Pastor David B. Curtis

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Paedobaptism? - Part 2

Hebrews 8:6-10

12/19/1999

In our last message on Paedobaptism, we talked about the fact that we at Berean Bible Church are Reformed, that is we consider ourselves to stand theologically with those churches of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Although we stand with the Reformers on the sovereignty of God and many other areas, we depart from them on the issue of infant baptism. Now, the question that is asked is, "Can you hold to the rich tradition of reformed theology, which involves in it paedobaptism, and yet maintain believer's baptism?" I think we can, because I think the Scriptures do. The Bible teaches the doctrines that the Reformed faith holds to, but it does not teach infant baptism. In being Reformed and yet practicing believer's baptism, we are not trying to be different, but we are trying to be true to the Word of God. If we could be convinced from Scripture that infant baptism was correct, we would immediately adopt it.

We agree with Charles Hadden Spurgeon when he said, "If I thought it wrong to be a Baptist, I should give it up and become what I believed to be right. If we could find infant baptism in the word of God we would adopt it, it would help us out of a great difficulty for it would take away from us that reproach which is attached to us. That we are odd and that we do not do as other people do. But we have looked well through the Bible and we cannot find it. And do not believe it is there. Nor do we believe that others can find infant baptism in the Scriptures unless they themselves first put it there."

We believe that the word of God forces us into a position of being Reformed and yet holding to believer's baptism.

If you remember our last study on Paedobaptism, I said that we preserve the rich continuity between the Old and New Covenants. We talked about the seed of Abraham, and we saw how the physical seed in the Old Covenant became the spiritual seed in the New Covenant. And how physical circumcision became the spiritual circumcision of the heart.

We do not see the Bible as a divided up book as the dispensationalist do, teaching different ways of salvation in different time periods. We see great continuity between the Old and New Covenants. Though we see great continuity between Old Covenant and New Covenant, we also see great progression. Paedobaptists rightly stress the unity of redemptive history, while wrongly ignoring the movement of that redemptive history.

We at BBC understand the superiority of the New Covenant above the Old.

Hebrews 7:22 (NKJV) by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.
Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

The difference between the covenants is not a superficial or cosmetic difference, such as; in the Old, they circumcised their children, and in the New, we baptize our children, but the significance of those signs is the same. This is not correct! The New Covenant is superior to the Old. There is continuity but there is also superiority.

As we study the superiority of the New Covenant, we will see who it is that should be baptized. To understand the superiority of the New Covenant, we will look at three areas:

1. Life under the Old Covenant.
2. The promise of a New Covenant.
3. Life under the New Covenant.

1. LIFE UNDER THE OLD COVENANT.

What was it like to be an Israelite living under the Old Covenant? To be an Israelite was to have great blessing.

Exodus 19:3-6 (NKJV) And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself. 5 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

Do you see the blessing that an Israelite had? They were a special treasure to God, "... you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people..." God was their God and they were His people.

Leviticus 26:12 (NKJV) I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

Now, though the Israelites had great blessings, these blessings were conditional -

Exodus 19:5 (NKJV) 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.

"If you will indeed obey My voice...." If they wanted to be God's special treasure, they needed to "obey His voice." The blessings were conditional upon their obedience, on their not being covenant breakers. Under the Old Covenant, perfect obedience was the only ground of receiving the blessing promised.

The Old Covenant was a two party covenant, God had his part to play and his conditions to fulfill, and the Israelite had theirs.

The problem with the Mosiac covenant was that it was external. The Mosaic covenant manifest its distinctiveness as an externalized summation of the will of God. A law has been written, a will has been decreed, but this law stands outside man, demanding conformity. But man's heart is wicked, so he cannot conform.

Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?

Let me give you an example of what the Old Covenant was like: Let's say that a boy receives a train set for Christmas. As he begins to unwrap it, he pulls out an engine, box cars, a caboose, tracks, a switching station, and bridges. He puts it all together and sets the train on the tracks, but it doesn't go anywhere because there is something that is absolutely necessary for the train to run which does not come with the package - batteries.

