Dominionism (related to the Christian Reconstruction movement), which has gained popularity in Christian circles since the 1970s, is nothing new. Isaac Backus explained the ultimate root of the error.
The covenant of circumcision gave those who were born in it a right to treat all others, both as to worship and commerce, as no others had any right to treat them. A right to office also in that church was hereditary. When our Savior came, he fulfilled the law, both moral and ceremonial, and abolished those hereditary distinctions among mankind. But in the centuries following, deceitful philosophy took away the name which God has given to that covenant, (Acts 7:8) and added the name Grace to it; from whence came the doctrine, that dominoin is founded in grace. And although this latter name has been exploded by many, yet the root of it has been tenaciously held fast and taught in all colleges and superior places of learning, as far as Christianity has extended, until the present time; whereby natural affection, education, temporal interest, and self-righteousness, the strongest prejudices in the world, have all conspired to bind people in that way, and to bar their minds against equal liberty and believers’ baptism. But the writings of our learned ministers in England have communicated much light to this country; to which more was added by the travails and labors of our southern fathers and brethren.
All of the modern paedobaptists arguing against theonomy and dominionism by insisting that “Abraham is not Moses” are missing the root of the error. Backus is correct that the error is rooted in an unbiblical understanding of Abraham.
The previous post provided an exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Here we will address various false inferences that paedobaptists make from the passage. The basic argument is expressed succinctly by Berkhof.
E. The Old and New Testament Sacraments Compared.
- Their Essential Unity… [T]here is no essential difference between the sacraments of the Old, and those of the New Testament. This is proved by the following considerations: (a) in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 Paul ascribes to the Old Testament Church that which is essential in the New Testament Sacraments.
This idea found expression in the Westminster Confession.
27.5. The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.*
*1 Cor. 10:1-4
It is also found as a reference for 7.5 (“which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah”) and WLC 174 & 175 (instructions about the Lord’s Supper).
The OPC also added the passage as a reference text for WCF 7.6 (“There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”); 8.6; 20.1 (“All which were common also to believers under the law”); 29.7; WLC 61, (“Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church? A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible”).
The basic thrust is that Israel and the Church are one and the same. Their situation was identical to ours. In his commentary, Calvin argues
As, however, on examples being adduced, any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is no such dissimilarity between us and the Israelites, as to make our condition different from theirs… For they were favored with the same benefits as we at this day enjoy; there was a Church of God among them, as there is at this day among us; they had the same sacraments, to be tokens to them of the grace of God; but, on their abusing their privileges, they did not escape the judgment of God. Be afraid, therefore; for the same thing is impending over you…
[There is] both in the spiritual substance and in the visible sign a most striking correspondence between the baptism of the Jews, and ours…
“The manna,” says he, “and the water that flowed forth from the rock, served not merely for the food of the body, but also for the spiritual nourishment of souls.”…
Calvin’s argument (and those who followed him) hinges upon what Paul means by “the same.”
Farther, when he says that the fathers ate the same spiritual meat, he shows, first, what is the virtue and efficacy of the Sacraments, and, secondly, he declares, that the ancient Sacraments of the Law had the same virtue as ours have at this day. For, if the manna was spiritual food, it follows, that it is not bare emblems that are presented to us in the Sacraments, but that the thing represented is at the same time truly imparted, for God is not a deceiver to feed us with empty fancies.
As we saw in the exposition, that is not Paul’s point. Nowhere does Paul make a direct connection between the manna and the Lord’s Supper being “the same.” Paul’s point is that all the Israelites experienced the same benefits, yet only some lived. Calvin attempts to address this point.
Some explain it to mean, that they ate the same meat together among themselves, and do not wish us to understand that there is a comparison between us and them; but these do not consider Paul’s object. For what does he mean to say here, but that the ancient people of God were honored with the same benefits with us, and were partakers of the same sacraments, that we might not, from confiding in any peculiar privilege, imagine that we would be exempted from the punishment which they endured? At the same time, I should not be prepared to contest the point with any one; I merely state my own opinion.
Recall what Lange said
[W]e cannot admit the referring of the το αὐτό to the believers of the N. T, as if it meant, ‘the same with ourselves,’ nor allow the identification of these objects with the elements in the Lord’s Supper, as Calvin does. The expression ‘the same’ is rather to be joined with the word ‘all,’ which accordingly holds the emphatic place, and is five times repeated.
The text does not say the manna was the same as the Lord’s Supper. But if that is the case, then Calvin’s (and Westminster’s) entire premise fails. Paul’s point is not that the Israelites were “favored with the same benefits as we.” Perhaps that is why Calvin stubbornly refused to accept this interpretation (though he didn’t want to argue it). Calvin’s misreading of “the same” is directly tied to his misreading of “that rock was Christ.”
Some absurdly pervert these words of Paul, as if he had said, that Christ was the spiritual rock, and as if he were not speaking of that rock which was a visible sign, for we see that he is expressly treating of outward signs. The objection that they make — that the rock is spoken of as spiritual, is a frivolous one, inasmuch as that epithet is applied to it simply that we may know that it was a token of a spiritual mystery. In the mean time, there is no doubt, that he compares our sacraments with the ancient ones…
It is abundantly manifest, that something is here expressed that was peculiar to the fathers. Away, then, with that foolish fancy by which contentious men choose rather to show their impudence, than admit that they are sacramental forms of expression!
I have, however, already stated, that the reality of the things signified was exhibited in connection with the ancient sacraments. As, therefore, they were emblems of Christ, it follows, that Christ was connected with them, not locally, nor by a natural or substantial union, but sacramentally. On this principle the Apostle says, that the rock was Christ, for nothing is more common than metonymy in speaking of sacraments.
Because they ate the same spiritual food as the Lord’s Supper, Christ was the rock sacramentally. If Paul did not say they ate the same spiritual food as us, then Christ was not the rock sacramentally. Paul did not say they ate the same spiritual food as us, therefore Christ was not the rock sacramentally. Therefore Westminster’s appeal to this passage is mistaken. It does not prove that members of the Old Covenant participated in the same sacraments as the New Covenant. It does not prove that the Old Covenant is the New Covenant (contrary to Calvin’s argument in Institutes 2.10.5). It does not prove that Israel was the Church. Very simple.
Others give the word here its very common sense, pertaining to the spirit; as, in the preceding chapter, “carnal things” are things pertaining to the body, and “spiritual things” are things pertaining to the soul. The manna, according to this interpretation, was designed not only for the body, but for the soul. It was spiritual food; food intended for the spirit, because attended by the Holy Spirit and made the means of spiritual nourishment. This is a very commonly received interpretation. Calvin assumes it to be the only possible meaning of the passage, and founds on it an argument for his favorite doctrine, that the sacraments of the Old Testament had the same efficacy as those of the New. But this exalts the manna into a sacrament, which it was not. It was designed for ordinary food; as Nehemiah (9:15) says, “Thou gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth for them water out of the rock for their thirst.” And our Lord represents it in the same light, when he said, “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead.” John 6:49. He contrasts himself, as the true bread from heaven which gives life to the soul, with the manna which had no spiritual efficacy.
To understand what the passage does mean, make sure to read the previous post.
Let’s take a look at the inconsistencies involved in applying Calvin’s mistaken interpretation.
Modern reformed denominations have been arguing over the practice of paedocommunion. One of the arguments brought forward by proponents of the practice is 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. They point out that all the Israelites, children and adults, partook of the manna and water sacrament. Since it was the same sacrament as the Lord’s Supper, why are children now excluded? Matthew W. Mason argues
[F]or our purposes, it is important to note who was baptised and ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink. Five times, Paul emphasises that it was all the Israelites. Although Daunton-Fear rightly observes that Paul’s primary intention at this point is not to discuss whether or not children are included in the Supper, the repeated ‘all’ does, by implication, including the infants and children of Israel. They too passed through the sea and were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. As we noted above, manna was to be gathered according to the number of mouths to be fed, including children. It was the only food available, just as the only drink available was water from the Rock, which was Christ. Thus, it seems fair to conclude that the children of Israel also fed spiritually on the manna, and drank spiritually of Christ. Paul certianly makes no move to exclude them at this point, and this in a letter where he stresses that the children of believers are holy (7:14). Moreover, we should note the contrast in verse 5, where Paul says that ‘with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.’ Who was excepted from God’s wrath? Joshua, Caleb, and anyone under the age of 20 at the time of the rebellion. The children of Israel are not entirely absent from these verses. Therefore, given the parallel between the manna and Rock and the Lord’s Supper, it seems fair to infer that children can still eat and drink spiritually of Christ, when they receive bread and wine…
The Old Testament evidence thus points strongly to the fact that covenant children had access to all of the Old Covenant meals to which their parents had access, including the Passover meal, the peace offering, and the wilderness manna. These meals are all typologically related to the Lord’s Supper, such that, under the New Covenant, the Supper fulfills and replaces them. Therefore, given that the covenant status of children is the same under both Old Covenant and New Covenant, the evidence that covenant children should have access to the Lord’s Supper is overhwelming.
What is the response?
Since such eating [the manna] was not sacramental and since the purpose of the passage is to teach the need for persevering in faith and obedience toward Christ, we reject this…
Brian Schwertley, Paedocommunion: A Biblical Examination fn. 12
The response is to reject Calvin and Westminster’s interpretation of the passage. The water and manna were not sacramental and that was not Paul’s point. Paedocommunion proponent Mark Horne summarizes a response from an appendix on manna in Rev. Richard Bacon’s “What Mean Ye by This Service.”
Rev. Bacon makes it quite clear he believes not only that manna was not a sacrament, but that paedocommunionists are desperately grasping at straws to claim that manna was a sacrament. He says, “the paedocommunionist has an uphill battle to prove that eating manna and drinking water (not wine) points to the New Testament sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. . .” Indeed, he asks rhetorically of manna and water from the Rock: “Why then do paedocommunionists want to bring it into the debate?” Furthermore, he claims the argument from manna is evidence of paedocommunionist desperation: “The fact that the argument has shifted from a sacramental meal to a non-sacramental meal gives the impression that it is the practice of the paedocommunion that is being defended rather than a covenantal hermeneutic.”
That last claim is made near the end of the paper and I repeat it because I want readers to remember it as they read my response: “The fact that the argument has shifted from a sacramental meal to a non-sacramental meal gives the impression that it is the practice of the paedocommunion that is being defended rather than a covenantal hermeneutic.”
Rev. Bacon claims that 1 Corinthians 10.1-4 does not correspond to Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. He claims that the baptism in this passage and in 1 Corinthians 12.13 corresponds to Pentecost. Furthermore, he asserts that John 6.49, 54 prove that manna was not a sacrament. My plan is simply to show that Rev. Bacon is making up things that are at odds with the entire history of Reformed Theology, while pretending that paedocommunionists are the ones breaking with the tradition.
The PCA report on paedocommunion avoids explicitly rejecting the idea that the manna was a sacrament, but instead argues that there is a great difference between it and the Lord’s Supper, which is “a new sacrament.”
Since children ate of manna (there was nothing else to eat), and drank the water from the rock (there was nothing else to drink), and since their food and drink symbolized the life that Christ gives, they may now come to the table where the bread and the cup offer the same symbolism.
The symbolism of the manna and of the water from the rock cannot be denied or minimized. Indeed, Israel should have received both with thanksgiving and faith; they should have perceived the symbolism. There is a sense in which we in the New
Covenant should find the symbols of life in Christ in our daily bread. Yet the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not simply an aspect of our family meals, or a simple community meal together. It is specifically instituted by Christ, and given a meaning by him that is repeated by the Apostle Paul in charging the Corinthians. Jesus did not simply give new meaning to the Passover. The new wine of the kingdom required fresh wineskins. Jesus instituted a new sacrament.
