Go and sin no more…

john-piperDr. John Piper on John 7:53 to John 8:11:

[[They went each to his own house, look but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

This message is the kind I may give once every decade or so. The reason it’s so rare is that the situation with our text is so rare. In most of your Bibles, you notice that John 7:53 to John 8:11 is either set off in brackets or is in a footnote. The reason for this is that most New Testament scholars do not think it was part of the Gospel of John when it was first written, but was added centuries later.

For example…

Don Carson, who teaches at Trinity, and is in my view one of the best New Testament scholars in the world, writes, “Despite the best efforts . . . to prove that this narrative was originally part of John’s Gospel, the evidence is against [them], and modern English versions are right to rule it off from the rest of the text (NIV) or to relegate it to a footnote (RSV).” (The Gospel According to John, 1991, p. 333)

Bruce Metzger, one of the world’s great authorities on the text of the New Testament until his death in 2002: “The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the periscope of the adulteress is overwhelming.” (The Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 1971, p. 219)

Leon Morris: “The textual evidence makes it impossible to hold that this section is an authentic part of the Gospel.” (The Gospel According to John, 1971, p. 882)
Andreas Köstenberger: “This represents overwhelming evidence that the section is non-Johannine.” (John, 2004, p. 246)

And Herman Ridderbos: The evidences “point to an unstable tradition that was not originally part of an ecclesiastically accepted text.” (The Gospel of John, 1997, p. 286)

I think they are right. And this gives us a chance to spend a little while on the branch of Biblical Studies behind these judgments called Textual Criticism, and its implications for the trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures. So let me summarize the reasons these scholars give for thinking this the story of the woman taken in adultery was not originally part of John’s Gospel, and then give some general thoughts about the science of Textual Criticism that helps make sense of the arguments.

Reasons This Section Isn’t Original to John’s Gospel

The evidence goes something like this:

The story is missing from all the Greek manuscripts of John before the fifth century.

All the earliest church fathers omit this passage in commenting on John and pass directly from John 7:52 to John 8:12.

In fact, the text flows very nicely from 7:52 to 8:12 if you leave out the story and just read the passage as though the story were not there.

No Eastern church father cites the passage before the tenth century when dealing with this Gospel.

When the story starts to appear in manuscript copies of the Gospel of John, it shows up in three different places other than here (after 7:36; 7:44; and 21:25), and in one manuscript of Luke, it shows up after 21:38.

Its style and vocabulary is more unlike the rest of John’s Gospel than any other paragraph in the Gospel.

Now saying all that assumes a lot of facts that many of you simply don’t have at your fingertips. And nobody expects you to. This is a hugely technical field of scholarship that at the upper levels requires not only the ability to read ancient languages, but the ability to read them in kinds of ancient handwritten scripts that are very demanding. So let me give you just enough so that you can make sense of these reasons.

The Science of Textual Criticism
The New Testament that we know was originally written in Greek. The first printed Greek New Testament—that came off a printing press—was published by Erasmus in 1516. It turned the world upside down. If you want a great glimpse of this period and the heroism it produced, read David Daniell’s biography of William Tyndale. Continue reading

Through the Eyes of Spurgeon – Official Documentary

The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?

Christ Forsaken?

beeke3_2Dr. Joel Beeke, writing on the ligonier blog site saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, KJV).

It is noon, and Jesus has been on the cross for three pain-filled hours. Suddenly, darkness falls on Calvary and “over all the land” (v. 45). By a miraculous act of Almighty God, midday becomes midnight.

This supernatural darkness is a symbol of God’s judgment on sin. The physical darkness signals a deeper and more fearsome darkness.

The great High Priest enters Golgotha’s Holy of Holies without friends or enemies. The Son of God is alone on the cross for three final hours, enduring what defies our imagination. Experiencing the full brunt of His Father’s wrath, Jesus cannot stay silent. He cries out: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

This phrase represents the nadir, the lowest point, of Jesus’ sufferings. Here Jesus descends into the essence of hell, the most extreme suffering ever experienced. It is a time so compacted, so infinite, so horrendous as to be incomprehensible and, seemingly, unsustainable.

