Friday, July 4, 2014

Sully Notes Special | Baptism: The Water that Unites Part 2 of 2

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Christian Reformed Acts 29 Soma Sully Notes Baptism Special Part 2

Sully Notes Special Part 2 of 2: Should the children of a Christian parent or family be baptized in light of how God has engaged in relationship with His people throughout human history?

This week's special Notes connect with the previous post on the subject of baptism within the 21st century American church. 

For more helpful resources:

Blog posts: "Infant Baptism at Redeemer Presbyterian Church" by Tim Keller, "A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism" by Kevin DeYoung, and "Household Baptism" by Scott Sauls

Books: It Takes a Church to Baptize by Scot McKnight and Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice, and Power by Michael Green 

These resources and Sully Notes are intended to provide clarity as to why, in light of the Scriptures, history, and culture, the children of a believing parent or parents have been baptized throughout church history, and why we at Emmaus City include the children of a faithful Christian parent or family in this sacrament of initiation into the new covenant community. We understand why some friends and family will disagree, but we pray that these answers will provide thoughtful reflection for those who are curious.

Sully Notes Part 2 of 2: Baptism: The Water That Unites
| What Baptism Signifies

Chapter 5 | Cleansing from Sin 

Baptism is the sacrament of initiation in the new covenant, administered in the new covenant name of the holy trinity (i.e. Father, Son, and Spirit in comparison to the old covenant name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob). From this, the church has acknowledged that baptism in the name of the trinity is valid from whatever source, since the sacrament does not belong to any particular church but to the triune God.” – pg. 45

"The Roman Catholic Church holds that baptism, as the other sacraments, is effective by the fact of its being performed. When a baby is born it must be baptized at once in case it were suddenly to die. This rests upon its belief that baptism is necessary for salvation. Hence, Rome makes provision, in an emergency, for baptism by midwives or laypersons. Lutheranism also has a highly objective view of baptism. It conveys grace efficaciously unless it is resisted. With both the vital role of faith in the recipient appears to be downplayed. Most modern evangelicalism operates at the other extreme. It has a purely symbolic view of baptism. It is a visual aid. Immersion portrays union with Christ in his death and resurrection. We see the one baptized plunged under water and rising again. Others, who practice baptism by sprinkling, see it as portraying cleansing from sin. ... We must ask whether the truth lies somewhere between the positions of Rome and today's non-sacramentalism." – pgs. 53-54

Chapter 6 | Union with Christ

Baptism is a sign and a seal of the grace of God in Jesus Christ as it comes to expression in his covenant. Baptism admits the person baptized into the visible church. This is clear from the nature of baptism, as the first thing to be done in the discipling of the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), and from the regular pattern in the Book of Acts.” – pg. 55

"Just as with the tree of life, the rainbow, circumcision, and the Passover, baptism signifies, seals and exhibits the grace of God, while the Holy Spirit powerfully confers that grace of union with Christ. This does not mean that God's grace in Christ is given automatically, simply by virtue of being baptized. In contrast to Rome, which views baptism as the other sacraments – as effective by the facts of its being performed (ex opere operato), this grace is received through faith. For Rome, when a baby is born it is imperative for it to be baptized at the earliest opportunity, in case it were to die beforehand. 'From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it' according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. ... In contrast, (we) hold that the Holy Spirit is sovereign and is not tied to the act of baptism. We are not made a member of Christ, nor regenerated, because we have been baptized. From this it follows that grace is not given to a baptized person on the grounds of his baptism. Rather, it is due to the grace of God in Christ that grace is given in baptism 'to those to whom it belongs.' Not all who are baptized will be saved (child or adult). Saving faith is necessary. That is why, at Pentecost, Peter, alongside his requirement of baptism, coupled the need to repent." – pgs. 58-59 

