Forty Short Homilies on Infant Baptism
Forty Short Homilies on Infant Baptism
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Forty Short Homilies on Infant Baptism

Introduction

The gap this book is seeking to fill

There are many lengthy books on baptism, but very few brief introductions to the subject. Each chapter of this book attempts to do just that. I have given over two hundred baptism homilies over the past thirty years, and these talks have produced dozens of requests that the homilies be published. Because of the unpolished nature of these talks, I have been reluctant to do so. But when several pastors have also prevailed upon me to put some of my baptism talks into print, I have finally agreed to reproduce forty of the talks that were recorded. Since each chapter is a word-for-word transcription of an actual baptism meditation, these chapters will not be edited, and there will be a few central themes that will get repeated from chapter to chapter. The reason I have left these talks unedited (with the exception of deleting a few names) is to give people a genuine feel for how I have approached the subject in our congregation. Pastors may feel free to use ideas and phrases without credit. I pray that this book will be a blessing to the church.

What this book is not

But for those with a critical eye, it might be useful to say what this book is not. It is not an academic treatise on baptism designed to convince skeptics (though some skeptics may be convinced). It is not an attempt to fairly present both sides of a debate (though I started off as a Baptist and became a Presbyterian, and am sympathetic to both sides). The chapters do not represent carefully nuanced arguments (though I am capable of such). There is no logical progression from chapter to chapter. So I would encourage the reader not to read this book as an academic defense of infant baptism. If you want a treatise defending the doctrine of infant baptism, read my book, Seven Principles That Call For Infant Baptism. If you want a treatise defending the mode of pouring or sprinkling (often called affusion because both modes have the water moving down upon the subject rather than having the subject moving into the water) I would urger the reader to read Ben Rose’s amazing tract, “Baptism by Sprinkling” or to read William the Baptist by James M. Chaney - available at http://williamthebaptist.com

1. Galatians 3:26-4:2

Please stand for the reading of God’s Word from Galatians chapter 3. I will be reading a smaller section from a long argument that the apostle Paul gives on why we and our children are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and on the merits of Christ alone. Beginning to read at Galatians 3:26.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.

You may be seated. Before I dig into chapter 4:1-2, I want to briefly mention six very important points of information that the apostle has already given in this chapter. I won’t try to prove them; I will just list them. Those six points are:

First, we are justified by faith alone apart from our works just as Abram was.

Second, that just as Abraham became heir of God’s promises by faith, believers today become heir of God’s promises made to Abraham by faith. There is no difference there.

Third, verses 26-29 make it clear that only heirs can be baptized and the promises are only made to heirs.

Fourth, every one of God’s promises made to Abraham was made to Abraham and His seed, and Paul makes the point that the Abrahamic covenant continues to give promises to believers and their seed. It wouldn’t be the Abrahamic covenant if the seed were excluded.

Fifth, verses 15-18 makes clear that nothing added to the Abrahamic covenant by Moses or any covenant afterwards can abrogate the principle of salvation by faith apart from works. This means that just as Abraham couldn’t be justified by faith plus circumcision, we can’t be justified by faith plus baptism, or faith plus anything. Neither circumcision nor baptism justifies an adult or a baby.

Sixth, the paragraph we read this morning deals with who may be baptized in the Abrahamic covenant. Verses 26-29 indicate that all believers may be baptized, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free, males or females, and chapter 3:29-4:2 indicates that the children of each of those believers are also heirs and therefore may be baptized.

And I won’t try to argue any of those points. I’m going to assume that you already believe in infant baptism. I just want to look at seven phrases in chapter 4:1-2 that specifically apply to [name of baby girl].

First, God still has a plan for our children. The word for child in verse 1 is νήπιος, and refers to a child who is ignorant or who cannot speak yet. The dictionary says that it “refers to beings ranging from fetal status to puberty,” though usually it just refers to a very young child (BDAG). We can praise the Lord that children still have a place in God’s plan. Isaiah 40:11 says of God’s relation to the church of the New Covenant era, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” And that’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus took the little children and infants in His arms and said, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” This makes sense since the Abrahamic covenant was to believers and their children. [Name of baby girl] has a special place in God’s plan.

Second, she is said to be an “heir.” This is picking up the language of chapter 3:29, which says of believers, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” You can only be an heir if in some way Christ claims you. This again shows that there has been no change in the status of the children of believers. God continues to give promises to them; promises which they must claim as they grow up. He continues to claim them in some way. Christ has a claim on little Willa, and if she is an heir, then she has a claim on Christ.

Third, [Name of baby girl] is said to not differ at all from a slave until she comes of age. In the modern world we tend to think poorly of the concept of slaves. But slaves under Abraham were given special family status. They were fed, clothed, protected, and provided for. But there is a sense in which their future is directed by the believing parents. The children didn’t make all of the choices right away. [Names of mother and father] are making many choices for [name of baby girl], and this morning they are making a choice of bringing her to the Lord. Will she make a choice of her own in the future? Obviously yes. But she is not left in limbo in the meantime. God owns [name of baby girl].

The next phrase says, “though he is master of all.” When the elect are under age, they have a destiny of being sons and daughters, but they may not yet understand that. And if you look at the whole purpose of guardians and stewards in the larger context of the Mosaic economy being a guardian or steward to lead us to Christ and to lead us to faith, this is one of [names of mother and father] chief responsibilities – to lead [Name of baby girl] to Christ and into her inheritance and into maturity.

The next phrase is, “but are under guardians [ἐπίτροπος,]” [Names of mother and father] have entered a responsibility of being guardians of [Name of baby girl] before the Lord. They are to care for her, instruct her, and raise her in the nurture of the Lord. I think it is awesome that God makes a provision of guardianship for babies.

The next phrase is “and stewards [οἰκὀνόμος]” A steward was a trustee of something that belongs to another. Joseph was the steward of all that Potiphar owned. Well, if the children of believers are a stewardship trust, that means that God owns that child and [names of father and mother] will be accountable to God for how they raise that child. In Luke 12:42 Jesus asks, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?” The summary answer to that question is given by Spicq, who says that a steward must be

… hard-working, zealous, competent, circumspect. ‘What is required of stewards is that they be found faithful,’ worthy of the master’s confidence.1

This is one of the reasons we have parents take vows to follow through on their commitment when they bring their child to the covenant. The baptism is the acknowledgment that the Abrahamic covenant continues to be to believers and their seed and an acknowledgment that they are accountable to Him.

And the last phrase says, “until the time appointed by the father.” And in context, the time of appointment appears to be the time when the child self-consciously makes profession of faith and enters into the privileges of full sonship. Only God knows that date. So with that encouragement, I will ask [Names of mother and father] to bring [name of baby girl] up to acknowledge that they embrace their responsibilities in the Abrahamic covenant.

2. Luke 1:59-66

Introduction - connection of baptism to circumcision

Joel and Cheri’s son, Ethan, will be baptized this morning. If Ethan had been born before the cross of Christ had wiped away all blood ceremonies, I would be performing a circumcision on him. I tell you what - I’m glad we are living in the time of the new covenant! Jesus was the final sacrifice, and the only thing that remains from the Old Testament initiatory sign is baptism. Baptism takes the place of circumcision as the sign of the covenant. And I have a two-page chart in my notes here of 21 things that the Bible ascribes to both baptism and circumcision, with 88 supporting Scriptures.2 Baptism entirely replaces the other and has exactly the same meaning as the other. I won’t cover those points, but the chart gives Scriptures that show that both circumcision and baptism are a sign and seal of the covenant of grace; both initiate people into the covenant; both symbolize regeneration, both point to the need for justification by faith; both point to cleansing from defilement; both oblige the recipients to die to the world and to walk in newness of life. John Calvin said that any argument that could be brought against infant baptism could be brought against infant circumcision. They signify and seal the same things. I won’t cover all twenty-one points, but I just say this much as background to Luke 1, where I want to take my baptism meditation. I am assuming the truth of this chart that baptism and circumcision signify and seal exactly the same things.

Meditation

John was receiving the sign of circumcision in Luke 1, and since the meaning of circumcision and baptism are the same, I think we can learn a lot from this text. First, circumcision was not just applied to believing adults (like Abraham), but it was also applied to their children. Verse 59 says, “So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child.” All the way back to Genesis 17 God commanded the sign of the covenant to be applied to infants on the eighth day and said that those who were not circumcised would be cut off from the covenant and its privileges and protections. The early church understood this connection. That’s why all the way up to AD 2533 many (if not most) in the church appear to have baptized children on the eighth day after birth, because that was the day infants were circumcised in Old Testament times. Thus, Fidus (who was the moderator of a large presbytery) wrote a circular in AD 250 to all the churches in his Presbytery saying that Baptism should be delayed until the eighth day after a child was born on the analogy of circumcision. Apparently some people preferred to have their child baptized on Sunday and had good theological reasons for why in the New Covenant, Sunday was called the eighth day, so they appealed the decision to the Council of Carthage. At the Council of Carthage in AD 253, it was settled that babies could be baptized on Sunday even if it was earlier or later than the eighth day, and they gave several reasons. But they too argued that they were faithfully showing the connection to circumcision.

But I find it significant that there is no evidence that anyone objected to infant baptism. In fact, almost a hundred years earlier, elders from other presbyteries – like Justyn Martyr, Aristides, and Clement of Alexandria spoke of baptism as an apostolic practice. Numerous church fathers in the second and third centuries equated baptism with circumcision. So it is no wonder that you see infant baptism everywhere. Irenaeus (who was taught by Polycarp, John’s disciple) applied baptism “to infants and little ones and children and youths and older persons,” and he wrote that in AD 180. Origen said, “the church has a tradition from the apostles to give baptism even to infants.” So all over the church you see people practicing infant baptism as a replacement of circumcision. Hippolytus said the same in AD 215. Etc., etc. The point is, the early church never stopped including children in the covenant, and the first church council at which any controversy was raised over baptism was in AD 253, and it was only on which day the sign should be applied to the infant. Infant baptism was universally practiced; Sunday was treated as equivalent to the eighth day.

Second, the same verse says that they were planning to name this child when it was circumcised. The father usually named the child, but in this case, the father couldn’t talk, so the mother gave the father’s previous wishes. When they asked the father if that was so, he wrote on a tablet in verse 63, “His name is John.” He named this child. This practice explains why during the first fifteen hundred years of church history, parents named their children at baptism. This was a carry-over from circumcision.

Third, this circumcision did not save John. Luke 1:15 tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit long before he was circumcised. It says, “He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” So John was already saved before he was circumcised and Christ didn’t need to be saved when He was circumcised. Don’t ever think that circumcision in the Old Testament or baptism in the New Testament saves our children. It’s the sign of the covenant. Only Spirit baptism saves, and that can come before, during, or after water baptism.

But fourth, don’t ever think that this sign is unimportant. It is a sign and a seal of God’s grace. When the sign of the covenant was applied to John, Zacharias referred to God’s “oath which He swore to our father Abraham” (v. 73). God didn’t just give a sign; He gave an oath that He would fulfill what the sign signified. In other words, it was a seal or a pledge that God would fulfill what He promised. That’s why Romans 4:11 called circumcision a sign and seal. A seal is a pledge. You see, at the heart of every covenant is God’s promise, “I will be a God to you and to your children after you.” That’s God’s covenant oath. When we baptize our children, we take vows to raise our children up in the fear and nurture of God (that’s an indispensable part of the covenant according to Genesis 18:19). But God is also making an oath that He will bless our nurture of these children. And if Ethan is not already saved, God will honor Joel and Cherie’s faith by saving Ethan at some point in the future. It’s God’s oath of the covenant. Take comfort in the fact that baptism is a seal or pledge just like circumcision was.

A fifth thing we see in John’s circumcision is given in Luke 1:50, which says, “His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation… as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his children forever.” That is dealing with covenant succession. To be part of the covenant was to have God claim your children and your children’s children. Since you give all that you are and have to God when you enter the covenant, it makes sense that you would give your children to God. He owns them; He claims them, and then God gives them back as a stewardship trust. In Ezekiel 16 He speaks of “your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me,” and then calls them “My children” (Ezek. 16:20-21) Yes, they are your sons and daughters in a sense, but they also belong to God. Isaiah 40 says that God not only owns the adult believing sheep who are in His flock, but He also claims their children as part of His flock. Speaking of the New Covenant, it says, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” God’s covenant is a family covenant. God told Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Well, that hasn’t changed. Acts 3:25 quotes that verse and says that it continues to be true today. It says that in Christ, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That’s what baptism signifies. So it is no surprise that Jesus said, “allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They are at least outwardly in the kingdom or in His flock. He protects them and cares for them.

And as I pour water on Ethan, consider the following two Old Testament prophecies of our New Covenant times: Isaiah 44 promises, “I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” The poured water represents the poured Spirit, and both come on our descendants. Water baptism should be with the same mode as Spirit baptism. And every single time the Bible mentions Spirit baptism it is the Spirit moving downwards upon an individual. We baptize the way God baptized the church with the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts– it was always the Holy Spirit being poured out, shed forth, coming upon, and resting upon. The mode symbolizes the fact that it is not our actions that save, but God’s actions. So just as this water is poured out upon Ethan, we need to pray that the Spirit who is symbolized by the water would be poured out on him in God’s good timing. Amen.

Vows

Joel and Cherie, please come forward to take your vows. Joel, what are you naming your son?

VOWS OF PARENTS

  1. Do you acknowledge your son’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises on his behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation as you do for your own?
  3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate Ethan to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him a godly example, that you will pray with and for him, that you will teach him the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all means of God's appointment, to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

VOW OF CONGREGATION

Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of praying for and encouraging these parents as they seek to fulfill these vows. If so say Amen.

Chart comparing circumcision and baptism

  1. Both are a sign
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:11; Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: Implication of Romans 4:11-12. Also since, signs point to a spiritual reality, see all the things signified below
  2. Both are a seal
    • Circumcision: Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: See all the things promised (sealed) in the meanings below. Also see the implication of what is sealed in Rom. 4:11-12; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13,30; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 7:2-8; 9:4)
  3. Both initiate into membership in the covenant community
    • Cirumcision: Gen. 17:14; 21:4; Lev. 12:3
    • Baptism: Eph. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:13
  4. Both symbolize regeneration
    • Circumcision: Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4
    • Baptism: (John 3:5; Col. 2:13; Tit. 3:5)
  5. Both point to justification by faith
    • Circumcision: Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12; Rom. 2:25-29; Phil 3:3
    • Baptism: Acts 8:37; 2:38
  6. Both point to cleansing from defilement
    • Circumcision: Jer. 4:4; Lev. 26:14
    • Baptism: 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 7:14
  7. Both are for those who are holy or “set apart” by a parent’s relationship to God
    • Circumcision: Ezra 9:2; Is. 6:13; Mal. 2:15
    • Baptism: 1 Cor. 7:14
  8. Both point to the need to die to the world (“Egypt”) and enter into new life
    • Circumcision: Josh 5:9 with verses 2-9
    • Baptism: Romans 6:3-4
  9. Both point to union with God
    • Circumcision: Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Gal. 3:16,29; Gen. 17:7,8; Col. 2:11
    • Baptism: Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:1-8
  10. Both point to the need for an inner spiritual experience, namely spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism
    • Circumcision: Rom. 2:28-29; Jer. 4:4
    • Baptism: 1 Pet. 3:21
  11. Both were placed on whole households
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:10,23-27
    • Baptism: Acts 16:15,33; 1 Cor. 1:16
  12. Both were a sign and seal of the covenant of grace
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:9-14; Deut. 30:6; Rom. 4:11
    • Baptism: Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12
  13. Both point to remission of sins
    • Circumcision: Deut. 30:6; Col. 2:13
    • Baptism: Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Col. 2:13
  14. Both oblige the recipient to walk in newness of life
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:9; Deut. 10:12-16
    • Baptism: Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:14
  15. Neither one saves or benefits a person automatically (ex opera operato)
    • Circumcision: Jer. 9:25; Rom. 2:25-29
    • Baptism: Acts 8:13-24; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:29
  16. People can be saved without either one
    • Circumcision: Ex. 3:1; Rom. 4:10; Josh 5:1-12; John was saved (Luke 1:44,47) before circumcision (v. 59); so too Jer. 1:4; Ps. 22:9,10; 2 Sam. 12:15-23; 1 Kings 14:13
    • Baptism: Luke 23:43; Acts 10:2-47; see implication of verses under circumcision.
  17. Both are given to children
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:10,12,14; Luke 1:59
    • Baptism: Acts 2:39; 16:15,33; 1 Cor. 7:14; Gal. 4:1-2 in context of baptism of heirs in 3:26-29
  18. It is not lawful to give to a child if both parents are unbelievers
    • Circumcision: Josh 5:1-12 shows that children of unbelieving generation were not allowed to be circumcised
    • Baptism: 1 Cor. 7:14-16; Acts 2:39
  19. Both signs were given to non-elect children of believers
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:19-25 with Gal. 4:21-31; Gen. 25:34; Rom. 9:13
    • Baptism: Acts 8:13-24; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:29
  20. Both signs were usually only administered once
    • Circumcision: obvious
    • Baptism: Eph. 4:5; also the implication of 1 Cor. 7:18; Tit. 3:5; Acts 8:22-23
  21. It is a sin to neglect this sign
    • Circumcision: Gen. 17:14; Ex. 4:24-26
    • Baptism: Luke 7:30 with Matt. 21:23-27; 28:19; John 3:5; Acts 10:47-48
  22. Both signs point to the cross of Christ
    • Circumcision: Col. 2:11-14
    • Baptism: Col. 2:11-14; Mark 10:38; Rom. 6:3

3. Topical

It is my privilege this morning to baptize [name of baby] and to welcome her into the visible church. She is already in the arms of Jesus because Isaiah 40:11 says that Jesus was caring for [name of baby] while in the womb. To those of you who are with child, that is a very comforting promise. But in baptism she is formally being acknowledged as part of the visible church. And I want to make a few comments on stewardship and its relationship to Baptism. Let me read four verses from Galatians 3 and 4, and then I am going to comment briefly on one verse. And these are verses tied directly to baptism. It says,

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child [and that word for child includes fetuses and newborn babies. It says, “the heir, as long as he is a child”], does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards…”

We’ll stop right there. I want to comment on [name of baby] being placed under guardians and stewards. [Name of both parents] are the guardians and stewards of this little child. There are five glorious truths implied in that statement:

  1. First, it implies that they have an awesome responsibility. Just as we elders are called stewards of the mysteries of God (stewards of His Scriptures), they are stewards of part of God’s kingdom as well. 1Corinthians 4:2 says, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” This is their side of the covenant. They are held accountable by God to raise this child in the fear and nurture of the Lord. And when they take the sign of baptism, they are agreeing to do so. They are pledging to raise this child as stewards. But if [name of both parents] aren’t the owners; if they are merely stewards, there is a second implication:
  2. The second implication is that God owns [name of baby]. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a stewardship trust. You cannot escape that implication. God has a claim upon her life. God is in covenant with this child. I cannot think of a more comforting thought than realizing that my children belong to God, and He is jealous of His property. And when Christians refuse to baptize their children, they are implying that children do not belong to God and we are not stewards; that we are owners who can make the decision ourselves. Baptism is a sign that our children belong to God and we are in stewardship of His property. That’s why Paul doesn’t just mention the categories that came into covenant with Abraham as being male, female, slave, free, Jew, and Gentile (most of Abraham’s slaves that came into covenant were Gentile), but it also mentions babies. Which makes sense if we are in the Abrahamic covenant. So parents are stewards; God is the owner.
  3. The third implication is that we must be leading our children to Christ, their true owner. Using the analogy of the Old Testament law, Paul says that the function of a steward is to do just that. He says, “Therefore the law was our guardian to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” That’s the goal. A parent’s primary function with a child is to lead the child to faith in Christ so that everything the child learns, does, thinks, and values flows from Christ. Baptism is a promise that we won’t be humanistic tutors or guardians or stewards, but will be Christ-centered, constantly pointing our children to His grace.
  4. The fourth thing that is explicitly stated in Galatians 4:1 is that the newborn child is an heir of all the promises to Abraham. And you start looking at the Abrahamic promises, and that is huge.
  5. The last thing stated in Galatians 4:1 is that a child has no more choice in the matter than a slave – “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave… but is under guardians and stewards…” And this too is something that I am so grateful for – He chose us before we were even capable of choosing Him. He owned us before we even came to faith. Christ purchased everything for us before we were conscious of it. In fact, He purchased everything for our child long before our great, great grandparents were born. Infant baptism assures us that our children’s salvation is not based on our seeking God but upon God’s seeking us. Every other religion in the world is about man seeking God; Christianity is about God seeking us, giving us life so that we would seek Him. God doesn’t wait for our children to love Him before He affirms His love for them. It’s God’s choice that is primary in our salvation and in our future blessing. All of this speaks of grace, sheer grace. He is sovereign as to when he regenerates [baby’s name]’s heart. She may have been regenerate from conception, or two months after conception, or God may choose to regenerate her in the future. But by faith we can bank on God’s promise to the Philippian jailer – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved – you and your household.” This is covenant succession. The Philippian jailer believed God’s promise of salvation to his household and had his whole family baptized as a sign of that belief.

[Parent’s names] are trusting God’s promise, not the baptism, as they dedicate their child to God. They are trusting the ancient promise – “I will be a God to you and to your children after you.” Amen.

I am going to ask [Parent’s names], the stewards of [baby’s name], to come up and make their stewardship pledge before God and receive His assurance through this sign and seal of His covenant.

4. Topical

It is my joy to baptize my first granddaughter this morning. Kaley was not born into an unprotected environment of wolves, but into a covenant home. Kathy and I were listening to a series of lectures defending Credo Baptism (which means it is believer’s only baptism), and it made me realize once again how much these guys are missing. One of the assertions made on that series of CDs was that there is no difference between the children of believers and the children of unbelievers – both are in need of conversion. Well, actually, I agree that both need to be brought up to make profession of faith, but I utterly disagree with their belief that there is no difference between the children of believers and the children of pagans. Let me quickly give you eleven massive differences between our children and the children of pagans.

  1. And since this is Palm Sunday, let me quote something Jesus said on that day - “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise.”(Matt 21:16) That implies that the praise of some is not perfect and is sinful. And indeed it is. Several Scriptures say that the worship, the prayer, the sacrifices, and the music of unbelievers is either an abomination to God or an offense to God. But it is certainly unacceptable. Thus, many consistent Reformed Baptists will not allow their children to sing in church or to pray in devotions until they have gotten converted. But did Jesus wait until children could make profession of faith? No. He said, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise.” If Kaley makes noises of glee or noises of crying this morning, they are accepted; they are perfected. Praise God.
  2. Second reason, they are said to be holy. That word holy can mean being inwardly set apart by the Holy Spirit or to be outwardly set apart by the Holy Spirit. And there aren’t any other definitions of holy. But let’s just assume the outward setting apart – the very fact that they are set apart from all other infants for the work of God’s Spirit makes them different. So, 1Corinthians 7:14 says, “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.” They are set apart; they are holy; they are different than the children of families where there are not believers.
  3. Third reason – they are cleansed. That verse I just read says that the whole family is set apart, but in addition to being set apart, the children are cleansed. I don’t think it is an inward cleansing necessarily, but an outward one. He is using language the Jews were familiar with because baby boys were circumcised and baptized on the eighth day and baby girls were baptized on the sixteenth day ever since the time of Moses. They were unclean up until that baptism, but from that time on they were counted as clean. So the third benefit is being recipients of covenant cleansing through baptism. The children of unbelievers don’t have that.
  4. Fourth, they are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant. Galatians 4:1 after dealing with the Jew, Gentile, men, women, free, and slave who were baptized (and the whole context is the baptism of heirs), goes on to say, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave.” He doesn’t have a choice – God simply says to our children – “Look, I’m going to give you an inheritance. You are an heir of the covenant.” No child of an unbeliever can have that said of him.
  5. That same passage gives the fifth difference. It says, “…but is under guardians and stewards…” Since every believer serves God as a steward or guardian of all that he has, his children are God’s property and they are stewards or guardians of that property. That is not true of unbelievers. God does not receive them as His guardians or stewards. They are enemies. But [parent’s names] are guardians and stewards of a child that God has entrusted to them. In fact, in Ezekiel He speaks of “children born to Me.”
  6. The seventh difference is that Christ blesses the little children and says, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They are brought into the kingdom even before they have the faith to embrace the kingdom for themselves. This is why I say that God doesn’t abandon our babies to the wolves. He protects, and blesses them within the kingdom .” (Matt. 19:14; Mark 10:16; Luke 18:15-16), and Luke 18 said that included infants.
  7. Matthew 18:10 gives another radical difference. It says that every child of a believer has at least one angel assigned to him or her. Kaley has an angel in this room who has been assigned to protect her. I hope you are seeing that the Baptist position is far fetched.
  8. Here’s an eighth reason: Nowhere is the following promise made to the children of unbelievers – “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on Your offspring,” and the next verses speak of those children growing up to make profession of faith. So it starts with water poured (that’s water baptism), Spirit poured (at some point that is Spirit baptism), then profession of faith. That’s the usual order.
  9. What happens before they make profession of faith? Isaiah 40:11 tells us (and this is the ninth blessing) – God “will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” This church is a flock, and God isn’t just interested in the rams and yews. He is interested in the little lambs, and He promises to protect and carry them and draw them to His bosom. Don’t tell me that the children of believers are no different than the children of unbelievers.
  10. Tenth, they are in the church according to Colossians 3:20 and Ephesians 6:1. They are not in the world. They are in the church.
  11. Eleventh, Christ commits Himself so closely to our young children that He says, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matt. 18:5). And we are going to be receiving this little child into our midst this morning through the ordinance of baptism.

