Dispensationalists Miss the Spiritual Aspect of the Covenants, but Paedobaptists Miss the Physical Aspects of the Old Covenants

Paedobaptists may claim that Abraham has “only one true seed–the spiritual seed”. But they still can’t let go of the fact that Abraham’s “carnal seed” were circumcised. Therefore, they still think that DNA has something to do with water baptism.

Those with DNA from Abraham were circumcised in the old covenant, and Paedobaptists say that those (in the first generation only) with DNA from Christian parents are to be baptized as infants.

Of course “biological descent from Abraham is never a sufficient reason for one to expect covenant blessings.” But paedobaptists say that biological descent IS ONE REASON to expect blessing.

WITHOUT biological descent, one had very little reason to expect blessing in the old covenant. I recall for you the rather strong language of Ephesians 2:12–”being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope…”

The new perspective not only neglects the law/grace distinction of the Mosaic covenant, but also fails to do justice to the “new individualism” of the new covenant. We do not get into the new covenant corporately by the cross, and then stay in individually by our works of faith, as NT Wright (with many others) would have it.

Not all of Israel is Israel or ever was Israel. God chooses individuals to be justified at the last day.

Of course conservative paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline. They “abhor a nominal church.” Conservative paedobaptists only baptize infants of the first generation. They still attempt to determine if parents are believers before they will baptize their children. In this way, they attempt to avoid a nominal church, even if those now-believing parents were infant baptized by Unitarian Anglicans or Roman Catholics.

John Murray: “no organization of men is able infallibly to determine who are regenerate.” Of course. But then again, no presbytery can determine infallibly which parents are regenerate. And no preacher can infallibly preach God’s Word. And no magistrate can infallibly kill enemies. And no writer can infallibly free themselves of prejudice. We all know these things. How does that decide for us if a church includes the children of believers, or only those who profess regeneration?

Although more consistent paedobaptists practice infant communion, most paedobaptists have “criteria for adult membership”. The difference with baptists is finally not a less subjective claim to “certainty”; the difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So I ask you: does the new covenant have two kinds of membership?

It is simply not true that believer baptism encourage many rebaptisms during “crises of assurance.” It is true that believer baptism does advocate that those baptized have assurance of salvation.

But assurance–for credobaptists or for paedobaptists– should not be based on our continuing to meet “covenant conditions”. I Peter 3:21: “an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ.” Gospel assurance does not come from a promise of ours to get busy and to keep working enough! “Dead works” come from that.

“Feeling that one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to baptists. Believer baptism is no solution to a puritan produced (the practical syllogism) crisis of assurance: only the imputed righteousness of Christ can give us peace with God.

But a crisis of assurance can be a good thing!. It’s not a good thing to “join the church” without ever having a crisis of assurance. But if we follow the advise of Charles Hodges and Horace Bushnell, then our children will always presume themselves to be Christians.

Of course I know many paedobaptists who do not agree with Bushnell and Hodge! Nevertheless they makes any crisis of assurance less likely by putting into the covenant infants who do not profess salvation. Are the children of Christians to think of themselves as Christians from the beginning? Ask your local paedobaptist this question. And for extra credit, ask: Are the infants born to paedobaptists Christians in a better position after “water baptism” than the infants born to credobaptist Christians?

If someone has discovered that they did not become a Christian until after their “baptism”, then they are simply being obedient to God to disregard that previous ritual. You have to be prejudiced to call this “re-baptism”. Paedobaptists who do not practice infant communion shift the “crisis of assurance” to communion. Those who don’t know that they are justified are encouraged “to abstain”, at least in conservative paedobaptist groups.

It would be difficult for them to find this scruple in the old covenant with which they claim continuity. Passover was a family meal, with the children of the covenant included. But then again, the new covenant is different, and most paedobaptists’ practice of the Lord’s Supper shows that.

Yet many paedobaptist accuse all baptists of being some kind of “dispensationalist”. They accuse of us missing the spiritual dimensions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But they themselves miss the physical dimensions of the old covenants.

In Acts of course there is no second generation “born of Christian parents”. From this silence, some even infer that the second generation must have been baptized in their infancy. I am not against inferring but I would like to be rational in doing so. I get from this silence that Acts knows nothing of two kinds of baptism.

But Acts is not silent about one important matter: we read the record there of many Jews, who having already received the circumcision symbol of the old covenant, do not rest content with that infant symbol, but are water baptized after they believe. I infer, not from silence but from this clear pattern of events, that water baptism and circumcision are not only different, but also that water baptism is not a substitute for circumcision.

Circumcision has ended, not because water baptism has replaced it, but because Jesus has brought a new covenant.

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19 Comments on “Dispensationalists Miss the Spiritual Aspect of the Covenants, but Paedobaptists Miss the Physical Aspects of the Old Covenants”

  1. Mark, these are very insightful observations. They remind me of the questions a friend (Bob Krueger, a former Baptist pastor) and I asked the elder of the Presbyterian Church we were members of in grand Rapids in the early ’70s, about whether a Baptist pastor’s kids were in the new covenant or not, and what difference would it have made if they were before they had believed? No answer to this was forthcoming. Nor could anyone tell us Baptist members why the Pastor did not baptize the children of unbelieving descendants of members, or how he knew what new arrivals from Baptist churches were regenerate or not, as you have pointed out. Nor could anyone tell us how, if they were “in the (new) covenant,” Presbyterian kids could ever apostatize, since Jeremiah insisted that all in the new covenant were regenerate.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Paedobaptists equate “the beginning of my Christian life” with the “beginning of my life”. Never not Christians. Christians from the start. Paedobaptism is not always equal to water efficacy. Paedobaptists give water to those in the covenant because most of them teach that even the non-elect in the covenant begin life as Christians before they receive water.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Now that there are dispensationalists, people don’t like it when somebody says there are two covenants—Charles Hodge: “It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one, his natural descendants through Isaac were constituted a commonwealth, an external, visible community. By the other, his spiritual descendants were constituted a church. The parties to the former covenant were God and the nation; to the other, God and His true people. The promises of the national covenant were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e., the covenant of grace), were spiritual blessings, reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life.”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Perspectives on Israel and the Church, Four views–p 56— if Muslims launch an unprovoked attack on Israel, the United States government should side defensively with Israel. If Israel starts an unprovoked attack on Palestinians, then the us government should be just as quick to protect the lives of Muslims.

    1. the united States government is the judge, is God

    2. since when is any killing ever “unprovoked”–we all stand in the cycle of violence

    3. many Palestinians are not Muslims, but professing Christians

    4. notice the lack of symmetry— side with Israel, vs save the lives of Palestinians

    but on a better note

    Reymond, p 57—“The Hebrews word translated ‘everlasting’ may denote the limited duration of the age of promise, such as 1. God’s declaration that circumcision was to be an ‘everlasting covenant’ between him and his people in Genesis 17: 13 and 2. God’s declaration that the Passover Feast in Exodus 12:7 was to be an ‘everlasting ordinance’

    (mark– Christ is now our passover (I Cor 5:7) but Christ is not now our circumcision because now water baptism is NOT our cirumcision….)

    Allan Macrae, Theological Wordbook of the OT, 2:673—Neither the Hebrew (olam) nor the Greek (aion) in itself contains the idea of endlessness. They sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in time in past history. Sometimes it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying ‘forever’, but forever and forever…

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Abraham Booth—As none but real Christians are the subjects of our Lord’s kingdom, neither adults nor infants can be members of the gospel Church, in virtue of an external covenant, or of a relative holiness. A striking disparity this, between the Jewish and the Christian Church. Of this difference we may be assured by considering, that a barely relative sanctity, supposes its possessors to be the people of God in a merely external sense; that such an external people, supposes an external covenant, or one that relates to exterior conduct and temporal blessings : and an external covenant supposes an external king. Now an external king, is a political sovereign : but such is not our Lord Jesus Christ, nor yet the divine Father. Once, indeed, it was otherwise : for, concerning the Israelitish nation, it is written : ” I,” Jehovah, ” will be thy king…

