Engaging With 1689 (2)

Last time I offered a rough taxonomy of contemporary Baptists in which I distinguished between Generic Evangelical Baptists (GEB), Older Particular Baptists (OPB), and the Particular Baptists (PB) and it is with this latter view than I am particularly interested in this series. Almost as soon as part 1 was was published discussion ensued on social media (e.g., Twitter), on blogs and in the comment box and two things became clear in those discussions:

Administration Of or Witnesses To?
The PBs and the Reformed use the word “administration” quite differently. When, in my history of covenant theology course, I I diagrammed the PB view on the whiteboard, I drew an arc from Adam to the cross to represent the PB view. To diagram the Reformed view I would draw a line through Noah, Abraham, etc. As I understand the PB view, the Son is said to have covenanted from all eternity to redeem the elect in the covenant of redemption (pactum salutis). They confess a prelapsarian covenant of works (foedus operum) in chapter 7 of the Second London [Baptist] Confession and explicitly in chapter 19. The covenant of grace is promised after the fall and its effects are received by believers (e.g., Noah, Abraham, and David) but the PBs do not envision the same sort of administration of spiritual benefits through the external administration of the types and shadows, the various Old Testament administrations of the covenant of grace as the Reformed understand things. This is what I had in mind when I wrote that the PBs do not believe in one covenant of grace variously administered. For them Christ is The Seed and he is received through faith but that reception has little to do with the actual, external, historical administration of the covenant of grace through types and shadows. For them, the substance of the covenant grace is not the divine promise to be a God to us and to our children but only Christ. Inasmuch as the historic fulfillment of the promise is future then the external administration of the covenant of grace is also future, suspended, until the coming of Christ. This is a stark difference between the PBs and the Reformed.

The Reformed theologian, Caspar Olevianus (1536&ndah;87), wrote that Christ comes to us “clothed in the covenant of grace.” That’s the Reformed view. That the Noahic, Abrahamic, and even the Mosaic administrations are real, historical, external administrations of the covenant of grace through which Christ was promised and given to his elect by sola gratia, sola fide. For the Reformed the substance of the covenant of grace is unchanged from Genesis 3:15 through the New Covenant. What changes is the circumstances, the types and shadows. As I have written previously in this space, the fundamental difference between the New Covenant the Abrahamic (or the Noahic for that matter but I focus on Abraham because both Paul and Hebrews do) is the difference between receiving Christ through types and shadows and receiving him in light of fulfillment.

On the value of the historical external administration of spiritual realities through the types and shadows, see this essay exploring Paul’s question, “What Advantage Has The Jew? Much in Every Way!

Substantial Unity Or Different In Substance?
Consider how my friend Sam Renihan, who is a faithful representative of the stream of PB theology descending theologically from Nehemiah Coxe speaks about the history of redemption:

The most essential difference between the New Covenant and all the covenants of the Old Testament is that it is made and sealed in the blood of Christ and it is revealed in Christ (Heb. 9:15–16). For this reason, the New Covenant is different in substance from all the Old Testament covenants.

Here the contrast between the PB view and the Reformed view is quite clear. There is not a single Reformed theologian of whom I am aware, certainly not in the classical (confessional) period, who affirm the doctrine that there is a substantial difference between the New Covenant and the covenant of grace as administered in Old Testament types and shadows. Certainly our Reformed confessions reject such a notion. E.g., Heinrich Bullinger, in the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), widely adopted by the Reformed, stressed the substantial continuity of the covenant of grace throughout the history of redemption.

And since there is always but one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Jesus the Messiah, and one Shepherd of the whole flock, one Head of this body, and, to conclude, one Spirit, one salvation, one faith, one Testament or covenant, it necessarily follows that there is only one Church.

…Generally two peoples are usually counted, namely, the Israelites and Gentiles, or those who have been gathered from among Jews and Gentiles into the Church. There are also two Testaments, the Old and the New.

Yet from all these people there was and is one fellowship, one salvation in the one Messiah; in whom, as members of one body under one Head, all united together in the same faith, partaking also of the same spiritual food and drink. Yet here we acknowledge a diversity of times, and a diversity in the signs of the promised and delivered Christ; and that now the ceremonies being abolished, the light shines unto us more clearly, and blessings are given to us more abundantly, and a fuller liberty (ch. 17).

Notice that, according to Bullinger (who stressed the substantial unity of the OT covenants with the New Covenant contra the Anabaptist approach to redemptive history) stresses the spirituality of the OT covenants and the substantial unity of the covenant of grace in redemptive history.

The Westminster divines spoke for all the Reformed when they confessed:

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations (WCF 21).

Again, considering the covenant of grace, there is said to be one covenant, “this covenant…differently administered” under the types and shadows. The administration is through the types and shadows. It does not transcend the types and shadows. It is not entirely suspended until the coming of Christ. The Spirit was efficaciously operating through the types and shadows “to instruct and build up the elect,” who were looking forward to the coming Messiah.

The substance of the New Covenant, here designated “the Gospel,” thinking of the Law and the Gospel in historical rather than theological terms, is the same as the covenant of grace under the types and shadows. The difference is one of degree and quality not type.

Thus, the Reformed may not say, as my PB friends do:

Therefore, the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants were national, temporary, and typological covenants that placed Israel in an external relationship with God and in which the new covenant was revealed through types and shadows. On the one hand they are, in their substance and essence, distinct from the covenant of grace, and on the other hand they are related to it through rich typology and historical progression.

For the Reformed the substance of the covenant of grace—Olevianus’ great work was On the Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect (1585). The elect have always had the substance, either through types and shadows or in the New Covenant after the fulfillment and abrogation of the types and shadows. Since the OT believers had the substance of the covenant of grace administered through the types and shadows, those OT administrations were not merely external. They were also spiritual. The Reformed agree with Charles Hodge that the Abrahamic covenant was spiritual and not fundamentally earthly or national. The earthy, national elements were part of the types and shadows fulfilled by Christ.

My PB friends conflate the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants:

Because the Mosaic covenant Controls both the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants, it is the primary referent of the New Testament when speaking about the old covenant. However, the Mosaic covenant cannot be divided or disconnected from the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, and thus all three combined to form the old covenant, in every aspect typological of the covenant of grace, yet in every aspect different in substance from the covenant of grace.”

We do not. We read Paul and Hebrews quite differently but it seems to me that it is essential to the various Baptist views (see above) to turn Abraham into Moses. I have addressed that here. For the Reformed, the Abrahamic covenant was essentially gracious. It did not have a dual character in the way Moses did. I am aware of not a single Reformed writer who spoke of the Abrahamic as a “republication” of the covenant of works to teach the Israelites the greatness of their sin and misery but the Reformed wrote frequently that the Mosaic covenant, the Old Covenant strictly speaking, was such a republication. You can see a library of posts, quotes, and podcasts here. For the Reformed, Moses and David have a national, military, and legal character. Noah and Abraham have a rather different character. Paul contrasts Moses and Abraham in Galatians 3 and continues that contrast in chapter 4. For my PB friends, Abraham is his son, especially his legal son. For the Reformed, the sons remain the sons.

Thus, we could never speak as Sam does when he writes about the PBs

They argued that the Bible assigns to Abraham an earthly offspring and a heavenly offspring, and that it sorts them into two different covenants, an earthly covenant according to the flesh, and a heavenly covenant according to the Spirit. This, they argued, was the intracanonical exegesis of the Bible itself, comparing Galatians 3-4 and Genesis 17. To the Particular Baptists, the paedobaptist model conflated two distinct seeds into one covenant and imposed the typical earthborn national model of Israel on the antitypical heavenborn transnational church.

The Reformed distinguish between those who are believers inwardly and those who have only an outward (Rom 2:28; 9:6) relation to the covenant of grace. There have always been at least two ways of relating to the one covenant of grace. See also the booklet, Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace There has always been within the visible covenant community (the institutional church) those who are elect and those who are reprobate. As always, the Reformed administer the covenant of grace externally, accepting members on the basis of their profession of faith and administering the covenant of grace, as Peter says, on the basis that “the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39). We suppose that our PB friends know no more than we do about who is elect and they do must operate on the basis of a credible profession of faith. They suspend the initiation of the children of believers into the visible covenant community because they have broken the connection between the Abrahamic covenant and the New Covenant.

Sam writes:

It was important to the Particular Baptists to maintain a close connection between the old covenant(s) and the covenant of grace. Though they were distinct, they were not to be divided. The old covenant(s) were subservient to the covenant of grace and made its benefits available through typology. But, in and of themselves, they did not grant heavenly blessings. “Notwithstanding the respect this Covenant hath to the Covenant of Grace, it yet remains distinct from it; and can give no more than external and typical Blessings unto a Typical Seed.”[4] The covenant of grace was materially made known in the old covenant(s), but not formally made until Christ shed his blood. The heavenborn people of God began in the garden and extend to all ages. The earthborn people of God began with Abraham and ended with the cross (ibid).

So here is a difference between the PB and the Reformed. For the PBs, the OT covenants are not the covenants of grace as much as they are witnesses to the covenant of grace. For the Reformed the OT covenants are earthly, historical, real, external, administrations of the one covenant of grace through types and shadows. Through those administrations God the Spirit gave more than “external and typical” (typological) blessings. God the Spirit was sovereignly operating within his people through the sacrifices, through the ceremonies, through the prophetic Word, to bring the elect to new life and to true faith in Jesus the Messiah. This is our understanding of Hebrews 11 when it says that Moses preferred Christ—not typical and external blessings—to the riches of Egypt (Heb 11:24–26). Abraham was looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb 11:10). Had he wanted “earthly and typical” blessings, he could have had them.

For the Reformed the OT covenants were more than witnesses to and revelations of the covenant of grace, they were administrations of the substance of the covenant: “I will be a God to you and to your children,” the fulfillment of which was Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Cor 1:20).

Next time: Looking at Nehemiah Coxe’s account of the history of redemption.

RESOURCES

A Curriculum For Those Wrestling Through Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism

88 comments

  1. What do you suppose will be the effect of PB covenant theology on their preaching of the Old Testament?

    With the 20th century Reformed Baptists, we enjoyed a broad agreement on how to preach the covenant of grace from the Old Testament. But surely those few who turn to a PB view will have to modify their preaching of the Old Testament to better reflect their PB covenantal views?

    • Since the PB see the old covenant as completely different from the new covenant, there can be no continuity between them. Then there is no unifying concept of the covenant of grace throughout Scripture. God deals with His people in two completely different ways. That’s the point, I believe, to justify their views of the sacraments, the church, and redemptive history which are very different than those of the Reformers, in spite of their claims of being Reformed. Although they talk about the covenant of works and covenant of grace distinction, they mean something very different from the Reformers. The PB use it to divide the Scripture and God’s people according to how God deals with them, while the Reformers used those terms as ways of relating to God by the concepts of works or grace. I find this dualism that they seem to be imposing on Scripture and God’s people disturbing because it seems to me that it challenges the idea that God is immutable.

