Ishmael

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AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

:detective:
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

:detective:

This question seems to deal more with whether children of believers should be considered "in the covenant" than whether they should be baptized. I'll be interested to see what more knowledgable men than I have to say.
 

Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

:detective:


The God of the Bible was Ishmael's God. The God of the Bible blessed and kept Ishmael and brought through him 12 princes.

But the God of the Bible purposely choose Isaac as the line to bring the Messiah through.

1. Ishmael was under the covenant of which Abraham was the covenant head.

2. Ishmael was not chosen as the line to bring the Messiah through.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The God of the Bible was Ishmael's God. The God of the Bible blessed and kept Ishmael and brought through him 12 princes.

But the God of the Bible purposely choose Isaac as the line to bring the Messiah through.

1. Ishmael was under the covenant of which Abraham was the covenant head.

2. Ishmael was not chosen as the line to bring the Messiah through.

Are you saying that Ishmael was a believer?
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
This question seems to deal more with whether children of believers should be considered "in the covenant" than whether they should be baptized. I'll be interested to see what more knowledgable men than I have to say.

As I understand the paedobaptist argument (feel free to recommend some books :) ) the infants of believers are to be baptised on the grounds that they are in the covenant. Therefore this breaks down if Ishmael who was not in the covenant was circumcised.

(I am here assuming that circumcision = baptism)
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
As I understand the paedobaptist argument (feel free to recommend some books :) ) the infants of believers are to be baptised on the grounds that they are in the covenant. Therefore this breaks down if Ishmael who was not in the covenant was circumcised.

(I am here assuming that circumcision = baptism)

It may be a semantic issue of how to correctly describe the relationship of children to the Covenant of Grace. Wouldn't Presbyterians, when being most specific, say something to the effect that children of believers are "under the administration of the Covenant"? If the child were actually "in" the covenant than he/she would be elect, no? If this were the case, then it wouldn't matter that Ishmael was not actually "in" the Covenant, or to be more precise concerning the passage you quoted, it would not matter that the covenant was not "established with him." He would receive the sign of the Covenant because he is "under its administration." The sign is a sign of the promises contained in the Covenant.

But again, I'm a newer Presbyterian and don't understand all the "linguistic aspects of Covenant Theology." :D Hopefully someone else will come along soon...
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The Presbyterians I know, and Bavinck, argue that all children of believers are in the CofG.

When they say that they mean externally, in its administration, right? When God said he was establishing his covenant with Isaac and not Ishmael he was talking about the internal aspect.
 

Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
Are you saying that Ishmael was a believer?

I see no scriptures claiming that he wasn't.

The Angel of the Lord Himself spoke to Hagar and sustained her in the desert place. Its hard press for an Egyptian slave to willingly choose idolatry after a theophany. Couple this theophany to the religiousity of Abraham's clan of 300+, I don't see how Ishmael in any way or manner could not be a believer, at least in appearance in regards to religious protocols.

And after Abraham died both Isaac and Ishmael buried him. Jethro of the tribe of Midian, Moses' father in law also knew Jehovah. All this indicates that the very religious culture of Abraham disseminated and diffused to all his children.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I see no scriptures claiming that he wasn't.

The Angel of the Lord Himself spoke to Hagar and sustained her in the desert place. Its hard press for an Egyptian slave to willingly choose idolatry after a theophany. Couple this theophany to the religiousity of Abraham's clan of 300+, I don't see how Ishmael in any way or manner could not be a believer, at least in appearance in regards to religious protocols.

And after Abraham died both Isaac and Ishmael buried him. Jethro of the tribe of Midian, Moses' father in law also knew Jehovah. All this indicates that the very religious culture of Abraham disseminated and diffused to all his children.

Your conclusion is based only on what you know of him from Genesis. The truth is, Ishmael's blessing was only a physical one, not a spiritual one. Here's what Paul had to say about Ishmael:

Galatians 4:28-31 said:
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [Ishmael] persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit [Isaac], so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Ishmael was born of the flesh and persecuted Isaac, who was born of the Spirit (see Gen. 21:9). According to Paul, we don't want to have anything to do with Ishmael. It's safe to that say he was not a true partaker of the Covenant of Grace.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

:detective:

Try this link.

