Ishmael and Infant Baptism

hagar_ismael_grtWe heard a sermon from Genesis 17 this morning, and I couldn’t help but draw some conclusions relative to the current discussion about infant baptism that is ongoing at Together For the Gospel and at Between Two Worlds.

Of course this is a complicated discussion that probably isn’t well conducted by blog. It involves large and difficult hermeneutical questions (e.g., how do the Old and New Testaments relate? How do we read the old relative to the new?) and questions touching eschatology, polity, and practice.

Nevertheless, difficulties acknowledged, I forge ahead. Here is a brief exposition of the confessional Reformed approach to infant baptism.

This morning I was impressed by the flow of the narrative of Genesis 17. In vv. 1–14 Yahweh institutes infant (and adult) circumcision as the sign and seal (Rom 4:11) of the promises made to him. In vv. 17–21 God tells Abraham that he (God) will not establish his covenant with Ishmael, but with Isaac. He will bless Ishmael and make of him many nations, but the line of the covenant is through Isaac (v. 21) who will be born a year later. Immediately after this announcement, in vv. 22–27 what do we see?

Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him (Gen 17:23).

It is quite striking that, immediately after God announces that the covenant is not to be administered through and the promise is not to Ishmael but to Isaac, Abraham, in obedience to the institution of the sign and seal of initiation into the covenant community, administers circumcision to himself (at age 99!) and to his 13 year old son, Ishmael (vv.24–25) and not only they but, according to v. 27, “…all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.”

Now I have a question for you and I want you to think carefully before you answer because this is a very important question and it’s one that a great lot of well-meaning folk get wrong: To what covenant did Abraham belong?

If you’re like a lot of evangelical folk you might be tempted to say, “Why Abraham belonged to the Old Covenant, of course!”

Really? Did he really belong to the Old Covenant? Are you sure? Are you certain? “Well,” you say, “He lived before Christ. Isn’t it the case that everyone who lived before Christ lived under the Old Covenant?”

I thought that might be what you assumed, but it’s a bad assumption. Not everything or everyone before the incarnation was ipso facto old covenant.

Notice how Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of the Old and New Covenants. He begins with the New Covenant. In v. 3 he describes the Corinthians as “a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God….” He establishes the parameters here within which he is going make the contrast. We, who live in this epoch of redemptive history are of one sort, and they, who lived under a different epoch are characterized differently. In vv. 4-5 Paul turns to the question of his “competence” to be a “minister,” but the question remains, a minister of what? He answers in v. 6: “ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” We cannot understand here, what he means by “New Covenant” until we understand the contrast that he is making.

From v. 7 he turns his attention to the nature of the Old Covenant and to the contrast with the New. He contrasts “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” with the “ministry of the Spirit” in v. 8. In v. 9 he contrasts the “ministry of condemnation” with the “ministry of righteousness.” When was the “ministry of death?” and the “ministry of condemnation”? He says (v. 7) that it came “with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ [emphasis mine – rsc] face….” In vv. 7–8 Paul clearly identifies the “ministry of death” with Moses. Thus the contrast is between Moses and the ministry of the Spirit and the ministry of righteousness. Paul continues making this contrast through v. 13. In v. 14, having pointed out that Moses covered his face with the veil Paul comments of the Jews, “For to this day, nwhen they read the old covenant [emphasis mine- rsc], that same veil remains unlifted….”

When Paul thinks of the Old Covenant, of what period in redemptive history does he think? Of everything and everyone before the incarnation? No. Not at all. He thinks of Moses and the epoch associated with him. In v. 15 he makes the association absolutely explicit: “Yes, to this day whenever Moses [emphasis mine—rsc] is read a veil lies over their hearts.”

Please notice the contrast that Paul makes in v 17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” From there in v. 18 he places his readers and hearers (the Corinthians and us) in a different state: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord….” We’re not in the Mosaic epoch. We not under the ministry of death etc. We’re not in the Old Covenant, and neither was Abraham.

In 2 Corinthians 3, when Paul says “Old Covenant” whom and what epoch of redemptive history does he have in mind? Moses. There is a greater contrast here, on which Calvin dwells in his commentary on this passage, i.e., the contrast between two types of speech, law and gospel, but our interest here is in the historical-redemptive contrast that Paul makes.

If the Old Covenant is identified with Moses, then the New Covenant is new relative to Moses. This is exactly how Paul uses these terms in 2 Corinthians 3. He does not make a universal contrast between everything before and after the incarnation. The parameters of the contrast are very specific.

This is not to say that there is no inferiority between the covenant of grace as it was administered before the incarnation and the covenant of grace as it was administered after the incarnation. The time, even under Abraham, before the incarnation was a time of types (illustrations of things to come) and shadows (hints of things to come).

In Hebrews 7:22, reflecting on Ps 110:1, 4, the writer calls the New Covenant a “better covenant” than the promises to David. The whole Mosaic theocracy, priesthood, and Davidic kingship was typological and intended to be temporary, to be fulfilled by the reality: Christ, ” a Son who has been made perfect forever” (v. 28).

Hebrews 8:5–7 make clear the contrast between the Old, Mosaic Covenant and the New. The old priesthood served a “copy and shadow” of the heavenly reality. “For when Moses was about to erect the tent….” Notice again the contrast he makes: “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is cas much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” [emphasis mine -rsc]

Here the New Covenant is that under Christ and mediated by Christ.

“Okay,” you say, “fine, but doesn’t that strengthen the case that the New Covenant is completely different from the Old and further I don’t see Abraham mentioned anywhere.”

Good questions. What I’m doing here is trying to establish the premise that not everything that happened before Christ is, strictly speaking, “Old Covenant.” So far, from these two passages alone, I think this much is clear: that, strictly speaking, the Old Covenant describes the Mosaic epoch. I’ll answer the question about Abraham below.

We could spend a lot more time in Hebrews, but lets go to Galatians 3. Here Paul is, of course—setting aside the NPP reconstruction of 2nd Temple Judaism and Paul—debating with the Judaizers about the nature of justification but in so doing, he also explains the relations between the Old (Mosaic) covenant the the New. In v. 5 he contrasts the “works of the law,” with “hearing with faith…”

To whom does Paul appeal as the example of one who “hears by faith”? v. 6: “just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?” He elaborates this point in v. 7, but don’t miss the point. When Paul wants to illustrate the instrumental nature of faith in the declaration of justification he appeals to Abraham, but Abraham is more than a mere example, after all the writer to the Hebrews appeals to those who were indisputably “Old Covenant” people as examples of faith in Hebrews 11. In vv. 7–9 Paul says more.

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, l“In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Don’t miss the fundamental identification of all New Covenant believers with Abraham. “It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” In other words, genetics means nothing — never has– ultimately. What matters is true faith, and specifically faith that inherits or receives the promise of justification sola gratia, sola fide, the same promise given to Abraham. Thus we are blessed “along with Abraham.”

Does Abraham here appear as an “Old Covenant” figure? No. Keep going in Galatians 3. In v. 10 Paul contrasts “those who rely on works of the law” with (v. 11) “The righteous shall live by faith.” How does the blessing of Abraham come to anyone? In v. 14, it is “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham” comes to “the Gentiles…..”

Here comes the clincher. In v. 15 Paul appeals to the way covenants were made in the ancient world. No one annuls a “man-made” covenant “or adds to it once it has been ratified.” This is significant because “the promises were made to Abraham and to his seed. It does not say, “And to seeds,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your seed,” who is Christ.” In other words, whoever has faith in Christ has the promise, because Christ is the promise. Abraham had faith in Christ. Abraham was a Christian. Abraham is not identified with Moses, who is typically identified with the law, rather he is identified with the gospel.

In v. 17 Paul makes the point even clearer. The Mosaic covenant, the Old Covenant, came 430 years after the promise to Abraham. It was a codicil to the covenant. It didn’t change the fundamental character of the covenant of grace God made with Abraham and to his children. Why was the Mosaic, Old Covenant given? In v. 19 Paul says that it was given “because of transgressions,” i.e., it was given as a schoolmaster to drive sinners to Christ. For the rest of the chapter he elaborates on how the Old Covenant was temporary and the covenant of grace is not. Indeed, he wrote a whole the better part of an entire chapter on this very theme in Gal 4. Those who think that the Old, Mosaic, Covenant is the “real thing” are looking in the wrong direction. There are two women, Hagar and Sarah, who represent (Gal 4:24-31) two covenants. Sarah (Abraham and Isaac) represents the covenant of grace and Hagar (and Ishmael) represent the Jerusalem from below.

Again, going back to Romans 4 just briefly, how does Paul speak of Abraham? He is the “father of all who believe” (4:11), both Jew and Gentile. Abraham was justified by faith and so are we. We are under the same promises, the same grace that he was. Thus our Lord said, “Abraham saw my day and rejoiced” (John 8:56).

Abraham was a member of the very same covenant of grace of which we are members. He was a member of the covenant of grace under a different, typological administration, but it was the same covenant of grace.

To deny that is to verge toward Marcion.

From the beginning of the one covenant of grace, what did the Lord command: the initiation of heretofore uninitiated adults and their children, indeed, their whole households (Gen 17). Does Paul (and the writer to the Hebrews) think that we’re in the same covenant of grace as Abraham? Yes. Has the promise to parents and children been revoked? No. Peter, Acts 2:39, says, “the promise is to you and to your children.” That’s the language of Genesis 17.

Are there differences? Yes, but the New Covenant is not wholly new or so utterly eschatological (heavenly) that its administration necessarily excludes all but those who make a profession of faith.

The New Covenant is not heaven. It is still this side of the consummation. There are still Ishmael being included in the administration of the covenant of grace, even though we live on this side of the incarnation and the fulfillment of the promises.

“What about the language of Jeremiah 31? The picture you’re describing doesn’t sound much like Jeremiah 31?” Says who? Who gets to say what Jeremiah 31 says and means? I think Peter and Paul have something to say about it and it’s clear from Acts and Galatians and Hebrews 6 and 10 and elsewhere that there have always, even under the apostles, been some who are involved in the external administration of the covenant of grace who were not elect. We have to read Jeremiah 31 through the lens of the NT. We can’t decide a priori how things ought to look in a Jeremiah 31 church and then set out to set it up (by excluding covenant children from the administration of the covenant of grace) to make it so. That is an over-realized eschatology.

ps. I think the Baptist says that, because it is so different from Abraham, in the New Covenant, there can be no “Ishmaels.”

