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I s s u e 19 7 M a y 2 013
Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest—Part 4
The Day of Atonement must have been an awesome experience for Aaron the High Priest. His heart must have beaten a mile a minute as he pulled the veil back and entered the forbidden Most Holy Place. His finger probably shook as he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat seven times. Some numbers used in Scripture have great significance.
The number seven represents perfection, and is the sign of God, divine worship, completions, obedience, and rest. The “prince” of Bible numbers, it is used 562 times, including its derivatives (e.g., seventh, sevens). (See Genesis 2:1–4, Psalm 119:164, and Exodus 20:8–11 for just a few of the examples.) The number seven is also the most common in biblical prophecy, occurring fortytwo times in Daniel and Revelation alone. In Revelation there are seven churches, seven spirits, seven golden candlesticks, seven Reisinger—Continued on page 2
Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest ― Part 4
In This Issue
John G. Reisinger
John G. Reisinger Galatians 3:28-29 A. Blake White God's Knowledge of the Future and Free Will Steve West The Cross and the Lord's Day ― Part 5 Steve Carpenter The New Heart, The New Covenant, and Not So New Controversies: A Critique of the Modern "Grace Movement" ―Part 1 of 3 Dr. J David Gilliland The Humanity of Christ Michael J Penfold
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal: 3:28)
A. Blake White
has flipped these sorts of divisions on their heads. Douglas Moo writes, “Those who belong to Christ constitute a ‘new humanity,’ within which the distinctions of this world, while not obliterated, are relativized.”3 Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” As in Galatians 3:28, we see that there is no longer a division between Jews and Greeks and slave and free, but the oddball out is the reference to “Scythians.” They are referred to only here in the New Testament.4 In this time period, the Scythians corresponded to the Ethiopians at the opposite point of the compass, the distant peoples of the north. They were considered the most barbaric of barbarians, uncivilized savages, the
3 Douglas Moo, The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 272. 4 For this paragraph, I am dependent on Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), White—Continued on page 12 69-70.
In Christ, we are all one. This was, and is, very countercultural. For example, the beginning of the Jewish cycle of morning prayer said, “Blessed be He [God] that He did not make me a Gentile; blessed be He that He did not make me a boor [i.e., an ignorant peasant or slave]; blessed be He that He did not make me a woman.”1 Similar expressions of gratitude appear in Greek writings as well. For example, “that I was born a human being and not a beast, next, a man and not a woman, thirdly, a Greek and not a barbarian.”2 Paul is showing us that the coming of Christ
1 The Authorised Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations, tr. S. Singer, 2nd rev. ed. (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1962), 6-7 quoted in Longenecker, Galatians, 157. 2 Attributed to Thales and Socrates, but also to Plato and Lactantius, quoted in Longenecker, Galatians, 157.
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
stars, seven lamps, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven thousand slain in a great earthquake, seven heads, seven crowns, seven last plagues, seven golden vials, seven mountains, and seven kings.1
The sprinkling of blood seven times shows the perfection and completion of Aaron’s work. Just as no one assisted him in his work of atonement, no one added anything in any way to that work. The atonement was a work of God alone. The sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat was a clear picture of Christ presenting himself to the Father in sacrifice. Our Lord was the true propitiatory sacrifice that fulfilled and ended the whole sacrificial system. There will not only never be another Day of Atonement, but there will never be any kind of a blood sacrifice. The entire Old Covenant is forever done away. At Calvary our blessed substitute shed human but sinless blood and fully paid the debt we owed. The hymn writer had it right, “I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt he did not owe.” The full message of the blood being sprinkled on the mercy seat cannot be understood until we understand the great significance of the ark of the covenant. The whole system of atonement centered on the box, or ark, with the solid gold lid called the mercy seat. It is essential that we ask, “What made that box so important?” If you have never studied the biblical answer to that question, I would encourage you read Tablets of Stone & the History of Redemption. This is one of the first books I wrote, and it lays a foundation for the theology of law and grace. One of the reasons the ark of the covenant was so important was because of what was in it. The ark was
1 Doug Batchelor, “Keys to Bible Numbers,” The Most Amazing Prophecies: www.mostamazing prophecies.com.
May 2013 built for the distinct purpose of housing the Ten Commandments written on the two stone tablets of the covenant. We must also ask why the Ten Commandments were so important that a special box was built to store the tablets upon which those commandments were inscribed. A box, we might add, that was build with rings and staves to pick it up because God forbid anyone from even touching the actual ark. On one occasion they were moving the ark on a cart and the oxen stumbled. A man named Uzzah put his hand on the ark to steady it and God killed him on the spot.
When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God (2 Sam. 6:6-7).
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.
Nearly everyone, including me, agrees that the ark of the covenant was important because it housed the Ten Commandments. However, it had nothing to do with any idea that the Ten Commandments were the socalled “moral law of God.” That idea is a pure theological fantasy without an ounce of biblical evidence. It is not possible to confuse and misunderstand the nature and purpose of the Ten Commandments as much as it is to think of them as the so-called “moral law.” The ark of the covenant was holy because the Ten Commandments, or words of the covenant, were written on the Tables of the Covenant in the ark. The Ten Commandments were the summary document of the Old Covenant that established Israel as a special nation before God. The tablets of the covenant upon which the Ten Commandments were written were to Israel what the Constitution of the United States is to our nation. It is the founding covenant document. To think of the Ten Commandments as the so-called moral law instead
Reisinger—Continued on page 4
God’s Knowledge of the Future and Free Will
There has been a very long debate in the history of philosophy concerning the relationship that exists between God’s knowledge of the future and human freedom. Calvinist and Arminian debates often include disagreement on the meaning of God’s foreknowledge. Contemporary open theism (which is not of course without historical antecedents) denies that God knows the future, but in a qualified sense. God is allowed to know how he will act unilaterally in the future to accomplish some things he purposes, but much of the future is inaccessible to his mind. Whether this picture drawn by open theists is logically sustainable is another question altogether, but the main point here is they deny that God knows what will happen in the years ahead. Epistemologically the issues are complex. It is not just a question of the content of God’s knowledge of the future, but also a question of how God knows the future. Although there are some necessary connections at certain points between these two questions, there is also some room for diversity. For example, a strong Calvinist will believe that God knows the future exhaustively (so the content of his knowledge about the future is perfect), and that how God knows the future exhaustively is because he has decreed all that will take place. An Arminian, on the other hand, can say that God knows the future exhaustively (ascribing to God the same content as the Calvinist does), but that he does so by eternally standing outside of time, and seeing the entire timeline of history in one eternal moment. In the Calvinistic model God cannot help but know the future, since he has decreed it. It is logically contradictory to say that God decreed the future but remains ignorant of what it contains. Non-Calvinists, however, do not have the same logical necessity in their positions. For classical Arminianism God does know the future; for open theism he does not. Once you remove God’s ordination of all future events, you can argue that God knows the future some other way, but it is not logically necessary that he does. In fact, it is actually possible to argue that classical Arminianism is more biblically sound than open theism, but open theism is more sound philosophically. I will not rehearse the texts, but to my mind the Bible clearly, clearly teaches that God knows the future! Arminians recognize this, and stand with what Scripture teaches, and this is highly commendable. Given the choice, I would take Arminianism over open theism any day, simply because it is more faithful to the way God has revealed himself in his Word. Arminianism does, however, introduce some unique difficulties when it comes to understanding God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future and human freedom. In this model God’s knowledge of the future is tied to his attribute of eternality. God is depicted as standing outside of our temporal ‘timeline’ and seeing it all from beginning to end. He does not decree the events, but sees the events. For example, from all eternity God has seen that at 9:12 am on March 30, 2012 I will be typing this sentence (and that my clock will hit 9:13 before I finished it). God is a great observer; nothing escapes his vision. This is more biblical than open theism, but profoundly problematic. One massive difficulty occurs at the level of providence and divine guidance. It is essential to think through what it means that God only observes the future, and that from all eternity. If God sees what I will do at 9:12, he cannot change it. Think about it. God is only a witness to what happens in time, and just like a witness watching a train heading for disaster, he cannot intervene to do anything. The reason why he cannot interfere is quite simple: what he sees from eternity past is what actually happens in time. He cannot see what will happen in the future, and then reactively interfere to change it, because if he interfered to change it, he would never have seen the original event in the first place because it would not have been part of the future that he was seeing. In other words, how can God observe events that don’t actually take place? For example, suppose God sees in the future that a terrible accident will occur on a certain day at a certain time. Can God prevent the accident from occurring? The answer, on simple foreknowledge, is no. God cannot act to prevent the accident, because if he did the accident would never happen, and if it never happened it would not be part of the future, and if it was not part of the future God never would have seen it take place! It is critical to remember that in this model God is only an observer; he only passively sees what the future contains; he is not free (or even able) to alter the content of what will be. This reality plays havoc with divine guidance. Let us say that a young man feels called into pastoral ministry. He is unsure if he is qualified for it, and is hesitant to pursue the call. After wrestling with the idea,
