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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The dangerous error of Covenant Succession Part 4

III. The Fallacy of Covenant Succession Ejected
Not only do the passages of Scriptures often referred to by the exponents of covenant succession, offer no support to the concept, there are also a whole raft of other issues, doctrines and passages of Scripture that this fallacy contradicts:

1. This fallacy involves a time division of the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation where there ought to be none. While there is a logical order that can be attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption and the beginning of sanctification, there is actually no time difference. The division made in these matters is never a time related one, it is a logical one to help our understanding.

This work of the Holy Spirit cannot in this circumstance be separated by a period of time, long or short. Once a sinner is effectually called and regenerated, that new life immediately expresses itself in faith and repentance, which brings about justification, adoption and the beginnings of sanctification. It is not possible for new life to be in the soul of a sinner, by virtue of regeneration, and that new life not express itself in faith and repentance. These are the first acts of a newborn soul. They follow on immediately from regeneration.

This division of time impacts upon what is known as the 'Order of Salvation' or 'Ordo salutis', which describes in logical order and outlines the inter-relationship between the various movements of the Holy Spirit in the application of Redemption. While dividing them into a logical order we must never forget the unitary nature of the work of redemption. There are parts which allow no time division.

Yet those who hold to this form of covenant succession believe that a child can be regenerated in the womb, or in infancy, and yet not come to faith and repentance until a time much later in life, maybe even years later.  For them there is a time delay. Regeneration can have taken place, according to them, but faith and repentance does not take place to much later. This is not in keeping with the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul of a sinner.

2. If faith and repentance do not take place in the womb, then neither can regeneration take place in the womb. Faith and repentance are gifts from God, that are conveyed by the Holy Spirit to a sinner, through the preaching of the Word of God, Romans 10:17: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God

There must on the part of the sinner be the ability to understand the Word. This is evident from Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost. He first preached the word to the understanding, cf. Acts 2:37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? The word 'heard' has the meaning of hearkening or comprehending something. This example of the Apostles' preaching is a warning against preaching that only ever addresses the emotions. The preaching of Peter was first addressed to the understanding. When those ordained to eternal life that day, heard and understood what was being said, regeneration took place and with it came faith and repentance. 

This cannot happen in the womb or to a child in infancy. Unborn children, and those in infancy, do not yet have the ability to understand. They may have the ability to hear but not to understand or comprehend. The Scriptures speak of children who could not discern their right hand from their left. With age comes understanding. If faith and repentance is not possible, because of a lack of understanding, then regeneration cannot take place either, for when regeneration does take place it must be immediately followed by faith and repentance. 

Granted there are exceptions to this general rule. As you would expect, these exceptions actually go to establish the general rule. John the Baptist, as noticed in a previous post, was an exception, being filled from his mother's womb with the Holy Spirit.

The Westminster divines acknowledged two other exceptions in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 10 on Effectual Calling, section 3 reads: Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how He pleaseth: so also, are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

The two exceptions are 'elect infants' and the 'uncapable'. The fact that the Westminster divines use the terms here, that they do, is highly significant. In their minds infants are not as a general rule, regenerated in infancy. It is only 'elect infants' dying in infancy who are thus regenerated. Do not some of the children of believers die in infancy? The answer obviously is: Yes! But according to this fallacy these infants, being the 'covenant children' of believers would have been regenerated already. If this were so then why would the Westminster divines single out elect infants as a special category who are an exception to the general rule outlined in the previous sections of chapter 10 of the Confession? Section 1 of Chapter 10 reads: All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace

The same question can be applied to those who are described as the 'uncapable'. Do believers not have children at times who fall into this category? Again the obvious answer is: Yes. But according to the fallacy, that believers' children are regenerated in the womb, they would not need to be regenerated and they would not need to be singled out as a separate class who are an exception to the general rule. 

3. This fallacy challenges the doctrine of effectual calling. The nature of effectual calling is outlined in the above quotation from the Westminster Confession. God is pleased to effectually call sinners to Himself "by His Word and Spirit". He does this "by enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God." The statement in Chapter 10, section 3 of the Confession, also recognises the reality of the effectual calling of sinners through the ministry of the Word. 

However, according to this form of 'Covenant Succession' there is a question mark over the place that the Word of God does have in regeneration/effectual calling of believers' children. In effectual calling/regeneration these 'covenant children', in the womb or infancy, do not have their minds spiritually and savingly enlightened to understand the things of God. They are not capable of being so enlightened. How exactly does a 'covenant child' then become regenerated in the womb or in infancy? There must be another, alternative definition, of regeneration/effectual calling that is not in the Scriptures or generally known or acknowledged? 

4. This fallacy undermines the place of preaching that God has ordained. The primary means of enlarging the kingdom of God is through the saving of the children of God's people. It is the children of believers, more than any other, who are under the influence of the Word of God. It would be no surprise that this is therefore the case. Furthermore, the chief means by which God saves souls generally is by the foolishness of preaching. Again this much is obvious from the Scriptures. 

Surely there is an undermining of these two, well established, truths by those who hold to this fallacy. They deny the need for the foolishness of preaching in the conversion of their children. After all, they see no need to 'evangelise' the children of believers. They only need 'nurture' and 'discipline'. The term 'nurture' does not equate with 'preaching' in the New Testament. They have different meanings.

Therefore, if the kingdom of God is extended primarily from among the children of God's people; and according to this fallacy, these same children don't need the foolishness of preaching to save them; then the foolishness of preaching is not the chief means that God employs to save souls. The foolishness of preaching is a lesser means only to be employed in the presentation of the gospel to the heathen. Can this be right?

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