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Guide

3 Views on Baptism

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Matthew Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minot, North Dakota (LC-MS). He is the author of "Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up: 12 False Christs" and "Minute Messages: Gospel-Filled Devotions for Every Occasion." He is married to Serenity, and they have three children.

Matt Foreman

Matt Foreman has served as lead pastor of Faith Reformed Baptist Church in Media, PA, since 2003. A graduate of Furman University and Westminster Theological Seminary, he was the organizing and founding chairman of the Reformed Baptist Network, and currently serves as the chairman of the RBNet Missions Committee and as a lecturer in Practical Theology at Reformed Baptist Seminary. He is the co-author of the book, “The Angel of the Lord: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Study,” and has also written and produced an album of worship music, “Ekklesia Hymns, Vol.1.”

Photo of Dave Holmlund
Dave Holmlund

Dave Holmlund serves as a church planter in the Philadelphia area for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). He is married to Elizabeth, and they have five children from high school down to kindergarten.

United to Christ

In Ephesians 4:5, the apostle Paul declares that there is “one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” Sadly, the “one baptism” Paul speaks of in Ephesians is anything but a unifying force in the Christian church today. In addition to differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, there are even differences among Protestants on this important subject.

At Core Christianity, we strive to help people understand the core truths of the Christian faith. This guide presents the three main Protestant views of baptism that you will encounter among Christians you know and churches you attend: Lutheran, Baptist, and Presbyterian. Each author approaches the subject from a different angle, but all agree that Scripture is our only infallible rule of faith and practice.

Even if we don’t ever achieve perfect unity in this life on the important doctrine of baptism, we can be grateful that through baptism we are united to Christ and one another in ways that transcend our ability to understand and articulate them. By being “baptized into his death,” we are assured that Christians of all denominations and beliefs about baptism will also be united with Christ “in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:3-5).

Our prayer is that this guide will be an aid to you—not just by informing your mind, but also by forming your heart in gratitude and thanksgiving to God who has made us—all of us—alive together in Christ!

Why Baptisms Are Violent {A Lutheran View of Baptism}

As a Lutheran Pastor, when I look at a bulletin and see the word “baptism,” it conjures up a warm nostalgia. When I look out at parishioners in the pew, I suspect they are experiencing the same feelings because the baptismal rite in the Lutheran church has a way of bringing a person back to the past. As the newly baptized child is washed, we see the white garments often passed down from the previous generation. We hear the baby’s cry echoing off the old concrete walls. We see the parents’ smiles. It’s indeed a warm, nostalgic event—the kind of event that romanticizes the past.

On the other hand, for many contemporary churches that use a band and a big stage with a pool, baptisms generally don’t have that nostalgic, warm feeling. Instead, baptisms are viewed with feelings of commitment, dedication, and willpower. In fact, it’s common in these contemporary churches to see someone dunked under the water for baptism and then come out of the water with their hands raised and cheering like they just hit a game-winning home run in the World Series.

Regardless of the Christian denomination, it’s safe to say that most Christians in the world have a favorable disposition toward a person being baptized. However, even though there are positive views towards baptism, many Christians may not fully realize its potency. Baptism isn’t merely a nostalgic event remembering the distant past, nor a celebratory event marking a Christian’s commitment. Rather, it’s a violent act of God.

You heard that correctly; baptisms are violent, fierce, and destructive. Take a closer look at the Lutheran baptismal liturgy, for example, and you will see what I mean.

The Lutheran church has long mentioned two biblical accounts from the Old Testament in the baptismal liturgy. In our Lutheran Service Book (i.e., hymnal), we hear about Noah’s Ark and Moses parting the Red Sea. The Lutheran Church sees the water in both of these accounts as figures of baptism. The water that covered the earth and the water of the Red Sea that drowned Pharaoh foreshadow the ferocity of baptism.

