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A Credobaptist Exposition and Application of John 1:12-13

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Written by deangonzales

September 25, 2008 at 6:34 pm

20 Responses

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  1. Great exposition, Dr. Gonzales! I’ve wanted for a wile to see someone extrapolate some of the implications of that John passage.

    Maybe you should continue expositing John and move to 1 John 2:19: whose polity does 1 John 2:19 support, Credo or Paedo?

    -Mark

    Mark

    September 25, 2008 at 7:07 pm

  2. Thanks, Mark. It would be worthwhile exploiting the ramifications of 1 John 2:19 for the paedo/credo debate. If I don’t get around to it, send me your thoughts. I hope your future plans are progressing.

    deangonzales

    September 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm

  3. Thanks for the good article. To me it is right on. Who is going to put this into Spanish for you? N Vater

    Noble Vater

    September 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm

  4. Noble, how about you 🙂

    deangonzales

    September 28, 2008 at 1:50 am

  5. Dr Gonzales,

    Slightly off topic but someone told me you were working on some stuff related to worship, EP, instruments etc. Is this true? When and were will it see the light of day?

    Also, I am currently thinking about some part-time theological education (I live in Belfast, Northern Ireland and know Paul Wallace in Magherafelt). I had been contemplating the counselling certificates from CCEF but have been looking also at some of the RBS programmes. I would value any guidance on this. I currently have two young kids so it won’t be for a year or two that I would likely start.

    I really appreciate your writing (would love to see you produce some books) and preaching. I also continue to pray for the work of RBS, particularly with men in low-economy countries.

    Regards, Phil.

    Phil Taylor

    September 29, 2008 at 10:49 am

  6. Dear Phil,

    Thanks for the kind comments and especially your prayers.

    I’ve been mulling the idea of writing on the subject of worship, particularly, the RPW. In my present opinion, I find that the participants in the debate often talk past each other. Sometimes there appears to be more heat than light. I think there’s room for further refinement in our understand and application of sola Scriptura to worship. But I’m not sure if I’m the one who should do the writing (It’s like signing up to be a dartboard :-)).

    Paul Wallace has recently enrolled in RBS. We offer a 32-credit Master of Theological Studies degree (M.T.S.) and a 91-credit Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.), which can be earned via distance learning. If you forward me your email, I can reply and send you an academic catalog and the Guidelines & Expectations for Students.

    deangonzales

    September 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm

  7. Dr Gonzales, my e-mail address is philip.taylor@zen.co.uk

    I would love some further information maybe regarding the MTS.

    Thanks, Phil.

    Phil Taylor

    September 29, 2008 at 8:32 pm

  8. Dear Pastor Gonzales,

    In my opinion, the Reformed Baptist understanding of the various covenants of the one Covenant of Grace and the nature of the New Covenant, of the continuation between ethnic Israel and the NT church (i.e., the proper understanding of the “seed”), and the relationship between circumcision and baptism is much closer to what I read in the Bible than the Reformed Paedobaptist view. Your insightful analysis simply confirms this understanding. So far so good.

    But I am always troubled when I read the various household baptisms in the NT. They seem to continue the oikos formula we find in all the covenantal administrations prior to the inauguration of the New Covenant. It is not uncommon for Reformed Baptists to accuse Reformed Paedobaptists of assuming that there were infants in these households. Of course, neither side can prove the presence or absence of infants in these households conclusively. But if the oikos formula is still at work in the New Covenant, it would seem that these infants would have been baptized if they were present. They would have been baptized not because of their presumed presence, but because of the covenant authority of the believing household head. Whether or not they were in those households is not the issue. The issue is why the Bible mentions the word household at all in the NT, a word that has a rich meaning considering the unfolding of the one Covenant of Grace in the pages of the OT.

