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I s s u e 2 0 2 N o ve m b e r 2 013
John G. Reisinger
Recently two items mentioning Pope Francis, the newly elected Pope, caught my eye. The first item was a newspaper article that announced Pope Francis had taken the first step in the canonization of the late Pope John Paul II. The second item was an article promoting ecumenism among all “Christians” including evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics. The appeal I read was made by John Armstrong, the founder and present head of Act 3, an organization dedicated to bringing about this unity (http://johnharmstrong. com). I have known John Armstrong for many years. I have not always agreed with his views, but I have always found him to be very open about what he believes and sincerely committed to practicing what he believes. All bolding in this article is mine.
The modern ecumenical movement is only
Reisinger—Continued on page 2
In This Issue
Missional-Ecumenism John G. Reisinger Sacral Society Tom Wells Shepherding the New Covenant Flock: Part 1 of 6, Introduction Steve West Law, Wisdom and Christ, A Study in Biblical Theology, Part 1, Law Stan F. Vaninger The Practicality of Judgement A. Blake White A Review of "New Covenant Theology: An Introduction" by A. Blake White Dave Dunham His Care A. Blake White 15 1 1 3
There are many implications in the passage of the Old or Mosaic Covenant to the New Covenant. In this article we will take up the change that has to do with the Lord Jesus’ abandonment of sacral society. Let me first explain what we mean by sacral society. (It is also called theocracy.) A sacral society has three elements. First, every citizen of a nation that is a sacral society must worship the same god or gods as his fellow citizens do. Second, they must do so publicly so that their fellow citizens may see them worshiping. Third, the failure to do so comes with a severe penalty, usually death. When Jesus came into the world, Israel was a sacral society, as were most of the nations of the world at that time. Republics, in which citizens elected their governments, may have existed also, but they were few and far between. Rome had previously been a republic. However at the time the Lord Jesus was born it had abandoned that status. The government of the Roman Empire had an emperor who himself held all the reins of government in his hands. All the officials of the empire answered—directly or indirectly—to him. And, along with other gods, he was to be worshiped. If you look into the OT under the Mosaic law you can see the three main elements of sacral society spelled out clearly. First, God told Israel in no uncertain terms that they must worship him and him alone. The command appears in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me.” It is repeated in 23:13: “Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” (Cf. Deut.5:7; Jud. 6:10; Hosea 13:4.) The penalty for ignoring this law was spelled out in Exodus 22:20: “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.” Leviticus 20:1-5 reflects the same attitude with specific reference to the god
Wells—Continued on page 12
Reisinger—Continued from page 1
about one hundred years old. This is really a short period of time in God’s economy. We should patiently keep praying and laboring for unity and see where the Holy Spirit leads us as God’s pilgrim people. Pope Francis seems to deeply understand this perspective thus I rejoice in him as a global Christian leader and pray for him every single day!1
experience of Christian unity precisely where I have placed the stress in my own life and mission. This is why I am so thrilled to listen and pray for this global Christian leader, a man who clearly loves the same Christ that I love and prays for what I pray for each and every day. One must embrace a radical form of sectarianism to be blind to what is really happening here. If you miss the uniqueness of this moment in history you will remain outside of the Spirit-given pursuit of real unity in Christ’s mission. The loss will be great, to you and to your church family. I encourage you to embrace this moment by faith and then to pray for the entire Christian Church that we might experience divine oneness in Christ’s mission for the whole world.2
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.
This quotation represents a movement today that is seeking to bring all Christians and churches together in an ecumenical unity for the purpose of worshipping and working together in evangelism while temporally laying aside our different doctrines. If we see working and worshipping together to further the kingdom of God as our paramount duty, we can see the prayer of Jesus in John 17 fulfilled. We will then be able to discuss and work on our differences in an atmosphere of unity. This new movement is deeply committed to working out its beliefs. It believes that it is the duty of all Christians to share the “missionalecumenism” beliefs and join with them in their efforts. A failure to see this movement as inspired by the Holy Spirit earns us the label of holding “a radical form of sectarianism.” Such a serious charge leaves us with no alternative but to answer it. My reluctance to endorse this movement in no way means that I am a “radical sectarian.” I am not prepared to view the Reformation as a mistake that should be rectified by seeking to be in unity with the Roman Catholic Church. I reject the following accusation by Armstrong against anyone who refuses to get involved is his efforts to unite with Roman Catholicism.
… please note that Pope Francis wants us to begin our quest for the 1 John H. Armstrong, “How Can Unity be Beyond All Conflict?” johnharmstrong.com/?p=4973, (Accessed July 24, 2013.)
The more I thought about the two items mentioned above concerning Pope Francis, the more it occurred to me that they were related to each other. They both define “unity” in a way that the end product is not unity but union. Unity and union are not the same things. If you tie a dog and a cat together by their tails you have union, but you do not have unity. If you put an evangelical Protestant together with a Roman Catholic for the purpose of joint worship or evangelism you have union, but you do not have unity. Unity in an evangelistic effort must carefully define what the message is that you are going to preach. A true sincere evangelical Protestant and a true sincere Roman Catholic cannot agree on the biblical content of the Gospel message. Biblical unity does not begin with a sincere desire to worship together, but it begins with truth. I do not believe that Pope Francis is a “global Christian leader.” I do not pray for him every day, but I do pray for him when God calls
2 John H. Armstrong, “Living in Jesus is Unity,” johnharmstrong. com/?p=4964, (Accessed July 24, 2013.)
Reisinger—Continued on page 4
Shepherding the New Covenant Flock: Part 1 of 6 Introduction
and sent out into the bush with the threat that if he didn’t leave permanently he would be killed. He returned and continued to serve his church and community. In my ministry I have been slandered, but I have never been threatened with death. Perhaps we should also bear in mind that many of the first pastors in the early church lived during times of Jewish and Roman persecution. When the authorities crack down, they invariably target leaders (not least because leaders are the most likely to be prominent enough to attract attention). Many of the church’s leaders in the generations immediately after Jesus’ earthly life did not worry about parsonages, health benefits, retirement, church budgets, or anything of the sort: many of them were trying to shepherd the church with no guarantee that anyone in the church would still be free—or even alive—in the morning. None of the preceding is to be taken to mean that there are no challenges facing pastors in Western churches today. As a pastor and professor I personally face the strains of ministry and am also in a position to hear about all kinds of different situations ministers find themselves in. No matter what a particular society’s attitude towards the church happens to be, pastors are sinners serving people who are sinners. This is one reason it is a massive mistake to think that one particular time in church history was idyllic for pastoral ministry— unfortunately, people have always been people. Fashions can change and cultures differ, but the human heart is frighteningly the same crossculturally, cross-generationally, and throughout every historical period.