This position seems highly problematic from a NT point of view. Isn’t one of the great problems of the NT what to think about those who were “in” the congregations but who apostatized? It seems that the Baptists have the opposite problem of the Federal Visionists. Where the FV has the problem that every baptized person is said to be united to Christ, elect etc and has to retain all these benefits by grace and cooperation with grace, the Baptist says, “Only the believers (the elect) are in the New Covenant” so that those who are part of the administration of the covenant of grace aren’t really “in” the New Covenant.

We must adequately account for the distinction between the substance or essence or benefits of the covenant of grace and its administration. Paul certainly makes this distinction in Romans 2:28 (as the Hebrew scriptures do repeatedly) between those who are in the covenant of grace “outwardly” and those who are in the covenant of grace “outwardly” and inwardly, i.e., by grace alone through faith alone.

Isn’t this the solution to the problem that the self-described Federal Vision theology finds so perplexing? In Hebrews 6 there are apostates and the FV talk, like the Arminians, as if those who apostatized were elect, united to Christ etc. In other words, they set up the problem just as the Arminians did.

That’s the wrong problem. It’s possible for those who participate in the administration of the covenant of grace, in the New Covenant, to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Sure they do. They’re baptized (1 Cor 10) and they come to the Lord’s Table. They’re in the congregation. They hear the gospel. They sing the psalms and when they leave, they “profane the blood of the covenant.” They’ve walked between the pieces, as it were, they’ve gone through the covenant cutting ritual by coming to the Lord’s Table. They’ve received baptism and come under its promises but also its jeopardy.

They’re members of the New Covenant outwardly but not inwardly. They are in the covenant of grace externally but not internally.

It’s too much to say that Ishmael wasn’t in the covenant of grace or that, a priori there can be no Ishmael’s in the New Covenant. Of course there are Ishmael’s in the New Covenant, the NT mentions several of them, e.g., “Hymenaeus and Alexander,” in 1 Timothy 1:20. If there were Esaus and Ishmaels in the Abrahamic administration of the covenant of grace and there was a Hymenaeus and an Alexander (and Ananias and Sapphira) then is the New Covenant so utterly different from the covenant of grace is it was under Abraham? Different in degree, but in kind? So that children are no longer eligible to participate in the administration of the covenant of grace until they demontrate that they believe—really?

No, not if we avoid an over-realized eschatology and we distinguish between the outward and inward relations to the (new) Covenant of Grace.

[This post first appeared in 2007 on the HB]

47 comments

  1. Scott, I do appreciate you and your blog! As usual, VERY helpful. But I think the first-appeared date is just a little off….

  2. One Baptist interpretation rejects a third category of “common grace” in which a person is neither quite in Christ’s kingdom but also not completely in Satan’s kingdom. A baptist can simply deny that there is a “the covenant” in which the non-elect benefit from grace, whatever you happen to call it, be it ‘common grace” or “objective grace”.

    To say that this “covenant grace” is not “saving grace” makes you sound different from the Arminian interpretation, but the practical existential effect is the same. While you point to the irony of the federal vision agreeing with the baptists that all in the new covenant are “elect”, the facts indicate that the federal visionists are the fruit of covenant theology, not baptist theology.

    And of course you would say, not the correct covenant theology, not the historical covenant theology, and I would agree, but nevertheless the federal visionists are what happen when the difference between “saving grace” and the invented category of “common grace” begins to slip. Kuyper knew the difference. Many of his followers don’t.

    Even historical covenant theology imposes the administration/substance forumla to create a tertium quid between “foreigners to the covenant” and “elect members.” It says that some non-elect share the new covenant in common with the elect. It misreads 10 Hebrews reference to the sanctification of Christ and His covenant to refer to non-elect apostates.

  3. Mark,

    It doesn’t misread Hebrews 10:29-31. The Reformed covenant view provides the best explanation of Hebrews 10:29-31 which reads: “29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged 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 fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ”

    First off the passage in context is about judgement on God’s covenant people not Christ’s sanctification in his death.

    Second, the most immediate reference in both the Greek and of the English gloss of “he” is the one who profaned the covenant, not Christ.

    Third, this interpretation doesn’t help you anyway because of the fact that the Lord *will* judge “his people” eschatologically and some will be judged eschatologically to hell that is why it says vengeance is mine and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This means the people of God in the new covenant are both believers and unbelievers because some of the people of God end up in hell. The future tensed in Greek indicates that this will in fact happen and so this passage can’t be taken hypothetically. So you have got a problem here the covenant people of God end up in hell. So if you think that the covenant is coextensive with salvation (that is all who are in the covenant are necessarily saved) then of course someone ends up losing their salvation. That seems very arminian to me and it threatening the beautiful truth that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:37-39). If one does not hold to the internal and external distinctions in the covenant of grace, as those in the Reformed tradition do, then I am afraid the most consistent route is to become an arminian.

  4. Mark,

    Hahaha….don’t bother responding to me….I totally misread what you said. I thought you were defending the baptist view. My apologies.

  5. RSC, dead link alert:
    “There is a helpful essay by my colleague, Dennis Johnson, on this same topic here.”

  6. Paul says in 2Cor3 that both the Old Covenant and Moses are capable of being “read”. One can only read what is written. Therefore, to read Moses is to read what Moses wrote. Moses wrote about God’s promise to Abraham and to his Seed. When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ the veil is removed and you read Moses with understanding. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you read Moses in ignorance.

  7. The Old “Abrahamic” Covenant, well it wasn’t really necessarily applying Abraham. The New Covenant, it was actually addressed to Abraham. Let me tell you how it actually went… *insert logical inferences here*, *insert theology here*, *insert loose scriptural references here*, *insert quibs here*. Excellent, now we have solid doctrine on which to dispense those evil re-baptizers! Now lets just go about redefining these verses with the same standard:

    Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    Acts 22:16 – And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

    Matthew 3:11 – I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire:

    Mark 16:16 – He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    1 Peter 3:21 – The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

    Acts 2:41 – Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls.

    Acts 10:48 – And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

    Romans 6:4 – Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    Acts 8:38 – And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

    Colossians 2:12 – Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with [him] through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

    Acts 8:36-39 – And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? (Read More…)

    Acts 8:26-39 – And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. (Read More…)

    John 3:23 – And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

    Matthew 3:16 – And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

    Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: (Read More…)

    Galatians 3:27 – For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

    1 Corinthians 12:1-31 – Now concerning spiritual [gifts], brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (Read More…)

    Acts 10:47 – Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

    Acts 9:18 – And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

    Acts 8:36-38 – And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? (Read More…)

    John 1:29-31 – The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (Read More…)

    John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    Mark 16:15 – And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

    Matthew 28:19 – Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Read More…)

    Hebrews 9:28 – So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

    Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

    Colossians 3:17 – And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

    Acts 2:1-47 – And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Read More…)

    John 4:1 – When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

    John 3:5 – Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    1 Peter 3:20 – Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

    Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

    Ephesians 4:4-6 – [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; (Read More…)

    Ephesians 2:8 – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God:

    Romans 6:3-4 – Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? (Read More…)

    Romans 6:3 – Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

    Romans 6:1-18 – What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (Read More…)

    Acts 18:8 – And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

    Acts 16:30-33 – And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Read More…)

    Acts 16:13-15 – And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted [thither]. (Read More…)

    Acts 10:47-48 – Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (Read More…)

    Acts 8:39 – And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

    Acts 8:36 – And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?

    Acts 8:35-39 – Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (Read More…)

    Acts 8:35-38 – Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. (Read More…)

    Acts 8:16 – (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)

    Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    John 14:26 – But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.

    John 5:43 – I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

    John 4:2 – (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

    John 4:1-2 – When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Read More…)

    John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    John 1:32-34 – And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. (Read More…)

    Luke 13:3 – I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

    Mark 1:10 – And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:

    Mark 1:9 – And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.

    • Sir Cliff,

      According to Paul, Abraham isn’t an old covenant figure. Here’s an explanation.

      You can pile up isolated verses out of context but it doesn’t help. E.g., you quote Acts 2:38 but you omit v. 39, which rather complicates things for the (Ana)baptist position. “For the promise is to you and to your children and to as many as who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” That’s Abraham.

      Context, context, context.

  8. Wow. That was a long and convoluted answer in exchange for a really simple and biblical one. In the context of Gen 17, Abraham was a part of the Abrahamic covenant, you know, the one that promised the gospel beforehand to the Gentiles say “In you shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”

    I think what this shows is the lengths to which covenant theology has to go to make their case, and on the way they are forced to climb over the most obvious, textual answer to the questions they pose.

    This is yet another illustration that the answers are much easier when we just read the Bible in its progressive revelation.

    • It’s not convoluted. God said, “I will be your God and your children’s God” and he’s never changed his mind.

      It’s long because of 500 years of confusion sown by the (ana)baptists.

    • Jesus taught his followers rigorous exegesis. Clark’s exposition above isn’t hard or convoluted; just thorough.

      When progressive revelation is transformed into a quasi-dispensational reread of the biblical Faith–so that the Bible is interpreted as a daisy chain of different religions, albeit with a single God–you don’t have a “simple and biblical” answer.

      You have a sound-byte. You have less than a quarter of divine revelation deemed relevant. You have resumption of the essential hermeneutical failure of the Pharisees, only transferred to a NT context.

      The Scribes had a “simple and biblical” answer for Jesus, the Apostles, and the first Christians. It is not the case that they weren’t searching the Scriptures, Jn.5:39. They were replete with fundamentalist, one-dimensional, exegetical failures of their birthright-oracles from God.

      The emotive and airy dismissal of CT, found above, is nothing but self-congratulation. Maybe Gene can explain the same text and answer Clark’s objections in half the space Clark took to do his job. Not that you’d know it…

  9. Nathaniel: So you have got a problem here the covenant people of God end up in hell. So if you think that the covenant is coextensive with salvation (that is all who are in the covenant are necessarily saved) then of course someone ends up losing their salvation. That seems very arminian to me and it threatening the beautiful truth that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:37-39). If one does not hold to the internal and external distinctions in the covenant of grace, as those in the Reformed tradition do, then I am afraid the most consistent route is to become an arminian.

    Mark: I am credobaptist. I was not so much defending “the baptist view”, because there are different “baptist views”. Some baptists have already “given away the farm” on sabbath and substance/administration so far that to be consistent they should concede infant water. And of course most baptists agree to a third category of “common grace” in which persons are not in the kingdom of Christ but also not quite out of it either.

