A Baptismal Debate

Stemming from a recent discussion on facebook a Baptist friend of mine and myself have agreed to debate the subject of infant baptism.  Being Baptist, he is naturally credo-Baptist (against baptizing infants) and being Presbyterian I am naturally paedo-Baptist.  We moved this debate to a more permanent and accessible venue for informative purposes as this is a subject which often draws heated argument from people on both sides of the isle.  The tone of our debate will be cordial yet focused.  Both myself and Jon (my debate partner) are committed Calvinists so the doctrines of TULIP are here taken for granted and are in all ways respected and assumed.  There will be no calling each other heretics or other low tactics as both the Reformed Baptist and Reformed Presbyterian have proud and fruitful histories and fit roundly within historic orthodoxy.

My arguments will here begin with my view of the nature and substance of baptism as a rite and sacrament of the Church universal as instituted by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The following is excerpted from a non-published booklet which I authored on covenantalism so my apologies if some of the material provided seems to be off topic.  I have just edited it to make it as short and precise as possible but do to the historic misunderstandings on this particular topic I seek to present my case in a methodical and progressive way so as to make it in all ways accessible to the reader.  Enjoy and let the debate begin!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”                                                                                                                           Matthew 28:19

Down to this point we have discussed the primary means by which God dispenses His covenant unto us. It has been seen that God is the truly transcendent One, being sovereign over all of creation He is thus the source of the covenant. Secondly, God dispenses His covenant unto us through the mediator that is Christ. Jesus serves as head of the covenant and governs over the affairs of the covenant people through so many methods as was seen. Lately, ethics, or the code of conduct for the covenant people was examined. Not in serious depth but merely so as to: 1) prove that there is indeed a standard by which we are evaluated and an ethic which we, as Christians, are supposed to emulate, 2) that this standard does differ in its outward performances and demands from that of the older covenant, but only insofar as that the new covenant is dispensed unto us by Christ, not ‘rudimentary elements’. These first things compose the fundamental aspects of the covenant, and, on the whole, they are relatively easy to gain at least a preliminary understanding of. Although perhaps somewhat neglected in many modernist churches, these previously discussed points are not altogether abandoned today. However, the point to which we now arrive is probably the most sorely misunderstood and certainly most abused within Christianity today. The topic of which I speak is ratification. The idea of a ratifying oath was central to the Christian religion from the beginning, and this has been reflected in all societies in which Christianity has flourished. Over the last two or three centuries Christians seem to have forgotten the importance of the ratifying oath, this too is greatly reflected within society.

Too often today men take a gnostic approach to the covenant; to them merely knowing about these first three points of the covenant is good enough. In other words, covenant participation comes through mere covenant knowledge. The basic idea is that knowledge equals salvation. The true, Biblical covenant is quite different however. The Bible teaches us that to simply know about the covenant falls short; we must ratify the covenant in our lives, sealing our adherence to it openly before God and men. If we were to put this in terms of the example used above, involving a conquering king and his vassals, the modernist’s view is that the king can create the covenant, set up a system by which it will be maintained, reveal to the people the standard by which they are to be judged, as well as tell them of the various details of the arrangement; upon hearing about the different aspects of the kings gracious covenant the people depart from him saying, ‘That’s nice, glad we know all about that now.’ Do you think the king in this scenario would be satisfied with this response? It cannot be pretended that he would be, because for the people to simply know about the covenant is no assurance that they will actually adhere to it. What the king wants is for the people to make a vow that they will honor his covenant. He wants a promise, an affirmation. This is exactly what the oath is, it is an affirmation of covenant submission. The attitude of the vassals in our example prevails in many circles today, it’s really not a new error. ‘That’s nice, so happy I have heard about those things,’ says the individual. Does this answer satisfy God? No! Knowledge is not good enough, we must internalize the things which God teaches us, and we must vow to act upon these teachings, we must ratify the covenant!

