Posted tagged ‘water baptism’

No One Time Justification? The Efficacy of Water

January 21, 2016

Alastair Roberts –For Baptists the grace signified in water baptism is typically understood to be grace already received: For Baptists, water baptism is predominantly retrospective, looking back to a salvation largely completed.

mark—So Roberts thinks that there is a “not yet aspect to justification” not only for infants but for all of us, because he agrees with the Lutherans that God’s justification happens again every day, and the “old man” has to pass from death to life over and over again, and that what causes this is the continuing “efficacy of water baptism”

Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”

Roberts—-“The magisterial Reformers presented a higher and more efficacious doctrine of water baptism than their Roman Catholic interlocutors.”

Roberts–“The Canons of Trent reveal that, the grace of water baptism being easily forfeited by sinners who failed to persevere in it, it was necessary to supplement its grace with that of another sacrament–penance. The result was the diminishment of water baptismal grace within the sacramental economy. Beyond giving an initial impetus, water baptism was swiftly substituted for by other sources of grace.”

mark—Roberts is saying that the Reformed are not like that, not just looking for the water to wipe out original sin, but believing that the water will continue to have “efficacy”. But this “efficacy” of water will be conditioned on the sinner, not so much on the sinner not sinning, but on the sinner continuing to believe as a condition of remaining in the covenant.

Roberts—“The grace water baptism signifies is neither chiefly a grace already received nor merely a grace limited to the time immediately following the reception of the sacrament.”

Roberts—Tertullian argues that the delay of water baptism should be preferred, especially in the case of young children and the unmarried, who are particularly vulnerable to temptation and falling from water baptismal grace.

mark—But it is not yet quite politically correct in some Presbyterian denominations to talk about “being justified every day” or the “not yet aspect of justification” so often people who believe in that refer to “salvation” or “sanctification” as being the “not yet”. Roberts talks about “adoption”

Roberts—“Martin Luther’s resistance to the ‘linear model’ of the Christian life, with an one time conversion followed by progress beyond that point. Luther maintained that we never move beyond the point of water baptism. . Conversion is an ongoing reality in the Christian life, a continual act of going back to water baptism as the beginning. The efficacy of water baptism day after day makes death and resurrection a reality that has not yet been fully accomplished IN US.”

Roberts–“The magisterial Reformed were concerned to emphasize that the grace of water baptism is the grace of a promissory seal, with an efficacy that extends throughout our lives. ”

Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it. Adoption is much less about its initial reception than it is about its lifelong reception. The faith water baptism calls for is not present faith so much as future faith.”

mark—But the “efficacy” of the water continues to depend on the condition of faith. And this means that ‘effectual grace” can later turn into “:effectual curse”. No antinomian “eternal security” here.

Not only is the efficacy of the death of Christ distributed by means of the efficacy of water baptism but the efficacy of water baptism continues to be dependent on the object of your faith, but the object of your faith is your continuing faith, which you believe is not totally alone, which faith you believe continually exists in you along with your hating sin and loving God (enough).

Meredith Kline–The newness of the New Covenant does not consist in a reduction of the Covenant of Redemption to the principle of election and guaranteed blessing. Its law character is seen in this, too, that it continues to be a covenant with dual sanctions….There is no reason to regard Jeremiah’s description of the New Covenant as a comprehensive analysis or to exclude the curse sanction from a place in New Covenant administration.”

Mike Horton—”To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with THREATS as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. HOW CAN THEY FALL UNDER THE CURSES OF A COVENANT TO WHICH THEY DID NOT BELONG? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the instrumental A condition is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator.”

Jonathan Edwards: “We are really saved by perseverance…the perseverance which belongs to faith is one thing that is really a fundamental ground of the congruity THAT FAITH GIVES TO salvation…For, though a sinner is justified in his first act of faith, yet even then, in that act of justification, God has respect to perseverance as being implied in the first act.”

Mark asks– How could we possibly give thanks, when the future hangs in the balance and depends on our future acts of faith?

