INFANT BAPTISM IN CHURCH HISTORY

Anthony W. Brooks

Baptism is always a hot topic. In the Baptist church I was an avid opponent of Infant Baptism and saw it as part of a corrupt papist false gospel. So, what changed my mind? Well, Biblical consistency and covenant relationships helped… Also, the Biblical consistency of Covenant Theology. But I am also an advocate of historical theology as well. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much sense an argument makes, but if it isn’t believed in the first 500 years of the church, it shouldn’t be believed.

One of the greatest arguments against paedobaptism is that there is no explicit command in scripture to baptize our children…. and this is true. But that would mean that many other doctrines that we believe to be true in scripture can’t be believed because they aren’t explicit (e.g. Trinity, Hypostatic Union, Sola Fide, etc…). So I will post a list of Early Church quotes that date back to 125 AD.

Disclaimer**The quotes listed are not representative of the beliefs of this blog as they contain perspectives not accepted or defended by this blog, but are mere quotes that support the historicity of Infant Baptism**Disclaimer

Irenaeus

“He [Jesus] came to save all through himself; all, I say, who through him are reborn in God: infants, and children, and youths, and old men. Therefore he passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, sanctifying infants; a child for children, sanctifying those who are of that age . . . [so that] he might be the perfect teacher in all things, perfect not only in respect to the setting forth of truth, perfect also in respect to relative age” (Against Heresies 2:22:4 [A.D. 189]).
“‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]” (Fragment 34).

Hippolytus

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them” (The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 [A.D. 215]).

Origen

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous” (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 [A.D. 248]).
“The Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism even to infants. The apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of the divine sacraments, knew there are in everyone innate strains of [original] sin, which must be washed away through water and the Spirit” (Commentaries on Romans 5:9 [A.D. 248]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“As to what pertains to the case of infants: You [Fidus] said that they ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, that the old law of circumcision must be taken into consideration, and that you did not think that one should be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day after his birth. In our council it seemed to us far otherwise. No one agreed to the course which you thought should be taken. Rather, we all judge that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man born” (Letters 64:2 [A.D. 253]).
“If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another” (ibid., 64:5).

Gregory of Nazianz

“Do you have an infant child? Allow sin no opportunity; rather, let the infant be sanctified from childhood. From his most tender age let him be consecrated by the Spirit. Do you fear the seal [of baptism] because of the weakness of nature? Oh, what a pusillanimous mother and of how little faith!” (Oration on Holy Baptism 40:7 [A.D. 388]).
“‘Well enough,’ some will say, ‘for those who ask for baptism, but what do you have to say about those who are still children, and aware neither of loss nor of grace? Shall we baptize them too?’ Certainly [I respond], if there is any pressing danger. Better that they be sanctified unaware, than that they depart unsealed and uninitiated” (ibid., 40:28).

John Chrysostom

“You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members” (Baptismal Catecheses in Augustine, Against Julian 1:6:21 [A.D. 388]).

Augustine

“What the universal Church holds, not as instituted [invented] by councils but as something always held, is most correctly believed to have been handed down by apostolic authority. Since others respond for children, so that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete for them, it is certainly availing to them for their consecration, because they themselves are not able to respond” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24:31 [A.D. 400]).
“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 [A.D. 408]).
“Cyprian was not issuing a new decree but was keeping to the most solid belief of the Church in order to correct some who thought that infants ought not be baptized before the eighth day after their birth. . . . He agreed with certain of his fellow bishops that a child is able to be duly baptized as soon as he is born” (Letters 166:8:23 [A.D. 412]).
“By this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into his [Christ’s] body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive . . . gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. . . . It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s Body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture, too. . . . If anyone wonders why children born of the baptized should themselves be baptized, let him attend briefly to this. . . . The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration” (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 1:24:34; 2:27:43 [A.D. 412]).

Council of Carthage V

Item: It seemed good that whenever there were not found reliable witnesses who could testify that without any doubt they [abandoned children] were baptized and when the children themselves were not, on account of their tender age, able to answer concerning the giving of the sacraments to them, all such children should be baptized without scruple, lest a hesitation should deprive them of the cleansing of the sacraments. This was urged by the [North African] legates, our brethren, since they redeem many such [abandoned children] from the barbarians” (Canon 7 [A.D. 401]).