There has never been a time when being a pastor was easy. Although pastors in the contemporary Western world have a litany of challenges to face in their ministries, it is quite mistaken to think pastoring was easier in previous eras. Today pastors complain of shrinking attention spans amongst their congregations but any reading of church history will reveal preachers have almost always thought their congregations didn’t pay enough attention to sermons! Granting that there is a rising hostility towards Christianity in general in our society, and that the pastoral profession is not nearly as well respected in the community as was once the case, nevertheless it is not difficult to find eras when gospel-preaching pastors were quite literally in danger of their lives, to say nothing of facing open mocking or imprisonment. It should not escape our memory that John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in the Bedford jail, where he was imprisoned for years because he could not in conscience stop preaching the gospel or join the establishment of the Church of England. It would furthermore be a mistake to equate normal pastoral practice with the last 100 years or so of church ministry in North America. Ask pastors of house churches in China about the difficulties attending their ministries—their answers make many of the concerns of pastors in the West seem slightly trivial. What about those ministering in closed countries under the control of militant Islamic rulers? What about those in war-torn lands? I vividly remember one night in Uganda eating and drinking with a pastor who told of a time he had literally been stripped naked by soldiers
No matter what the context, the most overwhelming challenge in pastoral ministry is learning how a sinful pastor can help a sinful people. And we have not yet even mentioned Satan’s opposition. I hope it is obvious that the situation is actually impossibly hopeless apart from the grace of God. And, thankfully, grace is what he has given us in abundance. Yes, we are still sinners, but we are redeemed, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and we are God’s treasured possession. We still sin but we are holy; we are totally new but fighting the old; we love God but are attracted and accustomed to sin. Nevertheless we have victory in Jesus (objective) and through him often experience victory over sin in our daily lives (subjective). So the pastor is a strange creature leading strange creatures—God’s adopted children on the sure road to heaven but still struggling with the flesh. Pastoral practice emerges out of a complex intersection of theological points. We need to understand the biblical material that directly addresses what the pastor is to be and do. But we also need to understand what the church is. Since the church is the new covenant community, we need to know what that means. What are the people like who belong to this community? To know that, of course, requires knowing about Jesus and the plan of salvation. It also requires knowing about the nature and work of the Holy Spirit. Frankly, proper pastoral practice requires a general comprehension of the whole counsel of God. I believe that many pastors get
West—Continued on page 9
Reisinger—Continued from page 2
him to my mind; however, when I pray for him, I pray that God would convert him and make him a true child of God. I believe Pope Francis is a “global religious leader”, but he does not understand and believe in biblical justification. If he believed the biblical teaching of justification by grace through faith alone, his own church would have grounds to excommunicate him. The unity Pope Francis is really interested in is uniting all Christians under the roof of the Roman Catholic Church.
Let us remember this well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from him the divine life that makes us to live as Christians. It means remaining united to the Pope and bishops who are instruments of unity and communion … 3 (emphasis mine)
November 2013 “Canonizing” is the word Roman Catholics use to describe how one becomes a saint and goes to heaven. Only saints, those who are canonized by the Catholic Church, go to heaven when they die. Unbelievers go to hell and ordinary members of the Roman church, those not canonized, go to purgatory. The canonization process is a blanket distortion and denial of the gospel of sovereign grace. The steps to canonization are available on the internet 4. Here is a comparison of how the Roman Catholic theology of Pope Francis is going to make John Paul II a saint and get him into heaven with how God makes saints and assures them that they will go to heaven. The first difference: Rome says you must be dead for at least five years before you can be made a saint. Pope John Paul II waived this requirement in Mother Teresa’s case and Pope Francis waived it for John Paul II. God has never made a single dead (physically) person a saint. God only makes living people to be saints, and he makes all Christians saints when they believe the Gospel. Whatever state you are in when you die, that is the state you will remain in for all eternity (Rev. 22:11). Biblical saints are very much alive. Paul was not telling the Christians at Philippi to salute people in the graveyard when he said, Salute every saint in Christ Jesus … All the saints salute you … (Phil. 4:21-22). The word “saint” and the word “Christian” are synonymous terms in the Bible. Every living Christian is a saint the moment he trusts in Christ as his Lord and Savior. Both canonization and purgatory are pure rubbish and clear denials of the
4 Beccari, C. (1907). “Beatification and Canonization,”. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. www.newadvent.org/ cathen/02364b.htm. (Accessed July 24, 2013.)
Issue 202 all-sufficient power of the cross-work of Christ. Following are the steps that lead to becoming a saint in Roman Catholicism. Supposedly this is how Pope John II is going to get into heaven. Note that this has nothing to do with becoming a Christian. In the Roman Catholic system you become a Christian when you are baptized. Baptism washes away original sin but not other sins. It is enough to get you into the Church but is not enough to get you into heaven. You must spend time in purgatory to pay for the sins you committed subsequent to conversion. You must add to the sufferings of Christ before you can go to heaven. Christ’s atoning work alone is not sufficient to get you into heaven. Step one in becoming a saint: the local congregation puts forth a candidate. A Bishop is placed in charge of the initial investigation of the person’s life. If it is determined that the candidate is deemed worthy of further consideration, you move to step two. This second step involves a careful and thorough examination of the individual’s life. The purpose of this step is to be certain the individual under scrutiny was holy enough to deserve becoming a saint. Becoming a saint in Roman Catholicism is based on works from beginning to end.
The Catholic Church canonizes or beatifies only those whose lives have been marked by the exercise of heroic virtue … whose holy lives have made them worthy of His special love.5
I do not in the least question the pope’s sincerity nor do I question the sincerity of the evangelical Protestants who are ready to unite with him. However, I also believe Pope Francis is playing with a different deck of cards. At the end of the day, Pope Francis is going to have all the goodies, and the evangelical Protestants who have successfully attained a union with Roman Catholicism may well discover their cupboard is bare. They may well discover that they gave away all of the cookies. One of the most basic doctrines we must lay aside in any attempt to have a unity with Roman Catholics is defining how we become Christians. How do we get into heaven? The article I read about Pope Francis notes that he is taking the first step in “canonizing” Pope John Paul II.
3 “Pope Francis: How can we have unity among Christians if we as Catholics aren’t united?” Independent Catholic News, www.indcatholicnews.com/ news.php?viewStory=22778, (Accessed 9/28/2013.)
I would never pass either the first or second test nor would any person I know. The thief on the cross and the woman at the well in John 4 would not even get their big toe in the door. The Roman Catholic Church does not have
5 “Beatification and Canonization,” www. newadvent.org/cathen/02364b.htm (Accessed July 24, 2013.)
Reisinger—Continued on page 6
Page 5 tions of the law revealed important aspects of God’s character to the ancient Hebrews. God is holy, just and righteous and requires the same of his human subjects. The study of the law reveals important aspects of the character and nature of God. The ceremonial laws also taught Israel much about the character of God from a different angle. They taught that sin must be atoned for, that God will recognize the proper sacrifice as a payment for sin, and that the individual must approach God in faith and trust to receive the forgiveness provided through the sacrificial system. The Levitical ritual taught Israel that God had taken the initiative in providing a way of redemption and that he was ready and willing to forgive sin. The law is good! The law was given to separate Israel from the pagan nations, to protect them from the spiritual and moral corruption that would result from close contact with other peoples, to make them a peculiar people.11 Various laws from all three categories (moral, civil and ceremonial) contribute to this.12
11 Lev. 18:24-30; Deut. 18:9-14. 12 Not all of the individual precepts in the Law of Moses fit neatly in one of these three categories but the categories can at times be useful despite being somewhat fuzzy. Some Covenant theologians take this categorization a step too far and assert that the civil and ceremonial laws were abrogated with the coming of Christ but that the moral laws contained in the Law of Moses were not abrogated being the eternal and unchanging moral law of God. This line of thought goes beyond what is taught in Scripture and has created some thorny problems for Covenant Theology. Karlberg, himself a Covenant theologian, affirms that the Law of Moses is best thought of as a unit: ‘Division of the Mosaic law into distinct categories - such as civil, ceremonial and moral - was unknown to the OT Israelite. Within the theocracy
Vaninger—Continued on page 10
Law, Wisdom and Christ A Study in Biblical Theology Part 1–Law
By Stan F. Vaninger
“Now we know that the law is good…” (1 Tim. 1:8). The apostle Paul affirms that the Law of Moses is good. In order to fully appreciate this statement, we have to see, as Paul did, the law from the perspective of redemption history. The Law of Moses was a national covenant given to Israel at a particular point in her history but only until the coming of Christ (Gal. 3:17-20). Taking Paul’s letters as a whole, it is best to interpret the intent of the above statement as being: in its proper time and place, the law is good. The OT certainly teaches the ‘goodness’ of the law. The Pentateuch states that the law was intended to benefit Israel in earthly matters. Deuteronomy 6:24 says, ‘The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day’ (cf Deut. 10:13). There are many examples in Mosaic law of statutes that were good for Israel. The ‘enslavement’ of a fellow Israelite was of limited duration being much closer to the concept of indentured servitude.1 Sanitation laws and regulations for dealing with disease promoted public health.2 Fences on roofs protected children (and careless adults) from dangerous falls from houses where the roof served in the capacity of a deck.3 Individuals were given recourse against oxen that had a history of goring those who passed
