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Stephen Wellum is professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY). His essay “Baptism and the Relationship between the Covenants” (available in PDF online for free) is, in my mind, one of the most helpful pieces showing what the differences between the old and new covenants demonstrate the necessity of credobaptism over and against paeodobaptism. (The chapter is part of a larger collection of essays, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, ed. Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright.) He is also the co-author, with Peter Gentry of the forthcoming book Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (forthcoming June 2012), a massive exegetical and biblical-theological look at all of the biblical covenants.

A few years ago I interviewed Dr. Wellum about baptism and the covenants, and I thought it’d be helpful to reprint it below:

In your chapter you write that “at the heart of the advocacy and defense of the evangelical Reformed doctrine of infant baptism is the argument that it is an implication drawn from the comprehensive theological category of the ‘covenant of grace’ . . . In many ways, all other arguments for infant baptism are secondary to this overall line of reasoning.” To begin, how do Reformed paedobaptists define the “covenant of grace”?

The Reformed paedobaptist conception of “the covenant of grace” may be defined in a number of ways, but at its heart it is understood as God’s sovereign gracious choice by which he chooses to save a people for himself by providing sinners life and salvation through the last Adam, the covenantal head of his people, the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as all that is necessary to bring the elect to saving faith by the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. Historically within Reformed theology, “the covenant of grace” has been contrasted with the “covenant of works.” The covenant of works was made with Adam as the head of the entire human race. To Adam and his entire posterity, eternal life was promised upon the condition of perfect obedience to the law of God. However, due to his disobedience, he, along with entire human race, was plunged into a state of death and condemnation. But God, by his own free and sovereign grace, chose to save a people for himself, which Reformed theology identifies as “the covenant of grace.”

So why is infant baptism an entailment or implication of this understanding of the “covenant of grace?”

Simply because given that the “covenant of grace” is an organic unity across the ages, this entails—so the argument goes—that the people of God (Israel and the church) are essentially one (in nature and structure), and that the covenant signs (circumcision and baptism) are also essentially one, especially in regard to the spiritual significance of those signs. Furthermore, Reformed paedobaptists argue that since one cannot find any repeal in the NT of the OT command to place the sign of “the covenant of grace” upon covenant children, so the same practice should continue today in the church, given the underlying unity of the covenant across the ages. In a nutshell that is the Reformed covenantal argument for infant baptism.

Do you disagree that there is such a thing as the “covenant of grace,” or is your argument rather that infant baptism is not a proper implication from it?

What I argued in my chapter is that “the covenant of grace” is a misleading category. Let me explain it this way. It is beyond question that the theme of “covenant” is an important unifying theme in Scripture. However, if we are not careful the notion of the covenant of grace can flatten the biblical presentation of God’s plan of salvation in terms of biblical covenants. In truth, “the covenant of grace” is really a comprehensive theological category, not a biblical one. This does not mean it is illegitimate. After all, theological terms are often used in theology, which are not necessarily biblical terms—e.g., Trinity. However, the problem with the theological category—“the covenant of grace”—is that, if one is not careful, it tends to flatten the relationships between the biblical covenants across redemptive history without first allowing each covenant to be understood within its own redemptive-historical context, and then how each covenant relates to the other biblical covenants, and then how all the covenants find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. I have no problem in using the category “the covenant of grace” to underscore the unity of God’s plan of salvation and the essential spiritual unity of the people of God in all ages. But if it is used, which I contend is the case in Reformed theology, to downplay the significant amount of progression and discontinuity between the biblical covenants, especially as fulfillment takes place in the coming of Christ, then it is an unhelpful term. In fact, I argued in my chapter that it would be best to place a moratorium on the category, especially if we want to make headway in the baptismal debate. In its place, we should speak of the one plan of God centered in Jesus Christ. And, furthermore, in speaking of the “covenant,” we must think in terms of the plurality of biblical covenants as we carefully unpack the relationships between the covenants across the canon. In short, it is imperative that we do a biblical theology of the covenants which, in truth, is an exercise in inter-textual relations between the covenants which, in the end, preserves a proper balance of continuity and discontinuity across the canon in regard to the biblical covenants. It is only when we do this that I am convinced we will make headway in our debate over the relationship between the biblical covenants without prejudicing the debate in one direction or the other.

Do Reformed paedobaptists equate the Abrahamic covenant with the covenant of grace?

In my chapter I contend that the potential danger of Reformed theology to flatten out the biblical covenants is precisely what happens in their defense of infant baptism. For the most part, I argue that the paedobaptist equates the Abrahamic covenant with “the covenant of grace” as though it was actually that covenant. This is the primary reason why they argue that the genealogical principle and the continuity of covenant signs is so easily carried over into the new covenant. But, from my view, the problem with this approach is twofold. First, Reformed theology does not first attempt to understand the Abrahamic covenant in its own redemptive-historical context, in all of its diverse features (e.g. national/physical, typological, spiritual). Secondly, Reformed theology does not then relate well the Abrahamic covenant to the overall plan of God vis-à-vis the biblical covenants by seeing the differences or discontinuities between the covenants, especially as they find their fulfillment in Christ. This is born out by the paedobaptist tendency to reduce the Abrahamic covenant merely to its spiritual realities while neglecting its national and typological elements, and then seeing how all of these elements find their consummation in Christ and the new covenant.

So, in the end, I do not agree that infant baptism is an entailment from a proper understanding of the biblical covenants, especially as viewed in light of the fulfillment that our Lord has inaugurated in the ushering in the new covenant sealed by his death.

What is your view on the proper relationship between the “covenant of grace” and the “Abrahamic covenant”?

I have hinted at this in my above answer, but let me state it more directly. If we think of “the covenant of grace” in terms of the one eternal salvation plan of God centered in Jesus Christ, then the Abrahamic covenant is a specific covenant in redemptive history, along with the Noahic, Mosaic, Davidic, and new covenant, which, as they unfold across history ultimately reveal to us how the God’s plan of salvation comes to us in Jesus Christ. In other words, the Abrahamic covenant is part of the one plan of God, but it must first be understood in its own immediate context in all of its diverse dimensions, before we think of its relationship to that which comes after in terms of the progress of revelation as given in the various covenants spelled out in redemptive history.

How do you define the “new covenant”?

The new covenant is the covenant which our Lord Jesus Christ has inaugurated by his life, death, resurrection, and glorious exaltation to the right hand of God. It must be viewed as the culminating covenant in the sense that all of the previous covenants have been leading to it and anticipating it, in a variety of ways. Like the other covenants, it is part of the one plan of the Triune God to save a people for himself, but viewed vis-à-vis the previous covenants, it is the covenant which has now brought to fulfillment all that God promised and all that the OT anticipated and longed for, all the way back to the initial promise of Genesis 3:15.

You argue that both the “structure” and the “nature” of the “new covenant” have fundamentally changed from the “old covenant.” How so?

When I argue that the “structure” and “nature” of the new covenant is different than the old covenant, I am particularly thinking of the Mosaic covenant, but it would also have application to the other OT covenants as well.

Let’s start with the structural changes from the old covenant to the new covenant.

By “structure,” I mean that the old covenant, which was more “tribal” in orientation (to use Don Carson’s words for it), was a mediated covenant through various covenant mediators, particularly prophets, priests, and kings. When one wanted to know the will of the Lord, you went to the prophet. When one wanted to have forgiveness of one’s sins, you went through the priest, and so on. Hence the strong emphasis is on the Spirit of God being poured out, not on each individual believer, but distinctively on prophets, priests, and kings, and a few designated special leaders (e.g. Bezalel). Given this hierarchical structure of the covenant community, when these leaders did what was right, the entire nation benefited. However, when they did not, the entire nation suffered for their actions. But Jeremiah 31:29ff anticipates a day when the new covenant will not be mediated in this way. All of those who are part of the covenant community will have the Spirit (e.g. Joel 2; cf. Acts 2); all will know the Lord (Jer. 31:32ff); all will be priests, indeed prophets, priests, and kings. This is not to say that there is no mediator in the new covenant. Rather, it is to say that through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the fulfillment of the tribal leaders of the OT—our great prophet, priest, and king—and the previous covenant mediators, the entire new covenant community is now allowed to have direct access to the throne of grace, by virtue of his glorious work for us. Related to this anticipation is the OT promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit and his empowering work in the new covenant era. That is why Joel 2, Ezekiel 36, and other places anticipate a universal distribution of the Spirit in the new covenant community, which means that the very tribal “structure” of the covenant community has changed. In the NT, this point becomes the basis for the teaching of the “priesthood of all believers.”

And what about the change in the nature of the covenants?

This change of “structure” also means that there has been a change of “nature.” Under the old covenant, Israel was a “mixed entity,” namely a community of believers and unbelievers (not all Israel was Israel to use the language from Romans 9). But with the coming of the new covenant in Jesus Christ and the giving of the Spirit in eschatological fulfillment, the new covenant community is viewed as a regenerate people. Furthermore, this change of “nature” is also linked to the work of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant age. The NT is clear that it is the Spirit who has brought life and who enables God’s people to follow God’s decrees and to keep God’s laws, thus making us covenant-keepers and not covenant-breakers. It is the Spirit who unites us to Christ so that all Christians, by definition, are those “in Christ” who have the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). In fact, I argue that this is precisely what Jeremiah 31 anticipates—which has now arrived in Christ. Thus we could say it this way: under the new covenant all will know the Lord in a direct fashion, and all will have the law written on their hearts and experience the full forgiveness of sin. Thus, in contrast to the old covenant community which was a “mixed entity,” the new covenant community will be a regenerate people. This is what I mean when I say that the “structure” and “nature” of the new covenant is different than the old.

What then does all of this have to do with baptism?

Everything. Under the old covenant, one could make a distinction between the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham (the locus of the covenant community is different from the locus of the elect). Under the old covenant, both “seeds” (physical and spiritual) received the covenant sign of circumcision and both were viewed as full covenant members in the national sense, even though it was only the remnant who were the true spiritual seed of Abraham. But this kind of distinction is not legitimate under the new covenant where the locus of the covenant community and the elect are the same. In other words, one cannot speak of a “remnant” in the new covenant community, like one could under the old covenant. All those who are “in Christ” are a regenerate people, and as such it is only they who may receive the sign of the covenant, namely baptism.

Is the “new covenant community” co-extensive with the “visible church”?

It all depends on what means by the “visible church.” In Reformed thought, the “visible church” is the church that becomes visible in the ministry of the Word and the practices of the sacraments. But it is also viewed as an entity of believers and unbelievers, what I call a “mixed entity.” If one defines “visible church” in this way, I would not say they are co-extensive. Why? Because the new covenant is comprised of all those who are joined to Christ by faith, hence believers and a regenerate people.

At this point, what is often questioned is this: On any given gathering of the people of God are there not unbelievers in the midst, or even false professions of faith which then are viewed as the visible church? No doubt, it is the case that in any gathering of God’s people there are unbelievers and false professions. The difference is that in the new covenant we do not view these individuals as joined to Christ, in faith union with him, and members of the new covenant community. They have not experienced the forgiveness of sins and the law written on the heart. Under the new covenant to be a member of it, one by definition is joined to Christ by faith, been born of the Spirit, and thus is a regenerate person. Just because there are false professions does not mean that they are part of the covenant community. However, under the old covenant, given its national/physical component, there were plenty of Israelites (covenant members who had received the sign of the covenant) who were not “true Israel” (those of faith in the covenantal promises of God). But this kind of distinction is foreign to the new covenant.

Why do you believe that all members of the “new covenant community” are regenerate and that the new covenant itself is unbreakable?

I believe this for a number of reasons:

  1. Jeremiah 31 and other OT texts anticipate this truth. Jeremiah 31 not only strongly contrasts the new covenant with the old in terms of the unbreakable nature of it (v. 32), but it also teaches that the new covenant community will be comprised of people who all know the Lord, who have the law written on their heart (which I take it to be very close to language of circumcision of the heart, i.e., regeneration), and whose sins have been forgiven. These realities can only be true of a regenerate people.
  2. The NT announces that the new covenant has been inaugurated and ratified by the sacrificial death of Christ and that it is now in force. Intimately tied to the arrival of the new covenant is the eschatological fulfillment of the giving of the Spirit to all those in the covenant community (see the OT expectation in Joel 2, Ezekiel 36; cf. Acts 2). In the new covenant, God has poured out his Spirit on all those in the community, and the Spirit of God is presented as the agent who not only gives us life but also enables us to follow God’s decrees and to keep God’s laws, thus making us covenant-keepers. The Spirit also unites us to Christ, thus to be “in Christ” is to have the Spirit (Rom. 8:9) and the Spirit’s work is viewed as a permanent, effective work, which I take it to mean that those who are born of the Spirit and united to Christ by grace through faith, who are part of God’s new covenant community, are those who will never fall away and who are preserved forever by God’s grace and power.
  3. The NT also proclaims the “better” nature of the new covenant that Christ has inaugurated. The “better” nature of the new covenant is seen in light of the perfection of Christ’s work which is qualitatively better than all that has preceded—better promises, better sacrifices, indeed a better covenant. But what is better about this new covenant? It is this: because of who our Redeemer is and what he offers as a sacrifice we now have a more effective sacrifice and thus a more effective covenant, which cannot be broken. To speak of the new covenant as a breakable covenant is to diminish the person and work of the new covenant Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Some Reformed paedobaptists, like Richard Pratt, would argue that you are operating with an over-realized eschatology, emphasizing the “already” but neglecting the “not yet” aspect of the “new covenant.” How do you respond?

Obviously, I would strongly disagree with this kind of assessment. In fact, I would argue that this kind of objection not only is a misunderstanding of inaugurated eschatology, but it implicitly begs the question. For this kind of objection to stick, one has to first assume that the “already” aspect of the new covenant is that in this interim period between the comings of Christ, the new covenant community is still a “mixed” entity, while in the “not yet” it will then be a regenerate community. But this is not what the NT says. Hebrews, for example, establishes the reality of the new covenant in the church without any hint that the full establishment of a regenerate community is yet future. Pratt rightly notes that the promise that Jeremiah holds out is a salvific promise which anticipates a community of regenerate people. But the NT clearly states that the new covenant is now here (e.g., Hebrews 8, 10). The structural changes of the old have given way to the new. No doubt, we still await the “not yet” aspects of our redemption, but this does not entail that the community is not “already” a regenerate people. Instead, in Christ’s coming the new age is here, the Spirit has been poured out on the entire community, we now presently experience our adoption as sons including the full forgiveness of sins, even though we long for the end. That is why, in a parallel fashion, when the reality of a full forgiveness of sins is anticipated in Jeremiah 31, we do not argue that in the “already” a partial forgiveness takes place while we await the “not yet” forgiveness in the future. No, justification is now (Rom 8:1), even though we will still stand before the judgment seat of Christ and hear the end-time verdict rendered. The same must be said in terms of the new covenant community.

Reformed paedobaptists argue that baptism fulfills and replaces circumcision. What’s your view?

The crucial question that needs to be asked is this: Does circumcision signify the exact same spiritual realities as baptism? If so, then it is quite easy to argue that baptism fulfills and replaces circumcision, but this is precisely what the NT does not teach. No doubt these two covenant signs are parallel in a number of ways, but they ought to be viewed as covenantal signs tied to different covenants. Remember, we must first treat each covenant in its own redemptive historical context and then think through how they relate to each other. Circumcision is an OT sacrament established in a specific context, and the same is true of baptism in the NT. But, in my view, it is a mistake to equate the two in a one-to-one fashion.

What did circumcision signify in the OT?

In my chapter, I try to argue that circumcision in the OT signifies a number of things. First, in the context of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, its primary purpose was to mark out a physical seed in preparation for the coming of Messiah. In this regard it did its job well. But now that Christ has come its job is complete and the NT has abrogated it as a covenantal sign. Second, circumcision, as incorporated into the Mosaic covenant, continued to mark and delineate the nation, but by its very nature the nation was constituted as a mixed entity. Even in the darkest moments of Israel’s history, the prophets never questioned Israel’s right to circumcise their sons even though they reminded them that physical circumcision was not enough; what was ultimately needed was faith in the promises of God tied to a circumcised heart. Furthermore, under the Mosaic covenant, there was another purpose of circumcision that begins to point to spiritual and typological realities. In this regard, physical circumcision pointed to a need of a spiritually circumcised heart (see the promises in the new covenant), and in this sense, it is typological of regeneration.

So what changes in the NT?

When one comes to the NT, it is clear that circumcision is not only abrogated and as such it is no longer a covenantally significant sign for the people of God, whether they be Jewish or Gentile believers, but also that now that Christ has come the law-covenant has been fulfilled and the God-given divisions tied to that law-covenant have been removed (Eph. 2:11-22; Gal. 6:15). The new sign of the new covenant is that of baptism. But baptism does not anticipate a circumcision of heart, rather it testifies and announces that one has been joined to Christ and that one is a true spiritual seed of Abraham. Baptism is not a sign of physical descent, nor is it a sign that anticipates gospel realities, which is precisely how it must be viewed in infant baptism. Rather it is a sign that signifies a believer’s union with Christ and all the benefits that are entailed by that union.

So would you be comfortable saying that baptism is analogous to circumcision?

