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4-9 Abraham’s Faith, and Believer Baptism

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MBC – 4/2/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson

“Abraham’s Faith, and Believer Baptism”

Romans 4:9-12

2 Tim.3:16 says that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in rtnss. that the man of God might be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Sometimes our time in the Word is encouraging and comforting, and it gives us strength for our battles. Sometimes it is convicting and the HS uses it to purge us and purify us from sin. This morning, our study falls under the category of teaching—doctrine—and God says that you and I need doctrine to be adequate and equipped for every good work. And we need it so that we can stand strong in what we believe, and so that we can honor God by living according to His truth, and worshiping Him according to His truth. So get ready to think--

Ø      ROM 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?

Ø      ROM 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

Ø      ROM 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Ø      ROM 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.

Ø      ROM 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Ø      ROM 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

Ø      ROM 4:7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered.

Ø      ROM 4:8 "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

Ø      ROM 4:9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, [i.e., Jew] or on the uncircumcised [i.e., Gentile] also? For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness."

Ø      ROM 4:10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;

Ø      ROM 4:11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,

Ø      ROM 4:12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

We are going to divides this study into 2 parts, first we want to see why Paul keeps repeating himself on this doctrine of Sola Fide—salvation through faith alone. Then we are going to switch gears and see what this passage has to say about the issue of believer baptism vs. infant baptism.

Paul keeps beating the same drum again in ch.4: Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received by faith alone in Christ apart from any works. It was true of father Abraham, the spiritual father of all believers, he didn’t work for his salvation, he believed God and God credited rtnss. to his account. In vv.9-12, he adds that this happened before he was circumcised—i.e., even this important sign of the OC had nothing to do with his salvation. Hang on to that thought.

But why the repetition? And why has God sovereignly put Romans ch.4 into the life of MBC, and your life this morning? Why is the truth of Sola Fide--faith alone apart from works--so very important? (on the Pope here? . . .even so-called evangelicals don’t really understand the Gospel . . . )

1.)  Sola Fide humbles us and exalts God.

You and I are reminded of why we need to keep Sola Fide fresh in our minds whenever we find ourselves thinking, “Those Muslims or Catholics are so messed up! Those pagans and atheists are disgusting! Those homosexuals and pro-abortion baby murderers make me sick—when is God going to judge these people!” And at the same time, we are also thinking, “I’m not like that! I’m not that evil or illogical or immoral. I’m a Christian!”

Can you take any credit for that? Is it because you are smarter than those people, or more innately moral? Is it because of something in you that you trusted Christ and received eternal life and they didn’t? Do you have anything to boast about?

That old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,”—is absolutely true! If you are a Christian this morning, it’s only because of the mercy and goodness of God. If God hadn’t taken all the initiative to save you, you would still be stuck in darkness, and ignorance, and slavery to your sins. If your salvation was due to something you did, you might get some credit, but you didn’t do anything, you simply trusted Christ who did everything:

Ø      ROM 3:27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. . .

Ø      ROM 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith [Sola Fide] apart from works of the Law.

Ø      1CO 1:31 so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."

Sola Fide reminds us that when it comes to salvation, we do nothing, God through Christ, does everything! It doesn’t earn salvation like some kind of reward. Faith is self-renouncing, and self-emptying. It looks away from self, and toward Christ. So Sola Fide is self-humbling and God-exalting. We will see that about Abe--

Ø      ROM 4:20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,

Ø      ROM 4:21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

V.21 is a pretty good working definition of faith, isn’t it? Faith brings God glory because it magnifies His faithfulness and His saving mercy. In Lk. 18, Jesus tells the story about a Pharisee who stood boasting about how he was not like other sinners, he was a religious man—

Ø      LUK 18:13  "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

Ø      LUK 18:14  "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Sola Fide humbles us and exalts God. And there is no other way to be saved.

2.) Sola Fide keeps faith and works in their proper order.

False religion says, “Faith + works = justification.” The Gospel says, “Faith + 0 = justification.” But that’s not all it says. It says, “Faith + 0 = justification + good works.” Maybe you’ve heard it like this: “Salvation is by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” If you are truly justified through faith in Christ, you are a changed person—you have been born again by the Spirit of God! And there will be evidence that the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you—not perfection—but new actions, new speech, new affections: you love what you used to hate, and you hate what you used to love.

