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Friday, August 16, 2013

Infant Baptism?

I was fairly new to the reformed church scene when I went off to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, presumably to become a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  During my middler year, something wonderful and dramatic happened.  My wife gave birth to my firstborn son.  I couldn't stop grinning.  I was a daddy, and I thought that was so amazing.

I told Professor Clowney that I needed to delay my hermeneutics sermon because I was not able to study due to the birth of my son.  I thought he would understand (after all, he was a family man), but he didn't.  "Oh no, you're scheduled to preach, and you will preach."  I preached, and it wasn't what I would call eloquent.  Fact is, the 3 he gave me was a gracious gift.

But the story I wanted to share with you is how I was faced with an important decision while my wife was in labor.  Barbara was in labor for 24 hours with our firstborn, Philip.  In the old days dad was relegated to the fathers' waiting room, far away from the action.  It wasn't 'til my fourth child was born that I became part of the team in the delivery room.  But that's another story.  I realized that the question of infant baptism was no longer academic.  Was I going to seek baptism for my new baby, or would my reluctance carry the day?  So I read John Murray's book, "Baptism".

When a man is awaiting the arrival of his first child, it is rather near impossible for him to think straight or deep.  And John Murray is not an easy writer to read.  There were times I read the same sentence a second and even a third time.  Needless to say, I was forced to read it again following Philip's birth.

I was fully convinced that the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 was fulfilled in the church (Hebrews 8).  I knew that the sacraments of the old covenant were paralleled in the New Testament with non-bloody sacraments, namely baptism and the Lord's Supper, replacing circumcision and Passover.  So far, so good.  But what gave me deep reservations was the fact that baptism very clearly is designed for believers.  After disciples confessed their faith they were "initiated" into the church with the sign of baptism.  My little baby was incapable of doing that, and so shouldn't he be ineligible for baptism?  Weren't the Baptists right in declaring "believers baptism"?

It was while pondering this question that the apostle Paul knocked the pins out from under me.  I was rendered speechless by the clear implications of Romans 4:11.  This verse refers to circumcision as both a sign and a seal.  This is true of all sacraments.  Of what was it a seal?  Paul teaches us that it is a seal of the righteousness which Abraham had by faith.  First he believed, then righteousness was imputed to him, and then he was circumcised as the seal of this saving faith.  That is not just parallel to baptism, that is exactly what baptism is.  First we believe, then we are accounted as righteous, and then we receive the sign and seal of baptism.

This sounds like an argument for the baptist position.  But wait a minute.  Even though circumcision was specifically designed as a sacrament for believers, God specifically commanded Abraham to circumcise his children when they were eight days old (Genesis 17).  The sign of the covenant was a sign for believers--AND their children.  The New covenant replacement for circumcision was baptism, and though it too is a sign for believers, it too includes the children of believers.  There are a few household baptisms recorded in scripture to confirm this (I Cor. 1:16; Acts 16:15, 33).  No one can argue against baptizing babies on the basis of the fact that they aren't able to believe unless he can also explain why God commanded Abraham to circumcise his babies.

So as soon as mother and son came home from the hospital, we scheduled him for baptism.  I hope this may help someone wrestling with the same reservations.


  1. I know I'm a little bit late reading this, but this is a good post. I recommended it to someone struggling with a similar situation. Thanks!


    Can involuntary baptism wash away your sins? Is involuntary baptism a Biblical concept? Does involuntary baptism play a role in your salvation? The answer is no, no, and no.


    Faith:John 3:16

    Repentance: Acts 2:38 (repentance is making the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God)

    Confession: Romans 10:9-10

    I know of no one who involuntarily baptizes adults. Why would they, then, force infants to be baptized against their will? It not only is nonsensical, it is not according to the Scriptures.

    There are some Biblical accounts of involuntary baptisms.

    A couple thousand demons were involuntarily baptized.(Mark 5:12-13 The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them." 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drown in the sea.

    These demons confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, however, they did not repent. (Mark 5:1-13) These demons were not saved. They were not forgiven of their sins. Involuntary baptism drown the swine, but did not wash away any ones sins.

    A few unbelieving, unrepentant Egyptians were involuntarily baptized in the sea. (Exodus 14:27-28) The Egyptians who were involuntarily baptized were not saved, all they got was dead.


    The Ethiopian eunuch heard Jesus preached from the Scriptures. He believed and confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He asked to be baptized in water. He went away rejoicing. (Acts 8:27-38) The eunuch had his sins washed away by the blood of Jesus. The eunuch was saved. He was added to the Lord's church. The eunuch was part of the body of Christ. The eunuch was baptized into Christ.

    If you were baptized before you believed, all you got was wet.
    If you were baptized without repenting, that is if you did not make the commitment to turn from sin and and turn toward God, all you got was wet.
    If you were baptized without acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God and that God raised Him from the dead, all you got was wet.


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