Yes, baptism is analogous to circumcision in that it is an initiatory rite, but it is not a mere replacement of it. Nowhere does the NT say that circumcision is now unnecessary because baptism has replaced it. The NT never gives this answer because baptism is a new rite, applied to everyone who has repented and believed; indeed, who have been born of the Spirit, united to Christ, and thus demonstrated that they have entered into the new covenant realities inaugurated by our Lord. Circumcision, in a whole variety of ways, anticipates the coming of Christ and the new covenant era; baptism is a sign that says that Christ has come, the new covenant is here, and that those to whom the sign is applied are those who have entered into faith union with Christ. Circumcision, at the end of the day, in a typological way, may anticipate and point to these new covenant realities, but it does not testify that all of these realities are true of us. Baptism, on the other hand, is a NT ordinance, commanded by our Lord, which communicates the grace of God to those who have faith, something which could never have been said of circumcision. Baptism is a new rite for the new covenant people of God; it is not a mere replacement of circumcision.

Would you agree, as reformed paedobaptists maintain, that the burden of proof is on the credobaptist? They argue that the church in the first century would have assumed the genealogical principle of children receiving the covenant sign unless being explicitly told otherwise, and that Acts 2:38-39 would have been understood to give children of believers the sign of baptism. How do you respond?

Burden of proofs are often slippery. If one assumes the Reformed view of “the covenant of grace,” their understanding of the continuity across the covenants, the mixed nature of the covenant community, the unchanging nature of the genealogical principle, and a certain reading of Jeremiah 31, then, obviously, the burden of proof is on the credobaptist. But this, in the end, begs the question. At point after point, one has to first prove these assumptions. At the end of the day, one must attempt to do justice to the OT in its context as well as how the NT understands the nature of fulfillment. One has to be a “whole-Bible” Christian, reading the OT in its redemptive-historical situation, seeing how the NT thinks through these issues, and then how we relate the whole to the parts.

Given my attempt to understand the relation of the covenants differently, which I believe does justice to the whole of Scripture better than the paedobaptist position (in this sense I want to argue that I am more covenantal than they!), I do not accept the burden of proof upon me since I do not accept their premise. So, for example, why should we think that the church in the first century would have assumed that the genealogical principle should be interpreted in physical terms? The NT does not teach this. In fact, where is there evidence in the NT that the genealogical principle is ever: “to believers and their children?” The only sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ in the NT are those who are regenerated and exhibit saving faith in Christ. Paul’s burden in the NT is not to argue physical descent, but to show that both Jew and Gentile, whether it be men, women, boys, or girls, are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

No doubt, under the previous covenants the genealogical principle, that is, the relationship between the covenant mediator and his seed was physical. But now, in Christ, under his mediation, the relationship between Christ and his seed is no longer physical but spiritual, which entails that the covenant sign must only be applied to those who in fact are the spiritual seed of Abraham, sons and daughter of God in Christ, by faith. In many ways, since this is precisely what Jeremiah and the OT anticipate in terms of the coming of the new covenant era, and since this is precisely how the NT understands these relationships, the burden of proof is on the paedobaptist to show that the new covenant is something different than both the OT anticipates and the NT announces and proclaims.

What, in your view, does baptism signify?

Baptism signifies a believer’s union with Christ, by grace through faith, and all the benefits that result from that union. It testifies and announces that one has entered into the realities of the new covenant and as such, has experienced regeneration, the gift and down-payment of the Spirit, and the forgiveness of sin. It graphically signifies that a believer is now a member of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:22-25). It is our defining mark of belonging as well as a demarcation from the world. It signifies entry into the eschatological order of the new creation—that which our Lord Jesus Christ has ushered in. In all of these ways, baptism is a beautiful God-given rite which displays, proclaims, and testifies to the reality of the gospel.

Why is this debate important for the church?

The debate between Reformed paedobaptists and believer baptists is, thankfully, not a gospel debate. Between credo- and paedobaptists there is much that unites us, and we can be grateful for those agreements and our unity in Christ. However, given our different views of baptism, there are also profound differences that divide us, and it is not helpful to blur the differences merely for the sake of unity. Ultimately baptism is linked to the proclamation of the gospel itself as it proclaims the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ and the full realities of the gospel of sovereign grace. To get baptism wrong is not a benign issue. It not only misconstrues our Lord’s command and instruction to the church, it also leads to a misunderstanding of elements of the gospel, particularly to the beneficiaries of the new covenant and the nature of the church. It may even lead, if we are not careful, to a downplaying of the need to call our children to faith and repentance. Often Baptists are charged with not appreciating the place of their children in the covenant community. Not only does this charge miss the mark in fundamentally misunderstanding the structure and nature of the new covenant community, it also runs the danger of missing what is truly imperative—to call all people, including our children, to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that the promise of the new covenant age becomes ours—and not only to us, but to our children, and to all those who are far off. Baptism, as a new covenant sign, even though it does not bring us into a state of grace, has been ordained by our God as a proper means of grace that we ignore, distort, and downplay to the loss of our spiritual life and mission. Baptism is important. In many ways, how we view baptism is a test case of how one puts the entire Bible together. In that light, may both credo- and paedo Baptists continually go back to Scripture and examine which view is true to the whole Bible, for much is at stake in these debates and disagreements.

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127 thoughts on “Why I Am a Credobaptist”

  1. Jon Mathys says:

    To be honest, as a convinced paedobaptist attending a Reformed church and seminary (Westminster, CA), as well as former credobaptist, i found his descriptions of what the paedobaptist views and supports are here virtually unrecognizable. Our arguments are much more comprehensive and compelling, not to mention more truthful to the Reformed position. To be honest, I have not yet met a credobaptist who understands the paedobaptist position and can articulate it well. It’s simply the same generalizations that we “flatten” the covenants and don’t address the covenantal distinctions. Please. We do address it, in CONSIDERABLE depth (large sections in Turretin, Bavinck, Murray, Horton). We simply do not AGREE with your position, which does not mean we do not address it. In conclusion, i don’t mind the credobaptist position. I was raised in to know Christ as a credobaptist. But if you plan on representing the classic Reformed position on the covenant of grace/covenant of works (not everything is dissolved simply into a covenant of grace in reformed theology, btw, i.e. “The Law is Not of Faith,” WCF, sooo many other sources) at least represent the positions truthfully and honestly. Thank you.

    1. henrybish says:

      Jon (or any paedobaptist),

      I have a question: how does the paedobaptist understand Matt 28:19-20:

      Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

      Does this not teach that the ones who are to be baptised are actual disciples? Can an infant be considered a disciple in any meaningful sense?

      I also think we should be careful not to be more concerned with being faithful to the ‘reformed tradition’ than to the Bible.

      1. Jon Mathys says:

        Yes, our children are “infant disciples.” The word for disciple here simply means “pupil,” or “learner.” It is not a statement about their personal regeneration, but their legal status in the covenant. We are called to bring up our covenant children as Christians, as part of a community who regularly enter His presence in prayer, are instructed in the doctrines and practices of the faith, hear Jesus Christ preached and taught from all the Scriptures, sing the songs of Zion, and go forth with hearts of gratitude. We REGARD them as such because they are part of the visible covenant of grace. Yet, this does NOT imply that we do not call them to personal faith in Christ. But the Spirit works in HIS timing, through the means of discipleship that HE has given: the preaching of the Gospel, catechesis, etc.

        Hence, children are addressed along with their parents in the epistles, fathers being commanded to raise up their children in the “fear and instruction of the Lord,” (Eph.6:4) which is what being a pupil of Christianity is. As was in the Old Testament, when parents are commanded to “teach” the Law to their children (Deut.4:9-10) and “engrave” it them through repetition (Deut. 6:4-9, cf 11:18-20), regardless of their personal “decision” for Christ, so in the New as well. Peter includes them in this community by calling for repentance and baptism of parents and children, for the PROMISE of salvation is theirs, the same promise given to Abraham, the promise to give salvation to all who have faith. (Acts 2:38-39)

        We make disciples BY baptizing them into the covenant community, and by teaching them. This is the church’s mission statement. As far as personal faith is concerned, this is the Spirit’s work, which is inward. The church’s task is to be faithful with the outward means through which the Spirit operates inwardly. In my opinion, Baptists confuse this.

        Do you treat baptist children as unclean pagans? Do not Baptists teach their children the Biblical stories, catechize, bring to the means of grace? They regard them as disciples as well, not as unclean pagans, which, my opinion, they are in a baptist ecclesiology. (an inconsistency for which I am thankful for).

        1. henrybish says:

          thanks for the reply Jon,

          The way one sees the word disciple being used in the NT is as one who personally follows of their own volition the one they are a disciple of (whether or not they turn out to be false professors). I can’t think of any examples where scripture calls someone a disciple who did not at least outwardly follow the one they were a disciple of. Can you think of any examples? And hence I also do not see how you can turn someone into a disciple of Christ by merely baptising and teaching them, as you say.

          Do you treat baptist children as unclean pagans?

          Well, apart from personal faith in Christ they are total depraved, so unclean pagans would be a fairly accurate description I think. And the way we treat unclean pagans is by teaching them the truth in love.

          It still seems that we are left with Jesus’ command to baptise disciples, who from how the word is used in the NT are those who profess to follow Christ (whether or not they turn out to be false converts).

          Until you can provide some biblical evidence for the use of the word ‘disciple’ as referring to people who do not profess to follow the one they are a disciple of, then I must think the credobaptists are right in the path they have chosen.

          1. Jon Mathys says:

            Henry, I think you’re reading too much into the word disciple. It is simply a pupil, one who is simply the recipient of something passed down. Was not Judas considered a disciple by Jesus? even though Jesus knew that he would fall away and be a “son of perdition”? Children ARE volitionally involved in their discipleship, they learn, they are catechized. But baptism, like circumcision, is not a volitional decision. It’s an outward declaration by God that they are legally in the covenant and have received God’s promise to save them when they place their faith in Him (Acts 2:38-39).

            Furthermore, just because they haven’t made a “decision for Jesus” yet, it doesn’t mean we don’t teach them the faith. And just because of the possibility of them REJECTING the faith, it doesn’t mean we’re not faithful to outwardly do what God has called us to do as parents. If a child comes to REJECT the faith, then this is a different matter, one requiring church discipline. Just because a child isn’t EXPLICITLY given the name “disciple” in the NT, that doesn’t mean they weren’t. Biblical exegesis and systematic theology are not sustained by quick prooftexts and explicit references. No women are EXPLICITLY called disciples either. Nor is the doctrine of church membership EXPLICIT.

            Given that the epistles were directed to churches, Paul does not feel he has to qualify between believing adults and pagan children. He commands them both in the same breath “Husbands love your wives, children obey your parents, fathers discipline your children.” They were assumed to be part of the covenant community as disciples along with their parents.

            1. henrybish says:

              Jon Mathys,

              I can’t let you get away with such a shoddy argument.

              Your counterexample of Judas is of no use because Judas demonstrated volition – he outwardly followed Jesus. Infants don’t. All disciples, true and false, profess to follow their Master. Infants don’t profess to follow anyone. Thus they don’t even count as false disciples, let alone true ones. And Jesus said to baptise disciples, not non-disciples.

              You then say:

              Children ARE volitionally involved in their discipleship, they learn, they are catechized.

              It seems that you are the one who does not understand Baptist arguments. We are *not* talking about baptising children but infants. Infants are *not* volitionally involved, thus they are not disciples. And Jesus said to baptise disciples. Children may well be disciples.

              Henry, I think you’re reading too much into the word disciple.

              What you are trying to do is remove the most basic and obvious component of a ‘disciple’ which any simple man recognises in order to prop up your paedobaptist theology.

              So it remains that until you can provide biblical evidence for the use of the word ‘disciple’ as referring to people who have never professed to follow their Master, then you are distorting the Great Commission.

              Ultimately, you end up *not* baptising most of those who become disciples and instead baptise every non-disciple whose parents are willing. That seems to be a fairly exact reversal of what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission.

              1. Michael says:

                As stated in several comments below, the chief participle is to “make disciples,” and the way that is accomplished is to first baptizing them and then instructing them. It would seem that the idea there put forth is that baptism is to make a disciple rather than a command to baptize those already being discipled.

                Therefore, infants can certainly come under that category. Once baptized they can grow to volitionally become involved with the catechesis. We baptize our infants in order to make them a follower of Jesus, and most take it to heart, others, like Judas and Esau don’t. But because of their covenantal relation to Jesus as a disciple, their falling away is very serious (cf. Heb. 6:4-8).

                This is the pattern and understanding that is also put forth in Dt. 6:7 where God instructs Israel, “You shall teach them [i.e., God’s commands] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” At what time did Israel’s children become disciples of God? First when they were circumcised and then as they grew up they were instructed in the commands.

      2. Brian R. says:

        Henry, I’m not a Greek scholar by any means, but the KJV of that passage says “teach all nations.” The word “disciple” causes some confusion because it makes it hard to determine who “them” refers to. I was taught that “teach all nations” is a truer translation of the Greek. If that’s correct, then we’re not called to only baptize “disciples” in that verse.

        1. Jon Mathys says:


          διδάσκω (teaching) is used here as a participle of “means,” along with βαπτίζω (baptizing), indicating HOW the action of disciple-making is accomplished. Check out Wallace’s “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” for a careful argument, 628-630, 645. Essentially, the disciples were called by Christ to go out to the nations, to all the world, and make disciples BY baptizing and teaching, essentially Word and Sacrament. (the order of baptizing first then teaching is significant in my opinion, btw). Baptism and teaching are part of the process of disciple-making.

      3. Jon says:

        Is your question “Can an infant praise Christ and know Christ as an infant?”
        Answer: Yes.
        Matthew 21:16
        and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?

        How about John the Baptist did he know the Lord as an infant? Jeremiah the prophet, does he count?

      4. Joel S says:

        This is why Greek is important. The noun “disciples” is not present in the Greek. The “them” definitely refers back to “nations” not “disciples.”

        1. henrybish says:


          I think there is good reason why most modern translations translate it as ‘make disciples’. This is the definition according to Thayer’s:

          Thayer Definition:
          1) to be a disciple of one
          1a) to follow his precepts and instructions
          2) to make a disciple
          2a) to teach, instruct
          Part of Speech: verb

          Thus in context the subset of ‘all nations’ that Jesus commanded to be baptised are the ones who have been ‘made disciples’. Jesus was not commanding them to baptise any man on the street.

          If one takes your view then why would you even limit baptism to those in the (paedobaptist view of the) covenant community?

          1. henrybish says:

            As for the argument that the verse actually means something akin to make disciples by baptising, then why have translation committees have not chosen this option?

            In the ESV the verse reads:

            make disciples of all nations, baptizing them


            make disciples of all nations by baptizing them

            The reason I suggest they have not done this is because it seems an absurd idea that a person can be made a disciple by merely being baptised and taught whilst not professing to actually follow in the way they have been taught. That is not what the word disciple signifies.

            1. Michael says:

              In the Greek, “matheteusate” is the main finite verb, which we have to admit is both vague and abstract in the context. What does it mean to make disciples of the nations? The two participles that follow it, “baptizontes” and “didaskontes” are what Wallace calls “participle of means,” which follows the verb in order to explain the verb. He also writes, “One should note as well that the participle of means is almost always contemporaneous with the time of the main verb. (This, of course, should be obvious, for if the participle of means defines how the action of the main verb is accomplished, then it accompanies it in time.)” (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 629). The meaning of this, then, is to say that the Church accomplishes its task of making disciples by the means of baptizing and teaching.

              While it is true that a true disciple is not merely one who is baptized and taught, it is also true that a person typically cannot be a disciple without being baptized and taught (unusual cases do exist, such as the thief on the cross, but again these are extraordinary cases). Baptizing and teaching are the ordinary ways of making disciples, both biblically and historically.

              Furthermore, the concept Jesus enjoins upon the Church is a covenantal one akin to “take My yoke and learn of Me…” and so one cannot think of being baptized and being taught as disciples without the covenantal structure of continuing in the Lord’s way.

              And though the preposition “by” is not in the Greek or in the English translations, it is still understood. How else would you understand it?

              1. henrybish says:

                Hi Michael,

                And though the preposition “by” is not in the Greek or in the English translations, it is still understood. How else would you understand it?

                I would understand it simply as two separate thoughts – make disciples from among the nations, and then baptise them.

                In the Greek, “matheteusate” is the main finite verb, which we have to admit is both vague and abstract in the context. What does it mean to make disciples of the nations?

                Are you saying the Great Commission mandate to ‘make disciples’ is vague and unclear? I really don’t think it is, or that it needs much explanation – to ‘make a disciple’ is to make a follower of Christ. I think this is something very basic.

                I think I can agree with what you quoted of Wallace, but I don’t think it yields the conclusion you say.

                This is for the simple reason that it is implicit in the context that those who are being taught and baptised are ones who are believing and following the teaching they are receiving.

                First, the phrase “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…” – unless you interpret it in the sense that the hearers are receiving the teaching you must envision that Jesus was merely content that the apostles should teach and baptise unreceptive people who reject their message, and move on. Apart from being senseless, this is not what ‘make disciples’ means.

                Second, how would it even be possible to ‘teach them to obey all that I have commanded you if the hearers reject the message at stage 1? Thus they must be those who continue in the teaching they hear.

                Third, Jesus is presuming that the people who are being baptised are able to be ‘taught to obey all that I have commanded’. I do not see how this plausibly applies to the newborn baby who is not yet at an age of understanding.

                Adding the word “by” is unnecessary and as stated before leaves the paedobaptist in what seems to me an absurd position of not being able to discriminate between who should be baptised and who should not.

              2. Michael says:

                Hi Henry,
                Thanks for the response. Just a few words of clarification.

