A Study of Baptism in Scripture, Part 1

The investigation of historical evidence for believer’s baptism1 has been less profitable than one might wish. It did little to persuade my paedo-baptist friends to convert to credo-baptism. And the ensuing discussion made me a little concerned about whether they are still my friends. Before going forward with the last part of the discussion, let’s look at biblical evidence for infant and believer’s baptism.

Apostolic practice

First, what do the Scriptures say was done under the supervision of the apostles? The book of Acts tells of new believers who were baptized and welcomed into the church. The baptism of believing adults was part of the missionary endeavor of the church. Jesus commanded it in the Great Commission.

In Acts 8:36-38, Philip finishes explaining the gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”2 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Baptists sometimes point to v. 37 as a clear statement about what it takes to be baptized: faith. But a closer look will show that it doesn’t logically exclude infant baptism. The eunuch asks, “What prevents me from baptism?” Peter answers: faith. “Me” in this question is an adult. What prevents an adult from being baptized? Faith. Reformed paedo-baptists would give the same answer today. Like Philip, they refuse to baptize an adult who does not give a credible profession of faith. But the eunuch only asked about himself. He didn’t ask about infants.

Household baptism

Paedo-baptists also believe that the oikos formula (“and his/her household”) indicates infant baptism.3 The book of Acts mentions several households that were baptized. Paedo-baptists argue that a “household” in this day was a large multi-generational group, which surely included infants. So, if households were baptized, we should assume that infants were baptized. Acts 16 offers an example:

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (ESV, Acts 16:13-16)

But if the use of oikos for baptisms proves infant baptism, it must also prove other things, such as infants fearing God (Acts 10:2), infants rejoicing (Acts 16:34) and infants believing (Acts 18:8).

The answer of a good conscience

The foyer of my childhood Lutheran church had a small tract about infant baptism. As I remember, it read, “The Apostle says, ‘baptism now saves us.’” I thought, “Wow, that would seem to settle it—is that really in the Bible?” It was.

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (NKJV, 1 Pet. 3:21)

Despite its use by my Lutheran church to defend baptismal regeneration, this passage may be read differently. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown describe the word “answer”:

answerGreek, “interrogation”; referring to the questions asked of candidates for baptism; eliciting a confession of faith “toward God” and a renunciation of Satan ([AUGUSTINE, The Creed, 4.1]; [CYPRIAN, Epistles, 7, To Rogatianus]), which, when flowing from “a good conscience,” assure one of being “saved.” Literally, “a good conscience’s interrogation (including the satisfactory answer) toward God.”4

In other words, accepting baptism is the answer that comes from a person whose conscience has been made right—regenerated. The early church conflated baptism with regeneration in much the same way that some modern Baptists have conflated praying a sinner’s prayer with regeneration. Many modern Christians speak as though (and even believe) that praying a prayer saves us. We would not have prayed for salvation if we didn’t believe. For us, a prayer was the response of the regenerated sinner. For the first century Christian, baptism was the response. And it “saved them” in the same sense that the sinner’s prayer “saves.”

Others read this as “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (e.g., ESV). The appeal could include either a new believer asking God for forgiveness or perhaps parents appealing to God, by means of baptism, for the future regeneration of their child.

1 Corinthians 7:14 tells us that the children are made holy by believing parents. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether the rite of baptism is a means of that sanctification. There is a sense of expectant waiting in this verse regarding unbelieving spouses. Similarly, we should expectantly await the regeneration of our children. The question of whether to baptize them in anticipation of this or to wait for signs of faith is not addressed in this passage.

