Archive for the ‘baptism’ Category

Infant Baptism and Romans 4:11

Listening to this debate on infant baptism reminded me how often paedobaptists appeal to Romans 4:11 to support their position. For an excellent baptist response to this argument, check out “From Circumcision to Baptism” by Dr. Greg Welty, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I think you will find his insights to be incredibly helpful.

Baptism in Acts 2:38 (Part 4)

Consequently, was baptism necessary for the Jews to be saved in Acts 2:38? Yes and no. Yes, in that it was a necessary expression of faith in response to the gospel, and no, in that the physical act itself had no saving power.


A helpful analogy is found in Romans 10:9–10. In this passage, the apostle Paul writes that one must confess Jesus as Lord with his mouth in order to be saved:


If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:9–10).


In one sense, we face the same initial difficulty here in Romans 10:9-10 as we do in Acts 2:38—the straightforward reading of the text at least seems to indicate that one must respond to the gospel with some kind of external act in order to be saved. But is the actual movement of one’s lips necessary for one to be saved according to Romans 10? Yes and no. Yes, in that it was a necessary expression of faith in response to the gospel, and no, in that the physical act itself had no saving power. In terms of baptism in Acts 2:38, then, as F.F. Bruce writes, “the reception of the Spirit is conditional not on baptism in itself but on baptism as the expression of repentance.”


To illustrate, suppose there were three men standing together in the crowd on the Day of Pentecost. In response to Peter’s exhortation to repent and be baptized, the first man says, “I repent and believe in Christ,” and he truly does. So he gets in line, and he is baptized. This man is forgiven and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.


The second man says, “I repent and believe in Christ,” and he also truly does. While he is in line to be baptized, however, he has a heart attack and dies. Is this man forgiven? Did he receive the gift of the Holy Spirit before he died? Yes, absolutely, because conversion is ultimately a matter of the heart. He truly repented and believed, and therefore He was truly forgiven. [Keep in mind Acts 10:44-48, where Cornelius and the other Gentiles were clearly regenerated by the Holy Spirit prior to be baptized in water.]


But the third man says, “I repent and believe in Christ,” and yet when it comes time to be baptized, he refuses to publicly declare his allegiance to Christ. Is this man forgiven? Did this man receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? No, because his refusal to be baptized in the name of Jesus reveals an unrepentant heart that is unwilling to believe in Christ and become His disciple.


This article was adapted from chapter 6 of A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008).

Baptism in Acts 2:38 (Part 3)

There is, however, a third possible interpretation of Acts 2:38. In the end, it makes the most sense to simply take Peter’s words at face value: If the Jews at Pentecost were to be forgiven and receive the promised Holy Spirit, they must repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus.


In this way, the prepositional phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” modifies both the command to “repent” and the command to “be baptized,” and the preposition “for” (eis) indicates the purpose (or result) of repenting and being baptized in water. This view fits perfectly with the basic flow of Acts 2:14–38—Peter preaches the gospel to the Jews (vv. 14–36); the Jews ask how they must respond to the gospel (v. 37); Peter says they must repent and be baptized (v. 38a); and Peter says that if they do, they will be forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit (v. 38b).


This, however, brings us back to the original question: In light of the clear biblical teaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, why would Peter present baptism as a necessary response to the gospel?


The key is to understand this: To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ was to publicly declare one’s allegiance to Christ and one’s desire to follow Him as a disciple. For this reason, when Peter exhorted the Jews to be baptized, he was commanding them to express their allegiance to Christ, an allegiance that was indeed a necessary response to the gospel. In this way, the command to be baptized incorporated both the physical act of water baptism and the commitment to Christ it symbolized. At the same time, as James Dunn writes:


It is false to say that water-baptism conveys, confers or effects the forgiveness of sins. It may symbolize cleansing, but it is the faith and repentance which receives the forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit who conveys, confers and effects it…. [In Acts 2:38], Peter’s basic and primary demand is for repentance; the forgiveness of sins can be promised to the [one who is baptized] only because his baptism is his act and expression of repentance.


In the context of Acts 2, then, an unwillingness to be baptized would have exposed an unwillingness to obey the gospel and become a disciple of Christ. In that sense, and for that reason, the Jews had to be baptized to be forgiven, for to refuse baptism was to refuse Christ and the salvation He offered.


