Earlier this year I was invited to teach a home study from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The Confession is a marvelous tool for the instruction of saints in the fundamental truths of the Word of God. I affectionately welcome the doctrinal instruction of that wonderful document. In the process of preparing for the study I was engaged in the study of infant baptism. It was an issue that I had never thought of beyond my “traditional” conviction – believers baptism. I was fully prepared to embrace infant baptism if persuaded by the Scriptures. I have read a large number of works by the Paedo-baptists, but in the end come to a strong conviction that the Lord explicitly commands us to baptize disciples only. I offer this little presentation for several reasons, but none of which are for the purpose of provoking my brothers and sisters in Christ to anger or animosity. I am always (I pray) willing to stand corrected and reproved by the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16-17) and I welcome your Christian counsel with much affection. In preparing this for AOL I have had great difficulty importing my footnotes. I am trying to include them in the text now behind [brackets]. If I fail to meet your needs for sources please feel free to Email me with your requests.
In warmest Christian affection,
George Higginbotham, Jr
IMPEDIMENTS TO THE PRACTICE OF INFANT BAPTISM
I. FIRST IMPEDIMENT: THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTINUITY
II. SECOND IMPEDIMENT: COVENANT COMPARISON
III. THIRD IMPEDIMENT: THE EXPLICIT COMMANDMENTS
IV. R. C. SPROUL & INFANT BAPTISM
V. LOGICAL CONCLUSIONS
George Higginbotham, Jr
IMPEDIMENTS TO THE PRACTICE OF INFANT BAPTISM
The Westminster Confession of Faith clearly teaches that the unregenerate offspring of professing believers are appropriate candidates for the sacrament of baptism. I am wholly convinced that the sacrament of baptism is specifically commanded of those professing the true religion only and that it is a violation of God’s Word to baptize known and recognized unbelievers; infants or otherwise. To differ with such a formidable document without providing some reasons would appear obstinate. Having studied the Confession along with a number of supporting articles and publications which promote infant baptism, I still find a number of serious impediments to the position of the Paedo-baptists. I am going to list and briefly explain those impediments.
I have been helped throughout my study by one Scripture in particular. It has guided me through many of the more difficult areas of this controversy. It has been the principle I have sought to apply from start to finish regarding each of the following impediments and to all of the arguments, pro or con. It will be the recurring theme of this presentation. That passage is found in Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe [Hebrew- asah – do, make, practise, obey] all the words of this law.
The ‘secret things’ are not untrue things, but they are things kept from us by the Lord Himself. He holds us accountable for all those ‘things revealed’, but not the ‘secret things’. When men begin to attempt to peer into the ‘secret things’ they must, of necessity, rely upon speculation and unwholesome inference. There is an appropriate application of the principle of “good and necessary inference,” but that appropriate use must always begin with texts that positively lay a firm foundation for the inference being made and that inference must never, in its conclusion conflict, contradict, overturn, or distort the ‘things revealed.’ [For example the doctrine of the Trinity is often cited as an example of the principle of “good and necessary inference.” The Trinity by name is not explicitly presented in the Scriptures, but I can read from the text statements that positively affirm that God is the Spirit, that God is the Son, and that God is the Father. I can read in the Scriptures where the Lord addresses the Lord (Psalm 2:7) and from these things I can, by their inference conclude that God exists as a triune personal deity.]
If the “good and necessary inference” is truly good it will never drift too far away from the clearest texts of Scripture and it shall always remain subject to those texts, never contradicting the explicit propositions of God’s Word. We shall keep those words from Moses close to the surface of our review and refer to them over and over.
