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I s s u e 18 8 Ju n e 2 012
New Covenant Theology and Prophecy #6
John G. Reisinger
In this series of articles we have been seeking to see how the New Testament Scriptures interpret Old Testament kingdom prophecies. Does the New Testament interpret the Old Testament as “literal,” meaning using “natural” language, or does the New Testament spiritualize the Old Testament kingdom promises? We have been testing one of the basic hermeneutical principles of Dispensational theology called the “literal, grammatical, historical,” method of interpretation. In this method, every word is understood in its literal or natural meaning. The word “man” means a real man, and the word “lion” means a real four legged lion, house means house, etc. NCT will agree we should use this method when interpreting books like Romans and the gospel of John but not when interpreting symbolic books like the Song of Solomon or the book of Revelation. All agree that the context will force a symbolic interpretation of some texts. In a previous article we demReisinger—Continued on page 2 onstrated this with the following texts from
In This Issue New Covenant Theology and Prophecy #6 John G. Reisinger The Power for Cruciform Love: 1 Thessalonians 4:8-9 A. Blake White Postmodernism and Christianity, Enemies? Part 2 Steve West A Wise Man Who Built His House on the Rock Stan F. Vaninger Outside the Box John G. Reisinger War ﬁeld on the Divine Origin of the Bible Fred G. Zaspel Our Purpose John G. Reisinger 7 9 13 5 1
The Power for Cruciform Love: 1 Thessalonians 4:8-9
A. Blake White
Where does love come from? In this series of articles, we have been called to a love that cannot come from ourselves! We have said that the primary virtue for new covenant Christians is cruciform love. This is cross-shaped love. It is the pattern of giving of self for the good of others. It is a call to selﬂess living. The call to selﬂessness is extremely hard! Sin is fundamentally selﬁshness. It started in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve wanted autonomy (self-rule), and the sons and daughters of Adam have been plagued by the same disease ever since. Isaiah described us as straying sheep. We have all gone astray. We have all turned to our own way. This is why Luther said that since the fall, humanity is “curved in on ourselves.” This is why cruciform love is so difﬁcult. So if our fallen nature is selﬁsh, how can we live selflessly? The short answer is that we can’t, but God can. The power for selﬂess living comes from God. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love cruciformly. How though? One of the main ways is by exalting Christ in our hearts. Romans 5 says that we have been justiﬁed by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and that God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:1-5). The Holy Spirit has a “ﬂoodlight ministry.” J.I. Packer writes, “When ﬂoodlighting is well done, the ﬂoodlights are placed White—Continued on page 12
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
Sound of Grace is a publication of Sovereign Grace New Covenant Ministries, a tax exempt 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions to Sound of Grace are deductible under section 170 of the Code. Sound of Grace is published 10 times a year. The subscription price is shown below. This is a paper unashamedly committed to the truth of God’s sovereign grace and New Covenant Theology. We invite all who love these same truths to pray for us and help us ﬁnancially. We do not take any paid advertising. The use of an article by a particular person is not an endorsement of all that person believes, but it merely means that we thought that a particular article was worthy of printing. Sound of Grace Board: John G. Reisinger, John Thorhauer, Bob VanWingerden and Jacob Moseley. Editor: John G. Reisinger; Phone: (585)3963385; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. General Manager: Jacob Moseley: email@example.com Send all orders and all subscriptions to: Sound of Grace, 5317 Wye Creek Drive, Frederick, MD 21703-6938 – Phone 301473-8781 Visit the bookstore: http://www. newcovenantmedia.com Address all editorial material and questions to: John G. Reisinger, 3302 County Road 16, Canandaigua, NY 14424-2441. Webpage: www.soundofgrace.org SOGNCM.org or
Psalm 22 and Isaiah 11.
Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion…For dogs have compassed me … Psalm 22:12, 13 &16.
Psalm 22 is to be understood symbolically but Isaiah 11 is to be understood literally, meaning in “natural” language? Again, all agree that the context in Isaiah 11 is talking about the “kingdom” Christ would establish. The question is whether it is describing the present spiritual kingdom that he established at his ﬁrst coming or the so-called future earthly “millennial” kingdom taught by Dispsationalism. Is Isaiah 11 describing a present spiritual kingdom or is it describing a literal physical millennial kingdom in the future at the second coming as the Dispensationalist insists. I agree that Isaiah 11 does not clearly resolve the problem since the context does not absolutely prove that the lions and lambs must be four legged or two legged. Let’s look at two Old Testament kingdom prophesies that are interpreted for us with New Testament apostolic authority and see how New Covenant apostles interpreted Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom. The ﬁrst passage is Jeremiah 31:31-34.
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that 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 bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me,
Reisinger—Continued on page 4
No one would insist that four legged bulls, four legged dogs and four legged roaring lions were gathered around the cross. The text is describing, in symbolic language, two legged men who were acting like mad bulls, furious lions and barking dogs. All interpreters, including the most die -hard Dispensationalists, will agree that such an interpretation of Psalm 22, is “obvious” and clearly demonstrated by the context. The language in these texts cannot be taken in a “literal, grammatical, historical” sense. They must be understood symbolically. The problem arises when there are texts where it is just as “obvious,” at least to me, that should be taken symbolically but the Dispensationalist says, “No, no, we must take the Bible literally. We must be consistent with the ‘literal, grammatical, historical’ hermeneutic.” An example of this is a text like Isaiah 11:6, 7. In this text we are told that the word lion must be taken literally instead of symbolically as in Psalm 22.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. Isa.11:6, 7.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked “NKJV” are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Contributions Orders Discover, MasterCard or VISA If you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to Sound of Grace, please mail a check to: Sound of Grace, 5317 Wye Creek Drive, Frederick, MD 21703-6938. Please check the mailing label to ﬁnd the expiration of your subscription. Please send payment if you want your subscription to continue—$20.00 for ten issues. Or if you would prefer to have a pdf ﬁle emailed, that is available for $10.00 for ten issues. If you are unable to subscribe at this time, please call or drop a note in the mail and we will be glad to continue sending Sound of Grace free of charge.
