Feb

06

2013

Jared Oliphint|10:00 PM CT

You Asked: Should I Get 'Re-Baptized'? (Paedobaptist Answer)

Editors' Note: Send your theological, biblical, and practical ministry questions to ask@thegospelcoalition.org along with your full name, city, and state. We'll pass them along to The Gospel Coalition's Council members and other friends for an answer we can share.

Lynda M. from Northern Ireland asks,

I was baptized at the age of 13 before I was really walking with the Lord. It came as a result of covering the topic in a youth Bible class after which we were asked if we would like to be baptized, and considering the majority of the class were doing it, I decided to as well. I recall at the time being too embarrassed to even tell my school friends about it, never mind ask them to come.

The Lord really worked in my life at the age of 20, and that's when I would say he really opened my eyes to what following Jesus was all about. Ideally that's when I would have been baptized, but obviously I already had been. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on getting baptized for a second time, and if you feel that would be necessary.

We posed the question to Jared Oliphint, regional coordinator and a ThM student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He studied philosophy at Gordon College and earned his MAR at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 2005. You can follow him on Twitter. And you can also read the credobaptist answer from Bobby Jamieson.

******************

I would humbly encourage anyone thinking through these issues first to talk to his or her local pastor. These kinds of questions are rarely disconnected from broader ministerial needs in one's Christian walk, but maybe we can get pointed in the right direction here.

How one addresses the question of re-baptism depends on how one understands baptism as a whole. So let's start where the apostles start—in the Old Testament. We might first ask whether there was meaning behind and precedent to using water as the sign of the new covenant in the New Testament. The first time Scripture uses water as a covenantal sign occurred long before the New Testament era. Recall 1 Peter 3:20-21:

. . . when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .

God chose water judgment in the form of a flood as the means for separating the covenant mediator (Noah) and his covenant people (his family) from rebellious, non-covenant people.

Years later, God used water judgment again as the means for separating the covenant mediator (Moses) and his covenant people (Israel) from rebellious, non-covenant people. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10:1-2, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea."

In both cases above, these Old Testament baptismal events included not only covenant children but also unbelieving covenant members. God brought Noah's son Ham through the baptismal flood, but Ham's family line was eventually cursed (Gen. 9:18-27). Likewise, some Israelites who escaped the Egyptians turned out to be unfaithful covenant members (Ex. 32:25f; see also Joshua 3, the second exodus of Israel passing again through waters, this time in the Jordan River under the mediator Joshua. Later the true Joshua, Jesus, would be baptized in the same waters).

Fast forward a few centuries and we see another judgment warning from none other than John the Baptist, the Elijah prophet figure, accompanied by water baptism. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). Something new, yet precedented, had happened (Christ's coming) that demanded a new, yet precedented, covenantal sign of judgment (water baptism). Jesus himself, the fulfillment of Israel, would also pass through the baptismal waters (Matt. 3:13-17) just as Noah, Moses, and Joshua did as typological mediators before him.

Natural Reading

During the beginning of this new covenant era, it would have been expected that anyone—Jews, Gentiles, and, yes, their covenant children—who had faith in the new covenant mediator, Christ, would receive the new covenant sign of baptism. While we're short on biblical evidence in the form of a verse that says "You shall baptize covenant children" or "You shall only baptize converted adults," Scripture as a whole may read more naturally if we assume one view over another.

Because it would have been expected for adults of every kind to be given the new covenant sign of baptism as they become new covenant members, that is indeed what we see in Acts as the apostles are sent out with the Spirit. But there are also clues in Scripture indicating that new covenant members are not limited to adults who claim a conversion experience.

First, the New Testament recorded a unique period in redemptive history. We should not expect or assume every pattern of behavior during that period (for example, adult conversions) to be the exclusive and permanently normative pattern of behavior, unless Scripture indicates that is the case.

Second, passages that indicate the baptism of entire households (Acts 16:15, 1 Cor 1:16) do not carry enough evidence on their own to be decisive on this matter. Still, it would be unusual for the biblical authors (1) to assume there were no young children in the households, and (2) if children were assumed to be present, for the biblical authors to be silent on whether children were excluded from the new covenantal sign. There was such an overwhelming precedent from the Old Testament to include children as covenant members of God's people that a shift on this matter would warrant an extensive and documented explanation.

Third, while the parallels between circumcision and baptism may not be enough to bear the full weight of the argument, Colossians 2:11-12 makes a clear connection between the covenant signs:

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Similar to the judgment element in baptism, circumcision involves a "putting off" and a judgment sign not by water but by knife, typologically demonstrated in Christ "putting off" his own body under judgment through his death on the cross.

Fourth, there is explicit evidence in 1 Cor. 7:14 of a biological/physical element in new covenant membership: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."

Scripture does not speak of the children of covenant members as unbelievers, nor as outside the new covenant (Acts 2:36-39). The question is not whether the baptism of unbelievers can be prevented, or how accurately we can guess the elect. Both paedobaptists and also credobaptists baptize unbelievers. Paedobaptists baptize infants who may not eventually profess faith and adults whose profession may not be genuine. Credobaptists also baptize those who profess faith but whose profession may not be genuine. We can safely assume that Jesus' disciple Judas was baptized into the new covenant, with Jesus knowing full well he was an unbeliever.

Not Based on Experience

Coming back to the original question on re-baptism, if we understand the sign of water baptism as a sign of judgment that begins with Noah and his children, continues with Moses, Joshua, and Israel; picks up with John the Baptist and new covenant members; and continues through the church for new covenant members, it is not difficult to see why a second baptism would be as unnecessary as enduring another great flood, re-crossing the Red Sea and Jordan River, or re-signifying yourself as a new covenant member.

