Monday, March 10, 2008

Green On Infant Baptism Pt. 3

"3. Whole Families Were Baptised in New Testament Days

We read of Lydia’s household being baptised (Acts 16:15), of the Philippian gaoler’s household being baptised (16:33), of Cornelius’ household (11:14) and of Stephanas’ household being baptised (1 Cor. 1:16). These passages, introduced artlessly and unselfconsciously into the New Testament narrative, often cause some embarrassment in Baptist circles. They rather hope that there were no small children in the families concerned! But surely this is to fail to give sufficient weight not only to the practice of infant circumcision and infant proselyte baptism but to the whole solidarity of the family in the ancient world. We have become so infatuated with individualism that we find this hard to appreciate. But in the ancient world, when the head of the family acted, he did so for the whole family. Where he went they went. All through the Bible we see God dealing with families, Abraham and his family, Noah and his family and so forth. Perhaps it is only the head of the family who expresses faith, but the whole family receives the mark of belonging. The Philippian gaoler provides us with a good example of this. He asked Paul and Silas ‘What must I do to be saved?’ and they said ‘Believe [singular] in the Lord Jesus and you [singular] will be saved, you and your household … ‘ And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptised at once with all his family … and he rejoiced with all his household that he [singular] had believed in God’ (Acts 16:30ff, my italics). The conversion and baptism of the father are grounds for the baptism of all that are in his household, so strong is the solidarity of the family. It brings them all within the covenant. Maybe that is what is meant by the much disputed verse 1 Corinthians 7:14; but I do not propose to use it because baptism is not actually mentioned in that passage which declares the children of believers to be ‘holy’.

The solidarity of the family in baptism, as in all else, is the decisive consideration. Of course it does not mean that every member of the family was saved. Neither theology nor experience suggests anything of the kind. But it does mean that all members of a believer’s family had the right to the mark of the covenant until they made up their own minds whether or not to respond to the God who had taken the initiative and held out the olive branch of reconciliation towards them. It is greatly to the credit of Kurt Aland, a distinguished Baptist theologian, that he concedes this. ‘The house is saved when the head of the house is saved’ (Did the Early Church Baptize Infants?, p. 91).

This positive evaluation of children springs from Jesus himself. Hence the fourth consideration which bears upon the baptism of little children."

Michael Green, Baptism: Its Purpose, Practice and Power, 48 (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 1987).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

". . . and he rejoiced with all his household that he [singular] had believed in God’ (Acts 16:30ff. . . "

So after the whole household was baptized, they rejoiced with him that he, the head, had believed.

This paedobaptist, Calvinist stuff never ceases to . . .

BLOW . . .

MY . . .


Thanks for posting this quote, Alan! You've added another wrinkle to my understanding of God's Word.