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#26280 - Sat Jul 02, 2005 6:25 AM "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  

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The subject of this thread is taken from Dr. Lee's quotation of Calvin from his book,Baby Belief before Baptism, page 355. Calvin is critical of the practice of allowing unordainable women baptize dying infants (I'm assuming no ordained or ordainable man is present), "Joachim [Westphal] holds the necessity for baptism to be so absolute -- that he would sooner have it profaned by illicit usurpation,than omitted when the lawful use is denied."

My question is: Under what circumstances should a Reformed parent allow his or her child to die unbaptized? And, how would the answer vary for confessors of the 39 Articles, Westminster, the Second Helvetic, and the London Baptist confessions?

#26281 - Sat Jul 02, 2005 8:43 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  
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speratus said:

My question is: Under what circumstances should a Reformed parent allow his or her child to die unbaptized? And, how would the answer vary for confessors of the 39 Articles, Westminster, the Second Helvetic, and the London Baptist confessions?


A baby who dies in infancy before being baptized doesn't change God's plan for their eternal destination. We don't want to get caught up in rituals like the Catholics do that give the last rights to a dying person as if the sprinkling with water were the thing that purifies the individual. I have never heard of a Reformed Christian that chose to have their dying or dead baby baptized as if it was some kind of magic ingredient that saved them.

There are two positions on baptism in the church:

1. Baptizing children of believers who are included in the visible church by way of the covenant of grace.

2. Baptizing adults who have been converted and confess their faith in Jesus Christ.

I haven't looked at how each confession differs but I think this weeks article on the Westminster Shorter Confession thread along with the comments from Thomas Vincent provide a good statement on the Reformed Covenantal position on baptism.

Why would any Christian parent who is in a right relationship with the Lord and His Church want to exclude their child from this external mark of inclusion in the covenant community of believers?


Wes


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts
#26282 - Sat Jul 02, 2005 9:45 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  
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Wes has answered your question. Here is a “fairly” accurate history of the Baby Belief from Knox till the Westminster Standards. Its companion article is Baby Belief from Nicea to the Reformation. These are historical and thus you, I, and others will not agree with ALL the conclusions therein, but none-the-less they reveal the scope of the progression of one side of the argument. Articles by Prof Dr F.N. Lee (as with others, use discernment reading his articles).


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#26283 - Sat Jul 02, 2005 10:05 PM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: Wes]  
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Why would any Christian parent who is in a right relationship with the Lord and His Church want to exclude their child from this external mark of inclusion in the covenant community of believers?


Because they believe in confessor's baptism?

And that's my only post on the subject, as it's been rehashed over and over here and neither side is budging.


True godliness is a sincere feeling which loves God as Father as much as it fears and reverences Him as Lord, embraces His righteousness, and dreads offending Him worse than death~ Calvin
#26284 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 12:01 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: Wes]  
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Why would any Christian parent who is in a right relationship with the Lord and His Church want to exclude their child from this external mark of inclusion in the covenant community of believers?


Wes


Now Marie has already answered this question Wes but I believe that Speratus question is spawned by his belief in baptismal regeneration. But what I must ask is if baptism doesn't change the eternal destination of the infant why do you express concern for this covenantal mark? You and I both know that saving of elect infants is done by God's grace not the sprinkling of water upon a babe. So what is your concern unless its for the parents?


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If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. Augustine of Hippo
#26285 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 6:23 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ." [Re: Wes]  

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Wes said:
Why would any Christian parent who is in a right relationship with the Lord and His Church want to exclude their child from this external mark of inclusion in the covenant community of believers?


Wes


According to Dr. Lee, Calvin would not have dying children baptized. For Calvin, emergency baptism is based on a incorrect understanding of purpose of baptism. Children already have the spark of faith under the covenant so baptism is unnecessary. In any case, baptism must be done lawfully (i.e., by an ordained minister) and especially not by women.

The Second Helvetic Confession appears to echo this.

Quote
The Minister of Baptism. We teach that baptism should not be administered in the Church by women or midwives. For Paul deprived women of ecclesiastical duties, and baptism has to do with these.