1 Exod. 21:2; Lev. 25:39-43; Deut. 24:7. 2 Lev. 13-15; Deut. 23:12-14. 3 Deut. 22:8.
by. Restitution was awarded for stolen property, breach of trust or negligence.5 Widows and orphans were given special privileges and protection due to their vulnerability; foreigners dwelling in Israel were likewise protected from abuse.6 Generosity to the poor, in general, was strongly encouraged.7 Even slaves had certain rights and privileges.8 Everyone was protected from excessive punishment and unlawful death merited the death of the guilty party.9 The year of jubilee prevented the permanent transfer of land ownership out of a family thus preventing a widening division between the rich and the poor. ‘Curiously, nothing like these laws has so far been found in other ancient law codes.’10 The Law of Moses promoted justice, fairness, and the general wellbeing of everyone in the nation. It discouraged crime, abuse, and irresponsibility. The law is good!
The law was given to Israel for their spiritual benefit. The prohibi4 Exod. 21:28-36. 5 Exod. 22:1-15. 6 Exod. 22:22-24; Deut. 14:28-29; 24:1921; 26:12-13; 27:19. 7 Deut. 15:7-11. 8 Exod. 12:44; 21:20-27. 9 Exod. 21:22-25; Lev. 24:17-22. R. Laird Harris points out that the ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ passages were instructions to the judges in Israel and he interprets these instructions as conveying the principle of making the punishment fit the crime, R. Laird Harris, Man - God’s Eternal Creation (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971), 117-118. 10 Harris, Man – God’s Eternal Creation, 139.
Page 6 a Gospel for sinners; it has a system of rewards for holy people. The individual’s works earn sainthood. The biblical Gospel is exactly the opposite. It begins with Christ and ends with Christ. It is directed to sinners of every stripe. God loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom 5:8). God “justifies the ungodly” not good (self-righteous) people.
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Rom 4:4-5)
Reisinger—Continued from page 4
November 2013 does warn against preaching “another Jesus.” I am more than happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with Roman Catholics in the fight against abortion and some other issues. I am not going to get involved in any kind of service that involves praying,” Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” I will not be part of any missionary effort that tells men and women that they can only become a saint and go to heaven by living a holy life. I will appreciate and encourage every effort by churches involved in biblical missions but will insist the message preached is the biblical gospel. Pope Francis may declare that Pope John II is a saint, but Pope Francis really has no say in the matter. Many evangelicals may agree to union with Pope Francis, but it will be a oneway street. If any real change takes place, it will be by concessions by the evangelical Protestants. We often hear news people talking about “poison pills.” They are referring to something deliberately added to a pending bill that will guarantee it will not be passed. There are some poison pills that either a Roman Catholic or an evangelical Protestant could use to make a discussion of union impossible. All the evangelic Protestant has to do is to suggest a discussion of the infallibility of the Pope or praying to Mary. Those subjects are off the table and not open to discussion to a Roman Catholic. All the evangelical Protestant has to suggest is a discussion of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. That is a poison pill to the Catholic. Justification, or how a sinner is put right with God, was at the heart of the Reformation. The Roman Catholic position was set forth by the Council of Trent, and any and all objections to their position put the individual holding it to be under God’s curse. The position set forth
Issue 202 in the Council of Trent was ratified by an infallible dogma of the Pope. Pope Francis, and no other Pope can change it even if they would like to. Salvation by grace through faith alone without works is a permanent poison pill to the Roman Catholic. Salvation by the joint efforts of faith and good works is a poison pill to the evangelic Protestant. The advocates of striving to establish a working unity between Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants would like to ignore these poisons pills; however, justification, or how a sinner is put right with God, is not in any sense a secondary issue. We are talking about the one and only Gospel. We are discussing the difference between the one and only Biblical Christianity and a counterfeit system. A biblical understanding of justification is indeed a poison pill, and we do no one a favor by trying to hide it. Most people do not realize what is involved. They do not realize what Rome is actually saying or that Rome cannot change the dogma of an ‘infallible’ Pope. Following are several Canons of the official, unchanging view of Roman Catholic justification. This view of justification will be in force as long as there is a Roman Catholic Church. The following dogmas of Rome’s view of justification are set in stone.
Canon 9: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”6
Luther called these verses, “the death knell to work mongers.” The third step is proving the individual had two miracles occur as a result of their prayers. The fourth step is the reigning Pope’s proclaiming the individual a saint. Donald Grey Barnhouse was having a difficult time with one of his elders. They had lunch together. Barnhouse said, “Before we discuss our differences, let’s remind ourselves of how much we have in common.” He then proceeded to list those things. They never did get to discuss their differences, and the differences continued to create problems. They again had lunch together. Before Barnhouse had a chance to say anything, the elder said, “I know we agree on a lot of things, but let’s start with where we disagree.” There is a time to lay aside secondary issues and see the big picture. There is also a time to remember there are some issues that have to be put on the table at the beginning of an honest discussion. They are absolutes that are not negotiable. It is a waste of time to discuss them. I remember someone urging one of our deacons to “lay aside our doctrinal differences and just preach Jesus.” The deacon said, “Which one?” The Scripture
This is saying that if you believe that you are justified by grace through
6 Council of Trent: Canons on Justification, ,Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. carm.org/counciltrent-canons-justification (Accessed July 24, 2013.)
