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On Infant Baptism and such…pt III

May 23, 2009

from Joshua by way of David


How ingrained was the inclusion of children in Israel’s covenantal history from Abraham to Christ? The Credo Baptist says that without explicit proof of infant baptism in the New Testament, there is no requirement for such. The Paedo Baptist says without an explicit command to exclude infants there is no requirement to withhold them. Pretty simple, huh? Where one says, show me where it is done and I will comply, the other says show me where they have become excluded and I will comply. It is here, that the Reformed position has its best position. In view here is a difference of opinion on issues of continuity vs discontinuity of God’s promise to Abraham and how that promise comes to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 1. Children were included in God’s covenant with Abraham before he had even fathered his first son: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Gen 18:19 ESV)

2. Children were part of the Covenant with Abraham. God did not have them wait until they were old enough to make their own decision. To be uncircumcised was to be outside the covenant period. Covenant membership did not equal salvation. Jacob and Esau are evidence enough, though there is plenty more for the diligent reader. (This will be a topic for further exploration, it is here that Credo- vs Paedo-baptism really separates. One sees the New Covenant as a membership of only the redeemed, where the other sees the New Covenant as a membership of the redeemed and their family.) “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant,” (ESV Gen 17:7-14).

3. Children were commanded along with the adults to gather every 7th year to listen to the reading of the Law” “Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess,” (Deut 31:9-13).

4. God promises children are part of the covenant when the Redeemer comes: “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, declares the LORD. And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (ESV Is 59:20-21) Children were active members of the covenant. They were so ingrained that it would have been unnatural to think of their exclusion.

To summarize our four points above: 1.) God’s Covenant included children, 2.) Infants were circumcised for inclusion in the covenant, 3.) Children were expected to uphold the stipulations of the covenant. 4.) Children have a promised place in the covenant when the Redeemer comes. Baptists have no issues with any of those four issues. They do not deny children can be part of the new covenant, but they have to understand repent and be baptized before they enter. While they share covenantal continuity with parts 1, 3,and 4. Their understanding of the New Covenants nature forces them to drop continuity with issue 2. However, Peter did not share this covenantal schizophrenia. Peter stated without clarification, “For 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.” (ESV Acts 2:39). The inclusion of infants and children was so ingrained as seen from Abraham to Peter, that to now exclude them would warrant as much or more discussion as circumcision among gentiles and the change in dietary restrictions. I concur with Francis Schaeffer: “If Peter did not mean what the Jews understood him to mean in an Old Testament context-that God establishes his covenant not just with believers but our children also -then there would have been a riot on that day. Or if it had been a polite crowd, there would have been at least a few hands going up saying “Excuse me, Peter, what do you mean by that? Could you clarify yourself’ It was such a serious thing for the Jew to be told that God is changing a fundamental way in which He deals with people” Francis Schaeffer, Baptism (Wilmington: TriMark, 1976) 18-19; cf. Thomas M’Crie, Lectures on Christian Baptism (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1850), 60-62.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Reid Ferguson permalink
    May 24, 2009 6:19 am

    Flynn – as a CB, – but one who is not anti-paedobaptist as much as non-paedo-baptist, I would only point out that your citing of Acts 2:39 in this way is flawed. Peter’s referent regarding “the promise” is specifically to the Holy Spirit (see verse 33). That which is promised (the Holy Spirit) is promised to “everyone whom the Lord God calls to Himself.” It is not the promise of receiving the sign of the covenant. This is nowhere his topic. Those who believe, receive the promised Spirit – this is his point. To use it in the paedo-baptistic argument simply fails to meet exegetical muster.

    Let me add here, I have no desire to enter the debate beyond that. I enjoy too much close fellowship with my paedo-baptistic friends to allow this to be a dividing point.

  2. Josh permalink
    May 24, 2009 12:45 pm

    That’s my post that David helped me with, since my computer was giving me issues. Ill reread the post and respond later. I am not combative either :0)

  3. May 25, 2009 3:40 pm

    Vis-a-vis the circumcision-parallel argument above, I think the greatest difficulty is why the “continuation of the covenant sign through baptism” argument was never used by Paul, the author of Hebrews, or any other NT writer…especially at those moments when it would have been clearly strategically advantageous.

    Furthermore, the history of baptism in the early church also demonstrates that the circumcision-parallel was simply not a consideration for why infants should be baptized. Instead, the infant’s need for redemption (forgiveness of sins) was emphasized, linked with a strong view of baptismal regeneration as efficacious at the moment of administering baptism.

  4. Flynn permalink*
    May 26, 2009 11:15 am

    Hey Reid,

    While Josh has clarified that I didn’t write that, I would not agree with the point the promise is only for the “called ones,” (ie the elect or believers).

    1) I do think “even” is better in the translation than “and.”

    2) the “you” clearly refers to the whole crowd, not merely the elect or the penitent. If the “you” refers to the visible crowd then likewise does the “your children.” I don’t see any internal textual warrant to assume that either the “you,” “your children” and ‘calling’ refers to the elect, or the believers, or the effectual call
    3) I think the promise while referring to the Spirit speaks to the conditional promise, not the absolute promise to the elect, etc.
    4) I see no evidence that the “calling” is not the Call of the Gospel.

    Make sense?

    I think those Baptists who take such a strong stance on this do a similar thing to the text that High Calvinists do when they decretalize certain words and phrases.


  5. Josh permalink
    May 26, 2009 11:21 am


    I appreciate your comment, and I agree with you 100%. Which is why I listed Church History as one of the arguments I do not use for infant baptism. I do not want to be pegged into accepting baptismal regeneration.

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