With Noah, we read in the Old Testament that after the ark was built and the animals gathered, water burst from the earth and poured down from heaven. And the water—it wasn’t a nice warm shower, and it wasn’t a spa treatment. Instead, it was destructive power. The water destroyed and condemned all evil that had filled the earth. The flood drowned idolatry, perversion, and evil. Sure, in children’s books, we’re used to seeing happy Noah and happy animals in the ark waving their hands like they are on a Caribbean Cruise. We’re often unaware of the evil being drowned underneath the ark in the mighty violent waters.

Consider also Pharaoh and his great army. After the Hebrews left Egypt for the Promised Land, Pharaoh and his great army pursued. At the Red Sea, though, the Lord parted the water so that the Hebrews could walk through it. But Moses was commanded to stretch out his arms to make the sea come crashing down upon the pursuing Egyptian army to destroy every last one of them. And the water did exactly that. This was no accident but the intentional destruction of Pharaoh’s evil army through violent water.

In both of these accounts, the point is that the water was fierce: it drowned and destroyed. Water was not portrayed as a gentle, smooth stream but as a mighty destructive power. The same is true for Christian baptism. Baptisms are violent toward sin, death, and the devil.

Consider some of the fierce and destructive words used from the Scriptures and the Lutheran heritage:

  • When you were baptized, you were plunged into the water so that you were snatched from the jaws of the devil. (The Large Catechism, IV:71 & 83)
  • The power and effect of baptism, which is nothing else than the slaying of the old Adam. (The Large Catechism IV, 65)
  • In baptism, you have been baptized into Jesus’s death. (Rom. 6:3)
  • In baptism, you were buried with Christ into death. (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12)
  • The old creature therefore follows unchecked the inclinations of its nature if not restrained and suppressed by the power of baptism. (The Large Catechism, IV:71)
  • Baptism means death to all your selfishness and sin. (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, p. 302)
  • We pray . . . through this saving flood all sin in him, which has been inherited from Adam and which he himself has committed since, would be drowned and die. (Lutheran Service Book: Holy Baptism, p. 269)
  • Baptism sets the rhythm for your daily lives . . . how you daily drown the old Adam. (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, p. 302)

Plunged, snatched, slayed, buried, restrained, suppressed, and drowned—these are the words that characterize the gift of baptism.

Now, perhaps you haven’t thought of your baptism with such strong and aggressive words before. And perhaps these strong and aggressive words cause a bit of discomfort or fear. But you and I do not want an apathetic, calm, and incapable baptism because you and I don’t have an apathetic, calm, and incapable Savior.

Your baptism is fierce, destructive, and violent because Jesus is the final conqueror of sin’s condemnation, the antidote to death, and the victor over the devil. Mark this: your baptism is fierce, destructive, and violent towards sin, death, and the devil—and that is a great thing!

Baptisms are not just warm spa water applied to a child for nostalgic reasons. Neither are baptisms a symbol of human dedication toward God. Instead, baptism is a mighty flood that drowns your sin, washes over your death, and destroys the devil’s power. God sanctified your baptism to do this because of Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River one day long ago. In his baptism, Jesus shows you how he’s not afraid to identify with you. He began his ministry by stepping into the pollution of sin and receiving John’s baptism for sinners, and his whole ministry is one where he identifies and dies for sinners.

And so, we Christians remember our baptisms and remember them often. We never forget that Christ instituted baptism as a mighty work against the devil, death, and our sinful nature. Furthermore, we must not forget that baptisms are not only violent but also wonderfully powerful. In other words, in baptism you were raised with Christ to the newness of life. In baptism, the Lord gave you the Spirit and made you his own. He marked you as one of the redeemed. He did this to keep you secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church as you approach the promised rest of eternal life at the end of your pilgrimage. Remember, the same water that condemned the unbelieving world also preserved Noah and his family, eight souls in all. The same water that drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh and all his hosts in the Red Sea also granted Israel freedom on dry ground. Dear Christian, the water that drowns sin’s condemnation and the power of the devil also clothes you with Christ’s righteousness so that you may stand without fear before the judgment seat of Christ on the last day. As Christians, we regard our baptisms not only as violence to sin, death, and the devil, but the daily garment that we wear at all times—the righteousness of Jesus wrapped around us!

Your baptism is violent and powerful. It’s mighty because your Jesus is mighty.

May you be strengthened through the mighty waters of your baptism today and until your last day. May you always be reminded to whom you belong and what you have been given in baptism. In your baptism, you are called out of darkness and into the marvelous light, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Meaning and Practice of Believer’s Baptism {A Baptist View of Baptism}

Baptism is the foundational ritual of Christianity and a beautiful and tangible picture of the gospel. The New Testament Gospels begin with the ministry of John the Baptist and his promise of one coming whose baptism would be greater (Mark 1:4–8). They end with Jesus’s Great Commission to his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19, emphasis added). The ministry of the apostles and early church assume the ongoing and foundational importance of baptism (Acts 2:38, 41; 10:47-48; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27).

But what is baptism? What does it mean for the Christian life? And how should it be practiced?

The Meaning of Baptism

In the Old Testament, water was an important biblical symbol of both creation and judgment. Consider these examples:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2, emphasis added). From these waters, God began to bring forth and create everything.

During the time of Noah, when the world had turned away from God, God brought a flood on the earth—the undoing of creation with the waters of judgment. Yet, God saved one family through these waters and brought them out on the other side to a new creation.

At the Exodus, God saved his people from Egypt through the crossing of the waters of the Red Sea, even as he brought those same waters crashing down in judgment on the armies of Pharaoh. Yet God’s people were brought through to the other side as the redeemed people of God.

Forty years later, God made the next generation of his people pass through the waters of the Jordan River to the Promised Land as his reconsecrated people.

God later included the images of deliverance through water in the rituals and symbols of the tabernacle and Temple and priesthood.

So, when John the Baptist came, many years later, baptizing in the Jordan River for repentance and forgiveness, the people understood what he was doing. He was calling them to be remade and re-birthed as God’s people. It wasn’t enough that they were circumcised children of Abraham. They needed to go through the waters again—to be cleansed, to repent, to leave the past behind, and to come out as the new people of God. And when John said, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” he was saying that Christ would bring, not just the rituals, but the reality of these things. Jesus’s own death and resurrection became the ultimate fulfillment of both judgment and new creation. After Jesus, the ritual of Christian baptism became a symbol of participation and union in his death and resurrection, going under the waters of judgment and coming out as a new creation (Rom. 6:3-4).

With this background, the use and meaning of baptism in the New Testament becomes clear. Baptism is:

  • A symbol for the beginning of the Christian life (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:37-42, 8:12; 9:18, etc).
  • A symbol that someone has become a new creation, that they’ve been born again, that God has saved them from their sins and that God is changing their life (John 3:3-8; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Rom. 6:1-4).
  • A symbol of repentance, cleansing, and faith (Matt. 3:1-17; Acts 2:38, 11:16-18, 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27).
  • A symbol corresponding to the inward presence of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life (Acts 10:44-48, 11:16-18; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27 and 4:6; Eph. 4:4-5).
  • A symbol of union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-15).

Baptism is not magic. It’s not a ritual work that makes someone a Christian. Baptism is a symbol and picture of the work of salvation that God has done in a believer’s life through faith in Christ. When someone is baptized, they are publicly declaring themselves and being recognized as a forgiven follower of Jesus Christ, washed from their sins and walking in newness of life.

That’s what baptism means. But baptism does do something also. Baptism is an encouragement and means of grace to believers. When a person is baptized, it’s a sign, not just to others, but to the recipient that God loves them, is pleased with them, and promises to be with them. Like when Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came down on him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” when someone is baptized in Jesus’s name, they know that they have been adopted in Christ, are part of God’s family, and God promises to be with them. They can say, “I am his, and he is mine, forever and forever” (See Eph. 1:13-14).

The Practice of Baptism

The practice of baptism involves three main questions: Who should be baptized? How should baptism happen? And who does the baptizing?

The Subjects of Baptism

It should be clear from the New Testament meaning of baptism that it requires and assumes repentance and faith. In fact, in every instance where baptism is described, faith precedes baptism (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:36-38; 10:44-47; 18:8).

