Sunday, January 23, 2022

A Few Arguments for Infant Baptism

Here are a few brief arguments for the baptism of the infants of believers, as well as a few notes of application. 

1. Baptism is our initiation as disciples of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20). The children of believers are disciples of the Lord Jesus, to be raised by their parents as such (Eph. 6:1-4). Therefore we should baptize the children of believers.

Your baptism ought therefore to remind you of your identity as Christ’s disciple, to entrust yourself to him and to follow him, diligently learning to observe his commands. 

2. Baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, and the covenant of grace is made with believers and their children (Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39), therefore the children of believers should be baptized.

God has always extended and confirmed his covenant mercy to the children of believers and has included them in his church (Gen. 6:28, 9:9, Gen. 17:7-13, Deut. 29:10-15, Acts 2:39). This can be compared to how, in 2 Samuel 9-10, King David, who had made a covenant with Jonathan, then extended that covenant mercy to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth (who received it with humility and gratitude), and did the same with his ally King Nahash and his son Nanun (who responded with rebellion). Your baptism is a sign of God’s covenant mercy and ought to stir you to respond with gratitude and loyalty all your life, keeping the covenant by believing in Christ and demonstrating such faith by obedience to God’s word. Your baptism should teach you to call upon God as your God and Father.

3. Circumcision was the sign and seal of the covenant in the old administration (Gen. 17:1-14, Rom. 4:11) and baptism is the functionally equivalent new covenant ceremony representing the same thing (Col. 2:11-12). As circumcision was applied to infant children of believers, so baptism should be as well.

Circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith (Rom. 4:11) and the conversion of the heart (Deut. 30:6), and yet was given to infants who could not give a profession of faith or a demonstration of conversion. These children were then called to live in accordance with the symbol as heirs of the covenant (Deut. 10:16, Jer. 4:4). Likewise, baptism into Christ is a new covenant sign and seal of the same blessings (Col. 2:11-14, Gal. 3:27-29). Children who are baptized are then raised to live in accord with this symbol, to trust in Christ for their cleansing from sin and to put on the ways of the new self in Christ and to put away what belongs to the old sinful nature. 

4. The actions of the apostolic church recorded in the New Testament are fully compatible with the practice of infant baptism, especially as households were baptized following the conversion of a parent (Acts 16:14-15, 31-34), just as households were circumcised in the Old Testament (Gen. 17, Ex. 12:48). The inclusion of children would have been assumed because of the prior biblical pattern, and there is no teaching about a change in practice as would be expected if there was a change.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Law and the Covenant of Grace

Q. 43: What is the preface to the ten commandments?
Answer: The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Q. 44: What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
Answer: The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments. (WSC)

With these questions, the Shorter Catechism begins its exposition of the ten commandments. It is important to remember that the ten commandments not only contain a summary of the moral law, but they also summarize God’s covenant with his people. The ten commandments are called “the words of the covenant” (Ex. 34:28) and “his covenant” (Deut. 4:13). The Ark of the Covenant was called this because it was the ark that contained the covenant (i.e. the tablets of the ten commandments).

As was typical for covenants made in that era, the ten commandments begin by identifying the parties to the covenant and the basis for their relationship. This covenant was made between the LORD and the people he brought out of bondage. The basis for their relationship was God’s grace and redemption, the fact that he had delivered them. To put it in the language of the New Testament, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14).

The moral law does not function in the covenant of grace the same way as it did in the covenant of works. Members of the covenant of grace are not justified by their obedience to the law. The law instructs them how to respond to his grace. It defines how they should live with their God as his redeemed people. His gracious salvation binds us to obedience as an expression of gratitude and love. In fact, one purpose of his grace is to restore us to a life of loving obedience. We are saved by Christ unto good works (Eph. 2:10, Titus 2:14). As Zechariah said, God raised up Christ in fulfillment of his holy covenant “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74–75).

As the catechism says, there are several reasons we are bound to keep all God’s commandments. First, because he is the Lord, the everlasting God who is sovereign over all. In Exodus 20:2, “Lord” is in all capital letters (LORD), which means his personal name is used (often transliterated as Jehovah and is connected to the phrase “I Am” in Exodus 3:14-15). He is the one and only true God, and obedience to him is owed by all.

Second, he is our God. As those who have entered into covenant with him by faith, he has taken us under his care and protection. He is ours, and we are his. This is a relationship not shared by those outside the covenant. As a vassal owes obedience to his lord and a son owes obedience to his father, so we owe obedience to our God (Mal. 1:6). 

Third, he is our Redeemer. He has provided atonement for our sins. He symbolized this with the institution of animal sacrifices (such as the Passover lamb) in the Old Testament, and he accomplished this through Jesus Christ. He has ransomed us from bondage, “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Therefore we should live for the will of God, in holiness and reverence (1 Peter 1:14-19, 4:2-3). “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20).

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Summary of the Moral Law

Moses holding the tablets of the ten commandments
Q. 41: Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended? 
Answer: The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

Q. 42: What is the sum of the ten commandments?
Answer: The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves. (WSC

God’s moral law is not random and arbitrary, but is ultimately unified, capable of being summarized in basic principles as well as being applied to particular situations. When Jesus was asked about the great commandment, he did not merely give them the most important commandments. He gave them two commandments which were foundational to the rest of the law and the prophets.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37–40)
These two commandments summarize the ten commandments, which in turn summarize the rest of the moral law. The ten commandments command us to love the Lord our God through exclusive religious commitment, pure worship, a reverent use of his name, and the observance of his holy day. The ten commandments command us to love our neighbor by honoring human authorities, by preserving our own and our neighbor’s life, chastity, wealth, and good name, and by a content, just, and charitable frame of mind toward our neighbor and his belongings. These duties ought to be done from love and in love as ways to express this love for God and neighbor. Romans 13:7-10 exemplifies how the ten commandments are summarized in Scripture with the duty to love. 

The moral law is explained and taught throughout Scripture. But it is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments in such a way that further explanation can be seen as drawing out what is implied by the ten commandments themselves.

It is important to note that the same law that condemns us as sinners is the same law that believers are taught to live by (Rom. 7-8:9, 13:7-10). The law which was given to Adam and Even in the garden is the same law to which we are being conformed as we are being renewed by Christ. It was given to Adam and Eve as a covenant of works, and it was given again at Mount Sinai as part of the covenant of grace, to be observed by his people who were redeemed by grace. The law which is that perfect expression of God’s character is the same law we follow as his people, to show our love, gratitude, loyalty, and likeness to him.