Then his dad gives him four batteries. This provision which was not standard in the package was necessary. The little boy puts the batteries in the engine, and the train begins to run. Now it has power, enablement.

So, it was in the Old Covenant, the power source was not provided as standard equipment. There were those in the Old Covenant who had a circumcised heart, such as David and Joshua, Hannah, and Mary, but that was a provision given by God above and beyond the standard provision of the Old Covenant.

All Israel had been given the promise of blessing under the condition of obedience, but only some have been given the heart enablement to obey.

Let's look at the Jews' heart condition.

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NKJV) 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

A heart to fear and obey God was not a standard provision in the Old Covenant.

Deuteronomy 29:4 (NKJV) "Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day.

He had given a heart to fear and obey to some of them; there was a Joshua, Caleb, Mary, Hannah and David, but generally speaking God had not given them a new heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 (NKJV) "And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This is looking forward to a day when something wonderful is going to happen. This was a promise beyond that given in the Old Covenant. God promises to give all his covenant people a new heart.

So, all Israel had been given the promise of blessing if they walked in obedience, but only some have been given the heart enablement. Only some of those in Israel were true Israel. Only some of them had a new heart.

The physical Nation of Israel was given the specific promise of becoming the true holy nation of God IF they would obey the covenant of law given at Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:27,28).

The Scripture is clear that the terms of the Law Covenant were never met by the Nation of Israel. The "then" never became a reality because the "if" was never fulfilled - "...if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me..." Israel never kept that covenant, and therefore, it never became the true holy nation of God.

The Old Covenant community was a cross section of believer and unbeliever.

Romans 9:6 (NKJV) But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,

"For they are not all Israel who are of Israel" What does that mean? God never promised unconditionally to each offspring of Abraham covenantal blessings. God never intended that all of the nation Israel would be redeemed. Within national Israel is "true Israel," or "spiritual Israel." The nation was chosen to be a vehicle of blessing to the world, but not all within the nation were chosen to salvation. The nation was elected to privilege, but only individuals are elected to salvation. Not all of Old Covenant Israel was true regenerate Israel.

The Old Covenant community was like the cross section of a peach. If you were to split a peach in half, you would see the pit and the meat; the inner part would be the pit, then around it, the outer part, would be the meat. This is what the Old Covenant community looked like spiritually. Some of them were the pit, true spiritual Israel who were circumcised in heart, regenerated, saved. But the majority were like the meat of that peach. They were in the covenant, but they were not true Israel.

Romans 11:2-5 (NKJV) God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? 4 But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Elijah was a member of Israel, of the Old Covenant community. During his day, when Bail worship was great, Elijah felt like he was the only true Israelite. Elijah was saying, "I'm the only one in the pit." God assures Elijah that the remnant (the pit) was not as small as he thought. There were 7,000 who were true Israel. The remnant was the pit of the peach.

The whole nation was in the Covenant. Any physical offspring of Abraham who had been circumcised was a covenant member. So, spiritual salvation was worked out within a national external framework. When a child was born into the Nation Israel, he wasn't born into the pit; he wasn't born regenerate. But being in the covenant community, he would see the ceremonial law practiced which pictured Christ, and he would see those in the pit who had a true relationship with God, and thus see his need for God to redeem him.

However, most of the Old covenant members were born, circumcised, lived in external religion, and died without regeneration. But there was always a remnant according to grace.

So, we see that the Old Covenant community was a mixture of saved and lost; of those who had had their heart circumcised, and those who had not.

2. THE PROMISE OF A NEW COVENANT.

Remember we're comparing the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant there had been given the promise of a New Covenant.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NKJV) "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

In chapter 8 of Hebrews, the writer quotes this promise from Jeremiah:

Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV) But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

The writer of Hebrews is making an overall comparison between what was coming in the New and what has been in the Old. The New Covenant is superior, it is a BETTER covenant built upon better promises. The first covenant was not faultless.

