Monday, March 8, 2010

Camille's Baptism

On Valentine's Day (no reason...that just happened to be a Sunday that worked), Camille was baptized.  I was raised in a Mennonite family, as were many of my friends.  In the Mennonite denomination, you are baptized when you make a profession of faith and ask to join the church.  I know our decision to baptize our kids when they are babies raises questions of theology in the minds of our friends and family.  In fact, when I told one of my best friends we had Adeline baptized, she said, "you mean dedicated."  No, she was, in fact, baptized.  I've never felt condemned by my friends, but I thought I would use this post to explain what our church believes, and how we came to the same understanding of what the Bible teaches regarding baptism.

First, I want to say what infant baptism is not.  It is not a guarantee that your children will go to heaven.  It does not mean they are Christians.  It is not an empty ritual or a right of passage.  

I am going to summarize and quote passages from "What Christian Parents Should Know About Infant Baptism" a booklet written by John Sartelle to explain further...

We serve a covenant God.  When God made and everlasting covenant with Abraham---a covenant of salvation from generation to generation, He used circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Gen 17:11).  When an adult from outside Israel became a believer, he was to be circumcised.  Passages in the Old Testament so closely identify the sign with the real event that God actually uses the word circumcision instead of salvation.  The saved person or community is called "circumcised"; the unsaved person or community is called "uncircumcised" (Isa. 52:1; Ezek. 44:9; I Sam. 15:6).  

This does not imply that circumcision saves an individual.  The thesis of Romans 4 is that Abraham was saved by FAITH, not by circumcision.  Yet, God commanded circumcision as a sign of salvation.  In Genesis 17, God gives an extraordinary command.  God tells Abraham to apply this sign of salvation to infants born into his house.  This is astounding.  How could the sign of salvation be applied to an infant who had not yet believed"  But right there it is:  "...and every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations" (Gen 17:12)

Now, we come to the NEW covenant in Jesus.  He told His disciples to make other disciples and to baptize them (Matt 28:19).  God uses an outward symbol to denote an inward spiritual reality.  Like circumcision, baptism too is a sign.  Baptism means being set apart to a holy life.  Just as utensils and people were anointed with water or oil in the Old Testament and set apart for holy use, so in baptism the person is anointed and set apart for holiness.  Baptism is a sign of an event, not the reality itself.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace, not by any works of righteousness.  Our sins are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and our lives are made holy by being born again.  Baptism is an outward sign of this inward work.

In light of that fact, the following verses may seem surprising.  As people were converted, not only were they baptized but their families were also.  Lydia, a business woman from Thyatira, believed the gospel, and Paul baptized both her and her household (Acts 16:15).  Likewise, an unnamed Philippian jailer believed, and he and his household were baptized (Acts 16:33-34).

Every doctrine in the New Testament has its roots in the Old.  We are moved to tears at the beauty and unity of Scripture as we see Aaron slay the lambs and then see Jesus slain at Calvary, punished by God for our sins.  We feel a kinship to Joshua as we see his family gather to eat the Passover lamb in old Israel, and we gather to partake of the body and blood of God's lamb in the new Israel.  But most precious is that God does not withhold a blessing He gave His people in former days.  We follow in the footsteps of Abraham circumcising Isaac when we bring our children to be baptized.