Anabaptists. We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that newborn infants of the faithful are to be baptized. For according to evangelical teaching, of such is the Kingdom of God, and they are in the covenant of God. Why, then, should the sign of God's covenant not be given to them? Why should those who belong to God and are in his Church not be initiated by holy baptism? We condemn also the Anabaptists in the rest of their peculiar doctrines which they hold contrary to the Word of God. We therefore are not Anabaptists and have nothing in common with them.


Although appearing to favor infant baptism, the SHC could also be interpreted as saying emergency baptism is unnecessary since newborn infants are already under the covenant and their baptism is merely a sign of what has already occurred. So infant baptism can be safely be neglected on legalistic grounds.

The Westminister Confession seems to be out of sync with the SHC, ". . .it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance. . ." So, emergency baptism is defended by the WCF as a means of obeying God's command to baptize covenant infants.

Whereas, WCF presents emergency infant baptism as a matter of obeying God's law; the SHC appears to imply that, under certain circumstances, emergency infant baptism is actually disobeying God's law (e.g., a midwife baptizing a dying infant).

Am I correct or am I misunderstanding Calvin and misreading these Reform confessions?

#26286 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 6:44 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: Peter]  

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Boanerges said:
. . .I believe that Speratus question is spawned by his belief in baptismal regeneration.


You would be wrong. Westphal (See Dr. Lee's "Baby Belief Before Baptism) and Lutheran apologists after him have erroneously defended emergency infant baptism based on baptismal regeneration. Such a defence is contrary to scripture and the Book of Concord. All infant baptisms, emergency or otherwise, are done for the sole purpose of obeying God's command to baptize our children.

Luther writes in the Large Catechism, "We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God." Baptism is grace for the person receiving baptism and law for the person performing the baptism.

#26287 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:40 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: Peter]  
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But what I must ask is if baptism doesn't change the eternal destination of the infant why do you express concern for this covenantal mark?

A scriptural family, a covenantal family, desires to obey Scripture. In the OT it is clearly seen that circumcision happened early in childhood and in the NT we see household baptisms. Wes' concern, if I may be so bold to answer for him, is simply one of scriptural obedience to the covenant God established.


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#26288 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:51 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized  
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speratus said:
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Boanerges said:
. . .I believe that Speratus question is spawned by his belief in baptismal regeneration.


You would be wrong. Westphal (See Dr. Lee's "Baby Belief Before Baptism) and Lutheran apologists after him have erroneously defended emergency infant baptism based on baptismal regeneration. Such a defence is contrary to scripture and the Book of Concord. All infant baptisms, emergency or otherwise, are done for the sole purpose of obeying God's command to baptize our children.

Luther writes in the Large Catechism, "We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God." Baptism is grace for the person receiving baptism and law for the person performing the baptism.

Do you follow all of Dr. Luther's commands for baptism, "If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest of our religion" (part of Luther's reply in 1541 to Doctor Menius' question, "In what manner a Jew should be baptized?"). What saith the Scripture is far more authoritative then what saith a mere man or confession.


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#26289 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 9:40 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  
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Speratus,

History records a lot of different types of emergency type baptisms. This of course does not make them necessary (or biblical), but it is none-the-less history.

Examples:

The Statutes of Salisbury I, 1217-1219, taught, “Priests should frequently teach that laypeople ought to baptise babies in urgent situations. Either the father or the mother should do this in cases of necessity, without damage to matrimony… When a woman dies in childbirth and it is certain that she is dead, she should be cut open if it is believed that the child is alive, that is, if the woman's mouth is open [so that the child can still breathe!]”

The Statutes of Winchester I, 1224, taught, “Priests should teach their parishoners that newborn infants who they believe are going to die immediately may and should be baptised by a lay person. and for this reason they should teach them the correct form of baptism,…”.