John Piper—”The Bible rarely, if ever, motivates Christian living with gratitude…Could it be that gratitude for bygone grace has been pressed to serve as the power for holiness, which only faith in future grace was designed to perform?… some popular notions of grace are so skewed and so pervasive that certain biblical teachings are almost impossible to communicate. For example, the biblical concept of unmerited, conditional grace is nearly unintelligible to Christians who assume that unconditionality is the essence of all grace.”

mark—Piper’s Future Grace teaches works not only as evidence for us and other people but works as evidence for God

Piper—“How then can I say that the judgment of believers will not only be the public declaration of our differing rewards in the kingdom of God, according to our deeds, but will also be the public declaration of our salvation – our entering the kingdom – according to our deeds? The answer is that our deeds will be the public evidence brought forth in Christ’s courtroom to demonstrate that our faith is real. And our deeds will be the public evidence brought fourth to demonstrate the varying measures of our obedience of faith. In other words, salvation is by grace through faith, and rewards are by grace through faith, but the evidence of invisible faith in the judgment hall of Christ will be a transformed life.” (Future Grace, p 364)

Several times Paul listed certain kinds of deeds and said, “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In other words, when these deeds are exposed at the judgment as a person’s way of life, they will be the evidence that their faith is dead and he will not be saved. As James said, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). That is what will be shown at the judgment. (Future Grace, p 366)

Meredith Kline—By circumcision, the sign of the consecratory oath of the Abrahamic Covenant, a man confessed himself to be under the juridical authority of Yahweb and consigned himself to the ordeal of his Lord’s judgment for the final verdict on his life. The sign of circumcision thus pointed to the eschatological judicial ordeal with its awful sanctions of eternal weal or woe. In the case of a covenant with the fallen sons of Adam, their nature as covenant breakers from their youth would seem to preclude any outcome for the divine ordeal other than condemnation. Yet the very fact that Cod makes a covenant with such subjects reveals that along with justice the principle of redemptive grace is operative here with its totally new and unpredictable possibilities. The covenant is a law covenant but it is a redemptive law covenant.

John Fesko —“Even though we can talk about a distinction between the visible and the invisible, or between the external and internal, why should we have to choose between water and the Spirit (Word, Water and Spirit, p 241, “Baptism as Covenant Judgment)

mark—Most people don’t say “water baptism”, because the Bible does not say “water baptism”, but then most people also add that “baptism” in the Bible is always water and many of the paedobaptists (and some of the “Reformed Baptists”)teach that there is a “sacramental union” between water as the sign and the “efficacy” as the thing signified.

And then almost all of them say that the water baptism of John was about the Holy Spirit, and therefore baptism by Jesus and by the church is about both the water and about the Spirit, but NOT about legal identity with Christ’s atoning death or about justification.

And then they explain there is one gospel only, there is only one church, and therefore the baptism by John is not water only and the baptism by Jesus is not with the Spirit only

And in this way they know that it’s not Jesus who baptized with the Holy Spirit, but rather that the Holy Spirit “baptizes us into Christ” and so we know that water baptism is not about Christ’s death or righteousness but about the Spirit uniting us to Christ’s righteousness .

John Fesko, 322— “It is unnecessary to choose between water baptism and Spirit baptism”

And then Fesko on the same page (322) finds it necessary to conclude (without arguments) that Spirit baptism is not God’s imputation. Fesko also explains that baptism (both water and by the Spirit) is NOT Christ’s giving the Spirit, because the Westminster Confession teaches us that Spirit baptism is the Spirit giving us Christ by uniting us to Christ by faith.

Water Does Not Put Anybody in Christ

July 13, 2013

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? The second question: Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin only believed in an union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union with God defined as creatures indwelling the Creator.
But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Alberto, does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water NO. I doubt that we will ever get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from equating “union with Christ” with “definitive sanctification” or “regeneration”.

1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and then a time gap between that and the hearing of the gospel.

2. We need to define “in Christ” in terms of justification. Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change in our hearts (regeneration or new birth) but is legally a change of status before God. To be in Christ in this way is to be justified. Union with Christ is legal marriage to Christ the person AND His work and His benefits.

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of faith. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to regenerate and change the person. God changes the person because God has justified the person. The change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of justification, but it is never the reason for God justifying.

Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

Roman 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?”

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of being placed into the death of Christ. Instead of a “sacrament” which makes you a participant in Christ, our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

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.

Does the Death of Jesus Save Those Who Don’t Perish?

September 29, 2012

A Reformed sacramentalist tells us that “Baptism is not a sign that points to the person being baptized.”

There are two separate questions here. One is about the claim that the sign is from God to us, rather than from us to God. Of course for those of us believe in sovereign grace, that sounds good. Take it in the direction of saying we don’t do anything. But of course the same folks who talk about the objectivity (or the “realism”) of the “sacraments” are the people who are most concerned to stress synergism (or 100% God and 100% man) in “sanctification” and (in the case of the federal visionists who are all sacramentalists) the conditionality even of final justification. So why this concern, when it comes to “sacrament”, to say it’s all God?

But the second and more important question concerns what the sign says. If the sign is from God to us, is the sign saying that those being baptized are promised something that that those not baptized are not promised? ( Given the idea that infants are baptized not to enter “the covenant” but because they are already “in the covenant”, does that mean that infants born to credobaptists who are not baptized are nevertheless in “the covenant”?)

If the sign is from us to God, again, is the sign saying that we have
assurance of justification already (before baptism) or is it saying
that we receive baptisim in order to find (more) assurance?

To simplify my question, if the sign (from God, or from man) is simply about an objective promise by God, why not give the sign to everybody? How will we find out if folks are “covenant-breakers” or not, unless we put them all in the covenant to begin with? Why restrict the sign only to those with assurance? Why restrict the sign only to those born to a parent who is a church member? Why not baptize everybody, as the Constantians did?

(And as a historical side-note, this conclusion can be reached by folks who do not assume the unity of all covenants as one covenant. At least some Plymouth Brethren –following the lead of Darby– taught that all infants born to members of the “universal church” could be baptized, not as a sign of anything about them except the fact that we are all born dead in sins–ie, it doesn’t matter who’s a believer or not yet, because we can be sure that everybody is born guilty and corrupt, and if that what “baptism” means, then baptize anybody you want.)

To say it again as simply as I can, if “the promise” (as if it there were only one promise in all covenants !) is a conditional promise, which says, if you believe, then efficacy, and then life, why not make put that sign, that conditional promise, on everybody? (Why with-hold it from those who won’t be hearing the gospel as much as other folks, if the sign itself is objectively preaching the gospel?) But on the other hand, if “the promise” is not conditional, but it’s saying that the sign has efficacy in that the sign itself is telling us that the person being baptized WILL believe, then what has happened to the claim about objectivity and it not being about the person?

Of course, if the sign is saying that you are “covenantally elect”, without promising anything about assurance of faith or decretal election, then what does that mean objectively? Does it mean that those being baptized are under a “covenant of works” that folks who did not get the sign are not under? One, even if that were the case, the sign would be subjective, saying something about the persons being baptized, that they are under threat of greater sanctions than people not baptized.

Two, unless they confuse works and faith, works and grace, as much as the federal visionists do, other Reformed folks need to be a lot more clear about the nature of the grace found “in the covenant” for the non-elect. If they don’t want to say that Christians stop being Christians, if they don’t want to say that the regenerate stop being regenerate, the non-FV folks need to interact
more with Engelsma and the “non-conditional covenant” folks.

Calvin on I Peter 3—What then ought we to do? Not to separate what has been joined together by the Lord. We ought to acknowledge in baptism a spiritual washing, we ought to embrace therein the testimony of the remission of sin and the pledge of our renovation, and yet so as to leave to Christ his own honor, and also to the Holy Spirit; so that no part of our salvation should be transferred to the sign.

Is Calvin saying that the testimony is only that as many as the Holy Spirit calls will be saved? Or does Calvin mean something different and more? Does Calvin mean that baptism testifies that the person receiving will be given the Holy Spirit and will be saved? I would like to say the first, but I think Calvin and his
followers want to both eat their cake and still have it at this point. They want to say it’s not about the person but only an universal (condition?) from God, but at the same time, they want to say, it’s not a condition, it’s a promise, and when you get in doubt and nothing else works, then you can remember that those the pope ordained have baptized you, and that’s something you can stand on. But then again, we need to “leave Christ his honor….”