As an illustration, consider the rich young ruler in Mark 10 who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him: “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). This raises the question: Is giving away all your possessions a prerequisite for conversion? No. But Jesus knew that the chief idol in the heart of this man was materialism—his love for his possessions is what kept him from following Christ. Therefore, by exhorting him to give away all his possessions, Jesus was commanding him to repent of his sin, and repentance is a prerequisite for conversion. In this way, Jesus called for an external response that would indicate an internal reality, just like Peter did in Acts 2 by exhorting the Jews to be baptized as an outward expression of their repentance and allegiance to Christ.


Throughout the book of Acts, belief in Christ and baptism in His name were integrally related. As Richard Averbeck writes, the early church


could not conceive of a true Christian who was not willing to express commitment to our Lord [in baptism]. That was not one of the options given to the person being evangelized. He either trusted Christ and was baptized, knowing the implications in terms of commitment and lifestyle, or he rejected the truth.


Although its textual basis is disputed, this is reflected clearly in Mark 16:16: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Some respond to this verse by asking: But what about those who believe but are not baptized? The answer is that the idea of an unbaptized believer is completely foreign to the New Testament—it is not even entertained as a possibility. In the New Testament, a person was not baptized for only one of two reasons: either (a) he did not want to become a Christian, or (b) he believed in Christ and yet was physically unable to be baptized. In fact, the closest you find to an unbaptized believer in the book of Acts is the Ethiopian eunuch for whom water was not immediately available (Acts 8:26–40).


Robert Stein explains it this way:


In general a person could not be converted to Christianity in the New Testament apart from baptism. When individuals in the first century heard “Repent and be baptized” or “Believe in the Lord Jesus and be baptized,” none of them thought, “Can I do the first but not the second?” No one came to the conversion experience with questions as to whether baptism was necessary for becoming a Christian because the apostolic preaching stated that they must be baptized. Thus the rejection of baptism was a rejection of the divine program for conversion!


Baptism, then, was a necessary expression of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ without which they could not be said to have truly “believed.” Baptism without faith was meaningless, and faith without baptism was unthinkable—it was not even presented as an option.


To be concluded Friday with part 4.


This article was adapted from chapter 6 of A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008).

Baptism in Acts 2:38 (Part 2)

A second possible interpretation of Acts 2:38 is that the prepositional phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” modifies only the command to “repent” and not the command to “be baptized.” For this reason, it is said, only repentance is a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins, and baptism comes afterward.


The main argument for this view involves a subtle grammatical distinction between the two commands in Acts 2:38. “Repent” is a second-person plural imperative, while the command to “be baptized” is a third-person singular imperative. Because the pronoun “your” in the prepositional phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” is second-person plural (like the command to “repent”), this phrase is said to refer only to repentance and not to baptism. In this way, the second command in Acts 2:38—“and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ”—is viewed as parenthetical. Therefore, according to this view, the meaning of Acts 2:38 is this: “Repent [in order to receive forgiveness of your sins] and let each one of you [who has repented and been forgiven] be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”


Although this interpretation of Acts 2:38 is possible, its subtlety and awkwardness make it highly unlikely. In the words of A.B. Caneday, this reading of Acts 2:38 is “clumsy and strained, and therefore doubtful.” Furthermore, as Robert Stein suggests, if the apostle Peter had “wanted to demonstrate that the forgiveness of sins was associated with repentance only, he could have said, ‘Repent for the forgiveness of sins and in addition be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,’ but he does not.” In fact, as Stein writes,


If anything the wording of Peter’s command associates forgiveness with baptism even more closely than with repentance, for the expression “for the forgiveness of sins” is separated from the verb “repent” by “and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (nine words in the Greek text).


Furthermore, the closest antecedent to the plural pronoun “your” in the phrase “of your sins” is not the plural subject implied in the command “repent,” but rather the plural pronoun modifying the subject of the second command: “Let each of you [plural] be baptized…for the forgiveness of your [plural] sins.”


It is better to understand Peter’s change to the third-person singular as a way for him to stress that his command was directed to each and every one of his listeners. In fact, as Carroll D. Osburn has demonstrated in her 1983 article in Restoration Quarterly, evidence indicates that the use of a third-person singular imperative in conjunction with a second-person plural imperative was a common idiom which allowed “the speaker addressing a group to address members of that group individually.” This construction enabled Peter to emphasize to his hearers that not a single member of the group was exempt from the command to be baptized.


