Friday, May 18, 2012

A Case for Believer's Baptism

Believer's Baptism (Credobaptism) versus Infant Baptism (Paedobaptism)
Throughout the New Testament water baptism follows evidence of repentance and faith in its teaching and examples. (ex. Matt. 28:18-20; Lk. 3:3-8; Mk. 1:4; Acts 2:38) Water baptism is called the baptism of repentance. It seems clear that infants cannot demonstrate the evidence of repentance and faith in order to be baptized.

Was Abraham a believer? Indeed he was. Yet his descendents who came to be baptized by John were told instead to bear fruits worthy of repentance and called a brood of vipers. (Lk. 3:7-8)
This passage in Luke goes on to say that "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones."
A note on John's baptism, Christian baptism, & the baptism of the Spirit:
Note on Baptism in Ac. Baptism in water (such as John's) is distinguished from baptism with the Holy Spirit (i. 5, etc.). Those who receive the latter, however, may also be baptized in water (cf. xi. 16 with x. 47); and there is one example of people who had previously received John's baptism receiving Christian baptism as a preliminary to receiving the Spirit (xix. 3 ff.). John's was a baptism of repentance (xiii. 24; xix. 4), as was also Christian baptism (ii. 38), but as John's pointed forward to Jesus (xix. 4), it became obsolete when He came. Christian baptism followed faith in the Lord Jesus (xvi. 31 ff.); it was associated with His name (ii. 38; viii. 16, etc.), which was invoked by the person baptized (xxii. 16); it signified the remission (ii. 38) or washing away of sins (xxii. 16); sometimes it preceded (ii. 38; viii. 15 ff.; xix. 5), sometimes followed (x. 47 f.) the receiving of the Spirit. (F. F. Bruce. The Acts of the Apostles [Greek Text Commentary], London: Tyndale, 1952, p. 98, n. 1.)

Jn 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
Becoming members of the family of God, and members of the New Covenant family, is by adoption; it is not according to blood as the paedobaptist position asserts. We become children of God and heirs to the promise through adoption upon belief in Christ; not through physical birth as it had been under the Old Covenant.
For more on this text see Dr. Bob Gonzales' blog Why I Am Still A Baptist. In it he writes:
"The question is one of divinely bestowed legal warrant (John 1:12). What the Credobaptist avers is that this demand for a credible profession of faith as the warrant for inclusion within God’s New Covenant family is not a substantial continuation of the state of affairs under the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants with, of course, a few minor changes, like the switch from circumcision to baptism and from the Passover to the Lord’s Supper. It is, rather, a new state of affairs from a redemptive-historical standpoint. Hence, the church and her leadership are no longer warranted by God to include physical seed in the covenant by virtue of mere blood-ties to believing parents. To those who receive Christ and to those alone does God grant de jure the privilege of New Covenant member status."
Gal. 3 plainly states that the promises were to Abraham and his Seed - that is, Christ, and that we access these promises through faith in Christ.
John Reisinger's notes on this passage:
"First of all, we must realize that the Scriptures themselves make a clear distinction between Abraham's "seed" (singular) and "seeds" (plural), and that this distinction is vitally important. Paul argues that the real promise that God made was to Abraham and a specific singular seed and not plural seeds. The following text is crucial to a correct understanding of Paul's use of the OT promise of God to Abraham and his seed: Now to Abraham and his seed [singular] were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds [plural] as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Gal. 3:16 We may not be able to agree on exactly what promises Paul was talking about in the above text, but one thing is certain: the seed to whom the true promises were made cannot involve the use of a plural to describe the objects of the promise. It must be a singular seed and not plural seeds. The importance of Paul's dogmatic argument is obvious. If our theological view holds that the "promise to Abraham and his seed" (singular) involves either the Jews and their physical children or Christian parents and their children, then we are contradicting Paul's statement in Gal 3:16. This clear fact cannot be denied. Paul's whole argument, based on the Holy Spirit's use of the singular "seed" instead of plural "seeds," is that the promises were made to Abraham and one particular seed, namely Christ. Any attempt to make "Abraham's seed" refer to either the Jews or to Christian parents in this passage is to destroy Paul's whole argument. We can assert with Apostolic authority that the "seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made" has absolutely nothing to do with physical birth. It does not matter if the physical birth was in a Jewish or a Christian home." (Abraham's Four Seeds, Ch.1)
Ro 9:7-8, "nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called.' That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed."
I don't know how Paul could state it any more plainly that the children of the flesh are not the children of promise.
He. 8 teaches that the New Covenant is a better covenant in that it is a spiritual covenant and of its members He says, "I will put My laws in... their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
The New Covenant is a spiritual covenant and its members true believers - i.e. the invisible church. Inclusion, becoming heirs of the promise, is by adoption through belief.
Passages often used to support infant baptism:
Acts 2:39
"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:38-39)
First, it should be noted that Peter is speaking to unbelievers, not Christian parents.
Peter is quoting the 'promise' in Joel which is "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;" & the promise to children here is no more unique than to those who are afar off. The promise that those who call upon the Lord will be saved is for the unbelievers, their children, and to all who far off. 
Matt. 19:14
"But Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'"
There is no mention of baptism here, nor are infants of believers indicated. Nor does Christ say that all little children belong to the kingdom. What He is saying is that those who make up the kingdom of heaven are like little children in their humility and dependence.
Nevertheless, let's look at Mk. 10:14 from another angle and press this further. For the sake of argument let's assume the paedos are correct and this case shows that the infants of believers are included in the kingdom of God. What that would mean is that all these children are regenerated. For no one can see, or realize, the kingdom of God unless they are born again (Jn. 3:3).
Perhaps that is why John Murray concluded from these texts that children of Christian parents "are members of his kingdom and therefore have been regenerated." (Christian Baptism, p. 62) He made no attempt to resolve this inconsistency.
Unless paedos want to conclude, along with Murray, that all the children of believers are regenerated and partakers of the kingdom of God, then I think they should abandon their interpretation of these texts.
1Cor 7:14
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."
Paedobaptists often use this verse to point out that the children of believers are holy and are to be included in the New Covenant.

