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   A COVENANT FOR ALL PEOPLES

 
 

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PART 17 - THE ARGUMENT

QUESTION: Can we now say with any degree of certainty, that infants, even during this New Testament dispensation, should be baptized as their initiation into God’s Covenant peoples?

My answer to this divisive question remains a most positive yes! It is because of the covenantal mandate for the inclusion of infants that I am now forced to pursue a supportable truth from the Scriptures. Because of this covenantal mandate, I will now present a number of sound Scriptural reasons that have clearly forced me into making this positive statement concerning infant baptism /or Pedo—baptism.

A most persuasive reason for baptizing infants begins with the absolute sovereignty that is associated with God’s grace. The baptizing of infants in a similar timely manner to that of infant circumcision that God first commanded in Genesis chapter seventeen, sets this absolute principle of God’s sovereign grace in stone.

But then at the very same time, we can almost watch the confusion grow as the supporters of New Covenant Theology swing into gear. Those who oppose this principle of Pedo—baptism are attempting to dictate the timing when a person is to be baptized. Consequently, they are able to place some human control on the institutional process of salvation itself. That is, they would baptize only people who have, in their opinion, reached the mature age of accountability. Additionally, they would also dictate how a person is to be baptized. That is, they would baptize by immersion rather than sprinkling. Then these proponents of Adult Baptism would boastfully say that one's awareness and repentance of one's own personal sins must precede baptism. Now I am not saying that an adult person can never come to realize their sinful nature, repent, and then be baptized: But I am saying that that is not the intended norm nor is that propensity a part of our natural character.

By simply taking a small step back from this baptism controversy, we can easily see that Adult Baptism is of primary importance to the New Covenant Evangelicals with little or no significance when institutionally approaching the Abrahamic Covenant. It is of the utmost importance for us to remember that we are talking about two distinctly different things here: Credo—baptism as the initiatory mainstay for the New Covenant Evangelism segment and Pedo—baptism as the initiatory mainstay for the institution of the Abrahamic Covenant. The main problem that I see here, is that the New Covenant Evangelism segment does not see any real need to understand how they might fit within the Abrahamic Covenant.

When we carefully look at this idea of adult baptism /or Credo—baptism, we must quickly recognize some inherent dangers within this proposition. Just by listening to their words, you can surely hear some of the dangers in the language they use: "Infants have no comprehension of repentance and faith!" "Their joining the Church will be by personal choice and therefore more meaningful." No comprehension? By personal choice? The implication of these two assertions clearly reveals the ever—present danger that will always confront us here on this horizontal plane. That danger that lies in the fact that man, from the very beginning of time itself, has always wanted to hold some of the control over his own destiny. Not a great amount of the control, but just a little. O yes, these Credo—baptism proponents will flatly deny that they are usurping any of God’s sovereign authority, but they are. We all must see that it is because of our old nature that this "Adult Baptism only" tenet is a direct challenge to the Abrahamic Covenant Theology of the New Testament and the absolute sovereign grace that always belongs totally to God.

 

Once again, if we ourselves were required to bring even so much as a grain of sand to the throne of grace, then grace would no longer be grace!

 

I will also rehearse the need for us to understand our identification through our heritage and our roots, because I firmly believe that the covenant principle of infant circumcision at the age of eight—days—old has some far—reaching ramifications for the New Testament Church. God had many good reasons for this peculiar command that He gave to father Abraham concerning the children of His peoples. But the subtlest, and maybe the most important reason of them all, is in the fact that GOD’S SOVEREIGN GRACE ALONE, from the beginning of time to this present day, has always accomplished every aspect of salvation. This is a key part to our understanding. Once again, it is the absolute helpless condition of this eight—day—old recipient, which completely removes any and all individual participatory opportunity. This pictured infant circumcision, and infant baptism as well for this present Dispensation of Grace, also shows two very important principles concern man’s attempt to relate to God from his fallen estate: They are a state of hopelessness and a state of helplessness.