"It is to baptism into Moses in the cloud and the sea that he comments in 1 Corinthians 10:1, where he urges his readers to be on their guard against temptation; they have all been baptized but so were all the Israelites and they fell into sin (and most did not enter the promised land). So the evidence is that the Corinthians would have understood Paul to mean that they all had been baptized into the one body of Christ (but needed to be on guard in remembering and trusting the promises of God in ways the Israelites did not) ... " – pg. 68

Chapter 7 | The Teaching of the Protestant Confessions
"The sacrament is given its identity by the Word. The word of institution was necessary for a sacrament to be a sacrament. Hence, the one administering the sacrament had to be one capable of preaching the Word. Therefore, lawful calling by the church and ordination to the gospel ministry was essential to dispense the sacraments. Does this mean that someone baptized by a layperson was not validly baptized and needs to be baptized again? No, since baptism because it is into the name of the trinity – belongs to God. Baptism by non-ordained persons, if in the triune name, is irregular but not thereby invalid." – pg. 70

"The Spirit works through means, in his own time, and so we are to work under his enabling throughout our life in response. As with the preaching of the Word, someone who is negligent and does not improve their baptism is placing themselves under judgment, for all God's promises and the means of grace connected to them require us to respond in faith. For these reasons, baptism can be administered only once. Christ died once for all on the cross; his atonement can be neither repeated nor prolonged. He rose from the dead but once, never again to die. If baptism were repeatable, it would signify the incompleteness of the work of Christ ..." – pg. 72

"There is a connection between the outward sign and the washing away of sins (Revelation 1:5, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 5:27, Titus 3:5), a sacramental union between the sign and the thing signified. ... The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time of administration. Faith and repentance are necessary, as is love. When a seed is sown it does not germinate at the same moment; it is dependent on rain and heat. So neither the word nor the sacrament is effective at the moment of administration but at the time when the blessing of the Holy Spirit comes. The external power of baptism is as a seal. The promise, however, is joined to a condition of faith and repentance – so the grace is not sealed except to those who believe and repent." – pg. 77

Chapter 8 | The Individual and the Household

" ... it is appropriate to the flow of redemptive history to see the New Covenant as fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant, and so its form in the New Testament as resting on its foreshadowing in the Old Testament. This is uniformly accepted as the overall progression of redemptive history as portrayed in the Bible. Baptism, as the initiatory sacrament of the new covenant, which fulfills all that went before, fits into this pattern in which the New rests upon the prior development in the Old. In short, we need a canonical view of baptism, as we do of any other doctrine. In this light, baptism has been seen as the fulfillment of, and successor to, circumcision in the Abrahamic covenant. As the infant male offspring of Abraham and his seed were circumcised in order to be initiated into the covenant community, so too the infant offspring of believers (Abraham's seed according to Galatians 3:23-29) are to receive the New Testament initiatory sign. If grace was given to children in the Old Testament, can it be constrained in the New Testament? Has it not rather been greatly enhanced, brought to fulfillment, and more abundantly poured out?" – pgs. 82-83
"It follows that the household, integral to the life of Israel, continues as the basis of covenantal administration in the New Testament. Peter reiterates on the Day of Pentecost that the promise of God's grace is for his hearers and their children (Acts 2:38-39). In Acts 16 the households of both Lydia and the Philippian jailor are baptized. Paul refers to his having baptized the household of Stephanus (1 Corinthians 1:16). The fact that both Luke and Paul single out the household in connection with the administration of baptism indicates its continuance in covenantal administration. This is underlined in the case of the jailor since 'Acts 16:31 imposes the demand to believe on the jailor alone, but the salvation is promised to him and his house.' Some argue that there is no specific mention in these passages of the presence of any infant in the households, and so the claim that they are to be baptized on the basis of what is written here is invalid. However, this argument assumes the primacy of the individual, supposing that Luke is giving a record solely of the Christian faith of particular individuals. We noted earlier that modern individualism is foreign to the world of the Bible. Luke considers the household to be the significant unit. From this it follows that if infants were present they would, as part of the household, receive the covenant sign. The fact that particular individuals are not mentioned proves our point. The interest of the New Testament is not in the age or nature of the particular individuals who were part of the household whether they were adults, adolescents, children or infants but on the household as such. The propriety of infants receiving baptism is no less clear than is the baptism of other members of the households who are not specifically mentioned. We noted earlier that corporate solidarity is clear in the New Testament. There is the case of the paralytic lowered through the roof, where Jesus heals the man in connection with the faith of his friends who brought him. In James 5:13-17 the sick person is healed through the prayer of faith of the elders. ... Behind it lies the greater realities of our natural guilt and corruption in solidarity with Adam, and our redemption in solidarity with Christ. The biblical doctrine of salvation is couched in terms of corporate solidarity. This could hardly be clearer than in the first recorded church council, debating the new development of the conversion of Gentiles. There the assembled apostles and elders heard from Peter of Cornelius' vision in which he was informed by the angel that Peter would 'declare ... a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household' (Acts 11:14). Since the household remains the basis of administering the covenant, there is no need to mention its individual constituent members unless there is reason pertinent to the argument of the book. The first century apostles were not operating with modern Western individualistic assumptions." – pgs. 84-86
"Again, in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul warns his readers against complacency. Israel had been baptized into Moses and drank Christ in the desert, yet only two of that generation entered Canaan. The reference here is to baptism as a corporate act, integral to God's covenant and the covenantal community. The implication is clear; you have all been baptized into Christ, as Paul states (1 Corinthians 12:13), but you must take heed in case you too fall (vs. 12). The order is the same as in Romans: first baptism, then the demand for faith and obedience. God's grace in baptism (can) precede our response. As Oscar Cullmann states, this sequence of events: act of God  response of man  is normative. This is so since baptism points to the future. Faith after baptism is demanded of all who are baptized ...– pg. 89

