Romans 4:11: Circumcision a Seal for All?

Michael J Hill

Puritan Board Freshman
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.
All of this was in response to you saying:

We do not state that the unregenerate are in Christ or that He mediates the benefits of the Covenant of Grace to them.
And this was my question:
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'm not sure that I understand how this answers my question, especially because it is the response to your claim that Christ does not mediate the benefits of the CoG to the unregenerate. I would fully agree with this claim. But can you make more explicit what you mean in the relevance of the distinctions between Christ's various offices? Are you saying, "he mediates in different ways and different degrees and to different sub-groups in his various offices"? I was hoping, after you used 2 paragraphs to "Prophet" and "King" that you would have a similar development for "Priest", which is primarily what I understand the scriptures to intend when speaking of Christ's work as mediator. I need you to develop this more for me to understand what you're saying.

My understanding of Christ's mediation of the New Covenant is primarily built on Hebrews 8. It contrasts the mediators of the OC (earthly priests) and, beginning in verse 6, claims the superiority of Christ's ministry on the basis of the superiority of the covenant that he is mediating. I believe that Christ mediates for those in his respective covenant, just as the OC priests mediated for those who were in the old covenant. This is especially important because the substantial difference between the Old and the New are those very things that cause success where the other failed, by things that pertain to the sovereign work of the Spirit of God, writing the law of God on men's hearts, causing men to know God. The final result is that New Covenant members have their sins covered and forgiven on the basis of that Covenant. This cannot be said of the Old. John Owen (despite the fact he was a Paedobaptist) treated this well in his commentary:

"...Wherefore we must grant two distinct covenants, rather than a twofold administration of the same covenant merely, to be intended. We must, I say, do so, provided always that the way of reconciliation and salvation was the same under both. But it will be said,—and with great pretence of reason, for it is that which is the sole foundation they all build upon who allow only a twofold administration of the same covenant,—‘That this being the principal end of a divine covenant, if the way of reconciliation and salvation be the same under both, then indeed are they for the substance of them but one.’ And I grant that this would inevitably follow, if it were so equally by virtue of them both. If reconciliation and salvation by Christ were to be obtained not only under the old covenant, but by virtue thereof, then it must be the same for substance with the new. But this is not so; for no reconciliation with God nor salvation could be obtained by virtue of the old covenant, or the administration of it, as our apostle disputes at large, though all believers were reconciled, justified, and saved, by virtue of the promise, whilst’ they were under the covenant."

Owen, J. (1854). An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 23, pp. 76–77). Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter.

When we grant the essential difference between the Old and the New Covenants we will start to see that it is the very nature of the New Covenant that none in it can fail in the way that the OC did. This has major import in asking who the members of this covenant are, and whether Christ's work of mediation of this covenant extends to all of them, the question that I initially posed to you, and that I feel hasn't been fully answered yet.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
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.
I understand what you are saying but it still leaves the critique intact.

Only the elect are regenerate. While it is the case that the elect consist of both regenerate and (yet) unregenerate persons, the fact of the matter is that the Baptist insists that baptism is only valid in the case of its administration for a regenerate person.

Regarding your confidence that we can "most certainly know" who the regenerate are, you can at best, give the judgment of charity and have confident assurance that those who profess faith and bear fruits in keeping with faith and repentance are united to Christ.

This much is true. We grant the same charity to all who are in our Churches.

Yet, you seem to either be unaware or keep missing the import of the overall Covenant theology that drives you to link the subjects of regeneration to baptism itself.

It is due to the LBCF insistence that none are in the NC unless they are, in fact, elect. It is the conviction of the LBCF that there is no administration of the NC for any but the elect alone. It owes to the peculiar notion that the perfection of the Mediator means that none will be members of the NC, in any sense, who are not in Christ.

This is why, if you compare the LBCF to the WCF, the LBCF is careful to note that baptism does not confer membership into the NC. It notes that the only proper subjects of baptism are those who profess faith and repentance. Unlike the WCF it cannot confess that the party baptized is a member of the NC.

I am well aware the Baptists do not claim omniscience or to know who the elect are. I've stated this much repeatedly.

What I've pointed out is that the Baptist's own admission of this obvious realty means that your conviction regarding the NC has the effect of being only able to confess that you baptize those who you are ultimately unsure whether they are in the NC and, given the uncertainty, cannot state that any are actually in the NC by baptism.

The Baptist proceeds this way:

1. We know that only the elect are in the NC.
2. Therefore, only the regenerate ought to be baptized into the NC.
3. We cannot know that infants are regenerate (since they cannot yet profess true faith and repentance).
4. Therefore, we should not baptize infants.
5. This is why the NC (on our reading of the nature of CT) commands the baptism of professors alone.

