Children of Abraham, Not What It Used to Be

All the laws God gave are moral, and the cherry-picking which decides some of them are not moral is a weak instrument used by those who want to ignore the flow of redemptive history, in which not all covenants are the same and in which not all of God’s laws are given at one time.

Beginning in Genesis 12. Abram is promised a great nation (polis), and he can’t have a great nation without land, territory for many people, mostly all biologically related to Abram, a land with no other altars allowed except to Yahweh the King. God also promised blessings for other nations based on their relation to Abram’s nation, with curses for those nations which don’t relate favorably to Abram’s nation.

This is one reason we need to deny that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant, despite the continuity between some of the promises to Abraham and the new covenant. Promises to Abraham are fulfilled in the circumcision of Christ on the eighth day (Luke 2).

The sign of circumcision was not only about pointing to the bloody sacrifice of Christ, which cuts the justified elect off from legal solidarity with Adam. Circumcision was an initiation rite for every male in Abraham’s family (even if one parent did not go testify before the presbytery!). And what belonging to Abraham’s family means now and what it meant then is not the same thing.

Theonomists are promising us that, with the right attitude and understanding, we already have what the judiazers offered. But to understand the advance of redemptive history is to see that we don’t need what the judiazers offered, And also, we can’t have what the theonomists are offering. There is only one way now to be children of Abraham, and those who are non-elect and who do not believe the gospel cannot now be “children of Abraham”. They can’t be in the new covenant. Nor should they be in “the administration” of the new covenant.

Now that Christ has been born and circumcised, it’s not possible for jewish male infants to be born as types of the birth to come. The solution to this fact is not to divide the Abrahamic covenants into parts, some cherry-picked as “ceremonial” with other parts “moral”.

Sure, the promises to Abraham are typological. But they put non-Abrahamic people out of the territory to make room for the biological-political heirs of Abraham. And the Doug Wilsons of the world, despite their optimism about future generations being mostly Christians, are no more averse than Augustine and Calvin to pushing people not in their “the church” out of their territory.

If it is not Christ who kept all the conditions of the elect being in (and staying in) the new covenant, then we need to hear a lot more from theonomic folks about the kind of “conditionality” involved in the new covenant. Is the new covenant “unbreakable” only in the sense that the covenant stands even if no individuals do what they have to do to “get connected” (and stay connected) with Christ’s death?

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13 Comments on “Children of Abraham, Not What It Used to Be”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.

    So Ishmael was never an outward Jew, or was cut off from being an outward Jew? When? Were Esau and Ishmael in the outward “new covenant”? Were Jacob and Isaac in the new covenant?

    Romans 9: 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

    Since Abraham is the father of those who believe the gospel, does that mean that Abraham is not the father in any sense of Esau and Ishmael? Since Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that His seed would bring salvation and the “new covenant”, does this prove that Esau and Ishmael were in the new covenant? I suppose the problem here is that Paul is not using the administration/substance distinction and therefore Paul’s “not all” makes it sound like some kind of antithesis.

    Romans 9:8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”

    But it would be too simple to flat out say that Ishmael was “not a child of God” and not a “child of promise”. Better to ignore that there are various promises to Abraham, and assume that a promise to Abraham is also a promise to Ishmael, even if that promise turns out to be conditional.

    Romans 9: 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it….

    But this is not normal or ordinary. Usually you have to be in the covenant, and then it’s conditional on if you pursue it the right way, like we do.

    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.

    But focus on verse 24, and see that the law is about Sinai and Moses, so this is not about Abraham, not about the two sons of Abraham, even though verse 22 talks about Ishmael also, and verse 23 sounds like there is no promise for Ishmael, but we know this is not true, because we know that the Abrahamic covenant has a promise for Ishmael also, even if it’s conditional. So the son of the slave born according to the flesh really has nothing to do with Abraham but only with Moses.

    So it comes down to what the “new” in new covenant means. Does it mean “utterly” new or a “gradually a little” new or “someday in the end” new or “different in kind” new or “conditioned only on Christ” new? Is the new covenant in ANY WAY different from the Abrahamic covenant? Not when you talking to baptists, because then you need to keep it simple so they can get it .

    Since Scott Clark has used the rhetoric of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend News already , let me do so as well. REALLY?

    We tend to come out with the same presuppositions with which we entered. This is a long debate. It will not be resolved here soon. And it’s not because one side is stupid or rebels against God’s Word. Even when we make a distinction between outer and inner, that does not mean that we need to say that the never-justified yet are in the new covenant. Waiting to see who God calls is not only about waiting for Gentiles to come in. Unless we have an over-realized eschatology, we know that some of our children have not yet been called. The promise of the gospel was never for those who never believe it.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    from the Northwest Presbytery question to the OPC—Certain views and formulations of the Mosaic covenant… distinguish the Mosaic covenant from the Abrahamic covenant. The former is referred to as a “law covenant”, a “republication of the covenant of works”, or a covenant with a “works principle”; the latter is described as a “promise covenant.” The use of this language is confusing, since it seems to imply that to some degree the nature or substance of the Mosaic covenant differs from the other administrations of the Covenant of Grace (e.g., the Abrahamic covenant).

