Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Scandal of Infant Baptism

Romans 9:6-16.

I believe that Luther was right when he insisted that the meaning of baptism is best revealed in infant baptism. Infant baptism is the norm. Adult baptisms are not. When the passive, utterly dependent infant is carried down the isle and has water poured upon her, this is a powerful reminder of the utterly free and sovereign grace of God. The sacrament is the work of God upon the child, not vise versa. Faith never comes first to be followed by God’s grace. God’s grace comes first and enables infants, children, and adults to believe. The sacrament of infant baptism is all about the free electing grace of God.

I believe this is the great scandal of infant baptism, which is so despised in America, the land that celebrates individual freedom and self-appointed destiny. Baptism reminds us that man is at the mercy of God and self-appointed destiny is a delusion. God freely saves helpless infant-like people. Baptism is not primarily the outward confession of the faith of the baptized. The action symbolized in this sacrament is not horizontal, but vertical, the movement from heaven to earth, from God to man. It is not a confession of what man has done or of the faith someone possess or of the experience that someone may have had. Infant Baptism is all about God in his Sovereign freedom acting upon a passive infant.

The infant has done nothing to merit such a covenant, such a gracious relationship. The infant cannot even exercise adult faith. There is nothing that the infant does to draw down the love of God. The love of God is freely given. With nothing foreseen or foreknown. This infant, in the all-controlling providence of God, was born by God’s precise appointment into this Christian family. And now God will formally enter into covenant with the child without asking the child’s permission. Without securing the child’s consent. The child is passive. The child does nothing.

The child by Adamic nature deserves eternal death. This is not a child dedication. As cute and as lovable as these children who are brought to the baptismal font are, unless we have abandoned the biblical faith, we must confess that they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are not to be paraded around the sanctuary before they are baptized as if this were some sentimental ceremony. Gee, God loves little babies so much doesn’t he? Well . . . he loves those who have been washed from their corruption and guilt. And he loves those babies who are united to his beloved Son Jesus Christ. And that is what we are about here at this font.

God will cleanse and deliver this little girl, even though she was born in sin. This is the meaning of the water being poured from above. Nothing and nobody - not the parents not the baby girl - nobody has any influence over God in the salvation of this child. No amount of Parental technique will assure her salvation. God decides her destiny. It comes from above, like the sprinkling.

This is the scandal of infant baptism. All baptism is infant baptism. Every adult who submits to baptism does so as a little child. Everyone enters the kingdom in the same way, as helpless children. Every baptism is a ritual reminder that God alone saves sinners. It is not a ritual display of the faith of the one being baptized, not for adults and certainly not for children. All baptisms are infant baptisms. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”


Anonymous said...

Older candidates for baptism are LESS capable of responding to God's grace than infants through the hardening effect of sin.

Try preaching the gospel in an old-age home!

Jeff Meyers said...

Interesting point, Roger. Add to this the fact that God has made infants and young children so that they learn whatever is taught to them by their adult parents and teachers. They are sponges. This is sometimes thought by rationalistic Christians to make their child-like beliefs insincere and untrustworthy. But when adults are most faithful and godly they are not busy working everything out for themselves, but simply receiving and believing what they hear in the Word and from faithful pastors and elders. No one ever outgrows the need for child-like faith, a posture that actually improves with genuine maturity.

Anonymous said...

A good definition of maturity.

This Sunday Carl Frederick will be received into the Kingdom of God by Holy Baptism. :)

He is three weeks old.

Unknown said...

Mr. Meyers, that is a very eloquent and powerful reminder that the ways of God are not the ways of man. You have shown how God presents us with another loving reminder of who He is and who we are, yet we twist His perfect communication into a reflection of our own pride. Sin gets so tiresome.

Anonymous said...

Brother Jeff...very interesting post concerning the correlation between baptism and election. I linked to it at my blog and have received several responses from Baptist brethern, both through comments and email.

The response that is coming from most Baptists is that baptism was not meant to convey election. I am curious if you could give some type of biblical-theological or exegetical reflection on the correlation between baptism and election?

Thanks, James Grant

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this eloquent explanation. My husband and I both grew up in Baptist churches and were drawn to the Reformed faith when newly married 5 years ago. Our first child was born in November, and baptized on her father's birthday when she was only 6 days old. We are so thankful for the promises of God applied to her. Your words here will do much to explain our position to family and friends who are still skeptical.

BlackNTanInTheAM said...

Here, to whet your whistle

3) Does the WCF’s qualification of “and that even to infants” equivocate the sacrament for them? That is, the WCF does not in any way qualify how baptism for the infant is different than the adult. Indeed, it assumes them to be the same. That is, when finished describing what baptism is a se for the worthy recipient, the WCF then asks if infants of believers are to receive the sign too. It answers unequivocally, Yes. And that with no disclaimers at all.

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