Service Schedule

Sundays 

Traditional Service 8:00 am

Sunday School 9:15 am (adult and children's options available)

Contemporary Blend 10:30 am (child care available)

Junior Church (K-5th Grade) 10:30 am

BYM Sr (8th thru 12th grade) resumes in January - 6:00 pm

 

Wednesdays

Choir Practice 6:30 pm

Prayer Meeting 7:30 pm

Kidz Klub (age 4 thru 4th grade)  resumes in January - 6:30 pm

BYM Jr (5th thru 8th grade)  resumes in January - 6:30 pm

Men's and Ladies' Bible Studies  resumes in January - 6:30 pm

Directions

We are located at 155 Reedsville Road, Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972

For customized directions from your location, click on the map below:


View Larger Map

If you need to contact us, please call our office at (570) 739-2241. For office hours, click here.

A THEOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING FOR INFANT BAPTISM

Jesus commanded his followers: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …” (Matthew 28:19). This call to baptize followers (along with several other New Testament passages) has directed the Church to accept members into the body through the symbolic declaration of baptism with water.

 We are often limited to find helpful theological resources that contain clear explanations for the practice of baptism today. As a result, one typically traces his or her view of baptism through a denominational stream of a Reformed, Arminian, Roman Catholic, or Anabaptist heritage. Often these particular views for baptism were derived from a dominating doctrine that was developed to explain salvation, or that was in contrast to the practice of another prevailing theological persuasion. These historical positions have created divergent views about some features of baptism, but none more so than infant baptism.

THE STORY OF THE GOSPEL: In order to understand the subject of baptism, we must carefully recognize the theological understandings of people that first heard the Gospel, but even more importantly, that were instrumental in writing the Gospel under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Let me say it another way. John, Peter, Luke, Paul and their contemporary listeners had a much different picture of the world than we do since the Enlightenment. From our perspective, we struggle with the tendency as proof-texting evangelicals to properly view the Bible as the whole story of God. Likewise, we have been sociologically separated from many aspects of Jewish and Roman culture—in particular the family constructs within these societies. This separation causes a cloud of confusion regarding the subject of baptism as a whole for us today. Therefore, we must return to a perspective that brings to light God’s plan unfolding in a historical-cultural sequence, which reveals the way in which God has dealt with his people throughout the entire course of history.

It is important that we understand that the Jesus movement of the first century began as a Jewish movement under Roman occupation with Messianic undercurrents and hopes swirling from the kingdom-like images of the Prophet Isaiah. These Jewish people viewed the whole world and their God from a perspective that: 1) understood YHWH God to be the creator of all that exists, 2) called the Jewish people out from among the other nations as children of Abraham, 3) delivered them from the yoke of slavery through the Red Sea exodus, 4) relished the victorious reign of King David, and 5) waited in anticipation for a Messiah that would restore God’s kingdom once and for all. In other words, Creation and Covenant—God made the world, God called Israel to be his people, and God would remake his world in order to rescue his people Israel. These were the stories they told one another over and over.

It is also important to realize that to the rest of the Roman world these stories were not significant for they were celebrating their own intellectual philosophies and pursuing the worship of idols throughout the Empire. However, it was into these oppositional settings that the Gospel would be planted and churches would emerge. The critical question for the Jew and Gentile ultimately became: How are we accepted into the same body in Christ? This is the occasion for Paul writing to the churches of Galatia (see Galatians 3 and 4) and the church at Ephesus (see Ephesians 2:11-4:16). It is into these settings that the concept of baptism emerges.

THE COVENANT: God has always been interested in pursuing relationship with members of the human family. He enjoyed the Garden encounters with the first-created humans, until human freedom skewed the image of God within them and left the humans independent of their Maker. Since that time God has been continually longing for relationship, though often without success because of human freewill. Eventually we find God’s attempt to call forth a people from Abram, a humble man from Haran. From this man and his offspring, God would develop his own people. But in the midst of this calling, we also find a covenant that is made by God (Genesis 12:1-3).

Shortly afterward, Abram and “his household” are asked to be circumcised—a physical identifying mark for God’s people. For every generation to follow, every male child born into a Hebrew family would receive the identifying mark of circumcision, and would not only be identified, but connected as a member of God’s people. This was so tightly embraced by the Jewish people for centuries that by the time of Paul’s letter to the Galatians and the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 special instructions were needed to address the necessary requirements for Gentile converts to the faith.

THE DIFFICULTY: In Roman Catholicism, the connection between infant baptism and salvation has been elevated to require parental obligation through an unofficial doctrine that rescues the infant from Purgatory if he or she should die. Such a doctrinal statement, whether official or unofficial, attaches the fate of the child to baptism and incorrectly attaches baptism to the issue of salvation. This of course, is a severe error that does not hold biblical veracity.

Many evangelicals also feel the need to attach the event of baptism to salvation—however in this case, through profession of faith. Citing from a number of biblical references, one could propose that there seems to be an attachment of baptism following a profession of faith. However it would only seem logical that affirmation of faith would be the primary way for one who was previously not part of God’s family (such as Greeks and Romans) to find entrance into God’s family. The aspects that come up short in this view are the elements of identification and connection into the Church as God’s covenant people.

