Summary: Man's religion is at war with God's revelation.
“God has no grandchildren is an old saying that expresses a life and death truth.” In the early days of the Congregational Churches in Puritan (Separatist) America, a matter in close connection to this statement arose. The half way controversy arose over the matter of whether children of baptized but unconverted people should be allowed to be baptized as infants, as was the custom of these theologically reformed Congregationalists. In an answer to this question the Half-Way Covenant was adopted as a solution adopted by 17th-century New England Congregationalists, also called Puritans that allowed the children of baptized but unconverted church members to be baptized and thus become church members and have political rights. Early Congregationalists had become members of the church after they could report an experience of conversion. Their children were baptized as infants, but, before these children were admitted to full membership in the church and permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper, they were expected to also give evidence of a conversion experience. Many never reported a conversion experience but, as adults, were considered church members because they had been baptized, although they were not admitted to the Lord’s Supper and were not allowed to vote or hold office.
Whether the children of these baptized but unconverted church members should be accepted for baptism became a matter of controversy. In 1657 a ministerial convention suggested that such children should be accepted for baptism and church membership, and in 1662 a synod of the churches accepted the practice, which in the 19th century came to be called the Half-Way Covenant. This step increased the diminishing minority of church members in the colonies, extended church discipline over more people, and encouraged a greater number to seek conversion and work for the benefit of the church. Although this solution was accepted by the majority of the churches in New England, it was opposed by a vocal minority. The practice was abandoned by most churches in the 18th century when Jonathan Edwards and other leaders of the Great Awakening taught that church membership could be given only to convinced believers.
I. The Law brought humanity into the knowledge of God, although it was inadequate to save mankind. (v.23)
II. The Law served as a guardian, leading us to Christ so that we might receive Him by faith. (v.24)
a. Believers can no longer rely on the Law or its modern counterpart; counterfeit grace which is simply Christianized legalism.
b. Children of believers are not kept by the observance of our Christianized legalism.
i. We must train them to receive Christ personally.
ii. We must love those who stray, nurturing the seed of faith that was planted within them.
III. We have received Grace, which calls us to a life higher than the Law.
a. No longer observance, but dedication of the heart. (v.25)
b. No longer instruction, but participation.
c. No longer boxes to check, but love to live out.
d. All of this was always the highest aim of the Law.
IV. Though faith believers are grafted into the eternal covenant of God. (v.26-29)
Initially, many church members and pastors were in favor of the Halt-Way Covenant. However, in time it proved to be a spiritual disaster. It greatly reduced the high view of the importance of personal conversion to Jesus Christ.
It reduced church membership to a legal matter, rather than a spiritual matter of the highest eternal significance. Rather than relying on outward evidence and personal testimony of conversion as a requirement for church membership, as evidence of the grace of God, the church chose a legalistic route.
While the law of God is of supreme important and teaches us of the holiness of God, it is inadequate to save. If a sinner is baptized but fails to ever receive Christ by faith and profess it public in word and deed, that sinner is simply a wet sinner.
Neither baptism, nor any other religious hoop that we may jump through or throw our kids through saves. Only Jesus Christ saves and He does so through personal faith according to God’s unending grace.
CIT: The law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.
CIS: The law is inadequate to save. Any who come to Christ must come by faith, instructed through the law of their need for God’s grace.
This passage of Scripture contains a great deal of important teaching. For our purposes in the context of this sermon series on breaking the chains of religion in favor for the freedom of life in Christ, we will focus on two of the central ideas.
The Law is a poor substitute for faith. (This is the First Point) The Law of the Old Testament was a guide, a safe keeper, of the truth of God’s character, nature, holiness, justice, mercy, love, and grace that would be fulfilled in Christ.