A Critique of MacArthur's Critique of Infant Baptism
My name is Rev. Don W. Robertson. I am a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in American and the pastor of Faith Community Church in Pearland, Texas. I graduated from Covenant College in Georgia with a major in Biblical Studies. I also graduated with honors from the Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO with a Master of Divinity Degree. Throughout this document I am writing a response to a sermon that John MacArthur wrote against infant baptism. You will find my comments noted in a reddish brown font color bracketed by parentheses. I believe John has made a number of erroneous statements about this subject and so I have tried to make corrections theologically, Biblically, and historically where appropriate. John in many ways voices very common arguments that people use against infant baptism. I hope my comments will better inform you about the practice of Infant Baptism among Reformed and Presbyterian churches. May the Lord bless you as you study His Word about this important doctrine.
Grace to You :: Unleashing God's Truth One Verse at a Time
A Scriptural Critique of Infant Baptism
Scripture: Selected Scriptures
A couple of weeks ago I gave a message on the issue of baptism and when I introduced that I was going to do that I said that I wanted to give a follow up message on the issue of infant baptism and I'm going to do that this morning.
Now I confess that this may seem more like a theological class lecture. You may feel like you've just enrolled at the Master Seminary. That's okay, and I warn you in the back rows there who maybe tend to wander anyway because you're so far away, hang in there. This is really a provocative and important and far-reaching issue to deal with.
Let me explain for some of you that might not understand. There is a wide-spread belief in the church that babies are to be baptized and so soon after their birth they are taken to the church, whether it's a Roman Catholic Church, or whether it's a Presbyterian Church, or whether it's a Reformed Church or a Lutheran Church, an Anglican Church, Episcopalian Church, they are taken to the church and they are sprinkled with water on the head (John forgot to mentioned that water is also poured on babies), a little bit of water is dripped on their head and that constitutes their Christian baptism. This is very widespread; this is all over the world, in fact. This is the influence of the post-reformation (It would be better to say that it is a result of the reformed church itself. This was the predominant practice of the reformed churches because they believed that the sign of the covenant should be given to the children of believers. The practice of infant baptism also predates the reformation in the previous centuries back to the 1st century according to early church fathers. So, it is the predominant practice of the church way back to the 1st century). European church, and it has spread wherever that influence has gone.
Now the result of this is that you have baptized non-Christians all over the world (John forgets to note that even believer’s baptism churches have many adults who were baptized as well that are also non-Christians. There were also many unbelieving Israelites who bore the mark of circumcision in the OT covenant. It is important to realize that just because someone is an unbeliever who bears the sign of the covenant this fact has nothing to do with the legitimacy of whether it should be given to infants or not). They were baptized, as infants, with what they believed was a Christian baptism and an initiation into the church, and an initiation into salvation (Presbyteryians agree with this statement. They do not believe infants or anyone is saved by baptism itself. Faith in Christ alone is required for salvation. MacArthur is preaching to the choir. He is addressing here the heresy of baptismal regeneration which is practiced by the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and other groups that may teach baptismal regeneration. He is setting up a straw man argument (logical fallacy) against reformed and presbytery churches which do not teach what he is stating in order to make his disagreement with infant baptism seem indisputable). And yet they are not Christians. They have not come to personal confession of faith in Christ and so they are baptized, but they are non-Christians. On the other hand you have the same group of people who are actually not baptized at all because that baptism is not New Testament baptism. So they are baptized non-Christians who have really never been baptized at all, in the true sense.
It is also true that many people are, particularly in that movement, many people do come to true faith in Christ. They may start by being baptized as an infant in Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or Reformed Church, or Anglican or Episcopalian Church or whatever church it is that does infant baptism, they are baptized as a child, they do come to true faith in Jesus Christ but are never baptized by immersion because the church teaches that that is not appropriate (MacArthur is using a common baptist (borrowed from the radical anabaptists) argument that stresses the mode of immersion only as the only legitimate method of Baptism to delegitimize those churches which practice the baptismal modes of sprinking or pouring. Sadly this misleading. The Greek word for baptism according to all authoritative Greek lexicons indicates that the Greek word baptizo (used for baptism) in the NT can mean immersion, pouring, and sprinkling. In fact, there is no clear case in the NT that immersion was used at all. This may sound surprising to a baptist but it is true. Many baptists defend their position by using passages to say that certain recipients of baptism came out of the water and therefore they were immersed. No NT text in fact says how far the recipients went into the water or what was done when they went into it. The water could have been sprinkled or poured upon the recipients. The truth is that the most clear meaning of the word baptizo as it is used in the NT points to the modes of pouring or sprinkling (cf. Mk. 7:4 (washing); Heb. 9:10, 12, 19, 21 (sprinkling). To force upon every use of baptizo in the NT the mode of immersion is simply eisegesis meaning that one is reading into the text one's presuppositions rather than doing exegesis which is interpreting the text for itself according to the context. Many baptists use passages such as Romans 6 about being buried with Christ in our baptism to push the view that immersion is meant. Again, this is eisegesis because it is reading into the text the notion that Christ was buried below the ground to support the view that baptism means to be immersed. The truth is that Jesus was buried above the ground in a tomb which ruins their argument. I must admit, however, that baptism can mean immersion as it is noted in Greek lexicons but by no means is such a meaning clearly supported in the NT. Again, the clearest usage of the word baptizo means to pour or sprinkle (see the passages above). This is why so many Presybyterian and Reformed churches use sprinkling or pouring. They are simply trying to be as Biblical as they can.
In fact, after the reformation if somebody was re-baptized who was baptized as an infant, they were labeled an Anabaptist and persecuted. It was not uncommon for that persecution to reach a fever pitch, so that after the Reformation you had protestant people who believed in infant baptism persecuting people who believed in believer's baptism. It became a serious issue, even to the point where some people who believed in adult immersion after confession of faith in Christ and were rebaptized were killed (Although I think it was horrible to kill some people who held to the anabaptist position, we need to realize the radical nature of the practice of believer's baptism which was introduced by the anabaptists. The church had been practicing infant baptism all the way back to the 1st century according to early church fathers. This is why the anabaptists were considered radical even among most reformed churches. This was a serious break from a long, established, and Biblically supported practice of infant baptism).
So this was a heated issue. We can be glad it isn't quite that furious today, but it is still an issue of immense importance in the church, because, as I said, you have baptized non-Christians (Any honest baptist pastor will also say this about many of the adults who have received baptism in their churches) and unbaptized Christians and in both cases you have a problem, a serious problem. We have certain the present largest unbaptized population of professing Christians ever, and that unbaptized population would be made up of people who were baptized as infants and don't feel they need to be baptized; therefore, they are really unbaptized in the true way (I strongly disagree in regards to Presbyterian and Reformed baptized children), and all those other people who are hearing the gospel today through television, and radio, and in the sort of seeker friendly churches where baptism is not practiced. So you have this massive population of unbaptized professing Christians everywhere.
Now few things in the New Testament are more unmistakable than the issue of baptism. It's just plain and simple. Jesus said, "Go and preach the gospel, and baptize." And Peter said, "Repent and be baptized." It couldn't be much more clearly expressed than that. Even so we have wide spread noncompliance to this issue.
Now this is of great importance to me because I feel as a Christian preacher, as a Christian pastor, as a shepherd of God's flock, as somebody who's responsible to the Lord for ministry I need to preserve what is precious to the Lord, right, in the church. Now there are only two ordinances the Lord gave us, just two. He gave us baptism and the Lord's Table, and He said, "Just do these two things." They are symbols. Baptism, as we know, is a symbol depicting the death of an individual in Christ, burial, and resurrection and newness of life. The Lord's Table is the symbol of the cross both the body of Jesus Christ symbolizing the bread, symbolizing the cup, and we are enjoined to carry those out in the church.
This is important to me because it's part of the stewardship of responsibility that I have to discharge before the Lord. It grieves me that some churches, like the Quaker's Church and the Friend's Church that will not practice communion. It also grieves me that there are many, many churches, many of them, thousands upon thousands of them, tens of thousands of them all over the world that will not properly practice Christian baptism in spite of what the New Testament says. This is a matter of obedience. This is a matter of honor to the Lord. And it's of great importance to me.
Some years ago I was invited to be the President of a great educational institution here in our country, and as I contemplating whether I wanted to leave the pastorate here at Grace Church some years ago and go do this, the thing that stuck in my mind most was if I was there I wouldn't be able to discharge my calling from the Lord to lead the church, and it struck me and I said this to the people at the time, I can't do this because I need to lead the people of God in the ordinances that the Lord has commanded us because I believe He's given me to the church and how am I going to baptize people and how am I going to lead them to the Lord's Table in that environment? This has always been very
important to me because the Lord didn't give us that much that we would get confused about it and He wants us to carry the responsibility out.
Baptism is critically important, and I went into that two weeks ago. Baptism is critically important. It is to be understood and it is to be practiced. Standing in the way of that understanding is a huge barrier and that huge barrier is infant baptism. As I said, most of the mass of evangelized TV/radio converts are left to themselves and maybe never even hear about baptism. They don't have any accountability for baptism, they are not under any church authority, but in addition to them you have this huge crowd of millions of people who believe in infant baptism. And that too confuses the issue greatly and acts as a barrier to a true understanding of baptism and to obedience to that understanding. It's not a minor matter. It has never been a minor matter, as I said, during the time of the Reformation people were called heretics if they were baptized in a New Testament way by those who were infant baptizers. They were persecuted and, as I said, sometimes executed.
