Why Did the Anabaptists Discard Covenant Baptism?
Anabaptists, during the time of the Reformation, separated themselves from the practices of Rome to a greater degree than Lutheran and Reformed Protestants. In doing so, they departed from covenant baptism, which includes the baptism of whole families (households).
Retaining covenant baptism set Lutheran and Reformed churches at odds with the re-baptizers. These Reformers argued that covenant baptism was not Roman Catholic, it was Christian.
The Anabaptists were against the idea of (water) baptismal regeneration, which suggests an infant is saved from original sin (sin of Adam).
The Anabaptists also stressed the mode of immersion in water baptism, over and against sprinkling or pouring (effusion).
The Anabaptists put profession of faith as a prerequisite for one to be baptized by immersion. In other words, one must be judged by the church as already receiving the spiritual baptism of the Holy Spirit (regeneration).
Their profession of faith requirement obviously eliminated the practice of infant baptism.
In this, the Anabaptists took their focus off of the covenant of grace and put it onto baptism itself. The meaning and mode of baptism became polemical points to defend.
What was discarded by the Anabaptists was the idea that baptism is the New Testament continuation of circumcision, as the sign of the covenant of grace (Col 2:11–12). This rejection also led to the rejection of God’s faithfulness to believers and their children, which is also known as the continuous line of generations. The Anabaptist focus was now on individuals, instead of families.
In essence, the Anabaptist focus shifted from the covenant to soteriology (salvation). This shift was from general to specific.
We must reject the Anabaptist position because it refuses to consider the Old Testament. Ignoring the salvation of Old Testament saints is short-sighted.
God has His covenant people, in the line of generations, whereby the church was circumcised in the former dispensation as a family and baptized in the new with water baptism as households.
As circumcision was applied on the eighth day after birth, to signify the promises of God in covenant form, so baptism signifies the same thing, albeit, now fulfilled in Christ.
Baptism was never designed to confirm one’s salvation; rather, it was to affirm God’s faithfulness to His covenant.
Baptism says to the baptized,
“This is your God, child, faithful in His words of promise, which are sealed by an eternal covenant. You have been sprinkled, child, to show you and others the way of entry into His covenant promises. As the families of Israel were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificial lamb, so you are now sprinkled with water to signify the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. This is a work of God’s grace, upon those as helpless as you, child. It is all grace. Your parents have brought you to this place of baptism because they believe those promises given to and received by them also belong to you. By God’s grace alone, and in His perfect time, we believe in His faithfulness to give you faith, if that is His will, by election. Receive the promises of God, knowing that from this point of entry, the church of Jesus Christ embraces you as our own and will help to raise you in the fear and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, and who was raised from the dead. Remember your baptism.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 8, 2022