In our estimation, many Reformers reacted to the incorrect attachment of salvation with infant baptism by Roman Catholicism. They argued that salvation is certainly beyond the understanding of the child, and that the act of baptism has no power to save, to which we agree and it is impossible to refute. However, this statement should not negate infant baptism, since we understand that baptism is not attached to whether one is saved, as much as to whether one is a part of God’s covenant family. Simply put, infant baptism recognizes that the child is part of the body of Christ and receives the same blessings and benefits from God that the rest of the body receives. It has nothing to do with whether the child is capable or incapable of understanding salvation, but rather that God in Christ recognizes our children as part of God’s family, similar to the Hebrew’s identification found through circumcision.

The confusion surrounding the issue of baptism truly resides in the aspect of the profession of faith. Throughout the book of Acts, the apostles are faced with several opportunities to baptize individuals. As the Gospel encounters these non-Hebrew cultures, the expectation of baptism becomes essential in helping new converts to identify and connect with God’s covenant people. For them, baptism would represent one’s departure from the idols and vain philosophies of his or her host culture in order to be adopted as children into a new living family under the headship of Christ. The resulting New Testament letters also contain the explanation of baptism to people who had no previous connection to the Hebrew rite of circumcision. Again, one of the first debates that was put to rest was the issue of Gentile circumcision—the identifying mark of God’s people (see Galatians and Acts 15). Accordingly, this outward identification was no longer essential for Gentile believers.

IDENTIFICATION: As the Gospel encountered the pagan elements of the Empire, entire households were converted to become followers of Christ. Acts helps us to view a few such conversions—but in each case, the decision-making adult needed to repent and profess Christ as King. It only makes sense that the highlights of Luke’s memoirs on how the Gospel penetrated regions of the Empire would focus on the essential nature of the Gospel to call men and women into the family of Christ. What is interesting is that baptism was not withheld from the convert’s household—in fact, the household was included in the baptism as a result of the head of the household’s faith (see Acts 16:15 and 33). Remember that women were obligated to their husband’s decisions in these cultures, and children were then reared in the faith of their parents. Again, it appears that this baptism was not necessarily making a statement about one’s profession of faith, as much as it was about identification within the family of God’s covenant people.

This seems to be clearly spelled out by Paul as he writes pertaining to how believers were not identified through circumcision any more. “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). Paul carries a similar thought when discussing the Abrahamic covenant in Galatians chapter 3, concluding,

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (vss. 26-29).

This is strong language about how one is identified within the covenant people of God. If we simply replace the concept of identification for circumcision, the Colossians 2 passage would clearly state: “In him you were also [identified], in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with an [identification] done by the hands of men but with the [identification] done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” And again in Galatians, we replace clothed with identified: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have [identified] yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” There is no longer any superior identity apart from being connected in Christ through baptism.

Lastly, Paul explicitly uses the word baptism when referring to the ancient Hebrews who traveled with Moses through the Red Sea (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5). He states: “They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (vss. 2-4). The term baptized again carries with it this idea of identification and connection with God’s people. Paul is a covenant thinker and explains the ancient Hebrew’s connection as God’s people along with his and our connection. In this passage, their disobedience stands as a reminder that no baptism can associate us with God’s people if we ourselves are not living in obedience to the covenant.

ELIMINATING THE CONFUSION: One could simply contend that the only recipients of baptism in the New Testament were through conversion to the Gospel. However, this subtle shift places the focus on salvation again and links baptism solely to conversion without any correlation to the covenant identification found in Paul’s letters. This disconnect eliminates the importance of connection to the body—the Church and the concept of “being in Christ.” It mysteriously connects baptism to one’s salvation by a personal consent of the Gospel, which appears as a view that is Post-Enlightenment (primarily individualism), and not necessarily Pauline—formed by connection to the Church.

We contend that the best understanding of baptism would be similar to identification, and carries with it the idea of attachment, connection, infusion, or initiation into the movement that Jesus began and that the Church has embodied up until today. Again, simply reading the 38 passages about baptism in Acts and the letters, (except the ones dealing with John’s baptism such as Acts 19:3-5), and thinking in terms of an identifiable connection with the body should dispel much of the confusion.

WORTHY SUBJECTS FOR BAPTISM: If we can agree that baptism’s primary meaning simply indicates identification and connection to the people of God, then infants are worthy subjects for this sacrament. They are not accepted as believing members of the body, but as precious recipients of God’s grace within the body of Christ. We are not imparting any recognition of salvation upon them. We are stating that they are part of a host of people that embodies a community where God’s kingdom purposes are lived out. This community of grace through its teaching and obedience to the Gospel provides the opportunity for God to engage the young hearts of these children and for their lives to be shaped within the Gospel community toward their own personal salvation.

On the other hand, for cognizant adults it would always be necessary for them to acknowledge Christ as King and to embrace his kingdom principles for their own lives. For these adults, the only way to identify and connect with Christ’s kingdom and his church is to repent, believe on the Lord Jesus, and be baptized into his community. Yet we could very easily include people with severe mental limitations and without any understanding of salvation to be worthy candidates as well based on their identification and connection within the local body of believers. This seems very fitting.

We realize that this statement regarding infant baptism is not the final word on the subject and does not negate the debate in the Church about this subject. Our hope is that one would see the perspective of infants as worthy subjects for baptism under a Creation—Covenant view of the Bible and could wholeheartedly baptize infants within God’s covenant community.