As most of you know, in our Reformed Church we practice both infant and adult baptism. Today, we actually witness the ‘adult’ or ‘believer’s baptism of Sean Sweeney. In a denomination where we generally see infants being baptised, it’s rather special to witness an adult baptism. Strangely, it is not all that different than infant baptism for all the promises in Christ that are true and sure for our little children when they are baptised, are also true for adults when they come to faith and are baptised. Of course, there is one major difference and that when infants are baptised they still need to come to faith in Jesus Christ, whereas in adult baptism, the baptism itself is also regarded as a Profession of faith.
One of the reasons why some parents prefer believer’s baptism rather than infant baptism is because in the past, parents who have had their children baptised as infants, believe, or at least behave in a way that presumes their children are guaranteed a place in heaven. Well, we know this is not so. The Apostle Paul speaks about the disobedience of God’s covenant children in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Most of the male children were circumcised on the eighth day (Gen 17:10-14) as a sign of being part of God’s covenant people, yet Paul mentions that God was not pleased with most of them and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
So, if anything, let’s take this warning seriously and not belittle our responsibility as parents. When our little children are baptised and become part of God’s covenant people, we as parents and as a fellowship have an obligation, more than that, a God-given duty to teach our little children about the love of God for them, particularly as seen in the Lord Jesus Christ and to live in thankful obedience and not in disobedience. So, circumcision in the Old Testament nor infant baptism in the New Testament guarantees a place in heaven.
A similar warning and responsibility exist for those who experience believer’s baptism as their Profession of faith. Just because adult baptism is linked with a Public Profession of faith, it does not guarantee a place in heaven for the participant. They too, have a responsibility to persevere in the Christian faith and to ensure that their Profession of Faith was genuine. And we as a fellowship also have an obligation to encourage those who receive baptism as an adult in their walk with the Lord. If they, who experience believer’s baptism, walk away from the Christian faith (as some have done), then it either shows their adult baptism as a profession of faith was a sham, or at the very least they are being extremely disobedient for a season in their lives. So, believer’s baptism doesn’t guarantee a place in heaven either.
Finally, when a person does their profession of faith, whether or not they were baptised as an infant or as a believing adult, one thing is sure, it is a sign of God’s grace and mercy towards that individual. In fact, every time we witness this, a small miracle has occurred. God by the power of His Word and Spirit going forth, has changed a person’s heart from one which was a cold, closed and hard as stone, to one which by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, is now softened, opened and warmed to became a heart of flesh, receptive to the good news of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the recipients of such amazing grace, do not embrace Jesus as Saviour unwillingly, as though their will has been abolished or changed by force. Rather, the Holy Spirit applies God’s word in such a way that it spiritually revives, heals, reforms and in a manner at once pleasing and powerful, bends the will back entirely, so that the recipient willingly embraces Jesus as Saviour. And when we arrive at that point, God continues to preserve us so that we can persevere to the end in good works (Eph 2:10). For God has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us (Phil 1:6) and that He, along with His Son, will never let us fall from His eternal hands (John 10:28ff).
So today, Sean Sweeney and we as a Christian fellowship have much to give God thanks for as we witness the public profession of faith in Sean’s baptism today. Gloria Deo! JZ
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.