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There is still more in the Baptism Form concerning the promise to children of believers.

We refer to the texts that are quoted in this part in proof of infant baptism, the one from the Old and the other from the New Testament, besides the conclu­ding reference to the fact that Christ embraced the little children, laid His hands upon them, and blessed them.

This part reads as follows: “As God speaketh unto Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and therefore unto us and our children (Gen. 17:7), saying, ‘I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlast­ing covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.’ This also the apostle Peter testifieth, with these words (Acts 2:39), ‘For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.’ Therefore God formerly commanded them to be circumcised, which was a seal of the covenant and of the righteous­ness of faith; and therefore Christ also embraced them, laid his hands upon them and blessed them (Mark 10).”

Let us notice the connection between this part and the immediately preceding part. For that is impor­tant. The connection is in the words “as God speaketh unto Abraham, the father of all the faithful, and therefore unto us and our children.” This refers to what immediately precedes, that is, to the statement that our young children, who do not understand these things as yet, “as they are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ.” That this can­not possibly mean all the carnal seed of Abraham or all the carnal seed of believers, we have already shown. The promise is only for the elect. And the Baptism Form throughout speaks of the church and its elect seed. This is evident also from the quotation itself, especially if we view this quotation in the light of Romans 9. It is evident that in Gen. 17:7 we have mention of the promise. The promise is that God will establish His covenant with Abraham and his seed, and that in that covenant He will be a God unto them. The question is whether this promise is for all the children that are born from Abraham, head for head and soul for soul, as the Liberated have it, and there­fore also for all the seed of believers in the new dis­pensation; or whether this promise is particular and

 

is meant only for the spiritual seed, and therefore on­ly for the elect. In the light of Romans 9 there can be but one answer to this question. And that is: the promise to Abraham was meant only for the elect, and not for all the carnal seed of Abraham. In Rom. 9:6-8 we read: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the chil­dren of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”

To this important passage we must call close at­tention.

The passage is an answer to the question whether, seeing that so many of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh are lost, the Word of God has fallen out, the promise has become of none effect. To this ques­tion the text is an answer. And the answer is: no, the Word of God has not fallen out, has not failed to realize itself; but we must remember that this Word of God pertains only to the children of the promise. These children of the promise are designated in a four­fold way. They are called Israel, the seed, children of the promise, and children of God.

They are called Israel. And it is evident from the text that only the spiritual Israel is meant, not the Jews, and not all the carnal children of Abraham. For the apostle writes: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Not all the descendants of Ja­cob are people of God. Not all are true Israelites, to whom pertained the promises, and who must be ta­ken into account when the question is asked whether the Word of God has fallen out. The children of the promise, therefore, are the true children of God, Is­rael in the spiritual sense of the Word.

Secondly, they are called the seed. In verse 7 we read: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” And in vs. 8 the apostle writes: “The children of the pro­mise are counted for the seed.” This seed, according to Galatians 3:16 is principally and centrally Christ. From which it follows that Christ and those that are in Him are counted for the seed of Abraham. Believers in Christ are therefore the true seed of Abraham. And once more, if the question is asked whether the Word of God has taken none effect, we must not for­get that only they are counted for the seed.

Thirdly, they are called the children of the promise. What is meant by this expression? Does the term sim­ply mean the same as if the apostle had written “the promised children”? Or is the meaning, as others would interpret, “children to whom the promise per­tains, that are heirs of the blessed promise of God”? To be sure, the children of the promise were also promised children, and the promised blessing was for them. But the expression “children of the promise” has a deeper significance. Frequently Scripture speaks of the promise. Sometimes it uses the singular, pro­mise, and in other passages it uses the plural, pro­mises. Essentially the expression always refers to the same truth. The promise is God’s revealed and pled­ged, yea, sworn purpose of salvation for His people through Jesus Christ our Lord. It implies redemption and deliverance from sin, and the inheritance of eter­nal glory in the kingdom of heaven. Now, children of the promise are children that are brought forth through the promise. The promise is, as it were, their mother. God brings them forth through the pow­er of the promise by realizing His Word of promise in them. Hence, they are those in whom the promise of redemption has been realized in principle, spiritual children, born not of the flesh but of the Spirit. That this is the real meaning of the expression may be gath­ered not only from the expression itself, and from the fact that Isaac was the typical child of the promise, but also from a comparison with the expression as it occurs in Gal. 4:23, 28: “But he who was of the bond­woman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was born by promise.” The phrase “by pro­mise” in vs. 23 literally reads in the original “through the promise”. Isaac was born through the means of, by the power of the promise. So we are also children of the promise as Isaac was. And that this refers indeed to their spiritual birth is evident if we compare vs. 29 of the same chapter of Galatians: “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” By nature, apart from the power of the promise of God, we are born after the flesh. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. But by the promise of God we are born of the Spirit and after the Spirit: for that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. And therefore, children of the promise are spiritual children in whom God wrought and realized the power of His promise of salvation.

Lastly, in connection with the term children of the promise stands the name children of God. The chil­dren of the promise are children of God. For the a­postle writes in Rom. 9:8, “That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the child­ren of God, but the children of the promise are coun­ted for the seed.” The implication is evidently that the children of the promise are indeed God’s children. They are those whom “God adopted as His children in Christ before the foundation of the world, for whom Christ died and rose again, that they might have the right of sonship, and in whom God realizes this adop­tion by the Spirit of grace.

If now we consider these different terms designa­ting the children of the promise in their relation with one another, we conclude the following. In the old dispensation the children of God, God’s people, were the natural descendants of Abraham and of Israel. That is the reason why they could be called the seed of Abraham and Israelites. This does not mean that all the descendants of Abraham were also children of God, or children of the promise. But in general it may be said that for many centuries all the children of God were natural descendants of Abraham. They were of Israel. They were Jews. But these descendants of Abraham and of Israel became children of God only through the power of the promise. The seed of Abraham according to the flesh is carnal, for Abraham could of himself never bring forth spiritual children of God. That which is born of Abraham is born of the flesh, and is flesh. And therefore the a­postle can write: “Neither because they are ofthe seed of Abraham, are they all children.” In fact, if that had been all that could be said of these children, that they were born of Abraham as their father, none of them would ever have been a child of God. No more than Abraham of himself could bring forth the Christ, no more could he give being to a single child of God. But God made children after the Spirit, children of God, out of Abraham’s descendants. He gave the true seed to Abraham by His grace, by realizing His promise to Abraham. And thus the children of the promise are children of God, the true seed of Abraham, the Israel of God.

This is still the case. Believers in the new dispen­sation are still the seed of Abraham. And God real­izes His covenant with them in their generations, as He did with Abraham. But grace is never inherited. Believers of themselves can never bring forth a sin­gle child of God. By nature they can only bring forth children of the flesh. But God gives unto them children of the promise. Out of their seed God takes His own children. Of their flesh it pleases Him to make spiritual seed. In that hope of God’s marvelous grace the church brings forth children. God will trans­form their carnal children into spiritual children of God by the power of His promise. But it is very evident from this passage that the promise to Abraham and the promise of the covenant to believers does not include all their seed, but only the seed according to election.

That this is true will be plain if we answer the question: who are the children of the promise, and where are they?

But about this next time.

H.H.