Chapter 9
 Children, Covenant, Church and Sacrament

"Individualism is the default position of most Americans and American evangelicals. However, it must be asked whether it has its roots in the post-Renaissance world and so fails to do justice to the corporate dimension of the Bible." – pg. 93

"Large swaths of Old Testament and New Testament teaching on the nature of the work of Christ cannot be appreciated on an individualistic basis. For Paul, man's plight and God's remedy are to be understood in corporate categories. People are either in Adam or in Christ. ... Our plight is found in one, our deliverance in the other (Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 15:12-58). ... an individualistic understanding of the gospel becomes a state of mind and heart. It is a matter for each individual. Against this, Genesis 1:1 entails the point that all God's creation is spiritual, in that he created and maintains it, and will ultimately bring it to the end he has destined for it in Christ. Salvation is worked out in the physical world, as well as the spiritual. The individual, in faith and repentance, is not acting alone. Christianity is not a case of 'me and my soul.' God's great purpose of salvation is destined to be completed in the renewal of the entire cosmos under the headship of Christ. This includes the individual – we must all trust Christ ourselves, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ – but it does so within a wider setting, of breathtakingly vast grandeur. ... The baptismal waters unite rather than divide. We must keep before us a commitment to the unity and catholicity of the church, one in Christ, found throughout history and throughout the world.– pgs. 103-104

Part 2 of 2 Reflection and Questions

Paul’s pastoral letters demonstrate the typical usage of the Greek term oikos as a term for family or extended clan. Oikos is used in II Timothy 1:16, I Timothy 3:4-5 and I Timothy 5:8 to mean the entire family. In each of these cases, a Jewish or Christian reader of the New Testament during this time would read “household” as nothing less than the entire family. This reminder is a key to unlocking the use of “household” baptisms in the book of Acts.

In Acts 16:15, Luke writes about Lydia’s conversion, “And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.” Later in Verses 31‐33, Luke writes about Paul and Silas saying to the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” And in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.” Based on all these readings together, it’s difficult to insinuate or provide a “special pleading” that children are not present.

We can also take a closer look at Acts 16:33 where Luke clarifies again the use of family, “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” We notice here that the Philippian jailer is not put through a time of probation, nor is baptism used as the “guardian” of church membership. Instead, Paul uses this sign to welcome the jailer and his entire family into the church. Luke says that he and his family were baptized “immediately” or “at once” without hesitation. In this particular passage, Luke actually does not use the word oikos but rather the following Greek statement: “αὐτὸς καὶ οἱ αὐτοῦ ἅπαντες παραχρῆμα.” The translation “family” is a good translation, but it loses some of the force of the actual text. Very literally rendered it says, “he and everything of him, immediately.” Another way would be to say “he and everyone of his own.” The use of the adjective apentes denotes every person in his home.

Another pastor and theologian provides some additional thoughts and questions when considering who was included in baptism at this time:

"The 'geneological principle operative in the Abrahamic covenant' is indicated by the phrase, 'you and your children' from Genesis 17:7. If this is true, then what do we say of Peter's repetition of this in Acts 2:39, specifically in connection with baptism? When we add to this the instances of household baptisms (with only one believing parent mentioned) in Acts (16:15, 32­-33; 18:18) and 1 Corinthians 1:16, and the mention of children being sanctified by one believing parent in 1 Corinthians 7:14, the cumulative case seems to place the burden of proof on the baptistic position. The new covenant is certainly greater. For one thing, it's more inclusive: not only Jews, but Gentiles; not only males, but females also receive the seal of the covenant. ... Where are the explicit passages to indicate that with such a profound expansion of blessings to "all the families of the earth" – indeed, to believers and their children (Acts 2:39) – that children are now excluded in an apparently better covenant?

If there had been a radical departure in theology and practice of baptism, most likely the New Testament writers would have stated this in the same way Paul and the author of Hebrews do in regard to keeping the Old Testament legal traditions. Does this silence indicate that the apostles knew how baptism was done in relation to individuals and families with their children, so it required no explanation?

History would seem to tell us so. Though Protestants and evangelicals do not hold tradition in as high regard as Roman Catholics do, we also cannot disregard how Jesus has been faithful in building His church for thousands of years, not just since the Protestant Reformation or the age of Enlightenment which placed more influence on the individual, as well as less on the supernatural. Leaders within the Early Church in Christian history recorded that baptism of children was an apostolic teaching:

  • "The children shall be baptized first. All the children who can answer for themselves, let them answer. If there are any children who cannot answer for themselves, let their parents answer for them, or someone else from the family." – St. Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition 21 (215 A.D.) 

  • "The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants." – Origen, Commentaries on Romans 5:9 (248 A.D.)

  • " … you [Fidus] say [infants] ought not to be baptized within the second or third day … but that the law of ancient circumcision should be followed [on the eighth day]… but we all thought very differently in our council …" – St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letters 58:2 (253 A.D.)

  • “We do Baptize infants, although they are not guilty of any [personal] sins." St. John Chrysostom, Ad Neophytos (388 A.D.)

  • "The custom of (the) Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic." – St. Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39  (408 A.D.)

We also need to remember that the Church Fathers would not have taught that infant baptism was apostolic if their own baptisms had been delayed until their age of accountability, which helps us understand that infant baptism predated even their own writings. So, if Hippolytus affirms infant baptism in 215 A.D., then we can consider that it was being practiced in at least the mid- to late-100s, which means there isn't an arguable "gap" period for when this practice of the sacrament  was picked up or was adopted since some of the final books of the New Testament were composed in the early 100s. 

Joachim Jeremias, Professor of Theology at the University of Göttingen, goes into great detail about this historic practice in his scholarly work, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries. Jeremias not only includes analysis of Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Corinthians 1:16; and 1 Corinthians 7:14, but also analyzes Acts 21:21, suggesting (in the context of Paul's principle of baptism replacing circumcision in Colossians 2:11 and in light of the practice evidenced among the Symmachians) that the Jewish Christians were both circumcising and baptizing their male infants.