Thus the Israelites did not eat “the same spiritual food.” Recall Calvin “any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison… they had the same sacraments.”
The OPC study committee said “it became readily apparent that these questions would not produce a unanimous consensus” and that “a majority of the Committee favors the admission of weaned covenant children to the Lord’s table… [and has a] desire to develop a full length defense of paedocommunion.” A minority report authored by Leonard J. Coppes argued
The main thesis of the committee’s position is not established by Scripture. The New Testament (NT) does not equate the Passover and the LS, nor does it teach the Passover as determinative for the LS. The committee’s position argues that the terms of admission to the Passover decide the question of who should be admitted to the LS: since children were admitted to the Passover, they should be admitted to the LS… Therefore, since the nature of the Passover and LS are different, so are their designs—they do not admit the same candidates… The LS is distinct in nature [from all OT meals]… Conclusion: since what the LS depicts and seals (its nature) is distinct from all OT meals, how it is to be observed and who it is to admit (its design) is distinct from all the OT meals… The nature of the LS requires that which a child must, but cannot, provide: personal appropriation of Christ, personal examination (active sanctification), and personal understanding of the word of God.
What the Lord’s Supper signs and seals (its nature) is different from the water and manna in the wilderness. Thus it was not “the same spiritual food.”
Dr. Peter A. Lillback wrote a second minority report that tries to be more nuanced, but still winds up rejecting Calvin’s view.
II. Theological and Biblical Arguments Against Paedocommunion…
D. The Continuity and Discontinuity of the Covenant…
2. It is clear from Jer. 31 that the New Covenant has a far more inward and spiritual character than that of the Old…
3. It is argued that I Cor. 10:1ff. shows that Christ was eaten and drunk by the Old Testament fathers and their families, so why should now the covenantal children be excluded? The answer to this is found in a careful comparison of Jesus’ teaching upon the manna in John 6 and Paul’s discussion of it in I Cor. 10. Paul elevates the experience, while Christ diminishes it. Why so? This is because Paul’s point is to establish that the Corinthians were liable for judgment just as the Israelites were when there is spiritual rebellion. Both groups had a true fellowship in Christ. So if the first could be judged, so could the second. Jesus’ purpose is to show that the bare external eating of manna did not, however, produce life. The fathers ate and died. Jesus’ food of his body will give life. This life is for his elect and called people who eat with faith in his Word produced by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:37, 44, 63–65). Now it is nearly impossible to evade the sacramental implications of John 6. Should this be granted, it is clear from Jesus’ exposition of the fathers’ eating that those who eat the new manna are to be believers, even though many in the wilderness congregation ate as unbelievers.
In other words, the Israelites did not eat the “same spiritual food” because the Lord’s Supper is a “new manna” that is “more inward and spiritual” than the manna, and therefore only for believers. The question of believers vs unbelievers is an interesting argument because it is not directly about children. Rather, what he is arguing is that in order for someone to partake of the Lord’s Supper, a credible profession of saving faith is required (which not all children have done). The only way this is relevant to the question of children eating manna is if no profession of saving faith was required in order to eat the manna. He is trying to argue there is a difference in the administration of the sacrament in the New Covenant, thus he must mean it was administered to those who had made no profession of saving faith in the Old Covenant.
But why must those who partake of the Supper be “worthy” (WLC 168, 170)? Because they are partaking of the body of Christ, which is really, truly spiritually present in the Supper. Thus it may not be given to anyone without a credible profession of faith, less the body of Christ be profaned. But Calvin’s entire argument was that Christ’s body was just as spiritually present in the manna as it is in the Supper. Thus there is no reason why the qualifications for “worthy” participation would be different between the two. To partake of the manna in an unworthy manner would profane the body of Christ just as much as to partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner.
Fencing the Table
This leads us directly to the next inconsistency. Why didn’t Moses fence the table? WLC 173 says “Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”
This was a matter of great controversy in the 16th and 17th centuries. Those with a more “Erastian” view of church and state (the idea that the civil magistrate is the head of the visible church and may govern it) argued for open communion to all members of the commonwealth/church. Presbyterians tended to argue that ministers must “fence the table” by prohibiting unworthy participation in the Supper by those who were immoral.
In 1657, a member of English Parliament named William Morice wrote The Common Right to the Lord’s Supper Asserted in response to Humphrey Saunders’ An Anti-Diatribe or the Apologie of Some Ministers and godly people asserting the lawfulnesse of their administering the Lord’s Supper in a select company. Various citizens had been brought before the magistrate for refusal to pay their tithes. In their defense, they said they were withholding their tithe because their parish pastors were not being pastors to them. They were not allowing them to take the Lord’s Supper. Morice said that made perfect sense to him, so he told them he would remedy the situation. Hence the book.
Morice argues that closed or select communion was influenced by the Anabaptists (which he calls wolves in sheeps clothing). In one section, he argues from 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, quoting from all the Protestant arguments following Calvin that manna and the Lord’s Supper are the same sacrament, therefore we cannot place greater restrictions on partaking of the Lord’s Supper than Israelites did of the manna.
Lastly, I may not deny that (though an accidental abuse which may not prejudice things good in themselves) wicked men may be facil to flatter and indulge themselves with a good conceit of their condition, though sinful, or an hope of their impunity in their evils, because of their participation of the Sacraments. It seems by what St. Paul delivers (1 Cor. 10), the Corinthians are an exemplary instance hereof, being guilty of the like presumption and security, But what way of cure doth the Apostle use to prevent or remedy the malady? Truly not Empyrick-like, straight way to take the knife in hand and fall to cutting off, (for he doth not tell them that therefore all ought to be suspended beside manifest saints) but he proceeds dogmatically, and to expel and correct the roar of the Corinthians (which also lets out the vital blood and spirits of this Paradox of the Apologists) he better doth instruct and principle them, shewing that the Sacraments which were common to good and evil men, could give no privilege to sin, nor protection from punishment. For “Even as thou dost hate the body of Christ, so did they Manna, and after what manner thou drinkest his blood so did they water out of the rock,” saith Chrysostom (Chrysostom. Homie. 18. in 2 Cor. August. expos. in Evangel. Johan. tract, 26 c. 6. tom. 9. p. 74. Calvin Instit I.2.C10.Sect. 5. p. 148. Dutch Annot.) The Fathers did eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink; the same “In signification of spiritual virtual not in the visible species,” saith Augustine “not in the symbols or figures, but in signification or the thing signified,” as Piscatory and the Dutch Annotations “by the same signed and tokens he made his grace well known amongst them,” the same with us, not only the same among themselves inter se, as the Papists would have it, for that would take off the energy of the Apostles argument, whose scope being “To shew, that as it profited not them to have obtained so great a gift, so neither would it those that they were partakers of baptism, and had received other spiritual mysteries, unless they shewed a life worthy of that grace,” in the words of S. Chrysostom, wherein not only all Protestants concur but even many Pontificians themselves, therefore “that the comparison might be apt, it behoved them to show there was not inequality between us and them, in those good things herein he forbad them falsely to glory, and therefore he makes us equal in Sacraments, and leaves us no prerogative above them,” saith Calvin “and therefore in that comparison the same thing signified is the ground of comparing – and there had been no consequence therein, if things unequal an unlike had been compared – for if the things had differed, the exception would have been ready at hand that the Israelites perished as not being partakers of those benefits whereof we have the Sacraments or signs” adds Chamier: and the drift of the Apostle here is to compare those Sacramental Types in the old Law with the two Sacraments in the new, and that in two respects:
First, for the same nature or substance of mysteries in both; and secondly for the same condition of the receivers, if either they abuse them, or walk unworthy of them, saith a late judicious Writer. They were therefore the same spiritual meat and drink, “in the thing not the manner thereof, their Sacraments prefigurative, ours rememorative, and ours having more abundant grace through the ampler revelation,” as Calvin “not in the visible species, but spiritual virtue – the same faith under divers signed,” as Augustine, and out of him Anselm, there being “a difference or disparity in the signes, an agreement in the thing signified,” as Paraus, theirs being antitypes of ours, signed of the same things… “in as much as they were Sacraments” adds Piscator, “and the manna an extraordinary signe of the flesh of Christ,” as the Dutch Annotations. So then however these were “extraordinary, transitory and temporary Sacraments,” yet being the same with ours (or else Christ is not ours, for that Rock was Christ, as the bread and win in the Lord’s Supper are called the body and blood of Christ, as the Dutch Annotations) the same with ours in use, end, and effect, and operating, saith Ames, “in the same kind, not same degree of efficacy,” and agreeing with ours “in all principal points which are of the essence of a Sacrament,” as Chamier; and therefore the Fathers receiving the Sacramental Communication of the body and blood of Christ indeed (as not only Fulk and Willet, but the whole Protestant Host of the living God do contend) yet many of them God was not well pleased with, some whereof were idolaters, fornicators, murmurers, did lust, did tempt Christ, yet the same spiritual meat and drink was received by all Sacramentally, though effectually only by believers, the spiritual thing by the good alone, the Elements which were spiritual in their signification, by evil men also. And thereupon likewise I hope it will seem evident to unprejudiced and unbiased men, that the Sacraments are not only communicable to such as have given positive signs and demonstrations of Holiness.
There are such answers given to the Argument drawn from this Scripture, as smack of some willingness to correct the Text, rather than their Models, and to set their spurs in the Apostles side, rather than to loose the reins in their hands,
Some tell us; First, “that those were extraordinary Sacraments”; but what then? “Extraordinary Sacraments have whatsoever is of the nature of the ordinary, except only the circumstance of order which is the same with that of time,” saith Chamier. Secondly, “But these had no special promise annexed”: But if so, then they had nothing beyond the corporal use, and the Apostle was mistaken when he calls them spiritual meat and drink, and saith the Rock was Christ, in signification; though yet being extraordinary Sacraments; Ames thinks that “Therefore it was not requisite they should have a spiritual promise distinct from the ordinary, but it was enough that they represented in a singular manner the benefits of those promises.” Thirdly, “that those might be common to all persons that were also common to beasts, which passed through the red Sea, drank of the waters of the rocks, and eat of the Manna.”
…Fourthly, “That upon the score of this Argument, both infants, and all flagitious persons, such as were these idolaters, fornicators, etc, may be also admitted to the Lord’s Supper”: But one knot is not untwisted by trying on another, incommodum non solvit argumentum, neither can they make their own way the more smooth and easy, only by casting galtrops in ours, which will as much also incumber their walk…
[Discussing church history and concludes there is nothing wrong with paedocommunion]
But waving all this, and granting the postulatum; that infants are not to communicate the Eucharist, yet the argument collected from thence will lay no other rub in our way, then such as we may easily remove or stride over, for we do here from this place of 1 Cor. 10 only argue that Sacraments formally as such are not proper privileges of real saints or absolutely incommunicable to any but such as have given satisfaction of their holiness (which is their hypothesis, against which we are here disputing) and so much I think is fully and clearly evinced by this instance;
Morice says the most common reply to his argument is that it would necessarily include infants as well. To which Morice says, “Yeah, so what?”
Rutherford responded to the same argument from Erastus.
Erastus his Arg. 13. 1 Cor. 10. God spared not idolaters and murmurers; yet they eat, we, and they of the same spirituall meat, and drinke the same spirituall drinke, and so had the same Sacraments (otherwise the Argument of the Apostle were nothing; if ours and their Sacraments were not all one) if then, those that were idolators, fornicators, were admitted to their Sacraments; then also to ours under the New Testament.
