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I s s u e 19 8 Ju n e 2 013
Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest—Part 5
John G. Reisinger
1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacriﬁces for sins: 2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with inﬁrmity. 3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. 4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. 5 So also Christ gloriﬁed not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. Hebrews 5
In This Issue
Christ, Our New Covenant High Priest ― Part 5 John G. Reisinger The New Heart, The New Covenant, and Not So New Controversies: A Critique of the Modern "Grace Movement" ― Part 2 of 3 Dr. J. David Gilliland Doing/Fulﬁlling the Law A. Blake White The Bondage of the Will Steve West A Study of New Covenant Theology, Part 1 of 4 Kevin P. McAloon Under the Elemental Spirits of the World A. Blake White 1
3 5 7
Chapter 5 begins the longest section in the book of Hebrews and goes all the Reisinger—Continued on page 2 way through chapter 10, verse 39. The sub-
The New Heart, The New Covenant, and Not So New Controversies: A Critique of the Modern “Grace Movement” Part 2 of 3
Dr. J. David Gilliland
The Speciﬁc Characteristics of the “Grace Movement”: #1 – “New Obedience” The ﬁrst characteristic is what has been referred to as the “New Obedience.” Consider the classic text announcing and deﬁning the New Covenant, Jerem iah 31:31-34:
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD, ‘for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
heart” refer? For many, it means a new kind of obedience, if not the actual indwelling Spirit himself. But if that were true, what would it say about the sanctiﬁcation of the OT saints? Was David or Abraham sanctiﬁed by the ﬂesh, by mere response to an external word? What does the writer of Hebrews say? “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), and “by faith Abraham obeyed” (Heb. 11:8). We know from the immediate context that “the law written on the heart” is ﬁrst an issue of relationship; “‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Did the OT saints know the Lord? This promise is not new individualistically but covenantally. This is Gilliland—Continued on page 12
To what, then, does the phrase, “the law written on the
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
ject of this entire section is the high priestly work of Christ. From both a practical and doctrinal viewpoint, this section is one of the most important in the entire book of Hebrews. It is also one of the most misunderstood passages among sincere Christians. The Roman Catholics and many Anglicans (Episcopalians) grossly ignore or confuse the wonder and glory of Christ’s work as high priest by having their leaders assume they are priests capable of being mediators between God and sinners. Arminians falsely assume that the priestly work of Christ is equally on behalf of all men without exception. Most fundamentalists, including the Plymouth Brethren, insist the priestly work of Christ does not begin until his ascension. This limits the high priestly work to intercession, but it is quite clear that the primary work of the high priest in the Old Covenant was to offer sacriﬁce. It is just as clear in the New Testament that Christ’s high priestly work includes sacriﬁce as well as intercession. The Arminian has no place to put the atoning work of Christ on the cross. All agree it was not his work as prophet or his work as king that made atonement for sin. However, if we put the sacriﬁcial work of the atonement under the ofﬁce of priest we are well on our way to particular redemption. In order to hold on to universal atonement, the Arminian reduces the priestly work of Christ to be limited to intercession. In this way, Christ’s priestly work does not begin until he ascends to heaven and is seated on his throne. However, to hold that view these people must ﬂat out deny the speciﬁc words of Christ when he said, “I pray not for the world” (John 17:9). It is abundantly clear that Christ does not act in the place of the non-elect in either his ofﬁce of prophet or his ofﬁce of priest. The writer to Hebrews has already mentioned the high priestly work of Christ three times. It is clear from these texts that the priestly
June 2013 work of Christ included reconciliation as well as intercession just as it included both propitiation and expiation.
Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be as a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus … Hebrews 3:1 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our inﬁrmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and ﬁnd grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. General Manager: Jacob Moseley: email@example.com Send all orders and all subscriptions to: Sound of Grace, 5317 Wye Creek Drive, Frederick, MD 21703-6938 – Phone 301473-8781 Visit the bookstore: http://www. newcovenantmedia.com Address all editorial material and questions to: John G. Reisinger, 3302 County Road 16, Canandaigua, NY 14424-2441. Webpage: www.soundofgrace.org 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.
Our Lord is glorious in both his person and in his work. It is the awesome glory of his person that gives his redemptive work the honor and dignity that it deserves.
…let us note that the Lord Jesus is designed a “great High Priest.” This word at once emphasizes His excellency and pre-eminency. Never was there, never can there be another, possessed of such dignity and glory. The “greatness” of our High Priest arises, First, from the dignity of His person: He is not only Son of man, but Son of God (Heb. 4:14). Second, from the purity of His nature: He is “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), “holy,” (Heb. 7:26). Third, from the eminency of His order: that of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6). Fourth, from the solemnity of his ordination: “with an oath” (Heb. 7:20, 21)—none other was. Fifth, from the excellency of His sacriﬁce: “Himself, without spot” (Heb. 9:14). Sixth, from the perfection of His administration (Heb. 7:11, 25)—He has satisﬁed divine justice, procured Divine favor, given access to the Throne of Grace,
Reisinger—Continued on page 4
Doing/Fulﬁlling the Law
A. Blake White
If one wants to understand Paul’s mind on the Mosaic law, one must understand the way Paul carefully distinguishes the verbs “do” and “fulﬁll.” Pauline scholar Stephen Westerholm writes, It is worth noting, however, that in Paul, while Christians are never said to “do” (poiein) the law, those “under the law” are seen as obligated to “do” its commands (Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10, 12; 5:3); indeed, the law itself, Paul claims, rests on the principle of “doing” as opposed to “believing” (Gal. 3:12; Rom. 10:5-6). If, then, the essence of life “under the law” is the requirement to “do” its commands, it is not strange that Paul would avoid the term in contexts where he relates Christian behavior to the law. On the other hand, where speciﬁcally Christian behavior is related positively to the Mosaic law, the verb plēroun or a cognate inevitably occurs (Rom. 8:4, 13:8, 10; Gal. 5:14); yet these terms are never used where the requirements or achievements of those living “under the law” are in view. Given the occasional nature of Paul’s correspondence, such a consistent distinction in usage is striking indeed and demands some explanation. In Galatians 5:14 the whole law is fulﬁlled in one statement: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. In Romans 8:4, the righteous requirement (to dikaiōma) of the law is fulﬁlled in us. In Romans 13:8 we are told “the one who loves another has fulﬁlled the law.” Verse ten says “love is the
Page 3 fulﬁlling of the law.” Only Christians, who have the Spirit of the new age, can fulﬁll the law. Paul, like Jesus in Matthew 5:17, is referring to eschatological fulﬁllment. It should also not be overlooked that in these “fulﬁllment of the law” passages, Paul is not prescribing but describing Christian behavior. Jason Meyer states, “Paul does not prescribe Christian behavior with reference to the law; he describes the ‘fruit’ (karpos) of their behavior with a retroactive reference to the way that it conforms to the law and thus amounts to its ‘fulﬁllment’ (plēroō). Ironically and paradoxically, those who live under the law bear fruit resulting in sinful passions, transgression of the law, and death, while those who have died to the law bear fruit that amount to the law’s fulﬁllment.” Only those under the law are required to do the law, while the result of the obedience of those not under the law fulﬁlls the law.
