I. Baptism a Sign and Seal of the Covenant
A. What is the covenant
1. A relationship of friendship between God and His people
a. James 2:23, “And he (Abraham) was called the friend of God.”
b. Hosea 1:10, “In the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”
c. Amazing wonder, sinners are taken into the bonds of friendship with the Living God.
2. This covenant friendship is God’s work
a. Gen. 17:7, “I will establish my covenant”
b. Acts 2:39, “For the promise is unto you and to your children…to as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
c. This includes His work in eternity (election), His work at the cross (atonement), His work by the gospel (the internal call).
B. Baptism is a sign and seal of entrance into this covenant
1. Christ instituted this sacrament in the church, Matt. 28:19, 20.
2. The sign is the sprinkling of water, cleansing
3. As such it directs our attention to an act of making clean
a. Water is the agent for washing the body
b. Water in baptism is the sign of washing our soul
c. We are filthy in sin, guilt and corruption, and need this cleansing.
4. We cannot be in God’s covenant without this cleansing; here we deal with the truth of total depravity, our natural corruption and inability to make ourselves fit to stand in God’s presence.
a. By nature we are outside God’s covenant
b. In order to be taken inside, we need to go through the process of washing
5. We are washed in two ways
a. By the blood of Jesus which takes away the guilt of sin
b. By the Holy Spirit of Christ Who works in us the victory over the power of sin
6. Both are signified and sealed in baptism
a. The water sprinkled is the sign
b. The seal is the verification of God through the sacrament that this two-fold cleansing is real.
C. Questions for discussion
1. Why cannot God be friends with sinners who remain in sin?
2. Show from the Old Testament that God’s people need cleansing
3. Why does the error of Arminianism or common grace detract from the sacrament of Holy Baptism?
4. How should young people derive comfort and strength from the administration of baptism?
5. Is there any significance in whether the water is sprinkled, poured, or the person immersed in the water? Did they sprinkle water or blood in the Old Testament? Why do we sprinkle?
II. The Baptism of infants
A. God established His covenant with believers and their children
1. The classic passages are Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39.
2. God is a covenant God of friendship with children
a. Important thing to consider in this connection is that children are not potential members of the covenant, they are already members of the covenant from the moment they are conceived.
b. This is rooted in election, from before the foundations of the world we are known to God, Eph. 1:3-6.
c. David expresses this in Psalm 139:13-17.
d. Jesus took a child and said, “Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 19:14.
3. For this reason the promise of God is unto them
a. Acts 2:39, the promise is exactly that, not an empty wish or feeble desire, it is God’s infallible oath which He sware by Himself.
b. That promise must be viewed “organically”
1) God’s covenant is not established with all the natural seed of believers; rather, their spiritual seed.
2) This was true in Old Testament and New Testament. See Rom. 9:7-9.
3) Promise of God is to the elect seed as they are brought forth by Christian parents.
4) Since we do not know which of the children are elect, which are reprobate, God instructs parents to instruct all their children in the assurance that He will accomplish His purpose.
B. The sacrament of Holy Baptism includes children
1. It is still true, that children of God who come to faith in their adult life are baptized
a. This is becoming more commonplace in our country, the influence of secularism is seen in many homes and neighborhoods. When God by His mercy brings the gospel of salvation to them they come to faith, they receive baptism as adults, they were not brought up in covenant homes as children.
b. This is also true in our mission work both in this country and in foreign lands
c. Part of our form for baptism reads specifically for adult baptism.
d. Once these adults profess faith and are baptized, their children are also to be baptized
2. Infants of believers are to be baptized
a. This conclusion is drawn from their membership in the covenant as stated above.
b. The sign of admission in the covenant is for them, this was true in the Old Testament circumcision, Genesis 17:12, and true in the N.T. with baptism, Acts 16:33.
c. Since God is a covenant God of only one covenant people, both Jew and Gentile, Eph. 2:13ff, Rom. 2:28, the sign of the covenant is for children of both O.T. and N.T. Baptism and circumcision are brought together in one spiritual union. Col. 2:11, 12.
