|Dr. Couch, how does dispensationalism differ with the Reformed folks on infant baptism? And is baptism replacing circumcision?|
ANSWER: The heart of dispensationalism is to take the Bible at face value, in its normal grammatical-historical sense. Dispensationalism believes in all the rules for solid hermeneutics but the Reformed people do not. They allegorize second coming prophetic passages, for the most part. Dispensationalists are consistent with the issues of "Progressive revelation, normal interpretation, and studying the Word of God by "context, context, context"! Depensationalism is not a system, it is "a way of life" in that you just take the Bible in its normal sense. Israel means Israel and not the church. Rapture means a "going up," not Christ "coming down" to reign. If you know up from down you are a dispensationalist. The church goes up in the rapture; Christ comes down to rule on the Davidic throne over Israel. Read what was told to Mary in Luke 1:30-33. Christ will be reigning over the house of David. The house of David is not the church! Anyone who thinks the house of David is the church is not reading their Bible. When the OT says God brings back the Jews to Jerusalem, this is not the gathering of the church! IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS! Now to your questions:
Circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant, though it was also later after the time of Abraham included as part of the Law system. It was not a sign of salvation, as baptism is. Baptism does not replace circumcision because that would cut out 50% of the population being baptized, women!
As for infant baptism passages, you cannot find any! Read Acts 2:38-39 carefully. (This is what dispensationalists do!) The passage urges the Jews to do something actual and literal. "Repent (individually) each one of you for the forgiveness of your sins." This is a conscious act. This "promise" of forgiveness "is for you and your children." The promise includes the action of the one receiving forgiveness—repenting. You cannot foist that blessing of forgiveness over onto your children, your infants, unless they can consciously "repent." And they cannot!
About infant baptism you cannot use the story of Cornelius and his household. Peter said when in that house "everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:43). The Spirit fell on "all those who were listening to the message," not on the little infants who could not process that message. (1) those who believed, (2) received the Spirit, and (3) were baptized.
About infant baptism you cannot use the story of the jailer at Philippi. He asked Paul, "what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household" (v. 31). THERE IT IS! INFANT BAPTISM within the household! Keep reading. Paul and Silas preached the word of the Lord "to him together with all who were in his household." The word "was preached and heard" by the household. This would not be small infants who could not process the message! Note verse 34: "they" in the house rejoiced greatly, "having believed in God with his whole household." The Greek is saying "the whole household" believed along with the jailer.
Infant baptism will not fly! Unfortunately, the Reformed, following Luther and Calvin, just carried infant over from Catholicism, though in some ways, not with the same heavy punch as is in Romanism. It is unfortunate too, that they do not admit this. While I am most grateful of what these men did for us, I do not follow them blindly, as many Reformed people do. It is almost as if, "Since Calvin said it, it must be true."
Thanks for asking.
Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.