Jesus and Covenant – 2
“Just as Circumcision made impossible a global corruption,
so paedobaptism makes impossible a global Gospel.”
Part 1 here.
With so many young people leaving the Church, it is no wonder that there is a push to renew an understanding of biblical Covenant. Giving our children a profound sense of their “Covenant identity” is a crucial means of re-establishing the Covenant framework which has been neglected. Unfortunately, those pushing for these things are going about it in entirely the wrong way, because they are re-establishing the wrong Covenant.
As Christian parents, we want our children to grow up to be like Abel, and not like Cain. The problem with using baptism to impart a “Covenant identity” is that this is not what baptism is for. Cain and Abel both had the same Covenant identity. Although their roles in worship differed, both were under a similar obligation when it came to faith. Abel was to offer blood to cover, once again, the sin in the Garden; Cain was then to offer the firstfruits of the Land. But Cain pushed in and made his offering first, apparently a refusal to acknowledge the sovereignty of God. This was Pentecost before Firstfruits, kingdom before priesthood, a grasping of dominion without prior submission to God. It was the sin of Adam on a grander scale. 
Cain’s rebellion resulted in the establishment of a new identity, a pagan one. The curse upon him, though withheld, became a curse upon his children. The human race was divided into two tribes: a priestly clan which still recognised and worshiped God and a kingly order which did not. Intermarriage corrupted the priesthood and only one family remained submitted to God. The question is this: did those in the fortress of the Cainites no longer have any obligation to God? Of course they did, and eventually the entire civilization died in the Great Flood.
After the sin at Babel, humanity was headed for another flood, but God stepped in and divided the entire race in two through circumcision. A Covenant was established with Abraham and his offspring, with specific promises, that they might eventually be a blessing to the nations outside of this Covenant. Under Moses, the continuity of these promised blessings was bound through the Law, which meant that not only was Israel a “cultivated Land,” she would also be “pruned” from time to time, disciplined by God because of His great love for these children, His “firstborn.” Were the other nations under these Covenant obligations? Not directly. The nations surrounding Israel were blessed or cursed depending upon their treatment of Abraham’s offspring, but Israel was the focus. When Israel sinned, God also used these nations to curse and purify her. In all cases, this Covenant concerned only Abraham’s offspring until it was fulfilled. The Gentiles were under no obligation to either the Abrahamic Circumcision or the Mosaic Law.
Israel’s Covenant identity was not a removal of the obligation of the nations but an expansion of the office of Abel in worship, that is, the offering of representative blood. When it came to actual salvation, an Abrahamic “Covenant identity” simply meant that you were the first to hear. While this Covenant was in force, the Gospel always went first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Likewise, when judgment came, it came first upon Israel and then upon the nations. But both were still under obligation to God.
The Jew was to hear and believe, and through Israel, Gentiles were also to hear and believe. When it comes to salvation, this has always been the case. Israel’s “Covenant identity” in Abraham was a corporate liturgical office, not salvation itself. Hence, the doctrine of “paedofaith” is a wishful contrivance, an illegitimate hybrid of the promise to the believer and this obsolete Old Covenant sacrificial office. As we see in the prophets, God’s blessings and curses came upon all those who heard Israel’s testimony. In all cases, faith, which came by hearing, would result in works, and God always judged their faith (or lack of it) by their works. Through the testimony of Jonah, Nineveh was saved. Despite the testimony of Nahum, Nineveh was destroyed. If their works were faithful, then they were obviously converted. Regarding their offices, they remained Jews or Gentiles, Abels or Cains, brothers with different gifts but both in the service of God. One could be a believer or an unbeliever regardless of whether one was commissioned to offer blood, or to offer fruits from the ground (kingdom riches). The Old Covenant identity was with regard to ministry, not salvation, just as Abel kept sheep and Cain worked in the field. Both were required to repent and believe. Once the offerings were made, these fulfilled offices became meaningless. Once Christ was offered as better Abel, and the Herodian order judged as greater Cain, circumcision and uncircumcision became meaningless.
A Division of Flesh
The cultural separation of Jew and Gentile was for the purpose of preventing the kind of unity of culture which destroyed the original world in the flood and threatened to destroy the new world of Noah. At a global level, it split humanity irrevocably into Church and State. The usurping of priesthood by kingdom, the co-opting of the Church by the State, was impossible without the breaking down of the “wall of enmity,” circumcision and the Law, the Covenant obligations of the Jews. Though similar sins were committed within the bounds of the circumcision, a global corruption was made impossible through the curses of the Law. The Law put a hedge around the ministry of Abel (Genesis 4), and prevented the “Cainites” from intermarrying with the “Sethites” (Genesis 6) or uniting to build a new Babel. Thus, the identity conferred in circumcision was a Covenant within a Covenant, Abrahamites as a priestly people within a Noahic world, Abels among Cains, sheep among wolves. When Israel’s priests, kings and people behaved like Cainites, God gave them over to the real Cainites for discipline and eventual purging. Just as animals died on Israel’s behalf, so Israel was judged on the world’s behalf. Israel would always die as the firstborn, a first fruits of blood separated from the rest of the world. But Israel, unlike the other nations, would also rise from the dead.
