Calvin on: The Sacraments, part 2

In like manner, in baptism we put on Christ, (Galatians 3:27) we are washed by his blood, (Revelation 1:5) our old man is crucified, (Romans 6:6) in order that the righteousness of God may reign in us. In the Holy Supper we are spiritually fed with the flesh and blood of Christ. Whence do they derive so great efficacy but from the promise of Christ, who does and accomplishes by his Holy Spirit what he declares by his word? Let us therefore learn, that all the sacraments which men have contrived are nothing else than absolute mockeries or frivolous amusements, because the signs can have no truth unless they be accompanied by the word of the Lord. Now, since we never sport in this manner with sacred things, without wickedly pouring contempt on God and ruining souls, we ought to be most carefully on our guard against those stratagems of Satan.  John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel  According to John, 20:22.

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“Third Day” Resurrection

In Exodus 19, Israel came to Mt. Sinai. Verse 1 says it was “on the third new moon” that they arrived at Sinai since they left Egypt. Verses 11 tells us that Israel was to prepare herself for “the third day” when “the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all people. Verses 16-20 tell of the great majesty and glory of God who appeared to Israel on “the third day” on top of Mt. Sinai in fire, smoke, thunder, and lightening. While Moses was on the mount he received the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant. Thus, Israel’s covenant inauguration/renewal ceremony took place on the third day. The prologue to the Ten Commandments reiterates this resurrection theme when God says, “I am the LORD you God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” This is resurrection language. “You were once dead in Egypt, but now you are alive, therefore serve me” is the essence of what God is saying. This proclamation takes place not just on the third day, but on the third day of the third month/third new moon.

“Exodus 19:1 tells us that Israel arrived “on the third new moon” (literally) from the month they left Egypt. They had departed on the 15th day of the first month, so that they arrived at Sinai at the beginning of the week. On the second day, Moses went up the mountain of God, and God told him that He was going to make covenant with Israel. Moses came down from the mountain and told the people, who rejoiced to have the Lord as their God (w. 2-8a). The third day, Moses told God what the people had said, and God told him that He would speak to Israel from the cloud of glory. Moses returned and told this to the people (VV. 8b-9). The fourth day, Moses returned to hear what God had to say next, and God told him to tell the people to prepare themselves to receive the covenant on the third day, which would be the sixth day of the week. Adam was created on the sixth day of the creation week, and was established in covenant with God. Since, as we have seen, the Sinaitic covenant is a redemptive specification or republication of the Old Adamic Covenant (from one Biblical perspective, at least), it is telling that God “re-creates” humanity in covenant with Himself on this sixth day of the week.” [1]

It is interesting that God told Moses to “consecrate the people today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day” (Ex. 19:10). Israel needed to be cleansed from their uncleanness, which is symbolic death. They were symbolically dead in Egypt and needed to be raised to life again, which was to take place on the third day when the covenant was going to be ratified/renewed. Thus we can agree with Jordan that the “process of covenant renewal with man dead in sins and trespasses must involve resurrection.”[2]

This brings us then to Numbers 19:11-13.

11 “Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. 12He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. 13Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.”

This passage makes it very clear that death needs to be cleansed from a person on third day, as well as the on the seventh day. This is an obvious third day resurrection motif. But what might not be as obvious is why it is that the cleansing is needed on both the third and seventh days. Jordan gives us insight.

The third day (year, etc.) theme arises from the theology of the week. History begins on the first day, but humanity fell into sin and came under the judgment on [sic] death right away. There is a preliminary judgment and restoration on the third day, and that restoration makes it possible for humanity to become faithful and obedient as we move to the final, seventh day of history. This two judgment, two-resurrection scheme is set forth most fully in Numbers 19, where we read that a person who came into near contact with a human corpse was contaminated by death, just as all of us are contaminated with Adam’s death, and that the unclean person was cleansed both on the third day and again on the seventh. We see here a preliminary cleansing (that is, a resurrection from death contamination) and a final cleansing.[3]

This analysis seems to fit with Jesus’ understanding of the flow of history in John 5. Jesus said “For an hour is coming (future) and is now here (present), when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” The third day cleansing represents Christian baptism (the first resurrection) and the seventh day cleansing represents eschatological cleansing (the second resurrection). A person who has encountered death needs to be cleansed twice, once in the middle of history and once again at the end. The cleansing/resurrection in the middle of history and again at the end of history corresponds to the two cleansings/ two resurrections found in Numbers 19.

