Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Schreiner: How We Become Heirs to God's Promises to Abraham

I've found Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright's Believer's Baptism to be helpful reading on many counts, including some that reach far beyond the nuts and bolts of baptism. Here's one example from Schreiner's chapter, "Baptism in the Epistles" (88-89):
The eschatological thrust of baptism is also evident in Gal 3:27. Paul argues in Gal 3:15-4:7 that with the coming of Christ the covenant with Abraham has been fulfilled, and thus the covenant with Moses is no longer in force. Jesus is the seed promised to Abraham (Gal 3:16), and in him the pledges made to Abraham are realized. The age of childhood and infancy under the Mosaic law has ended (Gal 3:22-25), and now "you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:26).

What Paul meant by "sons" is that all believers are now "adults" through faith in Christ; that is, they are no longer in the period of infancy under the Mosaic law. They are mature and grown up because the promises made in the Old Testament have come to fruition. Believers are the seed of Abraham because they "belong to Christ" (Gal 3:29). Since Christ is the only seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), then belonging to Christ is the only means by which one can become part of the family of Abraham and receive the promises.

How does one know that one belongs to Christ? Verse 26 says we know we are Christ's if we have faith. And v. 27 says that those who are baptized have clothed themselves with Christ. In other words, baptism signifies that one is united to Christ. And since Christ is the only seed of Abraham, then baptism signifies not only that we belong to Christ, but also that by belonging to Christ we become part of Abraham's family. The unity in Abraham's family is what Paul has in mind in Gal 3:28 when he says that we "are all one in Christ Jesus." In baptism we become part of Christ and become heirs to the eschatological promises made to Abraham.
[Paragraph divisions and emphasis are mine.]


Bruce said...

Hmmm... no debate here yet. That's fine by me.

I'll just say this: "I am one of them, and so are you, so let's just praise the Lord!" Seriously.

Anonymous said...

What is to debate? He is exactly right.

Ben said...


Joshua Caucutt said...

A follow-up - maybe fodder for a different post:

"by belonging to Christ we become part of Abraham's family."

Can we be heirs to Christ (and Abraham) if we are not members of the covenant community, in other words, the church?

Ben said...

"Church" = local or universal?

Joshua Caucutt said...

One of those does not exist . . . ;) So, local.

Andrew Suttles said...

Josh -

The Scriptures teach that Christ died for The Church.

Uh-oh, if there is no universal sense of the word church, that means that Christ only died for 1 church. Which one? Yours? Mine?

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. Joshua, are you a landmarker?

Andrew Suttles said...

OK, James. I guess I jumped in too fast.

Joshua Caucutt said...

Yes, he died for my local church. I'm not a "landmarker", but the local church is the only way that we can understand the church in the NT and make sense of the instructions for the church. For instance, how does the universal church practice eldership, the Lord's table, church discipline, corporate worship, membership, etc.? Only the local church can employ these ideas.

The idea that a believer could exist apart from the local church was foreign to the NT writers, they could not conceive of it. I would say that idea is a product of western, especially American thought. Rugged individuality and all that. The church is the pillar and support of the truth and if we see that as anything other than local . . . well we end up with several different versions of the gospel, a pretty loose membership, wide ranging practice and polity, and no church discipline.

Joshua Caucutt said...

Andrew - one more thought - if Christ died for the church . . . but an individual is not in the church . . . maybe that solves the problem for us.

Anonymous said...

one obvious problem with your view is that you indicate it is an either or position.

Your reasoning that you can't practice biblical ecclessiology while embracing the universal church is faulty.

One can have a very strict NT practice while at the same time believing all believers are united together in Christ, in His body (Eph 1, 3, 4, 5: 1 Cor 12, etc).

Heb 12 speaks of the church of the firstborn as a present reality that believers are part of. They don't get kicked out of that church if they don't attend your special kind of church. They are in rebellion if in a wrong church, but not separated from Christ.

called it.

Joshua Caucutt said...

James, if what you are saying is true . . . why does anyone preach membership in church at all? If it doesn't really matter, then what is the point?

All of the passages that you reference are focused on the local church, especially I Cor. 12. Furthermore, the idea that you posit: that a person can be in a false church and still be in Christ removes the teeth from any kind of church discipline, doesn't it? i.e. Church A has declared me bound in my sin, but if I can still go to heave, who cares?

Anonymous said...


1. What I am saying is true. I gave you the passage that proves your position false. Hebrews 12 speaks of the church of the firstborn as a present reality which all believers are part of. This church is spoken of as being in heaven right now. It is you that has to manipulate the scripture to avoid that.

2. People should teach "membership" because the scripture speaks of it, 1 Cor 12 is one place.

3. No one ever said it didn't matter.

4. 1 Cor 12 refers to the local church as well as the body which all believers are joined to. You aren't joined to Christ only if you are in your kind of church. People are joined to Christ at conversion.

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body —so also is Christ.
13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body —whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free —and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

See that? Believers are part of Christ, drink of one Spirit and were baptized into ONE body. So there is the local truth about all being joined together, but also the universal truth that all true believers are joined together in Christ. Put down Pendleton and Graves and pick up some Paul and John.

The Eph texts are equally as explicit.

5. You can't get past your own grid. Your dichotomy is false. Believers need to be in a church that rigidly practices NT doctrine. If they aren't, they are in rebellion. If you don't think that is a big deal, then you have other issues we can talk about sometime. So no, it doesn't remove any teeth. It gives church discipline teeth as those rebellious believers are acting apart from God's revelation.

Joshua Caucutt said...

James, you undermine your argument in your first point: "the church of the firstborn as a present reality which all believers are part of".

One who claims the name of Christ and does not join himself to "the church" (using that term in the same way as Christ in Matt. 18)will not be saved.

"Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first . . ." etc. The word "body" throughout this passage should be interpreted locally. Similar to Matthew 18 - the local church can "bind" or "loose". There is nothing to prevent Hebrews 12, 1 Cor. 12 or Ephesians from being understood as the local church. In fact, I don't think that Paul and John really had any other concept of the church.

Modern concepts of individuality, mysticism, catholicism and even evangelicalism promote the idea of the universal church, but that animal is tough to find in Scripture - unless you assume it is there.

Now if you want to talk about the idea that the "kingdom of God" is universal, that is something that I might be able to accept, although not without more study.

2. You say that God wants us to teach church membership. Why? Just because it is a nice thing? Why?

A strict interpretation of the concept of the local church is the issue of "self-ordination". Individuals believe that since the church is universal or present within every believer - they can decide that they are "called" to be a pastor, teacher . . . etc. I think that Scripture makes it pretty clear that only the local church can ordain. Furthermore, how can the church be the pillar and support of the truth when almost anything goes when it comes to doctrine within that universal body?

Your final paragraph is a bit unclear to me - are you saying that I don't believe that church membership is a big deal? I might be misunderstanding you, but that is the farthest thing from my point. I'm saying that it is a really big deal. Membership in a church that preaches the true Gospel is more important than wealth, politics and even the members of one's own physical family.

You also seem to be saying that a Christian who does not join himself to a local, NT church is in rebellion - I agree with you strongly . . . and if that person persists in that rebellion, he will be confirmed in unbelief and go to hell.

Anonymous said...


1. You are missing my point. I am not undermining it. The NT uses the term translated as "church" in two ways.

The first way is to speak of a local assembly of baptized believers. The second way is to speak of Christ's body that is beyond a local assembly and something all believers are joined to. It is decidedly not local unless you want to refer to heaven as its location, as Heb 12 does. All believers are joined to this second assembly right now.

2. You skipped over where I quoted the relevant texts in 1 Cor 12. Yes, it addresses the local assembly. Each person is valuable and a full member of the body. The argument Paul makes is that that is exactly how Christ's body works as well. Paul was not a "member" of the Corinthian church yet had no problem including himself in the same body as them. That is a problem for your view, not mine.

3. As much as you local only types want to pin the universal church on the catholics, you can't do it if you are honest about history. The guilt by association only works on those who don't know their history. Irenaeus, famous for his antignosticism, spoke of the universal church 2 centuries before the catholic church started. If history is your judge, your local church only take is the modern view.

4. God wants us to teach membership because all believers are to be joined to the kind of church described in the NT. We are to exist as believers for more reasons than our own happiness.

5. It may surprise you that I do not believe in "self ordination" in any way. If the church does not recognize your "calling", a term I don't really use, then you aren't "called" by God.

Joshua Caucutt said...

"4. God wants us to teach membership because all believers are to be joined to the kind of church described in the NT. We are to exist as believers for more reasons than our own happiness."

And if we refuse this teaching . . . ?

Joshua Caucutt said...

To further address Hebrews 12 - the church that is present in heaven and the visible, local church are coextensive. One of those bodies does not include members who are not also a simultaneous member of the other body.

BTW, I'm not exactly sure who Pendleton and Graves are, but it sounds like I should read them. ;)

Anonymous said...

Josh, it sounds as it you would add church membership to the list of salvation requirements right next to faith. Don't forget, Judas was a member of a local church.

The Hebrews 12 text is true of anyone truly saved.

This is a bit of a rabbit trail at this point. This started with your assertion that there is no universal church. Heb 12 proves otherwise, along with 1 Cor 12 and Eph 1, 3, 4, and 5.

Take Eph 3:6 for example:

The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

According to you, Gentiles are only co-heirs in Christ if they are joined to a local church. Those poor believers in prisons. They are locked up in this life and the gospel is locked up to them for eternal life as well. Note the sarcasm.

Joshua Caucutt said...

You still have not answered the question. I believe that I can deal with all of your points, but if you cannot answer this question, the issue is moot:

"4. God wants us to teach membership because all believers are to be joined to the kind of church described in the NT. We are to exist as believers for more reasons than our own happiness."

And if we refuse this teaching . . . ?

Anonymous said...

Josh, simply ignoring everything and trying to boil it down to your one point or the whole thing is moot is rather weak. By the way, I followed the link of your profile to a site that explicitly believes in the universal church.

Regarding membership. It is a bigger issue than simple membership in any church. The NT speaks of the church is specific terms. "Churches" that do not rightly observe the ordinances are not truly a church at all. It would be foolish and unbiblical to push someone to be a "member" of a presbyterian or lutheran "church" as neither group rightly can be defined as a "church" according to the NT.

I do not deny that a person can truly be converted and still attend those religious institutions. You make it seem as though failure to be a member actually means they will be in hell.

The NT knows nothing of the presbyterian/lutheran type "churches" at all. The only legitimate membership then would have to be in a free church that rightly observes the ordinances. Salvation is not conditional on being joined to that though anywhere in the whole Bible.

This is why I asked if you were a landmarker and it appears as though you might not like the term but are toeing the same line as them.

All believers who fail to be a member or joined to a NT assembly is in rebellion. Such a person is not in danger of hell though.

So I teach membership because that is what the God said. I don't need another reason besides that although other reasons exist.

Joshua Caucutt said...

"All believers who fail to be a member or joined to a NT assembly is in rebellion."

We agree on this point, but I think we must add that a person who claims to be in Christ, but persists in rebellion will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What link are you talking about? SoundChurch or something else . . .?

barracudaenthusiast said...

We are from the Acts of God, are we not one then?

barracudaenthusiast said...

We all are created by God, even abraham, then we were one, were just getting back together, and knowing about it.