Posted tagged ‘baptism’

Was Your “Covenant Baptism” Law or Gospel?

May 29, 2013

In the covenant of grace ( is this covenant law or gospel?) God takes at least one believer and their infant into His care, promising them His grace and favor. Abraham believed the gospel BUT Abraham circumcised his infant sons (was this law or gospel?) according to God’s command (again, law or gospel?).

Both of Abraham’s sons were heirs of the covenant of grace (which one? the mosaic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the new covenant?), but was this by law or gospel? Though God’s freedom in election (gospel then?) was maintained and Isaac received the (gospel?) promise while Ishmael did not. So was the promise to Ishmael gospel?

Romans 9:7 “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his children.”
Such an example is used by the writer to the Hebrews to warn against eternal security. Of course Reformed people sometimes disagree about if these warnings are law or gospel. Are they warnings to Ishmael that he many not have ever “really” been part of the covenant but only “externally” related to “the covenant”? Or are these law warnings that many who enter the covenant are not promised they will be kept in the covenant?

Although the signs have changed, we are still in the same “the covenant” and therefore the question about if this covenant is law or gospel has not changed.

Like circumcision, water baptism is done by human hands but is represented in the New Testament not as our decision but as God’s decision and claim on Ishmael and Esau. So the question continues if this divine claim is the claim of law or gospel. Although “the covenant” obligates us to respond in faith and obedience, water baptism is God’s seal of God’s oath. So we need to find out if this oath is about law or gospel. But as long as still live, we can’t ever find out if we are Isaac or Ishmael. Both were heirs of the covenant. Both received the promises of the covenant.

In God’s act of water baptism, as in the preaching of the universal “offer”, God pledges His commitment to us in “in the covenant”. But is that commitment law or gospel? And is that commitment the same for all “in the covenant”? Of course, there are some credobaptists out there who have trouble with the idea of an ineffectual “means of grace” for Ishmael and Esau, so much so that they would rather say that water baptism is something humans do than even imply that God fails to deliver on some supposed “the covenant promise”.

This has enormous practical effects on anyone who wants to be part of the Reformed tradition. Even if it turns out that little Esau is never justified, it certainly feels good to think that Esau has been promised the same grace as Abraham has. Of course, if that grace turns out to be ineffectual in the face of human failure to meet conditions, then even Abraham might begin to wonder about the grace which has been promised to him.

It comes back to the question of law and gospel. Do we regard our children as born under the law or do we assure them they are already not under the law? Do we cling to God’s promise to work by His Spirit to keep Esau in “the covenant” in which he began, or do we have to fall back on some notion of sovereign imputation (with resulting conversion) in which every person begins life under condemnation and outside the new covenant? Even though we want to maintain God’s freedom in election (perhaps God will maintain that freedom for Himself), that is not something we really want to know about and while we do not deny it. we see no need to mention that truth when we could be emphasizing “the covenant” instead and thus maintaining the tension between law and gospel. Because that dialectic will help us to teach that ordinarily there is no salvation outside the church and its means of grace.

Of course I would not want to leave out important nuances. In my own experience, I know some credobaptists who are really in “the true church” even though of course they are still too ignorant and stubborn (which is the reason for their ignorance) to know the true marks of a true church. When water baptism is rightly understood (chiefly) as a promise made to Esau by God, then it will always be relevant to ask in retrospect if this promise was law or gospel. So what if Esau does not believe the gospel right now, certainty is always impossible, and it’s God’s decision which is still decisive, and since God promised Esau grace and claimed Esau, who is to say if that divine promise was law or gospel?

It makes a lot of difference to Esau if he was born in the covenant and is invited to the covenant table because that sacrament will be a means of grace to Esau. Unless of course, like circumcision, water baptism also often brings with it a curse! Every time I witness a water baptism today, I cling to God’s public certification that God has claimed Esau. And so while I am happy to be in the covenant, I always need to ask myself if God will cut me off if I do not keep (enough of) the law.

Why Not Put Some More Non-Elect People in “the Covenant”?

August 22, 2012

Kline, p362, Kingdom Prologue—”But surely there would not be a different policy on covenantal incorporation for Gentiles than for Jews within the church, where the partition wall between the two has disappeared. The holy parent/holy child principle must, therefore, apply to ingrafted Gentile branches as well as to Jews.”

mark: I guess it’s the “surely” which really sells it! Abraham is the
father of those who believe the gospel and are circumcised, and
Abraham is the father of those who believe the gospel and are not
circumcised. So far, agreed. Therefore, Abraham is the father of those who believe the gospel. Again, agreed.

