Household Baptisms in the New Testament

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by Phil D., Sep 4, 2019.

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  1. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Since the subject of infant baptism seems so popular on PB lately, well…

    I am presently a credobaptist, although there was a time when I was partially, and really wanted to be fully convinced of paedobaptism. Yet as I undertook a prolonged study of the subject, in all honesty I had to conclude that I found more support for credobaptism in scripture. There are of course multiple facets to the Reformed case for paedobaptism, but sometimes it can be most constructive to look at one issue at a time. As such I would like to start with a discussion on a issue that is often placed toward the top of the list in attempts to justify infant baptism: household baptisms in the New Testament.

    The paedobaptist argument here is that these households almost certainly included infants. And admittedly by all indication the Greek term for household, oikos, does sometimes intend to include complete households inclusive of children, slaves, and sometimes even business associates. But as always, context is the final arbiter as to how a term is being used in a particular setting. Calvinists are of course very familiar with this grammatical rule in terms of understanding to what extent words like “all” and “every” are meant in scripture when used in the context of salvation.

    There are five cases of household baptism recorded in the New Testament.

    1. Cornelius' Household (Acts 10)
    2. Lydia's Household (Acts 16)
    3. The Philippian Jailer's Household (Acts 16)
    4. Crispus’ Household (Acts 18)
    5. Stephanas’ Household (1 Corinthians 1)​

    In each case, however, there are additional factors mentioned which seem to discourage the idea that infants are in view in these particular uses of oikos.

    1. Acts 10:2 provides direct context for the upcoming events, by informing the reader that those of Cornelius’ household—at least those being referred to—were devout, active, God-fearing people. It’s also stated that the subjects of Peter’s command to be baptized (v.48) had all heard his Gospel message (v.44), and had then received the gift of the Holy Spirit (v.47). These same people are also said to have previously engaged in speaking in tongues and audibly praising God (v.46).

    2. Many commentators note that the circumstantial details given concerning Lydia (e.g. she appears to have been a traveling businesswomen) suggest she was probably an unmarried woman. As such this particular household likely wouldn’t have had very young children in it, but rather would seem to be comprised of her and most likely, considering ancient Mediterranean cultural norms, some fellow women business associates. Supporting this notion is that Luke exclusively references women as being at the riverbank (Acts 16:13), and then clearly implies that Lydia and those comprising her household were baptized there.

    3. We again find the hearing of the gospel being attributed to all of the subjects involved in this account (Acts 16:32). It is sometimes pointed out that the only description of personal faith actually having been exercised is individually connected to the jailor (v. 34), as the ESV and some other translations convey. Without getting too technical, this is due to the fact that the form of the Greek word for “believe” here (pisteuo), is in the singular and masculine form (pepisteukos). Some then insist that this fact, combined with the knowledge that his family was indeed also baptized, proves that infants (and apparently others) can and should be baptized by virtue of a head-of-household coming to faith.

    However, such a stringent interpretation seems to go beyond what is actually stated, exegetically demanded, or even contextually suggested. Even while only the jailor’s faith is specifically mentioned, in order to be taken as some peadobaptists do, the following improbable points would necessarily follow: 1) The whole household heard Paul’s salvation message. 2) The jailer believed the gospel, but the rest of the household didn’t. 3) They were all baptized anyway, regardless of whether they were infants, adolescents, or other adults. 4) The entire family was overcome with joy that only the head-of-household had believed and acted upon a message that the rest either weren’t capable of comprehending, or had willfully ignored or rejected.

    Thus it seems more reasonable, to me, to think that while the jailer’s personal salvation may indeed have been the object of the household’s joy most specifically being referenced, this could very well be on account of his instrumental role in the rest of the family then also being introduced to the gospel as well. (Or maybe, given the nature of his occupation, the jailor had been a “rough” individual, and the family realized that through his conversion he was a changed person..?) Notably, a number of literal translations do prefer the household conversion perspective, such as the NASB, where verse 34 reads: “And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.” (See also NKJV.)