Jesus’ cry does not in any way diminish His deity. Jesus does not cease being God before, during, or after this. Jesus’ cry does not divide His human nature from His divine person or destroy the Trinity. Nor does it detach Him from the Holy Spirit. The Son lacks the comforts of the Spirit, but He does not lose the holiness of the Spirit. And finally, it does not cause Him to disavow His mission. Both the Father and Son knew from all eternity that Jesus would become the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Acts 15:18). It is unthinkable that the Son of God might question what is happening or be perplexed when His Father’s loving presence departs.

Jesus is expressing the agony of unanswered supplication (Ps. 22:1–2). Unanswered, Jesus feels forgotten of God. He is also expressing the agony of unbearable stress. It is the kind of “roaring” mentioned in Psalm 22: the roar of desperate agony without rebellion. It is the hellish cry uttered when the undiluted wrath of God overwhelms the soul. It is heart-piercing, heaven-piercing, and hell-piercing. Further, Jesus is expressing the agony of unmitigated sin. All the sins of the elect, and the hell that they deserve for eternity, are laid upon Him. And Jesus is expressing the agony of unassisted solitariness. In His hour of greatest need comes a pain unlike anything the Son has ever experienced: His Father’s abandonment. When Jesus most needs encouragement, no voice cries from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.” No angel is sent to strengthen Him; no “well done, thou good and faithful servant” resounds in His ears. The women who supported Him are silent. The disciples, cowardly and terrified, have fled. Feeling disowned by all, Jesus endures the way of suffering alone, deserted, and forsaken in utter darkness. Every detail of this horrific abandonment declares the heinous character of our sins!

But why would God bruise His own Son (Isa. 53:10)? The Father is not capricious, malicious, or being merely didactic. The real purpose is penal; it is the just punishment for the sin of Christ’s people. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Christ was made sin for us, dear believers. Among all the mysteries of salvation, this little word “for” exceeds all. This small word illuminates our darkness and unites Jesus Christ with sinners. Christ was acting on behalf of His people as their representative and for their benefit.

With Jesus as our substitute, God’s wrath is satisfied and God can justify those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s penal suffering, therefore, is vicarious — He suffered on our behalf. He did not simply share our forsakenness, but He saved us from it. He endured it for us, not with us. You are immune to condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and to God’s anathema (Gal. 3:13) because Christ bore it for you in that outer darkness. Golgotha secured our immunity, not mere sympathy.

This explains the hours of darkness and the roar of dereliction. God’s people experience just a taste of this when they are brought by the Holy Spirit before the Judge of heaven and earth, only to experience that they are not consumed for Christ’s sake. They come out of darkness, confessing, “Because Immanuel has descended into the lowest hell for us, God is with us in the darkness, under the darkness, through the darkness — and we are not consumed!”

How stupendous is the love of God! Indeed, our hearts so overflow with love that we respond, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Worldviews in Conflict

Text: Acts 16:16-40

Each of us is influenced by our surrounding culture far more than we realize. Only the Word of God can give us the discernment needed to divide truth from error.

Luke 12:32-34

Part 1

Many people are afraid to give because they’re afraid they won’t have enough themselves or that they’ll miss out on something in the future. In this lab, Dr. John Piper highlights the liberating promise that God is a providing shepherd, father, and king. Therefore, we can give freely and generously.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:01)

God Knows Your Needs (01:01–03:59)
What should you not be afraid of (Luke 12:32)? You are not to fear the consequences of giving.
You are not to fear being without our basic necessities. God knows everything you need. (Luke 12:29–31)
Jesus overcomes this fear by reminding us that we have a good Shepherd, a good Father, and a good King.
Therefore, give. Be generous.

Sell Your Possessions (03:59–07:35)
If you don’t have cash to give, sell your possessions to get some. (Luke 12:33)
Jesus is not against possessions. We know this because Jesus is simply putting your possessions into someone else’s hands. He’s not prohibiting possessions. (Luke 12:33)
We should hold our possessions so loosely that we are willing to let them go if others are in need.
Being a generous and compassionate person is what shows you are a member of this flock, this family, and this kingdom. And that is because this Shepherd, this Father, and this King delights to give. (Luke 12:32)
If you have a God like this, you can afford to live simply and generously. (Luke 12:32–33)

Closing Prayer and Commission (07:35–08:02)
God, make us the kind of people that prove by our giving that we are sheep of such a shepherd, children of such a father, subjects of such a king. I pray this through Christ, Amen.

