General Pattern of Baptism in the NT

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by HisRobes4Mine, Mar 16, 2019.

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  1. HisRobes4Mine

    HisRobes4Mine Puritan Board Freshman

    My wife and I have been having some serious discussions about baptism recently. I lean paedo while she remains staunch credo. One of the points that keeps her credo is the general pattern of the NT being “repent and then be baptized.” Essentially the argument is that faith must proceed the giving of the covenant sign.

    Is it possible to demonstrate that the giving of the covenant sign can be given to someone prior to expressing faith without going back into the OT?
  2. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    This still references the OT, though quoted and applied in the NT:

    "How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
    And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised." (Rom. 4:10-12)

    In the OT, believing preceded the sign of the covenant. Abraham is still the father of believers. There is no difference between the OT and NT in this regard.

    Should OT infants have received the sign of the covenant? They did. Was this household principle abrogated or further established in the NT? Who was baptized? Households!

    Hope this helps...
  3. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior


    Your on to something here. In fact this is the same formula Abraham showed us. Abraham has faith first! But then he also shows us it was valid to give the sign before faith was actually evidenced (to his children). Hope that helps.

    In other words, the pattern your wife is rightly picking up on, is not unique to the NT. That pattern has it’s origin in the OT. However your wife is leaving out another pattern, Covenant Children, which is also in the OT FIRST and then the NT.
  4. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Brother, I must remember to say a prayer for you. My wife and I changed positions at the same time studying the Scriptures together. There was one pount where we had disagreement, and it required great care and tenderness. Theological switches are never easy because our whole lives are structured around our positions. May God give you both light and wisdom.

    @Grant Jones and @timfost have given us a very clear example of an OT convert who believed and repented before being circumcised, and that is great precedence of what was required of any Gentile convert before either he or his family could become members of the OT church--they must believe and repent. So the requirements for admission in the NT have an ancient precedent.

    My time is limited, but continuing that vein: Can we really say it not required of Gentile converts--outsiders coming into Israel--in the OT to repent and believe, or have some believable profession? I can't possibly imagine the answer is no when God had such a demand of holiness from the covenant people, both internal and external demands. Were I an elder in Israel I dont think I'd ever appoint circumcision to one who clung to his idols, continued in adultery, or was not willing to be justified before God in the way that Abraham was. It'd go against the whole point of being a holy and separate people. As God had said in other circumstances, "I will be sanctified by those who draw near to me" Leviticus 10. And clearly, as OT history shows, this demand was enforced.
  5. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    The pattern for unbelieving ADULTS is indeed the reality first, then the "rite". But the pattern for CHILDREN of believing households is rather the "rite" first, which is expected and prayed and hoped to be followed by the reality.

    The best and clearest example is what Grant quoted from Romans 4:11. Abraham, the unbelieving man, embraces the reality of the covenant (faith) first, which is followed by the sign (circumcision). But then what does he do with his 8 day old sons? Rather, what does God command him to do for his 8 day old sons? Who could in no way at that point have believed as he himself did? God commands them to receive the sign before faith could have ever been possible. For a more thorough explanation, see:, especially pages 6 and following in the document.
  6. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    How about 1 Cor, which talks about having one believing parent, the other parent is sanctified and so are the children. There seems to be a treatment of the family as a unit in regards to the visible covenant.

    Or 1 Peter, where it directly connects the ark to baptism. You have to ask yourself, was everyone on the ark elect?

    You have the Colossians passage that connects circumcision to baptism.

    Beeke makes a good case that in all cases the NT is better than the OT (baptism is girls whereas circumcision is only boys, no longer converting to Judaism, etc). To not accept the children as part of the visible covenant would be a step back.

    I think the burden of proof is on your wife. The NT speaks strongly on things that change (eat pork, no sacrifices, etc). Where is the argument saying children should be treated differently?

    1 Corinthians 7:13-16
    If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

    Matthew Henry
    This way of speaking is according to the dialect of the Jews, among whom a child begotten by parents yet heathens, was said to be begotten out of holiness; and a child begotten by parents made proselytes was said to be begotten intra sanctitatem--within the holy enclosure. Thus Christians are called commonly saints; such they are by profession, separated to be a peculiar people of God, and as such distinguished from the world; and therefore the children born to Christians, though married to unbelievers, are not to be reckoned as part of the world, but of the church, a holy, not a common and unclean seed.​

    1 Peter 3:18-22
    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

    Colossians 2:11-12
    In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
  7. Bill Duncan

