Another argument for so-called "believer's baptism" is the argument that Scripture shows that not only faith, but also repentance, must precede baptism. To some extent this argument has been answered in our previous article, but there are some things that do need to be pointed out.
There is first of all Mark 1:4, which speaks of the baptism of repentance: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." Many conclude from this verse that repentance must precede baptism.
This is, however, by no means evident. The word "of" could mean "the baptism that has its source in repentance" and be suggesting that baptism ought to follow repentance. The word "of" might also mean, however, that baptism and repentance belong to one anther, without saying anything about the order in which they occur.
We believe that the phrase says nothing about the order in which the two occur, but rather means that repentance and baptism always belong together - that baptism demands repentance (either prior or following or both).
If there is any order suggested, however, it is baptism followed by repentance! Matthew 3:11, a parallel passage, makes this clear. There we read of a baptism "unto" (literally, "into") repentance, where word "unto" has the idea of "motion towards something." The idea, then, is that baptism is administered with a view to repentance following or even as a kind of call to repentance.
In suggesting that baptism looks forward and not back to repentance, Matthew 3:11 identifies an important difference between the Baptist and Reformed views of baptism. The Baptist view is that baptism is a sign or mark of what we have done in repenting and believing. The Reformed position is that baptism is sign or mark of what God has done in regenerating us. It does not mark our response to grace, but the work of grace itself.
Baptism, in the very nature of the rite, is a picture of the washing away of sins by the blood of Jesus. This is what God does in saving us, and He does it first. He does it when we are yet incapable of responding to His gracious work.
If we understand this, then infant baptism will not seem something strange, but fitting. After all, there is no one of us, saved as an adult or as an infant, that does not enter the kingdom of heaven as an infant, that is, by a work of pure grace that precedes all activity and response on our part. That work of grace is what infant baptism marks and commemorates.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 9
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
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