Milk Or Solid Food? Part 2
© 05.16.2016 By D. Eric Williams
This article appeared in the May 19 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation ...of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:1a-2b).
A couple weeks ago we considered the need to move beyond the basic gospel message and embrace the meaty doctrine of comprehensive salvation. This week's article will continue the quest for theological meat as we regard the doctrine of baptisms.
Some commentators believe the writer of Hebrews is concerned with Jewish purification practices at this point. However, the text itself tells us this interpretation is erroneous. The letter says to leave behind a discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, not of Judaism. Thus, Paul is demanding clarity concerning Christian baptism. The sharp divide within Christendom concerning the mode, method and timing of baptism tells us we have failed to do so even after hundreds of years.
Christians generally understand baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant. Therefore, any discussion of baptism must embrace the wider topic of covenant. Really, we can boil it down to a simple question: is our covenant with God in Christ a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant or is it something completely different? If we understand covenant as presented in the New Testament we realize this is the central question.
In Galatians chapter three we read, now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "AND TO YOUR SEED," who is Christ. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:16, 29).
As you recall, the church in Galatia had been misled by false teachers. They had been told salvation was found in "Jewishness" rather than in Jesus. Paul countered that by telling them the Abrahamic covenant was actually confirmed with Christ, not with the Jewish nation. Therefore, if one wishes to be part of the covenant family - part of the chosen people of God - he must be identified with Jesus.
This has profound implications concerning baptism. When Abraham entered into covenant with Yahweh he and all the males in his household over eight days old were circumcised. In other words, everyone under Abraham's authority was considered part of the covenant family. There is nothing in the Scripture to suggest this arrangement has been altered in the new covenant age.
This means we should assume the children of believing parents are regenerate. Only time will tell as each one works out his salvation. At the same time there is no guarantee (from a human standpoint), an adult who makes a profession of faith is regenerate. I was once acquainted with a man who told me he had been "born again" and baptized five times - all during adulthood. His life provided no evidence he was born again yet someone, somewhere (several pastors over a period of years actually), had accepted his profession of faith and baptized him - not once but five separate times. My point is that there may be mistakes and abuses relating to the rite of baptism no matter the age of the subject. Furthermore, we are not suggesting anyone who arrives at the door of the Church requesting baptism for their children should be accommodated. Remember, it is the children of Believers who have the privilege of the covenant rite. Parents who desire baptism for their children need to have made a profession of faith themselves and be living a life worthy of Christ's calling.
Oddly, even Christians who reject infant baptism accept the idea of the covenant family. After all, most evangelicals believe children born into a Christian family, dying in infancy will go to heaven. At the same time they insist no one goes to heaven unless they are born again. Therefore, if an infant from a Christian household is adequately saved to go to heaven upon his untimely death, why isn't that same salvation good enough for him to receive the sacrament of baptism? In fact, to be consistent, Christians who reject infant baptism should also forgo the dedication of babies.
More next week.