Exiles

Just an observation: In the Old Testament, exiles were cast out by God. In the New Testament, exiles are cast out by the world.

Jesus was cast out by God so that we might be cast out from the world but accepted by God.

  • 1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…
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Death and Resurrection: The Story of God and Man in a Garden

After God created Man, He placed him in a garden in a placed called Eden (literally, Paradise or Delight). There God communed with Adam, promising him life for obedience and death for disobedience to his commands. After the Fall, Genesis records,

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (3:8).

There is debate about whether or not the English phrase ‘cool of the day’ is a proper translation. Some scholars have argued that the phrase should actually be rendered, ‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God in the garden in the wind of the storm…’ That’s quite different from ‘in the cool of the day.’ You can read about the translation issues HERE. If the phrase, ‘in the wind of the storm’ is accurate, it only serves to emphasize the judgement that was impending for Adam and Eve.

That judgement included the several curses listed in Genesis 3, along with expulsion from the garden:

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (3:24).

From the flaming sword of Genesis 3, thousands of years, and the entire Old Testament, pass before God is seen again walking with man in the garden. That brings us to John’s Gospel and Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples (John 18:1-2).

Jesus Christ, the man who is God, met with his disciples in a garden called Gethsemane; it was there that he wrestled with God over the judgment that was to be poured out upon him at the cross. It was there that he sweat, as it were, drops of blood for the sake of sinners:

For me it was in the garden he prayed, ‘Not my will but thine.’
He had no tears for his own grief, but sweat drops of blood for mine.

That wasn’t the last we would see of God in a garden. Somewhere near Golgotha he was laid to rest in a garden tomb:

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:41-42).

And because he was laid to rest in a garden, he was resurrected in a garden. In fact, the first eyewitness of the resurrection, Mary, mistook him to be a gardener:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).

She mistook him for the gardener of that particular place at that particular time, but we make no mistake in realizing that he is the great Gardener. His resurrection opens the doors to paradise for all those who rest and trust in him as he is offered in the gospel. G.K. Chesterton comments on this passage:

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn (The Everlasting Man, p. 214).

The resurrection begins the new creation, and each of us who trust in that resurrection are already a part of it, awaiting its ultimate consummation. John’s Revelation points to the consummation of the new creation in a city; but assuredly it will be a garden-city, for in it is Eden’s Tree of Life:

…through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

From one angle, the Bible is the story of Paradise, Paradise lost, Paradise regained, and Paradise restored. And it tells us that in order for that restoration to happen, man has to pass through the flaming sword of God’s judgment (Gen. 3:24). Beginning with Gethsemane, to the cross, Jesus did precisely that. Adam forfeited his life in the garden when he ate the forbidden fruit, Jesus gained it back for us when he took the foreboding cup of God’s wrath. Adam betrayed God in a garden, Jesus was betrayed by Judas in a garden (for the sake of the children of Adam). Then he was buried in a garden to rise in a garden that he might open the doors of paradise for all who would trust in him.

Everyone desires paradise. Eden is programmed into our system. Whether it’s a snow-capped mountain, a warm beach, a cabin on the lake, or a rock concert, we all want it, and we all know that it is lost. We may have glimpses from time to time, but we can never lay hold of it. Jesus in the garden of resurrection assures us that when the Christian thinks about paradise, it is not simply a tragedy of the past, lost and almost forgotten; rather it is our hope for the future.

Except Your Brother Be With You

An humble soul knows that since he broke with God in innocency, God will trust him no more, he will take his word no more; and therefore when he goes to God for mercy, he brings Benjamin, his Jesus, in his arms, and pleads for mercy upon the account of Jesus.

-Thomas Brooks, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ from Works vol. 3, p. 20.

  • And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you (Genesis 43:3).

As the brothers of Joseph could not come before him without Benjamin, so we will not come before the Father without Jesus as our Brother.

Dead Wood

And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs (Exodus 4:17).

I have been greatly challenged and encouraged as of late by the late Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People. The very first sermon of the book takes up the theme of Moses’ rod. How did a dead piece of wood become an agent of salvation for Israel? How did a dead piece of wood turn the Nile to blood? How did a stick part the Red Sea? How did a staff whack water out of a rock? It was just wood, dead wood.

