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I s s u e 2 0 0 S e p t e m b e r 2 013
John G. Reisinger on the
I was interested in publishing books and booklets from the day I was converted. Long before computers and printers were available, we printed Spurgeon’s sermons on the doctrines of grace by the thousands on mimeograph machines. It was a messy job and took a lot of work but those sermons had an effect. Many of God’s sheep came to understand and embrace the truths that cluster around God’s sovereign election. In 1966 we began publishing Sword and Trowel. This was a monthly paper printed on newsprint. We published this paper for over 20 years. When we first started publishing Sword and Trowel we used a new kind of IBM typewriter that could produce print that looked like it was set by a printer. A few years later computers and printers came on the market and we thought we were in publishIssue 200—Continued on page 2 ing heaven.
The 200th Issue of Sound of Grace
In This Issue
200th Issue of Sound of Grace
John G. Reisinger Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest ― Part 7 John G. Reisinger Under the Elemental Spirits of the World A. Blake White Biblical Worship - Revelation 5 Steve West A Study of New Covenant Theology, Part 3 of 4 Kevin P. McAloon Covenant Theology and the Denial of the Supremacy of Christ as the Church's Only Lord and Lawgiver Kevin Dibbley
Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest—Part 7
John G. Reisinger
Nothing demonstrates the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant as much as the work of Christ as Priest compared with the work of Aaron as Priest. Simply stated, Christ’s work as our priest on the cross accomplished what Aaron was never able to accomplish. Christ offered a sacrifice, himself, that fully paid for sin and satisfied the holy character of God. Aaron could not offer such a sacrifice. He could not effect a true atonement for sin. Christ brings his people into the true Most Holy Place in heaven not only forgiven but also fully justified and robed in a perfect righteousness. Aaron could not himself enter the Most Holy Place let alone bring sinners into God’s presence. A comparison of the doctrine of assurance under the Old Covenant with assurance under the New Covenant will help us see this truth. David’s confession of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah her husband, as recorded in Psalm 51, are most helpful in understanding the difference between the Old and New doctrine of assurance of salvation. I once heard a preacher say, “David’s awful sin of adultery and murder proves the doctrine of eternal security.” He was very wrong. David’s sin does not prove eternal security but Psalm 51 proves the grace of God toward David. All David’s sin of adultery and murder proves is that he was a sinner like the rest of us. His recorded repentance in Psalm 51 proves he was a godly man despite the fact that he had succumbed to temptation and fallen into sin. His repentance described so vividly in Psalm 51 proves he was indeed a godly man in spite of his being over taken in sin in a given instance. I am interested in showing how David’s sin and repentance differs from sin and repentance under the New Covenant. David’s sin of murder and adultery are recorded in II Sam 11 and 12. We need not go over the sordid details of David’s sin except to Reisinger—Continued on page
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
Along the way we (under the New Covenant Media imprint) have published many of my books and booklets as well as several by others (see Facts and Figures, on page 4). Some of the books have gone through two or more printings. Some of our material has been translated into other languages. The book The Sovereignty of God in Providence has been printed in three languages. Abraham’s Four Seeds is our best-selling book. The most popular audio/video series we ever published is on the Doctrines of Grace. These have literally gone all over the world. The next most popular series is The God of the Bible series and is an excellent introduction to sovereign grace theology. From the beginning of our entrance into publishing we have had very narrow goals. First, we were interested in publishing material that glorified God by teaching of his sovereign grace. There are many other very worthy and essential doctrines that need to be propagated. We thank God for the people involved in publishing such truths. However, we wanted to cover material on God’s sovereignty that was getting scant attention. We were not interested in duplicating the efforts of others. Second, we wanted to publish the Doctrines of Grace in a manner that the “man in the pew” could understand. I do not in any way disparage scholarly books. I thank God for men and women with PHDs who can solve interpretative technical difficulties. I read their books with great profit. However, we are interested in truck drivers, housewives, the Joe and Mary Ordinaries who never went to seminary. The scholars who have just a bit of humility can benefit from our approach but the truck drivers and waitresses will be left behind in trying to wrestle with the scholar’s footnotes in Greek. We have aimed at making theology both understandable
September 2013 and enjoyable. One of the comments I often receive, and might add, greatly appreciate is, “Pastor John, I so much appreciate your ability to make me understand difficult truths.” God said, “Feed my sheep,” he did not say “Feed my giraffes.” We strive to put the cookies on the lower shelves. Third, we have tried to be relevant. Some critics of present day Christianity have accused the Church of “answering questions that people are not asking and ignoring questions they are.” Luther said, “He is no friend of the truth who guards the East gate when it is not under attack and ignores the West gate when it is under attack.” We have never provoked a fight nor have we run from them. We believe that no Christian, regardless of how we may differ on some issues, is our enemy. We have openly apposed both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism even while believing there are some true children of God among both of these camps. We have preached doctrine without being doctrinaire and we have held to Godly tradition without being traditionalist. Our refusal to be “party line zealots” has often made us be at odds with both sides in some controversial situations. We have taken sola Scriptura seriously. Our first struggle was with Arminianism. When we first started publishing material on the five points of Calvinism, we lost a lot of friends. At that point in history there was not a single publishing house that was Calvinistic and Baptistic. Sword & Trowel and Sound of Grace was one of the significant factors that helped to start and establish the Reformed Baptist movement. This latter movement split over the teaching of New Covenant Theology at a very early stage. New Covenant Media was the first publishing house that emphasized New Covenant Theology and it still remains the major source of books and booklets teaching New Covenant Theology.
Issue 200—Continued on page 4
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, David Leon, John Thorhauer, Bob VanWingerden and Jacob Moseley. Editor: John G. Reisinger; Phone: (585)3963385; e-mail: email@example.com. General Manager: Jacob Moseley: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 or SOGNCM.org 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 Sound of Grace free of charge.
Under the Elemental Spirits of the World
A. Blake White
The word “under” (hypo) is used frequently in Galatians to refer to the old age. It designates “the old era when the Mosaic covenant was in force.”1 In Galatians, to be under law (3:23) = under sin (3:22) = under a babysitter (3:25) = under guardians and managers (4:2) = under the elemental spirits (stoicheia) of the world (4:3). This last one is the most shocking. The phrase I have translated “elemental spirits” is much disputed. Many commentators take it to mean the physical building blocks of the world, so that to return to the law is to return to live under the basic principles of the world (most likely the case in 2 Peter 3:10, 12). This may be a correct interpretation, but in the end, spiritual forces can’t be excluded. For, unlike the mindset of Enlightenment rationalism, in the mindset of the New Testament the “whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19 NIV). Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). He is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Unbelievers follow “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2). There are cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil over this present darkness (Eph 6:12). So even if the word does refer to the elementary building blocks of the world, demonic forces are still involved. Some object to this interpretation (i.e., elemental sprits or spiritual forces) due to the claim that this terminology is not used outside the Bible until after the second century AD. Although, looking at the usage outside of the New Testament is helpful, it is not decisive. Usage in context is key.2 In Galatians, Paul uses the word
1 Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, 321. 2 D.G. Reid, “Elements/Elemental Spirits of the World,” in Dictionary of Paul
in 4:3 and 4:9. In 4:8-10, he writes, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!” This is a shocking statement. Here, Paul lumps together Judaism and paganism. To observe the Jewish Sabbath and festival practices (certainly this is what’s in view) is to return to the elemental spirits of the world.3 The genitive “of the world” (tou kosmou) is important as well. These elemental spirits are characteristic of this world, this age, which he already wrote is evil (Gal 1:4). This present world order belongs to Satan (2 Cor 4:4). We are helped in our understanding of this truth by looking at the book of 1 Corinthians. There, referring to idols, Paul says “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’)” (8:5). Then in 10:20 he says that these idols are demons: “No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God.” So for the Galatians to return to the Jewish calendar is to return to being enslaved to those that are by nature not gods, which is another way of saying being enslaved by the elemental spirits of this present evil age. Clinton Arnold writes, “The pasand His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 229. 3 Steve Westerholm, Perspectives, 367; Schreiner, Galatians, 245; Longenecker, Galatians, 182; Meyer, The End of the Law, 174.