    • In 2014 Pascal Denault gave four lectures contrasting the Reformed paedobaptist and the PB understanding of the covenants based on his book the Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, where he makes the case for a very different understanding of covenants compared to the reformed view of one covenant of grace under different administrations. You can find these lectures by googling his name.

  2. In denying that the covenant of grace was in operation until the death and resurrection of Christ, and insisting that before that the people of God were under the administration of a covenant works, the PB divide the people of God into two completely different groups: the precovenant of grace people who were under a system of religious practices that only dispensed the futility of trying to obey the law, and in the new covenant, and not until then, a people who were under grace. We know that God uses means of grace to bring His people into a saving relationship with Himself, but if prior to the new covenant, grace was not being dispensed, how was anyone saved? The claim that the OT saints “anticipated that God would someday establish a new covenant,” falls short trusting in the Savior promised already in the garden and further revealed under the covenant of grace, the substance of God’s revelation about himself throughout His Word.

  3. Dr. Clark, PB’s will be grateful to see you interacting with this confession and the surrounding body of literature. Still, you are making a significant mistake in this post (as well as in your last).

    Speaking of PB’s, you said: “For them Christ is The Seed and he is received through faith but that reception has little to do with the actual, external, historical administration of the covenant of grace through types and shadows…Inasmuch as the historic fulfillment of the promise is future then the external administration of the covenant of grace is also future, suspended, until the coming of Christ.”

    This is not accurate and misses an important claim of PB’s.

    2LCF 8.6: “Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed…”

    You are asserting that PB’s believe something very different than what the 2 London Confession actually says. This is not an obscure point and it is not a minor misrepresentation.

    PB’s DO think that Christ was received by OT saints through the ministration of the types and shadows of the covenant of grace. This was one of the points Dr. Renihan already made in the post you linked to above.

    Thanks,
    Billy

    • Billy,

      This is helpful.

      1. I am trying to understand and interact with the LBC as understood by its adherents. It was not I but Sam who used the language, “different in substance.” I am trying to understand what this means from a Reformed perspective.

      2. I take your point that the LBC does actually use the language of “in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices” but I note that the LBC stresses the revelatory function of these. In the article I argued that the LBC (as interpreted by Sam via Coxe) makes the OT covenants “witnesses” to the covenant of grace. I acknowledged that OT believers received Christ’s benefits, which accounts for the verb “communicated” in 8.6 I don’t see, however, the misrepresentation.

      There is a difference between disagreement and misrepresentation. It seems to me that the LBC is simply explaining how the types and shadows pointed to Christ but I have already acknowledged that.

      Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed,

    • Pascal Denault also sees the OT covenants as having a very different substance than the covenant of grace. They were earthly land promises for obedience to God’s demands. Salvation was temporal, as in delivery from the Egyptians. They were not meant as dispensations of grace for eternal salvation from sin because they were not under the covenant of grace. See Denault’s lectures by googling his name.

    • Dr. Clark,

      1. I agree with Sam, including his language of “different in substance.” You are definitely right in recognizing that as a PB view.

      2. Given your clarification (of the 2LCF claim) that OT believers received benefits of the covenant grace in every age, I suppose I did not adequately account for everything you said in the post. Thanks for that.

      Still, a more minor pushback…maybe only for more clarification.

      First, when you speak of the external administration of the CoG being “suspended” (as I quoted you above) it strikes me as an awkward way of describing the PB view of a covenant not yet established but only existing in promissory form. On one hand, the promise (Gen. 3:15) and the conveyance of its benefits was certainly not suspended in the OT. On the other hand, the CoG was not yet formally completed in Christ and therefore its external administration was not yet begun in the PB view. So how could something not begun be “suspended”? At least in my case, then, your use of this term contributed to a wrong impression of what you were saying (pt. 2 above).

      Second, and building on the first, I think the PB view can be more precisely described, even regarding the external administration of the OC. It is not a question of whether the gospel (promise) was present in the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants, even in their external administration. It is a question of the WAY it was present. Although the gospel promises, types and shadows of the covenant of grace were present in the OC, they were not the material basis for a formal covenant until the New Covenant was completed in Christ. As subservient covenants, even the external forms of the Abrahamic, Davidic and Mosaic covenants revealed, and thereby communicated, the benefits of the covenant of grace darkly in types and shadows. This is the distinction of being saved under, but not by, the OC.

      Thanks for your interaction.

      Billy

    • Billy,

      1. You seem to want to have your administrative cake and eat it too. Hasn’t Sam said explicitly that the OT covenants were not the covenant of grace?

      2. The Reformed say they were the covenant of grace.

      3. I am open to finding better words to describe the PB account of the relation but “suspended” seems fairly accurate.

      4. In response to Amy I used the word “magical” which seems not too far wrong. Maybe “mystical” is close?

      5. I suspect that you do not agree with Sam, Pascal Denault, or Coxe and thus your argument is more with them than with me. Perhaps you identify more with the OPBs? That’s an internal debate. I’m trying to help Reformed folk understand the PBs.

    • Billy, elsewhere Dr. Clark has used the comparison of an engagement which announces that the covenant of marriage will take place. In the Reformed understanding, although the new covenant ratified the covenant of grace by the blood of Christ, the benefits of the covenant of grace were being offered in the means of grace provided by God on the religious practices of the old covenant. The blood of the sacrifices did not forgive sin. but it pictured the blood of the promised one, and by believing in Him through these sermon pictures, they were saved. They looked ahead to the sacrifice that would ultimately save them, by faith in God’s promise to send the Savior, while we look back to the accomplished fact. It happened at one point in history, but through it, by faith that God would, and did send the Savior, God’s salvation comes to all of God’s people. That is what the Reformed mean by one covenant of grace under two administrations. It was administered through the types and shadows of the old covenant which depicted and certified the promise of the coming Savior.

    • Dr. Clark,

      1. Yes, all PBs (using your taxonomy) say that the OT covenants are not the CoG. Your question gives me the impression that you may be misunderstanding some of the basic features of this view. Since you mentioned Dr. Renihan the Younger again, I recommend going back and looking (again) at what he has written on this topic.

      Even in the post you linked to he said:

      “[T]he benefits of the covenant of grace, i.e., the substance, were appropriated by the elect in the Old Testament as they were made known in promises and types. In this sense, the Particular Baptists affirm that the substance of the covenant of grace was administered to the elect. And because of this, to say that PBs of then or now believe that the covenant of grace “was not actually administered” in the Old Testament is incorrect and takes the discussion in an extremely unhelpful, and I dare say heavily prejudiced, direction.”

      And:

      “Because the Particular Baptists denied that the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants were the covenant of grace, they denied that they were administrations, i.e., an older form of ordinances, of the covenant of grace. But they did not deny that those covenants administered the grace of the new covenant.”

      And:

      “So the Abrahamic covenant itself is not the covenant of grace, nor is it an outward administration of the covenant of grace, yet by typology it inwardly administered the grace of the new covenant.”

      2. Yes, I am aware of your confessional view. I don’t dispute that is what WCF teaches.

      3. Why? You give no reasons. What meaning are you giving to the term “suspended”?

      As you reminded me above, you are “trying to understand and interact with the LBC as understood by its adherents.” Can you cite where in the 2LCF, or in the surrounding 17th century PB literature, or even in its contemporary advocates that you have mentioned, where it might refer to the ministry of the CoG being suspended?

      5. All 3 of those guys are my superiors in discussing these topics so I would be very open to correction about ways I may be deviating from what they have written. At this point, I am not aware that I have.

      Thanks,
      Billy

    • Billy, I think it is clear that the PBs insist that the OC was not administering grace. In his book, Pascal writes, “the formal covenants that preceded the death and resurrection of Christ had a different substance and were therefore abolished and replaced by the New covenant” p. 82 As we see over and over, they insist grace was not administered under the old covenant because the covenant of grace, which they insist was synonymous with the new covenant did not exist. They insist that there was no administration of the means of grace, yet somehow the old covenant saints were saved by this new covenant/covenant of grace which didn’t exist, and without any outward means of grace! That is a mystery I cannot understand. The promise of grace to Adam was delayed or suspended until the inauguration of the new covenant according to the PBs. If they were to admit that the religious practice of the old covenant were means of grace of the covenant of grace, that would destroy their argument for a distinctly Baptist understanding of the covenants against the Reformed teaching that there is one covenant of grace under the administration of all of God’s coveants. They must maintain their view that the covenant of grace did not exist until the new covenant, to make the case that under pure grace, the church can only have a regenerate membership, thereby insisting on credobaptism.

    • Billy,
      In simple terms you’re saying: “We want it both ways.”
      “They weren’t administrations… [AND, yet, somehow] The substance was administered.”

      You seem offended that this clear contradiction is front and center. HOW was the CoG administered if there wasn’t any administration for it? That’s what RSC is looking for language to express. How can you fault him?

  4. As a PB, I have found much of this dialog very helpful…
    And, I am hopeful that this discussion will remain helpful by accurately describing opposing positions, and avoiding debate on issues scholars agreed upon long ago – John Owen is not a Baptist.

  5. John Owen was definitely not a baptist. But that was then …

    Seriously, thanks for your work in clarification, Dr Clark, in this and in every other area too.

  6. When I was writing my articles about the covenants, I tried to pin down a firm PB position on which covenants were included in the Old Covenant. You do see some slight variation in the ways in which they discuss the Abrahamic Covenant. I think I agree with all PBs when I say that Jeremiah 31:31-32 contrasts the New Covenant with the covenant made at Sinai – that is, the Mosaic Covenant. That seems to me to be a matter of fairly simple exegesis. Less clear to me was whether or not PBs believed that the references to the “Old Covenant” in Hebrews and the “Law” in Galatians and Romans included the Abrahamic Covenant.

    Throughout history, there have certainly been theologians falling down on both sides, both among credobaptists and paedobaptists. For example, Dr. Clark teaches very clearly that “Abraham is not Moses” and the Abrahamic Covenant is not included in the “Old Covenant” mentioned by the New Testament authors. However, a good Reformed friend of mine, whose name I will not mention for fear that I might incriminate him, disagrees on this point and says that the Abrahamic Covenant definitely IS in the Old Covenant. I do not believe that the 1689 LBCF takes an explicit stand on this point, nor does Keach’s catechism (though they certainly do not put Abraham’s covenant in the Covenant of Grace). I would have to go back and double-check. However, the majority opinion among PBs is that the Abrahamic Covenant was at least connected to the Old Covenant, if not actively part of it.

    I find the Abrahamic Covenant to be the most confusing of all the biblical covenants by far, for it seems to have a kind of dual initiation in Genesis chapters 15 and 17. For this reason, it is harder to pin down, and we see a greater diversity of opinions. I came to my own opinion, which should in no way be taken as representative of every Particular Baptist. I believe that the Abrahamic Covenant was not formally part of the Old Covenant or the Covenant of Grace. I believe it was a separate covenant instituted with Abraham (in chapter 15), which contained promises for both of his seeds: the physical descendants and the spiritual descendants. Circumcision seemed to me to contain the beginning of the Law. I say this because of its “do this or else” formula and the connections Paul makes between circumcision and “the Law”. Therefore, I personally conclude that the Abrahamic Covenant is very much connected to the Old (Mosaic) Covenant, but they are not one and the same thing.

