Essential presupposition of covenant theology?

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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Matthew McMahon's "Simple Overview of Covenantal Theology" argues that Acts 2:39 ("promise is for you and your children ...") is not meant for Gentiles, but Jews. Peter is showing how the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled for Jews and carries on in NT preaching. Ideas of Gentile inclusion into covenant comes later, but this is not an explicit text for it. If true, how can this be used as a proof-text for covenant theology? Doesn't this hurt the RCT argument?

I haven't read CMM's treatment, or else it's been a long time since I did. In any case, the pertinent question would be: to whom does the language, "and to all who are afar off," refer? Interpretively, the obvious first audience is primarily Jewish by birth, however there is a significant contingent of foreign-born coverts to Judaism, plus "adherents," and other alien visitors. Still, if the main target of Peter's sermon are those familiar with the Jewish faith, and especially interested or contracted to the Abrahamic promise, esp. Gen.17:7, which contains the like terms, "I will establish my covenant {the promise}... to be God to you and to your offspring."

The question of "who are all those afar off," is most resonant with the context of all those foreign-born Jews and other parties interested in coming as close as they dared to Jehovah-of-Israel. The promise to Abraham all along has included hope for the nations, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," Gen.12:3. The question has always been, "how" to be IN Abraham, that is, how to benefit from the mediatorship of the divinely instituted covenant relationship. The covenant (in other words) was never solely and only for Abraham's immediate house, however close one wanted to draw the line; but for the whole world. The world was invited to join IN Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob, then Israel the nation.

CMM could be reflecting on the fact that in the opening bloom of the new-covenant people, it still appears as a "Jewish-movement." The first hearers are primarily Jewish by religion, are familiar with the Abrahamic promise, and so the words of Peter are tailored for a community of listeners who are steeped in Judaism, and who know their Bibles. Peter, unlike Paul later on, goes directly to a fundamental person and expression of the historic faith in order to preach Christ as the fulfillment of the Genesis, the very beginning of Promise.

So, in this Act.2 context, what is more likely: 1) that "all those who are afar off," refers to the strangers to the Promise who were, are, and WILL BE brought near to the Promise-Fulfillment, as those earlier were brought to the Promise-Waiting; or 2) that "to all those who are afar off," refers to various children not present, while "to your children," refers to the children who are present in Jerusalem that day? If the former, it certainly fits into the context of the Abrahamic promise, and resonates with the Jews who are then looking for this very fulfillment to happen someday.

If CMM argues against the idea that this passage is explicit concerning Gentile inclusion (referring only to Jews who will later-on come to faith), I will have to disagree. Because it seems so clear that the setting itself (cf. Act.2:9-11) militates in favor of a direct reference.

Alternatively, CMM might mean only that Peter may still be thinking that the divinely ordered means of inclusion IN the Lord Jesus Christ includes integration into the covenant-life of the national-church. Thus "IN Abraham" by sign might be a rational entailment, and hardly a new-requirement for a predominately Jewish church; as would be legal adherence to Moses, in most if not all particulars. Peter is simply waving people from the Jews and all nations into the church of Christ.

Personally, I wouldn't be so concerned to restrict Peter's terminology to Jews (of all origins and backgrounds), mainly because I don't think that was LUKE'S intent. I think Luke meant his largely Gentile audience to feel the call of God to Christ right from the opening pages of his treatise.


P.S. A postscript on "... as many as the Lord our God shall call."
Sometimes, it has been claimed that a RCT reading of this text ignores this relevant phrase. I can only attribute this reckoning to an understanding of Abraham's covenant as physical, not spiritual, in essence. Because RCT thinks of Abraham's covenant as essentially spiritual--Isaac is in and Ishmael is out, Jacob is in and Esau is out, etc.--we claim that "as many as the Lord our God shall call" is already implicit (if not explicit, prior to the apostasy of either Ishmael or Esau) in the promise to Abraham.

If the only way (ever) to lay hold of the essential thing concerning the Promise has been by faith, because salvation is by grace, then "as many as the Lord our God shall call," has always been the acknowledged stance of the believer's heart. He hoped in God (or acted unbelievingly), respecting the promise, Gen.17:7, as it directly concerned his children. But the believer has always said, "If it is not to be that I should see my children walking in my faith-footsteps, for reasons hidden from me; yet will I hold to my God, and to the unfailing quality of his promises." "Not my will, but Thine be done." "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."