Council of Mileum II

“[W]hoever says that infants fresh from their mothers’ wombs ought not to be baptized, or say that they are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but that they draw nothing of the original sin of Adam, which is expiated in the bath of regeneration . . . let him be anathema [excommunicated]. Since what the apostle [Paul] says, ‘Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so passed to all men, in whom all have sinned’ [Rom. 5:12], must not be understood otherwise than the Catholic Church spread everywhere has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who in themselves thus far have not been able to commit any sin, are therefore truly baptized unto the remission of sins, so that that which they have contracted from generation may be cleansed in them by regeneration” (Canon 3 [A.D. 416]).
Soli Deo Gloria!
Photo: My Son’s Baptism at Christ the King Presbyterian Church (OPC)

A Question Asked is a Question Answered: What is my favorite Study Bible?

Question to Anthony W. Brooks

On a post I wrote about a month ago I received a question via Gmail asking me what my favorite Study Bible was. The post aimed to objectively grade known Reformed Study Bibles on a number of aesthetics. You can read it here. But I never said what my favorite study bible is. Well, no doubt, it was in the post, and the answer might shock everyone here, but I’ll tell you.

Before I tell you what it is and where you can buy one I want to tell you what I look for in a Bible before I buy one. Bibles are not about aesthetics with me. They don’t have to look and smell pretty for me to buy one, but they do have to be in an accurate translation, with good layouts, and quality materials. I don’t want to buy a Bible that is only going to last a year. I want a Bible that will be a joy to me for many years, and so far, that is my experience with that criteria.

My Favorite Study Bible

There are many things about my favorite Study Bible that might only be appealing to me. That is why I need to stress this point, that not everyone will like this study bible and there is need to research all the possible contenders before you invest in a study bible for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it…

Here it is, My favorite Study Bible!

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Isn’t this surprising! A KJV Bible won my heart… But it is true. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is my favorite. Let’s get into specifics as to why I chose this beauty.

Layout!

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This is a clean page out of 2nd Samuel. There are many things to consider here. First thing that stands out is that there are no chapter introductions or cross references. The norm in a study bible is a center or side column cross reference system and that isn’t here. All references are included in the footnotes at the bottom. Also the chapter headings are at the bottom as well introducing the footnotes on a particular chapter. This allows the scripture text to be clean and readable for the reader, and keeps all man made additions (aside from the chapter and verse divisions) to stay in one place for reference if need be.

Personal and Family Worship Study Questions

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This is unique among study helps. This study bible was commissioned by Joel Beeke (a puritan expert) who has stressed the need for family worship in the home. His study bible is no different and is built to aid the family in this endeavor. At the end of each chapter there are sections for family worship questions and thoughts to aid in instruction on these issues.

Extras!

This Bible has plenty of extras to aid a growing and conscientious Christian. Mind you, this is a Reformed study bible, so all of the aids and extras will be Reformed in nature. So if that isn’t your mindset, this Bible isn’t for you.

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This cool section is a brief outline of church history. It goes century by century through history and hits all of the highlights.

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The top of the cake is that you can carry your book of confessions around with you. The necessary creeds of the faith along with the “Six Forms of Unity” as I call them.

Apostle’s Creed

Nicene Creed

Athanasian Creed

Belgic Confession

Heidelberg Catechism

Westminster Confession

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Westminster Larger Catechism

And even better is that all of these confessions and catechisms are contain scriptural annotations to look up the relevant passages of scripture.

Cons!

There are cons for people looking into buying this Bible. This Bible is only available in the KJV. I was raised on the King James Version so I do not mind this being my regular reference. But for some people a modern version is a better option.

This Bible doesn’t have a central reference system. All necessary references are contained in the footnotes. For those who find a columned reference Bible useful and preferred, this isn’t for you.

This is a classically Reformed study system. The Young, Restless, Reformed believers who don’t accept Classic Reformed Confessions, Reformed Ecclesiology, or Eschatology this isn’t for you. It also has a cessationist leaning as well as opposed to continuationism.

What I carry it in!

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I carry it in a simple charcoal gray zipper case. There is about half an inch around the side of the case for the Bible to breath. I keep my Pigma Micron in the pen-holder inside so I can study anywhere and write notes as needed.

Where can you buy one?

You can get one as cheap as $24 here.

Soli Deo Gloria

Why all believers should spend some time in the King James (Authorized) Version

By Anthony W. Brooks

There was a time in my life where all I read was the KJV. When I was in private school, I learned the history of the King James translation, and was sold on it’s accuracy. I carried this conviction all the way into college where my New Testament professor threatened me with failing grades if I didn’t use a modern translation. Of course, I did eventually make use of other translations like the ESV. But recently the Lord has been reviving my love of the Authorized Version. And because of this, I want to encourage all believers to make use of the King James and spend at least some time exploring this historic translation.

