Yesterday I directed your attention to an interesting discussion taking place on the Reformation21 Blog. Rick Philips has made some remarks on the paedo-baptist position, to which I have been responding. I am continuing that response here since Philips has posted another entry: “Wet v. Dry Christian Babies.”
I would observe that this does not answer the uniform testimony of the Bible as to the application of covenant signs and seals to children of believers (including Peter’s new covenant teaching in Acts 2).
Paedo-baptists often appeal to Acts 2:39 to show that children of Christians are included in the New Covenant: “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” For the paedo-baptist, this verse is cited as slam-dunk proof of “the uniform testimony of the Bible as to the application of covenant signs and seals to children of believers.”
I am surprised at how so many people can so consistently misread this text. Clearly, the “promise” is for three groups of people: (1) “you,” the listeners hearing Peter preach, (2) “your children,” the children of the people in group 1, and (3) “to the ones who are far off,” probably Gentiles (cf. Isa 57:19 LXX; Eph 2:14, 17). All three of these groups are delimited by the final phrase of the verse: “as many as the Lord our God shall call to himself.”
The final qualifying phrase indicates that not everyone in the three groups has the promise extended to them. Only those that the Lord “calls to Himself” are the proper recipients of the promise. It is, therefore, no more proper to assume that the promise applies to all children of believers than it is to assume that it applies to “all who are far off.” The promise is linked to calling.
Thus, those who are included in the New Covenant are those who have been called.