Archive for March, 2008

Holy Week: Wednesday

On the way to Jerusalem on Wednesday, the disciples saw the withered fig tree (Matt. 21:20-22; Mark 11:20-26). At the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus had a day of controversy with the religious leaders (Matt. 21:23-23:39; Mark 11:27-12:44; Luke 20:1-21:4). That afternoon Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and delivered the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1-25:46; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36). Two additional things occurred on that day: (1) Jesus predicted that in two days He would be crucified at the time of the Passover (Matt. 26:1-5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2); and (2) Judas planned the betrayal of Christ with religious leaders (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 91-92]

Advertisements

Holy Week: Tuesday

On Tuesday on the way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus cursed the fig tree (Matt. 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14), and then He went to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46). The religious leaders began to seek how they might destroy Him that evening, and that evening Jesus left Jerusalem, presumably returning to Bethany (Mark 11:18-19; Luke 19:47-48).

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 91]

Holy Week: Monday

Monday was Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-19), His visit to the temple (Matt. 21:10-11; Mark 11:11), and then His return to Bethany. The day of the triumphal entry would be Nisan 10 when the lamb was selected for Passover. Hence, the triumphal entry was the day when Christ presented Himself as Israel’s Paschal lamb.

[Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 91]

Looking for a Pastor-Teacher?

One of our contributors, Caleb Kolstad, is currently looking for a new senior pastorate ministry. Caleb currently serves as an Associate Pastor at a church in Indiana. If you know of any churches that are looking for a Bible expositor and shepherd please contact him at ckolstad316@hotmail.com or 317-846-1343.

Infant Baptism and the Doctrine of Divine Adoption

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is an excerpt from the book.]

In paedobaptist teaching, baptism is seen as a mark of divine ownership, a sign and seal given to those who are God’s own possession. When an infant is baptized, not only does he enter God’s covenant family, but “his parents declare that their child belongs to God” (Daniel Doriani). In this way, baptism is considered a sign of initiation by which an infant is received into the church and “reckoned among God’s children” (John Calvin). As John Murray writes, infants who are baptized “are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly.”

This idea that children of believers are automatically children of God provides part of the rationale for infant baptism. According to one paedobaptist, “The children of Christians are no less the sons of God than the parents, just as in the Old Testament,” and since “they are sons of God, who will forbid them baptism?” In this view, just as “the adoption of sons” belonged to infants in Old Testament Israel (Rom 9:4), it now belongs to infants in the New Testament Church, and therefore the latter should be baptized just as the former were circumcised.

Although it is true that baptism is a mark of divine ownership which should be given to those who are children of God, the practice of baptizing infants betrays a misunderstanding of the doctrine of divine adoption. Specifically, it ignores a significant point of discontinuity between corporate adoption in Old Testament Israel and individual adoption in the New Testament church.

In the Old Testament, the corporate adoption of the nation of Israel was such that individual Jews were considered sons of God regardless of whether they themselves were personally saved. In Deuteronomy 14:1-2, Yahweh said to Israel:

You are the sons of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth (Deut 14:1-2).

God chose Israel, set His love upon her, and redeemed her out of slavery (Deut 7:6-8), and as a result He was a Father to her (Deut 32:6; cf. Exod 4:22; Mal 2:10). But not all Jews who were part of this adoption were in a right relationship with God. In fact, throughout the history of Old Testament Israel, most were not, but nonetheless they were still children of God in a corporate and non-salvific sense.

This corporate adoption of Old Testament Israel can be seen in the New Testament as well. In Romans 9:2-4, as the apostle Paul expresses his desire to see fellow Jews come to Christ, he describes the various privileges which belong to the nation of Israel:

I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption of sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises (Rom 9:2-4).

According to this passage, Israel enjoyed the status of being adopted as Yahweh’s children even though the nation was largely unbelieving. Under the Old Covenant, then, a Jew who was part of the covenant community could be considered a child of God even though he himself was unsaved and on his way to hell, in need of the very gospel that Paul proclaimed.