Therefore, since Abraham is the father of some who are circumcised and also the father of some who are not circumcised, all who believe the gospel need to be circumcised. Well, again, we all agree that this is wrong. We know Galatians.

Well, therefore we will explain to the Jerusalem counsel what
Galatians is really saying without of course ever saying it. We will
explain to all who believe the gospel that water baptism signifies
basically (mainly, forget the details about a seed leading up one
seed, and a specific land), water baptism signifies the same
realities, therefore those who have already been circumcised will need to be water baptized (if they signify the same realities, why?) and also those who have not been circumcised will need to be water baptized which is the same thing.

I am not only repeating the basic credobaptist objection from silence
( why didn’t Paul just say what John Murray and Zwingli said and make
it easy on everybody?). I am trying to get to the logic of saying that because Abraham is the father of all who believe, that therefore the genealogical priniciple must “therefore” continue for those who
believe, both for those who are both circumcised and water baptized,
and also for those who were never circumcised but who were water
baptized. For Kline to say “surely” that principle must be carried
over is nothing but beginning where he started!

WHY must that (temporary, to begin where I start) principle continue?
I am not calling anybody an Arminian, nor am I saying that the padobaptist argument inherently leads to Rome or to Arminius, but I always think of this analogy.

Arminians insist that Jesus had to die for every sinner, at
least in some impersonal sense in which Christ has somehow made
salvation available conditioned on the sinner’s obedience to their
false gospel. But then we ask Arminians— WHY must we insist on
Christ’s death being “enough” for everybody even though it’s not effective for everybody?

In other words, we tell Arminians that they think they are reading the atonement better by making it for everybody, but in reality they are making the atonement to be something different which is not the
biblical atonement. By way of analogy (again, I am not arguing slippery slope), again I ask: why must we insist that the genealogical principle continues in the new covenant?

Why must Romans 11 be teaching that unbelievers begin in the new covenant? Do you think you are reading the new covenant better by making it for more people than only the elect? To end where I started, I think this is making the new covenant to be something different which is not what the Bible says about the new covenant.

Why? Is it because we have been brainwashed to say that, since there
is only one gospel, therefore there must be only one “the covenant of
grace”? Or is it because we are open to the inclusion of females in
the “covenant sign” but not open to a restriction, a narrowing, so
that the number of those in the new covenant cannot be (at least in
the beginning) less than those who were in the Abrahamic covenant?

Does this mean that we think everybody ever in the Abrahamic covenant
is first in the new covenant, if only in order for many of them to
then be “cut off” from the new covenant? But again, WHY do we think
this? What is wrong with saying folks were in the Abrahamic covenant
who were never in the new covenant?

Water Baptism Has Not Replaced Physical Circumcision

August 4, 2012

Paedobaptists agree 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 certain versions of paedobaptism say that those (in the first generation only) with DNA from Christian parents are to be baptized as infants because of that parallel.

They explain that “biological descent from Abraham is never a sufficient reason for one to expect covenant blessings.” But some paedobaptists think 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 language of Ephesians 2:12–”being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope…” But also we
remember the exceptions (Ruth) in the genealogy of Jesus

Not all of Israel is Israel or ever WAS EVER Israel. God chooses individuals to be justified. The new perspective not only neglects the law/grace distinction of the Mosaic covenant, but also attempts to ignore  the “new individualism” of the new covenant. We do not get into the new covenant corporately, and then stay by our works of faith, as NT Wright (with many others) would have it.

Conservative paedobaptists do “believe in” church discipline. Even though the “covenant sign is objective”, they don’t want to place that sign on any and every pagan. 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 national church (even if those parents were infant watered by Roman Catholics).

John Murray: “no organization of men is able infallibly to determine who are regenerate.”  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. But knowing this does not decide for us if a church includes the children of believers, or only those who profess to be justified believers.

Although some paedobaptists practice infant communion, most paedobaptists have “criteria for adult membership”. The difference with baptists is finally not a different kind of “certainty”.  The difference is that paedobaptists have TWO kinds of church membership. So the question becomes— does the new covenant have two kinds of membership? If the Lord’s Supper is a “sacrament both received and performed”, does this mean that only some (non-infant) members take and eat the Lord’s Supper?

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 one must match the experiences of others” is not an error isolated to credobaptists. 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.

If we follow the advise of Charles Hodge and Horace Bushnell, our children should always presume themselves to be Christians. I do know many paedobaptists who do not agree with Hodge and Bushnell on this  question But perhaps those who dissent from Bushnell on this matter are not consistent.

