Archive for the 'New Covenant Theology Forum' Category

08
May
17

Randy’s Books at Amazon Kindle

Please visit my author’s page at Amazon.com

 

http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver

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06
Dec
15

Hitler Learns that New Covenant Theology is Spreading.

http://captiongenerator.com/71778/Hitler-Learns-that-NCT-is-Spreading

13
Aug
15

Just Published on Amazon–Looking to Jesus: A Commentary on Hebrews

Visit my “Author’s Page” at http://www.amazon.com/author/randyseiver.  I have added several new titles including Looking to JesusA Commentary on Hebrews.  

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22
Jun
15

The Power and the Danger of Presuppositions–Stuart Brogden

“The Sabbath before the command”, a sermon by Voddie Baucham
reviewed and analyzed by Stuart Brogden

This review is not intended to malign or condemn my dear brother and friend, Voddie Baucham; it is to expose the errors one can be led to if presuppositions are left unexamined, if documents other than Scripture are held too tightly. This sermon sums up much of what caused me to withdraw from Grace family Baptist Church; it violates many of the basic rules of hermeneutics that Voddie taught me, apparently having his view distorted by his “confessionally colored glasses” as Bob Gonzales put it.
To the sermon, which can be listened to here: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=410151353280
Early in this sermon, Voddie asserts “Israel mirrors New Covenant people.” This is fundamental to the message of this sermon, but is it true? A mirror is intended to give an accurate image of the object, as when Scripture says Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) and He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb 1:3). Israel, however, is NOT a mirror image of the church which was purchased by the blood of Christ Jesus. Israel was a type, a shadow – providing a useful but imperfect image of the antitype, the church (Hebrews 8:1 – 6). They were a mixed seed of mostly unregenerate people. While the local church will have wheat and chaff growing side-by-side until the reaping (Matt 34:31; Rev 14:15), the universal church is pure and undefiled in any way (Eph 5:27). This cannot be said about Israel; it is NOT a mirror of God’s redeemed people. But it’s important for Voddie’s entire message that we agree that we are Israel (as he points out later), because the Scriptures tell us that the covenant was made with Israel and the words written on the stone tablets testify of that covenant (Ex 34:27 & 28). Moses emphasizes (Deut 5:2 & 3) this covenant was made with national Israel, not the patriarchs. And not – by implication – with Adam or the redeemed. As we will see, if Israel is not a mirror of the church, this message fails.
Still early in the sermon we are told, “Understanding the Sabbath is one of the most important junctures in our theology.” I agree with him on this. It will be apparent, however, I do not agree with his understanding of the Sabbath. Then he says, “Is it 8 of 10 or 9 of 10 who deny a Sabbath commandment?” It’s clear he simply made up this number, apparently to demonstrate the pitiable condition of the apathetic saints who disagree with him. Before getting into the substance of his argument, I am compelled to point out a subtle but glaring aspect of his repeated description of non-Sabbatarian Christians as those who deny or do not believe in a Sabbath command. Speaking for myself, I do not deny that the Bible has a Sabbath command. I believe in the Sabbath command. I simply look to the Scripture to inform me as to the subjects of this – and other commands. I deny that the Sabbath Command is binding for people in the New Covenant. I openly agree that it IS binding on those in the Mosaic Covenant, but not all men universally. By phrasing it as if we deny that the Bible commands some people to keep the Sabbath, Voddie implies though we cut objectionable parts from our Bibles. It is more likely, as we will see, that sabbatarians add parts to the Bible – reminding me of an author who describes dispensationalists as people of the invisible Scripture. Voddie taught me to tackle the best argument of those I disagreed with, as any victory over a weak argument would be meaningless. He appears to have forgotten this counsel, as this sermon engages only weak (or made up) positions.

One of the main tenents of his argument is that the Decalogue, as a unit, is equal to God’s moral law. This is not explained or defended from Scripture. As his beloved Second London Baptist Confession states in chapter 19, paragraph 3 (referring to the tablets of stone mentioned in paragraph 2), “Besides this law, commonly called moral …” and not one single verse is referenced. As one author I recently ran across observed, when theologians don’t have a biblical defense for something they assert, they use phrases such as “commonly called”. This is an appeal to a false authority – a logical fallacy. This is another aspect of preaching Voddie taught me – do not fall into the use of logical fallacies to make your point. Doing so lessens the authority of the message.
Therefore, he concludes, as a moral law, the Sabbath is binding on all people. From this position, He mocks 7th day Sabbatarians, whom he describes as 1 of the 10 who don’t get “truth” as he defines it. Another 10 percent hold to the idea of a “Christian Sabbath”; the remaining 8 of 10, a huge majority of Christians, deny the “Christian Sabbath” and are unable to explain why. Voddie is well aware of scholarly works by credible Christians who provide solid biblical defense for why the Sabbath is for Israel and not the Christian. D.A. Carson’s From Sabbath to Lord’s Day and Terrence O’Hare’s The Sabbath Complete are two such books that I know he is aware of. Is it sophistry to assert that, in general, all those Christians who deny the “Christian Sabbath” cannot explain why they hold that position. I betcha 9 of 10, or maybe 10 of 10 people who believe the Decalogue equals God’s moral law cannot explain it from Scripture. This is because Scripture does not define “moral law” nor does it equate that concept to the Decalogue. That correlation is simply not found there. That’s why the Westminster and Second London Baptist Confessions say the Law given Moses is “commonly called” the moral law. This is a concept originally put down on paper by Thomas Aquinas, the same one who developed the triad view of the Mosaic Law.
Baucham makes the interesting observation that since the Sabbath command was introduced in Exodus 16, chronologically before the law was given to Moses, and because it is allegedly rooted and grounded in a creation ordinance, it transcends the Decalogue. This is a double assertion based on his confessional presuppositions, not found in Scripture. When YHWH instructs the infant Hebrew nation about the Sabbath, using manna as the object, it is clear they were not familiar with the Sabbath, it was something new to them. This is the first record of the Sabbath in Scripture. It is another argument from silence to claim the Sabbath was known, kept and enforced from creation. The mention of the 7th day in the Decalogue does not establish a creation ordinance; it is given by God as an example for Israel to help them understand His command. John Calvin, John Gill, and John Bunyan each held a high view of the Lord’s Day, but dismissed and argued against the idea of a Sabbath creation ordinance. Circumcision was part of the Mosaic Covenant given before the Decalogue – does it also transcend the Decalogue and bind all people?
Voddie asserts that the 7th day of creation sets the pattern for work and worship. He later calls this God’s rhythm for life. I completely agree that YHWH was demonstrating for us our need for rest from work in sanctifying the 7th day of creation to Himself, as a minimum. Since all creation and the gift of work were soon to be cursed by the Fall, I also see the 7th day rest pointing to the One Who will do away with the ravages of sin and provide true and eternal rest for weary souls. Scripture tells us that God gave the Sabbath to the Hebrew people through Moses:

You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke to them from heaven. You gave them impartial ordinances, reliable instructions, and good statutes and commands. You revealed Your holy Sabbath to them, and gave them commands, statutes, and instruction through Your servant Moses. You provided bread from heaven for their hunger; You brought them water from the rock for their thirst. You told them to go in and possess the land You had sworn to give them. Nehemiah 9:13-15 (HCSB)

