The New Testament is not Silent Regarding Infant Baptism. Part 6: Infant Baptism

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Jesus’ Baptism, Bibliography.

In the past five installments, I made the case that infants born to Christian parents are members of the New Covenant (not in a salvific way, per se, but outwardly), and therefore have a right to the sign of the covenant. That sign is baptism, and as the children of the Old Covenant had a right to the covenantal sign (circumcision), and as the idea of parental representation is a point of continuity between all the biblical covenants, infants born in Christian homes ought to be baptized. Such was my conclusion… but my quest was not completed.

At the core of all of my covenantal thinking was the family.

Adam represented his family in death. Abraham stood as the representative head of the circumcised family (where circumcision was the sign of the coming human who would be a blessing to the nations). The family of Israel went down into Egypt, and the same family was brought out by an Exodus so that the family became a nation.

In the New Covenant, all of this seemed to translate nicely into the Christian family: families ought to be baptized together. If such was not the case, then the burden of proof was upon the writers of the New Testament (not me), and since they did not overturn my conclusion with an express denial of my conclusion, my conclusion stood. In this way, I believed that the silence of the New Testament confirmed my thinking.

But is the New Testament silent on the subject? Does the New Testament teach me anything about family that would change any of this?

It does.

Jesus redefined family, and overtly so. He pointed at certain Jews and said their father was not Abraham, but the Devil (John 8). He pointed at a rag-tag band of followers and said they were his brothers, his sisters, and his mother (Matthew 10).

Large portions of the New Testament are about the specific and limited purpose of the physical family of Abraham and Israel. Old Covenant family theology was about the promise of a coming seed — and now the seed has come (Jesus!). The family of Israel (through Abraham) stored up in their flesh that seed. The sign of that covenant was a genealogical sign cut into the male reproductive organ (circumcision), following the genealogical principle that God would defeat Satan (Genesis 3) via the seed of the woman (i.e., via one born into the human family). Through an ultimate physical birth, the goal of all the promises would arrive. And that seed is Jesus (Galatians 3).

Circumcision and family were pointing to Christ.

We can rethink the nature of family because Jesus identified his brothers and sisters as those who follow him (Hebrews 2). The followers of Christ form the lasting and consummate family. They are Jews inwardly and true children of Abraham, sharing the same Gospel DNA. The kingdom of God is familial at its core, and the definition of family has made a redemptive leap, so that Jesus could tell all Jews who would follow him, that they must hate their mothers and fathers (Luke 14:26).

The kingdom of God is the family of God, and infants in this family are indeed baptized — those infants are the newborn babes born of the word (1 Peter 2:2). Shadowy notions of being born, and of being infant, have changed with the arrival of our older brother, Jesus. If those notions seem hard to grasp, or seem like a major shift, consider the monumental Trinitarian revelation-leap when God himself took-on flesh (John 1:1-18). Our idea of temple changed when Jesus revealed that he is the temple (John 2:20-21). Our idea of Jew changed when we found out that a Jew is one who is a follower of Christ (Romans 2:28-29).

There is continuity between the covenants, but of the kind that exists between a flower and its stem (or between a man standing and his shadow). The flower is in unity with the stem, but the physical appearance between the two renders no clues of their relationship. Jesus is the standing man, the Old Testament is his shadow. The New Covenant temple does not look like the Old Covenant temple, though the two are as deeply related; likewise, the idea of family has found its redemptive destiny, and its quiver swells with those who are born of the word. Those who have faith are the true family members. The genealogical principle has found its meaning, and to baptize infants is to revert to the form of a prior covenant as if the flower had not blossomed, or as if the one casting the shadow had not arrived.

— This six part series was necessarily short as each installment was abbreviated for the space limitations assigned to me by the Miami County Republic. I have written more extensively on the matter, but have not published the material in any form.

This article was published under Baptism, Infant Baptism, Newspaper.

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