Romans 4:11: Circumcision a Seal for All?

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
Chapter 27 of WCF says that "Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace" and offers Romans 4:11 as a proof text. This is, to my knowledge, the only text that could be used to support this language, as no other verse in the New Testament or LXX appears to me to use the word "seal" in a way that is relevant to sacramentology.

Romans 4 says that when Abraham received the sign of circumcision, he received it as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith before he had the sign of circumcision.

BDAG lists the word seal as "that which confirms or authenticates, attestation, confirmation, certification", so I take this to mean that Abraham's circumcision merely provided a formal authentication of something that was already truly the case: that Abraham had right standing with God through faith.

But if a seal attests, confirms, or certifies something to be the case, than specifically what is being sealed, attested, confirmed, or certified in the case of other circumcisions, especially of infants, who did not yet have, or may never have gained right standing with God? If the sign of circumcision is an authentication of any particular Jewish child's right standing with God, then would all circumcised infants have right standing with God for this authentication to be accurate? Or if the sign of circumcision is merely an objective statement that one (but no one in particular) can be right with God through faith, than what does it mean in Romans 4:11 that Abraham's righteousness was sealed by circumcision? Did it not, in his case, say something in particular about his justification specifically?

It strikes me that for Paul, it is absolutely imperative for Abraham's unique role in redemptive history that Abraham believe first, and subsequently receive circumcision. The fact that Paul highlights the chronology in Abraham's case as the hinge of his theological point means that the function of Abraham's circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of faith was unique to his role in redemptive history as father of Jews and father of the faithful.

To insist that circumcision in anyone else's case functioned in the this specific way would be inappropriate. It would be similarly inappropriate, for example, to universalize any particular aspect of Jesus' or Paul's earthly ministries (12 disciples, go to Macedonia).

To reiterate these points:
  1. For Abraham it was necessary that he was circumcised subsequent to faith because of his unique role.
  2. Abraham was circumcised subsequent to faith, but that was not necessary in the case of any others.
  3. A "seal" as used in Romans 4:11 is that which confirms or authenticates
  4. In Abraham's case circumcision confirmed his extant righteousness on the basis of faith.
  5. Circumcision could not have confirmed extant righteousness of many who received circumcision and perished in unbelief.
  6. Therefore, the function of Abraham's circumcision as a seal of extant righteousness must been seen as a unique aspect of his role in redemptive history.
  7. That which pertains to a unique role in redemptive history cannot be universalized without some additional biblical basis.
  8. There is no additional biblical basis for understanding sacraments as seals.
  9. This devastates the position that sacraments function as "seals" language in paedobaptist sacramentology.
I hope this delineation will be helpful for the objections that my paedobaptist brothers will raise. Looking forward to your responses!
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
Just dropping in my two cents to get the thread going and off I go again.

The sacrament is a sign to the senses and a seal to faith. Circumcision could and did confirm the righteousness of faith for those who believed (see the general symbology of circumcision in the old and new tesatements, e.g., "circumcision of the heart" in Deut). It sealed no blessing to those who did not believe.

There is a whole theology in the Bible of "tokens" of the covenant that confirm God's promise to save all who believe and threatenings to condemn all those who do not believe. It is only in that sense that the sacrament can function as a seal when applied to those who do not believe: in that case, it is a seal of God's promise (e.g., Hebrews and also the narrative in Genesis 17 shows circumcision functions in that manner), rather than a seal to the one to whom it is applied (aside from sealing God's threatening). Remember that when doing theology, we should not be so fixated on words that we lose sight of concepts taught in the Scriptures.

I'm not sure you have understood paedobaptist theology, though you are close to it. Look up a lengthy quotation by McCrie somewhere on this board that deals with signs and seals in paedobaptist theology. I also recommend for further study Word, Water, and Spirit by Fesko, some lectures by Ligon Duncan on sacramentology, and the first few sermons in the series about Baptism by Gavin Beers.
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
I think the paedobaptists would say that the seal of the circumcision/baptism is a confirmation of entry into the covenant community and not the actual confirmation of the individual's faith.
Am I right, paedobaptist-brothers?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Perhaps, something getting lost in the discussion is the difference between Baptists and Presbyterians as to which party to baptism is the primary "speaker." It is my personal experience (so let anyone take yourself out of my example if you demur) that most Baptists understand baptism as first-and-foremost a statement they are making about the faith they profess. As they take on baptism, it is often their "first step of obedience."

Confessionally (so let anyone who has a different experience with Presbyterians take it up with them) the Presbyterian understands the primary Speaker in baptism is God; and ancillary to his end, the church through its ministry. The person receiving baptism is prompted or stimulated to answer the divine initiative.

I think the paedobaptists would say that the seal of the circumcision/baptism is a confirmation of entry into the covenant community and not the actual confirmation of the individual's faith.
Am I right, paedobaptist-brothers?
We typically describe the sealing work as that which is done by the Spirit; the signaling work is that which is done by the church. But there is also a sense in which the church applies a visible seal, as (to illustrate) foil on a parchment.

The idea of a sacrament is that there is meant to be a conjunction and a conjoining of things done on earth as they are in heaven. But we apprehend there will always be "slippage." Neither a Presbyterian nor a Baptist is (or ought to be) foolish to think that our earthly actions perfectly conform to heavenly ones.

So, baptism which we sense-experience (baptism being in the world, as we also are in it) is both sign and seal. It is a sign, insofar as it points to a reality that is not itself. It is a seal, because it functions in the way that seals do: marking a union, making a bond, witnessing authenticity, claiming ownership.

The reason we say baptism is a sign and seal unto faith is because unless a man believes in what God does, and/or in what the church does, the sign is powerless. The seal, unless or until it is accompanied by faith, remains simply a True Statement and no more--and if/when it is believed, the declaration is "for me."

And for those baptized who do not believe, for those who never did, or who "fall away" (it doesn't matter when they were baptized), their denial demonstrates that the only thing they ever possessed was the sign (which they did not follow); and the seal (being still the same True Statement) was never theirs in fact.

Mt.7:22, " Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name...," etc. 1Jn.2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us."

2Tim.2:19, "...Having this seal: The Lord knows them that are his." It's pretty common for people to put their name on their property. That's what God does, when he ordains baptism for his church, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Num.6:27, "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel."

So, what if the church seals with the divine Name, thus marking his ownership, someone who is not elect, who (as time doth tell) never believes in the saving Name? The Lord knows who really is his. He knows that one's status as soon as he comes into the world, yea even long before.

At some point--be it birth, or 13yrs, or 53yrs, or whenever--the church applies the sign and visible seal of baptism to that person who meets the criteria (as determined by Scripture). Does God know infallibly to whom that seal verily belongs? Of course, and his Spirit-sealing for his elect is done in heaven where it will never change from the moment it is testified. But it becomes effectual in this world unto faith. And as for the reprobate: "I never knew you;" he is not sealed of God.

