Guest Post by Rev. Mr. Leon M. Brown. He is a veteran of the United States Navy, a graduate of Westminster Seminary California (MDiv, 2011; MA Historical Theology, 2012), Assistant Pastor of New City Fellowship (PCA) in Fredericksburg, VA, and is presently pursuing doctoral studies in OT and the Ancient Near East. Here is his YouTube channel and his Facebook page.
Time and time again I heard that Reformed paedobaptists read “the New Testament…as though it were the Old and the Old as though it were the New.…”1 I believed this for a time. Virtually every time I insisted that they show me a command to baptize infants, they took me to Genesis 17:9–10:
And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.’
“Great!” I thought, “but we are not discussing circumcision.” It was as if they were proving a directive for a new covenant sacrament utilizing an Old Testament command. While I knew better to associate everything under the umbrella of the Old Testament as the old covenant, I still was not satisfied with their answer.
What was I going to do? By this time, I believed the children of one or two believing parents were included in the covenant, but if I could not find a New Testament imperative to apply the sign of the covenant to children, it seemed, at the time, that any Old Testament directive was insufficient. Fred Malone, a former paedobaptist, in his book, The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenant Argument for Credobaptism Verses Paedobaptism, emphasized this point and concluded that to baptize one’s infant(s), although no imperative exists in the New Testament, is a violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW). I latched onto his conclusion.
“But what about the household baptisms?” I was asked. Like a standard polemicist, I used their own theologians against them. Pierre Marcel exclaimed, “We state here with all desirable precision that these passages [household baptisms] have never served and still do not serve, in good Reformed theology, as a basis or justification of infant baptism.”2 Looking back, I realize this was not the best course of action. I utilized the opposing views of Reformed paedobaptists to my advantage as if all Baptists agree. Nevertheless, the household baptisms did not, with certainty, demonstrate that children were present, and if they were, it seemed, lest Lydia and her household, that all who were baptized believed. In other words, all who received the sacrament professed faith. Knowing this, I was on the verge of discontinuing my study of baptism. Some 70 books and numerous articles read, papers in seminary written, along with hundreds of conversations later, I felt that I have given it due diligence, until I read something by both Baptists and paedobaptists theologians that made me think a bit differently.
Francis Turretin, in Institutes of Elenctic Theology (vol. 3), argued that the Great Commission was grounds for baptizing both adults and infants (Q. XX.III). I did not see how that was possible until I considered the Greek, but it was not as if only paedobaptists recognized the construction of the Greek grammar. Baptists fully acknowledged it, too. In Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, Andreas J. Kostenberger notes, “Jesus’ followers must ‘go’ in order to ‘make disciples.’ ‘All the nations’ includes Israel. The two present participles ‘baptizing’ (baptizontes) and ‘teaching’ (didaskontes) specify the manner in which disciples are to be made.”3 Daniel Wallace calls these participles a participle of “means,” which is similar to a participle of “manner” (See Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 627–30). In other words, disciples are made by baptism and by teaching. Thus, the so-called Great Commission should be read, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations, by means of baptizing them…by means of teaching them” (Matt. 28:19–20). This proper rendering of the Great Commission is consistent with the Reformed paedobaptist view. It is no wonder the apostle Paul addressed children and told them to be obedient in the Lord (Eph 6:1). They were disciples initiated into the covenant community by means of baptism and rendered as having the ability to receive God’s instruction and obey their parents. This was not some natural law command. They were to obey their parents in the Lord the same way their parents were to love each other in the Lord (Eph. 5:22, 25).4
The scales, as it were, began to fall. Embedded within the Great Commission itself was a command to baptize that included both adults and infants.5 Should I change my mind? What would I tell my wife? What would I tell my friends? What would I tell one of my Baptist professors who spent so much time with me? In which church would I now serve? I had two potential calls to Reformed Baptist congregations and they were zeroing in on calling a pastor. It was also the last semester of the initial portion of my seminary education. What would I do? I had some major decisions to make.
1. Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), 8.
2. Pierre-Charles Marcel, The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism, trans. Philip Hughes (Exeter: A. Wheaton and Co., Ltd., 1959), 196.
3. Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Baptism in the Gospels,” in Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (B & H Academic: Nashville, 2006), 23.
4. In this series, I have not discussed the efficacy of baptism. Please see WCF 28.
5. This paradigm is also consistent with the Abrahamic covenant.