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Reisinger—Continued from page 2
secured eternal redemption. Seventh, from the perpetuity of His ofﬁce: it is untransferable and eternal (Heb. 7:24). From these we may the better perceive the blasphemous arrogance of the Italian pope, who styles himself “pontifex maximus”—the greatest high priest.1
It is interesting to follow biblical arguments and note how logically they are framed. The Holy Spirit knows how to think and how to express the truth. He does not begin his list of comparisons between the old and the new with Moses and Aaron. That would immediately have offended the Jews. The writer starts with angels and talks about a mediator who is holy, acceptable to God, has a heart of compassion for sinners and is just the mediator we need in every way. The writer of Hebrews begins chapter 5 with a description of the high priest’s nature and work.
For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacriﬁces for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way, for that he himself also is compassed with inﬁrmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. Hebrews 5:1-4
June 2013 did not act as a private individual, but as a public ofﬁcial: “is ordained for men.” He acted as an appointed representative of sinners. Third, when he approached God he did not come empty handed. He brought “gifts and sacriﬁces for sins.” Fourth, the high priest must realize that he himself was a sinner and needed grace. He had to be able to give hope and comfort to those of his fellow sinners to whom he ministered (verses 2, 3). Our New Covenant high priest was not in any sense a sinner as was Aaron, and part of this particular requirement did not apply to him. The need to be able to sympathize did apply to Christ, and his ability to sympathize with us grew out of his becoming one with us in our humanity. He was tempted in the same way we are tempted but he never yielded to any temptation. Fifth, he did not presumptuously “decide to be a high priest” by his own choice, but was chosen and approved by God (verse 4). Let us look at each of these ﬁve things more closely. The ﬁrst thing is an emphasis on his humanity. “For every high priest taken from among men…”
An angel would be no ﬁtting priest to act on behalf of men, for he possesses not their nature, is not subject to their temptations, and has no experimental acquaintance with their sufferings; therefore is he unsuited to act on their behalf: therefore is he incapable of having “compassion” upon them, for the motive-spring of all real intercession is heart-felt sympathy. Thus, the primary qualiﬁcation of a priest is that he must be personally related to, possess the same nature as, those for whose welfare he interposes.2 It was necessary for Christ to become a real man, for as we are very far from God, we stand in a manner before Him in the person of our Priest, which could not be were He not one of us. Hence, that the Son of God has a nature in common with us does not diminish His dignity, but commends it the more to us; for He is ﬁtted to rec2 Ibid, 227
oncile us to God, because He is man (John Calvin, quoted by Pink).
If the Son of God had never become man, He could never have been a priest or performed any priestly functions. He could have taught us about his Father and instructed us in the just requirement of the Law, but he would never have been able to offer that sacriﬁce for the sins of His people which divine justice required. It was essential that “God became ﬂesh and dwelt among us” if an eternal salvation was to be secured for God’s elect. The phrase, “Is ordained for men,” in verse one is important. It shows that the high priest was “ordained by God” for his ofﬁce. He did not take a series of psychological tests to see if he had certain talents and a correct psychological make up; he did not one day “feel led of the Lord” to make the high priestly work his calling. No, no, God personally chose, ordained, called and equipped the high priest for his work. The reason why, and the purpose for which, the high priest was taken “from among men” is so that he might transact on behalf of others, or more accurately, in the stead of others. The application of the words, “Is ordained of God” to our New Covenant high priest demonstrates the person and work of Christ. He not only became man, he received appointment from God to act on behalf of, in the stead of, men. He came to do the Father’s will, “Lo I come, to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9). This text not only announces the commission He received from God, it also asserts His readiness to discharge it. The will of God for Christ was the cross. He was born for the express purpose of dying. Our Lord was the only person who was ever born in order that he might die. We were born to live, but he was born to die. He came to do what needed to be done and no one but he could do it if there was to be a gospel to preach. He came to do what
Reisinger—Continued on page 6
These verses give a summary of the qualiﬁcations of the Levitical high priests. Our Lord fulﬁlled every one of these qualiﬁcations. First of all, the high priest had to be “taken from among men.” That means he had to be part of the human family, a true part of Adam’s race. An angel could not be a priest, let alone be the high priest. A high priest must partake of the nature of those on whose behalf he acts. He must be a kinsman of those he represents. Second, the high priest
1 A.W. Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews (Swengel, PA, Baker Book House, 1954) 225
The Bondage of the Will
If Jonathan Edwards’s The Freedom of the Will is a deep well for Calvinists, Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will is a refreshing stream. This is not to say that it is shallow: I am more impressed by its depth now than I was when I ﬁrst read it. Whereas Edwards’s work is systematic, careful, rigorous, and clear, Luther’s is ﬁery, striving, and active. All Luther’s strengths and many of his weaknesses are displayed in the pages of The Bondage of the Will. The book’s importance from an historical perspective alone can scarcely be exaggerated, yet it is still well worth reading on the merit of its content today. This article will sketch some of the contours of Luther’s argument but with particular attention to his attitude towards Scripture and human reason. As it is well known, Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will (hereafter designated BW) in response to the writings of Erasmus of Rotterdam who maintained a position of libertarian free will. Erasmus was known as a scholarly gentleman (although, that is relative to his time: Erasmus uses insulting language in a way that scholars could never get away with today in academic discussions). He was reﬁned and intelligent. To put it kindly, Luther was not quite as reﬁned ,yet Luther had a lot more intellectual strength than many today give him credit for. Most importantly, however, Luther’s appeal was to the Scriptures and not to any other authority. He was not against reason (a fact that is not changed by the number of times contemporary detractors say he was), but he did believe that human reason needed to be a servant of Scripture rather than a master of Scripture. Autonomous human reason was a tool of the devil or, in Luther’s colorful language, the devil’s whore. Submissive human reason, on the contrary, served a necessary and vital ministerial—as opposed to magisterial—role. Luther was not unaware of Erasmus’s greater brilliance, but he saw it as hopelessly applied to a losing— because it was non-biblical—cause. Writing directly to Erasmus, Luther said that Erasmus’s book, for all of its eloquent expression: “struck me as so worthless and poor that my heart went out to you for having deﬁled your lovely, brilliant ﬂow of language with such vile stuff. I thought it outrageous to convey material of so low a quality in the trappings of such rare eloquence; it is like using gold or silver dishes to carry garden rubbish or dung” (p. 63).1 Luther states repeatedly in his introductory address to Erasmus that Erasmus has brilliance and eloquence, but it is all to no avail because he has neglected the teachings of the Scriptures. As a result Luther has greater understanding even though he cannot express himself with the urbane wit and reﬁnement of Erasmus. In bringing his reasoning powers into submission to God’s Word, Luther is not abdicating his intellectual responsibility. On the contrary, he is using his mind in a manner beﬁtting one who is created. There are simply some things in the Bible that transcend our ability to comprehend; nevertheless, these same transcendent realities can still be clearly taught. For example, the Trinity is a clear biblical
1 All references will be to Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (Old Tappan, N. J.: Fleming Revell, 1957).