So "as many as the Lord our God will call," is no ignored aspect of v.39, so far as RCT is concerned. It is as true now, as it has ever been--to Abraham, to Isaac, to David, and so many others. "These all died IN FAITH..." Heb.11:13.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
when it says "... more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy" this applies to everyone who is a covenant child, regardless of election, right?

It says "The Gpspel... is HELD FORTH..." by these simpler, but better presentations (Word and Sacrament) than all the glory-laden exhibitions of an earlier age. Indeed, the gospel is held-forth to covenant-children, as to everyone; but perhaps we could say especially held forth to them, who "from childhood have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" 2Tim.3:15.

It is God's design for the earthly church and must therefore be ideal in that sense.
That's a fair reading: i.e., the church as an (invisibly) "perfect" institution, but comprised of (more or less) "imperfect" people. As over against the church as a (visibly) "imperfect" institution, comprised (ideally) of only "perfect" people.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for that, Rev. B. Yes, it seems CMM views the sermon as a call to remnant Jews to hear the reformulation of the Abrahamic covenant through Joel's prophecy. "Those who are far off", according to him, are scattered Jews not present. He uses this argument, not in the way it is normally expounded, but only to show that covenantal language (and not individualism) is the "still the norm" in the NT era. It's just surprising to see it interpreted in this way, when I thought this passage was already set in stone in the minds of Reformed folk. I agree with you, Luke-Acts is too inclusive of Gentiles for this passage to implicitly exclude them.

Could you help with another argument in the book, which I believe is raised by many RCT proponents. It argues that Jer 31 does not refer to new testament believers, but the fully realized church in heaven - where there will be no more need to tell another to know the Lord, the law will be fully written on the heart and obeyed, etc. I though the whole idea of covenant is that it is earthly and temporal - they are inaugurated on earth and fulfilled on earth. What happened to all the emphasis on God's condescending to our weakness, if the New Covenant is really about the church in heaven? Isn't this argument inconsistent with covenant theology as a whole? I understand the already-but-not-yet scheme, but that is speaking of the eschaton, not the establishing of the new covenant, which we all (I think) agree is completed in Christ's blood. If it's true that Jer 31 is not yet fully realized, then what is the basis for saying that it is realized at all, how would we know, and doesn't it imply that Christ's work is not complete?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
But, to clarify, when it says "... more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy" this applies to everyone who is a covenant child, regardless of election, right?

This seems like "over analyzing," or reading too much into the proposition of doctrine.

Everyone, in a sense, benefits from the explicit revelation of the person and work of Christ, and His Word.

The whole world, in a sense benefits by "common grace" of having the truth. People in Christian countries often benefit more even if they are not believers.

More so within the covenant community. But only the elect (past, present and future) partake in regeneration, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of adoption, the confirmation of the Word, etc.


none of this middle ground stuff

There's not really any "middle ground." People who are in the covenant community but who are not saved have a privilege the world does not have- the benefits of hearing the Word, having the support of a covenant community of believers. An infant has the benefit of one or more believing parents to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

All these are benefits "the world" does not have.

What's so difficult about that to understand?

---------- Post added at 03:19 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:14 PM ----------

It is God's design for the earthly church and must therefore be ideal in that sense.


Everything is God's design in His creation. Absolutely everything.

And, in a fallen world, sin has affected every aspect of life, including that of the church visible. It cannot separate a believer from what God has elected (redemption) but it affects all behavior.

And so it will be until our Lord returns.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
If it's true that Baptist try to look for election infallibly (having never been to a Reformed Baptist church, I can't comment), then I would be tempted join you in scoffing at that attempt. To be charitable, I'd like to think they practice the latter "Biblical View", with the presupposition that a credible profession of faith and repentance equals election, as best as can be determined by humans.

First, I am not scoffing at Baptists for their view. I am stating it. I call it un-Biblical because I believe it is. I confess, with my Church, what I believe the Scriptures teach and, by definition, the Baptist view would then be un-Biblical.