And this baptism can be a means of strengthening your faith as you witness it. When entire households were baptized in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament they were in effect saying, “Lord, I believe your wonderful promises on behalf of my child. I don’t want to treat my child as outside the covenant. I don’t want my child to be out there with the wolves. Instead, take my child in Your arms. I lay hold of your covenant promises by applying the sign of the covenant to my child.” Can you see why covenant baptism is so precious to me? As [parent’s names] bring Kaley for baptism, I want each of you to reaffirm your faith in God’s covenant by laying claim to these eleven glorious promises for your own children.

5. Topical

It is my privilege to baptize my granddaughter, McKenzie this morning. And rather than talking about the baptism of the covenant (as I normally do), I want to talk about the covenant of the baptism – and specifically, I want to narrow the topic down to covenant succession. What is covenant succession?

From the first Gospel promise that God made to Eve in Genesis 3:15 all the way through to the book of Revelation where this corporate seed is as numerous as the sand on the seashore, God’s promise has been that He will be a God to us, and to our children after us, and to our children’s children. Of course there is a negative side to covenant succession because when people break covenant (as Adam did) it affects their posterity. So even fallen man cannot escape from the covenant. But where sin is visited to the third and fourth generation of those who hate God, righteousness is visited to a thousand generations of those who love God. Generations is covenant succession. And a thousand generations is the amazing promise that I want to look at.

Now I should point out that it’s not automatic because it must be received by faith. This is a sacrament of faith. We must have faith in God and His promises, not faith in our parents and their genetics. But God has indeed promised to pass His grace from generation to generation if we will embrace Him by faith and pass the baton of faith on to our children. In fact, that’s what Galatians 4:1 says is the main responsibility of parents. After discussing baptism replacing circumcision in the first three chapters of the book, and then saying that all believers are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise, it says that our babies are heirs of that same covenant (that’s Galatians 4:1). And that same verse says that those babies are given to parents, whose responsibility is to be stewards (that means we don’t own the children – God does – as stewards) and guardians of God’s property. Galatians 4:1. And that is what baptism commits us to doing. It not only believes God’s promise of covenant succession, but [parent’s names]are making the promise to be stewards of this covenant succession and to pass on the Biblical faith to their children and seek to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

When 2 John rejoices over a single mom’s children walking in the truth, it is rejoicing in covenant succession. The fact that all four grandparents of McKenzie love the Lord and are in this room is a testimony to the truth of covenant succession. We are not just individuals who reinvent the wheel every generation. That’s so American, but it is not Biblical.

God worked His covenant grace through [maternal great-grandmother], through [maternal grandparents], and is continuing to work it through [mother’s name]. If you ask the great grandparents who are here [paternal great grandparents] to recount how many generations back the true faith goes on their side of the family you will again see God’s promise of covenant succession being lived out. This is why [father] can sing the hymn, “Faith of our fathers.” My Dad was able to sing that hymn because his ancestors not only embraced God’s covenant grace by faith, but found that God’s covenant embraced their children, and their children’s children. That’s covenant succession. On my mom’s side, we have a family history going back almost 1000 years. In another 54 years it will be the 1000-year mark. And as you read through that history it is crystal clear that God’s grace enabled a covenant succession in our family at least 850 of those 1000 years, if not more. Norman the Huckthred helped to found a church in Sawley, England, near Remington. And there is a history of pastors and others who were passionate enough about the true faith that they were willing to fight for it, and they came to America in the 1600’s to escape persecution and ensure that true worship and true covenant succession would be possible for their children and their children’s children up to McKenzie’s generation. Covenant succession takes sacrifices. It’s not just God’s promises; it’s our commitment. So [parent’s names], God is making a commitment to you in baptism, and you are making a commitment to Him. That’s why God said about Abraham, “I have known him [there’s God’s grace starting the whole process. “I have known him”], in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” That’s covenant succession.

Why do we baptize our children? The most important reason is because God commands us to apply the sign of the covenant to our children now just like He did to Abraham. And I think most of you can defend infant baptism from the Bible. We aren’t dealing with that today. But we also baptize our children because baptism is not an empty sign. It is the sign of the covenant; the sign of covenant succession to those who will embrace God’s promise by faith.

Some of you are first generation Christians, and you might wonder, “What about me? I don’t have a long history of covenant succession.” Rejoice that you are the ones who have the privilege of starting that covenant succession. You can have great, great, great grandchildren who will also be rejoicing in the covenant succession that your God-given faith began if you will embrace Genesis 18:19 as your theme verse.

So [parent’s names], please bring your family up and let’s apply this sign of covenant succession.

6. Scripture Collage

[The following homily related to infant baptism was delivered on 9-23-2012 at Dominion Covenant Church. It is an attempt to let Scripture interpret Scripture with no comments by me at all. The purpose of the readings was to show that 1) infants need salvation, 2) that God has a plan for saving them, 3) that some infants (like John the Baptist) are already saved in the womb, 4) which in turn proves that water baptism does not save a child but rather points to God’s promises of such salvation. These Scriptures also clearly demonstrate that 5) God’s covenant is with believers and their seed, and 6) His purpose is to have covenant succession of the faith from generation to generation. 7) Thus it is not surprising to find Scriptures that say that parents do not own the children. Instead, God claims special ownership of the children of believers and 8) He entrusts children to “stewards” and “guardians” who will raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. 9) Baptism serves as God’s pledge to our children and the parents’ pledge to engage in this stewardship responsibility. 10) This in turn means that infants have not been “thrown to the wolves” by God, but have been placed within the covenant, and are members of the visible church congregation. While there are many more Scriptures that speak to these issues, the following have been selected to provide a very short introduction to the subject. For more information, download the free ebook, Seven Biblical Principles that Call for Infant Baptism at http://www.biblicalblueprints.org All verses are from the New King James except for one, which is from the Amplified Bible.]

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.4 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.5 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.6 Hear this O Jacob…you… were a transgressor from the womb.7

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him and His righteousness to children’s children.8 He will save the children of the needy,9 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.10 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.11 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.12 He has blessed His children within you.13 That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children…14 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes…15 who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb.16

The LORD appeared to Abraham and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly… And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you; Every male child among you shall be circumcised… and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.17 Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision.18

Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also?19 I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.20 …he received the sign of circumcision… that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised…21 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?22 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh… that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.23 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, [then you are Abraham’s seed,]{.underline} and heirs according to the promise.24 Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.25 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.26 For [we are the circumcision]{.underline}, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.27 Thus [you were circumcised when you were buried with Him in [your] baptism]{.underline}.28

Now I say that the heir, [as long as he is a child]{.underline}, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, [but is under guardians and stewards]{.underline}…29 it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.30 Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.31 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.32 Gather the people together, men and women and little ones …that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law.33 In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.34 The righteous man walks in his integrity; [his children are blessed after him]{.underline}.35

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven… Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.36 They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.37 They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.38 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.39

Repent, and let [every one of you be baptized]{.underline} in the name of Jesus Christ … for the promise is to you [and to your children]{.underline}…40 … she and her household were baptized.41 And immediately he and all his family were baptized.42 I also baptized the household of Stephanas.43 All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.44 Sprinkle water of purification on them.45 I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.46

Amen. Make it so, Lord Jesus.

7. Topical

We are having a baptism today at a building dedication service. And I think that is such a great reminder to us that though physical buildings are important, they are not nearly as important as the spiritual temple of Christ - a glorious building made of living stones - men, women and children. And it should be our desire that this physical edifice around us would be used to the glory of God and the building up of the bride of Christ.

But before I baptize [baby’s name], let me explain why Scripture includes not just adults in the spiritual building-stones, but also the children of believers. When we admit adults into the church, we also bring in families. And I love the way the Bible treats families. It doesn’t divide the families up. When it is time for worship, Scripture says, “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones…that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 31:12). God takes the families as a unit. He makes promises to families. He made His covenant with Adam’s family, with Noah’s family, with Abraham’s family, with Moses, Phinehas, David and many other families. When Zacchaeus believed, salvation grace invaded his whole house. Christ said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9). And that is why the Old Testament had entire families circumcised and why in the New Testament entire families were baptized. Baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of the covenant, and over and over again baptism is tied to the Abrahamic covenant. If Baptism is the sign of the covenant, then we have no choice but to baptize infants because God has mandated that the sign of the covenant be applied to the children of believers. The [parents] have already offered up their other children to the Lord, and baptism is God’s assurance that He welcomes our little ones. Baptism doesn’t save them, but it is the sign of God’s promised salvation, and it is also the parents pledge to raise them up in the way of the Lord.

As [the baby] is baptized this evening, let’s remember the words in Luke 18:15-16: “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” If Christ included infants and little children in the kingdom, who are we to reject them? No - God has always dealt with families in the covenant.

In Acts 3 Peter said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus…for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off” (Acts 2:38-39) - many generations are included. In the next chapter Peter promises “you are sons …of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Acts 3:25). Praise God for His covenant with the family. Praise God for the promise in Acts, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved; you and your house” (Acts 16:31). I don’t know about you, but those words, “and your house” are a wonderful comfort to me. Those words are strewn throughout Scripture. Seven of the baptisms mentioned in the New Testament are household baptisms. The others were not simply because there were no children. Christ was not married, nor was Paul. The Ethiopian Eunuch could not have children. The overwhelming evidence is for family baptism.

And it is a beautiful symbol of the fact that salvation is by grace alone and not by works. Christ said we come into the kingdom like little children. We are born through no choice of our own. But baptism by sprinkling symbolizes the same thing. It is God’s action upon us, not our action towards God. God’s mode of baptism in the Spirit was by shedding forth, pouring and coming upon people. [Acts 1:5,8;2:3,17,33;10:44;11:15; etc.] We do not presume to have a better mode than God uses.

And so this evening you too will be covenanting not only with [the parents] but also with [the baby]. Baptism is a sign of what God has promised to the family - that He would be a God to us and to our children after us, and it is a seal or pledge of those promises. As the parents claim that promise in faith, God will fulfill the same. Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

8. Genesis 17

Why would I read a passage on the circumcision of Abraham and his children at an event like Baptism? Let me give you five reasons:

First, because the New Testament says that New Testament believers are in the Abrahamic covenant, and it refers to that fact over 50 times. If believers covenant with God like Abraham did, then it explains why we include children in the covenant, doesn’t it? Including children in the covenant was an essential feature of being in the Abrahamic covenant. Look at verse 10 for example: “This is my covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and You.”

If the Abrahamic covenant in its essence includes children, how can we exclude children today? Turn with me to Galatians 3:26-4:1. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” I want you to notice that when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus and are baptized into the church, at that moment we become Abraham’s seed and are heirs according to the promise. No one questions the fact that verse 28 lists the baptized members (cf. V. 27) of the covenant.

But it is important that you not stop reading in verse 29. It is not just believers that are heirs. Their children are too. 4:1 says, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child…” Did you get that? A child continues to be part of the Abrahamic covenant because that feature is at the essence of the Abrahamic covenant. It doesn’t mean the child is saved. That child must be nurtured and led to faith. It says, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.” Chapter 3:24 had already told us the role of these guardians and stewards: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” We look forward to the time when our children will come to faith. But our children are not to be treated as in the world. Cahpter 4:1 makes clear they are in the group of those listed in the covenant.

That’s why Peter’s sermon on the Abrahamic covenant in Acts 2 says, “for the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off.” He was referring to the Abrahamic promise which is still to our children. That’s why Acts 3 says that in Christ all the families of the earth would be blessed according to the promise to Abraham. The family feature of the Abrahamic covenant continues into New Testament times. And that is why [parents] are bringing their children. So the first reason Genesis 17 is very relevant on this occasion is that the New Testament says that we are in the Abrahamic covenant and essential to that covenant is children.

A second reason why this passage is relevant is that Colossians 2:11-12 among other passages says that baptism corresponds to circumcision and replaces circumcision. Now to the Jews that would not have seemed like an odd thing since baptism had acted as a substitute for circumcision for 1000’s of years in the case of women or of excommunicated men. From the time of Moses on, males were circumcised and baptized on the eighth day; females were baptized on the 16th day and their baptism was treated as a circumcision. This is why Romans 2:26 says that Gentiles who come into the church are “counted as circumcised” and in the previous verse the excommunicated Jews are counted as uncircumcised. When Israelites were excommunicated from the community they were treated as Gentiles. And when they came back into the community, recircumcision was not possible, so they were baptized with the Baptism of nida or what was sometimes called the “baptism from the dead” or “Proselyte baptism.” When I was younger, I was fascinated with the vigorous debates that some of my Baptist friends had over John the Baptist. I wondered why some of them were so insistent that John’s baptism was a new baptism not authorized by the Old Testament, or why they said that it was not Jewish proselyte baptism (which I believe it was). I came to discover why: Jewish proselyte baptism baptized the whole family upon the parent’s profession of faith. So if baptism replaces circumcision as the New Testament indicates, then we ought to look to this chapter to see to whom it applies. It applies not just to adult believers, but also to children.

And this theme of tying baptism to Abraham is common. John the Baptist tied his baptism in with the Abrahamic covenant. The discussion of baptism in Acts 2 is tied in with the covenants of promise. Acts 3’s discussion of whether Gentiles could come into the church is based on the Abrahamic covenant which says in both Genesis 12:3 and 28:14 that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The discussion of baptism in Galatians 3-4 is based on the Abrahamic covenant. So the second reason this passage is relevant is that baptism replaces circumcision and just as circumcision is applied to infants and households, baptism must be also.

A third reason why this passage is relevant is because the New Testament keeps appealing to the promise made to Abraham applying to us and to our children. If you examine every promise made from Genesis 12-25 you will see that they are all made to both Abraham and his descendants. For example, look at verse 7: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” God promises to be a God not only to Abraham, but also to his descendants. And he makes that promise something that can never be superseded by later revelation because this is an everlasting covenant. And Paul makes a big point in Galatians 3:17-18 that the covenant under Moses which came 430 years later, cannot annul the covenant made with Abraham that it should make the promise of no effect. Genesis 17 continues to apply. Thus we find in Acts 2 that Peter applies the promise of Abraham to New Testament children when he says, “for the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off.” Children were clearly included in that call for baptism in the previous verse because the whole discussion was based on the Abrahamic covenant and God’s promise to believers and their children. Why does Galatians 4:1 include children as being heirs even before they come to faith? Because the verse before says that believers become “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). That whole passage is discussing baptism from the perspective of the Abrahamic promise and so it is no wonder that Paul concludes, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child…” etc. Children are heirs of the promise just as believing adults are. In Acts 17 Paul does the same with the Philippian jailer when he says, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved; you and your household.” His sign that he believed that promise was receiving baptism, the sign of the covenant, for his whole household. And we see a similar Abrahamic pattern with the baptism of five other households. Household baptism occur 6 times in the New Testament and the only baptisms where we know children were excluded were ones where children were not present: like Christ and Paul who had no children, or the Ethiopian eunuch who couldn’t have any. The New Testament applies the promise to Abraham and his children to believers and their children today. This promise is also explicitly tied to baptism.

So we have seen three reasons why Genesis 17 is so relevant to what is happening this morning: first, that we are under the Abrahamic covenant and its requirements; secondly, baptism replaces circumcision, and thirdly that the promise to Abraham applies today because it is an everlasting promise which cannot be annulled - a promise to believers and their children.

The fourth reason why Genesis 17 is so relevant is that when you go back to the foundations of a doctrine, you can often correct major errors. There are those who say that when the sign of the covenant is applied to children, they are regenerated. Roman Catholics say this and Lutherans say this. We Presbyterians vigorously disagree. And I think there can be no better example than Ishmael to prove that the sign of the covenant does not regenerate children. That was Paul’s point in Romans 3. He said that there was much value in circumcision in the Old Testament, but regenerating was not one of them. Many Lutherans insist that 1 Corinthians 7:14 teaches that when a child is outwardly cleansed by water, it is also made inwardly holy. But when that passage says, “otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” it is referring to an outward setting apart to salvation and an outward cleansing by water. The unbelieving spouse is also sanctified outwardly to salvation, but only the child is sanctified and cleansed.

Fifth, this passage shows the seriousness of excluding our children from baptism. Verse 14 says “But the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” Moses was rebuked for failing to circumcise his child because God claimed the child. And in the same way, when His disciples sought to exclude children, Christ said, “Allow the little children to come unto Me and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:15-16). I believe it is a serious thing to forbid children from coming to Christ when He has commanded us to welcome them.

There are many who have objections to infant baptism, but as John Calvin said long ago, every argument that could be brought against the wisdom of infant baptism could be equally brought against the wisdom of infant circumcision. And thus, it is really a questioning of God’s wisdom. As the [parents] come forward at this time to present [their baby] to the Lord, I want to encourage every parent to lay claim to the promise given to Abraham - that He will be a God to you and to your descendants after you.

9. Joel 2:28-29

Please turn to Joel 2:28-29. This is a familiar passage and one that was applied to baptism by Peter in Acts 2. Let’s begin reading at verse 28: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

I want to make three quick observations related to baptism.

First, as a pastor I cannot change a child’s heart. In this passage, it is God who pours the Spirit upon people and He does it when and where He wills. John the Baptist recognized this. He could give water baptism to the families of those who repented, but he couldn’t give the Spirit. He said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Your faith and expectation should not be in the water or the pastor, but in God alone.

Second, the Spiritual baptism God gives is by pouring. Verse 28 says, “Then I will pour My Spirit on all flesh.” Verse 29 says, “I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” In Acts 2 Peter made clear that this passage prophesied the same baptism that John prophesied. If God baptizes by pouring, shouldn’t we do so? Over and over in the book of Acts this baptism is said to be poured out upon people, or shed forth or to come upon a person. So even though we allow for immersion, we believe that pouring or sprinkling best symbolizes the baptism of the Spirit. Certainly God used pouring as His method in Acts. [See examples in Acts 1:5,8; 2:3,17,33; 10:44; 11:15; etc. - pk]

Third, households receive the promise. Verses 28-29 describe a Middle Eastern household. Not only are sons and daughters, old men and young, household menservants and maidservants receivers of the Spirit, but all flesh. That phrase “all flesh” was used to indicate that everyone was wiped out in Noah’s flood. Joel prophecies a new pouring out of the heavens, but instead of all flesh being destroyed, men, women and children, - they receive life. Peter in Acts 3 applies this even to teknois - little children. After quoting this verse he said, “the promise is to you and to your children…” What an encouragement!

It might be thought that Peter is applying that too broadly since little children cannot repent, and since they certainly can’t prophecy. But the phrase “all flesh” is more inclusive than the next phrase “sons and daughters.” Look at Joel 2:15-16 to see how infants were part of God’s call to repentance. They were represented by parents who said like Joshua, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joel 2:15-16: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes [notice that they are a part of it]; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, ‘Spare Your people, [who are God’s people? The ones just listed] O LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”’” Where is their God? Each of those described, including the nursing infant, had God as his God, and thus was brought before the Lord on that day of repentance by his parents. They were all part of the congregation.

And we can be encouraged that God claims our children for himself as well. Isaiah 44:3 says, “I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on Your offspring; they will spring up among the grass [that is a symbol of children growing up - “they will spring up among the grass] like willows by the watercourses. One will say, ‘I am the LORD’s.’” etc. That is God’s normal pattern, to claim the children young and as they spring up by the watercourses, to lead them to faith later. Christ said, “Allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them. For of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

So this passage reminds us first, that water baptism is not all that is needed. Christ said that we must be born of water and the Spirit. So don’t superstitiously look to me or to the water. Look to the Lord who alone can give the Spirit. Second, water baptism should symbolize the way God baptizes - by pouring. And so we baptize by pouring. Third, God has chosen to pour out His Spirit on entire households. And since water baptism symbolizes that, you find the consistent pattern in the New Testament of water baptism being given to entire households. As the [parents] come forward at this time, let’s lay claim to Paul’s promise. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household. Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s promise and of our faith in God’s promise. Let us bring our children in faith. Amen.

10. Topical

The [name] family asked if I would be willing to baptize [name of baby] this morning, and of course, I am delighted to do so. Rather than reading one Scripture, I’m going to read several as I list out a few of the promises that God has connected with baptism. Only believers may have their children baptized, and it is the parent’s faith that begins the process of receiving blessings into their children’s lives. As I go through these promises, may all of us have our faith encouraged.

The first promise is 1 Corinthians 7:14. It says, “otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” In connection with the cleansing rite of baptism, children are said to be holy or set apart. And what a marvelous promise it is to have our whole family set apart for the Holy Spirit’s ministry. It is because she is already holy or set apart that she has the privilege of moving from an ceremonially unclean to a clean status.

After dealing with baptized believers being heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, Galatians 4:1 talks about the children of those believers. It says that they are heirs too. It says, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child…” The word for child is νήπιος and is defined by the dictionary as, “a very young child, infant.” So [name of baby] is an heir of the covenant. That means there are spiritual things she can inherit based upon the covenant.

In Luke 18 people brought infants to Jesus, and He said about those infants, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of God.” Christ’s kingdom does not exclude the family; it embraces the family. Is that a cool promise, or what?

In fact, so closely does Christ keep a watchful eye over our covenant children that Isaiah 40 says he bears the little ones in His arms, says in Matthew 18:5, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me,” and says in Luke 17:2, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” That’s a lot of watch-care that Jesus is bringing.

Well, if they are in the kingdom, and if He is watching over them with that kind of care, you would expect that they would begin getting increasing kingdom benefits. And they do. One of those benefits is that [baby’s name] has an angel assigned to her. Whether she already has that angel or whether it is assigned at baptism, I do not know, but Matthew 18:10 indicates that each covenant child has at least one angel assigned.

And it doesn’t stop there. Isaiah 44:3 promises to flood [baby’s name] with blessings of the covenant. It says, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring…” To pour blessings on the offspring of believers means that God is promising to pour blessings on [baby’s name].

Baptism is the sign and seal of such promises. The poured out water symbolizes the poured out Spirit. And verses 1-5 of that passage unfolds the gradual increase of covenant blessings as our children grow up. So though [baby’s name]has already received some blessings long before she was born, and though she will likely receive more blessings this morning, that passage indicates that she can anticipate an increase of blessings as she grows up and begins to claim them by faith. Our God is such a generous God.

So I am going to ask [name of parents] to come forward and present [name of baby] to the Lord in Holy Baptism.