To be continued Thursday with part 3.


This article was adapted from chapter 6 of A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008).

Baptism in Acts 2:38 (Part 1)

Shortly after being commissioned to make disciples of the nations by baptizing and teaching them, the apostles began to carry out this mandate. On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter preached the death and resurrection to the Jews who had gathered before him, concluding his sermon with the astonishing claim that “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (v. 36). His listeners were pierced to the heart, and they cried out to Peter and the other apostles: “Brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter responded to them, saying:


Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).


This verse is difficult to interpret because it seems to indicate that water baptism is a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Since the Bible clearly teaches that man is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, how can Peter imply that baptism is a condition for salvation? There are three primary ways that evangelicals have answered this question.


The word translated “for” in the phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” is the Greek preposition eis. The first possible solution to the difficulty of Acts 2:38 is to say that eis is causal and should be translated, “because of.” According to this view, Peter is exhorting the Jews to be baptized because their sins have already been forgiven: “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ because of [eis] the forgiveness of your sins.” For example, A.T. Robertson writes, “I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received.” A popular way to illustrate this interpretation is the idea of someone being “wanted for murder.” Such an individual is not wanted so that he can commit murder, but rather because he has committed murder. In this case, the English preposition “for” has a causal meaning.


Although this interpretation solves the apparent theological dilemma, I believe it is unlikely for four reasons. First, despite claims to the contrary, there is little or no precedent for the causal use of eis either in the New Testament or in extra-biblical literature of the time. In fact, of the 1,607 uses of the preposition in the New Testament, only three are possibly causal (Matt 3:11; 12:41; Luke 11:32), and even these are questionable. At the outset, then, there is a heavy burden of proof against this interpretation.


Second, a causal use of the preposition eis simply does not fit the context of Acts 2:38. As Jack Cottrell writes:


We must remember that Peter’s statement is part of his answer to the Jews’ question of how to get rid of the guilt of their sins, especially their sin of crucifying Christ. They specifically asked, “What shall we do” to get rid of this guilt? Any instruction Peter gave them would have been understood by them in this light, and must be so understood by us today. When he told them to repent and be baptized “eis the forgiveness” of their sins, the only honest reading is that baptism is for the purpose or goal of receiving forgiveness. This meaning is actually demanded by the context.


As Cottrell explains further, the instruction to be baptized because their sins have been forgiven “is the exact opposite of what would be expected and required in the situation. The whole point is that the Jews’ sins are not forgiven, and they are asking what to do to receive such forgiveness.”


Third, baptism is connected with forgiveness in Acts 2:38 in the same way that repentance is. Therefore, it would seem that if repentance is for the purpose of bringing about forgiveness, so is baptism. Consequently, if the causal view is correct, Peter is instructing his hearers to repent because they have been forgiven, an interpretation that neither makes sense nor corresponds to biblical teaching elsewhere.


Fourth, in the other four uses of the phrase “for the forgiveness of sins” in the New Testament, the preposition eis appears to indicate purpose or result rather than cause (Matt 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; 24:47; cf. Acts 3:19; 11:18). Jesus’ use of the phrase in Luke 24:47 is especially relevant, for there He tells His disciples that “repentance for [eis] forgiveness of sins” is to be “proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 is the very first example of this proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.


To be continued Wednesday with part 2.


This article was adapted from chapter 6 of A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008).

Baptism Series Next Week

Just wanted to give you a heads up that I will be posting a four-part series on baptism in Acts 2:38 starting Tuesday of next week. Although the series will be adapted from my book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism, it will not focus directly on the issue of baptizing infants, just baptism in Acts 2:38. If this is a verse you have struggled to understand, I invite you to tune in. In the meantime, have a great Labor Day weekend!

Infant Baptism and the Doctrine of Divine Adoption

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is an excerpt from the book.]

In paedobaptist teaching, baptism is seen as a mark of divine ownership, a sign and seal given to those who are God’s own possession. When an infant is baptized, not only does he enter God’s covenant family, but “his parents declare that their child belongs to God” (Daniel Doriani). In this way, baptism is considered a sign of initiation by which an infant is received into the church and “reckoned among God’s children” (John Calvin). As John Murray writes, infants who are baptized “are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.”

