the apostles are told that they must go and “make” disciples. While a disciple can “make” another disciple by discipleship (baptizing and teaching), a disciple cannot “make” another person born again–that is soley the work of God. A person might be born again before they are made a disciple, but it is also possible that a person is born again after the discipleship has commenced. Take the apostles, for example. When were the apostles born again? If it was not before or simultaneous to when Jesus called them to “follow me” (become a disciple), then it was after they commenced discipleship. It took time for the apostles to get it and to know that Jesus is the Christ–something revealed by God. Now I know that that is a tricky example because of it preceding Pentecost. But consider the parable of the soils. There you have two soils that initially “receive” the word and commence discipleship, but then after a time they fall away for various reasons because they were not born again (the “good soil”). There is even evidence of fruit for some of these receivers of the word–progress is seemingly made in their walk with the Lord–but when they fall away it becomes evident that the fruit had not root (in Christ).
          Another example is John 6:66 (!), “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” The context is that Jesus makes a hard saying about him being the bread of life and how people must feed on his body and blood to receive eternal life. In v64 Jesus says that “there are some of you who do not believe.” The “you” seems to include the “disciples” that were grumbling and unwilling to receive what Jesus had said.
          Again from 1 John you have people who are part of the church–they are baptized and being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded–but they eventually leave the church because they were not born again.

          With respect to Luke 14, I see your point in the “cannot be my disciple” language. Probably need more time to think about it, but I think it matters that Jesus is giving a hyperbolic warning (“hate” family when he really commands us to love even enemies). I don’t think Jesus, in that hyperbolic warning, is defining discipleship. He is pointing out what disciples must be willing to do if they are to persevere to the end, and thereby prove that they are truly disciples of Jesus.

          All people who are baptized and being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded are disciples. If and when some fall away, because they are not born again, they would no longer be considered disciples at that point because they are no longer being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded.
          I see “disciple” as describing the relationship a person has to Jesus in the eyes of the church, which is the body of Christ (since Jesus is no longer here in the flesh). A disciple must be discipled, which means a disciple is connected to disciplers.
          I see “born again” or “child of God” as describing the relationship a person has to Jesus in the sight of God, that is, spiritually. Being born again is a real change, not just a pronouncement by God, but I mean to say that its reality is only known for certain by God, since even fruit can be faked for a season.

          Gil, this response might be really unsatisfactory. Sorry. I’m not in a place where I can produce something more thorough.

      • Gilbert T. Zinke


        Thanks for your gracious reply.

        Your point is well taken that Mary and Joseph were fulfilling Exodus 13:1 as well as Leviticus 12:8. Both were their legal duty. You decline to make that event a “template” and so would I. It is gracious example, not law. In the same sense, Hannah dedicated Samuel when he was weaned for a lifetime of service to God. That too is a nice example but not in any sense normative for others. For Hannah it was law that Samuel be circumcised (though Scripture doesn’t mention it); that Samuel would be a Nazirite and serve God all his life was freely vowed by his mother–and allowed by his father–but not normative for others.

        I would not impose baby dedication on anyone as a duty, nor bind anyone’s conscience to do so. Indeed, I have done several baby dedications for others, but never did a formal ceremony for my own two sons (though I often committed, and commit, them to the Lord in my prayers). I have no sense of sin, or neglect of obedience, regarding a dedication ceremony.

        Such freedom is a contrast to the way that some of our paedobaptist brothers think about their duty toward God in regard to infants. Some have posted on this site the admission that to fail to baptize their infants would be disobedient/unfaith/sin. (I am not presuming to know your position on this.)

        In my original post, I was simply challenging your assertion that there was no infant dedication in the NT; I was not suggesting it was normative.

        Again, I concur with you that there was no “need” within Jesus to be baptized, in the sense of repenting of sin. The “need” came from his conformity to His Father’s will, as He said to John “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” (Matthew 3:15). I am surprised that you should say, “Jesus’ baptism is not any kind of model for ours.” Do you have in mind the mode? What “righteousness” was Jesus fulfilling by His baptism, if not setting a good example for us? It seems to me that His humble submission to the rite and the testimony of the symbols (figuring His burial and resurrection, as well a “birth” from water to commence a new phase of life) both are models for us.

        Finally, you are technically correct that it says of the Jailer, “and HE rejoiced along with his entire household that HE had believed in God,” (Acts 16:34b; capitalizations mine). It doesn’t say that they believed. However, note that they were rejoicing with him. People don’t “rejoice” when their household head embraces a foreign religion, and brings prisoners into the home…unless they also are judging it good to do so. I am seeing in that rejoicing an evidence of incipient faith in each of them.

        I will reread your arguments.

        With respect for you, brother,

        • Sean Michael Lucas

          Hi, Gil:

          Real quick on Jesus’ baptism. Jesus didn’t *need” to be baptized; he was baptized in order to identify as the Son of Man with those whom he has come to save. In that identification, he was “fulfilling all righteousness.” If you look at the way Matthew uses “fulfill” throughout his Gospel, Jesus fulfilled Scripture and fulfilled righteousness in his ministry of identification as the Son of Man. Hence, Jesus’ baptism is not a model for our own. Hope that helps.

          • Gilbert T. Zinke


            Thanks for taking the time to reply. I know you are busy.

            I agree with all you said about Jesus identifying with us as the Son of Man. I don’t understand the denial, “Hence, Jesus’ baptism is not a model for our own.” It’s a non-sequiter.

            I sounds like you are saying since He was intentionally identifying with us He was not therefore a model in that event, (though you did not actually say that–and I don’t want to put words into your keystrokes). Are you saying that because His baptism had some unique features (that we can’t imitate–and I can think of others, like the descent of the dove and the voice from heaven) that no features of it are intended as example to us?