Secondly, What is the practical difference in what I wrote and what you restated? You just confirmed what I said. You have a Baptistic preocuppation that "a credible profession of faith and repentance equals election, as best as can be determine by humans". You confirm the very notion that I am saying is un-Biblical. Where does God ever command or instruct the creature "to the best of his ability" to determine the hidden things of God? The Biblical view is that a credible profession of faith and repentance is required for an adult to be admitted to the visible Church by baptism and treated as a brother with all the privliges and responsibilities that entails.

Election is left to God. I sound like a broken record but the HIDDEN THINGS BELONG TO THE LORD (Deut 29:29). Do not consider lightly the injunction of the Lord that the "guessing" or the "best possible determination" of hidden things belongs to us. They do not. We're not even permitted to guess at them. Fruit is somethihng we can see and make judgments about. We can say that "...you life is not in keeping with one who confesses faith and repentance" but we are never permitted to say: "...he is more or less likely to be elect or reprobate on the basis of what I'm seeing." Those are two completely separate categories. One is Biblical, the second is a violation of Deut 29:29.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Scott, hear Calvin on this, quoted from Horton, "God's Grandchildren."
"Baptism, viewed in regard to us, is a passive work: we bring nothing to it but faith; and all that belongs to it is laid up in Christ." But how can a child bring faith to baptism? "Those who were baptized when mere infants, God regenerates in childhood or adolescence, occasionally even in old age," as the seed of faith is planted in the heart of the covenant child. "Infants are renewed by the Spirit of God according to the capacity of their age, till that power which was concealed within them grows by degrees, and becomes fully manifest at the proper time," Calvin wrote.

It seems in the writings of many of the Reformed, the efficacy of God's promises to covenant children is such that there is no reason to doubt that regeneration IS going to happen. It's so matter of fact, so idealistic, so confident. There's hardly any talk of apostasy or the baptism of reprobates, it seems to me, because this is far from their minds and seen to be very rare.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It seems in the writings of many of the Reformed, the efficacy of God's promises to covenant children is such that there is no reason to doubt that regeneration IS going to happen.

Many of the Reformed believe what you just stated? Who? Where is that stated in a Reformed Confession, which represents Reformed teaching on this? What is the full Calvin quote in context? I would also add that your re-stating of the case is an inaccurate representation of Calvin's point. I don't mean this to sound pejorative but is English your first language because I'm having a terrible time trying to understand how you're drawing the conclusions you are from the sentences you're interacting with.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I am sorry if I am jumping in at a bad place.

Rich,
Does not most of the reformed paedo postion hold to presumptive regeneration for the infants of believers? From what I have read in the past this does seem to be a very prominent position that is held to.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I am sorry if I am jumping in at a bad place.

Rich,
Does not most of the reformed paedo postion hold to presumptive regeneration for the infants of believers? From what I have read in the past this does seem to be a very prominent position that is held to.

It's a loaded term so I would not grant that it is a Confessional position. If, by presumptive regeneration, one means that we think that baptism grants or guarantees regeneration then the Confessions plainly deny this by leaving it to the Holy Spirit's Sovereign operation.

If, by presumptive regeneration, one means that we treat all disciples with a judgment of charity then that is a different matter. We confess clearly that baptism does not confer grace simply by its administration. Nevertheless, a disciple is encouraged and exhorted as if he is responsible for and may respond to the encouragement and exhortation of God's Word. In this way, we are not unlike any other Body in its treatment of disciples. We don't exhort a fellow disciple assuming they were unregenerate. We exhort, with the judgment of charity, assuming they have the ability to apprehend spiritual things.

In this sense, then, we are neither making a dogmatic judgment concerning the hidden things one way or another. What can be said is that we are, from a practical standpoint, treating them as if they have capacity as opposed to treating them as if they have none. Paul does the same in his letters by appealing to an entire congregation as the Elect of God, not because he knows they are all elect, but because he is treating all the visible body of Christ with a charitable assumption that the things he speaks about belong to the visible Body.

When I have the time, I'd like to read Calvin's quote in fuller context because he's not precisely stating what Dennis is inferring even from the limited quote. So far as I'm concerned with every disciple: TODAY is the day of salvation. Hear the Word of the Lord today. If, by chance, a disciple has been a member of a Church for his whole life, he may have never been born again but the call to the Church is to declare salvation in Christ TODAY and TODAY may be the day that these repeated exhortations convert a man for the first time or continue to sanctify those who were converted long ago. Calvin's point is that the Promise that attends the Sign is not affixed to the moment of administration so that we may worry about the timing of the Spirit's work, which is done in secret.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Randy,
The term is loaded and ill-defined.

