• Church,  Theology

    Paedobaptists and the Problem of New Covenant Regeneration

    Reformed paedobaptists view the new covenant as an extension of the old covenant, not as its replacement,[1] although as I argued before, the new covenant is discussed in terms of replacing the Mosaic covenant. However, in Reformed paedobaptist thought the newness of the new covenant is usually thought to refer to external aspects only. For example, Jeffrey Niell notes, “The newness of the new covenant pertains to the external aspects, the outward administration, of the covenant of grace. The new covenant is not new in its nature of membership.”[2] In other words, “The transition from the old covenant to the new covenant is a smooth unfolding of God’s redemptive plan, because the two covenants are organically connected—they are essentially one covenant of grace.”[3] However, an examination of the texts concerning the new covenant leads one to observe there are significant qualitative differences between the old and new covenants.[4] Although there…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Infant Baptism and the Connection to the Abrahamic Covenant

    As we have noted before, for the Reformed paedobaptist, the covenant of grace is the foundational argument for paedobaptism. Within the covenantal system, the specific covenants mentioned in Scripture are just various manifestations of that singular covenant. Specifically, however, for the Reformed paedobaptists, the New Testament discussion of the “old covenant” is the Abrahamic covenantal manifestation of the covenant of grace. In contrast, the Bible’s mention of a new covenant is not not “new” in the sense of something that has not been seen before, but rather, a renewed version of that Abrahamic covenant which already existed. Note, for example, renown Berkhof’s explanation. “The covenant made with Abraham was primarily a spiritual covenant, though it also had a national aspect, and of this spiritual covenant circumcision was a sign and seal….  This covenant is still in force and is essentially identical with the “new covenant” of the present dispensation. The…

  • New Testament

    Jesus Barabbas or Jesus the Messiah?

    One detail of the Easter story that is sometimes missing is the contrast and comparison of the two men named Jesus. Yes, you read that right! At the end of Jesus’s trial, Pilate selects two men named Jesus as candidates for selection by the Jewish crowd. Jesus the Messiah and Jesus Barabbas are put forward side by side. The dilemma is obvious. To which Jesus will the nation of Israel affirm their loyalty? Jesus Barabbas in Matthew 27:16-17 Many people are not familiar with the idea that Barabbas is most likely a surname, while his given name was Jesus. A brief survey of the English translations shows why many people have not heard of Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas. ESV “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” NASB “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called…

  • Theology

    Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace

    We looked previously at how important covenant theology is to the Reformed arguments for paedobaptism. Within the Reformed argumentation for paedobaptism, there is no more essential doctrine than the covenant of grace. On this point Booth, a Reformed paedobaptist, notes, “There are also other evidences in the pages of Scripture that support the truth of infant baptism. Nevertheless, the foundation of the argument consists of the unified covenant of grace evident in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.”[1] There are many reasons the covenant of grace is essential to the Reformed position on paedobaptism. Primarily, it provides the theological connection between circumcision and baptism, so that “baptism and circumcision have essentially the same meaning.”[2] Additionally, it provides a framework to see the continuity in the people of God, and God’s dealing corporately with households in the New Testament.[3] It should be noted that, historically, many credobaptists (people who…

  • Church,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism

    Reformed paedobaptists are not shy to assert that their defense of infant baptism relies on covenant theology. In fact, although many Baptists take issue with infant baptism not being mentioned anywhere in Scripture, this is really a simplistic understanding of the Reformed position. In reality, for the Reformed paedobaptist, the entirety of the debate centers around the unified covenant of grace. Note the words of paedobaptist Cornelis Venema: This debate can be reduced to one principal question: Does the covenant of grace in its New Testament administration embrace the children of believing parents just as it did in the Old Testament administration? However complex and diverse the arguments, pro and con, on the subject of infant baptism may be, this remains the overriding issue. Precisely because the debate between paedobaptists and Baptists centers on the doctrine of the covenant of grace, particularly the similarity and dissimilarity of the covenant in…

  • Ethics,  Old Testament

    Does the Bible Support Polygamy?