Buried with Him in baptism

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (ESV, Col. 2:11-12)

Both sides use this passage. It is possible that this refers primarily to spiritual baptism into Christ. It is said to be a circumcision “without hands.” And it does say, “through faith.” Paul is saying that the baptism he has in mind works through faith. There are objections from paedo-baptists: First, whose faith is in view? Some see the faith of the parents or of the church. Second, at what point in time does the faith work? Can faith follow the baptism, but still work through the knowledge of the event? Can baptism help us understand that we are in God’s family, even though it happened to us long before we were regenerated? After all, the old covenant believer was “cut off” from the world to God long before he was able to demonstrate faith. And circumcision was to remind him later in life that he was “cut off.” This brings up the question of the similarity of, or difference between, the covenants. This will be discussed in Part 2.

This study has not been exhaustive, but to my knowledge, there is no clear direct Scriptural evidence for or against either form of baptism. What one side holds as clearly supporting their view the other side simply views another way.

Notes

1 Baptism in Church History, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

2 There are textual challenges to the last half of verse 36. Trends towards baptismal regeneration and infant baptism would seem to incline editors to remove rather than to add this statement. If it was added, it is more likely to have been added by a believer in believer’s baptism.

3 For an extended discussion, see: Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries, Joachim Jeremias, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1960, pp. 76-78.

4 Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary on 1 Peter 3, available online: http://www.blueletterbible.org/commentaries/comm_view.cfm?AuthorID=7&con…. Square bracketed content original.

[node:bio/dan-miller body]

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Rob Fall's picture

with the gist of your original statement. I changed the wording to clearly place the blame on the proper door step. (If the Irish couldn't settle their front of the Thirty Years War until the Easter Accords, don't expect me to have a shorter memory.)

James K wrote:
Rob, I think I worded that wrong. I was saying that the blood spilled was the blood of baptists because of the persecution of the paedos.

SNIP

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

JT Hoekstra's picture

In my first post I said it was Eph 3, a slip of the typo. It's Eph 4 and it still says one baptism. You can dismiss me with a label if you like, it still says one baptism. No where does scripture say "it is still a church requirement" and then undo the rest of the commandments He gave the Apostles that they practiced*. You are wanting so bad for scriptures to prove your point you have to chase a rabbit down many holes to reach your conclusion. I grant you water baptism is there, in the early Acts period, but when God through Paul narrowed it to one baptism you cannot find water in the context, the passage or for the church age. Water baptism, like tongues, ceased. Sure some continued to sprinkle, dunk once forward or three times backward, etc., but if you think it is so important there should be more detailed ritual instructions. Instead Paul emphasizes heavenly things, not earthly baptism in the river Jordan, or a bath tub. It becomes a stain glass window issue and divisive, as in Corinth. Even buildings are a tradition - shouldn't we be meeting in homes or caves? The importance you place on it is the importance YOU place on it...not our Lord.

Paul took a Nazarite vow. When have you done that? Paul ritually fasted but then negated holy days, like feast days. You traditionally celebrate Easter and Christmas? So do I but I admit it is a tradition and is like every other day. ONE baptism and only one should unite us, and that is the baptism of the Holy Spirit plunging us into the body of Christ, making us brothers and sisters to each other. There are so many other traditions on water baptism you cannot agree here on what it means or why to do it. Some scriptures you allude to demands it as if required, and yet as time went on it was no longer the strong sign of belief that it once was, because the kingdom and Israel was gradually set on the shelf.

Timothy had his foreskin ritually removed...do you wait the 8 days for your male children? Why cut it at all? You cannot pick and choose. But you do, as you do not answer all my questions or rebut my statements, you simply give blanket answers that avoid specifics and add glittering generalities. Look up the work 'one' in a Bible dictionary. It means one, and in both contexts of I Cor. 12 and Eph, 4 there is no water anywhere near those passages. One means one in Greek, yet you want at least 2 but won't take a stand on which 2, you assume maybe that Matt 28 is for all time because the words are in red letter in your Bible? So were the words "Owe no man anything." You don't answer why Christ tells you to obey ALL His commands in Matt. 28:29 but you only want to tell me that applies to water baptism. All means all. You can't pick and choose.

*One thing that does puzzle me is they were told to 'go' into all the world yet years later they were still in Jerusalem. Probably waiting for the kingdom?