"Presumption" has lost nearly all of its indifferent force (as in, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), and is now used almost always according in the sense of "unwarranted" expectation or commitment.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Something that I would consider here is how the term disciple is being used. That term alone probably needs to be defined by the different sides of the debate. I agree your children can be disciples. But how does the New Testament and the literature of the past use the term.

What is a disciple?

Is a disciple made by baptism?

Can one be a disciple without having been baptized?

As far as the earlier discussion goes about looking into the Secret things of God I would also like to say that the Lord does tell us to examine the fruit of things and that the disciple John does tell us to test the spirits. Evidently some things can be revealed on some level. Peter could discern that Simon was in a bad place.

(Act 8:23) For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

I do believe that the Lord has given us some wisdom to know some things. Do we know beyond a shadow of doubt? I wouldn't want to claim so. But I do think this following passage does apply.

(Rom 10:6) But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

(Rom 10:7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

(Rom 10:8) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

(Rom 10:9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

(Rom 10:10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

(Rom 10:11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

(Rom 10:12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

(Rom 10:13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I do believe there are some markers the Lord has given the Church to discern by. And those markers are performed by Reformed folk and Baptist folk in examination for communion. Why can't they be used to discern the eligibility for candidates for baptism? I believe they are for adults in Presbyterian Churches. They don't first baptize someone (ie and adult) thus making them a disciple first. At least not in the Presbyterian circles I have been involved with.
 
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Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Scott, hear Calvin on this, quoted from Horton, "God's Grandchildren."
"Baptism, viewed in regard to us, is a passive work: we bring nothing to it but faith; and all that belongs to it is laid up in Christ." But how can a child bring faith to baptism? "Those who were baptized when mere infants, God regenerates in childhood or adolescence, occasionally even in old age," as the seed of faith is planted in the heart of the covenant child. "Infants are renewed by the Spirit of God according to the capacity of their age, till that power which was concealed within them grows by degrees, and becomes fully manifest at the proper time," Calvin wrote.

We're going off into a slightly different issue with this.

Suffice it to say, we go by the Confession of Faith (e.g. Westminster, 3 Forms) as faithful summaries of the doctrine of Scripture, not the select quotations of (even) the esteemed gentlemen you mention.

The best summary of the Confessions on this point is that, while we have reason to hope, we do not have reason to demand. But a child who is born with at least one believing parent is "holy" that is set, apart, to a position of privilege in that:

1) they have at least one parent to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and
2) a covenant community through which come the Word, and the "ordinary means of grace."

This is a great advantage compared to those outside the church.

Why would a believing parent *not* have reason to hope that God will be gracious and merciful to their child?
 
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PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Why would a believing parent *not* have reason to hope that God will be gracious and merciful to their child?

I don't think that is the point Scott. We all have reason to hope that God will be gracious and merciful to our children. I think you might be missing the point.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
We all have reason to hope that God will be gracious and merciful to our children. I think you might be missing the point.

It seems in the writings of many of the Reformed, the efficacy of God's promises to covenant children is such that there is no reason to doubt that regeneration IS going to happen. It's so matter of fact, so idealistic, so confident. There's hardly any talk of apostasy or the baptism of reprobates, it seems to me, because this is far from their minds and seen to be very rare.

I know there is a lot of "back and forth" on the thread, but the response was to Steadfast's comment about a perceived near-certainty of the salvation of a "covenant" child. It goes to the nature of covenant community, visible church, etc.

The reformed covenant view gives rise to high expectations because the visible church is the ordinary place of salvation, and the conduit for the ordinary means of grace, and so the hope is all the more fitting.... so it would seem.:)
 

ryanhamre

Puritan Board Freshman
I like this definition of the essential prerequisite, fundamental assumption, whatever you want to call it, for all of what is known as "Covenant Theology", and I think Paul wrote it best-

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

Borrowed from Ephesians 1:3-4
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Many of the Reformed believe what you just stated? Who? Where is that stated in a Reformed Confession, which represents Reformed teaching on this? What is the full Calvin quote in context? I would also add that your re-stating of the case is an inaccurate representation of Calvin's point. I don't mean this to sound pejorative but is English your first language because I'm having a terrible time trying to understand how you're drawing the conclusions you are from the sentences you're interacting with.