    4. Acts 18:8 simply states that Crispus’ household believed, as was the case with other Corinthians who were then baptized.

    5. Outside those related in Acts, the Apostle Paul makes the only other mention of household baptism in the New Testament (1 Cor. 1:16). We again get a more complete picture when we put all of the relevant information together, whereby we learn that the members of this household were the first “converts” in Achaia, who were active in serving the saints (1 Cor. 16:15). It also seems likely that Stephanas’ household may have been among the “believers” whom Luke refers to alongside Crispus’ household in Acts 18:8, in that Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia.​

    In conclusion, from contextual information found in all of these household passages it seems that only those old enough to comprehend, receive, and experience the transforming effects of the gospel are specifically being talked about. (I also find it at least notable in this regard that in Acts 8:12 Luke only specifies that baptism was given to men and women, while infants are not mentioned.)

    Again, I realize that there are other substantial and arguably weightier issues involved in the Reformed justification of infant baptism. But these household passages are in fact frequently invoked as comprising very strong support for infant baptism. For myself, I have had to agree with the conclusion of these two writers on the matter:

    George Beasley-Murray (1916–2000; English Baptist):
    “Luke, in writing these narratives, does not have in view infant members of the families. His language cannot be pressed to extend to them. He has in mind ordinary believers and uses language only applicable to them. Abuse of it leads to the degradation of Scripture.”
    (Baptism in the New Testament, 315)
    Pierre-Charles Marcel (1910–92; French Reformed; sometimes cited by more in-depth treatises supporting infant baptism, e.g. Jochiam JeremiasInfant Baptism in the First Four Centuries):
    “We state here with all desirable precision that these [household] passages have never served and still do not serve, in good Reformed theology, as a basis or justification of infant baptism.”
    (The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, 196)​

    I would genuinely value hearing from those who may believe and can ably (and charitably...) explain how this is not the case. (I should mention that I may not always be able to respond immediately.)
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
  2. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's a long question, and I don't have an equally in-depth answer. There are other resources you could consult. But in brief, the case for infant baptism doesn't in any way hinge on NT household baptisms. So be clear about that. There is a lot of Scripture that supports paedo baptism, but paedo baptism hinges on only one text, at least in my understanding, and that is Genesis 17.

    The household baptism argument isn't to prove infant baptism. It doesn't. At the end of the day it's speculation: were infants there? Were they not there? At the end of the day no one knows. But the argument isn't necessarily so much: there are so many household baptisms, and they seem to include everyone in the house, so the mathematical possibilities are really against you to say there couldn't have been any infants or young children in those households. Rather, the argument is: This is exactly the pattern we've seen from the very beginning, in the OT, beginning with Genesis 17. Abraham the pagan believes--he alone believes, but then his whole household all of a sudden is receiving the covenant sign.

    Back to the NT household baptisms; here's a question for you: If children of believers aren't included in the covenant, why even use the word household at all? Seems kind of strange. You'd think Luke would say: "The jailor believed, then Mary Sue his wife and Ethan their son." Why even say "household"? The word is absolutely soaked in OT meaning and significance. And in the OT, it's tied together with the idea of the covenant being extended to the children of believers.

    On another note, check out Luke 19:9 and the way our Lord uses this term and what He says to Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus alone believes. But what does Jesus say about what just happened: "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham." It's Zacchaeus alone who believes; it's he alone who is said to be a son of Abraham. But because he has believed, Jesus says salvation has come to his whole household. It would in time, in the Lord's way, and in submission to His electing choice. But there you have the same principle: the whole household is said to be blessed in a sense though it's clearly Zacchaeus alone who believed.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    It seems to me Marcel's comment is as "in a nutshell" commentary as one needs. Support is not the same thing as Basis or Justification.

    I have been engaging with Baptist brethren on the PB for years now, hopefully with increasing charity (from my side). Among the conclusions I have come to is an assessment of how the two sides tend to come to their conclusions. For the Baptist (in my experience) the narrative texts have priority when deriving the practice of NT baptism.

