Every child born to baptized members of a Christian church is bound to be baptized by order of covenant structures. There is so much theology behind why Christians do what they do that very often the ins-and-outs are not always thought through. That is, Christians very often do things for the right reasons without exactly knowing why. Conversely, many Christian parents fail to do certain things for the same reason: they know not what they “do not” do. Christians who do not baptize their children are in disobedience to their covenant King. But this negligence is no more a gross rebellion than Christian churches that exclude children from communion requiring first that they have a conversion experience.
Conversion for non-covenant members is not the same as that of covenant children; nor is it necessary to require the same of covenant children. In fact, it is antithetical to the nature of the covenant. Christian children of the covenant are only made to be such by baptism. It is not so that natural birth makes a child of the covenant; baptism and baptism alone does this. This has important implications for gross misunderstandings about the sign. First and foremost, what happens to a child born to Christian parents who dies in infancy or before faith can be lived? The Bible doesn’t answer this question, but everyone (including the Baptist) expects God to be merciful and save the child. But this has nothing to do with the sign in and of itself. One might think of Paul’s argument in Romans 4 about Abraham’s being the father of Jew and Gentile faith: one has the sign and the other doesn’t but both are saved. The sign of baptism (precisely like the sign of circumcision) is for entrance into the covenant as an ordained priest for Kingdom service.
Baptism is not salvific in the sense that 95% of Christianity intimates. Baptism is initiation into the covenant and that is all it is (now, to be sure, there are benefits to being a member). Baptism means what it means and its meaning is the same for the infant as it is for the adult. Whatever baptism means for a newly converted unbeliever, it means exactly the same for the baby of Christian parents. Baptism, then, is a new creation ordinance for Paul tells us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation and baptism is entrance into that new world order. Faith is the only thing that saves, but baptism is the only way into covenant. Salvation is covenantal in nature and only intends to communicate salvation when the subject of baptism lives in accordance with and by faith. This does not exclude infants who cannot exhibit faith as an adult can for baptism is never essentially a man’s expression of faith in God; but rather and ultimately, it is the very act and word of God toward the subject receiving the sacrament. There are differences in the subjects, yes, but there is absolutely no difference in the message to either subject.
The message of the Gospel communicated in full to the subject is the very word of God depicted in the act of baptism and this message is two-fold; on the one hand, it is benediction while on the other hand it is malediction. Baptism holds out for the subject both the hope of resurrection and the threat of no resurrection. The determining factor for the outcome is faith. Will the subject live by faith or not? The call to Christian parents is to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And yet, this discipleship is done with duplicity regardless of whether or not it is intentional. To be sure, it is not intentional. Nonetheless, it is done in duplicity when children are raised to believe and live by faith and yet are required to have a conversion experience like a pagan. Again, we have said it above in one way but we will say it in a new and startling way here: the conversion of a child happens when he is baptized.
New birth and its various synonyms are clearly declared by Jesus to depend upon two things from God: water and the Spirit. Baptism is not man’s word to God but God’s word to man.