Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
What's with Galatians 2:4-5?
01/16/2004 - James White
Some may be confused about the comment I made below regarding Galatians 2:4-5 and the issue of whether the Roman Catholic is my "brother." Part of the controversy, of course, goes back to the nature of the New Covenant, Hebrews 8, and all the many discussions focused thereon (I will have a full-length article on Hebrews 8 and the Newness of the Covenant in Christ's blood in the next edition of the Reformed Baptist Theological Review, www.rbtr.org). But part also goes to the concept, emphasized by those associated with the AAPC movement, of the "objectivity of the covenant." A person "properly baptized" is now objectively a part of the covenant according to this view, whether regenerate,
repentant, elect, etc. In the end, such a non-elect person can only find covenant curses, never true salvific covenant blessings. Be that as it may, if one believes Trinitarian baptism makes one a member of the New Covenant, then the issue is, 'Who am I to not refer to such a person as my brother (or sister), and encourage them to covenant faithfulness?' Hence, the assertion is made that the Roman Catholic is my brother.
Of course, I do not believe baptism joins anyone to the covenant in Christ's blood, and I truly wonder about any concept of baptism that separates it from faith. The reason Galatians 2:4-5 enters the conversation is simply due to the fact that it speaks of "false brethren" when making reference to individuals who were inside the fellowship of the church. These were obviously baptized men, and yet, Paul identified them as false brethren. The relevance to the question "is the Roman Catholic my brother" is almost too obvious for comment, given the issue of the false gospel promulgated both anciently by those false brethren, and the gospel of Rome today. While you would think such a biblical example would be forefront in the discussions, my experience has been that rather than offering a contextually accurate, grammatically insightful, exegetically sound response, we hear all about Platonic forms and medieval Christendom and discrete theological propositions and cutting down oak trees---oh, along with one of the standard sacralistic slams like "Donatist" or "Anabaptist" or some such. Yes, most folks do wonder a bit when theological students refuse to engage the text in such a fashion when given the opportunity to do so, especially when those same folks, only a few years ago, before all this new hyper-or-mono-covenantalism came back into vogue, would not have hesitated to engage the text in just such a fashion.