Posted tagged ‘circumcision’

Why is Un-Circumcision Nothing?

March 7, 2020

Galatians 6: 11 Look at what large letters I use as I write to you in my own handwriting.

14 AS FOR ME, I WILL NEVER GLORY ABOUT ANYTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The world has been crucified to me through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.,and I have been crucified to the world through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. 15 BECAUSE BOTH circumcision AND UNCIRCUMCISION mean nothing. What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION. 16 Let peace come to all those who follow this rule…..

This is the last part of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It’s the part that Paul himself wrote down, and not his secretary who had written the rest from Paul’s dictation. It’s the conclusion, the important application.

In this essay I only have two questions, and this time I think I have answers for the two questions.

1. How and Why can Paul say that “uncircumcision” is nothing? I can understand why he would say that “circumcision is nothing”. His entire point has been that the circumcision of the Sinai covenant (and I add, also of the Abrahamic covenant) is nothing by which a sinner can be justified.

a. Circumcision is one part of many parts, and you can’t take one part of a covenant but not take the other parts. Because all the parts of a covenant  (all the commands and all the sanctions) go together. So, if you want to be justified by adding one part, then you will need to add the other parts.

Galatians 5:3 Every man who gets himself circumcised is obligated to keep the entire law.

“The entire law” is not some generic summary of all the laws and all the covenants in the Bible. “The entire law” is all the commands of the Sinai law.

b. NOBODY can be justified by obeying the Sinai law. This is not because sinners are attempting to obey the Sinai law. This is not because sinners are misunderstanding what the Sinai law commands. The Sinai law does require circumcision. The Sinai law does require holy war and holy separation from Gentiles. BUT NOBODY WAS JUSTIFIED BY OBEYING THE SINAI LAW . NOBODY EVER COULD BE JUSTIFIED BY OBEYING THE SINAI LAW.

In theory, every Jew (and every Gentile in the Galatian congregation) knows this. They all know that nobody is justified by obeying the Sinai law.

Genesis 5: 6 For in Christ Jesus NEITHER circumcision NOR UNCIRCUMCISION accomplishes anything

c. So I  think I understand saying “circumcision is nothing”. The Sinai covenant is nothing. It won’t justify. It never justified. And that “nothing” becomes a big big something if you think that nothing could in anyway increase or decrease your justification.

Galatians 5: 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ. You have fallen from grace.

Now that faith has come, now that Christ has come, now that the new covenant has come, the Sinai covenant is still nothing, which means that circumcision is nothing.  But even during the temporary time of the Sinai covenant, the circumcised could stay in that covenant and still not be justified before God.

 Paul seems to be saying something more–no longer can you stay in the Sinai covenant, no longer can your circumcision have any historical-covenantal significance. Because Christ is both the fufillment and the end of the Sinai covenant, which means that “nothing circumcision” becomes a very big something when Judiasers tell Gentile converts that circumcision is something.

Paul has an intense and important argument with the troublers who have come to the Galatians congregation. NOW THAT YOU SAY THAT CIRCUMCISION IS A SOMETHING, I am going to agree that circumcision is a something, but not in the positive way you have been saying, but rather placing any gospel importance on circumcision makes it SOMETHING that leaves you not reconciled to God by Christ.  This is not merely a disagreement about ethics, because your behavior in saying that the Gentiles are unclean is not only evidence of unbelief in the cross of Jesus Christ but is itself unbelief in the cross of Christ.
Galatians 5: 2 I tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all.

Unless you agree with Paul that “circumcision is nothing”, then Christ will be of no advantage to you.

This gets me to my first question. Why then say also that “uncircumcision is nothing”? If we are saying that being circumcised means that you are not and will not be justified, doesn’t that mean that “uncircumcision” is a big deal, a something and not a nothing?

If “uncircumcision is nothing”, why spend six chapters writing about not being under the Sinai law and not being circumcised?