11. Revelation 21:10-14

I am really looking forward to baptizing all of the [family name] children and to pray God’s blessings into their lives. And to set the context for the baptism, I want to read from Revelation 21:10-14. And we are going to look at Baptism from a slightly different angle than we normally do. It will be a little longer talk (about ten minutes), but I think you will find it helpful in understanding a corporate dimension of the covenant. Revelation 21:10-14.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Earlier John had called this heavenly Jerusalem the bride of Christ. It is a metaphor for the bride of Christ. There is a visible church and an invisible church, but not two churches or two brides. And contrary to Dispensationalism, this bride contains the elect from the time of Adam all the way to the end of history. In contrast, Dispensationalism claims that Israel and the church are utterly different bodies with different destinies and different canons. But Scripture affirms that there is only one body, one bride, one Olive Tree into which both Jews and Gentiles are grafted. There is one vineyard, one temple, one house of God, one flock of sheep, one holy army, one church. And Galatians 6 affirms that Isaac, the son of Abraham, is a member of this heavenly Jerusalem just like we are. He is part of the bride. Historic Dispensationalists claim that Isaac will be a part of the earthly Israel, not of the heavenly church.

But I want you to notice that verse 12 says that the gates of the bride have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them and the twelve foundations of the same city are the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus. And by the way, this heavenly Jerusalem comes down to earth; it invades earth, so its not like earth is going to be a different destiny. In any case that shows that you don’t have different corporate cities for the Old Testament saints than for the New Testament saints. The only way you can enter the city is through the gates of Israel, which have the names of the twelve sons of Jacob. This is why Galatians 6:16 calls the church the “Israel of God,” implying that there is an Israel that is not of God. This is why Ephesians 2 says that though we were once Gentiles in the flesh, that is no longer the case. Though we were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, now we are fellow-citizens with the saints in the commonwealth of Israel. Though we were once outside the scope of the Old Testament covenants of promise, we are now heirs of those covenants of promise (covenants plural). That’s Ephesians chapter 2. So there are not two bodies, but one body. And that one body has always included the children of believers. It included children under Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and in the New Covenant.

Likewise the sacraments are in some way united. 1 Corinthians 10-11 lists all the Old Testament sacramental meals and says that Old Testament Israel “ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink” as we do in the Lord’s Table. Whatever outward differences there may be, at heart their communion and our communion are identical. They ate and drank the same spiritual food and drink.

But he starts chapter 10 by saying that all Israel “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They in some way shared baptism with us and three days later shared communion with us. This is why Hebrews 9-10 teaches us about church baptism by first of all teaching us about the baptisms of the Old Testament. And by the way, when he lists the baptisms in the Old Testament, they are all done by sprinkling or pouring to symbolize the fact that the action of salvation that is being promised in baptism is all of God, not of man. And you might think, “Well, what about 1 Corinthians 10? Wasn’t that being dunked in the sea? No. Egypt was dunked in the Red Sea but Egypt was not baptized; Moses and Israel were sprinkled by rain from the cloud according to Psalm 77:16-20 and were not dunked in the Red Sea, but they were said to be baptized.

Did you know that the apostle Paul taught his doctrine of baptism from the Old Testament? He did. In Acts 26:22 Paul said that he never taught a single doctrine without showing how it was rooted in the prophets and Moses. This is why he praised the Bereans for checking out everything he taught (which would have included baptism) from the Old Testament. Can Baptists prove their doctrine of baptism from the Old Testament? There is a reason why they can’t. Baptism is not simply a New Testament doctrine. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all rooted Baptism in the Old Testament. In fact, almost every passage on baptism in the New Testament connects it in some way with the Abrahamic covenant. This would make no sense if the church were utterly unrelated to Israel.

In 1 Peter 3 Peter tells the women to be submissive to their own husbands, “as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.” Many commentators have pointed out that for female church members to be daughters of Sarah means they are in the Abrahamic covenant. 1 Peter 1:1 used a term that had always been used of the diaspora of Israel to describe the church. Commentators point out that the church is being called Israel. God formed a new Israel in Acts 2 that was 100% composed of Jews and he later grafted Gentiles into that Israel.

When you read the Bible through Jewish eyes, you realize that Gentiles like Ruth could become Israelites and daughters of Sarah. Gentiles like Caleb could become full Israelites, and sons of Abraham. And if we are heirs of the covenants of promise, then one of the significant features of every one of those covenants of promise is the inclusion of the children in the sign of the covenant. In the time of Moses, the males were circumcised and baptized on the eighth day, and the females were baptized on the sixteenth day. The circumcision part has dropped away, but not the baptism part.

But Ezekiel prophesied that the Gentiles in the New Covenant would receive that same Baptism of Nida. You see, baptism was a sign that the parents were believing the promise of the covenant. And what is that promise? It is, “I will be a God to you and to your descendants after you.” Do we really believe that we are heirs of those covenants of promise. All the Old Testament covenants of promise included the children of believers. It’s not individualistic; it is corporate. To be a daughter of Sarah is to be in the covenant. To be a son of Abraham is to be in the covenant. We enter the covenant through the faith of the parents, and Galatians says that just like with Abraham, God entrusts the children to the care and nurture of those parents to lead our children to Christ and to pass on the same faith of the fathers and of the mothers so that they too can actively embrace the covenant in the Lord’s Table.

This morning all of the [family name] children are going to be baptized, and I hope I don’t cry when I do this because it very much moves me that God is still willing to receive our children today like He did in the Old Testament. It moves me that He has not left them to fend for themselves, but He includes them in the flock. Can you image a flock of sheep where the lambs were kicked out? I can’t. In Isaiah 40:11 God prophesies of Jesus in New Covenant times, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” That is why they received the sign of the covenant; they belong to His flock; they have His brand claiming them. Can they wander later? Yes, but they belong to His flock.

Now, because circumcision is a bloody rite it has passed away with all other bloody rites. So now Colossians 2:11-12 indicates that baptism alone remains the sign of the covenant and baptism alone symbolizes what Paul calls Christian circumcision. As we baptize the children of this family, let’s pray that they would grow up to have the faith of Abraham and Sarah. Four of them have already professed faith and will also come to communion – [names of four children]. This is a big day for them because they are entering into two stages of the covenant - both baptism (which passively initiates) and the meal where they actively lay hold of the covenant. (They are kind of like sheep who have been weaned from milk and are now foraging for themselves on grass, so to speak.)

But the two main things I want you to realize this morning is that the New Testament is not an individualistic American document; it is covenantal. And secondly, that there is only one flock of sheep that God has. The Bible is a covenantal family document so that Peter could tell those being baptized in Acts 3, “You are sons …of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” So as the [name of family] come forward, let’s rejoice in God’s family promises.

12. Genesis 17

This morning we are going to be baptizing [baby’s name] and immediately after that we will be bringing [adult name] into membership. And before the baptism I want to quickly look at one verse: Genesis 17:7. God told Abraham,

*Gen. 17:7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. *

Five things to notice: First, God chose Abraham before Abraham chose God. Second, God chose Abraham’s descendants long before they were born or were able to choose Him. Third, this choice would not be fickle, but would be a choice that would endure throughout eternity. Fourth, this choice was a personal commitment to Abraham. One commentator said,

Spiritually, the essence of the covenant is personal, like the ‘I will’ of a marriage: so the pledge I will be their God (8b; cf. 7b) far outweighs the particular benefits.47

This is God’s personal commitment. And the last thing I want to highlight is that God chose to be something to Abraham and His descendants. He chose to be God to them. In other words, God promises to act as God on behalf of Abraham and his descendants. All that He is and all that He has is committed to them. Now, there is the human side to the covenant that God will highlight in chapter 18, verse 19. And that human side is reflected in the vows that [parent’s names] are going to be taking. But as we come to apply the sign of the covenant to [baby’s name] this morning, let us rejoice in God’s actions.

If we are in the Abrahamic covenant, then these promises belong to us. God chose us long before we chose Him. God chose to include our children in the covenant long before our children had faith to choose Him. Thirdly, God is not fickle when it comes to His promises. His promises are yea and amen in Christ into eternity. That’s why we constantly direct the faith of our children to Christ. Fourth, He makes a personal pledge to us and to our children through the sign of the covenant. It’s his “I will” to us. Baptism is also the “I will” of parents, but I am only looking at God’s actions today. And God makes a personal pledge to us. And fifth, He promises to act as this faithful God or to be this faithful God to us and to our descendants. With such glorious promises, the least we can do is to respond in faith and to commit our children to God. And that is what [names of the parents] are going to be doing this morning.

I’ll ask the [name deleted] family to come up and to renew their side of the covenant “I wills.”

13. Adult Baptism

Read 1 Corinthians 1:12-17

There are three points that I want to make.

The first point is that water baptism does not save an individual. Paul knew many others in Corinth whom he had led to salvation (Acts 18), but in verse 16 he didn’t remember if he had baptized any others besides these three families mentioned. The implication is that salvation is not the same as water baptism. And what is implied here is made explicit in 1 Peter 3:21 when he says it is not water baptism which saves but Spirit baptism. Water baptism is simply a sign of that salvation. We have examined [name of adult] and believe that God has brought [name of adult] to salvation. And baptism is the sign of a salvation that [name of adult] already has.

The second point is that it really doesn’t matter which minister baptizes a person. Of the many, many people Paul had led to Christ in Corinth, most were baptized by another minister. And the implication that Paul draws from that is that Baptism does not pledge loyalty to Paul or Appolos or Cephas. It pledges loyalty to Christ. That was Paul’s point in verses 12-13. Christ is the head of the church and all who are baptized are pledging allegiance to the Lord.

The third point is that our union with Christ draws us into unity with each other. Paul says in this chapter that it is inconsistent to be baptized into Christ and yet to lack love to other members of His body. Verse 13 asks, “Is Christ divided?” And of course the answer is “No.” And after the vows are given, I will give each of you the opportunity to vow your love for and support of those who are coming before you for membership. We are one family.

The last point is that baptism is the sign that God embraces not only believers, but believers and their seed. The head of the household represents his whole household to the Lord. Let’s see how that is hinted at here. In Acts 18:8 we read that the whole household of Crispus was baptized by Paul. Here only the head of the household is mentioned. There is a contradiction if the representative aspect of baptism is not noted. Likewise, the “also” in verse 16 implies that the other two baptisms were also household baptisms. But in any case, it is clear that Crispus represents his family. This morning we are bringing in not only the [name of one family] and the [name of second family] as families, but any family that [name of single adult] may have in the future. Long before Abraham had children, God gave the covenant sign of circumcision as the pledge that He would be a God to Abraham, and his children. And that continues to hold true.

As the vows are taken, let’s rejoice in the fact that we have a covenant keeping God. He is a God who is interested in our salvation; who is interested in the salvation of our children and our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren. Let us also realize that God not only pledged Himself to be loyal to us, but He asks us to pledge loyalty to Him as well.

14. 1 Corinthians 7:13-16

It’s my privilege to baptize [name of baby] this morning. And for our baptism talk I would like to take another look at 1 Corinthians 7:14. And I want to draw out more than just the infant baptism that is clearly there. I want to bring encouragement to every family. And let’s start reading in verse 13 to see the context.

1Cor. 7:13 And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 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. 15 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. 16 For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

One of the most exciting things about God’s grace is the way it invades entire families: it extends to wives, to husbands and to children. And it does so in two stages. The first stage is outward sanctification (which means to be set apart). The word “holy” that is applied to the child is the same Greek word as the word for sanctified that is used of the unbelieving husband or wife. It means that the moment a person believes in Jesus, every member of his immediate family is outwardly set apart for the Holy Spirit’s working. And the reason we know it is outward sanctification (rather than inward) is that verse 16 says that this sanctified spouse isn’t saved yet. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? By way of contrast, once a person is saved, he is not just outwardly sanctified; he is also inwardly sanctified at regeneration. But both stages: the outward holiness and the inward holiness are important. And both relate to the presence of God.

In the Old Testament, the closer to God’s Shekinah glory that you traveled, the more holy the people and things were outwardly considered to be. So Israel was the holy land, and within Israel, Jerusalem was the holy city, and within Jerusalem the temple mount was the holy mountain, and then there was the holy temple, the holy place, and the Holy of holies. And it wasn’t just land that was sanctified to God. Pots and pans were. Now, Batman blasphemes when he speaks of holy cow, and holy this and that. But the Old Testament used exactly that language – it spoke of things being more holy the closer they got to God’s presence in the temple. But it’s just outward. So outward sanctification has to do with God’s presence. But what’s cool about it is that it means that this verse promises that the moment one member of a household gets saved, God has invaded that household with His holy presence. Amen? He is at work in the lives of that family. And what a blessing it is to bring a child into the home of a believer, because immediately that child is set apart; he or she is different. The whole family sits under the influence of God’s grace.

So that’s the first encouragement. Just as every covenant in the Old Testament included the entire family, God continues to be interested in setting apart entire families. As he says in Acts 3, in Christ, all the families of the earth will be blessed. The New Covenant continues to be a family covenant. That’s the first point.

The second encouraging thing about this passage is that God takes a special interest in the children that goes even beyond His interest in the unbelieving spouse. It has to do with covenantal cleansing. Children must remain in their unclean state if both parents are unbelievers. Paul says, otherwise your children would be unclean. Every child of an unbelieving home is an unclean child. But when there is even one believing parent, God not only sanctifies the child (as He did the whole family), but He permits a child to be taken out of an unclean status and into a clean status.

Here’s the million dollar question: What is that clean versus unclean status? Is it outward cleansing or inward cleansing? Those are the only options that you can find in the Old or New Testaments: an outward ceremonial cleansing or an inward spiritual cleansing. So which is it? Lutherans believe it is both. I think the context speaks against that. I believe it is dealing with the outward ceremonial cleansing of baptism. If you do a word study, you will see that the word for unclean is a synonym for “unbaptized.” Over and over again in the Scripture this word for unclean is used for those who do not have the sign of the covenant placed upon them. Cornelius was said to be unclean prior to baptism and clean after baptism. This is the word that is used of John the Baptist’s baptism in John 3, Christian baptism in Ephesians 6, Old Testament baptisms in the book of Hebrews, etc. So you could paraphrase this, “otherwise your children would be unbaptized, but now they are holy.”

So what is the significance of this? Just as there are two kinds of sanctification, there are two kinds of cleansing in the Bible. There is the outward cleansing of water baptism and there is the inward cleansing of Spirit baptism that the water baptism is a sign of. And this here is referring to the outward covenantal cleansing of water baptism. Just as outward sanctification looks forward to salvation (“How do you know O husband whether you will save your wife?” – v. 16), outward baptism (or outward cleansing) looks forward to spiritual baptism (or inward cleansing). And God is sovereign on the timing of that. With John the Baptist, He was baptized with the Spirit in his mother’s womb long before the sign of the covenant was applied. God can bring the thing signified before baptism, during baptism, or long after baptism. He is totally sovereign on the timing. But baptism is God’s promise to be a God to us and to our children after us and it is the parent’s promise to be stewards of what God has claimed.

And Jews would have understood this verse in exactly the way that I have described. This verse means that God continues the infant baptisms that He started in the Old Testament. And this is probably the reason why almost every passage on baptism in the New Testament either explicitly ties the baptism in with the Abraham covenant or mentions the whole household being baptized upon profession of faith by the adult. It’s God’s claim upon our children.

And as the [name of family] baptize [name of baby] this morning, they are not only trusting God’s promises to be a God to us and to our children after us, but they themselves are making a promise: the promise of verse 16 – to lead [name of baby] to put her trust in Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:14 is an exciting promise that God’s grace invades entire families – extending His reach to husbands, wives and children. And verse 16 is a call for us to take our responsibilities seriously and to lift our entire families up to God and lead them to salvation.

And so, with that as a background, I’m going to ask the [name of family] to come forward and make their covenant vows before the congregation.

15. 1 Corinthians 7:14

Last time we had a baptism I looked at the book of Ephesians. Today I would like to look at 1 Corinthians 7:14. And for me, this is a very encouraging verse. It says, 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. One of the most exciting things about God’s grace is the way it invades families: it extends to wives, to husbands and to children. And it does so in two stages. The first stage is outward and the second is inward.

But before we get into the details, let me quickly share five things that are pretty obvious about this passage. Whether we can understand what it means or not, there are five facts that emerge that are undisputed. The first is that children are in some way considered unclean by God if both parents are unbelievers. He says, otherwise your children would be unclean. The second thing that is obvious is that even one believing parent permits a child to be taken out of an unclean status and into a clean status. And I want to examine this morning, what is that clean versus unclean status? Is it outward cleansing or inward cleansing? I believe it is outward, but at this point we are just sticking with the undisputed facts. This child has the privelege of being brought into a clean status because of one parent’s faith. The third undisputed fact is that there is some way in which both the unbelieving spouse and the child can be considered to be holy or sanctified, which is the same Greek word. And we Westerners tend to be confused with that: how can an unbeliever be sanctified? Jews would have had no problem with that piece of data, because there are over 600 times that the Old Testament referred to a holy land, holy hill, holy place, holy pots and pans and holy children. But Westerners often scratch their heads over that one because they only think of inward holiness. But it is undisputed that both the child and the unbelieving spouse are in some way said to be holy or sanctified. The fourth obvious fact is that the holiness or sanctification that is mentioned in verse 14 cannot be the internal holiness created by regeneration. And the reason this is an obvious, undisputed fact is that verse 16 tells us that very clearly. It says, For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? [implying what? That he’s not saved, right?] Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? He’s sanctified, but he’s not saved. Which means that it is an outward, covenantal setting apart. But we ought to be encouraged by that because the outward sanctification of verse 14 is moving the whole family toward the inward sanctification of verse 16. This is the way God works: He first sets us apart outwardly so that He can later save us.

But that by itself ought to give us a hint as to what kind of cleansing these children were receiving. Just as there is an outward and inward sanctification, there is an outward and inward cleansing. There is the outward cleansing of water baptism and there is the inward cleansing of Spirit baptism. The word for unclean is virtually a synonym for “unbaptized.” Over and over again in the Scripture it is used for those who do not have the sign of the covenant placed upon them. So when Paul said, otherwise your children would be unclean, it is synonymous with saying, “otherwise your children would be unbaptized, but now they are holy.” And in saying that he was implying two things: First, that the children of believers in Corinth were all baptized or covenantally cleansed, and Second, that the children of unbelievers do not have the right to be baptized.

So what can we say in conclusion? We can say that God is still concerned about setting aside entire families today just as he was in the Old Covenant. Acts 3 applies the Abrahamic covenant to the church and says, And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. In fact, almost every time baptism is discussed in the New Testament it either connects the baptism to the Abrahamic covenant or it mentions that the household was baptized. Our God is a God who values families. The second we can conclude is that verse 16 implies that we have a responsibility to bring our families to faith.

And as the [family name] baptize [baby’s name] this morning, they are not only trusting God’s promises to them, but they are making the promise of verse 16 – to lead [baby’s name] to put her trust in Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:14 is an exciting promise that God’s grace invades entire families – extending His reach to husbands, wives and children. Verse 16 is a call for us to lift our entire families up to God and lead them to salvation.

16. Mode of Baptism 1

I have had Presbyterians ask me why we sprinkle instead of immerse people. Actually Presbyterians have historically accepted all three modes of Baptism as being a true Baptism. I for example was immersed when I was baptized. But the reason I wish I had had baptism by sprinkling or pouring and the reason I want that for my children is because of what baptism symbolizes. And our understanding of what it symbolizes has a big impact upon how we baptize. Some have preferred immersion because of Romans 6 and its mention of the death, burial and resurrection of the believer with Christ. “As many as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death, were bured with Him and were raised to newness of life.”

But if the passage I just quoted is examined carefully, you will see that it is not telling us about what water baptism symbolizes; but rather what Spirit baptism actually does. It is saying that everyone so baptized is saved. So it is not symbolism, it is reality, and unless we are willing to teach that water baptism saves us, we cannot say that this passage is talking about water baptism. There is not a drop of water in Romans 6. And when we look at what Spirit baptism actually does to us, we find that it does more than unite us to Christ’s burial and resurrection. When the Spirit baptizes us into Christ (in other words, when we are saved), we are so united to Christ that everything that has or will happen to Christ is said to happen to us. Scripture says that as many as were baptized into Christ were crucified with Him, are seated with Him in the heavenlies, and will come back to judge the world with Him. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” It is using the image of clothing ourselves with His strength and might. Crucifixion, reigning and judging, being clothed with strength are not things that are symbolized by any method of baptism. They are simply results of the baptism of the Spirit.

If Baptism doesn’t symbolize the results of being united to Christ, what does it symbolize? It symbolizes the baptism of the Spirit itself. Thus, the mode of Baptism that is exactly the same as the mode of Spirit baptism is the one that ought to be used. Turn with me to Acts 1:5. “for John truly baptized with water, but…” That “but” indicates that his water baptism wasn’t the real thing. Instead it was looking forward to what would happen in Spirit baptism. Continuing to read it says, “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Now let’s look at how they were to be baptized by the Holy Spirit in verse 8. The movement is with the Spirit, not with people going down into the Spirit. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Look at 2:3 for the first evidence of the Baptism of the Spirit: “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.” Notice the movement of this baptism by fire was to come upon them and rest upon their heads.

And this baptism of the Spirit was prophecied in the Old Testament, and Peter quotes Joel to prove it. And in verse 17 Joel says, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh.” Notice that the baptism by the Holy Spirit was by pouring. Look at verse 33: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” Turn to Acts 10:44 for the baptism of the Spirit of Cornelius and his household. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.” Notice again that consistently the action is not with the person but with the Spirit or with the water.

Look at the last phrase of verse 45: “because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” Peter’s response in verse 47 is, “Can anyone forbid water…” and the Greek word for “forbid” is koluso which means to keep back, again an indication that water would be brought to them, not them to the water. Just as the movement is in the Spirit, it is also in the water. Continuing to read in verse 47 - “Can anyone forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Again, water baptism is the symbol, Spirit baptism is the reality.

Look at Acts 11:15

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

It is clear here that if the Spirit came upon them when they were baptized, then the water came upon them when they were baptized. The one must symbolize the other. Water baptism cannot possibly symbolize all the results of being baptized by the Spirit, but it can beautifully symbolize the multitude of Old and New Testament passages which speak of the Spirit being poured out upon us. Ezekiel 36 words it this way, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you . . . and put my Spirit within you.”

What about infant baptism? Over the past three years I have given many proofs for infant baptism. Let me give you one more small one. The Old Testament passages which predict the New Covenant Baptism of the Spirit indicate that God’s promise was to our children as well. Isaiah says about God’s New Covenant people, “They shall not have birthing labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Is. 65:23). “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” (Is. 44:3). This is why Peter connected the promise of the Spirit and the command for Baptism to not only the parents, but also the children. After the first Baptism of the Spirit he told the adults to repent and to let everyone there be baptized, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” When we follow the New Testament practice of baptizing all in a household, we are not saying that water baptism saves. It does not. We are claiming by faith the promises of God to pour out His Spirit upon our children in His good time. We are claiming Paul’s promise, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” [Names of parents] are believers and this morning they are claiming God’s promise for their child as well and praying that Isaiah 44:3 would be true of [name of baby]. Let us pray with them and encourage them in their covenant with the Lord.

17. Mode of Baptism 2

This morning I have the privilege of baptizing [name of older child]. She has already made a profession of faith, and because she was not baptized earlier, she will be baptized and admitted to the Lord’s Table on the same Sunday. So it’s a very special day for her, and it is always a joy for me when our young people make profession of faith and come to the Lord’s Table. And if there are other young people who have not yet put your faith in Jesus, we would urge you to do so and be admitted to communion.

But before she comes up to make the covenant vows, I want you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Acts and I want to give a brief explanation of why we baptize either by sprinkling or pouring rather than by immersing the person in a lake or in a bathtub. We accept immersion as valid. I was immersed. But we don’t believe that was the way that they baptized in the Bible. If we had time, we could look at over fifty references in the Bible that prove this – like Mark 7 that talks about Jews baptizing their couches every day – and the Jewish scholar, Edersheim, says that they did it by sprinkling. Or we could look at Hebrews 9-10 which compares Old Testament baptism with New Testament baptism and specifically calls several Old Testament sprinklings baptisms and then says that we too have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with water. The outward water symbolizes the inward sprinkling. And there are a lot of other passages. But I’m just going to stick to the way God the Father baptized by the Spirit in the book of Acts. Look first at Acts 1:5.

Acts 1:5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

John’s water baptism pointed to Spirit baptism. When John baptized with water, he didn’t save people. He pointed out that only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus can baptize with the Spirit. And there are other passages that say that all water baptism symbolizes Spirit baptism and points to Spirit baptism. It’s the sign, not the reality.