Ans. Beza answereth well to that. Manna and the water ouf of the Rock, as they had a spirituall Relation to Christ, were holy things and types of Christ, just as our Sacraments are signes of Christ already come in the flesh, and so agreed in the kinde of holy signes with our Sacraments: yet Manna, and the water out of the Rock, were also ordained to be bodily food, for the famishing and thirsty people, good or bad, holy or unholy, these two, Manna and water out of the Rock were given by the Commandment of God and the Priests, to the people, both as Gods people in Covenant with God, and to them, as men starving in the wildernesse, and dying for thirst; for they had not plowing, earing, harvest, bread, vineyards, wine, fountains in the wildernesse, and therefore no marvell then such holy things being; also beside that they were holy things, such as were necessary to keep them from starving and bodily death, as the shewbread, which was also a type of the word of life revealed to the Ministers of God, was given to keep David and his men from starving: No marvell (I say) then these bodily helps (though in another higher signification they were Sacramentalls) were by Gods command bestowed on many wicked men, who often partake both of outward Ordinances and temporall deliverance from death and famishing, because they are mixt with the people of God. But Erastus, if he would prove any thing against us, should have proved that circumcision, the Passover, and other holy things of God, ordained for the visible Saints to shew forth our spirituall Communion with Christ, and which were never ordained for necessary helps to sustain the naturall life, were to be administred to those that were openly prophane and wicked; and therefore we deny this connexion: Manna signified the very same thing; to wit, Christ our food of life, which bread and wine signifies; Ergo, As Manna was given both as a holy signe to figure out Christ our life, and to feed the bodies of openly holy, or openly prophane, to sustain their bodily life, so also baptisme and the Lords Supper, which serve for no bodily use, should be administred to those that are openly prophane.
Erastus is put to a poor shift with this solid Answer of that Reverend, Learned, and holy Divine, Theod. Beza, he saith, “Vis dicam quod sentio? Tui ubique similises: The sea and the cloud, saith he, were not necessary to feed the body.”
…Erastus may know the dividing of the Sea, was necessary to preserve the life of the most wicked and unclean (God being pleased for his Churches cause, to bestow Temporall deliverances on wicked men, mingled with the godly) from being drowned with the Egyptians, and that God, who will have mercy, and not sacrifice, may well by a positive Law appoint that holy and unholy, clean and unclean, shall have the use of such holy things, as are not meerly holy, but mixt, being both means of Divine institution, and also necessary Subsidies for mans life, but it followeth not therefore holy things, that are purely holy, should be prostitute to holy and unholy, the clean and unclean.
In other words, the nature of manna and the Lord’s Supper are different. They are not the same sacrament. The manna was a common holy meal – that is, it was a contradiction. The very idea of the Lord’s Supper is that not every supper is the Lord’s Supper. Recall Morice’s quote from Chamier “and therefore in that comparison the same thing signified is the ground of comparing – and there had been no consequence therein, if things unequal an unlike had been compared” and our original quote from Calvin “any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison… they had the same sacraments.” And again, if one must be worthy to participate in the Lord’s Supper because it is the body of Christ, then the same applies to the manna, regardless of whether or not it also served for physical sustenance.
It should be quite clear by now that half of Beza/Rutherford’s defense is true: the manna and water were provided by God for Israel’s physical sustenance. It was a common meal they ate three times a day. Crossing the Red Sea was a miraculous act of God “necessary to preserve the life of the most wicked and unclean.” The manna and water were miraculous provisions from God “for the famishing and thirsty people, good or bad, holy or unholy” for “men starving in the wildernesse, and dying for thirst.” Paul’s point is simply that Christ, the pre-existent second person of the Trinity, was the source of that provision – not that Christ crucified was spiritually present in the meal as a sacrament. God miraculously provided for them and bestowed his favor upon them, yet they still perished. Paul does not say the manna and water was a sacrament of Christ’s spiritual presence equivalent to the Lord’s Supper. (See the Exposition for more explanation)
See also: Calvin v 1689 Federalism on Old v New
[Note there is a new category on the Welcome page called “Specific Passages” that lists all the posts addressing specific verses. Also, special thanks goes to Reformed Books Online for their helpful collection of commentaries.]
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 is often used by paedobaptists to support their sacramentology. This post will provide a positive explanation of the passage. A follow-up post will address false inferences made from the text by paedobaptists.
The context begins in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Because we know the truth, we know that idols are nothing and therefore there is nothing wrong with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. However, some weaker brothers might not understand that yet and they might think you are participating in idol worship if you eat that food. So rather than make them think sin is ok (cause them to stumble), you should refrain from eating it. This requires self-denial. Paul holds himself up as an example. He has a right to compensation for his labor among the Corinthians, but he has not made use of that right in order not to hinder the preaching of the gospel. In fact he has become all things to all people that he might by all means save some. He denies himself for the sake of the gospel, in order to partake of it himself. In doing so, he is diligent to run the race to obtain the prize, lest in preaching to others, he forgets the gospel himself and becomes disqualified.
Paul then uses the Israelites as an example (v6 literally “type”) as to why Christians should not rest content in having heard the gospel and professed faith (begun the race), but must run the race with persevering faith. If we do not deny ourselves we will be tempted to lust for evil things, which leads to destruction. One who thinks he cannot be tempted should “take heed lest he fall.” Therefore, although it may be lawful for you to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, you should not seek your own good but that of your neighbor, who will think it is ok to sin if he sees you eat the meat.
So what precisely is the example of “Israel according to the flesh” (note literal translation of v18)? The whole nation together experienced the miraculous power of God’s redemption from slavery in Egypt and provision in the wilderness. They all shared the same experience, but only some of them persevered (“all run, but one obtains the prize”). Most of them lusted for evil things and committed idolatry and sexual immorality and were destroyed.
The analogy between this passage and the preceding is striking: this nation, that had come out of Egypt to get to Canaan, corresponds to the runner who, after starting in the race, misses the prize, for want of perseverance in self-sacrifice.
[T]he correction of those Corinthians who, in reliance on a spirit of confidence they had, rashly did whatever in their want of thoughtfulness they imagined themselves able to do without danger, especially in the matter of eating idol-meats along with idolaters; to which they were led, partly by familiar habit, partly by the pleasures of the feast itself.
The apostle saw that many in this church of Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, and other gifts and great privileges with which God had blessed them; as also with the opinion of their being a gospel church, and some of the first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ, and might therefore think, that they needed not to be pressed to such degrees of strictness and watchfulness;
The Corinthians, by going to the utmost verge of their Christian liberty in eating things offered to idols, were in danger of being drawn back into actual idolatry.
There is a grave danger lest the Corinthians, puffed up by their superior knowledge, consider themselves immune to contamination from idolatry.
‘All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua alone entered the promised land.’ All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.
All our fathers
Abraham had two offspring: spiritual and natural. Note v18 “Observe Israel after the flesh” (NKJV). NASB footnote says “Lit Israel according to the flesh.” Compare that with Romans 1:3 “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (NASB) and 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites… whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (NASB). In Romans 4:1, Paul speaks specifically to the Jews in his mixed audience, saying “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?” (NASB).
The Israelites in the wilderness were the fathers of the Jews according to the flesh. They were not the fathers of believing Gentiles.
The apostle says ἡμῶν, speaking, as in Romans 4:1, from his national consciousness, which was shared in by his Jewish readers, and well understood by his Gentile ones.
Despite not clearly understanding Abraham’s two different offspring in this quote, Hodge still recognizes that in this passage, Paul is referring to the fathers of Israel according to the flesh.
Abraham is our father, though we are not his natural descendants. And the Israelites were the fathers of the Corinthian Christians, although most of them were Gentiles. Although this is true, it is probable that the apostle, although writing to a church, many, if not most, of whose members were of heathen origin, speaks as a Jew to Jews.
Baptized into Moses
Being “baptized into Moses” is different from being “baptized into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Gal 3:27).
1. Baptized into Moses (10:1, 2). The Old Testament clearly sees Israel’s passing through the sea and the accompanying cloud as divine activity (Exod 13:21; Ps. 105:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7), but the Old Testament itself does not even imply that Israel was baptized into Moses. Nor is there sufficient evidence to suggest this was a view current in Judaism of Paul’s day. Rather, Paul moves backward from his Christian experience and from it interprets the Exodus events, not vice versa… Accepting that Paul begins with Christian baptism and moves by analogy back to Moses best accounts for the phrase ‘into Moses,’ The expression was created to resemble the experience of Christians being baptized ‘into Christ’ (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
As Christians are saved by being ‘baptized into Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:3; cf. Gal 3:27), so Israel of old was related salvifically to Moses by the cloud and the sea; he brought them to deliverance and safety.
[T]hat is, brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism.
Moses was a type of Christ, Galatians 3:19.
Into Moses – into the covenant of which Moses was the mediator; and by this typical baptism they were brought under the obligation of acting according to the Mosaic precepts, as Christians receiving Christian baptism are said to be baptized Into Christ, and are thereby brought under obligation to keep the precepts of the Gospel.
[B]aptized unto Moses–the servant of God and representative of the Old Testament covenant of the law: as Jesus, the Son of God, is of the Gospel covenant (John 1:17 , Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Of course, they were baptized into Moses, and not into the Trinity, but there must be some similarity in the two types of baptism… The similarity between Moses’ baptism and Christian baptism must be sought in their significance, or in a part of it. In both cases, the baptism is a visible sign that the baptized persons are the disciples of him into whose name they are baptized.
[I]n reference to Moses, so as by baptism to be made his disciples. See 1:13; Rom 6:3… The cloud and the sea did for them, in reference to Moses, what baptism does for us in reference to Christ. Their passage through the sea, and their guidance by the cloud, was their baptism. It made them the disciples of Moses; placed them under obligation to recognize his divine commission and to submit to his authority. This is the only point of analogy between the cases, and it is all the apostle’s argument requires… The display of God’s power in the cloud and in the sea, brought the people into the relation of disciples to Moses. It inaugurated the congregation, and, as it were, baptized them to him, bound them to serve and follow him.
The words, ‘unto Moses,’ cannot mean sub auspiciis Mosis, but as always with the verb ‘baptize’ they denote the relation or fellowship into which they entered with Moses, who, as the servant of the Lord, was the mediator of the Divine manifestations. With this there is connected the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given unto them by the Lord, and legitimated by Him ( Exodus 14:31).
The phrase eis ton Moses [“into Moses”] may be patterned after the similar New Testament phrase eis ton Christon [“into Christ”], but it can never be taken in the same sense of “into Moses” or Christ. No baptism nor anything else could in any conceivable sense carry the Israelites “into” Moses. The idea expressed is one of union: “to,” “unto,” or “for Moses.” This symbolical baptism united the Israelites to Moses as God‘s representative to them, the Old Testament mediator, in whom was foreshadowed Christ, the New Testament eternal Mediator…. The deliverance from the Egyptian bondage through Moses by this symbolical baptism through the cloud and the sea likewise typifies our deliverance from the bondage of sin and of death through Christ by means of Christian baptism.
This miraculous crossing separated them thenceforth from Egypt, the place of bondage and idolatry, exactly as the believer’s baptism separates him from his former life of condemnation and sin… This crossing was to them as baptism is to the believer, the threshold of salvation. This spiritual analogy is expressed by Paul in the words: and were all baptized into Moses. By following their God-given leader with confidence at that critical moment, they were closely united to, and, as it were, incorporated with Moses to become his people, in the same way as Christians in being baptized on the ground of faith in Christ become part of the same plant with Him (Rom. vi. 3-5); they are thenceforth His body.
They were baptised unto Moses by their acceptance of his leadership in the Exodus. By passing through the Red Sea at his command they definitely renounced Pharaoh and abandoned their old life, and as definitely pledged and committed themselves to throw in their lot with Moses. By passing the Egyptian frontier and following the guidance of the pillar of cloud they professed their willingness to exchange a life of bondage, with its security and occasional luxuries, for a life of freedom, with its hazards and hardships; and by that passage of the Red Sea they were as certainly sworn to support and obey Moses as ever was Roman soldier who took the oath to serve his emperor. When, at Brederode’s invitation, the patriots of Holland put on the beggar’s wallet and tasted wine from the beggar’s bowl, they were baptised unto William of Orange and their country’s cause. When the sailors on board the “Swan” weighed anchor and beat out of Plymouth, they were baptised unto Drake and pledged to follow him and fight for him to the death. Baptism means much; but if it means anything it means that we commit and pledge ourselves to the life we are called to by Him in whose name we are baptised. It draws a line across the life, and proclaims that to whomsoever in time past we have been bound, and for whatsoever we have lived, we now are pledged to this new Lord, and are to live in His service. Such a pledge was given by every Israelite who turned his back on Egypt and passed through that sea which was the defence of Israel and destruction to the enemy. The crossing was at once actual deliverance from the old life and irrevocable committal to the new. They died to Pharaoh, and were born again to Moses. They were baptised unto Moses.
Spiritual food… spiritual drink… spiritual rock
These were supernaturally given.
[T]he same sense in which the special gifts of God are called spiritual gifts… Spiritual gifts and spiritual blessings are gifts and blessings of which the Spirit is the author. Every thing which God does in nature and in grace, he does by the Spirit… [The food and drink] was given by the Spirit. It was not natural food, but food miraculously provided… The water which they drank was spiritual, because derived from the Spirit, i.e. by the special intervention of God… The bread and water are called spiritual because supernatural.
The “spiritual food” or manna ( Exodus 16:13 ff.) is distinguished from all earthly food, either because of some supernatural quality in it, or because of its supernatural origin. Here unquestionably we are to suppose the latter. The epithet ‘spiritual’ denotes that the food came from the Spirit—was produced by a Divine miraculous power (comp. Exodus 16:14). [“It is here employed in special reference to its descent from heaven and its designation in Psalm 78:24-25 as “the bread of heaven” and “angels’ food.” Stanley. “Thus, also, Isaac is called, Galatians 4:29, ‘he born after the Spirit,’ in opposition to Ishmael, who is spoken of as ‘born after the flesh.’” Alford.
All the Israelites shared equally.
[“the same spiritual food… the same spiritual drink” means] they all had it. They all eat the same spiritual meat. They were all alike favored, and had therefore equal grounds of hope. Yet how few of them reached the promised rest!
For they were drinking
Some translations have “for they drank” but “The imp. ἔπινον, were drinking, was intended to denote their continuous drinking all through the entire march in the wilderness.” (Lange; see NASB).
“For” means this is an explanatory note for why their drink was spiritual – because it came miraculously from the rock.
That spiritual rock that followed them
God’s miraculous provision of water for them throughout their 40 years in the desert, which had a long tradition of commentary in Jewish tradition.
Byron notes that, interestingly, Paul is not the only person to suggest that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings. A first-century C.E. source called Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities makes a similar claim: “But as for his own people, he led them forth into the wilderness: Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (10.7).
Pseudo-Philo claims that a well of water followed the Israelites through the wilderness, whereas in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says that it was a rock that followed them. How did these two ancient interpreters come to their conclusions?
“What they seem to have concluded,” Byron explains, “is that since Moses named both the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:7) and the one at Kadesh (Numbers 20:13) ‘Meribah,’ the logical conclusion was that both were one and the same rock and that it, therefore, must have accompanied Israel on their journey.”
1 Corinthians 10:4 reflects a common ancient interpretation—that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings, which is demonstrated by Paul’s casual reference and supported by Pseudo-Philo.
John Gill explains the more extensive Jewish tradition.
[N]ot that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years. The Jerusalem Targum says of the
“well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.”
And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel,
“that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.”
Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers on those words, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?” makes this remark:
“for they knew it not, (eloh Klhv ypl) , “for that rock went”, and remained among the rocks.”
And in another place it is said,
“that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, (Mhme tabw) , “and came with them”, in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.”
Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.
All we know for certain is, that they had two miraculous supplies of water – one, near the outset of their wilderness journey, at Horeb (Ex. xvii. 4-6); the other, at Meribah Kadesh, near its close (Num. xx. 11); and since without a supply of water all through they could not have subsisted for a week, and yet no such fatal want overtook them, one may well say that they had an unfailing supply, or (in the apostle’s way of putting it), that ‘the Rock followed them.’
At the divine command, Moses smote the rock Horeb, in the sight of the elders of Israel; when the waters gushed out, ‘they ran in the dry places like a river,’ (Ps. cv. 41; lxxviii. 15, 16). The supply thus obtained was very abundant. Not only did the whole multitude, with their cattle, satisfy their thirst on that occasion, but it would seem that the stream of water, thus opened, formed a channel for itself, and followed the people in the desert. Thus we do not read of any scarcity of water being felt for about thirty-eight years. This the Apostle expresses, by saying, ‘the rock followed them.’
Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them.
That Rock was Christ
Given that this entire context is dealing with typology, it is likely that Paul means the rock was a type of Christ. Jesus says the manna was a type of Himself, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-58). He also told the woman at the well that He was living water (John 4:10-14). As the rock was smitten, so was Christ, as he poured out blood and water (John 19:34).
[T]he water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was… but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives.
‘this rock was an emblem of Christ.’ He was smitten by the rod of Heaven, before the elders of Israel, and from his pierced body flow the refreshing streams of salvation. This is that river ‘which makes glad the city of God,’ and which follows the church through the barren wilderness of this world, till it shall arrive at the heavenly Canaan… ‘That rock was Christ,’ namely a type of Christ.
The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified… this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed.
This food, though carnal in its nature and use, was truly “spiritual;” inasmuch as it was,
1. A typical representation of Christ—
[Our Lord himself copiously declares this with respect to the manna: He draws a parallel between the bread which Moses gave to the Israelites, and himself as the true bread that was given them from heaven; and shews that, as the manna supported the natural life of that nation for a time, so he would give spiritual and eternal life to the whole believing world [Note: John 6:48-58.]. The same truth he also establishes, in reference to the water that proceeded from the rock. He told the Samaritan woman, that if she would have asked of him he would have given her living water [Note: John 4:10-14.]. And on another occasion he stood in the place of public concourse, and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink [Note: John 7:37-38.];” thereby declaring himself to be the only “well of salvation,” the only rock from whence the living water could proceed. Indeed, the Apostle, in the very words of the text, puts this matter beyond a doubt; “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them;” and “that Rock was Christ.”]
Note Lightfoot on John 19:36 (“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”)
[Came there out blood and water.] It is commonly said that the two sacraments of the new testament, water and blood, flowed out of this wound: but I would rather say that the antitype of the old testament might be here seen…
II. It must not by any means let pass that in Shemoth Rabba;
“‘He smote the rock, and the waters gushed out,’ Psalm 78:20, but the word yod-zayin-vav-bet- yod signifies nothing else but blood; as it is said, ‘The woman that hath an issue of blood upon her,’ Leviticus 15:20. Moses therefore smote the rock twice, and first it gushed out blood, then water.”
“That rock was Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10:4. Compare these two together: Moses smote the rock, and blood and water, saith the Jew, flowed out thence: the soldier pierced our Saviour’s side with a spear, and water and blood, saith the evangelist, flowed thence.
However, if Paul is speaking typologically here, it seems odd that he would only call out the rock as a type, and not the manna, given that Christ identified the manna as a type of himself even more directly than the rock. Furthermore, the grammar Paul uses does not seem to specifically match his grammar elsewhere when speaking of types.
But what do these statements import? Certainly not… that the rock was a symbol of Christ, as of one out of whom streams of living water flow. In such a case it would have read, not “was Christ,” but, “is Christ.”
The Rock as Provider
An alternative explanation of Paul’s meaning is found in the Song of Moses, where the Lord is identified as Israel’s Rock who created them and provided for them.
For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect;… “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock;… “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation… Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you… How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock. (Deut 32)
“The miracle of bringing water out of the rock, happened not once, but at least twice (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). It was therefore not one particular rock which was concerned in the miracle; but as often as a like necessity occurred, there on the spot was also the water-yielding rock again.” Now since every rock could render the same service by the same influence, so it appeared as if the rock accompanied the Israelites. The material rock, in this case, is non-essential; the water-giving power is the chief thing. This power was God’s, that same God who has manifested Himself to us in Jesus Christ. And He is called the Rock that followed them, because it was through His agency that the several rocks, one after the other, acquired the same water-yielding power.” Burger.
Thus Paul may be identifying Christ as the Lord who provided for Israel. This finds further support in 1 Cor. 10:9 where Paul says “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,” compared with Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” Note that Massah was where the rock was first struck for water.
[T]he people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”… And the Lord said to Moses… “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”
And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:2-7)
In verse 9, Paul does not specifically refer to this tempting at Massah, but to a later tempting of the Lord on the same grounds (lack of provision).
And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (Numbers 25:5-6)
This reinforces the idea that Paul is identifying Christ as the one who provided physical sustenance for Israel throughout their wanderings, rather than narrowly identifying Christ with the specific rock at Horeb.
ver. 9 represents the Christ in the wilderness acting as the representative of Jehovah, from the midst of the cloud! Is it not perfectly simple to explain this figure of which Paul makes use, by the numerous saying of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord is called the Rock of Israel: ‘The Rock, His work is perfect’ (xxxii. 4); ‘Israel lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation’ (ver. 15); ‘Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful’ (ver. 18), etc., and by all those similar ones of Isaiah: ‘Thou hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength’ (xvii. 10); ‘in the Lord is the Rock of ages’ (xxvi. 4)? Only, what is special in the passage of Paul is, that this title of Rock of Israel, during the wilderness history, is ascribed here, not to Jehovah, but to the Christ. The passage forms an analogy to the words John xii. 41, where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision in which Isaiah beholds Adonai, the Lord, in the temple of His glory (ch. vi.). Christ is represented in these passages, by Paul and John, as pre-existent before His coming to the earth, and presiding over the theocratic history. In ch. viii. ver. 6, Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God’s people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed.
This finds further support when we consider Christ as the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8).
the role of the fiture of Wisdom in guiding, protecting, and nurturing Israel through the wilderness is very widely attested in literature in hellenistic Judaism over the century before Paul’s writing, in contemporary synagogue homilies, and in Paul’s near-contemporary Philo. Both Wisdom 2, the Book of Wisdom, and Philo speak of Wisdom’s provision of water to wandering Israel “from a flinty rock” (Wis 2:4) on which Philo observes: “the flinty rock is the wisdom of God” [cp. Deut 8:15] (Philo, Legum Allegoriae 2.86). The point here is that it is clearly and widely recognized that Paul informs his own Christology by drawing explicitly on traditions of preexistent Wisdom from the OT Wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs 8)…
We cannot readily underplay the role for Paul of Christ the Wisdom of God (1:30) when it not only plays a major role in his dialogue with Corinth and “the strong”… Paul could take for granted a background about the role of divine Wisdom as protector, guide, nourisher of Israel in the wilderness which could readily be applied to the preexistent Christ, while this background, which was the stock-in-trade of hellenistic Jewish diaspora [note “our fathers” discussed above] synagogue sermons, has become unfamiliar now to most modern readers, and hence requires explanation.
in what sense was the rock Christ? Not that Christ appeared under the form of a rock; nor that the rock was a type of Christ, for that does not suit the connection… The expression is simply figurative… He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness. This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
But with many of them God was not well pleased
Notwithstanding they had been thus highly favored… with a great number… he was displeased.
Despite the fact that Christ, Jehova miraculously provided for the Israelites by redeeming them out of slavery, delivering them from Pharoah, providing them with food and water for 40 years, many of them did not finish the race because they did not deny themselves. They were destroyed. Paul uses this as a typological warning to the Corinthians. Christ’s provision was not the same in both instances. To Israel, as the Triune God, he miraculously provided physical sustenance: bread and water. To the Church, as incarnate suffering servant, he miraculously provided himself: the bread of life and living water. If anyone who makes a profession of faith and is baptized into Christ becomes puffed up in his knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and becomes lax in their fight against the temptation to sin, there is a very real possibility that they will not finish the race and will be destroyed eternally, just as the Israelites in the wilderness were destroyed temporally.