The church tells those of its number, who have the appearance of heavenly citizens, "You belong; this is your identity, your home." And it goes about its work of forming disciples for eternity. And sometimes, the church--also in the Name of God--has to say to someone who bears that Name, "Depart. As far as we can tell, your kingdom identity is so far in doubt." And then, the church waits in hope as long as that prodigal lives for his return. The church prays that God might honor his Name which the church sought faithfully to seal visibly, and draw the sinner back. "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

What is God's True Statement? At its core it is this: That as surely as water washes away the filth of the body, so surely does Christ wash with his blood and Spirit his believer from the impurity of his soul, his sin. (see Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 26, Q&A 69-71). Nothing changes about this statement, whether or not the person who is baptized conforms his own profession to it--either at the time of the baptism or some time after it.

That's because baptism in our doctrine isn't first-and-foremost the promise of man to God that he does believe and will believe. Baptism is the promise of God, the blessing of which is conditioned on faith, faith being the unconditional gift of God to his elect. That is why the "order" of baptism (should it always follow a personal public profession?) is not of the essence of it; who and when is still prescribed in Scripture, and sometimes does follow the baptized's profession according to our doctrine.

That is why Presbyterians do not regard an "early" baptism (too soon?) as invalid. It isn't when you believe, but what you believe. When did God first reveal his promise to this person? Presbyterians regard that promise as made to the believer and his child. "I will be God to you, and to your children," Gen.17:7. "The promise is to you and to your children," Act.2:39. We regard it as proper to put the visible seal of God's covenant on those (even in infancy) who were acknowledged from that point in history as visibly in covenant with him.
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
I think the paedobaptists would say that the seal of the circumcision/baptism is a confirmation of entry into the covenant community and not the actual confirmation of the individual's faith.
Am I right, paedobaptist-brothers?
I am completely aware that most Presbyterians reject the idea that baptism confirms the recipient as having faith. But this is what circumcision meant in Abraham's case (my exegetical argument). My position is that nothing in the text necessitates our generalization of what circumcision sealed in Abraham's case, which was unique to his historical role in the history of redemption.

I will add that Presbyterians must redefine what a seal is, or ignore what the text says was actually sealed in Romans 4:11. I will try to show this in my response to Contra_Mundum.
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
The reason we say baptism is a sign and seal unto faith is because unless a man believes in what God does, and/or in what the church does, the sign is powerless. The seal, unless or until it is accompanied by faith, remains simply a True Statement and no more--and if/when it is believed, the declaration is "for me."...

What is God's True Statement? At its core it is this: That as surely as water washes away the filth of the body, so surely does Christ wash with his blood and Spirit his believer from the impurity of his soul, his sin. (see Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 26, Q&A 69-71). Nothing changes about this statement, whether or not the person who is baptized conforms his own profession to it--either at the time of the baptism or some time after it.
The problem that I have with this is that the text does not use the term "seal" in reference to an objectively true statement, regardless of the actual state of the person receiving the sacrament. When Abraham was circumcised, it said something about him in particular, namely that he had imputed righteousness.

I don't believe that the function of Abraham's circumcision as a seal gives us any necessary or appropriate basis for generalizing this function in anyone else's case. Why would we need to? It's not the point of the text. The point of the text is to make a case study of Abraham, who was the father of the Jews, to establish that he was, functionally speaking, a gentile when he received imputed righteousness. I think it inaccurate to say that anyone's personal imputed righteousness is confirmed by God in baptism or circumcision. This simply was not the case. But I am completely comfortable saying that that's what happened when Abraham was circumcised because that's what the text explicitly tells us. It is the heart of Paul's point to say that Abraham had real imputed righteousness before he received the sign of circumcision, which merely acted as a confirmation, for this unique historical figure, of the fact that he was already right with God by faith. The "right with God by faith" part of the text is worth generalizing for all gentiles (which is the point of the text). Trying to extrapolate a sacramental system of "seal" for the sake of generalizing, so that this is whatever this special significance of circumcision meant in Abraham's case is also applied in every Jew's case OR any New Testament believer is unnecessary and inaccurate.
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
Just dropping in my two cents to get the thread going and off I go again.

The sacrament is a sign to the senses and a seal to faith. Circumcision could and did confirm the righteousness of faith for those who believed (see the general symbology of circumcision in the old and new tesatements, e.g., "circumcision of the heart" in Deut). It sealed no blessing to those who did not believe.

There is a whole theology in the Bible of "tokens" of the covenant that confirm God's promise to save all who believe and threatenings to condemn all those who do not believe. It is only in that sense that the sacrament can function as a seal when applied to those who do not believe: in that case, it is a seal of God's promise (e.g., Hebrews and also the narrative in Genesis 17 shows circumcision functions in that manner), rather than a seal to the one to whom it is applied (aside from sealing God's threatening). Remember that when doing theology, we should not be so fixated on words that we lose sight of concepts taught in the Scriptures.

I'm not sure you have understood paedobaptist theology, though you are close to it. Look up a lengthy quotation by McCrie somewhere on this board that deals with signs and seals in paedobaptist theology. I also recommend for further study Word, Water, and Spirit by Fesko, some lectures by Ligon Duncan on sacramentology, and the first few sermons in the series about Baptism by Gavin Beers.
Thanks for your response, brother!

With regards to being "fixated on words": The problem is that in this exegetical situation, the function of "seal" is the very thing we would build our "concepts taught in the Scriptures" from. I have already claimed that there is no biblical support that could be found elsewhere, as this is the singular proof text that is offered for the claim in WCF. I might ask it this way: is there any other passage that I have missed, a passage that could even contribute to this notion of "seal"?

I suppose that one of the main objections I have to the sacramentology that paedobaptists are expressing is that they make the meaning of this seal relative to the recipient. But what a seal communicates cannot be relative depending on where it is used. This is defeating of a seal's very essence, which is to be an unequivocal certificate. A seal, by its very nature, says one thing.

Consider a king's signet ring. In addition to a letter that he has written, he closes the letter, melts wax, and impresses his signet ring into the wax, demonstrating the contents of the letter to have come from the king, personally. The seal itself is a unique certificate, its peculiar features conveying its peculiar and singular message: "This is a certified letter from the king". I would go as far as to say that if a seal's meaning is relative to its application it is useless, because it cannot be understood to communicate one and only one thing

I believe that Paedo-brothers need to redefine "seal" in order to plug it into (or even construct the foundation of) their sacramentology. The way that the text uses it is to say that this seal certified Abraham's extant imputed righteousness. We could imagine it as a certificate that was inscribed with the writing "This one is righteous". When we think of Abraham's circumcision, says Paul, we are to think, "ah, yes, this confirmed the righteous standing that Abraham had with God by faith".

