Covenantal Infant Baptism: An Outlined Defense

 

 

 

 

Covenantal
Infant Baptism

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An Outlined Defense

Gregg Strawbridge

Contents

Introduction and Dedication

I. The Covenantal Framework of Scripture
II. Covenant Household (Infant) Baptism
III. Objections to Infant Baptism
IV. Brief Theology of the New Covenant

V. The New Covenant in Hebrews
VI. Critical Reviews of Anti-paedobaptists

    VII. Historical Fiction Letter to Illustrate the First Century Context



"MAKE YOUR GREAT NAME KNOWN"
(1)
 
 

THE HIGHEST HEAVEN CAN'T CONTAIN THE MAJESTY AND GLORY OF YOUR NAME
HOW MUCH LESS THIS HOUSE OF WOOD AND STONE,
BUT O THAT BY IT MAKE YOUR GREAT NAME KNOWN

UNLESS THE LORD BUILDS THIS PLACE THE LABORERS WORK IN VAIN
THAT WHICH LASTS IS FROM YOUR HAND ALONE, O THAT BY IT MAKE YOUR GREAT POWER KNOWN

MAY GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE BE SOUNDED FAR AND WIDE
MAY CHRIST ALONE, THE LION-LAMB BE SEEN AND GLORIFIED
MAY GOSPEL TRUTH PROCLAIMED ON FIRE BE HERALDED ALONE
O THAT BY IT MAKE YOUR GREAT NAME KNOWN

MAY WE TELL THE GOSPEL WORD TO THE NATIONS WHO HAVE NOT HEARD
LET THE GOSPEL SCEPTER RULE AND REIGN, O THAT BY IT MAKE YOUR KINGDOM GREAT

MAKE YOUR COVENANT PEOPLE PRAISE, LET ZION'S JOY-BELLS ALWAYS RING
MAKE OUR HEARTS OF FLESH AND NOT OF STONE, O THAT BY IT MAKE YOUR GREAT GRACE KNOWN

MAY GRACE ALONE THROUGH GIVEN FAITH BE SOUNDED FAR AND WIDE
MAY CHRIST ALONE, THE CRUCIFIED, BE THAT WHICH WE LIFT HIGH
MAY TRUTH IN LOVE PROCLAIMED WITH POWER OUR METHODS BE ALONE
O THAT BY IT MAKES YOUR GREAT NAME KNOWN


 

To the Elders of Audubon Drive Bible Church --

I truly pray and say and sing these words of Audubon Drive Bible Church. I am, before God, grateful for all our congregation and its leaders. No person can claim a more profound influence than I know in my life from any church. Truly, a church is not the steeple, but the people. And the people of Audubon Drive Bible Church are dear in my heart. I can hardly imagine that any group of elders has had as significant an impact on a young minister, as I know.

I believe that I have a good reason for my present beliefs, while at the same time I realize my own frailness and fallibility. I am sure that I could be wrong about my convictions of covenant theology and covenantal infant baptism. I can say honestly that the greatest disappointment, has not been your lack of acceptance of the position of paedobaptism, but that we have finally concluded that covenantal Baptists and covenantal paedobaptists cannot lead this church together.(2) But in this fallen world of the best laid thoughts of mice and men, the best that I can do is to reflectively evaluate each component of my conviction in light of God's Word. I can say, coram Deo that I have done that. I intend to do it more and I sincerely ask for your prayers. I sincerely ask for your challenging questions and responses in the fear of Christ.

I have summarized in an outline form why I believe that the Bible teaches my present convictions. I write this for myself, and also for you since it has been specifically requested by two elders, George Shurden and Alan Morgan. I respectfully ask you to carefully read this outline, as well as the full text of the Scriptures cited. I know my own heart's desire to jump to the bottom line of a written argument, but unless we reflectively consider the verses denoted and whether these theological assertions based on them are accurate, little advance will take place on this issue, on either side. My basic method is very simple: I have tried to make my assertions in the outline points and then immediately provide the text that supports it. I have not tried to give exhaustive references to each of these points, only unassailable ones.(3)

The Contents: Section I is a foundation for covenantal infant baptism, but it may or may not necessarily imply it. Presumably covenantal Baptists and paedobaptists will agree on it. The specific defense of covenantal household/infant baptism will follow in the next section (II). And the relevant objections to it have been put in the last section (III). It is my purpose to argue in the first two sections (I, II) by clear assertions which are (I believe) evidenced by the simple statements of the English translation of the Bible.(4) The technical nature of some of the objections requires more exegetical and linguistic precision. Section IV is a brief biblical theology of the new covenant, including a contextual and exegetical study of Jeremiah 31:31-36. Section V is a study of the citations of the "new covenant" passages in Hebrews 8 and 10. Section VI is comprised of critical reviews of influential Baptist attacks on covenantal paedobaptism. And finally, section  is an attempt at historical fiction. This "Letter to Julius" seeks to imagine the frame of mind of the original audience of the New Testament as it touches on baptism.
 



I. THE THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATION:
THE COVENANTAL FRAMEWORK OF SCRIPTURE

  1. The created order exists because of God's "natural covenant."
      1. • Jer 33:25 "Thus says the LORD, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them. '"
  2. The world is not destroyed because of God's covenant faithfulness.
    1. God covenanted with Noah for the salvation of the world, including Noah's family.
      1. • Genesis 6:18 "But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark-- you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you.
    2. With the rainbow as the sign, God restrains His hand of judgment by flood because of His covenantal faithfulness.
      1. • Genesis 9:15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.
  3. God is a covenant-keeping God. He, therefore, brings about His promises.
    1. God keeps covenant with His people and those whom He has blessed with obedience.
      1. • Dan 9:4 And I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
      2. • Neh 9:32 "Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who dost keep covenant and lovingkindness, Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before Thee, Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and on all Thy people, From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day.
    2. His covenant love extends through successive generations.
      1. • Deu 7:9 "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
  4. God made a covenant with Adam, who represented mankind.(5)
      1. • Hos 6:7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
    1. Adam was the covenant representative of all "in him" in a covenant he transgressed, just as Christ is the covenant representative of all "in him."
      1. • 1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
    2. The content of this covenant (which Adam transgressed) essentially involved (a) obedience to the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as well as the creation mandates. (b) Since Adam's nature was upright,(6) and all men, Jews and Gentiles, have the (moral precepts of the) law written on their consciences,(7) Adam had the (moral precepts of the) law written on his conscience. Transgression brought spiritual and physical death.
  5. The Godhead freely "counseled" together to save a people from fallen mankind. The redemptive plan which unfolds in the biblical revelation is called a covenant.
    1. Redemption and its historical expression in the Bible is called "His covenant."
      1. • Psalm 111:9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name.
    2. Our salvation is put in the New Testament terms of the "eternal covenant."
      1. • Hebrews 13:20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord.
    3. Our Savior is the Mediator of a covenant.
      1. • Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
    4. The plan of redemption was entailed in the very first prophecy of covenant promise at the Fall of man.
      1. • Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.
    5. God intended to save a people for himself from Adam (who transgressed the covenant in the garden). Hence, each act of God throughout biblical revelation progressively reveals this covenant. The plan culminates in Christ (Eph 2:12). Jesus was the "last Adam" because He, like Adam, covenantally represents a people (1Co 15:45). This is why the Old Testament covenants are seen as fulfilled in Christ (2Co 1:20).
      1. • 1Co 15:45 So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
      2. • Eph 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
      3. • 2Co 1:20 For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.
    6. This redemptive plan is commonly called the "covenant of grace."(8)
  6. Christ came, then, in fulfillment of these covenant promises, specifically the outworking of the covenant of grace.
      1. • Luke 1:68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, 69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant-- 70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old-- 71 Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES, And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US; 72 To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant,
  7. The nation of Israel was in covenant with God because of the Abrahamic promises.
      1. • Exodus 2:24 So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
    1. Since the Jews at the time of Christ were unfaithful and ultimately, rejected Christ, the "covenantal kingdom" was taken from them. Though, in the future they will be grafted back into the people of God.
      1. • Let me establish first that "covenant" and "kingdom" are inter-related, hence justifying a "covenantal kingdom" concept: 1 Kings 11:11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. Ezekiel 17:14 that the kingdom might be in subjection, not exalting itself, but keeping his covenant, that it might continue.
      2. • Mat 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.
      3. • Rom 11:23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." 27 "AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."
    2. Though in the history of God's redemption, the Israelites were given "the covenants," now the church (including Gentiles from "all the families of the earth") has "been brought near by the blood of Christ"(Eph 2:13) to the "covenants of promise."
      1. • Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
  8. Therefore, as in the past era the people God redeems are placed in a covenantal entity, the church, and are commanded to therefore "keep covenant."
    1. We are a "holy nation" according to the New Testament.
      1. • 1Pe 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
    2. In the original citation, the "holy nation" is told to "keep My covenant."
      1. • Exo 19:5 'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6 and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. 'These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
    3. Keeping covenant is simply a single term for the relationship of faith and works that the Bible presents in both testaments. Faith is the horse and works are the cart. In the Old Testament Abraham was justified by faith and that justification was "justified" (vindicated) by works.(9) When Abraham "believed God" (Rom 4:2), he believed God's covenant promise. When the Israelites in the wilderness "broke the covenant" they did so because they did not "believe" the Lord.
      1. • Genesis 15:5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
      2. • Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
      3. • James 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.
      4. • Deuteronomy 9:23 "And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, 'Go up and possess the land which I have given you,' then you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice.
  9. The purpose of God in converting the nations (in missions) is covenantal.
    1. The very Great Commission (Mat 28:19-20) is the imperative form of the Abrahamic covenant.
      1. • Acts 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.'
      2. • Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
    2. The message of reconciliation which is to be proclaimed to the world is the promise of the new covenant.
      1. • 2Co 5:18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
      2. • Heb 10:16 "THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says, 17 "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."
  10. Service to Christ is ministering a "covenant gospel" which fulfills a covenant promise.
      1. •2 Corinthians 3:6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
      2. • Ephesians 3:6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
  11. Apostasy is covenant breaking.
    1. In the Lord's Supper one receives the sacramental "blood of the covenant."
      1. • Luke 22:20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.
    2. In the church's sacraments, covenant faithfulness is pledged.
      1. • Mat 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
      2. • 1Co 5:8 Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
      3. • 1Co 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?
    3. In abandoning Christ, an apostate is denying what he or she had previously pledged in the sacraments; the apostate regards "as unclean the blood of the covenant" and because of this "the Lord will judge His people" (Heb 10:29-30).
      1. • Hebrews 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
      2. • Hebrews 10:30 For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE."
      3. • 1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
  12. The family is a covenantal entity and must therefore keep covenant by faith (which produces works).
    1. Abraham was chosen by God in order that he carry out the familial covenantal responsibilities of instructing his children in faithfulness to God.
      1. • Genesis 18:19 "For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him."
    2. Just as Abraham was instructed to be faithful to God, so we are told that His lovingkindness is on children's children who "keep His covenant."
      1. • Psalm 103:17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, 18 To those who keep His covenant, And who remember His precepts to do them.
    3. Marriage is covenantal, both in its commitment nature and in its relational nature, representing Christ and His people.
      1. • Mal 2:14 "Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
      2. • Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
    4. Children must be brought up in the discipline, education, and culture of Christ, our Lord.
      1. • Eph 6:4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.(10)
    5. Believers' children are therefore (at least in some sense) covenantally obligated. They are obligated to continue in faith and obedience to the Word of God. They are obligated to obey the covenant law and will be blessed as they, in faith, obey.
      1. • 2Ti 3:14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
      2. • Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.


II. THE COVENANTAL VIEW OF THE SACRAMENTS:
BIBLICAL HOUSEHOLD (INFANT) BAPTISM

  1. The administration of biblical covenants includes a principle of familial, corporate inclusion or "generational succession."(11)
    1. In the covenant of life/works with Adam:
      1. • 1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
    2. In the covenant with Noah:
      1. • Gen 9:15 and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.
    3. In the covenant with Abraham:
      1. • Gen 17:9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.
    4. In the Mosaic covenant:
      1. • Deu 7:9 "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
    5. In the Davidic covenant:
      1. • Psalm 89:3 "I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4 I will establish your seed forever, And build up your throne to all generations. "Selah.
    6. In the new covenant:
      1. • Deu 30:5 "And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
      2. • Jer 31:34 "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." 35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36 "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, " Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever. " 37 Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD. 38 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.
      3. • Mal 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
  2. Biblical covenants between God and man include signs and seals which visibly represent the realities behind the covenants to flesh and blood people. For example --
    1. In the covenant of works/life/creation the tree of life is the visible sign of the invisible reality.(12)
    2. In the Abrahamic covenant circumcision is the sign-ification of the promise.
    3. In the Mosaic administration of the covenant, the sacrifices are more carefully defined and the covenant meal is defined, Passover.
    4. In the new covenant, the baptism and the Lord's Supper signify its meaning.(13)
  3. The visible signs and symbols of God's covenant redemption are administered in corporate/household manner, not in an exclusively individualistic manner.(14)
    1. The covenant with Noah was for the salvation of his household, and ultimately for "every living living."
      1. • Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
      2. • Gen 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.
    2. The patriarch's sacrifices and symbolic pledges were familial and corporate: Genesis 8:18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark. 20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
      1. • Genesis 31:54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain.
      2. • Job 1:5 And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually.
    3. Circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of God's covenant to be administered to those in the household.
      1. • Gen 17:9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
    4. Under Moses the Israelites were commanded to put the blood of the Passover lamb on their doors to preserve the firstborn in the household.
      1. • Exo 12:23 "For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.
    5. The Passover meal was thus given under Moses and to be administered for/according to the household.(15)
      1. • Exo 12:24 "And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.
  4. Therefore, there is a pattern of the corporate and often household administration of signs and symbols in the previous covenants.
  5. The question now is whether the visible sign of entrance into the new covenant (baptism) is to be administered corporately in any sense -- I have come to be convinced that there is much evidence for the continuity of this pattern in the new covenant and in its sign, baptism.
    1. The "new covenant" as prophesied in the Old Testament included the principle of successive generations (just as the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and even Davidic covenants did).
      1. • Deuteronomy 30:1 "So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. . . 6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
      2. • Jer 32:37 "Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. 38 "And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. 40 "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.
      3. • Zech 10:6 "And I shall strengthen the house of Judah, And I shall save the house of Joseph, And I shall bring them back, Because I have had compassion on them; And they will be as though I had not rejected them, For I am the LORD their God, and I will answer them. 7 "And Ephraim will be like a mighty man, And their heart will be glad as if from wine; Indeed, their children will see it and be glad, Their heart will rejoice in the LORD. 8 "I will whistle for them to gather them together, For I have redeemed them; And they will be as numerous as they were before. 9 "When I scatter them among the peoples, They will remember Me in far countries, And they with their children will live and come back.
      4. • Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, 2 A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. . .15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. . . 27 "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame. 28 "And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 "And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
      5. • Jer 31:33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." 35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36 "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, " Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever. " 37 Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD.
      6. • Isa 59:20 "And a Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD. 21 "And as for Me, this is My covenant with them," says the LORD: " My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, "says the LORD," from now and forever. "
      7. • Mal 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
    2. In the new covenant's fulfillment and full disclosure, the New Testament apostles included the generational principle (the "you and your seed" concept) in their explanation of the new covenant.
      1. • Luke 1:17 "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
      2. • Luke 2:48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
      3. • Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
      4. • Acts 2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
      5. • Acts 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.'
      6. • Acts 13:32 "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.'
      7. • Rom 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. . .16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
    3. The Old Testament predictions of the new covenant Messiah include allusions to a cleansing rite, administered in a corporate way, the "baptism" of nations.(16)
      1. • Isa 52:15 Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.(17)
      2. • Eze 36:24 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. 25 "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 "And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
      3. • The Old Testament basis for this symbolism is in Numbers 19:19: "Then the clean person shall sprinkle on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him from uncleanness, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and shall be clean by evening" (see also Num 8:7, 14:51).
    4. Predictably, the commission to baptize is to baptize the corporate "nations" whom we are to disciple.
      1. • Mat 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. "
  6. Baptism is the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision.(18)
    1. The visible sign of baptism represents the same reality as the visible sign of circumcision: essentially, spiritual regeneration.(19)
      1. • Mark 1:8 "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
      2. • Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
      3. • Acts 10:47 "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?"
      4. • 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
      5. • Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
      6. • Col 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
      7. • Rom 4:11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
      8. • Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
      9. • Jer 4:4 "Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds."
      10. • Deu 10:16 "Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.
      11. • Deu 30:6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
  7. Baptism is commanded as a visible ordinance of the new covenant (Mat 28:19-20).
    1. Given what comes before, it is not surprising, then, when reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, that baptism is administered to households ("the families of the earth," Acts 3:25).
      1. Every person named in the apostolic New Testament baptism narratives had their household baptized, if we have any reasonable basis for believing the individual had a household. (I.e, it is not reasonable to expect the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Simon the Sorcerer to have had a familial household.)
      2. Of the nine individuals named in the baptism narratives, one likely did not have a family (Sorcerers are not generally considered family men), two had no household for obvious reasons (eunuch, Saul ), and five had their households baptized.
      3. That leaves Gaius (1Co 1:14) who is mentioned as a household head along with Crispus. Crispus' household was undoubtedly baptized with him (Acts 18:8), yet Paul said in no uncertain terms, "I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius." This leads me all the more to assert that Paul considered baptism to be properly administered in a corporate/household way. As would be perfectly intelligible to any covenantally-minded Jew, Paul simply spoke of Crispus as representing the household in the administration of this sacrament. Paul did not see the need to clarify his assertion by adding "and Crispus' wife and Crispus' sixteen-year-old son and Crispus' eight-year-old daughter that had a solid profession of her faith" -- because as with circumcision, all the household received it (with men representing the rest of the family). Only an individualistic assumption about the administration of baptism would cause one to see an impropriety in Paul's statement here (1Co 1:14).
      4. This leads me to observe that if Gaius had a household, it is quite reasonable to assume that it was baptized, just like Crispus' household, whom we know was baptized.
        1. The Household of Cornelius: Acts 11:14 and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.
        2. The Household of Lydia: Acts 16:15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
        3. The Philippian Jailor's Household: Acts 16:33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
        4. The Household of Crispus: Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.
        5. The Household of Stephanas: I Corinthians 1:16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
        6. Possibly Gaius: I Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
      5. Since it is legitimate to baptize households under the headship of a believer, then it is right to baptize children born or by adoption brought into that home.
      6. It is unnecessary to circumcise a person who receives baptism.
        1. • 1Co 7:18 Was any man called already circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.
  8. Reformed definitions of infant baptism, with which I am in substantial agreement:
    1. Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 28:
      1. • 28.1 Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,(1) not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church;(2) but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,(3) of his ingrafting into Christ,(4) of regeneration,(5) of remission of sins,(6) and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life.(7) Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.(8) (1)Matt. 28:19 (2)1 Cor. 12:13 (3)Rom. 4:11 with Col. 2:11,12 (4)Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5 (5)Tit. 3:5 (6)Mark 1:4 (7)Rom. 6:3,4 (8)Matt. 28:19,20
      2. • 28.2 The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto.(1) (1)Matt. 3:11; John 1:33; Matt. 28:19,20
      3. • 28.3 Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.(1) (1)Heb. 9:10,19,20,21,22; Acts 2:41; Acts 16:33; Mark 7:4
      4. • 28.4 Not only those that do actually profess faith in the obedience unto Christ,(1) but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.(2) (1)Mark 16:15,16; Acts 8:37,38 (2)Gen. 17:7,9 with Gal. 3:9,14 and Col. 2:11,12; and Acts 2:38,39; and Rom. 4:11,12; 1 Cor. 7:14; Matt. 28:19; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15
      5. • 28.5 Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,(1) yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved, without it;(2) or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.(3) (1)Luke 7:30 with Exod. 4:24-26 (2)Rom. 4:11; Acts 10:2,4,22,31,45,47 (3)Acts 8:13,23
      6. • 28.6 The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;(1) yet, not withstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.(2) (1)John 3:5,8 (2)Gal 3:27; Tit. 3:5; Eph. 5:25,26; Acts 2:38,41
      7. • 28.7 The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person.(1) (1)Tit. 3:5
    2. Heidelberg Catechism (Questions 72-74):
      1. • 72. Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all: for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost cleanse us from all sin.
      2. • 73. Why then doth the Holy Ghost call baptism 'the washing of regeneration' and 'the washing away of sins'? God speaks thus not without great cause, to wit, not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water.
      3. • 74. Are infants also to be baptized? Yes; for since they, as well as adults, are included in the covenant and Church of God, and since both redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, the Author of faith, are through the blood of Christ promised to them no less than to adults, they must also by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.(20)
    3. The Genevan Confession of Faith (1536)
      1. • 15. Baptism is an external sign by which our Lord testifies that he desires to receive us for his children, as members of his Son Jesus. Hence in it there is represented to us the cleansing from sin which we have in the blood of Jesus Christ, the mortification of our flesh which we have by his death that we may live in him by his Spirit. Now since our children belong to such an alliance with our Lord, we are certain that the external sign is rightly applied to them.(21)
    4. The French Confession of Faith (Calvin, 1559)
      1. • 35. We confess only two sacraments common to the whole Church, of which the first, baptism, is given as a pledge of our adoption; for by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, so as to be washed and cleansed by his blood, and then renewed in purity of life by his Holy Spirit. We hold, also, that although we are baptized only once, yet the gain that it symbolizes to us reaches over our whole lives and to our death, so that we have a lasting witness that Jesus Christ will always be our justification and sanctification. Nevertheless, although it is a sacrament of faith and penitence, yet as God receives little children into the Church with their fathers, we say, upon the authority of Jesus Christ, that the children of believing parents should be baptized.(22)
    5. The Belgic Confession (1561, Revised at Synod of Dort, 1618-1619)
      1. • 34. Holy Baptism. We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law, has made an end, by the shedding of His blood, of all other sheddings of blood which men could or would make as a propitiation or satisfaction for sin; and that He, having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, has instituted the sacrament of baptism instead thereof; by which we are received into the Church of God, and separated from all other people and strange religions, that we may wholly belong to Him whose mark and ensign we bear; and which serves as a testimony to us that He will forever be our gracious God and Father. Therefore He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with pure water, into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, thereby signifying to us, that as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath unto children of God. Not that this is effected by the external water, but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God; who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and to enter into the spiritual land of Canaan. The ministers, therefore, on their part administer the sacrament and that which is visible, but our Lord gives that which is signified by the sacrament, namely, the gifts and invisible grace; washing, cleansing, and purging our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving unto us a true assurance of His fatherly goodness; putting on us the new man, and putting off the old man with all his deeds. We believe, therefore, that every man who is earnestly studious of obtaining life eternal ought to be baptized but once with this only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice. Neither does this baptism avail us only at the time when the water is poured upon us and received by us, but also through the whole course of our life. . . the infants of believers, who we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised upon the same promises which are made unto our children. And indeed Christ shed His blood no less for the washing of the children of believers than for adult persons and therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of that which Christ has done for them; as the Lord commanded in the law that they should be made partakers of the sacrament of Christ's suffering and death shortly after they were born, by offering for them a lamb, which was a sacrament of Jesus Christ. Moreover, what circumcision was to the Jews, baptism is to our children, And for this reason St. Paul calls baptism the circumcision of Christ.(23)