[T]he Apostle Paul… in his first Epistle to the Corinthians shows that even the very history of the Exodus was an allegory of the future Christian People.
(Augustine, On the Profit of Believing)
Note, if you are not familiar with 1689 Federalism’s understanding of the Old and New Covenant, please visit http://www.1689federalism.com
Kyle Kraeft recently sent me Charles Simeon’s commentary on Jeremiah 31. Simeon (1759–1836), an Anglican, was a leader among evangelical churchmen, and was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society in 1799. This peaked my interest because Thomas Scott (whose commentary notes on the New and Old Covenants I previously highlighted) was also a founder of the Church Missionary Society. I would love to find out if this had become the prevailing view among that circle.
THE NEW COVENANT
Jeremiah 31:31-34. Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the Home of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:) but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
THOUGH there is among us a general idea that Christianity is founded on the Jewish religion, yet the specific difference between them is very little understood. It would be well for us to have clear views of this subject: for unless we know the comparative excellency of the new covenant above that which it superseded, we can never justly appreciate the great advantages we enjoy. In the passage before us, the Mosaic and Christian covenants are contrasted; and the abolition of the one, and the establishment of the other, are foretold. But before we enter on the comparison between the two, it will be necessary to observe, that there are, properly speaking, only two great covenants; under the one or other of which all the world are living: the one is the Adamic covenant, which was made with Adam in Paradise, and which is entirely a covenant of works; the other is the Christian covenant, which, though made with Christ, and ratified by his blood upon the cross, was more or less clearly revealed from the beginning of the world. It was first announced in that promise, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” It was afterwards more plainly opened to Abraham, and afterwards still more fully to Moses. The Mosaic covenant, properly speaking, was distinct from both of these: it was not altogether a covenant of works, or a covenant of grace; but it partook of the nature of both. As containing the moral law, it was a re-publication of the covenant of works: and as containing the ceremonial law, it was a dark and shadowy representation of the covenant of grace. It was a mixed covenant, designed for one particular nation; and given to them, in order to introduce the covenant under which we live. Of that the prophet says, that it should in due time be superseded by a new and better covenant; and the Apostle, quoting this whole passage, says, that “it had then waxed old, and was vanishing away [Note: Hebrews 8:8-13.].”
In order to give a clear view of this subject, we shall state,
I. The blessings of the new covenant—
These being specified by the prophet, and copied exactly by the Apostle, we shall adhere strictly to them, without attempting to reduce them to any other order than that which is here observed. In the new covenant then, God undertakes,
1. To write his law in our hearts—
[This is a work which none but God can effect. The kings were commanded to write a copy of their law, each one for himself: but, though they might write it on parchment, they could not inscribe it on their own hearts. This however God engages to do for all who embrace the new covenant. He will make all the laws which he has revealed, agreeable to us: he will discover to us the excellency of them; and “cause us to delight in them after our inward man.” He will make us to see, that the moral “law is holy and just and good,” even while it condemns us for our disobedience to its commands; and that “the law of faith” also (that is, the Gospel) is a marvellous exhibition of God’s mercy and grace, and exactly suited to the necessities of our souls. He will engage our wills to submit to his; and dispose our souls to put forth all their energies in obedience to his commands. This he has repeatedly promised [Note: Ezekiel 36:26-27.];” and this he will fulfil to all who trust in him.]
2. To establish a relation between himself and us—
[By nature we are enemies to him, and he to us. But on our embracing of this covenant, he will “give himself to us as our God, and take us for his people.” In being our God, he will exercise all his perfections for our good; his wisdom to guide us, his power to protect us, his love and mercy to make us happy, his truth and faithfulness to preserve us to the end. In taking us for his people, he will incline us to employ all our faculties in his service. Our time, our wealth, our influence, yea, all the members of our bodies, and all the powers of our souls, will be used as his, for the accomplishment of his will, and the promotion of his glory. We may see this illustrated in the life of the Apostle Paul. God took as much care of him, as if there had been no other creature in the universe; and he devoted himself to God, as much as if his faculties had not been capable of any other use or application. The effects of this relation are not indeed equally visible in all the Lord’s people: but the difference is in the degree only, and not in the substance and reality.]
3. To give us the knowledge of himself—
[There is a knowledge of God which cannot be attained by human teaching; a spiritual experimental knowledge, a knowledge accompanied with suitable dispositions and affections. But this God will give to those who lay hold on his covenant: “He will reveal himself to them, as he does not unto the world.” He will “put them into the cleft of the rock, and make all his glory to pass before their eyes;” and proclaim to them his name, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious [Note: Exodus 33:18-23; Exodus 34:5-7.], &c. He has promised, that “all his people shall be taught of him [Note: Isaiah 54:13. John 6:45.],” “the least as well as the greatest,” yea, the least often in preference to the greatest [Note: Matthew 11:25. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.]. And in proof that this promise is really fulfilled to all who receive the Gospel, St. John declares it to be a known acknowledged fact: “we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding to know him that is true [Note: 1 John 5:20.].”]
4. To pardon all our iniquities—
[Under this new covenant, we have access to “the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness;” and by washing in it “we are cleansed from all sin [Note: 1 John 1:7.].” Whatever transgressions we may have committed in our unregenerate state, they are all put away; “though they may have been as scarlet, they have become white as snow; though they have been red like crimson, they are as wool” — — —]
Hitherto we have spoken only in a general way of the blessings of the new covenant: we proceed to notice them more particularly, while we state,
II. The difference between the old and new covenants—
We have already observed, that by “the old covenant” is meant the Mosaic covenant, made with the Jews on Mount Sinai. Between this and the Gospel covenant there is a wide difference. They differ,
1. In the freeness of their grants—
[The Mosaic covenant imposed certain conditions to be fulfilled on the part of the Jews; and on their fidelity to their engagements all the blessings of that covenant were suspended [Note: Exodus 24:6-8.]. But we find no condition specified in the new covenant. Must we attain the knowledge of God, and become his people; and have his law written in our hearts? true: but these are not acts of ours, which God requires in order to the bestowing of other blessings upon us; but blessings which he himself undertakes to give. if any say, that repentance and faith are conditions which we are to perform, we will not dispute about a term; you may call them conditions, if you please; but that which we affirm respecting them is, that they constitute a part of God’s free grant in the Gospel covenant; so that they are not conditions, in the same sense that the obedience of the Jews was the condition upon which they held the promised land: they are, as we have just said, blessings freely given us by God; and not acts of ours, whereon to found our claim to other blessings.
It is worthy of observation, that the Apostle, mentioning this grant of the new covenant, particularly specifies, that God, “finding fault with” the Jews for their violations of the old covenant, says, “I will make a new covenant [Note: Hebrews 8:8.].” Had he said, “Commending them for their observation of the inferior covenant, God said, I will give you a better covenant,” we might have supposed, that it was given as a reward for services performed: but when it was given in consequence of the hopeless state to which their violations of the former covenant had reduced them, the freeness of this covenant appears in the strongest light.]
2. In the extent of their provisions—
[We shall again notice the different blessings as they lie in our text. God wrote his law upon tables of stone, and put it into the hands of those with whom his old covenant was made: but, according to his new covenant, he undertakes to put it into our inward parts, and to write it on our hearts. What a glorious difference is this! and how beautifully and exultingly does the Apostle point it out to his Corinthian converts [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:3.]!
God established indeed a relation between himself and his people of old: but this relation, though nominally the same with ours, was by no means realized to the same extent. To true believers amongst them he was the same that he now is: but what was he to the people at large, with whom the covenant was made? He interposed for them doubtless, on many occasions, in an external way; and they externally acknowledged him: but his Communications to us are internal, and our devotion to him is real and spiritual.
Under the old covenant, God revealed himself to his people in types and shadows; and the ceremonies which he appointed were so dark and various, that they could not be known to the generality, unless the people carefully instructed each other. On this account it was commanded that the children should inquire into the reason of various institutions (as that of the passover, and the feast of unleavened bread, and the redemption of the first-born); and their parents were to explain them [Note: Exodus 12:26-27; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14-15.]. But with us, there are only two institutions, and those the plainest that can be imagined; and the great truths of our religion are so interwoven with our feelings, that a person whose desires are after God, needs no other teaching than that of God’s word and Spirit; and though the instructions of ministers, of masters, and of parents, are still extremely useful, yet may a person obtain the knowledge of God and of salvation without being indebted to any one of them: and it is a fact, that many persons remote from ordinances, and from instruction of every kind, except the blessed book of God, are often so richly taught by the Spirit of God, as to put to shame those who enjoy the greatest external advantages [Note: See 1 John 2:27. where the Apostle manifestly refers to the expressions in our text.].
The forgiveness of sins which was vouchsafed under the old covenant, was not such as to bring peace into the conscience of the offender: (“the sacrifices which he offered, could not make him perfect as pertaining to the conscience [Note: Hebrews 9:9.]:”) nor indeed were any means appointed for the obtaining of pardon for some particular offences: but under the new covenant, “all who believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses [Note: Acts 13:39.]” and, “being justified by faith, they have peace with God [Note: Romans 5:1.],” “a peace that passeth understanding,” “a joy unspeakable and glorified.”
How glorious does the new covenant appear in this contrasted view! and what reason have we to adore our God for the rich provisions contained in it!]
3. In the duration of their benefits—
[The annual repetition of the same sacrifices under the old covenant was intended to intimate to the people, that their pardon was not final: had their guilt been perfectly removed by them, the Apostle observes very justly, that “they would then have ceased to be offered; because the worshippers would have had no more conscience of sins:” but, inasmuch as the sacrifices were annually renewed, they were, in fact, no more than “a remembrance of sins made every year [Note: Hebrews 10:1-3.].” But under the new covenant God engages to “remember our sins and iniquities no more:” they are not only forgiven by him, but forgotten; not only cancelled, but “blotted out as a morning cloud [Note: Isaiah 44:22.]” not only removed from before his face, but “cast behind his back into the depths of the sea [Note: Micah 7:19.].” His former people he put away, “though he was an husband unto them:” but to us his “gifts and callings are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.].” This is particularly marked by the prophet, in the verses following our text [Note: ver. 35–37.]; and by an inspired Apostle, in his comment on the very words we are considering. He is shewing the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to that appointed under the law: and he confirms his position from this circumstance; that the sacrifices offered by the Levitical priests could never take away sin, and therefore were continually repeated; whereas Christ’s sacrifice, once offered, would for ever take away sin, and “perfect for ever all them that are sanctified.” He then adduces the very words of our text; and says, that, in these words, “the Holy Ghost is a witness to us;” for that, in promising first, that “the law should be written in our hearts,” and then, that “our sins and iniquities should be remembered no more,” he had attested fully the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, and given ample assurance, that those who relied upon it should never have their sins imputed to them [Note: Hebrews 10:11-18.].
It is needless to multiply words any further upon this subject; for the old covenant, with all its benefits, was to continue only for a limited period; whereas the new covenant is to continue to the end of the world; and its benefits to the remotest ages of eternity.]
1. The folly of making self-righteous covenants of our own—
[Why did God give us another covenant, but because the former was inadequate to our necessities? Shall we then be recurring to the old covenant, or forming new ones of our own upon the same principle? Take your own covenants, and examine them, and see what grounds of hope they afford you. We will give you have to dictate your own terms: say, if you please, “You are to repent and amend your lives: and on those conditions God shall give you eternal life:” Can you repent, can you amend your lives, by any power of your own? Have you agreed with God what shall be the precise measure of your repentance and amendment? Have you attained the measure which you yourselves think to be necessary, so that you can say, My conscience witnesses for me, that I am fully prepared to meet my God? If not, see to what a state you reduce yourselves: you need none other to condemn you: for God may say, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee.” O be not thus infatuated: cast not away the Lord’s covenant for such delusive projects of your own: but, instead of depending on your own weak endeavours, go and lay hold on that better covenant, which provides every thing for you, as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus.]