YHWH gave the Sabbath to Israel as part of the ordinances, instructions, statutes, and commands, through His servant Moses. When Nehemiah continues on to describe YHWH’s kind provision in the desert, giving the Sabbath command to them is not listed. But taking the command in Exodus 16 into account, we can be sure YHWH taught and revealed His Sabbath to Israel at that time – but it was not given as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant until Sinai. There was a Sabbath before the commandment. It began as a teaching of the concept to the Hebrew people, not as a continuation of something they knew for generations since Adam taught Seth. In Exodus 16, when Israel is rebuked for trying to gather manna on the Sabbath, God tells them the Sabbath is to be kept by the families staying in their homes. There is no corporate worship, nothing standing as a type for the “Christian Sabbath”.
Voddie tells us, “Whenever you see Israel messin’ up – stop and insert yourself. That is you and me before we came to God. Forget generalities – this is you and me.” Again, the notion that Israel is a mirror of New Covenant saints shows up and seems innocuous. Voddie also taught me to be careful about inserting self into a Scripture passage, often using Jeremiah 29:11 to teach this. It appears he forgot this lesson. While all Scripture, including Exodus 16, is for our edification (1 Cor 10:6; Rom 15:4), not all Scripture can be applied directly to us. Israel is typological of all sinners, but that is NOT the same as saying you and I are Israel in this passage. Being less than careful in this matter can lead to serious errors – as when people drink poison and handle snakes by inserting themselves into Mark 16:17 & 18.
He quotes Ian Campbell from Why Easter makes me a Sabbatarian. This is an interesting article, easily found on the Internet, providing a defense of the Westminster Confession’s view of the “Christian Sabbath”. Despite Campbell’s assertion to the contrary, the pre-command for Sabbath-keeping in Exodus 16 is given only to Israel, not all people; same as the Decalogue. Nothing in the context of either scene comes remotely close to including Gentiles. Voddie admits the Decalogue summarizes the Mosaic Covenant, yet declares “the Sabbath was not just for Israel.” His continued conflating God’s moral law with the Decalogue leads him to impose the Decalogue universally. “If the Decalogue is a communication of God’s righteousness, then everyone is responsible for upholding it.” If by upholding it Voddie means we are bound by it (as the 1689 says), then he will run into myriad problems throughout the Bible as God’s righteousness is revealed and communicated in ways that even Christian Sabbatarians would claim. The crime and punishment of Achan in Judges 7 comes to mind.
If everyone is required by God to keep His Sabbath, why is the only record of the Decalogue we have contained in the monologues by Moses, communicating this law (the summary of the Mosaic Covenant) to that people? If it was commonly practiced from creation, why is there no Biblical record of anyone other than Israelites being instructed about the Sabbath or punished for violating it? There is plenty of punishment meted out on people for murder, theft, idolatry, etc., before the Decalogue is published, giving warrant to the notion that there is a moral law at work in all humanity. Yet nowhere in Scripture is the Sabbath held up in this light; it is a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. The tripartite view of Mosaic Law is difficult to demonstrate, as when we try to separate moral law from ceremonial in Leviticus – they are interwoven everywhere one looks. Principals of moral law and ceremonial and civil law are there to learn from; but they are not neatly defined and set aside (sanctified) as separate records.
Voddie claims Sabbatarians are the only people who see all men responsible before God for keeping His law. Others say man must voluntarily enter into covenant with God to be held accountable. This is another logical fallacy – the Excluded Middle: assuming there are only two alternatives when in fact there are more. Are Sabbatarians the only ones who embrace God’s sovereignty and monergistic work of justification, and the Christian’s responsibility to pursue godliness? Reading from Luke 6, wherein Jesus makes the claim He is the Lord of the Sabbath, Voddie asks, “would Jesus claim to be Lord of something that was abolished?” What if the Sabbath is by design a type of the rest we find in Christ as He redeems us? We are told to rest in the Lord (Psalm 37:7) and are invited by the Lord Jesus to find rest in Him (Matthew 11:28 – 29). If He gives us spiritual rest when we come to Him in faith (which He graciously gives His elect), is He not, in this way, continuing as Lord of the Sabbath? No one enters into His rest unbidden by Him – He is Lord of the Sabbath! Jesus does not promise the pale imitation of the rest provided for by temporal respite; He gives the eternal rest that can be found nowhere else. Baucham then runs to Hebrews 4:9 to claim THAT as a Sabbath – the weekly “Christian Sabbath.” For each of the types spoken of in Hebrews 3 & 4, the Spirit recounts how the infant nation of Israel failed to enter His rest in Canaan because of unbelief (Heb 3:7 – 19), how we who do believe enter that rest (not in Canaan, but in Christ; Heb 4:3), and He speaks, again, how Creator God rested from that work on the seventh day (Greek word hebdomos, #G1442; Heb 4:4), and how the (spiritual) rest promised to those who believe is different than the (temporal) rest Joshua promised (Heb 4:8). Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10 (HCSB)) This rest, sabbatismos (Greek word G4520) is used nowhere else; it is found only in verse 9. If it were to be a weekly Sabbath, we would expect to see sabbaton (Greek word G4521) which is used 68 times in the New Testament, overwhelmingly to describe the Jewish Sabbath. If the temporal rest Joshua sought was singular occurrence and the rest from creation was a singular occurrence, why would the rest believers gain when we are adopted by God be a weekly event, rather than a singular, ongoing rest in the finished redemptive work of Christ Jesus? The Jewish Sabbath was a pale ceremonial rest from work to demonstrate their trust in YHWH, not an instruction to develop corporate worship. As a command to rest from that work which provided food for themselves and their families, the Jewish Sabbath serves a wonderful type for Christians – to rest from that work which seems to earn God’s favor and find true rest in the finished work of Jesus, the antitype; not a weekly spiritual respite.
Where does the Sabbath command include worship? This question is never asked nor answered in this sermon. One might think it central to the idea that the command to rest from work had been changed not only in the day in which it is to be observed, but as to its practice. We are to assume worship is commanded; Voddie does, and then strains to accommodate the change in day: “The commandment is 1 day in 7, not the 7th day.” This is simply not true. If it were true, each tribe of Israel could have established their own day of the week to honor the Sabbath given by God as a sign of the covenant. We know they did not do so. The commandment is “the 7th day”; the example from creation is “the 7th day.” Exodus 20:9-10 (HCSB) You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. From Strong’s Hebrew dictionary: Number 7637, shebîʿâ, is found 98 times in the KJV and means “seventh” 96 times, “seventh time” once, and “seven” once. Since this word is used myriad times to describe the Jewish Sabbath (there being no other kind in Scripture), how could it mean any day in a given week? Our English translations (NIV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, KJV, and many others) all say “the seventh day.” I didn’t find a commentary written by men in either camp who interpret this word as “one day in seven;” they universally interpret it “the seventh day.” And as with creation, the day after the sixth day is specified as the day of rest, not worship. But Voddie says “8 out 10 Christians do not believe that there is a Sabbath command … this means that going to church is optional.”

In truth, we see clearly a Sabbath command; we don’t see it given to anyone other than national Israel and we don’t see it commanding worship. There’s a HUGE difference! He continues to portray only two extremes – you believe in the “Christian Sabbath” or you believe worshiping God with His people is not important. This is another example of the Excluded Middle fallacy. There are many Christians who understand the Sabbath command to be a sign of the Mosaic Covenant and yet eagerly and willingly participate in regular corporate worship with the saints. People indwelt by the Spirit of God will increasingly desire to please Him and will not degrade into the slouches Voddie posits as the end of all who neglect his idea of Sabbath keeping. Being burdened by a law from the Mosaic Covenant will not transform them. The Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) was emphatic on this point:

some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!” (verse 5) … Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? (verse 10)

