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
In the 17th century, Presbyterians argued for their ecclesiology from the structure of the Jewish church. It was divided geographically and functioned with varying levels of authority (presbytery, general assembly, etc). Gillespie said “it is plain from Scripture that there was at least a two-fold ecclesiastical court among the Jews, the synagogue and the sanhedrim, the latter having authority above the former.” An important part of this argument was distinguishing between the church and the state in Israel. “That there was an high ecclesiastical sanhedrim, distinct from the civil sanhedrim, is observed by Pelargus, on Deut. 17., and Sopingius, ad Bonam Fidem Sibrandi, p. 261, et seq., beside many others cited before, part 1, chapter 11. And that it was so we prove from three places of the Old Testament… We find Deut. 17, a distinction of two supreme judicatories, to be set in the place which the Lord should choose to put his name there,—the one of the priests and Levites, the other of the judges.” Both the Episcopalians and the Separatists/Congregationalists argued that appeal cannot be made to Israel. In response, Gillespie argued
Is it right dealing now to forbid us to reason from the form of the Jews? I will not use any further expostulation, but let the reader judge. The truth is this: Even as that which is in a child, as he is a child, agreeth not to a man, yet that which is in a child, as he is animal rationale, agreeth also to a man; so what we find in the Jewish church, as it was Jewish, or in infancy, and under the pedagogy of the law, agreeth not indeed to the Christian church. But whatsoever the Jewish church had, as it was a political church, or ecclesiastical republic (of which sort of things the diversity and subordination of ecclesiastical courts was one), doth belong by the same reason to the Christian church. I say further, though the commonwealth and civil policy of the Jews be not in all points a pattern to our civil policy, yet I am sure it is no error to imitate the civil policy of the Jews in such things as they had, not for any special reason proper to them, but are common to all well constituted commonwealths; and so we may argue from their commonwealth, that it is a good policy to have divers civil courts, and the higher to receive appellations from the inferior, as it was among them. Shall we not, by the very like reason, fetch from their ecclesiastical republic diversity of spiritual courts, and the supreme to receive appellations from the inferior, because so was the constitution of the Jewish church, and that under the common respect and account of a political church, and not for any special reason which doth not concern us?
The Church of England should derive it’s ecclesiastical polity from the Jewish church, and the commonwealth of England should derive its civil polity from the commonwealth of Israel.
In an essay titled Goodwin vs. Gillespie: An Old Testament Debate for Church Polity, Jonathan Brack summarizes a debate that took place in the Westminster Assembly between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists.
Mr. Calamy argues for a Gillespie-like understanding of a distinction between civil and ecclesiastical courts from Deuteronomy 17:12:
Here is a distinctive that hints 2 courts. By ‘priests’ is not meant one priest but many. By “Judge” cannot be meant the high priest, for he is contradistinct from the priest. 2. Cron. 19:8–11 ther is the resistution of them by Jehosaphat. This text showes the distinction of the Judicatories. The words in the 8 v. read with a reduplication.
Goodwin, a Congregationalist, objected.
In questioning the often-used Deut. 17: 8–9 and 2 Chron. 35:8 texts posed by Gillespie, where Gillespie demonstrated a distinction between church and state in the Old Testament, Goodwin showed himself to be functioning from a different hermeneutical angle. An angle that disagreed on the status and nature of the Jewish church in the Old Testament,
That which belonged to this Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, it was either matters Judiciall, therefore called ‘matters of the Lord’ because God had given expresse … Or matters of the king, the things of his revenew, or perhaps matters of warre and peace, yet soe as they did not … The church & state ware involved in one. Their lawes ware the lawes of God. Their judicialls had spirituals in them. 
Goodwin along with Phillip Nye challenged the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical.
Phillip Nye launched into a long speech attempting to disprove the civil and ecclesiastical distinction made from Deuteronomy 17:8–9.
The matter before us is about the validity of this place of scripture to prove that besides the priests an addition of elders. My concievements are that the totum totalum of the common wealth ware of a mixt nature … Ther is no such a perpetuall intermixture throughout all as in the Jewish church.
Goodwin’s point was that everything given in Deuteronomy was “ecclesiastical” in a certain sense. This was because, for Goodwin, ecclesiastical and civil are one and the same in the Old Testament. To this, Lord Say added that on these grounds,
It ware much better to find out those places that established a ground for this ruling elder in the New Testament wher this constitution was.
So the Congregationlists argued that Israel was a unique entity of a “mixt nature” that cannot be appealed to in order to establish church government under the New Covenant.
Brack goes on to highlight how the Presbyterians pointed out inconsistencies in the Congregationalists on this point.
After Calamy represents the basic Presbyterian position of Old Testament roots for elder-rule, Gillespie strengthens the argument by arguing for hermeneutical implications,
Something to strengthen what is spoken. The analogy betwixt Jewish & Christian church, little question of that little question… If this faile, the argument of Baptisme from circumcision will faile also.
…How can the Assembly agree to pedo-baptism by appealing to the Old Testament, without also functioning the same way for the debate on church polity?… If one were to cut loose the Old Testament ground for elder rule, then one were to cut loose the very ground for Presbyterianism, not to mention baptism…
To this Mr. Vines pressed Goodwin and Lord Say on the exact same hermeneutical point made by Gillespie two days earlier,
For that we must not looke to the state of the Jewish church, is only a warrantableness for the analogy of the Old Testament & New, granted. The brother that spake last said before we must cut loose the argument of Jewish church; [for] but how shall we prove pedo-Baptism?
Richard Vines saw the inconsistency in hermeneutical method being deployed by the Congregationalists. If we were to cut loose the Old Testament ground for church polity, then what is to stop us from the Anabaptist tenet of cutting loose our progeny as well?
