Baptism symbolizes the washing away of the sins. Here a baptismal ministry in Chinese Taiwan.
This article about the baptism is primarily intended for people who already believe in God. People who doubt whether there is a God, and if so, what God’s truth then is, will benefit less from this discourse. But also these people are of course welcome here. Why is this article about the Christian baptism mainly written? There is much confusion within Christianity about the baptism. Some say that the little children, even the babies, should already be baptized. Others say that babies cannot yet believe, and therefore young people should not be baptized until they have consciously professed their faith in the presence of the entire congregation.
If the people with these different views could accept each other in love, it would not be too bad. And luckily this often happens. But there are also Christians who condemn people with a different conception of the baptism. Some adherents of the infant baptism are able to exclude adherents of the adult baptism. They have the opinion that they do not belong in their church or congregation. And vice versa: Some adherents of the adult baptism condemn the adherents of the infant baptism. According to them one can only enter into the heaven, if one has been baptized as an adult.
How sad it is when Christians judge or exclude each other in this way. It is therefore necessary to investigate certain matters:
1. What does God primarily require of us humans? How does someone obtain the eternal life?
2. What does the baptism actually mean? And what does the Bible say about it? And what weight should be attached to the baptism?
3. What form of baptism may we choose?
We shall deal with these things separately. Attention will also be paid to the covenant. For Reformed Christians, who mostly choose the infant baptism, often refer to the covenant when it comes to the baptism. But Evangelical Christians usually have nothing to do with a covenant doctrine. They put all the emphasis on the faith. And that faith must, according to them, be confirmed in the baptism.
Furthermore also some attention will also be paid to what believers from the first centuries have said about the baptism. Both baptismal forms already existed in the first centuries. Stories about the practice of a certain baptismal form at that time do not say everything, the more because the church was growing strongly during that time. And the new believers were often treated otherwise than the people who were born from believing parents.
Picture 1 of these 2: The baptism of a little child by sprinkling in Canada. Picture 2 of these 2: The baptism of a young woman by immersion in Indonesia.
1. What does God primarily require of us humans? How does someone obtain the eternal life?
Much has already been said about this in the other articles of this website. But now it is mainly about the question of whether a certain way of baptism is necessary in order to come into God's glory. For the sake of completeness we look also at the other things that the Bible presents as fundamental:
First of all we need to know that we are sinful people and therefore have deserved God's condemnation. For in Jeremiah 3:12 and 13 is written:
"I am merciful, says the LORD. I will not keep wrath forever. Only know your iniquity, that you has transgressed against the LORD, your God."
We must also confess our sins. 1 John 1:9:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Furthermore we must also fight against the sins, even though it often involves trial and error. Proverbs 28:13:
"He who covers his transgressions shall not prosper; but he who confesses and forsakes them shall obtain mercy."
But whoever is honest will have to admit that in the end he will not make it with these things alone. For we sin again and again. That is why God has sent His Son to this earth to suffer and to die for the sins of the people. When we put our trust in the Lord Jesus, His perfect righteousness is granted to us. For He became a curse for us. We no longer have to bear the curse if we believe in Him and entrust ourselves to Him. John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
We can also mention Galatians 3:13:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us: for it is written: Cursed is everyone who hanges on a tree."
However nowhere in the Bible we read that a certain baptismal practice is necessary to be saved. Here we can think of Mark 16: 16:
"He who believes, and is baptized, shall be saved: but he who believes not, shall be damned."
In the first part of this text the baptism is mentioned, but no longer in the second part. That is to say: A person will not be damned, if he or she is not baptized. But we should be obedient and let us be baptized, if this has not happend yet. From this text we cannot determine whether the infant baptism is valid or not. Proponents of the adult baptism like to point out that faith is mentioned first and then baptism. But the sequence doesn't always say so much. If we always want to keep the sequence tight, we sometimes get strange things. Take for example Matthew 28:19 and 20. There is written:
"Go therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
If we have to follow the sequence literally in this regard, we may not teach people to observe what Christ has commanded, until after they have been baptized. That is of course not the intention. If new converts (for that is what this is mainly about) come to faith, they must first be instructed in all that Christ has instituted. Only afther this the baptism does come up for discussion.
