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Question and Answer

Colossians 2:11–12 and Paedobaptism

Question:

I’ve seen Colossians 2:11–12 used as support for the credobaptist position, namely: first comes faith, then comes the sign of the covenant of grace, baptism. I’ve also seen Acts 2:38 (“repent and be baptized”) used in a similar way. How is a paedobaptist to respond to these claims? I agree that baptism is the sign of the covenant God has made with believers (and their seed), and for the children of believers I do not believe it is not necessary for them to profess faith to be baptized, but I’m having trouble articulating this position. Can you assist me?

Answer:

Colossians 2:11–12 states, “In him 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, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

To begin with, the premise of the verse is that of union with Christ by faith, as Paul notes, in the powerful working of God. And it is clear that this applies to those unbaptized who believe in Jesus. In that sense it does indeed support the credobaptist position (by the way, a paedobaptist supports credobaptism when the new believer has never been baptized as an infant!). When one believes in Jesus, he is by faith joined to Christ and his death and resurrection. Romans 6:1–4 supports this. Thus, the command to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38) applies in this case. And that is your first answer: if a person has never been baptized, he must follow through on his repentance by being baptized.

But to answer your second question, we must remember the covenant promise of God, “I will be God to you and your children after you” (Gen. 17:7). You acknowledge this in your question. But you are forgetting that circumcision was replaced by baptism as the sign of the covenant. The circumcision that is performed is by God upon faith in Jesus. And that faith, if it is genuine, will be accompanied by (and perhaps even chronologically by) repentance. But baptism, for a child, is not a sign of the baptized child’s faith. Nor was circumcision. Where do we find Isaac and Jacob believing and repenting before being circumcised? We do not. They had no idea what was going on when they were given the covenant sign. Only later do we find, for example, Jacob repenting and living by faith in the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac. So, repentance is not required of an infant before he may be baptized under the New Covenant, any more than it was required of an infant before he was circumcised under the Old Covenant. That will come later, in company with faith, as God keeps his promise to be their God. And, of course, if the covenant child was not baptized as an infant for any reason, then of course, repentance and faith must precede that baptism, and that is your second answer.

Thank you for your question. I hope I have answered it. Feel free to follow up with me if you need to.


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"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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