sage is best explained if one interprets the stoicheia as demonic powers, equivalent to the expression ‘principalities and powers.’4 It is important to note that Paul is not calling the law demonic. However, it is demonic to return to the law after Christ’s death and resurrection. Christ is the culmination of the law (Rom 10:4). Its sacrifices are no longer effective. To turn back the clock of redemptive history is to turn to slavery to the powers. If my interpretation is correct, it just reinforces the fact that getting the gospel right is crucial. The indicative must undergird the imperative. Sanctification flows from justification. It is fundamentally demonic to trust in anything but Christ crucified for salvation. This is why John can call those who falsely claim to be Jews the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9, 3:9). In this regard the principalities and powers, those lords that cannot liberate, can equally plunder the Roman Catholic Church or the overly strict fundamentalist Baptist congregation. The “do this and live” principle (Gal 3:12; Rom 10:5) is everywhere because the main evangelist of this religion is the prince of the power of the air. Only pagans trust in self. In Acts 21:24, the verbal form (stoicheō) is used as “living in obedience to the law.” It refers to “leading a closely regulated life, to living accord-
4 Clinton E. Arnold, “Returning to the Domain of the Powers: stoicheia as Evil Spirits in Galatians 4:3, 9,” Novum Testamentum 38, no. 1 (January 1996): 57; idem, Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 53, 131-32.
White—Continued on page 9
Issue 200—Continued from page 2
In all of the years we have been involved in publishing, we have financed our efforts with gifts. We have never had any foundations or “rich uncles”. On a few occasions some business men have given us large gifts but by and large our ministry has been maintained by small donations that were given on a regular basis. With faithful contributors and with God’s enabling grace we have never had to borrow any money and have finished every year in the black. However, the last three years we have seen the checking account balance decrease. We were affected by the recession as were most other Christian organizations. If you have been blessed through the ministry of Sound of Grace, and want to see others share the same blessing, I sincerely urge you to become a partner with us by becoming a regular financial contributor. We plan to continue to help develop young men with obvious gifts of preaching and teaching the truths of sovereign grace and New Covenant Theology. It is very encouraging to see the leadership of the next generation developing into careful and capable exegetes of Scripture. Some folks have said that when people like John Reisinger, Ron McKinney, and a few others, pass on, New Covenant Theology will die with them. It is a good thing we are not living under the Old Covenant or these folks would be
September 2013 stoned to death for being false prophets. Of course, none of the people who say things like that have ever read the Sound of Grace paper or attended a John Bunyan conference or read any of the New Covenant Media books or listened to some of the men who will carry the New Covenant banner in next generation. I have a final word. I want every reader and supporter to know how deeply I appreciate your prayers and gifts. Some friends have contributed to our ministry regularly for over forty years. I have never met some of our supporters. I wish I could meet you all; and believe that I will some day in glory. I wish you all could see the letters we receive from Christ’s sheep who heard about God’s sovereign electing grace for the first time through Sound of Grace. You would be as blessed and encouraged as we are. You would realize, as we do, that we are not building an organization or a movement, we are building “living epistles.” We are seeing tender lambs become grown-up sheep. Just as we are totally grace oriented so we are people oriented. The staff at Sound of Grace say “thank you” to every one of you for your help. We pray that God will continue the ministry of Sound of Grace for many more years. Some of the articles will be written by new and different people but by the grace of God the message will be the same.
Facts and Figures
Titles: by John G. Reisinger = 25; by A. Blake White = 9
Other authors published: Gary George, Dr. J David Gilliland, Dr. Gary D. Long, (the late) Bill Payne, Dr. Bill Sasser, Tom Wells, Steve West, and Fred Zaspel. Books distributed: Over 15,000 copies Sound of Grace journal: Approximately 100,000 hard copies, more via the SOGNCM.com website Over 600 articles Audio CDs and video DVDs: Over 10,000 distributed John Bunyan Conferences: Held with little interruption annually since 1987 in Lewisburg and New Ringgold, PA Countries served (in addition to the US): Canada, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Columbia, Australia, Yugoslavia, Peru, Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Mali, Malta, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, West Indies and others. Websites: SOGNCM.com; SoundofGrace.org; NewCovenantMedia.com
Can You Play Second Fiddle? by Gary George
“It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly, than… with the proud” Prov. 16:19 We always want to be first: the prettiest, the funniest, the wealthiest, the smartest, even the greatest. Ask a coach, he’ll tell you how important the second-string bench players are to a team or ask an orchestra conductor how important are those who play second fiddle. Leonard Bernstein, the great conductor of the NY Philharmonic said: “I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second fiddle is difficult. And yet if no one plays second we have no harmony.” Are you interested in playing the instrument for the role the great Conductor has for your life and for his band? It’s not which fiddle you play that matters, it’s how the symphony sounds. Lord I would place my hand in Thine, nor ever murmur or ever repine, content whatever lot I see, since ‘tis my God that leadeth me.
Biblical Worship: Revelation 5
As we explored in last month’s article, the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation describe one scene that John sees in heaven. Revelation 4 presents a vision of God’s heavenly throne room where awesome angelic rulers and guardians ceaselessly exist, praising and worshiping the one who sits on the throne. Relatively speaking, they are immensely powerful, wise, and righteous, but none of them is worthy of being worshiped. In fact, it is partly owing to their own greatness that they recognize the transcendent and all-surpassing greatness of God the King. There is some truth in the old expression, “it takes one to know one,” and part of the reason the mighty beings in heaven are astounded by God is they understand how much their own great powers fall short of God’s. There are two songs of praise that are recorded in Revelation 4. The first song recognizes the superlative uniqueness of God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8c). (Do not let it escape your notice that the first thing John sees in the vision is a throne, and the first thing he hears is the word “holy.” Both are highly significant.) This song celebrates the intrinsic essence and nature of God. It is simply a proper response to God’s ontological makeup. In a sense, all the first song does is properly see and respond to who God is. The second song moves past God’s inherent worth to ascribe praise to him for what he has done in the act of creation. Laying their crowns before him, the twenty-four elders say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11). This song traces back glory, honor, and power to their source in God. They are not trying to give God something that he is lacking. Rather, they recognize that all their positive attributes and properties come from him. God is the fountainhead of glory and honor and power. Yet this God who exists as the perfect and infinite source of all things creates a world and populates it with sentient beings. All creatures in the universe—whether material or spiritual—owe their creation and continuing existence to God. It is according to nothing other than the sheer pleasure of the will of God that anything not-God exists. Taken together, these two songs reveal to us that in heaven itself God is praised for his intrinsic character and also for his works of creation and providence. The importance of this can hardly be overstated. We are about to see how the praise in heaven climaxes with the redemptive triumph of the Lamb. But even without the plan of redemption, God is perfect and deserves to be praised. Even if God did not act to save fallen and rebellious sinners, he would still be the fitting subject of praise in heaven. He does not become glorious and praiseworthy after accomplishing our salvation; he was perfect before. And if he was perfect just as he was, then his value is not improved on the basis of his provision of salvation for sinners. By extension, God is not even made worthy of praise on the basis of creation. He was and is and is to come, a being of eternal perfection. If he had not created, there would be no creatures to praise him, but that would not
