Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Household of Faith (Part 4)

III. A Biblical Household and Baptism

Finally then, we want to consider a biblical household and baptism. The majority of the baptisms in the NT in which an individual is named, include the baptism of his or her whole household as well. It is not the case that those who were baptized believed and therefore they were baptized—in some cases that was surely the case—but that is not at all said to be the case with every person baptized. Rather the reason given in Scripture is that members of the household were baptized because they were members of the household of a new believer.

A. The Philippian Jailer

A clear understanding of this text has been hindered by some unclear translation. Some translations read that the jailer rejoiced, having believed in God with his whole household. The implication of that translation is that his whole household believed as well. But that is not what the Greek says or implies. Rather the Greek is clear and precise here, and the ESV has gotten it right saying, And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

You see the jailer was called to believe for the saving of him and his household. He believed, and therefore he and his whole household were baptized. And at that moment this Greek Oikos Household became a Covenant Home. Every member of that household became a member of the Church—the Body of Christ—no matter whether there were wives or children, infants or little ones, slaves or servants in the household, they were baptized into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and now considered to be part of the Household of God.

B. Noah

In fact there is a parallel to the Philippian Jailer’s belief and baptism that is cited numerous times throughout the NT. The early, post-Apostolic Fathers recognized this parallel, among many, and saw a typological reference to households and NT baptism in the OT account of Noah and the flood. Clearly, they did not make this up, but were led to think this way from the Bible itself.

In 2 Peter 2:5, we read concerning God that, …if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; then He can surely rescue the righteous today and condemn the ungodly. Again referencing Noah, we read in Hebrews 11:7,

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The terminology and concepts here, are almost identical to that of the account that we are considering of the Philippian jailer: There is the faith of the head of the home and because of his faith, the saving of his household.

In fact all of this is clarified even further, and the connection between Noah believing and saving his household through the ark with the believing heads of households and the saving of their families through baptism in the NT, is cemented when Peter says in 1 Peter 3:20-21

…God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Noah and his faith and his bringing his household into the ark and thereby bringing salvation to that home, is a parallel to Christian baptism and the head of the household’s faith and the whole household being baptized because of the head’s faith.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Freudian Christianity

[NOTE: The brief comments I originally posted with this link (they were up less than 24 hours) were confusing in that it seemed I was potentially slandering Wilson with the accusation of being liberal and loose in his stance towards cussing and drinking. I regret any confusion on that matter that I may have caused. My intention was to note a connection on an entirely different level.]

The following article by Carl Truman is excellent...

...he puts his finger on the particularly American problems of independency and novelty that have spawned such "children" as Doug Wilson and the Federal Vision. In saying this I am not making a connection between the practical symptoms that Truman chooses to address (cussing and drinking) and Doug Wilson (I do not know his practice in either of these areas). The connection I see between the article and Wilson, and the FV, is in Truman's observation that, “I would extrapolate and say that some of the least attractive aspects of the modern Reformed world in particular can be fruitfully studied from the perspective of Oedipal rebellion against parents.”

Well worth the time it takes to read...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Household of Faith (Part 3)

II. A Biblical Household

Now while the proceeding might be all fine and good, we are Reformed Christians. We form our theology from the Bible, and the Bible alone. When it comes to the question of how we are going to understand the household baptisms of the NT, we must let the Bible define the issue for us. In fact our Confession states (WCF 1.9),

“The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.”

So what is a household in the Bible? What is the Bible referring to when it says, “household?”

A. Household in the OT

For sake of time, we will not delve further into creation and its ramifications on how we understand a household, but rather let’s hit the most obvious and clearest passages which bear on this matter. In Genesis 45:17-19, after Joseph has proved himself to be a faithful and wise overseer for Pharaoh, we read,

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come.