    For the paedobaptist (speaking as one) the narrative texts are where one goes to find or to check whether one's theology of baptism is supportable by the narrative evidence that conveys illustration of practice, i.e. theology worked out. This difference in the utility of particular texts and genres has had, and continues to have great impact on conclusions one arrives at on the subject.

    So, if one approaches the narrative description in Acts, or the rehearsal of a past event (e.g. 1Cor.1:16) already in possession of a theology of baptism that justifies the inclusion of infants belonging to covenant-members-by-profession, should one discover that nearly half of all the descriptions of baptisms in the NT involve in the description the fact that a "household" was incorporated in the church by baptism, that serves him as "strong support" for an expectation (or hope) that examples of covenant recognition for one's children are in fact to be found in the NT just as much as in the OT.

    Support, rather than Basis.
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    For what it's worth, in the past 10+ yrs wherein I have served my present congregation, I have conducted at least 10 baptismal services--Sabbath-worship that included the baptism of one or more persons, almost all of them children of professing believers. On those occasions, I have preached messages that are suited to the occasion of baptism.

    Combined, these messages are intended to convey an extended and coherent theology of baptism. Providentially, I have been able to raise certain subjects pertaining to this theology in a step-wise manner, one that befits the order in which they have importance in the Bible for constructing a sound theology.

    The most recent baptism was of numerous members of one household. Being over a decade into my ministry locally, I at length found myself with an appropriate event and the proper timing--in the long course of preaching on the topic--to present on the fitness of baptizing an entire household including minor children, on the consistency of such practice as the congregation was witnessing/participating with the biblical Covenant of Grace (as we reckon it to be).
  5. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Sophomore

    The argument isn’t that infants were present, but the principle of households receiving the sign was continued in the NT.
  6. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    In a nutshell, what Jon and Bruce said.

    If I may be so bold to add a little, Peter and Paul in their Epistles write to the church, giving particular instruction to spouses, children and servants. This was the OT household. Since Christ's gospel first came to the Jews, what would the Jews understood by the term household? Even further, what would Gentiles have understood by the term? Do we limit the children to which Peter and Paul refer as believing children alone? Do we not instructions our children from the beginning of their lives in the Lord?

    This is why the Baptist argument that focuses on proving that household baptisms did or did not have infants/young children suggests dispensationalism to the Reformed, since we are asked to prove something that was never abrogated in the first place. Rather, the NT sign is marked by greater inclusion than circumcision, since the non-Jewish and females are included in the sign directly.

    On a related note, I really appreciate the tone of your question both in this thread and others. Being able to discuss this topic, realizing that both persuasions are seeking to take God's word seriously is a wonderful thing, even if we don't end up agreeing.
  7. Regi Addictissimus