Confusion on this matter sets in when we identify baptism only as a sign of a believer's experience of conversion from being outside the covenant to being a new covenant member. (There is also no indication in Scripture that all believers will be able to register a tangible, manifested feeling that temporally corresponds to their conversion from being under wrath to being under grace.) The Westminster Confession of Faith (28.6) is helpful here:

The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time.

For those considering a second baptism because of a later, more tangible conversion experience, rest assured that your original baptism, which signifies coming into new covenant membership, is efficacious based not on the strength of your conversion experience, but on the power of God in conferring grace to new covenant members in his own time.

Jared Oliphint is regional coordinator and a ThM student at Westminster Theological Seminary. He studied philosophy at Gordon College and earned his MAR at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 2005. You can follow him on Twitter.

Categories: Bible and Theology
  • http://www.publicchristianity.org John Dickson

    I'm with you, Jared.
    Baptism, like circumcision, is a sign of God's action and promise, not our response. It is, of course, more in keeping with the Reformed tradition to see circumcision as the sign of God's pledge on the male reproductive organ that he will grant many descendants and to see baptism as a sign not of our faith but of his promise to wash us clean in Christ. There is something structurally Arminian about denying the reality of a covenant sign on a child. This does not mean, of course, that one is 'Arminian' if one doesn't share your view. There is freedom here. I just think it is more consistent with Reformed principles to affirm child baptism.
    Cheers,
    John

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Actually there is something sacramental about imaginging that we, by our religious rituals, can place someone in a covenant with God without any indication that the person is a disciple or even a believer.

      Baptism is commanded as a sign for disciples, not as a "covenant sign." See Mt. 28:18f.

  • Pingback: You Asked: Should I Get ‘Re-Baptized’? (Credobaptist Answer) – The Gospel Coalition Blog

  • Willy

    Can you clarify? I can understand your argument if you're talking about an infant baptized by their parents. The case given is someone who was not a Christian who chose for themselves to do a ritual that they did not understand.

    An infant is unable to understand. A 13 year old is old enough to understand and was baptized based on a false confession.

    As an adult if you don't repent and believe how can you be baptized?

    (or If baptism is a means of grace should we then be pressuring unbelievers to get baptized in the hopes that it will somehow bring them to conversion?)

  • Dean P

    One point that I recently thought about was in regards to you references to people in the NT who had their households baptized. One example is that of the jailer in Acts who was converted and then has his household baptized. With this in mind it is very possible that some of his children infant or not had no understanding of what was going on or may had no intentions of converting but yet under the assumption that the jailer was the spiritual head of that family they were baptized, but neither Paul nor the text challenges this assumption.

    • Dave

      Except that it goes on to say, "he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole household."

      • Adam

        Dave, your rendering of Acts 16:34 might be a little misleading. The NASB translates that text similarly; the ESV translates it slightly different, taking the rejoicing of the jailer, and his family with him, to be directed towards "his" (the jailer's) faith, not their (as in corporate) faith. The greek actually agrees more with the ESV, because the participle for "believe" is in the perfect-masculine-singular (he had believed), not plural (they had believed). It should read: "he rejoiced, along with his entire household, that he had believed in God."

        • Morten

          If the intire household rejoiced.. Didn't the intire household knew what they did? Does infants rejoice about there babtizem? Am I of track here?

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You're assuming that he had young children or, even if he did, that the reference to his household includes every individual in it. The same Calvinists who insist that "world" doesn't include every individual, insist that the reference to "household" includes every individual and then assume he had small children.

      We know from the Didache that the early church did NOT baptize children.

  • Jonathan Bonomo

    Willy,

    The point is: A baptism is a baptism is a baptism -- whether for an infant, genuine adult believer, or hypocritical professing believer. Its validity is dependent not on the personal faith of either minister or recipient, but solely on the promise of Christ, as an outward sign of the inward cleansing only he performs by his Spirit. We need to distinguish between the sacrament's validity and its efficacy. Its validity is objective, as is the promise of the gospel, and when it is performed it is unrepeatable. However, its efficacy is dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit, who works when and how and where he pleases. But the subjective disposition of the recipient doesn't alter the objective *validity* of the sacrament, only its *efficacy*. And for one who comes to faith years after their baptism, we see a fulfillment of the statement that Jared quoted from WCF: "The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered."

    • Chris

      Jonathan,

      With respect, how can one know that "the efficacy of baptism" was involved in someone's conversion? I mean unless someone identifies their pondering on a prior baptism as being instrumental in their conversion, how does one know it had any efficacy or role in their conversion? Both baptized and unbaptized persons come to faith. How can anyone show baptism made a difference? Also, if the Holy Spirit freely brings the unbaptized in as easily as the baptized, what real difference does infant baptism make (as far as efficacy goes)?

      Thanks,
      Chris

      • Chris

        Also, as someone else seemed to say if baptism gives someone "special grace" and access to the covenant community, why wouldn't we baptize anyone who would let us baptize them?

      • Jonathan Bonomo

        Chris,

        We claim to know this on the basis not of what we see or experience, but by faith in the promise of Christ and his word, which connects the grace of cleansing from sin to the outward sign of Baptism.

        My point in commenting was not to defend infant Baptism per se (as a pastor, I do not have time to get into this discussion in this forum), but simply to clarify Jared's point re. Willy's question. So, I will leave your question on that score to the side.

        Blessings,

        Jon

        • Chris

          Jonathan,

          Thank you for your kind response. It definitely helps me understand your position better and/or their position better.

          Sincerely,
          Chris

    • Willy

      Thanks Jonathan. I'll definitely have to read more on the subject.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      That's traditional Catholic theology, ex opera operata. And it's wrong. The Lord Jesus commanded baptism for disciples (Mt. 28:28f). It does nothing for a non-disciple except get them wet. It does not put unbelievers in a covenant with God. The Bible teaches no such thing.

