Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s. (WSC 94)

The Visible Church

  1. The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, comprises the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
  2. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel, (not confined to one nation, as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ; the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. (WCF XXV. I-II)

Baptism is appointed for the solemn admission of the one who is baptized into the visible church, which is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. As such, it should ordinarily be administered in the presence of the worshipping community. It is appropriate that the privileges and responsibilities of church membership be emphasized in connection with the administration of baptism.

Sign of the Covenant

It was a “sign” because the physical act was just the cutting of flesh. Its meaning and significance were given to it by the Lord, who said, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. … This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between me and your descendants after you, every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen.17:7,10). “This is My covenant” must mean “this signifies My covenant” since God’s covenant with His people did not consist merely in the cutting off of foreskins (similar to our Lord’s saying of bread and wine, “This is My body … this is My blood …”), but in promises and demands all summed up in “I will be God to you and to your descendants after you.” This Covenant is not just a Covenant with the Nation of Israel, but a covenant that points to Christ. This everlasting covenant continues in the New Testament; in the form of baptism. Galatians 3:7-29—”Understand that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…. [Christ] redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit…. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

The wording of this promise continues into the New Testament, “ And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:11-14).

Presbyterians believe that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of God’s covenant with His people. According to the Old Testament, circumcision is the sign of the covenant. The New Testament would point to baptism as the sign of the covenant. The Bible never connected circumcision of the flesh with salvation. God called his people to circumcise their hearts (Deut. 10:16, cf. Acts 7:51). God has never saved people through their own works, only through the works of Christ given through faith (Rom 4:13).

 “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).

Cf. Matt. 28:18-19; Acts 2:38, 15:5-29; I Cor. 7:18; Col. 2:11-12

Administration of the Sacrament

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. (WSC 95)

Baptism of Adults

Those who desire to commit their lives to Christ, and enter communicant membership in Christ’s Church, and who have not been baptized, should receive the sacrament of baptism. Before the sacrament is administered, such persons should receive instruction concerning the meaning of the sacrament, the nature of the Church and the Christian faith, and the privileges and obligations attendant upon membership in the Church.

When adults with an infant or young children come to faith and receive baptism for themselves, it is appropriate for the children to be baptized, being now children of the covenant because of at least one parent’s faith.

Baptism of Children

In the sacrament of baptism, they are acknowledged to be members of the household and family of God. God’s name and claim are placed upon them, and His covenant promises and demands are signed and sealed. It is thus the responsibility of parents to present their children for baptism at an early age. It is likewise the responsibility of sessions to encourage parents to present their children for baptism.

Parents of Children

It is desirable that a minister, before baptizing a child, engage in instructions and discussion with the parents, to acquaint them with the covenant responsibilities which are laid upon them.

Questions for parents:

  1. Do you acknowledge your child’s need for the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do you claim God’s covenant promises in (his) behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for (his) salvation, as you do for your own?
  3. Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before (him) a godly example, that you will pray with and for (him), that you will teach (him) the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring (him) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Frequently Asked Questions: Baptism

Can I get baptized again? When would someone have to be ‘re-baptized?’

We do not practice re-baptism. The sacrament of baptism shall be administered only once to each person. (Eph 4:5, cf. COF XXVIII. VII) The one who comes to faith after receiving Christian baptism does not need to be and should not be baptized again. The session seeks to find out about a previous baptism, generally, they are looking for three clarifications; 1) Was it a Trinitarian baptism (I.e., Mormons’ Jehovah’s witnesses do not practice this). 2) Was it administered with water? 3) Was it administered by one lawfully ordained, eg great difference between a pastor baptizing a person before a church compared to a parent dunking a child in a bathtub. The Session can then seek to find out if the baptism was valid. We do not believe in re-baptism; we would say if the but does not fit within the above questions then the baptism is not valid.

Why not dedicate your child instead?

The baptism of children is not intended as a sign of their parent’s faith. Nor is it an act of dedication by the parents, giving up their child to God and seeking from God a blessing upon their child. All these things may accompany baptism, as our response to God. Nonetheless, the primary focus must be on God’s initiative to establish a covenant with His people: marking them as His own, assuring them of the truth of His promises, and calling them to covenant faithfulness.

If I was baptized as an Infant do I need to get baptized again?

The sacrament of baptism shall be administered only once to each person. (Eph 4:5, cf. COF XXVIII. VII) The one who comes to faith after receiving Christian baptism does not need to be and should not be baptized again. Baptism is the sign of God’s covenant with His people, signifying and sealing all that He has promised to them and all that He requires of them.

What significance does the mode (Sprinkling, Pouring, Immersion) of Baptism have?

Immersion; The act of submerging the individual being baptized under the water.

Aspersion; The act of sprinkling water upon the individual being baptized.

Affusion; The act of pouring water upon the individual being baptized.

The PCA does recognizes any Trinitarian form of baptism. However, the Westminster Confession of Faith explains “Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.” (WCF XXVIII.III)

What are common objections to Infant baptism?

The major argument given against infant Baptism is that nowhere in the bible does it mention infant baptism. Also, that faith and repentance are prerequisites for baptism. These two major objections give validity to Credobaptists (Believer’s Baptists). As Presbyterians, we believe in Credobaptism and Pedobaptism (Child Baptism). We believe that someone who has confessed Christ and becomes a Disciple, who has not been baptized, should be baptized.

Our views differ on the role of baptism, we would say that faith and repentance are prerequisites of salvation and not baptism. That baptized children are not guaranteed salvation but only God’s elect are saved. Baptism is not a sign of Salvation but rather the covenant. The differences should not be viewed as one baptism is of the devil, as Presbyterians, we believe a baptized child is as much a part of the church; entitled to pastoral care, government, nurture of the church. Children are commonly called Covenant Children.

The Bible does not use the words ‘Infant Baptism’. This however does not appease the argument; the bible does not use the term ‘Trinity’, yet this is a common term used to describe the three persons of the Godhead. The Bible does mention entire households being baptized (Acts 16:15, 31-33, 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16, 7:14). See also Sign of the Covenant.

As a parent I don’t feel comfortable baptizing my child, can I still join the Church?

Yes, the membership vows do not force members to baptize their children. This is a matter of conscience, being a Presbyterian church there will be times when a Child is baptized during a worship service, if you do not mind being present during this time that is fine.

We cannot and will not force your child to be baptized, however, one of the responsibilities of the elders and pastor is to “to see that parents do not neglect to present their children for Baptism” (BCO 12-5) This will be done with grace and respect explaining and expanding the Biblical position our Denomination has on Baptism.

The only major way this might affect you is if you wanted to teach a bible class or become a leader, more importantly, an elder at a PCA church, this would require you to accept the Doctrines of Church contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechisms. If you are concerned about this, please talk to your pastor or an elder within your local church.

What is the historical view of Baptism?

Outlines of Theology, A. A. Hodge

“The practice of infant baptism is an institution which exists as a fact, and prevails throughout the universal church, with the exception of the modern Baptists, whose origin can be definitely traced to the anabaptists of Germany, about A.D. 1537….” Then, as proof, he cites Irenaeus (who was born before the death of the apostle John), Justin Martyr (138 A.D.), Tertullian (born 160 A.D.), Cyprian (253 A.D.), and Augustine (born 354 A.D.). Hodge concludes: “…infant baptism has prevailed (a) from the apostolic age, (b) in all sections of the ancient church, (c) uninterruptedly to the present time, (d) in every one of the great historical churches of the Reformation, while its impugners date since the Reformation.”

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