This Day in Presbyterian History:
The Subjects of Baptism
With no subjects of Presbyterianism available to this writer, we conclude our look at baptism by noting the question and answer of Shorter Catechism 95, which deals with the subject of baptism. It asks, “To whom is Baptism to be administered?” And our Confessional Fathers answer that “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible Church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible Church, are to be baptized.” In other words, both adult baptism and infant baptism are to be practiced by Bible-believing Presbyterians.
Adult baptism is to be administered to those who have confessed their faith in Jesus Christ and joined an evangelical and/or Reformed congregation. Further, they should be those who are walking in the life of that profession in an obedient manner.
This catechism reminds us that church membership is necessary, either before the baptism or after the baptism. That usually includes a series of membership classes in which the faith and life of the local congregation is taught to prospective members. After their appearance before the Session of Elders, in which their profession of faith in given, they, upon certain membership vows, are received into the church. Usually a public profession before the congregation on a Lord’s Day is also presented. This is a happy occasion in the life of any church when God adds to His church in numerical strength.
The second half of this catechism is on a topic which has divided the visible church, namely, that of infant baptism. We do not have the space here to show completely its biblical basis. For that, the reader is invited to ask his/her pastor for this grounds. Suffice it to say, “the infants of such as are members of the visible church, are to be baptized,” is the teaching of all Presbyterian and Reformed churches.
In the book of Acts, where we have the inspired history of the New Testament church, there is no doubt in any one’s mind that we have instances of believer’s baptisms in the inspired record. Cornelius and Crispus in Acts 10 and Acts 18 are clearly a case where the adults believed in the Lord first as Lord and Savior, and were baptized as a result of their profession.
There should likewise be no doubt that infant baptism is clearly taught in Acts 16:14, 15 and in Acts 16:33, 34 where both Lydia and the unnamed jailor believed (and this verb is singular in number in both instances), yet their household was baptized. Paul would not have baptized unsaved adults. But he did baptize some children or infants both upon Lydia’s and the jailor’s saving faith. Surely the Holy Spirit who is the author of this word “believed” may not be charged with carelessness in the exact use of the singular and the plural verb of believe. She believed, he believed, and yet the household was baptized.
Words to live by: There is no greater joy in a pastor’s heart to see believing parents, or even one believing parent, come before the church to take vows regarding the rearing of that child or children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and then enter into the sacrament of baptism for their children. They clearly anticipate the time when these children will recognize their need for a Savior and openly profess Christ as Lord and Savior, thus answering the outward sign and seal taken by their parents long before that time. Pastors will do well to contact the young man or young woman at some point in their physical growth to challenge them to profess faith in Christ, telling them that their parents baptized them in their earlier life with just that in their minds and hearts.
Through the Scriptures: Mark 7 – 10
Through the Standards: Proof Texts of Communion of Saints
1 John 1:3
“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you; so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (ESV)
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (KJV)
“And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities.” (Amplified)