Luke 12-32–34, Part 1 from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Part 2

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What we treasure has massive implications for the health and security of our hearts. In this lab, John Piper explains why treasure in heaven will satisfy us more than any other, and shows us the pathway to more of the joy found in Jesus.

Outline

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:58)

We are sheep of a great shepherd, children of a great father, and subjects of a great king. This shepherd/father/king delights to give, so we also should be generous toward those in need.

The Treasure in Heaven (Luke 12:33) (01:58–04:03)
This treasure will not be lost (“grow old”).
This treasure will not fail.
This treasure will not be stolen (“no thief”).
This treasure will not be ruined (“no moth destroys”).
The Treasure in Your Heart (04:03–06:09)

The heart is the emotional barometer of the value and security of the treasure (Luke 12:34). If your treasure is vulnerable, your joy is vulnerable. If your treasure is secure, your joy is secure. If your treasure is great, your joy is great.

Your heart follows your treasure, wherever and however it leads. Your heart rises and falls with the quality and security of what you treasure.
The full, trustworthy, satisfying treasure in heaven is God — himself, his Son, his kingdom.

Generosity and Joy (06:09–10:19)
Giving to the needy is providing yourself with a never-failing treasure. Generosity is the way you have this treasure. (Luke 12:33)
You do not earn the kingdom (the treasure). You confirm that you are a person with this treasure by your generosity.
You confirm that God is your treasure, and you increase your treasure, and therefore your joy (Luke 6:38). In God’s economy, there is a correlation between our generosity and our joy.
Therefore, do not be afraid. Let’s sell what we need to in order to give all we can.

Luke 12:32–34, Part 2 // Seek the Treasure That Will Not Fail from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Confessional Subscription

Tom Chantry has written a series of very helpful blog articles on the subject, “Words and their Meaning: Confessional Subscription and Divine Impassibility.” In part 1 he writes:

Confessions of faith are intended as tools of doctrinal unity within a church or an association of churches. To “subscribe” to a confession of faith is to claim it as a summary of your own theological convictions. Thus when many people subscribe together to the same confession, they profess that they believe the same things about those matters addressed in their confession. Such subscription is necessary at some level; otherwise we would be forced to cooperate with those who have defined Christ and the faith differently than ourselves.

Various approaches to subscription have been taken. Historically, churches that have attempted a generalized “system” subscription have demonstrated the error of such an approach: when subscription to a confession does not mean subscribing to its particular doctrines, then it means nothing. System subscription has proven to be a highway to apostasy. Some have followed a stricter approach, but allowed for various “exceptions.” In most cases there is an agreed-upon list of doctrines to which one may take exception, but defining “acceptable” exceptions may become a far messier process than many would imagine.

Associational Reformed Baptists have followed an approach called “strict” or “full” subscription. This does not mean accepting the Confession as inspired truth in a word-for-word sense, but rather an agreement with every doctrine found in the confession as a true and biblical doctrine. Individuals have voiced objections to certain wordings but have confessed agreement with every doctrine taught in the confession.

However, in order for such subscription to mean anything, one other principle is necessary: we must subscribe to the doctrines intended by those who wrote the confession; otherwise we subscribe to a malleable confession – a living document which might be twisted to mean anything. Just as constitutionalism requires constitutional history, so confessionalism requires historical theology. We cannot knowingly confess unless we know what we are confessing, and for that we must know what the writers of our confession meant by their words.

It is when we find that we cannot subscribe to the words of a confession as its writers intended them to be read that we find ourselves outside of a confessional community. This is why new confessions have been written. If we were at liberty to press the words of our confessions into new meanings, we would never need to separate from an old confession and write a new one. Of course, subscription would once again be meaningless.

As an example, consider the Westminster Confession of Faith. The framers of the Second London (1689) clearly respected the work of the Assembly. Why did they not merely adopt its confession? You know the answer: they were Baptists by conviction. But does that really mean that they could not adopt the words of the Westminster Confession? I realize there are other differences, but probably the key difference is found in Westminster 28:4, which reads:

Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.