Later update:

I wrote most of this before speaking with Gavin Beers earlier this week, a little bit on the broader subject of CT and Baptism. He spoke highly of you! I am in the process of listening to some of the things that he recommended, and considering his arguments.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul’s argument is NOT that circumcision functions differently for Abraham than everyone else. His point was that it never meant what the Jews were trying to make it mean.
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
Paul’s argument is NOT that circumcision functions differently for Abraham than everyone else. His point was that it never meant what the Jews were trying to make it mean.
Paul's argument in Romans 4 is not directed at use OR misuse of circumcision. It is about demonstrating that Jew and Gentile alike are justified in the same way by means of a case study on the father of the Jews, Abraham. The point of the text is that Abraham was still a gentile (in a manner of speaking) when he received imputed righteousness. The inauguration of the covenant of circumcision took place as a mere confirmation of Abraham's already existing imputed righteousness by faith. To try to build a general sacramentology out of verse 11's use of "seal" is to ignore Abraham's inaugural role. The sign of circumcision functioned the same way for everyone who received it: mark of Jewishness, member of the Abrahamic covenant. This verse tells us that in Abraham's case (remember, the entire relevance is that he is a unique inaugural figure) this sign ALSO functioned as a seal of his right standing before God from faith. The text does not explicitly connect this additional significance for Abraham with Isaac, or Jacob, or anyone else. And we have no warrant to either, because it's not the point of the argument to develop a universal significance of circumcision.

This is akin to insisting that ministries should have 12 disciples because Jesus did or that 3 years is the correct amount of training time (a charismatic friend of mine argues this.) The correct response is to ask what is justifiably universal. Given no other passage in the Bible to develop this concept of sacraments functioning as seals, is it really appropriate to use Romans 4:11 in order to build a systematic theology, when we actually exegete the text? I think not.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
Circumcision does not point to Jewishness. That is a common error among credobaptists. A common simplification being “circumcise by birth, baptize by new birth.” But this is wrong. Circumcision was given to the prototypical believer and his children because Abraham’s covenant was the Covenant of promise to “you and your children”. Circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness that comes by faith. It points to circumcision of the heart, not ethnic identity.

You have taken what is explicitly set forth in the NT and set it as the lone exception and placed the onus on your opponent to prove that it means that in every other case. That is clever, but flips what should be happening: the onus is on you to prove that what the NT explicitly sets forth for Abraham means something DIFFERENT for everybody else. I don’t think your analysis has risen to that level. I say that as someone who was on your side of the baptism fence for almost 20 years! I was convinced that Romans 4 proved that faith must precede baptism because that’s the only way it could function as a seal. Abraham is the example, not every other Jewish boy after him. But, If circumcision was a seal of Abraham’s faith, why was he commanded to give it to “unbelieving” (yea, even reprobate) children?

I think part of the problem comes down to a basic presupposition that differentiates Presbyterians and Baptists. For a baptist, the sacrament is about YOUR faith. It’s what “YOU” say that Institutes the sacrament. For Presbyterians, the sacrament is founded on THE faith, that is, the righteousness that cometh by faith, instituted on what GOD says in his Covenant of Promise.

We agree with credos that a “Gentile” must profess faith before receiving the sacrament. This is because his starting point was outside the covenant. He doesn’t have the promises until he comes in. But he comes in with his household, so the sign gets applied to all the house. It’s a seal of God’s promises to him and his household to save all who believe, not a seal of “his” faith per se.

Thanks for the conversation. Unless you have a specific question for me, I think I’ll leave it here. This board has obviously has a wealth of discussions on the topic, and I would encourage you to continue to be diligent in your study. Even if you remain a lifelong credo, I think it would be a great benefit to thoroughly digest the reformed paedo position. Beyond the creeds and Confessions, read Calvin. For alive guys, read Fesko and the members here.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
You have not stated accurately what our confession state. With respect to Sacraments:
II. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.

III. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it, but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.
The sealing aspect of any Sacrament deals with the Holy Spirit's work to unite the sign to the thing signified and seal the graces signified.

Not every Jew received the graces signified by circumcision.

Furthermore, the flow of Paul's argument is not to demonstrate the centrality of the person believing or exercising faith but in God Who shows mercy. What purpose would the interruption in the argument Paul is making serve to point out that to Abraham (and to Abraham alone) he received a seal and none other? How does this flow in what Paul is trying to demonstrate?

Faith was the instrumental and not the efficient or material cause of Abraham's justification. Paul has already demonstrated that any sense of fidelity to God's commands as the grounds of justification only leads to condemnation for all have sinned. Abraham's faith is not held up as an exemplar for imitation so that God gave him circumcision as a seal of his faith but the point that Paul is making is that circumcision, which was a seal of God's Covenant with Abraham, was given after he had already been declared righteous. God's mercy and declaration precede anything that Abraham might have done (in the eyes of the Jewish objector) to merit justification.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Circumcision does not point to Jewishness. That is a common error among credobaptists. A common simplification being “circumcise by birth, baptize by new birth.” But this is wrong. Circumcision was given to the prototypical believer and his children because Abraham’s covenant was the Covenant of promise to “you and your children”. Circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness that comes by faith. It points to circumcision of the heart, not ethnic identity.

You have taken what is explicitly set forth in the NT and set it as the lone exception and placed the onus on your opponent to prove that it means that in every other case. That is clever, but flips what should be happening: the onus is on you to prove that what the NT explicitly sets forth for Abraham means something DIFFERENT for everybody else. I don’t think your analysis has risen to that level. I say that as someone who was on your side of the baptism fence for almost 20 years! I was convinced that Romans 4 proved that faith must precede baptism because that’s the only way it could function as a seal. Abraham is the example, not every other Jewish boy after him. But, If circumcision was a seal of Abraham’s faith, why was he commanded to give it to “unbelieving” (yea, even reprobate) children?

I think part of the problem comes down to a basic presupposition that differentiates Presbyterians and Baptists. For a baptist, the sacrament is about YOUR faith. It’s what “YOU” say that Institutes the sacrament. For Presbyterians, the sacrament is founded on THE faith, that is, the righteousness that cometh by faith, instituted on what GOD says in his Covenant of Promise.

We agree with credos that a “Gentile” must profess faith before receiving the sacrament. This is because his starting point was outside the covenant. He doesn’t have the promises until he comes in. But he comes in with his household, so the sign gets applied to all the house. It’s a seal of God’s promises to him and his household to save all who believe, not a seal of “his” faith per se.

