What We Believe
Get to Know Wellington
We have an expository method of teaching scripture verse by verse. While there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation. The meaning of Scripture is found by diligently applying the literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 17; 16:12-15; 1 Cor 2:7-15; 1 John 2:20). It is the responsibility of believers to ascertain the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that proper application is binding on all generations. The truth of Scripture stands in judgment of men; never do men stand in judgment of it.
What is Expository Preaching?
The goal of expository preaching is to present the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose — the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse. To prepare an expository sermon, the preacher starts with a passage of Scripture and then studies the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of that passage in order to understand the author’s intent. In other words, the expositor is also an exegete—one who analyzes the text carefully and objectively. Once the preacher understands the meaning of the passage, he then crafts a sermon to explain and apply it. The result is expository preaching. The reason we focus on expository preaching is so that believers can walk with God according to the truth of His word and enjoy His good, pleasing, and perfect will for their lives.
The Holy Scriptures
Wellington accepts, acknowledges and teaches the Bible as God’s divine revelation to man (1Cor. 2:7-14; 2 Peter 1:20, 21), verbally inspired in every word (2Tim. 3:16), absolutely inerrant in the original documents, infallible, and God-breathed. The Holy Spirit overshadowed the human authors that through their individual personalities and different styles of writing they composed and recorded God’s Word to man (2 Pet. 1:20, 21) without error (Mt. 5:18; 2Tim. 3:16).
While there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation. The meaning of Scripture is found by diligently applying the literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John17; 16:12-15; 1Cor 2:7-15; 1John 2:20). It is the responsibility of believers to ascertain the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that proper application is binding on all generations. The truth of Scripture stands in judgment of men; never do men stand in judgment of it.
The Bible constitutes the infallible rule of faith and practice for Christians both as individuals and as His church (Mt. 5:18; 24:35; John 10:35; 16:12, 13; 17:17; 1 Cor 2:13; 2Tim 3:15-17; Heb 4:12; 2Pet. 1:20, 21)
There is but one living and true God (Dt 6:4; Is 45:5-7; 1Cor. 8:4), an infinite, all-knowing Spirit (John 4:24), perfect in all His attributes, one in essence, and eternally existing in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19; 2Cor 13:14) equally deserving worship and obedience.
God the Father
God the Father, the first person of the Trinity, orders and disposes all things according to His own holy purpose and grace (Ps 145:8, 9; 1Cor. 8:6). He is the Creator of all things (Gen 1:1-31; Eph 3:9). As the only absolute and omnipotent ruler of the universe, He is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption (Ps. 103:19; Rom. 11:36). He has decreed for His own glory all things that come to pass (Eph 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1Chron. 29:11). In His sovereignty He is neither author nor approver of sin (Hab 1:13), nor does He reduce the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1Pet. 1:17). Though He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Eph. 1:4-6) He saves from sin all who come to Him through Christ’s atoning death at the cross (John 1:12; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5; Heb 12:5-9).
God the Son
Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity is co-equal, co-substantial, and co-eternal with the Father (John 10:30; 14:9). God created “the heavens and the earth and all that is in them” according to His own will, through Christ by whom all things continue in existence and in operations (John 1:3; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2). Through the incarnation (God becoming man) Christ surrendered only the prerogatives of deity but nothing of the divine essence. The eternally existing Christ accepted all the essential characteristics of humanity and became the God-man (Phil 2:5-8; Col 2:9). Christ represents humanity and deity in indivisible oneness (Mic 5:2; John 5:23; 14:9, 10; Col 2:9). He was virgin born (Is 7:14; Mt. 1:23; 25; Lk 1:26-35) God incarnate (John 1:1, 14). The purpose of the incarnation was to reveal God, redeem men, and rule over God’s kingdom (Ps 2:7-9; Is 9:6; John 1:29; Phil 2:9-11; Heb 7:25, 26; 1Pet 1:18-19). In the incarnation, Christ laid aside His right to the full prerogatives of coexistence with God, assumed the place of a Son, and took on an existence appropriate to a servant while never divesting Himself of His divine attributes (Phil. 2:5-8). Christ accomplished our redemption through the shedding of His blood and sacrificial death at the cross and His death was voluntary, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory, and redemptive (John 10:15; Rom 3:24, 25; 5:8; 1 Pet 2:24).