Yes, English is my first language, but I've only theological language isn't :) I think a different thread for this topic is in order. I'm having trouble finding Horton's source, he merely writes, Institutes chapters 15 and 16 in his article. Better to go directly to the Institutes itself. I'll collect some quotes.
 

tman

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm looking for THE essential presupposition that undergirds covenant theology from both the Reformed and Covenant baptist perspective.

NO lengthy tombes, arguments or discourses please! I do not intend for this to be a debate, unless you disagree with someone of your own same confession. What is the fundamental assumption that you bring to your understanding of covenant theology? Presuppositions are basically unproven axioms, so no point trying.

From what I understand from the Reformed position: there has always been ONE way in which God has viewed and dealt with his people and has not changed in all generations.

Covenantal Baptist: The cross of Christ (New Covenant) brings out a fundamental change in the way God views those whom he calls his.

Is this essentially correct? I think this needs more tweaking and boiling down, but I'm looking for the basic of the basic.

God was for the elect before the cross happened. He chose the elect before the decree of the fall of humanity into sin. God starts at what we perceive as the end. God was pleased with the elect before the cross because He had already justified them because of life and death of Christ. We have our time tables messed up because of our belief in infralapsarianism.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Could you help with another argument in the book, which I believe is raised by many RCT proponents. It argues that Jer 31 does not refer to new testament believers, but the fully realized church in heaven - where there will be no more need to tell another to know the Lord, the law will be fully written on the heart and obeyed, etc. I though the whole idea of covenant is that it is earthly and temporal - they are inaugurated on earth and fulfilled on earth. What happened to all the emphasis on God's condescending to our weakness, if the New Covenant is really about the church in heaven? Isn't this argument inconsistent with covenant theology as a whole? I understand the already-but-not-yet scheme, but that is speaking of the eschaton, not the establishing of the new covenant, which we all (I think) agree is completed in Christ's blood. If it's true that Jer 31 is not yet fully realized, then what is the basis for saying that it is realized at all, how would we know, and doesn't it imply that Christ's work is not complete?
I think the interpretive question for RCT turns on this matter of v34, "And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

It seems to me that this sentence must be understood comparatively, if in this world; or absolutely, only if in the next. On what possible ground can one admit of the present time: that any Christian should so neglect his brother, that he would not encourage him to "know the Lord?"

Comparatively, there was a terrible need for Israelites to encourage their brethren to "know the Lord," because except for a few exceptional generations, the majority of the people of the Old Covenant were apparently faithless. I think the weakness was even in the believers, due to the minimal influences of Holy Spirit. This weakness manifested itself quite frequently (so it seems) in the failure of parents in their due use of the ordinary means of grace. It isn't just Eli's sons, but Samuel's sons after him! And David's sons in the next generation. The Rechabites (Jer.35) seem noteworthy for a remarkable intergenerational witness, which God graces with a salvific note (v19).

Then, to press the comparative advantage, we should expect to see a greater degree of faithfulness in the church in our Spirit-filled age. The painful urgency of a lone believer speaking to his fellows in every pew, pleading with the majority of the membership to turn from their gross idolatries and sins of the flesh--this scenario is not so common today, and not (in my view) because we are better gatekeepers. To hold that notion would, I think, shortchange the activity of the Spirit.

Actually, the Minister who is doing his duty in the pulpit is urging upon all the members faith-in-Christ, and turning-from-sin, on a weekly basis. He personates God, "as though God were pleading through us: we implore on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God," 2Cor.5:20. That is, "Know the Lord!"

Nor would I deny there are apostate churches; but having no gospel, they have no church to speak of. And the true believers have for the most part fled. So, of course no one is saying "know the Lord" in those places.

I would argue that the point Jeremiah makes comparatively (OC vs.NC) is reemphasized by Ezekiel, in promises pertaining to the NC, 11:19; 36:26; 37:14, which celebrate the outpouring of Holy Spirit. It is his work that empowers the means, and encourages the faithful use of those means to the attainment of salvation. And if we care about the future, and the rising generation, and the continuation of this congregation or that, we should be praying for the Spirit's continual work, and even insist that the call to "know the Lord" keep sounding forth from our pulpits, and our own lips when appropriate.

