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A Critique of Welty’s Use of Galatians in “From Circumcision to Baptism”

In a previous article, I posted Philip A's critique of Welty's article From Circumcision to Baptism.  I have posted my own critique of a foundational error made by Greg Welty and I include it here for your consideration.

Welty writes

What was the heresy of the Judaizers in the book of Galations? Fundamentally, their error was to contend that the command to circumcise was essential to the perpetuity of the Abrahamic Covenant and its promises and blessings. Thus, according to them, Gentile converts were required to be circumcised in order to be members of the family of God. But in this they were greatly mistaken, for in the New Covenant order of things, "circumcision is nothing" (1 Cor 7:19), and "neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything" (Gal 5:6; cf. Gal 6:15). What they took to be essential to this everlasting covenant was in fact nonessential, and therefore done away with.

Welty is just flat wrong about the error of the Judaizers in Galatians. Read Galatians 3-4 for yourself. Nowhere does Paul once condemn the Judaizers for their trust in the sign "…as essential to the perpetuity of the Abrahamic Covenant." He misses the "fundamental" problem of the Judaizers. In fact, as I'll show, the Judaizers aren't even preserving the Abrahamic Covenant in the least. Listen to Paul:

Galations 3 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth,[a] before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain””if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

The error was trust in the Law. The error was a reliance upon the Law as a means of Justification. So who does Paul roll out as an example that the Judaizers' belief is all wet? Abraham!

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”[c] 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”[d] 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Paul then returns to the point that he repeatedly hammers regarding the Judaizing heresy. He says it so often that one cannot miss his repeated refrain: Justification by the Law only brings a curse. So much for your trust in the Law Judiazers.

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”[e] 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shalllive by faith.”[f] 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”[g] 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”[h]), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

"You knucklhead Judaizers! Circumcision isn't even about keeping the Law!" is what Paul says here (Covenant Theology 101):

15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,”who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ,[j] that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Who do you think Paul is correcting here if not the Judaizers who think that Circumcision = Torah Keeping = Righteousness. This is the error that Paul is rebuking. Paul doesn't even have a problem with the physical act of circumcision, per se, but if you circumcise for the reason the Judaizers want you to then you've rejected the Gospel because you've rejected Grace.

Frankly, the problem with Welty's argument is that he needs to go back and read Galatians. This is frankly my biggest complaint as I've interacted with some other Baptists on these texts. Philip A alluded earlier to the way Welty wrests "circumcision is to no avail" snippets out of context and their meaning as Paul uses them. It's like Philip stated earlier, if you come to the text looking to justify Baptism and separate it from Circumcision then you run the danger of doing what Welty does by blowing by the basic error of the Judaizers. It turns the error on its head from Paul condemning the Judaizers for trusting in the Law (when it could only bring a curse) to an error of tying the sign to the perpetuity of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Judiazers weren't even looking at the Abrahamic Covenant but were preserving their perversion of it!

Thus, the basic "error" here is Welty's exegesis of Galatians 3. Since he misses the point of Paul's condemnation of the Judaizers, he applies an erroneous conclusion to paedobaptism.

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