Page 5 affect his inherent worth in any way, shape, or form. Revelation 5 records a scene of tremendous drama. God sits on his throne holding in his right hand a scroll that contains his plans, sealed with seven seals (i.e., completely locked up). Every creature in the universe is invited to come and open God’s scroll to bring his purposes to pass. But no one is found who is worthy to approach the throne. Nothing in all creation is sufficient to bring to fruition the plans of the Holy One. As a result, John, overcome by despair and disappointment, weeps. He is told to stop weeping, however, because there is one (but only one) who is worthy to take the scroll. It is none other than Jesus, the fulfillment of the covenant promises to Abraham through Judah through David, the Lion and the Lamb. John is told that the Lion has triumphed; when he looks to see it, he sees a Lamb looking as if it has been slain. The Lamb appears in the center of the throne and takes the scroll. When he takes it, the inner circle of heaven explodes into a new song (all previous songs being insufficient to describe this new thing God has done). This is the new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10). Obviously, there is more in this song than can be exposited in such limited space. Its major focus, however, is clear. The Lamb is worthy to take the scroll because he is the atoning sacrifice. He has shed his blood (but lives again!) as the great Passover Lamb. He has died in the place of God’s people, offered the redemption price in his own blood, and fulfilled
West—Continued on page 14
Page 6 note that God makes no attempt to in any way “spin” the sins and failures of his saints, even the worst among them. We do every thing possible to cover up and hide the sins of our heroes. God “tells it like it is.” Our Lord is not ashamed to call the worst of repentant sinners his brethren (Heb. 2:11). He does not make any attempt to rewrite the story of their lives. He admits his family is made up of the worst of sinners. In Psalm 51:1-3, David openly acknowledges his awful sin and his repentance. He makes no attempt to justify what he did. He pleads no extenuating circumstances but freely admits his awful sin.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
September 2013 the depth of total depravity. His being “conceived in sin” does not mean that conception by sex is sinful. He is saying that he was a sinner from his very birth. He was totally depraved from the day of his birth.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
In verse 4, David is not denying that he has sinned against both Bathsheba and Uriah. He sees his greatest sin is against God and his truth. The later part of verse 4 shows how clearly David understood the need for open confession. He wants to make sure that everyone realizes that whatever God chooses to do him, he deserves it. This includes his being cast off by God if God so chose that punishment. David is concerned with vindicating God in any action God chose to take.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Verse 11 is a much-disputed verse. Those who confuse “eternal security” with the “perseverance of the saints” have real difficulty understanding this verse.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Issue 200 restored and not praying to have salvation itself restored. David’s prayer in verse 11 proves he did not feel he had been cast off from God or that the Spirit had been taken from him. He is praying those things will not happen. He prayed as he did because he believed that both of those things could happen, and He believed that he deserved to have them both happen. Any consistent and fair exegesis of David’s words proves that he clearly believed that he could be cast off by God and the Spirit be taken away from him. Because he believed these things had not yet happened does not mean that he understood they could never happen. David believed both of these things could happen and he would be lost. David was praying that he would not lose his salvation. David did not believe he was eternally secure in his salvation even though he really was just as secure as a believer under the New Covenant. Verse 12-15 is a prayer for persevering grace and the resulting fruit of true repentance.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
Verses 5-10 describe a man who feels the awful reality of his sin and depravity. He longs to be free from the power of indwelling sin. He is not satisfied in only being forgiven for two particular sins; he wants to be changed from the inside out. He frankly acknowledges both his sin and
This text seems to be saying that a believer can lose his salvation. The text surely shows that David lost the assurance of his salvation. Let me make a few preliminary statements. David, in spite of his sin of adultery and murder, was just as eternally secure in his salvation as a believer is today. However, he had no way of knowing that fact. David believed he could lose his salvation even though he could not do so. When he prayed, “take not thy Holy Spirit from me, he really believed that it was possible for him to be “cast off” by God. David saw what happened to Saul and was deeply concerned that the same thing might happen to him. Saul was cast off and the Spirit was taken from him. It is argued that in verse 12 he is praying to have the “joy of salvation”
Verse 16 is one of the key verses in Psalm 51. This text throws a lot of light on New Covenant Theology.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
At first reading this verse presents a problem that only New Covenant theology can resolve. David lived under the Old Covenant when sacrifices
Reisinger—Continued on page 8
A STUDY OF NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY Part 3 of 4
Kevin P. McAloon
of our theology; aspects which we truly believe must be properly understood in order to bring Christ to the exalted position in the believers' heart he was always meant to have. The Law of Moses To begin with, it is important to clarify just what constitutes the law of Moses. NC theologians are unanimous in recognizing that the “threefold distinction” of the law into civil, ceremonial, and moral categories finds no support from a single writer of Scripture. This is one of the many positions Schreiner holds in common with NCT, proving not only from Galatians that Paul considered the law to be a unity, but also that second temple literature shows that “the works of the law” referred to all the commands of Moses' common law. Therefore, when speaking of the law of Moses, NC theologians are referring to all of the laws set out under the Mosaic Covenant, including the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments are the “words of the covenant” (Ex. 34-38), and this is the precise reason why the Israelites called the sacred box the “ark of the covenant” and not the “ark of the moral law.” Whatever a Christian’s relationship is to the law of Moses, it must follow that it is the same as his relationship to the Ten Commandments. Second, similar to the discussion regarding the covenants, it is important to differentiate between the expressed purpose of the law at the time it was given and the decreed and redemptive purposes of the law in God's plan of redemption for his elect. The law in itself is good with holy
THE LAW We now come to the most controversial aspect of NCT. Our views on the law have resulted in numerous attacks, with opponents calling our doctrine everything from antinomian to the “greatest danger to historic, Reformed Christianity today.” Here, like many of the reforming groups in church history, we seem to find a kinship with the apostle Paul, whose understanding of the law was the most intricate part of his theology, resulting in similar attacks and slanders. NCT’s position and arguments are too complex to deal with here in an exhaustive manner that would do it justice; therefore, my hopes are that this summary might give the reader a sufficient taste that might incite him to look into these matters more closely. That being said, next to our position regarding the covenants, our views on the law are the most important aspects
Kevin recently graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently meeting with some believers seeking God to raise a church in Carmel, NY. His heart is for the further reformation of Christ's Church back to New Covenant power and purity, and truly believes that New Covenant Theology and many of the churches espousing it are God's blessing in this generation towards that end. While avoiding formal denominational affiliation, Kevin craves and welcomes all open hearted fellowship with devout brothers and sisters in Christ. He and his group covet your prayers. You are invited to contact him at kevin.mcaloon@ gmail.com
and just commands; it only becomes a “ministration of death” when it comes into contact with those whose hearts hate the One to whom the law testifies (Rom. 7:12-14). Most of the aspects that are most pertinent to NCT deal with the decreed and redemptive purposes of the law; therefore, it is important to keep in mind that when using negative Pauline language in reference to the law, we are not referring to the law in itself, but rather its overall intended purposes in dealing with sinful man within redemptive history. Purpose and Message Wells neatly lays out what he sees to be seven biblical reasons for the Mosaic law code. They are: 1. to give Israel a [standard of] holiness analogues to God’s holiness (Lev. 11:45, 19:1); 2. to distinguish and separate Israel from the surrounding nations (Lev. 18:1-5, 24-30, 20:23-26; Eph. 2:11-16); 3. to maintain earthly life and to grant Israel continued possession of the promised land (Deut. 4:14, 5:32-33, 6:2-3, 20-25); 4. to demonstrate Israel’s greatness through God’s grace in wisdom and understanding to the nations (Deut. 4:6-7); 5. to identify sin and transgression, leading to despair of one’s own righteousness (Rom. 3:20, 5:20, 7:7-13; Gal. 3:2325); 6. to be a disciplinarian for the nation of Israel until Christ came (Gal. 3:23-25); 7. to provide a framework with which to understand the priestly work of Christ (Heb. 3:16, 5:1-6, 8:16). The primary emphases and distinguishing marks of NCT are found in its handling of reasons 5-7.