1) The meaning of the sign of circumcision is not identical to the meaning of the sign of baptism. We agree that there is a significant overlap of meaning between the two signs (Romans 4:11; Colossians 2:11-12). But we deny that there is an identity of meaning between the two signs. Circumcision signified specific promises and blessings that baptism does not signify, and has never signified. God made many promises to Abraham in the covenant of circumcision (Genesis 17, which confirmed the covenant of Genesis 15). Circumcision sealed the promises of that covenant. For instance: "I will make you very fruitful" (physical descendants as many as the stars in the sky)--baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did. Or "you will be a father of many nations"--baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did. Or "kings will come from you"--baptism does not signify this promise, circumcision did. Or "the whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you"--baptism does not signify this promise, but circumcision did.

Similarly, due to this difference in meaning, we also deny that the relationship between physical and spiritual blessings is the same under the Old and New Covenants. Under the Old Covenant, the previously mentioned physical blessings were enjoyed, and the promises for these blessings were cherished, by the Israelites, even by those Israelites who lived an outwardly moral life but had no personal faith in the God of Abraham. That is, the physical blessings of the Old Covenant could be enjoyed even by those who did not personally experience its spiritual blessings (as long as the community as a whole remained faithful). But under the New Covenant, things are very different. Any covenantal promises and blessings which could be construed as "physical" (the glorified resurrection body, the new heavens and the new earth) will never be fulfilled or enjoyed by those who do not personally experience the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant (i.e. the elect).

Additionally, if circumcision allegedly has the same meaning as baptism, then two important questions need to be asked: Why institute a new sign? Why baptize those who had already been circumcised into the covenant community?

2) Baptism did not replace circumcision as to its function among the covenant people of God. Jesus' institution of the sign of Christian baptism commanded that it be applied to disciples who had been made by the original apostles (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:16). Throughout the rest of the New Testament, and especially displayed in the book of Acts, baptism functions in accordance with Jesus' institution of it. It is a sign for disciples, who have placed their faith in Jesus (cf. Acts 2:38). All clear cases of baptism in the New Testament reflect this "believers' baptism" policy. (The "household baptisms" will be treated later in this paper.)

But if, as paedobaptists allege, baptism did replace circumcision as to its function in the covenant community, several problems emerge. First, why did Paul have Timothy circumcised? "Paul wanted to take him [Timothy] along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek" (Acts 16:3). Surely if baptism functioned the same way under the New Covenant as circumcision functioned under the Old, Paul would never have done this! Something must have been signified in Timothy's later circumcision that was not signified in Timothy's earlier baptism as a convert. Second, why did Paul bend over backwards to accommodate the Jewish converts' continuing practice of circumcising their children? (Acts 21:20-26). Why did he not rather challenge the practice as completely inappropriate for Christian converts, since now baptism has replaced circumcision? Third, why didn't the apostles and elders at the Jerusalem council refute the Pharisees' charge ("The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses", Acts 15:5) by the simple statement, "Because baptism has now replaced circumcision"? Fourth, why didn't Paul, in the book of Galatians, refute the Judaizers who insisted on circumcision with the simple argument: "baptism has replaced circumcision"?
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
As I understand the paedobaptist argument (feel free to recommend some books

I'm looking for the best of the best for an argument for paedobaptism. Do you recommend one, Ryan?

Also, would someone recommend the best book which lays out the credobaptist argument?

Thank you.
 

Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
Your conclusion is based only on what you know of him from Genesis. The truth is, Ishmael's blessing was only a physical one, not a spiritual one. Here's what Paul had to say about Ishmael:



Ishmael was born of the flesh and persecuted Isaac, who was born of the Spirit (see Gen. 21:9). According to Paul, we don't want to have anything to do with Ishmael. It's safe to that say he was not a true partaker of the Covenant of Grace.


Concerning point no 1.

Was Lot saved? As far as I know he was never in covenant with God. God chose his uncle Abraham. But the Bible does call Lot righteous. How can he be considered righteous when God did not explicitly made a covenant with him.

Was Job saved? How can he be considered righteous when God did not explicitly made a covenant with him as He did with Abraham?

Based on the above I think it is unfounded to purely say that Ishmael's blessings were only physical and not spiritual. But I will tackle this point later.

Was Midian's blessing physical and not spiritual? If so, how did Jethro one of his descendents manifested a more than superificial knowledge of Jehovah? And God did not establish any covenant with Midian in the same manner as Ishmael.

Concerning point 2. Ishmael vs Isaac as reasoned by Paul only speaks of an allegory and the symbolism that God uses as a teaching tool. I do not think it speaks specifically to the ultimate state of the souls of Ishmael or Isaac eventhough we know that Isaac was and is part of the elect as was made known explicitly in the covenant.

Here is my opinion on the matter

I think we have a clue in the following verse by Paul as it relates to these anomalies of scripture i.e Ishmael, Lot and Job.

1 Cor 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Now let me tackle this.

I believe when God speaks of "Covenant, it is not by any means static. I believe there is "The Covenant", vs Other Covenants.

Abraham was specifically called out for "The Covenant". What "The Covenant" entailed was separation and the creation of a nation that would carry the oracles of God which would culminate in the Messiah. It is through "this Covenant", the world has been blessed. All blessings that were afforded to mankind was because of "The Covenant".

It was "The Covenant", that God told Abraham that Isaac would inherit. This in no way nullified any possibility or God's electing purpose in saving Ishmael, Midian, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Ishbak, Shuah (Abrahams's other sons. Abraham didn't have only 2 sons),Abraham's servants especially Eleazar, Job and Lot. All people who are saved are saved by God's electing decree, but God's electing decree is justified by "The Covenant" through Abraham culminating in Jesus our Lord.

Now because Abraham covenanted with God, and was the covenant head of his household which included 300+ it follows by necessity everyone under him had to partake of the religious protocols that Abraham partook of. Even Ishmael, Zimran and Midian had to be circumsized, offer prayers and sacrifices to God. Abraham had to instruct all under him the counsel of God and how to live Godly etc. A major manifestation of this was when Abraham went to war to rescue Lot. That reality eerily condemned Cain when he said, "Am I my brother's keeper". I firmly believe that Abraham going to war to rescue Lot was simply a part of his religious duties by which he taught by practice to his household godliness.


In speculating the state of Ishmael's soul and the soul of others under Abraham's headship.

1. Abraham being the covenant head automatically disseminated and diffused the knowledge of the true God to those under him. This was their religion.

We see this being manifested in God even appearing to Hagar thereby confirming exactly what Abraham taught to those under him. The honor and respect and the imbuing of this is manifested when Ishmael went with Isaac (as the two eldest of Abraham's children) and buried Abraham when he died. This alone shows that they were still in contact and had a homogeneous culture between them.

2. Jethro a descendent of Midian (Midian is one of Abraham's sons) was from all appearances a believer in God. It was his daughter whom Moses married. And we know that Jethro was a Priest. This is overwhelming proof that the religious instruction that Abraham gave to his household was so intense and highly concentrated that 400 years later his descendants through Midian had a religious institution to the true God AND GOD DID NOT ESTABLISH HIS COVENANT THROUGH MIDIAN, ONLY THROUGH ISAAC And what of Melchizidek. He was a Priest to God and we see of no covenants being established with him, but yet he for all purposes is considered saved

3. Putting all these pieces together it is unfair for us to conclude that because God did not establish "The Covenant" through Ishmael that Ishmael was not saved because God likewise did not establish "The Covenant" with Job, Melchizedek, Jethro, Midian and we see them saved.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
It might be helpful to read Herman Hoeksema [in his Dogmatics] on this point. Hoeksema insisted that only the elect children of believers were included in the covenant; even though all children of believers received baptism as the sign of the covenant. Prof. Klaas Schilder seems to argue that all children of believers have some place in the covenant.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm looking for the best of the best for an argument for paedobaptism. Do you recommend one, Ryan?

Also, would someone recommend the best book which lays out the credobaptist argument?

Thank you.

This is probably an unhelpful post. (I just want to acknowledge that ahead of time.)

After reading or participating in many, many threads on this board regarding the baptism question, I conclude that there is no such thing as "the best argument(s)" for P-B or C-B. Why this conclusion? you may ask.

Because the fundamental issue isn't one of arguments, or even basic hermeneutics, but something even deeper than that. It has to do with a hermeneutical stance toward the same basic material.

See, in so many things both camps stand in a very similar posture, provided there is a basic Calvinistic or Augustinian agreement on the core issues of salvation. But one side has the left foot forward, the other side has the right. Sounds almost trivial, doesn't it? But it will affect further activity. Every time X leads off with a step, its the other foot from Y's.

The P-Ber arrives at the NT having already read the OT. He reads the NT through the eyes of an OT saint. His understanding of later revelation is continually conditioned by that which has come previously. Once he has read through the final chapter, he then goes back, and re-reads the OT through the eyes of a NT saint in possession of the complete revelation. All later revelation conditions the earlier interpretation. The earlier OT revelation now comes alive in new ways, but not in fundamentally different ways.

The C-Ber starts reading the Bible with the NT. He is a NT believer, he needs NT revelation, that is fundamental. His is a theology borne out of the NT records and teaching of the apostles. He may note occasional references to the OT. Unless he's reading a Bible that uses different fonts, he may not always know when material is being quoted (the writer doesn't always indicate when he's quoting or his source). Unless he's reading a study or cross-reference Bible (a good one), he will have no idea just how reliant the NT writers are on the OT Scriptures.

But he's not blind. He understands there is a "background" to the NT material. And once he's read the NT, he may go back and read the OT. He reads the OT through the eyes of someone who has a pre-formulated Christian theology which is correct in all the essentials. He may even think he is willing to tweak his theology, based on new insights from the OT. But the OT is not really there to teach him theology. Because it existed for a different age. Sure, we need to know where the world came from. The history of God's people is important, because we don't have myths like other faiths, but HISTORY. The Psalms are wonderful emotive expression. But aside from the moral lessons of human frailty and faith, what can the OT teach theologically which is not vastly improved on by the NT? taught MORE CLEARLY in the NT?



I've tried hard not to caricature the C-Ber. And I'm sure that there are RB brethren here who do see themselves as having a much higher view of the OT than what I've portrayed. I am not trying to pigeon-hole all C-Bers any more than I think all P-Bers somehow actually followed the above pattern in coming to the Scriptures.

I'm trying to explain why it is that we can "talk-past" each other with all our "best arguments," and get nowhere. RBs generally subscribe to the grand-covenant-scheme of Covenant Theology (especially the Covenant of Grace). However, when they get to the New Covenant, they radically separate it from what came before. There's no other way I can think of to describe it. They are NC (NT) believers first, and then Whole-Bible (CoG) believers. We on the other side see ourselves first of all as CoG believers, and then as NC believers. Left foot forward; right foot forward.


So, what is the "best argument" for the P-Ber position? In my opinon, this: that most Covenant Theologians down through history have found it the most consistent expression of our theology. On the ends you have two smaller sub-groups. C-Bers, who reject a "visible administration" of the CoG in the NT. And on the other side, dispensational-leaning P-Bers, who accept the radical NC distinction, but who retain P-B.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
It might be helpful to read Herman Hoeksema [in his Dogmatics] on this point. Hoeksema insisted that only the elect children of believers were included in the covenant; even though all children of believers received baptism as the sign of the covenant. Prof. Klaas Schilder seems to argue that all children of believers have some place in the covenant.

It was HH that led me to reject paedobaptism ironically. :pilgrim:
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
The P-Ber arrives at the NT having already read the OT. He reads the NT through the eyes of an OT saint. His understanding of later revelation is continually conditioned by that which has come previously. Once he has read through the final chapter, he then goes back, and re-reads the OT through the eyes of a NT saint in possession of the complete revelation. All later revelation conditions the earlier interpretation. The earlier OT revelation now comes alive in new ways, but not in fundamentally different ways.

The C-Ber starts reading the Bible with the NT. He is a NT believer, he needs NT revelation, that is fundamental. His is a theology borne out of the NT records and teaching of the apostles. He may note occasional references to the OT. Unless he's reading a Bible that uses different fonts, he may not always know when material is being quoted (the writer doesn't always indicate when he's quoting or his source). Unless he's reading a study or cross-reference Bible (a good one), he will have no idea just how reliant the NT writers are on the OT Scriptures.

