This paedo wonders about Peter and the Jewish convert

Dr. Clark has written a follow-up post on this subject: “Do Presbyterians Confess that Refusing to Baptize Infants is Sin?”

earlychurchbaptismReacting to a post by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Dr. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary says that he is not offended by Dever’s assertion that the presbyterians’ practice of infant baptism is “a sinful (though sincere) error.”

Dr. Clark believes that the Westminster Confession of Faith 28:5 was referring to Baptists when it says,  “Although it be a great sin to contemn [despise] or neglect this ordinance…” Thus, paedobaptists also say that credobaptists sin (greatly, according to WCF) when they refuse to have their infant children baptized. It goes both ways.

In Dr. Clark’s post, you can also read a hypothetical conversation about circumcision between Abraham and a Gentile convert. In addition, I would postulate the following conversation between the apostle Peter and a Jewish convert, and its resulting epilogue, after his Pentecost preaching (portions adopted from Dr. Clark’s post):

Jewish convert: God has pricked my heart and I’m convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. I now believe that my good works avail nothing, and he died on the cross for my sins. I now repent of my sins and self-righeousness, and as a sign of this repentance, would you baptize me?

Peter: Yahweh bless you my son. He has given you the grace of trusting in Yahweh and in his promised Savior. I too believed that I was righteous because of my good works before God gave me faith in the coming Messiah and the sign and seal of his promise, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace. When Yahweh revealed himself to Abraham, he instituted the sign of circumcision to be applied to believers and to their children that they are now part of God’s covenant community. But in the new covenant that Jesus instituted, the bloody sign of circumcision has been replaced by an unbloody sign of water baptism. As a mercy, I will baptize you with the rest of your 3,000 brethren. Are you willing to wait?

Jewish Convert: Praise Yahweh for this blessing. When I get home, I’m going to tell my family about Jesus so they too would repent and believe and receive water baptism as a sign that they are now part of God’s new covenant community. Can I bring them back to you so they will also be baptized as you commanded?

Peter: Please bring only your wife and your teenage children.

Jewish Convert: I don’t understand. Aren’t you going to baptize all our children?

Peter: No, our Lord commanded us not to baptize infants and little children because only those who believe and repent of their sin should be baptized.

Jewish Convert: But… but… all my children were given the sign of circumcision because they belonged to Yahweh’s old covenant people. Why are they now being excluded in the new covenant? Didn’t you just preach that Yahweh started pouring out his Spirit on all flesh today, and that this promise is for me and for my children and even for Gentiles who are far off?

Peter: Sorry, but our Lord strongly forbade us from baptizing infants.

Jewish Convert: You mean to say that you’re willing to baptize Gentile people, but not our covenant children?

Peter: Yes. All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sin receive eternal life and the sign of water baptism. Infants cannot profess faith and repentance. Sorry.

Jewish Convert: But our children received the sign of circumcision when they were only eight days old. They didn’t have to profess faith and repentance to be circumcised!

Peter: Sorry, I can’t do anything for your babies.

And the Jewish convert and all the other Jews started a riot in all Jerusalem. And word spread throughout Judea and the whole world that Peter and the other disciples of Jesus were teaching that their infant children were excluded from God’s covenant people. And the 3,000 Jewish converts renounced their faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

At least, paedobaptists like me do not claim that baptizing adult believers is a sin, because we also baptize all converts who have never been baptized. And we also recognize the validity of the baptism of those who have been baptized by Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, i.e., other evangelicals. On these two points, credobaptists would again say paedobaptists are sinning.


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7 thoughts on “This paedo wonders about Peter and the Jewish convert”

  1. Wow, praise God, I am very glad! My denomination also holds to the same view. I grew up creedobaptist, and now that I understand that the promise also for our children, it saddens me to see how many Presbyterian and Reformed churches have messed-up views of the covenant, saying the promise is for all the children head-for-head and conditional upon their response (basically Arminianism). My denomination split and lost over half its members in the 1950s because a conditional covenant was being taught and was eventually condemned in Synod, and so more than half the denomination left. Sadly, from what I know, at that time, none of the other Reformed or Presbyterian denominations came to our help.

    So I am very encouraged. I think infant baptism is one of the most beautiful pictures that we have that salvation is all of God and not by our works (e.g. “free will”). Thank you for your witness!

    1. My teenage daughter (R) had this conversation with her friend (S) after they learned that a couple of students will be baptized at the school’s pool:

      S: I’ve never been baptized. Have you?
      R: Yes.
      S: When?
      R: When I was a baby.
      S: Why? You’re not even Catholic!

      So, yes, all Baptists think that infant baptism originated as a corrupted practice of the church of Rome.

      But if you read church history, infant baptism was universally accepted by all the churches—without exception—by the early 3rd century. Notice these two disjoints in the Baptist belief that infant baptism was a corrupted practice of the Roman Catholic Church:

      1. In the early 3rd century, there was THE church, and no Roman Catholic Church.
      2. Is it really conceivable that by the early 3rd century, ALL the churches were already corrupted—without exception or opposition?

  2. Manuel, the answer is no. The meaning of Gen. 17:7;  Acts 2:39 never meant that every child head for head will have God as their God. A detailed explanation of the meaning of God’s promise to Abraham and to all believers is given by Reformed blogger Wes White in his entry, “The Question of Infant Baptism”).

  3. I appreciate that post:) I grew up in a creedobaptist church but have now come to see the truth of infant baptism. I cannot wait to see one, because it’s such an amazing picture that, in salvation we are passive and it is all the work of God!

    Quick question, though: Do you believe that the promise of salvation is for every child HEAD FOR HEAD, or only for the elect children?

  4. Very good point. That’s why I implied in my post that Baptists are much more exclusivist and judgmental, like their Anabaptist forefathers, than Reformed paedobaptists.

  5. FYI, I was listening to Mark Dever on Iron Sharpens Iron, Wednesday, March 18, 2009, or go directly to the mp3 file, and he indicated that his church forbids visitors who are members in good standing of paedobaptistic churches and who were only baptized as infants from partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

    I suppose a paedobaptistic counterpart would be to forbid those who are members in good standing of baptistic churches and who have not had their infant children baptized from partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

    In our church we invite all who are members in good standing of any true church to partake in the Lord’s Supper. We also honor the authority of the elders of any true church by forbidding those who are under discipline from partaking in the Lord’s Supper.

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