In This Issue
New Covenant Theology and Prophecy―Part 3 John G. Reisinger Cruciform Love: Philippians 2:1-11, Part II A. Blake White Picture-Fulfillment NCT: A Positive Theological Development? Part 1 Zachary S. Maxcey 1 1

… It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace … Hebrews 13:9

New Covenant Theology and Prophecy ― Part 3 Another Look at Revelation 20:1-9
John G. Reisinger

In most discussions of biblical prophecy, attention quickly turns to Revela3 tion 20:1-9. The obvious reason for this turn is that this passage is the only place in all of Scripture that mentions a thousand year reign of Christ. Both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures include references to an eternal kingdom, but New Covenant Theology: Is There Still a Role for the Imperatives? only Revelation 20:1-9 mentions a thousand year kingdom. One way of reading 5 Part 2 this passage, that is employed by premillennialists, views the thousand years, Dr. J. David Gilliland along with the rest of the passage, as literal, natural language. On this reading, one thousand years must mean one thousand calendar years of three-hundred and sixty-five twenty-four hour days. Other ways of reading conceive of the thousand years in a spiritualized sense. Both ways of reading, however, pose interpretive difficulties. The primary goal of this article is to explore the difficulties posed by a pre-millennial reading of Revelation 20:1-9. Some of those difficulties have a serious nature. The secondary goal is to remind readers that one’s hermeneutic determines one’s prophetic view. Thus, prophetic views reflect a commitment to the inspiration and authority of Scripture. The variations between views arise from different rules for interpreting those inspired Scriptures. I want to be as emphatic as I possibly can that
Reisinger—Continued on page 2

Cruciform Love: Philippians 2:1-11, Part II
A. Blake White
Last time we looked at Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 2:1-5 and the example of Jesus in 2:6-8. Now we turn to the exaltation of Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11: Exaltation (vv. 9-11) In the midst of suffering, Paul reminds them who they are and whose they are. This is a word of comfort. He tells us that it is Jesus who is the world’s true Lord. He explains the significance of his name: it is given to him by the Father; it is in fact the name above every name, meaning the divine name YHWH; it means that Jesus can and will be given the devotion due God alone.1 The title “Lord” in the LXX (Greek OT) was YHWH.
1 Michael Gorman, Reading Paul (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2008), 103.

This way Paul could show his equality with God the Father; yet he refrains from calling Jesus YHWH, which is reserved for the Father. Notice how thoroughly Trinitarian these passages are:
2:1 - Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ [God the Son] 2:1 - If any comfort from his love [God the Son] 2:1 - If any common sharing in the Spirit [Holy Spirit] 2:6 – Who [God the Son], being in very nature God [God the Father] 2:9 – Therefore God [God the Father] exalted him [God the Son] 2:11 – And every tongue
White—Continued on page 7

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Reisinger—Continued from page 1

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Issue 184
Sound of Grace is a publication of Sovereign Grace New Covenant Ministries, a tax exempt 501(c)3 corporation. Contributions to Sound of Grace are deductible under section 170 of the Code. Sound of Grace is published 10 times a year. The subscription price is shown below. This is a paper unashamedly committed to the truth of God’s sovereign grace and New Covenant Theology. We invite all who love these same truths to pray for us and help us financially. We do not take any paid advertising. The use of an article by a particular person is not an endorsement of all that person believes, but it merely means that we thought that a particular article was worthy of printing. Sound of Grace Board: John G. Reisinger, John Thorhauer, Bob VanWingerden and Jacob Moseley. Editor: John G. Reisinger; Phone: (585)3963385; e-mail: reisingerjohn@gmail.com. General Manager: Jacob Moseley: info@newcovenantmedia.com Send all orders and all subscriptions to: Sound of Grace, 5317 Wye Creek Drive, Frederick, MD 21703-6938 – Phone 301-473-8781 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. 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.