McAloon—Continued on page 9
Reisinger—Continued from page 6
and burnt offerings were not only performed; they were commanded to be performed. God indeed desired sacrifice and burnt offerings under the Old Covenant. In some cases the failure to bring a prescribed sacrifice was punished with death. Why would David say that God did not desire sacrifices when he had clearly commanded them? The answer is simple. There was no sacrifice that David could bring for his particular sins! There was no sacrifice for murder or adultery under the Old Covenant. There was no sacrifice in the whole Mosaic system that covered adultery and murder. Hebrews 10:28 is quite clear. To willfully disobey the Law of Moses meant death with no questions asked. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10:28). There was nothing in the entire Mosaic Law, the whole Old Covenant that gave David the least assurance of forgiveness for his sins of adultery and murder. The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement did not apply to his condition. The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was for the “sins committed in ignorance.” That sacrifice did not include sins that “despised the Law,” “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10:28). Heb. 9 describes Aaron’s work on the Day of Atonement. It clearly states that the atonement only covered sins “committed in ignorance.” “But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and FOR THE SINS THE PEOPLE HAD COMMITTED IN IGNORANCE” (Heb. 9:7). Aaron could not help David. There was nothing in Aaron’s bag of promises that offered forgiveness to a murderer and adulterer. Aaron’s message to David was the message of Hebrews10:28. Likewise the City of Ref-
September 2013 uge could not help him in the case of murder. A man who killed his neighbor accidently could flee to a City of Refuge (Deut. 19:11-13) and escape the anger and revenge of the dead man’s friends and relatives. However, if the death was deliberate and not accidental, the murderer was taken from the City of Refuge and turned over to the elders to be punished for committing murder. David totally by-passed the whole Mosaic system of sacrifices because nothing in that system could help him. He ignored Aaron and his entire priestly ministry because nothing in the Old Covenant under which Aaron ministered could give him any hope. David ignored Aaron and the whole Old Covenant and cried out to the God he knew as a shepherd boy and pleaded for his grace and mercy. God heard David and forgave him because God honors true repentance that bases its appeal on grace alone. When the Holy Spirit works a true “broken spirit” and “contrite heart” in a poor sinner’s heart with no hope except sovereign grace, that sinner will never be cast off no matter what his sin.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (I John 1:7-10) “Walking in the light” (v. 7a), is consciously obeying God. It is not sinless perfection but it is living in obedience where we are not conscious of specific sins. When we so live we will have fellowship with God. The fact that we are not conscious of specific sins does not mean we are in any sense living a sinless life, it merely means that God has not convicted us of any specific sins. To think or say we have no sins would be to deceive ourselves (v.8). If we confess the specific sins of which God has convicted, we are assured that God will forgive us (v. 9.) We will still have sins that God has not yet convicted us of and they will also, like the “sins committed in ignorance” on the Day of Atonement, be forgiven. We will be cleansed of all unrighteousness and walk in fellowship with God. As we grow in grace the Holy Spirit will point out more and more sins of ignorance to us and they will have to be confessed if we are to maintain our fellowship with God. This is not the same as maintaining our salvation.
When you compare a text like Psalm 51 with a New Testament text like 1 John 7-10, you see the difference in assurance under the New Covenant as compared to assurance under the Old Covenant.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
The most important difference between Psalm 51 and I John 1:7-10 is the words in I John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” A New Covenant believer’s assurance of forgiveness is based on the fact that he knows all of his sin, past, present, and future is fully paid by the atonement of Christ. A New Covenant believer can never “come into condemnation” (John 5:24 and Romans 8:1). A New Covenant believer can never come before God as a judge; he has not only already been
Reisinger—Continued on page 10
Issue 200 ing to definite rules.”5 In Colossae, there were intruders trying to force the Colossians to live a certain way with regard to food, drink, festivals and Sabbaths (Col 2:16). They were insisting on asceticism (Col 2:18). But we have died to the law (Rom 7:4) and have died to the elemental spirits of the world (Col 2:20), and are no longer required to “submit to its rules: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (2:20-21). Verlyn Verbrugge writes, “Thus ‘the basic principles of the world’ cover all the things in which humans place trust apart from the living God revealed in Christ.”6 This perspective is also clear from Philippians 3:2. The Judaizers were very concerned about being ceremonially clean, doing good works, and being circumcised and Paul provocatively calls them dogs (unclean), evil doers (opposite of good), and those who mutilate the flesh (tēn katatōmēn). There is a word play at work here on the word circumcision ( peritōmē). He is saying that those who cut themselves thinking this will gain salvation are “like the frenzied prophets of Baal who were frustrated that their god would not answer their pleas” (see 1 Kin 18:28; Lev 19:28, 21:5 LXX).7 Paul tells those who would force Christians to be circumcised that they should go ahead and lop the whole thing off (apokoptō) (Gal 5:12), with the result that they will not be able to enter the church of the Lord (Deut 23:1, 23:2 LXX apokoptō)!
White—Continued from page 3
McAloon—Continued from page 7
Page 9 rial actions within a physical society instead of the internal spirituality within an individual. One very interesting argument many use in support of this is the tenth commandment. The command against coveting would have been redundant and unnecessary if the commandments against stealing and adultery included internal desires. This external law functioned as a pedagogue and schoolmaster over all Israelites, whether they were saved or lost; the essential difference was that believers were no longer under the curse of the law even though their consciences were still bound to it. Most NC theologians derive much of this from Paul’s treatise in Galatians 3:23-4:7 where, similar to the Anabaptists, they see that prior to the Holy Spirit’s distinctive ministry under the New Covenant, the believing Israelite was still an underage heir likened to a slave. Once the Redeemer came and freed those under the law by giving them a new living Master in the person of his Spirit, they received the full adoption as mature sons. The true believing Israelite—which they believe was a part of a rare remnant—loved God and could use his law as a guide because through faith he believed that God would not impute the curses to him (Rom. 4:58). This explains many statements found in the Davidic Psalms such as Psalm 119; however, these believing Israelites had not yet received union with Christ and his Spirit of sonship. Thus, the Mosaic law was temporary and would eventually be done away with the coming of a New Covenant with a new law. Its Temporary Nature NC theologians use texts such as 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 3, and Hebrews 7 to reiterate that the Mosaic law had a specific and temMcAloon—Continued on page 12
5 Verlyn D. Verbrugge, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 541.
First, we hold that even though the giving of the law was a redemptive historical act of grace, there was not one ounce of grace in the law itself. The message of the Old Covenant religion was “stay away because God is holy and you are a sinner.” The law served as a foundation and backdrop for the gospel of salvation from the sins that the law magnified and condemned; the means had no grace, but the end is a gracious work. Our views are those of John Bunyan, who many consider to be a forefather and champion of our theology. It is best illustrated in the scene from The Pilgrim’s Progress where the man with the broom (representing Moses and the law) with all his striving could only stir up the dirt in the human heart and display his inability to clean it; whereas the damsel (Holy Spirit) comes and sprinkles the water (gospel) and cleans the room with ease. Again, the problem is not with the law, but with the inability of the sinner to keep it and earn its promised righteousness. Only Christ could both perfectly obey the law and die under its curse for his people. Like Paul, and contrary to many Old Testament academics, our language and opinions regarding the law in relationship to man is emphatically negative. Interestingly, Dempster notices that Sinai does something profoundly negative to Israel: “Murmuring before the giving of the law was not judged (Exod. 17:2-7), but it is judged severely after the law (Num. 11:1-3). Also, pre-law Sabbath violations bring a reprimand (Exod. 16:27-30), while post-law Sabbath violations bring death (Num. 15:32-36). Before the law, Israel succeeds against the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-16), but they fail miserably after the law (Num. 14:41-44). Most NC theologians say that at its most basic level, the Mosaic law was an external code for a national society. It dealt primarily with mate-
