I wrote the following for my main personal blog based on a paragraph out of Doug Wilson’s writing in Chapter 1 of The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons – Debating the Federal Vision.
Think of all the adult people you know at church.
Not just any long term visitor, but actual recognized members of the church. Now ask – do you treat these people like Christians? You have to treat them as Christians- unless you have enough proof to excommunicate them (declaring thus that they are not-faithfilled toward the Lord).
When an adult unbeliever converts – we baptize them, and afterwards everything we do toward them is with the normal assumption that they are Christians. BUT WAIT!, you say. Some of them will prove to be false.
You are right. But until they do, you base their treatment on their baptism; this is CLEAR:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
In fact, Paul explicitly uses baptism of ALL church members to prove UNITY of all church members so that they have to treat each other equally; see the next verse.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
They are all ONE if they are “in Christ.”
—–So how do we know a man is “in Christ”?
—–ANSWER: “All the baptized have put on [become part of] the Christ, so none of you can act superior.”
If we treat Christians as Christians, then until a person proves to be a dead branch IN JESUS that God will break off and throw into the fire (John 15.1-6), we must accept them as part of the church – they are IN JESUS. And we say to them along with all of God’s people: “Hear O Israel, Yhwh OUR God, Yhwh is one God” (Deut 6.4 – My rephrasing – not inaccurate).
Here is the big therefore:
Therefore, we must treat baptized children the same way. Like Christians. WAIT, the Kingdom can’t belong to those too young to believe?
Now they were bringing EVEN INFANTS to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for TO SUCH BELONGS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not RECEIVE THE KINGDOM LIKE A CHILD shall not enter it.”
Part of the rebuke to us is that THE PEOPLE WE SHOULD BE ASKING ADVICE FROM ABOUT HOW TO GET THE KINGDOM RIGHT IS THE INFANTS.
In the biblical pattern, it isn’t just any random child, or every child, but the children of believers who are set apart for God through his covenant. (Gen 17, Ac 2.38-39, 1 Cor 7.13-15).
Will some of them leave the church? Yes, some will. But in the same way as there are some adults who leave even after profession and baptism and who seem to be believers.
But we expect all people who are covenant members to be believers. And we should expect it, trusting God’s promise in Baptism: that the people of God, as a group are saved. So we say to everyone in the group – “You are saved.” Even the Infants.
Which is what we do in Baptism, AND the Lord’s Supper.
–All scripture referrences, unless otherwise noted, are English Standard Version, thanks to Bible Gateway.