Calvin: “Doubtless when Peter, having mentioned baptism, immediately made this exception, that it is not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, he sufficiently shewed that baptism to some is only the outward act, and that the outward sign of itself avails nothing. — Calvin Comm 1 Pet 3.21

I want to think of an analogy to the argument for effective definite atonement. Those who say that Christ died for all, even for those who will perish, must end up logically consistently with the conclusion that even those who don’t perish were not saved by Christ’s death either. Maybe they were saved by intercession, by the Holy Spirit, by faith, etc, but if Jesus died for those who perish, then it’s not the death which keeps anybody from perishing. Note–I say
analogy here. I am not saying that all who do the dialectic on baptism are logically inherently Arminian on the atonement ( of course some, maybe even many are).

If water baptism is only “the outward act” to some, then it’s only the “outward act” to all. If the “outward” act has no efficacy for some, then it has no efficacy for anybody, and then the ‘efficacy” has to be found somewhere else besides in the water baptism. Two quick notes on this. One, Leithart and his associates don’t like it when you talk about external and internal aspects of baptism, or visible and invisible aspects of “church”–but I don’t know if he would criticize
or somehow accomodate Calvin’s use of the word “outward”.

Two, “the sign of itself” avails nothing. If Kobe Bryant and I together score 40 in a game, and Kobe scores 40 of them, I can say that “by myself” I did not score much, but does this mean that I then go on to talk about our “shared efficacy” when the coach never let me off the bench? Would it not be be more honest to say– it was not the water sign which had the efficacy? But to say that, one would need to agree that the word “baptism” does not involve water in texts like I Peter 3 and Romans 6 and Colossians 2. And if you do that, the
consensus (Moo, Beasley Murray, Silva, etc) seems to be that you’re agnostic and you might as well go back to being a Plymouth Brethren or some other kind of Zwinglian.

The “Reformed” guy writes that “this distinction is valuable because when baptism’s primary meaning is subjective, our attention is drawn to the state of our own hearts. But when baptism’s primary meaning is to point to the
promises, our attention is drawn to those promises and their author.

Notice the word “primary”. Primary meaning. He wants to keep some of the subjective, because he does not want to give the sign to just anybody and all, and also he does not want it to be only a condition but also some form of comfort and assurance for those being baptized. So how does he know when to talk about the “primary” objective meaning, and when to talk about the
subjective meaning?

I know the answer. It’s a situation ethic (a little like that old assurance trick– don’t just look to Christ, look to your life, and then, and now don’t just look to your life, look to Christ, and it’s not a trick, it’s maturity and balance, or so I am told) When he’s bashing credobaptists, he talks about “it’s not about the person”. But when he’s talking to federal visionists, he talks about “non-primary distinctions” between the outward and the inward etc.

Is Baptism A Warning that God Might Not Spare You Either?

June 7, 2012

Jeremiah 31:-34 My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. but this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, says the Lord: ‘I will put My law in their minds, and write in on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’, for they all shall know me…”

Will all in the new covenant know the Lord, or only those who keep the covenant? Will all in the new covenant keep the covenant? Will all in the new covenant be the people of God despite their sins?

When Jeremiah contrasts the new covenant with the one made with the fathers, the contrast is to the Mosaic covenant and not to the Abraham covenant. But neither is it accurate to say that the new covenant is only a renewal of the Abrahamic covenant. As Genesis 17 and 18 suggest, the Abrahamic covenant also had its “conditional” aspects.

One way some people put this all together is to say that the unconditional aspect of covenants only refers to God’s promise to save a people, but that WHICH INDIVIDUALS are part of the people is conditioned on covenant obedience. Instead of saying that all blessing is conditioned only on Christ’s death for the elect, many “Calvinists” bring into the picture the sovereign grace of God which enables the elect to meet the conditions of the covenant. They separate “covenant” from election and particular redemption. Abraham stayed in because he was enabled to obey, but some who are in get broken off because they do not obey.