In 1953, in an essay titled The Relevance of the Theocracy, Kline wrote a short essay arguing against appeal to Israel for matters of civil government and ecclesiology. He said any such appeal is unwarranted because Israel was a unique theocratic entity unlike any other. It was a type of heaven. As a result, “church” and “state” were of a “mixt nature.”
If we do listen we will not try to segment the Theocracy into the usual three discrete institutions. We will not then say: “Here (e.g. in Aaron) is the church, and here (e.g. in Moses or David) is the state, and there the family.” Not even roughly speaking. For all that can be said accurately is, “Here are theocratic priests, here are theocratic kings, here are theocratic prophets and there are the theocratic people from whose ranks all these have come. (Cf. Ex. 28:1; Dt. 17:5; 18:5.)…
That the horns of the dilemma are vaporous is evident, for the argument rests on an utterly false equation of the theocratic monarchy with the ordinary state. As observed above, neither church nor state is isolable within the Theocracy. It is therefore impossible to identify one theocratic institution such as the kingship with the ordinary concept of the state…
Our chief criticism again, in terms of the thesis of this article, is that to label the priests and/or the prophets as the church within the Theocracy [as the Presbyterians did] is unwarranted… God was in the midst of the covenant people and, therefore, all was church, as also all was family and all state – the church of God, the family of God, the Kingdom of God – all in one and one in all, and such was the Theocracy. However, if all is church and all is family and all is state, then nothing is church and nothing is family and nothing is state in the usual sense of those words. Strictly speaking all is Theocracy and nothing but Theocracy.
Like many modern Presbyterians, Kline has neglected the roots of Presbyterianism and is unaware that he has adopted the Congregationalist hermeneutic (see my post on Congregationalist covenant theology).
I will close with these words from Brack:
In recent church polity debates among Presbyterians and Particularists… appealing to Old Testament ecclesiastical polity in order to gain support for the purported theories of New Testament polity assumes a presupposed debated hermeneutical method. In other words, a foul is committed in the debate, since a disagreement over how one uses the Old Testament is not properly neutral. This truth, in the mind of many Presbyterians, is a strange inconsistency in the pattern of basic Reformed hermeneutic strategies.
Recognizing that Israel in the land of Canaan was a type of heaven necessarily leads to congregtaionalism and the rejection of paedobaptism, as Presbyterians warned from the beginning.
Lane Keister, at the Green Baggins blog, offers some comments on Vos’ explanation of the visible-invisible church distinction. His point is that there are visible and invisible aspects of the church, noting that Anabaptists and some baptists are therefore in error in holding that the true church is entirely invisible. Keister apparently didn’t put much thought into that point, since I don’t know any Anabaptists or baptists who deny there is a visible aspect of the true church. Interestingly, a commenter picked up on a very important point. He objected to Keister’s insistence that visible and invisible refer to two aspects of the same church because he felt that would lead to the Federal Vision error. I offered some comments. Read more…
In a previous post titled Who Should Be Baptized – Professors or Believers? I argued that there was a difference between who has a right to baptism and who may be lawfully baptized.
To demonstrate that a false professor does not have a right to baptism, though it may be lawfully administered to them, consider the following.
P1 Believers in Christ make their belief known to others through an outward profession of their saving belief in Christ.
P2 No one has a right to bear false witness.
C1 No unbeliever has a right to make an outward profession of saving belief in Christ.
Ursinus makes the same argument with regards to the Lord’s Supper in his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 81.
The questions who ought to come, and who ought to be admitted to the Supper, are distinct and different. The former speaks of the duty of communicants; the latter of the duty of the church and ministers. The former is more restricted; the latter is broader, and more general: for, as touching the former, none but the godly ought to come to the Supper; whilst, as it respects the latter, not only the godly, but hypocrites also, who are not known to be such, are to be admitted by the church. Hence all that ought to come, ought also to be admitted; but not all who ought to be admitted, ought to come: but only those, 1. Who acknowledge their sins, and are truly sorrowful for them. 2. Who trust that their sins are forgiven them by and for the sake of Christ. 3. Who earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened, and their lives more holy: that is, those only ought to come to the Lord’s supper, and they alone are worthy guests of Christ, who live in true faith and repentance.
We simply say the same thing about baptism.
Recently, R. Scott Clark has released a series of podcasts in defense of paedobaptism. The majority of the material in the podcasts comes from a series of blog posts he wrote previously (he is often just reading them). Those posts, as well as other essays that Clark has written, have already been addressed in depth in A Critique of R. Scott Clark’s Covenant Theology. Since Clark did not address any of the arguments in that post, it is still relevant and I refer you there for a thorough treatment.
That said, Clark makes a few comments in the podcasts that are worth commenting on. (It’s also worth noting that Clark speaks of “baptists” very broadly, often referring to Arminian Dispensationalists. Only very occasionally does he have confessional baptists specifically in mind.)
Abraham and Moses
Clark’s main argument is simultaneously his main weakness. In response to baptists, Clark emphasizes that Abraham is not Moses. That is, the Abrahamic Covenant is not the Mosaic Covenant. I did not count, but I would not be surprised if he repeated that point at least 60 times over the series of podcasts. Clark is departing from Westminster on this point, resulting in an inconsistent covenant theology. This leads him to deny any kind of dichotomy in Abraham, resulting in some strange inconsistencies.
Even though there were typological, for example, land promises and national elements in the promises given to Abraham, those were only temporary expressions of the more fundamental promise to send a Savior. So, in other words, it’s not fair, I don’t think, and the reformed have said, to use Genesis 12 and 15 in order to try and turn Abraham into Moses.
