Thursday, August 29, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 10

10. Church history beginning with the age of the apostles, furnishes an irresistible argument in favor of infant baptism.

For more than 1500 years after the birth of Christ, there was not a single group of professing Christians who opposed infant baptism on grounds even remotely resembling the arguments of modern Baptists. I know that many Baptists will wish to disagree with this statement, but it is quite easily demonstrated from history.

About 200 years after Christ, Tertullian is the first we encounter who wrote against infant baptism. Yet even that needs to be clarified. Tertullian clearly acknowledged the prevalence of the practice and indeed recommends that infant be baptized if it is certain that they are ill and thus likely to die in infancy. What was his argument? The second we inspect his logic, we see that is bears no resemblance to contemporary Baptist argument, which means they have no predecessor for their doctrine in the 2nd century. Tertullian adopted the superstitious view that baptism washed away all past sins, hence it was dangerous to be baptized young, since one was likely to commit future sins which could not be washed away by baptism because baptism is not repeatable. Nothing in this superstitious view supports the system of modern Baptists.

The next time we encounter the rejection of infant baptism, it is in the 12th century in the company of a small group in France under the leadership of Peter de Bruis. They were an insignificant group, all things considered. Their doctrine was that infants should not be baptized because they are incapable of salvation. They taught that no one could be saved who did not “work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” Infants are incapable of this, hence are incapable of salvation. Surely our Baptist friends are not willing to claim these people are their predecessors? The issue never comes up again until the 16th century. Hence there is nothing even remotely resembling the contemporary Baptist doctrine of baptism, for over 1500 years from the birth of Christ. 

I could easily produce a litany of quotes from numerous church Fathers defending both the practice and antiquity of infant baptism. This would be beyond the scope of what I wish to address in this series of posts. I have done so elsewhere anyway. The only further comment I would wish to add with reference to the numerous patristic citations which could easily be mustered is that it appears to me to be inconceivable that in three centuries the practice of infant baptism could arise in direct contradiction to the practice of the apostles without so much as a whisper of opposition from any quarter. But if our Baptist friends are right, this is exactly what must have happened.

That the church should have transitioned from the practice of adult-only baptism to constant and universal infant baptism, while the transition passed completely undetected, is an idea which cannot be imagined by any impartial thinker.

Let's reassess the history for a second: Origen, Cyprian, and Chrysostom tell us that the baptism of infants was the universal practice of the church in their respective times and places. Moreover from the writings of Augustine and his antagonist Pelagius we are informed that they never heard of anyone who claimed to be a Christian, either orthodox or heretic, who did not both affirm and practice infant baptism. Now let's be frank: To postulate in the teeth of such overwhelming evidence that the practice of infant baptism crept in, as an unwarranted innovation, between the time of the Apostles and their own day, and that without the slightest notice of a change is ludicrous. Anyone who can believe this must be prepared to sacrifice all historical evidence on the altar of blind prejudice. 

It is sometimes asserted by Baptist historians that the Waldenses baptized only adult believers. But this is demonstrably false on several counts. First, the only association between adult-only baptism and the Waldenses comes from Roman Catholic opponents of Peter de Bruis who falsely labeled him such in order to condemn both in one fell swoop, - to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Secondly, and most importantly, we know that when the Reformation began, the Waldenses submitted to the Reformers samples of their creeds and confessions for doctrinal review. The Reformers found nothing objectionable. The Reformers never had anything bad to say about the Waldenses, but conversely they never had anything good to say about the Anabaptists. The conclusion is clear. Had the Waldenses been Anabaptists, the Reformers would have castigated them sharply for it.

But this is not all. If the doctrine of our Baptist friends is correct; that is, if infant baptism be a corruption and a nullity; then it inevitably follows that the true sacrament of baptism was lost for over 1500 years, - from the apostolic era until the 16th century. For, as we have seen, there was no representative in Church history of the Baptist dogma of adult-only baptism until the appearance of the Anabaptists in the 16th century. But can such an idea be admitted?

