Dear radio friends,
Most gladly today would I explain the meaning of the baptism of the children of believers, what is called “infant baptism.” Although we believe that this biblical truth is clearly and simply taught in the Scriptures, we also realize that it has been a matter of great dispute in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we wish to give a testimony of this wonderful truth.
The water of Christian baptism is a sign of, or represents, as we know, the blood of Jesus Christ, which alone can wash away our sins. The water of baptism itself does not wash away sins. The water that is used is ordinary water. It is not water that the elders of the church have prayed over. It is simply water. That water represents or points to the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed upon the cross. We read in Acts 22:16 these words spoken to the newly converted Paul: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Paul was to be baptized as a sign that his sins were washed away. In the water of baptism? No, as a sign of the blood of Christ. I John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Jesus Christ has appointed water, sprinkled, as a sign and an oath that He has washed away all the sins of God’s elect.
But now we ask the question, Why children? Specifically, Why are the children of believing parents to be baptized? Is that some type of dedication? Some power to descend upon them? Are we saying that if they are baptized they have a better chance for salvation? Or is it something by which Christians superstitiously believe they will have the power to keep the devil away from their children?
No, the answer is: Because Jesus Christ shed His blood no less for the infants of His covenant than for the adults of that covenant. The answer is: the water of baptism represents the blood of the everlasting covenant of God.
Upon the cross Jesus Christ took away the sins of all of God’s elect. These elect, according to God’s own covenant promise, are born among the children of believers. Not exclusively. That is, the elect people of God sometimes come out of unbelieving homes. And not all the children that are born to believers are necessarily elect. But the truth is that God works salvation in families. God works His salvation in the generation of believers. Baptism is a sign of God’s covenant. It is a sign that God has drawn us into the house of His fellowship and love through the cleansing blood of His Son, and that He will work this grace also with the children born to believing parents. We do not baptize, then, to save them. But we baptize because on the cross Jesus paid with His own blood for all the sins of God’s chosen, whom He saves also among the children of believers.
The passage of Scripture that I would like to use for our remaining time today to illustrate the truth of infant baptism is Exodus 12:13. We read these words of Moses on the very evening in which Israel was brought out of Egypt. He said, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” The tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, was about to fall upon Egypt. Jehovah Himself had announced that He would march through the streets of Egypt that night (not just His angel). He had said, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast.” God came down among men girded with a sword of justice – to slay. But His children were saved. For He had instructed that over each of their homes, that is, over the doorposts of each of the homes of the children of Israel, they were to brush the blood of a lamb that they had slain. And He said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” Each family in Israel had taken an unblemished lamb. They had caught the blood of that lamb in a basin. And the head of the household had taken a bunch of hyssop soaked in that blood and brushed it over the doorpost and over the top post of the door.
That was figurative. It was a figure of the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life in the place of His people. Substitutionary – He died the death that they deserved. And He did so on the cross. In His death and blood they are cleansed and freed. They are pardoned. But that blood that He shed covers not only the adult believer. It was a blood shed to cover households. Also the elect children born in believing homes are covered by the blood of the everlasting covenant.
That was a very powerful sign when Moses instructed the Israelites to strike the doorposts and the upper posts of their doors with the blood of the lamb. It was a sign that taught us that we of ourselves as believers also deserve eternal death and punishment for our sins according to the justice of God. Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had hardened his heart. To Moses’ demand that he let the people of Israel go, Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” The holy and just God who had already poured out nine plagues upon Egypt already would, in the tenth plague, reveal the sentence that awaits all who stand in defiance of Him. Death. Not simply physical death, but that eternal death of which Jesus spoke and according to which the body and soul are cast into hell. But God that night passed over the huts and little shacks of the children of Israel because He saw the blood, the blood which pointed ahead to the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the sacrificial lamb.
Therefore, in baptism, we are confessing (3) that we believe we are safe in Christ, we are covered in His blood. Of ourselves we would be defenseless and exposed. But under the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ, we shall not die, but we shall live.
That, then, is a very powerful sign that God gives. And that is a wonderful gospel. Also in Christian baptism God is declaring through the gospel, “when I see the blood of Christ I will pass over you.” Let us emphasize that for a moment, shall we? Nothing but the blood of Christ.
Could some foolish Israelite that night have said, “Well, I will put something else on my doorpost – some fresh paint.” Or, “I will post on my doorpost the jewels of gold and silver.” Or, “I will bring the work of my hands and carve my doorposts and show God my wonderful skills and when He sees the fresh paint and the jewels of gold and the works of my hands, He will pass over me and will not judge me for my sins.” Could he say that? If he had been so foolish as to say that, the firstborn in his house would have died. Nothing could save but the sprinkled blood of Jesus Christ!
