Originally, the reformed argument for infant baptism was that the Old and the New Covenants are actually the same covenant. Calvin said “both covenants are truly one” (Institutes 2.10.2) and “As then the Law depended on that covenant which God made with his servant Abraham, it follows that God could never have made a new, that is, a contrary or a different covenant… God has never made any other covenant than that which he made formerly with Abraham, and at length confirmed by the hand of Moses.” (Commentary on Jer. 31:31) Peter Lillback explains “Calvin both presents his case for paedobaptism as well as defends it against various attacks by employment of the covenant idea. His positive arguments build initially upon his already established point of the continuity of the Old and New Covenants. It is due to the continuity of the covenant with the Jews and with Christians that enables Christians to baptize their infants.”
As the disastrous consequences of that mistake have been worked out with regards to justification and our works, many reformed paedobaptists now reject this foundational view and argue instead that only the Abrahamic and New are the same covenant – but not the Old/Mosaic. R. Scott Clark says
The contrast, then, in Jeremiah 31 is not between Abraham and the new covenant but between Moses and the new covenant. The novelty or newness of the new covenant is measured relative to Moses, relative to the national covenant made with Israel at Sinai, and not with Abraham and the covenant promise God gave to him: I will be a God to you and to your children. That promise remains intact. The promise is not Mosaic, it is not old, it is Abrahamic. (On the New Covenant)
He notes that “If our Baptist friends can turn Abraham into Moses, then they can be done with him and with the problem of continuity between the New Covenant and the Abrahamic.” Thus to answer the baptists, Clark argues “We distinguish Abraham from the old covenant because Paul does so consistently… In short, Abraham was not Moses.”
The argument has rhetorical punch, but it does not hold up under inspection. The premise seems to be Whatever is Abrahamic continues in the New.
Scripture teaches that with the coming of Christ, Old Covenant sacrifices have ceased (Heb 7:27; 10:9). But it’s important to keep in mind that this only refers to sacrifices instituted by Moses (right?). Not all sacrifices have ceased – only uniquely Mosaic sacrifices. Abraham offered animal sacrifices (so did Noah). Since Whatever is Abrahamic continues in the New, Christians today must continue to offer animal sacrifices.
“But wait,” one might object, “That’s not what we mean. We don’t mean everything Abrahamic continues in the New. Only some things.”
Ok, which things?
“Everything not Mosaic continues in the New. Animal sacrifices were Mosaic, so they don’t continue.”
Worshiping God alone, honoring your parents, not murdering or committing adultery were also Mosaic. Do they not continue?
“Of course they do. That’s not what we mean. We mean everything typological about the Mosaic Covenant does not continue into the New.”
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. So animal sacrifices do not continue, even though they were Abrahamic, because they were typological?
So the deciding factor is not whether something is Mosaic or Abrahamic, but whether or not it was typological?
“Yes. R. Scott Clark has said there are genuine connections between the Abraham and Mosaic covenants. Both are typological. Because Abraham and Moses both belong to the typological period, to that time in redemptive history before the reality, Christ and his kingdom, had come they share certain characteristics and features.”
So wherever Abraham shares certain typological aspects with Moses, those aspects expire with Moses?
Then John Glas, well said
[A]ll the earthly shadows of heavenly things to come by Christ, that were instituted from the fall, were ingrossed in this covenant, and delivered to Israel, with many others added in the law of commandments contained in ordinances. Thus sacrifices instituted at the giving of the first promise, and a holy place of worship on earth, and an altar and circumcision, were all carried into the covenant at Sinai; so that whatever was earthly in the church, typifying heavenly things to come, belongs to that covenant made with Israel, and all the earthly ordinances that were before, together with many more now appointed, were now delivered to Israel, as rudiments by which they might come to the knowledge of Christ, like children beginning to learn, and the Apostle calls them the rudiments of the world. (A Testimony of the King of Martyrs, 89-90)
- God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed Abraham (Gen 12:3).