I. FIRST IMPEDIMENT – THE PRINCIPLE OF CONTINUITY
The principle of continuity is the most often cited argument in support of the practice of infant baptism. It is the product of a comparison between two covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant. It is reasoned that since the sign and seal of the Abrahamic Covenant was, by the explicit command of God, to be administered to the eight day old male offspring of confessing Jews, then the sign and seal of the New Covenant must be likewise administered,even though without an explicit command to do so. By comparing the two covenants circumcision is regarded as the exact precedent for water baptism. Their relationship is one for one; the latter replacing the former only as far as the sign itself, but not with respect to its administering imperatives or procedures (only the sign is different, but the rules remain the same).
In the writings of the men defending the practice of infant baptism there is the re-occurring plea for continuity. They say that whatever was the rule and practice of the people of God all along is to remain the rule and practice of the people of God until such a time as God explicitly modifies that rule. Dr. Sproul clearly prefers silence (the secret things) for building his doctrine. If God has commanded the circumcision of infants in the Old Testament then that practice must continue, according to God’s explicit commandment until He Himself annuls or modifies that explicit commandment.
Response & Impediment : As stated, it is the most often cited reason for infant baptism that under the Old Covenant infants were circumcised, therefore infants are to be baptized in the New Covenant, unless God specifically and explicitly prohibits that practice. It is considered to be very wrong of any man to modify any explicit commandment of God without His specific word and permission to do so. Agreeing with that principle, my response is to request proof from the Scriptures that God has commanded any infant to be circumcised. Is there any explicit command in the Bible from God to circumcise infants? The only texts that can be cited clearly command that men are to circumcise their eight day old males, but never their infants. If the continuity of the covenant commandment is such a strong argument, then why is it so lightly esteemed and readily violated? Why has the Paedo-baptist created the unique practice of infant baptism when there is no precedent and no commandment for it in either Covenant? Eight day old males only is neither equal to nor continuous with the new practice which has no words of inauguration from God anywhere in the Bible. The Paedo-baptist practice is not consistent with the explicit teachings of Old Testament.
The charge is leveled against those who practice believer’s baptism that they are modifying the explicit commandments of God without His explicit permission to do so. Refusing to administer the ordinance of baptism to unbelieving infants when circumcision was clearly administered to unbelieving eight day old males is to modify God’s explicit commandment. Everyone is in agreement that it is dangerously wrong to change the words of God or to modify His imperatives unless He Himself explicitly makes the modification. Before we go further it would be profitable to read God’s words of commandment (the revealed things we are to observe) respecting the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant circumcision.
God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: (first off to put everyone on the right path at the beginning) every male among you shall be circumcised. “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and
it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. “And (from now on the procedure will be) every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, (in order to handle some exceptional circumstances) …”A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. “But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
This is the initiating imperative. At the initiation of this covenant all males were to be circumcised and subsequently all males eight days old will be circumcised. (our Lord was circumcised on the eighth day, Luke 2:21)
The charge against those practicing believer’s baptism is that by restricting water baptism only to those professing the true religion and thereby denying the ritual to many infants, they have clearly made a modification to the principles of Genesis 17.
First Impediment: If it is wrong to modify the commandments of God without His explicit word and the Baptists are guilty of this, then why are the Paedo-baptists today baptizing infants beyond the eighth day in violation of God’s explicit commandment? Why are they administering this ordinance to females which is no where permitted by God? The commandment of God, from His lips is eight days old and males only. Where is the modification from God that allows the principle of continuity to be ignored regarding these two important parts of His explicit commandment? If you do not have a text, an explicit commandment from God to extend the ordinance to infants of any age and any gender, in spite of God’s clear words in Genesis 17, you are very guilty of modifying the Word of God and one of His perpetual commandments.
[The Passover ritual has been modified greatly into the Lord’s Supper, but I can turn to Matthew 26 or 1 Corinthians 11 and read in black and white from the lips of God those modifications. I can find no text of the Scriptures that reveals the modifications from circumcision to baptism that we see practiced by the Paedo-baptists. Therefore, their plea for continuity would seem to condemn their own practice far more severely than those who embrace a believers baptism.]
