Infant Baptism and Union With Christ

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by pslagle2012, Nov 29, 2016.

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  1. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    I am a Reformed Baptist who is close to converting to Reformed Paedobaptism/Presbyterianism. I am working through the implications of paedobaptist theology pretty much on my own, as I have a Baptist family and Church.

    I am wondering what the significance of infant baptism is for union with Christ and the church as the body of Christ. From what I am reading it seems paedobaptism believes that baptism signifies union with Christ, as Baptists believe. Does that mean that infants in the church are "in Christ" and part of His body, and if so how does that work with passages about the Spirit giving spiritual gifts to the church, etc?

    I have always understood "in Christ" to refer to salvation. But as I have come to a different understanding of the covenants/baptism, I'm wondering how all of this applies to these passages in the new testament.

    I might be asking a dumb question, but I'm just unsure as I trudge through a transitional time theologically.
  2. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

    This idea of baptism being a sign of union with Christ was a big hindrance for me when I was going through the transition.

    Consider the confession:

    Infants in the church are indeed members of his body visible. Whether or not they are members of his body invisible/victorious/etc. is another question that we cannot know infallibly of anyone, infant or professing adult. That union with Christ's body invisible is not tied to the moment of baptism, however.

    The point is that the promise "to you and your children" is not abrogated in the New Covenant, but repeated and better exhibited. Just as Abraham received the sign of circumcision as sign and seal of the righteous (of Christ) that he had by faith, and than was commanded to give that sign of righteousness to his children, so we are to give the sign of righteousness/union with Christ/etc. to our children. Romans 4:11 was very helpful for me in this regard, to see that, just because the sign signifies union with Christ, that doesn't therefore mean that a covenant child cannot receive it.

    I am a bit confused in regards to your question of spiritual gifts. Children can be given spiritual gifts at any age, look at John the Baptist in the womb for example. The Spirit works where and when he wills.

    Hope that helps. May God bless your studies and be glorified in them!
  3. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Does the water baptism to your understanding than actually grant the remission of sins forgiven, and the person receives the Holy Spirit then, or is it a symol/sign of the work God did before the ordinance?

    Understand that preby Christians see this as being viewed as like circumcision was in the Old Covevenat, but the infant still would need toprofess salvation at somestage correct?

    Does not make them saved and regenerated in the water act, as Catholics/Lutheryns teach?

    As Baptist, this isone of the hardest issues for me totally understand...
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2016
  4. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    It seems like what you're saying is that baptism signifies union with Christ in an objective sense, independent of the one being baptized. Is it true to say that it signifies the child's need to be united with Christ in a salvific sense the same way it signifies the child's need to be regenerated and circumcised in heart?

    How does all of this relate to Gal. 3:27?

    "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
    Does that just mean that they are members of the visible people of God?
  5. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member


    I'll try to be brief.

    Reformed paedobaptists, in brief, operate from a different paradigm than what many understand. It's sort of a "let God be God with respect to election but He's still given us weak creatures something that we can lay hold of...."

    There's sort of a misunderstanding that baptism either needs to confer everything by its operation or it confers nothing. Baptism is used in different ways in the Scriptures both in terms of water baptism and also in terms of spiritual union with Christ in His death and resurrection. Many Baptists, in fact, tend to confuse the latter with the former in referring to the "watery grave" of baptism which they glean from Romans 6. In that context, the death and resurrection are with respect to our spiritual union with Christ and has no reference to the actual physical form of baptism.

    The baptist view of baptism tends to focus on "man's speech". Why do we baptize an individual? Because he has professed and so we baptize someone whom we believe it is more probably true of him that he possesses the spiritual reality that baptism signifies. What do we do, as Baptists, if the person decides he didn't have real faith at the time of baptism? Well, it was not really a baptism because he didn't possess the reality at the time of his baptism and so he is not baptized at all and now needs to be *really* baptized. Again, the physical baptism is intended to correspond to what they believe is true of the man - he is regenerate and the outward sign is no sign at all if he is not. It is intended to communicate: we baptize because you are regenerate but, if at a later time you suspect you were not regenerate and now are then you need to be baptized for the first time.

    The Reformed paedobaptist view sees baptism as something that occurs when a person enters into being a disciple. We are commanded to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them everything that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). We are not commanded to see if a man has been taught sufficiently in the discipleship process to come to certain knowledge and then be baptized.

