Abraham Father of all Believers (10)

Sodom: A matter of perspective?

Scripture Readings

  • Genesis 19

Introduction

Dear brother and sister in the Lord,

Perspective on something is important.  One’s perspective is formed by many experiences and inputs.

Ask me about horse riding, and I remember the I tried it.  I nearly fell off and the next day was torture.  My perspective on horse riding is also shaped by races, outlandish fashion parades and lots of money wasted through betting.

Others have a completely different view on horse riding. Some actually love it!

When we look at Sodom, what do we see?  For us who have known the story  since Sunday school days, we look upon Sodom and Gomorrah as evil cities.  But I bet something is creeping into our society today which make us look at those ancient cities differently.

The Bible provides us with four different perspectives:  the inhabitants of Sodom, Lot, Abraham and God.

The Sodomites

Luke describes the fall of Sodom in the same terms as he described the days of Noah:

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. (Luke 17:28, NIV)

God said to Abraham,  “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin grievous” (Genesis 18:20, NIV)

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were a law unto themselves. Every time the Scriptures  expresses evil, it referred to Sodom.  2 Peter 2:7 says “the city was depraved in conduct of the lawless.”  What stood out about the lawlessness of Sodom was its “sexual immorality and perversion.” (Jude 7).  It seems as if these two things go hand in hand.  A licentious lifestyle, where man has become its own benchmark for right or wrong, leads to sexual immorality and perversion. To those in Sodom all seemed right.  It became a code to live by:  they decided what the rules for their society would be.  There was no concern for God or his law.

To knock a man’s door down to demand sexual pleasures of a visitor became a right.

Let’s divert a bit here.  For those who in our day arguing that if Christians find homosexuality offensive for them, they should not expect of non-Christians to have the same conviction.  But the point is Sodom and Gomorrah were not Christian cities, they were not included into the elect people of God in the first instance, but what they did was to, as the Bible itself states,

“… Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities… indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)

Paul writes about the same thing.

“Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27, NIV)

Australia prides itself for being a secular society.  We have now freed ourselves from our Judeo-Christian heritage, and we have become our own benchmarks for what is right and wrong.  We have the Sydney mardi gras, partly sponsored by taxpayers’ money, protected by the police, broadcasted by national TV stations, and promoted as a money-spinning tourist attraction.  The official website invites visitors to …

a cavalcade of fabulousness that includes dancing boys, marching girls, the famous Dykes on Bikes, floats, music, glitter, leather and more spray tans than Beverly Hills. The aim of the parade, which begins with the raising of the rainbow flag, is to lift the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities. Underneath all the fun, frivolity and feathers lies a serious message: it’s a statement of pride, diversity and acceptance.

Members our of own parliament push for the introduction of same-sex marriages under the guise of marriage equality.

Ministers of the church are under pressure to perform same-sex marriages, and venues who refuse to have a reception for these people can lose their licences, or even receive penalties.  Even baker shops in America refusing to bake wedding cakes with same-sex partners on it, are getting warnings and receive penalties.

Some evangelical churches have changed their views on homosexuality and have allowed gay ministers into their pulpits.  And these actions are heralded as steps in the right direction.

Look at Sodom.  What do you see?  Look at the state of the moral decay in Australia.  What do you see?  Sodom saw nothing wrong – but what did not see coming was the condemnation of God.  God is not mocked.  Let’s wake up.  Sodom served as a example.  Listen!  Jude says their punishment serves as “an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Lot

We know the story of Lot.  His fall did not happen at once.  It started when he looked.  He then moved to the plains of Sodom, then close to the city, then into the city, and finally he became part of them.  His wife seemed lost the moment they got there, and his daughters were about to be married to men of the city.

When we find Lot as the gate of the city, it could imply that he became part of their judgement team, because that’s where the judges of the city gathered.  Maybe he thought he could have an influence on the city.  The remark in verse 9, “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them,” (Genesis 19:9) could mean that the city people had enough of him who tried to judge them.  But the fact of the matter is that he was living in their midst.

Peter says of Lot that he was “a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” (2 Peter 2:7).

And I think Lot is typical of most Christians today.

Yes, we are distressed by the depravity and the sins around us; we cringe when the Name of our Lord is blasphemed through the media; we are hurt when people hurl insults against the church of our Lord; we are concerned about the future of Christianity and Bible classes in our schools; we mourn when Christians in other parts of the world are killed and slaughtered like animals – but, we have lost the impact of our testimony and witness to the world – just like Lot – because in may cases we have become too close to the world.  In some way, what the world has on offer, we have come to love, even if it means that we do it in the privacy of our home, watching the same programs as the world, enjoying it and laughing as the same crude jokes of some so-called comedians.