    Bill Duncan Puritan Board Freshman

    As you see from these men, as they are sending you to the OT for references, which is the only place to build any confidence in any doctrine, you are looking in the wrong place for the answers. You must look to the old testament for an understanding of sacramental baptism.
    You say that you "lean" towards paedo-. That makes you the wrong person to be instructing her on this doctrine. You need someone who is skilled in teaching this doctrine to both of you. I assume your Church is baptistic. If it is, you should submit to the doctrine taught there. If you want to instruct her in a different doctrine then you should go to Church that teaches that doctrine. By teaching a doctrine which is contrary to that which your Church adheres to is teaching her that your Church is wrong on this point. The logical conclusion is that if they are wrong on one doctrine they may be wrong on others. This is acting as a disrupting factor to her and counterproductive to the work of the shepherds of your Church.
    You are in a difficult position to say the least. However you can look at this as an opportunity put wheels on various graces God offers you.
    1. You may patiently wait upon the Lord' hand of providence to teach you and her.
    2. You may exercise your headship, and leave this Church. Then join a Church which teaches the doctrine that you hold to.
    3. The two of you can attend different Churches.
    4. You can do nothing.
    None of these will be easy, but neither is a sojourn through any wilderness. In fact, that a good place to see the emphasis God puts on this doctrine. God sought to kill Moses for not performing the sign of the Covenant on his own son. Moses did not take responsibility for his own family, and his wife had to do it. She saved his life. God takes this stuff seriously, shouldn't we? (Exodus 4)
  8. B.L. McDonald

    B.L. McDonald Puritan Board Freshman

    The answer is no. One can not provide an example from the Bible where someone received the sign of the new covenant prior to expressing faith.

    To quote B.B. Warfield from p. 399 of his book Studies in Theology, "The warrant for infant baptism is not to be sought in the New Testament but in the Old Testament."

    To quote John Murray from p. 72 of his book Christian Baptism, "One of the most persuasive objections and one which closes the argument for a great many people is that there is not express command to baptize infants and no record in the New Testament of a clear case of infant baptism...The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference..."
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The idea of silence in the NT is not a valid rationale; the continuity of scripture is; to hold to the former is no less than dispensationalism. God has always worked through covenant and to disregard this is akin to disregarding an attribute of God.

    There are other doctrines that we can see a level of silence in the NT, that many have no argument with, but when it comes down to the subject of 'baptism', hang their hat on that one.

    The idea that we see no direct command to negate the placing of the sign on our children, according to the OT commands, is never really dealt with; In fact, we see a number of scenarios where families are baptized. The idea of silence, on the other hand, says much as it could be easily said that the reason we see no examples where infants receive the sign is secondary to the fact that the writers of the NT took for granted that the readers would by default, given the way God has always worked, take into consideration the continuity of scripture when considering the perpetuity of the covenant sign and it's application in the NT church.
  10. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes I think it is possible, though not advisable since Reformed theology teaches that God is one and so his covenant of grace is one, though differently adminstered (see WCF 7.5).

    You will see this in the NT when you distinguish between the command to baptise and a command to be baptised. Obviously they are related but the former addresses the one who baptises and the latter the ones who are baptised.

    Note that the former is inclusive insofar as it embraces nations and households (Matthew 28; Acts - household baptisms), and thus authorises the application of baptism to more than those who confess the faith.

    The latter is exclusive insofar as it restricts the application to conscious, confessing recipients. This restriction of baptism to adherents is due to the nature of the covenant God i.e. with believers but the admission of the children of believers is also due to the nature of the covenant that God makes, when he embraces the families of those who believe.

    I explore this more at my blog if you would like to study this further:
  11. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Of course the NT pattern is the baptism of believers, because there were yet no Christian covenant children in existence to whom to give the sign of baptism. Because Acts takes place during the epochal shift, to where the only possibility is that Christians for a time would arise because of direct conversion and not family heritage, this only makes sense.

    Bavinck says as much:

    "First of all, we need to overcome our astonishment over the fact that the New Testament nowhere explicitly mentions infant baptism. This fact can be explained by saying that in the days of the New Testament, the baptism of adults was the rule, and the baptism of infants, if it occurred at all, was the exception. It was the period in which the Christian church had been founded and expanded by conversions from Judaism and paganism. It is precisely that transition that is clearly depicted in baptism. Adult baptism is therefore the original baptism; infant baptism is derivative; the former must not be conformed to the latter, but the latter must be conformed to the former. The validity of infant baptism does not lapse on that account"