In this comparison between the Christian Sabbatarian position and those who do not agree with it, Voddie lumps all non-sabbatarians in with Ed Young’s horrible Easter Sunday extravaganza. “This command, which has been place since the creation of the world…” Again, there is no record of any Sabbath command or Sabbath keeping until Israel was instructed in Exodus 16. Law against murder is clearly in view, for example – yet NOTHING about Sabbath until the Exodus. There is no command or instruction to move the Sabbath to the 8th day. Christian gatherings on the 8th day (prayer, praise, preaching, and fellowship of the saints) have no connection to the commandment – which was to stay in your house and rest from your work. The false contrasts continues. H states that only Sabbatarians give the Lord every Sunday, and everyone else only Easter. Voddie heavily expounds, “the timeless command is observed by us on this day speaks volumes.” And “As God’s people, this is what God commands of us” – to gather twice as much manna on Friday so we won’t gather on the Sabbath. “But if you believe there is an obligation for God to be worshiped on this day, ‘but you do whatever to rid yourself of the guilt of playing sports on Sunday’ … is the day His or is it not?” “That’s the question – is the day His or is it not? We cannot embrace the blessing of the Sabbath without embracing the fact that it is a command.” He implies the “Christian Sabbath” is the only means by which saints can gather and participate in the ordinary means of grace our Lord has given us.
A long quote from B.B. Warfield’s sermon on the “Christian Sabbath”, pressing the command and obligation of the Sabbath, with no exegesis to show how this command is binding on Christians as is claimed. Voddie touts the notion that we must be commanded to worship each week because the world does not see its need to worship God – sounding just like Walter Chantry’s pragmatic plea to keep the Sabbath as a means of redeeming the culture (Call the Sabbath a Delight). Paraphrase: ‘Only if you get the “Christian Sabbath” as a command do you get the blessing God intends for you in this day.’ How ‘bout this, as an alternative: Jesus kept the law of Moses and the prophets, not just the Decalogue. He earned the right to be our lamb who takes away sin. We find the blessing of our rest in Him and His finished work.
He laments, ‘Failure to attend church regularly will cause your soul to shrivel. Failure to give God this day is to your great harm and detriment.’ Again – Christians want to gather and worship our Lord; the command does not command worship.
‘What does the Sabbath teaching in Exodus 16 tell us about Israel and us? First, it was commanded and very specific. Gather twice the bread on the 6th day … As the people of God, this is what God commands us. Again, 8 of 10 Christians do not believe the Sabbath command means they think going to church is optional.’ I agree with Voddie that we who claim Christ must trust Him to provide for us and not view work as an ends to be pursued to the detriment of our souls. This principle is taught us by the Sabbath command given the Hebrews. This is how types are interpreted, discerning the way they apply to us, rather than assuming equivalence.
“Ancient writers wrote about how extraordinary Israel was where in 1 day out of 7 everything stopped.” He doesn’t tell us the name of one of these ancient writers, but the official record of Israel’s history, the Scriptures, tell us Israel routinely profaned God’s Sabbath command and were punished many times (Ezek 20 & 22 for example). “This 1 day in 7 set them apart inwardly.” FAIL! Only the Spirit of God can do this! He presumes equivalence between “the Lord’s Day” and the “Christian Sabbath” and assigns spiritual blessings to Christians for keeping of the Law of Moses – which the Apostles declared a burden no man could bear.
“This is the day when we let everything else stop!” And yet – Voddie has repeatedly taught that it’s OK for people to enjoy sports and recreation on Sunday as long as it does not conflict with church. The Christian values the community of faith on Sunday, but meets with God every day. It’s not just the 8th day that is God’s – every day is. Our Sabbath rest is found in our Savior, not in a shadowy ceremonial type that was fulfilled in the person and work of our Lord.
FINALLY he tells us our day of rest is the rest we find in Christ (IAW Heb 4:9, perhaps?); but it’s still only a weakly (no misspelling!) rest for Voddie, rather than the ever increasing rest we enjoy as He sanctifies us. “He gives you six days – do you not believe He can multiply your bread on the 6th?” We mostly work 5 days in this country and ought to trust in our provider more than our employer – but that work is as much as ordinary means of grace as any other provided for us.
Voddie condescendingly dismisses rules for Sabbath keeping, pointing to Exodus 16:23 – they were permitted to cook the manna on the 7th day, just not permitted to gather (the text does not say they were permitted to cook manna on the 7th day). Therefore, he declares, there are no lists for what it means to keep the Sabbath! But what says the Scripture? There we find many rules for Sabbath keeping – not only those made up by the religious rulers. Exodus 31:15 (death for working); 35:1 – 3 (which forbids kindling a fire); Numbers 15:32 – 36 (death for picking up wood); Leviticus 25 (describes the Sabbath Year – why do Christian Sabbatarians not practice this?); Numbers 28:9 – 10 (burnt offerings); 1 Chron 9:32 (bread of the presence); 2 Chron 23:8 (military guard); Neh 10:31 (showing the Sabbath applying to Israel, not others); Neh 13 (God’s wrath promised to come on Israel for their profaning the Sabbath); Jer 17(prohibition of bearing burdens). No rules for Sabbath keeping, no penalties for breaking those rules? No lists for what God means to keep His Sabbath? Contrary to what Voddie says, the biblical Sabbath has rules, penalties, and lists. If the “Christian Sabbath” he holds to does not, it does not bear witness to the Sabbath in Exodus 16 he is pressing upon his flock.
Voddie claims the typological aspect of the Sabbath comes into play after the first resurrection. It’s only a weak weekly observance until you die. He declares that the work of ministry is permitted on the Sabbath and then says his Sunday ministry (preaching) is not work – it’s worship. Preparation for preaching is work. Why, then, defend the work of ministry on the Sabbath if that is not work? A day off to rest his body is fine, but he will not dare call it a Sabbath, “because the Sabbath is the Lord’s Day, not mine.” Every day we live is the Lord’s Day, not ours – just as every good thing we have is a gift of God and not our own (1 Cor 4:7).
My dear brother gives us many good reminders about the value of Christians gathering for corporate worship – yet no exegesis showing how the 8th day is defined by the 4th word. He simply gives a naked assertion that the 4th word “goes all the way back to creation.” The Scriptures are silent on this topic in that era; it violates Sola Scriptura to teach that it does. No argument from me that to work six days and rest one is a God-given rhythm for life. The Sabbath command teaches this – it does not teach nor require worship. “This is what we must learn, saints – that God will give us 7 days of provision in 6 days of work.” IS THIS THE APPLICATION OF THE 4th WORD FOR CHRISTIANS? I rather treasure the surety of my soul! Just as God rested from His work of creation to show us a pattern for life and point us to the promised seed, Christ rested from His work of redemption to provide us an eternity of rest – rest that starts as soon as He redeems us and gets better every day until He returns to bring the ultimate glory to His name by recreating the heavens and earth and putting a final end to sin for His saints. That’s my Sabbath – the God-man who is Lord of the Sabbath, He bids me find my rest in Him.
To borrow from Kim Riddlebarger’s Reply to John MacArthur (located here: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/a-reply-to-john-macarthur/), This is hard to say, but in his sermon Pastor Baucham set up and repeatedly attacked a straw man. His was a pyrrhic victory over a phantom foe.

