In The Ghetto


Doug Wilson writes:

“This objection misses the point that Peter is making. The issue with Cornelius and his household was not whether they were old enough to receive water baptism, but whether they were Jewish enough. If this household had contained an infant, the members of the ‘circumcision’ who were there would not have objected to baptism on the grounds of infancy, but rather because the infant was Gentile and uncircumcised” (To a Thousand Generations, p. 55).

Certainly, the issue was whether Gentiles should be baptized, but it was never a pitting of circumcision against baptism. They understood that circumcision was a beginning and baptism was a new beginning. Circumcision was replaced not by baptism but by the death of Christ, which united Jew and Gentile. Jesus tore down that wall, and paedobaptism unwittingly puts it up again. Circumcision marked out flesh as a plot of Land. That is entirely done with. Spirit water overflows all human barriers, it wipes out every distinction with a new one – Repentance and Faith.

A Christian is a tree with fruit, linking the Land (Bronze Altar) with heaven (Incense Altar) via the Laver. Circumcision marked out a plot of Land. It classified Adamic caterpillars, not Evian butterflies. There’s a death and resurrection in the middle.

So, our children can be “Christian” even if they are not yet Christians. They are marked out by the gospel, but all nations are now marked out. There is an outflow from the source of the Spirit into family and culture. But the young are receivers, not the springs. Spirit-filled Christians are the only true fonts.

It’s not the paedobaptistic churches which are known for their cultural diversity. Paedobaptism sends exactly the wrong message. It builds a ghetto. Credobaptists can do this too, with different means. Closed Brethren, like the Pharisees, confuse the Lord’s table with the dinner table, all for the sake of preserving their physical heirs. Their Pharisaic inhospitality has the same result — a spiritual and cultural ghetto. (However, in my experience they do business like postmillennialists — innovative, hard-working and honest!)

So, we have the exclusives who want to keep what they have in concentrated form to preserve it. They build a watery fence. Then we have the inclusives who think spreading what they have can only be achieved by diluting it. They break down the barrier of bloody repentance. Both are wrong. Both fail to understand God’s architecture. If we are really trusting in Jesus for the increase, we can cast our bread on the waters and still end up with twelve baskets of leftovers. An incorruptible outflow takes faith.

In Christ, we can keep all the strange Dutch surnames and have strange names from every other nation as well. Paedobaptism gets inbred. Credobaptism can get mongrelized. The New Covenant is actually about tough hybrids, a constant supply of fresh faith and first love, a place where the “honeymoon” is never over.

Train of Thought

[Concerning Acts 21:18-25] “A false report concerning Paul and his teaching had arrived in the Jerusalem church before Paul had. This report was that he taught Jewish Christians to cease circumcising their infant sons.” (To a Thousand Generations, p. 62).

Pastor Wilson begins this chapter of his book by stating that the duties of Covenant parents did not change with the New Covenant. This is true (with obvious minor qualifications).

He uses Timothy’s training under the Law since infancy as an example. But then he sees the Covenant sign as something to be applied to all Covenant children. This is where the logic falls down, because baby girls did not qualify. So, the reason for the disconnect between Covenant parenting and the Covenant sign must be identified, otherwise the rest of the argument is founded on a cracked slab.

Pastor Wilson admits that there are no explicit cases of infant baptism in the New Testament, and that making a strong case for it from the Old is not enough. But, as mentioned above, this “strong case” only applied to males, and not just infant ones. When it came to individual Covenant members, circumcision clearly signified something other than Covenant childhood.

He then looks for evidence of infant baptism, assuming that the New Testament writers also assumed that such a practice was an obvious and logical extension of the Old Order into the New. This brings us to the quote above. Pastor Wilson’s logic is this:

Paul did not teach that Jews should cease circumcising their sons.


Paul’s continued practice of circumcision (of Timothy) and his taking of a Nazirite vow were not compromises because the Temple was still standing and Paul and Timothy had Jewish blood.

Agreed. We are on the same train here.

Circumcision was not a cultural badge but a Covenant act to be practiced in faith.