The Statutes of Exeter I, 1225-37, taught “When a child baptised by a lay person is brought to church, to receive from the priest what they were lacking in that respect, the priest should inquire diligently what the person who baptised the child said and what they did. If they find that the child was baptised correctly and in the proper form of the Church, and used the complete form of words in their own language, they should approve what they did, adding what the layperson was not able to give, i.e. anointing the child on the crown of the head, the chest and the shoulders, and do the other things which precede and follow the immersion. He should say, 'I do not intend to rebaptise you, but if you are not baptised, I baptise you N in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'… If a women dies in childbirth, and it is absolutely certain that she is dead, she should be cut open if the infant is believed to be alive, so that something which could be saved does not die; however, first the mouth of the women should be open so that the child enclosed in the womb can get air.”

The Statutes for Durham peculiars, 1241-49 (?), taught, “When a woman dies in childbirth and it is certain that she is dead, she should be cut open if it is believed that the child is alive, that is, if the woman's mouth is open…. Priests should instruct pregnant women of their parish that when they know that the time of their delivery is approaching, they should make sure that they can get hold of water quickly and have it ready, and because of the imminent danger they should give their confession to the priest, in case they are taken by surprise and they cannot get the help of a priest when they need it.”

The Statutes of Chichester I, 1245-52, Statutes of Wells, 1258, Statutes of London II, 1245-59, Statutes of Winchester III, 1262-5, and the Statutes of Exeter II, 1287, taught similar things.

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In any case, baptism must be done lawfully (i.e., by an ordained minister) and especially not by women.

While you are correct that Calvin embraced such ideas that is was a mockery to allow the unordained (men or women) to baptize we must ask if this is fully “scriptural?” Others look through the Scripture and discover some interesting “facts” and/or some special circumstances. While the rule of the Directory for the Publick Worship of God of the Westminster Assembly is that baptism must be performed by a minister, the OT antecedent, circumcision, did not necessitate it to be performed by a minister. Zipporah's circumcision of her and Moses' son was valid (Exod. 4:25, 26; Calvin’s reply against this while informative, is not fully convincing, Institutes, 4.15.20-22). However, we need not stop just in the OT, as the NT has its examples as well. Kistemaker, remarks on the baptism of Cornelius' household (Acts 10:48), stating: "Peter, as the Greek text implies, orders the … Jewish Christians to baptize the Gentile converts." These Jewish Christians were simply "some of the brothers" (Acts 10:23), not "some other ministers." It seems that the Apostle “regarded these ordinary, male Jewish Christians as covenantally competent to perform the rite of baptism. The apostles, then, place emphasis not on themselves but on the name of Jesus." Barnes agrees, explaining that "it seems not to have been the practice of the apostles themselves to baptize very extensively." J.A. Alexander states: "It can scarcely be mere fortuitous coincidence, that Peter, Paul, and Christ Himself, should all have left this rite to be administered by others. 'Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples' (John 4:2). 'I thank God that I baptized none of you, save Crispus, etc.' (I Cor. 1:14). 'Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel' (I Cor. 1:17). Baptisms were performed under the apostles' supervision, but not necessarily by their hands."

While I would commend that under “normal” conditions that a person should be baptized by a minister (for, "The two principal parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments" (Institutes, 4.3.6)), it is not necessitated by Scripture. In addition, there is nothing in Scripture that necessitates an infant having to be baptized prior to death, nor would I suggest putting a mother or an infant at physical risk to baptize them. However, "if" circumstances are such that the infant can be baptized prior to death (as obedience to the covenant relationship to God) then, it should be done. However, once again, I stress, it is not a necessity.

[color:"FF0000"]<marquee behavior="alternate"><font size="7">Scripture</font></marquee>[/color]


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#26290 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 10:38 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: MarieP]  
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SemperReformanda said:

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Why would any Christian parent who is in a right relationship with the Lord and His Church want to exclude their child from this external mark of inclusion in the covenant community of believers?


Because they believe in confessor's baptism?

And that's my only post on the subject, as it's been rehashed over and over here and neither side is budging.


Marie,

I'm posting this reply not to develop conflict between fellow believers but to help you understand the position I and many other Reformed Christians embrace. You may have noticed that I included believer's baptism in my comments as well however I have in view a person outside the community of believers who is converted as opposed to a child of a believer coming to profess their faith in Christ before being baptised. I think you know our differences come from how we view the continuity between the Old and New Covenants.

As Joe has pointed out we do this out of obedience because God has established this practice from Abraham forward. The Old Testament sign of circumcision has been replaced with water baptism. Since our children are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam so again they are received in Christ without their knowledge by grace alone. We should teach our children that they are born in sin and cannot enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again. It is anticipated that as they grow older they will claim the promises given in their baptism by making a profession of their faith.


Quote
Rev. Ronald Hanko writes:

When an infant is baptized, therefore, it must be on some other ground than his believing response to the Gospel promises. He is incapable of such a response. He must, in fact, be baptized simply on the ground of God's promise to be the God of His people and of their children (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39). Because of that promise of God we may expect a response from him in later life, but neither his salvation nor his receiving the sign of that salvation depends on his response.

This promise does not mean that every baptized infant will be saved. Nor does some vain hope for the salvation of all their children cause believing parents to have their children baptized. The foundation for infant baptism is the PROMISE of God made to believers that He will be their God and the God of their children (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39). Believing parents, therefore, expect that God will gather His elect from among their children and have their children baptized in the sure hope that God who promised will also perform it.

But why should all our children be baptized, when we know that not all will be saved? For the same reason that we bring them all under the preaching of the gospel. Believing parents have all their children baptized because they understand that baptism is a kind of visible gospel that will have the same twofold fruit among their children that the preaching of the gospel has, according to God's own purpose in predestination. Baptism, like the gospel, they believe, will be used by God for the salvation of those of their children who are elect, and for the condemnation of the rest.

Thus infant baptism teaches us that salvation does not depend on us, but on the sovereign grace of God, who grants salvation to sinners in the same way that they came under condemnation in Adam, that is, without their knowledge.


Infant Baptism and Sovereign Grace


Quote
Should Babies Be Baptized?

by David Feddes / Back To God Hour

January 13, 2002

"He and all his family were baptized." Acts 16:33

Should babies be baptized or not? It can be dangerous to ask that question. One danger is that Christians might be divided against each other. Christians don't all agree about infant baptism, so if they focus more on this area of disagreement than on their unity in Jesus Christ, it can cause division. A second, related danger is that if Christians disagree openly with each other, it can become an excuse for non-Christians to ignore Jesus and the Bible. Why pay attention to Christianity if Christians can't agree among themselves what to believe?

Recognizing these dangers, I don't want to say anything that sets Christians against each other or that repels people who don't yet know Jesus as their Savior. I love my fellow Christians and want to encourage deeper unity in Christ. I also love people who don't follow Christ, and I want each of you to enter a joyous, life-giving relationship with him. Above all, I love Jesus, and I want to honor him and draw people to him. So before I say whether babies should be baptized, a matter on which Christians don't all agree, I first want to emphasize common ground and highlight things on which all true Christians agree.

All true Christians believe the Bible as the Word of God. All true Christians believe in God the Father as Creator of the universe and Father of his people. All true Christians believe in Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of all who trust in him. All true Christians believe in the Holy Spirit as the third Person of the Trinity, who connects us with Christ, produces faith, and gives eternal life. All true Christians believe that each person added to the Lord's church should be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

All true Christians see baptism as a sign of sins being washed away and of being united with Christ's death and resurrection.
All true Christians see baptism as a seal of God's grace for sinners, not of our own goodness. All true Christians see baptism as a mark by which God claims a person and requires faith, love, and obedience. All true Christians believe that an unbaptized person who has grown up outside a Christian setting, without faith in Christ, must turn to Jesus in repentance and personal faith before being baptized.

Not all Christians agree on whether babies born to believing parents should be baptized, but Christians do agree that it's a huge privilege and responsibility when a child is born into a Christian family. Even many who don't support infant baptism still have ceremonies of dedication in which they celebrate God's goodness and promise to lead their little one in God's ways.