            To return to my original argument–before we got hung up on the word “need”: I see it as significant that Jesus was circumcised as an infant, presented to God as an infant, recognized by Simeon as “a light to the Gentiles” as an infant, grew up as the only perfect covenant child, needed no repentance (ever!), yet submitted himself as an adult to baptism according to will of His father. Remember that proselyte baptism as around during Jesus’ infancy. Why not that way of identifying with us then? I’m startled if you continue to see no model in His adult choice.

            With respect,

            An analogy would be to say that since the death of Christ was unique (he was atoning for the sins of all who would be saved), therefore nothing in it is a model for us. I doubt that you would ever say that, for the cross is given to us a paradigm of the Christian life.

  • Doug

    As I read this, I wonder how you resolve the order of things in scripture where people believe first and then are baptized?

    Also, how do you resolve the lack of any examples of baptism of babies or infants in scripture?

    It seems to be that the simplicity of scripture makes it clear that belief precedes baptism, and that baptism is an act of conscious obedience. Neither of those is resolved by infant baptism, where the child clearly cannot make either decision.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Doug:

      If someone has not been previously baptized and they come to faith in Christ, they are then baptized. Because baptism is the sign of inclusion in the visible of God, just like circumcision. And so, I do believers baptism; I just do a lot more kinds of baptisms!

  • John Dunn

    You must be born again.

    Fleshly circumcision of the Old Covenant Israelites (both believers and unbelievers) was a shadowy type of the true spiritual circumcision of the heart (by the Spirit) that was to come for the New Covenant members – only those who are *in Christ* by a true and living faith – members of His spiritual Body.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, John:

      Yes, that is true. OT circumcision signed to God’s people their need for God’s grace to give them a circumcision of the heart; in the same way, NT baptism signs to God’s people our need for God’s grace to baptize us with the Spirit and so into Christ’s own body (1 Cor 12).

  • http://www.newhopec.com Jon Marq

    To misquote Paul: If your brother is grieved by your view of baptism, then you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy the one for whom Christ died by your view of baptism. (And do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of “paedo” and “credo” but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, whoever serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual building up. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of a mode of baptism.

    20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.

  • Gilbert T. Zinke

    In my post above I put the quoted the sentence I was responding to in brackets like and e-mail addy; the quote disappeared, so you must have wondered what I was responding to. I’ll try again with italics.

    To Brian Park, who said,
    “Can you point to a single reference of an adult with at least one believing parent being baptized?”:
    Yes, the Christ, in Mark 1:9 and parallels. Would you have us imagine that Mary and Joseph were unbelievers?

  • Gilbert T. Zinke

    To Sean Michael Lucas, writer of the original article, who said, “Yet there wasn’t a biblical basis for “baby dedication” (where is that in the New Testament?) so that wasn’t an option.”:

    “They brought him [the infant Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22).
    This was clearly a formal ceremony in which a 40-day old infant was presented to God. If that is not a baby dedication, what is the distinction? Note that this event is distinct from, and in addition to, the circumcision that happened 32 days earlier. Note that neither of these events eliminated the need for Jesus to be baptized as an adult.

  • Luke Hoffman

    It seems to me like Sean is almost inferring that when the head of the household becomes saved, that his children/family automatically inherit salvation. Can somebody clear this up for me and if it is true, can you please provide scriptural evidence that supports this. I have always read that the salvation of the entire family in Acts 16 was because the entire family received the Gospel and believed. And one of the biggest tenants of Reformed theology is salvation through Faith in Jesus Christ alone, not Salvation through your Dad believing in Christ which has support through a myriad of scripture. Thank you for taking time to explain this to me.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Luke:

      I would never imply that children automatically inherited salvation based on the faith of the household head. Go back and re-read; never said that. Baptism serves to sign and seal God’s promises to the household that if they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they too will be saved. Salvation is always by faith.

      That’s said, to deny that God works in and through households and that there is a representative aspect to the way God deals with his people is to deny fundamental structures to the Bible itself (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; Adam/Jesus).

      • Luke Hoffman

        I see what you are saying, but why allow that false sense of security for some? That, to me, is where the Catholic church went wrong. And, please don’t get me wrong, the way the Baptist Church is going and the age of baptism going down it might as well be psuedopadeo-baptism. I live in Texas and have seen the ill effects of what a false hope of Salvation brings first hand and it is something that is extremely hard to combat. With alot of people down here they point to that moment in their life as their salvation without any sense of transformation. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t bring myself to start that at an even younger age, especially with a major lack of EXPLICIT scriptural evidence.

        • Bill

          Luke – If someone has been born and raised in the church, has always “loved Jesus”, can’t remember a time when they did not walk with God; how would you assess this person? Would they need to find a time in their life where there was a turn around? And if they did not, is their faith not valid?
          I am one of these persons and I find it unsettling when some wonder if I am not really a Christian because I cannot pin point a certain day or time. My parents raised me they way the Bible instructed them. Did I have doubts as I got older? Yes, but I delt with doubts, I did not lose faith, and I continue to grow.
          Regarding your aprehension about the Baptist church baptizing kids at a younger and younger age, Christ says the that the faith of a child is valid. I know some would say Christ is describing adults with Child-like faith, but if Child-like faith is what Christ wants, then how can that be good if at first a child’s faith isn’t good? Christ then issues a stern warning against those that would cause these to stumble. If a small child says they believe, we are tredding on dangerous ground if we discount their faith and tell them they are too young.
          Transformation or sanctification is an on-going processes. I still experience well into adulthood. The teaching (dicipleship) our kids receive should always be there no matter when the baptism happens.

  • http://www.sevres72.org Matthieu

    Thank you for this article. I respectfully (but strongly) disagree.

    I would argue that the common argument from 1 Co 7 backfires on those who use it. By the same logic, are we to conclure that the unbelieving spouse mentioned in the same verse is also “separated to his work and purposes”? Should the unbelieving spouse then be baptized as well?