                Of course I don’t believe the Great Commission is either vague or unclear. What I said was that the verb “matheteusate” is both vague and abstract. We are told to go and make disciples. What does that mean to be a disciple? One who can spout off credal formulas, or one who lives in a desert hermitage? And how do we do make disciples? Maybe like some gnostic organization with secret handshakes and rituals, or do we shave our heads and don saffron robes? You see the verb itself is rather vague.

                Happily, Jesus didn’t leave us in the dark as to how to make them. And so we have the “participles of means” (baptizing and instructing) that follow the main verb to inform us how to make disciples and thus what it means to be a disciple. Baptism is the visible entrance into the covenant community and its life. Instruction leads them to further understanding of the Kingdom, its life expressed in prayer, almsgiving, fasting, etc. The Great Commission is accomplished as the Church goes into all the world to make disciples by baptizing and instructing those that would be saved. Without either of these a person is not brought into biblical discipleship. Again, all that takes places within a covenantal framework where discipleship means taking on the yoke of Christ and thus obligating him to covenantal faithfulness and obedience through faith, which should remove your concern that this is done indiscriminately.

                Now, you said that “Jesus is presuming that the people who are being baptised are able to be ‘taught to obey all that I have commanded’” and so this cannot apply to a newborn baby who isn’t of an age of understanding. I would say that when I baptized my infants I also presumed that they were able to be taught and discipled, maybe not at the exact time of their baptism, but as they grew I taught them according to their age and understanding. I was making them disciples of Christ. As all 5 of my children profess their faith in Christ, each have said, “I grew up in a Christian home and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus.” I certainly see that as part of what Jesus had in mind as He commissioned His Church.

                But what do we see in Acts? The Church goes forward and evangelizes and as converts come forward, they are immediately baptized and then move into instruction. You don’t see any hint in the NT of what you seem to be saying that they were followers of Christ for some time, having been instructed in the faith, and then they finally were baptized as a way of saying, “I am a disciple now.” They were evangelized and then baptized immediately as a sign of entrance into the covenant, and from there they went out to be instructed in the principles of the faith. It seems to be that there was a lot of presumption going on there. They presumed that those who were baptized would continue on in the instruction and in their discipleship. Of course, we know that not all did (Simon Magus is one such that did not).

                BTW, my conclusion from Wallace’s statement is also Wallace’s conclusion because he actually cites Matt. 28:29 as an example to demonstrate the grammatical concept of a “participle of means.” But you are right, adding “by” is unnecessary because the grammatical structure of the command makes it clear that the baptizing and instruction is not ancillary to being a disciple, but integral.

                But another foundational issue is our understanding of the church. All who come into her must be baptized. Those who come from pagan backgrounds are to be converted then baptized. Those who are born of Christian parents are already holy and thus to be simply baptized. Not every child is to be baptized, only those who are already members of the covenant community. Not all who are baptized, whether as infants or through their own profession, continue on in faith. Most do, but not all. But the point is, we are as discriminatory as the credo baptist is.

          2. Joel S says:

            Hi Henry,

            I don’t think anyone disputes that it should be translated “make disciples.” My point is simply that the pronoun “them” (autous) cannot grammatically refer back to disciples because there is no noun in the Greek text for disciples. So grammatically it must refer to “the nations” (ta ethne).

            Regarding the English translations, as with many Greek words where different shades of meaning are grammatically possible and when there are translators from different points of view, they will often choose the most generic possibility (‘baptizing them…’ maintains ambiguity on how the participle is being used).

            Anyhow, my point is not to debate how we should take the participle or the subject of infant baptism as a whole, simply to point out that we should be accurate in the arguments we make, which is why I bring up the grammatical point.

            1. henrybish says:

              Hi Joel,

              I think you make a good point, but draw an invalid conclusion from it. In your first comment you said:

              This is why Greek is important. The noun “disciples” is not present in the Greek. The “them” definitely refers back to “nations” not “disciples.”

              Given the context of your comment in the discussion here, to most readers it would be interpreted as saying Jesus did not intend the command of baptism to be limited to those who have been ‘made disciples’.

              I think this is a wrong conclusion since even if it is true that ‘them’ refers back to ‘nations’ it seems to me that ‘nations’ has undergone a prior qualification – those among the nations who have been ‘made disciples’.

              One way to understand what I am saying is to consider an alternate translation that does not use a noun but still communicates that disciples are being made:

              Go therefore and convert all nations, baptising them…

              Here it seems to me that as you say, ‘them’ should refer back to ‘nations’, but ‘nations’ itself has been qualified as those in the nations who become converted. It is not an indiscriminate command to baptise any passer-by who cares nothing for the faith.

              If you do not take this qualification then you are left in (what seems to me) an absurd position of saying that Jesus meant we should baptise all adults indiscriminately, even if they are clearly just wanting to join the church so they can get married in it and then leave and show no fruit of repentance. I don’t think paedobaptists would be happy doing that? (I am reminded of what John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Saducees who produced no fruit of repentance who were coming to his baptism, Matt 3:7).

  2. Chris says:

    A good book to read is Christ of the Covenants.

    I was a credobaptist, now Padeo. I have tried to argue my self back to Credo but I end up arguing for Padeo.

    Scripture is just clear on the Reformed “flatten” doctrine. However you must know, we do practice Credo baptism. The PCA church is not against it. We would just like to baptized your babies.


    1. William Johnson says:

      Agree with Jon above. In all fairness, I think both sides here would recognise the thoroughness of Dr Wellum’s position and its coherence – credobaptism is a theologically defensible position. But I do not recognise my paedobaptist convictions in his analysis of paedobaptist convictions. But we should all be grateful for Dr Wellum’s work in this area, it is very thoughtful work. I recently read the IVP USA book edited by the late David Wright, 3 views on baptism (Sinclair Ferguson, Bruce Ware and Tony Lane) and Bruce Ware palpably does not understand the infant baptist position and so his engagements are rather embarrassing for Baptists (although he articulates the credo view well). I think Dr Wellum’s work is of a different order and I hope that our (classically) Reformed brethren will engage it.

  3. Garrett says:

    Jon & William,

    Serious question: Do you know of a paedobaptist critique written by a credobaptist who DOES understand your position?


    1. Jon Mathys says:

      More about method. On content, this cannot be solved on a blog. Go read Horton’s chapters on the sacraments in “God of Promise” or his ST. Or just settle on Calvin’s two chapters in Book IV of the Institutes, pure gold.

      Garrett, in my opinion, Tom Schreiner and Don Carson get the closest. They at least understand what the covenant of grace is, having read Reformed/Reformed Scholastic apologists, and can articulate the inward/outward distinction which is key to the paedobaptist position, a distinction which was not discussed by Wellum, not to mention the Reformed definition of a sacrament. Geez, just read Heidelberg Catechism 66 for goodness sake, not to mention 69-74 for a clear description of what is believed concerning baptism.

      It’s very easy to critique a position that doesn’t exist. He set up a straw-man, and then attacked it. To be honest, the Reformed position is left untarnished by this interview because it was never represented correctly in the first place.

      One more comment concerning method. Dr. Horton mentions this all the time. Just because something in Wellum’s mind “can lead to something else,” it doesn’t mean it does. This is just the rules of respectful apology. If he thinks our conception of the covenant of grace CAN lead to flattening, if the baptism of our children CAN lead to us parents to neglect calling our children to personal faith,etc. this does not make it so. Anyone who has read a shred of Reformed material on these subjects, of which there are thousands and thousands of pages of material, knows that the covenant of grace does NOT flatten the covenants in the Reformed position, and the Reformed/Lutheran traditions were actually the MOST prominent catechists during the Age of Catechesis. In fact, they made it into its own genre!

      1. Garrett says:


        You said that Schreiner and Carson “get the closest,” which implies that even THEY don’t REALLY understand your position. If world-class theologians and Bible scholars can’t understand the paedobaptist position, that doesn’t bode very well for the “average” Christian who has neither the time nor the inclination to read Calvin, Hodge, Murray, Vos, Bavinck, etc.

        Of course that begs the question: If the paedo position is so plainly Scriptural, then why would someone need to read all of these extra-biblical sources in order to “see” it? It makes me wonder how many people would ever come to a paedo position by simply reading the Scriptures, without being exposed to Reformed theologians? Of course, that alone doesn’t disprove the position, but it should at least raise a red flag!

        By the way, I don’t really expect you to respond to my thinly-veiled accusatory statements poorly disguised as mere rhetorical questions ;-)

        1. Jon Mathys says:

          My apologies. I should rephrase it, they do understand the position. However, the lack of true and honest representation of this position is not the fault of the Scriptural or systematic evidence. It is the fault of the apologist. It is not a gnostic vision, for it can be clearly articulated and defended by any young child, as has been apparent since the Age of Catechesis (15th to 16th centuries).

          The reason for the disconnect, in my opinion, is that we often do not address the real “rub issues” in proper order. For example, one cannot understand the doctrine of the sacraments unless one understands covenant theology. And one cannot understand covenant theology, unless one understands biblical eschatology, etc. These systems build off of one another to form a cogent whole. Therefore, I would never try to argue for paedobaptism with a dispensationalist because there are sooo many other issues that must be addressed first in order for them to even UNDERSTAND my position. Often baptists do not properly understand or represent the paedo position because they are looking at it from a baptistic point of view (its own world-view frankly), asking completely different fundamental questions and therefore coming to different answers. They don’t have the agreed upon view of the covenants, eschatology, ecclesiology, etc, which come FIRST. In other words, one cannot detach this position from the entire chorus of systematic voices. This issue cannot be discussed in isolation, being ripped out of its staple.

          People DO come to the position by reading the Scriptures. It is fully Scriptural/reasonable. It is not true people “need to read all of these extra-biblical sources in order to “see” it?” More misunderstandings. (Personally, I do not think the Baptist position is Scripturally sound at all. Yet this is not an “argument.”) Stating that one cannot come to the paedo position simply because they haven’t read Bavinck, Vos, etc. assumes that the position is not biblical. Yet, there is a difference between being biblical and being a biblicist. We do not read the Scriptures in isolation from the catholic voices of those who have before us or from the authoritative word of the church. (Hence, I recommend books that have articulated the Reformed position the clearest.) ‘Sola Scriptura’ is not ‘solo scriptura.’ Baptists often confuse this, but this is not what the Reformers meant at all by the solas. It is complete and utter arrogance to sit as a personal pope over the Scriptures, convinced that one’s conclusions are authoritative just because of one’s individual soul liberty, ie, Anabaptist ‘solo Scriptura.’ (I am speaking more in general, not necessarily about your specific comment.)

          And yet again, these are many of the undergirding broader issues, issues that any Baptist must wrestle through in becoming Reformed, as I did for years and years of “Baptist-detox.” (no offense :)) There are many underlying foundations on which one’s sacramentology sits. And because these things cannot be effectively addressed on a blog, it is pointless to continue this conversation. So long.

  4. Ben says:

    This is an issue I still have a lot of questions about. For those who say Wellum misrepresents the Paedobaptist position, in what ways does he do so?

  5. Mark Rogers says:

    Wow. I am excited about the Gentry/Wellum book coming in 2012. Dr. Wellum is probably the best professor I’ve had, and one of the best theologians out there. I hope he will continue to write more and more in the coming years.

  6. Peter Jones says:

    I too was a previously baptist and became paedo-baptist as I studied Scripture. I appreciate Dr. Wellum’s arguments, but they are the same basic credo-baptists arguments that have been around for decades. Here are a few of my thoughts. I do not mean to be argumentative. Hopefully, the words come across the way I intend,which is with kindness.

    First, if the new covenant is unbreakable what do we do with Hebrews 6:4-8, 10:26-31 and the entire book of Galatians? The whole NT is built on the fact that we can fall away from something. If it is not the covenant what is it? If we fall away from the visible church, then are we in any way in covenant by being in the visible church? If the answer is no, then again what does an apostate fall away from?

    Second, I have not read a reformed theologian who disagrees that Baptism is analogous to circumcision. Just as the Lord’s Supper sums up many OT feasts, so baptism sums many OT rites, including, but not limited to, circumcision. Also I think most, if not all reformed theologians would agree with Dr. Wellum’s paragraph on what baptism signifies.

    Third, under Dr. Wellum’s thesis we have no idea who is actually in covenant. How can we baptize anyone if we are only supposed to baptize those who are truly in covenant with Christ? Dr. Wellum’s thesis fails because he wants to argue that only those who are truly in covenant should be baptized, but then argue that only the elect are in covenant. But who are the elect? How do we know? Because they made a profession of faith? Just as many of those fall away as infants who are baptized. Should we baptize after years of discipleship to make sure someone is really in? But this would be contrary to every example of baptism we have in Acts. What of those who profess faith and then fall away? Should they be rebaptized? The issue is who do we include in the covenant. If the answer is the only the elect then we are stuck with an impossible standard for baptizing.

    Fourth, how can it be a new and better covenant if our children are left out? The primary issue is the status of children in the NT. No where are children treated as outside of the covenant in the NT. I have been down this road many times and find the arguments of Jewett and those after him inadequate. I think it is impossible to argue that we are in the same covenant as Abraham (Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4) and yet dismiss our children from it.

    Finally, I think the singing of the Psalms works against a credo-baptist position. We are supposed to sing the Psalms. Numerous psalms speak of the blessing of children and fathers who keep covenant so their children are blessed. (Psalm 78, 112, 127, 128, etc.) I know all of these psalms ultimately find their fulfillment in Christ. But most, if not all, have a secondary application to the people of God. Can a credo-baptist sing Psalm 103:17-18 and believe it?

    With Grace in Christ,
    Peter Jones, Pastor
    Christ Church of Morgantown

    1. Andrew says:


      I wanted to respond to the points you made (hopefully graciously).

      1) You might check out Schreiner’s work on the warning passages in Hebrews. He understands them as the means of preserving believers in the faith – that is to say, he sees them as the method God uses to keep his children faithful, and not as a real possibility, since his faithful children will always heed the warnings (similar to Paul’s warning in Acts 27:31, which follows his prophetic dream that all would be saved with a warning as to the means by which they would be saved – remaining in the ship). This view addresses your concerns, while harmonizing with other texts that speak of no true believers apostatizing.

      2) Where the NT equates baptism and circumcision, it is speaking of spiritual circumcision (a circumcision made without hands) with spiritual baptism (Col 2:11). This is a point that paedobaptists should consider. And if the NT simply equated baptism and circumcision, then Galatians seems a bit odd. Why would Paul not just say, ‘Hey guys, you don’t need to get circumcised – you were baptized!’ If baptism replaces circumcision, then the argument is over. No need for the tirade Paul. Calm down. But this is not the case, and the disunity between the covenants and the application of their signs needs to be treated more carefully by paedobaptists, which is the heart of Wellum’s critique.

      3) This is not what Wellum is saying, and your argument is overly dismissive. I don’t mean to be harsh, but would simply point out that this criticism is not even-handed. We baptize those who confess faith in Jesus Christ, consistent with the pattern of the NT. This is not to say that we won’t baptize some who prove not to be true believers, but baptism is tied to a confession of faith, as an outward sign of an inward reality.

      4) No credobaptist is saying children are left out, but that children enter into the covenant through faith in Christ and not through physical descent. Otherwise, we end up with some who are unbelievers, but yet are somehow in the covenant, which cannot be. Jeremiah 31 is clear about one thing, that all who are in the new covenant are believers; they do not need to be taught saying “Know Yahweh!” This is part of the disunity between the old covenants and the new covenant that Wellum is pushing paedobaptists to recognize.

      5) A credobaptist can believe Psalm 103:17-18 the same way we believe Proverbs 22:6. Consider that this Psalm was written by David, many of whose sons turned out to be apostate (i.e. Absalom and Amnon). Ultimately, the only one who truly keeps the covenant (Ps 103:18) is Christ. And we want to recognize that the children are believers. So, in a very real sense, as a credobaptist, I can sing this Psalm with David, recognizing by good hermeneutical principles that my faith does not guarantee the faith of my children. By the way, this problem applies to paedobaptists as well. Baptizing your children does nothing for them if they do not believe.

      Hopefully, this is helpful.

      Grace and peace,


  7. Brian says:

    I’m a paedobaptist, but I must admit that most of my baptist friends feel the same way as Jon above. They are frustrated by the over-simplifications of their position and accusations that they treat their children as “outsiders” until there is evidence of repentance. I think we would all benefit from acknowledging that we are not dealing with a “slam dunk” issue (no pun intended). Both sides agree on the baptism of new believers. Both sides acknowledge that the NT does not give us explicit descriptions how baptism was applied to the 2nd generation. Neither side has a game-changing proof-text. Both sides have to do the hard work of tracing the themes connected to baptism throughout the entirety of scripture. Neither side (as best represented) is attempting to impose theological constructs on the text of Scripture. I do think that Wellum’s “flattening” argument is an over-simplification. But we paedobaptists are also guilty of over-simplifying the baptist position.

  8. CR says:

    Excellent article, Justin. Thanks for reposting. I agreed with much what Wellum said except what he said about baptism being a “sign” of the new covenant. While I agree that baptism functions as a sign or toke or reminders in much the same way that the signs specified for the other covenants did, the terminology is not there in regards to the New Covenant. The absence of this designation in the NT, in my humble opinion, should be honored.

  9. chris taylor says:

    Baptists would agree that the discontinuity spoken of in Jeremiah 31 is primarily between the Mosiac (old) covenant and the new. The thing that is so different between the two involves the enabling power of the Spirit (the outpouring of the Spirit and the writing of the law on the heart), rather than the imposition of some external law written on stone.