Is it really so difficult for a Baptist to confess those words? What if we were to argue that in our understanding this paragraph were teaching that the spiritual children of believers – i.e. those whom they led to faith – are to be baptized? Such a reading is at least plausible. Paul spoke in Galatians 3:7 of those who shared Abraham’s faith as his children, and that principle applied more broadly than only to Abraham. In I Timothy 1:2 he called Timothy “my true child in the faith,” clearly meaning a spiritual descent. Oh, you say, but the framers of the confession covered that by speaking not only of children, but of infants! Except that in I Corinthians 3:1 Paul called immature Christians “infants in Christ.”

Boom!

Why don’t we just confess the words of the Westminster Confession, but say that in our understanding 28:4 means that Christians and all whom they lead to faith, even if they be spiritually immature, should be baptized? What Baptist couldn’t confess that? And after all, we’re using Paul’s own eminently biblical language to say it. Honestly, think about this question: why write a new Confession of Faith?

The reason is that of course we all know that immature spiritual children in the faith is not what the Westminster Assembly meant. As such, it would be dishonest on our part to pretend that we hold their Confession when we neither believe nor practice in accordance with their own meaning of their own words. It would be silly to pretend otherwise. To subscribe to WCF 28:4 we would have to believe what the Westminster Assembly meant by 28:4; our own plausible re-interpretation of their words simply won’t do.

I am not arguing for “historical subscription”, but merely for a sane form of “full subscription.” I did not say that we must be exactly like the framers of our confession in every way; only that we must believe the same doctrines they were talking about when they wrote the confession.

Consider, I do not say that we must be just like them in practice. (Most of them sang no hymns.) I do not say that we must be just like them in every detail of theology. (The Confession does not address the Millennium.) I do not say we must be like them politically. (They were monarchists, of course, which played a role in forming the 1689, chapters 23, 24, and also – if you know the history – 25.) We do not need to adopt their philosophical systems, their form of clerical dress, or (thankfully) their hairstyles. But to subscribe to the 1689 Confession, we must believe what they intended by the words they wrote. That’s really a pretty obvious fact, without which full subscription means nothing at all.

Where it seems less obvious is simply where our knowledge of historical theology wanes. If we didn’t know what the Presbyterians believed about baptism, perhaps the faux interpretation of their words offered above would not seem so absurd. To interpret a Confession, then, we need some historical background; otherwise how will we know what we are subscribing to?

At times, discovering the original meaning of the confessional text even serves to make it easier for us to subscribe. Many Baptists have taken issue with 1689, 26:4, particularly the language, “…but is that antichrist, that man of sin, etc.” To the modern ear, this sounds like an identification of the last, apocalyptic antichrist at the end of the age, and many have balked at assigning that designation to the papacy. Most, though, upon further reflection on the confessional meaning, find themselves easily subscribing. The 17th century did not obsess over the apocalyptic antichrist, being more concerned with the “spirit of antichrist” which, we are told, is already in the world. To them, the word “that” did not indicate a shift from the general antichristness of the pope to some form of eschatological specificity. Once we know what they meant, the phrase becomes a lot less problematic. Continue reading

The manner in which God knows the future…

In response to the Calvinist assertion that God decrees all the events of time, Roger Olson (an Arminian) suggests that “Divine foreknowledge is no more causative than human foreknowledge.”

Doug Wilson (a Calvinist) responds:

Douglas-Wilson-2This misunderstands the objection entirely. If we could isolate divine foreknowledge, detaching it from God’s other attributes and actions, then this could be a reasonable point. If God’s foreknowledge were just like mine, only vast, then what is true of my foreknowledge at a given instant would be true of God’s foreknowledge at all those other instants. Fair enough. If I see a bicyclist hurtling toward a tree, I can have certain foreknowledge that he will hit that tree, and yet, because I am fifty feet away, my knowledge is in no way responsible for the collision. Why would this be different just because God can see ten bicyclists, or a thousand of them?