  1. It is the translation of our forefathers of the Faith.

As protestants we can look throughout history and see the AV as the translation of our forefathers. This can go deeper than just translation into discussions of the Critical Text vs the Majority Text traditions but lets just say that the manuscript and translational traditions are what was in use until the dawn of the Critical Text. This should bring a certain nostalgia into our minds to look back and experience the past of our faith. What did Matthew Henry or Charles Haddon Spurgeon read when they were writing their sermons? How about John Edwards or John Wesley? They used the AV.

  1. It is a difficult read.

This translation has at least a 12th grade reading level, higher than most of us can comprehend (believe it or not). But this has an added benefit of forcing us to think about what we are reading as we read it. Translations with lower reading levels are often seen as hard to comprehend because they are breezed through by the reader and they come out not comprehending what they read. With translations of higher levels, they force the reader to contemplate the meaning of words and sentences so as to understand the meaning of the text. The AV is no different. When I read the AV I actually have to think about the words I am reading and try to understand them so I don’t butcher them while I read.

  1. It is poetic.

The AV is actually considered a literary masterpiece in the world of literature. It is poetic and uses high Elizabethan English. This makes it a work of art and beautiful to read.

All in all, I believe that the common believer should spend some time reading the King James (Authorized Version). I believe doing so will allow the believer to appreciate where the church has been and where it is going. It will also allow the believer to see and appreciate the history of the English Bible and give insight into the common Bible you hold in your hand.

The Lord’s Day And Why It Stands

Maverick Victor Witlouw

The church has historically held that Sunday, the Lord’s Day is the Christian day of worship (Rev 1:10). It is the challenge of dispensational and New Calvinism’s “New Covenant Theology” that makes this affirmation difficult. Various New and Progressive Covenanters, if they could even be called “covenantal” propose that the Sabbath has been “abolished in Christ.” Why do those of us in the Reformed confessional streams of theology deny this claim?

An Arbitrary Hermeneutic

“New Covenant” theologians lament that somehow only the reinstated commandments found in the New Covenant are those we should keep. They continue that only 9 commandments, rather than all 10 are mentioned. What can we say about this?

Firstly, this hermeneutic is absurd flat on its face. It is based solely on an assumption that cannot be proven. The Old Testament was legitimately seen as canonical and relevant to the New Covenant church (2 Timothy 3:16 cf. Rom 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 Cor 14:21; Eph 6:1-3; 1Tim 1:8-10). Even at the Acts 15 Council, the Law was seen as useful, “For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) Waldron rightly points out, “the Christian is under the Law as a rule of life. He is obligated to obey its instruction in righteousness.” (2017:18) The Old Testament was seen as inspired, and a rule of faith, the apostolic/prophetic revelation and tradition, namely the New Testament should be seen as an authentic and inspired commentary of the Old Testament not as a replacement.

Second, Christ’s own admission refutes any claim that Sabbath would be abolished: “”Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20) The only laws that the Scriptures present as being “not for today,” are those positive laws (ceremonial and civil laws), “For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law.” (Heb. 7:12 cf. Ephesians 2:15) It is important to note here that the Reformed distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws are not arbitrary; but rather they present a dichotomy between essential/moral laws which are transcovenantal, and positive laws which are time-bound expressions of the one covenant of grace. The New Covenant presents a positive institution of the Lord’s Supper and baptism (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:25), which replaces the positive institutions of the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant (Heb 8:6; 12:24).

Third, Christ himself points to the natural or moral aspect of the Sabbath law. He states, “He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Matt 2:27) Christ furthermore identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, indicative of the fact that the Sabbath was a divine institution rather than a time-bound Old Covenant practice (Matt 2:28). Considering this alongside the Sabbath’s consecration at creation, it is hard to simply dismiss the on-going validity of the Sabbath law (Genesis 2:2-3).

A proper Christological hermeneutic does not assert something arbitrary. NC Theologians need to indicate to us why the Sabbath has been abolished when the emphatic teaching of the New Testament implies something else (Matt 5:17-20). The Decalogue by necessity stands, as Christ demonstrated. The conclusion of NCT theologians is one that therefore leads to a precarious and dubious premise, the premise of Genesis proclaims a Sabbath rest before the Mosaic covenant, and Christ does not seem to water this down in his own declaration,

Sunday or Saturday?

