Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Are Paedobaptists Just Mixed Up?

"It is illegitimate to identify and equate the Abrahamic covenant with the New covenant without noting the diverse aspects within it (national/physical, typological, spiritual) and the discontinuity that results as we move from Abraham to Christ. For example, to identify and equate the natural/special seed (Israel) with the spiritual seed (church) as well as to equate to covenant signs of circumcision and baptism is a mistake often made by paedobaptists. It not only fails to do justice to diverse aspects of the Abrahamic covenant, but also to the way that covenant is ultimately fulfilled in Christ." (Schreiner and Wright, Believer's Baptism, Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, pg. 136)

Paeodobaptists rightly argue that the Old Covenant was a mixed covenant, mixed with believers and non-believes, and they wrongly argue that the New Covenant is also a mixed covenant. Paedobaptist rightly argue that circumcision was administered to infants of whom many were to become men of faith and many more were not. But Paedobaptist wrongly argue that baptism replaces circumcision and should therefore be administered to infants just like circumcision was administered to the Jewish children. Of course they argue that infant girls should be baptized too, even though that is a departure from their argument for continuity. But I will not deal with that issue in this post.

And speaking of problems for the paedobaptist theology: the Bible no where teaches that baptism replaces circumcision. But before we deal with that big problem , first lets refresh ourselves as to what the purpose was for Old Covenant circumcision.

In the OT, circumcision had multiple meanings such as:
1. First it marked out those who had the faith of Abraham
2. Secondly it marked out the genealogical seed of the Messiah which was the male line of descent from Abraham to David to Christ,
3. Thirdly it marked out the nation of Israel and was thus incorporated into the Mosaic covenant.

Baptism only has continuity with circumcision when it comes to the first purpose
, namely that it marks out those who have the faith of Abraham. Since purposes two and three are have not continuity in baptism then it is wrong to use baptism in a genealogical sense such as baptizing the infants of believers.


In the Old Covenant, circumcision identified one with a physical family and a nation, and it typified one's relationship to the spiritual family of God. But not all who were Israel were truly of the spiritual Israel of God. In the New Covenant, however, Christ only has His spiritual family, no physical nation or physical family. Neither the visible nor invisible church of the New covenant is a family by physical descent. It is a family by spiritual birth. Membership in the church should be only for those who are of the spiritual seed of Abraham. Thus baptism should only be administered to those who are in the New covenant by God's grace through regeneration and saving faith.


Furthermore, Jeremiah 31 teaches that New covenant members are not covenant-breakers, so to teach that the warning passages in the NT teach that New covenant members are covenant-breakers, as paedobaptists do, signifies an error hermeneutically. Jeremiah 31 cannot teach the opposite of the rest of Scripture. Paedobaptist Richard Pratt, Jr. says of Jeremiah 31:34, "In this sense, 'knowing the Lord' means 'properly acknowledging and recognizing him.' This is why Jeremiah 31:34 concludes, 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.' In a word, to know god as Jeremiah spoke of it would be to receive eternal salvation. In the covenant of which Jeremiah spoke, salvation would come to each participant. There would be no exceptions." (Pratt, Infant Baptism and the New Covenant, pp. 159-60.)

So, Pratt properly notes that Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant describes a church that is not mixed but regenerate. But Pratt goes on the argue that this is not fully fulfilled yet in the New Covenant and will not be fully realized until the 2nd Coming of Christ. But even though it is true that the New covenant is not fully consummated, it is still here. Baptism should signify the New Covenants arrival not just its future consummation. There is no "remnant" in the New Covenant. There is only those who are in it and those who try to illegitimately join it and are to be excommunicated from it. In fact, such people who received baptism on false pretenses were never one with us -- EVER! (1 John 2:19)


Besides, which came first Abraham's faith or Abraham's circumcision? Abraham's faith came first. That is really the end of the discussion. In fact, that is Paul's argument in Romans 4:9-12. Paul says, "[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith that he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe..." both Jew and Gentile (Romans 4:11).


"In fact, one cannot find in Israel the idea that circumcision was only for "believers and their children" since many unbelieving Jews circumcised their infant boys and were still considered part of the covenant nation. The paedobaptist understanding already reads into circumcision a meaning that is not there." (Schreiner, 156) And, on top of that, no where in the New Testament will you find that circumcision has been replaced by baptism. Check out all the passages that teach that circumcision is no longer required for believers (Acts 15:1-35; Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 2:11-16; Galatians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 7:18-19). No where will you find the teaching of Paedobaptist that baptism is the replacement for circumcision, nor will you find a passage that teaches that baptism is a sign of physical descent, nor will you find a passage that teaches that baptism is just a sign that promises something that is not already a current reality in the recipient of baptism.


Jesus was truly the last one that should have received circumcision as a covenantal sign. He is the true "seed" of Abraham, He is true "Israel", and He is our faith. Then Jesus was baptized and started His public ministry revealing Himself as King of kings. Circumcision was placed upon a mass of men pointing towards the coming of kingdom, but baptism is only for those who are living in that kingdom.

Here is the New Covenant promise to remember: Acts 2:38-39 says,"Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

Notice that the promise is not to all who heard Peter and to their children, nor was it for all who were afar off. It was for all you were called, who believed and repented. That did not include all who heard Peter or their children or people who were afar off. Even the next verse proves that only those who received Peter's words were baptized, not all hearers, not all children, and not everybody afar off.

To understand the scope of the promise one must remember that to the OT language of "you and your children" are added the distinctions of faith, repentance, the Holy Spirit's indwelling and the effectual call of God."


Credobapist respect the progression of revelation in Scripture as the covenants within the Covenant of Grace each add to clearer understanding of Redemption and the nature of God's church. And with further revelation comes further responsibility. With the manifestation of the Spirit in the New Covenant we now have a responsibility to limit the scope of the visible church to those who bear fruit of the Spirit.

It is only with a credobaptist view of baptism that one can say as Paul in Galatians 3:26-27, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ." And only credobaptist say with Paul to the Romans that all who are baptized are dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:1-4) and to the Colossians that all who are baptized into the death of Jesus are currently living the realities of new life in Christ (Colossians 2:11-13).

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