Infant baptism is rooted in understanding the nature of the covenant God made with Abraham. The covenant promise was spiritual in nature; hence this covenant continued through to the New Testament. Only the sign of the covenant changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament; namely, from circumcision to baptism.

5 pages.

The Seed of Abraham

Part of the our form for the Baptism of Infants states: “In the new dispensation no less than the old, the seed of the faithful, born within the church, have, by virtue of their birth, interest in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church. For the covenant of grace is the same in substance under both dispensations.”

As Reformed, covenantal believers, we believe that our children, including infants, must be baptized because they are included in the covenant of God established already with Abraham and, therefore, are also heirs of all the promises of salvation.

The question naturally arises: Why are children included in the covenant of God? The answer to this question must be: Because God establishes His covenant in the line of continued generations. There is only one people of God throughout the ages, both in the Old and New Testaments, which is the true seed of Abraham. It is imperative that we see and understand this.

The main reason why so many people reject the baptism of infants is that they fail to recognize the scriptural truth that the people of God are one and the same throughout all ages and that the same grace is given and the same covenant is established with them and with their children throughout their generations, both in the Old and New Testaments. All are saved in and through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross; those in the Old Testament as they looked forward to it and as all their sacrifices and ceremonies foreshadowed; those in the New Testament as they look back and celebrate the now completed sacrifice and atonement of Christ.

Those who reject infant baptism fail to see this truth. According to them there are two peoples of God, two different seeds of Abraham: the Jews and the church, or natural Israel and spiritual Israel. The Jews, they say, are the real and natural Israel, with special privileges, a special promise, a separate covenant for them only, and a special future. For them is meant earthly Jerusalem, earthly Mount Zion, the earthly throne of David, the earthly temple, the earthly land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. It is for this reason that we see so much religious support for modern day Israel. They are and will be the real and true Israel forever, the proper seed of Abraham. But believers in the New Testament are called the seed of Abraham in a different sense, i.e., a figurative or spiritual sense, and have no covenantal connection with Old Testament Israel. The church of the New Testament is a temporary interruption, a parenthesis, if you will, with different laws and a different way of salvation. When this period is finished, God will resume with His Old Testament people.

The Word of God knows of only one seed of Abraham: the spiritual seed, the elect, the children of the promise. This is true of both the Old and New Testaments. It is wrong to say that, in the Old Testament the Jews were the seed of Abraham, while in the New Testament, believers are this seed. THE JEWS, PER SE, NEVER WERE THE SEED OF ABRAHAM! For a time the seed of Abraham was found among the line of his descendants as they are now found among all nations. Scripture never states that Abraham’s blood descendants are the same as Abraham’s seed. Rather, the seed of Abraham or children of the promise are first, at all times, only the believers! In Old Testament times they were found among the generations of Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). In the New Testament they are found among all nations, there no longer being any difference between Jew and Gentile. Wherever they are found, the children of the promise, named after Abraham as the father of believers, are always the true children of God. Believers, believers only, are the seed of Abraham. Scriptural proof is abundant, and that from one who was himself a Jew, though a converted one, and one who wished himself accursed if only his fellow Jews would become believers. I am referring to the apostle Paul who writes the following:

“…I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

Romans 9:2-8

From the above passage, three things are clear:

  1. The apostle Paul is speaking of the Jews in the Old Testament.
  2. Paul makes a distinction between those that are OF Israel and those that ARE Israel indeed. The people as such, the nation, were all OF Israel; but even in the Old Testament that was not true Israel. They were indeed all of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh; yet they were not all the true, spiritual seed.
  3. Only spiritual Israel or believers, they that were born not of the flesh, but of the promise as was Isaac (a special creation and choice of God), are counted for the seed.

Therefore, when the Lord speaks of the seed of Abraham, one must not make the mistake of applying the Word of God to the Jews as such. It does not mean the Jews, but only true Israel, the children of the promise: for they only are the seed of Abraham. Thus, all the Jews never were the seed the Abraham, although, for a time, the seed of Abraham were Jews, but only secondarily. Primarily, the seed were always believers. Again, hear the apostle Paul:

And [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. …Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.  

Romans 4:11-13, 16

In the above passage, Abraham is pictured as the father of all them that believe both those that are of the circumcision, which would mean the Jews, and of those that are of the uncircumcision, which would mean those of all nations. Thus, once again, believers are the seed of Abraham.

Note, too, that not all those of the circumcision are the true seed of Abraham, but only those among them that also believe. For he is “the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being uncircumcised” (vs.12). In other words, just the mere act of circumcision didn’t guarantee you were the true seed. There had to be true faith like that of Abraham.

And, finally, note that to this one seed there is one and the same promise: that, with their father Abraham, they should be heirs of the world. There is one father, Abraham, one seed of Abraham, one promise, and one way to obtain the promise, i.e., the way of righteousness which is by faith in Christ Jesus.

Continuing with the apostle Paul:

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Romans 2:28,29

This passage speaks for itself. It teaches plainly that the mere Jew was never the seed of Abraham and was never a real Jew. Only he was a real Israelite in whose heart faith was present. The Jews, as such, are not the seed of Abraham. They never were. Only believers, those of faith, are.

The apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians provides further proof:

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. …Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ. …For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:7-9,16,26-29

Here is, I believe, the clearest statement of the unity of the people of God in both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle teaches that, essentially and centrally, the seed of Abraham is Christ. This becomes especially clear in verse 16 where the singular seed is used: “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The seed of Abraham finds its focal point, its unity in Christ. And if Christ is the seed of Abraham in the central sense, it stands to reason that they only can be seed with Christ that are in Christ, whether they be of the Old or New Testament. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (vs 7). Once again, only believers are the seed of Abraham.

The entire passage emphasizes that there is only one promise for the one seed of Abraham, and that therefore believers are the only heirs of the one promise: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (vs 29).

Christ, himself, declared, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Believers, Abraham’s seed, were chosen “in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

The Word of God teaches that there is only one people of God; that this seed is called the seed of Abraham in Christ; that the seed of Abraham is neither the Jews as such, nor the Gentiles as such, but believers, those of faith. And thus, the unity of the church of all ages is firmly and surely established. The people of God have always been one in both the Old and New Testaments.

Now, finally, we must take the next step, i.e., the defense of infant baptism, by showing that there is also essentially only one sign of the covenant made with Abraham, but that it merely changed in form. In the Old Testament it was circumcision; in the New Testament it is baptism; the meaning of both is the same.

Circumcision was the cutting away of the foreskin of all male children. Under representative headship, the female children were included in the male. Figuratively and spiritually, circumcision was a sign of the righteousness which is by faith, a circumcision of the heart, of the cutting away of the old man of sin, of love for God out of a new heart, of being separated or set apart unto God. The spiritual meaning of this sign is clearly stated in Deuteronomy 30:6:

And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayst live.

Thus we see that circumcision is a sign of the same grace that is designated in baptism. Both have the same meaning, though they differ in form. Concerning baptism we read: “Repent, and be baptized every one of your in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38, 39). Baptism, too, is the sign for the “cutting away” or the washing away of sin and of the righteousness which is by faith.

Circumcision belonged to the times of types and shadows when blood had to be shed to signify the great, once-for-all shedding of the blood of Christ. The foreskin was cut and blood was shed. But now, since the great, once-for-all sacrifice has been made and the final blood shed for sins, circumcision had to make room for the unbloody sign, baptism, as the sign of fulfillment. Instead of blood, water, an unbloody sign, is used to point back to the shed blood of Christ which alone cleanses from sin. Thus, baptism has come in the place of circumcision, although both signs have essentially the same meaning and signify the same cleansing, i.e., through the blood of Christ. Thus we read in Colossians 2:11 & 12, where both are brought together: “In whom [Christ] also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (His shed blood): Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

Now those opposed to infant baptism also believe that baptism is a sign and seal of the righteousness by faith, of forgiveness of sin, and of regenerating grace. However, it may be administered only to those whom we know to be believers, i.e., to those who confess faith, who have come to the years of discretion and understanding (Thus, the designation: “Believer’s Baptism). But this contradicts the Scriptures, for what is argued against infant baptism must then also be argued against infant circumcision. Yet the circumcision of infants is directly commanded by the Lord upon the seed of Abraham in their generations:

And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in thy house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Genesis 17:12

Today, the seed of the faithful, born within the church, are also the seed of Abraham. As infants in the Old Testament were included in the covenant and circumcised, so today infants are baptized because God establishes that covenant in the line of continued generations for an everlasting covenant. “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Genesis 17:7). “For the promise is to you, and to your children (the believers, the church), and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Lydia and the Philippian jailor were among those “afar off” whom the Lord called. He establishes His covenant with them and the sign of the covenant, baptism, is administered to them and their households (seed): “And when she [Lydia] was baptized, and her household, she besought us saying . . . And he [jailor] took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:15,33). And thus a new line of continued generations has begun, and now, in time, their children would baptize their children!

There always has and always will be but one people of God: those with whom He establishes His everlasting covenant of grace in Christ: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

In conclusion, infant baptism is not an absolute guarantee that every infant in the covenant is elect. There are children and parents that never really receive the blessing of the promise and, who trample under foot the covenant of God. They are covenant breakers, and they have caused many to react against the covenant as well as the inclusion of children in that covenant by baptism. However, the abuse of the covenant and its sign does not invalidate the covenant and its sign. This was so in the Old Testament and within the nation of Israel. All Israel experienced the deliverance of God and His provisions in the wilderness; they all received the law and message of the prophets; they all offered sacrifices at the altar; yet, with many God was not well-pleased. There were the true children and the false who despised God’s covenant and trampled under foot the holy things of God. Yet, it was the will of God that ALL receive the sign of circumcision (cf. the apostle’s Paul’s lament in Romans 9:1-5).

It is no different in the New Testament. Many people in the church today have received baptism in their infancy as the sign of the covenant and were recipients of its privileges, i.e., exposure to biblical teaching from early childhood, catechization, hearing the Word of God preached, even celebrating the death of Christ at the Lord’s table. Yet, in their hearts they despise the things of God. They are hypocrites, the whited sepulchers, just as the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day (cf. Matthew 23:27,28). They said: “We have Abraham to our Father” (Matthew 3:9). But, as we have already seen, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” Neither are they children of God because they are of Abraham’s natural seed.

Only true believers are the true seed of Abraham, and to them and to their seed is the promise (covenant) of grace. Of them it may be said as it was of Abraham:

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

Genesis 18:19

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