STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard Van Horn
Q. 95. To Whom is baptism to be administered?
A. 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.
Scripture References: Acts 8:36; Acts 2:38-39; I Cor. 7:14; Ephesians 2:12 (See verses below).
1. Is it Scriptural to administer baptism to all people?
A. No, only those who are members of the visible church, who are part of the covenant, are eligible.
2. How can infants be baptized, an infant who cannot repent and believe and thus become a member of the visible church?
A. Our Larger Catechism teaches us that the visible church is made up of “all such as profess the true religion, and their children.”
3. Can you explain, in outline form, the proof that infants should be baptized?
A. The following steps are involved and it should be kept in mind that these steps are simply motivators for your own study in this important doctrine:
—1. When you consider infant baptism you are basing your belief on what we call “Covenant Theology” for the practice of infant baptism is vitally related to the covenant of grace.
—2. The infant must be the child of a believing parent (or parents) in order to be considered part of the covenant (I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:38-39).
—3. God established a covenant of grace with Abraham and this covenant included children (Gen. 17:7, 11-12).
—4. The covenant of the Old Testament and the covenant of the New Testament are substantially the same and God promised it would be an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7; Gal. 3:13; Rom. 4:3).
—5. The rite of circumcision symbolized salvation in the Old Testament and it was the sign of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Baptism in the New Testament symbolized the same. (Gen. 17; Deut. 10; Rom. 4; Col. 2:11-12).
—6. God’s people, because of the teachings just mentioned, are bound to put the sign of the covenant upon themselves and their children.
A RIGHTLY USED SACRAMENT
Many times, in churches subscribing to Reformed doctrine, the sacrament of baptism is taken too lightly. Too many parents are guilty of an attitude of thinking their task is done when they have their child baptized.
Too many churches give themselves a pious pat on the back when another child is baptized and feel that their task is completed. The sacrament of baptism is used in the wrong way so many times.
It is good for us once in a while to review our beliefs about a particular doctrine. In regard to baptism, we need to be reminded again and again that a person may be saved without it and a person may be lost even with it. We do not believe in the necessity of baptism for salvation. We do think it is a sin to neglect it. Here we need to review what our Confession states regarding it: “. . . it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance.” Again, “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred, by the Holy Ghost. . .”
John Murray put it well when he said, “To suppose that we may entertain any confidence respecting the covenant grace signified and sealed by our baptism, if we are destitute of godly fear, if we break God’s covenant, and walk contrary to his commandments, would be contradiction.”
God help us to use this sacrament in the correct way!
Published by The Shield and Sword, Inc.
Dedicated to instruction in the Westminster Standards for use as a bulletin insert or other methods of distribution in Presbyterian churches.
Vol. 6, No. 11 (November 1967)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor.