A short reply to Brandon Adams re: R Scott Clark

I want to address a few points in this article by Brandon Adams. Adams seems to be suggesting in his second section (“Or is he?”) that other paedobaptists disagree with this statement (and the previous section) from R Scott Clark:

“The comparison and contrast is not between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant. The covenant that God made with Abraham was a covenant of grace, the covenant he confirmed with the “blood of the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20).”

He then notes a disagreement about Republication of the Covenant of Works. The problem is that even those who disagree with a complete republication would agree with Clark’s statement above.

Note Clark has written elsewhere:

“It is not the case that, because Paul associates circumcision with Moses, there is no fundamental difference between the Abrahamic administration of the covenant of grace and the Mosaic.”

So R. Scott Clark allows for the Mosaic covenant to be an administration of the Covenant of Grace, though a temporary addendum (Gal 3:17) to it. There really are no orthodox paedobaptists who disagree with this point.

The disagreement extends primarily to whether and how, the Mosaic covenant was a republication of the Covenant of Works, and the quotes of Winzer you supply following are addressing that issue, which is not really the view you brought up in your first section.

Later he states:

“Notice that Calvin speaks of “the covenant” in the singular. He is clear: The Old and New Covenant were the same covenant.”

But that’s simply untrue and Clark provides the proof. http://heidelblog.net/2014/11/calvin-on-the-distinction-between-the-old-and-new-covenants/

As Calvin states: “Hence, in general, the Old Testament [covenant] is the name given to the solemn method of confirming the covenant comprehended under ceremonies and sacrifices. Since there is nothing substantial in it, until we look beyond it, the Apostle contends that it behoved to be annulled and become antiquated, (Heb. 7:22,) to make room for Christ”

Both Calvin and Clark agree that the Mosaic and the New Covenant flow ultimately from the Covenant of Grace that God gave to Abraham.

In essence, none of his arguments really hit the target he intends. All involved agree that “Moses flows from Abraham”.  The rest of the article then builds on these errors and misapplications.

Baptism – a Study

Baptism

Reviewing the real thing before examining the counterfeits.

Baptism – vocabulary

Tabal – Hebrew to wash, dip – translated in the LXX as baptizo

Rachats – Translated as wash or bathe

Bapto – Greek to dip, wash – used to express the dipping of a garment for dyeing, dipping of finger into sacrificial blood, the washing of hands

                Baptizo, Baptismos – Greek to dip, immerse, sink, wash

Connected concepts:

2 Kings 5:10 – go and wash (rachats),  v14 and dipped (tabal) himself…
(Sproul – pg 48-51)

Old Testament Examples – all form our understanding of baptism

Lev 4:6 – dipping finger in blood – tabal (Hebrew)  bapto (LXX)

Lev 16:4, 23-24 – Aaron washing – rachats (Hebrew)

Eze 23:15 dyed

Dan 4:30 – bathed (with dew)

In the Old Testament, the words translated from Hebrew to the Greek words bapto or baptiso indicate they were used both of dipping and washing in mundane and ceremonial contexts. (1)

The simple vocabulary / word study misses the intent and context of baptism. Which is a ceremonial washing, a ceremonial purification. (Not arguing mode here, rather arguing intent.)

The problem with focusing on the meanings and roots of the words associated with baptism is that it misses the greater intent and context of the idea, which has to do with ceremonial cleansing. (2)

What was done with the blood and water of purification after the tabal (dipping)?

Lev 4:6, 17, 14:7, 16, 27 -… and sprinkle part of the blood…

Num 19:18-21 – water sprinkled for cleansing

Isa 52:13-15 – so shall he sprinkle many nations – BIG PROMISE!

Eze 36:25 – I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean…

New Testament Fulfillment

Preparatory Ceremony / Cleansing – preparatory cleansing prior to the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Making the way (the people/etc) read for the Lord.

John’s baptism – John 1:23John’s baptism was preparatory pointing to the coming of the Messiah and the need for Israel to repent. (3) 

John 1:31 – 33 – John’s baptism lead to the revealing of the promised Messiah (Act 19:4)

Matt 3:10-12 – pointed to the immediacy of the kingdom of God.

Ceremonial washingThe Jews already had a set of ceremonial washings they participated in.  Baptism wasn’t unheard of in Jewish ceremony, the jars used by Jesus to turn water into wine were for Jewish purification rites.

Mark 7:2-4, pp Matt 15:2 – Jesus’ disciples’ failure to obey Jewish customary washings upset the Pharisees

John 2:6 – Large stone jars, many gallons each, filled with water for Jewish rites of purification

Heb 9:10 – Various ceremonial washings (baptismos)

  • So far all we have learned is that baptism is a ceremonial washing that has connections with various washings, dipping and purification rights of the Old Testament
  • Notice none of the occasions that baptism is done in the New Testament is the water anything but river water, well water, or otherwise normal water. There is nothing special about the water.