We have become soft as we listen to the arguments of this world about God’s standards for marriage, bad language, detestable business practices, lies, and morality in general.  Yes, when we find ourselves in private with our God, we confess and like Lot we are distressed, but rarely are Christians prepared to stand up publicly for the Name of Christ.  Our witness have become weak and incredible, difficult to take seriously.

Lot called the brutal sinners of Sodom “friends”  (or brothers in other translations).  Let’s face it, there is a line in the sand when we deal with those who openly mock the living God of heaven; there is a time when being friendly, nice and kind becomes fanciful.  The Lord calls us to be salt and light, a city on a mountain.  It is our job to proclaim the message, without fear of condemnation or being and offence.  If they hate us for doing so, then good – our Lord prepared us for it.

Are you perhaps a Lot, distressed by what you see and hear, but silent, weak and unproductive, or even having a witness which has lost its credibility because of the fact the secretly, or not even that secretly, you have come to love the world.  Worldliness is the death nail in the coffin of the church.

Abraham

Abraham walked with God and trusted God.  God revealed to him his plans to destroy the city, but he did not argue with God.  He trusted God, believed God, and just knew that God was just and full of grace.  He was at one with the plan of God.  For him the glory of God is what counted.

When he got the dry stoney hill country and Lot got the green valley of Sodom, he did not argue with God or accused God of being unfair.

But because he knew God’s grace and faithfulness, he looked at Sodom and saw the evil of the city.  He did not try to make it look a bit more attractive.  When God said the evil city became an outcry against heaven, he knew it was true.  At that stage he did not try to excuse Lot and his family, or to condone the fact that they had become part of the promiscuity of the city.  He knew sin in the eyes of God was sin.  He knew God was just in condemning the city.

But he also understood that God is a God of his word.  He knew he could go to God in prayer.

Humbly he prayed,

“Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:24–25)

He was right.  God wouldn’t have done it, but there were no fifty righteous left in the city.  Abraham kept praying, knowing that his nephew and family were about to experience God’s wrath.  Finally, in all humility, he prayed,

“Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Genesis 18:32, NKJV)

He did not give up appealing on the grace and justice of God.  If there were ten God would not destroy the city.  Abraham then left it in God’s hands.  God is good, just, righteous and holy.

What did Abraham see when he looked at Sodom?  Two things:  sin deserving punishment.  He did not try to intercede for the city on any ground, other than the fact that it was deserving of God’s justice.

But Abraham also saw God, the just, the forgiving, the faithful, the One who answers prayers.  And he trusted God.  So, he prayed for Lot.  And God answered his prayer.  I find it amazing that God remained faithful to the prayer of Abraham, even when it seemed that Lot resisted God’s grace:  the angels grabbed him and his family by the hand and urged them out of the city.  Then in verse 22:

Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” (Genesis 19:22)

God’s mercy on Lot because of Abraham’s prayer.  I think God will do the same if we start pleading for the world around us.  Listen to this verse:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God

He is righteous, just, holy, punishing the sin of sinners.  When God looked at Sodom He had all the right to be angry and show his judgement.  But verse 18-19 gives us a glimpse in God’s way of looking at this world.  He knew very well that, left to our own devices, nothing would ever save us.  Yes, homosexuals and promiscuous people, but all of us would end up like Sodom – all of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

But the promise to Abraham looked forward to the nations who would be blessed through him.  Along his line God send his son, Jesus Christ; He took the punishment to save us from eternal destruction.  By grace we receive grace, not a burned out city, but the same city Abraham was longing to see, the city not built with the hands of a man – God’s city.

Those who long to see this city believe in Christ.  They repented of their sins, turned against this world, love Christ and do his work on earth till that day.

All those who do not love Christ, not only homosexuals and the promiscuous, who have not turned from their sins in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, can only look forward to a life after this in eternal destruction.  God is just and righteous – no-one who tramples the blood of his son underfoot will see heaven, but will be thrown in the lake of fire, prepared for the devil and those who worship him.  There is no other way to describe it.

Hide under the judgement of the cross of Christ and receive life; walk away from it, and God’s judgement rest upon you.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7th November 2014

 

We just want to pray

Is it just in Australia where people just pray?  Or does it happen in other countries and in other languages too?

Just praying

Just praying

I am referring to the the use of the word just.

It is not uncommon to hear this little word used just repeated ad nausea in a prayers.  “We just come to You …”  “We just want to ask …”  We just want to pray for …” “We just want to thank You for …”

I wonder, why just?  If someone new to the English language hear us use just over and over again, would they not think why just?

The word can mean fair (the punishment is just), merited (the reward is just), exactly, precisely (just five meters), recently (the phone just rang), directly (just next to the stove), simply (just so good), only ( just last year), perhaps (it just might work), almost (my work is just about done).

The average person praying to God using just will not have all these meaning in mind when he or she is just asking or thanking God. But just what do we mean when we use this little word?  Especially when we use it over and over again.  I counted more than 20 times in a prayer of about two minutes.

