For two main reasons, we find (ana-)Baptistic theology offensive and gravely erroneous. This is why I plead with people to study the subject. First is that it is ultimately an aberrant manifestation of a denial of sovereign grace, and secondly, that it is an outright rejection of God's everlasting covenant of grace with us and our (elect) seed. I take this attitude and stance, because it is exactly that attitude which Christ showed to His disciples. Possibly the most powerful, unequivocal, incontrovertible passage on the subject is this:
“And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” – Luke 18:15-17.
“Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” – Matthew 19:13-15.
“And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” – Mark 10:13-16.
Notice a number of things. One: that these were infants that were brought to Christ. Two: So helpless were these infants, that they had to be brought. Three: The disciples rebuked the people for bringing them. Four: Christ rebuked the disciples, and blessed the infants.
Pause for a moment and consider. What is it to be blessed by Christ? It is one thing - everlasting and full salvation by His cross on Calvary. Anything less would not be a blessing but only bring further condemnation. Christ is sincere when He blesses them. And so we see how this applies to baptism, since although not all who are baptised actually enter the kingdom, it remains that baptism is a sign of such entrance (cf. Nicene Creed), and if this speaks of the much greater thing, salvation/spiritual baptism, then it must also apply to the much lesser, the outward sign of water baptism. Now, why did the disciples rebuke the people for bringing the children? What can it be but the Baptistic error. Christ's answer to them highlights that the subject at stake here was receiving the kingdom of God. The disciples then were attempting to refuse the parents to bring their infants to Christ that these infants would receive the kingdom. Christ did not merely demonstrate His great displeasure with words, but proceeded to bless the infants - showing that they had indeed received the kingdom!
The disciples reasoned as the Baptists do, relying on human understanding rather than Scripture's revelation - that the infants could do nothing of themselves, and therefore could not yet receive the kingdom, at least until they were older. They would not have Christ bothered by infants incapable of any response. But Christ reprimands them sharply - they were totally wrong! He teaches here that the only way that we receive the kingdom is as such little children, that is, brought, and incapable of any thing of ourselves, but blessed by Christ. To refuse the infants then was a direct attack against the truth of sovereign irresistible grace. No wonder the disciples were so strongly rebuked!
Christ teaches that 'of such is the kingdom of God'. That is, the kingdom of God is made up of infants, completely without strength (Rom. 5:6). Not only so, but whoever does not come as an infant like this, cannot enter! So agrees the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5, for example. If we try to enter by our will or work, we are not being brought by Christ's work of blessing alone. Christ teaches this forcibly, even harshly again in Matthew 18:
“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” – Matthew 18:1-11.
Why, such detestation for the refusal of baptism to the infant children of believers? Because in the church of Jesus Christ, the greatest are the infants who can do nothing for themselves. Why? Because no-one else in the church so clearly demonstrates the wonder of God's glorious and absolutely sovereign and free grace. All proud Pelagian heresy which tries to add our will or work to the accomplishment of salvation is utterly demolished by one such infant in the church. The infant has nothing with which to respond to Christ's grace - and therefore it is grace alone that the infant is saved. And if grace alone for the infant, then grace alone for the rest of us too.
So, then all who confess in their hearts this truth that salvation is all of grace, are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But Christ continues to expound glorious and awesome truths, which we could not imagine, were they not revealed to us graciously in Scripture. To receive such helpless, humble infants in Christ's name, is to receive Christ. And the following verses make abundantly clear what grievous sin Anabaptistic practice is (and we ought to tremble at the description of such punishment that we all deserve), and were it not that we are all so guilty, and yet fully cleansed once for all by the blood of Christ, we ought despair, not only of our dear and much loved Baptistic believers, but also of ourselves, for were we not also ignorant and foolish at one time? I even wanted to be re-baptised at one stage, thank God, that He kept me from that!
Finally, let us listen to His admonition to take heed, that we do not despise the little ones. Why? Because their angels always behold the very blessedness of the face of the Father in heaven, as Psalm 91 also teaches concerning the elect of God. Christ is clear that we do not despise them at least in three ways, by suffering them to be brought to Him (Mark 10:14), by bringing them (Matt. 19:15), and by receiving them in His name (Matt. 18:5). Baptistic theology does not receive them, unless they fulfill certain conditions - and this is an inherent denial of sovereign grace (though I am not saying that they do not believe in sovereign grace, as thankfully many do). Even the common Baptistic mode is Arminian and Pelagian, since it is by immersion (and then emersion - though they usually don't like this pointed out), which involves the subject doing all the work/action of going under the water and up etc. But the biblical mode of sprinkling or pouring involves a subject who does nothing, while the element (water) does all the work/action. In the former the attention is on the subject who is doing this thing. In the latter the attention is on the water and what it symbolises. Ought not the sign correspond with the reality - that all the attention should be on God, since it is He who does all the work in salvation - washing us with the blood of Jesus, cleansing us with the Holy Spirit?
But the second way, and possibly even more grievous, in which this wrong and wretched human theology denies sovereign grace is implicit in the name that those of the Reformed faith have always given to them - Anabaptist. Ana- meaning 'again', since not only do they refuse baptism to the infant children of believers, but they also reject such baptisms as meaningless, and invalid, such that they would require us to be baptised again (or properly as they would have it - their definition of proper being, when we are old enough to make a calculated, responsible, independent, response/decision)! But this is repudiated by one of the oldest creeds of Christendom, as the Nicene Creed says (or Eph. 4 if you prefer, being absurdly anti-creedal often accompanies Anabaptism) there is one baptism for the remission of sins. Incidentally, this also condemns the kind of neo-Pentecostal that teaches a second-baptism of the Holy Spirit after conversion.
If there is one spiritual baptism, and all who hold the truths of sovereign elective preserving grace dear ought to confess this loud and clear, then there must also be only one outward sign of baptism - otherwise we are saying, if not in words, but deed, that the one spiritual baptism is not enough. One spiritual baptism is sufficient, because God sovereignly keeps all His sheep and will raise them up on the last day. To demand a second baptism is then to declare to the world that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross for sins is not enough, it is, in the words of Hebrews 6, to crucify afresh the Son of God. May God protect us from this blasphemy, for He knows how much we already merit hell by our sinful words and actions everyday, may we depart from iniquity and exhort others to do likewise. This is no small calumny against the cross of Christ to require a second baptism, and it is a pernicious lie of Satan, by which he provokes otherwise godly men to defame their own salvation and subject the eternal God to mockery. If we are zealous for God to be worshipped rightly, we will oppose this error with vigour, 'in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves' (II Tim. 2:25-26).
Finally, the Baptistic denial of the covenant of God is plain, though their practice is usually inconsistent. For example, they ought to know that the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to God, and therefore, by such a diseased theology, they ought not allow their children to even pray, lest God bring judgment upon the whole household, for the father's negligence in allowing such an abomination. But we know that our children are holy (I Cor. 7:14), because although there may be Esaus among them, God has promised to be a God unto us and our children (Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39; 16:31). And we know that they all are be treated as members of the church of God, of His kingdom, and in His everlasting covenant, even if some may later make it manifest by their unbelief and impenitence that they never were (Hebrews 10:29). This area deserves even lengthier treatment than the first, but it will have to wait for another time. It is perhaps more obvious anyway. All these errors sadden me deeply, and I long to see the establishment of a true church here in Limerick to bear witness to these truths and oppose the many putrescent lies under which we are currently so heavily buried, and by which many have been held captive for so long.
A Study by Sovereign Grace Baptist Church
A Simple Study on Baptism
Dr. Stanford E. Murrell, Pastor
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church
423 N. Second Street
Apollo, PA 15614
Baptist is a ritual practiced in the New Testament church that is still
used in various forms by different denominations and branches of the
Christian church. Baptism involves the application of water to the body of a
person. How much water is a matter of discussion.
Baptism is frequently thought of as an act by which the believer
formally enters the fellowship of the church. In some structures baptism and
church membership are synonymous. At Sovereign Grace Baptist Church we
see a distinction between being obedient to the Lord in the act of baptism
and uniting with the local assembly formally.
The Nature of Baptism
Widely differing interpretations of the act of baptism exist among
Christian groups. They have different views on the nature of baptism, who
should be baptized, and the appropriate method by which baptism should be
administered. Three major positions on the nature of baptism exist among
The Sacramental View of Baptism
According to the sacramental belief, baptism is a means by which God
conveys grace. By undergoing this rite, the person baptized receives
remission [taking away] of sins and is regenerated [born again] or given a
new nature and an awakened or strengthened faith. Both Roman Catholics
and Lutherans have this view of the nature of baptism as well as those who
call themselves the Church of Christ.