By the efficacy of the death of Christ, the believing sinner is freed from punishment, the penalty, the power, and one day the very presence of sin; and is declared righteous, given eternal life and adopted into the family of God (Rom 3:25; 5:8,9; 2Cor 5:14, 15; 1 Pet 2:24; 3:18). Our justification is made sure by His literal, physical resurrection from the dead and His ascension to the right hand of the Father, where He now mediates as our Advocate and High-Priest (Mt 28:6; Lk 24:38, 39; Acts 2:30, 31; Rom 4:25; 8:34; Heb 7:25; 9:24; 1John 2:1). Through the resurrection of Christ from the grave, God confirmed the deity of Christ and gave proof He has accepted His atoning work at the cross. His bodily resurrection is also the guarantee of a future resurrection life for all believers (Jn 5:26-29; 14:19; Rom 4:25; 6:5-10; 1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Christ will one day return to receive the church, which is His body, unto Himself and will establish His kingdom (Acts 1:9-11; Rev. 20). Christ is the one through whom God will judge all mankind (John 5:22, 23): believers (1 Cor 3:10-15; 2Cor 5:10); living inhabitants on the earth at His glorious return (Mt. 25:31-46); and unbelieving dead at the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-15). As the mediator between God and man (1Tim 2:5) and the head of His body (the church; Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col 1:18) He is the final judge of all who reject trust in Him as Lord and Savior (Mt 25:14-46; Acts 17:30, 31).
God the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is divine, eternal, underived, possessing all the attributes of personality and deity, including intellect (1 Cor 2:10-13), emotions (Eph 4:30), will (1Cor 12:11), eternality (Heb 9:14), omnipresence (Ps 139:7-10), omniscience (Is 40:13, 14), omnipotence (Rom15:13), and truthfulness (John 16:13). The work of the Holy Spirit is to execute the divine will in the creation (Gen 1:2), the incarnation (Mt 1:18), the written revelation (2Pet 1:20, 21) and the work of salvation (John 3:5-7).
The unique work of the Holy Spirit in this age began at Pentecost when He came from the Father as promised by Christ (John 14:16, 17; 15:26) to initiate and complete the establishment of the church. His activity includes convicting the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment; and transforming believers into the image of Christ (John 16:7-9; Acts 1:5; 2:4; Rom 8:29; 2Cor 3:18; Eph 2:22). The Holy Spirit is the supernatural and sovereign agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the body of Christ (1Cor 12:13). The Holy Spirit also indwells, sanctifies, instructs, empowers them for service, and seals them unto the day of redemption (Rom 8:9-11; 2Cor 3:6; Eph 2:22).
The Holy Spirit also administers spiritual gifts to the church. The Holy Spirit glorifies neither Himself nor His gifts by ostentatious displays, but glorifies Christ by redeeming the lost and building up believers in holy faith (John 16:13, 14; Acts 1:8; 1Cor 12:4-11; 2cor 3:18). The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that enabled the apostles to speak in other languages and to perform miracles was for the purpose of authenticating them as the revealers of divine truth, and was never intended to be characteristic of all believers (1Cor 12:4-11; 13:8-10; 2Cor 12:12; Eph 4:7-12; Heb 2:1-4). With the passing of the apostolic age and the completion of the canon of Scripture there is no longer need for such signs since man can determine today who speaks for God by comparing their teaching with God’s revelation in His word. This does not mean the Lord no longer does miracles in response to the prayers of His people, it just means there is no need for the Holy Spirit to do them through His messengers to publicly validate His word or His work.
Man was created by God in His image and likeness, free of sin with rational nature, intelligence, volition, self-determination, and moral responsibility to God (Gen 2:7, 15-25; Jas 3:9).
God’s intention in the creation of man was that he should glorify Him, enjoy His fellowship, live within His holy will, and accomplish His divine purposes (Is 43:7; Col 1:16; Rev 4:11).
Through Adam’s sin of disobedience to the revealed will and Word of God, man lost his innocence; incurred the penalty of spiritual and physical death; became subject to the wrath of God; and became inherently corrupt and utterly incapable of reconciling himself to God apart from divine grace. Man is hopelessly lost, thus his salvation is wholly dependant upon God’s grace through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gen 2:16, 17; 3:1-19; John 3:36; Rom 3:23; 6:23; 1Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1-3; 1Tim 2:13, 14; 1John 1:8).