The vital question is what rule of hermeneutics says “roaring lion” in Psalm 22 is symbolic; it means a man is acting like a wild animal, but the same word in Isaiah 11 must be taken literally and means a four legged animal acting totally contrary to his nature. What makes it “obvious” that
Postmodernism and Christianity— Enemies? Part 2
In my ﬁrst article on this topic, I noted some typical Christian attitudes towards postmodernism, and I also suggested that certain postmodern concerns are both signiﬁcant and right. It is worth repeating that these concerns should be embraced because there is a sense in which they are deeply biblical. The fundamental problem with postmodernism is not that everything it says is wrong on the surface, but that it fails to provide a total worldview which is capable of grounding its claims. One of the strengths of postmodernism emerges when it is compared to the epistemological project of the Enlightenment. In fact, Christians can afﬁrm many of postmodernism’s criticisms of modernism. A disclaimer: what follows is going to be extraordinarily brief and lacking nuance. Furthermore, I am not suggesting direct causal links in each of these steps, or that postmodernism is completely tied in theory to everything which preceded it. What I am attempting to do is merely to provide the most basic of orientation points in the history of Western thought. Once they have been roughed-in, a lens for viewing postmodernism will emerge. Of the utmost signiﬁcance is the general failure of Western philosophy, particularly in epistemology. The Enlightenment ideal was to cast off tradition and authority (especially religious tradition and authority) and autonomously lay reality bare by human reason and evidential practices. Two great epistemological methods were tried, namely rationalism and empiricism. Rationalists began with supposedly indubitable principles or axioms, and then by a rigorous attempt at logical deduction and analysis, determined what was true. The prototypical rationalist in this regard was Rene Descartes. His dictum cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, is one of the only statements most people know from the history of philosophy. But what led Descartes to make this claim? As an adult Descartes realized that much of what he had been taught as a child was false. He tried to decide how he could know for sure what was true and what was false. His strategy was to practice methodological doubt. Everything he could possibly doubt, he doubted. He doubted his senses. He doubted that 2 +2 = 4 and that a triangle had three sides, because if there were a malevolent spirit or demon, the demon could trick him when he did simple math, or trick him when he counted the sides of an object. Descartes did not take this latter idea very seriously, but he was searching for something impossible to doubt, not just something extraordinarily improbable. At last, Descartes’ mind landed upon a sure foundation, an idea that he could not doubt even if he tried. He could not doubt that he existed, because he was thinking. In order for him to doubt, he needed to exist and think. In order for an evil spirit to deceive him, he needed to exist to be deceived! So the anchor that Descartes grabbed hold of—and for which the subsequent history of philosophy has mercilessly accused him of great fallacies—was that he was a thinking, and therefore existing, being. From these humble origins, Descartes sought clear and distinct ideas which also were impossible to doubt. He
uses a type of ontological argument to prove the existence of God (his ontological argument is, regrettably, perhaps the least convincing of all ontological arguments), and from there argues that since God exists and is perfectly good and omnipotent, God would not let the evil spirit trick him when he does math and performs simple mental activities. God would also not allow people to be deceived by their senses, so Descartes is off to the races with liberty to trust the deliverances of his mind and the deliverances of his senses. The one thing that Descartes gets completely right, in my judgment, is that God is necessary if we are to trust the deliverances of our senses. What he gets completely wrong, in my judgment, is thinking that his ontological argument is even close to successful. Descartes is left with a failure to prove the existence of God, and therefore a failure to provide cogent foundations for relying on his mind or senses. In the history of philosophy, rationalism, the style of reasoning that begins in the human mind and looks for indubitable propositions from which to build a sure system of knowledge, fails every time. Thinking about timeless principles fails to produce knowledge. (I know that Descartes is not the last rationalist, but his example is illustrative of the general problems adhering to all accounts of nontheistic rationalism.) There is another epistemological approach, however, which has also been tried in the history of philosophy. This approach is called empiricism, and it starts with data collected by the senses. If rationalism wants to start with timeless axioms, empiricism starts with contingent, temporal data. Data is gathered as it passes through the senses, and then it is analyzed in the mind. Such an approach sounded promising, but quickly reached a dead end.
West—Continued on page 8
Reisinger—Continued from page 2
from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jeremiah 31:31-34.
June 2012 that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament [NIV, covenant] in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
This prophecy is predicting a new covenant replacing the old covenant made at Sinai. The prophecy is very clear that the new covenant will be made with the “house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” It is said to be made with the children of the Israelites who were redeemed out of Egypt as recorded in the book of Exodus. The essence of the promised covenant literally guarantees the full salvation of the house of Israel, and the house of Judah. Any honest literal interpretation of these words, taken by themselves, demands a new covenant being made with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah whereby every member of the house of Israel and the house of Judah would be regenerated and justiﬁed. If the “literal, historical and grammatical” hermeneutic is correct, then the Dispensationalist is correct in his understanding of the animals in Isaiah 11. The new covenant, as promised in Jeremiah 31, beyond question guarantees the future salvation of Israel. The “literal, grammatical and historical” hermeneutic demands this understanding. The problem is that such an idea cannot be made to agree with the New Testament. The New Testament is quite clear that the new covenant promised in Jeremiah has nothing to do with a future conversion of Israel. The new covenant is already fulﬁlled. According to both Jesus and the apostles, the promised new covenant in Jeremiah 31 is made with the church, not with Israel. The New Testament “spiritualizes” the “house of Israel” in Jeremiah 31 to mean the church. Notice that our Lord’s understanding of the prophecy of the new covenant states it is made with the church, not with Israel.
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you,
The new covenant established by our Lord has nothing to do with either Israel’s future conversion or their restoration to the Holy Land. It has to do with his atoning sacriﬁce on the cross for the elect or the church. Neither Israel nor the land is mentioned in this passage. It is clear that our Lord spiritualized Jeremiah 31 and applied the promise of the new covenant to the church for which he shed his blood. Some Dispensationalists, seeking to explain the obvious problem with their understanding of the new covenant, have said there are two new covenants, one for Israel, which is still future, and another one for Gentiles which is present. It is impossible to get any such idea into the texts. Just as Jeremiah 31:31-34 would need a “literal” physical kingdom to fulﬁll it if the “literal, historical, grammatical” hermeneutic was correct, so our Lord’s words when instituting the Lord’s Supper demands the new covenant must be spiritualized to apply to the church and the kingdom of grace. You cannot demand a “literal” fulﬁllment of the promise in Jeremiah 31 and then “spiritualize” the New Testament interpretation of the same text. It is obvious that our Lord did not follow a “literal, historical, grammatical” interpretation of the old covenant promise of a new covenant. The choice is not “spiritualize” versus “to-
tal literal.” Everyone does both. The question is who or what establishes the reason that lion must be symbolized in Psalm 22 and taken literally in Isaiah 11. The Dispensationalist, in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Heb. 8 and 10), takes Jeremiah literally and spiritualizes the New Testament interpretation of it. The non-Dispensationalist does the opposite. He takes the New Testament interpretation of Jeremiah as a literal spiritual interpretation of Jeremiah 31. We will admit without question that if Jeremiah 31 was the only Scripture text to speak of a new covenant, we would agree that the new covenant is made with the nation of Israel and has not yet been fulﬁlled. However, both our Lord and his apostles (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Heb. 8 and 10) make it abundantly clear that the new covenant is made with the church and the kingdom promise of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31 is already fulﬁlled. This is one of the many examples of how NCT is radically different in its insistence that the New Testament must interpret the Old Testament. Look at how the writer of the book of Hebrews understood the promise of the new covenant given in Jeremiah 31. After quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34 in Hebrews 10:16-18, the writer applies the truths of the new covenant blessing of access into God’s presence. He is talking about the new covenant blessing of entering into the most holy place with assurance because we are robed in the righteousness of Christ. Christ is the true high priest over God’s true redeemed house. The priest he is talking about is Christ and the house of God over which this priest reigns is the church. Read the words carefully and see if the writer of Hebrews “literalizes” the Jeremiah passage or “spiritualizes” it. See if he is talking about something future or something in the present, talking about the church for which Christ died or something in the future
Reisinger—Continued on page 6
A Wise Man Who Built His House on the Rock
Stan F. Vaninger
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the ﬂoods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the ﬂoods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt 7 ESV)
of a house. In Proverbs 9:1 we read, ‘Wisdom has built her house.’ Proverbs 14:1 says, ‘The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.’ The latter example combines the ‘wise/foolish’ contrast and the use of ‘house.’ Proverbs 12:7 is similar, ‘The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.’ We see the contrast between wisdom and folly as expressed by righteousness and wickedness of life, and also the use of ‘house’ to speak of one’s life. Proverbs 24:3-4 emphasizes the positive, ‘Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are ﬁlled with all precious and pleasant riches.’ The writer is not speaking about building a literal house but uses ﬁgurative language to speak about us, about our lives, about acquiring wisdom. Look again at Matthew 7:24-25. Jesus’ simile here of likening life with its trials and tribulations to a house enduring a storm comes right out of the fabric of Proverbs. While few commentators point it out, ‘This parable of the two houses [in Matthew 7] is a clear allusion to the two houses of Proverbs 9… The person who hears and acts on Jesus’ words is like a wise person who builds his or her house on a rock so that it can withstand the worst weather.’4 Proverbs 9 speaks ﬁguratively of two ways of living, the way of wisdom
4 Craig G. Bartholomew, Ryan P. O’Dowd, Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 240. Bartholomew and O’Dowd give credit to Ben Witherington III, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, 356-357 for this observation.