Reisinger—Continued on page 8
The Practicality of Judgment
A. Blake White
Judgment is a very unpopular teaching. This should not be the case among Christians however as the doctrine of judgment is very practical. In the Scriptures, we are called to entrust ourselves to God’s judgment. Our judgment is always crooked. God alone is the just judge. When wronged in the small ways, do you trust God’s judgment or take it into your own hands? How do you respond when someone wrongs you? What about when they wrong you but ask for forgiveness? Do you forgive and move on? Or do you continue to punish them in various ways? Do you have trouble letting it go? Do you hold on to anger and replay the story over and over in your mind? We never lose those arguments, do we? Do you reenact the fight and think about how right you are and how wrong they are? If so, you are not trusting God’s judgment. For the believer, that particular sin has been judged in the cross. You see, Christianity provides unique resources for dealing with injustice. I recall one time my mother was beat up by her boyfriend. I knew he did it and was furious. I was not a Christian when this happened so what was I to do? It was up to me to make this right. I was too small to beat him up, so I threw rocks at his truck and vandalized his house. That doesn’t work. I also recall watching a show documenting a father whose daughter had been raped and murdered. They found the criminal and sentenced him to life, but this was not enough for this father. He found out which airport the state would use to transfer him to prison, hid by a phone booth until the cuffed man was in range, then stepped out, shot the man in the head, dropped the gun, and surrendered to the very guards who were escorting the murderer. What was this man left to do? Let the one who took his daughter away sit in a cell and live? Apparently, he would not have that so he took justice into his own hands. This is not an option for Christians. We are called to non-violence. Jesus calls us to love – not kill – our enemies (Luke 6:27). The practice of non-violence requires belief in divine vengeance. Without final judgment, we are left with one of two options: let injustice reign or take it upon ourselves – neither of which work. We simply can’t live with only those options. Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19 ESV). Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting One of a Preacher's First Duties! "A man cannot be a faithful minister, until he preaches Christ for Christ's sake—until he gives up striving to attract people to himself, and seeks only to attract them to Christ!" Robert Murray M'Cheyne "To efface one's self is one of a preacher's first duties!" Alexander Maclaren Courtesy of: Grace Gems www.GraceGems.org himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23, cf. 1 Cor. 4:5). Thankfully, many of us will not be wronged in any major way, but we still need to ask ourselves how we react in the small things. It is in the small moments where it matters because life is life is lived in the little moments. Paul Tripp writes, “Day after day, week after week, and year after year, these little moments set the character of a person’s life.” It is the small things that form a person’s character over time. When a car cuts you off and then gives you the bird, how do you respond? Do you tailgate them all the way to their drive way to give them a scare, or do you let God sort all things out? If you have not been deeply wronged, then arm yourself with this thinking. Put in place the necessary “mental fences” so that when the drunken teenager runs your family over because he was texting, you won’t strangle him. Instead you pray that God would deal with his sin at the cross or in judgment. He always does right. God will settle all accounts justly and temporary injustice will not be swept under the rug. Do you believe this? You will be wronged. You may not pull a gun out on your co-workers, but when they slander you, will you seek to justify self and fight back? Or will you trust his judgment? Our faith teaches radical forgiveness now or radical judgment then.
Page 8 faith alone, as taught by Luther and other reformers, you are under God’s curse for believing heretical doctrine.
Canon 24: “If any one saith, that the justice [righteousness] received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.”7
Reisinger—Continued from page 6
November 2013 guilt before God and all condemnation of any kind, in this life or in purgatory in the life to come, you are under God’s curse. Assurance of salvation is a mortal sin in Roman Catholic theology. According to Roman Catholic dogma, endorsed infallibly by Pope Francis, I am under the curse of God because of my view of justification. My only hope of heaven, according to Pope Francis, is in rejecting my present view of justification that states all of my guilt is, by faith alone without works, covered by Christ’s blood. I must believe that my faith, joined with my works plus some time in purgatory is also necessary to my final salvation. In other words, I must believe justification is by a combination of faith and works. An individual was trying to persuade A.W. Tozer to join in a united citywide worship service of all Christians. Tozer said, “Before I join any parade I want to be sure of two things. I want to know who is leading the parade and where the parade is going.” There is a time to agree with Barnhouse and remind ourselves of how much we agree, but there is also a time to be like his elder and start where we disagree. There is a time to join the parade and help in a biblical enterprise, but there is also a time to be sure the parade is going in the right direction. Seeking a “unity” with Roman Catholicism without discussing the doctrine of justification is utter folly. I think I will continue to believe the message of the hymn “Not What These Hands Have Done.”
Issue 202 by Horatius Bonar. Not the Roman Catholic Church and its pretended vicar.
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul; Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole. Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God; Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load. Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace; Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase. No other work but Yours, no other blood will do; No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through. Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within. Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee, Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free. I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine; And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine. His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom. I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might; He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light. ‘Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives; I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.
This is saying that if you do not believe that you are “preserved” in justification by good works and also grow in justification by good works you are under God’s curse. Likewise, if you believe that your good works are only the fruit and proof of your justification and not the cause of your growth in justification, you are under God’s curse. This is a clear knowledgeable denial of forensic justification or imputed righteousness. This totally confuses justification and sanctification.
Canon 30: “If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.”8
This is saying that if you believe your justification removes all your
7 Ibid. 8 Ibid.
Robert Murray McCheyne quotes: tions of the instrument, will be success. It is not great talents God blesses—so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is a powerful weapon in the hand of God. 5. A man is what he is on his knees before God--and nothing more. 6. Live near to God—and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities. 7. Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be!
Courtesy of Grace Gems: www.GraceGems.org
1. For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ! 2. The greatest need of my people—is my personal holiness. Take heed to yourself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things. 3. Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again—you will never come to the bottom of these depths! 4. Get your texts from God—your thoughts, your words, from God. In great measure, according to the purity and perfec-
Issue 202 themselves into trouble because they do not give enough thought to what the church is. Too often we start by thinking abstractly about what it means to have authority, or we read about leadership principles used by corporate America, etc. But pastors are not called to shepherd an unspecified group: they are called to shepherd the flock of God. Or, to say the same thing in different words, pastors are responsible to lead and care for the new covenant community. And this naturally raises the question, What is the new covenant community? Thankfully the Bible provides a rich and exciting answer to this question. Perhaps the easiest way to think about the nature of the new covenant community is to contrast it with the old covenant community. The following points are not exhaustive of the differences nor are they presented in any great depth. Consider this list as a primer. It follows a straightforward reading of the major new covenant passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (quoted in full in Hebrews 8:8-12). 1. Those in the new covenant community are under a new covenant that is not identical with the old covenant nor even like the old covenant (Heb. 8:8-9). This is an extraordinarily important point. When the Lord reveals to Jeremiah that he is going to make a new covenant with his people he immediately points out that the two covenants are dissimilar. Of course there are some similarities too, but the first thing God wants his people to know is that there is a fundamental discontinuity between the old and new covenants. 2. The new covenant is put into effect because the people were unfaithful to the terms of the old (Heb. 8:9). God led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, yet they rebelled against him. 3. In the old covenant the law was external. There were tablets of stone
West—Continued from page 3
November 2013 where the law was recorded. But having God’s law engraved in stone, or written on a scroll, or printed in a book, or digitally archived does not affect the heart. As long as God’s law was external some of its elements could be imposed by force, but the orientation of the heart was unaltered. In the new covenant community people have the law of God written on their hearts and put into their minds (Heb. 8:10). There is an interiority here where the law is enshrined on the inner most part of our true selves. The law of God operates deep down in our beings. In the old covenant God’s ways were external and might not have been absorbed into any given individual’s heart—in the new covenant every member of the community has the law of God internalized. 4. Every single person in the new covenant community knows God (Heb. 8:11). This is wonderful. In the old covenant community, many didn’t know God; they hated him, rebelled against him, worshiped other gods, and died in hard-hearted, unrepentant states. In the new covenant community there is nobody who needs to be taught to know the Lord. Now of course this doesn’t mean that in the new covenant there is no room for teachers or preachers or learning or growth—but it does mean that there is zero need for evangelism in the new covenant community. Every single person under that covenant is saved; everyone knows the Lord. Not an exclusive high priestly caste or a special class of spiritual saints know him, but everybody from the least to the greatest. There is a complete egalitarianism in terms of salvation in the new covenant community. 5. Every single person in the new covenant community has been forgiven for their sins (Hebrews 8:12). God has forgiven their wickedness and remembers (covenantally) their sin no more. In the old covenant, people were punished for their sins and died
Page 9 guilty before God because they never repented. In the new covenant, every member has had their sins forgiven. Nobody in the new covenant community will experience eternal death. All members of the new covenant community are justified in the sight of God. Different members will be more or less obedient, more or less ethically pure, and more or less subjectively righteous, but none is ultimately unsaved, unforgiven, and lost. The history of Israel under the old covenant clearly reveals that such was not the case for the members of its community, many of whom died unreconciled to God. 6. Although this slightly departs from the new covenant passage we have been considering, it is clear that the nature of entering into membership is very different between the old and new covenants. The old covenant was a national, political, religious covenant—the new covenant is purely religious (although of course it has implications for wider social structures). You could convert to the old covenant system if you were a foreigner, but the vast majority of people in the old covenant community were ethnic Jews who were born into it. That’s why circumcision was applied to male infants—they received the sign of the covenant because they were literally born into it the way a baby born in Canada is literally born into the privileges of Canadian citizenship. But nobody is born into the new covenant because of physical birth. Even children who are born to Christian parents who are church members are born without knowing the Lord: the very reason they need to put their faith in Jesus to be saved is because they are not born justified. Children could be born physically into old covenant membership but all people must be born again (i.e. spiritually reborn) into membership in the new. It would be hard to overstate the
West—Continued on page 18
Vaninger—Continued from page 5
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 suggests that the people of Israel were to think of the law as spiritual nourishment:
The LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
November 2013 the Law of Moses not in a legalistic fashion but out of love and devotion to one true God, which was exactly what they were supposed to be doing as part of the believing remnant of Israel during the Old Covenant era. The same was true of the parents of Jesus (Luke 2:27, 39). Although the law was given to Israel for their good, there were penalties for non-compliance. The dreadful curses enumerated in Deuteronomy 27-28 immediately come to mind. The fact that Israel suffered virtually all of these curses multiple times shows that the nation as a whole did not share the love for God’s law that we see expressed in the OT writings. Actually, penalties for offenses were assessed on two levels. In addition to the curses imposed upon the nation as a whole, individuals were punished for offenses against their fellows and sins against God. Similar to 1 Timothy 1:8 cited earlier, we read in Romans 7:12, ‘So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.’ This verse leaves us scratching our head when we compare it with other NT passages (and especially elsewhere in Paul’s letters) where the law is spoken of in more negative terms. It will be helpful to reflect on what Paul is seeking to convey by this statement. The immediate context (Romans 7) shows that Paul has in view the truth that the law exposed the people of Israel to the reality of sin in their lives and thus their need for redemption from outside of themselves. The law was ‘righteous and good’ because it was (painfully) beneficial to the Israelites spiritually. The law provided not only a rule of life for the people of Israel but also made them very much aware of their need for redemption from sin.