Page 5 doctrine, and although we can demonstrate that it’s not logically contradictory, nobody truly understands in a deep way what that mode of existence is like. The same could also be said for the person of Christ: a fully divine and a fully human nature cohering in one person. The biblical data is clear, but the concept transcends our ﬁnite intellects. When it comes to free will, Luther believed the biblical data was not very complex. Even if philosophers and rationalists struggled to conceptualize how free will functioned in relationship to God’s sovereignty, that was irrelevant to the fact that the Bible spoke clearly on the subject (pp. 70-74). In Luther’s judgment not only was the biblical teaching on the subject clear, it was tremendously important. How could Christians be unconcerned about the matter of the will when the will was such a vital part of salvation? Luther wrote: “So it is not irreligious, idle, or super ﬂuous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether or not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation. Indeed, let me tell you, this is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us; our aim is, simply, to investigate what ability ‘free-will’ has, in what respect it is the subject of Divine action and how it stands related to the grace of God” (p. 78). This sentiment is virtually repeated in Luther’s concluding remarks to Erasmus when he famously stated: “you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like—triﬂes, rather than issues—in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot” (p. 319).
West—Continued on page 10
Reisinger—Continued from page 4
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.
no man could do—satisfy the claims of divine justice, procure the divine favor. Pink correctly notes in passing what the Holy Spirit speciﬁcally says, “ordained for men, not mankind in general, but that people whom God had given Him—just as Aaron, the typical high priest, confessed not the sins of the Canaanites or Amalekites over the head of the goat, but those of Israel only.”
“In things pertaining to God,” that is, in meeting the requirements of His holiness. The activities of the priests have God for their object: it is His character, His claims, His glory which are in view. In their application to Christ these words, “in things pertaining to God” distinguishes our Lord’s priesthood from His other ofﬁces. As a prophet, He reveals to us the mind and will of God. As the King, He subdues us to Himself, rules over and defends us. But the object of His priesthood is not us, but God.3
Issue 198 It was the Father who put Christ on the cross. It was the Father’s plan to have Christ die and it was the Father’s sovereign control that engineered the cross from beginning to end. No event was ever planned and executed as carefully as the death of Christ was planned and executed by the triune God. However, the Son of God readily agreed to “do the Father’s will.” Pink said it well:
Christ on the Cross was far more than a willing victim passively enduring the stroke of Divine judgment. He was there performing a work, nor did He cease until He cried in triumph, “It is ﬁnished.” He “loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). He “laid down His life” for the sheep (John 10:11, 18)—which is the predicate of an active agent. He “poured out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12).4
We must always remember the difference between a prophet and a priest. A prophet represents God to men and a priest represents men to God. The truth of Christ’s humanity is not stressed as much as it should be. There is the tendency to get so involved in defending the truth of the deity of Christ that we neglect his humanity. It is just as vital that Christ be the son of Mary as it is that he be the Son of God. The following is a short excerpt from an excellent message on the internet on the humanity of Christ. See page 15 of issue 197 of Sound of Grace for a longer quote and for the internet address for the entire article.
The ramiﬁcations of this truth [humanity of Christ] 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. 3 Ibid, 229
That He may offer both gifts and sacriﬁce for sins (Heb. 5:1). This statement emphasizes an important fact that is not emphasized enough today. Christ offers himself to the Father before he is presented to sinners. This text shows that the sacriﬁcial death of Christ was a priestly act. He offered something to God. He offered himself. He lay down his life in a conscious act of sacriﬁce for sins. This was not the work of a prophet or a king; it was the work of a priest. At Calvary the Lord Jesus was not only the sacriﬁce, the Lamb of God bearing judgment, but He was also the priest ofﬁciating at the altar. Our Lord offered his sinless life on the altar of his absolute deity and accomplished a perfect redemption for us poor sinners. Later, the writer will emphasize the necessity of Christ having an offering to give to God. “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacriﬁces: wherefore it is of necessity that this Man have somewhat also to offer” (Heb. 8:3). Hebrews 9:14 tells us that our Lord “offered himself without spot to God.” God “gave his son” up to the cross.
Hebrews 5:2 emphasizes that compassion is one of the sure results that will be evident in a true high priest. This same mark of compassion will be seen in anyone who has truly been called and ordained by God to function as a church leader. Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself is compassed with inﬁrmity (verse 2). The ignorant may be described as those who sin because they simply do not know any better. Their problem is ignorance of the truth. They may be new or untaught believers. Those who have “gone out of the way” maybe those who know better but deliberately choose to go their own way. Regardless of which it is the true minister of Christ feels compassion. He never excuses sin in any way but he feels true sympathy. If the only feeling a leader feels when someone under his care goes astray is anger, that leader is a false shepherd. I Samuel 1:9-14 records the miserable failure of Eli the priest. When poor Hannah was “in bitterness of soul,” and while she was in prayer,
4 Ibid, 231
Reisinger—Continued on page 8
A STUDY OF NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY Part 1 of 4
Kevin P. McAloon
INTRODUCTION “There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ.” - Jonathan Edwards1 This statement by one of the church’s greatest thinkers is one that has reigned true since the very conception of the church. Even the very idea of “the conception of the church” is not without its array of theological dilemmas and controversies: who exactly constitutes this church; when was it “conceived”; what is its nature; what is its purpose in God’s plan for humankind, etc. Although many believers may look at these matters as mere abstract theological theories, the conclusions to these questions and their consequences could not be more important to the very life of the church. So agrees Lints, who believes that almost all major controversies in evangelical theology could be reduced in the end to a difference concerning the relationship of the Testaments.2
1 1. Jonathan Edwards, “A Humble Inquiry,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 44. 2 Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 301, n. 13; quoted in A. Blake White, The Newness of the New Covenant (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008), 55; also see John S. Feinberg’s article “The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ” where he says, “Few issues are of greater signiﬁcance to biblical theology and, ultimately, systematic theology as the relation
The dust of our contemporary super ﬁciality and quest for temporal distraction and comfort must be cleared so that the gravity of these matters may be felt in our hearts. The amount of blood that has been shed and the brotherly unity that has been destroyed between professors of Christ over their interpretations of the Testaments throughout the centuries is unfathomable; therefore we owe it to both our Lord and our forefathers to follow in their footsteps towards discovering and breaking from those old corruptions that have been infecting the body of Christ since the days of its fall from New Testament purity. This can only be done with humility as we confess our need and wholly depend upon the Spirit to teach us through the Scriptures he has inspired, even if this must be done so in light of many of the creeds he did not. This has been the cry of many reformers throughout church history, and it is shared by many of us who hold to a form of biblical theology that has been dubbed the name, “New Covenant Theology.”3 While this title may be a bit misleading in that it could suggest a theology that
between the Testaments.” In Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988). 3 See Tom Wells, “Our Creeds and How They Affect Our Understanding,” in Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel, New Covenant Theology: Deﬁnition, Description, Defense (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002); also John G. Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998), iv.