    I have tried looking into the various books and articles defending the Reformed Baptist view. But it seems that this has not been addressed sufficiently. They all say that all the members of these households were believers. In and of themselves, I believe that the household texts support the Reformed Baptist position. But Reformed Baptist polemics against infant baptism seems to miss the fact that our Reformed Paedobaptist brethren read these households covenantally, with the idea of covenant authority in mind. I believe that if I can read at least one Reformed Baptist argument analyzing these household baptisms by attacking the Reformed Paedobaptist reliance on the covenant authority of the believing household head as a basis for paedobaptism in the NT, I will be able to accept the Reformed Baptist view completely. As of the moment, however, neither side has convinced me to accept its position without leaving any qualms. How should Reformed Baptists answer a Reformed Paedobaptist argument for infant baptism such as this? Thanks. 🙂

    Albert Medina

    October 3, 2008 at 10:45 am

  9. Albert,

    Thanks for your comments. I’m aware that our Paedobaptist brothers like to get a lot of mileage out of the household baptist texts. Of course, in at least two of the texts I referenced the household members identified seemed to participate in the faith of their family head as well as the baptism (Acts 16:31-34; 18:8). Baptists general treat those texts as paradigmatic and assume faith in the other household accounts (Acts 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:16). But I understand that the Paedobaptists place a lot of weight upon the significance of household solidarity and perhaps we need to take their argument more seriously in our polemic. I haven’t given the matter a lot of thought, but I appreciate the encouragement to do so. Perhaps I’ll try to address it in a future post. Thanks again for your input.

    deangonzales

    October 4, 2008 at 7:18 pm

  10. Dr. Gonzales,

    Thanks. I am currently listening to a sermon which I found recently from SermonAudio.com dealing specifically wih my question. The sermon is by Pastor Harold Chase of the Minnesota Valley Baptist Church. The title of his sermon is “Household Baptisms Examined and Proved To Be A Case For CredoBaptism Alone” He defends baptism for believers only with Reformed paedobaptists and their argument from the circumcision of Abraham’s household in mind. He does a great job in discussing why the household baptisms in the NT starting from Acts 16 should be interpreted in the light of the baptism of John and the disciples of Jesus, the recorded baptism in Acts 2:38-41, and the household baptism of Cornelius and his household. He argues that this is the way the word household is to be intepreted.

    I looked into the other sermons of Pastor Chase, and noticed that he did a series of sermons on other topics (including baptism) using the 1689 LBCF. He sounds like a Reformed Baptist. He probably is though I do not find the words Reformed Baptist in the website of his church.

    Albert Medina

    October 6, 2008 at 3:50 am

  11. “According to one Paedobaptist pastor…”

    That is, Rev. Matthew Winzer of Queensland, Australia.

    http://www.puritanboard.com/f57/how-does-paedobaptist-relate-teaching-john-1-12-13-infant-baptism-37785/#post469687

    Sean McDonald

    October 10, 2008 at 2:36 pm

  12. […] are welcome to chime in. Also, I’ve posted my exposition and application of John 1:12-13 on RBS Tabletalk and give you permission to paste your post as a comment or add the link to this cite. Your […]

  13. Thank you for the insightful post.

    I wonder if you’d be willing to take the time to briefly describe what you believe to be the nature of the relationship of children of a believing parent(s) to that of God and the New Covenant?

    Is this relationship unique, as compared to that of heathen parents and children (cf. I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39)? Or should children of believing parents be regarded as solely outside any covenant graces (promises) and treated wholly as unbelievers?

    David McCrory

    October 16, 2008 at 4:23 pm

  14. David,

    What do I believe to be the nature of the relationship of the children of believing parent(s) to that of God and the New Covenant? Good question.

    Here’s my perspective as a Reformed Baptist. I believe the Abraham and Mosaic Covenants offered its members many temporal promises (i.e., the inheritance of Canaan, the fruitful womb, the productive field, protection from and victory over enemies, and good health [see esp. Lev. 26; Deut. 28]). Of course, I also believe that these covenants portended a coming Deliverer (Gen. 3:15) and served to administrate God’s redemptive grace as well (see Eph. 2:12). While children of Israel (parents and their physical seed) had a certain right to the temporal blessings of these covenants (conditioned of course on their fidelity to Yahweh’s covenant-terms), only the spiritual seed of Abraham, the true Israel of God, had any right to the spiritual blessings portended and foreshadowed in the Old Covenant.