In short: Our salvation does not depend on any particular baptismal practice. That is why believers must accept each other in love, also if the other has a different baptismal conception!
2. What does the baptism actually mean? And what does the Bible say about it? And what weight should be attached to the baptism?
The baptism symbolizes the washing away of the sins. The baptism therefore does not automatically take away the sins, but is a symbol, or better said: a sacrament. In a certain sense a sacrament is a depiction. Paul says about the baptism in Romans 6:4:
"Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." The words "so that" in this text indicates a purpose. The goal is that we increasingly are going to live according to God's will. But that is not all. A sacrament is much more than a depiction and an exhortation. It is also intended to comfort and encouragement, and to strengthen our faith. And above all to God's glory.
The Holy Supper is another sacrament. And also there we see the mentioned properties of a sacrament. The Holy Supper does not automatically save a person. If a man uses this sacrament irrespectively, it will even make more heavy his later condemnation, if he never repents and comes to conversion. But if he uses it in faith, it can strengthen his faith. Then he may know and think by himself, "As surely as I eat this bread and drink this wine, so surely I partake of God's forgiveness through the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus." We may assign the same weight to the baptism. The baptism confirms God's love for us. And when He does this He means it. That also means that He wants to give us the eternal life. But then we have also to live in accordance with it. If someone has been baptized and then turns himself away from God and consciously is going to live in the sins, then the baptism has no more power. Because then we hit God in His face, as it were. Love can never come from one side forever. Love can wait long and patiently, but eventually does require love in return.
The Holy Supper is another sacrament. Impression of the Savior and His disciples at the Last Supper in His earthly life.
3. What form of baptism may we choose?
Also there could be written: What form of baptism we have to choose? But here the word ‘may’ has been used to indicate yet more God's grace and love. It is a mighty gift from God, that we may have the sacrament of the baptism, to strengthen our faith, and to confirm the love of God for us, so that we also may love, adhere, and serve Him wholeheartedly, until we be with Him for all eternity. Then we will sin no more and our love for Him will be perfect.
But are we allowed to baptize the little children already, or do we have to wait until they have grown up and will express their faith themselves? Followers of the adult baptism like to refer then to Acts 2:38:
"And Peter said unto them: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
But properly considered, these words are not at all a proof for the adult baptism. For Peter is here addressing people who have just converted and come to believe. And they have not yet been baptized as children in the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. It may be that some of them have received the Proselyte baptism, when they converted to the Jewish faith. But with that they were not baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. It is understandable that they were urged therefore by Peter to be baptized. But it says nothing at all about the validity of the infant baptism for children born of believing parents.
Now we look at the church history. The adult baptism took much place in the first centuries. But the infant baptism happened then already too. And stories about adults getting baptized don’t say in fact so much. Because at that time many gentiles came to believe. And they had not yet been baptized in a Christian way as children. We gain more guidance by paying attention to the words of the (so-called) church father Origen. He lived from AD 185 (or 186) to AD 254 and was one of the greatest scholars of the Christian antiquity. Already as a child he wanted to be a martyr and give his life for the Christian sake. But his mother prevented that, so that he survived and developed himself in such a way, that he is now regarded as the father of the Christian Theological Science.
The church leader Origen (185 to 254)
He repeatedly wrote that also the little children were baptized. Literally he wrote (in Latin): "Ecclesia ab apostolis traditionem suscepit etiam parvulis baptismus dare." That means: "The church has received the tradition from the apostles to give the baptism also to very little children." This is saying much! Adherents of the adult baptism can hardly cope with this. Among them one says, "I have nothing to do with the church history." But is that a fair response? They do like to believe the stories of how adults were baptized in the early Church history. But those stories say little, as has already been stated several times. For at that time many gentiles came to believe, who had not yet been baptized as children. Of course they had to be baptized as adults.
Others say scornfully: "In those days it happened more often that people spoke untruth." But such a reaction is also doubtful. For there have always been people who twisted the truth. However this may not be a reason to contradict everything, that does not come in handy in one's own street. And when it does come in handy, they suddenly deal with it very differently. Then old stories suddenly get all the emphasis, although those stories do not yet prove anything at all, as has been made clear above.