Hebrews 8:7 (NKJV) For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.

The problem was not really with the covenant but with the people.

Hebrews 8:8 (NKJV) Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;

So, God promised to Old Covenant Israel the coming of a New Covenant.

3. LIFE UNDER THE NEW COVENANT.

What is life like under the New Covenant? We also have a promise of blessing.

Revelation 21:3 (NKJV) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

God dwells with us, he is our God. The big difference is that for each and every member of the New Covenant there is the promise of enablement - a new circumcised heart. This is not optional equipment in the New Covenant as it was in the Old. This is standard equipment in the New Covenant.

Hebrews 8:10 (NKJV) "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

Notice the promise to ALL members of the New Covenant, "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts." Remember what we saw in -

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NKJV) 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

Now we find in the superior New Covenant the standard provision of a new heart. In the New Covenant package, the batteries are standard, if you will. This is what Ezekiel prophesied of:

Ezekiel 36:26-28 (NKJV) "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 "Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

All New Covenant members have a new heart; a circumcised heart. This new heart is regeneration; the new birth.

So the New Covenant promise of God is, "I will be your God and you will be my people" - blessing.

Is there a condition? Are we blessed only if we obey? Can we break the covenant? No, no, no! Under the Old Covenant, perfect obedience was the only ground of receiving the blessing promised. Under the New Covenant, both the blessing and the necessary obedience are guaranteed by Christ our Surety.

Christ's life of obedience "under the law" earned every blessing the law covenant promised, and His death under the curse of that same law covenant removed every curse it threatened

Listen to what God said through Jeremiah concerning the New Covenant :

Jeremiah 32:40 (NKJV) 'And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.

This passage is fulfilled in the church. It reiterates the teaching on the New Covenant in the previous chapter. The text says that the covenant which God will make with his people is an everlasting covenant. It will not be broken and then succeeded by yet another covenant. The reference is not to the return of the exiles under Ezra/Nehemiah, but to the New Covenant under Christ.

Central to the blessings of this everlasting covenant is that, just like the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31, it is an unbreakable covenant.

What is the Christian's heart condition under the New Covenant? Could there be someone in the New Covenant who is not born-again? Is that possible? No! That is a contradiction! If you are a member of the New Covenant community, you have a new heart; you have been regenerated.

Hebrews 8:12 (NKJV) "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

In the Old Covenant community, not all members had their sins forgiven. But ALL in the New Covenant have a heart that is circumcised. All in the New Covenant are true Israel. There is not a single unbeliever in the New Covenant nation. Every member of this redeemed nation is a king and a priest.

Romans 2:28-29 (NKJV) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

What is the community cross section like in the New Covenant? Remember the cross section of the Old Covenant that resembled a peach; some pit, some meat? Some were truly regenerated, but the majority were not. But look how the cross section of the New Covenant community is described:

Hebrews 8:11 (NKJV) "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

"All shall know me" - In the New Covenant all members know the Lord. We don't go to another New Covenant member and call them to know the Lord as they did in the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant, those of the pit would call those of the meat to "know" the Lord. But all those in the New Covenant are believers. We don't evangelize other New Covenant members.

The New Covenant is made with believers only. This, of course, is the exact reason why the New Covenant is unbreakable; for only believers will persevere to the end without breaking God's covenant. Three blessings are spoken of with respect to the New Covenant: law written on the heart -"I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts" (v. 10); personal knowledge of God -"No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest" (v. 11); and forgiveness of sins -"For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more" (v. 12). Now the contrast between the Old and the New is not that these three blessings will be experienced for the first time in redemptive history by the people of God! That would be to succumb to radically dispensational assumptions. The elect in every age have experienced these blessings, including the elect under the Old Covenant - law written on the heart (Psalm 37:31, 9:10, 76:1); personal knowledge of God (1 Samuel 2:12, 3:7); the forgiveness of sins (Psalm 32:1-2). Rather, the true contrast between the Old and the New Covenants is that now under the New Covenant, all who are covenant members experience these blessings. The fact that not all covenant members experienced these blessings under the Old Covenant is part of the divine motivation for providing the New Covenant.

