Able stated that “baptism begins the discipling process”. I would disagree. Where is the biblical evidence for that statement? In every single example of baptism in the New Testament, baptism demonstrates that discipleship has begun, but it always follows the first act of discipleship, i.e. belief. It is always preceded by a gospel proclamation that is received by the hearer. I’m aware of the “household” arguments, but think that they are a bit weak.
The second point is that “LIFELONG DISCIPLESHIP IS A BETTER EXPRESSION OF COVENANT AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SAVED THAN MAKING A ONETIME DECISION.” I would absolutely agree there. I am raising my children with this idea in mind. Yes, they must come to trust in Christ, but it’s far more than a single event, prayer, day, etc. We must be constantly teaching, showing the gospel both by speech and practice, and having conversations that point to Christ.
Able’s third point is that baptism is an outward New Covenant sign. I wouldn’t completely disregard the statement, but I think we would probably mean different things by it. He makes a direct connection from circumcision to baptism as its direct successor. I don’t believe that to be the case. The apostles specifically and categorically stated that circumcision was no longer necessary. They never instructed the church to therefore baptize instead of circumcise. I don’t believe that Colossians 2 is making that point – New Covenant circumcision there is spoken of as that which is made without hands. I believe that is pointing to the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, without human instrumentality.
Regarding the household baptisms, I believe that in every case, it is implied that the rest of the household was also believing. That seems to be explicit in Acts 18:8. Further, that argument seems to assume the presence of infants in those homes – an impossible thing to prove! Would the paedobaptist also then argue that if a man is converted, he should bring his unconverted wife and teenagers to be baptized? That seems to be the only consistent practice, but I don’t see how that could be maintained.
Further, an even more explicit sign of the New Covenant is that of the Bread and the Cup! Jesus specifically said, “This cup IS the new covenant in my blood”. The consistent paedobaptist must therefore also practice paedocommunion! (I do know of many who do, but the majority I have talked to either do not, or do not contest it as strongly.)
I agree that the heart is the ultimate target. Certainly, there are those who present themselves for baptism who are not truly regenerated. It is impossible for us to see that through our fallible human eyes. But we can seek to be faithful in how we administer baptism and trust that God will sort it all out. But as the heart is the target, the true sign of the Covenant is the circumcision of the heart. It is not a symbol of grace that is performed on the individual. It is only something that the Spirit of God can provide. It’s not just a temporal sign, but a reality.
I’ve spent a bit of time studying this issue. I have seriously considered the biblical merits of PB. Many of my friends who have come to the doctrines of grace have followed that path. But the bottom line for me is the nature of New Covenant membership. If it could be demonstrated biblically and convincingly that New Covenant membership includes physical offspring, I would become a paedobaptist. However, it seems to me that that idea has gone away with the Old Covenant. Paul is too clear – not all who are BORN of Israel are truly Israel. Unlike under the Old, in the New, birth is not a guarantee of covenant membership. Peter seems to also make it clear in Acts 2 (my slightly rearranged paraphrase to clarify what I believe he was saying): “The promise is for everyone who the Lord our God calls to himself–whether you, or your children, or all others who are far off–whoever he calls will come and will receive repentance, forgiveness, and the gift of the Spirit.”