6 Ibid. 7 Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 318.
Reisinger—Continued from page 8
judged and found to be guilty, he has already been put to death. He has died with Christ, been buried with Christ and been raised from the dead with Christ. He already seated in heaven in Christ. He can never again be judged. All of his dealings with God are now that of a son born into the family of God. God is his Father, not a judge. The redeemed New Covenant believer is a justified child of God and not a criminal. A believer today could not pray Psalm 51:11: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” If I am united to Christ in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension, then I am already seated together with Christ in heaven. I can no more be cast off from God than Christ could be cast off. David could not see himself as seated in heaven with Christ before Christ was literally ascended to heaven himself. Our knowledgeable experience cannot exceed the revelation under with we live. We cannot read the experience of Romans 5:1; 8:1; John 5:24 and Eph. 2:5, 6 back into David’s life and experience. Having a hope of a future blessing and experiencing the actual fulfillment of that blessing are two different things. A murderer on death row today may trust Christ and be saved. In spite of his sin of murder, he is included in the promises just listed. He will be saved
September 2013 if he claims, by a faith wrought in him by the Holy Spirit, the promise of salvation. He will be able to claim I John 1:9 in the same way and to the same degree as any other believer. David, as a murderer and adulterer living under the Old Covenant, did not have such a promise. He could not claim the promises of Romans 5:1; 8:1; John 5:24 and Eph. 2:5, 6. Those are New Covenant promises and could not have been made until Christ established the New Covenant in his blood. David’s hope was not in a specific promise since he had no such promise as a murderer and adulterer under the Old Covenant. David’s hope lay in the character of the God he had communed with as a youth while tending his father’s sheep. There is a major difference in the concept of God and his relationship to his people in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. This difference is highlighted by J.I. Packer in his superb book “Knowing God”. If I could get every Christian to read three books, “Knowing God” would one of them. It is worth its weight in gold! Packer correctly sees the deep distinction between the revelation in the New Testament of God as a heavenly Father and the Old Testament revelation of God as a covenant God.
You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of
the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s Holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God (Evangelical Magazine, 7, pp. 19-20)1
David did not grasp the full truth of the Fatherhood of God, but he surely had a glimpse of it. In his heart he was far ahead of the Old Covenant. His fellowship with God as he had revealed himself in creation enabled him to hope in God’s grace and mercy without a specific promise. David’s relationship with God was not at all typical of an Old Covenant believer. He never used the word Father but he surely talked to God as a Father.
1 J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 1993) 201
On the Holiness of God Stephen Charnock
[No attribute of God] is sounded out so loftily, with such solemnity, and so frequently by angels that stand before his throne, as [His holiness]. Where do you find any other attribute trebled in the praises of it, as this (Isa. 6:3)? "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory . . .." Do you hear, in any angelical song, any other perfection of the Divine Nature thrice repeated? Where do we read of the crying out Eternal, eternal, eternal; or, Faithful, faithful, faithful, Lord God of Hosts? Whatsoever other attribute is left out, this God would have to fill the mouths of angels and blessed spirits for ever in heaven.
Covenant Theology and the Denial of the Supremacy of Christ as the Church’s Only Lord and Lawgiver1
Pastor Kevin Dibbley
1 This article originally appeared in Volume 9, Number 2, November 2002 issue of Sound of Grace. It is worthy of reprinting.
It’s 5:50 a.m., Monday morning. That may not seem like a big deal to you unless you realize that it’s the day that I usually take off after the Lord’s Day to rest, and it is unusual for me to be preparing anything except my heart at this time. I woke around 5:00 a.m. and decided to do some reading. On the table was a copy of Tabletalk, R. C. Sproul Jr.’s monthly devotional that a number of people, including my wife, use for their devotions. The cover attracted my attention. The headline for this issue is entitled “Cut off from the law,” and the picture on the front shows a man high on the limb of a tree, sawing the branch upon which he sits. The point is simple— Christians who don’t follow the Old Covenant are doing great harm to themselves and the church. I couldn’t resist reading it, and when I did, I was disturbed to say the least. I knew before I opened the cover that I would be, and I was right. I am disappointed because I see a classic pattern in covenant theology and, in particular, the articles of Tabletalk that I believe would offend both Christ and the apostle Paul. It is the tendency to not allow Jesus and his teaching to have the highest authority and to attempt through reason and not through Scripture to subjugate Christians (and for most of us, in particular, Gentile Christians) to the law of Moses despite numerous (and I emphasize numerous) and explicit (and I emphasize explicit) injunctions in the Scripture to do otherwise. I need to be succinct and clear, and so let me explain what offends me. What offends me is when people
argue without using the very Scriptures that God inspired to address the specific issue that they are teaching, and when they present a false picture of the position that they are opposing. In this situation, for example, the Tabletalk folks like to use the word antinomian (which means against the law) to describe people who do not believe that we are under the law of Moses anymore. The problem with using that label is that it is dishonest, and it reveals precisely what is unbiblical about their position. They think the law of Moses is the law. They think that the law of God found in the law of Moses is the eternal law and that any position that says that you do not have to obey the law of Moses is anti-law. Well, let me do what they fail to do and quote to you some Scriptures that speak directly concerning the issue. It is interesting that in R. C. Sproul’s article on this issue, he quotes from 1 Corinthians a number of times, but not once does he quote from the passage in 1 Corinthians in which Paul speaks about his relationship to the law. Listen to 1 Corinthians 9:19-21, which reads, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews, I became a Jew, that I might win Jews, to those under the law as under the law, though not being myself under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are under the law.” In this passage, Paul, in describing his evangelistic zeal to see all
men saved, reveals how he views his relationship to the law of Moses. He is not under the law. R. C. Sproul would have to alter Paul’s meaning of the law and divide it into pieces or else do what he does to Christians today who say exactly what Paul says here and call the apostle Paul an “antinomian.” Tabletalk’s writers are warning you against people who say, “I myself am not under the law.” They would say that they are anti-law—antinomian. The apostle Paul explains that he is not anti-law because although he is not under the law of Moses, he is not without the law of God. He writes these words describing himself “…to those who are without law, [I am] as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ.” For Paul, you can have the law of God and not be under the law of Moses because you are under the law of Christ. That’s what he says, and that is exactly what he means. This is an important issue for the apostle Paul. The law of Christ is supreme to the law of Moses. He is not under the Mosaic law. He is not lawless. He is under the law of Christ. I remember that last time I picked up Tabletalk about a month or two ago, in their presentation of their daily study of Romans, they were in chapter 7. The devotion of the day was about how the law (meaning the law given by Moses to Israel) was good, and we were still obligated to fulfill the law. I couldn’t believe it. They quoted one verse that day without quoting the following verse that argued exactly the opposite of what
Dibbley—Continued on page 15
Page 12 porary nature that has been fulfilled and replaced by a new law. We are in total agreement with Luther on these points, who saw that in light of Exodus 20:1, the Decalogue was meant only for the Israelites whom God brought out of Egypt. When Christ accomplished his work, he abolished the law written on tablets of stone, and with his new priesthood has replaced Moses en toto (2 Cor. 3:7; Heb. 7:12). NCT is emphatic that when Scripture repeatedly uses the term “fulfill” in regards to the law, it does so unequivocally in regards to all parts and in the same way. Thus Zaspel comments, “The understanding of Moses as fulfilled in Christ as offered here has the distinct advantage of showing that all of the law is fulfilled in exactly the same way. Moral, civil, ceremonial—all the law has the same prophetic function, looking forward to Christ; in his person, work, and teaching, he “fulfills” it all as its eschatological realization.” We liken this fulfillment and the transition from the law to Christ to the transition of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Moses is not left intact, but rather continues through his fulfillment and full maturity in Jesus, who establishes his new law. Although this new law is distinct, it retains many of the same principles and commands as Moses, except they now come from a new Lawgiver. Reisinger compares this to the ratification of the Constitution. The colonies joined together to become a new nation that was no longer under the law of England, although they incorporated many laws that had already been enforced under that previous law, but in a U.S. court, no American would or could appeal to anything in the English Constitution. This is what NC theologians mean when we say Christians are no longer under Moses. We are now under a new Lawgiver, and even if much of what he says sounds similar to the old law, we are to maintain our allegiance
McAloon—Continued from page 9
September 2013 and remain bound only to the “law of Christ”. The Law of Christ Like Dispensationalists, NC theologians see that Christian believers are under the law of Christ set forth in the NT as a separate code both in its standards and relationship to its adherents. We derive the concept primarily from Galatians 6:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:21 where Paul clearly distinguishes it from the old law of Moses. Matthew also describes Jesus as the Prophet and new Moses, as is seen in Matthew 17:1-9 where the apostles are told by God to “listen to him” over and above Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophets), thus fulfilling the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15. We also take serious the emphatic “but I say unto you” and the various antitheses throughout Matthew 5-8, seeing that Jesus not only advances but also forbids some aspects of OT Law. This seems to agree with some scholars who find evidence that early rabbinic Judaism believed that the old Torah would cease upon the arrival of the Messianic Age. According to NCT, this new law is a higher morality with higher standards, and we reject the idea of one ultimate and final codified “moral law” that was revealed under Moses; but rather hold that progressive revelation in Scripture includes the area of morality as well as anything else. For instance, it was not a sin for an Old Covenant Israelite to hate God’s enemies and kill their pagan neighbors because of their false religion, but under the New Covenant, “loving your neighbor” includes all men (Luke 10:25-37), not just your fellow Israelite (Lev. 19:17-18). As Jesus Christ is the apex of God’s revelation of himself to man, so is his law and morality the ultimate expression of his character and standards. Its Constitution Just what is this “law of Christ,”
Issue 200 and where is it to be found? White answers this question by putting forth five points regarding this law: 1. it is the law of love; 2. it is Christ’s example; 3. it is the teaching of Christ; 4. it is the teaching of the apostles; 5. it is the whole canon interpreted in light of Christ. Moo takes a similar position, where he clarifies, “This 'law' does not consist of legal prescriptions and ordinances, but of the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles, the central demand of love, and the guiding influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit.” NC theologians notice that when instructing and commanding churches, the NT writers rarely appeal to the Mosaic law, but often to Christ and his gospel; and even when Old Covenant commandments are brought up, they are either used typologically or brought over underneath the light of Christ and the gospel. It is the royal law to love God and man, in light of Christ’s coming and work, which is the “new commandment” and “royal law of liberty” that John and James write about (John 13:34; 1 John 2:7; James 2:8, 12). For NCT, this is the law whose fruit is internally produced in Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:16-26, the contrast between “works” and “fruit” is deliberate, in that while the flesh works hard to produce its failed efforts, the Spirit works his fruit in us so that we “both will and do according to his good pleasure.” As was stated before, New Covenant believers under the law of Christ are released from both the flesh and pedagogue of the Mosaic law, and become full sons and heirs: “In summary, the believing Jew was an heir-in-waiting until he was son-placed by the gift of the Spirit, and the Gentile believer was son-placed at conversion and then, because he was a son, he was given an inheritance. In the first case, an heir becomes a son, and in the other case, a son becomes an heir. In both cases, the received inheritance is the
Issue 200 same.” Contrary to many theologians, we hold that this Spirit-implanted law is not the Decalogue code, but that Jeremiah was prophesying about the fulfilled law in Christ; and we again use the analogy of a caterpillar (external code of the law) changing into a butterfly (internal heart of the law). This law is not merely a sentimental feeling, nor some amorphous and unprincipled idea of unlicensed “good will,” but rather it contains clear precepts and boundaries which provide a foundation and clear description of what a real expression of this love looks like (i.e., the Sermon on the Mount). Christians and the Law of Moses NC theologians take the position of both Luther and Bunyan who believed that although the Mosaic law may function as a teacher and helper of our faith, and be listened to as a prophet and witness of Christ, we can in no way let it reign over our conscience; otherwise we “fall from grace, and Christ profits us nothing.” Its threats and negative commands such as “Thou shalt not!” are more suited for rebels than believers. This was Paul’s point when writing to Timothy, where he explicitly says that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious sinners, and that this is the only way to lawfully apply it (1 Tim. 1:7-11). We are not all agreed, however, as to whether the law of Moses or the law of Christ
September 2013 should now be used when confronting unbelievers with their sin; but given Paul’s statement and our views regarding the purpose and function of the old law, it seems as if the former is to be preferred (although there does not seem to be any reason why the two should be mutually exclusive in regards to unbelievers). A Christian, however, may allow the Mosaic law to instruct their minds and teach them about God and redemption, as long as everything is filtered through the New Covenant and their consciences remain bound only to their new Lawgiver and his Spirit. That being said, there are still insights and principles that Christians may derive from the law and apply to their lives. First of all, we may clearly learn about the attributes of God and what he values. Second, with care and wisdom, we may derive various principles to apply under the New Covenant, such as Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 24:4 when he takes a passage about feeding oxen and applies it to the financial support of elders. NC theologians believe that this is a hermeneutic that should be encouraged, although conservatively. For instance, White says, “It takes care, humility, discernment, and wisdom to apply the law to new covenant believers. An easy example is the command to build a parapet around one's roof (Deut. 22:8). An application for us is putting a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign on our fence or building a fence around a
Page 13 swimming pool to protect life. That's the heart of the command, is it not?” Again, this seems to agree with the natural hermeneutic of men such as the early fathers, Henry, Spurgeon, Edwards, etc., and also promotes a consistency when applying “moral, civil, and ceremonial” language to New Covenant life. In conclusion, NCT teaches that the law of Moses was an external code written on “tablets of stone” under an Old Covenant “ministration of death” that was primarily designed to display God’s holiness and man’s depravity, thus revealing his need for an atoning sacrifice and freedom from sin (2 Cor. 3:3-7; 1 Tim. 1:7-11). The law of Christ, on the other hand, is the expression of an internal love written on “tablets of the human heart” under a New Covenant freedom in the Spirit, which is entirely based upon the work, example, and teachings of Christ (Jer. 31:33; Rom. 15:2-3; 2 Cor. 3:3). These teachings are to be found both in the gospel records, and also the writings of his apostolic representatives set forth in the New Testament. Those who are a part of Christ’s New Covenant church are entirely under his rule and authority, and rather than living by the principle that “Moses points you to Christ to be justified, and Christ points you back to Moses to be sanctified,” Christians are to “abide in Christ, for apart from him we can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Grace burst forth spontaneously from the bosom of eternal love and rested not until it had removed every impediment and found its way to the sinner's side, swelling round him in full flow. Grace does away the distance between the sinner and God, which sin had created. Grace meets the sinner on the spot where he stands; grace approaches him just as he is. Grace does not wait till there is something to attract it nor till a good reason is found in the sinner for its flowing to him... It was free, sovereign grace when it first thought of the sinner; it was free grace when it found and laid hold of him; and it is free grace when it hands him up into glory. Horatius Bonar
Page 14 the entire sacrificial system. His blood atonement is not an IOU or merely sufficient for today’s debt but not tomorrow’s. It worked. For the first and only time in history, a genuine atonement for sin was made. And what a scope! Not just for Israel, not only for Judah (the Lion’s tribe); no, the blood is for all nations, languages, tribes, and peoples. There is no petty provincialism in this Lamb’s death; the blood efficaciously redeems persons from all over the globe. Not only are people purchased by this blood; they are given the enormous privilege of serving God. Even to say that is to magnify the Lord. Think about it—it is counted the highest privilege to serve God. Not to be the master, not to be on the throne, but simply to be his servant is a cause of celebration and praise. What this third song—this new song—does is show us that our Redeemer is to be praised for what he has done. We are passive in this story of salvation. We do not initiate it, or accomplish it, or even desire it. It is owing to nothing but the desires of his own will that God enacts the plan of redemption. Jesus sheds his blood for people before they ever know about him. This is an essential point for missions. God loves people before they love him, and Jesus redeems people before they know him. Salvation is planned according to divine grace from beginning to end. When this plan of redemption is seen, it can only result in full abandonment in worship. The whole heavenly court and all angels praise
