Covenant Confirmation

“The ceremony 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” (RCUS Directory of Worship).

God’s covenant promise of salvation is His promise to save His elect people through faith in Christ and to be their God and friend forever (Eph. 1:4-5). 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. 17:7-11). This means God promises believing parents that they will have His elect among their descendants (Isaiah 59:21; Rom. 9:27), and that if they bring them up for Him, He will circumcise their hearts so they repent and believe in Christ (Gen. 18:19; Prov. 22:6). God commanded Abraham (an adult convert), and all the males of his household, including infants, to be 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” (Deut. 30:6). It was this covenant promise that distinguished the seed of believers as a “holy seed” (Ezra 9:2). In some cases, the hearts of God’s elect are regenerated in the womb, so they grow up loving the Lord (Psalm 22:10; Luke 1:15).

God’s covenant of salvation with believers and their children has not been abolished in the NT; only the sign has changed from circumcision to baptism; and part of the newness of the new covenant is that females can receive the sign of salvation. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the Jews to repent and be baptized, because the promise of salvation “is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39; cf. Gen. 21:12). The children of believers are still a “holy” seed (1 Cor. 7:14) – still distinguished by the same promise that distinguished them in the OT (Deut. 30:6). Paul told Timothy, “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5).

If infants of believers should no longer receive the sign of God’s covenant of salvation, then this major change should be clearly indicated in the NT. But instead of change we see the same pattern. For example, when Lydia (an adult convert, like Abraham) believed, then “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) – just like Abraham had believed and then he and his household were circumcised (Gen. 17:23-24)! The Bible assumes a household usually includes children: “an elder must be one who rules his own household well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Tim. 3:4)! There is no stipulation in the NT that only confessing believers are to be baptized. There is no example in the NT of a child from a Christian home who was baptized after confessing faith in Christ!

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 (Communion). This is why full membership is called communicant membership.

God promises to use godly child training to bring covenant children to repentance and faith in Christ and full membership in the Christian church (Prov. 22:6). This is why when Christian parents present their children for baptism they take vows to train their children to be faithful to the covenant – to trust in Christ alone for salvation, and to obey God’s commands out of thankfulness (Eph. 6:1-4).

When our covenant children are ready to confess to the Spiritual Council (the pastor and elders) that they hate their sins, are trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and are obeying Christ out of thankfulness for salvation, then that means they are ready to become full members of the Christian church through Confirmation. We call the ceremony Confirmation because we want to recognize that God is confirming His covenant promise to grant repentance and faith to the children of believers (Rom. 15:8). “It does not matter when the Holy Spirit placed faith in the covenant youth’s heart; if his parents and the church have done their work responsibly, he has from childhood known the teaching of God’s Word. But God is the one who has given this faith. He has confirmed the promises of His covenant. By the rite of Confirmation, the church is recognizing what God has confirmed by means of the young person’s response of faith” (Maynard Koerner, Pastoral Ministry from a Covenantal Perspective).