Thanks for the conversation. Unless you have a specific question for me, I think I’ll leave it here. This board has obviously has a wealth of discussions on the topic, and I would encourage you to continue to be diligent in your study. Even if you remain a lifelong credo, I think it would be a great benefit to thoroughly digest the reformed paedo position. Beyond the creeds and Confessions, read Calvin. For alive guys, read Fesko and the members here.
The frustration I have with these kinds of arguments is you’ll emphasize the parallels with circumcision to support infant baptism. However when pressed on the obvious irregularities, your side will insist “baptism isn’t a replacement for circumcision”.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
The frustration I have with these kinds of arguments is you’ll emphasize the parallels with circumcision to support infant baptism. However when pressed on the obvious irregularities, your side will insist “baptism isn’t a replacement for circumcision”.
I’ll respond insofar as this was directed to me. I do not wish to enter debate as to what others have said or meant by the word “replacement”.

WCF 27.5 states:
The sacraments of the old testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The frustration I have with these kinds of arguments is you’ll emphasize the parallels with circumcision to support infant baptism. However when pressed on the obvious irregularities, your side will insist “baptism isn’t a replacement for circumcision”.
The difficulties are more than that, but this comment is useful as an illustration of how hard communication can be.

What I see immediately in the statement is: the term "replacement" suffers fatal equivocation.
[as I'm typing this, I see Eyedoc84 has noted something similar]

The reality is:
1) the Bible itself makes parallels between circumcision and baptism, perhaps no place more obviously than in Col.2:11-12.​
2) There are fairly obvious parallel functions and indicators between the two rites, which have been documented elsewhere.​
3) There are also evident differences in e.g.​
a) the rite itself,​
b) the recipients (male-only vs. male-&-female),​
and c) dispensation-specific elements and pointers.​

So, when the Presbyterian side responds saying baptism ISN'T a "replacement for circumcision," it's reasonable to understand that in that moment the Baptist (who generally highlights the differences over the parallels) is attempting to force his understanding of "consistency" on the Presbyterian. So, naturally, the Presbyterian responds with an affirmation that there are indeed differences, which he never has denied. It's simply that he generally highlights the parallels over the differences. He isn't obliged to the other's view of what is or is not "consistent."

I hope this sheds light on the matter, more light than heat.
 

W.C. Dean

Puritan Board Sophomore
I’ll respond insofar as this was directed to me. I do not wish to enter debate as to what others have said or meant by the word “replacement”.

WCF 27.5 states:
The sacraments of the old testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.
This is my confession as well, and I do not believe I have seen anyone say that baptism does not in some sense replace circumcision. I believe it does. The irregularities between baptism and circumcision all point to baptism and the new covenant being better. Not bloody, more inclusive
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
The difficulties are more than that, but this comment is useful as an illustration of how hard communication can be.

What I see immediately in the statement is: the term "replacement" suffers fatal equivocation.
[as I'm typing this, I see Eyedoc84 has noted something similar]

The reality is:
1) the Bible itself makes parallels between circumcision and baptism, perhaps no place more obviously than in Col.2:11-12.​
2) There are fairly obvious parallel functions and indicators between the two rites, which have been documented elsewhere.​
3) There are also evident differences in e.g.​
a) the rite itself,​
b) the recipients (male-only vs. male-&-female),​
and c) dispensation-specific elements and pointers.​

So, when the Presbyterian side responds saying baptism ISN'T a "replacement for circumcision," it's reasonable to understand that in that moment the Baptist (who generally highlights the differences over the parallels) is attempting to force his understanding of "consistency" on the Presbyterian. So, naturally, the Presbyterian responds with an affirmation that there are indeed differences, which he never has denied. It's simply that he generally highlights the parallels over the differences. He isn't obliged to the other's view of what is or is not "consistent."

I hope this sheds light on the matter, more light than heat.
There are of course many parallels and connections which most of us Baptists recognize and would (or at least I would) appropriately and proportionately raise. Of course we also remain cognizant of the differences; such as even within the key verses you referenced (Colossians 2:11-12), there is an act of faith associated with baptism - “in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith” - which infants are unable to demonstrate.

The concern I have is the Presbyterians elevate this to a point where they for all intents and purposes replace circumcision with baptism and assert Christians are an extension of the Israelite covenant community. The problem is this runs contrary to the establishment of the new covenant community which is born in spirit only. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant—not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. Galatians 4:22-31 makes this quite clear.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem is this runs contrary to the establishment of the new covenant community which is born in spirit only.
Not to interrupt, but I don't believe I've heard the "birth" terminology used to describe the covenant community before, only individual believers (eg "born again"). Could you elaborate on this?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Not to interrupt, but I don't believe I've heard the "birth" terminology used to describe the covenant community before, only individual believers (eg "born again"). Could you elaborate on this?
Probably (if I may steal the thunder) a combination of certain ideas originating in John's Gospel, see 1:13 conflated with 3:6 & 8.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Probably (if I may steal the thunder) a combination of certain ideas originating in John's Gospel, see 1:13 conflated with 3:6 & 8.
Yes, I had those in mind, although was thinking particularly of 1 Peter 3:18-21, “18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit... 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
There are of course many parallels and connections which most of us Baptists recognize and would (or at least I would) appropriately and proportionately raise. Of course we also remain cognizant of the differences; such as even within the key verses you referenced (Colossians 2:11-12), there is an act of faith associated with baptism - “in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith” - which infants are unable to demonstrate.
So, I think we've amply demonstrated that each side in the discussion admits of parallels and distinctions; as well as the propensity of each side to prioritize one or the other: Presbyterians, the parallels; Baptists, the differences. Thus, my point stands (I think...) that to call for "consistency" from the other side is really nothing but a summons to prioritize the other side's priority; or barring that consent, for the other side to agree that they are (perversely?) "inconsistent," which is a kind of question-begging stance.

But it isn't inconsistent or contradictory: to say that "baptism IS a replacement for circumcision," in one sense; and "baptism ISN'T a replacement for circumcision," in another sense. The Baptist hears the first, and in thinking about that claim from his own perspective, asks: "Well, what about...?" The Presbyterian answers, "Not in that sense, because that's one of the differences." The exact opposite back-and-forth could also happen if the Presbyterian hears the Baptist claim one thing, and detecting an "inconsistency" from his perspective, asks: "Well, what about...? The Baptist is not obliged to admit he's just comfortable with the paradox, or something similar.

As to the act of faith "associated with baptism," we believe there ought to be act(s) of faith associated with baptism every time it is administered; one of which is a parent's act for himself and on behalf of the child he presents for baptism, together with the faith of the church administrating the sacrament; another of which is the child's own act in the later time appointed, still associated with the sacrament itself. But also, we point to the requirement of faith associated with circumcision.

