Paedocommunion #1

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, [d]“Take, eat; this is My body which is [e]broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

Examine Yourself

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and [f]blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks [g]in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the [h]Lord’s body.

We are beginning to probe the issue of paedo-communion here. Years ago I preached a series on this but we return to it because this is largely a different church from when I first covered this issue and secondly because I want younger parents with younger children to hear the case for bringing our children to the table.

With that said, I think we will take this piece by piece when coming together monthly for communion. So, it will be up to you to try and keep this pieced together in your mind, though I will give overviews with each sermon.

As we come to this passage in I Cor. we start here because many in the Reformed world contend that this passage authoritatively destroys any notion of weaned children coming to the Lord’s supper because, so the reasoning goes, a toddler cannot engage in “remembrance” and neither can a toddler “examine” themselves. The requirement in the passage is that the taking of the table is done in remembrance of Christ and that before the table is taken those who partake will have examined themselves. This the opponents of paedo-communion insist is not possible for children to do.

We should offer here, before we demonstrate how this is a improper understanding of the text, that this kind of reasoning is the same kind of reasoning that Baptists use to say children should not be Baptized. The Baptist says, “A baby/toddler is not self conscious enough to repent and have faith, therefore a baby/toddler must not be baptized until they are old enough to have this level of self-consciousness.” The point I’m making here is that those among the Reformed who insist that a child should not be given the Eucharist until the age of discretion are reasoning the same way as the Baptist who insists that a child should not be given Baptism until the age of accountability. I, personally, find it very strange that putatively Reformed people argue the same way Baptists do, and I think that is not without significance.

Before we take up the issue of examination and remembrance let us briefly consider a passage in I Cor. 10 that points us in a particular direction on the issue of paedo-communion. Here we may find a case wherein infant communion is supported in the New Testament. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:1-4:

“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were baptized into Moses.  3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. ”

Here we find Paul using Israel’s experience in the OT in passing through the Red Sea as a warning to the NT Church. There is a continuity that St. Paul is giving between Old and New Testaments and in doing so he is connecting the dots between the reality of OT Israel and the NT Church and in the doing of so St. Paul sets forth the experience of Israel in their passing through the Red Sea as both a Baptism and a meal. Now, of course there were infants and toddlers that were with the adults who crossed through the Red Sea and those infants and toddler ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink that all Israel partook of and as Paul says that Rock that those Hebrew infant and children drank was Christ. Now if the OT Hebrews infants and toddlers drank Christ why should NT infant and toddlers likewise not be communed at the Lord’s Table?

We see that Paul assumes the continuity of God’s dealing with children in the Old and New Testaments. They are always treated as members of the covenant community and as members of the covenant community they are not only identified as God’s people through the ratification ceremony that is Baptism but they are also nourished and refreshed with eternal life that is found in Christ as He is received in the Eucharist.

As we reflect on this, must we not conclude that children need God’s pledge and communion as much as adults? Don’t children as they grow need that objective promise of God? We have no idea when faith may be born in a child’s heart, but whenever it is, it needs to be stimulated, strengthened, and assured by the pledge made to him or her in Baptism and confirmed in the Table.

Again, if the children of the Hebrew children in the OT ate and drank Christ then why should the children of God’s people in the NT not be fed with the food and drink of eternal life? (974)

Anyway, Augustine agrees that the children should come to the table;

“Those who say that infancy has nothing in it for Jesus to save, are denying that Christ is Jesus for all believing infants. Those, I repeat, who say that infancy has nothing in it for Jesus to save, are saying nothing else than that for believing infants, infants that is who have been baptized in Christ, Christ the Lord is not Jesus. After all, what is Jesus? Jesus means Savior. Jesus is the Savior. Those whom he doesn’t save, having nothing to save in them, well for them he isn’t Jesus. Well now, if you can tolerate the idea that Christ is not Jesus for some persons who have been baptized, then I’m not sure your faith can be recognized as according with the sound rule. Yes, they’re infants, but they are his members. They’re infants, but they receive his sacraments. They are infants, but they share in his table, in order to have life in themselves.”

St. Augustine, Sermon 174, 7

Anyway, having said that we return to the issue of a weaned child entering into examination and remembrance.

We would first note that there are matters of interpretation here that need to be cleaned up in order to understand that the requirements of examination and remembrance are not defeaters for the position of paedo-communion. We come with certain assumptions about the language that need to be challenged. Likewise we tend to fail to read this NT passage in light of continuity with the OT that we find St. Paul presupposing in I. Cor. 10.

We are told in this passage to “Do this in Remembrance of me,” and being moderns we read this as “Do this while remembering me,” when it is doubtful that is really what the thrust of the meaning is. To read this to mean “Do this while remembering me” posits the efficacy of the table upon our subjective ability to do the doing. If we can’t subjectively remember then the table has no efficacy. But is that what the Holy Spirit is teaching here?

I would say no for the following reasons.

1.) The translation of the Greek here is dubious. Literally it reads, “Do this unto my Remembrance.” This preposition in (eis) generally has a directional or purposive function, so that, in varying contexts, it can be rendered with “into,” “unto,” or “as” (such as: “it was reckoned to him as righteousness” ).

