Acts 2:39 In Its Context (Part I): An Exegetical Summary of Acts 2:39 and Paedobaptism -- By: Jamin Hübner
RBTR 08:1 (2011) p. 9
Acts 2:39 In Its Context (Part I):
An Exegetical Summary of Acts 2:39 and Paedobaptism
Jamin Hubner, B.A. Theology (Dordt College), MAR (Reformed Theological Seminary, pursuing), Providence Reformed Baptist Church, Black Hills, SD, is founder of RealApologetics.org and the author of several books.
Acts 2:39 is one of the most controversial texts in the paedobaptist vs. credobaptist debate. Reformed scholars treat the text as though it supports the necessary grounds for paedobaptism, while Reformed Baptists do not see it as such. In fact, the text may even lend support to the Baptist position.
In general, the paedobaptism assertion is that “the promise” and the phrase “for you and for your children” in Acts 2:39 is primarily referring to the covenant of grace revealed to Abraham and the “you and your seed” in Genesis 17.1 There may be other secondary meanings in the text, but, as Joel Beeke put it:
Peter uses the term the promise as rhetorical shorthand for the covenant of grace, which embodies the promise of salvation he calls upon his hearers to embrace (see Acts 2:21). This promise is
RBTR 08:1 (2011) p. 10
the same as those made to Abraham, to David, to Israel, and even to the Gentiles.2
Calvin himself went as far as to say that “This place [Acts 2:39], therefore, doth abundantly refute the manifest error of the Anabaptists, which will not have infants, which are the children of the faithful, to be baptized, as if they were not members of the Church.”3 As such, Acts 2:39 functions for the paedobaptist as a bridge between the Testaments that re-asserts a basic principle of the Old Covenant: parents stand as the covenant representative of their family, and the children of believing parents are to be included among God’s covenant people.
This essay will demonstrate that a consistent exegesis of Acts 2:39 does not uphold these claims. The meaning of “the promise” and the phrase “for you and for your children” refers not primarily to the Abrahamic covenant or the covenant of grace, but to the specific promise of the Holy Spirit and the “sons and daughters” cited earlier from Joel (
Click here to subscribe