Heidelcast 107, @24:30
Actually, it is the reformed who insist that Abraham and Moses are one. Ligon Duncan explains:
So as far as Moses is concerned, there is no radical dichotomy between what God is doing with His people in the time of the Exodus and what God promised to Abraham. In fact, he says that the reason God came to His people’s rescue was because He remembered the promise He had made with Abraham. And if you will remember back to our study of Genesis chapter 15, God went out of His way to tell Abraham about the oppression of Israel in Egypt and about the fact that He was going to bring them out of Egypt as a mighty nation, and that He was going to give them the land of Canaan. And so, Moses goes out of his way in both Genesis 15 and in Exodus 2 to link the Mosaic Economy with the Abrahamic Covenant, so that the Mosaic Economy isn’t something that is replacing the way that God deals with His people, under Abraham; it is expanding what God was doing with His people through Abraham.
Clark notes “There’s a strong temptation among some to treat the Mosaic covenant… as if it were only an administration of the covenant of grace. [That is] a mistake.” (Heidelcast 112, @6:00) Clark is here rejecting the Westminster Confession and referring to those who affirm it. If you’re a paedobaptist and you’ve only learned covenant theology from R. Scott Clark, Michael Horton, and the like then you don’t understand Westminster covenant theology.
Paul’s point here is clear. In the terms in which he is speaking about Moses, and Abraham, they operate on different principles inasmuch as Moses is an administration of the law, the 613 commandments, the Mosaic Covenant says “Do this and live.” The Abrahamic Covenant says “receive freely through faith alone benefits that you did not earn but that were earned for you by another.
The Old Covenant… was a covenant that was broken. The Covenant of Grace can’t be broken. (113, @13:30)
Thus the Old Covenant was not the Covenant of Grace. The recent OPC Report on Republication states very clearly that this view is contrary to the Westminster Standards, which teaches that the Mosaic Covenant is one with the Abrahamic and New Covenants, which are all equally the Covenant of Grace, and thus operate on the same principle.
Abraham was clothed in types and shadows
Were the typological land promises and national elements Abrahamic? Clark says yes and no. Yes, they were, but they were temporary, so no, they weren’t. Only the promise of Christ was truly, ultimately Abrahamic, he claims. But just because they were temporary does not mean they were not Abrahamic.
What does Hebrews tell us about the land promise? Was Abraham ultimately looking for the land, the physical land of Canaan? Hebrews 11 says no. The promise really was not of physical land, ultimately, but of heaven… ‘And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your sojournings.’ And so we know what to do with that. All the land of Canaan. So the land itself, the literal land, was temporary…
The Abrahamic Covenant was also clothed in types and shadows.
Heidelcast 110, @17:00 & 113, @2:00
Ok, so there were promises made to Abraham that were temporary. Certainly they typified a greater promise, but they were nonetheless promises that were temporary. “And so we know what to do with that” – we set it aside as typological and fulfilled.
The Mosaic Covenant… added the national covenant, the national people. There’s no more national people, no more national covenant.
Wait, I thought he already said the national element was an Abrahamic promise. “[T]here were typological, for example, land promises and national elements in the promises given to Abraham.” Ok, so the Mosaic Covenant did not, in fact, add a national element to Abraham. The national element is Abrahamic and it is fulfilled in the Mosaic. And it is no more. It was temporary and typological. And it was Abrahamic. “We recognize that there were typological elements under the Abrahamic administration and those types and shadows have been fulfilled.” (115, @28:00) This is seen very clearly in Deuteronomy 7, which Clark quotes:
Deuteronomy 7:6 ‘For you are a people holy to Yahweh your God. Yahweh your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the peoples out of the face of the earth.’ So there you see two things. One, this national election, if you will, that is unique to Israel. At the same time you see, and it will become clearer in the succeeding verses, that Yahweh did not choose Israel because of anything in Israel but out of grace… v8 ‘But it is because Yahweh loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers that Yahweh has brought you out with a mighty hand from the house of slavery from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.’ There you see the continuity with Abraham. The promise that was made was the promise that was made to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. ‘Know therefore,’ he says in v9 ‘that Yahweh, your God, is God.’…
So, God saving a nation from physical slavery and bringing them into the literal land of Canaan is the fulfillment of a promise God made to Abraham (re-read the Duncan quote above). Seems straightforward enough, but that would undermine Clark’s thesis that Abraham is not Moses, so he waffles and offers a rather strange attempt to bifurcate the two.
the second part is a reference to Israel’s national status. Certainly not to their salvation. The whole point of the first half of the passage, Deut 7:6-11, is to say that God elected them and made them his people and brought them out of Egypt by grace alone, which is a clear indicator of the continuity between the Mosaic covenant and the Abrahamic with respect to salvation because their deliverance from Egypt is the great symbol, representation, of God’s gracious salvation of his people.
He says Israel’s “national election… is unique to Israel.” Then he goes on to say “The Covenant of Grace with Abraham was not national, it was not temporary, and it did not have a legal character.” So now we’re back to square one. Did God promise Abraham a nation and the land of Canaan or not? Clark cannot and does not give a consistent answer. He says “yes” and “no” throughout the whole series. In his mind, the Mosaic Covenant has a “dual administration” by which he means an underlying layer regarding eschatological salvation and a temporary overlay regarding the national, typical elements related to the land of Canaan. He claims that only this underlying layer regarding salvation is Abrahamic. The top, national, Canaanite layer was only added by Moses. But there is simply no way to maintain that idea, which is why he doesn’t. “We recognize that there were typological elements under the Abrahamic administration and those types and shadows have been fulfilled.” In other words, the top layer is just as Abrahamic as it is Mosaic.