Salvation is by God’s grace through the merit of Christ’s shed blood and not on the basis of human effort or works (John 1:12; Eph. 1:4-7; 2:8-10; 1Pet 1:1,2).
Salvation is an act of God whereby before the foundation of the world He chose in Christ those whom He graciously regenerates, saves, and sanctifies (Rom 8:28, Eph 1:4-11; 2Thes 2:13; 2Tim 2:10; 1Pet 1:1,2). This sovereign election does not contradict or negate the responsibility of man to repent and trust Christ as Savior and Lord (Eze 18:23, 32; 33:11; Jn 3:18, 19, 36, 5:40; 2Thes 2:10-12; Rev 22:17). All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Lord will receive (John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 13:48; Jas 4:8). While God is sovereign, He exercises this sovereignty in harmony with His other attributes, especially His omniscience, justice, holiness, wisdom, grace, and love (Rom 9:11-16). This sovereignty will always exalt the holy will of God in a manner totally consistent with His character as revealed in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Mt 11:25-28; 2Tim 1:9).
Regeneration is a supernatural work by which divine nature and divine life are given (Jn 3:3-8; Titus 3:5) to repentant sinners by the power of the Holy Spirit through the use of God’s word (John 5:24), which enables them to respond in faith to the salvation Christ secured for them at the cross. This regeneration is made evident by fruits demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct (1Cor 6:19, 20; Eph 5:17-21; Phil 2:12b; Col 3:12-17; 2Pet 1:4-11). This obedience causes the believer to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ (2 Cor 3:18) which is climaxed in their glorification at Christ’s return (Rom 8:16, 17; 2Pet 1:4; 1 John 3:2, 3).
Justification is an act of God (Rom 8:30, 33) by which He declares righteous those who, through faith in Christ, repent of their sins (Lk 13:3; Ac 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; Rom 2:4; 2Cor 7:10; Is 55:6,7) and confess Him as sovereign Lord (Rom 10:9,10; 1Cor 12:3; 2Cor 4:5; Phil 2:11). This righteousness is apart from any virtue or work of man (Rom 3:20; 4:6) and is the result of Christ’s atoning death at the cross (Col 2:14; 1Pet 2:24) and the imputation of His righteousness to those He has redeemed and reconciled (1Cor 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2Cor 5:21). By this God is the “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).
Every believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy. This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and should not be confused with progressive sanctification which is the maturing of the believer as he brought into the likeness of Christ through obedience to the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:32; 1Cor 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2Thess 2:13; Heb 2:11; 3:1; 10:10,14; 13:12; 1Pet 1:2; John 17:17; Rom 6:1-22; 2Cor 3:18; 1Thess 4:3,4; 5:23).
Every person redeemed by Christ is involved daily in the conflict between their new nature in Christ and the old flesh in which they remain incarcerated. This struggle never completely ends. All claims to the total eradication of sin in this life are not scriptural (Gal 5:16 – 25; Phil 3:12; Col 3:9, 10; 1Pet 1:14-16; 1John 3:5-9).
All those Christ redeems are kept by God’s power and are secure in Christ forever (John 5:24; 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Rom 5:9,10; 8:1,31-39; 1Cor 1:4-9; Eph 4:30; Heb 7:25; 13:5; 1Pet 1:4,5; Jude 24); therefore, we rejoice in the assurance of our salvation through the testimony of God’s Word, which however, clearly forbids the use of Christian liberty as an excuse for sinful living and carnality (Rom 6:15-22; 13:13,14; Gal 5:13,16,17, 25, 26; Tit 2:11-14).
All who place their faith in Christ are immediately placed by the Holy Spirit into one united body, the church (1Cor 12:12, 13), the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:23-32; Rev 19:7, 8), of which Christ is the head (Eph 1:22; 4:15; Col 1:18). The body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:1-21, 38-47) and will be completed at the coming of Christ (1Cor 11:2; Eph 5:23-32; Rev 19:7, 8). The church is a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ, made up of all born-again believers in this present age (Eph 2:11-3:6) and is distinct from Israel (1 Cor 10:32), a mystery not revealed until this age (Eph 3:1-6; 5:32).
