Sunday, July 19, 2015

Why I am a Baptist and Paul Manata Ought to be too

In my last post on this subject, I argued that the only Church the New Testament authors ever wrote about in the abstract was the Church of Jesus Christ. This Church was the Church that Jesus said He Himself would build. Jesus called this Church His Church. (Matt. 16:18) I said that one can only be born into this Church. It is not a Church that one joins by way of an act of the will, by religious rites, or by some genetic trait, or by marriage. I pointed out that the Church has been purchased by God with the blood of His Own Son Jesus Christ. The Church is made up of only individuals who have been purchased by the God with the blood of Jesus Christ. I said that the Church is that entity which Jesus Christ gave Himself for, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her, that He might present her in her glory without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. I stated that the Church and the body of Christ are synonymous. To be in the body of Christ is to be in the Church. To be in the Church is to be in the body of Christ. To be in the body of Christ or the Church is to be in Christ.

(1)  All those who are in Christ are in the body of Christ.
(2)  All those who are in the Church are in the body of Christ.
(3)  Therefore, all those who are in the Church are in Christ.

Where we are going with this line of argumentation will constitute a dilemma for paedobaptists like Paul Manata. Manata will either have to admit that infants are not regenerated at Baptism, are not the subjects of progressive regeneration, are not guaranteed regeneration under the covenant, and therefore are not proper subjects for Christian baptism, or he will have to embrace the view that children of Christians are actually regenerated at baptism, being regenerated from baptism, or at guaranteed regeneration. But then there is the questions of age limitation, infant adoption, and a host of other questions that pose serious problems for paedobaptists covenant theology and the doctrine of paedobaptism.

(1)  All subjects for Christian baptism are members in the Church.
(2)  Only regenerated individuals are members in the Church.
(3)  Therefore, only regenerated individuals are proper subjects for Christian baptism.

This post will focus on (2), and ask the question what constitutes regeneration? In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, oikodomeso mou ten ekklesian, I will build my Church. What exactly do we think the Church is made of? When Jesus said He will build His Church, He must have had the components of what that looked like in mind. Paul answers this question with great clarity in a few places, beginning with this statement, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Rom. 12:4-5) We are the one body of Christ. Paul says something very similar to the Corinthian Christians, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” (1 Cor. 6:15) The point is that those who are in the body of Christ are those who are joined with Christ as one with Him. This status ought to inform how we conduct ourselves and indeed, over the long run, it does despite our failures along the way. Again, Paul writes, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12) The members of the body of Christ, the Church are many and one with Christ. The picture of the Trinity is clearly in view. We are one with one another and we are one with Christ. This is the only Church spoken by the New Testament authors. Paul emphatically tells the Corinthians, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27) In Ephesians 3, Paul writes about a revelation he had received directly from Christ and that this revelation was a mystery. That mystery was that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body of Christ. The Gentiles are fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Jesus tells us that the reason He came down from heaven was to do the will of His Father, which, is that all that the Father has given to Him, he would lose none. Jesus came to gather those whom God has given Him from before the foundation of the world, to Himself. No one is able to come to Christ unless the Father brings Him. And all that the Father brings to Christ will be raised on the last day. There can be little doubt that Jesus is speaking about those whom God, the Holy Spirit will regenerate. And then Jesus said something very interesting and John makes the connection. The statement is a thing of beauty and for the credobaptist, it is one reason we believe what we believe. Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.” (Jn. 6:45) All those that God has given to Christ will come to Him and be raised up on the last day. Only those that God gives to Christ can or will come to Him. Jesus, in this argument to the Pharisees, links these statements to the New Covenant promise in Jer. 31:34. Everyone who is taught of God will come to me Jesus said. He said this of those that God had already given to Him before the foundation of the world.

Jeremiah wrote, “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer. 31:34) Who is the “they” here in Jeremiah 31:34. A simple reading of the text would indicate that the “they” refers to the same group within whom God has written His law on their hearts. In other words, those who will not need to be taught who the Lord is are the same ones who are the members of the New Covenant.

The apostle John wrote, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. (1 Jn. 2:20) There can be little doubt that John had the same text in mind when he penned these words in his letter. John was distinguishing those who were in the New Covenant relationship with God by way of Christ from those who were not. He goes on to say, “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1 Jn. 2:27) Here we see clearly three references by John to Jeremiah 31:34 directly dealing with the subject of what is a true member of the Church, the body of Christ, the New Covenant. John links those who have been called out by Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, as those who are the same ones that are taught by God, the same ones that Jeremiah said would be included in the New Covenant arrangement.

John goes on to make the distinction between those who are actually in the Church, those who belong to God, who are in Christ, who are members of the New Covenant from those who are not. “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 Jn. 2:4) John also said, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 Jn. 1:6) Why didn’t John launch into an elaboration explanation for why there are two types of members in the Church and in the Covenant, and two types of Churches actually? I submit that it is because John did not think that way and there is no evidence to suggest any NT writer thought that way. John also said, “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.” (1 Jn. 2:9) Once again, John’s statement is really straightforward. There can be little chance of misunderstanding. John would have to the Corinthian man that he is simply a liar, walking in darkness up to now. He would not have argued along with Manata that the Corinthian man was a member of some invisible Church, an external member of the New Covenant. John would have kept the argument much simpler. The man is a lying immoral person that you are not to have any association with whatsoever. Stop any and all association with him now! That is the Exclusion Principle John used and he does without the pretense of rescuing his theological system.

John wrote, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 Jn. 2:23) There are two kinds of people in John. Those who love God and those who do not. There are those who are in light and those who are in darkness. There are those who have the Father and those who do not. Sometimes, those who are liars, in darkness and who do not have the Father wander into our communities. Wandering into Christian communities cannot change a person’s status before God. External ritualism cannot change a person’s status. Therefore, when these individuals are identified sooner or later, they leave the community (some hide in it), and their status is revealed when that happens.

John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 Jn. 2:19) Here John is clear about the status of those who “apostatize” from the Christian community. John does not launch into some elaborate scheme about the internal/external aspects of the Covenant nor does he hint at the existence of a visible Church. He simply says, they were never of us. If they had been of us, they would have continued with us.

Because the Church is what it is, we can conclude that only those who have been regenerated by the power of God through the work of the Holy Spirit are members in it. Those individuals are the object of Christ’s atonement, having their sins forgiven, having received mercy, being washed in the blood of Christ. These members seek to conduct themselves in all purity despite failures along the way and lapses in obedience here and there due to a sinful nature that has not been eradicated. However, disobedience before God is not the defining characteristic of their lives. There are others who lay claim to Christ. These call Him Lord but they do not do the things He says. These are of their father the devil. They are liars. They reject the teachings of the apostles, the authority of Scripture, and they do not love the brethren, nor do they put away immorality and false doctrine. Instead, they carry on a life that is clearly unchanged, not regenerate, and not filled with the Holy Spirit. These individuals have never been in Christ because they have not been born into Him by the act of God Himself. They have not been given to Christ, are not chosen by God, have not had their sins forgiven and are not cleansed by the blood of Christ. When they say they love God, they are liars. They walk in darkness to this very day even though they may be singing “In Christ Alone” right beside you every Sunday morning. When and if they leave, John will say that they were never really of us because if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, embracing our doctrine of Jesus Christ and His teachings.

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 Jn. 7-11)

It seems abundantly clear to me that the New Testament teaches that only regenerated individuals are placed in the body of Christ, the Church, having been baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit. Rather than read the New Testament through the lens of Moses, I think Manata ought to read Moses through the lens of the New Testament. My next post will summarize my argument for a credobaptist view of the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace.

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