I am a Baptist. But I think every Baptistic person should consider becoming a Presbyterian at some point in order to see how strong their arguments are (and then, after seeing counter-arguments, becoming more Scripturally convicted), in order to show respect to their rich history, and even to love them and see how united we really are in the gospel.
To really understand the paedobaptist position, you have to understand that they are not looking for explicit commands that say, “baptize your infants.” In a Presbyterian’s mind, the OT was abundantly clear that infants should be included in the covenant people. They say to Baptists, “where is the command to not baptize infants?” Here are some of the passages that exclude infants from automatic inclusion:
- Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36: Jeremiah prophecies that in the New Covenant, every covenant member will have the law written on their heart and have their sins forgiven. Ezekiel prophecies that they will be sprinkled clean, receive a new heart, and receive God’s Spirit. The point is that God promises to do something for New Covenant members that Old Covenant members could not do on their own. You have to decide what is new about the New Covenant: is it that God does radical things now for New Covenant members, or is it that God will probably do radical things for most New Covenant members?
- Romans 6.3-4 and Galatians 3.27: Paul says “us who have been baptized” and “as many of you who have been baptized.” He appeals to the experience of baptism. Let me just say, you do not have to remember your circumcision in order to know you were circumcised. By contrast, the only way you can know you were baptized as an infant is if somebody told you, and that would make these verses lose a tiny bit of punch. Also, in both passages Paul connects baptism to our union with Christ. He does not just connect them conceptually (which he does), but experientially. You are to think of your baptism as the visible sign that you are– not might be one day– united to Christ.
- Galatians 6.15: Paul contrasts two things– circumcision and “a new creation.” Why? Because Paul thinks covenantally, and the Old Covenant sign is circumcision and the exact parallel is not baptism, but a new heart. There is one way in to either covenant: circumcision for the Old, regeneration for the New.
- 1 Peter 3.21: Peter says “baptism…saves you.” How can he say that and still believe in justification by faith alone? Simply, baptism is “your appeal to God for a good conscience.” Baptism is your “sinners’ prayer.” Baptism is your public profession of faith. If I was a child in the first century hearing Peter’s words here, I would think it odd that Peter excludes me and all my friends my age from the baptism discussion.
- Acts 15.1-35: it is sometimes good to argue from silence. There is a glaring silence about infant baptism in the Jerusalem council. The question at hand was if Gentiles needed to be circumcised. Why not mention that baptism replaced circumcision as the covenant sign? As a Baptist, I say, it’s because it does not replace it in the way regeneration does, and so the question about circumcision is really about whether this is a Jewish religion or not. Presbyterians would say baptism does replace circumcision, but the council is trying to address the heresy of justification by works. Two responses: one, no they are not. They are dealing with Christians in Acts 15. It is naive to say that all those influenced by Judaizers are non-Christians preaching a different gospel (think Galatian churches). Two, talking about baptism would still have ended the debate, if indeed the early church understood that you must baptize infants the way you used to circumcise infants.
In God’s providence, the entire NT was written 20-70 years after the ascension of Christ. Are you telling me, with all the number of children that would be born through those years, with all the Gentile churches with non-Jewish backgrounds mixed in, with the importance of the sacraments, there would not be a single mention of infant baptism?