One of the main arguments that Baptists make is from Jeremiah 31 where it says “no more shall every man teach his neighbor….. Saying ‘know the Lord'”. The argument goes that in the New Covenant it will only be those who are regenerated or at least only those who make a credible profession. However I don’t think that is what this passage is saying. First in the verses prior it contrasts the new Covenant with the Mosaic Covenant not with the Abrahamic Covenant. Second I think Hebrews 3 makes it clear that even now in the New Covenant we are not yet to the point where no one needs to teach his neighbor saying “know the Lord”. Read with me.
Jeremiah 31 (NKJV)
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,[a] says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Now go from that to Hebrews 3
Heb 3:7 (NKJV) Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
9 Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me,
And saw My works forty years.
10 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
11 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’”[b]
12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”[c]
That looks to me exactly like they are still saying to one another “know God” and even like it is for those who profess so that they make sure not to be apostate. This would mean that in the New Covenant not all are regenerated and even that we must warn each other against apostasy (including our children who have been raised in the Covenant). This coincides perfectly with Hebrews 6 which warns against apostacy for those who have been raised in the Covenant.
So this does not necessarily prove that children of believers are included in the New Covenant just like they always were but it does show that Jeremiah 31 is not excluding them. And we know that unless the command to include children in the Covenant is abrogated, it still is in effect. We also see that Jeremiah 31 is not contrasted with the Abrahamic Covenant (in which the children were included) nor is it abrogating that Covenant.
So if Jeremiah 31 isn’t excluding them, what is Jeremiah 31 doing? Well first of all it is addressed to the house of Judah and to Israel. We look at Romans 9-11 and see that God still plans to graft all of Israel back in. This is not solely referring to spiritual Israel but actually to Israel as a nation/people. We know this because it contrasts them with the Gentiles who are being grafted in. If it just meant spiritual Israel then the grafting in of the Gentiles is itself also grafting back in the whole of Israel. So back to Jeremiah 31, someday all of Israel will be saved and at that time no one will need to say to his neighbor “know the Lord” for indeed all of Israel will know Him. I also think this refers to all who are in the substance of the New Covenant (spiritual Israel). So again I think this is referring in Jeremiah 31 to the culmination of the New Covenant when the Gospel has been fully victorious and realized and when all do indeed know the Lord.
Praise the Lord that He is Sovereign and that the Gospel is victorious. Praise Him that the Great Commission will be fulfilled to the ends of the earth!
Soli deo Gloria,