The Covenant of Grace  – (pgs 25 – 31)

God is a covenant making and keeping God. Throughout the Old Testament God makes several covenants with man.  The major over-arching covenants are the “Covenant of Redemption” (a Trinitarian covenant between the members of the Trinity to redeem man, “Covenant of Works” (made with Adam in the Garden), and the “Covenant of Grace” – the covenant by which God establishes that he will freely and graciously redeem man from sin through the sacrifice of His own Son.  There are other covenants between God and man in Scripture, but these are the archetypes and/or originators of the rest. We focus on the COG.

Gen 15:1-17 – God made a promise to Abraham to bless him and to be His God.  God swears by himself, because there is no one greater to swear by (Heb 6:13-14)

God is saying: ‘If I fail to keep my promises to you, may I be cut in two like these animals.’ (pg 37) – keep this concept in mind, with the shedding of blood and the threat of judgment for failure.

Signs/Seals – Thus it is established that covenants have signs pointing to aspects/conditions of the covenant and seals, marks of agreement or inclusion in the covenant.   Covenants are sealed with initiation rites, bloody ceremonies expressing conditions and penalties of the covenant. (5)

Gen 17:9-14 – Later God establishes the rite of circumcision wherein the males of the household of Abraham are circumcised in their foreskin, later all those who join themselves to Israel must be circumcised.

Covenant signs/seals have dual roles – Pointing to blessings: circumcision signified the cutting and removal of sin from the flesh and the setting apart of the people for God. (6)

Circumcision is both a sign pointing to the idea that the heart of the sign bearer would have sin removed from it and a seal of their inclusion in the people of God, it is also a warning of what will happen if the bearer fails to keep the conditions of the covenant. (They will be cut off! Gen 17:4)

After Israel falls into slavery, and when coming out, God establishes the Law to reveal sin but states that (Lev 26:40-42) even after He rescues them and yet they turn away again, God will remember the covenant He made with Abraham.

Eze 16:59-61 – prior to announcing the New Covenant, the prophet states that God will remember the covenant he made “in the days of your youth”… the context of the New Covenant follows in chapter 36 and again in Jeremiah 31. Eze 36:22-32 – the New Covenant promised, a renewal of that covenant made with Abraham, in which God will sprinkle clean water on his people and cleanse them from sin, removing heart of stones and giving hearts of living flesh.

What is the condition of the covenant of grace?

Calvin: In their conditions or promises. The law promises eternal life and all good things upon the condition of our own and perfect righteousness, and of obedience in us: the gospel promises the same blessings upon the condition that we exercise faith in Christ, by which we embrace the obedience which another, even Christ, has performed in our behalf; or the gospel teaches that we are justified freely by faith in Christ.

Francis Turretin: Faith is the sole condition of the covenant because under this condition alone pardon of sins and salvation as well as eternal life are promised…

Charles Hodge: The condition of the covenant of grace, so far as adults are concerned, is faith in Christ…. It is in this last sense only that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. There is no merit in believing. It is only the act of receiving a proffered favour.

Consider what this means for someone who partakes of the covenant sign and seal, but fails to have faith in the Covenant maker.

Covenants have promises and conditions, the condition of the Covenant of Works was perfect obedience, the condition of the Covenant of Grace was/is faith in the Messiah. (7)  (Gal 3:8)

 

The New Covenant

The bloody signs of the Old Covenant are done away with – as Christ has put away sin once-for-all by one sacrifice of himself. (Heb 9:11-27)  (8)

Notice the language:  blood sprinkling of defiled persons, sprinkled the book and all the people, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

No more blood sacrifices or cutting of flesh is needed in the New Covenant.

Baptism REPLACES circumcision because Christ has fulfilled it. (pg 29)

Col 2:11 – 12 – “Gentile believers who have received… baptism… have received an internal circumcision” (pg 29)

Belgic Confession Art. 34

Christ has put an end to every other shedding of blood…

Having abolished, circumcision which was done with blood…

Signifies… that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him… the blood of Christ… washes and cleanses from sins and transforms us into the children of God.

Not by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God – who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh…

                                WCF 28

… to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his engrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life…

HC 69 – 74

Initiation Rite – new Christians attested to their faith and entry into the church through baptism – it was a sign to others of their belonging to Christ

Matthew 28:19 – … make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…

Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12* (notice addition of women in this passage, ask why the special mention is necessary and what this might indicate for the credo-only position.)

Mark of Identity – Covenantal community (pg 27 – 32)

1 Cor 10:2 / 12:13 – just as circumcision was an identifier of the people of God, baptism is an identifier of God’s people in a new era.  Moses’ crossing the Red Sea is symbolic of baptism in that those who were faithful passed through, while the Egyptians fell under judgment.