    Regi Addictissimus Completely sold out to the King

    "Against the redemptive-historical background of the whole of Scripture, the household baptisms of the New Testament make sense. If there were children, even nursing infants, or slaves present, they too would have been baptized. The children would have been baptized because they were to be included as children of the covenant, as in the Old Testament. The slaves would have been baptized providing they too would have made professions of faith. More will be said about the baptism of slaves below. The household principle lies behind Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7:12–16. Paul can say that both the unbelieving spouse and the children, because of the one believing spouse, are holy. In what way are they holy? Holy (ἃγιος) is a cultic term. This is evident as Paul contrasts holy with the term unclean (ἀκάθαρτος). In the canonical use of these terms, Gentile nations were unclean and Israel was holy (cf. Ex. 19:6; Lev. 18:24; Acts 10:28). Anyone or anything unclean was not allowed within the camp, the covenant community (e.g., Lev. 13:46). The Israelite cult and covenant community were essentially the same. In other words, to be holy was to be in the covenant, but to be unclean was to be outside the covenant. The holy and unclean categories cannot be divorced from the concept of covenant. To do so is to abstract them from redemptive history, thus loosing their historical anchor. The words become mere adjectives to describe independent individuals rather than terms that describe individuals within the covenant (or households) and indeed the church as the covenant community vis-à-vis the unbelieving world. Soteric holiness is therefore covenantal. However, in the Old Testament, Israel was holy and the Gentile nations were unclean. In the New Testament, it is the church (both Jew and Gentile) that is holy and the unbelieving world that is unclean. The question then arises, in what way are the unbelieving spouse and children covenantally holy? The main thrust of Paul’s argument is to show that the unbelieving, and hence “Gentile,” spouse (cf. 1 Peter 2:12) does not profane the marriage. Rather, the believing spouse brings the sanctity of the covenant into the marriage. The marriage is considered a “Christian marriage” even if only one spouse is a believer (cf. Rom. 11:16). In the language of the Old Testament, the unbelieving spouse is like the foreigner or sojourner in the land (e.g. Ex. 22:21). But whereas the sojourner would come to dwell in the land in the midst of the covenant community, God brings the covenant community to the unbelieving spouse through the believing spouse. In the same way in which the temple sanctified the gold connected with it (Matt. 23:17, 19), the believing spouse sanctifies the unbelieving spouse. This sanctity, however, is not connected to the individual but to the covenant, which encompasses more than the individual. The believing spouse casts the light of the new covenant, the gospel of Christ, on the unbelieving spouse through his or her conduct and, in some cases, is God’s instrument by which the unbelieving spouse is saved (1 Cor. 7:16). But while the unbelieving spouse might be sanctified, this does not automatically entitle the person to the sign of the covenant, because as an adult, he or she must make a profession of faith, as would be the case for slaves within a household. This is evident in that Paul instructs the believing spouse to remain married to the unbelieving spouse if he or she is willing to do so (1 Cor. 7:12–13). Peter gives similar instructions to Christian wives whose husbands do not obey the Word of God (1 Peter 3:1–2). Baptism cannot be coerced on one who refuses to believe. The children of the believing spouse are treated differently. They are covenantally holy and therefore receive the sign of the covenant, circumcision in the Old Testament and baptism in the New Testament. Children have not yet rejected the covenant, and Christian parents have the responsibility to raise them “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). What else can this mean but to raise them in the covenant, the place where the covenant Lord exercises His authority and where His people serve Him? Paul clearly teaches that children are not treated like an unbelieving spouse. If children are not to receive baptism, as Baptists maintain, then why are they not treated the same as the unbelieving spouse? How can they be raised in the covenantal discipline and revelation of the Lord? There is no isolated, individualistic avenue to God, only that of covenant. But keep in mind the all-important point— the administration of the covenant is broader than election; the visible covenant community is not synonymous with the elect of God." - J. V. Fesko. Word, Water, and Spirit.
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    The household baptisms recorded in the New Testament can't prove either position, because they don't explain why the entire households were baptized.

    Take the cases of Lydia and the Philippian jailer. They are the household baptisms we have the most information about, but there's still precious little to go on. Does Luke mention the households because he wants to show how many people believed in Philippi? A Baptist is quick to assume so. Or does Luke's report simply fit a long scriptural pattern where a head of household believes and brings the whole family into the assembly of God's people in the process? That's what a paedobaptist tends to see.

    I think the second interpretation has a bit more support within the passage (but of course I would, being a paedobaptist). Still, I would not try to rely heavily on Acts 16 when making a case for baptizing babies. It just isn't at all conclusive. The best it can do is demonstrate that our main argument about family inclusion in the covenant people does have some plausible New Testament examples, despite what our Baptist friends sometimes claim.
  9. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    in my opinion, the simple fact that u don’t see any actual statements against covenant inclusion is paramount. After all, the gospel initially came to covenanting people. It would have not been germane to their way of life, excluding their seed; and yet, we see no dialogue with a single example on the subject.
  10. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    It really doesn't matter if there were infants or not. The point that Luke is getting across in Acts 16 is that the whole household was baptized upon the profession of faith of the head. Maybe in other cases everyone believed but in at least those 2 cases there is only mention of faith of the head. This application of the sign in a covenantal, household way is exactly what we would expect to see given the 2,000 years of applying the covenant sign in the same way. So reformed people don't baptize babies because they figure there must have been babies in those households, but rather because the household was baptized.
  11. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Well, not really. It's a pretty simple question about which there is a fair bit of information to consider... :think: And, for better or, more probably, worse, I do tend to be a pretty thorough person...