The answer is that Moses’ rod became God’s rod. God took ownership of it, and caused his power to flow from it. From this Schaeffer argues that there are no little people, or places, or things. Anything that God takes ownership of is significant – even a dead piece of wood.

If he did such things with a dead piece of wood, what might he do with you if you yield to him? If you could be still and quiet before him like a staff, then what? Now I digress from Schaeffer.

Dead wood performs all sorts of assignments in the history of redemption. In Genesis it is covered with pitch that it might seal out the waters of God’s wrath (Gen. 6:14). In Exodus it performs signs and wonders. In Leviticus it provides for the burnt offering (cf. Lev. 1:1-17). In Deuteronomy it is the material of the ark of the covenant (Deut. 10:1) and the instrument of cursing that will begin to unfold in the conquest of the Promised Land (Deut. 21:23). In Joshua it is the death-instrument of cursed kings (Josh. 8:29). In 1 Kings it is the floor of the house of God (1Ki 6:15). In Job it holds out hope in death (Job 14:7). In Psalms it is the Shepherd’s rod (Ps. 23). In Proverbs it is fuel for the fire (Prov. 26:20-21). In Song of Solomon it carries the king of Israel (Song 3:9). In Haggai it renews the destroyed temple (Hag. 1:8).

Dead wood has no power in itself, but only when the right person wields it (Isaiah 10:15).

In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John dead wood is the agent of our Savior’s death. There, on the cross, He is our Ark in the midst of the flood, our miracle Worker, our burnt Offering, our Mercy Seat, our cursed King, our Temple, our Hope in death, our good Shepherd, our Fuel, the Lifter of our spirits – the One who makes us into the temple of the living God.

Through dead wood, wielded by Jesus Christ, God brings salvation to the world. The cross became God’s rod, and our deliverance. All this with dead wood. Can he use you? On account of dead wood, and a risen Savior, indeed he can.

You are the Man, You will be a Substitute: The Gospel in 1 Kings 20

In 1 Kings 20, Ahab, having just defeated the Syrians, makes a peace-treaty with King Ben-hadad of Syria. God didn’t like this treaty. He had devoted Ben-hadad to destruction – he was placed ‘under the ban.’ He was, in other words, sentenced to death. He was a reprobate, headed for hell, and Ahab’s armies would be God’s agent to bring him there. But Ahab had other plans.

This sets up a moment in some ways similar to David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan. This time, an unnamed prophet bruises himself and covers his face in order to appear as a soldier. He confesses that he was given the charge of guarding a prisoner of war, and that the prisoner of war has escaped. He asks Ahab what punishment he would receive:

  • 1 Kings 20:39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”

Ahab responds in v. 40:

  • The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”

The prophet was only retelling the story of Ahab, who had let King Ben-hadad go, despite the fact that he was to be devoted to destruction. He is in effect saying, ‘Ahab, you are the man!’:

  • 1 Kings 20:42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'”

This is quite the compelling narrative as it is, but it actually serves to set up Ahab, in a sense, as a type of Christ. Ahab essentially is declared by God to be a substitute for the cursed Ben-hadad. Ahab’s life will be taken in the place of Ben-hadad’s. The King of Israel becomes the substitute for a cursed Gentile. He takes destruction in his place.

Ahab was a wicked king, a sinner to be sure. He deserved death in his own right. His death would in no way atone for the sins of Ben-hadad. But we have a righteous King, the King of Israel, he is without sin and willingly makes himself a substitute for cursed Gentiles.

Ben-hadad is named the ‘Son of Hadad.’ Hadad was a false god. So, in 1 Kings 20, the King of Israel is to die for the ‘son of god’ (Ben-hadad). In the gospel the King, the true Son of God, dies for those who have followed after idols.

Ahab was killed by the very Syrians for whom he was dying as a substitute:

  • 1 Kings 22:35 And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.

Yet there was no atonement for them. There is for us, because Jesus has taken the curse due to sin upon himself.

