You know that you are dealing with a difficult subject when you get tired before you even write the post. It is hard work doing theology, and if it isn't, then you probably aren't doing very good theology.
I said in my last post that the sign of the New Covenant is not baptism. I believe that's true; I believe that a cursory study of the Lord's Supper will reveal this. The question then becomes how baptism ties in with the New Covenant. That is what I will attempt to explore here in this post. Where we come out on this issue will largely determine how we view the nature of the Church, so pay attention and keep me honest.
I have argued that baptism symbolizes the fact that a believer has had an inward resurrection from the dead. The old nature has been put away, and the new nature has been brought out to life. Let me quote something from Paul that most who read this will be familiar with:
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrectionRomans 6:3-5
I believe that baptism also symbolizes the fact that the believer is washed clean from sin. I further believer that this baptism is a symbol that a believer has been made a member of the body of Christ. This section of Romans implicitly contains all of these aspects about the new birth. However, paedo-baptism does not contain the most important aspect that baptism symbolizes: the death of the old man.
Look closely at what Paul says:
"we were buried with Him."
How is an infant buried with Jesus Christ? How does sprinkling convey the image of burial? (Not the main issue here, but as a rabid Baptist I must point out the obvious.) Also, does it follow that an infant who has been buried with Jesus should now walk in newness of life? It seems clear from this section that those who are buried with Jesus Christ will, without doubt, share in the likeness of His resurrection. This poses two problems for the infant baptizer:
1. Does baptism bring regeneration?
2. Does baptism guarantee rebirth?
The first is rejected by most anyone who has read thus far, and rightly so. The second is more tricky. And it is precisely here that the paedo-baptist tries to turn the tables on the credo-baptist because they cannot answer question 2. If I say that baptism is forbidden from infants because they are not reborn, they rejoin that I baptize people who are not reborn. I will grant this, but it does not pose the same problem for me theologically that it does for them, and here is why I believe that's true.
I believe that for baptism to be a valid expression, it has to symbolize something that has objectively taken place in the heart of a believer. Since baptism is a sign of spiritual rebirth, the sign is void if the reality behind it is non-existent. It would be as if I bought a family coat of arms for the Wallace family and paraded it around saying, "Look, Wallace's are strong, hardy, reliable, kilt-wearing, Scottish descendent folks. That makes me cool." Someone would well say, "Yes, if only you were a Wallace." Or, if I found your lost wedding band on the side of the road and said, "Boy, marriage is great. See my ring?" You would answer, "Yes, but a ring a marriage does not make." No rebirth; no baptism. To take the rebirth out of baptism is to take away the symbol of baptism altogether.
If you have not been reborn, you have not been washed. If you have not been reborn, you have not been united with Christ Jesus. If you have not been reborn, you have no portion in the Church. If you were baptized and you were not reborn, you put on a ring before the wedding.
This does not mean that an infant baptized person is not regenerate nor does it mean he isn't a member of the Church. It does mean that his baptism was no real baptism, and that it completely missed what baptism is a sign of in the first place. Next, I will try to tie this in with my view on the ordinance of the Lord's Supper.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago