The Mystery of Christ: His Covenant & Kingdom: Typology

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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello All,

I am currently a 1689 Baptist who is considering switching to a local RPCNA church. Long story short I am on the fence 50/50 on each view and I am having a hard time understanding the distinctives between the two covenant theology camps.

I am comparing Baptist Covenant Theology (1689 Federalism) with Presbyterian forms of Covenant Theology. While reading Sam Renihan's book "The Mystery of Christ: His Covenant & His Kingdom" was written as one of the first non-polemic's from the Baptist Covenant Theology camp. Most works to my knowledge have always been polemics. While reading this work one of the main distinctives between the two groups is the difference in how Baptists use Typology. This has been made popular with Wellum, Gentry in their book Kingdom through Covenant and by coining the term Progressive Covenantalism, which my church tends to lean towards. I don't want to get into a discussion of the broad views but more around the claims towards Typology. Anybody on the board familiar with these arguements? Here are some clips from the book and I am struggling to understanding the difference between Heightening when comparing Presbyterian to Baptist terminology. Covenant Theology Baptist claim that heighting is one of the main distinctives. Fundamentally speaking the issue seems to be related to disagreements on the basis of typology (see John Owen - A continuation of the exposition on Hebrews). 1689 Federalism uses Owen a lot in supporting their views.

Examples:

Typology is defined by Greg Beale:
"The study of analogical correspondence among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God's special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in their meaning. According to this definition, the essential characteristics of a type are (1) analogical correspondence, (2) historicity (3) a pointing-forwardness, (4) escalation, (5) retrospection.

Fairbairn states in regards to types:
... there must be a resemblance... to it under the gospel; and secondly, that it must not be any character, action, or institution... but such only as had their ordination of God, and were designed by him."

The basic agreement is that the all are 'divinely ordained analogy and escalation'. Escalation defined by Sam is fulfillment pointing to the passing of the Type when the Anti-Type comes on the scene. In his view this points to discontinuity since the Type no longer is relevant. Typology without Christ at its center is concerned with something other than the mystery of Christ, His Covenant, and His kingdom. And it is therefore, by definition, not typology.

In other words, "if types are not their antitypes, it naturally follows that when the antitype arrives the type is discarded. The substance being come, the shadow flies away. This is the argument of the author of Hebrews. A return to animal blood is a denial that Jesus' blood has any meaning."

He ends by saying "Small differences in the application of typology often lead to greater distances than one might suspect." In our case its the difference between historical Covenant Theology and 1689 Federalism CT.

Anybody understrand these differences and can articulate why Sam is correct/incorrect or misunderanding? This is one of my hang ups at the moment. Hopefully this all made sense.

God Bless,

Rob
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Mr. Beale says that types are clear retrospectively. I think we would say that for something to be a type it must be so in time. That's one of Wilhelmus Brakel's criteria, for example. You might find reading Brakel or Vos's remarks in typology helpful.
I disagree with the premise though. I think the most significant differences between reformed and baptist covenant theology lie outside the realm of typology. The essential unity of the covenant of grace and the role of the OT administrative covenants is more central.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I disagree with the premise though. I think the most significant differences between reformed and baptist covenant theology lie outside the realm of typology. The essential unity of the covenant of grace and the role of the OT administrative covenants is more central.

I am hoping to gain more clarity on this but I am still hung up on my own presuppositions. As a side note, I really like the RPCNA church near my house, so please don't think I am advocating 1689 Federalism as being superiors to Presbyterian Covenant Theology. I am actually hoping that you guys can assist me in moving the needle to agreeing with Presbyterian CT over 1689 Federalism. With that said,

Too often Presbyterians mistake Baptists all leaning towards dispensationalism. 1689 Baptists use of Typology is how they articulate discontinuity in the NT, and they do not focus on the land promises. Their view of the Church Visible and Invisible are very similar if not identical to Presbyterians unlike Dispensationalists who conflate physical with OT and Spiritual in the NT.

Heightening as I understand it is that when the type is fulfilled by the Anti-Type the type is discarded. This small difference along with a few others is how they cleanly break from the OT into the NT with slightly more discontinuity than Presbyterians.

Are their types that are not discarded when the Anti-type arrives?

If we charted continuity spanning the wide variety of beliefs in Christendom it would be like something like the below with Catholics having Full Continuity and Dispensationalists having Full Discontinuity. 1689 Baptists and Presbyterians are very close when speaking in terms of continuity and discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

<--- Old & New Testament Continuity Strong -------- Old & New Testament Discontinuity -------->
Roman Catholic - Theonomy - Presbyterians ||| 1689 Federalism, New Covenant Theology, Dispensationalism

Another major difference is the view of the Covenant of Grace. 1689 Federalists do not see an actual covenant in Genesis 3 but instead only see a promise of a future covenant (not like the old: Jer 31:31). You see differences in opinion in this area since 1689 Federalism really needs more works. However, if you pair this thought with the above on Typology I think it might make more sense where they're headed.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
This side-by-side comparison is helpful in understanding the differences between the two. Text that differs is in red.
As far as understanding the Westminster side, John Ball's Treatise on the Covenant of Grace is a standard work. It was written by an English Presbyterian around 1640, so just before the assembly, and was endorsed by several of the Westminster divines upon its publication.

I have to sit down and read the John Ball treastise soon. Here is a diagram that I pulled from 1689 Federalisms website that I believe highlights the differences.

1603476421846.png
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
Another major difference is the view of the Covenant of Grace. 1689 Federalists do not see an actual covenant in Genesis 3 but instead only see a promise of a future covenant (not like the old: Jer 31:31).
I was in the 1689 Federalism camp until earlier this year and this point seemed very clear to me until I took a hard look at Galatians 3, where Paul argues;
1. In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles, that we may receive the promised Spirit through faith (v. 14).
2. No annuls a covenant once it's been ratified (v. 15), a point which wouldn't be made if it was simply a promise that was made to Abraham.
3. The promise, which v. 15 shows is indeed a covenant, was made to Abraham and to his offspring who is Christ (v. 16).
4. Verse 17 further clarifies the point made in verse 15.
5. The inheritance to Abraham comes by promise, not law (v. 18)
Continue reading and you come to verse 29, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."
Whereas 1689 Federalism claims CoG=New Covenant, this to me proved overwise and everything else came crashing down after that.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I haven't read a ton of progressive covenantalist literature, but I think that the progressive covenantalists go quite a bit further than the 1689ers when it comes to typology. They say as much themselves. Some of them have said that accepting their view of typology is perhaps the biggest hurdle for Dispensationalists and Reformed people as well. So I don't know that reading Wellum and Gentry is all that helpful in trying to discern what the 1689 position necessarily entails since they don't hold that position. But they are closer to the 1689ers than the old New Covenant Theology (NCT) was. And ironically, even they are generally more on the discontinuity end of the spectrum than the 1689ers are, 1689 Federalism teaches that the Mosaic Covenant wasn't a gracious covenant whereas, as I understand it, the progressive covenantalists say that it was, more or less.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
I haven't read a ton of progressive covenantalist literature, but I think that the progressive covenantalists go quite a bit further than the 1689ers when it comes to typology. They say as much themselves. Some of them have said that accepting their view of typology is perhaps the biggest hurdle for Dispensationalists and Reformed people as well. So I don't know that reading Wellum and Gentry is all that helpful in trying to discern what the 1689 position necessarily entails since they don't hold that position. But they are closer to the 1689ers than the old New Covenant Theology (NCT) was. And ironically, even they are generally more on the discontinuity end of the spectrum than the 1689ers are, 1689 Federalism teaches that the Mosaic Covenant wasn't a gracious covenant whereas, as I understand it, the progressive covenantalists say that it was, more or less.
You probably meant to say that they are more on the continuity end of the spectrum then discontinuity. That being said, that gets into what differentiates 1689 from Progressive Covenantalism, namely that (for an 89er) while the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works, it was subservient to the gracious purposes of God through it's function as a type, pedagogue, and carrier of the promise whereas I believe Progressive Covenantalists are much more reticent about a strict differentiation between a covenant of grace and that of works (contra 1689) so they're wrestling with with how works and grace relate in the Old Covenant since those covenants relate to God's purpose in Christ somehow.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I was in the 1689 Federalism camp until earlier this year and this point seemed very clear to me until I took a hard look at Galatians 3, where Paul argues;
1. In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles, that we may receive the promised Spirit through faith (v. 14).
2. No annuls a covenant once it's been ratified (v. 15), a point which wouldn't be made if it was simply a promise that was made to Abraham.
3. The promise, which v. 15 shows is indeed a covenant, was made to Abraham and to his offspring who is Christ (v. 16).
4. Verse 17 further clarifies the point made in verse 15.
5. The inheritance to Abraham comes by promise, not law (v. 18)
Continue reading and you come to verse 29, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."
Whereas 1689 Federalism claims CoG=New Covenant, this to me proved overwise and everything else came crashing down after that.
This is outstanding. Galatians 3 is exceedingly difficult to navigate for any Baptist, in my opinion. It puts Christians squarely in the Abrahamic covenant, at the very least showing how the new covenant is not an annulment of the Abrahamic.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
You probably meant to say that they are more on the continuity end of the spectrum then discontinuity. That being said, that gets into what differentiates 1689 from Progressive Covenantalism, namely that (for a 1689er while the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works, it was subservient to the gracious purposes of God through it's function as a type, pedagogue, and carrier of the promise whereas I believe Progressive Covenantalists are much more reticent about a strict differentiation between a covenant of grace and that of works (contra 1689) so they're wrestling with with how works and grace relate in the Old Covenant since those covenants relate to God's purpose in Christ somehow.

Yes, I suppose it isn't real cut and dried across the board. I was thinking more of things like the perpetuity of the moral law and the fact by their own admission, Progressive Covenantalism is an attempt to come up with a middle position between dispensationalism and covenant theology. I think that their own statements and the fact that they are just as antinomian as NCT (and dispensationalism) when it comes to the decalogue probably outweighs the technical position on the Mosaic Covenant, which they teach is abrogated totally. But the covenant theology they have in mind is Westminster, and it doesn't appear that the PC men have much interest in engaging with 1689 Federalism.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes, I suppose it isn't real cut and dried across the board. I was thinking more of things like the perpetuity of the moral law and the fact by their own admission, Progressive Covenantalism is an attempt to come up with a middle position between dispensationalism and covenant theology. I think that their own statements and the fact that they are just as antinomian as NCT (and dispensationalism) when it comes to the decalogue probably outweighs the technical position on the Mosaic Covenant, which they teach is abrogated totally. But the covenant theology they have in mind is Westminster, and it doesn't appear that the PC men have much interest in engaging with 1689 Federalism.
I agree, I think that if they would give a 1689 view a chance it could perhaps sharpen their own views on the relation between solid reformed catholic systematic categories (10 Commandments as summarily comprehending natural law, general equity within the Old Testament corpus of law, retention of a law(covenant of works)/gospel(covenant of grace) scheme and the biblical development of the covenants and how grace/works interrelate with them. Thankfully (as far as I'm aware) they (PC) havn't adopted the view of some radical New Covenant guys and thrown out the entire category of natural/moral law in favor a voluntaristic view that only what God has commanded in connection with a specific covenant is binding.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
1. In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham has come to the Gentiles, that we may receive the promised Spirit through faith (v. 14).
2. No annuls a covenant once it's been ratified (v. 15), a point which wouldn't be made if it was simply a promise that was made to Abraham.
3. The promise, which v. 15 shows is indeed a covenant, was made to Abraham and to his offspring who is Christ (v. 16).
4. Verse 17 further clarifies the point made in verse 15.
5. The inheritance to Abraham comes by promise, not law (v. 18)

I understand that this is rooted in a presupposition that the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. I don't understand how this connection from Genesis 3 is linked to Abraham. It wasn't to seeds it was to seed which is Christ. Was Genesis 3 just simply a promise which was fulfilled in Abraham. How is this linked to Galatians 4 when Paul gives us the allegory between Sarah and Haggar?

I think this is an example of the presupposition built into this interpretation rooted in Typology. It appears to sit in the two different views in discussion. In the Baptist perspective when I look at this verse I see a visible and invisible aspect to Israel. Physical with the land promise and Spiritual in reference to Abraham believing and it being accounted to him as righteousness (Faith). Abraham was a member of the New Covenant by Faith. The two tier view may be linked to the heightening / escalation that Sam states is the main distinction in Typology. The two views mentioned in this context makes more sense why Paul tells the analogy between Sarah and Haggar in chapter 4.

Haggar born at Mt Sinai into Slavery (physical)
Sarah born Jerusalem above is free (spiritual)

Abraham (physical - Haggar); Abraham (spiritual - Sarah).
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Wellum and Gentry is all that helpful in trying to discern what the 1689 position necessarily entails since they don't hold that position. But they are closer to the 1689ers than the old New Covenant Theology (NCT) was.

I agree that they fall between 1689 & Dispensationalists. My church is actually a Progressive Covenantlist Church but I am 1689. We don't have any 1689 Churches in the Pittsburgh area.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I understand that this is rooted in a presupposition that the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. I don't understand how this connection from Genesis 3 is linked to Abraham. It wasn't to seeds it was to seed which is Christ. Was Genesis 3 just simply a promise which was fulfilled in Abraham. How is this linked to Galatians 4 when Paul gives us the allegory between Sarah and Haggar?

I think this is an example of the presupposition built into this interpretation rooted in Typology. It appears to sit in the two different views in discussion. In the Baptist perspective when I look at this verse I see a visible and invisible aspect to Israel. Physical with the land promise and Spiritual in reference to Abraham believing and it being accounted to him as righteousness (Faith). Abraham was a member of the New Covenant by Faith. The two tier view may be linked to the heightening / escalation that Sam states is the main distinction in Typology. The two views mentioned in this context makes more sense why Paul tells the analogy between Sarah and Haggar in chapter 4.

