Who Should Be Baptized? A Covenant Dialogue

A simulated dialogue between God and Abraham regarding the sign of the covenant.

Lord, will water baptism be a sign of the same thing as circumcision? (Col. 2:11-12). Yes, Abraham, it too will be a sign, not of faith but of my promise to faith.  As my servant Peter will later proclaim in Jerusalem on the day you long to see: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).

 

As pastor of a Reformed and Presbyterian Church, I have the privilege of applying the sign of covenant initiation to infants born into our church family. I recognize infant baptism is not universally accepted across the contemporary Christian church, so I try to give biblical basis for our practice.

We are a church that holds to the Bible as the holy, inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God Himself, authoritative for all of doctrine and life. Others who hold a like position about the Bible arrive at different conclusions regarding the sacrament of baptism.

My concern in providing explanation is to make it apparent that we are rooting our beliefs in the Bible, and not tradition.

Just like producing a fresh sermon series each Christmas season can be a challenge, so can providing explanations of the sacrament that are not overly repetitive.  A different way of saying something can shed new light of understanding and appreciation.

The following represents my most recent approach after seven babies born into our small congregation over the preceding 14 months. It pulls together scriptural teaching and frames it in the form of a conversation between God and Abraham.

I presented it via PowerPoint, one voice at a time. God speaking is represented in bold type; Abraham in regular. I share it because I received a number of comments on its helpfulness and think it of value to share such things with others:

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Who Should Be Baptized? A Covenant Dialogue

Abraham, I am entering into covenant with you. I will be your God. But this special relationship with me is not just for you. It’s also for your children after you. From you I will form a people for my own possession.  (Gen. 12:2-3)

Lord, is this relationship just for Jews, who will descend from me? (Rom. 9:6-8)

No, you will be a blessing to the nations.  My promise will be for Jews and for Gentiles—for all who will believe.  (Gen. 15:5-6; Gal. 3:6-9)

Lord, what will be the sign of this promise of blessing?  (Rom. 3:29-4:25)

All the males in your household are to be circumcised.  It will represent my promise to you and to them.  It will show they are distinct from the families of the world that do not know me. (Gen. 17:9-13)

Lord, I have believed you.  Should I be circumcised?

Yes, you should be circumcised, as should your 13-year-old son, Ishmael, as should your newborn son, Isaac.  (Gen. 17:24-25; Gen. 21:3)

Lord, I have faith, but Ishmael has not believed.  And Isaac is only a baby!  Should we all receive this sign of your covenant?

Yes, Abraham. This sign of the covenant does not point to your faith. It is not an outward sign of your inner faith. Nor does it guarantee that Ishmael or Isaac will believe.  It points to my promise of blessing.  (Rom. 4:13-16; Jas. 2:21-23)

Lord, will this sign be for all generations, even in the day of the Messiah to come that I rejoice to see? (John 8:56; Gal. 3:13-14)

Yes, my friend, I will always have a sign of my covenant for believers and their children. In the new covenant when Messiah comes the sign will be water baptism, and applied to females as well as males as part of my covenant community, the church. (Is. 41:8; Ezek. 36:25-28; Acts 16:33-34)

Lord, will water baptism be a sign of the same thing as circumcision? (Col. 2:11-12)

Yes, Abraham, it too will be a sign, not of faith but of my promise to faith.  As my servant Peter will later proclaim in Jerusalem on the day you long to see: “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Stan Gale is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the author of the book, Why Must We Forgive? This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.