      And we know from the Didache that the early church did not baptize infants.

      • Jonathan Bonomo

        It's a sad world we live in when the Westminster Confession Presbyterian view of the sacraments can be equated with Roman Catholicism. Unfortunately, failure to make proper distinctions is just par for the course with many.

      • V Smith

        John -

        As Jonathan has said, you're actually writing from a profoundly ignorant position if you can think that the WCF and historical Reformed theology is teaching that baptism 'works' ex opera operato.

        And, regarding the 1 Peter passage quoted above; who got wet in the days of Noah?

        Finally, as a good Protestant, you'll know that regardless of what the Didache teaches, or what the early church supposedly did, the Scriptures are our only rule of faith and practice.

      • Kraig

        I agree with John--baptism is to be administered to disciples only. But I'm pretty sure every Christian would agree with that. The only question we must wrestle with, then, is this: what is a disciple?

        There are two options: (1) a disciple is anyone who is being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded (including my baby girl), or (2) a disciple is anyone who is being taught to obey all that Jesus commanded AND has the mental and physical development necessary to make a personal, rational profession of faith (thus excluding infants, young children, and some handicapped persons).

        • Albert

          Baptism was not administered to "disciples" only. The credobaptist position are making as much inferences to the text as the paedobaptist. The main question is; who's interpretation makes the most sense in light of the analogiae fide. The credobaptist position fails miserably.

  • A

    Does any of this really matter? I mean, in the grand scheme of things - do you really think Christ intended us to have lengthy debates about re-baptism?. I'm sure He would have stated with utmost clarity if it was important, but He didn't.

    And the efficacy of baptism? You mean the efficacy of having someone sprinkled/immersed in water and a pastor say some words from the Bible? If that in itself was efficacious, we might as well use the large water sources for forest fire eradication to sprinkle entire cities while a pastor reads from the Bible. It's just a sign, an outward symbol. The efficacious part is the part we can't see or administer (no matter how many times or when we baptise someone) - it's God working, through His Spirit and by His word in the hearts and minds of individuals. Water can clean us from sin no more than coal can clean us from dirt, and water can prepare us for accepting God's word no better than a rollercoaster can prepare us for a meal.

    I do appreciate reading about how people arrive at their conclusions about these things, but I think we should perhaps be using our time more wisely - perhaps by praying for colleagues to come to faith (previously baptised or not)? Just a suggestion.

    • Jacob

      Well, you have to be careful with suggesting things like "Do you really think Christ intended us to have lengthy debates about re-baptism?". Obviously it's a secondary issue. It is not a matter of salvation, but it is still important. Scripture makes it clear baptism should happen, so discussing the parameters around when Baptism is being done the right way is important, because we should have a desire and passion to do things the right way.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Spare us the mindless anti-intellectualism.
      Yes, obeying Jesus does matter.

      • A

        John:

        I'm far from anti-intellectual, I have just been present for one too many in-depth circular theological debates with no overall conclusion whilst someone who is new to the church, or who is new to the faith, sits in the corner being entirely ignored because the Christians are being "theological" or "holy" or however else they wish to be perceived (and yes I have heard these descriptions from those engaging in the discussions). I often find online debates to be just as circular in nature with people frequently so rooted in their already held viewpoint that it isn't a discussion, but a competition to see who can present their point best, not learn from eachother. I honestly don't understand phrases such as "the efficacy of baptism", stated as if it was the means itself, which is why I made that statement. I also have an issue with how we as Christians can so easily become sucked into such debates which, as mentioned by a few others, do have their place and if it is to lead to being more obedient disciples then great, but while we are fervently disagreeing on these issues, people from an un-churched background or country are looking on baffled as they are told of the unity of the body of Christ, yet see something entirely different. I have a number of rather confused friends wondering why, when attending different denominations, they were told by each of the wrongs of others and the rights of that particular one…and all they wanted to do was attend a church and learn about what was in the Bible. I just think we need to be careful - yes, discuss things so that we are being obedient etc, but if just going in circles/backwards, perhaps step back and ensure it isn't to the detriment of others - brothers and sisters, or non-believers. Daily I am with people who are worried about money, worried about family, about being far away from ill family, who struggle with image and identity, who worry about being able to provide food for the next day, who worry about buying the next Audi, who are disillusioned with the church, who are being worn down whilst trying to persevere in the faith in a world that increasingly rejects it, with those who are entirely lost in sin and from what I can see, very much spiritually blind, and in light of all of that, I find it more and more difficult to see why we (myself included) make so much of some topics of debate. It's not anti-intellectualism, it's just caution.

        I also don't particularly appreciate being addressed as mindless…probably an insult in most cultures . I agree, obeying Jesus does matter.

        • Adam

          A,

          I think John is starving to show off his anti anti-intellectualism, hence his decision to hop all over everyone on a paedobaptism blogpost.

  • Albert

    A,

    In an important sense I agree with you, but if we're dealing with an certain ethos in many places that are always obsessed with whether their baptism was a legitimate one, then by all means we have to get rid of such an absurd notion. Living by grace does not accord with the constant preoccupation to whether or not my baptism was legitimate.

    Thus it does bring us back to what Baptism in fact means and what it was intended for - an outward sign that points to something external, not within ourselves. Credobaptists do not realize that their viewpoint does not accord with this.

    Cheers,
    Albert

    • A

      Well said

  • Dave

    For those who agree with the premise of this article: Would you counsel someone who was baptized in the Roman Catholic church as an infant to be re-baptized after coming to saving faith? What about someone who was baptized as part of some pagan ritual in a remote tribe from Papua New Guinea? If not, what is the essential difference between those scenarios and the one presented above, where the person accepted baptism "because her friends were doing it?"

