There is Now Only One Israel, So We Don’t need the Pharisee Infant Water

Galatians 3:16 Now the promiseS were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to seedS,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your 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. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promiseS of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that THE PROMISE by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those AS MANY AS WHO believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we would be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus YOU are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For AS MANY AS YOU many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

I am not somebody who reduces the Abrahamic promises to one promise. I am all for noticing the various promises, beginning in Genesis 12. Abram will become a great nation, 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 promises 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.

So I am not reducing all these promises to one promise. I deny that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant. I deny that the Abrahamic covenant is “the covenant of grace” or “part of the covenant of grace” or “an administration of the covenant of grace”. Since I know how to talk about the continuity of the Abrahamic covenant to the Mosaic covenant and to the new covenant without saying that they are one covenant, I very much want to notice the various promises associated with Abraham, and to see how they are fulfilled in the circumcision of Christ on the eighth day (Luke 2).

Circumcision is not simply about “spiritual cleaning”. The sign of circumcision is not even only about pointing to the bloody sacrifice of Christ, which cuts the justified elect off from legal solidarity with Adam. Circumcision is an initiation rite for priests, and every male in Abraham’s family (even if one parent did not go testify before the presbytery!) was obligated by Abrahamic law to be circumcised as a sign that Abraham’s family consisted of consecrated priests.

So circumcision was a sign of many things, but not a sign to any person in particular (except Abram himself )of election to justification and eternal life and faith in the gospel.

What belonging to Abraham’s family means now and what it meant then is not the same thing. Zwingli and other Reformed folks like to start with what they think it means now and then read that back as if that was what belonging to Abraham’s family meant then. Thus they notice the promise about the one seed which will bring in the righteousness, but they don’t notice some of the other promises.

To put it a different way, instead of saying “you already have what the pharisees offer”, better to say what the pharisees offer, you don’t need, and could not have anyway.” Now you can be children of Abraham in only one way.

Now that Christ has been born and circumcised, it’s not possible for every jewish male infant to be born as types of the birth to come. The land promise needed for the jewish people to remain the genetic incubator for the Seed is now abrogated, and we need to attend to the discontinuity between the promise of the earth to those who believe the gospel and the promise back then in the Abrahamic covenant.

Reformed paedobaptists (besides Meredith Kline and Gary North) don’t like talking about the bothersome “intrusive” stuff (like negative sanctions) which otherwise does not fit with their neat straight-line continuity They say we should all agree about the unity of the Abrahamic covenant, but paedobaptists can’t stay with that, because they need to harmonize (homogenize) covenants so that we then identify the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant (or with their “the covenant of grace”)

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. Why just look at Genesis 17, when you need to look back also to Genesis 12 and 15? Why not talk about all the promises, unless of course your confessions have already told you what “the promise” is?

So is the “inheriting the world” promise about Christ (the one seed) bringing in the righteousness so that the world belongs to Him and His elect? Or is “inheriting the world” about some conditional promise being made to everybody with one parent who professes to be Christian? Galatians 3 speaks of a promise given to “as many as believe”, and not about a promise given to the children of as many as who believe.

We need to notice the different “seed of Abraham”. Galatians 3 talks about the one seed, not the many, but then it ends with the many who believe the gospel. So two different seeds are in Galatians. But the seed born to the seed are not in Galatians 3, and the only way they can get there is in the collective imagination of some paedobaptists (not Lutherans or Roman Catholics but Reformed)

I am glad to recognize (as I have many times) that the Abrahamic covenant included by design many who were non-elect. Being circumcised and getting in was not the only thing one had to do to “stay in”. But if Reformed folks want to argue that the new covenant people of God are the same set as the people who were in the Abrahamic covenant, they are going to have to make their case.

These Reformed folks need to affirm again that Christ did not die for any non-elect people. 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 these folks about the kind of “conditionality” involved in the new covenant. Is “election” simply a corporate thing, with which individuals to be decided later?

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? If water baptism has no efficacy for the non-elect, what efficacy did water baptism have for the elect? Does water baptism promise that anybody will believe? Does water baptism cause anybody to believe? The gospel promises grace only to those who believe the gospel. It’s not the faith given to the elect which causes grace to be given. It’s grace that gives faith to the elect, and those who are never given faith in the gospel were NEVER given grace.