    On the other hand, the blessings offered in the New Covenant are “better” because they are predominantly spiritual in nature (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; 32:39-40; John 4:23-24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 8:8-13; etc.). These spiritual blessings belong only to the Righteous Servant’s seed (Isa. 53:10; Hebrews 2:13) whose circumcision is of the heart (Rom. 2:29; Gal. 5:6; 6:15; Phil. 3:3; Col. 2:11) and is evidence by a credible profession of faith (John 1:12-13; Rom. 10:9-10; Gal. 3:26-29). Of course, regenerate individuals under the Old Covenant enjoyed these blessings as much as we do (though our understanding is greatly enhanced through greater light). But these blessings did not characterize the OC community as a whole as God desires them to characterize the NC community. The way in which men are saved by grace through faith in the promised Redeemer doesn’t change. But the constitutional make-up of the covenant community, I believe, does change. And that brings us to the question of how to treat children of believing parent(s).

    I’m not convinced that the two passages you referenced constrain us to treat the children of believing parents as default members of the NC. First, according to Acts 2:39, the promise of the NC belongs to those Jews and to those Jewish children (or descendants) and to those Gentiles (those who are far off) that “the Lord our God [effectually] calls to himself.” If one argues that this passage supports the default inclusion of Jewish children into the NC on the assumption that God might someday effectually call them, then he would have to allow for the same default admission standards for adult Jews and Gentiles according to the grammatical construction. So to be consistent, a Paedo-Baptist should baptize not just the children but also the spouse and possibly the relatives and even the slaves of any given household irregardless of a profession of faith. But my take on Acts 2:39 is that the promise and privilege of covenant membership offered to the Jews, their children, and Gentiles is conditioned on a believing and penitent response to the gospel as the context would seem to support (2:37-38; 41).

    In my view, Paul’s reference to the children of mixed marriages being “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14) is not addressing the question of baptism or inclusion within the covenant. If that were true, then one would have to baptize the believer’s unbelieving spouse as well (1 Cor. 7:14a). Rather, I think Paul is simply making the point that the fact of a mixed marriage does not nullify its legitimacy or the legitimacy of the children from that marriage (i.e., they shouldn’t be viewed as bastards).

    So I don’t believe I as a Christian parent should teach my children that they are in the New Covenant by default, that is, by virtue of their relationship to me. To do so would be to ignore the redemptive historical shift announced in John 1:12-13). Blood-ties or natural family relations no longer provide the legal basis for covenant family status. Instead, I as a parent instruct my children to acknowledge their sinfulness and need of a Savior, and I lovingly exhort them to place their trust in Christ. Of course, I also teach them that they are privileged above the children of heathen parents in that they’ve been born into a Christian family, attend a Christian church, and are exposed to much gospel light. So in that sense, they are different from the children of heathen parents. But I encourage them not to presume on their family ties as the basis of their acceptance with God. (Of course, many Paedo-Baptists would discourage their children to presume on their covenant status.)

    I should also remark that I try to foster belief not doubt in my children. I am optimistic that by preaching and living the gospel before them, exposing them to the means of grace, interceding for them, and looking to the God of mercy and compassion my children will likely be saved. Yet, I’m also try to remain realistic and non-presumptuous. Yahweh was the best Father anyone could ask for. But His son, Israel, rebelled. So too, it’s possible that I might do everything right and yet have a child who turns out to be a goat rather than a sheep. So I gently, sometimes firmly, warn my children when appropriate.

