Circumcision and Baptism revisited

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steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Col 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

This is main go-to verse that links circumcision with baptism. Here's a thought (that's certainly been thought of and discussed before, so I don't expect this thread to run very long).

Circumcision in the OT was not only done to infants but to adults, namely, those adults who "converted" and identified themselves with Israel. The main audience of Paul's letter to the Colossians were adult converts who underwent believers' baptism.

1. Circumcision was performed on adult proselytes
2. Baptism was done on adult converts, who are the hearers of Paul's letter

This is not to disregard the fact of infant circumcision, or infant-included household baptism (if that happened). But, does it not make sense that Paul may have been linking circumcision and baptism, only in as much as it pertained to adult converts? In other words, are we required from this passage to think of circumcision only in terms of infants?

thanks.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Yeah, I can imagine it's been beaten to death ....

It just struck me that when we see circumcision, we immediately think of infants, and this leads us naturally into linking circumcision with baptism, and infant baptism is easily deduced.

But from this passage, isn't there some evidence suggesting that Paul may be thinking of adults? (proselyte circumcision makes more sense in his train of thought than covenant children, and his readers are adults as well). If this is so, wouldn't this change the "balance of power" from viewing circumcision/baptism of infants to that of adults? I'm not sure if I'm making sense.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Don't feel bad one bit about posting this. It gives a chance for new ppl to join the discussion where threads have been closed in the past.

Just a couple practical thoughts....

You mention that Paul main audience was adults. A simple response would be, "well sure". It's not like Paul wrote letters whose main audience were infants. No, he wrote to the church...believers and their children. And in this particular passage he displays for the Colossians a connection between circumcision and baptism. But let's be clear: he was not merely showing a connection between proselyte circumcision and adult baptism. That would be either adding substance or removing meaning from the text (depending how you look at it), both of which are entirely unwarranted. It really should not be that complicated.

I think you are right, however, that there is a real connection between proselyte circumcision and adult baptism. But we should not sell the text short. Keep in mind too that by far most circumcisions were infant circumcisions. That makes it even more of a stretch suppose that they are to be left out of Paul's point here.

---------- Post added at 11:07 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:51 PM ----------

One other [pretty obvious] point.

When God first commanded circumcision there was no doubt a period of time where the majority of people circumcised were adults. So, generally speaking, the prominence of adult baptisms in the early church should be blatantly expected, wouldn't you think? However, that fact does not stop Paul from explicitly connecting baptism with circumcision. It does not stop the recording of multiple household baptisms. It does not stop the preaching of the promise being "to you and your children". It does not stop the instruction of raising children in admonition of the Lord, just as any of God's covenant people. It does not stop the revelation that our children are viewed as holy in the sight of the Lord. etc. etc.

So if you are looking for the prominence of adult baptisms in the NT, you will not be disappointed. But one would seemingly have a lot of explaining to do if it is suggested that adult baptisms represent the whole picture and instruction of scripture here.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for your thoughts Michael.

I would argue that the text does allow us to make the narrower assertion, if we were to take it more literally (but maybe this isn't always ideal). Those Colossians, as proselytes to Christianity, have more in common with adult proslytes to Judaism than they have with infant covenant children of Israelites. That's an easier interpretive leap to make, is all I'm saying. But let's put that aside for a sec...

I've always wondered about the reference "to you and your children". The full quotation is
Acts 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
I don't mean to be nitpicky, but if our children are included in the covenant, then doesn't faithful exegesis suggest that "all who are far off" are included too? Wouldn't it be fallacious to interpret "children" specifically, and then "all who are far off" generally, or to set it aside completely?

Also the allusion to children being considered "holy", that text tends to be cut short from its total context as well:
1 Cor7:13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
Does the use of the same word "holy" for both children and husband mean that unbelieving spouses are brought into the covenant in the same way as children? Again, consistent exegesis would suggest so.

Help me understand what's happening here. These passages would suggests that "all who are far off" (whoever that is), and unbelieving spouses of believers are also included in the covenant. I don't know if this is ever affirmed in covenant theology (but I'd be eager to learn).

thanks.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Regarding the "narrower assertion", I'm afraid that that angle is not taking the text more literally at all, but rather approaching Paul's teaching with a specific presupposition that amputates a significant amount of plain meaning from the text. Again, there is nothing wrong with making a connection between proselyte circumcision and adult baptism. But if one is to assert that children are somehow excluded from the entirety of Paul's example (which again is a stretch considering the normative practice of circumcision), it can't be done without scriptural support--and of that we have none.

