Answer to Yesterday’s Quiz
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?
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.