"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Community: Is the Community made up only of believers?

As we have seen, the function of the covenant was to establish a context in which salvation takes place, but does this mean that everyone who is in the covenant is necessarily saved?

There are two views on this:

1. The Pure Community
This view sees all members of the covenant as being members of the elect. There is no room for a category of a non-elect covenant member. This view generally looks to Jer 31:34, that states “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me.”

2. The Mixed Community

However, outside of the Anabaptist tradition, most other Christians have acknowledged a “mixed covenant.” A mixed covenant view holds that one may be a covenant member and not be a true believer (elect). Hence, this understands Paul when he says “Not all Israel is Israel” (Rom 9:6) to mean that not all covenant members of Israel are true Israel.

I believe this is the Biblical picture of covenant community. The necessary element of membership in the elect is not the outward sign, but the inward reality. Another way this is expressed is by the concepts of the visible and invisible church. The visible church is those who are baptized members, and the invisible church is the number of the truly elect.

We see this illustrated in two teachings of Christ. Christ tells of a field planted with seed, and good seed growing up next to weeds (wheat next to tares). Within the field (not the world, but the kingdom of God - Matt 13:24) there is both good and bad unseparated until harvest. Again we see this in Christ’s teaching that the kingdom of God is a net which has within it, both good and bad fish. (Matt 13:47).

Christ taught this in a context where some Jews (the Pharisees) believed they could assume their own salvation because they were “the seed of Abraham” which in their mind meant they were by the Law and heredity, Abraham’s decendents. Christ responded by calling many of them “Son of the Devil.” (John 8:40-44) All must acknowledge there are two senses of being Israel (son of Abraham) - the spiritual and the physical, the invisible and the visible.

The error of the Pharisees was believing that being circumcised in the flesh (sons of Abraham in the flesh) made them spiritual sons of Abraham. Such was not the case, and one must be circumcised in the heart (Deut 30:6) to be a true son of Abraham. As Paul says "All Israel is not Israel." Not all circumcised are "of the circumcision." Though Israel misunderstood this, God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures never revokes or repents of his decree that the covenant was open to the children of believers (Gen 17:9-13) and neither is it changed in the New (Acts 2:38-39, 1 Cor 7:13-14). Similarly, not all baptized are baptized. The mixed community is the reality of the covenant community containing both believers and their children. In the Old Testament, the true elect were elect by grace alone though faith alone, even if they had the sign of faith: circumcision. In the New Testament, we are reminded that the true elect are elect by grace alone though faith alone, even if we have the sign of faith: baptism.

Despite the potential for misunderstanding, the outward reminds us of the inward. The sign teaches the community of God's grace and God's faithfulness to the covenant, a God who is faithful to extend His promise in a real way to his covenant community, even when only a remnant remain faithful to him. (Isaiah 10:22-23)


Aaron said...

I know of no professors of believer's baptism that want to be linked to the radical reformation of the Anabaptist. Stop being snarky like that. Nor is the visible invisible church hinge on infant baptism. Any "Anabaptist" ought to tell you since we are children by FAITH that the visible/invisible church can be true of ANY baptized or un-baptized "member" of a church.

"Nothing grieves me more than that at present I have to baptize children, for I know it ought not to be done."

- U. Zwingli

Now did not he put to death some of those radical reformers you keep calling me?

If it is merely a simple how does it put us under the covenant? If it does that it is not a simple it is a requirement to have access?

Baptism is a helper to our faith. To remember our own time of being Baptized in to Christ. To see our new brothers and sister come in this way. It infers a grace but does not "put us under the covenant."

Jared Nelson said...

I mean no offense, but factually the doctrine is Anabaptist. I did not call you anabaptist. Those practicing believers-only baptism are following the 1500s teaching on baptism of the Anabaptists, even if the English Baptists are a sort of hybrid between Reformed and Anabaptist in other areas.

As to whether baptism puts us in the covenant, I would point out that circumcision is explicitly said to do so in Gen 17:9-14. And I will here only give the definition of Scripture for Baptism: "The Circumcision of Christ" Col 2:11

Jared Nelson said...