For the person of reformed background there is nothing just in himself to form any ground for his petitions. He merits nothing and just ask on the basis of God’s grace.

If just is used to describe any limits exactly (or precisely), we would need to think very carefully.  Isn’t it at times that we are just so vague in what we pray for that we fall back on just?  In these cases our just can actually mean only, which unknowingly would pray and put limits on

God’s power to really answer our prayers.  “We just pray for rain” can mean that’s the only thing we ask for. Isn’t it a good thing that God does not always answer our prayers they way we bring our petitions before Him?

I suspect just in most prayers might have the meaning of simply.  That’s good, because it reflects humility.  But maybe we should use the humbly, “We humbly ask…

Next time we pray and just ask, lets keep this in mind:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21, ESV)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9–10, ESV)

No restrictions, no perhaps, no only, no just.

As a matter of fact, nowhere in the Bible is just connected to a prayer request.

The beauty and the beast

Dr R.C. Sproul

Dr R.C. Sproul

“In the ninth century, when the Latin Mass began to be enforced, I’m confident the same discussions took place. Some, I would expect, argued that the Latin Mass carried with it a gravity that communicated the glory of God, a certain sense of mystery and timelessness. Others, I’m quite sure, pointed out that the people for whom Jesus died could not understand what was being said. How can we say that this body was broken for you if you don’t know what we’re saying?”

Read more

The life-changing power of God’s Word

Reformation 2014

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 19
  • 1 Peter 1:13-25

Introduction

Us who grew up in modern times will find it hard to imagine life without electricity:  no running water in our homes, no fridges, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, TV’s, computers, air-conditioners … How annoying is it to have only one powerpoint in a room of older homes while we need ten for all the conveniences which depends on electricity.  One thing we can say about  electricity, is that life was literally darker without it.

The Bible describes the world before the coming of Christ also as a dark place; not literally dark, but spiritually dark. John puts it this way:

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:5, 9)

Peter in the second chapter, referring the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, of his first letter says God “called you out of darkness into his wonderful night.”

The Word of God

Everything about it is excellent

Life without the Word of God, both the Word as the Son of God, and the Word, the Bible is a life of darkness.  In Psalm 19 we read, “The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” Read those verse again and you will understand everything about the Word of God is excellent:  it is perfect, reviving the soul; it is trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, they are sure, altogether righteous, more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, and in keeping God’s Word there is great reward.

Paul endorses by saying it is

“able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)

because

“…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2Timothy 3:17)

Without the Word everything else is horrible

There was a time in the history of the church, that it was considered a crime for a member of the church to read to the word of God.  In cases where there were copies of the Bible, uneducated people couldn’t read it because it was in Latin.  There are recorded cases of parishes with a priest who couldn’t read, or did not even have a copy of the Word of God to have someone else read it.  Ordinary churchgoers were then left to believe that strict observance of the seven sacraments of the church of Rome would put them in the right relationship with God.

People like Wycliffe who translated the Scriptures were declared heretics and excommunicated from the church.  He died in 1384, and about 150 years after his death his bones were exhumed and burned to ashes.

So, what was the church of God like without the Word?  In one word:  dark!  Not only for members of the church, but for those who were ordained in the offices.  Moral depravity was rampant, and theological teaching was absent and without life-giving truth.  People believed what they were told without the Scripture to test the teaching.

Financial gain was important for the church to build cathedrals, and to support the priesthood.  Indulgences were introduced, making people believe that their sins were forgiven on account of the amount of financial support they give to the church.  What  further kept people from freedom was the belief that souls could be prayed and bought out of purgatory – all without any Biblical foundation.  The average churchgoer lived in fear for a vengeful God who had nothing but punishment for the sinner.  Not having the promises of the Word of God to read for themselves, they had to rely on the absolution of the priest as their middleman between them and God.

To make things ever worse, because the message of the church was that its government was above and over the civil governments, disobedience to the state also meant disobedience to the church.  It also meant that civil leaders were appointed by the church.  Society was held in fear of a revengeful God who served his punishment through the church who did not hesitate to burn people at the stake.  Thousands upon thousands died, not because they believed in the Bible and Jesus Christ, but because they dared oppose the authority of the church, even if it meant that they ate any thing else but fish on a Friday!

How God uses the Word

We now have to go to the words of 1Peter 1:

… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God… (1 Peter 1:22–23)

Peter here connects with what he had  already written in verses 10-12. He referred to the work of the prophets as recorded in the Bible, the word of God.  What did these prophets research and write about?  “The Spirit of Christ in them was pointing” to the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” which became “the Gospel preached” by people “by the Holy Sprit”.  Peter says in verse 25, “This is the word that was preached to you.”

These sufferings of Christ are the “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”, which He gave to “redeem” us “from the empty way of life.”  This word is the truth:  “You have obeyed the truth.”