I think that the “new legal state” of those in the new covenant does not depend on our conduct and walk. Those who try to walk to life will never arrive there. The Christian walk is a fruit of those who “stand in grace”. (Romans 5:1-2).

I want to interact with Meredith Kline’s By Oath Consigned (Eerdmans, 1968). 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.

Ultimately of course Kline’s book is about infant baptism. Unlike the confessions which speak of the water as a means of assurance, Kline says that the water only puts individuals into a conditional covenant, and introduces them to potential curse as well as potential blessing. But my focus in this short essay is not baptism, but Kline’s view of covenants.

Is the new covenant ONLY about the gospel, or does it have a secondary law-aspect as well, so that blessing is conditioned on keeping it? If so, what are these other “covenant” blessings which are not gospel blessings purchased by Christ? 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? What is the “ grace” of being in the new covenant, if one assumes that the non-elect can be included for a time in the covenant?

Kline writes about ‘the proper purpose of the covenant, the salvation of the elect.” p34. But he also 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). Of course this is true. Despite inability,all have a duty to believe the gospel. 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..

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. Those we do baptize we do so not to put into a conditional covenant but on their confession of bankruptcy which rules out any future covenant keeping 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 disobedience as covenantal”. I agree about divine vengeance but question if this wrath is “covenantal”.

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 are no new covenant people who knew the Lord who then stopped knowing the Lord.

I agree with Kline about the need for Jesus to keep the new covenant. As he puts it: “the covenant concept has law as its foundation and makes its promises dependent on the obedience of a federal representative. ” p 35 I agree that the blessing of the new covenant comes through covenant curse on Jesus Christ. But since Christ has kept the covenant for all those in the new covenant, 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 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.” p76. 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/ excommunication in the New Testament. But what Kline needs to show is that those judgments are exclusions of those who were in the new covenant. Otherwise we simply assume the paradigm with which we begin. I John 2:19 says that those who sent out “were not of us.”

John 15 says that those who do not abide in the vine are thrown away. Were they broken off from “the covenant”? 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 about Christ, but does it really answer any questions to introduce into John 15 a covenant with dual sanctions?

But Kline argues that the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 is ultimately not about now but about after the second coming. Thus he says that we who say that only the elect are now in the new covenant “prematurely precipitate the age to come.” (p77, footnote about Jewett). 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 Romans 11:17-21 to say that gentiles in the new covenant are grafted into the Abrahamic covenant, and that therefore this means 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”.

Of course 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) . But 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 sin and disobedience if they are so reckless as to put all their hope in Christ as the only condition of blessing?

I want to learn. 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 work in the right way. Israelites who rejected the scandal of Jesus were perfectly willing to give God credit for their works. They were simply not ready to be told by Jesus that their works were evil .The reason the works of the Israelites who stumbled were evil was not a lack of sincerity orl effort. Their works were evil because they were done without faith in the gospel Abraham believed.

The 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. “ A person who has not submitted to the righteousness of Christ has not yet had the law written on his heart, and there are none 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. Even those who stumbled could agree. Yes, we believe in election, and we know that we are elect because God has made us able to keep the covenant. Thus we teach grace but also conditional covenant.

Paul has a second point to make 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 give God the credit for our doing.
The claim of Romans 11:32 is finally that “God has committed them all to disobedience, to have mercy on all.”.This is not a claim that every individual will be justified. All for whom Christ kept all conditions will be justified. But the gospel hope is not founded on the obedience of those who will be justified.

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. I cannot agree that anything we might be enabled to do can add to what Christ did as the condition of blessing. 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.

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 what God did by sending his Son cannot fulfill the righteous requirement of the law, through our legal death with the Son, why should anything we are enabled to do make us free from the law of sin and death? (Romans 8:1-4) 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.

Hebrews 10:29 warns, to “count the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a communion thing”? Does this verse teach that those who are threatened with “worse punishment” are presumed to be already in the covenant? Again 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 to agree with these folks that they are in the covenant. But I disagree. We can’t assume that all those in any community which professes to be Christian are in the new covenant.

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 add 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 be cursed if we fail). We confess a hope in the God who conditioned all the blessings of the new covenant on the obedience of His Son.