Three Things the Baptists Never Taught Me
There are three things I was never taught by my Baptist fathers and teachers. These three lessons would have greatly aided my theological understanding and practice.
First, there is only one people of God. Baptists generally follow Dispensational teaching, which identifies two people of God: Jews and Christians (both Messianic Jews and Gentiles). The Jews have their relationship with Yahweh, and the Christians have their relationship through Jesus,
In Dispensational thought, Christianity is like a parenthesis, a temporary interruption in God’s relationship with the Jews. God dealt with the Jews from Abraham to Christ. Something called, “the church age,” follows Christ’s first advent, and then, the rapture of the church, and finally, the millennial reign of Christ at the end of the age, when He deals with the Jews again.
Instead, of this duality and the multiple dispensations, the Bible became much clearer to me, when I was taught to see there is really only one people of God. Elect saints of God from every nation, share a common reality from Abel/Seth until today. They are people of faith, in a consistent line of generations.
The iconic figure of faith is Abraham, the believer and patriarch. He believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:23). The seed of Abraham is not the Jews. It is Jesus Christ, the Israel of God (Is 49:3; Gal 3:16). Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament age, believers have put their hope in this One. The ethnicity of a believer was never determinate of one’s relationship to Messiah (Jn 1:13).
As the apostle Paul clarified, “Not all Israel is Israel (Rom 9:6),” which means some Jews did not belong to Christ (Jn 8:44; 10:26), as believers in Him. This is made plain by the rampant unbelief of the Hebrew people across the pages of the Holy Bible.
In the Old Testament, the true, spiritual Israel was predominantly found inside the Jewish nation, albeit a remnant of the whole who took Israel’s name. In the New Testament age, true Israel is found in every nation (Rev 5:9). God’s purpose in the Old Testament was to employ the Israelite nation, as a type for the church. Ethnic Israel’s history serves as an example for us to learn and not mimic (1 Cor 10).
Those who are “in Christ,” the seed of Abraham, have the covenant and the promises (Heb 8:6), as God’s holy nation of royal priests (1 Pet 2:9).
Second, the Baptists did not teach me that circumcision and baptism were the same thing. Circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with His people (remember there is only one people of God, typified in Old Testament ethnic Israel). All the males received the sign, as infants, on the eighth day after birth (Lev 12:3; Lk 1:59; Acts 7:8; Phil 3:5). It was the seal of God’s righteousness. It was an external rite, signifying a spiritual reality. The spiritual reality was the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit (Ezek 36:26).
The sign symbolized the cutting away of the veil of sin. The unveiling also pointed to the coming King, the seed of Abraham, who would keep the Law perfectly, as the Mediator of the covenant (1 Tim 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). The things of God belonged to the circumcised, sign bearers. This included: the promises; the covenant; the Law; the prophets; the land; the Temple; and the priesthood.
Baptism is the sign of the covenant in the New Testament (Col 2:11–12). The change from circumcision to baptism is a shift from a bloody rite to a bloodless one. The initiation into God’s covenant family remains, not just for ethnic Israel, but for all nations from which believers are called (Rom 8:30; Rev 5:9). Whereas circumcision points to the cross of Christ, and His shed blood (now fulfilled at the Cross), baptism points to the Holy Spirit and the washing of water. Both signs point to God’s removal of sin in the context of God’s covenant of grace.
Third, the Baptists never told me about the continuous line of generations. This is obvious in the Old Testament, for Abraham was the father of a family bloodline, recorded for us in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Each generation was to receive the covenant sign (Baptists take note!), God’s message and reminder of His covenant promise was left as a permanent mark.
In the New Testament, the continuous line of generations is observed in the baptism of households, such as Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus. Luke went out of his way to consistently record this fact in Acts of the Apostles. This was all but ignored in my education as a Baptist.
All Christians suffer from deficiencies in our theological education, for various reasons, including traditions in denominations. Discovering these three biblical/doctrinal truths: the people of God; the shift from circumcision to baptism; and the continuous line of generations has simplified many other doctrines for me. I am indebted and filled with much gratitude for those who were able to explain these doctrines in a way I could see and understand the Scriptures. I pray I have done the same for my readers here.
My hope is that my Baptist friends will explore these and other doctrines that will aid them in understanding the Bible. They also may learn and understand why paedo-Baptists do what they do.
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 19, 2021