You are on page 1of 4

Infant Baptism Emails

Yesterday a college student wrote with follow-up questions to a conversation we shared


unfolding the Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. Here are his questions, my response and a quick
list of resources on which I lean heavily.

Question:

Hi Dude!
Here's a couple of questions ... no rush get to them when you can!

1)There's no example in the NT of baptism that preceedes repentance and faith. How
do we conclude that anyone should be baptised before repentance and faith are
confessed?

2) In Romans 9:8 "the children of the flesh" and "children of the faith" are mentioned ....
how do these relate back to Israel? Are children of the faith the biological children of
believers or are children of the faith every child in Abraham's line or are they children of
the faith because they come from Israel?

3)So we just read a John Piper article and it sounds like he's in favor of believers
baptism...true?

4)If I were to believe in believers baptism ... am i supposed to be re-baptised?

Signed-
****

My Response:

Hey *****,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I can tell that you and your friends are thinking through this
difficult biblical issue. And I like the direction in which you're asking these questions. It's a
Biblical issue and so our principal objective is not to understand the distinctions of "believers
baptism" over and against "infant baptism," but our chief goal is to understand what the Bible
teaches concerning baptism.

Here are some answers to your questions:

1. There are dozens of NT examples where baptism precedes repentance and faith. In the first
case, households were baptized (Acts 16:15; Acts 18:8 and 1Cor 1:16). The question to wrestle
with here is, "Why would the NT writer (Luke for Acts, and Paul for 1Cor) use the referent
"households" or "oikos" in the GK to speak of all the members in the home. This is differentiated
against very specific ways of differentiating men and women in the household codes of the NT,
and it is different from the typical cultural way of referring to groups of people (demonstrated in
the Gospels) by counting only men. Here men and women as well as children are in view.

1
Further, Paul in 1Cor 7:14 calls the children of believers "holy." This doesn't mean that the
children of believers are automatically "born again Christians," but it does mean that they are
"distinguished from the rest" and are sacramentally holy. They have the right to share in the
blessings of the New Testament Church and to be considered a part of the visible people of God.

Jesus, in Mark 10:14, says that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children of believers. We
know that throughout OT and NT the kingdom of God pertains not to a location but to a reality,
wherever and in whomever the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. That's why Peter in Acts
2:39 includes children as recipients of the promises of God. And Paul speaks to them in
Ephesians 6 as members, and significantly members of the covenant community always, in
Scripture, bear the covenantal sign of that membership, namely Baptism.

Then, Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38-39 should be read as commands to baptize infants! Does the
word "infant" appear? No. But remember from my last email, this is an argument running from
OT to NT that members of the covenant community, and the NT has identified children of
believers as members, should receive the covenantal sign. There is no explicit command in
scripture to STOP administering the covenantal sign to the children of believers. There is no
command or hint that God has changed his mind. We dare not do less than God has commanded.
And we never dare do more than God has commanded in his Word.

2. Good question regarding Romans 9:8. But I don't want you to be confused regarding the
people to whom Paul refers by using the word "Children." Paul culminates his great salvific
presentation in the book of Romans in chapter 9 by turning the matter of Jewish conversions, or
lack of Jewish conversions. Paul is agonizing that his own people are not repenting and trusting
in Jesus Christ as their Savior - it seems that more and more Gentiles are coming to Christ and
yet the Jews are going their own way. So Paul cries out with sorrow and anguish, "O' that I
myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers according to the flesh!"
He's speaking about the Jews.

And Paul continues in 9:6-29 to speak about God's plan in the matter of Jewish conversion. He
says that God's Word has not failed! God's purposes are working and doing exactly what the
Savior intended for them to do! The Spirit is gathering a people and applying the redemptive
work of Christ - who will be the true Israel - the Spiritual Israel - the People of God. So there are
2 ways to be considered a Jew and Children of Abraham; (1) according to the flesh, and (2)
according to the promise. Some Jews, born according to the flesh were not true Israel by Faith.
Jacob was chosen, not Esau. Such that God can say, "Jacob I have loved but Esau I hated." One
is chosen, one is elect, one is a member of true and spiritual Israel - not all born according to the
flesh. And all this is according to God's election and ordination. All is grace! God is not unjust,
he is executing his perfect plan.

So this corresponds to the baptism of infants in an indirect way. Are all children born to believers
automatically elect and saved? No. Will God save some and not others? Yes. But remember,
both Jacob and Esau were circumcised according to God's command. Both received the
covenantal sign. Both were considered members of the covenant community in an outward way.
But only one, Jacob, was a member inwardly - in the heart.

2
God has not called us to be discriminating regarding administering this covenantal sign to
children of believers. Why? Because we cannot discern the election of God! It's a mystery. We
cannot know whether God will save child #1 or Child #2 or both! But still God has commanded
us to baptize all these children. Baptism doesn't mean that this child is automatically saved, -
JUST AS IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT AN ADULT IS AUTOMATICALLY SAVED. An
adult could make a profession of faith that is not genuine or even seemingly genuine, he could
walk away from the Lord and show that he was never an elect member of the inward covenant
community. Still, God instructs us to baptize just as he told Isaac to circumcise his sons.

Understand the Biblical argument?

3. Yes, John Piper is a Baptist. He baptizes only adults, or children who can make a "credible"
profession of faith. However, John Piper has been petitioning the elders at his church (Bethlehem
Baptist in Minneapolis MN) for many years to accept new members into the congregation who
were baptized as infants and NOT require them to be re-baptized. Baptist Church order requires
all to be baptized before they join the church, and they do not accept infant baptism as legitimate.
BUT PIPER DOES! Piper has concluded that the biblical argument for infant baptism is
legitimate, and while he remains a Baptist and not a Presbyterian, he argues that new members
who were baptized as children should not be forced to be re-baptized. Still his elders do not
agree, and so the practice is unchanged.

4. So, the question relating to you *****, is on a case-by-case basis. If you were baptized as a
child, knowing that your Mother makes profession of faith in Christ, and now decided to join a
Baptist congregation - it is likely that the church would ask you to be baptized again.

However, if you were to remain a Presbyterian and stay within the Reformed Churches your
original baptism is entirely full, complete, and demonstrating exactly what the Bible teaches that
God intended to convey to you in baptism. Why? Because we believe that baptism is a
demonstration FROM GOD and not from the baptism recipient (candidate) him/herself. God is
giving baptism as a sign to you that you are drawn out of all the sea of humanity, placed in a
Christian home, and given the benefit of membership in a biblical church where you will learn
both the Law and Gospel of God from the Scriptures. You have particular benefits not afforded
to all the rest. And that baptism is improved when you make credible profession of faith and are
admitted to the Lord's Table where you can participate in Communion, which is the other
sacrament of the church, demonstrating the sacrificial and redemptive work of Christ for you.
One baptism for life. Children of Christians receive it as infants. Adult converts are baptized
upon their profession of faith and entry to the church.

Ok. I hope these sentences help begin to answer your additional questions. Thanks so much for
emailing ****. Please feel free to continue asking questions or sharing your biblical concerns.
This is a big issue.

-Tommy

Books & Resources:

3
Sean Michael Lucas, "On Being Presbyterian" http://bit.ly/a5xxjO
Daniel Hyde, "Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why we Baptize Infants" http://bit.ly/bxOuJa
John Murray, "Christian Baptism" http://bit.ly/dbLqrZ
Bryan Chapell, "Why do we Baptize Infants" http://bit.ly/9k9DZO
R. Scott Clark, "Baptism, Election and the Covenant of Grace" http://bit.ly/9mNAsS