Let's be perfectly clear, there was no Christian remotely deserving of the name during that whole 1500+ year period that did not baptize infants. On Baptist principles, one is forced to conclude that God had no church on earth during this entire period. How does this square with God's promises? If during that long tract of time there was no true baptism in the church, and if none but baptized persons are capable of administering true baptism to others, the consequence is simple: There is no true baptism now in the world! Can anyone seriously believe this? Are we to suppose the Christ, as Head of the Church has allowed one of the great signs and seals of His covenant to perish from the earth? This is no true baptism today, on these grounds without recourse to the miraculous. The only way to evade this logic is to assert that baptism can be lawfully administered by those who are not baptized. If the Baptist position be true, this is the actual case. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 9

9. While the New Testament does not contain any specific texts which assert that the infant children of believers are members of the church by virtue of their birth yet the New Testament abounds in passages which cannot be reasonably explained but in harmony with this doctrine.

The first passage I would like to adduce is not actually a New Testament passage, but a passage from Isaiah which speaks of New Testament times. Speaking of the glory of the latter days when the wolf and the lamb will feed together, Isaiah declares, “Behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. For as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and my elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them (Isaiah 65:17, 22, 23).

What Christ said in Matthew 19:13-15 cannot be understood without presupposing the church membership of infants. When Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” there are a couple of things which are very notable. First of all, when we compare this passage with its parallels, we find that these children were, indeed, infants (βρέφη). After all, Christ “took them in his arms.”

But what is more remarkable are his words, “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. It is the same form of expression Christ uses in his Sermon on the Mount when he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” “Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This precludes the objection appealed to by some that the words “of such is the kingdom of heaven” means that the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as resemble little children in spirit. If we must take that to be the meaning in Matthew 19, why aren’t we forced to take that to be the meaning in the identical expressions found in the Sermon on the Mount? We might as well say that the kingdom of heaven doesn’t belong to those who are poor in spirit, but only to those who resemble the poor in spirit. Or that the kingdom of God does not belong to those who are persecuted righteousness sake, but only those who resemble those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Christ’s language obviously means that the kingdom of heaven was really theirs of whom He spoke, that it truly belongs to them, that they are the heirs of it, just as the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

But what do we make of the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” as it is used in this passage? Obviously, we have to understand as referring to visible church, i.e., the visible kingdom of Christ. Anywhere in the New Testament where this phrase is used, one will find that this is the general import of the expression. If this be the case, then we have Christ asserting in direct and pointed terms the divine warrant of infant church membership. But even on the supposition that the “kingdom of heaven” refers to the kingdom of glory our argument is not affected, but rather strengthened. If the kingdom of glory belongs to the infant children of believers, how much more would they have a right to those privileges in the church on earth?

Few people defend the automatic salvation of those who die in infancy with as much vigor as do Baptists. This is ironic, it seems. They trip over themselves to make sure infants have automatic rights to heaven, but with equal vigor deny them the automatic right to church-membership. Affirming this about the children of believers who die in infancy is inconsistent enough, but most Baptists affirm that all who die in infancy go to heaven, regardless of their parents’ spiritual state.

There is another passage of Scripture which strongly speaks the same language. I’m referring, of course, to Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. When a multitude of the hearers on that day fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brothers, what shall we do?” What was the answer of Christ’s inspired apostle? “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Obviously Peter was speaking of the promise of God to His covenant people, namely, the promise in which He engages to be their God and to constitute them as His covenant people. This is the covenant promise God made to Abraham which He sealed by the sacrament of circumcision. Peter cites the covenant promise which was sealed by circumcision in the same breath as his admonition for them to be baptized. If the tying together of these two ideas in one breath has no significance, then we search in vain for a connection in anything Scripture links together.