But he's not blind. He understands there is a "background" to the NT material. And once he's read the NT, he may go back and read the OT. He reads the OT through the eyes of someone who has a pre-formulated Christian theology which is correct in all the essentials. He may even think he is willing to tweak his theology, based on new insights from the OT. But the OT is not really there to teach him theology. Because it existed for a different age. Sure, we need to know where the world came from. The history of God's people is important, because we don't have myths like other faiths, but HISTORY. The Psalms are wonderful emotive expression. But aside from the moral lessons of human frailty and faith, what can the OT teach theologically which is not vastly improved on by the NT? taught MORE CLEARLY in the NT?

Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan, I can assure you that I have arrived at my CB position through arriving at the NT having already read the OT. I would find it helpful if you would answer the question in the OP which incidently is from the OT.

"Why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?"

"As I understand the paedobaptist argument...the infants of believers are to be baptised on the grounds that they are in the covenant. Therefore this breaks down if Ishmael who was not in the covenant was circumcised."

:handshake:
 

Tirian

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan, I can assure you that I have arrived at my CB position through arriving at the NT having already read the OT. I would find it helpful if you would answer the question in the OP which incidently is from the OT.

"Why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?"

"As I understand the paedobaptist argument...the infants of believers are to be baptised on the grounds that they are in the covenant. Therefore this breaks down if Ishmael who was not in the covenant was circumcised."

:handshake:

I'm a little confused by your questioning, it seems (forgive me brother if I am too abrupt or I misunderstand you) that you are importing into the sacrament of circumsion the meaning of "believers baptism". This sign and seal of the covenant means an inclusion in the "visible" church, a privelege extended to all those who profess Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord and saviour of their lives. The promise (of this privilege), as articulated to Abraham here (and reiterated throughout scripture) is also to the believer's children.

You seem to be citing the covenant God made to deliver the messiah through Issac's line as being mutually exclusive to Ishmael being included in the covenant promise to Abraham's children.

Infant children are to have the sign of the covenant applied to them to indicating their inclusion in the visible church (a sign of a privalege actually granted by birth to a believing parent). We presume the child will be saved, and therefore raise the child in the nurture and admonistion of the Lord and await with faithful expectation that God will complete this work in them.

The application of this sacrament does not bring salvation - it does not guaruntee inclusion in the invisible church. Neither does belivers baptism upon confession of faith by a person of "accountable age".

The promise to Abraham extended to his family, and indeed Ishmael was greatly blessed. The promise of the line of the Messiah was through Issac though, which is what this passage is referring to, and does not unwind or alter the promise to Abraham and his children.

By God's grace and mercy,

Matt
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

:detective:

An interesting bit of eisegesis here.

Where does the passage state that Ishmael was not in the Covenant in the passage cited?

I'm not asking where it states that the Covenant is established with Isaac but I'm asking you to exegetically establish that the passage states that Ishmael was not in the covenant.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
eisegesis

Not sure what this means :)

Where does the passage state that Ishmael was not in the Covenant in the passage cited?

I'm not asking where it states that the Covenant is established with Isaac but I'm asking you to exegetically establish that the passage states that Ishmael was not in the covenant.

A very good question, hadn't crossed my mind. Does any CBer have a response?
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
I'm a little confused by your questioning, it seems (forgive me brother if I am too abrupt or I misunderstand you) that you are importing into the sacrament of circumsion the meaning of "believers baptism". This sign and seal of the covenant means an inclusion in the "visible" church, a privelege extended to all those who profess Christ and acknowledge Him as Lord and saviour of their lives. The promise (of this privilege), as articulated to Abraham here (and reiterated throughout scripture) is also to the believer's children.

Having recently switched from paedo to credo I still have doubts about credo*.

My point is this: if Ishmael was not in the covenant but was circumcised then to say that we baptised infants because they are in the covenant is wrong. i.e. the seal of the covenant was applied to those not possessing a covenant interest.

:handshake:

*[EDIT: I think it best to be absolutely neutral between credo and paedo until I sort out my difficulties...hence a fence sitter] :)
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan, I can assure you that I have arrived at my CB position through arriving at the NT having already read the OT. I would find it helpful if you would answer the question in the OP which incidently is from the OT.

"Why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?"

"As I understand the paedobaptist argument...the infants of believers are to be baptised on the grounds that they are in the covenant. Therefore this breaks down if Ishmael who was not in the covenant was circumcised."

:handshake:

Hi Richard.

