Baptism

In a discussion with someone who is a believer in infant baptism, he had the same responses which I’ve read time and time again. Basically, that Baptism is today’s Circumcision. That Circumcision was applied liberally to all who were genetic descendants of Abraham, and therefore we, as Christians, should apply Baptism to all of our genetic descendants. So, this was my response:

Here’s three things to note:

1) The baptisms of John performed before the start of Jesus’ ministry are not the same thing as a Christian baptism. It was a ceremonial rite for those in the Jewish faith to “prepare” them to enter into the sanctuary. It was a ritual cleansing, but did not symbolize Jesus’ sacrificial death and rebirth on our behalf. Those who were baptized into John’s baptism were not baptized into the family of Christ.

2) Read through the new testament. I mean the whole thing. Numerous times. Every time the “Circumcision” is brought up, it’s to refer to the “old ways”. Circumcision is a term that Paul uses to refer to the Jewish ways which were hung on legalistic following of the Mosaic law. Could they keep it? NO! The law was never intended to be kept, but to be used as a sign that pointed us to God as our savior. Men-only, in the old covenant, were circumcised to show that they were in the people of Israel. But what does Paul say?

Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Circumcision as a rite is of little overall value, but it points to a generalized fact that you are related to those in the chosen people of God. Nothing more. Now, in Rom 3, Paul asks “what is the value of circumcision”, again referring to belonging to the “chosen people of God” and not the actual rite, because if it did, then it wouldn’t include the women, would it? And, he says “much in every way”. They were taught the laws of God, they were brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, etc. But did their circumcision guarantee salvation? No.

Romans 4:9–10 – Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

3) What is the value of baptism on your infant children? This is where it gets tricky. In the middle ages, children didn’t live that long, so they were baptized as a “salve” and the parents were told that their children would be in heaven with them, or at least purgatory, and wouldn’t be lost to Limbo (which the RCC in the last 10 years finally did away with) or cast into hell. It was used as a method to control people with fear. Moreover, as men and women were allowed to read the text of scripture on their own during and after the reformation, they started to see the same themes repeated in scripture – that unlike circumcision, which was an outward sign on men to remind them that they belong to the “people” of God, and is applied to them whether they know it and follow after the faith of Abraham or not, baptism is a ritual that links us with Christ in his death and resurrection on our behalf, and is only conferred upon his believers.

There was a lot of confusion about this in the past, and given that Jews (those of the “circumcision party”) were the first believers, they tended to carry over their old ways with them. But what does Jesus say about this?

Matthew 9:17 – Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This is a new thing and with it come new rites.

So, I ask you. What is conferred upon the infant in their baptism? Is it that you’re marking them for God for conversion? If you believe that, then you’re as bad as my wife’s grandmother who condemns herself to this day that she only baptized 2 of her three children, and the one she didn’t is an outright atheist, unlike her other two children, which seem to worship at the altar of therapeutic moralistic deism (which itself is not Christian, though they think it is).

Infant baptism merely gets babies wet, which they are perfectly content to do on their own anyway. It’s a salve for the parents to think that their children are “in the family of God” and to presume that their children will follow after Christian principles. But you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian as an adult, nor as a child, and if you merely teach them to live that way because they’re “little Christians” then you’re teaching them moralism, not Christianity. Christianity isn’t based on rules, or moral commands, but on Christ who died in our place. His salvation is purchased for his elect and we cannot control who his elect will be. If God saves me, my wife, and both of my kids, then God is to be praised in this, not me for baptizing them, and not me for training them properly, and not me for keeping them saved. God is the one who does this, not me, and it’s not on me to keep them there.

Your salvation must be your own. That’s what’s meant by Paul in Philippians 2:12 – that we must “work out” our own salvation – we must do the work of believing, and acting in faith upon that belief, on our own. We are not catholics, who believe that you may be a son of the devil, but if you were baptized as an infant, and after you died, your holier aunt or uncle can make a payment or perform some penance and get you sprung into heaven.