I do not intend to go into lengthy discussions and proposals as to why the Reformed church has historically held to a first-day observance/administration of the Sabbath. But I will point a few things out:

Firstly, the Sabbath is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:2-3). The consecration of the Sabbath at the creation did not have specific stipulations. The Mosaic stipulations came after the giving of the Law, before that the rationale or stipulations for the Sabbath were not positive spelled out as is here found (Exodus 20:8-10; 35:2). These Mosaic stipulations are bound to the Mosaic covenant, therefore the New Covenant administration of the Sabbath need not be seen as the necessity of the seventh day (Waldron 2017:22-25). At the same time, I concede Waldron’s other point, “It is possible to argue for a Christian Sabbath without necessarily presupposing the creation ordinance. One need only see that as the Sabbath memorialized the redemption of Israel from Egypt to rest in Canaan, so the Lord’s Day memorializes the redemption of the Church in Christ to the resurrection-rest of the Eternal Sabbath.” (2017:60) No matter how someone is able to spin it, the Sabbath stands on both the fact that it was consecrated at creation, and at the same time the covenantal unity between Old and New covenants.  The NCT hermeneutic unnecessarily over spiritualizes the clear practice of Sabbath-keeping, something which is not warranted by the text. A proposition that supposes that the Sabbath has been abolished in Christ is as valid as saying that we no longer keep the rest of the commandments, simply because they have been fulfilled. It is altogether dubious.

Secondly, the Sabbath is natural as marriage. Marriage just like the Sabbath, was instituted at creation, yet in the same sense and the same (or similar) way, marriage did not have specific stipulations, expect the essential stipulations given at Genesis (Genesis 2:24). Christ when correcting a faulty understanding of marriage did not point to the Mosaic administration, he rather alluded to natural/moral law, as it was in the beginning (Mark 10:6). When NCT and dispensationalist theologians propose their understanding of the Sabbath, we have only to point to the way it has always been – that from beginning, there has always been one day in seven that had to be kept as holy.

Third, the church gathered on the first day of the week rather than the seventh (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). At least, this is what we know historically and it is found upon the premise that Christ was risen on the first not the seventh day (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2-9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1-19). The apostolic/ecclesiastical pattern shows that the first day, was the day of corporate worship and rest for the church. Historically also, the term “Lord’s Day,” “κυριακη ημερα” (Rev 1:10) coincides with the “the Lord’s Supper,” “κυριακον δειπνον” (1 Cor 11:20) in the original Greek.  Here then we view the Lord’s Supper as a Sunday institution of the church. It needs to be rightly pointed out that the term “Lord” in both are adjectives not nouns. It is the “Lord’s-day” and the “Lord’s-Supper,” not merely the day and supper of the Lord. Herein, there is a separation between the eschatological day of the Lord and the Lord’s Day (2 Peter 3:10). Remember the Lord’s Supper; namely “the breaking of bread” was the practice for the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) “They are marked by the only two occurrences of the strong possessive form of “Lord” in the New Testament, κυριακος. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, we read of the Lord’s Supper, and in Revelation 1:10 of the Lord’s Day—both memorialize the redeeming work of Christ. Just as the Passover memorialized the sacrifice that secured the redemption, so also the Lord’s Supper recalls the great sacrifice that finished redemption. As the Sabbath memorializes the blessing purchased in the Exodus, so also the Lord’s Day reminds us of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of redemption.” (Waldron 2017:58) In the mind of the Jew, what Christians were doing, was in fact, functionally, a Christian Sabbath, “and make my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God.” (Ezekiel 20:20)

Important also is Waldron’s other comment, “Jews, like the disciples of Christ, were prepared to see the significance of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week by the peculiar significance of first and eighth days in the Old Testament economy. These days were not necessarily, of course, the first (or eighth) day of the week—but that is not the point. Despite this, the fact remains that, in a pervasive way, the Old Testament economy was fitted to give the impression of a special religious significance associated with first and eighth days in succession. It is this general impression that prepared the Jewish disciples of Christ to give more than passing interest to the fact of Christ’s first-day resurrection. With reference to the first day, a number of considerations are significant. The first day of Passover was a holy assembly (Exo 12:15-16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). The first day of the Feast of Booths was a holy assembly (Lev 23:35, 39).” (2017:72)

Explicit Sabbatarian Expectations in the New Testament

Finally, there are positive commands in the New Testament which indicate that principle of Sabbath-keeping stands for Christians.

Hebrews 4:9, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.”

The explicit teaching here is that there remains a “Sabbath-keeping” for the people of God (the new covenant church – 4:9), paralleled by “not forsaking our own assembling together.” (10:25) Waldron remarks, “In fact, precisely because it is fulfilled in Christ, it is continued in the Lord’s Day. We have to do here with the peculiar effect that the overlapping of the ages (the old and new creations) have upon the typical institutions of the Old Covenant. Notice how the following diagram of the relations of Sabbath and Lord’s Day parallels that of Passover and Lord’s Supper.” (2017:59) Hebrews 4 notes that the people of God (in the Old Testament) needed faith to enter into the rest, this is comparable to us who need to enter into the rest as well. Hebrew’s point is that there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God, as we wait for the Day (the eschatological Sabbath coming in the future) – Hebrews 10:25. The term for “sabbath-keeping” (4:9) is “sabbatismos,” Richard Barcellos, graciously making a snippet of his book available on the Confession Baptist site remarks,

“That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now… Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern” (Barcellos 2016:n.p.).