III. OBJECTIONS TO COVENANTAL HOUSEHOLD (INFANT) BAPTISM

  1. Objection: The commission to baptize requires that only individual disciples may be properly baptized (Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .").
    1. This is an overstatement of what is exegetically demonstrable from the passage --
    2. The grammar of this command, honestly and objectively analyzed, does not require that only individuals who are self-conscious disciples be baptized. In the participial phrase beginning, "baptizonteV autouV" ("baptizing them")," the referent to the pronoun "them" (autos) grammatically cannot be "disciples" because "make disciples" is not a noun at all. It is a verb (maqhteusate is the 2nd person plural, aorist tense, active voice, imperative mood form of the verb, matheteuo, "you should disciple"). Hence, it is not a mere grammatical conclusion to assert, "'Them' refers only to those who become disciples."(24)
    3. Also, it is going beyond the mere grammar of the text to assert that ". . .the Great Commission commands to 'make disciples of all the nations [individuals from all nations, not the national entities], baptizing them [those who were made disciples, my emphasis]. . ."(25) This is said as though the text read maqhteusate ek pantwn twn eqnwn (make disciples from among [ek] all the nations with the genitive case(26)), when de facto it simply reads: maqhteusate panta ta eqnh ("make disciples of all the nations"). "Nations" (ethne) is in the accusative case. Hence, "nations" is the direct object of the verb "disciple." There is simply no preposition to be rendered "from." This is why the ASV, NAS, NAB, RSV, NRSV, and NKJ all translate this text simply, "make disciples of all nations" and the KJV even more directly renders it, "teach all nations."
    4. Moreover, one is proceeding beyond a purely grammatical inquiry when Matthew 28:19 is quoted to prove that baptizing follows discipling. As Warfield puts it, "as if the words ran maqheteusanteV baptizete, whereas the passage, actually standing, maqheteusate baptizonteV, merely demands that the discipling shall be consummated in, shall be performed by means of baptism."(27)
    5. This leads me to conclude that the grammar of the Great Commission is such that if the term "baptize" (baptizw) were replaced with "circumcise" (peritemnw)--no Jewish Rabbi would have taken the intent of Christ in this command to exclude infant circumcision for the exclusive circumcision of mature, self-conscious, disciples.
    6. For example we are told in Acts 15:3 about the "the conversion of the Gentiles" (v 3) and that some of "the Pharisees who had believed" demanded that "it is necessary to circumcise them" (v 5). It is virtually certain that these Pharisees were not insisting on exclusive adult "believer circumcision" by demanding that those "converted" be circumcised. This contextual understanding may extend to the other passages which speak of believers being baptized as well.
    7. When the Pharisees made a proselyte (Mat 23:15) they considered the children of proselytes -- proselytes as well, though they may not have been of a sufficient level of maturity to self-consciously profess Judaism. More characteristically however, the ancient culture, especially in the Jewish context involved such a strong sense of headship/representation that sometimes "disciple" meant merely the male head of the home (notice the distinction between "they [disciples] and "wives and children"] in Acts 21:4-5).
      1. • Acts 21:4 And after looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5 And when it came about that our days there were ended, we departed and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. And after kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another.
      2. • Mat 23:15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
    8. The objective of the Matthew 28:19-20 command is very simply to make all the nations disciples. This is accomplished by "signing" the nations with the name of the Triune God in baptism and by instructing the nations to keep all the commandments of Messiah Jesus. It is possible because Jesus has all authority and He is with us. The Commission is not kept when merely some "individuals from all nations" are individually made disciples. The church may not say that this job is done until the nations are disciples. It may be that only individuals from a nation will presently bow their knees to King Jesus; but that by no means is all that is intended by this command. The Great Commission is the almost predictable Messianic restatement of multitudes of Old Testament commissions and promises and prayers: "And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:3). "Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen 28:14). "That all the ends of the earth may fear Him" (Psa 67:7); "All nations serve him" (Psa 72:11); "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; And they shall glorify Thy name" (Psa 86:9); "Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples!" (Psa 117:1); "Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven" (Psa 148:11-13). "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before Thee" (Psa 22:7). "Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths" (Zec 14:16). "Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE THEE, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed" (Rev 15:4). "Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength" (1Ch 16:28). "Then hear Thou from heaven, from Thy dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to Thee, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, and fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by Thy name" (2Ch 6:33). "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed" (Dan 7:14). -- And about 100 other passages which declare that all nations are to be disciple-worshipers.
  2. Objection: John, Jesus, and the Great Commission speak only of "disciples" being baptized. The argument for this is made as follows -- (a) John 4:1 says ". . .the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John . . ." (b) John the Baptist was baptizing only those who were capable of a discipleship-like profession (in repentance) -- ". . .they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins" (Mat 3:6). (c) Disciples must be mature enough to at least profess their faith and allegiance to Jesus (Luke 14:26, 27, 33).(28) Therefore, only disciples are to be baptized. My response is as follows:
    1. Consider carefully the term "disciple" as it is used in the New Testament. While it is true that "disciple" in John 4:1 and the Luke 14:26ff probably denotes a mature person who is a self-conscious follower of Christ, it seems to have a technical and rabbinical sense.(29) "Disciple" is not used in the gospels to refer to women. Notice that in Luke 14:26, all the familial relationships are mentioned, except there is no mention of a disciple leaving a "husband": "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple."
    2. As it turns out there is only one woman in all the Bible expressly called a "disciple," Tabitha (called Dorcas) (Acts 9:36). However, in this passage the term "disciple" is maqhtria, not maqhthV (mathetria not mathetes). It is the feminine form, not the masculine form.(30) This feminine form is used only here in Scripture. Again, because of the rabbinic context only adult males are called "disciples" (mathetes, masculine) in the New Testament.
      1. • Acts 9:36 Now in Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did. 37 And it came about at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room.
    3. Further, the technical use of "disciple" explains why maqhth.j is not used in the LXX, since the LXX predates the Pharisaic and rabbinic context of Jesus' day.
    4. In saying all of this I do not mean to deny that contemporary Christians have latitude in our normal use of language to generalize the term "disciple" and talk of "discipling," "discipleship," and even a "disciple" who is not technically a rabbinic-like disciple.
    5. To sum up, in order to meet the objection that only self-consciously mature believers qualify as disciples and only disciples are to be baptized --I have argued that in the exact sense of the Gospel's usage of the terms, only mature men qualify as disciples. Hence, it is not surprising to find that they are called to leave "wife" if necessary in order to "be His disciple." But to argue from this that the specific requirements of baptism in the New Testament exclude the possibility of infants is equivocation.
  3. Objection: Because of the characteristics of a "disciple" in the gospels, Matthew 28:19-20 ("make disciples") cannot permit the concept that a child in a believing home is "discipled" from birth via baptizing and teaching. Hence, paedobaptism is not permitted by the Great Commission in any sense. My response is as follows:
    1. Again, any Jew of the first century or before would have seen no discontinuity in the Commission with all the Old Testament revelation if the Commission had simply said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, circumcising them in the name of the Jehovah, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." They would not have thought this was a commission to abandon infant circumcision for exclusive adult circumcision.(31)
    2. More specifically, as argued above the noun "disciple" in the gospels has a rather technical and rabbinic sense. The verb "disciple" or "make disciples" in Matthew 28:19 (maqhteuw) is from the noun, maqhthV.(32) The noun "disciple" (maqhthV) is from the root verb manqanw (manthano) which is simply, "learn."(33) While the terms maqhthV  and maqhteuw do not occur in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), the root verb (manthano) does. Deuteronomy 31:12 commands, "Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn (manthano) and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law." Likewise in the Apocraphal book, Wisdom of Solomon 16:26, were are told that "that your children" are to "learn (manthano) that it is not the production of crops that feeds humankind but that your word sustains those who trust in you." Moreover, Micah 4:3 predicts Messianic blessing to the (corporate) nations, "Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train (manthano) for war." In the Isaiah 2:4 parallel, "And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn (manthano) war." Isaiah 26:9 models revival prayer saying, "At night my soul longs for Thee, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently; For when the earth experiences Thy judgments The inhabitants of the world learn (manthano) righteousness." Jeremiah 12:15-16 even uses this verb expressly of Israel's surrounding nations within new covenant-return-from-the-exile context, ". . .after I have uprooted them, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land. Then it will come about that if they will really learn (manthano) the ways of My people . . . then they will be built up in the midst of My people."
    3. Therefore, it is my contention that there is organic continuity in the Great Commission's imperative to disciple the nations and what the Old Testament predicts of Messiah, specifically in the Old Testament concepts of Messianic blessings on the nations, familial solidarity, and familial covenantal responsibilities (Gen 18:19, Deu 6:4-7).
    4. If one puts himself in the place of the (Jewish-Christian) apostles, is it credible to think that they saw the Commission as including making disciples of families or households? I believe that it is. To add to what has been already discussed: (a) In biblical usage the term "nations" is the semantic equivalent to "all the families of the earth" (Gen 12:3, 28:14, Act 3:25, cf. Psa 22:14). (b) In a biblical survey of the term "nations," the terms "family" and "house" or "household" are explicitly and organically connected. For example, in the book that defines family and nation, Genesis, "nations" is equal to "families": "From these the coastlands of the nations were separated into their lands, every one according to his language, according to their families, into their nations" (10:5). In Genesis 10:32 the terms "families" or "households" are semantically identical to nations: "These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood." Moreover, throughout Scripture the "nation of Israel" is called the "house of Israel" and the church is called the "household of God" (oikos). (c) Therefore, if the command had been "Go and make disciples of families, baptizing families . . ." -- would this not be warrant for the baptism of households under the leadership of head of the household? Surely. Asking such a hypothetical question is simply a way to challenge alternate assumptions about the context, audience, and semantic intention. In this case, it challenges the individualistic assumption that I believe is often imported into the text.(34) "Families of the earth" have an original (in Genesis), biblio-theological, and explicit semantic connection to "households." This is probably why the apostles baptized them.
  4. Objection: There is no explicit command or example of infant baptism; therefore, it is invalid. My response is as follows:
    1. I believe that my argument above already addresses the "explicit" criterion in one way. It may be true that there is no express statement about "infant baptism," but this objection cannot be raised about "household baptism." Is there any explicit evidence for "household baptism"? Yes, there are several express statements about household baptism. Given the fact that Acts/and the narrative statements in the epistles are a limited, selected history, spanning decades, that there are so many statements about household baptism is remarkable. It is quite legitimate to infer that within the apostolic era there must have been many more.
      1. The Household of Cornelius: Acts 11:14 and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household. '
      2. The Household of Lydia: Acts 16:15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.
      3. The Philippian Jailor's Household: Acts 16:33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.
      4. The Household of Crispus: Acts 18:8 And Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household, and many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized.
      5. The Household of Stephanas: I Corinthians 1:16 Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.
    2. To the real issue, though: it seems most persuasive to many Baptists, almost without any other consideration, that since the Scriptures contain no positive command to baptize infants nor an explicitly clear example of the baptism of infants that such a practice is erroneous, invalid, and unbiblical. However, the lack of explicit command or example alone should not be persuasive since other doctrines are embraced and practiced (by Baptists and others) without explicit commands or examples. On the other hand, many practices explicit in the Bible are not embraced by either Baptists and paedobaptists.
    3. Examples of practices permitted in many evangelical contexts without an explicit New Testament command or example include: The baptism of believing children; the partaking of communion by women; the observance of the Christian Sabbath on Sunday as a day of rest; the recognition of Christmas and Easter as religious holidays; the use of musical instruments in New Testament worship; the church (corporation) owning property.
    4. Examples of practices which have an explicit New Testament command or example, but are not practiced in many evangelical congregations: The baptism of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands; the charismatic/miraculous confirmation of the gift of the Holy Spirit; the immediate baptism of converts; the miraculous use of physical objects for healing (the handkerchief); speaking in tongues/other miraculous gifts; the use of (alcoholic) wine in communion; greeting each other with a kiss.
      1. • Acts 8:16 For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."
      2. • Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came
      3. •Acts 19:11 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.
      4. •Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
      5. • 1Co 11:21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
      6. • Rom 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
    5. Of course it is not my purpose at present to prohibit or promote any of the above practices. These practices are simply illustrations that mere express warrant, an explicit command or example, is often held as unnecessary in justifying a church practice. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how a church could use express warrant alone as the standard. To illustrate some principles involved, consider the case of the charismatic issues. The Pentecostals actually have express warrant on their side. Those who disagree with them find it necessary to address these issues in a broader biblical and theological framework. The charismatics have the clear New Testament examples of post-belief reception of the Spirit and non-charismatics invoke their systematic theology and comprehensive biblical reflection to explain the apostolic era. In all deference to my charismatic brethren, I believe that the apostolic era included at least some miraculous giftings which have ceased (like "apostle"). This "non-charismatic" conclusion is warranted from a biblically comprehensive, theologically systematic, and specifically exegetical study of what the Bible reveals about these issues. While trying to explain the comprehensive state of the question, a charismatic brother might say, "Look, they spoke in tongues." This is not unlike the Baptist saying, "Look, it says they believed and were baptized! What more do you need!"
    6. It is also true and important to reflect on the fact that many areas of "first importance" theologically, such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, etc., require such comprehensive biblical examinations. Such questions of doctrine cannot be settled by a mere express statement or example. The goal we should all agree on, therefore, is that our doctrinal positions are based on a biblically comprehensive, theologically systematic inquiry, as well as an exegetical study of the key passages involved. This is a gigantic task. It is hardly possible for most believers to do all of this study on each issue of the faith. So while defending this as the goal for ministers and theologians, many Christians are not called to this level of inquiry (Eph 4:11ff). Still, faithful brethren called to be truly the "salt of the earth" as doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs, may nonetheless benefit from the fruit of those that are equipped in this area. This is one of the goals of Christian scholarship.
    7. I say all this just to conclude with the thoroughly biblical principle that explicit warrant is not a necessary and/or sufficient criterion for Christian belief and practice.
  5. Objection: It is insufficient for a church practice, especially a sacramental practice, to be based on a theological deduction, a "good and necessary consequence" (in the language of the Westminster Confession 1:6).
    1. This is really a restatement of the previous objection. However, to add to what is said above --
    2. Consider the text of the Westminister Confession on this point: "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture . . ." (1.6).
    3. To illustrate a "necessary consequence," consider the following argument: (1) murder is wrong, (2) abortion is murder, (3) therefore, abortion is wrong. In this argument, premise 1 is virtually explicit in the Bible. Premise 2 is a conclusion based on the scientific knowledge of what abortion is and the biblical teaching regarding a human being in the womb. And the conclusion, logically-necessarily follows from the premises because of the logical form of the argument of the premises (i.e., it is a valid syllogism). Now I am sure no one in this discussion will object to this argument and its conclusion. Is there any defense for objecting to the application of the laws of thought (logic) to the exegetical and theological propositions we "deduce" from the Bible? There's simply no way to avoid doing it. We cannot think, reason, interpret, speak, apply, etc. without making logical inferences.
    4. A necessary deduction, then, from biblically true premises is fully biblically binding. All theological reflections, exegetical conclusions, and practical applications depend on the validity of the application of necessary inferences. It is one thing to deny the logical necessity of a position (like infant baptism), it is quite another attack the principle of good and necessary inference.
    5. This brings me to the point of needing to critique my brother and friend, Dr. Fred Malone on the matter of "good and necessary inference"(35) -- Dr. Malone describes the argument for covenantal infant baptism as pearls strung on the necklace of good and necessary inference. In his book, he addresses each "pearl." Now, I agree with this metaphor. Indeed, it is a beautiful metaphor. This metaphor could likewise be applied to other precious truths of the Christian faith: the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ -- almost any systematic theological conclusion is a string of pearls. In the case of baptism, the premises of infant baptism are, I believe, taught in the Bible and the coherence of these premises is a logically valid argument. What is necessary to refute the argument is (a) the demonstration that the crucial premises in the argument are false (the pearls), or (b) that the argument is logically invalid, that is, the form of the argument is not a reliable way of reasoning (the string has a knot, if you will).(36) Dr. Malone seeks to demonstrate that each pearl is really a sham pearl. If he has done this, then he has refuted paedobaptism, so stated. What I am concerned about at the moment, however, is his attack on the string. He attacks the principle of necessary inference. An attack on the principles of logical validity is, however, self-refuting since an argument against logic is an argument which purports to be logical. A self-refuting belief cannot be true.
    6. The entire discussion comes in response to John Murray's comments, "One of the most persuasive objections and one which closes the argument for a great many people is that there is no express command to baptize infants and no record in the New Testament of a clear case of infant baptism . . . The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference, and it is therefore quite indefensible to demand that the evidence required must be in the category of express command or explicit instance."(37)
    7. Unfortunately, Dr. Malone confuses the authority of logical necessity with other distinct and separate questions of hermeneutics. He says of logical inference, "This is the principle of hermeneutics called 'good and necessary inference.'"(38) In Murray's citation, it is clear that he has in mind, not hermeneutics, but the implicit authority of Scripture. He says, "What by good and necessary inference can be deduced from Scripture is of authority in the church of God as well as what is expressly set down in Scripture. In other words, the assumption upon which this objection rests is a false assumption and one which cannot be adopted as the norm in determining what Christian doctrine or Christian institution is."(39) Dr. Malone binds it to the questions of continuity and discontinuity.(40) There is a clear, distinct separation between such questions of hermeneutics and the application and necessity of logic inference. One can be thoroughly convinced of radical dispensationalism "hermeneutically" and at the same time demand the logical consistency of "good and necessary consequence"(41) -- yet be convinced that the earthly/heavenly inferences are "necessary." On the other hand, one can be fully theonomic in the issues of theological continuity between the testaments and likewise uphold "good and necessary consequence."(42)
    8. In the context of addressing necessary inference, Dr. Malone argues that dispensationalists, theonomists, Seventh Day Adventists, and covenantal paedobaptists all have the same hermeneutic, that the Old Testament interprets the New Testament.(43) It is unfortunate that Dr. Malone does not provide a more analytical critique of the principles used by each of these positions. It is quite insufficient to refer to their common hermeneutical principle as merely "deduction by good and necessary consequence" from the Old Testament. It really is not "good and necessary consequence" which is at issue in theonomy, dispensationalism, or Adventism. Dispensationalists are concerned with express statements of Old Testament prophecy/promise (not deductions per se), and the New Testament interpretation of them. The hermeneutical question relevant to them is whether the New Testament actually applies certain Old Testament promises to the present era and teaches that some Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the present dispensation. It is "express" statements about the Old Testament Law, in light of no later abrogation that make for the theonomic thesis, combined with the fact that the moral law is the basis of the civil (or case) laws. The hermeneutical issue relevant for theonomists is whether the civil laws are inextricably bound to the nation Israel in the land and whether the New Testament expressly teaches that they are fulfilled and abrogated. The Adventists really are not concerned with "deductions" at all, preferring rather to emphasize the express statements of the moral law and the impossibility of ceremonial aspects of the 4th commandment (sabbath). As it turns out, what these groups have in common is that some aspects of their beliefs and practices originate in the Old Testament. The fact is, however, that many of our beliefs as evangelicals (regardless of the present question) have Old Testament roots.(44)
    9. Dr. Malone pits "good and necessary consequence" out of chapter 1:6 of the Confession against the regulative principle of worship of chapter 21, without any recognition that necessary inference is from the very first chapter of the Confession (1:6).(45) Did the Westminster divines place two rather fundamental, but contradictory, principles in their Confession? There is no formal contradiction between the words "the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will [and He may not be worshiped in] any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture" (21:1). And "the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture" (1:6). It is apparent that these two principles are not contradictory because (a) the "revealed will of God" includes not only express statements, but necessary inferences; (b) that which is prescribed by Scripture includes those things necessarily implied by the Word; and (c) one can hardly develop an application or theology of "regulative worship" without permitting necessary inferences. For example, the use of a piano in worship under the new covenant is an inference, the practice of taking up (in worship) an offering is an inference, the use of any liturgy (free, fixed, historic, or whatever) is an inference, etc.
    10. Thus, a necessary consequence of a biblically true statement is a necessary inference and as such has to be binding or else a contradiction is at hand. Once one accepts a real contradiction somewhere in one's thinking, then why not resolve every problem with a contradiction? Why not say both views on baptism are right, they contradict each other and they are true -- this is nonsense in the most hallowed use of the word. Hence, Murray is on firm ground in answering his objection by pointing out the insufficiency of the requirement of explicit warrant.
  6. Objection: Only regenerate people are "in the new covenant."(46) Since every child of a believing parent is not regenerate, it is improper to give the sign of the covenant to the children of believers until they credibly profess their regeneration.
    1. The entire Old Testament precedents both legal relation to the covenant and spiritual relationship "in" the covenant. The children of believers have always been included in the administration of God's covenant.
    2. The new covenant fulfillment passages, likewise, include the children (see the above 17a & b).
    3. Specifically, however, if it can be proven that there are people under new covenant obligations (i.e., "in the covenant") who become apostates, then the claim that "all in the new covenant are regenerate," will be demonstrated to be false.
    4. It is certainly true that the glorious promises of the new covenant are fulfilled in regenerate saints who have the law written on their heart and who have their sins forgiven, namely, the elect of God in the new covenant dispensation. The point of the dispute, however, is whether every person who is "in the covenant" and bound by it is regenerate. It is important to note here that the conclusion, "all that are in the new covenant are regenerate" is, in fact, a theological conclusion, and not an express statement of Scripture. To those who are convinced of this theological deduction, such a position may be argued as a necessary conclusion, a fully warranted conclusion, even an exegetically derived conclusion. It is, however, simply and truly, not an express declaration of Scripture. I say this because in so many recent discussions, often times, the difference between a declaration of the text of Scripture has sometimes been confused with the theological and interpretive conclusions of the exegetical process. There is an extremely important difference.
    5. Several passages teach that there are people set apart in the new covenant (without the full blessings of salvation), who yet fall away. Thus there are unregenerate new covenant members. For example, Hebrews 10:29-30:
      1. • Heb 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
  7. Objection: Hebrews 10:29 is a disputed passage. It is an unsafe procedure to use a disputed text to establish a matter (like, there are unregenerate new covenant members).(47)
    1. A simple, but probably unpersuasive response might be, "OK, I'll use Hebrews 6:4-8."
      1. • Heb 6:4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. 7 For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; 8 but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
    2. An objection would likely follow: "But Hebrews 6:4-8 is a disputed passage and it is an unsafe procedure to use a disputed text to establish a matter (like, there are unregenerate new covenant members). So I could say, "OK, I'll use John 15:2-6."
      1. • "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
    3. An objection would likely follow: "But John 15:2-6 is a disputed passage and it is an unsafe procedure to use a disputed text to establish a matter (like, there are unregenerate new covenant members). So I could say, "OK, I'll use Galatians 5:4."
      1. • You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
      2. Of course, after a while, it becomes apparent that the objector has a position on the covenant, a priori, that no biblical text may revise. Hence it follows that such a position is not a fully biblical position since it does not take into consideration all that the Bible has to teach on the subject.
      3. In effect the objector is requiring an unbearable burden of proof on the one who holds that there can be apostasy from the new covenant. The objector is really saying, "You have to prove apostasy from the new covenant without depending on a disputed passage, and by the way all the apostasy passages are disputed." So one is left with the insurmountable task of proving new covenant apostasy without being able to use any passage which speaks of apostasy.
      4. More than that, the objector does not permit the use of the Old Testament texts which teach covenant apostasy because allegedly "that's the difference between the previous covenant and the new covenant." So one is not permitted to appeal to the Old Testament nor the New Testament apostasy passages in order to prove covenant apostasy.
      5. Remember, the precise dispute on such apostasy passages is not the question of covenant membership anyway--the issue relevant to the present study--but rather, the question of perseverance of the saints and the Calvinistic/Arminian debate. It seems to me that accepting a view of the new covenant which permits unregenerate membership (whether from a baptistic or paedobaptistic perspective) actually alleviates a great deal of Calvinistic stress. One can then see the legal, external, and obligatory connection to the new covenant, yet not have to maintain that such apostates are converted and afterward lose their salvation.
  8. Objection: Unregenerate people can be "in the covenant" because men put them "in the covenant" but God has not put them "in the covenant."
    1. This is an equivocation regarding the phrase "in the covenant." If those words mean the very same thing, when men do it or when God does it, then the unregenerate person who is "in the covenant" is simply "in the covenant."
    2. In the specific case regarding Hebrews 10:29, the terms are perfectly consistent with the concept of the visible church being covenantally set apart, i.e., "the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified" (Exo 24:8, Mat 26:28, Heb 9:19-20, 12:24). God sets His people apart with the sacramental blood (in the Old Testament) which prefigured the blood of the cross and which is sacramentally present in communion (Mat 26:26ff).
    3. As has been demonstrated, God's covenants with men have visible signs and when one receives the duly administered entrance sign, such a person is counted as "in the covenant."
    4. Thus men should regard those that receive the sign of the covenant as "in the covenant."
    5. It is the conclusion of previous argumentation that God has put the children of believers in covenant union with him.
  9. Objection: Only males were circumcised in the Old Testament.
    1. The very nature of the New Covenant is an expansion of the old beyond the boundaries of class role (slave or free), race (Jew or Gentile), and gender (see Gal 3:28, "neither . . . male nor female").
    2. Moreover, we have an explicit basis for baptizing women (Acts 8:12).
    3. Perhaps behind this objection lurks the premise that circumcision and baptism are radically different in their significance. The external ritual difference being granted, the meaning of these two rites, I maintain, must be determined by what God says they mean in Scripture (see the previous points on this). Since they signify the same spiritual reality, they are equivalent sacraments.
  10. Objection: "You see 'covenant' everywhere, Yuk!" --
    1. If I have used the biblical term and concept of "covenant" to import unbiblical content into the argument then I want to be corrected. I only want to be as covenantal as the Bible. But to the vague, often adolescent-sounding, objection of being "too covenantal," what can be said?
    2. Perhaps a few biblical statistics will be relevant: The word "salvation" is used 160 times, "grace" is used 131 times, but the term "covenant" is used 321 times in the Bible, not counting its synonyms, like oath and promise, let alone its cognates (cf. the above outlines).
    3. As has been demonstrated, the concept of "covenant" is biblically pervasive, theologically foundational, exegetically crucial, practically relevant, and revelationally illuminating.


IV. A BRIEF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF THE NEW COVENANT

A key area of dispute relevant to both ecclesiology and sacramentology is the "new covenant." In my own thinking this weighed heavily in rejecting infant baptism in the past years. If one can conclude that the new covenant is purely internal and that no external dimension of covenant relationship exists today, then the case for an ecclesiology and sacramentology of exclusively those who demonstrate their internal covenant realities, is all but granted. On the other hand, if the new covenant, like previous administrations of the covenant of grace, involves both an internal and an external dimension, then the Reformed view of the sacraments is all the more demonstrable.
 

Jeremiah 31:31-36 in Its Original Context

  1. The locus classicus of the new covenant is Jeremiah 31:31-34:

"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, "declares the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
 

  1. The context of this prophetic word comes after Jeremiah has told of the post-exilic restoration of Israel (30:1) and of the joyful return of the captives (31:1). The beginning word of the chapter is the familiar formula: "At that time," declares the LORD, "I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people" (31:1; Gen 17:7, Ex 19:5, Deu 29:13). The prophecy follows a very "Palestinian" description of a joyful return to the land (31:4ff). In the immediate verses prior to the prophecy, we find the proper acknowledgment of individual retribution: "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' 30 "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge" (31:29-30). This parallels the words of Ezekiel 18:2ff, where God says that the use of this proverb was disallowed in Israel since it represented a false and unjust standard. "'As I live,' declares the Lord GOD, 'you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore'" (Eze 18:2).
  2. Jeremiah has a number of literary, theological, and prophetic allusions from Deuteronomy. The specific Deuteronomic passage which anticipates the new covenant is Deuteronomy 30:4-6: "If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 5 "And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."
  3. Jeremiah foretells a covenant which will be "cut"(48) with the people of Israel and Judah which will not be like "the covenant which I made with their fathers" (31:32). Jeremiah contrasts the Sinaitic covenant with "not like," and "But" (vv 32-33). The specific reference is to the wilderness generation after Sinai, "in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (v 32). Just as Deuteronomy 30 predicts this was "My covenant which they broke." Deuteronomy says, "they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt" (29:25). Jeremiah speaks of this, drawing upon a metaphor revealed earlier in the book, "although I was a husband to them" (v 32). "God says, 'If a husband divorces his wife, And she goes from him, And belongs to another man, Will he still return to her? Will not that land be completely polluted? But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me,' declares the LORD" (3:1).
  4. In understanding the intent of the words, "this is the covenant," it will be important to study the prophet's use of the terms. Earlier in the book Jeremiah has used the terms "this . . . covenant."(49) In chapter 11, he speaks of "the words of this covenant" (v 2), heeding "the words of this covenant" (v 3), "which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (v 4), and "hear the words of this covenant and do them" (v 6). In verse 8 of that chapter 11 he says, "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not" (v 8). In verse 10 he says, "the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers." Especially from verse 8, it is evident that "covenant" has the sense of "treaty" which, at least in the case of chapter 11, has stipulations for covenant breakers.
  5. The covenant which God will "cut" involves putting the stipulations of the covenant on the heart, i.e., "My law within them, and on their heart I will write it." Earlier Jeremiah had prophesied, "And I brought you into the fruitful land . . . The priests did not say, 'Where is the LORD?' And those who handle the law did not know Me . . ." (2:7-8). The diatribe throughout the book has been that the people (collectively) did not walk in My law (6:19, 8:8, 9:13, 16:11, 26:4, 32:23, 44:10, 44:23).(50) This faithless disobedience will bring the imminent judgment of the Babylonian captivity with all its horrors.(51) Moses had said, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you shall prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess" (Deu 32:46-47). Now God will cut a covenant with its stipulations on the heart, rather than in the ark of the covenant. Jeremiah teaches us, then, that this new covenant will not have a covenant law mediated through tablets of stone, but the stipulations will be immediate. Though the need for the external symbol of the covenant law will not be present, the same covenant promise is reiterated, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (Gen 17:7, Ex 19:5, Deu 29:13). This basic understanding is confirmed from the parallel in chapter 3, Jeremiah similarly foretold,

"Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall be in those days when you are multiplied and increased in the land," declares the LORD, "they shall say no more, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' And it shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they miss it, nor shall it be made again. 17 "At that time they shall call Jerusalem 'The Throne of the LORD,' and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the LORD; nor shall they walk anymore after the stubbornness of their evil heart."
 

  1. In the days preceding the destruction of Jerusalem "those who handle[d] the law did not know Me" (2:7-8). But in that new covenant era, "they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." This phrase "least to the greatest" is found two other times in Jeremiah. In 6:13, "For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely." And in 8:8-10, in a precise parallel, he accuses "the lying pen of the scribes" and "wise men" who "have rejected the word of the LORD" "because from the least even to the greatest everyone is greedy for gain; From the prophet even to the priest everyone practices deceit." It would appear that the use of this phrase has special reference to those who "teach" and it seems to signify the breadth and depth of religious leadership, "prophet even to the priest." The phrase taken by itself might signify the full range of Israelite society, but given the context and prior usage in the book, it seems to denote highest to lowest position.(52)
  2. The next phrase, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" is introduced by an explanatory "for." This connects the knowledge of God with forgiveness of sins. This is intelligible given the quotation from 2:7-8, because it is "the priests" "who handle the law did not know Me." It was the work of the priest to sacrificially "administer" forgiveness. The Pentateuch stated many times, "So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven" (Lev 4:20, 26, 31, 35, 5:10, 13, 16, 18, 6:7, 19:22, Num 15:25, 28, etc.). This prophesied new covenant forgiveness would not come through priestly and sacrificial mediation. This statement looks forward to a time when there will be no need for sacrificial mediation since the knowledge of God will not be mediated through the (Levitical) priesthood.
  3. The passage does not stop at verse 34, the prophetic tone continues, "Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day . . .If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, " Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever" (vv 35-36). Then the same thought is restated: "Thus says the LORD, 'If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,' declares the LORD" (v 37). This passages affirms the perpetual status of Israel and the offspring of Israel before God.

The Implications of this Passage on the Polemics of Infant Baptism
 

  1. It has been suggested that the "sour grapes" statement prior to the new covenant prophecy is proof of a radical shift to individualism in the new covenant: "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge" (Jer 31:29-30). Some have argued that in the Old Testament there was a principle of corporate and familial solidarity; but now (in the new covenant era) God deals individually. This is not, I believe, the intended meaning of this text.
    1. In context, this statement is to show their heart renewal (cf. Deu 30) upon returning to the land from exile. Throughout the book this same teaching is indicated. For example, in chapter 4, it was declared, "'If you will return, O Israel . . . And you will swear, As the LORD lives, In truth, in justice, and in righteousness . . .Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My wrath go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds" (4:1,2, 4). In the immediate verses preceding the passage we are taught that when "I restore their fortunes, 'The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!' . . . 'Behold, days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will sow the house of Israel. . . so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the LORD. In those days they will not say again . . ." (vv 23-29).
    2. Ezekiel 18, the precise parallel and extended discussion on this principle, makes it clear that in the Old Testament this proverb was disallowed. It indicated a false understanding of even the Old Testament standard of individual retribution and responsibility. (1) The foundational truth is that "all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die" (Eze 18:4). This is the justification for rejecting the "sour grapes" analogy. Surely this truth is not relegated to the New Testament exclusively. (2) In the continued exposition of the principle in Ezekiel 18, Old Testament cleanness illustrates righteousness: "But if a man is righteous, and practices justice and righteousness . . . does not approach a woman during her menstrual period. . ." (18:6). (3) In the exposition, a substantial justification for the appropriate principle of individual retribution is found in verse 23. God asks rhetorically, "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" He concludes the entire discussion by declaring, "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,' declares the Lord GOD. 'Therefore, repent and live' (v 32). The truth that "all souls are Mine" and God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked is the foundation of the proper Old Testament and New Testament principle of individual retribution and responsibility.
  2. I believe that the above contextual reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34 would not lead one to conclude that the principle of "thee and thy seed" or the covenant inclusion of children has been abrogated. Are the children of believers in the new covenant? One writer voices the belief of many covenantal Baptists, "I would argue then that the principle of believers and their seed no longer has covenantal significance, precisely because the age of fulfilment has arrived."(53) But in the context of the new covenant in Jeremiah's prophecy, it is quite indefensible to claim that "Nowhere in the content of the New Covenant is the principle 'thee and thy seed' mentioned."(54) It is only one verse after the locus classicus which refers directly to "the offspring of Israel" (v 36). And then it is repeated in verse 37, "If the heavens above can be measured . . . Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel." Not only does Jeremiah 31:35-38 teach this, but also the entire book and especially the "return to the land/new covenant" refrains.
    1. The very first verse in chapter 31 says, "'At that time,' declares the LORD, 'I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.'"
    2. Prior to this, chapter 30:9 says: 'But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. 10 'And fear not, O Jacob My servant,' declares the LORD, 'And do not be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your offspring from the land of their captivity. And Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease, And no one shall make him afraid. 11 'For I am with you,' declares the LORD, 'to save you; For I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, Only I will not destroy you completely. But I will chasten you justly, And will by no means leave you unpunished.'
    3. Chapter 30:18 goes on to say "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion on his dwelling places; And the city shall be rebuilt on its ruin, And the palace shall stand on its rightful place. 19 'And from them shall proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who make merry; And I will multiply them, and they shall not be diminished; I will also honor them, and they shall not be insignificant. 20 'Their children also shall be as formerly, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all their oppressors. 22 'And you shall be My people, And I will be your God.' "
    4. In 31:17, though Rachel weeps for her children (destroyed in captivity), when they return, "'there is hope for your future,' declares the LORD, 'And your children shall return to their own territory.'"
    5. In 32:15, the post-exilic/new covenant theme is restated, "For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land . . ." and in verse 18, we are told of the power, mercy, and judgement of Him "who showest lovingkindness to thousands [of generations], but repayest the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them . . ."
    6. Another restatement of the covenant in chapter 32:37: "Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath, and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. 38 "And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; 39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for the good of their children after them. 40 "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me."
    7. In chapter 33:22ff: "As the host of heaven cannot be counted, and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me. . . 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them."
    8. This is not to mention that virtually every other new covenant prophetic parallel outside of Jeremiah also included the principle of successive generations (just as the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and even Davidic covenants did).(55)
      1. • Deuteronomy 30:1 "So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2 and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3 then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. . . 6 "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
      2. •Zech 10:6 "And I shall strengthen the house of Judah, And I shall save the house of Joseph, And I shall bring them back, Because I have had compassion on them; And they will be as though I had not rejected them, For I am the LORD their God, and I will answer them. 7 "And Ephraim will be like a mighty man, And their heart will be glad as if from wine; Indeed, their children will see it and be glad, Their heart will rejoice in the LORD. 8 "I will whistle for them to gather them together, For I have redeemed them; And they will be as numerous as they were before. 9 "When I scatter them among the peoples, They will remember Me in far countries, And they with their children will live and come back.
      3. • Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, 2 A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. . .15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. . . 27 "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame. 28 "And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 "And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
      4. • Isa 59:20 "And a Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD. 21 "And as for Me, this is My covenant with them," says the LORD: " My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, "says the LORD," from now and forever. "
      5. •Mal 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
    9. And the New Testament apostles likewise included the generational principle (the "you and your children" concept) in their explanation of the new covenant.
      1. • Luke 1:17 "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
      2. • Luke 2:48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
      3. • Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
      4. • Acts 2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
      5. • Acts 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.'
      6. • Acts 13:32 "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.'
      7. • Rom 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. . .16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
    10. Does Jeremiah 31:31-34 teach that "all in the new covenant are regenerate"? Some argue that prior to the new covenant everyone in the Old Testament could break the covenant; but now, no member of the new covenant can break the covenant because all that are "in the covenant" are regenerate.(56) There are several reasons why this theological conclusion is untenable from an exegetical survey of Jeremiah: (1) It does not take into account the exact reference of who broke the covenant. As argued earlier, the specific reference here is to the wilderness generation after Sinai, "in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" (v 32 cf. Deu 29:25, 31:16). Because of this, it is an unwarranted generalization to argue that all those in prior ages could break covenant, while those in the new covenant cannot. (2) This theological conclusion ignores Jeremiah's restatements of this promise elsewhere in the book. For example in 24:6-7: "'For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7 'And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart." These statements have ostensible relevance to the post-exilic nation and its resettling in the land of Palestine. While the fullest realities of the new covenant awaited Jesus' institution, with the imminent Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, and the unmediated simplicity of new covenant worship in spirit and truth -- the words of Jeremiah must have had some relevance to the returning exiles. But how could they be relevant at all if the covenant was so radically different in nature? Given Jeremiah's original audience, it seems highly implausible to maintain that the new covenant had such a radical qualitative difference (i.e., now it is with exclusively regenerate people, the children of covenant members are excluded, and its signification is now purely individualistic). (3) This position ignores Jeremiah's use and intent for his own terms, like "heart" (3:10 Jer. 3:15, 3:17, 4:4, 4:9, 4:14, 4:18, 4:19, 5:23, 5:24, 7:24, 8:18, 9:14, 9:26, 11:8, 11:20, 12:11, 13:22, 15:1, 15:16, 16:12, 17:1, 17:5, 17:9, 17:10, 18:12, 20:9, 20:12, 22:17, 23:9, 23:17, 23:20, 23:26, 24:7, 29:13, 30:24, 31:20, 31:33, 32:39, 32:41, 48:36, 48:41, 49:16, 49:22, 51:46), "my people" (3:10, 2:11, 2:13, 2:31, 2:32, 4:11, 4:22, 5:26, 5:31, 6:14, 6:26, 6:27, 7:12, 7:23, 8:7, 8:11, 8:19, 8:21, 8:22, 9:1, 9:2, 9:7, 11:4, 12:14, 12:16, 14:17, 15:7, 18:15, 23:2, 23:13, 23:22, 23:27, 23:32, 24:7, 29:32, 30:3, 30:22, 31:1, 31:14, 31:33, 32:38, 33:24, 50:6, 51:45), "teach" (9:20, 31:34, 32:33, 2:33, 9:5, 9:14, 12:16, 13:21, 32:33), "know" (2:8, 4:22, 5:4, 5:5, 9:3, 9:6, 10:25, 16:21, 22:16, 24:7, 31:34), etc. The study of Jeremiah 31:31-34 in the light of Jeremiah's usage of the terms and concepts would not lead one to conclude that Jeremiah intended the new covenant to be with exclusively regenerate people, the children of covenant members are to be excluded, and its signification is now to be individualistic. Jeremiah intended the new covenant to be with the visible people of God, though they would be renewed in heart and enabled to keep that covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Polemics Against Infant Baptism