The answer is that He is the Creator of these bicyclists, and His foreknowledge includes all contingent foreknowledge. Contingent upon what? Upon His decision to create. That means that He knows what will happen on Planet Xtar if He decides to create it. The decision to create is therefore causative. The decision to create is causative of all the things that the Creator knows will follow from that particular creation.

This means that divine foreknowledge is not — as mine is — the knowledge of a mere observer. You cannot grapple with the implications of this point unless you combine two points together. God knows exhaustively what will happen in this world if He creates, and because He created it, that act of creation was a decision that willed everything contained within the bundle.

God knows what will happen if He creates the tree and if He creates the bicyclist, and therefore the decision to create is nothing more nor less than predestination in a cheap tux.

A Case for Believer’s Baptism

baptism-June8-2014Dr. Sam Storms, A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism. I thought it might help everyone to hear a brief defense of believer’s baptism, or what we typically refer to as credo baptism. What follows is not a response to Kevin’s arguments, but simply an outline of the reasons why I remain a credo-baptist.

Why do I believe that only believers should be baptized in water? Why am I a “credo-baptist” rather than a “paedo-baptist” (the term “credo” comes from the Latin which means “I believe,” hence baptism for believers only; the term “paedo” comes from the Greek word for infant).

Before I answer that question, it may be helpful to briefly explain why some Christians baptize their infants. The primary reason comes from their understanding of the relationship between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament baptism.

In the Old Testament, male infants were circumcised as the outward sign of entrance into the covenant community of Israel. This did not guarantee their salvation, but marked them out as recipients of the external blessings of a national covenant into which they were introduced by physical birth.

Christian baptism, so goes the paedo-baptist argument, is the New Testament counterpart to Old Testament circumcision. It does not guarantee the salvation of the infant, but sets them apart as children of covenant parents who are thus included in the external blessings and responsibilities of the people of God. Baptized infants are thus “under the umbrella,” so to speak, of God’s new covenant blessings. Parents of the infant pray that he/she will personally receive the blessings of salvation in Christ which baptism signifies. They hope and trust that baptism is the foreshadowing of what will take place when their child personally embraces Jesus as savior. This is closely related to the idea that God deals not merely with individuals based on personal faith but with corporate entities based on covenant promise.

Paedo-baptists also appeal to what they call “household” baptisms in the New Testament (see Acts 16:15,33; and 1 Cor. 1:16). Surely, they contend, there must have been infants in these households. Infants of Christian parents, therefore, were made recipients of water baptism.

Why am I not convinced by this? Very briefly, for these reasons.

First, the narrative examples in the New Testament portray baptism as being administered only to believers. See Acts 2:41; 8:12; 10:44-48; etc.

Second, baptism is portrayed in the New Testament as a symbol of the beginning of spiritual life (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12), as well as “an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). Unless one is prepared to predicate salvation and spiritual life of unbelieving infants, or suggest that they are capable of making a conscious appeal to God for a good conscience, it would appear that baptism is restricted to those who consciously trust Christ.

Third, baptism is consistently portrayed as inextricably tied up with (conscious) faith and repentance (e.g., Acts 2:38,41; 8:12-13,36; 10:47-48). This is especially the case with Colossians 2:12, which I’ll deal with below.

Fourth, in all examples of so-called “household” baptisms the broader contexts make clear that only “believers” were baptized. As for Acts 16:15 and 16:33, members of the “household” were old enough to hear and understand “the word of the Lord” spoken to them (Acts 16:32; thereby excluding infants) and old enough to understand what it meant for a person to believe in God and thus have reason to rejoice because of it (Acts 16:34; thereby again excluding infants; see also John 4:53).

As for 1 Corinthians 1:16, we see in 1 Corinthians 16:15 that the “household” of Stephanas, whom Paul baptized, “were the first converts in Achaia” who “devoted themselves to the service of the saints.” As for the “children” in Acts 2:39, they are at least old enough to be “called” by the Lord (v. 39). And then, as if to confirm it, Luke records that “those who received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). There is no indication that those who were too young to respond to the “call” of God and too young to “receive” God’s word were baptized.

Fifth, we must take into account the nature of the New Covenant inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus and one way (although there are many) in which it differs from the covenant God made with Abraham.

We read in Hebrews 8:11 of one of the chief characteristics of the New Covenant and those who are members of it – “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11).