EIGHT DAYS OLD: None of the men that I read addressed the modification of the eight day old rule except one on-line Christian friend who wrote;
“The eight day rule had a definite purpose behind it. In those days of crude medical practices allowing eight days of strengthening before such operation made good sense. There is no such need for baptism. This is not a modification.”
1 – “This is not a modification.” Eight days old verses non-eight days old is a bold modification no matter what my friend may conclude; eight does not equal non-eight. It is a modification.
2 – My friend uses the term the “purpose behind,” but the “purpose behind” the eight day old rule is given to us in Genesis 17 as one of the things revealed and not by contemporary medical science. My friend suggests that baptism no longer required eight days due to the medical aspect, but since God never told the Jews about the medical aspect behind it (He only said eight days – the thing revealed) how is it that when baptism begins these Jews realize that there must be a medical thing involved and eight days is no longer required? My point is, the Jews of the New Testament era knew nothing of this hidden, behind the scenes, medical purpose for eight days and so they would not know to lift that rule, unless God specifically said so. My question stands and remains unanswered, where is the modification from the lips of God?
I found no one else addressing this bold modification of God’s commandment and clear break with the continuity principle. God’s word on this matter was that male infants were to be circumcised on the eighth day, which was the ‘thing revealed.” This radical modification made by the Paedo-baptists must fall into the some category of ‘secret things’ which cannot be called a good and necessary inference from the text.
MALES ONLY: Only one man addressed the modification of the rule regarding males only. He did so by citing Galatians 3:28 [Francis Schaeffer, “Baptism” p. 22]
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The male/female distinction is only eradicated in Christ Jesus – believers only! (compare with Romans 8:1 in Christ Jesus). The distinction is only dissolved by regeneration. Putting the sign of the New Covenant upon a female as a promissory or forward looking ritual, in case she should be saved later, fails to regard seriously God’s last word on the matter – eight day old males only which is the ‘thing revealed’. If we are claiming the principle of continuity then where is female circumcision in the Old Testament or God’s modification in the New?
My on-line friend’s response to this modification was;
“In the OT days when male dominance was part of the culture circumcision was a suitable sign. All circumcised males were included in the Covenant community along with all females in their households. The sign, you see, was really upon all people, male and female. God evidently chose to make the modification to fit the changing world.”
1 – Here my friend uses speculative terminology rather than revelatory, “God evidently chose to modify,” because he can only speculate where God has not spoken. It is the ‘secret things’ verses the ‘things revealed’. God still has not revealed this modification to us (if so, chapter and verse?). The ‘thing revealed’ is males only, and if according to my friend, males only in circumcision included the females potentially, then since God has not changed the rule, the new sign must also be considered potentially efficacious for females though it is not to be administered to them. The principle of continuity would require us to administer the ordinance as it has always been administered, in compliance with the things revealed. If I were in my friend’s shoes I would cling to the ‘things revealed’ which God requires us to observe, rather than turning to the ‘secret things’ which belong to God, not to us.
2 – If it was because of cultural male dominance that God decided to acquiesce and provide a sign conforming to that culture, then why was the rule changed in the New Testament era, which was quite clearly another male dominated culture? And again, where was it changed? Since when has God given rules conforming to the culture as opposed to His normal way of giving rules to which the culture is to conform?
R. C. Sproul says, “The problem of adult baptism is that the silence, I believe, of the New Testament is
on the side of infant baptism, because of the point of continuity. If there is going to be a break with that which has always been the case with the people of God, you would assume that God would say something”
My response to Dr. Sproul is eight day old males only “which has always been the case with the people of God.” If Dr. Sproul assumes that any break with what has “always been the case with the people of God” requires of God an explicit statement, then where is that statement suspending the eight day old rule and the gender restriction? I cannot find anything continuous in the practice supported by the Paedo-baptists. Without explicit teaching in the New Testament and completely contrary to the imperatives of the Old Testament, the practice of infant baptism is unique and foreign to the Scriptures. Nothing similar to it is found in either covenant. It has no words of inauguration or commendation anywhere in God’s Word. As administered by the Paedo-baptists, infant baptism is inconsistent with everything which has been the case with the people of God. And further more, God has spoken clearly and explicitly, introducing a new Covenant, its sign, and its administering imperatives – Matthew 28:19 make disciples – baptize them, but we shall come to that directly.