I was just laying out my understanding of baptism and the covenant since you posted Spurgeon on baptism. I've avoided the subject in the past and I do not mean any offense by my responses, just engaging dialogue.

Aaron said...

Well last night you seemed to act like you mind was not made up. Clearly it is and yes we should avoid it. No more politics or religion. We do not seem to agree on either.

Jared Nelson said...

Whatever, we agree on 99% of both.

Matthew Bradley said...

I had to laugh at this exchange, even though I know it's brothers squabbling. You are co-authoring a blog called "dead theologians". How can you not talk religion or politics? I think this has been a healthy exchange, tempers or no. It's good to be challenged. If we only think our own thoughts and read those that agree with us, we will be subject to error. If we won't read the classics, then perhaps we will at least read our brothers from across the aisle with charity and some respect. Enjoy the dialogue, gentlemen.

And if you love children and puppies, you will baptize infants. I think that much is clear. :^)

Matthew Bradley said...

The question of visible and invisible church is quite closely related to the discussion of baptism.

As a baptist, I could never understand how the presbyterian could baptize an infant without knowing if that infant were elect or not. It turns out, we baptists couldn't tell if our own baptismal candidates were saved or not. The sign is made to hinge on true conversion by the baptist view, otherwise they can't point at us and say we are wrongly baptizing unconverted children. If the church is a mixture of wheat and tares (both now and in the OT), and in the OT the community was commanded to give the sign of membership to everyone (even though we know that many were tares), then why should that change now?

Some would argue that Jeremiah 31 says so. But careful consideration will reveal that it says no such thing. And if the entire baptist argument ultimately hinges on the interpretation of Jer 31, and an alternative interpretation that is consistent with the rest of Scripture, the view of the reformers, and our own experience, then shouldn't that cause the baptist to pause?

I'm not interested in calling names or labeling. I'm just saying, every baptist argument I've ever heard or read (and there are a lot of them offered), none has taken seriously the continuity of the OT and the NT or our identity as Israel, heirs of the covenants of promise.

But I love my baptist brother anyway. I still hope to see you all in heaven. :^)

Amy said...
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Aaron said...
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Aaron said...

The sign is made to hinge on true conversion by the Baptist view; otherwise they can't point at us and say we are wrongly baptizing unconverted children.

Not at all the case I ever heard and I share your sorrow at something like that being taught. A sign of conversion yes but not a perfect one. Of course I was only a Baptist for a year but I was taught in a later church that as a believer Baptism is (among other things) a helper to our faith. The mark of the church is Baptism by and seal of the Holy Spirit, which is invisible last I checked.

So if Baptism is not a sign AT ALL what is? Confirmation and/or alter calls? Yuck! I think I will stick with Baptism and seal of the Holy Spirit for the perfect part.

Not to be a broken record but if Baptism is really completely 100% the new circumcision in every way but not forskin then it should be done only with boys and on the eighth day. Enjoy the land of Cainan now and that other part of walking before the Lord perfectly. Or was it accounted to Abraham as righteous before he did anything other than believe?

Sigh… always the little red headed step child to Reformed. It is humbling staying in the dispensational fold for sure. It is hard times for sure.

Aaron said...

"though they not be circumcised:that righteousness might be imputed unto them also"
Rom 4:9-11
if we have his faith, though we be not circumcised, our faith, like his will be imputed for righteousness.
- A Judson

Also I can not beleive the things I am calling myself. I am not sure I am a dispensationalist and I am not a Baptist. Just do not want to be ashamed of them I guess. I have been well loved in my hick country church. I love it right back!

Anyway like I told Jared earlier. I have no place posting stuff here with you guys. I am just a layman with no training other than a few books and a simple old country preacher talking to me every Sunday. I also watch NASCAR and listen to Rush. I like that high church stuff though. Love that litergy. It is really... high, cool, reverent. Love it. Carry on...

Jared Nelson said...

Points of agreement:

1. Baptism is a sign. [of the covenant and of "the righteousness that comes by faith"]

2. Baptism does not justify, but Christ justifies in grace by faith.

Anonymous said...