(Btw, there is a reason why the Westminster Divines were “covenanters” who held to a national covenant and established church. The reason was their covenant theology, which saw Abraham as one with Moses and both as one with the New. See this discussion from Thomas Blake as one of many, many examples)
Yahweh was a God to Abraham and to his children for most of 500 years before Moses. The promises of the Abrahamic Covenant which had already been expressed relative to the land and a national people (see Genesis 12, 15, and 17) came to expression in a temporary, national covenant inaugurated at Sinai. That national covenant, however, does not exhaust the covenant promises of God. (113, @17:25)
We don’t claim that it does. We agree with Augustine that
two things are promised to Abraham, the one, that his seed should possess the land of Canaan, which is intimated when it is said, “Go into a land that I will show thee, and I will make of thee a great nation;” but the other far more excellent, not about the carnal but the spiritual seed, through which he is the father, not of the one Israelite nation, but of all nations who follow the footprints of his faith, which was first promised in these words, “And in thee shall all tribes of the earth be blessed.
In other words, there is a dichotomous nature to the Abrahamic Covenant: a two-fold promise concerning a two-fold seed. (For more, see Owen).
What Parts of Abraham Are Typological?
Clark attempts to completely bifurcate Moses from Abraham and insist that the New Covenant is only ever contrasted with Moses and never with Abraham. He says “The substance of the New Covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant.” Which, again, departs from Westminster in an attempt to identify Abraham and the New in contrast to the Old. “Hebrews distinguishes the New Covenant from Moses. Not from Abraham, not from Noah, but from Moses.” (Westminster’s explanation is that the only thing being distinguished are the ceremonies – the external administration – not the covenant itself).
By the end of [Heb 11] 24, his attention has arguably moved beyond the contrast between Moses and Sinai to a broader contrast between all the typological elements and their reality in Christ. The indication of Abel here doesn’t change the essential identification of the Old Covenant with Moses and with Sinai. So, whatever potential difficulties might be created for my general thesis of this series by the inclusion of Abel… (114, 13:45)
Yes, this does present a problem for Clark’s thesis. Yes, Scripture does identify the Old Covenant with Moses and Sinai, but it does not do so in exclusion from Abraham and everything else. Rather, Scripture identifies Moses and Sinai as the Old Covenant as the epitome of all Old Testament typology (note the traditional division of Old Testament and New Testament). It is representative of all the types and shadows that have been done away with since the inauguration of the New Covenant. That includes types and shadows, like circumcision and the land and the nation, that are not part of the New Covenant and have passed away. Note Coxe
Thus if we follow the clue of Scripture in our inquiries after the origin of the covenant of peculiarity made with Israel after the flesh, it will certainly guide us to that covenant which God made with Abraham for his natural offspring and sealed by circumcision. Yet that covenant of peculiarity is in the New Testament always styled old and carnal. It is a covenant from which the gospel covenant is distinguished and to which it is in many respects opposed (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13). (101)
So which parts of the Abrahamic Covenant fall into that category?
Clark has already identified the nation and the land of Canaan as a part of the Abrahamic Covenant that was typological. Clark said that Genesis 12, 15, and 17 made national promises concerning the land.
Genesis 12:2 “I will make of you a great nation”
Genesis 15:5, 13, 18 “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’… Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years… On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying ‘To your offspring I give this land…’”
Genesis 17:2, 7, 8 “‘that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly’… I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.’”
Those are the promises that God made to Abraham about his carnal, biological seed, the nation of Israel. Those promises were fulfilled, and because they were temporary and typological, they have passed away and are no more. Now, what sticks out as incredibly obvious when you read the above? The offspring in 17:8 is the offspring in 17:7. And the offspring in 17:8 is Abraham’s carnal, biological seed, the nation of Israel. And God says he will be their God. This undermines Clark’s thesis that 17:7 refers to eschatological salvation and to the seed of all believers. It does not. Samuel Rutherford notes
God commands not Abraham only to circumcise his sons, but all parents descended of Abraham to circumcise their seed: the seed of Abraham carnally descended to all generations…
[In] Gen 17… God speaks to all Abraham’s sons according to the flesh:
Because [otherwise] God should speak an untruth: that He were a God by real union of faith to all that are commanded to be circumcised. For He commanded thousands to be circumcised to whom He was not a God by real union of faith…
The children of the most wicked were circumcised (Josh. 5:2 [see also verses 6-7]). We desire to know whom God forbade to be circumcised that were carnally descended of Abraham? Or show us example or precept thereof in the Word.
What God required in the parents, whose infants the church might lawfully and without sin circumcise, was that they were born Jews.
And with regard to the people of Israel, it is very manifest, that something diverse is oftentimes intended by that nation being God’s people, from their being visible saints, visibly holy, or having those qualifications which are requisite in order to a due admission to the ecclesiastical privileges of such. That nation, that family of Israel according to the flesh, and with regard to that external and carnal qualification, were in some sense adopted by God to be his peculiar people, and his covenant people… To that nation he fixed his blessing by his covenant with the patriarchs… And in this sense it was that the very family of Jacob were God’s people by covenant, and his chosen people; even when they were no visible saints, when they lived in idolatry, and made no profession of the true religion. On the whole, it is evident that the very nation of Israel, not as visible saints, but as the progeny of Jacob according to the flesh, were in some respect a chosen people, a people of God, a covenant people, an holy nation… So there was an external people and family of God, by carnal generation, which was a type of his spiritual progeny.
For more, see Blood of bulls and goats : blood of Christ :: physical Israel : spiritual Israel. Clark tries to evade this.
