From the Baptist perspective, we should baptize believers of any age upon a credible profession of faith. The emphasis in these posts is that we should not put a minimum age on baptismal candidates. And the obvious reason is because the Bible never does. Let me speak to the fairly obvious inclusion of children in baptism:
Mark 10.14: “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Paedobaptists wrongly use this verse to argue for infant baptism. Baptists wrongly respond that this passage says nothing about baptism. Yes, it does not say anything explicit about baptism. But it is commanding us to allow children to come to Christ! So the question is “can a child desire to be a follower of Christ?” And if the answer is ‘yes,’ which it is, then we must think about how to help a child rightly respond to that faith.
Acts 2.38-39: “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.” Paedobaptists wrongly use this verse to argue for infant baptism. Modern Baptists appear to ignore this verse: instead of “repent and be baptized,” in most Baptist churches it is “pray this prayer” or “walk this aisle.” So sad. The historic Baptist use of this verse seems right: if you or your child or anyone in the world hears the gospel, and desires forgiveness and eternal life, what should they do? Repent and be baptized. It does not get much simpler than that.
Acts 16.31-33: And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”…and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.” Paedobaptists have then wrongly used all the “household”-type baptisms to assume that infants were included. Baptists have wrongly responded that we cannot assume infants are in these households. But if our understanding of Acts 2 is correct, then every “household”-type baptism in the NT should be understood as ‘everyone in the household who believes in Jesus repents and is baptized.’ It is a fairly simple hermeneutic. The command need not apply to infants, but to anyone who can hear and understand the gospel, including children of many ages.
Granted, much of the way we read these texts is based on our presuppositions and hermeneutics. But that is pretty much always the case. However, the above way of understanding these passages appears to not have to “force infants in” or “force children out” of any of the texts. Our only concern should be “what should a human being do when they hear the gospel and they want to respond in faith?” The biblical answer is ‘repent and be baptized.’
I hope these texts show a rightness to baptizing every believer with a credible profession of faith. Next time let’s look at the urgency of doing so.
This is a post that assumes the Baptist position on baptism. If you are someone who has never understood why some traditions baptize infants, you should read up on that first. I don’t believe you have really understood baptism until you have first wrestled with whether or not you should sprinkle your newborn. Perhaps start here
In my circles, because we believe God commands believers to be baptized, we wrestle with when is the appropriate time to encourage our kids toward baptism. Often our children ask to be baptized, and we are left telling them, “not now.”
Mark Dever, who I consider a virtual mentor, is on record many times as teaching that we should not baptize young children. It is not that he does not think they could become Christians; he believes it is too difficult for the local church to discern real conversion in young children. He has also seen too many times people come to his church, having been “baptized” earlier in life, then realize they only now believe the gospel, and then having to “re”-baptize them.
I TOTALLY understand his concerns. We have members in our church who are extremely mature in the faith who basically have the same approach. But over the next few posts I want to walk through our decision to allow our 8 year old to get baptized last summer. She had just turned 8 at the time. She is the youngest person we have ever baptized at our church. And I am totally open to her not being the youngest ever.
I believe we should baptize believers of any age upon a credible profession of faith.
But because of where we are in church history, there are so many different factors to think through regarding this. But one thing I want to be clear from this first post: Baptists do not believe that only adults should be baptized. If you know a Baptist who speaks like that, they are speaking wrongly about the Baptist position. We do not believe only adults or older children should be baptized. We do not see a minimum age in the Bible. We believe only believers should be baptize, and that all believers should be baptized (Matthew 28.19). It is the implications of “only” and “all” that are very complex in our day and age, but it at least gives us a direction to walk towards. In the next post, let’s first think about some of the biblical data.
The more I have thought about this, the more I realize that discussions about applications and questions and objections could go on forever. So this is my LAST post on Sabbath stuff…for now.
The 1689 Confession says on the Sabbath, Christians should “give themselves over to the public and private acts of worship for the whole time, and to carrying out duties of necessity and mercy.”
On “public and private acts of worship,” I have heard pastors and Christians say Sunday is the least restful day for them, because of all that goes in to the Sunday morning gathering. I want to challenge that notion. I never heard an Israelite priest complain about Saturday. I think any stress on Sunday flows from a wrong view of “rest” and fear of man:
- Sabbath rest is not physical rest (see Genesis seventh day!!!). It is spiritual reflection on who God is and what He has done. It does not matter how much you have to do on Sunday, that is great refuge for your soul.
