We baptize our children in obedience to the great Commission.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Christ commands us to Baptize the nations (the Greek word is ethnos Literally peoples). He who commands all Peoples to be baptized also commands infants to be Baptized; for a command concerning a group includes all those who fall in that group (genus â€“ species). The design of Christ in the Great Commission is to teach the manner of collecting and conserving the Church in the World until the end of time and to prescribe that manner to the apostles and their successors. Now as the Church that the Apostles are being called to collect and conserve consists of infants as well as adults (that is the way it had always consisted and there is absolutely nothing anywhere in any text that reverses this paradigm) so that manner that Christ is teaching them in building the Church has reference to both adults and children, but according to the condition of each: that adults newly entering into the Covenant should be taught before they are Baptized, while infants should be Baptized as covenanted and Christian, and afterwards be taught in their own time.
If an objection is placed here that discipling of the Peoples precedes the Baptizing of Peoples we would observe that Christ speaks of discipling and teaching here first since a primeval Church among Gentiles would by necessity be first a collection of adults, therefore naturally discipling and teaching precedes baptizing, just as those strangers and aliens coming into the Covenant Community in the Old Testament would have been discipled and taught before they were circumcised. The goal then of the Gentiles entering into the Covenant as Covenanted parents wasn’t to get their seed to accept Christianity, rather their goal was to teach their children that they were Christian that they might not reject their covenant identity, conceding that if they fully and finally reject Christianity (a thing that by all rights should be uncommon among those trained in the Covenant) then their children were Gentile seed but not God’s seed (consider Esau).
The distinction and concession underscores the reality that Salvation is always by Grace and not Race while at the same time maintaining that because of Grace, Grace often runs in familial lines (Deuteronomy 7:9).
We believe that in the Great Commission passage when Christ lays the emphasis on All Nations He is doing so to firmly implant in Jewish thinking that the Gospel is not solely a Jewish concern. In this way our Lord makes clear that the Gospel is no longer provincial and in issuing the order unto Baptism we see a new sacramental sign given by our Lord Christ to replace the Old Covenant sign of Circumcision, just as He earlier gave His table as a sign of the New Covenant to replace and fulfill the old covenant sign of the Passover. The Great Commission underscores that the Church is no longer primarily Jewish. This New thing is given a new sacramental sign to replace and fulfill circumcision (a new sign for a new covenant). But the Church is not told to exclude its children and here in Matthew 28 is the place where by all rights that should have been said if it was going to be said.
We notice also in the Great Commission that Jesus, having now all authority in heaven and on earth, institutes a new covenant sign. Jesus commands that Baptism would be the new sign of the covenant. The former sign had been the blood rite of circumcision but now with the shedding of Jesus blood, all blood rites of the old covenant had been fulfilled and the new covenant would be marked by a bloodless rite that pointed to washing away of sins that only the blood of Jesus could effect. Note the continuity between the signs though. Both covenantal signs pointed and point to the establishment of a proper legal standing and relationship with God where sins have been removed and peace has been promised. In the old covenant if you were circumcised you were marked out as belonging to God. In the new covenant if you are Baptized you are marked out as belonging to God. However there are some other continuities we should note here. In the old covenant the sign of the covenant was to be placed upon the infants of the parents who belonged to the covenant.
Genesis 17:7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your [f]descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your [g]descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your [h]descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your [i]descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your [j]descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your [k]descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
This requirement that the covenantal sign was to be placed upon the infants of God’s people was never rescinded when we get to the New Testament. In light of the New Covenant we have an alteration of the sign by the one who has all authority in heaven and earth but we do not have a alteration of who are members of the covenant. We do not have an exclusion of infants from the covenant.
In point of fact the circumstantial evidence from the NT points in favor of infant Baptism. Throughout the NT we have repeated references to Household Baptisms.
There are five household (oikos) baptisms in the New Testament(Cornelius’, Acts 10:48; Lydia’s, Acts 16:15; the Philippian jailer’s, Acts 16:31; Crispus’, Acts 18:8; and Stephanus’, 1 Cor. 1:16). These five household baptisms illustrate a principle seen throughout Scripture that, the blessings of Salvation fall upon the entire household when the blessings fall upon the head of the household. This is due to covenantal inclusiveness, a principle that we find throughout Scripture. This principle teaches that the children go with the parents.
Now, it is true that in none of the household Baptisms of the NT do we find an explicit mentioning of infants being baptized. This can not be denied. However, even if we were to concede that no infants were involved in these household Baptisms it would make little difference to the support that Household Baptisms in the NT give to infant Baptism the credibility as that which is consistent with the mind and revelation of God since the Household Baptisms of the NT teach us that if there had been infants in those households they would have been baptized along with all the other members of the household. The Household Baptisms, by definition, were inclusive of all who made up the Household and even if their were no infants in the NT Household Baptism examples, if there had been infants, they would have been baptized as part of the Household.
This idea that in Christianity the children go with the parents brings us to another reason why we Baptize our children.
We have to understand that in a Biblical approach to Christianity God calls and claims not only individuals but families. We believe that Baptism clearly communicates the Scripture’s teaching that our children are born sinners and that they need the promise that Baptism signifies and seals, to wit, the cleansing of sin. We believe that to suggest that our children, only when they become “age accountable sinners” should be baptized is akin to saying that in the OT only alien and strangers could become part of the Covenant community and not the children themselves until they were old enough to think of themselves as being aliens and strangers.
And so we believe with Scripture that whenever God made covenant with man He always included the children of whom He made covenant with in that covenantal arrangement.
We see this in the Great Commission text where the Disciples are told to
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [f]always, even to the end of the age.”
We, as Americans, tend to think more in terms of the individual and not the family. But God’s word teaches us to think in terms of families of men. We see this in our evangelism. There was a time when Evangelism sought to convert people group by people group. When Missionaries would go to make disciples of all nations they would seek to gain an audience with a tribal chieftain or a Person of influence and standing. If that person converted then the whole people group would convert. Today, we no longer think that way. We think in terms of the individual and so thinking in terms of the individual we focus on getting individuals saved. We have forgotten that while God does deal with the individual (in the NT account we have two examples of individuals alone be baptized — the Ethiopian eunuch and Saul of Tarsus. ) He also deals with families.
God’s claim is on family units. God is so gracious that He saves us with our children and their children and their children’s children to a thousand generations. And the fact that we actually see so little of that in our families today does not call into question God’s faithfulness to His promises so much as it raises other uncomfortable questions.
God’s claim is on family wholes. The devil, being a pretty good theologian himself and knowing this, attacks the family unit as an assault on God and His truth and His people. Destroy the family, and you will weaken the Christian faith. Destroy the Christian faith and you will weaken the family. One way to do both is to deny the waters of Baptism to children born to Christian parents.
Finally, for this morning’s purpose we would say that God has us Baptize our children for the same reason that we name our children. When we name our children we don’t reason,
“Well, they ought to have some input on what they will be named. After all, they are going to carry this name with them forever. Therefore, we will not name this child until the child reaches an age of name ability and then can agree or disagree to their name.”
No, these children belong to us and so we name them.
In the same way God names us in Baptism and doesn’t wait for us to reach a certain age in order to agree or disagree. This naming that happens in Baptism is God’s work and not ours. In Baptism He marks and names us as His own and He does so with infants because He has somewhere marked and named a whole family line as His own.
He’s God … it is one of the perks of being divine.