Regarding "and for all who are far off", the simple response is that yes they should be baptized as well. The gospel calls sinners to Christ and we then baptize said sinners into the New Covenant.

Regarding "holy children", pay close attention to the wording in the text. The unbelieving spouse is "made holy", not that they are automatically saved, but rather their exposure to God's grace through a believing spouse becomes a precious benefit that God is often pleased to use as a means leading to adoption into the New Covenant (and in such case they would then be baptized). However when we approach the wording around children of a believing parent we find that God specifically says that they already "are holy" (and therefore we baptize).
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I see the point you're making about the narrower assertion.
Regarding "and for all who are far off", the simple response is that yes they should be baptized as well. The gospel calls sinners to Christ and we then baptize said sinners into the New Covenant.
I still note here a double standard. Why must "All who are far off" respond to the gospel call prior to their baptism, but the children of parents do not? If this verse is to be used as an affirmation of covenant membership, then I see an arbitrary bifurcation between how children and 'all who are far off' are treated vis a vis baptism. Isn't it a simpler interpretation that Peter, preaching to a Jewish audience, is simply asserting that the benefits of the gospel transcend generational and geographic boundaries? A general statement, nothing more, nothing less.

I see the invalid 'narrowing tendency' of assigning specificity where text does not call for it, happening in the covenantal interpretation of this text.

Regarding people being made holy... hmm. Does this mean that something that is "made holy" is not holy as things which are already holy. The idiom "made holy" seems to mean things which might normally be thought of as common and has been sanctified. In scripture it's used to speak of:
1. Sabbath (Gen 2:3)
2. Jerusalem (2Ch 36:14)
3. Things created by God and received with thanksgiving (1Tim 4:5)

Again, I'm suspicious of something being inferred to a text that might not be there - as you pointed out :) But, then again, you may be right; I've not really studied this phraseology in detail.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
I have a meeting to go to so I will have to revisit this later, but I think you are very close here.

If you understand the connection of circumcision and baptism as Paul outlined in 1Cor 7, then understanding Peter in Acts 2 becomes pretty clear. I think you are spot on that Peter preaches the gospel as transcending boundaries. However we can't neglect the specific covenantal language here. As you pointed out we are dealing with a Jewish audience. Do you really think that a Jew would leave Peter's teaching on baptism and about the promise being "for you and your children" and somehow think that they are not to baptize their children? They had been identifying God's promise in circumcising their infants for thousands of years to this point. The context is almost overwhelming. And as I attempted to ask in another thread, if indeed the Jews were instructed to withhold their children from visible entry into God's covenant there would no doubt have been an outpouring of questions as to why and subsequent instruction clarifying the matter.

That said, you may now readily compare "who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" to the proselytes of the OT, only now the gospel has reached it's fruition in Christ and is to be proclaimed throughout the world. Just as circumcision was used to set apart God's people (including their children), now baptism executes this as a NT reality and on a far greater scale.

All of this pretty much undergirds the fact that every paedobaptist is also a credobaptist when it comes to adult baptism. However the paedo simply believes more--namely that God's covenantal promises are indeed worked out, as they always have been, through the means of federal headship, thereby extending his grace to the children of believers.

Well I hope this makes some sense as I'm a little rushed but I've already typed more than time has allowed so please excuse me as I have to come back to the rest later (if is not addressed by someone else in the meantime).
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for taking to time to process this with me with your busy schedule.

Yes, that was an interesting point you made that Jews would have probably outcried the refusal to let their children visibly enter the covenant. But consider also, that the early Christians of Jewish stock were under intense temptation and pressure not to view baptism as the new covenant sign, but to revert back to the old pattern of circumcision itself! This suggests to me that baptism as the replacement sign was not a compelling motif in the apostles teaching. At least it wasn't very clear. Had it been, why did so many desire both baptism and circumcision? Hence Paul's colourful polemics against circumcision which put the issue to rest. He rendered circumcision (and uncircumcision) meaningless (1 Cor 7:18-19, Gal 5:6, 6:15, Col 3:11).