West—Continued on page 9
Reisinger—Continued from page 2
of thinking of them as a covenant document is to totally confuse the true importance of those covenant terms written on tables of stone. The Bible only uses the phrase “Ten Commandments” three times in all of Scripture. All three times are in the Old Testament. The New Testament never uses the words “Ten Commandments.” Here is a list of the phrases that the Bible uses as synonyms to describe the Ten Commandments. Ten Commandments – used 3 times. Never used in New Testament. Tables of the Testimony – used 2 times. Never used in New Testament. The Testimony – used 42 times. Never used in the New Testament. Words of the Covenant – used 4 times. Never used in the New Testament. Tables of the Covenant – used 4 times. Used once in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:4. As you can see from this list, the word “Testimony” is used more than any other word or phrase as a synonym for the Ten Commandments. You can also see that not a single one of the terms in the list are remotely associated with a so-called “moral law.” The first use of a term in Scripture usually defines the meaning of the term as it will be used in the rest of Scripture. In this case, the first use of the term “Ten Commandments” clearly shows its meaning to be “the words of the covenant.”
And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came
down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand (Ex. 34:27-29).
Notice what the Word of God says and also what it does not say. Verse 27 is unmistakably clear, after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee can only be referring to the Ten Commandments as the terms of the Old Covenant. In this text, the Ten Commandments are specifically called the “words of the covenant.” Verse 28 is even more specific, “he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. It is impossible to more clearly state that the Ten Commandments are the “words of the covenant.” Verse 29 calls the Ten Commandments “two tables of testimony.” As noted in the list above, the word “testimony” is used more times in Scripture than all other words or phases put together to describe the nature of the Ten Commandments. When is the last time you heard the Ten Commandments referred to as the “Testimony” or “Tables of the Testimony?” This word testimony is used so often because the Ten Commandments are the words or terms of the covenant that will furnish the grounds for judging the nation of Israel. They became a nation by entering into a covenant with God on the terms, or words, of the Ten Commandments written on the Tables of the Covenant. They were rejected as a nation on the grounds of habitually breaking those covenant terms. What is missing in these verses is the slightest mention of any idea of the Ten Commandments being the so-called “moral law of God.” The first time I listed these terms that are interchangeable with the Ten Commandments on a chalkboard a young man asked, “Mr. Reisinger, why did you not give any references to the Ten Commandments referring to the moral law?” I replied, “I wish every question I am asked was as easy to answer as that one.” The young
Issue 197 man was quite surprised when I said, “I did not mention any such verses simply because there are none. The Bible never one time uses the phrase ‘moral law’ let alone uses it as in some way being associated with the Ten Commandments.” The other two places in Scripture that use the term Ten Commandments are just as clear and just as emphatic concerning the identity of the Ten Commandments as is Exodus 34:2729.
And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone (Deut. 4:12-13).
When you throw the word “even” into the mix it adds a deliberate emphasis. The Holy Spirit wants to be clear that when he is talking about the covenant he is talking about the Ten Commandments, and when he is talking about the Ten Commandments he is talking about “the words of the covenant.” The phrase “Ten Commandments” and “words of the covenant” are the same thing. It is impossible to miss the fact that the Bible clearly, consistently and emphatically teaches that the Ten Commandments are the words or summary terms of the Old Covenant that established Israel as a nation.
At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the
Reisinger—Continued on page 6
The Cross and the Lord’s Day—Part 5
Let me quickly give you some assorted observations. Nine of the Ten Commandments are reiterated under the administration of the New Covenant, and the other one is not left without remark; it is abrogated according to Colossians 2:16 .The Sabbath commandment is abrogated because it is ceremonial and the sign of the Old Covenant. It was replaced when the New Covenant and the sign of the New Covenant became functional. Furthermore, no Christian in the New Testament is ever condemned for Sabbath breaking. All through the New Testament you have long lists of sins that embrace every possible shade of wickedness, but the disregard of the Sabbath is never once mentioned in any of these lists. In Mark 7:21-22, Christ enumerates thirteen sins proceeding out of the heart of man, but not one of them is Sabbath breaking. Romans chapter 1 where the worship of God is declared by Paul to be universally binding on all men, is a chapter dealing with worship. You would expect that if the Sabbath is binding on all men, you are going to find something about it in this chapter because he is talking about worship and it being binding on all men. Yet in Mark 1:29-31 there are nineteen sins listed and not one of them is Sabbath breaking. In Galatians 5:19-21 the works of the flesh are enumerated where seventeen sins are listed, but not one of them is Sabbath breaking. In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 in describing the characteristic of men in these last days to populate this whole timeframe between the two advents of our Lord, he has a list of eighteen sins, but not one of them is Sabbath breaking. Would the Sabbatarians leave those lists that way if they were writing them? Paul in his epistles never mentions the Sabbath by name except once in Colossians 2, and then it is to abolish it. The vast majority of the converts from the middle of Acts onward were gentiles who never kept the Sabbath and if the fourth commandment was binding, why were they not instructed to keep it? Why should they repeatedly be warned against all of their other evil practices but never warned against breaking the Sabbath as they certainly did before? It is a significant observation that the fourth commandment plainly appoints one day (not one day in seven)—the seventh day as the Sabbath. The word Sabbath is consistently used for the seventh day, and there are only two exceptions to that in all of the Old Testament. It is used in Leviticus 23 and in Leviticus 16 for the Day of Atonement, and it is used in Leviticus 25 for the sabbatical year. In all other occurrences it clearly refers to the seventh day, so if you’re going to be a Sabbatarian, you’d better consider Seventh -day Adventism because that’s the only option. This makes Puritan obedience to the fourth commandment a castle in the cloud. Sabbatarians profess to obey the fourth commandment by observing a prescribed day for a definite assigned reason, yet they did this by observing another day for a different reason. The fourth commandment enjoins the keeping of the seventh day because God rested from his work as creator on the seventh day, and the Puritans did this by keeping the first day because on it Christ rose from the dead. Now that brings me to make a few closing remarks. Revelations 1:10 is the only place that you have the expression Lord’s Day found in all of the New Testament. John writes, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet” and proceeds to record the words of that loud voice. Now this is the only place in all of the New Testament the phrase the Lord’s Day is used. There are three major interpretations that have been advanced for this phrase. The first and most obvious one, the one that has been most commonly inferred in church history, is that it refers to Sunday the first day of the week. The second interpretation is a spin-off of that where it refers exclusively to Easter Sunday, one Sunday a year. The third interpretation is that the Lord’s Day is to be parallel with the day of the Lord of the Old Testament; therefore, it refers to the day of the Parasouia, the day of the coming of Christ and the day of the Lord coming in judgment. It is best taken to refer to Sunday, the first day of the week. Samuel Bacchiocchi in his work from Sabbath to Sunday presents the view that it refers to the day of Christ’s return, and he does an excellent job presenting a persuasive position. I think that there is probably a point here that needs to be made as well, and that is a lot has happened with this phrase Lord’s Day. Since this is the only place that it’s found, sometimes there’s been a lot packed into it as well. It has been made a receptacle for a lot of things when in fact exegetical evidence doesn’t necessarily or exclusively lead you to the conclusion that it refers to the first day of the week.