One final passage I will adduce is 1 Corinthians 7:14. – “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

The big question here is: In what sense does the believing parent sanctify the unbelieving one so that their children are holy? It can't possibly mean that the believing spouse is always instrumental in the regeneration and sanctification of their partner and their children. No one who intelligently reads their Bible could understand this. Not to mention the fact that we all frequently observe the opposite. Some have understood this to mean that the children in these mixed marriages were illegitimate; meaning that the Corinthian Christians were under the impression that wedlock between believers and unbelievers was invalid. This is, of course, nonsense. No other passage of Scripture containing the words “holy” and “unclean” gives countenance to such a construction. 

It’s actually the words “holy” and “unclean” pitted against each other that give us the insight into how to understand this passage. These two terms have a long history of ecclesiastical usage in the Old Testament. Levitical law labeled everything “clean” or “unclean.” By these two terms all of life was spiritualized. The pious Jew was brought face to face in his daily mundane activities with the spiritual reality that sin and the spiritual defilement that came with it was transferable and/or communicable; while cleanness or moral purity was not. Human society itself was divided into these two categories based on their relation to the covenant of God, which is why the Jews were constantly called a “holy people.” They were separated from the rest of the world which was left by God wallowing in the filth of sin.

In the Corinthian situation, it appears that there were many believers who were married to unbelievers. Some were obviously married before their conversion. Others were foolish enough to marry unbelievers after their conversion. We know this from Paul’s later admonition against being “unequally yoked.” Paul's intention here is, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to assure the believer that, even though they had an unbelieving spouse, they did not have to fear that their children were thereby excluded from the covenant of God. 

This passage clearly establishes the church-membership of infants in yet another way. It operates on the assumption of the principle that children of whom both parents are believers automatically belong to the Church of God. Without this assumption the question Paul is handling would never have come up. The difficulty arises when, assuming that the children are in God's covenant when both parents are believers, - when we have children of whom only one parent is a believer. This is the only circumstance in which this question would arise. A Corinthian would say, “I see the children of my Christian brothers owned as members of the Church. I also see the children of unbelievers rejected along with the unbelieving parents. I get that. But, here is my concern: I believe in Christ, yet my husband (or my wife) does not believe. What is to become of my children? Are they to be admitted with me or are they to be cast off with my partner?" It is hard to see why Paul would dissuade believers from separating from their unbelieving spouse on any other supposition.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 8

8. It is inconceivable that the sign and privileges of infant church membership, to which all the first Christians had been so long accustomed, could have been withdrawn without wounding the hearts of parents, and producing in them feelings of revolt against the new administration of the covenant of grace.

Do we find any hint of this anywhere in the New Testament? No, we do not. Only on the principle of infant church-membership does this entire silence present no difficulty. How else is it to be explained? When we see 3,000 Jewish converts to Christianity (who were steeped in the practice of infant church-membership) on the day of Pentecost, all submit themselves to the covenant seal of baptism, during which Peter repeats the covenant promise of God to Abraham from Genesis 17, we should expect an uproar if they had all been told that their children were no longer included in the covenant. This is especially clear considering the fact that Peter recites the words of Genesis 17, “to you and your children.”

Because those early Christians understood the identity of the church under this new administration of the covenant of grace, they needed no new warrant for the inclusion of their children in the covenant family. Since the privilege had not been revoked, it would be understood as being still in force. A new enactment to establish this privilege would be superfluous, considering the fact that the New Testament expands the privileges rather than restricts them. 

Imagine for a moment how “evangelism” in the Old Testament worked. The would-be convert, after having been taught in the principles of the faith, would be circumcised. But not just him -. Every male member of his household: sons, servants and servants' sons were all circumcised on the strength of the head of the household's faith. This being the case, if things were to be substantially different in the New Testament, it is absolutely imperative that it be explained, because no one would have expected it.

