To the Teacher..
One difficulty I have with the answers you have provided to date, is that the acceptance of the majority of them hinges on the belief that baptism is the new circumcision, the sign of the new covenant. While believing this already, I suppose it would seem an open and shut case on all points. However, I cannot as yet say that I have been nearly convinced that this is the case. Will you bear with me while I explain?
In the OT, much of what was deemed of a spiritual nature, was represented physically. Repentance, cleanliness, covenants, worship etc, all had a physical sense to it, a physical act or representation. The presence of God was physically in the temple, and in the ark of the covenant, there were endless specifications for the building of the temple, all symbolic of something.
The requirements of the law were also based in the physical, compared to the NT. To illustrate;
- Under law, you must not murder, yet under grace, the requirement expands in difficulty and moves to the spiritual – you must not harbor hatred toward a brother, as this is now “murder in your heart“.
- Under law, you must not commit adultery, under grace, again, it is expanded and more difficult, more personally exacting – you must not look at a woman with lust, or you have committed “adultery in your heart”.
The physical requirements have changed into “heart” or “spiritual” requirements. Likewise, I see that in the verse that says , ” In whom 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”, that it is a circumcision made without hands and that it is an expansion of the mere physical requirement.
While once a physical sign would suffice, now a spiritual sign is required. I believe after careful reading, that the circumcision made without hands is actually regeneration. As the verse continues, we are, “putting off the body of the sins by the circumcision of Christ”. I then conclude that repentance and regeneration is the new covenant, and that baptism is a sign of those two things.
This brings me to John’s baptism. John came specifically with a “baptism of repentance”. Now I don’t pretend for a minute to understand what exactly that was all about. Nor do I understand how Jesus being baptized by John was a fulfillment of all righteousness. But the fact that John’s baptism was called the baptism of repentance makes me think that the idea of baptism being specifically about repentance may not be so far off, though as I said, I freely admit to being mystified about John’s baptism calling, and Jesus’ own baptism.
A point you mentioned about mothers bringing infants to Jesus to bless in Luke seems to me (and I am saying this gently, I completely accept that you are a much more learned person than myself so please read my words remembering that I am a small, uneducated, not very imposing person in real life!) but it seems to be through the filter of a prior belief, more so than a natural deduction. It would seem we agree that they were bringing infants to Jesus to bless – no argument there. We also agree that infants belong to the kingdom of God – absolutely! But where we part company is on the implications of those two facts, and the scope of their meaning.
I believe that all infants, both those of believers and non-believers belong to the kingdom of heaven. Although they are born in sin, they have not reached an age to consciously rebel against God. When David’s Absolom died, he mourned long, as Absolom had died in rebellion. When the baby of Bathsheba died, even though it was conceived in sin, (and David demonstrates his love of the infant by his petitioning day and night for it’s life) he says’ when it finally dies, “He cannot come to me; I’ll go to him.” This shows me that David was confident that his baby would be in heaven.
Job also in chapter 3 shows that he was confident that had he died an infant, he would now be at rest. You may argue that he was a believer, and maybe all believer’s babies go to heaven, but babies that were offered to Molech are referred to in the prophets as “the slaughter of the innocents.” And surely God would not refer to them as “the innocents” if they were going to hell, as a result of having unbelieving, pagan parents. When God spoke to Jonah, He asked him would he have Him slaughter 120,000 people who don’t know their right hand from their left. God considered them innocent children, even though they were from heathen parents.
So this indicates to me that all children are God’s. It would appear when using that verse to substantiate infant baptism, that you assume that all people who bought babies to Jesus to bless were believers. (now that’s me making an assumption of what you believe from what I have read, I could be wrong) But I don’t see that it is stated anywhere that they were all believers. It seems to me that Jesus didn’t differentiate when He healed and blessed.
Certainly He mentioned the woman with the issue of blood as having great faith, and the centurian who had a sick daughter, but others He simply had compassion on them. We see that 9 out of 10 lepers didn’t so much as come back to say thank you, which suggests to me that they were a long way from being disciples, but were (like many today) just looking to see what they can get out of it. My (long, drawn out) point being that I have seen the verse about Jesus blessing babies used in many of the arguments I have read for infant baptism, but that seems to only work if you already believe in infant baptism, as a critical examination of the verse doesn’t seem to offer any specific support for the idea.
My last question is one I don’t really know how to check, so I rely on your honesty and accountability before God. You have said that immersion is not the method of the NT. You have also said that the only mention is the word “Baptize” and that it is not definitively used for immersion. In my reading I have come across someone differentiating between the word “rantizo” meaning to sprinkle, and “baptizo” meaning to immerse or dip. It mentioned verses in Leviticus where both words were used in the same sentence, one being to dip the finger into something, the other to sprinkle blood on something.
The article stated that these words were not interchangeable, that without doubt, the meaning of the word baptizo is to immerse. The only verse which brings it into question, (which I did read in William the Baptist) , is the one about the couch. As to the hand washing, before taps and running water, hand washing would have been by immersion. (when I was in Vietnam, this was the method of hand washing, dipping into a bucket of water) as to the couch reference, the article made the point (and here again I have no idea how to check these things) that the verse is contended with regards to it’s inclusion in some scripts, also that even should it’s validity be without question, the meaning should be established by the many irrefutable references, and a question over the one verse, not the other way around.
I have also read that in the time of the translation of the King James, that the scholars desired to be faithful to the text, but that the practice of the church at the time was to sprinkle. Therefore to avoid the difficulty, they simply left the Greek word (baptize, previously not used in English) rather than write contrary to scripture, or place themselves in a difficult position with the church. I have no idea how to find out if this is true.
I hope you understand that my reluctance to come around to the position of paedobaptist is not a mere holding of my former position for the sake of it, but a need for very close examination of all I have seen and heard.