In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul addresses an ongoing controversy in the early church over the practice of circumcision. Some Jewish Christians thought that gentile converts needed to be circumcised. But Paul’s answer is that they are sons of God through faith. He says, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Later, he directly connects baptism as a sign of faith. He says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27) A few verses later, he says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). Baptism was a sign of the spiritual reality of adoption and sonship, affirming a definitive identity and relationship to Christ. The language of baptism as “putting on Christ” (Gal. 3:27; literally, “clothing yourselves”) is very suggestive. In some early church practices, Christians would enter the baptismal font, and after exiting, they would be re-clothed (possibly even in white linen, as a sign of cleanliness and righteousness in Christ). Putting off the old garments, going under the re-creating waters of baptism, and putting on a new identity in Christ was a conceptual part of the baptismal rite itself. It was the visual picture of “learning Christ” (see Eph. 4:20-24).

Clearly then, baptism is meant for believers as a visual picture of the spiritual reality of their faith and union with Christ.

The Mode of Baptism

While some Christians have practiced baptism by pouring or by sprinkling, a straightforward reading of the text of the New Testament makes clear that immersion was the mode used in the first century (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:10; Acts 8:36-39; John 3:23). Immersion best pictures the wholistic, Christ-centered meaning of baptism as symbolizing union in his death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, immersion should be the preferred and normal method for baptism. However, the mode of baptism is arguably less important than its meaning and its subjects. Certain individual circumstances and settings may make immersion inadvisable or impossible.

The Church’s Oversight of Baptism

Finally, it should be clear that baptism is a sacrament of the church. Protestant churches have always believed in two main sacraments. Baptism is the sacramental sign for entrance into the Christian life and identification as a Christian. The Lord’s Supper is the sacramental sign for continuing in the Christian life and Christian community. Properly and biblically, it’s the local church that oversees these sacraments, examining candidates for baptism and welcoming them into the body life of the church, discipling and guarding them in their communion with Christ and with the church.

In most churches, this will mean that candidates for baptism will need to undergo an interview with the elders of the church for their testimony of faith and understanding of the gospel. Their desire for baptism and profession will then need to be shared with the rest of the church for their prayers and support. Finally, as part of the gathered worship of God’s people, they will be baptized by a pastor of the church and welcomed as a member of the congregation.

When Should You Be Baptized?

A Christian is someone who repents of trusting themselves and believes the gospel—the good news about Jesus. A Christian believes that God is a holy God who deserves our worship. A Christian knows that he has sinned by ignoring God, worshiping other things, living selfishly to please himself instead of seeking to please God and obey his commands. Because we have sinned against an infinitely holy and just God, we deserve his wrath and punishment. But the good news is that God sent his only Son to live the perfect life that we failed to live, and to take the punishment and die in our place on the cross, and then be raised back to life, defeating death and becoming the author of new life. Through believing in Jesus, a Christian receives forgiveness of sins, and learns to walk in a new life pleasing to God.

Becoming a Christian sometimes feels like two things happening at the same time. On one hand, it feels like something you choose—choosing to repent of sin and trust in Jesus, to pray to God to save you. On the other hand, it feels like something happening to you—something you’re not doing at all, but somebody else is doing to you
. . . like being born again by the Holy Spirit! Christians find that they have feelings they didn’t have before. They have a desire to pray that they didn’t have before. They have a desire to read God’s Word. The Bible makes sense like never before and seems powerful in new ways. A Christian enjoys being with God’s people, singing and worshiping with God’s people. Most important of all, a Christian loves Jesus, wants to know him better, wants to follow him closely, and wants to be more like him.

Of course, Christians can still struggle with sin. Christians can have bad days. Christians can even sometimes have doubts and can wonder whether they’re real Christians. But that just drives real Christians back to Jesus, to hoping in him and not in themselves.

At the end of the day, being a Christian is not about how you feel, not about something you can do, and not even about how hard you believe. It’s not how you feel that saves you, not how hard you believe that saves you. It’s Jesus who saves you. It’s knowing that your only hope is in Jesus and clinging to that.

