A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism

© 2005 R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction

Among Western Christians there are four major views on baptism:

  • Baptism is the means of spiritual renewal and initial justification and sanctification through the infusion of grace received in it, in such a way that one cannot be saved ordinarily without it. Baptism communicates saving grace, by the working of its own power. Children of all church members and unbaptized adult converts must be baptized (Roman Catholic).
  • Baptism is a public testimony to one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Only those who have reached the age of discretion can make such a profession of faith. Therefore, only those who are able to confess Christ should be baptized. (Baptist).
  • Baptism is so closely related to the gospel that through it, Christians receive eternal life and without baptism there can be no assurance of salvation. Both the children of believers and unbaptized adult believers should be baptized (Lutheran).
  • Baptism is a means of sanctifying grace and a gospel ministry to the people of God. It is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace illustrating what Christ has done for his people and sealing salvation to the same. Therefore covenant children of believing parents as well as unbaptized adult converts should be baptized. (Reformed).

Protestants uniformly reject the Roman Catholic view of baptism as unbiblical and sub-Christian since it replaces faith as the instrument of justification. Among Bible-believing Protestant churches, the Baptist view is easily the most common and the Reformed view is probably the least well known. The view labeled Lutheran is probably somewhere in the middle in popularity.

Unfortunately, many Bible-believing Christians assume that all infant baptizing (paedobaptist) churches are identical. This essay is intended in part to change that perception. I believe (perhaps naively) that if more Bible-believing Christians understood the Reformed view of baptism, they would accept our explanation of what God’s Word says about baptism. I also intend to give Reformed believers a clearer understanding of what God’s Word says about baptism and to answer objections which are often made against the Reformed position.

General Outline of the Paper:

  1. Why Different Views on Infant Baptism?
  2. The Covenant of Grace

a.Different Administrations

b. The Importance of the Covenant

c. How Were Covenants Made?

d. Relationship Between Covenants

e. Circumcision and Baptism

f. Faith and Circumcision

g. Faith and Baptism

3. Common Objections to Infant Baptism

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