    If the discontinuity between the covenants highlighted by the biblical authors is primarily concerned with enablement, rather than the content of what we are enabled to do, then it seems to me that we should not minimize the overarching continuity. Bunyan (so some say), says it this way, ‘Run John run the Law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands, far better news the Gospel brings, it bids us fly and gives us wings!’

    There is undeniable continuity concerning the basic way of life (i.e., the condition of the covenant) that has been set out for Pilgrims, Abraham and Christian: ‘Walk before me and be blameless.’ The fact that the conditions were fulfilled perfectly in Jesus, and that he redeemed us from the pit and poured out his Spirit upon us so that we too are now enabled to bear the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., able to keep the conditions of the covenant), only goes to show how essentially similar the covenants are. Yes there are some physical/national aspects to the old covenant, and possibly even to the covenant with Abraham, but that does not mean we should neglect one of the most fundamental similarities, namely that God wants ‘to be God to you and to your offspring after you.’

    For me, the blessed discontinuity between the covenants is the continuity of faith between generations that is now possible (dare I say likely!) because of work of Christ.

  10. steve hays says:

    Justin is a brave man. As Scotty would say, “Aye, the haggis is in the fire for sure!”

  11. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    What’s the difference between a paedo-baptist position and the Lutheran position on infant baptism, if any?

    The Lutheran position, as best as I can ascertain and discern, is that baptism is salvific. Conclusion: If an infant is baptised, then that infant is saved.

    Do Reformed Paedo-Baptists make the same argument as Lutherans?

    1. Theology Samurai says:


      No, Lutherans are more consistent.

      Btw, every argument made in defense of paedo-baptism can also be made for paedo-communion. However, most Reformed paedo-baptists reject it. Put “Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace” by Paul K. Jewett on your reading list.

      1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

        Theology Samurai,

        Are you saying that there’s essentially no difference btw paedo-baptists and Lutherans on the issue of infant baptism, and that Lutherans are more consistent because they permit/endorse paedo-communion?

        When you say that Lutherans are more consistent in terms of their paedo-baptistic practices, what do you mean exactly by “more consistent”?

      2. Jon Mathys says:

        “every argument made in defense of paedo-baptism can also be made for paedo-communion.”

        Not true. The Reformed have always seen baptism as a sign of initiation into the covenant, not requiring personal faith, and the Lord’s Supper as partaking of Christ’s body and blood, through the “mouth” of faith. It is to “embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ.” (Heidelberg Catechism 76) The arguments for the two sacraments have always differed from each other, and children who do not possess faith cannot partake. This has always been the case, back to Calvin, going through Turretin, Hodge, Bavinck, Warfield, etc. Only until recently have “reformed” advocates in the Federal Vision brought infants to the table. For more on this issue of paedocommunion, read the two recent publications “Children at the Lord’s Table” by Venema and “Children and the Lord’s Supper” edited by Waters and Duncan.

        As I stated above, in the rules of apology, just because you “think something necessitates something else” it doesn’t mean it does. It’s like me saying a consistent baptist ecclesiology leads to treating our children as unclean pagans or an eventual gnostic flight from the physical. Yet, I know none of you would go that far.

        Our arguments with Lutherans have spanned back to Luther himself. If you think Lutherans are more consistent, that’s a subjective opinion. A sacrament is a sign and seal of salvation, a confirmation of salvation, not salvation itself. They confuse the sign with the thing signified. If you think this is consistent thinking, be my guest.

        As far as Jewett is considered, yes, his work is a fine apology for credobaptism, very well-written, well worth consideration. However, the paedobaptist position was not faithfully represented, nor the Reformed understanding of a sacrament in general. And personally I didn’t think he understand who he was critiquing.

    2. James says:

      Tullian’s Follower,
      Case for Infant Baptism: The Historic Paedo-Baptist Position. and Is Infant Baptism Biblical? Also A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism can be obtained on John.MacArthur’s web site… RC Sproul does not agree with J.M’s view (a very close friend) but he does say this “One of the things that John has made absolutely clear in his excellent presentation today is that there’s nowhere in the New Testament that explicitly commands the baptism of infants, or explicitly mentions the baptism of infants. And so he concludes it’s simply not in the New Testament. And from an explicit perspective, I agree with him completely.(Sproul) We also have stipulated and agreed that there’s no explicit prohibition against infant baptism to be found anywhere in the New Testament either end quote. Knowing this Didn’t Jesus say(Paul) If anyone preaches any other Gospel except the one I give you let him be Anathema, If then the scriptures can’t present it easily and can’t provide proven fact easily without controversy who are we to add to the Gospel ceremonially or scripturally…

      1. Jon Mathys says:

        James, do you believe in the ecumenical creeds, particularly the Nicene and Athanasian, which articulate our orthodox understanding of the Trinity? Do you believe in church membership? Do you believe women should partake of the Lord’s Supper? All of these doctrines which I assume you affirm are taught in Scripture but defined and articulated not from a single chapter and verse, but through the difficult labor of studying explicit and implicit references from all the Scriptures. The Bible is not a doctrinal manuel, or a ready-made catechism. It was not arranged for this purpose. You’d be surprised how many of the things you believe don’t have an explicit chapter and verse that provide easy prooftexting. Essentially, we have to say: if the doctrine smells like a duck, feels like a duck, looks like a duck, its a duck.

        Also, so would you then argue that the paedobaptist is arguing for another gospel, and we are therefore “anathema” or “damned to hell”? How are we adding to the Gospel? Just because the Scriptures may not present every doctrine easily to our Western ears, it does not mean that the doctrine is not taught. This is why we need to study the Scriptures as did the Bereans.

        And just for fun, I know this is a reference to the OT and not definitely answering your criticism, but in regards to NO reference being made to infants being baptized in the NT, what about 1 Corinthians 10:2, with ALL Israel being referenced as being baptized (βαπτίζω) into Moses in the cloud and the sea? (Reformed/Lutheran apologists reference that verse to lighten the mood)

      2. Theology Samurai says:

        Infant baptist isn’t only absent in the NT, it’s also absent in the OT. In fact, it’s not in the Bible at all…it’s like the invisible doctrine which eveyone says is there but can’t point to a verse in which we may find it.

        1. Jon Mathys says:

          “Infant Baptism is absent in the New Testament.” These short quips are unsupported and frankly juvenile. At least be decent enought to support your claims.

          As I asked previously, do you believe women are to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper? After all, there’s no chapter and verse for women partaking. If you want “chapter and verse exegesis”, then you should also reject the ecumenical creeds as well which include the doctrine of the Trinity.

          Have you ever read a defense of paedobaptism? Numerous amounts of Scripture are used from both the OT and NT to support the doctrine that children have always been rendered as children of the covenant of grace and have not been deprived of this gift. Just because we don’t have the explicit command in Scripture “BAPTIZE ONLY PROFESSING ADULTS,” that doesn’t mean that only accountable adults are baptized. Likewise, do we have the verse in Scripture that says “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,the only Son of God,eternally begotten of the Father,God from God, light from light,very God from very God, begotten, not made,of one Being with the Father?” No, Christian doctrine is derived through careful exegesis and analysis of a plethora of passages in the canon. To be honest, if this is how you derive your theology, then you’re going to have to reject an awful lot of what Christianity holds to.

          Fine, if you want your NT reference, here it is: 1 Cor. 10: 1-2, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Israel included infants and adults and therefore were baptized through the sea. There’s your reference. :) Is it a good prooftext for infant baptism? Not really. But I gave you what you wanted.

          1. Andrew says:


            Israel may have included infants, but Paul references “our fathers.” Using this verse to justify paedobaptism is special pleading. Besides, the reality Paul is discussing is not faith, but apostasy – “they were overthrown in the wilderness.” I don’t know about you, but it seems risky to build any theology of baptism out of those verses.


            1. Jon Mathys says:

              Our “fathers” is a clear reference to our ancestors. Surely, you don’t think only fathers were led forth in the Exodus. And yes, this is NOT a suitable prooftext for the rite of infant baptism, as I made clear. Although, it is clear from this text that our understanding of baptism must be broadened beyond that of professing adults. Obviously the apostle’s definition was.

              1. Jon says:

                I am assuming Jon Mathys’ point here. Children walked through the red sea. Also you didn’t explain why God baptized unbelievers. Were they baptized or not? Any why would Paul even use them as examples? Is the message, OT Israel was Apostate but you will never be apostate? No, “take heed lest you fall”
                Already not yet Eschatology demands that your children be baptized.

              2. Andrew says:

                Jon Mathys,

                The greater question is, in what sense is Paul talking about baptism and why? His comparison is between the experience of the Hebrews and Christian baptism. He seems to be pointing specifically to the spiritual reality. God’s Spirit descended on Israel in the cloud, just as His Spirit had descended on believers. But Paul’s point is mainly to serve his larger argument. He is urging the Corinthians not to be like their forefathers in their disobedience. To extract an argument about infant baptism out of this seems forced.

                By the way, it was the adults who died in the wilderness, not the children. But all of this fails to note the discontinuity between the covenants yet again.

                In those days they shall no longer say: “‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge… 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.” (Jeremiah 31:29-30, 34 ESV)

                Jeremiah points to a clear generational discontinuity, as well as to every member of the covenant being redeemed. Infant baptists fails to deal with Jeremiah.


              3. Andrew says:


                In what sense were the Israelites in the exodus baptized? It was certainly not in the precise sense of a Christian water baptism. Paul seems to be pointing to two things 1) the presence of the Spirit in the cloud and 2) the presence of water. From these he draws a typological comparison.

                Even beginning to argue infant baptism here is forced and misses Paul’s point. His point is the exhortation, as you pointed out. But trying to extrapolate infant baptism misses his point. Who is Paul exhorting? The infants? No! He’s exhorting the adult believers (and perhaps their believing children).

                Asking why God baptized unbelievers only pushes the question back a level, since we could ask the same question about circumcision. Remember, Paul is focused on the exhortation, so he has painted the exodus scene to draw as close a comparison as possible to the new exodus scene. His focus in 1 Corinthians is on tearing down their pride. To use the Scriptures to do this, he needs to focus on continuity. Focusing on the discontinuities would unnecessarily undercut his argument.

                When we read this exhortation, we need to remember that there is still a discontinuity between the covenants. Don’t try to extract all of Paul’s theology from only a small portion of his writings. Elsewhere, he emphasizes the radical discontinuity, especially when facing Jewish opponents (i.e. Galatians), but here he has emphasized continuity. This is the same problem we run into in the Paul vs James debates where people miss the situations they were addressing.

                Already/Not Yet eschatology was developed by a Dispensationalist Baptist (G.E. Ladd). It hardly entails paedobaptism.


        2. Jon says:

          This is false.
          1 Cor 10

          1. Andrew says:


            What is false?

  12. Jawan says:

    Makes me thankful that this subject matter isn’t an essential to salvation.

    1. James says:

      Oh Yes! How many times I’ve said that in other areas, where as such as this, differ in one’s beliefs or opinions. On Tullians blog we have the same, sometimes people will call a truce. (ha ha)One good example “Denominations” and all it’s ramifications.There will always be something about something that not all will agree (ever) so we just call a truce and move on to the next subject. After reading this: “Why I Am a Credo baptist” Great article by Stephen Wellum, though it only strengthens my position as a Credobaptist. That’s just me.

  13. Hello All,

    I will only write one comment – now I have to keep my word :)

    I was a very dogmatic infant baptist and became a credo baptist while at Westminster Seminary California. I’m thankful for their emphasis on “faith” in the new covenant, Dr. VanDrunen’s excellent work on a theology of children in his book on Bioethics, and the reformed emphasis on not separating Word and Sacrament. That all helped me affirm my credo beliefs.

    But in all of this debate, I am most thankful for Paul’s beautiful words in 1 Corinthians 1:17:

    “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel . . . .”

    Amen Paul! Preach it brother!

  14. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I was a very dogmatic infant baptist and became a credo baptist while at Westminster Seminary California.

    Happy, happy, joy, joy.

    Only one thing could make me even smile more: That you went to Westminster Seminary California and thoroughly rejected Van Drunen’s and Darryl Hart’s 2K theology after having thoroughly examined it.

  15. Kenneth Clayton says:

    for those who say wellum doesn’t properly represent the reformed view, would you say Fred Malone represents it well in his book “The Baptism of Disciples Alone”. Also has anyone read Greg Nichols new book ” Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic View” he interacts with many reformed theologians not necessarily with the direct issue of baptism but related for sure. He interacts with westminster confession, charles hodge, R.L. Dabney, Bavinck, and Berkhof, and 3 forms of unity. Also Nehemiah Coxe offers a baptist view of covenants but seems knowledgeable of the reformed view especially John Owen, whom he recommends reading on Hebrews 8. Any Paedobaptist guys familiar with these works?

  16. Greg Gibson says:

    Hi Dr. Wellum,

    Thank you for your interesting explanation of who we should baptize.

    I’ve been studying the historical origins of the covenant of grace and it’s relation to paedobaptism. Do you know if these 2 historical claims are true?

    1. Zwingli explicitly invented and popularized the covenant of grace in the 16th century.

    2. Zwingli invented the covenant of grace for the purpose of defending paedobaptism. (If so, isn’t it ironic that 1689 Reformed Baptists believe in the covenant of grace?)

  17. Greg Gibson says:

    To All Paedobaptists,

    Some of you complained that Dr. Wellum used the same-old arguments for credobaptism. So here are some new, hermeneutical arguments for your consideration…

    As usual, this whole theological debate can be reduced to hermeneutics. I believe that paedobaptists often use 3, BACKWARDS hermeneutics…

    1. The OT (Gen. 17) interprets the NT (Heb. 8, 10; etc.)

    2. The alleged implicit (Col 2:11-12) interprets the explicit (Heb. 8, 10; Mt. 28:19; Acts 2:38a–47, 10:47, etc.)

    3. The unintended (Col. 2:11-12) interprets the intended (Heb. 8, 10; Mt. 28:19, etc.)

    Paedobaptists use an inconsistent, selective OT-NT hermeneutic. In their eschatology, they use a NT definition of Israel: The NT interprets the OT. But in their ecclesiology, they use an OT definition of church: The OT interprets the NT. (Also in their nomology, they use an OT definition of law: The OT interprets the NT.)

    “Pratt rightly notes that the promise that Jeremiah holds out is a salvific promise which anticipates a community of regenerate people. But the NT clearly states that the new covenant is now here (e.g., Hebrews 8, 10)…when the reality of a full forgiveness of sins is anticipated in Jeremiah 31, we do not argue that in the “already” a partial forgiveness takes place while we await the “not yet” forgiveness in the future. “

    Pratt’s NC view sounds “somewhat” similar to some earlier Dispensationalists. The Disp. pushed the whole NC into the future, and Pratt pushes part of the NC (1 of 7 blessings) into the future.

    However Jer. 31 promises 7, NC blessings. And Pratt sounds like he believes that 6 are already, but one is not yet. If so, that’s an inconsistent, already-not yet, eschatological hermeneutic.

    “Reformed paedobaptists argue that baptism fulfills and replaces circumcision…So would you be comfortable saying that baptism is analogous to circumcision?”

    The word “analogous” sounds like the paedobaptist argument that baptism is “compared” with circumcision. But the relationship between circumcision and baptism is a contrast, not comparison: “NOT with a circumcision done by the hands of men” (Col. 2:11). Physical circumcision contrasted spiritual circumcision (regeneration) which includes union with Christ, both prerequisites for baptism (Col. 2:12).

    Brothers, what Covenant Theologians and Dispensationalists both need is a consistent NC-NT hermeneutic. Only then will we see the fullness of the glory of Christ fulfilling the OT promises of the NC in His Church now. Only then will we start living-out the NC blessings now.

    1. James says:

      Greg G.
      That’s some good work.

    2. Jon says:


      The “day” that is refereed to in Hebrews is it already here or is it drawing near?

      1. Greg Gibson says:

        Hi Jon,

        Can you tell me which specific verse(s) you have in mind?