Now I will give you the answer. The answer is that you can know that justification is not by circumcision AND STILL NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. Yes, it’s important to know that justification is not by obeying the Sinai law. If you don’t know that, you miss the gospel. BUT (and this is an important but), I never thought anybody could be justified by keeping law, but I knew that but still without knowing the gospel of justification by means of Christ’s death.

I could give you some analogies. Yes, you need to know that Christ died only for the elect and that only the elect will be justified. If you deny that, you do not yet know the gospel. But also, you can agree with election and the extent of the atonement, AND STILL DO NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. So denying universal ineffective atonement is “nothing” if you still don’t know that Christ’s death is the entire basis of justification before God.

Yes, you need to know that we sinners don’t have “free-will” (power to the contrary against God). You need to know that we are born guilty and unable to believe the gospel. if you deny that, you do not know the gospel. But also, you can agree with condemnation inherited from Adam, AND STILL NOT KNOW THE GOSPEL. So denying “free will” is “nothing” if you still don’t know that Christ’s death (and not our regeneration by the sovereign God) is the entire basis of justification before God.

One more analogy, and then I will move on to my second question. Yes, you need to know that the Abraham covenant was temporary. God promised Abraham many children and land and that his seed would bless those Gentiles elected to justification before God. But God is no longer promising any child of Abraham that they will have many children or that these children will have land or be justified. And you need to know that the “Zionist” notions that Jewish people are “now God’s people” or “will be justified after they die” are false gospels. If you believe the “all in one covenant now” false gospel, you cannot believe the true gospel taught in the book of Galatians.

But all that being said, denying Zionism is not itself the gospel. Denying Zionism is “nothing” because Denying Zionism is not the gospel (even though you need to deny that there is still a covenant with Abraham in order to know and believe the gospel) .

When the disturbers of the Galatian congregation hang on to the Sinai covenant, that is bad for the gospel. When the Jewish Judiasers command circumcision for Gentiles, that is bad for the gospel. “If you do this, Christ will be of no profit to you.” But Paul at the end of the letter writes “BOTH circumcision AND UNCIRCUMCISION mean nothing. What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION.”   As he had already written, in chapter 5, “neither one but creation”. 

Second question.  Is “new creation” our regeneration by the Holy Spirit or is “us being the new creation” our new legal standing in Christ, the mediator of the new covenant?


Those who read my essays might  might predict that I would ask. “what is new creation”?   And you might also predict that my answer would be Christ Himself, who is in an important sense of the word “seed”  (the most important sense) of Abraham.  Christ and not the Holy Spirit is the seed of Abraham.  The Holy Spirit did not become incarnate. The Holy Spirit is not now also Jewish. The Holy Spirit is not also human.  And so I asked that predictable question because I already knew the answer I wanted to give. And after all , the final rule of Galatians (written in large letters by Paul) is that I BOAST IN NOTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

(The world has been crucified to me through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST  I have been crucified to the world through THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST)

We get it. We got it.   The Holy Spirit did not die on the cross.  The work of the Holy Spirit in us is not “the cross”. The cross happened outside of us, in a different time and space, not now and not here in our hearts. We do not boast at the work of the Holy Spirit inside our hearts.

Can we stop now? 

My first question was, why in Galatians 6:15 did Paul say “UNCIRCUMCISION means nothing”. Was Paul writing riddles and paradoxes? I refer you above for my answer.  When nothing becomes a something, then the people who made it a something are in big trouble, and that not’s nothing.  But don’t forget that it’s still a nothing.   And people who never brought up circumcision, who never made a nothing into a something, might still not know the gospel. 

My second question is, why in Galatians 6:15 did Paul say  “What matters INSTEAD is a new CREATION”?

“Instead of” what?  Instead of physical circumcision.  Romans 2: 5 For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 

Somebody who likes to use the word “imputation” (like me) could say, God then counts their physical circumcision as “uncircumcision” 

Romans 2: 26 Therefore if an uncircumcised man keeps the law’s requirements, will his uncircumcision not be counted as circumcision? 

