The Children of Abraham

Summary of the contents of the book.

David Kingdon

 


 

Chapter 1. Baptism and the Covenant of Grace.

The argument for infant baptism based on covenant theology rests on four basic assertions.
1. God deals with his elect through a covenant.
2. The infants of believers are embraced with their believing parents in this covenant.
3. This applies to the New Testament era as well as the Old.
4. On this ground infants may be baptised.

The argument has strong appeal for the following reasons:
1. It seeks to provide a non-sacramental interpretation of infant baptism in opposition to the views of the Roman church.
2. It takes seriously the unity of the Bible, in which there is one covenant of grace only, embracing one church in both dispensations.
3. It seeks to provide a theology of children—an area in which Baptists have been weak.
If they are to meet this argument Baptists must do some hard theological thinking.

Chapter 2. Circumcision and Baptism.

The crux of the debate between Reformed Baptists and Paedo-baptists is the analogy between baptism and circumcision. Paedo-baptists argue that since the New Testament does not forbid infant baptism (is in fact silent on the matter), it should be practised on the same ground as circumcision in which, of course, children were included.

Karl Barth opposed this conclusion by suggesting that while circumcision had to do purely with natural membership of Israel as a nation, baptism had to do with spiritual membership of the church. But circumcision was also spiritual—a sign and seal of righteousness (Rom. 4: 11). It referred in typical form to the circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10: 16; Rom. 2: 29). It did have a national reference as well.

The analogy does in fact exist, but it is the nature of it which is in question. The covenant with Abraham included promises that his physical seed would be multiplied and given a land. In the New Testament this is seen as a spiritual seed and a spiritual inheritance. Thus circumcision signed and sealed the earthly things for all Jews, and the heavenly for believing Jews. Paedobaptists make the mistake of regarding the promises to the physical seed as being still in force. If this is so, believers must still be promised also the land of Canaan!

Circumcision is the type of which regeneration, not baptism, is the true antitype.

The abrogation of the principle "thee and thy seed" is seen in the New Covenant (Jer. 31: 31-34), where possession of inward spiritual life is required. Also in the baptism of John the Baptist there is no suggestion of infant seed being baptised, as paedobaptists admit. He therefore departed from the Old Covenant position and embraced the New with his demand for a new heart as the sign of Covenant membership.

Chapter 3. A Critique of Covenant Theology
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1. Covenant theologians apply the wrong method of exegesis. Instead of recognising that the New Testament fulfilment of the Covenant promises in Christ is far richer than the types of the Old Testament, they identify the two completely. Another weakness is the inferential argument that the silence of the New Testament as to a command to baptise infants is sufficient proof of the practice of infant baptism. Proselyte baptism also disproves, rather than proves, their case.

2. Paedobaptists are guilty of reading the Old Testament into the New. In the Old Testament, participation in the temporal, earthly blessings of the Covenant was sufficient to give a right to circumcision. Paedobaptists are, however, reluctant to admit this, as it would destroy the circumcision-baptism identity. Yet if they deny it, they then admit the necessity of faith. The attempt to prove from the disciplinary laws of Israel, that unbelievers were the ones dealt with, is unreal. The delinquent was cut off as a breaker of the law, not as an unbeliever in the New Testament sense.

Embarrassment is also occasioned by the circumcision of Abraham's servants. Should servants today be baptised if they work in Christian households?

3. Many Paedobaptists read Old Testament into New and argue along the lines of national privilege. People born into Israel automatically inherited certain privileges. This shows their theocratic cast of mind. According to the New Testament, only those who share Abraham's faith are Abraham's seed (Gal. 3: 29).

Chapter 4. Towards a Baptist Theology of the Covenant.

The Covenant with Abraham looms large in the New Testament. Here we see that "his seed" are believers and believers only. Because of this there is no need for an express command forbidding the baptism of infants. The arguments from silence is from an empty not an eloquent silence.

The term seed is used in three senses referring to:—
1. Christ (Gal. 3: 16ff.)
2. Abraham's literal seed (John 8: 37,39).
3. The true seed (Rom. 9: 7).

Paedobaptists, by saying that the children of the flesh are the children of God, are apparently unaware of 1 John 1: 12, 13.

Believers are spiritually circumcised as the seed of Abraham, and to them alone belongs baptism.

Far reaching implications flow from this position.
1. In respect of salvation. Reformed Baptists believe in Covenant grace which alone saves, and also in the necessity for repentance and faith.
2. In respect of the church. In the light of the New Covenant, the church membership should be composed as far as possible of true believers. We must work from this New Testament definition rather than from the existing situation. The 1689 Confession and all Reformed Baptists have refused to apply the parable of the wheat and tares to the church.

The historic Reformed Baptist position is one of strength, because it has a proper understanding of the relationship between baptism and circumcision. It does justice to the continuity and diversity of revelation, it gives a proper view of family, church and state and it provides a ground for instruction of children. We do not assume that our children are regenerate.


Chapter 5. Children in the Old Testament
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Baptists have been re-examining the question of the relationship of children of believing parents to the church. Three aspects of the position of children in Old Testament Israel are considered.

1. Entry into the Covenant Community.
Entry was by birth, and this was sealed by circumcision. Exclusion could be by death only, there was no provision for voluntary withdrawal. Paedobaptists who speak of the possibility of a child contracting out of the Covenant can find no support for this idea in the Old Testament.

2. Status within the Community.
Children were not regarded as fully responsible adults until they were heads of households, they were, however, full members of Israel. No specific age of responsibility is sug­gested in Scripture. Children were subordinate and under instruction in the faith of Israel. We must recognise that not muchis said on this subject in the Old Testament.

3. The Remnant: Election within Election.
In Israel's later history the idea of the faithful remnant emerges. The remnant consisted of those who trembled at the Word. Children did not enter the remnant by birth, even if their parents were part of it, but by a spiritual change. We have in this a forerunner of the New Covenant. Hodge and others ignore the remnant idea and speak as if revelation on this matter ceased with Moses. The remnant shifts religion from a national basis to one in which the Covenant people must have a new heart. They must contract in!

Chapter 6. Children in the New Testament.

John the Baptist clearly challenges the reliance of the Jews upon their physical descent from Abraham. He did not regard membership of the Messianic community as being determined by birth into Israel. Both Christ and Paul stress the same thing, yet today many still believe that all infant seed are children of promise. This leads to carnal security.

1. Children in the teaching of our Lord.
Two passages are important (Matt. 18: 1-6 and 19: 13-15). In the first he teaches that unless men become insignificant, like children in the ancient world, they cannot be converted. Jesus is not teaching that children have spiritual qualities like humility, neither is he teaching that all children, as children, are in the Kingdom. Christ speaks here of the little ones who believe in him, a phrase which can include adults, and which implies that not all children believe. In the second passage in Matthew, the phrase "of such is the kingdom of heaven" does not mean that only children are in the kingdom. It means that the kingdom belongs to the childlike, including in this group some children. This says nothing of "Coven­ant" children, and if used to justify infant baptism would justify the baptism of all children.

2. Children in the rest of the New Testament.
Acts 2: 29 provides no warrant for infant baptism as Alford claims.
1 Cor. 7: 14 according to our Paedobaptist friends positively gushes the water of baptism! The problem is that if the children are holy and to be baptised, so is the unbelieving partner. The same word is used for both.

Chapter 7. Children and Regeneration.

Little biblical teaching is found on this subject. Problems con­cerning repentance and faith, and responsibility in young children arise.

1. Children and their Adamic status.
All children are born in Adam, and thus in sin. They require regeneration before they can be in Christ (John 3:6, 7; 1 Cor. 15: 50).

2. Children and the grace of God.
Children are not saved because of supposed innocence. This denies the grace of God. Apart from free grace they are eternally lost. Nor are they safe until the age of discretion. The Bible nowhere defines such an age.
But can children repent and believe? It is dangerous to stress too much their psychological inability to believe for adults, too, are psychologically unable to believe and the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit. Faith can be given by grace to children as to adults.

3. Infant Salvation.
The Scriptures do not expressly state that all children dying in infancy are saved. God may in fact save all such, as he certainly can, but he has not told us whether he does or not. Though children of believers are not Christian children, nor members of the church, they have great privileges. Yet we must treat them as unconverted until there is evidence of a saving change. This was the approach of our Lord, when he said to one Covenant child, still contracted in: "Ye must be born again".

 


Children of Abraham. David Kingdon. Printed by University Tutorial Press Ltd. Foxton, near Cambridge, England for Cary Publications Ltd. 5 Fairford Close, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH16 3EF. Summary of Contents. 1973. Pages 5-10.