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An Introduction to Covenant and Infant Baptism Michael W. Goheen Tregear Presbyterian Church Sydney, Australia July 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "An Introduction to Covenant and Infant Baptism Michael W. Goheen Tregear Presbyterian Church Sydney, Australia July 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 An Introduction to Covenant and Infant Baptism Michael W. Goheen Tregear Presbyterian Church Sydney, Australia July 2010

2 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

3 Introduction Personal relationship not enough Covenant relationship: central image Two problems: –Unknown –Familiarity

4 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

5 Historical Unfolding—Quick Overview Noahic covenant (Gen. 6.18; ) Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12, 15, 17) Sinaitic covenant (Ex.19-24) Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7) New covenant (Jer.31.31ff; Lk ff; Heb.8-10)

6 Abraham, Sinai, Deuteronomy Abrahamic Covenant –Gen : Promise, two stages –Gen. 15: Takes form of covenant –Gen. 17: Covenant sign –Gen : Summary Sinaitic Covenant –Ex. 19: Israel’s role in Abrahamic covenant –Ex : Law –Ex. 24: Covenant confirmed Deuteronomy –Three address by Moses before entry to land –Form of covenant renewal

7 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

8 Theological Description of Covenant Relationship in which God and his people are bound together in loving commitment Initiated by God’s love for his people and for the world Demands a response of loving allegiance from his people Israel’s love expressed in faithful obedience to the law Continuing relationship through history to be renewed regularly Goal is to draw all people into covenant relation

9 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

10 Cultural Background Covenant: Binding agreements Hittite covenants –Parity covenants –Vassal covenants

11 Comparison of ancient Near Eastern treaties [covenants], especially those made with Hittites in the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C., with passages in the Old Testament has revealed so many things in common between the two, particularly in matter of form, that there must be some connexion between these suzerainty treaties and the exposition of the details of Jahweh’s covenant with Israel.... (Gerhard Von Rad).

12 Similarities between vassal and biblical covenants Between King and subject people Sovereignly established by greater partner It is a binding relationship Two sides: Promise and obligation Response: Covenant-keeper or breaker

13 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

14 Similarities between vassal covenants and Deuteronomy Preamble: King introduces himself and speaks –Moses the prophet as God’s spokesman –Source and authority for Moses’ words are God –Moses “employs the various devices of rhetoric in his presentation of the substance of the covenant in order to bring the people to wholehearted commitment to their God. The prophetic role... was not simply to announce the word of God, but to persuade men of its living force, to call them to love and obedience, and also to warn them of the consequences of falling away from the intimacy of the covenant relationship.” (Peter Craigie)

15 Similarities between vassal covenants and Deuteronomy Preamble: King introduces himself and speaks Historical Prologue: Recounting events leading up to founding of covenant –Evoke memory of past: Faithfulness of God –Produce anticipation in future: Promise of continued faithfulness –Unfaithfulness of Israel to foster present commitment –Motivate gratitude and faithfulness

16 Similarities between vassal covenants and Deuteronomy Preamble: King introduces himself and speaks Historical Prologue: Recounting events leading up to founding of covenant General Obligation: Purpose of relationship and how it will continue –Love for all nations –Israel loved for the sake of the nations –God’s fatherly love initiated and sustained relationship –Israel is to respond in loyal love for God

17 Similarities between vassal covenants and Deuteronomy Preamble: King introduces himself and speaks Historical Prologue: Recounting events leading up to founding of covenant General Obligation: How relationship will continue Specific Obligations: How love is expressed –Love is expressed in loyalty, trust, obedience –Law expresses manner of life fitting for God’s people –Law: a) Covers all of life; b) Embodies God’s creational purpose; c) Is set against idolatry of nations

18 Similarities between vassal covenants and Deuteronomy Preamble: King introduces himself and speaks Historical Prologue: Recounting events leading up to founding of covenant General Obligation: How relationship will continue Specific Obligations: How love is expressed Blessings and Curses –Obedience brings blessing (promise) –Disobedience brings disaster (warning)

19 God Love unbelief disobey faith obey Word Promise Command Warning Life Prosperity Blessing Death Destruction Curse Love People

20 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

21 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God –KING: Sovereign ruling God –FATHER: Gracious, loving God who draws near –PARTNER: As friend reveals what he is doing and involves us

22 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God Binding relationship –God’s commits Himself to us! –Demands absolute commitment from us –Permanence of relationship

23 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God Binding relationship Relationship with a people –Importance of church –Authority structures under covenant –Whole life under covenant obligation –Children part of covenant: Gives us right perspective on viewing and training children

24 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God Binding relationship Established with a people Proper understanding of commands –Response to gracious initiative of God –Relational: Response to God –Creational: Rooted in God’s good creational purpose –Scope is wide as human life

25 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God Binding relationship Relationship with a people Proper understanding of commands Covenant dynamic –Two sides: Grace given, response required –Two responses, two consequences – Promise, command, warning

26 By this faith, a Christian believes whatever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God speaks therein; and acts differently on that which each particular passage contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God... (WCF 14:2).

27 Why does covenant matter today? Properly relates us to God Binding relationship Relationship with a people Proper understanding of commands Covenant dynamic Missional purpose –Chosen for the sake of the nations –Presence of God in midst and faithfulness to the law light to the nations

28 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

29 New covenant: Jesus Christ fulfills the covenant Failure of Old Covenant because of power of sin Accomplishes promises and fulfils demands—gives what he demands Takes curse of covenant as covenant breaker on behalf of his people Christ himself offered in gospel Spirit given in gospel

30 God Love unbelief disobey faith obey Gospel Promise Command Warning Life Prosperity Blessing Death Destruction Curse Love People Jesus Gospel Spirit

31 An Overview of Two Presentations Introduction Historical unfolding of covenants Theological description of covenant Cultural background for covenant Deuteronomy and vassal covenant Why covenant is important today Jesus Christ and the covenant Children and the covenant Infant baptism

32 Children and the covenant God makes covenant with a people ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’ ‘Corporate solidarity’, ‘authority principle’ and creation If wish to understand biblical texts rightly, we must radically free ourselves from modern individualistic thinking and in particular keep before our eyes the fact that the family represented by the father of the household was in old times much more strongly experienced as a unity than today. People felt the solidarity, the mutual responsibility and the unity of the group. All important questions were decided by the father of the household and his decision was binding on all. In particular in its relation to God the household was a unity. (Joachim Jeremias)

33 Authority principle in covenant “The [authority] principle emerges here that a man who enters God’s covenant by personal confession is held responsible by his Lord to bind with himself under the yoke of the covenant certain others of his subordinates... To fail to do so is a contradiction of one’s oath of allegiance.... It is therefore a matter of express scriptural teaching that the disciple of Christ is bound to bring those who under his parental authority along with himself when he comes by oath under the higher authority of his covenant Suzerain. From this it follows that the Scriptures provide ample warrant for the administration of baptism to the children of confessing Christians, for baptism is the New Covenant rite whose precise significance is that of committal to Christ’s authority and of incorporation within the domain of Christ’s covenant lordship.” (Meredith Kline)

34 Children and the covenant God makes covenant with a people ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’ ‘Corporate solidarity’, ‘authority principle’ and creation Children part of covenant people of God (Deut ) Promises, commands, warnings given to a people Because children are part of people of God: –Given the promises of covenant (not guarantees or offers) –Given the commands of covenant –Given the warnings of covenant; danger of presumption (Deut ) Covenant-keepers or covenant-breakers Children received sign of covenant

35 Covenant Sign and Seal Sign and seals (Rom. 4.11) –Signs: Pictures of promises and/or warnings –Seals: Authenticate promise and strengthen faith Genesis 17 –Genesis 16: Abraham’s faith falters Genesis 17: Two part covenant structure (As for me... As for you...) –Meaning of circumcision: God will remove all barriers to keep promise (El Shaddai) –Circumcised hearts (Deut ; 30.6; Jer. 4.4 etc.) –Infants born into household to be circumcised as members of God’s people

36 Argument for Infant Baptism Covenant made with Abraham and Israel was a redemptive covenant Children were part of that covenant Received circumcision as sign of belonging Fundamental unity of the covenant (Rom ff.) New covenant is fulfillment of old covenant Circumcision was initiatory rite in Old Testament while baptism is initiatory rite in New Testament (Col ) No hint of abrogation only testimonies to continuity in NT

37 Testimonies in New Testament Need a direct command to baptise or not to baptise? Testimonies in New Testament that there is fundamental continuity: –John’s baptism (Mk.1.4-5) “I do not believe, the people that flocked to John’s baptism were so forgetful of the manner and custom of the nation, as not to bring their little children along with them to be baptised.” (John Lightfoot)

38 Testimonies in New Testament Need a direct command to baptise or not to baptise? Testimonies in New Testament that there is fundamental continuity: –John’s baptism (Mk.1.4-5) –Children brought to Jesus for covenantal blessing (Mk ff.) –Promise is for you and your children (Acts 2.38f.) –Household baptisms Out of 12 baptisms in Acts 3 are household baptisms Connection with Old Testament language (e.g., Josh ) Family solidarity: “If we wish to understand biblical texts rightly, we must radically free ourselves from modern individualistic thinking and in particular keep before our eyes the fact that the family represented by the father of the household was in old times much more strongly experienced as a unity than today. People felt the solidarity, the mutual responsibility and the unity of the group. All important questions were decided by the father of the household and his decision was binding on all. In particular in its relation to God the household was a unity.” (Joachim Jeremias)

39 Testimonies in New Testament Need a direct command to baptise or not to baptise? Testimonies in New Testament that there is fundamental continuity: –John’s baptism (Mk.1.4-5) –Children brought to Jesus for covenantal blessing (Mk ff.) –Promise is for you and your children (Acts 2.38f.) –Household baptisms –Children addressed by Paul (Eph. 6.1ff) –Children as holy (1 Cor. 7.14)

40 Argument for Infant Baptism Covenant made with Abraham and Israel was a redemptive covenant Children were part of that covenant Received circumcision as sign of belonging Fundamental unity of the covenant New covenant is fulfillment of old covenant Circumcision was initiatory rite in Old Testament while baptism is initiatory rite in New Testament No hint of abrogation only testimonies to continuity in NT Confirmed by early church history.

41 Baptism as Sign and Seal God’s visible Word: Gospel communicated by symbol (see Christ) Sign of promise of gospel –Immersion: Union with Christ in death and resurrection (Rom ) –Sprinkling: Cleansing by blood of Christ (Ezek ; Heb ) –Pouring: Outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2.38) Doesn’t mean that this is true already or that it happens in baptism Rather child is part of community to whom is given these promises with attending obligations Sign of warning of gospel (1 Cor. 10.2; 1 Peter 3.20f.) Seal: Used by Spirit to nourish faith in all God’s people (God’s 2 nd hand) Mark of Shepherd on sheep

42 Implications of Infant Baptism Children are part of family of God –Fatherly love calls for response of love –Everything in Father’s home belongs to child –“This is your identity, live more and more into it” –“It is a necessary requirement for a firm faith that everyone is fully convinced that he is included in the number God is addressing. In a word, this is the true rule of faith, when I am persuaded that salvation is mine because the promise that offers it applies to myself” (John Calvin).

43 Implications of Infant Baptism Children are part of family of God Children are partakers of promises (not guarantees) of the covenant Children are bound by obligations of the covenant (Faith, love, obedience, etc.) Children are heirs of the warnings of the covenant Children are part of covenant community –Subject to means of grace by which God nourishes community (Word of God, fellowship, prayer, sacraments) –Missional calling to be previews of kingdom

44 Implications of Infant Baptism Children are part of family of God Children are partakers of promises (not guarantees) of the covenant Children are bound by obligations of the covenant (Faith, love, obedience, etc.) Children are heirs of the warnings of the covenant Children are part of covenant community Children can be covenant keepers or covenant breakers Baptism grounds and strengthens our commitment to our responsibility as parents –Only way our children will know Christ and the gospel; promises, obligations, warnings


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