        1. Jon says:

          Hebrews 10:15 and Hebrews 10:25.
          The eschatological fulfillment of Jeremiah 31 that you keep harking on in your analysis of Hebrews is lacking a careful read of Jeremiah, not to mention a proper Reformed hermeneutic. I am sorry to say this, but YOU have a dispensational read of these passages. Jeremiah keeps saying over and over, “the days are coming”( vs 27,31,38). Does Hebrews say after this read of Jeremiah “AND THE DAY IS DEFINITELY HERE!” NO, The days are coming in Jeremiah, the DAY is drawing near in Hebrews (10.25). THIS IS already / not yet eschatology, not your version. the already not yet eschatology is already present in and with Jeremiah so that those who partake in his gospel message by faith will have the inheritance of the New Covenant. Otherwise, the proper read by an Israelite of Jeremiah would look like this in its original setting “HUH, the prophet is talking about the future covenant, oh well, that doesn’t concern me.” On the contrary, it absolutely concerns them, as Stephen says to the JEWS “You who are uncircumcised in heart and ears you always resist the HOLY SPIRIT!” Your version is an over realized eschatology that conflates the Already into the Not Yet. This is also done at the expense of a proper understanding of how we read the OT. The New Covenant does not just include the N.T. Church. Those who are in the New Covenant are the People of God. Which includes Old Testament Saints!!! Now here is the difficult part, this was true back then and Today. By Faith (Jeremiah New Covenant Faith) Abel, By Faith Noah, By Faith Abraham, By faith the people (including children) crossed the Red Sea as on dry land … Just as they desire a better country so also do we. How could Abraham have faith you ask? Gal 3.7 “The Gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham..” While we are talking about Hebrews 10, what do make of verse 29? If Jeremiah is completely fulfilled how can someone be SANCTIFIED BY THE COVENANT and then Spurn the Son of God? Are those people in the covenant? Answer: Already not / yet eschatology means there is a categorical distinction between those who are in covenant (visibly) with God, and those who are elected (invisible). In the Presbyterian world this is called the difference between the vital and formal covenant. The Baptist ecclesiology conflates the two in good ole dispensational fashion. This leaves one at a loss for Hebrew 10.29. Who are the sanctified people and how have they been “set apart?”
          The same goes for Paul’s use of children in Ephesians 6 when he commands the children and then backs up his claim with the OT promises to children with an OT Land blessing! What we have to ask here is what land is Paul referring to? Is it just God’s good earth? IS it ISRAEL? IS IT HEAVENLY LAND? (now we are getting closer) HAHA … No. It is once again already/not yet eschatological land. The children are IN THE LAND, thus obey your parents so that you will remain IN THE LAND. Meaning, children who are born into the formal covenant community are not guaranteed to remain in the land, they are promised. But they must walk by faith just as the children of the O.T. did. The children are IN THE LORD. How can someone be in the Lord but not a member of his church? Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” All baptist must render the hortatory subjunctive nature of this verse to be obsolete. In other words, “it isn’t possible to grieve the Holy Spirit, so who cares Paul?” No, it is possible, becasue you were sealed just as every covenant community was sealed. But the guarantee of the seal is to those who persevere in faith. The problem seems to be the lack of clear distinction between Hyper-Calvinism and the “Well meant offer of the Gospel”. In other word Paul can say to the church in Romans both of these statements: “There is no condemnation” and “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God”. True Calvinism understands the distinction between the vital and formal covenant. True Calvinism understand that there is One Faith in both Old and New Testaments, there is also ONE HOPE (eschatology) of both Old and New Testaments, and there is ONE BAPTISM of both Old and New Testaments. This is why Calvin always stresses that any objection to Infant Baptism is only as good as an objection to infant circumcision. No one has dethroned Calvin from the proper understanding of sacraments. If anything, Bavinck, Turretin, Alexander and Miller (the Princetonians who taught the founders of Southern Baptist Seminary!), Robinson, Bannerman, Warfield, Hodge, Vos, Murray, Kline, Gaffin, have absolutely solidified this read if nothing else. These are the guys that practically invented the language of Reformed hermeneutics. YOUR understanding of the Old Testament in one that lacks any efficacious activity of Christ present to save his people in and through the Old Testament. That is the dispensational sin. The NEW Covenant People of God are BOTH the ELDERS of the Church and the Elders of the Tribes of Israel. Christ has torn down the wall of hostility, and the gentiles are co-heirs with O.T. saints.
          Earlier you said the at 1 Cor. 10 was a typological representation. Yes it was typological but they were Baptized (with water) and it was JESUS who lead them out of Egypt (Jude 5). Also just becasue there is a typological picture of baptism, it would be false to then assume a discontinuity on account that it is typological. Otherwise we shouldn’t marry becasue Marriage is a type as well (Ephesians 5). The fact remains that water baptism is STILL a sign! If we took away the typological element of our current baptism then we would have to baptize everyone with FIRE (Matthew 3).

          Can you imagine the scene that the Baptist paints for Peter’s Sermon in Acts 2? Peter says “This promise is for you and for your children” then an faithful hearer of Peter comes up to him and says I believe and I want to be baptized and then he goes home gets his two year old kid and brings him to Peter and then Peter says “wait a minute this promise is not for you children, i didn’t mean it that way.” That is outrageous! The blessings of the covenant are ALWAYS given to the children as a birthright to those blessings. This is not only the case for the covenant of grace, but also the covenant of Works. The Sons of Adam are give the blessings of Adam covenant – DEATH. The Sons of Noah are give the blessings of his Covenant “No more flood”. The sons of David are guaranteed a place on the throne no matter how insubordinate they are. The sons of Abraham likewise have a birthright as sons in the covenant community. Baptist, here this! This is what the Babaptst fails to see : The household formula in Acts and Paul is not just a world to refer to more than one person of a family. Household has a biblical theological continuity. There is a reason that Luke keeps using the word Household! And this reason is more than just referring to more than one person, it is a continuity of the way God has always acted in redemptive history. And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household (except the children that are below the age of ooohhh lets say … 8? hardly). This is also Jesus’ message “the father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.”
          This is Reformed Hermeneutics…

          1. Jon says:

            This is Paul’s theology of the Church as well … Romans 11:17 “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, NEITHER WILL HE SPARE YOU. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (Wait … cut off? I thought they were never apart to begin with?)

            Your rendering of the fulfillment of Jeremiah cannot handle the above text properly becasue it is an overly realized eschatology that is rooted in a dispensational read not only of the N.T. but the O.T. as well.

            This is Reformed Hermeneutics in continuity with Vos contra Wellum and/or Ladd and/or Jewit …
            have a listen, I think it might help.

  18. Tom says:

    I heard rumors of the possibility of a book by Wellum and Gentry when I was at Southern and have been eagerly waiting to see it. This will be good.

  19. usama a. says:

    Thought it was interesting to find this topic here and then find this quote from another blog today. There’s a little more to it, but I thought this was an interesting point. The quote is in relation to early baptismal debates in New England.

    ‘Baptists, by contrast, argued that baptism does make the church and does admit the individual into the covenant people. As a result, “The paedobaptism ministers often grouped their Baptist antagonists with Roman Catholics, who also claimed that baptism was the foundation of the Church.”’

    from an article by Peter Leithart
    can check it out here:

    Thanks for all the great comments with references to sources to read.



  20. bill G says:

    what no one seems to mention is that ALL churches the practice infant baptism ALSO practice believers baptism. at a certain age `13 or so….. the child makes a personal profession of faith to the church community and is “confirmed” in his infant baptism.

    surely a Baptist would now consider that person having an acceptable legitimate baptism??

  21. Andrew says:

    I wonder in all of this; if Wellum is not able to understand and critique the paedobaptist position, is it Wellum’s fault, or is the position so inconsistent and fuzzy that it’s like pinning Jello to the wall?

  22. Roger says:

    It amazes me that people on both sides of this issue seem so darn sure of themselves. Taken in the best light and read generously, both arguments have merit, historical precedent, and representation from honorable and brilliant men.

    I also find it curious and somewhat disappointing that this blog, hosted at The Gospel Coalition would intentionally publish something known to create such deep division within folk in The Gospel Coalition. Why not something that honors historical disagreement but seeks to forge a way forward together – as if there really were a coalition of the Gospel?

    1. Andrew says:


      We can disagree generously here, can we not? We are still united around the same gospel. Why should we sweep our differences under the rug?

  23. ” let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.”

    i had to re-tackle this subject when my baptised daughter wanted to be re-baptised in a charismatic reformed baptistic church. i respect this church deeply. and yet, one sunday when i was attending their service, the pastor was preaching about church membership and the subject of baptism. he said, as clear as day, that no one could join this church unless he held to believer’s baptism. i was astonished that this subject would be moved to such a critical position…to the point where church membership was at stake.
    i attended the service where my daughter was baptised and rejoiced to see her embracing the faith of her parents who raised her as a covenant child. yet i have been a persuaded presbyterian since the early days of my conversion back in the 70s. if nothing else, it stands out to me that the subject of baptism is not held front and center in the PCA. i think a distortion of emphasis occurs when the questionable specifics of eschatology or baptism are regarded as tests of orthodoxy.
    by the way, my daughter, chalice, is serving jesus in uganda by ministering with great joy to handicapped orphans. god has used her to reignite my own desire to push on in the effort “to glorify god and enjoy him forever.”

  24. Roger Ball says:

    Professor Wellum says: “No doubt, under the previous covenants the genealogical principle, that is, the relationship between the covenant mediator and his seed was “physical.” But now, in Christ, under his mediation, the relationship between Christ and his seed is no longer physical but “spiritual,” which entails that the covenant sign must only be applied to those who in fact are the spiritual seed of Abraham, sons and daughter of God in Christ, by faith.”

    In light of the New Covenant described in Jeremiah 31, it seems reasonable that certain elements of the rite (circumcision) would be discontinued according to what is being signified. A new rite, a fulfillment rite, would then be instituted with its covenantal members being recognized in a different way (in a way more corresponding to the reality it represents).

    This also makes sense in light of Paul’s explanation in Col.2

    As a paedobaptist, I’m having trouble getting around this. Any help?

    1. Andrew says:


      Why look for a way “around”? That does not sound like seeking the truth, but seeking to stay within a current paradigm.

    2. Jon Mathys says:

      Roger, as well as Andrew:

      As I baptist I struggled with this as well. However, Jeremiah 31 discusses the replacement of the OLD covenant, not the Abrahamic. My entire life, I believed that circumcision was tied to the OLD covenant, never realizing that it is in fact Abrahamic in origin. Was it practiced under the Old Covenant theocracy, and did it have other ramifications that served a temporary purpose under that covenant? Yes. But this does not mean that it an essentially Old Covenant ritual. To be frank, we would still circumcise in the church today if it was not replaced by baptism (Col 2:11-12 and elsewhere). Furthermore, and this deals with a much larger issue, the fulfillment of the New Covenant mentioned in Jer.31, Ez.36 is not yet consummated. As is typical in OT prophecy, the Messiah is frequently prophecied in his first and second comings simultaneously, often in the same verses. We are in the already/not yet of the New Covenant, or as some have put it, the inaugurated, yet not consummated Kingdom. Of course if you do not believe in the already/not yet of the kingdom, then that is another issue, one to be dealt with separately.

      “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” – Gal. 3:7-9.

      Now, a Baptist will say “Aha! See, those of FAITH are sons of Abraham!” This is true, but this has ALWAYS been true. God’s people have always saved by faith alone apart from works. Yet, ALSO from the beginning, ALL of Abraham’s children are included in the covenant, INCLUDING the children of Hagar AND Sarah (Gal 4). There ALWAYS have been believing and unbelieving seeds amongst God’s people, and, as Jesus said, it will remain so until the end of this age when the wheat and tares, sheep and goats, are separated.

      Furthermore, Paul labors again and again in his writings to connect the New Covenant to the Abrahamic. Baptists would agree that we are, in the New covenant, children of Abraham. Yet, they say that this does NOT include our children. This baffles me. You CAN’T have an Abrahamic covenant without covenant children, for the promise “I will be your God and the God of your chidren” (Gen 17:7) is of the ESSENCE of the promise. BAPTISTS WANT TO CHANGE THE PROMISE ITSELF, NOT JUST THE RECIPIENTS OF ITS SIGN. Paul never deprives children of the covenant promises, as He would HAVE to do for His Jewish/Christian audiences if He wanted to connect the church to Abraham yet deprive children of the promises. And in fact, he does the opposite, calling our children not UNCLEAN but HOLY in 1 Cor. 7:14. Now, is Paul here making a reference to infant baptism? No. But this is not how systematic theology works: passages can have numerous implications and references in the theological schema. Here, Paul is explicitly using COVENANTAL language of “holy” and “unclean,” being quite clear of the status of children. In a baptist ecclesiology, children ARE unclean and defiled covenantally.

      Furthermore, Peter in Acts 2 explicitly says that the promise is “for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38f. To a Jewish audience at Pentecost, well-versed in Torah, this would sound like one thing: the specific Abrahamic formula. And this formula is put into practice throughout Acts with ALL of the references to household baptisms, references which, for a Baptist, CANNOT include non-believing children. I for one am not willing to assume this. But can we prove that it did? No. Luke did not HAVE to say “infant” in the passages, this was not Luke’s point. He was simply echoing the practice of household inclusion, given through Abraham.

      This is not inconsistency in a Reformed hermeneutic. As Samuel Miller and later B. B. Warfield stated: children are included in the covenant community, and they will remain there until they are kicked out. The burden of proof is on the Baptist to prove they are pagan. In summary, children ARE in the covenant because Paul and Peter explicitly call the New Covenant church an Abrahamic church. They are never deprived of this promise.

      Grace and Peace.

      1. Jon says:

        Well done Jon.

      2. Jon Mathys says:

        Oh, and Ladd, a dispensationalist invented already/not yet eschatology??????

        Interesting, this is a claim I have never heard.

        1) Have you ever read Ladd? I have, and he was many things, yet He was no dispensationalist. You are misinformed.
        2)Invented already/not yet eschatology? No, already/not yet eschatology is integral, at least in its early forms, to amillienalism, which certainly predates its Ladd. In fact, it’s all over Calvin, Witsius, Hodge, Bavinck, others, and it was developed most acutely by Vos….all before Ladd.

        Lastly, I understand more why you reject our understanding of Jeremiah 31, which I DO deal with above. Inaugurated/Not yet consummated ESCHATOLOGY grounds our inaugurated/not yet ECCLESIOLOGY. This is now a much larger issue which I do not have time to deal with here. I would go read “The Kingdom of God” by Ridderbos for one of the best defenses of our position, as well as “Biblical Theology” by Vos.

        1. Andrew says:

          Jon Mathys,

          The wheat and the tares and the sheep and the goats are not referring to unbelieving children. They are referring to those in the community who act as if they believe, but are unregenerate. Can this be applied to children? In some sense, but the children are not the focus of these metaphors.

          The covenantal language Paul uses in 1 Cor 7:14 of holy he also applied to the unbelieving spouse. Should we baptize them too? Be consistent here. You can’t baptize one and not the other.

          Household inclusion and infant baptism are separate issues. We should expect that when the parents believe, the children will follow and be trained in the faith. It does not follow that we should then baptize infants.

          And yes, I have read Ladd’s Gospel of the Kingdom. He came from a Baptist background. I may have misspoken on the dispensationalist part. I just looked back at the article I read and saw that I read it wrong. I get the sense from reading him that he may have been a dispensationalist early on, but I could be wrong. He was historic Premil though. I did not say that Ladd “invented” inaugurated eschatology, but it was his work that brought it to the forefront, especially among Baptists and dispensationalists.

          Vos’ Biblical Theology is on my shelf and my reading list, I just haven’t gotten there yet. We cannot rightly apply the Already/Not Yet to Jeremiah 31:31-34. The results would be disastrous:

          Has God not yet forgiven our iniquity?
          Has He not yet written the law on our hearts?
          Has He not yet made a new covenant?
          Is He not yet our God?
          Are we not yet His people?

          Which part is the not yet? Applying inaugurated eschatology here is a scary proposition.


          1. Jon Mathys says:

            This is tiresome. There are so many points I brought up above that have still not been addressed. And this has happened many other times above. (And much of what you do address, you simply dismiss as “not referring to infants” without giving reasons). This is not entirely your fault, but the fault of the venue, a blog. However, until these points are addressed, this will be an endless merry-go-round of argumentation, and no positive ground will be made. I am therefore leaving this conversation. So long.

  25. Roger Ball says:


    It’s just a figure of speech. Try thinking happy thoughts.

  26. Jon says:

    God baptized children. 1 Cor. 10. and they drank the same spiritual drink, Christ. Nevertheless an entire generation fell.
    Why would God baptize not only children but unbelievers? Because baptism is always a sign given to the visible covenant community. No way around it other than exegetical gymnastics.

  27. James says:

    What we have here is failure to communicate.

  28. Casey Hough says:

    I would encourage everyone that believes that Wellum has misrepresented the paedobaptist position(s) to read his full chapter in the “Believer’s Baptism” book. It is exceedingly clear that he understands the paedobaptist position(s).

  29. Anna Austen says:

    Question. Does anyone know when the shift from adult baptism to infant baptism happened and was it for purely theological reasons or were there practical / other reasons involved?

    1. Jon Mathys says:

      This is a complicated question, one which I will answer BRIEFLY, at the risk of sounding simplistic. And these results are disputed.

      The historical/doctrinal writings of the church fathers, particularly that of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, others, indicate that the inclusion of infants in the rite of baptism was always assumed from the beginning. The point where infants began to be bereft of the rite began with Augustine, along with others, who questioned changing the rite for the PRACTICAL reason of keeping apostasy at bay through the early education of children before the rite. Infant baptism remained the norm throughout the early church up until the Reformation, with a few minor exceptions in between. Just prior to the Reformation, Meister Eckhart, the early Anabaptist mystic arose and disputed the practice. Later, the modern Anabaptists arose at the time of the Reformers and disputed the practice, calling for the baptism of adults only. And then the particular Baptists, and so on…

      I would check out Ferguson’s “Backgrounds of Early Christianity” and his “Baptism in the Early Church” for more explanation, although I do not personally agree with ALL of Ferguson’s conclusions.

      1. Casey Hough says:

        I find it ironic that you reference Ferguson. Here is a link to an article the JT posted a while back on the topic of infant baptism:

        1. Jon Mathys says:

          Hence my comment just above “although I do not personally agree with ALL of Ferguson’s conclusions.” Yet I regard him as a gentleman and a scholar, well worth reading.

          1. Casey Hough says:

            It just did not make much sense to me for you to say that a practice was always assumed in the early church, then refer the questioner to a scholar who refutes the claim. Maybe I am missing your point, but its too late. Have a good one.

    2. Michael says:

      Your question assumes that there was a shift from adult baptism (credo) to infant baptism. The Church has always held to adult baptism when an adult converted. Infant baptism, despite when some of these others and Dr. Wellum is saying, was practiced very early in the Church due to an understanding of a child’s holy position within the covenant community (cf. 1 Cor. 7:14). I would encourage you to get a hold of J. Jeremias’ book, The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland, trans. Dorothea M. Barton [Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, 1963] where he seeks to show both historically what the early church held to, and some of the biblical exegesis they used to support their position.