Yes, it was to be practiced in faith, but it was also a cultural badge. Although temporary, Judaism was a prepackaged God-given culture, a schoolroom designed to raise a nation with a knowledge of God through object lessons and discipline. If this were the Super8 movie, Doctor Woodward just drove his pickup onto Pastor Wilson’s traintracks.

Then he writes:

“…circumcision remained an ordinance of God, marking the initiation of the one who received it as a member of the visible Covenant community. Circumcision continued to mean that the one who received it was under an obligation to be a true son of Abraham, –i.e. a Christian.” (TATG, p. 64).

This is where the train comes off the rails.

Circumcision only marked the males. It was not for all Covenant members, nor heads of households (although this was related). It marked out one genealogy of Adamic flesh that was continually innoculated with small doses of death to keep it from dying out under God’s judgment. It was entirely about seed, as if that needed to be pointed out. It was Adam’s nakedness uncovered, and blood-covered, as Covenant Head, so that he could one day be crowned with glory and honour, i.e. qualify as Mediator for a truly integrated, bridal Covenant Body.

Circumcision did not ever mean that one was to be a Christian, but a believing male Jew, one who faithfully carried on the physical lineage in faith until Messiah arrived. That’s why the term Christian was coined, to describe something new. These Christians were some strange sort of hybrid, like broccoli. Initially, the Jewish Christians demanded Gentile males be circumcised because they thought these Gentiles were joining Israel in the same manner as Caleb the Kenizzite did, or the Shechemites attempted to. It was primarily about intermarriage and physical seed; a culture of faith, yes, but nevertheless a culture.

To a certain degree, the logic of these Jewish Christians was actually sound. If baptism meant you were a “true Jew,” then you had to have the “Jew” bit in place first before baptism could justify the addition of the adjective “true.” They understood circumcision as an initiation into a culture of flesh, and baptism as vindication of faith. But the apostles made it clear that the “flesh” wall was actually now redundant. If your heart was circumcised, your flesh didn’t need to be.

[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)

Jesus, a Jewish male, had condemned sin in the flesh. That’s what circumcision signified. With that completed, the Jewish culture was coming to an end, the childhood Temple outgrown like an eggshell. Paul’s observance of circumcision and vows were simply what every preacher does for his audience. He starts where they are, and brings them to where he is, from circumcision to baptism, from death to life.

A Bleeder or a Splasher

If it were true that infant baptism was the norm in the apostolic churches, the Jews wouldn’t have had the problem with it that is described in Acts 21. It would have been an entirely different problem:

“Paul, you affirm circumcision for Jews, but that leaves us with a problem. The pregnant Jewesses in our church are no longer asked if they are expecting a boy or a girl. Some tactless Gentiles are asking them if they are having a bleeder or a splasher! Are you entirely certain that we are supposed to carry out both rites on the baby boys? And if so, do we do it on the same day? And seeing as we only baptize the baby girls, are we to sprinkle the girls on the eighth day?”

No, circumcision was one of the “elementary things” that Peter said would soon be burned up. It would leave faith, hope and love. Baptism vindicates repentance and faith, the beginning of a new life.

A Helpful Picture

Back to Super8. There is a wonderful picture of the contrast and unity of the Old and New Covenants towards the end of the movie. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen it.

The alien is down in Hades, the insatiable Tabernacle of death. He’s munching on the living dead, and cutting up the “raw materials” of the world to build his new star-house. When he’s ready, he is “lifted up” into the cockpit, the throneroom, and starts to draw all sorts of strange Gentile bric-a-brac. They don’t need to be cut up (circumcised) because they are not forming the house, they are filling it, glorifying it. Finally, when the time for corporate resurrection arrives, the water tower bursts (passing through the crystal sea) and the entire apostolic hybrid church meets the Lord in the air. Baptism promises resurrection.

Baptism is the vindication of the completed mediatorial body, not the setting apart of the Adamic raw material. Infants do not qualify. If Paul had encountered Lois and Eunice when Timothy was an infant, he would not have baptized him. He was still being formed under the Law.