    Yes, Jehovah, as a temporal monarch, stood related to the ancient Israelites, and entered into a federal transaction with them at Sinai, not only as the Object of their worship, but as their King. Their judicial and civil institutes, their laws of war and of peace, various orders respecting the land they occupied, and the annual acknowledgments to the great Proprietor of it, were all from God, as their political sovereign. Hence all the natural posterity of Jacob were Jehovah’s people, on the ground of an external covenant made with the whole nation…

    By the latter [God’s divine presence among them], they had a kind of local nearness to God, which conferred a relative sanctity; as appears by various instances. When, for example, Moses with astonishment beheld the burning bush, the ground on which he stood was pronounced holy, because of Jehovah’s peculiar presence there.

    …And why was part of the ancient sanctuary called “the most holy place,” but because Jehovah, in a singular manner, and under a visible emblem dwelt there. Hence it is manifest, that the Divine Presence, whether under the form of an august personage, as in the cafe of Joshua ; or under the emblem of devouring fire, as in the bush, and upon mount Sinai ; or under the milder appearance of a luminous cloud as over the mercy-seat, and at our Lord’s transfiguration, confers a relative holiness. It is also equally plain, that this miraculous presence of God being withdrawn, from the several places to which we have just adverted, they have now no more holiness than any other part of the earth.

    So the Israelites, being separated from all other nations for the worship of Jehovah as their God, to the exclusion of all idolatry ; avowing subjection to him as their King, in contradistinction to all other sovereigns ; and he residing among them in the sanctuary, as in his royal palace ; there was a relative holiness attending their persons, and almost every thing pertaining to them. For not only Jehovah’s royal pavilion, with all its utensils and services ; the ministers of that sanctuary, and their several vestments ; but the people in general, the metropolis of their country, the houses of individuals, the land cultivated by them, and the produce of that land, were all styled holy (see Exod 28: 2,4; 29:1; Lev 19:23, 24; 20:26; 25:2, 4; 27:14, 30; Num 16:3, 38; 35:34; Deut 7:6)

    …Thus the holiness of the people, equally as that of places, was derived from the external presence of God.” Now, as the Divine Presence had a local, visible residence over the mercy-seat, which was the throne of Jehovah ; as that Presence among the Israelites had such an extensive operation upon their state, both in respect of privilege and of duty ; as the whole nation was a typical people, and a great part of their worship of a shadowy nature ; we need not wonder, that in such an ecclesiastico-political kingdom almost every thing should be esteemed, in a relative sense, holy. Under the Gospel Dispensation, how ever, these peculiarities have no existence. For Christ has not made an external covenant with any people. He is not the king of any particular nation. He dwells not in a palace made with hands. His throne is in the heavenly sanctuary ; nor does he afford his visible Presence in any place upon earth…

    The Kingdom of Christ

  6. markmcculley Says:

    If physical Israel is a type of Christ, the true Israel, then Abraham’s physical seed was not the body of Christ. For the body of Christ cannot be a type of Christ

    Kim Riddlebarger—-…the problem with that is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 12 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the land promise in Genesis 12 – and it’s repeated throughout 15, 18, 22, on and on and on – when that land promise is repeated, dispenationalists say “See, that must mean Israel means Israel and that God is going to save Israel again to fulfill the land promise at the end of the age.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the land promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.

    Brandon- Adams—the problem with paedobaptism is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 17 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the offspring promise in Genesis 17 – and it’s repeated throughout 12, 15, 22, on and on and on – when that offspring promise is repeated, paedobaptists say “See, that must mean offspring means offspring and that God included physical offspring in the church and never took them out.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the offspring promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/01/

  7. One of these quotations does not agree with the other one.

    Scott Clark—Even though there were typological (land) and even national elements in the promises given to Abraham (Gen 12 and 15) they were only temporary expressions of the more fundamental promise to send a Savior.