And it is just there, where the gospel is sounding forth so strongly from the pulpit, that the desperate urgency of the typical Israelite of long ago is no more. We have good reasons to hope in those identified as our brothers, in those who stay under a sound ministry of Word and Sacrament. The Spirit is mightily accompanying His gospel. And still, when we see our brother overtaken in a fault, we who are spiritual go to him to restore such a one, Gal.6:1. "Know the Lord, brother."

Absolutely and ideally, the only time no one will ever need to say to his brother, "know the Lord," will be the glorified state, where everyone we meet will be none other than a redeemed saint, who knows his Lord intimately. Only when the "not yet" has become the "right now" is this reality instantiated.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
hmm, i wonder if the "know the Lord" motif is meant to be emphasized to that degree. Hebrews seems to not make that emphasis, so should we? The major point of the New Covenant is the forgiveness of sins performed by the one-time mediatorial work of Christ. You're right, the RCT argument hinges on the current for the church to teach one another to know the Lord, and because this isn't seen yet, they send the NC into the future, into heaven. The problem is that covenants are supposed to be earth and time-bound. That's why they exist - for God to condescend to us, make promises and fulfill them in time so that our faith can be strengthened. For the NC to await heaven for its completion defeats this purpose of covenants. Second, if the NC needs to await some future reality, then what are we to say about Hebrews stress that Jesus' sacrifice is a completed work?
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
It seems to me that this sentence must be understood comparatively, if in this world; or absolutely, only if in the next. On what possible ground can one admit of the present time: that any Christian should so neglect his brother, that he would not encourage him to "know the Lord?"

In the context of the passage one must needs determine what is meant by this terminology. And the opinions and various nuances are going to have to be taken into account. In total context this has to do with the New Covenant vs. the one that was made previous to this.


(Jer 31:31) Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

(Jer 31:32) Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:

(Jer 31:33) But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

(Jer 31:34) And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

It seems to me that this Knowing the Lord has to do with something specific. It is also connected with the New Covenant as opposed to the Old Covenant. There must be something different between the those who were involved with the Old and the New. This knowing is connected with the Law put in their hearts and their sins having been forgiven. This sounds like something that is descriptive of those who are in Christ. (ie members in union with Christ in the New Covenant)

Now I am not saying that none in the Old didn't know the Lord. It is obvious that some did. But not from all of them as it is proposed that all in the New will know the Lord.

And I agree with Bruce that we should weekly encourage everyone to know the Lord. But I imagine it will be of a different degree for those who are in Christ as opposed to those who are not. For those who are in Christ this knowing will be and encouragement to grow closer to him and to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. But they will already know him on one level if they are in Christ. Jesus said in John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Jesus also said that we have everlasting life and have passed from Death unto life already in John 5:24. (Joh 5:24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. So then I would think that this level of Knowing God must be a given for those who are in the New Covenant as defined in Jeremiah 31 and that is how this is to be understood.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I do believe there are some markers the Lord has given the Church to discern by. And those markers are performed by Reformed folk and Baptist folk in examination for communion. Why can't they be used to discern the eligibility for candidates for baptism? I believe they are for adults in Presbyterian Churches. They don't first baptize someone (ie and adult) thus making them a disciple first. At least not in the Presbyterian circles I have been involved with.

Still wondering about this in relation to disciples.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Dennis
For the NC to await heaven for its completion defeats this purpose of covenants. Second, if the NC needs to await some future reality, then what are we to say about Hebrews stress that Jesus' sacrifice is a completed work?

Of course the New Covenant hasn't reached its fulfillment, as Baptists acknowledge anyway, but not with regard to baptism and the membership of the covenant.

In individual eschatology Baptists acknowledge that we are in the "already not yet" and that individual members of the New Covenant are not free of sin.

Yet in collective eschatology baptists deny that their are any false professors in the New Covenant administration.

Do Baptists recognise that there are false professors in the Church?

Martin
Why can't they be used to discern the eligibility for candidates for baptism? I believe they are for adults in Presbyterian Churches.

They can be, as with Baptist practice. But we believe from Scripture that baptism is for adults with a credible profession of faith and their children. Children don't have to be asked any Qs.