The New Covenant is not about carnal genealogies. God is faithful to a thousand generations, but the definition of “offspring” has been transcended. Timothy was Paul’s son “in the Lord.” That’s the kind of offspring God wants. It is a spring of faith, not flesh. Faith is the qualifier. It doesn’t replace the flesh, whether that is godly parenting or any other Covenant responsibility. It fills the flesh and wipes out every other division, cultural or otherwise, other than faith.

“The advent of Christ did not result in Jewish parents starting to wait until their children made a profession of faith before they were circumcised. The Jewish Christians did not suddenly switch to ‘believer’s circumcision.’” (TATG, p. 65.)

Of course they didn’t. They understood that circumcision was about heredity, and baptism was about faith. Walking in the Spirit negates the requirement for any type of cultural or racial ghetto. Pastor Wilson’s book has a lot of well-argued, logical progressions, but it’s facing the wrong way at the starting line. [1]

[1] See An Atheist ‘Gets’ Baptism.

Share Button

9 Responses to “In The Ghetto”

  • Michael Shover Says:

    “Baptism is the vindication of the completed mediatorial body, not the setting apart of the Adamic raw material. Infants do not qualify.”

    Then with that logic, only those who actually end up saved in the end should be baptized, since apostasy is a real danger. We should only be baptized with the water that really is from above, the heavenly crystal sea, when we go to heaven.

    “Circumcision was replaced not by baptism but by the death of Christ, which united Jew and Gentile. Jesus tore down that wall, and paedobaptism unwittingly puts it up again.”

    So then why baptize at all? If all we are doing is erecting barriers, and barriers are bad, then we should wait until people are really saved and in heaven to baptize them. But Or perhaps the dividing wall is now a different wall. the dividing wall is not one that separates Jew and Gentile, but Christian and Non-Christian; in Christ and in Adam, of the Heavenly Father, or of the their father the Devil. Of course baptism sets up barriers, it destroys the old and builds up new ones.

    Regarding the males circumcision/female no-circumcision problem, perhaps this will help.
    1.) Since we agree on the maturation process of going from glory to glory, which includes the glorification of the Bride, with each “New Covenant”, we can see how on a broad scale the old covenant was Adamic, and thus only males were to receive the covenant sign. Now we are in the new covenant, both males and females receive the covenant sign.

    2.) Perhaps circumcision was the rite which ordained the nation of Israel to be the Priestly Nation. Covenantal Headship of families would be in place, and so the males would represent the females. Now that the Church is made up of all nations, and baptism is the rite of ordination into the priesthood of all believers, all believers, male and female, Jew and Gentile, should receive it.

    3.) As you know, every time God brings about a “new creation” it is always through water. See my article –

  • Michael Shover Says:

    when the covenant sign is applied to a person, that person is now obligated to fulfill the covenantal obligations/oaths. A “third day” baptism, whether by an adult who believes for a while and then falls away, or a child who doesn’t improve on their baptism and grow up into it, doesn’t mean jack if they don’t have living faith. Baptism is a promise from God that He will never leave or forsake us, and it is also a promise from us that we will never leave or forsake God. If we, whether being a child or adult, don’t fulfill the obligation to believe, we will never see the seventh day baptism.

    Now if you think that this can be remedied by adult baptisms, then please explain adult apostasy? It seems you would need the third day baptism to be on the seventh day just for good measure, to make sure they really are a true believer. But that would do away with the necessity for a third day baptism, wouldn’t it?

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Thanks for commenting, Michael


    I don’t see that a true believer can apostatize. If the church misjudges and baptizes someone who is not regenerate, church discipline will sort them out — just like Solomon’s sword. If they are excommunicated and it brings repentance, even if they weren’t saved before, they are now. All revival begins with a fresh cutting of the heart.

    Just as circumcision was a prefigurement of a circumcised heart, so baptism is a prefigurement of resurrection. See:


    Baptism, like the Laver, is the barrier of priesthood, those who minister in God’s presence. Unlike circumcision, baptism does not confer a carnal identity (i.e. familial or cultural). It confers authority to minister. It is the robe Adam forfeited.

    I think I commented that paedobaptists put up a non-biblical “carnal” water-wall and become exclusive (which might not be as apparent to you as insiders!) and credobaptists tend to break down the bloody wall of repentance. Neither is good.