The single most problem with water baptism is the confusion between it and salvation. It is the churches' fault, of course, but when asked to give a testimony so many I have heard start out saying, "I was baptized in 1989..." or whatever. The equation is there, rampant and could have eternally bad consequences. I'm sure you explain carefully the difference, but then someone might ask "Why immersion"? (and hopefully emmersion).

Yes, I am a dispensationalist and I have mentioned that before. Let's talk about the Lord's Supper and rightly dividing the Word of truth sometime...

Cheers,

jt

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

See H. A. Ironside (and others) on the approach to Scripture that results in views like denying that water baptism is for this age--or calling it a tradition of men. Even if we suppose for the sake of argument that Christ's command to baptize with water was for a limited time, how can anything Christ commanded be "a tradition of men"?

Recommend, as a starting point:
http://cnonline.net/~rkmiller/ultradispensationalism-ironside.htm#ch7

I hear C. Ryrie is pretty good on this issue also though I don't have a link.

(As for Christ's command to sell all you have and give to the poor, etc., as with anything else in Scripture, Jesus must be read in context. Something He says to one person to challenge him to examine his heart is quite different from what He teaches repeatedly over a 40 day period to all of His disciples!).

An excerpt from Ironside

Quote:
It has been said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit superseded water baptism, but Scripture teaches the very contrary. Cornelius and his household were baptized with the Holy Spirit when they believed the Word spoken by Peter. But the apostle, turning to his Jewish brethren, immediately asks: "Who can forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" And they were at once baptized by authority of the Lord Jesus, which is what the expression "in the name of" involves. This was not a meritorious act. It was a blessed and precious privilege granted to this Gentile household upon the evidence of their faith in Christ.

Rob H's picture

With all due respect, being a layman of little education... And I hope I'm not missing something here - It's hard to see the similarity between the cessation of circumcision and baptism, much as I can't make the end of feasts/ceremonial calendars jive with an end to the Lord's Supper.

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

Quote:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

If we miss the great importance of the centrality of the church and proper administration therein, we certainly can lose the value and validity of baptism (as well as the Supper).* This makes it all too easy to classify the sacraments/ordinances as ceased along with sign-gifts like healing and tongues. In fact one thing that stands out is that Christ didn't tell the apostles, in the Great Commission to "baptize and heal" but just baptize. And so, healing as a sign-and-testament to the veracity of the preacher's Gospel is gone.

Christ didn't tell the apostles to administer the Holy Spirit. He told them to baptize disciples. This wasn't even a revolutionary commandment since the practice had been in force in some form prior to Christ's incarnation in the first place. Post-Acts lack of reference to water, whether sprinkling or immersion has no bearing in the discussion as it was normative to baptize. Baptism is assumed, if you will.

I'd like to refer to the two long-standing documents that helped me to most make sense of the lasting value and importance of baptism: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.vi.xvi.html Calvin's Institutes "Of Baptism" and http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ Westminster Confession "Of Baptism" . These make much more of baptism (in accordance with what sure seems to be solid Scriptural reference) than the idea that it is a plain profession or hoop to jump in the process of becoming officially-socially Christian.

I'm a convinced paedo, but I'm not greatly interested in the can-o-worms that pops when we get into the fight over which is correct. Mode is even less worth treatment as an important controversy. But a suggestion that water baptism is nulled just can't work. The argument using "one" baptism seems to miss the fact that God is working through an outward sign of an inward reality. Baptism = entry into the visible, known church (temporal) wherein Spirit Baptism is entry into the Spiritual Kingdom (eternal).

*Most importantly, though not keeping with topic, I find it very difficult to accept the claim here:

Quote:
One thing that does puzzle me is they were told to 'go' into all the world yet years later they were still in Jerusalem. Probably waiting for the kingdom?

