More Discussion with JP
Here is another Installment of my discussion with JP. I think that this discussion has played itself out. That fact becomes clear when you near the end of this set of emails.
My confusion is neither with perseverance or preservation nor with the branches
Nor with the question of not being allowed to quit believing. The fact is, if you quit believing and reject his salvation you have no hope no matter how sincere you think you once were.
I am speaking to the use of the words "inserted into Christ" and "partaking in his righteousness." Baptism can be all that you say about the "visible" church, but when it redefines justification and free grace--that is confusing. Is a baptized child more fit to address the judgment seat of God than he was a minute before baptism. Has he been made fit by the mystery? if so how long does it last? What happens when the child grows up to be an Esau or Judas or little devil? What do we say? He never was part of the invisible church. And we can't know that. I understand. But why then should we grant the child justification contingent upon baptism? Especially, if its true faith that lays hold of that righteousness and not baptism. It’s the child’s lack of faith that is to blame not baptism. Baptism may or may not lead to saving faith. Who knows, save god? So why put the stress on baptism by using those words.
I hope I can answer you at the point that you say you find confusing.
We know that the children of unbelievers are said to be unclean, and the children of believers are said to be holy (i.e. saints) (I Cor. 7). The children of believers are born into the covenant by being descended from covenant members. Baptism is very important and is our formal engrafting into the covenant, but the child of the believer is declared holy even before baptism. God knows these things and I trust Him and his Covenant promises, therefore I am faithful to give my children the covenant signs as I believe the scriptures teach.
Now let’s move onto some of the language used in the Scriptures when the writer is addressing Covenant members. Let's start with Hebrews 3. Here Paul is addressing "holy brethren, partak[ers] of a heavenly calling" but look at what he says to these holy brethren. He says believers are the temple (house) of the Lord "if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." If I can be addressed as "holy" and said to be a partaker "of a heavenly calling" how can I then be warned an told these things are mine with an "if" in front of it?
A little later Paul says to these same holy brethren and partakers of a heavenly calling to, "Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God." So the question is, can a partaker of a heavenly calling have at the same time "an evil heart of unbelief." We see that these holy brethren are also warned against "falling away from the living God."
How can they fall away from a God that they don't have?
This is Covenant language. They are counted as Holy because of their place in the covenant. If they are in Covenant, then they are counted as being in Christ and being part of the people of God. If they deny the faith then they are said to be "cut off" from Christ and also to be "fallen from grace." Such terms make sense only in terms of Covenant or the Arminians are correct (which they are not as we both know).
We find this kind of language in the Scriptures many times in both the Old and New Covenants. Often time we find all the visible covenant people to be addressed with the language that is ultimately true only for those who will persevere in the faith. This is common speech that is used everyday.
When a general addresses an army and commends the soldiers under his command as brave and courageous, he knows that a handful of the men will prove to be cowards and weak. Still he does not address the troops as "heroes and cowards" when speaking to his men. He gives the noble title to all even though some, in the end, will prove to be unworthy of it.
Paul, and all the Bible writers, wrote without knowledge of God's decree as to who will be saved in the end. He knows that the Church is the body of Christ and he addresses everyone in the Church with terms appropriate to those who are "ordained unto eternal life" and he is perfectly right to do so. He does not say "I am only speaking to those of you in the Church who will not apostatize." When he addresses the visible church using the names and titles that are, in the end, only be applicable to those who are part the spotless bride of Christ in eternity, he is using normal human speech.
These noble titles like elect, chosen, holy, partakers of a heavenly calling, etc. are applied to the visible people of God many times in the Scriptures. It is common practice and there is no reason for it not to be common. We need to see the forest for the trees when we read such things in God's word.
This is why we find that those same people (you and me included) who are given these titles are also given serious warnings against apostasy. The writes of Scripture knew some would not hold fast, so they give the warnings as a proviso to their covenant standing.
I think we are all born in sin, deserving hell, without hope, regardless of our bloodline, and entirely dependent upon free grace. And if all babies or any baby is protected, it has nothing to do with the parent's faith and everything to do with the Father's promise to give his Son a people for Himself. I don't think this means we disregard covenant relationships and normal means of God's ways and intentions, but we shouldn't forget the trouble Paul and John and john the Baptist and Jesus all went to in explain to the Jews and Pharisees that it didn’t matter who your parents are--you must believe or you are not protected--even if you are from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul says if anyone can boast about their stock-try looking at my family-but it doesn't matter. John said we were born not of blood. Does this mean they held no value to covenant relationships? No, but they would not confuse justification with whatever mystery takes place during a child’s baptism.
I agree with every point that you make in your last letter. The Scriptures are very clear on that issue.
I often remind my own children that they are marked and belong to Christ by virtue of their baptism and I am then very quick to follow that up by telling them that they have to make their salvation sure by repenting of their sins and believing faith in Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures teach the importance of baptism, because God takes His ordained ceremonies seriously, and of course Faith is vital to salvation and there is no salvation outside of faith in Jesus Christ. People seem to have problems when things are just a little bit complex. We too often see that the Scriptures say one item is important, focus in at that one point and forget that the Scriptures say -- yes this is important, but don't forget the other also. It too is important. We see this in the faith/works debates, as well as debates on many other issues, all the time.
The Scriptures put certain stresses on both. We can not stress the one and ignore the other. Too often we see abuses in this area. One person or group will begin to over stress one item and play down the other. Another person or group will see the error, but instead of a balanced correction, they will go to the opposite extreme in reaction to the earlier error.
We need to work at a biblical balance in all matters.
I agree but we must use the right words (those permissible in scripture rightly translated and interpreted) even if it is an antinomy.
I agree with what you say.
So are we together on this? What about paedobaptism?
Maybe, as long as you say it right.
Need some Irish whiskey?
Of course I do. Bring some over and we can drink it from my Quaich.
One evening next week we need to get a group together, sit around a fire, converse and pass around the quaich.