Those who reject infant baptism are under the necessity of supposing that the first Christians, who were all Jews, and had always considered their offspring as included in the covenant of God, were given to understand that when the New Testament Church was set up, these covenant privileges and promises would no longer be enjoyed by their children, and that their children were no more connected with the Church than the children of the surrounding pagan nations. These first Christians would've had to understand this, while at the same time, believing that the New Testament in every way enlarged and broadened every privilege and promise of the Old Testament administration. Those who reject infant baptism are under the necessity of believing that those early Christians, when the New Testament Church was organized, were greeted with an announcement to this effect, and that they accepted it without the slightest feeling of surprise or word of murmur. Further, they have to assume that such a retrograde change took place within the covenant people of God with so little interest that it was never so much as hinted at in any of the epistles to the churches. There is only one explanation for the silence on this subject, - and that is the continuation of the covenant privileges of infant church-membership. The affirmation of infant baptism is not based on an argument from silence. Rather, the denial of infant baptism is based on an argument from silence.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 7

7. The New Testament abounds with the apostolic practice of family baptism.

When God opened Lidia's heart to attend to the things Paul had spoken, we are told that she was baptized, and her household. When the Philippian jailer believed he was baptized, he and his household. We also read of the household of Stefanas being baptized. It would be a remarkable coincidence, surely worth pointing out, if none of these “households” had any children. But surely this is beside the point. At any rate, the principle of family baptism, that is, of receiving all the younger members of the household on the faith of their domestic head, seems to be plainly and decisively established by the practice of the apostles.

Let me ask question. Has anyone ever heard of a case of family baptism at the hands of a Baptist minister? Has there ever been recorded a case when under the influence of a Baptist minister, the parents of a large family were converted and were then baptized, they and all theirs? I have no reticence in affirming that such a case has never been recorded. Why? The only answer that can be given is that our Baptist brothers do not act upon the principles laid down in the New Testament and which were practiced by the primitive Christians.

Great hay is made about remaining true to New Testament practice. Multitudinous arguments are made for “believers baptism” on the strength of this supposed following of the New Testament church's practice. But if the deniers of infant baptism are truly so zealous to follow New Testament practice, why do we not know of any family baptism at the hands of a Baptist minister? The question nearly needs to be asked to be answered.

Let me reiterate. I am not being glib or flippant. I mean no disrespect to the devout credo-baptist. But nonetheless, the question stands: With all the talk about following Apostolic New Testament practice, why do we never hear of Baptist ministers performing household baptisms - something we clearly see in Scripture as both Apostolic and New Testament?

I might further add that there is a bigger fish for the credo-baptist to fry with regard to the oikos (household) baptisms, and that is the fact that households in the Apostolic era included servants who were not related to anyone in the family. This is implied in the case of the Philippian jailer by the words, "he and his." From the standpoint of those who reject infant baptism, the inclusion into covenant of servants by being under the authority of the covenant head of the household, is a far bigger issue than the inclusion of infants or small children. And it is really not facing the issue honestly to run to the quick expedient of denying their existence. If we know anything about 1st century homes, it is that they had children and that they had servants. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 6

6. Baptism has replaced circumcision, and therefore is rightfully and properly applied to the same subjects.

This is a subject I have written on its length. I will therefore not launch into a long defense of that statement. Instead let me briefly demonstrate the identity of the two sacramental seals by looking at what Paul says in Colossians 2:11. (What I have written can be found here.

In Colossians 2:11, Paul tells us, “in Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision done by Christ." Before we proceed, it is crucial to remember Paul's constant invective against those who insist that circumcision is necessary for Christians. It should be obvious then that whatever Paul is referring to here, he does not mean physical circumcision. Let's let Paul explain himself. How does he say we were circumcised by Christ? He says, “having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith.” The first word of verse 12 (συνταφεντες), is a participle describing the circumstances in which believers are circumcised. In other words, Paul is saying that we are circumcised with a spiritual circumcision (made without hands) with the circumcision of Christ and this is done by being baptized. It is common (based on Romans 6) to use burial as an illustration of baptism. Notice here though, that Paul uses burial as an illustration of circumcision. He says, “You were circumcised by having been buried…” Chrysostom clearly grasped this when he wrote, ”No longer, he saith, is the circumcision with the knife, but in Christ Himself; for no hand imparts this circumcision, as is the case there, but the Spirit. It circumciseth not a part, but the whole man. It is the body both in the one and the other case, but in the one it is carnally, in the other it is spiritually circumcised; but not as the Jews, for ye have not put off flesh, but sins. When and where? In Baptism.” (Homily 6 on Col.)