This is what Paul is getting at here in—

Ø      ROM 4:9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, [i.e., Jew] or on the uncircumcised [i.e., Gentile] also? For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness."

Ø      ROM 4:10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;

Ø      ROM 4:11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised,

The Jews of Paul’s day would have said, “Father Abraham was justified before God because of his faith plus his lawkeeping, especially circumcision.”

But Paul points out the chronology here: God reckoned rtnss. to Abe back in Gen.15:6—he wasn’t circumcised until ch.17! Now it’s true that Abe was obedient to God in being circumcised, but that was the evidence of his faith; Paul calls it the “sign and seal” of his faith. It was the proof that he knew God, and that he was a justified man, it wasn’t the cause of justification.

James makes the same point in Jms.2 when he says—

Ø      JAM 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? [Gen.22, but he isn’t using justified the way Paul does--]

Ø      JAM 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected [faith was manifested, faith reached its goal];

Ø      JAM 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," and he was called the friend of God.

Just remember this: Abe was justified by faith in Gen.15; received the seal of that faith—cir.—in Gen.17; and gave indisputable evidence of that faith in Gen.22

So good works and obedience are never the cause of our justification, but they are the sign and seal of our justification that comes Sola Fide!

3.) Sola Fide is the way God fulfills His promise to Abe.

There is another important reason that Paul brings up this issue of the chronology in Abe’s life. If circumcision is the mark of a true Jew, then technically, Abe was saved while still an uncircumcised Gentile! Why is this important? “ . . .so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them.” How was God going to keep His promise to Abe to make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky? Only by including Gentiles, and if Gentiles were to be included, then obviously cir. wasn’t required for salvation.

As a matter of fact, if keeping the Law of Moses were required, it would leave out anyone who didn’t have that law. But if justification is by faith alone, then it is open to all the nations. That was the point of what we saw in--

Ø      ROM 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Ø      ROM 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,

Ø      ROM 3:30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

I.e., If God is going to save Gentiles also, then salvation can’t require cir. or keeping the law of Moses, because Gentiles don’t have either! But salvation through faith in Christ alone means that an Eskimo in Iceland or an Aborigine in Australia can be a part of God’s promise to Abraham!

Now I want to stay with this same passage, but switch gears and see what this passage has to say about  

II. Believer baptism vs. infant baptism.

I’ll show you why some folks believe that Rom.4:11 is the most important reason why we should baptize infants. But before we deal with that passage, let me give you

A. 3 reasons why we don’t baptize infants.


We could say much, much more, but I want to sum up some of the most important reasons.

1.) Infant baptism is not in the Bible. No where. If you ask, “What does the Bible say about baptizing babies,” the answer is absolutely nothing! And “paedo-baptists” (people who practice infant baptism) acknowledge this. More than that, in the earliest days of the church, there is nothing said about babies being baptized:

A Lutheran professor, Curt Allen, after intensive study of infant baptism says, “There is no definite proof of the practice until after the 3rd century. . . this can not be contested.”

 So why do they do it? They say that infant baptism is based on a theological presupposition, which we will look at in a minute. And they say that infant baptism is implied in the three instances of "household baptisms" mentioned in Acts:

The household of Lydia:

Ø      ACT 16:14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

Ø      ACT 16:15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

There is no reason to assume that she had infants—because the church later met in her house, it’s possible that she was older, possibly widowed, and wealthy, with no young children. And there is no reason to assume that anyone was baptized who didn’t hear the Word and believe!

The household of the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:30-33;

Ø      ACT 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Ø      ACT 16:31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." [Now is Paul saying, “If you believe, every member of your family and all your servants are automatically saved.”? No. All who believe will be saved.]

Ø      ACT 16:32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.

Ø      ACT 16:33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

Ø      ACT 16:34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Again, no reason to assume babies were there, and it explicitly says that all who were baptized believed!

The household of Stephanus,

Ø      1 Corinthians 1:16: Paul says that he baptized the household of Stephanas, but again, no reason to assume unbelieving infants were baptized—that would go against what we read in the NT.

So the first reason we don’t baptize babies is because it isn’t in the Bible.