    Anyone familiar with the Bible has had to wrestle with the question of polygamy in the Old Testament. There are numerous examples of polygamy. Some of these polygamous relationships are even practiced by those whom we would consider important people in Scripture. For example, Jacob (a patriarch of Israel) had two wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 29). Similarly, David, a man after God’s own heart, had multiple wives. These stories give us pause. Why are there faithful Israelites who have multiple wives? Although many would reject polygamy today, some are willing to say the Bible still supports polygamy today. The First Mention of Polygamy Although the Old Testament has concrete examples of polygamy, these are not looked upon favorably in the Old Testament. Where polygamy exists, family strife and difficulty follows. The strife and rivalry between Rachel and Leah is well known to students of Scripture (cf. Gen 29-30). The…

  • Christian Living,  Ethics

    Does the Bible Say Same Sex Attraction is Sin?

    Although some would argue that any same sex relationship is a good thing if it doesn’t harm anyone, in Christian circles there is usually a more clandestine approach to encourage acceptance of the gay lifestyle. This approach says that same sex attraction itself is not a sin, it is following through on the attraction that is the sin. In other words, to be attracted to the same sex is not a sin as long as one does not act on those impulses. In one sense, there is a difference between the gravity and consequences of following through on the attraction, but the real question is whether desires themselves can be sinful? People will often differentiate the issue between orientation and behavior. Some people will say that it is not sinful to be a “gay Christian.” It is only necessary to live celibate. However, there are two significant reasons that same…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament

    The Feast of Booths and the Kingdom of God

    The Feast of Booths is not something we often take the time to study because it involves a lot of time in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament assumes you know about it! In fact, knowing about the Feast of Booths helps us understand the Transfiguration in Matthew 17. What is the Feast of Booths? The Feast of Booths (Sukkot in Hebrew) was important for those in the OT and the NT. It was one of three times a year when all of the males in Israel were mandated to come to Jerusalem before God (Deut 16:16). The Feast of Booths was an 8-day celebration (beginning Tishri 15 on the Jewish Calendar), which happens to be in September/October in our calendar. During this feast, the people would live in temporary shelters (booths) and give offerings to the Lord (Lev 23:36). According to Lev 23:42, this was for native Jews only. The…

  • Church,  New Testament

    Dealing with the Divisive Person in Titus 3:10

    In Titus 3:10, the Apostle instructs Titus to “Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning” (CSB). However, in the KJV the divisive person is called a “heretic.” Clearly, the connotation is different. A divisive person is one who is given to strife, quarrelsome, and contentious, and thus is the target of this disciplinary action. Alternatively, according to the KJV, the man’s heretical beliefs are the issue, presumably as this heretic tries to persuade others to his views. Two questions arise when discussing the identity of the divisive man/the heretic: (1) Does the word mean divisive or heretic? (2) Is this process of church discipline different than what Jesus laid out in Matthew 18? What Does the Word Divisive or Heretic mean? The word for “divisive” (CSB) comes from the Greek word heretikos (αἱρετικὸς), from which we get “heretic” in English. To some, this settles the matter. But before we say this, we need to recognize that…

  • Church

    How Should Adult Children Relate to their Parents?

    Ever since I worked in youth ministry, I regularly have been faced with the issue of how do adult children relate to their parents. I guess it is obvious that everyone has to deal with this question at some point, since everyone is either a parent, or a child at some point in their life. Ephesians 6:1-4 is a good starting point for the discussion. Although children are told to obey their parents in these verses, the word for children in verses one and four generally refers to family relationship and not specifically to age. In other words, a 40 year old man is still a child of his father, because that is their relationship. However, the context of both verses indicates that the specific emphasis is on young children and their relationship to their parents. Young children are commanded to be completely obedient to their parents. An important thing…