    So I was more about attacking what is called “paedobaptism” which of course is not baptism at all. I was pointing out the continuity between covenant theology and the “federal vision”. On the one hand, Scott Clark writes that baptists and the FV make “opposite” mistakes and then he ends up saying they make the same mistake. I supposed he would defend both of the accusations, since both tend to divert our attention from the reality that FV comes out of covenant theology, which builds on the prior Augustinian/Lutheran notions of baptismal regenerations.

    The reading of Hebrews 10 of course is contested, and I can give you commentaries (by both paedos and credos) which argues both ways on the antecedent. Many credos agree that phenomenologically that apostates were members of the new covenant, but then they invoke the visible/ invisible church distinction (as they would in John 15 or I John 2) to say that those who leave were not “real” members of the covenant.

    And of course, paedos like Scott Clark tend to think they have a monopoly on the visible/ invisible construct so that baptists are not allowed to use it, or if they do use it, are conceding the administration/substance formula. Two quick observations. Why not say that the whole world is the “visible church”? Since the wheat/tares distinction is often used to defend a mixed view of “church”, even though the parable says the field is the world, why not just go the whole way and say that the whole world is the visible church, especially when so many of us have Christian ancestors if we go far enough back? This rule about having one parent judged a Christian by the priests over the priests is not something you find in the Abrahamic covenant, but a new discontinuity invented by the Magisterial Reformers. If you want to ignore the discontinuity between Abraham and the new covenant (by saying it’s all Mosaic and not Abrahamic), then you should not introduce even more.
    discontinuity.

    Second, and more important, even some paedobaptists criticize not only the notion of “common grace” (as a third category) and a conditional covenant. Protestant Reformed folks would criticise the Heyns’ notion that the new covenant is with non-elect infants. Surely Scott Clark knows about this history better than I do, but it doesn’t serve his purposes to talk about diversity in covenant theology when he’s trying to show the “simple mistakes” all baptists make.

    I don’t like hypotheticals, but if I had to choose between being a federal visionist or a CT who does the doubletalk about “administration/substance” and “the covenant” (not saying which covenant when it doesn’t suit), of course I would go with the doubletalk. But more likely, I would go Protestant Reformed.

    so let me ask you a hypoethical, Nathaniel, if you had to choose between a baptist like me who says that nobody in the new covenant ends up in the second death, even though there are folks who say that they are in the new covenant who are not, or a federal visionist like Doug Wilson who denies justification by faith alone and says that election becomes non-election, which view is Arminian and which way would you go?

    I can’t “sound Arminian” because I am not the one who says that people in the new covenant lose the “objective common grace” they had by being in the new covenant. I am not the one who says that the non-elect were in the “administration” of the new covenant.

    You are not “afraid for me” that I might become Arminian. We can argue about the Hebrews 10 text, we can argue about what the Abrahamic covenant says (How long after Ishmael was circumcised was he “cut off”?), but you can’t say that people who deny that the non-elect are in the covenant are Arminians. There’s nothing “consistent” about that.

    You are just begging the question again about the distinction between internal and external “covenant sanctification”.

  10. Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.

    So Ishmael was never an outward Jew, or was cut off from being an outward Jew? When? Were Esau and Ishmael in the outward “new covenant”? Were Jacob and Isaac in the new covenant?

    Romans 9: 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

    Since Abraham is the father of those who believe the gospel, does that mean that Abraham is not the father in any sense of Esau and Ishmael? Since Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that His seed would bring salvation and the “new covenant”, does this prove that Esau and Ishmael were in the new covenant? I suppose the problem here is that Paul is not using the administration/substance distinction and therefore Paul’s “not all” makes it sound like some kind of antithesis.

    Romans 9:8 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. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

    But it would be too simple to flat out say that Ishmael was “not a child of God” and not a “child of promise”. Better to ignore that there are various promises to Abraham, and assume that a promise to Abraham is also a promise to Ishmael, even if that promise turns out to be conditional.

    Romans 9: 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it….

    But this is not normal or ordinary. Usually you have to be in the covenant, and then it’s conditional on if you pursue it the right way, like we do.

    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.

    But focus on verse 24, and see that the law is about Sinai and Moses, so this is not about Abraham, not about the two sons of Abraham, even though verse 22 talks about Ishmael also, and verse 23 sounds like there is no promise for Ishmael, but we know this is not true, because we know that the Abrahamic covenant has a promise for Ishmael also, even if it’s conditional. So the son of the slave born according to the flesh really has nothing to do with Abraham but only with Moses.

    So it comes down to what the “new” in new covenant means. Does it mean “utterly” new or a “gradually a little” new or “someday in the end” new or “different in kind” new or “conditioned only on Christ” new? Is the new covenant in ANY WAY different from the Abrahamic covenant? Not when you talking to baptists, because then you need to keep it simple so they can get it .

    Since Scott Clark has used the rhetoric of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend News already , let me do so as well. REALLY?

    We tend to come out with the same presuppositions with which we entered. This is a long debate. It will not be resolved here soon. And it’s not because one side is stupid or rebels against God’s Word. Even when we make a distinction between outer and inner, that does not mean that we need to say that the never-justified yet are in the new covenant. Waiting to see who God calls is not only about waiting for Gentiles to come in. Unless we have an over-realized eschatology, we know that some of our children have not yet been called. The promise of the gospel was never for those who never believe it.

  11. Scott, You asked a simple question, “To what covenant did Abraham belong?” The answer, based on Scripture, is the Abrahamic covenant. I agree that God will be his God and his children’s God and he hasn’t changed his mind That’s why Galatians 3 is significant. The Law (430 later) did not annul the promise made to Abraham. The promise is still good (years after the coming of Christ, incidentally, the promise is still held out to the descendants of Abraham). That’s why there is still a future for Abraham’s descendants, which consistently in the NT, are distinguished from the church (cf. Rom 9-11, Gal 3, Gal 6). I have not read KTC though I have read reviews of it. I wasn’t impressed by the reviews.

    Your statement that we have to read Jer 31 from the NT perspective highlights a major flaw. Jeremiah 31 had meaning before the NT ever gave a perspective on it. The people in Jeremiah’s time were expected to hear that message, and believe it. They did not need the NT revelation to do that. God held them responsible for Jer 31 (and the rest of the OT) with any NT input on it. That is significant. The OT was sufficient on its own to bring both judgment and hope. And it has been shown that the NT does not change the New Covenant in anyway. What we read in Jer 31 is borne out in the NT.

    To Bruce, I don’t have a daisy chain of different religions, nor 1/4 of the Bible. I think Scott’s exposition was not exegesis at all. I pointed it out simply by pointing to the revealed history in the Bible. I don’t need half the space to answer Scott’s argument. It is much easier than that.

    In the end, I think Scott’s argument in this post shows, as I suggested, that his view requires an awful long of strained and convoluted argument that simply is not necessary in the Bible. There is a much simpler was to make sense of it.

    Thanks, brothers.

    • Gene,

      That you think following the New Testament interpretation of Jeremiah 31 is a mistake shows how profoundly confused the Baptist hermeneutic is.

      Thank you for demonstrating the inadequacy of such an approach.

    • Gene,
      Sure you have a daisy-chain. Your own statements demonstrate the fact, despite your denial.

      If the Bible from Genesis to Revelation doesn’t guide you, for example, in a proper formulation of today’s theology and practice of baptism, then you must fancy yourself a “NT Christian”–by which you distinguish yourself from a “whole Bible” Christian. Or to speak with respect to another category if a bit awkwardly, distinguished from an “OT Christian.”

      You can’t relate to either one of those categories, because according to your thinking, no one prior to the cross is in essentially the same relation to Christ as those who live after it. Yet, the latter is rather explicitly stated of Moses, Heb.11:26; you regard the former as insufficiently Linear in theological apprehension.

      As RSC notes above, you think Apostolic exegesis for biblical/theological purposes is out of place in today’s church. “Those foundation stones of the church don’t have anything to teach us about interpretation.”

      Don’t you know, the first century Bible had only 39 books to start with? With what material do you think Jesus was teaching his disciples for 3.5 years? In which TEXT do you think the NT leaders began grounding the practices of the nascent international-church, recently burst from its inadequate parochial wineskin?

      If your church can adequately–even if not ideally–conduct its ministry on the strength of 27 books (or less–some radicals go for truncated NT relevance as well), then for all practical purposes you rely on a 1/4Bible. If all the OT provides you is:
      1) a foil for NT adjustments;
      2) evidence that Jesus fulfills prophecy,
      3) a history lesson,
      then you don’t need the bulk of divine revelation for your religious health. For the (ana)Baptist and Dispensationalist, the OT is just an really long prologue. You resist letting the preexisting, OT context inform your reading of the NT. You read the OT not as the 1st century church did, but the way the Pharisees read Genesis–i.e. backward.

      Hand-waving is easy, I’ll grant you that. I read your “simpler” as “naive reductionist.” Besides which, your preferred method suffers its own version of complication, in a myriad of ad hoc, circumstantial revisions frequently rehearsed by defenders in these on-line chats. It’s facile to privilege (without argument!) your own views as “best,” most reasonable,” “obvious,” etc. Isn’t that what everyone would like to believe about their own position?

  12. Abraham was not under the “covenant of grace”. Abraham actually experienced two covenant events, both of which were typological in nature (see Gal 4:21-31). Gen 15 is a creational covenant, where Abraham, like Adam, transgresses the covenant promise by taking matters into his own hands. He puts forth his hands and takes the “forbidden fruit” of Hagar – which resulted in the son of slavery – Ishmael. Ishmael became the redemptive pattern for Israel under the Old Covenant. As such, Israel was the natural children of the slave woman, enslaved under Sinai’s Law, who could not inherit because she failed to see (by faith) that the Law pointed away from itself to Messiah (Rom 9:30 to 10:4).

    In Gen 17 Yahweh establishes new “unconditional” covenant with Abraham in which Yahweh promised to provide a son of promise. This covenant was a gracious “covenant of promise” (see Eph 2:12) which was sealed with the sign of circumcision. This covenant of promise pointed forward to the New Covenant (Gal 4:24). On a fleshly level this covenant was fulfilled in Isaac. But on a typological level this covenant of promise pointed forward to future eschatological Grace that was to be revealed with Messiah. Thus the Abrahamic covenant was like a personal cheque. It represented and promised a guaranteed pay out (grace). But the sum (grace) was not obtained until Messiah redeemed its value on the cross.