This idea that children of believers are automatically children of God provides part of the rationale for infant baptism. According to one paedobaptist, “The children of Christians are no less the sons of God than the parents, just as in the Old Testament,” and since “they are sons of God, who will forbid them baptism?” In this view, just as “the adoption of sons” belonged to infants in Old Testament Israel (Rom 9:4), it now belongs to infants in the New Testament Church, and therefore the latter should be baptized just as the former were circumcised.

Although it is true that baptism is a mark of divine ownership which should be given to those who are children of God, the practice of baptizing infants betrays a misunderstanding of the doctrine of divine adoption. Specifically, it ignores a significant point of discontinuity between corporate adoption in Old Testament Israel and individual adoption in the New Testament church.

In the Old Testament, the corporate adoption of the nation of Israel was such that individual Jews were considered sons of God regardless of whether they themselves were personally saved. In Deuteronomy 14:1-2, Yahweh said to Israel:

You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deut 14:1-2).

God chose Israel, set His love upon her, and redeemed her out of slavery (Deut 7:6-8), and as a result He was a Father to her (Deut 32:6; cf. Exod 4:22; Mal 2:10). But not all Jews who were part of this adoption were in a right relationship with God. In fact, throughout the history of Old Testament Israel, most were not, but nonetheless they were still children of God in a corporate and non-salvific sense.

This corporate adoption of Old Testament Israel can be seen in the New Testament as well. In Romans 9:2-4, as the apostle Paul expresses his desire to see fellow Jews come to Christ, he describes the various privileges which belong to the nation of Israel:

I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption of sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises (Rom 9:2-4).

According to this passage, Israel enjoyed the status of being adopted as Yahweh’s children even though the nation was largely unbelieving. Under the Old Covenant, then, a Jew who was part of the covenant community could be considered a child of God even though he himself was unsaved and on his way to hell, in need of the very gospel that Paul proclaimed.

According to paedobaptists, the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church requires us to baptize infants of believers. Regardless of their individual spiritual status, it is believed that they are children of God and therefore should be baptized as a mark of divine ownership just as infants were circumcised in the Old Testament.

Precisely where the paedobaptist sees continuity, however, Scripture indicates discontinuity, for under the New Covenant, only those who believe in Christ are children of God (Gal 4:5). The New Testament knows nothing of a corporate, non-salvific adoption of God’s people, but instead teaches an individual adoption unto eternal salvation (Eph 1:5).

For example, in Romans 8:15-17, the apostle Paul writes:

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption of sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Rom 8:15-17).

As Greg Welty notes, in Old Testament Israel, adoption belonged even to those who were destined for condemnation (Rom 9:2-4), but under the New Covenant it belongs only to those are destined for glory (Rom 8:15-17).

This can also be seen in John 1:11-13, where the apostle John describes how the nation of Israel rejected her Messiah:

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13).

According to this passage, nobody starts out as a child of God, regardless of his ancestry. An individual becomes a child of God not when he is born to Christian parents but rather when he believes in the name of Christ and is born again by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, unlike with the Old Covenant, everyone who is a child of God under the New Covenant has a right standing before Him and is eternally secure in Christ.

Baptism is indeed a mark of divine ownership, just as paedobaptists say it is. But as such, it should only be given to those who give evidence of having been redeemed and adopted by God as His children-those who profess repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Infant Baptism and Acts 2:39

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is an excerpt from the book.]

Perhaps the most common argument for infant baptism is found in the climax of the apostle Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter has just set forth the redemptive work of Jesus (vv. 22-35) and proclaimed that He is both Lord and Christ (v. 36), and his Jewish listeners are cut to the heart, asking, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter responds in Acts 2:38-39:

Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2:38-39).

The argument for infant baptism is found in Peter’s declaration that “the promise is for you and your children”-not just you, but you and your children. According to paedobaptists, the promise that Peter refers to in Acts 2:38-39 is the same promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 17:1-8. As Robert Booth explains:

This was a promise that [the Jews] would have heard of and talked about many times. Since they were now entering the new covenant era of the church, the question of their children’s relationship to the church would naturally have been on their minds. Being a Jew, Peter was certainly aware of their concern and immediately moved to address the issue. He assured them that the promise was still for them and their children….

