I. A Household
A. Human Culture
It may sound odd at first, but the debate over infant baptism hinges as much on cultural issues as it does upon theological issues. We are Western Individualists—products of the Enlightenment—and we consciously or unconsciously repel the idea that anything external to ourselves affects or can determine our destiny. We choose, we determine, we will, and nobody can put a constraint upon us…we are philosophical, social, and cultural Arminians.
We teach our children that they can be anything that they want to be when they grow up and we teach them explicitly or implicitly that if they “believe in themselves” they can accomplish anything. Thus we teach them that “faith” is a self-actualizing tool that they have at their disposal to make themselves into what they want to be—not a Divine gift granted by God to the elect so that they can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
The EnLIGHTenment was a reaction against, and throwing off of, the DARK Ages. It was a rejection of the Old world and its structures and constraints, and a move into the New world of the SELF and freedom.
When Paul and Silas answered the Philippian jailer here saying (16:31), “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” they used the Greek term oikos, which the jailer would have understood in terms of his time and culture…not ours…an old world understanding; not a new world understanding. The Wikipedia online Encyclopedia defines it this way: “An oikos is the ancient Greek equivalent of a household, house, or family. An oikos was the basic unit of society in most Greek city-states, and included the head of the oikos (usually the oldest male), his extended family (wife and children), and slaves living together in one domestic setting.”
In other words, parallel to the Hebrew concept of the Covenant Family, is the Greek concept of the Oikos Household. A man’s household included everything that was his: His wife, his children, and his slaves. Thus it would not have been just the Hebrew who would have understood the promises as being to his children, as would have naturally be expected—as the men of Jerusalem would have on the Day of Pentecost when Peter proclaimed, “For the promise is for you and your children…”—but the Greek would also have naturally understood this kind of offer—as the Philippian jailer did here, when Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”.
B. God’s Nature
You see, what is under girding all of this is that even though man has suppressed the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, bits and parts of God’s nature are still found reflected in His creation. Paul says concerning unrighteous men and cultures (Rom. 1:19-20),
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature (or “Godhead”), have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
The whole household concept that is found in every culture is a reflection of the very being of God—His nature; His Godhead. The Greek Oikos Household and the Hebrew Covenant Family are both grounded in the person of God. These conceptions of the family existed in the Old world because all men are God’s creatures and though fallen, they still reflect to some degree His image.
Therefore, God has always and only dealt covenantally with households—that is, parents and children being considered as organically connected; federal units of society—the Oikos Household among the Greeks or the Covenant Family among the Hebrews—when He has dealt with mankind. God dealing this way is a vital aspect of every single Covenant administration that He has established with man, and it is this way because it comes from the very nature of God Himself.
Thus this mode of dealing with mankind—by family units—was not temporary or typological, but rather moral and permanent. Like the moral law of God, God would have to sooner pass away than His law pass away, because it is in fact a reflection of His own character. And in fact this principle and mode of dealing with mankind is enshrined in the moral Law—the Ten Commandments—and the reason that it is based upon is the actual nature of God Himself. Concerning why we should not engage in false worship God says (Ex. 20:5-6),
…I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
That is dealing with mankind as covenantal family or according to the Oikos Household because that is who God is! Later when Moses desires to see the Lord and His glory, God proclaims His glory and character to Moses saying (Ex. 34:6-7)
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
And this is why the Bible says that every household or headship or fatherhood derives its name from Him, as Paul said (Eph. 3:14-15),
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family (Lit. “fatherhood”) in heaven and on earth is named,
We are a culture that is in rebellion against God. We are trying to remove every vestige of God’s remembrance from our lives and we are trying to change the natural order and definition of things such as marriage and the family. But God has not changed and He has not changed the way that He deals with mankind. And He has not stopped dealing with households because He cannot…that is who He is and that is how He has made us. Thus while we must love our brethren of different persuasions—and I do love those of you who differ with us here—we must reject aberrant philosophies such as Individualism and Feminism, as well as errant theologies such as Arminianism and anti-Infant baptism. These beliefs are all ultimately inconsistent with the very being of God Himself as He has revealed Himself in both nature and Scripture. Every individual is comprehended as being part of a larger family unit—a household. Every household has a covenant head. And every covenant headship is modeled on God’s own federal headship over creation, and all works that way because of who God is.