So, what happens in the normal scheme of things is that God uses people whom He calls to preach the Word, which is from God, driven by the Holy Spirit.  This word is the truth.  All in the Psalms and the prophets were pointing to Jesus Christ and his redeeming work.  The simple, but treasured message of the Gospel is about Jesus Christ who came into this world to set the sinner free by grace.  His blood is more precious than gold or silver which cannot save and will count for nothing when we appear at the judgement throne before God.  “Through Him you believe in God.”  Why is this so important?  Because only He gives new life!  “God raised Him from the dead and glorified Him.”  The only way to heaven is by faith in Him who redeemed the lost by his blood, by taking their punishment as his own, to die the death they should have died, to raise victoriously from the grave, so that they who believe in Him will live with Him into all eternity.

The redemption God provided for us is complete.  Being dead in our trespasses we would not have the capacity to change ourselves to believe and make what Jesus has done for us our own.  So, the next miracle happens:

“… you have been born again, … through the living and abiding word of God. The word of the Lord stands forever, and this is the word that was preached to you.”

The Spirit of God who once breathed to Word into existence uses this word about Jesus Christ and his life-giving grace to sinner, uses the Word the bring about life from above.  What this new birth makes us children of God.  John also referred to this in his Gospel:

But to all who did receive Him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)

Paul puts in these terms:

But God … made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:4–6)

Listen to this wonderful word of grace and hope:

He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:3–4)

No paying of indulgences, no purgatory, no ongoing moneys, no ongoing life-wrenching fair.  Its grace, free grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The truth of this Gospel sets us free!  It is through the Word of God, brought about by the Holy Spirit, speaking about Jesus Christ, that we believe:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

Now we understand the cry of the reformers: the Word alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, all for the glory of God alone.

A holy life

If salvation is ultimately for the glory of God, it speaks for itself that our lives should forth his glory.  As his “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” we are called to live holy lives, because God is holy.   One of the main ingredients of the diet of the Christian to live to the glory of God, is to

“… like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.

Why?  “We have tasted that the Lord is good.

Conclusion

My friend, allow me to say that your spiritual life, if not rooted in the Word of God, and your walk in the Lord, if not daily fed by the spiritual milk of the Word of God, is most probably almost dead.  I say this because it’s the truth based on the Word itself.  As children of the Reformation we have to go back to where it all started:  a rediscovery of the Scriptures.  Don’t allow your walk in the Lord to be lifeless because your study of God’s Word is wanting.  It is by this Word that you will be able to stand against the onslaught of the enemy.  The Word is after all, in our battle against evil, the only weapon of offence; all the other things are for defence (Ephesians 6).  May God help us.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 November 2014

Abraham, the Father of all Believers (9)

See, I make everything new

Scripture Readings

  • Romans 4:16-25
  • Genesis 17:1-19

Introduction

When I went to high school I met a giant.  He was in year eleven and stood six foot and 10 inches tall in his shoes.  When he finished school at the age of eighteen, he was a full seven foot tall.  In the new language it is 2.13 meters.

Andrew Hall’s hight came in handy at the end of school days when he could close any school classroom window without ever reaching out for a stick.  He would take the rugby ball and just through it where he wanted on the rugby field.

Andrew met a girl about six inches shorter than him.  Their car was a Mini, with no back seat; the front seats were mounted on extra long rails, which made them look like they were filling all of the Mini.

Interestingly, the seven foot tall Andrew Hall had a nickname which he carried into the rest of his life:  Tiny.  I heard his boy were also called by that name.

Abram

Abram’s name, unlike that of Tiny, was not something given to him to mock him, although it would have been quite easy to do so.

In the time of Abram it was the tradition to, when, introduced make much of the name of every person.  Names meant something.  It was common to ask this question, because it was important to the people of the middle east. It would go like this:  “Good morning, what is your name?”  “Abram.” “Well that means ‘father of many’.  May I ask how many children do you have?”   “One.”  “One?”

It is not impossible, because of his riches, that Abram met many traders in his tents.  These questions would be asked over and over again, and every time Abram faced the surprised faces of his guests.

He was now ninety nine years old, and still there was only one child.  And in the back of his mind, Abram knew that that son, was not the son of the promise.  He held on to the promises of the Lord, but his name, “Father of many” began to sound like the seven foot Tiny’s nickname.

Between the year Ismael was born and now, thirteen years passed by and not a word of the Lord.  Was it impossible to think that Abram was thinking of getting himself another name to spare him the possible ridicule?

God Almighty

And then God appeared to him again.  Abram and Sarai was that old that if they had given up hope to have a child of their own, getting one would all the more point to the glorious power of God who can do what no man can.

It was the first time God introduced Himself by this Name:  El Shaddai! This name revealed something about the Person of God that made Abram fell flat on his face.  Like Daniel and John:

While He was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. (Daniel 10:15, NIV)

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17, NIV)

Abram was unable to bear the sight of the divine glory.  He humbled himself in reverence before the holy God who bowed down from heaven to speak to him personally.