- I wonder how much stress on Sunday comes because of a fear of man- having to put on a good face, having to sing, pray, read Scripture, or preach/teach in front of others, or just having to manage your kids in front of others. What causes stress, Christian?
- As far as private acts of worship- I think if your church does not have a Sunday night service (which ours does not), you should try to make a habit of having a second “quiet time” or adding more to the normal family worship, or something of that nature. Make it a habit. It is awesome.
On “carrying out duties of necessity and mercy”:
- God does give us a lot of freedom with Jesus’ interpretation of the Sabbath in Matthew 12- it is of great help to us. One principle is: use common sense! If your sheep falls in a ditch, get it out. If your child has to go to the emergency room, take them!
- If your job “requires” you to work, it is a work of necessity. But if your job does not “require” you (picture me pointing a finger at your face) to work on Sundays, it is NOT a work of necessity.
- “Mercy” really is a broad category with lots of freedom- this would be similar to the fruit of the Spirit: “against such things there is no law” (Gal 5.23). You do not have to worry about “should I be doing this on the Sabbath or not”– against such mercy, love, and good works, there is no Law.
Remember that Sabbath is mainly about worship for the Christian, spiritually reflecting on who God is and what He has done for us in Christ. So as I have held to for years now, guarding the Lord’s Day worship gathering is prime and central to guarding the Sabbath. I just heard Lig Duncan preach on how the Pharisees made the Ceremonial Law more important than the Moral Law, and that they should have heeded “obedience (Moral) is better than sacrifice (Ceremonial)”. I fear Christians in our day have chucked obedience to the 4th Commandment in favor of looking for some excuse to sacrifice the Lord’s Day–even some seeing that as virtuous. God help us.
I hope we can all agree the Sabbath Commandment is about rest. So what are we to rest from? The simple answer is we are to rest from work: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath…” Clearly, that Sabbath day is a day where you rest from the work you had been doing the other six days.
A couple thoughts of clarification come to mind:
- This may be obvious, but we are not called to rest from being awake. In other words, the Sabbath command is not a call to sleep. No matter how busy you get, 8 hours of sleep a night is PLENTY sleep. That has little or nothing to do with Sabbath observance (not saying at all you should not sleep on Sunday afternoons; I do it all the time; that is simply not what the Sabbath rest is calling you to)
- This is more than a call to rest from your 40/hr a week job. In other words, Christians should attempt to not work their “job” on Sundays, but it is resting from more than that. In response to my brother’s comment on the last post, we are not called to positively work six days at a secular job.
So what are we truly “resting” from? What is the “work” that the Lord is calling us to rest from? I think this is where we have to broaden our categories for work. I think of “be fruitful and multiply” and “have dominion” as the work God had given Adam and Eve. I also think of “do all things for the glory of God” as the continual work He has given us.
That applies to all things we do throughout the week: jobs, chores, and recreation. It’s all the “regular” stuff we do for the glory of God, and I would say it’s all the stuff that are not 24-7 realities (like being a parent or husband). Our “work” days should be full of doing and serving and accomplishing and playing (even hobbies are a kind of practicing dominion over the earth).
So the 1689 Confession says Christians should rest on the Sabbath “from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations.” When it says “worldly” it does not mean “sinful”. It just means your “secular” job. Well, that raises a lot of questions about whether a Christian should ever work their secular job on Sunday. And what about “recreations”? Can we watch football on Sunday or not!? (that’s really what this whole blog series is about, isn’t it? Not really, but it is the kind of question that is impossible to avoid). Please give me a few seven-day cycles to ponder…
Here are some of the questions I (and I’m sure many) have about application of the Sabbath command?
- Can we not work our regular jobs at all on Sundays?
- Must we refrain from things we are free to do on other days?
- Are we not supposed to cook then on Sundays?
- Are we causing others to sin if we go out to eat?
- Travel on Sundays?
- Is it sundown to sundown or midnight to midnight?
- 24 hour period exactly?
- 24 hour worship?
- Isn’t Sunday tiring for a lot of Christians? Pastors? How is the Sunday gathering restful?
What other questions come to mind for you?
Let me give another big apology: I cannot do just one more post on this. There’s too much application to think about. So pretend this is a brand new series, just on application. And I will not say how many posts I intend. I have no idea right now. I’m thinking and learning as we go.