    This is meant as a serious question, not meant to be inflammatory, although I could see how it could be read that way. I'm trying to understand (although I admittedly disagree with the premise of the article) the minimum factors, under this view, that make a ritual Christian baptism, when it seems to be admitted that the attitude and motives of the recipient are irrelevant?

    • Justin

      @Dave, given that baptism in the RCC is administered with water in the Triune Name, most Protestant paedo-baptists would accept it. That's obviously different from baptism in a pagan ritual.

  • Bob

    Like Murray and Kline before you... you stipulated the oikos principle with no interaction with the clearest verses in the NT on the status of the household in the new covenant: Luke 12:52ff, Matt. 10:36ff, 1st Peter 1:22-23.

    Matthew: "And a person's enemies will be those of his own household..."

    Luke: "From now on in one house there will be five divided..."

    Peter: "Not of the perishable seed, but the imperishable..."

    Our Lord's clear teaching is that the household is no longer a vehicle for covenantal blessing. When does this take place? "From now on" (Luke 12).

    1st Peter 1:23 is far more clear on how the perishable seed (your "biological/physical element in new covenant membership") is no longer the birth/family membership/seed that is brotherly love that predicates the covenant community than 1st Cor. 7:14 (which Ridderbos argues against as an appropriate verse for the discussion of Baptism).

    Also, in Acts 16 the entire household is rejoicing in faith. The household of Stephanas (in 1 Cor 1:16) are COVERTS (1 Cor. 16:15) who devoted THEMSELVES to the servants of the saints.

    Anyway, your post was far superior to the Baptists one!

    • Adam

      Bob, your interpretation of Acts 16 might not be right. See my comment above.

      Also, with your understanding of the New Covenant, what do you do with passages such as Romans 11 where the apostle Paul uses the olive tree as an analogy for the covenant? He moves through redemptive history from jacob and esau to Isaac and Ishmael and straight into the New Covenant. And he makes the claim that even those in the New Covenant can be broken off. If this is true, that those in the covenant can be broken off in the New Covenant, and if we define covenant as you are saying we should, then there is no room for the doctrine of perseverance. As Kline put it, the circle of covenant is always larger than the circle of election.

      • Bob

        Adam,

        I made no statement on the covenant/election relationship. All I'm saying here is that the clearest verses in the NT on households were neglected. It is true, though that I would say that it is the "imperishable seed" by which people are now born into the covenant, and not the perishable - I think that is pretty clear from Jesus's statements about the household and Peter's statement about the seed.

        I agree that there are those who are brought into our covenant communities who crept in unnoticed, spurned the Son of God and the blood of the covenant, and who shouldn't been members of the church in the first place - because they are not co-heirs with Christ and his church. They are the seeds the grow for a while but the birds, the weeds, or the sun destroys their faith. But the church ought not the admit such people, if it can. I'm sure you agree.

        My point above is that the "household principle" is not a clear standard for admitting people into covenant communities.

  • jeremiah

    For the promise is for you and for your children. But the passage goes on to say- and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

    The passage does not say to baptize your children or everyone else. The interpretation must be consistent.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      excellent point! Thanks for making it.

  • Tsitbab Elpmis

    It seems with the gospel expanding into pagan gentile territory, that Paul might be compelled to give some explicit instruction for them on baptizing their children, since he give explicit instruction about so many other things.

    Was the presbterian understanding of infant baptism so naturally, and comprehensively understood (among the gentiles) that there was no need for such instruction?

    And if the Jews so instinctively "got it", what all this business in Galatia and with the Jerusalem about circumcision & salvation?

    Wouldn't some good Jewish convert settle the whole matter and say,"Folks y'all know that baptism replaces circumcision. So there's no need to argue and there's no need to circumcise these gentile converts."

    Arguments from silence aren't the weightiest, but the silence is pretty loud.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You've made excellent points. The infant-baptism position depends on so many people simply assuming the role of baptism replacing circumcision. Further, it imports into the new covenant the assumption that one is one of God's people simply by ancestry, the idea that Paul rejects in Romans 9.

      Anyway, historically its absurd. The Didache, an early 2nd century document on polity, has a detailed section on baptism that clearly does not include infants. The early church was not baptizing infants by the early second century.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    This is a sad distortion of scripture to make it fit theological presuppositions. The command to baptize from the Lord Jesus is to baptize "disciples" (Mt. 28:18f). Only disciples should be baptized. It is a sign of having entered into a life of discipleship to Jesus. If someone was not a disciple at the time of their baptism, then it's that was an appropriate baptism. They just got wet.

    Besides, we now know, from the Didache, that the early church was not baptizing infants.

    • Adam

      How would you define disciple? What if a person falls out of being a disciple and wanders for awhile, should that person be re-baptized when he decides to be a disciple again?

      Also, the Great Commission actually says that a disciple is made BY (cause) baptizing and teaching all the Christ commanded.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        Nice try but the Greek says no such thing. It does NOT say a disciple is made by baptizing. Mt. 28:29 says:

        πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος,

        "Go thereofore making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
        There is no "by" clause with "baptizing them." It is a gerund, indicating what should be done to disciples.
        It says we are to "make disciples" (i.e. followers of Jesus) and we set those disciples apart by baptizing them. Therefore, the proper role of baptism is to mark discipleship. Since it is impossible to know if a baby is a disciple, it is inappropriate to baptize them. The principle that should drive our policy regarding baptism is it's role in discipleship, not a highly tenuous connection with circumcision.

        • Adam

          John,

          I wasn't pulling any tricks. It is not simple a gerund, it's an adverbial participle that is most likely used in the causal since. But even with the way you defined it, the baptizing and teaching part still indicate how one is to be made a disciple.

          • Adam

            And to clarify, I am talking about the Greek here.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Frankly Adam, you're plainly wrong. The Greek is there. There is no "by" clause. It says, "make disciples" (μαθητεύσατε) and then baptize "them". Who is the them, the objects of baptism? It is the disciples.