Our fellowship with God may never lead to familiarity.  If we ever thought that we can get God to our level, we need to ask ourselves if we indeed know the glorious God of creation and re-creation.  It is a sickness of our time that reverence for God has flown our the back door when we gather for his worship.  No, in worship we are gathered in the throne room of the Creator of the universe who is holy, clothed in majesty, glorious in power and great in limitless wisdom, power and might.  It is only when we understand what it means to bow in adoration, giving Him the glory of due his Name, that we will find meaning worshipping Him.

God Almighty speaks to Abram.  He is the all-sufficient God who always does enough in completeness.  He is enough in Himself; He is self-sufficient; He has everything, yet He needs nothing.  He calls us into covenant with Him and therefore He is enough for us, we have enough in Him, because He satisfies all we need.  David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing.” The Psalmist confesses:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. (Psalm 73:25, NIV)

Facedown before the Almighty God Abram is commanded to blamelessly walk before God.  The holy God demands that those who believe in Him and walk in a covenant relationship with Him would reflect something of his own character.  “Be holy as I am holy.”  The right attitude of a sinner living in a relationship with God would be the same as that of David:

Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:13, NIV)

It calls for integrity, honesty, it is to set God always before us, and to think, and speak, and act, in everything, as if we are always under his eye. It is to have a constant regard to his Word as our rule, and to his glory as our end in all our actions, and to be continually in his fear.  Listen to these verses:

As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy. (Psalm 123:2, NIV)

If Abram thought his name was embarrassing because he had only one son at that stage, what God had to say would change his life.  Abram’s name would change from “father of many” to “father of many nations”.  Not only was the covenant something God promised, but now it would be established and sealed with a sign. How God would do this would be spectacularly impossible for any human being:  a man of almost hundred, and his wife ninety, will have a son.

Sarah

Sarai’s name was changed too.  She was now a princes, the mother of many kings; the mother of many nations.  It all had its beginning with one son.  God honoured the marriage between Abraham and Sarah to fulfil his promise to them.  Not Ismael, who was born from a marriage not blessed in the first instance by God; not a son born out of the plans made by a man and his wives, but a son born when all seemed so impossible, so that God would receive all the honour.

Isaac

Within a year, the barren princess Sarah would give birth to a son.  God gave him his name:  Isaac! Verse 17, I think, does not tell us that Abraham mocked God if God could not do what He said he would.  No, I see a man flat on his face on the ground, in joy, laughing as laugh of jubilation.  Yes, there was initial unbelief, because he was still thinking that maybe Ishmael would have a part in it.

Abraham’s unbelief is met with the confirmation of God, “Yes your wife Sarah will bear you a son.” Ismael will be blessed, but not in the same way.  The name Isaac, which means laughter or joy, will bring joy to millions others whom God by grace will include into his covenant. All believers in every age should be looked upon as Abraham’s spiritual seed, and that he should be called, not only the friend of God, but the father of all believers.  Years later Paul writes:

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. (Romans 4:17, NIV)

God’s covenant with Abraham was everlasting in an evangelical sense. The covenant of grace is everlasting. It is from everlasting to everlasting in its consequences.  In his body Abraham got the irreversible sign of circumcision, the very organ used to procreate and bring forth seed, is now externally marked:  Abraham became the father of all who believe because in him God established the covenant from which “The Seed”, Jesus Christ would come.  The covenant had an internal blessing which was by the Spirit of Christ’s seed to gather children for God in every age.

Christian

By the same grace God showed to Abraham, and through the same covenant we get a name change too.  By faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ we become children of God and we are called “Christian” – we belong to Christ.  God promised to his people:

The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Isaiah 62:2–3, NIV)

John and James, disciples of Jesus, had a name change too.  First they were “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), then John became the apostle of love.

Paul writes that every family in heaven and on earth derives its name from the Father (Ephesians 3:14–15).  John even refers to disciples of Christ who went out for the sake of the Name, forsaking everything to bring glory to Christ (3John 7)

I make everything new

For Abraham and Sarah that day was a new beginning:  a new name, a new sign, a new promise, a newborn son – all by God Almighty, who says what He does, and does what He says.  And it ultimately pointed forward to Christ, whose name is Immanuel, and Jesus, the one who saves. Because of his death and resurrection we hear:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

This Christ, the seed of Abraham, now seated on the throne promises:

“I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5, NIV)  He also promised:

 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17, NIV)

Conclusion

We have real names, and we have nicknames.  But what really counts is the name we received when we believe like Abraham and Sarah:

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (Romans 4:20–24, NIV)

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 September 2014

Covenant Baptism

Broadly speaking, there are two main views on baptism:

  • Covenant Baptism (some may call it paedobaptism, because it implies that infants of together with their covenant parents should be baptised).  The mode of baptism is sprinkling of water.
  • Believers Baptism (some call it credo-baptism, because only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour are baptised, usually adults.  The mode of baptism is immersion into water.