National Israel is not the seed. We’re still having that discussion. I just had that discussion with someone online the other day over the question, the premise, that one is the seed by virtue of biology or ethnicity. That’s not Paul’s argument at all. That’s the Judaizer’s argument. Jesus is the seed and we are seeds in him by grace alone through faith alone by virtue of our union with him. He is the fulfillment of the promise, however. And so, being ethnically Jewish doesn’t make one seed. What makes one seed is being united to Christ, who is the seed. (114, 21:15)
The problem here is that Clark is skipping over the type and going straight to the anti-type and then denying there was ever a type. Yes, national Israel was absolutely the seed promised to Abraham (Ex. 32:13; Deut 1:10; 10:22; 1 Chron 27:23; Heb 11:12). But Abraham had two seeds and one was a type of the other.
Note also the implication of Clark’s attempt to identify the seed only with Christ. If Christ alone is the seed, then the seed in Genesis 17:7-8 did not refer to Abraham’s physical offspring, and thus it does not refer to the physical offspring of believers. If Genesis 17:7-8 does refer to Abraham’s physical offspring, then they are Abraham’s seed. Clark can’t have his cake and eat it too.
The seed promise is permanent, but it wasn’t about biological offspring, ultimately, even though the promise is administered to believers and their biological offspring. (110, 16:10)
Yes, it was not about the biological offspring ultimately, but it was about the biological offspring initially or penultimately. And the typological biological seed passed away at the coming of Christ. Again, Clark is stuck. If Genesis 17:7-8 refers to Abraham’s physical, biological offspring, then it refers to the nation of Israel. If it does not refer to Abraham’s physical, biological offspring, then it certainly says nothing at all about the physical, biological offspring of believers.
You can’t have Abraham as the father of all believers without the Abrahamic formula, the Abrahamic pattern. So this covenant, this pattern, this formula, is permanent. It’s not temporary. It’s part of the substance of the covenant of grace. (110, 25:00)
Clark has just thrown the type and the anti-type in a blender. Abraham can’t be the father of all believers without Abraham being the father of his biological seed (the nation of Israel). Hmmmm. Furthermore, the “Abrahamic formula” is not simply “I will be the God of you and your offspring after you.” It is also “I will multiply you greatly and will give your offspring the land of Canaan” and “in you all nations of the earth shall be blessed.” So if Clark wants to claim “the Abrahamic formula” for himself, he has to claim all of it.
Children Part of the Substance
Now notice the absurdity that Clark falls into. He just said that the inclusion of Abraham’s physical offspring, and the physical offspring of all believers, is not temporary or typological because it is “part of the substance of the covenant of grace.” Whoops! The entire paedobaptist system is that the children of believers are not part of the substance of the covenant of grace, but are only part of its administration (the part that changes) – as Clark explains elsewhere:
initiating believers and their children into the external administration of the covenant of grace. This is where my baptist friends really need to struggle to see the differences between our different ways of going at things. What we’re talking about here in the reformed church, reformed theology, piety, and practice, is the external administration of the covenant of grace. (115, 34:20)
Which is it? Are the children of believers only in the external administration, or is the inclusion of children part of the substance of the covenant of grace?
The essence [substance] of the covenant of grace remains unchanged. ‘I will be a God to you and to your children.’ (115, 27:00)
If they are only part of the administration, then their inclusion is not permanent.
The problem with the baptist objection is that it doesn’t account for two things. First, the formula, to you and your children is not obviously typological. That is, it does not obviously illustrate a future reality fulfilled in Christ or in heaven. (110, 26:00)
First, whether or not it is obvious to Dr. Clark is irrelevant. Second, the reason it’s not obvious to Dr. Clark is because his paedobaptist glasses are obscuring his vision. All he can see is a promise to believers and their seed. But that’s not actually what Genesis 17 says. Genesis 17 is a promise to Abraham and Abraham’s physical offspring, the nation of Israel. And the nation of Israel does, in fact, illustrate a future reality fulfilled in Christ. Note Dr. Clark elsewhere:
God disinherited his adopted, temporary, national “son” Israel as a national people precisely because God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people… their chief function was to serve as a type and shadow of God’s natural Son, Jesus the Messiah (Heb 10.1-4). It is the argument of this essay that Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God and that everyone who is united to him by grace alone, through faith alone becomes, by virtue of that union, the true Israel of God. (Israel of God)
Were initiation of infants into the visible covenant community merely typological, were it temporary like circumcision, like animal sacrifice, then we should expect to see the Old Covenant prophets essentially telling us that same thing, that it’s temporary in the way that they tell us that animal sacrifices are temporary, in the way that they tell us that circumcision, physical, medical circumcision, is temporary, but they don’t do that because it’s not temporary. It’s not typological. It’s part of the Abrahamic pattern. (112, 3:45)
1. Being part of the “Abrahamic pattern” does not mean it is not typological. 2. Where do the Old Covenant prophets tell us the national element is temporary? Clark said “God never intended to have a permanent earthly, national people.” So where do the Old Covenant prophets tell us that?
My baptist friends are convinced that the inclusion of children into the visible covenant community by a sacrament was typological and therefore not part of the New Covenant. We can test that theory, however, in Scripture. Ask yourself this question: The prophets told us that the sacrifices and circumcision were typological and temporary, but where do they tell us that the inclusion of children into the visible covenant community is also temporary and typological like circumcision, like the sacrifices. We can’t just assume that is the case. We have to actually show that is the case. What does Scripture actually say about children, particularly from the point of view of typologies looking forward?… Isaiah ‘I will bring your seed from the east and from the west. I will gather you.’… Is. 44:3 he restates the promise. ‘For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground.’ What does he mean? Well, he explains in the next clause. ‘I will pour my Spirit upon’ whom? ‘your children. And my blessing upon your descendants.’ This is the same sort of imagery that you see in the prophet Joel’s restatement. But you have to see how fundamentally Abrahamic that language is. (113, 3:55)
Again, take off the paedobaptist glasses and ask the question correctly. “Where do the prophets tell us the physical offspring of Abraham – the nation of Israel – was temporary and typological?” This exact same passage, Isaiah 43-44, is written to and about Israel – the very nation Clark says is temporary. When Isaiah says “I will gather you” the “you” is “Israel” “Jacob.” Yes, this language is “fundamentally” Abrahamic. But Abraham was “fundamentally” typological. The “descendants” and “children” refer to the nation of Israel and promise to multiply the seed of Abraham. The fact is, much of the typology of Israel is not unpacked until the New Testament (which is where Clark spends all his time in this essay).