      I don’t have the time or space to detail all the writings of the Church Fathers, but I’ll list a few:

      Justin Martyr ( A.D. 100-165) was one of the earliest apologists to equate baptism to circumcision, “And we, who have approached God through Him [Christ], have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it” (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, 43:1).

      Hippolytus, about 215 A.D. wrote: “Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (Apostolic Tradition 21:15, c. 215 A.D.)

      Origin [A.D. 185-253] went on to write, “According to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which required a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem superfluous.” 
(Homilies on Leviticus, 8:3) and “For this reason, moreover, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of baptizing infants too.” (Homily on Romans, 5:9).

      Irenaeus [178 A.D.] wrote,”For He came to save all through means of Himself — all, I say, who through Him are born again to God — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men.”
(Against Heresies, II.2.4 where the term “born again” refers to Jn. 3:5 which was then understood to refer to water baptism and the grace given by the Holy Spirit.)

      Augustine wrote, “And if any one seek for divine authority in this matter, though what is held by the whole Church, and that not as instituted by Councils, but as a matter of invariable custom, is rightly held to have been handed down by apostolical authority, still we can form a true conjecture of the value of the sacrament of baptism in the case of infants, from the parallel of circumcision, which was received by God’s earlier people, and before receiving which Abraham was justified, as Cornelius also was enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit before he was baptized.” (On Baptism against the Donatist, IV.24.31).

      You will note in these quotations, several appealed to the practice as from apostolic origins. This is significant because of their early testimony of this practice (within 200 years). That they claimed it doesn’t prove that it is so, but it cannot just be discounted either. Secondly, several noted that circumcision was an OT type of the NT sacrament. Thirdly, because baptism points to the cleansing of original sin, several taught that children should also receive it (some interpret that to mean that the early church fathers believed in baptismal regeneration, but it is not necessary to understand it that way. It is simply a recognition that we are all born in sin and need the salvation that comes in Christ alone which baptism signifies.).

      I suppose with that, another question arises. If baptism is a sign of a person’s faith in Christ, how is it truly a sacrament?

      1. Jon Mathys says:

        Like. And regarding your last question at the end…exactly! As in the Romish practice, the sacrament ceases to be a sacrament, which was one of Calvin’s criticisms.

        1. Andrew says:

          There are also early authors who argue against infant baptism. I believe Tertullian opposed it, but I can’t remember for certain.

    3. chris taylor says:

      Paul Jewett thinks he has an answer, but he can’t prove it.

      On the other hand, we do have some exact dates and reasons as to when the transition took place from household baptisms (both adult and infant) to adult only baptisms (late 1500 – early 1600s).

      1. Andrew says:


        You’re assuming household baptisms included infants, which hardly seems to be assumed by the text. For instance, Acts 18:8 points to the belief of the entire household as the grounds for baptism (cf. 16:31). The paedobaptist position (conveniently) assumes that there were infants present, which is an unwarranted assumption. Could it be the case? Possibly, in the cases that do not explicitly emphasize belief. But this is hardly a necessary conclusion.

        1. chris taylor says:

          Yes and No Andrew: Yes I assume that infants were baptized at the beginning, and possibly (though not necessarily) in Acts 18:8. But no, that’s not what I was getting at with my comment.

          What I was trying to point out is this: the evidence is very questionable from the first and second century. Everyone uses the same texts from the early church fathers to come to very different conclusions (hence Jewett can’t ‘prove it’). That said, we all know that infant baptism was the standard from at least 200 AD on, and it only began to change in any meaningful way in the 1600s.

          As to what is warranted and unwarranted, I take this as a Romans 14 & 15 issue. It’s so difficult to see our ways through it, but we are all trying to honor the Lord in how we serve him. Therefore, we ought not to become divisive over this, and we certainly should not fence the table over this issue. Here I agree wholeheartedly with John Bunyan.

          Warmly, CT

          1. Andrew says:


            I think we are in general agreement here. The history is unclear, other than that paedobaptism began sometime in the early centuries of the church and was widespread at least by the start of the 3rd century.

            I’m not certain what to do about the whole ‘fencing the table’ issue. I think baptist ecclesiology has usually been based around baptism, and the baptist understanding of baptism presents a predicament in the case of those who have been baptized as infants. Baptists have historically only opened communion to members, or to Christians from other churches who have been baptized as believers. Infant baptism presents a problem on two levels, one to do with the baptist position on credobaptism, and the other the meaning of baptizo, which lexical studies seem to show means ‘dunk’ or ‘immerse.’ I’m not totally convinced either ways, and hesitate to turn away a brother in Christ from the table, but it requires a serious compromise on the part of the baptist, that would not be required were the tables reversed. It’s an interesting issue, and one that I don’t have any firm convictions at this time.


        2. Michael says:

          Andrew, I appreciate your question here. However, why do paedobaptists assume children in the household? Because of its clear connection to the Abrahamic covenant. In other words, we allow the OT usage to define the NT usage. Thus, Joachim Jeremias writes, “This phrase corresponds to the Semitic manner of thinking and speaking, as regards its content (with its emphasis on the authority of the father of the family and the omission of the mother of the family)…. Whoever takes the trouble to check the examples in their context will confirm the fact that repeatedly the presence of children and infants is specially mentioned (cf. Gen. 46:27 with vv. 5, 7; I Sam. 22:15f with v. 19; II Kings 9:8; Jer. 38:17 with v. 23), and at times their omission is particularly emphasized (Gen. 50:8; I Sam. 1:21f; cf. Ex. 12:37). … not simply the children in addition to the adults, but the children quite especially, and not least any little children who might be present…” (The Origins of Infant Baptism: A Further Study in Reply to Kurt Aland, translated by Dorothea M. Barton [Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, 1963], pp. 20, 22). I hope that helps.

  30. Justin Taylor says:


    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that Ladd was a “popularizer” or developer of already/not-yet eschatology. I think Vos did as much as anyone to develop it years before Ladd. Also, he was a persistent critic of dispensationalism. Maybe it’s better to say simply that he was a historic premil baptist?

    Sorry to nitpick.

    1. Andrew says:


      Yes, you’re right. This would be more accurate. I have clarified my post above. I was under the impression that he was more integral in its development, but it looks like I am mistaken.


  31. Roger Ball says:

    Jon Mathys,

    I think I see what you’re saying. Regardless of whether the New Covenant members are now being recognized in a different way, it doesn’t necessarily follow that their children would be excluded. And in light of the overwhelming evidence throughout Scripture that bear witness to the continuity, to arrive at any other conclusion would be less than satisfying, if not evasive.

    Thanks and God bless.

  32. Garrett says:

    A little-known book that is a real treat to read (if you’re Credo!) is T. E. Watson’s “Should Babies Be Baptized?” From the back cover:

    “This book contains a comprehensive examination of every text of Scripture relating to the subject of baptism, with special references to those used as prooftexts for the baptism of babies. Also, the historical evidence of the first two centuries of the Christian era is thoroughly surveyed. Next, the author presents a detailed criticism of each of the arguments used by Protestants in favour of baptizing babies. Mr. Watson skillfully marshals nearly 200 quotations from over sixty noted infant-baptist authors, to the effect that every argument used by Christians of that persuasioin is refuted by others of the same opinion.”

    Some of the quotes he references are eye-opening, to say the least! Consider this one from Charles Hodge:

    “Those parents sin grievously against the souls of their children who neglect to consecrate them to God in the ordinance of baptism. Do let the little ones have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, even if they afterwards choose to erase them. Being thus enrolled may be the means of their salvation.” (Systematic Theology Vol. 3, p. 588.)

    1. Theology Samurai says:

      It is truly amazing that something apparently so imperative to the church and covenant community has no example of it occuring in all the Bible, no direct reference or command regarding it in holy Scripture. And yet Hodge says that parents do “sin greviously against the souls of their children” by neglecting it. Amazing.

      One would think something so important would at least merit an example or a command. Guess not.

      1. Michael says:

        Isn’t it also amazing that given the OT command to circumcise infants, that there is so very little evidence given that any infant in Israel was actually circumcised? We are told that Abraham circumcised Ishmael and Isaac, but we are not told that Isaac circumcised Esau and Jacob, nor are we told that Jacob circumcised any of his 12 sons (although we know they were from Gen. 34:22, and so we can assume it was on their 8th day, but no biblical evidence is recorded to that). We are not told that Moses or Aaron, Samuel or David or Solomon was circumcised for that matter. And all that even with the threat of being cut off for being a covenant-breaker if not circumcised (Gen. 17:14)! Can we not admit that there is an overwhelming assumption of what was going on without having a direct example of reference?

        But the demand for having an example or a direct reference or command for infant baptism doesn’t take into account that there is a clear system of theology throughout the Scriptures that do teach and command it. For instance, what about the fact that the Abrahamic covenant was to be an everlasting covenant, given to Abraham and his children forever (Gen. 17:10)? Does this everlasting covenant coincide with the New Covenant as a parallel to it, or is the New Covenant a fulfillment of the Abrahamic? Paul clearly states both in Romans and Galatians that the NC is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and that all who have the same faith as Abraham are his children (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7), and that the New Testament community has been grafted into the rich root of the olive tree (Rom. 11:17). If then it is the same eternal covenant, then does it also not stand to reason that the covenant sign and seal be applied to infants as directly commanded by God to Abraham? There is your direct command. OK we don’t circumcise today but baptize because of Christ’s command, but Paul in Col. 1:12ff certainly related the meaning of circumcision to baptism. Surely there is going to be a discontinuity between the old and new as Wellum pointed out (as do all covenant theologians), but the discontinuity is going to be wider and greater in the new, not more narrow as Credo only baptists want to believe.

        Moreover, someone pointed out the NT pattern was first to believe and then be baptized. Of course that has been argued down since much of the NT accounting for baptisms took place on the mission field, and even paedobaptists would agree that on such a field that should be the pattern. But has anyone looked at the Great Commission in Matt. 28:19-20? Jesus commands His church to go forth and make disciples. How? He says baptize them and then teach them. That seems to be the pattern Jesus set out. On the mission field, we evangelize, baptize the converts, then teach them. In the covenant household, paedobaptists follow that very NT pattern by baptizing our infants and then training them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But with this, I have yet to see a Baptist be so consistent in his theology and practice that he withholds from his children the blessings of the covenant. I have never seen a Baptist fail to teach their children to pray “Our Father which art in heaven….” before their child makes his profession of faith and is dunked. But especially as Calvinists, how can they dare teach their children God is their heavenly Father if they are unconverted and pagans? I believe that is a severe inconsistency that the paedobaptist does not share with you credo-only-baptists.

        Moreover, Theology Samurai, see the connection that Peter makes of baptism with the flood of Noah in 1 Peter 3:19-22. Peter says that baptism is the antitype to the construction of the ark and the flood, in which 8 persons were saved. Going back to Gen. 8, the covenant was made only with Noah, but his family was also included. Granted, his sons were grown when the covenant was made and when they entered the ark, but the principal stands that the covenant made with Noah included his family (wife and children). Paul takes the same approach when in 1 Cor. 10 he says that all Israel (adults and their children) were “baptized into Moses” through the Red Sea. Both the Flood and the Red Sea events were types of the last day judgment. That is why baptism in the early church was an eschatological sacrament. It meant that the person baptized was snatched out of a world delivered over to the impending judgment of God (cf. Acts 2:38; Col. 1:13) and incorporated into the company of those redeemed by Christ’s saving work and brought into the “kingdom of light,” the true Promised Land. But with that very understanding, Paul writes to children in the church (i.e., the visible manifestation of the kingdom of light) and says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you live long on the earth.” He recalls the fifth commandment and the promise that was given to the people who were redeemed from Egypt and placed into the Promised Land and applies that directly to the NC situation and children. Paul shows that even we “upon whom the end of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11) share in the same hope and promise for our children as did they had in the OT, only greater for the original promise was for the land, but the eschatological fulfillment is for the earth. Against Wellum, it is Paul himself who put the spiritual emphasis on the Abrahamic covenant over and above the physical.

        1. Theology Samurai says:

          That was the long way of admitting that infant baptism isn’t in Scripture, but that paedo-baptists have built a theological construct to support it nonetheless. Thanks

          1. Michael says:

            LOL Samurai. Why do I laugh? A while ago some JWs knocked on my door and when I told them they were heretics for not believing the Trinity, they asked me to give direct reference to the doctrine or a biblical command to believe it. I spent 20 minutes going through the biblical data with them showing the presuppositions and the theological system that led the church for 2000 years to believe in one God in three co-equal and eternal Persons. At the end of the presentation, you know what his response was? “That was the long way of admitting that the Trinity isn’t in Scripture, but nevertheless you Trinitarians have built a theological construct to support it.” That is the best he could do to answer. And now you almost repeat word for word his response, but concerning all the theological construct for paedobaptism.

            I am sorry that you missed the fact that there is one eternal covenant that God established with man for man’s salvation. Within that one eternal covenant (of which is the administration of the new covenant), God included the children of believers and commanded the covenant sign be placed upon them. I am sorry you missed how Jesus Himself gave the pattern for baptism then instruction, and that paeodobaptists follow that pattern while credo-only-baptists invert the pattern with their children by instructing first then baptizing.

            Well, Wellum was right in one way as he said at the end of his interview, “In many ways, how we view baptism is a test case of how one puts the ENTIRE BIBLE together. In that light, may both credo- and paedo Baptists continually go back to Scripture and examine which view is true to the whole Bible, for much is at stake in these debates and disagreements.”

            1. Jon Mathys says:

              Where are there direct examples of women partaking of the Lord’s Supper or the direct command for church membership or the verse “very God of very God”? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be a systematic theology answering my questions? Your telling me I have to “work” to arrive at systematic conclusions? Too much work, I’m going to Southern.

              1. chris taylor says:


                As an ordained elder in the PCA, who has been paying a good deal of attention to the state of seminaries in the US, I think you need to re-evaluate your thoughts on Southern. I believe it is the best school available right now for evangelicals. The fact that they’ve just fought their way out of the worst sort of liberal influence, means they are not slipping into foolish fads on women, principles of interpretation, etc.

                If fact, with Drs. Mohler, Moore, Schreiner, Ware, Nettles, Hamilton, Burk etc., they are pushing their students academically almost as hard as any other institution. If they lack in academic rigor, they more than compensate by emphasizing theological orthodoxy. It seems to me that there is not only a great push for new ways to express old truths, but serious research moving us into a deeper understand of God’s word.

                In my opinion, we (the PCA) should be training our future ministers well on covenant theology, etc., and then send our students to Southern. It may be more difficult for our applicants to pass their exams at presbytery, but they will be the better off for it.

                Be well,


            2. Theology Samurai says:

              Uh, Mike, your paedobaptist blinders are on.

              The Trinity is actually in the Bible, Matt. 28 for example.

              There is no reference, example, or command in all of Scripture regarding infant baptism. Not one. You have to write several paragraphs connecting the dots from the old covenant and circumcision in order to make your case for infant baptism. However, there is a discontinuity between the covenants you fail to recognize, therefore your dot-connecting goes awry.


              Believers are baptized in the Bible, believers take the Lord’s Supper. Try not to be so obtuse.

              1. Michael says:

                Uh, Samurai, your credo only baptist blinders are on.

                Try pointing to Matt. 28 with a JW and you will hear them tell you that that doesn’t prove the Trinity, only your presuppositions see it there. I agree that the Trinity is there, but in order to properly understand Matt. 28 you have a lot of “dot-connecting” to do. Is that a bad thing? No. I betcha that you’re glad the Church has done that for you.

                And so it is that your presuppositions won’t see the truth about the continuity of the covenants. Sure there are discontinuities — no longer only for the physical descendants of Abraham, women as well as men, bloody signs to unbloody signs, etc. But it is YOU who fail to do your homework and connect the dots, which is not that hard to do.

                You make your snide remarks but don’t interact with the data. How is it that Abraham’s covenant is called an “eternal covenant”? How is it that Paul says we are in that Abrahamic covenant when he says that we are Abraham’s children in Rom. 4, 11 and Gal. 2 and 3? How is it that in all the older covenants, from Gen. 3:15 through Noah, Abraham, Mosaic, and Davidic children were ALWAYS included in the covenant, but in the NC they are not there? How is it that the NT does speak of “household baptisms,” which by the way was the very formula that you do find in the Abrahamic covenant and is thus defined (cf. Gen. 17:29; 18:19; 34:30, etc.)? How is it that Jesus accepts little children and puts a covenantal blessing on them (Mk. 10:14)? How is it that Paul says the children of believers are covenantally holy (1 Cor. 7:14)? And why is it that Baptists instinctively teach their children the doctrines of the faith and to pray “our Father” and sing “Jesus loves me this I know…” before they make their profession of faith, just as if their children were in the covenant (contra Matt. 28 where the pattern is baptize then teach)? Both, in the Old Covenant and in the New, the visible covenant community is a mixed community of true believers and false (cf. Matt. 7:15; 13:24-33; Phil. 3:18-19; and don’t forget the serious warnings found in Hebrews like in 4:11; 6:4-8; 10:26-31).

                I have not failed to recognize the discontinuity, but it is YOU that have failed to see the very plain CONTINUITY between the old and new. Therefore, your blindness has not allowed you to connect the dots. Why don’t you interact with the data instead of accusing others of being obtuse?