The Covenant identity of Israel, conferred due to the personal faith of Abraham, was a sacrificial obligation which was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the sacrificial flesh of Israel, offered in faith on behalf of all nations. The Jewish identity, the offering of the blood of the firstborn, finally ascended to heaven in Christ. True priesthood was finally accomplished and true kingdom could come, a dominion sourced in submission to God and priestly service. The end of Circumcision came because the Abelic ministry was completed in Christ. The end of the Temple avenged not only the blood of Christ but also the blood of Abel. The end of the Jewish identity necessarily ended the Gentile identity, as the submersion of the Land makes the demarcation of “sea” meaningless. All the kingdoms of the world, offered to Jesus at the hand of Satan, are now His at the hand of the Father.
Now that this division of offices is gone, the only Covenant identity which remains is the one common to all men, as it was common to both Cain and Abel, the obligation to repent and trust God. The New Covenant did not introduce a souped-up Abrahamic identity, a new division of fleshly offices. It fulfilled and exalted one which already existed: repentance and faith, something which was always available to both Jew and Gentile, who in the larger picture were under the same Covenant in Noah. This fact was the basis for the decision of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 (See A Change Of The Law).
Since the ministry of shedding blood is now fulfilled, there is no such “Covenant-within-a-Covenant” identity in existence. With the Old Covenant completed, there is no “Covenant identity” outside of the call to repent and believe. Since the world is no longer divided into the offices of Jew and Gentile, there is no need to signify separate obligations. Logically, baptism cannot confer a Covenant obligation, because we are all under the New Covenant obligation to repent and believe. Thus, baptism can neither make a “Covenant child,” nor confer salvation in any sense upon an infant.
A Global Covenant
Those who believe that baptism, whether of an infant, a child or an adult, puts that person “into Covenant with God” have not understood what makes the New Covenant new. Circumcision marked out a cultural “office,” the shedding of blood, an obligation which has now been fulfilled in Christ. Baptism marks out a personal response, the answer of a good conscience towards God, which has also now been fulfilled in Christ. But these are not the same. One is death, and one is resurrection. One is an objective execution, the other a subjective profession.
The idea that baptism puts somebody “into Covenant with God” in the way that circumcision put Abraham’s seed into Covenant with God, not only limits the scope of its obligation to the confines of the Church, it leads to the mistaken belief that evangelism is about unbelievers joining the Covenant with its obligations rather than responding to the Gospel because they are already condemned. Evangelism is not an extension of the New Covenant obligation across the world, as though the nations were joining some sort of renovated Old Covenant Israel. God forbid. Evangelism is for the purpose of a response to that obligation, a response which confers complete fulfillment of those obligations on one’s behalf by Christ.
So, how do we give our children a “New Covenant identity”? By teaching them of their “Adamic” obligation to Jesus, one which they possess simply by being born, and that this “death-note” was fulfilled by Christ. They are not born Christians, but neither are they born pagans, because the Gospel sees to it that the world is no longer divided in such a way. It challenges every identity by proclaiming the one common to all.
Using baptism to signify some kind of legal obligation between a child and God is an unwitting testimony that Christ has not come in the flesh, that the ministry of bloodshed is not complete, that the blood of Abel has not been avenged. It makes the Church a wall of flesh between God and the nations rather than a torn veil, a door open to the rebel in us all.
Paedobaptism gives to the world a false picture of both the work of Jesus and the prophetic office of each Christian, the profession of one’s faith. Paedobaptism puts the unbeliever outside the obligations of the New Covenant, which are repentance and faith. It basically tells the world to go and build a city, because God is concerned only with His “Covenant people,” and has not given all the kingdoms of the world to His Son. Thus, paedobaptism not only confers upon infants membership in a Covenant which no longer exists, and thus gives them a false identity by treating repentance and faith as though it were an inherited “office” like that of the Jew, it makes the Church a closed veil between the obligation of all people and the throne of Jesus, the Open Door who Himself is the New Covenant.
There is no “identity” which is outside of the New Covenant, and this is the basis for evangelism. Just as Circumcision made impossible a global corruption, so paedobaptism makes impossible a global Gospel.
NEXT POST: Raising Canaan
 I believe that if Cain had not killed Abel, a third son would have been the Prophet, rather than Seth, a replacement priest. This incomplete architecture was fulfilled in the three sons of Noah. See The Last Sin.