Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sign of the New Covenant in Christ

Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ by Thomas R. Shreiner & Shawn D.Wright. 

Believer's Baptism lays the foundation for baptism as the initiation into the Christian church, by making it unmistakably clear that baptism is intertwined with the gospel message. The authors show concern when some churches practice infant baptism, paedobaptists, because they see no New Testament evidence for this mode of baptism. The distinguishing mark given between Baptists and paedobaptists is that paedobaptists allow some into a covenant community who do not believe, where Baptists do not.
The authors are upfront in their promotion of “credobaptism,” the belief that only believers who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ should receive baptism. Their purpose in writing the book is to correct the view of evangelical paedobaptists, mainly in the Reformed tradition. The main theology they are attempting to correct is the belief that as evangelicals’ salvation comes by faith in Christ alone, but as paedobaptists they give the sign of that faith to those without faith, infants.

Early in the book they are honest in their promotion of credobaptism and about their disagreement with paedobaptists. There is a strong argument given from Scripture as to why baptism is only for those who have repented of their sin and put their faith in Christ, but then displayed how baptism is essential in the discipleship process of a Christian.
The book shows how John and Jesus baptisms were most likely by immersion that sets up a precedent for all that follow. They also show that water baptism is a presupposition to ones regeneration. Both Schreiner and Wright use Col. 2:12 as a convincing argument that baptism is reserved for those only with regenerate hearts.  Once one has a regenerate heart, then baptism is introduced showing that one is united with Christ through his redemptive work.
Wright is helpful and informative in going through the “covenant of grace” appeal that is the logic behind Reformed paedobaptists. He also discusses the different known Reformed paedobaptists throughout Church History and explains where they are not biblically consistent in their beliefs or arguments for paedobaptism. He positively concludes that based on Scripture that baptism is a mark that one has through faith sought after God desiring membership amongst the eschatological community of elect.
The book failed to recognize that modern Baptists are inconsistent as a whole on the actual practice and meaning of baptism. But despite these slight problems, this book is among the best available on the theology of baptism. It will remain an asset for future reference and research in the ongoing debate of modes of baptism.  

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