    I do not deny that there are, obviously, coherent arguments in favor of infant baptism. But I see two enormous flaws. First, if baptism does not regenerate the child (certainly a true statement), can we escape the conclusion that grace is signified but not actually imparted? And in that case, how is grace truly grace if it is not efficacious? Another way to word this objection is to point out that according to paedobaptist logic, the child is then an unregenerate, unsaved member of the church – a church which God purchased (saved!) by his blood (Acts 20:28)! I believe this is inconsistent and contradictory to NT teaching on the church.

    Secondly and similarly, I believe that according a sound biblical theology, the “true remnant vs broader covenant people” dichotomy present in the OT is no longer valid in the NT. Precisely, a key aspect of the newness of the new covenant is that all members of God’s covenant people are now forgiven, spirit-led children of God who no longer need to be exhorted to know the Lord (Joel 3, Jeremiah 31:31, etc.)
    It is one thing to say that there are some impostors in the visible church. Sadly, that is the case. It is quite another to say that that is a normal state of affairs, that these impostors are in any way true members of the church, and that unsaved human beings should be baptized, thus enter into the covenant community, regardless of their faith.

    Lastly, I would argue that there is absolutely no contradiction between believer’s baptism and salvation by grace. Of course salvation is entirely by grace. But baptism is precisely a (grace-driven) believing response to divine grace. It is not a saving response, but an acknowledging response by which the believer also signifies his commitment to Christ (1 Peter 3:21).

    Peace in Christ!


    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Matthieu:

      On your first point, I think Paul’s implication is that the unbelieving spouse is not part of the household of faith. But still, there are benefits that come to unbelieving spouses–the regular preaching of the Gospel, pastoral care, admonition–that come from being connected to a visible church. True, they don’t receive the sign of baptism, but they are still set apart for God’s purposes in unique ways.

      Your denial of the mixed character of the church by appeal to Jer 31/Heb 8 fails to recognize that there is no church throughout human history that has been unmixed. Rome? Corinth? Ephesus? The church to which the letter to the Hebrews was directed? All mixed. Which means that there is an already-not yet aspect even to the promises of the New Covenant. The day is coming, in the new heavens/new earth, when those promises will be fulfilled completely.

    • Just a girl

      How is an unbelieving spouse not part of the household of faith, but an unbelieving infant (because he/she does not have the physical capacity to believe) IS part of the household of faith? If the entire household is being baptized because of the belief of the head of the household, then why not the unbelieving spouse?

      Further in 1 Cor 7, in verses 18-20, Paul speaks of circumcision, and states explicitly that “neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, BUT KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.” and in verse 23, “you were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.” So, is any of this arguing really bringing glory to God? Or are we enslaving ourselves to religiosity? If circumcision and uncircumcision count for nothing because of Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, then why are we basing our arguments on Old Covenant vs. New Covenant?

      And yes, the physical church is always going to be mixed. Anyone can attend a building called a church. But do we really consider people who do not have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and have not surrendered their lives to him, but happened to be baptized as an infant, true members of Christ’s Church? (His bride, his disciples, his brothers/sisters?)

  • Pingback: Why I Changed My Mind About Baptism | Scarlet Yarn()

  • http://scarletyarn.com Shawn Woo

    Unlike circumcision, baptism is always preceded by confession of sins (Mt. 3:6; Mk. 1:5) and faith. The parallel between circumcision and baptism in Colossians 2:11-12 refers to circumcision of the heart (c.f. Jer. 9:25-26; Ezek. 36:26-27) rather than to circumcision of the flesh. In the OT, they circumcised infants because circumcision marked one’s inclusion in the physical covenant-community of God, Israel, but this was not the spiritual covenant-community of God, the True Israel (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 4:22-28). Since the Church is a continuation of this spiritual covenant-community, only confessing believers are to be baptized. This is why the early Church often delayed baptism for children until adolescence or adulthood (Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, p. 364).

    Moreover, the promise of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38-39 to “you and your children” is grounded in the commandment: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). In other words, the children will receive the Holy Spirit only if they also repent and are baptized. Contra Lucas, children cannot be baptized and regenerated on the basis of their parent’s faith any more than an unbelieving husband can be baptized and regenerated on the basis of his wife’s faith (1 Cor. 7:14). Making “holy” has nothing to do with regeneration or salvation. It seemly refers to their being “set apart.”

    Finally, as some above have already noted, the mode of baptism attested throughout the New Testament is always immersion (as opposed to infusion i.e. sprinkling or pouring water over the head), which precludes infant baptism. The Didache (late 1st-early 2nd century) prescribes baptism in running water, and, as a last resort when the other means are unavailable, makes provision for pouring water on the head (Didache, 7:1-7). Infant baptism is not documented until the early 3rd century, when Tertullian first mentions it in order to oppose it (Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, p. 362).

    I personally find the above arguments for pedobaptism unpersuasive. However, I recognize that there will be people on both sides of the debate until Jesus returns. Given this reality, we should safeguard each other’s conscience. God will judge the secrets of our hearts and examine our consciences (Rom. 2:15-17). It is no good pretending that you’re okay with infant baptism when you’re not, and vice versa. Both pedobaptists and credobaptists agree that baptism is an important part of the Christian life, since Jesus commanded us to baptize (Mt. 28:18-20). Evangelicals on both sides of the debate agree that their baptismal practice must be governed by the witness of Scripture. There is much more that unites us than divides us.

    • Bill

      Shawn – Please do more research on the historical extra-scripture account if you plan to use it.

      “Infant baptism is not documented until the early 3rd century, when Tertullian first mentions it in order to oppose it (Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church, p. 362).”

      There are other writers out there with earlier documents that have counter views. Tertullian was not the first to mention it,nor was he opposing it in general, just in the context of the statement being made.

    • Jackson Condrey

      Baptism by immersion does not preclude infant baptism. Look at this.


  • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

    My friends, The issue of baptism and its proper recipient is secondary. The real theological question that you need to answer is this: How does God admit any, whether babe or adult, into the “new covenant” that was ratified by the blood of Messiah? The new covenant is not the Abrahamic covenant nor is it the Mosaic covenant. Prior to the glorification of Messiah the new covenant did not exist. The New Covenant is defined in 2 Corinthians 3. It is not defined by a theological construct that is supposedly the product of GNC.

    • Bill

      Moe – More than once in the epistles, Paul states the new covenant is in fact the original covenant with Abraham. Christ fufilled it but Paul makes clear that its the same covenant. Hebrews and Jerimiah 31:31 discuss getting rid of the law, or the Mosaic covenant, as does Christ in the Gospels, but those texts do not say the Abrahamic Covenant is done or will go away.
      Paul also makes multiple statements about believers being Children of Abraham. Why bother with that?

      • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

        Bill, You have equated the new covenant with the promise made to Abraham so you are incorrect. Why would God make a promise if it was already a fact? The truth of the matter is that the promise could not be given until Christ was glorified. The evidence is seen in Galatians 3:14.

        “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

        And if those who enjoyed the faith of Abraham participated in the new covenant prior to the glorification of Messiah then you have an even greater problem with Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)

        31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

        And to top it all off you do serious injury to our Lord’s words in Luke 22. (ESV) 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.


      • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

        Bill I might add, that the Law and the Prophets were fulfilled by Messiah Jesus as well as the promise made to the Patriarchs.

        Grace x2

        • Bill

          So I wasn’t entirely clear….The new covenant replaces the old covenant of Moses, or the law. Again, in Hebrews, and with the cup at comunion representing blood, the sacrafice replacing blood of a scrafice under the law of moses. And with Jeremiah 31, “not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt” which is the covenant of the Law, or moses.

        • Jon

          Moe, Be careful not to make Jesus a liar. For Jesus wasn’t glorified when he administered the Lord’s Supper. How could Jesus administer the New Covenant if it had not yet been established? You might have made a Historia/Ordo confusion.

          I would suggest J. Calvin on Jer. 31 and 32:39-41 (children are included)so peado’s can proof text just as much normative New Covenant Jeremiah texts. I am only suggesting to argue a bit more careful.

          Your reading of Jer. forces you to be a Hyper-Calvinist. Don’t say to your neighbor “Know the Lord” lest you think you are not in the New Covenant. For those in the new covenant teach no neighbor nor brother. I am certain you don’t believe or practice this, nor any baptist or presby. So we have to become a better exegetical student of Jeremiah on the whole here.

          If you take Jer. 31:34 to be a soteriological qualification of the monoergistic act of God through the Spirit, then you must believe in a different order (ordo) of salvation in the OT than the NT. That would be dispensational. In other words, your reading or Jeremiah is God saying to his people, “The days are coming when salvation will be more Calvinistic.” I am certain you don’t believe that.

          So I would suggest you try to tighten up and clarify what you are saying to Bill here.

          • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

            Jon, I hope the reply you provided me is corrected by someone from within your own camp for if the cup in Luke 22 does not refer to our Lord’s shed blood on the Cross then the differences between paedo baptists and credo baptists is much more serious than I had assumed.

      • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

        Bill, (or any advocate of Paedo baptism),

        Does the following passage describe children born into covenant families who have not been born again? And if not, why not?

        “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)

        • John H.

          Yes, it does describe all children born into covenant families, even John the Baptist. For some, however, by God’s grace, verse 4 arrives quite early in time. For other covenant children, by God’s grace, verse 4 arrives late in time. And for others still, by God’s purpose and decree, verses 1-3 is all that can be said of them. But contextually Paul didn’t start this pericope to end it at verse 3.

          • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

            John H.

            First of all thank you for your reply. Given your response would you agree with this statement?

            “Within the paedo baptist system covenant children are by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind.”

            Thank you.

            • John H.

              Moe: I am beginning to think I am following bread crumbs into the woods and not so sure if bread or an oven awaits (Hansel & Gretel). Let me cut to the chase. Paedobaptists believe our covenant children need to be converted. In fact, the promises of the covenant include this very thing. To not wish to see our children converted is to not wish the promises of the covenant for them. Thus children are not automatically converted upon their baptism – though God may do as He pleases. Your turn to cut to the chase.

            • http://ChristMyCovenant.com Moe Bergeron

              John H., Sorry about the bread crumbs. At least you did not regard them as land mines. ;-) My intent is to understand more fully how an advocate of your position views NT passages that draw a contrast between those of faith and those not of faith as does Ephesians 2.

              It must be very difficult within your Westminster belief system to administer baptism to a child and then instruct that same “covenant” child that he or she is by nature a child of wrath, like the rest of mankind. From my point of view I do not understand how any unsaved person, child or adult, is admitted into the new covenant minus the circumcision of the heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

              Thank you for engaging me with the kindness you have exhibited.

            • John H.

              Moe: One more thought and then I must bow out. A sermon must be finished, children fed, and so on. I assume that as a Baptist you will baptize those who come with a credible profession of faith and tell them they have entered the new covenant community. Do you then cease from preaching to such ones all the texts that warn of apostasy? No, of course not. You preach those texts to the baptized (1 Cor. 10) in the hope that no one fails to obtain the grace of God through saving faith (Heb 12:15). You might say, by analogy, we are doing this with our baptized covenant children as we disciple them and proclaim all of Christ to them. They and your credo-baptized congregants are in the same place before the warnings of apostasy and charges to believe. Thus baptism, in neither case then, has inoculated the baptized from falling away (apostasy). Only the sovereign grace of the Spirit of the Lord keeps the elect in the endurance of faith – thus making baptism in the elect effectual. So this is one other way to look at things here. Of course infant baptism stands on many other scriptures but it does not fall because it fails to preserve all the baptized from apostasy. If infant baptism falls for this reason then all baptism falls including credo. All the elect receive what their baptism signifies. For the non-elect it was “merely” baptism but without faith. See Romans 4:11-12.

    • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

      Bill, the Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that Abraham’s story is only a type (allegory) of the true sum and substance to come, namely Israel and Christ (Gal 4:21-31). As such Abraham’s first covenant-event produced Ishmael, who was representative of an enslaved fleshy Israel under the Sinaitic covenant.

      And Abraham’s second (new) covenant-event produced Isaac, who was representative of Christ and all those who were born to him by the Spirit.

      Abraham’s two covenantal events were *both* fulfilled – one at Sinai and the other at the Cross.

      So while the Messiah’s redemptive work is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises, it is not the original covenant. It is eschatologically new, embodying the substance of all the other covenants of promise too. The New Covenant is enacted on better promises (Heb 8:6).

  • Allen Mickle

    My wife was sprinkled in the Presbyterian church, poured in the Mennonite church, and immersed in the Baptist church. We’ve got our bases covered! Incidentally, we’re convinced Baptists on this one. :)

  • Mark

    1. There are no examples of unregenerate people in the NT who got baptized. Any sort of inclusion of babies is an argument from silence.
    2. Babies are all pagans. You are either of the flesh (unregenerate) or of the Spirit (regenerate). There’s no middle ground of “I’m sort of saved because I have Christian parents.” Having Christian parents is a huge blessing, but it is not salvific. It also doesn’t gain share into any new covenant blessings. My wife and I are both believers, and I can assure you that our children most certainly delight in sin. They are pagan.

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, Mark:

      Your first point is sort of interesting. But it assumes that the NT provides an exhaustive listing of every professing believer who was baptized. As such, it proves too much. That is, Demas fell away; he was unregenerate; we have no record of Demas’ baptism; ergo, no unregenerate persons were baptized.

      But there is a problem–because Demas was clearly viewed as a professing disciple who turned away (2 Tim 4:10). In Philemon v. 24, Paul calls Demas “my fellow worker.” So the problem–how was Demas a fellow worker of Paul if he was not baptized? Under your logic, all believers in the NT were baptized; hence, Demas must have been baptized if he was Paul’s fellow worker. But he fell away and was accounted as unregenerate. Ergo, Demas is an example of an unregenerate person in the NT who was baptized.

      • Gilbert T. Zinke

        Good answer, Sean! There is some room for doubt that Demas fell away from the faith entirely. He could have slipped away from ministry and “gone to Thessalonica , having loved this present world.” I sincerely hope he repented, and that we will see him in heaven.
        A stronger case could be made from Simon Magus (Acts 8:13). It clearly says he was baptized. Yet Peter told him he was headed for hell (v. 20) and added, “You have neither part nor lot in this matter for your heart is not right before God” (v 21). At least, Peter went on to offer him hope if he repented. In Christian charity, I hope he did more than ask for Peter’s prayers.
        The strongest case is Judas Iscariot. We know where he ended up (John 6:70f, John 17:12; Matthew 26:24). It seems unthinkable that he would have been unbaptized as an apostle, (for it seems evident that all disciples were baptized–John 4:1~2).


  • David Journeycake

    Circumcision and baptism don’t have the same role to play in the covenant people of God because the way God constituted his people in the Old Testament and the way he is constituting the Church today are fundamentally different. (Piper)

  • David Journeycake

    The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of Israel according to the flesh—an ethnic, national, religious people containing “children of the flesh” and “children of God.” Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh.

    But the people of the new covenant, called the Church of Jesus Christ, is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on any ethnic, national distinctives but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant—not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. (Piper)

  • David Journeycake

    Unlike the old-covenant community, the church or new-covenant community is defined by true spiritual life and faith. Having these things is what it means to belong to the Church. Therefore to give the sign of the covenant (baptism) to those who are merely children of the flesh and who give no evidence of new birth or the presence of the Spirit or the law written on their heart or of vital faith in Christ is to contradict the meaning of the new covenant community and to go backwards in redemptive history. (Piper)

  • Tevye

    (thinking to himself)

    Moe and John speak of love; the love of a new covenant. That is, “And he said to them, `This is my blood of the new covenant, which for many is being poured out.’”

    On the other hand, Bill speaks of the love that was once new, wasn’t it? For somewhere it is said, “The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.”

    On the other hand, of Moe’s and John’s love covenant, there is one said to be “without beginning of days or end of life”.

    On the other hand, Bill would surely agree that for a covenant to be there must be a maker of the match? After all, did not even Adam and Eve have a matchmaker?

    Well, yes…and it seems these covenants all have the same Matchmaker!

    In regard to baby baptism…

    1st witness:

    One person’s faith allows them to baptize babies, but another, whose faith is weak, baptizes only adults. The one who baptizes babies must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not baptize babies must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

    2nd witness:

    One person considers one time to baptize more sacred than another; another considers any time as the right time. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one time as special does so to the Lord. Whoever baptizes at any time does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever waits does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies (that is, is baptized) for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

    3rd witness:

    We indeed baptize with water; but one mightier than us comes, the latchet of whose shoes we are not worthy to unloose: he baptizes us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

    • http://www.newhopec.com Jon Marq

      Tevye, I like your style. This is similar to what I posted above.

      [To misquote Paul: If your brother is grieved by your view of baptism, then you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy the one for whom Christ died by your view of baptism. (And do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of “paedo” and “credo” but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, whoever serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual building up. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of a mode of baptism.]

      Again, dual-practice baptism anyone? :-)

      • Amos 3:3

        Neither, but as you noted, woe to us if we go not as the commander of the army of the LORD has sent us, for Christ has not sent us to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

        So let us fall facedown to the ground in reverence, and seek his face, for the time has come when anyone who kills his prophets will think they are offering a service to God. Remember this is what he warned us about when he told us that his own would be cast out before the people because of his name.