and the way of folly; the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness. It is perhaps signiﬁcant that Jesus does not quote directly from Proverbs. He could have. He could have quoted Proverbs 1:7, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ But he didn’t. He could have quoted Proverbs 9:10, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.’ These proverbs speak directly to the issue of the source of true wisdom which is found only in the true Creator-God. But Jesus didn’t quote them. The words of Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 were just as true and just as edifying in the time of Christ as they were in OT times. But Jesus didn’t quote them. So what did he do? He said that whoever hears and follows his words is the wise man. Jesus lays claim to being the source of true wisdom. So something has changed with the coming of Christ. Actually, a lot has changed. ‘The fear of the Lord’ has been replaced by ‘following Christ.’ It’s not that there was anything wrong with ‘the fear of the Lord.’ Those verses in Proverbs are still just as true as they ever were. But they have a greater meaning and signiﬁcance with the coming of ‘Christ…the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24). What we see here is one large step forward in God’s progressive revelation of himself and the way of salvation. God has come to this earth in the person of Christ and, through the incarnation, has become the embodiment of the wisdom of God. Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 1:30 ‘Christ Jesus…became for us wisdom
Vaninger—Continued on page 15
These four verses are the closing words of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Yet they are very different from the rest of the sermon. These words, in fact, are reminiscent of the language of Proverbs. ‘Jesus… employs typical wisdom language familiar to Jewish sages.’1 ‘He uses the speech forms of a wisdom teacher (parables) and claims to be the source of true wisdom.’2 Jesus does not quote directly from Proverbs, but important concepts from Proverbs are lying right on the surface. Jesus here speaks of the wise man and the foolish man which is a familiar theme in Proverbs.3 Proverbs also frequently uses the metaphor
1 Craig S. Keener, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 254. 2 Graeme Goldsworthy, According To Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 206. 3 Hagner points out that ‘wise’ and ‘foolish’ are favorites of Matthew as opposed to the other gospel writers. Matthew uses ‘wise’ 7 times and ‘foolish’6 times; only Luke uses ‘wise’ (twice) and the other 3 gospel writers use ‘foolish’ not at all. Donald A. Hagner, WBC Volume 33A: Matthew 1-13, (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1993), 190-191.
Reisinger—Continued from page 4
pertaining to Israel and the land. Does the writer to the Hebrews literalize or spiritualize Jeremiah 31:31-34?
15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his ﬂesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:15-22.
June 2012 deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
Issue 188 the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:1221.
The kingdom promise made in Joel 2:28-32 is a passage that will test your consistency in your hermeneutics. How much of this prophecy should we take “literally” and how much should we “spiritualize”? How much of the prophecy was fulﬁlled at Pentecost and how much awaits a future fulﬁllment? The ﬁrst question that must be asked is simple and, if we really believe the Old Testament must be interpreted with the New Testament, is clearly answered in Acts in Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Peter tells us how to understand Joel 2:2832.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all ﬂesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and ﬁre, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of
The second kingdom prophecy we want to look at is Joel 2:28-32.
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all ﬂesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and ﬁre, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be
When the crowd heard many different tongues being spoken, some accused the speakers of being drunk. They asked, “What does this mean?” Peter assured them the men speaking were not drunk. He told them the things they were seeing were evidence that Joel’s prophecy was being fulﬁlled. The kingdom God had promised had come. The events of Pentecost proved it. Peter declared, “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Peter deﬁnitely saw the events of Pentecost as fulﬁlling the prophecy of Joel. The kingdom Joel foretold was coming had come. Joel’s prophecy was fulﬁlled at Pentecost. Dispensationalism, in order to be consistent, must take Joel’s words “literally” but cannot take Peter’s words literally. This is obviously a real problem. One way out of their dilemma is to deny that Pentecost is a real fulﬁllment of Joel’s prophecy. Instead of taking Peter “literally,” they make Peter’s words to mean the events of Pentecost are only a type, a fore-shadowing of a future event. Peter is not saying Joel’s prophecy is “literally” fulﬁlled, he is only saying it is kind of a foretaste, or type, of the real thing. An example of this view is found in the comments in John MacArthur’s Study Bible in his introduction to the book of Joel.