Now as years have gone on we've gotten kind of comfortable and just sort of said well they believe in infant baptism and we don't and they're our brothers and sisters and that's true. And it's certainly not a reason to call them non-Christians, and it's certainly not right to call them heretics, and it's certainly not appropriate to not have fellowship with them, but it is right to truly understand what Scripture says, so they can come into compliance with the word of God. Time has come after all these years since the Reformation to strip off these remnants of Catholicism that never got dealt with during the Reformation and have been perpetuated and return to the simple New Testament design (Reformed churches believe that infant baptism was part of the simple New Testament design of including children of believers in the covenant family via the sign of the covenant which is baptism (Colossians 2:11). This simple principle was practiced by the Israelites who bestowed the sign of circumcision which represented the OT covenant with Abraham and Israel as a Covenant people. God commanded that Abraham and his descendents give this sign to their infant boys at 8 days old (Gen. 17). The infant girls were under the covenantal authority of their fathers). And I want to address that with you this morning.
Now there are five reasons why I reject infant baptism, five reasons and I'm telling you, folks, I can't get all that I want to say out this morning so you're only going to get I hope the best of what's here, but these are very important points.
Point number one, and this ought to end the argument. Infant baptism is not in Scripture. Infant baptism is not in Scripture. And against that statement there is no evidence, there is no refuting of that statement. Scripture, nowhere, advocates infant baptism. It nowhere mentions infant baptism. It doesn't exist in the Bible. There is no example of it, there is no comment on it; it's not there (Reformed theologians argue that infant baptism is taught in the NT in the fact that people and their households were baptized (Acts 16:15,33; 1 Cor. 1:16). Although the texts do not say specifically that infants in these households were baptized, it is incredulous to deny the likelihood that infants or young children were not in these households. We must remember that whole families often lived together and it would be very unlikely that infants or young children were not included in at least one of the household baptisms. Most reformed theologians say that we should practice giving children of believers the sign of the covenant because there is no teaching in the NT that prohibits including children. In other words, they say the principle of covenant inclusion of children carries forward in the NT because it is not abrogated (or cut off) in the NT. The principle of abrogation is a valid and needed principle in the proper interpretation of Scripture. It helps Christians to understand what carries forth or not into the NT from the OT. For example, the sacrificial system is abrogated in the NT (i.e. Col. 2:16-23; Hebrews). But nowhere is there an abrogation of including children of believers in bearing the mark of the covenant (i.e. baptism) in the NT. MacArthur goes astray here using the common fallacy known as the argument of silence. Just because we are not told specifically to baptize children doesn't mean we can't. For example, we are not told to use specifically baptism in a worship service in the NT but we still do by using good and necessary inference. The fact is that the covenant concepts of including children in the old testament covenant are also promoted in the NT (Acts 2:39). The idea of giving the promise (the short expression alluding to the covenant promises of Old) to one's children was very familiar to the Jews. They took for granted that believers would include their children in the covenant because God commanded them to do so and was a covenantal God (Gen. 12; 15; 17). In fact, the notion of excluding ones children from inclusion in the covenant and its signs would have been foreign or radical. God even told the Israelites that their males (including infants and children) would be cut off from the covenant community of Israel if they didn't have the sign of the covenant (see Gen. 17:14). For the Jew, this was a no brainer. This is why there is no teaching in the NT which specifically excludes infants and young children from receiving the sign of the covenant. So, the OT and the NT actually encourages the church to include infants and children in the covenant community via the new sign of the covenant: baptism.)
It is therefore, impossible to prove that infant baptism is valid from the New Testament. It's impossible to support it from the New Testament or for that matter from the Old Testament. German theologian, Schleiermacher wrote, "All traces of infant baptism, which have been asserted to be found in the New Testament must first be inserted there." He's right. (Schleiermacher was a liberal theologian who is not to be respected. He also didn’t believe in the supernatural, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, etc. I am surprised MacArthur even uses his view to bolster his argument. Much of what Schleiermacher taught has led to the liberalization of many main line denominations which have drifted away from the gospel.) The host of German and front ranked theologues and scholars of the church of England, the Church of England, the Anglican Church, which believes in infant baptism, a host of their scholars have united to affirm, not only the absence of infant baptism from the New Testament, but from apostolic and post apostolic times. It isn't in the New Testament and it didn't exist in the earliest church. They believe it arose around the second or third century. Lutheran professor, Kurt Aland, after intensive study of infant baptism says, "There is no definite proof of the practice until after the third century," and he says, "This cannot be contested." (These are ridiculous comments and views. Church history is replete with early church fathers who attested to the early and commonly accepted practice of infant baptism. The imminent conservative scholar Samuel Miller has proven this point. Dr. Miller was a professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at Princeton Seminary who wrote a book called "Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable" in 1834. The believer’s baptism position simply did not exist in any significant way until the Anabaptists came on the scene in the mid 1500s. Ireaneus (Second century) church father confirmed infant baptism. Origen, a Greek church father from the 3rd century noted the common practice of infant baptism in his time as one which was received from the apostles. Cyprian, a Latin third century father said the same. Chrysostom, the famous Greek preacher of the fourth century also noted its early practice. In 401 AD the Council of Carthage encouraged the practice. The Great church father Augustine of Hippo in the fifth century confirmed its Biblical practice and considered it heresy to deny it. Dr. Francis Shaeffer states, "Saint Augustine, writing concerning infant baptism, said, "This doctrine is held by the whole church, not instituted by councils, but always retained.” Those who would teach that the practice of the early Church was not infant baptism should be able to show in Church History when it started. There is no such break recorded” (Baptism, pg. 12). MacArthur is simply twisting the facts here. I encourage everyone to research this on their own by googling it. Try entering "early church fathers and infant baptism." I believe you will find that church history indisputably testifies that infant baptism was practiced by Christians in the first century church. We can call all the church fathers liars but I think that position is simply untenable.)
Catholic professor of theology, Haegelbacher, writes, "This controversy has shown that it is not possible to bring in absolute proof of infant baptism by basing one's argument on the Bible." Good! B. B. Warfield, who is no mean theologian, who was astute and really a great, great theologian who influenced my life in my seminary days, B. B. Warfield affirmed, he was by the way an advocate of infant baptism, but he affirmed the absence of infant baptism from the Bible (This can be misleading because B.B. Warfield strongly believed in the infant baptism as a Presbyterian. He also argues for its practice based on Biblical principles and covenantal teaching which I have alluded to above. If MacArthur would follow Dr. Warfield's arguments regarding covenantal theology, he would soon embrace infant baptism).
Among the Calvinists, among the reformed people there is a very important principle, which many of them like to use. It's called the regulative principle, and it says this: if Scripture doesn't command it, it is forbidden. Now if they would just stick with that they'd be all right. The Scripture doesn't demand it; it cannot be introduced into the church as normative. The theme of the Reformation, of course Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Christus, that is faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, also Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone. The theme, the great by-word of the Reformation was Scripture only, Scripture only, Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, and yet if you go to Scripture you can't find one single solitary word about infant baptism. It's not in the Bible. It still is defended, however, amazingly and still practiced as if was biblical. It's really amazing. I can understand how people within the protestant church can disagree about an interpretation of Scripture. (Dr. MacArthur is misleading here. The Reformers did believe in Scripture alone but they also believed in the principle of "good and necessary inference" as it is expressed the Westminster Confession Faith (Chapter 1; par. 6). In other words, one can deduce a doctrine by comparing Scripture with Scripture. If one accepts Covenant theology which is clearly in Scripture, then one can defensively deduce from Scripture that infant baptism is a Biblical practice. If we limit ourselves to Dr. MacArthur's argument that we cannot believe anything that is not clearly commanded, then we could not use the word "Trinity" to describe the Bible's doctrine of God because the word is not specificially used in the Bible. But the church rightly accepts this doctrine because it is deduce from good and necessary inference by using Scriptural principles. Perhaps John would become a paedo baptist if he would use the same practice (good and necessary inference) that he uses to accept the doctrine of the Trinity. With more on this issue consider Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s comments, "Express commands are not the only valid ones. Good and necessary inferences are authoritative, as well. For instance, where in the New Testament do we find an explicit command to allow women to partake of the Lord’s Supper? After all, at the original institution of the Supper, no women were present. Nor do we ever see women at communion. If one points to the Old Testament to show women were included in the Passover, the Reformed point is confirmed!” (Infant Baptism: The Biblical Rationale for Baptizing Infants, pg. 10). )
I really find it very hard for myself to understand how they can argue about something that isn't in the Bible, as over against what is. It's one thing to say, "Well I understand that passage this way, and you understand it that way, or I understand this doctrine and you understand it that way." It's another thing to say, "I believe what's in the Bible and I don't believe what's outside the Bible." That's a completely different issue, but that in fact is what we have (It is not what we have. Infant Baptism is truly built upon a covenantal view of Scripture. It is argued from the Scriptures themselves. MacArthur is overly simplistic in his view here.)
Now I would expect Roman Catholicism to engage in that practice because Roman Catholicism has two sources of authority. On the one hand they have the Bible, on the other hand and it's as empty as my right hand, they have tradition. You see where the weight is. But in the Catholic system there is what is called tradition. It is known as perdition or the magisterium and it is the accumulation of materials outside the Bible that bear equal authority with the Scripture. Now we're not surprised that the Roman Catholic system because they believed that the Catholic Church is the unique recipient of post biblical revelation, that is to say God has given His word to the church beyond the Bible. And therefore, it carries equal weight with Scripture. We're not surprised that a system that believes there is extra biblical material that has equal weight with Scripture would come up with infant baptism and make it an absolute in their system. Not surprising! In fact, the Roman Catholic asserts that it is the only recipient of revelation beyond the Bible. Not only is it the only recipient of revelation, but it is the only and infallible interpreter of all revelation both traditional and biblical.