Some people say that Romans 6 shows that water baptism symbolizes union with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection. Logically they have to say that water baptism therefore saves people, because everyone baptized in Romans 6 is regenerated by that baptism. Now here’s the thing – there’s not a drop of water in Romans 6. It isn’t talking about what water baptism does or symbolizes. It is talking about what Spirit baptism actually does. But since it symbolizes Spirit baptism, let’s look at how God the Father baptizes with the Spirit. Look at Acts 1, verse 8:

Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Notice that the movement is with the Spirit, not with the person going down and coming up again. And this shows that we are saved by God’s grace alone and not by our actions. The Spirit baptism comes from above and comes upon the person. Now look at how it actually happened in chapter 2:2-3

Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven

Notice the direction from which this Spirit baptism is coming - from heaven. The people aren’t moving down into the Spirit. Rather, the Spirit is coming from heaven. Continuing to read in verse 2:

…there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Acts 2:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

This was the baptism by the Spirit and the baptism by fire promised by John. Notice that the baptism by fire was something coming upon their heads. Look at verses 16-17:

Acts 2:16] But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: Acts 2:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…”

Notice that the method God the Father uses is by pouring. Look at Peter’s explanation of this baptism of the Spirit in verse 33:

Acts 2:33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

In verses 38-39 Peter promises that if they repent and believe they will receive the same Holy Spirit and they can be baptized. Just a couple more references. Turn to Acts 10:44 where Peter has been preaching to Cornelius and his household and friends

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

Again,notice that the baptism of the Spirit was by the movement of the Holy Spirit coming down upon them, not the movement of the people being baptized. This symbolizes that it is all of grace. God takes the first steps, not us. Verse 45:

Acts 10:45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Notice again that God’s method of baptism was by pouring.

Acts 10:46 For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, Acts 10:47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:48] And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

They were baptized with water because water baptism symbolizes this baptism of the Spirit that had already happened. And in verse 47 it says, “Can anyone forbid water…”? The word forbid translates the Greek word kalluso which means more literally “to hold back water.” The idea is that the water would be brought to the people rather than the people being brought to the water. In water baptism the movement is with the water just as with Spirit baptism the movement had been with the Spirit. Look at chapter 11:15-16. And this will be the last one we will look at.

Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Acts 11:16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

Do you get it? Water baptism symbolizes Spirit baptism, and if God baptized by pouring or sprinkling 100% of the time, I think it is the safest way for us to do so as well. You may have your objection passages, and I will be happy to discuss them after the service. I don’t think there are any exceptions to this pattern, including John’s baptism and Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. It was always by pouring or sprinkling. But whether you believe that or not, hopefully I have demonstrated that this is at least an acceptable alternative and a beautiful symbol of God’s grace coming from heaven. And I’m going to ask [child’s name] to come up at this time and to answer the covenant questions.

18. Numbers 6:22-27

You are all familiar with the Aaronic blessing. I give it to you every Sunday. But I probably should say, “Yehowah bless you” instead of “The Lord bless you and keep you.” Let me read Numbers 6:22-27, and give a baptism homily.

Numbers 6:22 And Yehowah spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 “Yehowah bless you and keep you; 25 Yehowah make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 Yehowah lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” 27 So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.’”

What does it mean to put your name on someone? Commentators say that it means to take ownership of that person. And God took ownership of the entire covenant community – man, woman, and child. In the book of Ezekiel God calls babies, “sons whom you bore to Me” (Ezek. 23:37) and in another place He calls those babies, “My children” (Ezek. 16:21). They don’t belong to us. That’s why Galatians says that parents are simply stewards of the children. Our children belong to God. And that’s why the children were circumcised in the Old Testament and baptized in the New. They were sanctified or set apart to God or dedicated to God. That’s why Malachi 2:15 says that the babies of believers are sanctified. That’s why 1 Corinthians 7:14 says the same thing. If there is one believing parent, that child is outwardly holy or set apart to God.

Second, just as God associated His name with the entire covenant community in the Old Testament, so too, we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. God puts His name upon us initially in baptism. The New Testament makes clear that apart from baptism, no one can wear God’s name. And so it is significant that Jesus would say of our babies, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great” (Luke 9:48). He was willing to set His name upon our children. And Matthew 18:5; Mark 9:37, and 1 John 2:12 all say that we must treat these little ones well for His name’s sake. Why? Because God has put His name upon them. He claims ownership of them.

And of course, the Old Testament prophesied that it wouldn’t just be Jewish children who would have God’s name put upon them. It prophesied this of believing Gentiles. Isaiah 60:9 says, “the coastlands shall wait for Me… to bring your sons … to the name of the LORD your God.” This morning [names of parents] are bringing [name of baby] to the name of the Lord. Let me clarify that Scripture is quite clear that water does not save a child. Some children (like John the Baptist and David’s son) were saved long before the sign of the covenant came and others are regenerate later. God is sovereign, and the timing of that is in his hands. But though this baptism doesn’t save the child, it dedicates the child to God and from the moment I baptize this child and on, this child will receive the Aaronic blessing and will not miss out. When I say, “Yehowah bless you and keep you; Yehowah make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; Yehowah lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace” - then the next verse will be true of [name of baby] and every other baptized child. God says, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

The third thing that I see in this blessing is that God is jealous to guard His name and thus He is jealous to guard His people who bear His name. This is such a cool blessing as well. This is why Isaiah 40:10 says that God will guard us with His strong arm and the next verse says, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” Matthew 18:10 says, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” These little ones have angels assigned to them. Isn’t that cool? And in one place they are called guardian angels. God protects that which He chooses to bless.

The last verse that I read speaks of “the face of My Father who is in heaven” in connection with our little ones. Our text says the same - “The Lord make His face shine upon you.” Jesus is explicitly saying that the face of the Father is connected with covenant children.

Likewise, the peace pronounced in Numbers 6 is pronounced upon our children. In John 6:45 Jesus quotes Isaiah 54:13, which promises, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” God showers great shalom upon our children when they are in the covenant. Psalm 128:6 says, “Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel.” And Paul applies that passage to the church when he says, “peace be upon them, even upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).

And I’ll end with the generic mention of all kinds of blessings in Numbers 6. Do our children get blessed by Jesus? Yes they do. In Mark 10:16 it says of Jesus, “He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” Matthew 19 says, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” This is why the New Testament calls us to apply the sign of the covenant to our children. So I am going to ask [names of parents] to bring [name of baby] to the front so that we can baptize her into the name of the Triune God.

[Names of parents] – in Galatians 4:1-2, after saying that believers become heirs of the Abrahamic promises and that heirs may be baptized, he goes on to say, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards…” Since you are the guardians of this stewardship trust, you must answer on behalf of your daughter with a commitment to God. [Vows]

19. Family Promises

It is my privilege to baptize another granddaughter this morning – Jochebed Joanna Dykstra. This is number ten. And I love the name Jochebed. Hebrews 11 says that the Jochebed of the Bible was a woman of faith who entrusted her son to God rather than to the state. And Hebrews 11 says that she was motivated by three things in seeking to save her son, Moses. She was motivated by mother’s love, by lack of fear of the government mandate, and by faith in God. And it took faith to believe God’s family promises rather than submit to the state’s anti-family mandates. And if it had not been for her faith, we would never have had a Moses. So this morning I want to give a baptismal talk that relates to faith in God’s family promises.

Psalm 103:17 says, “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.” I love that promise - God’s mercy and righteousness resting on the children’s children. And it is a promise that keeps cropping up throughout the Bible. God told Noah, “I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you.” In Genesis 17 God told Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” And God kept reiterating that Abrahamic promise. To Isaac it was said, “And give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you.” He reiterates the same promise to Jacob (Ex. 33:1) and to many generations of believers in the Old Testament. God told Phinehas that His covenant of peace “shall be to him and his descendants after him” (Numb. 25:13). In fact, the concept of God being a God to believers and their descendants after them can characterize the whole Old Testament.

But the New Testament continues that Old Testament pattern when Paul promises the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household.” When the jailer believed, his whole household was baptized as a sign that he not only believed in God’s mercy for himself, but he accepted and claimed God’s mercy for his children as well. And that is why the normal pattern in the New Testament is that households are brought into the kingdom just as Abraham’s household was. You have the baptism of the household of Cornelius, and Stephanus, and Gaius and Crispus and Lydia and the Philippian jailer. In fact, the only recorded baptisms where we know for sure that the children were not baptized are those occasions where there were no households to baptize. For example, Christ wasn’t married, the Ethiopian eunuch couldn’t have children, Paul was single, and the twelve men in Acts 19 didn’t have families.

But what an encouragement to know that when families were present, Abraham’s principle continues to apply; and Christ’s promise continues to apply. He said, “for of such are the kingdom of heaven.” Thus the mass baptism in Acts 2 explicitly mentions the promise being to the children. When many more came to Christ and were baptized in the next chapter, Peter bases his confidence on a promise made to Abraham, which said, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Notice that Acts 4 doesn’t just mention individuals being blessed, but in Abraham all the families of the earth shall be blessed. In Acts 10 we have the baptism of a household. In Acts 11, another baptism of a household. In Acts 16, the baptism of two households. The baptism discussion in Galatians 3-4 does the same. That baptism is explicitly tied to the Abrahamic covenant, which excludes neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, neither adult believers nor their children. The last verses of chapter 3 says that all adult believers can be baptized because they are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant. But he continues his logic in chapter 4:1, where he says of the children of those believers, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.” It’s not just believing adults who are heirs of the Abrahamic family promises; he calls the child an heir as well. Now obviously in the verses following Paul speaks of the importance of children coming to faith and entering into their full sonship. But God treats them as heirs of the Abrahamic covenant before that happens.

And the point is that it takes faith in God’s family promises to baptize our children. It takes faith to be a Jochebed and believe God’s promises to our children rather than leaving them with the world. It takes faith when the state would love to strip our children out of our hands, but parents like David and Ruth are not driven by fear, but by faith. And now we have another Jochebed that we are believing will pass on the same faith in God’s family promises to many generations.

I’m going to invite David, Ruth, and family to come up, and as they do so, I want to read one more promise to the family. This promises both water baptism and Spirit baptism. Isaiah 44:1-5 we have a glorious prophecy of the New Covenant - “Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb… I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” May it be so Lord Jesus. Amen.

20. Topical

During this service we have been seeing that the glory of God is manifested in the conversion of the nations. There is coming a time when entire nations will stand in awe of God and bow before His throne. Can you imagine how amazing that would be to have 300,000,000 people bowing before God and singing His praises? Well, we are not there yet.

But in the meantime, God gains great glory from the salvation of entire families. Acts 3 says that the promise to Abraham in Genesis continues to hold true, “And in your seed [that is Christ,] all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (v. 25). It truly is an awesome thing when entire families worship together. Jesus said of little children who were singing His praises, and even babies who must have been moved by the Spirit during that particular time of worship - ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’? God is glorified when entire families worship together.

And the moment one person in a family comes to faith, God’s Spirit invades that family and begins to sanctify it. That’s why Jesus said to Zaccheus (even before Zaccheus went home), “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9) God’s saving grace began to invade that family, one member at a time. That’s why Paul told the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Now, it is not automatic. But in that passage, the entire family was baptized as an expression of faith in God’s promise.

And the great passage on baptism in Galatians 3-4 shows not only how baptism replaces circumcision, and it shows now only how babies are heirs of the covenant now just like they were under Abraham, but it also shows those babies are placed under stewards and guardians (Galatians 4:1). David and Ruth are the stewards and guardians of Jehoshabeth, which means that Jehoshabeth is claimed by God. She doesn’t belong to the parents; they are stewards of God’s property and guardians of that stewardship trust. And that same passage says that they are responsible to God to lead their children to have a faith that will glorify Him. God has a purpose in glorifying His name through families.

And the sign of that covenant purpose of God is baptism. In the Great Commissions it says there will be entire nations baptized – everyone within that nation. But it starts with families. There is a reason why entire families were baptized when the adults came to faith. You have the baptism of the households of Lydia, the Philippian jailer, Gaius, Crispus, Stephanus. In fact, the only time when the households were not baptized was when there were no households present – as was the case with the Ethiopian Eunuch (obviously), with Paul, and with the single men in Acts 19.

But here is an important point - baptism is not only an expression of trust in God’s promises, but it is a commitment on the part of the parents to dedicate their children to God and to lead their children to a faith that glorifies God. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says that when the parents are believers, they have the privilege of having their children outwardly set apart (that’s what sanctified means) and they have the privilege of having their children outwardly cleansed (that’s a reference to baptism).

No wonder Christ blessed the little children and babies in Luke 18 and said, “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” No wonder He promised, “I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on Your offspring.” No wonder God claims our little children in Isaiah 40, saying, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

In one sense Jehoshabeth is a miracle baby because God has been gently leading Ruth while she was pregnant and in danger of losing that baby. But let us receive this little child into the church as David and Ruth dedicate her to God. And let’s rejoice in Christ’s promise, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” May God be glorified in this baptism. Amen.

21. Genesis 3

So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

God’s covenant of grace is summed up in this statement, which is sometimes called the “protoevangelium” or the first time the Gospel is mentioned in the Scripture. But notice that God takes all the actions. God’s covenant has always been sovereignly administered. This means that men didn’t bargain with God. They didn’t say, “Yeah, I think I’ll serve God in this way.” In the first covenant (the covenant of works made in chapters 1-2) God made man and entered into covenant with man and told man (in effect) “This is the way it is going to be. Here are the rules, here is the kind of relationship I am going to have with you.” In other words, the covenant was God-centered; not man-centered. It was a sovereign gift. Man rebelled and the broken covenant not only impacted Adam, but all of his family and posterity. Men had no choice about escaping the judgment of the broken covenant.

But in this chapter God institutes a new covenant with men. He sovereignly brought Adam and Eve into the covenant of grace made with His Son; the one who would bruise Satan’s head. Adam and Eve didn’t seek Him. They were hiding from Him. God took them by His elective grace and said that they were going to be in this covenant. Up until this verse, Eve was at enmity with God and in league with Satan. God saved Eve by grace and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” God put the enmity there. We don’t decide who will and who will not be put into the covenant. Eve didn’t decide. God took her out of Satan’s family and put enmity between her and Satan and put a covenant bond of love between the woman and God.

Well the same is true of our children. Our children do not decide if they will or will not be in the covenant. Nor do parents decide who should enter the covenant and who should not. God said “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her Seed”. God had said that they would die when they ate the fruit. And they did die spiritually. They were separated and alienated from God. But now that God has brought Eve into the covenant of grace, he doesn’t leave all of her children dead in trespasses and sins. Verse 20 says that she became the mother of all the living. People sometimes take the promise in the next phrase as exclusively referring to Christ. Christ was one of her descendants, that is true. And it primarily refers to Christ. But Paul by inspiration quotes this verse and applies it to the church. It says, “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” He can say that because the church is united to Jesus, the true seed of the woman, by faith. So who does God include in His covenant of grace in this verse? Is it only Adam and Eve? No. He not only put enmity between the adult woman and Satan, but He also puts enmity between their children and Satan’s seed. In other words, God’s sovereign grace reaches out to save the children of believers. He doesn’t wait for them to grow up and choose Him. He works in their hearts by sovereign grace.

Let me give one qualification, however. This passage implies that children are not automatically saved. There is a warfare, but God starts children out in the covenant. He puts the children at enmity with the world. There is a difference there. Some like Cain would be cut off from the covenant in later life and Cain’s descendants and any other unbelievers’ descendants would be the seed of Satan. Certainly Cain grew up to reject the covenant. Being in the covenant doesn’t save people. But it is not by accident that chapter 4:26 describes Seth’s children as believers in covenant with God. They constituted the church. It is not by accident that chapter 6 describes the children of Seth as the sons of God. It is not by accident that God saved the household of Noah, the household of Abraham and that he continues to say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” In Ezekiel God describes the children of covenant as “My children,’ and “children born to Me.”

The point is that in every covenant God has made with man, He sovereignly dictates the members of that covenant, and it always includes the children. His covenants can be summed up in the words, “I will be a God to you and to your children after you.” This is one of the reasons we apply the sign of the covenant to our children. The mode of baptism (pouring) shows that God’s covenant is by sovereign grace, not by man’s initiative. The movement is from heaven to man, not vice versa. Likewise, the vast majority of baptisms are infant baptisms for the same reason - the passivity of a baby symbolizes the fact that we enter the covenant passively - not by our actions, but by God’s sovereign grace. So as we witness the baptism this morning, let us rejoice in God’s covenant that includes children and God’s sovereign grace which chooses us before we choose Him. May that grace be at work in all of our children. Amen.

22. Topical

Why do we baptize our children? One of the reasons is that it is a reminder to parents that children are in need of salvation as well as adults. Baptism doesn’t save them, but it does point to the fact that they are in need of the sprinkling of Christ’s blood. They are in need of the baptism of the Spirit. Psalm 51:5 says, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” If children were innocent and free from sin the sign of baptism would be meaningless.

So this is an important reason, but that reason is not enough by itself because the children of non-Christians are also in need of salvation, yet the Bible forbids us to baptize them. Another one of several reasons is that God cares for our children. They are not in a no-man’s land as some people teach. He calls them children born to Me in Ezekiel 23:37 and “My children” in Ezekiel 16:20-21. God claimed them in a special way. And Christ did the same when he held the infants and children in his hands and blessed them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

In Malachi He rebuked those seeking divorces because of the devastating impact that would have upon the children.

the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” (Mal. 2:14-15).

The text says that God is seeking for himself godly offspring the inspired, and it also affirms that what the parents do has an impact upon whether that purpose of Christian marriage is realized or not. Baptism is not only a sign of the covenant that the child is entering into, but also a sign and pledge of the covenant that the parents have been a part of. Parents pledge that they will take seriously their responsibility to the children to raise them in the fear and nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Ultimately however, the reason for the baptism of children rests in God’s command to apply the sign of the covenant to them, and God’s many promises that He would bless our children. The New Testament says that we are a part of the Abrahamic covenant, and baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of that covenant. The promise that He would be a God to Abraham’s children was continued on in the New Testament with records of many households coming to salvation, and many households being baptized. Paul indicated that he baptized the household of Stephanus at Corinth. When he went to Philippi Lydia was the first covert, and when she made profession of faith, the whole household was baptized with her. Even in jail the same pattern held true when Paul baptized not only the Philippian jailor, but his whole household. Households continue to be included in the covenant in the New Testament because Peter says that the same principle of God’s grace being poured out on our children holds true.

In Acts 2:39 after telling the people to repent and be baptized, he says, “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.” The promise that is pledged in baptism is to our children. And there are a multitude of such promises that parents can in faith lay hold of. Isaiah 44:3 says, “I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will feed His flock like a Shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” In Acts 16:31 Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Another reason the Bible teaches the baptism of infants is because God has set the children of believers apart to a different relationship to the Lord than other children have. Paul said that this was so even if one of the parents was an unbeliever. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 he says, “For the unbelieving husband is set apart by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” The children are treated as being part of the holy covenant community of the church. That is why Paul never addresses children as anything other than members of the church in his epistles.

So this morning we are going to be setting apart [name of child] to the Lord by baptism. This baptism is God’s claim upon her life. It is also the parent’s pledge that they have faith in God’s promises and that they will seek to raise this child in the fear and nurture of the Lord.

23. Topical

I think it is so neat how the bible treats families. It doesn’t divide them up. When it is time for worship Scripture says, “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones….” When it comes to covenanting before the Lord the Scripture says, “Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation…” [ what is God’s people? What is the congregation? Well it says] “Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes…” And that has been the pattern throughout Scripture. God deals with us as families. And we are going to be baptizing the [family name] twins this morning because God consistently applied the sign of the covenant to children. In Genesis 17 God called not only Abraham into covenant with Himself, but He said, “I will be a God to you and to your children”. And so the sign of the covenant was applied to them. In Joshua chapters 4 and 5 God not only covenants with the adults when they made profession of faith, but also with their children. And the sign of the covenant was applied to the children that day. In Acts 2 God not only made a covenant with believers, but also with the children of believers because the promise was to them and to their children and to all who are afar off. Christianity is multi-generational and familial. In Acts 3 Peter applies the Abrahamic promise to us and says, “And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” - families.

But one of the potential dangers is that we could interpret God’s welcome of children into the church as a sign that children don’t need to be converted, or to somehow think that baptism regenerates our children. It does not. And I thought I would have you turn to 1 Corinthians to look at a verse that is frequently used by Lutherans to teach baptismal regeneration.

And as you are turning there, I should hasten to say that in denying that baptism regenerates, I am not saying that God has no relationship to our children. He does. I think one of the most encouraging things that a parent can realize is that God claims our children as His own. He calls them “My children” in Ezekiel 16:21 and and “children whom they bore to Me” in Ezekiel 23:37. In Colossians 3 and Ephesians 6 Paul addresses children as belonging to His church. And to me that is encouraging. But what I want to do this morning is to assure our visitors and members that baptism does not save a baby, nor does baptism presume they are believers yet. I have had people come up to me after a baptism and quote two verses as to why they believe children are regenerated in baptism. This is one. But I think that confuses the whole subject. That is simply not true. Look at 1 Corinthians 7:14 and let me show you why that interpretation is not true.

“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.”

They say, “See? The child is clearly called holy. Only saved people are holy.” Well, in answer I would tell such a person to look at his Strong’s Concordance under the word “holy” and he would quickly see hundreds of times where the word holy is used of even such things as pots and pans and clothing; it is used of Jerusalem and the land; used of Israel, and used of people who aren’t saved. In fact, in this same verse, the same Greek word describes an unbeliever who is not saved. It says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified…” That’s the same Greek word for “holy.” In fact, some versions translate that clause as, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy by the wife. In any case, continuing to read in this verse: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband.” That is clear proof that Paul is talking about an outward setting apart, not regeneration.

You see the word “holy” or “sanctified” or literally “set apart by God” can refer to an inward setting apart of our hearts in which case we are saved, or it can refer to an outward setting apart of a person, place or thing to God’s presence and influence. That is the most common useage. The closer you got to the presence of God, the more holy things were said to be. So in the Old Testament Jerusalem was the holy city because it was the place of the presence. And of all the hills in Jerusalem, the temple mount was called the holy hill or the holy mountain because it was the closest hill to God’s presence. And then in the temple you have the holy place and the most holy place because it was closest to God’s presence. What this passage is saying is that the presence of God is now in the home and these people are set aside to His special working.

And if you look at the context you will see that this is the way the word is being used. Why is the unbelieving husband set apart? Verse 16 tells us. It says, “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?” [implying what? Even though he may be sanctified, he isn’t saved yet. Right? He goes on] “Or how do you know O husband, whether you will save your wife?” His point was that though the person was not inwardly set apart yet, there was great hope of his future salvation because God had already outwardly set him apart and had thus begun to work in his life. God is outwardly orchestrating events in his life to move him to salvation. That’s the most common usage of sanctification. That’s a wonderful promise for those who have unbelieving spouses. But it is also a wonderful promise to those who have children. Though they may not be saved yet, God has set them apart and is orchestrating events in the children’s lives to lead them to salvation. So the context clearly indicates that Paul is talking about an outward sanctification; an outward setting apart; an outward working of the Spirit in the whole family.

But a person might object, “What about the word “unclean”? They could very rightly object that the word unclean normally is translated “unpurified.” To be unclean or unpurified means to be still in your sins and unsaved, and this verse denies that our children are unclean or unpurified. And they will also point out that you can’t get around this word because it is not used of the unbelieving spouse. The unbelieving spouse may be said to be sanctified, but he sure isn’t said to be clean. And that is true. There is something different about the child. But it is not that the child is necessarily saved. If you get our your concordance you will find that the word clean or purified can refer to an inward purification or an outward purification. For example, the same word is used to refer to the purifying of our hearts in Acts 15:9. And those who believe that this passage teaches that all our children are automatically saved in infancy will point to such verses - purification of the heart.