Maybe I am reading the bible "back to front" as some say, but it's hard for me to view circumcision in a positive light seeing that Paul has almost nothing good to say about it.

Looking forward to further interaction.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
I am attempting to respond on my phone here so please forgive any typos. Its challenging enough just to respond from memory too as I cant view your post as Im typing this.

Regarding circumcision, we shouldnt let a false view of circumcision in light of Christs finished work undermine the apostles teaching around baptism. Of course circumcision profits nothing in the NC. But that does not negate the connection illustrated, the promise preached, or the example set. And it still does not address the silence of the Jews who were explictly taught that baptism expressed visible entry into the NC.

Regarding the language used around household members being holy or made holy, we cannot ignore that a real distinction is being made here by the Holy Spirit. While it is profitable to let scripture interpret scripture, we must take care to compare like terms. You mentioned a couple examples of similar terminology, but are the references cited in the context of contrasting "already" with "being made such"?

---------- Post added at 03:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:21 PM ----------

I apparently have to split up my posts too as my phone allows only 1000 or so characters per text box. Obviously this technology is not designed for theological discussion. :lol:

Anyhow, the apostle is most certainly contrasting terms when speaking of "holy" regarding different members of a household with unbelievers. This is readily apparent and speaks with resounding consistency to God's covenantal framework.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I wish I had a smartphone!

Re: being made holy, even if a distinction is being made, Paul does not spell it out. Therefore, the covenant typology cannot be positively asserted as an argument here. He might be referring to that, he might not be. But note the rest of the context of 1 Cor 7:
16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
This is also true of covenant children. There is no certainty that they will come to faith as a product of being "holy" - unless you take the position of Dort that all covanant children are elect.

So if it's true that covenant children can be holy, but not come to faith, then it mirrors exactly what Paul says about unbelieving spouses. This makes the case stronger that a sharp distinction between the terms does not really exist.

---------- Post added at 12:55 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:50 PM ----------

Regarding "all who are far off", do you agree that this needs to be viewed in exactly the same way as "you and your children"? Is there something in the text that sets it off as a separate item?

If covenant inclusion is in view, what could Peter possibly mean? Is every nation necessarily a covenant member? Are those to whom the gospel is preached necessarily a covenant member?

You see the problem with treating "all who are far off" the same as the children..

---------- Post added at 01:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:55 PM ----------

One more thought: That circumcision has no place in the NC is clear. Paul doesn't have good things to say about circumcision ... I'm curious, why is there no alarm or pause in the mind of paedos in making an argument for baptism based on circumcision? What makes a paedo feel confident in proceeding with circumcision as a basis for anything?
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Since I am handicapped by phone at the moment I need to beg one topic at a time.

The reason Im insisting on the contrasting terms is because that is precisely what is being used here by the Holy Spirit. The tenses are unmistakeably different and therefore there are different consequences in application.

I will admit though that you are losing me a little here. Are you suggesting that to be consistent one would have to support baptizing unbelieving spouses in light of the idea that God may make them holy? If this is the counter argument it presupposes the relationship between spouses to be identical to the relationship between parents and their children. In which case I must ask why that would be assumed at all or on what basis?

Forgive me if I am misrepresenting your point...

---------- Post added at 04:32 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:26 PM ----------

Off now to pick up my kids and figure out dinner since Angela is working tonight. Will pick it back up later though. Its been a real pleasure discussing this with you. Your demeanor on this subject in particular is very refreshing. :)
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I really appreciate your interaction as well - it has been great.

OK, so with regards to unbelieving spouses, Paul says they are "made holy." I take this to be synonymous with children of believing parents, whom Paul says "are holy." If the terms are synonymous, then yes, it seems that paedobaptists would be obligated to baptize both. However, as you have argued, the terms are not synonymous, by virtue of their presentation in different tense/aspects.

Now, Acts 2 helps.
38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
The addition of "all who are far off" by Peter places them in the same category as children and 'everyone whom God calls to himself.' If the paedo argues that children are in the covenant category, then exegetically speaking, "all who are far off" are in the covenant category as well. We find here no evidence of a separate category for them.

But when we read "all who are far off" we immediately interpret those who are called and respond to the gospel. Suddenly, they have been placed in a separate category. At least it seems that way to me. Does that make sense?

