The basis for the New Covenant being “not like” the old covenant is found in the second half of verse 6: “For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.” Here’s what Greg Nichols says:
The promised blessing of the old covenant was conditional, and without guarantee. In stark contrast, God insures and guarantees that Christian Israel will perpetually receive the promise of comprehensive spiritual blessing and perpetual divine favor. The substance of this surety is Christ: “by so much also has Jesus become the surety of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22). The word translated “surety” is ἔγγυος. This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It conveys the idea of “guarantee, someone or something given as a pledge.”…Thus, Christ himself is God’s guarantee that the promises of the new covenant can never fail. Christ himself is God’s pledge that Christian Israel can never break the new covenant like Hebrew Israel broke the old. Christ makes certain that Christian Israel will never depart from God because he has purchased them with his blood (Acts 20:28). On behalf of Christ God grants them faith (Phil. 1:29). Christ died in order that they would walk in gospel obedience (Rom. 8:3, 4). Christ died to redeem them from all sin and to purify them as a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). Every spiritual blessing flows to Christian Israel through Christ, because of Christ, and in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Christ also prays for his people to secure their perseverance in faith and holiness in every generation (Heb. 7:25). Thus, because of Christ Christian Israel can never break the new covenant.3
Repeatedly Paedo-baptists have asserted their position, and repeatedly Credo-baptists have thoroughly demolished the arguments. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Paedo position is not grounded in exegesis. Nor as Jamin nails it, Scriptural history. Rather, Scripture, when it is used is often taken out of context, misquoted, or simply misapplied, and the appeal to history is outside the text with the “silence” argument utilized to excuse the exercise. As Hubner points out, however, the Scripture is not silent, as every passage which is clear assigns baptism to believers. There are no direct commands, and mere inference is utilized to insist on paedo-baptisms. Also, a Jamin posits, does this not violate the WCF’s prohibition of implementing worship which is not directly instituted by Scripture? Yes, unequivocably so. Traditions triumph, however, as Paedos are loathe the submit to Scripture, and insist instead in presuppositional arguments and that from their hermeneutic, not from the proper exegesis of the text.
Finley bailed. It is no wonder. The more the TE is questioned, the less and less his answers make sense and more and more approach heresy. Indeed, Finley descends into a works based salvation without even knowing it, apparently. It might have been this that caused his sudden withdrawal, for any PCA member seeing the Finney in Finley would have cause to question his credentials. No one in the new covenant can lose their salvation as Finley ventures. Jesus was clear, he would never leave nor forsake his own. Jesus is the reason why the NC is better than the old. Being in the NC is not the result of mechanistic exercise, nor of lineage, or by the will, but according to the promise. And not by the promise but as the fulfillment of it by Christ, and that by the work of the Holy Spirit, John 1:12-13, who not only regenerates, but seals for the Day of Redemption. If baptism is the symbol of regeneration, and regeneration cannot be lost, then it is a contradiction to say that a baptized infant can fall away. Baptism isn’t the sign of inclusion in the NC, then, but perseverance in regeneration is. Regeneration is the segueway into the NC, not baptism, and regeneration is into eternal life and perseverance is ascribe to eternal life’s it’s very nature. No one gets into the NC by familial relationship, by discipleship, or even by the merit of ones faith, but by regeneration, that is, by being born of God. And having once ben born into new life, one cannot fall away:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, the gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God… All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Becoming a child of God is not by blood. There is not clearer statement in Scripture, it is not effected by baptism, nor the exertion of the will or either parents, officers, or the candidate, either. Nor can it be effected by perseverance. The promise is unilateral, coming down from Heaven, incarnated as the Son, put in effect by the death and resurrection of Christ: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time… obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls… knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, 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. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God… you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… (1 Peter 1:3-25)
We should be able to stop right there. When Scripture speaks unequivocably about just who is in the NC according to promise, and who is not, why are there those who would argue that there is another way into the sheepfold according to the OC which could never save? Contrary to a conditional promise, we have what is so often quoted as support for infant baptism:
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.
B) Acts 2:39 has also been pressed into service to support infant baptism. “For the promise is unto you and to your children . . .” Usually the sentence is not completed. But the Scripture goes on, “and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The context has in view specifically spiritual promises, namely remission of sins and filling with the Holy Spirit. These promises cannot be said to attach themselves to all the crowd before Peter (the “you ” of the text), but only to “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” They could not be said to belong to “all that are afar off”, but only to “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” If that phrase qualifies the first and third parties mentioned, it must also qualify “your children”. The promises do not belong unto the children of believers apart from effectual calling. Only those children who receive this saving grace of God may be conceived of as being heirs of the spiritual promises.