In context, the passage is addressing the believing spouse remaining married to the unbelieving spouse as long as they are willing to remain in the marriage. The marriage is legitimate and the children are likewise legitimate. It makes more sense to see this addressing the legitimacy of the children in the marriage.
The paedobaptist wants to press the issue NC inclusion for the children, but not for the unbelieving spouse. Yet, both are described using synonymous terms. If the unbelieving spouse is excluded then so too are the unbelieving children.
To quote Thomas R. Schreiner, "Surprisingly, Wilson appeals to the fact that children are 'holy' (hagios) to support baptism, but places the verb 'sanctify' (hagiazo) as it is used of unbelieving spouses in a different category (To a Thousand Generations, 17). The two words belong to the same semantic domain, however, and are used synonymously in this context. There is no warrant exegetically for Wilson to permit baptism for children who are holy and to deny it to the spouses who are sanctified." (Believer's Baptism, p.96)
See also:
We must not mistake privilege with possession of the promise. It is a privilege to be born to a Christian parent, just as it was a privilege for the Jew to be born under the Old Covenant, but that does not automatically bring with it the spiritual status needed for inclusion in the New Covenant.
Col. 2:11-12
"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead."
Often paedobaptists will use this text to show that water baptism is a one-to-one replacement for physical circumcision. But, spiritual circumcision (regeneration) is in view here; not physical circumcision. So, the text is actually saying that baptism is for those who have been regenerated.
Household Baptisms in Acts:
It is often assumed by paedobaptists that infants were present where household baptisms are mentioned in Acts. But, this assumption is unfounded. In fact, the examples in Acts indicate that the ones baptized were those who had believed.
Those who were baptized in Cornelius' household were also described as those who heard the word, received the Spirit, believed, and repented. (Acts 10 & 11) This description does not describe infants. In the case of Lydia's household very little is said, but there is no mention of infants. (Acts 16:14-15) For the Philipian jailor, he and his household are said to have believed prior to baptism. (Acts 16:30-34) In addition, Crispus "believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)
Warning Passages:
Paedobaptists will sometimes point to warning passages in scripture to show that those who are members of the New Covenant can apostatize. It must be noted that there are many ways to understand the warning passages in scripture. But, these texts must be understood along with all the other texts in scripture which address the believer's security.
One such text that is used in support of the paedobaptist postion is He. 10:29. Douglas Wilson uses this text, among others, in his book, To A Thousand Generations. We must keep in mind the author of Hebrews' conclussion in chapter 10, "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 'For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul."
"we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul."
The paedobaptist interpretation of warning passages, like this one, ignores the clear teaching of plain scripture that members of the New Covenant are 'not of those who draw back to perdition', 'who believe to the saving of the soul', who the Lord has put His laws in their minds and written them on their hearts, who all know Him, and whose sins and lawless deeds are no longer remembered. (He. 8:10-12)
Peter Van Mastricht's comments on the position of the early Fathers and the Reformers from his Treatise on Regeneration:
It is argued by those of the contrary opinion [baptismal regeneration] that theirs is the received opinion of the Fathers, also of eminent men among the Reformed themselves. They cite Augustine and Prosper among the Fathers, Pareus, Davenant, Ward, and Forbes among the Reformed. To this I answer that the Fathers, whenever they speak of baptism, are wont to use very strong expressions; nevertheless, they very often suppose regeneration and faith previous to baptism. Thus Justin Martyr, representing the practice of the primitive church, said, 'Whosoever have been persuaded and have believed - and have received power so to live - are then brought by us to the water and are regenerated, after the same mode of regeneration in which we ourselves have been regenerated.' The Fathers therefore can by no means be reconciled with each other without a distinction of regeneration into two parts: the real, which precedes baptism, and the sacramental, which consists in a solemn profession, declaration, and sealing of that which is real. In this sense the Reformed divines also hold that regeneration is effected by baptism." (pp. 56-57)