I want to ask a basic question so I know what you are talking about.

What is the purpose of infant baptism?

Matthew Bradley said...

The purpose of infant baptism, as it is understood and practiced in a reformed church, is to mark the child as a covenant child, just as circumcision marked the infants boys as covenant children in the OT.

God commanded that a sign be administered forever, without qualification. So we either must argue that circumcision is still required, or that something has replaced it as the sign. In Col 2:11 Paul relates circumcision and baptism. Through the NT, especially in books such as Galatians, Paul makes it clear circumcision is no longer required. But he does not argue that we don't give a sign to covenant members. So we baptize our children as members of the covenant.

Matthew Bradley said...

By the way...I just realized that "mom n" might be a relation and therefore that you might have wanted an answer from one of your boys...so I apologize if I jumped in too quickly. Jared will probably have a better answer anyway. :^)

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad Matthew - I just want to engage in the discussion. I welcome entries by you as well.

So am I to understand that infant baptism, like circumcision, is to be something for the parents to do as an assurance for themselves that this child could become a follower?

Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks mom! :^)

I wouldn't quite say it that way. This is a sign for the child (of course for the infant they must grow up into it, just as the circumcised child did in the OT) of God's faithfulness. God gave the covenant promises to Abraham and to his children. Think back to the OT stories of Israel. Children were not foreigners in the camp, right? They weren't enemies of God until they made a confession of faith, were they? No. Instead, they were members of Israel just as surely as their parents. To say it another way, they were in a covenant relationship with God. Read Genesis 17:9-11. God says the circumcision is a sign of the covenant and is to be given as a sign of the covenant to every male born into the covenant family. How can God give the sign to an infant in the OT? Abraham was saved by faith just as we are. It must be because God is in covenant with every child born into the covenant community.

Now the question for us today is this: Are our children members of the covenant people of God, or not? Has something changed since Christ came that makes our children outsiders? Those of us reformed/Presbyterians say that they are in covenant with God, just as the 8 day old sons in the OT. Therefore, we give them the sign of covenant membership. Baptists and those that only practice adult baptism say "No, our children are not in the covenant until they make a profession of faith." They say this because they believe that only regenerate (saved) people are in the covenant. However, the Bible, both in the OT and the NT, teaches that the covenant people will be a mixture of saved and lost until Christ comes and separates them in judgment. Until then, just as with Israel in the OT, we give the sign of covenant membership to all who are in the covenant community, which mean our children, since they are born into the community. Peter affirms this in Acts 2 when he says "the promise (that is, the promise contained in the covenant) is for you and for your children..."

Imagine being a Jew in the crowd listening to Peter. Your children have been covenant members for 1800 years. The promised messiah has come and done the work required for our salvation and one of his disciples has just told you all about it, closing with a reiteration that the promises are for you and your children (which sounds very familiar to you). Would you have any reason to believe that your children aren't in the covenant?

Baptism is given to our children as a sign that God has made a promise to save them if they have faith. Knowing that God is faithful to his people should give us some hope of our children's salvation. And as such, when we baptize our children, we do claim the promises of God for them.

I talk too much, in case you hadn't noticed. Sorry about that...

Aaron said...

I see the focus of under the covenant does not mean you are saved. I have never been in a church where they tell me my Baptism saves me. But can you be saved and not be under the covenant? Kind of where I am coming from is Paul did not tell the judizers in Galatians that circumcision is not needed because he has given Baptism in it's place. He told them to cut the whole thing off, because it is by faith! (That was with a humorous tone) So directly, do you HAVE to be Baptized to be saved?

Anonymous said...

You do not talk too much and thanks for calling me "mom."

So infant baptism is a sign that the parents are believers (part of the covenant). The infant cannot understand, of course, that he/she is part of the covenant so the baptism is the parents indicating to God that they are part of the covenant and their child is part of the covenant until the age of understanding on the child's part?

Matthew Bradley said...

