XLII. HOLY BAPTISM
`Go ye therefore, and make disciples * of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.' -- Matt. 28:19
`He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.' -- Mark. 26:16
In these words of the institution of baptism, we find its meaning comprehended as in a summary. The word `teach' means: `make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them.' The believing disciple, as he is baptized in the water, is also to be baptized or introduced into the name of the Three-One God. By the name of the Father, the new birth and life as a child in the love of the Father are secured to him: (Gal. 3:26,27; 4:6,7) by the name of the Son, participation in the forgiveness of sins and the life that is in Christ: (Col. 2:12) by the name of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling and progressive renewal of the Spirit. (Tit. 2:5,6) And every baptized believer must always look upon baptism as his entrance into a covenant with the Three-One God, and as a pledge that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will in course of time do for him all that they have promised. It requires a life-long study to know and enjoy all the blessing that is presented in baptism.
In other passages of Scripture the thrice two-fold blessing is again set forth separately: thus we find bound up with it the new birth required to make a child of God. `Except a man be born of water and the Sprit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' The baptized disciple has in God a Father, and he has to live as a child in the love of this Father. (John 3:3,5)
Then, again, baptism is brought more directly into connection with the redemption that is in Christ. Consequently, the first and simplest representation of it is the forgiveness or washing away of sins. Forgiveness is always the gateway or entrance into all blessing: hence baptism is also the sacrament of the beginning of the Christian life; but of a beginning that is maintained through the whole life. It is on this account that in Rom. 6 baptism is represented as the secret of the whole of sanctification, the entrance into a life in union with Jesus. `Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?' And then follows in verse 4-11, the more precise explanation of what it is to be baptized into the death of Jesus, and to arise out of this with Him for a new life in Him. This is elsewhere very powerfully comprehended in this one word: `As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.' This alone is the right life of a baptized disciple: he has put on Christ. (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12) As one is plunged into water and passes under it, so is the believing confessor baptized into the death of Christ, in order then to live and walk clothed with the new life of Christ.
And there are other passages where again there is connected with baptism the promise of the Spirit, not only as the Spirit of regeneration, but as the gift bestowed from heaven upon believers for indwelling and sealing, for progressive renewal. `He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out upon us richly.' Renewal is here the activity of the Spirit, whereby the new life that is planted in the new birth penetrates our whole being, so that all our thinking and doing is sanctified by Him. (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23; Tit. 2:5,6)
And all this rich blessing which lies in baptism is received by faith. `He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.' Baptism was not only a confession on man's part of the faith that he who would be a disciple already had, but equally on God's part a seal for the confirmation of faith, a covenant token in which the whole treasury of grace lay open, to be enjoyed throughout life. As often as a baptized believer sees a baptism administered, or reflects upon it, it is to be to him an encouragement to press by an over-growing faith into the full life of salvation that the Three-One desires to work in him. The Holy Spirit is given to appropriate within us all the love of the Father and all the grace of the Son. The believing candidate for baptism is baptized into the death of Christ, has put on Christ: the Holy Spirit is in him to give him all this as his daily experience. (Eph. 4:14,15; Col 2:16)
Lord God, make Thy holy baptism always operative in my soul as the experience that I am baptized into the death of Christ. And let Thy people everywhere understand by Thy Spirit what rich blessing lies thrown open in the baptism of their children. Amen.
And what are we now to think of Infant Baptism? With the assurance that those who cleave only to God's word, namely, the Baptists, will say to us: You cannot adduce a single passage in Scripture where the baptism of little children is spoken of.
Our answer is that this is thoroughly taught us in Scripture, not indeed by separate texts, but by its whole tenor. The reason why the Lord Jesus did not name children specially, was that this was altogether unnecessary. From the time of Abraham onwards God had engrained it in His people, that in His covenant He always reckoned parents and children together. He deals, not with separate individuals alone, but with households: the faith of a father held good for the child, so long as the child did not violate the covenant.
a. In Abraham, Isaac obtained part; in every father amongst the people of Israel his child obtained part in the covenant between Me and thee, and thy seed after thee, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee.' (Gen. 17:7.)
b. Even so in connection with the Passover, it was ordained that, when a stranger would join the people, all his males should be circumcised. (Ex. 12:48)_ Up to the time of Christ it was unquestionably the case that, when any one belonged to the people of God or desired to become attached to them, his little children were received along with him. If the Lord had desired to change this, a very express injunction was needed for the purpose.
c. How expressly did the Lord Jesus declare of children: `Of such is the kingdom of God.' And under the kingdom should he not have as a Christian the privilege that he had as a Jew? Yes: the covenant of Abraham is still confirmed from child to child.
d. The answer of Paul to the goal-keeper confirms the continuance of what God had instituted: `Believe in the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' Although there were no children in that house, this promise confirms the principle that God deals, not merely with individuals, but with households.
e. `Therefore are your children holy.' Since the child itself is holy, it has of itself a right to the holy token of the covenant.
* The Dutch version, like our Authorized, has `teach' here.