Why Do We Do That in Worship? Covenant Baptism
(Thanks to First Presbyterian Church, Jackson MS for much of this)
“Every time we baptize an infant we bear witness that salvation is from God, that we cannot do any good thing to secure it, that we all enter the Kingdom of heaven therefore as little children, who do not do, but are done for.” (B.B. Warfield)
Baptism is a sign of a covenant promise of God to His people, directly instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, in which Jesus has directed that water is to be applied, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to represent to us and assure us of the glorious realities of union with Christ, forgiveness of sins by His blood, regeneration by His Holy Spirit; our adoption, and our hope of resurrection to everlasting life. By baptism, the recipients are solemnly, publicly admitted into the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.
Baptism is a new covenant sign. That is, it points to and confirms the gracious saving promise of God to His people and its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It is to be administered to believers and their children, as can be seen from Genesis 17, Matthew 28, Colossians 2 and Acts 16 among other places. The earliest evidence of church history also affirms this.
Christian baptism is (1) commanded by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (2) It is to be applied to believers as we see in Acts 8 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning to see from Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (3) It is to be administered to believers and their children, as we are convinced that Baptism is parallel to the OT sign of the Covenant of grace which was circumcision. Genesis 17 (“I will establish My covenant between Me, and you, and your descendants”). See Acts 2:39 for the NT parallel. Colossians 2 affirms this parallel between circumcision and baptism as well. (In Christ “you were also circumcised….having been buried with Him in baptism”). Baptism has fulfilled and replaced circumcision as a new and better sign as the sign of God’s covenant and as a mark of membership in the visible church. Acts 16:11-15 is one of several examples of entire households being baptized after the conversion of one of a parent (“Lydia…was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And…she and her household [were] baptized”)—which shows us the pattern of the earliest church in covenant baptism. See also Acts 16:25-34 and 1 Cor. 1:16 for other similar examples.
Baptism (and especially “infant baptism” or covenant baptism) beautifully points to the initiative of God’s love. He reached out to us, when we could not reach out to Him. It is thus a perfect picture of sovereign, saving grace. It is the picture of what He says He will do for His people in Ezekiel 36:25-27: I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules
At Christ Community Church, we baptize the children of believers, as well as adult professing believers who have not been previously baptized, in accordance with Scripture. Adults, in this way, are recognized as disciples of Jesus Christ through the means of baptism and confession of faith (see Acts 2:38, 8:35-37, Romans 10:9), and so it is our great joy and privilege from time to time, to hear new Christians profess their trust in Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior of sinners, as He is offered in the gospel, and to see them receive the mark of membership in the covenant community.