    I hope this provides some response to your question. Thanks again for your input!

    deangonzales

    October 17, 2008 at 2:26 pm

  15. Dear Mr. Gonzales,

    Thank you for your response. It does indeed provide some very good answers to my question. I too agree that the verses I reference should not presume covenant inclusion (i.e. baptism) of children of believers simply by virtue of their familial ties.

    And also like you, I still recognize a distinction between the disposition of God towards children of covenant homes as opposed those children who, by His sovereignty, reside in heathen homes.

    It is encouraging to read you say you try to foster belief, not doubt in your own children. Unfortunately, in many Baptist circles I have been in, and contemporary Baptist authors I’ve read, quite the opposite is the case. I feel the Scriptures seem to teach we should be optimistic about the potential (promises) of God to work a work of grace in the hearts of children of believing homes, but our optimism should never turn into presumption.

    In my opinion, many Baptist have left this very important distinction between their own children and the children of unbelievers behind, possibly resulting in the quenching of the Holy Spirit’s work even within their own families and homes. Maybe they fear any sign of fostering belief and faith in their child would come across as presumption?

    May your words, and the words of others who appreciate and understand these things bring us back to a greater and more informed faith and practice.

    David McCrory

    October 17, 2008 at 3:52 pm

  16. David,

    Thanks again for your input. I do believe Baptists can be guilty of discouraging faith and encouraging doubts in our young people. I think this can be done by treating their early expressions of penitence and faith with unfair skepticism, by preaching to them as if they were hardened Pharisees, and by requiring unrealistic degrees of proof of regeneration before accepting their professing of faith as credible. We need to encourage them that God has placed them into a believing family because He’s gracious and wants them to be saved, not because He’s cruel and wants to raise the temperature of their eternal punishment. I think there’s a balance between fostering an unwarranted presumption on the one hand and an unhealthy skepticism on the other. May the Lord helps steer a strait course between Scylla and Charybdis.

    deangonzales

    October 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  17. Good stuff. And may we, like Jason and the Argonauts (still one of my favorite stories, movies), who were able to navigate through the two without incident, come through by His grace, relatively unscathed.

    Thanks again.

    David McCrory

    October 17, 2008 at 4:34 pm

  18. Dear Dr. Gonzales,

    If you are planning to make another post on baptism, I would like to suggest that you also include a discussion of the “apostasy” texts (e.g. John 15, Romans 11, Hebrews 6 and 10, etc.). As I see it, these texts are important in establishing the Paedobaptist interpretation of the New Covenant. I am gradually understanding why that is so. If I understood the Reformed Baptist interpretation of the New Covenant correctly, it would go like this. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

    P1: Only the elect are members of the New Covenant.
    P2: Infants are not necessarily elect.
    Conclusion: Infants are not necessarily members of the New Covenant.

    Consequently, infants should not recieve baptism. Paedobaptists deny the major premise of the argument, I think, because of the apostasy texts. A few days ago, I was able to borrow a copy of Sam Waldron and Richard Barcellos’ A Reformed Baptist Manifesto, and I looked into their discussion of these texts. Their work, however, was not intended to be a long formal defense of Reformed Baptist distinctives. So only a few pages were used in answering the Paedobaptist interpretation of the apostasy texts. I am looking forward to more of the posts on baptism here. Thanks. 🙂