But you end up with this:

1. We know that only the elect are in the NC.
2. Therefore, only the regenerate ought to be baptized into the NC.
3. The Parable of the soils teaches us that those who profess faith and repentance consist of both true and false professors.
4. Therefore, we baptize the best we can to keep those who we're more or less sure are not in the NC but we cannot really say that any we baptize are in the NC since they might be false.

The point I've been making is that the Baptist errs at the very point of thinking that baptizing professors in Christ is the same idea (that they hold) that only the elect are in the NC in any way. That first erroneous motion is what throws the Baptist on the horns of a dilemma.

You want to criticize the Presbyterian for most assuredly baptizing the unregenerate by the baptism of infants and argue that we are denying the essential nature of the NC as distinct from the OC as containing a mixture of the regenerate with the unregenerate.

But, what you end up with is the reality that the Baptist ends up with the same mixture of those baptized. He convinces himself that somewhere in the Bible, the NT states that baptism must be protected from baptizing the unregenerate but finds no such passage. In fact, it demonstrates repeatedly that the bar for baptism is not a surety of knowing that the person being baptized is regenerate but merely that the person is going to be a disciple.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm not sure that I understand how this answers my question, especially because it is the response to your claim that Christ does not mediate the benefits of the CoG to the unregenerate.
It would help, before you start critiquing the Reformed paedobaptist position on the nature of signs and seals that you actually understood it. I'm saying this not to poke you in the eye but your questions have actually been answered, but you are trying to read them not according to the arguments I have presented.

I carefully distinguished between the outward sign of a Sacrament and the graces signified by that Sacrament. As I noted, our Confession clearly states that the NC is made with Christ and, in Him, all of the elect.

When I was writing about the nature of Sacraments I was distinguishing between those things that mark participation in the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace and the possession of those realities.

We do not believe or confess that a person, by being baptized, is necessarily sealed by the Spirit and actually possesses the graces signified.

The only people who participate in evangelical graces, in terms of the reality of the things signified, are those who are united to Christ by faith. This is an act of the Spirit. Yet, we confess, that there is a sacramental union between the thing signified and the graces exhibited so that a person's actual water baptism corresponds to the Spirit's work as the Spirit has conferred the reality.

Baptism, in other words, signifies dying with Christ and being united to His resurrection but the minister does not confer it. The Spirit may confer those realities at the time of administration or may have conferred them years before or may confer them years hence. For us, the time of the Spirit's work is immaterial because the water baptism, instituted by Christ, is administered to the new disciple and the promise of God is announced to the party baptized. That promise holds irrespective of time.

My understanding of Christ's mediation of the New Covenant is primarily built on Hebrews 8.
I apologize fi this sounds pejorative, but I anticipated you might write this when I noted that to miss that Christ's Mediation is only priestly owes to ignorance of the Scriptures and Reformed Confessions. While you may say that Mediation in the Scriptures is limited to the Office of Priest, your own confession states otherwise concerning Christ.

From the LBCF:

CHAPTER 8; OF Christ THE MEDIATOR

Paragraph 1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man;1 the prophet,2 priest,3 and king;4 head and savior of the church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world;7 unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.8
1 Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19,20
2 Acts 3:22
3 Heb. 5:5,6
4 Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33
5 Eph. 1:22,23
6 Heb. 1:2
7 Acts 17:31
8 Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30

This is an area where our Confessions agree.

One Mediator - Christ.

Three Offices of the Mediator: Prophet, Priest, and King

I can't do the study of your Confession or the Scriptures for you but Prophets and Kings were also Mediators of the Covenant. If you read Hebrews more carefully you'll even see how Christ is the true Prophet and King and not merely the Priest.

The reason I focused on Christ's Offices of Prophet and King as Mediator is to demonstrate how those offices function in visible ways within the NC that encompass both believers and unbelievers. Please reread what I wrote.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
But, what you end up with is the reality that the Baptist ends up with the same mixture of those baptized. He convinces himself that somewhere in the Bible, the NT states that baptism must be protected from baptizing the unregenerate but finds no such passage. In fact, it demonstrates repeatedly that the bar for baptism is not a surety of knowing that the person being baptized is regenerate but merely that the person is going to be a disciple.
A couple chapters later (after 4:11) in Romans, Paul writes “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an infant whom you have no clue will ever be truly baptized? Baptists may administer a Baptism ceremony to a non-elect person, but they at least they do so with some or significant degree of evaluation in accordance with Scripture, along with solemn warning and conviction to the professor.
It owes to the peculiar notion that the perfection of the Mediator means that none will be members of the NC, in any sense, who are not in Christ.
The peculiar notion that only those who are in Christ are members of the NC?
“So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.“ (Luke 22:20)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
A couple chapters later (after 4:11) in Romans, Paul writes “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an infant whom you have no clue will ever be truly baptized? Baptists may administer a Baptism ceremony to a non-elect person, but they at least they do so with some or significant degree of evaluation in accordance with Scripture, along with solemn warning and conviction to the professor.
I'm smiling to myself because I think it's interesting how unaware you are how you're merely confirming what I have already written.

