Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | November 3, 2006

Colossians – Part 10.3 (A Heavenly Citizenship)

The following is sort of an addendum or follow up to yesterday’s entry in an analogy form.  This was also written during the same period and I ought to correct myself it was actually 4 or 5 years ago (I am getting old):

Heavenly Citizenship:  As the Covenant people of God we are aliens and foreigners while in this world, yet we are citizens of a heavenly community (Philippians 3:20-21).  Thus, as citizens of heaven we all possess a physical sign and seal of our citizenship that is baptism.  This baptism is the sign of faith that is given to all people who are in this Covenant of Grace with God.  There may have been foreigners that came from another land to seek this citizenship.  However, in order to receive this citizenship they had to go through an initiatory rite that shows their loyalty to their new community (Ephesians 2:19).  On the other hand, if the parents were already citizens their children automatically are able to receive the sign and seal by birth right.  This is the benefit that comes with the citizenship that the offspring of the parents become part of the community.  Nonetheless, even though this benefit is provided to the offspring they could betray their citizenship and become traitors or enemies to the community.  Or they may temporarily be in rebellion and abandon their country, only to return at a time in the future to participate in their God given citizenship.  This is very similar to the concept of national citizenship in our own country.  If we are born to parents that are citizens, we automatically become citizens.  We receive a sign of our citizenship in a birth certificate that is sealed by the state authority.  We did not have to make a conscious decision to accept our birth certificate, it was a benefit given to us for having parents that are part of the nation.  The citizenship, however, could be rejected in the future by becoming a traitor (like John Walker Lind) who renounces the citizenship.  Or it could be rejected only temporarily due to a rebellious period in life, only to return to the nation and embrace its beliefs.  Also, a foreigner is able to receive citizenship through naturalization.  This foreigner comes from another land, learns the cultural history, embraces it and swears allegiance during a ceremony to become a citizen.  This ceremony then signifies that the foreigner has become a part of the nation and receives a document or sign to confirm this new status.  This new citizen gains all the rights that come with citizenship and whose children will also inherit the benefit of citizenship.  This is how God has chosen to operate throughout history both in the Old and New Testament.  In Israel during the Old Testament, these distinctions were very clear between them and the nations around them.  For them, circumcision was the sign of their inclusion in the nation, which all members had to receive.  Whether they were born into it or were proselytes at a later age they all received the sign of the covenant.  In the New Testament, God’s covenant people receive the sign of baptism that signifies their inclusion in the kingdom.  Those who came to faith late in life had to be sworn in and receive the sign of citizenship as adults.  As citizens of God’s Kingdom, there children can receive the sign from birth and do not have wait like a foreigner.  This was the normal order for God’s Covenant people for nearly 3,500 years.  However, in the last few centuries a growing change has emerged that rejects the right for covenant parents to put the sign on their children.  This movement is probably the majority in the American Christian community who only administer the sign to professing adults.  Should we treat our children as foreigners?  Why this significant shift in the order of things?  Advocates of this view stress the importance of giving the sign of faith only to those who are able to profess faith.  This sounds sensible, however God has not operated this way with His people throughout history.  The American nation is unique in that it is one of the oldest Democratic Republic nations, which gives citizens individual rights and freedoms.  Everybody receives these rights and privileges, which are very different than what the rest of the world had to endure.  These rights are defended, esteemed very highly and exported to the rest of the world.  As we’ve discussed earlier, the Gnostic movement gained momentum due to the overwhelming syncretism or blending with the surrounding Greek culture.  Likewise, the syncretistic tendencies of American Christianity, has mixed matters of faith with the beliefs of the surrounding culture.  Everybody has the personal right to make their own choices within the freedoms provided by the nation.  The American takes pride in this and takes delight in nothing more than others making individual choices as well.  Thus, with the matter of faith an extremely important part of any religion is choosing it and making it personnel to oneself.  Another prevailing view in the American culture is the need for self-actualization or to be self made.  These views of individuality have obviously impacted the way Christians approach their faith.  They have allowed the views of the culture to be integrated with their faith.  However, if we’ve learned from Church history or the history of Israel the people of God, although in the world need to remain separate (Ezra 9:1-2).   The parent’s who choose to put the covenant sign on their children, are seen as taking away this right of personnel choice.  Therefore, people who do go against this tide are seen as lesser or not as pure in their doctrine.  Nonetheless, infant baptism is Biblical it is God’s sign for His people not man’s sign for himself.  However, with the rising belief in personnel autonomy infant baptism is seen as a violation to that “right and privilege” of making ones own freewill decision.  The ecstatic experience of professing personal faith in God is seen as the benefit of the sign of baptism.  This rush of adrenalin is not experienced in the baptism of an infant who is not even cognizant of what is going on.  Yet, which of these better demonstrate how a person is saved?  They would tell you the person who proclaims faith.  This is true to a point and is a beautiful sign for a new believer.  However, isn’t the helpless appearance of an infant a better demonstration of how God saves us from the wrath we deserve?  This helpless little person is totally dependent on God for everything in life including the faith that will save his soul (Matthew 18:3-4).  In fact, this is what the baptism is signifying, which is God’s promise to keep His covenant with His people by sending His Son to redeem them by grace, through faith.  It signifies their identification with His death, burial and resurrection thus, making it abundantly clear that baptism is God’s sign.  God forbid that we neglect putting the sign of the covenant on our children until they reach a certain level of knowledge.  This is not something to be taken lightly, Moses was almost killed by God for not putting the sign on his sons (Exodus 4:24-26).  As we see in this example, faith wasn’t a prerequisite for Moses to put the sign of faith on his sons.  The sign is not what saves, God saves by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Nonetheless, we are to give this sign to all of our children just as the state gives them a birth certificate to confirm their citizenship.  Then as covenant parent’s we do not rest in the sign alone, but train up our children in the ways of the Lord that they may also follow in our faith.  That they will in turn give their children the sign and train them also.  Although, the sign of faith has changed the promise of God has not and for generations reaching over 3,500 years it is this that sign continues to be given (1 Pet 3:21-22).                                            

Scripture’s referred to above:

1 Peter 3:21-22:  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, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and power had been subjected to Him.

Exodus 4:24-26:  Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death.  Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.”  So He let him alone.  At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood” – because of the circumcision.

Matthew 18:3-4:  Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Ezra 9:1-2:  Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites.  For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has intermingled with the peoples of the lands; indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness.”   

Ephesians 2:19:  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household

Philippians 3:20-21:  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself

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