Enjoy your evening with the kids. Sigh ... marriage and family sure sounds awesome ...
catch ya later.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Ok, to your second point. You seem to suggest that consistent paedo theology must insist on baptizing "all who are far off" on the exact same grounds as the children of believers. But the message to "all who are far off" is precisely the same as to Peter's audience then and every unsaved person who received the message since: repent, be baptized, for the promise is for you and your children. Again, the covenantal language is very hard to miss. The Jews heard it for generations and it would seem almost impossible for them to understand it any other way.

Regarding Paul not having much good to say about circumcision, his admonitions are entirely based upon the finished work of Christ, whose sacrifice marked the end of ceremonial bloodshed.

---------- Post added at 06:52 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:49 PM ----------

Fyi I was apparently writing my last post as you posted yours. Please bear with me here...

---------- Post added at 07:14 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:52 PM ----------

Alright let me try to put this another way.

Peter says the promise is 1. For you [who repent] 2. For your children and 3. For all who are far off whom the Lord calls to himself.

Now what if you dont have children yet but plan to? What if you are pregnant/expecting? Do you baptize your children that have not been born yet? Of course not! :) So we must obviously wait for God to call those far off to himself before we baptize them.

But you are right in that baptism applies to all three subjects of Peter's message.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Peter says the promise is 1. For you [who repent] 2. For your children and 3. For all who are far off whom the Lord calls to himself.... But you are right in that baptism applies to all three subjects of Peter's message.
Hi Michael,

I want to press your reasoning into the text, take it to its conclusion, and see where the paedo framework logically leads. Let's note how the paedo applies the label of covenant member. We know there are four types of persons in this text, and we agree that they should be treated the same way. Let's identify who they are and note the conditions/circumstances (from a paedo framework) that brings them into the covenant. Hope it's not too confusing.

The promise is ...

1. Person: "For you"
Condition: repent, be baptized

2. Person: "your children"
Condition: no condition, just be baptized

3. Person: "those who are far off"
Condition: repent, be baptized

4. Person: "eveyone the Lord calls to himself"
Condition: repent, be baptized.

Do you see the discrepancy? In the paedo framework, the children need not repent, they are automatically in the covenant by virtue of having believing/repenting parents. How so? The paedo framework seems to have arbitrarily placed children in a different class, and this is not warranted from the text.

Here's the point: A double standard is occurring, some sort of dual treatment of these persons. One category needs to repent before entering the covenant; another category does not. This undermines our premise that the text places everyone in the same category without exception.
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Though I don't necessarily agree with the conditions applied above to each particular person...it would probably be more profitable set that aside and deal with the bigger picture of what is to be considered warranted in the text.

The Bible, from Genesis to Maps (as they say), knows no treatment of God towards his people outside of a framework of federal headship. What is not warranted from the text is the abandonment of this consistent principle. "To/For you and your children" is an exhaustively redundant theme throughout scripture--not only of God's blessings but also of his curses.

Now while there are many things in the NT that point to covenant children, the specific words of God in Acts 2 are far from accidental and who the audience is should remove all doubt (if there be any to begin with). Yet if the grounds of considering God's words here to be somehow disconnected to every previous mention of them, if these grounds are based upon the fact that our Lord calls others already of age to repentance and faith, then there should be no struggle at all. For that too shares in scriptural/historical precedent.

So I believe you may be looking for a problem that is not there. If one cannot make sense of what Peter is preaching here then one cannot likewise make sense of the Abrahamic Covenant.

It is difficult for me to present the following in such a way that my tone is not misrepresented, but respectfully...

If anyone has a problem with someone being born into God's covenant, well they simply have a problem with God. Likewise, if anyone has a problem with someone of age being brought into God's covenant by divine means of grace, then again they also have a problem with God. This is how God has dealt with his people by the pleasure of his good will--and also how he continues to do so. He alone sets the conditions.
 

Kaalvenist

Puritan Board Sophomore
I understand Acts 2:38, 39 to be a repetition of the Abrahamic Covenant. Verse 39 demonstrates that it concerns the same recipients as originally intended.