Carpenter—Continued on page 10
Reisinger—Continued from page 4
Lord spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the Lord gave them unto me (Deut. 10:1-4).
There is no way that you can make the Ten Commandments to be the socalled “moral law” of God. Covenant theologians insist on making the Ten Commandments to be the so-called moral law instead of being the words or terms of the covenant. They do this without a stitch of textual evidence. They ignore or deny the words just quoted that clearly state the actual “words of the covenant” are the Ten Commandments. This is a classic example of systematic theology interpreting Scripture instead of Scripture texts establishing systematic theology. If Covenant Theology is correct, we should call the ark that houses the Ten Commandments the “ark of the moral law.” Exodus 32-34 records Israel’s sin of idolatry while Moses was on the mount receiving the Ten Commandments. When Moses came down from the mount and saw the orgy going on, he smashed the tables of the testimony, or Ten Commandments, that God had written on the stone tablets. Moses did not smash the first set of the Tablets of the Covenant because they were the so-called moral law, but he smashed them because they were the “the testimony” or summary doctrine of the covenant that established Israel’s nationhood. The Holy Spirit calls them the “two tables of the testimony.”
And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables (Ex.32:15-16).
May 2013 cross Jesus cried, “It is finished” and yielded up the ghost. The moment he died the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom. There is a lot of discussion about what Jesus was referring to when he said, “It is finished.” He could have been referring to “the work my Father gave me to do,” or he could have meant “my necessary sufferings.” Nearly every suggestion fits the context. One thing that is helpful in understanding the implication of that object lesson and understanding the phrase is seeing the connection between Jesus’ statement, “it is finished” and the rending of the veil. The context shows that the rending of the veil was a direct result of Jesus finishing whatever he was talking about. The veil could not be removed until Jesus could say, “It is finished,” and once whatever he was talking about was finished the veil was automatically obsolete. “It is finished” and the “rending of the veil” are tied together as essential cause and effect. As long as the Old Covenant was in effect, the veil must remain in place. The veil shielded the ark of the covenant. That veil must remain in place until the terms of the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments, were fully met and sin was paid for in full. The one thing that finished everything was the Old Covenant. Everything without exception that the Old Covenant established, the Aaronic priesthood, the sacrificial system, the feast days, the special nation, etc. , was totally and permanently finished and replaced with something better. This includes the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. Before the better things of the New Covenant could be established, the Old Covenant things had to be perfectly fulfilled and done away with. Our kinsman redeemer was born under the covenant written on the stone Tables of the Covenant in the ark. He perfectly kept all of that covenant’s terms and earned the life and righteousness that it promised. He earned every blessing
Issue 197 it promised because he kept every precept it demanded. He literally brought to the Tables of the Covenant the holy, sinless and obedient life it demanded. Every precept must be fulfilled. Every term had to be obeyed just as every prophecy had to be fulfilled. Not a jot or tittle could be left unfinished. On the cross our Lord’s mind went down through the Old Testament, and he saw one thing in Psalm 69:21 not yet finished (“They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Psalm 69:21).
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (John 19:28-30).
The moment the last Old Covenant prophecy was fulfilled, our Lord cried out, “It is finished” and gave up the ghost. The rending of the veil was the evidence that the old was finished and the new had come. Understanding the meaning of this evidence is the beginning of understanding New Covenant Theology. The last thing put in place when the Tabernacle was built was the veil isolating the Most Holy Place. The ark of the covenant was put in place, the Tables of the Covenant, or Ten Commandments, were put in the ark and finally the veil was hung to shield the ark. When the veil was hung, the glory of the Lord filled the Most Holy Place signifying that God had taken up residence in the Most Holy Place. God was truly dwelling “among His people.” The “glory” of God is his immediate presence. The first mention of God’s glory is when God appeared on the mountaintop at Sinai. They
Reisinger—Continued on page 8
We mentioned earlier that Matthew 27:51 was the key text for any discussion of the rending of the veil. On the
The New Heart, The New Covenant, and Not So New Controversies: A Critique of the Modern “Grace Movement” Part 1 of 3
rary nature of this debate, many of the anonymous examples come from Internet discussions in the public domain, comments that were not necessarily meant for publication but representative of the writer’s position and helpful in understanding the issues involved. Finally, it is important to stress that this analysis is a composite view of a broad movement, not all aspects necessarily being held by any one theologian. It is a movement that is much broader than a single denomination, and includes Baptists, Presbyterians, and others. Before I define this movement more specifically, a few background comments would be helpful to put the discussion in its appropriate theological context. The Definition of Law I make a distinction between o nomos, the law, which typically in the NT refers to the Mosaic code, and the broader use or principle of law, commandment, or precept that refers to the revealed will of God more generally, either as it applies specifically to the New Covenant believer or for all men – the distinction between covenantal and trans-covenantal law or the absolute law of God. For a complete discussion of this distinction, let me suggest Dr. Gary Long’s book, Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal.2 Law in the New Testament Scriptures – when juxtaposed with grace or gospel – is never mere command but always the “The Mosaic Code”
2 Gary D. Long, Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008).
2012 Providence Theological Seminary Doctrinal Conference
Dr. J. David Gilliland
At the 2011 conference, I gave a presentation (also published in Sound of Grace) entitled New Covenant Theology: Is There Still a Role for the Imperatives?1 In part due to interaction that followed, I would like to expand that discussion to a broader consideration of what has become known as the modern “Grace Movement.” Now I recognize that one begins with a significant disadvantage when presenting material criticizing a movement named “Grace.” Perhaps there is an analogy in the so-called “Peace Movement.” After all, who could be opposed to peace? But certainly some of the methods advocated or employed in that movement are far from peaceful, and the practical consequences are far from what many of its supporters originally intended. I will explain more as we go along, but in the end, I hope you will see that this is not merely an attempt to balance grace with law, but it is ultimately about one of the essentials of reformed soteriology: justification by faith alone. A quick word regarding sources for some of the quotations is in order. Care has been taken to limit named sources to published documents or material presented with the clear intention of public dissemination. However, because of the contempo1 J. David Gilliland, New Covenant Theology: Is There Still a Role For The Imperatives? in Sound of Grace, Issue 183, 184 (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011, 2012).