I understand how the reasoning goes, so far as the typical Baptist reply to the notion "faith and circumcision go together."
SINCE infants are unable to demonstrate faith, and​
SINCE infants were required to be circumcised,​
ERGO faith and circumcision DON'T go together--at least not in any way comparable to the way faith and baptism do.​

Well, that's just the bone of contention, isn't it? A (WCF) Presbyterian is never going to agree that Abraham received a kind of "double-duty," "sacred+secular" sign (circumcision) that was intended to speak a word of truth to anyone never sharing the faith of Abraham. The Bible seems quite clear to me: only those who are of faith are (or ever were) the true children of Abraham. They are not all Israel (really) who are "of Israel." The rest are pretenders, regardless of their family origin. Circumcision and faith go together, or the sign is a witness against the wearer who remains an unbeliever to the last.

The concern I have is the Presbyterians elevate this to a point where they for all intents and purposes replace circumcision with baptism and assert Christians are an extension of the Israelite covenant community. The problem is this runs contrary to the establishment of the new covenant community which is born in spirit only. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is a continuation of the true Israel, the remnant—not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. Galatians 4:22-31 makes this quite clear.
This is simply evidence of two very different views over the concern of the covenant(s) in which Israel participated. I say, the new covenant community is "born in the spirit only" in exactly the same sense I would say the same thing about the old covenant community; and before that, the Abrahamic/patriarchal covenant community. In order for the contrary idea to work, there has to be an essentially secular aspect contained in, if not a secular essence with respect to, the Old Testament in general. The concept of the remnant is necessitated precisely because of false sons in the pale, which problem is not exclusive to the OT.

OF COURSE the church is not a continuation of "Israel as a whole," because "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," and never were. The sad but undeniable corollary truth is: they are not all the church who are of the church either. And it does no good to say: that's not how it's supposed to work today. True enough, but how does it follow that: that's how it was designed to work back then? That's only true if it was OK, expected, reasonable, built-in, and just a fact that one was fully invested in the covenant(s) prior to Christ who had no faith in him. No, "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham," Gal.3:7.

That the children of the promise, and not the children of the flesh, are the true and only heirs of Abraham is not a truth that emerged after Christ's resurrection.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
So, I think we've amply demonstrated that each side in the discussion admits of parallels and distinctions; as well as the propensity of each side to prioritize one or the other: Presbyterians, the parallels; Baptists, the differences. Thus, my point stands (I think...) that to call for "consistency" from the other side is really nothing but a summons to prioritize the other side's priority; or barring that consent, for the other side to agree that they are (perversely?) "inconsistent," which is a kind of question-begging stance.

But it isn't inconsistent or contradictory: to say that "baptism IS a replacement for circumcision," in one sense; and "baptism ISN'T a replacement for circumcision," in another sense. The Baptist hears the first, and in thinking about that claim from his own perspective, asks: "Well, what about...?" The Presbyterian answers, "Not in that sense, because that's one of the differences." The exact opposite back-and-forth could also happen if the Presbyterian hears the Baptist claim one thing, and detecting an "inconsistency" from his perspective, asks: "Well, what about...? The Baptist is not obliged to admit he's just comfortable with the paradox, or something similar.

As to the act of faith "associated with baptism," we believe there ought to be act(s) of faith associated with baptism every time it is administered; one of which is a parent's act for himself and on behalf of the child he presents for baptism, together with the faith of the church administrating the sacrament; another of which is the child's own act in the later time appointed, still associated with the sacrament itself. But also, we point to the requirement of faith associated with circumcision.

I understand how the reasoning goes, so far as the typical Baptist reply to the notion "faith and circumcision go together."
SINCE infants are unable to demonstrate faith, and​
SINCE infants were required to be circumcised,​
ERGO faith and circumcision DON'T go together--at least not in any way comparable to the way faith and baptism do.​

Well, that's just the bone of contention, isn't it? A (WCF) Presbyterian is never going to agree that Abraham received a kind of "double-duty," "sacred+secular" sign (circumcision) that was intended to speak a word of truth to anyone never sharing the faith of Abraham. The Bible seems quite clear to me: only those who are of faith are (or ever were) the true children of Abraham. They are not all Israel (really) who are "of Israel." The rest are pretenders, regardless of their family origin. Circumcision and faith go together, or the sign is a witness against the wearer who is an unbeliever at last.


This is simply evidence of two very different views over the concern of the covenant(s) in which Israel participated. I say, the new covenant community is "born in the spirit only" in exactly the same sense I would say the same thing about the old covenant community; and before that, the Abrahamic/patriarchal covenant community. In order for the contrary idea to work, there has to be an essentially secular aspect contained in, if not a secular essence with respect to, the Old Testament in general. The concept of the remnant is necessitated precisely because of false sons in the pale, which problem is not exclusive to the OT.

OF COURSE the church is not a continuation of "Israel as a whole," because "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," and never were. The sad but undeniable corollary truth is: they are not all the church who are of the church either. And it does no good to say: that's not how it's supposed to work today. True enough, but how does it follow that: that's how it was designed to work back then? That's only true if it was OK, expected, reasonable, built-in, and just a fact that one was fully invested in the covenant(s) prior to Christ who had no faith in him. No, "Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham," Gal.3:7.

That the children of the promise, and not the children of the flesh, are the true and only heirs of Abraham is not a truth that emerged after the resurrection.
Once again, I feel like I agree with much of what you say yet trepidatiously land on the other side of this.

The sad but undeniable corollary truth is: they are not all the church who are of the church either. And it does no good to say: that's not how it's supposed to work today.
Is that not what 1 Corinthians 11:29 essentially stipulates?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Once again, I feel like I agree with much of what you say yet trepidatiously land on the other side of this.
I'm glad we agree on what we have in common. That's enough for me.

If you are trepidatious about anything, stay away: Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Better trepidation than precipitate action.

Is that not what 1 Corinthians 11:29 essentially stipulates?
Don't know what you might be concluding from that verse, or how it's connected to what I wrote. You'll have to spell it out for me....
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
There are of course many parallels and connections which most of us Baptists recognize and would (or at least I would) appropriately and proportionately raise. Of course we also remain cognizant of the differences; such as even within the key verses you referenced (Colossians 2:11-12), there is an act of faith associated with baptism - “in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith” - which infants are unable to demonstrate.
I think this best illustrates the divide between Presbyterians and Baptists.

The passage quoted uses several passive verbs:
- you were circumcised
- having been buried
- you were raised

The only active verbs in the pericope are God's.

Faith is the instrumental cause and not the efficient or material cause.

Faith is the fruit of regeneration and is an act of the sinner by which (as it were) the Spirit enables us to reach out and cling to Christ.

While it is true that one who is truly in possession of the union that Paul describes in the passage, you imply that the ground for baptism is, itself, grounded in the recipient "demonstrating" faith.

That's not the thrust of the passage, however. The thrust is about things spiritual and hidden - things belonging to the Sovereign work of God in the elect.

Your point about "demonstrating faith" turns the act of baptism from something in which God promises something hidden to those who are united to the Son (being buried with Him and raised in Spiritual life) into a "test of profession".

