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The Witness of the Law and the Other Sacrament (Part 2); “Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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The Witness of the Law and the Other Sacrament (Part 2);

“Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?”

Romans 3:3 Geneva Bible

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“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” -Genesis 17:7

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” -Acts 16:31

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Seed Identification

The mystery that the Gentiles were “fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ” [1] had not yet been fully revealed when Peter addressed the question of his Jewish compatriots whose hearts were smitten by his Pentecost sermon.  Immediately following his command to “repent and be baptized,” and his extending to them the promise of the Holy Spirit, Peter defined the seed associated with the promise of Genesis 17:7.  In keeping with his call to “the Gospel of the circumcision,” [2] Peter applied the “you” (originally applied to Abraham) to his Jewish audience.  The words: “and to your seed” he paraphrased: “and to your children.” [3]  Peter’s additional phrase “and to all that are afar off” acknowledged the presence of circumcised Gentile proselytes to Judaism. [4]  Ultimately the heirs of the promise would be determined by divine election:  “. . . even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”  Later God would perplex Peter, portraying Gentile cleansing under the rubric of kosher law, to prepare him for a request from Cornelius, an uncircumcised, God-fearing Roman centurion.

For a time Saul of Tarsus, the pre-Christian Paul, remained a persecutor of the church.    “But after that faith has come,” [5] we find Saul, now Paul, the “apostle to the Gentiles,” [6] arguing in Galatians 3:16 that the singular of the Greek sperma [seed] is too obvious to be overlooked.  In the primary sense of the covenant of Genesis 17:7, the sperma [seed] of Abraham is none other than Christ.  In the expanded or plural sense, the sperma [seed] of Abraham embraced the many who “through faith” “had put on Christ” in baptism. [7]  Faith’s objectification in baptism was implicit in Ananias’ command, “And now, why tariest thou?  Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sin, calling on the name of the Lord.” [8]

In Acts 16:31, we find Paul applying the promise of Genesis 17:7 to the Philippian jailor and his household.  Paul administered baptism to the entire family who rejoiced in the fact that the head of the house “had believed in God.” [9]  Whether the prepositional phrase “with all his house” in Acts 16:34 modifies the jailor’s believing, or the jailor’s rejoicing, is a moot point.

Paul affirmed, as a principle of the covenant, that the children of Christian believers were “holy” or set apart, much as unkosher food, for the Christian, was sanctified “by the word of God and prayer.” [10]  In contrast, Roger Williams, on the basis of his understanding of 2 Corinthians 6:14-16, could not in good conscience pray with his own children whom he believed to be unregenerate. [11] The point is not to belittle the founder of America’s first Baptist church.  Indeed the mild-mannered William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Plantation, regarded Roger Williams as a godly man. [12]  Nor is it to diminish the ethnic distinction of the Jews or deny their unique privilege which Paul underscored in Romans 3:2.  Rather the point is to highlight the ongoing significance of the Abrahamic commission[13] in the advance of the new covenant church.

Honoring Fatherhood

C. S. Lewis’s esteemed nineteenth-century Scottish author, George Macdonald, despite his heretical departures, rightly insisted that “Fatherhood” was “the core of the universe.” [14]  The apostle Paul knelt before “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” [15]  God’s fatherhood, so foundational to the purpose of Christ’s coming, [16] is reflected in Abraham’s name, [17] and in language itself, inasmuch as patria [Greek for family] is derived from Pater [Greek for father].  New Testament household churches reflect this fatherhood. [18]  While God will provide a family relationship for those who are destitute of one, [19] it is further evident that under the covenant God deals with us not strictly as individuals but with special respect to our family relationships.

By faith Noah being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith. [20]

While this verse consists with Paul’s authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews, this household saving event dovetails perfectly with Peter’s likening Christian baptism to it. [21]  And the typology of the Hebrew Passover expresses the same paternal model. [22] 

The baptism of Lydia’s household, by the same token, affirms believing mothers. [23]  Paul commanded in his Letter to Titus that older women of proven godly character should see to the training of the younger women in such basic matters as loving their husbands and children and managing their households. [24]  Elder women thus fulfill a primary role in the building of strong families and the future of the church.  Blessed are the churches who welcome such women!

Chrysostom and Romans 16:7

Whereas Chrysostom (347-407), the Patriarch of Constantinople, maintained that Andronicus and Junia [25] were actually women apostles, it is a curious fact that Luke made no mention of women apostles in the Book of Acts.  But certainly Chrysostom would have agreed that, if they were women, whether or not they themselves were apostles, their ministry would have been subject to 1 Timothy 2:9-12–nor would they have wanted it any other way! For Paul wrote a glowing tribute to them!  Male-female partnership (1) transcends the covenant parity of Galatians 3:28, (2) is dependent upon it, and (3) poses no threat to it when it comes to the matter of authority in the church or the home. [26]  Otherwise, wives would not be commanded to be subject to their husbands. [27]  Nor would husbands be commanded to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” [28] Jesus’s first word to the Samaritan woman following her expressed desire for living water was “Go call thy husband, and come hither.” [29]

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Endnotes
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[1]. Ephes. 3:6

[2]. Gal. 2:7

[3]. Acts 2:38-39

[4]. Acts 2:11

[5]. Gal. 3:25

[6]. Rom. 11:13

[7]. Gal. 3:25-29

[8]. Acts 22:16

[9]. Acts 16:33-34

[10]. 1 Cor. 7:14; 1 Tim. 4:5

[11]. For a discussion of this issue, see Chapter 14 “Defining the Baptismal Covenant” in  Brand’s online publication The Ancient Landmark; Biblical foundations of infant baptism, http://www.dcbcom.org/pubbksset.html.

[12]. Logan, Dr. Samuel T.  1986.  “Where Have all the Tulips Gone?”  Presidential Inaugural Address.  Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.

[13]. Gen. 18:19; Cf. Luke 19:9

[14]. C. S. Lewis, Preface, George MacDonald: An Anthology.

[15]. Ephes. 3:14-15

[16]. Luke 15:11-32

[17]. Abraham means “father of a multitude.” Gen. 17:5; Cf. Hebrews 2:10

[18]. Rom. 16:5, 10, 11; 1 Cor. 1:11;, 16; Col. 4:15   Note that the church itself is designated “the household of the faith” in Galatians 6:10 and “the household of God” in Ephesians 2:19.

[19]. Mark 10:28-30

[20]. Heb. 11:7

[21]. 1 Pet. 3:21  For an in-depth discussion of the mode of this baptism, see Brand’s Thinking About Baptism published by DCB Communications. http://www.dcbcom.org/pubbksset.html

[22]. Exod. 12:1-3   See Ephesians 6:1-4 and note that Paul mentions only Crispus himself in 1 Corinthians  1:14 as the family representative head whom he baptized, whereas in Acts 18:8 Luke states that Crispus “believed on the Lord  with all his house.”

[23]. Acts 16:14-15   Note 1 Peter 3:6 whereby New Testament  women are designated “daughters” of Sarah.

[24]. Titus 2:3-5

[25]. Rom. 16:7

[26]. 1 Tim. 2:8-15

[27]. Ephes. 5:22-24

[28]. Ephes. 5:25

[29]. John 4:16

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Sources

Brand, David Clark. 1991-2009.  Ancient Landmark, The: Biblical foundations of infant baptism.  An online publication by DCB Communications.  http://www.dcbcom.org/pubbksset.html

________.  1998. Thinking about Baptism.  2005 Revised Edition.  Introduction and Notes by J. Morton Young, Presbyterian Missionary Pastor to the Southwest.  Howard, Ohio: DCB Communications.

Calvin, John. Commentary on Titus. Translated from the Original Latin, and Compared with the French Edition, by the Rev. John King, M.A., of Queen’s College, Cambridge, Incumbent of Christ’s Church, Hull.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Grand Rapids. http://www.ccel.org

Christenson, Larry. 1970. The Christian Family. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers.

Chrysostom, Saint. n.d.  Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of S. Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Google Books. http://books.google.com

Geneva Bible. 1560.  www.genevabible.org/Geneva.html

Holy Bible (English Standard Version). 2001. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles

Holy Bible.  1611. King James Version. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, The: The Greek Text with a Literal English Translation by The Reverend Alfred Marshall D.Litt. and a Foreward by The Reverend Prebendary J.B. Phillips M.A.  Also a marginal text of The Authorized Version of King James. Second Edition. 1966. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Limited.

Kittel, Gerhard, ed. 1964. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.  Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lewis, C. S., ed. 1978. George Macdonald: An Anthology. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.

Logan, Dr. Samuel T.  1986.  “Where Have all the Tulips Gone?”  Presidential Inaugural Address.  Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.  Cassette Recording. Westminster Media.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Tenth Edition. 1994. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

 

About the Writer

David Clark Brand is a retired pastor and educator with missionary experience in Korea and Arizona.  He and his wife reside in Ohio.  They have four grown children and six grandchildren.  With a B.A. in the Liberal Arts, an M. Div., and a Th.M. in Church History, Dave continues to enjoy study and writing.  One of his books, a contextual study of the life and thought of Jonathan Edwards, was published by the American Academy of Religion via Scholars Press in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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