            Baptizing and teaching are not paired. Teaching comes in the next phrase, in verse 20. You could make the case that we make disciples by teaching them but the command is to baptize disciples, not to make them by baptizing them, which makes no sense anyway because getting people wet doesn't, in any way, help make them disciples.

            Actually, in light of what is clear about "baptizing them" (βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς), the teaching in verse 20 also refers to what is done for disciples.

            • Adam

              John,

              I would argue that there is fact a causal clause happening in the Greek. If you are right that these merely sequential commands, then why does the text swtich from an imperative "make disciples" and then switch to the participle for the "baptizing" and "teaching." If you are right, wouldn't we expect three imperatives?

            • Adam

              maybe instead of using "causal" I should have said "means." My mistake. Baptizing and teaching doesn't cause one to be a disciple but is the means to becoming a disciple. Hopefully that clarification helps.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Adam, you can insist on it, without evidence. You cannot truly "argue it" because you have no evidence. I've given you the Greek. There's no "by clause" you can point to. If the command were to say what you are trying to make it say, it would probably have the preposition "dia" (through) before βαπτίζοντες; i.e., saying "make disciples through baptizing them". But it doesn't.

              I don't understand your question. The text is not unclear. It says, "Make disciples, baptizing them . . . teaching them . . ." The baptizing and teaching is what we do to the disciples and is subsumed under the imperative of making disciples. I suppose there is some truth that disciple-making is a continual, life-long process and that, in a way, baptizing and teaching are two ways we do that. But in this command -- and this is THE command to baptize -- baptism is for "them", i.e. the disciples. Therefore the object of baptism are only people who have shown signs of being disciples, at minimum believers. I would use this also to teach against the now wide-spread Baptist practice of baptizing small children because it is very difficult to know if they are disciples.

              From this text, the principle that drives baptism is its role in disciple-making, not a supposed role in sacramentally putting someone in a covenant with God who may not even be aware of what is going on.

            • Jonathan Bonomo

              Perhaps there should be Discussion here of how participles function in Greek. Adam's understanding of baptizontes here is perfectly in line with the grammar. The participle of means is actually fairly common in koine Greek.... See, for instance, Wallace's grammar.

            • Adam

              Jonathan B,

              Thanks for the backup here. I am definitely not trying to be troll on the issue of Matthew 28. John has made the claim that " The Lord Jesus commanded baptism for disciples (Mt. 28:28f). It does nothing for a non-disciple except get them wet" (quoted from above). The problem is that I don't think the Greek agrees with his argument, so he will have to argue on other grounds than what the text says.

              I think there is good warrant for recognizing that the two participles are functioning as "means" or "manner" here. Regardless of whether or not John agrees with this (and he may be right that it isn't a good definition) he can't throw it out as eisegesis because the participle isn't that simple in Greek. In light of the Greek grammars today, to say that "means" or "manner" here is impossible is a true example of eisegesis.

        • Adam

          John,

          To address your last comment (it wouldn't let me reply to it), what I'm getting at is your apriori insistance that baptism and teaching are for those who are disciples already. I would say that baptism and teaching are the ways that those who grow up in the covenant community and those who are converted and brought into the covenant community grow into disciples of Christ. They are made disciples through these things. Baptism is not merely a personal pledge of being a disciple. If that is true, would you also argue that teaching is also a pledge of a disciple, as if a disciple can be a disciple without previous teaching?

          In terms of the Greek, my understanding of the participle, while it may not be infallible, is a fair translation. Adverbial participles in the greek have nuance. Sometimes they refere to a temporal aspect, and sometimes aspects of "means", "cause", or "conditional", etc. My point in saying this is that your translation of the text is not proof for your point. Perhaps "dia" could have been used, but "dia" is not the only way of communicating "means" in greek. I would say that the imperative to "make disciples" is followed by the statements of "by baptizing them" and "by teaching them" which is the point I was trying to make above. Your translation would read "make disciples and then baptize and teach," which I don't think can be derived from the Greek.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Adam,

            To call an accurate interpretation of the command of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 28:19 an "apriori insistence" is both an insult and plainly dishonest. I know it is disorienting when the things you've been told for years are shown to be contrary to scripture and unsupportable by history or reason, but you should not resort to simple lies. You need to deal with the fact that your tradition is contrary to the Word of God and decide whether you are going to be a disciple of Jesus and obey His Word or you are going to continue to make void the Word of God for the sake of your tradition (Mt. 15:6). It's a fundamental spiritual issue at stake.

            Your handling of Mt. 28:18 is likewise dishonest. It's eisegesis. There is no "by clause", as you first insisted, and you are frankly lying to say otherwise. There simply is nothing in the texts implying what you are inserting.

            And, finally, you appear to have purposely misunderstood the text in order to retain your tradition. I didn't say "then". I said it is simply a command of what is to be done to "disciples." The command to baptize -- baptizing "them" -- is to baptize disciples. Please be honest with the text.

            • Adam

              John,

              I have to say that it is a little funny that you assume "apriori" (there it is again) that your interpretation is accurate and that me disagreeing is insulting and dishonest.

              Also, I was raised a baptist, so I have already dealt with my tradition that was contrary to the word of God. There again we have an apriori that states that your view is right and mine is the result of a spiritual issue.

              In terms of the Greek, again, I have tried to explain what is a valid interpretation of the Greek. If you look in any Greek textbook that details the use of Greek participles, you will see this use. It is not eisegesis just because you are unfamiliar with that use.

              To address your last point. You have clearly stated in these posts that baptism is for disciples, meaning that it is not to be done to those who aren't yet disciples. I am simply disagreeing and saying that it is something that is done as a step in the discipleship process. Also, you didn't address my question about teaching. How do you interpret that? Are we to assume that teaching doesn't happen before someone is a disciple? Or do we have to become a disciple and then get taught? I'm applying your same logic for baptism onto the following participle, teaching.