as a whole, with the pejorative phrase works of the Law being typified by unbelieving Israel and ultimately reflective of the unregenerate man or woman’s attempt at being right with God by self-effort, independent of a personal faith and trust in God Almighty. And furthermore, this discussion is not about the Ten Commandments or the content of the law of Christ; let me suggest Blake White’s book, The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal3 for that discussion. This is about the importance of law or commandment more generally. And most importantly for today’s discussion, to suggest that there is a positive use of law, principle, or precept by the Spirit in the sanctification process of the believer is not the same thing as an argument for the 3rd use of the law or Mosaic code as typically understood by some of the reformers or most theonomists today. The phrase obedience to Christ means many things. We obey Christ when we follow his example. We obey Christ when, in good conscience, we follow the leading of the Spirit and apply the general principles of the Word of God. And we obey Christ in the more restricted sense when we obey specific commandments in the written word, all various aspects of the law of Christ or God’s law for his New Covenant people. And in using God’s law in this manner, we are not equating it with the Mosaic code. I am
3 A. Blake White, The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010).
Gilliland—Continued on page 13
Page 8 saw God’s glory from a distance. The next time his glory appeared was when the Tabernacle was finished. God had moved into the Most Holy Place, and he was now visibly, day and night, dwelling among his people. In the incarnation, God became flesh and we “beheld his glory.” God had moved closer to his people, but he was still hidden to some degree as Wesley wrote in his hymn: “veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” On the Day of Pentecost God sent his Holy Spirit to indwell every believer, and God came even closer. Our Lord’s prophecy in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit “was with you and shall be in you” was fulfilled. Some day we shall see him face to face in all his glory. When the ark of the covenant was first placed in the Most Holy Place it contained nothing but the second set of the Tablets of the Covenant. Moses smashed the first set when Israel worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32). Later two more things were put in the ark. A pot of manna was put in the ark when the children of Israel complained against God for having nothing but manna to eat. This incident is recorded in Numbers 17. The second thing put into the ark was the rod that budded when the sons of Korah challenged the authority of Moses and were rebuked by God. This is recorded in Exodus 16:1-34. These three things in the ark reminded Israel of her sin. When the cherubim looked down on the ark, which signified God looking at the mercy seat, he saw the blood sprinkled; he did not see the emblems of
Reisinger—Continued from page 6
May 2013 sin in the ark. The sin was covered with the atoning blood. Without the blood, Aaron could not have stood before the mercy seat. The covenant terms, or Ten Commandments, in the ark demanded perfect obedience upon pain of death. As long as the covenant terms in the ark, the Ten Commandments, were in effect, Israel was “under the law” as a covenant of life and death. They were duty bound to obey the covenant terms, the Ten Commandments, written on the Tables of the Covenant in the ark. Once the covenant was broken, the Tables of the Covenant demanded an acceptable sacrifice that would satisfy God’s holy character. No son of Adam was ever able to give either of these things to the covenant. The sacrifice on the Day of Atonement gave a yearly temporary covering, but nothing could actually pay for sin. Neither the people nor Aaron could meet the terms the Tables of the Covenant demanded. They could not bring to the covenant a holy sinless life that earned life and righteousness, nor could they bring an acceptable sacrifice that paid their debt to God and satisfied his holy character. As long as the Tables of the Covenant in the ark of the covenant were in effect, Israel’s only hope was a future Redeemer. Every thing in the religion of Moses was temporary and typical. Its benefits were only for one year. We need to be reminded that the Day of Atonement was a classic example of the doctrine of Limited or Particular Atonement. There was not a single thing done on that day for the Philistines or any other pagan nation. When Aaron put his hands on the goat
Issue 197 and confessed sins, it was Israel’s sins alone and not the sins of any pagan nation that he confessed. The blood sprinkled on the mercy seat was to make atonement for Israel not for the Philistines. Aaron had the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his breast as he applied the blood on the mercy seat. The uniform teaching of both the Old and New Testaments is the coextension of the atoning work and the intercessory work of the High Priest. He prays for those for whom he makes sacrifice. Aaron prayed for those for whom he made sacrifice even as our Lord did the same thing. Jesus said,
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine (John 17:9).
I find it impossible to believe that Christ would die for an individual and then not pray for that individual. If we accept the clear teaching of Scripture on the nature of true atonement, we have two choices:1) Christ died an atoning death for all men, in which case all men without exception will be saved, or 2) Christ died for the sheep the Father gave him, in which case the elect chosen by the Father will be saved. The type and the anti-type must both teach the same truth. Both Aaron and Christ must teach either an universal or a particular atonement. Every thing on Israel’s Day of Atonement was particular. Every aspect of Aaron’s work involved only the nation of Israel. In John 17: 9 our Lord made it abundantly clear that on God’s great Day of Atonement, his son’s work was for the elect alone. W
Dear New Covenant Media, My name is Robert Millar, I am the pastor of a small church in rural Northern Ireland, I am writing you to thank you for your faithfulness and your hard work in promoting what I believe to be the most biblically faithful theology around today. I have been blessed by the books you have produced, and being isolated as the only New Covenant Theology pastor I know on this island, your books and teaching have meant the world to me. For the past six years now I have been looking into the subject of NCT and have been so blessed and encouraged by all that I have read, it is just fantastic to see exegesis driving theology. I have been a pastor now for just eighteen months and long to see Christ formed in the local church and the glory of the New Covenant shine forth. Thanks again! Robert Semper Reformanda!
Issue 197 talking to others, and praying, he feels no closer to absolute certainty than before. Finally one night he stays up late pouring his heart out to God, and asks God for guidance. Should he become a pastor? What will God do to help him? Unfortunately, God already knows that this young man will become a pastor. In fact, God knows that in 10 years he will be full of pride and suffer a great moral fall. The pressure and despair will overwhelm him, and he will take his own life. God knows all of this, and God is not calling the young man into pastoral ministry. The poor fellow is wrestling with the pressure his parents and youth leaders have put on him, and he is about to make a terribly wrong decision. As he prays for guidance, God cannot direct him not to pursue the ministry, because God already knows he is going to. It is as good as done. It is as much a part of the time stream as the events of the past. The future is absolutely fixed, God only sees it, and God cannot change it. Functionally, the difference is like someone who has already seen a movie and someone who hasn’t. God knows what’s going to happen in the next scene, but we do not. Crucially however, neither one of us has any power to change the next scene—God has just had a preview,
West—Continued from page 3
May 2013 but he didn’t make the film. Strangely the idea of simple foreknowledge and human freedom really serves to undercut the guidance God is able to give his people. One of the supposed strengths of all free will theologies is that they make God a genuinely relational being. God is supposed to interact with us in a truly dynamic, living relationship. He is supposed to respond to us, and partner with us. When we with our free will seek guidance, God is supposed to give it. But all these strengths are illusory when combined with God’s knowledge of the future. The Arminian view of the will and God’s knowledge of the future turn out to empty any meaning out of the responsive relationship. Again, think of a woman who is about to marry a man who is going to horribly abuse her. God already knows she will marry him, and God already knows he will abuse her. When she sincerely prays for guidance, God wishes she wouldn’t marry him, but since she is going to, there is nothing he can do to intervene. If he intervened, he would never have actually seen them get married, and if they were never married he would never have seen him abuse her. Since God’s guidance is based on what he sees, if he never saw the abuse, he could never have that as a reason to
Page 9 inform his guidance. Like an observer on a mountaintop, God sees two cars speeding towards an intersection, and he knows they are going to crash, but there is nothing he can do to stop them. Now it can be replied that Calvinism does no better when it comes to God giving guidance to his children. After all, if God has already decreed the future then every detail of our lives is already written in stone, and God is not going to alter or change them in any way. Why should the young man ask God to help him decide whether or not to go into the ministry, if God has already decreed one way or the other? Why should the young woman ask God for help in deciding to marry the abusive husband, given that God has already decreed that she will? There are a few relevant differences, but only two will be briefly mentioned. First, it has often been noted by Calvinists that if God ordains the ends he also ordains the means. So God does guide his people through their prayers; their prayers are as much part of his plan as the outcomes or answers. The massive difference, then, is that in this model God is in control, whereas in the other model
West—Continued on page 10
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West—Continued from page 9