The adult professing faith is the covenant head and representative of the children. God has placed the children in a Christian family in His providence. He hasn't just engrafted an individual branch into the Visible Church and New Covenant administration, but a branch with twigs. E.g. Romans 11 and the analogy of the Olive Tree.

Twigs were always engrafted with branches into the CoG. Baptists say that with the coming of John the Baptist that this abruptly stopped and John inaugurated the new atomistic individualism.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Yet in collective eschatology baptists deny that their are any false professors in the New Covenant administration.

Do Baptists recognise that there are false professors in the Church?

Absolutely, and we have discussed this to death on the PB. They are those who have slipped in unaware as the Apostle states to spy our our liberty. But they have no part in this Covenant though they might appear to be and discernment usually weeds them out when thy bring in heresies.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
I'd have to wait to hear from Randy about the New Covenant still awaiting fulfillment. It seems clear to me that the work of Christ is completed. The object of the faith of the OT saints has come, the atonement has been made, the enemy and death have been defeated, we have been united with him and are seated with him in heavenly places where we enjoy every spiritual blessing in him. The only thing we are awaiting is the physical manifestation of these things. If we are still awaiting New Covenant fulfillment then this implies that there's something left for the blood of Christ to accomplish. Perhaps Paul's point of filling up the afflictions of Christ can be chimed in, but I think that's something else.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Originally Posted by PuritanCovenanter
I do believe there are some markers the Lord has given the Church to discern by. And those markers are performed by Reformed folk and Baptist folk in examination for communion. Why can't they be used to discern the eligibility for candidates for baptism? I believe they are for adults in Presbyterian Churches. They don't first baptize someone (ie and adult) thus making them a disciple first. At least not in the Presbyterian circles I have been involved with.

They can be, as with Baptist practice. But we believe from Scripture that baptism is for adults with a credible profession of faith and their children. Children don't have to be asked any Qs.

The adult professing faith is the covenant head and representative of the children. God has placed the children in a Christian family in His providence. He hasn't just engrafted an individual branch into the Visible Church and New Covenant administration, but a branch with twigs. E.g. Romans 11 and the analogy of the Olive Tree.

Twigs were always engrafted with branches into the CoG. Baptists say that with the coming of John the Baptist that this abruptly stopped and John inaugurated the new atomistic individualism.

And maybe this is where we look at the Covenant Head and covenant Children situation. Who are the Covenant Head and children as defined by the scriptures. The following is pretty interesting.
http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/puritancovenanter/covenant-head-covenant-children-349/
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
You're right, the RCT argument hinges on the current for the church to teach one another to know the Lord, and because this isn't seen yet, they send the NC into the future, into heaven.
Because RCT envisions a particularly strong "continuity" (in and by Christ's Person) from this present age into the next (glorification), the NC is a part of both ages. This is evidenced by the fact that there is an eternal Mediator, who will never change or die. Thus, there is an aspect of the NC that is entirely future, one that is expressed by Jeremiah's language that no one will have to instruct his neighbor in righteousness.

And how does the CBT deal with the same question? I know you tell one another to "know the Lord," right? But why, if the NC is right this minute entirely realized and idealized? Well, the church is not, strictly speaking (from the CBT perspective) a NC institution (maybe "expression" would be a better term). The Baptist denies a visible administration of the present covenant. So, the preacher or the individual is not operating within a NC administration when they call one another, and unbelievers, to "know the Lord." That is something "this-worldly," not something members of the NC actually say to one another when their astral-selves brush against each other in the "already" of the numinal realm.

I think I've addressed your questions. If the already/not yet of Christ's permanent Mediatorship can't fit what you're asking, I don't know how else to explain it. In glory, we still relate to our God by means of covenant, though the Mediator.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I'd have to wait to hear from Randy about the New Covenant still awaiting fulfillment.

I do not agree with Bruce concerning what it means "to know the Lord." I am not sure what you are looking for me to answer. Christ came and fulfilled the promises given to Adam and Eve and concerning the Covenants of Promise.

The Corruptible must still put on the incorruptible and the sowing, watering, reaping is still being done.

Maybe 1 Cor 15 can answer some of your questions as it points to future things.