              John, I do hope that we can discuss this without relying on frustrated remarks below the belt.

    • Adam

      And another thing. You keep using the Didache as a hammer that shatters the argument of the paedo-baptist.

      1) The didache isn't in the canon, and there isn't even a consensus on how authentic the document really is.

      But if we still want to use the didache instead of the whole canon of scripture to make definitive claims on the teaching of scripture:

      2) The didache does not forbid infant baptism To say so is to read into it exactly what is read into the NT when credobaptist say, "Look! It is says, 'repent and be baptized.' Infants can't do that. It's for adult believers." Paedobaptists actually believe in adult baptisms that come after a profession of faith as well.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        Hi Adam,

        The Didache is historical evidence. It's an early 2nd century church manual and it gives us a glimpse of what the early church practiced. You can say they were wrong (as it shows some errors creeping into the early church). But you have a tough case to make that the NT church practiced infant baptism and yet an early church manual makes no mention of it whatsoever. If the early church was baptizing infants, one would expect to see some instructions on how to handle that. One doesn't. If it was a manual by some minority of dissenting baptists, as some have suggested, you'd expect some polemics against infant-baptism. One doesn't find that either. The complete absence of mentioning how to handle the baptism of infants suggests that there simply were no Christians practicing infant baptism at that time. There are no instructions for the churches not to baptize infants for the same reason that there are no instructions for the church not to use powerpoint: No one was doing it or considering it. And that is perfectly consistent with a New Testament that likewise does not mention infant baptism.

        • Adam

          John,

          I understand that you feel that the Didache is valid historical evidence. But what I am saying is that there is no consensus on how historical this document is or whether it can be linked to the 2nd century. Are you aware of when this document was discovered? And if the Didache is in fact a valid 2nd century document, I still disagree that it silences the paedobaptist argument. As I said above, we agree with Adult baptism after a proper profession of faith, as the Didache spells out. But we also say their children should be baptized. Can you say authoritatively that the Didache is addressing the former and omitting the latter?

          Also, you haven't addressed my response to the reading of the Greek text.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Frankly Adam, your statement makes no sense. "There's no consensus on how historical this document is"? Are you saying it's a recent forgery. I know of no serious scholar who argues that. I believe the consensus is that it is a product of the early church, from the late first century to the mid-second century. That it makes no mention of infant baptism at all is most telling and I believe case-closing. Even the Presbyterian professor from whom I took Greek and read from the Didache from, when asked does this prove that the early church was practicing believer's baptism said, "yes". The Didache concisely but comprehensively deals with baptism (even what to do if you have no water) and yet makes no mention whatsoever of infants. There's really only one possible explanation for that.

            As for Scripture, it's command is to baptize disciples (Mt. 28:19) and there is no command or example of baptizing infants. The baptizing of infants is therefore a violation of Sola Scriptura and the regulative principle of worship. Frankly put, it's a vestige of Catholic sacramentalism.

            • Adam

              John,

              Those are some bold claims. I'll agree to disagree on your charges of violating Sola Scriptura and the Paedobaptist position as being a carry over from Rome.

              In terms of the Didache, I have no disagreement that it doesn't teach infant baptism. And I'll agree with you that the NT doesn't have explicit "proof texts" that say "baptize babies," as many fundamentalist Christians influenced by a modernistic reading of scripture want to see. The Didache is clearly giving instruction about what to do with adults converts in the same way that Romans 4 describes Abraham as having the gospel preached to him, believing in faith, and then receiving circumcision as a sign of the righteousness that was imputed to him. But then there is also the part about circumcising his son. What do we do with that? If the Didache is credible, even though it doesn't mention infants being baptized, in my opinion infant baptism is not tossed out. As I've said before, paedobaptists also believe in adult baptism.

            • D

              John,

              Under your website, it also says that you went to Fuller, which means your Presbyterian professor wasn't exactly teaching at a seminary which was a bastion of Reformed Orthodoxy. Regardless, I think what "Adam"'s point is that the Didache in no way rules out paedobaptism—in fact, it says "pouring" is allowed, something that is repugnant in a Baptist's vocabulary when it comes to baptism. It's extremely uncharitable to say that paedobaptism is a vestige of Romish sacerdotalism, especially in light of these two articles, when the paedobaptist defense was argued with so much Scripture, while the Baptist one sounded semi-legalistic and had a couple verses out of the NT. None of the Presbyterian brothers have slammed on Baptists that they are a carry over of individualistic modernity having their root in the Anabaptists. Maybe you could be more charitable.

  • jeremiah

    Adam, even if Matt 28 clearly said that you should make disciples by baptizing them, wouldn't that person want to be a disciple in the first place?

    And if the logic of paedo-baptism is correct then mass baptism of military in the past be defended as well?

  • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

    Baptism points to regeneration. Whether the thing signified occurs before or after the sign is applied is of no consequence, and does not change the validity of the promise.

    • Chris

      Riley,

      Could you explain "the promise" to me?

      Thanks,
      Chris

      • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

        The promise is all the blessings of the new covenant, including regeneration, for the seed of believers.

        • Chris

          Riley,

          So I baptize my baby and my baptized baby will now one day be regenerated? Guaranteed?

          Thanks,
          Chris

          • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

            Not guaranteed, because there are exceptions like Saul, Esau, and Ishmael. But you have no reason to doubt that your child will be regenerated. You should parent in faith that God will regenerate your child. This is not based upon the baptism but upon God's covenant promise which is signified and sealed in baptism.

            • Chris

              Thank you for answering my questions. Very kind of you.