Between the Catholics and Luther’s there is a distinction to be
recognized. The traditional Roman Catholic belief of the sacrament of
baptism emphasizes the rite itself. Rome teaches that the power to convey
grace is contained within the sacrament of baptism. Of course, it is not the
water per se that saves but the sacrament as established by God and
administered by the Church [Catholic] that produces this change.
The Lutherans, on the other hand, concentrate on the faith that is
present in the person being baptized or the faith of those who are offering
the child for baptism. Lutherans also emphasize the value of the preaching of
the Word of God as the means for receiving faith recognizing that “faith
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Preaching awakens faith in a believer by entering the ear to strike the heart.
Baptism enters the eye to reach and move the heart.
One Scripture especially important to the advocates of the sacramental
view of baptism is (John 3:5): 'Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he
cannot enter the kingdom of God.'
The Covenantal View of Baptism
Other Christian groups think of baptism not as a means by which
salvation is brought about, but as a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace.
The specific Covenant in mind is God's promise to save men. Because of
what Christ has done at Calvary and what the Father has promised to do,
God forgives and regenerates. To those who embrace covenant theology
baptism is a sign of a covenant relationship. It is also the physical and visible
means by which people enter into that covenant.
One biblical Old Testament example of people physically and visibly
entering into a covenant relationship with God was the act of circumcision.
Genesis 17:10-11 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and
you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be
circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it
shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
Those who presently hold to a Covenant View in this matter of
baptism believe that the benefits of God's covenant are granted to all adults
who receive baptism and to all infants who, upon reaching maturity, remain
faithful to the vows made on their behalf at baptism. The covenant, rather
than the sacrament or another person's faith is seen as the means of
salvation; and baptism is a vital part of this covenant relationship.
In the Covenantal view, baptism serves the same purpose for New
Testament believers that circumcision did for Old Testament believers. For
the Jews, circumcision was the external and visible sign that they were
within the covenant that God had established with Abraham. Converts to
Judaism (or proselytes) also had to undergo this rite. But now under the New
Covenant with the Church, ritual baptism instead of physical circumcision is
It is important to remember that the physical ritual of circumcicision
in the Old Testament was designed to speak of a spiritual circumcicision of
the heart. Spiritually there was to be a cutting away of sin in order to have a
change of heart.
! Deut 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no
! Ezek 44:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in
heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of
any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
In a similar way, water baptism speaks symbolically of a spiritual
washing away of sin
! Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye
shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
! Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but
according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration,
and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
New Testament water baptism also pictures a spiritual renewal with a
commitment to walk in the newness of life. .
! Rom. 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:
that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
! Col. 2:11-12 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision
made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by
the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein
also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God,
who hath raised him from the dead.
The symbolic cutting away of sin [by means of spiritual circumcision]
and a spiritual renewal by the inner working of the Holy Spirit manifested in
water baptism are clearly united in Colossians 2:11-12: 'In Him you were
also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off
the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with
Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the
working of God, who raised Him from the dead.'
While there is much to be commended in the Covenantal view of
baptism the greatest concern is that it goes too far by giving the sign of
salvation to those who have not yet been made conscious of sin and who
have not yet called upon Christ for salvation.
The Symbolic View of Baptism
This view stresses the symbolic nature of baptism by emphasizing that
baptism does not cause an inward change or alter a person's relationship to
God in any way.
• Baptism is an outward expression or an outward indication of the inner
change which has already occurred in the believer's life by faith in the
Person and work of Jesus Christ.
• Baptism serves as a public identification with the resurrected and
ascended Christ and indicates a public testimony of the change that has
• Baptism is an act of initiation into the true spiritual church or body of
Christ. 1 Cor 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body,
whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have
been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Note. A distinction can be made between the invisible or universal
church, which consists of all believers in Christ, and the visible or local
church, which consists of a gathering of believers in a specific place.
The Symbolic View explains that the local church practices baptism
and the believer submits to it because Jesus commanded that this be done.
! Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
While the baptism of Christ was unique and for a different reason, it
does serve as an example that baptism is to be submitted to for baptism is an
act of obedience,
According to the Symbolic View baptism does not produce or procure
regeneration. Baptism always comes after faith, after salvation, and after the
soul is regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The main spiritual value of baptism
under the Symbolic View is that the heart is satisfied it has been obedient to
the known will of the Lord.
The Proper Subject or Candidates for Baptism
Another issue over which Christian groups disagree is the question of
who should be baptized. “Should only those who have come to a personal,
conscious decision of faith be baptized? or, “Should children be included in
this rite?” and “If children are proper subjects, should all children, or only
the children of believing parents, be baptized?”
Groups that practice baptism of infants baptize not only infants but
also adults who have come to faith in Christ.
First Argument. One of the arguments proposed in favor of baptizing
infants is that entire households were baptized in New Testament times.
! Acts 16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she
besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord,
come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
! Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and
washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
The assumption is made that such households or families must have
included children. Consequently, groups who hold this position believe this
practice should be extended to the present day and should include children.
First Response. The logical response to this argument is that it is an
argument from silence. The particular passages cited do not say clearly that
children were baptized. It is not good to build a major theological argument
Second Argument. A second argument cited is Jesus' treatment of
children. Jesus commanded the disciples to bring the children to Him. When
they did so, He blessed them (Mark 10:13-16). Because of this example
from Jesus, it would seem inconsistent to deny baptism to children today.
! Mark 10:13-16 And they brought young children to him, that he
should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought
them.14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said
unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid
them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Verily I say unto
you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little
child, he shall not enter therein. 16 And he took them up in his
arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Second Response. The best response to this second argument is that
there is a wide gap between asking the Lord to put His hands upon children
and bless them and giving to infants a sign and seal of salvation. Again, it is
an argument from silence and from a false analogy.
Third Argument. A third argument put forth by covenant theologians
to support infant baptism is that children were participants in the Old
Testament covenant: 'And I will establish My covenant between Me and you
and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting
covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you' (Gen. 17:7). In
particular the male children participated in the Old Testament Covenant by
receiving in their body the mark of that covenant relationship.
It is true that the children were present when the covenant first
made to Abraham was renewed with the nation of Israel. Deut 29:10-13
Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of
your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11
Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the
hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: 12 That thou shouldest
enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the
LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: 13 That he may establish thee to
day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he
hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to
Isaac, and to Jacob. Josh. 8:35 There was not a word of all that Moses
commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel,
with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant
It is true that under the Old Testament economy the children had
standing in the congregation of Israel and were present in their religious
assemblies. Joel 2:16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation,
assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let
the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
It is true that the promises of God were given to the children as
well as adults. Is. 54:13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD;
and great shall be the peace of thy children. Jer. 31:34 And they shall teach
no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know
the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will
remember their sin no more.
It is true that circumcision, the sign of the covenant, was
administered to the male infants in The Old Testament. Now, the
argument goes, since baptism has replaced circumcision, it is natural that
baptism should be administered to children of the New Covenant.
Those who believe in baptismal regeneration (such as Catholics and
Lutherans) argue that baptism of infants is necessary and even essential to
their salvation. In fact, according to traditional Roman Catholic teaching,
unbaptized infants who die cannot enter heaven but are instead consigned to
a state of limbo [an infant hell]. If this fate is to be avoided, they must be
baptized in order to remove the guilt of their sins and receive new life.
Special Note. Catholic dogma assigns all souls to a term in hell with
rare exception. The hell that the saints or Christians go to is called purgatory.
The hell that babies go to is limbo. After a period of time souls can exit hell
and enter into heaven.
Response. In responding to this third argument the most charitable
position that can be taken is to point out that the New Testament does not
say that water baptism replaces physical circumcision as the sign of
salvation. Nor does the New Testament teach that only males should receive
this sign of salvation if the analogy is remain consistent. No, baptism is for
all people of all ages who have received Christ as Lord and Savior. Physical
baptism is the outward evidence of gospel obedience to the known will of
Fourth Argument. A final argument presented in support of infant
baptism is the historical evidence. It is argued that infant baptism has been
practiced in the Church from early times, certainly as early as the second
Response. In responding to this it can be said that an appeal to history
is a double-edged sword. There is ample evidence for professing believers
The Baptism of Professing Believers
Those who hold to this view believe that baptism should be restricted
to those who actually exercise faith. This approach excludes infants, who
could not possibly have such faith. The proper candidates for baptism are
those who already have experienced the new birth on the basis of their
personal faith and who give evidence of this salvation in their lives.
First Argument. In every instance of New Testament baptism in
which the specific identity of the persons was known, the persons being
baptized were adults.
Second Argument. The condition required for baptism was personal,
conscious faith. Without this, adherents of believer's baptism point out,
baptism was not administered. This is especially evident in the book of Acts
! Acts 2:37-41 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their
heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and
brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent,
and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39
For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are
afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with
many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves
from this untoward generation. 41Then they that gladly received his
word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them
about three thousand souls.
! Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things
concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they
were baptized, both men and women.
! Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be
baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
! Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on
the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing
believed, and were baptized.
! Acts 19:4-5 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of
repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him
which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they
heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
! Matthew 3:2-6 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias,
saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way
of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his
raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his
meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem,
and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were
baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
! Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Third Argument. In the New Testament church repentance and faith
came first, followed by baptism.
The Form of Baptism. The final major issue is the method or form of
baptism—whether by immersion, by pouring, or by sprinkling. On this issue,
Christian groups organize into two major camps—those which insist upon
the exclusive use of immersion, and those which permit and practice other
The Immersionist Position
There are many who insist that complete immersion is the only valid
form of baptism.
First Argument. One of their strongest arguments revolves around the
Greek word for baptism in the New Testament. Its predominant meaning is
'to immerse' or 'to dip,' implying that the candidate was plunged beneath
Second Argument. The Didache, a manual of Christian instruction
written in A. D. 110-120, stated that immersion should be used generally and
that other forms of baptism should be used only when immersion was not
Third Argument. In addition to the Didache the circumstances
involved in some of the biblical descriptions of baptism imply immersion.
Thus, John the Baptist was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, 'because there
was much water there' (John 3:23). Jesus apparently went down into the
water to be baptized by John (Matt. 3:16). The Ethiopian said, 'See, here is
water. What hinders me from being baptized?' (Acts 8:36).
Fourth Argument. The symbolism involved in baptism also seems to
argue that immersion was the biblical mode, according to those groups that
practice immersion exclusively. (Romans 6:4-6) identifies baptism with the
believer's death (and burial) to sin and resurrection to new life, as well as the
death and resurrection of Christ. Only immersion adequately depicts this
meaning, according to the immersionist position. Romans 6:4-6 Therefore
we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised
up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in
newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his
death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this,
that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be
destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
The Pluralistic Position
Holders of this view believe that immersion, pouring, and sprinkling are
all appropriate forms of baptism.
First Argument. The Greek word for baptism in the New Testament is
sometimes ambiguous in its usage. While its most common meaning in
classical Greek was to dip, to plunge, or to immerse, it also carried other
meanings as well. Thus, the question cannot be resolved upon linguistic
Second Argument. There is an inference that immersion might not have
been the exclusive method used in New Testament times.
' For example, could John have been physically capable of immersing
all the persons who came to him for baptism?
' Did the Philippian jailer leave his jail to be baptized? If not, how
would he have been immersed?
' Was enough water for immersion brought to Cornelius' house? Or,
did the apostle Paul leave the place where Ananias found him in order
to be immersed?
Third Argument. Those groups that use sprinkling or pouring also
point out that immersion may not be the best form for showing what baptism
really means. They 0see the major meaning of baptism as purification. They
point out that the various cleansing ceremonies in the Old Testament were
performed by a variety of means-- immersion, pouring, and sprinkling (Mark
7:4; Heb. 9:10). Others note the close association between baptism and the
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which was from above. Thus, in their view,
true baptism requires the symbolism of pouring rather than immersion.
At Sovereign Grace Baptist Church we are committed for the most
part to immersion though we are sensitive to those who have a fear of the
water and so at times have invited people to come down into the water and
we baptize them by pouring water over the head in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Having considered the nature of baptism, the arguments for a
professing believer’s baptism, and the need for gospel obedience we go forth
to baptize new disciples—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. Amen.
An Answer to Baptistic Imaginations
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church (henceforth, SGBC) “see a distinction” between what they call the “act” of water baptism and formal entrance to the local church.
Immediately, I am compelled to object strenuously. This is not the practice seen in the New Testament, since without exception, baptism was always accompanied with joining and identification with the local church, not only so, but that it was even a requirement for the same. And this accords with circumcision in the Old Testament. Furthermore, as will be repeated ad nauseum in this review, the sign ought to correspond to the reality that it is supposed to signify. It is well agreed that water baptism is at least a sign to represent the true spiritual baptism, though not it is not necessarily accompanied by this (this being the heresy of the proponents of baptismal regeneration).
It is also generally agreed that the local church ought to signify the reality of what the church is. Now then, if spiritual baptism is entrance into the church invisible, the body of Christ composed of the company of the predestinate under Christ our Head and Representative, then water baptism must signify this entrance into the kingdom of heaven, and therefore be accompanied by formal entrance to the local church. How can we claim to be members of the body of Christ and yet refuse to join ourselves to a visible local manifestation of His church (and by this I mean, a church bearing the marks of a true church, biblical preaching, sacraments, and discpline)? This is a mockery of Satan's device. And it is inconceivable that a person be baptised, and yet not considered a member of the church. My friends, this should not be. I Cor. 12:13 makes clear that spiritual baptism involves being baptised into the body of Christ1.
On a final note, we can also see the Arminianism that has crept in unnoticed, which underlies the entire Baptistic system. These men seem oblivious to it, but ought to take heed – the activity in baptism ought not to be that of the subject (yet they refer to it as a great act, and sign of obedience, etc). Water baptism ought to signify the reality – that it is God's activity alone, not the sinner's, that saves us. All the emphasis in the Baptistic system is consistently on the subject, rather than what the subject is baptised with. This is perverse – but it is so close under their eyes, and such is our depraved natural state that we are often blind to the most blatant manifestations of human pride, even when it is in broad daylight. We do not claim to be any better, instead we exhort them with us to see it through the eyes of Scripture, since our own are so wretched.
Regarding what the SGBC term the “sacramental view”.
I gladly join in condemning the view of baptismal regeneration, and with it, any view of baptism which claims that God is gracious to any and all who are baptised regardless of their election or reprobation. Many in reputedly Reformed churches now claim that baptism is a gracious offer of salvation to all who receive it – but this is to either deny the immutable counsel of God and His eternal decree of gracious and just and absolutely sovereign double-predestination, or to rend the simplicity of God asunder, and blaspheme Him by calling Him double-minded or even deceptive (James 1:8). I would repudiate these views, while yet affirming that just as the preaching of the Word is a means of grace for all the elect (Rom. 10:17), while bringing further condemnation on the wicked reprobate by leaving them further without excuse (Matt. 11:20-30; II Cor. 2:14-17), so too are the sacraments of the Holy Supper and Baptism.
Only those who are of faith receive any gracious benefits from these (and they do, since these illustrate, instruct, and direct us by faith to the realities which they signify and seal to us, when we see a baptism, or receive the Lord's Supper), while the rest, the ungodly hypocrites who do not believe receive just judgment (John 6:48-64; Heb. 10:29; Prov. 30:12; Rom. 2:28-29). In this manner, they are signs and seals to all the believers2 (and them alone) – further reason to diligently attend baptism services. The view that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are nothing but fleshy symbols cannot be accepted. We know that Christ does not ordain practices in His church which are vain or of no avail to us (such would be mere symbols), but that indeed all things work for our good, and that especially in the church, every part is designed to be edification for us. Knowing too then that, “the flesh profiteth nothing”, we are assured that Christ works powerfully and spiritually by these means, as He does through the preaching of the Word, but again, to reiterate, as the wonders in Egypt made a difference between the Egyptians and the Israelites (cursing the former, and blessing the latter), we know that the wonders worked now in these foolish things that the world scoffs at (I Cor. 1:18-21), also make a difference (cursing the hypocrites, and blessing the believers).
It is disappointing to see that the SGBC do not offer a thorough treatment of John 3:5. To this text I agree that it is a reference to spiritual baptism, but not to the outward sign of baptism. This is proven by the testimony of the entire Scripture, in particular such verses as I Peter 3:21 and the thief who died on the cross who was not baptised. Mark 16:16 is a similarly abused passage, it does not say that he who is not baptised is not saved, it merely says that he who does not believe is damned, and that ordinarily baptism accompanies salvation. It does not say either that baptism follows belief either, as it does not speak of an order. Calvin in his treatment of this passage, points to the subject of the discourse, that Jesus was addressing the question posed by Nicodemus, namely that being born again is not a natural thing, but supernatural. He explains the use of the word “water” in conjunction with “Spirit” not as though they referred to different things, but water is a descriptive term for the work of the Spirit, namely the washing away of sins. For proof, he compares this with Matthew 3:11 in which John the Baptist says that Christ will baptise “with the Holy Spirit and with fire”, not as two baptisms, but “fire” being descriptive of the work of the Spirit in refining, and purifying from not only sin, but possibly also bringing judgment upon the hypocrites (Mal. 3:1-3; Isa. 4:4; Zech. 13:9; Ezek. 22:18-22). I agree with Calvin on this intepretation, seeing that it agrees with Scripture.
Regarding what the SGBC call the “covenant view”.