    I would have to say that in my experience it often, and even typically is used by paedobaptists in such a way. That is what first raised the question for me and started my investigation.

    On the most basic level I suppose it's simply because that's what truly happened. Mass or multiple conversions accompanied by baptism is a recurring theme throughout Acts, and is found happening in a variety of contexts and among various groupings, including families. Luke does seem very intent on emphasizing the fact that the apostolic church was growing by leaps and bounds.

    To be sure. Yet beyond that particular milieu the term was certainly prominent across all 1st century Roman, Greek speaking cultures as well. Aland and Jewett establish this in their books on baptism. So I do think it is valid to ask, is this how Lukes' immediate audience, the gentile Theopholus, would have been expected to precisely take it? I'm not declaring either way in this case. But I do think it is an important and generally under appreciated hermeneutic to consider whom the immediate readership was, whether gentiles or Jews, that New Testament writers were primarily addressing in their various discourses that address different aspects of baptism.

    That seems a fair point given the passage's pointedly Jewish context. In any event, I think we would surely agree that Zacchaeus' personal faith was not the ultimate basis of anyone else's salvation. Of course in the case of the Philippian jailer, the more specific question is whether or not the text supports the idea that the rest of his household was baptized without being saved. I have given my reasons for believing that it does not.

    Thanks for the thought provoking interaction, brother.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
  12. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    You too brother. To add, I didn't mean to say that your question itself was long, but that lots could be written and said, and has been, on both sides of the discussion. Thanks for your patience and grace with me.
  13. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    That's a fair point, and to be honest I can't remember the details about the broader context of his remark. As such it would have been best for me to not have included it in the OP.

    I would agree. In keeping with my previously expressed "Gentile or Jewish immediate readership" position, I guess I don't see this as necessarily being illegitimate or detrimental. It's by no means the only or end-all dimension of proper interpretation, but I see it as a meaningful consideration in the overall mix of things. I would further say that apostolic practice of the sacraments as related in the NT's narrative accounts is in fact very important to try to understand and emulate. I would agree the issue in this would be whether or not one simplistically reads a predetermined doctrine into or out of those texts.

    That is indeed marvelous! It so happens that our (credobaptist) church has recently experienced the same thing, twice, as well. All which causes me to ponder the fact that by all indication God does work specially among the families of believing parents, regardless of their position on infant baptism. Ultimately, faith is what saves, and faith comes by hearing of the Word, especially in faithful preaching. Not to be unduly crass, but on this account it has been said that it sometimes seems like paedobaptists must believe Baptists leave their children sitting in the church parking lot on Sunday mornings.

    Thanks, pastor.

    I will need to pause my responses to other's posts for now.
  14. Kinghezy

    Kinghezy Puritan Board Sophomore

    I found this argument fairly compelling from Beeke (I think). He argued that all other aspects, the covenant is expanding. Only males were circumcised, now both male and females are baptized. Only Jews (or those who convert), now both Jews and gentiles. I am probably missing others, but to not include the children is a restricting instead of expanding, and there should have been an argument as to why that is.
  15. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Household baptisms are corroborating evidence. From a Reformed / covenantal perspective we would expect to see plenty of household baptisms referenced in the NT, which we do. From a discontinuity / baptist perspective, we’d expect to see plenty of references to covenant children coming to faith and then getting baptized. We see none. Again, that’s just corroborating evidence but it’s significant.
  16. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Some additional thoughts on this point.

    Isn't it reasonable to think that the practice of the apostles as described in the NT's narrative accounts is a reflection and demonstration of apostolic theology? If so, then paying attention and carefully discerning them would seem of considerable importance in informing our own practice and theology.

    As pertains to the OP, my thesis is that contextual information in and surrounding the accounts of household baptism discourages the idea that Luke is intending to reference any possible infants in them, and by extension does not appear to have the Reformed covenantal view of baptism in mind. No one has really interacted with this specific exegetical issue yet.