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children" -- "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed" (Gen. 17:7)
"And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" -- "And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3)

I would also say that one should note the context of the passages where Paul argues for the seemingly "absolute" worthlessness of circumcision... in Galatians (against Judaizers) and Colossians (against Jewish-Gnostic heretics). By contrast, he emphasizes the spiritual meaning behind circumcision to the Roman church (a primarily Gentile audience), 2:28, 29; 4:11.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Michael, I think you make a pretty good case for covenant inclusion of children and the carry-over of this principle from the OT to the New. And I think I concede that God does view children of believers (and spouses of believers) in a very different way as unbelievers'. I'd be willing to use the language of 'covenant inclusion' or 'sanctified'. But let's say a presbyterian couple, for whatever reason, did not baptize their infant. Or, in the case of baptists, who do not practice infant baptism at all. Does this mean that in the eyes of God, these children of believers are NOT included in the covenant? Would this not imply that covenant membership is conditional? In other words, does God view an individual in or out of the covenant on the basis of the ritual, or on the basis of the family relation? or, on what?

---------- Post added at 10:16 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:06 PM ----------

I understand Acts 2:38, 39 to be a repetition of the Abrahamic Covenant. Verse 39 demonstrates that it concerns the same recipients as originally intended.

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children" -- "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed" (Gen. 17:7)
"And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" -- "And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3)

Yes, the recipients are the same, but then that means that the means by which they enter the covenant ought also be the same. "all who are far off" must respond obediently to the gospel to be included, but infants are automatically in by virtue of their parents? I see a double standard (in the case of this particular passage).

I would also say that one should note the context of the passages where Paul argues for the seemingly "absolute" worthlessness of circumcision... in Galatians (against Judaizers) and Colossians (against Jewish-Gnostic heretics). By contrast, he emphasizes the spiritual meaning behind circumcision to the Roman church (a primarily Gentile audience), 2:28, 29; 4:11.

Yes, precisely, and I was suggesting that for a Gentile audience to hear of circumcision, they would most naturally have thought of adult circumcision as a Gentile proselyte. Adult circumcision, then, might point to adult baptism in Paul's thought. Again, I say "might"...
 

Michael

Puritan Board Senior
Michael, I think you make a pretty good case for covenant inclusion of children and the carry-over of this principle from the OT to the New. And I think I concede that God does view children of believers (and spouses of believers) in a very different way as unbelievers'. I'd be willing to use the language of 'covenant inclusion' or 'sanctified'. But let's say a presbyterian couple, for whatever reason, did not baptize their infant. Or, in the case of baptists, who do not practice infant baptism at all. Does this mean that in the eyes of God, these children of believers are NOT included in the covenant? Would this not imply that covenant membership is conditional? In other words, does God view an individual in or out of the covenant on the basis of the ritual, or on the basis of the family relation? or, on what?

The visible representation of entrance into God's covenant is in essence an entrance into God's visible church. For both paedo and credo believers this does not necessarily define the invisible church (although for all practical purposes it should as far as the credo is concerned). Members of the invisible church [the elect] who, under whatever circumstance, do not receive this visible representation of entrance into God's covenant are still part of God's covenant, for there is no salvation outside of God's covenant. Examples include elect infants or possibly the thief on the cross.

From a paedo perspective, the infants of credo believers are very much covenant children regardless of the delay in baptism. The matter becomes more of an issue of obedience or faithful application of God's word. From a credo perspective, the baptism of infants is no baptism at all and these children need to be baptized once they come of age and give a credible profession of faith.

Interestingly enough [for me anyway], most credo believers do indeed raise their children as if they are holy and set apart by God. In fact, it would be very difficult to discern who is and and who is not a visible church member by looking at paedo vs credo children. Many credos are pressed in their heart to go as far as to hold "baby dedication ceremonies" demonstrating their faithful intentions towards the Lord. I cannot personally find solid scriptural warrant for such, but I most certainly can understand their conscience on the matter. It is a most natural thing to expect the heart of a Godly parent to desire their child to be holy and set apart for the Lord. I would think that these affections have played out in the heart of every Godly parent. And this is as it should be since God himself has thoroughly demonstrated that his children be visibly included in his covenant and in his church. So while the intentions are scripturally valid, it is very curious as to why something like a baby dedication would be used as a substitute for the biblical precedent.