So when we know that Roman Catholics baptize babies that fits into their magisterium, but when you come to Reformation people who say Scripture, only, Scripture only, and they had a Reformation and they basically dumped tradition and they dumped the magisterium, and they said it's the Bible, it's the Bible, it's the Bible how come they hung on to infant baptism? It's not there; it's not there. It's a relic of popery (This is a strong opinion that totally ignores the Reformer’s understanding of the covenants and the connectedness of the OT and NT via the covenants. We also need to realize that this doctrine of infant baptism actually precedes the popes of Rome. MacArthur is again using a straw man argument to argue his point. Anyone could knock down infant baptism if it was in fact it was a doctrine created by popes but it never was. This is where John’s fallacious argument fails).
Now we would understand t he church history would be Rome's hermeneutic. Hermeneutic is a word that has to do with interpretation. We would understand that history can interpret the Bible for Rome, but history can't interpret the Bible for us. It doesn't matter to a Bible interpreter what history has done, what some counsel said, what some pope said, it doesn't matter what some visionary said. The way you interpret Scripture is not by something outside of it, but by what is in it, right? (I think MacArthur is a little hypocritical here because I know he respects the Nicene Creed which articulates the doctrine of the trinity. Since I often read Dr. MacArthur’s Study Bible notes I know for a fact that he uses church history in his interpretation of the Bible. For example, He argues for the late dating of the book of Revelation (i.e. AD 90s) on the basis of statements attesting to this view from early church fathers such as Ireanaus (2nd Century AD). Case in point, MacArthur states, "Writing in the second century, Irenaeus declared that Revelation had been written toward the end of Domitian’s reign. Later writers, such as Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Victorinus (who wrote one of the earliest commentaries on Revelation), Eusebius, and Jerome affirm the Domitian date” (MacArthur’s Study Bible 1959). If MacArthur would stick closely to his position about history stated above, he simply would not use the fathers as he does to argue for a late date for Revelation (By the way, I think he rightly uses the fathers in this instance to inform his understanding of Revelation). He simply needs to be consistent in appreciating the importance of church history. We need to be careful not to dismiss early church councils and our church history. The Reformers did not throw out church history or the councils. They simply wanted to make sure that the views of the councils and church fathers accurately presented the meaning of the Scriptures. Just like the doctrine of the trinity, many reformers felt that the early acceptance of Infant baptism by early church councils reflected apostolic teaching in the Bible)
The Bible is its own interpreter (If we do not consider the teaching of early church councils, we can and will easily fall into heresy. The church can and should learn from its interpretive mistakes made in the past. It is simply foolish not to consider the interpretations by the church in past history. Theologians call this enterprise historical theology. It informs the church about such heresies as arianism, apollonarianism, pelagianism, and the like Without consideration of church historical, the church could easily fall prey to past heresies.) Use normal historical grammatical, interpretation, you'd take the words as they are, you interpret the Scripture with a scripture, you don't need tradition (The historical understanding of the church is helpful in many instances. I agree that the Roman Catholic Church has drifted away from Scripture by elevating the tradition of their church above Scripture, but this doesn't mean that the tradition of the Christian church is meaningless. I know for a fact that John MacArthur refers to church history in his interpretations of the Bible. In fact, John is actually embracing the historical tradition of the Anabaptists in his acceptance of believer’s baptism over against infant baptism), you don't need the magisterium of some religious system. Church history can be Rome's hermeneutic. In other words they interpret the Bible from their tradition, but it has never been the hermeneutic of the reformed. It has never been our hermeneutic to say, "Well I don't know what that means so let me consult some pope."
The Jews did that in the Old Testament. They say, "Well we're not sure what this means so let's ask Rabbi so an so. If you don't know what the Bible means you don't go to somebody who has infallible revelation as to its meaning. You dig into the text to discern it. God does not interpret Scripture through history. God does not interpret Scripture through tradition, through rites or ceremonies or doctrines that are true simply because some religious system says they're true. Only an honest interpretation of Scripture in which you exegete the text itself can yield the meaning of that Scripture. Reading traditional history back into the Bible is not a legitimate way to interpret it. History is no
hermeneutic (Again, John is not being honest here. I know that he thinks about historical viewpoints that the church has espoused over the centuries in his interpretations of verses. No one is a tabula rasa (blank slate) when coming to the text of Scripture. History can be a helpful tool in understanding many Biblical teachings. This is why Christ has given the church people through the centuries that were extraordinarily gifted teachers with unusual wisdom and knowledge (i.e. Augustine, Luther, John Calvin, etc.). It is simply arrogant and a dismissal of Christ's gifts (i.e. teaching, wisdom, and knowledge as noted in 1 Cor. 12:8 and Eph. 4:11) to the church to discount what others have said in the past.)
Now it is also true that Scripture, they'll bring this up, they'll say this: yes it's not in the Bible, but it'salso true that Scripture nowhere forbids infant baptism. Now if I can get into a debate and we'regoing to debate that point, I think I can win. You're telling me that's it's okay because it's not there? It should be an ordinance of the church because it's not there? Do you realize how much is not there? You can make an ordinance out of everything that's not there. I mean just use your imagination and figure out where that could go. That's nothing but an argument from silence, which is no argument at all (No, actually MacArthur is using an argument of silence because the New Testament doesn't say to specifically baptize children. Again, he is forgetting to apply the principle of abrogation.) It provides no basis for acceptance, certainly no basis for a mandate for infant baptism as some kind of ubiquitous divinely ordained ordinance that all children of believers or all children of church members ought to engage in.
The fact that it's not there proves absolutely nothing, except that it proves that it's not valid. (John’s argument here again doesn’t hold water. For example, his argument would toss out the use of the word "trinity" which isn't use in the whole Bible. But good and necessary inference allows us to use it.) Certainly doesn't prove anything on its behalf. To justify that sprinkling of babies ought to be done because it's not forbidden in Scripture is to standardize what's not in the Bible as if it were the standard of the church. It's to imprint with divine authority something that men invent to open the way to any ritual, and ceremony, any teaching, any anything that isn't forbidden specifically in Scripture.
In fact, at the time of the Reformation we all associate Martin Luther, you know, the monk who saw the truth of the gospel by faith and grace and confronted the Roman Catholic Church. Went up on day and nailed his thesis on the door of Wittenberg there, in the 1500's and this was a big moment. He was calling the church to take a good hard look at, of course, selling indulgences. They were telling people you could get forgiveness of your sins if you paid enough money to the church and you could buy an indulgence, in other words you could buy forgiveness. He didn't like that. And we don't blame him for that.
Then he went from there to understanding justification by faith. And Martin Luther said that the only way you're redeemed is through faith and grace, and we all understand that, and that's what gave birth to the Reformation. And Luther went so far to say that it has to come out of the Bible (MacArthur is again inconsistent here. He quotes Luther (a theologian in church history) to bolster his view when he says we can only use scripture (no tradition) to prove infant baptism? Isn’t Luther his tradition which he clings to on the issue of sola scripture. I agree with John’s point about grace but wish he wouldn't be so inconsistent and thus put down the tradition of infant baptism. Let's be honest, he is simply picking which traditions he agrees with and discounting the traditions he doesn’t like. This is simply hypocritical. I say this in love).
Luther really fought the Catholic system. Let me quote what he said, "The church needs to rid itself of all false glories that torture Scripture by inserting personal ideas into the Scripture, which lend to it their own sense." "No," he said. "Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, for me constrain, press, compel me with God's word." That's Martin Luther. And Martin Luther, he wasn't just some stumbling, bumbling local monk. He was a brilliant doctor of theology. Martin Luther was one of the brightest theologians in the entire Catholic Church at the time. And he was saying its Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, for him.
Well there's nothing in the Scripture about infant baptism (Reformed theologians disagree about this, including Luther whom John quotes above on a chosen topic because Luther agrees with one of MacArthur’s positions). And in a minute I'll tell you what happened to Luther in the transition from what he just said to eventually capitulating to do infant baptisms. Another thing the baby baptizers use for support they try to go to Matthew 18, where Jesus said in verse 3, "Accept you become as a little child you can't enter the kingdom." Well that's not talking about babies. That's talking about believers. You have to become like a little child to get into the kingdom. What does that mean? Well if you're going to come into God's kingdom you don't come with a record of all your great achievements. You haven't got any. A little child has no achievements, right? A little child has accomplished nothing, done nothing. They're not productive. Have you noticed? They don't do anything. They just have to have things done to them all the time. They don't achieve anything, accomplish anything, they don't make any contribution at all, except just the sheer joy of their presence. And that's what the Lord is saying.
You come into the kingdom without any achievements, without any accomplishments, without any curriculum vitae, without having achieved or accomplished anything. You come in naked and bare and stripped and needy. That's how you come. He's talking to religious leaders and He's talking to the disciples and saying, "Don't expect that somehow all the stuff you've achieved is going to get you into the kingdom." Remember the apostle Paul? Philippians 3, You know I was of the circumcision, circumcised the 8th day, of the tribe of Benjamin, of the people of Israel, you know zealous as to the law, went through the whole deal and he said at the end it's manure, right? It's manure. I can't bring that list of achievements. That's all Jesus is saying.