    I wrote down some things a while back on discerning and following apostolic practice in the sacraments. It deals specifically with the Lord's Supper, but demonstrates a principle that I believe has some applicability in matters of baptism as well.

    While there are a variety of practical connections between the Passover meal, the historical Last Supper and the perpetual sacrament of the Lord's Supper—such as their common use of bread (Ex. 12:8; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:26)—one will search in vain trying to find where the drinking of wine is ever suggested, much less prescribed in the original Old Testament prototype. Rather, historians tell us “ New Testament times the Passover observance had features added to those already specified in the Old Testament. A seder, meaning a set ‘order of service,’ was now followed...”, which included consuming “ various intervals four cups of wine...” [see, Mishnah, Pesachim 10:1–7]; (J. Green, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 446)

    These facts lead to a rather remarkable realization: One of the most meaningful and cherished aspects of the Lord’s Supper actually has its historical origins in extra-scriptural Jewish tradition—namely, in intertestamental mishnaic praxis. At the same time, some of the most prominent features directly prescribed for the Old Testament Passover meal like eating meat and bitter herbs—a practice that was reinforced in mishnaic law (Pesachim 10:4) and as such would almost certainly have been included in 1st century Passover observances like the Last Supper (Luke 22:1–8)—have been altogether left out of the lasting Christian ordinance.

    This is not to say the additional things observed and taught in the Old Testament model are pedagogically useless for the New Testament church. Yet it is very evident that there is not a literal, point-for-point transference or even replacement of each of the former event’s temporal practices into the latter. We can thus be sure no mere human agency has the proficiency, let alone the right to subjectively or even logically decide which aspects of the original Passover memorial God intended to become part of the Lord’s Supper.

    And surely the same principles that have historically guided evangelical Christians in determining the proper observance of the Lord’s Supper must be applied to baptism as well. If so, then the only safe and credible means of establishing any aspect of how the two Christian sacraments are to be practiced is to unassumingly rely on what the New Testament specifically describes and demonstrates their intended procedures to be.​
  17. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Of course my thesis is that we do in fact have good indication of why, namely, because those being referenced in these accounts are said to have heard and responded positively to the gospel message.

    I agree that the case of Lydia's household is the least detailed among those given. But I cant see why it shouldn't be supposed that the same things regarding faith and belief that are specified in the other accounts wouldn't apply there as well. (I hesitate to get technical here, as I know you are an accomplished writer and grammarian, with literary knowledge and abilities far beyond my own. But for the possible benefit of readers, in hermeneutics this principle is sometimes referred to as (in Hebrew) binyan ab mikathub ’ehad—essentially meaning that the same overarching concepts found in a detailed account can be assumed to apply to other same-themed accounts as well. In other words, if for no other reason than de-cluttering the prose within an lengthy literary account, in some cases an author may leave out some of the redundant details, which nonetheless still "go without saying".) And, as I have also argued, the limited circumstantial evidence that is given regarding Lydia seems to best support my proposed understanding.

    I am certainly open to being shown why any of this wouldn't be the case here.

    Well, hopefully not too hastily...

    As do many credobaptists, such as myself, with the caveat that it appears that said heads-of-household came to faith upon which the same was shared and received by other family members. That is precisely my argument in the OP.
  18. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    My thoughts on this are stated in the OP.
  19. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    I, for one, wouldn't entirely disagree with this. But plausibility, as corroboration, can be a tricky thing. A baptismal-regenerationist can appeal to many scriptures that plausibly support their case. So while I do see some plausible scriptural arguments for paedobaptism, in my estimate they fall short of the so-termed good and necessary.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  20. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    While I agree with Jon's and Bruce's comments on the Acts passages, in my opinion 1 Corinthians 10 and Colossians 2 are stronger arguments for infant baptism. 1 Corinthians 10 offers an unambiguous instance of "baptizo" being used of people, some of whom were infants. No matter what age they were at the time, ALL the fathers were baptized into Moses. That "all" does in fact mean every single person is proven by the fact that the all is later broken up into sub-groups of people who were unfaithful. And the clincher is 1 Corinthians 10:6, where "these things" (referring to everything in verses 1-5) serve as "types" for us. This proves not only that baptism has an OT precedent, and is therefore strongly connected with biblical-theological strands in the OT, but also that OT children inclusion serves as a type for NT covenantal inclusion. This is included in the "these things" of verse 6. Why should we not desire evil? Because we are baptized into the greater Moses. To put it mildly, if children too small to be capable of a profession of faith were meant to be excluded from Paul's exhortations in this chapter, he picked a most unclear way of expressing it.