Questions remain. Are the infants born to paedobaptist Christians in a better position after “water baptism” than the infants born to credobaptist Christians? If infants are baptized not in order to be included in “the covenant” but because they were born in “the covenant”, wouldn’t that mean that infants born to credobaptist Christians are in “the covenant” despite the sinful neglect by their parents and church?  Do they still have the “opportunity” to be “cursed by the new covenant” fi they don’t live up to the conditions which come with having Christian parents? Or is the only way to actually receive the “greater negative sanctions” is to receive the “water of the church”?

Paedobaptists (Calvin) accuse credobaptists of missing the spiritual dimensions of the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. But they themselves miss the physical dimensions of the old covenants. In Acts 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. In Acts there is a second generation “born of circumcised and in the covenant” parents!

I get from the silence in Acts (about second generation water baptism) that Acts knows nothing about two kinds of water baptism. We could infer just as well that very few were baptized in Acts since most had already been circumcised. We could infer that none who had been circumcised were baptized in Acts. But such an inference would be wrong.

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 ritual but are water baptized after they believe. I infer, not from silence but from this clear pattern, that water baptism and circumcision are not only different, but also that water baptism is not a substitute for circumcision. Physical circumcision as theologically significant has ended, but not because water baptism has replaced it.

Without the Visible “Church”, the Gospel is Not True?

October 25, 2011

The “federal vision” deconstructs any difference between water and union with Christ. They are also willing to reject any difference between a ritual Lord’s Supper and God’s “real or legal” means of union and communion. They will defend anything (slavery, the confederacy) “ancient” just so long as it is anti-liberal.

Unwilling as individuals to return to the Roman Catholic Church, despite a common faith in a justification by works, those in the “federal vision” write essays against individualism and also against counter-cultures. The most consistent advocates (theonomic postmillenialists) plan an end of exile by means of ordained violence.

The next time they are Constantine they promise to do it better. In the meanwhile they remind us that even what Constantine did in the past was a result of God’s sovereign providence, and hope for a liberal-free future in which cross-bearing will no longer be necessary.

To get at the error of ritual Christendom, we need to do more than talk about Protestant associations with Romanism. That’s like criticizing Billy Graham for his associations instead of his false gospel. Graham works well with “others” because they all have the same false gospel.

Those who tell us that the gospel is not true without their “church” are trying to sell us a narrative in which the reality and visibility of Jesus Christ has to do with traditional rituals inherited from Augustine and others who used violence in the name of God.

With John Milbank, those in the “federal vision” tell us that the “pacifist” rejects power and effectiveness. They assume there can be no power without violence. Thus they tell us that the “pacifist” is a liberal who rejects even the power of the resurrection. They tell us there is no “church” without “kings” and no gospel without this “church” given by kings.

But God’s gospel does not depend on our power, not even on those of us who are Republicans. And Christianity is not necessary for the survival of the American empire.

Imputation Without Hands, Into the Death which is the Death of Death

September 11, 2011

Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses….

Even though it was ordained by God, the death of Christ was done by human hands. In my view, the “circumcision of Christ” is not a reference to Christ’s literal circumcision as a child. Nor is the “circumcision of Christ” a metaphor for regeneration and the work of the Spirit in the elect. It’s one circumcision, both for Christ, and for the elect. Colossians 2 is about the elect’s legal identification with Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, NOT some other death done IN us.

Even though God used human hands in the state murder of Christ, imputation by God into Christ’s death is made without hands. Human sinners do not make the imputation.

The imputation is something you can’t see. But that legal “you also were circumcised” is the basis for God’s forgiveness of the sins of the elect.

Some “Calvinists” stress God’s sovereignty but not God’s justice, and so for them, God can and does forgive without any legal identification of the elect with Christ’s death. Many Calvinists are against “easy believism”, and so their response is to not deny that what I have said is theologically true, but to still assume that the three Bible texts are talking about “something more” than merely justification and the forgiveness of sins.

When these Calvinists say Romans 6 must also be about regeneration and not only about not being under the law and the guilt of sin, in just what way are they affirming that legal identification (without hands) with the death of Christ is the death of death for the elect?

Isn’t the result of legal union with Christ glorious good news? Isn’t the result of “circumcised with Christ” an immunity from death for sin?