Just my :2cents:
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children" -- "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed" (Gen. 17:7)
"And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" -- "And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3)

In terms of the Genesis 17 promise for Abraham and his seed, does not Paul reinterpret this in Galatians 3?
[BIBLE]Gal 3:15-18[/BIBLE]

The promise to Abraham, as Paul sees it, does not refer to genealogy of persons, but to Christ alone. Implicitly here, as elsewhere in Paul, circumcision of the flesh only comes up in reference to the law, which is opposed to the promise. This verse, though it had one meaning in Genesis, must now be seen in light of Paul's interpretation in Galatians. This text can no longer be interpreted in the obsolete way, In my humble opinion. The covenant is with Christ, says Paul, and Abraham believed by faith and was circumcised. This to me, points to a believer's 'circumcision' which is a product of faith.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
That Christ is the one Seed, does not negate the reality that believers in Christ are also "Abraham's seed." Genesis 12, 15, 17, all point to many posterity, and 22:18 (after earlier speaking of many) points to One, a singular fulfillment.

One shouldn't suppose that Paul is pulling a new, unheard-of or extraordinary interpretation out of his hat, one that isn't already in Genesis--then attempt to pit a NT-interpretation against an OT reading.

Circumcision, sign of God's covenant, was never essentially about genetics. But about faith. Its not one whit different today from the days of Abraham. And if it isn't any different, then whom God commanded then to be marked, he no less (but more, actually) commands today.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I don't feel like arguing in this thread for the umpteenth time. But their is a lot not being said from the credo only position that answers all the others. So if you want to In Suk just message me or ask me what threads to reference in a PM.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
That Christ is the one Seed, does not negate the reality that believers in Christ are also "Abraham's seed." Genesis 12, 15, 17, all point to many posterity, and 22:18 (after earlier speaking of many) points to One, a singular fulfillment.

This might be a text-critical issue, but I think the negation of the plural "seeds" is exactly what Paul is doing. He makes it explicitly clear: "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ." I'm not sure of the history of interpretation of this passage, and I do agree with you that posterity is assumed all over the Genesis text. Interestingly, Paul does not say that this is what he thinks it means, but what he think it actually says!

I would need to research more, but I suspect that "seed" (heb. zera), like in English, is isomorphic for both plural and singular senses. Paul deliberately chooses the singular in the Gen reference to make his point. That he does is crucial and alarming, and I think it changes the way we ought to look at the Abrahamic covenant, no?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
No,
The question is: "Does the text in Genesis mean multiple seeds in each and every instance?"

Go back to all the aforementioned contexts, and read them. It is plain that to begin with, the promise is to make a great nation out of Abraham, and that "seed" in the earlier passages unquestionably refers to "many." And, Galatians 3 understands this to be so, since vv. 7 & 29 recognize the fact that believers ARE the seed of Abraham. They are so in their connection to Christ, the object of the faith of us all, including Abraham.

But the facts go further, and Genesis 22 is a vital chapter. It culminates the story of Abraham, and it focuses our attention on Isaac, Abraham's seed-of-promise. The final words of the exchange, v18, are the specific text that I think Paul has in mind in Gal.3:16. In Gen.22:18, God is AFFIRMING in the first place to Abraham, "In your seed (Issac, and none other) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;" and in the typological sense, that reference to Isaac is properly applied to the One Seed, that is the one that is to come. The point of the whole passage is that Isaac IS the seed that was promised, and Abraham must believe that despite the appearance that God is taking the seed away from him. "Stay here until WE return" states Abraham, v5.

So, God also says there to Abraham, "In your Seed, that is Christ preeminently, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," that is, even more than the fact that there will be a "people" to whom these promises also belong, even an earthly nation from whom will derive the Savior.


What I'm disputing you on, is the suggestion that the Genesis passages NEVER pointed to ONE person. Well, in Gen.22:18 it does. Now, perhaps the Jews of Paul's day had missed that fact. I think Paul himself missed that fact until he was converted, and taught by Christ how to read the OT properly.


Therefore, no, the mistake is not that the OT was being properly read, and Paul is simply "spiritualizing" the text for a new age. No, the OT was being improperly read, and that's why the Pharisees and scribes kept missing Christ. So, no, the point is not to affirm the secularized, carnal method of reading the OT, but to see that Paul says his interpretation has been correct from the outset, and the sectarian Judaizers need to stop reading the OT as though Abraham was a good little legalist.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Fair enough. "Seed" can and does refer to Isaac, Abraham's descendants and ultimately and finally, Christ. But this much is clear (to me anyway), that Christ is not only the ultimate fulfillment of the "seed" typology, but he is the final fulfillment of it. That is, once Christ comes to be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, all talk of "seed" and genetic lineage ought be done for once and for all.