“The man who is unclean from contact with a corpse is to be cleansed on the third day and again on the seventh day. This double resurrection pattern is found all through the Scriptures. For instance, in John 5:21-29, Jesus distinguishes a first resurrection, when those dead in sin will hear the voice of Christ and live (v. 25); and a second resurrection, when those dead in the grave will come forth to a physical resurrection (v. 29). The first resurrection comes in the middle of history to enable men to fulfill the duties of the old creation. The second resurrection comes at the end of history to usher men into the new creation. Jesus was raised on the third day, thereby inaugurating the New Covenant in the midst of the week of history. Christians live between the third and seventh days of history, Spiritually resurrected and in the New Covenant, but physically mortal and assigned to complete the tasks of the Old Adamic Covenant. The fact that the law was given at Sinai on the third day, and in the third month, was a provisional anticipation of the third-day resurrection yet to come in Christ.”[4]

Saint Paul also affirms this truth when he speaks of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:23 – each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ will be resurrected.[5]


[1] See James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 55-56.

[2] Jordan, Law of the Covenant, 56.

[3] Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007),130.

[4] Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall, 58.

[5] David Chilton, Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), 550-551.

New Creation and Baptism

In Genesis 1, we see that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters of creation. It was out of this water that the dry land of the new earth was brought forth on the third day. The waters were separated, and dry land appeared (Gen. 1:9-10). On the sixth day when man was created out of the dust of the ground, which corresponds to the filling of that which was formed on the third day, we see that there was a mist coming up from the ground and watered the whole land from which man was created.Thus man was created from the dust that was covered in water (Gen. 2:6-7).

After the flood, we see a similar picture, with the dove, like the Spirit of God hovering over the flood waters, looking for a place to rest its feet (8:6-9).  Later, during the Exodus, when Israel was brought out of Egypt, a similar picture is given in the crossing of the Red Sea. “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to the on their right and on their left” (Ex. 14:22). St. Paul looks back to this account in 1 Corinthians 10:2 and says that Israel was ‘baptized in to Moses.’ Deut. 32:11 even pictures God as a fluttering eagle over Israel when He brought them out through the water. This is a striking resemblance to the creation and flood accounts, when the Spirit was hovering over the waters of creation and ‘new creation.’ A similar account is recorded for us in Joshua 3:15-17 when the Israelites went into the land and the water from the Jordan River was overflowing. The Priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant went into the water, and the water ceased to flow, and Israel went over into Canaan on dry land. We might possibly see the Cherubim with their wings spread out over the Ark, which was placed in the hands of the priests who were “in the midst” of the water, as picture of the Spirit of God hovering over the water here also.

Skipping ahead to Jesus, we see the one who is the True Israel going into the water for baptism, when the Spirit of God descends upon Him in the form of a dove. This is an obvious recapitulation of all those Old Testament types, all of which find their fulfillment in Christ. Then on Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came to the Church, there was a sound like a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2), which might be a veiled reference to the sound of hovering fluttering wings of the Holy Spirit, since  Jesus in Acts 1:5 does refer to the coming of the Spirit as a‘baptism.’

Directly connected to these water “baptisms” is the doctrine of the eschaton. Jesus Himself speaks of the “times of restoration” that come by the hand of Elijah (John the Baptist) in Matt. 17:11; He also speaks of the time of the “regeneration” in Matt. 19:28[1]; Peter and John in Acts 3 exhort the people to repent so that the “times of refreshing” and “the time of restoring all things” can come about; Hebrews talks about “the time of reformation” (9:10); Peter in his first epistle says that their salvation is ready to be revealed in this ‘last time’ (1:5). This grace of salvation will be brought to them at the “revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.” When this revelation occurs, “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise, we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:12-13). Peter looks for that day of wrath when the old covenant would be brought to a close. This day of wrath finds comparison with the destruction of the flood of Noah, and the manner in which they were saved from that wrath. The wrath that God indeed did pour out ended the old covenant “heavens and earth” was in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Peter thus concludes that “Baptism, which corresponds to this [the ark which saved them from the destruction of the old world and which brought them into the new] now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21).