    This is, however, my own personal opinion. Perhaps others will have a different opinion. A very prominent Baptist theologian, John Gill, actually had a rather different view of covenant theology than your run-of-the-mill Particular Baptist, which might be worth exploring as well. Even as there are some diversities within Reformed thought but a basic set of beliefs that are vital, so there are some diversities within Particular Baptist-ish thought but a vital set of beliefs. Those vital beliefs for PBs would include the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace dichotomy, the typological hermeneutic for the Old Testament, the Covenant of Grace consisting of only the New Covenant, and the two separate progenies of Abraham.

    Pascal Denault has written in regard to the Particular Baptists of the 17th century, “The issue that made them Baptists was to know who makes up the people of God.” This is a point worth considering. Previous commenters have noted that Baptists perceive the people of God in a different manner then the Reformed. They have called it personally “disturbing” and “abusive” to children. We are certainly used to being told that we despise our infants. I do not find such words to be gracious, but I freely admit that there is a very real difference of opinion between us.

    The confessionally Reformed believe that there has always been one people of God for one Covenant of Grace. In the Old Testament, this people was the nation of Israel, but with the dawning of the New Covenant, Gentiles were “grafted in”, to use the Apostle Paul’s terminology. Particular Baptists, on the other hand, believe that while both of these groups certainly have a connection to Abraham, they in fact constitute two different peoples. The physical nation of Israel was not the people of God in the same way that the Church is the people of God, and the nation of Israel and the Church were not one and the same thing. There have been plenty of physical descendants of Abraham who also became his spiritual descendants by faith, but simply being his physical descendant does not automatically make you his spiritual descendant. That only occurs by faith.

    Therefore, commenters are correct in suspecting that the Particular Baptists envision two different peoples of God, but I must stress the following: we do NOT teach two paths to salvation, and we do NOT teach a change in the divine character. The fact is that we do not believe that the Old Covenant provided a path to salvation at all. We just don’t. We don’t believe that it was a saving covenant. We don’t believe that was ever God’s plan. We believe He always intended to take to Himself a typological and earthly people (the nation of Israel) to whom He gave typological and earthly blessings (such as the Promised Land) for a period of time. This nation formed a type of the Church. The true Church did exist in the Old Testament, but it was not one and the same with the nation of Israel. Rather, it is made up of the elect of all ages. Therefore, there were Old Testament saints who were part of the universal and eternal Church by faith in God’s promise of a Savior, which was prophesied to them in the form of types and shadows. However, we do acknowledge that the full outward manifestation of the Church, including the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, was only inaugurated upon Christ’s death and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost. (We are, by the way, cessationists.)

    Therefore, God did not change His plan or give a new set of rules for salvation, because He always intended to have these two peoples: one the type and the other the anti-type. Now, I am not trying to convert everyone to this view. You should believe what you will as the Spirit leads you. I am just trying to explain what it is that WE believe. I think Dr. Clark is doing his best to explain that clearly and without passing too much judgment. When he notes a disagreement, that is not the same as an outright condemnation. I do bristle at his suggestions that our churches are not true churches. This is a minority view among the Reformed persons I have talked to, and we must consider that the Anabaptists (whom the Reformed confessions condemn in no uncertain terms) were a good bit more crazy than the Particular Baptists. I would also like to state, for myself, that I do not consider Reformed persons unbaptized, but rather I consider their baptisms to have been improperly performed. You will certainly find Baptists of all stripes who disagree with me on this count, but that is my opinion. I would not deny the Lord’s Supper to someone if they were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a minister of God. I would not allow them to become officers in my church, but they would be more than welcome to attend.

    In any case, I have written a treatise once again. Let us please act with charity to one another. We can disagree, but let us do so graciously. Remember what grace you were given by God.

    • “I find the Abrahamic Covenant to be the most confusing of all the biblical covenants”

      Perhaps I’m taking a foolish step in offering a reply, but I appreciate your thoughts here and on your blog (occasionally read). I’m only going to respond to this one element.

      I’m a preacher, and recently going through the life of Abraham, so this reply reflects my recent study. It’s important to start seeing there’s one “genealogy” or history that takes the reader from Gen.11:27-25:11. Each portion, each vignette is integral to telling this entire story. It is not a series of stitched-together incidents, with a hint of chronological rationale behind the order. And when you think the climax is finally reached in ch.21, there’s ch.22 and the Binding of Isaac.

      The covenant with Abraham unfolds with the promise, ch.12; the ceremony, ch.15; and the sign, ch.17. You might compare these to a marriage proposal, a wedding, and the ring (illustration). There’s even a child finally arrived as the culmination of hope-beyond-hope. But still, the covenant is confirmed in the seed of promise through the event of ch.22, which is the focus of Paul’s exposition in Gal.3:16-17, cf. Gen.22:18.

      This is the one place in the Abrahamic saga where a [I]singular[/I] referent for “seed” is the most obvious reading (See John Brown’s Galatians commentary, loc cit). And it fits with Isaac being here confirmed as the sole heir of the covenant. He foreshadows another Sole Heir, who is rewarded with the whole inheritance at his Ascension.

      Pentecost is the moment when the disinheritance of everyone (Ishmaels all) is announced. All have abused Him, but God has received Him, cutting off everyone else. He’s the One, True Israelite. But there is mercy with Him, as the apostolic proclamation goes on to say that the repentant may be received back (in spite of everything), and in the Heir find access again to the promises of the covenant with Abraham. Again, this way of looking at the NT scene is coherent with Paul’s exposition of Abraham in Galatians through the end of ch.4.

      The son who is cast out in Gen.21 will have offspring who return, mentioned by name in Is.60:7. The pattern for them is shown by the Gentile in Gen.21:22ff. He knows that God is with the mediator of the covenant (Abraham), and in order to be close to God he needs to be close to the mediator–he desires this for himself and for his children, v23.

      The mediator says “Yes (hallelujah!)… but you have offended me (woe is me!).” Having nothing by which to justify himself, he is given the (innocent) mediator’s gifts, v27a; and acknowledges the grant of a perfect (7) supply of beasts for cutting a covenant (see ch.15 for the ceremonial use of the animals). Moment after moment in the Abrahamic history is laid out for us in sign after sign, and type after type, a revelation of what God intends ultimately to do: provide by the Seed of promise a Lamb for the sacrifice.

      It really is one story, with the kind of coherence that becomes visible readily (like the ‘magic eye’ 3D pages) when the whole story has been told. I hope you find this helpful.

    • I am still reeling from the confirmation of my suspicions that PBs envision two people of God. One of them a typological, earthly people who were under a graceless administration of works, their purpose was to provide the lineage from which the Seed should come that was promised to Abraham, as some PBs claim. God’s dealing with these people was not on the basis of grace at all! It is not that God has two tracks of salvation, but rather God had no saving purpose, under the old covenant, for these people at all! Only under the new new covenant, is there an administration of the covenant of grace to the second group, which God means to bring under spiritual salvation, Yet inexplicably, to me, some of the people in the old covenant anticipated the new covenant and were saved under it, even though there was no means of grace available to them because the covenant of grace was not in operation at that time. All I can say is, this is radically different from what the Reformers and most of the Puritans taught!

    • Amy, you said:

      “Particular Baptists, on the other hand, believe that while both of these groups certainly have a connection to Abraham, they in fact constitute two different peoples. The physical nation of Israel was not the people of God in the same way that the Church is the people of God, and the nation of Israel and the Church were not one and the same thing.”

      Sounds similar to the distinction between the visible and invisible church. Perhaps they are comparable in some way.

      Also: “I do bristle at his suggestions that our churches are not true churches. This is a minority view among the Reformed persons I have talked to”

      As a Baptist, I bristle at this too, but I think he is simply trying to be consistent with what the Reformed have always considered to be marks of a true church – preaching of the gospel, correct administration of the sacraments, and church discipline.

    • Alex,

      1. I would not identify the visible/invisible distinction with a “two peoples” distinction.

      2. The Reformed certainly confess and internal/external or visible/invisible distinction but we would never say, as Sam and Amy do, that there are “two peoples” (earthly and spiritual). The Reformed have always said that there are two kinds of people in the visible covenant community. It has always been that way and always will be that way. We reject the Baptist (all three groups) attempt to short-circuit the messy historical process whereby God works within a mixed, impure visible covenant community, through the means of grace (chiefly the preaching of the gospel) to call his elect to new life and true faith. The visible church will be entirely pure when Christ returns and not until then.

      3. Given the degree of antipathy that the OPBs and PBs have for Dispensationalism I should think that the rhetoric of “two peoples” would be ill advised but I’m just an observer.

    • Amy,

      I distinguish between Abraham and Moses for a couple of reasons:

      1. Scripture does.

      2. The Reformed did. Consider Owen. My PB friends appeal to his commentary on Hebrews because they think it supports their case but they do him a great injustice. He taught the subordination of the Mosaic covenant, not the Abrahamic. It is entirely unwarranted to assume the PB conflation of Abraham and Moses and then to read that assumption back into Owen. He baptized babies not because he was “time server” (the AB critique of the Reformed) or because he was inconsistent with his own theology—that suggestion does injustice to Owen’s character and biography—but because he read the history of redemption the way the Reformed did. The Abrahamic covenant is permanent and fundamental in a way the Mosaic is not.

      Indeed, long before the Reformation, the Fathers distinguished between Moses and Abraham in the same way. They regularly wrote about Moses as temporary and even as a republication (!) in a way they did not about Abraham because they read the NT as the Medieval church and the Reformed later did or better the medievals and Reformed read the NT as the fathers (e.g., Barnabas, Irenaeus, et al) did.

    • Amy,

      I find the Abrahamic Covenant complex as well. One thing in particular that continues to perplex me is why key places in the NT, especially Galatians and Acts 15, seem to link circumcision with the Mosaic Law/Covenant when we would consider it most naturally part of the Abrahamic.

    • A reliable source tells me that I have overstated the degree to which John Gill differed from other Particular Baptists. I had been confused by a portion in Gill’s writing where he uses the one Covenant of Grace, multiple administrations language. However, it turns out upon reviewing other portions of his writings, that he was referring to the Covenant of Grace being exhibited under the Old Testament covenants. He did not believe that they were one and the same substance. I apologize for this error and hope I have not created more confusion.

    • Andrew, the reason that circumcision is related to the law in the NT is because the judaizers were making circumcision a legal requirement for salvation and because the bloody sign pointing to Christ, who would save them, was now replaced by the unbloody sign pointing to baptism, the unbloody sign that points to the reality that the Savior has come. Both point to the Savior, but to continue to use the sign of circumcision, or any other OT ceremonial practices that point to Christ was like a denial, that the reality that the sign pointed, to has come. That is the message of Hebrews which says we are under a new and better covenant because the administration of the covenant of grace, under types and shadows, has now given way to the reality.