The bottom line is that the Paedo-baptists have dramatically, even radically modified the rule of God without His permission or explicit word. Circumcision, from the lips of God (the thing revealed) is for males only and eight day old males only. If baptism is the circumcision of the New Covenant and there are no new imperatives and the old rules are to be continued (Sproul’s point of continuity), then where is God’s modifying statement (a ‘thing revealed to observe’)? Without that the Paedo-baptist is clearly far more guilty of the charge he levels against the Baptist – modifying the commandments of God.
II. SECOND IMPEDIMENT: COVENANT COMPARISON
The weight of the Paedo-baptist argument rests upon the comparison of the two covenants.
My question is, does God normally compare the covenants?
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, “declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
It may be argued that the two covenants contrasted here are the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant, but by learning from this text what the New Covenant is like we can contrast it with the Abrahamic Covenant.
A 100% Covenant: – “for they shall all know Me” – The New Covenant is a 100% covenant in that all of its members have the “law within them, and on their hearts”. The text says that they shall all know God and therefore have no need to be instructed concerning knowing God in the saving sense. Can this be said of the Abrahamic Covenant? Were all the members of that Covenant saved?
The Paedo-baptist acknowledge that by baptism they really and truly bring into the New Covenant their unbelieving and unregenerate infants as covenant children, though the Bible says that in no place. There is no text for that theory. That is speculative, built off of inference without textual foundation, and covenant-comparing rather than covenant- contrasting. It is, at best, one of those secret things belonging to God. Of the ‘things revealed’ which we are to observe God has said that all of the members of the New Covenant will know Him and will have His law written on their hearts. That is explicit and clear, as opposed to speculative and secret. The Abrahamic Covenant is NOT a 100% covenant. It is not like the New Covenant, neither is its sign. Many of those circumcised in strict accordance with the command of God were never converted yet the ordinance rule was not violated which did not require a profession. The New Covenant rule is “repent and be baptized.” Those who comply with that imperative are saved individuals, while false professors submitting to baptism have clearly violated the administering rule. This is very different from the Abrahamic Covenant. They are contrasted, not compared when God deals with them.
CONCLUSION TO COVENANT COMPARISON:
When God’s pattern is one of contrasting covenants, I believe it is wrong and dangerous to construct doctrinal practice by means of covenant-comparing. All four of the ordinances come to us with their own set of rules or imperatives. These do not actually modify the preceding ordinances, but really inaugurate the new ordinances for the new covenant to which they are specifically attached. It is strange to wrench one ordinance, specifically given to one covenant, out from its proper covenant context and force it into a different covenant which already has its own ordinance and ordinance rules from the mouth of God as a thing revealed.
III. THE THIRD IMPEDIMENT: THE EXPLICIT COMMANDMENTS OF GOD
INTRODUCTION: If we are truly called to obey all those ‘things revealed’ and to leave off the ‘secret things which belong to the Lord’, then it would seem that the wisest approach to this debate is to begin (and end) with the explicit commandments of God’s Word and to desist from any reliance upon the speculative and inferential. This is clearly not the same mind set we find with the Paedo-baptists;
R. C. Sproul – “What we are dealing with is a debate that rests ultimately on inferences drawn from the Scripture, on implications not on explicit teachings. And where you don’t have an explicit command or an explicit prohibition you just have to be a little more gentle with each other.” [All these quotations from Dr. Sproul come from his taped lecture series entitled “Into the Sanctuary” and specifically from the three lessons on baptism.]