In Matthew 19 and Mark 10, you remember Jesus said to the disciples, "Let the little children come to me." Remember the little children came to Him. That's another Scripture they like to use and it says, "Let the little children come to Me, don't forbid them for such is the kingdom of heaven." And Jesus gathered up the little children there in Matthew 19, Luke 10, both record it. And He blessed them. Well in the first place how can that advocate infant baptism? He didn't baptize them. He didn't baptize them. That's no evidence about anything about baptism. He just picked up some little children and said, "God has a special care for these little ones who are too young to either reject the truth or accept the truth." God has a special care for them and He pulled them into His arms and demonstrated that special care by blessing them. They weren't necessarily the children of believing parents. We don't even know who their parents were. For all we know some of them might have been Gentile kids and they might have been uncircumcised pagans. The idea that you baptize all these infants of believing parents or of church member parents based upon that Scripture is just beyond connection. Jesus didn't baptize them. Jesus didn't cause them to be baptized. He didn't suggest that they should be baptized. He didn't say anything about their parents, whether they were believing or non believing parents. All He said was by what He did, "Children are precious to God. He takes care of them. He blesses them." That's all. (Although the passages (i.e. Matthew 19:13-15; Mk. 10:13-16; & Lk. 18:15-17) do not say specifically to baptize infants or children, they do point to the favorable attitude God has toward children, especially covenant children. MacArthur states that these could have been Gentiles kids or uncircumcised pagans to download the idea of covenant favor. Matthew, however states that the geographical context was in the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. This would have been likely in Perea, whose population was largely Jewish (ESV Study Bible notes, p. 1860). Christ’s love for the children is consistent with the favorable attitude that God had toward the children of believing Jews in the OT who were included in God’s covenant with Israel. It is likely that the children that came to Jesus in this passage were Jewish covenantal children. I think this NT passage does lean towards the covenantal concepts of the inclusion of children in the covenant of God with Israel. In this sense, it supports infant baptism which includes God's favor towards the covenant children of Christian parents who believed in Christ.)
Then the people who believe in infant baptism try to advocate it from two books, Acts and I Corinthians. In Acts and I Corinthians you have five mentions of a household and they say, "Well in a household you must have babies." And it says that households were baptized; therefore, babies were baptized. Well certainly that's an inference. It doesn't say that. There's never an instance of a baby being baptized in any of those households. It never identifies them. And households simply mean, it could mean family, it could mean servants who are a part of that household. They suggest that some babies were baptized in those households as an act of solidarity. The father, they say, served as a surrogate for the faith of the children. Surrogate faith? What is that? You mean I can believe and my child is saved by my faith? That's not what the New Testament teaches. That's a severe challenge to individual salvation, as well as an insertion into the text because no babies are ever mentioned and no babies are ever mentioned being baptized. (The Reformed view is that if the children were baptized they would simply be receiving the sign of the covenant just like the Jewish babies at 8 days old received circumcision. Reformed Christians do not believe their baptized children are saved by baptism. They are saved by personally trusting in the savior Jesus Christ who is the one their baptism points them to. In other words, everything that is signified by Baptism is given to the child once he or she repent and believes in Christ. MacArthur is again brushing with a broad stroke, in a negative light, everyone who practices infant baptism.)
Look at these five: I'll just run them by you quickly. Cornelius' house, Acts 10, the gospel is preached by Peter, Cornelius heard it and it says they all heard the word, they believed it, the Spirit fell, they were all baptized. All heard, all believed, Spirit came on all, they were all baptized. In the jailer's house, Acts 16, the Philippian jailer, Paul you remember gave them the gospel. It says all heard the gospel all were baptized (Although the text says Paul spoke the word to all the others in the house (Acts 16:32), this doesn't mean that infants or little children were not present in the house. Luke in this passage is simply pointing out that all the people (i.e. adults or old youth) who were able to hear (i.e. understand what he was saying) heard Paul’s message. This doesn’t mean necessarily that no infant or child wasn’t baptized as part of the household in Acts 16:33. Paul says in Acts 16:31 to the Jailer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved - you and your household." Why does he emphasize household? It's because Paul is covenantal in his theology. Paul is using inclusionary covenantal language. God loves to include and save families (see Exodus 20:6). Acts 16:33 says, "At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptised." The text does not say that everyone in the household that was baptized was a person who heard the message and believed. This interpretation is the most fair interpretation of the text and clearly leaves room for the baptism of children and infants of the jailer since Paul doesn't specifically say exactly who was baptized in the household.) Chapter 18, it was in the house of Crispus, all believed, all were baptized.
The other two occur in I Corinthians in the, the other two are the account of Lydia and Stephanas. Lydia is in the book of Acts. But in the case of Lydia it's the same thing. We must understand the same thing must have occurred. They heard, they believed, they were baptized. Stephanas, they heard, they believed, they were baptized. I mean it's all basically the same pattern. They all hear the gospel, they all believe, they all receive the Spirit; they all are baptized. That excludes infants because infants can't hear and believe.The household, then, is defined. It is defined as those capable of hearing, understanding, believing.
That's the definition of the household (MacArthur is making up this definition of a household that isn't supported by the Scriptures. 1 Cor. 1:16 doesn't limit the members of the household of Stephanas to only include adults capable of hearing, understanding, and believing. MacArthur again is doing eisegesis just as he did on the baptismal mode issue as I note in a previous paragraph. MacArthur is clearly misleading us here). In Stephanas' household, which is in I Corinthians 1, "All who were baptized," it says, "All who were baptized were devoted to the ministry of the saints." Babies can't be devoted to the ministry of the saints. It says, "All who were baptized were helping in the spiritual work of the church. It's impossible for infants. (MacArthur is referring to 1 Corinthians 16:15. This speaks only to the converts in the household of Stephanus. This would only apply to people who were able to believe. This doesn’t mean, however, that infants or young children were not baptized when Paul baptized the household at an earlier time (1 Cor. 1:16). In other words, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Paul’s reference to converts in the household included every person that was baptized in the household. MacArthur is simply presuming that Paul is including every person that was baptized in the household of Stephanus in his statement in 1 Cor. 16:15.)
In the case of Lydia, in Acts, her heart was opened when she heard the gospel. "The gospel was preached and her heart was opened," it says. And so we understood she heard the gospel, she believed, others must have heard the gospel (This is another presumption by MacArthur. The text only notes that Lydia's heart was "opened” to Paul's message - Acts 16:14), their hearts were opened and they believed and they were baptized. And by the way, to assume there were children in the house is maybe stretching it since apparently she had no husband. She apparently was a single person. (This passage says, "when she and the members of her household were baptized" (Acts 16:15). It says nothing about the belief of those in her household. MacArthur is misleading here. The text leaves room for the baptism of infants or children.")
In John 4:53, it says about a nobleman who Jesus talked with and He healed his son. It says about that man, "He himself believed and his whole household, he himself believed and his whole household." They all believed, household belief then household baptism. Where there's no faith there's no baptism (It is presumptuous to apply this text to all other NT texts that speak about household. You must understand each text within its own context.).
In Acts 2:38, let me show you this. Turn in your Bible for a minute to Acts 2:38. Here is another Scripture, which they use to defend infant baptism. Acts 2:38, Peter is closing the sermon on the Day of Pentecost, and he says in verse 38, "Repent, let each of you be baptized." So we see the sequence: repent, be baptized. And you'll receive forgiveness and you'll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, then in verse 39, "For the promise," he says, "Is for you and your, what, children." Oh, they say, "See the promise here for the children, this is an important Scripture." Repent and be baptized and the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.
Now they see your children as an illusion to the baptism of children, and, of course, that's a stretch (It is not a stretch when you understand God's covenantal love for Israel and His church. Just as God included children in the OT, He again includes children in the NT covenant. God loves to save families. He wants to extend His grace not just to individuals but to whole families and their generations to come. This is why God promised to bless Abraham’s future generations. We should never forget that the church today is made up of the children of Abraham who were and are saved by faith (Romans 4). The OT covenant people believed in the promised one to come but the NT covenant people believe in the promised one who has come. The promise unites the OT saints to the NT saints. So, the inclusionary covenantal language of including the OT children in the covenant simply carries forward in the NT.) There's nothing about the baptism of children here whatsoever. Well what is being said here? Do you understand what's being said? He's talking to some Jews, okay? And they're gathered around him and they're in the city of Jerusalem and he said, "Look, I'm saying to you repent, come to faith in Christ, be baptized in His name, you'll receive the forgiveness of your sins, you'll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and this promise is not only for you but it's for your children."
Now how obvious is that? What's he saying? He's saying this isn't isolated for the crowd today. This is for anybody who comes into the future, right? This is for your children, and your children's children, and your children's, children's children. He's simply saying, "This promise goes on and on and on. And for all who are a far off it's for Gentiles too." So he's saying for your children, Jews in the future, and for Gentiles as well in the future. Anybody, anybody who repents of sin, anybody who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, anybody who receives a forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit, that promise is fulfilled to anybody whether they're Jew or Gentile. That's all he's saying here. (MacArthur is being overly simplistic in his interpretation here. It is ridiculous to think that Peter who is speaking to a Jewish audience is not thinking covenantally. Of course this will apply to future generations but it is based on the fact that the covenant, which Peter calls the promise, is not only for the Jewish adults individually but it is for their children and the gentiles who are far off. In other words, it is for their families which would include infants and young children, just as it did in the OT with the covenant sign of circumcision. A serious question arises, "Why would God give His NT church less than what He gave to Israel?” It would makes no sense knowing what is taught in the OT about God’s inclusionary covenant with Jewish believing adults and their children. In fact, the NT covenant is even more inclusionary because the sign of the covenant can now be applied to adult woman as well as little girls. Peter is confirming to his Jewish audience that the NT covenant has arrived and it is for their children.) There's nothing about babies here (Aren't babies children?). The children he's speaking about are the offspring of the crowd there. This is for all future generations to be called to the same salvation promises and the same salvation blessings (The covenantal promises in Christ are not just meant for Jewish believers but for Gentile believers as well. They too can have their children participate in the sign of the covenant which is baptism. Gentiles also can be saved if they believe in the Christ in whom they are baptized as infants and young children. Why should we deprive infants and young children from experiencing the covenantal sign of baptism when the young infant boys of Israel where given the sign of the covenant? We must remember that there is no express prohibition in the NT to exclude children from being given the sign of the covenant which they received in the OT.)
