I am affirming that texts on the family and especially texts on the family from the Old Testament cannot provide us with an adequate philosophy of ministry for the New Testament church. Here is why. Old Testament Israel in contrast to the Church was (as to its very nature) a family of families. That is to say, they were a physical nation in which covenantal privilege was passed down primarily by way of bloodlines and circumcision on the eighth day to everyone with the right set of parents. Of course, there were proselytes, but once these proselytes became part of that Israel which was a family of families, they were part of Israel as a family.
We can see how passages like Deuteronomy 6:6-7 might adequately state the heart of Israel’s philosophy of ministry. The problem is, however, that the Church is not as to its nature a family of families and certainly not in the sense that Israel in fact was. It is a spiritual family composed only of those who are born again. A Baptist understanding of the difference between the New Testament Church and Old Testament Israel cannot be ignored when we discuss a philosophy of ministry for the Church.
It is not my purpose systematically to defend the typical, Baptist view of this matter from the Bible. But I must take a moment to illustrate it, if my point is to be clear. Consider the words of John 1:11-13: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
It is especially important to understand the exact meaning of the Greek of verse 13. It is clearly brought about by the NET and the NIV of this verse. Here is the NET: “children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” The rendering of the NIV is similar and also helpful: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
What John 1:13 is emphasizing is that in the Old Israel covenantal privilege—being the sons and daughters of Jehovah—was bestowed by lineage, that is by being born of natural descent, human decision, or a husband’s will. Thus, God can say in Deuteronomy 32:19-20: “But the LORD took note and despised them because his sons and daughters enraged him. He said, ‘I will reject them, I will see what will happen to them; for they are a perverse generation, children who show no loyalty.’”
But the church (in its nature) is not a family of families. In the New Israel covenantal privilege is bestowed differently. It comes only to those who have received Christ and who believe in His name. Those who were His own in the Old Covenant sense (John 1:11) and reject Christ have no place in the New Israel or, in other words, the Church. You must be born of God to possess this privilege.
This is why we can happily receive the notion that the Old Testament passages cited so frequently by the NCFIC provide marching orders for the family today, while remaining unconvinced that they provide an adequate philosophy of ministry for the church. The church is not a physical nation. Nor is it a family of families, as Israel, in fact, was!
We must look beyond the Old Testament and, indeed, beyond New Testament references to the family to find an adequate or balanced philosophy of ministry for the church. If the church is not as to its nature a family of families, one cannot deduce an adequate philosophy of ministry for the church from texts on the family, no matter how obligatory they might be for the family, and no matter whether they come from the Old or New Testaments.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.