2. The blessedness of those who obey the Gospel—
[You have “a covenant which is ordered in all things, and sure [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.]:” and you have a Mediator, who, having purchased for you all the blessings of this covenant, will infallibly secure them to you by his efficacious grace, and all-prevailing intercession. Place then your confidence in him. Employ him daily (if I may so speak) to maintain your interest in it; and give him the glory of every blessing you receive. Your enjoyment of its benefits must be progressive, as long as you continue in the word — — — Let your desires after them be more and more enlarged: and in due time you shall enjoy them in all their fulness. It is in heaven alone that you will fully possess them: but there you shall perfectly comprehend the meaning of that promise, “Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God [Note: Revelation 21:3.].”]
As most of you probably know, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, recently converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. Note what Hanegraaff says
His journey to Orthodoxy began with a trip to China, when “I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life,” he said.
On the flight back, Hanegraaff wondered if he was even a Christian. “I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This is very interesting because it relates directly to the most popular post on my blog. Most of you are probably unaware of the post, but it continues to receive more hits than all the others. The False Gospel of Witness Lee and the Living Stream Ministries gives an overview of the cult’s teaching and compares it with Christianity.
The “trip to China” that Hanegraaff refers to was a trip to investigate the cult (here’s a brief 3 minute account of the visit). The original Bible Answer Man Walter Martin declared the cult a cult. Several decades later, Living Stream Ministries had grown in wealth and began suing publishers who called them a cult, successfully bankrupting some. When they came knocking on Hanegraaff’s door, he had no interest in losing any money. This short wrietup Greed: Case Study in Bad: CRI explains Hank’s love for money (see also Money, Money, Money). A 2000 LA Times article “Casting Stones” (before the LSM study) reports how the relatives of Walter Martin were demanding Hanegraaff’s resignation.
[I]n recent years, Martin family members have expressed concern about Hanegraaff’s leadership.
After a public rift with Hanegraaff in 1996, Darlene Martin, widow of Walter Martin, resigned from the institute’s board. Last October, the family sent Hanegraaff a letter detailing objections to his leadership.
“He’s not the man we believed him to be,” said Jill Martin Rische, Martin’s eldest daughter and executor of his estate. “We just want someone in charge who will continue the clear vision my father had for CRI.”
That vision, to be a leading think tank with a focus on evangelizing, has floundered, according to Rische, 42, who lives in St. Paul, Minn.
Instead, she claims, Hanegraaff has used the nonprofit CRI as a platform to sell his books and promote his two for-profit organizations.
For more details, see The CRI Connection.
So to avoid being sued by Living Stream Ministries (they sued Harvest House for $136 million), lo and behold, a special issue of the CRI journal appeared titled “We Were Wrong!” in which they retract their former claim that Living Stream Ministries is a cult.
Here are two typical quotes from the cult.
Ultimately, the church is a group of people who are in union with the Triune God and are mingled with the Triune God. The Triune God and the church are four-in-one. Because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ, we may say that the Triune God is now the “four-in-one God.” These four are the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body.
Witness Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing p.203-204
New Jerusalem is actually a corporate person who includes the processed and consummated Triune God and, as the issue of God’s complete salvation, all the chosen, redeemed, regenerated, sanctified, renewed, transformed, built-up believers in Christ.
The Gospel in Romans
I concluded my original post on Living Stream Ministries with this:
If Hanegraaff and the others involved at CRI honestly believe that Witness Lee and Living Stream Ministries teach “sound orthodoxy” then they are just as damned as Lee.
On the 1689Federalism.com website, a distinction is made between 1689 Federalism and 20th Century Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology. A video explains the differences and a venn diagram shows the areas of agreement and disagreement. From the very first day that the 1689federalism.com site went live, the venn diagram included a disclaimer. It said “20th Century Reformed Baptists* *This label is not to suggest this view is entirely new in the 20th century. Men such as John Gill have held similar views.”
Regretfully, someone (Joshua Whipps) has attempted to use Gill to argue that the historical claims made about 1689 Federalism are untrue and that it was never more than an oddball idea held by a few. There seems to be some fundamental misunderstandings involved. This issue was raised again yesterday in a tweet to me, so I figured I’d write something up to clarify.
@NWhite_GA I am typically met with a cricket chorus when I point out that the unfortunate category of “20th century” doesn’t apply to Gill.
Jul 25, 2016, 7:45 AM
As I explained already, there was a disclaimer about the label from the very first day anyone heard of it. The reason “20th century” was used is because it described a view that arose in the 20th century largely without any influence from historic baptist covenant theology – Gill or otherwise. As James Renihan explains in his Introduction to Recovering a Covenantal Heritage, “By 1920… Very few, if any of the churches in the Northern and Southern Baptist Conventions, remained committed to the old confessional theology. Baptists were swept away by… Revivalism, Modernism, Fundamentalism, and Dispensationalism.” When confessional baptist theology was recovered later in the 20th century, it was nursed primarily by Westminster Theological Seminary (notably John Murray) and the Banner of Truth (which did not reprint historic baptist works on covenant theology). As a result, baptists attempted to construct a covenant theology while wearing “Presbyterian glasses” (though they were still obvious critical of various aspects). That is not a comment on John Gill. It is a comment on baptists in the 20th century. When we say this, we are not necessarily talking about all baptists everywhere in the 20th century. We are not making any comment about Whipps himself. We are referring specifically to an influential group of pastors who helped lead and educate other reformed baptists (such as Walt Chantry, Samuel Waldron, Fred Malone, Earl Blackburn, etc). This book might help provide context that is missing for some.
Please note that 1689 Federalism does not claim that 1689 Federalism is or was the only confessionally acceptable view. It gets its name from the fact that the overwhelming majority of 1689 baptists held to 1689 Federalism and it explains the change in language between the WCF and the LBCF.
Whipps misunderstand 1689 Federalism’s comments about the tradition being lost.
Joshua Whipps: I would like to see what the 1689F folks would say about this. Do they really think Dr. Voluminous had no idea what Keach, Coxe, Owen, etc. taught? I can’t imagine it, given his references to them on so many other topics.
No one ever suggested that Gill held his views because he didn’t know about 1689 Federalism. That’s a very significant misunderstanding. Those comments are strictly referring to men in the 20th century (hence the label).
@NWhite_GA Sure, I got you. I still do wonder why it is they don’t deal with Gill’s influence more, instead of the “lost” thesis in vogue.
Jul 25, 2016, 7:56 AM
@NWhite_GA Well, as I noted, there’s 16 years between the end of Keach’s pastorate, and the beginning of Gill’s. Far less than 1644-1689.
Jul 25, 2016, 7:57 AM
@NWhite_GA Sure, but by any measure, Gill is quite literally the next generation after Keach/Coxe. The “lost” thesis doesn’t seem plausible.
Jul 25, 2016, 7:58 AM
@RazorsKiss Yeah, and Keach had his issues too, haha! 1689F is committed to strict confessionalism. You must understand them in that context
Jul 25, 2016, 7:59 AM
@NWhite_GA Oh, sure – but before they came along – we WERE the strict confessionalists! When your CT was straight outta Gill, and folks…
Jul 25, 2016, 8:01 AM
@NWhite_GA …tell you that not only you, but EVERYONE else since Coxe and Keach *lost* the confession on CT – that’s a tall tale to accept.
Jul 25, 2016, 8:02 AM
No one has ever said or suggested that “everyone else since Coxe and Keach lost the confession on CT.” Whipps’ working thesis appears to be that 1689 Federalism was never lost, it was merely rejected nearly as soon as it was put foward. John Gill, the giant of baptist thought, rejected 1689 Federalism in the mid 18th century and it was never heard from again. That is why men in the 20th century held to a similar covenant theology. If Whipps would like to present an argument that the confessional baptist resurgence and their subsequent development of covenant theology was influenced by Gill, I’m all ears. But from my readings, those men were not very big fans of Gill on the whole. Perhaps others like James White or Whipps himself were more influenced by Gill. Regardless of whether modern baptists were influenced by Gill in the development of their covenant theology, they still weren’t exposed to 1689 Federalism because it was lost with the loss of confessionalism and historic baptist texts. And men like James White who saw the value in Owen’s Hebrews commentary didn’t fully grasp all that Owen was arguing as it related to 1689 Federalism.
@NWhite_GA @RazorsKiss so what was dominant in 18/19th century then? 1689F?
Jul 25, 2016, 8:13 AM
@armennazarian I’ve never read anything of the sort from that time period. As far as I know, everyone parallels Gill, more or less.
Jul 25, 2016, 8:14 AM
@RazorsKiss if 1689F was “lost” in 18/19 C and Gills position was the dominant in that period, calling it the 20thC view is even more weird
Jul 25, 2016, 8:19 AM
@armennazarian Exactly. It doesn’t seem to make any sense, internally.
Jul 25, 2016, 8:19 AM
It is not remotely true that 1689 Federalism ceased to be held after Gill wrote his Body of Doctrinal Divinity in 1767. I have by no means read all of the available historical work, but here is a sampling of proponents of robust 1689 Federalism during and after that time:
- leading American baptist Isaac Backus’ A short description of the difference between the bond-woman and the free (1759) and other writings
- See also Ronald Baines’ Separating God’s Two Kingdoms: Two Kingdom Theology among New England Baptist in the Early Republic for a helpful commentary on American baptist views of the era
- leading English baptist Abraham Booth’s An Essay on the Kingdom of Christ (1783)
- former Scottish Presbyterian James Haldane’s Reasons of a change of sentiment and practice on the subject of baptism (1809); see also his commentary on Hebrews
- the second president of the SBC, R.B.C. Howell’s “The Covenants” (1851)
- A.W. Pink’s The Divine Covenants (early 20th century)
- Note: Pink was the almost sole exception to the loss of confessional baptist theology in the early 20th century and his book The Sovereignty of God was instrumental in the confessional baptist resurgence in the second half of the 20th, though he tended not to be well respected as a theologian by many modern baptists, and thus his covenant theology was not influential.
I have not encountered any works on baptist covenant theology written during that time period that argue for the 1 covenant with multiple administrations view. They may exist. I just haven’t seen them.
It is also worth noting that far from falling out of prominence during this time, the rejection of Westminster Federalism in favor of the subservient covenant view (developed further by Owen) gained popularity among reformed theologians. For example:
- Scottish Presbyterian John Erskine’s The Nature of the Sinai Covenant (1765 – note that Booth quotes him)
- Anglican Thomas Scott’s influential The Holy Bible with Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References (1788-)
- Scott’s views influenced American Presbyterians and appears to have been related to the theological rationale for the 1788 revision of the WCF. See William Findley’s Observations on the Two Sons of Oil (1821) “It is presumed that no christian believes that eternal salvation was promised in the Sinai covenant; or, in other words, that it was the covenant of grace.”
Gill’s One Covenant of Grace Under Multiple Administrations
All of the above was merely to clarify some issues that have been confused. I am much less interested in arguments about people and history than I am about ideas. I would much rather discuss the concept of 1689 Federalism. So let’s do that.
First, let me note that, as a high Calvinist who recognizes the necessity of logic in our interpretation of Scripture, I like Gill (even though I think he errs on a few points like eternal justification).
Whipps points to Gill’s discussion of the covenant of grace in his Body of Doctrinal Divinity, which is the same material I read many years ago, leading me to make the footnote/disclaimer that Gill held this view.