              Here's another. So does a baptized child raised in gospel-preaching church and in a Christian home have better odds (or however you might say it) of being regenerated than an unbaptized child raised in a gospel-preaching church?

            • http://highplainsparson.wordpress.com Riley

              That is an interesting question, but it does not strike me as relevant to the topic. We are not in this to play the odds, but to obey God. I'm not sure if I know the answer to it. I think that having been baptized will be a help to the child's assurance of salvation, and that there is a reward to obeying God's commandments.

            • Chris

              Well, that was my last question. Riley, thanks again for answering my questions and helping me understand your point of view.

  • Thomas

    Mr. Carpenter, I think you have demonstrated that you do not understand the nature of the Greek participle. Just as Greek verbs often contain the subject imbedded in the verb, so participles often contain such logical connections as 'by' and 'because'. Dan Wallace's (I believe he is a baptist) Greek grammar cites Matt 28 as an example of the participle of means (cf. pp. 628ff.). It matters not that the word 'by' is not in the Greek, since it's imbedded in the participle itself.

    I am fairly certain also, that Koine Greek does not use prepositions with participles in the manner you have describe. They are, however, used with infinitives, in which case it would be εν, not δια, which expressed means.

  • Bob in IN

    Sorry, that is bad argument for child baptism. Belief and understanding must come first. Lots of words, no reality.

    • RP

      Bob, says who?

  • Bob in IN

    "The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time." I totally disagree with this, mans' words. Man's baptism has NO eternal efficacy. Only God's baptism does such a thing.

    • Jonathan Bonomo

      I hope you don't apply that same logic to the preaching of the gospel.

  • Thomas

    Bob says, and that's final!

  • Mike Ford

    Thank you for an entertaining 15 minutes! My brother's baptist and I'm presbyterian (we were raised pentecostal); my wife was raised catholic and we baptized our son. I don't know much but I agree with Calvin's anagogic perspective between the old and new covenantal signs of salvation.

    Also, my wife being baptized in the catholic church as an infant, me being baptized in the pentecostal church when I was 13 (but did not become a Christian until 20), and our son being baptized at 2 months old all signified the same thing - a sign and seal that God is faithful to his promises and if we look to Christ as our Redeemer we will be saved. It was a completely passive event for all of us. We pray often (every night when we put our son to bed) that he would look to Jesus as his only Savior.

    My brother is not convinced by Calvin and I'm not sure John Carpenter will ever be convinced by anything because he seems to have a vendetta against paedo-baptists (in all seriousness John, what happened that made you so angry?). At any rate, I'm thankful these conversations continue to occur and pray we continue to think the best of the other's sides motives and intentions.

    Cheers,

    Mike

  • Pingback: Links I like | Blogging Theologically

  • jeremiah

    Hi guys, I responded twice and got no feedback. Would anyone like to interact with what I brought?

    1st-
    For the promise is for you and for your children. But the passage goes on to say- and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

    The passage does not say to baptize your children or everyone else (all). The interpretation must be consistent.

    2nd-
    Adam, even if Matt 28 clearly said that you should make disciples by baptizing them, wouldn't that person want to be a disciple in the first place?

    And if the logic of paedo-baptism is correct then mass baptism of military in the past be defended as well?

    • RP

      Jeremiah,

      Your 1st point:
      Isn't Peter preaching to the people in Judea and in all Jerusalem that Christ had come, undergone death on the cross, and was exalted to heaven in his resurrection (i.e the gospel)? If Peter is preaching this to Jews, as this passage is Acts seems to make clear, then it would make sense that he would say that this is for you and also for those who are far off, pentecost being the beginning point of the inclusion of the Gentiles. In your question you recognize that children are included for those who are represented by the "for you," because it goes on to say "and for your children." If Peter is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to these men and says it's "for you and for your children" is he allowing the inclusion of children? It sure seems like it. Why would Israel have the responsibility and right to include children in the New Covenant but not those who are far off?

      Your 2nd point:
      Sure, those who come to faith should want to be disciples. When they come to faith, are brought into the covenant community, they are baptized and instructed in the faith. But that does not mean then that those who come to faith should not also have their children baptized and brought into the covenant community. Baptism doesn't mysteriously "make" someone a disciple. Baptism is a sign and seal that God is applying to the believer and his/her family as being set apart and included into the Church.

      As far as your question of mass-military baptisms, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Based on this question I'm not sure that you have understood the paedobaptist argument. Children are included under the authority of the believing parent. J

  • jeremiah

    RP, thanks for the response.

    Isn't being baptized in verse 38 of acts 2, a command and different than who Peter says that the promise is for in verse 39?
    If we should baptize our children, based partially on this passage, then why shouldn't we baptize all people that we can as well?

  • RP

    Jeremiah,

    You're right that verse 38 is a command. But 39 is a continuation of 38, which is why it begins with "for", reaching back to what was just said. You could also word it, "Because the promise is for you and your children and all those who are far off, repent each one of you and be baptized...."

    Baptism doesn't belong to those outside the church, so why would we baptize "all the people we can"? Paedobaptists believe that the children of believers should be baptized because they are born into the covenant community, set apart to the Lord. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, "Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized."

    • RP

      And to add another thought. Paul makes it fairly clear in Romans 4 that Abraham received circumcision AFTER his faith in the gospel that was preached to him, and received the sign of circumcision as as sign of the righteousness he received by faith. But then he circumcised his son. If circumcision was, as Paul said it, a sign of the righteousness received by faith, would you say that Abraham should have sought to circumcise all the people that he could?

      • jeremiah

        RP, I would answer your question in the negative. God did not command Abraham to do so.
        In the NT Abraham's sons are those who believe God and have faith. New Covenant participation is not according to the flesh but the Spirit through faith.