The supreme authority for the church is Christ (Eph 1:22, Col 1:18) and church leadership, gifts, order, discipline, and worship are all appointed through His sovereignty as found in Scripture. Biblically designated male leaders are elders (also called bishops, pastors, and pastor-teacher; Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11) and deacons, both of whom are to meet biblical qualification (1 Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9; 1Pet 5:1-5). They lead as servants of Christ (1Tim 5:17-22) using the authority of His word for all decisions and the congregation is to follow their leadership (Heb 13:7, 17).
The autonomy of the local church should be free from any external authority or control, with the right of self-government and freedom from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations (Tit 1:5). However, it is scriptural for churches to cooperate with one another for the presentation and propagation of the faith (Acts 15:19-31; 20:28; 1Cor 5:4-7, 13; 1 Pet 5:1-4).
The purpose of the church is to glorify the Lord (Eph 3:21) by growing in the faith (Eph 4:13-16), throughinstruction in the Word (2Tim 2:2, 15; 3:16,17), fellowship (Acts 2:47; 1John 1:3), proper observance ofthe ordinances (Lk 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), and by communicating the good news of God's redemption of fallen man to all the world (Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8).
With regards to the ordinances there are two that have been committed to the local church: baptismand the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:38-42).
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is the commemoration and proclamation of His death until He returns, and should always be proceeded by solemn self-examination (1Cor 11:23-32). Though the elements of communion are only representatives of the body and blood of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is nevertheless an actual communion with the risen Christ Who is present, in fellowship with His people (1Cor 10:16). It is our practice to take the Lord’s Supper weekly because we want Jesus’ death to be the focus of our time together because His death is what makes us acceptable to a holy God.
One of the ordinances, water baptism, is meant to be an outward expression of an inward reality. Its purpose is to visibly and publicly express what has hopefully taken place invisibly and privately in the life of one who has been born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-10).
Water baptism is meant to identify new Christians with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12). It outwardly symbolizes the cleansing of sin that has taken place in the life of a believer and their deliverance from sin's just punishment (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
Both Christ and the apostles commanded believers to be baptized (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38). For this and other reasons, some have wrongly concluded that water baptism is a necessary step for getting saved. However, scripture is clear that the means of our salvation is the grace of our Lord who saves us through faith in the One who satisfied His just wrath at Calvary, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
A believer must therefore be immersed into Christ in order to be justified before a holy God; however, we must never replace the substance of baptism (being born again in Christ) with the symbol of water baptism, lest we give false assurance to those who are not true Christians but believe they are saved because of their obedience to a sacrament.
It is important to understand that being immersed into Christ is essential for salvation and while the symbol of that reality does not nor cannot save us, it is still an important ordinance of the church because it is an obedient and visible proclamation of the Christian's redemption.
That is why we hold to credo-baptism through the mode of immersion. Credo-baptism simply refers to the fact that we are only to baptize those who have confessed a genuine faith in Christ as Lord. This is often referred to as a believer’s baptism. The clear pattern of Scripture is that faith in Jesus Christ always preceded baptism (Acts 2:38-41; 8:12; 9:18-19; 10:44-48; 16:14-15, 29-36; 18:8; 19:1-7; 22:16; Galatians 3:27). Therefore we do not hold to the baptism of infants or children who have not first confessed a saving faith in Christ, but would encourage them to receive water baptism after coming to faith.
The other clear pattern of Scripture is that baptism was done by immersion (Acts 8:36-39; Mark 1:15; John 3:22-23; Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10). While some churches have adopted a mode of pouring or sprinkling, water baptism by immersion is clearly the mode taught by Scripture, In the Greek text, the word used for baptize is baptizo which literally means “to immerse” or “to dip”. Because immersion is the normative mode of baptism in Scripture and because it is critical for the Christian to be completely immersed into Christ as a new creation, we hold to water baptism by immersion so that the symbol properly corresponds to the reality.