        For the spirit which leads to murder, is the same that incites anger against a brother or sister, and is subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘ Raca: that is, Vain fellow,’ is answerable to the court. This spirit is not from the Father or Jesus. Therefore, let us stand firm to the end and be saved.

    • Bill

      Tevye, great words. Thank you.

  • Pingback: Why I Changed My Mind About Baptism()

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    2009 newspaper article titled:

    Atheist wins right to have baptism removed as he did not consent as a baby

    Subheading: “An atheist has won the right to have his baptism removed from Church of England records after claiming he was too young to give his consent to the ceremony.”

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      Sue writes the following analysis in her article titled:

      Thousands Seeek De=Baptism in Europe

      “My Comment:

      None of this comes of a surprise to me. This is the fruit of infant baptism.

      Babies do not have faith. Babies do not choose to proclaim their faith in Jesus publicy. Babies do not choose to follow Jesus. This fact has brought millions of false “Christians” into the world because of infant baptism.

      The Catholic Church, and several Protestant churches sprinkle water over babies heads and declare them saved Christians. Here a few of those “Christians:” Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Lady Gaga and the singer Madonna.

      In the middle ages, infant baptism was a registry. If you did not get baptized, you were kicked out of the country. What a mockery of baptism. Imagine the millions of people having their babies baptized as to not get expelled from the country. Then if you didn’t believe what the church taught, you were burnt at the stake.

      The Catholic Church and all churches that promote infant baptism now have thousands running to have it reversed. They don’t want to be associated with a church that abuses children and covers up the crimes.

      If this isn’t blatant proof that infant baptism does not make you a Christian, then I don’t know what is.”

    • pilgrim

      TUAD, are you suggesting that we should allow atheists to dictate our theology and practice?

      • Tuad

        pilgrim, I’m suggesting that you read this part:

        “None of this comes of a surprise to me. This is the [rotten] fruit of infant baptism.

        Babies do not have faith. Babies do not choose to proclaim their faith in Jesus publicy. Babies do not choose to follow Jesus. This fact has brought millions of false “Christians” into the world because of infant baptism.”

  • http://www.lambblood.com Rick Owen

    From the link which follows:

    1 Corinthians 7:14 is one of the central proof-texts for infant baptism “Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” But Paul is addressing a situation where after marriage the husband or wife is converted. Is such a marriage valid? Are the children of such a union illegitimate? Paul’s answer is that the marriage is okay and that the children are “sanctioned,” or legitimate. Paul uses the same word in 1 Timothy 4:5, where food is said to be “sanctified.”


  • Pingback: First Links — 3.22.13 » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog()

  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    Infant baptism (wet circumcision of the flesh) does not grant a natural born baby admission the New Covenant community **because** it does NOT unite him/her to Jesus Christ in vital spiritual union. Hence Jesus instructions, “You must be born again . . . that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:1-6).

    Entrance into the New Covenant community only comes through personal faith-union to Jesus Christ. And this faith-union is accomplished only by the powerful regenerative work of the Holy Spirit alone – the “circumcision of the heart” (Rom 2:28-29, Col 2:11, Phil 3:3).

    Rom 8:9-10
    Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

    ANYONE who does not have the Spirit of Christ does NOT belong to Him, and is thus no member of his New Covenant community, whether sprinkled at birth or not. For Jesus himself **is** the Covenant, given for the people (Isa 42:6, Isa 49:8, Lk 22:20). And only those who have a Spirit-wrought union to Jesus Christ by faith are organically one *in Him* and *with Him* (the Covenant) and members of his Body. The mere sprinkling of water does not a Christian make. But only the new birth that comes from above.

    So unless paedobaptists are honestly willing to confess that infant baptism somehow unites their babies to Christ by the actual regenerative/sealing new-life of the Holy Spirit, then their infants cannot Scripturally be identified as members of Christ himself or members of his New Covenant community that are sealed and indwelled by His Spirit.

    • David Journeycake

      This is a ‘Like’. Good to hear another voice of reason. My comments above expressed the same thing (quoting Piper, though).

    • Sean Michael Lucas

      Hi, John:

      I think you are claiming more for baptism than what you intend. Because it is clearly the case that Baptists have baptized countless numbers of hypocrites and apostates (and briefly see above where I discuss Demas). So, are you wanting to say that when Baptists have unwittingly baptized hypocrites and apostates that their baptisms united them to Christ as well? Can you lose union with Christ?

      No. Baptism serves as God’s sign and seal of his promises–whether to those infants who are part of a godly household or to those professors who have never been baptized before. Those who trust in Jesus are united to him by the Spirit, they are baptized into Christ by the Spirit; and baptism serves as the outward sign of that reality to all who profess faith.

      So why baptize infants? Because as part of a household headed by believing parents, they are counted part of the visible people of God and should be admitted to that household by the intiatory sign, which is baptism. Hope that helps.

      • David Journeycake

        (1) Where do you get that covenant signs are “signs and seals of his **promises” rather than strictly being a visible token or symbol of the **covenant?
        (2) Where do you get that infants “are counted part of the visible people of God” when they’re not even a part of the new covenant?
        (3) And in light of the most explicit difference between the old and new covenant, why do you think the covenant, and thus the sign, is administered the same way?

      • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

        Hi Sean,

        Baptists have never administered the true baptism that is of the Spirit (Matt 3:11). They may have unwittingly water-baptized those who have made a false profession of possessing the Spirit when they did not. But, this water baptism did absolutely nothing to unite these false brethren to Jesus.

        The point is that water-baptism does not do anything, seal anything, discern anything, or guarantee anything spiritual or supernatural. It is an outward sign/profession of faith to the rest of the New Covenant community whereby a new believer confesses that they have been born again from above by the Spirit – the true baptism – into a living faith-union with Jesus.

