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Answer to Yesterday’s Quiz

July 4, 2007

But first, a story.  Yesterday I drove south on Highway 35, “The Great River Road”.  I saw a sign for a scenic overlook and turned left.  It was much more than I expected.  I drove up a steep bluff to a parking lot which had walking trails leading further up.  I chose one and walked a quarter mile or so until I reached a small stone perch with a beautiful view of the Upper Mississippi River.  There was one other person up there, a woman, and my arrival slightly startled her.  She mumbled something like, “It’s a beautiful view.  I’ve got a lot of problems in my life and I come up here to remember that God is in control.”  I replied, “I’m a pastor, so I’m with you on that one.”  She laughed, amazed at the providence of a pastor walking up on her at that moment.  We ended up talking for almost an hour.  What a sign of God’s goodness!

Speaking of signs, the chief argument for infant baptism is that as the sign of the Abrahamic covenant (circumcision) was placed upon the infants of believers, so the sign of the new covenant (baptism) is to be placed upon our infant children because there is great continuity between the covenants.  The baptist response is that one of the new things about the new covenant is that all of its members “know the Lord” (Jer 31) and so the church, the new covenant community, is not to be a mixture of believers and unbelievers like OT Israel, but it is to be a community of the regenerate. 

Presbyterians then argue that the warning passages show that the church is in fact still a mixed community of believers and unbelievers.  For example,

Hebrews 10:26-29   For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

Possible interpretations:

1) Truly regenerate people may later choose to reject Christ and profane the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.  Clearly impossible because “everyone born of God overcomes the world’ (1 John 5:4)

2) There are people who are “sanctified by the blood of the covenant” who are not truly regenerate and therefore reject Christ.  This would mean there are unregenerate members of the covenant community and establish the continuity the Presbyterians are looking for.

But there is a third option.  If you, (by which I really mean you, born-again Christian), if you spurn the Son of God then you will receive horrible burning punishment.  But this is not going to happen.  You will not spurn the Son of God and this warning is one of the means of grace that will keep you from spurning the Son of God.  Paul warned in Acts 27:31 “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”  And so the men stayed in the ship.  But in fact it was impossible that they would have done otherwise, for the angel had already told Paul up in verse 24 “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”  But this doesn’t stop Paul from warning them, and the warning is the means of grace that kept them in the ship. 

So the presence of the warning in Hebrews 10:28 does not mean that there are unregenerate members of the new covenant community who are somehow “sanctified” by the blood of the covenant and should receive the sign of the covenant.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2007 9:29 pm

    So, all baptized members are regenerate?

    I know you don’t believe that. But we both certainly make distinctions between the visible and invisible church. The sign of the covenant- baptism- is not applied only on the regenerate in either situation (paedo or credo). So that is a non-issue in my mind. The question is, what does baptism represent?

    In Romans 4 Paul calls circumcision a sign that righteousness is by faith, and in Abraham’s case, a seal of the righteousness he possessed prior to circumcision. It functioned then as a sign of the faith his seed were to possess.
    There seems to be far more correlation between circumcision and baptism, in their meaning, than there is discontinuity.

    Most arguments for infant baptism by Reformed guys don’t really connect with credo-baptists. At least they didn’t to me. Randy Booth’s argument finally connected for me. That and the intro to Marcel’s book on the subject.

    As sign & seal, there are both objective and subjective aspects to baptism.

    Enjoy that sabbatical!

  2. July 4, 2007 11:58 pm

    You’re right, neither of us believe that all baptized members are regenerate. But you believe that God is OK with baptizing unregenerate people. I believe that when I baptize an unregenerate person it is due to human ignorance or error.

    I believe that physical circumcision points to spiritual circumcision of the heart and that physical baptism points to Spirit baptism. I believe that there is continuity between spiritual circumcision and spiritual baptism. But there is discontinuity between physical circumcision and physical baptism. At some level this is undeniable, we both baptize girls. The reason for the discontinuity in the signs and not in the things signified is because physical circumcision also symbolized ethnic identity as the progenitors of the Messiah. But read Jer 31 again and look for signs of the increased individuality of the New Covenant. It makes it easier to put the smackdown on the NPP and the FV once you see it. :-)

  3. July 5, 2007 5:13 pm

    I don’t want to base my whole doctrine of who receives the sign on a text that is not directly about the sign, but the covenant.
    I don’t see how the shift from external to internal (law written on stone to written on our hearts) changes the idea of whom the sign should be placed upon.

    God had no problem placing the first sign of the covenant on unregenerate people.

    Where we differ will be does the sign signify a person is saved, or is it a picture of the gospel. The promises of the new covenant smack down the FV & NPP, but not infant baptism- in my estimation.

  4. Oddball permalink
    July 10, 2007 3:55 pm

    I still have trouble with the notion of purely hypothetical warnings. In order for them to be meaningful, don’t we have to consider them as portraying a very real possibility? In other words, don’t we disarm them when we footnote them with an explanation that what they depict can never really happen?

  5. July 11, 2007 10:06 pm

    I don’t think so. If I shrink back in unbelief from Christ I will go to hell. This makes me afraid to shrink back in unbelief from Christ. That’s a good thing. The promise that I am not of those who shrink back (10:39) is what keeps me from going completely insane with fear.

    And if apostasy were a real possibility, surely I would have committed it by now.

  6. July 19, 2007 8:22 am

    Judging by the path East Troy to Austin, I’ll guess that you were at Great River Bluffs SP? I’ve not seen that view, but (almost) every Father’s Day Weekend* we camp downriver at Pike’s Peak SP, which also has a nice view.

    (* We’re here not because camping is any sort of FD celebration, but because that’s the weekend of the Prairie du Chien Rendezvous. Though there is a nice coffee roaster in McGregor, IA that also bakes a super-tasty cinnamon roll croissant. Fresh roasted coffee and fresh baked dessert, mmm… that’s not a bad FD treat. : )

  7. July 19, 2007 10:46 am

    Actually, I was in between the two near Black Hawk Park (DeSoto, WI). But Pike’s Peak looks better, maybe we’ll go there instead for vacation next week.

  8. Egana permalink
    July 20, 2007 2:03 pm

    All you camping folks should take us non-campers out on a “Camping 101 for Non-Majors” camping weekend.

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