Summary Points on Christian Baptism (Updated)

Here’s a summary of the points I made in my last sermon on Christian baptism:

The Meaning of Baptism

1. Baptism is not a Christian’s public profession of his own decision to believe in Christ (a truly Arminian idea), but the sign and seal of Christ’s own work of washing of a sinner to save him.

2. Not only believing adults are to be baptized, but also infants and little children of believing parents are to be baptized. Baptism must be administered only once.

3. Baptism does not save; rather, it is a sign and seal of salvation.

The Practice of Baptism

1. Infant baptism was practiced as early as the mid-2nd century, and was already widespread by the mid-3rd century. Therefore, it was not invented by the Roman Catholic Church, since there was no RCC, but just the Church, until the 6th or 7th century.

2. If the pattern of New Testament baptisms are an indicator of all baptisms, there were not only five household baptisms, but thousands. A household includes all individuals who live in the house. So it is a sheer impossibility that there was not a single infant or little child involved in these household baptisms.

3. Since membership in God’s covenant nation is imperative for Jews, it is inconceivable that thousands of Jewish converts would accept, without a single opponent, the exclusion of their old covenant children from the new covenant. Would they just have sheepishly accepted their children as being unclean, detestable pagans?

4. Infant dedication is completely without Biblical support. The presentation of Jesus at the temple was not infant dedication.

The Mode of Baptism

Baptism does not always mean immersion, and in fact, if read as immersion in many verses, end up in foolishness. The meaning includes washing, dipping, immersing, being united with a leader, and martyrdom. On the contrary, sprinkling and pouring are the most common pictures of salvation and forgiveness of sins (Ezek 36:25; Zech 12:10; Heb 10:22).

a. Two “baptism” examples—Noah’s flood (1Pet 3:20-21) and the Red Sea crossing (1Cor 10:1-2)—are the reverse of the “immersion” idea. Believers—Noah’s family and the Israelites—were saved by pouring or sprinkling, while unbelievers perished by “immersion.”

b. Romans 6:3-4 is hardly a picture of baptism by immersion. Being immersed into water cannot be analogous to being buried with Christ by baptism into death, because he was not buried under the ground but placed in an above-ground tomb. Thus, emerging from immersion cannot be a picture of being resurrected to walk in newness of life. On the contrary, this passage teaches us about a Christian’s union with Christ: his old sinful self is crucified and buried with Christ, and a new creature is raised with Christ in his resurrection.

The Covenant in Baptism

1. The sign and seal of membership in God’s old covenant nation is circumcision (with blood). This sign and seal is continued in the new covenant as water baptism (without blood).

2. Since there is continuity in the sign and seal of membership, the New Testament does not explicitly command, but assumes that infants and little children of believers are members of God’s covenant community.

Update: I just thought it would benefit Baptists who read this to realize that their Reformed roots did not know anything about baptism being a public declaration of faith, but a sign of union and ingrafting into Christ in his death and resurrection. Here is a comparison between the Reformed paedobaptist and credobaptist positions (notice that the 1689 LBCF is almost a word-for-word adaptation of the 1647 WCF):

1647 Westminster Confession of Faith 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith
WCF 28:1: Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world. LBCF 29:1: Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.