Just as the Sabbath of the old covenant looks back to the Sabbath at the old creation, the New Covenant’s Lord’s day looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath in eternity.

Furthermore, my final consideration is based on the Decalogue itself. On what premise do we base that the law of the Decalogue has been superseded by a new law? The transcovenantal nature of the Decalogue is clearly seen in the Messiah’s own point, which namely the Law will always stand (Matthew: 17-20). It is interesting that Christ never once really attacks the Mosaic Law; he rather puts the erring application of the Law in his time on trial. He has an issue with “what is said,” (Matthew 5:38; 42) but not what “what is written”. These Matthew 5 points which Christ speaks about is emphatically not Christ criticizing the Law as I have heard, but rather the erring application of the Law, probably the currently Rabbinic interpretations or some erringly Jewish understandings. Christ hereby interprets what the Law is really about, and interprets it giving it a better understanding. I propose that this is what is meant by “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The Law of Christ is not some kind of ethereal kind of commandment floating in the air applied by some kind of subjective feeling of love, nor is it utterly distinct from the Decalogue (2 Cor 3:3).

Conclusion

It is hard to fight a theological position which is propagated ad nauseam in Christian book stores. Dispensationalism and her daughter NCT continue to influence theological academia. As for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we propose a strong antidote to a theological position which hinges upon a faulty assumption. The Sabbath, the Lord’s Day stands. The Decalogue has not been abolished, and I find no basis to conclude that NCT can legitimately present itself without some drastic error. I would rather do what God commands, than build a theology of the Sabbath on silence.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bibliography

Waldron S 2017. The Lord’s Day: Its Presuppositions, Proofs, Precedents, and Practice.  Chapel Library. Pensacola, Florida

Barcellos R 2016. Getting the Garden Wrong: A Critique of New Covenant Theology on the Covenant of Works and the Sabbath. Founders Press, from a forthcoming book. (http://confessingbaptist.com/upcoming-book-snippet-on-the-remaining-sabbatismos-for-the-people-of-god-heb-49-richard-barcellos/)

The Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666)

Anthony W. Brooks

 

No doubt, many see this subject as thrilling and terrifying. This is mostly due to the majority of Americans (and possibly evangelicals around the world) holding to a dispensational view of eschatology. The futurism of the majority of mainstream evangelicals paired with the Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind have turned the question of the Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666) into a superstition instead of an exegetically answerable question.

Possible answers to the question

I will be leaving out the Futurist point of view. Mainly that they don’t offer answers to the question at hand but conjecture. The two typical camps that do offer answers are the Historicist and Preterist camps. Lets define terms:

Known Postmillennialist, Doug Wilson, provides accurate and short definitions for these two terms in his “Primer on Eschatology”.

Historicism– A historicist is one who believes the prophecy of Revelation was fulfilled, and is being fulfilled down through church history.

Preterism– A preterist is one who believes that the prophecy of Revelation was largely fulfilled in the first century.

So with these two definitions in mind we are ready to reveal our case for a fulfilled prophesy for the Beast of Revelation and His Mark (666).

 

Revelation 11: 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

This is the first mention of the beast of Revelation. Here you have the witnesses pouring out their testimony over the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt which we assume is the Earth. The witnesses have fire proceeding from their mouths that devour their enemies. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. The beast rises from the pit and makes war on the witnesses to conquer and kill them. Their bodies lay in the street of the city where their Lord was Crucified. It is obvious that the Lord killed here is our Savior Jesus. And this symbolically makes the city mentioned here Jerusalem. Typically we can apply a larger and more current context of this city here being the world. In other interpretations this is significant because of verse two. 2 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. This is either foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD or the persecution of the Church under Nero Caesar. Our next text will open this up more.

 

Revelation 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” 5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear: 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

The beast rising out of the sea is representative of his persecuting power. He was like a leopard with feet like a bear, and a mouth like a lion. This is an obvious parallel to the Book of Daniel 7:1–8, 17–27. The dragon gave authority to this beast and the people worshipped the dragon and the beast. This beast could be the governments of Asia who persecuted the churches in Asia. The beast was allowed to exercise his authority 42 months, again, this could be the persecution under Nero Caesar for the 42 months of his reign which could make him the dragon mentioned here. Also this passage mentions that if anyone slays any with the sword then he will be slain with the sword. Nero persecuted the church greatly from 64 AD to June of 68 AD (42 months). This is too exact to miss. And Nero committed suicide with the sword in 68 AD.

This parallel gets more interesting in our next passage.

Revelation 13:11 Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

We have another persecuting beast rising out of the land. This beast had two horns like a lamb. This beast could be a false prophet who points people toward a false messiah. This is even more likely when we see the mortal wound of the first beast healed. This beast had committed a false miracle like the Resurrection of Christ to deceive the nations. Next we see the mark of the beast. Exactly who the beast is that represents this mark is uncertain as of yet, but we can assume who the mark historically belongs to. The common belief was that this is the numeric value of Nero’s name in Hebrew. נרון קסר or “nrvn qsr” is the normal way of numericizing it. The value of Nero’s name in Hebrew characters is 666. There is a textual variant of 616 which can also be numericized into Nero’s name. “נרו קסר” or “nrv qsr”. Either way it is clearly Nero. Nero is also hypothesized to be the beast of the sea. Namely because he has a resurrection legend that would mirror the healing of the mortal wound.

Revelation 17:1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” 3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

This is interesting. There is a prostitute sitting on the waters. All the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, probably better to say fornication sense she is a prostitute. The dwellers of the earth have become drunk. There is another woman sitting on a scarlet beast. This beast had 7 heads and 10 horns. This woman held a golden cup full of abominations and impurities of her sexual immoralities. Her forehead had the inscription that called her Babylon the Great, mother of prostitutes and of Earth’s abominations. She was drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs. This probably means she was responsible for the martyrdom and persecution of the church.

 

When I saw her, I marveled greatly. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

The beast is called “was, and is not, and is”. This phrase makes a deliberate statement that this is symbolic language. About to rise from the bottomless pit. This is connecting this beast with the beast of chapter 11. The people of the earth who are not the saints of Christ will marvel at this beast and probably idolize him. John makes an exceptional statement here… This calls for a mind with wisdom… This means that John is deliberately inviting us to interpret what he says next. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. So the seven heads of the beast represent 7 mountains upon which one woman sits. Rome is known as that city that sits on 7 hills so this woman is Rome. Why do I say this? Well, because if John is asking for the mind of wisdom to interpret this in a first century context it makes perfect sense to say it is Rome, the imperial power of their day. They are also seven kings… as in emperors of that great city, Rome. Five of whom have fallen… In the context of Rome this could be Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, Nero (one is), and Galba is the other has not yet come. Also, Galba fits the bill in the next phrase “and when he does come he must remain only a little while”. This is because he only ruled Rome for seven months in between Nero and Otho in the year 69 (which was known as the year of four emperors). It goes on to mention the ten horns that have yet to receive power as rulers. These will give authority to the beast and will make war on the Lamb (Christ).

 

15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

The water is explained for us in the text as peoples, multitudes, and languages. The beast and the horns hate the prostitute. It is the will of God from all eternity for them to rise up and destroy her. This has been assumed to be the destruction of Jerusalem, but could also be the sacking of Rome or Constantinople (depending on whether you use a preterist or historicist interpretation)

 

Conclusion:

The futurist interpretation does not take into account the obvious historical evidences that the Christians of that day would have pointed to for understanding of this book. The evidences of Rome being the city on seven hills. The seven heads of the beast being the 7 emperors. It is rather evident that john was inviting his immediate readers to reason the meaning of these things (Revelation 17:9a). In the immediate context of these statements, Rome was the only city on seven hills, the value of Nero’s name in Hebraic characters is 666 or 616 (which to anyone familiar with the language and its quantities would have been aware of).

Of course, this is just one possible interpretation. There are many others that are possible senarios to view this passage. Eschatology is not a monolith… there has to be limits, but there can be disagreements. Apocalyptic literature can be tiring and confusing. A beast can have seven heads in one passage and ten in another. A woman can sit on land in one section and water in the other. There is a mortal wound in one verse and it is healed in the next. Keeping up with it all is confusing but exhilarating. But let’s not come away with anything novel without realizing the implications of historical theology.

Soli Deo Gloria!

My Favorite Study Bibles

Anthony W. Brooks

1200px-GenevaBible

There are many helps that the Christians can use to understand the scriptures in a better light. There are commentaries, lectionaries, lexicons, interlinears, concordances, dictionaries, and many many many other resources. But the most widely used and purchased is the Study Bible. Of course, they come in various sizes, translations, theological preferences, etc… So, it’s no surprise that my favorite study bible isn’t my wife’s favorite, or my sister’s favorite, or my pastor’s favorite.

