If you look in a concordance, you will not find the words infant baptism. The words never come up in Scripture. We never read of even one example of an infant being baptized in all the New Testament. No where does any writer of the New Testament explain or teach this doctrine of infant baptism. So then why do many baptize infants? Depends on who you ask. Catholics have their own strange reasons for baptizing infants. They believe the water is supposed to remove their original sin. Lutherans baptize infants based on the faith of parents or sponsors. The Reformed would tell you they baptize infants of believers based on an eternal covenant of grace made with believers and their children. This covenant is how they can justify baptizing infants when there is no example or explanation of infant baptism in the Bible.
I want to show you from Scripture that this covenant of grace with believers and their children doesn't exist. No where in the Bible will you find such a covenant. And if there is no such covenant, then the foundation of infant baptism crumbles. In fact those who hold to this form of infant baptism are wrong not only about this covenant with believers and their children, but they are also wrong in their understanding of circumcision, the Abrahamic covenant, and the New covenant. We don't need to leave the Old Testament to prove that infant baptism is without scriptural support. The battle begins and ends with the covenant with Abraham. So while better and wiser men have written on this subject, I intend to expose from scripture the errors surrounding infant baptism from the perspective of one who left infant baptism.
God's Covenant with Abraham
In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised to Abraham that He would make him into a great nation, which assumes land for that nation to live in, and God promised to make Abraham's name great. The result would be that Abraham would be a blessing to all the families in the world; a blessing that would come through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. In Genesis 15, we see God making a covenant with Abraham to guarantee the promise made to him in the land of Haran. Abraham was a little unsure of how God could promise such great things to him, when he had no child. But God ratified this promise with a covenant to show Abraham how certain God's promises were. God gave additional details in this covenant concerning what He would give Abraham, for example in verses 19-20, God promised to give to Abraham's offspring the land of Canaan and then specified its boundaries. Abraham believed God's promise in spite of its impossibilities. Later the Lord reaffirms His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. The Lord again promises to greatly multiply Abraham and make many nations and kings come from him. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants forever. Then the Lord commands that Abraham circumcise all males in his household as a sign of this covenant. All Abraham's servants and slaves are to be circumcised, even Ishmael and Abraham. In fact anyone who was not circumcised was to be excluded from the covenant by God's divine judgement.
Let us consider what was the meaning and purpose of circumcision, for those who practice infant baptism say that circumcision and baptism are signs of this covenant of grace and that they have a very similar meaning. Circumcision was a sign and seal that they were physical descendants of Abraham or had joined the physical nation of Israel . They were a nation set apart. Not necessarily saved but set apart so that God could make Himself known to the nations through them. Circumcision reminded them of God's covenant with which He said that He was their God, not in a salvific sense, but in a national sense. He had chosen this race to be His nation. They were to be His nation by walking in His law or else they lose the blessings of being in this covenant by disobedience. Circumcision was then a reminder of all this. Circumcision also called the Jewish nation to break off from sin and call out to God for a circumcised heart. It was a picture of what had to be done to their hearts—their hearts needed circumcision. Jeremiah 4:4a, ‘Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem…’ Or Deut. 10:16, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn." Therefore circumcision was to be a sign of God's covenant with Abraham and his descendants which promised a land, a nation, kings, and a blessing that would be worldwide. Also it would remind the people of their position as God's people so that they would walk in obedience, removing sin from their lives and recognizing their need for a new heart, they would call out to God in faith and repentance. This will be important when we see how baptism is different.
First, it is important to note that this covenant is not with believer's and their children. This is a covenant made with a believer, Abraham, and his descendants, that is his physical children, grand children, great grand children and so on though the generations. Also the covenant includes slaves who are bought by Abraham and his descendants or slaves who are born in their households.
Second, we who are gentiles are children of Abraham only by faith in Christ. ‘Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.’ (Galatians 3:7) ‘So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.’ (Galatians 3:9) ‘But now faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (the law (v.24)) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.’ (Galatians 3: 26-27, 29) We share in the blessings of Abraham through faith in Christ, not our parent's faith in Christ.
Third, the requirement to circumcise a baby was not faith of the parents, but the physical lineage to Abraham. You can see that here in Genesis 17:10 and 14. Every male was to be circumcised; no exceptions. Also in the Mosaic Covenant, God made it law for the Jewish nation that all males born must be circumcised on the 8th day. Leviticus 12:3, ‘On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.’ It’s the law for all Israel. If that is not plain enough, consider Joshua 5:2-7 where God commands that all males are to be circumcised at Gilgal because they had not circumcised during the wilderness wanderings. So male children could be circumcised lawfully even if they were the children of ungodly Jewish parents. The truth that circumcision was based on one's physical lineage to Abraham agrees with all the Old Covenant feasts and festivals. Passover was to be celebrated by all Jews regardless of their heart condition. The feast of booths, the feast of weeks, and the feast of unleavened bread were all to be observed by all the people, unbelieving and believing. These were national feasts to point the people back to what God had done, to call the people to submit to their covenant God and to point them to the Messiah who would fulfill all these types and shadows. If we forget or ignore the national character of the Old Testament, we will make many grievous errors.
Fourth, Consider Esau who was a child born in God's covenant to Abraham. He was circumcised and yet God said of him before he was even born, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." Rom 9:18. Being in the Abrahamic covenant didn't mean that God loved, claimed or forgave each Jewish boy.
Now at this point we shouldn't need to go further. The Reformed understanding of the covenant of grace and circumcision is unbiblical. Their strongest argument is cracked and broken.There is no covenant of grace with believers and their children. But in order to show more clearly how broken this understanding is, we need to show how the New Covenant and baptism are different from the Abrahamic covenant and circumcision. This we will show in another post.
Brad and Fenna