        But when a hypocrite shows himself to be an apostate then it becomes clear that, even though he was out outwardly “washed”, he was never truly baptised (born again) by the Spirit to begin with.

        • Rowland


    • David Journeycake

      And that really is the main point. The new covenant isn’t administered the same way the old covenant was. One is only part of the new covenant if the law is written on their mind/heart and there is complete forgiveness of sin. As Piper wrote, giving the new-covenant sign where the new covenant is not is going backwards in redemptive history.

    • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

      Infant circumcision served to physically identify and mark out those males who had been born into the ethnic community of Israel.

      The New Covenant knows of no such physical, social, gender, or ethnic distinctions. For New Covenant members are those who belong to Christ through the new birth of his Spirit and their resulting faith-union *in Him*. This birth is wholly spiritual. Therefore, New Covenant circumcision is a heart-circumcision that is made without hands.

  • dave lathrop

    It seems to me that practically speaking, paedos and credos both adhere to the concept of a household faith. For the most part, commited Christians, both paedos and credos, don’t wait until their children believe before they expose their children to the Christian faith. Both share the Gospel with their children, teach them how to pray, attend worship, and instruct them in the Word of God with the hope that they will someday believe. The difference is that paedos also adminster baptism to them.

  • Greg

    Your thesis has a lot of “it seems” and indirect assumptions. Thank
    fully, God likes to make things plain and simple. The formula is simple: hear the word preached, confess Christ as Saviour, be baptized.

    (Act 8:35) Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

    (Act 8:36) And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

    (Act 8:37) And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    (Act 8:38) And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

    Nothing is more disappointing than well-meaning Christians that mistake their confusion for thoughtfulness.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      Greg: “God likes to make things plain and simple. The formula is simple: hear the word preached, confess Christ as Saviour, be baptized. … Nothing is more disappointing than well-meaning Christians that mistake their confusion for thoughtfulness.”

      Greg, just to clarify, do you mean that it’s disappointing to see well-meaning Paedo’s mistake their confusion for thoughtfulness?

      • Greg

        My comments were directed at the author of the article. And as for replying to fools-God’s Word clearly warns against this sort of dialogue. If Christians were to follow God’s Word as it has been clearly revealed they wouldn’t have time to tilt at doctrinal windmills that don’t exist.

    • dave lathrop

      It seems to me that you are reading too much into my use of “seems to me.”

  • Travis Roberts

    As a Baptist Associate Pastor, this has been one of the most helpful articles on the subject I’ve ever read. This will go a long way in understanding our brothers who elect (no pun intended) to baptize infants and help us to examine the scriptural soundness of our own customs and doctrine. Thank you!

    • Bill

      Travis – I am glad you find the article helpful, but also a little saddened that this is the (perhaps?) first time you may have read and received this much insight on this doctrinal viewpoint. Yes, I probably study this more than the average person, but I am not a pastor.
      RC Sproul teaches at a seminary and I heard him say that he has both pedo and credo students in his classes. In regards to baptism, he makes the pedos write a case against infant baptism, and the credos write a case in support of infant baptism. I think that is a wise format to follow and would probably cut through much of this discussion.

  • John H.

    One way way to begin a paradigm shift in this matter is of course the text of scripture itself. So maybe this could prime the pump for some: In Acts 2:39 (“the promise is for you and your children”) Peter picks up the language of Genesis 17 where circumcision is prescribed by God as the sign of the covenant. In Gen. 17 God prescribes both the sign and the recipient. In Acts 2:38-39 Christ’s apostle Peter is calling for repentance and water baptism. Does he exclude the children of the Jews who repented that Pentecost day from the sign of baptism? His echoing the recipient language of Genesis 17 in Acts 2:39 suggest a continuity of recipients. Not only this, but the several “household” baptisms in the remainder of Acts (we should include Stephanas’ household too from 1 Cor. 1:16) suggest a continuity of recipients as well. As repentant and believing heads were baptized so were their households.

    Could it be then that children, infants even, received the sign and seal of the covenant? I’d say an affirmative becomes even more clear in Romans 4:9b-12 where “sign and seal” find their biblical warrant:

    “We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

    NB. Infants under the old administration received the sign and seal of a righteousness that comes by faith. This is the same righteousness (Christ) and the same instrument (faith) that baptism signifies and seals.

    NB. Abraham was the father of the Gentiles and the Jews in whom the sign became effectual through faith, but not just Gentiles and Jews after Christ but Gentiles and Jews before Christ as well. The same covenant of grace, administered differently, was revealing the same way to salvation – faith in the mercies of God ultimately revealed in Christ Jesus.

    NB. God recognizes that some receive the sign only ‘merely’. God does not prescribe it only as an ethnic marker. It is a sign of the righteousness that comes by faith. It is a failure to believe that makes circumcision or baptism “merely” received though God prescribed it even for the non-elect.

  • http://www.lambblood.com Rick Owen

    I would say there is no infant baptism in the New Covenant for at least the following reasons. Some of this will repeat what has been said. Hopefully, some of it will clarify and edify. Here are a few thoughts, first of all, by way of introduction.

    If I recall correctly, ‘household baptisms’ in the New Testament mention believers or disciples in three out of four instances, but never infants. (See the following for details: http://www.truthmagazine.com/archives/volume45/V4503150108.htm — not an endorsement of the Church of Christ.) While it is often assumed that all or most families included infants, we do not know for sure that the households that were baptized included infants. We do know there comes a time when families no longer include infants. Did Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, have other children?

    Of course, ‘disciples,’ in the most generic and nominal sense, can include unbelieving persons who follow Jesus for a time, such as the multitude in John 6 who “turned back and no longer followed Him” (verse 66). ‘Disciples,’ in the most meaningful and truest sense of the word, however, are true believers. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” (John 8:31; cf. 15:8; 2 John 1:9). Candidates for baptism in the New Testament always appear to be the latter — that is, persons who profess faith in Christ.