Now one other Scripture they use is I Corinthians 7, and I'll show you this one and then I'll make some more general comments. I Corinthians 7:12-14, is another Scripture they like to use, and again it doesn't say anything about baptism at all, none of them do, but this is where they have to go if they're going to try to find a biblical foundation. Now he's talking to people in various marital situations here. And in verse 12 he says, "Look, this is something I'm going to say to you. It's not a direct quote of Jesus, it's still inspired and it's from God, but it's not directly quoted from Jesus." He's been saying some things that come right out of the instruction of Jesus, but he says, I'm saying this. This isn't quoting the Lord here. But here's the principle, "If any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, okay? You got an unconverted wife, your wife is not a Christian and she wants to live with you. She doesn't want to separate. She's not a Christian, she doesn't believe, but she wants to be with you, then you shouldn't send her away, shouldn't send her away. That means divorce. That's a word for divorce in the Greek. Don't divorce her.
The idea was Christians were coming to Christ and they were saying, wow, I don't want to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. He just got through saying that in Chapter 6, you know. You don't want to be connected up with any body whose sinful, so maybe you're married to an unbeliever and you don't want to continue that relationship, you want to marry a Christian. Well look, if that unbeliever wants to stay you keep that marriage together. The next verse says it in the reverse. The woman has an unbelieving husband and consents to live with her don't send him away.
So stay in that marriage even though you have an unconverted spouse. Why? Verse 14, "The unbelieving husband is sanctified." What does that mean? Set apart. Set apart to what? To blessing. What happens to that unbeliever is by being married to a believer he gets the spillover of God's work in your life. He gets the spillover of God's blessing. God is so kind and God is so gracious. For the sake of that unbeliever God would like him to just hang around so he can enjoy the blessings that God pours out on you.
Then he winds it up at the end of verse 14 and says the same is true of children. If you separate then you've got the problem of the children, otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. The word means separate. What happens is you've separated your children from blessing. If you keep that home together, even with an unconverted husband, or an unconverted wife, the blessing that God pours on the believer is going to spill on the husband or wife and it's going to spill on the children. It doesn't mean that the child is a believer. It doesn't mean that the child is in the covenantcommunity. It doesn't mean the child should wear his baptism. It isn't here; very simple principle.
It's good to keep a marriage together if an unbeliever is willing to stay there because then blessing will come down on that unbeliever and down on those children. And who knows but what that blessing can lead them to faith.No mention of baptism. Absolutely none. Just don't get separated and divorced if it's not necessary, so that unbelievers and children can enjoy the spillover of God's blessing on the believer in that marriage. (MacArthur is missing a very important point in this text. The believer affects their family, especially the children. This is covenant language in which God speaks favorably about the covenant children of believers. This is inclusionary language. It doesn't mean that the child is saved by the faith of the parent but he is definitely blessed. This verse tips the scale towards the practice of infant baptism because such a baptism would visibly separate the child receiving it unto the Lord as part of the covenant community. The child is already separated as holy unto the Lord by being connected to his believing parent. This is very similar to the position of Jewish children who bore the sign of the covenant in the OT. Paul is reminding Christian parents that similar covenantal blessings continue into the NT era. When a parent baptizes his child he is reminded visibly that his child is special to the Lord and part of the covenantal community of the church. The parents are reminded (via a covenantal object lesson) to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They are also encouraged to teach their children the gospel and to encourage them to repent and believe in Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31). In other words, infant baptism puts theological teeth on parent’s covenantal and parental responsibilities to raise their children in the Lord.)
Well the full counsel of God is either expressly set forth in Scripture, listen carefully, it is either expressly set forth in Scripture or it can be necessarily, compellingly and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. I'll say that again. The full counsel of God is either expressly set forth in Scripture or can be necessarily, compellingly and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. In other words it's either there or explicitly or it's there implicitly and you can easily draw it out like the doctrine of the Trinity, for example. But this issue of infant baptism just isn't there in any way shape or form and it is not necessarily compellingly and validly deduced by good and logical consequence. It'sjust not there. (The doctrine is present when one properly understands the covenants of the Bible).
Second reason is really the other side of the issue. I don't believe in infant baptism because infant baptism is not Christian baptism. What is in the Bible is Christian baptism, and I already dealt with this two weeks ago. I'm just going to comment on it briefly. Christian baptism is this: somebody believes as an adult, they repent of their sin, they confess Jesus as Lord, they acknowledge Him as Savior, they are saved and then they are baptized. That is New Testament Christian baptism. It is definitive, its meaning is clear, its mode is inescapable. The word bapto, baptizo means to immerse or submerge every single time it is used in the book of Acts it is talking about the immersion of a believer. (As I noted above, MacArthur is misleading here. His view is not supported by the contexts of every passage where baptizo is used in the NT. Noone can prove that baptizo definitely means immersion in the NT. This is simply a presupposition. Again, the only modes that one can actually prove are pouring or sprinkling. See the passages I note above that prove this.)
Even John Calvin said, "The word baptize means to immerse and it is certain that immersion" he says, "Was the practice of the early church." Of course, that's what the word means. They had a different word for sprinkle. It was the word, rantizo. (MacArthur is wrong on this point since baptizo is used interchangably with the word for sprinkle in the book of Hebrews. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches have received many former baptist pastors because they cannot deny this exegetical fact). This ordinance was very clearly designed by God. When a person believes there is a public way to confess their faith, put them down in the water and bring them out, why? Because it's a symbol of their death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. Remember, we went through that two weeks ago. It is a picture, and object lesson, a symbol, a visual analogy of a spiritual truth, clearly unmistakable. (This typical baptist argument doesn't fit with the actual burial of Christ which was above the ground in a tomb. Jesus was not immersed "so to speak" in the ground. He was not buried under the ground but on top of it. Paul's point in Rom. 6 that we are buried with Christ in baptism has nothing to do with the mode of baptism. Paul is simply saying that Christians are mysteriously united with Him in His death. This uniting to Christ in His death paves the way for believers to be united with Christ in His resurrection thus giving them new life (Rom. 6:1-4). The text says nothing about the mode of baptism. Baptism, however, points to the Christian's union with Christ spiritually. It points to the blessings all baptized people will receive if they truly trust in Christ.)
You know the distinctive if you were to go through everything to the core of the Christian faith it would be this: I am in Christ and Christ is in me, right? That's it. I am in Christ. It's a great doctrine of imputation. My sins imputed to Him, His righteousness imputed to me. God treats Him as if He lived my life and He died on the cross bearing my sins. God treats me as if I lived His life. God sees me perfectly righteous and takes me into His glorious heaven. It's that I am in Christ and Christ is in me. "I was buried with Him in baptism," Romans 6 says, "and I have risen to walk in newness of life." Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live." Galatians 3:27, "We were baptized into Christ." Colossians 2:12-13, same thing. Baptism pictures the fact that by the divine power of God when you come to faith in Christ, you are joined with Christ and you die in Him. Your old life dies at the cross with Him and you rise at His resurrection to walk in newness of life, and that is symbolized in immersion, very obviously. (Immersion has nothing to do with baptism. Such thinking is simply eisegesis.)
We are literally immersed into Christ, into His death, into His burial and into His resurrection, and now we're joined with Him in one life. That's why the Bible can say, "Go and make disciples, baptizing them because baptizing was synonymous with evangelizing, synonymous with saving faith. They were inseparable, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. Baptism became really the expression, the word used to define salvation. They were inseparable. We know what New Testament baptism is, it's a person repenting, believing, embracing Christ. Spiritually they are therefore united with Christ and that is symbolized as they go down into the water and rise. Their old life dies and they rise in newness of life with Christ. (For Reformed and Presbyterian Christians, the reality of what is promised in baptism is given to all baptized children or adults if they truly believe in Christ for their salvation.)
I think the church needs to get back into this understanding of baptism. The fact that the church doesn't do this is tragic. It needs to be restored. I'm going to give you some reasons why it needs to be restored: One, in our day an open public solemn confession of the crucified risen Lord is necessary, and all who experience the reality of the power of the risen Savior should give this public testimony to His glory. (I agree that everyone who truly knows the risen savior by faith should give a public profession of faith. This is why baptized children who grow up and express faith in Christ are encouraged to make a public profession of in the Presbyterian church.)
Secondly, by biblical baptism in the New Testament manner believers give a witness also to careful obedience to Scripture, in which nothing can be treated as unimportant. We say when we're baptized yes, the Bible says it and I'm doing it, and; therefore, you tell people you're not only joined with Christ, but you are obedient to Him.
Thirdly, by biblical baptism believers testify, and this is crucial, to a redeemed church. I'll say more about that later. By biblical baptism believers testify to a redeemed church. The point there, just as a hint, you've got all kinds of people who are infant baptized who at the time of their infant baptism were supposedly ushered into the church. They have nothing to do with the church now. What are they? They're a part of an unredeemed church, confused by infant baptism. (This point simply has no validity against infant baptism. If this point is pressed, then adult baptism should be stopped because of the many people who have left the church who have been baptized as adults. The baptist churches have many people who were baptized and have left the church. They may be on the rolls but they rarely if ever show up to worship God on the Lord’s Day. I know because I've talked to numbers of baptist ministers about this very subject. Just because someone is on the church roll doesn't make them a Christian. People's false profession or disobedience doesn't invalidate baptism of children or adults as a sign of the redeemed church. Baptism never has guaranteed ones salvation or that those who are baptized are actually saved.)
Fourthly by biblical baptism believers give fundamental rejection of all human regulations through which clear biblical teaching has been obscured or curtailed or supplemented. I mean baptism becomes an apologetic for the truth and a denunciation for error. (The strength of this point relies on proving infant baptism is wrong. Since MacArthur has not done this, this point is invalid.)
And number five: by biblical baptism the church signifies a public renunciation of a nominal and mass Christianity of our day. We make it real and personal in believer's baptism. (Infant baptism also signified a public renunciation of nominal Christianity. Why? It declares that the benefits that baptism points to will only be given to those who repent and trust in Christ with a public profession of faith.)