So central to the Christian tradition is the concept of oaths that surviving in our midst today, even when the significance of an oath is not taught and they are rarely understood by any, general forms of oaths can still be found in use all around us. An immediate example is the use of the exclamation, amen. Amen, as a term, means, ‘so be it’. It is a form of witness. In Deuteronomy 27 God commands Israel to reaffirm the covenant once they have crossed over the Jordan River, notice the use of amen in the following:

“Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hand of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret. And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’ Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ Cursed by anyone who misleads a blind man on the road. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:15-19)

(emphasis supplied)

This passage continues on and there are actually twelve times which the people say amen. In so doing they are saying ‘so let it be’ to the things spoken over the people by the Levites. They are making a vow that they will abstain from all the wicked things which the Lord sets forward as being against the ethical stipulations of His covenant, or they will face His punishment. The people acknowledge the necessity of acting out the covenant, thus they are in effect calling down curses on themselves if they forsake these commands. The seriousness of amen can also be seen at the very end of the Bible in Revelations 22. John says,

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.” (Revelations 22:18-21)

(emphasis supplied)

After pronouncing a curse upon mishandling the Word of God, and testifying to Christ’s immanence, John invokes the term amen to reinforce the seriousness of the matter upon his audience. This becomes even more significant when realized that the book of Revelations was most likely used within the Early Church as a type of liturgy.[1] In this use, where the congregation would have taken part in the weekly readings, their worship cycle through the book would conclude with an oath to uphold the words of the book and belief in Christ’s immanency. By publicly declaring amen in response to the reading of these promised sanctions, which may be either positive or negative, the people actually take witness against themselves. In both of these instances the people are swearing, or taking an oath to uphold the Word of the Lord, they acknowledge that if they fail to do this their own spoken vow will stand as witness against them before God. So serious is the invocation of the term amen that Rushdoony, when speaking on the subject, can say,

“Jesus Christ is the Amen of God, because through Him “the purposes of God are established, II Cor 1:20.” In Revelations 3:14 Jesus is the Amen because He is “the faithful and true witness,” He who declares the law, gives testimony concerning all offenses against it, and where men will not accept their death penalty in Christ’s atonement, He executes sentence against the offender.”[2]

Rushdoony here stresses the significance of our own use of the term amen by correctly relating it to Jesus. Jesus is seen as God’s Amen. Thus man enters into the covenant by saying amen to God’s Amen! And just as it is here pointed out, Jesus serves as witness before the Father; either in our favor, if we have said amen to Him, or against us if we deny Him. To further cement the seriousness of laying hold of the covenant, it should be pointed out that the covenant sanctions cut both ways. The subject of sanctions naturally relates to the fourth part of the covenant because when man takes an oath before God, he is swearing a witness to God’s judgment. Judgment which will be favorable towards the man who upholds the covenant’s stipulations, but deadly to the man who forsakes them. This leads us to a very important aspect of the oath, it is usually self-maledictory. In case you were wondering, the word maledictory means to ‘speak evil.’ So to swear a self-maledictory oath is to speak evil upon oneself if they break the oath. This is why the only true oath must be taken in God’s name, for God is ultimately the one who meets out punishment in its due course. I realize that to most this is a somewhat foreign concept, one which is hard to grasp. An easy example of a self-maledictory oath can be found in one modern institution which still takes oaths quite seriously, Freemasonry. Upon induction into the Order, the new initiate is required to take an oath that goes something like this,

“I swear to preserve the subtleties of this fraternity and to protect the secrecy of its rites and rituals, if I am to make known any of these things to any who are uninitiated, may it be upon pain of death; my heart pulled from my chest, my tongue removed from my mouth.”