The other thing to be noted here is that the promises of Jeremiah 31 are cast in Mosaic, typological, and prophetic categories or language. And so we need to read it in that same way, read it the same way we read prophetic literature generally. (113, 18:00)
Yup. Absolutely. And Jeremiah says that the New Covenant is made with whom? That’s right, the house of Israel and the house of Jacob. Owen notes:
The persons with whom this covenant is made are also expressed: “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah.”… Wherefore this house of Israel and house of Judah may be considered two ways:
[1.] As that people were the whole entire posterity of Abraham.
[2.] As they were typical, and mystically significant of the whole church of God.
Hence alone it is that the promises of grace under the old testament are given unto the church under these names, because they were types of them who should really and effectually be made partakers of them…
In the second sense the whole church of elect believers is intended under these denominations, being typified by them. These are they alone, being one made of twain, namely, Jews and Gentiles, with whom the covenant is really made and established, and unto whom the grace of it is actually communicated. For all those with whom this covenant is made shall as really have the law of God written in their hearts, and their sins pardoned, according unto the promise of it, as the people of old were brought into the land of Canaan by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham. These are the true Israel and Judah, prevailing with God, and confessing unto his name.
Obs. X. The covenant of grace in Christ is made only with the Israel of God, the church of the elect. —For by the making of this covenant with any, the effectual communication of the grace of it unto them is principally intended. Nor can that covenant be said to be made absolutely with any but those whose sins are pardoned by virtue thereof, and in whose hearts the law of God is written; which are the express promises of it.
Contrary to Clark’s insistence, recognizing Jeremiah 31 as prophesying a covenant made with the elect alone is not contrary to a reformed hermeneutic. It is not a literalizing of prophetic hyperbole and it is not over-realized eschatology. It’s just the plain meaning of the text, as Owen explained. Berkhof said “The idea that the covenant is fully realized only in the elect is a perfectly Scriptural idea, as appears, for instance, from Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-12.”
Genesis 15 Oath Ceremony
Yahweh, mysteriously, in a type and a shadow, passed between the pieces himself to signify that, should the covenant be broken, he himself would pay the penalty with his own life. And of course we see that promise fulfilled on the cross when God the Son, true God, true man, bore our sins and our covenant breaking in our place. (109, 16:45)
This is very confused. Did Christ die on the cross because of a broken Covenant of Grace or a broken Covenant of Works? The Genesis 15 ceremony does not promise that if Abraham breaks the Abrahamic Covenant, God will bear his curse. Rather, it is a confirmatory oath by God that God will fulfill his promise to Abraham and, if he does not, he will suffer death for breaking his oath.
A Bridegroom of Blood
[Quotes Ex 4:24-26]. Now, this is a cryptic passage and we don’t want to spend a lot of time there, but surely we know there, we see, that the Lord takes very seriously a refusal to administer the sign of the covenant to covenant children. So seriously that Scripture says, in a cryptic way, that Yahweh sought to kill Moses, who is the Old Testament mediator, representative of the people to the Lord and of the Lord to the people. It’s a remarkable passage. We can take away, whatever else we may infer, that the Lord takes very seriously and is most displeased when we refuse to administer the sign of the covenant to believers and to their children. That’s why it’s described in Gen 17 as covenant breaking and that’s why the Lord sought, as it were, kill Moses. (111, 9:00)
It is completely absurd to see in this passage any application to baptism. God does not threaten to kill anyone for not being baptized or for not baptizing their children. Furthermore, is Clark going FV on us? Not being baptized is covenant breaking? What the passage teaches us is that God was serious when he said in Genesis 17 that if someone failed to be circumcised, they would be cut off (which in the Old Covenant refers to death). Coxe said
It is noteworthy that in this transaction of God with Abraham we first meet with an express injunction of obedience to a command (and that of positive right) as the condition of covenant interest. It is all ushered in with this prologue (Genesis 17:1), “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect.” First in these words, the all-sufficiency of God is revealed for the ensuring of the promises. Then a strict and entire obedience to his precepts is required in order to inherit the good things that were to be given by this covenant. In this mode of transacting it, 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.” p. 91
Read more here.
God made an immutable covenant with Abraham, that’s [Gal] 3:16. For Paul, the Abrahamic Covenant is, if you will, the baseline account of the covenant of grace. (114, 20:40)
Romans 9 & 2:28
1 Corinthians 7:14
See 1 Cor. 7:14 – The “Legitimacy” Interpretation and 1 Cor. 7:14 – No Proof of Infant Baptism where Dr. Glen Clary (OPC) admits “I don’t think their inclusion in the covenant of grace can be derived from this single text as a necessary consequence. I stated that at the very beginning of my sermon on the text. Their inclusion in the covenant of grace is stated explicitly elsewhere such as in Gen. 17.”