(1Co 15:22) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

(1Co 15:23) But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

(1Co 15:24) Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

(1Co 15:25) For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

(1Co 15:26) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

(1Co 15:27) For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

(1Co 15:28) And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Help me understand what you are asking.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
It seems to me that this Knowing the Lord has to do with something specific. It is also connected with the New Covenant as opposed to the Old Covenant. There must be something different between the those who were involved with the Old and the New. This knowing is connected with the Law put in their hearts and their sins having been forgiven. This sounds like something that is descriptive of those who are in Christ. (ie members in union with Christ in the New Covenant)

Now I am not saying that none in the Old didn't know the Lord. It is obvious that some did. But not from all of them as it is proposed that all in the New will know the Lord.
Randy,
I don't see how you've replied with anything of substance. First of all, "knowing the Lord" has to be intelligible to the original OC audience; and since it does refer to the NC era still to come, it has to have identical (or substantively identical) content in our era. "Law in the heart" is not a concept reserved for the NC:
Ps.37:31 "The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip." Ps.40:8 "I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart." Is.51:7 "Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings."​
How did the law get there really and truly, if the hand of God was not involved? And surely, the saints of the OC knew forgiveness of sin, and were waiting for the better things to come with respect to such. They were united to Christ in their own era, through their connection to the shadowy mediator-types of the OC. The call to believe gospel is indistinguishable from the call to "Know the Lord!" They are one and the same. We know the Lord by means of the gospel, its promise and fulfillment. Nothing less is adequate.

Jeremiah is speaking of the age when the shadows are dispelled. Your interpretation of this passage is comprehensible only on the theory that the NC is simply not a part of this world at all. With all due respect, I must reject that concept. I don't think that's even close to what Jeremiah and other OC saints anticipated, and even though they did not clearly see the dichotomized comings of Messiah, with his installation in a "far country" as Mediator coming at the end of the first, or how long he would tarry there before the consummation. They were looking ahead to a "purged" kingdom, and that purgation won't take place until heaven and earth meet!

So, either we are having some NC life right now, or else we aren't going to have it at all in this world. I don't know any other way to put it. Under your view, a believers "participation" in the age to come and the NC blessings is not something tangible in this world at all, not in the least. The call to "know the Lord" isn't NC-conversation. Gospel ministry isn't NC conversation! Because I can't preach the Gospel to you, Randy. You're already a believer. So, what do we have to talk about? Christian living, right? Sanctification? Because the Gospel ("Know the Lord!") is just the door, the command to those outside the covenant, how unbelievers get in?

I think this only forces down an artificial distinction upon our NC preaching. Because if our knowing is already idealized, then what do we need preaching for, except to gather a crowd to get the sinners in the doors? Does that sound familiar? If we, being believers, don't need the encouragement to believe and keep believing, then there is no principled reason why we need a good gospel sermon. Just give me pious advice, and encouragement to holy living; or doctrinal or eschatological finesse. Seems to me, there are already lots of churches out there who are just acting out the practical ramifications of a NC theology that has no bona fide connection to bodily life.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I do believe there are some markers the Lord has given the Church to discern by. And those markers are performed by Reformed folk and Baptist folk in examination for communion. Why can't they be used to discern the eligibility for candidates for baptism? I believe they are for adults in Presbyterian Churches. They don't first baptize someone (ie and adult) thus making them a disciple first. At least not in the Presbyterian circles I have been involved with.

Still wondering about this in relation to disciples.
The first thing to note is that the two-element list of "baptizing and teaching" isn't saying much about "order," even if it implies a little about it. It has more of a logical than temporal quality to it.

What we ask for in an adult-baptism/communion (membership) course, is someone's elementary ability to discern the content of the gospel, and what that means for a person in his position. It doesn't take a long time to check to see if this person understands what it means to participate in either grace or judgment. But we both know of churches where baptism and admission to communion are steps that can take months or years. This is nothing but applied theology. A communicant's class is minimal preparation. The forming of a disciple is a lifetime of labor. Baptism/Communicant's class is merely the "test" stage of the ministry of evangelism, which is whole-cloth with the ongoing teaching ministry of the church.

I don't agree with the definition of "disciple" that equates to a genuine profession of faith. Even a true profession, or evidence that one can discern the body and blood of the Lord, culminating in baptism, isn't the sum of the process of making a disciple. It is the beginning of disciple-making. Disciples are made by baptizing (a result of evangelism, and sign of subject's embracing the gospel message) and teaching (growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).
 
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