this discussion is an in-house disagreement. All parties in this discussion, whether premil, amil, or postmil, adhere to the doctrine of inspiration. How, then, do we read Revelation 20:1-9?
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that time, he must be set free for a short time. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (NIV)

millennium in this passage concerns the binding of Satan: “…he seized… Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (verse 2). The stated purpose of this thousand year imprisonment is to prevent Satan from deceiving the nations: “… and sealed it over him to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended” (verse 3). When the thousand year period has ended, Satan will be loosed for a season and once more will deceive the nations: “After that he must be set free for a short time.… from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations…” (vv. 3, 7, 8). According to this passage, Satan experiences certain conditions during certain times. Table 1 (below) will help us visualize those conditions and their corresponding timeframes. Here, John follows a device used by other authors of Scripture—they employ categories to divide history. Peter divides it in relationship to judgment (2 Peter 3:5-7, 13). He writes of the world that WAS (before the judgment of water—the flood), the world that NOW IS (after the judgment of water and before the judgment of fire—the conflagration), and the world TO COME (after the judgment of fire). Paul, in Romans, divides history according to the law. There was a time before the law was given (Romans 5:13); a time after the law was given (Roman 5:20); and a time of “not under the law,” (Romans 6:14). John, in Revelation 20:1-9, divides time according to the activity of Satan. There was a time when Satan was free to deceive the nations. At some given point in time, he is bound so he cannot deceive the nations. And there is a time when he is released and is again
Reisinger—Continued on page 4

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One significant point about the
First Time Frame Satan Not Bound Satan Deceives Nations

Table 1 Second Time Frame Satan Bound Satan Cannot Deceive Nations

Third Time Frame Satan Freed Satan Deceives Nations

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Zachary S. Maxcey1
1 Zachary S. Maxcey is a Master of Divinity student at Providence Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs, CO (www.ptsco. org). This paper was written for a special studies course in New Covenant Theology (ST 410), fall semester 2011, taught by Dr. J. David Gilliland and Dr. Gary D. Long.

Introduction Within the theological system known as New Covenant Theology (NCT), a recent development has occurred, namely, the emergence of a new understanding: Picture-Fulfillment New Covenant Theology. This particular NCT strain is vigorously promoted by the Earth Stove Society1 and the Christ My Covenant2 website, and is becoming increasingly widespread in the NCT community. Like other forms of NCT, it strongly emphasizes Christocentric hermeneutics, a redemptive historical approach to Scripture, and New Testament (NT) interpretation of the Old Testament (OT). However, its more distinctive
1 For information, see http://earthstovesociety.com/. 2 For information, see http://christmycovenant.com/.

doctrinal features have become a cause for concern among proponents of Classic NCT.3 Three distinctives of Picture-Fulfillment NCT will be analyzed in this paper: Christ is the New Covenant, the Spirit is the law written on a believer’s heart, and the Law of Christ is also Christ Himself rather than a system of New Covenant (NC) law. The purpose of this paper is to fairly4 and biblically critique the above distinctives in order to ascertain whether or not the “Picture-Fulfill3 This author defines Classic New Covenant Theology as that branch of NCT taught and promoted by John Reisinger, Gary D. Long, Tom Wells, A. Blake White, and the faculty of Providence Theological Seminary. 4 This paper is intended to be an honest and fair critique of Picture-Fulfillment NCT, not a personal attack upon its advocates.

ment” view is a positive development in our understanding of NCT. Is Christ the New Covenant? One of the key distinctives of Picture-Fulfillment NCT is the claim that the Lord Jesus Christ incarnates or “enfleshes” the New Covenant. For example, Chad Bresson writes, “God’s promise of the New Covenant was that the Messiah would be Himself the embodiment of an everlasting covenant with His people. This promise, typified in the covenants, is fulfilled in Christ (Is. 42:6-9; 43:19; 45:21-25; 46:9-13).”5 Elsewhere he states, “As
5 Chad R. Bresson, “What is New Covenant Theology?” (a list of NCT tenets prepared originally for the Christ My Covenant website but later posted to the Earth Stove Society website) accessed
Maxcey—Continued on page 10

Correction: by John G. Reisinger
I would like to correct a misconception concerning the position of Sound of Grace with regard to the new strain of NCT which has been labeled “Picture-Fulfillment New Covenant Theology.” This article by Zachary Maxcey represents our view. It is with sorrow that I criticize this new view since it is being promoted by men who unashamedly stood shoulder to shoulder with us in so many things including classical NCT. Ostensibly, their goal in this view is to magnify the person and work of Christ. Most of this new view’s leaders are personal friends for whom I have the deepest love. If I was not convinced “Picture-Fulfillment New Covenant Theology” was both wrong and dangerous, I would not publicly disavow it. A future issue of Sound of Grace will have an article showing my disagreements. Steve Fuchs has written a short description of the various strains of NCT. Visit http://www.disciplemaking.net/component/content/article/44-articles/2447-the-various-branches-of-new-covenant-theology?directory=75. He correctly labels me, Gary Long, Fred Zaspel, and Tom Wells as holding the “classical NCT view.” He then introduces the new view of Picture-Fulfillment NCT this way:
… This branch grew out of the genesis of Zen’s, Reisinger’s, Long’s and Well’s, Classical NCT and is spreading within the larger community primarily via the Sound of Grace (emphasis mine).

Sound of Grace does not endorse this new view and has not knowingly helped to promote it. Despite their sincere intentions, we believe the advocates of this new view are opening a can of worms. If we have written or spoken anything that seems to indicate otherwise, please be advised we were either not clear in what we said or we were misunderstood. We will clearly state our view in the next issue of Sound of Grace.

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Reisinger—Continued from page 2

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Issue 184 ship me.” (Matt. 4:8-9, NIV).

free to deceive the nations. It is imperative that we identify exactly when John’s distinct eras occur in history. When does each timeframe begin and when does each one end? All parties in this discussion agree that the first timeframe (Satan is free) begins at Genesis 3:7 with the entrance of sin into God’s creation and Satan’s victory over Adam. At that time, Satan became the god of this world, holding this world captive to his power. He was free and unrestrained in deceiving the nations. Upon the entrance of sin, God immediately promises that One will come who will defeat Satan and destroy his power.1 We all read this promise to refer to Christ who will “bruise Satan’s head” (destroy his power) at the expense of “bruising his own heel,” that is, dying (Gen. 3:15). This promise was the hope of God’s people prior to the first coming of Christ. There is little disagreement that Genesis 3:15 refers to the cross as the means of bruising Satan’s head, but there is great disagreement over the relationship between that bruising and the binding of Satan (Rev. 20:1-9). John’s first timeframe ends with the binding of Satan for the purpose of protecting the nations from his deceit. This binding ushers in the second timeframe. This second timeframe, during which Satan is continually bound, must be John’s thousand year reign (he mentions it six times in Rev. 20-1-9, all within the context of this second timeframe). All of this seems quite clear. What is not as clear, perhaps, is the historical setting of this second timeframe. Many passages of Scripture indicate that this second timeframe (the time when Satan is bound) begins with the first coming of Christ. Consider Colossians 2:15: And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. It would
1 Bunyan describes this in his book, The Holy War.

seem that Paul viewed the cross as the time when Satan was conquered and defeated. Matthew, too, seems to think that Jesus bound Satan and spoiled his house.
Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house. (Matt. 12:22-29, KJV)

Satan offered Christ the very thing he came to secure. With that offer came the temptation to secure the goal by a different means—without going to the cross. Satan could deliver his goods—all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor—apart from the pain and shame of the cross. The world was Satan’s to give. It was under his control. True, he stole it, but it was still under his control. By wresting the kingdom from Satan, Christ destroyed his armor and disempowered him. Satan’s armor is ignorance and unbelief. He has “blinded the minds of them that believe not.” He has deceived them.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:4-6, KJV)

If Matthew’s binding is the same as John’s binding, then the second timeframe began with the work of Christ during his first advent. Mark also uses this theme:
When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. (Mark 11:21-22, KJV)

The strong man is Satan and the stronger man is Christ. By offering Christ a different path to his (Satan’s) goods, Satan tried to avoid being bound. He offered Christ all the kingdoms the world if he would bow down and worship him.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and wor-