In the Old and New Testaments, we see God working through families.  In Genesis 17:7, God made a covenant of salvation with Abraham.  He told Abraham that the covenant was not only for him, but for his children and many generations to come.  Four hundred years later, Abraham's family had grown to be a great nation of over one million people.  Enslaved in Egypt, they prayed to God...."So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And God saw the sons of Israel, and had regard for them." (Exodus 2: 24-25).  Another example is David, Solomon, and Rehoboam.  Solomon seriously transgressed against God.  His kingdom would be divided because of his sin, but the Lord would not do this in Solomon's lifetime, because he was David's son.  David had been dead for years, and yet God treated Solomon with special regard because of his father.  We can now begin to see why God directed the sign of the covenant to be applied to the children.  They are set apart, special before the Lord.  God showed favor to Solomon because of David, but the kingdom was divided under Rehoboam's reign (Solomon's son).  In the New Testament, we see the same examples as Jesus heals children not through their own faith but through the faith of their parents (Matt 17:14-18, Luke 7:11-17, John 4:46-54).  Another example is Paul's answer to the question of if a man becomes a Christian, should he continue to live with his non-Christian wife.  In I Corinthians 7, Paul says if the wife will live with him, he is to stay with her.  He says the unbelieving wife is "sanctified" by the believing husband.  This does not mean she is saved.  The Greek word for "sanctify" means "set apart."  The holy life of a Christian is a "set apart" life.  Paul was saying the wife is set apart, viewed in a special way by God, because her husband is one of God's people.  So why not baptize her?  As an adult, she is responsible for making her own profession before the Lord.  The infant stands in his father's faith, unable to make his own profession, but bearing the mark of his father's faith upon him, which calls him to his Lord in his earliest years.

Baptism is the sign of salvation applied to our children, it is a call to raise them as God directed.  We give our affirmation to the following vows during baptism:

Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before him a godly example, that you will pray with and for him, that you will teach him the doctrines of our holy faith, and that you will strive, by all the means of God's appointment, to bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Covenant children are set apart.  They are blessed with parents who want to honor and serve Christ.  They are taught the Scriptures, prayed for, and trained by godly parents and by the church from a young age.  It is God who initiated, drew the terms of, and seals His covenant with His people.  He graciously binds Himself to the promises of His Word.  And He calls His children and His children's children to keep His covenant and know His blessing from generation to generation.

Thoughts?  Questions?


Mari said...

Great explanation! Our children were baptized as infants as well and this explains why very well.

Jessica Brown said...

great explanation! i was baptized as a baby and (as i've mentioned) grew up in the reformed tradition.

Kristen said...

this was interesting reading. lance and i were both raised in the lutheran church which has infant baptism. we were both baptized as infants and our children were all baptized as infants. i always felt it was an important tradition but i loved this explanation.

we now go to a nazarene church which does baby dedications instead of baptism. our pastor came to our house and baptized mauryn but we also did a baby dedication in church.

i know this can be a hot topic. i have seen it in my family between my mom and my younger sister who has chosen not to have her children baptized but dedicated in their church.

i think people just need to be understanding and respectful of everyone's choices.

thank you for posting this :o)

Anonymous said...

You did an excellent job of explaining this. Excellent!!! Thank you, Lynn.

Janiece said...

The above was supposed to say from Janiece. said...

I myself was raised as a covenant child. When we were pregnant with our first, Scott and I both spent a lot of time reading, researching, even meeting with our pastor to better understand why we baptize. We didn't want to baptize our child just b/c we were both baptized as babies and that is what our church did. We wanted to understand the reasons behind it and then make our decision. We have baptized all 3 of our children. I think you did a beautiful job of explaining the reasons behind it.

Jen said...

Interesting post and topic... I guess I'm still curious how infant baptism differs from infant dedication, except for the sprinkling of water. I'm also curious if your church does adult baptisms as well. In our church, we dedicate our children to the Lord as infants and make similar covenant vows, but view the actual baptism act as a proclamation of faith which is typically done in youth or adulthood. It's always interesting to hear other points of view, even though the bottom line is still the same... belief in Jesus Christ and eternal life in heaven. Thanks for sharing!

keenbliss said...

Lynn, loved this post. Our boys were baptized as infants, partly, to be completely honest, because that's just what is done in our church and I've never really questioned it. Thanks for making me think about this topic a little more!

Growin' with it! said...

way to go lynn! this can be a hot topic and you did a wonderful job explaining things. i was baptized as an infant and later as a kiddo. in the end it really is who's in our hearts. great post!

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Anonymous said...

although I was raised with a very similar belief as you and was "baptized" as an infant, I now have a different belief. I totally respect you, completely! In the broad scope of eternity I pray this is not an issue for our salvation, but rather a symbol of our commitment to raise godly children to the best of our ability though the help of our Lord and Savior.