God is helpless to act. Regardless of what this entails for us, there are huge entailments for God. Can God act to bring about all that he wants in the future? Yes, if he decrees it. No, if he merely observes it from an eternal perspective. A Calvinist should believe they are praying to a God who through his will can bring about certain outcomes through the means of prayer. An Arminian should believe that God, no matter what is prayed, cannot act to change what he has already seen. And this, it should be noted, pushes with considerable force into the doctrine not of omniscience, but of omnipotence. Second, the Calvinist model allows the promise of Romans 8:28 to have its maximal power. Perhaps the woman will marry an abusive husband: even so, God will work it together for good. This is a world of sickness, tragedy, sin, pain, tears, and death. If God merely sees these things, why should we trust they will all work for good? God, to say it again, only observes what happens, even if he doesn’t want it to take place. Or we can swallow deeply and walk by faith not by sight, trusting that God is at work in the darkest corners of our universe to bring himself glory and to work things out for good. I can’t pretend this is easy, but who am I to talk back to God? And at least the Calvinistic model can be articulated with a coherent relationship between God’s ability to work and his knowledge of the future (or at least so it seems to me). One last thought. If a Christian working from an Arminian framework simply responds that they are convinced the Bible teaches libertarian free will, and that the Bible teaches that God knows the future, and that God answers prayer and can guide us on the basis of what he sees, but they don’t know how all that is possible, they’ve got a friend in me! Conceptu-
May 2013 ally, I think there is massive confusion in holding to all that, and I think they’re wrong biblically to boot. But I would much, much rather have someone say: “I stand with what the Bible teaches, even though some of it is beyond my ability to understand or hold together,” then have someone say: “I’m not going to believe anything the Bible teaches unless it measures up to what I think is rational.” Frankly, none of us, no matter where we fall on the Calvinist-Free Will theology spectrum, have the faintest idea exactly how all the biblical data about God cohere together! We do not and cannot fully comprehend the nature of God or his plan. Nevertheless, we should do our best to avoid conceptual inconsistencies and tie up loose ends where they are not absolutely necessary, and on this score I think the Calvinist model of God’s exhaustive knowledge of the future by virtue of his decree is more compelling biblically, and more coherent philosophically. I would like to draw this particular article to a close by quoting the Apostle Paul. At the end of Romans 9-11, where Paul has examined some great themes concerning salvation, election, human freedom, and God’s sovereignty, he concludes with doxology. He concludes by praising God, and recognizing that God is simply beyond his ability to fully understand. We can try as we might, but God is simply incomprehensible and unfathomable—and this should result in praise. So, with Paul we conclude:
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. W
Issue 197 That’s the position I hold, and I would urge you to get a copy of Bacchiocchi’s book and consider the arguments that he gives. I think it is interesting to observe this about the one place that the Lord’s Day is mentioned. It is not mentioned as a command to observe it, but it is simply a declaration that this was a title that the early church came to apply to the first day of the week. There is no perceptual directive anywhere in all of the New Testament to meet on the Lord’s Day or to keep the Lord’s Day holy. The emphasis in the New Testament falls on our duties and responsibilities to one another and not to a day. Hebrews 10:23-24 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” It is interesting that holding fast our confession and stimulating one another by love and good deeds are joined together as a part of the means that God has ordained in the necessary perseverance that Hebrews has been so diligent to teach. Perseverance comes by the fellowship of the saints, and they’re considering how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds while as it says in Hebrews 10:25: “not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near” The argument of the author of Hebrews is that our duties and responsibilities as we assemble together should be viewed not in relationship to a day but in relation to one another and to simulate one another to love and to good deeds. Perseverance is joined to the corporate responsibility. I think, however, that there are some reasons for preferring the first day of the week. It is the day of the resurrection; therefore, it is the day of the final ratification of the New Covenant. A most astounding statement is made about the resurrection in RoCarpenter—Continued from page 5
Issue 197 mans 4:25: “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised because of our justification.” If you have a King James translation it incorrectly reads “for” our transgressions and “for” our justification. It’s saying about the resurrection that God raised his son from the dead because he had procured our justification in his death. The resurrection would never have occurred if Christ had not died in atoning death and procured righteousness on behalf of these people. He would never have been raised from the dead and still be in the grave; therefore, the resurrection is the seal of divine approval upon the work of Jesus Christ. It is the point at which the New Covenant is finally ratified, so if Christ had not been raised from the dead, our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. If Christ had not been raised from the dead, your faith is worthless, and you’re still in your sins. The content of the gospel is fully established because of the resurrection. Christ died, was buried, was raised again as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. Secondly, it was on this day that Christ first commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel as written in John 20:21: “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the father has sent me, I also send you.’” and in Mark 16:15: “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” It is on this day that he set the example of what our relationship to the Old Testament was to be. He addressed the disciples on the road to Emmaus on the day of his resurrection, and he expounded beginning with Moses and all of the prophets about all the things concerning himself in the Scriptures. There our relationship to the Old Testament is set, and we are to see the Old Testament Christologically. It was the day on which their minds were opened, and they saw it. Not only did it happen to two disciples, but later on that evening it happened to all of the
May 2013 disciples. They were all gathered together, and Christ said all of the things that I said to you that were written about me in the law and the prophets and the writings; you’re witnesses of these things today. This is how you have now preached the Old Testament, here is where you come from, they testify of me. Furthermore, it was the first day of the week on which the outpouring of the spirit occurred. In sum total the first day of the week in the New Testament is the day in which the New Covenant was ratified completely. It is the day in which our responsibility is delineated in relationship to the Old Testament Scriptures; it is the day on which we as the New Covenant people of God are empowered for our New Covenant duty with the outpouring of the spirit. Is it any wonder that the early church selected the first day of the week? Any selection of another day has in church history always been an exception to the rule. That was the day. It was the resurrection day in which everything turned. Jesus might have lived the pure life that he did, he might have brought all of the miracles that he did, he might have died on the cross as he did, and he might have been buried as he was, yet all of this would not have saved a single soul if he had not been raised from the dead. While Jesus was dead, the hope of salvation was buried with him. While Jesus was dead on that Sabbath day in the grave, the hope of salvation was there in that grave with him. If ever the devil had a hope, it was while Jesus was dead during that Sabbath day, but as Sunday begins to dawn a mighty angel, like lightning descends, the earth quakes, the graves open, and Christ arises as conqueror over death and hell and the grave, and Satan’s last hope is gone. The wicked Jews are dismayed, and they try to bribe people into lying. The women who were weeping before are now rejoicing, the hope of the disciples is revived, the salvation of the elect is secure,
Page 11 the sufferings and the humiliation of Christ are over, and he walks forth the almighty Son of God, the Lord of all. Never such a morning dawned in all of human history. We should recover this vital resurrection theology as a part of our worship on the Lord’s Day. Dear people we wouldn’t be the same. This is a celebration; Jesus is risen; it is his day. All through church history whenever they were choosing a word to describe the Lord’s Day they didn’t use the word keep as was used of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, they used the word honor. They didn’t keep the day, but they honored the Lord on this day because this day was the day of salvation procured. We don’t honor a day; we honor a person. Even as with the Lord’s Supper we don’t honor a supper, but we honor the Lord. May God grant you understanding in this subject as you continue to pursue it. W
I have argued that there is a pattern of love in marriage ordained by God. The roles of husband and wife are not the same. The husband is to take his special cues from Christ as the head of the church. The wife is to take her special cues from the church as submissive to Christ. In doing this the sinful and damaging results of the Fall begin to be reversed. The Fall twisted man’s loving headship into hostile domination in some men and lazy indifference in others. The Fall twisted woman’s intelligent, willing submission into manipulative obsequiousness in some women and brazen insubordination in others. John Piper Desiring God, 1996, p. 186
Page 12 epitome of unrefinement and savagery.5 Josephus the Jew referred to the Scythians as little better than wild animals.6 “Barbarian” refers to the people who live at the southern ends of the earth. So “barbarian, Scythian” in Colossians 3:11 refers to the peoples at the extreme northern and extreme southern ends of the earth. The gospel is universally inclusive. Through the gospel, God is forming a new humanity consisting of all nations of the earth. In Galatians, this has particular application to Jews and Gentiles. We see this reality gloriously taught in Ephesians 2:11-22:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built 5 Moo, The Letters to the Colossians, 271. 6 Contra Apion 2.269.