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 af ﬁliation, 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
deals only with the New Covenant in perhaps a more systematic way, this is not the case. On the contrary, like Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, it is a robust interpretation of the relationships between the Testaments and covenants found therein, which seeks to enrich our understanding of salvation history so that we learn to properly apply the truths found in God’s Word. However, many of us humbly believe that whereas the former systems do so through presuppositions that cannot be founded upon Scripture, New Covenant Theology (hereafter “NCT”) attempts to consistently put the biblical texts ﬁrst and derive its overall approach in light of them.4 Much ﬁne exegesis has been done and many arguments have been written for one to engage for himself
4 Wells and Zaspel, 22; also see Reisinger’s introduction in Abraham’s Four Seeds, i-iv.
McAloon—Continued on page 13
Page 8 weeping before the Lord, “only her lips moved, but her voice was heard not,” Eli thought that she was drunken, and spoke roughly to her. Thus, instead of sympathizing with her sorrows, instead of making intercession for her, he cruelly misjudged her. It is a strange anomaly, but it seems that the more doctrinally orthodox people become, the more they lose compassion. They become more interested in protecting the image of the institution than they do in helping poor sinners.
This compassionate, loving, gentle, all-considerate and tender regard for the sinner can exist in perfection only in a sinless one. This appears at ﬁrst sight paradoxical; for we expect the perfect man to be the severest judge. And with regard to sin, this is doubtless true. God charges even His angels with folly. He beholds sin where we do not discover it. And Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, like the Father, has eyes like a ﬂame of ﬁre, and discerns everything that is contrary to God’s mind and will. But with regard to the sinner, Jesus, by virtue of His perfect holiness, is the most merciful, compassionate, and considerate Judge. For we, not taking a deep and keen view of sin, that central essential evil which exists in all men, and manifests itself in various ways and degrees, are not able to form a just estimate of men’s comparative guilt and blameworthiness. Nay, our very sins make us more impatient and severe with regard to the sins of others. Our vanity ﬁnds the vanity of others intolerable, our pride ﬁnds the pride of others excessive. Blind to the guilt of our own peculiar sins, we are shocked with another’s sins, different indeed from ours, but
Reisinger—Continued from page 6
not less offensive to God, or pernicious in its tendencies. Again, the greater the knowledge of Divine love and pardon, the stronger faith in the Divine mercy and renewing grace, the more hopeful and the more lenient will be our view of sinners. And ﬁnally the more we possess of the spirit and heart of the Shepherd, the Physician, the Father, the deeper will be our compassion on the ignorant and wayward.5
Issue 198 far better at condemning than it is at reconciliation. It knows how to preach wrath but stumbles and gets tonguetied with the love of God. Hymn writer Frank Graeff got it pretty close.
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained Too deeply for mirth or song; As the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long? Refrain: Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares. Does Jesus care when my way is dark With a nameless dread and fear? As the daylight fades into deep night shades, Does He care enough to be near? Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed To resist some temptation strong; When for my deep grief there is no relief, Though my tears ﬂow all the night long? Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye” To the dearest on earth to me, And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks— Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
One of the inconsistencies that amazes me is how clearly the Scriptures teach that Christ “loved the sinner and hated his sin.” I am aware this truth has been greatly misused, and it usually winds up in a distorted “halftruth” form, but it is none the less a biblical fact that Jesus was perfectly clear in his hatred of sin and at the same time was tender and compassionate to the sinner. If you can’t ﬁt that into your theology, you need to revise your theology. Despite how holy he was Jesus still often revealed less shock toward the drunkard and proﬂigate than the respectable, selfish, and ungodly religionists. I hate to say it, but I have met many “truly Reformed elders” who exhibit most of the characteristics of the Pharisees in the New Testament. They view biblical compassion as a form of compromise. Jesus looked upon sin as the greatest and most fearful evil, and at the same time he saw the sinner as poor, lost, and helpless. He saw the just destruction of Jerusalem at the door, but still wept over its coming destruction. Hyper-Calvinism is always stingy with the love of God. It is
5 Ibid, 231, 232
Our great matters are little to God's infinite power, and our little matters are great to his Father love. Donald Grey Barnhouse
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 passage
and 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.
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 accord4 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 11
West—Continued from page 5
Turning aside from introductory matters, I want to sketch out several important theological arguments that Luther uses in BW. Some of the positions he takes are far more philosophically nuanced than many people realize. In fact, in my estimation Luther routinely moves from Scripture to theological reﬂection to philosophical/logical reﬁnement in a way which is truly extraordinary. Frankly, as a reader living in the twenty-ﬁrst century, it is easy to get so swept up in his rhetoric that the depths of his reﬂection are missed (not to mention it’s altogether too easy to get distracted by his cringe-worthy expressions, or alternatively to be laughing so hard at some of his comments that the train of his argument is lost). The ﬁrst element to note in Luther’s argument concerns the relationship between God’s foreknowledge and human free will. Although there are lengthy discussions and academic debates about the possibility of libertarian freedom given God’s knowledge of the future, Luther cuts to the chase and argues that according to the Bible God’s foreknowledge of future events is grounded in his sovereign purposes. God knows the future because he decrees the future, not because he sees what contingent beings do as autonomous agents. Luther believes this point is so weighty that he states: “It is, then, fundamentally necessary and wholesome for Christians to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but he foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His own immutable, eternal and infallible will. This bombshell knocks ‘free-will’ ﬂat and utterly shatters it; so that those who want to assert it must either deny my bombshell, or pretend not to notice it, or ﬁnd some other way of dodging it” (p. 80). If all things are ultimately done on the basis of God’s will, then they are not done out of libertarian
June 2013 freedom. Luther’s implicit logical argument is this: 1. God’s foreknowledge of future events is incompatible with libertarian freedom; 2. God’s foreknowledge is clearly taught in Scripture; 3. Therefore libertarian freedom does not exist. This does not mean, however, that God forces people to act against their will. On the contrary, “The will, whether it be God’s or man’s does what it does, good or bad, under no compulsion, but just as it wants or pleases, as if totally free” (p. 81). Luther’s observation here is critical. He never denies that people act as they please out of the nature of their wills. But the one thing a will cannot do—and this is essential to all free will discussions—is change itself. It is what it is. Luther refers to this as the “necessity of immutability” (p. 102). People with an evil will (i.e. the whole human race) do evil naturally. When they sin apart from the restraining of the Holy Spirit of God, they do so in accordance with their fallen nature. In the mercy of God’s sovereign grace, however, sinners are regenerated and given new inclinations and desires. The individual continues to will, but the direction of their will is fundamentally altered by grace. Luther expresses this change in the following way: “On the other hand: when God works in us, the will is changed under the sweet inﬂuence of the Spirit of God. Once more it desires and acts, not of compulsion, but of its own desire and spontaneous inclination” (p. 103). In biblical language, this is what happens when God removes the heart of stone and puts in its place the heart of ﬂesh; when God takes out the old spirit and gives the new spirit; when we are born again. Luther is aware that some people will respond that if God ordains all that comes to pass and if he knows the future on the basis of his decreed purposes, then we are not responsible for what we do. To this he replies that sin-