During the time of the Old Testament, the people of God were a mixed community. That is to say, Israel was composed of both believers and non-believers. Not everyone who was circumcised in his flesh was circumcised in his heart. Again, this simply means that not everyone who received the physical sign of the old covenant was born again or regenerate.

This is why members of the nation Israel had to be exhorted to “know” the Lord. But under the New Covenant we encounter an entirely different situation. Every member of the New Covenant is a believer. Every member of the New Covenant has been born again. Notice what our author says: “they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (8:11).

This promise that every member of the new covenant will experience personal and first-hand intimate saving knowledge of God is one of the main reasons I don’t baptize infants at Bridgeway Church.

We must remember that God’s covenant with Israel was theocratic in nature. Israel was not only the people of God; Israel was also a political entity. Therefore, all those who were circumcised physically were members of the covenant community whether they ever came to saving faith or not. That’s not true in the New Covenant. Only those who come to saving faith are members of the new covenant community.

To say that every member of the New Covenant knows the Lord doesn’t mean that there aren’t in our midst people who claim to know Christ but don’t. But those who are genuinely saved and genuinely members of the New Covenant are all born again and justified by faith in Jesus.

As noted above, paedo-baptists say that since in Old Testament times circumcision, as the sign of the covenant, was applied to all, even though many never came to saving faith, baptism, as the sign of the New Covenant, should be applied to all, even though many who are baptized will never come to saving faith.

But the New Covenant differs significantly from every biblical covenant that preceded it and thus the analogy breaks down. Unlike in the OT, everywhere in the NT we read that members of the New Covenant are born-again, justified believers in Jesus. Therefore it is only to them that the ordinance of baptism is applied. Members of the New Covenant are those who have the law of God written on their hearts; they are those who belong to God in a relationship of personal intimacy; they are those know God; they are those whose sins have been forgiven. That is why we do not baptize infants at Bridgeway. Infants who have not as yet trusted Christ for salvation are not members of the New Covenant.

Sixth, I can’t help but notice the absence in the New Testament of any explicit portrayal of an infant ever being baptized.

But let’s look more closely at Colossians 2:11-12, where Paul writes, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Contrary to the paedo-baptist argument, the New Testament counterpart to Old Testament circumcision isn’t baptism; it’s regeneration or the new birth. Or again, it is spiritual circumcision of the heart, not water baptism, that corresponds in the New Covenant to Old Covenant physical circumcision of the flesh. [By the way, even if one were to concede that water baptism is the New Covenant counterpart to Old Covenant circumcision, the former is consistently predicated on the faith of the individual, unlike the latter. Indeed, this is the very point of Colossians 2:12, as I’ll note below.]

Water baptism is a sign of the circumcision of the heart and the new life and cleansing from sin that it brings. The sign of the New Covenant isn’t baptism, but spiritual circumcision or regeneration or the “cutting away” of the heart of flesh, of which water baptism is an outward, symbolic expression.

But more important still is Paul’s reference to “faith” in v. 12. John Piper has summarized this better than anyone I’ve read, so let me close by quoting his words:

“If baptism were merely a parallel of the Old Testament rite of circumcision it would not have to happen ‘through faith’ since infants did not take on circumcision ‘through faith.’ The reason the New Testament ordinance of baptism must be ‘through faith’ is that it represents not the Old Testament external ritual, but the New Testament, internal, spiritual experience of circumcision ‘without hands.’

Those two words, ‘through faith,’ in verse 12 are the decisive, defining explanation of how we were buried with Christ in baptism and how we were raised with him in baptism: it was ‘through faith.’ And this is not something infants experience. Faith is a conscious experience of the heart yielding to the work of God. Infants are not capable of this, and therefore infants are not fit subjects of baptism, which is ‘through faith'” (“Buried and Raised in Baptism through Faith,” a sermon on Colossians 2:8-15, May 11, 1997; www.desiringgod.org).

I love my paedo-baptist friends and rejoice in their love for God. But I remain unconvinced by their arguments. Needless to say, this is a subject deserving of book-length treatment, but I hope my brief comments here are of help as you seek to obey Scripture with regard to this precious ordinance of God.