Wednesday, October 5, 2022

To Whom is Baptism to be Administered?

Question 95: To whom is Baptism to be administered?
Answer: Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized. (WSC)
Baptism is a sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ, our partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s. Who then ought to be baptized?

At first we might be tempted to say that the regenerate should be baptized. But we cannot look into the heart and see the new birth directly. The question then is, whom does Scripture tell us should be welcomed as members of the covenant? Who are the members of the visible church? The visible church is a society made up of those who profess faith and obedience to Christ, and of their children. The baptism of infants was not contested for much of church history, but it is contested in our day, so consider these points:

1. Since God makes his covenant of grace with believers and their children, welcoming believers and their children into his church, therefore believers and their children ought to be baptized (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39, 16:31-34). The New Testament does not teach that the new covenant takes a different approach to children, but rather demonstrates continuity with the Old Testament on this matter.

2. Since in the Old Testament the sign of entrance into the covenant (circumcision) was given to believers and their children, so in the New Testament, the sign of entrance into the covenant (baptism) ought to be given to believers and their children (Gen. 17:1-14, Col. 2:11-12).

3. Just as circumcision was a sign of benefits which were received by faith and was nevertheless applied to the infants of believers before they could express their faith (Rom. 4:11), so baptism is a sign of benefits which are received by faith and is nevertheless applied to the infants of believers before they can express their faith.

4. Since baptism is our initiation as disciples of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20), and the children of believers are disciples of the Lord Jesus, to be raised by their parents as such (Eph. 6:1-4, Matt. 19:13-15), therefore we should baptize the children of believers.

What does baptism mean for the infants of believers? It means the same thing as it does for adult believers. They bear the name of God, they have been called out of the world, they are disciples of Christ, his benefits are theirs, and they are his, provided they keep the covenant through faith in him. It means they are visible saints, having the identity of Christians rather than pagans, to be treated as such, with hope and charity, as brothers and sisters.

Baptism is not a guarantee of salvation if it is without true faith. We have the examples of the circumcised and “baptized” Israelites in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:1-14) and the baptism of Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-24). And so parents ought to be diligent in bringing up their children in the ways of the Lord, knowing that God uses the instrumentality of parents to raise up another generation to serve him (Gen. 18:19, Eph. 6:4). And all the church, of whatever age, ought to be exhorted to repent and believe in Christ, living in accord with their baptism and embracing its promises.

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