My background in Methodism, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism.
Why was I baptized at age 40 in the Deeping St James Calvinistic (Particular) Baptist church?
(1) Covenant: I reject the idea of the unity-of-the-covenant or of one-covenant-in-two-dispensations idea based on the so-called covenant of redemption in eternity. There are clearly three dispensational covenants (Noah, Moses Jesus) differing from each other but playing their role in a common goal. They appear in both the race (Romans 1-3) and the individual (Gal. 4:1-7) as they reach maturity. They are linked by faith which is common to all three (Heb.11, etc.).
(2) I reject the idea that baptism is the substitute of circumcision. Circumcision signifies law (Lev. 12:3; John 7:22; Gal. 5:3); baptism signifies repentance, faith and the gift of the Spirit or regeneration.
(3) Circumcision and baptism represent two different covenants: (a) circumcision was, first, the mark of nationhood, even Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day apart from faith (Gen. 21:4; Lev. 12:3); and second of being under the law of Moses (Rom. 2:25; Gal. 5:3); (b) Ishmael was circumcised but he was not in the (Abrahamic) covenant (Gen. 17:25); (c) Abraham was circumcised as a believer (Gen. 15:6; 17:24; Rom. 4). Since we Gentiles are not the physical children of Abraham but his spiritual children (Gal. 3:29) we Christians follow his spiritual lead.* But we are baptized not circumcised; (d) girls are not circumcised but they are baptized as believers. Abraham was promised that he would become the father of many nations and as Paul points out in Galatians 3 it is through his seed, that is, Jesus (3:16, cf. v.29), there is neither Jew nor Gk., slave nor free, male nor female but we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).
(4) I do not accept that regeneration precedes faith in the order of salvation as the Reformed teach (WCF, etc.). Throughout the Bible faith precedes the new birth (e.g. John 3:16). No one in the OT was born again since no one kept the law (1 K. 8:46, etc.) which was its condition (Lev. 18:5). In the OT regeneration was only a promise (Dt. 30:6; Jer. 31:33; 32:39, etc.) which was not fulfilled till the advent of Jesus. He was the first and only one to keep the law and thus meet the condition of life for man which was righteousness gained by keeping the law.
(5) Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day like Isaac. After his heathen experience in Egypt (Mt. 2:15), he lived under the law (cf. Luke 2:39-52) and kept it until he had gained the righteousness that was pleasing to his Father who baptized him with the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17) in accordance with the promise (Gen. 2:17; Lev.18:5). By faith, we follow the pattern that he established.
(6) We are the spiritual children of Abraham. Just as he was justified by faith, so are we. But more than that we are born again by the Spirit of Jesus whom Paul described as a life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).
Babies cannot exercise faith and to baptize them is in effect to regard them as regenerate Christians. Needless to say, I deny proxy faith. Infant baptism is rooted in false church tradition and bad theology, and as a member of the Churches of Christ I reject that tradition.
Note: The fact that Gentile men are not Jews and never, strictly speaking, under the law of Moses suggests that they are like Jewish women who were not circumcised but were baptized as believers.
The apostles vehemently opposed the circumcision of Gentile men (see e.g. Acts 15:1ff.) who moved directly from heathenism to Christianity in one fell swoop like uncircumcised Jewish women (Acts 10:47f.; 16:33; 26:19-23; Eph. 2:1-10, etc.).
Food for Thought
Since Jesus was the second Adam, at his incarnation he identified with the first and perfectly recapitulated the life of unregenerate Adamic man under the law. At his baptism, being the first Jesus himself set the pattern and proceeded to fulfil all righteousness under the leading of the Spirit. Far from identifying with us as the paedobaptists teach, the opposite is true. It is we who identify (or conform) with him as in the Lord’s Supper (Rom. 6:3f. See further my essay Baptism And Identification.) (It is true of course that Jesus who was made sin identified with us in the atonement.) In his baptism and reception of the Spirit he took precedence and became pre-eminent as our pioneer and Saviour. Like God in the OT (cf. Joshua) he went ahead of his people (Dt. 1:30, etc.). Jesus’ baptism was the prototypical, archetypal, paradigmatic baptism, the only true baptism that has or will ever occur in the whole history of mankind, for he alone kept the law and so eventually brought in both life and incorruption (Gk , 2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 15:53). While Jesus pleased his Father by keeping the law, we please him by exercising faith in Jesus himself, the Righteous One (Acts 3:14, etc.). Indeed, faith in him is commanded (John 6:29, cf. 3:17; 1 John 3:23). If we don’t have the Son, we have neither the Father (John 14:6; 1 John 2:22-25) nor life (1 John 5:1,11f.). We follow his lead as the pioneer of our salvation.