Meeting God in the Dirt: Toward a Biblical Theology of Jesus and Dirt

Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

The Hebrew word אָבָק (abaq), translated ‘wrestled,’ literally means to ‘get dusty.’ When you wrestle you roll around in the dirt. In order for the sun to rise on Jacob (Gen. 32:31) he had to have a true, heart-changing meeting with the living God. Such meetings with God only occur if God chooses to condescend to man – God must get dirty.

Man is made of dirt:

  • Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

God became a man, and therefore took on a body made of dirt:

  • John 1:14 ¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He was born in a dirty place (caves/barns are dirty):

  • Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

He did the dirty work of a carpenter:

  • Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

As he writes the law in the human soul, he wrote in the dirt with his finger:

  • John 8:6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

He spit on the ground and made a mud pie to heal a blind man:

  • John 9:6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud…

His feet needed washing:

  • John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

He washed the feet of others:

  • John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

He embraces you, as dirt, by taking your literal dirt (flesh) upon himself and by taking your spiritual dirt (sin) upon himself on the cross:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When he rejects your dirt, he is rejecting your form of sinful humanity:

  • Luke 10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

He gets dirty so that you, as dirt, can be clean dirt. He loves our dirt, that is our humanity, but rejects our spiritual filth that ruins our humanity.

C.S. Lewis said that Aslan was not a tame lion. We might say that Jesus is no clean God. He is clean in the sense that he is pure, and perfect, and holy to be sure. But he’s not afraid to roll around in the dirt. He touches the dirt and he sanctifies it. Rather than it polluting him, he purifies it. That’s why you’re a Christian.

The Conquestor and the Conquered King (Joshua)

Reading the first 11 chapters of Joshua with my family recently, I could not help but be struck by the idea of king, after king, after king being not only defeated, but hanged upon trees:

  • Joshua 8:29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.
  • Joshua 10:1 ¶ As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king
  • Joshua 10:28 ¶ As for Makkedah, Joshua captured it on that day and struck it, and its king, with the edge of the sword. He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho.
  • Joshua 10:29 ¶ Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

In all, Joshua, chapters 2-12, records that thirty-one kings (cf. Josh. 12:24) were defeated by the people of Israel, many of whom were apparently hanged upon trees.

How do you explain this to children? That’s the issue I face every night as I read with my family. And biblical theology leads to an answer.

This past Sunday, we were having family catechism time, and we read the words of Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 26:

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

With this being the case, Jesus is our greater Joshua, conquering all his and our enemies. But therein lies the problem. We are, by nature, his enemies. We are those who are to be conquered (especially Gentiles like myself and my family). We are those who are to be ‘devoted to destruction,’ or placed ‘under the ban.’ If we are to be on his side, he must first subdue us to himself. He must win us. We must become his trophies of war.

But how can it be? The answer is hinted at in the text of Joshua. For Jesus is not only our greater Joshua, but he is a King who is hanged on a tree. He is not only the conqueror, he is the conquered. He himself must be placed under the ban of God’s holy wrath. He must be devoted to destruction in our behalf. The conquering King must become the conquered King. Therefore, it is not only Joshua himself who points us to our greater Joshua, but those cursed kings of Jericho and Ai. The Commander of the Lord’s army must become their representative in his death. Indeed it is fitting that the Roman soldiers mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Mark 15:18). They got it. Pilate got it as well:

  • John 19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Jesus was a casualty of war – another King hanged on a tree.

  • Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

But this King didn’t stay dead. That’s why we have life. And that’s what I must tell my family day after day.

Is the Church a Movement? A Rolling Stone vs. A Growing Stone

In light of my previous post concerning Chesterton’s point that the church is not a movement, I ask:

If the church is said to be a movement, should it not be concerned with vertical movement primarily?

  • 2 Kings 19:30 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
  • Isaiah 37:31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.

Downward and upward. Deep and high. This means that our movement is not away from the world or toward the world. But, within the world, we seek to be like a tree with deep roots whose branches reach up to the sky. If this is the case, then, really, there is no movement at all, in the sense that we normally speak of movement. For who says that a tree moves?