Not all the uses of the word “imputation” have to do with God counting Christ’s death as the death of the elect sinners. Some uses of the word “imputation” have us “counting God as righteous” (because God is righteous). And this Romans 2 text is a different kind of counting/ imputation.  This one has to do with God and us “declaring who is a Jew”.  Some of this same kind of thinking takes place in Romans 9-11  (see also Colossians 2)

Romans 2: 28.  For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something VISIBLE IN THE FLESH 29 On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one INWARDLY and circumcision is of the mind—by the Holy Spirit.

So how does this text relate to the two Galatians texts–circumcision/uncircumcision don’t matter—new creation matters.  Paul writes to the Galatians that “visible in the flesh circumcision” is a nothing.  It is such a nothing that if  you get it done to your flesh, that means justification by keeping Sinai law, and justification by Sinai law is impossible.  ( Some might call it “hypothetical”, but let’s count it and name it as “empty set”—never happened, not going to happen). 

So what does matter in Romans 2?  “If an uncircumcised man KEEP THE SINAI LAW’S REQUIREMENTS….” 

So is Galatians (or Romans 2 for that matter)  teaching us that becoming “new creation” means that the Holy Spirit causes us to keep the Sinai covenant laws?  Or Is Galatians teaching us that “new creation” means that the Holy Spirit will cause us to keep Christ’s commandments ? 

Galatians 5: 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything. What matters is FAITH WORKING LOVE.

Galatians 6: 2 Carry one another’s burdens. In this way YOU WILL FULFILL the law of Christ.

I Corinthians 7: 18 Was anyone already circumcised when he was called? He should NOT UNDO HIS CIRCUMCISION

I suppose that “undoing your circumcision” would be “uncircumcision”.  And I think there are medical procedures which actually do this. But then would come the question, what’s the difference between having your circumcision undone and simply never having been circumcised in the first place?  But the answer is ultimately still the same—UNCIRCUMCISION IS NOTHING. 

(One more analogy—the difference between somebody whose parents superstitiously got them watered “just in case” and somebody whose pagan parents never got them watered—and the answer is still the same, watered twice or watered once or watered never, water is not circumcision and water is nothing, so therefore if you allow yourself be watered to begin or to increase justification, then you cannot be justified, but that being said “water is nothing” because “not water” is not the gospel. )

I Corinthians 7: 18 Was anyone called while uncircumcised? He should NOT GET CIRCUMCISED. 19 Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter. BUT KEEPING GOD’S COMMANDS DOES MATTER.

Can we now return to my second question, and can we have an answer this time  (not going some place else like Corinthians or Colossians 2 or Romans 2)? 

When Galatians 6 says “new creation”, I can see how that relates to the Holy Spirit causing us to obey commands (inwardly from invisible motives of the heart) but what does that have to do with the rule about ” I BOAST IN NOTHING EXCEPT THE CROSS”?  Is that hyperbole, because the apostle Paul does write about many things, not only about Christ’s death. But does Paul glory in anything else? 

Philippians 3: 2 watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh.

Paul serves and obeys by the Holy Spirit. Paul does not boast in the Holy Spirit.

Paul does not put confidence in the flesh (circumcision or “being strong on the local church” or “going by my conscience” or “being reliable”).  But Paul does not boast in his not putting confidence in the flesh. Paul does not boast in his lack of self-righteousness.  Nor does Paul boast in his lack of “other sins”. 

Paul boasts in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, and Christ’s resurrection from Christ’s death is NOT REFORMATION IN CONTINUITY WITH THE PAST.  Christ’s resurrection from Christ’s death is the New Covenant and the end of the Sinai covenant (and the end of the Abrahamic covenant).  The seed of Abraham now risen from the dead brings blessing to the elect from the Gentiles (and from the Jews) .  Resurrection from death is NOT ” he didn’t ever really die”.  Resurrection from death in history is God reconciled by the death of Christ the seed of Abraham come in the flesh for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ.