In short: There is no reason at all to regard Origen's words as lying or untrue, because one simply does not want to accept at all the infant baptism. For Origen was a respectable scholar, who was ready to lay down his life for the Christian truth. By the way: In the first centuries there were more theologians, who opted for the infant baptism. More about this later.
But can we also derive the infant baptism from the Bible? The answer is: Yes! As we have seen, the Bible teaches that the baptism depicts the washing away of the sins. When someone comes to faith later in life and is then baptized as an adult, then that picture is clear. By faith his sins are forgiven. The sins are then, as it were, washed off. That is why this is depicted with a water bath. The adherents of the adult baptism see the circumcision in the Old Testament as something quite different. According to them the circumcision was only the sign of the covenant, that God made with Abraham and all his descendants.
But the circumcision had a much deeper meaning! During the circumcision a part of the skin of a boy is cut away. And that had the same meaning as the baptism! Only the picture is somewhat different. The circumcision meant: As a part of the skin is taken away, so the sins are taken away and forgiven! Of course that is conditional, just like with the baptism. When a baptized turns his back to God, his baptism has no value at all anymore. And likewise: If a child who has been circumcised says goodbye to God in his later life, or begins to live horribly in the sins, his circumcision has no longer any meaning.
For what does Romans 4:11 say? (It is about Abraham, who was the first to receive the sign of the circumcision).
"And he received the sign of the circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith."
That's remarkable! For the baptism is also a seal (that is: a confirming sign) of the righteousness, that is imputed to a man by the faith! So the baptism and the circumcision have essentially the same meaning! Nevertheless the circumcision was already practiced on very little children. It is then no longer surprising that the baptism is also applied to little children!
Opponents of the infant baptism like to say, "A baby can not believe yet!" That's right. But who says that the baptism is the sign of an active faith at the same moment? In the deepest meaning the baptism is a declaration of love from God Himself! Even before a child knows Him, God says already to that child, if it is brought to Him by believing parents: "I love you! I want to be your Father, and give you the eternal life! If only you stay with Me in your later life, and don't run away from Me!"
It is actually very simple. When a man and a woman get married, the man first gives his word of yes. He promises that he will always be faithful to his wife and take care of her. But what if the woman says after that "no" instead of "yes"? Then the marriage doesn't go through. The man does not have to keep then his yes-word. Likewise God needs not hold on His word of yes, which He gave in the baptism, if the baptized person turns away from God in his later life.
But if the baptized does return to God afterward, like the prodigal son of Luke 15:11-32, then he is received with joy by God the Father. Then there is even a feast in heaven, also for the holy angels!
The return of the prodigal son
Are there further still scriptures, that point to the validity of the infant baptism? Yes, and then especially 1 Corinthians 7:14. It is about marriages in which only one parent is a believer. So a believing man with an unbelieving wife, or a believing wife with an unbelieving husband. And then Paul says:
"For the unbelieving man is sanctified by the woman, and the unbelieving woman is sanctified by the man; for otherwise your children were unclean, but now they are holy."
Notice that Paul at first uses two times the word "sanctified" here, namely for the man or the woman. But for the children he uses an even stronger word: "Holy!" Is it so strange then, if this being holy of a child, who has at least one believing parent, is confirmed with the sign of the baptism? The word "holy" in the Bible means "set apart for God." And that is exactly what happens at the baptism. For then God says in His love: "This child is Mine!"
The opponents of the infant baptism sometimes interpret this word "holy" as: "Those children receive a Christian education by the believing parent." But this explanation is unsound at all sides. At first there are children who throw off the Christian education, and do their own thing. They steal in shops, put stones on the train rails (the writer of this article saw this himself and intervened) and if possible also mess around in the sexual area. Can these children still be called holy, because of a Christian education? Of course not! By the way: If a believing woman has a man in the house, who is very hostile to the Christian faith, then often not much will come true of a Christian upbringing of a child.