Not all Christians agree on whether a personal, public commitment to Christ is necessary before a child from a Christian family is baptized, but Christians do agree that such a personal, public commitment is necessary at some point. Even those who support infant baptism still insist that those who are baptized as babies must later respond with a public profession of personal faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, and must live for him.

Christians may have differences, but let's never forget the common ground and the unity that Christians share. Keeping this in mind, let's address the question, "Should babies be baptized?"

Clearing Away Clutter

Let's begin by clearing away some clutter that confuses the issue. What do I mean by clutter? I mean mistaken ideas and flawed reasons that have piled up on both sides of this matter.

Some supporters of infant baptism believe that baptism has almost magical power to save and that a baby who dies unbaptized cannot go to heaven. They think the water itself washes away the original sin a baby is born with and causes a baby to be born again into new life. This view, called baptismal regeneration, is not biblical. If you support infant baptism because you believe in baptismal regeneration, you need a sounder basis than that.

By the same token, if you oppose infant baptism because you oppose the idea of baptismal regeneration, you need a better reason for opposing it. After all, millions of Christians believe in infant baptism without believing in baptismal regeneration at all. They don't believe God's saving power is bound to the water or to a church official applying the water. They have a better, more biblical case for baptizing babies, and you must consider that stronger case before you decide against infant baptism. Baptismal regeneration is one piece of clutter that needs to be cleared away in order to get at the real meaning of baptism and decide whether it should ever be applied to babies.

Here's a second piece of clutter: using Jesus' baptism as an adult as proof that baptism isn't for babies. Jesus was baptized at age 30 (Luke 3:21-23), and some folks claim that this disproves infant baptism. Sound convincing? Well, if Jesus' baptism at age 30 proves that babies shouldn't be baptized, it also proves that teenagers shouldn't be baptized, that twenty-somethings shouldn't be baptized, that anyone under 30 shouldn't be baptized. Even opponents of infant baptism know it can't mean that. They baptize committed Christian youth many years before they reach the age at which Jesus was baptized. In their view, baptism must be applied as soon as an individual makes a personal commitment to the Lord, and not before then. But they would never say Jesus waited till age 30 because he was not committed to his heavenly Father before that point. As Bible-believing Christians, they know there was not a moment of Jesus' life when he was not God's Son, fully committed to his Father.

The baptism Jesus received from John the Baptist in the Jordan River at age 30 was John's kind of baptism. That was different from the kind of baptism Jesus established. The Bible makes this clear. Therefore, the timing of Jesus' adult baptism by John has nothing to do with the timing of Christian baptism in the era after Jesus ascended to heaven and poured out his Holy Spirit. To say otherwise is confusing clutter.

A third kind of clutter is reasoning from silence, trying to score points on the basis of what the Bible doesn't say. If you oppose infant baptism, you might point out, "Nowhere does the Bible command infant baptism, and nowhere does the Bible mention a particular baby being baptized." That may sound convincing at first, but it's just as true to say, "Nowhere does the Bible command us not to baptize babies, and nowhere in the Bible is there a record of someone who grew up in a Christian family being baptized as a teenager rather than as an infant." Reasoning from silence doesn't prove much either way.

Suppose we were asking not about whether babies should be baptized but about whether Christian women should take part in the Lord's Supper. Nowhere does the Bible command, "Women shall eat the bread and drink the wine." But that doesn't matter. Christians know full well that women belong at the Lord's table. Why? Because of what the Bible says about the status of women who trust Jesus Christ. They are saved through his body and blood; therefore, they belong at the Lord's table.

It would be clutter to point out that the Bible doesn't speak of women at the Lord's Supper. The real issue is what the Bible says about the status of Christian women and how their status relates to what the Bible says about the Supper. Likewise, it's clutter to point out that the Bible doesn't command that babies be baptized (or not baptized). The real issue is what the Bible says about the status of babies born to godly parents, and how that status relates to what the Bible says about baptism.