              2. Theology Samurai says:

                Mike, I wasn’t accusing you of being obtuse (unless you and Jon are one and the same person)

                What a JW says about the Trinity is a non sequitur, since I am not a JW and neither are you. The Trinity is in the Bible, infant baptism is not.

                If you are familiar with the baptist literature, you are aware that all of your points have been answered. I don’t have time to regurgitate the baptist position for you.

              3. Michael says:

                All I am pointing out is that the Trinity is not explicitly stated or taught in any one verse. There is a theological system and framework that we both understand. The JW merely pointed out that our theological presuppositions do help us to read the Bible. You say that the paedobaptist position is not in the Bible, but it is once you understand the theological construct. And my original post was to say that you cannot say that it is wrong to have that construct when we do this all the time for other doctrines.

                And while I am familiar with the baptist literature, I have never seen an adequate explanation of those points. When I was a credobaptist I thought the arguments against paedobaptism were very good, until I really faced the continuity within the covenants. Although I was not a dispensationalist, I unwittingly held to a dispensational hermeneutic that put the eternal covenant of Abraham as a parallel to the New Covenant rather than seeing the NC as a fulfillment of it. And the most ardent defense of credobaptism I’ve ever seen is purely a negative one which argues for such a discontinuity that makes the NC so absolutely new and different that it has no basis at all with previous administrations of God’s covenant with the elect.

                But if baptism is a sign of a person’s belief in Christ and his commitment to follow Christ, how is it a sacrament of God?

              4. Theology Samurai says:

                I guess you would have to advise how believer’s baptism is not a sacrament of God?

              5. Jon Mathys says:

                “Obtuse?” Name-calling, really? Relax my friend. This can be a rigorous discussion without resorting to adolescence. Now, please read the comments.

                TS, there are biblical references. This debate cannot be settled with the biblicist quip “where’s the verse?” Just because there are no examples or commands doesn’t mean it’s not taught through other forms of biblical communication. Where is “individual soul liberty” taught? You might say it’s taught “here” and “here.” I say, “no I want the phrase “individual soul liberty.” You see, this is not how the theological construct is built. (I’ve said this so many times above). THE BIBLE IS NOT A SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. Do you confess the ecumenical creeds? Where is the verse that says “very God of very God” or “one holy catholic and apostolic church” or “eternally begotten of the Father?” Do you realize that Nestorius and Eutychius argued as you are arguing, essentially asking where in Scripture Jesus has both a distinct divine and human nature but one person? Where is the verse that says that Jesus is “equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.” They wanted a verse! (You realize that most of the statements in those creeds are not verse quotes right?) I thank God that our church fathers did not advocate the biblicism which you are advocating.

                LISTEN to Michael’s argument about the Trinity. He is arguing that the Bible must be interpreted to come to systematic conclusions. All facts are interpreted, you are arguing for the modernist notion of “bare facts.” This is not that complicated, and I’m sure you agree with this as far as other doctrines are concerned.

                On that note, as has been stated numerous times over, there is no explicit command to baptize adults ONLY. You say, “that’s an argument from silence.” No, we NEED that command to render children as being outside the covenant community and therefore unclean. If you reference Jeremiah 31, I’ve given my answer that in-depth above.

                Regarding Michael’s last comment, it is asked how it can still be a sacrament if it is a sign of personal faith? As Reformed folk, we identity a sacrament as being a sign and seal of something external, namely God’s promise to give eternal life to those who have faith (Heidelberg 66). A baptist has to redefine “sacrament” to make the sign refer to something internal, namely, personal faith.

              6. Theology Samurai says:

                Pointing out that you’re being obtuse is not name-calling, it’s highlighting a fact.

                I understand systematics, however you are wrong to say there are verses. Neither you nor Michael can produce even an indirect reference to INFANT BAPTISM. You can produce many for the Trinity, etc. ALL you have is a certain position on the covenant from which you extrapolate everything else.

                The baptist position is much more rigorous than you seem to realize. I would recommend Greg Nichol’s relatively new book on the Covenants, for starters.

                Lastly, no knowledgable baptist believes that baptism is simply a “sign of personal faith”.

              7. Jon Mathys says:

                “Pointing out that you’re being obtuse is not name-calling, it’s highlighting a fact.” Very mature indeed.

                According to your litmus test of “indirect references,” nothing we have provided passes your test. So it is pointless to continue this conversation because of the plethora of underlying issues that must be resolved regarding covenant theology. You do not regard these verses as “indirect references” because you are viewing them from a particular standpoint of a baptist ecclesiology in regard to the covenants. For me, fighting as a Baptist for years, I never even considered infant baptism until i came to grapple with a Reformed understanding of the covenants. Until, this is accomplished, you will not regard our evidence as evidence, you will not regard all of the texts referring to circumcision, children of Abraham, households, etc. as “indirect references.” So, let’s leave it at that.

                For a personal anecdote to lighten the mood, coming to believe infant baptism was like coming to believe in the doctrines of grace. Upon having the covenantal framework in place, you ask yourself, “How did I miss this?”

                I stated what many baptists believe baptism signifies. There is not one baptist position on these things. Your position is not the only one that baptists hold to.

                I’ll give you the last word, especially if there’s anymore “facts” you want to divulge about me.

                Grace and Peace.

              8. Theology Samurai says:


                I didn’t know you were so thin-skinned.

                You said:

                “I never even considered infant baptism until i came to grapple with a Reformed understanding of the covenants. Until, this is accomplished, you will not regard our evidence as evidence, you will not regard all of the texts referring to circumcision, children of Abraham, households, etc. as “indirect references.”

                Right, since the Bible says nothing about infant baptism, it doesn’t really need to be “considered” because the NT witness is quite clear. Until, that is, a large theological construct is erected that attempts to support a particular view of the covenant. That’s why the covenant is at the heart of this matter, and why I suggested reading Nichol’s book (which deals with the covenant from a Baptist perspective).

                Your “indirect references” are not references to infant baptism. They’re only “indirect” if your view of the covenant is correct.

                You said:

                coming to believe infant baptism was like coming to believe in the doctrines of grace. Upon having the covenantal framework in place, you ask yourself, “How did I miss this?”

                I think not. I’m a Calvinist and believe in a covenental framework.

                You said:

                “I stated what many baptists believe baptism signifies. There is not one baptist position on these things. Your position is not the only one that baptists hold to.”

                There is also not one paedobaptist position on these things, as TE Watson quotes extensively in his book from paedobaptists who contradict each other.

                Take away the paedobaptist position on the covenant, and the entire ball of yarn unravels–the supporting Scriptural evidence just isn’t there. Baptists, however, have direct Scriptural examples and commands for credobaptism…

                Grace to you

              9. Michael says:

                You say there are no verses, but there are. You just reject them, as Jon pointed out.

                I do find it interesting that it was only after the Reformation that there was any great movement away from infant baptism. They gave their testimony that this was an Apostolic practice and more than one of these Fathers spoke of how baptism is the fulfillment of circumcision, which was given to children in the covenant. So wide spread was it that there is not one Father who denies or even questions the validity of infant baptism, except for Tertullian (160 – 215). But if you read him, he didn’t think that infant baptism itself invalid or that intellectual assent to faith was required first, but because he believed that one shouldn’t get baptized unless they were certain they could avoid sinning later. Of course, the Church rejected his view as unorthodox, and you know that he later became a Monatist. But the evidence of the early church was that it was a universal practice and at no time was it viewed as something that was created post Apostolic. What does that mean? It means that we ought to at least consider it as more than an unproven framework that the whole church was duped by until the Anabaptists of the 16th century gave us the light.

                You say that infant baptism is nothing really but “a large theological construct is erected that attempts to support a particular view of the covenant.” But you have not done anything in this thread to shed light on why that particular view of the covenant is erroneous. Since I don’t have the money to buy the book you suggest, nor do I really have the time to read it, perhaps you’d be kind enough to enlighten me as to what makes this view of the covenant so wrong.

                Can you tell me how it is that you have a covenant that is called eternal and of which the children of believers received the covenant sign, and throughout all its future administrations includes children so that even Jesus commands to receive them, suddenly now in the new covenant they are not included? I think if you were to read the OT, you would at least have to admit that that would be the expectation of the early Jewish Christians, wouldn’t you?

                Since the promise of the covenant was for “you and your seed after you,” and thus the seed was to be circumcised, wouldn’t you then expect the Jews to have that in their mind when Peter says, “This promise is for you and for your children”? But given your understanding of the covenant, wouldn’t you expect some kind of direct command to say that this covenant sign is not for your children but only for those who believe? And since the term “household” in the OT always included the children, wouldn’t you expect a certain redefining of the term “household” to exclude children in the NT, if your view of the covenant is right? Wouldn’t you expect Paul to redefine what it means that your children are holy, if he was not talking about a covenantal holiness that was understood in terms of Gen. 17:14? Yet we don’t find any of that in the NT.

                You say that understanding of the covenant is wrong. Would you please show me how?

  33. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    This bit of news from several years ago seems relevant to the discussion:

    “More than 100,000 Britons have recently downloaded “certificates of de-baptism” from the Internet to renounce their Christian faith.

    The initiative launched by a group called the National Secular Society (NSS) follows atheist campaigns here and elsewhere, including a London bus poster which triggered protests by proclaiming “There’s probably no God.”

    “We now produce a certificate on parchment and we have sold 1,500 units at three pounds (4.35 dollars, 3.20 euros) a pop,” said NSS president Terry Sanderson, 58.

    John Hunt, a 58-year-old from London and one of the first to try to be “de-baptised,” held that he was too young to make any decision when he was christened at five months old.

    The male nurse said he approached the Church of England to ask it to remove his name. “They said they had sought legal advice and that I should place an announcement in the London Gazette,” said Hunt, referring to one of the official journals of record of the British government.

    So that’s what he did — his notice of renouncement was published in the Gazette in May 2008 and other Britons have followed suit.

    Michael Evans, 66, branded baptising children as “a form of child abuse” — and said that when he complained to the church where he was christened he was told to contact the European Court of Human Rights.

    De-baptism movements have already sprung up in other countries.

    In Spain, the high court ruled in favor of a man from Valencia, Manuel Blat, saying that under data protection laws he could have the record of his baptism erased, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune.

    Similarly, the Italian Union of Rationalists and Agnostics (UAAR) won a legal battle over the right to file for de-baptism in 2002, according to media reports. The group’s website carries a “de-baptism” form to facilitate matters.

    According to UAAR secretary Raffaele Carcano, more than 60,000 of these forms have been downloaded in the past four years and continue to be downloaded at a rate of about 2,000 per month. Another 1,000 were downloaded in one day when the group held its first national de-baptism day last October 25.”

    Excerpted from here.

  34. henrybish says:

    Michael, thanks for the response above (comment November 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm)

    A few points by way of reply:

    What does that mean to be a disciple? One who can spout off credal formulas, or one who lives in a desert hermitage?

    A disciple in the NT is one who professes to be a follower/adherent of a particular person/teaching, I’m not really sure why you think this is unclear?

    In Matt 28 I am arguing that the disciples being made and baptized are those who volitionally receive/follow the teaching they hear, and thus are qualified to be baptised. I don’t think you interacted with my reasons why the people Jesus said to baptize are those who actually volitionally follow the teaching they receive, rather than just being mere hearers (like infants – if they could hear:). Those 3 reasons are:

    (1) The phrase “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you…” – the people in view (‘them’) are best understood as those who receive/follow the teaching (thus infants are excluded). Unless you interpret it in this sense you must envision that strictly speaking the Great Commission does not require actual followers to be made – Jesus was merely content that the apostles should teach and baptise unreceptive people who reject their message, and move on. On your reading, there is nothing in the Great Commission that requires us to make converts, we can merely settle for teaching them.

    (2) This is supported by the words Jesus used since how would it even be possible to “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” if the hearers reject the message at stage 1? It implies a protracted process where the hearers stay under the teaching (proto-church membership) and obey the teaching. Thus infants again do not qualify.

    (3) Jesus is presuming that the people who are being baptised are able to be ‘taught to obey all that I have commanded’. Again, infants don’t qualify. I don’t see how your response undercuts this since you agree that at the time infants are baptized they are not able to understand. Thus they are not the persons in view in Jesus Great Commission command.

    I think the sequence in Matt 28 is important:

    (a) make disciples of all nations
    (b) baptizing them
    (c) teaching them to obey all of Jesus’ commands

    I understand you say that baptizing and teaching are the means by which disciples are made. I would add that these alone are not enough to make a disciple, since consent of the will is missing. As I explained in my comment to Joel S, the ‘them’ must refer to those among the nations who have already been made disciples and thus the baptizing/teaching is part of their ongoing discipleship. And this was my point concerning the Wallace stuff – that although the baptizing and teaching may be viewed as part of an ongoing process of discipleship, this does not negate the fact that until they have given their initial consent to Christ’s Lordship they have not even begun to be disciples, since they do not claim to follow him. The is a key point from my side that I hope you can see, buttressed by those 3 reasons mentioned above.

    My concern about indiscriminate baptizing is not alleviated since I can’t see that you have provided a reason from your reading of the text why baptism should be withheld from those who do not actually obey the teaching they hear.

    But what do we see in Acts? The Church goes forward and evangelizes and as converts come forward, they are immediately baptized and then move into instruction. You don’t see any hint in the NT of what you seem to be saying that they were followers of Christ for some time…

    I didn’t add the qualification ‘for some time’. I only said that they were actual followers. I agree with you that people were generally taken at their word when they made their profession (I say generally because this was not the case with the Apostle Paul). But the key element of profession was there, which it is not with infants.

    You say “you are right, adding “by” is unnecessary because the grammatical structure of the command makes it clear that the baptizing and instruction is not ancillary to being a disciple, but integral”.

    I agree with this, but it seems to me that if you agree with it then it contradicts your view because on your view the ‘instruction’ is not really integral to being a disciple. An infant, who cannot understand instruction is still baptized, so in what sense are they ‘instructed’ – let alone ‘obeying’ the instruction. Thus you are forced to divorce this component from being a necessary qualification of being a disciple.

    1. Michael says:

      Henry, thanks for the response. It seems as if we are at an impasse in this dialogue, but I will offer a few points by way of reply.

      You ask, “A disciple in the NT is one who professes to be a follower/adherent of a particular person/teaching, I’m not really sure why you think this is unclear?”

      Certainly a disciple of Christ is one who professes to be a follower/adherent of Christ. The emphasis I was making is not on the word “disciple” as such but on “making” a disciple. How do I make someone a follower of Christ? My point has been that we don’t have to turn to our own imagination or ideas, for Christ has already told us how to do that: you make a disciple by baptizing people in His name and instructing them in His teaching. Both of these elements are necessary if they are to be considered a disciple. It is as simple as that. However, you want to impose a theological/philosophical concept into the command of making disciples: volition. You do that by:

      1) Ignoring the grammatical construction (i.e., you ignore that the two participles—“baptize” and “teach” — that follow the main verb– “make disciples”—are “participles of means.” It seems that you cannot reconcile in your mind that the idea of making a disciple must first include a baptism, which is a covenantal sign of God’s promise to the person as well as putting the person under a covenantal “yolk” which include obligations of repentance and faith, e.g., of believing and obeying Christ.

      2) So, you rearrange the order of the participles. As I read your statements, you continue to say, “. . . Jesus was merely content that the apostles should teach and baptise unreceptive people . . . “ What I hear you say is that they must obey the teaching of Jesus before they can be baptized because it is that obedience alone that separates them out from the rest of the world as one who is really an adherent to Jesus.”

      Thus you comment on my earlier post by saying, “…on your view the ‘instruction’ is not really integral to being a disciple. An infant, who cannot understand instruction is still baptized, so in what sense are they ‘instructed’ – let alone ‘obeying’ the instruction. Thus you are forced to divorce this component from being a necessary qualification of being a disciple.”

      No, you misunderstand me. I never advocated any idea the divorces teaching as a necessary component to being a disciple. But teaching doesn’t have to come before the baptism, and there doesn’t have to be an immediate application of the teaching in order to say that they are a disciple. Again, part of my thinking is that “MAKING disciples” is an on-going process that doesn’t happen over night. Thus as I baptize an infant, I also place upon the parents the duty of instructing the child as he/she grows and they must promise and vow before God that they will train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And I often will address our children from the pulpit, calling them to own the covenant and to profess their faith in Christ. As a Reformed pastor, when I baptize anyone I charge the congregation to look upon this baptism and improve their own – that is to consider what their baptism really means for them in their own life. With that, I often have the privilege of having youngsters tell us, “I grew up in a Christian home, and I was always told about Him, about my sin and my need for a Saviour, and I always believed that. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus.“ What was going on? They were baptized under Jesus’ direction, and as they grew they were instructed, and they were always being made a disciple of Christ, even from their birth. We see our children as disciples from birth, you see them as pagans (by your admission).

      What I hear you say is that you cannot baptize someone unless they have been instructed and are then willing to be baptized and further instructed. With your children, you are willing to put some distance between the time they are first instructed to the time they are willing to be baptized. Why can you not afford the paedobaptist the biblical luxury of putting a little distance between the time we baptize our infants and when they get of age, to begin instructing them? We both understand that to be a disciple one must have both elements of baptism and instruction. In relation to our children, we both understand that there will be a distance between the time they receive one element and they receive the other element. It is just that we follow that order Jesus put down of baptizing and instructing while you follow the order of instructing and then baptizing. Who is more consistent with trying to follow the Bible?

