Sign And Seal?

Once a month I have the privilege of attending a ladies’ study at the PCA church in town. (PCA stands for Presbyterian Church in America for those who haven’t yet learned denominational code.) Friendly, warm, and loving, they graciously welcome “their Baptist” to the meetings. While we obviously disagree on various church matters, there is enough doctrine that unites us that the scales are tipped in favor of godly fellowship.

Currently this group is working through The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis by Nancy Guthrie. Guthrie writes from a Presbyterian framework, which is to be expected, but in a chapter exploring Abraham and Isaac she lays an olive branch of sorts to her credobaptist sisters:

…many faithful churches do not connect Old Testament circumcision and New Testament baptism in the same way [as paedobaptists], pointing out that infants are nowhere explicitly mentioned in the New Testament as being baptized….One thing those who practice believer’s baptism and those who practice infant baptism agree on is that baptism is the sign and seal of the new covenant, inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection. It is a symbol of regeneration, cleansing, and repentance in Christ.

Regardless of which position your church takes, it may be helpful for you to deepen your understanding of the biblical basis for baptism and correct any misunderstandings you have about what it means in your church as well as what it means in churches who do it differently than your own. (p.179, italics added)

sign seal

It’s a sign, but a seal?

The first time I read through that section I missed the error. If you read or listen to those who hold to infant baptism long enough, it is easy to fall into the habit of repeating the phrase “baptism is a sign and seal” without question. However, the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith does not define baptism as a seal. In the handy-dandy¬†An Appendix on Baptism, the 1689 framers state thus:

If our brethren do suppose baptism to be the seal of the covenant which God makes with every believer (of which the Scriptures are altogether silent) it is not our concern to contend with them herein; yet we conceive the seal of that covenant is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in the particular and individual persons in whom He resides, and nothing else, neither do they or we suppose that baptism is in any such manner substituted in the place of circumcision, as to have the same (and no other) latitude, extent, or terms, then circumcision had; for that was suited only for the male children, baptism is an ordinance suited for every believer, whether male, or female.

I would agree with Ms. Guthrie that it is important to know what you believe concerning baptism and why you believe it. I would also agree that you should understand why the “other side” applies baptism differently. Let this be a lesson, though, to look to primary sources as well when studying an issue.

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One thought on “Sign And Seal?

  1. Pingback: Lady 1689′rs Unite! [Blog Roundup] Let us know you’re out there | The Confessing Baptist

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