Why We Do What We Do?
[Editor-The following is a bulletin insert the author uses in the RCUS church he serves. You are granted permission to use in your local churches as you see fit.]
“The rite of confirmation is the solemn and joyous acknowledgment by the congregation that God has confirmed His covenant promise of salvation, which was signified and sealed to these baptized children, by granting them repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ upon their coming to the age of understanding and commitment.” (Directory of Worship for the RCUS)
Confirmation is an acknowledgment by the congregation that God has confirmed His covenant promise of salvation (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 3:17). God’s covenant of salvation is His promise to save His elect people through faith in Christ and to be their God and friend forever. This promise is summarized in the words, “I will be your God and you shall be My people.” (Jer. 9:23)
When God saves His elect by granting them repentance and faith in Christ, He enters into a covenant of friendship with them, promising to be their God and the God of their descendants (Gen. 17:7). This means that God promises believing parents that they will have His elect among their descendants (Isaiah 59:21; Rom. 9:27). If parents bring their children up for Him, God will grant them repentance and faith in Christ, that is, He will circumcise their hearts so that they repent and believe.
God commanded Abraham (an adult convert), to be circumcised, and also to have his household circumcised, as a sign of God’s covenant promise to circumcise the hearts of His elect. “God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:6).
In the NT, Baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of God’s covenant of salvation with believers and their children (Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14). This is seen for example in the fact that Lydia (an adult convert like Abraham) believed, and then “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15). Therefore, “what circumcision was for the Jews, baptism is to our children” (Belgic Confession, Article 34).
In the OT, covenant children were circumcised in infancy (as a sign of membership in the old covenant church); afterwards they were instructed in the true religion; and upon profession of faith in the Lord became full members of the church and were admitted to the Passover. This same basic pattern continues in the NT: covenant children are baptized in infancy (as a sign of membership in the new covenant church); then afterwards are taught the Christian faith, and then, upon profession of faith in Christ, become full members of the church and are admitted to the Lord’s Supper.
Every time God saves a covenant child by granting them repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, He is confirming His covenant promise of salvation! When children are ready to make profession of faith, our church calls it Confirmation in order to recognize that God is confirming His covenant promise of salvation (Josh. 24:15; Matt. 10:32).
Rev. David Fagrey
Rapid City, SD