  1. Dr. Sam Waldron, of the Grand Rapids Reformed Baptist Church, in an expanded version of his believers' baptism defense in his fine commentary on the 1689 Baptist Confession argues, "In the Old Covenant God's law was written on stone. Consequently, it could be broken even though God had really and actually through covenant become Israel's husband (v. 32). In the New Covenant, however, the law is written on the heart guaranteeing that no member of God's New Covenant people will ever break the New Covenant."(57) Pastor Waldron's ultimate perspective on the new covenant is that "a perfect church and a perfect world" "consummates the New Covenant" when truly "all shall know" the Lord "after the second coming of Christ"(58) He concludes his discussion on the new covenant by asking, "How is all this relevant for the church? We ought not to derive our model of the church from the mixed multitude of Old Testament Israel, but from the perfected multitude of the New Jerusalem." My evaluation is as follows:
    1. In the entire text of the book from which these assertions come, there is not one citation of any other passage in Jeremiah. Still, Pastor Waldron does not hesitate to inform us of the "whole point of Jeremiah 31," and that Jeremiah "teaches that circumcision was not given to children in the Old Covenant nation on the ground that they were regenerate, but on the ground that they were the physical seed of Abraham."(59) It appears to me that these systematic theological conclusions lack an adequate biblical theology of the new covenant from Jeremiah, taking into consideration the prophet's exegetical intent, derived from a study of Jeremiah's usage of his own terms (see the above discussion).
    2. Still, these systematic theological conclusion(s) are not without an immediately apprehended inconsistency, namely: the visible new covenant community, ostensibly in covenant with God, is comprised of both regenerate and unregenerate people. What is more is that the New Testament teaches us to expect this, the administration of the sacraments of the covenant do include unregenerates, and those who finally demonstrate their apostasy are to be put out of the covenant community.(60)
    3. In answer to the "visible church" point, Pastor Waldron did admit in a personal letter to me, "Thus, I am required to say that, though properly and eschatologically none but regenerates have a part in the new covenant, yet presently and administratively some unregenerates do have a part in the new covenant. There is thus, in this respect a superficial similarity between the old covenant people of God and the new covenant people of God. This might seem to be a great admission and one which undermines our view of Jer. 31. Actually, it does no such thing . . .They are accepted into the new covenant not as unregenerates but on the basis of professed regeneration."(61) This answer is really incoherent with his previously published assertion that "no member of God's New Covenant people will ever break the New Covenant."(62)
    4. But accepting his later qualification (via letter/personal conversation), it seems that this reasoning is really circular. The very issue to be determined is whether one is to be properly considered in the new covenant only by regeneration. To answer the obvious incongruity of the visible church(63) by saying, "They are accepted into the new covenant not as unregenerates but on the basis of professed regeneration" and implying that is the only valid way of membership -- is assuming what needs to be proved and is therefore petitio principii.
    5. Perhaps I am misjudging this point and Pastor Waldron is not reasoning circularly (though it truly strikes me as begging the question) -- this fallacy could be avoided if he is simply arguing for a new criterion needed for new covenant membership, profession. If it is not really regeneration that permits one to the status of the covenant member, but profession,(64) I have another response: This is an arbitrary criterion, as a necessary and/or sufficient criterion, for covenant membership. Because, (a) it is not explicitly stated in any new covenant passage, and (b) it is not the case of those infants dying in infancy who are elect, whom Christ died for. Of course if it is at first regeneration, then profession, then profession for adults but regeneration for infants dying in infancy . . . this entire position begins to die the death of a thousand qualifications.
    6. Further, it appears to me that the nature of visible church is no mere "superficial similarity between the old covenant people of God and the new covenant people of God." It is biblically illustrated, taught, and prophesied throughout both testaments; it is exegetically demonstrable, necessary, and unavoidable; it is theologically central to the loci communes of the Protestant heritage; it is historically essential (especially in explaining the past atrocities of the Christian church); it is pastorally critical in carrying out the work of ministry; and it is existentially fundamental to our personal appraisal of our own standing before a holy God.
  2. Dr. Fred Malone, in A String of Pearls Unstrung: A Theological Journey Into Believers' Baptism, discusses the new covenant in a way more considerate of the immediately preceding context of Jeremiah's prophecy. "In verses 27-30, God declares that after the prophesied captivity each man will bear the responsibility for his own spiritual condition before God in a new way. Continuing this change of emphasis to individual responsibility in verses 31-34, God defines a new basis for covenant membership and blessing in the New Covenant which is different from the basis for membership and blessing in the Old Covenant."(65) Then after a discussion of the salvific blessings of the new covenant he says, "Therefore, based on Jeremiah 31:31-34 and its description of regeneration in the New Covenant participants, and in light of Christ's definition of the entrance requirements to the kingdom (Jn. 3:5, 6) and church (Mt. 16:16-18), I cannot say that children of believers are 'in' the New Covenant or church or kingdom or 'God's people' until they show, by outward confession, evidence of regeneration."(66) That Dr. Malone's position on the new covenant is different than Pastor Waldron's is evident in the next statement: "It has been objected that perhaps Jeremiah 31:34 is an eschatological reference because of the stated lack of need for anyone to teach his neighbor and brother. Therefore, the argument goes, this describes the church triumphant" [His response is, Jeremiah's intention in his "all" phrase is that] "There is no need to evangelize the participants in the New Covenant because they all know the Lord!"(67) My evaluation is as follows:
    1. On the "change of emphasis to individual responsibility," (a) it is very unclear how verses 27-28 intend this: "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast. 28 'And it will come about that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,' declares the LORD." (b) Alleging that this change is a dispensational difference between testaments ignores both the full contextual discussion of post-exilic Israel in Jeremiah and the more extended discussion of the "sour grapes" saying in Ezekiel (see the discussion above).
    2. That Jeremiah defines a "new basis for covenant membership" in 31:31-34 is dubious since in the continued discussion of the covenant promises only one verse following this alleged new basis he states repeatedly, "'If this fixed order departs From before Me,' declares the LORD, 'Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever'" (31:36 and 37).(68)
    3. Before concluding that the children of believers are not "in the New Covenant or church or kingdom or God's people" because of "Christ's definition of the entrance requirements to the kingdom (Jn. 3:5, 6) and church (Mt. 16:16-18),"(69) one should consult the text where Christ actually addresses that question, i.e., Luke 18:16 and parallels. Before pressing Jesus' dialogues with an adult Pharisee or an apostle into the service of one's systematic theology, it would be a more reliable procedure to develop one's conclusions regarding the status of children in the covenant fundamentally from passages which actually address the status of children in the covenant. Dr. Malone seeks to avoid the force of the "the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" passages in his discussion on pp. 33-35. The single most important exegetical detail, namely who is the "of such" -- does it include the children or not? -- is altogether overlooked. Thankfully, Paul K. Jewett (Baptist) deals fairly with the "such" in this passage. He writes, "The Greek (toioutwn) by no means implies the exclusion, but rather the inclusion, of the ones mentioned. When the Jews cried out against Paul (Acts 22:22), 'Away with such a one (toiouton)!' they could hardly have meant, Away with someone like this man Paul. Rather, they meant, Away with Paul and everyone of his kind! By the same rule, when Jesus bade little children to come to him, 'for such is the kingdom of heaven,' he most likely meant, 'The kingdom belongs to these children and all others who are like them in that they have a childlike faith.' The truth that the kingdom belongs to the childlike should not prejudice the affirmation that it also belongs to children."(70) If the new covenant prophecies include "the offspring," if their restatements and quotations in the New Testament also expressly repeat this, and if Jesus own explicit and direct statements grammatically and exegetically include children in His kingdom -- it is quite unwarranted to conclude "I cannot say that children of believers are 'in' the New Covenant or church or kingdom or 'God's people.'" This alleged fundamental dispensational change in covenant administration is not demonstrable from the Old Testament prophecies, nor their New Testament fulfillment, nor the express teaching about the status of the children of believers in the New Testament.
  3. Dr. Carl B. Hoch, Jr. in his interesting book, All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology, holds a yet different position on the new covenant, he says, "This writer suggests that the new covenant is 'not like' the old covenant in respect to content and enablement, not in nature, purpose, and motives for keeping covenant. Since the new covenant seems to be a replacement for the old covenant in Jeremiah 31, 2 Corinthians 3, and Hebrews 8, it would appear reasonable to assume that the new covenant is also a suzerainty-vassal covenant. One would expect the new covenant to have a preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, and cursings and blessings formulae like the old covenant."(71) He says, "Unlike the old covenant, you cannot point to a passage in the New Testament and say, 'This is the new covenant in its entirety.' This requires a hypothetical reconstruction of the new covenant form along the lines of the reconstruction of the old covenant form from the Old Testament materials."(72) In a passage which is rather ambivalent on the Calvinistic/Arminian debate of the final perseverance of saints, Dr. Hoch affirms that there are individuals who "break" the new covenant, "Whether these covenant-breakers are true Christians or only 'professing' Christians, eternal consequences await them."(73) It will be evident that Dr. Hoch's view of the new covenant differs from both Pastor Waldron's and Dr. Malones.(74) Still these differences do not affect their mutual rejection of the children of believers in the new covenant. Dr. Hoch only addresses the question of this paper, he says, "How new is new? . . A minimizing of the change can lead to . . . replacing circumcision with infant baptism, using the Mosaic Law as the rule of life for Christians, and calling Sunday the Christian Sabbath."(75) Later in a discussion of Colossians 2:11, he says, "That baptism has not replaced circumcision can be easily seen from the fact that Paul did not attempt to refute the Judaizers' demand that Gentiles be circumcised with the statement, 'They have no need of circumcision; they have been baptized! You all know that baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant!"(76) My evaluation is as follows:
    1. Dr. Hoch has provided a stimulating discussion of newness themes and much biblical data as a resource. I appreciate his scholarship. I agree with his essential comments about the structure of the new covenant. It seems apparent that the new covenant has the same "form" as the old covenant and it is the visible church that is under the stipulations of the covenant.
    2. However, specifically relating to infant baptism, the last quotation is his fundamental argument against covenantal infant baptism.(77) I believe that, while this objection might be convincing to many, it fails to appreciate the contextual understanding of the original audience and recipients of the gospel in the first century.
    3. The Jews (at first) and the Judaizers insisted on Gentile circumcision. This circumcision was not merely of the adults. The Jerusalem council did not convene because Pharisees (Acts 15:3ff) were insisting on exclusive adult "believer circumcision" of those "converted." Rather, they presumed that circumcision as given in the Old Testament as the covenant sign (Gen 17) was not ritually replaceable or salvifically negotiable. "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). (Again, it is important to remember that this "custom of Moses" was not exclusive adult circumcision.) The answer that came to this Judaizing requirement was that the Gentiles who were converted had received, not merely a symbol and sign of cleansing, but the reality behind circumcision (and baptism), so Peter said, "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith" (vv 8-9). That baptism signified the Holy Spirit's work is clear from Cornelius' household who was baptized in Acts 10:48. This the very case in point that Peter is making. Peter had said in verse 10:47, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?" That circumcision signified the work of the Spirit is explicit in Stephen's sermon application (and at least 20 other passages): "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did" (Acts 7:51).(78) Now back in Acts 15, these converted Gentiles who were to be circumcised (not just adults), were not in need of flesh circumcision because their hearts were cleansed by faith (signified in baptism) (Acts 15:3, 9).
    4. Conclusion: Upon further consideration, the apostles, especially Peter in this case, actually did teach that these converts were not in need of circumcision precisely because they were truly baptized. The reason why he did not put it in the words Dr. Hoch did -- "You all know that baptism has replaced circumcision as the sign of the covenant"(79) -- is because to simply assert this would have been begging the question. For this was the very dispute they were having.(80) Very specifically, the great "dispute" was whether the baptized Gentiles needed to be circumcised. The Judaizers did not see that "circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit" (Rom 2:29) and that the reality symbolized is more important than the external sign (Gal 5:6, 5:16, 1Co 7:19). The Judaizers had no objection to Gentiles' baptism (and that of even households as in the case of Cornelius), but to their mere baptism. They wanted them to be cleansed and cut. The apostles, after some consternation, and a rather vivid object lesson,(81) argued that the converted Gentiles were not in need of flesh circumcision because they already had what circumcision signified. Baptism is the equivalent ritual of circumcision. But, it is not an exact replacement of circumcision for the Jew, because it was permissible for Jews to be both circumcised (as infants) and baptized. It was wholly unnecessary, as well as a challenge to the heart of the Great Commission gospel, for baptized Gentiles to be required to be circumcised. Why? Because what circumcision did for the Jew (prior to the new covenant), baptism now does for all nations.
    5. Given their clearly stated objections and what we know of their frame of mind, if the situation had really been (as the Baptist argues) that in the new covenant there was no covenant sign of inclusion for children whatsoever, it is very remarkable that the Judaizers did not protest even more. In fact, it is not only remarkable, it has become, to me, incredible (unbelievable). If they protested against Gentile adults (and children) not having to be circumcised, how much more would they have protested that their own children were no longer considered in covenant relationship with God! Imagine the shock of Crispus the synagogue leader who believes (on Friday, let's say) that his children are in covenant with God, then on the Sabbath after Paul preaches, he finds that in the fulfillment of the covenant promises of all the ages, to all the patriarchs, in the Davidic Messiah, the seed of the woman, the glory of His people Israel -- now his children have no covenant status! If the proselyte baptism of households was common, it was not objectionable that the children in the household be baptized and made "clean."(82) But that such children were not to be also circumcised (along with their adult household heads) was very objectionable.
    6. To add, imagine the overwhelming status of inferiority that Gentiles would have felt if the Jews' children were considered members of the Christian synagogue and part of the "household of God," while Gentile children had neither sign nor membership. It should be admitted that both Dr. Hoch's argument and my argument are from silence. The reader must weigh which argument is most convincing based on the mind-set of the original audience.

V. A CONTEXTUAL AND EXEGETICAL STUDY OF
THE "NEW COVENANT" PASSAGES IN HEBREWS
(WITH CONSIDERATION GIVEN TO APOSTASY FROM THE NEW COVENANT)(83)

  1. Overview: The New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews is an apologetic to the first century Israelite church in Rome who were tempted to depart from the glories of the new covenant for the Judaistic interpretation of the Mosaic covenant -- not realizing that "if [they] believed Moses, [they] would believe Me; for he wrote of Me" (Joh 5:46). The writer of Hebrews' exhortations regarding the superiority of Christ are eloquently argued in the book for that very purpose. The argument of the epistle is a diatribe to call for faith in the superior Mediator of the covenant and its unmediated promises and means of salvation. The writer (perhaps, Apollos) urges those in the visible new covenant community not to depart from the covenant head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Purpose: These (Jewish) Christians, to whom the book of Hebrews is written are called to "bear with this word of exhortation" (13:22), not to "shrink back to destruction" (10:30), not to "come short of the grace of God" (12:15), not to be "like Esau" who was "rejected, for he found no place for repentance" (12:16-17), not to "neglect so great a salvation" (2:3), not to be like "those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away" (6:4-6), not to be like the ground which "yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned" (6:9), not to "HARDEN YOUR HEARTS" and "fall through following the same example of disobedience" (4:7, 11), not to "throw away your confidence" (10:35), because "if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him" (10:38). Hence, the writer says they "have need of endurance" (10:36).
  3. The First Citation of Jeremiah 31:31-34: In Hebrews 8:6-12 the writer draws upon the locus classicus of the new covenant to boast of its supremacy:

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; 9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS . . . .
 