A second issue confronting the interpreter is Peter’s quotation from Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:16-21. Some have viewed the phenomena of Acts 2 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as the fulﬁllment of the Joel passage, while others have reserved its fulﬁllment to the ﬁnal Day of the Lord only but clearly Joel is referring to the terrible Day of the Lord. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is not a fulﬁllment, but a preview and sample of the Spirit’s power and work,
Reisinger—Continued on page 16
I once was introduced at a Bible Conference as a person who knew how to think outside the box. I responded, “It depends on what box you are talking about.” The phrase, thinking outside the box, means different things to different people. Sometimes, we use it to describe individuals within a society or culture who refuse to allow the dictums of the majority or tradition to rule their thinking. Within a religious context, liberal Christians sometimes use the phrase to describe their rejection of certain orthodox positions, namely, of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and their subsequent refusal to govern their lives according to the dictates of Scripture. Some liberals go so far as to accuse Christians who are committed to the inspiration and integrity of Scripture of checking their brains at the front door of the church. Yet those who adopt this position fail to realize that they have created their own box: a box of unbelief about God’s Word that restricts their thoughts and shapes their actions. For most of my Christian life, I have tried to think outside the box of traditionalism while still revering tradition. I have gladly honored the fathers in the faith, especially the Puritans and the Reformers, without worshipping them or their writings. I have not failed to write about some of the atrocities of which some Puritans and some Reformers were guilty. I see tradition, when it follows Scripture, to be a great help. I see traditionalism, which is tradition for its own sake, as a man-made box that has shackled the minds of many. Tradition and traditionalism are two different things. Robert Dittmar was my mentor in some vital areas of my thinking. One of his favorite statements was, “We must think God’s thoughts after him.” Robert emphasized how the authors of Scripture constantly urge their readers to think and to test and try all things with God’s Word. However, he also
Outside the Box
John G. Reisinger
constantly reminded me that I was not free to sit in judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what the Bible says. We were to think outside of all manmade boxes but not to think outside the box of Scripture. I have applied Robert’s lessons by insisting that those who read or hear my messages have the right and the duty to judge my interpretation of what God says, but that no one has a right to pass judgment on what the Bible says. In Bible classes, I insisted that we test every interpretation so that no person becomes a law unto themselves, but that we must never question what God has actually said in his Word. We must “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21), and the yardstick we use to test all things is the Bible itself. That is the verse I put in the front of every book I am asked to autograph. Under the guise of supposed intellectual honesty, I have watched both men and women I deeply love start to think outside the box of Scripture. This happens through many different inﬂuences. It may be an overwhelming desire for recognition as having a superior intellect. Another is the quest for fame. Or it may be something as simple as the inﬂuence of a university professor. The end is always disaster: the rejection of the authority of Scripture. A few of these people have claimed me as their mentor. I deny them as in any way being my students. They have confused my constant urging them to think outside the box with a ﬁctional right to be independent of the authority of Scripture. I have indeed urged people to learn to think independently and to acquire a formal education if possible, but I never in any way intimated or implied that thinking outside the box extended to
the rejection of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. It is likely that some of these who have apostatized will accuse me, along with my Bible-believing friends, of blind faith and of living with my head in the sand. It is not, however, a question of faith versus no faith. All men and women are believers. All have faith, and all live by their faith. Some people believe lies. Some place their faith in God and in his revelation—the Bible. Others believe lies and place their faith in themselves and their right to think and act as they please. The people who have given up their biblical faith—who think outside the box of the Bible—continue to live by faith: they merely have changed the object of their faith. Instead of trusting the word of an apostle of Christ, they trust the word of another. Instead of being boxed in by an inspired, unchanging word from God, they are boxed into trusting the everchanging philosophies of the world of pseudo-intellectuals. Shortly after my conversion, I took some college courses. I was completely unprepared for the attack on my faith in Scripture that I experienced. I thought that I should have been able to answer any and every objection by my non-Christian professors. I started to research every question that these professors raised. I soon realized that I would have to spend all my waking hours studying nothing but these objections. I would have to become a scholar in every discipline—to know everything there was to know—if I were to answer all the objections. It occurred to me, however, that every discipline had within it godly men and women who had wrestled with the objections salient to their ﬁelds and who still believed the Bible. There were Christians who were psychiatrists, Christians who were historians, Christians who were scientists (in
Outside the Box—Continued on page 18
West—Continued from page 3
The British Empiricists (John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume) followed the empiricist approach to its termination point. Locke, the ﬁrst thinker, believed that all knowledge comes to us through our senses, but since the data comes through our senses, we cannot know for sure what the object we perceive is actually like. We need to trust that our senses don’t distort the external world, but how could we really ever know this? We can know how our senses represent the external world to our minds, but there is one crucial step between our minds and the external object, and that step is the mediated route through our senses. It was David Hume who really brought empiricism to its logical conclusion, and in so doing showed that it was a failure to provide a sound basis for knowledge. Hume demonstrated that we often “see” things in what we observe that we cannot really “see.” His famous example is of a billiard ball: one ball is shot into a second ball, and the second ball moves. We say that the ﬁrst ball “caused” the second ball to move. But we did not see causation. All we saw was the ﬁrst ball move, touch the second ball, and then the second ball move. At no time did we actually see a cause, or causation. On empirical grounds, the data of our senses does not include causation; it only includes sequence. To argue that a repeatedly observed sequence shows causation is to miss the point: we never see causation. Speaking of causation is, as Hume declared, just a manner of speaking by habit or custom. In the ﬁnal analysis, what we end up with are sensations, and sensations alone. We get a bit of light, a waft of odor, feel some warmth, etc., but we combine these impressions into units in our minds. A strict empiricist, however, has no grounds to accept the bundling of impressions into units.
All sensations are discrete and individual: how can we know that they are related to one another the way our mind pictures them? Well, to make a long story short, we can’t. We are left with skepticism, if we are simply logically faithful enough in our philosophical empiricism. Beyond that, we are also left without ourselves: Hume argues that our sense of self is likewise constructed into a unit by bundling sensations, but this is just as illegitimate for personal identity as it is for constructing external reality. In other words, we lose causation, genuine knowledge of the external world, and ourselves. Empiricism logically loses everything. So we begin with rationalism, with timeless truths in our minds rather than with data gathered by the senses. Where do we end up? Skepticism. Since that doesn’t work, we take a new path and begin with sense data and empiricism. Where do we end up? Skepticism. We can even try, like Immanuel Kant, to posit transcendental preconditions for human experience. What are we left with? At best we can have knowledge about our own minds and how we experience things, but we can’t know anything at all about what anything outside of our mind is like. There are two totally different realms: the phenomenological realm of our interior mental life, and the mysterious noumenological world, where things as they actually are exist (a world which we will never know). In fact, even this is granting a lot, because it is granting a personal identity, a “my” to whom belongs “my” mind, etc. On what logical grounds do we warrant our claim to be a singular personal identity persisting through time? Both rationalism and empiricism end up in a self-stultifying, skeptical swamp. Part of the charm and success of postmodernism is it candidly recognizes the abysmal failure of the Enlightenment epistemological project. I would much rather categorize myself
with the post-Enlightenment crowd than with the Enlightenment folk. The Enlightenment project has failed, and I see no way of reviving it. If you start with the human mind and human experience and try to ﬁgure out reality, you fail. Not only do you fail to ﬁgure out reality, but you lose the human mind and intelligible experience to boot. And that is not just a trivial philosophical failure; that is an unmitigated human disaster. In many ways, I think a good argument can be made that postmodernism is not post-modern at all. I have heard the relationship expressed in two different ways, depending on perspective. The ﬁrst is that postmodernism is Enlightenment rationality gone to seed. The second is that postmodernism is really hyper-modernism, or what modernism actually is when it is brought to its logical conclusion. I favor the second image, while seeing truth in both. In my judgment, when the Enlightenment decided to embark on a quest to ﬁgure out reality through autonomous human beings, it was guaranteed to fail. Postmodernism is helping us see this failure ﬁrsthand. It has taken a few centuries for philosophers to work through some of the implications of Enlightenment epistemology (and they’re not done yet), but modernism’s epistemological quest was a fool’s errand. Postmodernism isn’t so much new as it is the conclusion of a long chain of human thinking. It took a long time to get here, but this result was latently tucked back in the Enlightenment premises from day one. Before getting upset with postmoderns for suggesting that all truths are relative, perhaps we should get upset with moderns for suggesting there is absolute truth and they can ﬁgure it out for themselves. This latter claim is frankly more arrogant, and it is just as philosophically absurd when cashed out. So I can’t help but think that postWest—Continued on page 18
Warﬁeld on the Divine Origin of the Bible
Fred G. Zaspel
Frequently throughout his writings on the doctrine of Scripture, B.B. Warﬁeld emphasizes that we believe in the inspiration of Scripture simply because Jesus and his appointed apostles taught it. This for Warﬁeld is the real issue and deciding factor in the question—we hold this doctrine on Jesus’ own authority. And, of course, the noted “Theologian of Inspiration” spends much time in the Scriptures demonstrating this obvious point. In his “The Divine Origin of the Bible” (1882), however, Warﬁeld surveys the corroborating evidence. If the Bible is indeed from God, then we should expect to see evidence of that fact in both its contents and its effects. And so he demonstrates that this is indeed the case. Warﬁeld begins by pointing out that the Bible is unique among all other books in the place it maintains among civilized people. Its inﬂuence on legislation, social habits, culture, and governmental forms is unparalleled. It has left its mark in the shaping and even transformation of every quarter of every society to which it has gone. Religious rituals of sacriﬁce forever embedded in the consciousness of men and societies suddenly fell into neglect when brought into contact with the Bible. Religion and morals, in their practice and in their very theory, have been revolutionized by this unique book. Moreover, its inﬂuence has always been beneﬁcent. This is not to deny the many abuses of professing Christians, but it is an unchallenged fact that where the Bible has gone, society has improved, and love has replaced hate and horror. Following its ﬁrst arrival, by all accounts attested to by miraculous signs, the Bible has deluged the world, crossing all boundaries and barriers. So pervasive has been its inﬂuence wherever it has gone that it would be difﬁcult to overstate the case. And all this has been accomplished without the commendation of royalty, against the most determined and violent opposition, and by means of the efforts of a dozen unlearned men bringing a message considered foolish by all who heard it. Yet all who are encountered by it are left with the deep-rooted conviction that this book is from God. If this is fanaticism, it is a remarkable fanaticism that has continued and grown in a way that is without precedent. And so Warﬁeld inquires, what might account for all this if not the Bible’s own claim that it is of divine origin? Warﬁeld proceeds by observing that it does not appear that the Bible, if of human origin only, could have been produced with the conscious intent of inﬂuencing the world as it has. The Bible is in fact not one but sixty-six books of virtually every genre, written by at least thirty different writers from all walks of life, education, and temperament, and scattered over a period of 1,500 years. Yet the Bible is not, as would be expected, a conglomerate of unrelated literary debris ﬁnally thrust together by some whirlpool of time. Rather, the Bible displays a remarkable unity in theme, in moral and religious ideal, in subject matter, and in its leading ﬁgure, Jesus Christ. Predictions and prophecy in the ﬁrst half of the book are fulﬁlled so numerously and so exactly in the second half that the two are manifestly designed for the each other (implied: by a single mind). The former half manifestly anticipates and is completed by the latter, and the latter rests
entirely upon the former. Each part contributes to the whole, and each book adds something of orderly and constantly progressive explanation, deﬁnition, or completion to the others. All of its parts very naturally dovetail together into a single well-connected and consistent whole. All of its parts seem clearly to be meant for the others, intentionally framed for its peculiar place. Although its production far outlasts the life span of any single man, the Bible seems by all accounts to be a book designed from the beginning to be what it is in its ﬁnal form. All its varied parts ﬁt together so well and so naturally that it appears to have been produced by a single mind. And yet what human mind could have guided this process over so many authors and so many centuries? Moreover, the Bible displays not only a remarkable unity in its teaching, but the teaching itself is marked by a unique and otherwise unexplainable grandeur. The writers betray an advanced knowledge beyond their historical setting, an understanding of the universe that is in perfect accord with all that later advanced learning has discovered. Their elevated conception of God, unprecedented in any other religious teaching before or since, and their correspondingly elevated conception of the nobility of man created in God’s image likewise cry for explanation. Still further, the great truths they present are not suited for their own time and culture only but are universal truths that are instinctively recognized by all to be true, divinely insightful, personally and universally relevant, and of eternal bearing. And so again Warﬁeld inquires, what can account for this? The evidence simply does not allow an accounting for the Bible apart from God. And if this book cannot be accounted for apart from God, “we seem shut up to account for it as from him.” m
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TITLE Abide in Him: A Theological Interpretation of John's First Letter — White Abraham’s Four Seeds —Reisinger The Believer’s Sabbath —Reisinger Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal— Long But I Say Unto You —Reisinger Chosen in Eternity —Reisinger Christ, Lord and Lawgiver Over the Church —Reisinger The Christian and The Sabbath —Wells Continuity and Discontinuity —Reisinger Deﬁnite Atonement —Long The Doctrine of Baptism —Sasser Full Bellies and Empty Hearts —Autio Galatians: A Theological Interpretation —White Grace —Reisinger The Grace of Our Sovereign God —Reisinger Hermeneutical Flaws of Dispensationalism —George In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver—Reisinger Is John G. Reisinger an Antinomian?—Wells John Bunyan on the Sabbath —Reisinger Jonathan Edwards on Biblical Hermeneutics and the “Covenant of Grace” —Gilliland The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal— White Limited Atonement—Reisinger Ministry of Grace Essays in Honor of John G. Reisinger—Steve West, Editor The New Birth — Reisinger The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology —Zaspel New Covenant Theology —Wells & Zaspel The Newness of the New Covenant—White The New Perspective on Justiﬁcation —West The Obedience of Christ—Van Court Our Sovereign God — Reisinger Perseverance of the Saints — Reisinger The Priority of Jesus Christ—Wells A Prisoner’s Christianity —Woodrow Saving the Saving Gospel —West Sinners, Jesus Will Receive —Payne Studies in Galatians —Reisinger Studies in Ecclesiastes —Reisinger Tablets of Stone —Reisinger The Sovereignty of God and Prayer—Reisinger The Sovereignty of God in Providence — Reisinger Total Depravity — Reisinger Union with Christ: Last Adam and Seed of Abraham —White What is the Christian Faith?— Reisinger What is New Covenant Theology? An Introduction —White *NEW* When Should a Christian Leave a Church?—Reisinger
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White—Continued from page 1
so that you do not see them; in fact, you are not supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the ﬂoodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you can see it properly. This perfectly illustrated the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden ﬂoodlight shining on the Savior. Or think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder on to Jesus who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message to us is never, ‘Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me’, but always, ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him and hear his word; go to him and have life; get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace.’ The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.”1 His main ministry is to lift up Jesus and point us to him. In John 16:14, Jesus says, “He will glorify me” (NIV). I want to unpack the Spirit’s empowerment of cruciform love from 1 Thessalonians 4:8-9. Those verses read, “Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” I want to unpack a couple of Paul’s descriptive statements. Paul’s main point in theses verses and the surrounding context is the call to holiness. What is fascinating, though, is what Paul writes sort of in passing. He describes God as the one who gives his Holy Spirit to us.
1 J.I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 57-58.
He also describes the believers as being “taught by God.” Promise Recall the story. God had created his people Israel and called them to obey the law. Sadly, they were disobedient right from the start, and it never really got any better. The history of Israel is a history of idolatry and unfaithfulness. God wasn’t ﬁnished with them, though. Through the prophets, God promised to remake them. He was going to intervene and do something “new.” One of the major promises is of a new covenant. Jeremiah 31:31-34 says,
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel was probably written about 30 years after Jeremiah, and he is commenting here on Jeremiah 31. He says that the interiorized law will be the Spirit of God who transforms believers and impels them to free obedience.2 Fulﬁllment For Paul, as well as for all learned ﬁrst century Jews, Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31 were very important passages.3 They are two key new covenant passages, and Paul sees these as having been fulﬁlled in the death and resurrection of Christ and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Notice that the tense of the verb give is future in Ezekiel 36. When Paul quotes it in 1 Thessalonians, Paul uses a present participle. I want to point out the similarities between the promises given in Ezekiel and what Paul writes here. Note that didonta and dōsō are from the same verb didōmi:4
1 Thess. 4:8 - God who gives (didonta) his Holy Spirit (to pneuma autou) to us (eis hymas) Ezek. 11:19 - I will give (dōsō) them an undivided heart and give (dōsō) a new spirit (pneuma) in them (en autois); I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of ﬂesh. Ezek. 36:26 - I will give (dōsō) you a new heart and a new spirit (pneuma) in you (en hymin) Ezek. 36:27 - And I will give my Spirit in you (to pneuma mou dōsō en hymin) and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezek. 37:6 - I will attach tendons to you and make ﬂesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will give my 2 T.J. Deidun, New Covenant Morality in Paul (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1981), 37. 3 Ibid., 20, 53. 4 Where these translations differ from the NIV, they are my own.
White—Continued on page 14
Ezekiel also promises this new work of God. In 11:19, we read, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of ﬂesh.” Similarly, in Ezekiel 36:25-27, we hear, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of ﬂesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow
Sound of Grace Ministries started in 1966 under the name Sword &Trowel. The primary goal was teaching the Doctrines of Grace in language that the “man in the pew” could understand. Our ﬁve tape series on the ﬁve points of Calvinism and the six tape series on the Sovereignty of God have literally gone around the entire world. Many churches use them as indoctrination tools and many individual believers have used them for Bible Studies. The one constant comment we get about our ministry is this: “John Reisinger speaks in a manner that makes theology easy to understand.” Organizations are supposed to have a “Mission Statement” that clearly spells out their reason for existing. This statement deﬁnes the contribution the organization hopes to make. I read again recently the Book of Nehemiah and while reading chapter 8, I thought, “What a great Mission Statement this would make for Sound of Grace.” The goal of Sound of Grace is to see Nehemiah chapter 8 duplicated in our day. Look with me again at that wonderful passage of Scripture.
1 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the ﬁrst day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. … 5 And Ezra opened the book in
John G. Reisinger
the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. 11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. 12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. 13 And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. Nehemiah 8:1-13.
out of captivity to return to Jerusalem. The city was in ruins. The temple, walls and gates were destroyed. Eighty years later Ezra returned with another group of people and laid the foundation for the temple. Fourteen years after that Nehemiah led a group back to Jerusalem and under his leadership the walls and gates were restored. Nehemiah 8 records the revival that took place when the Word of God was preached and understood at the dedication service. First, we should notice what Nehemiah did and what he did not do. Nehemiah was not a priest, a prophet, or a Scribe. He was what is called a “layman” (not a good word.) He was a gifted organizer and administrator but he was not a preacher or teacher. Nehemiah took charge of rebuilding the walls but when the restoration was ﬁnished and it came time to open the Scriptures and dedicate the work that had been done, Nehemiah called for Ezra the Scribe. Blessed is the congregation where godly business men and women, as well as pastors and teachers, know their respective roles. Great preachers may be poor organizers and some laypeople who cannot teach or preach may be great organizers and administrators. Some of the greatest Bible expositors I have known were some of the poorest administrators and some of the most gifted administrators were theologically illiterate. Being a successful businessman does not in itself qualify you to be a church leader any more than being a Bible scholar makes you a capable church leader. We need both Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s and they must both submit to each other in their respective functions. Let the Nehemiah’s effectively take care of the secular aspects of the ministry of the Church but let them yield to the pastors and teachers when it comes times to “hear the Word of God expounded.” Let the Ezra’s expound the Scriptures but don’t allow them to
Our Purpose—Continued on page 16
Zerubbable led a group of people
White—Continued from page 12
Spirit to you (dōsō pneuma mou eis hymas), and you will come to life. Ezek. 37:14 - I will give my Spirit to you (dōsō to pneuma mou eis hymas) and you will live.5
Now notice the similarities between 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and Jeremiah 31 and Isaiah 54:
1 Thess. 4:9 – Because you have been taught by God (theodidaktoi) Isa. 54:13 - All your children will be taught by the LORD (didaktous theou), and great will be their peace. Jer. 31:34 - No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. (38:34 LXX) (kai ou mē diaxōsin hekastos ton politēn autou. … hoti pantes eidēsousin me)6
iah saw as a future has become a present reality for the Thessalonians. They have been taught by God.7 “Taught by God” probably refers to both the teaching of Jesus and the inner working of the Spirit.8 It is communication from God and a relationship with him. Cruciform Love Now we have the Spirit of God, who moves us to follow his decrees and keep his laws. Our old stony heart has been replaced by a ﬂeshly one. We have been taught by God. Notice what Paul says we are taught by God to do: mutually love. This has been an emphasis in 1 Thessalonians (just like it is in every New Testament letter). Consider a sampling:
3:6 - “But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love.” 3:12 - “May the Lord make your love increase and overﬂow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” 7 Ibid., 33. 8 F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, WBC (Word, 1982), 90.
Issue 188 5:7-8 - “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” 5:11 - “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 5:15 - “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”
Notice that what Jeremiah and Isa5 Ibid., 19, 33, 53, 228; Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 52. 6 David Peterson, Possessed by God, NSBT (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1995), 84.
Love is at the heart of the new covenant call to holiness. It is the Spirit’s principal work. It is no wonder that the ﬁrst fruit of the Spirit listed is love (Gal. 5:22f). Love does not come from us. The gospel is the power that transforms us, and the Spirit works in and through us. It is God’s activity within the hearts of Christians that impels us to action.9 God is the one who gives us his Holy Spirit. Gives you is a present participle stressing the ongoing work of the Spirit in our lives.10 m
9 Deidun, New Covenant Morality, 58. 10 Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 52.
April 2012 Hi my Brothers, I want to say thank you for such a ﬁne journal. May our Lord con nue to bless your work. Pastor John A
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Vaninger—Continued from page 5
sought. This makes for an interesting comparison with Christ being the fulﬁllment of OT law. I say ‘comparison’ rather than ‘parallel’ deliberately. OT law was different from OT wisdom in several respects which means there is not a close parallel but there is an instructive comparison. Under the old covenant, the law of Moses was the sole and ﬁnal authority over all matters of life. But we see a very important change in this situation when we come to the NT Scriptures. The teaching and example of Christ become the standard. This new standard pervades the NT but is best seen in the ‘antitheses’ of Matthew 5:21-48, part of the same Sermon on the Mount of our title text. In this passage, we see the shift of authority from the law of Moses to the person of Christ. After each quote from the law, Jesus says, ‘but I say unto you’ and proceeds to give his own teaching on the subject which in every case directs us to a higher standard. ‘This involves a transfer of authority from the law to Jesus himself.’5 Jesus not only has become the ﬁnal authority over all matters of life but, as we have seen, he also has become the source of all true wisdom. There is not a perfect parallel. In the NT, Jesus is spoken of as the wisdom of God but not as the law of God. Perhaps one reason for this is that ‘law’ carries with it the thought of a legalistic system where Israel could achieve earthly blessing through obedience or suffer earthly curse as a result of rebellion. Wisdom carries no such connotation. In fact, the OT concept of wisdom seems to be a major step away from the legalism of the Mosaic covenant and anticipates in various ways the more elevated principles of Christ
5 Michael Eaton, No Condemnation: A New Theology of Assurance, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 136.
from God.’ Paul goes on to say, ‘and righteousness and sanctiﬁcation and redemption.’ I have always focused on the last three. But Paul puts wisdom at the top of the list! Christ is our wisdom. When we hear his words and order our lives accordingly, we will be prepared for the storms of life spoken of in Matthew 7:25 when they come. And they will surely come. Not only is Christ our righteousness and sanctiﬁcation and redemption but he is our also the source of wisdom for this lifetime and for eternity. We read in Proverbs 4:7, ‘Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom.’ In view of the above, we could now say, ‘Christ is the principle thing; therefore get Christ.’ It’s not that we should completely equate Christ with wisdom since wisdom is an abstract concept and Christ is the God-man. Christ is indeed the personiﬁcation of wisdom, but he is much more than that. This concept of, ‘Christ is the principle thing; therefore get Christ’ pervades the NT. Christ is exalted above all else. He is the source of all truth. He is the way of redemption from sin. He is the way to eternal life. Among many other superlatives, Christ is the living Word of God. And he is the source of all wisdom. Therefore ‘get Christ’ is the best recommendation we can give to any man, woman or child. Getting Christ is getting wisdom and a whole lot more. The concept of wisdom is found not just in Proverbs but also in Job, Ecclesiastes and other parts of the OT (such as the Joseph story). The importance and value of wisdom in the OT ﬁnds its full realization in the person of Christ. Jesus is the ultimate wise man. He is the personiﬁcation of true wisdom. Wisdom ﬁnds its terminal point in Christ. Jesus is the fulﬁllment of what the OT wisdom literature
and the NT. The OT wisdom literature does not deal with religious ceremony or civil precepts but with higher principles that culminate in the spiritual and ethical teachings of Christ. In Matthew 7:28-29, the gospel writer gives us the reaction of the people to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
And when Jesus ﬁnished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
Jesus spoke with authority. He did not speak like scribes who would quote rabbis and other scribes, who would cite precedents, gather arguments and present their case. Jesus did not speak as these men did.6 He spoke with the authority of God. The people couldn’t help but notice. They were astonished. Jesus was different. ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ (John 7:46). The teachings and rulings of the rabbis and the scribes looked back to OT law, previous rulings of other rabbis and scribes, and an accumulating mass of tradition. Jesus’ approach was different; it was messianic7 and forward looking. Jesus in his role as Messiah was ushering in a new era in which OT law (much less the rulings of men) would no longer be authoritative.8
6 Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 641. Schreiner points out that while ‘Jesus did not engage the Jewish leaders at a halakic level’, there are some instances where he does argue with them from the OT Scriptures to point out their errors in interpretation. 7 D. A. Carson, , “Matthew,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary Volume 8, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 195. 8 See Chapter 6, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ in John G. Reisinger, Continuity and Discontinuity (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011), 103-121
Vaninger—Continued on page 18
Reisinger—Continued from page 6
Our Purpose—Continued from page 13
to be released fully and ﬁnally in the Messiah’s kingdom after the Day of the Lord” (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1268).
I will leave it to the reader to decide whether the words “this is that” really means Pentecost is the fulﬁllment of Joel’s kingdom prophecy or if those words are only “a preview and sample” of that kingdom. Do we take Joel literally, and be consistent with the “literal” hermeneutic of Dispensationalism and symbolize Peter’s interpretation of Joel, or do we symbolize Joel and take Peter’s “this is that” literally? It seems strange to me that militant defenders of a literal interpretation of Joel’s Old Testament kingdom prophecy are forced to spiritualize a New Testament writer’s interpretation of that same Old Testament prophecy. I doubt my article will persuade any Dispensationalist to change their view. I do hope some people who act like Dispensationalists are the only people who really believe in verbal (in their minds meaning “literal”) inspiration will realize that is not true. Non-Dispensationalists, including A-mils, are just as deeply committed to the full verbal inspiration of the
Scriptures as the Pre-mils. Likewise, I hope others will see that our Dispensational brethren are just as committed heart and soul to Scripture as their sole rule of life and theology as we non-Dispensationalists are. Regardless, it seems obvious to me that Peter’s words, “this is that,” really means “this is that.” Peter is declaring the kingdom promised in Joel has been fulﬁlled. The New Testament is clearly spiritualizing an Old Testament kingdom promise. The promised new covenant has been established. One last word. I want to emphasize again my deep conviction that the New Testament Scriptures must interpret the Old Testament Scriptures. We must use Hebrews and I Corinthians to interpret the book of Joel. We do not form a “literal” interpretation of Joel 2:28-32, and other kingdom passages in the Old Testament, and force that understanding into the New Testament. We must make Joel ﬁt into Hebrews; we do not ﬁt Hebrews into Joel. We must let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament. When we use this new covenant principle of interpretation we will discover that “this is that” means the writer is clearly spiritualizing an Old Testament kingdom prophecy. m
tell Nehemiah how to build a wall or a gate. Second: The Ezra’s must teach the Word of God in such a way that people understand. Verse 8 is clear as to the goal of biblical preaching. The goal must not be to impress each other in either their knowledge or their ability. True preachers must aim at making sure the people understand what God’s Word means. The congregation must not leave a church service saying, “My, what a great sermon,” they must leave saying, “My, what a great gospel!” They must not leave saying, “Isn’t he a great preacher?” They should leave saying, “Don’t we have a great Savior!’
… the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. Nehemiah 7, 8:8.
John Wesley is said to have written out his sermons before preaching them and giving them to a scrubwoman to read. If there were words or thoughts in the sermon that she did not understand, Wesley would re-work it until she could understand it. Some folks
Our Purpose—Continued on page 18
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Vaninger—Continued from page 15
Outside the Box—Continued from page 7
Our Purpose—Continued from page 16
Matthew drives home this point in his account of the Transﬁguration later on in his gospel. In the presence of Moses and Elijah, the voice of God from heaven declares, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’ (Matthew 17:5). A great changed has occurred. Jesus is now the Rabbi. Jesus is now the Teacher who speaks with absolute and ﬁnal authority. Jesus is the Wisdom of God. We cannot do any better than to listen to him. When we do so, we are like a man who builds his house on the rock. m
for an excellent discussion of how Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5-7 set aside the Law of Moses but did not speak of the law as useless or as no longer being Scripture or as being in error, but rather always displayed the greatest respect for OT law. Like Paul, Jesus saw the law of Moses as good when seen in its proper place in redemption history. But Jesus and Paul, along with the other NT writers, saw the law (and the OT as a whole) as preliminary and preparatory. The coming of the Messiah and the fulﬁllment of the new covenant brought about the next and better phase of the larger plan of redemption that God has provided.
The lamp of faith must be filled with the oil of charity. Thomas Watson
West—Continued from page 8
all branches), Christians who were philosophers, and indeed, Christians who were working in every ﬁeld and every discipline. Did all of these godly men and women have their heads in the sand? Did all of them have enough critical thinking skills to earn Doctorates and receive academic accolades from their peers, but not enough discernment to prevent being brainwashed by their religious convictions? I remember reading a small booklet titled Is Science Irreligious? The author’s goal was to refute the idea that true science was opposed to orthodox Christianity. As evidence, the author cited many obituaries listed in scientiﬁc journals. Each obituary included the name of the deceased scientist, family members, writings, special accomplishments, and lastly, where applicable, church afﬁliation. The majority of many of these scientist’s obituaries said, “He, or she, was a faithful member of such-and-such church.” The author then linked this evidence to his claim, stating, “It would seem very unlikely that a scientiﬁc organization would openly publish in its journal that some of its members were guilty of the academic sins of superstition and anti-scientiﬁc thinking. Apparently those scientiﬁc organizations did not believe that being a Christian was totally inconsistent with being a true scientist.” If you chose to reject the box of Scripture and put your faith in yourself or some other human authority, go right ahead, but do not claim you are thinking outside the box. All that you have done is to change boxes. You have traded God’s box for a do-it-yourself box that you have pasted together using your own material. m
criticized him for “cheapening the King’s English.” Wesley responded, “My concern is not with the King’s English but with being sure that people understand the truth.” I believe some preachers stay up all night trying to ﬁgure out how to talk for 30 minutes without actually saying anything. It amazes me how godly men and women will put up with mish-mash sermons. They will complain they are not being fed spiritually but continue to support, with their presence and ﬁnances, a spiritually dead church. I remember when I was in full time evangelism I was often told by a visitor, “We don’t hear preaching like this in our church.” I would reply, “Then why don’t you attend this church? They hear this kind of preaching every Sunday. If you ate at a restaurant and never had a decent meal, would you keep going back paying good money for poor food or would you look for a different place to eat”? The goal of Sound of Grace is not just to preach the Scriptures, but to preach them in such a way that the people who hear us will understand the truth. Third: Notice two things that happened when the people understood the Word of God being preached. One, all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law (v.9). Two, and all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them (v.12). The people ﬁrst wept and then they experienced great joy and both the weeping and the joy were produced by their understanding of the Scriptures. Their weeping was turned to joy. They ﬁrst wept in conviction of sin because they saw how much they had neglected and disobeyed the Word of God. One thing they immediately corrected was the observing of the feast of Tabernacles (see vss. 14-17). A correct understanding of Scripture will always
modernism is on the right track when it denounces modern Western philosophy as insufﬁcient, and I certainly cheer when postmoderns reject the idolatrously high view of human beings that grounded the Enlightenment project. But there is a lot more to be said than this, and in the next article, I plan on examining some particular claims postmodernism makes which are helpful to Christianity when understood in the right light (i.e., the light of God’s revelation). m
produce conviction of sin. However, the same Scriptures will lead us to justiﬁcation and forgiveness of sin and the weeping will be turned into the joy of salvation. Some people want to avoid the pain of conviction of sin and experience only joy. This is not possible. Others wallow in pious legalism and never come to the real joy of forgiveness. True biblical conversion will experience both conviction and joy and in that order. John Newton had it right in his famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved.
ﬁcation by faith. I cannot emphasize too strongly that the “joy of the Lord” is not only the birthright of every child of God; it is also the source of the Christians strength.
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength (v. 10).
Don’t ever mock conviction of sin or the kind of preaching that produces it. It is God’s grace that convicts us of our need. As Newton said, it was grace that convicted us and made us fear. However, do not stop with fear. The same grace that taught us to fear will also “relieve that fear.” Beware of any theology or experience that is afraid of “examining yourself to see if you be in the faith” (II Cor. 13:5). Avoid the curse of “easy believism” at all cost. However, don’t confuse “easy believism” with “only believism.” Scripture condemns easy believism but clearly teaches only believe as the heart of justiﬁcation. If you have never experienced “the biblical fear of the Lord,” you probably are not a Christian. If you have never known a joyous assurance of salvation, you have either never been truly converted or you have never been taught the biblical doctrine of justi-
The goal of Sound of Grace is to help God’s sheep to walk in the fear of the Lord and know the experience of biblical joy. Preaching the law and putting the conscience under the threat of the law cannot accomplish this goal. That kind of preaching will indeed produce a morbid unbiblical fear of God but will never produce the kind of joy expressed in Nehemiah. The conscience must be set free from the law enabling us to swim in the ocean of God’s unchanging redemptive love in Jesus Christ. Again, we must caution that setting the conscience free from the law is not enough. I remember speaking at a conference and several people said to me, “John, we will ever be grateful to you for setting us free from the law.” I replied, “If that is all I did, then I failed most miserably. My goal has always been to set you free from the law only that you might be married to Christ (Romans 7:-4). My goal is making poor sinners to be bond slaves of a risen Christ.” If you believe Nehemiah 8 expresses a good Mission Statement, and you also believe the ministry of Sound
of Grace has helped fulﬁll that mission in your life, we ask your help. We urge you to pray for us and encourage others to get acquainted with our ministry. We also need your help ﬁnancially. The regular giving of those who share our goals is what makes it possible to publish Sound of Grace regularly, publish books on New Covenant Theology, hold the John Bunyan Conference yearly, and maintain a website. The last three years we have expended more than we have taken in. We are dipping into a reserve pool and cannot continue in this manner. One last word from Nehemiah 8. Look again at verse 10.
Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared:
Nehemiah instructed the people to eat the fat, and drink the sweet, but he did no stop there. They were also to share the good things with those who had nothing, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared. How many of your Christian friends have never read a copy of Sound of Grace, or listened to a CD by John Reisinger or the other able conference speakers, or read one of the books published by New Covenant Media? Why not send a “portion to them that have not”? We would greatly appreciate any help you can give us to keep sending out “the fat and the sweet.” We don’t know of any fat and sweets that bring the joy of the Lord to hungry sheep like the Gospel of sovereign grace, the Doctrines of Grace and New Covenant Theology. m
“Blake White has written a wonderfully accessible primer on new covenant theology… This is the ideal book to give to someone who wants a brief and convincing exposition of new covenant thought. I recommend this work gladly.” Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary “In a very readable, accurate, and succinct manner, Blake White covers the basics of New Covenant Theology… I highly recommend this work for those who want to know more about NCT, for those who want to think through how "to put the Bible together," and mostly for those who want to rejoice in Jesus Christ our Lord, our glorious mediator and head of the new covenant.” Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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