Let me address just one point of application: I said in an earlier post “if you focus on do’s and don’ts, you have become a Pharisee.” I’m thankful for one of our members, Ezra Mell, pointing this out– it is not bad to think about what we should do and not do. That is mere Christian obedience. So I think I misspoke.
What the Pharisees tended to focus on were definitely a lot of “thou shalt nots” at the expense of “thou shalls” (think of rebuking a healed man who carried his bed on the Sabbath). And they tended to think a lot about specific kinds of obedience at the expense of getting the more important heart matters right (think of tithing mint, dill, and cumin, but forgetting justice and mercy). So I think what I meant to say is “if you focus on external quantities of obedience when it comes to the Sabbath or focus on all the things you should not be doing at the expense of focusing on what you should be doing, you have become a Pharisee.” (I’m sure there’s a more concise way to say that)
I do believe the Law of Christ written on believer’s hearts now helps us to think more about the 10 Commandments the way Jesus intended. So what I would caution against is things like:
- make sure it’s an exact 24 hour period that you guard (whether Sunday midnight to Monday midnight, which makes no sense; or Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown), or anything along those lines.
- make sure you never cook, never make anyone else cook, never make your dog or cat hunt, never go to your regular job, never do anything that will support someone else doing their regular job, etc. Avoid a “thou shalt not”-only mentality.
- seeing Sunday as better than other days, in that if I sin on Sunday it’s worse than sinning on Monday, or if I do my quiet time on Sunday it’s better than any other day.
I think we can all agree that what the Pharisees struggled with was focusing on the letter of the Law rather than the spirit of the Law. So my hope is to never get bogged down with an exact 24 hour period or how many different things I must never do, but simply aim to guard one day in seven as holy unto the Lord. And clearly, we are to guard it for rest. Where my mind goes (and what you may never have thought much about) is “rest from what?” and “rest in order to what?” So that’s what I plan to tackle next.
- We are not under the Law- I believe I have covered this in this series, but it is worth repeating. Whenever the bible says “Christians are not under the Law,” we must rejoice! But it is a specific way that we are not under the Law: we are not under the Law of Moses (i.e. the Old Covenant Law). Even though there is a one-ness between the NT people and the OT people, there are parts of the OT Law that do not apply in the same way to the NT people. But we are still “under law” in the sense that God still binds our consciences with certain commands. All Christians basically agree that 9 of the 10 Commandments are still binding. If God said “the Sabbath is no longer binding” (or something along those lines), we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. You just have to ask yourself, “do I believe God has commanded all people everywhere to set one day aside (as holy) to worship Him?” And also ask yourself, “doesn’t it just make sense that 10 of the 10 would still be binding?”
- Sabbath was not about worship, but about rest- I would have been persuaded several years ago if I thought more about this. At first glance, the 4th Commandment does not appear to be about worship at all, but rather about work and rest. But as all Covenant Theologians say, God commanded His people to rest in order to worship. Do you think all He meant was physical rest? What does a Christian do when they think about God as Creator and Redeemer? I fear many people are not Sabbatarians because they don’t have a biblical category for “rest.” Rest for so many means temporary leisure and pleasure. Biblical rest involves reliance and trust. The more you consciously rest in God, the more you find conscious worship (prayer, singing, listening to His Word) ends up being the only appropriate way to rest.
- Wouldn’t God make something so important more explicit?- this would cut both ways, and I think much more burden of proof is upon those who think one of the Ten are abrogated. Now as to why the NT never explicitly calls the “Lord’s Day” the “Christian Sabbath,” you’ll have to ask God. But you just have to decide: did God remove the Sabbath and create “the Lord’s Day” as something new (even though it has so much overlap in practice already), or did He simply call the New Covenant Sabbath “the Lord’s Day”?
- Romans 14- I used to think the strong vs weak faith issue referred to those who saw Sunday as the Christian Sabbath as the weaker brother (v5-6). It could simply be that someone saw the Sabbath as “better than another” day, where some might think their prayers are more spiritual on Sundays than Mondays, or something along those lines. It could also be a number of possibilities besides a Sabbath debate, since Paul never says “Sabbath” in the chapter. This is not as strong an objection as I once thought.
- Colossians 2- Paul calls the “Sabbath” a “shadow of thing to come,” leading many to see the Sabbath as a part of the Ceremonial Law. This is perhaps the strongest objection to the traditional view. However, Paul could actually be referring to ceremonial Sabbaths (all Sabbath observances besides the seventh day each week), which are no longer binding on Christians. Or he could be refuting legalistic views of the Sabbath, which we would all stand against. Again, this one passage does not bear the burden of overturning a big piece of Covenant Theology all by itself.