Issue 202 The negative references to the law in Paul’s letters, for the most part, pertain to the inability of the Law of Moses to justify man in the eyes of God (Rom. 3:19-20; 5:20; 7:7; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:11; etc.). There is actually no real discrepancy between the positive vs. the negative views of the law in the NT. Paul makes it very clear that the purpose of the law was not to justify man before God but drive home to man the reality of sin in his life and the need for God’s forgiveness. Those familiar with New Covenant Theology understand that the law was a national covenant that applied only to Israel and then only for that 1500 year interval from Sinai to the first coming of Christ (Gal. 3:19).14 The precepts of Mosaic law were implemented and enforced by the rulers, judges and priests of Israel and it is clear throughout the OT that these applied specifically to Israel. The Law of Moses (or any sub-unit of it) was not a universal moral code that applied to all mankind in every era but part and parcel of a national covenant between God and Israel for a specified interval. Reformed theology has emphasized this positive and gracious aspect of law frequently speaking of the Mosaic covenant as ‘a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace at the same time.’15
14 This view is also held by most Covenant Theologians. Mark Karlberg writes, ‘If we are to do justice to the unity and integrity of the law of Moses we must consider the law in its proper historical setting and function as that peculiar legal instrument, instituted and ordained by God and regulative of life within the ancient theocracy.’ Karlberg, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, 198. 15 Karlberg, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, 29.
The well-known passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a powerful expression of the Lord’s desire that Israel be preoccupied with and totally devoted to the law. Psalm 119 and many other places in the OT express a great love for and commitment to the law of God. This sentiment prevailed throughout Israel’s history, at least in the minds of those who wrote the OT Scriptures and the believing remnant. This same sentiment prevailed even into the NT era among the scribes and Pharisees, as witnessed by the gospels, and is still found in our own day among more devout Jews. A notable NT example of devotion to the law is in Luke 1:5-6, 59 where Zechariah and Elizabeth were commended for practicing what Richard Longenecker calls nomism, 13 that is, for ‘walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.’ The parents of John the Baptist were ordering their lives according to
the law of Moses was a unified entity.’ Mark W. Karlberg, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2000), 198. 13 Richard N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1964), 79-83.
To s e a r c h f o r w i s d o m a p a r t f r o m C h r i s t m e a n s n o t s i m p l y f o o l h a r d i n e s s b u t u t t e r i n s a n i t y . John Calvin
A Review of “What is New Covenant Theology?: An Introduction” by A. Blake White1
September 2, 2013 By Dave Dunham
1 “A Review of What is New Covenant Theology?: An Introduction by A. Blake White,” pastordaveonline.org/2013/09/02/, (Accessed September 26, 2013.) Used by permission of Dave Dunham.
I have a rebellious streak in me. It runs fairly deep and often works against any type of conformity. So when many of my friends began to share that they were adopting the position of New Covenant Theology I was not merely reluctant, I was opposed to it. I had accepted Covenant Theology as a young man and had determined not to study any contrary position, mostly out of spite but I could never fully embrace Covenant Theology. There were aspects of it that, over time, I had modified to fit better how I read the Bible and how I thought of baptism. As it turns out, much of what I was doing was already being done and fit better in the NCT. So, when I read a book on the subject, I discovered that much of what was called New Covenant Theology is what I already believed. A. Blake White’s small book What is New Covenant Theology?: An Introduction is a simple and therefore helpful clarification on the subject. The problem with so many books on the subject of the covenants is that they wind up being very dense. For those somewhat unfamiliar with the territory the size of the book, the density of the content, and the style of the prose can be intimidating. This is the kind of subject where a helpful, concise, introduction to the major distinction and major developments of the system can be extremely helpful. As I had already bought into CT, I wanted to know what the distinct differences and contributions of NCT were. A. Blake White does an astounding job of clarifying those differences without
losing anything important in the development of the system. That makes this a rare book indeed. The author was unknown to me. In fact the lack of familiarity would have likely caused me to pass right over this little booklet, but the endorsements on the back are quite astounding. Blake’s writing garnered support from the likes of Gary Long, Tom Schreiner, Stephen and Kirk Wellum, Tom Wells, John Reisinger, Jim Elliff, and Jason Meyer. In each endorsement we read the same sentiment: White has written a very accessible primer on a very important subject. The book covers seven different aspects of NCT. White explains in the introduction that he will not unpack all of the thorny issues related to this system; after all it is only an introduction. But he will cover the major differences between NCT, CT, and Dispensationalism. He also aims to highlight the major contributions of NCT to Biblical Theology. Much of the discussion around these three systems has to do with how each of them views the continuity and discontinuity between the two testaments. White begins with the familiar distinction between systems. He states: Generally speaking Covenant Theology emphasizes the unity between the covenants to the expense of the discontinuity…Dispensationalism, on the other hand, tends to emphasize discontinuity between the covenants at the expense of continuity…New
Covenant Theology accommodates both continuity and discontinuity. It holds that the New Covenant is connected to what went beforehand, but it is new. (1-2) In this sense, then, NCT acts as a via media between Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. It offers a middle road to consider more carefully the totality of the Biblical data. None of this will be particularly new to students of the covenants. And, in fact, White’s introduction read with a bit of pretension as he proclaims NCT is “a system of theology that seeks to let the Bible inform our theology” (1). After all, don’t all systems seek to do this? The more one continues to read, however, the more one will see that in fact this is indeed a real distinct feature of NCT. In chapters 1-7 White covers, then, the various major issues related to the continuity and discontinuity between the Testaments. He starts by declaring that there has been only ever one plan of God to redeem the world, and this plan was Jesus. But this one plan, he states, beginning in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus. So, chapter 2 turns our attention to reading the OT through the “Jesus-lens,” as I call it. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 help us then understand the role of the Old Covenant, and particularly the law, in relation to the person and work of Christ. Christians are not under the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant was temporary, and now in Christ there is, in fact, a NEW covDunham—Continued on page 18
Wells—Continued from page 1
Molech. We find the same penalty spelled out at length in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. The worship in the Mosaic Covenant was public. A frequent daily part of it was the offering of animal sacrifices. They were not to be wild animals, but domestic animals. We see this by the repetition of the phrase “from the herd or flock” (e.g. Exod 34:19; Lev 1:2; Num 15:3; Deut 16:2). It was the duty of the priests to offer these animals to the Lord. How that was to be done is spelled out in various texts. For example such offerings accompanied the three annual festivals as seen in Exodus 23:14-19:
Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. No one is to appear before me empty-handed. Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in your crops from the field. Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD. Do not offer the sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning. Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
November 2013 pronounces a severe penalty—usually death—on those who are not seen doing the first two things. There are many such nations or societies today. Muslim nations and Buddhist nations, with few if any exceptions, are two examples. Many other nations have been sacral societies in the past. Great Britain was such a nation. When it sought to plant colonies in the New World, it aimed to make them be such societies as well. To illustrate this fact we may look at some early legal actions of New England:
