Why have infant baptism?
Dear BPCWAians, If someone were to ask you why we practice infant baptism, would you be able to answer, besides just saying because “we are Presbyterians, and so do Anglicans and Methodists”? Why do some not believe in infant baptism? And do children become members of BPCWA after infant baptism here?
(1) Because of the sign of the Covenant which believing parents are in with God. Believers, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament, are saved by the Covenant of Grace through faith (Eph 2:8). Covenants have signs and seals. In the Old Testament, the covenantal sign between God and His people was circumcision, “And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen 17:11). Hence, any adult who desires to be God’s people must be circumcised and infants of God’s people were circumcised as God commanded (Gen 17:12,13; Ex 12:48). This sign was replaced by water baptism in the New Testament, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col 2:11- 12). The Apostle Paul linked physical circumcision with “the circumcision of Christ” which is “buried with him in baptism”. The believing Jews now understood that keeping the covenantal sign which used to be through circumcision was replaced with water baptism, which is “the circumcision of Christ”. Christ has shed His Blood once and for all, hence circumcision, which involved bloodshed, was replaced with the non bloody water baptism. Likewise, the bloody sacrifices involved for the Passover was also replaced with the non bloody Holy Communion. Bear in mind that sprinkling water as a sign of being cleansed is not new to the Jews. It was practiced in the Old Testament as part of a cleansing sign, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Eze 36:25). That is why John the baptiser was already practicing baptism since it was an Old Testament practice. The Jews could immediately accept that circumcision was done away with, but this sprinkling of water continued as a replacement of circumcision.
(2) Because of covenant keeping with our Covenantal God. Infant baptism, which replaced infant circumcision, is a sign of keeping the Covenant with God. “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised” (Gen 17:9-10). You might think that that is for the Jews. But firstly, Abraham was not a Jew because Israel was not even formed yet. So secondly, this Covenant of Grace is with all believers in all nations, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (Gen 17:4), “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen 17:7). Hence thirdly, believers are Abraham’s generations, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:29). Thus as Abraham’s seed, as God’s people, all believing parents should keep the covenantal sign of infant baptism. Moses failed and it angered God, “And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision” (Exo 4:24-26). Notice that the jail keeper was baptised and so were all that were his, “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Act 16:33). Refusing the covenantal sign is tantamount to telling God that you have no interest to have your child as God’s people. Infant baptism can never save your child. Neither does it mean it will automatically make it a true believer.
(3) Because it is the receiving of God’s Covenantal promise. Maybe you ask, “why not just have dedication service”? or “why can’t I just bring it up in godly ways without infant baptism”? Infant baptism is more than just dedicating your child to God. Dedication is as if you are doing God a favour by dedicating your own flesh to Him but infant baptism is acknowledging that your child is from God in the first place and belongs to Him. So it is a plea for God to help you to bring it up for Him. It is a two-way process. Infant baptism is really claiming God’s covenantal promise to help believing parents bring up godly seed as they return His child to Him, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Act 2:39). God is a familial God, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1Cor 7:14). Of course, it does not mean that God’s aim is to protect your child from all sicknesses and will make it super intelligent and healthy. Some infant baptise their children thinking that is what it will do. The promise is spiritual – that as you do your part to bring up godly seed for Him, He sets them apart with familial interest and care, and will help you fulfil your roles. God ordained infant baptism as the means of claiming the covenantal sign. It is not for us to choose. It is the covenantal sign believing parents are told to keep with God. For example, the sign and seal in the Covenant of marriage is the ring. To refuse to wear the ring is wanting to enjoy the blessings of marriage but refusing to be identified as being married to the other party. Refusing infant baptism is the same – wanting God’s familial love but refusing the covenantal sign He chose for us to keep, inventing dedication instead. Parents cannot choose dedication service and expect God to bend to their own ideas. That is why adults abide by believers’ water baptism, which is what God ordained, and we cannot invent our own outward sign of inward faith.
So what should happen after infant baptism? God willing, we shall see it next week.
Yours in our Lord’s service