You ask "How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an infant whom you have no clue will ever be truly baptized?"

I ask of you: "How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an adult based solely on a profession when such professions are proven regularly to be false professions?"

I don't know if you simply don't stop long enough to consider the import of what you're saying or that you actually believe, in your heart, that you are baptizing people because you *know* that they possess the reality of what Romans 6 speaks of.

Romans 6:1-11 is a key passage because it speaks to what the Holy Spirit seals in us. This is why, unlike the Baptist confession, the Westminster Confession speak of signs (water baptism) and seals (baptism as union with Christ). The sign does not confer the seal but they are sacramentally united by the Spirit so the believer can look to the water baptism as assurance that he has been saved in Christ.

I want to thank you, however, for so clearly articulating what I've point out - Baptists insist that they are avoiding the baptism of those who aren't actually regenerate and protest loudly about what Presbyterians do. It's their standard for baptism. Yet, when pressed, they have to admit that they baptize the very people that they say that baptism is supposed to be "protected from".

Paul, by contrast, announces a spiritual reality of what is signified by baptism in Romans 6. He does that elsewhere in his epistles. Yet, if Paul thought like a Baptist, he would have noted "...this is why I make sure the profession reveals that the person is regenerate because the Lord wants us to make sure we don't baptize the unregenerate."


The peculiar notion that only those who are in Christ are members of the NC?
“So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53)
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.“ (Luke 22:20)
Were you trying to demonstrate something here? You may want to re-read what I wrote throughout this thread. Nobody but the elect are united to the Mediator of the NC. That said, you have to read what I wrote in the context of Christ as Mediator - Prophet, Priest, and King. Each of those offices have benefits that are mediated to the elect alone. Nevertheless, Christ's Offices as Prophet mediates the preaching of the Word to all sinners and Christ's Office as King mediates "binding and loosing" that encompasses both as well. Consequently, the NC has a visible administration and not merely a hidden and spiritual administration.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm smiling to myself because I think it's interesting how unaware you are how you're merely confirming what I have already written.

You ask "How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an infant whom you have no clue will ever be truly baptized?"

I ask of you: "How can you read that passage and dogmatically apply the term “Baptism” to an adult based solely on a profession when such professions are proven regularly to be false professions?"

I don't know if you simply don't stop long enough to consider the import of what you're saying or that you actually believe, in your heart, that you are baptizing people because you *know* that they possess the reality of what Romans 6 speaks of.

Romans 6:1-11 is a key passage because it speaks to what the Holy Spirit seals in us. This is why, unlike the Baptist confession, the Westminster Confession speak of signs (water baptism) and seals (baptism as union with Christ). The sign does not confer the seal but they are sacramentally united by the Spirit so the believer can look to the water baptism as assurance that he has been saved in Christ.

I want to thank you, however, for so clearly articulating what I've point out - Baptists insist that they are avoiding the baptism of those who aren't actually regenerate and protest loudly about what Presbyterians do. It's their standard for baptism. Yet, when pressed, they have to admit that they baptize the very people that they say that baptism is supposed to be "protected from".

Paul, by contrast, announces a spiritual reality of what is signified by baptism in Romans 6. He does that elsewhere in his epistles. Yet, if Paul thought like a Baptist, he would have noted "...this is why I make sure the profession reveals that the person is regenerate because the Lord wants us to make sure we don't baptize the unregenerate."



Were you trying to demonstrate something here? You may want to re-read what I wrote throughout this thread. Nobody but the elect are united to the Mediator of the NC. That said, you have to read what I wrote in the context of Christ as Mediator - Prophet, Priest, and King. Each of those offices have benefits that are mediated to the elect alone. Nevertheless, Christ's Offices as Prophet mediates the preaching of the Word to all sinners and Christ's Office as King mediates "binding and loosing" that encompasses both as well. Consequently, the NC has a visible administration and not merely a hidden and spiritual administration.
Okay man, maybe I’m just ignorant and overmatched by your extensive theological wit. But when I read of Jesus declaring his blood is the blood of the covenant and only those who drink of it (obviously symbolic) as obtaining life through the new covenant, and thus are baptized with him through his death and resurrection... I don’t feel inclined to sprinkle water on a baby and declare them “baptized” and a “Covenant child”.