If Christ had accepted Satan’s offer of a peaceful exchange of leadership, Satan would have retained his power and his armor, and remained unbound and unrestrained. He would have been free to mount guerilla raids on Christ’s kingdom, to take captive citizens of that kingdom, to threaten the stability and security of that kingdom, and to keep Christ from building his kingdom according to his plan. The gospel—the good news—is that Christ has defeated and bound Satan, thus freeing his people from Satan’s power. Of course, if Christ would have taken Satan’s offer, Satan would have said, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, here is what I want you to do next.” Paul and the authors of the Gospels view this second timeframe as the
Reisinger—Continued on page 6

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NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY: Is There Still a Role for the Imperatives? Part 2 of 2
Dr. J. David Gilliland
(Presented at the Providence Theological Seminary Doctrinal Conference, 2011) Part 1 defined the relationship between the imperatives and the Old Testament believer’s walk with God, a relationship believed by this author to be the same in both the Old and New Testaments. The Mosaic code and the culture of law was taken as a whole but had both an ontological and a teleological aspect—the sanctifying effect of the temple environment as well as the expression of the will of God in the realm of ethics. The law provided for and communicated “who they were” as well as “what they should do”; it provided the structure for both “being holy” and “doing righteousness.” In the New Covenant, the temple experience – the realm of the indicatives – is now defined by the indwelling Spirit of God. Part 2 will begin by addressing the realm of ethics and the relationship of the Spirit to the Word of God. THE REALM OF ETHICS IN THE OLD AND NEW COVENANT David and the OC saints had their faith maintained and strengthened by the temple experience, an experience reflected in their obedient conduct or ethics. Like the OT saints, obedience from the heart is the natural and expected response to the state or realm of God’s presence. This understanding helps to explain Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit (the ontological aspect and indwelling presence of God—the realm of the indicatives), let us walk by the Spirit (the teleological aspect and the revealed will of God—the realm of the imperatives). The word(s) translated walk are virtually always used in reference to our conduct or ethics. But rather than the concept of “cooperation”—God has done his part so now we do our part—for that typically connotes a co-meritorious arrangement, the appropriate term for the relationship between the two phrases in this verse is “coordination,” a term well suited to convey the idea of “walking” or “keeping in step” with the Spirit. God is always working, and man is always working—both aspects dependent on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the relationship is best encapsulated by Paul in Philippians 2:12-13, “As you have always obeyed…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” What then does it mean to walk in the Spirit? Perhaps John Reisinger, in his Studies in Galatians1, put it most succinctly, “Walking in the Spirit is nothing less than walking in obedience to the revealed will of God in Scripture.” The reality of the indwelling Spirit does not preclude the instrumentality of the written Word of God, any more than the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration precludes the instrumentality of the preached word—“for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Ethics cannot be reduced to the activity of the indwelling Spirit— no matter how vital—any more than ethical conduct in the OT could be reduced to the experience of the temple
1 John G. Reisinger, Studies in Galatians (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010), 409.

environment. This indicative/imperative or Spirit/Word dynamic explains why Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-11, “Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other…Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.” He begins with the reality of the work of God in the heart of the believer—“for you yourselves have been taught by God”—but he doesn’t stop there. Although he says that “we do not need to write you,” note well that he continues to write, instruct, and urge them to follow biblical principles of ethical conduct. Clearly, what Paul is communicating here is that the work of God in the heart of the believer does not supplant the role of the written word in the realm of ethics. Furthermore, and contrary to much of the teaching that wants to pit relationship against word and obedience, the inspiration and application of the written word is no less a work of God and the Spirit than the expression of his indwelling presence. In the OT, relationship with God and obedience to his word were distinguished but inseparable. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:14, “You O LORD are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” And certainly in the NT one has to look no further than Jesus’ relationship with his Father, where even within the highest expression of love and communion, Jesus could say, “As it is written, man shall not
Gilliland—Continued on page 15