The New Covenant cross section is not like a peach with two distinct sections; it is like the cross section of a potato - there is only one section.

Do you see the distinction between the Old Covenant community and the New Covenant community? In the New Covenant, who is it that is to receive baptism - the sign of the covenant? Is it the physical offspring of New Covenant members? No! Only those who are in the New Covenant by virtue of the new birth are to receive baptism. Only those who believe the gospel are New Covenant members.

We do not give the New Covenant sign to those who give no evidence (faith) of being in the New Covenant. While recognizing the proper Old Testament distinction between an external covenant (elect and non-elect) and an internal covenant (elect only), we understand this external/internal distinction to be abolished in the New Covenant. No one is in covenant with God who is not a believer. Thus, when paedobaptists speak of their "covenant children" as "breaking covenant" (i.e. becoming apostate by rejecting the faith), we respond, "What covenant are you talking about? Obviously, not the New Covenant!

The New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant. The very reason why God established this New Covenant with his people is because they broke the old one.

Jeremiah 31:32 (NKJV) "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

And if the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant, then the paedobaptists have failed to recognize an important discontinuity between the New Covenant and the previous covenant administrations. The covenant as administered to Abraham and to Moses was breakable.

Genesis 17:14 (NKJV) "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

But according to Jeremiah, the covenant as administered in the New Covenant is not breakable by the covenantees.

Only those who have the law of God written on their hearts, who know the Lord, and who have their sins forgiven, are in the New Covenant! The Paedobaptists so called "covenant children" were never in the New covenant, and so never should have received the New Covenant sign!

The Paedobaptists are operating on the basis of the old model, because they are bringing into the New Covenant those who have not been regenerated. They are not recognizing the GRAND distinction in the New Covenant that "all shall know me." The sign of the New Covenant (baptism) is only for those who are believers.

So, we, as Reformed believers who practice believer's baptism understand the superiority of the New Covenant above the old.

One of the main texts used by Paedobaptists to justify infant baptism is:

Colossians 2:11-12 (NKJV) In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Many paedobaptists interpret this text as teaching that baptism and circumcision have replaced each other, and have the same exact significance. These Gentile converts are considered by Paul to have been circumcised, when they were really (spiritually) baptized. I would agree that there is an obvious analogy between the two signs asserted here. What I deny is the identity of meaning between the two signs. Who is this text talking about? About believers! Who are those who are circumcised in God's sight? Those who have put off the sinful nature, and have been raised with Christ through their faith. Thus, the concept of circumcision has been transformed in the New Testament to denote those who have experienced salvation in Christ. It is this inward experience of spiritual circumcision that is tied to baptism in the New Testament!

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

Under the Old Covenant, circumcision defined a physical nation irrespective of regeneration. Under the New Covenant, regeneration defines a spiritual nation irrespective of nationality or parentage.

In my last message on this, I had someone say to me, "What's the point? Why take time to teach on this, isn't it obvious that we shouldn't baptize infants? Nowhere does the Scripture tell us to baptize them." Well, they were wrong and right. They were wrong in that to many Presbyterian believers, it is not so obvious - they practice infant baptism. But they were right in that the Scriptures do not teach infant baptism. To quote Mr. Spurgeon again on infant baptism, "But we have looked well through the Bible and we cannot find it. And do not believe it is there. Nor do we believe that others can find infant baptism in the Scriptures unless they themselves first put it there."

And the way the Paedobaptist "put it there" is through their faulty concept of the Church. They don't really see the Church as having a New and superior covenant but as simply a "new administration" of the one Covenant of Grace in which everything is still the same, because the covenant is the same. The same things simply get new names. The "Jewish" church becomes the "Christian" church; circumcision becomes baptism, the Sabbath becomes Sunday, etc. Everything is spiritualized and brought over into the "new administration of the same covenant." All that has been changed are the outward methods and means of visible representation. The "covenant children" of believers still have promises made to them which "non-covenant children" do not have. Covenant children today have the right and obligation to the covenant sign of baptism since they are born into the Church, even as the Israelite child was born into the nation (church) under the "old administration" of the same covenant. All that has really changed according to this system is the sign of the covenant.