Finally, in biblical baptism the church calls for the reintroduction and practice of biblical New Testament church order and discipline. Those are reasons it's so very important. Now the Great Commission makes it very, very clear. For Jesus the order was very clear. You preach the gospel, they believe, they're baptized and they obey. That's it. You know in 1955 the Anglican Church, which baptizes babies; the Anglican Church did a study on baptism. This is what it says, 1955 report, "Every expression in the New Testament concerning the rites of baptism assumes that the convert receives them with living faith and a renunciation of his old former life." That's right. "It is clear," it says, "that the New Testament doctrine of baptism is established with reference to the baptism of adults," adults with living faith. That's New Testament baptism. Where does this infant thing come from then? It's not in the Bible, Christian baptism is in the Bible, and it's very clear what it is. It's the immersion of people who have believed as adults. (I don't know about the Anglicans but the Reformed churches believe that both the OT and NT teach the practice of infant baptism which I have explained above. I really don't we should consider the arguments of the Anglican church which has become liberal in most countries)
Third point: Why project into baptism? It is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision. Now don't get too carried away here. This isn't going to be as complicated as you think. Infant baptism is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision. Let me give you the bottom line. Infant baptism says this: this is the theology of it. The old covenant sign was a baby circumcised. That introduced them into the covenant, so we need a parallel. The parallel sign is baby baptism. That is in the new covenant and that introduces them into the new covenant. (The reformed view is that Paul draws a clear connection between OT circumcision and NT baptism in Colossians 2:11-12. This connection is widely accepted by most conservative evangelicals along with all reformed theologians. Once this connection is understand, then it is easy to see that baptism would apply to the children of believers in the NT just as circumcision was given to children in the OT. This is a key passage that I simply could not deny in seminary. I just could not see the validity of the baptist arguments when I honestly exegeted this passage. For Paul to even to bring up this connection indicates clearly that he was thinking covenantally.)
In the old covenant they had a circumcision, which introduced them to the covenant community. In the new covenant we have a baby baptism, which introduces the infant into the covenant community. That's the logic. You know what, those two things just don't go together ever in the Bible. It's a nice thought. It just isn't biblical. (Yes it is. Simply saying it isn't Biblical doesn't validate MacArthur's position) Scripture never makes that connection. There's not a verse they can point to, there's not a passage they can point to either by explicit terms or by implicit. (I just did spoke about such a text that Scripture is Col. 2:11-12. This passage has convinced a lot of former baptist theologians and pastors to become reformed) There is not one place in the Bible where baptism is ever connected to circumcision period. No place. So any connection is purely manufactured. (Colossians 2:11-12 is not manufactured. It is inspired by God and boldly proclaimed by the apostle Paul) So without Scriptural support, without Scriptural connection they infer that baby baptism is the new covenant equivalent of old covenant circumcision.
Now let me make a very simple few statements and you'll understand just exactly what the difference is. It's true in the Old Testament little boys on the eighth day after their birth were circumcised. Girls weren't, so that poses a real problem in paralleling the new covenant since girls can come into the new covenant too. But little boys were circumcised the eighth day. Now that introduced them, listen carefully, that introduced them into an earthly temporal community of people. That introduced them into the nation Israel, as it were. It was physical and it was temporal. That's what it was. In the new covenant there is no physical community. We don't have a nation. We don't have a land. We aren't a duly constituted people ruled over. We don't have an order of priests. We don't have a king. We are a spiritual community. There's a big, big difference. (To say that circumcision had no spiritual significance is simply false. The land and other temporal blessings were in fact secondary to God's spiritual relationship with Israel as His covenant people. God told Israel that He would be their God and that they would be His people. This same sort of dynamic also exists with the NT church today and is signified by the sign of baptism. God throughout the NT calls the church His chosen people. In other words, His covenant is now with believing Jews and Gentiles whom He calls the church. The children of such believers are also part of God's covenant just like they were in the OT.)
Circumcision was the sign of ethnic identity. It was the physical participation in the temporal features of the Abrahamic covenant. Listen carefully; it didn't have any spiritual implications at all. None. Because most of the people who were circumcised, the vast majority of Israelites who were circumcised went to hell. You understand that? They rejected the true and living God, they worshipped idols, right? That's the history of Israel. In the present most of the Jewish people who are circumcised will perish without the knowledge of God. In the future, two-thirds, it says, of the nation Israel will be purged out and judged eternally by God and He'll save a third and bring them into His kingdom. The vast majority of Jews will perish without the knowledge of God. Not all Israel is Israel. (It is true that many Jews have gone to hell or will go to hell due to unbelief but that doesn't mean circumcision has no spiritual significance. If that was true neither would baptism as God's new sign mean anything since many people who have been baptized also will go to hell because they are truly not saved. MacArthur goes way overboard on this one. The sign of circumcision was spiritual in that it pointed to the necessity of making sure one's heart was circumcised through repentance and faith in Yahweh (cf. Col. 2:11). It is ridiculous to say it didn't have any spiritual implications at all. MacArthur has to say this in order to keep us from seeing any covenantal connections to baptism. He is blinded by his presuppositions.)
And what did God say, "Circumcise your hearts." You see the spiritual promises and realities that God offered Israel didn't come to them by any rite or ceremony or ritual. All circumcision did was mark them out as a part of the nation Israel. They entered into the physical participation, the ethnic identity, the temporal features of the nation Israel that was under blessing promised by God to Abraham. It was an earthly blessing, not salvation. That's why Paul said, "I was circumcised the eighth day and that's manure. That did nothing for me savingly. (We need to realize also that neither does baptism do anything for our salvation in and of itself. Circumcision pointed to the necessity of repentance and faith in God. Likewise, Baptism points everyone who has received to repent and believe in Christ.) I was on my way to hell and I had been circumcised, Philippians 3. (Paul is mainly pointing out that nothing one can do can earn his place in heaven. This applies as well to the covenant signs of circumcision and baptism.)
A person born in Israel of Abrahamic seed, was physically related to temporal external privileges nothing more. Now you come into the New Testament, the new covenant this is dramatically different. There is no physical participation, there is no temporal earthly feature attached to this. We don't have a land; we don't have a place. Under the old administration, the Abrahamic covenant during the Mosaic era you entered the earthly natural covenantal community by birth and by circumcision. You took the sign of that people, but there was a small remnant in Israel that really believed, wasn't there? And they entered into the special spiritual blessings. But in the new covenant there are only those who believe. There are only those who have come by repentance and faith. This is not the same at all. There is absolutely no connection. All in the new covenant are believers. All in the new covenant know God. (MacArthur is not recognizing that there is the visible church made up of professing believers and their children. But there is also the invisible church which is made up of the elect who are those who are truly saved. This is the theological reality of the remnant which also existed in the Old Testament.)
Now if the early church thought that baptism was a replacement, baby baptism was a replacement for circumcision, why isn't that in the New Testament? And then why did the Judaisers who were going around telling everybody they had to be circumcised why didn't Paul say to them, "Hey you guys, that's over. Baptism has taken its place. (Paul does teach this in Col. 2:11-12.) We don't circumcise babies, we baptize them." He could have put an end to the whole Judaising deal with just one comment. And why would they go into the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15, and have this big long debate about what do we do about the circumcision? What do we do? Why didn't somebody just get up and say oh no, no, no, that's out and baby baptism has taken its place. They never said. Nobody ever says that. (This again is an argument of silence. Paul is addressing in Galatians the problem of legalism. His main point is that people are saved by faith alone in Christ alone and not by works or circumcision. The book doesn’t at all address whether the church to baptize infants or not. It is addressing primarily the heresy of works righteousness)
The Abrahamic covenant had a unique feature, circumcision. All that meant was you identified with the nation of Israel. Circumcision had a second benefit, it was physically beneficial up until very modern times Jewish women had the lowest rate of cervical cancer of any people in the world because circumcision does help prevent the passing on of certain diseases. God knew that that would be a preservative in His people and He wanted to preserve His people Israel because of His ultimate purpose for them. Also it was sign of how desperately they needed to be cleansed on the inside, it was symbolic of that, but their point was it just introduced you into the nation, it didn't save you. (MacArthur keeps repeating the inaccurate idea that circumcision was just about the nation of Israel. Although he makes such a statement, he at least notes here that it was symbolic pointing to the need for spiritual cleansing. In other words, circumcision is really about more than just the nation of Israel. It's a spiritual symbol pointing to the cleansing work that God would do in the lives of His covenant people if their hearts were circumcized. This would happen after the men were circumcized as babied if they repented and trusted in Yahweh for their salvation. This is exactly the same idea behind the outward sign of baptism which points to the inward work of God if a baptized baby one day repents and trusts in Christ.)
There's no parallel to this in the New Testament. There's nothing that sort of ushers you into some earthly group, there's just the believers and they're all in the new covenant. (The earthly group that one is ushered into through baptism is the visible church. The children become members of this covenant community just like the children were members of the covenant community of Israel. This doesn't mean, however, that they are saved but they still are nevertheless members of these visible communities.) You see Jeremiah 31:34, Jeremiah in 31 is talking about the new covenant. Listen to what he says. Here's the character of the new covenant. It's very different from Israel under the old. Here's what he said. This is the most salient feature of the new covenant. Here it is, Jeremiah 31:34, "They shall all know Me." That's the difference. Under the old covenant they didn't all know God. They didn't know Him. Remember when Jesus came he said, "If you knew My Father you'd know Me," didn't he? You don't know My Father, you don't know Me.
