Heartland Community Church is a part of the communion of churches in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). As a denomination we are faithful the Scirptures, true to the Reformed Faith, and obedient to the Great Comission.
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word Of God, consists of its doctrinal standards set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order.
Here is a brief summary of what we believe:
THE BIBLE Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament. All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God. (WCF 1.2 & 4)
GOD There is only one, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (WCF 2.1 & 3)
JESUS CHRIST The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, yet was without sin. Having been conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, is the only Mediator between God and man. (WCF 8.2)
MANKIND, God created man male and female after His own image, in knowledge righteousness, and holiness. God wrote His law in their hearts with the power to fulfill it and also the ability to disobey. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, being left to the freedom of their own will, throught the tempation of Satan, disobeyed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from their innocence, thus, all mankind sinned and fell with him in that first act of disobedience. All men and women since the first transgression are now in a state of sin and misery, have been alienated from God, and, apart from the work of the Mediator, Jesus Christ, will be consigned to everlasting separation from the blessed presence of God.
SALVATION Salvation is the gift of God to all who repent and believe in His Son. This gift is to be received by faith alone, throug grace alone, in Christ alone. by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Man can do nothing to earn it, merit it, or deserve it.
GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY teaches that He alone is in control of our universe and nothing in all creation happens apart from His will. There is no power equal to Him. He does what He sees best for His glory and the good of His people.
GOD'S ELECTION God has chosen those whom He wills to become His children through salvation in His Son Jesus. It is not dependent upon anything found in us, but totally based on His mercy and grace. His choice of us occurred before the foundation of the world.
STEWARDSHIP All that we have and are comes from God and therefore, we strive to use them in a way that honors Him and builds His kingdom. We are stewards of God’s creation. We are expected to give to God in cheerful, generous obedience of our time, talents and treasures.
THE SACRAMENTS (BAPTISM & COMMUNION) are visible signs of God’s promise of grace to believers. The power comes not from the elements, but from God Himself. We do not believe the sacraments save, however, we do believe they strengthen our faith and help us to continue to grow in the grace of God. God made the covenant promise of salvation not only to us, but also to our children. We practice infant baptism as a sign of initiation into the covenant community of the church, however, baptism does not save. The church and the parents commit to do everything they can to provide opportunities to share Christ and help each child to live in a way that shows they truly are a “child of the covenant.”
WHY WE BAPTIZE BABIES AT HEARTLAND
Because so many of you come from backgrounds where infant baptism is not practiced or you may simply have some questions and because we have seen so many baptisms recently, it seemed like a good time to give you a written explanation that you can take and read more thoroughly on your own. There are many good sources that I could have used, but I wanted to pass on to you this explanation by Kevin DeYoung. It is short and clearly written. I have a few comments I’ve added at the end. If you have any questions, please let me know. Pastor George
WHY I BAPTIZE BABIES--Kevin DeYoung
One of the best things I get to do as a pastor is to administer the sacrament of infant baptism to the covenant children in my congregation. Before each baptism, I take a few minutes to explain why we practice infant baptism in our church. My explanation usually goes something like this:
It our great privilege this morning to administer that sacrament of baptism to one of our little infants. We do not believe that there is anything magical about the water we apply to the child. The water does not wash away original sin or save the child. We do not presume that this child is regenerate (though he may be), nor do we believe that every child who gets baptized will automatically go to heaven. We baptize infants not out of superstition or tradition or because we like cute babies. We baptize infants because they are covenant children and should receive the sign of the covenant.
In Genesis 15 God made a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was sealed with the sign of circumcision in Genesis 17. God promised to bless Abraham. For Abraham this meant two things in particular, offspring and land. But at the heart of the covenant was God’s promise that he would be a God to Abraham and his children (Gen. 17:7, 8).
Circumcision was not just a physical thing, marking out ethnic Jews. Circumcision was full of spiritual meaning. The circumcision of the flesh was always meant to correspond with circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:25-29). It pointed to humility, new birth, and a new way of life (Lev. 26:40-42; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 6:10; 9:25). In short, circumcision was a sign of justification. Paul says in Romans 4:11 that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.” God’s own interpretation of circumcision is that it was much more than just a physical sign for national Israel.
Remarkably, though, this deeply spiritual sign was given to Ishmael as well as Isaac, even though only Isaac was the continuation of the promised line. The spiritual sign was not just for those who already embraced the spiritual reality. It was to be administered to Abraham and his sons. Circumcision was not a simple equation. It didn’t automatically mean the recipient of the sign was in possession of the thing signified. Circumcision, like baptism, also pointed to belonging, discipleship, covenant obligations, and allowed for future faith that would take hold of the realities symbolized. Just as there were some in Paul’s day who were circumcised but not really circumcised (Rom. 2:25-29), some children of Abraham who were not truly children of Abraham (Rom. 9:6-8), so in our day there are some who are baptized who are not truly baptized. Children should be marked as belonging to the covenant, but unless they exercise saving faith, they will not grab hold of the covenant blessings.
