Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Infant Baptism

Matt Waymeyer is continuing a study @ http://www.sfpulpit.com on the topic of infant baptism. It is based on the introduction of the newly released A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008), which can be purchased either through Amazon or KCP.

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According to paedobaptist Pierre Marcel:

The New Testament establishes no essential difference between circumcision and baptism; such differences as there are are only formal. Baptism has taken the place of circumcision.

"The belief that baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant is foundational to the case for infant baptism. According to this argument, if the covenant sign of circumcision was given to infants in Israel, how can the covenant sign of baptism be denied to them in the church? Baptism is what circumcision was and therefore should be applied to infants".

One of the passages which presents a problem for this view is Acts 15:1-29.

The objection here is obvious: If baptism had replaced circumcision in the way that paedobaptism teaches, why didn’t one of them simply say, “Of course you don’t need to be circumcised, because—as we all know—baptism has replaced circumcision!”?

A related question presents a similar problem: If baptism replaced circumcision, why were the two rites practiced side-by-side in the early church? In addition, as Greg Welty asks,

why did Paul bend over backwards to accommodate the Jewish converts’ continuing practice of circumcising their children? (Acts 21:20–26) Why did he not rather challenge the practice as completely inappropriate for Christian converts, since now baptism has replaced circumcision?

He concludes this section:"In light of the fact that Timothy was circumcised “because of the Jews who were in those parts” (Acts 16:3), how can Wilson maintain that the New Testament writers “always treated circumcision as a God-ordained rite with tremendous covenantal significance”? How can he insist that “the New Testament contains no indication that the apostles downgraded circumcision from covenantal status to a mere ethnic emblem”? As Thomas Schreiner observes, “Circumcision continued to be allowed among the Jews for cultural reasons, but there is no evidence that it was practiced because of its alleged covenantal value.” If baptism played precisely the same role in the church as circumcision did in Israel, Paul would not have circumcised Timothy".

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Infant Baptism and Divine Adoption

Matt Waymeyer continues: "In paedobaptist teaching, baptism is seen as a mark of divine ownership, a sign and seal given to those who are God’s own possession. When an infant is baptized, not only does he enter God’s covenant family, but “his parents declare that their child belongs to God” (Daniel Doriani). In this way, baptism is considered a sign of initiation by which an infant is received into the church and “reckoned among God’s children” (John Calvin). As John Murray writes, infants who are baptized “are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.”

"In the Old Testament, the corporate adoption of the nation of Israel was such that individual Jews were considered sons of God regardless of whether they themselves were personally saved. In Deuteronomy 14:1–2, Yahweh said to Israel":

You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deut 14:1–2).

"This corporate adoption of Old Testament Israel can be seen in the New Testament as well. In Romans 9:2–4, as the apostle Paul expresses his desire to see fellow Jews come to Christ, he describes the various privileges which belong to the nation of Israel":

I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption of sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises (Rom 9:2–4).

"According to paedobaptists, the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church requires us to baptize infants of believers. Regardless of their individual spiritual status, it is believed that they are children of God and therefore should be baptized as a mark of divine ownership just as infants were circumcised in the Old Testament".

"Precisely where the paedobaptist sees continuity, however, Scripture indicates discontinuity, for under the New Covenant, only those who believe in Christ are children of God (Gal 4:5). The New Testament knows nothing of a corporate, non-salvific adoption of God’s people, but instead teaches an individual adoption unto eternal salvation (Eph 1:5)".

For example, in Romans 8:15–17, the apostle Paul writes:

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption of sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Rom 8:15–17).

In His conclusion: "Baptism is indeed a mark of divine ownership, just as paedobaptists say it is. But as such, it should only be given to those who give evidence of having been redeemed and adopted by God as His children—those who profess repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ".

Today’s article was adapted from chapter 5 of
A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008), which can be purchased through Grace Books International.

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