Acts 8 and 10, the Samaritans were reached and then Cornelius, the good Centurion, the Gospel was brought to Samaria and to all the world in accordance with the Great Commission. What follows there is nothing less than a continuous Gospel cry that flowed from the first churches out to the rest of the world. In our era, right now, we are born into it - the Gospel is here, at the end of the earth.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We're pretty much debating hyperdispensationalism now... which is sort of off topic. (But maybe after close to 30 posts on topic that's OK?)

But on that topic, I'll add to Rob H's observations that the reason the feasts/circumcision etc. end is that they are features of the Mosaic covenant that are obsolete with the coming (sort of) of the New Covenant.
Unless the hyperdisps are prepared to argue that there is yet another covenant that replaces the new one, it doesn't seem there is any argument along the lines of "OT stuff that passed away" that can work in favor of ending baptism and the Lord's Supper.
It's also pretty hard to get past "show the Lord's death til He comes" (!), though I'm sure the hyperdispies believe they have a way to do that.

As for Institutes and Westminster Confession: they do indeed make much of baptism. From my POV, too much (or the wrong kind of much)... in the sense that both baptism and Lord's supper are understood in the context of a view of the relationship between sacraments and grace.
As a descendent of the "radical reformation"--at least in this respect--I do not view baptism or communion as being sacramental in any meaningful sense.

So there's really two separate questions there:
1. paedo/household vs. credo/individual
2. the meaning and power of the rite in relation to grace

G. N. Barkman's picture

Aaron,

Would you care to expand upon your comment that the New Covenant has "sort of" come? Or did I misunderstand what you said.

And thanks for the excellent Ironsides citation refuting hyper-dispensationalism.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Rob H's picture

Quote:
So there's really two separate questions there:
1. paedo/household vs. credo/individual
2. the meaning and power of the rite in relation to grace

Isn't the view of what Baptism means the real question?

If it's simply public assertion that one believes then credo. If it's crossing into the Christian Church, credo. And for those born within the Christian church, paedo (IOW Household).

Quote:
1 Corinthians 7:14 tells us that the children are made holy by believing parents. But that doesn’t answer the question of whether the rite of baptism is a means of that sanctification. There is a sense of expectant waiting in this verse regarding unbelieving spouses. Similarly, we should expectantly await the regeneration of our children. The question of whether to baptize them in anticipation of this or to wait for signs of faith is not addressed in this passage.

Baptism isn't sanctification. We're talking about two different flavors here. Kids born and raised in the church are "made holy" in that they are not raised outside the church and her Gospel. We should certainly await their response to the Gospel and fulfillment of what baptism signifies. Like the seeds sown in the soil, we plant, WATER and wait. Not all seeds come up - to God be the glory.

I'd at least like to recommend making sure the positions are squared. The legitimate disagreement between credopaedo and solocredo positions should be represented accurately.

JT Hoekstra's picture

There's just a label for everything, ain't there? Ya'll are quick to put things in a tidy box and smugly tuck it in the nonsense file, but only if you disagree.

Aaron, Ironside was never wrong, therefore we put him in the Pope file, correct?

C Ryrie dealt with it by fudging, he says there is one baptism: one real and one ritual. Love me some Ryrie, but that's just making stuff up and bad math.

No one here has commented on Matt. 19:20, where the words of Christ in red ALSO says the disciples were to keep ALL that HE commanded, not just go forth, teach and baptize. However, I understand that those 3 things are all you want, so you pluck 19:19 out of the page and put it on your front sign, "this is what we do, BAPTIZE." You put a traditional tub up above the pulpit in front and say, "this is what we do, BAPTIZE."

I am not a hyper, ultra or whatever. I am an independent, and whereas I have quoted scripture it seems ya'll do the baptist 'pick 'n choose' method, as well as quote famous authors even if they disagree with scripture.

