So this is probably going to be a very long post. I’m going to try to keep it together the best I can, but please ask questions if you have them. Credos, feel free to correct me if I misrepresent your position. I also want to start this off by saying this is not an opportunity to have a baptism debate. I am not even remotely interested in them.

What are the Means of Grace?

I chose the Means of Grace as the title for this one because I wanted to explain a little bit of the reformed view of the church. Those coming out of Roman Catholicism may think that reformed folks have a lower view of the church because we hold the church as subservient to scripture, whereas Roman Catholicism looks at scripture on an equal playing field as church tradition. Those, like me, who come out of evangelical baptist circles may see the reformed view of the church as overly traditional or stiff and lacking a lot of the emotional comforts that informal services tend to bring.

The truth is, in the eyes of sixteenth and seventeenth century reformers, the church was the major vehicle by which we experience the means of grace, which are the Word and Sacraments. A Tabletalk article from earlier this year explains it well here:

The means of grace are God’s appointed instruments by which the Holy Spirit enables believers to receive Christ and the benefits of redemption. Although He could have chosen to reveal Christ immediately to His people, He has determined instead to do so through certain means. God assigned the Word, sacraments, and prayer to be the foremost means by which He communicates Christ and His benefits to believers.

Link: https://bit.ly/3lRXOZO 

I will touch more on the Word when we go through Sola Scriptura next Saturday (the 24), so today is all about the Sacraments. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the means of grace, there will be resources below.

Old Covenant and New Covenant:

So, the first time I had heard of covenant theology, I assumed that the people were referring to the old covenant and the new covenant. I had not been super familiar with the covenants of redemption, works, and grace, and I grew up in a dispensationalist church, so all of these ideas felt very very complicated to me. If this sounds like you, I am writing this for you and I’m going to try the best I can to explain this for people who aren’t familiar with covenant theology already.

When we say the Old Covenant, we are talking of the promise of Christ to come. When we talk of the New Covenant, we are talking of Christ coming and fulfilling the Old Covenant and giving us his benefits. Within that, the Old Covenant speaks of the Covenant of Works, the Law, and the incomplete Covenant of Grace. The New Covenant is the fulfilled Covenant of Grace, the renewed sense of the Law, and the Gospel. This week, we have talked about the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. Next week, we will be talking all about the Law and the Gospel. But today, we will be talking about who is part of the New Covenant and who is receiving its benefits.

The Lord’s Supper:

Not gonna lie, I had to start this off with the easier side of things lol. As many of us know, the Lord’s Supper comes from Jewish Passover, which was done to remember Exodus 12. I was going to copy and paste the passage, but it’s really long and I know most of our group knows it already, so just as a little recap (though I encourage you to read it on your own). Exodus starts off with Israel enslaved in Egypt and God calling them out of Egypt through Moses. Moses has been going back and forth with Pharoah (Ramses II) telling him to let God’s people go and Ramses refuses every time. In Exodus 12, God tells Moses to have the Israelites to kill spotless lambs and paint their blood on their doorposts. Overnight, God goes through all of Egypt and takes the lives of the first born sons of every Egyptian that doesn’t have the blood painted over their doors and this is what finally prompts Ramses to let the Israelites go. I know this is a very cheap recap, but this is your free lesson for the day, so it’s the recap you get lol.

Passover was named so by God because God passed over the houses of the Israelites. Now, every spring, Jews all over the world observe and remember what God has done for them. The Passover reading is so rich with symbolism pointing to Christ from Jesus as “the lamb of God” who acts as a propitiation for our sins to the death of the first born sons. But this is all ultimately replayed in Matthew 26, where Jesus has his Last Supper. As he leads the table in dinner, he says, “this cup is my blood of the new covenant.” And so, we have the ushering in of a New Covenant and a sign of the work that Jesus did for us.

Credobaptism and Paedobaptism:

As I stated earlier this week, I am a paedobaptist. The guys at The Reformed Brotherhood recently did a podcast episode on 1689 Federalism where they contrast it with paedobaptist covenant theology and I think they handle the topic really well, they also do a similar job to Ligon Duncan’s lecture on baptism, but it’s just a different focus. It is worth noting that not all reformed baptists hold to 1689 Federalism, but if a baptist is dispensational and Calvinistic (so men like John MacArthur), they are not reformed because dispensationalism goes against baptist covenantal theology, as well. This does not make them a second class believer, it’s just a different set of beliefs. I have done a theological errors post on dispensationalism in the past, if you would like more information on that.

Dr. Duncan cites baptism as a symptom of the disagreement between credos and paedos on who the real church is, which was an aha moment for me the first time I listened to it. Baptists value autonomy and try as much as possible to have the visible church and the invisible church be the same thing. When asked the question, “who is in the New Covenant?” their answer is “those who have been regenerated.” The way they see the Covenant of Grace is a bit different from how I described earlier. In baptist covenant theology, the Covenant of Grace began after the fall and continued through the Old Covenant and New Covenant, but the covenant was not fully realized until Jesus died on the cross. So the OT covenants with the patriarchs aren’t necessarily part of the Covenant of Grace, but they point to the Covenant of Grace.

This makes the differences between the two of them more of a different hermeneutic rather than using different verses to support their views. Paedobaptists and credobaptists both see baptism as a sign and a seal of the new covenant, as per Colossians 2:11-15:

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.

That passage is a reference to the earlier passage on circumcision in Genesis 17, specifically hitting verses 7-12. In his lectures, Dr. Duncan recalls all of the credo only baptisms in the NT: Acts 8:12, 36-38, and 9:18. And also the household baptisms: Acts 10:48, 16:15, 16:33, 18:8, and 1 Corinthians 1:16. At this point, many credos check out and think, “oh you’re arguing from a place of silence” because many have stated the argument as, “well, it’s a household baptism and there’s probably babies in the households.” and while that argument is one that could be used, according to Dr. Duncan, the real argument is “in an evangelistic age, you expect adult only credo baptisms. The stand out here is that the whole household is being baptized. You, your children, and all who dwell in your tent parallels Genesis 17.”

He also asks 3 questions as food for thought:

  1. Is baptism a covenant sign?
  2. Are the children of believing parents part of the community of the covenant of grace in the New Covenant like they were in the Old?
  3. If God gave a sign of promises to believers and their children in the Old Testament, should we give the sign of the promises to believers and their children in the New Testament to believers and their children?

He also notes:

“Does this mean all children who are baptized are saved? No more than it means that all who are circumcised who are saved. Nowhere does it say that circumcision saves. Faith has always been the way.”

This is also something that credobaptists have to deal with. There’s always going to be false converts in the church and we may never know who they are. So we can’t have a true church that is only made up of regenerate people. Paedobaptism allows the freedom to have the passages that reference reprobation, like 1 John 2:19: 

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

And with these passages, you can see that it’s possible for someone to be part of the church (in this case the visible church), yet not part of the church (in this case the invisible church, which is the elect).

Where the Confessions and Catechisms Address the Means of Grace:

  • Canons of Dort Head 1, Article 17
  • Westminster Confession of Faith Ch 27-29
  • Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 161-177
  • Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 91-97
  • Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 66-82
  • Belgic Confession Articles 33-35
  • Second Helvetic Confession Ch 19-21
  • 39 Articles of Religion Articles 25-29
  • Savoy Declaration Ch 28-29
  • 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith Ch 28-30
  • Keach’s Catechism Q&A 96-103

 

Resources on the Means of Grace:

 

Resources on Covenant Theology as a whole:

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