 

There is also a marked difference that must be noted in God’s dealings when it comes to His own covenant peoples. Yes, the gospel message is universally simple (Jn.3:16) and does open wide the door of salvation to all peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations. But marvelously for our sake, God continues on through some subtle explanations concerning His own special heritage.

 

So now to understand God’s absolute elective sovereignty, we understand the precise reason behind God’s initiatory mandate for the children of His peoples. His command was that when they reached this tender age of eight—days—old, they were to under—go this God established right of helpless obedience. Initially as a covenant sign, God’s command to Abraham was to circumcise all of the male members of his household: children, grandchildren, male servants and their male offspring as well. This initial event included the males of every age, from eight—days—old to Abraham himself. (Ref.Gen.17:1—27) Then after this initial institution of the visible covenant sign of circumcision, every male child who was born or adopted into the household of Abraham was to be circumcised upon reaching the tender age of eight—days—old. Just as we still recognize that this practice of infant circumcision continues even now to be required for a large segment of the Old Testament peoples of God. We also understand from Acts 15, as well as many other places in the New Testament, that the initiatory rite of "circumcision" was not to be a requirement for the general membership of the non—Jewish Christian Church, but instead, their commanded visible initiatory rite would be that of water baptism. (Mat.28:19—20)

 

Now since the seed of Abraham continues on during this dispensation just as it was during the Old Testament period, in order to perpetuate the only true congregation and the invisible peoples /or priests of God, what must we conclude when we consider this ordinance of water baptism? Remember, if we bring anything of ourselves into this equation, it is paramount to robbing God of His absolute sovereignty.

But now to further define the elective sovereignty of God, we are plainly told in Scripture that not every person who was physically initiated into God’s institutional corporate peoples through circumcision and baptism was guaranteed a place within the invisible priesthood of God—the inner circle of God’s elect—the hidden Israel of God. We must understand from the Scripture, that every Israeli that was physically born into the Abrahamic Covenant did not automatically become one of the invisible ELECT priests of God. It was exactly the same in those days as it is now—only those whom God Himself personally elected out from His visible institutional corporate peoples were granted entrance into the construct of His hidden Kingdom. This is very similar in number to the few who were selected out from God’s peoples who took the vow of a Nazarite upon themselves. (Ref.Num.6)

 

Also understanding this necessary fact, that the sovereign election of God commenced even in the very beginning when God made choice between the sacrifices of Cain and Abel.

Additionally, we are given the details of God choosing the direction of His invisible royal priestly line when He choose the line of Isaac over the line of Ishmael: speaking to father Abraham and recording the same in the books of Genesis, Romans, and Hebrews, "in Isaac shall your seed be called"—speaking specifically about the formation of His Messianic Covenant line—His Covenant of Promise.

We then see a more restrictive dimension to this elective sovereignty, when God introduces another choice to us from the Scriptures of Malachi and Romans: A choice between twins even in their own mother’s womb—making choice between Jacob and Esau. God openly tells us in these passages: "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated."

Now we know from the Scriptures that all of the male children from Abraham forward to the time of the New Testament Church were commanded to receive the covenant sign of circumcision as their initiation into the peoples of God. And then we also know that God’s elective sovereignty is refined even more when we are told that only two of the four who were mentioned here as covenant examples were actually established by God Himself into what we have come to understand as His invisible Kingdom—God's inner circle—the hidden Israel of God.

These facts must surely lead us to understand, with respect to entering into God’s invisible Kingdom, that there is much more involved here than any simple visible covenant sign or symbol. What we actually see happening in these illustrations, is simply the fact that God has always been in complete control over everything. God, even from the beginning of creation itself, has always been doing the calling in of His institutional corporate peoples. This principal that is being sighted here for our instruction, is given as an Abrahamic Covenant principal. The same is evident in the baptismal principal that we find recorded in Acts 2:37-39 ”37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? 38And Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.” And then from this very large group that we might identify as God's visible institutional corporate peoples from Israel and from the Christian Church, He is selectively choosing out every individual who will ever enter into the construct of His invisible Kingdom—the hidden Israel of God.

