God’s Covenant Unfaithfulness?

Recently someone posted the following on Facebook:

Here is a picture of the Baptist Tabernacle in Auckland, New Zealand which, in 1881 was pastored by Thomas Spurgeon, son of the Prince of Preachers; Charles Spurgeon. It was modeled after the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. A testimony to the Presbyterian doctrine of the covenant faithfulness of God from one generation to another.

This is a common claim baptists hear from Presbyterians. If a child of a Christian is saved, it is a testimony of God’s covenant faithfulness. But, as I pointed out, that must mean the inverse is true as well: If a child of a Christian is not saved, it is a testimony of God’s covenant unfaithfulness. The logic is simple:

  • P1 God promises to save the children of believers
  • P2 The salvation of believers’ children is testimony of God’s covenant faithfulness
  • C The lack of salvation of believers’ children is testimony of God’s covenant unfaithfulness

Of course the immediate response is that I have misunderstood and misrepresented the paedobaptist position. The correct P1, I’m told, should be:

  • P1 God promises to save the elect children born of Christian parent(s)

I was told to read this statement (note, see They are not all Israel, who are of Israel):

The promise to which Peter referred in his Pentecost sermon is mentioned in HC74: “both redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are through the blood of Christ promised to [the children of believers] no less than to their parents.” The Baptist, however, hears language like this and often assumes that Reformed churches believe that every baptized child is guaranteed to be one of the elect. “If this true,” concludes the Baptist, “then what are we to say about those cases in which a baptized child did not persevere in the faith? If God made a promise to the child in baptism, but the child apostatizes as an adult, what does that say about God’s promise? Did his promise fail?”

Unfortunately, there are some Reformed churches that have contributed to this misconception by speaking of every baptized person in the church – “head for head” – as being truly elect and inwardly united to Christ. But it must be understood that membership in God’s visible covenant community does not guarantee membership in God’s elect people. This is Paul’s point in Romans 9 when he defends the fidelity of God’s promise to Abraham: “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (Rom. 9.6). In other words, not all in the visible church belong to the invisible church. This is why the Bible often speaks of another circumcision, a circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10.16; 30.6; Jer. 4.4; 9.25-26; Acts 7.51; Rom. 2.28-29). Although he was consecrated to the Lord as a member of the covenant people of God, the Israelite male was still responsible to believe the promises signified in his circumcision, for the sign (circumcision) never became the thing signified (the promises of God).

Why We Baptize the Children of Believers by Michael Brown

To which I am happy to revise my initial syllogism:

  • P1 God promises to save the elect children born of Christian parents.
  • P2 God promises to save the elect children not born of Christian parents (John 1:13; Gal 3:7-9; Rom 9:7-8, 11, 24-26; 10:11-13; 11:17; Eph 1:4-10, etc)
  • C1 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
  • P3 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s promise to save the elect.
  • P4 God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save the elect.
  • C2 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s covenantal faithfulness.

The response? That can’t be true because God promises to save the children of Christians.

God’s promise to us includes our children.

God promises to, as a general principle, bring about the salvation of covenant children…

So we are back to square one because they are equivocating on what the promise is, precisely. Is it to the elect, or is it to all our children generally?

The final response was (note the equivocation):

An accurate P4 (etc.) would be:

  • God’s covenantal faithfulness is determined by His promise to save those who he has promised to save.
  • P5 God has promised to (among others) save the children of believers.
  • C God shows His faithfulness (among other ways) when He saves (among others) the children of believers.

In which case, there is nothing unique about the salvation of the children of believers since God’s faithfulness is also demonstrated (“among other ways”) when he saves the children of non-believers (“among others”). In other words:

  • C2 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s covenant faithfulness.

Related post:

11 thoughts on “God’s Covenant Unfaithfulness?

  1. markmcculley

    Mark Jones explains that you cannot really have an indicative for your children unless you are willing to “assure them” that God loves them and that they are Christians. Saying God the creator’s law commands obedience, according to Mark Jones, is “moralism”.
    Mark Jones has a “large commanding gospel”, and it’s his gospel (not law) which commands obedience. God is your God, even if you are not-elect is not enough “indicative” for Mark Jones. Only if you welcome all your children to the water and to the table, can you avoid legalism. Only if you say there was already grace for Adam before Adam sinned, can you avoid legalism. Being a mere creature of God is not enough “indicative”.
    In this way Mark Jones has achieved the balance between “hyper-covenantalism” and “hyper-conversionism”. Assure your infants that they are already Christians, but will remain so only if they keep repenting, because security in election and justification is “presumption”. (hyper-decretalism, antinomianism). Because all the covenants are the same one covenant, Mark Jones warns that those once in the covenant may not remain in the covenant.
    But if imperatives demand an indicative which assures your children that they are already Christians, then God’s grace must be common and God must love a person before God can dare command that creature to obey God. And if you are going to command all your children, then you may not have to teach an unlimited atonement, but you are going to have to teach an atonement for all your children, because to avoid moralism, you will have to tell them they are already Christians, even if it turns out in the end that some of your children fail to repent and reveal themselves to be non-elect, once in the covenant but not in the covenant on the last http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/03/moralizing-our-children.php


  2. Cliffton

    “C2 Physical heritage is irrelevant to God’s covenant faithfulness”.

    If God’s faithfulness is defined by whatever God does, then *by definition* anything other than what God does is irrelevant to His covenant faithfulness.


  3. Setiady

    Paedobaptism Is human opinion

    Mat 15:9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”

    Infant baptism is contrary to many verses and one of them :

    Act 8:36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
    Act 8:37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

    Sola scriptura? No ……..scriptura + doctrines of men + human opinion+ traditions


  4. Pingback: Les & Tanner Talk Baptism | Contrast

  5. Hugh McCann

    Do Baptists owe to Presbyterians the same reverence, appreciation, and obeisance that Anglicans owe Rome, or the Presbies owe to the C of E?


    1. Hugh, we love our Presbyterian brothers, yea, all our brothers in Christ. In our catechisms and confessions we borrow largely from them to show our unity and orthodoxy, We do seek to be truthful and not hide anything so we also point out our differences…. Consider paragraph two from the 1677/89 Confession preface… here is a snippet:

      “we have no itch to clog religion with new words, but do readily acquiesce in that form of sound words which hath been, in consent with the Holy Scriptures, used by others before us; hereby declaring, before God, angels, and men, our hearty agreement with them in that wholesome Protestant doctrine which, with so clear evidence of Scriptures, they have asserted. Some things, indeed, are in some places added, some terms omitted, and some few changed; but these alterations are of that nature as that we need not doubt any charge or suspicion of unsoundness in the faith from any of our brethren upon the account of them.”



  6. Pingback: A Presbyterian (Finally) Gets Acts 2:39 Right | Contrast

  7. Pingback: A Presbyterian (Finally) Gets Acts 2:39 Right | Reformedontheweb's Blog

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