Children of Believers

Baptism is a sign and seal of entering the community of Christ, the community bought with Jesus' blood and given life by his Holy Spirit. What's the status of babies born to Christian families? Do they belong to that covenant community? Do they have a place in God's family? Are they citizens of God's kingdom?

The Bible tells of people "bringing babies to Jesus" (Luke 18:15). The Lord's inner circle of disciples rebuked the parents for bringing the little ones. But what did Jesus do?

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these..." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and bless them. (Mark 10:14,16).

This story doesn't mention baptism, but it does say a great deal about the status of believer's babies. Jesus embraces and blesses babies of believing parents and says his kingdom belongs to such as these. How, then, can the church refuse them the sign of citizenship in God's kingdom and membership in his family?

God's covenant has always included not only believers but their children as well. Two thousand years before Christ, God told Abraham, "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7). God's covenant included not only Abraham but his household and his descendants.

The Bible uses the word covenant more than 270 times, so it's obviously important. What does God mean when he speaks of a covenant? A covenant is a relationship grounded in promises and confirmed by a sign. For example, a marriage covenant is a relationship grounded in wedding vows and confirmed by rings. God's covenant with Abraham was grounded in God's promise to be Abraham's God and the God of his offspring, and this was confirmed by the sign of circumcision.

God told Abraham, "You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male who is eight days old must be circumcised" (Genesis 17:11-12). Abraham came to faith as an adult and was circumcised as an adult, as "a seal of the righteousness he had by faith" (Romans 4:11). His son Isaac and future children in their line were circumcised as infants and marked as members of the community of faith, even before they could consciously exercise faith of their own. That was the pattern God established for his people.

Circumcision was not just a physical ritual for a certain ethnic group. It had spiritual meaning, and it could include people who were not born Israelites. If a man grew up as a foreigner to the covenant community and wished to join it and serve the Lord, he was circumcised as an adult, and all males in his household were also circumcised (Exodus 12:48). From then on, any male born into that covenant family was circumcised as an infant, marking him as a member of the covenant.

God's covenant with Abraham was "an everlasting covenant," not a temporary one. That everlasting covenant remains in effect to this day. God doesn't change. The Lord who made promises to Abraham is the same Lord Jesus who embraced babies brought by believing parents, and still today this same Lord promises to be the God of believers and their children.

From Circumcision to Baptism

God doesn't just decide one day to dump his covenant and come up with something entirely different. He remains faithful to the same covenant. But he has brought that covenant into a new and better era, and he seals it with a new and better sign. In the old era, God promised a Savior. In the new era, the promise has been fulfilled. Jesus' perfect life and bloody death and glorious resurrection fulfill everything necessary for salvation by faith. God "announced the gospel in advance to Abraham" (Galatians 3:8), but now that Christ has come, the gospel is clearer than it was in Abraham's day, and the blessings are poured out more abundantly.

In this new and better covenant era, God gives a new and better covenant sign. Now that Jesus has suffered and poured out his blood, God no longer calls for the bloody, painful sign of circumcision. Instead he gives the sign of baptism. This better sign of baptism is without blood or pain. This better sign of baptism is not limited to males (as circumcision was) but is applied to females as well.

The new covenant era and the new covenant sign are better than the old, so it would be a shocking letdown if the God who included children of believers in the old era excluded them in the new era. How could babies from covenant families, circumcised in the old era, not be baptized in the new era?

The Bible links the meaning of circumcision with baptism in Colossians 2:11-12. There Scripture speaks of "the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." Circumcision pictured "the putting off of the sinful nature" (Colossians 2:11); so does baptism. Circumcision was the sign of becoming part of God's covenant community; so is baptism. Circumcision called for a heart in tune with God (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6); so does baptism. The spiritual meaning of circumcision is fulfilled in the new covenant sign of baptism.

Family Baptism

On the day of Pentecost, the Lord poured out his Holy Spirit to launch the new covenant era. The apostle Peter told the people, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children" (Acts 2:38-39). Those words of Peter echoed God's promise to Abraham, to be a faithful God to him and his children. About 3,000 people were baptized that day.