Dr. Sproul directs that comment towards the whole of this debate, claiming that both sides have been left without explicit teaching and therefore must rely upon the inferred. Due to a lack of explicit teaching inference and speculation are necessary. However, God’s Word does provide explicit imperatives and explicit examples sufficient to correct Dr. Sproul’s reliance upon the ‘secret things’ of God which have not been revealed and to provide a body of ‘things revealed’ which we must observe.
BACKGROUND TO COMMANDMENTS: When the commandments related to these two ordinances were given they were given in two formats. First the commandment is directed towards the one who will administer the ordinance. And second, the commandment is directed towards the responsible party, the one who is accountable to God for participating in the ordinance.
BELIEVER’S CIRCUMCISION & BAPTISM: It is helpful to find some area where the two sides are in agreement. Here is one. There was such a thing as believer’s circumcision. Abraham is the very best example of that. Abraham believed and it was accounted unto him as righteousness and then later he was circumcised. One of many examples of believer’s baptism would be the 3000 Jews at Pentecost where we read those who had received his word were baptized (Acts 2:41). Believer’s circumcision and believer’s baptism occurred as the result of explicit commandments from God. This is agreed upon by both parties.
EXPLICIT COMMANDMENTS REGARDING THE TWO ORDINANCES: Let’s examine the explicit commandments we have from God in both of the issuing formats respecting both of the ordinances in question, circumcision and baptism. First, we have the commandment to the one administering the ordinance and second the commandment to the one participating in the ordinance.
ADMINISTRATOR: Abraham was commanded, as the one administering the ordinance to circumcise eight day old males and males bought or brought into the family (Genesis 17:22- 23). If Abraham and all those who circumcise thereafter failed to circumcise eight day old males and males bought or brought into the family according to God’s explicit command they were disobeying the Word of God (the things revealed) and demonstrating unfaithfulness.
THE OBEDIENT PARTICIPANT: Notice that in the Old Testament there is no commandment to eight day old males to be circumcised. The commandment is issued to the parents as the administrators. When circumcision was performed the obedient party was the parent not the eight day old male. The circumcision commandment is given in only one format, to the administrator. The eight day old male was passive in the ritual. The commandment was never directed to him. When Moses failed to circumcise his sons, with whom was God angry, the sons or Moses (Exodus 4:24)? Who was unfaithful, the sons or Moses? God was angry with Moses, the disobedient party, not the sons. This is very different from the New Testament ordinance and its rules.
ADMINISTRATOR: Jesus Christ Himself gives the administrator’s commandment in Matthew 28:18-19:
And Jesus came up 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 the Son and the Holy Spirit,
From the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ we have an explicit commandment a ‘thing revealed’ – make disciples – baptize them, the disciples.
In all our behaviors and practices the one true and acceptable rule of evaluation is God’s Word. We have two groups baptizing, Paedo-baptists and believer baptists. Jesus said make disciples – baptize them
Who are the believers baptists baptizing? disciples
Who are the Paedo-baptists baptizing? non-disciples
Again, who did Jesus say we are to baptize? – disciples. Who is doing what Jesus clearly said we are to do and who is doing the very opposite of what Jesus clearly said?
There is no way to camouflage the ‘things revealed’ here in Matthew 28:18-19. It is an explicit commandment from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself that we baptize disciples and there is no word from God at all, anywhere, on any page of the Bible saying that we are to baptize non- disciples. This sounds very harsh but how can it be avoided when Jesus says do “A” and one particular group is actively doing “NON-A”, the very opposite of the thing revealed. And why? Some say because those who heard the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-19 were thinking in covenant terms and so the idea of children was automatically assumed and Jesus was only trying to supplement that notion with the idea that Gentiles were now to be included. My response is, where does it reveal to us what those men were thinking? Is that one of the ‘secret things belonging to God’ not revealed to us? Should we so obviously contradict the clear commandment of Jesus on the basis of what we speculate those men were thinking (secret things)?