So on this account, the “household” included the little ones and…wives. In the account of David eating the showbread when he was on the run from Saul, and the help that Ahimelech had given him, we read in the next chapter, 1 Samuel 22, that Saul punished Ahimelech and condemnation came upon his household (1 Sam. 22:16, 19),

And the king said, “You shall surely die, Ahimelech, you and all your father’s house.”…And Nob, the city of the priests, he put to the sword; both man and woman, child and infant, ox, donkey and sheep, he put to the sword.

So here again, a “household” comprehended all the living members of the family: man and woman, child and infant. The head of the home made the determination—federally—for the rest of the family. The ramifications of the choices of the head of the family came upon the whole household. Thus we have Joshua declaring (Josh. 24:15), But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And we have Ruth declaring her allegiance to, and submission under, Naomi’s new head-of-house status (Ruth 1:16-17):

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”

So a household in the OT included all the men, women, children, and servants of the family. And as went the head of the household, so went the rest of the family.

B. Household in the NT

Has this changed in the NT? In fact it has not. The same household concept that is seen in the OT is found as clearly and definitely in the NT as well.

When Paul is laying down the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy, he states that a man who is going to serve in that office (1 Tim. 3:4-5),

…must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?

In the same letter, giving instructions to Timothy about welfare issues he says, (1 Tim. 5:4, 8):

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God…But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

In the NT children are comprehended in the definition of a “household”. And in fact God declares that His Church is His household, again from 1 Timothy (3:15):

…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God.

So at this point an important question needs to be considered: Does God have children in His Household? Are children to be understood as part of the Church?

The resounding answer to that question is an undeniable “YES!”. Turn a moment to the book of Ephesians. In chapter 2 Paul says (Eph. 2:19):

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family (fatherhood) in heaven and on earth is named,

In chapter 4:11-14, he speaks about the nature of the Church and its Ministry, and that God has given ministers to the Church so that we may grow up to manhood and no longer be children tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. This assumes that not all are mature in the Body of Christ and that there will be a need to grow up and mature to attain manhood. Not only is Paul speaking spiritually here, but as he goes on to address individuals in the body with specific instructions, it is clear that he is also addressing real parents and real children.

In 5:1 he begins, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (i.e. as members of the Household of God) And then what follows is instruction to every member of the household. In 5:22-25, Wives, submit to your own husbands, …Husbands, love your wives. In 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents…(again) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, and then the instruction but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

You see, children are considered to be part of the body of Christ…they are being taught and addressed as members of the Body of Christ. And this again is ‘household’ language. In fact there is even the inclusion of “slaves” as part of the Body here (6:5-9) Slaves, obey your earthly masters. In fact in the parallel to this teaching that Paul gives to the Colossians he succinctly addresses all the members of the household in a few verses saying (Col. 3:18-22):

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, letting the Bible define its own terms, a biblical “household” includes husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and children and slaves.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Christians are Hated in Modern America

It is no secret that hostilities are mounting against Christians in America. In a recent article by a conservative Rabbi at WorldNetDaily, there was an impressive list of books that evidence the growing disdain and assualt on the "Religious Right". But why? What is going on?

The answer to why Christians are hated in America is no doubt complex, but I would like to forward one contributing reason. To set the stage for the answer, I would like you to image for a moment a scene from high school.

Think about the "cool crowd". Remember the "in-crowd" and how they acted like they were the only ones that mattered? Think about how important being "cool" was to them all. Recall how what they wore, what they listened to, what they were into, how they talked, was so important to them...they acted like they owned the various things they were into and they dispised anyone else who dared to try to enjoy the things that they liked...

...Now think about some uncool kid trying to fit in with the "in-crowd". Think about his pathetic attempts to be like them...act like them, talk like them, dress like them. He follows them around and for a while they simply laugh at him and make fun of him...but he doesn't go away. Now he is annoying them and infringing on their "cool".

Now, do you remember the cool kids liking the fact that this geek was trying to imitate them and be like them? Did they just shrug off the fact that he was infringing on their "cool"? No. They begin to hate him and openly ridicule him and sometimes even beat him up...