If these things have become true in your life, then Jesus wants you to be baptized! You’re ready to let everyone know that you’ve repented of your sins, that you believe in Jesus, and that you want to walk with him all your days. Your baptism will be a beautiful encouragement to your soul, to the church, and will be celebrated in the heavens by the angels and God himself (Luke 15:1-10).

Baptism for the Church Member {A Presbyterian View of Baptism}

I would like to represent the Presbyterian view of baptism not as a theologian or even as a pastor but as a church member. Important theological matters like baptism have been the concern of many well-written scholarly essays and systematic theologies for many years. Your favorite search engine can no doubt confirm this and supply you with much reading material about the biblical and theological support for any major view—including that of the Presbyterian tradition. However, an explanation of the belief and practice from the perspective of those in the congregation is not as common.

Just like theologians and pastors, church members also love and study God’s word. But in daily life, the average church member does not engage in obsessive interpretive research or theological argument. Instead, the body of Christ holds its convictions in worship and fellowship and daily Christian living through lived experience. Over time, a particular church culture forms, and that has a shaping effect upon the people who make up the congregation. The practices of baptism are part of that larger set of practices which define a church and in turn slowly mold people as Christian disciples.

Baptism is one of the two sacraments practiced in church life in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism is the welcome into the family of God’s people, and when baptized church members have also made a credible profession of personal faith, those members (now called “communicants”) are invited to come to the Lord’s Supper for their ongoing spiritual nourishment. The part of this which is perhaps most distinctively Presbyterian is that baptism is applied to both adults and children, since we profess that baptism is a sign of the covenant of grace which God makes with us and our children through his promises in Jesus Christ.

There are compelling biblical arguments for this way of understanding baptism. I use the word “arguments” because there is no single Bible verse which settles the matter for all evangelicals. No biblical text explicitly clarifies that infants are to be baptized along with their believing parents in the New Covenant church. Similarly, there is no single prooftext to give indisputable support for the “believer baptism” view. No passage spells out that the inclusion of infants and children in the Old Testament covenant with the accompanying covenant sign (circumcision) is now discontinued in the New Covenant with respect to baptism. Were the book of Acts and the epistles to describe a second generation of Christians who had grown up in the church and later professed their personal faith in some form, perhaps that would help resolve the matter. But alas, we have no such apostolic accounts of a second-generation situation in the church.

A number of biblical observations lead to the Presbyterian conclusion that infants of believers should be included in baptism. Presbyterians and those in Reformed traditions see continuities in the covenant of grace, which is God’s promise to believers in all ages to save them through faith in his Son. Those continuities span the Old and New Testaments, such as how Abraham’s faith is a pattern for our own saving faith (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-12; and Jam. 2:20-23). Moreover, the apostles’ connections between circumcision (Col. 2:11) and baptism (Col. 2:12) indicate that these covenant signs have parallel meanings and usages in the Old and New Covenants. This provides a framework for why the Old Testament practice of circumcision for sons (Gen. 17:9-14) would have application for all members of believing families to receive the new covenant sign of baptism. We see this practiced in Acts 16 (vv. 15 and 33) and supported by the description of those born into Christian families as being “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14), even though neither of these passages explicitly refers to the baptism of infants.

These are strong arguments, yet my humble observation is that the Presbyterian practice of baptizing infants and young children even before they confess their faith in Jesus is more often embraced through observing the practice in congregational life. As people see and experience the sacrament of baptism, the biblical and theological arguments become compelling or even downright convincing.

Perhaps I can make a comparison to another aspect of life in which convictions are held not by abstract reasoning but by appreciation of the lived experience: Consider whether you think it’s “right” to open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. How did you become convinced that one of those times is right each and every year? Obviously, most of us simply absorbed this practice from our families of origin, or perhaps from the community where we saw Christmas celebrated in a way we found meaningful. I grew up in a family where presents were always opened on Christmas Eve after dinner. It made sense to me. We got to the presents earlier, and it saved more of Christmas day itself for meaningful traditions. (Did I mention that by opening presents on Christmas Eve we got to the presents earlier? This was a very compelling reason to me when I was a child!) I had no desire to ever switch to opening gifts on Christmas Day.

