In my previous discussion  to answer the complicated set of questions I received recently from a reader , I discussed how it was that men served as representatives of their families during ancient Israel, and how this responsibility included instructing their wives and families about God’s laws if the family was unable to travel to the pilgrimage feasts in toto. I commented as that entry was closed that there was a New Testament equivalent to this representation by heads of household, and noted as well that this applied to both men and women, although we read of it happening more often to men. With that in mind, I wish to place the following verses and passages before your eyes as our texts for this current discussion in order to provide the fitting parallel to the circumcision of all of the males in the household that served as the way that people became a part of the covenant people during the times of ancient Israel:
Acts 11:44-48: “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.
Acts 16:14-15: “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.”
Acts 16:27-34: “And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.”
Acts 18:8: “Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.”
While more scriptures could be found, these demonstrate that when the head of the household was baptized during biblical times, this statement of belief meant that their entire family came under the authority of the Church of God. In contrast, when those who were not heads of household were converted, they were converted for themselves and for their children, but not for the unconverted spouse, as we see in 1 Corinthians 7:13-15: “And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.” In contrast to the way that the Old Testament view of representation, the New Testament view appears more egalitarian, as the passages discussed would indicate. While circumcision was a sign for the men of the household, both men and women are baptized, and the language of Paul and Luke cited above is far more egalitarian in nature.
Yet we note that there is still representation here. The influence of God on a family still depends on the first person having contact with godly people who bring the message of salvation, and acceptance of that invitation then leads to God having a role in the lives of their households and their families. It is not my intention at this time to note the implications of these passages when viewed together on such questions as to who was included in the whole households that were baptized in terms of their ages, but at least some of the writers I have encountered, especially in the Calvinist tradition, have noted that this belief in representation has meant that it is acceptable both for children to take a part of the bread and wine as well as the elderly with dementia who have lost their sense of reason because they are represented by believers who are of sound mind. I leave that question for others to wrangle over at this time. Nevertheless, it is clear that the pattern of whole household baptisms when the head of household, whether male or female, is converted is an indication that the Church of God just like the Old Testament laws had a belief in representation where the head of the household was responsible for the spiritual state of the whole household, and when that person submitted to God, their authority over the household meant that the whole household was subject to the authority of God as a little pocket of His Kingdom on earth. How many people live according to this practice today within the Church of God?