And as heirs of the New Covenant. In discussing this passage, the author is right to point out that the final clause is the qualifier.
D) I Corinthians 7:14 is another favorite verse. There we are told that children are “holy”. The text does not have even vague reference to church membership or baptism. It is talking about mixed marriages in which one spouse is a believer and the other is not. The question is whether such a relationship is proper, moral, or holy for those who were converted after marriage to the unbeliever. Paul reasons from the obvious to the doubtful. It is obvious that your children are not bastards. They were born in wedlock. They are holy. Therefore, it ought to be clear to you that your marriage relationship is holy. Don’t feel guilty about it or wish to be free from your obligations. If the word holy suggests a covenant relationship or cultic purity, making the children proper objects for baptism, then the unbelieving spouse is also a valid candidate for the sacrament. The verb “sanctify” has precisely the same root and signification as the adjective “holy.” And it is the holiness of the spouse that the passage belabors.
With such appalling lack of New Testament evidence for infant baptism, those who support such a practice have rapidly retreated to Old Testament texts and an argument from the unity of the covenants. The practice of baptizing infants of believers is founded on Old Testament Scripture, or upon texts of the New Testament where suitability for baptizing infants is read into them with a predisposition and presupposition drawn from the Old Testament.
I. HISTORIC COVENANT THEOLOGY AND INFANT BAPTISM
The argument has hung upon a syllogism that goes something like this: There is a unity between the Old and New Covenants. Circumcision in the Old is parallel to baptism in the New. Infants of believers were circumcised in the Old. Therefore, infants of believers should be baptized in the New. Many tell us that this syllogism is so strong that New Testament silence is a major argument in favor of their position. The New Covenant is so like the Old, and baptism so parallel to circumcision, that unless the New Testament absolutely forbids the baptism of infants, it must be practiced.
As B.B. Warfield said, “It is true that there is no express command to baptize infants in the New Testament, no express record of the baptism of infants and no passage so stringently implying it that we must infer from them that infants were baptized. If such warrant as this were necessary to justify the usage, we would have to leave it completely unjustified. But the lack of this express warrant is something far short of forbidding the rite; and if the continuity of the church through all ages can be made good, the warrant for infant baptism is not to be sought in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament where the church was instituted and nothing short of an actual forbidding of it in the New Testament would warrant our omitting it now.”
1. Immediately we Baptists raise our first objection. There is here a serious hermeneutical flaw. How can a distinctively New Testament ordinance have its fullest–nay, its only foundation–in Old Testament Scripture? This is contrary to any just sense of Biblical Theology and against all sound rules of interpretation. To quote Patrick Fairbairn in The Interpretation of Prophecy, “There cannot be a surer canon of interpretation, than that everything which affects the constitution and destiny of the New Testament church has its clearest determination in New Testament Scripture. This canon strikes at the root of many false conclusions and on the principle which has its grand embodiment in popery, which would send the world back to the age of comparative darkness and imperfection for the type of its normal and perfected condition.” If you allow Old Testament examples to alter New Testament principles regarding the church, you have hermeneutically opened the door to Rome’s atrocities. It is upon such rules of interpretation that the priest and the mass have been justified. We find the clearest expression, of that which is normative for the New Covenant’s ordinances, in the New Covenant relation.
B.B. Warfield, typically so powerful in testifying to the soteriological constructs of the Doctrines of Grace, so weakly appeals to silence for the sake of his tradition. And why? There is nothing other than the tradition of the hermeneutic of classical covenantalism which uphold infant baptism. Abrogation of the first sign is a typical sticking point for the Paedo-baptist who insists that there is no clear abrogation of the sign. That, as the author is pointing out is simply the blind application of a hermeneutic principle which obscures Scriptural reality of the abrogation of the first sign:
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:1-6)
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:6-23)
Before going further, please read what the Scripture says. If you do, you will realize that the abrogation is clear. Try replacing baptism with circumcision in the passages above. You will find that the promise is to both circumcised and uncircumcised. There is a disconnect, for baptism is for all who believe, which is the connection made to Abraham, and not to his circumcised descendants, otherwise, the covenant promise would depend upon circumcision which the passage in Romans says, it does not. More than that, if the promise is to the uncircumcised, and the is a direct correspondence to the OT, by why baptize? Such is the confusion that ensues when the two covenants are mixed.
