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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The "Household Baptism" Texts

I decided to post part of an article from Fred A. Malone that I found very helpful and clear on explaining the baptism of households. I have talked with many people about this and peadobaptist position for some reason loves to come to these texts. This cleared up a lot for me and again it is impotent that we do not eisegete this passage by adding what is not in the text.
The question of household baptisms has long been used to support paedobaptism. These are the baptisms of the households of Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, Stephanas, and Crispus.

Cornelius' Household (Acts 10:22; 11:12,14)
The account of Peter's preaching the gospel to Cornelius' household does not support infant baptism. Peter did preach the gospel to the whole household, and "all" the household was saved. How do we know that? Acts 10:44 and 11:15 state as much. The Holy Spirit fell upon them "all" and led them to repentance and faith (11:17,18). In fact, Peter explicitly stated in 10:47 that he baptized only those who "received the Holy Spirit as we did." This extension of Pentecost to the Gentiles clearly defined who was baptized. There is no mention of infants in the household, but only those who were "listening to the message" (10:44). Infants are capable of being regenerated by God (e.g., John the Baptist), and some may have been present. But they are not able to listen to the gospel and to "speak with tongues and magnify God" (Acts 10:46). Only the people who did this received baptism as a sign of the Abrahamic "promise" of the Spirit (Gal. 3:14). I conclude that the episode in Cornelius' household not only does not support infant baptism but is also a strong indicator for disciples'/confessors' baptism.

Lydia's Household (Acts 16:15)
The case of Lydia is inconclusive. Where was Lydia's husband? She may not have been married at all. Only women are mentioned at the riverbank. And it appears that she and her household were baptized at the river before she took Paul back to her house. This opens the probability that only women were in her household (every member of which was probably at the riverbank with her) and that she was an unmarried or widowed businesswoman. Even if this is not entirely accurate, there is no mention of infants or older children in her household. Even many paedobaptists hold this instance of household baptism as inconclusive for their position.

Philippian Jailer's Household (Acts 16:30-34)
The account of the Philippian jailer is probably the best possibility for including infants in the household baptism. All his household was baptized, but it is wrong to apply the promise of verse 31 to the "covenantal baptism" of the household based upon the jailer's faith. This is clearly demonstrated in the following verses, where it is recorded that Paul and Silas preached the gospel to "all who were in his house" (v. 32) and that "all his household" (v. 34) believed in God with him.
There is a translation problem with this text that needs to be examined. J. A. Alexander (Acts) agrees that v. 31 is simply a promise of salvation by faith to the jailer and his household upon belief by both. Verse 34 is more complicated. The NASB, NIV, KJV, Williams, and Beck translations indicate that the faith which was shared by his whole household was the basis for their rejoicing: "having believed in God with his whole household." However, the participle is masculine, singular and seems to describe the faith of the jailer: "He greatly rejoiced with his whole household, having believed [that is, the jailer] in God." The emphasis seems to be that the household rejoiced with him because he had found faith (RSV, NEB).
Even if the latter interpretation is correct, we still have the problem of infants rejoicing. It is true that infants can detect and participate in joy in a household. But can infants rejoice because they realize their father has found faith in God? This may well be the basis for the whole household's rejoicing. However, because of the context in preaching the Word to all in the house and because all were resultingly baptized, I believe their rejoicing was the same as the jailer's rejoicing–the evidence of a new-found faith and redemption expressed in the joy of the Holy Spirit's regeneration. Because they all heard the gospel, were baptized, and rejoiced, it is a legitimate conclusion that they all believed. He and his "whole household" were baptized because they all believed. Can infants hear the Word and respond in faith? No. If infants were present, for which there is no proof, the context denies that they were baptized. In fact, the context suggests that no infants were present. This case of household baptism actually lends support to confessors' baptism.

Crispus' Household (Acts 18:8)
A related case which supports the same conclusion concerns the household of Crispus. Here is a definite account concerning baptism in which the whole household, along with Crispus, believed in the Lord. It should also be noted that in the same verse, the other Corinthians who were baptized had first believed. It seems clear that the whole household first believed and then were baptized. This case also positively supports confessors' baptism within households.

Stephanas' Household (1 Cor. 1:16)
The last household baptism mentioned in the New Testament is that of Stephanas by Paul. The thrust of this text is that the baptized believers were in division and controversy over who baptized them. It seems they were capable of knowing who baptized them, thus excluding infants. Further, 1 Cor. 16:15 describes the "household of Stephanas" as having devoted themselves for ministry to the saints. Infants cannot self-consciously devote themselves in such a way. Yet even if this does not prohibit infants in the household of Stephanas, the most that can be said is that we do not know if infants were present. At best, this account is inconclusive for infant baptism.
In summary, the accounts of Lydia's and Stephanas' households are inconclusive, while the accounts of Cornelius', Crispus', and the jailer's households actually point to conscious belief and regeneration before baptism. Therefore, I conclude that the weight of the household baptisms leans toward confessors' baptism.

I would recommend reading Fred A. Malone's whole article on Baptism. It is a very good and insightful read regardless of the position you hold to. So i encourage you all to get your bibles about and go through this article.