Ephesians 2 says covenantS, plural. The text in no way proves that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant, or that the Abrahamic covenant is “the covenant of grace.”. Nobody I know denies that the promise of the gospel concerning the one seed. But Reformed folks ignore the other promises, as they ignore other covenants.

When God says “not all Israel is Israel”, God is NOT saying “you gentiles can now be the kind of Israel you always wanted to be, the kind that there was before Christ was born”. Rather, there is only one kind of Israel now, and you can be in this Israel, and if Jews want to be in Israel now, this is the only Israel even for them now.

So sure, there’s continuity, but don’t ignore the great redemptive-historical change. Before those in the Abrahamic covenant could be in Israel and then become strangers to Israel. But now there is an Israel, the only Israel, and those in that Israel know the Lord.

Jews who don’t believe the gospel are not now Israel. They were Israel ( in one real sense) before Christ was born. But not anymore. Only as many as are called by the gospel (Acts 2) are now the rightful heirs. If your children are among the “as many as God shall call”, they too are rightful heirs. If not, not.

Many Reformed folks like to associate credobaptism with dispensationalism. It makes for a simple equation, and then they don’t have to think too much! But many of us credobaptists are NOT dispensationalists (who just don’t know it). There is only one Israel now and it’s the justified elect of God. Nor am I am of the tribe (John Murray, many amills as well as postmills) that says God has promised those with Abraham’s DNA something extra in the future. There is only one Israel, not a different second Israel which has been promised some land the others of us have not. There is only one Israel, not a different second Israel which are children born to one professing Christian, who are not yet allowed to eat at Israel’s table.

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12 Comments on “There is Now Only One Israel, So We Don’t need the Pharisee Infant Water”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    if the children of the pharisees are not yet justified, it’s a little early to be talking about their “sanctification”

    Why talk about “sanctification”, when we have not yet agreed that justifications means NOT having a righteousness of our own? Why talk about “sanctification”, when we have not yet agreed that infants are born already justified and born again?

    Phillipians 3:9 not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith

    Turretin on 3:9—- “Let the exclusives be examined and the thing will be clear–’We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law’ (Rom 3:28); ‘not of works’ (Eph 2:8); ‘knowing that a man is NOT justified by works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Gal 2:16)’. The particle is adversative (Matt 12:4; 24:36; Mark13:32; John 17:12; Rev 9:4; 21:27) from the opposition of faith and works, which displace each other.”

    Romans 3: 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

    Romans 9: 6 For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 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.”10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written,“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Verduin, p68–”Great allegorizer that he was, Augustine managed to overpower another Scripture to suit his purpose. Augustine found what he needed in the family situation of Abraham where there were two wives, one a free woman and the other a slave. By this Augustine justified the presence of two kinds of Christians in the church (in both water baptism and Supper), one kind by faith and the other kind without faith…

  3. 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; but Christ is now our passover (I Cor 5:7) but Christ is not now our circumcision because now water baptism is now 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…

  4. markmcculley Says:

    is Stephen really saying that the holy temple needs to be destroyed and not protected, and that the temple is an idol?

    Acts 7: 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in HOUSES MADE BY HANDS, as the prophet (Isaiah 66) says,
    49 “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
    What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
    or what is the place of my rest?
    50 Did not my hand make all these things?’

    • markmcculley Says:

      Hauerwas–Speaking directly, however, seems to have been a habit Jesus could not break. For example, Jesus surely over stated his case when he suggested that we must hate father and mother, wife and children if we are to follow him. Hating brothers and sisters may be closer to the mark (Luke 14: 25-28), but even that seems an exaggeration.

      But the real howler is his claim that the Temple will end in ruins. You just do not make those kinds of claims if you want to be elected messiah. At least, you do not make those kinds of claims about the Temple around the people of Israel. He surely must have known how to say what needed to be said so what is said could be heard.

      That Jesus spoke so directly is an indication that he was not trying to create a democratic coalition. He held the ancient offices of Israel. He was prophet, priest, and king. Those positions were not
      bestowed on him by an election. Moreover, how his life reconfigured each of those offices is a story in itself.

      Voting is often said to be the institution that makes democracies democratic. I think, however, that is a deep mistake. It is often overlooked but there is a coercive aspect to all elections. After an election 50.1% get to tell 49.9% what to do.