C. Question for discussion
1. Express briefly why you believe in infant baptism; be prepared to demonstrate from the Bible.
2. Why do the “Baptists” admit to infant circumcision but deny infant baptism? What is our answer to this?
3. How do we explain the change from the sign upon the males of the O.T. but include girls in baptism?
4. Does God’s covenant promise apply to adopted children just as well as natural children? Why do we wait with baptism in such cases?
5. How do we explain the “silence” of the N.T. in that we do not read explicitly of baptism of an infant? Why is this silence in favor of infant baptism?
III. The Significance of Holy Baptism
A. God realizes His covenant through means of instruction
1. A great fallacy would come into being, if we would conclude from the above that children are mystically, magically, automatically made members of the covenant.
2. The way anyone, adult or child, is made a member of God’s covenant is by the work of the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel
a. True, regeneration precedes faith, it is the first work within our hearts. John 3:3.
b. Regeneration is an immediate work, which the Holy Spirit is able to perform within the womb of the mother, or at any time He pleases.
c. The conscious expression of this work is faith, and such faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Romans 10:17.
3. This involves instruction of children from infancy on
a. Parents promise to do this at baptism
b. It is the means that God uses to work faith in hearts of children
c. The church assumes a vital interest in children, not to win their soul for Christ, but to bring to expression the faith which God works in them.
B. Youth are called by God to respond to their baptism
1. You understand, that just because you are baptized does not make you a child of God
a. We do not know what God does by His Holy spirit within the child at the time of baptism. This is speculation that is not healthy to try to go into.
b. We do know that the sacrament is for the church, every time we have baptism, the sign and seal placed upon infants within the church, God speaks to every member, young and old alike, parents as well as non-relatives. The word is, God’s people are a peculiar people, separated from the world unto God.
c. As we come to years of understanding, this message of baptism must mean more and more.
1) God placed you within a covenant home and all that that means. Whether you have only one believing parent or both are believers, your home is special. God is enthroned there, Jesus Christ is King.
2) You begin to search yourself to know your personal relationship with God. You do not have to question this, you have to deal honestly with this. Just being brought up in a covenant home, attending church, being schooled in Christian education, does not determine your relationship to Christ. It is the means that God is pleased to use to give you faith. Your honest evaluation of yourself must include the searchings of your heart for the evidence of faith.
2. Your response to baptism
a. Sometimes young people think that there is a spiritual vacuum between baptism and making confession of faith.
1) They reason, yes, my parents presented me for baptism, that doesn’t obligate me.
2) My obligation begins with confession of faith, then I must be serious, but until then, I have plenty of room to play the field, experiment, sow my wild oats, etc.
b. This is false reasoning
1) David thanked God that from the womb, God had chosen him
2) Hannah gave Samuel to the service of Jehovah from his youth up
3) Paul commented upon the blessing that was Timothy’s to have a godly mother and grandmother whereby he served God from his youth.
c. The sign and seal of baptism makes youth special
1) In the O.T. the sign was permanent in the flesh, God was dealing with them as children, they needed an object lesson that made them different from the nations about. Even the enemy could know who was an Israelite by their circumcision.
2) The spiritual lesson is the same for us now. We are not children, we do not need a physical sign to point us to our difference, now we have a spiritual sign (water which is invisible, but no less real) that we are a peculiar people, separated unto God from the wombs of our mothers.
3) It is the privilege of young people of the church to live in such a way that as youth, to demonstrate that not only the children, not only the adults, but also the youth of the church are peculiar, spiritually different from the world, separated unto God for His service.
C. Question for discussion
1. Is there a danger in that young people do not take seriously their personal salvation because they just assume too much?
2. Are covenant homes, Christian schools, distinctive churches too protective for covenant youth? Should we let young people get more exposure to the world?
3. What is a covenant breaker? How do you reconcile this idea with God’s unchangeable covenant? If a young person falls into serious sin and lives in the friendship of the world, must we conclude that he is not in the covenant?
4. How do we distinguish spiritual separation from the world from physical separation? Do they overlap?
5. Can covenant youth know they are in the covenant before they make confession of faith? How should this influence their behavior?