ENGLISH VERSION - Bulletin Nº 40 June 20, 2021
Why The Presbyterian Church
by Rev. Renato Souza Prates
When God made a pact with Abraham, included his children in the covenant, and determined that they all be circumcised (Gen 17:1-14). Circumcision was actually Abraham's seal of faith (see Rom 4-3:11 with Gen 15:6), but even so, God ordered him to circumcise Ishmael and later Isaac, before he complete two weeks (Gn 21, 4).
Abraham believed and the sign of his faith was applied to Isaac, even when he still could not believe like his father.
Later, when Moses sprinkled the tablets of the Law given by God with the blood of the covenant, he also sprinkled all the people present on Mount Sinai, obviously including the mothers and their children in arms (Heb 9, 19-20).
Paul, reflecting on the history of Israel and mentioning the passage of the Israelites through the Dead Sea, says that all the people were baptized with Moses, in the cloud and in the sea, including the children, of course, as there were thousands of them (1 Cor 10:1 -4). No wonder, therefore, that Peter, on the day of Pentecost, when he called his hearers to repentance, faith in Christ, and baptism, told them that the promise of the Holy Spirit was for them and for their children (Acts 2:38 -39). And it is not surprising that the apostles baptized entire houses on their missionary journeys: Paul baptized Lydia and every house of hers (Acts 16:15).
The Peshito, Syriac version of the New Testament probably dating from the end of the 2nd century, translated the passage that records Lydia's baptism as follows: "She was baptized and the children of her house." The jailer and all his (Acts 16,3233), the house of Stephanas (1 Cor 1:16). In fact, infant baptism is not the baptism of repentance, as it is for those who, as adults, come to know their sinfulness, confess their sins, and receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.
But baptism is not just a sign of repentance. It also means a sign of the covenant of grace, and it is in this sense that children of believing parents are baptized. For a better understanding of this issue, I transcribe below what the Presbyterian Church of Brazil understands about this doctrine, as published on its official website: “Baptism is a sacrament, in order to purify with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which means and seals our covenant with Christ, and sharing the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our declaration that we truly are of God” (CM, p. 94). Baptism is the sign of the covenant of grace during the New Testament era, as was circumcision during the Old Testament (see Col. 2:11-12).
Reformed Christians understand that baptism must then be applied to all those with whom God has established His covenant of grace, more clearly, with believers in Christ and also with their children. It is important to emphasize that there is no explicit biblical text that determines infant baptism. If there were, all Bible-believing churches would then practice it. However, God's will is not only "expressly described in the Scriptures", but also "by a good and necessary consequence, it may be deduced from the Scriptures" (CFW, I:6). The defense argument for infant baptism can be presented in the form of a syllogism:
Major Assumption: All participants in the covenant of grace must receive the sign of that covenant.
Minor Premise: Children, children of believers, are also partakers of the covenant of grace.
Conclusion: Children, children of believers, must also receive the sign of the covenant of grace.
If both premises are true, the conclusion is indisputable. And this is what confession describes as a “good and necessary consequence.” The only way we can avoid infant baptism for the children of believers is if we deny one of these truths. Few would deny the major premise, but dispensationalists clearly deny the minor premise. They claim that the children of believers were never partakers of the covenant of grace. Since, during the Old Testament era, they participated in the nation of Israel and received the sign of their participation in the covenant - circumcision. But, they say (dispensationalists), that children do not participate in the covenant of grace, because that covenant exists only since the New Testament. Since there is no text that mandates infant baptism, then it shouldn't be done.
However, the covenant of grace exists during the two ages (OT and NT), and the children of believers were obviously partakers of the covenant during the Old Testament. God determined this (see Gen. 17:10). Now, since God did not alter his covenant (Psalm 89:34), we are not surprised that there is no text in the New Testament indicating that the children of believers who were covenant participants now are no longer. Rather, Colossians 2:11 and 12 draw a specific parallel between baptism and circumcision; those who were then circumcised, let them now be baptized. And Acts 8:12 shows that the new sign of the covenant was given to women as well as to men. Baptism is a totally passive sacrament, from our point of view.
This does not mean that in all aspects of applying the salvation promised in the covenant of grace, the baptized individual is totally passive. They (or they) are truly active in your process of conversion and sanctification. Rather, what it really means is that the individual is baptized and does not self-baptize. Parents do not baptize their children. Speaking directly, not even the minister baptizes them in the sense of doing anything. We don't do anything at baptism; instead, God does something.
He, through the fulfillment of a commandment by the church, gives an identity to children, young and old, of his covenant family, the objects of his grace and all his wonderful blessings.
Sources: Rev. Mauro Ferreira e http://www.ipb.org.br/portal/igreja-reformada/107-batismo-infantil
Translated by Rev. Renato Souza Prates
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