White—Continued from page 1
together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
In Ephesians 3:6, Paul says, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Now, this does not mean that all differences are erased. Paul himself, in other places, tells slaves to obey their masters and tells wives to submit to their husbands. We all keep our ethnicities and gender roles, but old divisions and wrong attitudes of superiority are abolished. These distinctions are irrelevant for being included in Christ.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:29)
Issue 197 receive the promise made to Israel by being united to the only faithful Israelite in history: Jesus. Jesus recapitulates the life of Israel.7 He is the faithful Israelite, and all who trust in his faithfulness become Israelites with him. It is worth quoting Southern Baptist theologian Russell Moore at length on this point: For the new covenant apostles, Jew-Gentile unity is pivotal to the early church. It is about more than human relational harmony. Instead, it acknowledges that God’s kingdom purposes are in Christ. He is the last man and the true Israel, the bearer of the Spirit. A Jewish person who clings to the tribal markings of the old covenant acts as though the eschaton has not arrived, as though one were still waiting for the promised seed. Both Jews and Gentiles must instead see their identities not in themselves or in the flesh but in Jesus Christ and in him alone. Jesus is the descendant of Abraham, the one who deserves the throne of David. He is the obedient Israel who inherits the blessings of the Mosaic covenant. He is the propitiation of God’s wrath. He is the firstborn from the dead, the resurrection and the life. Those who are in Christ – whether Jew or Gentile – receive with him all the eschatological blessing that are due to him. In him, they are all, whether Jew or Gentile, sons of God – not only in terms of relationship with the Father but also in terms of promised inheritance (Rom. 8:12-17). In Christ, they all – whether Jew or Gentile – are sons of Abraham, the true circumcision, the holy nation, and the household and commonwealth of God (Gal. 3:23-4:7; Eph. 2-3; Col. 2:6-15; 3:3-11; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). … Both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, however, often discuss Israel
7 Russell D. Moore, “Personal and Cosmic Eschatology,” in A Theology for the Church (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 864.
White—Continued on page 18
To limit ourselves to Galatians, Paul teaches the same truth throughout:
3:7 - Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 3:29 - And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. 4:28 - Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 4:31 - So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. 6:16 - And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
We see that it is those who believe who are the true Israel. It is those who glory in Christ Jesus who are the circumcision (Phil. 3:3). Am I saying that the Church=Israel and Israel=Church like Covenant Theology? No. Let’s pay close attention to our text. Paul says, “If we are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring.” As in all of theology, Christ is the key! We cannot simply equate the Church and Israel. The proper theological articulation is not Israel=Church, but Israel=Christ=Church. We only
not arguing that the law sanctifies; that type of phraseology is deliberately pejorative and a straw man argument. This discussion, from my perspective, is about the legitimacy and need for intentionally or volitionally obeying any written commandment or principle, even those in the NT. I am simply saying that the same kind of obedience (not specific laws) which included an intentional obedience to the written Word, that caused God to say that David was “a man after his own heart” and refer to him as having “the law of his God in his heart” is the same kind of obedience that God desires from his New Covenant people. It was not fleshly for David, and it is not fleshly for us. It is also important to point out that these errors are not new; consider this example from Martin Luther no less:
Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That somebody is the Son of God.… Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, no lawgiver, but the Giver of grace, the Savior, full of mercy.… I have much trouble to see Christ as Paul portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion that Christ is a lawgiver sunk into my bones.4
Gilliland—Cont. from page 7
May 2013 he writes, “Now if this is true, and it is true, then we are never justified by our own righteousness.” Part of the problem here, as we will explore later, is the conflation of sanctification and justification. And certainly Luther overlooks what the epistle of James says (a tendency perhaps historically overstated, but clearly not always his favorite), “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12). But unfortunately, this statement by Luther has many supporters today, as one blog participant notes: “Amen!!! Christ is no Lawgiver. Rather, He is the Liberator, the Emancipator …The risen and exalted Christ now issues the new eschatological law of the Spirit of life, through which we love with his love and enter into the exceeding great liberty and joy of our living communion with him.” Notice how this writer links the statement, “Christ is no lawgiver” with “joy of our living communion with him.” That is one of the key aspects of the “Grace Movement,” namely, that joyful communion with Christ and any understanding of law or commandment that includes the believer’s volitional response to the Word of God are mutually exclusive. However, by “living communion” I assume he means what Jesus did when he used the word we translate abide in John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Federal Vision versus the Grace Movement On one side of the spectrum, we have the Federal Vision, which confuses justification with sanctification and understands justification to be a process, undermining the principles
Page 13 of imputation and Sola Fide. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the “Grace Movement,” those that want to make sanctification an accomplished process, one separate from and often contrasted with intentional obedience to the written word. Now there is no denying that in one sense we constantly look back at our justification as the foundation of our new life, but that is different than reducing sanctification to justification. And in fact, it is not uncommon for many to simply deny that sanctification can even be described as a process at all. One blog participant put it this way: “We are already sanctified. The notion of ‘progressive sanctification’ is an unbiblical one, but it’s been parroted so many thousands of times that the tradition of ‘progressive sanctification’ has made the Word of God ‘of none effect.’” Now, before we go further, let me make clear what I mean by the process of sanctification. Paul, in 2 Timothy 2:21, teaches that we have been set apart for the Master’s use. And the process of making us a better reflection of his character will not be complete until we reach heaven. In that sense, we are a work in progress, and progressive sanctification is a perfectly appropriate biblical term to describe it. I have referred to it as the “reflective” or “teleological” aspect of sanctification. In his salutation to the believers in Thessalonica (I Thess. 5:23), Paul prays for the culmination of that process, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely,” or “through and through,” a compound word from holos and telo (end) meaning “through to completion.” We are not progressing in our standing, identity, or acceptance in Christ, but we should be and are progressing in our set-apartness from the world. We are becoming more Christ-like and less like the world, and in that sense we are becoming progressively sanctified. Another good example is 2 Cor. 7:1, “Since we have
For all his positives, Luther had a penchant for the overstatement and, like all of us, sometimes said “things that preach but will not teach.” Now in all fairness, Luther made many statements about the importance of the law of Christ and obedience to Christ’s commandments and here is thinking in some sense of Jesus’ statement, “Take my yoke upon you… for my burden is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29, 30) And later in this paragraph, he reveals that he is really thinking more specifically of the doctrine of justification where
4 Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http:// www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/galatians. pdf, 54.