Mastricht also wrote that the "common opinion of the Reformers" with respect to the baptism of infants was a presupposition of regeneration - i.e. presumptive regeneration. In other words, they ~could~ have been regenerated in the womb or at the time of baptism... as at anytime according the sovereign Spirit. It was treated as an assumption out of ignorance in the case of infants rather than a reality, or certainty. (p. 51)
The idea of presumptive regeneration in the case of infant baptism is a case of believer's baptism nonetheless.
Is the mode of baptism (immersion or sprinkling) important?
If it were not that baptism signifies the death, burial, and resurrection then mode very well may be unimportant. But, since it does, then immersion best represents the Christian's death, burial, and resurrection in Christ and with Christ. (Ro. 6:3&4) Sprinkling cannot be a likeness of our death, burial, and resurrection.

Immersion was the practice of the early church as well, for the same reason.

Schmeman makes this observation:
In the early church the terms 'likeness' and 'pattern' most obviously refer to the 'form' of Baptism, i.e., to the immersion of the catechumen in water and his rising up from it. Yet it is this very form which manifests, communicates, and fulfills the 'essence,' is its very 'epiphany,' so that the term 'likeness,' being the description of the form, is at the same time the revelation of the 'essence.' Baptism being performed 'in the likeness' and 'after the pattern' of death and resurrection therefore is death and resurrection. And the early Church, before she explains --- if she explainss them at all --- the 'why,' the 'what,' and the 'how' of this baptismal death and resurrection, simply knew that to follow Christ one must first, die and rise again with Him and in Him; that Christian life truly begins with an event in which, as in all genuine events, the very distinction between 'form' and 'essence' is but an irrelevent abstraction. In Baptism --- because it is and event --- the form and the essence, the 'doing' and the 'happening,' the sign and its meaning coincide, for the purpose of one is precisely to be the other, both to reveal and to fulfill it. Baptism is what it represents because what it represents --- death and resurrection --- is true. It is the representation of not an 'idea' but of the very content and reality of the Christian faith itself: to believe in Christ is to 'be dead and have one's life hid with Him in God' (Col. 3:3). Such is the central, overwhelming, and all-embracing experience so self-evident, so direct, that at first that she did not even 'explain' it but saw it rather as the source and the condition of all explanations, all theologies.10  (Understanding Four Views on Baptism, p.17, quoting Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, pp 55-56. Underlining mine.)
The Didache, which dates back to the time of the Apostles, says:

"And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before."

As the material above shows, immersion was the standard practice of the early church. Concerning those instructions, there are many who have access to water for immersion but opt to sprinkle anyway. Sprinkling is the inferior mode, and last to be used, yet paedos argue for sprinkling over immersion, or to the exclusion of immersion.


 With respect to what the term means, here is an interesting quote:

John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, and John Calvin all argue that the word means 'immerse.' Luther states, 'I would have those who are to be baptized completely immersed in the water, as the word says and as mystery indicates.... This is doubtless the way in which it was instituted by Christ.' Calvin writes, 'The word 'baptize' means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was observed in the ancient church,' but 'the details [of mode] are of no importance.'5 The irony of this concession is that it comes in a section in which Calvin vehemently criticized many of the unauthorized forms that intruded into the practice of baptism in the Roman Catholic Church. 'Let us learn,' he admonishes, 'that there is nothing holier or better or safer than to be content with the authority of Christ alone.'6 So we should all agree. And thus immersion should be the practice of all." (Tom Nettles, Understanding Four Views on Baptism, pp 26-27)
If not for what it represents - death, burial, & resurrection - then the mode may be unimportant. As it is, baptism should be a means of salvation for observers and reflect the gospel. Immersion best illustrates what is going on; sprinkling does not.
This word should not be confused with baptô (911). The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (baptô) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizô) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. (

There is no clear biblical support for infant baptism as defended by most paedobaptists today. The paedobaptist position of most is driven by its Covenant Theology which is then read into selected scripture with many unfounded assumptions. The clear teaching of scripture is that belief and repentance precede water baptism.
For a more thorough discussion on the topic I highly recommend Believer's Baptism, Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, by Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn D. Wright.

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