2.) The NT pattern is always, “believe and be baptized.” In every New Testament command and instance of baptism, faith precedes baptism. We saw this in Acts. Infants are incapable of faith so they are not to be baptized. Let me show you 2 passages that explicitly connect faith with baptism in a way that would exclude babies--

Ø      COL 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Baptism only has meaning if it is the expression of faith in the working of God. Peter expresses the same idea--

Ø      1PE 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

That is a striking statement: "baptism now saves you"--but Peter adds without taking a breath--not the removal of dirt from the flesh—i.e., not literal water baptism--! Peter would not contradict what we have already seen in Romans: that no physical act or ritual makes a person right with God. But we have to read on: what saves is "an appeal to God for a good conscience." I.e., faith in the working of God, which is expressed in baptism.

If you have the NAS, the word "appeal" is not the best translation. I believe the KJV translation is the right one here: "The answer of a good conscience toward God." The answer. The word doesn’t mean an appeal or question, it means an answer or response. In ancient papyri discovered by archaeologists, this word occurs in legal contracts where a person would be asked to "sign on the dotted line."  "Will you pledge that you will do such-and-such?" "Yes, I pledge to do such-and-such." Now let me put this together--

Ø      In the early church, when a Christian came to the baptismal waters, that person would be asked certain questions: "Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God? Do you trust in Him alone to save you from judgment, and do you pledge yourself to turn from your sins and follow Him as your Lord and Savior? Are you one who has died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and risen in Christ?" 

The person would respond: “Yes, I believe,” and they were baptized as a sign and seal of their belief and confession of Christ. So Peter is saying, “It is faith in Christ, (which is pictured and sealed in baptism), that saves you.

This passage alone should be enough to prove the point that baptism is only for those who can give the response of faith to the Spirit's questions! Baptism is not for babies who can't give that answer. It is not a sign of God’s promise that He will save them later if they believe. It’s not a sign of the faith of parents or godparents. It isn’t the sign of a promise of God to save those who might later believe--it is the sign God has given for those who do believe.

Ø      *By the way, I sometimes hear Protestants talking about being godparents. Don’t do that! It is completely unbiblical. It is a Roman Catholic invention, based upon the heretical teachings of the Council of Trent in the 16th century. A godparent is a spiritual proxy who is substituting his or her faith for the baby who can’t believe or speak. So it’s not a nice, sweet thing to do, it’s a denial of Scripture and a denial of the Gospel.

3.) The Jerusalem Council never mentioned infant baptism.

Before I explain this, let me back up: One of the peskiest problems Paul faced in his preaching of the Gospel was Jews who were telling Gentiles: You must be circumcised to be saved. They literally followed him and tried to undermine his ministry by telling new Gentiles converts this. Now the basic reason that Paedo-baptists believe what they believe is because they say that God’s people cir. their babies under the OC, and now, God’s people baptize their babies as the sign of the NC. But why didn’t Paul turn to these deceivers and say, “Hey, infant baptism has taken the place of infant cir., now leave me alone!” Do you see that? He never ever said anything like that!

Jerusalem Council: Every Christian should be familiar with what happened in Acts 15. It is a milestone in church history. Gentiles were getting saved. The question arose: “Do Gentiles have to keep the Law of Moses? Do they have to circumcise their little boys? I.e., Do you have to become a Jew first to become a Christian?” This was a huge, major

Issue. And it still is: Are Christians under the law of Moses? Are we under the dietary laws, should we be under the Jewish civil laws (some Christians say yes), are we under the Sabbath Law? (And if we are then you are absolutely forbidden to ever work on Sundays—and don’t use that ox in the ditch excuse—you’re not an ox!)

The Council’s decision was—no. Gentiles are not required to become Jews in order to become Christians! They didn’t command Gentiles to keep the Sabbath or circumcise their babies. This was like the Magna Carta for Gentile Christians!

So what does this have to do with infant baptism? It’s this:

Ø      Why didn’t the Apostles and Elders say, “Hey, the solution to this cir. issue is simple, infant baptism has taken the place of circumcision, so just keep baptizing your little Gentile babies, and everyone go home!” It’s inconceivable that if we are supposed to baptize our babies, they wouldn’t have mentioned it here!

B. Why paedo-baptists use Rom.4:11 to support infant baptism.

Now let me explain why PB say that Romans 4:11 is the linchpin verse for their position.

As I said, infant is not found explicitly in the Scriptures, it’s based on the idea that there is a correspondence between circumcision and baptism. Just as circumcision was given as a sign to the "children of the covenant" in the Old Testament, so baptism - the new sign of the covenant - should be given to the "children of the covenant" today.

Ø      The Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God (from 350 years ago) says, "The seed and posterity of the faithful born within the church have by their birth an interest [a share] in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church under the gospel, not less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament."