The covenant of grace is but one and the same in all ages, of which Christ is the substance… The patriarchs before the flood and after, before the law of Moses and under it, before the coming of Christ, and all the saints since, are saved in one and the same way, even “by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and that is the grace of the covenant, exhibited at different times, and in divers manners.
For though the covenant is but one, there are different administrations of it; particularly two, one before the coming of Christ, and the other after it; which lay the foundation for the distinction of the “first” and “second”, the “old” and the “new” covenant, observed by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 8:7, 8, 13; 9:1, 15; 12:24), for by the first and old covenant, is not meant the covenant of works made with Adam, which had been broke and abrogated long ago… but by it is meant the first and most ancient administration of the covenant of grace which reached from the fall of Adam, when the covenant of works was broke, unto the coming of Christ, when it was superseded and vacated by another administration of the same covenant, called therefore the “second” and “new” covenant.
The one we commonly call the Old Testament dispensation, and the other the New Testament dispensation; for which there seems to be some foundation in 2 Corinthians 3:6, 14 and Hebrews 9:15 these two covenants, or rather the two administrations of the same covenant, are allegorically represented by two women, Hagar and Sarah, the bondwoman and the free (Gal. 4:22-26), which fitly describe the nature and difference of them. And before I proceed any farther, I shall just point out the agreement and disagreement of those two administrations of the covenant of grace.
…the word signifies both covenant and testament, and some have called it a covenant testament, or a testamentary covenant; hence the different administrations of the covenant of grace in time, are called the first and second, the Old and New Testament; and even the books of scripture, written under those different dispensations, are so distinguished (see Heb. 8:1-13; 2 Cor. 3:6, 14).
Seems like a pretty clear articulation of the Westminster doctrine that all post-fall covenants are the one and the same covenant, though differently administer, and therefore the Mosaic Covenant was the Covenant of Grace, not a covenant of works for life in the land. But…
Gill’s Multiple Post-Fall Covenants Distinct From the Covenant of Grace
A closer reading of Book IV reveals something interesting.
The next period of time in which an exhibition of the covenant of grace was made, is that from Noah to Abraham… The covenant made with Noah, though it was not the special covenant of grace, being made with him and all his posterity, and even with all creatures; yet as it was a covenant of preservation, it was a covenant of kindness and goodness in a temporal way; and it bore a resemblance to the covenant of grace;
Gill distinguishes between the Noahic Covenant and the “exhibition of the covenant of grace” that was made to Noah.
But what more especially deserve attention, are the various appearances of God unto Abraham, and the manifestations of the covenant of grace then made unto him… a further manifestation of the covenant of grace… a display of covenant grace… The same covenant of grace that was manifested to Abraham and Isaac, was repeated and made known to Jacob… besides the covenant of circumcision, God gave to him, and his natural seed of the male gender, and a promise of the land of Canaan to his posterity
Again Gill distinguishes between the Covenant of Circumcision and the manifestations and displays of the covenant of grace “made known to” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Thus the covenant of grace was exhibited, held forth, displayed, and manifested in the grace and blessings of it in the times of the patriarchs.” He speaks of the covenant of grace “displayed,” “held forth,” “manifested,” “exhibited,” and “showed forth” at the time of “Moses [who] was a mediator when the covenant on Sinai was given,” which was a national covenant. “The blessing of adoption is another covenant [of grace] blessing, spoken of by the prophets; not national adoption, included in the national covenant made with the people of Israel; but adoption by special grace.” He then moves on to David and distinguishes between the covenant of royalty and the special covenant of grace, which was “displayed,” and “made known.”
David, who was a prophet, and by whom the Spirit of God spake concerning Christ, and the covenant of grace made with him (Acts 2:30; 1:16; 2 Sam. 23:2-5). The grace of the covenant was displayed in him, the blessings of it were bestowed on him, the covenant itself was made with him; not only the covenant of royalty, concerning the succession of the kingdom of Israel in his family; but the special covenant of grace, in which his own salvation lay; a covenant ordered in all things and sure, and an everlasting one (2 Sam. 23:5)... Solomon, the Son of David, and his successor in the kingdom, had not only the covenant of royalty established with him, but the special covenant of grace was made with him, or made known unto him; “I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son” (2 Sam. 7:14).“
This begins to sound very similar to 1689 Federalism’s articulation of the Covenant of Grace (the promise) revealed within the distinct historical post-fall covenants. If you read through the whole section you will see that Gill is not focusing on explaining each post-fall covenant. Rather, he is marching through redemptive history showing all the ways in which the gospel was revealed.
Gill’s Sinai Covenant of Works
In his discussion of the Adamic Covenant of Works, Gill rightly distinguishes between the law and the law as a covenant of works – an important aspect of 1689 Federalism taught in LBCF 7.1.
This law given to Adam, taken in its complex view, as both natural and positive, was in the form of a covenant… The law given to Adam, as it was a law, sprung from the sovereignty of God, who had a right to impose a law upon him, whatsoever he thought fit; as it was a covenant, it was an act of condescension and goodness in God, to enter into it with man, his creature; he could have required obedience to his law, without promising anything on account of it; for it is what God has a prior right unto, and therefore a recompence for it cannot be claimed; if, therefore, God thinks fit, for the encouragement of obedience, to promise in covenant any good, it is all condescension, it is all kindness… And it is frequently called the “legal” covenant, the covenant of “works”, as the Scripture calls it, “the law of works”, as before observed; it promised life on the performance of good works; its language was, “Do this and live”. And it sometimes has the name of the covenant of life from the promise of life in it.
But notice how he compares this to the Sinai Covenant.
It contained a promise; which was a promise of life, of natural life to Adam, and of a continuation of it so long as he should observe the condition of it; just as life was promised to the Israelites, and a continuance in it, in the land of Canaan, so long as they should observe the law of God…
He clearly parallels Adam’s obedience to the law and his reward with Israel’s obedience to the law and their reward. He distinguishes between the Old Covenant, which was the Covenant of Grace administered from the fall to Christ, and the Sinai Covenant.
[F]or though in Hebrews 8:7, 13 we read of a first and second, an old and a new covenant; yet these respect one and the same covenant, under different dispensations; and though in the passage referred to [Hosea 6:7], the covenant at Sinai may be intended as one, yet as a repetition, and a new edition of the covenant made with Adam.
The law was given on Mt. Sinai as a typical covenant of works. The covenant of grace was administered/revealed under this typical covenant of works.
Now the law of Moses, for matter and substance, is the same with the law of nature, though differing in the form of administration; and this was renewed in the times of Moses, that it might be confirmed, and that it might not be forgotten, and be wholly lost out of the minds of men… It was not delivered as a pure covenant of works, though the self-righteous Jews turned it into one, and sought for life and righteousness by it: and so it engendered to bondage, and became a killing letter; nor a pure covenant of grace, though it was given as a distinguishing favour to the people of Israel (Deut. 4:6, 8; Ps. 147:19, 20; Rom. 9:4) and much mercy and kindness are expressed in it; and it is prefaced with a declaration of the Lord being the God of Israel, who had, of his great goodness, brought them out of the land of Egypt (Ex 20:2, 6, 12). But it was a part and branch of the typical covenant, under which the covenant of grace was administered under the former dispensation; and of what it was typical… [The law of God] does not continue as a covenant of works; and, indeed, it was not delivered to the children of Israel as such strictly and properly sneaking, only in a typical sense…
Gill elaborates a bit more in his Exposition of the Bible.
Leviticus 18:5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments The same as before; these they were to keep in their minds and memories, and to observe them and do them: which if a man do he shall live in them; live a long life in the land of Canaan, in great happiness and prosperity, see (Deuteronomy 30:20; Isaiah 1:19); for as for eternal life, that was never intended to be had, nor was it possible it could be had and enjoyed by obedience to the law, which fallen man is unable to keep; but is what was graciously promised and provided the covenant of grace, before the world was, to come through Christ, as a free gift to all that believe in him, see (Galatians 3:11-12, 21); though some Jewish writers interpret this of eternal life, as Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Ben Gersom: I [am] the Lord; that has enjoined these statutes and judgments, and promised life to the doers of them, able and faithful to perform what is promised.Isaiah 1:19 If ye be willing and obedient The Targum adds, “to my Word”: the Word made flesh, and dwelling among them; who would have gathered the inhabitants of Jerusalem to his ministry, to attend his word and ordinances, but their rulers would not: ye shall eat the good of the land; the land of Canaan; as the Jews held the possession of that land, before the times of Christ, by their obedience to the laws of God, which were given them as a body politic, and which, so long as they observed, they were continued in the quiet and full enjoyment of all the blessings of it; so, when Christ came, had they received, embraced, and acknowledged him as the Messiah, and been obedient to his will, though only externally, they would have remained in their own land, and enjoyed all the good things in it undisturbed by enemies.
That thou mayest love the Lord thy God
And show it by keeping his commands:
[and] that thou mayest obey his voice;
in his word, and by his prophets:
and that thou mayest cleave unto him;
and to his worship, and not follow after and serve other gods:
for he [is] thy life, and the length of thy days;
the God of their lives, and the Father of their mercies; the giver of long life, and all the blessings of it; and which he had promised to those that were obedient, to him, and which they might expect:
that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thyfathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them;
the land of Canaan, often thus described; this was the grand promise made to obedience to the law, and was typical of eternal life and happiness; which is had, not through man’s obedience to the law, but through the obedience and righteousness of Christ.
Galatians 3:12 And the law is not of faith… the law does not consist of faith in Christ, nor does it require it, and that a man should live by it upon his righteousness; it is the Gospel that reveals the righteousness of Christ, and directs and encourages men to believe in him and be saved; nor does the law take any notice of a man’s faith; nor has it anything to do with a man as a believer, but as a doer, in the point of justification: but the man that doth them shall live in them; the passage referred to, is in (Leviticus 18:5), the word “them”, relates to the statutes and judgments, not of the ceremonial, but of the moral law, which are equally obligatory on Gentiles as on Jews. The Jewish doctors F24 observe on those words, that “it is not said, priests, Levites, and Israelites, but (Mdah) , “the man”; lo, you learn from hence, that even a Gentile that studies in the law, is as an high priest:” so that whatever man does the things contained in the law, that is, internally as well as externally, for the law is spiritual, reaches the inward part of man, and requires truth there, a conformity of heart and thought unto it, and that does them perfectly and constantly, without the least failure in matter or manner of obedience, such shall live in them and by them; the language of the law is, do this and live; so life, and the continuation of that happy natural life which Adam had in innocence, was promised to him, in case of his persisting in his obedience to the law; and so a long and prosperous life was promised to the Israelites in the land of Canaan, provided they observed the laws and statutes which were commanded them: but since eternal life is a promise made before the world began, is provided for in an everlasting covenant, is revealed in the Gospel, and is the pure gift of God’s grace through Christ, it seems that it never was the will of God that it should be obtained by the works of the law; and which is a further proof that there can be no justification in the sight of God by them, see ( Galatians 3:21).
Gill’s Abrahamic Covenant of Works
We find a similar concept in Gill’s view of the Covenant of Circumcision. He addresses this most fully in his section on Baptism in his Body of Practical Divinity (III.I).