To the Masonic order, secrecy is the highest virtue and we see the seriousness of that reflected in the initiate’s oath. I must apologize for the paraphrasing, it would seem that throughout history there have been few men willing to bear the negative implications of breaking their Masonic oath. How fretful is it that Christians take their oath before God far less seriously. The Masonic order may pledge to cut out the heart and tongue for reneging on the ethics of the Order, God pledges to do far worse! Anyways, to take a self-maledictory oath is to speak evil upon oneself for breaking the terms agreed to. This is exactly what the Israelites did in Deuteronomy 27 and it’s the same action taken by the congregation who recites Revelations 22. One final proof of amen’s seriousness is that it is typically invoked at the end of a prayer. Prayer, for most Christians today, takes on quite a different style and tone than what it did in former days, thus the use of amen at the end is harder to understand. Fortunately, the prayers of one of the most saintly men in history are eternally preserved for us in the Bible. The book of Psalms contains works from David, as well as others, that are made to be used as both hymns and prayers. David’s prayers often contain sentiments like the following:

“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. (Psalm 9:7-8)

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. (Psalm 7:6)

Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!. (Psalm 35:4-6)”

These are only three witnesses but any reader familiar with the Bible will know that the entire book of Psalms is full of such references. The act of invocation, saying ‘so be it’ after any of these prayers is in total reverence to the Lord. It is to express a belief in His continued action throughout His creation and a swearing by His constancy to answer the call of His elect. In our own day, we generally pray in the name of Jesus, and this too is only natural, for, as we saw, Jesus is the Amen of God; the ultimate promise of His good favor and action on our behalf. To further the point of the former status of oaths within Christianity, another proof is easily summoned. One oath which virtually every Christian has partaken of without realizing it, is baptism. Baptism is an oath taken before God and men, a public affirmation of covenant submission. It bears a similar quality in deed to the use of the term amen in word. To be baptized into the faith, is to swear amen to God’s Amen. Speaking of Baptism, Paul tells the church at Rome:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” (Romans 6:1-4)

Paul here exhorts the Roman Christians to cease living in sin lest Christ judge them in the manner of His death. We have already seen that Christ’s death was an oath on God’s part; an oath which brings the promise of both blessings and cursing. So also, our ‘baptism unto His death’ is an oath on our own part to take serious the implications of owning Him as Lord. Apparently the Christians in Rome were struggling with the gnostic error which we discussed above. For them, to know about the covenant was enough, but Paul says they must live the covenant, for the wages of disobedience is death (Romans 6:23). Christ’s death unto life is a promise unto all of mankind: they can bear their own sin and die the death unto death, or they can cast their burdens upon Christ, the true Amen, and die the death unto life. Either way, the oath which Christ brings promises death, the choice is which death. Death unto life in Christ, or death unto death. As we have seen before, God doesn’t leave man much wiggle-room. This brings us to another important aspect of the oath. It is often invoked by God Himself! Numerous examples of this taking place occur throughout the Bible but an excellent sample for our studies is Genesis 15. In Genesis 15 God promises Abram that he shall indeed have an heir, and that through that heir he shall become a father of many nations. After making these promises unto Abram, God commands him to bring forward animals (v. 9), but these animals were not offered by Abram as a sacrifice unto God. Instead, he slaughtered them and split their carcasses into halves, then placed the halves opposite each other so as to make an aisle down the middle (v. 10). Traditionally, it would have been Abram, the vassal, who would have passed between the rent carcasses, a symbolic oath of the evils which would befall him if he turned away from the Sovereign’s covenant. Instead, God causes Abram to fall into a deep sleep and He passed through the slain animals (v.17), invoking the curse which their death symbolized upon Himself. This is truly a most gracious act! We know that God’s Word is true and endures forever, He need not take an oath upon Himself, yet He chooses to do so in His mercy. But lest we think that God takes all the responsibility upon Himself and leaves us with none, we see shortly after in Genesis that God commands the newly renamed Abraham to circumcise himself and his household, as a ‘sign of the covenant.’ This is important for us, because the old covenant’s act of circumcision relates directly to baptism in our own day; they are both outward signs of the covenant. In Genesis 17, God commands Abraham to circumcise every male child born into his household, for the uncircumcised one will be ‘cut off’. The command given to Abraham concerning circumcision is a symbolic one of the attitude which Abraham and his descendants are to have towards God. The cutting away of the useless and filthy flesh of the foreskin symbolizes God’s wrath poured out on unbelievers and His purification of His covenant people. The reader is probably familiar with the use of the term ‘cut off’ as it is used through the Bible. I have provided a few examples:

“…for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15)

For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the Lord shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:25)

Then he said to me, ‘This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be cut off,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be cut off,’ according to that side of it.’ NKJV (Zechariah 5:3)”

(emphasis supplied in all of the above)

The same word used in the Hebrew for all these examples is the one which God spoke unto Abraham concerning the cutting off of the foreskin. The act of circumcision was an oath taken before God, with a promise on God’s part that if the people forsook His covenant they would be like foreskins unto Him and He would ‘cut them off.’ Now the act of circumcision was never merely an end in itself, Deuteronomy 10:16 says,

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”

The act was always an oath, and compounded, it was an affirmation on the part of man of an oath which God had already sworn too. He swore to make Abraham a father of many nations, and any of the people who defied His will in doing that would be truly ‘cut off.’   As the Reverend Ray Sutton says,

“Man enters into the covenant by saying “amen” to God’s self-maledictory oath… What exactly does this mean? Going back to the Abrahamic example again – where animals were cut in half and burned with fire – the one who enters covenant with God is saying that that would literally happen to him; he would be torn in half; the birds would come and devour him; he would be utterly burned with fire.”[3]

The Rev. Sutton here puts it plainly, man only enters into covenant with God by means of an oath. A vow by which he swears witness to his own conduct. As Christians, the oath by which we swear has already been taken by God as a show of His graciousness towards us. Baptism is that oath. Jesus, in His last words on earth, commands the disciples to baptize all the nations, in effect, to bring all the nations into an oath of obedience before the King. For nothing less will satisfy His right to rule!

[1] David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance (Ft. Worth, Texas: Dominion Press, 1987), p. 20f

[2] R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973), p. 574

[3]Reverend Ray Sutton, That You May Prosper (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics), p.84

end section one and begin section two

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.”                                                                                                                                                                 Matthew 25:31-33

Accompanying alongside and inseparably attached to the subject of oaths is its counterpart, sanctions. Within the covenant structure, sanctions consist of the judgments and workings of God. A proper understanding of sanctions is fundamental to understanding the covenant. For it is in the subject of sanctions which God deals with men, either as covenant keepers or covenant breakers. This process could rightly be termed evaluation. For it is at this point that God evaluates His works and judges accordingly. God always evaluates and passes judgment upon His creation. We see the establishment of this pattern of God’s behavior right from the start:

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Genesis 1:31)

Upon finishing His work, God evaluated the creation and judged it to be ‘very good.’ This process of evaluation and judgment continues all throughout the Bible, and is nowhere more evident than in the lives of those who affirm Christ’s covenant. God’s sanctions serve to purify the elect, burning away the wood and stubble in their lives and blessing them for adhering to His covenant, as well as punishing those who turn from the path, and also heaping burning coals on the reprobate. Jesus’ parables often express His evaluation and judgment, in Luke He gives the following parable:

“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’…When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’…Then another came saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant!’” (Luke 19:12-13, 15-17,20-22a)

We here see Christ in parable express His evaluation and judgment of His servants. Bear in mind that the judgment here is upon His servants, those who reside within His house and serve under His employ. Of further note, corresponding to oaths, is the fact that the wicked servant is judged by his own admissions. This realization adds further weight to the act of taking oath before God, for in so doing man invites God’s judgment upon himself. When a man invokes God as his witness, he must realize that His judgment runs both ways. God, in His judgment, upholds those who honor Him and He cuts off the wicked servants. As Peter says,

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

Peter here tells us that God’s judgment, or evaluation, begins with His own people, and there is a significant reason for this. In order to understand why it is that judgment must always begin at the ‘house of God’, a proper view of His patterns concerning judgment and evaluation are necessary. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul says,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