In other words, you say: "Since infants cannot profess faith yet, they do not possess the reality of which Paul speaks and cannot (should not) be baptized."

Yet, what have you demonstrated regarding profession?

Does the adult who professes Christ possess the things spoken of by Paul in this passage? Does profession equal possession? Does profession mean that the person is united to Christ and has been raised with Christ through faith?

It may mean this is the case but any casual reader of the Scriptures will understand that false profession is real.

Thus, the idea that Col 2 speaks to the person as being in of these realities, because he professes, is erroneous.

In fact, this is why no Baptist, can really know whether anyone in their congregation is truly baptized.

If the person must possess the realities, and we can never know whether they truly possess these realities, then we can never know if anyone was truly baptized.

In short, the Baptist tries to "protect" baptism from those who do not possess the reality but ends up not knowing whether anyone is truly baptized.

This is the logical conclusion of a theology that insists that the only participation in the New Covenant is restricted to the elect.

Our Confession, in contrast, states unequivocally, that the New Covenant is made with Christ and, in Him, all of the elect. We do not state that the unregenerate are in Christ or that He mediates the benefits of the Covenant of Grace to them. But we don't make the error of stating that the Sacraments of the Church are administered to the elect and come up with a standard that cannot penetrate the inscrutable work of the Holy Spirit.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
the Baptist tries to "protect" baptism from those who do not possess the reality but ends up not knowing whether anyone is truly baptized.
Don't know what you might be concluding from that verse, or how it's connected to what I wrote. You'll have to spell it out for me....
I will trepidatiously respond to you and Reverend Buchanan (by the way, it’s my disagreement with the likes of you gentlemen which makes me trepidatious).

You chide us Baptists for trying to protect baptism from those who are not truly saved. But is that not what we’re essentially called to do in 1 Corinthians 11:29 with regards to the other sacrament with a solemn warning to those who attempt to participate?
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
In short, the Baptist tries to "protect" baptism from those who do not possess the reality but ends up not knowing whether anyone is truly baptized.

This is the logical conclusion of a theology that insists that the only participation in the New Covenant is restricted to the elect.

Our Confession, in contrast, states unequivocally, that the New Covenant is made with Christ and, in Him, all of the elect. We do not state that the unregenerate are in Christ or that He mediates the benefits of the Covenant of Grace to them. But we don't make the error of stating that the Sacraments of the Church are administered to the elect and come up with a standard that cannot penetrate the inscrutable work of the Holy Spirit.
Do you fence the table of the Lord's Supper?
If you do, why, and on what basis?

I ask these questions not only because of the inconsistency I believe is revealed in the discrepancies in administration of the sacraments with Paedobaptists who do not practice Paedo-communion, but because there is also an often overlooked epistemological issue at stake.

Human beings have fallible knowledge. We are not omniscient. And we are not called to operate at a standard of omniscience. Nevertheless we rightly judge, discern, and regard all kinds of things in the Christian faith with a kind of knowledge, that while fallible, is reasonable and necessary. For instance, are we to avoid regarding fellow believers who evidence the work of the Spirit of God in their lives as the "elect, chosen, beloved of God"? Or, on the other hand, are we not to discern as false those who make profession, and yet whose live's produce evidence contrary to their profession?

A few observations from the Apostles. Paul regularly regards believers whose faith and works he has seen with his own eyes or had reported to him as the "elect". Nowhere does he claim an apostolic ability to make this discernment, but instead he appeals to those things we can see, even if fallibly. He has an appropriate attitude, not presuming infallible knowledge of the elect and yet operating within the framework we were given by the Lord, "you shall know them by their fruits." On the other hand, knowledge is gained, says John, when we see apostates leaving the church, informing us at that point that they were never of us. Prior to their departure there could possibly doubt. After it, we appear to have an appropriate (and perhaps, yet still fallible?) knowledge of their non-regenerate status.

I believe that Presbyterians very often call Baptists to an impossible standard of omniscience, ignoring a category wherein we appropriately act according to the information available to us, even if it yields less than infallible knowledge. The church is called to judge and spiritually discern that which cannot be infallibly known by any but God. All things in life must be this way for those who are not omniscient and yet believe they have been given a solid basis for applying God's word to life, church discipline, and administration of the sacraments.

And Presbyterians are either derelict in this duty if they administer the Lord's supper to any who merely provides a rote profession, or inconsistent in this argument, if they properly fence the table for those they discern to not be regenerate, and yet raise this argument against baptists. The work of the Spirit can be known. We are given that expectation everywhere, even if it is a fallible knowledge.

We do not state that the unregenerate are in Christ or that He mediates the benefits of the Covenant of Grace to them.
Why is Christ not mediating the benefits for all those who are inside his covenant? And would one of those benefits be "I will be your God and you shall be my people"?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I will trepidatiously respond to you and Reverend Buchanan (by the way, it’s my disagreement with the likes of you gentlemen which makes me trepidatious).

You chide us Baptists for trying to protect baptism from those who are not truly saved. But is that not what we’re essentially called to do in 1 Corinthians 11:29 with regards to the other sacrament with a solemn warning to those who attempt to participate?
Well, I'm just a man who sometimes has a smile, and sometimes has a bad attitude. On the PB, I don't think you owe me title, or other-than-common courtesy. I'm glad whatever nervousness you possess doesn't keep you from joining in discussion and openly disagreeing.

I disagree with the Baptist, and agree with Semper Fidelis, but did he (or I) "chide"--a mild scold or reprimand? That's a patronizing display of attitude; and it's something none of us hope we come across as doing.

I appreciate the update on that to which you referred in 1Cor.11:29. I see your meaning now, and my response is: I understand the Baptist's concern, and how your observation makes sense and is consistent within the paradigm. So I empathize at one level, without adopting the principles that would make me an ally.

All of us, both sides in the debate, baptize subjects by direction, that is according to the dictates of Scripture, and specifically of Christ. We baptize "disciples," and then we must determine (again, according to Scripture) whom they are who fit that category. And at this point the two sides diverge in their opinions, as to the population. Who counts?
__________

1) Baptists (sorry for the generalization) view membership/discipleship as an "individual enlistment" for each and every name on the roster. As close as a person may be who began "close to the army," despite maybe living on base as a dependent, he isn't IN the army until he takes an oath by which he crosses an absolute distinction from "outsider" to "insider."

Baptism, for the Baptist is that enlistment oath (even as a Presbyterian I note affinities), and I can understand the logic that seeks to preserve the integrity of the sign; and even safeguard the person being marked from a condition of "signed up" to which he is unsuited and makes him subject to rigors and discipline. Shouldn't there be some kind of "explicit personal consent" to this duty?

