In this section of the Baptist Larger Catechism, we end our discussion of baptism by discussing the proper subjects of baptism. Here, we will see the most clear deviation from the Westminster Larger Catechism. These questions are an extension and expansion of questions 101-102 in the Keach Catechism. The source material for some of these questions come from A Short Catechism About Baptism from John Tombes and the Orthodox Catechism by Hercules Collins. Instead of addressing each individual proof-text that many paedobaptists use to defend paedobaptism, I’ve chosen to answer three basic questions: (1) Were infants baptized in household baptisms? (2) Does baptism replace circumcision? and (3) Why shouldn’t infants of believers be baptized, if they were circumcised in the OT
As before, feel free to comment on the questions below.
Q. 155: Who should be baptized?
A: Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this sacrament.1 The infants of believing parents are not to be baptized because there is neither command nor example in the Holy Scriptures nor necessary consequence from the Scripture to baptism them.
Q. 156: Were not infants baptized when whole households were baptized?
A: For the cases of household baptisms1, it does not appear that there were infants in the homes since the word of the gospel was spoken to the entire household;2 the whole household rejoiced, believing in God;3 and elsewhere the whole house is said to do that which infants could not do.4 Thus, the apostles give no command, example, or inference to baptize the infants of believers.
2. Acts 16:32
3. Acts 16:34
Q. 157: Has not baptism come to replace circumcision and thus, should be administered as it was?
A: Baptism does not replace circumcision, but rather regeneration by the Spirit, the circumcision made without hands (commonly called spiritual circumcision),1 is the proper antitype to circumcision and is the only seal of the covenant of grace.2 Baptism is mentioned with faith as the means whereby we are in Christ, and complete in Him.3 Thus, we should not administer baptism according to the rules of administration for circumcision.
Q. 158: If Abraham’s physical descendants were circumcised under the Old Covenant, why shouldn’t the children of believing parents be baptized under the New Covenant?
A: The children of believers are not Abraham’s true offspring by virtual of physical birth, but only by virtue of faith in Christ.1 We know that the covenant made with Abraham consisted of two parts. In the first part, Abraham’s natural offspring through Isaac constituted the nation of Israel, and through this covenant, God promised the land of Canaan2 and other temporal national blessings, conditioned on circumcision and their obedience to the Law.3 In the second part, Abraham’s spiritual offspring constituted the Church, and through this covenant, God promised eternal life and other spiritual blessings, conditioned only by faith in Christ.4 Therefore, it’s an error to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace (which the Abrahamic covenant typified), and the commonwealth of Israel founded on the first covenant with the Church founded on the second covenant. This implies that the children of believers are not in the covenant of grace by birth, but only by virtue of faith in Christ, and thus, should not receive the sacraments of the covenant.