After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit kept adding to the church, and not just one individual at a time. The Spirit added whole families. Entire households were baptized. When the Lord opened the heart of a woman named Lydia, the result was not just an individual baptism. "She and the members of her household were baptized" (Acts 16:15). When a suicidal jailer asked the apostle Paul, "What must I do to be saved?" he was told, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household." The man believed, his despair turned to joy, and "he and all his family were baptized" (Acts 16:31,33). A synagogue ruler named Crispus "and his entire household" came to Christ and were baptized (Acts 18:8). In one of Paul's letters, he wrote, "I also baptized the household of Stephanas" (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Did any of these family baptisms include babies? Probably so, but there's no way to prove it--and there's no need to prove it. Whether there were babies or not, the principle of family solidarity is clear. When an adult was baptized, whether a father or mother, so were the children in the household. When lost sheep went into God's fold, their lambs went with them.

The gospel addresses households, and it's biblical to respond as households. Biblical faith declares, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). In the Old Testament, when the head of a household was circumcised, his boys were also circumcised. In the New Testament, when the head of a household was baptized, the rest of the household was also baptized. Today, too, churches should baptize individual converts and the children under their care.

Marbles or Branches?

A gospel that speaks only of a personal relationship to God but not a family relationship to God is missing something. The Bible teaches both family solidarity and personal responsibility, not either/or. Our culture is extremely individualistic, and that makes it harder for us to see how babies too young to think for themselves could be included in God's covenant. So let's ask ourselves: are we marbles or branches?

The Bible speaks of Christ and his church as a grapevine. One way God's vine gets more branches is to grow them. Another way is for branches to be grafted in from outside. Either way, whether a branch grows from the vine or is grafted into it, any twigs on the branch are included as well. When a child is born to someone who is already part of the church, the child is part of the church. When parents from outside the church of Christ become part of it, their children become part of it too. And baptism is the sign of belonging.

In our individualistic culture, says author Douglas Wilson, we'd rather be marbles than branches. We picture Christ not as a vine but as a marble box where individual marbles are placed one by one for safekeeping. No marble is connected to any other marble. Each is on its own. But has Jesus ever said, "I am the box; you are the marbles"? No, Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches" (John 15:5). If a branch is connected to the vine, so are any twigs that are connected to the branch.

This does not automatically mean that every branch or twig that's connected to the vine is truly alive and bearing fruit. Some baptized persons are part of the church and attached to the vine outwardly, but they turn out to be dead wood, without the life of Christ or the fruit of faith. Jesus says, "My Father ... cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit" (John 15:1-2).

Some Christians oppose infant baptism largely because some people baptized as babies turn out faithless and fruitless. That's an important concern. But there are also people baptized as youth or adults who turn out faithless and fruitless. Lifeless, nominal Christianity is a serious danger, but that doesn't mean that no babies should be baptized. It means churches must be sure to baptize not just any child but only covenant children, children of active, professing believers. It also means that church discipline must be applied when it becomes evident that a branch is dead. If a baptized person rejects Christ and lives in sin, that person must be warned of God's judgment and no longer be regarded as part of the church.

But let's not get stuck on what happens to dead branches. These are tragic exceptions, not the rule. The joyful expectation of baptism is that branches joined to the vine will flourish and bear fruit.

When a new baby is born, do parents wait for years to see whether the baby chooses to be part of the family before they treat him as part of the family? No, they treat the little one as part of the family right away. Do they wait for years to give the child a name and just say "Hey, you!" until he can choose a name for himself? No, they give the baby a name as soon as he's born. Now, it's conceivable that when a child grows up, he could disown his family and change his name, but that's not the expectation. The expectation is that the child will always be in the family.

In God's family, the church, should we wait for a baby to grow up before treating him as a member of God's family? Should we wait to see how he turns out before we give him a name, an identity? No, a baby of Christian parents should be treated from the start as part of God's family. He should have the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit placed on him in baptism.

