Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Household of Faith (Part 1)

Over the next few weeks I intend to post a 5-part series on household baptisms in the New Testament. This was originally a sermon which I preached to my congregation (http://www.springsreformed.org) before the baptism of one of our covenant children, but I think that it can be read with profit as well. Please read Acts 16:25-34 before you read further.


Before us today is the often quoted—but most often, partially quoted—succinct, apostolic answer to the Philippian jailer’s question: What must I do to be saved? In this apostolic answer, there is a solid affirmation of the divine promises of the Covenant of Grace. God had sworn to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and that through his Seed all the nations of the world would be blessed with salvation. And now, in the Book of Acts, we are seeing the fulfillment of those promises given to Abraham—the promises of the everlasting Covenant of Grace—being fulfilled as the good news of Jesus—the Seed of Abraham—is being preached from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and into the uttermost parts of the earth. As Paul says (Gal. 3:8-9),

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

But you see, even as it was with Abraham, when God calls a person into the Covenant of Grace, He claims Lordship over the man and his entire household. And so even as God said to Abraham (Gen. 17:7)…,

I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

…He is here saying to the Philippian jailer—a Gentile (Acts 16:31): “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

And just as the sign and seal of righteousness by faith—circumcision (Rom. 4:11)—was applied not only to believing Abraham, but to all the males in his household (Gen. 17:11-13)…,

You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

…so also we read here of the believing Philippian jailer, that not only did he receive the sign and seal of salvation by faith—baptism (Col. 2:11-12), but that his entire household was baptized (Acts 16:33), and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

This then brings us face-to-face with the subject of “household baptisms”. The account here in Acts 16 is one of 5 household baptisms that we know of in the New Testament. In fact there are only 9 persons mentioned in the NT specifically as having been baptized: In Acts we read of the Ethiopian eunuch, Simon Magus, Saul who became Paul, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus, and from 1 Corinthians, we learn of Gauis and Stephanas.

Two of these specifically mentioned, most likely did not have any immediate families: the Ethiopian eunuch and Paul. And concerning two of these specifically mentioned, we are not told anything concerning whether they had families or not: Simon Magus and Gauis. Concerning the 5 other individuals that are mentioned in the NT as having been baptized, we know that they had households, and in each case their households were baptized with them.

In the studies to come, we will consider first, generally speaking, "a household", then "a biblical household", and then finally "a biblical household and baptism".