Here is where this document begins to make its largest blunders. It even completely fails to correctly represent the biblical understanding of the relationship between the covenant of God, and baptism. This misrepresentation is serious:
“Those who presently hold to a Covenant View in this matter of baptism believe that the benefits of God's covenant are granted to all adults who receive baptism and to all infants who, upon reaching maturity, remain faithful to the vows made on their behalf at baptism.”
This is not true. Presumably the author was just trying to simplify things by presenting this one opinion, which undoubtedly is taught by some of those dogs3 (Gal 5:1-10; Phil. 3:2-3) who have mutilated the doctrine of the covenant into a vicious pretext for not only Arminianism, but full-fledged Romanism including works-righteousness, the denial of the perseverance of the saints, and a host of other consequent heresies and blasphemies. God's covenant is ever and always only with the elect in Christ Jesus, who were foreknown by the Father (Rom. 8:28-30), reconciled by the Son (Rom. 5:10; II Cor. 5:18-21), and adopted by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal 4:5-7). No others were foreknown (Amos 3:2; Matt. 7:22-23; 25:12), reconciled (Rom. 1:18; Psa. 5:5; 11:5-7; Rev. 19:11-16), or adopted (John 8:39-47), nor have they seen life (John 3:36; 17:3, 9), or the love and fellowship of God (which is only in His covenant).
Seeing this, only the elect receive the benefits of the covenant, and any else who receive the sign of the covenant (and there are many), those vain professors claiming to be part of the church, are receiving unto themselves damnation by such transgression of God's covenant in which they have no part (Ezek. 44:6-7). The point here, emphatically, is that the establishment and maintenance of the covenant is not conditional, nor dependant on us, just as every blessing we receive from God – it is God alone who establishes and maintains the covenant with all His elect in Christ (Gen. 3:15; 15:1, 17; Isa. 59:15-21; Ezek. 16:59-63; 36:20-28; Jer. 31:31-34). We ought to conceive of the covenant of God first of all, as God's relationship in Himself as the Triune God4, and by Christ we are brought in to that divine relationship, compared in the Bible to a marriage (Eph 5:25-32; Ezek. 16:8; Jer. 31:32; Hos. 2:19-20).
This one covenant of God is therefore everlasting, and all of grace (Gen. 17:7; Psa. 105:8-10; Luke 1:67-79). And since this covenant was made to Abraham and his seed (Christ, cf. Gal 3:16-18), and we are in Christ by the faith granted to us by the His Spirit dwelling in us, as members of His very body, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh (which is a wonder too glorious to even conceive of), then all the promises of the covenant are ours. If we are so united to Christ, the beloved only begotten Son (Matt. 3:17), how can God withhold any blessing from us (Rom. 8:16-39; I Cor 3:21-23; II Cor. 4:15-18)? All the promises of God are yea, and amen, in Christ (II Cor. 1:20-22), not only does this then establish the full unity of all the people of God throughout all ages and dispensations as eternally and infinitely blessed in Christ Jesus, but especially now in this current dispensation, is the mystery revealed, of the full equality of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female, Barbarian and Scythian, and every believer in Christ (Eph. 2:13-22; 3:6; Gal. 3:28-29; Col 3:11-14).
Now we see why Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived as sojourners, and did not receive the earthly land of Canaan. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) – here we have no lasting city, but we seek that which is to come, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We come, as do all the people of God in all ages, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to Mount Zion which is above, and the Most Holy place in the highest heaven by the way which Christ has made for us (Heb. 13:8, 14; 12:22-24; 11:9-10). So, we patiently endure suffering and persecution, looking for the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, longing for the resurrection of our bodies from the dead when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead, and to throw Satan and all His children, fallen men and angels into the second death (II Pet. 3:9-13; Rev. 20:11-15; John 5:29). So, we ought to understand the many covenants (i.e. Adamic, Noahic, Levitic, Mosaic, Davidic, etc) as various revelations throughout redemptive history of the one eternal covenant of grace, the revelation of which has reached its fullest and richest with the coming of Christ (which is why the book of the covenant, the Bible, is complete) until its final consummation when He comes again and we will see Him face to face.
Now how does all this relate to baptism? In this way, water baptism does not, and cannot convey the blessings of the covenant, and certainly not to the reprobate who receive this sign. Baptism does not change a person's relationship to God. What is does, is signify and seal to believers and their elect seed the reality of true spiritual baptism. This spiritual baptism, or regeneration, as it can be identified, is a secret work of God, distinct from the outward sign. But while the proper subjects of baptism must still be discussed, an aspect has already been pointed out in section 1 as to what the relationship is between the covenant and baptism5. Those who are baptised are to be considered (while knowing that sovereign election and reprobation determines who truly is), despite all their failings and sins, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, and therefore partakers in the everlasting covenant of grace. This is the biblical way, as every true church has some hypocrites sown as tares among the wheat, but it is still treated as a wheat field (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43; I Cor. 1:2-3; etc)6.
We ought only doubt this when such a member by their confession and conduct give us reason to believe that they are impenitent hypocrites, in which case biblical church discipline must be pursued, yet in a prayerful, gracious and loving manner, treating them as a brother (until they are excommunicated) and seeking their repentance, even after their excommunication (I John 1:3-7; Matt.18:15-20). So we have the calling to examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith, and to take heed lest any bitter root grow up (II Cor. 13:5; Heb. 10:29; 12:15-17). This is the biblical understanding too of apostasy – an apostate is not someone who once was loved by God and then forsaken, it is someone outwardly in the church, baptised, confessing, who nevertheless is a white-washed tomb, cursed ground (Heb. 6:1-9; John 15:6; Rom. 11). The apostasy of many of the Jews at the time of Christ was the subject of Paul's weighty exposition of sovereign election and reprobation as they relate to the covenant in Romans 9. He brings examples of both children of the promise, and children of the flesh from the Old Testament, and interprets the situation in these New Testament times in the very same way, just as he did when defending justification by faith alone, by pointing to how Abraham was saved.
Here he explains the current apostasy of the Jews by proving the election and reprobation of the children of believers, by pointing to Abraham's children, and Isaac's, especially Esau and Jacob, while briefly defending the justice of God. Not all the children are true spiritual children of the covenant – but as Ishmael and Esau were circumcised, so our children ought to be treated as covenant children, unless and until they manifest themselves as wicked unbelievers. In Romans 11, he picks up on the same idea of covenant generations to explain how apostasy occurs, how the branches can be broken off, and also how the natural branches can be grafted in again, and how by this process the fullness of all elect Gentiles and Jews (people from every tongue, tribe, and nation) will be brought to the Father before Christ's return.
Having understood more about how the truth of the covenant relates to how we treat our children7, it remains to prove that baptism in the New Testament is a token of the covenant, taking a similar role as circumcision in the Old. The differences must be mentioned first.
Circumcision was necessarily applied only to males, while baptism is applied to all.
Circumcision involves the shedding of blood, while baptism does not.
Circumcision involves the cutting away of flesh, while baptism does not.
Baptism involves washing with water, while circumcision did not.
These differences are related, and serve also to introduce the analogies between both signs. These differences must be understood in terms of the differences between the dispensation then, and now. One looked forward to the promised Messiah, the other rejoices in the fulfillment of the promise. This is one of the reasons that the New Testament so strongly condemns the practice of circumcision, or indeed the return to any of the old ceremonial laws and laws concerning the old earthly kingdom; because all such would be denying that Christ had come (I John 2:22-23). Furthermore, the only reasons remaining for people to do those things now would be “will worship” (Col. 2:8-23) or seeking for works-righteousness (Gal. 4:9-10; 5:1-12). One of the major changes now (as mentioned previously), one of the great mysteries, once hidden in the counsel of God which has now been revealed, is the equality of all believers in Christ regardless of ethnic origin, language, gender, etc (the catholicity of the church). Previously, it seemed that only the physical children of Abraham could be heirs of the promise, and the equality of male and female was not so clear, but of course, John the Baptist's preaching was true (Luke 3:8). Seeing this, it is obvious that if baptism is to be a sign of the new covenant, it must now be given also to females. Why did God design the old sign only for males? There are various reasons, but inconsequential, I think for this discussion. For now it suffices that this serves to show forth more clearly the blessedness of the new covenant (Heb. 8:6-13; or we could say, the fuller revelation of the one covenant).
This leads to the next point. Just about everything in the old dispensation involved the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). The reason for this is evident to all. Christ had not yet come, and all the gallons of blood poured out day after day for thousands of years was to convince us ignorant sinners of the insufficiency of all things earthly (including ourselves) to ever accomplish our redemption, that we would despair of such things, and not put our hope in sacrifices, but in the One whom they signified. And all this blood illuminates to us, if we are given eyes to see, a glimpse of the awesome sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice for all of His people, once for all (Isa. 40:15-18). So too we are not surprised to see that circumcision involves the shedding of blood, although this is not all there is to it. Baptism then, being a New Testament ordinance, like everything else in this dispensation, involves no shedding of blood. In the same way as the prior enormity of blood taught us of the sufficiency of Christ, now the conspicuous absence of any blood whatsoever persuades us further.