According to paedobaptists, the continuity between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church requires us to baptize infants of believers. Regardless of their individual spiritual status, it is believed that they are children of God and therefore should be baptized as a mark of divine ownership just as infants were circumcised in the Old Testament.

Precisely where the paedobaptist sees continuity, however, Scripture indicates discontinuity, for under the New Covenant, only those who believe in Christ are children of God (Gal 4:5). The New Testament knows nothing of a corporate, non-salvific adoption of God’s people, but instead teaches an individual adoption unto eternal salvation (Eph 1:5).

For example, in Romans 8:15-17, the apostle Paul writes:

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption of sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (Rom 8:15-17).

As Greg Welty notes, in Old Testament Israel, adoption belonged even to those who were destined for condemnation (Rom 9:2-4), but under the New Covenant it belongs only to those are destined for glory (Rom 8:15-17).

This can also be seen in John 1:11-13, where the apostle John describes how the nation of Israel rejected her Messiah:

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13).

According to this passage, nobody starts out as a child of God, regardless of his ancestry. An individual becomes a child of God not when he is born to Christian parents but rather when he believes in the name of Christ and is born again by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, unlike with the Old Covenant, everyone who is a child of God under the New Covenant has a right standing before Him and is eternally secure in Christ.

Baptism is indeed a mark of divine ownership, just as paedobaptists say it is. But as such, it should only be given to those who give evidence of having been redeemed and adopted by God as His children-those who profess repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Infant Baptism and Acts 2:39

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is an excerpt from the book.]

Perhaps the most common argument for infant baptism is found in the climax of the apostle Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter has just set forth the redemptive work of Jesus (vv. 22-35) and proclaimed that He is both Lord and Christ (v. 36), and his Jewish listeners are cut to the heart, asking, “What shall we do?” (v. 37). Peter responds in Acts 2:38-39:

Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself (Acts 2:38-39).

The argument for infant baptism is found in Peter’s declaration that “the promise is for you and your children”-not just you, but you and your children. According to paedobaptists, the promise that Peter refers to in Acts 2:38-39 is the same promise that God made to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 17:1-8. As Robert Booth explains:

This was a promise that [the Jews] would have heard of and talked about many times. Since they were now entering the new covenant era of the church, the question of their children’s relationship to the church would naturally have been on their minds. Being a Jew, Peter was certainly aware of their concern and immediately moved to address the issue. He assured them that the promise was still for them and their children….

Therefore, writes Booth, “If the children of believers are embraced by the promises of the covenant, as certainly they are, then they must also be entitled to receive the initial sign of the covenant, which is baptism.”

In addressing the meaning of Acts 2:39 and how it relates to infant baptism, it is helpful to consider three basic questions: What is the promise?; Who were the recipients of the promise?; and Who was baptized?

What Is the Promise?

In Acts 2:39, Peter says that “the promise” is for his hearers, for their children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord calls to Himself. Even though Peter does not specify the content of the promise here in this verse, his meaning was clear to his original hearers, for he had already referred to this promise several times in the earlier part of his sermon: (a) “I [God] will pour forth My Spirit” (v. 17); (b) “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (v. 33); and (c) “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38). This promise is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the salvation that accompanies Him.

This understanding of the promise is further supported by Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4. In Luke 24:49, Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit, saying, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then, just before His ascension, Jesus commands His disciples “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised” (Acts 1:4), a clear reference to the Holy Spirit.

But upon whom exactly will He pour out the Holy Spirit? To whom has He made this promise? This leads to the second question.

Who Are the Recipients of the Promise?

In Acts 2:39, Peter identifies three groups of individuals who are the recipients of this promise: (a) “you,” (b) “your children,” and (c) “all who are far off.” But Peter doesn’t stop there. Instead, he qualifies all three groups with the clause, “as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” In other words, to how many of you has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. To how many of your children has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. To how many of those who are far off has God promised the Holy Spirit? As many as the Lord shall call to Himself. God has promised to give the Holy Spirit to those whom He effectually calls and draws to Himself in salvation. This includes Peter’s immediate hearers (“you”), succeeding generations (“your children”), and even Gentiles in distant places (“all who are far off”).

