Paedobaptism: Promises Made, Sealed, and Kept

For Nora Ruth, a child of the covenant

The Coffee — The coffee in my mug comes from Methodical Coffee out of South Carolina. I went for their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe single origin. This region is always my go to when trying a new roaster and this did not dissappoint. This has strong notes of blueberry and chocolate, a profile I always enjoy. This coffee has been a wonderful companion in keeping me caffeinated in my first few weeks of parenthood

The Theology — In baptism, I have come to believe that God is the one claiming the child, and that it is his work to bring us into covenant with him, not us. I have come to believe, in a way, all who come to the font are as infants, helpless and unable to be grafted in without God’s work and grace. God has promised to be the Father to us and to our children, and our children’s, children. We must baptize in faith of God’s promise to us, joining our children with us in the family of God and the church. We should not exclude them, just like we should not exclude them from our dinner table and home, leaving them out until they reached a certain understanding of what our family is. This is not a modern interpretation to make us feel good, full households have always belonged to the family of God. Infants were included in God’s people via being part of Hebrew families and circumcision and differentiation was not made based on in vs. out of the covenant, but on faithfulness to the covenant. The commandment was not made in Scripture to stop giving the covenant sign to our children when the sign became baptism, and the scripture is silent about excluding members who were once a part of the covenant (children).

There are nine cases of baptism after Pentecost in Acts. Six of these baptisms state explicitly they are household baptisms. This leaves three baptisms where it is not stated that it was a household baptism: Paul who did not have a household, the Ethiopian eunuch who did not have a household and Simon the Sorcerer, the apostate. The only baptism where there was a chance for a household to be baptized and it was not was Simon the Sorcerer, where it was not stated definitively either way, and whose case is a not an example of the regenerate believer baptism that credobaptists would want to prop up as the example of their position.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to crossing of the Red Sea as a baptism, stating all passed through the sea, and all were baptized. Peter, in his first epistle, states that the flood and the ark correspond with baptism. In both instances, entire households were included. These events did not target households for their knowledge or profession of their individual faithfulness. Peter even directly states that God waited patiently on faithful Noah, and then saved his household. Through these we see that the covenant does not just include mature believers but households. Furthermore, in Hebrew’s 10, the author acknowledges there are unregenerate people in the covenant community who profane the blood of the covenant: “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” If this passage leaves open the idea of unregenerate within God’s covenant community, it does not seem to fit that God’s covenant sign now is only applied to regenerate believers.

In the above example of the Red Sea Exodus and the Great Flood we have a group of people, under the protection and blessing of God. These people, through the work of God alone, are brought to safety through the water. This water correspondingly spells judgment for those outside of God’s blessing, as God brings the water of judgment crashing against them. It is with this in mind that Peter tells us that baptism saves us. Baptism is not a mere outward sign of an inward reality, but it the sign and seal of God’s promise to us, and our children. It is the sign and seal that he will save and bless his faithful people and bring judgment on those on the outside of this blessing. The water separates us apart from the world as his people, as his church. He brings us into his family. The work has been done, by God and not by man, because God is faithful to his chosen people.

Much of above discussion stems from a certain understanding of covenant theology and how we envision this playing out in our families. We want to show that our great God is a faithful God to our children and generations after us. We want to show that he does what he promises to those who love him and keep his commandments. We want our kids to have these blessings and to be raised with those blessings, for Paul states that our children are holy and Christ says the Kingdom belongs to them (1 Corinthians 7:14; Matthew 19:14). We want them to never know a time where God didn’t love them or call them his child. We want them to know and believe this wonderful gift and promise of faithfulness from their Father in Heaven. We want to fully embrace this wonderful starting block for raising faithful stewards of God. Through all of this, as Doug Wilson states, we want to put our water where our mouth is.

Note: I have been grateful to the plethora of resources I have found and the discussions I have gotten to have on this subject that have brought me to this spot. I have been able to glean tons of wisdom from the faithful work of many.  Some who have had especially helpful work on this subject have been Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, and Gregg Strawbridge. There are many others, but if anyone is interested in studying the topic further, these men are a great place to start.  I must give a specific thank you to Caleb Skogen, who patiently walked me through many truths surrounding paedobaptism and was especially formative to much of my thoughts on the matter.  It should also be noted that there have been many faithful credobaptist pastors, friends, and family who have and continue to pour into and disciple me in who I will be forever grateful for and who I look forward to many more years of faithful fellowship and kingdom work with

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