As we celebrate two more infant baptisms this Sunday at our local church, I thought you might want to hear my story regarding (infant) baptism. I grew up in a contemporary evangelical tradition that only baptized “believers”—people who were old enough to profess their faith in Christ. There was a strong emphasis on baptism in my tradition, for which I’m thankful. There’s also a strong emphasis in my childhood church on theological education, so when I graduated from high school, I attended Bible college. And then I attended a theological seminary. It was there that I studied the history of the church and its theology in more depth. I was exposed to a broad spectrum of traditions, one of them being the Reformed. Then after earning my graduate degree, we were called to serve a Christian school in Indonesia. During our time overseas we worshiped at a local Lutheran Church. So I was exposed further to Reformed theology. By the end of our time in Indonesia, I was convinced that baptism was not just for older believers, but also for their children. I came to this conclusion based on the doctrine of covenant. God has always made promises to his people. In the Old Testament (OT), God made a covenant with the Israelites, and he made circumcision the sign of the covenant. But in the New Testament (NT), a new covenant was made, the covenant of Christ’s blood. And the sign of that covenant is baptism. Interestingly, Paul links OT circumcision with NT baptism in Colossians 2. And even before that Peter in Acts 2 invites everyone to repent and be baptized. And then he says, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” As the church grew and as doctrine developed, the church decided that infants as well as adults should be baptized, as they too are part of God’s covenant family. So, as part of God’s covenant family, we baptized our children. To be sure, infant baptism is not something we force people to do, as Scripture doesn’t command people to do it. Rather, we’re commanded to be baptized (mode and timing are secondary). But after careful theological study, we came to believe in both adult and infant baptism.
One of the blessings I enjoy as a pastor is receiving a few weeks off every year. This extended break often occurs in the summer, because that’s when the ministries of the church generally slow down, and because of the natural break in the school calendar (if you have school-age children). Part of this extended summer break usually involves going away, as that’s the best way for a pastor to disconnect from his pastoral role in a healthy way for a time. (The pastor is always pastor when he’s at home.) Another reason for travelling during the summer break is because most often a pastoral family lives away from their hometowns. So this is an ideal opportunity to visit family. And that’s largely what we did on our summer break. We spent one week camping with my wife’s family, and we also spent a long-weekend camping with my family. We thank God for the opportunity to connect with both sides of the family. It was good to catch-up with people and also advance some relationships. Happily, this summer break was more restful than usual. That was intentional, as we try to make our summer break an extended Sabbath, a time of playing and praying. We thank the Lord for blessing our summer break, and also our church for allowing us to take it. Such an extended time of Sabbath is an effective way for a pastor to nurture his soul for another year of pastoral ministry. I look forward to another year of pastoral ministry, by God’s grace and through Jesus Christ our Lord.