All in all the entire scene is sad: both the cool kids and the geek. The cool kids are so superficial and self-important, as if their music or their clothing really mattered. How ridiculuous and childish to think that others can't be into the same stuff as you are... And the geek is sad too, trying to be like these kids who aren't worth emulating. He thinks that he will be someone if he is like them, when in fact, if he actually attains his goal and becomes like them and they accept him...he will have gained nothing of value...become a nobody...will have lost his soul.

Are you beginning to get the picture? American non-Christians are the "cool" kids. The Church in America is the "geek kid". They hate us and are publicly ridiculing us because we have not gone away. We have pressed in and "stolen" their culture. We copy everything they do and try to be like them at every turn...and they despise us for it.

Yet we think that they want us to be like them, and in fact we have the stupid idea that if we pretend to be like them, they will ultimately realize that they should actually be like us! But what is "us". We have done nothing but tell them by our geeky following of them, that they in fact are who we want to be like. We esteem them and are trying to be like them! How are they ever going to understand that we think they should be like us when we only copy them?

Christians are hated in modern America because when modern America looks out the window at the Church, it sees a geek trying to be cool, and now it is getting annoying.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Household of Faith (Part 2)

I. A Household

A. Human Culture

It may sound odd at first, but the debate over infant baptism hinges as much on cultural issues as it does upon theological issues. We are Western Individualists—products of the Enlightenment—and we consciously or unconsciously repel the idea that anything external to ourselves affects or can determine our destiny. We choose, we determine, we will, and nobody can put a constraint upon us…we are philosophical, social, and cultural Arminians.

We teach our children that they can be anything that they want to be when they grow up and we teach them explicitly or implicitly that if they “believe in themselves” they can accomplish anything. Thus we teach them that “faith” is a self-actualizing tool that they have at their disposal to make themselves into what they want to be—not a Divine gift granted by God to the elect so that they can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

The EnLIGHTenment was a reaction against, and throwing off of, the DARK Ages. It was a rejection of the Old world and its structures and constraints, and a move into the New world of the SELF and freedom.

When Paul and Silas answered the Philippian jailer here saying (16:31), “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” they used the Greek term oikos, which the jailer would have understood in terms of his time and culture…not ours…an old world understanding; not a new world understanding. The Wikipedia online Encyclopedia defines it this way: “An oikos is the ancient Greek equivalent of a household, house, or family. An oikos was the basic unit of society in most Greek city-states, and included the head of the oikos (usually the oldest male), his extended family (wife and children), and slaves living together in one domestic setting.”

In other words, parallel to the Hebrew concept of the Covenant Family, is the Greek concept of the Oikos Household. A man’s household included everything that was his: His wife, his children, and his slaves. Thus it would not have been just the Hebrew who would have understood the promises as being to his children, as would have naturally be expected—as the men of Jerusalem would have on the Day of Pentecost when Peter proclaimed, “For the promise is for you and your children…”—but the Greek would also have naturally understood this kind of offer—as the Philippian jailer did here, when Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”.

B. God’s Nature

You see, what is under girding all of this is that even though man has suppressed the knowledge of God in unrighteousness, bits and parts of God’s nature are still found reflected in His creation. Paul says concerning unrighteous men and cultures (Rom. 1:19-20),

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature (or “Godhead”), have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The whole household concept that is found in every culture is a reflection of the very being of God—His nature; His Godhead. The Greek Oikos Household and the Hebrew Covenant Family are both grounded in the person of God. These conceptions of the family existed in the Old world because all men are God’s creatures and though fallen, they still reflect to some degree His image.

Therefore, God has always and only dealt covenantally with households—that is, parents and children being considered as organically connected; federal units of society—the Oikos Household among the Greeks or the Covenant Family among the Hebrews—when He has dealt with mankind. God dealing this way is a vital aspect of every single Covenant administration that He has established with man, and it is this way because it comes from the very nature of God Himself.