 

As we give some additional thought to Adult Baptism, most of us have come to understand that each and every time that man was given the opportunity in Scripture to choose, he was hardly able to make a right choice. And to support this conclusion, I must believe that Romans chapter three, as it is quoted from the Old Testament, actually provides us with the clearest expectation for the whole human race:

10as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; 11There is none that understands, There is none that seeks after God; 12They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that does good, no, not so much as one:

This is exactly what some of the early Church fathers have rightly defined as the total depravity of man. Concluding that man has little power within himself to do good: that it is, in all reality, God who works within all of us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Then the Apostle Paul adds these additional insights from Romans chapter 7, verses 14—25:

14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15For that which I do I do not fully understand: for what I would not do, that I practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16But if I do what I should not do, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17So now it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. 19For the good which I would do, I do not: but the evil which I should not, that I practice. 20But if I do what I should not do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. 21I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 24Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? 25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”

Obviously, if God did not hold this absolute sovereign control over His entire universal reconciliation, His Kingdom, visible and invisible, would be completely empty and void of any residents at all.

 

Now in review, for us to understand and accept the efficacy for infant circumcision and infant baptism, we must fully understand the necessary reasoning behind God’s sovereign purpose. Observing these special truths that have been hidden for ages and generations within the mysteries of God: Couched within the historic truths of His Blessed Word.

Covenantally speaking, we must never overlay the exclusiveness of God’s election with the inclusiveness of God’s call: As these two functions have completely different purposes within God's reconciliation. For it is written, “many are called but few are chosen.” Mat.20:16 It is here that this grievous error rests. Those who promote the Adult Baptism doctrine and the New Covenant Theology have done this very thing. With their strong evangelistic focus on God’s call upon the Christian Church, they are often drawn to overlook God’s absolute elective sovereignty that is reserved for His invisible priestly line. It is because they lack a clear institutional understanding of these Abrahamic Covenant principals, that they would appear, at least on the surface, to be resisting this same elective sovereignty. With their amalgamation of God’s inclusive calling in of His institutional corporate peoples and His exclusive choosing of His hidden priesthood out from this very large body, they frequently give general application to many Scriptures that are written very specifically.

 

Once again, this necessary distinction between the visible called that we identify as the institutional corporate peoples and the invisible chosen /or elect priesthood, can easily be seen in Romans 8:19—23 “19For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected the same, in hope 21that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

We can first identify the visible institutional corporate peoples of God with “creation” /or the creature. Secondly, we can identify “the sons of God” /or “the children of God” with God’s chosen /or invisible elect priesthood—the Messianic Kingdom. We should notice that the entire hope for creation /or the creature rests totally on the anticipated revelation of “the glory of the children of God” /or the glorified children of God. We also notice very early on, that the whole creation and the children of God find themselves in the exact same dilemma while they occupy their earthly station: groaning for their future deliverance from the bondage of their corruption. Then we must conclude that the “revelation of the sons /or children of God” is predicated on their prior “adoption—to wit, the redemption of our bodies”. Just as “creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God” is also predicated on the same prior redemption of the bodies of “the sons /or children of God” into the construct of the glorified kingdom—as these gathered ones collectively represent the many parts of the hidden Kingdom. The redemption of the bodies of the children /or sons of God that is being described here in Romans eight, must be seen as being analogous to the gathering up of God’s kingdom that is described for us in First Corinthians 15:23—24.

First Corinthians 15: “23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming. 24Then comes the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.”

This is the gathering of the sons of God /or the children of God /or the holy priesthood of God. At this juncture of God's timetable, this gathering is bringing the construct of the invisible Kingdom to its fruition.

 

So then if our heritage is in fact intertwined with the Old Testament children of Israel, then we must come to understand and accept that same royal identification (Jew, Circumcision, and Israel) that is the absolute prerequisite for entering the construct of God’s invisible Kingdom. Then never forgetting that throughout “The Year of Jehovah’s Favor”—this dispensation of grace, God’s visible dispositions and God’s invisible dispositions are always coexistent within His universal reconciliation—Abraham’s Covenants with God. Just as these revealed truths concerning Abraham’s Covenants must be seen as eschatological imperatives.

Amen.

 

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