Issue 198 ners are like horses with two or three good feet; they stumble and fall but are still serviceable for accomplishing God’s purposes. Their in ﬁrmity is in their nature, so it is not God’s fault. All God does is use their capabilities to bring about his good ends (p. 204). In fact this sets forth in a startling way God’s greatness and goodness. Evil people will do evil; part of the glory of God is that he can take their naturally evil deeds (without making the person evil or adding evil to their nature) and work them together for good (p. 206). Furthermore Luther is also aware that this theological stance will evoke the same objections Paul rhetorically poses in Romans 9. Again at this point Luther’s insistence on placing reason at the service of clear biblical teaching guides his analysis: “Is it not an audacious way of searching, to try and harmonize the wholly free foreknowledge of God with our own freedom, and to be ready to deny the foreknowledge of God if it does not allow us freedom and if it imposes necessity on us, to say with the blasphemous complainers: ‘Why doth He yet ﬁnd fault? For who shall resist His will? Where is the God Whose nature is kindness itself? Where is He that willeth not the death of the sinner? Has He created us merely to delight Himself in men’s torments?’—and the like; which sentiments the damned in hell will be howling out to all eternity!” (p. 216). This is strong language but no less strong than Paul’s language in Romans 9, yet it just seems strikingly hard to swallow. In a candid, personal moment Luther bears his heart and says, “…it is this that has been the great stumbling block to so many great men down the ages. And who would not stumble at it? I have stumbled at it myself more than once, down to the deepest pit of despair, so that I wished I had never been made a man. (That was before I knew how health-giving that despair was, and
Issue 198 how close to grace.)” (p. 217) For Luther (as for Calvin) the secret decrees of God are beyond our ken. We do not understand them, nor can we understand them—but we are told about them in Scripture and are expected to receive the biblical teaching on them as God’s truth. Full comprehension is not necessary but humble acceptance is. There was for Luther the assurance that a day was coming when all of God’s wisdom in these issues would be revealed. His great justice would emerge unsullied with every eye seeing it and every mouth stopped (pp. 314-315). What at the present time the human mind cannot comprehend and what the human heart cannot encompass will on that future day be made plain. Even if we still fail to perfectly understand all things, our difﬁculties and problems will melt away in the light of glory (p. 316). Using contemporary categories, Luther’s BW would ﬁt comfortably into the compatibilist camp. This is true not only theologically but also in terms of his philosophical assessments. His view of foreknowledge ruling out libertarianism coupled with his view of moral responsibility is compatibilistic. His view of God using the evil nature of sinners to accomplish his good purposes is likewise
June 2013 compatibilistic (although his expression of it trades more on ultimate and efﬁcient causes, a distinction I’m not perfectly comfortable with when used in theodicies). Furthermore his assessment that people act freely when they do what they want, even though they cannot change their natures or will, again blends determinism and responsibility in a compatibilist mold. Beyond his actual biblical, theological, and philosophical arguments lie his Christian presuppositions. It is asserted more than argued that Scripture is the ﬁnal court of appeal. Luther assumes God knows reality exhaustively and is an infallible and authoritative guide. When God speaks, the issue is settled. Although there is room to quibble with some of the cogency of some of his arguments (even when one is in general agreement with his overall conclusion), his attitude towards human reason and God’s Word is exemplary. All of our theological reﬂection needs to be guided and controlled by the parameters set forth in God’s Word. For all of his personal and intellectual imperfections, this is one area where Luther shines as a bright example centuries after his life and work. May God give us the grace to approach all biblical issues in this same spirit.
Page 11 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 9
The law requires work of human achievement; the gospel requires faith in Christ’s achievement. The law makes demands and bids us obey; the gospel brings promises and bids us believe. So the law and the gospel are contrary to one another. They are not two aspects of the same thing, or interpretations of the same Christianity. At least in the sphere of justification, as Luther says, “The establishing of the law is the abolishing of the Gospel.” John Stott
5 Verlyn D. Verbrugge, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: Abridged Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 541. 6 Ibid. 7 Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 318.
Gilliland—Continued from page 1
not a new reality for the individual believer, but a new kind of covenant that would be characterized by all of its members knowing the Lord. Although a result of the Spirit’s work in regeneration, the internalization of God’s law is not to be equated with the NT gift of the indwelling Spirit as it has always deﬁned the child of God. And of course, the indwelling Spirit is not a new reality spatially, for the Spirit is omnipresent and has always been intimately related to us as the apostle Paul records, “He is not far from each of us; for ‘in him we live and have our being’” (Acts 17:29). And while the reality of the indwelling Spirit is a new reality experientially in the lives of God’s New Covenant people, he has always been the ultimate source of obedience in God’s saints. Note these key OT texts:
The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. (Psalm 37:29-31) In sacriﬁce and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:6-8) Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law…my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” (Isaiah 51:7-8)
June 2013 and Savior – the desire to do the will of God. Psalm 86:11-13 is a good summary: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” And what Jeremiah 31:31-34 points to is a day when every covenant member will “know the Lord,” and share not only the experience of David that is reﬂected in these psalms, but the experience and reality that is perfectly reﬂected in his greater Son and our covenant head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Speciﬁc Characteristics of the “Grace Movement”: #2 – “Historical-Redemptive Reductionism” What is the result if we posit a different kind of obedience, an obedience that transcends or excludes an intentional or volitional response to the written word? It results in a “Historical-Redemptive” reductionism. Within the “Grace Movement” in general, including some who use the term NCT, there is an increasing tendency toward a Barthian type theology, one that promotes unbiblical implications and applications regarding the legitimate distinction between the Word of God and the Incarnate Word, as well as the increasing exclusivity of the redemptive story or “HistoricalRedemptive” paradigm. One Internet participant posted, “Christ in me is all I need to be led in the paths of righteousness. No imperatives required. He IS sufﬁcient for all righteousness!” Now certainly, as a basic statement regarding ultimate authority and signiﬁcance, there is no denying the truth of the statement, “Christ in me is all I need.” It would be similar to Paul’s reference to the preeminence of Christ in Colossians 1:15-17, “All things are by him… through him…and for him,” or his
Issue 198 statement in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” But while these statements provide a doxological summary of true religion, they are not at the same time the whole counsel of God and can and are being used in a way that minimizes or ignores the Godordained means of the Word of God, prayer, and the fellowship of the local church. Allow me to interact with an author (in italics) that puts it this way: “The Bible is inspired by the Holy Ghost. I want to get that out of the way right off the bat. That said, I have established over and over again in this blog that Jesus redeﬁned the phrase ‘word of God’ to be the gospel, or himself, the living walking gospel and gave Scripture a solely redemptive focus. Paul also reinforced the redemptive focus of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:15. He told Timothy that the Scripture would make one wise for salvation and thereby established the solely redemptive focus. Verses 16 and 17 of the same passage must be viewed within the redemptive purpose. In other words, it is only proﬁtable from a redemptive point of view.” Is that what 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 says? This in my opinion is biblical eisogesis, not exegesis. He continues, “The unbelieving Pharisees are examples of it not being proﬁtable.” But I would answer, “Of course they are, they were unregenerate men!” The author concludes, “It will enable us to take the Scripture for what it is rather than turn it into an idol that we in reality place above God…. Removing biblioidolatry would give us the opportunity to ask the question; how would love react to this or that?”1 Biblio-idolatry? Really? Was Paul pitting Sola Scriptura against Solo Christo in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17? Commenting on John Frame’s “The Doc1 http://paradigmshift-jmac.blogspot. com.
