Baptism in the New Testament Church
We believe in baptizing children – sometimes called the doctrine of paedobaptism. We also believe in baptizing adults who profess faith in Jesus Christ and were not baptized as children. This is sometimes called credobaptism.
In Continuity with the Old Testament
The New Testament practice of infant baptism is based upon the Old Testament practice of circumcising children and thereby bringing them into the covenant. In the New Testament, the Lord’s Supper was a replacement for the Passover from the Old Testament. And in the New Covenant, baptism replaces circumcision from the Old Covenant as the sign of the covenant. What circumcision was in the Old Testament, baptism is in the New Testament. The candidates for membership in the two Covenants have not changed – believers and their children.
In the Old Testament, when God first established His covenant with man, he called it an everlasting covenant. As indicated, that covenant had two administrations known as the “old covenant” and the “new covenant.” In both the old and new administrations of the covenant, those who come into that everlasting covenant with God are given a sign of ownership. That sign has both temporal and eternal significance. In the Old Testament the sign of the covenant was circumcision and in it God promised earthly and eternal benefits of being in his kingdom. The Bible is clear that in the old covenant, the sign of circumcision was to be given to all males, young and old, within that external kingdom. Their children received the sign – not to indicate that the eternal benefits of a personal faith were theirs – but that the temporal benefits were theirs. Thus, though many who were circumcised never believed with saving faith, each did receive the earthly benefits of God’s kingdom – such as manna from heaven, fire by night and the cloud by day, the water from the flowing rock, and most importantly, the ministry of the Word and the sacrificial system which called all to faith.
This is also true in the New Covenant, although all are baptized in the external kingdom, (the Church), not all believe with saving faith, yet they receive the earthly benefits of faith community, the ministry of the Word in teaching and preaching and in the symbol of the Lord’s Supper.
Candidates for Baptism
The question as to who would be candidates for baptism never came up in the New Testament. If the nature of the candidate had changed there would have been a need to explain to the members of the new covenant just exactly who were considered proper candidates. But such a conversation never took place. Why? Simply because the nature of the candidate never changed. It was still for believers and their children, just as it had been under the old administration.
Immediately following Pentecost when Peter was preaching his first sermon (Acts 2), he noted that children were still included in the promise of the new administration saying, “The promise is for you and for your children.” (vs. 39)
Since the new covenant is a “better” covenant than the old, and since no Scriptures of the new covenant prevent children from receiving the sign of the covenant, and since baptism is clearly the sign that replaces circumcision, children should therefore be accepted into the community of faith under the same conditions as those under the Old Covenant. Children do have a right to the privileges and benefits of God’s kingdom, the Church, once they are baptized – just as they did in the Old Testament once they were circumcised. However, in either Testament, the child must put his or her trust in Christ as Lord and Savior before the
eternal benefits can be embraced. (Genesis 17:7, 10; Acts 2:39; Acts 16:31; Galatians 3:26-29; Colossians 2:11-12)
Why are females baptized?
Yet, though we see continuity between baptism and circumcision, there are points of discontinuity between the two as well. The New Covenant differs from the Old in that it is enlarged, and less ceremonial. Baptism is not restricted to the eighth day, but may be administered at any time and place. Nor is it confined to one gender. But, like the glorious dispensation of which it is a seal, it marks an enlarged privilege, and is administered in a way reminding us that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female” in the Christian economy; but that we are all one in Christ Jesus. From the earliest period of the New Testament Church, this has been recognized and all children have therefore been administered the rite of entry into the Christian Church.
Mode of Baptism
We practice sprinkling or pouring as the proper mode of baptism simply because this was the practice of baptisms in the Old Testament. The word “baptizo” (baptism) is used in Scriptures to refer to sprinklings or pourings found in the Old Testament. For instance, Hebrews 9:10 refers to various washings (“baptizo”) or baptisms, found in the Old Testament and Hebrews 9:13, 19, 21 gives three additional Old Testament washings (“baptizo”) or baptisms. Each of these washings, (baptisms) was done by sprinkling or pouring.
By the authority of the New Testament as clarified in the Book of Hebrews, we can see that sprinkling is the most proper form of baptism; it is simply how baptisms were performed in the Old Testament. However, we do not believe this is the only acceptable mode of baptism. The administration of baptism by means of water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit meet the minimal criteria of Christian baptism.
Jesus was baptized by John; John asked Jesus why he would do this. The Lord’s reply gave only one reason — “to fulfill all righteousness.” According to Numbers 8:6-7, the law required priests to undergo a rite of purification—to be baptized. Jesus was well aware that he was entering his office as High Priest, as well as Prophet and King. In fact, all who entered these offices were anointed for their new ministry in this way. These rites of anointing were all done with the pouring of water or oil or the sprinkling of blood. Jesus was baptized by sprinkling in the same way and for the same reason; he was entering into these high and elevated offices.
For us, baptism is a sign of the washing that comes by the reception of the Holy Spirit. Sprinkling or pouring is a “picture” of the reception/calling of the Spirit and the cleansing received thereby. (Titus 3:5-6)
Seven Biblical Illustrations Demonstrate Baptism in Scripture
- Illustrated in the book of Hebrews which calls sprinkling and pouring “baptisms.” (Heb. 9:9-22)
- Illustrated in the linking of John’s baptism with O. T. purification rites – which were sprinklings. (Num. 8: 5-7, 19:13; Lev. 14:49-51; Ps. 51:7; John 3:25)
- Illustrated in the then current practice of baptizing furnishings and people. Num. 19:18; 2 Kings 3:11; Mark 7:4; Luke 11:37-38)
- Illustrated in the question of John being the Messiah. (Ez. 36:24-28; John 1:19-20)
- Illustrated in our Lord’s Baptism – His Priestly Inauguration. (Lev. 8:30; Num. 8:5-7; Matt. 3:16; Acts 10: 37-38)
- Illustrated in the relationship of water baptism to the Holy Spirit. Is. 44:3; Luke 3:16; Acts 1:4-5, 2:3, 2:16-17 & 33, 10:44-45; Titus 3:5-6)
- Illustrated in the sprinkling of the blood in the Old Testament. (Ex. 29:16, 20; Lev. 1:5, 11; Lev. 3:2, 8,13; 4:17, 5:9, 7:2, 16:14-15, 19, 17:6; Heb.. 9:19, 10:22, 12:24; I Pet. 1:2)
The Holy Spirit in Baptism
Baptism ultimately represents and illustrates the Holy Spirit’s application of salvation in Christ. In the Old Testament, that was done through sprinkling of blood. It’s the same in the New Testament. There’s no cleansing of sin illustrated by dipping (immersion) anywhere in Scripture. It’s always illustrated by sprinkling. As indicated earlier, the basic biblical requirement for baptism is that it be done with water, in the name of the Trinity, within a true Christian Church. Dipping (immersion) meets that requirement, so we regard it as valid. As a result, we do not require those baptized by dipping (immersion) in another church to be re-baptized at Horizon.
We do conclude, however, that the method presented in Scripture is by pouring or sprinkling of believers and their children, so we practice those modes when we baptize at Horizon Church.