Children today are baptized based on this same covenant with Abraham. Paul makes clear in Galatians 3 what Peter strongly suggests in Acts 2, namely that the Abrahamic covenant has not been annulled. It is still operational. In fact, we see the basic promise of the Abrahamic covenant running throughout the whole Bible, right up to the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 21.
Because sons were part of the Abrahamic covenant in the Old Testament and were circumcised, we see no reason why children should be excluded in the New Testament sign of baptism. Admittedly, there is no text that says “Hear ye, hear ye, circumcision replaces baptism.” But we know from Colossians 2:11-12 that baptism and circumcision carried the same spiritual import.
The transition from one to the other was probably organic. As the Jews practiced proselyte baptism, that sign came to be seen as marking inclusion in the covenant people. For a while circumcision existed along baptism, but as the early church became more Gentile, many of Jewish rites were rendered unnecessary, and sometimes even detrimental to the faith. Thus, baptism eclipsed circumcision as the sign renewal, rebirth, and covenant membership.
Although not conclusive all by themselves, there are several other arguments that corroborate a paedobaptist reading of the New Testament.
One, the burden of proof rests on those who would deny children a sign they had received for thousands of years. If children were suddenly outside the covenant, and were disallowed from receiving any “sacramental” sign, surely such a massive change, and the controversy that would have ensued, would been recorded in the New Testament. Moreover, it would be strange for children to be excluded from the covenant, when everything else moves in the direction of more inclusion from the Old Covenant to the New.
Two, the existence of household baptisms is evidence that God still deals with households as a unit and welcomes whole families into the church to come under the Lordship of Christ together (Acts 16:13-15; 32-34; 1 Cor. 1:16; cf. Joshua 24:15).
Three, children are told to obey their parents in the Lord (Eph. 6:1). Children in the church are not treated as little pagans to be evangelized, but members of the covenant who owe their allegiance to Christ.
Four, within two centuries of the Apostles we have clear evidence that the church was practicing infant baptism. If this had been a change to long-standing tradition, we would have some record of the church arguing over this new practice. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Christians began to question the legitimacy of infant baptism.
So we come to administer the sacrament of baptism to this child today with the weight of church history to encourage us and the example of redemptive history to confirm our practice. We baptize in obedience to Christ’s command. The sacrament we are about to administer is a sign of inclusion in the covenant community as circumcision was, and the water we are about to sprinkle is a sign of cleansing from sin as the sprinkled blood of bulls and goats in the Old Testament was. We pray that this little one will take advantage of all his covenant privileges, acknowledges his Lord all the days of his life, and by faith make these promises his own.
End of Article
From Pastor G--A Covenant child now has the responsibility to place their faith and trust in Christ alone for their salvation and to live as obedient children to the commandments of God. When they believe and love God, they will obey Him and He will bless them. So as we baptize our children, we look forward to the promise of salvation coming true in their lives as they believe in Jesus. What a joy it is on that day when they profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We must always maintain the true evangelicalism of our Christian faith that reminds us we are not saved by any external rite or sacrament, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The sovereign grace of God works mysteriously, directly and efficaciously in the heart and soul of each individual whom He has appointed to salvation.
So we do not believe in baptismal regeneration. We must not look upon baptism as having some semi-magical effect. The words of our Shorter Catechism say, "The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that administers them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them." Baptism derives all its efficacy from the sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit. We must never take for granted that the infant who is baptized is by that mere fact assured of eternal life.
Also, infant baptism does not relieve parents of that solemn responsibility to instruct, warn, exhort, direct and protect the infant members of the Christian church committed to their care. "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him and his righteousness unto children's children, to such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them." The encouragement derived from this promise must never be separated from the doing of the obligations involved. It is only in the atmosphere of obedience to divine commandments, that faith in the divine promise can live and grow. Faith divorced from obedience is mockery and presumption.
Here are the questions asked of the parents at the child’s baptism:
- Do you acknowledge your child’s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
- Do you claim God’s covenant promises in (his) behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for (his) salvation, as you do for your own?
- Do you now unreservedly dedicate your child to God, and promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before (him) a godly example, that you will pray with (him) and for (him), that you will teach (him) the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring (him) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Question to the congregation:
And do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of assisting these parents in the Christian nurture of this child?