What is “new creation” ?

Romans 6: 9  Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all time.  But in light of the fact that Christ lives, He lives to God.

“New creation” is having been raised from the dead.   It’s not having been given a new nature.  It’s not only having been caused to believe and obey the gospel. Believing and obeying the gospel is a result of “new creation”.  Those God has elected and then legally placed into Christ are “new creation”. Instead of talking about a regeneration inside us, to glory in the cross is to glory in Christ’s resurrection from the death that frees those who God places into Christ’s death.  Those who are thus justified are free from still needing to be justified or assured of justification by keeping some of the laws of the Sinai or Abrahamic covenants. 

Galatians 2: 20 I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Sinai law, then Christ died for nothing.

NOTHING.  All or nothing.  Either justification (and life, immortality, freedom from guilt)  by our keeping covenant. Or justification  (and lasting life) by Christ’s death on the cross.  If Christ died for something, then keeping Sinai is nothing. If keeping Sinai is something, then Christ died for NOTHING. 

Saying that the Sinai covenant is something is ANTI-GOSPEL. 

Saying that the Sinai covenant is nothing, however, is not the gospel.

The gospel is Christ having died for the sins of the elect on the cross. 

Christ having once died is EVERYTHING. 

The disturbers of the Galatian congregation want to have the flesh of the Gentiles cut.  Paul responds–circumcision is nothing. But Paul also responds—I wish those who attempt to get you to do this nothing would “cut off their entire organ”.   Galatians 5: 11 IF CIRCUMCISION IS STILL PREACHED, THEN  THE OFFENSE OF THE CROSS HAS BEEN ABOLISHED.  12 I wish those who are disturbing you might also get themselves dis-membered” 

There is an either or here., a big something from all this “nothing” .  The Sinai covenant has been abolished (not only “ceremonial” parts, but entirely). If the Sinai covenant has not been abolished, then we do not boast in the cross.   If circumcision has not been abolished, then we abolish boasting in the cross. 

So have I answered my second question yet? Am I saying that the Holy Spirit is nothing, keeping commandments is nothing, and that Christ’s death on the cross is everything?  Either we are identified with Christ’s death or we are identified with the Sinai covenant? 

Galatians 3: 2 Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Sinai law or by hearing with faith?  After beginning with the  Holy Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh (obeying the Sinai law)? 

We need to keep thinking about how receiving the Holy Spirit (from Christ) relates to hearing with faith the good news about Christ and His resurrection from death.   Abraham believed the gospel of resurrection. Abraham believed the gospel about his seed in the flesh.  But how does receiving the Holy Spirit have to do with not only Christ’s resurrection but also our believing this gospel? 

Galatians 3: 13  Christ  redeemed us elect Jews  from the curse of the Sinai law by becoming a curse for us.   14. THE PURPOSE WAST was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that Gentiles would receive the promised Holy Spirit.

God promised Abraham not only many children and land, but also promised Abraham that his seed would bring blessing to some Gentiles. And the blessing of Abraham for these Gentiles is not only justification through Christ’s death on the cross but also receiving the Holy Spirit so that they would believe the gospel about Christ’s death and resurrection. 

When we are describing “new creation”, we  are not talking about all Gentiles or about all Jews. 

Galatians 3: 27 For AS MANY OF YOU as HAVING BEEN baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.

This text does not say that the Holy Spirit baptized us into Christ. Nor does this text teach that baptism is water.  But in the “new creation”, there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. 

Those in the new creation are “all one in Christ Jesus.” 29 as many as belong to Christ, they are Abraham’s sons. 

Abrahams’s seed is not only the one person Christ.  Abraham’s seed is also, in another sense, the new creation, those who believe in the gospel.  Abraham believe in the gospel, and as many as believe the gospel are heirs according to one of the promises God made to Abraham. 