The cutting away of the flesh of course, is the reason for this blood being shed. This is significant too, in that we have here in the cut flesh and shed blood, the idea of pain, and sacrifice on the part of the subject – this sums up much of the theme of the old dispensation. But this doesn't touch the particular significance of this sign. Again it is found that in such ordinances, the sign is appropriate and represents the spiritual reality. What is signified in circumcision? The putting off of the old sinful flesh, and therefore regeneration, the circumcision of the heart, a work of God alone (Deut. 30:6). It is distressing that the SGBC picks up on this, and the unity made between spiritual baptism and spiritual circumcision in Colossians 2:11, and even quotes other pertinent passages from Scripture (though failing to quote Acts 2:39, and misusing Rom. 6:4) to compare how both baptism and circumcision signify regeneration, and yet move on, non-plussed, while granted the timid review, “commended”, but a “concern”, and “too far”. Even more distressing is their reasoning:
“it goes too far by giving the sign of salvation to those who have not yet been made conscious of sin and who have not yet called upon Christ for salvation.”
Their complaint here is not merely against those like us who practice household baptism (in accordance with the biblical pattern in the New Testament), but also against the saints of the Old Testament, and against Isaac, and Abraham, and then even against God Himself who gave the instruction to Abraham. After concluding that circumcision and baptism both indeed do signify salvation, they fault us for administering that sign to those whom God instructed us to administer it to. Was Isaac conscious of sin and had he yet called upon Christ for salvation? Maybe (they mistakenly assume that this is impossible, but more on this later). What about Esau? No way, he never did. Ought Abraham to have waited until they could all make a better, more conscious response? That would have been clear disobedience (Gen. 17:11-14).
Furthermore, they adduce no Scriptural proof for their objection. Genesis 17:12 proves them wrong though. It can be understood where the reasoning comes from; what brand of human philosophy would prefer the sign of regeneration to follow after the confession of faith? Prideful, human-centred, Arminianism. Admittedly, many believers are converted from heathendom, and it cannot be helped baptising them after their confession. But where it can be helped, ought not the sign to represent the reality – namely, that regeneration precedes faith, a work in which the subject is completely passive? And if the Old Testament saints could administer the sign of salvation to entire households, including infants (and the New Testament continues this practice of administering the new sign to households, with no admonition whatsoever against baptising infants), why in this better covenant should we not follow God's wisdom in this matter? These questions will be developed further.
Is it true that circumcision signifies the same spiritual reality as baptism? Our final point about baptism involving washing demonstrates this. Now that the shedding of blood is inappropriate, what can signify regeneration to us, in a manner that illustrates God's sovereignty in it? The washing with water (Tit. 3:3-7; Eph. 5:26; I Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 22:16; Ezek. 36:25-27), as Peter describes baptism (I Pet. 3:18-22). There are two things which must be noted here. First, the passage in I Peter is often abused and misunderstood, yet it speaks powerfully to this controversy. The subject throughout the passage is regarding the manner in which we are saved. If we bear this in mind, we won't go far wrong. Some have interpreted, by their imagination, that the “spirits in prison” in verse 19 speaks of damned souls in hell. This would mean that after being “quickened by the Spirit” which can only be a reference to the resurrection, Christ then, for some obscure reason, went to hell to preach condemnation to the wicked there. Aside from the totally disjunctive theology implied in that, it cannot be, since we must assume that Scripture is plain, and it gives no indication that it is speaking about anyone other than the subjects in the next few verses and the previous.
This would be the “unjust” who were justified (18), “us” (18), those who “sometime were disobedient” when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah though not now (20), the “few”, “eight souls” saved by the ark and the water in the days of Noah (20), and finally “us” again who are similarly saved also by baptism. The “spirits in prison” were those who “sometime were disobedient” who were saved in the days of Noah. The message here is that Christ preaches to the spirits in prison, to set us free, and save us by spiritual baptism. The connection is being made between preaching and baptism. This must be understood by the second observation: regeneration is a slightly ambiguous term, it can refer to either the first implantation of spiritual life to the totally dead (Eph 2:1-10; which passage also highlights, with Titus and Peter, that before this, we were spiritually dead, incapable of any good will or work, to emphasise that all is of grace alone), and also to the continuing work of the Spirit in daily bringing us to life (Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:7-10; Jas. 1:16-21; I Pet. 2:1-3; Psa. 51:1-13; Phil. 2:12-13), quickening the new nature (which is perfect), and putting to death the old.
Both are the same kind of work, but the former is the first activity by which we first receive life. We can see this distinction between the first work of regeneration, and the continuing work of regeneration being made by Christ Himself (this also explains the language of having “been saved” and currently “being saved”, and why ordinarily we cannot be saved, that is sanctified, apart from joining a true church). When He washes the disciples feet, He points to the truth of the perseverance of the saints, that having once be washed, Christ will love us to the end (John 13:1-16). Peter, having already been washed in baptism – that first work of regeneration, needs only his feet to be washed. It also points to our responsibility in working together as a body for our sanctification (Rev. 19:7; Isa. 52:1), and much, much more could be said about this passage. One more comment brings us to the next subject, the passage also teaches that Christ going to the cross is Him, “loving them to the end”. This answers an important question for the Baptist.
If all these passages, heretofore mentioned, teach baptism as signifying washing with the blood of Christ and with the Holy Spirit (cf. Heb. 10:22; Num. 19:20; Zech. 13:1; II Cor. 7:1; Ezek. 37:23; Rev. 1:5; Isa. 1:18; Rev. 7:14), even sprinkling (Ezek. 36:25-27; Isa. 52:15; Heb. 9:13-14ff; I Pet. 1:2; Heb. 12:24), then what of the two favourite passages of the Baptists, Romans 6 and Colossians 2, which make a connection between baptism and Christ's burial and resurrection? Indeed, these are perhaps the only two passages that make this connection. One almost feels sorry for the Baptist in this respect, as also Colossians 2 identifies circumcision with baptism, which they for the most part try to deny. And Romans 6 is not a discussion about water baptism (indeed the outward sign is not actually mentioned once) and what the reality that it precisely signifies, rather it is only an exposition of the results, or consequences of that prior spiritual baptism into Christ. And both passages use the word baptism in a way that cannot mean immerse as the baptists use the term, since having been baptised into Him, we are not then lifted up out of Christ. The Baptist ought not attempt to argue that Romans 6 is speaking of the mere outward sign, since then they would become guilty of the Romanist error (Rom. 6:3).
These passages teach, like John 13 implies, that the power of regeneration is the power of Christ's death and resurrection. In union with Him, by His Spirit, we are united also in His death and resurrection, so that we are born again from the dead spiritually in this life, so that our flesh is put to death by the Spirit, and our new nature by that same power is quickened. We walk in the Spirit by the power of Christ's death and resurrection (Gal. 5:6, 16-26; 6:12-18). In this way, the manner in which we receive the atonement (namely, through the bond of faith worked by the Spirit alone), we become dead to sin and alive to God – the entire subject of Romans 6. The argument is that because we have been united by baptism the power of the death and resurrection of Christ works in us, so it is not that baptism signifies this power, it rather signifies the means by which theunion is made. And the argument of I Corinthians 15 is the same, if we are united to Christ by this spiritual baptism, and if He was raised, then we too will be raised, and also, since the power of regeneration is the power of the cross, if He was not raised, then our faith through which we are joined to Him, is utterly vain.
It is astounding too that the Baptists misuse Romans 6 so frequently, when it also condemns their position that baptism does not imply membership in the local church. Romans 6, as well as I Cor. 12:23 (previously mentioned), teaches that spiritual baptism brings about union with Christ. If we have received the outward sign representing this spiritual union, ought we not also be received into the local church which is to represent the spiritual body of Christ? They claim that baptism ought to be immersion from this passage too, but while this will be returned to, we have also seen that these passages do not speak of the baptism representing being buried and raised with Christ (which would not be water immersion anyway, and not even earth burial, but rather being placed in a tomb and taken out with Christ) they speak of baptism bringing union with Christ – which is the washing of regeneration. I hope that they will see this. I finally clarify that the regeneration that baptism signifies is the first work of regeneration, the ingrafting into the vine, and therefore the sign ought to be administered only once. Feeding on Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper signifies the ongoing work of regeneration, and so rightly ought to be administered frequently, allowing for preparatory and explanatory sermons (and plenty of sermons on other topics in between so that we hear the whole counsel of God), since it benefits us only by partaking of it worthily and only by true faith.