Haggar born at Mt Sinai into Slavery (physical)
Sarah born Jerusalem above is free (spiritual)

Abraham (physical - Haggar); Abraham (spiritual - Sarah).
One difficulty with this view from a Presbyterian perspective is that we have historically viewed the New Covenant (and the Covenant of Grace in general) as containing temporal/physical promises. So a dichotomy between physical and spiritual aspects is not strictly necessary. Examples of temporal promises in the New Covenant would be things like Eph. 6:2, "Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." (Note that Ex. 20 reads "land", not "earth". The ceremonial aspect is removed.)
Mt 5:5 "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
Mt. 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Of course, promises of temporal good are not understood as absolute, since God also calls many believers to suffer trials and persecution. But plenty of godly men in the Abrahamic Covenant suffered for righteousness sake, so this does not make a difference between the two.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
I understand that this is rooted in a presupposition that the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace.
I will try to show below that it isn't a presupposition below.
It wasn't to seeds it was to seed which is Christ.

The promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ (v. 17).

The promise was made to Abraham, and Christ. No one else. Well how then are we a part of that promise if we aren't either of them? We aren't Abraham's offspring because we have faith in Christ like Abraham. We are Abraham's offspring because Christ is his offspring and we are united to Christ by faith. Abraham can't be reduced to a model of true faith for us to emulate. Abraham is the vital connection to the covenant which, according to Galatians 3:29, makes us "heirs according to promise". I showed in my last post that according to Paul the promise made to Abraham was a ratified covenant (v. 15,17). Paul is saying that we are a part of that covenant between God and Abraham through Christ who unites us to it. Does this mean we are heirs of a temporal, physical promise? Galatians 4 begins by reiterating that we are no longer slaves but sons. Moving forward to verse 21 we begin the Example of Hagar and Sarah, which should answer our concern as to whether our connection with Abraham secures us something temporal and earthly, or something more. Verse 23 tells us "the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise." Continuing, it is explained that the slave woman Hagar represents the covenant at Sinai which produces slaves. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother (v. 26). "So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman (v. 31)." Looking at Galatians 3 and 4 together then shows that the covenant which we are a part of, ratified between God and Abraham, fulfilled through the promised seed, Christ, who united us to himself through his death, resurrection, and ascension, is the covenant of grace.

Thanks for the discourse Robert, I hope this offers clarity as to what I'm trying to say.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
A quote from Joel Beeke and Mark Jones’ A Puritan Theology pertinent to the credo-paedo discussion, which seems to me the very gist of the issue, which the Renihans exploit.

“The debate [between baptists and paedobaptists] focused on how the Abrahamic covenant relates to the new covenant. The question…is whether we may speak of the Abrahamic covenant (singular, so the Reformed) or Abrahamic covenants (plural, so the Baptists). The antipaedobaptists had to speak of two covenants made with Abraham: works and grace. By doing so they were able to argue that circumcision belonged to the Abrahamic covenant of works and not to the Abrahamic covenant of grace. Reformed paedobaptists would view this as forced exegesis that is wholly unpersuasive—particularly in light of Romans 4:11—and a major departure from classic Reformed covenant theology.” (A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, Beeke and Jones, p 740-41)​

To assert that God makes a covenant—call it the Covenant of Circumcision, if you will (Acts 7:8)—with the merely physical children of Abraham, is equal to saying that He makes a covenant with the seed of the serpent, with the reprobate. But this He does not do.

When the LORD commanded Abraham to circumcise all his children—including the males and the male children of all those in his house, servants or otherwise—that they may partake of the covenant He was unilaterally making with Abraham, it was to put the seal and sign of the covenant upon them—God’s elect—and it obviously could not require of them a profession of belief, at least not the very little ones. But for the sake of the elect children among them, all were circumcised.

The unbelievers within the house of Israel had membership neither by right nor by fact. They were tares among the wheat, or to switch metaphors, but chaff. So things did not change regarding membership in the New Covenant house of Israel. It was the same. Only those of faith are counted as the seed.

There were indeed temporal physical blessings associated with the covenant of grace and given to His elect people among Abraham’s seed.

Just as the Jewish state of our day is an imposter “Israel”, so these reprobates were imposter Israelites. The Israel of God was holy.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
We are Abraham's offspring because Christ is his offspring and we are united to Christ by faith.

I like how you described it this way because I did view this as meaning we have faith like Abraham. After reading a few systematic theology books I am still confused on the link between Genesis 3's being an actual covenant. To me when looking directly at Genesis 3 within its Historical and Biblical context the elements of a covenant are not there. However, the promise is made that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent.

I understand Noah to be a unique covenant since it was a direct promise to never humanity by flood. Fully gracious and without condition. This to me is the start. The uniqueness of seed (offspring) demonstrates that it was Christ who God had in mind when speaking with Abraham. Nobody denies that Genesis 3 is speaking of Christ.

How does one conclude from these principles that we should baptize children of believers? Faith is spiritual not physical. When the New Covenant was ushered in to us 1689 Federalists it has done away with the Old. I realize there is a debate regarding Renewal verses actually being brand new. One Presbyterian friend described it to me as being like a New Moon. Is this what you would like to the covenant not being capable of being annulled? (v15)
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
When the LORD commanded Abraham to circumcise all his children—including the males and the male children of all those in his house, servants or otherwise—that they may partake of the covenant He was unilaterally making with Abraham, it was to put the seal and sign of the covenant upon them—God’s elect—and it obviously could not require of them a profession of belief, at least not the very little ones. But for the sake of the elect children among them, all were circumcised.

How does a presbyterian connect circumcision to baptism?
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
“The debate [between baptists and paedobaptists] focused on how the Abrahamic covenant relates to the new covenant. The question…is whether we may speak of the Abrahamic covenant (singular, so the Reformed) or Abrahamic covenants (plural, so the Baptists). The antipaedobaptists had to speak of two covenants made with Abraham: works and grace. By doing so they were able to argue that circumcision belonged to the Abrahamic covenant of works and not to the Abrahamic covenant of grace. Reformed paedobaptists would view this as forced exegesis that is wholly unpersuasive—particularly in light of Romans 4:11—and a major departure from classic Reformed covenant theology.” (A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, Beeke and Jones, p 740-41)

This is exactly the divide of 1689 Federalists who adhere to a form of Covenant Theology. When I spoke of heightening in Typology it was pointing to the idea of OLD (Type) NEW (Anti-Type). The argument made by same in the book was that Types terminate in their Antitype. The annul statement made in v15 is somewhat confusing if this would be true.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Robert, you ask how Genesis 3 is connected to the Abrahamic covenant. Presbyterians explain it like this: the promise in Gen. 3 is like an acorn, which is fertilized, cultivated, and watered (!) in the Noahic covenant, sprouts in the Abrahamic covenant, has a central trunk in the Mosaic covenant, grows a leafy (though somewhat thorny in prospect!) crown in the Davidic covenant, and comes to full treehood in the new covenant. The covenant of grace is an organic, growing tree. The question the Abrahamic covenant answers is this: from which family on earth will the promised seed of Genesis 3 come? The answer is the Abrahamic seed. The promise to Abraham of an innumerable offspring fulfils the command made to Adam and Eve that they should multiply and fill the earth. An acorn bears little resemblance to a tree, but someone who knows his oak trees will still be able to see the organic connection.

You also ask how a Presbyterian connects circumcision to baptism. Two main passages are in discussion here: Romans 4 and Colossians 2. Circumcision is the physical sign pointing forward to the yet-to-be-spilled blood of Christ. Baptism is the physical sign pointing back to the already spilled blood of Christ. Romans 4 tells us that circumcision was a seal of the same imputed righteousness of Christ that every believer in the new covenant now shares. Colossians 2 tells us that circumcision and baptism are organically connected as signs of the covenant of grace, one pointing forward, and the other pointing backward.
 

Challer

Puritan Board Freshman
As a '1689 Baptist' myself, I wouldn't switch to RPCNA, but for reasons related to Credobaptism, not to Typology, per se. I guess my response to this original post would be that there are bigger fish in that pond to wrestle with. God bless.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
As a '1689 Baptist' myself, I wouldn't switch to RPCNA, but for reasons related to Credobaptism, not to Typology, per se. I guess my response to this original post would be that there are bigger fish in that pond to wrestle with. God bless.

The RP Church near my house is a great church with a strong Christian community. It's 10min drive from my house while my church is roughly a half hour. Here is their website https://graceingibsonia.org/

Typology Heightening, Federal Headship views are the main distinctives that divide 1689 with Presbyterian CT, which drives CT baptists to more discontinuity. So if I agree with Presbyterian Typology then logically it flows into being paedo. Its part of the hermeneutical method being adopted in the two theological camps. Trust me brother this isn't something I am taking lightly. At the same time its also not a hill I am willing to die on in either case at this point.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I have to sit down and read the John Ball treastise soon. Here is a diagram that I pulled from 1689 Federalisms website that I believe highlights the differences.