The Paedobaptist confuses what he calls the visible church, including believers and their children, with the Body of Christ which is purely spiritual. He makes the visible Church take the place of physical Israel on a "one-on-one" basis. This system merely replaces a physical nation with a physical religious organization.

This non-biblical concept of the Church is absolutely essential to the practice of infant baptism. Charles Hodge (who is a Paedobaptist) makes an amazing admission when introducing his section on infant baptism:

Infant Baptism. The difficulty on this subject is that baptism from its very nature involves a profession of faith. It is the way in which by the ordinance of Christ, He is to be confessed before men; but infants are incapable of making such a confession; therefore they are not the proper subjects of baptism. Or, to state the matter in another form: the sacraments belong to the members of the Church; but the Church is the company of believers; infants cannot exercise faith, therefore, they are not to be baptized. In order to justify the baptism of infants, we must attain and authenticate such an idea of the church as that it shall include the children of believing parents…" Systematic Theology, Chas. Hodge, Eerdmans, Vol. 3, p.546.

Where, may I ask, do you "attain" such an idea of the church - "as that it shall include the children of believing parents"? Certainly not from Scripture.

John 1:11-13 (NKJV) He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus came to "that which was his own"; that is, to his own people. The Jews were his own people because they were in covenant with God, under the terms of the Old Covenant. They were properly considered to be God's children.

Hosea 11:1 (NKJV) "When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

And yet, those very people who were God's own, his own children under the terms of the Old Covenant, rejected him. Indeed, they crucified him. But now who are the children of God, according to the text? Who are "God's own"? Those in an "external covenant" with God? Those called out of Egypt but who later reject him? Those descended from certain parents? No! Only "those who believed in his name" does he give the right to become "children of God." And these children are children because they were "born of God," not because they were born by natural descent from Christian parents.

The implication is clear. Under the Old Covenant, you could be a child of God and yet reject God. You could be "God's own" and yet be on your way to hell. But in the New Covenant, it is not that way. Those who are children of God are not so by virtue of their birth. John explicitly denies this. Rather, they are children of God because they are born of God. In the New Covenant era, only the elect can be properly considered children of God; "his own," in covenant with God. The concept of "belonging to God," being a "son of God," and being "his own" has been transformed under the terms of the New Covenant.

What about household baptisms?

There are four household baptisms found in the New Testament.

With respect to Cornelius' household (Acts 10:46-48): Peter's explicit warrant for baptizing this household is that "they have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." >From the text, we must conclude that this was a household conversion on the part of the individuals who composed it, and for that reason it was also a household baptism.

With respect to Lydia's household (Acts 16:15): nothing in the passage implies Lydia's household had infant children in it. If Lydia had no children, she has no significance for infant baptism either. To read "infants" into the text is eisogesis. I think the same is true of the Philippian jailer's household(Acts 16:33), and Stephanas' household (1 Corinthians 1:16). To say that there were infants in these houses that were baptized is shear speculation.

How can a Christian parent claim that his physical children are included in the "covenant with Abraham" when that covenant never even promised that to Abraham himself? Did God's covenant with Abraham really include both Jacob and Esau? If it did not, then how can a Christian parent claim that the same covenant includes all of his physical seed today? Unless a parent can prove beyond any question that his child is one of the elect for whom Christ died, then he has no more reason to believe that his child is "in the covenant" than Abraham had to believe that his son, Ishmael, or his grandson, Esau, was "in the covenant."

If anyone is to receive the sign of the New Covenant, which is baptism, it is inherently necessary that they be born-again; those who believe the gospel. Baptism is only for believers.

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