Household Salvation

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Both the OT and NT demonstrate a family solidarity that is alien to Western individualistic thought. The Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants involved the household in the covenant blessings. The OT formula "he and his house" referred to parents and their children of all ages. Thus, wagons were sent by Pharaoh to bring to Egypt those members of the households of Joseph's brothers who could not walk (i.e., old people and children, Gen. 45:18 - 19). When Saul destroyed Ahimelech's household (1 Sam. 22:16 - 19), not even infants were spared. Household includes infants, as is seen in Gen. 17, where every male "in Abraham's house" was circumcised (including a baby eight days old). Deut. 6 shows the importance of teaching children the revealed way of blessing, while Exod. 12 includes children in the Passover meal.

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The NT also involves the household in salvation. Acts 11:14 says: "Thou and all thy house shall be saved." In Acts 2:38 - 39 Peter states: "The promise is unto you and your children." Household baptisms show that the whole family was involved in salvation (Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16). In 1 Cor. 7:12 - 16 Paul counsels believers to remain married to unbelievers: "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." Hence in some sense one believing parent sanctifies an entire household. Whether household salvation implies infant baptism is a disputed question. Nevertheless, scholars who disagree on baptism still unite in attributing high significance to the household in the economy of salvation.

D F Kelly
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

J Jeremias, Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries; D Kingdon, Children of Abraham: A Reformed Baptist View of Baptism, the Covenant, and Children.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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