    1) Yep – I agree.

    2) I agree here, too. Luke makes a big deal of the fact that it was for men and women. But he stops there. Baptism is bridal. It’s the beginning of spiritual ministry. It’s Adam and Eve, and there’s no Cain to cut off. This is where the distinction between flesh and Spirit-filled flesh makes a distinction. It’s not a move from Adam to Adam+Eve; it’s a move from the Old Covenant life of Adam (beginning at birth) to his New Covenant marriage.

    3) I don’t see any support for paedobaptism in your excellent article. When you get to the point of announcing an “external” regeneration, you are cutting against the grain of the Old Testament. We put on Christ as a robe of righteousness. But only after we are slain under the Law first. If we disengage baptism from an individual, personal faith, we have to disengage it from an individual, personal repentance as well. Yes, baptists can be dangerously individualistic, but the solution is not paedobaptism. It takes sheep to make a flock. Under FV, I’m guessing that you could technically have a congregation that was entirely unregenerate and under church discipline — except for the elders of course. That’s exactly what happened under the Law, which was weak. We’ve moved on…


    The “Covenantal obligations” of the New Covenant are spelled out in the sermon on the mount. It’s not following a bunch of rules that were designed to lead to faith, it is the outflow of a faith that is already living. It’s not trainer wheels. It’s the Tour de France.

    You are correct about apostates, but expecting New Covenant fruit from an unregenerate person is flogging a dead horse. If an unregenerate person is baptized and this becomes apparent, then the elders deal with the situation legally and compassionately. Their earlier failure of judgment is rectified.

    As I’ve written elsewhere, baptism is not a tent peg marking out a territory to be made regenerate. That’s the Bronze Altar. Baptism is the Laver, the circle within and above that square, a boundary encircling a different kind of Altar, a golden one, a bridal one, where the only flesh is the memorial of blood on its four corners. This is the Lord’s Table. It’s a flat earth, but it has ascended. It is a heavenly country.


  • Michael Shover Says:

    “Under FV, I’m guessing that you could technically have a congregation that was entirely unregenerate and under church discipline — except for the elders of course. That’s exactly what happened under the Law, which was weak. We’ve moved on…”

    But Jesus said there could be branches on His vine that don’t bear fruit. They will be cut off. Cut off from what??? Cut off from HIM. How can they be cut off from Him if they were never truly in Him? I think the NT speaks alot more about the objective external form of salvation more than you would like to admit.

    Concerning the “external regeneration” interpretation, I got that from Ray Sutton, in his excellent work, “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered” which is an excellent study on Holy Baptism. I believe Titus 3:5 teaches the necessity of being saved through baptism (washing of regeneration) and through the Holy Spirit. Both are needed, the New external, and the internal. That is how God saves us. Baptism does not confer a carnal identity, you are right, it confers a spiritual identity, which is manifested in the physical – i.e. the Church. The Church is a Spiritual Kingdom, but made up of humans, not disembodied spirits. It seems like you are divorcing the Spirit from the physical person. as you know, that is gnostic and bad.

    I don’t think a “true believer” could ever apostatize either. But how do you explain apostasy if included in the covenant aren’t both true believers and untrue believers. We speak to the false believers, as though they have something real that they are forfeiting. They are forfeiting Christ and the Holy Spirit, whom they have available to them in the word and sacraments and church. When covenant members prove to be false believers, that doesn’t mean they were never in covenant with God IN ANY WAY AT ALL. It just means that they did not enter into the “internal” covenant. The sacraments then become curses for them, not blessings.

    More to come Later.

    Cheers, Michael

  • Michael Shover Says:

    I would also suggest checking some stuff Rich Lusk has written on Baptism at his website:

    go under the Pastor’s Page and check out some of his articles.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hello again, Michael

    Good objections. I’ll do my best.

    Jesus was speaking to natural branches, Jews. He told His disciples that Israel had been Him all along.

    I haven’t read that book by Sutton. But I really think it messes up the “type to reality” of circumcision to circumcised heart, then baptism to resurrection pattern, which we see in the Old Testament (head and body – see Lev. 1)

    So, yes, baptism is a New external, but it is only for those who have the Old internal already, the circumcised heart.