But again I would point out that there are numerous passages pointing to an outward purification. For example, Hebrews 9:13 speaks of the purifying of the flesh through the sprinkling of water. In fact, why don’t you turn to Hebrews. It’s Hebrews 10:22. It says, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” [that is inward purification; inward baptism of the Spirit; inward pouring out of the waters of the Spirit. But he goes on to say] “and” [in other words he is talking about two separate things] “and our bodies washed with the pure water.” That’s baptism. And that is the same Greek word for purified or clean that is used in 1 Corinthians 7:14. There is inward cleansing and outward cleansing. And what 1 Corinthians 7:14 is saying is not that our children are regenerated, but that they are baptized. “Otherwise your children would be unbaptized, but now they are holy.” It has no reference to salvation. Those are the only two alternatives - all the children of believers in Corinth were saved or all the children of believers were baptized. I don’t know any other Biblical usages of unclean.

We believe this passage teaches us about child baptism; not child regeneration. It’s a synonym for baptizo. This is the word that was used of John the Baptist’s baptisms. This is the word used of Christ’s disciples baptisms in John 3:25. It is used of Christian baptism in Ephesians 5:26. And there are other references to unbaptized people like Cornelius being called “unclean” and after being baptized being called clean.

The Jews were big on the baptism of their children and the baptisms of converts as being born into Israel. But Christ warns us that it is not enough to be born of water, we must also be born of the Spirit. Each one of us as parents needs to pray diligently for our children’s salvation and to claim the promises of salvation that God holds out to us in baptism. At this time I would like to invite Mr and Mrs [name] forward and we will welcome the twins into Dominion Covenant Church and into the covenant.

24. Topical

When we admit adults into the church, we also bring in families. And I love the way the Bible treats families. It doesn’t divide the families up. When it is time for worship, Scripture says, “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones… that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law.” God takes the families as a unit. He makes promises to families. He made His covenant with Adam’s family, with Noah’s family, with Abraham’s family, with Moses, Phinehas, David and many other families. When Zaccheus believed, salvation grace invaded his whole house. Christ said to him, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And that is why the Old Testament had entire families circumcised and why in the New Testament entire families were baptized.

As the children are baptized this morning, let’s remember the words in Luke 18:15-16

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

If Christ included infants and little children in the kingdom, who are we to reject them? No, God has always dealt with families in the covenant.

In Acts 3 Peter said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus…for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off” (Acts 2:38-39) - many generations were included. In the next chapter Peter promises “you are sons …of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). Praise God for His covenant with the family. Praise God for the promise in Acts, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved; you and your house.” I don’t know about you, but those words, “and your house” are a wonderful comfort to me. Those words are strewn throughout Scripture. Seven of the baptisms mentioned in the New Testament are household baptisms. The others were not household baptisms simply because there were no children present. Christ was not married, nor was Paul. The Ethiopian Eunuch could not have children.

And so this morning we too are receiving these families into the church as families. Baptism is a sign of what God has promised to the family, and it is a seal or pledge of those promises. As the parents claim that promise in faith, God will fulfill the same. Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

25. Topical

This morning as you witness this baptism, I want all of you parents to think about the baptismal vows that you made in the past. You have heard me point out many times that baptism is 1) God’s pledge to fulfill His promises to our children and 2) the parent’s pledge to fulfill their responsibilities before God to their children. Scripture doesn’t just say, “I will be a God to you and to your children.” It doesn’t just say, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” Scripture also says “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is true that God gave Abraham the promise that He would save his children, but that promise came in the context of the command to Abraham and Sarah to raise their children to fear the Lord, it says, “That the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” That verse [Genesis 18:19] indicates that without grace Abraham would not have been able to engage in his covenant responsibilities faithfully. But it also indicates that without faithfully fulfilling his covenant responsibilities to the children, he could not expect the fulfillment of God’s promises.

So don’t ever divide those two elements or baptism will become a mere superstition on the one hand or an empty sign on the other. It will become a superstition if you leave it all up to God and repudiate your responsibilities. It will become an empty sign if you do not claim God’s many promises. Both Sarah and Hagar repudiated their responsibilities to Ishmael when they circumcised him, and it is not at all surprising that he grew up to reject the covenant. God’s promise and the parent’s responsibility need to be wedded together. Proverbs 20:7 says, The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.” That’s why we don’t baptize the children of unbelievers and we don’t baptize the children of those who are under church discipline. And so this morning, as you other parents witness this baptism, I want you to reaffirm your commitment that you have made to God concerning your children; to raise them in the fear and admonition of God, and once again claim God’s promises to them.

And God’s promises are many. This is not an empty sign. God did indeed promise salvation to baptized children. The whole household of the Philippian jailer was baptized in Acts 16:33 and it was to the whole household that salvation was promised: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household.” Your faith can be effective in your child’s salvation. In Acts 2 Peter speaks of the outward sign of water baptism as pointing to the promise of Spirit baptism. And he immediately gives that promise to the children of the believers then gathered. “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off.” Baptism is not an empty sign when the parents claim God’s promises. It becomes an empty sign and a superstition when we fail to believe the promises and we neglect our responsibilities. And that is what happened to the Israelite church, on occasion, in connection with circumcision.

Just like baptism, circumcision was applied to infants. Just like baptism, circumcision was a symbol of justification by faith (Rom. 4:11). Just like baptism Jeremiah 4:4 speaks of circumcision as an outward sign of an inward cleansing. Just like baptism, Joshua 5 speaks of circumcision as dying to one’s old life and being raised to a new life. That was the promise of God. And the sign did not become empty and superstitious because it was applied to children. God commanded the church to apply that sign to infants. It became empty and superstitious at certain period’s of Israel’s history because of the failure of the parents to embrace the covenant.

Baptism is a wonderful sign. Our children are not in a no-man’s land. They are not in the world. This morning [name of baby] is becoming a member of the church. Now notice I didn’t say he is going to be saved this morning. He may already be saved, or his salvation may yet be future. But there can be no question about the fact that the children of believers who have received the sign of the covenant are welcomed by Christ into the church. In Luke 18 when parents brought covenant infants to Christ, the disciples tried to limit access, but Christ said, “Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They were at least outwardly in the kingdom, if not really in the kingdom. Matthew 18:5 indicates that such covenant children have Christ’s protection. Matthew 18:10 shows that they have angels assigned to them. In Ezekiel 16:20-21, God says that the covenant children were children “born to Me,” and He calls them “My children.” Never in the New Testament do we have any indication that children grow up and later join the church. In both Colossians and Ephesians Paul addresses children as being members of the church.

And so this should not be either an empty sign, or a superstitious sign if parents will do two things: 1) claim God’s promises to the children and 2) embrace their responsibilities to the covenant. As [names of parents] come forward right now, let’s corporately claim God’s promise in Isaiah 65:23 as we pray for this child: God promises, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring.”

26. Acts 2:38-39

Why do we baptize infants? Well, for the same reason that Abraham was supposed to circumcise his infants. The covenant was not just made with Abraham. It was made with Abraham, and his descendants after him. And the promise of the covenant continues to be made with our children. In Acts 2:38 Peter sums up his sermon on the covenant by telling the covenant breakers, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized” [and then he goes on to give the reason for his command] “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.” God continues to make a covenant with our children, and even with those who have not yet been born, to all who are afar off. And so we baptize children of believers because God has never authorized us to remove them from the Abrahamic covenant. They’re in. There is not a word of their removal in the New Testament.

The second reason is that Peter somehow connects baptism logically with the Abrahamic promise. The logic of the passage is, “Be baptized . . . for the Old Testament promise is to you and to your children.” What is the relationship between baptism and the Abrahamic promise that was given to believers and their children? If baptism was a brand new rite utterly unconnected to the Abrahamic covenant, how could Peter reason in this way? You see, what many people do not realize is that infant baptism was a parallel rite that accompanied circumcision for baby males and substituted for circumcision for baby girls. It is first discussed in the Mosaic economy, but the Scriptures imply that these purification rites went on earlier. On the eighth day, mother and baby both were baptized in what was called a baptism of purification. The same language that is used of this purification rite is used of baptism in the New Testament.

So there was no controversy over infant baptism in the early church. There would have been massive controversy if infants had been excluded from the sign of the covenant. But we have no evidence of controversy over baptism in the New Testament. There never has been controversy until recent history. John’s disciple Polycarp baptized infants. Polycarps disciple Irenaes, one of the most important church father, said, “infants and little ones and children and youths and older persons” are baptized. And every century after that is full of testimony to the universal practice of infant baptism.

All the controversy in the New Testament came over stopping circumcision. Now let me explain that a little bit. Consider females in the Old Testament. How was it that they could be called “the circumcised” when females were never circumcised? For a Jew, the answer to that question is simple. Her eighth day baptism was counted as if she were circumcised. And so we find many non-Biblical writers who find no difficulty in calling baptism a circumcision. They were used to that for females. The male on the other hand was circumcised and baptized on the eighth day. And by the way, when Gentiles became Jews, the same practice was done: females were baptized and males were baptized and circumcised. And when God stopped male circumcision and said that his baptism would also be treated as if he were circumcised, there was a big uproar. And it took a great deal of discussion for the Jews to be convinced that males did not have to be circumcised. They understood the baptism part. That had always been done with females. But they didn’t understand that baptism was the only part that continued into the New Testament for anyone, whether male or female. Romans 2 can say that all baptized Gentiles are “counted as if” they are circumcised. Colossians 2 calls baptism “Christian circumcision.” For a Jew, that phrase would not have raised an eyebrow. Baptism had frequently been called a circumcision and early church fathers call baptism the great circumcision. Likewise, Philippians 3 calls Gentile believers the circumcision, and Ephesians 2 says that Gentiles are no longer Gentiles in the flesh. If this language had been exclusively applied to women, Jews would not have been troubled, but to say that no circumcision had to accompany baptism for males was more than many Jews could handle. And when you understand that background, all of the circumcision controversy makes sense. Galatians 3 can go right from circumcision to baptism and say that baptized Gentiles are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.

I hope that now you can see why Peter is saying that the Old Testament promise is tied logically to baptism. It was not a New Testament doctrine. And I hope you can see why the household baptisms of the New Testament were not something new, but were a continuation of proselyte baptism. The New Testament is full of household baptisms. Of the 11 baptisms mentioned in the New Testament, 5 are explicitly said to be baptisms of the entire household, 2 hint at the household in the context, three have no household. The Eunuch couldn’t have any children, Paul didn’t have any, and the 12 disciples of John didn’t have any wives. That leaves one passage that neither denies nor affirms baptism of the household. It just says males and females were baptized. And so the overwhelming evidence of the New Testament is that we are to continue to follow the Old Testament practice of including infants in the baptism rite and treating that as if it was circumcision.

Let me end by giving two mentions of infants included in baptism. 1 Corinthians 10 makes Israel’s baptism into Moses a type of the church being baptized in Christ. And it says, “all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Infants were not excluded. 1 Corinthians 7:14 makes this point for the New Testament period. It says, “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.” We looked at this in-depth during the last baptism, but suffice it to say here that both unbelieving spouse and child are set apart by God for the special working of his spirit. Verse 16 indicates that this gives hope of their future salvation. But only the infant is said to be clean. Now in the Bible there are only two ways that clean and unclean are used: of the heart, and of the body. Either he is saying that every child of one believing parent is regenerated, which is contradicted by other Scriptures and by experience, or else he is saying that every child in the church of Corinth was outwardly cleansed. Again, in the Old Testament you could go from unclean to clean by either circumcision or by baptism. In the New TEstament, there is only one ritual that makes you outwardly set apart as clean: baptism. The same word that is used here for unclean without the negative is used of John’s baptism, of Jesus baptism in John 3, of Christian baptism in Ephesians 5 and Hebrews 10:22, and of Old Testament baptisms in Hebrews 9 and other passages. There are only two legitimate options for interpreting 1 Corinthians 7:14 - either this passage is teaching automatic regeneration of our children or it is teaching infant baptism. I believe a legitimate paraphrase of that verse could be, “Otherwise your children would be unbaptized, but now they are holy.” They are set apart to God because of His promises to us and to our children. And as the [family name] come forward at this time to baptize [name of baby girl], they are claiming the many promises given in Scripture concerning the salvation of our children. Acts 16 tells us, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. . . And immediately he and all his family were baptized.”

27. John the Baptizer 1

In previous years we have looked at the various passages that clearly teach infant baptism. And that is because I want you to know why we do what we do. Tradition is meaningless unless it is Biblical. And so we have looked at many positive passages. But last week we started looking at the supposed “Baptist” passages and showed how even they supported the doctrine of infant baptism. As we have more baptisms in the future, I want you to realize that there are no weak passages. Now obviously you may have questions about passages that we won’t have time to cover this morning, and I would be happy to address those some time. And I am going to have to take a little bit longer this morning, so I will just cut my sermon short and finish the rest of it next week.

Today I want to examine the Baptism of John, which supposedly is proof positive that children were not included. They point out that John called the people to repent and be baptized, and infants cannot repent. I found it interesting to note that Baptists frequently argue vigorously that John’s baptism wasn’t Jewish proselyte baptism. And I did a little research to find out why there were such strenuous objections. And I came to find out that when Jews baptized proselytes, the adults were called to repentance - yes, just like John did; but then the whole household (including the babies) were baptized along with the converted adult. And I came to find out that baby baptisms started in the Old Testament. The first time a person was baptized was on day eight after birth and accompanied the circumcision if you were a male, and was performed by itself if you were a female.

And so, one of the assumptions of these books was that the baptism of John the Baptist was something brand new; that it had no connection to the Old Testament - that baptism is a New Testament doctrine. Now I want to show today that if John’s baptism was an Old Testament baptism, that it had to include all the children, and it had to be by sprinkling. There are three problems with saying that John’s baptism was brand new. The first one is historical. John didn’t have to explain what baptism meant. The people understood what he meant and that’s almost impossible to explain if it was something brand new. I mean, just imagine that you were transported back into time and you told Martin Luther to be sure to watch the 11 o’clock news on T.V. “Excuse me? What’s a T.V.?” “Oh, I’m sorry, I meant the Television.” “I’ve never heard of a television. What’s that?” Well, it’s this big box that you plug into the electric outlet, and there are T.V. stations that transport the news over the air…” You get the point. Anytime a brand new doctrine is given, it generates a lot of discussion and questions and controversy. The Jews didn’t do anything in those days that wasn’t in the Bible or in tradition. Remember Fiddler on the Roof? Tradition! Tradition! There was a fight over any bucking of tradition. And yet, the only controversy over baptism was over who administered the baptism. They knew what baptism was but they said to John, “What right do you have to baptize? That’s our job.”

You see, there were several baptisms in the Old Testament, and every Jew had been baptized at least once. Hebrews 6:1 says that those Old Testament baptisms are basic principles for Christians. “The basic principles of Christ.” There is a connection. Look at Hebrews 9:10. Hebrews has been trying to show that outward rituals don’t save us. You’ve got to have the inward reality that the sign was pointing to before you are actually saved. And we believe Hebrews. We don’t teach that baptism saves our children. It is merely the sign and pledge that God has given of His promise of the Spirit to us and to our children after us. We don’t know when, but we lay hold of God’s promise by faith. And so Hebrews describes various Old Testament signs as being “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings” [and that’s the same word that is elsewhere translated as baptisms - various baptisms], “and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.” And then he goes on to describe five Old Testament baptisms all of which were either a sprinkling of water or of water mixed with blood or ashes. Verse 13 - “the sprinkling of the unclean” points (verse 14) to the purifying of our conscience. He is saying that in the Old Testament you had to have both. It’s not enough for those families to be sprinkled outwardly. To be saved they also had to have the purifying of the conscience. And he goes through the chapter showing how these Old Testament family baptisms pointed to the need for Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives. Outward baptism points to the need for Spirit baptism. And if you look at those Old Testament baptisms - they applied to all, believing men and women along with their children.

In chapter 10 he applies the Old Testament baptisms to New Testament baptism and says it’s the same - the outward ceremony is important, but it’s not enough. Look at 10:22. This is describing Christian baptism: “let us” [notice that this is not Old Testament saints now, but “let us”] “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The outward sprinkling of water on our bodies pictures the inward sprinkling or purifying of our hearts. So the first problem with thinking that John’s baptism was new was that the people didn’t need any explanation. They were used to seeing these baptisms for thousands of years. Nothing new. And the New Testament clearly connects Christian baptism with Old Testament baptism.

The second problem with saying that John’s baptism was a new baptism was that while there was no controversy over the fact of baptism, there was a great deal of controversy over who could perform the baptisms. For example, Luke goes to pains to show that John was a priest. Does that really matter? Couldn’t anyone have baptized a Jew? No. Only a Levite could, and Luke settles the question by making clear that John was a priest from the tribe of Levi. Why do John’s disciples and Christ’s disciples get into a fight as to who should be baptizing? Well, Christ was not a Levitical priest. It would have seemed strange until Christ quotes the Scriptures and shows that He is the Messiah. Ahh! The Messiah was a priest - a priest after the order of Melchizedek. So it made sense for Christ to be baptizing. Even the Pharisees knew that. The Pharisees question John and ask Him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ”. They knew that Christ would baptize, but who is John? And John has to give his credentials. And if you look at the Levitical baptisms of the Old Testament, again you will see that the only Levitical baptism that could have been in view here included the whole family of a repentant believer. That’s why Luke 3:21 says that “all the people were baptized” by John. It wasn’t just the adults. It was all without distinction but not all without exception. If it was all without distinction, it must have included all classes, including babies. It followed the Old Testament pattern of family baptism.

And people might object, if it was Old Testament sprinkling, why does John 3:23 say, “John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there.” Why do you need much water if you are only going to sprinkle? Well, number one, Old Testament baptisms requried running water. Number 2, if John was going to baptize in the wilderness, there had to be a source of water for the thousands of people to drink. And number three, all you have to do is visit Israel and you will see that there isn’t body of water big enough at Aenon to dunk people in. The word Aenon means place of many springs and there are seven fountains there. Plenty of water to drink, but none to dunk in. And I find it significant that Baptist dictionaries say that the location of Aenon hasn’t been found yet. But they mean it hasn’t been found near a body of water. There is an Aenon that is near 7 springs which is what the word means. The geography of where Aenon is fits baptism by pouring, but not baptism by immersion. So that objection does not overthrow the fact that this was an Old Testament baptism.

The third problem with the assumption that John’s baptism was a new baptism was that the Pharisees and all the people were expecting Christ to baptize. For example in John 1:25 it says, “And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ…” They were expecting the Christ to baptize. And again, the only prophecies about Christ baptizing anyone are by sprinkling and they include the children. For example, the passage in Isaiah that makes the Ethiopian Eunuch ask what hinders him from being baptized is a passage that speaks of the application of Christ’s death to the Gentiles. The Ethiopian get’s baptism out of Isaiah, but there isn’t any reference to dunking. It says, “So His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; So shall He sprinkle many Gentiles.” The eunuch was a Gentile who until then had been excluded from the church, and he gets excited. If this Messiah you’ve been talking about sprinkles Gentiles and not just Jews, then what hinders me from being baptized? Can you see it? He didn’t have any kids, but Matthew later traveled to him in Ethiopia and planted many churches. And the earliest records of the Ethiopian church show infant baptism. There has never been a time in Ethiopia when the whole family was not included in the baptism.

Or consider this prophecy: “I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Christ was prophecied not only to pour water on us and our children, but to pour His Spirit on our children as well. Water baptism points to the pouring out of His Spirit - and all done on believers and their children.

Or consider this prophecy about Christ in Ezekiel 36: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and … I will put My Spirit within you and cause You to walk in My statutes.” Water being sprinkled on us points to the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Can you see why Peter speaks not only of water baptism, but Spirit baptism and says, “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.” He speaks of outward baptism being the symbol of Spirit baptism and the very next words are, “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.” The sign is applied to every one of them because the promise was to the adult Jews, to their children and the Gentiles afar off. Can you see why the only baptisms we see in the New Testament (except for those who didn’t have a family) were baptisms of the believer and their household. And we have the household Cornelius, of Lydia, of the Jailer, of Crispus, of Gaius and of Sephanus all baptized according to the Old Covenant pattern of “unto you and your seed.”

John’s baptism was proselyte baptism. He offended the Pharisees because he was calling them Gentiles when he called them to repent and get baptized. He said they were outside the church. But the beauty of the proselyte baptism was that when the adult repented, his whole family was included in the covenant, was baptized and was welcomed into the church even if the children couldn’t talk yet. And that is what we are going to do this morning. By faith we are laying hold of God’s covenant promise. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved - you and your household….” and we are imitating that family when Acts goes on to say, “And immediately he and all his household were baptized.”

28. John the Baptizer 2

This morning I will have the privilege of baptizing [name of baby] into the covenant. And before I do that, I want to give a little background on why we baptize infants. In Appendix B of by book on infant baptism, I show how infant baptism started in the Old Testament – specifically in the time of Moses. Male children were circumcised and baptized on the eighth day, and female children were only baptized. And interestingly, the Jews called the Baptism a circumcision. And often it took the place of circumcision. For example, when a Jew would apostatize or be excommunicated, they would treat him as a Gentile. But if that person converted, if he was a man, he couldn’t get circumcised a second time. So instead, the Bible would have the person baptized, and the baptism was treated as a circumcision. When a Gentile family would become saved, the males would be circumcised and baptized, and the females would only become baptized. And in the appendix I give the verses that show all of this. In proselyte baptism, the children were always baptized. Almost everybody acknowledges this.

Where the debate comes is whether that is relevant at all to the church. Many people treat Christianity almost like a brand new religion, with brand new rites. But where covenant theology does see changes (for example the blood aspects of Passover are removed in the Lord’s Table), we do not see ourselves as having a brand new religion and brand new rituals. Where Baptists say that John the Baptist was performing something brand new, we say that he was simply calling for proselyte baptism. That’s why the Pharisees were so offended. He was calling them to repentance, treating them as Gentiles; as people who had been cut off from the covenant. And they were. And if John the Baptist’s baptism was Old Testament baptism, then it is almost certain that whole families were being baptized, including the youngest children.

And so, what I want to do today – rather than looking at one passage of Scripture dealing with infant baptism like we normally do, I want to answer two questions: First question: “Is there any evidence that the New Testament has taken away the practice of baptizing the babies of believers?” And my answer is “No.” Now there was huge controversy over the removal of circumcision. All bloody rites were removed once Jesus’ sacrifice was finished. And that stirred up controversy. But there is not the slightest evidence that the church was forbidden to continue baptizing their babies. In fact, the book of Hebrews explicitly ties our baptism together with Old Testament baptism. Now some people will say that the command to believe and be baptized by implication indicates that babies can’t be baptized because they can’t believe. But exactly the same commandment was given for both circumcision and baptism in the Old Testament. That’s why the unbelieving generation of Israelites under Moses were not allowed to circumcise their children. They didn’t have faith. Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant only for believing parents. There is no evidence that infant baptism was removed.

Second question: “Is there any evidence that the New Testament continued the practice of household baptisms?” And the answer is “Absolutely, yes.” To see all of the evidences, you will have to read my book. But let me give a couple hints. Turn to Galatians 3. This is a passage Baptists frequently turn to in order to prove that infants have been removed from the Abrahamic covenant and are no longer heirs. The context is circumcision being abolished and baptism taking the place of circumcision. That all by itself should clue us in that the subjects of circumcision would be the same as the subjects of baptism. But let’s start reading at verse 26.

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” This much is clear: full sonship only comes through faith. But does God leave children out in the cold until they come to faith, or are they under guardians and special privileges? Verses 23-25 indicate that until faith comes, God made provision by way of what he calls a tutor. But let’s keep reading in verse 27. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Baptists say, “Those are the heirs, and therefore those are the only ones who should be baptized. Baptism applies to believing Jews, Gentiles, slaves, free, men, and women.”

Unfortunately, that’s where most people stop reading. It is quite true that the Abrahamic covenant required faith for adults. It is also quite true that both Jews and Gentiles were circumcised in Genesis 17. Both males and females were admitted. Both slaves and free were part of the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 17. In fact, there were more Gentiles circumcised that day than there were lineal descendants of Abraham. So Galatians 3 says that the sign of the covenant continues to apply to those believers. But to say that children were excluded is going too far. Keep reading in chapter 4. “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father.” The Greek word for “child” in verse 1 is defined in dictionaries as being a child anywhere from a newborn to a toddler. In God’s plan they were not in a no-man’s land. The one’s baptized in chapter 3 are not the only ones who are heirs. The children are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, and central to that covenant is the seed. That’s just a hint that the children have not been removed from the Abrahamic covenant.

Another hint is that almost every time baptism is mentioned in the New Testament, it is tied to the Abrahamic covenant.