This paper explores the Presbyterian understanding of Covenant Baptism.

Covenant Theology represents an understanding that there is unity between the Old and the New Testaments.  What is promised on unfulfilled in the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New Testament – one is not possible without the other.  The New Testament thus does not replace the Old testament; neither does it exist as a separate part of the Bible alongside the Old Testament.

All the prophets testify about Him [Jesus Christ] that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)

“Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” (Luke 24:45–47)

The church of the New Testament is not a separate entity from the church of the Old Testament, but a continuation of it, albeit in more glorious form.  The ceremonial signs of the rituals of the Old Testament found their fulfilment in the Person of Jesus Christ and have ceased after the cross and resurrection of our Lord.  However, what they signalled still stand, but now understood in and through the Head of the new covenant and his perfect work as Priest, Prophet and King.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. (Ephesians 2:11-12, 19)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17, NIV)

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:11–14, NIV)

Jesus did not come to rip up the Old Testament, He came to fulfil it.  As a matter of fact, during his ministry He very often used the Scriptures of the Old Testament as his authority.

The church of the both the Old and the New Testament (Israel) has Abraham as father.  God made a covenant with him after He called him out of the slavery of sin.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28–29)

God’s promise to Abraham states clearly that through Abraham the nations and peoples of the earth will be blessed.  This was made possible through the death and resurrection of Christ and by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

So then, he [Abraham] is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11–12)

About the covenant God further said that it will be for the generations of Abraham as an everlasting covenant.

I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7)

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16) (The the “promise” in this verse is reference to the covenant – see also Acts 2:39, Eph 2:12)

The Bible is clear about the fact that this covenant is not one of works, but one of grace.

“Under what circumstances was it [his righteousness] credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!” (Romans 4:10)

The sign of the covenant in the Old Testament was circumcision.

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” (Genesis 17:10–11)

Abraham had not be circumcised when God gave him the sign, so not Ishmael and other men in his household.  They were all circumcised after God commanded it:  Abraham being 99 years of age, Ishmael 13 and later Isaac on the eight day.

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and his son Ishmael was thirteen; Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.” (Genesis 17:23–27)

First then, those who had not been circumcised before God instituted the sign were circumcised, irrespective of their age; later, all males born into a family were circumcised on the eight day – which means that the circumcision was later almost exclusively administered to babies boys, apart from cases where new convert families were added.

To not keep this ritual meant breaking the covenant.

“Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14)

Even when Moses neglected this ordinance God became angry with him and wanted to kill him.

At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. ‘Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,’ she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said ‘bridegroom of blood,’ referring to circumcision.)” (Exodus 4:24–26)

The other sacrament the Lord gave his people, was the sign of blood of the Passover lamb.  Both the sign of circumcision and Passover were signs accompanied by blood and pointed forward to the blood of Christ, God’s Passover Lamb.

Exodus 12.  Numerous other parts of the Old Testament.  This was a perpetual sacrament which was later replaced by the Lord’s Supper.

Those who converted to the God of Israel from other religions, together with the males in their household, including infant boys, had to be circumcised before they were allowed to partake in the Passover.

A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it.” (Exodus 12:48, NIV)

As with many things during the time of the Old Testament which were incomplete, and about all sacrifices were accompanied by blood, or alternatively, by water – water being the sign of ritual cleansing.  Circumcision was sign of initiation into the Old Covenant and was a sign of blood (Genesis 17:10)  It was done once.  The New Testament replacement of this sing was baptism, a bloodless sign.  The sign was replaced, while the covenant remained.:

In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11–12, NIV)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39, NIV)

The Passover Lamb was the perpetual sign, done repeatedly, and was a sign of blood (Exodus 12:22).  The New Testament replacement is The Lord’s Supper, a bloodless sign:

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:27–28, NIV)

The Greek work used in some verses of the Old Testament does not indicate immersion, but sprinkling.

“Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew (bapto) of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” (Daniel 4:33)

Purification acts in the Old Testament were done by sprinkling or washing, and is some cases “bapto” is used.  This washing did not include washing with soap and water to physically clean hands or feet or body, but signalled purification.

Then the anointed priest is to take some of the bull’s blood into the tent of meeting. He shall dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it before the Lord seven times in front of the curtain.” (Leviticus 4:16–17)

A priest in the Old Testament took blood of an animal and “sprinkled” it on the altar to ceremonially cleanse it.

Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and carry it into the tent of meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the Lord, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary.” (Leviticus 4:5–6) [This act of the priest happened consistently with all offerings.]

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.” (Hebrews 9:13).

Any person who touched a corpse had to cleanse himself.  For the Israelite this happened in the courtyard of the Tabernacle where there was a big bronze holding basin (Exodus 30:17-21).  The ritual was done by sprinkling, not immersion – and yet the word used is “bapto

When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean.” (Leviticus 11:32)

When Naaman of Aram came to see Elisha he had to purify himself by washing himself in the Jordan.  This is exactly what God commanded in Leviticus 14:7

“Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean. After that, he is to release the live bird in the open fields.” (Leviticus 14:7)

In the New Testament “bapto/baptitso” is interchangeably used for another Greek word “nipto”, meaning “cleanse”.  For those who were still Jews this washing had ceremonial meaning:  unbaptised hands were unclean hands.

The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.” (Mark 7:3, NIV)

But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. (Luke 11:38, NIV) (His hands were “unbaptised!)

Not all instances of the word “baptise” or “baptism” in the New Testament mean to immerse.  In fact, more often than not the word has a spiritual meaning.

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. (1 Corinthians 10:1, NIV)

… long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:20–21, NIV)

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:37–38, NIV)

Charles Hodge, renowned theologian comments:  “But the Egyptians who were immersed were not baptised; and the Israelites who were baptised were not immersed.”

When believers in the New Testament were baptised by the Holy Spirit they were not immersed but filled.  Even the tongues of fire which sat on them pointed to the purifying “sprinkling” of the promised Spirit of Ezekiel 36:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25–27, NIV)

The baptism of John was not the baptism which Jesus commanded. John did not baptise in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  John was the last Old Testament prophet, preparing the people for the arrival of the New Testament period.  John called the people of God to repent; he did not baptise them to become part of the people of God.

“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’ (Acts 13:23–25, NIV)

Those who were baptised with the baptism of John were re-baptised, because they were not baptised in the Name of the Holy Spirit.

[Paul] asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 19:2–5, NIV)

As commanded by Jesus after He completed his mission (death and resurrection, and gave the disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit, for whom they had to wait before they started their mission to the world, the apostles introduced the New Testament baptism as a sign of Covenant at Pentecost when people were baptised.  On Pentecost Day and after Jews who had been circumcised previously were baptised.  To understand New Testament baptism, we should not start with John, but with the command of the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

God in the Old Testament made promises of a new era to come, when the Sprit of God would be poured out and the sins of the people would be forgiven.  The work of the Holy Sprit is connected with purification and rebirth.  He is “poured out” on the people, “put in” the hearts, like oil on the head of the anointed prophets and kings.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25–27, NIV)  See also Ezek 37:14, 39:29, Isaiah 44:3, Jeremiah 33:8, Joel 2:28-29.

Both the work of Christ, who gave his blood to wash away our sins, and the work of the Holy Spirit comes together in this verse:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19–22, NIV)

When on Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out the promises of a new era came into being.  What was symbolised by ritual washings of purification, and what was promised about a new heart and a new spirit was fulfilled on that day. The Spirit was promised:  “I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matthew 3:11, NIV)

Peter explained to the people that Joel 2:28-32 was fulfilled. The pouring out of the Spirit took place.  This pouring out had to do with cleansing and rebirth.  In Acts 1:8 it was called “receive”; in other places it is referred to as being “filled with the Spirit” (Acts 9:17)  They were baptised with the Holy Spirit which symbolically sat like flames on their heads, symbolising the cleansing of the Spirit in the same way as the sprinkling of the water in the Old Testament signified.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26–29, NIV)

  • In Peter’s sermon on Pentecost day things are connected:
  • All the promises regarding the Messiah were fulfilled in Christ
  • Forgiveness of sins is possible because Jesus Christ died and was raised from the dead
  • Rebirth is possible because the Holy Spirit was poured out (or put in the hearts of the people/the people received the Him
  • Repentance of sin is necessary (Acts 2:38)
  • Baptism as a sign of inclusion into the Covenant family of God was necessary (Acts 2:39
  • As with the Old Testament Covenant, children were included into the covenant by the sign and seal of baptism (Acts 2:39
  • Now more than just the Jewish people are included (Acts 2:39)
  • God anointed all his people to be priests, prophets and kings by giving them his Holy Spirit.

Three thousand people were baptised on Pentecost Day.  In keeping with what is taught in the Old Testament about “cleansing” and receiving the Holy Spirit, it is reasonable to assume the following:

  • The three thousand were not immersed in water.  The sign of being received in the family of God was by sprinkling of water.
  • The place where the people gathered when they received the Spirit was most probably not too far from the temple courts (Acts 2:46; 3:2,8; 5:20-21,25,42; 24:18; 26:21).  Jerusalem was a city with very scarce water supplies which depended upon rainwater stored in tanks and cisterns.  To assume that they were immersed is to read back into the text.

As in the time of the institution of the circumcision as the sign of the Covenant in the Old Testament, when those who had not been circumcised were circumcised, irrespective of their age, so those baptised in the New Testament were mainly adults.  Whole families were baptised in the New Testament.  Every Covenant God ever made with his people included children:  Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses.