When Christ gave the Lord's Supper, were the 12 looking for a church age that would last 2000 years, or His immediate return? When they stayed in Jerusalem were they obeying His command to GO to the ends of the Earth? No, they were waiting (in Jerusalem) for His immediate return. If you believe these two things are 'sacraments' of the church then ya'll haven't gone far enough out of the reformation.

I am not the only independent lay student that sees the unique apostleship of Paul and his ministry to the church. That is called a new dispensation that even Peter had a hard time understanding (he admitted it), so I understand why there might be a few here who do not get it as well.

One means one, and Paul states the words he wrote are the words of Christ. Paul's writings should be in red, if that would help (so should much of scripture as well).

And if ONE person thinks they are bound for heaven due to their being dunked, they have been horribly duped. If one household thinks their child is saved because their child was sprinkled, they have been adding to the gospel of I Cor. 15 and are messing with one's eternal salvation possibly.

Cheers,

jt

James K's picture

JT, if it walks like a hyper, talks like a hyper, it is probably a hyper.

You believe the gospel has changed from age to age. You believe the gospel preached by Peter is different than what was preached by Paul. It is a waste of time to discuss baptism with you when you do not understand the gospel. If you understand the gospel, you would then be able to understand baptism. It isn't a guarantee because Paedos still exist. So I am not ignoring you, but I would prioritize the discussion. This is a thread about baptism though.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

JT Hoekstra's picture

The gospel has always been grace by faith buddy. You do understand that? Abraham had faith, Moses, I could go on but you get the drill.

Ignoring me means you are giving up, because...

...you do not understand ages, or economy, or many other good Bible words. Funny, Paul even uses 'dispensation' in Ephesians (KJV)!

Hide your head in the sand if you wish, but just as 'day' in Genesis (Hebrews) means 'day,' "one" in Ephesians (Greek) means "one."

M. Osborne's picture

It was a busy week, but I need to follow-up on what I said in a post above.

If under the New Covenant, children are now to be excluded, there would need to be some explicit teaching, says Charlie. I agree.

Galatians 3
Galatians 3:16 explains that the promise to Abraham's offspring was ultimately made to Christ. The law was a temporary measure (Gal. 3:19); it showed up sin for what it was to make justification by faith in Christ a clear necessity (Gal. 3:21-22). Galatians 3:23-25 goes on to emphasize justification by faith in contradistinction to the law. Galatians 3:26 says that our sonship is based not on physical decent but faith in Christ. Galatians 3:27 actually brings in baptism as a metonymy for our conversion experience: those who are baptized (it is assumed) are one with Christ. Can we say that of baptized infants? Hardly. Galatians 3:28-29 goes on to explain that the covenant community no longer looks at Jewishness or Gentileness (gentility? Smile ) is based on being one with Christ, which earlier in the passages was related to our faith in Christ.

Romans 9-11
Romans 9:6-8 explains that many physical Israelites were not saved because the spiritual reality was what really mattered. Romans 9:22-29 explains that election cuts across national boundaries. The spiritual reality is actually pursuing righteousness by faith (Rom. 9:30-31). What actually makes us part of the "tree" of God's covenant community is faith, not family ties (Rom. 11:17-24).

Hope this hurried response helps.

Grace and peace,
Mike

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

G. N. Barkman's picture

Mike,

Your last post was very helpful. Excellent analysis. May I add the observation that the OT said that the New Covenant would differ from the Old Covenant in several significant ways. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) One of these is that all the members of the New Covenant Community will be regenerated, unlike the mixture of regenerate and unregenerate in the Old Covenant Community.

Jeremiah states this as follows: "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD, For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (vs. 33,34)

As to your observation that baptism is a matonym for conversion in Galatians 3:27, I believe you are probably correct in thinking this is a reference to water baptism. (At least that is what I understood you to be saying.) I think the Ephesians 4:4 statement about "one baptism" is probably water baptism as well. Some assume it must be Spirit baptism, but that is only an assumption. It seems clear that nobody was considered a Christian in the First Century until they were baptized, and Paul is probably referring to the act of water baptism which unites all who name Christ. There is indeed, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism," ie, water baptism, which every follower of Christ in Paul's day had experienced, and is a powerful uniting force among believers. We all share the same experience of water baptism. It is only the passing of the centuries, and the myriads of differing practices which causes modern ears to think Paul means Spirit baptism. In his day, water baptism was not questioned.