Look at Acts 2:39… ‘For the promise’ remember to whom he’s speaking – he’s speaking to Jewish men at the feast of Pentecost, and when he says ‘the promise’ what promise has been repeated again and again by God to Jews for the last 2,000 years? I will be a God to you and to your children… Peter has summarized Genesis 12, 15, and 17 in one verse. (110, 31:35)
The structure of the promise ‘I’ll be a God to you and to your children’ well, that’s not temporary, that’s not typological. This pattern, as I say, of applying the sign to believers and to their children is permanent, and we know that from Acts 2:38-39 (111, 15:35)
The analogy with Abraham is only strengthened with the invocation of the Abrahamic Covenantal formula. ‘For the promise is to you and to your children.’ The essence of the covenant of grace remains unchanged. ‘I will be a God to you and to your children.’ My baptist friends object by pointing out the Gentiles and I reply by saying ‘So what?’ Our argument was not that Abraham was typological. Of course Gentiles are being included. That is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, that God would make him the father of many nations. (115, 27:00)
No, baptists don’t object by simply pointing out the Gentiles. Baptists object by pointing out that the promise is not to believers and their seed. It is to “everyone to whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Kline said that Clark is mistaken in his interpretation of these verses, and in his whole defense of infant baptism. “When we are establishing the ground for baptizing our children into the church our appeal should not be to the ‘promise,’ for the promised seed is the election and the covenant constituency is not delimited by election.” (KP 364)
Similarly, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner (OPC) says
What of Peter’s statement, “The promise is for you and your children”?… Perhaps we need to look at them a little more carefully… Consider first Peter’s comment in Acts 2:39. Thus far we have quoted only part of it. The whole of it is, “the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Are those who insist that here is a promise of the salvation of the children of believers as quick to say that here is a promise of salvation “for all who are far off”? Those are not simply the children of believers; those include all men everywhere in the world. But does God promise salvation to all men everywhere in the world? Certainly not. Neither, then, does He promise salvation to all the children of believers. What does He promise, then, to all the children of believers and to all people everywhere? Look at verse 38–and I’m going to use my own very literal translation here to make clear the grammatical cause-and-effect relationship that is clear in the Greek but ordinarily gets obscured in English translations: “Y’all repent for the remission of y’all’s sins, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and y’all will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”… The promise is conditional: If you repent and believe in Jesus Christ, you’ll be forgiven. That promise does indeed apply to each and every child of each and every believer; and it also applies to each and every other person who ever lived or ever will live.
The Kingdom of God
Christ did not bring the consummation when he came in his first advent. Instead, he said that he was inaugurating the kingdom of God, not consummating the kingdom of God. (115, 31:00)
Right, but note that Christ was indeed inaugurating the kingdom of God. That means it wasn’t already inaugurated. See When Did the Church Begin?
Regenerate Church Membership
[Baptists] know that their congregations, just like reformed congregations, have unregenerate members. But, by administering baptism only to those who can make a profession of faith, they are doing what they can to ensure a completely regenerate membership. From a reformed point of view, from a reformed covenant theology, it’s quite difficult to see how this is, at bottom, not a form of rationalism. (115, 32:40)
This is just nonsense. Does the fact that Presbyterians limit the baptism of adults to those who profess faith and deny it to those who do not mean that they are, at bottom, rationalists? We’re not trying to discern election. We affirm the “judgment of charity” should be extended to all who profess faith. We deny it should be extended to those who do not profess faith. That doesn’t make us rationalists (a favorite slur of Clark’s). See Church Membership: De Jure or De Facto?
Signs and Seals
Heidelberg Catechism 66… Notice the nouns the reformed churches use to describe the sacraments. We call them holy signs and seals. A sign is something that points to something else. By definition, a sign isn’t the thing itself. Now, we call them holy signs and seals but they’re like secular signs and seals too. When I go to the grocery store and see a sign for milk, that’s a pointer for where the milk is. It isn’t the milk itself. When one graduates from school, one gets a diploma. Somewhere on that diploma is a seal and that seal is a mark that testifies to the authenticity of the diploma. It’s the school’s way of guaranteeing that, yes, you were there, yes, you did the work, and yes, you really did graduate. That’s what the reformed churches mean by sign and seal when we talk about sacraments. (116, 2:30)
We agree that sacraments are signs. We do not agree that they are, necessarily, seals. A seal is, by definition, objective. As Clark notes, a seal is a guarantee. Now, would a seal on a diploma guarantee anything if the seal was not objective but was instead contingent upon the individual actually graduating? Would it be a seal if they gave it to every student the first day of their freshman year and said “This seal authenticates and guarantees your graduation… assuming you do in fact graduate”? Of course not. That’s absurd. So is Clark’s view of baptism. Neither would the absurdity be resolved if it were limited to older 4th year students who made a verbal claim to have graduated. The seal would still be meaningless if it was given to all of these students and then said it only applies to those who actually did in fact graduate. That is why baptism is not a seal of the Covenant of Grace and union with Christ. The Appendix to the 2nd London Baptist Confession says
If our brethren do suppose baptism to be the seal of the Covenant which God makes with every beleiver (of which the Scriptures are altogether silent) it is not our concern to contend with them herein; yet we conceive the seal of that Covenant is the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in the particular and individual persons in whom he resides, and nothing else…
This promise is first made unto him, Thou shalt be the Father of many Nations (in what sense the Apostle explaineth in that chapter) and then there is subjoined a double seal for the confirmation of the thing, to wit, the change of the name Abram into Abraham, and the institution of circumcision. v4. Behold as for me, my Covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the Father of many Nations. Wherefore was his name called Abraham? for the sealing of this promise. Thou shalt be the Father of many Nations. And wherefore was circumcision instituted to him? For the sealing of the same promise.