No, a Christian upbringing, if any, does not make the child holy. The word "holy" indicates here a status, an internal property. And that can only mean one thing: The child has been adopted by God in grace! And it may receive the infant baptism on that ground! If it dies as a baby, and thus has not yet consciously chosen for a life without God, then it will go to heaven!
All this is even more understandable when we see it in the light of the covenant. Many do not understand anything of the covenant and simply deny it. But what does Paul say in Ephesians 2:11 and 12?
“Therefore remember that you, being in past times gentiles in the flesh, and who were called uncircumcision by those who are called circumcision in the flesh, which is done with hands, that at that time you were without Christ, being alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”
So Paul says that the believers of Ephesus were formerly strangers from the covenants of God's promise. But not anymore! Now those covenants apply also to them!
Why is Paul speaking of "covenants" in the plural here? In this way he indicates in the first place that the believers participate in the New Testament covenant of grace, on the basis of which little children may be baptized (so that also those children are included in the covenant). We find this covenant of grace also in Hebrews 7: 22:
"Of a so much better covenant Jesus has become Surity."
In the second place Paul also likes to emphasize that the true believers are (spiritual) children of Abraham and therefore share in the covenant, that God has made with Abraham in the past. For God had spoken to Abraham (Genesis 12:3):
"And I will bless them who bless you, and curse them who curse you; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
This even goes so far that Paul speaks in Galatians 3:7:
"Thus you understand that those, who are of faith, are the children of Abraham."
Abraham was called by God from a far country
Note also that Paul said in Ephesians 2: 12, that the believers of Ephesus were formerly estranged from the citizenship of Israel. But not anymore! Now they may be counted among the people of Israel! Here one could speak of the spiritual Israel, to distinguish it from the natural Israel.
Since the words in Genesis 12:3, "and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed" apply to all believers from all nations, we can say that also the believers from the other nations share in the covenant, that God has made with Abraham. Of course this does not go so far that those believers also share in the land promise. The land of Israel was exclusively intended for the natural, so the fleshly, descendants of Abraham. Thus we should not opt for a replacement theology, as if the believers from the other nations have replaced the Jewish people. No, for the Jews God had and still has separate promises!
Furthermore it is remarkable that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of "the baptisms" in the plural. Hebrews 6:1 and 2:
1. Therefore, leaving the principle of the doctrine of Christ, let us proceed to perfection; not laying again the foundation of the repentance from dead works, and of the faith in God,
2. Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of the laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of the everlasting judgment.
Why is the plural used here? This is explained differently. But it is quite possible, that here the infant baptism and the adult baptism are meant: The infant baptism for the little children of the believers, and the adult baptism for those who came to faith later in life. This also agrees with the already mentioned words of Origen: "The church has received the tradition from the apostles to give the baptism also to very little children."
And further: As mentioned before, the proponents of the adult baptism often say, "A baby can not believe yet." That's true. But a baby can be accepted by God in love. (If the child then dies, and it has not yet consciously turned away from God, then it goes to heaven). However a child of 5 years old can already believe. And if the child is only baptized at the age of 17, then the baptism is more than 10 years too late! (Provided that the baptism is only an affirmation of the faith, as these proponents claim). This can never be entirely according to God's will. After all God is never too late! He is always the First!
These adherents of the adult baptism also like to emphasize, that the infant baptism does not appear anywhere in the Bible. But we read also nowhere in the Bible, that children had to wait until about the age of 17 for their baptism!
However there are two texts in the Bible, that could point to the infant baptism. The first text is Acts 16:15 (about Lydia the seller of purple) where it says: "And when she was baptized, and her house, she besought us, saying: ‘If you have judged, that I am faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay there.' And she forced us." The second text is Acts 16:34 (concerning the jailer of the city of Philippi) where it says: "And he took them to him that hour of the night, and washed them of the stripes; and immediately he was baptized, and all his house."
The house family of a person was called ‘his or her home’ in those days. It is therefore possible that also little children were present. But this is not a proof. Nor can it be proved however that there were no little children in the house. Nevertheless the word ‘immediately’ in the second text is saying much. The housemates were baptized immediately, without delay. They certainly did not get time to think about it for a long time! The same applies to the first case. For Paul had not yet left and received instantly after the baptism an invitation to stay overnight there!
4. Some more church history
But besides Origen there were more Christian leaders in the first centuries, who opted for the infant baptism, for example Caecilio Cyprianus, who was born in Carthage around AD 200 and died a martyr's death in the year 257. He was so strongly in favor of the infant baptism, that even the adherents of the adult baptism no longer want to deny it. In the year 253 a synod was held at Carthage. All members of that synod were in favor of the infant baptism. There was then a certain Bishop Fidus, who suggested that the children, in accordance with the circumcision of the Jews, should be baptized on the eighth day after birth. But the other synod members were against that! They felt that the children should be baptized immediately after birth!
In fairness it must be said, that in the first centuries there were also opponents of the infant baptism, for example Tertullian (who lived approximately from 160 to 230). He disapproved of the baptism of very little children. But that just proves, that the infant baptism was already in use in his days. For otherwise he wouldn't have to argue against it.
About the same time as Tertullian (so a bit before Origen) lived Hippolytus (about 170 to 235). He was bishop of Rome. With him we see that both the adult baptism and the infant baptism were applied (next to each other)! The people who received the adult baptism were examined before their baptism, to make sure that their life and faith were in order. When little children were baptized, their parents or a family relative spoke for them. This still happens with the infant baptism today.
Rome and Carthage were in the early church important
Furthermore many gravestones have been found from the first centuries, on which can be read that a little child died, and was baptized before his or her death. Besides, the covenant doctrine was less alive at that time than with us. In those days they had the custom to view a little child, who had been baptized, as a believer or new convert. So one could read on a gravestone that a child had ended the life as a newly converted or believing infant. In those days they often baptized the little children, because they thought that that was an automatic guarantee, that the child would go to heaven.
Nowadays they usually think more broadly about this. We now believe that a little child, who dies and has believing parents, goes to heaven yet, even if it has not yet been baptized. This is the power of the covenant! The baptism is only an affirming sacrament and not an absolute condition. The same applies to the Holy Supper. If an older believer does not come to church because of illness or old age, and therefore no longer takes the Lord's Supper, he or she will also not go to hell when dying. For that older believer the faith is deciding. And for little children the covenant. Even before baptism, so already at birth, every child of believing parents is included in the covenant. And it is just on that basis that we may baptize the child!
Even many advocates of the infant baptism do not understand this well. They rightly state that little children of believing parents may already be baptized. But if the child has grown up and let himself or herself to be baptized again, because he or she does not understand the infant baptism, then they claim that the child has destroyed the covenant. None of this is right! The covenant continues to hold its power, no matter when and how often it is confirmed by the baptism. The covenant is only made undone, when someone actually turns away from God and starts to live in sins.
With this the doctrine of the supposed rebirth of Abraham Kuyper (1837 - 1920) is also refuted. If we disregard the covenant, the infant baptism remains problematic. For how can the baptism depict the washing away of sins, if the baptized person can later still turn away from God, and be lost? Kuyper therefore thought out this doctrine. In this it is assumed that the baptized child has been born again. If the baptized person later does not live in accordance with it, then the assumption is believed to have been incorrect. But this teaching is not valid and essentially meaningless. Because then something is presumed at the baptism, while in fact there is no ground for it at all. So what is the value then of such an assumption? And much less you can tell God things that are not true!
Difference of opinion on this matter was one of the causes of the schism in 1944 within the Reformed Church in The Netherlands. The tension ran high as the leadership of this church, which more or less adhered to the doctrine of the supposed rebirth, took a rather compelling attitude toward those who thought otherwise. Many could not cope with this and separated themselves. This is how the Freed Reformed Churches arose. This again shows that presssure usually leads to unnecessary misery, when it is about matters that are not among the absolute essentials.
Of course there must be unity in the essentials. There have been (and probably still are) church leaders, who did not believe (anymore) in the existence of God. It is better that these people withdraw themselves from the Church. Because a church consists by definition of believers and not of unbelievers. If these people stay in the church, they will only cause confusion, especially among those who are not standing so strong in their shoes.