2) Presbyterians (generalization alert) view membership/discipleship as more akin to "citizenship," with direct parallels to the relationship Old Covenant and Old Testament saints sustained to their church-state administration, and before that to familial administration of corporate identity. Outsiders joined the corporation (or covenant community) by an oath, by submitting to the sign of mastery (the LORD's) and loyalty. And everything (and everybody) that belonged to the one joined was also acknowledged as being at the disposition of the Master, with persons being directed to take the sign. The basic frame of the visible covenant today is unchanged, so we would argue that our children are "insiders" before they speak for themselves, but may become "outsiders" by choice.

So, if there was a danger to possessing the sign of divine lordship that fell upon a son in Israel who might hide rebellion in his heart, such a fear clearly did not outweigh the propriety of God's acknowledgement (through the OT church), before the child had done good or bad, that this child belonged to a covenant member and ought to embrace the covenant as his blessing in his own right at the appropriate time. And even before such a time as he was required to attend feasts and the like, he would be living as a citizen of the commonwealth; he would not be regarded as a Person of No Country until such time as he chose to be an Israelite. Admitting the parallel for today, there is blessing associated with being part of the visible church/covenant/kingdom in the nature of the case.
__________

I've taken an "oath to the Constitution of the USA," for the time I was in the military. I do not make the corresponding Baptist paradigm a "pejorative" description. I've painted it in a good light, if I may say so. There is a certain sensibility to it, and I understand the arguments for it, and the passages you and I both adduced to support it. However, I find the Presbyterian view more compelling; I think the scriptural support is wide and deep, and (to my way of looking at it) superior. I know you feel the opposite, OK.

I think the reason there's no NT warning against baptizing "the wrong people," is not because we already have a parallel warning with regard to the LS that ought to be shared; but is tied to the directions for baptizing disciples, and who is included under the definition of the term. Those who present themselves for baptism (after a rudimentary review of their qualification) should be baptized with their personal profession of faith. And those who, together with their superiors, come henceforth to the church for discipleship, should also be baptized--being disciples.

The Baptist views as a disciple only someone who has professed faith in Christ and chosen that designation, which personal choice he understands is the scriptural rule to precede baptism: the mark of the disciple joined to Christ and his (heavenly) church.

The Presbyterian views as a disciple anyone who is or ought to be owned by and joined to the church by the scriptural rule he understands, which ordains baptism for disciples--who have or shall profess--to mark the (visible) church as God's chosen people.

Thank you for the discussion.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I will trepidatiously respond to you and Reverend Buchanan (by the way, it’s my disagreement with the likes of you gentlemen which makes me trepidatious).

You chide us Baptists for trying to protect baptism from those who are not truly saved. But is that not what we’re essentially called to do in 1 Corinthians 11:29 with regards to the other sacrament with a solemn warning to those who attempt to participate?
I'm not sure I follow the logic.

If you're arguing:
Only the elect can eat and drink worthily.
Paul's point is to instruct that all who worthily partake must be elect.
Therefore, the Church must ensure that only the elect are at the Lord's Table.

We're back at the same problem as before.

Let me just ask a plain question: how am I, an elder, supposed to ensure that only the elect partake of the Lord's Supper?

It can't be done.

We admit to the Lord's Table on two criteria:

1. A credible profession of faith for a baptized person.
2. The Session discerns that the person can maturely apprehend what they are participating in.

Remember that the warning here is to those who partake. It is the partaker who is charged to discern the Lord's Body and not participate in a flippant manner. This is, by the way, that I don't believe young children ought to be admitted as communicants.

We fence the Table by admonishing people to consider whether they are repenting of their sins and seeking the graces to which the Supper points. Like the Passover, which Exodus commanded men 20 years and older to participate, it is not a sacrament that marks the boundary of visible participation in the COG but is a participation in things that require the discernment of a trained mind.

The bar for participation is not the Session's determination that a person is truly in the faith. How can we know such things? One of the elders in my very Church apostasized and was, before that point, a pillar in the Church. By all external appearances he was in the faith but our calling of people to the Table is never on the basis of things hidden.

Paul commands people to examine themselves and, upon examination, to approach the Table. To throw the participant back on his/her election is not only theologically erroneous but downright incompetent from a Pastoral perspective. Bruised reeds and smoldering wicks don't need to be cast into inscrutable things (the electing will of God) but pointed to Christ and left to their conscience before God.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I believe that Presbyterians very often call Baptists to an impossible standard of omniscience, ignoring a category wherein we appropriately act according to the information available to us, even if it yields less than infallible knowledge. The church is called to judge and spiritually discern that which cannot be infallibly known by any but God. All things in life must be this way for those who are not omniscient and yet believe they have been given a solid basis for applying God's word to life, church discipline, and administration of the sacraments.
I think you're missing the import of the critique.

I'm holding you to the standard of your Covenant Theology and so it is an internal critique.

If this was merely a difference of positive command then that would be a different issue. In other words, if the difference was merely over whether or not the Scriptures have commanded that only those who maturely profess faith in Christ are to be baptized, and we otherwise viewed the CoG in the same way, then the argument would settle there.

But it doesn't.

Why? Because the Reformed Baptist rests his view on the notion that the New Covenant administration is unlike the OC administration of the CoG. Unlike the OC, the Baptist avers, the NC is not to consist of any who are not elect.

This is your standard, not mine.

The Baptist then grounds the notion that only mature professors are to be baptized on the principle that the NC is with the elect alone and, therefore, only the elect are to be baptized.

This is your standard, not mine.

Presbyterians baptize adults and the children of believers on the principle that we believe that the Scriptures command that disciples are *made* by baptizing them and teaching them everything the Lord has commanded. Baptism is not a rite that speaks to the surety of the participants possession of the reality of the things that baptism signifies. Rather, it is an initiation into the visible Body by which the disciple is taught all things concerning Christ and we leave the question as to whether a person is truly elect to the inscrutable work of God.

Thus, if a person realizes that, even thought baptized in a Baptist or Methodist Church and he later comes to a real, trusting relationship to Christ, we do not insist that he was never *really* baptized. Why? Because baptism is not, Scripturally speaking, a sacrament that points to whether or not a person *really* possesses faith but a sacrament that points to the promise of God so that the person, regardless of time or circumstance, can trust the promise of God.

When Paul says there is "one baptism", the Baptist sees that as saying that if a person never *really* had faith then he was never really baptized but only got wet because you insist that only those who are elect are really baptized. Conversely, we see the promissory aspect of the sacrament as something that God has announced and does not depend either upon the person administering or the "elect status" of the recipient at the time of baptism.

Notice I focused not upon infants but upon any baptized. I was baptized both as a baby in the Roman Catholic Church and as an adult in a non-denominational Church. Was I ever baptized? A consistent baptist will say "No" to both because it wasn't until years after my latter baptism that I came to a real understanding of the Gospel. If I actually attended a Baptist Church and never revealed that then they would never know but the consistent theology inexorably leads to that conclusion.