Therefore Paul concludes that in the New Covenant, our baptism is our circumcision. It identifies us with Christ’s death. This is why Paul so adamantly opposed the Judaizers who wished to impose circumcision upon Christians. Baptism is the sign of our having been circumcised in Christ. For this reason physical circumcision in the new covenant is unnecessary. Baptism identifies us with Christ's death and faith is the means by which we united to Christ.

Looking back on the first New Testament administration of the sacrament of baptism, we see Peter actually equate circumcision with baptism. How, you ask. Precisely because when Peter says, “the promise is to you and to your children, and all who are far off," he is using the exact same formula that God Himself used when He instituted the sacrament of circumcision in Genesis 17:7. And the Jews understood this clearly.

Let’s be clear about what we mean. We are not saying that in the Christian church circumcision was discontinued, or laid aside, and that baptism has now been brought in. We mean that baptism occupies the same place as the appointed ordinance in the church, and that as a sacrament it means the same thing. The meaning and design of circumcision was primarily spiritual. It was not solely, or even mainly, given in respect to the possession of Canaan and the temporal promises related to residents in that land. Circumcision was a sign and seal of a spiritual covenant which had more important blessings and promises that were conveyed through the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. The same is true for baptism.

Circumcision was a token of visible membership in the family of God and of covenant obligation to him. The same is true for baptism circumcision publicly ratified entrance into that visible family. Baptism does the same. Circumcision was an emblem strike that circumcision was a symbol of spiritual cleansing. So does baptism. Baptism refers to the remission of sins by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by his Holy Spirit. It teaches us that we are by nature guilty and depraved and need pardoning in sanctifying grace of God. Shirley we are on good ground when we assert that baptism has come in the place of circumcision. All evangelicals, whatever their convictions on this subject may be, are agreed that circumcision as a seal of the covenant has been discontinued. Granting that to be true, does not it stand to reason that a no other sign and seal must take its place? If baptism means the same pairing, seals the same covenant, and is a pledge of the same spiritual blessings, how can the identity of baptism with circumcision be disputed?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 5

5. If infants were once members, and the Church remains the same, then they are still members, unless some positive divine enactment excluding them can be found.

It was a positive divine enactment which brought them in and gave them a place in the Church. Unless we can find a positive divine enactment casting them out of the church into which they were placed under the Old Testament administration of the covenant of grace, then we are not only justified in assuming that they still have a place, but we err greatly in assuming that they don't. I challenge anyone to produce such an act of repeal and exclusion. We have already demonstrated the identity of the church under both administrations. Scripture clearly teaches the perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant. In this covenant, not merely the lineal descendants of Abraham, but all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. We do not find even the slightest hint in the New Testament that this high privilege granted to the infant children of believers is, or ever was withdrawn.

Opponents of infant baptism nearly always resort to an appeal about the lack of a New Testament warrant for the practice. The advocates of infant baptism are under no obligation to produce an express warrant in the New Testament for the membership of the children of believers. That warrant was given in the most formal and express terms possible 2,000 years before the New Testament was written. It has never been revoked and therefore firmly remains and is indisputably still in force.

It is truly lamentable that our Baptist brothers cannot be prevailed upon to see the length and breadth of this fact. There were little babies, 8 days old, fully and publicly acknowledged as members of the covenant community - a community consecrated to God - and stamped with a covenant seal by which they were formally bound as the seed of believers to be entirely and forever the Lord's. I don't see how infant baptism and infant membership in the church can be ridiculed without impugning the wisdom of God who was with “his church in the wilderness, and whose ways are all wise and righteous” (Acts 7:38).