Expelled from Massachusetts in the dead of winter in 1636, former Puritan leader Roger Williams (16031683) issued an impassioned plea for freedom of conscience. He wrote, “God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted and inforced in any civill state; which inforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civill Warre, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls.” Williams later founded Rhode Island on the principle of religious freedom. He welcomed people of every shade of religious belief, even some regarded as dangerously misguided, for nothing could change his view that “forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils.”1
Note also the following quotation concerning the Puritans in America:
Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the Old World theory that sanctioned it, the need for uniformity of religion in the state. Once in control in New England, they sought to break “the very neck of Schism and vile opinions.” The “business” of the first settlers, a Puritan minister recalled in 1681, “was not Toleration, but [they] were professed enemies of it.” Puritans expelled dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America’s first major female religious leader. Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on four Quakers between 1659 and 1661. Reflecting on the seventeenth century’s intolerance, Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to concede to Virginians any moral superiority to the Puritans. Beginning in 1659 Virginia enacted antiQuaker laws, including the death penalty for refractory Quakers. Jefferson surmised that “if no capital execution took place here, as it did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or the spirit of the legislature.”
You can see immediately that none of this was done privately. It was open to inspection by any citizen that cared to watch it. And, of course, it could not be done carelessly. All the instruction had to be followed carefully. Again, sacral society can be recognized in any nation that does three things. First, demands that all citizens serve the same god or gods. Second, demands that the service of such a god or gods be done publicly. Third,
Mary Dyer first ran afoul of Massachusetts authorities for supporting theological dissenter Anne Hutchinson. As a result Dyer and her family were forced to move to Rhode Island in 1638. Converted to Quakerism in England in the 1650s, Dyer returned to New England and was three times arrested and banished from Massachusetts for spreading Quaker principles. Returning to Massachusetts a fourth time, she was hanged on June
1 The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution, for cause of Conscience, discussed in a Conference between Truth and Peace…Roger Williams, 1644, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (19)
How Jesus Abandoned Sacral Society I have made the point above that Israel was a sacral society. All three points that identify such societies are found in the law of Moses centuries before the Lord Jesus came to earth. During his years here Israel remained a sacral nation. Jesus himself lived out his life here as any member of Israel would have. As he grew up he participated in its celebrations. He lived by its rules. But he also indicated coming changes in it. Nevertheless it seems that he changed very little about it during his lifetime here. However, in
2 Courtesy of The Granger Collection, New York as retieved from the internet.
Issue 202 the conversation he had with a Samaritan woman in John 4:19-24, he predicted his abandonment of it. He did so in a response to her statement she made. “Sir,” she said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” The woman was correct in what she said. She recognized that the mountain she mentioned and Jerusalem were extremely important as public elements of both sacral nations. Her remark showed that in her view each was what we now call “a sacral society.” Jesus replied to what she said by defending the Jewish position (“salvation is from the Jews,” v21), but also by saying an important change was about to take place. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth” (23-24). By describing his people as those who worship in spirit and truth, he is saying that the New Covenant will bring with it a major change from the past. But what is that change? Although it seems true that true believers under the Old Testament were born again, all members of the New Covenant will have the new birth. That was not true under the Old (Mosaic) Covenant. That covenant was given to a mixed multitude because it included all Israelites, including infants and children. Many of these children showed that they had not been born again by their actions throughout their lives. In Mark 10:1-9 Jesus shows that the Moses gave a divorce law for ungodly people. The heart of the passage is in verses two through five:
2. Some Pharisees tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
3.”What did Moses command you?” he replied. 4. They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” 5.” It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.
hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Verse five makes Jesus’ point. Though there were many godly Israelites, the nation as a whole was characterized by ungodliness. The Passing Away of Israel as Such a Society and the Formation of a New Society. Present-day Israel is a secular nation, though the Orthodox would like to change this. Has the church, then, simply replaced Israel? No, as I see it, the godly in Israel from every generation have become a subset of the church. When Jeremiah addresses Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31 he and his contemporaries would have taken the words “Israel and Judah” in their most literal form. We should take them that way as well. Why? Because the church as the body of Christ was not formed until Jesus lived and died. Those who examined the OT before Christ had no other way to read those words. But the NT shows that the church includes a number of subsets. They include Jews, Gentiles and the godly who lived before the distinction between Jews and Gentiles existed— men like Melchizedek and Job. If we look at Jeremiah 31:31-33 we can see the promise of future change:
The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their
Jesus’ new society, the church, would be loyal to God and Christ. And as far as society is concerned the church has a subsidiary loyalty to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, while continuing to give to God what belongs to God (Mk 12:17). Paul confirms this in Romans 13:1: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Here the relation between God and governments is made plain. Each has authority. However, the governments may not contradict the demands of God whose authority is final. To show that the period of change had arrived, Jesus drew a strong contrast with Mosaic law when he said, “Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean’” (Mark 7:15; the discussion continues through v23.) By contrast Leviticus 11 describes in detail what can be eaten and what cannot be eaten under the Mosaic covenant. As we have seen, Jesus promised a great change from the past. The OT has strict rules about worship. The NT has almost no outward rules about our personal acts of worship beyond participation in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the relatively vague command to join with others in Hebrews 10:25, “Let us not give up meeting together.” Why do I make this point? Because, unlike the Mosaic covenant, the New Covenant approaches the question of our worship in quite a different way than the Mosaic covenant generally does. The New Covenant focuses on our motives and intentions, the attitudes we hold in our minds. Why did the Lord Jesus bring about this change by dissolving his
Wells—Continued on page 14
Page 14 close ties to Israel and establishing the church? We can suggest three reasons. First, the failures of Israel and especially its leaders. It seems from reading the OT that the leaders, kings and priests, always had the eventual fate of Israel in their hands. Second, the prophecies that anticipated such changes. For instance, the promise to Abraham as Paul expounds it of Christ and the church in Galatians 4:21-31. However, the third and overriding reason was God’s interest in and love for the world. That led him to reach all the nations of the earth. A sacral society tends to keep its people together. However Jesus’ plan was to scatter his people among the nations. Two things furthered this purpose. The first was his command, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matt 28:19). The second was his promise that his followers would be persecuted wherever they went. Here are two warnings of persecution made in Jesus’ own words:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves… Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matt 10:16, 21-22). If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I have spoken to you: “No servant is greater
Wells—Continued from page 13
than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:18-20).