    1. The writer provides "the main point" of the preceding context in the first verse of the chapter, "Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (8:1).(84) In chapter 7 we are taught "Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant" (v 22). Christ is both the victim and the priest. The continuing contrast and comparison shows the superiority of the new covenant priesthood. Since heaven is "the true tabernacle" and "every high priest is appointed to offer . . . sacrifices," "it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer" (8:2-3). The writer argues that "if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (vv 4-5).(85) In other words, Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, not of Levi. But priests make offerings, do they not? Jesus, because of lineage, could not serve in the Jerusalem temple (which stood at the time of the writing of the epistle). How can Jesus be a priest, after the ascension? The answer is that Jesus is not serving "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (v 5) in His offering "ministry" -- like the Levitical priests throughout history and in the (presently standing) temple -- rather, "He has obtained a more excellent ministry" (v 6a). Jesus enters the holy place with the final sacrifice! The temporary "copy" is a fading shadow because its true intent has been fulfilled.
    2. The writer, in this context, shows the superiority of the priesthood by means of the superiority of the new covenant: "He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (v 6b). He proves this saying, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second" (v 7). This striking assertion must be seen in light of the polemic of the entire book: the Judaistic interpretation of the Mosaic administration was not an end in itself; it was a shadow of what is to come and now is. The writer hastens to qualify this bold, almost irreverent (to the Jew, certainly) statement. The fault was "with them." "For finding fault with them, He says, 'BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING. . .'" The purpose of the citation of Jeremiah 31:31 is plain: since another covenant was promised, a superior covenant, then one cannot hold tenaciously to a previous one with its temporary sacrifices and priesthood.
    3. It is important to observe our limitations. The commentary of the writer of Hebrews in chapter 8 (on Jer 31) is limited to general assertions about the inadequacy of Mosaic administration and the superiority of the new covenant. In 8:7-8a (the verse preceding the quotation) he says, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says . . ." And in 8:13, following the citation, he says, "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." The discussion regarding whether a biblically recognized member of the new covenant can fall away is really not within the writer's subject matter in this context. He cites the passage to confirm that the Levitical priesthood and all included in it is temporary and typical. The question of new covenant membership is more directly relevant to the context of the next citation of Jeremiah 31:31ff in chapter 10.
    4. Between the citation of Jeremiah 31:31ff in Hebrews 8:12 and its re-citation in Hebrews 10:16-17, the discussion of contrast between the Mosaic administration and the superiority of new covenant promises continues. The focus is on the finality of the new covenant administration in contrast to the shadowy, temporality of the Mosaic administration. The writer demonstrates this superiority in contrasting the earthly vs heavenly sanctuaries (9:1ff), Christ's sacrifice vs the typological animal sacrifices (9:23ff), and the finality of His once for all sacrifice (10:1ff). This leads to a call of perseverance (10:19) in this superior covenant relationship.
  1. The Second Citation of Jeremiah 31, verses 33-34: In 10:16-17, Jeremiah 31:33-34 is quoted again to make the writer's point,

  2.  

"THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND UPON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM," He then says, 17 "AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE."
 

    1. Somewhat unusually as the New Testament goes, the writer of Hebrews provides his very intention in citing this Old Testament prophecy, because "the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us" "for after saying . . ."--"He then says . . ." (v 15). In other words, the preceding thought of the writer is confirmed by the very words of the Spirit given to the prophet (in this case, Jeremiah). What comes before is that the "first order" of shadow-like sacrifices, which of necessity were temporary, has been replaced by the second (final) order of the "once for all sacrifice" (v 10). He contrasts the "shadow" (skian) with the "very form" (eikwn). Verse 11 begins, "And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time . . ." His explanation is that "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (v 14). The writer is thus contrasting the singular, unrepeatable, sufficient sacrifice of Jesus with the "shadow the good things to come" (10:1) in the Old Testament sacrifices. He argues that if the offerings of animals' blood could give a once for all cleansing, then they would "have ceased to be offered" (v 2). Whereas the "same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually" are not able to "make perfect those who draw near," Jesus offering was a "once for all" sacrifice. And "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (v 10).
    2. Notice that the writer interpolates "He then says" at the end of verse 16 ("for after saying . . .He then says . . ." vv 15, 16). He is aiming to confirm (with the Old Testament prophecy of the new covenant) that the prophecy also teaches a "once for all" concept of atonement. "Their sins" will not require an annual day of atonement, rather, "their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (v 17). The contrast between "continual" and "once for all" is confirmed by the "no more" of the prophecy. Whereas the Old Testament sacrifices were a mediated means of receiving forgiveness which required repetition -- now the new covenant people of God have direct and unmitigated access to forgiveness. The sacrifice which provides the basis for forgiveness has no need of annual renewal because it accomplished the job: "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (v 14). Hence, to return to the shadows and the things imposed "until a time of reformation" (9:11) is to forsake the final sacrifice. Thus, it is to no longer have "a sacrifice for sins" remaining (10:26). It is to trample under foot, not the servant of the house (Moses) and the sprinkled shadow-blood of bulls and goats (9:13), but the very Son of God and His precious, once for all shed blood (10:29).
    3. This I take to be a contextual reading and the general interpretation of the passages citing Jeremiah's prophecy. I have sought to give due consideration to what the writer of Hebrews actually tells us his purpose is in citing Jeremiah. In light of the consideration of the writer's intent, it will be difficult to maintain that he was actually interpreting Jeremiah to mean "only regenerate individuals are covenanted with." As has been adequately demonstrated, this was not his purpose in citing the text. Neither is this theological conclusion necessarily entailed in his teaching in this passage nor context.
  1. New Covenant Apostasy: Whereas, the citation of Jeremiah 31:31ff in Hebrews 8 includes no exposition by the writer of Hebrews to the effect that "all new covenant members are regenerate," the pleadings following the citation (of Jer 31:33-34) in Hebrew 10:16-17 are virtually express language addressing the disputed question. Can a person set apart in the new covenant ultimately reject it and prove to be worthy of judgment rather than eternal life? The text addresses this rather explicitly, speaking of those who are "sanctified" (a`gia,zw, set apart) by "the blood of the covenant" who nonetheless trample "under foot the Son of God" and insult "the Spirit of grace." To these belong "vengeance" and they are those whom "the Lord will judge." Verse 31 is that sobering, awful statement, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
    1. Other important evidence regarding new covenant membership which should be brought to bear on the question consists in the way biblical writers generally, and the writer of Hebrews particularly, parallel the Old Testament with the New Testament. It might be expected that if the new covenant could not be broken or that every person in the new covenant is elect, that there would be no admonitions from the Old Testament (given to those who could break the covenant) to new covenant members (who, allegedly, cannot break the covenant). What is striking in the book of Hebrews, and indeed throughout the New Testament, is the strict parallelism of Old Testament citations applied to the visible members of the new covenant.
    2. For example in Hebrews 3, the writer parallels those in the wilderness with the visible new covenant membership saying,

Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (3:12-14).

    1. Those in the wilderness were exhorted "DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS" (3:15) and are compared with New Testament believers, "For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard" (4:2). In chapter 12 we see it again, "For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven" (12:25). Indeed, since the book was written as a "word of exhortation" (13:22), this same polemic saturates every page, "they. . . we." Moreover, the argument apexes in a lesser to greater polemic, if under Moses one rejected the covenant. . . "how much severer punishment . . ." for us (10:28-29).
    2. Asserting that only regenerate people are "in the new covenant" really amounts to saying that the Old Testament spoke to the visible people of God, but the New Testament speaks only to the invisible people of God. While it is true that the fulfillment of the new covenant is seen only in regenerate people who walk by faith, something also true in the Old Testament by the way,(86) it does not follow that the new covenant administration is not to the visible people of God (including regenerate and unregenerate). In fact, when Messiah Jesus inaugurated the covenant with these words, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" -- Judas, called a disciple, who drank of that cup, was a covenant breaker (Mat 26:27b-28).(87) And of course, Jesus knew this very well. It follows necessarily, does it not, that those who partake of the signs and seals of the new covenant are visible members of the new covenant? And those who "shrink back to destruction" (Heb 10:39), who "come short of the grace of God" (12:15), who are "like Esau" (12:16-17), who "neglect so great a salvation" (2:3), who "have tasted of the heavenly gift" "and then have fallen away" (6:4-6), who "HARDEN [THEIR] HEARTS" and "fall through following the same example of disobedience" (4:7, 11), and who "throw away [their] confidence" (10:35) -- are new covenant breakers.
    3. Of course some claim that the new covenant citations (at 8:6 and 10:16) unambiguously teach that only regenerate people are covenanted with in the new covenant. If the contention that only regenerate individuals are covenanted with in the new covenant is correct, no references to the new covenant should imply that a covenant member, explicitly set apart in the covenant, can break the covenant and in the final analysis fail to be regenerate. But this is exactly what we have in Hebrews 10:28-30.

    4.  

Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.'"



VI. CRITICAL REVIEWS OF ANTI-PAEDOBAPTIST WORKS

Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace
by Paul K. Jewett (Eerdmans, 1978)

Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace rhetorically and powerfully defends the "believer baptism" position with a high degree of scholarship. Though clearly in the camp of "neo-evangelicalism" with books like Man as Male and Female,(88) as a (late) professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological seminary Jewett demonstrates his meticulous knowledge of the Reformation debate on baptism. His baptism defense is certainly one of the most highly rated of this century, even writing the Baptist position in the Zondervan Encyclopedia along side of John Murray's infant baptism article.


Jewett's general theological frame is evident in his allusions to a covenantal approach to theology. Along with an erudite and succinct overview of the historical information and a detailed exegetical and historically illuminating discussion of the well-worn passages in the debate, Jewett continually interacts with the continental modernists like Karl Barth (surprisingly defending the Baptist position) and Oscar Cullman (paidobaptist).

An important virtue of the book is Jewett's recognition of the complexity and struggle of the issues involved, and especially that after such study one should be more tolerant of dissenting brethren.

Finally, I have personally found the task of framing an answer to the question of infant baptism difficult because I cannot persuade myself that the truth is all on the Baptist's side. Not only has the Baptist argument against infant baptism sometimes been plagued with quackery and puffery, but Baptist practice is sometimes marred by a narrow exclusivism. Though the traditional Baptist usage of closed communion, first challenged so eloquently by Robert Hall, has given way in our day to the more ultimate demands of Christian charity and unity, the practice of closed membership is still widely insisted on in Baptist circles. This, to me, is very unfortunate; for though the defense of infant baptism may not be a good cause, it does not follow that the people who make this defense are not good Christians and worthy members of the Christian church. To have the conviction that baptism should not be administered to infants is quite different from the intolerance that excludes all dissent from the fellowship of the church. Polemical theology that would serve a good purpose must be irenic, not divisive. To probe the depth of the paedobaptist argument, therefore, should make the Baptist, if not less a Baptist, yet more tolerant of his brethren. (5)

These words have not adequately been appreciated by many who claim the label, "Baptist," and who readily appeal to Jewett's own defense, a defense written upon the occasion of ordination into a Presbyterian denomination.

The central thrust of Jewett's argument against the covenantal paedobaptist position is one of hermeneutics. According to Jewett the interpretive problem of the paedobaptist is that when faced with each key question, the paedobaptist reads the Old Testament into the New Testament and New Testament into the Old Testament.

This strongly and consistently stated polemic against the Reformed paedobaptist position is articulated with no more rhetorical force than in Jewett. For example, he says,
 

    With the advent of Messiah -- the promised seed par excellence -- and the Pentecostal effusion of the Spirit, the salvation contained in the promise to Israel was brought nigh. No longer was it a hope on the distant horizon but rather an accomplished fact in history. Then -- and for our discussion, the THEN is of capital significance -- the temporal, earthly, typical elements of the old dispensation were dropped from the great house of salvation as scaffolding from the finished edifice. It is our contention that the Paedobaptist, is framing their argument from circumcision, have failed to keep this significant historical development in clear focus. Proceeding from the basically correct postulate that baptism stands in the place of circumcision, they have urged this analogy to a distortion. They have so far pressed the unity of the covenant as to suppress the diversity of its administration. They have, to be specific, Christianized the Old Testament and Judaized the New. (91)

Hence, Jewett charges the paedobaptist "with an error in biblical theology" (8). For example, the paedobaptist reads Old Testament circumcision in purely spiritual terms, following the New Testament descriptions of baptism and heart circumcision, failing to see any of the temporal elements of it. On the other hand, New Testament baptism is seen as almost purely objective and external (like the external administration of circumcision). In fact, Jewett says we cannot approve of the method which emphasizes "the inward and spiritual blessings sealed by baptism as the key to the interpretation of the Old Testament rite of circumcision" and which interprets "circumcision exclusively in terms of baptism" (97).(89) Thus, Jewett is very interested in maintaining a biblical theology of circumcision which takes the Old Testament as formative and only then permits the New Testament material to speak. So while recognizing an essential unity between circumcision and baptism, he avoids the full import of the paedobaptist position on circumcision by recognizing the earthly, physical dimensions of the covenant with Abraham, along with those typological of the New Testament era (children of Abraham by faith).

Thankfully, with the force of his rhetoric and erudition, the judicious Jewett concedes a great deal to the other side. He concedes that the children of believers are part of the "saints" (54); that the children of believers are in the kingdom (60); that household proselyte baptism most likely existed concurrent with Acts (64); that circumcision and baptism are both signs of entrance to the covenant community (86); that circumcision and baptism are both "seals" (86); that the "two signs, as outward rites, symbolize the same inner reality" (89); that baptism "occupies the place of circumcision in the New Testament" (89); that "circumcision means 'essentially' what baptism means in the New Testament" (96); and that the sanctification of children (1Co 7:14) is due to the "marriage covenant" as in the Jewish/Mishna sources (136).(90) In fact, one might say he concedes the truth of all the crucial premises in the covenantal paedobaptist argument.

The teeth of his argument for discontinuity, withstanding all his concessions, is that circumcision was different than baptism precisely in its lack of any spiritual criterion for reception. The physical and/or household connection was all that was needed in order to grant the propriety of receiving this sign and no spiritual qualification was necessary to receive circumcision, even for the adult proselytes (98ff). But (allegedly) this is not true for baptism. For Jewett, the convincing proof of this is the circumcision of Abraham's adult household members, as well as Ishmael, and the sons of Keturah. In the former case, Jewett argues, these adults were not required to have any kind of spiritual confession. In the latter case, these "children of Abraham" did not even receive "the covenant," much less were they spiritually qualified. Whether this argument is convincing should depend on whether it is sound. Must these admittedly odd cases, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, work to disprove the thesis that circumcision is the sacramental equivalent of baptism? Do these prove that the sign of the covenant is illegitimately placed on covenant members' children? Well, on the one hand, these cases might be taken to show that these individuals lacked the criterion of the Israelite covenant membership -- hence circumcision differs from baptism (as Jewett argues). But on the other hand could these not be taken to mean precisely the opposite, that such candidates possessed the true spiritual criterion of covenant of grace membership? If circumcision had a two-fold meaning, signifying both "the temporal, earthly, typical elements of the old dispensation" (91) because of Abrahamic physical descent and it was "a symbol of renewal and cleansing of heart" (86) because of Abrahamic spiritual descent -- why must we presume that Ishmael and the sons of Keturah signify the former, but not the latter? Could it not be that the circumcision of Abraham's physical, but not Israelite offspring, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, signified the spiritual, not physical covenant blessings. I believe a good case can be made for this.

  1. It might be observed, first, that those who glibly speak of circumcision being a "national sign," are simply mistaken because Ishmael received the sign, yet was not in the nation of Israel (Gen 17:20-25).
  2. But that circumcision, in a biblical theology from Genesis, has as its intention a primarily spiritual significance can be shown from this: in the "covenant of circumcision" (Acts 7:8) that which is said to be explicitly signified is that Jehovah is "to be God to you and to your descendants after you" (Gen 17:7). This is manifestly spiritual in nature.
  3. Also, the command of circumcision is given, "And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you" (17:10). That circumcision is a sign "between Me and you" is likewise manifestly spiritual, not temporal or earthly. If anyone doubts this, we have the later apostolic teaching which is perfectly explicit, Abraham "received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised" (Rom 4:11).
  4. But to make the case specifically, Ishmael was circumcised on the very same day as Abraham: "In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son" (Gen 17:26). It would be strikingly inconsistent if the very same ritual act, administered the very same day was "a seal of the righteousness of the faith" for Abraham, but for teenage Ishmael (age 13) it was a mere sign of being a physical, albeit virtually bastardly, descendant of Abraham; thus signifying the earthly aspects of the covenant with Isaac (?). Contrary to the polemic of Jewett and many other Baptists, on close examination, there is nothing in the text of the Bible to indicate that Ishmael did not share in Abraham's faith. But even if he did not have the reality signified (as many of those "believers" baptized today do not), this did not change the express declaration that circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of faith. Of course, Ishmael was not the "special natural seed" and was not the child of the miracle promise, but this is not to say that his soul was eternally lost.(91) The lesson to Abraham in making Isaac the child of promise was faith in a God who is able to give life to the dead (womb) (Heb 11:12) and even raise a dead heir (Heb 11:19).
  5. Regarding the sons of Keturah (Gen 25:4), we are not told expressly that they were circumcised. But if we do not deny the validity of logical inferences (as some Baptists do), it may be validly deduced from Genesis 17 that since they were born into Abraham's house, they were circumcised. We are not told of the spiritual state of any of Keturah's children.(92) However, we are told what Abraham did with them, spiritually: "For I have chosen him [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him" (Gen 18:19). And since the Lord brought about His promises to Abraham, we can be sure that our father Abraham did indeed command "his children [including the sons of Keturah] and his household [including those "unspiritually qualified" adults]" "to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice." It might be observed further, that if "doing righteousness and justice" are dependent on one's "circumcised heart" or the "righteousness of faith" or "justification by faith" -- that Abraham taught all who were under his headship these truths.
  6. Let the reader please indulge me in a bit of historical fiction: Surely at these "non-Israelite" circumcisions Abraham would not have said anything like what follows:

Children of my flesh and not of any spiritual relation, this rite of circumcision is performed on you only and exclusively and arbitrarily because you are my physical offspring or happen to be under my dominion; do not mistake that there is any spiritual significance to this act whatsoever; it calleth you not to any spiritual obligation; it calleth you not to any covenantal recognition of the covenantally faithful God who only relates to man by way of covenant; think not that by it you are being called upon to believe in a God who circumcises hearts or saves the fallen sons of Adam from natural heart-uncircumcision; nay, nay, it calleth you not to keep the way of the Lord; think not that I am declaring that you are the Lord's; you are my mere flesh and blood or servants, as the case may be, without a relation to the God who has granted me justification by faith; however, I will give you a few constellation prize-like gifts, even to you who cannot have the faith of your father and master and cannot be spiritually identified as the Lord's . . . ."(93)

In this radical, but illustrative, historical fiction overstatement, I am trying to show the absurdity of claiming that a ritual which represented the need of a circumcised heart -- since by natural descent from fallen Adam all persons are in this depraved condition -- was given to even the most "unspiritual" to represent physical, temporal, or earthly elements. And since this was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith to Abraham, and he himself administered this seal of the righteousness of faith to his own children, it is all the more certain that these circumcisions represented, to Abraham, what was spiritually significant.

In conclusion, the merits of a careful reading Jewett's eloquently scribed treatise are great. As a reminder of the place of polemical theology, it is charitable. As a model of debate form and rhetorical force, it is superb. Still, the cogency of his argument against covenantal infant baptism is lacking. Unfortunately, when logic is lacking, polemics are not and so Jewett often loses a tone of objectivity with frequent slogans from the tired diatribe, "reading the Old Testament into the New Testament and the New Testament into the Old Testament." To make good on this charge, one must deal with the particulars of the argument for Reformed covenant baptism. If the argument for the covenantal baptism position, after analysis, is fallacious then perhaps this catchphrase is a fine anthem for Baptists to sing. However, when the soundness of the Reformed position has been adequately shown, it seems more like the droning of a one note mantra.
 



Abraham's Four Seeds
by John G. Reisinger (Sound of Grace: Webster NY, 1990)(94)

Abraham's Four Seeds is an interesting study of the foundations of the systematic framework's of biblical interpretation. The subtitle of the book explains its purpose: "An examination of the basic presuppositions of covenant theology and dispensationalism as they each relate to the promise of God to 'Abraham and his seed.'" The refrain of the book is that both systems are unbiblical in their starting points and both systems thus lead to erroneous conclusions. The proof of this is that neither system can explain the "four seeds of Abraham" without doing violence to the clear meaning of Scripture. Brother Reisinger makes some points that all sides in the issue might accept, so for the purpose of this critical review, it will be necessary to focus on the difficulties I have with his thesis as it applies to covenant theology.


In reference to covenant theology (as defined by the Westminster standards), the frequently repeated criticism is that "covenant of works" and "covenant of grace" are unbiblical terms which are imposed on the biblical data erroneously. Covenant theologians are "forced into inventing the terms 'covenant of works' and 'covenant of grace' . . ." (81). These covenants are "non-textual covenants from a system of theology" (82). Brother Reisinger is unhesitating in denying the reality of the covenant of grace, even calling it the "mythical covenant of grace" (84). A great deal of his literary effort is spent on asserting the invalidity of such terms and concepts since they are allegedly "without any textual evidence" (80). Moreover, he claims that the very foundations of covenant theology are proved by means of a circular argument, hence committing the fallacy, petitio principii, begging the question. He says, ". . .the covenant of works and the covenant of grace are the foundation of the very system that is used as the basis for deducing as 'good and necessary consequences' the very same two covenants used as the foundation that it is trying to establish. This is circular reasoning at its worst" (81).