    Galatians 3: 6 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his seed… who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.

    mark: That part after “this is what I mean” is confusing, because it seems to say that the added law is not the same as the covenant previously ratified.

    Galatians 4: 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.

    mark: It is certainly is confusing to tell us that Abraham had two sons. Does this mean that Abraham had two kinds of children? Does this mean that the Abrahamic covenant had more than one promise?

  3. markmcculley Says:

    P1 God promises to save the elect children born of Christian parents.
    P2 God promises to save the elect children not born of Christian parents
    (John 1:13; Gal 3:7-9; Rom 9:7-8, 11, 24-26; 10:11-13; 11:17; Eph 1:4-10,)
    C1 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
    P3 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
    P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save the elect.
    C2 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s covenantal faithfulness. Brandon Adams, they are equivocating on what the promise is, precisely. Is it to the elect, or is it to all our children generally?
    P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save those who he has promised to save.
    P5 God has promised to (among others) save the children of believers.
    C God shows His faithfulness (among other ways) when He saves (among others) the children of believers.
    In which case, there is nothing unique about the salvation of the children of believers since God’s faithfulness is also demonstrated (“among other ways”) when he saves the children of non-believers

  4. 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”?

    bonus— Was the mother of Mary the mother of Jesus a believer or was it her father or was it the both of them?

    The Immaculate Conception, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, was the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her mother’s womb free from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son Jesus Christ. Although the belief that Mary was sinless and conceived immaculate has been widely held since Late Antiquity, the doctrine was not dogmatically defined until 1854, by Pope Pius IX in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus. The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. In many Catholic countries, it is aholy day of obligation or patronal feast, and in some a national public holiday

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Nobody but Christ can be a son of Abraham in the way that Christ is a son of Abraham, but only those who have the Holy Spirit are sons of Abraham in terms of the new covenant blessing of being “in Christ”. Romans 8: 9 But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

    The old covenants could and were broken, but Christ Himself kept the new covenant for all those in the new covenant.

    united to Christ, united to Abraham

    Christ’s seed, Abraham’s seed

  6. markmcculley Says:

    The idea of ‘the one covenant of grace” was invented by Zwingli and Bullinger in response to anabaptists. Paul Jewett, “Paedobaptists have erred in truing the analogy between circumcision and water baptism into identity. In their scheme Israel becomes the church and the church becomes Isreal.” (1978, p 104) After Israel was no longer Israel, then only Jesus and His elect are Israel. But even John Gill ignores the Bible and talks about “the one covenant of grace, with different administrations.”

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Those circumcised into the Abrahamic covenant were not a “church” in the same way that members of the New Covenant are “God’s people”. Only individual true believers existed within the Abrahamic covenant, which was a prophecy of Christ and the new covenant. The failure of those in the Abrahamic covenant to keep the law resulted not in “sanctification” but in exile, so that they lost possession of the land of Canaan.

    Were the judiazers already justified, but did not understand that, and needed to learn that “as they keep his commands” is not in order to earn justification but as a means to get extra blessings (land in Canaan?) and to show their thanks for justification? The Judiazers confused “type” with “antitype”. They confused being in the Abrahamic covenant with being in the new covenant. .

  8. markmcculley Says:

    here are many different arguments for paedobaptism, some of which contradict each other. Of course neither of these things prove it wrong. 1. There can be several different arguments for a right thing. 2. there can be a bad argument for a right thing.

    To be simple, we can divide the arguments into two:
    1. Augustine (and before him): infant water takes away original sin (defined mostly as corruption not as guilt).
    2. Zwingli: infants were included in the Abrahamic covenant, so unless there is an explcit change, they are included in the covenant of grace, which is all the covenants lumped into one. Surely God is not less gracious in the new covenant than in the old.

    But just to explore the differences a little more: what do paedobaptists say about faith and baptism?

    1. Romanists say that water infuses faith into the infant. But unless you are talking to a Romanist, I would not bring this up, since the Deformed will rightly say that’s not them.

    2. Lutherans will say that infants have faith. Of course they have to define faith in a magical way, the way that Calvinists who claimed to have been saved as Arminians do–faith as an experience without an object/content.

    3. Westminster Presbyterian guys will says that the water has efficacy, but not necessarily at the time of baptism, so that it kicks in after a time gap. I like to ask them: effective to do what, effects what? “Means of grace” means what?

    4. Dutch Reformed (Protestant Reformed, Kuyper, Hoekema)-presumptive regeneration, knowing that not all infants are elect, but assuming in charity that they are.

    5. Federal vision folks tend to stress that their infants have faith before baptism. I mean, didn’t John the Baptist jump in his mom’s womb?

