The Covenantal Baptist Position Briefly Stated
Excerpted from The Baptism of Disciples Alone:
A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism
by Fred Malone
I have come to believe that the only proper subjects of Christian baptism are defined biblically as disciples. The following summary of the covenantal Baptist position was believed and taught by early Southern Baptist theologians such as Basil Manly, Sr., William Bullein Johnson, James P. Boyce, P. H. Mell, R. B. C. Howell, John L. Dagg, as well as by the English Baptist, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
points are consistent with the 1689
1. That before the foundation of the world, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit entered into a Counsel of Peace, or Covenant of Redemption, to save an elect people from their sins (Eph. 1:1–14; Titus 1:9). That within the decrees of God, only two covenant heads were designated, Adam and Christ. That God the Father decreed to create the world, including Adam as the covenant head of humanity, that He decreed to permit the fall of Adam by his own free choice, and that He decreed to send His Son as the covenant head to rescue an elect people from their sins and death. That all men who ever were to be born had Adam designated as their head in his Covenant of Works and that all of God’s elect people had Christ designated as their head in the Covenant of Redemption. That every person at any time in history is either in Adam or in Christ (Rom. 5:12–19), but never in both or neither.
2. That the so-called Covenant of Grace with God’s elect is His historical working out of that eternal Covenant of Redemption in Christ.
3. That Adam was created upright and placed in a relationship with God which would continue perpetually if he kept God’s commands, variously called the Covenant of Works or Covenant of Life (Eccles. 7:29; Hos. 6:7). As the covenant head of all humanity, his fall into sin brought sin, death, and condemnation upon the entire race (Rom. 5:12–19).
4. That God did reveal historically the “promise of grace” in Gen. 3:15, commonly called the Covenant of Grace, successively revealing its future fulfillment in Jesus Christ’s New Covenant through the historical “covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12).” Thus, salvation by grace through faith in the coming “seed of the woman” as covenant Head was revealed and offered from the fall of man throughout the Old Testament “covenants of promise.”
5. That the New Covenant of Jesus Christ is the prophesied fulfillment of what has been called the historical Covenant of Grace, revealed in the “covenants of promise” since the fall, and is the fullest and final historical manifestation of that eternal Covenant of Redemption to save God’s elect (2 Tim. 1:8–10).
6. That the New Covenant is an effectual covenant of realized blessings, not like the Sinai Covenant which it abrogates (Gal. 3:19), with an effectual Mediator as its covenant Head, writing the law on every member’s heart as individuals (Jer. 31:27–34; 32:40), giving them the true knowledge of God, and forgiving their sins (Heb. 8:8–12; 10:15–17).
7. That Jesus Christ is the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), the final physical seed of Abraham to Whom the promises were made (Gal. 3:16, 19), the effectual Mediator of the New Covenant (Rom. 5:12ff.), and the covenant Head whose “of faith” seed become joint-heirs with Him, members of the New Covenant, children of Abraham, the true circumcision, the true Jew, “the Israel of God,” and the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham (Gal. 3:14, 6:15–16; Rom. 2:28–29, 4:16).
8. That all who repent of sins and believe in Jesus Christ, Jew or Gentile, shall be saved and, as evidence of their New Covenant membership and heart-circumcision, should be baptized as disciples who have professedly entered the New Covenant by repentance and faith alone.
9. That John baptized disciples alone who repented of sin (Matt. 3:6). That Jesus and His disciples “made and baptized more disciples than John (John 4:1).” The disciples were first made, then baptized. That every person baptized had to decide to be baptized for himself, not by another’s decision for him (as in circumcision).
10. That there is no stated abrogation of the only subjects of Jesus’ baptism, disciples alone, in the New Testament.
11. That the Great Commission commands us to “make disciples
of all the nations (individuals from all nations, not the national entities),
baptizing them (the “made” disciples)
... teaching them (the baptized
disciples) to do all that I commanded you (Matt. 28:19–20).” Luke corroborates
this understanding: “and
that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all
nations, beginning at
12. That this is exactly what happened at Pentecost. Only those who “received [Peter’s] words were baptized” (Acts 2:41), not the infant children of believers.
That, amidst the
debates about whether infant baptized children of believers are included in the
New Testament church visible, it is often overlooked that the common
designation for the church visible in Acts is “the disciples” (Acts 1:15;
6:1f.; 9:19, 26, 28; 11:29; 13:52; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 18:23, 27; 19:9, 30;
20:1, 7, 30; 21:4, 16): “And it came about that for an entire year [Saul and
Barnabas] met with the church, and
taught considerable numbers; and the
disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).” The church
is called “the disciples” because it was made up of those who followed Christ
as committed “learners.” These disciples were first called Christians at
14. That baptism is a sign of the subject’s cleansing from sin, his union with Christ by his faith, and his commitment to a new life in Christ from thenceforth.
15. And, finally, as stated in the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession (1689), baptism and the Lord’s Supper, including their subjects, are “sacraments instituted by Christ.” That they are included as elements of worship under the regulative principle of worship positively instituted by God and “limited by His own revealed will (WCF 20:1, 5).” The elements of Christian worship governed by the regulative principle are all “expressly set down in Scripture,” not “by good and necessary inference.” The only form of baptism which fits this principle is that which was “instituted” and “prescribed in the Holy Scripture;” that is, the baptism of disciples alone, not of infants by additional and possibly erroneous “good and necessary inference.” Baptism is for disciples alone (John 4:1; Acts 2:38–41): solis discipulis.