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Someone asked a while back what I mean by “sort of”…
Well, it’s a huge topic and not quite the one we’re on here, but to generalize: the NC cannot really be “all the way here” because
a. It’s a covenant with Israel
b. Not everything it promises has occurred

If I remember right, Larry Pettegrew’s book included a nice short list of possible ways to understand the church’s relationship to the NC and I seem to recall that I agreed mostly with where he landed on the question.
So… book plug…

M. Osborne's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
It is only the passing of the centuries, and the myriads of differing practices which causes modern ears to think Paul means Spirit baptism. In his day, water baptism was not questioned.

This is the understanding I've been coming to on my most recent readings through Scripture. So many of the questions we ask of passages, the authors had no intention of answering.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

M. Osborne's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
If I remember right, Larry Pettegrew's book included a nice short list of possible ways to understand the church's relationship to the NC and I seem to recall that I agreed mostly with where he landed on the question.

Why call it the church? Why not just call it the "New Covenant Community"? There's room to understand the gradual fulfillment of the New Covenant promises. Jesus said the New Covenant was in His blood; and Hebrews 9:15 confirms that the New Covenant fulfillment began with His death and the forgiveness of sins. But the Spirit didn't come immediately; the gifts didn't come immediately.

Jews and Gentiles have been grafted into the same olive tree (Romans 11). But Romans 11 says nothing about Israel and the church. It just has one olive tree.

I'm making a point and not advocating that we drop the term "church" from common parlance. But if we're the true sons of Abraham by faith, grafted into the same olive tree, and spurred on to full assurance of faith on the basis of the New Covenant, if Paul was a minister of the New Covenant...why are we even asking what the relationship between the church and the New Covenant is?

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

James K's picture

M. Osborne, because many have a disease that is known as a hardening of the categories. Thank the likes of Ryrie for perpetuating divisions that exist in Systematic Theology but not the Bible.

The Church experiences so much of the NC.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Because the Scriptures call it the church from Acts onward. It's a biblical term.

Quote:
Jews and Gentiles have been grafted into the same olive tree (Romans 11). But Romans 11 says nothing about Israel and the church. It just has one olive tree.

Rom. 11 says nothing about Israel and the church?
Well, there are clearly distinct parties involved, and a chronology is evident. The question is what appears in the rest of the NT to explain who these parties are, given the chronology? One of the parties is, in fact, identified clearly as Israel in the chapter (Rom 11.1, 11.7, 11.25).

So that leaves identifying the other party. From there it's a matter of reading it in light of what's revealed in the rest of the NT.

M. Osborne's picture

The other party in Romans 11 is Gentiles, not the church. Or maybe a better answer: in Romans 9-11, physical Israel is set side-by-side with two other concepts/entities: spiritual Israel, and Gentiles. I think when we approach Romans 9-11 with Dispensationalist categories and questions, we take a lot of right points (e.g., physical Israelites will still be saved, they still have a place in God's people), but get wrong answers from them, because we were asking questions the passage wasn't trying to answer (e.g., "What is the relationship between Israel and the church?").

Re: calling God's people in our day, "the church": you're right, I have no qualms calling the people of God that we interact with today "the church," because it is a biblical term.

But the question, "How does the church relate to the New Covenant?" puts too much of a strain on the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews made no attempt to distinguish his readership from the beneficiary in Jeremiah 31. While you could argue that there are still distinctions between how Abraham's physical descendants will benefit from the New Covenant, and how the rest of us will benefit, the Bible itself never sets out to explain that question for us.

Hope this helps. Grace and peace,
Mike

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

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