Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Infant Baptism Exposed! Part 4

In this post we will look at some common verses in the New Testament used to support infant baptism. But I would remind you that when these verses are used to support infant baptism, that it is assumed that their understanding of the covenants is right. So any debate must begin there. But it may be helpful to go through a few of these verses to show more convincingly that infant baptism is entirely absent from the Bible. 

Acts 2:38-39

 ‘For the promise is for you and for your children and for those who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ Yes, the promise of salvation is for all whom the Lord our God will call—all whom He calls to Himself. The  gospel promise is for the Jews that are present, for their children and for the gentiles who are far off.  (Ephesians 2:11-13.)  Does He call every child of believers to Himself? No. We see often enough children of believers who have rejected Christ—who reject all that they have been taught. Why? Because they were not called to God—He did not call them to Himself. This passage is referring to God's effectual and irresistible call that leads to salvation.

1 Corinthians 7:13-14
‘If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.’ So the children and spouse of a believing wife/husband are made holy. Does this mean that they have salvation? Does this mean that the unbelieving spouse also has salvation? No, of course not. They come under the believing spouse’s Christian influence and so, Paul notes, they are much more likely to be saved in due course through their own faith. Thus they are in a real sense “set apart” from other unbelievers and from the evil of the world. ‘ (ESV notes.) This does not mean that they will be saved or that they are saved, for if the believing spouse leaves, they are left unclean—with no spiritual or moral influence over them. The basis for their holiness is not the faith of the parent/spouse, but the presence of that parent/spouse.
It’s interesting that in Ezra and Nehemiah, when the people had intermarried and had spouses and children who were not Israelites, they had to divorce them—they had to ‘get rid of them’ and separate themselves from them. That was the OT way of doing things but here in the new covenant, this is not the way we do it. We stay with them so that we can have an influence in their lives and maybe win them over to Christ.

Matthew 19:14
‘But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive this.’' 

Mark 10:14-15

‘But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’’ And, also in Luke 18:15-17. It does not say that the kingdom of heaven belongs to these. But, it is saying that to enter into the kingdom of heaven you have to come with childlike trust. It belongs to those who know they are helpless to attain entrance into the kingdom—it must be received as a gift. 

Household baptisms 

Household baptisms are a weak argument to use to prove infant baptisms. First, there are not many compared to individuals who believe and are baptized. We have in the New Testament 4 household baptisms, two households that came to faith (John 4:53, Acts 18:8)  and 3005 individual baptisms (Acts 2:41, 8:39, 9:18, 19:5, 1 Cor 1:14) that are known to us of people who believed and were baptized.. There were, of course, more people baptized as we know from Acts 8:12 where we learn that "When they believed Philip,....... they were being baptized men and women alike." Note that it doesn't mention anything about infants or children. Surely these men and women had children. Second, it is bad to base a doctrine and practice on assumptions. If I were to pick at random 4 families in a large church, how many of them would have very young children? Chances are most families in a larger church don't have very young children. Using household baptisms to support infant baptism means you must assume there are very young children. Third, household baptisms are used to support infant baptism but are not practiced. No one I know practices household baptisms where when upon the conversion of a father or mother then all the children and unbelieving spouse are baptized even if they reject the gospel. If the head of a household believes do you baptize his slaves or servants even if they don't believe? And at what age would you not baptize children in the family? Do you baptize children of believers if they are 5 or 10 or 15 and they show no evidence of saving faith? Household baptisms cause more problems for infant baptism than they solve. But I think if we look closely at each case you will see that these household baptisms were also household conversions.