Aaron...you're right about Paul in Galatians. However, Paul is not addressing this question directly there. The Judaizers were arguing that circumcision is necessary for salvation. Paul said, no, it isn't. Salvation is by faith. And we would say the same of Baptism. It does not save, nor is it necessary for salvation. However, it is given by God to his people as a sign of their covenant membership.

God has made promises to his people. He has also given his people a sign by which they recognize their participation in this covenant. This sign was circumcision in the OT and is baptism in the new. As I said above, in the OT God commanded the sign forever. This is a serious word that we cannot easily dismiss. Either God didn't mean what he said in commanding the sign forever, or we are still commanded to give the sign. The NT teaches (according to the reformed understanding, obviously) that the sign is still commanded, but has changed in form from circumcision to baptism. The change in form is not a foreign concept to the baptist. Baptists agree that passover changed in form. God commanded passover forever as well. We are not told that passover ended with Christ. Instead, Christ fulfilled passover so that while we still celebrate it, it has changed in some ways. Now it is simplified (since what passover pointed to has come and is clear to us). Baptists agree with this wholeheartedly (at least in their theology books and among most of the baptist pastors I know...in fact I WAS a baptist pastor!). So for us to argue that the same things has happened to baptism is not so far fetched really. In fact, Baptists agree with us on something else. They agree that baptism is a sign of covenant membership. That is why I have been talking so much about who is in the covenant. Baptists don't disagree that this is what we are doing in baptism is giving a mark of membership. This is why they require baptism for membership. If you want to be a member, you must receive the mark of membership, a mark they understand to have been given to us and commanded of us by Christ. The only real disagreement in the end is this simple (haha) little question: WHO is in the covenant? Who should receive the mark? The covenantal churches look at the OT and see that children were included from the very beginning of their lives. They do not see any command or instruction repealing this. In fact they see Peter in Acts 2, Paul in 1 Cor 7, Christ in Matthew 19:13-14 all teaching us that children are still in the covenant. Are we really to believe that God's relationship with his people included children before Christ, but excludes them since Christ? I know that's an emotional argument, so I offer it carefully. I'm not saying baptists don't love their children. I'm just saying that this view of children (their exclusion from the covenant) is a fact in the baptist view and is a radical separation from the OT shape of the covenant that the Jews had received from God himself. It seems to me that it would require a clear teaching in the NT. Instead we read no such thing.

Now as to mom's question. The sign is with regard to the child. It is applied to the child since the child is a covenant member. This is done in the presence of the community. It certainly says something about the parents...it assumes they are covenant members. It also says something about the child. It says the child is a covenant member.

Now we recognize that not all baptized children will grow up and be faithful (just as not all baptized adults in the church will keep the faith). But instead of saying they are members of the covenant until the age of accountability, we say they are always covenant members. They will either grow up to be covenant keepers or covenant breakers. The OT makes this clear about Israel. They are all in covenant. The question is, will they be covenant breakers or covenant keepers. God lays out the blessing for those that keep the covenant and the curses for those that don't. So what is the difference between the cov breaker and the cov keeper? Is it their works? No. It is faith. The one who has faith is a cov keeper. The one that does not have faith is a cov breaker. This is what the author of Hebrews is warning about in the famous warning passages. He is writing to a cov community and warning its members not to be cov breakers...not to be faithless.

So the child born into the cov community will always be in covenant. They may grow up to break the cov or to keep it, but they will always be in cov. The Israelite in the OT didn't cease to be an Israelite because they broke cov. However, they did come under God's curse.

Aaron said...

So it does not really place you under the covenant?

Jared Nelson said...

Wow, I go to work for a few hours and Matt gets adopted. I would answer in more detail, and will once my Greek Exegetical paper is done.

For now to the questions briefly, I would say on:

1. "Do you have to be Baptized to be saved?"

No, and you also don't need to be saved to be baptized :) The Westminster states that "The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered" I would refer back to the examples in my posts of Abraham, he believed then received the sign, Isaac received the sign then believed. Either is a possibility.

2. "Paul did not tell the judizers in Galatians that circumcision is not needed because he has given Baptism in it's place. He told them to cut the whole thing off, because it is by faith!"