- Matthew 11- Jesus says “come to me and I will give you rest,” leading many to say Jesus is the true Sabbath. Well, that is a fine hermeneutic, to conclude something theologically even though the text does not explicitly say that. And all Covenant Theologians would say “amen!” But that does not explicitly overturn a command to observe one day a week as holy for worshipful rest. It simply aims that day even more accurately.
- Hebrews 4- there is a Sabbath rest in the New Heavens and New Earth. We again all say “Amen.” That again, does not necessarily overturn a weekly Holy Day to point everyone to the final day. Doesn’t a weekly Sabbath make that final day all the more visible, so as to help believers “see the Day drawing near”?
A better hermeneutic is to say “unless the New Covenant explicitly overturns an Old Covenant command, it is better to find unity with God’s people across the ages.” So now, for me personally, it’s just a matter of figuring out what application looks like through a New Covenant- Spirit-empowered- Christ-centered lens. This next one will be the final post in this series, I’m pretty sure.
I said this would be the final post in this series, but (I don’t know why I say stuff like that) I will probably do two more after this: one on common objections and one on thinking about application.
But for today’s post: what did faithful Sabbath observance look like for the ancient Israelite? Let’s look at five passages to get an idea and then draw a conclusion:
- Exodus 20.8-11: this is the first giving of the 10 Commandments. There is a command to work six days but to not work on the seventh day. Two great keys for understanding the Sabbath: one- everyone must rest from work; it was the entire believing community that needed to shape their work week around the Sabbath. Two- the reason for this rest was to pattern after God’s creative work week. God made that day holy, specifically after His work as Creator. It seems fairly obvious that part of this holy rest was to reflect on God as Creator. But the question is: what does it mean to “rest”?
- Leviticus 23: God commanded multiple feasts throughout the Jewish year. But He starts the explanation of the feasts with a repeat of the Sabbath command (3), and this time He calls the rest “a holy convocation” (or a called assembly). And each feast in this chapter involves Sabbaths, convocations, and food offerings. And “Sabbath”, “seventh day”, and “convocation” appear to be interchangeable a majority of, if not all throughout, this chapter (2, 4, 8, 21, 24-25, 37-38); and all Sabbaths-convocations involve the offering of food (worship). It seems fairly obvious that the weekly Sabbaths inform what the occasional Sabbaths were to look like, and vice versa. It is also fairly obvious that Sabbath was more than just “do not work,” but rather, “rest from work in order to gather.” Sabbaths were solemn rests by the community unto the Lord and in response to God’s provisions.
- Deuteronomy 5.12-15: This is the second giving of the 10 Commandments. The one difference here from Exodus 20 is the reason for the Sabbath, namely, “you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out…therefore…keep the Sabbath day.” So rest in God, first because He created all things, and now secondly, because He redeemed you.
- Psalm 92- “A Psalm. A song for the Sabbath.” Interestingly, it is the only psalm with that title. But that is not an argument against the Sabbath as being a day of worship for the Jews. We can debate about the silences of Scripture all day. We cannot debate the fact that by the time Psalm 92 was written, it was an accepted practice that singing of songs was something to be done on the Sabbath day. And that makes sense given Israelites were reflecting on God as Creator and Redeemer, and used the Sabbath to offer worshipful sacrifices, and did it in assembly with other believers.
- Acts 13: On Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey they stopped in Jewish synagogues in Pisidian Antioch on the Sabbath (13-15), where they heard the Scriptures read in a gathering, and where they were invited to speak. So they preached the gospel, and then the people begged them to come back the next Sabbath to preach some more (42-44). The point here is Paul and Barnabas knew where they could get a good hearing of the gospel because people who loved God (though they were misguided) gathered on the Sabbath to worship God.
Conclusion: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But in what way does the Sabbath serve man? It allows man a whole day to spiritually rest in God, thinking about all He has done for us, particularly how He created and redeemed us. If that leads you to focus on do’s and don’ts you have become a Pharisee. If that leads you to worship, you are honoring the Sabbath. No wonder when the first Christians saw the resurrected Lord, saw Him bringing in the New Creation and saw their Redemption secured by His exaltation to the throne, there was no other response but to worship on that new Holy Day, which we call the Lord’s Day.