There are two mistakes that are likely to be made regarding members of the covenant under the Old Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace:

1. Presume all were saved
2. Presume most weren't

As I never tire of saying: Covenant is not co-extensive with election. But, God is faithful to His covenant promise to be a God to us and our offspring. None of the Old Testament narrative books appear to work on the assumption that that the sins of Israel's and Judah's kings was to be simply expected because they were unregenerate. It is always, always cast in the language of unfaithfulness to God. The cases of reprobation in the covenant community are not there to undermine our trust in God's promise to be ours and our children's God.

Mistake #1 equates covenant with election. Scripture flatly repudiates this. Mistake #2 emphasizes the cases of reprobation (Cain, Esau, etc.) to the detriment of God's promise. We therefore admit that covenant is not co-extensive with election, nevertheless, we do not let this fact become so big in our eyes as to undermine our confidence in God's covenant promise.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 4

4. Everyone acknowledges that the infant seed of the people of God were members of the church, equally with their parents, under the Old Testament administration. Yet it is equally certain that the church of God is the same in substance now as it was then. Of course, it is just as reasonable and proper in principle, that the infant offspring of professed believers should be members of the church now as it was that they should been members of that ancient church.

The only way around this logic is to deny the identity of the Church of God under the old administration of the covenant of grace with the New Testament church. There is no other way to go. One must assert that the Church of God under the Old Testament economy is not the same, but is so essentially different that the same principles cannot apply to each. Due to the poisonous influence of Dispensationalism in contemporary evangelicalism, many people are perfectly happy to make that assertion. It never ceases to amaze me how people can hold this view while claiming to take the New Testament seriously. Every single one of the promises God has made to his New Testament church, is to be found in substance somewhere in the Old Testament. The New Testament writers constantly take Old Testament promises God made to Israel and apply them to the New Testament Church. If the two bodies are not in essence the same, then this is illegitimate. This is tantamount to an attempt to prosecute someone in the United States for behavior which is perfectly legal in the United States, but is illegal in Zimbabwe, or vice versa. There is no conceivable basis on which to make this work. The only grounds on which an Old Testament promise can be applied to a New Testament believer is if we take it for granted that both Old Testament believers and New Testament believers are living under the same covenant of grace, despite the fact that it was administered in two different ways.

Let’s face it, Scripture plainly teaches the perpetuity of the Abrahamic covenant. This is a detail so clear, it is unbelievable that any believer of the Bible can call the fact into question. If Galatians doesn’t at least teach us this, it teaches us nothing. Everything essential to establishing the identity of the Old Testament and New Testament churches is found in Scripture. They have the same Head, the same covenant, the same spiritual design, the same atoning blood and the same sanctifying Spirit. Below is a chart exhibiting what I have just asserted regarding the identity of the Old and New Testament Church:

Titles/Features                                       Old Testament Believers                                       New Testament Believers
1. Saints                                                 (Num. 16:3; Deut. 33:3)                                          ( Eph. 1:1; Rom. 1:7)
2. Elect                                                   (Deut. 7:6,7; 14:2)                                                   (Col. 3:12; Tit. 1:1)
3. Beloved                                              (Deut. 7:7)                                                               (Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 1:4)
4. Called                                                 (Isa. 41:9; 43:1)                                                       (Rom. 1:6, 7; 1 Cor. 1:2)
5. Church                                               (Ps. 89:5; Mic. 2:5{LXX})                                     ( Ac. 7:38; 20:28;  Heb. 2:12; Eph. 1:1)
6. Flock                                                  (Eze. 34; Ps. 77:20)                                                 (Luke 12:32; 1 Pet. 5:2)
7. Holy Nation                                       (Ex. 19:5, 6)                                                             (1 Pet. 2:9)
8. Kingdom of Priests                            (Ex. 19:5, 6)                                                             (1 Pet. 2:9)
9. Peculiar Treasure                               (Ex. 19:5, 6)                                                             (1 Pet. 2:9)
10. God’s People                                   (Hos. 1:9, 10)                                                          (1 Pet. 2:9)
11. Holy People                                    (Deut. 7:6 )                                                              (1 Pet. 1:15, 16)
12. People of Inheritance                       (Deut. 4:20)                                                             (Eph 1:18)
13. God Dwells w/ Them                      (Lev. 26:12)                                                             (John 1:14)
14. God Walks Among Them                (Lev. 26:12)                                                             (2 Cor. 6:16-18)
15. 12 Patriarchs/Apostles                    (Gen. 49)                                                                 (Mat.10:1; Eph.2:20)
16. Christ Married to Them    (Isa. 54:4; Jer. 3:14; Hos. 2:19; Jer. 6:2, 31:32)                   (Eph. 5:22, 23; 2 Cor. 11:2)

Furthermore, in writing to the Galatians (4:1-6), Paul formally compares the covenant people of God under the Old Testament administration to an underage heir. In Hebrews 4:2, referring to the children of Israel, the inspired author writes, “Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them.” In 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Paul declares, “they That did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ.” Jesus himself tells us in John 8:56, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it, and was glad.” In the light of all of these factors, we are fully justified in saying that the Old Testament believers were indeed not only a church, but a Gospel Church, a church of Christ built on the same foundation.

But Romans 11 puts the subject past debate. This passage places the identity of the Church under both administrations in the clearest light. This is a remarkably decisive passage. The Church of God is held forth to us under the imagery of an olive tree. What makes this so remarkable is that this is the same designation the Lord used to picture his Church in Jeremiah 11. Jeremiah says to God’s covenant people, “The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit’” (v. 16a). The prophet then declaims against the covenant people’s forsaking the Lord in the 2nd half of verse 16. Jeremiah declares, “But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed.” I challenge you to compare the language of this passage with the language of the apostle in Romans 11, especially verses 15 – 24, which reads:

For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

There can be no doubt that Paul is speaking here of the Old Testament Church under the figure of a good olive tree. Everyone acknowledges this, even the Baptists who deny the identity of the church in the Old and New Testaments. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle says concerning this olive tree, that the natural branches (i.e. the Jews) were broken off because of unbelief. But what is the consequence of this excision? Was the tree destroyed? Not at all! In fact, Paul teaches the exact opposite. Paul teaches that the Gentile believers, wild by nature, were grafted into the good olive tree, i.e. the same tree from which the natural branches had been broken off. What tree was this but the Old Testament Church? I fail to see how Paul could have argued the identity of the church under the two administrations any more clearly.

But not only that: Paul also tells us that the Jews will be brought back from their rebellious rejection of Christ and will be incorporated with the Christian church. How is he described as restoration? He calls it a grafting in again into their own olive tree. In other words, the tree into which Gentile Christians were grafted was the old olive tree of which the ancient covenant people of God were the natural branches. This means that when the Jews shall be brought in with the fullness of the Gentiles into the Christian church, they will be grafted back into their old olive tree! If the church of God before the coming of Christ and the church of God after the coming of Christ were completely distinct and separate bodies then it would be an abuse of terms to represent the Jews, after conversion to Christianity, as being grafted in again to their own olive tree.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 3

3. The very fact of the church membership of infants in the Old Testament economy is a clear indication of God's will in the regard to this matter. To say that God does not will infants to be members of His visible kingdom is a hard sell, especially considering the fact that Scripture gives us over 2,000 years of it clearly on display in the Old Testament administration of the covenant of grace.

Whatever doubts we may entertain about the status of Old Testament believers, one thing is most definitely clear: the infant children of these believers were in fact members of the church under this administration of the covenant of grace. As such they were the regular subjects of the covenant seal: circumcision.