Another hint is the number of household baptisms that you find in the New Testament. You have the baptism of Stephanus and his household, of the Philippian jailor, of Lydia, of the Centurion, of Gaius and of Crispus. In fact, the only times we know for sure that the household was not included is when there was no household. The Ethiopian eunuch couldn’t have children. Paul didn’t have children. And the disciples of John who were baptized in Acts were single. Otherwise, they were all household baptisms. This is a strong hint that OT baptism of children continues.

The point is that God continues to care for the family and sees the family as the fundamental unit of society and the fundamental unit of the church. This church is not made up of individuals. It is made up of families. Some families happen to be single. But when God describes the members of the church, He includes the children. He speaks of “their little ones, and their wives, their sons and daughters, the whole congregation of them” (2 Chron. 30:18). In another place He says, “sanctify the congregation – assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing babes.” Jesus Himself said, “Allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them. For of such is the kingdom of heaven.” If Jesus welcomes them into the protection of the kingdom, we cannot exclude them.

And so, even though there are changes to the rituals of the Old Testament, we continue to apply the sign of the Abrahamic covenant to our children who are heirs, even though they are not yet sons by faith. And may this baptism become our pledge as parents to be stewards and guardians of our children to lead them to faith. May it be our pledge to raise our children in the fear and nurture of the Lord and a claim to God’s promise that He gave to the Philippian jailer. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” He believed, and laying claim to God’s promise to be a God to Him and to His children after Him, He placed the sign of the covenant upon his children. The next verses say that his household was baptized. Not all good Christians agree with us on infant baptism. But it is something that we glory in, and delight in speaking about. Amen.

Now as the [family name] come forward, we get to witness both sides of the covenant. [The baby of the family] will be baptized in anticipation of when he will enter into sonship by faith. [The next two children are named] have already come to faith, and as a son and daughter of the Most High, they will be admitted to the Lord’s Table. So I will be asking them questions immediately after the baptism.

29. Isaiah 44:1-5

It’s my privilege to baptize [name of baby] this morning. Infant baptism is one of the great benefits of those who put their faith in God. And it requires faith on the part of the parents to see God’s promises coming to fruition. And I want to look at Isaiah 44, which is yet another passage that speaks of the beautiful doctrine of covenant succession, and how infant baptism fits into it. Isaiah 44, beginning to read at verse 1 says,

1 “Yet hear me now, O Jacob My servant, And Israel whom I have chosen.

There are three things that verse talks about. First, is covenant succession. Jacob was the third generation Christian. But before he was even conceived, God’s promises went to Jacob because of the faith of his parents. And actually, God’s choice preceded the parent’s choice. God initiates the covenant and we would be without hope apart from God’s choice. Verse 2 continues

2 Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you: “Fear not, O Jacob My servant; And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

This is a fantastic prolife verse. This verse indicates that God forms us in the womb, that we are persons in the womb, that God values babies who are in the womb, and God claims us in the womb. And God promises to help us from that time forward. The sign of these covenant promises is water baptism which points to Spirit baptism. Verse 3 deals with both. He says,

3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

Pouring water and later God pouring out the Holy Spirit symbolizes the fact that it is all of grace and not of works. It’s not our movement, but God’s movement that changes us and changes our children. We are always dependent upon God. And God continues to watch over our children as they grow up, which is what verse 4 talks about.

4 They will spring up among the grass Like willows by the watercourses.’

We look forward to [baby’s name] growing up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And the result is eventual profession of faith so that she can perpetuate the cycle of God’s faithfulness from generation to generation. So verse 5 says,

5 One will say, “I am the LORD’S’; Another will call himself by the name of Jacob; Another will write with his hand, ‘The LORD’S,’ And name himself by the name of Israel.

Those are descriptions of the various ways that people would make their covenant vows when they became older. So here is a passage of Scripture that shows covenant succession. It starts with God’s election of an adult, bringing that adult to faith, claiming his children, helping the parents raise those children in the nurture of the Lord, seeing those children embrace the covenant by faith, and that in turn keeps the historical covenant going. We speak of this as covenant succession. And while water baptism is the symbol, only the Spirit and his grace can achieve it. So as the [family name] come to have [baby’s name] baptized, may they put their trust in God rather than the ceremony, and may God answer their faith with a rich pouring out of His blessings in years to come. Amen.

30. Topical

Since [baby’s name] probably won’t have the foggiest notion of what is going on in the rite of baptism, the question often comes up, what benefit is there in doing it? When I was a teenager I was taught that infant baptism was a superstitious ritual that came over from the Roman Catholic Church. Actually, there has been an unbroken practice of infant baptism recorded in every century of church history from Bible times to the present. In 251 A.D. all the churches got together in a church council to discuss various matters, and when infant baptism came up, the only question that surrounded the issue was whether infants had to be baptized on the eighth day or whether they could be baptized earlier or later. Now you might think that argument was silly, but the reason for it was the infants were circumcised on the eighth day in the Abrahamic covenant, and it has always been recognized until the time of the Reformation that the New Testament replaced circumcision with baptism as the sign of inclusion in the covenant. In fact, every argument that can be brought against infant baptism can also be raised against infant circumcision. They both are signs and seals of exactly the same thing. Anyway, the church council says that the symbolic “eighth day” language of the Old Testament was fulfilled in the Christian sabbath, and that the baby didn’t have to be baptized exactly eight days after birth; it could be baptized the first Sunday that was practical after birth. And that practice continued. But that was the first controversy surrounding baptism - not whether infants could be baptized (they agreed that was an apostolic practice) but on which day it could be practiced.

Turn with me to Romans 4:11. Almost everyone recognizes that baptism is a sign and seal of justification by faith, but this verse indicates that circumcision was also a sign and seal of justification by faith. I’ll read verses 11-12 because verse 12 says that Abraham’s circumcision is a pattern for the Gentile church as well. He is not only the father or pattern of faith, but the father and pattern of circumcision.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while st

Turn to Romans 3:1. I used to be skeptical about the value of applying the sign of justification by faith to an infant who could not express its faith. But skeptics asked Paul the same question regarding circumcision. Let’s read Romans 3:1-3. “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?” (Rom. 3:1). Paul’s answer is, “Much in every way!” He doesn’t enumerate all the advantages, but he gives the main one:

Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not!” (Rom. 3:3-4)

You see, the faithfulness of God to His promises to our children is a part of the question that is often left out of discussions on baptism and circumcision. Baptism is God’s pledge of faithfulness to His promises, and it is also our pledge of faithfulness to our covenantal duties to trust and obey.

I want to briefly look at how those two factors relate in the life of a child. Turn to Genesis 17:7. In this passage we see clearly that God’s promises were made not only to Abraham, but also to Abraham’s descendants. In Genesis 17:7 He says, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” That’s one of the reasons why God made them circumcise their infants - it was because He had made promises to those infants. And the Bible is full of such references. When Peter told the crowds to repent and be baptized, he related that baptism to the children. “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 [he’s giving the reason why every one of them should be baptized. “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 2:39) God has promised to be a God to the children of believers and He has made good on that promise.

Various studies even in our day and age when family unity is not particularly strong indicate that between 75%-90% of people say that they came to Christ through the influence of family or close friends. The whole family is important in the covenant whether you are looking in the Old Testament or the New Testament and therefore circumcision and later baptism was applied to children as well as parents. The New Testament has several references to households being saved and it also has a surprising number of references to households being baptized even though only the parent is mentioned in connection with profession of faith. The promise is to you and to your children.

But if this is true does this mean that we don’t need to worry about doing anything to see that our children embrace Christ? Can we just passively wait for God do fulfill His promises? Obviously not. God’s promises are never made in a vacuum. They are made in the context of the covenant and a covenant entails responsibilities as well as blessings. Many people think that the promises to Abraham were unconditional. But look with me at Genesis 18:19. This verse proves that there were conditions Abraham had to fulfill in order to receive the promises. Obviously they were fulfilled by grace (and that’s where the verse begins), but the conditions are there nonetheless. “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” God uses means, and the means He chose to use in order to bring this blessing was the fact that Abraham and Sarah would take their role as parents seriously. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.” The promise of blessing to our children is made to righteous parents and that is why we do not baptize the children of unbelievers.

So in baptism God is making a visible mark of His promise to us, and we as parents are making a promise to God to raise the children in the fear of the Lord, to pray for them and to seek to instill a trust in the Lord from the earliest times. But the first step in the parents responsibility is to simply believe the promises of God. Let me close by reading a few of the many promises that God gives that we as parents can lay claim to as we view this baptism and as we are reminded of the commitments that we have made in the past.

Referring to the spiritual unity that God intended in marriage Malachi 2 says, “But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit?” Notice that He is talking about spiritual unity here, not just any old marriage. He goes on:

And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” (Mal. 2:14-15)

He sought godly offspring in the Old Testament and He continues to seek godly offspring for Himself today. 1 Corinthians 7:14 says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean [in other words, they would not be outwardly set apart from the world by baptism. Baptism is spoken of in the New Testament as being a rite of purification. He says, “otherwise your children would be unclean”] but now they are holy.” That is, they are set apart to God.

That is why Ezekiel 16 and Ezekiel 33 say of Israelite children, they are “My children” and they are children “born to Me.” Isaiah 44:3 prophecies of our period saying, “I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 65:23 says that God’s grace to our children will exceed that in the Old Covenant. “They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.” Isaiah 40:11 speaks of Jesus saying, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

Luke 18:15-16 says that Christ did just that, “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

God takes such care of the children of believers that Christ said our children have angels assigned to them. He said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” In fact, Christ identifies so closely with our little ones that He said on one occasion, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matt. 18:5)

“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 2:39)

“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

Children when you see this baptism, remember that God has claimed you and calls you to trust in Him. Parents, when you see this baptism, remember that when you baptized your children you were in effect saying, “Yes Lord, I believe your word when it says you will be a God to my children. And I hereby make my oath of allegiance to you by promising to raise this child in the fear of God.” Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Do we believe that?

31. Topical

Last week we saw how the Lord gave two sacraments to the church: the Lord’s supper and baptism, and how both of those were signs and seals. Let’s look at both of these elements as they apply to baptism.

Baptism is a sign. As I’ve said before, signs do not point to themselves. You would think it pretty silly of me if Kathy sent me to the bakery to get some donuts, and I came home with the little sign that they stick in the donuts and gave that to her. The sign is obviously not the donut even if it has donut written on it. And yet that is precisely the mistake that some people make when they bring their children to be baptized and go home and forget about the thing that the sign pointed to thinking that the sign was all that was needed. So salvation is not in the water, but this points to the salvation that God has promised. We should not be seeing something magical happening when we apply water to children or to adults.

Well, what is it that is written in bold letters on this sign? Titus 3:5 says it points to regeneration. Acts 22:16 says it points to the cleansing from sin. Other Scriptures indicate that just like circumcision it points to union with Christ and death to our old life. But all of those things are really just the fine print that is summarized by the major title “The baptism of the Holy Spirit.” It is by the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are regenerated, washed, united to Christ and given the gift of faith and repentance, etc. So water baptism ultimately points to spirit baptism.

This by the way, is why we as Presbyterians prefer to pour or to sprinkle, because this is a better figure of the baptism of the Spirit which is consistently spoken of in Acts as the Spirit coming upon people, or being poured out upon people. It was prophesied in the Old Testament as the Spirit being sprinkled upon people as clean water. Listen to how Hebrews 10:22 compares water baptism to spirit baptism when it says, “having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” So water baptism is a sign of Spirit baptism.

But Baptism is also a seal. A seal was a mark that was placed upon a document often by pressing a ring into hot wax. This authenticated the document. Often seals were used like a modern Master Card or Visa. The banker would write out the loan on a clay tablet and you would pledge yourself to pay by pressing your seal into the clay, or if paper was used, into the wax.

Well, in circumcision and in baptism God made a pledge to His people, but His people also made a pledge to Him. This is something that people many times fail to appreciate, that this sacrament is a pledge both ways. We often focus on the multitude of passages which point out that God will bless our descendants with salvation and forget to focus on the passages which point to our responsibility in the process. Let me illustrate in Abraham’s life since baptism replaced the sign of circumcision that God gave to Abraham.

Turn to Genesis 17. In that chapter God made a promise to not only Abraham, but promised to be a God to his children. In Genesis 17:7 He says, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” That is a bold promise, but does it just come automatically while Abraham and his seed did nothing? No. Verse 9 hints that Abraham has his duties to do before he will see this promise fulfilled. “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.” Turn over to chapter 18:19. “For I have known him, [notice that it begins with grace - Abraham could not carry out His responsibilities without that.] in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Without Abraham’s commitment to God, he would not have seen the fulfillment of God’s promise to his children.

The first step in being good parents is to believe God’s promises. Some might wonder how the parents’ faith can have any effect upon the child. Look at Mark 2:5. In Mark 2:5 we have the story about the men who tore open a hole in the ceiling so that they could let down the paralytic to be healed by Jesus. The verse says, “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Their faith was in some way instrumental in the salvation of the paralytic. How much more so the faith of parents who have many, many Scripture promises upon which they can base that faith. So in baptism, believe the promises of God.

The next step is to put that faith into action and raise them as Scripture directs us. Don’t expect them to be pagans or your lack of faith may be self-fulfilling prophecy. Parents are saying in baptism, “Yes Lord, I believe your word when it says you will be a God to my children and I will seek to raise them as a stewardship trust from You. So put your faith into action. Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

I am going to ask the two couples to come forward at this time along with the elders, and as they come forward I will read a few Scriptures upon which each of us can base our faith as we covenant together before the Lord.

Isaiah 44:3 prophecies of our period in the following words: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 65:23 prophecies of our time as being much better then the old covenant with regards to the state of children. “They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.” Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”

Luke 18:15-16 says, “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

God takes such care of the children of believers that Christ said our children have angels assigned to them. He said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” In fact, Christ identifies so closely with our little ones that He said on one occasion, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matt. 18:5)

“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 2:39)

“So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)

32. Galatians 3:27-4:2

For our baptism meditation this morning, please turn to Galatians 3:27-4:2. Paul has spent two chapters showing that believing Gentiles are not outside the covenant. They are just as much members of the Abrahamic covenant as believing Jews were. And for that matter, in chapter 3 he points out that Abraham was a Gentile before he came to faith. Look at the comforting conclusion in verse 26: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Unbelieving Jews were broken off from the covenant. Believing Gentiles become sons of God and members of the covenant by faith. The Judaizers had no right to exclude believing Gentiles. But now he begins to outline what happens to these Gentiles who have put their faith in Christ. First, there is baptism. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Baptism is publicly identifying with Christ just as circumcision identified Gentiles as members of God’s people in the Old Covenant. “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” You see, the promise to Abraham was: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” The Judaizers tried to divide up the body into two parts. But Paul has finished saying that even in the Old Covenant that didn’t happen. Many Midianites joined Israel and were treated as part of Israel. When Ruth and Rahab came to faith, they weren’t treated as second class citizens. They became Jews. In Esther it says that many Babylonians became Jews. In the body there is only one people.

A second group that the Judaizers looked down upon was slaves. In fact, the Romans treated them as less than human. Should we really give slaves privileges in the church? But the slaves were part of the covenant in the Old Testament. God commanded Abraham to include all of his slaves as full covenant members. And that continued into the New Testament. “there is neither slave nor free.” Baptism illuminates that distinction. Slaves are heirs of the Abrahamic covenant just as Abraham’s slaves were.

He goes on, “there is neither male nor female.” God’s promise went to both. In fact, in the Old Testament, baptism was treated as if it were a circumcision for the women. All males were circumcised on the eighth day and both males and females were baptized. The baptism was treated as a circumcision. As a blood rite, circumcision passed away, but the baptism remained and stood for it. In Colossians 2:11,12 baptism is called circumcision. So Paul is systematically uniting what the Judaisers had been taking apart.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” No one quibbles about the role that Gentiles, slaves and women have in the covenant today. The question they have is, “Can an infant child continue to be treated as belonging to Christ, as being an heir of the promise given to Abraham. Children were heirs in the Old Testament and we would assume that would continue since at the very heart of the Abrahamic promise was children. God said, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Not just individuals, but families. Every promise given to Abraham was given to Abraham and his descendants.

But you know, we don’t need to assume. While verses 26-29 don’t mention infants as being heirs, the paragraph hasn’t stopped yet. It continues in chapter 4:1 where Paul settles the question of whether children are heirs. We’ve already seen that all who are heirs are Christ’s and all who are Christ’s are baptized into the covenant as a sign of His covenant ownership. Nobody quibbles about that in chapter 3. But chapter 4 says, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child” [and that word for child is the Greek word napios, which means infant]... Can a child be an heir? That’s what the text says. And that is the heart of the issue between Baptists and the historic church. Are our children heirs of the covenant? Paul says they are. But he makes three further points about these children. They are not only included in the covenant, but there are three other issues that need to be addressed.

He says that this child in the covenant “does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all…” Slaves don’t make choices do they? Baptists want children to be able to make their own decisions about baptism. But they are not consistent. They don’t wait till their children grow up to teach them to pray, to sing, to sit in church and to love the Lord. But you can’t have it both ways. They are either in the covenant or out of the covenant. In Genesis 17 God said that if they were not willing to circumcise their children, the children were cut off from the covenant because they had broken it. Our attitude is different. We choose other blessings for our children, and we choose spiritual blessings for them as infants as well. With Joshua we say, “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So the first thing Paul says is that they are heirs. The second thing he says is that these children don’t have a choice initially about being heirs. They may later grow up to reject the covenant. But parents should include them young.

The third thing he says about this child is, “but is under guardians and stewards” God has given these children as a stewardship trust, and you cannot raise your children as you please. You are bringing children to baptism in part because they belong to God and you are acknowledging your responsibility to God to raise them His way.

The fourth thing that Paul says is “until the time appointed by the father.” And in context he is talking about bringing them to faith. Chapter 3:23 says, “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” And I want to leave all the parents with this admonition. Baptism is not just a promise of what God will give to your children, it is a vow of what you will pray for, nurture and seek to bring your children into. Each of us needs to ask our children to come to faith and to express their faith before the church.

As we witness this baptism, let us be thankful that God’s grace comes before there are any good works. God blesses us out of grace alone. What he wants from us is not the earning of salvation for our kids, but merely responding to His covenant grace by accepting our side of the covenant vows. God promises, we respond. You children can respond to what you see this morning by thanking God for his promise and believing. You parents can respond by renewing your vows to God and expecting His grace in your children’s lives.

33. Acts 16

It is a joy for me to baptize [baby’s name] this morning. And since I like to use a different text for each baptismal talk I give, I want to give a few brief words from Acts 16. This chapter records the baptism of two separate households. But I just want you to look at verses 14-15.

Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The LORD opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she constrained us. (Acts 16:14-15)

This follows the Old Testament model of applying the sign of the covenant to the whole household when the adult parent puts his or her faith in the Lord. That baptism doesn’t save the children. But it does claim God’s covenant promises on their behalf. And you see this principle in hundreds of places.

You all know the famous line in Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15) It’s a beautiful statement of faith. And interestingly, he didn’t take a vote of his household to see if they wanted to serve the Lord. He had faith that they would serve God because of God’s promise. It wasn’t wishful thinking. Over and over again in the covenants God had promised, “I will be a God to you and to your children after you.” And based on the Word of a God who cannot lie, believing Jews put the sign of the covenant on their children. In doing so they were acting covenantally. From the time of Adam God’s covenant has always included the children. The harlot Rahab by faith committed her whole household to Jehovah. The patriarch Abraham by faith committed his whole household to Jehovah. All these Jews were saying in effect, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

And this morning [parent’s names] are making that statement of faith on behalf of [baby’s name]. No longer is the sign of the covenant circumcision as it was applied to households in Joshua’s day. Today it is baptism. And just as baptism was applied to the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippians jailer, Crispus, Gaius and Stephanus, so too another member of the [name] household is being included in the covenant this morning.

Baptism by itself establishes only an outward relationship because by itself it doesn’t save. But it’s still a very important relationship because it testifies to our faith in God’s covenant promises. And there are hundreds of promises that are made to our children. We do not need to know the time that the grace will come. That’s in God’s hands. All we need to know is that God’s promises must be claimed by faith. Here’s one promise: Acts 16:31 says “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” And I praise God for that little phrase, “and your household.” As the [name of family] covenant with God by faith, I would encourage each of you parents to renew your faith in God’s covenant promises by making the declaration: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

And as I pour water on [baby’s name], consider the following two Old Testament Scriptures which prophesy of what would happen in the New Covenant. “I will pour water on him who is thirsty… I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.” In Ezekiel 36 God says, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and I … will put My Spirit within you and cause You to walk in My statutes.” Just as water is poured upon [baby’s name], we can pray that in God’s perfect timing, He will fulfill His covenant by pouring His Spirit upon this young life as well.

34. Topical

We have the privilege of admitting into the covenant [name of baby]. Each time we have a baptism of a child, I like to give a different angle on the why we do so. We have covered many passages on infant baptism, but today I want to look at it from an eagle’s eye vantage point of the place that children have always occupied in the covenant.

When I first began to understand some of the doctrines of the Reformation I attended a Reformed Baptist church in Vancouver, British Columbia. The pastor invited me to come to the Reformed pastor’s fellowship, which I gladly did. I really enjoyed the theological stimulation. One of the things that struck me with force during those years that I was wrestling with infant baptism was my Baptist pastor’s statement that he did not have a theology for children. A Presbyterian minister asked him what his theology of children was. My pastor said that he had read the baptist literature on the subject, and he didn’t know quite where children fit. He didn’t want to say that they were no different than the world. On the other hand, he didn’t want to say that they were in the church. But neither did he want to say that they were innocent. He was too Reformed to agree with that. He knew from the Scriptures that infants needed salvation too. He used the phrase that the children were in a no-man’s land. And he was referring to the strip of land between two opposing camps.

That statement got me searching on what the Bible said about children. Were they in the church or outside of the church? It had to be one or the other. And I was surprised to discover that there were only two references in the Bible to the children of believers being outside of the church, and there were many references to children being in the church. But what troubled me about that two references to the children of believers being outside the covenant community was that one was a rebuke to Moses for failing to circumcise his son (which was the Old Testament equivalent to baptism). In fact the death angel visited him, and said that he would kill him if he did not circumcise his child. You can read about it in Exodus 4:24. And the second reference was Genesis 17 which said, “and the uncircumcised male child who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” Both passages treated it as sin to exclude our children from the covenant.

And I began to realize that “Hey, I can’t just treat this as an inconsequential doctrine. I need to know.” I was brought into the doctrine of infant baptism kind of against my will you might say. But now I glory in it. It’s such an encouragement to me. Anyway, that got me studying, and I came to realize that there are literally hundreds of passages which place our children in the covenant people of God; in the assembly; in the church; in the congregation of the Lord’s people, and other kinds of references. Let me just give you some examples.

2 Chronicles 30-31 makes it clear that not all Jews were considered to be part of the congregation. If they weren’t believers, or if they had defiled themselves, they were part of Israel, but not part of the congregation. But it also makes clear that believers and their children were. Verse 18 describes the congregation in these words – the men, “their little ones, and their wives, their sons and daughters, the whole congregation of them - for in their faithfulness they sanctified themselves in holiness.” Little ones were set apart from the world and put in the congregation. A child may later grow up to reject the covenant and to be cut off from the covenant, but when they were children the believing parents had sanctified them, just like 1 Corinthians 7:14 says happens today.

Joel 2:16 says, “...sanctify the congregation - assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes.” This says that nursing babes were part of the congregation. Ezekiel speaks of the children of believers as children born to Me (Ezek 16:20; 23:37), and in one place as “My children” (Ezek. 16:21). And so in the Old Testament it is clear that children were not in a “no man’s land.” They were clearly placed by the Lord in His land.

And the New Testament is no different. Christ gathered the infants and little children into His arms and said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” They were at least outwardly treated as being in the kingdom. Ephesians is addressed to the church in Ephesus, and in chapter 6 he talks to the children. The children were considered part of the church. They weren’t left out of the picture. Colossians does the same. We have six examples of households being baptized in the New Testament upon the profession of faith of the parents, but not one example of a child of a believer growing up and being baptized later. In Acts 2 we have the promise attached to baptism extended to the children of believers. “the promise is to you and to your children.” Children are clearly included in the church. And the only sign that admits to the church is baptism in the New Testament and circumcision in the Old.

