Monday, January 20, 2014

Some Reasons I Became a Paedobaptist

Many factors, biblical and experiential, have been a part of our shift as a family toward Presbyterianism.  My understanding of the church and the nature of the covenant changed as I tilled the soil of Romans 11, I Corinthians 10, Hebrews 6, and Hebrews 10.  But I was most persuaded by the fact that God is remaking the creation.  An important element of that re-creation is the remaking of the family.  Below is an argument in the form of an outline as I trace some of my thinking on the question of baptism and covenant. 

I.  The Purpose of Man and Significance of the Family in Creation
Attempting to understand baptism should rightly begin with God’s will and purpose for man in creation.  So what is God’s will for man, the pinnacle of His creation?  D. James Kennedy writes, "God's answer to the question of human purpose and meaning centers around two great mandates He has given us in His Word. A mandate, of course, is a directive or command that points us in a specific direction." Those two mandates are the Cultural Mandate, given at the creation of man, and the Great Commission, given with the creation of the new man.

The first of God's two mandates - the Cultural Mandate - is found in Genesis 1:26-28:
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

To "'be fruitful and multiply,' means to develop the social order: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. 'Subdue the earth,' means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music. This passage commands man to create cultures and build civilizations.

Here we see God conferring upon man the role of vice-regent, ruling and reigning with God, bringing the world under His dominion. Man’s task in accordance with God’s command and our own nature, having been created in His image, is to exercise dominion and develop culture. As a "federal head" Adam did not merely act on his own behalf, but as a representative for all of mankind. The command to Adam, which is stated again in the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9) is still in force today. To quote Kennedy again, "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and intrusion of human society."

However, man does not exercise dominion and authority solely or even largely as an individual, but primarily through covenantal and corporate structures.  God creates man in His image.  God is Trinitarian.  Though He is One God, He reveals Himself in three distinct persons.  Because humanity is created in the Imago Dei, man is both one and many; unity and diversity; individual and community.  The exercise of dominion is unmistakably a family enterprise and thus the institution and structure of the family as a governing authority is central to the outworking of God’s Kingdom in history.  This is confirmed in the New Testament through, to take one example, the numerous instances of “household codes” in which husbands, wives and children are told how to live in the home—establishing authority structures, duties, and blessings within the covenant family.  Likewise, the family has been given stewardship over children, authority over property and inheritance, and control over education. The family is also the institution preeminently responsible for social welfare. Paul says that the failure to care for our own marks us as "worse than an unbeliever" (I Tim. 5:8) and James says that "pure and undefiled religion…is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" (James 1:27).  God created the family as the primary source of earthly government.

II.  The Consequences of Sin for the Family and the Need for Grace

Yet that which was created good to magnify the glory of God became corrupted and broken as a result of Adam’s fall whereby sin was imputed to all humanity, perverting the God-given desire to exercise authority in God’s name and replacing it with a desire to become God ourselves.

One consequence of the fall is that the curse distorts and disfigures families as families.  Sin disrupts the relation of God-to-man but also man-to-man in families.  That the curse includes barrenness (symbolized by thorns and thistles and pain in childbirth) and quickly produces a fraternal murder is evidence of the consequences of sin within the family.   The theme of barrenness is picked up repeatedly in Scripture (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, etc.), yet in each case God graciously opens the wombs of these women.  (The Bible also paints a portrait of death and resurrection related childbirth—see Rom. 4:18-25). 

Thus we see in this and countless other ways the need for grace and God’s generosity in giving it to His people.  Christ’s representative and vicarious death was necessary to restore and renew the image of God to allow redeemed men to bring the creation into submission to God. It is only in Christ, through the power of the Holy Sprit, that man can fulfill his original mandate.  This ties together the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission.  The former is dependent upon the latter.  The impartation of grace was necessary to renew and restore what was lost in the garden, including the restoration of families to their proper role in God’s order.  Therefore, it is significant that God’s covenant administration—His grace in condescending to be a God to a chosen people-- throughout the Bible has a specifically family orientation. 

III. Old Testament Administrations of the Covenant of Grace Included Children

One factor that points to the unity of the various covenantal adminstrations is the genealogical principle, wherein scripture portrays a God entering into covenant with a federal head and also his children.  When God determined to relate to a people covneantally, his arrangement was genealogical.  It is manifested in the “seed” concept.

A.  In the Noahic covenant
Gen. 9:8-9--Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you.

B.  In the Abrahamic covenant:
Gen. 15:8:
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

Genesis 17:7-8:
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

C.  God worked through Isaac and his descendants:
Gen. 26:
24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiplycyour offspring for my servant Abraham's sake.”

D.  God worked through Jacob and his descendants:
Gen. 28:13-14
13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give  to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the  south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

E.  In the Mosaic covenant:
Exodus 20:5-6
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a    jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
A dramatic expression of this is conveyed in renewal of the covenant in  Deuteronomy 5:2-3:
The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.

The majority Israelites standing on the plains of Moab during this renewal of the covenant were not even born when God covenanted with His people at Sinai.  But Moses here says that they were present there.  There is solidarity with their forefathers because of genealogical continuity. 

F.  In the Davidic covenant:
2 Samuel 22:51:
51 Great salvation he brings to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his offspring forever.”

Psalm 89:3-4:
You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
  I have sworn to David my servant:
I will establish your offspring forever,
    and build your throne for all generations.’”

IV.  New Covenant Promises in the OT Include Children and Offspring
Because the various covenant administrations also included the children of the covenanted party, it seems that there should have been decisive new covenant break to abrogate the principle of “to you and your seed” if children were not longer in the covenant. 

