Whenever God establishes a covenant with man, it is with the covenant head and his descendants after him.
In this Episode 7 of Sinners and Saints Radio, the pastors “demolish” JMac’s mishandling and misrepresenting the so-called “household baptism” texts in Acts and 1 Corinthians. This is in response to JMac’s criticism of infant baptism, calling it a “devilish” practice. For those who don’t want to listen to the whole episode, below is a summary of their discussion.
His beef with paedobaptists is that it is “the act of solidarity in which a whole household is baptized—the father serves as a surrogate for the faith of the children, and so the father is baptized and then the mother and the others in the household, and the little ones are brought in and they’re baptized too. Truth to be said, what he is pointing to is the Biblical truth of “covenant solidarity.” But JMac just pulls it under the rug and dismisses what is stamped across all Scripture: covenant headship.
Covenant Solidarity in Households
This is the first overarching principle of redemptive history: Whenever God establishes a covenant with man, it is with the covenant head and his descendants after him.
Adam: As covenant head of all mankind, when he broke God’s covenant, his sin and curse spread to all his descendants so all humanity bears responsibility both for Adam’s first sin and their own sins, as well (Rom 5:12).
Noah: God’s covenant with Noah was not only with him, but with all his family and all mankind, “Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you'” (Gen 9:8-17).
Abraham: God’s covenant with Abraham is with him and his descendants after him, “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” (Gen 17:7).
Moses: In Exodus 24:1-8, when God made a covenant with Israel, Moses threw the blood of the covenant to the people of Israel.
Christ: In the new covenant, Christ the Second and Last Adam is the covenant head. In his life, death and resurrection, he represents all those who would believe in him (Rom 5:18-19; I Cor 15:22, 45). The wicked Jews understood too well this covenant solidarity principle from the Old Testament when they acknowledged not only their own culpability in sending Jesus to the cross, but also their children’s, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt 27:25).
JMac asserts that all the household baptism texts “never mention children ever.” His “idiotic idea” is that these texts say everyone in the household first believed before they were baptized. His definition of the word “household” is simply, “idiotic.”
What is a household? Simply, everyone living in the house. In Greek, it is oikos. In his letter to Polycarp early in the 2nd century (105-115 A.D.; note that the apostle John died ca. 90-95 A.D.), Ignatius of Antioch sent his greetings to all, “I salute all by name, and especially the wife of Epitropus with her whole oikos and her children.” Again, in his letter to the church in Smyrna, he sent his greetings, “I salute the oikous of my brethren with their wives and children.”
The whole of Scripture refers to all the members of the family€”husband, wife, children€”as a household. God referred to Abraham and his household in Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his oikos after him to keep the way of the Lord.” When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt for food, the Pharaoh told Joseph to tell his brothers to “take your father and your households” and live in Egypt. Who belong to the households of Joseph’s family? They include “your little ones” and “your wives” (Gen 45:18-19).
With this principle of “covenant solidarity,” it would have been unthinkable for Jews who became Christians to exclude their wives and children from the covenant household. This is evident even in the qualifications for eldership, “He must manage his own oikos well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive” (1 Tim 3:4).
So when we come to the household baptism texts which JMac uses to dispute infant baptism, we must approach it with this overarching Biblical principle of covenant solidarity with the head of the covenant household.
Believe and Be Baptized… Always?
The “famed expositor” says the model of these household baptism texts is always: “You hear, you believe, you’re baptized… All hear the gospel, all believe the gospel, all receive the Holy Spirit, all are baptized. That’s what’s going on in the book of Acts. And there’s never a mention of a child.”
Is this a credible assertion? Not a chance! The second Scriptural truth from the household baptism texts is that the faith of the covenant head of household is followed by the baptism of his whole household.
JMac is so sure to assert, “In the case of Lydia in Acts 16, her heart was opened in response to hearing the gospel and she believed and those who heard with her in her house believed.” Really? What do we read in Acts 16:14-15?
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.And after she was baptized, and her household as well…
Where, eminent doctor, in this text does it say that other people heard, believed and then baptized?
Then he goes to the story of the Philippian jailer, and makes this sweeping statement: “[I]n the jailor’s house, all heard the gospel and all were baptized. The ones who were baptized were the ones who heard the gospel and believed.” Again, let’s look at the text:
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God (Acts 16:31-34).
Again, where is JMac’s formula of hearing, believing and getting baptized in the text? The promise of salvation was to the covenant head of household and to the whole household, and he and all his family were baptized. And in the end, why did they all rejoice? Because he had believed (pisteuo, singular, masculine) in God. Who believed? The jailer. Who were baptized? The whole household.
What about Crispus and his household? JMac says, “Those who were baptized were those who believed because they heard.” But Acts 18:8 tells us, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed (pisteuo, singular) in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” Crispus believed, and the faith of him who was head of household is counted to the belief of his whole household.
How can JMac, a well-known Bible expositor, completely mishandle and misrepresent these texts? For you Baptist types out there, make sure you don’t fall for this eisegesis, reading every text with your Baptist lens. By the way, JMac does this also with his eschatology: he reads every text with his dispensationalist lens, ending in gross errors in Biblical and historical interpretation. His dispensationalism is one huge reason why he has no grasp of the Scriptural principle of covenant headship.
This is how JMac and most other credobaptists come up with all kinds of absurdities. Here are some that the pastors at Sinners and Saints Radio have pointed out so far:
- Since the words “infant” and “baptism” don’t occur in the same breath, infant baptism is unbiblical.
- The word “baptism” always means “immersion.”
- There is no connection between OT circumcision and NT baptism, because circumcision is nothing more than just a physical thing.
- Infant baptism leads to the rejection of Reformed soteriology and ecclesiology.
- Infant baptism is a Roman Catholic corruption, even though it was already in universal practice by the early 2nd century, and there was no so-called Roman Catholic church until the 6th-7th century.
- All the first Christians, almost all of them Jews whose children were members of God’s covenant people, without exception, timidly accepted the exclusion of their children from the new covenant community.
- For the first 1,500 years of church history, the whole church and all Christians, with not a single exception and not a single protestor, were corruptly practicing infant baptism.
- Covenant headship disappeared in the NT.
- Children were not included in covenant “households.”