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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 7: Of God's Covenant - Commentary

...m for all his spiritual seed" is not that there was another covenant made with Abraham, which was the Covenant of Grace and which he was the head thereof. No. What he means is that God made the Covenant of Grace with him personally as He does with us, through faith. He is not considered as a covenant head for the Covenant of Grace. The only covenant head of the Covenant of Grace is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Covenant of Grace was made with Abraham personally. He was a member of the Covenant of Grace by faith. Furthermore, as we will dive more into the twofold seed of Abraham later on, let it be noted that this covenant with Abraham contained principles both of works and grace. Jeffrey Johnson explains it in this way:

Historically, the early Baptists of the seventeenth century understood that both the covenant of grace and the covenant of works were exhibited in the Abrahamic Covenant. The principle of works was manifested in Abraham’s physical seed while the covenant of grace was made known to and through Abraham’s spiritual seed.[38]

God's Oath

The Bible many times remembers the Abrahamic Covenant as a promise and an oath that God made to Abraham (Gen. 26:3; Deut. 4:31; 8:18; Luke 1:72-73). An oath is a sworn promise that a thing will happen. This is made most clear in the epistle to the Hebrews:

Heb. 6:13-17 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,

The fact that God made an oath to Abraham about the fulfillment of the promises did not diminish from the obligation of Abraham and his posterity to obey and uphold the covenant of the Lord. But it did mean that God was set to fulfill His promises to Abraham, He swore by Himself and there was no way that He, as the Sovereign ruler of all, could let His promises fall to the ground.

Two Covenants?

Are the covenants in Genesis 15 and 17 two different covenants? The short answer is no. Let us first remind ourselves of what Genesis 15 promised. Genesis 15 promises offspring numerous as the stars (Gen. 15:5) and the land of Canaan (Gen. 15:18). But in Genesis 17, God gives Abraham what Stephen called “the covenant of circumcision”, which identified the offspring of Abraham. Genesis 15 gave Abraham the promise of the land and the people; Genesis 17 gave him the sign to identify the covenant people and the offspring. I do not think that they were separate covenants, but both constitute the revelation of a single covenant. In Genesis 15, the covenant is "cut" and promises are given, but in Genesis 17, Abraham receives the other half of the covenant, which is called the "covenant of circumcision." This addition, or the completion of the covenant, identifies the covenant community. Those who refuse to bear the sign, have broken the covenant and despised God. This is an example of progressive revelation. As time goes on, the Lord reveals more about His covenant to His people. Genesis 15 and Genesis 17 are the two sides of one coin.

The Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenants Dependent on Each Other

The Bible does not allow us to divor...


A Review of Jeffrey D. Johnson's The Fatal Flaw

The Fatal Flaw

Of the Theology behind Infant Baptism

For some time I have tried to get my hands on Jeffery Johnson’s book, but Amazon did not provide it as new. That is, until I saw it on Solid Ground Books. I was able to get it along with the Kingdom of God and Hercules Collin’s Catechism.

I’ve heard a lot of good about this book and I’ve also listened to Jeffery Johnson’s sermons/lectures on Covenant Theology especially the most recent with Pascal Denault. I’ve read his chapter in Recovering Covenantal A Heritage and listened to his sermon on the dual nature of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants which helped me a lot. I was eager to get started on this book and see what I could learn more.

The Paedobaptist Positions

To start, he lays down all the division of Paedobaptism. He numbers 8 –

  1. Fides Aliena (Faith of Another) – the church supplies the faith necessary for the infant. Those who hold this position understand that faith is a necessary prerequisite for baptism. But this faith could not come from the infant, thus the Church supplies the faith that is necessary. Those who take this position also believe that baptism removes Adam’s guilt and “cleanses the heart of its inward depravity.” (p. 6, Augustine, Origen)
  2. Fides Infusa (Infused Faith) – Faith is given at the point of baptism. When the infant is baptism, they are also given faith in that act.
  3. Fides Infantium – Luther said “In baptism the infants themselves believe and have their own faith.” Luther was the proponent of justification by faith alone and thus for infants to be saved they had to believe. The faith of another could not do it for them. Faith is not transferable.
  4. Sacramental Symbolism – This is Ulrich Zwingli’s position which taught that water baptism had no bearing upon the Spirit’s internal work. It was merely an external sign and symbol. Unlike the Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Zwingli did not believe that water baptism administers faith.
  5. Pre-credobaptism – Baptism comes before the infant having faith. It does symbolize faith and union with Christ, but does not guarantee it. This is the Reformed Paedobaptist position. The Westminster says: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time.” (chapter 28, paragraph 6)
  6. Presumptive Regeneration – I’ve not had much interaction with the Dutch Reformed position here in Holland and I’ve heard only mischaracterizations of it, so I can’t say if this is the position of every church here (I live in the Netherlands). But through the influence of Abraham Kuyper, the church sought to bring baptism closer to faith. This position basically says that we believe that infants have faith and are Christian until proven otherwise. “Although it is not certain that baptism regenerates all infants, the church assumes regeneration until proven otherwise.” (p. 15)
  7. Baptismal Regeneration – This is the position which Johnson identifies with the Federal Vision theologians, which basically says that baptism impart faith to all infants to whom it is administered, elect and non-elect. Baptism regenerates all covenant children. Zwingli divided the sign and the sacrament, Federal Vision says “God’s ...