3 Questions on the Sacraments

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Puritan Board Freshman
In Berkhoff’s Summary of Christian doctrine he says this regarding Baptism:

"Others take the position that they [infants] are baptized on the ground of the all-comprehensive covenant promise of God, which also includes the promise of regeneration. This view deserves preference. The covenant promise affords the only certain and objective ground for the baptism of infants. But if the question is raised, how infant baptism can function as a means of grace to strengthen spiritual life, the answer is that it can at the very moment of its administration strengthen the regenerate life, if already present in the child and can strengthen faith later on when the significance of baptism is more clearly understood. Its operation is not necessarily limited to the very moment of its administration.”

1. How can baptism strengthen the infant at the moment of administration? An infant can’t understand what’s going on. I’m a paedo so this isn’t a hidden argument for credo.

2. The operation of baptism is not limited to the moment of its administration. Is this the case also for the Lord’s Supper?

3. Could children in the OT partake of the Passover meal? If so, and the new covenant administration is open to more people, which is one of the arguments put forth to support infant baptism, why does Paul restrict the Lord’s Supper to those who can discern? Wouldn’t that be more restrictive (assuming children could partake in the Passover meal?) I’m not paedo-communion.

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Puritan Board Freshman
1. Just because we don’t discern it doesn’t mean God isn’t at work.

2. Sure

3. In the Exodus Passover, children would have eaten as they would have any other meal, and infants would have nursed. In the commemorative feast of unleavened bread (I.e. all those Passovers after they came into the land), there is evidence of a catechizing element, “What meaneth this?”

Also, our Lord’s Supper replaces all the feasts, not just Passover.


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
1. Faith involves three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust. An infant child doesn't need a good dose of intellectual cognition to trust its mother; it just trusts her, based on an extremely small amount of information or ability in the cognitive department. The point is not how much one has of any of the elements, but whether the object of faith is worthy.

God can regenerate a child in utero, example John the Baptist. To be regenerate means, necessarily, the reality of faith. God can give such a gift, even if he does so rarely (or maybe he does often, and we just don't know when it took place; but we only see the effects later). In any case, Berkhof says that the sacrament strengthens the faith that is there, if it is there. That's the promise, and we don't accept the promises of God only after we understand them analytically with sufficient penetration. Simple faith takes God at his word, the way we take trusted human beings at their word.

The strengthening of faith by means of sacrament may apply exclusively (at the time of an infant baptism) to trust; whereas in later time, it applies to knowledge and assent according to the development of those elements.

2. There is no specific reason to limit the efficacy of the Lord's Supper to the time of administration; however, in the nature of that sacrament, the ordinary working of its effect is unto mature faith, faith with maturity sufficient to discern the Lord's body according to the Lord's meaning when he taught the Supper to his disciples. So, we should expect the strengthening to be as much of an immediate effect, as regular food begins to strengthen the body upon eating it.

3. I don't personally believe children partook of the original Passover, nor the memorial sacrament. In any case, the memorial Passover was (like all Israelite rituals) tied to sacrifices, and any participation in the religious life of the people required ritual purity or cleanness. This factor absolutely required an individual to do self-examination. Because, failure to participate in sacrifices and their feasts in an unclean state resulted (for an extreme discipline case) in excommunication or literal death, see Leviticus 7:20.

Cleanness was non-negotiable. When some men ate the Passover in an unclean state, it required a prayer and petition to God for his dispensation, to forgive (heal); see 2Chron.30:18-20. Children would be no less responsible for a clean state, than would an adult. Parents didn't get to decide for their child if he/she was "clean enough," and make that determination. Where's the evidence for anything like that in Scripture? Sorry, no "age of accountability" for the Passover, after which it became dangerous to eat carelessly.


Puritan Board Freshman
Hey Timmay,

2. The operation of baptism is not limited to the moment of its administration. Is this the case also for the Lord’s Supper?

I think Berkhoff was reiterating the classic reformed teaching on Baptism here and I don't think the same can be directly applied to the Lord's Supper. WCF says "the efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered". But the difference between Baptism and the Lord's Supper is that the former is only administered once and it avails us "through the whole course of our life" (Belgic) whereas the latter is administered frequently. Calvin wrote

"we should be very certain that at whatever time we are baptized we are once and for all washed and purged for as long as we live. Thus every time we fall again into sin we must recall the memory of our baptism...through it [we] grow strong in our confidence that our sins are always forgiven us...In it the purity of Jesus Christ is offered to us; it is always powerful, always endures and is affected by no stain."

The Lord's Supper signifies our union with Christ and us being one substance with him, so on and so forth. And we are certainly united with Christ throughout the whole course of our life. But there must be a reason why this sacrament is given to us frequently. For Calvin, the signs of bread and wine cause and communicate what they signify, namely the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. For Bullinger, the signs aren't the cause but we do feed on Christ at the same time we eat the bread and drink the wine. Either you agree with Calvin or Bullinger, we do receive the body and blood of Christ at the moment we partake of this sacrament.
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