But to return briefly to the church history of the first centuries: The infant baptism is also defended in the Apostolic Constitutions. These are liturgies that were in use in the early church. (Also today the church has liturgies and forms for the baptism and the Holy Supper). This also shows how common the infant baptism was already in the church in the first centuries. But those Apostolic Constitutions probably date from a somewhat later time than the persons who are already mentioned. Probably from the end of the third century or the beginning of the fourth century.
At that time there were so many proponents of the infant baptism, that it is impossible to even mention them. In essence this also applies to the preceding time. Only the opinions of some very prominent church leaders are mentioned here. Because this article is not meant to be a thick book (if it were printed). Only a few will then have time for it. And it is just the intention of this article to help as many people as possible, to the glory of God!
5. The situation in the present
Perhaps you attend a church or congregation in which the adult baptism is in use. You need not feel that baptism in your church or congregation as disapproved or condemned. On the contrary! For although the infant baptism earns the preference, the adult baptism is also a valid baptism! Also the adult baptism is a sacrament and also symbolizes the washing away of the sins! It is only a pity that the young people of a congregation, in which the adult baptism is in use, have to wait so long before they are allowed to receive the baptism. For God has loved them already from birth (yes even before that!) and is eager to confirm His love with the sacrament of the baptism!
So if the adult baptism is practiced in your congregation on a certain day, consider it a feast! Even in heaven it will then be a feast, when people are baptized who really love the Lord Jesus and have entrusted themselves to Him. Sometimes it even happens that a person feels God's power flowing through him at the time of his baptism. As if a devilish bond is broken! And that may indeed be the case. For our God is a God of miracles!
But if the infant baptism is practiced in your congregation, it may also be a feast. For then God confirms His love to the child who is baptized. The covenant is then confirmed and sealed. That is: God puts His seal on it. This seal remains visible to Him. And the child may always be encouraged in his or her later life by the knowledge of being baptized. Some people remain their whole lives doubting whether they are really a child of God. Yes, if God does love them. But at the baptism God has already expressed His love towards the child. If only the child stays with his heavenly Father, loves and adheres to Him!
Naturally a person does not want this. God Himself must work through His Holy Spirit in the heart of the child and cause the child to be born again (spiritually). We call this the rebirth. Therefore the parents or guardians of the child should also make every effort to educate the child and lead to God, as far as it is in their power (among other things by taking the child with them to the church, and teaching the child to pray and to read in the Bible).
The parents or guardians may also pray and plead on the basis of the baptism of the child. And God is a Hearer of prayers! Monica, the mother of the later church father Augustine, also experienced this. In his early years he led a licentious life full of sins. But Monica continued to pray persistently. And then Ambrose, another church father, said, "A child of so many prayers cannot going to be lost." And indeed: God brought Augustine to change and conversion, and he became one of the most important church fathers. By his writings he was allowed to teach millions!
Augustine (354 to 430)
Speaking with reverence we may say that God loves covenants. For when Noah came out of the ark after the flood, together with the others, God immediately made a covenant with him. That meant that God would never again destroy the whole earth with a flood. (Local floods may still occur). As a sign of that covenant God gave then the rainbow. In essence this covenant is for the benefit of all people, including those who do not believe in God. From this we see that God's covenants are always full of grace and blessing.
Likewise, the covenant that is confirmed at the baptism is full of blessing. And we grieve God when we don't see that. But happily the believers, who do not understand the doctrine of the covenant, and choose the adult baptism, still participate in that covenant! Without that covenant God could not grant forgiveness and mercy. When the Israelites had broken the old covenant, that was made at Mount Sinai, God made a new covenant again. For there had to be absolutely a covenant, otherwise God could not go on with His people.
In Exodus 32 we read about the abominable idolatry with the golden calf. God was then so angry, that He would have destroyed His people, if Moses had not prayed for the people. Yet even then God wanted to renew the covenant. For we read in Exodus 34:10:
Then He said (that is, God): "Behold, I make a covenant; I will do wonders for all your people, which are not created in all the earth, neither among any nations; so that all this people, among whom you are, will see the work of the LORD, that it is terrible that I do with you."