    Albert Medina

    October 19, 2008 at 2:13 pm

  19. Dear Dr. Gonzales,
    Just a couple of brief comments. I appreciate the efforts you are making in encouraging this dialogue regarding the doctrine of baptism. I have camped in both credobaptist and paedobaptist outposts before, and now define myself as a paedocredobaptist. First comment relates to your September 25 article in which you said “Colossians 2:11-12 does not replace outward circumcision with water baptism. Rather, it replaces outward circumcision with inward circumcision (Phil. 3:3), i.e., regeneration, which in turn is evidence by faith (John 1:12-13) and symbolized in water baptism (Col. 2:12).” With all due respect, I disagree. I grant that circumcision of the foreskin was initiated in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17:7-14.) However, though the circumcision of the flesh was sufficient as a sign of entry into the covenant community of Israel, it was never sufficient to partake of the blessings of the covenant. From the very beginning, heart circumcision was required for covenant blessing; the lack thereof has always resulted in covenant curses. For three examples, consider these. Deuteronomy 10:16 “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.” Deuteronomy 30:6 “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Jeremiah 4:4 “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” God has never accounted a circumcised penis as righteousness, but rather a circumcised heart. For that reason, Paul’s admonition in Colossians 2:11-12 does not replace outward with inward circumcision, because Paul knew his Old Testament, and he knew it well! The Lord God has always desired a clean heart. Psalm 24:3-5 “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Therefore, I think it is inherently reasonable to consider that Paul did, indeed, teach in Colossians 2:11-12 that water baptism replaces outward circumcision. And, in the same way, water baptism does not prove election, but points to the inward baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is heart circumcision. My second comment relates to the most recent post by Albert Medina, October 19, 2008. His logic both proves too little and too much. For my point, only the latter. (The former really depends upon whether one views membership in the New Covenant objectively or subjectively, that is, visibly or invisibly.) My point, however, is that the very same logic must be applied to adults, to wit: P1: Only the elect are members of the New Covenant. P2: Adults are not necessarily elect. Conclusion: Adults are not necessarily members of the New Covenant. Consequently, adults should not receive baptism. Even if I preempt the next rebuttal by substituting “professing adults” for “adults” the logic would still prohibit anyone from baptizing anyone at any time. P1: Only the elect are members of the New Covenant. P2: Professing adults are not necessarily elect. Conclusion: Professing adults are not necessarily members of the New Covenant. Consequently, professing adults should not receive baptism. Every credobaptistic pastor recalls with grief and sorrow many adults whose audible and credible profession of faith sufficed (and well should have sufficed) as grounds for his baptism, only to fall away everlastingly weeks, months, or years later. Indeed, what is biblically requisite for admission to baptism needs to be a reasoned confidence on the part of the pastor that the one to be baptized has saving faith, that is, that such a one is elect; nothing more and nothing less ought to be grounds for baptism. This would demand, for the credobaptist, an audible and credible profession of faith in the risen Lord, and some very basic familiarity of what that means. For the paedobaptist, there is no denial that such an audible and credible profession suffices. However, paedobaptists admit that the promise of God to be a God to Abraham and to his children and to his children’s children applies to Christians, today. Genesis 17:7 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Acts 2:39 “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Though the truth of apostasy is real, and though not all who undergo infant baptism are elect, it seems quite reasonable to trust the profession of God as regards the permanence of His relationship with His children at least as highly as the profession of a fallen human being as regards the permanence of his relationship with God.

    Blessings from a paedocredobaptist,

    David

    David

    November 7, 2008 at 3:07 am

  20. Hi to everyone,

    It’s almost a month since I posted my previous comment. Those very issues I raised forced me to re-consider the Reformed Baptist rationale for not baptizing infants. I am re-studying the arguments of both sides, and am planning to consult more books (including old ones) dealing with the subject. Honestly, I have a difficult time reconciling covenant headship and the household principle, and the invisible/visible church distinction (see WCF Chap. 25) with the Reformed Baptist position on baptism. When properly considered, these (and other covenantal themes) seemed to have put virtually all my Baptist objections (e.g. the meaning of the New Covenant, the Baptist interpretation of Acts 2:39, believers alone as the “seed,” baptism replacing circumcision not mentioned in Acts 15, etc.) to infant baptism at rest since they question the fundamental assumption of Reformed Baptists about the very nature of the church. Having said that, I think I am now in the direction of becoming a paedobaptist, or in the words of David, a paedocredobaptist. I am also studying the case for the Presbyterian government for the first time which seems quite convincing. But I am still open to correction. And we can disagree agreeably. Thanks.

    Albert Medina

    November 18, 2008 at 8:09 am


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