And fourthly, a paedobaptist

Yesterday, I wrote a post called “John Duncan and me” where I shared that I lined up with the old Scot on what would be considered the essentials.

I am first a Christian, next a catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a paedobaptist [infant-baptist], and fifth a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse this order.

It was also in that post where I respectively placed paedo-baptism and being Presbyterian in fourth and fifth place. Here me say this before you jump to any conclusions: I don’t consider Christian baptism insignificant, but I believe the debate between infant-baptists and believer-baptists has been elevated to a position of unhealthy prominence in the Christian community, a place of prominence which in my opinion should be reserved solely for the good news of Jesus Christ’s atoning work.

For this reason I hesitate to write about infant-baptism; I fear writing on it only exacerbates the problem. Jesus Christ’s person and work, not baptism, are the gospel. Get baptism wrong and you’ll receive not even so much as a mild rebuke at the pearly gates; get Christ wrong and you’ll receive an overly warm welcome at hell’s gates. So please, no matter how strongly I argue for infant-baptism, remember I consider the issue of relative importance, a far cry beneath the importance of a crucified Savior who hung in the Christian’s place.

So Pastor Paul, if baptism is such a contentious issue, why would I bring it up? Well, this Sunday, we are going to be witnessing the baptism of Evelyn Pikalek. Allow me to briefly explain the Reformed view on infant baptism (You can also read what we believe about believer’s baptism here)

First a definition. What is baptism?

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, by which the person baptized is solemnly admitted into the visible church. Baptism is also for him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of forgiveness of sins, and of his surrender to God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life. (The Westminster Confession of Faith in Modern English, 28.)

Notice the definition does not say, “Baptism ingrafts the baptized into Christ, regenerates them, and washes away their sins.” Rather, it says baptism is a sign and seal of these things. What is meant by sign and seal?

A sign is a picture or portrait of a greater reality. Think of charades, the game where people act-out words in silence. Through actions, the actors give viewers a visual rendition of an unspoken word. Similarly, baptism is a visual rendition of the gospel pointing us to a greater reality. Do you want to know what Christ’s cleansing blood washing away our dirty sins looks like? It looks like water washing away dirt (baptism). Do you want to know what the new birth looks like? It looks like someone who scrubbed their dirty skin in the bathtub and emerged squeaky clean. And do you want to know what surrendering to God (dying to ourselves) and walking in newness of life looks like? Baptism portrays it. Baptism, then, is both for the person baptized and for those witnessing the baptism:

Each baptism is a means of grace for the whole Church. When by faith we witness the baptism of others, and/or recall our own baptism, the promises of God are confirmed to us, for we know that God cannot lie. Likewise, our duties to God are freshly impressed upon us, and we are moved to renew our obedience. (The Standards of the ARPC, The Directory of Public Worship, 5.B.8.b.(2))

A seal is a promise or guarantee. The promise of baptism is not that the person baptized has faith or will have faith. The promise of baptism is that if or when the baptized (or anyone) puts their faith in Jesus Christ, their sins will be washed away by His blood, guaranteed. The seal, then, refers to God’s consistency in keeping His promises. An adult convert who was baptized in infancy should marvel at the way God kept the promise He made to him at his baptism: while an infant, God promised He would wash away his sins with Christ’s blood if he put his faith in Jesus Christ. Years later the convert received the gift of faith and was cleansed of his sins. God kept his promise to the new convert. Amazing: No one keeps promises like God, especially not promises made decades earlier.

So, on Sunday join us at 9:30 AM as we celebrate the one who always keeps his promises!

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