We saw in Genesis that once God created, He evaluated. Christians, as new creatures in Christ, must undergo God’s evaluation. Remember, God evaluates His new creations. As the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men, continuously expanding ‘the house of the Lord,’ it takes God’s sanctions with it. Once men ratify the covenant which God extends through Christ, once they take that oath, He then evaluates them. If assessed with a positive evaluation, the sanctions are also positive (Luke 19:15-17), but if the new creation is assessed negatively, the sanctions correspond (Luke 19:20-22). As the leaven of the Gospel permeates the world, it takes regeneration (new creation) with it, and thus brings God’s judgment. This is why in Revelations 20-21 the Final Judgment and the complete emergence of the New Creation accompany each other. God waits for the Spirit to spread the new creation as it exists within renewed men before He passes judgment upon all, and once He evaluates and duly judges the unregenerate elements within creation we see a completely new, and perfect creation emerge. Once the old elements are completely judged, they pass away completely. That is why judgment and restoration go hand in hand. It is the same in the life of the believer; upon ratifying the covenant (taking the oath) the believer becomes a new creation and is then duly assessed by God. This is why Jesus so strongly denounces sinning against the Holy Spirit, saying,

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

Likewise, the book of Hebrews adds:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (Hebrew 6:4-6)

In other words, if after affirming Christ (tasting of the world to come) one turns aside from Christ and spurns the Spirit then they are negatively assessed by God and receive His negative sanctions. In his second epistle, Peter adds to these witnesses, when speaking of those amongst the congregation who have gone astray he says,

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)

Peter promises that those who serve in the master’s house, yet live as wicked servants shall be punished. He even goes so far as to say that their punishment will be worse than those who never believed at all! This brings us full circle back to The Great Commission. For as the Church is commanded to baptize the entire world, the objective is to see all men swear allegiance to God, thus invoking His sanctions upon their lives and actions. Jesus promises that His Holy Spirit accompanies us throughout this endeavor, renewing both us and the world around us. It is in this way that The Great Commission deals directly with oaths and sanctions. And we can also begin to understand how oaths and sanctions indeed do accompany one another. The premise behind summoning God as witness is that He metes out judgment upon those who break their promises, and His Word. When man is baptized he promises that his flesh is dead in Christ and the he lives in the Spirit. If, having made this promise, he returns to the carnal life, or as Peter says, as a dog to his vomit, he is duly cut off by God’s righteous judgment.

Realizing that God will negatively assess those, who, while residing as servants in the Master’s house, live as wicked men and spurn the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, it must not be neglected that God absolutely assesses and issues sanctions upon all of creation, regenerate or not. Returning to Genesis we see the pattern of God’s judgments further unfold. In chapter 6 we read:

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7)

Above we saw that after finishing His original creative work, God evaluated and duly assessed His efforts as good; but here, after the introduction of sin into the world, God again evaluates His handiwork and forms a much lower estimation. This should show us a great deal about God. He is not a Being, who, after completing some project simply abandons it for a vast amount of time. Too often today, when speaking of God’s judgment, men only think of the Final Judgment, wherein all of creation shall be judged for the last time. Unfortunately this leaves a large gap in God’s workings, a gap through which the entirety of human history may be fitted. Men who fear God’s sanctions like to see themselves as living within this gap, this makes it easier for them to deny the terrible fact that all men will be judged, whether in this life or beyond, by the Lord’s righteous standards. But the truth is, that God continuously evaluates and judges His creation throughout its existence. A helpful analogy would be that of a gardener: any man who takes pride in his garden will tell you that planting the seeds is the easiest part of the whole operation. After planting, the soil must be continually cultivated, the weeds must be pulled, and in times of drought the desirable plants must be watered. Will a good gardener set out his young plants and bury his seeds, then retire until harvest and expect a good crop? Rather, the garden must be evaluated almost daily. The good gardener will assess his work and smile approvingly at the plants which he has nurtured, as they grow and become productive, but he will uproot the weeds which steal nutrients from the useful things in the garden. Will it be judged presumptuous to assume that God is Himself quite an excellent gardener? If God had a garden, would He tend it as a slothful man who never tills the soil or pulls the weeds? Everyone who denies that the visible workings and judgments of God are ongoing throughout history must affirm that God is indeed a terrible gardener; and that He possesses no knowledge, or willpower, (it must be one or the other) to keep a respectable and productive garden. The true Christian, however, must realize that God continuously acts within His creation. The Psalmist has confidence in God’s sanctions, saying,

“Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth…The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.” (Psalm 67:4, 6)

This Psalm looks and hopes for God’s judgment, and not in a pietistic, distant form, hoping only that God will judge at the end of history; instead it expresses an expectation that God will act immediately in favor of those who praise Him. Jesus preaches the same way in Matthew, saying,

“Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the alter. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36)

Here again, Jesus is not telling the people of Jerusalem of the Final Judgment, at least two thousand years in their future. His audience would have understood exactly what He meant; God had evaluated, and He would surely judge! And unto those who rejected Christ’s message of immanent judgment, the Apostle Peter reproved, saying,

“…knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3:3-7)

How unfortunate that many today would rend Peter’s words from their original intent. Far from giving the people some pious hope that God will reward evil with its just deserts at a distant point in the future which they will never live to see, he here echoes the words of the Psalmist quoted above and confidently assures his first century listeners that even though they are being choked out by the weeds all around them, God will assuredly pass judgment upon the wicked and relieve the suffering of those who follow Him. The scoffers which Peter mentions are much like the men who are still today attempting to deny God’s process of evaluation and sanctions in history; they say, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Peter says they are willingly ignorant, because the truth is too much for them to bear. The truth is that all men must kiss the Son, lest He be angry with them, and to feign ignorance or willingly deny this is to rage and murmur in vain (Psalm 2, Acts 4:25-28). The thing which all men will eventually have to admit is that sanctions are unavoidable, the choice can never be sanctions versus no sanctions (though for covenant breakers this is the desirable one) but rather the choice is always going to be what kind of sanctions we receive? Positive sanctions for dwelling lawfully within the covenant, or negative ones for denying Christ’s Lordship, violating His ethics, or refusing to swear allegiance to Him? To attempt to deny the veracity of Christ’s judgments within history is the first step on the road to denying His Ultimate Judgment beyond history. Gary North’s statement will sum up this discussion nicely:

“God brings His sanctions in history, both positive and negative. He can do this either through His people, who act representatively as His agents, or through pagan armies or seemingly impersonal environmental forces. He can choose war, pestilence, or famine. He can even choose “all of the above.” But He does bring His sanctions in history. There is no escape from these historical sanctions, any more than there is an escape from His eternal sanctions. The former point to the latter. This is one of the primary functions of historical sanctions: as a witness to the holiness of God.”[1]

And to God’s holiness we may swear, Amen!

This gives us a very good vantage from which to review the things we have learned about the covenant thus far. It has been shown that God alone is Sovereign and that He establishes His covenant with man from His own infinite goodness. That Christ is delegated Head of the covenant and thus sits atop the covenant’s hierarchy structure. That from His kingly position, He issues His commands, which all men are expected to live by. Being a just and attentive ruler, Christ expects those whom dwell within His covenant to swear allegiance to Him by means of an oath, and that all who either violate that oath or deny its necessity face His righteous wrath and must live in constant fear of His negative sanctions; and that His sanctions do occur both within and without human history. And that leads us to the final aspect of our covenant discussion, inheritance.

[1] Gary North, Tools Of Dominion (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), page 941

End Post

This concludes my opening arguments.  Jonathan will now respond at this site, herehttp://thewordunfolded.com/exchange-infant-baptism .  After his response I will then address his arguments while building the Biblical case for Federal or Covenantal Theology and relating the above arguments specifically to the baptism of covenant children.

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2 thoughts on “A Baptismal Debate

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