Genesis 22: 14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide. 15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven
16 and said…“BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE  this thing and have not withheld your only son 17 I will make your seed as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore…. All the nations will be blessed by your seed BECAUSE YOU HAVE OBEYED MY COMMAND. ”

“The new creation” has to do with the promise God made to Abraham about blessing Gentiles.   Galatians 3: 19 The Sinai law was added … UNTIL the Seed to whom the promise was made would come.

“Them” and “you” gets a bit confusing in Galatians. 

Galatians 3: 13  Christ  redeemed us elect Jews  from the curse of the Sinai law by becoming a curse for us elect Jews.   14. THE PURPOSE WAS that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that Gentiles would receive the promised Holy Spirit

Galatians 4: 4 God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Sinai law, to redeem THEM under the Sinai law, in order that we Gentiles would receive adoption as SONS And because YOU are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into YOUR hearts.

Is the “you” only Jews or only Gentile or both?  Well, what is the “new creation”?  

I suppose you could call me a “dispensationalist” because of what I am answering about “new creation”, but you should not call me “Marcionite” because I am not at all denying that the God who abolished the Sinai law (separations from the Gentile part of creation) is the same God who gave the Jews the Sinai covenant to begin with. 

I stop while agreeing that there is a lot of “not yet answered” in my second answer, but here add on last texts from Galatians. 

Galatians 5: 17 The Holy Spirit desires what is against the flesh. 18 But if you are led by the Holy Spirit, you are not under the law.

I don’t want to go back to nothing is something and something is nothing, but  It is not being led by the Holy Spirit that causes us (or anybody) to not be under the Sinai law.    In which case, many would suggest that we translate “the law” instead of “the Sinai law”, because that will smooth over some questions we don’t want to (or can’t)  answer.  

But I would still stay that those who were never under Sinai law are not justified from being under the Sinai law.  Those who were never circumcised do not need to become “uncircumcised”.   It is not the gospel for antinomians to say “we know we are justified because we know that we are not under the sabbath and or any of the other Ten Commandments”.  Yes, it’s true, you never were under the Sinai or Abrahamic covenants. That does not mean that you are now in the new covenant.   

If you are led by the Holy Spirit, then you know and believe the gospel about the seed of Abraham and why He died on the cross for the sins of the elect. The Holy Spirit caused you to know this gospel.   Your believing this gospel did not place you into Christ’s death. But if you are indeed not under the condemnation of Adam with which you were born, then you are led by the Holy Spirit and you continue to believe the gospel. 

Galatians 5:  The fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control…. 24 Now AS MANY AS who belong to Christ Jesus live by the Holy Spirit.  We must also follow the  Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Are Christians Under the Abrahamic Covenant?

July 2, 2012

Galatians 3:9: “So then they which be OF FAITH are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Blessed with faithful Abraham, NOT by faithful Abraham! Abraham is not the spiritual father. We are not blessed BY Abraham, but we are blessed WITH Abraham, through the same means of grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Abraham’s Covenant was strictly peculiar to himself. Neither in the
Old nor in the New Testament is it ever said that the Covenant with
Abraham was made on behalf of all believers or that the Abrahamic covenant was given to those who believe the gospel. Abraham is called the father of those who believe the gospel.

God did not promise Christians that they will have a seed. If the same Covenant promise made to Abraham is made to Christians through Abraham, then that would means that there could be no justified child of God without a seed

We must distinguish between the two kinds of promises. Otherwise we shall fall into the error of others who insist that the spiritual
blessings belong not only to the natural seed of Abraham, but to the natural offspring of Christians as well. But spiritual blessings cannot be communicated by carnal propagation. Romans, chapter 9:6- 8: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. They which are the children of the flesh, THESE ARE NOT the children of God: but the children of the promise are
counted for the seed.”

Children of the flesh ARE NOT the children of God! The children of PROMISE, the children of GRACE, are counted for the seed! All of Abraham’s descendants did not participate in the spiritual blessings promised to him. As our Lord Jesus said in John 8:24: “ye shall die in your sins,” speaking to those who claimed to be Abraham’s seed. Nor do all the children of Christians enter into the spiritual privileges promised to Abraham. Only those who are chosen by God before the ages unto salvation. And who they are cannot be known until they believe.