      Certainly in terms of the Church’s missionary venture, you will see preaching, baptizing, teaching as the pattern to making disciples – and so much of what you say I can agree with in that regard. However, reading your earlier posts and your answer to Jon Matheys, you believe your children are little pagans. We paedobaptists, on the other hand, do not regard our children like that. We believe that within the Covenantal promise, God in not only our God but our children’s God, too. We believe that our children are privileged and separated from the world as being “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14). As a disciple of Christ and as one who has been bought by His blood, all that I am and all that I have belong to Christ – including my children. There is no sense in which they are pagans. Are they regenerate? Maybe not, but they are not pagans, and the Bible teaches me not to think of them in that light. It is the paedobaptist, not the credobaptist, who is consistent with a biblical understanding of family, children, and covenantal obligations in the pattern of making disciples.

      And you finally say, “I would add that these alone are not enough to make a disciple, since consent of the will is missing” together with this point, “that until they have given their initial consent to Christ’s Lordship they have not even begun to be disciples, since they do not claim to follow him.”

      I will only comment by saying that if the two participles are “participles of means,” then you are absolutely wrong. They begin to be disciples when they are baptized. Discipleship is a process, so we don’t stop with the baptism. Their discipleship requires us to instruct them. But it seems to me that you want the Church to do what only the Spirit can do. No one can change a person’s heart or will but the Holy Spirit. Jesus merely told us to go into all the world to make disciples. Concerning my children, I follow that command as I baptize and instruct them, andI leave the conversion to the Spirit. I am merely doing what is required of me to make disciples, and I trust the Holy Spirit will do the rest in making them truly united to Christ through faith.

      So, your comments are valid in a missionary context where you have the Church going, preaching, baptizing, teaching to make disciples. But I hope you can see that there is a bit of a difference between what the Church does in her missionary enterprise and what the Church does in its daily life in making disciples. In the Church, where you already have disciples, there is not the going, since they are already there. And following the pattern given to Abraham, the covenant sign is placed on infants born to “disciples” and then there is the instructing and calling them out to faith and repentance.

      So, the point I would simply emphasize is that the paedobaptist would not turn to Matt. 28 as the main prooftext. There is a whole Bible we would turn to that helps us understand Matt. 28 in relation to our children.

  35. Henry says:

    thanks for the response Michael,

    I will try to be brief. I think I understand you a bit better in that you are seeing the text as not tied down to a strict time frame – the baptising and teaching are the means of making a disciple and can be done over the course of time (not necessarily all at once), thus it doesn’t matter that an infant can’t yet understand.

    I think I have a few main objections to this.

    First, it requires an implausible definition of a disciple. Initially you seemed to agree with me that “a disciple in the NT is one who professes to be a follower/adherent of a particular person/teaching”. You say:

    Certainly a disciple of Christ is one who professes to be a follower/adherent of Christ.

    But then you go back on this statement saying “We see our children as disciples from birth” thus you start allowing that those who do not profess to be a follower of Christ (like infants) can be rightly called ‘disciples’. As I have pointed out earlier, I am not aware of any biblical evidence for the idea that someone can be called a disciple who does not at least profess to follow the one they are the disciple of. It is a very basic point that as far as I can tell has still not been dealt with.

    My second objection is that I still think you have not addressed my point about indiscriminate baptizing – you have provided no reason (from your reading of the text) why baptism should be withheld from those who do not actually obey the teaching they hear. If you claim to believe that volition is not necessary before baptism then the text means you should baptise people of all nations, regardless of if they have volition or not. You seem in the one instance to argue that baptism is to be viewed as a means of making a disciple (regardless of volition) – and yet you deny this very means to those outside the covenant community – demanding (like the credobaptist) that they must first make a credible profession of faith. I do not see how this is consistent. If baptism is to be viewed as a primary means of making a disciple, then it seems to me that you are obligated by Jesus to supply this means indiscriminately, as per the Great Commission.

    Third, your conclusion militates against the consistent pattern we see in the rest of the NT – where there is information about those persons who are baptised it is clear that they are those who could understand and assent to the message. Your interpretation of the verse cuts against the consistent pattern of how we see the Great Commission played out in the rest of the NT.

    Regarding your point about the ‘participle of means’ I do not think you see what I am saying. I agree that baptism and teaching function as a ‘means’ but it is a means of discipling a new believer. Nowhere in the NT do you see baptism functioning as a means of making a disciple in the first place. Wallace’s point does not negate that those who are baptised and taught have first assented to it, which is the most basic understanding of what a disciple is in the rest of the NT. It is implicit (and seen played out in rest of NT) that a person is not baptised unless they assent. It seems absurd to think that Jesus meant an actual disciple could be made by merely undergoing the external rites of baptism and teaching. A disciple is a follower of Christ. The ‘them’ who are to be baptised refers back to those in the nations who have already entered the journey of being a disciple. I do not see that what you quoted of Wallace contradicts this, and it is a perfectly acceptable sense of the english in the ESV.

    That is the main thrust of my argument, one random point though, you claim that baptism is:

    putting the person under a covenantal “yolk” which include obligations of repentance and faith

    According to Acts every human being is obligated to repentance and faith. They do not need to be baptised to be under that obligation. So is this not superfluous?

    And following the pattern given to Abraham, the covenant sign is placed on infants born to “disciples”

    Except the sign was only given to the males, and was regardless of whether their parents had faith in God or were rebels. Both of these things are not the case with paedobaptism.

    1. Michael says:

      Your response needs several answers, and it is unfortunate that those answers cannot possibly be fully answered in this kind of format. Nevertheless, let me address them briefly (even though it may not look brief).

      First, your second objection concerning indiscriminate baptizing. I think I addressed that in several previous posts. It does not necessarily follow that because I believe I should baptize my infants before they exercise faith or volition that I should baptize anyone, whether or not they have exercise faith or volition. I have made several discriminations in our conversations.

      1), I admit that in the Church’s missionary enterprise, as she goes and preaches the Gospel, and as people come forward as candidates for discipleship, we then baptize and instruct. I don’t go out with a bucket of water and just start sprinkling anyone or throwing it over anyone, or force anyone and everyone to a pool and dunk them (whatever mode and another discussion). No of course not. I only baptize those who come out and say they want to follow Christ and come into the covenant community. I’ve now just discriminated as I baptize ONLY those who come from outside the Church through faith in Christ into the Church to be discipled. They are not a disciple until they leave the world and come into the visible Church through baptism and submit to the Gospel. I think we are 100% agreed there, right?

      2), However, there is something else at hand as I deal with those who come into the covenant community via parents. Remember that baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace and God’s covenant is extended to “you and your children after you.” Again, I must bring up the whole conversation about how are we, as Christians, to view our children? As little pagans, as you say? Or as holy and belonging to Christ, as the Bible says? I discriminate between the children of believers and the children of pagans, and I will not baptize just any child, but I will only baptize those who are members of the church because their children are already included in the covenant by God’s invitation and command. Because they are already included in the covenant, I must disciple them so I baptize them and begin to instruct them as they grow.

      Do you see the difference? However, to deal with your third objection, I would point to various “household baptisms” that would speak against your argument. Credobaptists often fail to see how that word “household” is actually defined by OT usage (and particularly covenantal usage where, for instance, Abraham and his household were all circumcised). In the OT, households always included children, if there were any. So, if we import that understanding into the NT as the Great Commission goes forth, if there were any infants in the household of Stephanas or of Lydia or of Cornelius or of the jailor, they would have most certainly been included in that baptism. Why? Because God always brings whole families into His covenant as it is visibly manifested. Even pagans of that day had a strong sense of family solidarity. All this goes to say that infant baptism was not needed to be commanded or taught because it was already assumed by the OT context of the household within the covenantal framework of family solidarity. It is no surprise to me, then, that infant baptism was UNIVERSALLY practiced in the early church as evidenced by several statements of Justin Martyer, Hippolytus, Origen, Irenaeus, and Augustine (writings dipping back to around 110, 150, 250 and 325). Given how so many other controversies were handled in the first 4 centuries, I find it absolutely impressive that there is not only a universal acceptance of this practice, there is none to disagree with it (which doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone did it—but no one argued heatedly against it), and it was claimed by both Hippolytus and Origen of being of apostolic origin, and how so early on the teaching of how baptism replaced circumcision was prevalent.
      In fact, it is the burden of the credobaptist to prove that He has stopped the practice that began with Adam and Eve of including children into the covenant. Given all the NT data, too, I don’t believe that is ever going to happen.

      Concerning your first objection, I did not contradict myself when I defined a disciple as one who adheres to Christ and His teaching but then go on to say our children are disciples from birth. Again, I am simply using covenantal language. Because of my understanding of the covenantal promises, I see my children from birth as adhering to the teachings of Christ. They are daily discipled and even when they were small, they were following Christ through my instruction. They have never rejected Him (for which I am grateful, however, I know that not every child who grows up in the Church goes on to follow Christ – but as they reject the faith, they are also under a stricter judgment, cf. Heb. 6:4-8). You have read Deuteronomy 6 and see how it was expected that parents would disciple their little children when they sit down and rise up, in their going in and going out, etc. I dare say, if you have children, do you not teach them the things of God? Do you not bring them to church? Do you not teach them to sing praise to God? Do you not teach them how to pray? Do you not teach them the Bible’s doctrines? Do you not call them to faith and repentance when the go astray? Do you not call your children, as did Paul to Christian children, to “obey your father and mother in the Lord”? What are you doing but leading them in their adherence to Christ? I have dealt with your objection. It is just you appear to want to put a stronger definition upon the word “disciple” that is not biblical. It seems you want to put conversion into the definition, and while we want all those who follow Christ to be converted, yet not all are – there was Ishmael and Esau in the OT, and Judas and Simon in the NT, as examples.

      Again, just because an infant cannot profess a faith in Christ doesn’t mean that he is not under the yoke of Christ. He grows in his discipleship. Have you ever heard of Polycarp? He was ordained a pastor in Smyrna by the Apostle John, and was taken to Rome and martyred at the ripe old age of 86. Interestingly, in his defense he said, “For 86 years I have been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Now some have said that he was not converted until he was 14, which makes it really amazing that he died at 100 and no mention of this amazing age is recorded anywhere. No, almost all church historians accept that Polycarp was 86 when he died, but this means that he claimed to serve God from his birth (around 80 A.D.). He is not the only one who claimed to serve God from his earliest youth up, just get a hold of the Acts of the Martyrs and read about Papylus of Thyatira (d. 161-180).

      You say, “Nowhere in the NT do you see baptism functioning as a means of making a disciple in the first place. Wallace’s point does not negate that those who are baptised and taught have first assented to it, which is the most basic understanding of what a disciple is in the rest of the NT. It is implicit (and seen played out in rest of NT) that a person is not baptised unless they assent”

      Of course my understanding of all this comes also from how an infant in the OT was circumcised and put under the covenantal obligations of faith and repentance without their assent. It was their circumcision that made them a child of the covenant (Gen. 17:14), or to use NT terms, a disciple. But in the NT we see that this promise was for you and your children (Acts 2;38) and that children were regarded as holy (1 Cor. 7:14) and we must remember that we are to obey ALL of Jesus’ commands, which include, “Permit the little children to come to me” (which BTW, the early church fathers saw as a command to bring your children for baptism).

      You say, “It seems absurd to think that Jesus meant an actual disciple could be made by merely undergoing the external rites of baptism and teaching. A disciple is a follower of Christ.”
      And what do you think we are doing when we baptize our children and teaching them Christ’s commands? Are we not teaching them and encouraging them to follow Christ? What more do you want?

      You say, “According to Acts every human being is obligated to repentance and faith. They do not need to be baptised to be under that obligation. So is this not superfluous?”
      How is it superfluous? Though everyone should repent and believe, do you not also believe that people should be baptized and taught?

      And you say, “Except the sign was only given to the males, and was regardless of whether their parents had faith in God or were rebels. Both of these things are not the case with paedobaptism.”

      True, circumcision was given only to the males in the OT. But it was given only to those who were in the covenant (granted not all in Israel were of Israel), but they were in covenant with God, and only those who were were circumcised (which is exactly what paedobaptists do). But here is the thing: while we do stress a continuity with the OT covenants, we also stress a discontinuity. So that in the NT, the blessings are wider, broader, deeper, and bloodless. So, in the NT, both Jew and Gentile are brought into covenant. Both male and female receive the covenant sign. But you credobaptists narrow it. While all throughout redemptive history God ALWAYS included the children of those brought into His covenant and receive blessings and privileges, but now in the NT they are no longer brought into the covenant and given blessings and privileges. And this is to be a ‘better covenant’?

  36. Henry says:

    Thanks for the response Michael,

    I think we should start bringing this to an end here. Very briefly:


    You are still using a definition of disciple that is, to my knowledge, found nowhere in scripture. You bring up the examples of Judas and Simon as counter-evidence. I simply reply that this is not counter-evidence since they professed to follow Christ. Infants do not. Nowhere have I said that all professions must turn out to be true, we simply cannot know that.


    You state:

    I’ve now just discriminated as I baptize ONLY those who come from outside the Church through faith in Christ into the Church to be discipled.

    I have not argued that you don’t discriminate. You certainly do. My point is that given your reading of the text, you have no basis to discriminate. If, on your reading, baptism is merely one of the means that is supplied in order to make an unconverted person into a disciple then you are right in baptising infants but wrong in denying others who do not profess the same means. Only if you read the text in the way I have argued for do you have a basis to discriminate. And yet despite this, you still discriminate. So it seems to me that your actions betray your reading of the text, for which I am glad!


    Finally, regarding your counter-argument about household baptisms I simply reply that you have no concrete evidence that infants were in the household. It is quite plausible that only children (not infants) were present, and children can profess faith. Indeed, it is clear that in the passage concerning Cornelius the members of the household understood and received the word (e.g. see Grudem’s discussion in his ST or just read the passage in question) thus either there were no infants in Cornelius’ household or there were infants but they were not baptised. To me it is remarkable that of all the many thousands of people who were baptised in the NT there is not a single mention of a baby being baptised.

    1. Michael says:

      Henry, while I have enjoyed the banter, I think you are right, that we should bring this to an end. The reason being is that unless you actually see the Bible as a continuative whole, where God includes children in the covenant (and you have never responded to any of that), you will not, and indeed, cannot see that the Great Commission is virtually covenantal in nature (as is all of Jesus’ teaching), and thus any further evidence I bring to this will not be sufficient. You need a wholesome understanding of the Reformed and biblical doctrine of the covenant.

      I was not using Judas and Simon as counter-evidence, but simply to show that conversion is not necessarily a biblical element of discipleship, which you seem to impose upon it.

      And regarding household baptisms, have you actually done any biblical studies on the subject? I did not say I had evidence that any children were in the household. They may or may not have been. That is not the point. The point is, Luke and Paul both have an OT understanding of the term, and the OT DOES include children. IF they were present, there is no question, based on the very usage of the term in both secular and biblical history, that they would have been baptized. I would encourage you to get a copy (if you can find it) of J. Jeremias’ noteworthy book, “Infant Babptism in the First Four Centuries.” He goes over virtually every verse where it is used in both OT and NT.

      And of all the thousands of people who were baptized in the NT, it is only your credobaptistic presupposition that there is no mention of any baby being baptized. Again, I can read of Acts 2;38 and of the 2000 that were baptized and see infants being baptized. I can see how in Stephanas’ household, or Lydia’s, or Cornelius, or of many people’s households having infants baptized. Why? I understand the covenantal promise and understand the covenantal principles that are evident even in the NT. Moreover, I have the whole recorded history of Christianity shouting out that it was a universal practice from as early on as at least 80 A.D. and the testimony of so many solid church fathers saying this was an apostolic practice.

      And you have yet to show me that you do not disciple your children (though you don’t baptise them). You have yet to show me how the credobaptist view is a better covenant after all. And you have yet to show me how baptism is a true sacrament of God’s covenant grace in the credobaptistic view.

      1. Henry says:

        ok thanks for the discussion Michael,

        all the best,

        1. Michael says:

          And to you, Henry. You’ve been gentlemanly and mature in the discussion, which I appreciate.

          Trust you will have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  37. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Characters: Ali, the African (evangelized by a Paedobaptist) who became a Christian, and then baptised after becoming a Christian. 2nd person is Pedro, the paedo-baptist missionary.

    Ali: “Pedro, the Lord has blessed me with a baby son 3 weeks ago.”

    Pedro: “Congratulations! Let’s make plans to baptize your baby son soon.”

    Ali: “What? Why?”

    Pedro: “We must do infant baptism.”

    Ali: “My baby son doesn’t even know how to speak yet, let alone know who Jesus Christ is. This doesn’t make sense.”

    Pedro: “Yes, it makes perfect Biblical sense. We baptize infants and then they grow into/as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

    Ali: “You did not baptize me before I became a disciple of Christ. Why don’t we wait for my son to know and love Jesus Christ before he is baptized, just like I did?”

    Pedro: “No, no. That’s not how we do it. Even though you professed Christ first and then baptized later, your son is to be baptized first and then he professes Christ later.”

    Ali: “But what if he doesn’t genuinely confess Christ later?”

    Pedro: “He will. He will.”

    Ali: “How do you know? Do you mean to tell me that every single baby ever baptized in the history of your church/denomination is a Christian or has become a Christian?”

    Pedro: “Honestly, I rather doubt that.”

    Ali: “If you don’t mind then, let’s wait on the baptism.”

    Pedro walks away muttering softly: “I can’t believe Ali’s a credo-baptist!”

    Ali: “What’s a credo-baptist?”

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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