    Scott Clark— The national, Israelite, Sinaitic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, was a temporary addition, a codicil, added to the Abrahamic promises. That temporary national covenant expired with the death of Christ. Paul reckons the old covenant as a temporary, national, pedagogical, typological arrangement SUPERIMPOSED UPON the Abrahamic covenant of grace.

    Abraham had two sons. Not only Ishmael and Isaac, but also Christ and Moses.. The Abrahamic covenant has been fulfilled and has expired. How is the land promise distinctively Mosaic in contrast to Abrahamic? The typological land promise was something the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants shared in common. So how can anybody categorize Mosaic elements as temporary and thereby distinguish them from the Abrahamic types that are not “distinctively Mosaic”? , Why is the “ceremonial law” not “moral law” and how do we know which is which?

    Who gets to decides that all the Abrahamic types are not Mosaic? Aren’t all types temporary? Unless you have your mind already made up that the new covenant is no different from the Abrahamic covenant, you will see that Abraham had two sons… The Abrahamic covenant has been fulfilled and has expired.

  8. Robert Strimple–“The Westminster Confession says that the moral law that God gave to Adam as a covenant of works is the “very same law” that continues to be a perfect rule of righteousness for us; and it was that law that was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai” But that law does not continue as a covenant of works for us, and it was not delivered upon Mount Sinai as a covenant or works for the children of Israel. This may not be what some on our faculty would like it to teach. But it is what the Confession teaches.”

    theonomist George Gillespie—If The analogy betwixt the Jewish & the Christian church faile, the argument of Baptisme from circumcision will faile also…The state of the Jewish church is y a warrantableness for the analogy of the Old Testament & New. If we must cut loose the argument of the Jewish church, how shall we prove pedo-Baptism?


    Scott Clark—There is a hermeneutical conspiracy, if you will, to turn Abraham into Moses. And Abraham isn’t Moses. Moses is temporary. Moses is national. Abraham is not national. The seed promise that God made to Abraham in 12 and 15 is a promise that the nations will all come out of Abraham, and that’s what begins to happen in the New Covenant. When Peter says the promise is to you and your children,” he’s saying that the fundamental essence of the Covenant of Grace that God made with Abraham is still in effect. And Jesus, Paul says, is the seed, in Galatians 3:15-16, and we, then, he says later on in Galatians, are seeds in Christ.

    According to Scott Clark, the seed God promised to Abraham was only Christ and the land God promised to Abraham was only heaven. “The land and seed promises came to be administered through and under the Mosaic covenant but that Old Covenant administration was distinct from the Abrahamic.”

    Scott Clark is saying that the temporary, typological application in the Mosaic Covenant of the promises God made to Abraham were not actually derived from Abraham. Those types were something added to the Abrahamic Covenant.

    Scott Clark— The national, Israelite, Sinaitic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, was a temporary addition, a codicil, added to the Abrahamic promises. That temporary national covenant expired with the death of Christ. Paul reckons the old covenant as a temporary, national, pedagogical, typological arrangement superimposed upon the Abrahamic covenant of grace.

  9. Meredith Kline—References to the two-level nature of the promises have been unavoidable in various connections in our analysis of the Abrahamic Covenant … As the kingdom promises come to fulfillment in two successive stages, each is identified as a divine remembrance of Abraham or of the covenant made with him…
    Judah assumed the royal supremacy in Israel in the appointment of David as king. He, with his successors under the old covenant, were level one. Then David’s dynasty reached a distinctive second level of kingship in the coming of Jesus Christ and his inauguration of the new covenant in his blood…
    Two distinct levels of fulfillment, one provisional and prototypal, the other messianic and eternal, are clearly distinguishable in the king promise given to Abraham.
    Development of the twelve sons of Jacob into the twelve-tribe nation of Israel constituted a fulfillment of the promise of the kingdom people at one level… Equally obvious is the Bible’s identification of a realization of the promise of the Abrahamic seed at another level.
    When Paul in Romans 9-11 defends God’s covenantal faithfulness in the face of Israel’s fall, he bases his case on the identification of the promised seed as the individual election, a remnant-fullness of Jews and Gentiles, spiritual children of Abraham, all like him justified by faith (Rom 9:7,8; cf. Rom 4:16; Gal 3:7)… That is, the promise of the seed is thereby lifted into the messianic, or new covenant, level where Gentile and Jewish believers are gathered together in the united assembly of the heavenly altar…
    That the territory eventually occupied by Israel fully corresponded with the geographical bounds defined in the promise is explicitly recorded in Joshua 21:43-45 and 1 Kings 4:20,21 (cf. Num 34:2ff.; 1 Chr 18:3; Ezek 47:13-20)… in the New Testament there are clear indications of a positive kind of the shift to the second level of meaning of the land promise. With surprising abruptness the New Testament disregards the first level meaning and simply takes for granted that the second level, cosmic fulfillment is the true intention of the promise…
    The issue between covenantal and dispensational hermeneutics is not one of spiritualizing versus nonspiritualizing interpretations of the second level kingdom. For, contrary to a common allegation, the covenantal system as well as the dispensational allows for the geophysical dimension of that kingdom. The basic question at issue is rather how to construe the relation of the two levels of the promised kingdom of the Abrahamic Covenant to one another.