Having fully established the similarity between circumcision and baptism, that both signify regeneration and imply inclusion in the congregation of the saints, we have defended the consistency of God's word. This is because, as it was noted, the covenant made with Abraham is everlasting, and God's people in the Old and New are one in Christ, and were commanded to have the token of the covenant or be cut off from God's people (i.e. be excommunicated, Gen 17:14). In fact, not applying the token of the covenant to our children is so serious that the Lord came to Moses to kill him because he had not circumcised his son, Ex 4:24-26. This commandment was never revoked, and so if circumcision has passed away, something must have replaced it. I have proven that the replacement is water baptism. Therefore, their objection that the sign of the covenant (which is also a sign of salvation) should not be given the unconverted is soundly refuted by the right subjects of circumcision in the Old Testament, but more inconsistent is that their own practice does not exclude the unconverted, nor can it possibly. A mere outward confession cannot prove true conversion to another person (James 2:14-26), even though in ourselves personally our faith alone justifies us in our own consciences before God (Rom. 5:1-2), and besides, the Pharisees, the worst hypocrites, had many convincing “good” works to justify themselves before men, yet were not truly justified before God. They have not realised that their objection here, condemns their own position.
Regarding the SGBC's presentation of the “symbolic view”
I think that I have already proven that all the ordinances that Christ has given to His church must be beneficial to them. The flesh profiteth nothing. Therefore we conclude that the strict “symbolic view” presented here denies the power of God, while keeping its form. This is how the false church views the sacraments, and the preaching. Everything in the false church is Pharisaic, i.e. outward, and not inward. This wholly condemns the “symbolic view”. God is not interested in the outward boasting, but a broken and a contrite heart (Psalm 51:14-19), and the answer of a good conscience (I Pet. 3:21). Therefore all Baptist churches ought to be sternly admonished, since in this area they bear not the mark of the true church, but that of the false (II Tim. 3:1-9), and while some may be part of the true church still, they stand on the precipice of destruction (Rev. 2:1-7; 3:3, 19-20; I Cor. 10:12).
This is the common Arminian response to the sacraments. Rejecting baptismal regeneration, and yet also advocating the primacy of free-will against sovereign predestination, they claim that there is no benefit from the sacraments to anyone, i.e. they are purely symbolic. Against this, the Reformed view is that the sacraments are not devoid of benefit, but are only beneficial to the elect, and received only by faith. If some ask about those who have not faith at the time of the baptism, when we understand the truth of baptism, we see that its benefit may be received at a later stage. Let us prove this. Circumcision is referred to as a sign and seal of the righteousness that the elect have by faith (Rom. 4:11). Now many who received this sign and seal, were not true believers, but that makes it no less a sign and seal of the righteousness of the faith which the believers have. I have shown in the preceding section that baptism is the replacement of circumcision, so that we can conclude that baptism too is a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith. The absurd, self-refuting Baptist complaint is that this sign ought not therefore be administered to those who do not have faith, while they administer it to many hypocrites too, and yet refuse covenant children who may actually have faith (Psa. 22:9-10; Isa. 46:3; 49:1; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:15; 41, 44).
What does it mean that circumcision/baptism is both a sign, and a seal? A sign because it signifies the reality that the faithful have righteousness in that they are washed from sin. This is obvious, and clearly it is upside down to say that baptism is a sign of obedience, which instead points to righteousness by works instead of righteousness by faith – it is the exact opposite of a sign of obedience, it is a sign that we are disobedience and can only be saved by the washing in the blood of Christ. Then too, because it signifies this, it is a seal to the believers, by assuring us that we are truly washed from our sins by the Spirit, as surely as water washes away the filth of the body. Knowing why it is a seal, it is easy to understand why the benefit of baptism may possibly be received long afterwards. It is a seal to us for our entire Christian life, having been administered once, while the Lord's Supper, signifying that all true believers receive all their strength and succour to live only from the life of Christ, by as it were, feeding on His body and blood, and this seals to us that we who believe are truly spiritually nourished by Christ's body and blood, as surely as natural food nourishes the natural body. This is the “ABC” of the sacraments, and ought to be common knowledge to all who would receive them aright (Heb. 6:1-3). The church which obscures this so much is in a sorry state, as it is one of the marks of a true church that the sacraments are properly administered, which must include right preaching accompanying them.
The Baptists set this aside, affirming three imaginative (unscriptural) points. First they suggest that baptism signifies that the particular person baptised is born again. What of Simon the sorceror who was still in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity (Acts 8)? In the second point they assume that baptism implies that the person receiving it has changed, which we reject, although we agree that it is to be considered public identification with Christ, even if this is not the spiritual reality. The other side of this is excommunication in which the church declares that a person is not in Christ. All of this preconceives the connection between membership in a local true church, and being a member of Christ. A member of Christ's body ought to join a true church, to publicly show that we are not independent of each other, but have life only in being joined to Christ's body. Which brings us to the third point, in which they have two errors. Baptism is not an act of initiation into the true spiritual body. We cannot by any act, put ourselves into the body of Christ, only by the Spirit's work and will are we baptised into the body of Christ. And secondly, if baptism signifies entrance to the true spiritual church, how perverse is it that this should not also involve them actually joining a true local church.
As to their given justification for baptism, merely because it is commanded, this highlights the shallow view of baptism that this is. All Christ's commands have good reason – it is not enough to say to an Arminian gainsayer that our reason for preaching is simply because Christ commands it (a meaningless commandment would be contrary to the character of God, vain, and therefore grievous: I John 5:3), we must explain why Christ commands it – preaching by called, ordained, qualified, and sent ministers of the Word is the God-appointed means by which the elect are gathered and edified (Rom. 10:9-17).
They are right to point out that the baptism of Christ was altogether different. I agree, but not with their presentation of it – Christ's baptism was part of His ordination as a priest. It was not an act of “obedience, commitment, and proclamation”. It was a sign undergone by Christ to show that He was fulfilling all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-17), namely the Law which required that priests be baptised for entrance into the ministry, anointed with the oil for sanctification to the ministry, which signified the Spirit (Exo. 28:41; notice too that involved pouring or sprinkling, the priests were not immersed, Exo. 29:4, 7, 21, etc ). This is why He was about thirty years old before entering into the ministry of the tabernacle (Num. 4:3; Luke 3:23), even Christ could not take His ministry upon Himself, He had to be appointed by the church, to have the God-given authority to be a priest after the order of Melchisedek (Heb. 5:1-6). This explains His defense to the wicked Pharisees, they ask the right question (what authority He had received), though in the wrong spirit, and Christ deliberately asks about John's authority, knowing that if they conceded John's to be from heaven (who was the son of a priest, Zechariah), then Christ's was too, as He was ordained by John (Matt. 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8). Of course they could not answer, since they were people-pleasers.
Their final statements are possibly the worst, though we agree that baptism does not produce or procure regeneration. They say that baptism always comes after faith, salvation and regeneration. To this I ask again, ought not the sign represent what it signifies? If we believe and confess that regeneration precedes faith, then how is it not appropriate that baptism precedes faith? Rather the strict exclusive credo-baptist position signifies the Arminian conception that faith precedes regeneration, whereas the Arminian view is condemned by infant baptism. They finally try to suggest some spiritual value for their doctrine of the “symbolic view”, but it is against everything Christian. Our hearts are not, and are never satisfied about our works! The blood-bought church cries out concerning itself, “all our righteousnesses are as menstrual garments” (Isa. 64:6). To find satisfaction in any such stained and polluted obedience of ourselves, is to be blind to the truth that it is in Christ alone that we are to be satisfied – I do not believe that the genuine souls among these Baptists find any satisfaction in this. All our truly good works are only worked by the Spirit of God, and even so, we have only the small beginnings of obedience, so that we render even the best of such good works polluted and sinful. If we would ever attempt to be justified in our own consciousness by looking at our own works, we would only despair. We are satisfied only with Christ's perfect work on the cross.
Regarding the proper subjects for baptism
The SGBC here accuse us of a false assumption with regard to the practice household baptisms in the New Testament. They accuse us of assuming that their were infants in these households. We do not assume this, although it would seem very unlikely that there were not. In answer, I ought to say that the Baptists are the ones making the assumption. They assume that all the subjects were confessing believers. This seems a doubtful assumption. In contrast, submitting to Scripture, we do not make any assumption, instead we see that the practice of the early church throughout the New Testament was without exception, the baptism of families or households. Therefore we follow this apostolic example by the practice of family baptism. Ought not the true church be apostolic?
I say without exception, remembering that of all those baptised in the New Testament, there are a few ambiguous examples, in which details are not given as to whether the households were baptised or not (and as William Hamilton once put it, “where Scripture is silent, we must not be noisy”), and a few examples where individuals only were baptised. Paul the apostle, was baptised alone, understandably because he was single, he did not have his own family. The Ethiopian which Philip met in the desert was baptised alone, because he was a eunuch, he did not have his own family. The crowds of Pentecost is an ambiguous example in which we are not told whether households, but predominantly it was the men only who went up to the festival, and we can assume that if some households were present in Jerusalem too, then these were baptised. After this instance we find Philip preaching to the Samarians, and many believe, including as it seemed Simon, who it seems did not have his own family, and of the crowds, who can say that their families were not baptised too? This is not an example of conspicuous absence, since it is not the subject of the text.