08
Jan
15

Uses of the Word Nomos [Law] in Scripture

The subject of the new covenant believer’s relationship to the law is an intricate one indeed that must be handled with thoughtful care. We should never engage in a discussion of the law without first identifying in which sense we are using the term. For example, if you should ask me whether I think believers continue to be bound by the law, my answer would be absolutely and absolutely not. Are we under the law as covenant? Absolutely not! Do we continue under the perpetual and universal law of God as expressed in natural law and the law of Christ? Absolutely! Are the Old Testament Scriptures profitable for us? Of course they are.

I want to list a number of different ways in which the terms “law” (nomos) is used in the Bible. It is my view that a large part of the difficulty surrounding this issue [and every issue for that matter] results from a lack of accurate definition of terms. I believe it will become clear as we proceed that “law” cannot simply be used as a synonym for the 10 commandments.

1. God’s universal and perpetual standard of righteousness–The word “law” may be used of God’s universal and perpetual righteous standard that exists by virtue of the righteous character of the creator and governor of the universe. It is this overarching righteous standard that provides the foundation for every other expression of law.

2. Natural law–God’s universal law is expressed in what some might call “natural law.” Human kind possesses an innate understanding that certain actions and attitudes are right and others are wrong. Even those who proclaim their autonomy and freedom from moral constraints the most vociferously still suffer from guilt for having violated universally accepted norms. Paul wrote concerning gentiles who do not have the law [Mosaic law], “. . .they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law [Mosaic]” (Rom. 2:14). We should not understand “a law unto themselves” according to common usage. Generally, when we say a person is “a law unto himself,” we mean he is lawless and acts as though there is no law. He simply does as he pleases. Instead, what Paul seems to mean here is that though they do not have the Mosaic law, they, through their innate knowledge of God’s righteous norm, perform the function of the law for themselves. When he says they “do what the law requires” he does not mean they live in complete conformity to the law, but that they practices certain righteous requirements of the law. His point is that these people obey certain aspects of the law, not because it comes to them in codified form but because they possess an innate sense that certain actions are right and others wrong.

3. Law as Covenant or Mosaic Law—It is important to understand that when the New Testament writers refer to the old covenant, their reference is to the Mosaic law, specifically, to the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Whenever we find the phrase “hupo nomon” (under law) in the New Testament Scriptures the reference is always to law as covenant. The contrast between being “under law” and “under grace” is not an existential contrast, but a covenantal contrast.

Moses wrote, “and he wrote on the tablets [the two tables of stone] the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments [or ten words]” (Ex. 34:28). The Ten Commandments are the words of the covenant. This was the document that officially constituted Israel as a nation. It is clear, or should be clear, this law was neither perpetual nor universal. Paul makes it clear that “it was added” 430 years after God granted the promises to Abraham. This indicates it came into being long after the creation. Additionally, he stated that it was to endure only “until the Seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19).

The law as covenant was a conditional covenant of works that promised the continuation of life in the land of promise to all who observed its commandments. It foreshadowed the eternal life and everlasting rest of all those on whose behalf its rigid demands were met. Additionally, it provided the stage on which the drama of redemptive history would be played out. It is interesting that in Romans 5:20 Paul wrote, “WHERE sin increased or overflowed, grace overflowed all the more.” It was in the very place, “under law,” WHERE sin took on this intensified character, namely, “trespass” or “transgression” that grace entered and super-abounded in establishing the reign of grace in Christ

God’s intention in giving the law/covenant was to give sin an intensified character. There are several phrases in the Pauline corpus that lead to this conclusion. For example, he wrote in Romans 5:20, “but the Law came in alongside (presumably alongside the imputation of the Adamic transgression) so that the offense might overflow or be multiplied. Jesus won our redemption on a stage where sin had been defined and transgression had been honed to a fine point. It was not in the nebulous atmosphere of natural law but in the intensified milieu of codified covenant that Jesus wrought the work of redemption. No one, having read the law, could ever have a question about the kind of behavior God loved and the kind of behavior he hated. In Galatians 3:19, Paul stated that the purpose of the law was to give sin the character of transgression. Many of our translations render his words “because of transgressions” as though the law was given so that transgressions that were already in existence might be curbed. But this cannot be Paul’s meaning. Paul writes in Romans 4:15, “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.” Transgression is a deliberate overstepping of a clearly defined boundary. Such an overstepping cannot occur in this case apart from codified law. It is better to understand Galatians 3:19 to mean that the law was added for the sake of transgression, i.e., to more clearly define sin and righteousness and give sin the character of transgression—deliberate rebellion against God.