    6. And then there is Zwingli, who I like the best, who is most consistent, who says that since circumcision had nothing to do with faith, then infant baptism has nothing to do with faith, but it’s a matter of politics, not letting the church and state get divided up into sects, not separating true Christians from one another.

    Also part of this is that you can get cut off and cursed from the covenant that baptism puts you in. Meredith Kline sounds a little like Zwingli, at least in the judgment emphasis. As in, it must be a “sacrament”, because what else can get even a true Christian killed if they do it wrong?

    Of course, most paedobaptists don’t like Zwingli, and they want sacraments to be “partaking of the divine nature”. Without saying “infusion”, they do point to water as not only sign but seal.

    Seal was for Abraham, who was justified, and then circumcised after faith. But no seal for infants.

  9. Only the New Covenant grants anyone faith. Not even the Abrahamic Covenant does. The Abrahamic Covenant did not grant forgiveness of sins. It promised that Christ would come and grant forgiveness of sins through the New Covenant. But the assumption is that saved members of the Old Covenant were saved by the Old Covenant—- if they looked upon the typological sacrifices and thereby learned of Christ and had faith in Christ, they were therefore saved by the Old Covenant. The assumption is that Abraham believed God’s promise and was justified, so therefore Abraham justified by the Abrahamic Covenant. But this does not follow at all. Only Christ saves and Christ is only mediator and surety of the New Covenant. John Owen—“No man was ever saved but by virtue of the new covenant and the mediation of Christ therein.”
    -Commentary on Hebrews 8:6

  10. markmcculley Says:

    commitment to the imperative
    to know the person cannot come
    before we know the indicative
    of what he got done
    since we are children of Abraham
    remember that Abraham knew what the seed had to do
    Abraham knew that he himself was not going
    to bring in the righteousness
    one result of election
    is submission to the doctrine of righteousness
    obtained by Christ for the elect alone
    and then imputed by God
    the test of the exodus out of the false gospel
    is not our testimony that
    “we know the person”
    the same person the crowd knows
    we are not called to a tragic imperative
    “to know the person” without knowing which person
    the sheep don’t follow the wrong
    person with the wrong doctrine

  11. markmcculley Says:

    DeRouchie—In contrast to previous covenants, the ‘seed’ of the new covenant are not physically born into covenant membership. Even Sarah ultimately experienced labor in pain at Isaacs birth (Isaiah 51:2), but the ‘barren ones’s’ lack of labor and childbearing in 54:1 suggest that spiritual adoption, not physical birth, would characterize the identity of the new children.”

  12. markmcculley Says:

    cott Clark will do contrast with critics, but only as he leaves them nameless and quotes them out of context. This is his way of speaking for all truly “Reformed”
    Heidelblog–One critic writes–If any OT saint participated in the covenant of grace, they participated in the New Covenant, because only the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace
    This is a concise statement of the view I am rejecting.
    The Particular Baptists argued that to enjoy the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant one must obey a positive law, circumcision. Disobedience disinherits. Nehemiah Coxe said, “we first meet with an express Injunction of Obedience to a Command (and that of positive Right) as the Condition of Covenant Interest.”This is the nature of a covenant of works.
    Based on this foundation, Particular Baptists immediately connected the Abrahamic covenant to the Mosaic covenant. Coxe said: “In this Mode of transacting [the covenant], the Lord was pleased to draw the first Lines of that Form of Covenant-Relation, which the natural Seed of Abraham, were fully stated in by the Law of Moses, which was a Covenant of Works, and it
    mark: This is Scott Clark continuing to beg the question. Unwilling to see any “covenant of works” aspect in Abraham, he can only accuse baptists of turning Abraham into Moses.
    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. Those types and shadows have been fulfilled.”
    Brandon–So the Mosaic Covenant did not, in fact, add a national element to Abraham. The national element is Abrahamic and it is fulfilled in the Mosaic. … God saving a nation from physical slavery and bringing them into the literal land of Canaan is the fulfillment of a promise God made to Abraham
    Scott Clark “The Covenant of Grace with Abraham was not national, it was not temporary, and it did not have a legal character.”
    Brandon: So did God promise Abraham a nation and the land of Canaan or not? Scott Clark cannot and does not give a consistent answer. He says “yes” and “no” . In his mind, the Mosaic Covenant has a “dual administration” by which he means an underlying layer regarding eschatological salvation and a temporary overlay regarding the national, typical elements related to the land of Canaan. He claims that only this underlying layer regarding salvation is Abrahamic. The top, national, Canaanite layer was only added by Moses.. (according to Scott Clark’s inflexible paradigm)

  13. markmcculley Says:

    Nehemiah Coxe –The covenant with Abraham was in force for the benefit of both more remote and nearer generations.… The right of the remotest generation was as much derived from Abraham and the covenant made with him, as was that of his immediate seed, and did not depend on the faithfulness of their immediate parents.’

    the Second London Baptist Confession 7.2 : ‘It is alone by the grace of THIS covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and a blessed immortality’

    Is “this” covenant the new covenant or the covenant with Abraham?

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