Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In the covenant from his mother's womb

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 16 - Infant Baptism fits with the nature of baptism
21-22 - The Spirit at work in baptized children
21. We are buried with Christ in our baptism (Rom 6:4). This doesn't mean we have to be buried with Christ (have faith in) before our baptism. Rom 6:4 gives the meaning of baptism, not a prerequisite, just as Deut 10:16; Jer 4:4 did for circumcision. They object that 1 Pet 3:21 leaves nothing "for infant baptism but empty smoke." They are mistaken that "the thing [conversion] ought always to precede the sign [baptism] in order of time." What baptism does is "confirm and ratify the covenant."

22. They object that baptism is for forgiveness of sins. Right! "Infants receive forgiveness of sins; therefore, they must not be deprived of the sign." They object that the church is cleansed by the Word - Eph 5:26. Right! And children "are rightly considered a part of the church" as kingdom heirs - Matt 19:14. We may not part them from the body by withholding baptism from them - see 1 Cor 12:13.

23-24 - Infant baptism in the early church
23. They infer from Acts 2:37-38; 8:37, that baptism can only happen after a profession of faith, and repentance. But "other passages must be compared.... infants ought to be put in another category." In the OT, those outside the covenant had to be taught and accept the faith before receiving circumcision, just like the Acts passages.

24. Abraham was given the covenant and its meaning first (Gen 15:1), then the sign of circumcision (17:11). But Isaac received the sign in infancy. An adult should learn the meaning first, but "children of believers are partakers in the covenant without the help of understanding, [so] there is no reason why they should be barred from the sign merely because they cannot swear to the provisions of the covenant." They are in the covenant "from his mother's womb."

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