My three-month old daughter will be baptized this Sunday. This will be a significant day for us. Before coming to the Reformed Faith, I cared little about the sacraments. They were insignificant and tedious practices. In the tradition I partook of, the Lord’s Supper was administered once a month, and in case we had guest speakers it would be postponed another month. On the other hand, baptism was treated in a little more serious tone. Adults came to the baptismal pool and confessed their faith before the congregation and were immersed. This was my experience both in the Baptist and Brethren traditions. These baptisms took on a more public nature. It was celebrated. I never had any dispute concerning the legitimacy of those adult baptisms, except that for some, it had been the second or third time they were being baptized. Since a profession of faith was expected, most of them who had made early professions of faith and were consequently baptized in their youth, felt that their early baptisms were the result of an unclear and false faith. Naturally, many of my friends–myself included–went through the waters twice.
Coming to the Reformed faith meant accepting what Paul says in Ephesians that there is only one baptism, as there is one Lord and one faith. It is accepting that water poured/sprinkled on an infant actually confers the benefits of the covenant. As Peter Leithart observes:
When an infant is baptized, the baptism itself is a gift from God’s unmerited favor. Baptism itself gives the child membership in the church, an identity as a member of the people of God and as a Christian, a family of brothers and sisters whose Father is in heaven and whose Brother is on a heavenly throne, the gift of public identification with Christ, a place in the temple of the Holy Spirit, a commission to serve Christ, a deputation (to use Thomas’s language) to a place in the worship of God, and much more. These are not, I submit, merely offered or promised to the child, but actually delivered. And they are his, whether he believes and trusts or not.
Covenant children are baptized because they need a heavenly mother and heavenly Father. Baptism actually does what it says it will do: it saves (I Peter 3:21). It will bring my little daughter to the arms of her Lord just as He called the little children to Himself (Matthew 19:14), she will be united to He Savior in baptism (Romans 6) and she will partake of all the benefits of the covenant just as the children of the saints in the Old. As Abigail grows in her faith, believes in Her faithful Lord, she will be adorned and cleansed daily by the Spirit of God. When she disobeys she will look to the waters of life and be reminded of the graciousness of Her Lord. And when she repents in humble submission to her Messiah, she will know that God has been faithful to His promises.