To that end, your baptism must also be your own. Read throughout the new testament. Baptism is performed on believers. What about those in the Cornelius’ “household” (Acts 10)? “Household” must also include infants, right? If it did, it was wrong. More than likely, it meant those who were in the house at the time whom Cornelius had brought together (Acts 10:24) to hear the word of God. Those whom, God placed outward signs
of this revelation on them so that these Jewish Christian could see that God had given to them the same thing that he had done with others (Acts 10:44-45). Now, it’s also likely that if there were infants there, that those same infants would have had manifested the outward signs of the Holy Spirit. So, I ask, would you wait for an outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation on those infants, as Paul did in withholding baptism from those in the “household” of Cornelius until they also had this same manifestation (Acts 10:47-48)?

As you can see, the process is simple. We are to repent and believe, then we are to be baptized. There is no different formula based on age or size. Scripture is clear.

I saw this statement on a Facebook group where I participate, and it made me wonder why he wouldn’t want to pursue rebaptism. Anyway, here’s my response.

Reformed Baptist church I attend Sunday mornings has a statement that lists criteria they ask for before partaking…the one we don’t meet is being baptized after conversion…me and my wife were both baptized as babies…my dad also is a pastor at a non-denomination church…there its usually taken the first Sunday of the month

What role do you see baptism playing in scripture? Was it administered before or after conversion?

Follow up question, in the great commission, given by our Lord Jesus, what is the pattern that we see there?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)

The baptisms we see in scripture taking place before the conversions of the people (baptisms of John, for instance) are Jewish ceremonial washings which were common in that day. The baptism of a Christian is an uncommon baptism. Instead of it “cleansing you” of your past sins, it is a commanded act that we must engage in – one that aligns us with our King in his death (when we are placed under the waters of death) and raised anew in our new life in Christ. Also, the public act of our baptism stands witness against us, declaring our standing before God to all. This is why baptisms are public affairs for the whole church to participate in, because it is they who will watch over you, helping you on your path to sanctification, and they will lean on you as well for the same purpose. It openly declares that you are of the same family as those in the congregation, and that, as another of God’s children, you are under the same authority and expectations (that you’d seek to live a holy life, that you are bound to the Christ of scripture, that you are a sheep among sheep, and not a goat or wolf, etc).

When you were an infant, did you understand the role of Christ in salvation, who Jesus is, what his sacrifice on your behalf meant, or the full sin debt you owed to your creator? Did you understand that it was an unwritten contract with the body of believers that you were baptized into, where you hold Christ as your savior alone and that you’d seek to honor the commitment that comes with a public confession of faith in Christ? If not, then was it really a baptism of a believer into the kingdom of God or a baby getting wet to satisfy the fears of your parents, that somehow it may prophylactically apply some measure of God’s grace upon you, outside of the means we see in scripture, by their works upon you? That God would somehow break his own standard by which he holds men accountable, namely by faith, and that he would instead impart salvation (or the “seeds of salvation”) upon a child who cannot even speak or act under its own will, simply because the parents of that child got it sprinkled or dunked?

You’d just as well say that it has no part in the life of a believer at all.

But given that this is not what we see in scripture, that it is something that carries substance both publicly (in the eyes of those in your Christ-community (church), and commanded by our King after conversion, then why would you not follow in this example after your conversion?

(I’ll update this post if there are any further posts)

In follow up to the last question I was asked the following:

Now please enlighten me concerning the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and how whether it happens automatically after being saved or what.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in some way or another, starts way before you are ready to repent. We are born with a sinful heart that hardens to our sin as we continue to battle against our God-given conscience and sin. By doing so it becomes easier and easier to continue in our sin, but it also makes it harder and harder to understand the message of freedom in Christ that is the Gospel. Therefore, in order to repent you must first have your heart reborn so that it can accept this news (not “accept Jesus” – he is the one who accepts us, not the other way around). So God elects us from the throngs who love their sin and want to stay in it, he forcibly replaces our hearts with those that are soft to his message, and he places the holy spirit in our lives to begin to work on us by leading us to ask questions that violate our sinful souls’ desires, but that begin reshaping our minds and wills to conform to that of God our King. Eventually God leads you to a place mentally and emotionally where you can do nothing but cry out to God in fear and thanksgiving as you repent of all of your former works in sinfulness, and trust in him alone as your salvation.

This is typically where the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is seen, but as you can see, we’ve had him working in our lives up to this point.

The Holy Spirit is the protector of our souls and our seal against the evil one (and even our own wills) (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). He also is our interpreter between us and God the Father in our prayers, both interpreting what we say so that it’s presentable before our God and King, and also interpreting that which we mean to say, but cannot. (Rom 8:26). The Holy Spirit works always in our lives, commending us to righteous acts, conditioning our hearts to see that which brings God glory and leading us to his praise and worship.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a term used by the 2nd and 3rd wave charismatics to give credence to their supernatural powers which they used to attempt to create a second level of Christianity where their brand Christianity allows them to reach a higher plane of Christian understanding. I went to these churches (and was a member of one) for about 7 years. Basically it works by telling you that while you may be a Jesus-trusting, God-honoring, sin-hating Christian, you won’t be a /real/ Christian until you get the ability to speak in “tongues”. Now, “tongues” as a biblical term, merely meant to be able to speak in other languages that you weren’t trained in, but that were understandable to other cultures for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. A neat article on the sign gifts (including tongues) can be found here:

Berean Bible Society – When did the Gift of Tongues Cease

That said, as we mature in Christ, we lose the “puppy love” sentimentality of our initial conversion – often filled with emotion and “feelings” of oneness with Christ, and that develops into a firm trust in God alone. In my own marriage I saw this as the initial wave of emotional affection I had for my wife which carried me through our first years and marriage developed into a firm bond that I share with her. I cannot see where she ends and I begin, and neither can she. This is the same with our relationship with Christ. We become so tightly bound to him that we cannot see ourselves as anything separate from him. It is no longer a “does he accept me as I am” but a “I am forever grateful to be in his family, and I know that my sins and struggles will either fade away on this side of the veil of death, or will be forever removed upon my entrance into glory, and for all of this I stand before him in praise and worship.”.

In a conversation today, I had the following question posed to me and I thought I’d share my response here.

Saints. Is there a difference in being baptized in the name of Jesus and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Well, one is biblical:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV)

That said, it’s not a formula, but a statement. Baptism doesn’t guarantee or grant salvation as that would be a work that we perform to force God to do something else. If we could do something to force someone to be saved, we’d do it all the time. (insert joke about baptizing babies here)

The term “name” is exactly the same as it is used throughout scripture. The “name” of someone means their character and nature. Just as we are commanded to defend out “name” and Solomon says in Proverbs 22:1 that “a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches”, we are not to change our name to that of one that’s a “good” name – like if you like the name Balthazar and you’re named “Ted” and you’d rather to be called by this subjectively better name so you choose that.
What is meant is that your name, meaning your character and nature, should be well respected by those around you and that your name is a representation of that character and nature to other people. Like, so, I know Ian and he was a jerk back in the day but after God saved him, he is a totally new person. God has redeemed my name by transforming me into a new person with new desires.

So, to baptize in the “name” of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit means to do so following the character and nature of the Triune Godhead, not just to say verbally as you’re baptized “in the name of…”. Also, when you finish a prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ”, what you mean is, “I pray that my will and desires would be in line with yours, King Jesus, and that you would only provide to me that which accords with your character and nature”.

So, in conclusion, what you say when you baptize someone is less important than the intent with which they are baptized – in that we are trusting to God that the person who is baptized is a true Christian and not a mere false convert or a rocky ground/thorny hearer, who will fall away in the end. We are always hopeful, but know that God is the one who sees the hearts of men. We also know that those who are truly Christians will remain so until the end, even if they struggle in the way.

Last, as I said before baptism doesn’t save anyone, but the will of God upon the hearts of men. Pray for the salvation of all men, and God will inevitably save those whom he has elected to save, and trust the word of those who come to you saying that they are Christians until they show themselves to not be through their words or actions.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)