You stated with regards to Baptists, “It owes to the peculiar notion that the perfection of the Mediator means that none will be members of the NC, in any sense, who are not in Christ.” This may be peculiar to the vast majority of the “Christian” world, but not to me. I don’t consider a false believer who shares the same pew as me and receives the sacraments in any sense to be a member of the new covenant.
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Okay man, maybe I’m just ignorant and overmatched by your extensive theological wit. But when I read of Jesus declaring his blood is the blood of the covenant and only those who drink of it (obviously symbolic) as obtaining life through the new covenant, and thus are baptized with him through his death and resurrection... I don’t feel inclined to sprinkle water on a baby and declare them “baptized” and a “Covenant child”.
I don't think you need to assume I'm patronizing you and claiming you are ignorant or incapable.

What I am noting is that you are repeating yourself and assuming that I'm denying something that the New Covenant entails.

Yes, only those who are in Christ participate in the evangelical graces of the Covenant. By that I mean that, they and only they, eat and drink Christ spiritually. They and they only participate in union with Christ. They and they only died with Christ and were raised in newness of life.

But we do not pretend to administer the Sacraments to people on the basis that we presume to know to whom these graces truly belong. The Church is not the Spirit and so it is not for us to administer the Sacraments on the basis of saying: "You are receiving the Lord's Supper because you are regenerate and elect" or "You will not receive the Lord's Supper because you are not."

The visible aspect of the sacraments bring people into the visible communion of the Saints but do not confer the reality. The paradigm for our understanding is very much the structure of Hebrews. The Book focuses on the perfection of Christ's Kingship, Prophethood, and Priesthood lest any should shrink back from these things (as it appears some were doing). But Hebrews is more than speaking of the perfection of the NC, it's also speaking of what it looks like for the Saints of God to be pressing in.

If I could boil down the Presbyterian understanding of discipleship into a pericope it would be Hebrew 4:1-7.

Why?

Because it encapsulates so well the nature of Christian discipleship not as a "point in time, are you regenerate NOW" but as a continuous action of dying to the flesh and turning to Christ. Conversion is not merely a one-time act where the sinner is regenerated but a daily act of dying to the flesh, repenting, and turning to Christ in progressive sanctification.

Christian discipleship is a "group march" where we press in together and as we see people falling out we encourage them to press in. Don't look back!

It is a call that, as long as it is called "Today" you should not be shrinking back but pressing forward.

So, Today, I consider those and their children who are pressing in and I encourage them on. While it's good that 5 years ago I was following Christ, it's Today and any "point-in-time" assurance that I was "really, really, really regenerate" and so I should have been baptized on that day is long-since forgotten.

We preach to people in the Church who have been Christians for decades and for those who have been Christians for a day. We preach to little children and we pray for and with little children. I pray, every Sunday, that if there be any who have never known Christ that, Today, would be the day of their salvation. I pray that not only for visitors but for those who I am otherwise confident know the Lord. I pray that for myself lest I would shrink back.

What if, Today, a Christian who was baptized as an infant, was converted for the first time by the Gospel? What if another man, baptized when he was 30, came to faith, Today, twenty years later?

From the perspective of the nature of what it means to be a disciple, the date of the hidden work of the Spirit is immaterial. What matters is that we are a Church of those who are identified as disciples and it is the process of this "group marching" that marks our pressing in.

We don't deny the reality that many of us possess it but the possession of the things you're insisting upon has the nature of this constantly "hungering and thirsting for righteousness" that is part of the Kingdom. We're constantly pressing in, shrinking back, repenting, and pressing in.

Our view of the Sacraments accords with this "life of conversion" view of discipleship in contrast to a "I"m confident of a point in time" view of discipleship.


You stated with regards to Baptists, “It owes to the peculiar notion that the perfection of the Mediator means that none will be members of the NC, in any sense, who are not in Christ.” This may be peculiar to the vast majority of the “Christian” world, but not to me. I don’t consider a false believer who shares the same pew as me and receives the sacraments in any sense to be a member of the new covenant.
No, it owes to thinking that the perfection of Christ as perfect Mediator entails that you can base your view of the ordinances on things hidden. It is also peculiar because it denies the essential character of the Christian life which, as noted above, is a life lived in pursuit of Christ rather than a "on this day I knew for certain that I was a Christian" view.

Bruce used the analogy of the military. I'm a retired Marine. I know some guys who put their rank in their business signature. I always think it's sort of like saying: "Twenty years ago, I meant something in the Marine Corps but now I'm in the business sector but I have nothing significant to say about myself today except what I knew of myself in the past.
 
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