    —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend, vol. 4, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 526.​
  12. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Yes, it is the error of Marcionism.
  13. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Whenever I learned that there were household baptisms in the New Testament, the whole notion of infant baptism seemed a lot less objectionable. It also requires you to go back to the OT to fully understand its significance. If initially arguing from the OT is not going to work with your wife, then start here and work your way back to the OT from this starting point.
  14. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    A lot (if not all) of doctrine is best understood reading all of scripture. I do not see how you can understand the atonement if you do not see how, starting in Gen 3 and on, the blood of another provides the means to reconcilation. Or how can you understand Christian morality without plumbing what the OT says? There are plenty of examples that show how the NT relies on the old, and so why should how God covenants with his people (not an insignificant thing) not be influenced by the OT.
  15. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Of course it does, but if you are dealing with someone who says "no OT arguments allowed" then simply citing OT arguments is not going to work with them initially. As a principled pragmatist, I believe in initially using arguments that will work with the person to whom you are addressing them. Once the initial hurdle about support from the NT is overcome, then you can go back and correct their erroneous suppositions concerning the OT.
  16. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Why separate the OT so violently from the NT? I would not acknowledge the desired parameters to satisfy a person’s curiosity or cause for objection. If they want to properly discuss the matter, they have to acknowledge the totality of its evidence.
  17. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    It is an accommodation to the prejudices of your opponent with the ultimate end in sight of correcting their erroneous assumptions. Just like if you were arguing with a Jew who did not accept the New Testament witness to the Messiah, you would seek to refute them out of the Old Testament.
  18. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree to an extent. However, the man’s bride is a Christian and thus must accept the whole testament of God. Granted, this is done with grace.

    Again, you have stated a truth that is indeed crucial for many interactions with those possessing differences of position.
  19. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    For people who have been influenced by Dispensationalism, however, it is difficult to get through to them that the Old Testament is not the Word of God emeritus. That is why I suggest beginning with an argument that appeals to their prejudice in the hope that they will eventually see that their prejudice is mistaken.
  20. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    Wise words. I’ll concede.
  21. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Freshman

    I am thinking of bringing to light obvious places (aka moral law) that the NT relies on the OT. What would your example of a dispensationist response be?
  22. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Would they not argue that they accept the OT commands when the NT repeats them? Is that not why most (if not all) of them reject the idea that the Sabbath remains valid in the NT?
  23. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    This was certainly true in my case.

    Although on this forum we obviously want to make our arguments from Scripture and hold it as our ultimate authority, other supplemental lines of attack may be helpful initially.

    The issue that kept nagging me as a Baptist was the nigh universal practice of paedobaptism in the early church. It seemed to me that the paedo matter would naturally have come up in the early churches, and the apostles and their appointed elders would have said, "No, sorry. 18 years or older only may apply" (as some Baptists would have it). And that would have become established practice.

    Now here's the rub: we know that the doctrine and rationale behind a practice can change very rapidly, as the theology behind baptism certainly did. A practice itself, however, will nearly always be held in a death-grip by some stubborn congregation or another, at least leaving some trace evidence.

    In order for credo to be true, we have to believe that the practice of paedobaptism was universally adopted in every corner of the empire, even in small, rural, out-of-the-way congregations--without so much as a squawk or sign of struggle left behind--within a generation or two of the apostles. And this by people that would give up their lives over, for example, the date of Easter. I just couldn't make sense of it.

    This is somewhat akin to James White's textual argument vs Bart Ehrman; i.e., if you don't have a strong authority than can make top-down changes, there is no method, empire-wide by which you can alter the Biblical manuscript record.

    These thoughts and some other life-circumstances sent me back to the Scriptures with eyes a little more open.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
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  24. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Keep in mind that there is another New Testament pattern: baptism proceeds discipleship. The community of growing, learning believers is united as a baptized community. So if our children are young disciples—that is, if we are teaching them and they are growing and are even beginning to practice faith (as when we teach them to pray, for example)—shouldn't they be baptized at the start of all this, if we are following the New Testament order of things?

    As a practical matter, it is difficult to know just how we are supposed to train kids to practice faith if at the same time we are telling them they don't really belong to the faith community yet. And how are they to love God when God has not yet put his covenant promises on them?

    Good Presbyterians do look for evidence of faith before baptizing a baby; they just look for it in the parents. That's the real difference with Baptists. So the what-comes-first question you ought to be asking is not whether baptism should proceed faith (we agree that's not the design), but whether discipleship should proceed baptism.
  25. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

  26. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
  27. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Forgive me if u interpreted my response as curt; I can promise u that it wasn't. I am simply replying to the statement itself. U said, the practice was 'nigh' in the early church. I say, thats along the same vein as speculating, which was/is based on silence in any of the early church documents and writings. The reason this is so, is because of what I have already said.

    This may have been said before so forgive me for being redundant but the early church were Jews. Jews who understood covenant and understood where their children fit into that equation. It would have been very odd if the apostles now told the Jews, 'your kids are no longer included in this new protocol'. As well, we never see that in any of the NT writings; so the shoe falls to the other foot in how baptists force the interpretation.
  28. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    No worries! I wasn't offended, just trying to understand.

    What I said was that paedobaptism was the "nigh universal practice" of the early church. I really didn't think this point was up for debate, honestly, let alone a matter of speculation--depending on how far back you go with "early," of course.
  29. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    My bad. I misunderstood. 'Nigh'. Hence, u believe that PB was the practice of the early church?
  30. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Afraid so. :chained:

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