But this is not the case with paedobaptistic CT. Because now, my own "seed" (ie. children, descendants following me) are viewed as continuing to carry the Messianic covenant promise, as if the fulfillment of Christ is not complete. This is what I see, anyway.

This probably doesn't make much sense, so I'll put it in another way. Circumcision pointed to the Messiah, ultimately. It was an Israelite thing, it was a national thing, it was a family thing, it was a male thing ... all these things are indicators that it pointed to the One promised Seed, Christ.

To carry on with the concept of circumcision, either by repeating the procedure, or by 'replacing it with baptism', makes the statement that we are still looking for the manifestation of the Messiah through our bloodlines. After, this was the what circumcision did. It was a sign that forgiveness was on its way through an Israelite seed.

With the coming of Christ, the bloodline is obsolete and all who are of faith are directly children of God, we become the promised seed in Christ. Paedobaptism says to me that the bloodline continues, nothing has changed with the coming of Christ. This is where I stumble and get confused.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In Suk,
We don't reduce the meaning of the sign of the covenant to a single, salient fact. There is more to it than that. What about the promise to be OUR God?

"I will be God to you, and to your bloodline after you."
(no, but that word is "seed")

??

Is that how you read the text? Does God intend them (and us) to think of him as being just another "nationalistic" God, albeit the one true?

Wasn't God calling for true faith and repentance all along? He certainly wasn't going to be the God of Esau, circumcised and all that. Outwardly, he was. But God's promise to Abraham (and Issac) was comprehensive; it didn't originally exclude anyone. So was his promise to no effect? By no means, because the children of faith were the offspring being referenced, more than the mere family-God connection. Esau had Jehovah for his God, and he rejected him (because it was nothing more than an outward connection).

In other words (or in Peter's words, and Paul's ideas), "...as many as the Lord our God shall call" was implicit in God's promise to Abraham to be his God, and his children's God. It was always the case, that those not inwardly called would lose whatever connection they had to this God. "For him who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

Do parents have children of faith today? Of course we do, and as parents we rejoice when we see them confess it. That is, we rejoice when we see what we can see, and hope to die without seeing any of them apostatize. Because we are no different than believers in previous ages. We cannot see into the secret things.

God knew there were sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, destined to receive the sign of the covenant, who would never believe. In fact, he might have known the majority of them wouldn't believe. But he told Abraham to put his sign upon them all, for the sake of the elect.

So far as I can read the NT, God hasn't changed his directions: as to who ought to receive the sign of his covenant. So far as I can interpret history, because of the outpouring of the Spirit, there is more blessing in this NT age upon believers and the children of believers than there was in the ages prior; and we have more reason to hope that our little ones will be saved according to that promise than Abraham had.

So, we baptize them, for the sake of the elect among them. For the promise is theirs, as it was Isaac's (not Ishmael's), and Jacob's (not Esau's).

It's not about lineage, and it never was, but that the Incarnation was promised in it. The fact that time marches on, and now we look back at the moment the Incarnation first came to be, doesn't mean to me that 1) the Incarnation is now over, or that 2) the things spoken to the fathers that pertained to the children generally are now summarily dismissed.


Hopefully, you can see better how and why we differ. You see our practice through a certain lens, but it isn't our lens. "Paedo-baptism says to me...," since you are not one, explains it. You do not see baptism in the same way a paedo-baptist sees it.

Blessings.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks Rev. Bruce. I am willing to accept many of the points being made.
1. the holiness of children born to Christian parents
2. the seemingly lack of change between the old and new testament economy of who are to be named as God's people.

But would you agree that circumcision as an old testament rite is abolished? I don't see baptism as it's replacement, but rather the circumcision done without hands - circumcision of the heart. It makes more sense to say that this is what circumcision was always meant to point to. This is done by Christ, to those who are in Christ.

Did circumcision foresee baptism to be its replacement? I see them to be very different pictures, and making them congruent requires an elaborate theology, in my opinion.

