I have a deep respect and admiration for Dr. Packer and his work so I took my time to make notes while reading “Concise Theology.” My notes are posted on here. This post contains a very brief interaction with the chapter on Baptism. Dr. Packer was being concise and so am I. These notes are not meant to be extensive or complete.
In his work “Concise Theology” Dr. Packer takes the Reformed Covenantal approach to paedobaptism which I reject. I believe in credobaptism because of covenant theology.
When Dr. Packer writes, that baptism “is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25-27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5)” I believe he is making a case for credobaptism for only those who have made a profession of belief in Christ receive the sign of the past deed of regeneration. This is the scriptural ideal and the Baptist ideal. Being baptized into Moses is used by Dr. Packer as further evidence of the “control and direction” we are placed under by Baptism, but I would argue that those baptized as infants are given the sign prematurely and create the issue of “new covenant breakers.” This is something impossible under the New Covenant. The paedobaptist must “necessarily admit unregenerate persons to the membership” where the credobaptist position only does so accidentally. (Thomas R. Schreiver and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2006) 227.)
Dr. Packer writes, “The command to baptize may be fulfilled by immersion, dipping, or sprinkling; all three modes satisfy the meaning of the Greek verb baptizo and the symbolic requirement of passing under, and emerging from, cleansing water.” Then he latter offers in defence of his position to baptize infants, that it has been “the historic practice of most churches.”
This statement would ignore the “historic practice” of baptism by full immersion among the Eastern Christians. In regards to the historic practice of the early church Professors Hendrick F. Stander and Johannes P. Louw, both paedobaptists, concluded after a diligent study of the early church fathers that believers were immersed after a profession of faith. They concluded, “In the first four centuries of Christianity, the literature on baptism clearly shows how, in the majority of instances, it was persons of responsible age (generally adults and grown children) who were recipients of baptism.” (Hendrick F. Stander and Johannes P. Louw, Baptism in the Early Church (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2006) 183.) The authors continue by stating that it is “unsound to scrutinize the New Testament writings for allusions to infant baptism, since the latter involved a historical development ” thusly maintaining the practice of paedobaptism. Stander and Louw admit to the absence of paedobaptism in the early church but maintain the practiced based on “historical develop” of the doctrine outside of scripture. (Ibid., 186.)
Dr. Packer then explains how baptism of infants follows a covenant pattern. Under the former covenant infant males were circumcised, now under the New Covenant infants are to receive the covenant sign of baptism, but I fail to see how one follows the other. To test the logic I’ve heard it asked, “what if a couple come to Christ in their late 50’s? Should their children who are in their late 20’s be baptized?” If we follow Dr. Packer’s thinking we would have to answer yes, they must receive covenant sign, even if they don’t believe.
“Is baptism to be administered to such who repent? Yes. It is the baptism of repentance, Mark 1:4.”
“Should faith be before baptism? Yes. The Corinthians believed and were baptized, Acts 18:8.”
“Must persons first be taught before they are baptized? Yes. Go teach all nations baptizing them, Matthew 28:19.”
The issue between Baptists and Reformed Christians is not believers baptism, both agree that all those who profess faith in Christ should be baptized, no, the issue is infant baptism.
PS: Dr. Packer also uses a lower case b for Baptist but a capital r for Reformed. This rebuff, even if unintentional, did not go unnoticed.