In the last News, I argued that elect children from believing parents are typically saved in infancy or even prior to birth. The reader who sent in the question also asked, "Can an infant baptized into the true church not reach the point of true salvation?" Answering this will also give opportunity to add an important teaching of Scripture to what I wrote in my last article.
First, I assume that the questioner writes of baptism "into the true church," because only baptism performed by a true church is a means of grace. If this is the meaning, he is certainly correct, for one of the marks of the true church is that the sacraments are administered according to the institution of Christ. This point is an important one and worth noting.
The answer to the question, "Can an infant baptized into the true church not reach the point of true salvation?" is emphatically, "Yes! Yes, it is possible that a child of believing parents, baptized into a true church, not reach the point of true salvation?" That is, not all baptized infants are saved; many are lost.
Before I explain this further, I want to make a caveat regarding the question’s suggestion that usually salvation comes in later life to a baptized child. This is not correct when one is speaking of the children of believers. As I explained in the last News, the children of believers are usually saved either before birth, perhaps at the time of conception, or very shortly after birth. Scripture seems to suggest the former, as in the cases of Jeremiah and John the Baptist (cf. "Covenant Children and Infant Baptism;" www.cprf.co.uk/quotes/infantbaptism.htm).
Not all children of believing parents are saved. We must reckon here with the truth of predestination, including both election and reprobation. Sovereign election determines those who are saved, and sovereign reprobation determines those who are not saved. As the Canons of Dordt put it, "That some receive the gift of faith from God and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree ... According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe, while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy" (1:6).
God’s sovereign and eternal decree of election and reprobation not only determines who will be saved and who will not be saved on the mission field, but it also determines who will be saved and who will not be saved in the covenant lines of believers and their seed. The elect children of the covenant are saved; the reprobate children of the covenant are not saved.
This divine distinction was already true in the home of Isaac and Rebekah. Although Esau was the firstborn and the heir of the birthright, he was reprobate. Though Jacob showed in much of his life that he was no better than Esau, he was elect. Esau was not saved; Jacob was (Gen. 25:19-26; Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:10-13). Election and reprobation ruled throughout the nation of Israel. Many, usually the majority, in Israel, though born in the line of the generations of believers, were reprobate (Isa. 1:8-9; Rom. 9:6-8; 11:5).
What was true in the old dispensation is also true in the new. Throughout the history of the church, the divine distinction within the lines of the covenant was carried out: not all the children of believers are saved. Believing parents, while they joyfully receive their children from God as children of God’s covenant, know that not all their children are saved. They know that the decision as to the salvation of their children rests with God. They bow before His sovereign will. They rejoice that God is so merciful that He gathers His church from the children they bring forth.
Some charge the Protestant Reformed Churches with teaching "baptismal regeneration," that is regeneration by means of baptism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Others charge the Protestant Reformed Churches with teaching "presupposed regeneration," that is, that the churches teach that believers presuppose the regeneration of all their children. But this is also a slander and a lie. Believers know that God saves according to His good pleasure and that God has not promised to save all their children.
Some argue against the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches (and all Reformed churches) by asking the question: Why then do believers baptize all their children, when they know that not all are saved? I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the force of this objection. Why does every church that preaches the gospel preach to all without distinction when they know and believe that God saves only some? If these churches are not Arminian (preaching a gospel that God loves every one and is gracious to every one), they will have to admit that it is wrong and contrary to God’s will to preach only to the elect. They preach to elect and reprobate—as well they should.
Baptism is a sacrament that is added to the preaching to signify by an outward sign the truth of the gospel. It ought not to strike us as strange that the sacrament of baptism is also administered to all the children of believers. But this fact does not deny that baptism is a sign and a seal of the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ. And that which baptism signifies and seals is that only the elect are saved by the blood of Christ.
- Volume: 10
- Issue: 24
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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