Three points of response to Brother Reisinger will serve to summarize my differences with him and my criticism of his thesis as it pertains to the foundations of theological inquiry:(95)

  1. The logic problem. From the introduction onwards, Brother Reisinger finds the need to make many disparaging comments about logic, referring to it as "human logic" and continually chiding covenant theology for its "theological lingo arrived at only by 'good and necessary consequences'. . ." In response:
    1. First, the basic sense of this is self-refuting. The statement, "It is wrong to invent theological lingo arrived at only by 'good and necessary consequences'. . ." is itself a logical, theological assertion which is not in explicit biblical terms and depends on the laws of logic for its truth value.
    2. Brother Reisinger actually uses logic to do the very thing to other positions that he claims is not to be done. Namely, he presses theological positions to their "human" logical conclusions, without letting such positions qualify their conclusions with exegetical considerations. For example, "If a Pre-Mil is consistent then he cannot have any kingdom prophecies fulfilled before the second coming of Christ. Likewise, if an A-Mil is consistent, he cannot have any kingdom prophecies fulfilled after Christ comes" (36). Surely, neither George Ladd (a premill), nor Anthony Hoekema (an amill) would accept this statement because they would want the Scriptural teaching, not the alleged logical their conclusions of their system, to determine when prophecies are fulfilled.
    3. No one can disparage logic without self-defeating and self-refutational statements. So since the use of necessary deductions and the application of logical laws are simply unavoidable, both theologically and exegetically, then it is extremely unconvincing, if not fatal to one's position, when one the needs to disparage logic in order to establish a position.
  2. Theological terms. It is admitted in the introduction to AFS that theological terms may be used appropriately, though not as the "foundation blocks of our system" (1). Still, the pervasive refrain of the text seems to be that covenant theology is (a) wrong in inventing its fundamental terms and (b) unable to defend the content of these terms as exegetically warranted.
    1. However, this claim (a) turns out to be self-defeating, too. Brother Reisinger's assertion amounts to this: "it is wrong for one's theological system to be based on terms and assertions that are not explicit in the Bible." For brevity's sake, we will call this proposition R: Proposition R, however, is "not explicit in the Bible." Therefore, Proposition R is false (i.e., it doesn't live up to its own criterion).
    2. I sympathize with the general idea Brother Reisinger is seeking to articulate, inasmuch as it is really a call to Sola Scriptura. But, it seems that he has not adequately reflected on the intersect of the doctrines of Sola Scriptura, the perspicuity of Scripture, and the theological task of systematizing the whole counsel of God. The Bible is a coherent Word and thus contains a coherent system of beliefs about the world. It is just the theologian's task to relate all the parts to the whole and the whole to the parts. This involves naming the doctrines therein (Gen 2:19). Berkof is surely more sensible when he says, "It must be admitted that the term 'covenant' is not found in the first three chapters of Genesis, but this is not tantamount to saying that they do not contain the necessary data for the construction of a doctrine of the covenant. One would hardly infer from the absence of the term 'trinity' that the doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. All the elements of a covenant are indicated in Scripture, and if the elements are present, we are not only warranted but, in a systematic study of the doctrine, also in duty bound to relate them to one another, and to give the doctrine so construed an appropriate name" (213).
    3. A deeper reflection on these matters might prevent many unguarded assertions about the "impossibility" of covenant theology (or Dispensationalism, for that matter) in dealing with some or other aspect of the text of the Bible. I might note in passing how unfair and uncharitable it is to characterize the Reformer's understanding and practice of Sola Scriptura as, "They rejected the authority of Church tradition (Papal infallibility) but replaced it with man made [sic] creeds that soon became as authoritative as Scripture. In reality they replaced a two-legged Pope with a paper Pope. They cried sola Scriptura while waving a creed in one hand and a sword in the other" (iii).(96) This is only matched by another undocumentable assertion regarding Theonomists, "You need not read much of their literature to see that if they were in control, Baptist blood, along with other kinds, would once more be shed in the name of 'God's holy truth'" (ii).
  1. The covenants. Brother Reisinger frequently insists that regarding the covenant of works and covenant of grace terms and concepts, covenant theology is unable to defend them with "any specific Biblical texts" (27). His contention is not only that covenant theology "invents" its terms, but then cannot defend the conceptual content of them.
    1. First, it must be pointed out that the Westminster Confession uses the conventional label "covenant of grace" and indicates this by saying it is "commonly called the Covenant of Grace" (7:3). Brother Reisinger's rather harsh response to this conventional use of language is: "Every time I see that recurring phrase 'commonly called' in the WCF when it follows a key theological term, I want to say, 'Commonly called that by whom? Clearly not by any Apostle or Prophet in Scripture.' What the confession actually means by 'commonly called' is this: 'We do not have any specific Biblical texts to support this term or phrase, but we know it is correct because it is essential to our system and because it is 'commonly' used by theologians all the time'" (27). Now among these theological terms so designated by the WCF are the "law commonly called moral" (19:3), "commonly called transubstantiation" (29:6), "assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils" (31:1), "commonly called Original Sin" (LC 25); not to mention the non-key theological terms (?) "commonly called" Apocrapha and The Lord's Prayer" (1:3, LC 186). We might add other "commonly called" terms to Christian theology too: "Trinity," "Deity of Christ," "Sola Scriptura," "Sola Fide," "New Covenant Theology," and "Christianity," to name a few of central importance.
    2. It is important to reflect on the fact that the history of the Church illustrates battles with heresy when all along the heretics insisted on using only the words of the Bible, which they then filled with unbiblical meaning. One need not go to Arius or Sabellius to find this, when the local Kingdom Hall will do just as well. In the specific case here, we can be very grateful that the covenant theology of the WCF freely acknowledges its conventions and then sets forth a definition and description of them with what it takes to be their supporting texts. In contrast, when the very principles of logic and theological definition are being attacked, we can have precious little confidence that a biblical term like, "new covenant" can be safely imported to "new covenant theology" and retain its mere exegetical sense. At any rate, attacking a term simply because it is not in the Bible is a very unreflective approach to theological criticism. To stipulate that theological terms can be invented, but not the "foundational terms," is rather arbitrary as might be illustrated by the fact that the term "trinity" is as foundational to Christian theology as can be imagined, but no objection is made (thankfully) to its use by Brother Reisinger.
    3. To assert that covenant theology is without a biblical defense for its central concepts is a very selective reading of the major sources of covenant theology. If forced to choose on a purely ad verecundiam basis (appeal to authority), for my money, I would bet on the Westminster divines, Turretin, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, and Murray, rather than the Sovereign Grace Baptist preachers of the late 20th century to produce a more thorough biblical defense of a theological term or concept. Covenant theology surely has what it considers to be a biblical defense. It may not be one that Brother Reisinger accepts, but this is very different from saying the "covenant of grace" "has no textual basis in Scripture" (27). Or, "They just assume there are two covenants in Genesis without any textual evidence. This is exactly what the Dispensationalist does with his charts" (80).
    4. The Westminster Standards are surely replete with proof texts. Moreover, for the covenant of grace, the very substance is taken verbatim in the London Baptist Confession (1689) with ample Scripture proofs. The Baptist leader Benjamin Keach includes in his catechism, the Shorter Catechism Q 12: "When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him on condition of perfect obedience. . ." And Q 20, that God "did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery . . ." These statements reference many biblical texts.
    5. Now Brother Reisinger is surely correct in identifying the importance of these two covenants to the system of covenant theology. The 17th Century Brakel says, "Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus" (I:355). He defines it: "The covenant of works was an agreement between God and the human race as represented in Adam, in which God promised eternal salvation upon condition of obedience, and threatened eternal death upon disobedience. Adam accepted both this promise and this condition" (I:355). On the question of the relationship of the law to the covenant of works he argues from Rom 2:14-15, "If men even after the fall have a law written in their hearts and are thus a law unto themselves, be it imperfectly and in obscurity, much more so would Adam in the state of rectitude have had a law" (I:357). He also argues that the moral law was involved in the covenant of works from Mat 19:16-17, Rom 10:5-6, 9, Gal 3:11-12 (I:360).

Now I believe a great deal more could be said about these theological covenants, but I am content that the Bible teaches them, substantially as the Westminster Confession of Faith declares, and as a significant aspect of the loci communes of generic Protestant theology. However, it really doesn't matter in the final analysis whether the WCF or any specific theologian has a good defense for his position. We may learn from all who have come before. We call all men our brothers and none our fathers, in this sense. Each pastor and each teacher must stand before God and account for his own beliefs. Can I defend, then, a covenantal system of theology, from the Word of God? What do I believe about the "covenant of works" and the "covenant of grace," as they are "commonly called"? While the covenants of works (or life) and grace might be adequately defended simply by a study of the very texts cited by the Westminster Confession, I refer the reader to my own meager outlined defense in section I of this manuscript.(97)

Theological Coherence and the Tree of Life

One of the tests for a theological system is whether it sheds light on the less obvious passages and meaningfully relates the less obvious particulars to the whole. In this way, the covenantal perspective yields a very lucid understanding of the tree of life passage in Genesis 3:22.(98) A passage which Brother Reisinger admitted was "unclear" to him. If biblical covenants involve "two parties are named, a condition is laid down, a promise of reward for obedience is clearly implied, and a penalty for transgression is threatened" (Berkhof, 213), as well as tangible signs and seals, then the tree of life may be understood as the "token" and "pledge" of eternal life. The fruit is the sacramental means of life. This last statement will be perfectly meaningless if one does not grasp the covenantal framework of God's relationship to man. But it is perfectly meaningful within the framework of covenant theology, hence many Reformed theologians make this very point. Brakel says, "What else can be deduced from this than that it was a sacrament, that is, a sign and seal of life?" (362). Berkhof says, "We should not think of the fruit of this tree as magically or medically working immortality in Adam's frame. Yet it was in some way connected with the gift of life. . . . So the words of Genesis 3:22 must be understood sacramentally" (217). Now seeing statements in the Bible such as -- the rainbow "is the covenant," circumcision "is the covenant," the Passover blood "saved the firstborn," the cup "is the new covenant," and "baptism now saves you" -- is it surprising, seeing the full scope of biblical revelation, that we read "lest he eat from it and live forever"?

The Four Seeds Argument

The major argument of the book is that neither dispensationalism nor covenant theology's basic presuppositions are consistent with the proper biblical meaning and implications of the "four seeds" of Abraham. Abraham had (1) a natural seed (all physical descendants, including Ishmael), (2) a special natural seed (the natural children of Jacob), (3) a spiritual seed (those from any nation who have the faith of Abraham), and (4) a unique seed (Christ) (9). After a discussion of these observations and their import in one's theological conclusions, Brother Reisinger says, "Some of these facts have been totally ignored by both Dispensationists and Covenant Theologians in their discussions about Abraham's seed" (42). The argument distilled is it pertains to covenant theology and covenant membership is as follows:

  1. There are separate and distinct promises and blessings for each "seed."
  2. Each seed receives those blessings promised because of their connection to Abraham as a "seed," respective to their kind of "seed."
  3. Only the "spiritual seed" (from any nation or time period) receives salvation.
  4. Since no promise of salvation is made to any other seed than the spiritual seed, it is wrong to claim any spiritual promise for the physical seed of a believer (in the Old Testament or New Testament).

Let me delineate several difficulties with this line of reasoning --

  1. As far as distinctions go, more than just those four seeds of Abraham may be distinguished. And if there are more distinctions in seeds, then perhaps the implications drawn from only four are erroneous or at least must be refined. Two other seeds might be observed:
    1. The "other" physical seed(s) of Abraham in the sons of Keturah and concubines received different blessings (gifts) than Ishmael or Isaac (Gen 25:1-4).
    2. Moreover, what of those that were not of the natural seed through Isaac, but were proselytized into the nation of Israel and their succeeding lineage became intertwined, henceforth? (Mat 1:5, e.g., Rahab and Ruth).
  2. I don't think that it is true that the "physical blessings" were granted to the physical seeds regardless of spiritual qualifications. The wilderness generation was laid low for their hardness of heart (Psa 95; Heb 4) and they did not enter into the "physical blessing" of the promised land. On the other hand, this did not mean that they were not, even in this state of unbelief, given spiritual blessings of some sort:(99) 1Corinthians 10:3-5 says, "[They] all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness."
  3. While it is certainly true that mere physical birth is not enough to grant the reception of salvation, still the promise of salvation is made ostensibly to the physical descendants of covenant members.
    1. For example, the passage which is the basis for the new covenant (which Jeremiah alludes to) indicates salvation to the children of the covenant members, Deuteronomy 30:6: "Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live."
    2. Even more, Jeremiah 31:31-36 itself includes the offspring of those covenanted within the promise: 36b "'If this fixed order departs From before Me,' declares the LORD, 'Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever.' 37 Thus says the LORD, 'If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,' declares the LORD."
    3. It is just too clear that God includes the children of the redeemed in the promises of, not just the past covenants, but the new covenant.(100)
      1. • Isa 59:20 "And a Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the LORD. 21 "And as for Me, this is My covenant with them," says the LORD: " My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, "says the LORD," from now and forever. "
      2. • Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near, 2 A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. . .15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. . . 27 "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame. 28 "And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 "And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
      3. • Mal 4:5 "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. 6 "And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
    4. The statements of even new covenant "spiritual blessings" promised to children are not revised in the New Testament:
      1. • Luke 1:17 "And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
      2. • Luke 2:48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 "AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.
      3. • Mat 19:14 But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
      4. • Acts 2:39 "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."
      5. • Acts 3:25 "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.'
      6. • Acts 13:32 "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.'
      7. • Rom 4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. . .16 For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
    5. Again, salvation surely is not guaranteed by being a physical child of a person with a "circumcised heart." But God has indicated his general (but not unqualified) intention to save the children of believers. The qualifications of fidelity to God of both parents and ultimately the individual child is an Old Testament and New Testament requirement.
      1. • Psa 103:17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, 18 To those who keep His covenant, And who remember His precepts to do them.
  4. The use of Romans 9:6ff and other such passages regarding the "spiritual" or "true" children of Abraham is misplaced in the "covenant children" debate of who is "in" the new covenant. The point of Paul is perfectly clear in both testaments: it is not mere physical birth which grants one the reception of either the temporal (ultimately) or salvific blessings of the covenant.(101) Paul is not arguing that individually elect persons are all that God has in view, now, whereas before, He viewed the nation as sufficient to receive each blessing by mere physical lineage. In the very passage, he actually parallels the Jews (whose children were covenant members) collectively in the covenant to the Gentiles collectively who were grafted in the covenant (11:13-27). It is instructive to remember the Judaistic objection which is in back of this whole discussion, especially in Galatians. Namely, it is necessary to become a Jewish proselyte (ritually and ceremonially) in order to be saved and be a recipient of the promised blessings. Paul goes on to say in Romans that there is "at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice" among the physical descendants of Israel (11:5). And we can be quite sure that they considered their own children in covenant with God (Jer 31:7-9; Isa 45:25) -- not only because this would have been almost absurd for a Jew to think otherwise, but because, quite exegetically, the original reference to "remnant" (those returning to the land after exile) explicitly included children: ". . .the entire remnant of Judah who had returned from all the nations to which they had been driven away, in order to reside in the land of Judah--the men, the women, the children . . ." (Jer 43:5-6).

The Argument Against Covenantal Infant Baptism

Early in the monograph Brother Reisinger stated, "The real difference between a historic Baptist and a Paedobaptist (those who baptize babies) is not the mode of baptism, but rather 'who is the true heir of God's promise to Abraham and his seed'" (3). Later he exclaims, "How can a Christian parent claim that his physical children are included in the 'covenant with Abraham' when that covenant never even promised that to Abraham himself!" (60). And, "Paedobaptists actually claim for their physical children through the Abrahamic covenant more than Abraham himself could claim for his physical children in the same covenant" (60).

The basic contention here is that since only the "spiritual seed" is included in the spiritual promises, then the signification of those spiritual promises in baptism should only go to those who evidence being a "spiritual seed" by faith and repentance. These qualifications exclude the infants of believers, by virtue of their developmental immaturity; hence, they are not ever, never, no never, under no, not any, no not one, nor any possible circumstances, in any possible world, to ever never be baptized (!):(102)

However,

  1. It will be helpful to keep in mind what is in need of being proved. Is the Baptist trying to prove that not all of the natural children of believers are elect? Well this is granted.
  2. It is true that mere natural descent is insufficient to guarantee the fullest reception of the covenant promised blessings. This being true during the Old Testament, according to Paul, then how does this truth affect the question of the sign of covenant (which represented spiritual realities)?
    1. This seems to be the argument: Since only the truly spiritual seed received the promises, then only the spiritual seed(s) have a right to the sign.
    2. But this argument (from Paul's statements about the "spiritual seed"), is fallacious. Because, it is simply not true nor intended by God's command that only the true "spiritual seed" (the elect, according to Reisinger) are to receive the sign of the covenant. But this is what must be proved in infant baptism is to be dismissed. It is not enough to prove that only the elect are elected. This is granted. God, who knew about Esau, still commanded the sign of circumcision on him, even though he did not have a circumcised heart. Thus, one is still warranted in putting the sign on those that we do not have infallible assurance of their election, so long as they meet the initial qualifications of being children of those in the covenant(103) -- just as Isaac was also warranted by God's command in putting the sign on both his children, Esau and Jacob.
  3. I suspect that it this point in the argument, the Baptist opponent will wish to show the radical(104) differences between circumcision and baptism. Still it must be pointed out that the above argument is a sufficient answer to Brother Reisinger on this question. But if one wishes to go further and demonstrate the differences between circumcision and baptism, let me state the question: The question is not whether they are different as ritual acts, since they are quite different rituals. The question is not whether circumcision had typological and shadow elements, since it was a bloody sign befitting the antecedent age. The question is whether baptism and circumcision are equivalent sacraments? Sacramental equivalence is determined by the equivalence in essential signification and meaning. Many Scriptural texts could be adduced to demonstrate that baptism and circumcision signify the same spiritual realities, according to both the direct and implicit statements of the Bible.(105) Baptism is the functional replacement and sacramental equivalent of the Abrahamic rite of circumcision because:
    1. The visible sign of baptism represents the work of the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration and was signified collectively at the historic event of Pentecost (Mar 1:8, Acts 2:38)
    2. Baptism represents the "seal" of the Spirit in His regenerating work (2Co 1:21,Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30, Tit 3:5-6).(106)
    3. The visible sign of circumcision represents the work of the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration and was instituted when God first called a visible people in the Abrahamic covenant (Rom 4:11-12, 2:29, Jer 4:4, Act 7:51).(107)
    4. Baptism and circumcision are connected in that they represent the same reality (Col 2:11-12).
    5. It is unnecessary to circumcise a person who receives baptism (1Co 7:18-19).
    6. Baptism is commanded as visible ordinance of entrance into the new covenant (Mat 28:19-20, Acts 2:38-39) and it is for all nations and thus, does not require a loss of one's ethnic/national status.(108)
    7.  

Hence, the conclusion of this critical review is that (a) in the theological method (denying logical deduction and theological categorization in nomenclature), Brother Reisinger's work here is untenable; (b) in his theological conclusions (denying the foundational concepts of covenant theology), it is unwarranted; and (c) in his polemics against infant baptism, it is incoherent.
 


Children of Abraham
by David Kingdon (Carey: Sussex, 1973)

Kingdon's often quoted classic antipaedobaptist defense is concerned to uphold the Baptist position on the sacrament as a Calvinistic, covenantal theologian. He rightly observes,

    A great deal of Baptist apologetic, so it seems to me, has failed to come to terms with the indubitable fact that the covenant of grace, although it exhibits diversity of administration in the time of promise and in the time of fulfilment, is none-the-less one covenant . . . Baptists will never seriously disturb Reformed Paedobaptists until they see this. The divisive, atomistic approach of so much of the contemporary Baptist apologetic is about as effective at this point as a shotgun against a Sherman tank.