Romans 1 shows the irony of sin as a punishment for sin. God sovereignly “hands over” sinners to more sin. Sinners are not only punished by being sinned against by other sinners, but also punished by God by being “given over” to more sinning. But there is irony in the good news as well. God’s solution for death is death. The death of another (the last Adam) is the death of death for the elect. There is nothing more gracious (and yet just) than the legal transfer of the death of Christ to the elect, so that there is legal solidarity of the justified elect with Christ’s death.

Sin has no power over the justified elect to kill them, because in Christ’s death they already died. This is grand. This is hope. This clears the way for a future. While most folks want something else, or something more that they can see, let us rejoice in what God does without hands: God counts the death of Christ as also the death of the justified elect.

Hebrews 10:28-29, “Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the One who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace.”

Hebrews 10 has been often used to teach that the new covenant is bigger than election, and that grace is for more than the elect. The idea of “common grace” is that God has some grace for everybody, more grace for those in the covenant, and even more grace for the elect. This idea of common grace is not biblical.

The Hebrews 10 warning is not saying that an apostate was in the new covenant. I do not think it is even saying that the apostate appeared to be in the new covenant, although this is a possible interpretation if you want to work out a visible and invisible church contrast.

The “Son of God” is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in the phrase “the covenant by which he was sanctified”. Of course we need to remember that “sanctify” does not mean to get better and to go in the right direction, as most common theology would have it.

“Sanctify” is to set apart before God, both in the Old Testament context of Hebrews 10, (blood of the covenant, Zechariah 9:11, Ex 24:8) and in John 17. “And for their sake I sanctify myself, that they shall also be sanctified.”

Those who profane the death of Christ teach that Christ sanctified Himself for some sinners in “the covenant” who will nevertheless perish. They teach that, elect or not, some are set apart in “the covenant” who will not be justified by Christ’s blood.

Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory of Christ involves dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They dishonor Christ by telling us that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God.

When we baptize with water, we baptize with hands and we cannot know for sure if the subjects know the Lord. But this does not eliminate our duty to judge by the gospel. Baptism with hands is NOT about putting folks into a conditional covenant.

Submission to the righteousness brought in by Christ’s death means that we confess our personal bankruptcy, and this rules out past and future covenant keeping as a basis for blessing. Our only hope that we will be raised to immortality is that we died when Christ died. And if that legal identification with Christ’s death has happened, it was an imputation made without hands that nobody could see.

Circumcision in Colossians 2 is not a reference to “regeneration” or to “vital union” but to the bloody death of Christ. Don’t assume that Colossians 2 is saying the same thing as Romans 2, Colossians 2 is talking the justified elect being legally identified with Christ’s death, and thus cut off from Adam’s body, from Adam’s guilt. Water is done by hands, so water can’t be the antitype. Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2. That’s an assumption read into the text. Many commentaries (Bruce, Dunn, Garland, O’Brien) takes the “body of flesh” as Christ’s flesh and the “stripping off of the body of flesh” as the same as the “circumcision of Christ” as metaphor for Christ’s crucifixion. Two different circumcisions doesn’t work in the context of Colossians. It’s the same circumcision, both for Christ and for the elect, Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, not some other death done in us. It’s not Christ died and then we died. It’s we died when Christ died.

Elect But Still Born Guilty in Adam?

September 10, 2010

How can the elect in Christ be both imputed with guilt and righteousness at the exact same time?

1. We can’t be imputed with both at the same time.

2. But we know that we are born imputed with Adam’s guilt.

3. Therefore we are not born with Christ’s righteousness.

4. So this means that the elect are always elect, born
elect, but still born in Adam, not righteous in Christ but guilty in

Romans 16:7–“greet Andronicus and Junia…They are well known to the apostles and they were in Christ before me.”

Romans 6:3–“all who have been baptised into Christ have been baptised into His death.”

Romans 6:7–“the one who has died has been justified from sin.”

Romans 6:17, 18–“You who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the doctrine to which you were delivered, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…”

Meredith Kline On Breaking the New Covenant

July 1, 2009

Meredith Kline. By Oath Consigned. (Eerdmans, 1968).

Despite Kline’s use of new information about extra-biblical treaties to talk about “covenant”, his conclusions are more traditional than many Reformed writers who are now distancing themselves from ANY conditional/unconditional distinctions.

I interact with Kline because I agree with his holding the line on the law/gospel antithesis, but I will argue that his reading of the covenants makes it difficult for him to talk about God meeting all the conditions for the salvation of an INDIVIDUAL.

Kline says that water baptism only puts individuals into a conditional covenant, and introduces them to potential curse as well as potential blessing. But my focus is not baptism, but Kline’s view of covenants.