In other words, the children of Christian believers today belong to the visible church by virtue of their birth and should then receive the sign and seal of the covenant just as the eight-day-old infants of Israelites did in the Old Testament. That is the main argument.

How does Romans 4:11 seem to support this? It says that Abe’s cir. was the sign and seal of the faith which he had while uncircumcised." Now that’s what I just said about baptism in 1 Pet.3:21, that baptism is the sign and seal of the faith that we had before we get baptized.

So cir. and baptism seem to signify the same thing, and God commanded Jewish baby boys to be cir., so if circumcision was given to children who don't yet have faith, then why shouldn’t baptism can be given to the children of Christians even though they don't yet have faith?

And you will hear PD say, “How could God withhold something from children of NC families that He gave to OC families? I .e., they got a cool sign, why wouldn’t we?”

C. Our response


First of all, if you say, baptism takes the place of cir. under the NC, and just take Rom.4:11 at face value, would it support infant baptism or believer baptism?

Abe was cir. after he believed! It would support believer baptism! But we still have this issue that God commanded Jewish boys to be cir. before they could believe.

The main problem with this argument is that it is base upon a wrong assumption: That God’s people in the Old Testament are exactly the same as God’s people today. Or you could say that to be under the OC is the same as to be under the NC, therefore, OC babies were circumcised, NC babies should be baptized. But that is a mistaken assumption.

Turn with me to Romans 9:6-8:

Ø      ROM 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;

Ø      ROM 9:7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: "through Isaac [not Ishmael] your descendants will be named."

Ø      ROM 9:8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.

Do you see what Paul is saying? There were two "Israels": a physical Israel and a spiritual Israel within physical Israel. The true Israel, the believing Israel was called “the remnant.” We’ll call physical Israel, “Big Israel,” and the remnant, “Little Israel.”

I.e., God’s covenant people in the Old Testament were mixed. They were all physical Israelites who were circumcised, but within that national-ethnic group there was a smaller remnant of the true Israel, the true children of God (verse 8). They were all physically circumcised, but only the remnant had what Jeremiah called circumcised hearts. I.e., not all of God’s covenant people were saved, in fact, most were not!

But through the death and res. of Christ, a New Covenant began! You can go back and get CD’s of our sermons on Heb.8 to learn more about the differences between the OC and the NC, but the major difference is that the people of God are defined differently:

Ø      Jer.31:34: “They shall all know Me!”

Ø      God’s covenant people under the OC included unbelievers. God’s people under the NC are all and only believers! You got into the OC through birth. You only get into the NC through the new birth!

Until you are saved by grace, through faith, you are not under the NC. That’s very different than the way it was under the OC.

Now let me put this together for you if I can: Folks who believe in infant baptism believe that the church is the continuation of Israel: when you were born into OC Israel, you received the sign of cir., when you are born into the NC church, you receive the sign of the NC—baptism.

But what we’ve seen is that the church is not a straight across continuation of God’s people in the OT. So what are we? Are you ready? This is going to clear a lot of things up for you: the church—God’s people under the NC—is not a continuation of the Big Israel. The church is a continuation of the remnant--Little Israel!

Do you see that? The church today isn’t the same as Big Israel, which was a mixed group, the church today like the remnant, Little Israel, who all had faith.

So who do we baptize? Not those who are simply born into a Christian family, but those who are born again—through faith—just like Abraham had--

Ø      GAL 3:6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Ø      GAL 3:7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

Now father Abraham had many sons . . . Ishmael was a circumcised son of Abraham—like Isaac. Ishmael is called the “seed” of Abraham—just like Isaac. But only Isaac was the son of the promise. Isaac represents the remnant—those who share Abe’s faith—those who are justified by faith alone. All Jews were Abe’s physical children, but only those who shared his faith were his children of the promise. But Ga.4:28 says about every Christian: “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise!”

Who is to be baptized? Not the physical children, but the spiritual children, those who have faith. And the only way the NT defines faith is in terms of rational belief, and an ability to confess that belief, to give that response from a good conscience.

God’s people under the OC were defined ethnically. But under the NC, God’s people are not defined by race, or gender, or social status, but by faith alone. And this is why we stand historically with those Christians who believe that Scripture teaches that only believers are to be baptized as a sign and seal of that faith.

Don’t lean on externals. . .God looks at your heart. . .

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