Saturday, September 10, 2011

Caustic Comment on Calvin’s Commentaries

I found the following interesting but inflammatory disclaimer at the front of the “Associated Authors and Publishers Inc.” edition of Calvin’s Commentaries:
“Let us detain you but another moment on the porch, before you enter this house full of rich treasure, while we give you a warning … Publishers being responsible to print the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we who are Baptists on the publishing staff must warn readers that we consider the views of Calvin on baptism, and on church polity, to be at variance with the Scriptures.”
Let’s see if we’ve got it right: Whatever Calvin (in his Bible Commentaries and elsewhere) says he thinks the Scriptures say about Baptism and Church Polity are untrue – “at variance with the Scriptures”!
This kind of sectarian nonsense has been dividing the Lord’s Church on earth for centuries now! Calvin wrote prolifically against such (Ana)baptistic divisiveness! It is one thing to say that we disagree with another’s understanding of Scripture. But for Baptists to be involved in publishing a document (such as Calvin’s Commentaries), which they obviously consider to be full of lies, ie, not “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, is bizarre to say the least!
As condescending as it sounds, it is such a pity that baptistic Christians (Brethren, Churches of Christ, Pentecostals, Baptists – they are legion) allow their baptistic presuppositions to blind them to certain truths when they read the Scriptures!
I remember the whole new vista that was opened up to me when the Lord allowed me to catch a glimpse of things through the eyes of Calvin and Calvinists as opposed to the baptistic take on things I formally had. Eg, all the baptistic denominations have a Dispensational view on the Sacrament of Baptism. In other words, regarding Baptism and Church Polity they fail to see that the Lord’s Church is one Church, always has been, and always will be.
All believers are children of Abraham (which includes Adam, Noah, as well as Moses, David etc. and ourselves today). Christ does not have two brides, ie, an Old Testament bride and now a New Testament bride. He has one bride, the Church, made up of all His elect from all ages. We are one people, one in Christ. Therefore we have not been Dispensationally or Baptistically “cut off” from our father Abraham (Gen. 17:14).
Abraham’s household (including infants) had the sign and seal (Rom. 4:11) of God’s Covenant of Grace (ie, the Gospel Promise) affixed to them in the Old Testament Sacrament of Circumcision. Like the Passover it promised Christ, in whom all the promises of God are yes and amen. With the coming of Christ the Passover became the Lord’s Supper and Circumcision became (water) Baptism as Paul illustrates in Colossians 2:11f.
Circumcision and Baptism mean the same thing, ie, the former was a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace or Gospel Promise centred in Christ, and the latter is the sign and seal. Yes two different administrations of the sign and seal of the Covenant Promise, but administered to one people, ie, God’s people. Thus the Church in our father Abraham’s day had Circumcision and the Church today has Baptism. One Church! One Bride of Christ! That is what Calvin believed the Scriptures to teach when it comes to Church Polity and Baptism.
The Covenant Community or Church is made up of many churches scattered throughout the earth, and comprises of all believers and their children. Baptists, of course, unlike Calvin, deny that the children of believers are part of the Church and therefore withhold the sign and seal of Baptism from them. To be consistent the Baptist living at the time of Abraham would have withheld circumcision from infants. But not so with Calvin and true Calvinists. Inflammatory? If you wish to see inflammatory then reread the Baptist statement at the beginning of this blog!
 So, the Promise, the Covenant or Gospel Promise? Baptistic presupposition causes them to miss it throughout the Old Testament and therefore not only is Baptist Church Polity found wanting, but so is their Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, ie, the Promise of the Father!
How did John Baptize Jesus? Think a for a moment about the mode here. Then, think about how Jesus baptized His Church. What’s the connection between water baptism and Spirit baptism? Well, you might miss it if you are thinking like a Baptist and not like Calvin! The former is a sign and seal of the latter. The latter is promised in the former. The water signifies the outpouring of the “Promise of the Father”.
In other words, “the promise is to you and to your children” just as it was to Abraham and his children. “Therefore [Jesus] being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you see and hear … Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” Acts 2:33; 38-39.
How did Jesus (and the Father) baptize His Church? By pouring the Spirit on His Church! How did John baptize Jesus? By pouring water on Him! How is the Church baptized? By the pouring of water and the Spirit! The former signifies the latter. As John the Baptizer said, "I indeed baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" Mark 1:8. Jesus did not dunk His Church in the Holy Spirit, neither did John therefore dunk Jesus!

Who is the Father’s Promise of the Spirit given to? In other words, Who is/are the Church? Believers and their children! (1 Cor. 7:14)! Why? Because this is the Covenant Community, ie, the Church. Are all elect? Are all regenerate? Only God can tell that for sure. But do believers and their children qualify to receive the sign and seal of God’s Covenant or Gospel Promise? Yes! But you'll see this only if, instead of donning Baptist blinkers, you follow the Scriptures as does Calvin!
I know a blog of this size has no hope of changing the mind of the dyed-in-the-wool baptistic Christian. Only God the Holy Spirit can do that. However, He works with the Word when He does this. Therefore, may Calvin’s Commentaries help us to understand Church Polity and Baptism (not to mention the work of the Holy Spirit).

Therefore my dear Baptists brethren please stop the needless sectarianism. Be humble! Instead of trying to put people off Calvin and thus divide the Church, learn from this man who was faithful to the Scriptures.

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