It becomes exceedingly clear how covenantal infant baptism brings individuals back under the law which Christ had come to fulfill. The failure to circumcise, or the failures of the circumcised were exclusionary under the old covenant. Circumcision was a sign of inclusion in Israel, as type pointing to Christ, but not into the promise of Christ. We have then, two, not one, covenants spoken of in reference to Acts 2. Such that, if one submits to baptism under the requirement of covenant of the flesh, that is law, it supplants Christ and he becomes ineffectual being the subject of the works of the law and not of the Spirit. As Peter is proclaiming, and why the listeners needed to repent, was not that they were Law breakers, but keepers, but could not be saved by it. They needed to repent from the Old Covenant. They were all circumcised, anyway. What, one must answer, is there further need of another circumcision? Contrary to the Old Covenant, John 1:12-13, as mentioned above, clearly abrogated the connection to circumcision by explicitly stating that the promise does not come by the determination of the flesh, either as a mechanistic observance of an ordinance imposed, or by conception, or by one’s submission to it, but as the last clause in Acts 2 states, by promise to as many as God calls.
Baptism itself is a sign of abrogation, for it is a sign of the New Covenant, a circumcision not made by hands, but by the Spirit. A circumcision by the Spirit is nothing close to the Old Covenant work of the flesh. To assign baptism to a work of the flesh even if spiritualized diminishes the work of Christ. And that Spiritual circumcision, as mentioned before, is Christ, the SEED, it is not our baptism, but that which points to his. Which brings us back to the Abrahamic covenant.
If anyone of Abraham’s children did not receive this circumcision, that is Christ, he was cut off from his people. The circumcision of Isaac then is not one which placed him in the covenant promise, however, it is one which pointed to the circumcision which does, namely, Abraham’s circumcision of the heart signified in his flesh, not before he believed, but after. Abraham saw Christ’s day and rejoiced in it. Christ’s crucifixion is the circumcision which baptism symbolizes. Abraham’s and Isaac’s circumcision, then, is like the law as a school teacher, only. They pointed to Christ. Isaac’s circumcision pointed to Christ by faith by way of Abraham. Then, when the Christ had come, this old signatory which pointed to Christ was done away with just as the law type and figures no longer are necessary since the real had come. And instead, a signatory which reflected what could not be seen, the circumcision of the heart, put in its place. Not in the sense of continuance, but discontinuance. It was not a sign of what might to come into the lives of the old covenanted children, but as with Abraham, it was a sign of that which had already happened, to Abraham, so also are all children of faith. The point is, Isaac’s circumcision did not point to Isaac’s covenantal inclusion but Abraham’s. And because of that, Isaac’s circumcision as reflected in Ismael, is, because of its nature in those who receive it, a sign of exclusion, also. For it tells us by way of Abraham, that it is not by means of the fleshly circumcision, but by the Spirit, that an unbelieving heart is circumcised in Christ. Namely, that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. And the fact is, the new heart, is Christ who was circumcised, not us. Paul concludes, and we need to take this as a warning about covenantal baptism, that to submit to circumcision as a mean of inclusion is to make Christ of no effect.
In once sense, then, to accept infant baptism is what Paul is condemning in Galatians. Submitting to it makes Christ’s circumcision on our behalf, null and void, as condemning as the Law. Infant baptism’s connection to the Old Covenant promises makes it law. The law’s power was sin, and except that the sin problem was taken care of, the infant, whether born into the nation of Israel, or to Abraham, or to the Gentiles, was put to death by it.
To ascribe benediction to baptism is one major flaw. But to ascribe malediction to it is quite another. Under the Law, that is the Old Covenant, there were stipulated promises dependent upon perfect obedience. It threatened death for a single violation of it. The OC was conditional, do this and live, do this and die. As we know the law of sin and death made any endeavor to do this and live impossible and the do this and die inevitable. The NC is unconditional, if we are unfaithful, and we will be, he remains faithful such that the blood of Christ, our true baptism, cleanses us from all sin. Our perseverance is a work of grace through our guarantor, Christ, who perfect obedience is ours by regeneration. It is a perfect covenant because it is not dependent upon man who promises, “This we will do,” and cannot fulfill, but God who has done all things for us in Christ. The initiation into the NC is not as Finley describes, baptism, rather it is regeneration. And the sign affixed to it is baptism which is not initiatory at all, rather, it is a participation in the New Covenant as a member not as the means of attaining membership.
The Law prescribed death for not persevering in the ordinances. Under the Perfect Law of Christ, no condemnation is held out. How sad then, that by baptizing infants the priestcraft comes into being, where it is no longer the High Priest who has benefitted the new-born, but the officers of the church who transmit the grace through mechanisms. Those sacrifices performed by the priests which could never take away sin indefinitely, are reinstitute. And, as we see in Finley, the demonstration of the Law in the failure of the infant to persevere is the determining factor in their salvation. Instead of the offer of grace, believe in Christ and live, the “discipleship” of the baptized infant becomes the terror of do this and die. In Christ, though, those who are born into the kingdom can never fall away. His is truly a New Covenant of grace, one which is new every morning and cannot crash down and burn like the idols made by human hands.