The Nature and Purpose of Baptism

What does baptism do? A number of different answers have been given to this question. At one end of the spectrum are those who say that it is a converting ordinance. At the other end are those who claim that baptism is a mere sign of our salvation and profession of faith. Although it has been argued that the Westminster Confession of Faith affirms that baptism is a converting ordinance in that it is the instrument and occasion of regeneration by the Spirit and union with Christ, I will present a number reasons this is an incorrect reading of the Confession. This article will look at the first reason.
The Confession should not be interpreted as teaching the doctrine of baptismal regeneration because that doctrine is incompatible with what the Confession teaches about the nature and purpose of baptism. Unquestionably, the Westminster Standards emphasize the sealing function of the sacraments. Each time a sacrament is defined, generally or specifically, its sealing nature and purpose is mentioned (WCF 27.1; WCF 28.1; WCF 20.1; WLC 162; WLC 168; WSC 92). In one place, seal is used as a synonym for sacrament (WCF 30.3). A similarity or agreement between baptism and the Lord’s Supper is that both are seals of the same covenant (WLC 176). Interestingly, the sections on baptism contain more references to the concept of seal and confirmation than those on the Lord’s Supper.

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from Meet the Puritans


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