    “The promise” of salvation through Christ and the gift of His Spirit in Acts 2:38-39 is not only “for you and for your children” but also “for all who are far off.” So this is not limited to a ‘household motif’ or ‘children of believing parents’ formula. This language expresses the universal call of the gospel (Acts 17:30), but the actual recipients of “the promise” are qualified as “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” In verse 41, baptism belongs to believers: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

    Some people reason this way: “If babies were circumcised under the Old Covenant, then why shouldn’t infants be baptized under the New Covenant? Surely, the New Covenant is not ‘less inclusive’ than the Old Covenant, is it?”

    First of all, not all infants were circumcised under the Old Covenant; only male infants were circumcised. Nor was ‘infants of believing parents’ ever the formula for circumcision anymore than it is for baptism. More important, though, circumcision was a ceremonial sign and seal of God’s promise: that through Abraham’s seed (or offspring) a great nation would arise through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 17:11-13).

    • The descendants of Abraham made up the nation of Israel, which was a type and shadow of Jesus Christ. He was the ultimate “Seed” through whom the world would be blessed as salvation came to the Gentiles (the nations) of the earth (Gal. 3:16) through faith in Him (Gal. 3:8-9, 26-29).

    • So the very sign and seal of the Old Covenant (hereafter, OC) has been fulfilled through Christ in the New Covenant (hereafter, NC). It is not carried over in any form or fashion as a physical ritual or practice in the NC.

    • The only circumcision performed under the NC is done “without hands” by Christ himself. This is a spiritual operation, so to speak, “in the putting off of the sinful nature” — where every fleshly, worldly, demonic thing which stood between God and His people was stripped away at the Cross by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:11-15).

    • The outcome of “the circumcision done by Christ” is new life, a profession of faith expressed in baptism and lifelong obedience, forgiveness of sins, and freedom from bondage to spiritual “rulers and authorities” and adherence to the shadows of the law.

    Second, membership in the NC is different from membership in the OC. Scripture declares the NC is “not like” the OC (Heb. 8:9). How is the NC different from the OC?

    The answer is summed up in Heb. 8:9: “For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.” That is a description of the OC. Israel did not keep or continue in the OC. Therefore, God says, “I showed no concern for them.”

    Why did they “not continue” in God’s covenant? Because not all Israelites were true believers in God. It seems that most of them were not. The nation was created by physical birth, like being born an American. Not all Americans are Christians. Likewise, not all Israelites were regenerated (spiritually alive) believers in God. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Romans.

    “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring . . . This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Rom. 9:6-8).

    Not all Israelites accepted the good news which God gave to them (Rom. 10:16). Concerning Israel, God said, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Rom. 10:21).

    In contrast to the OC community, made up of a mixture of believers and unbelievers, which was a type and shadow of good and better things to come (Heb. 9:11) — “things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6:9) — “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace” (Rom. 11:5) who make up the NC community which consists of true believers only.

    The NC is different from the OC in the following ways:

    Heb. 8:10-13: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:

    ‘I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts,
    and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
    for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
    For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’

    In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

    Notice three things from this passage:

    1. The OC is obsolete and has faded away; the NC has taken its place by fulfilling it. Christ is the Reality (Col. 2:17), the Fulfillment of the law (Rom. 10:4), which all OC types and shadows prefigured (Heb. 10:1).

    2. Unlike the mixture of unbelievers and believers in the OC community, every member of the NC community is a believer: “ALL know me,” God declares, “from the least of them to the greatest.” All believers in Christ, and only believers in Christ, make up God’s “house” now (Heb. 3:6; cf. 10:21; 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 3:15).

    3. Every member of the NC receives mercy and forgiveness for their sins. This was not true under the OC. Simply put, each member of the NC has a new heart (regeneration, conversion, sanctification) by God’s Spirit and a new record (forgiveness and justification) by virtue of Christ’s death on their behalf.

    Since baptism is for members of the NC, and only those who “know the Lord” are members of the NC community, baptism is only for believers. This is not to say that infants (like John the Baptist) cannot be regenerated and later express faith in Christ as soon as they can consciously express rational and intelligible fidelity. But regeneration in the New Testament is never presumed until a credible profession of faith appears. And baptism never precedes this; it always follows faith in Christ.

    In conjunction with one’s profession of faith in Christ, baptism represents “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). Hence, it is not for infants who cannot express such an appeal. Christian baptism is for Christians.

  • Birdseye

    Great article Sean! I agree wholeheartedly with paedobaptism and will be joyfully baptizing my five children next month! I thank God that He has a given us such a wonderful sign and seal of the covenant to administer to our children.

  • Pingback: God is Bigger than Theology | TransformingWords()

  • Pingback: God works through households, not merely individuals | Critique of Poor Reason()

  • David Journeycake

    Sean Michael Lucas,

    A couple of things in your comments were quite interesting. I’d be interested in you elaborating on or answering a few things for me…

    (1) Where do you get that covenant signs are “signs and seals of his *promises*” rather than strictly being a visible token or symbol of the **covenant?
    (2) Where do you get that infants “are counted part of the visible people of God” when they’re not even a part of the new covenant?
    (3) And in light of the most explicit difference between the old and new covenants in Hebrews 8, why do you think the covenant, and thus the sign, is administered the same way as the old?

    Thank you

  • Pingback: Some Brief Thoughts on Baptism | First Baptist Church of Durham()

  • http://blackstoneinitiative.com/ David Linton

    Hello, Sean, Good to see you in print. You do know, communion must be next, right? http://blackstoneinitiative.com/2013/07/29/changing-the-world-one-sunday-at-a-time/.

  • Pingback: The Case for Covenant Baptism | City Presbyterian Church | Love God. Love Others. Love the City.()