Baptism doesn’t save a child anymore than it saves adults who believe. Rather it is the covenant sign that God welcomes children of believers. Isn’t that cool? And it is also the covenant pledge of parents to raise their children to trust the Gospel and follow Christ. Just as Christ took children in his arms and blessed them and declared them to be already in the visible Kingdom, so too, I ministering in His name will welcome [baby’s name] into the visible church. Don’t think that the Lord’s Table is what admits people to the church. It is baptism that does so. So if the [family name] would come forward at this time, we will proceed with this covenant pledge.

35. Two Pillars of Infant Baptism

Over the last three years we have had a lot of babies born, and so you have heard quite a few baptismal talks. And that is why each time we have a baptism I like to focus on a different perspective on the subject so that I’m not repeating myself too much. Well, this morning I have tried to condense things down to two foundational principles. If these two sentences are false, then infant baptism is false, and if these two are true, then infant baptism is true. Though there are many other Biblical arguments that could be given, these are the two pillars upon which the doctrine of infant baptism rests.

The first principle is that every covenant that God has ever made with man includes his family. Now it doesn’t mean that the whole family is automatically saved. But God makes His claim upon the whole family, and gives promises to the whole family which can be laid hold of by faith. Even individual covenants that you may not be familiar with, follow this pattern. You may have never heard of the name Phinehas until [name of book store manager] started his book store. But even that covenant was made with Phinehas and with his family in their generations.

The covenant with Adam spoke of the seed in terms of one person Christ, but it also spoke of the seed of the woman in the plural and the conflict that would arise through history between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan.

When God made his covenant with Noah, it included his children. God said, “I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you.” (Gen. 9:9). To Abraham God said, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” (Gen. 17:7) And the same was true of the Mosaic and Davidic covenants, as well as the individual covenants that were made in the Old Covenant period.

Now the question may be asked, “Has the principle of including the family changed in the New Covenant? Is there any Scripture that excludes children from the covenant?” And the answer is that there is not one single verse in the New Testament that excludes them. Never has that principle been revoked. The New Testament affirms that we are in the Abrahamic covenant which includes all the children of believers. Christ assumed the same principle when he took up children in His arms, and in Luke 18:15-16 when he took up newborn infants and blessed them. And the words that he gave could not have been said if this principle of the covenants had been changed. Luke words it this way, “Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” In Matthew 18:5 Christ took the children of believing parents and said, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” Now those are pretty strong words. And the children of believers receive covenantal protection. Christ said that it would be better for one to have a millstone hung around his neck and cast into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. In another place He said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” This is covenantal protection. The first sermons reflect this promise of the covenants that God would be a God to our children as well. In Acts 2:39 Peter applies the Abrahamic covenant to the present and says, “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. 2:39).

Now there are many other verses we could look at that speak of God’s covenantal relations with the children, and with the whole households of believers. But I want to take a look at one that was addressed to those who were worried about whether this principle holds true if there is only one believer. In the church at Corinth, there were some who argued that divorce was necessary if only one spouse was a believer. Paul argues against that and says in 1 Corinthians 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.” There is one word that is used to describe the unbelieving spouse: “holy” which means set apart. The unbelieving spouse is set apart for the special influence of the covenant. But with the child there are two words that are used to describe his relation to the covenant. The child is not only set apart, but is said to be clean. And the word for clean or unclean is a word used of ritual purifications. The child is set apart and baptized whereas the parent is only set apart.

When Rev. Joseph Morecraft was here for the conference he said that early in his ministry, before he became a Presbyterian, he was preaching on Acts 16:31 and kept quoting it as saying, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” And after the service an old Presbyterian minister came up to him and said, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. The verse says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.”

So let’s remember that first principle, that when God makes a covenant, it includes the whole family. This means that your children should not be excluded from the covenant. You cannot exclude those whom God has included.

Now the second principle is that baptism has fulfilled circumcision. In Genesis 17:10 says, “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised.” And in verse 14 He said, “My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Note those words, “be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” There were only three signs in the Old Covenant that were said to be everlasting signs or ceremonies, and each one continued in the New Covenant, but with an outward change. The seventh Day Sabbath was transformed into what the literal rendering of the Gospels speak of as the first day Sabbath. That is the literal rendering of the first day of the week. “Now after the sabbatone on the first day sabbatone” are the words. So the Sabbath was an eternal principle with an outward change. The Passover was also eternal, and Christ carried that eternal principle into the Lord’s Supper with an outward change. And the last everlasting ceremony was circumcision which was transformed into baptism. Colossians 2:11-12 speaks of spiritual circumcision as being identical to spiritual baptism, so circumcision and baptism pointed to the same thing. They are both God’s covenantal claim upon an individual. Dr. Morecraft likened circumcision and baptism to a brand on a cow. God is saying that the believing adult belongs to him just like the cow with the brand belongs to the owner. Now if the branded heifer gives birth to a calf, who does the calf belong to? Does it belong to anyone who wants it just because it is born without a brand? No. And the same is true of our children. You can search the Bible from cover to cover and you will not find one verse where the principle of applying the brand to the calves is taken away. Perhaps I should call them little lambkins instead of calves. Three times in Ezekiel God says that the children who were born to the Jews were “My children” and “children you have born to Me.”

So in early church history there was never a question about infant baptism until quite a bit later in history. In fact the earliest controversy that arose surrounding baptism was at a universal gathering of the church in 251 A.D. And there was a big debate whether a baby should be baptized on the eighth day or whether it could be earlier. Some said it had to be on the eighth day after birth to conform to the Abrahamic covenant. And others said that it could be done on Sunday, which is the eighth day. Well, the Sunday view prevailed, but there was never a hint that infant baptism was inappropriate.

Not one time in the 40 years that the New Testament was recorded do you have any example of a child born to believing parents being baptized after he has grown up and made profession of faith. Not one time. On the other hand, over half of the explicit statements in the New Testament to a baptism taking place explicitly say that the entire household was baptized. And the other references are either general, or as in the case of Paul, there is no wife or children.

You might wonder why this everlasting sign of circumcision was changed. Well, it was for the same reason as Passover was changed to a non-bloody rite. Once Christ had come, there were not allowed to be any bloody rites. Second, there was no longer to be any ethnic divisions between Jew and Gentiles. In fact, why don’t I read the passage that changes the outward form of the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Galatians 3:27-29. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek [circumcision divided Jew and Greek as Galatians points out earlier], there is neither slave nor free [the slave had no choice about the sign of circumcision. In the New Covenant, he must make profession of faith before the sign is applied], there is neither male nor female [again, the females did not have the sign. But in the new covenant females are baptized because of this change.]; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” All the changes between circumcision and baptism are just as clearly recorded as the changes between Passover and the Lord’s supper. But there is not a whisper of a hint that infants have been excluded from the Abrahamic covenant. In fact, the very next verse of that baptism passage says that little children are heirs even before they profess faith. Chapter 4:1 says, “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child…” In that section, all heirs were baptized. Chapter 3:26-29 says that believing adults are heirs, and chapter 4:1 says that the children of those believers are also heirs. They are “under guardians and stewards” (4:2). And so we in faithfulness to God’s word call forward the [name] family and the [name] family to in faith lay claim to God’s promises as the sign and seal of baptism is applied.

36. 1 Corinthians 7:14

This morning I have the privilege of baptizing [baby’s name] and bringing her into church membership. Just as Jesus took infants into His arms, blessed them and said “for of such is the kingdom of God,” I take joy in doing the same in His name. Isaiah 40:11 says that God has been with [baby’s name] even in the womb, long before she was born. It says, “He will feed His flock His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11) What a marvelous promise! And I praise God for the many, many promises that God gives to our children, that He will take our children to Himself. In fact, in Ezekiel He speaks of our children as “children born to Me,” and in one verse as “My children.” And He rebukes the Israelites for failing to treat their children as His property. In the same vein, Galatians 4:1 says that our children don’t belong to us. We parents are guardians and stewards of our infants, and that they are heirs of the Abrahamic promises. But if we are just stewards, that implies that our children belong to God, and God expects us to raise them to put their trust in Him and to serve Him. So there is no regeneration that takes place when I baptize a baby. Instead, it is God’s solemn pledge of ownership and it is our solemn pledge to be stewards, to draw the hearts of our children to Him.

But since Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some others believe that baptism regenerates a person, and since they often point to 1 Corinthians 7:11 to prove it, I want you to turn there with me and I want to first explain why the passage does not prove what they want it to prove, and then secondly, I want to show how it is a repetition of God’s many promises to set apart our children to Him and to apply the sign of the covenant to our children. It’s 1 Corinthians 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.

The Roman Catholics say, “See? The child is clearly called holy. Only regenerate people are holy.” And since the word “clean” and “unclean” are synonyms in the Gospels and in the Epistles for baptized and unbaptized, this means that baptism gives the child a holy status. Well, I can see why many would be convinced by this exegesis. There is a certain logic to it:

Premise one: only regenerate people are holy.

Premise two: the word unclean is a synonym for baptism.

Premise three: it is when they move from an unclean to a clean state that they become holy

Conclusion: it is baptism that brings about the regenerate state of a child.

If those three premises are correct, the conclusion has to be correct. It’s just simple logic. But the problem is that two of those premises are false. Let me discuss the one premise that is true: The Lutheran and Anglican premise number two states that the word unclean is a synonym for baptism. And it’s true. The Greek word for clean and unclean is used over and over again for baptized or unbaptized. It is a synonym. This is precisely the word that was used of John the Baptist’s baptisms. This is the word used of the twelve apostles when they baptized in John 3:25. It is used of Christian baptism in Ephesians 5:26. And there are other references to unbaptized people like Cornelius (for example) being called “unclean” and after being baptized being called clean. Baptism is a ceremonial cleansing. I agree with them on that. The meaning is clearly, “otherwise your children would be unbaptized, but now they are holy.” My argument with them is not on the presence of infant baptism in the passage. That is crystal clear to me.

But the other two premises are false. Premise one is that only regenerate people are holy. That is absolutely false. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word “holy” is used for holy pots and pans, a holy nation, a holy city, the holy temple, and the holy of holies. It just means “set apart.” And by the way, it’s the same word that is translated “sanctified” in this verse with reference to the unbelieving spouse. Our text explicitly says that the believer makes the unbelieving spouse “holy” – exactly the same word. The moment a woman or a man gets converted and saved, his or her unbelieving spouse is sanctified (literally, “set apart to God”). It doesn’t mean they are saved because verse 16 denies they are saved. It tells the believer not to divorce the unbelieving spouse, “For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?” So you can be holy or sanctified without being saved. Verse 16 is clear. The comfort of the passage is not automatic salvation. That’s missing the point. The comfort is that the whole family is instantly set apart to the working of God’s Spirit. For the first time, elect angels invade that home and protect that home. For the first time, the Holy Spirit lives in that home and is at work in its members. That’s the comfort. They are set aside. So premise one, that only regenerate people are holy, is clearly false.

And premise three, that it is when they move from an unclean state to a clean state that they become holy, is also false. John the Baptist was already regenerate within his mother’s womb before he received the cleansing sign of the covenant. Same with David’s baby that died before the eighth day. Same with Jeremiah and with Jereboam’s son. And when it comes to adults who come into the kingdom, there are many examples of them being regenerated before baptism. Lydia was given a new heart before baptism. Malachi says that it is the fact that the parents are in the covenant that is key to the holiness of the infant within the womb. It’s the covenant that set’s that child apart as holy. He is set apart based on the parents’ faith. He is in the kingdom based on the parents’ faith. And Genesis 17 says that it’s only when parents refuse to apply the sign of the covenant to the child that the child is cut off from the covenant because he has broken the covenant. That implies that the child was in the covenant before they received the sign. And that’s why I started with Isaiah 40:11 and the other Old Testament passages that say that God claims our children in the womb, protects them, leads them, and calls them His own. That’s why I started with the statement of Jesus in Luke with regard to the babies he blessed – for of such is the kingdom of God. It’s God’s covenant that sets our children apart because He has promised to be a God to us and to our children after us.

So if the two premises are false, the conclusion is obviously false. The comfort of this passage comes from the fact that all it takes is one believing parent and the whole household is outwardly set aside to God and to His working in that family even before other members have faith. If it had not been for that holy state, our children could not be baptized or ceremonially cleansed. It is only those who are in the covenant by faith who may have their children baptized. We do not baptize the children of unbelievers. This is a sacrament of faith - in this case, the faith of the parents. So this morning let’s especially rejoice that this baptism is God’s pledge of ownership and care for [baby’s name] and it is the parent’s pledge to seek to be faithful stewards of God’s property, and to raise her to put her faith in God and to serve God with all of her heart.

37. Matthew 28:16-20

Before [baby’s name] is baptized this morning, I would like you to turn to Matthew 28:16-20. Baptism was instituted by our Lord in several places in the Gospels, but this is the most famous of them. Let’s read it together.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

He tells us in this passage of two things that must be done as we seek to disciple the nations: first we are to baptize the nations and second we are to teach these nations. That is the normal order for discipleship. Now its true, when people come to Christ out of heathenism like Abraham did, they are taught first and then baptized. But God then commanded Abraham to include all his household in the covenant after the children had come to the age of 8 days. The normal order from that time on was “circumcise and teach” and in the time of Moses it was circumcize/baptize on the eighth day and then teach. Christ is not changing anything in terms of the order. We have seen many times in the past that infant-baptism continues in the New Testament and is treated as circumcision because blood rites have been done away with. Infant baptism continues, circumcision is done away. Christ welcomed such infants in His arms and said, “Do not forbid them, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.”

The new thing that happens when Christ establishes the kingdom of heaven at His ascension is not the inclusion of children. The new thing is the inclusion of non-Israelite families. Christ didn’t talk here about discipling Israel. He said, “make disciples of all the nations.” The covenant is intended to extend as far as mankind extends. As family unit by family unit comes to embrace Jesus, eventually Christ’s goal is that the entire nation be in covenant with the King of the Church, and that they stay in covenant with Jesus. When God established His covenant with Abraham, He restricted the sign of the covenant to Israel. But when John the Baptist came Baptizing he warned Israel that the time had come when God would raise up sons of Abraham from non-Israelite sources. He said, “God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” This family covenant would no longer be restricted to Israel.

Zaccheus was a good example of this. Though he would have been excommunicated from Israel for being a renegade and a tax collector and treated as a Roman, Christ declares upon His profession of faith: “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is now a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” When Gentiles become believers, salvation comes to the whole household because God has promised to be a God to us and to our children after us. “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is now a son of Abraham.” That is the promise held forth in Baptism.

Paul told the Phillipian jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household - and immediately, he and all his family were baptized.” As you children view this baptism, remember God’s promise and claim it for yourselves. And you parents must be sure to take the order of the Great Commission seriously as well. Once your family is baptized, you must trust God for their salvation and begin from the earliest times to teach them to observe all things that Christ has commanded. One of the excellent tools for such teaching is the catechism, and if your children are not memorizing the catechism, they should be. But you should teach them by your lifestyle, by your words, through music, Sunday School, and all the means that are at your disposal. God’s promises do not come in a vaccum. They come to parents who take the covenant seriously and by faith instruct their children in the way of the Lord.

38. Topical

This morning I have the privilege of doing four things. First, there will be some young children who will be receiving covenant baptism based on the faith of their parents who are laying claim to God’s covenant promises. This is true of all of the [family name] children, but particularly of [names of three children] who have not yet made public profession of faith. We rejoice in covenant protection and care that God places our children within the covenant.

Second, I will be baptizing some children not only because of their parents’ faith, but because of their own faith and personal trust in Christ. [Names of two older children] have made a great profession of faith and are coming for baptism not only because of the covenant, but because they understand it and believe it. The same is true of [names of two children from another family]. And it is so exciting to me to see these professions of faith. So these four will be coming to the Lord’s Table for the first time, but also being baptized for the first time.

There is a third group of people who were baptized in their youth, and have never known a time when they were not in the covenant. I will not be baptizing them, but I will be admitting them to communion because of their profession of faith. [Names of three children] have all made profession of faith, and understand what is involved in entering into the Lord’s Table. And after the service, I want you to congratulate these covenant children, and rejoice with them as they partake of their first communion. This is a big Sunday for each of these people. We always look forward to our covenant children entering into this second stage of covenant blessings by faith.

The fourth group of people are those who have already been baptized and have been members of other churches, who are now making public profession here and are joining as families.

[Name of older child] and her parents [names of parents] were communicant members elsewhere, as was [names of two other older people].

And before we have these families come forward to either be baptized or admitted to the table or both, I wanted to give a brief devotional that really encompasses all four groups. The common thread in all of these covenant members and covenant professions is that God embraces the family. Whether people realize it or not, God embraces the family. God makes family promises, and we lay claim to those family promises, and our children grow up embracing the same family promises. I love the way the Bible treats families. It doesn’t divide the families up. When it is time for worship, Scripture says, “Gather the people together, men and women and little ones…that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law.” God takes the families as a unit. He makes promises to families. He made His covenant with Adam’s family, with Noah’s family, with Abraham’s family, with Moses, Phinehas, David and many other families. And yes, there were stages of growth in those families, but that’s all it was – growth into the covenant provisions of God. In Acts 3 Peter promises “you are sons …of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Acts 3:25). Isn’t that a cool promise? Praise God for His covenant with the family. With Joshua we can say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And each of these children and adults are consciously or unconsciously part of that commitment.

So this morning, whether you are coming in on your own profession of faith to the Lord’s Table, or provisionally coming in as a covenant child, we can rejoice that God has a place for each one. If each of the families would come forward at this time, we will take some covenant vows.

The first set of questions is for all who have already made profession of faith. There’s twelve of you, and each of you can say, “I do”

Vows of New Members:

  1. Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to be the perfect and only true way for a man to be saved? Do you?
  2. Do you confess that because of your sinfulness, you abhor and humble yourself before God, and that you trust for salvation, not in yourself, but in the Lord Jesus Christ alone? Do you?
  3. Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord, and do you promise, in reliance on the grace of God, to serve Him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and to lead a godly life? Do you?
  4. Will you be a faithful member of this congregation, share in its worship and ministry through your prayers and gifts as you are able, offer your study and service, and so fulfill your calling to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Will you?
  5. Will you devote yourself to the church’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers? Will you?
  6. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of the Covenant Presbyterian Church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or practice, to heed its discipline? Do you?

Promise of Congregation

Do you as a congregation pledge to love and pray for these people and to encourage them in their Christian walk? If so, raise your hands.

The next set of questions is just for those who are bringing their children for baptism.

  1. Do you acknowledge your children’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises on their behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation, as you do for your own?
  3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your children to God?
  4. Do you promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before them a godly example, that you will pray with and for them, that you will teach them the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all means of God’s appointment, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of praying for this family and encouraging them to be faithful to their vows to raise their children in the fear of God? If so raise your right hand.

39. Topical

This morning as you witness the baptism of [baby’s name], it should be a time of great joy. What parent is not concerned about the spiritual welfare of his children? And God has met that concern with his promises and with a sign that symbolizes that promise – baptism. From the foundation of the world, God included children in every covenant that He has made. The covenant with Adam was broken and it affected all his family and his children after him. But the renewed covenant was also made with Adam, Eve and their children. God contrasts the seed of the devil with the seed of the woman. The children of Seth are later called sons of God and take the covenant name of Jehovah. God’s covenant with Noah was also made with Noah and his children. God promised Abraham that He would be a God to Abraham and his descendants after him, and he included 600 of his servants who were born and raised in his household. And other Old Testament covenants could be mentioned. God is so concerned for our children, that every covenant made a promise to the believer and his children after him.

The same is true of the New Covenant Kingdom. Christ explicitly said of babies “for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” and he took the little children in His arms and blessed them. When Zaccheus was saved, Christ said, “Today salvation has come to this household, because he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). There is a perk to becoming a son of Abraham: your household gets included. When Peter preached on the covenant in Acts 2 he said, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus… for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off” (vv. 38-39). In chapter 3 he applies the covenant again and says, “you are sons of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Every New Testament baptism where there was a family, there is a household baptism. And there are other encouragements from the Lord that He is willing to be a God to our children.

But as witnesses of this baptism, I urge parents and children alike to think of their own families and pray for faith because throughout history it has been easy to go to two extremes with the covenant signs. The first extreme is to become superstitious and think the sign will accomplish everything without any parental responsibility. But Genesis 18:19 made clear that God would not fulfill any of His promises to Abraham’s children if Abraham did not “command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice.” Only as Abraham sought to keep his own covenant responsibilities did God promise, “that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” It is not automatic. There are always two sides to the covenant – our vows to God and God’s vows to us. So Scripture says, “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The second extreme is to neglect God’s vows to us and treat it as being wholly our own responsibility. This is a heavy responsibility that no one could keep. God accompanies the sacrament as we by faith claim His promises. And 1 Corinthians 7:14 says that He sets apart our children and works in their lives. He gives outstanding promises which become reality as we claim them by faith. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; you and your household.

So as [name of baby] receives baptism this morning, let’s rejoice in God’s promises and recommit ourselves to the vows that you will hear [name of parents] making. As the [family name] come forward, let me read one more encouraging promise that God has vowed to us: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit on your descendants and My blessing on your offspring.” The pouring of water on the child is a symbol of his need of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. May God give the Spirit that we are claiming in His perfect timing. Amen.

40. Full Sermon on Baptizing Nations - Joshua 5

[Read Joshua 5:1-12]

Conversion of nations

You might wonder how relevant this passage on circumcision and Passover really is. But think of it this way. If baptism replaces circumcision (and it does), and if we are commanded to baptize nations (that’s exactly what Matthew 28 says the church must do before the end of the age), then we ought to be interested in those rare Biblical occasions when an entire nation became a disciple of God and came into covenant with God. I dare say that few of you probably considered this passage to be a paradigm for nation baptizing when I read it. And I think we tend to miss those things because we read the Bible through the glasses of American individualism. In fact, some of you will probably still be somewhat individualistic by the time you get through this service.

Individualists can’t understand how a sign of faith can be applied to an entire nation. We look at that with suspicion and say that this circumcision here can’t possibly be a sign of justification by faith. How could they possibly know these were all Christians? Yet over and over the New Testament affirms that circumcision was identical in its meaning to baptism. Colossians 2:11-12 says that what circumcision was, baptism has become. Galatians says that baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the Abrahamic covenant of which we are members. Romans 4:11 says that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised.”

But people might think – Well, even if that is true, this passage still isn’t relevant because that was just a one-time thing. We don’t have nations coming to Christ in the New Testament. Well, it wasn’t just a one time quirk event. Verse 2 indicates this mass circumcision had happened once before: “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” This was the second time a mass circumcision had happened to that nation. That indicates there was something unusual that had happened 40 years before as well. Why did they need to be circumcised 40 years before? The church was supposed to circumcise the children of all believing parents. Why were they not circumcised? Because the nation had apostatized in Egypt. Joshua later says that they worshiped the god’s of Egypt before they repented and professed faith.

But there’s more. 400 years before the Exodus at the time of Abraham, there were at least 320 people circumcised on the day that Abraham was circumcised, at God’s command. How do we know? Genesis 17 says that all of his servants came into covenant with him, and there were 318 trained warriors who were considered servants born in his household. You add Abraham and Ishmael to the 318 and you have at least 320. A mass corporate coming into the covenant. We don’t talk about that very much, do we? Individualists have a hard time reckoning with that kind of thing.

Numbers 10 records a small tribe of Midianites becoming part of Israel. The entire city of Nineveh along with its king repented at the preaching of Jonah and came to faith. And Christ said that it was genuine faith in Matthew 12:41. Or you can think of Esther 8:17 when multitudes of Persians became Jews and received the sign of circumcision. There was a mass circumcision. Or later in this book when the entire nation of the Gibeonites came to faith. Those kinds of passages (though they are rare) are intriguing when analyzing what it means in the Great Commission to disciple the nations.

Do you realize that nation discipling and nation baptizing has already happened in church history? There have been almost identical situations to this. Usually the Gospel has slowly penetrated an area, but there have been times where God has obviously prepared the hearts of people and an entire tribe would become baptized. Let me outline some history. During the first 400 years the church was winning the Romans with occasional remarkable inroads into people groups. The next 400 years saw the Christianization of the Barbarian tribes. The next 400 years saw tribe after tribe of the Vikings becoming Christian.