I tried to point out in my essay that my categories were generalizations, not meant to successfully categorize everyone. Inasmuch as you are a pretty unique mix (CofE and credo-b and...?) I think you pretty well defy labeling. :)

I stick with my assessment that for the most part, reformed p-bers approach the question of identity 1st as CoG believers, and 2nd as particularly NC believers inside the CoG. I guess I would put it this way: I'm a child of Abraham first, then I'm a Christian by chronological fix.

OP Question: I don't believe he wasn't in the covenant outwardly.

Here's the issue: The covenant is ultimately with whom? Christ. Not you. Not me. But wait, aren't we in the covenant? Sure. But the covenant isn't established with us, but with Christ. So we participate in the covenant through our union with him.

If Ishmael wanted a part of the covenant, all he needed to do was dwell in the tents of Isaac. But he showed later he was a reprobate, and an object lesson forever: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son" (Gen. 21:1-12) and "But in Isaac shall thy Seed be called" (Rom. 9:7).

Only those who are outwardly in the covenant can be "cut off" from the people, or "cast out" from the people.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Hi Richard.

I tried to point out in my essay that my categories were generalizations, not meant to successfully categorize everyone. Inasmuch as you are a pretty unique mix (CofE and credo-b and...?) I think you pretty well defy labeling. :)

I stick with my assessment that for the most part, reformed p-bers approach the question of identity 1st as CoG believers, and 2nd as particularly NC believers inside the CoG. I guess I would put it this way: I'm a child of Abraham first, then I'm a Christian by chronological fix.

OP Question: I don't believe he wasn't in the covenant outwardly.

Here's the issue: The covenant is ultimately with whom? Christ. Not you. Not me. But wait, aren't we in the covenant? Sure. But the covenant isn't established with us, but with Christ. So we participate in the covenant through our union with him.

If Ishmael wanted a part of the covenant, all he needed to do was dwell in the tents of Isaac. But he showed later he was a reprobate, and an object lesson forever: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son" (Gen. 21:1-12) and "But in Isaac shall thy Seed be called" (Rom. 9:7).

Only those who are outwardly in the covenant can be "cut off" from the people, or "cast out" from the people.

Good points, Bruce, esp. about having to be in the covenant to be cut off or cast out.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Hi Richard.

I tried to point out in my essay that my categories were generalizations, not meant to successfully categorize everyone. Inasmuch as you are a pretty unique mix (CofE and credo-b and...?) I think you pretty well defy labeling. :)

I stick with my assessment that for the most part, reformed p-bers approach the question of identity 1st as CoG believers, and 2nd as particularly NC believers inside the CoG. I guess I would put it this way: I'm a child of Abraham first, then I'm a Christian by chronological fix.

OP Question: I don't believe he wasn't in the covenant outwardly.

Here's the issue: The covenant is ultimately with whom? Christ. Not you. Not me. But wait, aren't we in the covenant? Sure. But the covenant isn't established with us, but with Christ. So we participate in the covenant through our union with him.

If Ishmael wanted a part of the covenant, all he needed to do was dwell in the tents of Isaac. But he showed later he was a reprobate, and an object lesson forever: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son" (Gen. 21:1-12) and "But in Isaac shall thy Seed be called" (Rom. 9:7).

Only those who are outwardly in the covenant can be "cut off" from the people, or "cast out" from the people.

Great way of putting it. Somebody asked me a couple of weeks ago about circumcision. Circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign and seal of the faith that he had while still uncircumcised. That is, as Paul notes, it was a sign and seal of a Promise of God's work and our faith in it. We don't have faith in faith but faith in something objective and circumcision represented that something immovable and fixed that would come about as sure as God could never be rent assunder.

As this sunk in, a young brother asked me: "What about a Pharisee though? What did circumcision signify for them?"

The same thing. It's not as if the promise moved or the object that the sign pointed to changed. It's not as if a sacrament changes meaning based on every individual's existential appreciation of it changes so there are 100 million different versions of what circumcision signified. It always signified the same thing: a promise that God would save every man who put his faith in Him (Abraham is said to have believed the Gospel after all).

Because some put the significance of the sacrament in the person it clouds the Scriptural testimony that the signs point extra nos to the work of God and not our inward condition. The former is immovable while the latter can be sifted like wheat by Satan.