We read in I Corinthians 3, “Other foundation can no man lay; but that which is laid, Christ Jesus.” We read in Acts 4, “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Not by your works, not by your tears, not by your prayers, not by the prayers of the departed saints, nothing but the blood of Jesus! That alone has the power to save. It is all-sufficient. And we love to proclaim it.
But we need to move on. I want to point out to you that that sign of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ was applied to households. It was a covenant sign that the blood of Jesus Christ represented in baptism is the blood of the everlasting covenant ( Heb. 13). Now, what does that mean? It means that Jesus suffered and died to establish the household of God. Salvation is not simply an individual, unrelated thing, so that each Christian is like a hermit, off by himself. Jesus died to establish the house of God, the fellowship of God, a fellowship that would be continued from generation to generation in the way of parents instructing their children in the truths of Jehovah. The blood of Jesus Christ was given for the covenant and, therefore, for the children of God’s covenant born to believers. That blood of Jesus Christ covers them as well. Though they too are born in their sin and are subject to all miseries, even to condemnation itself, yet it pleases God out of them to choose His own and to cover them in the blood of Jesus Christ. And the blood, said Moses, shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are.
What grace this is. What mercy this is. God promises to work the power of the cleansing blood of Christ within the families of believers in whom dwells the Spirit of Christ, so that they will be faithful and bring up their children in the way of the covenant. The power to wash children is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. As believing parents we confess that we brought them into this life covered with sin, conceived in sin, even as we are. But God, according to His rich mercy, gave His Son for the washing away of my sins. And God also says in His covenant, “I will use you as a believing parent. And I will bring out of you my children, for whom Christ has also given His blood. I will be a God to you and to your children after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you.”
When you hear that, then, as a believing parent, you fall on your knees, for God has spoken to us of great things. And He has promised to work also within our children, calling them to faith and repentance. This is all of grace.
But then also you respond with a holy diligence. What faithfulness must be ours as Christian parents to love our children in Christ and to bring them up in the name of the Lord. We must point them to the cross as all of their salvation and call them to repent and follow the Lord. Then also we remember that all of our efforts as parents to protect and to shield and to care for our children will be of no avail. It is the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. When God sees that, when He sees the blood that Christ has shed for all those elected to be part of His covenant, then we may know that nothing can enter in to destroy.
So we have assurance, great assurance, in baptism. Baptism is not only a sign but baptism is also an assurance, a seal. The word “token” that Moses used, “this shall be a token of the everlasting covenant,” refers also to a pledge of truth. Baptism is not an empty, insignificant thing, merely a thing that we happen to do. But God, in baptism, is in earnest. God means what He says. He says, “I swear an oath, I swear by Myself. When I see the blood of Christ upon all My own, I pass over them. I see no condemnation in them.”
Not only is it a matter of reassurance, but it is, therefore, also a call to a new and holy life. When the Israelites struck the blood upon the side posts of their door and upon the top post, what were they saying? They were saying, “The people who live in this house shall be free.” They had been slaves, but now they are redeemed in the blood of the lamb. They are going out tomorrow morning from bondage. And old Pharaoh and all his army cannot hold them in. That is what the blood of Jesus Christ means to us. That is what your baptism says. It calls you to a new and holy life so that you say, in the words of Psalm 116, “Oh Lord, I am thy servant. Thou hast loosed my bonds out of the iron furnace, breaking all of my chains of sin, delivering me from the lash, redeeming me and freeing me.” That is what the blood of Christ has done. We now belong to our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. We are His servants. We are no more the servants of sin to do its will. We are no more the lackeys of the world. We are no more the servants of lust and all the uncleanness that would rage in our flesh. But we are the Lord’s free men and free women, free boys and free girls. Our life is for Him. Our body is for Him because He hath redeemed us with His blood.
Therefore, we are called to walk in the light. We must not trample the blood of Christ. The blood that the Israelite was to brush upon his doorposts was upon the side post and upon the top post, but not on the threshold, not on the floorboard. They were not to walk on it. They were not to trample it. To trample the blood of Christ, to consider the blood of Christ a worthless thing, what punishment shall come for that! To trample that blood means to say, “I am not interested in a holy life that Jesus dies to earn for me. I’d rather be in the palaces of Egypt and in the pleasures of the world of sin.” God forbid that we should say that. Rather, also in our baptism as Christians and the baptism of the infants of believers, we confess that we are sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is our desire to walk in a new and holy life in repentance and holiness, faith in Jesus Christ.
May God then give to you and to me to trust in nothing but the blood of Christ. It washes away our sins. And may He give us to see that the blood of Christ is the everlasting covenant shed for believers and their spiritual children born within their homes.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that it may be a blessing to our hearts. Amen.