      We did not elect Jesus to be President. We did not elect Jesus to be the second person of the Trinity. The truth that makes us Christians means we are a people who are not destined to be celebrated in any social order, whether it calls itself democratic or not. Do not misunderstand! I am not suggesting that there are not better and worse forms of social and political organization. We do not live in a night when all cows are grey. But it is also the case that Christians are a people that believe what we believe is true. Such a people cannot help from time to time coming into conflict with those regimes organized on the assumption that there is no truth other than what “the people” say is the truth.

      Jesus tells his followers that we will be arrested and persecuted because of his name. This should be received as good news because Jesus tells us we will therefore have the opportunity to testify. To testify is to tell the truth before a world that often does not believe it possible to say what is true. Jesus assures us that we will be given the words and the wisdom to say at the appropriate time what is true.

      Lord is not a democratic title; it is a truthful designation for the one we worship. We have the authority to testify to the truth that is Jesus because that Jesus is Lord is not some general truth that can be known without witnesses.

      That what is true is known by witnesses to Jesus cannot help but be a deep and profound challenge to the status quo. It is a challenge because the status quo is based on the assumption that whatever is true must be available to anyone. Christians are not anyone. We are Jesus people who Jesus says will be hated and some of us will even be put to death. But if Jesus is who he says he is, what choice do we have?

      Even as he taught as one with authority, he did not act as if his authority depended on a majority vote. Rather his authority seemed to come directly from who he was – that is, he was the messiah who is truth itself and thus the One who speaks the truth. The truth is the Temple will be destroyed, and Jesus can speak that truth because he speaks of his own destruction. Jesus is the priest who is at once the altar and the sacrifice. In troubling his listeners, Jesus doesn’t attempt to persuade but rather trusts that the Spirit will reveal, without ambiguity, to those who have ears to hear that he is the messiah, the One who will be raised again in glory.

  5. 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

  6. markmcculley Says:

    many of the Scripture passages on which the Federal Visionists rely for their theology of baptism use the term (or its cognates) to denote not the rite but the spiritual reality signified by it (for instance, Romans 6:1ff; 1 Peter 3:21). The nineteenth-century Presbyterian James Wilkinson Dale’s five-volume study on baptizo persuades me that in many instances the original readers of the New Testament would not have taken baptize or baptism to denote the rite at all. See Dale, Christic and Patristic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Writers (1874), Classic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Classical Greek Writers (1867), Johannic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures (1898), and Judaic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Jewish and Patristic Writers (1869) (all reprinted, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995, 1989, 1993, and 1991, respectively)

    Peter Leithart, who is ordinarily much too good a theologian and exegete to make this mistake, simply begged the question when he wrote, “Paul wrote that Christians have all been united to Christ in His death and resurrection because they have all been baptized (Rom. 6). Many preachers cannot take Paul at his word. ‘Baptism’ doesn’t refer to the ‘sign’ of water but to the ‘thing’ that the water symbolizes. Paul wasn’t referring to the baptismal rite itself. He wasn’t telling the Romans that they were dead and risen with Christ by baptism, but by that to which baptism points. [para] Which raises three basic questions: First, if he didn’t mean baptism, why did he say baptism? Second, how do these commentators know that Paul wasn’t referring to baptism? Third, and most fundamentally, what kind of assumptions about the world drive this interpretation? Why would anyone doubt that Paul is talking about water?” (Peter Leithart, “Starting Before the Beginning,”Credenda/Agenda, 14/6,
    Leithart’s case here depends on assuming that the rite is more fundamental in the term’s usage than the transforming experience or overwhelming influence that the rite signifies. But if Dale’s arguments are sound–and I am persuaded that they are–the opposite is true. To answer Leithart’s questions: First, Paul did mean baptism–and the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6:1ff baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-10) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul himself, who certainly views circumcision and baptism as type and antitype (Colossians 2:11-12), had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it that differentiated the true (inward) Jew from the false (outward) Jew (Romans 2:28-29)

    It stands to reason that he would affirm the same of baptism. The commentators do not, pace Leithart’s tacit implication, simply truck in their conclusion without reason. Third, the assumptions (if we may call them that) that drive that interpretation are founded on sober attention to Biblical teaching about the difference between rites (sacraments) and realities (things signified), per, e.g., Isaiah 1:10-19; 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:8-9.

    p 324


  7. markmcculley Says:

    Jack Cottrell—Paul’s thesis is that God’s word of promise to Israel has not failed (Rom. 9:6a). Why not? The answer is Romans 9:6b (NASB), “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.” Here Paul is not distinguishing between two groups within Israel, the saved and the lost… the contrast is of a different sort altogether. There are two groups, but they are not completely distinct from each other. One is actually inside the other, as a smaller body within a larger body. Both groups are called Israel, but they are different kinds of Israel. The larger one is ethnic Israel, the physical nation as a whole; the smaller belongs to this group but is also distinguished from it as a separate entity, i.e., as the true spiritual Israel, the remnant of true believers who enjoy the blessings of eternal salvation.