Is the new covenant ONLY about the gospel? If there is such a thing as being in the new covenant but not being in Christ, what are the blessings of being in covenant for those for whom Jesus did not die?

Exactly what is the “common grace” of being in the new covenant, if one assumes that the reprobate can be included for a time in the covenant?

Kline writes about ‘the proper purpose of the covenant, the salvation of the elect.” p 34. But Kline cautions that “we are not to reduce the redemptive covenant to that proper purpose.” Those who don’t continue to believe the gospel are condemned. (John 3:18). While people are already condemned, they are condemned even more when they reject the gospel.

Of course this is true. Unless you deny that the reprobate have the duty to believe the gospel, you will agree that-despite inability–all have a duty to believe the gospel. And you could say it this way: all have a duty to come into the new covenant in which “all know the Lord “.

But this is something different from saying that the non-elect are in the new covenant, and will be cursed and broken off if they don’t continue to believe..

All in the new covenant know the Lord. When we baptize with water , we cannot know for sure if people know the Lord. But this does not eliminate our duty to judge by the gospel. Those who do not confess with their mouth the gospel we should not presume to baptize with water. Those we do baptize with water we do so not to put into a conditional covenant but on their confession of bankruptcy which rules out past and future covenant keeping BY US as a basis for blessing.

But Kline resists the “bent toward such a reduction of covenant to election. To do so is to substitute a logical abstraction for the historical reality…”

The historical reality for Kline is the reality of covenant threats and “actual divine vengeance against the disobedience as covenantal elements”. I agree about divine vengeance but do those who are never initiated into the new covenant experience wrath? I am sure Kline would agree with me that they do. But this is something different from saying that those who experience the wrath of God were once members of the new covenant.

Those who hear the gospel and reject it face greater condemnation but this does not prove that they EVER knew the Lord covenantally. Matthew 7 teaches us that there are those who NEVER knew the Lord. There is no category of new covenant people who knew the Lord who then stop knowing the Lord.

I agree that the blessing of the new covenant comes through covenant curse on Jesus Christ.

But if Christ has kept the covenant for all those in the new covenant, then how can Kline speak of “dual sanctions” for those in the new covenant? Kline thinks that those who were never elected and those for whom Jesus never died can be initiated into the new covenant. And his pattern for this is not only the Mosaic covenant but also the Abrahamic covenant. Not all the children of Abraham are children of Abraham. It was possible to be in that covenant but not be justified like Abraham was.

Kline agrees that Jeremiah 31 sounds like “discontinuity” with earlier covenants. “Jeremiah speaks, to be sure, only of a consummation of grace; he does not mention a consummation of curses in the new Covenant.” p 76. But Kline maintains this is only a matter of focus— the emphasis is on eschatological blessing but curse is not denied. “But the theologian of today ought not to impose on himself the visionary limitations of an Old Testament prophet.”

But why should we take this (marcionite? to turn the tables!) attitude to Jeremiah? Perhaps the prophet really is seeing a new covenant which has no “dual sanctions” because it is altogether conditioned on the obedience of Christ.

Yes, there is anathema and excommunication in the New Testament. But what Kline needs to show is that those judgments are exclusions of those who are in the new covenant. Otherwise Kline simply assumes the paradigm with which he began. I John 2:19 says that those who sent out “were not of us.” But John 15 says that those who do not abide in the vine are thrown away. Is the right exegesis here that those who began to abide were later broken off from “the covenant”?

As for me, I don’t see how saying that the vine is the covenant fits with Christ saying He is the true vine. Certainly there is such a thing as a false profession and assurance about Christ, but does it really answer any questions to introduce into John 15 a covenant with dual sanctions?

But Kline argues that we who say that only the elect are now in the new covenant “prematurely precipitate the age to come.” (p 77). In other words, Kline does the already/ not yet number, with an emphasis on the not yet. The new covenant is really not yet, he thinks, because now there are those in it who do not know the Lord.

Kline argues from the covenant breaking of Israelites in Romans 11:17-21. If gentiles in the new covenant are grafted into the Abrahamic covenant, then we must not say that the new convent is unconditional because the Abrahamic covenant was not unconditional. Verse 21: “he may not spare you either”.

Yes, we have the promise of Romans 8:32 that all those for whom God did not spare His Son will be spared. The condition of this blessing is Christ’s obedience (even to death) . So I think it is possible to warn and threaten folks ( he may not spare you either) without telling them that they have been initiated into the new covenant. I think Kline would agree— not all are in the new covenant, we have to be initiated.