How is it that Baptism saves? In just that way that Peter said. The Ark was the vessel that saved people from God’s wrath which destroyed the old “heavens and earth” and brought them into “a new heavens and earth.”  Paul tells us if anyone be in Christ, “new creation.” The old has passed away, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The question then is; how does one participate in this new creation? Answer: By being “in Christ.” How does a person come to be, “in Christ”? By Baptism. For Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28).  Paralleling that statement, Paul says at the end of his Galatians epistle, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor un-circumcision, but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). Paul therefore seems to equate being “in Christ” with “new creation.”  He also says in Titus 3:5 that we are saved “by the washing of regeneration.”

Though this passage has been debated, I believe that the proper rendering of the text should be understood as: we are saved by the washing [baptism] that brings about the new birth (i.e., new creation). ‘Regeneration’ literally means “New Birth” and so we are born anew through the waters of baptism, not by any internal “regeneration” as classic reformed theology has understood the term, but in the external objective sense. Baptism brings us into the regeneration, the eschatological kingdom of God on earth. Connecting this Jesus Himself said that a man cannot see the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit. It is not just the spirit, but it is also the water, that is, the waters of baptism.

Thus, from a biblical theological perspective, Christ Himself is the New Creation, and it is baptism which then brings us into this new creation, i.e. Christ. All of those Old Testament types find their significance in baptism, which was the means whereby a person came into the “New Creation.” It is the not only the same in the New Covenant, but it is here where the fulfillment is.


[1] See R.T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 287-288.

Some Questions Concerning Infant Baptism

When a child is brought up in a Christian home, and attends church every week, reads the Bible, goes to Sunday school, memorizes Scriptue, has learned Biblical Doctrine, etc, and is not yet baptized because the parents of the child feel that the child does not yet “intellectually understand” what baptism means, or understand what it means to be a Christian, is this helping or hindering that child from coming to Christ?

Is this unbaptized child who has been brought up in the church to be considered a christian?

Is this unbaptized child who has been brought up in the church a memeber of the church?

If the child has to attain a certain intellectual level of understanding before being baptized, is this intellectual attainment a form of works?

Is it unbiblical and/or unethical to raise a child in a Christian home, under christian rules, expecting that child to follow and obey those rules, and for that child to go under the proper Christian disicipline due to disobedience, and yet to consider that child to not be a christian and to not be in covenant with God because of their lack of baptism? Is that wrong?

If we are all equal in Christ, then isn’t the unbaptized child considered an unequal due to their lack of baptism, since he is not ye a “christian”? Does this make this child some sort of second class citizen?

Did Jesus tell the children He blessed that they had to wait until they were a certain age or were able to attain to some intellectual understanding before they could come to Him?

What were the requirements that needed to be met that Jesus laid down for the children before the kingdom of God could be belong those little children?

Just a few questions.

Oh, one more question….

If the New Covenant is made ONLY with true believers, then how is it that in Hebrews 10:26-30 ,that a person could “receive the knowledge of the truth”, and by their deliberate sinning, “profane the blood of the Covenant by which he was Sanctified“, and subsequently in verse 30 have the author say that this person who will be judged is to be considered  “HIS (God’s) PEOPLE”?????

This person received the truth, was in covenant with God, was sancitified by the blood of the (new) covenant, was considered to be God’s people, and yet can still “spurn the son of God, and profane the blood of the Covenant by which he was sanctified, and could outrage the Spirit of Grace”? This person will subsequently be judged by a fury of fire that will consume God’s adversaries (which this person is). If the New Covenant is only made with those who are regenerate then how could Hebrews 10:26-30 make any sense?????