View attachment 7498


Diagrams are faulty, I wouldn't use them to try to understand or compare the views.


Further, Jeff Stivason is a professor at RPTS and a great Pastor. I encourage you to ask him these questions. He will be very helpful to you.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
Further, Jeff Stivason is a professor at RPTS and a great Pastor. I encourage you to ask him these questions. He will be very helpful to you.

I know Jeff fairly well since I attend RPTS and attend one of his bible studies. He is also a very busy man. I am working with one of the Ruling Elders from the church on these questions, which admitedly is a complex subject. Best to get help from various perspectives which is why forums like this exist.
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
How does one conclude from these principles that we should baptize children of believers?
To me it hinges on how we define baptism. I think you'll find that credos and paedos hold to different definitions.

2LBCF says:

Chapter 28: Of Baptism and the Lord's Supper​

1. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in his church to the end of the world. ( Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26 )

2. These holy appointments are to be administered by those only who are qualified and thereunto called, according to the commission of Christ. ( Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 4:1 )

Chapter 29: Of Baptism​

1. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life. ( Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2;12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4 )

2. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. ( Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36, 37; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 18:8 )

3. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. ( Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 8:38 )

4. Immersion, or dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. ( Matthew 3:16; John 3:23 )

WCF says:

XXVII. Of the Sacraments​

I. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace,a immediately instituted by God,b to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him:c as also to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world;d and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.e

a. Gen 17:7, 10; Rom 4:11. • b. Mat 28:19; 1 Cor 11:23. • c. 1 Cor 10:16; 11:25-26; Gal 3:27. • d. Gen 34:14; Exod 12:48; Rom 15:8. • e. Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 10:16, 21.


II. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; whence it comes to pass that the names and the effects of the one are attributed to the other.a

a. Gen 17:10; Mat 26:27-28; Titus 3:5.


III. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments, rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it,a but upon the work of the Spirit,b and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.c

a. Rom 2:28-29; 1 Pet 3:21. • b. Mat 3:11; 1 Cor 12:13. • c. Mat 26:27-28.


IV. There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.a

a. Mat 28:19-20, 19; 1 Cor 4:1; 11:20, 23; Heb 5:4.


V. The sacraments of the Old Testament, in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the New.a

a. 1 Cor 10:1-4.

XXVIII. Of Baptism​

I. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ,a not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church,b but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace,c of his ingrafting into Christ,d of regeneration,e of remission of sins,f and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life:g which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his Church until the end of the world.h

a. Mat 28:19. • b. 1 Cor 12:13. • c. Rom 4:11 with Col 2:11-12. • d. Rom 6:5; Gal 3:27. • e. Titus 3:5. • f. Mark 1:4. • g. Rom 6:3-4. • h. Mat 28:19-20.


II. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel lawfully called thereunto.

a. Mat 3:11; 28:19-20; John 1:33.


III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person.a

a. Mark 7:4; Acts 2:41; 16:33; Heb 9:10, 19-22.


IV. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ,a but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.b

a. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:37-38. • b. Gen 17:7, 9 with Gal 3:9, 14 and Col 2:11-12 and Acts 2:38-39 and Rom 4:11-12; Mat 28:19; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15; 1 Cor 7:14.


V. Although it be a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance,a yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it,b or that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.c

a. Luke 7:30 with Exod 4:24-26. • b. Acts 10:2, 4, 22, 31, 45, 47; Rom 4:11. • c. Acts 8:13, 23.


VI. The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered;a yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.b

a. John 3:5, 8. • b. Acts 2:38, 41; Gal 3:27; Eph 5:25-26; Titus 3:5.


VII. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered to any person.a

a. Titus 3:5.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
The baptism of infants and our view of the covenant are certainly related, but I think it's a mistake to view covenant theology as a sine qua non of paedobaptism. Here are the six arguments of Dutch theologian Antonius Walaeus (of Synod of Dort fame). Only a couple of his points involve circumcision, covenant, etc, strictly speaking.

We teach against the Anabaptists that the children of believers must be baptized with the following arguments:

1. Because they are included in the covenant of God, we argue as follows: 1. That the sign of the covenant cannot be denied to those covenanted. 2. Infants of believers are covenanted, etc.
The former is clear because to those to whom the greater is communicated, the lesser must also be communicated. The Apostle Peter proves the latter, Acts 2:38, Let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins… because the promise is for you, and for your children. And we see that it was also so in the old testament, that the covenant and the initial sign of the covenant were linked, both in circumcision and in the purifications and oblations for infants.

