One Reason Why I Am Confident that Believers’ Baptism is the Apostolic Paradigm

Posted: February 2, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Baptism, Theology
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I have written much on this topic and only wish to offer here a little tidbit on why I am a convinced “credo-Baptist”, meaning that I believe the Bible to teach that one must actually repent to receive the sacrament of baptism.

In my continued thesis research on Pentecost, it is becoming increasingly clear that Peter believes that the one who repents and is baptized will receive the “gift of the Spirit”. The gift of the Spirit according to Peter and in Luke’s broader narrative is that “which is seen and heard” (Acts 2:33). It correlates directly to the Joeline promise of an “empowering” work of the Spirit, which is part of the broader “soteric” work of the Spirit, but however distinct. One exception of the Spirit not coming in such a fashion is to the Samaritan believers as recorded in Acts 8. Luke records the events in a manner that attests to the events as not being normative, for Peter and John note that the baptized community had not yet received the Spirit. They heeded Phillip’s preaching, received it joyfully, experienced deliverance from demons, repented, and were baptized. Notice that only “men and women” were baptized (Acts 8:12).

Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritan community that they would receive the gift of the Spirit, and though Luke doesn’t record with specificity what manifestations of the Spirit occurred, it does mention that Simon observed something and wanted to buy the power to do the same thing. There was no doubt many Samaritans who were baptized, and they were all prayed for, that they might receive the same “gift of the Spirit” that Peter said would come to all who repented and were baptized. The sub-sequence in Samaria is not paradigmatic for Christian initiation, as some make it out to be, but is a telling proof attesting to an established apostolic expectation of the Spirit coming in an empowering fashion upon the full covenant community…or else Peter and John would not have prayed for such.

Okay, so what does this all have to do with baptism, etc? Well, if the New Covenant community that initially experienced the Pentecostal empowering were made of of actual disciples (not infant children, one would certainly think that if infant children were speaking in tongues and prophesying on Pentecost, that it would have added to the intrigue from the crowd), and that Peter demanded repentance and baptism as the normative requisite for receiving the gift of the Spirit (which is an empowering work), then Peter would not baptize an infant because it would mitigate against the theology of repentance, baptism, and the Spirit that was established. I am aware that Acts contains evidences of the Spirit coming before baptism, which again, is seen as exceptional in Peter’s eyes (Acts 10:44). Luke records that all who heard were recipients of the Spirit and gave evidence of such through inspired speech. Peter contends later that all who had received the Spirit should also be baptized. There is no mention that infants were recipients of the Spirit in such a way so as to speak in tongues and prophesy, and would therefore not be included in the groupd of folks for which Peter contends should be baptized.

Also, in the Samaritan account that I mentioned, it says that only “men and women” were baptized. This was a city-wide evangelistic crusade of sorts and there is not a single mention of infants being included among those who were baptized. If infants were baptized, then it must also follow that they were recipients of Peter and John’s prayer to receive the Spirit in an “empowering” sense, which was then manifested before the watching Simon.

One might bring up here that Peter had promised that the promised gift of the Spirit was for our children as well and an echo of the Abrahamic covenant. I would amen such only so far as it is also understood through the Joeline promise that our children would not only be within the covenant community, but actual possessors of the Spirit in His charismatic dimension. Pentecost was the realization of the Abrahamic covenant AND Joeline promise. The promise is also to those afar off, as many as should repent. Repentance (faith) is therefore the ongoing requisite for baptism, the gift of the Spirit, and full inclusion in the New Covenant community.

As such, I await active faith from my children, upon which will admit to the waters of baptism in the expectation of their reception of the Spirit. Cody, who is 16, but with downs syndrome and therefore operative at an 8 year old level, has evidenced the empowering work of the Spirit in many regards. He is often noted for his prayers in small group and his “Spirit-filled” worship on Sunday mornings. Kira, who is 5, and has been baptized, is also a recipient of the gift of the Spirit as she often sings “Spiritual” songs (songs in which she makes up the lyrics) and has had a burden to share such Spiritual songs with the broader community, even wanting to inform the worship team. This desire to sing forth Spirit-inspired song is one of many signs of the Spirit and I am grateful for God having worked in her the Joeline/Pentecostal promise of the Spirit. It is according to His call and the means of parents and Church ministering in God’s grace to our children.