I only carry around two different study bibles. The reason for this is the size of many of these tomes is incredible. When we put size in the equation it can change the dynamic of the game. Whether or not you want to invest in a particular study bible depend on whether you want to carry your study bible with you or mind leaving on your desk at home.

My recommendations are already posted on the Resource page. But I figured I would go ahead and make a post over this subject.

At the end of each review I’ll rate on a scale of A, B, C, D, F on four things in the order I list them:

Translation Variety– How many translations is a particular study bible available in? Not everyone likes the NASB, ESV, NKJV, KJV, NIV etc… So diversity helps spread the bibles reach.

Study Note Quality– How detailed and frequent are the study notes? This is key, since study bibles are known for their notes. Detail and volume can either make or break a study bible.

Durability and portability– How durable is the bible? And how portable is it? Being well made is a must in a study bible. This is your go-to resource for quick questions. One needs it to be portable and durable.

Theological Preference– How theologically diverse is this study bible? The caveat here is that we are only reviewing reformed leaning study bibles. But on issues like Infant Baptism, Eschatology, and ecclesiology it’s nice to have diversity for differing viewpoints in the Reformed camp.

I’ll start off by mentioning the three bibles that changed the American Evangelical Church and influenced the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement most thoroughly:

  1. The MacArthur Study Bible- This is a medium sized Bible that has many things going for it. This is one of the study bibles that I am actually willing to carry around because it is the top of the portable scale. Here are some features that Grace to You advertises for this study bible: Nearly 25,000 explanatory notes from John MacArthur, More than 140 two-color maps, charts, timelines, and illustrations, Introductions to each Bible book, Index to key biblical doctrines, Over 80,000 cross-references, Extensive concordance, A section of full-color maps, Bible reading plans, Concise articles on “How We Got the Bible” and “Introduction to the Bible”, Dimensions: 9.5”x7”, Text size: 8.7 point, Note size: 7.6 point. So it is safe to say that this bible is loaded with helpful resources. But, all of the study notes are from John MacArthur’s personal opinion. This makes this study bible very biased on a few key theological points: credobaptism, dispensational premillennialism, sacramentology, and ecclesiology. But the diversity of the translation and the durability and portability have good scores. Final scores: A, A, B, D.

 

  1. The ESV Study Bible- This is considered a large study bible. Made by Crossway, this is a very well-built bible in their genuine leather, trutone, and premium bindings. Opening this bible for the first time amazed me. THOUSANDS of study notes taking up every page. Aside from that here are a few features that Crossway adds to their website: Concordance, Extensive articles, 240 full-color maps and illustrations, Includes thumb indexes, Smyth-sewn binding. So, this bible is just as loaded as the last. The notes are also diverse on eschatology, ecclesiology, and the credo/Paedobaptism issue. But this study bible is only available in the ESV bible translation. That fact is okay with me (I love the ESV), but for my friends in the Confessional Bibliology groups it isn’t preferred. I won’t give it an F for that (due to the readability of the translation), but it will get a below average score. Final Scores: D, A, C, A.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible 2015- This study bible is massive. I couldn’t carry this volume if I wanted to. Focusing on the entirety of Reformed orthodoxy, the theological bias is limited to the 3 streams of Reformed confessionalism: 3 Forms of Unity, Westminster Standards, and 1689 London Confession. It is available in two translations: ESV and NKJV. This makes it available to those who prefer the majority text and critical text. But not every majority text advocate prefers the NKJV and not every critical text advocate prefers the ESV. Durability is low as well. The build of this bible is problematic. I have seen the results of a hardcover, faux leather, and genuine leather Reformation Study Bible being used to death, not pretty. The common life expectancy of one of these bibles is 2 years before the cover comes off. But the quality of the study helps are unparalleled. Not only does it have a full verse by verse commentary, but multiple other helpful resources in the back. Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and an overview of Church History are among the helps. Final Scores: C, A, F, B.

 

Next we’ll cover a couple of extra study bibles that might also be of interest to you.

  1. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible- This is a medium sized and portable volume. The materials vary from goatskin to leather-touch but all well-built. The commentary is a very nice and thoroughly Reformed commentary, but has strong biases toward amillennial eschatology and Presbyterian church government. Also, a very biased view is taken toward covenant theology as opposed to Reformed Baptist covenant distinctives. But, there are some cool features offered: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms in the back of the bible. Thoughts for personal and family worship is added at the end of each chapter, and many others. As the name suggests this bible is only offered in the KJV making it obsolete to many who cannot understand the High modern English of the 17th Century. Final Scores: F, A, A, D.