Just as Jesus was baptized with the Spirit (= born again) after gaining righteousness by keeping the law in accordance with the promise of Genesis 2:17 and Leviticus 18:5, so we must be baptized and born again when we are accounted righteous through faith in him.
(Obviously as noted above this follows the pattern established by Abraham. As Paul strongly insists in Romans 4 (cf. Gal. 3), Abraham was justified by faith (Gen. 15:6) before he was circumcised. In other words, his circumcision sealed his faith. It is the same with us. We who are unable to keep the law (Rom. 3:19f.; Gal. 2:16, etc.) are justified by faith in Jesus who was himself uniquely justified by keeping the law and pleasing his heavenly Father. Like him (cf. John 1:32; 6:27) we are then sealed with the Spirit (1 Cor. 1:21f.; Eph. 1:13; 4:30) at our baptism. If Jesus as man had not gained life, then neither would we, as the OT amply demonstrates (1 K. 8:46, etc.). This basically is the argument of Hebrews 2. As verse 11 indicates, we believers as the children of God are the brothers of our firstborn or elder brother Jesus (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10-13) because we are all born again members of the same family, sired by the same Father (cf. Heb. 12:9,23) and consequently joint-heirs with Jesus, Rom. 8:16f.)
Hebrews 2:17 implies that during the first or old covenant part of his earthly life Jesus identified with or recapitulated the experience of first Adamic unregenerate man except for sin (Heb. 4:15). He was conceived, gestated, born of woman, circumcised, presented, went to Egypt, became a son of the commandment at about 13 and did his stint under the law. At his baptism, however, he took the lead by ‘precapitulating’ (a word I invented some years ago) or pioneering the regenerate or heavenly life on earth. Through faith in him and baptism we now identify or conform with him not only morally but sacramentally and generically (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18, cf. Rom. 8:30).
Note that just as Jesus says that as flesh we must be born again, so Paul says that we must put to death all that is earthly in us (Col. 3:1-5). In other words, it is nature that constitutes our major problem but it is our sin that prevents us from overcoming it. The wonder of the gospel is that Jesus overcame in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), something we find impossible (Rom. 3:19f.; 7; Gal. 2:16)
Even in the Garden of Eden Adam had three problems: (1) his vocation was to exercise dominion which included controlling his own flesh which was weak and temptable; (2) his natural mortality and hence the prospect of death which could only be overcome by keeping the commandment (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, cf. Heb. 5:7); (3) the devil. He ended up giving in to the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus through obedience and suffering (Heb. 5:7ff., cf. 2:9f.) noticeably conquered all three. He overcame the world, subjugated his flesh and defeated the devil. Had he not been regenerate, he would have had to continue working out his own salvation as man under the law. Fulfilling all righteousness and achieving perfection would have been out of the question.
If the OT saints were born again, had eternal life and the fullness of the Spirit, why did Jesus come at all?
Why did John the Baptist, the greatest born of women (Mt. 11:11) and a burning and shining lamp (John 5:35), need* the baptism of Jesus (Mt. 3:14)?
* The Greek for need here is not the normal ‘dei’ of John 3:7 and 1 Cor. 15:53.
In his major commentary on Matthew R.T. France alludes to Davies and Allison who offer eight suggestions as to why Jesus wished to be baptized by John (p.119n.14). Regrettably, France’s own view as an Anglican is the usual identification one (p.120). However, on page 732 in his commentary on the word ‘follow’ in Matthew 19:21, he is much closer to the mark. He says following Jesus is not just another thing to do. It involves “the inauguration of a new and life-changing relationship with Jesus. To follow Jesus will lead the inquirer along the path of discipleship which entails the ‘greater righteousness’ that God requires and which is the way to ‘eternal’ life.” In light of Mt. 3:13-17 following Jesus must involve baptism and regeneration apart from which the greater righteousness is impossible. Cf. Eph. 2:10.