This language is used in the decalogue when we are told to “Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy.” The idea here is obviously not that we are to subjectively recall this or that about the sabbath. The idea in “Remembering the Sabbath,” is better formulated by saying “Observe the sabbath to keep it Holy.” In the same way I would submit that when the Corinthians are called to “To do this in remembrance of me” are being told “To do this in observance of me,” or if you prefer, “Do this unto my remembrance.”

This way of reading the text is supported by other examples in the OT. We find in the Greek Septuagint of Lev. 24:7 that the frankincense is placed “upon the bread for a memorial to the Lord.” Here it is the same prepositional phrase that St. Paul uses in I Cor. 11. Instead of “in” we get “upon” here. It goes without saying that the text in Lev. does not mean that the frankincense or the Priest enters into a subjective remembrance of the Lord. Instead, it is the act by itself which constitutes the remembrance. Just so with the Eucharist, the center is not a subjective remembrance but rather the center is the observance of the act itself which is constituting the remembrance.

Besides, we have to be careful here. If we camp to much on the subjective remembrance being the center pivot of the Eucharist then we are in danger of suggesting that the effectiveness of the Sacrament lies in our ability to recall and by doing that it is hard for me to see how we have not horizontalized and Anabaptistified the sacrament wherein the sacraments are about our doing. The Reformed understanding has always been that the Sacraments are Gods and that God is doing all the doing in the Sacraments. If and when we completely subjectivize the table as a Sacrament so that its efficacy is bound to our ability to remember then it strikes me that we should forbid our gaffers and gammers who no longer have the ability to remember due to dementia or the onset of Alzheimer disease from coming to the table?

Pushed too hard we might find ourselves saying as I read last week from the fingertips of a Baptist;

“Point being is Baptism & Lord’s supper are for Professing Christian adults & not Children & severely handicapped.”

Edward Budny

Consistent Baptist

Communion is not the response of the converted man to the call of God. It is the sign and seal of the covenant. It is God who is the agent who does the acting in communion and not any human person. As God is sovereign He is free to act in Communion to convey grace upon infants as well as adults. As God never repudiated being a God who works inter-generationally, through His promises as symbolized by the sign and seal of the covenant in Communion, God has sovereignty designated that all the children of His people be brought to the Grace offered in Holy Communion.

Respectfully, given the I Cor. 10 passage I have to say that whoever repudiates paedocommunion cuts Jesus loose from the OT and introduces an unwarranted division between the community of Christ and God’s people of the covenant. By abandoning the unity of Scripture, the door is opened to subjectivism. But the repudiation of the sign of the covenant for children also cuts deeply into the fabric of practical Christian living. It affects the relationship between parents and children forcing parents to treat God’s covenant seed as strangers to the covenant, and between teacher and student forcing teachers of Catechism to treat their covenant children students as dead in their sins and trespasses. It touches the working of the Holy Spirit, by whom the name of the Lord is transmitted from generation to generation.

So, turning again to the idea of the macro-context that informs I Cor. 11 on the issue of “remembrance” we would note that we are saying is typical of OT sacraments. Numbers 10:10 teaches that;

10 … you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”

Here the feasts and sacrifices were to be a memorial for Israel before God.

Likewise Ex. 12:14 teaches in reference to the passover (which was the sacrament that the Eucharist replaced);

14 ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

The connection here is that the remembrance that we read of in I Cor. 11 is not that something that jumps out of Zeus’ head brand new. The remembrance called for in I Cor. 11 is consistent w/ how remembrance/memorial worked in the OT for the whole people of God — babies, toddlers, strong men and women and gaffers and gammers and when you combine this with the express statement of I Cor. 10 that they all drank Christ we can only conclude that the emphasis in I Cor. 11 is not primarily a call for subjective remembrance as if the God cannot convey grace without our remembering and because of that our children are not to be barred from the table. Remembrance, whatever more precise meaning we put upon it, is not an exclusionary requirement for covenant children to come.

Now in future weeks we will consider the call for self-examination and ask ourselves if that requirement is a defeater for paedo-communion. We will also consider the connection between pass-over and the Lord’s Supper. We will spend some time considering Church history on the matter.

We should say that here that we are in the minority on this subject in today’s Reformed Church. We should say that there are many who disagree us who are smarter than I am. Calvin for example while admitting that this had been the practice of the early Church wanted nothing to do with paedo-communion. I hate disagreeing with Calvin, but I do on this score.

All that being said let us rejoice that Christ has invited us to His table to do this in observance of Him.

Funeral Sermon

Question 1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death,1 am not my own,2 but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ;3 who, with His precious blood,4 hath fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and delivered me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;8 yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,9 and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.11

Biblical Christianity recognizes and affirms along with St. Paul in I Corinthians 6 that we, both individually and collectively are not your own. We understand, confess and affirm that we have been bought with a price – that price being the precious blood of Jesus Christ which paid for our sin. There are several implications to that, the most immediate one being that we are to glorify God as the Apostle writes. And that is why we are here. We are to glorify God even when adversity, trials, and heartaches by His providence cross our paths. In doing so we are acknowledging and bowing before He who is the creator of life and death and the creator of eternal life. In gathering here we are glorifying God by acknowledging and affirming that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord.