Cornelius' household 

This story is found in Acts 10. Cornelius gathered his relatives and close friends to hear Peter preach. While Peter was preaching the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening. These Gentiles then began to speak in tongues and started praising God. This coming of the Holy Spirit on those who were listening led Peter to conclude that these people were to be baptized as well. "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" verse 47. It seems clear from the passage that there was a gathering of people who were listening to Peter preach and the Holy Spirit came on them which was the basis for Peter then baptizing them.
 In Chapter 11:14 we are told that God told Cornelius to send for Peter who "will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household."  Here we learn that Peter's gospel message would bring salvation to Cornelius and to his household. The salvation given to Cornelius is the same that was given to his household; a salvation that is secure, permanent, and complete. I hope that  no one wants to argue that infants have salvation forever based on their parent's faith. Or that somehow there are two different salvations in this text; one for Cornelius and one for his household. When you put all these details together, it seems very unlikely that infants were present and were baptized.

The Philippian jailer's household 

 Acts 16 25-34. Notice here in this case that Paul and Silas spoke the word to all that were in his house. verse 32. And that he believed in God with his whole house. verse 34. Also verse 31 is similar to Acts 11:14 which we looked at already. It is clear that all those in the household heard the gospel, believed, and were baptized.

Lydia's household 

Acts 16: 11-15. In this case we have very few details. But again in order to use this to support infant baptism you need to assume Lydia was married and had young children. We don't read of her husband if she had one. She lived in Thyatira which was about 300 miles from Philippi where she was staying. She was on a business trip it seems. Lydia's case is inconclusive in this matter of infant baptism.

Stephanas' household

1 Corinthians 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:15. Paul baptized this household, but in the end of the book we are told that this household were the first converts of Achaia and this household was devoted to serving God's people. This is another case of a household conversion with a household baptism.


Originally I planned to simply post my wife's article on baptism, but because that was written in response to another article, it wasn't a good format. So I started writing a whole new defense of believer's baptism while inserting some of Fenna's work. What started out only going to be one blog post has become four. Since these posts are brief and introductory, if you want to study more on the subject I would recommend the book "Believer's Baptism, Sign of the New Covenant in Christ," edited by Thomas Schreiner and Shawn Wright.

 I dislike controversies. I dislike writing about them. But there is a time for them to be confronted. The reason I defended believer's baptism is because the truth matters. When we leave the truth and go into error there are always negative consequences. Some of the consequences are minor. Infant baptism leads to actively adding unbelievers into the church. Infant baptism prevents many from having the blessing and encouragement that comes from being Biblically baptized. But some of the consequences are major and serious. Because there is a very close connection between baptism, conversion, and the new birth in the Bible, the gospel is often confused or distorted. Too often infant baptism brings false assurance of salvation. Let me be clear, not every paedobaptist does this. Thankfully there are many who call their children to repent and believe in the gospel and emphasize the need for conversion. I think of men like JC Ryle, Joel Beeke and Thomas Watson. While they still practice infant baptism, they maintain that their children must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven.
    But it is when the gospel is confused that I feel compelled to write. It is when terms used in the Bible for Christians are given to "covenant" children. It is when people say their children are children of God, or they were born Christians, or they are in Christ, or that they have the Holy Spirit or they are adopted and forgiven by God. It makes me angry when, because of  infant baptism, people can't understand regeneration, conversion, and the new birth. I read where some were debating whether a "covenant" child who grew up to live a godless and immoral life and then repented later in life was always saved and simply straying from her God or if she was born again when she repented later in life. Most concluded that she was saved all along, even though she confessed hating God. Infant baptism also can cause people to practically deal with their children like they are saved. They will say they are not saved and infant baptism doesn't equate salvation but how they talk and teach their kids gives the impression that they do believe their children are saved. Infant baptism often leads to a softening of the gospel call to repent of your sins and cling in faith to Christ's work. I hear things like "they need to accept God's promises." "they must meet the obligations of the covenant by believing in the promises of God." or they are "called to be obedient to the Lord." This weakens the gospel call to repentance. It can lead to confusion, legalism, and a Mosaic covenant model. Listen! Everyone must be born again. Everyone must repent and believe in the good news of the gospel. That includes your unbelieving neighbor's children and your children too. You must tell them that. It is a serious and deadly thing to not call them to repentance. These are the main reasons why we wrote against infant baptism.

Brad and Fenna

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