        Also in Acts 2:41 the ones who were baptized were the ones who received Peter's message of the gospel. The whole passage says that the ones who were baptized were believers and that the promised Spirit and salvation is for children and all who are far off. And even this designation is clarified for us saying 'everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'

        • Thomas

          Was Old Covenant participation according to the flesh or the Spirit through faith?

        • RP

          Jeremiah,

          Right, true Israel has always been those of faith. But that doesn't mean that the sign of the covenant doesn't go to those who may not prove to be of true Israel. God did in fact command Abraham to circumcise his children, and yet Paul calls circumcision a sign and seal of righteousness received by faith. How does that work?

          As far as the acts passage, I don't think you'll get my point until you understand how I'm defining the role of baptism in the covenant community.

          • jeremiah

            It sounds like I can't understand your view of baptism unless I first bye into your framework and then I can let the scripture speak.?

            In Rom 4 Paul doesn't call all circumcision a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith, but specifically Abraham's. The seal for all believers is the Spirit. 2 Cor 1:22

            • RP

              Jeremiah,

              I'm saying that you have yet to understand my responses to your questions. And yes, we have different frameworks of interpretation. Why is mine and not your's silencing the scripture? As a quick aside, why did Peter even mention "and for your children"? If the promise is for "you all" and for "those who are far off", it seems a bit odd to throw the children part, unless Peter is referring to the way the the promise has always been described since Genesis: "for you and for your children".

              I'm pretty sure Paul calls it the seal of righteousness that he received by faith and that he is instructed to apply this sign to his children. Quick question, Jeremiah: Do you see the gospel and faith functioning with the Old Testament Saints?

  • Pingback: Should I Get Re-Baptised? « The Ransomed

  • jeremiah

    RP, one of the problems is that you seem to be equating promise with baptism.

    • RP

      Why wouldn't we see the relation of promise to baptism?

      • jeremiah

        Relating yes, equating no, they are different. You do not seem to treat repentance in the same manner as baptism.

        • RP

          Jeremiah,

          Baptism is a promise with God as subject and the recipients as objects. God promises in baptism. Faith and repentance are absolutely necessary for one to receive baptism, just as it was for Abraham in the same covenant of grace extended back to Genesis. I'm just arguing, along with the Reformed tradition, that this sign of covenant promise is also applied to the children of believing parents.

          • Chris

            RP,

            What does God promise in baptism?

            Thanks,
            Chris

          • jeremiah

            Where in scripture is baptism a promise or what is God promising in baptism?
            thanks

  • Hannah

    In response to this topic and the very last words of the post-- "For those considering a second baptism because of a later, more tangible conversion experience, rest assured that your original baptism, which signifies coming into new covenant membership, is efficacious based not on the strength of your conversion experience, but on the power of God in conferring grace to new covenant members in his own time:"

    This is exactly the conclusion I have come to myself after much observation, thought, study, and discussion. I had a similar situation to Lynda as I was baptized at the age of 12, but I knew I had made that decision based on what I understood the Bible to say God wanted me to do. I chose to be baptized for the remission of my sins, though I was so young. After seeing many people being "re-baptized" because of doubt regarding their original baptism, I began to question myself. When I spoke with my dad about this matter, he reminded me that, of course, we are always growing spiritually. We SHOULD come a long way through our Christian lives a gain greater knowledge, wisdom, and understanding after we decide to become a Christian. Baptism is not the end of the process. So I was reassured to realize that where I am now spiritually does not determine the validity of my willingness to obey Christ at any previous time in my life.

  • John Lawless, MDiv, MBA

    After having read the many comments I am glad I am just a simple member of a SBC church. First, faith then baptism. Seems pretty simple.

    • Adam

      John Lawless,

      Paedo- and Credo-baptists agree on 1) faith and 2) baptism in regards to new believers. There is no debate on that. Entrance into the Covenant of Grace has always been by faith alone and followed by the reception of the covenant sign.

      However, one has to reckon with the reality of the fact that the gospel (Paul uses gospel here in the same sense as he uses it in other places, i.e. the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ) was preached to Abraham, he received it by a spirit-wrought faith, and then was included into the covenant of grace. He then got the sign, circumcision. And then he was commanded to circumcise his offspring at 8 days old, before they had confessed faith. If this is the same gospel as we have today, and if Abraham is a father in the faith, and if we are in the same covenant of grace as Abraham, then we have to decide if we will let the entirety of scripture speak to our doctrine of baptism. The New Testament is not our only guide to faith and practice. There are many discontinuities between the Old and New Testaments, but there are also continuities, one being God's continual work in the context of the covenant community.

  • Pingback: Roundup | Eternity Matters

  • Pingback: Miscellanées (Week 6, 2013) | Jake Belder

  • Pingback: Friday’s Fab Five: The Best Christian Blog Articles Of The Past Week (2/1/13-2/7/13)

    • Kim Swenson

      I would like to tell the young man who desires to be baptized again to by all means do so. Do you "have to" I don't think so- your salvation is not dependant upon baptism. Don't miss out on this beautiful opportunity to publicly demonsrate your allegiance to Jesus Christ. Many people in the New testment were baptized more than once. When Paul met some people and he asked what baptism they had received and they said "Johns baptism". He asked them if they had ever been baptized in the name of Jesus and they said no and were baptized again in Jesus name.
      I find a couple of things very odd in terms of those who would support infant baptism as the biblical model. If this was the case it seems very strange that there would not be even one single solitary example or straight forward command to do so. I read through all of these posts and would challenge anyone supporting infant baptism to show even one clear teaching to this effect. Every thing I read comes from assuming this from that. I am also curious why if baptism is the means to grace to those being baptized why Paul would downplay his involvement by saying that he was glad he had not baptized many of those in I Corinthians. He is not saying baptism is important but he is disconnecting it's importance from the Gospel, which is what Paul was called to preach.