Infant Baptism Argued From The Covenant

NicoGiovanni Doiy baptisim at Our Lady of Mercy in Westlake.
NicoGiovanni Doiy baptisim at Our Lady of Mercy in Westlake.

Turretin’s 1st proof for infant baptism was an appeal to the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20.

Matt. 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The 2nd proof, that I want to write about today, is his argument made from the covenant. I have said, and will say again, when we talk about baptism, we must talk about it in covenantal terms. If you don’t have a covenantal concept in view when discussing baptism, you will invariably arrive at an improper understanding of the signs and also the recipients. It is an error to withhold the sign of the covenant from those who are in the covenant. Turretin states it this way “seals of the covenant also pertain to those to whom the covenant of God pertains”. There isn’t disagreement with this statement.

The disagreement is in the question that is raised from the statement. The question is, “Who is in the covenant?” The answer in short is found by appealing to Genesis 17:7

Gen. 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

and in the New Testament

Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The reference in these cases is primarily to adults. This seems to be clear, that adults are the principle recipients of every covenant because a covenant is made with another person. Therefore, by implication, if God is making a covenant, the other person is an adult who is agreeing to the covenantal terms of the covenant they are entering into. Yet this does not prohibit the children of those adults in the covenant from entering in as well. In fact, from what we know about God it would stand to reason for the children of believers to receive the covenant sign along with the parents as God decreed in the Old Testament. The covenantal sign of circumcision applied not only to the adults but to their children. It was a sign of their status as members of the covenant community.

Is this an improper conclusion? Turretin gives 4 reasons why it is a proper conclusion.

1. From the command of God (Gen 17:7) we read that God desires his grace to be extended from the parents to their children.
2. From the nature of the relationship children have with their parents. Children are bonded to their parents and part of them.
3. In society when treaties are made with nations it clearly includes the children. It would be odd for a society to make a pact or treaty with another nation and exclude the children.
4. To infants belong the things signified in the signs (remission of sins, regeneration, the kingdom of heaven Mt 19:13) and thus the sign. We understand that the sign points to the object, which is greater than the sign. And if the object is communicated to the children, how can the sign, (which is less than the object) be denied to the children? (Vol 3, pg 416)

Taking this line of argument to its logical conclusion many would (and have concluded), “We must also allow these children to the Lord’s Supper.” The error in this conclusion is that while it recognizes the object the covenant signs points to, it neglects the differences in the manner of which they are administered. In the Supper, the grace and blessings of Christ is sealed by way of food (so infants who do not eat food are not able to partake). But in baptism it is signified by the washing of regeneration.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Additionally, the Supper also has a two-fold condition to it: (1) It begins with self-examination (2) remembering the death of Christ. Both of these presuppose the use of reason and understanding. Both of these pre-conditions are absent in the administration of the covenant sign of baptism.

1. Baptism is a sign of the covenant.
2. The covenant sign is prescribed for the adults and the children of adults who are in the covenant.
3. Therefore it is an error to withhold the covenant sign from children of adults who are in the covenant.