In the new covenant they all know God. You're not even in the new covenant unless you know God, and the only way to know God is through Christ. That means that all those who are members of the new covenant community know God savingly. Membership in the new covenant is limited to those who have been saved. Jeremiah is making a dramatic statement here. He's saying, "I know under the old covenant there were lots of folks who had the sign of the covenant, there were lots of folks in the covenant community who didn't know God, but in the new covenant everybody in there is going to know God." That's distinctive. That's conclusive. Circumcision was never a spiritual sign of anything. (MacArthur contradicts what he said in an earlier paragraph that circumcision was a, "sign of how desperately they (the Israelites) needed to be cleansed on the inside." Isn't this a sign of something spiritual. Jeremiah does not address whether infants can receive the sign of the covenant (i.e. baptism) or not when the New Covenant will occur. He is simply talking about a time when the New Covenant will come and it will involve God's people having the law written on the hearts and minds of His people (Jer. 31:33). This is referring to the fact that the covenant won't be based upon the Law of Israel but rather upon the work that God will do on the inside of people. We need to be careful of going beyond what this verse is saying. People in the New Covenant, in the saving sense, are people who have had their hearts changed. If you buy into MacArthur's argument, you have a problem when you consider all the adults who have received believer's baptism as sign of the New Covenant but are not committed Christians. The church is full of such people. In other words, we would have to stop baptizing adults since there so many adults who falsely profess Christ in the visible church. This would be silly. The issue is not about baptism per say, it's about whether a person's heart has been changed as Jeremiah says it will when people truly experience the New Covenant. He is talking about the invisible church which is made up of God's elect. The truth is that only God knows ultimately who such people are. Baptism like circumcision points to the heart change that only God can do in His timing either before or after baptism. The work of the New Covenant expanded the saving work of God to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Baptism of infants by Jewish or Gentile Christian parents doesn't violate the teaching of Jeremiah. It confirms it because it points to the necessity of God's inward work in the hearts of baptized those baptized children which occurs in His timing.) Baptism is a spiritual sign of true inclusion in new covenant salvation by grace through faith.
Well let me give you a fourth reason. I reject infant baptism because infant baptism is not consistent with the nature of the church. I hinted at this earlier. Infant baptism is not consistent with the nature of the church. This opens up proverbially Pandora's box. There is so much chaos at this point it begs discussion. It's just impossible to solve the problem unless you go back to rejecting infant baptism.
Here's what I mean. You have, for example, in the Roman Catholic Church millions and millions and millions of people who were baptized. At their baptism it was stated that this baptism ushered them into the kingdom of heaven. Are they part of the church? Is the church responsible for these people? Are we responsible to shepherd these people who don't believe? The vast majority of those people obviously have no knowledge of God, no knowledge of Jesus Christ. Millions of them have no connection to the church whatsoever. They go about living their lives. Are they a part of the church? Are we responsible to shepherd these people? Should we discipline them? You see what happens is petio baptism destroys the redeemed church idea. It just completely assaults the idea that this is a redeemed community of people who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ. Now you've got something that's so vast that's so ubiquitous that it's impossible to define let alone deal with. It confuses the visible church with the invisible church. And such confusion is not helpful.
If people when they're baptized as babies whether it's in an Anglican Church, or Episcopalian, or Presbyterian Church, or Lutheran Church, whatever it is, if that includes them in salvation in the kingdom of God and in the church and they go on to live dissolute lives of sin and just carry on like the pagans that they are, are they really part of the church? What in the world is the church then? Is the church not redeemed? (MacArthur is only right here regarding those churches that believe in baptismal regeneration such as the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans. The Presbyterian and Reformed churches do not believe this doctrine. The Presbyterian doctrine, as I have noted above doesn't cause the problems MacArthur notes here because they require a credible profession of faith of their baptized children as they get older. It is only then that they can partake of communion and be a full member of the visible church. Again, I remind MacArthur that there are millions of people who have received believer's baptism but are living the Christian life in the churches that practice this view. Using his faulty argument, one could call into question the believer's baptism view because of this reality. We must teach that baptism doesn't save. It only points to the salvation that Christ gives if we repent and believe.)
You see infant baptism perpetuates the same thing it did in Israel. You had a whole bunch of circumcised kids who didn't know God. Now we have a whole bunch of baptized babies who don't know God either. (We also have a bunch of baptized adults who received believer's baptism that don't know God. Any honest baptist preacher will tell you this.) If we're going to carry that over we get the same result. The true church, however, unlike Israel, Israel was a nation of people, earthly people, the true church is a nation of believers. (MacArthur is forgetting that God in the OT distinguished between the remnant of true believers from those who were part of Israel. Paul recognized this fact when he said, "For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel" (Rom. 9:6). This distinction between true believers and professing believers in name only is also in the NT. The true believers in the NT are also the remnant or the elect (chosen) of God just as there were true believers in Israel. Jesus is speaks about this fact when He tells us that there are wheat (i.e. true believers) and weeds (false believers) in the church (Matthew 13:24-30). Jesus says these people will be separated from one another by His angels when He comes back (Matthew 13::36-43). MacArthur with his dispensational theology misses the clear comparisons that exist between the church in the NT and the covenant people of God in the OT.) Whether somebody was baptized as a baby, whether they were confirmed at the age of twelve or not, if they don't know God personally through faith in Jesus Christ, they do not belong to the redeemed church. (Presbyterians believe this as well because repentance and faith required to be redeemed) But there's this huge confusion about what is the church. Infant baptism just totally throws us into chaos because the world is full of these baby baptized adults who range everywhere from the hypocritically religious through the indifference of the blasphemous. They're not in the church. They can't be included in the church. And if infant baptism saved them, then salvation doesn't change anybody. (MacArthur again is talking about baptismal regeneration which Presbyterians and Reformed churches do not believe.)
You say, "Why is it in there then?" Let me give it to you. Infant baptism is a holdover from absolutists state church systems in Europe (MacArthur for the next seven paragraphs give false presentation of church history. See my comments above on the evidence from church history about infant baptism which proves that it was the common practice of the early church. Irenaeus (130-202 AD) a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the apostle John confirmed that infant baptism was practiced by the apostles. Polycarp was baptized as an infant. Origen (185-254 AD), Tertullian (155-230 AD) confirmed its early practice. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) said infant baptized was tradition of the apostles. All these church fathers preceded any popes in Rome.) I'll give you a little history here. Here's what happens. Catholicism reigns until the 1500's. 1500 comes the Reformation. Catholicism built its power this way. Back in the 4th century Constantine takes over 325, he makes Christianity the state religion and starts to persecute the people who aren't Christians. It's kind of a switch. Feels good for the Christians for a while. But pretty soon it's serious. He decides that the greatest way to have power over the people is to have religious power over the people.
So he makes Christianity the state religion of the Holy Roman Empire, starts calling it the Holy Roman Empire from about 325 on, and then he determines that we have to include everybody within the purview of the Roman system, everybody in their vast world kingdom has to be included under this great power, so we got to baptize everybody. And that's where infant baptism is introduced in about the third century or fourth century. In comes infant baptism. Infant baptism serves the power of the government very well because now everybody's automatically in the kingdom of heaven, which is the same as the government. Everybody's now in the church, therefore the government has power over them all. It creates national solidarity, it allows the church and the government to be one, the church and the military to be one, the church and the body politic to be one and so they can use the big club of God on everybody's head.
So now God is ruling through the Roman Empire, everybody's a baptized convert, everybody's a baptized part of this thing and you get this massive monolithic great kingdom that perpetuates itself for a thousand years. You know that's remarkable. The great Babylonian Kingdom, the first world empire lasted 200, the Medio-Persian lasted 200. These world kingdoms, then the Greek Kingdom came along, the third world kingdom it lasted 200, but the Roman system lasted a thousand years, actually more than a thousand years and they did it because they had this monolithic religious structure and infant baptism was a key to it because everybody was baptized into the system andtherefore, God was their authority as wielded to the power of the system. The Roman Church took that power.
So what happens is the Reformation comes and all of a sudden the protestants pull out and there's these little sort of weak groups of Christian people and they feel overpowered. The Reformation starts to gain some momentum, gains some ground, larger numbers of people join in the Reformation and they want some power. How are they going to get it? How are they going to unify their people? How are they going to have a state that has the power that can counteract the Roman state. You have a state, a government that's Catholic, like France, what's Germany going to do to stand against France? They don't have the solidarity. So they decide well we'll have a state church here. We'll baptize everybody as infants so you have a Reformation state church develop so it has the political clout and the solidarity internally to stand against the power of France, which is Roman Catholic.
And that's how they began to work that infant baptism because of its political power. It's a holdover from absolutist state powers. The absolute church system national sovereign church power and with it came by necessity the persecution of people who didn't buy it. The people who didn't buy it said we ches infant baptism. We reject that. We believe in
believer's baptism and they called them Anabaptists and they persecuted them. The state church denied the right of conscience to the individual and to the community denied the right of freedom, the right of thought. The government was going to control everything to create the solidarity that would give them a base of power to stand militarily and politically against the Catholic states. So you had state Christendom, Catholic state Christendom, old protestant Lutheran Reformed state Christendom.
Now at the beginning Luther had a lofty idealism. He was against it. He contended for a Christianity of churches that would embrace freedom, Christianity of churches that would renounce force and live only by the word and the Spirit, he said. He said that the Scripture is the only standard for all issues of personal life. We're going to stand with the Scripture. Luther says this: "I say that God wants no compulsory service. I say it a hundred thousand times God wants no compulsory service. No one can or ought to be compelled to believe for the soul of man is an eternal thing above all that is temporal; therefore, only by an eternal word must it be governed and grasped." Boy, he's right on, isn't he? Just the word, just the word, neither the Pope nor a bishop or any other man has the right to decree a single syllable concerning a Christian man apart from his consent. All of that comes in the spirit of tyranny, he said. You know what, I was right, Luther was right.
By 1527 it caved in and he turned back to the state church and he allowed for infant baptism and the state church and the state church grew into great power and buried the true church and the Reformation began to disappear, and there was no real building of New Testament churches because they were persecuted. (This is absolutely ridiculous. MacArthur is simply twisting history. The reformers believed that infant baptism was a practice of Scripture. Presbyterian and reformed churches rejected baptismal regeneration but clearly knew that infant baptism was practiced before the third century. It was not a creation of Rome. Baptismal regeneration was a creation of Rome) They were seen as non-conformists, as they were called in England. They were threatening the state church. Infant baptism see saved the state church and served them well, as it had the Roman Catholic Church because it initiated everybody into that solidarity and allowed them to wield the God club over everyone. And they even did battle against each other, sometimes Protestants against Protestants. State church was a great tree far reaching with its branches but rotten to the core and fruitless and intolerant of the true church, so in Europe today true Christianity is very, very, very small. (I would agree that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is very destructive and corrupts the church. But this isn't the only reason or the biggest reason for the weakness of Christianity in Europe. The acceptance of Evolutionism which has been promoted in the schools as a form of brain washing has been very damaging. This has caused people to have no respect for God and His Word. Liberalism has also been very destructive in that it rejects the supernatural teaching of God's Word. This has undermined people's respect for God and Word as well. This wedded with evolutionism has perhaps been the most destructive forces against the church in Europe. These forces are also at work in the United States and Christians must stand strongly against them. Christians also must hold high the Word of God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus everywhere.)
It was buried not only under Catholism in say France, but completely buried under Protestantism in Martin Luther's own country of Germany. That's why they developed infant baptism, not because it's in the New Testament. It is a relic of popery drawn in to serve the protestant churches politically. (Infant Baptism is a teaching based on the Scriptures inclusion of children in bearing the sign of God's covenant with His people. It existed prior to the popes. The truth is that believer's baptism did not really have any large following until the Anabaptists promoted it in 1520s.) The state church and biblical Christianity are and always will be completely opposed to each other. The true church is not of this world and doesn't incorporate the unconverted.
I'll tell you one of the strategies Hitler had, I told you this in the past, Hitler knew the power of bringing the power of bringing everyone under the state church so he literally swallowed up the state church of Germany, Adolph Hitler did. And it capsulated completely to him and anybody who didn't capsulate was put into prison and executed. And guys like Dietrich Bonheoffer who stood for the truth church against the state church went to a concentration camp and eventually was executed in the concentration camp (It sounds like MacArthur admires Bonheoffer. It's ironic because Dietrich believed in infant baptism as a Lutheran pastor.) That's a protestant church environment that Hitler literally took over and used for his own power. That's how apostate that system had become and any true surviving Christian in the midst of that was fuel for the fires in the furnaces of Hitler's concentration camps.
There is no connection, no divine connection between the true church and any state power. "The true church," Jesus said, "is not of this world and doesn't incorporate the unconverted." (This was the same for Israel in that there was remnant of true believers.) Infant baptism serves the state church well; it horribly confuses the true church. And neither Luther nor even Melanchthon, two great reformers opposed the assault on the Anabaptists and others who rejected the national church. They even said that anybody who re-baptizes is infested with heresy. That's what was said in those days.
Strasburg reformer Mathias Zell said, "He who confesses Christ as his own Lord and Savior shall in spite of anything else share our table and I will also share with him in heaven." He was right, but he was going against the grain. Infant baptism, mass communion, which you see in Roman church and in some protestant environments (There are millions of protestants that practice infant baptism such as Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Reformed Church, etc.), infant baptism and mass communion efface the contrast between the believer and the unbeliever, between the church and the world, so we have to reject those kinds of things. As the nature of the church became corrupted so the ordinance of baptism became corrupted. Well I think you get the point. (MacArthur has repeated this point over and over again but I have shown above that it is unfounded for those Reformed church which properly practice infant baptism.)
One last point and I'll let you go. Infant baptism is not consistent with the gospel. It's not consistent with the gospel. Maybe this is the most important point of all. You say what in the world happens when a baby is baptized. Shall I read you the Heidelberg Catechism? This is the great German catechism that defines the meaning of infant baptism. This is what it says. "Yes, for they, speaking of children, as well as the old people appertain to the covenant of God and His church and in the blood of Christ the redemption from sins and the Holy Spirit who works faith and its promise not less than to the older." So they're really saying in the Heidelberg Catechism that children enter the covenant of God, His church, receive the benefit of the blood of Christ, the redemption from sin, the Holy Spirit and faith; therefore, shall they also through baptism, as the sign of the covenant, be incorporated into the Christian church, be distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as in the Old Testament took place by circumcision in the place of which baptism is appointed." See that connection, that illegitimate connection. But they're actually saying they're in the church. They're in the church. (Presbyterians only see baptized children as noncommunicant members of the church meaning they cannot receive the Lord's supper and do not stand as full fledged members of the church. But this status recognizes them as members of the covenant community just as children who were circumcised in the OT were seen as members of the covenant community. Again, I note that this doesn't mean the baptized child is saved but that he/she is especially set apart unto the Lord under the authority of his/her Christian parent(s) with oversight of the church elders. The child is encouraged from early on to repent and trust personally in Christ as their personal savior and Lord. Then the child is encouraged to make a public profession of faith to the whole congregation. When this happens he/she becomes a full fledged voting member of the visible church. When infant baptism is practiced and understand like this, often times the children do come to Christ and become active Christians in the church. This is what I have observed as a reformed pastor over the years. This illustrates God's love for the covenant children of the church. This is one of the beautify things about the Biblical practice of infant baptism. It doesn't undermine the gospel as MacArthur contends, but it rather promotes it. Infant baptism encourages the parents and the church to share the gospel along with every teaching in the Word with their children.)
Now they go further than that. Luther finally affirmed because he said, "Salvation is by faith," they said, "Well how can a baby be saved if he doesn't have faith?" So Luther finally affirmed the infant does have faith. He does have faith. He said, "Children are to be baptized. They must be able to believe, they must have faith." Luther said, "It's not the vicarious faith of the godparents or the church," he rejected that, "It is the children themselves who believe, Luther said. Someone says, "How is that possible?" "The Holy Spirit helps them to believe," he says. The Holy Spirit comes to the child in the holy baptism. By this bath of regeneration he is richly poured out upon us.
This is a bath of regeneration in which the Holy Spirit comes and gives faith to an infant? Some even called it unconscious faith. Some called it surrogate faith. In any case it is not what the gospel is about, which is personal faith, right? The great mark of the Reformation was salvation by faith alone accompanied by personal repentance. A baby can't do that. A baby doesn't have any faith. A baby doesn't have any part in baptism. It's no different than circumcision. A baby didn't have any part in circumcision. In fact if you asked him he'd probably vote against it.
Baptizing a baby has no spiritual meaning to that baby and they got into a confounded viewpoint that somehow faith and grace and salvation and regeneration and entrance into the church is all dumped into that little baby at the point at which water is dumped on its head. Nothing to do with the gospel of faith. That's why we have to call it into question. I wrote down 25 quotes or so out of reformers that answered the question what happens at a baby baptism. Baptism it says, one of them says declares the inward regenerative operation of the Holy Spirit. Wow! Signifies the regeneration ministry of the Holy Spirit. Infant children of believers are rightful heirs of the covenant. It is the witness and attestation to their salvation. This produced all kind of confusion as to the doctrine of justification by faith. Only a person old enough to understand can believe, right? (Again MacArthur is referring to the faulty view of baptismal regeneration. I join MacArthur in protesting such a doctrine. But let's not throw out the baby with the bath water so to speak. This is not what many Presbyterian and Reformed Christians believe, especially as it is expressed in the widely recognized Westminster Confession of Faith See chapter 28; paragraphs 5-6.)
Well there's more, but I think you get the message. Let's pray. Father, as we contemplate these things, some may think this is just an academic exercise, the truth of the matter is we're struggling to call your church to true understanding of Your word so that we might be obedient as you have called us to be. Lord, thank you for the clarity of Your word. We love many of these dear folks who continue to advocate this. We esteem them very highly for many of the great things that they do in the kingdom for much of their great insight into the word, but we are baffled by the fact that they cling to something that we believe is a dishonor to You and that they do not advocate a proper believer's baptism the way that you've designed it in order to be a testimony of our unity with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection and thus exalt the cross and the open tomb. Lord, work in Your church and maybe use this message and others who can call Your church to reexamine these things, to come back to the truth so simply and straightforwardly set forth in Your Scriptures. And make us to be obedient to these things. We thank you in Christ's name, amen.
(If you have read my response to MacArthur's sermon, I would like to indicate that I love my brother as a fellow minister of the gospel. I want you to know that I have great affection for many baptist brethren or believers only preachers who disagree with me on this issue of infant baptism. I do, however, hope that if you have disagreed with infant baptism in the past that you now see from my comments above that the position held by many Presbyterian and Reformed churches can be supported from a covenantal perspective of Scripture. I believe that if you honestly investigate church history that you will find that infant baptism has been the predominate practice of the church before the popes of Rome came into power. I do not believe in baptismal regeneration of infants but do believe that a proper understanding of infant baptism can be a great encouragement to Christian parents to evangelize their children and raise them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. My wife and I had my son baptized as an infant and I have seen God's grace bring to fruition what his baptism signified (salvation and cleansing from sin through faith in Christ). My son has accepted Christ, made a public profession of faith, and is an active member of the body of Christ. I believe infant baptism has much to offer today to Christian parents and the evangelical churches when properly understood. May the Lord bless you and your family.
If you are interested in reading more about infant baptism I strongly recommend:
Christian Baptism by John Murray
What Christian Parents Should Know about Infant Baptism by John P. Sartelle
Baptism by Francis Schaeffer Here is a link to a free copy of his book:
Links to sermons I have preached on Infant Baptism:
Here is a link to our church web page which provides some additional free resources on infant baptism:
Pastor Don W. Robertson
Faith Community Church, Pearland, TX
Available online at: http://www.gty.org/Resources/PDF/Sermons/80-194
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