    Baptism sets people apart into the visible Kingdom of God. The act itself does not confer union with Christ. It is ministerial in that it acts for the Mediator but we are not the Mediator. The minister announces the promise of God - all who place their trust in Christ will be saved. The sacrament is not a bare sign either - it is true that God has made a Promise to save *that* individual in his baptism if he believes. It is also true that the Spirit makes it efficacious so as to be a means toward union with Christ but it is the Spirit's work. Thus, the connection between the sign and thing signified is sacramental - the Spirit gives the graces that baptism *signifies* to those to Whom God sovereignly chooses. It's not the Church's calling to identify the elect and then baptize. It is the Church's mission to baptize those who will be discipled in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This is why the Scriptures can give real warnings of falling away to the visible people of God because it contains those who must draw near in faith but the Church does not limit its visible citizenship only to those it is convinced cannot possibly fall away.

    We assume that an adult is less likely to shrink back from the call of Christ than a child baptized. Why? Because we assume that a profession is union with Christ? This is not a mistake the Scriptures make. All disciples, young and old, are called to the Lord. They are exhorted TODAY to hear His Voice. The Spirit works by this. In fact, might it not be possible that an adult we are all convinced was really united to Christ is given ears to hear and eyes to see for the first time in a sermon? I preach Christ and Him crucified letting God be God and that Today is a day to hear His voice by the hearing that He provides by His Spirit.

    It is not necessary for the Church to then re-baptize a person because we never presumed upon his union with Christ when we baptized. The Promise of God was announced in his baptism and it matters not a bit that the person had no faith at the time he was baptized as an adult because TODAY he heard and the promised of God in his baptism still stands: As surely as the filth of your flesh was washed, so surely shall I save all who trust in the Son!
  6. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    So, in terms of the passages in scripture that identify baptism with union with Christ (like Romans 6 or Gal 3:27) a paedobaptist understanding would argue that those texts are referring to spiritual baptism, not water baptism, correct?
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Yes... and no. We don't confuse sign and thing signified; they are distinct. But we also don't think that we're supposed to put this text in one category, and that text is some other. Pau's contention is predicated on the idea that the two things--sign and thing signified--belong together, are supposed to be together. We know they aren't always; that's a fact of covenant-sign application ever since Ishmael, and Esau. We aren't in heaven yet.

    Gal.3:27... Is Paul talking about the indissoluble spiritual reality of the elect's union with Christ? Or is he offering up the judgment of charity, respecting the "outward form of dress" that baptism symbolizes, the robes of Christ's righteousness? This is a chapter and a book wherein Paul by turns gives merciless warnings to, and offers his sincerest hopes and confidences in the same group of Christians.

    v27 is a rhetorical device meant--hopefully by God's grace--to grab these people by their baptism, and give them a good shake. All of these folks are baptized. Those who take his statement to heart and repent or hold fast to Christ, and to the true meaning of their baptism prove their title to that dress. Those who do not clearly bore only the outward uniform, without the inward adornment.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2016
  8. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    I hope I don't seem like I'm prodding or trying to be contentious, having such a baptistic background, it's just hard for me to wrap my head around these concepts.

    Just to be sure I understand you, these texts in your opinion are the apostle invoking the sign of union with Christ because in scripture the sign and the thing signified are totally inseparable yet they are distinct, so someone can have the sign but not the thing signified and simultaneously be reminded of the fact that they received the sign (Baptism) as if they received the thing signified (union with Christ). Is that correct? Hope that makes sense.
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You're not being contentious.

    Let me redirect you to think about how God would communicate confidence to a believer that he belongs to Christ. We have these amazing promises in Scripture (Romans 8) that God saves to the uttermost those who are united to Christ by faith. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

    These promises belong to those whom God foreknew.

    But we have a bit of a problem as creatures. The secret things belong to God (Deut 29:29)

    While we know that the Promises are true for the elect we cannot know who the elect are in the Church. That's not for us to know.

    We may even be a bit concerned at times. How can I know if I'm elect? I'm not God. I know that people are sometimes deceived.

    We are never commanded to know if we (or other) are elect by asking the question whether God has decreed our election. We are commanded to look to Christ.

    If salvation is an eternal act in the mind and plan of God then Christ is the historical and human hand by which we can grasp, in our creatureliness, an eternal chain of redemption. Grab the chain at Christ and you grab the assurance of salvation. In Christ, God's mercies have become human mercies.

    So, in what manner, will God speak in His Word to weak sinners to assure them.