But what went on in the first 1500 years, has become more common in the last 500 years, and especially in the last fifty years. It’s spoken of in missions books as People Movements, where an entire clan, tribal subgroup, tribe or other people group will become Christian in a remarkably short period of time. In fact, this has become so common that entire essays and books have been written trying to understand this phenomenon. In one such essay, Donald McGavran said, “Individualistic Westerners cannot without special effort grasp how peoples become Christian.” (p. 273). Another missiologist who describes this amazing phenomenon says Westerners are mystified. Chua Wee Hian says, “At times it is difficult for individualistic Westerners to realize that in many ‘face to face’ societies religious decisions are made corporately.” And we are not talking only about a cultural thing. Scripture emphasizes this in its teaching of the covenant. That is why Presbyterians had such phenomenal impact in Korea. They didn’t treat evangelism individualistically.

How many here have seen the film, Peace Child. That shows how the Sawi came to Christ. In that same country of Irian Jaya there were many tribes who became Christian and were baptized at virtually the same time, and they have proved to be genuine conversions. The only instance in the entire world of 100,000 Muslims being won to Christ occurred in a part of Indonesia. Ko Tha Byu, a remarkable Burmese evangelist, was instrumental in discipling whole Karen communities and villages to Christ. Today the Karen church is one of the strongest Christian communities in Southeast Asia numbering in the millions. And coming under incredible persecution by the way. We need to be in prayer for them. In North Sumatra there is the Batak people movement. On the island of Nias, just off the coast of Sumatra, there was a remarkable people movement from 0 Christians to 102,000 Christians. The Minahasa of Celebes is another movement. Entire tribal movements have occurred in the Moluccas, Sangi and Talaud islands. The islands of the Pacific have been largely and unexpectedly discipled suddenly as people movements: including the Malas, Madigas, Nagas, Garas, Mahars, Bhils and others. Donald McGavran reports there are literally hundreds of people movements around the world (p. 288). And this gives heartburn to baptistic missionaries. Entire tribes in Africa, Irian Jaya and the middle east have come to Christ over the course of weeks or months. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Acts 3:25 quotes the repeated promise to Abraham as a promise we must claim when it says, “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” That’s a corporate coming to Christ. Psa. 22:27 says, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations shall worship before You”. The family is the smallest corporate unit, and reaching families rather than individuals has been the most effective means of reaching tribes. But Galatians 3:8 quotes the often repeated promise, “In you all nations shall be blessed.” Nations are the largest corporate units which are prophesied to come to Christ, and according to several prophecies this will become increasingly common until the Great Commission is fulfilled and all nations become Christian nations. Donald McGavran claims this is God’s normal way of reaching nations. He says, “This is the way in which Evangelical Christianity spread in Roman Catholic Europe at the time of the Reformation. It is the best way for it to spread in any land.” I am looking to the time when Israel will be converted in one day as Isaiah 66:8 promises. There will be a mass baptism on that day that should be exhausting. So this passage is very relevant to the Great Commission.

The second reason this is relevant is the lessons for individuals are the same for circumcision and baptism. And that makes sense. If baptism replaces circumcision, then there is much we can learn here.

Before I dive into this chapter, let me quickly outline the parallels between circumcision and baptism. Most of you have heard these before, but let me summarize them briefly anyway.

Baptism Replaces Circumcision and the Lord’s Supper Replaces Passover

First parallel: Everyone agrees baptism is the sign of entrance into the covenant, right? And everyone agrees the same was true of circumcision. You can’t read Genesis 17 any other way.

Second parallel: no unbaptized person could take the Lord’s Supper. Well, the same is true of circumcision. Turn with me to Exodus 12. Exodus 12 is a passage giving detailed instructions on the Passover observance. And look at verse 44.

<sup>Ex. 12:44</sup> But every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it.

The corporate aspect of circumcision extended to all who were in the household. But notice that it was the prerequisite to Passover. Look at verse 48.

<sup>Ex. 12:48</sup> And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.

Until a Gentile became a Jew and was circumcised he could not be admitted. Now that is important. Keep that fact in mind.

And we have the same thing here in Joshua. Circumcision comes before Passover. For forty years (actually 38) these people have been unable to eat of the Passover and receive its blessings. (They were able to partake the first two years.) That shows you the corporate power of the parent’s sins. It affected everyone.

Another parallel: Baptism is a sign of faith and justification. But so is circumcision. Turn to Romans 4:11. You will find that every single thing that baptism signifies, circumcision signified in the Old Testament. Romans 4:11. “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” Both circumcision in the Old Testament and baptism in the New Testament were the sign of justification by faith alone.

Another parallel: over and over the uncircumcised were called unclean and circumcision was treated as a sign of spiritual cleansing from defilement. But so is baptism. Acts 22:16 says, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” It was a sign of God’s cleansing.

1 Corinthians 7:14 says the same. It says, “otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.”

Circumcision in this passage is said to be a sign of death to the world and entrance into a new life. The reproach of Egypt is wiped away. They are no longer identified with the world, but with God. Romans 6:3-4 says the same thing about baptism.

Circumcision represents the inner regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in several passages. For example, Jeremiah 4:4 says, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts…” The outward is a sign of the need for the inward work of the Spirit. Well, 1 Peter 3:21 addresses the cleansing of our hearts: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is what water baptism symbolizes. Colossians 2:11-12 says baptism of the heart corresponds to circumcision of the heart.

Well, with that as a background, let’s look at the passage. I think this passage gives some ammunition to missiologists who are promoting the covenantal people movement model. Donald McGavran says, “One of the curious facts about People Movements is that they have seldom been sought or desired. Pickett records, in Christian Mass Movements in India, that most People Movements have actually been resisted by the leaders of the Church and mission where they started… Nevertheless, despite a certain degree of repression, movements did occur…. Those People Movements which did occur were seldom really understood. The way of corporate decision was obscured by the Western preference for individual decision.”

Some of the primary objections have been 1) are they believing for sociological reasons or because they have truly been regenerate. It later proves to be true regeneration in the vast majority of the cases. But that is a fear. 2) Will there be a pure church? People are afraid of rapid growth. It turns out there are just as many or just as few nominal Christians in People Movements as there are in Western Individualistic churches. So let’s quickly look at a few principles in this chapter that can help to sort this all out.

The Sign of Circumcision

Evidence that faith and grace must always precede circumcision

We already looked at the first principle related to circumcision in chapters 3-4. That whole section shows the incredible character of their faith. So principle number one was that evidence of faith and grace always had to be present before circumcision was given; before the sign of the covenant is applied. The crossing of the Jordan in verse 1 was a demonstration of their faith according to the New Testament. In the New Testament the Ethiopian asks if he can be baptized. Peter’s answer is, “If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37). We believe that profession of faith must precede a family’s being brought into the covenant. So Joshua 5:1 shows their public identification with God by faith.

Is this the only time that requirement was given? No. Look at verse 2. “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” We’ll deal in a moment with why God would not let them circumcise their children while in the wilderness. But 40 years before there was a mass circumcision, and it was based on the profession of faith of the Israelites. In Exodus 4 Moses is really concerned that the Israelites will not believe. God gives them a message and miracles, and verse 5 gives the reason: “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Verse 8 says, “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.” But God isn’t guaranteeing even that will produce genuine faith in all. He says in the next verse: “And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. And the water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.” And verse 31 gives the conclusion, what Moses witnessed: “So the people believed; and when they heard the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.” So the people believed. Faith preceded that circumcision. And the reason I bring this up is that there is incredible skepticism in the West over people movements. We tend to think it is a nominal Christianity rather than a vibrant, genuine Christianity. Now that sometimes happens. It happened in Exodus 4. But that’s not the norm. And skeptics who visit these tribes are thunderstruck. One missiologist said, “We stress this [and he was talking about the powerful Christianity among the Karen. “We stress this] because it is a mistake to assume that People Movement Christians, merely because they have come to the Christian faith in chains of families, must inevitably be nominal Christians. Such an assumption is usually based on prejudice, not fact…. People movements in themselves do not encourage the production of nominal Christians.” (p. 285). We believe in the need for faith. We don’t baptize the families of anyone who has not expressed faith. But let’s balance this with the next point.

Only God knows the sincerity of a person’s profession of faith

The second principle is that only God knows the sincerity of a persons’ profession of faith. The previous generation had been circumcised because of their identification with God, but verse 6 shows that God rejected them, and verse 9 identified them with Egypt, with the world. They had had a false faith. One of the arguments that is used against infant baptism is that we must maintain purity in the church by ensuring that people have a genuine profession of faith first. But no one has been able to do that in the history of the church. Baptists have no fewer hypocrites than we do. Even Peter was fooled by the testimony of Simon the Sorcerer according to Acts 8. Peter has the record for having the fastest apostasy in history. Within the same hour that Simon the Sorcerer was baptized, Acts 8 says he apostatized. Looking at people’s profession of faith is no guarantee of their election. There were evidences of faith in Exodus 4-30 and even waiting to test the genuineness of their faith like many modern legalists have done is no guarantee. Turn with me to Hebrews 4 to see what God’s opinion of that generation was. They had temporal faith, but lacked saving faith. Hebrews 4:1-2. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard.” 1 Corinthians 10:5 says that even though they partook of Passover, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” Hebrews says they did not believe the Gospel. 1 Corinthians says God was not pleased with them. Numbers 14:23 says, “they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.” They had rejected the Lord. So outward profession of faith is no guarantee in any church that the profession is one of genuine faith. Read John 2 the last few verses some time and you will see this in the New Testament. It says, “many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not believe in them because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.” Their belief was not a saving belief. If you have grown up in Baptist circles like I have, you need to resist the notion that examinations of people’s professions of faith need to be longer and more stringent and that profession of faith is the be all and end all of having purity. That concept is the bedrock of Baptist ecclesiology: they say they have a believers only church because they want a pure church. So principle number 2 is profession of faith is no guarantee of purity. Even Moses and Peter had bad experiences with hypocrites.

Purity is important

The third principle is: purity is still important. God has always been concerned about the purity of the church. Don’t believe for a moment that Baptists believe in purity of the church because they only allow membership after profession of faith and we don’t believe in purity because we allow believers and their children to be members. The issue is what method of purity has God authorized? God has not authorized us to exclude our children from the covenant. Every covenant God has ever had has always included the children. So how does God maintain purity?

First, when he admits families to the covenant, the parent must express faith and give evidence of trusting in Him. We’ve already looked at that, and God’s test of their faith in this chapter was a pretty healthy test of sincerity.

Second, there was discipline. I think this is the most important tool for purity in the church, and it is certainly the most neglected tool for purity in American churches. I think it is ironic churches that pride themselves in being “believers-only-churches” are filled with violations of God’s law without ever receiving discipline. I know churches in this city have musicians who are openly living in adultery and other open sin, have youth group leaders living in other forms of sin, and certainly have families who are living in all kinds of sin without fear of discipline. I don’t care how much you talk about profession of faith – something we believe in, but if you don’t believe in discipline, you will not have a pure and a healthy church. That is God’s authorized means.

And I want you to notice how the discipline was administered. The children come under discipline when parents abandon the faith. It wasn’t just the parents who were disciplined. That may seem unfair, but it is Biblical. This chapter is the first time since 38 years previous in Numbers 9:5 that all the Israelites participated in the Passover. That was year two of their wilderness wandering, and in the first two years they had many other kinds of communion meals. But once the parents rejected God, they were excluded from the feast, the children right along with the adults.

The second aspect of discipline is shown in verses 2-8; their children no longer had the privilege of circumcision. If you look at verse 9 you will see God was treating the children as if they were Egyptians; pagans, members of the world and not members of the church. It was only at this point that the reproach of Egypt is rolled away. That was a horrible punishment to bear, yet bear it they did. Just as God takes the children of believers into the church, God excludes the children of apostates from the church. It is a covenantal issue. If you have at least one believing parent, the children can stay. Now that has huge implications on whether you approach parents or children.

So principle number 1, evidence of faith must precede administration of baptism to the family.

Principle number 2: only God knows whether a person’s profession of faith is genuine or not. We aren’t allowed to read hearts. We admit people to the church based on objective testimony, not subjective reading of the heart.

Principle three is that purity is very important to the church, but church discipline is God’s authorized means of maintaining purity. You give up discipline and you have given up everything.

Circumcision was a sign of admittance to the church, not to the nation.

But the fourth principle is that circumcision was a sign of admittance to the church, not to the nation. Those who oppose infant baptism often admit the evidence for baptism replacing circumcision is overwhelming. They don’t try to deny that. Instead they try to say the New Testament is narrower than the Old Testament. They say in the Old Testament that circumcision was a sign of entrance into church and the nation whereas in the New Testament the national aspect is stripped away and now it is only a sign of entrance into the church. These books opposing infant baptism insist that faith was not required for circumcision. And in this way they try to get around infant baptism. They say infant circumcision was related to the nation, not to church membership.

But there are several problems with that theory: The first problem is that this chapter shows the exact opposite. It shows these millions of uncircumcised men had been excluded from the Passover, but not from the nation. It shows that they had been barred from the sign of admission to the church, but they are still treated as Israelites with all the privileges of Israelite citizenship. You didn’t have to be circumcised to be an Israelite citizen, but you sure did have to be to partake of Passover or any other church benefits.

And for that matter, they were an Israelite nation before they were circumcised under Moses 40 years before. During the 400 years in Egypt God speaks of them as being Israel, there were elders of Israel and citizens of Israel. Yet it was not until they were circumcised and partake of Passover in Exodus 12 that God speaks of them as a congregation. There is a difference between the two. When a person became ceremonially unclean he was cut off from the congregation, but he was still a citizen of Israel. And when he was cleansed with baptism he was readmitted to the congregation.

In fact, when you study it out, their objection doesn’t even fit the earlier evidence under Abraham. Long before there was a nation circumcision was given as a religious covenantal sign to Abraham.

And they were certainly a nation under God during the 40 years of wandering. Circumcision had nothing to do with their being a nation. We have already read in Exodus 12 that foreigners could get circumcised, enter the church and partake of Passover even if they weren’t part of the nation. Israelites could be citizens of other nations and still be members of the church. Circumcision was purely a sign of membership in the church. And so there is no way that Baptists can get around the evidence for infant baptism. If (as many of them admit) baptism replaces circumcision, then without a divine warrant, we may not exclude the children of believers from the church.

Circumcision was done under authority

A fifth principle that we see is that circumcision was done under authority. There is a popular viewpoint advanced by InterVarsity Fellowship in the 1980’s that said that both baptism and communion can be done within the family, or where people informally come together. That it doesn’t have to be done in a church context.

But the only evidence for circumcision being done that way would be Abraham. I have heard people say that Abraham performed that rite as a father. But that is not true. Abraham had a covenantal group that was far bigger than his family. How large was His family when Circumcision was instituted? It included Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael and himself. That’s it. Yet by God’s mandate he circumcised at least 320 people. That is the 318 armed servants who rescued Lot, himself and Ishmael. And of course, the number was probably must larger than that. It was not a private affair. All of these men were under the spiritual leadership of Abraham. And the same is true here.

Whereas normally there was a strict separation between church and state, because Joshua (whose Greek spelling is Jesus) was a type or prefiguration of Jesus, he functioned in both realms. And so Verse 2 says, “At that time the LORD said to Joshua, make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” Now he delegated some of that job to priests and synagogue leaders. Normally circumcision was done by a rabbi. Verse 3 says, “So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of foreskins.”

Circumcision was applied to nations and other corporate groups

The sixth principle is that circumcision applied to nations and other corporate groups. When God gave His covenant of circumcision to Abraham in Genesis 17, three times God includes foreign nations in that covenant. Three times. In Genesis 34 Jacob is deceived by his sons who want to kill the citizens of Hamor, but in his innocence he illustrates this principle. He calls them to become Jews, to get circumcised and to worship the true God. On that condition, they could intermarry. And of course, the whole city does that.

Chua Wee Hian in an essay on Evangelization of Whole Families said, “Evangelizing whole families is the pattern of current missionary outreach…” It is happening more and more.

Roy Shearer describe Korean growth as “repeated situations when heads of families returned to their clan villages and were successful in persuading their relatives and kinsmen to ‘turn from idols to serve the living God.’” He points out those tribes were won through the family structure, not individualism.

“At times it is difficult for individualistic Westerners to realize that in many ‘face to face’ societies religious decisions are made corporately.” Chua Wee Hian) There is no getting around it. There is a corporate embracing of God’s covenant in this passage.

The individual is not lost in the corporate

But seventh, the individual is not lost in the corporate. Verses 2 and 3 show each male being circumcised. It wasn’t enough for a tribal chief to make profession of faith and to get circumcised on behalf of everyone else. Each family had to make its own painful step of faith. People movements are not like Islamic country’s in North Africa where everyone is forced to embrace Islam, or where a tribal chief makes a decision and everyone has to go along with it. We are talking about God sovereignly moving in bringing genuine conversion to a mass of individuals.

Entering into the covenant was painful

The eighth principle is that God ensured entering into the covenant was painful. Verse 8 says, So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. It cost each man to come into the faith. And the People Movements typically find intense persecution when they come to faith. They have counted the cost. Again, not a nominal Christianity.

This is a work of grace, not a sociological phenomenon

The ninth principle is that God’s grace produced this, not man’s ingenuity. It says in verse 7: So Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place… No one but God can produce a People Movement. It is a mysterious moving of God’s Spirit. Donald McGavran says, “We dare not think of People Movements to Christ as merely social phenomena. True, we can account for some of the contributing factors which have brought them about; but there is so much that is mysterious and beyond anything we can ask or think, so much that is a product of religious faith, and so much evident working of divine Power, that we must confess that People Movements are gifts of God.” (p. 289)

Circumcision brought them into the protection of the covenant.

The last principle is that circumcision brought these people into the protection of the covenant and into innumerable blessings which follow in these chapters. When we fail to baptize our children, we are excluding them from many of these privileges. I don’t want to take the time to develop all the blessings that came to these Israelites. I am going to assume that you believe that. But let me end by giving a few of the benefits our children have when they are in the covenant that no children of unbelievers have. There is clearly a difference. I’ve got eleven written down. Let me just give you the first four.

The blessings of circumcision parallel the many blessings of baptism

  1. Christ blessed the covenant children in Luke 18.
  2. Covenant children have angels assigned to them according to Matthew 18:10. These angels are spoken of as watchers or guardians in Daniel.
  3. The closeness of Christ’s identity with covenant children can beseen in His statement, “whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matt. 18:5).
  4. God promises that in the New Covenant He will pour out His blessings not only on us, but on our offspring (Is. 44:3; 40:11).
  5. The New Testament never addresses the children of believers as heathen, but always as church members or covenant children (Colossians 3:20; Eph. 6:1ff) Thus, children are expected to grow in grace. Parents are expected to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
  6. Though it is clear that our infants are depraved and sinful from conception (Psalm 51:5; 58:31) and thus justly deserve spiritual and physical death (Rom. 6:23), believing parents can lay claim to the many promises of God’s blessing upon generation after generation. There are at least five cases infants who were saved before or shortly after birth: John (Luke 1:41,44), Jeremiah (Jer 1:4), David (Ps. 22:9-10), David’s Son (2 Sam. 12:15-23) and Jereboam’s son (1 Kings 14:13). Likewise there are many examples like Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15 notice the Greek word Brevfouß or baby) which imply that there was never a time when they didn’t know and love the Lord.
  7. The representational principle of parents has always held true. Adam’s posterity are judged because of Adam’s sin. But God’s grace made possible the reversal of that on a familial basis. The family of Noah was spared because of the faith of Noah (Gen. 6:8,18; 7:1; Heb. 11:7). God promised to bless Abraham’s descendants because of Abraham’s faith, and even said that through the coming Messiah “all the families of the earth would be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3; Acts 3:25) Thus it is natural for the New Testament to point to the example of Abraham when dealing with family salvation. For example, it was because of Zaccheus’s faith that Christ said, “today is salvation come to this household because he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). Zaccheus as the covenantal head of the home brings salvation to the home because he had just become a son of Abraham. Every time a person comes to Christ in the New Testament period he becomes “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). We are heirs to the family promises given to Abraham! And thus in the very next verse (Galatians 4:1) the “child” is also said to be an “heir.” Thus, God blesses children over and over because of the faith of parents (Luke 1:41,44). In Matthew 9:18-19,23-26 the daughter of the Jewish official is healed because of the father’s faith (not the faith of the daughter). The same is true of the healing of the epileptic son (Matt. 17:14-18), and of the raising of the daughter to life (Luke 7:11-17), and the healing of the Nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54). It was expected that where faith was present in the parents, the whole family would worship and rejoice in God (Deut. 12:7,12; 14:26; Joel). And this principle was prophesied to continue into New Testament times when all families of the pagan nations would worship before God (Psalm 22:27). Thus the promise given by Paul in Acts 16:31 is no empty promise: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” That is God’s pattern. We should never see our children as being no better off than the children of unbelievers.
  8. The children of believers are said to be “holy.” In other words, they have been set apart by the covenant for God’s special working. (Ezra 9:2; Mal. 2:15; Is. 6:13; 1 Cor. 7:14) “And did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? [speaking here of a spiritual unity in marriage] And why one? He seeks holy offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce.” (Mal 2:15-16a)
  9. Thus these children continue to be heirs of the Abrahamic covenant (Galatians 4:1 - “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child…”). Nowhere is the child of unbelievers said to be an heir of the Abrahamic covenant. Furthermore, it is arbitrary to say that the “heirs” of Galatians 3:26-29 have the right to be baptized, but not the “heir” in the very next verse (Galatians 4:1). It is of the very nature of the Abrahamic covenant to include children, and this Abrahamic covenant was extended to “all the families of the earth” (Acts 3:25). On what basis can an “heir” of the Abrahamic covenant (4:1) be excluded from the covenant sign?
  10. The covenant is made with children even before they were born (Deut. 29:10,11,13-15,29 with Acts 2:39,33)
  11. Even when the parents later apostatize, the children that have been brought into covenant are said to be born unto God. (ie. They aren’t ours or Satan’s). “they have sacrificed their children whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.” (Ezek. 23:37). “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?” (Ezek. 16:20-21)

41. About the author

There are many lengthy books on baptism, but very few brief introductions to the subject. Since each chapter of this book is a transcript of a short baptism homily delivered by Pastor Kayser at his church, this book provides forty brief introductions to the subject of baptism. Because these were all preached before the same congregation, they tend to build upon each other and complement each other, but each homily is self-contained.

Founder and President of Biblical Blueprints, Phillip Kayser has degrees in education, theology, and philosophy. Ordained in 1987, he currently serves as Senior Pastor of Dominion Covenant Church, a conservative Presbyterian (CPC) church in Omaha, NE. He also serves as Professor of Ethics at Whitefield Theological Seminary and President of the Providential History Festival. He and his wife Kathy have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.

Notes

1Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 568–569.

2Since the chart was available as a handout, I am including it at the end of the baptism homily.

3Some say AD 251.

4Psalm 51:5

5Psalm 58:3

6Prov. 22:15

7Is 48:8

8Psalm 103:17

9Psalm 72:4

10Isaiah 40:11

11Luke 18:15-16

12Psalm 22:9

13Psalm 147:13

14Psalm 78:6

15Joel 2:16

16Is. 46:3

17Gen. 17:1,2,7,10

18Acts 7:8

19Rom. 4:9

20Matt 3:9

21Rom. 4:11

22Rom. 2:26

23Eph. 2:11-13

24Gal. 3:26-29

25Eph. 2:19

26Rom. 2:28-29

27Phil. 3:3

28Col. 2:11-12 Amplified Bible.

29Gal. 4:1-2

301 Cor. 4:2

31Prov. 20:7

32Deut. 6:6-7

33Deut. 31:12

34Prov. 14:26

35Prov. 20:7

36Matt 18:10,14

37Jer. 32:38-39

38Jer. 65:23

39Isaiah 40:11

40Acts 2:38-39

41Acts 16:15

42Acts 18:34

431Cor. 1:16

441Cor. 10:2

45Numb 8:7

46Is. 44:3

47Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1 of Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 140.