Gilliland—Continued on page 18
The law written on the heart does not refer to a speciﬁc codiﬁed content, although I wouldn’t entirely disagree with those that suggest it is a general love for God and neighbor – the two greatest commandments. The law written on the heart is simply the disposition of every regenerate soul that longs for the relationship of covenantal obedience to their Lord
McAloon—Cont. from page 7
and determine whether or not this is actually the case, and I would highly recommend reading these primary sources and meditating over the Scriptures NCT theologians discuss.5 To adequately do so in this brief study would go beyond the course of this paper; therefore my purpose here is to faithfully set forth the central tenets of NCT and its distinctions, with the hope of arousing the interests of those who have been thus far unsatisﬁed with tradition and have a heart to better handle the Scriptures in order to love Christ and appreciate the salvation he has purchased more deeply. A Brief Comparison of Biblicaltheological Systems Before diving into the details of NCT, it is important to ﬁrst brieﬂy summarize the primary systems within evangelical theology that it ﬁnds wanting in many areas. Although not entirely monolithic, and with many intricate variations within their respective schools of thought, the two general theological categories are Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism. What must be kept in mind is that although these approaches differ in many important interpretations of Scripture, they have all been held by
5 Some good starting points are: Wells and Zaspel, New Covenant Theology; and Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology: Questions Answered, (Steve Lehrer, 2006), also available for free here: http://www.ids.org/pdf/nctbook. pdf. It must be noted that although there will be references to Lehrer’s work throughout this discussion because of its clarity and accuracy regarding the central tenets of NCT, most NCT theologians distance themselves from him because of his particular views concerning incest and the salviﬁc merits of the active obedience of Christ. Like any theological discussion, references within this paper are not meant to endorse all views and opinions of their authors, but rather to cite relevant and true statements where there is common ground.
June 2013 many devout and godly Christians who, although they have nuanced their views in slightly different ways, have generally had fundamental agreements on the central issues of God and salvation.6 Covenant Theology: Continuity Covenant Theology is an interpretative framework that revolves around the continuity of God’s covenants with his people. Pertinent to this discussion are the system’s interpretations of the covenants God has personally made with man in time.7 The basic foundations around which the whole system revolves are as follows:8
Man is always in covenant relationship with God. The reason being is that God is transcendent, and the distance is so great between Him and His creatures that man could not enjoy any blessings from Him unless He ﬁrst decided to condescend to them by way of covenant (See Westminster Confession of Faith [hereafter WCF], VII.I). The whole of Scripture is covered by two covenants. Rather than the Old and New, these covenants are the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Works was made with Adam prior to the Fall, which promised him eternal life upon his perfect obedience (WCF VII.II). The Covenant of Grace was made with man after the Fall, whereby God 6 An exception may be taken with some of the earlier Dispensationalists, but generally this is the case. See John S. Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 310. 7 I have not yet come across any NCT material that touches on Covenantalism’s concept of an eternal covenant made between the Father and Son to redeem the elect before creation, nor do I think that an afﬁrmation or denial of such a covenant would affect any of its positions. 8 Much of what follows is taken from Reisinger’s summary in Abraham’s Four Seeds, 121-124.
freely offered sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring only faith in Him (WCF VII.III). This one Covenant of Grace was given two administrations: one under the law and Old Covenant, and another under the gospel and New Covenant [emphasis mine] (WCF VII.V).
Woven within these two broad and general summary points are many presuppositions and implications that must be addressed. To begin with, there are three primary presuppositions which many theologians in differing camps take issue with: 1. There is one unchanging Covenant of Grace that has two administrations under the Old and New Covenants; 2. There is one redeemed people of God in all ages under one unchanging covenant; 3. There is one unchanging moral law for the one redeemed people under the one covenant, viz. the Ten Commandments.9 Some implications of their postulations are that, like Israel, both believers and unbelievers are under the physical New Covenant administration; like infants born under the Old Covenant, infants born to families under the New Covenant are to receive the sign of that covenant which has changed from circumcision to baptism; Moses’ Ten Commandments are the law and rule for New Testament believers; and a church state is something to be sought after. Covenant Theology as a formal system really began with Ulrich Zwingli and was retained in the Reformed and Puritan churches. An honest reading of history may lead one to see that many inherited presuppositions subconsciously led some of the early Protestants to develop and hold such a view. Zwingli and others were born into a culture where the establishment of infant baptism and the propriety of a magisterial church state was simply assumed; thus these
9 John Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008), 185.
McAloon—Continued on page 14
McAloon—Continued from page 13
theologians were forced to adopt a new hermeneutical approach to Scripture that would serve to justify these practices under the New Covenant, and eventually the idea of the unity of a Covenant of Grace was born.10 Sacralism is the logical conclusion and application of this theology, and it was this view that resulted in the justiﬁcation of the persecution of groups like the Anabaptists and kept the majority of Puritans from fully reforming and establishing churches that could truly live and worship consistently in the spirit of the New Covenant.11 Apart from many objections based solely upon exegesis, these are some of the negative aspects of this system of thought which has led many to turn away and seek for a better way for understanding Scripture and the nature of the New Covenant. Dispensationalism: Discontinuity Dispensationalism is a relatively more modern method of reading Scripture, although considering the timeline of church history, so is Covenant Theology. Whereas the latter believes that covenants are the keys to understanding Scripture, the former holds that dispensations are the answer. The basic tenet of most Dispensationalists is that man’s relationship to God is not the same in every age. Throughout history it has been necessary to bring fallen man into divine testing. In separate and distinct dispensations, or periods of testing, God has demonstrated every possible means of dealing with man.12
10 See Wells and Zaspel, 2-3; also Jack Cottrell, “Baptism in the Reformed Tradition,” in David W. Fletcher, ed., Baptism and the Remission of Sins (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1990), 50. 11 Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, ii. 12 Lewis Sperry Chafer, revised by John F. Walvoord, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), 127; referenced in Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, 126.
plan for both; the church did not begin until Pentecost, thus spiritual realities within the body of Christ such as baptism of the Spirit and indwelling of Christ were different than the experience of any OT saint; believers under the law of Christ are under a different code than the Mosaic law (including the Dispensationalists are devout Ten Commandments); there will be defenders of Scripture who dedicate a literal fulﬁllment of a millennium themselves to strict and “literal” with a special emphasis on Israel; interpretations of biblical texts, and and many see the church as a sort are known to be adamantly against 14 “spiritualizing” Scripture. In a sense, of “parenthesis” in God’s overall all conservatives make such a claim; plan of redemption.17 Many of however, Dispensationalists are said to these points have much in common isolate texts and take them on the sur- with NCT, while others do not. face in their most basic forms, which New Covenant theologians and many theologians see a problem with. many other critics do not feel comFor instance, Reisinger points out the fortable with Dispensationalism’s fact that the Scoﬁeld Reference Bible strict literalism and pronounced never cross-references Peter’s statements recorded in Acts 3:24-26 which separation of Israel and the church, refer to the promise made to Abraham and believe that their system overlooks many biblical texts that seem in Gen. 12:1-3, and believes that this to go against its rigorous emphasis is because Dispensationalists cannot ﬁt Peter’s “spiritualized” interpretaon discontinuity.18
tion of the simple and literal promises made to Abraham consistently into their system.15 He also points out that the NT Scriptures go against their
13 Ibid., 129-136; in Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, 127-128. 14 John Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity” in Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1988), 73. 15 Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, 41. 16 Ibid., 92-93. 17 See John Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity,” 71-85; O. Palmer Robertson, “Hermeneutics of Continuity,” 107; and Robert L. Saucy, “Israel and the Church: A Case for Discontinuity,” 249-250; in Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity. 18 For further analysis, see the opposing authors’ comments at the end of John Feinberg, “Systems of Discontinuity”; Paul D. Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity”; and Saucy, “Israel and
June 2013 Generally, traditional Dispensationalists have held to seven distinct dispensations of this type: 1. Dispensation of Innocence (Age of Liberty) from Gen. 1:26-3:6; 2. Conscience (Age of Human Determination) from Gen. 3:7-8:19; 3. Human Government (Covenant with Noah) from Gen. 8:20-11:9; 4. Promise (Covenant with Abraham) from Gen. 11:10-Ex. 19:2; 5. Law (the Nation of Israel) from Ex. 19:3-Acts 2; 6. Grace (the Church) from Acts 2 until the rapture; 7. Kingdom (The Millennium) from the Second Coming until the ﬁnal destruction of the present world.13 Again, this system is not monolithic, and there are many derivations within its camp such as Progressive Dispensationalism; however, many of the same principles hold true for each.
