John Piper’s writings have shaped my theology. I love his commitment to the gospel, to delighting in God, and his shift away from rule-based Christianity to delight-based obedience. My departure comes where I believe that his theology and most importantly Scripture require that babies of believers as well as new believers be baptized. And I believe that we can delight in this form of obedience as well.
Now, we all love disclaimers. I have a number of Reformed friends who have been re-baptized. I have a number Baptist friends who have become Reformed and baptized their babies. I know individuals as well as families who have been baptized into baby-baptizing churches. Also, I read both Baptist and Reformed theologians. And of course, Lutheran and Anglican and Presbyterian theologians. And sometimes the odd Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox theologian. That being said, people move back and forth across the spectrum for more than just theological reasons or just the issue of infant baptism. The issues for church movement are often messy, and I maintain that one of God’s attributes is ‘mercy’. It is His grace that we rely on as we seek the truth in love.
In the meantime I have a number of theses I want to present on this issue. In these theses I rely on the assumption that the Church is being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20). This means that the Old Testament is authoritative and the New Testament is as authoritative. In fact, we are called to build on both. Hopefully these theses come out in a somewhat systematic order. I’m open to aspects being challenged and/or refined:
- There is a correlation between circumcision and baptism (Col. 2:11-12). It makes as much sense to be re-baptized as to be re-circumcised. I might even propose that it makes less sense to be re-baptized than to be re-circumcised.
- Some of those who were circumcised were not saved. They needed their hearts circumcised and not just their foreskins (Deut. 10:16). Some of those who are baptized are not saved. The call of the gospel is that you need your heart washed and not just your forehead (Rom. 6: 1-4).
- Like Circumcision in Genesis 17, baptism is a sign and seal of a promise (Acts 2:37-39)
- Baptism and election are treated separately in the NT (election is treated primarily in Ephesians 1). Baptism does not = election. Not all who are elect end up baptized and not all who are baptized are elect. Baptism is about God’s covenant, election is about God’s eternal decrees. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but they aren’t the same.
- New believers are baptized after repentance and faith (Acts 2:37-39), but being baptized doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the call to repentance and faith (Hebrews 10:26-31).
- Similarly, being circumcised didn’t mean that you were excluded from the call to repentance and faith. Read the Law and the Prophets.
- When the Apostles baptized a person, they also baptized the household. This might remind you of Genesis 12 and 17. When God called Abraham and then gave him the sign and seal of the covenant, He also called His household and then gave them the sign and seal of the covenant.
- When Moses didn’t circumcise his son, God came to kill Moses. His wife Zipporah grabbed a sharp rock to cut off the foreskin of their son and then threw it at his feet calling him a ‘husband of blood’ (Exodus 4). Christ’s sacrifice put away the shedding of blood, and now baptism is the sign and seal of Christ’s sacrifice. Woe to the one who tramples the blood of Christ underfoot (Heb. 10:26-31).
- Baptizing the babies of believers is inherently missional. The call of the gospel goes out not only to individuals, but to families and nations. Those who are far off are being brought near through the blood of Christ (see Acts 2:37-39 and Ephesians 2:11-22). Believer’s baptism is the first step to baby baptism as God establishes His covenant with more families.
- Like circumcision (Gen. 17), baptism is a mark of holiness (2 Cor. 7:14, I Peter 2). The children of believers are holy and should not be taught to doubt their salvation, nor to look to themselves for their salvation, or to their baptism for their salvation. Rather, baptism teaches children and adults alike to look to Christ for salvation.
Christ is the subject and the object of baptism. Salvation is found in Him alone. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29b