Gilliland—Continued on page 14
Page 14 these promises beloved (standing and identity), let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” John Owen summarized it this way:
Sanctification is an immediate work of the Spirit of God on the souls of believers, purifying and cleansing of their natures from the pollution and uncleanness of sin, renewing in them the image of God, and thereby enabling them, from a spiritual and habitual principle of grace, to yield obedience unto God, according unto the tenor and terms of the new covenant, by virtue of the life and death of Jesus Christ.5
Gilliland—Continued from page 13
of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:9-11) For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)
J.I. Packer describes the process of biblical holiness in a similar way:
Holiness means Christ-centeredness as one’s way of life: holiness is a matter of being Jesus’ disciple, of listening to his word and obeying (intentionally or volitionally) his commands, of loving and adoring him as one’s Redeemer, of seeking to please him and honor him as one’s Master, and so of making ready for the day when we shall see him and be with him forever.6
The Central Issue: The Role of the Scriptures in the Life of the Believer Consider the following wellknown texts of Scripture:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules 5 John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 3, edited by W. Goold (London: Banner of Truth, 1966), 386. 6 J.I. Packer, Keeping in Step With the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 34.
Here is the important question: which one of these sets of verses is still true and applicable as to their original intent, Psalm 19 and 119 or Romans 7:6? Well, of course, Christian orthodoxy has always held that they both are. But if so, it must be the case that the word and commandment as David and the OT saints understood them is not the same reality that Paul is referring to in Romans 7:6, “the old way of the written code.” For many in the “Grace Movement,” whether intended or not, “the old way of the written code” and all that it represents or symbolizes in Paul’s writings is being equated with the OT saints intentional obedience to the written word. And rather than a means that the Spirit uses in the sanctification of the believer, for many in the “Grace Movement,” intentional obedience to the written Word is considered Old Testament moralism and is being contrasted with “the new way of the Spirit.” Rather, what Paul is employing is a salvation history argument, not an absolute contrast between the written Word and the Holy Spirit. When contrasted with the principle of grace and the way of the Spirit, the phrase “the old way of the written code” is paradigmatic for the natural man’s proclivity for using God-ordained means for the purpose of self-justification. Paul
Issue 197 is not making a contrast between the Word of God and the Spirit in an absolute sense, or else 2 Timothy 3:16-17 would make no sense. Furthermore, if Paul were contrasting the way of the Spirit in the New Covenant saint with volitional obedience to the Word of God in the OT saint, we would have to argue that the OT saints were sanctified by the principle of legalism or works. On the contrary, Paul is arguing here for two different ways of life; the way the nonbeliever interacts with the written word in comparison with the way the Spirit-led believer responds to that same word. In his discussion of Romans 7:6, Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way:
Here we meet with a fundamental distinction between the two covenants, the two ways of life. Before you become truly Christian you try to conform to a standard and a pattern outside yourself; but to be a Christian means that the standard is inside you. Of course, in one sense it is still outside, but the important fact is that it is now inside as well. You read it in the Word, but it is also in your mind and in your heart. You are not only looking at something external, you are also aware of that which is within. You do not have to be persuaded to look at that which is outside you; there is now a power within you calling your attention to it, a principle operating in the center of your personality. The same truth is stated in the epistle to the Philippians, chapter 2, verse 13: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God that works in you (inside you) both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The apostle rejoices that we have become dead to the Law, and that we are delivered from the Law which formerly held us because we can now serve “in newness of Spirit, not in the oldness of the writing.” It is within us, in our minds and in our hearts.7 (emphasis mine) 7 Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 7.1-8.4, The Law: Its Functions and Limits (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 98.
Gilliland—Continued on page 18
The Humanity of Christ
Michael J. Penfold
1 This is an excerpt from an excellent article on the internet on the subject of “The Humanity of Christ”. http://www.webtruth.org/ articles/christology-33/the-humanity-of-christ-70.html
The Theology of the Doctrine How does the Bible describe the humanity of Christ? What insights can we glean into the character and nature of the man Christ Jesus? a. The Character of His Humanity The following characteristics of the blessed humanity of the Redeemer are presented in Scripture. He was and is: i. Holy and righteous Adam was innocent (Gen 2:17, 3:5) but the Lord Jesus was intrinsically holy (Luke 1:35). ii. Meek He embodied true submission even under the severest provocation (Matt 11:28-29). iii. Humble His humble obedience led even to the death of the cross and is held up in scripture as the supreme example of selflessness (Phil 2:5-8). iv. Loving He expressed the fact that ‘God is love’ in His purpose on earth (John 15:13). v. Balanced The Lord Jesus had neither weak nor strong points. He was grave without being melancholy and joyful without being frivolous. There was an exquisitely fine balance to His humanity that was uniquely beautiful and glorious. In the Old Testament we have repeated references to things that are ‘fine’, all of which eloquently speak of the Saviour: • Fine Linen: Exod 26:1, 31, 36.
• Fine Flour: Lev 2:1-3. (The meal offering, speaking of the Lord’s life, was most holy). • Fine Gold: 2 Chron 3:8, S of S 5:11, Lam 4:1. • Fine Brass: Rev 1:15. b. The Nature of His Humanity There are a number of commonly held misconceptions regarding the nature of the Saviour’s humanity. Some teach that Christ’s human nature was less important than and overridden by His divine nature. It is believed in some circles that the two natures of Christ blended into one to form a kind of superman. Others think that since Christ had two natures He must have had two personalities. Then again, many mistakenly imagine that Christ was 50% God and 50% man. Still others think that the ‘deity of Christ’ simply means that God lived inside the body of Jesus. All of these ideas are unscriptural and dangerous. 19th Century expositor C.H. Mackintosh rightly said: “The truth respecting Christ’s humanity must be received with scriptural accuracy, held with spiritual energy, guarded with holy jealousy, and confessed with heavenly power. If we are wrong as to this, we cannot be right as to any thing. It is a grand, vital fundamental truth; and if it is not received, held, guarded, and confessed as God has revealed it in His holy Word, the entire superstructure [of doctrine] must be unsound.” There are four ways of coming into the world: creation (Adam), formation (Eve), generation (the rest of the human race) and incarnation (Christ). Explaining exactly what happened at
the incarnation demands the careful use of language, for at the incarnation, all that God is was joined with all that man is. That is, when godhood joined with manhood, the divine nature (deity) and human nature (humanity) were united. Thus, at the point of His conception in the womb of Mary, the eternal Son of God took humanity and assumed it, so that it became His own as much as His divine nature had always been His own. It is important to understand that the humanity He took was not a person, but a nature, for the Lord Jesus is one person but possesses two natures. A person without a human nature would not be human. What kind of union was it? Theologians call it hypostatic union – the union of deity and humanity in one person. At the incarnation, a sinless human nature (not merely a human body) was inseparably and eternally united with the divine nature – yet those two natures remained distinct, whole and unchanged – joining without conversion, mixture or confusion, so that the one whole person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man at one and the same time. It needs to be emphasized that in the incarnation the two natures did not convert to a third, nor did one nature convert to the other nor was there any dilution or suppression of either nature. The ramifications of this truth are many. For example: • Christ’s two natures can be distinguished but not separated. • Christ became something He never was before while never ceasing to be what he always was.
