Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The Generation of the Upright Shall Be Blessed"

"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon the earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed." - Psalm 112:1-2.

How wrong is Baptist theology? :|

I'm not sure I could put it in a nutshell for you, but let me try an illustration... Do you know exactly what the covenant is?

Even though the covenant of God is a theme which runs through all of Scripture, Baptist theology seriously misunderstands it. If I used the phrase "the church in the Old Testament", would you know what I mean, or consider it an incorrect term?

It is true that the Bible speaks of "covenants", but it also speaks of the covenant of God, which He calls "my covenant" and "the everlasting covenant". It consists most fundamentally in this: "I will be your God, and you will be my people." The church in its strictest sense is the people of God, that is, those and only those included in this covenant of God, who truly believe in the promised Messiah who came 2000 years ago. But of course, there is also the visible church in the world, and we all know that in any wheat field there are weeds which do not belong.

But the people of God existed in the world before Christ came too. And this is why Stephen calls the children of Israel (Acts 7), "the church in the wilderness". Because there is only one everlasting covenant of God, and only one promised Messiah (Greek: Christ) by which it is established, there can only be one people of God from the beginning of history to the end of the world. This is why for example, Paul speaks about a true Jew being one who is one inwardly, not outwardly (Rom. 2:28-29), and that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham (Gal. 3), and why he speaks of the Gentiles being made fellow-citizens who were once strangers (Eph. 2:11-3:6). And since there can only be one God, one Christ, one covenant, and one people of God, then all the promises of the covenant are one in Christ, as it also says in II Cor. 1:20, and likewise in Gal. 3 where it explains that the promises given to Abraham and his seed were to Christ, and all who are united to Him by a true faith (which we know is worked in us by Holy Spirit according the grace of God alone).

But what did the promise of God to Abraham consist of? Not a merely earthly land of Canaan (that was nothing but a picture), but that he and his descendents in their generations would inherit the world (Gen. 17:7; Rom. 4:13), and this is why, for example Eph. 1 and Col. 1 and many other places also speak about the inheritance of the saints. The point is, that everywhere in Scripture that we see a promise of God, we know that it is for those who are one in Christ. And the promise quoted in the Psalm above, just like the promise given to Abraham, is that the children of believers will be blessed, although obviously not every single one of the children (since there are children of the promise and children of the flesh as Romans 9 explains, and the example of Jacob and Esau illustrates - and I recommend you read and study Romans 9 very carefully because it is THE key chapter on this subject, and for various reasons, probably the most avoided chapter in the Bible today).

Since our children have always been included in the church and the people of God throughout all history (and this was signified by the sign of the covenant, circumcision given to the male children - which Rom. 4 says was a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith, even though many who were outwardly circumcised were not truly inwardly circumcised), and since there is nothing in the New Testament which would even hint that this has been changed (except that the sign of the covenant has been changed to baptism, for various important reasons because Christ has now come, which is administered to all those who are part of the church, whether they join from outside or are born inside), but rather, many re-iterations of it, such as the particular mention of children by Peter in Acts 2:39 and almost all baptisms recorded in the New Testament were entire households being baptised (except for, obviously Paul who was single, and the Ethiopian eunuch, who was in fact, a eunuch).

I could go on, but the issue that Reformed theology has against Baptist theology is that it Baptists think that a credible profession of faith is a necessary condition for baptism. They point to examples of converts in the book of Acts - but these are converts. Of course it is true for converts to the faith from outside the church, like Gentiles from heathendom, just as much as it was a requirement for them to be circumcised in the Old Testament too. But as regards children born in the church and the people of God, they cannot prove that this is a prerequisite, and it certainly was not in the Old Testament - rather Abraham (and by extension, all believers) was commanded to give the sign of the covenant to his household, because God saves His people in the line of generations. Because He ordinarily saves families as families, not as individuals. You can perhaps see this even in your own family. It is not that children brought up in a Christian home are "more likely to believe", because after all, we are all born equally depraved and at enmity with God, such that unless God changes our hearts by His grace we only reject Him with scorn.

Baptists will often say, "Give me one example of an infant being baptised in the New Testament!" But this is a backwards approach to Scripture. It has already been proven that the children of believers are included in the covenant of God, and the people of God (the church), and therefore must receive the sign of the covenant. The burden of proof is on the Baptist to show from the New Testament where it is taught that children are no longer included in the church of God, and ought not receive the sign of the covenant.

Of course, there is at least one undeniable example of infants being baptised recorded in the New Testament, I Cor. 10:1-2. All the children of Israel were "baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea". And who would dare claim that there were no infants present among the children of Israel when they passed through the Red Sea? And the point of the verse is this: many of those who were baptised were not saved, but became idolaters and were destroyed - therefore take heed lest you fall and flee idolatry (for there are always wicked weeds in the wheat field of God, as I said earlier). Trust in Christ alone, not in baptism or any other thing, and in Christ alone you have full confidence that you are righteous in the sight of God, and will be preserved to the end, and conformed to the image of Christ to the glory of God.

Sam W.

P.S. I should say that since the essence of the covenant is "I will be your God, and you will be my people", it is most fundamentally a loving relationship of fellowship and a bond of friendship with God. Marriage is also described as a covenant, and although we talk about "marriage vows", the vows themselves are not the marriage, the marriage is a bond of fellowship and love, and the joyous relationship within that bond. It is the same idea with the covenant of God, and that is why marriage is called the mystery of Christ and the church (Eph. 5).

And I should also refer you to a comprehensive supply of resources on the subject, because although it is not complicated, when coming from a Baptist background, with Baptist thinking, it can seem difficult to figure out. http://www.cprf.co.uk/covenantbaptismresources.htm

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