It is altogether likely that God intended Israel’s experience “under law” to be paradigmatic of the entire race in Adam. That is to say, Israel stood as a microcosm or representative sample of all humanity. Thus, Israel’s failure under that covenant mirrors the failure of all. Because of this failure, every mouth is stopped and all the world becomes guilty before God.

Apart from the emotional attachment people have to the Ten Commandments and the belief that apart from the Ten Commandments believers would “be left without a moral compass” [perhaps someone should put in a good word for the Holy Spirit and the New Testament Scriptures here], it should be obvious to any thinking person that God never intended the Ten Commandments to be a universal and perpetual document. It would require extreme prejudice in favor of the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments/old covenant to produce sufficient blindness to ignore Paul’s clear teaching in 2 Cor. 3:3-1). It is beyond the scope of this article to give a full exposition of that passage, but I wish to point out one facet that is pertinent to our point here. Paul contrasts that which is permanent, the new covenant/gospel, with “that which is being brought to an end,” the old covenant/law, and identifies that covenant as “the ministry of death, CARVED IN LETTERS ON STONE.” What part of the law was “carved in letters on stone?” Clearly, it was the “ten words.” If the Ten Words have perpetuity, how can it be that they are “being brought to an end?” It is not merely the civil and ceremonial commandments necessary for the implementation of the covenant that have been fulfilled brought to an end. The covenant itself [the Law as a covenant in Ten Commandments] has been fulfilled and replaced with a new covenant.

Of course, there will be those Reformed folks who will have a knee-jerk reaction to what I have just written and accuse me of Antinomianism, but nothing I have written should give the slightest impression that I am against the law or that I believe Christians should live as libertines. I honestly believe some of these folks are more concerned with being faithful to their confessional standards than they are with being faithful to the Scriptures.

4. Law as Torah—At times “nomos” refers to Moses’ writings– E.g., John 1:45—“we have found him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote.”

5. Law as Old Testament Scriptures—E.g., Psalms 19:7—“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. . . .” “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Ps. 119:18).see also Ps. 119:70, 72, 92, 97, 113, 174.

6. Law as the Law of Christ—Paul wrote that he was “to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God, but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21).

7. Law as a principle or rule of operation—At times, “law” refers to the way things work. Paul wrote, “I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21). “What then becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law [principle or rule of operation]? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Rom3:27).

In any discussion of biblical law, one must insist that those involved in the discussion clearly state in which sense they are using the term “Law.”

16
Feb
14

The House of Israel and The House of Judah– With whom does God make the new covenant?

In Jeremiah 31:31, the prophet tells his readers God will make a new covenant with “the house of Israel” [the ten northern tribes] and “the house of Judah” [the southern tribes] for the following reasons:

1. Because these two houses together comprised the entire special natural seed of Abraham to whom God had promised blessing in the Abrahamic Covenant. Yet, God does not establish it with the houses of Israel and Judah as such any more than he establishes it with Gentiles as such. The promise is effective “to as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Also, Hebrews 9:15 says, “And for this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” When we remember that God calls believers according to His eternal purpose and grace, it becomes clear that He has made this promise to the elect within Israel. Those who are brought to faith in God’s anointed through the establishment of the new covenant will never “cease from being a nation before the Lord forever” (Jer 31:36).

2. Because the blessings of the new covenant extend to the most guilty who believe God’s promise. In this case, God promises to forgive even apostate Israel for playing the whore with pagan gods.

3. Because the northern ten tribes of Israel had become alienated from Jehovah because of their idolatry. In effect, they had, through their defection from Jehovah, become pagans. For this reason, they stand as a type of the Gentile nations who were alienated from Jehovah and His covenant promises. God’s promise to establish the new covenant with Israel and Judah is a foreshadowing of His reconciliation of Gentiles and visiting them to take out of them a people for his name. This seems to accord with Paul’s citation of Hosea 2:23; 1:10 in Romans 9:25-26, in confirmation of the call of the Gentiles. He wrote,

23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.25As He says also in Hosea, “I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, “MY PEOPLE,” AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, “BELOVED.”“ 26″AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, “YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,” THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.

It seems clear that in their original Old Testament context, these verses had reference to the northern ten tribes of Israel. Yet, it seems equally evident that Paul uses these verses to refer not to the restoration of apostate Israelites, but to the calling of Gentiles to faith in Christ. Concerning the seeming discrepancy, John Murray wrote,

There might appear to be a discrepancy between the purport and reference of these passages in the prophecy and as applied by Paul. In Hosea they refer to ten tribes of Israel and not to the Gentile nations. There should be no difficulty. Paul recognizes that the rejection and restoration of Israel of which Hosea spoke have their parallel in the exclusion of the Gentiles from God’s covenant favor and their reception into that favor. . . .the same procedure is exemplified in both cases and Paul finds in the restoration of Israel to love and favor the type in terms of which the Gentlies become partakers of the same grace [emphases mine].(Murray, Romans, p. 38).