Another minor issue: paedobaptism, practically carried out, produces generation after generation of believers who did not remember the day of their baptism, and are unable to rejoice in their own entry into the church. This is unlike Acts, where conversion and baptism were linked and a cause for rejoicing. I think this is reproduced in credo-baptism in a larger extent than paedo; but I guess these subjective feelings is not the point..
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
In Suk,
Moses, who is humanly responsible for the story of God's covenant with Abraham as it comes to us, is also the first person to write explcitly of "circumcision of the heart," see for example Lev.26:41, Deut. 10:16. Heart-circumcision is not a New Testament concept. When I correlate circumcision and baptism, I correlate both outward acts, and both inward acts. Of course, I correlate them as I understand Paul to be correlating them, Col.2:11-12. So, naturally I see Christ as responsible for both circumcision and baptism of the heart.

And, of course I see the two covenant-signs as saying substantially the same things, being signs of the same covenant, and preaching the same essential message. Elaborate theology? No, I think all one needs to do is make a list of the things both represent, and with the exception of a couple dispensation-specific articles, there is overwhelming and weighty continuity.

Your argument against baptism based on the lack of "memory" of the event is faulty in, I think, two significant ways. Firstly, it indicts the OT sign on the same basis. Was it a defect of circumcision that so many who were blessed by it did not remember the day of it? Let me ask you: do you celebrate your birthday? Annually? Why on earth, may I ask, since you cannot recall it one whit?

Secondly, it makes a subjective emotional experience, rather than the spiritually intellectualized meaning of a thing essential to its appreciation. A person with memory loss or obscurity, or mental deficicencies--who cannot remember a specific event well; or a who might have been baptized at age 15, or 10, or even younger; or who might be incapable of much memory (even as an adult)--such a person is in no way limited from participating in all the essentials of the import of baptism, under the scheme I envision.

I'm sorry, if for your part, you must regret the loss of so much by so many...

As for baptism being a cause of rejoicing, trust me when I tell you that among us who are paedo-baptists, an infant baptism (as much as an adult baptism) is both a cause of rejoicing in the event by all those intelligent participants, and a reason to rejoice in one's own faith in Jesus Christ--a product of the sovereign, electing grace of God that had nothing productive to do with me making any kind of decision for such a reception.

If an adult baptism, which happens unto a person passively receiving it, is a sign of God's sovereign bestowal of his grace on whom he will (and it is such a sign or pointer, even when the person receiving it is lying or mistaken about his own commitment, and eventually falls away); an infant's baptism can be no LESS a statement about his helplessness and inability to presonally effect his own redemption.

Baptisms of all kinds demand of us just as much reflection and "improvement" of our own individual baptisms as any baptism in one of your churches. For baptism to be of benefit to anyone, it must be accompanied by faith. When, how, and in what degree that faith manifests itself is not by itself determinative of when all potential persons who ought to be baptized are, in fact, baptized.

For us, "timing" (before or after a profession) is not an essential characteristic of all baptisms. It is a "necessary condition" in the case of adults seeking to join the church. But because the falsity of a profession does not "invalidate" a baptism, where the necessary conditions have been met, it therefore cannot be an "essential condition," a sine qua non. We don't wrestle over whether a person was "sincere enough," or if his backsliding showed evidence of a fully unregenerate heart, necessitating another attempt at a baptism that "takes" the second (or more) time around.

Baptism, in our tradition, is less about what I am saying subjectively about my own faith, as what God says/promises objectively to the believing one in the gospel concerning the Faith. What he promises unto faith is received by faith when that faith is expressed, and unto none other but the faithful. "In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith."

Peace.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I'd like to look at that corelation in Col 2:
Col 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Col 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Some points:
1. the circumcision is not referring to infant circumcision. It is the circumcision done without hands, the circumcision of the heart - it is speaking of the spiritual, not carnal reality. Biblically, this motif refers to those who are in humble submission and obedience to Yahweh. Infants are never spoken of as being, or not being, circumcised in heart - this idea is only applied to adults.
2. It is this circumcision that is correlated by Paul with baptism, which symbolizes burial and rising from the death.
3. This rising from the dead is "through faith".

Now, this correlation between baptism and burial appears again in Romans 6:
Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Rom 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Rom 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

This again, very clearly has mature (albeit struggling) Christians in view: those who are struggling with sin and need to understand that their union with Christ means an end to their sin. In all of these references, the correlation of baptism with infants is very weak, in my opinion.
 
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