    Infant baptism does confer a carnal identity. You can call a Christian baby a spiritual identity if you like, but it’s hereditary. That’s done with.

    Again, I’m not talking disembodied Spirits, but a physical body of Spirit-filled people, as it is in heaven. Ain’t no babies in heaven, not as babies anyhow.

    Regarding apostasy, I think the enlightening “taste” that Hebrews speaks of is the hearing of the gospel. It wakes people up. They either repent and get baptized, or they reject Christ and become demonic. Their sin is no longer one of being led astray. It becomes high-handed. And we must remember that Hebrews was written to those in OLD Covenant with God who reverted back to it.


    I’ll check out Rich Lusk’s articles. Thanks for the link.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Just started reading one of Pastor Lusk’s Dabney Lectures on Baptism.
    He writes:

    “What about the person who is baptized as an infant, but then tells us that he didn’t become a Christian until a campus minister explained the gospel to him in college? Without devaluing his experience, we should help him reinterpret it along more covenantal lines. He became a Christian when he was baptized. He may have been an unfaithful Christian for some time (though this doubtful if he grew up in a family and church in which Christ was honored). If so, he was a prodigal son and adulterer who has now returned home and repented. But more likely, he was simply immature and has now entered into a higher level of Christian maturity. Such quantum leaps of growth are wonderful, but should not be confused with one’s initiation into the Christian family…”

    Well, there you have it. Take a look at the story of the Prodigal Son. Based on the matrix (which you will agree is not my invention), where would we put circumcision and baptism in this story?

    Circumcision is the son departing from his father. He is cutting off flesh in a bad way. He is abusing his heredity, or his inheritance.

    Baptism is the son’s return home with a circumcised heart, gained in the wilderness. It is the father giving him a robe and his ring of authority.

    And we must remember that this parable was spoken to Jews.

    Against Lusk, this is not a higher level of Christian maturity. It might have been “true” Judaism as opposed to inherited Judaism, but there is only one kind of Christianity, and it begins with a circumcised heart. There is no Christian parallel to circumcision except the death of Christ.

  • Michael Shover Says:

    “So, yes, baptism is a New external, but it is only for those who have the Old internal already, the circumcised heart.”

    Just want to know, how you can be absolutely sure you have a circumcised heart, and it will remain circumcised? It seems that you are saying that everyone who receives baptism has to know unquestionably that he will persevere in the faith, have a truly circumcised heart, and then, once he is sure of that, then he is to be baptized. But how in this world does a person have infallible knowledge of God’s secret decrees? it is impossible. A person could receive baptism, and really think he is regenerate, but then come to find out some day down the line he doesn’t believe in Jesus anymore. Then what? He really didn’t have the internal did he? But he received the external. How dare he?!?! Doesn’t he know that he shouldn’t have been baptized because
    baptism is only for those who are decreetally elect to persevere?

    The nature of the covenant is promise obligation, blessing and curses. you say the the Old Covenant this was true, but in the New Coveanant, there really aren’t any corresponding curses for not fulfilling the demand of the covenant b/c the covenant is only made up of true beleivers, who will never fall away and never experience those curses. How convienient that those curses in Hebrews and Corinthians and Galatians and John, really are only hypothetical. It really is impossible for baptized people to NOT persevere in the faith and to apostatize, despite what Jesus and the Apostles say. that’s real nice of you Mike.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Michael

    God’s secret decrees are none of our business. But history is a process of coming to the same conclusion as God. Discerning the spirits WITHIN the church is as much a New Covenant job as discerning the ones at the door. That’s certainly something we can apply directly from the apostolic experience.

    Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes. The curses don’t apply on a corporate level. The true church will never suffer in the way Israel did. The true church suffers as a righteous witness. The Reformation is a great example.

    I think we do suffer curses — consequences — within our own domains, as David did. But perseverence is the sign of a true work of the Spirit. I know plenty of Christians who struggle at times, including myself, but the righteous man gets up again. Can’t keep a good resurrection life down!