As an objective confirmation and guarantee (a seal), circumcision was unique to Abraham (which is part of Paul’s point). Scripture never says that circumcision was a seal/guarantee to anyone else. And it never says baptism is a seal.
Neither does a sacrament, by definition, “seal the promise of the gospel.” As Clark correctly notes regarding the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “These two trees are sacraments. They were signs and seals of the covenant that God made with Adam in the garden.” But they were not signs or seals of the gospel. The function and meaning of any covenant sign is determined individually by the covenant it is a part of and by the meaning it is given at its institution.
Paul equates the Red Sea with Christian baptism and he equates the manna and the water in the desert with the Lord’s Supper. Those were sacraments… (116, 15:40)
All passed through the sea and were baptized into Moses… We know from Scripture that there were infants among the company. Paul says that they were all baptized into Moses. There were infants in Israel in the Exodus. All Israel was baptized in the Red Sea. Therefore, infants were baptized. Now, you might object: This is a kind of a figurative baptism, not a real baptism. Well, that’s not what Paul says. (118, 26:50)
After being warned, Noah built the ark by God’s special direction for the saving of himself and his house, which were eight souls (1 Peter 3:20). This afforded them all a temporal deliverance from the deluge of waters by which God in his wrath swept away a disobedient world. It was also useful in its typical reference for their further instruction about the redemption of man from the floods of divine vengeance to be poured out later in eternal wrath on the world of unbelievers. For this is to be observed concerning the state of the church before Christ came in the flesh: that as the gospel was preached to them by types and dark shadows, so this kind of instruction was afforded them not only by the stated ordinances of ceremonial worship, but also by many extraordinary works of providence. These were so ordered by divine wisdom that they might bear a typical relationship to and be an apt representation of spiritual things. This may be observed in many instances in the history of Abraham and his offspring, the children of Israel. On this account the manna they ate in the wilderness is called spiritual meat; the water of the rock which they drank, spiritual drink; and the rock, Christ (1 Corinthians 10:3,4). And yet we read of no special ordination or appointment of these things to such an end except what they had from the order and voice of providence, together with the peculiar circumstances of the people involved in them. (63)
For more, see Substance/Accidents = Substance/Shadows?
The best Clark can do with regards to the early church is argue “by inference” that infant baptism was received from the Apostles because there was never a massive controversy over it (118, 6:45). He cannot point to anything else to say that it was the practice of the early church received from the Apostles.
I would encourage readers to study the work of David F. Wright, a Presbyterian in the Church of Scotland, and a professor of church history specializing in the patristics (Ligon Duncan received his PhD in early church history under Wright’s supervision). He wrote extensively on the subject of baptism in the early church, including What Has Infant Baptism Done to Baptism?: An Enquiry at the End of Christendom in which he states
One legacy of the baptismal breech of the sixteenth century which has militated against a comprehensive history of baptism has been the stubborn hauteur displayed towards Baptists and believers’ baptism by paedobaptist churches and theologians… It is indeed seriously misleading to view the age of the Fathers simply as an era of infant baptism. In fact, of known named individuals in those centuries who were both of Christian parentage and baptized at known dates, the great majority were baptized on profession of faith. The obscuring of a truer picture derives ultimately from sixteenth-century apologetic, both Catholic and Protestant, against the Anabaptists… The timescale of infant baptism’s long reign extends from the early medieval period, from about the sixth century, that is to say, after Augustine of Hippo, who died in 430. It was he who provided the theology that led to infant baptism becoming general practice for the first time in the history of the church, perhaps in the later fifth century, more likely in the 500s or even later.
Again, these words are from a Presbyterian historian, not a baptist with an axe to grind.
Invention of Paedobaptist Covenant Theology
Much of what we know today as covenant theology emerged in [Zwingli’s] defense of the unity of the covenant of grace against his Anabaptist critics.
Correct. Paedobaptist covenant theology was invented in response to Anabaptist critics. (See Calvin vs 1689 Federalism on Old vs New).
Now, it’s tempting, and it’s an easy answer to think the reason confessional, reformed protestant churches all disagreed with the anabaptists, and ultimately with modern baptist evangelicals about baptism is that they’re still unduly influenced by Romanism. But, as I keep saying, that answer simply does not account for the actual history of the reformation. It doesn’t account for their own lives, their writing, and their ministry. So, perhaps Augustine, Anselm, Thomas, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, Melanchthon, and the reformed churches and the Lutheran churches and the Anglican churches are all wrong about infant baptism. That is a logical possibility But maybe they are not. If they are wrong, however, it is not because they have not sought to follow the teaching of Scripture. (118, 25:00)
Clark thinks that as long as someone formally holds to sola scriptura, they cannot be unduly influenced by unbiblical tradition. As long as they seek to follow the teaching of Scripture, they cannot possibly be influenced by any incorrect thoughts. Obviously that is not the case, as church history and our own personal experience demonstrates. It is entirely possible that the reformers sought to conform all of their thoughts to Scripture, but were led to misinterpret Scripture because of various influences. Isn’t that how Clark would explain the fact that these guys were all Constantinian magisterial reformers defending the established church and the practice of non-toleration as vital to the reformation? The truth is, their belief in infant baptism was very intimately connected to their defense of Constantinianism. (See Calvin vs 1689 Federalism on Old vs New).
And all one has to do is look at Augustine, Anselm, Thomas, Zwingli, Calvin, Bullinger, Bucer, Melanchthon and Luther to see that, though they share a common practice, they have drastically different reasons and meanings for the practice. And the same is true within Presbyterianism. They share a common practice but have several different, contradictory understandings of the meaning (see this recent thread a just one example, and add Kline’s “new and improved” argument for infant baptism to the mix).
Infant baptism remains a practice in search of a theology.