The Greek words translated “as many as” (hosos an) in Acts 2:39 qualify and limit the recipients of the promise to those whom God calls to Himself in salvation. Their use in Mark 6:56 is similar:

And wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and entreating Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as [hosos an] touched it were being cured (Mark 6:56).

Not everyone was cured-only those who touched the cloak. Likewise, in Acts 2:39, not everyone is a recipient of the promise-only those whom God effectually calls to Himself. This is clear from verse 38 as well, for only those who repent in response to the gospel will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in the very passage that paedobaptists hold up as an express indication of continuity, there is an express indication of discontinuity. After all, the promise is not for all of your children without exception (like the Abrahamic promise), but rather only for those whom the Lord calls to Himself in salvation.

As Paul Jewett notes, it seems that the paedobaptist ear is so attuned to the Old Testament echo (“you and your children”) that it is deaf to its New Testament crescendo (“and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself”). This is so much the case that I would estimate that most of the time I have heard or read a paedobaptist quote Acts 2:39 as an argument for infant baptism, he leaves off the final clause-“as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”

In no way, then, does Peter single out the children of believers as recipients of the promise apart from the effectual calling of God, and in no way does he identify them as automatic members of the New Covenant and therefore rightful recipients of baptism as the sign of that covenant. What, then, if anything, does this passage indicate about the recipients of baptism? This leads to the third question.

Who Was Baptized?

After his declaration in Acts 2:39, Peter continues by exhorting the people of Israel to repent and be saved (Acts 2:40), and “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). What strikes me here is Luke’s description of those who were baptized: “those who had received his word.” Not “those who had received his word and their children“-just “those who had received his word.” Period. Only those who repented in response to the gospel were baptized.

In the end, the corresponding parallel that paedobaptists are looking for between Genesis 17 and Acts 2 is simply not there. Consider the differences: In Genesis 17, the covenant is “between Me and you and your descendants after you” without qualification (v. 10); but in Acts 2, the promise is for you and your children, but only for as many of you and your children as the Lord shall call to Himself (v. 39). In Genesis 17, the eight-day-old males are to be circumcised (v. 12); but in Acts 2, only those who repent are commanded to be baptized (v. 38). In Genesis 17, infants are circumcised; but in Acts 2, only those who received Peter’s word are baptized (v. 41). The account in Acts 2 actually provides better support for believer baptism than it does for infant baptism.

Interview with Matt Waymeyer on Infant Baptism: Part Two

Editor’s note: All this week, Expository Thoughts will highlight Matt Waymeyer’s newly released book A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism (The Woodlands, Tex: Kress Christian Publications, 2008) . The book is now available for purchase here and here.The following is part two of a two part interview conducted by Paul Lamey with Matt Waymeyer.]

PL: Are there one or two issues that seal the deal in such a way that makes it impossible for you to ever be a paedobaptist?

MW: In addition to what I see as an overall lack of biblical support for infant baptism, I would highlight specific points of discontinuity in redemptive history that undermine the paedobaptist argument. In particular, the newness of the New Covenant and the nature of the NT church refute this idea that the sign of the covenant should be applied to children of believers just as it was in OT Israel. Furthermore, the biblical teaching of baptism as the means by which an individual publicly professes his faith in Christ is also significant in my thinking. I believe that both of these present overwhelming obstacles for the paedobaptist position.

PL: Who would you say represents the opposing view (i.e., paedo) most effectively today?