Therefore, writes Booth, “If the children of believers are embraced by the promises of the covenant, as certainly they are, then they must also be entitled to receive the initial sign of the covenant, which is baptism.”

In addressing the meaning of Acts 2:39 and how it relates to infant baptism, it is helpful to consider three basic questions: What is the promise?; Who were the recipients of the promise?; and Who was baptized?

What Is the Promise?

In Acts 2:39, Peter says that “the promise” is for his hearers, for their children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord calls to Himself. Even though Peter does not specify the content of the promise here in this verse, his meaning was clear to his original hearers, for he had already referred to this promise several times in the earlier part of his sermon: (a) “I [God] will pour forth My Spirit” (v. 17); (b) “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (v. 33); and (c) “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). This promise is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the salvation that accompanies Him.

This understanding of the promise is further supported by Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4. In Luke 24:49, Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit, saying, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then, just before His ascension, Jesus commands His disciples “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4), a clear reference to the Holy Spirit.

But upon whom exactly will He pour out the Holy Spirit? To whom has He made this promise? This leads to the second question.

Who Are the Recipients of the Promise?

In Acts 2:39, Peter identifies three groups of individuals who are the recipients of this promise: (a) “you,” (b) “your children,” and (c) “all who are far off.” But Peter doesn’t stop there. Instead, he qualifies all three groups with the clause, “as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” In other words, to how many of you has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. To how many of your children has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. To how many of those who are far off has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to those whom He effectually calls and draws to Himself in salvation. This includes Peter’s immediate hearers (“you”), succeeding generations (“your children”), and even Gentiles in distant places (“all who are far off”).

The Greek words translated “as many as” (hosos an) in Acts 2:39 qualify and limit the recipients of the promise to those whom God calls to Himself in salvation. Their use in Mark 6:56 is similar:

And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as [hosos an] touched it were being cured (Mark 6:56).

Not everyone was cured-only those who touched the cloak. Likewise, in Acts 2:39, not everyone is a recipient of the promise-only those whom God effectually calls to Himself. This is clear from verse 38 as well, for only those who repent in response to the gospel will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in the very passage that paedobaptists hold up as an express indication of continuity, there is an express indication of discontinuity. After all, the promise is not for all of your children without exception (like the Abrahamic promise), but rather only for those whom the Lord calls to Himself in salvation.

As Paul Jewett notes, it seems that the paedobaptist ear is so attuned to the Old Testament echo (“you and your children”) that it is deaf to its New Testament crescendo (“and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself”). This is so much the case that I would estimate that most of the time I have heard or read a paedobaptist quote Acts 2:39 as an argument for infant baptism, he leaves off the final clause-“as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

In no way, then, does Peter single out the children of believers as recipients of the promise apart from the effectual calling of God, and in no way does he identify them as automatic members of the New Covenant and therefore rightful recipients of baptism as the sign of that covenant. What, then, if anything, does this passage indicate about the recipients of baptism? This leads to the third question.

Who Was Baptized?

After his declaration in Acts 2:39, Peter continues by exhorting the people of Israel to repent and be saved (Acts 2:40), and “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). What strikes me here is Luke’s description of those who were baptized: “those who had received his word.” Not “those who had received his word and their children“-just “those who had received his word.” Period. Only those who repented in response to the gospel were baptized.

In the end, the corresponding parallel that paedobaptists are looking for between Genesis 17 and Acts 2 is simply not there. Consider the differences: In Genesis 17, the covenant is “between Me and you and your descendants after you” without qualification (v. 10); but in Acts 2, the promise is for you and your children, but only for as many of you and your children as the Lord shall call to Himself (v. 39). In Genesis 17, the eight-day-old males are to be circumcised (v. 12); but in Acts 2, only those who repent are commanded to be baptized (v. 38). In Genesis 17, infants are circumcised; but in Acts 2, only those who received Peter’s word are baptized (v. 41). The account in Acts 2 actually provides better support for believer baptism than it does for infant baptism.

Interview with Matt Waymeyer on Infant Baptism: Part Two

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is part two of a two part interview conducted by Paul Lamey with Matt Waymeyer.]

PL: Are there one or two issues that seal the deal in such a way that makes it impossible for you to ever be a paedobaptist?