The commandment to the administrators of this ordinance is poignantly clear, you baptize disciples. A non-professing infant is not a disciple by anyone’s definition and further more God’s Word would characterize the infant as an enemy of God, one possessing a heart at enmity with God, a non-seeker who does no good at all, and one who is dead in sins (Romans 8:7, 3:10f, Ephesians 2:1).
The sign and seal of the New Covenant is water baptism. In John the Baptist we have the explicit command and explicit example of only repentant sinners participating. In our Lord Himself we have the explicit command that disciples are to be baptized. And in his disciples we have both explicit commands [Acts 2:38] and explicit examples [Acts 2:41] of disciples-only baptism. In another place our Lord said;
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4
Is it not fair to ask what has come ‘out of the mouth of God’ regarding the sign and seal of the New Covenant? The answer to that question is make disciples – baptize them. ‘Out of the mouth of God’ there has come nothing to sanction, command, or permit the baptizing of non- disciples. There is no example of such a practice in the Old or New Testament (remember it was eight day old males only regarding circumcision). If we are to live on every word that proceeds ‘out of the mouth of God’, then how shall we find any justification for baptizing non-disciples, a thing not revealed and a thing not from the mouth of God. A commandment is law. And Jesus said, concerning the commandments,
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19
This demonstrates the serious biblical repercussions falling out, not only from the disobedience to our Lord’s specific commandment baptize disciples, but from the propagation of this practice, the teaching of others to disobey the words of Jesus likewise. This is an overwhelming impediment for me. If Jesus has told me to baptize disciples and I am taking water and baptizing non-disciples, I cannot reconcile that activity with the clear and explicit teaching we have from our Savior’s very lips. Every time a non-disciple is baptized you are doing the very opposite of what Jesus Christ commanded you to do. Unless you are comfortable putting off the ‘things revealed’ and replacing them with ‘secret things’, things implied, inferred, and speculated upon you do well to cling to the text in this place. It is easy in this place to cite the examples of great and devout men of the faith such as John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards who both habitually baptized non-disciples, but does their character and maturity surpass that of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who said make disciples – baptize them? Is there any record of the Lord or His apostles baptizing non-disciples? There is no such record. All we have (the things revealed) are the words of the Savior, makedisciples, baptize them.
THE OBEDIENT PARTICIPANT: But let’s turn to the matter of the obedient participant. In every recorded imperative regarding baptism, excepting those to the administrator, who is the responsible party? “Repent ye and be ye baptized.” It is always directed to the one who is to be baptized, never to parents or friends or neighbors, except in so far as they also are to repent and be baptized for themselves. When the baptism occurs the obedient party is the party baptized, not the parent. This radically differs from circumcision where the responsible and faithful party is not the eight day old male, but the parent. If this were not the case in the circumcision rite, then God would not have been angry with Moses, but rather with his sons in Exodus 4.
R. C. Sproul makes the following charge:
“If you raise a principial objection to giving a sign of faith to someone who is not yet capable of demonstrating or exercising faith then you must in principle condemn the Old Testament.”
I do object to the administration of a sign of faith given to one who is incapable of exercising faith and I see that principle clearly consistent with the Old Testament as well as with the New Testament. The command to circumcise was never issued to the eight day old male. It was issued to the parent of the eight day old male and when that parent brought his eight day old male forth for circumcision that parent was obeying the Word of God and being faithful. The eight day old male was passive. Circumcision was the sign of the parent’s faith and faithful obedience to the God of Abraham.
Conclusion to Explicit Commandments:
This impediment to infant baptism is, for me, insurmountable. We do have clear, dogmatic, explicit, imperative mood commands from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and from His apostles telling us to baptize disciples and never telling us to baptize non-disciples. If I am baptizing non-disciples, I am clearly doing the opposite of Jesus’ words and without His permission, without any word from God at all, unless I resort to speculation, inference, and silence.
