August 19, 2012 Q & A

What are the differences between Reformed Baptists and the OPC?


I am deeply confused on the major differences between Reformed Baptist Christians and the OPC. I understand the main issue is the Believer's Baptism. But I've read articles where Reformed Christians don't care for Reformed Baptists calling themselves "Reformed". Why is this? I know there is more to Reformed Theology than the doctrines of grace. Can you please explain the major differences and why some might suggest a Reformed Baptist truly isn't "Reformed"?


It is important to stress the fact that the OPC has much in common with what are commonly called "Reformed Baptist Churches." But, at the same time, the differences are not unimportant. The main difference is that we believe the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen. 17:1-14) remains in effect under the New Testament (Gal. 3:17). Therefore, the children of believers are entitled to receive the sign and seal of the covenant today just as they were in Abraham's day and through Old Testament history. There is a difference, to be sure, between what was required then and what is required now. Then it was a bloody sign and seal called circumcision. Now (since the blood of Christ has been shed once and for all, making any more blood shedding obsolete) the sign and seal is water baptism. But the meaning—and those who are entitled to receive it—remains the same for, as the apostle Paul says, "in him [Christ] you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands…by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism…" (Col. 2:11).

One of the most cogent arguments for this understanding, in my opinion, is what we read in Acts 17:11. The Jews in the Synagogue at Berea "were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word [that is, the word that Paul preached] with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures [that is, the Old Testament] to find out whether these things were so." In other words, they found Paul's teaching about the covenant of grace, in the New Testament Church, to be in perfect harmony with the teaching of their inherited Old Testament Scriptures. They were not told that their children would no longer receive the sign and seal of the covenant of grace under the New Testament.

Now this is not the only difference between historic Reformed Presbyterian churches and those churches known as Reformed Baptist. Quite often we have seen a significant difference also in their form of government. One of the things I value very highly as a Presbyterian is the right of appeal. If there is maladministration in my local church I have a right to appeal to my Presbytery to seek correction (much as Paul and others did in the church at Antioch [Acts 15]). I have known of instances in which people of Baptist churches have suffered greatly because they have lacked the wonderful provision that we have as Presbyterians. Other differences could be mentioned. But these are, in my opinion, the most important ones.

It is important to add that we do most heartily rejoice in the resurgence of the teaching and preaching of the doctrines of sovereign grace among many of our Baptist brothers.



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