2. 1. Whoever is from the true Church of Christ, is to be purified by washing the water in the word. 2. But the infants of believers are part of the true Church of Christ, etc.
Point 1 is evident from the place Eph. 5:25, Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her, to sanctify her, having purified her in the washing of water by the word. These things must be understood, not of part, but of the whole Church of Christ, who he loved and for whom he gave himself up to sanctify her.

Point 2 is out of controversy because of the promise I will be your God, and that of your descendants after you [Gen. 17:7, Acts. 2:38], and because Christ testifies that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, Matt. 19:14. Also see Mt. 18:14, So, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should be lost. And so Christ laid his hand on them and blessed them. And in Joel 2:16, suckling infants and children are counted among God's people: Gather the people, sanctify the meeting, gather the elders, gather the infants and those who suckle.

3. 1. The water of baptism cannot be denied to anyone who receives the Spirit of Christ. But, (2.) infants receive the Holy Spirit as much as we do. Etc.
Point 1 is from Peter, Act. 10:47, Can anyone withhold water, so that these who have received the Holy Spirit also like us are not baptized? And ch. 10 v. 17 If God, then, also gave them the same gift as to us who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that could hinder God? If this proposition of Peter was true and firm, then ours is also true and firm.

Point 2 can be proven from what was already proven in the previous argument, from Mt. 18:14 & 19:14, because they belong to Christ, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, and there is none that is Christ's and does not have the Spirit of Christ, Rom. 8: 9, and no one can enter the kingdom of God, but be reborn of the Spirit and water, Jn. 3: 5.

4. There is an argument drawn from the example of circumcision in the Old Testament.
Objection 1: But they were bound to a certain day; that is, the eighth, and only the males were circumcised.
Answer: That does not defeat the force of the argument, because it may be that there is variety in the circumstances, and yet there is agreement on the substance. Therefore, it is not convenient for God to communicate the sign of the covenant to infants in the Old Testament, but not to communicate it in the New Testament, when in their meaning these two sacraments agree, as seen in Rom. 2, last verse, and Rom. 4:11, where it is called a sign of the righteousness of faith. And in Col. 2:11 also, the effect is attributed to both: In him [Christ] you were also circumcised with circumcision not made by hand, by casting out of you the carnal sinful body, in the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him. So these circumstantial things were typical, like that Christ was going to rise from the dead on the eighth day of the week, and that women were considered circumcised in their husbands, like the Church in Christ, their father and husband.

Objection 2: Against that, it is objected by Anabaptists that the reason for circumcision is other than baptism, because in the old covenant, there were no spiritual and eternal promises, only temporary.
Answer: Clearly that is false. For, if circumcision is considered an appendix to the old covenant, as the apostle considers it according to the Jewish hypothesis, Gal. 5: 3, I testify to every man who is circumcised that he is bound to keep the whole law, then it contains spiritual and eternal promises and threats, as in Matt. 19:16, Good Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life? And he answers, If you want to enter life, keep the commandments… you will not kill, you will not commit adultery, etc. Also Rom. 8: 3, what was impossible for the law… God did, sending his Son… so that the justice of the law might be fulfilled in us. So also Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, made a curse for us, Gal. 3:13. See also Dan. 12: 7 etc. Therefore the true appendix of the new covenant is the sign of the righteousness of faith, Rom. 4:11, and circumcision of the heart, Rom. 2, last verse.

5. The argument drawn from the Old Testament prefigurative examples, according to the 1 Cor. 10: 1, our fathers all went under the cloud, and in Moses they were baptized. But the infants were also present there. Furthermore, in the New Testament, and even in the Apostolic Church itself, that was the practice, because it mentions entire families baptized, Acts. 16:15 & 33; 18:18; also 1 Cor. 1:16.
6. Finally, a distinction must be made between the children of the faithful and the unfaithful, between those outside the Church, and those inside. For those of the unbelievers are unclean children, and those of the faithful are holy, 1 Cor. 7:14. And baptism testifies to this distinction, as can be seen in 1 Cor. 12:13, we were all baptized into one body. Therefore anyone who belongs to that body must be united and linked with it by the sacrament of union.
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Robert, in their essay, “Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology”, Micah and Samuel Renihan say,

“The Abrahamic covenant, called the Covenant of Circumcision by Stephen in Acts 7:8, promised Abraham three things primarily. It promised him a land, a people, and a kingship. In other words, Abraham’s physical descendants would inherit the land and grow into an innumerable people ruled by their own kings. This was called the Covenant of Circumcision because circumcision was the sign of these blessings and separated Abraham’s offspring from the rest of the world as the heirs of these promises.​
“… All those who were of Abraham, or in Abraham we might say, were heirs of the national promises. This defined the membership of the covenant.”​

Here we see the Renihan brothers (RBs) working at their misguided task of trying to establish two covenants with Abraham, one the covenant of grace (CoG), and the other a national covenant including the merely physical—one might say carnal—members receiving God’s provision for Abraham’s seed.