    He will provide ministers to preach comfort to their souls and to assure them that as they have believed in Christ they have full assurance of salvation.

    But He also descends to us in the Sacraments He gives to the Church. He gives us tactile, creaturely signs of our interest in Him and our engagement to be His. He promises to save us and then washes us with water to say: Do you see that? Do you feel that? God's mercies become human mercies.

    Thus, when a minister says: "You were washed in your baptism..." he is speaking on behalf of God to remind us to look to the Promises of God.

    We see a baptism and then ask: Do I believe in Christ? Yes, and God promised me with water and the Word that I will be saved. He sealed this with an oath. Whatever else might have been true yesterday or a year ago about whether I really had faith is irrelevant right now. I believe in Christ and my baptism assures me that I am united to Him.

    Thus, the sign and the thing signified are joined together by the Spirit who makes the sign a reality who is able to look at the sign and realize that the Spirit has really sealed the promise announced for gim. It is not, in contrast, a sign about how sure my faith was at the time of baptism but a sign of how sure God's promise was to a weak and beggarly sinner who has a Savior who does not snuff out smoldering wicks.

    Thus, when addressing the Church at large, we do not address people on the basis of saying: "If God elected you...." We always enjoin on the fact that people have been visibly baptized and are engaged to be the Lord's. We bid them to close with Christ. It is the Spirit's work to seal the reality but we don't speak of the sign as independent of that reality but intimately connected with how the Lord assures us.
  10. LilyG

    LilyG Puritan Board Freshman

  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Rich's answer is more than enough.

    Specific to your points:
    1) I said sign-and-signification belong together, as an "ought." And in the class of the elect they are--considered absolutely--together, inseparable, assuming historic application of the sign. Arriving at one's heavenly destination, the sign will be history. Because baptism is not THE reality; but rather, the testimony and the hope of it.

    2) Sure, unbelievers can take the sign, but barely there it's minimally useful to them. They aren't taking proper advantage of it; because, lacking faith's exercise, they can't. They frequently ignore it or abuse it, because they are delusional or worse; and the result will be a bad end... unless or until they repent and believe, which achievement is also an aspect of divine purpose by the sign.

    3) So yes, inherent in Paul's "you have," is an "as if" (cf. 1Ths.1:4). The Bible will often tell of God, his great works, and his blessings as indisputable facts--which they are, Amen. But stated explicitly or left implicit, nothing God has said is accessible apart from faith. "For he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." Heb.11:6.
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I always enjoy the way you construct your things. I especially like point 3). As I was trying to articulate, there are Christian errors that try to smush down th absolute promise of God into the sign so that the reality is absolutely conferred when baptism is administered. The Reformed have always insisted, with the Scriptures, that faith is how we lay hold of them. The exercise of that faith is an evangelical grace and we need to respect God's Sovereignty in these things so as not to overspeak or even leave it to human effort to keep or lose what was absolutely conferred. The Federal Vision is an example of error on this point the refuses to admit the Biblical distinctions that separate the Church's activity from the Sovereign work of God.
  13. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The Batism of the infant does not remove Original Sin, nor does it mean the Spirit now resides in them, correct?

    It is a visible sign that identifies them as now being part of the Covenant people, as Circcumcision did, but they still must be born again to have eternal life, correct?
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Original Sin refers to both the guilt of original sin and the corruption that we inherit. Both are imputed from Adam. It is only by faith that any are vitally united to Christ. It is the work of the Spirit. In Christ, the guilt of Adam is imputed to Him and we are Justified. In Christ, our corruption is put to death and we are made holy in Sanctification.

    The physical act of baptism does not, in its administration, confer this grace. It signifies it.

    Baptism marks an individual and marks them as belonging to the visible Kingdom of God as circumcision did. It does not mean that their hearts have been circumcised.
  15. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    We are neither Roman nor Lutheran. An ungodly person, baptized early or late, has not been cleared of the stain of Original Sin by means of a proper baptism.

    Neither a baptized person nor the church with its official, is sovereign over the Spirit (Jn.3:8), who is no more bound to the act of baptism than he was to the act of circumcision. But if he wills to dwell with that child from the time he is baptized... he may.

    Pointing to his external covenant relation is one of baptism's purposes, paralleling one of circumcision's purposes. "But he is a Jew who is that inwardly, and circumcision is for the heart, in the Spirit and not in the letter. This one's praise is not from men, but from God." Rom.2:29. The same is true of the NT covenant-sign.
  16. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you very much. Very helpful.
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