    Thus Abraham’s covenant, in and of itself, cannot be considered THE “covenant of grace”. It could not save anyone until the Anointed One made it sure. The promise of something is not the same as the actual possession of it. The inheritance is not acquired until the death of the predecessor and the last will and testament (promise) is executed.

    Furthermore, the true Son and heir of the Abrahamic promise is Messiah himself (Gal 3:16), not Isaac or Israel after the flesh.

    Isaac was merely the redemptive pattern who typified the Christ and all of his Spirit-born and indwelled children of the New Covenant age (Gal 3:29, 4:29).

    The promise of Abraham’s covenant is the indwelling presence of the Spirit that is given to all who believe into Jesus (Acts 2:38-39, Gal 3:14, Eph 1:13).

    “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”

    Therefore, when we look at Abraham as the apostle Paul did in Galatians 4, we see that his 2 covenantal events were merely foreshadows of the Old Covenant bondage which Israel was to experience under the Law’s enslavement AND the New Covenant liberty which Christ came to give his blood-washed people who are filled with His Spirit.

  13. Mark,

    I am not begging any questions. I am just giving you a biblical argument you haven’t addressed. You talk about commentaries taking the text a variety of ways and that is fine…surely there are lots of commentaries that take a variety of text a variety of ways but at the end of the days we have deal with actual arguments not hand waving and appealing to disagreements. In the end it is arguments that resolve disputes not empty hand waving appeals to authority. So to the arguments I will go to. It is not just a hypothetical in the text. It is a future tense in Greek “the Lord will judge his people” that is not hypothetical that is future. You haven’t even begun to answer my three points arguing in favor of the classical reformed view of the internal/external view of the covenant of grace from Hebrews 10:29-31.

    To answer your question: I would rather be a baptist than deny the Gospel as Doug Wilson has seem to do at many points. But I am not Doug Wilson and I do not say that all of the internal benefits of Christ are transferred to external members in the covenant. So I am able to remain consistent and say that there are covenant members like the Old Testament who do not receive all of the internal salvific benefits of Christ. Your view, however, is not consistent with the most plausible interpretation of Hebrews 10 (assuming the arguments I have made are correct which you have failed to address in your last response). If you were consistent with the most plausible interpretation of Hebrews 10 and your view that the covenant is coextensive with salvation then that would rationally entail a rejection of the P in TULIP which is an arminian position. So my point is not that you are an arminian but rather the most plausible interpretation of Hebrews 10:29-31 and your view of the covenant ought to rationally entail an arminian perspective (a rejection of perseverance of the saints).

    So just address my original argument. Remember I am giving an exegetical argument from Hebrews 10:29-31. I am arguing that the most plausible interpretation plus your view of the covenant entails a rejection of perseverance of the saints. I gave three points which you have failed to address in my previous post, so I will repeat them again:

    First off the passage in context is about judgement on God’s covenant people not Christ’s sanctification in his death.

    Second, the most immediate reference in both the Greek and of the English gloss of “he” is the one who profaned the covenant, not Christ.

    Third, this interpretation doesn’t help you anyway because of the fact that the Lord *will* judge “his people” eschatologically and some will be judged eschatologically to hell that is why it says vengeance is mine and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This means the people of God in the new covenant are both believers and unbelievers because some of the people of God end up in hell. The future tensed in Greek indicates that this will in fact happen and so this passage can’t be taken hypothetically. So you have got a problem here the covenant people of God end up in hell. So if you think that the covenant is coextensive with salvation (that is all who are in the covenant are necessarily saved) then of course someone ends up losing their salvation. That seems very arminian to me and it threatening the beautiful truth that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:37-39). If one does not hold to the internal and external distinctions in the covenant of grace, as those in the Reformed tradition do, then I am afraid the most consistent route is to become an arminian.

  14. Nathaniel, I am tempted to copy in here some of what I said and tell you that you did not respond to it. I would very much like for you to interact, instead of repeating what you said. If you did, it would encourage me to talk about the things I haven’t talked about yet, that you want me to talk about. So here’s a warning that I won’t simply answer your questions, while you ignore my arguments. But in good faith—I want to focus on the ‘common grace” tertium quid view of chapter ten.

    Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.”

    Nathaniel, the text has the idea of making the blood unclean, or profaning the sacred. This verse is used to teach that the new covenant can be broken, and that the new covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The idea of common grace is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the new covenant, and even more grace for the elect.

    I do not think Hebrews 10 is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation even if you say that only those who professed to believe the gospel should be admitted to a “visible church”.

    John Owen argued that it’s the “Son of God” (not the one who profanes)who is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

    Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified.

    Profaning or not profaning is not the condition which makes the death of Christ work or not work. The book of Hebrews instead gives all the glory to Christ’s death, so that being and staying in the new covenant is a result of Christ’s work.

    “We see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He would taste death for every… (2:10). The verses which follow tell us every “son to glory”, every ”those who are sanctified”, every “the children God has given me”.

    Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory and honor of Christ is dying for many sinners who will never be glorified but who will for a time benefit from “common grace” or “covenant grace” They tell us that the One crowned was sanctified for more than those who will ultimately be sanctified. They dishonor Christ by telling the children God gave Him that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God. And it only adds confusion to say that Christ did not die to give them eternal life, but did die to given them “common grace” for a while.

    Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, He became the source of age to come salvation to those who obey Him.” All the elect will obey the gospel but it is not their doing so which is the source of their salvation.

    But if Christ died in common for every sinner, and not every sinner is set apart, then it is not the blood of Christ which sanctifies. It is not special, and it does not do anything special. God forbid! And if Christ died for non-elect sinners who start out in the new covenant but end up outside it, then again it’s not Christ’s death which saves.

  15. Re: Hebrews 10:26-31

    Those who do not possess the promised Abrahamic inheritance, namely the indwelling Spirit of God (Acts 2:38-39, Gal 3:14, Eph 1:13) are NOT in the covenant. They are not covenant children because they are not united to Christ, who is the covenant Substance, by faith-union.

    To sanctify simply means to be set apart. An unregenerate person may be externally “set apart” as a partaker of the visible New Covenant community, merely by a participation in baptism (a picture of the Spirit’s washing) and partaking of the Lord’s Table (the blood of the covenant). Such an unregenerate person, though not in actual covenant union with Christ via the indwelling Spirit, can be said to “trample underfoot the Son of God”, “profane the blood of the covenant”, and “outrage the Spirit of Grace” because he/she fails to be born again, leaves the local New Covenant community, and returns to the world . . . or in the case of Hebrews, the Old Covenant community of Judaism.

  16. Consider Meredith Kline’s By Oath Consigned (Eerdmans, 1968).
    I agree with Kline’s desire to hold the line on the law/gospel antithesis, but I think that his reading of the covenants makes it difficult for him to talk about God meeting all the conditions for the salvation of an INDIVIDUAL.

    Unlike the confessions which speak of water baptism as a means of assurance, Kline concludes that the water seals individuals into a conditional covenant, and introduces them to potential curse as well as potential blessing.

    I like to ask this question: is “covenant baptism” law or gospel or both? And then the answer comes back to “which covenant?”Is the new covenant ONLY about the gospel, or does it have a secondary law-aspect as well, so that blessing is conditioned on keeping the new covenant? If there is such a thing as being in the new covenant but not being in Christ, what are the blessings of being in covenant for those for whom Jesus did not die?

    Kline writes about ‘the proper purpose of the covenant, the salvation of the elect.” p 34. But Kline cautions that “we are not to reduce the redemptive covenant to that proper purpose.” Those who don’t continue to believe the gospel are condemned. (John 3:18). While people are already condemned, they are condemned even more when they reject the gospel.

    Of course this is true. Unless you deny that the non-elect have the duty to believe the gospel, you will agree that-despite inability–all have a duty to believe the gospel. And you could even say it this way (even though the Bible does not quite use these words): all have a duty to come into the new covenant in which “all know the Lord “.

    But baptists like me think this is something different from saying that the non-elect are in the new covenant, and will be cursed and broken off if they don’t continue to believe. And Kline assumes that it has to mean that.

    Water baptism is done with hands. God does not do water baptism. Those we do baptize with water are not to profess themselves to be in a conditional covenant. They confess a bankruptcy which rules out past and future covenant keeping as a basis for blessing.

    But Kline resists the “bent toward such a reduction of covenant to election. To do so is to substitute a logical abstraction for the historical reality…”

    The historical reality for Kline is the reality of covenant threats and “actual divine vengeance against the disobedience as covenantal elements”. I agree of course about divine vengeance but my question is about this wrath being “new covenantal”. Kline argues from the comparison to old covenantal wrath. He does not make a distinction between the wrath of the Mosaic covenant and the wrath of the Abrahamic covenant. But some covenant theologians would deny wrath in Abraham, despite the Genesis 17 “cut off” threats.

    Here’s my question, Nathaniel. Do those who are never initiated into the new covenant experience wrath? I am sure that you and Kline would agree with me that they do. We don’t need to say that those who experience the wrath of God were once members of the new covenant. I am reading from the New Testament back, from Hebrews 10 back to Genesis, and there is no warrant there to say “new covenantal wrath”

    Those who reject the gospel face greater wrath but this does not prove that they EVER knew the Lord covenantally. Matthew 7 teaches us that there are those who never knew the Lord. There is no category of new covenant people who knew the Lord who then stopped knowing the Lord.

    Of course I agree with Kline about the need for Jesus to keep the new covenant. As he puts it: “the covenant concept has law as its foundation and makes its promises dependent on the obedience of a federal representative. ” p 35 I agree that the blessing of the new covenant comes through covenant curse on Jesus Christ. Justification is not God counting our works as righteousness. Justification is not God counting our “faith alone” as righteousness. Justification is God imputing righteousness to the elect for whom Christ obtained that righteousness by satisfaction of divine law.

    Kline must deny that Christ has kept covenant for all those in the new covenant. Kline writes of “dual sanctions” for those in the new covenant because he thinks that many of them were never elected and those for whom Jesus never died And his pattern for this is not only the Mosaic covenant but the Abrahamic covenant. Not all the children of Abraham are children of Abraham. It was possible to be in the Abrahamic covenant but not be justified like Abraham was. Abraham had two sons.