In conclusion, the "standard" you are complaining that I'm holding you to is your own. Your theology, when understood, puts you on the horns of a dilemma. You insist that only the elect are to be baptized or are truly baptized and that this is the reason why infants cannot be baptized but only professors. But, when pressed, you'll have to admit that you do not know that a professor is elect. You thus guard against the non-elect being baptized but your theology of basing true baptism on being elect leaves you without knowledge that any are actually baptized.

As I said, if we were only dealing with issue of warrant then the issue of command would rest there but it doesn't. For the Reformed Baptist it rests on the issue of election and so the internal critique remains intact.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Why is Christ not mediating the benefits for all those who are inside his covenant? And would one of those benefits be "I will be your God and you shall be my people"?
I'll address this question separately. In all my years interacting with my Baptist brothers they seem to miss a very key aspect of Christ's mediatorial work.

Christ is the alone Mediator between God and Man.

But the Mediatorial work of Christ is executed in three (not one) office.:
Prophet
Priest
King

If Christ's mediation was, alone, His priestly office then there would be no participation in the NC apart from the elect.

But you have to really study the Scriptures (and follow our Confession) that unpacks everything according to these three Offices. You could actually organize the Confession as to whether or not a Chapter of the Confession after Christ as Mediator is introduced as falling into one of those three offices.

There's a reason why we call our TE's and REs Pastors, Ministers, or Elders and not Priests, Prophets, or Kings. It's because they administer or declare things and are not the Prophet, Priest, or King.

Consider Christ as Prophet. It is the ground or basis of the minister's authority to declare or preach the Word of God. The minister is a mouthpiece for the Prophet. Is preaching to the elect alone or is preaching to every hearer of the Word of God? Thus, as the minister declares the Word of God to sinner, regardless of being reprobate or elect, the New Covenant, in that sense, encompasses Christ's Prophetic office.

Consider Christ as King. By Whose authority do elders rule the Church? As they admit to membership and bind and loose is it not to both the elect and reprobate? Thus, Christ's Kingly Office is mediated to the Church as a whole and not to the elect alone.

Regarding the benefits of Christ that come from union with Him, that is the work of the Spirit. Yet, as noted, it is not as if the boundary of the New Covenant is constrained to those who actually possess the graces of union with Christ. As noted, Christ's Mediation under the CoG goes beyond merely hidden things but encompasses Word, Sacrament, and Discipline. If this were not the case then we would have to argue that the Church is somehow possessing of some authority with respect to the world that owes to itself and not to the Mediator under Whose authority it ministers His offices of mediation.
 

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
I think you're missing the import of the critique.

I'm holding you to the standard of your Covenant Theology and so it is an internal critique.

If this was merely a difference of positive command then that would be a different issue. In other words, if the difference was merely over whether or not the Scriptures have commanded that only those who maturely profess faith in Christ are to be baptized, and we otherwise viewed the CoG in the same way, then the argument would settle there.

But it doesn't.

Why? Because the Reformed Baptist rests his view on the notion that the New Covenant administration is unlike the OC administration of the CoG. Unlike the OC, the Baptist avers, the NC is not to consist of any who are not elect.

This is your standard, not mine.

The Baptist then grounds the notion that only mature professors are to be baptized on the principle that the NC is with the elect alone and, therefore, only the elect are to be baptized.

This is your standard, not mine.

Presbyterians baptize adults and the children of believers on the principle that we believe that the Scriptures command that disciples are *made* by baptizing them and teaching them everything the Lord has commanded. Baptism is not a rite that speaks to the surety of the participants possession of the reality of the things that baptism signifies. Rather, it is an initiation into the visible Body by which the disciple is taught all things concerning Christ and we leave the question as to whether a person is truly elect to the inscrutable work of God.

Thus, if a person realizes that, even thought baptized in a Baptist or Methodist Church and he later comes to a real, trusting relationship to Christ, we do not insist that he was never *really* baptized. Why? Because baptism is not, Scripturally speaking, a sacrament that points to whether or not a person *really* possesses faith but a sacrament that points to the promise of God so that the person, regardless of time or circumstance, can trust the promise of God.

When Paul says there is "one baptism", the Baptist sees that as saying that if a person never *really* had faith then he was never really baptized but only got wet because you insist that only those who are elect are really baptized. Conversely, we see the promissory aspect of the sacrament as something that God has announced and does not depend either upon the person administering or the "elect status" of the recipient at the time of baptism.

Notice I focused not upon infants but upon any baptized. I was baptized both as a baby in the Roman Catholic Church and as an adult in a non-denominational Church. Was I ever baptized? A consistent baptist will say "No" to both because it wasn't until years after my latter baptism that I came to a real understanding of the Gospel. If I actually attended a Baptist Church and never revealed that then they would never know but the consistent theology inexorably leads to that conclusion.

In conclusion, the "standard" you are complaining that I'm holding you to is your own. Your theology, when understood, puts you on the horns of a dilemma. You insist that only the elect are to be baptized or are truly baptized and that this is the reason why infants cannot be baptized but only professors. But, when pressed, you'll have to admit that you do not know that a professor is elect. You thus guard against the non-elect being baptized but your theology of basing true baptism on being elect leaves you without knowledge that any are actually baptized.

As I said, if we were only dealing with issue of warrant then the issue of command would rest there but it doesn't. For the Reformed Baptist it rests on the issue of election and so the internal critique remains intact.
I honestly don't think you understood the main point that I was making, or at least you did not respond to it. You never once made reference to the distinction I made between omniscience and fallible knowledge. You also are not being careful in maintaining the distinction that we Baptists are insisting on preserving between the regenerate and the elect.

We cannot know who the elect are.
We most certainly can know who the regenerate are.

Qualifying statements to follow: First of all, the elect include those who are regenerate and those who will be regenerate, at least some day. As reformed people we would understand that in time God effectually calls his elect people. Because the elect include those who are currently following the course of this world, under the influence of the Devil and pursuing their own lusts, and consequently are indistinguishable from the reprobate around them, we cannot know the unregenerate elect.

But we most certainly can know the regenerate. Now if you object "But some fall away" or "only God truly knows peoples hearts" you can re-read my post and interact with the main point that I make there. Baptists (at least the ones like me) are not claiming any kind of infallible knowledge of the regenerate. But we most certainly can and should say that the effects of the Spirit of Grace can be seen and understood. "You shall know them by their love". It is an absurd standard of omniscience that would claim that we walk ignorant through this life without knowing whether any of those we have had fellowship with were actually saved. This is not how we operate nor should it be. We regard each other according the fruit and works of love that authenticate our faith, with the asterisk that we could be mistaken in any given case. This is a big difference.
 
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