However, the idea that we are not our own also has the implication that as the God of the Bible owns us He therefore owns everything that we have. We are never owners in the full sense of that word but only stewards operating under God’s ownership. This means that the children God gives His covenant people are God’s children before they are our children. We are not our own, as the Scripture teaches, and because we are not our own it is the assertion and affirmation of Biblical Christianity through the centuries that our children belong to Christ just as we, the parents belong to Christ. So, before any child bears the family’s surname, that child first bears the name “Christian.”

There is no middle ground on this. Children, like adults, either are of their Father the Devil or they belong to Christ. The Christian faith affirms that the Children of believers have God’s claim of ownership upon them.

This means we understand, affirm, and confess that as the children of Christians belong to God should they die while under our covenant headship the conviction is that those children have been gathered into the arms of their savior, who while on earth went out of His way to command His disciples, to “forbid not the children to come unto me for such is the Kingdom of heaven.” If it is not the children of covenant parents who are gathered unto Jesus upon an untimely death then there are no children who are gathered unto the Kingdom of God and His Christ.

Our Father King David expressed this conviction when, following the death of his newborn child could say;

I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” II Sam 12:23

In the midst of the great grief surrounding his son’s death our Father David affirmed that His child was not His own and that His child had been gathered to his Fathers by God the Father. This is the mindset of all Biblical Christians who mourn over the untimely death of their babies, toddlers, and children.
From this we embrace the truth of Scripture when it teaches that our times are in God’s hand (Ps. 31:15). God owns His people and the children of His people and it is the case for all of us that

“whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Romans 14:7-9)

As God of the Bible own us and our children it is for Him to sovereignly administer our time and times. Scripture explicitly affirms this when the Psalmist speaks.

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

Our times are in God’s hands and for His elect those times may be counted long so that we are graybeards when we die, or those times may be counted short but long or brief all the days ordained for any of us … all the days ordained by God for Stephen Elliot Cave were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.

Now this ownership that God claims upon His people and their seed is an ownership that is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross in order to pay the penalty of our rebellion against His character and His gracious Law-Word. God owns His people because in and with the death of Jesus Christ the just and perfect wrath of God against sin and sinners was turned away that we who trust in Jesus Christ may have peace with God and entry into the family of God.

Of course you have to know and understand that God’s people were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain lifestyle received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

This was the basis of Stephen’s being owned by God. Stephen’s being owned by God was not based on his innocence as a Baby. Scripture teaches that even newborns have a sin nature. Stephen’s being owned by God was and is anchored to the reality that He was conceived by covenant parents who themselves are owned by God and all of them together Stephen and His parents owned because of the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

This is the hope of the Gospel. This is the comfort for those of us who grieve with Jared and Kathryn in the covenant community. These are the truths upon which the anchor of our faith must hold should we be able to navigate such depths of sorrow.

If God be for us, who can be against us?

To Jared and Kathryn and the rest of the family, allow me to remind you that your heavenly Father has not forgotten you. Allow me as the minister of Christ to remind you again of how much our heavenly Father loves you for the sake of Jesus Christ. And while I would never presume to tell you or anybody going through adversity the whys of your trials I do have the authority as the minister of Christ to tell you that nothing can separate you from the love of God. I do have the authority to tell you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. I do have the authority to remind you that as weary and heavy laden you are invited to come unto Christ for His burden is easy and His yoke is light.

In times and events like these we must say with the disciples; “Where else would we go save to you for you alone have the words of eternal life.”

Allow me to round off here with a more personal word to those who are feeling like all this has sucked their lungs right out from them. The Scripture teaches in Hosea 6

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.

From many of our Christian fore-fathers have drawn out the principle that teaches that whom God would heal He first wounds. God has wounded you … has wounded us, but He will heal us and we will be all the more pliable in His hands for His wounding and consequent healing. We will be all the more fit for the master’s use having endured this and then been healed from it.

This is what scripture is getting at when it teaches;

11 Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

And so you and we have been wounded by the hand of God. It is painful. It is not easy. Being pruned never is comfortable. But shall we not, by faith, long to find some balm that this wounding has been from the Father’s hand – a Father who loves us for the sake Jesus Christ, and that these wounds – these afflictions which we bear now will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness not to mention they are also working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?

How else can I understand all this heartache if I am to believe Lord’s Day #1 which teaches “that all things must be subservient to my salvation?”

With all that in mind let us as God’s people stand and together make the good confession;

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sin;
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.


Sermon on Infant Baptism

5Gen. 17:7, 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.

Acts 2:39, For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

6/ 1 Cor. 7:14, For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Joel 2:16, Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

7Matt. 19:14, But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

8Luke 1:14–15, And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at His birth. For He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from His mother’s womb.

Ps. 22:10, I was cast upon thee from the womb: Thou art my God from my mother’s belly.