    Kline agrees that Jeremiah 31 sounds like “discontinuity” with earlier covenants. “Jeremiah speaks, to be sure, only of a consummation of grace; he does not mention a consummation of curses in the new Covenant.” p 76. But Kline maintains this is only a matter of emphasis, and that the new is not so new, that the new is a matter o degree not of kind. The emphasis is on eschatological blessing but curse is not denied. “The theologian of today ought not to impose on himself the visionary limitations of an Old Testament prophet.”

    This is very interesting, Nathaniel, and I am by no means assuming that you would agree with where Kline goes on this. I don’t assume that covenant theologians agree, and certainly baptists don’t all agree. (Look at Watson’s little book which consists entirely of paedobaptists dismissing the arguments of other paedobaptists)

    But think about it. We should read Jeremiah 31 by means of the New Testament. I agree with that hermeneutic. (I am not a dispy. I deny any leftover promise to ethnic Israel) But dare I say it, isn’t Kline taking a somewhat “marcionite” approach to Jeremiah? Even though Jeremiah 31 doesn’t have “dual sanctions”, Kline disregards that and insists that no other reading of Jeremiah is possible because Hebrews warns about wrath.

    But how else could Jeremiah have possibly told us about a new covenant which has no “dual sanctions” because it is altogether conditioned on the obedience of Christ?

    Yes, there is anathema and excommunication in the New Testament. But what Kline needs to show (and not assume) is that those judgments are exclusions of those who are in the new covenant. Otherwise we simply assume the paradigm with which we begin. I John 2:19 says that those who sent out “were not of us.”

    But the federal visionists quickly point to John 15 which says that those who do not abide in the vine are thrown away. I need to wrap this up, so you can respond to what I have already said. As for me, I don’t see how saying that the vine is the new covenant fits with Christ saying that He is the true vine. Certainly there is such a thing as a false profession and assurance about Christ, but does it really answer any questions to introduce into John 15 a covenant with dual sanctions?

  17. All aberrant or heterodox theology are scripture tagged ad nauseum. The theology of the first glance outside of context is disastrous. Unless one has the entire context of the covenant of grace in view you will end up missing the forest for the trees. Redemptive history will be seen as one clean up job after another as the plan of redemption is somehow refined from a carnal ethnic rough draft to a purely regenerate masterpiece this side of the eschaton.

    To fail to see the already not yet of the substance and administration of the covenant of grace correctly results in either an under-realized dispensational, “carnal” Zionism or an over-realized “spiritual” ecclesiology the NT writers, with all of their warnings of covenantal apostasy are not familiar with.

    It is not sufficient to quote scripture verses. Those verses were not inspired apart from their immediate and greater theological contexts.

  18. It’s really rich to be lectured about context by somebody who talks about “the covenant of grace”. The question before us has to do with the idea that those in the “new covenant” can break the “new covenant”. But it’s going to be difficult to answer that if you simply continue to conflate the new covenant with other covenants into one non-contextual “the covenant of grace”.

    It becomes very arbitrary to say that the Mosaic covenant is more about the “administration” of “the covenant of grace” but that the Abrahamic covenant is more about the “substance”. You can say “already-not yet” as many times as you want, but that truth does not mean defining the “visible church” in terms of one parent judged to be a Christian, when the Abrahamic “adminstration” did no such thing.

    If you want to argue for a common “in-between” grace, for some of the non-elect but not for all of the non-elect, then you need to make the argument and not assume that substance/administration or visible/invisible makes it so. Nor does it help much to put yourself in the middle between the “everybody in the new covenant is elect” baptists and the Zionists. Where do the federal visionists fit in that typology? Are the Protestant Reformed somehow gnostic vecause they deny that the non-elect are in the new covenant?

    “John Murray’s Mono-Covenantalism”, by David Gordon, in By Faith Alone, edited by Gary Johnson and Guy Waters (Crossway)

    Gordon: I am not happy with is the language of the covenant of grace, because this is a genuinely unbiblical use of biblical language. Biblically, covenant is always a historic arrangement, inaugurated in space and time.

    Gordon: Once covenant refers to an over-arching divine decree or purpose to redeem the elect in Christ, confusion is sure to follow… What John Murray jettisoned was the notion of distinctions of kind between the covenants. He wrote that was not ‘any reason for construing the Mosaic covenant in terms different from those of the Abrahamic.’

    mark: While Brown and Clark know that there is a difference between the Mosaic and the Abrahamic, they still say both are “administrations” of “the covenant of grace”, and they don’t want us to notice much the difference between the Abrahamic and the new covenants.

    Gordon: “John Murray believed that the only relation God sustains to people is that of Redeemer. I would argue, by contrast, that God was just as surely Israel’s God when He cursed the nation as when He blessed it….My own way of discerning whether a person really has an understanding of covenant theology is to see whether he can describe it without reference to dispensationalism.

    Gordon: Where the word “covenant” is used, there is almost always an immediate contextual clue to which biblical covenant is being referred to, such as “the covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8) The New Testament writers were not mono-covenantal …(see Rom 9:4, Eph 2:12; Gal 4:24).

  19. a quick follow up on the Kline, for context’s sake, as we think about the possibility of “greater curse” for the non-elect who are conceived to be “in the new covenant”:

    Duane Garrett, “Meredith Kline on Circumcision and Baptism”. in NAC Studies in Bible and Theology, Believers Baptism, ed by Schreiner and Wright

    p274– Jesus Christ was baptized to identify with sinful humanity. In Kline’s interpretation, however it is John the Baptist’s confusion, not the baptism of Jesus Christ, which must be explained. If baptism is an ordeal meant to determine guilt or innocence, there was no reason that Jesus should not have been baptized.

    p275– I Peter 3:20-21 does not sustain Kline’s case. The flood was not a water ordeal for Noah, a test to determine whether he was righteous. It was a judgment on the world.

    p281–Interpreting baptism under the rubric of a suzerainty treaty means that a Christian must require all persons under his authority to be baptized. This implies a Constantinian version of Christianity, in which the people are to become Christian because the emperor or the fathers are Christians.

    • Mark,

      To state the obvious, the Reformed Churches do not confess MGK.

      Baptists can deny the existence of a covenant of grace until the cows come home but that doesn’t make it go away. That sort of biblicism is entirely unconvincing and even tiresome.

    • Did you mean “a covenant of grace” or “the covenant of grace”? I think your Confession says “the”. But I do understand that your oath/subscription is not to paedobaptists like David Gordon who deny “the covenant of grace”.

      Assuming the existence of “the covenant of grace” until the cows wake up again still doesn’t mean that such a non-contextual “covenant” exists. Surely there is a difference between having one gospel and having one construct called “the covenant of grace”.

      The Confession which has already come about with the passing of time does not at this point depend on persuasion. But I am in no ways tired. Or even irritated. Thanks for your courtesy in reading my posts.

  20. Scott, I do follow the NT (and OT) interpretation of the New Covenant. It is one Bible, one story, and one interpretation. There aren’t two. It means what it says. And that’s what I pointed out. Not sure how you missed that. You want to create two stories, one for Israel which suddenly ended and started a new one in the NT, where all the old story suddently didn’t mean anything that it actually said. It all meant something else. I reject that. I think the OT existed because it meant something, and still does. It wasn’t just a prop.

    Bruce, I have no daisy chain. My point is that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation should guide us. Your side disagrees. You think only the NT matters. I profoundly disagree. I think the OT matters, and so did God. He held his people responsible to believe it and obey it and be judged according to it, long before the NT. That means something significant.

    To the point of the relationship of people to Christ in the OT, this is a simple exegetical point. Show that the OT people were “in Christ” from Scripture. If you can, then you have a point. But Heb 11:26 is a bizarre reference here. It, from a NT perspective, speaks of the reproaches being like those of Christ in the NT.

    To the point about apostolic hermeneutics and exegesis, I think we should follow them. That’s my major issue here. No apostolic teaching or exegesis would arrive at the conclusions talked about here. These are the results of theologizing that came far later. When you read the NT, you see that the apostles believed the OT, and believed what it said. We must follow that example. In other words, to use your words, we must let the OT context inform our reading of the NT.

    I admit that these forums are not good for hashing these things out. They typically take a bit more thought, and a bit less just rehearsing of cut and paste comments.

    Nonetheless, returning to the original point about the covenant of Abraham, it was an easy answer that Scott made hard out of necessity to defend or propogate a system of belief, rather than simply letting Scripture speak. And it was unnecessary. His position gains nothing from that. It just doesn’t help.

    • Gene,
      The fact that you’re trying to assign to me the exact problem I assigned to you, is all the evidence required to demonstrate that we have two warring hermeneutics.

      Heb.11:26 is a bizarre reference? Think about it. It is bizarre from within your chosen frame of reference. From the standpoint of the Reformed hermeneutic–the one we claim (and you dispute, obviously) is apostolic–it isn’t bizarre at all!

      Do some self-analysis. What differences between us account for the fact that we both read this sentence (English will suffice): “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,”

      but rather than a standard subject-verb-object apprehension of the meaning of a simple declarative sentence, leading to my conclusion that Moses sustains a personal relationship with Christ;

      you come up with a reading that says Moses’ reproaches are “like those” of Christ.

      Are you not able to see how much apriori thinking you are bringing to the text? We all come to the text with presuppositions. But because you haven’t come to grips with the sheer volume of your own theologically laden assumptions, you say to Clark (and to me, and to generations of men who have stood in this tradition):

      “You guys are over-complicating things.

      Right. A simple declarative sentence, leading to a rational theological conclusion, having far-reaching implications. But the right way to read it (according to you) is first to adopt your particular theological freight; and then the “simple” and “obvious” meaning of the text is really that Moses’s own sufferings presignify Christ’s. “So easy! How come you guys can’t see that?”

      Remember how this all began. You said that Clark needlessly complicated a simple matter. All the while, huge, unstated, unrecognized theological assumptions are buoying your own enterprise.

      Truth is, once we’ve spelled out for our own benefit our own assumptions and standard approach, it should help us avoid facile comments about superficial “simplicity” and “obviousness.”

  21. I’ll take advantage now and ask the Baptist readers a question which I sincerely have. How do you raise your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord from infancy onward?

    It seems that Baptists, to be consistent, cannot pray as a Christian normally would. By this I mean that since we view prayer as an act of worship and use this form of thinking when arguing with Romanists against prayer to saints, and we should not engage in worship with unbelievers, then we should avoid engaging in worship with unbelievers that include family; for Baptists, this would basically include all their little children. Yes, some may profess faith, but how can you determine it’s validity? I remember James White mentioning how among Baptists, some children profess faith in Christ essentially because Mommy and Daddy would like that and not because of personal faith from the child. As a side question, what do you do when a parent thinks it is genuine but a pastor (or pastors) does not, which causes baptism to be withheld?