However, once I married my wonderful wife Elizabeth, I learned that she had always opened presents on Christmas morning and it was her strong desire to carry on that practice with our own children once we had them. The reason I was won over to the “Christmas morning” view is because I started doing it and came to appreciate it. I don’t think I could have been convinced by logic or historical arguments to abandon my original preference for opening presents on Christmas Eve. Certainly, there was no single Bible verse to settle the matter. It was only my lived experience that made me see the issue from a different point of view.

I grant that this is a very distant analogy, but I think you will get my point. There are three aspects of lived experience in a Presbyterian setting that persuade me of the practice of infant baptism:

1. Presbyterian baptism is consistent with Christian doctrine.

The one who doesn’t hold the Presbyterian view might assume that by baptizing an infant we are saying that a child is saved or that this little girl or boy doesn’t need to embrace Jesus in the future. But the baptism of little ones does not get in the way of presenting the gospel clearly—that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16, 6:40; Eph. 2:8–9). As an image of union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4) and the washing of regeneration through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5), the very act of water baptism preaches the gospel and calls sinners to believe in Christ to save them. In fact, it has been a blessing to see Christian parents in Presbyterian church life steadily sharing the gospel with their kids without any thought that baptism somehow removed the need or the urgency to do so. The Christian message is a call to repent from sin and believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14-15), and the Presbyterian application of baptism has never seemed to send any different message.

2. Presbyterian baptism is a great tool for discipleship.

By applying the covenant sign of baptism to our littlest ones as well as those who are older and more capable of giving a clear Christian testimony, baptism reinforces the call to live as followers of Jesus Christ at each stage of life. Those who are young are reminded that they are marked out from others in the world as belonging to God’s people and participating in Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). They have a responsibility to live as a distinctive Christian people because they are in the covenant and have the covenant sign. There are not very many 8-year-olds, for example, who are ready to make a life-long commitment to Jesus Christ through professing faith, but all Christian parents of 8-year-olds can confirm that, even at this young age, kids need to be reminded that God doesn’t want them to follow the pattern of this world. They belong to God through birth into a household of faith which has a calling to be holy (1 Cor. 7:14), and God would have them live for him! Baptism communicates this early need for discipleship.

When those same children grow up and profess faith as communicants, it’s not a different obligation to now live according to a new set of rules. Rather, the calling is the same, but by their profession and their regular place at the Lord’s Supper, they remember the obligation comes not only from God’s promise put on them but through their expressed commitment to Christ as well (2 Tim. 1:5–7; Phil. 3:14; 1 Cor. 11:27–28). Baptism in the Presbyterian tradition is not a hindrance to discipleship. Baptism expresses further outward signs for why we ought to live faithful lives at every age and every stage of Christian maturity.

3. Presbyterian baptism helps believers identify with the story of God’s people.

We teach that the covenant of grace extends through the Old and New Testament. It follows, then, that our application of the covenant sign of baptism to infants shows that believers and their children are set apart for the Lord. We can feel a little bit closer to Abraham who was told to circumcise Isaac as a sign of God’s covenant with him (Gen. 17:9-14), we can resonate with Hannah’s joy in the arrival of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:27-28), and we can remember when we too joined the church as a household (Acts 16:15, 33) through God’s kindness.

When I think about God’s faithfulness to his covenant people from infancy to old age, I remember the words of Psalm 71: “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Ps. 71:17–18). No, it’s not a proof text for infant baptism. However, this song resonates with those who experientially see God setting us apart from our earliest days as babies, through our youth, and until our final breath when we enter glory (Ps. 71:6, 9).

In a Presbyterian church, this reality is matched through the practice of baptizing believers and their children as set apart to the Lord through God’s promise in Jesus Christ. It’s a theological conviction and a result of biblical interpretation, but it’s best understood when it’s experienced in the congregation of God’s people where we can rejoice in God’s promises which are, by his design, for us and for our children (Acts 2:38-39).

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