Whom Do We Seek to Please in Our Worship?
John Owen was an influential Puritan preacher in the 17th century. Consider what he wrote concerning acceptable worship:
Question: What doth God require of us in our dependence on him, that he may be glorified by us, and we accepted with him?
Answer: That we worship him in and by the ways of his own appointment.
Question: How are the ways and means of the worship of God made known unto us?
Answer: In and by the written word only, which contains a full and perfect revelation of the will of God as to his whole worship and all the concernments of it.
Question: What is principally to be attended unto by us in the manner of the celebration of the worship of God, and observation of the institutions and ordinances of the gospel?
Answer: That we observe and do all whatsoever the Lord Christ hath commanded us to observe, in the way that he hath prescribed; and that we add nothing unto or in the observation of them that is of man’s invention or appointment.
Question: May not the church find out, and appoint to be observed, such religious rites as, being adjoined unto the celebration of God’s instituted worship, may further the devotion of the worshippers, and render the worship itself in its performance more decent, beautiful, and orderly?
Answer: All acceptable devotion in them that worship God is the effect of faith, which respects the precepts and promises of God alone. Therefore all such inventions are in themselves needless and useless, and, because forbidden, unlawful to be observed.
Those excellent observations represent quite a contrast to the attitude that is typical in many churches today. Some time ago there was an item in the newspaper regarding the formation of a new church. Among other things that it was going to feature was a “praise band” to replace formal worship and the singing of traditional songs. The explanation given for this change was, “It just doesn’t make sense to ask people to participate in a worship service which is not relevant to them.”
One more quote to demonstrate how times have changed: In 1646 (during the lifetime of John Owen) the famous Westminster Confession of Faith was produced, which contained the following:
“The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men . . . or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.”
Those Household Baptisms in the Book of Acts
Those who seek to defend infant baptism sometimes say, “What about the household baptisms in the book of Acts? Surely there were some young children or infants in some of those families.”
One way of answering this “argument” is to place the burden of proof back on the one who is making the assertion. It is really up to him to demonstrate that infants or small children were involved in these New Testament baptisms.
The simple fact is, there is no scriptural basis for believing that among those being baptized some were infants. A careful reading of the New Testament reveals details, which rule out infants or very young children. Consider the following cases:
Cornelius - He “feared God with all his house.” (10:2)
Philippian jailer - Paul and Silas “spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house" (16:32). Afterward, he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (vs. 34).
Crispus - “believed on the Lord with all his house” (18:8).
Stephanas - His household was baptized by Paul (1 Cor 1:16), but Paul also says concerning this household, “they have set themselves to minister unto the saints” (1 Cor 16:15).
Whenever anything is said concerning age or maturity of those comprising a baptized household, the indication is that they were old enough to:
• hear (with comprehension)
• fear God
• exercise their own faith
• be devoted to Christian service
This is in perfect accord with what Jesus instructed his apostles:
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” (Matt 28:19, 20)
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:15-16)
We are not left to wonder or speculate. We may confidently say that when we read in the New Testament of the baptism of the members of a household it is speaking of those who have heard, believed and exercised their own will in obeying the gospel.
- Leonard White