Covenants New and Old

In Jeremiah 31 there is an interesting proverb about fathers eating bitter grapes and children’s teeth being on edge. It seems significant to me (see my paper on paedobaptism) but I haven’t heard others make much of it. Dr. Carson today expressed my thoughts on the subject better than I have. He pointed out that the proverb demonstrates that the Old Covenant was tribal and representative. If a father sinned, his family came under judgment (see Joshua 7 and be honest, it only talks about the father’s guilt not his family’s yet they were all stoned), when David sinned the nation was punished, and so on. But the contrast is that in the New Covenant it won’t be like that. “Everyone will die for his own sin” (Jer 31:30). The nature of the New Covenant is that it is no longer tribal and representative.

In the discussion about infant baptism, those who hold a baptistic view are often challenged to produce a verse that commands the end of automatic infant inclusion in the covenant. Of course one cannot be found or we would not have a debate. What has happened is not that it simply ceased, but the very nature of the covenant has changed. Jeremiah 31:29-30 shows that and then the rest of the chapter goes on to restate it in the repeated refrain “from the least to the greatest.” This business about no one teaching his neighbor “know the Lord” (verse 34) is not abrogating teaching in the New Covenant (see 1Co 12:28-19 and Eph 4:11, Heb 5:12) but it is abrogating a representative teaching office where one person has the “inside track” to God and the other doesn’t. We all have the Spirit in the New Covenant (1 Jn 2:27).

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