Penfold—Continued on page 16
(reprinted by permission)
Penfold—Continued from page 15
• Christ has only one personality. • Christ’s humanity never had an independent existence. • Christ is not able to sin, any more than God can sin. • Christ’s humanity is not independent of His deity. • Christ never does anything ‘as man’ or ‘as God’ - He acts as Christ, who is God manifest in flesh. After coming to earth at Bethlehem, Christ could no longer act solely ‘as God’. Nor did He experience thirst and weariness solely ‘as man’. He cannot act as man without being God - He cannot act as God without being man. The Lord said “I am thirsty” not “my human nature is thirsty.” He said “I forgive” not “my divine nature forgives you”. It is vital never to divide the Lord Jesus in a way that scripture does not allow. Though God cannot die, the man who died on the cross was God. Though death is separation, God cannot be separated from Himself. So,
May 2013 when the Lord Jesus said “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” the spiritual entity that left His body was a unity of divine and human. His death did not dissolve the hypostatic union. While His body lay in the grave, His human soul and spirit were continued to exist in indissoluble union with His deity. The Westminster Confession of Faith’s description of the glorious truth of the nature of Christ’s humanity could hardly be surpassed:
0“The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of the time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary of her substance, so that two whole, perfect and distinct natures, the godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition or confusion, which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”
Issue 197 scripture to record events in such a way that the reader is never allowed to wander far away from the combined and inseparable truths of the humanity and deity of Christ. • Though asleep on a pillow one minute, the Lord when awakened by the disciples, is able to rise and rebuke the wind and still the storm (Mark 4:38-39) • Though wearied with his journey, the Lord is still the one who is able to tell the woman at the well her whole life’s history (John 4:329) • Though shedding real tears at the grave of Lazarus, the Lord is able to call Lazarus forth from the grave (John 11:35-43) • Though sweating as it were great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, the Lord proceeds to heal Malchus’ ear and upon saying the words “I am” the crowd goes backward and falls to the ground (Luke 22:44-51, John 18:5) • Though ‘made of a woman’ the Lord is still ‘God’s Son” (Gal 4:4) W
The Holy Spirit is very careful in
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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
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Page 18 and the church without taking into account the Christocentric nature of biblical eschatology. The future restoration of Israel has never been promised to the unfaithful, unregenerate members of the nation (John 3:3-10; Rom. 2:25-29) – only to the faithful remnant. The church is not Israel, at least not in a direct, unmediated sense. The remnant of Israel – a biological descendant of Abraham, a circumcised Jewish firstborn son who is approved of by God for his obedience to the covenant – receives all of the promises due to him. Israel is Jesus of Nazareth, who, as promised to Israel, is raised from the dead and marked out with the Spirit (Ezek. 37:13-14; Rom. 1:2-4). … Dispensationalists are right that only ethnic Jews receive the promised future restoration, but Paul makes clear that the “seed of Abraham” is singular, not plural (Gal. 3:16). Only the circumcised can inherit the promised future for Israel. All believers – Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female – are forensically Jewish firstborn sons of God (Gal. 3:28). They are in Christ … In Christ, I inherit all the promises due to Abraham’s offspring so that everything that is true of him is true of me… The future of Israel then does belong to Gentile believers but only because they are in union with a Jewish Messiah.8 Interestingly (and perhaps inconsistently), Covenant Theologian Vern Poythress agrees with this point. He writes, “Because Christ is an Israelite and Christians are in union with Christ, Christians partake of the benefits promised to Israel and Judah in Jeremiah. With whom is the new covenant made? It is made with Israel and Judah. Hence it is made with Christians by virtue of Christ the Israelite.”9
8 Ibid., 867-68, 906-07. 9 Vern Poythress, Understanding Dispensationalism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1987), 106. See also pp. 43 and 126.
White—Continued from page 12
May 2013 The question I have for Vern is, “How can one maintain this position while remaining a paedobaptist?” If believers receive the promises of Israel by union with Christ, how can this apply to infants? Union with Christ occurs through faith. Infants can’t exercise faith. It is Christ and his descendants who are blessed with Abraham, and Christ had no physical descendants. Jesus has no grandchildren. His descendants are spiritual. Whole systems of theology differ over the interpretation of this letter. Let me illustrate. If I have been faithful to Paul here, then Dispensationalism cannot be true. The Bible does not make a sharp distinction between Israel and the church. The church is the true Israel. God promised Abraham the world (Rom. 4:13), not a small piece of real estate in the East. The Bible Church movement is by and large a Dispensational denomination (although this is changing). We also see that we can’t simply equate the church and Israel. Israel was redeemed physically, but most of them were hard-hearted, or better, stiff-necked. The three-fold division of the law10 cannot be sustained by the Bible. The “covenant of grace” 11does not do justice to the various covenants given in Scripture. Now, let’s think about these implications for a moment. You will rarely hear a Covenant Theologian argue for infant baptism based on the New Testament. What do they appeal to? Covenant Theology. They try to say that Israel is no different than the church and that the new covenant is nothing more than a new administration of the covenant of grace. So if the fundamental tenets of Covenant Theology are not biblically grounded, the whole system falls. If the system of Covenant Theology falls, then infant baptism falls for
10 A. Blake White, Galatians-A Theological Interpretation (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011), 72ff. 11 Ibid, 84.
Issue 197 many Presbyterians. If infant baptism falls, then everyone becomes Baptist! I hope you see the staggering implications of the interpretation of this important letter. Exegesis must inform theology. W
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
Gilliland—Continued from page 14
But what happens if we equate “the Word” and intentional obedience with “the way of the written code”? That is in essence what is happening in the broader “Grace Movement.” And with respect to the role of the Scriptures in the life of the church, what would you expect to be the result? At the end of the day, the central issue has to do with the role of Scripture, including the imperatives or commands, and the human will as God-ordained means the Spirit uses in the sanctification process. And although certainly unintended by most, Solo Christo is being pitted against Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. Now those are serious statements, and I want to explore in more detail the steps in this process in Parts 2 and 3 of this series. W
Speakers and Schedule
A. Blake White—Blake is a regular contributor to Sound of Grace and has written many articles. He is a leading apologist for New Covenant Theology and the author of seven books, including the recently released Theological Foundations for New Covenant Ethics, his well-known What is New Covenant Theology: An Introduction, The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal, and The Newness of the New Covenant. Chad Richard Bresson—Chad is the new Assistant Director of The Center for Pioneer Church Planting with To Every Tribes in Los Fresnos, Texas. He has been the Pastor for Adult Bible Education at Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, Ohio, and is relocating to Los Fresnos this summer. Steve Best—Steve serves as the Director of the Center for Pioneer Church Planting. His love for Christ and the gospel has been evident through his passion for expository preaching and encouragement for intentional shepherding through the family of families.
Grace Bible Church 3715 Wilson Avenue Grandville, Michigan 49418 Friday, June 21 6:30 PM 8:00 PM 7:30 PM 9:00 PM Session 1—Blake: “The Genesis of Missions” Panel Q&A: “What is New Covenant Theology” Saturday, June 22 9:00 AM 10:15 AM 11:30 AM 12:00 PM 1:30 PM 2:30 PM 4:00 PM 5:00 PM 6:30 PM 7:45 PM 10:00 AM 11:15 AM 12:00 PM 1:30 PM 2:30 PM 3:30 PM 5:00 PM 6:00 PM 7:30 PM 9:00 PM Session 2—Steve: “A Light to the Gentiles” Session 3—Chad: “Jonah and Old Covenant Missions” Panel Q&A Lunch Session 4—Blake: “Christ’s Mission in the New Covenant” Session 5—Steve: “The Great Commission and the New Covenant” Panel Q&A Dinner Session 6—Blake: “The Ministry of the New Covenant” Session 7—Chad: “The Equipping of the New Covenant Member” Sunday, June 23 9:00 AM 10:15 AM 12:15 PM 10:00 AM 11:45 AM 2:00 PM Adult Bible Hour with Grace Bible Church Morning Worship with Grace Bible Church Lunch —Provided
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Council on Biblical Theology
July 22-25, 2014
Location: Franklin, TN Theme: God’s Eternal Kingdom Purpose Speakers: Peter Gentry & Stephen Wellum Co-Authors of “Kingdom through Covenant ” PTS Faculty & Others
Hosts: Providence Theological Seminary of Colorado & Grace Church at Franklin, TN
Contact: www.ptsco.org; email@example.com
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