MW: The two books I would recommend are Children of the Promise by Robert Booth and The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism edited by Gregg Strawbridge. Even though I believe that Booth misrepresents the Baptist position at times and therefore should be read with a bit of caution, his book is very clear, concise, and easy to read. I believe it was the first book I read on the subject, and I thought it was a very helpful introduction to a difficult issue. In addition to being just as good, the book edited by Strawbridge has the added advantage of exposing readers to a plethora of today’s leading paedobaptist voices-Bryan Chapell, Joel R. Beeke, Mark E. Ross, Richard L. Pratt, Cornelis Venema, Douglas Wilson, R.C. Sproul Jr., and Gregg Strawbridge, to name a few. For someone who is looking for a shorter treatment of the subject, I would recommend the booklets Why Do We Baptize Infants? by Bryan Chapell or What Christian Parents Should Know about Infant Baptism by John P. Sartelle.

PL: Can you give us an overview of how you approached the subject of infant baptism in the book? How is it organized?

MW: When I first started writing, my goal was to produce a short position paper of no more than eight pages. I had just come back from lunch with a close friend who was leaning toward infant baptism, and my thought was to tell him very simply in this paper why I rejected the view he was beginning to embrace. As a pastor, it is helpful to have these kinds of resources on hand, so I thought it might serve me for years to come. That afternoon I made a list of reasons why I personally came to reject paedobaptism, and eventually those six reasons became the six chapters of the book:

1. The Absence of a Direct Command

2. The Absence of a Biblical Example

3. The Absence of Compelling Evidence

4. The Breakdown of the Circumcision Argument

5. The Discontinuity of Redemptive History

6. The Significance of Biblical Baptism

In this way, the book is very much organized the way that I myself thought through the issue over the past decade or so. I tell people that my target audience in writing was the Matt Waymeyer of 13 years ago, back when I first started studying infant baptism. In other words, this is the book I wish I could have read at that time in my life.

PL: What did you find was the most difficult part of the process of writing this book?

MW: Probably the deadline pressure at the very end. Kress Christian Publications was very patient with me, but at some point you have to set a deadline and be firm about it. I always say that if you take your favorite activity in the whole world and put a stopwatch to it, some of the fun goes away. I feel that way about studying and preparing for sermons every week, and I definitely felt that way leading up to the final deadline for the book. My wife was a great encouragement to me during that time. She always seems to know just what to say to spur me on to be diligent and pursue excellence when my strength is failing and I’m looking for a shortcut.

PL: I know that you serve as a pastor, so how did you find time to write? Did it flow out of teaching you were doing in the church?

MW: No, I haven’t taught on infant baptism at our church because it hasn’t really been an issue among the people. I did most of my writing on Wednesday evenings while the kids were at AWANA and Julie was either helping out there or running errands for our family. At some point we sort of designated that as my time to study and write. I also worked on it here and there whenever I could find some time, often reading and editing in bed after Julie had fallen asleep. I hate to say it, but I also worked on it during vacations, but usually only after everyone else was asleep. For me, it is a very relaxing and energizing way to spend time, except when the sand begins to run low in the hourglass and the deadline draws near.

PL: I realize that the paedobaptist argument from church history is very compelling to many people. Does it bother you to hold a view of baptism which was rejected by so much of the church throughout the past 2,000 years?

MW: That’s a good question, especially because so many people find the argument from church history so compelling. I touch on this briefly in the book, but the conviction that drives me-and that should drive all of us as we study theological issues-is that Scripture alone is the ultimate authority on matters of doctrine and practice in the church. I agree that disregarding tradition and church history is arrogant and unwise, but ultimately you need to be committed to what you believe the Bible teaches, even if it contradicts years of ecclesiastical tradition.

Ironically, I think John Calvin said it best. At one point in his Institutes, Calvin is discussing his disagreement with Augustine, Chrysostom, and some other church fathers on a certain issue, and he exhorts his readers to not be troubled by the fact that his view does not conform to their view. “We ought not to so value their authority,” Calvin writes, “as to let it shake the certainty of Scripture.” In the end, even though I believe Calvin was dead wrong about baptism, he couldn’t have been more right about Scripture-we must never so value the authority of fallible theologians as to let it shake the certainty of the Word of God.

%d bloggers like this: