"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Introducing Baptism in Worship

An introduction I have used for Baptism in Worship:

This morning we have the great privilege, and the commanded duty, to admit ____ of our covenant children into the membership of this particular church and the whole visible church.

When we say “The visible Church” we mean the full number of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and their children. This is distinct although greatly overlapping with what we call the invisible church which are the number of those who are regenerate, professing and possessing the true faith.

Admitting some to the visible church does not necessarily mean we confess that we know them to be members of the invisible church.

So how, this morning, do we admit our covenant children into the visible church?

The covenant God made with his people carries with it signs and seals. God first gave a command to apply the sign of the covenant to those who are members in Genesis 17, where the Lord declares:

Gen 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

Gen 17:10-12 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised.

God established an everlasting covenant with his people. This everlasting covenant is decreed to last, eternally.

We are told this sign and seal was pointing to the author of the covenant and His righteousness he would give.

Romans 4:11 [says Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

Abraham first displayed faith and was given the sign. Isaac, his son was given the sign at eight days before observable faith. The same sign, pointing to the same thing, the righteousness that is available by faith, received from Christ who was righteous in our place, received by resting in his work.

Now you may have noticed today we are not bringing forward subjects for circumcision. Jesus, beginning his ministry, instituted Baptism by his example in coming to John the Baptist for Baptism.

When Peter gave his first sermon, telling Jewish believers, who had as their established practice circumcision and had brought their children for circumcision, were told what Christ had changed in the covenant by his coming, Peter instructed them in 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.” Echoing Genesis 17, and echoing the lesson he learned from Jesus that to children also belong the kingdom of God, and we are not to hinder them being brought to Jesus.

The Apostle Paul tells us we are still considered in a spiritual sense to be circumcised saying in Colossians 2:11-12 “In him [Christ] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism.” And we are also instructed in 1 Corinthians 7:14 that the children of believing parents are considered covenantally holy, set apart.

God instructed his people through Abraham to give the sign of the covenant to believers and their children under the sign of circumcision. Today, God retains his command to give the sign of the covenant to believers and their children under the sign of baptism. Paul tells us in Galatians that if we are in Christ we are sons of Abraham, heirs to the same promise in Genesis. God was not lying when he called it an everlasting covenant.

But just as we think back to Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, both circumcised, but only one of the true faith. As we think of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, both circumcised but only one of true faith – we are instructed that there is nothing magical in the sign of the covenant.

The sign calls one to faith to receive the righteousness that is offered – a righteousness that is said by our Confession to include, and are pictured in baptism as:

1) Regeneration

2) Remission (or forgiveness) of sins

3) Newness of life

4) Ingrafting into Christ

Yet the sign points to a righteousness that must be received by faith. We know faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, and just as one can sit under the preaching of the word and never be given faith, so one can be under the waters of baptism and not receive the benefits baptism signifies. So, when we bring children to the fount, we bring them with the solemn task ahead of us, of raising them in the nurture and admonition of the LORD. The parents take a pledge to do so, the congregation looking on also pledges to assist and remembers their own baptism, and the duties and benefits it signifies.

We collectively vow to involve ourselves in the raising up of faithful covenant children - to do so by godly example. We do so by instruction in God’s Word. We do so by regular prayer for their souls. We do so by surrounding them with the worship of God, corporately on the Lord’s Day every week and privately in our Family Worship and devotions.

As a wedding ring reminds us of the vows we made on our wedding day, so this baptism reminds us of the vows we make, ourselves or on behalf of children, who we pray will one day make the same profession and vows as their parents.

As we celebrate and observe the sacrament of baptism today, I invite you, the congregation, to think of two things, FIRST: your baptism. The great promises God holds out to you, that are to be received by faith, to be reminded of God’s pledge of faithfulness to you. And the Second, to acknowledge your responsibility as members of this congregation to assist in the teaching of the faith to the next generation, speaking often of the Lord, and his goodness towards you in the presence of these little ones as they grow.

To the Parents, this charge is given. That you

1) teach your child to read the Word of God;

2) You are charged to instruct your children in the principles of our holy religion, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, an excellent summary of which we have in the Confession of Faith, and in the Larger and Shorter Catechisms for your use in direction and assistance, in the discharge of this important duty;

3) You are charged to pray with and for your child;

4) And you are charged to set an example of piety and godliness before your child; and endeavor, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring up your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Remember Acts 16:31 "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."