    It doesn’t seem right, from a Baptist perspective in my view, for a parent to lead a child in prayer and to refer to God as Father, Saviour to Jesus, or Counselor to the Holy Spirit. You can’t tell a child that he is outside the covenant community and yet still quote the commandment for children, which includes a promise, to obey their parents. I don’t see how a Baptist can tell all the children in the church what Paul said to the children in his church, that obeying your parents is pleasing to the Lord (Col 3:20); can an unbeliever please the Lord? A Baptist cannot include children in the life of the church, at least not those that don’t have “proof” of regeneration. As James White says, “Theology matters.”

    • I should have wrote, “then we should avoid praying with unbelievers, which includes unbelieving family,” in the second paragraph.

  22. Mark,

    You said with respect to Hebrews 10:29-31:

    “Nathaniel, the text has the idea of making the blood unclean, or profaning the sacred. This verse is used to teach that the new covenant can be broken, and that the new covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The idea of common grace is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the new covenant, and even more grace for the elect.

    I do not think Hebrews 10 is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation even if you say that only those who professed to believe the gospel should be admitted to a “visible church”.

    John Owen argued that it’s the “Son of God” (not the one who profanes)who is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. “Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

    Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself in common for every sinner so that maybe (and maybe not) these sinners will be sanctified.”

    Okay so I made three points defending the Reformed interpretation of Hebrews 10:29, recall these were them:

    1) First off the passage in context is about judgement on God’s covenant people not Christ’s sanctification in his death.

    2) Second, the most immediate reference in both the Greek and of the English gloss of “he” is the one who profaned the covenant, not Christ.

    3) Third, this interpretation doesn’t help you anyway because of the fact that the Lord *will* judge “his people” eschatologically and some will be judged eschatologically to hell that is why it says vengeance is mine and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This means the people of God in the new covenant are both believers and unbelievers because some of the people of God end up in hell. The future tensed in Greek indicates that this will in fact happen and so this passage can’t be taken hypothetically. So you have got a problem here the covenant people of God end up in hell. So if you think that the covenant is coextensive with salvation (that is all who are in the covenant are necessarily saved) then of course someone ends up losing their salvation. That seems very arminian to me and it threatening the beautiful truth that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:37-39). If one does not hold to the internal and external distinctions in the covenant of grace, as those in the Reformed tradition do, then I am afraid the most consistent route is to become an arminian.”

    In your response you attempted to respond to point 2 by saying that Owen argues that Christ is the nearest antecedent and that is actually incorrect because it is the subject behind the nearest participle that is the nearest and most plausible antecedent and that is the one who regards common the blood of the covenant. The one who regards the blood of the common obviously is not Christ but an unregenerate sinner. So out of my three points which I originally made you have only responded to one of them and just citing a mistake from John Owen at that is the only sort of response to my actual argument. So I’d be interested to hear you interact with and address my original argument and points before we go one to other matters relating to covenant theology. You haven’t even attempted yet to deal with the fact the God’s people are being sent to hell in verses 30-31 you have merely ignored this issue and have spent time talking about Meredith Kline who I deeply respect but I am hardly committed to everything he has said in writing.

  23. Nate: the people of God in the new covenant are both believers and unbelievers because some of the people of God end up in hell. The future tensed in Greek indicates that this will in fact happen and so this passage can’t be taken hypothetically. So you have got a problem here the covenant people of God end up in hell…. You haven’t even attempted yet to deal with the fact the God’s people are being sent to hell in verses 30-31 you have merely ignored this issue.

    Nate, Thanks for reminding me of your questions. I am sure I can’t answer everything to your (or my) satisfaction, but let me quickly rehearse some things I know about Hebrews chapter 10.

    1. The particular sin being warned against is the sin of going back to the Mosaic law and the Levitical economy for salvation. And there is (and never was) any salvation to be found in the Mosaic law or the Levitical economy. I am not denying that some people living during the Mosaic economy were justified by grace through hearing and believing the gospel of Christ, the seed of Abraham. I am saying that there is no salvation ever to be found in our law-keeping, nor was there ever any salvation to be found in the old ceremonies. Those ceremonies pointed to Jesus, and the way He opened for the elect through His flesh. In context, it seems we have some people who have professed to have believed in the gospel, to trust in Christ, and yet some of them have, or are tempted to, go back to that Judiasm which has rejected the blood of Jesus.

    2. There is nothing “hypothetical” about this warning (or the others in Hebrews). The logic of “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” is not that Christ died for every sinner, and that every sinner had a “chance” or an “opportunity” to be saved, if they accepted “the offer”. No. The logic rather is that now and always there has been only sacrifice that really takes away sin, and that’s the sacrifice of Christ. The old economies had their place because their ceremonies pointed to this one sacrifice of Christ. Now that Christ has come, now that the new covenant has arrived, not only in promise, but in fulfillment, still there remains one (and only one) sacrifice for sins.

    Put it this way— for every sinner, for any sinner, there is only one sacrifice that can take away sins, and it’s Christ’s propitiatory death. This does not at all mean that Christ has died for every sinner. It means every sinner needed Christ’s death. But only the sins of the elect the Father has given the Son were imputed to the Son, and the Son has only made a propitiation for those sins. Christ’s death is not enough for every sinner, because it was never intended for every sinner. But the point is—Christ is the only propitiation there is, and if you don’t trust Christ, then there can be no propitiation for you. Go back to Judiasm, (and without getting into the longish question about if apostates can come back to the gospel), and don’t come to Christ, then there “remains no other sacrifice”.

    3. And you might read this, and say, well there you have it, it’s the supralapsarians who can’t make a distinction between covenant and election. And the guy denies “common grace” also!

    It’s true that I say “providence” instead of ‘common grace”. It’s even true that I am supralapsarian, but I would insist that what I have indicated in the paragraph above is true even on an infralapsarian understanding, unless one is an Amyraldian who thinks Christ obtained some kind of “general fund” of atonement, and then somehow the elect get applied the efficacy of it. In other words, if you believe in definite atonement, this is a fair reading of the warning: no hope but in Christ’s grace, no mercy except in Christ’s bloody death. (I do of course disagree with the sufficient/efficient formula as used in Dordt.)

    4. But to repeat, there is nothing hypothetical about these warnings. Yes, there are some contrary “feelings”: Hebrews 6:9–yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things, that belong to salvation. But in principle, the Hebrew warnings are no different from those found in places like Galatians and Philippians. It’s not a warning about immorality, but about going back to another gospel, about not trusting Christ, but instead trusting Christ and also your “covenantal nomism” (for which nomists as non-Pelagians thank their god!).

    Because if you trust Christ and your Spirit enabled obedience, then you don’t trust Christ! Galatians 2: 21–“If justification were through the law, then Christ died for NO purpose. (not for some purpose, not to provide a “plan” to get started!). Galatians 5:2–If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of NO advantage to you. (Of course, Nanos and Doug Wilson think this only applies to gentiles) So this is a serious real, life or death warning. Although Paul does not tell the Galatians that he thinks most of them are lost judiasers, he does not discount the possibility that some who profess to trust Christ are in reality still in their sins, without grace, without propitiation.

    5. It was not hypothetical then, and the danger is not hypothetical now. In recent weeks, Scott Clark has done a good job of warning against “legal preaching”. Of course this does not mean not preaching the law and the serious of sin and the wrath of God. It means confusing the law of God with the gospel of God which is about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect. Christ preached this gospel in John 5: 24. “As many as hear my word and believe him who sent me has eternal (lasting quality) life! HE DOES NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT

    And this warning to trust this gospel and not going back into “works and ceremonies” is not at all hypothetical. Let me give you an example from my personal experience, which is NOT from the “federal visionists”, to show that I know that they are not the only legalist heretics in town. This was in a rather large “Reformed Baptist” congregation, quite some time ago. The clergyman took this Hebrews 10 text and attempted to put us all in the “sweat-box” for about 50 minutes one night before the Lord’s Supper. I suppose the idea was to prepare for the gospel by smiting the sheep with the law. (What else could a shepherd do with his stick?)

    Don’t you know, he asked us, that most of the threats of hell are not to those outside the church? Most of the language about hell is directed to God’s people, not only to motivate them, but to make them examine themselves if they are really are trusting Christ. So back to the OT, a couple examples of no mercy in the Mosaic economy, and then on to Hebrews 10, you think that covenant was pretty bad, will it be worse for you if you don’t start living and not merely professing to be Christians! The “Lord will judge His people”

    to be continued…

  24. Deuteronomy 32: 35
    Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
    for the time when their foot shall slip;
    for the day of their calamity is at hand,
    and their doom comes swiftly.’
    36 For the Lord will judge/vindicate his people
    and have compassion on his servants,
    39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he,
    and there is no god beside me;
    I kill and I make alive;
    I wound and I heal;
    and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

    45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

    The basic strategy of the Reformed Baptist preacher was to say–since God is going to condemn some of his people, what we need to do now is have a dress rehearsal of that, and let me judge you for what you are doing and what you are not doing.

    I could elaborate, but I think you get the point. One, I am not saying that this kind of thing is true of most Reformed Baptists. I bring it up because I myself am baptist, and don’t want to be seen as only picking on federal visionists. (After all, I am told, their problem is the same as baptists, since they can’t tell the difference between election and covenant, although they do talk about becoming non-elect, and baptists who know the gospel don’t say “become non-elect” but say something about those who didn’t belong having professed faith visibly)

    ….Two, I am not saying that my example of what this clergyman did wrong is an excuse or a substitute for doing all the exegetical work on the details of the text, or for not dealing with questions about “the substance of the covenant of grace”.

    But before I get to those questions, I do want to emphasize one point. Not only did the Reformed Baptist get chapter 10 of Hebrews wrong, but he really turned it upside down. He ended up doing the very thing that the writer to the Hebrews was warning against. The writer is saying—don’t look to your own obedience, not to the Mosaic economy, not to any other system but Christ’s death as the only answer for sins. Because Christ’s death (which has now happened!) IS the only hope we have for escaping God’s wrath against sins.

    The preacher wasn’t saying to go back to Judiasm, and since he was a baptist, he wasn’t even saying –obey to stay in “the covenant of grace”, but he was saying that assurance of salvation depended on the Holy Spirit enabling us to obey God’s law. (No more law-gospel antithesis once you are in God’s house?).

    What number am I on? 6. The word “covenant” is in verse 29. Don’t let me forget about. The phrases “old covenant” or “Mosaic covenant” are not in verse 26, which says the “law of Moses”, but I think we could agree that the thought is about the old covenant economy. The reference is to the covenantal curses on folks who are Abraham’s sons but not Abraham’s sons (Ishmael, Esau, Judas, etc).

    So which covenant is it in “profaned the blood of the covenant”?
    How can there be a new covenant if there is but one covenant of grace?

    I think Reformed people tend to have three answers at once here:

    answer one: the new covenant is “substantially” the “one covenant of grace”

    answer two: because of the contrast with Moses, the covenant here is “the new covenant” (which of course has always existed along side the old covenant, since the gospel has always existed)

    answer three: it’s not really the “new covenant” which the apostates were in but only the “administration” of the new covenant

    I am not sure how you can have all three different answers at the same time, but maybe it’s best to use only one or two as needed.

    Since my confession (First London Baptist, 1644) does not have all the answers on this either, let me jump to Hebrews 13:20 — the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal (permanent lasting quality!) covenant….

    This takes me back to the gospel Jesus preached in John 5:25—He who believes….does not come into judgment, but HAS passed from death to life.

    Does this guy have no shame, reading John’s (or Paul’s) categories into Hebrews? Not much. Not that “analogy of Scripture” answers everything, but I begin with what I know, and not what I don’t.

    7. John Owen makes sense to me on it being Christ who is sanctified. I know that category exists in John 17. But if Owen is not correct, I don’t need to say that nobody except sovereign grace baptists understand “eternal security” or perseverance/ preservation. Owen wasn’t baptist. And Mike Horton was wrong to imply only his kind of “covenant theology” can make sense of warning texts. Even if it turns out that “the covenant by which he was sanctified” is in reference to those who professed and left but never belonged, this does not prove any of the three answers above. It does not prove that there is “one covenant of grace”. (The covenant in question is not the Mosaic covenant, which is also supposed to be included –in some sense–in the “one covenant of grace”, is it not?)

    b. Even if “the covenant by which he was set apart” is phenomenological, by appearance, this does not prove that the new covenant includes the infants born of one professing parent (as opposed to all infants to all ethnic Abrahamic seed, professing or not professing). c. Instead of contracting “the one covenant of grace” to one professing parent, why not expand it to all sinners, all who need the blood of Christ, and who will be saved if they only believe it? In other words, Hebrews 10 does not in any way prove that the “genealogical principle” continues in this “covenant”. Assuming that “his people” that the Lord will judge is the visible congregation of professors does not in any way tell us who is and is not to be admitted to that visible congregation.

    Perhaps it is only those you would admit to the Lord’s table. But of course not all who are admitted to the Lord’s table are the justified elect, and no baptist denies that there is “judgment” involved in the Lord’s Supper. We don’t have to say God is doing it “sacramentally” to get there. But some Reformed folks assume that baptists can’t make a distinction between visible and invisible. We can, and we don’t have to admit (only some) infants to do so.

    We don’t have to have “two kinds of water baptism” to get there either. Of course there are different kinds of baptism, such by Christ with the Holy Spirit, such as “into Christ’s death”, but we don’t see how can you have one water baptism but with two meanings, without confusing a lot of people about what God is doing.

    I am sure I have neglected to address something really important, and I hope Nate and others will call me on it. But let me repeat– as serious as our questions about the nature of “covenants” are, I think some of us can agree that the larger more important warning in Hebrews 10 (not hypothetical) is the danger of people being distracted from the gospel by the idea of a grace which enables them to enter into the holy by the Spirit causing them to do works of faith. That “faith” is not in the gospel, because it is not trust in Christ the great Shepherd who kept the covenant (for the elect alone) by His obedience even unto death.

  25. Mark,

    In your response to me it seems that you have attempted to respond to point 3, but you still have not provided a response the points 1 and 2. For this reason I will ask a question about point 3 for further clarification. Also I would like to point out that all I am arguing for in this passage is that one can be in the new covenant as a external member and not inwardly saved. So anything about there being one covenant of grace and infant baptism being entailed by argument I am making is another matter and is not the argument I am presently making.

    In your response to point three you remark:

    “The basic strategy of the Reformed Baptist preacher was to say–since God is going to condemn some of his people, what we need to do now is have a dress rehearsal of that, and let me judge you for what you are doing and what you are not doing.

    I could elaborate, but I think you get the point. One, I am not saying that this kind of thing is true of most Reformed Baptists. I bring it up because I myself am baptist, and don’t want to be seen as only picking on federal visionists. (After all, I am told, their problem is the same as baptists, since they can’t tell the difference between election and covenant, although they do talk about becoming non-elect, and baptists who know the gospel don’t say “become non-elect” but say something about those who didn’t belong having professed faith visibly)”

    Okay so here is my question: Are you saying you can be of the unsaved portion of the people of God and not be in the covenant? Furthermore, could you be in the external covenant and not be of the unsaved portion of the people of God? Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God but not a part of any external covenant? Thanks.

  26. Mark, Correction on the last Sentence I wrote here:

    Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God that is going to hell but not a part of any external covenant?

  27. Are you saying you can be of the unsaved portion of the people of God and not be in the covenant? Furthermore, could you be in the external covenant and not be of the unsaved portion of the people of God? Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God but not a part of any external covenant? Thanks.

    Mark, Correction on the last Sentence I wrote here:

    Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God that is going to hell but not a part of any external covenant?

    mark:

    1. it’s a little disappointing to write as much as I did about Hebrews 10, and then have you make no comment on it, on what you agree with and what you don’t. As I suggested in the beginning, it’s not my idea of dialogue where you get to keep asking more questions but don’t deal with what I have already said. So you are going to need to some work here also, for example about there being “no sacrifice for sin left”. Do you think my reading of that is on the right track?

    2. Even though you say you don’t want to talk about “covenants” right now, you want to bracket it, then you use the phrase “the covenant” in your questions. Are you talking about a covenant people can be born outside of and then get into, a covenant people can be born inside and then get out of, what is this “the covenant”.

    3. The more you rephrase your question, the less I think I understand it. Hebrews 10 does not talk about “hell” but about a consuming fire. Perhaps you are thinking of some reference to Sheol in the Old Testament. But again, your reference to an “external covenant” is already begging several questions. Are you agreeing with Hodge that there are two covenants with Abraham, and saying that Ishmael is only in the “external” one? I don’t think so. But as I said, I don’t really know what you are asking.

    There are some baptists (landmarkers and others) who resist any distinction between visible and invisible. They do this in resistance to Darby’s teaching on some “universal invisible church” and his notion that the Spirit baptizes into Christ, instead of Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit. While I agree with these baptists about Spirit baptism, I do not agree with them about visible/invisible.

    Another way to say this is to say that I do not agree with Norman Shepherd and his disciples when they deny the visible/ invisible distinction. Of course I think we would all agree that the “invisible” ecclesia will one day (when Jesus Christ comes again) be gathered visibly. But for now, there is a distinction to be made between an “external” congregation of those who profess to be justified and those who will one day be resurrected together and given immortality.

    I am not sure if that comes close to answering what you were asking, because your questions need some work. Perhaps you wanted me to agree apriori that there has only ever been one “people of God” and then go from there. But I do not start from the Confessions, as much as I try to respect the time and thought and wisdom involved.

    Norman Shepherd: To look at covenant from the perspective of election is to yield to the temptation to be as God.

    mark: I disagree with Shepherd. I think the Confessions do also. Even in “church”, we can and should talk about individual election in Christ. That’s not saying we know who’s elect, but it’s saying that Christ did not die for everyone who professes to be Christian. Shepherd doesn’t think that’s “pastoral”. I do.

  28. Mark,

    So to repeat and summarizing whats been happening in the discussion thus far: In this recent response you failed to address points 1 and 2. However, you did address point 3 in your discussion denying that the people of God in verses 30-31 are in fact being eschatologically judged to Hell. I will provide a response of that point and show why I think it is mistaken, But first you made some methodological critiques of how I am presenting my argument in addition to a claim that my argument is unclear or needs work. I will first address these claims and then I will move to address your attempt to refute point 3. You had three points so I will address each of them because they all actually clearly relate to the argument I am making whereas the vast majority of your responses do not seem even related to the argument I am making:

    “1. it’s a little disappointing to write as much as I did about Hebrews 10, and then have you make no comment on it, on what you agree with and what you don’t. As I suggested in the beginning, it’s not my idea of dialogue where you get to keep asking more questions but don’t deal with what I have already said. So you are going to need to some work here also, for example about there being “no sacrifice for sin left”. Do you think my reading of that is on the right track?”

    1. There is a very specific reason why I didn’t address the vast majority of the comments on Hebrews 10. The reason is this: It is hard to see how they actually relate to my argument. Now they may relate to my argument and you have not made that logical connection but as for your discussion on there remaining no sacrifice of sin one could deny certain parts of your interpretation or affirm certain parts of your interpretation and still hold to my argument being effective in Hebrews 10:29-31. In fact I could hold to everything you said on Hebrews 10:26-28 and it not effect my argument in anyway shape or form. And if it does effect my argument you never made clear the logical or inferential connections that would show this in your writings. In fact the vast majority of what you said appear entirely unrelated to my basic contention which is this there are members of the people of God and in the New covenant which are such that they are unregenerate and will end up in hell. This is the only claim I am defending and I have been defending it since the beginning. You said this interpretation of Hebrews 10:29-31 was mistaken (favoring Owens interpretation) and I have been try to show you how that claim is incorrect. I am sure you can talk about the whole structure of covenant theology, Meredith Kline writings, postmillenialism, amillenialism, common grace, infant baptism, or superlapsarianism…and I am sure you know a lot about theology and you have positions on all of those things…the problem is none of that actually relates to the specific exegetical argument I am making here.

    “2. Even though you say you don’t want to talk about “covenants” right now, you want to bracket it, then you use the phrase “the covenant” in your questions. Are you talking about a covenant people can be born outside of and then get into, a covenant people can be born inside and then get out of, what is this “the covenant”.”

    I am talking about those in the New covenant who end up in Hell…***full stop*** and that is it. I am not talking about those being born into or those who would come to it in faith or anything like that all I am talking about is that there will be new covenant members which are such that they are unregenerate and unbelieving and end up in hell. Now they may enter the covenant through birth, through professed faith, or by eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or whatever, but the end game is and the point is here is that there are ***members of the new covenant that end up in hell and are always unregenerate*** Now I think there is a correct position on how one enters into the New covenant but this is not what Hebrews 10:29 is addressing so it is not related to the argument I am making.

    Here is my third point were you actually attempt to deal with my argument by responding to point 3 and of course, it is your third point:

    “3. The more you rephrase your question, the less I think I understand it. Hebrews 10 does not talk about “hell” but about a consuming fire. Perhaps you are thinking of some reference to Sheol in the Old Testament. But again, your reference to an “external covenant” is already begging several questions. Are you agreeing with Hodge that there are two covenants with Abraham, and saying that Ishmael is only in the “external” one? I don’t think so. But as I said, I don’t really know what you are asking.”

    I think I’ve made it perfectly clear what I am saying but I will spell it out for you a little more clearly. I am talking about the one (not two) New covenant and I am saying that there can be people from an objective God’s eye view that are factual objective members of this one new covenant community but in fact end up in hell. This would be called external membership of the New covenant, they are external members of the New covenant but they are not saved like many in the New covenant. Begging the question means a circular argument, I’ve given you arguments rather than assertions so you will have to provide for me with the portions of the argument where I am begging the question rather than just asserting it, As the Late Greg Bahnsen used to say “saying so does not make it so”.

    Are you really saying this is not referring to hell?

    Hebrews 10:29-31 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged 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 fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    Obviously and clearly God does not have a repayment sort of vengeance on his elect but only on unbelievers. And obviously and clearly the phrase about vengeance and repayment is followed by being judged and it being a fearful thing, this clearly refers to the negative sort of terror that will be experienced only by unbelievers and not by the believing elect (especially given vengeance being stressed in the context). This is just the obvious reading of the text and it is an obvious reading of the text that God’s people are experiencing this. Furthermore, this text is also referring to punishment which unbelievers will experience in hell by Hebrews 10:29 “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ” So this is not talking about God just being a consuming fire (although He is) rather this is talking to God’s specific eschatological judgement on the certain external class of his covenant people that end up in hell. You have provided no exegesis which overturns the clear and overwhelming obvious reading of this text.

    It seems you need the read the lines before you read in between the lines when you interpret things that others write (including the authors of scripture).

    I never asked you if there was one people of God from genesis to revelation. I never asked for your comments on Norman Shepard. I just asked you this:

    “Okay so here is my question: Are you saying you can be of the unsaved portion of the people of God and not be in the covenant? Furthermore, could you be in the external covenant and not be of the unsaved portion of the people of God? Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God but not a part of any external covenant? Thanks.” and “Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God that is going to hell but not a part of any external covenant?”

    To which you replied

    “I am not sure if that comes close to answering what you were asking, because your questions need some work. Perhaps you wanted me to agree apriori that there has only ever been one “people of God” and then go from there. But I do not start from the Confessions, as much as I try to respect the time and thought and wisdom involved.”

    I am not asking you if there was ever one people of God or if there were any breaks in God’s people from Old to New Testament. I am rather just asking is there any instance in any of the scripture were someone was of the people of God and they were going to hell (unregenerate) and that those people of God were not in any covenantal arrangement with God?

    This question doesn’t really seem to matter at this point because you have appeared to switch gears and I have said now that Hebrews 10:28-31 is not even talking about eschatological judgement, a reading which frankly goes against the clear reading of the text as I have demonstrated above.

  29. Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God but not a part of any external covenant? Thanks.

    Reply ↓
    Nathanael P. Taylor
    August 3, 2013 @ 4:26 PM
    Mark, Correction on the last Sentence I wrote here:

    Is there any precedence or instance in scripture (other than this one on your view) were there is a person which is such that he is a part of the people of God that is going to hell but not a part of any external covenant?

    mark: I think you needed to fix both questions to ask “where there is a person”. I am tempted to stop here, since you seem to be wasting our time (especially yours). Your question was not about “the new covenant”, but about “any external covenant”. Your question wasn’t even about the Hebrews 10 text, but about “anywhere in scripture”.

    So I still don’t even know which “new covenant” you are now talking about—is it the external new covenant, or is the “substantial” (inner?) new covenant? Are you talking about two kinds of election, one of which people can lose? How can you talk about covenant and not talk about election?

    I didn’t switch gears. I didn’t in any way deny future punishment of the non-elect. Your only complaint here is that I talk about God being a “consuming fire” instead of talking about “hell” (like you did). Nate, it’s you who’s “reading between the lines”

    But this is not a matter of exegesis (which I have agreed is contested), but of simply reading what Hebrews 10 says. Why should I need to talk like you do when Hebrews 10 doesn’t? It doesn’t say “hell”, which is no big deal for our present concern. But Hebrews 10 also doesn’t say “external new covenant”. And you can say, well, I am telling you I am asking about “new covenant. Period”, but if you have two “new” covenants, one of which is not “external”, then you are going to have to show me that what you are talking about is in the text. Same with “people of God”

    Nate, it’s simple. If you want to make a positive case for a “precedence or instance”, don’t keep asking me for them. Bring out your examples and let us see them. Why play “trick and twist the baptist”?

    Hebrews 10: 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will CONSUME the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged 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 fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    The justified have come (12:24) to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

    25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

  30. Mark,

    I think you’ve lost sight of the argument here in Hebrews 10:29-31.

    This evident by this confused statement of what I wrote:

    “I didn’t switch gears. I didn’t in any way deny future punishment of the non-elect. Your only complaint here is that I talk about God being a “consuming fire” instead of talking about “hell” (like you did). Nate, it’s you who’s “reading between the lines”

    I never ever claimed that you were denying the future punishment of the non-elect in general rather I was talking about the future eschatological judgement of God’s people in the specific text of Hebrews 10:30-31.

    You haven’t addressed points 1 and 2. I am not sure if you are trying to refute point 3 here. So let me ask you directly so I know what you are actually saying so we don’t waste time here.

    Is this verse talking about God’s people being eschatologically judged?

    (you can just say Yes or No)

    Do you think this text is talking about eschatological judgement (which is what we call in our common language “hell”)?

    (You can just say Yes or No here too)

    Do you think you can be the people of God and not in the New Covenant?

    (You can also just Yes or No here)

    Whether it is talking about hell or not matters very much for my argument so claiming that it is of no importance is just simply mistaken.

  31. Why is the New Testament silent on Infant Baptism?

    Baptist/evangelical response:

    The reason there is no mention of infant baptism in the New Testament is because this practice is a Catholic invention that developed two to three centuries after the Apostles. The Bible states that sinners must believe and repent before being baptized. Infants do not have the mental maturity to believe or to make a decision to repent. If God had wanted infants to be baptized he would have specifically mentioned it in Scripture. Infant baptism is NOT scriptural.

    Lutheran response:

    When God made his covenant with Abraham, God included everyone in Abraham’s household in the covenant:

    1. Abraham, the head of the household.
    2. His wife.
    3. His children: teens, toddlers, and infants
    4. His servants and their wives and children.
    5. His slaves and their wives and children.

    Genesis records that it was not just Abraham who God required to be circumcised. His son, his male servants, and his male slaves were all circumcised; more than 300 men and boys.

    Did the act of circumcision save all these people and give them an automatic ticket into heaven? No. Just as in the New Covenant, it is not the sign that saves, it is God’s declaration that saves, received in faith. If these men and boys grew in faith in God, they would be saved. If they later rejected God by living a life of willful sin, they would perish.

    This pattern of including the children of believers in God’s covenant continued for several thousand years until Christ’s resurrection. There is no mention in the OT that the children of the Hebrews were left out of the covenant until they reached an Age of Accountability, at which time they were required to make a decision: Do I want to be a member of the covenant or not? And only if they made an affirmative decision were they then included into God’s covenant. Hebrew/Jewish infants and toddlers have ALWAYS been included in the covenant. There is zero evidence from the OT that says otherwise.

    Infants WERE part of the covenant. If a Hebrew infant died, he was considered “saved”.

    However, circumcision did NOT “save” the male Hebrew child. It was the responsibility of the Hebrew parents to bring up their child in the faith, so that when he was older “he would not depart from it”. The child was born a member of the covenant. Then, as he grew up, he would have the choice: do I want to continue placing my faith in God, or do I want to live in willful sin? If he chose to live by faith, he would be saved. If he chose to live a life of willful sin and never repented, and then died, he would perish.

    When Christ established the New Covenant, he said nothing explicit in the New Testament about the salvation of infants and small children; neither do the Apostles nor any of the writers of the New Testament. Isn’t that odd? If the new Covenant no longer automatically included the children of believers, why didn’t Christ, one of the Apostles, or one of the writers of the NT mention this profound change?

    Why is there no mention in the NT of any adult convert asking this question: “But what about my little children? Are you saying that I have to wait until my children grow up and make a decision for themselves, before I will know if they will be a part of the new faith? What happens if my child dies before he has the opportunity to make this decision?” But no, there is no record in Scripture that any of these questions are made by new converts to the new faith. Isn’t that really, really odd??? As a parent of small children, the FIRST question I would ask would be, “What about my little children?”

    But the New Testament is completely silent on the issue of the salvation or safety of the infants and toddlers of believers. Another interesting point is this: why is there no mention of any child of believers “accepting Christ” when he is an older child (8-12 years old) or as a teenager and then, being baptized? Not one single instance and the writing of the New Testament occurred over a period of 30 years, approximately thirty years after Christ’s death: So over a period of 60 years, not one example of a believer’s child being saved as a teenager and then receiving “Believers Baptism”. Why???

    So isn’t it quite likely that the reason God does not explicitly state in the NT that infants should be baptized, is because everyone in first century Palestine would know that infants and toddlers are included in a household conversion. That fact that Christ and the Apostles did NOT forbid infant baptism was understood to indicate that the pattern of household conversion had not changed: the infants and toddlers of believers are still included in this new and better covenant.

    Circumcision nor Baptism was considered a “Get-into-heaven-free” card. It was understood under both Covenants that the child must be raised in the faith, and that when he was older, he would need to decide for himself whether to continue in the faith and receive everlasting life, or choose a life of sin, breaking the covenant relationship with God, and forfeiting the gift of salvation.

    Which of these two belief systems seems to be most in harmony with Scripture and the writings of the Early Christians?

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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