Jeremias adds to his evidence several further arguments, proposing that, had infant baptism been introduced as a novel practice in the second century, it certainly would have caused a significant discussion, a discussion that is not evidenced in the sources. Jeremias then discusses the development of the practice in the second century. He makes use of Polycarp's testimony to have served Christ eighty-six years, suggesting that Polycarp must have been baptized as a very small child around the year 80 A.D. in order to identify these years as ones of service to Christ. Similar evidence is taken from Polycrates, who lived in the Lord (ecwn en kurivn) sixty-five years, and from Pliny, who notes around 112 A.D. that the very young (teneri) belong to the church just as do the adults—as well as Justin Martyr, who in his First Apology (150-55 A.D.) speaks of "many men and women who have been disciples of Christ from childhood" (oi ek paideuwn emaqhteuqhsav tw cristw).

Jeremias continues that the earliest record of the child of Christian parents not being baptized in infancy is that of Gregory of Nazianzus in the year 329. Before that date, there is no evidence of postponed baptism among Christian children. Neither Augustine nor Pelagius had ever heard of a heretic who had denounced the baptism of infantes or parvuli. 

After about 365 A.D., Jeremias contends that numerous authors—Optatus of Milevis, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Didymus the Blind—cite infant baptism as the established custom, enjoining Christian parents to bring their children to baptism without delay. The canon of Scripture was decided in 363 A.D. at the council of Laodicea and affirmed at the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. and the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. After the canon of Scripture was determined, there is barely a whisper of anyone countering the practice of baptizing children. Strong questioning of children being included in this sacrament within the life of the church did not find its voice until 1,200 years later.

This view of the early Church falls in line with infants as recipients of God’s covenant promises in the Old Testament. When we look at Deuteronomy 29:10-12, we read: "You are standing today every one of you before the Lord your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the sojourner who is in your camp, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, so that you may enter into the sworn covenant of the Lord your God, which the Lord your God is making with you today." In Acts 2:38-39, Peter continues in this same language to the multitude at Pentecost, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise (i.e. covenant) is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself." In referring to the promise or covenant, Peter repeats “every one of you”, recalling the Deuteronomy 29 passage mentioned above. Peter then continues with these words in Acts 2, “For the promise is to you, and to your children. ..." Peter continued to recognize children in God's expanding covenant community of Jews and Gentiles. Baptism is a gift of God’s grace to His covenant family that, together with hearing and believing God’s word, is a means of discipling a child to repent, or turn back to what her or his baptism signified and declared, and turn to faith in Jesus, the Provider and Keeper of the covenant for us, by verbal confession and belief in the heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.   

In light of God's gift of baptism for His church, Emmaus City holds that modes of immersion, pouring, and sprinkling with water are all valid as Christian baptism so long as the person is baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” as Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19). Baptism by immersion reminds us of our death and rising with God the Son. Baptism by pouring reminds us of the anointing of God the Spirit. Baptism by sprinkling reminds us of ceremonial cleansing in how God the Father purifies us from all sin through the Son's substitution and vindication by the Spirit in His victory over sin and death. 

For Christian parents who, in faith and not fear, trust that the sacrament of baptism is for their children in light of the Scriptures and Christian history, and that this participation in the life of Jesus' church ultimately gives glory and honor to Him, we welcome you to have your children baptized with us. For those who are not moved to this conviction, we welcome you to worship and follow Jesus with us as well.

For a thoughtful example of what a baptism of a child or children looks and sounds like, please read the post, "Ministry Praxis: Infant Baptism in Oklahoma City," by a pastor who serves a church in the most baptistic state (highest percentage of Southern Baptist churches in the world) in the U.S.

Next post: Emmaus City Liturgy | Words for Christian Baptism of an Infant or Child 

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