  7. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, “Engaging with 1689” is huge to me. In an effort to understand the Baptist position I picked up Phillip D.R. Griffiths’ work “Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Perspective.” Through the first six chapters things went swimmingly. He references by far more paedobaptists than others. In Chapter seven the wheels came off. He reveals the root of the issue. Three quotes stand out:

    1. “So Covenant Theology arose because the Reformers were faced with the problem of having to defend their practice of infant baptism against what they considered to be Anabaptist heresy. Many of the ideas employed by the Reformers in an attempt to refute Annabaptist thinking they had inherited, and it is perhaps no exaggeration to quote David H. Gay, that ‘the reformers began with the practice they had inherited from Rome, and went looking for a theology to support it.’ ”
    2. “Again Gay was, I believe, correct in asserting that if only the Reformers ‘had taken Scripture as seriously as they did the Anabaptists, they would have started with Scripture, tested their practice against it, and come to the right way to baptize.’ ”
    3. Inferring that the necessity of infant baptism was in Calvin’s Geneva related to the magisterial requirement of Church membership he says, “It was again expected that all infants be baptized, and, of course, all were treated from infancy as being Christian. This served to encourage a nominal Christianity. There was a presumption of regeneration rather than a personal encounter with the risen Christ.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t he saying that the continuation of paedobaptism from the Apostolic Church until now just a plot to deceive, and that the Reformers intentionally tried to hold on to the practice for pragmatic reasons. This is as big a deal today as it was to the Reformers, and yet we place it way down on the list of disputable matters. Paedobaptists are being very deferential. Possibly to an extreme.

    • It is good that we be deferential to each other, there is no point in fighting with the PBs, but they are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry, I could not extend the hand of fellowship because I think that they have a completely different understanding of the faith that does not square with Reformed theology at all.

    • William,

      I do not know this work but it is profound wrong on several points.

      1. He simply making up things about the 16th century on the basis of supposition. I have responded in principle to this hoary allegation (which dates to the Anabaptist critique of the Reformed in the 1520s):

      Is Infant Baptism A Roman Catholic Leftover?

      2. The ABs had a radically different hermeneutic from the Reformed. It has more in common with the various Baptist approaches than with the Reformed. The Reformed rejected the ABs on the basis of Scripture. Tradition was a part of the argument but certainly, for the Reformed, Scripture was decisive.

      3. The state church was certainly a problem and it did facilitate nominalism but, again, the Reformed were driven to infant baptism as a consequence of their reading of redemptive history. See the linked essay above.

    • William, some time ago I was in a Reformed Baptist church that was OPB as far as I could tell. Our church was joined by a former pastor who became an elder, he was teaching the PB views of Phillip D. R. Griffiths as you point out. You will also find similar views in Jeff Johnson’s book The Fatal Flaw, where he tries to suggest that infant baptism is at the root of the problem that leads to false teaching like the Federal Vision! These are, of course, false accusations. They just cannot seem to inderstand that infant baptism is only the sign offering salvation that becomes effective when the recipient believes what it stands for. They also cannot grasp the concept of an inner and outer membership. They think that is s false church, corrupted by being under the old covenant practices of infant initiation. Although the PB want to call themselves Reformed, things get very nasty when they deny the validity of infant baptism on the basis of very mean spirited, false accusations against the Reformers.

    • Thank you so much for your insight. As one who was raised in the Presbyterian traditions, not necessarily always reformed doctrinally, much work is required to get as much of the various doctrinal differences straight. This forum and all of your and others comments are particularly helpful.

    • @Angela, I have a question of clarification from you with regards to your comment on this page where you stated that:

      “It is good that we be deferential to each other, there is no point in fighting with the PBs, but they are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry, I could not extend the hand of fellowship because I think that they have a completely different understanding of the faith that does not square with Reformed theology at all.” (https://heidelblog.net/2018/02/engaging-with-1689-2/#comment-487885)

      And I have somewhat of a problem in lining that up with your comment here where you stated that:

      “Richard Barcellos has some very thought provocing things to say about the Sabbath, and why it is the only holy day for Christians in his new book, Getting the Garden Right. He says God’s rest on the Sabbath is indicative of the state of glorification that Adam’s race would have obtained, if he bad obeyed God. The Christian Sabbath is indicative of of the glorified state that the second Adam, Christ earned through his obedience, and His vindication by resurrection in glory, for His people. That is why only the Sabbath can be a holy day.”
      https://heidelblog.net/2018/02/owen-contra-lent-easter-and-the-normative-principle-of-worship/#comment-487948

      It would seem to me that you have read Getting the Garden Right (an excellent work). I may be different from you in this respect, but it’s not very often that I would purchase, read, and publicly recommend the assertions made in a theology book by someone with whom “I could not extend the hand of fellowship because I think that they have a completely different understanding of the faith.”

      Furthermore, I have a true concern for you in that it seems that you are going well beyond what we should do as believers in making the judgment that others are not even worthy of fellowship together because of a difference in their view of Covenant Theology. This has even more ramifications as you begin to take this stance with our Christian brothers and sisters who existed prior to the Reformation. I’m not making this comment lightly to you as I do see this as a concern in your polemical approach.

      I am also concerned with the fact that none of your other P&R brothers and sisters have questioned this statement of yours that Particular Baptists should not be even given the hand of fellowship. I waited to let this slide for the week in the hopes that someone would even question this, but I have not seen such a sentiment from the commenters on this blog post. I hope that we can get beyond this and at least treat each other as if we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and at least deserving of a generic hand of fellowship.

    • Chris,

      Angela is within her rights. Hers is a defensible view. The relations between the Reformed and Particular Baptists are complicated to say the least. On the one hand, PB’s cannot except our baptism at least not consistently, and thus unchurch us. In light of Belgic Confession 29 it is difficult for Reformed folk to think that PB congregations are anything less than irregular.

      Nevertheless, I appreciate the good work done by my PB friends. I make a personal judgment that they are believers but that is not an official, ecclesiastical judgment.

      In the absence of such a judgment, opinions will vary.

    • Dr. Clark thank you for the reply and I’m sorry if there were duplicate postings of my comment – it wasn’t showing up for me when I refreshed the page so I tried it again (and again after lunch…)

      I’m glad that you at least will personally say that we are believers, albeit “irregular”. I honestly hope that some of the others who rightly look to you as an authority on such issues will, in lieu of an ecclesiastical judgment, at the very least take your personal judgment into consideration on this matter and be willing to extend a hand of fellowship to us as we do with you.

    • Chris, thank you for responding to my comment. The three marks of a true church, as I understand it, are the true teaching of the gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, and the correct use of discipline. Under that definition I have a problem of extending the hand of fellowship to PBs in the sense that I would treat them as though we have a shared understanding of the faith. I feel the PBs deviate from the Reformed faith in ways that would make impossible for me to see them as fellow REFORMED Christians. As I understand Reformed theology, piety, and practice, the PBs deviate from the right use of the sacraments by denying infant baptism, they deviate from a right understanding of the gospel by denying that the administration of the covenant of grace, though administered by various means, unites all of Scripture and by doing so they impose a dualism on the Scripture and God’s people, through what I see as a faulty hermeneutic. So no, I would not extend the hand of fellowship as though we have a common understanding of the faith. By the Reformed definition of a true church, I find the PBs in error concerning the sacrament of baptism, and on the gospel because they have a wrong understanding of how the covenant of grace unites the Scriptures. I have friends from various denominations, but I would not extend the hand of fellowship for them to become involved with my Reformed church as though we shared the same theology, piety, and practice. That does not mean we have to fight with each other, only that we need to be aware of our doctrinal differences. Te PBs want to be seen as Reformed. I see them as having very significant differences from the faith that was recovered by the Reformers, and that makes it impossible for me to see them that way.

      With regards to Richard Barcellos and other PB writers, yes I think it is important to understand their position, if only to understand where they err, and where they do not. Yes, Richard Barcellos has some very thought provoking things to say in his new book, and I very much appreciate his criticism of New Covenant Theology, but on his view of the hermeneutics on how to understand the role of the covenant of grace in redemptive history, and the right administration of baptism I think he is in error.

  8. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for your response to my comment. This work was endorsed by review from Founders Ministry, Richard C Barcellos, and Pascal Denault. I don’t know anything about the author, Griffiths. I assumed it accurately depicted their Reformed Baptist belief regarding the covenants.

  9. Dr. Clark,

    I see now how similar that is to dispensationalism. To be honest, I’m not particularly sympathetic to the “two peoples” language precisely because it sounds like dispensationalism.

    I had another thought – could the “administration of” vs. “witness to” debate be considered a manifestation of the late medieval debate between realism and nominalism?

  10. I do not typically comment on this blog, but as a former PB, I am in the unique position to understand both sides of this debate. It was actually the exposition of 1689 federalism that convinced me of the truthfulness of classic Reformed covenant theology. I sat under (3) lectures from Pascal Denualt, and listened to him explain the 1689 federalist position, so I have considered the PB position from a reliable source.

    For me, the logical conclusion of 1689 federalist covenant theology is inconsistent. If the administration of the actual, external, and real CoG was not present in the OT, but the substance of the CoG was actually given in the types and shadows of the OT, then what was administered in the covenants to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David? I know Sam Renihan stated that they are saved under, and not by, the CoG. However, how can you be saved under something that is not actually (truly) administered to you? How can all OT believers be saved “under” a covenant that they are not members of? These aren’t rhetorical questions. I truly want to understand how a PB would answer these questions, as I believe this is one of the central issues to this discussion.

    • Ryan, I think your use of the term ‘administration’ is the problem. I have a hose in my backyard which administers water. The hose is not water, even though it administers it. We don’t define a covenant by what it administers, we define it by the covenant parties and conditions. The Mosaic covenant is made with the entire nation of Israel. It placed conditions upon them to do certain things and not do other things, which would be rewarded with their respective blessings and curses (life in the land, or exile). The Noahic covenant was made with all men, and has no condition that men have to perform to receive the benefit of that covenant (preservation of the earth until the eschaton). In so much as a covenant reveals the material of the Covenant of Works (the 10C) it may be said to administer the (broken) covenant of works to unbelievers (Thomas Boston, a Presbyterian, and not an idiosyncratic one, describes the Mosaic covenant thus, pg. 76ff in the MoMD). This is true even in the New Covenant—many unbelievers, upon hearing the Sermon on the Mount, have set themselves upon working for eternal life. Likewise, if a covenant contains the material of the Covenant of Grace (the promise of free salvation by faith in Christ), then it may be said to administer the Covenant of Grace. Thus, when an Israelite slaughtered a lamb on the night of the Passover, he might see with the eyes of faith beyond the lamb he had slain for his physical redemption from slavery in Egypt to the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world for him, Jesus Christ. However, the physical lamb he just slew did not deliver him from slavery to sin, but only from slavery in the land of Egypt.

    • If the Isrealite saw the lamb as pointing to the Saviour that was to come, it functioned as an administration of the covenant of grace in the old covenant just as the Lord’s Supper points to the Savior that came and functions as an administration of the covenant of grace in the new covenant. One covenant of grace unites the Scriptures, under two administrations.