Thus this mode of dealing with mankind—by family units—was not temporary or typological, but rather moral and permanent. Like the moral law of God, God would have to sooner pass away than His law pass away, because it is in fact a reflection of His own character. And in fact this principle and mode of dealing with mankind is enshrined in the moral Law—the Ten Commandments—and the reason that it is based upon is the actual nature of God Himself. Concerning why we should not engage in false worship God says (Ex. 20:5-6),

…I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

That is dealing with mankind as covenantal family or according to the Oikos Household because that is who God is! Later when Moses desires to see the Lord and His glory, God proclaims His glory and character to Moses saying (Ex. 34:6-7)

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

And this is why the Bible says that every household or headship or fatherhood derives its name from Him, as Paul said (Eph. 3:14-15),

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family (Lit. “fatherhood”) in heaven and on earth is named,

We are a culture that is in rebellion against God. We are trying to remove every vestige of God’s remembrance from our lives and we are trying to change the natural order and definition of things such as marriage and the family. But God has not changed and He has not changed the way that He deals with mankind. And He has not stopped dealing with households because He cannot…that is who He is and that is how He has made us. Thus while we must love our brethren of different persuasions—and I do love those of you who differ with us here—we must reject aberrant philosophies such as Individualism and Feminism, as well as errant theologies such as Arminianism and anti-Infant baptism. These beliefs are all ultimately inconsistent with the very being of God Himself as He has revealed Himself in both nature and Scripture. Every individual is comprehended as being part of a larger family unit—a household. Every household has a covenant head. And every covenant headship is modeled on God’s own federal headship over creation, and all works that way because of who God is.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Household of Faith (Part 1)

Over the next few weeks I intend to post a 5-part series on household baptisms in the New Testament. This was originally a sermon which I preached to my congregation ( before the baptism of one of our covenant children, but I think that it can be read with profit as well. Please read Acts 16:25-34 before you read further.


Before us today is the often quoted—but most often, partially quoted—succinct, apostolic answer to the Philippian jailer’s question: What must I do to be saved? In this apostolic answer, there is a solid affirmation of the divine promises of the Covenant of Grace. God had sworn to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations and that through his Seed all the nations of the world would be blessed with salvation. And now, in the Book of Acts, we are seeing the fulfillment of those promises given to Abraham—the promises of the everlasting Covenant of Grace—being fulfilled as the good news of Jesus—the Seed of Abraham—is being preached from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and into the uttermost parts of the earth. As Paul says (Gal. 3:8-9),

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

But you see, even as it was with Abraham, when God calls a person into the Covenant of Grace, He claims Lordship over the man and his entire household. And so even as God said to Abraham (Gen. 17:7)…,

I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

…He is here saying to the Philippian jailer—a Gentile (Acts 16:31): “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

And just as the sign and seal of righteousness by faith—circumcision (Rom. 4:11)—was applied not only to believing Abraham, but to all the males in his household (Gen. 17:11-13)…,

You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.

…so also we read here of the believing Philippian jailer, that not only did he receive the sign and seal of salvation by faith—baptism (Col. 2:11-12), but that his entire household was baptized (Acts 16:33), and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

This then brings us face-to-face with the subject of “household baptisms”. The account here in Acts 16 is one of 5 household baptisms that we know of in the New Testament. In fact there are only 9 persons mentioned in the NT specifically as having been baptized: In Acts we read of the Ethiopian eunuch, Simon Magus, Saul who became Paul, Cornelius, Lydia, the Philippian jailer, and Crispus, and from 1 Corinthians, we learn of Gauis and Stephanas.

Two of these specifically mentioned, most likely did not have any immediate families: the Ethiopian eunuch and Paul. And concerning two of these specifically mentioned, we are not told anything concerning whether they had families or not: Simon Magus and Gauis. Concerning the 5 other individuals that are mentioned in the NT as having been baptized, we know that they had households, and in each case their households were baptized with them.

In the studies to come, we will consider first, generally speaking, "a household", then "a biblical household", and then finally "a biblical household and baptism".