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Vicar’s write 19/20 August 2017

posted 20.08.2017

Infant and Child Baptism

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” … Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Acts 16:31–34.

The conversion of the Philippian jailer is a well known passage of Scripture. As the Baptism Service on 23 Sep 2017 (Sat) approaches, parents of infants and young children might be grappling with decisions such as, “Should I present my child for baptism? Is there a biblical basis for infant baptism?”

I commend to you a personal reflection written by our pastoral worker Glenn and his wife Eliza, on how they came to a decision on whether or not they should bring their 4 month old daughter for baptism :

“Are we going to bring Rylee for baptism?”
Eliza and I mulled over this question for months before our daughter, Rylee, was born. Neither of us were baptised as infants, so this was unfamiliar waters for both of us.

However, as we began to understand more about this historic practice of infant baptism in the Anglican Church, and as we continued to prayerfully discuss with each other, we came to the conclusion that as parents, we would bring Rylee, who will be 5 months old in September, to be baptised as an infant.


Here are our personal reasons that led us to this decision:

1. Being faithful to Scripture
We wanted to be faithful to Scripture in all that we do. We found that the New Testament does not explicitly state whether the apostles and the early Church baptised their infants and young children. The book of Acts, which records the birth of the Church, contains only accounts of the first adult believers coming to faith.

However, as we came to understand the mind of the first believers and biblical writers, we found that it was indeed highly likely that they did baptise their infants and young children. While we today are prone to think in individualistic ways, we understood that biblical writers thought more corporately, with family solidarity key in their approach to faith. It would have been unlikely for them to embrace a faith without committing their children to it as well.

Circumcision, the sign of the old covenant, was given to infants who were incapable of faith, as part of their initiation into the community. Surely, the new and "better covenant" (Heb 7:22; 8:6) sealed in the blood of Christ would not have excluded children! Believers’ children were very likely to have been brought for baptism to be made members of the Church, as whole households turned to Christ.

2. In Baptism, a child becomes a member of the Church
Our Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles state that it is through Baptism that a person is made a member of the Church. Since Rylee was going to be raised and discipled as part of the community of faith here in SJC, we felt it was only appropriate that she be baptised and welcomed as a member of this community.

The Articles also teach that Baptism is a visible sign and seal of the promises of forgiveness of sin and adoption as children of God—the very promises of the Gospel! It became a great source of encouragement that in Baptism, Rylee would receive the sign of these promises. In time to come, Rylee would have to receive these gifts by faith, as her faith is developed and grown through the teaching she will receive from the family of Christ here in SJC.

How reassuring it is that we are able to treat our daughter as a real, legitimate member of God’s community of faith—the Church. We can bring her up in the faith and as part of this community until the time when she can personally profess faith in Christ for herself.


3. Baptism communicates God’s sovereign grace.
We were also impacted by how Infant Baptism clearly communicated the heart of the Gospel. Jesus said in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you”. Our baby daughter is helpless and incapable of fending for herself, but in baptism God in His grace makes Her part of His Church and offers her the promises of forgiveness and reconciliation through His Son Jesus Christ. What a beautiful picture of God’s sovereign grace at work in salvation and regeneration. Our God is faithful to His promises!

Eliza and I are looking forward to bringing Rylee for Baptism on 23 September; as her parents, this is also our commitment to bringing her up in the faith.

 

Let me add some brief thoughts to help our parents reflect:

While Scripture does not specifically mention children being baptized, it also does not prohibit infant baptism. “The Didache” meaning the teaching of the twelve apostles, is a document dated to the 1st or 2nd century. In there, the different forms of baptism were prescribed including sprinkling. By the 2nd century it was clear that infant baptism was practiced in the early church. Although there were objections raised by Tertullian, other church fathers like Cyprian defended the practice.

Perhaps it is good to take a step back and find some common ground. Firstly, baptism is not a means of salvation (Acts 4:12) and secondly, we are all saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus alone (Eph 2:8-9). Thirdly, faith like our knowledge of God is first God’s gift of grace and then our human response (Luke 10:22). Hence, like the Jewish rite of circumcision, infant baptism is a sign of covenant initiation and not a means of salvation. As Glenn shared, he and Eliza present Rylee to “bring her up in the faith and as part of this community until the time when she can personally profess faith in Christ for herself”. Also, don’t divorce Baptism from Confirmation; from age 14, those baptized as children must declare in their own person that they have received God’s gift of faith and trust in Jesus alone who saves.

Whether you are considering presenting your child for baptism or were baptized as a child and not yet confirmed, may God lead you to make a decision to be baptised / confirmed as you receive His grace given freely.

 
 
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