West—Continued from page 5
September 2013 the Lamb (5:12). Since the Lord is worthy of more adoration than the angels alone can provide, all of creation joins in the song of praise (5:13). It is an amazing and unforgettable scene. But this reveals a striking reality: even angelic beings who are not redeemed by the blood of the Lamb still glorify and worship in response to his sacrifice and triumph. In other words, even those who are not bloodbought from their sin and rebellion are astounded and filled with holy awe at what the Lord has done. How much more then should the redeemed people of God never cease marveling at their Redeemer and his sacrifice for them? Angels praise Christ because he sacrificed himself for others—what of those he actually shed his blood for? On a very personal level, it is important to remember that Jesus has not just redeemed a general mass of humanity (although this is gloriously true). He has also acted to redeem individuals. If you are a Christian, you know Jesus shed his blood for you. Although sin manifests itself in different ways, the heart of sin is not thanking God, glorifying him, or thinking he’s worth knowing (cf. Rom. 1:18-32). How could anyone possibly believe that after seeing the glory of God in Revelation 4? Sin is literally inexpressibly abhorrent. I know my sin (but never perceive how dark it really is in God’s sight). To think that this God acted in Christ to buy for himself sinners like us—like me—with the blood atonement of his Son; once we recover our breath, all we can do is sing his praise. Charting the trajectory of themes in Revelation 4 & 5 shows that in the
Issue 200 first place, God is to be worshiped for his own character; he is worthy of being praised even before there are “praisers.” Secondly, he is to be honored for what he has done in creation. Thirdly, he is to be honored for the triumph of salvation. This also fits the biblical plot-line. God exists; he creates; his creatures sin; he acts to redeem. Biblical worship incorporates all three themes (not necessarily all in the same song but in thematic balance). If all we do is praise God for saving us, we can become even more self-centered than we already are. If we only marvel at God’s greatness, we will fail to rejoice in his intimate loving kindness and our Savior’s sacrifice. God is always bigger than we can contain, and we only have the capacity to focus on limited elements of his praiseworthiness at any one time. This is one of the reasons why we need to be balanced in the themes of our songs, prayers, and meditations. Over ten years ago, I wrote a note on this passage that simply said: “Theology, especially soteriology, should lead to doxology.” All theology should lead to praise, but when we think about the doctrine of salvation in particular, it should be the greatest impetus to drive us to worship the Lord. He has saved us with his own blood. Soteriology must be praiseproducing, or it is just not understood. If reflecting on our salvation and the Savior does not end in praise, we need to be seriously worried about the condition of our hearts. Doxological response to soteriology and theology is the heartbeat of those who love God. Where there is no spiritual praise, there is no spiritual pulse.
This thinking for one’s self independently of God and His revelation is not merely an evil, but a sin. Nay, it is a sin of more than common darkness – it is so audacious, so contemptuous towards God. It places man on a level with God or at least sets Divine truth and human opinion on the same footing. It strips the former of all innate authority, while it gives to the latter an authority to which it has no claim!... There can be no authority save that which is infallible and Divine, that is, God speaking to us directly in His Word. Horatius Bonar
Issue 200 At its best, the songs of the church reflect these realities. Think of the best songs of yesteryear and the best of contemporary music. They are shot through with adoration for who God is, the magnificent works he has done, and the great joy of our salvation. Our best songs are theocentric, Christocentric, and focused on the death and resurrection of the Lamb. No one song can say everything, but if you look carefully, these realities characterize the worship of the saints both through history and today. Sometimes when I write, I wonder whether anyone will actually read what I’ve written or whether those who start the article will finish it. At other times, I suspect that some will read the first paragraph, skim a bit, and then skip to the end. Others will read to learn or to pass time when they’re bored, or whatever. But how many times does anyone read to respond? How many times is it just reading for its own sake, a relatively futile exercise where the reader is functionally no different at the end than the beginning? I don’t know (and don’t want to know!) the answer to those questions. But what I am going to do now is something I can’t recall ever doing before. I am going to ask that you read Revelation 4 & 5 and take time to worship, if not immediately then soon. Open your Bible, pray, and then unashamedly revel in the greatness of God and his Son Jesus Christ. Join the choir of all creation that is in utter self-abandonment, adoring and exalting the Lord. And however high your affections rise, however deep your thoughts run, however much your spirit is moved, know with absolute assurance that he is worthy of infinitely more. “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev. 5:13b-14).
September 2013 they were teaching. They ripped it right out of context and then the next day, they gave some philosophical explanation that basically avoided the verse that they were teaching. Let me repeat to you what Romans 7 says at that point, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” How do you “die to the law,” as Paul says? You die by being joined to Christ in his death. In other words, when you become a Christian and are joined to Christ in his death, you die to the law of Moses. Why? Is it because you have become lawless? No! You have been “released from the law” (the apostle Paul’s exact words and not mine) so that you may “serve in the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” What does it means to serve except to be under someone’s authority? Whose authority? The Spirit’s! Who is the Spirit? God. You are still under God’s authority. You are not without law but you are under the law of Christ. In Romans 7, Paul uses the illustration of marriage and says that you are bound to your partner until death do you part. That’s the law. Neither you nor your partner is able to marry anyone else until either you or your partner is dead. When your partner is dead, your obligations to your partner are over. That is when Paul writes, “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might
Dibbley—Continued from page 11
Page 15 bear fruit for God.” As a Christian, your obligations to the Mosaic law are over, and you have now a new obligation—to serve him to whom you have now been joined—Christ. Notice that this teaching is critical to bearing fruit. How can being under greater obligation to the higher law of a new Master be labeled “anti-law”? What Paul goes on to explain is that this does not mean that the law of Moses was not good. It is good. It just has a different role from making you holy. Its role is to bring you to Christ. Its role is to show you your sin. It even has the effect of making your sin utterly sinful (look at the rest of chapter 7, particularly verse 13). It is like the law of Moses is an x-ray machine that uses God’s standards as the “rays” which show us our sin so that we might look to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. If you were to go to the doctor and have an x-ray, and he said that your rib was fractured or your leg was broken, would he then say to you: “You must now go for an x-ray every day?” The x-ray was given to show your fracture, not cure your fracture. Once the doctor knows what is wrong, you can get help. Do we say that since you no longer need an x-ray that x-rays are bad? No. You wouldn’t have known where your fracture was without the x-ray. The x-ray was given so that you could find the problem and get the help you needed. It was meant to lead you to the cure. Christ is the cure. The Mosaic law showed the problem. Christ gave the answer. He died to forgive our sins. He raised us from the dead spiritually and gave us his Spirit that we might walk according to his law, which Paul calls the “law of Christ.” This is where I believe that Sproul and others diminish Jesus as the final and complete revelation of God, the Lord and the Lawgiver of the church. In the New Testament, Jesus points to the law as having relevance until the
Dibbley—Continued on page 18
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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 La Soberanía de Dios en la Providencia—John G. Reisinger The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal—White Limited Atonement—Reisinger Missional Ecclesiology —White 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 New Covenant Theology & Prophecy —Reisinger 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 Theological Foundations for New Covenant Ethics—White 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 When Should a Christian Leave a Church?—Reisinger
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Philosophical Dialgoues on the Christian Faith—Steve West What Jesus Demands from the World—John Piper The First London Confession of Faith-1646 Edition— Preface by Gary D. Long All Things New —Carl Hoch Context! Evangelical Views on the Millenium Examined —Gary D. Long The Doctrine of Christ—William Sasser The Doctrine of Salvation —William Sasser The Doctrine of Man —William Sasser The Doctrine of God—William Sasser The Atoning Work of Jesus Christ—William Sasser The New Covenant and the Law of Christ—Chris Scarborough Justification by Faith—James White Answers to Catholic Claims—James White The Fatal Flaw —James White God’s Sovereign Grace —James White The Reformers and Their Stepchildren—Leonard Verduin The Pilgrim’s Progress (The Accurate Revised Text by Barry E. Horner) Biblical Eldership —Alexander Strauch Biblical Eldership Study Guide —Alexander Strauch Biblical Eldership Mentor’s Guide —Alexander Strauch
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Page 18 end of time. However, the role of that law is obvious. The law of Moses is useful in pointing people to all that was coming in Christ in his saving work. That includes not just what he did at Calvary but what he will ultimately do when he comes again in judgment at the second coming. The way that Jesus sees the law and the prophets is that they point to him, and he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. That word fulfill is crucial. Jesus has come to bring to pass all that the law and the prophets anticipated. For example, some of what the law and the prophets predicted has been fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming. He has fulfilled all that the sacrificial system anticipated. We no longer need a high priest, or priestly line, from Aaron’s line to offer sacrifices. So, listen to what Hebrews 7:12 says, “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.” Hebrews 7:18 reads, “For on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness, (for the law made nothing perfect) and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” I encourage you to read through Hebrews and watch for the explicit teaching on the role of the old covenant or the “first” covenant. Look at passages like Hebrews 8:7: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second,” and 8:13: “When he said, ‘A new covenant,’ he has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” You will see that the point of the writer is clear. There has been a substantial change in our relationship to the law of Moses because of our marriage to Christ. It should be obvious when you read the first few verses of the letter to the Hebrews that Jesus’ teaching
Dibbley—Continued from page 15
September 2013 is seen as the highest revelation of God. Hebrews 1:1 declares, “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken in his Son….” After pointing out the superiority of Jesus to the angels in chapter one, the writer points out the greater authority of Jesus to the revelation given to the prophets which was delivered by those angels (see Acts 7:38 about Moses receiving the law by angels). In Hebrews 2:1-3, the Bible says “For this reason [meaning because Jesus is equal to God and greater than the angels] we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed by those who heard, God bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his will.” Jesus’ word has higher importance and consequence than the message declared to our forefathers through the prophets in that they were shadows pointing to the future and Jesus was the full revelation of God’s saving plan and God’s standard of righteousness. So, if you have hung in this long into the article, let me simply state what we are to understand about the law of God according to the Bible. God’s law was revealed in “kindergarten” form in the Mosaic law—elementary teachings. They were given to “x-ray” us and show us our sin in order to bring us to Christ who fulfills the law in every way. Not only did he die for our sins but he also teaches a more complete standard (the complete revelation of the will of God for our lives) and by joining ourselves to him, we are no longer under obligation to follow Moses, our kindergarten teacher. We are now in the graduate
Issue 200 school of Jesus. Kindergarten was not bad. It was essential for little children (see Galatians 3 and 4). It was just meant to prepare you for Jesus. Now, as Paul says, “…you are not without law [antinomian] but you are under the law of Christ.” The old law still has relevance in pointing ahead to what Christ has fulfilled and has yet to fulfill, but Jesus’ teaching is our final authority. Listen to Jesus who comes as the great King in Matthew’s gospel establishing not the kingdom of Israel but the kingdom of heaven. He says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest stroke shall pass away from the law, until all is accomplished.” Notice Jesus is by no means saying Moses’ law is irrelevant. But also notice what he says about the law and the prophets. This law is fulfilled in him. We are not to look to the law for our own living. We are to look to the law to point us to Christ. The law MUST be understood in terms of fulfillment in Christ. What people tragically do is that they argue that the Mosaic law depicts the eternal law of God, and they say that we will always be under it. Unquestionably wrong. This verse says that one day at the end of history, when the first heaven and earth pass away, so will the law because then at the second coming of Christ, everything will be completely accomplished. Jesus says that when all is accomplished, the law will pass away because its function in pointing ahead to Jesus will be complete. Why does Jesus need to make that qualification in his lawgiving from the Mount? It is because people will say that he is “anti-law.” Why would they say that? It is because he is giving new commandments authoritatively. He is speaking as a King establishing a new kingdom. Notice what he says
Issue 200 in verse 19 of Matthew 5: “Whoever then annuls the least of these commandments and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps them and teaches them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” What commandments is he talking about? He has just been giving his commandments like that which precedes verse 17, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus has to speak about fulfilling the law and the prophets because people are going to question his relationship to the law as he hands out authoritative new commandments. In Matthew 5:2122, Jesus proceeds in giving his law over the law of Moses. He says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court,’ but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court, and whoever shall say ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Jesus is not simply giving commentary and explaining the law of Moses. That is what the Tabletalk crew argues. This is where they deny the explicit teaching of the Bible. It is the opposite of what Jesus says. He doesn’t say, this is what they were once told and this is what it means. Jesus said, this is what
September 2013 they were told but “I” am telling you this. Many would like to reduce Jesus to a commentator instead of Lord and Lawgiver. That is exactly the opposite of what Matthew says at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7:28-29 reads, “The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at his teaching.” Why were they amazed? “…for he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as scribes.” Jesus wasn’t giving commentary on the Mosaic law. Jesus was giving law. The scribes gave commentary. Jesus gave law. There is much more that could be said, but this is what I say to you. I will quote the apostle Paul from Galatians 4:31, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bond-woman shall not be an heir with the son of the free-woman.” What is Paul talking about there? He is talking to Gentiles who are being told that they must have Christ and the law of Moses. He says in verse 24 that the bond-woman represents the covenant given at Mount Sinai—the law of Moses. The free-woman represents the covenant given at Jerusalem. R. C. Sproul, Jr., and company will say that this is only talking about seeking to be justified by obeying the law. It does indeed speak of that. However, what Paul is arguing against is the call to join Christ and the law as the standard by which the Christian lives. For later, he does not say trust Jesus but obey the law of Moses. He says in
Page 19 Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.’” Notice the fulfillment terminology again. He says, “But I say to you walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would take Jesus’ teaching and make it known to his apostles and to his disciples. Walk in the Spirit, and the kindergarten requirements will be more than met. The long and the short of it is this—to be antinomian is to be against the law of God. The law of God is completely fulfilled in Christ the Lawgiver who speaks with greater authority than Moses and the prophets. Those who want to put Jesus’ teaching under Moses’ teaching and say that Jesus is just Moses’ commentator are denying the explicit teaching of the Word of God. Is that not antinomian? Let the law of Christ be your authority and trust in him to make you holy. The Old Testament is profitable in pointing you to Christ, but Christ is the Old Testament’s fulfillment. So, look for Christ in the Old. Look to Christ in the New. And remember what Jesus said about his commandments: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
… Jesus is presented in the Bible not as an auxiliary figure who complements other notables such as Moses and David and Jeremiah, but as the focal point of God’s revelation. …the Son himself is the Word par excellence, God’s Self-Expression. … this Self-Expression of God became flesh (John 1:14), enabling us to see his glory. The apex of God’s gracious self-disclosure is in Jesus. D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Toronto, Global Christian Publishers, 1999) 163
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Blake first shows how North America is a mission field then examines several biblicaltheological images of the church to show that she is a "sent" community, called to proclaim the gospel wherever she finds herself. In reminding us that God's mission has a people, Blake White returns our perspective of the church back to God's historical-redemptive framework and helps us see the central place God's church serves in God's mission. The biblical images of the church do not present a dichotomy between being and doing; the church is from first to last a priesthood that is cre ated by mission and for mission. In today's changing demographics in North America, Blake White makes clear the call of the church be what she is-the people of God on mission to reach the nations whom God has providentially brought to our doorstep. A Missional Ecclesiology rightfully places the church at the center of God's mission. John D. Massey, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Missions Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
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