But, to the contrary, the new covenant promises contained in the Old Testament continue to use the same language.

A.  Deut. 30:5:
And the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers   possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. 6 "Moreover 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, in order that you may live.

B.  Jer 31:34-38
And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother,    saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and  their sin I will remember no more." 35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun     for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: 36  "If this fixed order departs From before Me," declares the LORD, " Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever. " 37  Thus says the LORD, "If the heavens above can be measured, And the     foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done," declares the LORD. 38 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.

C.  Jeremiah 32:38-40
38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the        fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.

D.  Isaiah 59:21
21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that  is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of  your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

E.  Ezekiel 37:24-26
24 “My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one    shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived.   They and their children and their children's children shall dwell there forever, and David my servant shall be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.

F.  PS. 103:17-18
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
 the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
                and his righteousness with their children’s children
            18 with those who keep his covenant
             and remember to obey his precepts.

The Old Testament concludes with a prophecy pointing to the restoration of the family bond. 

G.  Malachi 4:5-6
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of    the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Rather than abrogation of the genealogical principle, we see it confirmed and fulfilled in the NT beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist. 

V.  Evidence That the Preceding Pattern is Assumed and Confirmed by Jesus and the Apostles

A.  Jesus expressly includes children in the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:14:
14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 10:14
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Luke 18:15-17
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

To argue as some do that Jesus was merely teaching the disciples that a “child-like faith” is necessary ignores the fact that there were parents bringing their children to Jesus and seeking assurance that He would bring them into His kingdom.  Though some may object that water and baptism are not in these passages, children are, as is their relationship to Christ.   They were seeking a blessing—surely a sign of covenantal significance.

B.   Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost
Given this heritage and context and the nature of prior covenant administrations, as well as the actions of Christ noted above, consider how Peter addresses a gathering of Jewish men in the first New Covenant sermon.  Peter instructs them (as converts) to repent and be baptized.  He then assures them that the promise is for “you and your children” as well as those “far off.”  The accent is not on discontinuity, but continuity and expansion. 

Peter's listeners at his Pentecost sermon in Jerusalem were Jews at the tail end of roughly 2,000 years of being taught that their children were heirs of the promise of salvation represented by the sign and seal of circumcision of their infant sons (Genesis 17:7; Acts 3:25-26; 13:32-33).  Yet not only in Acts 2 but throughout the New Testament, there is no record of an outcry against the supposed exclusion of their children from the covenant.  Rather, Peter simply says that the promise is for his hearers and their children.

C.  Evidence From the Epistles
Given the preceding, it is not surprising that baptism is administered to households ("the families of the earth," Acts 3:25).

Every person named in the New Testament baptism narratives had their household baptized, if the individual had a household. (i.e, it is not reasonable to expect the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Simon the Sorcerer to have had a familial household.)

Of the nine individuals named in the baptism narratives, one likely did not have a family (Sorcerers are not generally considered family men), two had no household for obvious reasons (eunuch, Saul ), and five had their households baptized.  That leaves Gaius (1Co 1:14) who is mentioned as a household head along with Crispus. Crispus' household was baptized with him (Acts 18:8)

Finally, when Paul gives in instructions to the “saints”, those called out who belong to God, he includes children (Colossians 3:20; Eph. 6:1).   Children are to be instructed and discipled which implies that they have been baptized (Matt. 28: 18-20) 

Does the Nature of Family and Children Change in the New Covenant

As mentioned above, one feature of the New Covenant is the restoration of the parent/child relationship, the fulfillment of the promises of Malachi 4: “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17).  

Instructions to fathers in the New Covenant are to bring our children “up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Children are learners—they are disciples.  Baptist appeals to clear instances of adult conversion baptism imply that there is no real distinction between Christian nurture and evangelism.  But do the scriptures assume that the children of believers are mere pagans and that a Christian home is necessarily divided by the very presence of children?  How shall I, as a father, simultaneously nurture my sons in the Lord while treating them as unbelieving pagans?  Can a house divided against itself stand?  Is not the task of Christian parents to teach their children “all that Christ commanded?”

Though it is an argument from silence, the occurrence of a sizable number of household baptisms seems an expression of this same covenantal reality.  As the gospel expands into Gentile contexts, it does so by household (Cornelius, Lydia, Philippian jailer, Stephanus and household, etc.)   Turning to Jesus is not merely an act of individuals, though it is that, but also of families.  The grace of Christ does not merely restore and renew individuals, but families.  Indeed marriage and biological procreation further the Kingdom of God and Christian marriage is in part to serve as an instrument for the propagation of the Kingdom via the birth and nurture of godly descendants (Mal. 2:15) .  

This raises the question of what the New Testament says about children.  Does not Jesus expressly and explicitly include children in the Kingdom of God?  Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Mt. 19:14; Mark 10:14).  Luke says that some of those brought to Jesus were infants: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  To argue as some do that Jesus was merely teaching the disciples that a “child-like faith” is necessary ignores the fact that there were parents bringing their children to Jesus and seeking assurance that He would bring them into His kingdom.  Though some may object that water and baptism are not in these passages children are, as is their relationship to Christ.

The New Testament likewise recognizes that the children of believers are holy.  Paul writes that the children of at least one believing parent are hagia (1 Cor 7:14), which seems a clear reference to being in covenant with God or, in New Testament terms, saints.   In short, the children of believers have a status different from pagan unbelievers.  They are covenantally clean and able to approach God and should not denied the sign of the covenant. 



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