First, a question must be asked about what circumcision did in the OT. The dicotomy you set up here seems to suggest that circumcision saved in the OT, but not in the new testament since faith saves now. I think you would agree it was sola fide in the OT and the NT. So what the Pharissees misunderstood was that circumcision or heredity never saved, but they are justified by faith, then and now. Second, Paul also wrote Colossians, so lets not forget that his definition (of baptism as the circumcision of Christ) there applies universally, not just in that book.

Paul actually explores that issue "what good was circumcision if it didn't save?" in Romans 3:1-4. There he tells Christians, that circumcision was about God's faithfulness to his covenant and would save if they had faith. If a circumcised person had no faith, it made the person a liar (denying their Lord) not God who would be true to His word.

3. On the final question, on if the children are part of the covenant until age of understanding: The child is always part of the covenant, they just might be covenant breakers. One must be in the covenant to be a covenant breaker, which is why you get warnings to the covenant community like in Heb 6, 10 because though they are in the community, doesn't mean they are true believers. As for an "age of understanding," there seems to be no biblical mandate for such a category. The child grows up in the family of God, sitting under the preaching of the Word and coming to faith, if God so chooses, in the manner God so chooses - be it a sudden conversion or a gradual trusting in Christ's merits rather than their own works for salvation, which everyone continually must grow into.

I would actually say 1 Cor 7:13-14 is an interesting passage to look at on Q's 2 and 3. In Biblical theology, if you were in the covenant in the old testament you were "set apart" or sanctified or holy (Ex 19:6 - a holy nation), because you were in the covenant. In 1 Cor 7:14, Paul assures believers that even if their spouse is an unbeliever, their child will still be "holy." If we see this only in an absolute sense of "saved" then that is salvation by marriage and salvation by birth. But instead, it is a recognition of the status of the child. If one parent is a believer, that child is holy, or part of the "holy nation" as 1 Peter 2:9 says: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession." 1 Cor 7:14 tells us children of believers are holy, in a sense of belonging to that holy nation.

That's all I have time for now.

Jared Nelson said...

Oops, posted before seeing more had been written...

Matthew Bradley said...


Baptism doesn't place you under the covenant. Being born to believing parents places you under the covenant. Baptism is a sign or symbol of the fact that you are already a covenant member. If you are born to covenant members and not baptized, you are still in the covenant, because it was your birth, not your baptism, that made you such. However, for those who ARE in the covenant, the sign of that truth is given.

For an example of how serious God is about this sign being given, consider the incident where God goes after Moses for not giving his children the sign. His wife has to jump in and apply the sign. Moses children weren't outside the covenant until they received the sign. In fact, it is precisely because they ARE in the covenant that Moses' failure to give them the sign provokes God's wrath.

Aaron said...


Anonymous said...

Okay - I am coming along nicely through this discussion. A couple of
more questions. Give me a definition of covenant in a sentence or two.
AND How does "election" fit into all of this? Maybe I am going too
fast by jumping to election - just let me know if I am.

Aaron said...

Would you say that infant baptism places the child perhaps "more safely" in the covenant then?

Do you hold in your view that this was practiced by the early church? Probably does not matter since even Luther held that it was not, just wondering.

Aaron said...

Misrepresented Luther. He only said it can not be proved from scripture. Erasmus (and many others) believed that it was not. (As I understand it)

Matthew Bradley said...

A covenant is the name that describes the way in which God relates to his people. God chose a people for himself. Then he made promises to that people and gave them a sign (or signs) as a pledge of his promise. There are also stipulations in a covenant. Blessings for faithfulness and curses for faithlessness.

