Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day 27
Question 72: Does this outward washing with water
itself wash away sins?
Answer: No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit
cleanse us from all sins.1
1 Matt. 3:11; 1 Pet. 3:21; 1 John 1:7
Question 73: Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism
the water of rebirth and
the washing away of sins?
Answer: God has good reason for these words.
To begin with, God wants to teach us that
the blood and Spirit of Christ take away our sins
just as water removes dirt from the body.1
But more important,
God wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign,
that we are as truly washed of our sins spiritually
as our bodies are washed with water physically.2
1 1 Cor. 6:11; Rev. 1:5; 7:14
2 Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27
Question 74: Should infants also be baptized?
Infants as well as adults
are included in God’s covenant and people,1
and they, no less than adults, are promised
deliverance from sin through Christ’s blood
and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.2
Therefore, by baptism, the sign of the covenant,
they too should be incorporated into the Christian church
and distinguished from the children
This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,4
which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.5
1 Gen. 17:7; Matt. 19:14
2 Isa. 44:1-3; Acts 2:38-39; 16:31
3 Acts 10:47; 1 Cor. 7:14
4 Gen. 17:9-14
5 Col. 2:11-13
Well, there it is. Should infants also be baptized? It took 27 weeks and 74 questions but there finally comes a question that I can’t agree with. Does this mean I just toss out the Heidelberg because I disagree with 1 out of 129 questions? Of course not. Now, this is not a new debate. John MacArthur has said “This debate has resulted in the death of many trees.” There are a plethora of pages written on the debate between Paedobaptism (Infant baptism) and Credobaptism (Believer’s baptism) and many were written by people on both sides of the issue who are much smarter than me, so I’m not assuming I’m going to change anyone’s mind with a couple hundred words here. I’d like to begin with some common ground between the two sides:
- People on both sides of the debate are trying the best to live in a way that pleases God.
- There is no explicit scriptural evidence for or against infant baptism (There are no infant baptisms recorded in the Bible and there are no verses prohibiting infant baptisms).
- Both sides affirm believer’s baptism (if an unbeliever comes to faith, Paedobaptist will baptize them the same as Credobaptist).
Now, there are people on both sides of this debate whom I greatly respect and who Christ has used to shape and mold my Christian walk. But from time to time there will be disagreements and here are a few reasons why I am unable to agree with question 74:
- Since infant baptism is not mentioned in the Bible, then there is no command to do so. Some may argue that it’s permissible because the Bible doesn’t say we can’t do it, but I feel once we head down that road the slope only gets slipperier. We should hold tightly to Sola Scriptura.
- The New Testament nowhere describes baptism as a sign of the New Covenant. It is faith in Jesus Christ that enables a person to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15).
- There is not a single baptism recorded in the Bible where baptism preceded faith. An infant cannot place his or her faith in Christ and an infant cannot make a conscious decision to obey Christ.
Again, these are just a few reasons why I disagree with infant baptism and I am by no means an expert on the topic. I plead with you, brothers and sisters, to show grace in our disagreements. We must also remember that there is no salvation found in baptismal waters. It does not matter if you were baptized by immersion or sprinkling, as an infant or as an adult, if you have not first trusted in Christ for salvation, all you did was get wet. And while baptism does not bring salvation, it was nonetheless instituted by Christ. It is an important step of obedience for Christians. If you are a professing believer in Christ and have not been baptized yet, I encourage you to take this next step and get with your pastor about being baptized. Rejoice with the believers in your community and as the body of Christ celebrate the salvation only found in Jesus.
*If you’d like to hear more on these two views of baptism, here is a link to a debate between John MacArthur (Credobaptist) and R.C. Sproul (Paedobaptist).
“A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved.” Charles Spurgeon