Questions about baptism:
1. Is Baptism required for Salvation?
Due to the differing views within Christendom today regarding the subject of baptism, it might be helpful to clarify whether we are talking about the substance of baptism or the symbol of baptism. It is very common today for many to substitute the symbol for the substance. Whenever a text (such as John 3 or Romans 6) talks about the substance of baptism (being "born again" or "immersed" into Christ) the scripture would confirm that indeed the substance of baptism is necessary; for there is salvation in no other (Acts 4:12).
As Christ said to Nicodemus, you must be "born again" to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). The O.T. taught again and again that the hope of the kingdom of God was not due to the work of men but the sovereign work of a holy God who would give men a new heart. The Lord said to the people in Ezekiel 36 that He would, at the coming of the Messiah, wash their bodies with clean water and give them a new heart. He would put His Spirit in them that they might walk in His ways. When a person is saved by the operation of grace; He washes them clean and fills them with the Holy Spirit.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5
2. Can you be baptized by water and still be in need of spiritual cleansing?
Absolutely, it has happened a lot throughout history. This was the problem within Catholicism that has now been carried over into Protestantism. There are those who will get baptized in water without ever being washed by the word in repentance or being made new from within by the work of the Holy Spirit; thus they will cling to the physical symbol of water baptism though there is no spiritual substance of "new birth" in Christ. They will recall the day they got water baptized and expect God to save them because they went through some ceremony or ritual of being dipped in water, yet there is no evidence anything has actually occurred within their heart.
They are what is sometimes called "shell" Christians. They look good on the outside; they talk the talk; and they do the stuff that makes them appear religious, but their hearts are far from being right with the Lord, because there is no true repentance, no turning from sin, no substantive change in the way they think or live. They have embraced all the trappings of religion with no inward transformation. This is the primary cause for arguments and division within churches.
Water baptism can't cleanse the soul but it is the physical symbol of spiritual cleansing. That is why John the Baptist was baptizing people in water as a symbol of their inward repentance.
3. Why does Peter say that “baptism … now saves us” (1 Peter 3:21)?
To properly understand this text you have to first keep it within its context. The verse that precedes it says “...because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” 1st Peter 3:20
Wickedness may appear to flourish because of the long suffering of a patient God, but we are to remain steadfast in righteousness even if it requires unjust suffering because ultimately a sovereign God will make all things right.
Do as Noah did, take God at His word and remain faithful to your calling; trusting the Lord for your deliverance. The Lord patiently waited 120 years in the days of Noah and only eight people stepped into the ark, that which would bear them up when the rains came. Though they had never seen rain before what the Lord said would take place came to pass.
Peter says, "baptism which corresponds to this" the point he just made in the previous verse. Baptism is an antitype (an earthly expression for a heavenly reality) which now saves us ... "not the removal of filth from the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
This is called an antitupon, an OT prefiguring of what will come true in the N.T. Just as Noah trusted in the Lord and His word and that faith was found to be victorious; in the same way we are to trust in Christ by the word of God and our faith in Him will be found victorious.
Just like Noah we are to stand in this thing made of wood, the cross, and when the wrath of God comes in the final day against the sins of men we will be raised up above the judgment and will find deliverance just as those eight people experienced in the days of Noah.
Peter is speaking to the substance of baptism? We die to our old self and past, buried in Christ then raised to walk in a newness of life in Him. Salvation is when we are immersed in the One who made atonement for sin at the cross (Romans 6:1-4).
So we must not miss the point of the antitupon and think that an external ritual like water baptism is what saves us. Don't be misled into believing that a physical ceremony can produce a spiritual result. The antitupon is a type; Noah's trust was in the Lord; that is what led him to enter the ark which raised him above the waters of judgment. And it is our trust in the Lord that leads us to enter into Christ by grace through faith and He is the One who lifts us above the waters of judgment; when we are immersed in Him (speaking of our soul not the external dipping of our body in water) we will sail above the holocaust of judgment for sin.
So that we won’t think some ceremony administered by man can reconcile us to God, Peter says I'm not talking about the washing of your body but the spiritual appeal to God for a good conscience. God who is holy is not impressed with wet sinners.
What redeems, reconciles, and delivers sinners is being born again in Christ. When we are immersed in Him we will be raised from the dead just as He was, which is what water baptism is meant to signify.