I believe in the scripture that says to "believe and be baptized" in the following of Christ, burying the old man and being raised as a new man by the water and the Word. We, therefore, dedicated our children and they were baptized when the made their personal commitment to Christ.

Not wanting to debate, but praise God with you over your commitment to your little girls knowing your heart's desire is for them to come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior at a young and tender age.

Interesting post Lynn!

Just Mom said...

I loved your explanation, Lynn.

The Catholic church baptizes infants for the reasons you've listed in your post. We also baptize adults who were never baptized (i.e. I was baptized five years ago when I entered the Catholic faith).

When JS comes of age (usually sophomore in high school), he will receive the sacrament of Confirmation, in which he receives the Holy Spirit. This is also when he commits his life to Christ's teachings.

sarah said...

i really appreciated reading this post, lynn. i was baptized as an infant but didn't really begin my dedicated 'walk' with the Lord until college. and most of the teachings under which i sat from then on taught that baptism should happen after the commitment, not before. it's not that i ever had a PROBLEM with that perspective, but i also never felt the urge to be 're-baptized' (in water) either. during college, pat and i attended a particular church for some time and, on my first visit, someone from there was filling out an info card on me. she asked me whether i had been baptized, and when i told her i had been as an infant, she marked on the card 'no.' i have to say - that REALLY bothered me, but at the time, i couldn't articulate why. this definitely helped me put some words to those feelings. thank you!

Momma Roar said...

Interesting post Lynn.

I always found it odd that my parents took the time to get both my older siblings baptized as infants but never me. Personally, I'm glad they didn't because it allowed me to make the decision to be baptized.

Thanks for taking the time to explain your decision.

It makes me sad that these decisions can become 'hot topics' between even family members. We don't have to do what others do - we need to do what the Holy Spirit is convicting us to do.

I applaud you for following taking the time to research it and then follow your convictions! You are raising those two little girls up to know Who is at the Center of their lives!!! :)

Denise said...

you have explained infant baptism very well. i respect and support your decision to have your children baptize.

my paternal family is catholic. they're explanation for baptism has always been for salvation. and of course i could not agree with that.

i was baptized when i was 19. it was powerful. i invited my entire family (all pre-christians. we prefer the term "pre christian" over "non christian").
to stand before them, give my testimony, sing a song titled "i know where i stand", and then be baptized.

and i needed to experience that baptism. max lucado communicated that baptism like this- the going into the water is a death, the moments the water sweep over head is like a burial, and the coming up is a resurrection.

personally, i needed that.

we chose to have our children dedicated. we were (are) very intentional about blessing, and the commitment we made.
just as you are :-)

again i love how beautifully and intentionally you explain infant baptism, will cause me to be gracious to those who chose infant baptism. for that especially i am thankful.

joana ahn said...

this is interesting and very enlightening. i never agreed with infant baptism, though i didn't think it hurt or anything, but i just thought, man, historically people have died for this, for their conviction that baptism should be a choice and profession of faith of each person. i do think, obviously, these days people are a lot more laid back about things like this. after reading this though, i see in your understanding and perspective there seems to be no difference between baptism and dedication. i totally agree with you, i just choose not to baptise, but dedicate instead. it is a symbol and you're right, baptism does not guarantee one's salvation, even if it's done as an adult. at least that's what i believe on that, i don't hold to once saved always saved. i know some do. but i do understand now why you chose baptise the girls and it makes good sense. most of all, i'm always so impressed with you guys as parents and your heart to raise your children in the ways of god. ultimately that is the gift you're giving them. it's the best!

La Familia Garcia said...

We just baptized my son and my daughter made a public profession of faith at the same time! What a beautiful picture of the Covenant from passing on God's promise through baptism to how the Holy Spirit calls his children. I posted something on it as well and I just wanted to be prepared if there were any questions brought up. I was glad to find your post.