When God called Abraham and established the covenant with him, not only did he embrace Abraham's infant seed in very clear terms, but He also appointed an ordinance by which this relation of all his children to the visible church was to be publicly ratified and sealed, and this when they were only 8 days old. This covenantal church membership of believers was a self-perpetuating scheme. Every child who was circumcised, that is who received the covenant seal impressed upon their flesh, received it from the hands of adults who had been brought into the covenant themselves when they were but 8 days old. The New Testament explicitly teaches by the inspiration of God Himself, that circumcision was “the seal of the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:11). Those who view circumcision as being merely a pledge of possession of Canaan and the enjoyment of temporal prosperity in the Promised Land sell the covenant seal short. It was a sign and seal of God’s promise in which “all the families of the earth were to be blessed.”

Let’s step away for a moment and consider how profound the theological implications of the covenant of grace were under the Old Testament administration. One merely has to read Paul’s epistle to the Romans to see this. Paul argues conclusively in that epistle that the covenant of grace exhibited in the New Testament Christian church is exactly the same covenant of grace God established with Abraham. In Galatians, Paul goes so far as to say that if you are in Christ, regardless of your ethnic derivation, you are a child of Abraham according to the promise (Gal. 3:29). And let me hasten to remind the reader that Galatians was not written to ethnic Jews. Calling these Greek Gentiles believers “offspring of Abraham” is a monumentally significant theological statement. It goes to the very heart of how Christians should read the Old Testament. It either applies to us with equal force and relevance as it did to the Jews who lived under that administration of the covenant of grace, or it is utterly irrelevant and useless for Christians. Few, if any, Christians would ever publicly and openly espouse such a radical position. But what difference does that make if, as is typical in evangelicalism, the Old Testament is relegated to realm of legend? Even among those who swear by the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, many can be found who absolutely ignore or neglect the Old Testament, which amounts to the same thing as rejecting its relevance.

Now, let’s return to what we were looking at the moment ago. God appointed a covenant seal to ratify this promise and to signify His faithfulness to it. This covenant seal was not appointed by God as some dark, esoteric, mysterious secret initiation rite by which only well-informed adult initiates, after having solemnly received the seal, could be admitted into the covenant relationship. Not on your life. God appointed this covenant sign to be administered, and it actually was administered for nearly 2000 years to infants, only 8 days old, as a sign and token of their relation to God's covenant family and as a sign of their right to the privileges of that covenant. Now we ask the burning question: If God in His infinite wisdom saw that it was right that infants should be made the subjects of the “seal of the righteousness of faith” before they were capable of exercising faith, why should a transaction the same in substance, not be right and suitable now?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Infant Baptism Defended, Argument 2

2. The natural, close, and loving relationship which exists between parents and children provides a strong argument in favor of the church membership of the infant children of believers. Once their membership is conceded, any opposition to the public acknowledgement of it by the seal of baptism vanishes, for it follows as a necessary consequence. One cannot be a member while being denied the seal of said membership.

It seems to me that nature itself pleads the case of children in this regard. Across the globe, across all eras of time, across all cultures, races, and languages, the natural bond between parents and their offspring is daily manifested. Are we to believe then, that in the Church (which is the ultimate family) this bond of love is nonexistent or suppressed?

Can the stem be in the church, and the branch be out of it? Is it possible that the parent, while he is in the visible kingdom of God, his children: bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, - have no connection to it at all? This is not the case in any other society in the entire world!

No civil society operates on this principle. Children are born citizens of the nation in which their parents resided at the time of their birth. By virtue of their birth they are plenary citizens. This means they are bound by all the duties, and entitled to all the privileges of that citizenship whenever they become capable of exercising them. They can never lose the privileges of their citizenship except by the commission of a crime. So why should this great principle which God has so deeply and permanently implanted in all human relations be set aside in the church of God? Why should it be less powerful in grace than it is in nature?

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