What’s New About the New Covenant?

Over the weekend, I was once again drawn to discussions (debates)baptism-2-image-200x150 regarding infant baptism (paedobaptism) vs believer’s baptism (credobaptism): James White (Reformed Baptist) vs Bill Shishko (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and then Tom Schreiner (Southern Baptist) vs David VanDrunen (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).

Perhaps the following is biased, given that I’m a Baptist, but I found that both the Presbyterian debaters were weak on Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Hebrews 8:7-13).

Rather than taking “new” to mean “new,” the Presbyterians take it to mean expansion and something talk of over-realized eschatology on the part of Baptists, who find support for believer’s baptism only, from Jeremiah 31:31-34.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah says it’s “new” and not like the old.  He then goes on to outline what’s different about the “new covenant” (vv. 33-34): while members of the old covenant were made up of ethnic Israel (according to Paul, not all who descended from Israel are Israel; there’s a remnant, Romans 9:6ff), “new covenant” members would all be regenerate and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (see Ezekiel 36:24-28).

So much more may be said, but you get the gist here.

This entry was posted in Baptism, Baptists, Believer's Baptism, Credobaptism, Infant Baptism, Paedobaptism, Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, Southern Baptist, Thomas R. Schreiner and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What’s New About the New Covenant?

  1. Kevin S. says:

    Hey TC. This debate can seem to go both ways. I’ve been challenged to see it from both sides of the fence because I been educated and ministered in both Lutheran and Baptist churches. For me, I feel it’s difficult to defend either side too staunchly because I found scripture supported both infant and believer’s baptism. It’s all in the interpretation.

    When I read Jeremiah 31:31-34, I don’t necessarily relate it to baptism at all. But I see the connection between covenant and baptism.

    • Colin says:

      I too have Baptist and now in my case Church of England in my genes! And while I can understand the credobaptist use of the Jeremiah passage, I too don’t see an explicit link between passage and baptismal practice. For interest if you explore the website of the Free Presbyterians of Scotland you will see the use the same passage in support of their avowed preference for baptising believers children. For myself I am relaxed about who, and for that matter how. To me it is a matter for individual/parental reflection between themselves and the Lord. My own parish priest did not baptise his 2 sons as infants – one of them , so far, has come to baptism as a believer.

      I found it interesting that last year on Fr Robert’s Irish Anglican website, I was in exchange with an Orthodox Christian over my full support for parents in making that choice for themselves. He suggested that except for Baptists, Pentecostals etc, most non Catholic denominations expect (even require?) their members to Baptise their children. I think he was disturbed at my vicar’s failure! The CoE is, perhaps as ever, non specific, and Calvin’s Institutes seem to be neutral. The respondent also quoted Luther in support of his view. I did not pursue the matter by suggesting that if Luther was so specific (you might be able to put me straight Kevin?), he was not writing Scripture so as with Calvin, Cranmer, Bucer, the early fathers et al, we are fully entitled to probe and question what he says? We might of course conclude he was right? Or not.

  2. TC Robinson says:

    Kevin and Colin,
    Thanks for the input. I’ve studied the Presbyterian and others arguments from Jeremiah 31. The point I’m making is that all New Covenant members would be regenerate and indwelt by the Spirit. This is the “New” and the “Different” that I see in the text. Whereas, the Old Covenant were made up of all circumcised Israel (they would later have to be circumcised in the heart, Deut. 30:6). The circumcised in your were the true Jew (Rom. 2:28-29).

    Now baptism comes in to play.

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