    The smaller (saved) group is also a part of the larger body. What is the difference between these two Israels, and why does Paul even bring it up here? The key difference is that God’s covenant promises to these two groups are not the same. The promises God made to ethnic Israel are different from the promises he has made to spiritual Israel. Paul is saying, in effect, “You think God has been unfair to ethnic Israel because all Jews are not saved? Don’t you know there are two Israels, each with a different set of promises? You are actually confusing these two Israels. You are taking the salvation promises that apply only to the smaller group and are mistakenly trying to apply them to Israel as a whole.”

    Here is the point: there are two “chosen peoples,” two Israels; but only remnant Israel has been chosen for salvation. Contrary to what the Jews commonly thought, ethnic Israel AS A WHOLE was not chosen for salvation. God’s covenant promises to physical Israel as such had to do only with the role of the nation in God’s historical plan of redemption. The Jews themselves thought that this election involved the promise of salvation for individuals, but they were simply mistaken.

    John Piper writes that “each of the benefits listed in Romans 9:4, 5 has saving, eschatological implications for Israel,” and then proceeds to try to explain why such benefits were not enjoyed by all Jews. …But the terms of the covenant God made with Abraham and later with Israel as a whole did not include a promise to save anyone simply because he or she was a member of the covenant people. The key promise God made to Abraham and his seed was this: “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3 NASB), a promise that was fulfilled when “the Christ according to the flesh” ultimately came from Israel (Rom. 9:5 NASB).

    Jack W. Cottrell (2006-11-01). Perspectives on Election, p 125

  8. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Chapter 20, Section 12:

    “Membership in the visible Church is not only a great honour, it is a great advantage. To the Church are committed the oracles of God. It is the depository of that truth which is able to make men wise unto salvation. It is the divinely appointed instrumentality for preserving and communicating that truth. Every one admits that it is a blessing to be born in a Christian, instead of in a heathen land. It is no less obviously true that it is a blessing to be within the pale of the Church and not cast out into the world. It is good to have the vows of God upon us. It is good to be under the watch and care of the people of God. It is good to have a special claim upon their prayers and upon their efforts to bring us into, or keep us in the paths of salvation. And above all, it is good to be of the number of those to whom God has made a special promise of grace and salvation. For the promise is unto us and to our children. It is a great evil to be “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.” They, therefore, sin against God and their own souls who neglect the command to be baptized in the name of the Lord and those parents sin grievously against the souls of their children who neglect to consecrate them to God in the ordinance of baptism. Do let the little ones have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, even if they afterwards choose to erase them. Being thus enrolled may be the means of their salvation.”

  9. markmcculley Says:

    I. As the ceremonial law was concerned with God, the political was concerned with the neighbor.

    II. In those matters on which it is in harmony with the moral law and with ordinary justice, it is binding upon us.

    III. In those matters which were peculiar to that law and were prescribed for the promised land or the situation of the Jewish state, it has not more force for us than the laws of foreign commonwealths.

    JOHANNES WOLLEBIUS, 14.6 in Reformed Dogmatics, 84.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    big laugh, David told Bathsheba that he David also was going to die . Would that comfort Bathsheba,? That can’t be true

    Dordt FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 17. Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor 7:14).

    I Cor 7:14 is obvious in teaching that even though the covenant is not governed by election, any kind of holiness including covenantal holiness, will save children who have been baptised and who were born to godly believing parents—How godly are the parents now, and how certain is it that these parents will continue to have true faith and be godly, or does it matter?

    We would never say that the infants who died were elect but then they didn’t die, that they they rejected the covenant and became non-elect. Because the covenant is not governed by election. The covenantal status comforts us with certainty that if our children die, their death will be evidence not only of the covenantal status of the dead infant but also of their election. .

    Even though no depraved sinner is better than another, not all things re equal. God promises the gift of faith to the children God has given faith. Water baptism is God’s effectual gift.

    Was Judas was in the new covenant? If “covenant grace” did not keep Judas in the covenant, what did “common grace” do for Judas ? (sarcasm alert)

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