MW: In addition to what I see as an overall lack of biblical support for infant baptism, I would highlight specific points of discontinuity in redemptive history that undermine the paedobaptist argument. In particular, the newness of the New Covenant and the nature of the NT church refute this idea that the sign of the covenant should be applied to children of believers just as it was in OT Israel. Furthermore, the biblical teaching of baptism as the means by which an individual publicly professes his faith in Christ is also significant in my thinking. I believe that both of these present overwhelming obstacles for the paedobaptist position.

PL: Who would you say represents the opposing view (i.e., paedo) most effectively today?

MW: The two books I would recommend are Children of the Promise by Robert Booth and The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism edited by Gregg Strawbridge. Even though I believe that Booth misrepresents the Baptist position at times and therefore should be read with a bit of caution, his book is very clear, concise, and easy to read. I believe it was the first book I read on the subject, and I thought it was a very helpful introduction to a difficult issue. In addition to being just as good, the book edited by Strawbridge has the added advantage of exposing readers to a plethora of today’s leading paedobaptist voices-Bryan Chapell, Joel R. Beeke, Mark E. Ross, Richard L. Pratt, Cornelis Venema, Douglas Wilson, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Gregg Strawbridge, to name a few. For someone who is looking for a shorter treatment of the subject, I would recommend the booklets Why Do We Baptize Infants? by Bryan Chapell or What Christian Parents Should Know about Infant Baptism by John P. Sartelle.

PL: Can you give us an overview of how you approached the subject of infant baptism in the book? How is it organized?

MW: When I first started writing, my goal was to produce a short position paper of no more than eight pages. I had just come back from lunch with a close friend who was leaning toward infant baptism, and my thought was to tell him very simply in this paper why I rejected the view he was beginning to embrace. As a pastor, it is helpful to have these kinds of resources on hand, so I thought it might serve me for years to come. That afternoon I made a list of reasons why I personally came to reject paedobaptism, and eventually those six reasons became the six chapters of the book:

1. The Absence of a Direct Command

2. The Absence of a Biblical Example

3. The Absence of Compelling Evidence

4. The Breakdown of the Circumcision Argument

5. The Discontinuity of Redemptive History

6. The Significance of Biblical Baptism

In this way, the book is very much organized the way that I myself thought through the issue over the past decade or so. I tell people that my target audience in writing was the Matt Waymeyer of 13 years ago, back when I first started studying infant baptism. In other words, this is the book I wish I could have read at that time in my life.

PL: What did you find was the most difficult part of the process of writing this book?

MW: Probably the deadline pressure at the very end. Kress Christian Publications was very patient with me, but at some point you have to set a deadline and be firm about it. I always say that if you take your favorite activity in the whole world and put a stopwatch to it, some of the fun goes away. I feel that way about studying and preparing for sermons every week, and I definitely felt that way leading up to the final deadline for the book. My wife was a great encouragement to me during that time. She always seems to know just what to say to spur me on to be diligent and pursue excellence when my strength is failing and I’m looking for a shortcut.

PL: I know that you serve as a pastor, so how did you find time to write? Did it flow out of teaching you were doing in the church?

MW: No, I haven’t taught on infant baptism at our church because it hasn’t really been an issue among the people. I did most of my writing on Wednesday evenings while the kids were at AWANA and Julie was either helping out there or running errands for our family. At some point we sort of designated that as my time to study and write. I also worked on it here and there whenever I could find some time, often reading and editing in bed after Julie had fallen asleep. I hate to say it, but I also worked on it during vacations, but usually only after everyone else was asleep. For me, it is a very relaxing and energizing way to spend time, except when the sand begins to run low in the hourglass and the deadline draws near.

PL: I realize that the paedobaptist argument from church history is very compelling to many people. Does it bother you to hold a view of baptism which was rejected by so much of the church throughout the past 2,000 years?

MW: That’s a good question, especially because so many people find the argument from church history so compelling. I touch on this briefly in the book, but the conviction that drives me-and that should drive all of us as we study theological issues-is that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority on matters of doctrine and practice in the church. I agree that disregarding tradition and church history is arrogant and unwise, but ultimately you need to be committed to what you believe the Bible teaches, even if it contradicts years of ecclesiastical tradition.