Kingdon also cites Paul Jewett on this point:

The theological conception sometimes called covenant theology which undergirds the Paedobaptist argument at this point, is too grand, too challenging, too persistent to be ignored with impunity. The dogmatician who slights it despises his own reputation. That is perhaps to concede that the Baptists as a whole have not been outstanding theologians; the stream of their rebuttal has run so thin at this juncture that only the hollow eyes of predisposition could fail to see its inadequacy and judge the counter arguments superior. (20)

Kingdon connects the questions of baptism to the more fundamental questions of covenant, Old Testament/NT relationship, and a theology of children in the New Testament. The thrust of his argument for the Baptist position is that the "remnant" (defined as children of Abraham by faith) become the New Testament church.(109) Hence, only self-consciously professed believers are fit as church members and recipients of the sign of the covenant, baptism. Only the "true children" of Abraham should be counted as partakers in the new covenant. While Baptists sometimes thoughtlessly reject a relationship between circumcision and baptism, Kingdon does not object to an analogy between circumcision and baptism. He simply takes the reality of circumcision, "circumcision of the heart," to be the main point of contact to New Testament believers. According to Kingdon, the church today consists of those who have the true, antitype of circumcision, regeneration.

Though many points of agreement and disagreement might be discussed, I will limit my critique to three main areas.

  1. Kingdon's response to the "circumcision = baptism" argument of paedobaptists is very disappointing. Especially since he calls this "the very heart of our reply" to the central paedobaptist argument (33). He writes that regeneration (not baptism) is the antitype to circumcision, therefore, ". . . how can it be argued that baptism is equivalent in meaning to circumcision, when circumcision is clearly related to regeneration? No New Testament proof can be found for the contention that baptism and circumcision are identical, and we are therefore precluded from inferring that baptism should be applied to infants. If we put circumcision in parallel with baptism are we not ignoring the fulfilment of circumcision in regeneration?" (34).
    1. Presumably, this means that if a New Testament proof could be found that baptism and circumcision are equivalent, that baptism could be applied to infants. It is hard to see how Kingdon would wish to pose such a question as how "baptism is equivalent in meaning to circumcision, when circumcision is clearly related to regeneration?" -- since the meaning of baptism is likewise regeneration!
      1. • Mark 1:8 "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" (in all the synoptics, Mat 3:11, Luk 3:16).
      2. • John 1:33 "And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'
      3. • Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. "
      4. • Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
      5. • Acts 11:16 "And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
      6. • 1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
      7. • Colossians 2:11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
    2. If circumcision's antitype is regeneration (according to Kingdon) and it is clear that baptism signifies regeneration, why is it difficult to admit that "baptism is equivalent in meaning to circumcision"? Indeed, how can we avoid it? They are equivalent in sacramental significance. They are (a) both signs -- they represent visually some unseen reality (Rom 4:11), (b) they are both seals (Rom 4:11, 2Co 12:13, Act 1:5, 2Co 1:22, Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30), (c) they both refer to the same spiritual reality, essentially, regeneration (Deu 30:6, Rom 2:29, Tit 3:5, Col 2:11-12). If only Kingdon could prove that they did not refer to the same spiritual reality, his argument would be a clear response to the paedobaptist's "circumcision = baptism" argument.
    3. He argues, "If we put circumcision in parallel with baptism are we not ignoring the fulfilment of circumcision in regeneration?" (34). On the contrary, circumcision does not have any "fulfillment," as such. Circumcision is not really a "type," strictly speaking. It is an ordinance which points to a spiritual reality in salvation. And since salvation is the same in both testaments, the reality of circumcision was present in the Old Testament administration of circumcision (Rom 4:11), a point that we have abundant textual support for (see the preceding discussions). Moreover, the biblical authors explicitly and implicitly "put circumcision in parallel with baptism" (Col 2:11-12, Act 15:5, 9).(110)
  2. Kingdon argues that the principle of "thee and thy seed" or the covenant inclusion of our children has been abrogated. Thus to the question so dear to covenantal paedobaptists, "Are the children of believers in the new covenant?" -- he gives a resounding, "No." He writes, "I would argue then that the principle of believers and their seed no longer has covenantal significance, precisely because the age of fulfilment has arrived" (34). Unfortunately Kingdon goes beyond such general theological claims and states that, "Nowhere in the content of the New Covenant is the principle 'thee and thy seed' mentioned" (35).
    1. This is a very surprising claim since only two verses following the new covenant promise of forgiveness do we find the following in Jeremiah 31:36: "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, " Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever. " 37 Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD.
    2. Moreover, many other new covenant prophecies also invoke the 'thee and thy seed' principle (Isa 59:21, Eze 37:24-25, Mal 4:5-6).(111)
    3. It might also be pointed out that not only do new covenant blessings flow through the homes and generations of the godly, but that cursings likewise follow such covenantal lines. I.e., Jer 32:17 "'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee, 18 who showest lovingkindness to thousands, but repayest the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The LORD of hosts is His name."
    4. Of course, there are those very familiar New Testament passages too. If the "the principle of believers and their seed no longer has covenantal significance" why does it so naturally flow from the lips of the Peter in the first sermon to the first century recipients of the new covenant? "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (Acts 2:39). And why does it find its way through in Paul's sermons: Acts 13:32, "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus . . ."
    5. Given this, quite predictably Paul says that "your children are . . . holy" (1Co 7:14). According to Kingdon this language (1Co 7:14) is "the concept of ritual holiness found in the Old Testament." How we can have "ritual holiness" of the Old Testament applied to a person in the New and it not be covenantal is unclear.
    6. It might also be pondered why God would no longer covenantally obligate believers' children, to whom much is given. It is apparent that the Christian parents, in obedience to their covenant obligations, train their children to profess to be covenant members. Because, (a) a Christian parent who does not train their children to believe the truths of the gospel and thus profess faith in Christ is simply not a Christian parent, by action (Eph 6:4); (b) since children must obey their parents, according to God, what child of a Christian parent will not at least say (profess) they believe in Jesus?(112) Perhaps this is why "having children who believe" is a requirement of elders (Tit 1:6). Parents who actually act as Christians in parenthood, nurture, instruct, and command their children to believe (Eph 6:4). (c) If this is so (a & b), there can be no question that the children of believers are at least visible covenant members.
    7. More specifically, it appears that the children of believers are covenant members because (a) they are given covenant commandments (Eph 6:1, to obey parents; originally in Exo 20:12, the covenant law), (b) with covenantal blessings ("the first commandment with a promise, THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH" Eph 6:2-3), (c) with covenantally bound parents (they are to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" Eph 6:4, cf. Deu 6:4-7) and with the promise that (d) "HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM" (Luk 1:50).
  3. Kingdon's lack of acknowledgment of the "remnant believers'"children undermines his argument for the Baptist position. It is true that there is a growing dynamic throughout the Old Testament of physical vs spiritual Israel. However, the dynamic is not the physical children of spiritual Israelites vs their parents, and this is what Kingdon is reduced to. Kingdon sees texts which delineate the spiritual remnant from the physical people and then jumps to the unwarranted conclusion that the children of the spiritual remnant are not considered part of the remnant. The remnant is barren in this conception.
    1. But in the original designation of "remnant," those returning to the land, the children are explicitly part of the "remnant" (Jer 41:16). It is at least possible that the passages which contrast "true" Israel with the mere physical seed are more corporate than individual, more a matter of the household than the individual. At any rate, it is a non sequitur (does not follow) to move from remnant concepts to an individualistic interpretation of spiritual Israel. Therefore, I find that Kingdon assumes a kind of individualism in his interpretation of the key "children of Abraham by faith" texts.
    2. While it is true that ultimately each person stands before God as an individual -- in space-time history, God administrates His covenant through corporate activities, such as Passover, circumcision, and communion. Virtually every sacramental act in the Bible has the strong connotation of corporate, if not household solidarity. Thus, there is no in principle reason why baptism could not be administered as household baptism, that is, within the believing family, on the basis of the faith of the head of household. This seems especially consistent with the way the Bible considers the infant children of a household under the headship of the father or household leader.
    3. Of course this is exactly what we see in the New Testament. Every person named in the post-resurrection baptism accounts had their household baptized, if we have a reasonable basis for thinking they had a household (Cornelius, the Jailer, Lydia, Crispus, Stephanas, quite possibly Gaius).(113) The burden of proof really does fall on those who insist that the sacrament is to be administered individualistically. It might be asked whether there is any command that baptism be administered only to individuals who have previously made a profession of faith. I do not that such a command is exegetically demonstrable in the text of the Bible.

Should Babies Be Baptized?
T.E. Watson (Grace Publications, 1995 [1962])

The 125 page apologetic against infant baptism by (the late) Pastor Thomas E. Watson is not infrequently cited in recent Reformed Baptist literature. The outline of the book is to consider whether the Jews, John, Christ, or the apostles baptized infants, then whether "indirect evidence" supports it and whether it is authorized or consistent with the New Testament. The author then turns to consider the historical practice and the substance of the arguments from the Old Testament, the nature of the church (Hodge), and the covenant (Vos), completing the text with two chapters on the "retrogression" and "evils" of "the baptism of babies." The appendices are two-page statements on the "blessing of babies," the "antiquity of the baptism of babies," and the "Westminster Confession and Catechism."


Three Essential Criticisms

First, while this book has been utilized by Baptists and has apparently been persuasive to many, the essential appeal of the book is fallacious. Pastor Watson's central mode of convincing the reader that the Reformed paedobaptist position errs is a kind of ad verecundiam/non sequitur fallacy. That is, he appeals to paedobaptists' disagreements, as though the falseness of the paedobaptism position follows.(114) But to argue that two authorities disagree on certain points within their own respective arguments for their positions, therefore the conclusion (that they mutually hold) is false -- simply does not follow (it is a non sequitur). This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of relevance. Differences among those who hold to a position, are simply irrelevant to the cogency of an argument. It is also the case that Baptists have differing theological frameworks, varying exegetical conclusions on passages, and even different ways of demonstrating their mutually agreed upon conclusion to be true. But these differences do not prove, one way or the other, the truth of falsity of the Baptist position.

Secondly, there is an overconfident air of triumphalism throughout the text. This tone is calculated to produce glee in the heart of those whose heads have been previously convinced. But this tone, while enjoyable to confident Baptists, is considerably damaging to the overall presentation of the book when considered from a more objective point of view. The chapter, "Did Christ Baptize Babies?" will serve as an illustration. The author begins with a discussion of, "Jesus made and baptized disciples" (Joh 4:1). From the mere citation of the passage, without any contextual, exegetical, biblio-theological consideration, we are told three things are taught: "(1) Those baptized are called disciples (2) Jesus makes disciples before he baptizes them (3) Baptism does not make a disciple" (25). Now, Brother Watson confidently avoids all the difficulties of the technical rabbinic use of the term mathetes ("disciple") by making no mention of it.(115) Assured now that Jesus was a Baptist, he turns to the passage(s) in the synoptics "for of such is the kingdom of God" (Mat 19:13-15, Mar 10:13-16, Luk 18:15-17). After citing Burkitt, Poole, Ryle, Plummer, Warfield, and Murray -- who in one voice declare that Jesus did not baptize infants here, but that he taught that they were part his kingdom -- Pastor Watson concludes, "So, whatever the meaning of the words 'of such is the kingdom of heaven', the fact that these children were not baptized indicates, if anything, that babies are not to be baptized" (27). Perhaps it is because Baptists lose the structure and premises of the argument for covenantal paedobaptism that they wish to so eagerly pounce upon these admissions by perspicacious paedobaptists -- or perhaps it is that they wish to celebrate once again that there is no explicit warrant for infant baptism, a point also conceded by paedobaptists. At any rate, on closer examination, Pastor Watson should admit that "if anything" is proven by these passages, it is that "such" children, as well as those who share in their child-like faith, are part of Messiah's new covenant, kingdom.(116) Those who are fully aware of the terms and structure of the argument know that this premise is crucial in the case for infant baptism. Though, it is freely admitted that Messiah at this point (while circumcision still functioned as the sign of the covenant) did not "baptize babies."(117) To eagerly triumph in the admission that Jesus did not baptize infants here, while at the same time admitting that "little children belong to the kingdom of God" (27), is straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel.(118)

Finally, while many other disagreements might be noted, the argument of central importance is the covenant inclusion of the children of believers. To this, he devotes ten pages, taking J. G. Vos to task for saying that "(a) Baptism is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace. (b) The children of believers are included in the Covenant of Grace. (c) Therefore the children of believers are entitled to baptism which is a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace" (cited on p. 89). The author responds, "If for argument's sake we grant propositions (a) and (b) we will now show that inference (c) does not necessarily follow" (98). Now before any other word is said, we should investigate whether this argument is a logically valid form of argument. To test this will require restating the argument into strict syllogistic form and this will require two syllogisms.

Premise (a): Covenant-members are (entitled to the) covenant-sign.

Premise (b): All believers'-children are covenant-members.

Conclusion (c): All believers'-children are (entitled to the) covenant-sign.
 

Premise (aa) [from the conclusion]: All believers'-children are (entitled to the) covenant-sign.

Premise (bb): The covenant-sign is baptism.

Conclusion (cc): All believers'-children are (entitled to) baptism.

Now "If for argument's sake we grant propositions (a) and (b)" (98), the author should have become a paedobaptist. Because the form of the argument is valid and indisputably yields a logically binding and necessarily true conclusion, if the premises are true.(119) What Pastor Watson really disputes is not the logical necessity of the conclusion, but the truth of the premise that "All believers'-children are (entitled to the) covenant-sign." His counter argument to this premise is that Jewish females did not receive the covenant sign of circumcision; hence, not "all" the children in the covenant received the sign. When making a strawman of Dr. Vos, here, the author is wont to overlook such terms as "essentially" -- "the proof may be stated, essentially, in the following form," says Dr. Vos (89). That is, one could qualify those who are to receive the sign with "duly administered" or "to whom it may be properly given," etc., which would take into account whether the physical act could actually be performed on a recipient and whether it is designed for males only (as in circumcision) or males and females (as we have expressly declared in the case of baptism).(120)

Pastor Watson also argues, "The illogicality of this [Vos'] argument is easily demonstrated" from the Lord' Supper, i.e., that "this very argument justifies the practice of baby communion" (90). Warfield, on this, expresses the conviction of all paedobaptists, "The ordinances of the Church belong to the members of it; but each in its own appointed time. The initiatory ordinance belongs to the members on becoming members, other ordinances become their right as the appointed seasons for enjoying them roll around."(121) John Murray is also undoubtedly right in saying, "The fallacy of this kind of argument, as far as the passover is concerned, resides in the assumption that little infants partook of the passover. There is no evidence that this was the case."(122) Neither Warfield nor Murray nor Rushdoony(123), for that matter, denies that "the children of believers are entitled to the Lord's Supper" (90), only "each [sacrament] in its own appointed time" (says Warfield).

On the nature and membership of the covenant, Brother Watson does little more than mock the fundamental and theologically lofty concepts of the Covenant of Grace, with its internal and external aspects. Saying, "Outer circle! Inner circle! Vital sphere! External sphere! We are beginning to get dizzy!" (95). But these concepts are not to be dismissed as meandering constructs of confusion, they make sense of the biblical data which speaks of those "sanctified by the blood of the covenant" who nonetheless "trample underfoot the Son of God" (Heb 10:29) and "those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away" (Heb 6:4-6) -- as well as a vast majority of narrative literature in the Old Testament.

In conclusion, Watson's polemic, for its predominant literary effort, bypasses the central argument for covenantal infant baptism: "Who is in the covenant?" "Is there a fundamental change of nature and structure in the New Testament?" Unfortunately, little attention is directed to this. Starting with the presupposition of "individual disciples are baptized" is problematic, given the nature of the New Testament in its original setting and the technical usage of mathetes. When one ponders the continuity of God's covenantal dealings with man, the corporate administration of the visible pledges of His salvific plan, and the original audience of the New Testament -- then when the question is posed, "Should  Babies Be Baptized?" The answer is a simple, "Yes."



VII. HISTORICAL FICTION: A FIRST CENTURY LETTER

Letter to Julius

How I received this ancient correspondence will be of little consequence in comparison to the light it sheds on the early Christian context in ancient Achaia. It will be difficult to place the date exactly, as it has been already translated by a certain Dr. W., hence no linguistic forms will aid in the dating. It can be fairly surmised to be within the fifth decade of the first century, due to the internal references.

W. G. Strawbridge

This letter represents one of thousands discovered in library excavation in ancient Rome. This particular letter is remarkable in its completeness; most are mere fragments. I have taken the liberty to develop a contemporaneous translation, with the hopes of including it with many more for a complete volume of representative cultural-religious correspondence.
 

Dr. W.
Italy, 1920


Julius, my fellow God-seeker,

Grace and peace to you.

I have written to you briefly to tell you of my experience over the last two years since you have moved to Rome as part of Caesar's household. Dear friend, as you know, it started when I looked at the stars one night. Do not the heavens declare the glory of a creator God who made the heavens and the earth? The philosophers of Greece and Rome today grope for a unifying Logos amidst all the flux. But we know that there is one God, who is Elohim.

After you departed, I struggled for several years about whether to become a Jew. I saw my now dear friend Crispus, the chief elder, proselytize several God-fearing families over the years, like Gaius' family. I knew them before they were proselytes. They became synagogue members by going through the ritual washing and then the solemn, but painful act of circumcision. Then they were permitted to enter the fellowship of the synagogue on Sabbath to hear the Law and the Prophets.

Maybe it was my fear of ridicule from my Roman friends or the castigation of my society in not being circumcised and becoming a Jew. Or maybe it was the very thought of the act itself. The heart is deceitful. But for a few years I have hesitated. Deep in my soul I have thought that the God who made heaven and earth and all peoples, nations, tribes, and civilizations would surely have not designed that salvation be exclusively in one nation, and a peculiar people at that.

Then one day a former Pharisee came into Corinth preaching Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. As this apostle of Jesus spoke, I knew that he was telling of the promised Christ, the one to be anointed of the Father. As I had studied the Scriptures (the LXX), I began to see that this was how God was purposing to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham and his seed, the seed of the woman. This Messiah would be more than a ruler and a king. He would somehow be a suffering Servant. This former Pharisee, Paul, explained all of this and so much more to many God-fearers and to the Jews and proselytes in the synagogue. The elders of the synagogue, however, rejected Messiah Jesus. So after pleading for his kinsmen, Paul, the defender of the Way, shook the dust of his feet and began proclaiming the good news to the Gentiles, like me.

Paul was asked to stay with Titius Justus, a God-fearing Gentile. And this Pharisee did! That's because "what God has cleansed, let no man call unclean." It's funny, how God worked through this. Justus' house was next to the synagogue. Over the next few months, Crispus, the synagogue leader believed! For a year and a half now many Jews and Gentiles have became followers of Messiah Jesus.

Paul taught us that the purposes of the temple, the sacrifices, the priests, and all the clean and unclean laws were temporary. They were shadows of the good things to come. They illustrated the truths of the gospel of Messiah. Everything that we objected to about becoming a Jew had a telos, a consummated purpose, which was fulfilled in the coming of Messiah. He told us of the counsel at Jerusalem with James and Peter and how the whole church now understood that a Gentile does not have to follow these ceremonial laws to become a follower of Jesus.

Before I knew Messiah, I believed in the Scriptures and the God of the Jews with all my heart. But I was hesitant to adopt all the customs of the Jews and have my whole household circumcised. I could see that their ceremonies were of God, but somehow they seemed different than the law that is written on our hearts: to love God and to love neighbor. I also challenged Crispus many times that the customs of the strictest sect of Jews, the Pharisees, were not of the Torah, but of their own making. Paul has shown us that they have substituted the laws of men for that of only true God. Judaism is not necessarily the faith of father Abraham. Not all Israel are truly Israel. I could tell you so much more of this dear Julius.

We have learned that we all stand as unclean in Adam, but we can be washed by Jesus. All have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles. By the gospel of Messiah we can know true forgiveness of sins and acceptance with both God and men. I had seen Crispus baptize proselyte families declaring that they were once unclean, but now they are clean. Now Crispus, the baptizer, was baptized with his family by Paul the messenger of Jesus. So he believed in Jesus with his household and was baptized and when he was, I knew that Jesus was not just a Messiah for the Jews. He came to wash many nations. Before I was considered unclean, though devout in fearing God. My children were considered unclean and excluded from the common wealth of Israel. Now, just like Crispus' children, my children are part of God's covenant and have the sign of Messiah.

