Archive for the ‘baptism’ Category

A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism: An Introduction

[Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will post excerpts from Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) and a two part interview with the author. The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following excerpt is from the Introduction.]

The birth of a baby brings indescribable joy and excitement, as well as a delightful anticipation of what the future holds for the little one. For some Christian parents, however, it also brings a measure of apprehension, for it raises the unsettling question of infant baptism. Should we have our baby baptized? Or is baptism only for those who profess faith in Christ? The question is a significant one, and with godly theologians on both sides of the issue, how can the average believer possibly decide?

Shortly after I was married thirteen years ago, I read my first article in defense of infant baptism. I had spent the previous year happily attending a Presbyterian church where I had grown in my appreciation for reformed theologians and the contribution they had made to my understanding of the doctrines of grace. It only seemed natural that the next step would be to embrace infant baptism, and now, with children hopefully on the way soon, the time to begin my study had arrived.

As I began to read the article, I was secretly hoping to be convinced. Some of my closest friends at the time had made the leap-or at least were in the process-and they seemed hopeful that I too would complete my own personal reformation. In addition, it seemed easier to categorize myself as a Presbyterian than as the theological hybrid I found myself becoming. And besides, how could the church have been wrong on this one for so long?

As I continued to read, however, I found myself less than convinced. I like to think of myself-as most believers do-as being committed to the Scriptures, and as I looked at the biblical arguments presented in the article, I just wasn’t seeing it. I went on to read everything I could get my hands on in favor of infant baptism. In fact, I read hundreds of pages in defense of paedobaptism before reading a single paragraph against it. I was trying to be open-minded, but as I said, I just wasn’t seeing it. And to put it simply, I still don’t.

The purpose of this book is to set forth the reasons I have come to reject infant baptism. You might think of it as an opportunity to eavesdrop on my thoughts on the issue as I’ve wrestled with it over the past decade. I do not offer these arguments in a spirit of antagonism or contempt toward my paedobaptist brothers and sisters. To the contrary, even now as I write, I am reminded of how deeply indebted I am to several dear friends who differ with me on this issue-indebted for their love and commitment to me in very specific ways during times of great personal need. Furthermore, without intending to undermine the significance of the issue of baptism, I should mention that I consider my paedobaptist friends to be precious comrades in the battle for truth in areas of theology more critical than this one.

With that said, I offer six reasons that I reject infant baptism, each of which will be explained in its own chapter. My prayer is that they will be received not as the latest round of artillery in a battle between enemies, but rather as an earnest attempt to strive toward like-mindedness among brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. May the Lord bless each of us as we apply ourselves to the common goal of conforming our thoughts and lives to the truth of His Word.

Is Baptism the Sign of the New Covenant?

Let me start by saying that I have no theological axe to grind on this issue, and I am not trying to protect or attack any particular doctrinal view in raising this question. I am simply trying to think and speak more biblically about the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

With that said, my question is this: Is baptism the sign of the New Covenant? This seems to be the common assumption, but I think it is an assumption worth challenging. As I have begun to wrestle with this—and I am only now in the beginning stages—I have come to four conclusions:

First, the Bible does not use the word “sign” in connection with the New Covenant. The two candidates for the sign of the New Covenant would seem to be water baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But since neither one is explicitly referred to as the “sign” of the New Covenant, it is difficult to be dogmatic one way or the other.

Second, there is clear biblical data which seems to suggest that the Lord’s Supper is the sign of the New Covenant. At the Last Supper, when Jesus held up the bread and said to His disciples, “This is My body” (Luke 22:19), He meant that it symbolically represented or signified His body. Likewise, when He held up the cup and said “This cup…is the New Covenant” (Luke 22:20), He meant that it symbolically represented or signified the New Covenant. Therefore, as that which signifies the New Covenant, the Lord’s Supper at least appears to be the sign of the New Covenant.

Third, although baptism does symbolize the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16)—which is one of the key promises of the New Covenant—it is never explicitly connected to the New Covenant itself in the way that the Lord’s Supper is.

Fourth, the Lord’s Supper seems to be a more likely candidate for the sign of the New Covenant because believers celebrate it regularly—perhaps even weekly (1 Cor 11:23-26; Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7)—in contrast to how believers are baptized only once. This regular reminder seems to fit better with the pattern of the previous covenant signs which served as recurring reminders of their respective covenants: a rainbow periodically appears in the sky as a reminder of the Noahic Covenant (Gen 9:8-17); circumcision (or at least its effects) provided a regular reminder of the Abrahamic Covenant to the one who had been circumcised (Gen 17:10-14); and the Sabbath provided a weekly reminder of the Mosaic Covenant (Exod 31:12-17). In contrast, an individual is baptized just once, and when the ordinance has been completed, there is no recurring reminder (other than the baptism of other individuals).

Therefore, if there is but one sign of the New Covenant, and if that sign is the Lord’s Supper, then it would seem unbiblical to refer to baptism as the sign of the New Covenant. Two concluding questions:

  1. Where is the breakdown in this argument?
  2. If baptism is not “the sign of the New Covenant,” how exactly should we think of it and refer to it? In other words, precisely what relationship does baptism have to the New Covenant?
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