Issue 202 things that pique our curiosity. Certainly the end of sacral society falls among those things. Laying aside, then, our thirst for immediate satisfaction on the temporal future for such nations, let us turn to eternity. Here we have both less and more knowledge than we would like. On the “less” side we realize that we cannot master the immediate world that is around us. How much less do we know of eternity and what it will bring? Nevertheless, it is clear that eternity for believers will look a good deal like a sacral society in one respect. Review with me once more the basic element of sacral society. It is the fact that all citizens of such nations worship the same god or gods. Will that be true in the new heavens and earth? Absolutely! Every born-again citizen of paradise will worship the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is the one God that we all will bow down to. If we ask how we will worship him, it seems clear that our worship will involve all that we are and do. Put simply, that would seem to mean that both our minds and our bodies will be fully focused on the Living God. However, what form that will take in detail is beyond us. Will sacral society pass away? It will as we know it. But in a certain sense if we have a memory of it, it will seem like an element of typology. In eternity every citizen of God’s kingdom will worship the same God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
In trying to escape persecution they would travel to one country after another. And they would carry the gospel of Christ with them. The Future of Sacral Societies We will look at the future of sacral societies from two perspectives. First we’ll ask the question, what is the prospect for sacral societies in the immediate future? Second, what is the prospect for sacral societies in eternity? As far as any of us can see, sacral societies will be with us until the Lord returns. As I wrote earlier both Muslim nations and Buddhist nations are sacral societies. If there are any exceptions in these groups they must be very few. Could this change? Perhaps. A Muslim doctor told me recently that he and some of his friends are very impressed by the religious liberty we have in the United States. However, relatively few of the millions of the followers of Islam will have the experience of seeing this firsthand. More than that, there is no assurance that a great number of them who might experience it would react to it positively. Those who are married to other religions are not usually seeking divorce. On the other hand, we must not forget the sovereignty of God in our projections of the future. In the last analysis he will direct the course that Islam takes in the coming years. Not only are all men and women in the Lord’s hands, but all events and all destinies are there as well. To this moment the Lord has not told us many
In all the Word of God there is no doctrine which, if properly applied, is more conducive to godly living than is the doctrine of salvation by grace, and by grace alone. R. B. Kuiper The saved are singled out not by their own merits, but by the grace of the Mediator. Martin Luther
Being a father always teaches us more about our Heavenly Father. Before we had kids, people would always tell Alicia and me how we have never felt the love we would feel for our kids. They were right. I stinking love the dog out of my boys. I love them just because they are who they are. They haven’t earned my love. It is freely given. They just have to walk into the room and – most days – my heart fills with joy. My heart melts like butter on hot toast when my one year old squeezes his little arms around my neck. To think that my Heavenly Father has similar thoughts toward his children is hard to fathom. My love is far from perfect. Far far. His love is perfect. Amazing love, how can it be? This summer, we have been on the road a ton. Vacation, funeral, lake, grandparents, preaching, and so on. Becoming parents also teaches one gratitude for your own padres. For example, when it comes time for a road trip, my boys simply have to wake up. At this stage in their little lives, they are exhaustion-inducing dependent on us. They can barely put on – much less tie – their own shoes. My three year old is lucky if his shirt isn’t on backwards. So they wake up, eat their cereal, drink their milk, hop in the van and wait for one of us to buckle them in since their mini-arms aren’t yet buff enough to snap the seat belts in place. Then we go, and they begin to ask if we have arrived. I say, “No buddy, I just put it in reverse. Sit tight.” What these little raccoons aren’t even aware of is how much work their Momma and I have been doing while they cuddle with soft furry animals and dream about trains. Our road trip started the night before. Put the clothes out. Bath stuff. Snacks. Cups. Diapers. Wipes. Elmo. Sound Machine. Curious George. Brown blanket. Pack ‘n Play. Now what about us? Razor, clothes, books. We were up an hour before them, folding clothes, packing bags, loading strollers, and skimming our imaginary check-lists. They think we just wake up, and, lo and behold, the van is filled to the brim. Let’s go! No “Thanks Mom and Dad for all your hard work!” No “Blessed be me for my selfless parents.” Just “I need some fruit snacks. Then some goldfish. With juice. Red.” The care of parents for their little ones is significant, but their care is gnat-like in comparison to God’s everyday care for his creation. Independence is a satanic myth. Just think of how dependent we are on the omni-generous God at all times. God upholds the chair I’m sitting in. The breath I’m breathing. The eyes I see with. The fingers on this keyboard. The creativity needed to produce such a machine to type on (even if it is a PC). The balance to walk. The ability to exercise. The brain cells to think. The insides to digest food. The taste buds to enjoy this most necessary process (He didn’t have to do that, you know?). How many thousands of ways am I dependent on the Lord every day? Sadly, like oblivious children, I fail to thank Him nearly as often as I should. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why in the dreadful picture of life outside of God in Romans 1, Paul says, “For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude” (Rom 1:21). They did not show gratitude. Join me. Join me in repenting of our toddler-like ignoring of the countless ways our Father has taken care of us. He spares nothing for us, even his own Son. Join me in cultivating a heart brimming with gratitude. His care knows no limits.
Hey [Blake] just wanted to pass on a word of encouragement to you: I was guest preaching for an pastor who is nearing retirement this weekend. As I spent the day with him on Sunday he mentioned how he has read Sound of Grace for years. He mentioned how he has really grown in his understanding of theology and referenced articles you wrote and other NCT stuff. I told him I went to seminary with you and his reply was "You know Blake White!" So he wanted me to pass on how much he appreciates your work. He has served a Baptist church for 20 years in small town Pennsylvania. He is one of the guys like Carson's dad who are "ordinary pastors." So just be encouraged that your writing ministry is blessing ordinary pastors, some of whom you may never meet this side of eternity. Blessings, RP
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TITLE Abide in Him: A Theological Interpretation of John's First Letter — White Abraham’s Four Seeds —Reisinger The Abrahamic Promises in Galatians —White *NEW* The Believer’s Sabbath—Reisinger Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal— Long But I Say Unto You —Reisinger Chosen in Eternity —Reisinger Christ, Lord and Lawgiver Over the Church—Reisinger The Christian and The Sabbath—Wells Continuity and Discontinuity —Reisinger Definite Atonement —Long The Doctrine of Baptism—Sasser Full Bellies and Empty Hearts —Autio Galatians: A Theological Interpretation—White Grace —Reisinger The Grace of Our Sovereign God—Reisinger Hermeneutical Flaws of Dispensationalism—George In Defense of Jesus, the New Lawgiver —Reisinger Is John G. Reisinger an Antinomian?—Wells John Bunyan on the Sabbath—Reisinger Jonathan Edwards on Biblical Hermeneutics and the “Covenant of Grace”—Gilliland La Soberanía de Dios en la Providencia—John G. Reisinger The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal—White Limited Atonement—Reisinger Missional Ecclesiology —White Ministry of Grace Essays in Honor of John G. Reisinger —Steve West, Editor The New Birth— Reisinger The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology —Zaspel New Covenant Theology —Wells & Zaspel New Covenant Theology & Prophecy —Reisinger The Newness of the New Covenant—White The New Perspective on Justification —West The Obedience of Christ—Van Court Our Sovereign God— Reisinger Perseverance of the Saints— Reisinger The Priority of Jesus Christ—Wells A Prisoner’s Christianity —Woodrow Saving the Saving Gospel—West Sinners, Jesus Will Receive —Payne Studies in Galatians—Reisinger Studies in Ecclesiastes—Reisinger Tablets of Stone —Reisinger Theological Foundations for New Covenant Ethics—White The Sovereignty of God and Prayer —Reisinger The Sovereignty of God in Providence — Reisinger Total Depravity — Reisinger Union with Christ: Last Adam and Seed of Abraham —White What is the Christian Faith?— Reisinger What is New Covenant Theology? An Introduction —White When Should a Christian Leave a Church?—Reisinger
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Philosophical Dialgoues on the Christian Faith—Steve West What Jesus Demands from the World—John Piper The First London Confession of Faith-1646 Edition— Preface by Gary D. Long All Things New —Carl Hoch Context! Evangelical Views on the Millenium Examined —Gary D. Long The Doctrine of Christ—William Sasser The Doctrine of Salvation —William Sasser The Doctrine of Man —William Sasser The Doctrine of God—William Sasser The Atoning Work of Jesus Christ—William Sasser The New Covenant and the Law of Christ—Chris Scarborough Justification by Faith—James White Answers to Catholic Claims—James White The Fatal Flaw —James White God’s Sovereign Grace —James White The Reformers and Their Stepchildren—Leonard Verduin The Pilgrim’s Progress (The Accurate Revised Text by Barry E. Horner) Biblical Eldership —Alexander Strauch Biblical Eldership Study Guide —Alexander Strauch Biblical Eldership Mentor’s Guide —Alexander Strauch
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West—Continued from page 9
importance of the truths contained in this short sketch. Let me add just a few additional truths taught in Scripture about those in the new covenant community. Since the new covenant community is coextensive with the redeemed and the true church of Jesus Christ (today we could simply say “Christians”), everything that is universally true of Christians is true of members of the new covenant. So, every member has been baptized in the Spirit, has gifts, is part of God’s spiritual temple, has a new heart, is justified, is adopted as God’s heir, loves Jesus, and is destined for eternal glory. Of course more could be said, but for our purposes this is sufficient. What implications follow for pastoral ministry? It seems to me that every one of the previous points is pregnant with meaning. The theoretical underpinnings are glorious and the practical application to church life and pastoring are not only profound, but they must be grasped if the flock of Jesus Christ is going to be shepherded and cared for properly. In the rest of the articles in this series we will examine how these foundational truths provide a context in which new covenant pastoral ministry takes place. Any shepherd must know the nature of their sheep if they are to provide proper care for the flock. The same is true of shepherds in the church. It is
November 2013 essential that pastors and elders understand the nature of the people they are dealing with. Before arriving at the dawn of the redemptive-historical epoch when the new covenant community was birthed, the shepherd metaphor was already a key image in the old covenant community. It was used in a variety of contexts to communicate a cluster of related but differentiable truths. Figurative language about shepherds and sheep was often used in Israel and in other nations in the Ancient Near East to refer to deities, leaders (political, military, and religious), and the populace. This means that when we come to the New Testament documents and read about pastors/shepherds, there is not only an immediate context for the words, there is an incredibly important background context that needs to be understood if the metaphor is to be unpacked properly. Lord willing, I intend to write a short series of articles that deal with the shepherd imagery in the Old and New Testaments so that we can better understand the role and responsibility of pastors in the new covenant community. It is my hope that God will help us come to a better understanding of the nature of the flock, the role of the shepherd, and the implications for practical pastoral ministry.
Dunham—Continued from page 11
enant. “The New Covenant really is new,” writes Blake (19). In a breathtaking use of Scripture he shows how the authors of the New Testament saw this newness. This was, in particular, where I began to see my own frustrations with CT crystallized. It does seem to me now that CT flattens the covenants, whereas NCT follows the language of the Scriptures more carefully and closely. This is what I have always believed and here it was spelled out in a helpful systematic way within NCT. Chapters 6 and 7 focus on the New Covenant community, particularly the giving of the Holy Spirit and the nature of the church as the eschatological Israel. Here I found helpful support for positions I had already affirmed. It seems to me, after reading this little book, that I am actually closer akin to this system than I ever was to CT. It’s not that I am fully convinced of all that NCT says. All systems have flaws and weaknesses. I have always been reluctant to go by any label, and yet most of us fall, more or less, within the boundaries of some system. It appears that I fall more within the boundaries of NCT and less within the boundaries of CT. This simple book – 50 pages – gives an incredibly concise and yet theologically robust explanation and defense of New Covenant Theology. It is well worth your time as you wrestle with how best to read the unity and discontinuity between the Testaments.
Senior Pastor Needed
Spurgeon Heritage Church, an independent, Calvinistic, Baptist, New Covenant Church is looking to fill the position for Senior Pastor. Candidate must be bi-vocational and willing to move to the West Michigan area. For questions, to request an informational packet, or to send your resume, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.spurgeonheritage.org
The Abrahamic Promises in Galatians by A. Blake White
One of the fundamental hermeneutical tenets of New Covenant Theology is that we should learn how to approach the Old Testament from Jesus and the Apostles. This basic principle needs to be worked out and demonstrated by examining text after text. This little book is offered to that end. It examines the promises given to Abraham in light of the book of Galatians. I hope and pray it is illuminating and points the reader to the marvelous work Jesus Christ has accomplished. A. Blake White (M.Div, SBTS; Th.M candidate, SWBTS) is currently pastor of Spicewood Baptist Church in Spicewood, Texas. He is the author of eight other books, including What is New Covenant Theology? He is married to Alicia and they have two sons, Josiah and Asher. They are currently expecting their first daughter, Karis.
Annual John Bunyan Conference May 5 ̶ 7, 2014
Reformed Baptist Church, Lewisburg, PA Speakers: Peter Gentry, Larry McCall, Stephen Wellum, Steve West, and A. Blake White Schedule and registration to follow. Mark your calendar--NOW
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Council on Biblical Theology
July 22-25, 2014 Grace Church at Franklin
4052 Arno Rd., Franklin, TN 37065
Theme: God’s Eternal Kingdom Purpose: NCT—Time for a More Accurate Way
Morning & Evening Speakers Tony Costa, Ph.D. Peter Gentry, Ph.D. Gary George, Pastor Christian Apologist & Adjunct Professor, Providence Theological Seminary (PTS) Professor of OT Interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Evangelist & Pastor, Sovereign Grace Chapel, Southbridge, MA; Bd. Member PTS
Frank Gumerlock, Ph.D. Professor of Church History and Systematic Theology, PTS Zach S. Maxcey, M.Div. Graduate of PTS and Blog Administrator for PTS W. W. Sasser, M.Div. Kirk Wellum, Ph.D.* Pastor, Grace Church at Franklin and Board Member PTS Principal, Toronto Baptist Seminary, Toronto, Canada Greg Van Court, Ph.D.* Pastor, Dayspring Fellowship Church, Austin, TX & Adjunct Professor PTS Stephen Wellum, Ph.D. Professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary A. Blake White, Th.M* Pastor, Spicewood Baptist Church, Spicewood, TX *candidate Afternoon Doctrinal Workshop Moderator Gary D. Long, Th.D. Faculty President, Providence Theological Seminary, Colorado Springs, CO Providence Theological Seminary: Info@ptsco.org. (719) 572-7900 Administrative Host of Council on Biblical Theology Grace Church at Franklin, Pastor W. W. Sasser, Church Office: (615) 694-2829 Message Topics and Registration & Lodging Information to Follow after the First of the Year www.ptsco.org Registration Contact & Doctrinal Conference Host for the Council on Biblical Theology
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