If you have not already read Pastor Barnes’ Paedobaptism Is Not An Empty Sign, then please go read it now! As is my custom, I am going to piggyback Pastor Barnes’ post.
Pastor Barnes critiqued a podcasted Reformed Baptist’s erroneous view of the Reformed-Presbyterian practice of infant baptism. I love Reformed Baptists, and will float the river with them any day, but sadly that Reformed Baptist brother was very ill-informed.
Pastor Barnes is correct: we most certainly do not baptize babies, as the Reformed Baptist purported, because we hope in the future the child will grow up and and have faith in Jesus. We most certainly do not believe that baptism is an empty sign.
So. What do Reformed-Presbyterian’s believe about paedobaptisms? Well, we believe the same thing we believe about credobaptisms . . .
We believe that baptism is a living symbol.
Why call baptism a “living symbol”? Because it is a Sacrament. Sacraments are living symbols and have been consecrated by God’s own word (see John Calvin’s description of Sacraments as “living symbols” in Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.XI.13).
As the Westminster Standards teach: Sacraments are ordinances instituted by Christ for the Church, and these outward/visible signs represent, seal, and apply to believers, by the work of the Spirit, the inward and spiritual grace signified, i.e., Christ, and the benefits of the covenant of grace, which exhibit a believer’s union and communion with Christ (Note: collation/paraphrase of the following: Westminster Larger Catechism, Questions 161-163; Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 92; Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXVII).
Baptism is a Living Symbol for believers because all saving grace is found in union and communion with Jesus Christ (see Westminster Larger Catechism, Questions 65-90). At back the Reformed-Presbyterian practice of infant baptism is God’s unbreakable Holy Word, which is why Reformed-Presbyterian minsters, elders, and parents, rest in, receive, and believe in God’s promises regarding their covenant children, see Genesis 17:7, Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:38-39, and 1 Corinthians 7:14.
Sacraments are Living Symbols for believers because believers enjoy union and communion with Christ. God has instituted to use these Living Symbols to strengthen and increase the saving gift of Spirit-worked faith. What is the ground of Spirit-worked faith? A person’s confession of faith? Nope. A person’s baptism? Nope. The gift of Spirit-worked faith is always within union with Christ. And union with Christ is not an age-restricted club, which is why we aren’t baptizing infants and waiting around just hoping! just wishing! for the kid to grow up and have faith in Jesus.
Through Christ, the Father can and desires for infant, covenant children to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.
Colossians 1:12-16: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”
Consider and reflect on these excerpts, by the late theologian John Murray, regarding the implication of being “in Christ” and enjoying the benefits of union and communion with Christ.
Nothing is more central or basic than union or communion with Christ. . . . Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union with Christ. This can be readily seen if we remember that brief expression which is so common in the New Testament, namely, “in Christ.” It is that which is meant by “in Christ” that we have in mind when we speak of “Union with Christ.” It is apparent that Scripture applies the expression “in Christ” to much more than the application of redemption (Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, 161).
The fountain of salvation itself in the eternal election of the Father is “in Christ.” Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:3, 4). The Father elected from eternity, but he elected in Christ. We are not able to understand all that is involved, but the fact is plain enough that there was no election of the Father in eternity apart from Christ. And that means that those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ–they were chosen in Christ. As far back as we can go in tracing salvation to its fountain we find “union with Christ”; it is not something tacked on; it is there from the outset (162).
Baptism is a living symbol, reminding us of the preciousness of the God-man Jesus Christ. This living symbol, it also reminds us of all the spiritual blessings we enjoy in Christ, since God before the foundation of the world chose us in Christ.