    Colossians 2, of course, has had an infinity of ink spilled on it, but the connection between circumcision and baptism is pretty clear there, and credo arguments attempting to sever the connection have never proven to be convincing.
  21. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I'll bite, and offer some more thoughts of my own in response. But for the record, I'd rather a firm Calvinistic Baptist ally, than an unsteady Presbyterian flake by the side. Some long-ago interactions I had with you on the subject helped work the conviction in me that arguments can be had or even won on this ground, and the result be unfulfilling. I can also say that I now hold a couple opinions in conformity with ones you held then that I recall contesting, so I learned a greater respect for Baptist views. I have no goal here in my reply to persuade, score points, or even defend. But to explain.

    Of course the apostle's practice acts out their theology. That's a conviction I stated explicitly. They are a natural aide to us for doctrine and practice; the issue is where do they stand in that process.

    I think the thoughts expressed here demonstrate how much theology is already present in our exegesis of a narrative passage. We may think it's wholly a case of getting our theology from a text de novo, when in reality we're carrying quite a bit of freight when we arrive. In fact, the narrative itself (the one under study) is written by a man with a theological agenda; and yet many things he writes have an off-hand quality to them. This means that ancillary details are subject to a wide variety of inferential interpretation; so trying to weigh which chef has done a better job with the garnish--therefore the plate--has not done justice to the serving.

    I can't speak for all others, but alleged "practical connections" between Passover and the Lord's Supper observances carry zero weight as far as I'm concerned. They play no part in our church's practice of the NT ordinance, and going as far back as I can in the Reformed and Presbyterian books of church order to the days of the Reformation I can find no place where they ever have. The "connection" between the cup of the Lord's Supper and one of the cups of "seder" is--to put it mildly--pure conjecture. It certainly isn't biblical.

    It may sound nice to some to make that tie, but speaking as one who is convinced of the Regulative Principle operative from ancient time: if our Lord did partake of a "traditional" meal beside or in conjunction with the celebration of the dominical Passover, it was perfectly free from the ordinance of Israel (and we know Jesus' opinion of tradition-with-the-force-of-law).

    The ordering of the Lord's Supper is a thing distinct from the Passover, but rather incorporates the complete external exhibits of the sacrificial and ceremonial system and calendar of the OT church, and sets it forth in its distilled essence on the Table under two simple kinds, no more and no less. The last Passover was the occasion, rather than the foundation of the NT sacrament. Proof of this may be taken from that the type of bread we use in the Supper is adiaphora, a thing indifferent.

    It's worth pointing out that circumcision (as covenant initiation) is Abrahamic, not Mosaic, in origin. So questions in regard to exhibiting covenant initiation are formally distinct from the general relegation of Old Covenant (Sinai) types and shadows to obsolescence. But it isn't as if we care nothing today for the spiritual value of what the latter expressed. It isn't as if the OT sacrifices and ceremonies teach us nothing anymore, who have the New Covenant realities.

    Reducing baptism to a "practice" based on examples (to the exclusion, it seems obvious to me, of household baptism); and a form of "NT hermeneutical exclusivity" that artificially isolates the NT church and its theology, piety, and practice from the church in previous eras; and after the practice is established, inquiring from the epistles what meaning or theology may be extracted from established practice--this, to me, is the reverse of a proper approach.

    I don't believe baptism was ever practiced in Scripture without a prior, fully-formed theology on the part of the one administering. Thus, a narrow examination of the examples of baptism in the NT is incapable of teaching the full-to-bursting theological package contained in this "unimpressive" rite. It demands the whole NT, informed by the whole OT background. WCF 7:6
    Under the Gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper: which though fewer in number and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy....​
  22. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Bruce. There is much there I concur with, and the rest is definitely worthy of careful consideration.

    For myself, I am pretty much content to let things lay as they are in this thread. I believe all participants sincerely want to know and align with the whole truth of God's infallible, living Word. My constant prayer is to that end.

    Thanks to everyone for the substantive, respectful and pleasant interaction. May there be much more of that here on the PB. God bless.
  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    My vision makes it difficult to read all responses but I agree that the "household" reference is not necessarily a linchpin in the paedobaptist argument but it does create a problem in the antipaedobaptist direction (in particular the Particular Baptist position).

    I think one of the central differences in the two positions is the notion of an external covenant in one schema and the insistence that the NC's perfection does away with an external administration in the other. The Particular Baptist then moves from this latter position to insist that baptism represents a "high bar" for admission because it signifies this more perfect administration.

    I think the issue actually needs to be answered why there seems to be a willingness to baptize an entire household even if one admits that they are all adults. Missing from some of these reports is a testimony of faith and repentance of a sort which is insisted upon by a Particular Baptist position. One can try to make the argument, from the theological conviction, that one assumes the Apostles shared the Particular Baptist position and carefully examined each person before baptizing but the narrative itself won't support this on a purely exegetical basis. If anything, it seems that Paul is ready to baptize the Philippian jailer's family before he's even had much chance to get to know them.

    In other words, an important foundation to the Particular Baptist position is not supported by these passages while the nature of the baptisms supports the paedobaptist view of an external Covenant whether or not the family members are adults in every household mentioned.

    I found the point you made that the narratives ought to form the basis for our practice of baptism and yet it seems hard to sustain a "Particular Baptist" outlook on baptism if one isn't already theologically committed to denying that the NC can be, in any way, a mixed Covenant. Beginning with Jesus and the number of baptized disciples who left Him and continuing on through the twists and turns of the Apostolic witness, one does not read of Apostles "protecting baptism from the unregenerate" in a manner central to the Particular Baptist position. Thus, leaving aside the issue of babies for a moment, how would one even begin to build a narrative case for this conviction based on the reports of the baptisms in the NT?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  24. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Rich you make an important point here. I have a Reformed Baptist background and have traditionally argued that chapter 7 of the 1689 Baptist Confession presents a coherent and consistent covenant theology. But I admit I am re thinking my position :)
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  25. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman


    In fact, everywhere you go in Acts, you see the apostles and friends baptizing pretty promiscuously, from a PB point of view. Not even a whiff of sitting down with someone to carefully evaluate whether their conversions are "really real," or they're "just trying to please their parents/spouse/masters," or gain "magic" power from the Holy Spirit or somesuch.

    All interesting omissions, again from a PB perspective.
  26. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Andrew, your argument proves too much. Surely the adults gave some profession.
  27. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm sure they did. That's not my point.

    I'm talking about the careful, evaluative procedure that many modern RB churches use to make certain they're not "admitting unregenerates into membership." E.g., withholding baptism from someone until they're out from under their parents' roof b/c they may just be trying to please their parents. Whereas a young person from a non-Christian family might be baptized immediately, b/c pleasing the parents would obviously not be a factor.

    I have heard of such, and more than once.
  28. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, from silence one can assume much.
  29. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Indeed they can.

    What did I assume? I called it interesting. And I think it is.

    Arguments from silence are weak. But that doesn't mean silences cannot be explored or remarked upon.
  30. Col33

    Col33 Puritan Board Freshman

    There is absolutely no reason in the NT for references to "household" unless we were being directed toward the OT covenantlal language and definitions.

    And the only place to go to understand this meaning is the OT and learn everything about it.

    If Credobaptism was the theme in the NT, there would have existed absolutely no reason for obvious OT covenantal language, nor need for household baptisms.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
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