It is not fact, as has been asserted, that the “infants of believers” have, with their parents, been taken into covenant with God in the former ages of the church, if by it is meant the covenant of grace… The next covenant is that made with Abraham and his seed, on which great stress is laid (Gen. 17:10-14)… Now that this covenant was not the pure covenant of grace, in distinction from the covenant of works, but rather a covenant of works, will soon be proved… that it is not the covenant of grace is clear… Now nothing is more opposite to one another than circumcision and grace; circumcision is a work of the law…
It appears to be a covenant of works, and not of grace; since it was to be kept by men, under a severe penalty. Abraham was to keep it, and his seed after him; something was to be done by them, their flesh to be circumcised, and a penalty was annexed, in case of disobedience or neglect; such a soul was to be cut off from his people: all which shows it to be, not a covenant of grace, but of works. It is plain, it was a covenant that might be broken; of the uncircumcised it is said, “He hath broken my covenant,” (Gen. 17:14) whereas the covenant of grace cannot be broken… It is certain it had things in it of a civil and temporal nature… things that can have no place in the pure covenant of grace…
Compare with Coxe “In this mode of transacting it [the Covenant of Circumcision], the Lord was pleased to draw the first lines of that form of covenant relationship in which the natural seed of Abraham was fully stated by the law of Moses, which was a covenant of works with its condition or terms, ‘Do this and live.'” (91)
Again, Gill distinguishes between the Covenant of Circumcision and the Covenant of Grace manifested to Abraham.
Nor is this covenant the same with what is referred to in Galatians 3:17 said to be “confirmed of God in Christ,” [compare with BDD IV.II.III “the manifestations of the covenant of grace then made unto him… is clear from Galatians 3:17 where it is said to be “confirmed before of God in Christ;” which certainly designs the covenant of grace”]… The covenant of grace was made with Christ, as the federal head of the elect in him, and that from everlasting, and who is the only head of that covenant, and of the covenant ones: if the covenant of grace was made with Abraham, as the head of his natural and spiritual seed, Jews and Gentiles; there must be two heads of the covenant of grace… Allowing Abraham’s covenant to be a peculiar one, and of a mixed kind, containing promises of temporal things to him, and his natural seed, and of spiritual things to his spiritual seed; or rather, that there was at the same time when the covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham and his natural seed, a fresh manifestation of the covenant of grace made with him and his spiritual seed in Christ.
Gill is very clearly looking at it similarly to Coxe (though I think Coxe handles it with more accuracy).
The covenant of circumcision, or the covenant which gave Abraham’s infant children a right to circumcision, is not the covenant of grace; for the covenant of circumcision must be more certainly, in the nature of it, a covenant of works, and not of grace. It will be freely allowed, that the covenant of grace was at certain times made, and made manifest, and applied to Abraham, and he interested in it…
[A]t the same time the covenant of circumcision was given unto him, there was an exhibition of the covenant of grace unto him: the account of both is mixed together, but then the covenant of circumcision, which was a covenant of peculiarity, belonged only to him and his natural male seed, was quite a distinct thing from the covenant of grace, since it included some that were not in the covenant of grace, and excluded others that were in it [Coxe makes this point at length]: nor is that the covenant that was confirmed of God in Christ 430 years before the law was; since the covenant of circumcision falls 24 years short of that date, and therefore refers not to that, but to an exhibition of the covenant of grace to Abraham, about the time of his call out of CHaldea; besides the covenant of circumcision is abolished, but the covenant of grace continues and ever will…
Gills’ Covenant of Grace
This can all be summarized in a sermon Gill gave on 2 Samuel 23:5. “Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me and everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.”
Here is a strong expression of covenant interest: yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant. What is this covenant that God had made with David? and with whom made? It cannot be the covenant of works made with Adam… Nor yet the covenant of circumcision (as it is called) made with Abraham: that is done away, being a yoke that neither the Jews nor their forefathers could bear. This was so far from being ordered in all things and sure, that the apostle declares, to those who complied with it, Christ is become of no effect unto you. Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.
Nor is this the Sinai covenant; for that was not an everlasting one. It is abolished and done away. Not ordered in all things and sure, for it gave way; otherwise there would have been no need for a second, as the apostle argues…
[H]e may have respect either to the covenant of royalty, that there should not want one to sit upon his throne… But then this must be understood with respect to his more remote and glorious offspring, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ…
The covenant which the sweet Psalmist of Israel, in his last dying words, has respect unto, is the covenant of grace: founded on grace; filled with the blessings of grace. It is called the covenant of peace because a grand article of it is peace and reconciliation with God, by Jesus Christ. He was sent to be our peace; to make peace for us by the blood of his cross…
When, therefore, God is said to make a covenant with men; the meaning is, he manifests his covenant made with Jesus Christ from all eternity. Therefore, when David says, he hath made with me an everlasting covenant; the meaning is, he hath made it manifest to me, that I have an interest in his everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.
Thus it would appear that Gill did not outright reject 1689 Federalism at all. He agrees that the Covenant of Grace was manifested/revealed under or by other post-fall covenants, which were covenants of works. His use of the “same covenant under two administrations” language may stem from his attempt to wrestle with the temporal concerns of identifying the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant. He also was clearly influenced on many points by Keach, who identified the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace. Compare Gill above with Tom Hicks, Jr.’s summary of Keach’s covenant theology. Gill says that “the covenant of grace is but one and the same in all ages” in order to clarify that “all the saints since, are saved in one and the same way.” Therefore the New Covenant was not the first introduction introduction of God’s saving grace. He thus interprets the Old and New as referring to the manifestations of the Covenant of Grace, wherein he distinguishes it in its “pure” form from the mixed Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants themselves. In my opinion this becomes rather convoluted. Owen’s exposition of Hebrews 8 is much more precise.
So some of Gill’s language agrees with the 20th century view, but he disagrees with the 20th century view on two important points. First, the 20th century view argues that the Mosaic Covenant was the Covenant of Grace with a gracious giving of the law showing a redeemed people how to live. This is actually one of Whipps’ concerns. He said he is suspicious of 1689 Federalism because it seems to be a modern movement that arose from a seminary associated with Meredith Kline’s republication doctrine. But as we have seen, Gill would agree with Kline that the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant of works for temporal life and blessing in the land of Canaan as typical of Christ’s obedience to the law. Thus Gill does not agree with the 20th century view.
Second, the 20th century view believes that under older administrations, the Covenant of Grace did include unregenerate members, but now under the New Covenant it does not. Gill did not hold that view. He said the Covenant of Grace only ever included the elect. The reprobate were part of the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants, but not part of the Covenant of Grace. Thus Gill does not agree with the 20th century view here as well.
The point here is not to count noses. The point is to work together to better understand Scripture. I believe that 1689 Federalism brings tremendous clarity to what Scripture teaches and therefore I have endeavored to clear away all misunderstandings that hinder us from seeing Scripture clearly. Hopefully this has been helpful.
Patrick Ramsey has a short piece on union with Christ at Meet the Puritans. Some brief comments:
It is possible to speak of a union between Christ and the elect in terms of the decree and the federal headship of Christ. But these senses are quite different from an actual or mystical union and are not under our purview.
This refers to the standard three-fold distinction of union with Christ referring to three points in time: eternity, the cross, and conversion. The problem, however, is that we are not federally united with Christ until conversion. Prior to that we are federally “in Adam” and you can’t be both “in Adam” and “in Christ” at the same time. Separating “actual” union from federal union is a tremendous, but very common mistake. Owen does a good job of explaining that Christ and the elect are united at the cross only in the plan and intention of God (via the Covenant of Redemption). Christ does not become our federal head/representative/surety until we enter the Covenant of Grace.
An actual union with Christ refers to the moment when a sinner is united to Christ at his conversion, or in the words of the Westminster Larger Catechism, in his effectual calling (Q&A 66-67).
This is another very important point. In Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray states
It is calling that is represented in Scripture as that act of God by which we are actually united to Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 1:9)… [S]alvation in actual possession takes its start from an efficacious summons on the part of God and that this summons, since it is God’s summons, carries in its bosom all of the operative efficacy by which it is made effective. It is calling and not regeneration that possesses that character.
In the effectual call we are federally united to Christ and all the benefits he earned become ours because the effectual call is God making the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant) with us. In his commentary on Hebrews 8:6-13, John Owen explains
[I]n the description of the covenant here annexed, there is no mention of any condition on the part of man, of any terms of obedience prescribed unto him, but the whole consists in free, gratuitous promises…
It is evident that there can be no condition previously required, unto our entering into or participation of the benefits of this covenant, antecedent unto the making of it with us.
However, many argue that union with Christ is established through faith, after the effectual call. This leads to a significant logical dilemma: where does faith come from if it does not come from our union with Christ? Owen explains
(1.) God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake.
This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith, etc. Exercising of love actually, in the bestowing of grace upon any particular soul, in a distinguishing manner, for Christ’s sake, doth suppose this accounting of Christ to be his; and from thence he is so indeed, — which is the present thesis.
And, — (2.) This may be proved; for, — [1.] Why doth the Lord bestow faith on Peter, not on Judas? Because Christ dying for Peter, and purchasing for him the grace of the covenant, he had a right unto it, and God according to his promise bestowed it; with Judas, it was not so. But then, why doth the Lord bestow faith on Peter at the fortieth year of his age, and not before or after? Because then the term was expired which, upon the purchase, was by the counsel of God’s will prefixed to the giving in the beginning of the thing purchased unto him.
What, then, doth the Lord do when he thus bestoweth faith on him? For Christ’s sake, — his death procuring the gift, not moving the will of the giver, — he creates faith in him by the way and means suited to such a work, Ephesians 1:18,19, 2:1, etc. If, then, this be done for Christ’s sake, then is Christ made ours before we believe. Else, why is faith given him at this instant for Christ’s sake, and not to another, for whom also he died? That it is done then, is because the appointed time is come; that it is done then for Christ, is because Christ is first given to him. I cannot conceive how any thing should be made out to me for Christ, and Christ himself not be given to me
Union must precede faith. Ramsey attempts a nuanced remedy.
The Catechism’s definition of effectual calling is broad, however, and it includes both the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and the sinner’s personal act of faith. It thus allows for one to place union in connection with regeneration or with faith or with both. Since union involves a reciprocal relationship or what Reynolds called a mutual act, wherein “Christ exhibiteth himself unto us, and we adhere and dwell in him,” it is theologically legitimate to do all three.
This is fine if we first understand all that has been argued above and then understand faith’s role in terms of covenant “restipulation.” All covenants require a response of some kind. Nehemiah Coxe notes
If the Covenant be of Works, the Restipulation must be, by doing the things required in it, even by fulfilling its condition in a perfect obedience to the Law of it…But if it be a Covenant of free and soveraign Grace, the Restipulation required, is an humble receiving, or hearty believing of those gratuitous Promises on which the Covenant is established. (9)
So union with Christ can be said to be through faith insofar as reception through faith is our restipulation to the New Covenant (Covenant of Grace). But it must be understood that the union is established by God prior to our restipulation. Owen concludes
Let it be granted on the one hand, that we cannot have an actual participation of the relative grace of this covenant in adoption and justification, without faith or believing; and on the other, that this faith is wrought in us, given unto us, bestowed upon us, by that grace of the covenant which depends on no condition in us as unto its discriminating administration, and I shall not concern myself what men will call it.
[T]he covenant of grace does not first arise as a result of the order of salvation but precedes it and is its foundation and starting point. While it is true that the believer first, by faith, becomes aware that he or she belongs to the covenant of grace and to the number of the elect, the epistemological ground is distinct from the ontological ground.
In the second place, therefore, regeneration, faith, and conversion are not preparations that occur apart from Christ and the covenant of grace nor conditions that a person has to meet in toto or in part in his or her own strength to be incorporated in that covenant. Rather, they are benefits that already flow from the covenant of grace, the mystical union, the granting of Christ’s person. The Holy Spirit, who is the author of these benefits, was acquired by Christ for his own. Hence the imputation of Christ precedes the gift of the Spirit, and regeneration, faith, and conversion do not first lead us to Christ but are taken from Christ by the Holy Spirit and imparted to his own.
Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, p. 524
Union with Christ is the New Covenant, which God makes with the elect in the effectual call. All redemptive blessings earned by Christ flow to the elect sinner through the New Covenant as the backbone of the ordo salutis.
For a much more detailed discussion, see New Covenant Union as Mystical Union in Owen.