Acts 2:39, For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

9Acts 10:47, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

1 Cor. 12:13, For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Cor. 7:14, For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

10 Gen. 17:14, And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant.

11 Col. 2:11–13, In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

LD #27 – HC Question 74:

Are infants also to be baptized?

Answer: Yes, for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant5 and church of God;6 and since redemption from sin7 by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them8 no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the Christian church, and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers9 as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision,10 instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.11

Inasmuch as we have much to consider this morning, I will not be able to deal with this Q & A exhaustively. If you want the whole consideration I encourage you to visit Iron Ink where this is laid out in its entirety in different posts.

As we consider this Catechism question we want to note upfront that what we will be doing this morning is providing a cumulative argument in answering the question; “Should Infants be baptized.” We are going to present a series of arguments affirming that infants should be baptized and in the doing of that we will be appealing to many of the Scriptures that the Catechizers offered as support for this answer.

As we start out here we first note that in what must be considered the old and worse covenant when compared to the new and better covenant God’s grace included the children, but now, per Baptist thinking, in the new and better covenant God’s grace excludes the children and we likewise, if we are to be Biblical must also forbid the little children from coming unto Christ because allegedly they would never comprise the Kingdom of God.

Quite to the contrary what we instead see in the NT is that God’s grace expands, as compared to the OT, in its largess so as to include the Nations, so as to now place the sign of the covenant on both males and females, and so as to promise that it shall conquer the globe. Yet, Baptists would have us believe, by their conviction and doctrine that the one place where God’s grace contracts in the NT is with His and our covenant children. In the NT, unlike the OT, God’s grace is constrained so as to leave out those who were once included.

Next, as to this question of whether or not infants should be baptized we consider;

Gal. 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And what was that promise? Gen. 17:7-8

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…

Are we to believe that now that we have been graciously brought into the covenant as Abraham’s seed that the great covenant promise given to Abraham and his seed is no longer operative for us and our seed? If Abraham’s seed was part of the covenant promise then why should it be the case that our seed today, as children of Abraham ourselves, should not be given the sign of the covenant?

When we consider this question of whether our infants should be baptized we note that we believe that in coming to the Baptismal Font we are coming to the place where we find Christ and the promises of God. As the Catechism teaches (HC Q. 66)The Baptismal Font bespeaks of the granting to God’s people free remission of sin and life eternal for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross. At the Baptismal Font we find Christ and all His promises. At the Baptismal font Christ greets and receives us and our children.

And so, following the NT example we bring our children here to Christ and His promises just as in the 1st century they brought their children to be blessed by Christ. And Just as the Lord received children as belonging to the covenant community then as recorded in Mt. 19:14 and as heard in His declarative statement “Let the little children come unto me,” so we believe and know that Christ says to His people today the same and so we bring our children, knowing that Christ is pleased.

And we do so despite the ringing in our ears of Baptists today, like the disciples in Jesus’ day to forbid the children from coming to Christ we continue to bring our children to our and their sovereign Liege-Lord Jesus Christ. And, frankly, we are just as irritated with the Baptists today as Jesus was with His disciples then for their seeking to block the way of the covenant seed coming to Jesus.

Now, the typical Baptist will object here;

Children were and are brought to Christ- not to the Baptismal font.

And to that, as Biblical Christians we respond by noting that “We are presented today with Christ only in Word and Sacrament. There alone we meet and find Christ. If our children are to be received by Christ they can only come unto Him by coming to via Word & Sacrament.”

Next we consider I Cor. 7. When we come to I Cor. 7 we find the Holy Spirit talking about the children of believers and there the Apostle crafts an argument wherein it is assumed that the seed of any one believer are holy — just as they had always been considered through revelational history. The context finds St. Paul talking about marriages between Christians and non-Christians and there the Spirit of God calls such marriages “Holy,” on the premise that if one of the parties to the marriage are part of the covenant than the marriage and the children from the marriage are considered by God as Holy — that is set apart. Now if the Apostle designates such children are considered as set apart and so Holy should they not be given the sign of the covenant that marks out all God’s people as Holy and set apart? If the premise in I Cor. 7 is that children are Holy are they not part of the covenant community and if part of the covenant community should they not be given the sign of the covenant?

Also, when it comes to infant Baptism the book of Acts yields five cases of household Baptisms. Remember, in household Baptisms if the head of the household is Baptized then all in the household are baptized. This was the pattern in the OT and nothing in the NT seems to overturn that. Now, we gladly concede that in none of these household baptisms is it explicitly said that infants/children were baptized. However, we can say upon the household principle that if infants/children were in those households then they were certainly baptized. Now add to this that in Ephesians we find this household language;

Eph. 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,

This is important in this discussion when we remember that God’s household throughout history had always included infants/children. That being so there is no reason to think that God’s household when we come to the NT is bereft of infants/children.

Now, add to all this the reality that the NT records that many of the Jews were outraged that the Gentiles were coming in but not one peep in the NT from the Jews that their children were now excluded from the covenant and it is past difficult to put off the conclusion that infants/children of God’s people were then and should now be baptized.

When it comes to this issue of infant-Baptism we have St. Peter’s own words

“The promise is to you and your children and for all who are afar off.” (Acts 2:39).

Now, we gladly concede that can be heard through Baptist ears in such a way that does not compel infant Baptism. The Baptist will tend to hear these words as meaning;

“The promise is to you (if you believe), to your children (if they believe), and to many who are afar off (if they believe).”

But a reading of the passage in light of previous revelation drives us to another conclusion. If we hear these words from Peter via the echo of revelational history and covenantal moorings we hear them in light of God’s speaking to Abraham once upon a time;

“It is to you and your children, and also to the nations that the blessing will come” (cf. Gen. 22:17-18).

Is not what Peter is saying in his Pentecost sermon that what was once promised to Father-Abraham in what is now called the “Abrahamic promise” that the promise remains to you and your children — but now the day has finally dawned where that promise goes out to the nations — the afar off ones — as well?”

I submit that is truer to the harmony of Scripture than the spin the Baptists want to put upon it.

Let us sign off by reveling and relishing in the grace and favor of God and His Christ who by His Spirit is so kind and generous to us that he includes in the covenant of grace the second highest of all our loves – our love for our children.

A Sermon on Leadership from I Thessalonians 5

I Thes. 5:12 And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and [d]admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.

14 Now we [e]exhort you, brethren, warn those who are [f]unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

The context here is closing exhortations of how the Thessalonian Church should conduct themselves towards

l.) Elders in the Church – 12-13
2.) People who are struggling with sanctification – 14
a.) Unruly b.) fainthearted c.) weak
3.) The Congregation as a whole (Be patient w/ all) –14
4.) People in general – 15

Note that St. Paul addresses the congregation as “Brothers.” Not to belabor a point but this points at the patriarchal mindset of the Apostle. Doubtless there were women in this congregation and yet he addresses them, generally speaking as “Brothers.”

Newer gender inclusive translations render vs. 12 as

12 We beg you, our friends, to pay proper respect to those who work among you, who guide and instruct you in the Christian life.

This observation on the attack on patriarchy reminds us how easy it is to fall into this. This came up recently for me when reading a scholar on covenant theology, who is likely in most respects considered conservative and yet he was constantly referring to humankind where scholars two generations prior would have written mankind. He also played with the pronouns often giving “she” where “he” would have normally been expected.

God is a patriarchal and we see that in passages like this where the congregation as a whole is addressed as “Brothers.” This is a small but not insignificant observation. Indeed, we would say that where you find patriarchal malfeasance in a Christian or congregation there should, at the very least, be alarm bells going off in your head. Such malfeasance may be done without realizing what is being done while other patriarchal malfeasance is sinister and has an agenda.

Also, we would note with the word “Brothers” that St. Paul gives the judgment of charity to the congregation as a whole. He views the congregation as a whole as Brothers in Christ. Doubtless, there were tares among the Thessalonian congregation but he still refers to them as a whole as “Brothers.” As we see in 1:4

knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.

St. Paul can even speak of this congregation of brethren as elect by God.

This language of “Brothers” reminds us that despite congregations being beset with inconsistencies we should try to think and speak the best of them. It is proper we should refer to congregations that bear the marks of the Church as “Brothers,” giving the judgment of charity.

Having set the context and made a preliminary observation we note the disposition that the Holy Spirit is requiring the Church members as organization is to have towards their leadership.

It is fitting we should consider this on a day when we install an Elder and a Deacon.

The first thing St. Paul Mentions here is that the Leadership that he is asking the Church to consider is a leadership that labors among you and as such should be “respected/recognized/ appreciated,” (depending on your translations.)

The Greek word that Paul uses for “labor” here he often uses elsewhere to communicate the work done in manual labor. The Greek word for “labor” here thus communicates strenuous effort that results in being bone tired.

The labor that your leadership enters into is a labor of learning. Your Elders are required to be “apt to teach,” and in order to be apt to teach one must labor in learning and the labor there is characterized in Scripture as a labor that can weigh a person down;

Ecclesiastes 1:18 – For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

The Elder leadership not only as this labor but they also labor until Christ is formed in those they are commissioned to tend to and look out for. This is how Paul puts it in Galatians 4

19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,

And again this laboring is a theme earlier in this letter to the Thessalonians

For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.

There is labor in leadership as Elders. It is not the labor of working on the hot tarmac in the heat of summer loading freight, luggage and mail in Airplane pits. It is not the labor of someone working a jack-hammer or bailing hay, but it remains labor all the same and the Holy Spirit urges the congregation to respect those who labor among them.

Of course the corresponding truth here is that leadership in the Church should indeed be laboring. Being a Leader in God’s Church is work. It is the labor of caring for God’s people – caring so much that the congregations emotional and physical hurts is a pain you share. It is the labor of driving off the wolves to protect God’s people. It is the labor explaining and explaining all over again the truths whereby God’s people can be tethered to reality.

Van Morrison gets at something of this labor of explaining in his song “Why Must I Always Explain,”

Bared my soul to the crowd eh but oh what the cost
Most of them laughed out loud like nothing’s been lost
There were hypocrites and parasites and people that drain
Tell me why must I always explain

It is the labor of being slandered and libeled for the cause of Christ and laboring to count that all joy.

And here I must say after laying that out, that I do know that I am appreciated by this congregation and I have few complaints.

The Holy Spirit urges respect and appreciation for the leadership because their labor can grind them down.

This necessity to appreciate the Deacon leadership is also urged. The Deacons in Scripture are required to look after the physical needs of God’s people. To look after the physical needs of God’s people also is to enter into their need. A good Deacon is not going to only see the need and seek to help meet the need but he is also going to sympathize with those in need. He is going to weep with those who weep. He is going to enter into the sufferings of God’s people he is called to relieve as he can.

This matter of leadership in the Church is not a easy matter and sometimes it is more difficult than other times and so the Holy Spirit urges that the Church appreciate those who labor among them.

The second thing Paul mentions here about Leadership is their position in relationship to the congregation. Paul says here that the Leadership are “over you in the Lord.”

I am not going to tease this out much because we touched on this back in April when we did our series on submission.

Suffice it to say here that in the Church there are Chiefs and there are Indians. The Church is not an egalitarian Institution. The problem here usually arises when the leadership starts demanding that everyone remember that THEY are the leaders or when the people forget that they are not the leaders. Leadership that has to constantly demand and insist upon their priority of position likely won’t remain leaders long. A congregation that won’t accept that there are, as the text has it, “those who are over you,” will be a congregation where it will be the case that “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

Leadership is said in the passage to be “in the Lord.” This means that the Leadership is by God’s calling and appointment and that the Leadership has to be consistent with God’s standard.

The third thing Paul mentions here about leadership that he is asking the church to consider is that the leadership is called to admonish the flock

The Greek word here has several layers of meaning. It means to admonish, warn, counsel, exhort. From the same as nouthesia; to put in mind, i.e. to caution or reprove gently.

It is a part of the duty of a leadership to put their people in mind of the truth; to warn them of danger; to exhort them to perform their duty; to admonish them if they go astray.

On this score St. Augustine put this responsibility to admonish like this;

“It is the duty of the interpreter and teacher of Holy Scripture, the defender of the true faith and the opponent of error, both to teach what is right and to refute what is wrong, and in the performance of this task to conciliate the hostile, to rouse the careless, and to tell the ignorant both what is occurring at present and what is probable in the future.”

St. Augustine

Bishop of Hippo

On Christian Doctrine

Of course this admonishing needs to be done with wisdom and often, though not always, with great gentleness. Yet, as Calvin notes, “admonishment is employed to mean sharp reproof such as may bring them back into the right way.”

Again, there is labor here to discern which kind of admonishment is called for.

And of course if this admonishing is expected of the leadership then likewise it is expected that if and when admonished the admonishment should be considered very seriously and not just blown off.

Of course all this also explains how serious of a matter it is to elect Elders and Deacons and to hire Pastors.

We would also say here is that all this makes it evident that the Leadership does not work for you in the sense that they have to give you what you want. The leadership works for God and tries to take their marching orders from Him.

The fourth thing Paul mentions about Leadership is to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

This is somewhat synonymous with Paul’s beginning requirement to appreciate the leadership. The Greek makes this a matter of emphasis. The Leadership is to be esteemed VERY HIGHLY.

Of course, this presupposes that the leadership is laboring. Many are the commentaries I consulted the emphasized the idea that leadership that is not laboring, or worse yet is merely getting the pay without doing the labor do not deserve this very high esteem in love;

Benson Commentary

“How are Christians to esteem those pastors who do none of those things? who take the wages, but do no part of the work?”


“All idle bellies are excluded from the number of pastors.”

To the leadership I submit that you can demand this kind of esteem, and perhaps it is wise not even to expect it. Best to do the work you are called to and let God sort out the matter of esteem. Remember St. Paul said of himself,

We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I Cor. 4:13

So, even if you do not receive this kind of esteem, the work still must be done. Remember, the work is not done so we can be esteemed. The work is done because we have been called to do it and because we wish to see the Church built up and the Kingdom expanded.

God has been very kind to this congregation by giving us the leadership he has given us. Mike as Elder and Anthony as a deacon who are rotating off have earned the reward and esteem that God calls for here. The men coming on are good men who have previously proved themselves in these offices. The men who are staying on have demonstrated that their interest is to serve God’s people the way leadership is called to serve.

And you congregation have made it a joy for us to serve you.

Let us pray that this blessing of godly leadership, godly congregation, and godly relationship between them will continue.

Grace Restores Nature … Against the Anabaptistified & Gnosticized Contemporary Reformed Church

Genesis 2:8 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of [f]corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

In these passages we have the story of creation, fall, redemption and glorification. Some have said that here we find the macro outline of all of Scripture.

Now, we are going to talk a great deal about nature as well as sin and grace this morning so, just to be clear nature will be used synonymously for God’s creation or His pattern of creation. Nature here is the way God made things according to His original intent. For example, according to nature boys can’t be girls. According to nature boys marry girls. According to nature nations are Christian.

We want to spend a little time this morning talking about the interplay of sin, nature and grace.

I.) The effect of Sin on creation/nature – Sin mars nature

First, we say again that before the fall nature was in harmony. God created it as “Very Good.” There was no death. It is a paradise existence. After the fall we see that, in the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, nature is now red in tooth and claw. Death has entered into the world. There is no longer a harmony of interest as seen in the blame shifting between Adam & Eve and as seen in the account of Cain and Abel. The harmony that was present before has evaporated and instead we the ongoing attempt for men to de-god God and en-god himself. Because of sin man acts contrary to his given nature. God’s creation that is all of nature as it fell from His hands as very good is now marred by sin.

However, and this is a fundamental point, keep in mind as we go on from here that the problem is not nature as it fell from God’s hand. The problem is the problem of sin as it has entered the world so that sin has marred God’s creational project. Because of sin nature is now no longer what it was intended to be. Because of the fall, nature can now be unnatural. We soon enough come across increasing moral degradation as seen in Lamech’s vile boasting in Gen. 4.

We read of sin marred nature in the family strife where Laban deceives Jacob who had deceived his father Isaac and who deceives Laban right back. We see the family strife of the Brothers selling their Brother Joseph into bondage. We Amnon, who is the half brother of Tamar raping Tamar. We see the adultery of David. We see magistrates who are supposed to be nursing fathers to their people turn into tyrants of the most wretched sort with Ahab going so far as to kill Naboth to seize his land.

All of this and so much more is the effect of sin on nature. And this effect remains with us and as we more and more consistently turn our backs on God and defy His grace with can anticipate that this effect on nature will cough up more and more vile twistings of nature.

However, in God’s economy we see that grace can restore nature.

And so we consider secondly,

II.) The effect of Grace on sin marred creation/nature – Grace restores nature

Here we have several options to consider in terms of how grace restores nature as among the major players that comprise Christianity.

1.) Aquinas argued in his Summa that “grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” ( 1a 1.1.8 ad 2). Later Rome put a twist on this. Medieval Rome agreed that grace perfects nature but they insisted that in order for grace to perfect nature, nature had to be brought in under the umbrella of the Church where grace resided. Anything outside the umbrella of the Church could only be nature and being only nature and so fallen all it could ever be was fallen.

2.) The Radical Reformation (Anabaptists) held that grace unmakes and so destroys nature and replaces nature so that nature becomes grace in this life. This explains their complaint against “worldliness” and their conviction that they could escape worldliness by forming their own non worldly all grace communities. Outside their communes was sin marred nature. Inside their communes is the grace of heaven on earth. Notice the dualism. Inside their communities is all grace. Outside their communities is all sin marred nature. All this was and remains consistent with their belief that all of the future heaven could be brought near now. This explains why the Anabaptists have a pure church theory that is characterized by restricting baptism only to those who make profession of faith. You see, if it is all heaven now then the Church of all places must pure without tares, without dross, without false believers. Grace destroys nature so that all is grace.

We continue to have much of this Anabaptist view of nature and grace in the Evangelical Church. There are those who talk as if some nature/creation realities are evil in and of themselves. For example it is all the rage these days to speak as if our creational realities in terms of ethnicity or race are erased by grace. Once in Christ, so the current logic goes, then who God has made us creationally is now irrelevant. This is a Anabaptist case where grace is destroying nature. Race and ethnicity for the Christian is certainly not everything but neither is it nothing. To suggest that grace destroys physical nature because of our the grace found in our union w/ Christ is a new expression of Gnosticism.

Here we cite our own Mr. Calvin on this score. This from his Sermon on I Corinthians11:2-3;

“Regarding our eternal salvation, it is true that one must not distinguish between man and woman, or between king and a shepherd, or between a German and a Frenchman. Regarding policy, however, we have what St. Paul declares here; for our, Lord Jesus Christ did not come to mix up nature, or to abolish what belongs to the preservation of decency and peace among us….Regarding the kingdom of God (which is spiritual) there is no distinction or difference between man and woman, servant and master, poor and rich, great and small. Nevertheless, there does have to be some order among us, and Jesus Christ did not mean to eliminate it, as some flighty and scatterbrained dreamers [believe].”

19th century Dutch Theologian Herman Bavinck put it this way;

“Grace serves, not to take up humans into a supernatural order, but to free them from sin. Grace is opposed not to nature, only to sin . . . Grace restores nature and takes it to its highest pinnacle.”

Herman Bavinck,
Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, 577.

So, what is now being hinted at is the the Reformed understanding which follows Scripture. Herein we find the idea that grace restores nature. Typically the Reformed argue that incrementally, slowly, imperceptibly over time grace restores nature to what it was originally intended to be as men are regenerated and won to Christ in any given culture or social order.

We find that expressed in the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Clearly we are seeing here that grace restores nature. It spreads in the lives of men and having spread among men it spreads so as to touch their cultures and social order. Nature, because of grace, becomes more and more of what it was originally intended to be. Never perfectly on this side of heaven but more robust, more honoring to Christ, more Kingdom like.