Rather than movement, we call this growth. The kingdom is not a like a moving car, but a growing tree:

  • Luke 13:19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

The kingdom is not like a rolling stone, but a growing stone:

  • Daniel 2:35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The exodus was a movement, and it went in a circle for 40 years. The blessed man is like a tree planted by streams of water, and his movement is down and up. He stands still while all the world moves around him. Jesus was said to be a peripatetic. False. His face was set like a flint. All of his movement culminated in his being lifted up on a cross, planted in a tomb, and then being taken up into heaven:

  • John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
  • Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

No circles, only down and up. That’s the whole point. So, if you consider your church a movement, take note that you must either be moving down and up, or you are not moving at all. And really, even this is not movement, but growth.

As Chesterton puts it in another place,

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it (The Everlasting Man, p. 256).

A tree defies gravity and earth – gravity as it grows up, earth as it grows down. A dead dog can lie on the ground. But it cannot go up or down unless someone lifts it or buries it. A tree has power of its own. It takes the elements of its environment and uses them for fuel without actually becoming them. Imagine if a tree became the sun. Imagine if a tree became water. It would no longer be a tree. It would no longer ascend, rather it would stay still or go in a circle.

Even Jesus’ command to ‘Go into all the world’ is a call to go downward – ‘into’ the world. A dead thing can go with the world, but only a living thing can go into it. When a tree grows into the soil it changes the soil. Take deep root in his world and let your arms, and alms, reach up to heaven. The church in such a condition can attract ‘the birds of the air’ who will desire ‘to make nests in her branches.’ Take deep root in Christ, be buried, and then ascend with him into heavenly places. Up and down. Then, perhaps, you will go somewhere.

John MacArthur has said many times that he determined early to be concerned with the depth of his ministry, trusting that God would take care of the breadth. That’s a good resolution.

A Case for Infant Baptism from Covenantal Lordship

In this post I present several quotes that I have found helpful over the years in clarifying and expressing my views on baptism. I have wanted to record these quotes in one place for future reference for quite some time and have finally gotten around to doing it. In summary, I have outlined the quotes to present an argument for infant baptism based upon the doctrine of Christ’s covenantal lordship, and his delegation of that lordship in Christian families.

The two authors quoted below are Meredith Kline, who was a paedo-baptist, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who was a credo-baptist. Kline’s book, By Oath Consigned has been instrumental for my understanding of the doctrine of baptism. I do not agree with every element of the book. I am not sold on his teaching about New Covenant covenantal curses. But, I should point out, Kline reportedly tweaked his own teaching on baptism in later years and decided to bring the book out of print. Despite this, however, Kline’s teaching on suzerain-vassal treaties and the import of the theme of lordship within covenant structures, ceremonies, and signs is extremely illuminating. It is this line of thought from the book that I use.

As for the Doctor, years ago I spent a good deal of time reading his commentaries on Ephesians. In his sermons on the family in Ephesians 6 and baptism in Ephesians 4, I found some striking statements that have served to help me express my own contentions about the role of Christ’s lordship in baptism and general family life.

The primary Scriptures referenced for this argument are the ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28:18-20:

  • Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And the following statements of the Apostle Paul from his Epistle to the Ephesians:

  • Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism
  • Ephesians 6:1 ¶ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
  • Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In addition to these texts, Kline points us to the texts and context of the institution and import of circumcision in Genesis. And we also might point to various texts dealing with baptism such as 1 Peter3:21, which, Kline notes, may be translated that baptism is ‘a pledge of good will to God’ (that is, a pledge of allegiance) (By Oath Consigned, p. 67) or 1 Corinthians 10:2, which we discuss below. The ‘household’ baptisms of Acts and 1 Corinthians 1:16, as well as Paul’s statement concerning the ‘consecration’ of children in 7:13, come into play, but I will not discuss those texts in this post. I will only say in passing that the doctrine of covenantal lordship set forth below sheds tremendous light on each of those texts. Read this post, then read those texts, and see if they do not begin to make sense.

Each quote referenced by Kline comes from the book By Oath Consigned. And with those preliminaries covered, I give you my outline:

1. In the Old Testament, God is Lord of his covenants

Now since in certain notable instances, particularly but not exclusively in the Mosaic covenants, it pleased the Lord of Israel to describe his covenant relationship to his people according to the pattern of these vassal treaties, no other conclusion is warranted than that ‘covenant’ in these instances denoted at the formal level the same kind of relationship as did the vassal covenants on which they were modeled. That is, covenant in these divine-human transactions denoted a law covenant and hence was expressive of a lordship that could satisfy the terms of the covenant by stretching forth its sceptre in either blessing or curse (Kline, pp. 21-22).

2. He ordains signs in order to display his lordship over his people

The oath whose curse sanction circumcision symbolized was an oath of allegiance. It was an avowal of Yahweh as covenant Lord, a commitment in loyalty to him. As the symbolized curse which sealed this pledge of allegiance, circumcision partook of the import of an oath. It was, therefore, a sign of consecration. Hence Israel is commanded: ‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord’ (Jer. 4:4) (Kline, p. 43).

3. Those who receive those signs are dedicated to his lordship by oath

Hence, by circumcision, the sign of the consecratory oath of the Abrahamic Covenant, a man confessed himself to be under the juridical authority of Yahweh and consigned himself to the ordeal of his Lord’s judgment for the final verdict of his life (Kline, p. 48)

4. In the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is declared to be the Lord of the Covenant, and Baptism is Declared to be the Sign of Entrance into the Covenant

Now if the covenant is first and last a declaration of God’s lordship, then the baptismal sign of entrance into it will before all other things be a sign of coming under the jurisdiction of the covenant and particularly under the covenantal dominion of the Lord. Christian baptism is thus the New Covenant sign of consecration or discipleship (Kline, p. 79).

5. Therefore the sign of baptism is an oath-sign dedicating the one baptized to the lordship of Christ

Now if the covenant is first and last a declaration of God’s lordship, then the baptismal sign of entrance into it will before all other things be a sign of coming under the jurisdiction of the covenant and particularly under the covenantal dominion of the Lord. Christian baptism is thus the New Covenant sign of consecration or discipleship.

It is immediately evident in the great commission that consignment under the authority of Christ is the chief thing in Christian baptism. For there baptizing the nations takes its place alongside the teaching them to obey Christ’s commandments in specification of the charge to disciple them to him who has been given all authority in heaven and earth. Of similar significance are a concatenation like Paul’s ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5) and the common confession of Jesus as Lord or Christ in baptismal formulae (Acts 2:28; 8:16, 19:5; I Cor. 1:13ff; cf 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 10:9). The related baptismal phraseology of ‘in (or into) the name of Jesus Christ’ (or ‘of the Lord’ or of the Trinity) also expresses the nature of baptism as confirmation of an authority or ownership relationship, judging from analogous usage in the Old Testament…Further evidence is the representation of baptism as a seal, in the sense of a token of authority or mark of ownership…

The incorporation of disciples into the jurisdiction of the new Covenant by baptismal confession of Christ as Lord is in clear continuity with the tradition of the initiatory oath of allegiance found in Old Testament covenant engagements….
As an oath-sign of allegiance to Christ the Lord, baptism is a sacrament in the original sense of sacramentum in its etymological relation to the idea of consecration, and more particularly in its employment for the military oath of allegiance…(pp. 79-81).

Though Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was not a paedo-baptist, he expressed the idea of baptism as a sign of the Lordship of Christ quite well in his commentary on Ephesians 4:5 (‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’):

Baptism does represent the washing away of sins, but having done so, it goes on into something infinitely more important. We note that the term used is ‘baptized into’ or ‘baptized unto’. This gives us the key to a true understanding of this ‘one baptism’. It means ‘in reference to Christ’, or ‘into the realm of Christ’, or ‘into the sphere of influence which is exercised by Christ’ (Christian Unity: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16, p. 124).

He notes 1 Cor. 10:1-2, which says,

  • 1 Corinthians 10:1 ¶ I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea

He comments,

That statement can have but one meaning. They were baptized into the leadership, the sphere of influence, of Moses. They had become identified with Moses and all he stood for, and the cause that was represented by Moses. In other words, they were separated from the Egyptians, amongst whom they had been living…There was now a division between them and all who belonged to the realm of Pharaoh…Baptism therefore represents and signifies our being put into the realm and into the sphere and into the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ibid, p. 125).

The Doctor also helpfully points out that the record of the Book of Acts that baptism was performed ‘in the name of Jesus’ makes perfect sense in light of this teaching. If baptism is primarily a symbol of the lordship of Jesus, then Luke (the author of Acts) is making a statement of doctrinal significance by describing the baptisms of the early church in this way (Ibid).

6. The Christ-Given, Christ-Representing Authority of Parents as the Basis for Infant Baptism

Returning to Lloyd-Jones, though again, he was not a paedo-baptist, he makes a statement which helps us understand the covenantal authority of parents in this regard:

The parents should be living in such a way that the children should always have a feeling that they themselves are under Christ, that Christ is their Head (Life in the Spirit in Marriage, Home and Work: An Exposition of Ephesians 5:18-6:9, p. 299, emphasis mine).

In the covenantal workings of the family, under the New Covenant, the task of Christian parents is to represent the lordship of Christ in the household. They are to essentially live out the relationship of Christ and the church. That is, they are to emulate Christ, by the help of the Spirit, in all family relationships:

A. Husbands/Fathers

  • Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
  • Ephesians 5:28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
  • Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

B. Wives

  • Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

C. Children

  • Ephesians 6:1 ¶ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

Ephesians 6:1 and 4 are absolutely vital to the discussion of the covenantal headship of parents, and particularly of fathers in 6:1. Notice in 6:1 that children are commanded to obey their parents in the Lord. In light of the teaching of the New Testament in regards to headship, it would seem clear that the idea behind the phrase ‘in the Lord’ is that covenant-children are to obey their Christian parents because their parents are exercising the authority of Christ over them. To paraphrase Lloyd-Jones (quoted above), in honoring the authority of their Christian parents, children are honoring the authority of the Christ who is over their parents.

6:4 describes such parenting: the parent is carrying out the ‘discipline and instruction’ or ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ When parents are truly parenting under the authority of Christ in this way, children are obligated to obey based upon the authority of Christ as declared in the great commission:

  • Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

In summary, then, the children of Christian parents are disciples of their parent or parents who are disciples of Christ. Indeed, the covenantal authority of Christ is delegated to the parent for the proper discipling (i.e. ‘making disciples of”) children. In light of this, and the other points of the argument, it  only seems logical that the children of believers should receive baptism as a sign of their position under the disciple-making authority of the covenant-Lord Jesus Christ.

We therefore conclude with Kline:

…Though the confession of faith has this primacy in the administration of baptism it is not the exclusive principle regulative of this rite. For the one who confesses Christ is required to fulfill his responsibility with respect to those whom God has placed under his parental (if not household) authority; exercising that authority to consecrate his charges with himself to the service of Christ. The basis for the baptism of the children of believers is thus simply their parents covenantal authority over them (Kline, p. 102).

Our Greater Jacob

Assuming that the stall of Jesus’ birth was a cave:

It is already apparent that though men are said to have looked for hell under the earth, in this case it is rather heaven that is under the earth. And there follows in this strange story the idea of an upheaval of heaven. That is the paradox of the whole position; that henceforth the highest thing can only work from below. Royalty can only return to its own by a sort of rebellion. Indeed the Church from its beginnings, and perhaps especially in its beginnings, was not so much a principality as a revolution against the prince of the world. This sense that the world had been conquered by the great usurper, and was in his possession, has been much deplored or derided by those optimists who identify enlightenment with ease.

-G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, p. 181.

Jacob is the usurper, the supplanter, the heel grabber. He works from underneath:

  • Genesis 25:26 Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob.

Jesus is bruised at the lowest level, and triumphs at the lowest level. At the lowest he is higher than the serpent:

  • Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”