To add any ritual to what Christ accomplished at the cross leads to the kind of heresy that plagued the church throughout the Dark Ages. It denies what Christ said from the cross: "It is finished". He alone satisfied the just wrath of God for sin and only those (born again, John 3:3) "immersed" in Him will stand before God justified.
4. If the ritual of water baptism does not save, is it important for believers to be baptized in water?
Absolutely! Water baptism is meant to identify new Christians with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-10; Colossians 2:12).
Water baptism outwardly symbolizes the inward cleansing that has taken place in the life of a believer as well as their deliverance from sin's just punishment (Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
Both Christ and the apostles commanded believers to be baptized because it is a visual representation of what spiritually has occurred.
While water baptism is a part of our sanctification process (one who is born again in Christ will become more like Him through obedience to His word) it was never meant to be the means of salvation.
Catholicism and some protestant denominations teach what is called sacramentalism, which is an act that a person performs, and through which, the grace of God is conferred to them; therefore, it is taught that God's grace is administered through receiving the sacraments of the church.
However, whenever any part of scripture is understood within the whole of scripture, it is clear that only Christ's atoning death can reconcile sinners with a holy God; thus our faith and trust is in Him, not in the observance of a sacrament, is God's means for our redemption.
Our new birth is portrayed in water baptism, but not performed by water baptism.
Questions about Infant Baptist:
Should a child be baptized at birth? Why do some churches christen newborns? How can we know when a child should be baptized? If a child of Christian parents dies, what is the child's fate in eternal life?
Geoffery Bromiley’s book, “Children of Promise,” considered by many to be the best defense for infant baptism, admits there is no real evidence that infants were baptized in the churches of the New Testament. Some suggest the household baptisms in Acts may have included infants, but this is speculative at best. In the case of the Philippian jailer the Scripture says, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in the house” (Acts 16:32), which seems to indicate all in his home were old enough to hear the gospel message.
Throughout the New Testament, baptism followed immediately after a believer expressed confidence in Christ, as a witness of his faith (Acts 2:38).
Early church leaders such as Irenaeus, who wrote a five-volume treatise on theology, made no reference to infant baptism (paedobaptism). The Epistle of Barnabas in the second century mentions only the baptism of believers. It is not until the earliest part of the third century that Tertullian, a leader in the church in North Africa, argued against the baptism of infants, “insisting that children should come for baptism when they understand what they are doing” (Edwin Lutzer, “Doctrines that Divide” p. 119). Tertullian’s objection indicates that paedobaptism had begun, in at least some churches, by the year 200.
Cyprian, also from North Africa, links infant baptism with spiritual regeneration in 251, but adds that babies should also be given communion (the first signs of sacramentalism, which stresses that salvation comes through the church’s channels of grace as the sacraments are administered). Augustine, a fourth century theologian from North Africa, taught that both sacraments (communion and baptism) were necessary for salvation; therefore, both should be administered for infants (Paul Jewett, “Infant Baptist and the Covenant of Grace" p. 40). Today, sacramentalists still believe a baby who dies un-baptized will go to hell, or at least his eternal destiny is in doubt, which is the reason a priest is quickly called to perform the ritual when a baby’s life is in jeopardy.
With the development of christening, the idea of having parents sponsor the child began, a practice Tertullian also opposed.
The practice of paedobaptism and the giving of communion to infants apparently began in North Africa around the year 200 due to the belief that forgiveness of sins came through administering the sacraments of the church.
Once Constantine overcame the Roman ruler, Maxentius, in 312, Christians were no longer to be persecuted, but their faith was to now be embraced by the government. Christianity would become synonymous with the Roman Empire and infant baptism became the link by which the church and the state were united. Though paedobaptism began due to the theological convictions of some (who believed the ritual washed away the effects of sin), every child would now to be christened (made a Christian by participating in a ritual) both a member of the church and a member of the Roman Empire. Therefore, Anabaptists (those re-baptized as adults because they refused to believe that a baptism which embraces everyone could be valid) were severely persecuted not just for theological reasons, but for political purposes. By the time of Charlemagne (800 A.D.) those who were re-baptized after coming to faith in Christ were put to death, because infant baptism was the glue that united the church and state and the power of the state enforced the religion of the state.