  10. Meredith Kline–“How Abraham’s obedience related to the securing of the kingdom blessings in their old covenant form is a special question within the broad topic of the role of human works … Abraham’s faithful performance of his covenantal duty is clearly declared to sustain a causal relationship to the blessing of Isaac and Israel. It had a meritorious character that procured a reward enjoyed by others…Because of Abraham’s obedience redemptive history would take the shape of an Abrahamite kingdom of God from which salvation’s blessings would rise up and flow out to the nations. God was pleased to constitute Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come… The obedient Abraham, the faithful covenant servant, was a type of the Servant of the Lord in his obedience, by which he became the surety of the new covenant.”


    Bryan Estelle (the law is not of faith)— By the time of the New Testament Israel’s disobedience has triggered the curse sanctions. Therefore, the new covenant context has essentially changed matters … What was prototypical during the Abrahamic covenant has been eclipsed by what is antitypical [eternal life]

  11. Ligon Duncan — So as far as Moses is concerned, there is no radical dichotomy between what God is doing with His people in the time of the Exodus and what God promised to Abraham. In fact, he says that the reason God came to His people’s rescue was because He remembered the promise He had made with Abraham. In Genesis chapter 15, God went out of His way to tell Abraham about the oppression of Israel in Egypt and about the fact that He was going to bring them out of Egypt as a mighty nation, and that He was going to give them the land of Canaan. Moses goes out of his way in both Genesis and in Exodus 2 to link the Mosaic Economy with the Abrahamic Covenant, so that the Mosaic Economy isn’t something that is replacing the way that God deals with His people. under Abraham. The Mosaic economy is expanding what God was doing with His people through Abraham.

    mark—To get at the root of the problem, we are going to need to see the unity of the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenants, and then see that the Abrahamic covenant is not the same as the new covenant, because the Abrahamic covenant results in both the Mosaic covenant and also in the new covenant. Abraham was not only the father of believers but also the father of a typical seed. God did not promise blessings to “believers and their children” . The Abrahamic covenant community is not the new covenant community. We cannot remove all typical promises from the Abrahamic covenant, and then pretend that the Abrahamic covenant only had gospel promises.

  12. In the original Scofield Reference Bible, Scofield wrote: “The point of testing in the dispensation of grace is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ” (p. 1115 n. 2).
    Progressive Dispensationalists disavow Scofield’s statement and affirm that there is only one ground of salvation in every dispensation (the work of Christ) and only one way of salvation (faith). Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), However,Ryrie still maintains that “the content of faith changes in the various dispensations” (p 123).