Election isn't unrelated to covenant, but the connection isn't one for one. In other words, not every covenant member is elect. We see this clearly in the OT. Consider the kings of the northern kingdom. Wicked king after wicked king. These were idol worshipers, murderers, and the like. They all died in their sins without repentance. We do not have any reason to believe they were saved, or elect. However, they were certainly members of the covenant people of God. Or take the teaching of Christ. He taught that in the church there would be wheat and tares. But instead of tearing the weeds out now, he instructs that they be left until the judgment. The church (as we all know from personal experience!) has people in it that are members and yet who none of us have any compelling reason to believe they are regenerate. So being in the covenant isn't the same as being elect. That said, we do see a trend. Salvation occurs more often among (or in the context of) the covenant people of God than it does outside of that context. Put another way, if you have an 8 year old raised in the church and an 8 year old raised in a godless home, which one does experience tell you will more likely be confess faith and remain faithful? Statistically the child raised in the church will. Some would say this is simply a natural outcome of their environment, and perhaps there is some sense in which that is true (because God designed it that way). But another way to say it (or perhaps see it) is to acknowledge that God is doing what he said he would do! "For this promise is for you and for your children." God most often seems to be working within the context of covenant families, bringing the children of his elect to faith.

We also wouldn't say it is one to one since God often calls men and women to faith who are not born into covenant families. So they were elect, but not covenant children (since they were born to unbelieving parents).

So someone can be born into the covenant and not be elect, or born outside and be elect. But the pattern in Scripture and in history is that election seems to be the case more often than not in covenant families, while it seems to be more the exception to the rule among those not born into covenant families.

Aaron...I'm not sure what to do with your question. We do speak of a child growing into their baptism. What we mean by that is that we teach them what their baptism means, what it means to be in covenant with God, about the promise God has made to those covenant members who are faithful. Our children are taught to look back to their baptism (not in the sense that they remember it, but because they know it happened) and be encouraged and comforted by the fact that it is a sign and seal of the promise of God to his covenant children. However, this baptism condemns them as powerfully as it encourages them if they do not have faith (just as circumcision did in the OT). Baptism is no guarantee that a person will be faithful, and so we don't tend to speak of it as making someone more safely in the covenant. They are in the covenant, period. They may turn out to be covenant breakers or covenant keepers, but their identity as covenant members is settled.

Matthew Bradley said...

And yes, I believe it was, but I can't prove it to you. I believe, however, that it was practiced in NT times, and it was clearly practiced by the late 2nd century. So if I am right about the NT period, then it stands to reason that it was continued. However, the early church offers a poor foundation upon which to base a theology of baptism. Anyone that has read the Fathers knows that their views on baptism were pretty varied. There are arguments about whether or not you can sin after baptism. Or if you sin, how many times can you sin before you are lost forever. Some said you could sin one more time after baptism, but that was it. Others said no, no more sins or you're out. Some, based on this, argued that you shouldn't be baptized until you are old enough to control yourself. Others said not even until your death bed. Others argued (believing that baptism and salvation were inseparable) that we should be baptizing infants in case they die young (which was frequent in the early church period). Others saw that as a death sentence since the child was sure to sin and therefore prove to be unregenerate. The church was all over the map on this in the first couple of centuries. But we have a clear record that infant baptisms were taking place pretty early. Were they taking place before that? Perhaps. The absence of a record doesn't mean they weren't. I believe it was Origen that was baptized as an infant with his grandparents present. That would have been around 185. Not only is that late second century, but his grandparents, who were said to have been Christians throughout their lives, were present and did not object, so the practice must have been around well before 185. But in the end, no, I can't prove the earliest church baptized infants any more than I can prove they were doing it in the NT (which is after all one and the same). But I'm not sure the absence of such proof means a great deal as you pointed out. It didn't seem to bother the reformers.

Jared Nelson said...

On what is a covenant:

In the previous post I included the brief description:

The most simple definition would be an agreement between two or more parties. The agreement would include some sort of exchange or promise and conditions for that promise to be fulfilled. Usually, in the Bible, these covenants are accompanied by a sign.

Aaron said...

Ok now I have to read all of that and am adding to it another question.

Hey how many generations does it go? Once under always under? Or covenant breaking parents break the chain?

My parents put me under the sign and are good standing believers. I go through confermation but then apostisize. Me and my children for the next 10 generations are pagan, but under the covenant?

Aaron said...

Got it on the safty question Matthew. Thanks. At least we could always say it is more safe to obey God than not. :-)

Aaron said...
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Matthew Bradley said...

