“This devilish conduct of infant Baptism has survived through two thousand years of church life from very early on, the third century, embedded in the fourth and still here. We could only ask, Lord, that the Reformation would be a complete Reformation.”
The above quote is from the closing prayer of John MacArthur after he preached a sermon entitled, “Is Infant Baptism Biblical?” last month. In his sermon, he attacks infant baptism as unbiblical and from the devil, the Reformation as incomplete, and the Reformed Confessions as wrong, specifically Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 74.
Now, I’m a minister of a Reformed paedobaptist federation, and I have many Baptist friends, but I have never heard any of them call infant baptism “devilish.” So, if he accuses our paedobaptist view as “devilish,” I’m tossing the grenade back to his lap: John MacArthur’s credobaptism is straight from the devil!
The people at “Sinners and Saints” (pastors John Sawtelle, Adam Kaloostian, and Movses Janbazian) summarize JMac’s erratic, amateurish fivefold argument as:
1) The words “infant” and “baptism” are nowhere used in conjunction in the NT. Therefore infant baptism is not in the Bible. Where is the word “Trinity” found in the Bible?Â This is the ridiculously puerile exegesis used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and other cults.
2) The lexical evidence of the NT indicates that the Greek word for baptize points conclusively to baptism by immersion. Infant baptism fails to satisfy that condition because the form of infant baptism is sprinkling. Therefore infant baptism is not baptism. JMac should do his own translation of Mark 10:38, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be immersed with the immersion with which I am immersed?â€ Or Mark 7:4, where the Pharisees are said to observe many traditions, “such as the immersing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.”
3) Baptism does not replace circumcision. He denies this, of course, because the moment a Baptist accepts this, he becomes a Presbyterian. The absence of Colossians 2:11-12 from his sermon is highly suspicious. He even said this, “Circumcision didnâ€™t apply to girls. Circumcision was really a gift from God to protect Jewish women from forms of infection, to protect and preserve the nation.” Ouch! How silly can the eminent doctor be to say this? He forgot a very familiar passage about someone named Abraham and his descendants, Genesis 17:10-11. This one statement show his penchant for hex-egesis.
4) Infant baptism confuses soteriology and ecclesiology. With his confused soteriology and ecclesiology, JMac is confused when he says, “Thereâ€™s sort of this collective community of believing people brought in by Baptism will eventually jettison the true doctrine of justification by faith and individual personal salvation.” In the 500-year history of Reformed churches who have been faithful to the true Reformed faith, how many of them have jettisoned true doctrine? How about Baptist churchesâ€”does he see the miniscule percentage of Baptist churches who have kept Reformed soteriology?
5) Infant baptism is inconsistent with Reformed soteriology. Why would he say this? Does he consider himselfâ€”a dispensationalist and a Baptistâ€”as Reformed? These two things are anathema to the Reformation! “Paedo-Baptism, to say it another way, destroys the reality of a regenerate church.” What is a “regenerate” church: a church in which allâ€”100 percentâ€”members the pastor and elders are sure to be “regenerate” or elect? I’m sure he thinks of his Grace Community Church as a community of thousands of baptized members, every single one of them God’s elect. Wow, the third mark of a true church is a waste in his ecclesiology.
The primary reason for this confusion is his evangelical–not Reformed–definition of what water baptism means. To him, it means a person’s testimony to the church of his personal faith in Christ. And with infants, this is impossible, so infants must not be baptized. Reformed Confessions are very clear on what baptism is and what it is not:
Belgic Confession Article 34: We believe that these children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as infants were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises which are now made to our children.
Heidelberg Catechism Question 74: Are infants also to be baptized? Answer: Yes â€¦ they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.
Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 20:6: We condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that young infants, born of faithful parents, are to be baptized. Â For, according to the doctrine of the gospel, “for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16), and they are written in the covenant of God (Acts 3:25). Â Why, then, should not the sign of the covenant of God be given to them? Â Why should they not be consecrated by holy baptism, who are God’s peculiar people and are in the Church of God?
Westminster Confession of Faith 28:1: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life.
Westminster Shorter Catechism 94 (cf W. Larger C. Q&A 165): Question: What is baptism? Answer: Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lordâ€™s.
Baptism, therefore, is not a person’s testimony of faith, not what he/she has done. Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace with man, what God has done, and not what man has done. So from the most basic doctrine, the difference between Baptist and Reformed doctrine of the sacraments is heaven and earth, God’s sovereignty vs. man’s “free will” decision, God-centered vs. man-centered practice. Read: “Why John MacArthur is Not Reformed” by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger.
JMac’s method “is in great error and should not be followed … [and] leads to a wholesale misinterpretation of the text of Scripture.” This is why JMac’s credobaptist interpretation is unbiblical and therefore “devilish.” The Reformed Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 28 Paragraph 5 is very strong about this error:
Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it; or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
You can read the whole transcript of JMac’s sermon here. Then listen to the “Sinners and Saints” episodes below as you consider JMac’s gross and devilish assertions:
Follow the links to Episodes 4-6.