    • Howdy Angela,

      I agree with you that the benefit of redemption accomplished was received by the elect through faith, perceiving in the Passover lamb the Lamb of God typologically, and thus, we can say that the Passover lamb confirmed and strengthened the faith of the elect. And we believers also have our faith confirmed and strengthened through the Lord’s Supper. But, that’s only half of the story. The Lord’s Supper does not typologically reveal the Lamb of God, it straightforwardly declares him. I think I can get to the root of the matter—did one have to believe in Jesus Christ for the Passover lamb’s blood to be effective in delivering them from the angel of death passing amongst the peoples that night? No, one did not have to believe anything at all. As long as the blood of the lamb was on the doorposts, the Israelite was safe from the angel. The Passover lamb may have typologically directed the elect to look to Christ, but it also had an immediate function of delivering a person from the hand of the Egyptians. The Lord’s Supper doesn’t have any such function. It straightforwardly and directly declares Christ, who instituted it. Faith is requisite for it to achieve its purpose. The Passover lamb achieved its purpose regardless of if the Israelite in question had faith or not.

      You could also think of it this way—in the Passover lamb is such a beautiful typological picture of the Lord’s salvation, many Israelites were likely converted through celebrating the Passover. It is a shadowy word-picture of the Lamb of God. However, the Lord’s Supper should not function as a converting ordinance. It is for believers (I’m sure someone has been converted taking the Lord’s Supper). One reveals the Gospel typologically, the other presumes the person believes the Gospel.

    • Craig,

      Paul says,

      For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:1-4; NASB 1995).

      It is true that those were typological sacraments, but sacraments they were. Paul says they ate the same spiritual food and drink the same spiritual drink that we do: “and that rock was Christ.”

      The Israelites were in the midst of a spiritual administration, through types and shadows, of the covenant of grace. They were in the same cupboard of grace as we. The elect were believing in Christ, as we do.

    • Forgive me Dr. Clark, I read your response in the email notification, but when (Command + F) search for it, I can’t find it here. Hopefully this response will be found where it belongs.

      As to 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, positively, the food and drink are called spiritual in reference to their heavenly source: they were miraculous. This is made clear in verse 4—the water’s source is the rock, which was plainly miraculous. All of us agree that God was present with the Israelites in the cloud and pillar, and verse 4 states that it was Christ, the pre-incarnate Son of God, who led the Israelites in the pillar and the cloud, and gave them miraculous water and food. He is called the rock as a form of metonymy. The Israelites drank water from the rock, and the rock gave water by the miraculous working of Christ.

      Negatively, the passage can’t be referring to the typological function of the food and drink, for one very simple reason: typological administrations of grace require faith to perceive the antitype, but these Israelites all fell in the wilderness, and God was not well pleased with them. You can’t drink from Christ the antitype via the type of drink & food without having faith. These Israelites really did drink of the water provided by the pre-incarnate Son of God without having faith in him. Ergo, their drinking of him was not a typological drinking.

      You didn’t brink up the baptism part, but I’ll go ahead and say it, they all followed Moses, led by God. They had privileges and gifts from God, such as miraculous food & drink, and yet, he wasn’t pleased with them. This is a lesson to us, that we should not boast the ordinances of the New Covenant, but in truly knowing God, and rejoice in our justification.

      I don’t agree that any of the Old Covenant ordinances were sacraments, even though I’ll happily agree to the statement that they typologically revealed the Covenant of Grace, and thus administered its benefits to the elect through faith. A. A. Hodge says, “The sacramentum was anything that renders sacred or binds, as a bail or a soldier’s oath. These sacred rites seal and publicly consummate a Christian’s profession of faith and allegiance.” The Passover lamb did not require faith in Christ for it to do what God promised it would do. So it can’t be a badge of faith in Christ. Whereas that is exactly what the Lord’s Supper requires and does. There is no benefit which God promises will come from the Lord’s Supper without faith.

    • Agreed. I said the food and drink were spiritual in reference to their source, God, Christ, the pre-incarnate Son of God, provided by the Spirit. IE, the water coming from a rock was the work of God, which includes the work of the Spirit. You’ll have to forgive me how this is in anyway a rebuttal of my reading…? It is my point. The Israelites had food & drink provided by God, by the pre-incarnate Christ, by the Spirit. But, even while in possession of this spiritual (i.e., derived from the Spirit) food & drink, they were idolaters. And so Paul warns the Corinthians not to boast in their being in a church, having the Lord’s Supper, etc. Because our security is not in having those items, but in justification, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit, etc.

    • Craig,

      Perhaps I’m missing your point. Can you be completely explicit about what you’re trying to say?

      I’m saying that Paul’s argument is that the OT sacraments were (Holy) Spiritual, that we and the Israelites are participants in different administrations of the same covenant of grace.

      Is this what you’re saying?

    • Sorry Dr. Clark,

      I’ll try to be more clear.

      The baptism in the Red Sea, water from the rock, and manna from heaven were all miraculous provisions by God, the pre-incarnate Son, i.e., spiritual in source. Nonetheless, the Israelites were not actually “one body” (v. 17) with God, as is evident from their idolatry. They had all of these external privileges from God, but they did not know him (Jer. 9:24).

      Some of the Corinthians were beginning to eat food sacrificed to idols in such a way that they appeared to give credence to idols (v. 27-28). They were also making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper. They had immoral people in their midst, who clearly should have been cut off from the table. In a word, like the Israelites before them, they were becoming confident in the ordinances & external privileges of the Covenant of Grace, without a genuine fear of & knowledge of the Lord.

      But the example of the Israelites should have taught them that idolatry nullifies whatever external blessings one has, and brings only a curse.

      Basically, nothing of what I said above requires us to conceive of the baptism in the Red Sea, the water from the Rock, or the manna from heaven as sacraments. It is enough to say that they were benefits of a spiritual derivation. Adam also had many external privileges created by the Spirit, indeed, the whole, perfect creation. It does not therefore follow that he was in the Covenant of Grace when he was placed in the garden.

    • Craig,

      1. Can you see how, from the Reformed point of view, your explanation seems flatly to contradict Paul’s words and intent in 1 Cor 10? You seem to know before you get to the text that Paul can’t mean what he seems to say.

      2. As to a “subordinate” covenant. It is one thing to speak of the Mosaic/Old covenant as “subordinate” in its legal aspect. It is quite another to subordinate all the OT administrations of the covenant of grace. The Abrahamic covenant was not a “subordinate” covenant because it was not legal, national covenant. It is not treated as such in the NT. Indeed, Paul contrasts the Abrahamic covenant with the Mosaic. Hebrews calls the Mosaic “fading” etc. Paul calls the Mosaic “old,” not the Abrahamic. It is Abraham, not Moses, who is the father of all believers.

      As we have seen from 1 Cor 10, even Moses has a dual character. The Mosaic/Old covenant was also an administration of the covenant of grace. I understand that it is difficult (for people from a variety of traditions) to grasp the concept of a twofold character but when we do grasp that concept it does explain much.

    • Dr. Clark, you’ll have to forgive me, but can you explain 1. how I’ve contradicted Paul’s intent? Paul says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play, etc.'” My reading specifically is—the Israelites foolishly did not believe in the God who gave them water to drink, food to eat, and who led them through the sea by Moses. They had all these things from God, but did not trust in him, fear him, or love him. And so he struck them down. And that should warn any Corinthians tempted to behave similarly, given that they too have been given good things by Christ. How is that contradictory? Does Paul have something else he is wanting to assert in this passage? Can you explain what that is? And is it harmonious with the exposition I’ve laid out, or does it force us to deny that the manna & water were spiritual because they were miraculously provided by God?

      As to 2. Some aspects of the Abrahamic covenant are definitely gone—for instance, circumcision of the flesh. In as much as any covenant repeated or expanded on the promise of the coming savior, that covenant remains, but certainly, some functions of the Abrahamic covenant are no longer in play, and some of its promises were subservient to the cause of the Covenant of Grace, such as delivering Abraham’s children from Egypt after so many years. The Noahic covenant is still fully in play, and yet, the promise to preserve the earth, and various stipulations on how to live in it, are not what secure the forgiveness of sins. The fact that a covenant is still in effect does not mean that it is not subservient. The covenant of works (broken) continues to be in effect for all unbelievers. Arguably, in God’s eternal plan, he decreed the Fall that he might redeem us. In some sense, Adam is ultimately subservient to Christ, is he not?

      I have no problem with affirming dual characters of covenants, in so far as I recognize a covenant may materially republish the covenant of works, for instance.

      Frankly, I think a’Brakel has the best polemic against the Particular Baptist view. He argues that God never covenants with anyone in an external manner. When I brought up the Passover lamb being effective regardless of faith, a’Brakel might say in response, “because God is long-suffering, his angel of death passed over the unbelieving Jews.” Or, as our Lord responded to his final questioner on the day of questions, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Can anyone have an interest in the Abrahamic covenant while opposing themselves to the chief promise (the promised seed)? Can anyone have God as their God by that covenant, and yet reject what God has said? No, our Lord is one Lord, and his promises, ordinances, and ways are not divided. There is no real covenanting with God apart from faith in his son. All unbelievers are simply living off of God’s long-suffering.

      That seems like a good polemic.

    • Craig, faith is exactly what is required to make a sign an administration of the covenant of grace, both in the old and the new covenant. That is the Holy Spirit working in God’s people both in the new and the old covenant to administer the substance of the covenant of grace, through faith. Both the lamb and the Lord’s Supper can be converting and/or nourishing means of the covenant of grace. They are both signs pointing to the Savior. For a child watching the administration of the Lord’s Supper it may be converting, for the participant it is nourishing. The types and shadows, while they had other purposes, had a spiritual purpose as well, in pointing to the Savior that was coming, that is why there were believers under the old covenant, The types and shadows were the means of grace God used to bring them to faith and to sustain their faith. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and always. For many of the Isrealites the types and shadows only had an earthly function, but for God’s elect they were means of grace. The same is true of the means of grace administered in the church. Only the elect, who receive them by Spirit worked faith, are converted or nourished by them. Only by regeneration in the Spirit can the means of grace be effective. The types and shadows were a real administration of the covenant of grace, as the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments are today. The means of grace were different, but they administered the same covenant of grace by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration. Jesus said, you must be born again. That is true for all of God’s elect. Whether in the old or the new covenant. The Scripture does not show us any other way. And the fact that there were believers in the old covenant proves that the covenant of grace was being administered through the types and shadows. They were the God given means of grace for the elect.

    • Howdy Angela,

      I think I’ve been quite clear that I agree with you that the Covenant of Grace was administered to the elect through types by faith.

      The PB contention is this—as you said, the Passover lamb had other purposes along with being a means of grace. God did not require faith for the Passover lamb to do what he said it would. He just required blood on the door posts.

      God promises nothing in the Lord’s Supper other than on terms of faith in Jesus Christ. It has no other purpose than to be a means of grace.

      The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament and ordinance of the Covenant of Grace, whereas the Passover lamb is the sign of a separate, subservient covenant. Via typology, it becomes a means of grace to the elect, but it has completely legitimate uses within the Old Covenant that do not require faith at all.

