Relationship of Abrahamic Covenant with New Covenant and Baptism

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TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
What is the covenantal Baptist understanding of the relationship between the Abrahamic covenant and the New Covenant? Are they in essence the same covenant? Why or why not?

And, if they are in essence the same covenant, why do the children of those who have the faith of Abraham in the New Covenant not get included in the covenant community?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Taylor, the Abrahamic Covenant is inexorably linked to the Old Covenant. This is an important distinction because one cannot adequately compare the Abrahamic Covenant to the New Covenant without understanding the Abrahamic Covenant's part in the Old Covenant. So, if I may reword your question, "What is the covenantal Baptist understanding of the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant? Are they in essence the same covenant? Why or why not?"

Let me quote Wayne Grudem.

We should not be surprised that there was a change from the way the covenant community was entered in the Old Testament (physical birth) to the way the church is entered in the New Testament (spiritual birth). There are many analogous changes between the Old and New Covenants in other areas as well. While the Israelites fed on physical manna in the wilderness, New Testament believers feed on Jesus Christ, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-51). The Israelites drank physical water that gushed from the rock in the wilderness, but those who believe in Christ drink of the living water of eternal life that He gives (John 4:10-14). The Old Covenant had a physical temple to which Israel came to worship, but in the New Covenant believers are built into a spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5). Old Covenant believers offered physical sacrifices of animals and crops upon an altar, but New Testament believers offer "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5; confirm Hebrews 13:15-16). Old Covenant believers received from God the physical land of Israel which He had promised to them, but New Testament believers receive "a better country, that is a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16). In the same way, in the Old Covenant those who were the physical seed or descendants of Abraham were members of the people of Israel, but in the New Testament those who are the spiritual "seed" or descendants of Abraham by faith are members of the church (Galatians 3:29; confirm Romans 4:11-12).

In all these contrasts we see the truth of the distinction that Paul emphasizes between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. The physical elements and activities of the Old Covenant were "only a shadow of what is to come." but the true reality, the "substance," is found in the New Covenant relationship we have in Christ (Colossians 2:17). Therefore, it is consistent with this change of systems that infant (male) children would automatically be circumcised in the Old Covenant, since their physical presence in the community of Jewish people meant that they were members of that community in which faith was not an entrance requirement. But in the New Covenant it is appropriate that infants not be baptized, and that baptism only be given to those who give evidence of genuine saving faith, because membership in the church is based on an internal spiritual reality, not on physical descent."
If there is a continuity between the Covenants it is in the spiritual promise both contain. However, the Abrahamic portion of the Old Covenant was never based on the "better promises" because it was administered upon the qualification of birth, not faith.

And, if they are in essence the same covenant, why do the children of those who have the faith of Abraham in the New Covenant not get included in the covenant community?

Well, since they are not in essence the same covenant, there is no need to provide an answer to this question other than to state that the sign of the New Covenant is to be applied to those who profess faith in Christ.
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
Bill,

Thanks for your response.

However, doesn't Paul say in Galatians 3:17 that the covenant with Abraham has not been annulled? Furthermore, in Galatians 3:29, Paul states that we are heirs according to the promise made with Abraham. I take this to mean that we inherit the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. It seems strange that Paul would speak this way of the Abrahamic covenant if it was part of the "Old Covenant" that was passing away. In 2nd Corinthians 3:7, Paul appears to indicate that it is the Mosaic covenant that is the "Old Covenant" passing away.

Furthermore, if, as Grudem states, it is only the believing that are members of the church, is it possible for us to know with absolute assurance that anyone is a part of the church?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
However, doesn't Paul say in Galatians 3:17 that the covenant with Abraham has not been annulled?

Taylor, you're misreading Paul's argument. Paul starts the chapter off by saying, "This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith" (Galatians 3:2)? Paul is writing a treatise on justification by faith, apart from works. Also, as I alluded to in my previous post, the spiritual promise of the Abrahamic Covenant remains. It is realized in those who believe. Take a look at the verse you cited. "What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise" (Galatians 3:17). Paul is appealing to the spiritual promise of the Abrahamic Covenant, not the physical rite. The Abrahamic Covenant was a shadow of what was to come. The shadow was the spiritual promise that could not be realized until the time of Christ. Once Christ propitiated for the sins of the elect the promise was fulfilled. The need for a physical sign built on lesser promises ceased. Therefore, there is no strangeness in Paul's writings.

As far as 2 Corinthians 3:7, there is no contradiction between the fulfillment of the spiritual promises of the Old Covenant, which includes the Abrahamic Covenant, and obsolescence of the Law. Paul was addressing a problem that was rampant in Galatia - legalism. The Law of Moses could not impart life. However, within the Pentateuch we see the promises of the liberating Covenant that was to come. Taylor, I write this with all tenderness and brotherly love, be careful to read these verses in context. You'll find that they in no way are contradictory to the Baptist position on the New Covenant.

Furthermore, if, as Grudem states, it is only the believing that are members of the church, is it possible for us to know with absolute assurance that anyone is a part of the church?

A great question, but has absolutely no bearing on the paedo or credo understanding of the New Covenant. Both sides are operating on their understanding, not on perfect knowledge. The paedo cannot tell you, with a straight face, that they know who is actually saved based on external evidence. The credo is saddled with the same limitation. But that doesn't change what scripture teaches. Credos baptize on a profession, not on possession. If we baptize a deceiver, then it is the deceiver who reaps additional judgment upon themselves. This is partly the motivation behind what John wrote. "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). It took full blown apostasy for the church to recognize the false profession of those who left the church.
 

steadfast7

Puritan Board Junior
Furthermore, if, as Grudem states, it is only the believing that are members of the church, is it possible for us to know with absolute assurance that anyone is a part of the church?

John 20:31 "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

1 John 5:13 "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

I think these verses taken together may be instructive for us. While we cannot know with indubitible certainty the state of another's soul, it is faith that helps us know about our own.
 

eqdj

Puritan Board Freshman
Taylor,

I believe this is one of two foundational differences in Paedo-Credo Covenant Theology. Everything else is smoke.

I've summed up the Covenantal Baptist position as such:
Soteriology (and all its Benefits) is the Inauguration of the Eschatological based on the Protological and Foreshadowed in the Typological - all of which is Fulfilled (Summed-Up, Consummated) in Christ.

If all the Types and Shadows have been fulfilled in Christ, why should we continue to apply the sign of entrance into the Covenant Community to our physical children?

Which practice is consistent:
Because I am a (spiritual) child of Abraham, I apply the sign of entrance into the covenant community to my (physical) children​
OR
Because I am a (spiritual) child of Abraham I apply the sign of entrance into the covenant community to my (spiritual) children.​

If the former is consistent then why do they stop with their children? Should they then not continue on and expect a physical land/kingdom from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates with physical Kings?
Is it no wonder that Dispensationalism arose from within Paedobaptists (Anglican Darby)?

I would recommend a reading from 1672, John Norcott's "Baptism Discovered Plainly and Faithfully" you can read an excerpt here 2010 August 28 | Covenantal Baptist
 
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