To be born into a Christian family and be baptized as a baby is no substitute for personal faith; it makes the call for personal faith all the more powerful and urgent. That's why churches that baptize babies of believers also insist that when those children reach a point where they're able to make up their own minds, they must make a personal, public profession of faith in Christ. Let me say again: God's covenant involves family solidarity and personal responsibility, not either/or.

God uses baptism to strengthen faith and increase joy. If you trust in Jesus and see your baptism as the sign of sins forgiven and union with Christ, your baptism is a personal comfort. If you bring babies to Christ for his blessing and baptism, if you do all in your power to instruct them in the Christian faith and to lead them by your example to be Christ's disciples, if you make your home a place where Christ is loved and obeyed, then baptism is a seal of joy and confidence for your family's future.

A relationship with God is always deeply personal but never merely private. God does not just deal with individuals one at a time. God's covenant embraces believers, their families, and future generations. "He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands" (Deuteronomy 7:9). What glorious good news!


When we baptize our children they are received into the visible church. When they accept and confirm what was sealed in their baptism, confess their faith in the Lord Jesus, and offer themselves to God as his willing servants we trust they are giving evidence that they are also included in the invisible church.


Wes


When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride. - Isaac Watts
#26291 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 11:17 AM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  
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speratus said:
For Calvin, emergency baptism is based on a incorrect understanding of purpose of baptism. Children already have the spark of faith under the covenant so baptism is unnecessary.

Could you please clarify for me if the statement in italics is what Dr. Lee believes, or what Dr. Lee believes Calvin teaches, or what you believe Calvin teaches, or if this is what you believe to be true? I can't quite determine who belongs to that statement. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/stupidme.gif" alt="" />

FYI, I strongly disagree with some of Calvin's beliefs concerning infant baptism, particularly his view in regard to the place infants of believers hold in the Church, aka: presumptive regeneration. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

Personally, as to the question being discussed, I see no Scriptural warrant nor reasonable necessity to baptize dying infants.

In His Grace,


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#26292 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 1:29 PM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized [Re: J_Edwards]  

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J_Edwards said:
Do you follow all of Dr. Luther's commands for baptism, "If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest of our religion" (part of Luther's reply in 1541 to Doctor Menius' question, "In what manner a Jew should be baptized?"). What saith the Scripture is far more authoritative then what saith a mere man or confession.


I have previously condemned Luther's writings against the Jews on this board as an offense against the gospel. These writings are works of the devil for which Luther should have been publicly admonished and excommunicated if he failed to repent. My acceptance of the Large Catechism as being a statement of the doctrine of scripture against those who would deny scripture does not imply an acceptance of any of Luther's private writings.

#26293 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 5:19 PM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ." [Re: Pilgrim]  

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Pilgrim said:
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speratus said:
For Calvin, emergency baptism is based on a incorrect understanding of purpose of baptism. Children already have the spark of faith under the covenant so baptism is unnecessary.

Could you please clarify for me if the statement in italics is what Dr. Lee believes, or what Dr. Lee believes Calvin teaches, or what you believe Calvin teaches, or if this is what you believe to be true? I can't quite determine who belongs to that statement. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/stupidme.gif" alt="" />


Well, it certainly isn't what I believe! It is what Dr. Lee believes Calvin teaches. He frequently quotes Calvin so I don't think he making this stuff up out of thin air. From the chapter, "John Calvin on Baby Belief Before Baptism":

Quote
He[Calvin] showed that infant baptism seals God-given prenatal faith in tiny covenant children. . .

So faith precedes baptism. As Calvin explained: "Our children, before they are born, God declares that He adopts for His own -- when He promises that He will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise, their salvation is included....How much evil has been caused by the dogma, ill expounded, that baptism is necessary to salvation!..."

#26294 - Sun Jul 03, 2005 6:17 PM Re: "We sometimes allow children to die unbaptized. ."  
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Thanks...... just wanted to verify the source of the statement. As I said before, I take serious issue with Calvin's "presumptive regeneration", which I hold to be a very grievous error and totally contrary and contradictory to much else which the man believed, which was biblically solid.


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