But are there some in the new covenant who will not be spared? What good would it do to warn people in the new covenant about this if it were not possible for them to be broken off? Then again, what good would it do to warn people about any disobedience if they are so reckless as to put all their hope in Christ as the only condition of blessing?

Since I reject the theology of paradox, I seek reconciliation of all the biblical data. I don’t want a reduction which leave out the warnings. But I would argue that the issue in Romans 9 to 11 is not about our covenant keeping but about continued faith in the righteousness of Christ. When Romans 9:32 complains that some of the children of Abraham did not seek righteousness by faith, this does not mean that they did not obey the law in the right way.

Israelites who rejected the scandal of Jesus were perfectly willing to give God credit for their works. They were just not ready to be told by Jesus that their works were evil .

And the reason the works of the Israelites who stumbled were evil was not simply a lack of sincerity or moral effort. Their works were evil because they were done without faith in the gospel Abraham believed.

That gospel says that God justifies the ungodly who do not work (Romans 4:5). It was not a situation of being in a covenant but failing to meet certain legal conditions. The problem was people not believing the promise of the gospel.

Romans 10:3 “for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. “

Can people be submitted to the covenant but not be submitted to the imputed righteousness? I say no. A person who has not submitted to the righteousness of Christ has not yet had the law written on his heart. There are no unbelievers like that in the new covenant.

This is not a “premature” anticipation of the age to come. ALREADY in Romans 9-11, Paul makes two points:

Not every Jew is elect or justified. One could be in the Abrahamic covenant but not justified by God as an individual. So far, with this even the Jew who stumbled could agree. Yes, we believe in election, and we know our works are not evil and that we are elect because God has made us able to keep the covenant. Thus we teach grace but also conditional covenant.
In Romans 9:11, and this is the one many stumble upon. Paul claims that we cannot establish our own righteousness, not even if we do so zealously and with sincerity. Not even if we give God the credit for us and our doing.

Though I agree that there is a law-aspect to the Abrahamic covenant so that we can speak of some Israel being broken off, I cannot agree that any curse hangs over those in the new covenant. Those for whom Christ died will be spared. To tell a person that “you may not be spared either” is to warn him that he may not yet be in the new covenant. This is the way I read the warnings of Hebrew 6:4 and Colossians 1:23. Also Matthew 8:12 (But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out)

I certainly don’t claim to understand everything here. But I refuse to talk out of both sides of my mouth, first about an imputed righteousness which is the condition of all new covenant blessing, but then again about a covenant which God will enable the elect to keep.

If the law is not established (Romans 3:31) by the death of Christ, what makes us think anything the Spirit does in us will secure our safety? If people in the new covenant can be broken off from the new covenant, what is the big deal about the new covenant?

Hebrews 9:14 how much shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit,offered himself without spot to God,purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?

Hebrews 10:14 for by one offering He has perfected fervor those who are being sanctified

Does “living by the Spirit” mean that we are being enabled to stay in the covenant by means of covenant keeping? Or does it mean continuing by faith in the righteousness of the one who is the only condition of all our blessings?

Hebrews 10:22-23 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…let us hold fast the confidence of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

But is it not possible, as Hebrews 10:29 warns, to “count the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a communion thing”? Does not this verse teach that those who are threatened with “worse punishment” are presumed to be already in the covenant? Even if you are not elect, you are not common, but are in the covenant? I could ask: which covenant? But instead I deny that you have to be in a covenant to dishonor it. The “him” who is sanctified by the blood is Christ, not us. Those who have not submitted to the covenant are not yet in the covenant.

I certainly agree with Kline that there are many professing Christians who are not really Christians. Kline assumes that to avoid being premature, we need in this age to agree with these folks that they are in the covenant. But I disagree. I will not agree that all those in any community which professes to be Christian are in the new covenant.

To those who will not take sides with God against themselves, we must say: God may not spare you either. Of course we cannot know that a person will not later come to faith in the gospel. But we do know that those who do not trust the gospel will NOT be spared.

Christ has authority over all human creatures. Nobody has to be initiated into the new covenant in order for God to have greater jurisdiction over him! God owns even those Jesus did not buy, and their inability is no barrier to God judging them. We do not need to put them into some covenant to give God a basis for cursing them. When we pledge ourselves to the new covenant, we do not confess our hope that we will be able to do what we promise, or cursed if we fail. Instead we confess a hope in the God who conditioned all the blessings of the new covenant on the obedience of His Son.