 

Baptism is a Sign (pg 32-44) – points to something

Of our Engrafting into Christ – Eph 11-13, Rom 11:17-24

Of our death to sin, through Christ’s death and resurrection to newness of life – Rom 6:3-4

Of the circumcision of our dead flesh/heart of stone – Eze 36:22-32, Col 2:11-15

Of judgment for unbelievers  and those who fall away – Pharaoh and the Red Sea, the flood and the ark 1 Pet 3:17-22, Esau, Ishmael and others.

“baptism now saves you… as your identity with the people of God through the ark who is Christ will save you from God’s wrath and separating you from those outside.”  

Baptism is a seal – a mark of something

                Of God’s promises to us through the Spirit by faith – Acts 2:38, Eph 1:13, Col 2:12

A mark of our inclusion in the covenant people – Rom 6:4, Eph 4:5

 

Final thoughts – Baptism is a sign and seal of the New Covenant, replacing circumcision as the rite of the Covenant of Grace by which we are marked as God’s possession and visibly shown God’s gospel plan in a dramatic form, pointing us to salvation by faith in Christ whereby our sins are washed away by his blood shed on the cross and his resurrection to life anew.

White / Strawbridge Debate Review – Part 1

I’m starting with Dr. James White’s opening statement. I found little in Strawbridge’s opening worth commenting on, except I do not understand the paedobaptist insistence on pushing the household argument.  In my opinion it ignores the much greater issue of the nature and consistency of the Covenant throughout God’s Word, and fails to address the Baptist’s weakest arguments.

“Promise of New Covenant comes about by faith not by family lineage.”

Yet the Apostle Peter states in Acts 2:39 – “the promise is for you and for your children…” If the New Covenant promise NO LONGER comes about by family lineage at all, Peter was wrong to quote the prophecy he did, yet Peter uses the “you and your children” formula seen throughout the giving of the covenants in the Old Testament.

While it is true that “it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of promise who are considered offspring” (Rom 9:8), but this proves too much for the Baptist if they’re assuming that all of one’s offspring are specifically not included in the promise.  Every one who is baptized is promised that if they embrace the sign meaning of baptism by faith, they will enjoy the full benefits thereof.
“Reformed Baptists insist that only the “New Covenant documents” can properly interpet and apply the Old Covenant prophecies about the New Covenant.”

Herein is Dr. White’s first major presuppositional problem. While we would all agree that the “New Covenant” ‘documents’ are to interpret “Old Covenant” prophecies, to suggest that the New Testament alone is “New Covenant” is to wrongly divide the Scriptures. Like the Law and Gospel, the New Covenant echoes throughout the text from beginning to end. It is therefore wrong to assume that the only relevant texts to the New Covenant are found in the New Testament. This is a minor point however. A larger concern is how the line of reasoning that reads Hebrews 8 in this way and and makes it the governing hermeneutical lens for the rest of what even Hebrews says effects the larger intent of the author of Hebrews.

Hebrews 8… the supremacy and present reality of the New Covenant… no amount of Old Covenant sameness argumentation can be allowed to undo the author’s primary point.”

I would argue that the author of Hebrews primary point stated time and again throughout the book is not that the New Covenant is completely different from the old, but rather: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God… and “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

The author’s point is not that the New Covenant is made up of professing adults only, but rather that because the New Covenant is the final fulfillment of the Covenant promised to Abraham, we have a greater responsibility to be obedient to it by faith. There is a real commonality between the Old and the New Covenant, namely the reality of apostasy from the faith and a falling away from the covenant people of God and being cut-off by God from the promises found therein.

This is one of the reasons Baptists have such trouble with the warning passages in Hebrews. If the New Covenant is only spiritual covenant, made only with those who are truly regenerate and truly faithful, then the warning passages in Hebrews must be interpreted around that grid and the power thereof lost. This is why some Baptists have taken to calling the warning passages “hypothetical” or speaking of “false professors” rather than genuine members of the Covenant under wrath of God for their failure to fulfill the condition of the covenant.

We must remind Dr. White that the contrast between the covenants brought up in Hebrews 8 is not between the Covenant of Bethel and the New, but rather, and most specifically the covenant made when God “took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.”

“You don’t come up with an idea of covenant signs and then reason from there to the nature of the covenant, you start with what the Bible teaches about the covenant and then move downward from there.”

I would argue that we don’t come up with an idea of covenant signs and application by listening only to one part of God’s Word to the exclusion of the rest of His testimony and creating an idea about them in the absence of a majority of God’s testimony.

It would be fine if there was clear text in the “New Covenant documents” specifically discounting the rest of God’s testimony regarding how he commands covenant signs applied, but God has provided us vast testimony of how HE applies covenants and it is error to ignore them.

“We cannot begin with Old Covenant paradigms and applications and the force them onto the fuller New Covenant reality…”

Again, Dr White confuses all of the Old Testament with “Old Covenant paradigms.” The Old Covenant, according to the author of Hebrews, Paul and others, began with the Exodus from Egypt and not with Abraham in Bethel. This is the fatal flaw in the Baptist argumentation and a presupposition that must be questioned at every turn.