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.


  1. Andy, loving the series--thanks. I may need to write a series of blog posts when yours is over. All with charity, of course.

    I agree with almost everything you've said here. However, regarding your opening statement, "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," I think I'd understand it similarly with a subtle difference.

    Need I preface this by saying I am not a dispensationalist? I just want to make sure I'm not misunderstood. There is a continuity in the Church. It has always been one people of God: Christ's Church.

    But where the subtlety comes in is how you define "church". I do not believe that every Hebrew person was a part of the Church before Christ came, even though the Abrahamic covenant was primarily to ethnic Jews. That is the point Paul is making in Romans 9:6-8:

    ---But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.---

    In other words, I believe that [just like now], God has his true Church, his elect, within the visible church. The visible church today are the souls who attend, but the visible church before Christ was the nation of Israel. But not all of them were in the Church, just as those who darken the door of a church building are not necessarily a part of the Church.

    And I believe that ultimately God's promises (even his Old Covenant promises) were for the invisible Church--Abraham's True Seed (Christ and those who are his) according to Galatians 3:16.

    There is more to be said and discuss, of course, but I do believe it's possible to understand the Covenant of Grace differently without denying the identity of the Church of God under the old administration (and without being a dispensationalist).

    1. Bill, thanks for interacting. Iron sharpens iron. I will not respond at great length here because probably some of your concerns will be addressed in further posts in this series. But, for starters, let me assure you that I know you are not a dispensationalist. “Particular Baptists,” who reject the practice of paedobaptism have based their objections on the definition of the “Church” since their very beginnings in the 17th Century, long before the system was concocted in the late 19th Century by Darby, who incidentally was criticized sharply by his contemporary Spurgeon.

      As far as defining the Church goes, I take for granted everything you have mentioned. Paul’s explanation in Romans 9:6-8 ties back into what he said to the same effect in Romans 2: 17-29. The distinction between Church Visible and Church Invisible is a valid distinction, if only from the human perspective, because that is what we are analyzing. Your comments show that you recognize this distinction also. This is how we, this side of Glory, account for the fact represented by 1 Corinthians 11:19 & 1 john 2:9. No finite human is competent to assess the reality of any other man’s profession of faith: The Lord knows those who are His. I never tire of reminding people that covenant is not coextensive with election, and these two passages from Romans bear that out. Even from the beginning Israel was a “mixed multitude” (Ex. 12:38), and in the outward covenant people, God has always had and always will have His elect remnant (2 Kings 19:31; Isa. 10:22; 37:32; Micah 5:7; 7:18; Rom. 9:27; 11:5). As the old preachers used to say, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a henhouse makes you a chicken.”

      Much more will be said to these points in the following posts, which will, prayerfully, answer any questions you may have at the present stage of my series. As the series unfolds, I will be presenting positive arguments; after which I will present and respond to a host of objections. I implore your patience. The articles will post twice a week.

    2. I might also add that the question of whether or not even single Jew was a member of the Church seems to be irrelevant to the point I am attempting to make. The church membership of the infant children of “believers” is what is under consideration. Even if we completely disregard the nominal churchgoer (which we could never safely do in practice, being finite-minded beings and prone to misjudgment), the basic argument stands. If I knew infallibly that Mr. Smith is in actuality reprobate, I might be able to cede the point, but only with regard to him and his children, provided Mrs. Smith was known infallibly to be reprobate also. But, as I say, this leaves the basic premise untouched. What about Mr. Jones, who is infallibly known to be elect, i.e., true Israel according to the promise? Surely this puts a completely different aspect to the question of the standing of his children with regard to the covenant.

      I will restrain my urge to continue, since the many scheduled posts in this series will elucidate these matters more fully.


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