Even James Stifler, a Dispensationalist, has commented, “The prophecy originally seems to refer to the ten tribes, but as they had been excluded from the nation and were practically heathen, Paul refers to them as a type of the call of the Gentiles.” (Stifler, Romans, p. 169).

Clearly it is legitimate to recognize apostate and reconciled Israel as a type of apostate and reconciled Gentiles [part of the Christian church]. It is also obvious that this is a passage that, in its OT context, plainly refers to the nation of Israel. Since it is legitimate to find in this passage a type of the ingathering of the Gentiles, there is no reason why we should not understand such passages as Jeremiah 31:31-34 in the same way.

4. Because He wanted to show that the fulfillment of the new covenant would bring unity between those who, formerly, had been bitter enemies (Eph. 2:14-15). The northern ten tribes, the house of Israel, had, by their apostasy from Jehovah, essentially become pagans. Using circumstances in the life of the prophet Hosea, God illustrated what His relationship with Israel had become because of their idolatry.

And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.” Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; And it will come about that, in the place where it is said to them, “You are not My people,” It will be said to them, “You are the sons of the living God (Hosea 1:9-10).

5. Because Israel and Judah were the parties that had broken covenant with God. It is within the redemptive-historical context of Israel that the covenant must be kept. It was in the very place where the trespass had overflowed that grace overflowed all the more. Paul wrote, “And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,”(Rom. 5:20). It was against the backdrop of the broken covenant that Jesus established the new covenant by making redemption for the transgressions that were under the first covenant. It was because Israel was under the curse of the law that the Messiah became a curse. He established the new covenant by fulfilling the old covenant. Thus, it was necessary that the drama of redemption be played out on the stage of Israel’s national covenant.

There is a temporal priority in God’s dealings with the Jews and their situation under the law. Unless the demands of the law were met, there could be no free bestowal of blessings on either believing Jews or believing Gentiles. Thus, Paul tells us that, “. . .when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law [the Jews], that we [Jews and Gentiles alike] might receive the adoption as sons [son-placing]” (Gal: 4:4-5).

Paul also presents this truth plainly in Galatians 3:13-14 where he writes, “Christ 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” in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” In the Greek text, the words, “that on the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham might come in Christ” are in the emphatic position and are juxtaposed to the clause that describes the work of Christ in which he was made a curse for those who were under the law, i. e., Israel under the old covenant.

One of the keys to understanding that God has already established the new covenant with Israel, i.e., the true, elect Israel within the nation, is to understand the nature of biblical covenants. We have considered this issue in some detail in the body of this work [reference to a commentary I am writing on Hebrews]. Some Dispensationalists have spoken about the nation of Israel’s need to ratify the new covenant by their acceptance of it at Jesus’ return. The implication is that this covenant cannot be in force until the nation of Israel, as a whole, accepts it as their covenant. It is important for us to remember that biblical covenants were not bilateral but unilateral. Though faith is essential if anyone is to enjoy the blessings of the new covenant, the ratification of the covenant is not dependent on anyone’s acceptance. Jesus ratified the new covenant at the cross. Thus, the New Testament Scripture focuses on Christ’s accomplishments at His first coming, not on the application of those accomplishments at His second coming.

6. Because Abraham’s special natural seed (Isaac and his posterity) stand as a type of the new covenant people of God, elect Jews and Gentiles. It seems clear from the New Testament Scriptures that God has established this covenant with all in Christ. We must remember that Christ was in every sense an Israelite. In fact, he was the only Israelite who was faithful to the covenant. He, and thus all who are united to him through faith are the true (as opposed to the typical) Israel of God. Consider his statement “I am the true” (John 15:1) in contrast to natural Israel (e.g. Isaiah 5). If this is the case, then this was God’s intention from the beginning in making His promises to Israel.

Much of the language of the Old Testament Scriptures should be understood in terms of typology, not in a strictly literal sense. God fulfilled many of these promises in a literal sense, but these fulfillments, for example, Israel’s return to the land after the Babylonian captivity, which stood as types of a further fulfillment in Christ, were always inferior to the ultimate fulfillment.

7. Because the blessings of the new covenant were first offered to ethnic Israelites and were first welcomed by them.

These blessings were first offered to ethnic Israelites:

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, “AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.” “For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3: 25-26).

And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46).

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).

The first citizens of this new nation to welcome these new covenant blessings were ethnic Israelites:

In Matthew 21:42-3, Jesus cited a prophecy from Psalm 118 concerning a stone that the builders had rejected becoming the chief corner stone. He then informed them that because they had rejected Him, God would take the kingdom from them and give it to a nation that would produce the fruit that the husbandman was seeking.

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES”? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” (Matthew 21:42-3).

What is the identity of this nation about whom Jesus spoke?

Was He speaking about a restored Israel that, after His second coming, would finally fulfill the purposes for which God had chosen it? The Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, plainly identified the nation to which Jesus referred when he spoke of a nation bring forth the fruit of God’s kingdom. He wrote,

2:6For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 2:7This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 2:8and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. 2:9But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 2:10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY (1 Pet 2:6-10).

When did God establish this new nation?