IV. R. C. SPROUL & INFANT BAPTISM:
R. C. Sproul develops the following argument. He acknowledges that only twelve examples of baptism are to be found in the New Testament and that they are all examples of believers baptism. He acknowledges that there is no example at all of infant baptism to be found the Word of God (here is silence – ‘a secret thing’). He quickly points out that 25% of those examples (three of them) are “household” baptisms which may allow for infants, but of course that will have to be another one of those secret things not revealed? [for a very good study of the household baptisms as well as this whole subject Email me about Dr. Fred Malone’s booklet entitled “A String of Pearls Unstrung: A Journal of Baptism.” It covers this whole subject with much greater depth and Scriptural maturity. I will gladly secure a copy for you]
He also points out that all of the examples of believer baptisms in the New Testament are pagan baptisms? They are examples of pagans being converted to Christ and therefore by profession of faith only are they baptized. But is that true? Are there no examples of circumcised covenant Jews bearing the sign of the promises of God and yet being required to profess and then receive the new sign of the New Covenant? I was able to locate in the Bible three thousand examples that contradict Sproul’s assertion that all examples of believers baptism are pagan examples.
Acts Chapter 2.
vs 5 – Now there were living in Jerusalem, , from every nation under heaven.
vs 22 – Peter says , “, listen to these words:
vs 38 – And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
vs 41 – So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
None of these were pagans and yet they were required, though they bore a sufficient sign of faith and promise to make a profession of faith and receive the new sign of another and new covenant, baptism. [not to mention our Lord, the apostles, e.g. Paul etc]
Here is Sproul’s statement:
“Everyone of those examples that we can find in the New Testament of adults being baptized who are first required to make a profession of faith and repent whatever else we can tell about their status prior to their baptism in the places where we can tell, every single one of them, the person is a pagan convert, a Gentile coming to the faith as a first generation believer. Now if the Baptists could show that one of those adults had been in the family of Christians when that person was an infant and is now only being baptized, now then you have a case.” [Sproul’s challenge in the last sentence is an empty challenge in so far as this was the first generation of Christians. There were no previous “Christians” only believing Jews and covenant Jews and those were required to receive the new sign upon profession of faith.]
SPROUL’S STRONGEST ARGUMENT:
When it is all said and done Dr. Sproul says that 1 Corinthians 7:14 is the overwhelming proof to him that infants must be given the sign of the New Covenant and called covenant children. Dr. Sproul does not address the clear fact that 1 Corinthians 7:14 says nothing at all about the covenant or the sacraments. Its subject, beginning to end is marriage and divorce and the legitimacy of the children of the marriage. His conclusion is that the child of a professing believer upon receipt of the sign is to be considered a bonifide member of the covenant, a covenant child. But in contrast to what Dr. Sproul says, God says that all of the members of the New Covenant are converted members – Jeremiah 31:33-34. Sproul does not affirm that all of the covenant children of the New Testament are converted so he is speaking contrary to the Scriptures in this place.
I struggle for a reason why there would be, in the New Covenant a category of unregenerate members. In the Abrahamic Covenant that was clearly the case, but God has said it would not be so in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34). What is the benefit of the New Covenant Unregenerate Covenant Child? In Matthew 25 our Lord puts people of His right and on His left; those on the right go to heaven and those on the left are cast into the lake of fire. Where is the Lord putting this third category of humanity, unregenerate covenant members and what benefit is everlasting to them?
V. LOGICAL CONCLUSIONS:
One of the things that I learned from Dr. Francis Schaeffer is the importance of pursuing our views and opinions to their logical conclusions. As I understand it, a particular position or doctrine or theory may at its beginning vary from the truth only slightly, perhaps even so slightly that it is not easily distinguished from the truth. However, if it is really and truly out of accord with truth and if it is pursued faithfully to its logical conclusion, at some point, somewhere it will prove to be blatantly in opposition to the Word of God. Obviously, the consistent application of the principles of infant baptism will require the minister of the Word of God at some point in his ministry to baptize non-disciples which is clearly the opposite of the Word of God which we have from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that we are to baptize disciples. The faithful and consistent following of the premises and principles of infant baptism in the end put you in an opposing camp, opposing the Savior’s words.