By the time of the Reformation, some reformers were having serious doubts about infant baptism. Ulrich Zwingli, the people’s priest in Zurich, initially confessed that it grieved him to baptize infants. “I call it neither right or wrong; if we were to baptize as Christ instituted it, then we would not baptize any person until he has reached the years of discretion; for I find it nowhere written that infant baptism is to be practiced” (Leonard Verdium, “The Reformers and Their Stepchildren” p. 198). However, by 1525 Zwingli had changed his mind after he viewed Anabaptists as being disruptive to the social order and he believed he may have found theological grounds to support the practice of infant baptism (explained below).
Since Martin Luther believed justification was by faith alone, to defend the practice of infants being regenerated by baptism he suggested in his commentary on Galatians that infants can hear the gospel and believe easier than adults. He never gave up the practice of paedobaptism, but explained: “There is not sufficient evidence from Scripture that one might justify the introduction of infant baptism at the time of the early Christians after the apostolic period, but so much is evident that no one may venture with good conscience to reject or abandon infant baptism, which for so long time has been practiced” (Verdium, p. 204).
Zwingli and John Calvin, who also admitted there was no record in Scripture of infants being baptized, believed they found theological support for paedobaptism when they proposed a relationship between the Old Testament sign of circumcision and the New Testament sign of baptism. They contended that the rite of circumcision, which was administered to all Jewish males on the eighth day, proves that God’s blessings are bestowed on children as well as their parents. Calvin would later teach baptism does not effect the regeneration of infants, but is only a sign that the “seeds of repentance lie in infants by the secret working of the Spirit.” Therefore, infant baptism is a sign of the New Covenant just as circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant (Col. 2:11-12), which is today referred to as Covenant Theology. Baptism is therefore not a sign of the child’s faith, but rather a sign of what the parents believe or hope God has done or will do for that child.
However, since some children who had been baptized as infants did not embrace the Christian faith as they grew older, confirmation was instituted to confirm the decision the parents had made for their children. Therefore, baptism to them was the outward sign of the grace an infant will receive if he grows up and believes.
Many theologians could not embrace this explanation, but pointed to the Catechism of the Church of England that claimed infants became a child of God and a member of the church by means of infant baptism. They contended that circumcision was a sign of earthly, temporal blessings the Lord gave to the Israelites (offspring of Abraham) that pointed to the ultimate spiritual benefits for those who would believe. However, in the church, one’s genealogical record does not guarantee such special blessings and baptism is certainly not the regenerative agent for bringing one to a saving faith in Christ.
Spurgeon and many others believed the N.T. clearly taught that those who had been regenerated from spiritual death unto life, who had placed their faith in Christ and His atoning work at the cross and who were willing to repent of their sins were the ones who should be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit by immersion, as a sign of being united with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 8:12, 8:36-39). This is known as believer’s baptism.
As for your question about babies who die, most believe those children go to heaven. However, if that is true, it is not because they are born innocent or their baptism at birth washes away the effects of their sinful nature. Salvation is of the Lord, so everyone (including infants) who is saved is redeemed by God’s sovereign mercy and grace through Christ’s atoning death at the cross. The salvation of all infants is in the hands of the Lord, not in the hands of men who administer a ritual.
Should a child be baptized at birth? There is no clear teaching from Scripture advocating or commanding this practice. However, for those who choose to accept the proposal that infant baptism is a sign of the New Covenant just as circumcision was the sign of the Old Covenant and that baptism is not a sign of the child’s faith, but rather a sign of what God has done or will do for that child, this practice provides some comfort; however, it is not the belief or practice at Wellington.
Why do some churches christen newborns? They either believe baptism to be the regenerative means of removing sin’s effect upon the life of a child, which provides or guarantees salvation or they embrace the propositions of Covenant Theology as suggested by Zwingli and Calvin.
How can we know when a child should be baptized? When a child believes in Christ and trusts in His atoning work at the cross.
If a child of Christian parents dies, what is the child's fate in eternal life? Salvation is of the Lord, so everyone (including infants) who is saved is redeemed by God’s sovereign mercy and grace through Christ’s atoning death at the cross. The salvation of all infants is in the hands of a loving, merciful, gracious, holy, and righteous God. For us to speculate beyond what scripture clearly teaches is an exercise in futility and may lead to a false understanding of His truth.