Monday, October 26, 2009

Water Cannons

There are worship wars in the church today...what style is Biblical, what instruments should be used, should only hymns be sung or only contemporary music used? What is more relevant, etc. Thankfully at Oak Mountain we have been spared such battles. However, water wars are another matter altogether. By God's providence, Oak Mountain is a Presbyterian Church placed smack-dab in the middle of one of the most staunchly Baptist strong-holds in the country...not that there's anything wrong with that! For the most part evangelical Baptists and evangelical Presbyterians agree on most things.

One of the things that is hotly debated, however, is baptism...the mode and the subjects of baptism. Baptists assert that the only subjects of Baptism are people who profess faith in Jesus Christ and the only Biblical mode is immersion. Presbyterians believe that people who profess faith in Jesus Christ AND THEIR CHILDREN are the proper subjects of baptism and the truly Biblical mode is sprinkling.

Let me say that no one's eternal destiny depends on where you come down on this issue. Let me also say, however, that I do believe there are huge practical implications and even "blessings of grace" involved in where we stand on this doctrine. The only thing that I really get bothered by in this discussion is thoughtless blather that doesn't even take the debate to Scripture. Tradition alone is not where the debate should take place...for any Christ-follower the discussion must take place at a Biblical/Theological level.

So, for those of you who are desiring some real substance to the debate, let me offer what I feel are some important passages to consider:

I would always begin with Colossians 2:11-12 where Paul basically equates circumcision and baptism (which then begs the question of who the proper subjects of baptism are because circumcision was applied to 8 day old male infants as well as adult men who would convert to Judaism);

Then I would turn to Acts 2:38-39, where ALL the Jews at Pentecost understood the Covenant language of baptism as referring to Abraham and circumcision and children of believers; children Peter even expressly refers to. No Jew present could fail to make the connection between Genesis 17 and the baptism that Peter is talking about in Acts 2; Genesis 17, which alongside Romans 4:11, answers the Baptist objection that baptism is an outward sign of an already inwardly present faith. We know that saving faith that brings a right relationship with God could NOT be present when circumcision was applied to an infant...yet it WAS still the sign of faith and the righteousness that comes by faith...and was commanded by God to be applied to the infant!

Then I would refer you to Ezekiel 36:24-32 as a passage that brings the symbolism of both circumcision and baptism together.

Finally, I would also say that the mode of SPRINKLING is present in the statements made in Hebews 9:13,19,21, Hebrews 10:22, Hebrews 11:28, Hebrews 12:24 and 1 Peter 1:2.

In my mind, especially in light of Acts 2:38-39, NO LONGER INCLUDING CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS IN THE COVENANT SIGN OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH would be a change among God's people so incredibly dramatic, that a change of such magnitude would have to be PLAINLY AND CLEARLY taught. It is NOT clearly taught in the New Testament. Therefore, apart from such clear teaching, the evidence is clearly on the side of infant baptism continuing the Biblical tradition of infants of believers being recipients of the sign of grace. I would say to my Baptistic friends (and they ARE friends and fellow family members in Christ!), I don't need to show you where infant baptism is taught in a verse; rather, you would need to show me clearly that the covenant sign applied to children of believers has ceased.

Happy studying!


Michael Thomas said...


Thank you for continuously covering this topic. Please continue to remind and encourage us every time we are honored to witness and partake the sacrament of infant baptism.

For our family, we are the sole 'presbys', which means with every child we're blessed to have means we get to bring our entirely Baptist family to Oak Mountain to celebrate and witness the sacrament. It's a great opportunity to encourage, teach, and reassure them that infant baptism is the clear, appropriate, doctrinally sound method of baptism.

When our first daughter was baptized, it was a battle. The issue was less about theology and more about tradition and emotion. For our parents it meant we were choosing a path different than the one they chose for us, which I can understand is difficult. Having the passages in the Word clearly marked as to where and why we believe what we believe was a great reassurance and help for me and my wife.

ses1978 said...

This is definitely thought-provoking! It's an issue that apparently me and my other Christian friends from other churches (mainly Baptist from which my grandfather was a Baptist minister (after being a Methodist minister)) will probably likely always have contention over, but I think I will refer my friend to this entry and let him decide what he wants to do with it. Me: I'm just going to sit on it because I don't care either way how it is done because what's important is that I have Jesus in my heart now and getting baptized is an outward expression of that (what I'm told and what I understand). So I'm just looking forward to my upcoming baptism! Yay!