Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baptism as a Sign of the Covenant in the Westminster Confession

"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life."
- Westminster Confession of Faith XXVIII:1

Paedobaptists, especially Presbyterians, fall midway between two other views of the sacraments among Evangelicals. On one end are those who claim that baptism isn't required for salvation - which is certainly true - and is, therefore, unimportant - which is not true. On the other are the credobaptists who hold that baptism can be a sign only of the conversion which has already happened. Along with all traditional Presbyterians, I believe that both of those views are wrong.

Against the first, the first paragraph of the confession finishes with this sentence: "Which sacrament is, by Christs's own appointment, to be continued until the end of the world." The ground for this claim is Matthew 28:19-20, "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." If that passage doesn't require baptizing until the Second Coming, then neither can it require making disciples, nor can it promise the empowering presence of Christ among His people until that time.

On the other hand, credobaptists claim that baptism can only be a sign of something that has already occurred in the believer. Yet, I am sure that they do not follow that logic in the rest of life. Do the Golden Arches of McDonalds only have significance to someone who has already eaten? Of course not! They are an encouragement to the hungry, "Here is satisfaction for your need!" In the same way, the baptism of the child of believing parents is a sign throughout his life that cleansing of the heart is found in the washing of the blood of Christ. I have dealt with the question of infant baptism elsewhere (such as here), so I won't address it here.

Baptist critics of the baptism of infants before their conversion are wrong, on both logical and biblical grounds. I don't want Presbyterians to fall back on defending tradition, a Papist error, but rather to stand their ground for being right!

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