Anyhow, my confidence in the practice of “believers’ baptism” continues to grow as I ponder what baptism actually conveys in accordance with that very first sermon by Peter on Pentecost. 3000 souls were saved and baptized that day. I would say that their children were gracious recipients of the preached Word and were included in the “koinonia” of the early Church as the believers continually gathered together for prayer, song, food, and study. Their (young children) participation in the community however was not based upon their profession of faith, baptism, etc., but rather because their parents were believers. All such believers would eagerly anticipate the day when God would call their children to repentance (faith) and admit baptism in the expectation of them receiving the Spirit. They all longed to be as Phillip, whose daughters prophesied.

I am aware of so much more that needs to be said, which would require a book, but I simply want to reaffirm my credo-baptistic convictions.

For my paedo-baptist friends, I have several questions:

– What role does repentance/faith play in relation to baptism?

– Is the gift of the Spirit conveyed in the baptism of an infant? In what sense?

– Is a baptized infant, as they grow, ever called to repentance/faith? If so, how and when are they assured of salvation?

– How do you preach the epistle of 1 John to infants/children that they might know that they have eternal life? Do you call them to eternal life or assure them that it is already theirs?

– Do you call them to be “born again” or assure them that they already are “born again”? Is this a knowable experience for the child, who can bank their assurance in justification upon a gracious act of faith at some point in their life?

– How would you apply the text that we have “passed from death to life” (past tense) to those who have believed and continue to believe?

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Comments
  1. joelmartin says:

    Let me try to answer your questions:

    [1] What role does repentance/faith play in relation to baptism?

    Joel Garver puts it this way: “..baptism elicits faith in the child, incorporating that child into the faith of Jesus and his Church, though such faith can wither away through ingratitude. Therefore, as the baptized people of God, we must live out that baptismal identity by all the more turning to Christ in faith, repenting of our sins, and calling upon our baptized children to do the same.”

    I would say that we turn in faith to Jesus every day anew, it is not a one time decision. Living our baptism means living by faith, and every time I confess the Creeds, I am again declaring my faith in the risen Savior.

    We baptize babies due to original sin – because they are born dead in trespasses and sins and need to be transferred into the Kingdom by the act of God through baptism, not because they are already in it.

    [2] Is the gift of the Spirit conveyed in the baptism of an infant? In what sense?

    Yes, in the sense that all Christians are: sealed, filled and regenerated. “baptism is, therefore, said to be the laver or washing of regeneration, to save us, or to wash away sins.” Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism
    They are made partakers of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God.

    As Peter Leithart says, “Baptized into the family of Abraham, children are heirs of the Spirit.”

    [3] Is a baptized infant, as they grow, ever called to repentance/faith? If so, how and when are they assured of salvation?

    To quote Garver again: “…the grace of regeneration is signified and sealed, exhibited and conferred in the sacrament of baptism, so that a baptized adult convert can be assured of his regeneration by looking to God’s promise in faith as that is held out to him in baptism and, moreover, can receive a greater measure of regenerating grace through baptism by faith in order that he might continue to put sin to death and live in newness of life.”

    [4] How do you preach the epistle of 1 John to infants/children that they might know that they have eternal life? Do you call them to eternal life or assure them that it is already theirs?

    Both: eternal life requires perseverance. “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

    The child can know that she is saved via her baptism, that she is being saved by turning every day to Christ anew, and that she will be saved by persevering in this faith until the end.
    [5] Do you call them to be “born again” or assure them that they already are “born again”? Is this a knowable experience for the child, who can bank their assurance in justification upon a gracious act of faith at some point in their life?

    I would assure them that they are born again, placed by God into his Church by baptism. The experience I want them to bank on is their baptism, which marked them off from the world as Christians. They can look in faith to God’s promise to save them in baptism.

    [6] How would you apply the text that we have “passed from death to life” (past tense) to those who have believed and continue to believe?

    All of us are born in death and must be translated into life by an act of God. He has promised this in baptism. Our Anglican liturgy tells the parents after baptism: “it is your duty to urge him to hear Christian teaching and sermons, to learn the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, together with all other things that a Christian ought to know and believe for health of soul. Further, you must seek to ensure that he be brought up to lead a godly and Christian life, always remembering that Baptism represents to us our profession as Christians. This is to follow the example of our Savior Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died and rose again for us, so we, who are baptized, should die to sin and rise again unto righteousness, continually putting to death all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily advancing in all virtue and godly living.”

    I would also add that most or all of these questions could in like manner be applied to Israel and the circumcised members of the covenant.

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