So, the Kingdom of God as it expresses itself in creation does not work to the end of changing the creation realm into a grace realm. What Grace does do is that it restores nature. The Kingdom of God has the effect on the creation realm much like the effect a poultice has in its drawing the poison from a snake bite.

The creation, with the fall, has been snake bitten so that it is a present wicked age. What the Kingdom of God does upon the creational realm is that it sucks the poison of sin out of the Creation realm so that the creation realm is restored to what its original intent was so that this present wicked age is healed by the poultice power that is “the age to come” as expressed by the Kingdom of God at it works as leaven in restoring nature.

Dr. Albert Wolters put it this way in his “Creation Regained”

“The central point to make, biblically speaking, sin neither abolishes nor becomes identified with creation. Creation and sin remain distinct, however closely they may be intertwined in our experience. Prostitution does not eliminate the goodness of human sexuality; political tyranny cannot wipe out the divinely ordained character of the state; the anarchy and subjectivism of much modern art cannot obliterate the creational legitimacy of art itself. In short, evil does not have the power of bringing to naught God’s steadfast faithfulness to the works of his hands.”

And in one of life’s little ironies we find that it is not only the CREC which is taking the Church down the primrose path of Gnosticism but so does its arch-enemy R2K.

For R2K God is not faithful to the work of His hands since that which exists by way of creation is never Redeemed so that it can be considered “Christian.” Marriages can’t be Christian, States can’t be Christian, Education can’t be Christian, and art can’t be Christian because all these creational categories remain “creational” whether they are handled by rebels in opposition to God and His Christ or whether they are handled by Christians in submission to Christ. R2K does not have a category for “grace restoring nature,” choosing instead a paradigm where grace has no effect on nature.

So here we find the two strongest lads right now who are on the Reformed Mountain playing “King of the Hill,” trying to knock each other off so that they alone can be King. It’s David Van Drunen vs. Doug Wilson. And while that is all going on here the Biblically Reformed theonomic, postmillennial, presuppositionalist, Kinist, Agrarians are on the sideline saying… “A pox upon both your Gnostic Houses.”

However, we should say here that the enemy is not only internal on this matter but the enemy is also external. It is difficult to say which is more dangerous.

We have considered the Reformed Gnostics who want grace to destroy nature. But what of those who want nature as defined by the fall to destroy grace? The former camp is so otherworldly it forgets this world. The latter camp is so this world that it fights the world to come. The first camp wants to bring heaven to earth. The second camp wants to take earth for heaven. The enemy within the camp wants to immanentize the eschaton. The enemy outside the camp wants to echatonize the immanent.

You see there are those out there who think that nature is defined by its fallen-ness. They think that it really is the case that nature it red in tooth and claw. Let us refer to these as the humanistic Utopians who believe not in the Kingdom of God that incrementally arrives by grace restoring nature but instead believe that the Kingdom of man arrives by fallen nature coming into full bloom. We will call these “the Utopians.”

The Utopians seek nature as fallen to destroy grace. In order to destroy grace they have been the most adamant of the enemies of Christ through the centuries. The Utopians, generally speaking and humanistically speaking, are the same enemies that Christ labeled “the synagogue of Satan.”

Listen to Bavinck about these folks and their project;

This is the difference between the work of the Kingdom of God upon the creational realm and the work of the Kingdom of man as it seeks to create Utopia in creation. The Kingdom of man identifies creation with the fall and so in order to restore creation it seeks to destroy creation (as it is defined Biblically) thinking that creation can be regenerated out of destruction and chaos.

Herman Bavinck — 1854 – 1921

Dutch Reformed Theologian

And so the Utopians seek fallen nature as the tool to destroy grace. We find these Utopians among the Marxists and we identify them as those, in the words of Bavinck;

“Seek to destroy family, destroy the Church and destroy the State so that out of the ashes a new order may arise Phoenix like. Again, they do this because they identify nature with the fall. To the contrary the Kingdom of God does not identify creation with the fall and the effect of the Kingdom of God upon creation, as we noted above, is to suck the poison of the fall out of creation so that creation reflects the beauty it was intended to reflect.”

The Utopians hate grace and so seek to use fallen nature to destroy grace. This is why the Utopians attack creation as it fell from God’s hands. They must eliminate the family. They must attack the family, they must attack the all in culture that is perfumed with Christ.

In closing though let us note that whether it is the camp of grace destroys nature or whether it is the camp of fallen nature destroys grace in the end both nature and grace are destroyed. There is no preferable poison here. We must fight our current battle on several fronts. We must fight the R2K lads. We must fight the Federal Vision “conversion makes nature unimportant” lads. We must fight the Utopians.

But thanks be unto God we have a target rich environment. We can point our guns in any direction and bring the enemy down. Thanks be unto God the that He has 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They are Elijah’s scattered all across the nation, standing often alone but still standing nonetheless. Thanks be unto God that He always gives us the victory in Christ Jesus.