Dear Pastor Lawyer,
I was wondering about the Jewish Christians. Did they need to be baptized? I have come across a source that said they did not need to be baptized, their circumcision remained their sign of the Covenant, but that some of them would be baptized to seperate them from the circumcised yet unfruitful Jews. What of the children of the Christian Jews as well?
Jews who came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah were baptized (e.g. Acts 9:18). The reason their children were not mentioned is because Christianity was/is and encompasses a covenantal relationship with God. This assumes a sort of group relationship under the leadership and headship of the father. If the father did a thing, the whole household was involved in the action. If it was good the whole household was blessed. If it was evil, the whole household was cursed. Thus when the father was baptized, the whole household was baptized.
This is the way it was throughout the Old Testament. If a man became a Jew, all the men in his household had to be circumcised. After Christ came everyone was baptized when the head of the household believed. If this had not been the case (assumed in the New Testament), there would have been a much greater, or different, change from the Old Covenant to the New. But there wasn’t. The Jews followed John, then were passed on to Jesus. When they believed in the Messiah, they were baptized into him.
This is the same picture Paul gives of Israel in the exodus when they passed through the cloud and sea (1 Co. 10). They were members of Moses and thus were baptized whether they had faith or not. As a result, because of individual unbelief, many of them died in the desert because of their unbelief—despite their baptisms.
If the Apostles had stopped baptizing children when their father’s believed, it would have been a change that would have made a huge stink in the early church. And if they had implemented credobaptism for Gentiles but not for Jews, it would have also created a huge stink. The fact that there wasn’t a over this issue shows that the shift from Old to New Covenants didn’t affect the covenantal aspect of the people’s relationship with God.
I hope this helps,