Paedo-Baptism Answers Baptism into the visible church - John 4 and Pentecost

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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Westminster Confession of Faith states that baptism is, at least in part "for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church". The London Baptist Confession does not contain such language. I am wondering how you would answer the objection that the WCF is wrong in this assertion, because of the examples of baptism being administered to those who were already ostensibly "in" the visible church (Jesus' disciples in John 4 and the 3,000 Jews at Pentecost). When I survey the examples of baptism in the NT, every single one of them corresponds to admission into the visible church except those two examples, unless I am missing something. Secondly, If someone asked you to defend the assertion of the confession through scripture proofs, how would you respond?

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't know that I see an issue about baptism (the NT sign of covenant inclusion) being administered to those who were part of the sign of visible membership in the OT. Maybe I don't understand the objection. I'll take a stab at it, though.

Two things I see with the hypothetical interlocutor's questions: first, Baptist ecclesiology inherently rejects the visible/invisible church distinction believing that the New Covenant is only related to the elect from the moment of their conversion onwards. This first point effectively divorces the OT sacramental sign of covenant membership from that of the NT. Where we see continuity between the two and would point to passages such as Acts 2 (Peter's sermon) or Colossians 2, Baptists stress discontinuity. Basically, the question, posed by a Baptist, presumably, betrays the Baptist assumptions about the covenant membership of saints OT or NT. Second, the adoption of the Apostolic teaching of baptism to replace circumcision (per the ordinance of Christ) is necessary to submit to its administration (at least to avoid serious sin).

As to your second question, I would first inquire if I'm asked to give a chapter and verse answer saying explicitly what they deem acceptable in meeting their standards. That's a double-edged sword and many doctrines would "fail" due to such a silly standard. Even though the LBCF doesn't have the clause pertaining to good and necessary consequences, all Christians operate with their sanctified reasoning, so to speak. That being said, I would point to the many examples of our Lord and Savior speaking of one group being separated from another in the Gospels. I would also point to the passages in John's writing that speaks of deceivers or others in the midst of the saints proving themselves as false. Much of the theme in Hebrews speaks of the nature of church membership and faithfulness. I know I'm not giving direct chapters and verses, but I believe it really is more about the themes seen in Scripture from start to finish.

Again, I fail to see an issue here that needs defending.


Puritan Board Junior
Just to add a few verses which speak to the distinction within the visible church between the elect and reprobate:

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." John 8:31

"Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" John 1:47

"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve." John 6:66-71

Here we see Christ Himself making the distinction between those who are true disciples, true Israelites, and those who are merely outward disciples (but both categories of disciples being members of the visible church). And we see this distinction working itself out in practice when many of His disciples fell away because His teaching was too hard, i.e. they assented to the doctrine but their hearts were not changed.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
My immediate thought: The arrival of the Christ was a momentous, capstone event. For those who were already part of the (pre-Christ's-arrival) visible church at the time, Christ's arrival was the fulfillment of the whole reason that church existed and the whole purpose behind its worship. So, you can be a perfectly upstanding member of that visible church (like Zechariah in Luke 1:6), but if you fail to believe the gospel of Jesus (Luke 1:19-20) and reject his visit from on high (Luke 1:78-79), the church will be moving forward without you. Christ's arrival is that pivotal.

Therefore, it makes sense that to remain in the visible church you need to confess Christ and believe the gospel—and receive the new sign of admission to the church that connects you to Christ by name and recognizes your alignment with him. In a sense you are only continuing a visible alignment with Christ you already had as part of the pre-Christ's-arrival church. We recognize that. But we also should see that this new age comes with a new, fullness-of-time sign of membership in Christ, so that for those particular believers at that particular time there's also a sense of readmission or continued admission. They too can feel brought in or added (Acts 2:41, 47).

Don't get too stuck on the question, "If they were already in, how can their baptism mean they are getting in?" Suppose you were subject to a king who built a temporary castle to house his people, with the goal of one day moving to a larger and more inclusive castle once it was built. When that new castle is ready and the moving day comes, you who were already part of the kingdom need to follow your king into the new castle where his kingdom will continue and expand. You will go in again, through the new and wider gates, along with everyone who is entering for the first time. You were already in, but you are also newly in, because the momentous event you were waiting for has just occurred.
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