The title of this post speaks to the very nature of the sacraments (ordinances, if you like) of baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Should they be viewed as God’s means of grace or our means of commitment to God?
In other words, in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Is it about what God promises (Paedobaptist), or Is it about what the believer pledges to God (Credobaptist)?
In the Old Testament, for example, circumcision was more about what God promises as a faithful covenant keeping God than what a circumcised male could ever accomplish (Genesis 17:1-14; the same could be said about the Passover celebration (Exodus 12:12, 27). This understanding of the sacraments as signs and seals of the covenant are then carried over into the New Testament by our Paedobaptist brothers and sisters, justifying the baptism of the infant(s) of believers/a believer and even paedocommunion in a minority of Reformed circles.
And which have compelled me to ask:
- Should the New Testament sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper be understood in the same way as circumcision and the Passover?
- Or should we argue for discontinuities precisely because the nature of the New Testament sacraments have changed?
Or should we seek a third view, which sees the sacraments as both God’s means of grace and our means of commitment? Per the witness of Scripture, I think we should. Consider the case the baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
After having the good news of Jesus preached to him, on coming to some water, the Ethiopian Eunuch requested baptism (Acts 8:34-38).
When Philip baptized the Eunuch, it was not only God’s means of assuring grace but also the Eunuch’s means of commitment, to be a follower of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; cf. 1 Peter 3:21).