That's a good question, Aaron. And perhaps I need to tighten up my language in order to avoid misunderstanding. All those born to believing parents (which is how I said it above) are to be baptized. However, if you apostasize, you are not a believing parents. If your child, then, has no believing parents, he is not a child of the covenant, and would not receive baptism. You, being an unbelieving parent, wouldn't be raising them in the covenant community. There would be no outward sense (much less inward sense) in which the child belongs in or to the community.

The confusion may have come from another way that I said the same thing. I used the term covenant parents in place of believing parents. There's nothing technically wrong with my speaking this way. When I do so I simply mean faithful covenant parents. But since our discussion has turned to the issue of covenant breakers, it was a bit confusing for me to speak that way. Infants are baptized when they are born to believing parents (or put another way, faithful covenant parents).

So no, we would not keep baptizing generations of children being born to unbelieving parents.

And this brings us full circle to the question that I maintain is at the heart of it all. Who is a member of the covenant community? Is it only regenerate people? Yes and no. Right now it is not. Right now Christ teaches us that the church is wheat and tares. But in the perfect fulfillment of his covenant promises the tares will be removed and the church will be pure, consisting only of the faithful. So how should we handle the situation in the meantime? Do we try to separate the wheat from the tares? Scripture says no, because it is easy to mistake one for the other. We are taught that faith and repentance are the fruit of a person that has been brought from death to life. We accept the orthodox confession of every person and then encourage them to continue in faithfulness. We believe God when he says that our children are in the covenant, and we treat them as such, giving them the sign of membership, just as we are commanded by God in Scripture. Not because they may in fact turn out to be in the covenant, but because they truly are in the covenant according to how the covenant community is defined by God in this age. The only time Scripture ever teaches that the covenant community will be pure is in the end.

Matthew Bradley said...

Well put, Aaron...yes...always safer to obey. I laughed out loud when I read that.

Aaron said...

Good answer to my last question. Thanks. Ok then, as you were.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I am satisfied with the answers I have received in this discussion. Thanks so much.

Matthew - time to introduce ourselves. You were right I am Aaron & Jared's mother and therefore have been monitor/moderator for many of these discussions. Although I do not always understand the discussion because of the level or assumptions that are made I try to bring it back to something I can understand - which in turn makes you, Aaron and Jared reiterate what you have said a different way.

Tell me about yourself.

Matthew Bradley said...

Nice to meet you!

I'm a pastor in the PCA (just getting started...I'll go through ordination exams this fall). I'm married (yesterday was our 13 anniversary!) with two boys, Ian (8) and Xavier (3). We just moved to Nashville from Dallas where I attended DTS (grad '06) and worked as a Baptist pastor. I left the SBC in 2007 to transition to the PCA, which I did as a pastoral intern at PCPC where Jared attends. I met Jared through some combination of DTS, Jay Bennett (a mutual friend) and PCPC. I feel like I've known him forever, so it's hard to remember exactly how or when we met. He was smarter when he started DTS than I was when I finished, so I've always thought highly of him (and been more than a little humbled).

Anyway...I have read the blog for awhile, but commented rarely until now.

Thanks to both you and Aaron for some good questions. It helps me think through things a little differently than I may have before. It's good exercise...you know...iron sharpening iron and all.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

I had a suspicion that you were a pastor (officially or not) in the PCA. My husband and I attended PCPC when we visited Jared and Michelle last fall. I enjoyed the return to the literagy and more formal worship. I think the "church" as a whole is returning to more traditional worship simply because the younger generation is beginning to see the value in it and a return to early church traditions.

Thank you for your compliments of Jared. Sound like you can hold your own.

Through my life I have attended different denominations of Baptist churches - SBC, American Baptist, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and Conservative Baptist. I have also been a member of 2 United Methodist churches (1 from the United Bretheran (spelling?) background and 1 from the old Methodist background).

I tried to instill (think I succeeded) that questioning everything except the foundation of salvation is a good thing. I said many times not to take a particular man's word for something but to investigate to determine if what was said was correct and then determine what to believe from your own investigation. Sounds like something you have done as well Matthew.

Nice getting to know you.