    • Craig, Adam was placed in a covenant of works when he was placed in the Garden. He broke that covenant of works and brought its curses of death on all mankind. It was then that God graciously announced that He would send the second Adam who would do what the first Adam failed to do, perfectly obey the law. That was the covenant of grace that changed the requirement from, do this and live, to trust in Him and live. That is the covenant of grace in Christ which unites all of Scripture. When God alone walked through the pieces, He made this a formal covenant where God promises that He alone will perform all the conditions and suffer the death curse on behalf of His people, so that they might be under this covenant of grace. The Mosaic covenant was a republication of the covenant of works showing what God requires, perfect obedience which is only available by trusting in the second Adam announced in the garden. The ultimate purpose in the republication of the broken covenant of works was to show the impossibility being right with God by our own obedience. Since God announced the new Adam in the garden, those who trust in Him are saved. The types and shadows of the old covenant, together with Word as it was available to them, were the means of grace God used to bring His people to faith. In the new covenant the means are the Word and sacraments. The covenant of grace, announced in the garden, formally covenanted with Abraham, and consummated in Christ’s death is what unifies the scripture. Faith in the One God promised is its substance, and that unites all of God’s people so that there is one people of God under the covenant of grace from the announcement in the garden to the consummation of the new covenant when Christ returns, that is when the promises in Jeremiah will be realized and the church will be pure. God has always had one way of salvation graciously given in the garden, and all of Gods people were saved by the administration of it, under the means of grace provided under the types and shadows and under the old covenant, and under the new covenant, the means of Word and sacraments.

    • Howdy Angela,

      I don’t see how any of the above contradicts what I’ve said so far…

      I might take issue with what is meant by saying, “the covenant of grace was formally established with Abraham.” For instance, I don’t think the promise that “kings shall come of you” is a blessing of the covenant of grace strictly speaking. Certainly not in the sense that adoption and justification are. What I’m getting at is that the Abrahamic covenant is not strictly identical to the covenant of grace. It is subservient to it, superadded as a means to bring the covenant of grace to come to pass, but not itself identical to that covenant.

      If we take the covenant of grace to be formally established with Abraham because it is promised that his seed shall bless (and possess!) all the families of the earth, then we must say the covenant of grace was formally established with Eve, because the same promise is substantially made to her. But again, I think the promise that Eve would be mother of our Lord is essentially superadded, it is not identical to the covenant of grace formally speaking. In a word, God’s covenants with Eve (Adam), and Abraham, presuppose the Covenant of Grace to exist, but are not themselves that covenant. Therefore, the New Covenant has a relationship of fulfillment to the previous covenants, not mere identity.

      The most basic benefit of the covenant of grace is forgiveness of sins, to the end that we might have God as our God.

    • Craig, my guess is what you are trying to do is deny that that the covenants of the old covenant were administrations of the covenant of grace, and the confusion and difficulty you are having is an illustration of the problems that 1689 Federalism presents in denying that the covenants of the OT are an administration of the covenant of grace. You end up by denying that there is one covenant of grace under two administrations. You end up not being able to account for how people were saved under the old covenant without means of grace, and you end up with one people of God, only under the covenant of works and doomed to failure, whose only purpose was to keep alive the people who would produce the Seed promised to Abraham so that the covenant of grace could be established for the church. In this view, as soon as they disobeyed, God would have destroyed them but for His need too keep them alive to produce the seed. This puts a dualism on God that is dishonouring to Him. It divides he Scriptures into a dispensation of works and a dispensation of pure grace. It also makes God out to be very different in His dealings with His people in old covenant than how he deals with His people in the new covenant. All of this really goes to show how different the PB or 1689 Federalism is from Reformed theology. They want to call themselves Reformed, but they have a completely different teaching on the church, the sacraments, and the hermeneutics of how to understand the Scripture. You are either a 1689 Federalist Particular Baptist or Reformed, but you cannot be both.

    • Howdy Angela,

      This will be my last comment here. I appreciate the time we spent discussing these things. I fear that you really misunderstand me.

      I didn’t make any sort of claim to be Reformed, so I don’t know why you are telling me I’m not.

      As to most of what you wrote, I think I’ve very clearly explained how people in the Old Covenant were saved by the Covenant of Grace, administered typologically to them. There really isn’t any point in re-typing what I’ve already written. PBs distinguish the Covenant of Grace formally from the previous covenants, but materially, it is present in the promise, typologically, etc., of the other covenants.

      “…only under the covenant of works and doomed to failure, whose only purpose was to keep alive the people who would produce the Seed promised to Abraham so that the covenant of grace could be established for the church. In this view, as soon as they disobeyed, God would have destroyed them but for His need too keep them alive to produce the seed.”

      I think you are imputing something to subservient covenant folks that they don’t claim. No one says the Mosaic Covenant was the covenant of works. They say it was a covenant of works. IE, if there’s blood on the doorposts, the angel of death will pass you by. Doesn’t matter whether you believe or not.

      Anyways, I wish you well, the peace of God be upon you & yours.

    • Craig, Here is what Jeff Johnson a prominent proponent of 1689 Federalism said in an interview with Brandon Adams in Confessing Baptist Podcast #19 while discussing his book, The Fatal Flaw starting at 42:39-50:00 min.: “In 70 AD we see the ultimate curse coming on the house of Isreal. The Lord had mercy and would restore them because of the promise to Abraham. That is what preserved them and kept them alive to produce the seed promised to Abraham. They all died in their sin but he allowed them to live so they could bear children to keep the Seed of Abraham alive. after Christ was born, the promise to Abraham was fulfilled, so there was no necessity that the rest of the Isrealites be preserved since the seed had come into the world.” In interview #20 at 37:41 min.-42:33 “All Abraham’s children were under the condition to obey the law of circumcision, they had to have a circumcised heart. In the course of time the Mosaic covenant was made with the children. The Mosaic covenant shows what circumcision requires. It reestablishes the law to man….first given to Adam and Eve that was broken and everyone born under that broken covenant was born condemned.” I don’t know how to set up links but you can find these interviews by googling: Confessing Baptist Podcast 19 and 20: Intervew by Brandon Adams: Jeff Johnson on the Fatal Flaw.

    • Craig,

      I want to thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. As I stated in my previous post, my reason for entering this debate was to truly understand the Particular Baptists view regarding the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament, and not to debate why I think the Reformed understanding of the Covenant of Grace is the correct way to understand God’s redemptive purposes. Let me, however, make a few brief remarks of clarification.

      1. It was not my intention to define a covenant by what it administers, nor did I state that in my initial post. I hope that we are all coming into this debate with a firm definition of a postlapsarian biblical covenant. I am partial to O. Palmer Robertson’s definition: “A bond in blood sovereignty administered.”

      2. My initial questions stem from what Particular Baptists have explicitly stated in multiple forums. The 1689 federalism website states, in their comparison of WCF Federalism and their own, that Particular Baptists believe the Covenant of Grace=The New Covenant full stop. However, they also claim that all OT believers have been saved through the Covenant of Grace. This prompted me to ask the question that was stated in my first post. To restate it in more acceptable terms. If PBs believe that the Covenant of Grace was not formally established with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, yet its material nature was given to the elect through the types and shadows, then what was actually administered in the Old Testament covenants? My question is not simply regarding the nature of the Covenant of Grace, but more specifically, what was administered in the Old Testament covenants in light of the 1689 definition. This restated question does not need to be answered, since you have addressed it in subsequent posts.

      I understand what you are saying regarding types vs anti-types, or types and shadows vs the thing itself. The reformed make this distinction as well, Dr. Clark correct me if I am out of step, between the different administrations within the one Covenant of Grace that stretches across all redemptive history. The Particular Baptists, on the other hand, seem to take this distinction as a difference in the covenant itself, which brings the Particular Baptists to the conclusion that the Old Testament covenants were not (formally) the Covenant of Grace, even though the substance of the Covenant of Grace was given to the OT elect. Is this a semi-accurate succinct description of your position?

      I would like to ask you one more question, in the light of better understanding your position. You said, “I think I’ve very clearly explained how people in the Old Covenant were saved by the Covenant of Grace, administered typologically to them…PBs distinguish the Covenant of Grace formally from the previous covenants, but materially, it is present in the promise, typologically, etc., of the other covenants.” In light of this statement, how can the substance of a covenant that does not formally exist be administered and apprehended? This mirrors my original question, which was “how can OT believers be saved under a covenant they are not (formally) members of?” I know your answer will be through typology. I am, however, at a loss with this line of thinking. How can the benefits of a covenant precede its establishment in space and time? I look forward to your response.

      Also, thank you Angela and Dr. Clark for defending the Reformed position. I appreciate your responses.

    • Ryan,

      I’ve come back just to answer your question. I appreciate your interest in clearing up how PBs view things, rather than debating which one is per se right. I am actually not a settled and convicted PB, but a student of these things, so I’m not sure which view is right. I’ll further qualify and say that I’m reading Dickson on the covenants right now, and he’s giving me a lot to chew on. I’m not sure I’m in the right headspace to answer for PBs. Lastly, I didn’t mean to be harsh, it just seemed to me that Renihan & co. would simply respond and say that what a covenant administers doesn’t really get to the heart of the covenant. Actually, even for Reformed people, the covenant of grace doesn’t administer grace but rather curse to those only externally in covenant. But that doesn’t make it not a covenant of grace. It is the covenant of grace because of its condition, which is faith…?

      My answer will be two-fold. 1) The covenant of grace is simply the application of the benefits of Christ’s work in the covenant of redemption. In so much as that is the case, then wherever materially Christ’s work in the covenant of redemption is made known, it can be applied. By means of the covenant of redemption, Christ had legal right to apply the redemption he would accomplish for his elect from all eternity. So there is no issue as to, “how can people legally be saved when the Covenant of Grace isn’t formally made?” because the Covenant of Redemption is a settled legal reality from eternity. I don’t think this is actually really different from the Reformed view tbh, at least, I think we can agree that the legal foundation of the salvation of the elect in all ages is rooted in the covenant of redemption, indeed, how else could God covenant with Noah, Abraham, etc, without this legal foundation preceding it? 2) The formal establishment of the New Covenant refers to the giving of legal existence & recognition to a covenant community as such. They place a lot of stock in the idea of a testament, providing an inheritance. Maybe I can write more, I should go to bed. I appreciate your gentle tone.

    • Craig,

      Thank you for your response. I am glad to hear that you are wrestling with Scripture’s teaching of redemptive history. I wrestled with this topic for a year and a half before my convictions were settled, so I understand where you are coming from theologically.

      Regarding your response, I would balk at the way you are using, and applying, the Covenant of Redemption (a doctrine I heartily affirm), as well as a few other small points. This is no surprise, however, since I’m convicted in the classically Reformed understanding of the Covenant of Grace, and you are not there quite yet . I would love to continue the conversation with you, but it is clear that your done debating the point in this forum. Therefore, if you’d like to take this conversation offline, I can pass along my contact information to do so, as we may be able to sharpen one another as we think through these very deep and important truths.

      Let me know,
      Ryan

  11. RSC,

    Thank you for your work here. It has reminded me that when I was working through the question of baptism and covenant many years ago, I found it interesting that when it came to the exposition of “God’s Covenant” in the 1689 London Confession, those formulators distinguished between the Covenant of Grace and the Eternal Covenant transaction between the Father and the Son, by saying that the former is founded on the latter. This was not always true of other Baptist covenant theologians: for many Baptists, such a distinction, if consistently applied, would be fatal to a baptistic formulation of covenant theology. I came to believe it would be too, yet the 1689 affirmed the distinction to be scriptural. In that light I had to wonder what to make of the 1689’s formulation.

    • I have some thoughts I would like to add. As Dr. Clark has pointed out in this discussion, the confessional Reformed view of redemptive history sees a continuity form the covenant of redemption to the promise to Adam and from there a straight line through Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ. That straight line is the covenant of grace which unites all of redemptive history. The RBs do not see a straight line, but rather an arc that jumps from the covenant of redemption and the promise to Adam, to Christ and that is the plan of redemption for God’s legitimate people, represented by Sarah and Isaac! They see Isreal as the illegitimate people of God, represented by Hagar and Ishmael! They were under the bondage covenants of the OT, which the RBs lump together under Moses. Where the Reformers saw Sarah and Isaac as representing grace, and Hagar and Ishmael representing the bondage of trying to save oneself by works, the RBs see them as representing the two people of God! God put Isreal under the works covenants that said, you must do this and live to earn eternal life and to earn temporal blessings. When they disobeyed, He pronounced their death curse which He made good on 70 AD, after he had no more use for them! He only preserved them so that the line would be preserved, to fulfill the promise of the Seed which He made to Abraham! The substance of the OT covenants, after Adam, is the covenant of works! The substance of the new covenant is the covenant of grace, and it did not exist until then. According to the RBs, the legitimate people, the Church must have a purely regenerate membership because only those who are under grace may be included in the new covenant, which is the only covenant of grace. That is what they mean by saying that the OT covenants, after Adam had a different substance, that was, do this and live, while the new covenant says, believe in Christ and live. As this discussion points out, that presents a difficult question for the RBs: How then, in the absence of the means of grace, because they deny that the OT covenants were an administration of the covenant of grace, were the OT saints saved? So far I have only encountered a very vague suggestion that they anticipated that God would someday make a new covenant, or that they had some sort of special, inner witness.

  12. Dr. Clark quotes Dr. Renihan as saying, “It was important to the Particular Baptists to maintain a close connection between the old covenant(s) and the covenant of grace. Though they were distinct, they were not to be divided. The old covenant(s) were subservient to the covenant of grace and made its benefits available through typology. But, in and of themselves, **they did not grant heavenly blessings**.” [emphasis mine]

    The proposal from Dr. R. and the PB’s is that Abraham and the OT saints were recipients of “heavenly benefits” through participation in a covenant (the only saving covenant of grace) which in **no substantial way** was in effect but could only be anticipated.

    Thus, **what was not**, was yet effecting and granting these “heavenly blessings,” nothing less than the dual benefits of justification and sanctification through union with Christ by faith.

    I don’t find this to be a paradigm that coheres with, among other teachings of Scripture, the Shema, in which we learn that “… the Lord is one.” This matter, the one-ness and simplicity of God, I consider to be central to our reading and understanding of redemptive history–not incidental and surely not expendable. This is an important factor in my determination that the Reformed hermeneutic is preferred—the singular, cohesive thread running through all of Scripture–**substantially**.

    To build an arc that necessarily flies over the covenants of the OT, because the OT covenants are said to be “merely typological,” renders them, in the end, of not much **substantial* use to the NT church, aside from historical purposes. The OT covenants are now footnotes in redemptive history.

    I imagine that our PB friends would bristle at my assertion there, but having “crossed the river,” I don’t have much concern for what their reading has to say about the covenants contained in the OT. In their end, I know going in that there is significant **discontinuity** between the covenant that saves, and all that precedes. The typology of the OT may be interesting, but it is not now necessary. It is expendable. I find that rather unfortunate and un-motivating.

    • Their insistance that the covenant of grace did not exist until the new covenant and was therefore not administered by the OT covenants makes it very hard for the PBs to account for how anyone was saved under the OT. They must maintain this incongruous position to justify their teaching that there is a radical separation between the OT covenants and the new covenant so that they can insist that the church now must have an exclusively regenerate membership which rules out infant baptism. I think that the very fact that there were believers under the OC is proof that the covenant of grace was being administered through the types and shadows. But if they were to admit this, they could no longer make the case for discontinuity. And the two peoples of God hermeneutic that has resulted from this is just shocking for the dualism it imposes on ithe Scriptures. The idea that the OT scriptures have only historical interest to the new covenant people is yet another indication of how false the PB position is, and that it is not in line with that of the Reformers.

    • The current state of the evangelical, and largely baptist church should lead any reasonable person to question the validity of “regenerate church membership.” It’s a promise that none can deliver, and is by experience repeatedly shown to be untenable.

  13. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for your ministry and work in the area of historic Reformed theology. I have greatly benefited from the materials you make available on your website and through your podcast.

    I was raised dispensationalist, moved to a sort of NCT position during my college years, and recently became introduced to classic and PB covenant theology (through Horton and Coxe/Owen, respectively).

    I am listening to your “I will be a God to you and to your children” series, and I have a few questions.

    I may have missed it in the podcast, but why is Abraham the paradigm of the administration of the New Covenant? Acts 2 and Romans 4? Does Peter not modify the promise with “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself”? If the administration of the covenant sign to children is part of the substance of the CoG, why was no such sign given from Adam to Abraham? Why was circumcision suspended in the wilderness wandering? Why is the administration of the sign to children part of the eternal substance of the covenant, but the land promise isn’t? Also, in episode two of the podcast, I believe I heard you say that Abraham was the first Christian. Was that a misstatement? What about Adam, Abel, or Noah? (I’m sorry. That was more that a few).

    I appreciate any response you can find time to give.

    Thank you.

  14. @Angela, I have a question of clarification from you with regards to your comment on this page where you stated that:

    “It is good that we be deferential to each other, there is no point in fighting with the PBs, but they are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry, I could not extend the hand of fellowship because I think that they have a completely different understanding of the faith that does not square with Reformed theology at all.” (https://heidelblog.net/2018/02/engaging-with-1689-2/#comment-487885)

    And I have somewhat of a problem in lining that up with your comment here where you stated that:

    “Richard Barcellos has some very thought provocing things to say about the Sabbath, and why it is the only holy day for Christians in his new book, Getting the Garden Right. He says God’s rest on the Sabbath is indicative of the state of glorification that Adam’s race would have obtained, if he bad obeyed God. The Christian Sabbath is indicative of of the glorified state that the second Adam, Christ earned through his obedience, and His vindication by resurrection in glory, for His people. That is why only the Sabbath can be a holy day.”
    https://heidelblog.net/2018/02/owen-contra-lent-easter-and-the-normative-principle-of-worship/#comment-487948

    It would seem to me that you have read Getting the Garden Right (an excellent work). I may be different from you in this respect, but it’s not very often that I would purchase, read, and publicly recommend the assertions made in a theology book by someone with whom “I could not extend the hand of fellowship because I think that they have a completely different understanding of the faith.”

    Furthermore, I have a true concern for you in that it seems that you are going well beyond what we should do as believers in making the judgment that others are not even worthy of fellowship together because of a difference in their view of Covenant Theology. This has even more ramifications as you begin to take this stance with our Christian brothers and sisters who existed prior to the Reformation. I’m not making this comment lightly to you as I do see this as a concern in your polemical approach.

    I am also concerned with the fact that none of your other P&R brothers and sisters have questioned this statement of yours that Particular Baptists should not be even given the hand of fellowship. I waited to let this slide for the week in the hopes that someone would even question this, but I have not seen such a sentiment from the commenters on this blog post. I hope that we can get beyond this and at least treat each other as if we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and at least deserving of a generic hand of fellowship.

    • Chris, as I continue to think about your objections to my comment, I would like to say a few things. First I did not mean that I would not welcome you with a generic handshake as a someone who professes Christ. Yet the idea of “the right hand of fellowship” in Galatians seems to say that we are joining with that person in a fellowship, based on a shared understanding of Scripture. I think there are some very substantial differences between PBs and confessional Reformed that would rule out such a fellowship. PBs differ from the Reformed on the sacraments, the role of the covenant of grace in redemptive history, ecclesiology, and the unity of Scripture, and I believe they err on these areas. So no, I could not in good conscience overlook these differences and extend the hand of fellowship in joining together with them, as though we had a shared understanding. If I came across as making a judgment that you are not believer, I am sorry. Only God can infallibly make that judgment. In retrospect, I see that I may have expressed myself unclearly, so I hope this at least makes a better late than never correction.

    • Angela, thank you for that clarification that you gave me regarding my objections to your comments.

      I’m still rather concerned about some of the logical conclusions which would follow from your strict reading of the Belgic Confession and what that means with regards to those with whom you would hold fellowship (as in communion).

      So, I would like you to consider the following (and all those who would withhold communion to a person who disagrees with you on what entails the pure administration of the sacraments and even different ecclesiology, as you stated in your last reply to me among other things).

      The Belgic Confession 15 states the following: “[original sin] is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism…”

      Therefore, any infant baptism which remits/cleans original sin is not a pure administration of the sacrament of baptism since it cannot be possible “even by baptism” that original sin can be abolished in a person (just as not baptizing infants is not a pure administration according to the Belgic). Stating otherwise would go against the Belgic Confession and would rule out the possibility that such a person would be practicing baptism properly.

      Therefore, to deny “the hand of fellowship” and communion for the reason of the person not holding to a pure administration of baptism means that such a person could not be in communion with Augustine. He was a staunch proponent that infant baptism was for the purpose of “abolishing or wholly uprooting” original sin.

      “The latter class, indeed, by examining the Scriptures, and considering the authority of the whole Church as well as the form of the sacrament itself, have clearly seen that by baptism remission of sins accrues to infants; but they are either unwilling or unable to allow that the sin which infants have is original sin.”

      “Now, seeing that they admit the necessity of baptizing infants,—finding themselves unable to contravene that authority of the universal Church, which has been unquestionably handed down by the Lord and His apostles,—they cannot avoid the further concession, that infants require the same benefits of the Mediator, in order that, being washed by the sacrament and charity of the faithful, and thereby incorporated into the body of Christ, which is the Church, they may be reconciled to God, and so live in Him, and be saved, and delivered, and redeemed, and enlightened. But from what, if not from death, and the vices, and guilt, and thraldom, and darkness of sin? And, inasmuch as they do not commit any sin in the tender age of infancy by their actual transgression, original sin only is left.”

      Augustine would also argue for paedocommunion (whoever doesn’t eat of Christ flesh can not have eternal life – this was part of his argument) which is generally not something that adherents to the 3FU would allow as being a pure administration of the sacrament as The Lord’s Supper is for “those who are already born again.” (BC 35) As Dr. Clark stated on this site last month, “paedocommunion is an error”. Here is another strike against Augustine.