We have become heirs according to the promises made to Abraham. Paul has taught us that whoever believes in Christ, from any nation, is a child of Abraham. Now I stand like Abraham, I have known the circumcision of Christ. I was washed with water which was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith which I had while unbaptized -- because I had believed and had known a washing of my heart a long time before I went to the river. My children are like Isaac who received from birth the gracious symbol. They have been washed and they will know all their lives that they have been set apart for Messiah and in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Just as the devout Jews had been such an example of good deeds to family and gentle care for children, now I must command my children after me to keep the way of Messiah Jesus. Now I can read the Scriptures just as Crispus and know that the mercy of the Lord is to a thousand generations of those who fear Him. I can trust the promise of Jehovah that my youngest, named for you, will one day proclaim in the assembly his own heart washing, just as Isaac later knew his own heart circumcision.

Beloved Julius, seek out those in Rome who speak of Messiah. Now the blessing of God the Father, the Spirit, and the love of Messiah Yeshua be upon you and your household.
 

Your beloved friend,

Stephanas
 



1. Building Dedication Anthem 10/10/97 written by GS. A recording of this song is available here.

2. The position of permitting paedobaptists into the eldership, on condition of their willingness to refrain from directly changing ADBC's baptistic practice, has been changed by the mutual consent of the elders.

3. (The ALL CAPS are not intended to represent emphases. They only indicate an Old Testament citation and are included from my Bible software program. For emphasis where needed I have bolded or italicized the script .)

4. All texts cited are the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.

5. I am really unsure why any biblical thinker would want to deny this assertion, but if so see my critical review of John Reisinger's "Four Seeds of Abraham." I feel that it is a clear and distinct belief of Christianity that Adam represented all mankind in a covenant relationship with God. I fear, unfortunately, that those who baulk at this do so because in some way they want to deny the general covenant realities of the Bible.

6. Ecc 7:29 "Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."

7. Rom 2:15 "they show the work of the Law written in their hearts."

8. The Westminster Confession (7:3) and the 1689 Baptist Confession (quite similarly) define it as, "Man, by his fall, having made himself uncapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,(1) commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;(2) and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe."(3) (1)Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; Rom. 3:20,21; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 42:6. (2)Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Rom. 10:6,9; Gal. 3:11. (3)Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45.

9. Westminster (and the 1689 Baptist) Confession says beautifully (11.2), "Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification;(1) yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love."(2) Please note the proof texts, (1)John 1:12; Rom. 3:28; Rom. 5:1. (2)James 2:17,22,26; Gal. 5:6.

10. The term paidea which is used in this verse is the Greek word equivalent to our "culture." An interesting Apocrapha (Greek usage) reference which would have like been familiar to Paul is found in 4 Maccabees 13:22: ". .. they grow stronger from this common nurture and daily companionship, and from both general education and our discipline in the law of God."

11. This is the term Greg Nichols (a Reformed Baptist) uses for it in the 32 lectures he did on Infant Baptism, Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, with Al Martin. See particularly tape 31.

12. The covenantal perspective yields a very lucid understanding of the "tree of life" prohibition in Gen 3:22. If biblical covenants between God and man have tangible signs and seals, then the tree of life matches the description of a sacrament. The fruit was the sacramental means of life (see also Rev 2:7, 22:2, 22:14 which further confirms this). Brakel says, "What else can be deduced from this than that it was a sacrament, that is, a sign and seal of life?" (I:362). Berkhof says, "We should not think of the fruit of this tree as magically or medically working immortality in Adam's frame. Yet it was in some way connected with the gift of life . . . . So the words of Gen 3:22 must be understood sacramentally" (217). Now seeing that the rainbow "is the covenant," circumcision "is the covenant," the passover blood "saved the firstborn," the cup "is the new covenant," and "baptism now saves you" -- is it surprising, then, to read from Gen 3:22 "lest he eat from it and live forever"?

13. The Westminster Confession (27:2) is surely right in saying, "There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other." (Gen. 17:10; Matt. 26:27,28; Tit. 3:5)

14. This does not imply that each person partaking of the sign also has the thing signified. From the very beginning the visible symbols and pledges were administered in a covenantally corporate manner, though not all those with the sign possessed the reality signified.

15. I realize how tempting it is to cease all consideration of the task at hand and argue reductio ad absurdum against paedobaptism from the alleged inconsistency of not also embracing paedo-communion. However, keep in mind that at present I am only seeking to establish the pattern that the sacraments are corporately administered, a belief which should not be in dispute for the baptist or paedobaptist regarding Old Testament sacraments or the Lord's Supper. The question of paedocommunion involves (a) whether infants in fact partook of the passover meal, (b) if not, were there spiritual qualifications (i.e., asking/understanding "what does this mean?" Exo 12:26), and (c) thus, whether the recipients of Christ's passover in the new covenant are qualified differently. For a good discussion on this see John Murray's Christian Baptism (P & R, 1980), p. 73-76.

16. It is not my intention by citing these texts to make any conclusion about the right mode of baptism (immersion, sprinkling, pouring). I think that these texts allude to the ritual washing of baptism, regardless of the best mode of baptism. I have held and argued for the last decade that since baptism is a ritual washing, what is essential about its administration is that it is with water and in the name of the Triune God of Scripture. The particular mode of administration is not a significant issue to me (see Calvin and Warfield's comments about this cited in the last chapter of my Handbook on Baptism for more information). This constitutes, however, a further difference I have with the Baptist view, which holds to the essential nature of immersion in baptism. The Baptist Confession (of 1689) says, "Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance" (29:4).

17. It is important to observe here that this was the passage that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when he exclaimed, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (Act 8:36, see the original context of vv 8:32-33).

18. A rite which represents the same reality is ritually equivalent; a sacrament which represents the same thing is sacramentally equivalent. The external rites, circumcision and baptism, are very different (outwardly) but what Scripture tells us about their respective significance is the same.

19. I find it strange that in discussions on this, Baptists often deny this point and try to maintain that circumcision represents something other than heart circumcision and that baptism represents something other than spiritual cleansing. But these responses are forced and temporary. No one can maintain that the Word denies that circumcision represents a spiritual reality and that baptism represents that same spiritual reality.

20. Text is from Zacharias Ursinus' Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G.W. Williard (Wm. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1956 [1852]).

21. The text is from Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation, Mark Noll (Baker, 1991), p. 129.

22. The text is from The Creeds of Christendom, Philip Schaff, (Reprint by Baker), Vol. III, pp. 379-380.

23. Text is from the Psalter Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids.

24. As Dr. Fred Malone argues in A String of Peals Unstrung: A Theological Journey Into Believers' Baptism, (Founders Press: Cape Coral, FL, 1998), p. 42.

25. Malone, p. 7 (that is his original text is in brackets [ ]).

26. For example this is the grammatical case in Rev 5:9, "a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation."

27. In the Polemics of Infant Baptism (in Vol 9). To explain, Warfield is pointing out that A.H. Strong's (Baptist) use of this verse treats the text as though "baptize" is the verb and "make disciples" is a participle. This would mean that one would baptize by means of discipling. But the text simply requires discipling by means of baptism and teaching, without a definitive temporal succession of discipling, then baptizing, then teaching.

28. I articulated this argument in a personal position paper, "A Reappraisal of Baptism Positions" in 1996 after leading a study on baptism with both Presbyterians and Baptists. This argument was persuasive in maintaining that the explicit institution of the new covenant sign excluded infants.

29. As Pastor Jerry Marcellino has often taught, "Jesus was a peripetatic rabbi, he walked from town to town calling disciples."

30. A.T. Robertson tells us that this form is a "late form" (Word Pictures, in loc).

31. Robertson says here, this command is to disciple "Not just the Jews scattered among the Gentiles, but the Gentiles themselves in every land. And not by making Jews of them, though this point is not made plain here. It will take time for the disciples to grow into this Magna Charta of the missionary propaganda" (in loc, emphasis mine). Now it is apparent that the apostles were actually confused for a time as to whether the Commission required Gentiles to ritually become Jews.

32. Robertson says of this verb "maqhteuw from maqhthV, a learner or disciple. Late verb in Plutarch, to be a disciple (Mt 27:57 like Joh 19:38) and then to disciple (old English, Spenser), to make a disciple as in Mt 28:19 and here."

33. Robertson, Acts 9:36.

34. A brother actually wrote and said to me that "even if the text said 'baptize families' that would still require an individual administration" (i.e., believer baptism) because of the verb mathetueo. I believe I am warranted in saying after this study that this is a bias without a real appreciation for either the exegetical details of Mat 28:19-20 or the biblical theology that undergirds it.

35. For all that I disagree with him on these matters, please know that I truly love and respect Dr. Malone and he has ministered to me for over a decade.

36. What kept me from being a paedobaptist before (see my Handbook on Baptism) was that I challenged one of the premises in the argument for infant baptism (that merely natural children are considered part of the new covenant).

37. P. 13 in Malone, originally, p. 69 in Murray's, Christian Baptism (P & R, 1980).

38. String of Pearls Unstrung (Founder's Press, 1998), p. 13.

39. Murray, p. 69. These are the verbatim terms of Westminster Confession 1:6.

40. This point is also made on some lectures on "Biblical Covenants," 6 & 7.

41. For example, Dr. Norman Geisler, a dispensationalist who is fully committed to logic (Come Let Us Reason, Baker).

42. For example, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, the man who wrote the book on theonomy, and as an OPC pastor subscribed to the Westminster Confession and was known as very competent logician (cf. the Logic tape series through Copi's standard collegiate text on logic, from Covenant Media, Texarkana, AR).

43. Cf. The "Biblical Covenants" tapes, no. 1 and the final tape.

44. I believe it is a simple denial of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture to demand that only a repetition of an Old Testament command in the New Testament makes it authoritative "for us."

45. This is stated in a very unqualified way on the final tape of the "Biblical Covenants" lectures and more qualified on p. 45.

46. The phrase "in the covenant" or "in the new covenant" is simply not found in the Bible. But, I do not object to using the phrase, so long as it is defined. Here, and in the terms of this argument it means essentially, "included in the contract," or "covenanted with."

47. This objection has come from several sources, but articulately expressed by Fred Malone in a personal conversation; see also his expanded treatment of baptism in a forthcoming book.

48. "Karath," "to cut or make a covenant" (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament).

49. That is, the demonstrative pronoun and "berith" (covenant/treaty in Hebrew) or in Greek, "diatheke" (covenant). In 31:31 or 11:6-8, there is no term for "is" in either the original Hebrew, nor the Greek translation in LXX.

50. I qualify this with "collectively" because throughout the Mosaic administration there were the "7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal," like Moses, Joshua, and Caleb at first.

51. "And I shall make them eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they will eat one another's flesh in the siege and in the distress with which their enemies and those who seek their life will distress them" (19:9).

52. That it signifies breadth of leadership status and position will also be evident from its uses elsewhere (2Ch 34:30, Est 1:5, Jon 3:5, Luk 7:28).

53. David Kingdon, Children of Abraham (Carey Publications), p. 34.

54. Kingdon, p. 35.

55. Please excuse this repetition of some earlier material.

56. See the discussion which follows on Dr. Fred Malone and Pastor Sam Waldron. This was the position, in fact, that I defended in the last chapter of my Handbook on Baptism, to be revised soon.

57. Biblical Baptism (A Reformed Defense of Believers' Baptism), Sam Waldron (Truth for Eterninty: Grand Rapids), p. 42.

58. These non-sequential quotations are from p. 44.

59. P. 43.

60. For example, in the "wheat and the tares" parable (Mat 13:24-30), especially note vv 28b-30, "'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' 29 "But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them." On the new covenant sacraments, note Paul's statement regarding one who ". . .eats and drinks judgment to himself" (1Co 11:29). On church discipline, of course, Mat 18:15-20.

61. We had a very nice and quite courteous dialogue on these questions, after which he sent me a 3 page letter continuing the discussion. This statement is from page 2. I sincerely appreciated his diligence in the discussion and the follow-up letter. However, I remain unconvinced of his conclusions on these issues, as will be evident in my discussion.

62. Biblical Baptism, p. 42.

63. The incongruity of holding both that (a) the new covenant is exclusively with regenerates, yet (b) the visible new covenant community includes both regenenerates and unregenerates.

64. This implication was confirmed in our telephone dialogue.

65. String of Pearls Unstrung, p. 17.

66. P. 19.

67. P. 19. This difference (in what the ultimate fulfillment of the new covenant is ) also leads to the difference that Waldron permits unregenerates by profession to be in some sense "in the new covenant" (see the earlier citation); whereas Malone does not permit this. These differences does not affect their mutual rejection of the children of believers as de jure (by right) covenant members.

68. See also my response to Kingdon, above.

69. P. 19.

70. Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace (Eerdmans, 1978), p. 60.

71. Published by Baker, 1995, p. 93.

72. P. 92.

73. P. 104.

74. If someone still questions whether Pastor Waldron, Dr. Hoch, and Dr. Malone differ in their understanding of the new covenant, let me say more: in a personal dialogue (tape recorded) Dr. Malone specifically affirmed that he believed "the structure and nature of the new covenant is different from the old," and that there can be no "covenant-breakers" in the new covenant, etc. Whereas, Pastor Waldron sees apostates and unregenerates "accepted into the new covenant . . . on the basis of professed regeneration. . . .in the present ecclesiastical administration of the new covenant . . . .[though] regeneration remains the legal ground for admission into the new covenant community" (p. 2 of the letter).

75. Pp. 53-54. It may be evident already, but Dr. Hoch is a "progressive dispensationalist" according to our telephone dialogue on these matters.

76. P. 290.

77. This was affirmed to me in our telephone discussion. In fact, this was the first point he made on the subject , and it was evident that this was very convincing to him.

78. The apostle's understood the signification of circumcision from the Old Testament: Lev 26:41, Jer 9:26, Eze 44:7, Eze 44:9, Deu 10:16, Deu, 30:6, Jer 4:4; and Paul (who held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen) leaned this too, as is evident in virtually all of his epistles, Rom. 2:29, Rom 4:11, 1Co 7:19, Gal 5:6, 6:15, Eph 2:11-12, Phi 3:3, Col 2:11-12, 3:11.

79. Let me add a very pedantic note: if someone requires the very word "replace," this is unreasonable since the word is not even found in the New Testament (NAS) and not present at all in the KJV.

80. In 15:2, "great dissension and debate" (literally "not small") (genomenhV oun stasewV kai suzhthsewV ouvk ovlighV) and 15:7 "much debate" (pollhV sunzhthsewV).

81. Peter's vision when God commanded him to eat crawdads.

82. Even Jewett admits that "the majority of scholars suppose a pre-Christian origin of the practice" of household proselyte baptism (p. 64).

83. Specifically, the contexts of Hebrews 8:8-12 and Hebrews 10:16-17.

84. All italicized print are my emphases.

85. This present tense "there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law" indicates the pre-70 AD dating of the book.

86. I could marshal many texts to support this, but it will suffice to point out the entire chapter of Hebrews 11.

87. In a discussion with Dr. Carl Hoch, Jr., author of All Things New: The Significance of Newness for Biblical Theology, he suggested that Judas was not present during the actual institution of the covenant. But this is not true for at least two reasons: (a) it would have been highly unusual for Judas to have left in the midst of the passover cup rite, (b) Luke actually tells us, "And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Me on the table" (22:20-21, notice the present tense).

88. A defense of a neo-evangelical feminism.

89. However, it is not reading circumcision through the eyes of New Testament baptism which leads one to conclude that circumcision is sacramentally equivalent to baptism, it is reading the explicit teaching of what the New Testament says about circumcision, even what the Old Testament says about it!

90. Jewett's position on this is really just the argument of "legitimate" marriage and "legitimate" children. This position ultimately fails to be convincing since two unbelievers can have both a "legitimate" marriage and "legitimate" children. Paul's statement, however, is that "otherwise" (if one of the parents was not a believer), "your children would be unclean" (1Co 7:14). It is most unconvincing, however, when Jewett argues that the children of believers do not occupy the place of covenant members (as in the Old Testament) by appealing to rabbinic, Jewish sources which use the hagiazo/hagios ("sanctified/holy") to refer to the "marriage covenant" (136) -- as though the Jews saw Gentile children from a "legitimate" marriage as being "holy."

91. Please let no one try to prove that Ishmael was lost because of Galatians 4. Paul tells us, "This is allegorically (allhgorew)speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar" (4:24). The point of the apostle in Galatians is to illustrate the anathema-ungospel of the Judaizers who were requiring the circumcision of the Gentile converts (and not just their adults). This circumcision also meant (unbiblically) to these heretics that they merited their standing of justification before God.

92. Again, it is also a very interesting role that Midianites (Midian was one of the sons of Keturah), played in the history of the Jews, with both Joseph and Jethro, "the priest of Midian" (Moses' father-in-law).

93. As far as I know this has not been found in any of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

94. This can be obtained at P.O. Box 185, Webster NY 14580, 716/265-1494).

95. The last section will deal with the "four seeds argument."

96. This assertion is repeated on p. 46. However one interprets history, it is a simple fact that on Sola Scriptura and creeds, this is in stark contrast to the Reformer's own statements: (WCF 31.4) "All synods or councils, since the Apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to he made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both."(1) (1)Eph. 2:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 1:24

97. However, nothing that I have said (thus far in the review or in section I) implies necessarily infant baptism (contra, Brother Reisinger). It surely is consistent with covenantal infant baptism, but there are more issues to address.

98. Forgive the repetition here.

99. The bolded script which follows is my emphasis.

100. Forgive the needed, unheeded, repetition of this material.

101. There is a distinction between the promise made (generally) and the reception of the full blessings indicated in the promise which are usually conditioned on the spiritual qualifications of receiver of the blessings.

102. This last sentence is kind of a paraphrase of the sentiment.

103. Or, in the case of adult (proselytes), confessing their allegiance to Christ.

104. From the Latin, to the root.

105. I refer the reader to the full texts in section II.

106. The Greek term for sealed is the verb sphragizo and the noun form of this is used in Romans 4:11, sphragis, to refer to "sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith."

107. Many other passages also teach this (Lev 26:41, Jer 9:26, Eze 44:7, Eze 44:9, Deu 10:16). Paul (who held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen) leaned this too, as is evident in virtually all of his epistles, Rom. 2:29, Rom 4:11, 1Co 7:19, Gal 5:6, 6:15, Eph 2:11-12, Phi 3:3, Col 2:11-12, 3:11.

108. If one wishes to maintain the typological, earthly, or carnal nature of circumcision as an objection here, I refer the reader to the discussion in the Jewett review.

109. This argument is taken from Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace, whom Kingdon frequently quotes.

110. I refer the reader to the discussion regarding Dr. Hoch is section III.

111. Forgive the repetition of this material. See section II for more exhaustive references.

112. Even if they never possess Him.

113. See the discussion on this in section II for a more detailed defense.

114. I might add here, too, that a number of these differences are quite overstated.

115. Please refer to the previous discussion in section III which demonstrates that this term is used only of adult males.

116. Please see my previous discussion of this in section IV (especially the admission from Jewett), in the response to Dr. Fred Malone. According to Louw-Nida and Friberg, paidon (children) means little children, "under the age of puberty," "infants," etc. Luke tells us that "they were bringing even their babies [brephos, "infants"] to Him" (18:15). The term "such" (toioutos) is used in a parallel in Acts 22:22 (see the discussion in section IV) and in Acts 26:29: "And Paul said, 'I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such (toioutos) as I am, except for these chains.'" It clearly means in such cases, "these and those who are like these."

117. It should be also noted that we have no express record in the gospels of John or Jesus/disciples baptizing women or believing children, either.

118. This quotation is from John Murray, "Professor Murray is undoubtedly correct when he writes. . ." (27).

119. See any logic textbook, these are valid syllogisms.

120. When Watson says that females could have been circumcised because cultures, like Egypt, did it; he is simply equivocating on the meaning of circumcision. This is an especially inappropriate suggestion since in the case of male circumcision, it was a hygienic and medical blessing to the covenant people and modern medical research has demonstrated its value; but in the case of barbarously removing the clitoris of a female (for savage reasons) in "female circumcision," the sexual organ is mutilated and prevented from the proper and God-glorifying sexual function.

121. In The Polemic of Infant Baptism.

122. Christian Baptism, p. 74.

123. I recently discussed this question with R. J. Rushdoony who also agreed. He explained that the historic practice of "paedo-communion" required the intelligibility of the child recipient. His exact words were "sometimes a child of four or five is able, and sometimes they may need to be six or seven."