Ironically, I think John Calvin said it best. At one point in his Institutes, Calvin is discussing his disagreement with Augustine, Chrysostom, and some other church fathers on a certain issue, and he exhorts his readers to not be troubled by the fact that his view does not conform to their view. “We ought not to so value their authority,” Calvin writes, “as to let it shake the certainty of Scripture.” In the end, even though I believe Calvin was dead wrong about baptism, he couldn’t have been more right about Scripture-we must never so value the authority of fallible theologians as to let it shake the certainty of the Word of God.

Interview with Matt Waymeyer on Infant Baptism: Part One

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is part one of a two part interview conducted by Paul Lamey with Matt Waymeyer.]

PL: First a book on the millennial debate in Revelation 20 and now a critique of infant baptism. You’re not exactly swinging for popular fences here. Why can’t you get with the program?

MW: Well I can assure you that I certainly don’t sit around and try to think of ways to be a thorn in the side of Presbyterians! Actually, the original reason I was drawn to the issue of infant baptism 13 years ago was a very practical one-my wife and I were newly married and hoping for children, and the anticipation of having babies has a way of forcing you to wrestle with this issue.

To put this into context, I had spent the previous year attending a wonderful PCA church in Orlando where I felt very much at home theologically. I had recently come to embrace the doctrines of grace and was growing in my appreciation for all things reformed. On top of that, I was taking a Greek class at Reformed Theological Seminary and trying to decide where to go to seminary full-time once Julie and I were married.

Because I had not yet studied covenant theology and infant baptism, I narrowed down my decision to either The Master’s Seminary or Westminster Theological Seminary. In fact, even after I decided to go to TMS, I remember telling my wife that I might end up transferring to Westminster West depending on where I landed on this issue. So studying the significance of baptism became a very high priority to me, even in that first semester at TMS, and now, 13 years later, it has ultimately evolved into the writing of a book.

PL: Since there is no shortage of ink on this issue, in what way do you hope to make a lasting contribution to the discussion? Are there areas you feel have been underrepresented?

MW: In terms of a making a contribution, this may sound idealistic, but my ultimate goal is to be part of the larger process in the Body of Christ of striving toward like-mindedness on this issue. This was very much what motivated me in the writing of this book. I have so much appreciation for my paedobaptist brothers-and so much in common with them when it comes to things like the sovereignty of God in salvation-and so baptism is left as one of those issues where we have still have some work to do.

As far as areas that have been underrepresented in the discussion, I think the primary one involves the biblical significance of baptism itself. In the final chapter of my book, I endeavor to show that the Bible teaches that baptism is, among other things, the divinely ordained means by which an individual publicly confesses his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism, in other words, is a profession of faith. Rather than simply pointing out the weaknesses of the argument for infant baptism, I believe that we Baptists need to show how a careful exegesis of Scripture leads to this conclusion and therefore leads us to reject the practice of infant baptism. Hopefully I have made noticeable strides in this direction in A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism.

PL: How do you want our Presbyterian brothers to read this book?

MW: There’s always a danger of coming across as condescending when you answer a question like this, but I guess I would hope that they read it with a willingness to revisit the biblical passages they often cite in favor of their position. Our theology must always flow out of a careful exegesis of the biblical text, and I don’t think this approach has always been done by those who argue for infant baptism. There are too many sweeping statements supported only by a proof-text which has not been carefully examined in its original context.

To whet your appetite with an example, Romans 4:11 is commonly cited as support for the teaching of infant baptism, but I believe that most paedobaptists have misunderstood Paul’s point about Abraham’s circumcision in this verse. If you read it in context, and pay close attention to the purpose clause in the second half of verse 11 and in verse 12, you realize that the apostle Paul is not defining the significance of circumcision in general, but rather the circumcision of Abraham in particular as one who stood in a unique place in the flow of redemptive history. As Dr. Greg Welty shows in his article, “From Circumcision to Baptism,” this completely undermines the paedobaptist argument from Romans 4:11. If you have the chance, read Welty’s article-it really is excellent.

On a more personal level, I would hope that Presbyterians would read this book as coming from the pen of a friend. As I mentioned in the introduction to the book, I consider my paedobaptist brethren to be precious comrades in the battle for truth in areas of theology more critical than this one. So rather than reading the book as an attack on them or their theology, I would hope they would read it as an invitation to look again at Scripture to see whether the things they have believed on this issue are truly so.

Look for Part Two tomorrow

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