Issue 198 hermeneutic by “spiritualizing” the OT land promise in passages where one would expect to see it reiterated (i.e., in the sermons recorded in the book of Acts, the book of Hebrews, and in passages like Luke 1:68-79).16 In addition to their literalistic hermeneutic, some distinctions within their system are that they believe that there is a sharp and deﬁnite distinction between the church and Israel, and God has always had a different
Issue 198 New Covenant Theology NCT is not an intentional middle ground or blending of these two systems; however, through many conclusions derived from biblical texts, it does hold various aspects in common with both. Some disagreements we and others have with the above systems are that, like most traditions, they allow their presuppositions to drive their exegesis of some texts at the expense of others; neither system understands the biblical doctrine of the church as the body of Christ in the redemptive purposes of God; neither really has a true New Covenant replacing an Old Covenant where both relate to the same redemptive purposes of God for his one true people, thus both are unable to ﬁt Hebrews 8 in either system; and neither sees the true relationship of Israel and the church, in that both insist on bringing the physical aspect of Israel as a nation into the New Testament either directly or indirectly.19 Through our study and weighing of Scriptures, we have come to many conclusions in these matters that line up with those of the early Anabaptists and a chorus of many Christians throughout church history.20 To deﬁne our position in the spectrum of Christian Theology, Reisinger says the following:
“We ﬁnd ourselves in the odd position of being stepchildren of both the Reformers and the Anabaptists, but the true heirs of neither…. Our the Church: A Case for Discontinuity”; in Ibid. 19 See Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, i-iv, 117-119; and Wells and Zaspel, 259-270. 20 See Wells and Zaspel, 22-32; and John Reisinger, In Defense of Jesus, 41.
clear-cut view of the Doctrines of Grace and the unity of the Scriptures aligns us with the Reformers and the Puritans.... Our view of the unity of the Scriptures makes it impossible for us to accept the Dispensationalism set forth in the Scoﬁeld Reference Bible. On the other hand, our Baptistic view that the New Covenant in Jesus Christ has replaced the Old Covenant at Sinai makes it just as impossible for us to accept the Covenant Theology set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith.”21
Page 15 enant, was the physical fulﬁllment of the Abrahamic Covenant. New Covenant The New Covenant is a gracious covenant. Those included in the covenant are reconciled to God by grace alone apart from anything they do. Jesus purchased a people by his death on the cross so that all those for whom he died receive full forgiveness of sins and become incurable God-lovers by the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant is the spiritual fulﬁllment of the Abrahamic Covenant. Law The version of law in the Old Covenant era was the Mosaic law, which included the Ten Commandments. The Mosaic law has passed away with the coming of Christ and the New Covenant. God no longer requires people to follow the Mosaic law. The version of law in the New Covenant era is the law of Christ, which includes the commands of Christ that pertain to the New Covenant era and the commands of his apostles. Israel and the Church Israel in the Old Covenant era was a temporary, unbelieving picture of the true people of God: the church. There always existed a small remnant of believers within unbelieving Israel. When Jesus Christ came, the picture of the people of God gave way to the true people of God consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. The Cross By his death on the cross, Jesus purchased both complete forgiveness of sins past, present, and future as well as a changed life or new heart for all those for whom he died. Believers love Christ more than sin and are characterized by repentance when they sin. Christ’s work on the cross is the New Covenant.22
22 Taken from Lehrer, 19.
Now that we have a background for the topic at hand, it is necessary to provide a brief summary of the central tenets of NCT before discussing some of its intricacies. Although not entirely comprehensive, below is a helpful list that helps sum up the positions that will be discussed throughout the course of this study: Abrahamic Covenant The Abrahamic Covenant reveals God’s plan to save a people and take them into his land. The Old Covenant with the nation of Israel and the Promised Land is a temporary picture of what is accomplished by the New Covenant, by which Jesus actually purchased a people and will take them to be with him forever in the new heavens and new earth. Old Covenant The Old or Mosaic Covenant is a legal or works covenant that God made with Israel on Mount Sinai. This covenant is brought to an end and is fulﬁlled at the cross. It was never intended to save people, but instead its purpose was to increase sin and guilt until the coming of the Savior. Israel, under the Mosaic Cov21 Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds, iii.
By saying, a new covenant, He has declared that the ﬁrst is old. And what is old and aging is about to disappear. Hebrews 8:13
(from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 by Holman Bible Publishers.)
TITLE War ﬁeld on the Christian Life —Fred G. Zaspel The Theology of B.B. War ﬁeld—Fred G. Zaspel
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Gilliland—Continued from page 12
trine of the Christian Life,” Douglas Moo’s insights are worthy of note:
The tendency toward subjectivity invades the Christian church as well…. In a chapter dealing with redemptive history as an aspect of the situational perspective…Frame suggests that the fascination with redemptive history in the contemporary academy has created an imbalance in preaching, in which preachers avoid holding up biblical characters as moral examples out of a concern to avoid “moralism”.… I share what seems to be Frame’s concern that a renewed emphasis on the redemptivehistorical and narrative dimension in Scripture can go too far and push out other important dimensions of the text.… He rightly recognizes the fact that Scripture confronts believers with authoritative demands from God, demands that cannot be relativized away with a vague appeal to love or to the difﬁculties of situations that we ﬁnd ourselves in.2
In one blog interaction I was asked, “Is the living Christ of greater value to his saints than the written Word?” First of all, the question illustrates another characteristic of this movement: the fallacy of the “eitheror.” My answer was and is, “In the believer they are never separated.” Christ never separated them in his relationship with his Father; the desire to do the Father’s will was his continual focus. And although strengthened and nurtured by the Spirit, he would still say, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The authors of Scripture never separated them when referring to the walk of the believer with God. The written Word of God is the vital tool of the Spirit, one that in his hand is
2 Douglas J. Moo, Review of John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 61st Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (New Orleans, November 2009), http:// andynaselli.com/wp-content/uploads/ Moo_reviews_Frame.pdf.