When Abraham circumcised his entire household (including Ishmael), the promise was proclaimed just as the Gospel is: believe on my God and He will save you from your sins. The revealed things belonged to Abraham and his children while the hidden things belonged to God. Some hidden things were revealed to Abraham - namely, that Ishmael would not be the one through whom the Covenant was established. What many mistakenly believe is that Abraham assumed that this meant that Ishmael had no responsibility to the Covenant or that the the promise was never made to him. Wrong.

It is fascinating that I'm listening to James White deal with Steve Gregg on the issue of his misrepresentation of Calvinistic teaching. Typical of Arminians is that they'll state that God's sovereignty of all future events somehow makes people do things and that they're given no choices. Yet, at this point here, it seems that some Reformed Baptists want to side with Arminians and imply that God's sovereign choice of election made Ishmael reject the promise and that he had no choice. It's almost as if, when we learn a little bit about some people because God told us, we forget about the idea of compatibilism altogether.

As Bruce noted, Ishmael did not have to reject the promise. Nobody twisted Ishmael's arm and made him taunt his little brother at his weaning. As Paul notes in Romans 4, Isaac represented Gospel - two "dead people" bring forward the son of promise. Ishmael saw this wondrous event and rejected God's promise because, after all, he was the eldest and the promise (according to the flesh) should have been his is how I imagine he reasoned.
Esau, the manly one, cared little for the Gospel either preferring a bowl of soup and then marrying Canaanites because he figured out it was a reproach to the God of his father.

God's people have always had the promise before them. The promise never moves, it never wavers like men's hearts. Confusing the promise with the hearts of men is what causes the confusion.
 

S. Spence

Puritan Board Freshman
So we should baptise infants of believers because they are included in the covenant? Well why was Ishmael circumcised when he was not included in the covenant?

Gen 17:20, 21 "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year."

Perhaps I’m looking at this in a too simple manner. However could this question be resolved by looking at the covenant in conditional / unconditional terms? From God’s perspective the covenant is unconditional; it is He alone that can grant man the ability to fulfil the stipulations and obligations.

However from our perspective the covenant is conditional if a child born into a covenant household is to remain in the covenant he/she must not ‘break’ the covenant by rejecting Christ.

In Genesis 17: 20,21 we have an unusual situation, God actually intervenes and tells Abraham that Ishmael will be a covenant breaker, that is God will not grant him the ability to fulfil the covenant stipulations. Normally a parent is not told this by God but that’s what seems to happen here. That’s how I see it anyway, I’m probably wrong but you PB’ers can set me right if I am.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
I emailed a minister last night who replied saying;

"Re Ishmael, he was circumcised (Gen. 17:26) as a son of Abraham in the covenant (vv. 9ff.). God's making His covenant with Isaac and not with Ishmael (vv. 20-21) means that God's special covenant people would be Isaac's descendents (Israelites) and not with Ishmael's descendents (Ishmaelites)."​

Thoughts?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I emailed a minister last night who replied saying;

"Re Ishmael, he was circumcised (Gen. 17:26) as a son of Abraham in the covenant (vv. 9ff.). God's making His covenant with Isaac and not with Ishmael (vv. 20-21) means that God's special covenant people would be Isaac's descendents (Israelites) and not with Ishmael's descendents (Ishmaelites)."​

Thoughts?

I don't think I like the word "special covenant people" because it implies that the nature of the covenant that Ishmael was joined to was different than the nature of the covenant Isaac was. Ishmael rejected the covenant. In the sense of the decree it was always so while in the sense of Ishmael's choice it was his personal rejection and thus so for his progeny.

Incidentally, Ishmael is seen as a type of the Jews who reject Christ in Galatians 4:28 and persecute those who are the true seed - all who inherit the promise by faith. Just as he persecuted Isaac, so the Jews persecuted the Galatians. Just as Ishmael came by natural processes (Abraham with a fertile woman), so did the Jews descend and took pride in the strength of the flesh. Just as Isaac came by the power of God (a man and a woman as good as dead having a child), so have all of Abraham's true seed always been.

The key to remember, however, is that the sign pointed to the object independent of Pharasaical corruption of its significance. Those who gave it such physical significance only and took stock in the flesh were sons of the bondwoman even while they seminally could claim to descend from Isaac.
 
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