  13. markmcculley Says:

    John Fesko—Even though we can talk about a distinction between the visible and the invisible, or between the external and internal, why should we have to choose between water and the Spirit (Word, Water and Spirit, p 241, baptism as covenant judgment)
    mark—They don’t say “water baptism”, because the Bible does not say “water baptism”, but then they add that “baptism” in the Bible is always water and that there is a “sacramental union” between water as the sign and the “efficacy” as the thing signified.
    And then almost all of them say that the water baptism of John was about the Holy Spirit, and therefore baptism by Jesus and by the church is about both the water and about the Spirit, but NOT about legal identity with Christ’s death or about justification.
    And then they explain there is one gospel only, there is only one church, and therefore the baptism by John is not water only and the baptism by Jesus is not with the Spirit only
    And in this way they know that it’s not Jesus who baptized with the Holy Spirit, but rather that the Holy Spirit “baptizes us into Christ” and so we know that water baptism is not about Christ’s death or righteousness but about the Spirit uniting us to Christ’s righteousness .
    John Fesko, 322— “It is unnecessary to choose between water baptism and Spirit baptism”
    And then Fesko on the same page ( 322) finds it necessary to say that Spirit baptism is not God’s imputation, and also Fesko explains that baptism (both water nd by the Spirit) is NOT Christ’s giving the Spirit, because the Confession teaches us that Spirit baptism is the Spirit giving us Christ by uniting us to Christ by faith.

  14. markmcculley Says:

    Galatians does not say that “baptism” has replaced circumcision. And this is why it’s so important to talk about the nature of “baptism”. “We have have been baptized into Christ” is NOT about water ritualism. It’s NOT ‘an outward sign of an inward change”

    1. It’s not an outward sign, because it’s not water. That was my original point. Water does not fulfill the type of physical circumcision.

    2. Nor is it about “inward change”, because it’s not about regeneration or about “Christ indwelling us”. The baptism of Romans 6, of Galatians 3, of Colossians 2 is God’s imputation into Christ’s death.

    3. This is “Baptism that saves”. It’s not possible efficacy conditioned on other factors. “The Spirit is life because of righteousness. ” The Holy Spirit is given to all those placed into Christ’s righteousness. The righteousness is not given because of or by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given because of and through the righteousness imputed (II Peter 1:1)

    Abraham had heirs according to different promises. Circumcision was part of the Abrahamic covenant, and Galatians does NOT say that Circumcision was temporary because it was replaced by water baptism. Nor does it say that circumcision was temporary because it was only a Mosaic kind thing, and not an Abrahamic kind of thing.

    Baptism is not water, but circumcision pointed to the legal reality of federal identification with Christ’s death. So unless you want to keep begging the question about all “baptism” being water, you can’t say that I deny the connection. Imputation without hands is the fulfillment of the circumcision with hands.

    Is the promise to “covenant infants” any different from gospel promise to anybody. The gospel does not say to anybody that “God loves you” or that “you are elect”. The grace is for those who believe, and it’s grace that causes sinners to believe. There’s no problem with sinners asking if they are elect, but they won’t be able to answer that question until they believe the gospel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paedobaptist “covenant not governed by election” or a credobaptist construct about “preparation by regeneration”, there’s no shortcut or any other way for them to discover their election except by believing the gospel. Acts 2:39 as many as the Lord our God will call.


  15. markmcculley Says:

    1. Were infant children baptized with water on the Day of Pentecost?

    2. How did they decide which infants had at least one believing parent?

    3. Did they have time to set up “confessional boxes” to obtain the profession of parents?

    4. Was one of your parents a believer when you were baptized with water as an infant?

    5. Does it matter if that parent is still believing the gospel? (or still believed it at death?)

    6. Does it matter if that parent was believing the gospel of Roman Catholics?

    7. Was the water baptism of already circumcised persons on the Day of Pentecost a form of “ana” baptism. a “re-circumcision”?