June 2013 part of the indispensable whole armor of God (Eph. 6). Our relationship with God is exactly the same; we interact with the Word just as if the Lord Jesus were sitting in front of us. When the woman said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed,” some would expect Jesus to say, “But I am sitting right in front of you, you have me, you need nothing else.” But what was his answer? “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28). It is no wonder that this characteristic deﬁnes the true saint throughout this age. How does John characterize the believer in these last days? “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17). And this echoes the ﬁrst blessing in Revelation: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:3). And for some in the broader “Grace Movement” as it is generally used, it has come to a point of
Issue 198 not only reducing the Christian life to “who Jesus is” or “what He has done” – to the exclusion of what he has commanded or instructed – but to simply the “cross event.” Peter Mead, an English author, in his blog on biblical preaching recently gives this example, “So what does this [new approach] mean for preachers? Well, for one, perhaps we need to put more preaching effort into presenting Christ and him cruciﬁed, and less effort into pressing Christians to copy Christ and his character exempliﬁed.”3 And some will go even further in reducing the signiﬁcance of the cross to just sacriﬁce and forgiveness. While not minimizing those realities and blessings in any sense, the cross is also about redemption or life under new ownership, as well as reconciliation or restoration of intended relationship and function. The biblical doctrine of sanctiﬁcation is about learning to reﬂect the reality of our redemption and reconciliation. Reducing the Christian life to simply a re3 Peter Mead, New Covenant and Heart Transformation, http://biblicalpreaching.net/2012/07/06/preaching-newcovenant-and-heart-transformation.
Approval junkies live as hostages to other people’s opinions and judgments regarding their thoughts, motives, feelings, or behaviors. Approval seekers look good; they have to... But people-pleasing isn’t godly, nor is it healthy. Appeasers usually end up feeling used, unappreciated, and driven to become all things to all people in order to maintain their image and receive continued approval. They appear giving but in fact they are enslaved to their insatiable need to be admired. Nancy Groom
From Bondage to Bonding: Escaping Codependency, Embracing Biblical Love, NavPress, 1991, p. 35
Issue 198 ﬂection on the cross undermines a signiﬁcant part of its purpose. We can’t forget or in any way minimize the centrality of the cross-work of Christ as the motivation for everything that we do on Christ’s behalf, but we also can’t ignore all the Scriptures tell us regarding the practical implications and responsibilities associated with it – “all Scripture” in its covenantal context (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). The Speciﬁc Characteristics of the “Grace Movement”: #3 – “Love vs. Commandment Reductionism” One writer made this statement, “The risen and exalted Christ now issues the new eschatological ‘law’ of the Spirit of Life, through which we love with his love.” While certainly love is and has always been the only legitimate motivation for biblical obedience, the important question then is, “Does love now replace all speciﬁc commandment, precept, or principle?” Tom Schreiner’s comments are especially worthy of note:
The Beatles wrote a popular song titled, “All you need is love.” On ﬁrst glance Paul appears to be saying the same thing in Rom. 13:8-10, for he says that the only thing we owe one another is love and that love fulﬁlls the law. What we need to do in each situation of life, then, is to ask ourselves, what is the most loving thing to do in this circumstance?… The ﬁrst mistake is to say that since love fulﬁlls the law we no longer have any need for commandments…. Those who believe this way bristle against imposing any commands upon believers. They think this is a form of legalism…. Certainly love involves more than the keeping of commandments, but it never involves anything less than keeping them. Love goes beyond the keeping of God’s law, but it never goes around the keeping of God’s law…. The second error is the opposite of the ﬁrst one…. It is also a mistake to say that keeping commandments is the sum and totality of love…. No one can be loving who violates the commandments, but we may not be acting in genuine love
while keeping the commandments because we may be keeping them to bring honor and praise to ourselves instead of to God (Rom. 1:21). True love involves the motivation of the heart and thus it is deeper than the practicing of certain commandments. Keeping God’s commands is crucial, but love must retain primacy…. The commandments God gives us are like the banks of a river that control the ﬂow of the river; when we violate God’s commandments we cause the river to run over the banks, and thus it loses its power and beauty. If we add commandments not found in the Scriptures, we widen the banks of the river so that it becomes slow and stagnant and loses its life and vitality.4
Page 19 by the Spirit – in a given situation, when in reality they are contrary to the Word of God? And I am not referring here to issues of conscience, but actions and choices with conscious disregard for acknowledged biblical principles or commandments. A very common example in marital counseling relates to the issue of a professing believer knowingly becoming unequally yoked with a nonbeliever. How common is it for a young person to argue that marrying their unbelieving girl/ boyfriend is the most loving thing to do? If we reduce the biblical imperatives to the life of Christ, what events in the life of Jesus or speciﬁc statements in his teaching would lead one to unequivocally conclude that voluntary union between a believer and nonbeliever is sinful? If anything, one might conclude by Jesus’ public association with nonbelievers that marriage outside of Christ is permissible; at least that is the assertion of many in our day. But if there is any question, it is the speciﬁc commandment by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14 that gives us God’s will on the issue. As Schreiner and Packer noted, what is loving in every situation cannot be reduced to speciﬁc commandments. And for that matter, it is a theological straw man to suggest that anyone in the current NCT debate believes that the law of Christ can be reduced to a deﬁned list of rules. What it means to “love our neighbor” cannot be deﬁned by speciﬁc commandments in every possible scenario; that must include the general principles of the Word of God as well as the Spirit-guided conscience. But when we do have a speciﬁc commandment, as in the scenario of being unequally yoked, we do know unequivocally what is the right and most loving thing to do in that scenario.
In his book, Keeping in Step with the Spirit, J.I. Packer gives a similar perspective:
Love looks (not away from, but) beyond rules and principles (which is the only thing that the natural man can see, I might add) to persons and seeks their welfare and glory. Love is not essentially a feeling of affection, but a way of behaving, and if it starts as a feeling, it must become more than a feeling if it is truly to be love…. There have always been those on the one hand who have claimed that if the Spirit indwells you and the motive of love is strong within you, you do not need to study God’s law in Scripture in order to learn his will, for you will always be made immediately aware in every situation what it is that he wants.5
And how often in our counseling ministries are we faced with someone who believes they are doing what is most loving – even led
4 Tom Schreiner, Sermon: Loving One Another Fulﬁlls The Law, Romans 13:8-10, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, http://www.sbts.edu/ documents/tschreiner/Rom_13.8-10. pdf, 104-107. 5 J.I. Packer, Keeping in Step With the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 94.
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Salvation is of Grace, from First to Last!
(James Smith, "Salvation, for WHOM is it Provided?" 1859) "For those He foreknew—He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. And those He predestined—He also called; and those He called—He also justiﬁed; and those He justiﬁed—He also gloriﬁed." Romans 8:29-30 The Father chose His people to salvation before time, and gave them to His beloved Son. The Son came into the world to be the atoning sacriﬁce for their sins—that they might live through Him. The Holy Spirit accompanies the preaching of His Word with power—and as many as are ordained to eternal life, believe. Thus, all whom He predestined, or eternally loved—He effectually calls; all whom He effectually calls—He justiﬁes; and all whom He justiﬁes—He gloriﬁes. The Father in His love chose them to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all people that dwell on the face of the earth. The Son redeemed them by His blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. The Spirit quickens, sanctiﬁes, and seals them. Yes, "Salvation is of the Lord!" Salvation is of grace, from ﬁrst to last!
Courtesy of Grace Gems: www.GraceGems.org
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