- This was fulfilled in Israel’s conquest of Canaan – a holy war (Num 24:8-9).
- This was thoroughly Mosaic and Abrahamic (Deu 23:3-6; 28:7).
- With the coming of Christ, all Abrahamic holy war has ceased (Jn 18:36).
- This aspect of the Abrahamic covenant was typological of the Christian’s spiritual warfare (2 Cor 10:3-6; Eph 6:10-20).
- God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (Gen 13:15; 17:8; 28:13; 35:12; Acts 7:5).
- This was fulfilled when God brought Israel out of Egypt and brought them into the promised land (Ex 23:29-32; 33:1; Deut 7:22-23; 19:1-9, cp. Josh. 20:7-8; 21:43-45; Deut 26:3; Acts 13:19).
- This was thoroughly Mosaic and Abrahamic (Ex 23:22).
- With the coming of Christ, the land of Canaan was made common (Jn 4:21).
- This aspect of the Abrahamic covenant was typological of the Christian’s eternal inheritance (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10; Jer 30:3; Ezk 36:24; 39:28).
Offspring As Numerous as the Stars of Heaven
- God promised Abraham that He would have numerous offspring – as many as the stars of heaven, the dust of the earth, and the sand of the seashore (Gen 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; 28:14; 32:12).
- This was fulfilled in the nation of Israel, Abraham’s offspring, which were as many as the stars of heaven, the dust of the earth, and the sand of the seashore (Ex 32:13; Num 23:10; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 1 Kings 3:8; 4:20; Is. 10:22; 48:19; Jer 15:8; Heb 11:12).
- This was thoroughly Mosaic and Abrahamic (Ex 32:13; Num 23:10; Deut 1:10).
- With the coming of Christ, physical descent from Abraham no longer matters (Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).
- This aspect of the Abrahamic covenant was typological of Abraham’s spiritual offspring (Rom 4:16; 9:24-26; Gal 3:29).
Note that R. Scott Clark has said “That temporary national covenant, which expired with the death of Christ, was the outworking of the land promises and the promise of a national people made to Abraham… we can connect that aspect of the promise to Abraham to the national covenant in Moses.”
I Will be a God to You and to Your Children
- God promised Abraham that He would be a God to him and his offspring/children (Gen 17:7).
- This was fulfilled in the theocracy established in Canaan with God dwelling in the midst of the nation of Israel, Abraham’s offspring/children (Ex. 2:24-25; 6:6-7; Ezek 16:8; Deut 4:32-40; 26:16-19; 29:10-13; Ps. 147:19-20; Amos 3:1-2).
- This was thoroughly Mosaic and Abrahamic (Ex 19:4-6; 25:8; 29:45; Lev 26:11-12).
- With the coming of Christ, Abraham’s offspring/children are no longer God’s people (Hosea 1:9; Matt 21:41, 43; Lk 19:27).
- This aspect of the Abrahamic covenant was typological of God’s promise to save the elect (Is 53:14; Jn 6:45; Jer 30:22; 31:33-34; Is 44:3; Ezek 36:26-28; 37:27; Rev 21:3; 2 Cor 6:16).
The Abrahamic promise to be a God to Abraham and his children (note: not “believers and their children“) does not remain “intact” any more than these other promises do. They are each typological of a spiritual reality, but they themselves pass away at the coming of Christ.
For further reading:
- A Critique of R. Scott Clark’s Covenant Theology
- Heidelcast “I Will Be a God to You and to Your Children”
- Baptism to a Thousand Generations?
- Galatians 3:16
- Some Disagreement with Coxe on Galatians 3:17
- Gal. 3:18 – Generic Law and Promise, or Sinai and Messiah?
- Jesus on “All Shall Know Me” (John 6:35; Is 54:13)
- The Olive Tree (Rom 11:16-24)
- A Presbyterian (Finally) Gets Acts 2:39 Right
- Kline’s Abrahamic Covenant of Works 1: Murray and Shepherd (all 6 parts)