I am really looking forward to baptizing all of the Gurnsey children and to pray God’s blessings into their lives. And to set the context for the baptism, I want to read from Revelation 21:10-14. And we are going to look at Baptism from a slightly different angle than we normally do. It will be a little longer talk (about ten minutes), but I think you will find it helpful in understanding a corporate dimension of the covenant. Revelation 21:10-14.
10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. 12 Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Earlier John had called this heavenly Jerusalem the bride of Christ. It is a metaphor for the bride of Christ. There is a visible church and an invisible church, but not two churches or two brides. And contrary to Dispensationalism, this bride contains the elect from the time of Adam all the way to the end of history. In contrast, Dispensationalism claims that Israel and the church are utterly different bodies with different destinies and different canons. But Scripture affirms that there is only one body, one bride, one Olive Tree into which both Jews and Gentiles are grafted. There is one vineyard, one temple, one house of God, one flock of sheep, one holy army, one church. And Galatians 6 affirms that Isaac, the son of Abraham, is a member of this heavenly Jerusalem just like we are. He is part of the bride. Historic Dispensationalists claim that Isaac will be a part of the earthly Israel, not of the heavenly church.
But I want you to notice that verse 12 says that the gates of the bride have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them and the twelve foundations of the same city are the names of the twelve apostles of Jesus. And by the way, this heavenly Jerusalem comes down to earth; it invades earth, so its not like earth is going to be a different destiny. In any case that shows that you don’t have different corporate cities for the Old Testament saints than for the New Testament saints. The only way you can enter the city is through the gates of Israel, which have the names of the twelve sons of Jacob. This is why Galatians 6:16 calls the church the “Israel of God,” implying that there is an Israel that is not of God. This is why Ephesians 2 says that though we were once Gentiles in the flesh, that is no longer the case. Though we were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, now we are fellow-citizens with the saints in the commonwealth of Israel. Though we were once outside the scope of the Old Testament covenants of promise, we are now heirs of those covenants of promise (covenants plural). That's Ephesians chapter 2. So there are not two bodies, but one body. And that one body has always included the children of believers. It included children under Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and in the New Covenant.
Likewise the sacraments are in some way united. 1 Corinthians 10-11 lists all the Old Testament sacramental meals and says that Old Testament Israel “ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink” as we do in the Lord’s Table. Whatever outward differences there may be, at heart their communion and our communion are identical. They ate and drank the same spiritual food and drink.
But he starts chapter 10 by saying that all Israel “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” They in some way shared baptism with us and three days later shared communion with us. This is why Hebrews 9-10 teaches us about church baptism by first of all teaching us about the baptisms of the Old Testament. And by the way, when he lists the baptisms in the Old Testament, they are all done by sprinkling or pouring to symbolize the fact that the action of salvation that is being promised in baptism is all of God, not of man. And you might think, "Well, what about 1 Corinthians 10? Wasn't that being dunked in the sea? No. Egypt was dunked in the Red Sea but Egypt was not baptized; Moses and Israel were sprinkled by rain from the cloud according to Psalm 77:16-20 and were not dunked in the Red Sea, but they were said to be baptized.
Did you know that the apostle Paul taught his doctrine of baptism from the Old Testament? He did. In Acts 26:22 Paul said that he never taught a single doctrine without showing how it was rooted in the prophets and Moses. This is why he praised the Bereans for checking out everything he taught (which would have included baptism) from the Old Testament. Can Baptists prove their doctrine of baptism from the Old Testament? There is a reason why they can't. Baptism is not simply a New Testament doctrine. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all rooted Baptism in the Old Testament. In fact, almost every passage on baptism in the New Testament connects it in some way with the Abrahamic covenant. This would make no sense if the church were utterly unrelated to Israel.
In 1 Peter 3 Peter tells the women to be submissive to their own husbands, "as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror." Many commentators have pointed out that for female church members to be daughters of Sarah means they are in the Abrahamic covenant. 1 Peter 1:1 used a term that had always been used of the diaspora of Israel to describe the church. Commentators point out that the church is being called Israel. God formed a new Israel in Acts 2 that was 100% composed of Jews and he later grafted Gentiles into that Israel.
When you read the Bible through Jewish eyes, you realize that Gentiles like Ruth could become Israelites and daughters of Sarah. Gentiles like Caleb could become full Israelites, and sons of Abraham. And if we are heirs of the covenants of promise, then one of the significant features of every one of those covenants of promise is the inclusion of the children in the sign of the covenant. In the time of Moses, the males were circumcised and baptized on the eighth day, and the females were baptized on the sixteenth day. The circumcision part has dropped away, but not the baptism part.
But Ezekiel prophesied that the Gentiles in the New Covenant would receive that same Baptism of Nida. You see, baptism was a sign that the parents were believing the promise of the covenant. And what is that promise? It is, "I will be a God to you and to your descendants after you." Do we really believe that we are heirs of those covenants of promise. All the Old Testament covenants of promise included the children of believers. It's not individualistic; it is corporate. To be a daughter of Sarah is to be in the covenant. To be a son of Abraham is to be in the covenant. We enter the covenant through the faith of the parents, and Galatians says that just like with Abraham, God entrusts the children to the care and nurture of those parents to lead our children to Christ and to pass on the same faith of the fathers and of the mothers so that they too can actively embrace the covenant in the Lord's Table.
This morning all of the Gurnsey children are going to be baptized, and I hope I don’t cry when I do this because it very much moves me that God is still willing to receive our children today like He did in the Old Testament. It moves me that He has not left them to fend for themselves, but He includes them in the flock. Can you image a flock of sheep where the lambs were kicked out? I can’t. In Isaiah 40:11 God prophesies of Jesus in New Covenant times, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” That is why they received the sign of the covenant; they belong to His flock; they have His brand claiming them. Can they wander later? Yes, but they belong to His flock.
Now, because circumcision is a bloody rite it has passed away with all other bloody rites. So now Colossians 2:11-12 indicates that baptism alone remains the sign of the covenant and baptism alone symbolizes what Paul calls Christian circumcision. As we baptize the children of this family, let’s pray that they would grow up to have the faith of Abraham and Sarah. Four of them have already professed faith and will also come to communion – Jude, Levi, Luke, and Selah. This is a big day for them because they are entering into two stages of the covenant - both baptism (which passively initiates) and the meal where they actively lay hold of the covenant. (They are kind of like sheep who have been weaned from milk and are now foraging for themselves on grass, so to speak.)
But the two main things I want you to realize this morning is that the New Testament is not an individualistic American document; it is covenantal. And secondly, that there is only one flock of sheep that God has. The Bible is a covenantal family document so that Peter could tell those being baptized in Acts 3, “You are sons ...of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” So as the Gurnseys come forward, let’s rejoice in God’s family promises.
Vows of Baptizee’s Parents: (affirm with a verbal "I do")
- Do you acknowledge your [child-ren]'s need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, and the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit?
- Do you claim God's covenant promises on [his/her/their] behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for your [his/ her/their] salvation, as you do for your own?
- Do you now unreservedly dedicate your [child-ren] to God?
- Do you promise, in humble reliance upon divine grace, that you will endeavor to set before [him/her/them] a godly example, that you will pray with and for [him/her/them], that you will teach [him/her/them] the doctrines of our holy religion, and that you will strive, by all means of God's appointment, to bring [him/her/them] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
Congregation: Do you as a congregation undertake the responsibility of praying for this family and encouraging them to be faithful to their vows to raise their children in the fear of God? If so, say "Amen."