There is another place where the consistent application of these principles bears a testimony to a very serious attack upon God’s people. Dr. Gerstner in his video series on the Westminster Confession’s Chapter XXVIII gives a personal testimony. He says that in all the years of his ministry, week after week, he has been approached by young, new converts to Christ requesting Christian baptism. They report to him that they were baptized as infants when it meant nothing at all to them. Recently the Lord has moved sovereignly in their lives bringing them to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has made them over and now as they read the Scriptures they read the commandment repent ye and be ye baptized and they want to be baptized in order to obey Jesus. Dr. Gerstner, with his hand raised to the camera, says “no”to their request. He tells them that he will not baptize them for that has already been done to them. Dr. Sproul relates the same experience from his own ministry, only he tells there questing new Christian the it would be blasphemous for him to baptize them and for them to be baptized and so he will not. Here, for me is the most telling flaw of the system. When a Christian reading his Bible finds a commandment from the Lord Jesus Christ and knows that Jesus has said that if you love Me you will keep my commandments and seeks out an opportunity to obey the Savior, it is unthinkable that a minister of the Gospel would raise his hand and call obedience blasphemy. When a minister stands between a Christian and his Bible and refuses to allow the Christian to obey one of the explicit ‘things revealed’, he had better be very very convinced that he himself is obeying an explicit commandment of God and not relying upon the ‘secret things which belong to Lord.’
Gordon H. Clark writes;
The Roman system assigns the role of a merely passive recipient to the worshiper. His faith, his worthiness to partake of the sacrament, is sacrificed to the intention of the priest. Therefore there is no need to explain the sacrament to the worshiper. It is the performance of the sacrament itself that counts. For this reason there is relatively little preaching in Romish churches….Contrariwise Protestantism will not have a sacrament apart from the Word. IT IS THE FAITH AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE BELIEVER WHICH COUNT. Therefore the sermon is essential. [from his “What Do Presbyterians Believe?” p 234]
My response to Dr. Clark would have to be, where is the “faith and understanding” of the infant being baptized? Our Lord has said; this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Isaiah 29:13
How can the unregenerate infant but help to have a heart removed far from the Lord and a reverence for the Him that is only (at best) a tradition learned by rote. It is but ritual without reality for the infant baptized and there is no sanction for that in God’s Word.
As I began, so I conclude, Deuteronomy 29:29 is the most significant counselor I have had through this study. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
Every time an argument is presented to you in favor of one position or the other you must consciously, if not verbally, demand that it be categorized as either a ‘secret thing’ belonging to the Lord or a ‘thing revealed’ belonging to us. Has the thing proposed actually come ‘out of the mouth of God’? Has the thing proposed conflicted with that which has come ‘out of the mouth of God’? Does it contradict the ‘things revealed’? What I have done for my own benefit is to take each of the arguments put forth by the Paedo-baptists and each of the arguments put forth by the baptists and file them in one of those two categories. In the end I have found that nearly all of the Paedo-baptist arguments were filed under ‘secret things’, things inferred, or argued from silence, or speculated upon. Much of their reasoning and most of their practice is based upon what is not revealed and conflicts with what is revealed. Obeying their practice will ultimately force me to do the very opposite of what the Lord Jesus Christ did in space and time actually command. I cannot build, with confidence, my doctrinal practices out of that ‘secret things’ file. Jesus said, explicitly make disciples – baptize them and through His apostles He said explicitly, repent ye and be ye baptized. This is what has come ‘out of the mouth of God’ regarding water baptism and it is that upon which Christians are to live. The commandments we have regarding water baptism are not secret. They are published in His inerrant Word for all of His children to obey. Dare we modify those commandments on the basis of secret things unrevealed?