After this we have Cornelius and his household being baptised. Then we find Lydia and her household being baptised. Then the jailor and his household are baptised, along with the Gospel promise of Acts 16:31, which is often taken away from – such a thing we should be greatly fearful of (Rev. 22:19). It does not say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”, it says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” This was not any special unusual revelation to Paul, and he did not know whether or not there were infants in the jailor's household, or whether they would believe if he did. Certainly Paul was not promising that all his household would be saved head-for-head, since there are generally both Jacobs, and Esaus (Rom. 9:6-8), but he was affirming the covenant promise of the Gospel (Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7; 18:19; Jer. 32:39; Rom. 11:16). We also have Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue of Corinth who was baptised with all his house and many Corinthians of which again, we are not told specifically in Acts. Next we see certain disciples of John being baptised, and again we are not informed either way about their households, if even they had any. Finishing our overview with I Corinthians, we see Paul confessing that in Corinth he baptised only Crispus (as mentioned), Gaius, and the household of Stephanas.
So I safely conclude that of those examples which had households, and of which we are given any details, all received household baptism. And of those surveyed, we have large groups; those at Pentecost (probably mostly men from foreign parts), the Samarians, and the Corinthians, then we have those without any details; Gaius, Simon (seemingly without a family), and the disciples of John, then we have two clearly without families; Paul, and the eunuch, and finally we have four clear examples of household baptisms; Cornelius and his house, Lydia and her house, the jailor and his house, and finally Stephanas and his house. So then household baptism is not an argument from silence, but teaching that infant baptism is wrong on the assumption that none of the members of these households were infants, is an argument from silence. We find this totally in accord with the administration of circumcision which was also given to households, and we also see the conspicuous absence of any command not to administer this baptism of the new covenant to households.
The Anabaptists however, do not baptise households, they only baptise individuals who sometimes happen to be in the same household. In this way there are only individuals who only coincidentally perhaps are in the same households in the Baptistic churches; there are no real families in these churches. This is sad when we consider the spiritual reality that Christ is the organic vine that we are ingrafted into, that He is our kinsman redeemer, and that we enter God's household when we are saved through faith. The baptistic church is not a household, it is a mere collection of individuals. But we all point to our forefathers in the faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and other fathers even closer to us, and know that we share a common heritage, as sons and daughters, and heirs of God.
What is the Scriptural basis for this household baptism practice aside from these examples? That the promise of the covenant is that God will be a God to us and our seed in their generations (Gen. 9:9; Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; Ezek. 16:20; 37:25; 39:25; Mal. 2:15; Luke 10:21-22; Luke 18:15-16; Matt. 11:25; Isa. 44:3; 49:25; 54:13; 59:21; Jer. 31:31-34; 32:39; Prov. 20:7; 31:28; Eph. 1:1, 6:1; Col. 1:2, 3:20; I Cor. 7:14; Psa. 37:25-28; 71; 115:9-15; 127:3-5). Even if we were not told specifically, we would understand from this that though some of our children are merely of the flesh and reprobate, they all ought to be considered by us as members of God's household (Eph 2:19) until and unless they manifest themselves as wicked unbelievers (Rom. 3:3-4; Rom. 9:1-13; Rom. 11; Rom. 2:28-29; John 1:47; Luke 3:8; John 8:39). If to be considered members of God's people then, they must be baptised with the sign and seal of the righteousness that God's people have by faith. It is a distinctly Unitarian doctrine to deny children of believers from baptism. Because our God is Triune, one in essence yet three in person;co-eternally, Father, Son, and Spirit, then we ought to understand that this relationship ought to be reflected in our own families, the earthly father and his house, in charity which is the bond of perfectness (Col. 3:14-15).
But all this is beside the point. We are told specifically and clearly, we have seen that the covenant of God is everlasting, that the promises of the covenant made to Abraham, were made to Christ, in whom we are ingrafted, and that the people of God are commanded to administer the sign of the everlasting covenant to all the outward members of the covenant (even if some prove to be reprobates according to God's sovereign unconditional decree). This commandment has not been revoked, but rather re-iterated by Christ, when the disciples made the error of refusing the children of believers to be brought to Christ (Matt. 18:1-11; Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). They claim that this is a false analogy, but as we have seen that being merely physically baptised does not save a person, being blessed by Jesus Christ most certainly does! These men are, it would seem, Calvinistic, and should therefore know that anything less than salvation, would only bring further condemnation. To be blessed by Christ, is to be saved, it can be nothing less. Further, the subject here is receiving the kingdom (which baptism signifies) – this is the blessing and it is these infants that demonstrate most clearly to us the only manner in which we can enter the kingdom – by being brought with no strength of our own, wholly dependent on the grace of God. So it is neither an argument from silence, nor a false analogy.
In answer to the next objections, we see that the only defence for the Baptist is in dividing asunder the body of Christ – claiming that the people of God in the Old Testament are separate to the people of God in the New – that there is not one everlasting covenant of God, of which all the covenants are merely parts of the revelation of it. I have explained why only males received the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament, and why the sign ought to be administered to all in the new covenant times in section 3. I have also shown abundantly the relationship between circumcision and baptism. They, however, have no Scriptural basis for exclusive credo-baptism. And we have also seen that receiving baptism is not a sign of obedience, but a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith – a sign of our disobedience and that believers are only righteous by being washed by the Spirit, clothed in Christ's obedience. I won't comment on the historical argument, for while we would hope to be united in doctrine and practice with the faithful church throughout history, ultimately the authority in every controversy is Scripture. We can simply trace the practice of household baptism through the Reformers and to the early church, and state that our position is not in discord with the history of the church.
The inspired history instructs us even better. The Anabaptists often ask us to give one example of an infant being baptised in the New Testament is. Recorded the New Testament are at least two examples of baptisms of households, both baptism of the children of Israel in I Cor. 10 (which certainly did include infants!), and the baptism of Noah and his house through the flood (I Pet. 3; neither of which were by immersion, of course). Take heed also to the pattern revealed in Exodus 11, in which households were covered by the blood of the Lamb so that the adults and their children were passed over, and also that Lev. 12:6 required that a lamb was slain for the firstborn child. Are these shadows not now fulfilled in reality, though we know that is the elect children, not necessarily the firstborn that are truly saved (Rom. 9:11-13). This is how God deals with His people (and must be when we consider Him as the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), as He revealed when His glory passed by Moses. How I would that the Anabaptists would see this glory:
“And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” - Exodus 34:5-8 (cf. Deut. 7:9-10).
May we too make haste to bow out heads and confess that God is faithful to keep His covenant for thousands of generations, according to His gracious election. Therefore we ought to be obedient to administer the sign of this everlasting covenant to our children, that His people may not forget His name, but that it may be proclaimed in His holy place, the pillar and ground of the truth.
To complete the analysis here, I have already referenced many Scriptures (Psa. 22:9-10; Isa. 46:3; 49:1; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:15; 41, 44) which prove beyond doubt that infants, nay, even those still in the womb can have faith (John the Baptist who leaped for joy in the presence of Christ). The argument that infants cannot have faith is simply the imagination of human reason which cannot conceive of the power of God, and the supernatural work of the Spirit. Nowhere does Scripture claim such a thing. But we must take this slightly further. The saying “to have faith” is ambiguous, because as Reformed believers, we recognise that there is a distinction between the conscious exercise of faith worked by the Spirit, and the faculty of faith implanted by the Spirit. The new nature, which is created in the image of God, namely, in righteousness and true holiness and knowledge of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), always believes the truth, and never doubts, since its source is the nature of the Holy Spirit, and the Word by which we were begotten (Jas. 1:18; John 1:13; 3:3-5; I Pet. 1:3, 23; 1Jn 5:18).
This is our identity in Christ, as a new creature (II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), and the rest of us, our old man, the sinful nature is merely chaff, wearing away (II Cor. 4:16), ready to be cast off when die and go to be with the Lord in paradise where we will await the resurrection of our bodies as incorruptible when He comes again to be marveled at by His saints (I Cor. 15:42; II Thess. 1:10). But we do not always walk in the Spirit, we also do not always consciously exercise faith – yet do we not have faith? We do. And this faith proceeds from the faculty of faith in the new nature. Is God constrained to grant such a new nature only to older children or adults? No, but to the objection of the Baptist that an infant cannot exercise faith, we say, that is the whole point. That is one thing which commends infant baptism to us so strongly! It so clearly and blatantly illustrates the sovereignty of God in salvation. The infant can do nothing, and so we are reminded that all is of grace. But even setting all this aside, we have been given no Scriptural proof that baptism is only to be given to those who exercise faith – if that were so, we would despair of giving baptism to anyone, since we cannot ever know for certain whether another person truly has faith (Rom. 14:23; I John 5:3).
