Baptism as Covenant Sign and Seal

Baptism is the sign and seal of the covenant of grace.  As a sign, baptism points to true realities beyond itself.  For example, the cleansing property of the water that is applied in baptism points to the cleansing of our sins by the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  As a seal, baptism is a visible, tangible witness of God’s faithfulness to all His promises in the gospel of Christ.  It is like a wedding ring that reminds a wife of her husband’s promises of fidelity, love, honor, and cherishing of her.  Because God says through Peter in Acts 2:39 that “the promise is for you and for your children,” and we read repeatedly in the New Testament that believers’ whole households were baptized when the believer was baptized, we also bring our children to receive this covenant sign from the Lord.

When we bring our children to the baptismal font it is a picture of the beauty of God’s love and grace.  It is also a confession that our children, who are so precious to behold, who bring so much joy to our lives, and whom we love in ways we never quite imagined we could love, these precious children are disfigured in their souls and infected in every part of their being by the evil of sin.  Baptism is a confession that our children need the grace of God to be free from the guilt and power of sin.  Baptism is a confession that only in union with Jesus Christ can our children be free from sin and enabled to walk in the newness of life to the glory of God.  Paul asks, in Romans 6:2, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”  Then he explains how we died to sin through union with Christ, a union signified by baptism.  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”

These parents have this hope for their child.  Bringing her to the baptismal font, they are looking to Christ alone for her cleansing and true life with God.  We confess that baptism is no empty ritual, but is commanded by God and is, therefore, attended by His blessing.  It is the visible word of the Gospel, as Scripture is the written word.  Just as we believe that God’s word will not return void, but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it, so we believe that the sacraments do not return void, inasmuch as they accompany the preaching of the word of God and embody that word as sign and seal.  The inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to the very moment of time when it is administered, but the fruit and power of baptism reaches to the whole course of our life.

Believing parents bring their children to receive the covenant sign of baptism as an early means of grace, and, by so doing, promise to bring all the means of grace to bear on the life of their children, such as the regular worship of the Church, instruction in the Scriptures as the covenant document from our Lord, and prayers with and for our children, so that when they have reached a condition of discretion, and become subject to the obligations of the covenant, namely, faith, repentance, and obedience, they may make a public confession of their faith in Christ.  Indeed, God calls us to do this with diligence.

As we witness the baptism of this child, may we look back to our own baptism that we might mourn and repent of our sins against our covenant with God, and be stirred up in faith to make right use of our baptism, supplementing “faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Parents, as you have served as an example to us all of claiming God’s covenant promises for our children and continuing by every means to impress the same upon them faithfully, I take the opportunity on this special occasion to encourage you not to grow weary in well-doing, but to take heart in knowing that in due time you will reap if you do not faint.  And as God has blessed you with the fruit of the womb, may He make these olive shoots around your table to abound with fruit for the glory of His name.

A Baptismal Prayer

Our faithful covenant God, You have made to us many precious and great promises through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should enjoy Your glory and virtue forever.  May Your blessing attend this sacrament of baptism, that goodness and mercy may follow this child of the covenant all the days of her life, and that she may dwell in Your house forever.  Through Christ we pray.  Amen.