  • Of the EthiopianAs they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptised?” (Acts 8:36, NIV)  The text states that it was a desert road.  The water referred to in this text could not have been a lot.  It stretches the text to assume that the Ethiopian was immersed.  It is fair to note that the expression “with” in Greek could in certain contexts be translated as “in”.
  • Of PaulImmediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised (Acts 9:18, NIV).  As Paul was baptised in the house of Judas in Straight Street in Damascus at a time when there were no other water supply than from wells or cisterns, it seems logic to assume that Paul was not immersed.
  • Of Cornelius“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptised with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Acts 10:47–48, NIV)  Cornelius, his relatives and close friends were all were gathered in the house. Could they have been immersed when they were baptised.  In what?  Who were the relatives?  Only adults, but it might have included whole families of his relatives.
  • Of the jailer:  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised. (Acts 16:31–33, NIV) The context leads us to believe that every person in the family of the jailer were baptised – this is in keeping with what happened with covenant families in the Old Testament.  Further, they were still in the building of the prison when they were baptised; immersion could hardly take place there.
  • Of LydiaWhen she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (Acts 16:15, NIV).  In all fairness, they were near a river and could have been immersed.  This however would be out of step with the rest. Besides, it included the members of her household, which could have included children.

In the old Jewish Church every proselyte from the heathen brought his children into the Church with him.  If only one of the parents is a Christian, the children are said to be “holy,” or “saints,” which is a common designation of church members in the New Testament.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14, NIV)

Baptism in the early church, as we have seen, happened in the most unusual places and circumstances. As the Gospel spread and congregations developed and they gathered under the leadership of elders and ministers, whether in house churches or dedicated buildings, it become custom to administer the sacraments when the covenant people of God, the congregation was gathered.  Administering the sacraments was never meant to be something private; it would destroy the covenantal character of the family of God.

It is therefore proper that baptisms should be administered within the worship service, where the whole covenant family of the Lord can witness it, rejoice in it and vow to accept and to set a Christian example to those who are baptised.

Practise in the Reformed Churches all over the world, which also do not subscribe to paedo communion, is that children of believing parents are baptised, but are not given the right to sit at the Table of the Lord.  They are baptised members, but not communicant members.  Only after they have made profession of their faith in the Lord in the gathered community of the Lord, do they become communicant members, giving them access to the Table of the Lord.

It is therefore the task of the whole congregation, but more specifically the parents to train their children up in the understanding of the Bible.  They need to understand the call of the Gospel based on God’s promises to them once made when they were baptised.

Baptism does not saved anyone, but provides the basis for the promises of God as seal and sign of his grace to be accepted when baptised members reach a stage when they can understand, and indeed, give public testimony that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and that they commit their lives to service in his church.

Sessions are also tasked with the responsibility to see that training take place, and that other activities are put in place to nurture their baptised members into communicant members.

Only those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, who repented of their sin, whose desire it is to walk in accordance of the Word of God, led by the Holy Spirit, may be baptised.  Their children should be baptised too, as we saw above.  No baptism should take place before the Session is satisfied that these requirements are met.

The Presbyterian Church of Australia has as confessional document The Westminster Confession of Faith.  It states:

Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptised

Ministers of the Presbyterian Church, when they are licensed or ordained and inducted to a charge make certain vows. One of them is:

Do you own and accept the Westminster Confession of Faith, as amended by the General Assembly, and read in the light of the Declaratory Statement contained in the Basis of Union adopted by this Church on the 24th day of July, 1901, as an exhibition of the sense in which you understand the Holy Scriptures, and as a confession of your faith; and do you engage firmly and constantly to adhere thereto, and to the utmost of your power to assert maintain and defend the same?

At the last General Assembly (2013) of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, at which all congregations are represented through their presbyteries, the Assembly reaffirmed the following:

Motion 83:  “That the Assembly:  Declare that the understanding and practice of infant baptism is so integral to the history, the purity of worship and the structure of covenant theology in the westminster confession of Faith that no potential office bearer should sign the formula if the Church’s stance on infant baptism is not accepted.  Furthermore, those who have signed it but hold exclusively to credobaptistic views should remain silent on their views or resign.”

As minister of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, I signed the declaration which states that I understand the Westminster Confession of Faith as an exhibition of the sense in which I understand the Holy Scriptures, and as a confession of my faith.  I vowed to engage firmly and constantly to adhere thereto, and to the utmost of my power to assert maintain and defend it.  I am bound, not only by my conscience and understanding of the Scriptures, but also to the vows I made before God when I became minister of this Church, and once again when I was inducted into this charge.

It would be dishonest of me to do otherwise.  I therefore would find it impossible to administer the Sacrament of Baptism in a different manner, or by a different mode.

“Jesus, Thank You”

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