Galatians, chapter 3, verse 7: “Know ye therefore that they which are of FAITH, the same are the children TEKNON of Abraham.” The infant is not of faith. The natural descendants of Abraham are not of faith. Only believers are the children of Abraham. Some may be the SPERMA , but they are not the children.

What then is the Covenant of Abraham? The great thing that the Covenant of Abraham secured to Abraham was that HE, and not anyone else, but that HE WOULD HAVE A SEED. When God made the Covenant, He said, “YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A SEED!” And THEN THROUGH YOUR SEED the nations of the earth will be blessed. So the Covenant was given to Abraham to secure for him a seed, and that God would be the God of that seed.

Now that’s not applicable to Christians. It cannot be said that this Covenant refers to Christians. Christians have no warrant whatsoever in the Word of God that God will be the God of their seed. He only saaid He would be the God of Abraham’s seed. Who are the seed of Abraham? True believers, through THE SEED, Christ, singular. It is not promised to Christians that they will have a seed.

The Abrahamic covenant promised that Abraham himself would have a seed, and that God would be the God of that seed. It is something like the promise that God made to Phinehas, when He said that you will always have a seed to be a priest, or to David, that he would always have a posterity to sit on the throne.

Let us look at the original promises that were made to Abraham, and see if they are applicable other than to Abraham himself. Genesis chapter 12, verse 2 and 3: “And I will make of thee a great nation,” Has he promised that to believers? Then He said: “and I will bless thee, and make thy name great;” Has God promised to make your name great? He may make it great, but He has not promised to do so.
Most of us will die in obscurity, not known outside of our own small circle He says: “thou shalt be a blessing;” Well, we may be a blessing in a small way but not in the way that all families of the earth shall be blessed

In Genesis chapter 17: 5, God says: “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many
nations have I made thee.” You and I have not been made fathers of many nations. Verse 6: “kings shall come out of thee.” How many kings have come out of regular Christians? He says, “your descendants will occupy Canaan.” You and I have probably never set foot on Canaan. There are many who will have to mourn along with David, who cried, “though it be not so with my house.”

Furthermore, the Covenant made with Abraham established no spiritual relationship between Abraham and his offspring. There was a physical
relationship, but no spiritual relationship. Still less, does it establish a relationship, a spiritual relationship between believers
and infants. Abraham was not the spiritual father of his own natural offspring, for spiritual qualities cannot be propagated by carnal generation. If there was any spiritual relationship between Abraham and his carnal offspring, it was as the result of THE SEED, Christ Jesus, our Lord. Therefore it is by GRACE and not by RACE, that men are saved.

And what is this blessing? Galatians 3: 7: “Know ye therefore that they which are of FAITH, the same are the children of Abraham.” verse
9: “So then they which be OF FAITH are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Blessed with faithful Abraham, NOT by faithful Abraham! Abraham is not the spiritual father. We are not blessed BY Abraham, but we are blessed WITH Abraham, through the same means of grace, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Was Abraham Esau’s father spiritually? Or Ishmael’s? Look at Romans 4: 11 “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the
righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he would be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness would be imputed unto them also.” This is a household of faith, and not of natural generation. Abraham
rather than being the spiritual father of his own natural offspring, becomes the spiritual father only of The those who walk in the steps of his faith. And just as a believing father becomes a spiritual father only of those who walk in the likeness of his faith.

But are not Christians under the Abrahamic Covenant? Again, if you will turn to Galatians 3:14, you will see that the answer is, No!: “That the blessing of Abraham would come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we would receive the promise of the Spirit THROUGH FAITH.” The blessing of Abraham consists not in creating spiritual relations between believers and their infant offspring, but the Spirit of God. Those who are blessed with Abraham are those who are of the faith of Abraham, and not those who receive a parental oath at the time of their water baptism.

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

November 18, 2011

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.