Home > Covenant Theology, Systematic Theology, Westminster Standards > The Lord’s Day, Household Baptism, and Good and Necessary Consequences

The Lord’s Day, Household Baptism, and Good and Necessary Consequences


Over the last few months off and on I’ve been studying the issue of baptism, and specifically paedo-baptism.  I grew up in a mainline Presbyterian church with minimal biblical instruction, and then walked away, an unbeliever for several years, until I was saved in my mid-20s while attending an Evangelical Presbyterian church.  Through God’s Providence, a few years later I came to a non-denominational Calvinist Baptist church–only knowing the basics of evangelical Christianity and completely ignorant of the Reformed Confessions and even of the 5 points of Calvinism.  In the following years, I came to understand Calvinism; in the last 10+ years, I studied through dispensational premillennialism to later historic premillennialism, then adding the Reformed Confessions and understanding of God’s moral law and the Lord’s Day Sabbath.

The issue of credo vs paedo- (or household) baptism is clearly a divisive one, and sincere, godly Christians have come to different conclusions on the matter.  A full study on the subject would take many posts, and many helpful articles can be found online.  My purpose here is to focus on one particular issue:  the doctrine of good and necessary consequences (WCF 1.6; see this previous post) and two Reformed doctrines that do not have direct, explicit New Testament verses, yet are inferred from the good and necessary consequences, and both of which involve the continuity of Old and New Testament practice.

The Lord’s Day Sabbath involves continuity: a practice observed in the Old Testament (back to creation), with changes in the New Covenant era that symbolize a new, greater meaning of the 8th day (1st day of the week) Lord’s Day observance.  Yet the critics respond with “Where is the New Testament verse saying that the Lord’s Day replaced the seventh day Sabbath?”  The doctrine is inferred, from a systematic study of the teaching in the old creation, through the Old Testament books, then Jesus’ stress on the day’s importance–He is Lord of the Sabbath, something He considered important and not just a Jewish ritual soon to be obsolete; then noted in the Resurrection accounts and the early church observance on the 1st day of the week, along with other NT references through to Revelation 1, where John mentions the Lord’s Day.

Household baptism similarly shows continuity and a pattern observed throughout the Old Testament, as early as Abraham and his household (long before Moses) as well as earlier references such as 1 Peter 3:20-22 in reference to Noah and the family with him in the ark during the flood.  The pattern continues throughout the Old Testament and the many references to households and the covenant community.  Then — like the teaching regarding the Sabbath — the gospels and Acts describe things that only fit within that Old Testament context, of continuing the covenant community concept.  Of the handful of baptism accounts in the book of Acts, a significant percentage of these are household baptisms, where the text states that the one person believed, and on account of that one person’s belief, the household rejoiced with him and everyone in the household was also baptized.  Verses in the New Testament epistles likewise reference the relation between Old Testament and New Testament symbols and their meaning (ref. Colossians 2:11-12), and also describe believers within the context of a covenant community which includes genuine believers alongside those who appear to believe for awhile, but later come out and depart from the faith (ref. Hebrews 10:28-29).  The household baptism is a “both/and” concept – both adult converts, and their household, those under the head of the family.

Again, this subject is greater than the scope of one blog post, and undoubtedly many would disagree with the teaching of household baptism, instead insisting on individual belief and individual baptism with belief required for baptism.  Yet as I clearly see it, both the doctrine of the Lord’s Day Sabbath AND the teaching of household baptism or “covenant baptism” are inferred in scripture, from the good and necessary consequences.  Both doctrines involve a systematic study and more continuity than discontinuity.  Both doctrines involve practices continuing from the Old to New Testament, with a change that symbolizes the truth in a greater, New Testament meaning.  Neither doctrine has any direct “proof-text” verse that explicitly states that the NT practice has continued with some change.  Both doctrines understand the relative silence (i.e., the lack of direct and explicit statements) in the New Testament, as indicating that the historic practice, as of the 1st century, did not radically change and was understood by the early church believers who had their Bibles, the Old Testament scriptures.  Both doctrines affirm that if the Old Testament practice was supposed to change (such as, to abolish the Sabbath concept, or the covenant changing from a community of families to only individuals) that the New Testament writers would have said as much; and therefore the silence instead confirms the original practice.

Historically, most “Baptist” Christians have been non-Reformed:  the Anabaptist groups, also the Southern Baptists and general Arminian Dispensational groups since the 19th century.  Yet among the Reformed, the Reformed Baptists are a relative minority in the larger group of Reformed paedo — and quite possibly this is the reason, or one major reason:  the inconsistency of accepting continuity on one Reformed issue (the Lord’s Day Sabbath) while rejecting the other continuity issue (household, covenantal baptism).

The practice of household baptism, including of young children, historically goes back very early in the church, as noted in the writings of Tertullian and others in the early third century.  This also explains and makes more sense of something I wondered about while studying medieval Europe history several years ago:  the early medieval practice of whole European nations being suddenly baptized, converted, Christianized, upon the profession of faith of the nation’s ruler.

A few helpful articles regarding household baptism:

  1. Neil Schoch
    January 31, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    Hi Lynda,
    There sure are some large areas of debate in this Post. Much can be learnt through scriptural debate especially if done in love. On the subject of baptism the Lord instructed in Mathews Gospel that it be done in the names of the Triune God, and yet every recorded baptism in the Bible is done in the name of Jesus alone. I am getting on a bit but I still have not heard of a satisfying answer to this. Sometimes only eternity will reveal things to us.
    Blessings, Neil.

    • February 1, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Hi Neil,

      Thanks for your comment, and good to hear from you Yes, the baptism texts do not explicitly mention the Trinity formula (which is commonly practiced in credo-baptism today), though some of the texts mention belief in Jesus, also belief in God, and others mention the Holy Spirit in connection with belief in Jesus. As you said, though, you’ve heard some explanations for this. And yes, because we are fallen and finite, many things we yet cannot understand; even after this life, we will still be learning, since we are finite creatures and God is infinite. It just shows how great our God is, far beyond our capacity so that we will always be in amazement and discovering new things about Him — so unlike the false gods that are really made in man’s image, at a lower finite level.

  1. January 31, 2020 at 12:46 pm

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