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Unbelievers in the Covenant

One Baptist objection to infant baptism, is that some are baptized who are not saved and never will be saved, i.e., in baptizing infants, we baptize those who have not repented and professed faith.  To Baptists this seems wholly arbitrary and meaningless.

In answer to this objection, we would point out, first of all, that it is plainly impossible either in Baptist or Reformed churches to baptize only saved persons.  Because the secrets of the heart are unknown to us, we can, even in Baptist churches, baptize those only who make a profession of faith and repentance.

In pointing this out to various Baptist friends and acquaintances, the response has always been: "But we baptize fewer unsaved persons than you do."  The fact is, that if a Baptist baptizes even one unsaved person, he is no longer practicing "believer's baptism," but only something that might be called "professor's baptism."

More to the point, however, is the fact that in Scripture both baptism and circumcision are deliberately applied to unbelievers.  That this is the case with circumcision is clear from Abraham's circumcising of Ishmael (after being told that Ishmael had no part in the covenant (Gen. 17:18-19), and of Isaac's circumcising Esau after being told that Esau was reprobate (Gen. 25:23, 24).

The Baptist argues at this point that circumcision was only a mark of national identity, but that simply is not true in light of what Scripture says about circumcision.  It was always a sign of "the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision (death) of Christ" (Col. 2:11; cf. also Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4).

The same is true of baptism.  The baptism in the Red Sea (it is identified as a baptism, using the NT word, in I Cor. 10:1, 2), was applied by God to many "with whom He was not well pleased" and who subsequently were destroyed of Satan (I Cor. 10:5-10).  In the other OT type, Ham was "baptized" (II Pet. 3:21) with the rest of Noah's family.

The only question, then, or so it seems to us, is this: "Why is God pleased to have it so - that the sign of the covenant and of salvation, both in the OT and the NT be applied to unsaved as well as to saved persons?"  Whether they are adults or children really makes no difference now.  Even the Baptist must answer this question, though in answering it, he admits that he does not practice "believer's baptism."

The answer to this question lies in the eternal purpose of God.  Only someone who firmly believes that God has eternally ordained all things, including the salvation of some and not of others, can give a clear and unequivocal answer to this question.

The answer must be that baptism (circumcision in the OT), like the preaching of the gospel, is a power and a testimony both for salvation and for hardening and condemnation (cf. II Cor. 2:14-16), and this according to the purpose of God.   We baptize infants as well as adults, therefore, understanding that God will use it for the salvation of some, and for the condemnation of others, according to His own purpose, as in the case of Ishmael or of Esau.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 7
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
  • City
    Medical Lake
  • State or Province
    WA
  • Zip Code
    99022
  • Country
    United States
  • Mobile
    360-527-6633

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