The position of the credo-baptists here is bordering on hyper-Calvinistic mysticism, where they presume to know for certain whether another person is truly born again, and administer baptism only to those people that fit the peculiar criteria that they have crafted in which to judge men (I Cor. 4:5). In a similar fashion, the hyper-Calvinists attempt to preach only to the elect. Again, I reiterate, I find no Scriptural basis for restricting baptism to those who are truly born again. If any weight is to be given to their first argument here, then it is self-refuting since they must then also concede household baptism, and so not merely adults. Then they point to the fact that baptism was only administered where there was a credible profession of faith, they neglect however to point out that the common practice was to administer baptism to the entire household on the basis of such a profession. They also neglect to point out that there was not any kind of rigourous testing for “evidence of salvation”, a profession of faith was enough if the subject was not openly impenitent – they even baptised Simon the sorceror. Their so-called “third argument” is the same as the former, and no less unscriptural, since it disregards the practice of household baptism, and the entire covenant of God with us and our children. The Baptists have no spiritual children (John 21:15), their churches are not composed of families but of individuals, and have no infants, of which Christ said “of such is the kingdom of heaven”. They are not a “people” or a “house” but disconnected persons, and foreigners to each other.8 This should not be, is not the new covenant better than the old?
Regarding the mode of baptism
The two first immersionist arguments should illustrate to us immediately that this is not a Scriptural position. Instead of pointing to the Bible, they point to what they claim is great linguistical study, and what they claim is a great example of the history of the faithful church. My only comments here, beside the fact that it is mostly irrelevant, is that the meaning of “baptism” is not to “immerse” or “dip”, and neither of those words would justify their own practice either9. To immerse is to put a solid fully underneath the surface of a liquid. This would mean that to baptise someone according to this definition would be to drown them. They may complain that the symbolism to be of Christ burial and resurrection (which we have pointed out the obvious inconsistencies of already, namely the Christ was not immersed in water and then taken out, nor was He even buried under the earth, but rather placed in a tomb), and so the subject ought to be taken out afterwards, but this would mean that using baptism=immerse it could only signify the burial (and not even that, as I mentioned), not the resurrection.
Taking baptism=dip is just as self-refuting, to dip is to place part of a solid under the surface of a liquid and then possibly take it out. None of them practice this – they practice full immersion and emersion. Secondly they do not follow other instructions in the Didache (a corrupt Judeo-Christian book that didn't even make it into the Roman Catholic Apocrypha; other instructions including baptising in natural flowing water after fasting for a few days, and saying the Lord's Prayer three times daily, etc), and so cannot fault us for that either, and the church has always even during the time of the apostles, struggled with all manner of errors.
They now try to prove “immersion” by claiming that a lot of water was always needed for baptism. First their examples show a lack of scholarship. Aenon near Salim was a place in the Jordan valley, and the many springs (????? ?????) referred to in the text are probably those of Wadi Raria. One cannot be immersed by a spring, even “many springs”. Jesus coming out of the water (this time in the Jordan river itself) does not mean either that he was previously immersed, rather it implies that John the Baptist, to baptise the crowds in the most convenient manner, was in the water to pour or sprinkle with the water, rather than repeatedly going down to the water to collect some for each baptism. It is amusing that the example of the Ethiopian eunuch is pointed to as teaching immersion. This took place in a desert, so it is no great wonder that the Ethiopian pointed out that there was some water present when they came to it – the definition of a desert is that water is scarce – even for pouring or sprinkling. Lest any should think that this going down into the water teaches immersion, the passage makes clear that Philip and the eunuch “went down both into the water”, they were not both immersed, nor would that be the practice of the immersionists. Rather, a liquid always gathers in the lowest ground, this is gravity, and the nature of a liquid.
I would like to deal with a few other examples. At Pentecost there were three thousand baptised in one day, this would be a difficult feat for the immersionists to accomplish. Paul the apostle arose in Ananias's house and was immediately baptised – no immersion there. Cornelius and his entire household also were baptised in his house. I can add too, that tables were baptised (??????????), surely they did not immerse entire table just to wash them (Mark 7:4)?! Also, the Israelites (and this must have included infants!) were baptised when they passed through the Red Sea on dry ground (I Cor. 10:1-2). It was the wicked Egyptians who were immersed to their destruction. In addition to that, the salvation of Noah (including his household!) in the ark is said to be a figure of baptism (I Pet. 3:20-21), and they were not immersed, the wicked world was immersed to their destruction. The overwhelming presentation of Scripture is that immersion is actually a sign of judgment (even the final judgment) and destruction, and not at all a sign of salvation. Finally the common misuse of Romans 6 and Colossians 2 is put forward, which I have already dealt with in section 3. Far be from the true church to administer a sign of judgment instead of a sign of regeneration!
The points made about a “pluralist” position are unsatisfactory, since they mar and disparage the perspicuity of the Scriptures. If baptism is commanded by God, then He has laid down clearly how it is to be carried out. The sign ought to represent what it signifies, not Christ's death and resurrection, but the washing of regeneration – by sprinkling or pouring (and I agree that the Old Testament gives good instruction on the manner of general washing – Heb. 9:10), not immersion which has no Scriptural basis and would only be drowning anyway, and is always presented as terrible judgment in Scripture. The church is washed, the reprobate are drowned. In this discussion we have considered, the mode, meaning, subjects, and implications of baptism. We have neither discussed the element of baptism (water only), nor the name in which it must be carried out, that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, nor who the proper administrators of it ought to be, officebearers.
In my previous correspondance I also pointed out at length how the entire immersionist system puts the emphasis on the action of the subjects, rather than that of the element, and how this is distinctly Arminian. The Baptist system in general also all points to faith preceding regeneration which is distinctly Arminian. We who hold to the Reformed faith, direct the Arminians to our baptised infants and say, “We and our seed could do nothing of ourselves, the only work in our baptism, was that of the water, not us, just as the only work in all of our salvation is only God's not ours, and our infants were not even old enough to exercise a will to be baptised, just as we had no say in our eternal election before the foundation of the world.” To the Baptists who claim to be Reformed, I say, your practice is contrary to the doctrines of sovereign grace, of the eternal covenant, of the church, of the sacraments, and of the Trinity, and you who love the Lord ought to repent. I hope that we will be able together to confess of Christ:
“He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” - Isaiah 40:11.
With much love in Christ, the King and Head of the body,
1Incidentally, this is an example where the dogma of baptizo=immersion fails. If you apply the Baptist interpretation, then not only are believers “immersed” into the body of Christ, they will also be taken “up” out of it! It's even more inconsistent than that, but we will come to that in due course.
2This affirmation will be returned to, and proven when we discuss circumcision and what it signifies and seals, as a token of the everlasting covenant (Gen 17:7-11; Rom 4:9-16).
3Namely (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 1:15; 2:17), gainsayers such as N. T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and others who teach a conditional covenant, the establishment and maintenance of which is based upon human response, and thereby aim to overthrow justification by faith alone (they openly deny that justification is by “faith alone”), and the Gospel of our salvation. The Holy Spirit calls such “dogs”, and the “concision [mutilation]” who trust in outward signs and their own will or works. Though we must be as loving as Paul when dealing with those deceived by these lies.
4For a detailed exposition of this, please see Engelsma, D.J. (2006) Trinity and Covenant: God as Holy Family, Jenison: RFPA.
5Namely, that outward baptism must involve outward membership in the outward church, since spiritual baptism involves spiritual membership in the spiritual church.
6For a fuller exposition of how children of believers ought to be treated, see Engelsma, D.J. (2005) The Covenant of God and the Children of Believers: Sovereign Grace in the Covenant, Grand Rapids: RFPA. and my own review available online at http://wiseguysblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/book-review-covenant-of-god-and.html and also Hoeksema, H. (1997) Believers and Their Seed Grand Rapids: RFPA.
7This subject will also be returned to when we consider the subjects for baptism, and more rigourous proof will be given.
8For more a detailed explanation of this matter, see Hanko, H. (2004) We and Our Children: the Reformed Doctrine of Infant Baptism, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: RFPA.
9The most sensible meaning seems to be that of an element changing the state of the subject in some manner, such that curtains faded by sunlight were baptised by the sunlight, and clothes dyed a different colour, were baptised by the dye, and, my own favourite, in a cup of tea, the teabag is immersed in the water (since I leave mine in the cup), and the water is baptised by it. So a person being baptised by water, they are made clean, a person baptised by the Spirit is regenerated. This is the meaning argued for convincingly in Adams, J.E. (1992) The Meaning and Mode of Baptism, P&R Publishing.