Baptism and the Covenants

I delivered a paper this week at the Carey Minister’s Conference entitled “Baptism and the Covenants.”

The general outline of the paper was as follows:

– The old, old story: consistent reformed covenant theology = paedobaptist

– Thesis: consistent reformed covenant theology = baptist

– A covenant is: “an oath bound, oath certified assurance of irrevocable grace and promise” – Murray

– The story of the covenant: cov. of redemption, adamic, cov. of grace, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New

– The Newness of the New Covenant

  • climax of the story – the eternal king is on the throne, the law is internalized, a family blessing the nations
  • Calvin’s 4 antitheses on 2 Cor 3 – external vs internal (v. 6a); death vs life (v. 6b); condemnation vs righteousness (v. 9); temporary vs eternal (v. 10-11)
  • Owen on Heb 8 – “all with whom this covenant is made are effectually sanctified, justified, and saved”

Signs of the Covenant

  • circumcision – signifying national promise (nb. faithfulness of parents irrelevant to reception of sign); typological projection toward Christ; spiritual circumcision (BUT beware: prophetic application of rite does not necc. equal exposition of its meaning)
  • baptism – signifying death and ress (Rom 6; Col 2); cleansing (1 Cor 6; Eph 5). A sign of spiritual new birth.
  • relationship between the two – Col 2:11-12 (see my article here: Essentially spiritual circumcision performed by Christ is the fulfilment of that which physical circumcision anticipated. Baptism corresponds to spiritual, not physical circumcision.
  • For those who think baptism replaces circumcision note both are going on in the early church (Acts 15, 16, Gal)


  • Is God less kind? (Zwingli) – nope…NC much better promises
  • Acts 2:39 is a covenantal formula. Yes, but what exactly is the promise – that if you repent you will receive forgiveness and the Spirit – and it’s for all those who are far off
  • What about warning passages (eg. Heb 10:29)? Some thinking about how language works and speech-act theory. Warnings are means by which believers are kept
  • What about 2 Pet 2:1? Addressed on the basis of confessed faith – phenomenological faith
  • What about Jn 15?  Calvin says “many are reckoned by men’s opinion to be in the vine who in fact have no root in the vine”

– Critiques

  • everyone is a credo-baptist – reformed paedo-baptists just remove it one generation
  • consistency of confessions – cf. for example WLC 31 and 166, and CSD:2:P2 and CSD:1:17


A consistent covenant theology, tracing the narrative of God’s dealings with men, climaxing in the wonderful promises of the NC is a baptist covenant theology recognising the discontinuity between OC and NC as expressed in Jer 31, 2 Cor 3, Heb 8.


Looking at this outline is looks very sparse indeed – that’s notes for you. Hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll be able to listen to the paper online.



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