      A third easy strike would be in the errors of his ecclesiology. Obviously, no “Bishop” should be allowed to partake of communion – especially when he has such glaring flaws in his sacramentology.

      You can say all day that you would withhold communion from me, and that’s fine. But if I were to drop you into church history at any time between (say) 200 and 1550, you would be hard-pressed to find a single believer who you could have communion with. This is something that I truly hope causes you to take pause and seek out how Christ would have you be able to commune with a person versus a strict understanding of the Belgic Confession.

    • Chris, Augustine and the early church fathers were not infallible, and the Reformed do not confess them. The Reformed confessions are consensus documents based on the faith the Reformers recovered, and we confess that they are accurate summaries of the doctrines contained in Scripture. We say that the confessions are only valid in so far as they agree with Scripture. If someone feels that they do not, they may go through a series of steps, set out in the church order, to prove, from Scripture, that the confessions ought to be changed. If there is a consensus agreement that this is so, the confessions would be amended. The purpose of the confessions is to provide a statement of what we believe to be the teachings of the Scriptures. We believe it is not for every believer to decide for himself what the Scriptures teach, but rather we read them with the Church and with the pastors and teachers God has given to the Church. Again that is determined by consensus of the Church throughout its history. These confessions are therefore what we confess to be the true faith, not as they have any authority equal to or above the Scriptures but as they serve to accurately summarize the truth of Scripture according to the concensus of the Church rather than my or anyone’s personal interpretation.

      With regards to communion. We believe the Lord’s Supper is a very important means of grace and that it is vital that it should only be received with a proper self examination and understanding. As Paul warns in I Cor. 11 an improper reception of the Lord’s Supper is actually a danger that could result in physical sickness or even death, and a judgment on the church. That is why we feel we must make sure that the person can examine themselves. As one commenter has pointed out, communion means common-union with regard to the spiritual significance of the Lord’s Supper. We fence the table because we believe the church has a responsibility to limit participation to those we have reason to believe can examine themselves and that it is according to the faith we confess, for their protection and that of the church. That is why, before I became a communicant member, I had to go through several months of in depth study of the confessions, a thorough, oral examination before the officers of the church, and a public profession of faith before the church. The purpose was not to make a judgment of whether I was a true Christian, but to ensure I could give an informed agreement to the confessions, and that I understood what I was getting myself into.

      There is a very common misconception that the Reformed have a view of the sacraments that they automatically administer what the sign represents, so that when a baby is baptized, it is automatically regenerated. We condemn that view as error because it would make the sign an instrument of salvation, denying salvation by Christ alone! We see baptism as a sign to helpless infants, that if they come to trust what the sign points to, the washing of regeneration in Christ, they will be saved. Faith in what it signifies makes the sign a spiritual reality, that happens through the work of the Holy Spirit who seals it to the person through faith, when and if they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Baptism makes the child an outward member of the church, meaning they have received the sign outwardly. When the Holy Spirit seals it to them in faith, it becomes an inward reality that makes them an inward member of the Church.

      I’m not sure if I have answered all of your objections, but I hope you find this to be a reasonable explanation for the theology, piety, and practice of Reformed Christians.

  15. I feel the need to chime in. I agree with both Dr. Clark and Angela. For me, the hand of fellowship means participating in the sacraments. A reformed Baptist, if consistent, would not want to participate in a reformed communion, because he would be participating with people who are unbaptized. A reformed Baptist church should not allow those who were baptized as infants to participate in theirs, as they would be allowing an unbaptized person to the sacrament. I think Monsma and Van Dellen had it right. Let those who are Baptist in their view seek out a Baptist place of worship, likewise with the Methodist etc. At the end of the day, it comes down to being consistent. By allowing people with views contrary to the reformed faith to participate in the sacraments, are we, as reformed people, being consistent?

    • Peter, I completely understand that from a confessional standpoint. If that’s the extremity in fencing the Lord’s Supper that you wish to espouse, then that’s up to your conscience (this goes for believers on both sides of this debate).

      But I have two points to make.

      First of all, when I see “hand of fellowship” as a reader of the Word, I think of Galatians 2. And the Word must have far more preeminence for us than a confession.

      Galatians 2:7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right **hand of fellowship**, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

      Paul and Barnabas were extended the “hand of fellowship” in that they were judged to be preaching the same gospel and were said to be fellow workers in Christ who have been entrusted with the Gospel. When I see someone tell me that they don’t believe that Baptists can be given a “hand of fellowship”, I truly am concerned.

      Secondly, should you wish to be more specific and speak in confessional terms, we can look at Belgic 29. “But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves ‘the church.'”

      Assuming that this is what you mean by a “hand of fellowship”, then I will have to let you, Angela, and Dr. Clark sort this out. He has personally made a judgment that Particular Baptists are believers (and presumable workers in the Gospel, for if we don’t have the Gospel we cannot be judged, even personally, to be “believers”) but in an “irregular” church. I can see from his response to me that he has chosen not to say, with the confessional language, that Particular Baptists are a “sect”. Upon the confessional terms that it appears you are arguing from, it would seem that you and Angela are referring to us as being in a “sect” as this is the way that you wish to read “the distinguishing of the fellowship of the true church”.

      I am all for being consistent, but we should also couch that with charity. My PB friends may not like what I’m about to say, but strictly speaking, the 1689 does not make baptism to be a requisite for taking the Lord’s Supper, although this is of course the normative rule for those who are members of a Baptist church. I would have to do some research, but I would think that this was done in part to allow for any professing believers, even from another denomination, to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

      In Waldron’s Exposition of the 1689, he appears to state what I was thinking. “Unless one believes that only one’s own church or denomination is a true church with true Christians in it, then closed communion rejects those who are worthy in Christ’s eyes. These biblical truths do require ‘restricted communion.’ Only true believers who are members of true churches may be permitted to come to the Table. The faithful practice of ‘restricted communion’ requires at least two things: public announcement of the biblical requirements and private prohibition of those known to be unworthy (who it is thought might attempt to partake).”

    • I agree that salvation is not limited to those who are confessionally reformed. That would limit the saving work of Christ. If I look at the term communion, it is derived from two words…common union. What do I have in common with someone who denies my baptism? Or who has a view on transubstantiation or consubstantiation? Or is simply saying I love Jesus enough? We can’t cherry pick which parts of doctrine we agree with, and those that we don’t. We either maintain all of it, or we have lost it all. I have no problem calling a Baptist a believer. I have a problem with admittance to the sacraments because they are not reformed. I would expect that should I walk into a church which is confessionally unreformed, that should I request participation, that I would be denied. That is assuming the church is consistent in their practice of discipline, which in this day and age, seems to be a dirty word, even amongst confessionally reformed churches.

    • Great stuff all around. If I may impose on y’all to give your opinion on those who attend the worship as “friends of the Church”, partake in fellowship and study, but are not now , nor possibly ever been members of a church. Specifically those who are of credobaptist backgrounds and have attended congregations who don’t believe in vows of membership. When does the fencing of the table bar them or is it left to there own consciences to determine there participation. Personally I believe the WCF, which is the standard for my Church, and the Book of Church Order would infer that they need to become members by vow.

    • Chris, the only requirement for justification is to trust in Christ alone for our right standing before God. Period! However sanctification follows. It answers the question of what our response should be through our theology, piety, and practice. The Reformed confess their theology through the confessions which we believe faithfully summarize the doctrines of scripture, and further what our piety and practice is. You may disagree with us, but that does not give you the right to insist that we change to accommodate your views, unless you want to follow the rules of church order and challenge points of doctrine in the confessions. I would not expect to receive communion in other denominations, and even if I could, I would choose not to, if they have a different understanding of theology and the sacraments. That is the case with Reformed compared to PBs. We can’t just ignore the differences, it comes down to the question of, “what is truth?” a question we all have to answer before God. I would go against my conscience if I participated in theology, piety or practice that went against my understanding of God’s Word, and I could not compromise my church by having people come into my church with ideas that are not consistent with our confessions asking for acceptance in spite of those differences. I am simply saying that, after looking at the teachings of the PBs, they do not line up with Reformed teaching, so I would not consider them to be Reformed.

    • William, I agree with you, absolutely. When I first became a member of a Reformed church, it was only after an indepth course of study on the confessions, followed by an examination by church officers, and then a public profession of faith where I affirmed that I was in agreement with the confessional teachings of the Reformed church. Only then was the hand of fellowship extended to me. I think that is as it should be. The question was not whether I was a true believer, only God knows that with certainty, but whether I could give an informed agreement to the Reformed confessions. RBs seem to think they can determine who are true believers, the Reformed do not think they can make such a judgment. They realize the church will not be pure, and they do not pretend to judge what only God knows. One advantage of having the confessions is that we know exactly where we stand in our theology, piety, and practice. We are happy to extend the hand of fellowship, as in full participation that involves the sacraments, and membership, to those who commit to affirming our confessions because we consider those confessions to be a faithful summary of the doctrines of Scripture. I think the PBs have the same objectives, of defining what they believe, but there are significant differences, as this series is revealing, between the Reformed confessions and the 1689 LBCF, as interpreted by 1689 Federalism, that I believe would not allow for a common fellowship. Meanwhile everyone is warmly welcome to visit and worship with us.

  16. Chris, as far as article 29 BC goes, I find it unfortunate that we are not given an option for erring churches. Our choices are between true and false. The reality is that a lot of churches today were not around when it was written, and thus fall somewhere between. I don’t want to say that Baptist churches are false, but neither can I in good conscience say that they are true, based on reformed doctrine. I agree with Dr. Clark, its a complicated issue.

    • Peter,

      When the Belgic was drafted and adopted the Baptists did not exist per se. The Belgic speaks to the Anabaptists when it speaks “sects.” It refers to Rome when it speaks of “the false church.” The Baptists didn’t come into existence until about 1611, in the Netherlands. The P & R churches rejected them as “Anabaptists” but in the 17th century, among the Dutch Reformed churches the terms Baptist and Anabaptist were used interchangeably.

  17. The OPC allows Baptists to become members without changing their view of baptism and to participate in the Lord’s Table and to allow a session approved Baptist preacher in the pulpit. How do you view this position of a reformed denomination ?

  18. Dr. Clark, should not the comment to Richard read that this was not the practice of P&R churches, but is a relatively modern practice?

  19. Wow! This discussion has been quite a ride! There are two things that really stand out for me. The first is that, despite our differences, we all profess that, in the NT Church, at least, our right standing before God depends on grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone. The second thing is that not everyone who calls themselves Reformed would be recognized as such by the Reformers. The Presbyterian and Reformed differ very significantly in their understanding of redemptive history, the definition of the church, the covenants, the sacraments, and hermeneutics for interpreting the unity of Scripture compared to Baptists who call themselves Reformed. It seems that Baptists have their own authorities, for a distinct understanding, many of which they are just discovering. This has sharpened my understanding of how we agree and where we differ, and for that I am thankful.

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