 

  1. Reformation Study Bible (Condensed Edition)- This is a small and especially portable bible. The materials vary from hard cover to genuine leather. But, like its larger predecessor, the quality of build is problematic. Unlike Crossway’s leathertouch materials (which are Smyth-sewn), the leather-like covers only come in glued in bindings. The font is small so if you are hard of seeing, probably not for you. The study notes are a condensed version of the larger version. Over-all they are good, but not as extensive and leaves many questions unanswered. Theologically, the notes lean toward the more narrow Presbyterian covenant theology like its larger counterpart. Also, this bible is only available in the ESV, leaving its diversity of translation lacking. Final Scores: D, C, D, D.

 

The ability to look at these study bibles objectively is a good help for those of us who desire to have an overall good look at these resources. So it looks like the MacArthur Study Bible edged out all others in the objective score.

Of course, the scoring was subjective to my theological preferences, preference of bindings, and what I consider to be good commentary. But, when I judge these bibles I tried not to compare them, but judge them in overall usefulness. If you like the ESV, prefer Covenant theology, and don’t mind a large volume the ESV Reformation Study Bible might be for you. But if you only read the KJV the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible might be a good fit. If you just want an evangelical study bible the ESV Study Bible or MacArthur Study Bible might be good fits. There are plenty of good choices to go around here.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Confronting the Cage-Stage

Skyler Gerald
The idea of the cage-stage is all too familiar both inside and outside the reformed
community. It is the common ailment that occurs when someone first comes to affirm the doctrines of grace. They are loud and proud and will let you know they’re a Calvinist whether you asked or not; whether you’re a Calvinist or not (though especially if you’re not). It stays for a period of time until whether in their own reading of Scripture, prayer, or a loving brother/sister in Christ confronts them of it. Then it passes often leaving behind a trail of harmed friendships. Most of us know one and a lot of us were one.

Now, we can all agree that a desire to know the truth is important. We all eagerly want to
learn more about God, what he has done, and what he’s doing. But we have to ask ourselves, is this form of theological discussion in yelling and frustration biblical and edifying? Before we answer that question we first need to look at where the cage-stage even comes from. We know that it happens when people first become Calvinists but why?
A lot of current and former cage-stage Calvinists (though current cage-stage Calvinists
probably won’t acknowledge that they’re indeed cage-stage) will tell you that it sprouted from them feeling that they were “stupid” before and that they wish they had known earlier. That’s a very important thing to understand about all of this as we analyze whether this is Biblical or not. Romans 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 3:6-9 are crucial passages to look at here because they tell us the state of our minds and who it is that gives us the wisdom we need given our state. Romans 3:11a reads, “no one understands”. Left to our own devices we do not know what we need to know about God; we are not wise but fools. That’s not a very pretty thing think about… until we see what happens in spite of that. God, seeing our foolish state as we were steeped in sin, graciously opened our eyes to the reality of Himself (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Though He uses people to share his gospel, it is ultimately God who lets that truth penetrate their hearts. This is also not merely
talking on the occurrence that takes place at regeneration. It is the reality that we need to depend on the Holy Spirit for the truth. As I said, left to our own devices… we are fools.
Okay, God is sovereign and we need to depend on him for our understanding. That’s all
well and good, but what effect does all of this ultimately have on cage-stage Calvinism? There’s a reason why I said that cage-stage calvinists’ feeling of former stupidity is important. It assumes that our knowledge of biblical truths depend on our own intellect; our own ability to understand. But that is a gross misunderstanding of our need for the wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17). I had once known a reformed professor of theological studies (who’s name and institution I will refrain from mentioning) once say, “Atheists are stupid, that’s why they don’t believe”. I couldn’t believe my ears. Now, of course Calvinists would not (or at least should not) say that non-Calvinists aren’t believers but I think the flawed argument is the same nonetheless. We must
depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and instruct us, not our own depraved strength and minds. If we do we will know that, where we can affirm doctrines such as Calvinism and attempt to instruct others on their truths, it is ultimately God who administers wisdom among the believers and being loud and arrogant does nothing but hinder.

It is also additionally important for those who do not affirm the doctrines of grace to
know that experiences with cage-stage Calvinists, where very unpleasant, do not affect the truth of Calvinism. Calvinists, don’t be a cage-stager and don’t encourage it. Non-Calvinists, give your cage-stage brothers and sisters in Christ some grace and love them as God first loved you.

**Feature photo courtesy of Adam Ford**

Soli Deo Gloria!