In light of the baptism of Grace C.R. Jobse this Sunday, it made me think about infant baptism again, but this time in light of the Great Commission. Recently someone was suggesting to me that their particular fellowship was being more obedient to the Great Commission found at the end of Matthew’s gospel (Mat 28:18-20) than many other churches. My ears immediately pricked up when he went on to say that their members were going to various public places where the “normal run of Christians” would probably not go. It included various nightclubs, sporting events, and even places generally regarded as definite ‘no-go’ for Christians.
In some ways I could appreciate this person’s zeal for missions, but I did wonder why he thought it was so good to go to places where the vast majority of Christians would fear to tread. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should become isolationists. We make like to say as Christians that we are ‘not of the world’ but it is quite another thing to say that we are not in it either. Furthermore, we may not need to tremble at the devil anymore due to Christ’s victory, but let us not underestimate his power for a moment. He is still a formidable foe not to be messed with. It would also be a sign of immense arrogance and foolishness to think we are beyond the devil’s reach by ‘going’ to some places where angels fear to tread. It may indeed prove to be detrimental for our soul.
Furthermore, the Great Commission is not so much about “going” but “making disciples.” A more literal reading could be, “As you go, make disciples…” In other words, speak about your Christian faith when you are at home, when you walk along the way, when you lie down or get up, but also when you travel to work, sit in a class or lunchroom. Let’s not allow opportunities to speak about Jesus Christ to just slip idly by.
So what’s this have to do with infant baptism? Within our circles there is more and more discussion about infant baptism versus adult baptism. Some suggest that someone should be able to make a credible profession of faith before one is baptised. Considering this again, it made me wonder about whom Jesus had in mind when He issued the Great Commission? Was He only thinking about parents and excluding their children? Highly unlikely I would suggest.
Jesus knew the pattern that was established in the Old Testament (after all He established it). Since the children of the Old Testament believers were part of God’s covenant people and not regarded as outsiders, why would He change that when issuing the Great Commission? If that were the case, then perhaps we should we should be focussing all our efforts on the adults, after all, according to some, they are the only ones who can give a credible profession of faith.
But that isn’t what we see in the Old Testament at all. In the Old Testament, the adults (parents) and children were part of God’s covenant people. That doesn’t mean they or their parents were not covenant breakers on occasions. Yet, the parents were not to treat their children as outsiders but to instruct them in God’s laws at every opportunity (Deut 6:1-9), reminding them of God’s great acts of deliverance from slavery and hence salvation as they were about to enter the Promised Land.
In that regard, nothing has changed. Christian parent(s) today present their children for baptism, not because there is some mystical power in the sacrament, but because we know that God is faithful to His promises. In fact, there is a ‘more-so,’ for we know about the wonderful salvation we have in Christ. We know that all God’s promises as fulfilled in Jesus Christ are also for our little children when they come to embrace Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Again, that doesn’t mean they or their parents are not covenant breakers on occasions, they are. However, when that occurs, we lovingly, winsomely, and prayerfully remind them of God’s promises in Jesus Christ all over again, desperately hoping they will repent, seek forgiveness and return to be under God’s covenant love once more.
So as we go, let’s make disciples, not neglecting those dearest and closest to us. May our covenant faithful God bless our efforts. JZ.
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.