Remembering Jesus’ words, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” the disciples asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Based on Old Testament prophecy, they had every reason to believe that such a restoration was to occur. If they were mistaken, it was because they though there was to be a retrogression to a kingdom that would be restored within the confines of Judaism. J.A. Alexander wrote, “. . .they were only mistaken, if at all, in expecting it to be restored in its primeval form.” (Alexander, Acts, p. 10). Since they had been taught to associate the coming of the Spirit with the inauguration of the kingdom, it seems likely that the question they asked was linked with His promise about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were asking, “will you restore the kingdom to Israel when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit?” Though Jesus did not directly answer the question they had asked, he plainly revealed the answer to them when the day of Pentecost fully came. As Luke records,

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:

Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “”In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:14-20).

Peter was not suggesting that everything that Joel prophesied had already transpired or was going to occur immediately. Instead, he was proclaiming the good news that the long awaited and earnestly anticipated time of fulfillment had finally come. In sending His Son to accomplish the redemption and reconciliation of His elect people, God had “remembered his holy covenant” (Luke 1:72). All that now remains is the full application of those redemptive accomplishments by which Jesus ratified the new covenant for His people.

If there are any “land promises” that have not yet been fulfilled, they find fulfillment two ways. 1. God’s New Covenant people now enjoy these blessings, in an antitypical sense, in the inheritance we now have through faith, because of our union with Christ. 2. God will fulfill such promises in the eternal kingdom when believers enjoy their full inheritance, including the new earth.

31
Aug
13

Continuity of Righteous Standard–an excerpt from The Cross: the heart of New Covenant Theology

I believe the following is the section Stuart Brogden was referring to in his e-mail response to my question. This post should be read in conjunction with my earlier post “Baptist Covenant Theology.”

God has only one standard of righteousness. The principles of righteousness that provide the foundation for every administration of God’s sovereign purpose arise from the character of the law-giver Himself, not from the epochal, cultural, and geographical situations in which those principles are articulated. The law-giver demands that His creatures love Him supremely and reflect that love in their love for and just treatment of their neighbors. New Covenant believers are no longer expected to obey, in meticulous detail, all of the laws of the Old Covenant. Does this suggest that the character of the law-giver has changed in some way? Of course not! Such a thing is impossible.

Not every commandment of the Old Covenant was “moral” in the sense that it reflected the holy character of God. Some were ceremonial in nature; others were civil laws. Yet, there is a sense in which every commandment of that covenant was “moral.” These injunctions were “moral” simply by virtue of the fact that it was God who gave them. In this sense, they were not merely cultural and national mandates; they were the commandments of the Holy One. Failure to obey these commandments reflected a lack of love for the law-giver.

The Old Covenant measured holiness in terms of law-keeping. Prior to the advent of the Messiah, the Israelite’s love for God and neighbor was expressed in his obedience to every point of the law, not just the Decalogue. It was unholy to commit adultery. It was unholy to gather sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36). It was unholy to reap an entire field (Lev 19:9-10). It was unholy to eat certain kinds of food (Deut 14:7-8). It was not possible to omit any duty prescribed by the law or commit any transgression forbidden by the law and still be considered holy. How, then, can it be that New Covenant believers can walk in holiness and yet be free from all obligation to obey many of the commandments of the Old Covenant? Because they are under a New Covenant. Under the New Covenant, every truly “moral” principle (I would prefer to call them righteous principles) of the Old Covenant is repeated and becomes the “binding authority”, under the Lord Christ, for the believer. Through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit, the “righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us” (Rom 8:4). Though the character of the law-giver does not change, the specific requirements of the Old and New Covenants are different. God demands that all his creatures love Him. Yet, He does not command people under different covenants to demonstrate that love in the same ways.

Under the Old Covenant, Sabbath-breakers were to be put to death. Why was the punishment for this sin so severe? What was so horrible about picking up sticks on the Sabbath? Was this an immoral act? Was the Sabbath rest a reflection of the holy character of God, so that Sabbath breaking rendered one ungodly (unlike God)? No! The fact that God rests from His labor does not tell us what God is; it tells us what God does. It was an immoral act, however, in the sense that it disregarded a commandment that God had given. In fact, it disregarded the entire covenant. Sabbath-breaking was treated so harshly under the Old Covenant because the sabbath was the sign of that covenant (Exo 31:13-17). To break the Sabbath was to break covenant with God. It was not only an insult to God; it was a clear demonstration of the perpetrator’s lack of love for God.

There is discontinuity in standards of behavior between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Yet, the standard of righteousness remains the same. Daniel and his companions refused to eat food from a pagan king’s table (Dan 1:8), because to have eaten such fare, under the Old Covenant, would have been an act of unfaithfulness to God. A New Covenant believer may now eat such a meal without fear of “being defiled” (Rom 14:3,17). What has changed? Does God expect less from believers under the New Covenant than He did from Israel? Of course not! In fact, the standard of behavior for New Covenant believers is higher than the standard imposed on Israel under the Old Covenant. The standard of behavior has changed because the covenant under which God demanded such behavior has been abrogated. God’s standard of righteousness is summarily comprehended in Jesus’ words, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-40). This is the standard of righteousness required under every covenant. The way in which love to God and neighbor is to be exhibited (the standard of behavior) depends on the demands of the particular covenant that is in force at the time. It is the New Testament Scriptures that define sanctified behavior for the New Covenant believer (1 Thess 4:1-3), not the Old Covenant written in tables of stone (the Ten Commandments). The New Covenant believer is under the covenantal authority of the New, not the Old Covenant.

I urge you to comment on these issues.