But again and again the people trampled the covenant by abominable crimes and idolatry. Hereby we can also think of the sacrifice of children to the idol Molech. That is why God eventually wanted to make another covenant with His people Israel. Thus we read in Jeremiah 31:31, 32 and 33:
“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I shall make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant, which I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they have broken, though I had married them, says the LORD; But this is the covenant, that I shall make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I shall put My law in their inward parts, and shall write it in their hearts; and I shall be their God, and they will be My people."
Besides it is clear that these prophetic words have not yet been fully fulfilled. For both the Jews and the believers from the other nations are still sinful and imperfect. God's will and law is not always within them. Often they follow their own sinful will. But that's why God sent His Son into this world. And for this He poured out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost. God is working on His Church on earth and build it up. In some countries the number of true Christians is declining. But then the Church grows in other countries.
In many countries there is religious persecution. But therein many true believers are sanctified through suffering. The cleansing and sanctification through suffering is very penetratingly represented by Zechariah 13:9:
"And I shall bring the third part (that is, of men) into the fire, and shall refine it as silver is refined, and shall try it as gold is tried; it will call on My name, and I shall hear it; I shall say: It is My people; and it will say: The LORD is my God."
And in the end those who have been purified and cleansed by God will reign as kings. 2 Timothy 2:12:
"If we endure, we will also reign with Him."
This is how God works for the fulfillment of the New Covenant. And the believers from the not-Jewish nations also participate in that covenant. For as we have seen (Galatians 3:7) we have become children of Abraham by faith. And in him we partake in the covenants, as was indicated above. (Ephesians 2:11 and 12).
In addition, reference can be made to Romans 11: 17 - 24. There the unbelieving Jews are compared to branches, which have been cut off from their own olive tree. And the believers from the other nations are as branches, which have been grafted onto that olive tree, instead of those broken off branches. The new branches therefore fully participate in the olive tree. And that olive tree is Israel, and ultimately Christ. As new members of Israel they have the same position as the believing Jews, who participate in the New Covenant.
But if those new members of the olive tree now think that they can boast before the broken branches, they are wrong. For God will at last save all natural Israel, as is written in verse 26 of the same chapter:
"And thus all Israel will be saved; as it is written: The Redeemer will come out of Zion and will turn away the wickednesses from Jacob."
It is remarkable that immediately in the next verse 27 the covenant is already mentioned again. For there we read:
"And this is for them a covenant from Me, if I take away their sins."
No this is not the old covenant of works that had been made at Mount Sinai. It is the new covenant, which involves the taking away of the sins! Through the forgiveness of the sins the believing Jews and the believers from the other nations become one in Christ!
Are those believers from the other nations then going to condemn each other, based on an other baptismal practice? That's absurd! Christ has died for all who believe. Let us therefore accept each other in love. John 13: 34 and 35:
“A new commandment I give unto you, that you love each other; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this they all shall know, that you are My disciples, if you have love one to another."
There is often so much commotion about side issues. For example proponents of the adult baptism sometimes sharply criticize the fact that babies are only sprinkled. They say that an immersion is necessary. And proponents of the infant baptism sometimes bitterly criticize the fact that the people at the adult baptism are often dressed in white. Sometimes one hears that is said: "Ridiculous!" They forget however that these are only symbols. All sorts of details are unimportant, if everything is done reverentially.
And the people who apply a certain baptismal practice have thought well about it: For babies one often opts for sprinkling, because one does not want to startle the children too much. For after a few drops of water they often start to cry. And the white clothing at the adult baptism also has an intention. It symbolizes the spiritual purity when sins are forgiven. By the way: When babies are sprinkled, they are also often dressed in white. And the supporters of the infant baptism then suddenly estimate that as normal. Those who create so much troubles about details are usually blindly guided by their feelings and what they are used to. Then it has nothing to do anymore with God's Word and Spirit.
By exaggerated criticism we destroy the work of God in His church and in His world. But through love God's Church and His Kingdom are built. Let's choose that! Psalm 133:
"1. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
2. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, running down upon the beard, Aaron’s beard, that goes down to the skirts of his garments.
3. It is as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descends upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commands the blessing, even the life for evermore."
Baptism in a river in East Asia