Tag Archives: Form for Baptism

Baptized Children “Sanctified in Christ”


I’m doing a series of sermons on the covenant of grace and so I’ve been doing some reading again on this subject.  A lot has been written about the doctrine of the covenant in Reformed circles.  J. Kamphuis wrote a little book called An Everlasting Covenant.  It was originally written in Dutch and then translated and published in Australia in 1985.

In our Form for Infant Baptism, the first question asks whether parents confess that our children “though conceived and born in sin, and therefore subject to all sorts of misery, even to condemnation, are sanctified in Christ and thus as members of his church ought to be baptized?”  The words in bold have been controversial and Kamphuis discusses this in his book.  Let me quote what he writes about the views of Klaas Schilder:

K. Schilder…expounded the view of the old Reformed theologians such as Petrus Dathenus and Marten Micronius, and also that of the baptismal form as follows:

a.  ‘Sanctified in Christ’ means: by virtue of the participating in the Covenant, being entitled to the promises of justification by Christ’s blood;

b. This justification, however, in time becomes our share through faith.

c. When by faith the promise of the washing by Christ’s blood is accepted, and in this way the baptized person indeed participates in justification, then the washing by Christ’s Spirit springs from it, sanctification not ‘IN Christ‘ but ‘THROUGH the Spirit.’

d. This is why at baptism — which has the participation in the promise as the foundation of its administration, and itself seals that promise — the baptized person is put under the obligation to believe the promise.

e.  It belongs to the contents of the promise that has to be embraced in faith, that the Holy Spirit desires to sanctify us, (indeed) imparting to us that which we have in Christ (in the promise, by rights). (80)

In other words, baptism does not actually convey the gift of justification, as if all those who are baptized are automatically justified and then might later lose it.  It conveys the promise, but what is promised is only received through faith.  All covenant children are recipients of the promises and all are obligated to believe those promises.  The gospel call to faith and repentance needs to be sounded amongst the covenant people!

Gootjes: the Promises of Baptism

I am getting giddy about this new book, Teaching and Preaching the Word: Studies in Dogmatics and Homiletics.  It’s like re-reading my dogmatics notes from seminary.  Chapter 9 deals with the promises of baptism.  Gootjes tackles the issue of the promises mentioned at the beginning of the Reformed baptism form:

When we are baptized into the Name of the Father, God the Father testifies and seals to us that He establishes an eternal covenant of grace with us. He adopts us for His children and heirs, and promises to provide us with all good and avert all evil or turn it to our benefit.

When we are baptized into the Name of the Son, God the Son promises us that He washes us in His blood from all our sins and unites us with Him in His death and resurrection.  Thus we are freed from our sins and accounted righteous before God.

When we are baptized into the Name of the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit assures us by this sacrament that He will dwell in us and make us living members of Christ, imparting to us what we have in Christ, namely, the cleansing from our sins and the daily renewal of our lives, till we shall finally be presented without blemish among the assembly of God’s elect in life eternal.

He deals specifically with the last part about the Holy Spirit.  He asks, “Can these words be applied to all children that are baptized?  Does the Spirit dwell in all of them?”  He surveys Calvin and Ursinus on these questions and then looks at the scriptural data.  I’m not going to rehearse his entire argument.  Let me just share his conclusion:

…The answer is simple.  The Form does not state that the Spirit actually dwells in all baptized children.  It does not speak of an existing situation.  Rather, this is presented as a promise for the covenant people of God.

That is in complete agreement with Scripture.  The promise of indwelling is first mentioned in Acts 2:39, “The promise is for you and your children…”  It is conditional on repentance and faith: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins may be forgiven” (Acts 2:38).  It is also mentioned in Romans 8:9-11; there, too, it is conditional on faith.  When the Form for Baptism speaks of the indwelling and sanctifying work of the Spirit, it speaks of promises.  These are great gifts of the covenant offered by God and grasped with the hands of faith.

The same promissory character can be seen in the way the Form speaks about the meaning of being baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son.  The promise that “He will provide us with all good and avert all evil or turn it to our benefit” is fulfilled in those who believe (Rom. 8:28 speaks of “those who love him”).  And the covenant promise of the Son is the forgiveness of sins, and is fulfilled through our union with him, as Romans 6:5 says: “If we have been united with him like this in his death…”

The Form for Baptism follows Scripture in presenting the statement about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as promises.  In baptism, our Triune God promises himself and all his benefits to us.  These are splendid gifts, granted by God and accepted in faith. (192-193)

I hope this book gets the wide readership that it deserves!