The Covenant of Circumcision—the “national covenant” imagined by the RBs—is a Baptist invention. Rather, in truth, it was an historical development of God’s covenant with Abraham—the same covenant of grace, although further developed, He made with Adam and Eve (implicit in the protoevangelion in Gen 3:15) and with Noah in Gen 9:9, 10 (a further development), and now with Abraham. As Homer C. Hoeksema writes,

“The observing of this sign [circumcision] is an acknowledgment that they are unclean and bring forth unclean seed. As the sign of God’s covenant in the old dispensation, circumcision is a symbol of the circumcision of the heart, and of the death of our unclean nature on the cross.” (H.C. Hoeksema, Unfolding Covenant History: An Exposition of the Old Testament, Vol 2, From the flood to Isaac; 2001, RFPA; p 171)​

Besides setting the nation issuing from Abraham and Sarah apart from all the other nations and unto God,

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live (Deut 30:6).​

This was an outward sign of a spiritual reality wrought by God in the hearts of the elect. And more than that:

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised (Rom 4:11a).​

Paul continues even further:

…that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised (Rom 4:11b-12).​

This was not a carnal or merely national sign! It was also a covenant seal of the imputed righteousness they received from the God upon whom they believed.

And what was the essence of the covenant God made with His people?

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. [emphasis added] (Gen 17:7)​

2 Corinthians 6:16 says it well: “…as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” “My people” not as an owner of servants, but as a Father, elder Brother, and to this latter a beloved bride.
_____

It is true that Abraham (A.) had two seeds, even as many godly families do. A., even though by command he circumcised all his children and household, we know that they—the covenant family—were a mixed seed, regenerate and reprobate. But this in no wise warrants postulating two covenants, a carnal and a spiritual. The carnal, i.e., the reprobates, seed of the serpent, were not covenant children in any respect.

Looking at the OT period, God realized his covenant of grace in the line of generations: from Eve, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, etc. He gathers his church from age to age from the children of believers. But not all the children of the above men were the children of promise (the line of the Seed promised to Eve in the darkened garden - Gen 3:15). With Abraham, already regenerated and in the CoG in Gen 12:3 / Acts 3:25; 7:2,3,4 / Heb 11:8, the children in his covenant community were mixed, but for the sake of the elect children therein all were circumcised. The reprobate in this family were not all of Abraham in spirit and truth:

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:28, 29)​

Shortly afterwards, referring to the children of A.’s grandson, Paul famously says,

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. That is, 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. (Rom 6b-8)​

As noted above, the children who were the seed of the serpent, and not the seed of the woman, were not covenant children in any wise, but imposters in the camp. I elaborated on this replying to a Reformed Baptist prof (Dr. Bob Gonzales) in an earlier PB discussion. A. is not the father of two covenants, but one only. In New Covenant times, when the CoG came to full fruition in Christ Jesus, the general rule is as David Engelsma put it, “the Puritans were fond of saying, ‘God casts the line of election in the loins of godly parents.’ For the sake of the elect children, all are baptized.” [speaking of paedo families; emphasis added]

That’s the way it works—unless one is evangelizing the heathen. Then of course baptism only follows conversion and a credible profession of faith.

In the godly Reformed churches this is their view also, save that they, for the sake of the elect among their seed, baptize all their children (continuing the command given to Abraham), knowing that there may be “little vipers” among them, who are not of the family of God, nor in His covenant.
_____

Robert, I think you must divest yourself of the terminologies of the 1689 Feds—as they are not in accord with the Scripture—if you are to see the Scripture unfiltered by an obscuring lens. The Scripture:

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him [Christ], which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col 2:9-13).​

To the question, Is circumcision a type of baptism, so that when the antitype arrives the type is relegated to the shadows? Or does it signify exactly the spiritual reality—within the OT situation—that baptism does in the NT? In other words, is circumcision the exact equivalent spiritually as baptism, only under a different administration of the same gracious covenant? So that it is no type at all? I think that what I have written above affirms that.

The endeavor of the 1689 Feds to posit two covenants with Abraham, one physical and the other spiritual, worketh ill in theology, bringing in a falsehood, an alien idea like a fly in a jar of balm.
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
@Jerusalem Blade - Steve, I have really appreciated your contributions to this thread. I was wondering if you have ever read John Flavel's book on infant baptism in the sixth volume of his works, which I seem to recall deals quite a bit with the notion that there was a covenant of works with Abraham? I must admit, though, that it is about 12 or 13 years since I read it so my memory may not be entirely accurate.
 
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