    • markmcculley Says:

      Romans 4: 11 Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that Abraham had BY FAITH while Abraham was still uncircumcised. This was to make Abraham the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, in order that righteousness would be credited to them also. 12 And ABRAHAM ALSO BECAME THE FATHER OF THE CIRCUMCISED, who are not only circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while Abraham was still uncircumcised.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Hays insists that the Gospel writers engage in the practice of “reading backwards.” That is to say, the NT writers read the OT retrospectively. Convinced that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God, crucified and raised for the sinners, the NT writers scour the OT to discern instances in which the OT writers prefigure Christ. Hays terms this practice “revelatory retrospective reading” (259). Hays alternately characterizes the resultant interpretations of the OT in terms of transformation, transfiguration, and continuation (in distinction from the “negation or rejection” of the OT, 363). Hays insists that the patterns that emerge on the pages of the Gospels evidence “a divinely crafted pattern of coherence within the events and characters of the biblical narratives” (359, emphasis removed). Thus, not “human intentionality” but “the mysterious providence of God” accounts for the correspondences, whether on the micro- or macro- level.

    In advancing these claims, Hays is concerned not to insist that the process works in reverse. “Figural reading of the Bible need not presume that the Old Testament authors – or the characters that they narrate – were conscious of predicting or anticipating Christ” (2). More polemically, Hays distances himself from the claim that “the authors of the Old Testament’s narratives and poems actually did intentionally forecast the details of Jesus’ life” (359).
    Hays accurately claims and demonstrates that the NT writers testify to their own insensibility prior to the resurrection to the ways in which the OT comes to fulfillment in Christ (see John 2:22, Luke 24:22-27). He is correct to say that the cross and resurrection of Christ were redemptive and revelatory events, and that, in light of this new revelation in Christ, the disciples in community read earlier revelation with new eyes, as it were.

    But the NT writers suggest that there is a connection deeper still between earlier and later revelation. To take an example from the companion volume to Luke’s Gospel, Peter in his Pentecost sermon, after citing David’s words in Psalm 16 (Acts 2:25-28), says of David, “Brothers I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses” (Act 2:29-32). Peter is saying that David, in his capacity as a prophet, spoke in advance of the resurrection of Christ. Peter would later say something similar of all OT prophets – “concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories” (1 Pet 1:10-11).

    It is for this reason that, when Paul entered the synagogues of Judea and the broader Mediterranean world, he made a point of proving or demonstrating from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 9:22, 17:2-3, cf. 18:28). That is to say, Christians could and did publicly advance the claim to unbelievers from the OT that Jesus was the Messiah, and that by way of rational demonstration. Surely this project was only feasible if these Christian believers were convinced that their convictions resided in the OT text itself and were capable of demonstration or proof independently of one’s commitment to Jesus of Nazareth.
    The NT writers, to be sure, are largely silent concerning the degree to which the OT authors were aware and conscious of the One to whom they were pointing. They are generally content to affirm that the OT authors pointed to Christ. The NT writers are more concerned to insist that the project of “reading backwards” is a possible undertaking only because of the organic and progressive character of biblical revelation. This character of revelation offers a ready explanation why the NT writers are not doing violence to the text of the OT, much less the intention of the human authors of the OT

    “reading backwards” at best only partly accounts for the manner in which the Evangelists read and explained the OT.
    Guy Waters


  17. markmcculley Says:

    God promised to Abraham a land and a seed (Gen chapters 12; 15; 17). The land promise will be fulfilled by the new earth and the seed promises was fulfilled in Abraham’s physical children and also in Christ (Gal 3:16) and also in the justification of all of God’s elect when they believe the gospel.

    The new covenant is now permanent and is distinct from the temporary Abrahamic covenant

    Judaizers still seek to present their infants to God on the basis of their parents being Chrsitians , as if God’s promises to Abraham meant that God had made a promise about the children of Christians.

    But Christ did not die for all the children of Christians, and God will save nobody for whom Christ did not die. Saying that God has grace for the children of Christians is cheating, because the gospel taught in the Old and New Testament teaches no such thing.

    Even those who add the water baptism of John the Baptist to their circumcision are not promised the lasting life which is knowing Jesus Christ.

    Judaizers take the three different promises to Abraham and try to turn those promises into a promise to them about their children being in the new covenant. And then these Judaizers talk out of both sides out of their mouths, on the one hand suggesting that their children may be born in the new covenant and then lose that “grace”. and then on the other hand, agreeing that their children are only in the new covenant “in a conditional sense” so that their children may end up with greater condemnation than those who have no Christian parents.

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