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period during which God spoils Satan by fulfilling the Messiah-promises recorded in the Old Testament. The gospel age, with its preaching to every tribe and tongue, with its light and liberty that dispels the ignorance and darkness that reigned since Adam’s fall, names and identifies John’s second timeframe. This view accords with amillennialism. Premillennialism, however, does not identify the second timeframe with the gospel age, but with the second coming. This raises the question of where Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension fit on the chart (Table 1), as well as how to regard the binding that will occur at the Second Coming.
First Time Frame Satan Not Bound Satan Deceives Nations

thereabouts would mark the end of the second timeframe. That would place everything after AD 1033 in the third timeframe, which would mean that the first resurrection is over (those who came to life and reigned with Christ, v. 4); Christ’s millennial reign is over; and the second resurrection is over (the rest of the dead who come to life at the end of the thousand years, v. 5). All that is left is the final battle and the conflagration described in Revelation 20:7-10. The scenario sketched above shows what happens if we accept the biblical evidence that indicates that Satan was bound and spoiled by Christ’s cross work and we retain a

Table 1 (repeated) Second Time Frame Third Time Frame Satan Bound Satan Freed Satan Cannot Deceive Nations Satan Deceives Nations

timeframe did not occur. So far as we know, martyrs did not return to life and rule as priests until 1030. Nor did a great resurrection of the non-martyred dead occur after 1030. Furthermore, some of the significant events within the premillennial description of the millennium failed to occur. The temple described in Ezekiel was not built, nor were sacrifices re-established. Large numbers of Jews have not converted to Christianity. The curse remains on nature, contrary to premillennial expectations. It would seem that there is no way to view Christ’s first advent, the cross, and the gospel age as fitting into the second timeframe while at the same time retaining a literal reading of Revelation 20:1-9. One way out of this difficulty is to keep a literal hermeneutic (maintain a literal thousand years) and deny that Satan is currently bound according to John’s view of binding. This hermeneutic move drives a wedge between John’s use of binding and that of the other authors of the New Testament texts. Texts (apart from Revelation) that utilize the binding theme assert some kind of victory of Christ, but not the victory promised by Genesis 3:15. Those who accept this hermeneutic have to be prepared to biblically answer others who ask what Christ accomplished in his redemptive work on the cross. What kind of binding and spoiling are Matthew, Mark, and Paul discussing? One’s hermeneutic drives one’s understanding of the relationship between the cross and God’s promise in Genesis 3:15. Did Christ, in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, fulfill Genesis 3:15, or is that promise awaiting a future fulfillment—a future binding and spoiling of Satan? The hermeneutic determines whether you believe that Christ conquered sin, death and Satan by his redemptive cross work. Premillennial readings of Revelation 20:1-9 pose other difficulties
Reisinger—Continued on page 8

Premillennialism teaches that the thousand year binding of Satan takes place at the second coming of Christ. In this view, the second coming marks the beginning of the second timeframe, thus placing the first coming, the cross, and the gospel age in the first timeframe, which the text marks as characterized by Satan remaining free to deceive the nations. This seems difficult to reconcile with the biblical passages cited above that indicate that the first coming, the cross, and the gospel age are all evidence that Satan has been bound and his power spoiled. Premillennialism recognizes that the text of Revelation 20:1-9 requires a binding of Satan that ushers in the second timeframe, but their system necessitates that the cross was not the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Premillennialism’s commitment to a literal thousand year reign prevents them from placing the first coming, the cross, and the gospel age at the beginning of the second timeframe. If they were to do that, the year AD 33 or thereabouts would mark the beginning of the second timeframe and the year AD 1033 or

literal interpretation of a thousand years. In this view, Christ’s millennial reign included such historical events as the writing of the texts that became the New Testament, the Jewish War with Rome and the subsequent destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, various persecutions and martyrdoms, and the legitimization of Christianity in the Roman Empire. It also encompassed the great ecumenical councils with their development of orthodoxy, the brief and unsuccessful attempt of Julian to return Rome to a pagan state, and the eventual edict of Theodosius making Christianity the official state religion of Rome. This historical era also saw the establishment of Islam and the rise of Rome as the power center of the church. Christ’s reign ended, according to a literal view of the thousand years, just prior to the Crusades, which began in 1095. While it might be possible to spin all the historical events that occurred between AD 30-ish and AD 1030-ish as reflecting the victorious thousand year reign of Christ, other events included in John’s vision of the second

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White—Continued from page 1

acknowledge that Jesus Christ [God the Son] is Lord to the glory of God the Father [God the Father]

Here Paul quotes one of the most powerful passages in Scripture claiming that YHWH alone is God. God is saying that Israel’s opponents will be put to shame. Isaiah 45:20-24 says,
Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.

lion) meant an imperial pronouncement that an heir to the empire’s throne had been born or that a distant battle had been won. When an important battle was won, they would send out messengers to announce this gospel. Caesar Augustus (27 BC – AD 14) articulated his gospel in the following inscription found in Myra: ‘Divine Augustus Caesar, son of god, imperator of land and sea, the benefactor and savior of the whole world, has brought you peace.” Or consider this inscription from 9 BC:
The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Augustus, by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere.… [S]ince the Caesar [Augustus] through his appearance has exceeded the hopes of all former good messages [euangelia], surpassing not only the benefactors who came before him, but also leaving no hope that anyone in the future would surpass him, and since for the world the birthday of the god was the beginning of his good messages [euangelia].3

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pledge of allegiance in the Roman Empire was Caesar ho kurios – Caesar is lord. What was the fundamental confession of the early church? Jesus is Lord. The first Christians were showing where their true allegiance was. The church was also making a statement about who truly rules the world. If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not (hence, persecution). Acts 17:7-8 reads, “They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus. When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil.” So Rome had a savior, a gospel, and a lord; Paul wants the Philippians to know that those causing suffering say that Caesar is lord, but they and their lord will join with all others to declare that the true Lord is none other than the Jesus whom the Romans crucified.

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So for those familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, this would be a grand statement! Paul applies this passage about the exclusivity of YHWH to Jesus. But for those whose background was more Roman than Hebrew, they would hear another message. Claiborne and Haw write, “So many of the words we just throw around in Christian circles today were loaded with political meaning for Jesus and his contemporaries. Many were words Jesus swiped from the imperial lexicon and spun on their heads in beautiful political satire.”2 For example, “gospel” (euange2 Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 66. I am dependent on this book for the following paragraph. See also Gorman, Cruciformity, 353.

“Son of god” was a popular title for kings and emperors. Alexander the Great took that title as well as king of kings. Augustus declared that Julius Caesar (his adopted father) had become a god after his murder. Most subsequent emperors similarly divinized their predecessors. The new emperor would then claim the title “son of god.”4 “Savior” was used of Caesar Augustus when he healed the chaos of Rome and brought it into a new golden age. “Lord” was used of rulers, but particularly of the supreme ruler. The
3 Priene inscription quoted in Michael Gorman, Reading Paul, 43-44. 4 N.T. Wright, Paul (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 64.

Philippi was a Roman colony. As such, if trouble came, they could call on the emperor from the mother city to come rescue them. As savior and lord, he had the power to impose his will on the whole known world.5 In Philippians 3:20, Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Their citizenship, their commonwealth (politeuma, from polis), is not in Rome but in heaven. They are a colony within a colony: a colony of heaven within the colony of Rome.6 We are to be a contrast society. G.B. Caird writes, “Each local church is a colony of heaven, its members enjoying full citizenship of the heavenly city.… but charged with the responsibility of bringing the world to acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ.”7 Our city charter is the story
5 Ibid., 72. 6 Gorman, Cruciformity, 358. 7 G.B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison in the Revised Standard Version, NCB
White—Continued on page 19

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as well. One of these difficulties is that of equating the camp of God’s people, the city he loves (v. 9), with the physical nation of Israel. In this view, ethnic Israel is the focal point of God’s activity during the millennium. When I hear some people talk about the millennium as the time when God manifests his great power by dealing once more with Israel, I think about a football game. The first half (God’s first dealings with Israel) is over and everyone is eagerly awaiting the second half (the resumption of God’s dealing with Israel). But first, we have to get through halftime (God’s dealing with the church). Halftime is marked by a marching band, the performance of some famous singers, and goodness knows what else. Few people, however, are paying much attention to the halftime show. Many folks have gone to get food or to use the restroom. The mood is anticipatory. The conversation is about what is going to happen in the second half—when the interesting and important action occurs. Until then, not much of real consequence is happening. Halftime is merely killing time. So it is when some people describe the millennium. Israel is the real chosen people of God. They are analogous to a train, removed from the main track and temporarily set aside. Meanwhile, God has put the church on the main track. At the second coming, God will take the church off the track altogether (he raptures it, taking it out of the world), and he will put Israel back on the main track—he will resume his program for Israel. The second half of redemptive history will begin, and God will finally fulfill his promises for Israel. Those days will display God’s great glory and power. We live in a time of great expectation for the second half, when the really amazing manifestations of God’s power will take place. God’s primary interest is Israel; the church is only a parenthesis until he resumes his dealings with Israel.

I cannot predict the future for either Israel or the church, but I do know one thing for sure. The greatest display of the wisdom, power, and grace of God the world will ever see is the cross and the salvation and transformation of rebels into the image of Christ. Nothing will ever eclipse the church as a manifestation of God’s grace and power. No upcoming second half will upstage the church. I once heard a famous preacher, I think it was Vernon Magee, say, “If William Pettingill held a conference in our church on the ‘Marks of the Beast,’ the auditorium would be full every night. If Harry Ironsides held a conference in our church on ‘The Person and Work of Christ,’ there would be more empty seats than occupied seats.” The preacher then made this observation: “Something is amiss when God’s people are more interested in knowing about the Beast than they are in knowing about Christ.” This kind of thinking does not grow out of a vacuum. Hermeneutics promote ideas. One of the serious consequences of a premillennial prophetic view is its inadvertent diminution of the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension. What are the correct rules we should follow in interpreting the Bible so we are Christ-centered, not Israel-centered, in our conclusions? Are there special rules we should use for understanding the Bible or do we use the same rules for interpreting the Word of God that we use when reading the newspaper? Do we interpret all of the books in the Bible the same way? The Bible is not one book with sixty-six chapters; it is one book that contains sixty-six individual, selfcontained books. Some of those sixtysix books are poetic texts, some are historical texts, some are apocalyptic texts, filled with symbols, and some are a mix of more than one literary genre. Regardless of their respective genres, all sixty-six books are in some way related to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ our Lord. The sixty-six books constitute only one Bible.

When we start thinking about rules for interpreting Scripture, the first question is this: Do we use the same method of interpretation when studying the Song of Solomon as we do when interpreting the book of Acts? Are books like Ezekiel and Revelation, which everyone agrees are full of symbolic language, to be interpreted in the same way as Romans? Is it the case of a one-size-fits-all interpretive strategy, or does poetry need a different hermeneutic2 than history does? Do we approach Revelation with a literal hermeneutic that takes every word in its natural meaning unless the context forces us to take it symbolically, or do we reverse our interpretative method and take everything symbolically unless the context forces us to take it literally? If we adopt the first method, we will likely fit into a dispensationalist camp. If we use the second method, we likely will not fit into dispensationalism. No one argues that we should take every word and statement in Scripture literally. Everyone spiritualizes and symbolizes some passages. Thus, the question is not, “do we spiritualize some things in the Bible?” The question for our purposes is how do I know when to take something literally and when to take it symbolically? Context often indicates which hermeneutic move to use. We all agree that Genesis 3:15 describes Christ’s defeat of Satan, and none of us believes that Jesus literally bruised Satan’s heel. The text depicts the cross in symbolic imagery. It uses metaphoric language. So far as I know, no one involved in this discussion believes that Jesus wants us to pluck out an offending eye and cut off an offending hand. We would all agree that Jesus is speaking metaphorically for effect. David, in Psalm 22, uses metaphor. When he writes, “But I am a worm…v.6; Many bulls have compassed me…v.12; as a roaring lion… v.13, Dogs have compassed me…v.16;
2 The word hermeneutic means “rules of interpretation.”

Save me from the lion’s mouth…, the wild ox’s horn… v.21,” we know that we are not to take the words, “bulls, worm, dogs, lion, and ox” literally, but symbolically. Psalm 22 pictures our Lord on the cross. Wild animals did not surround our Lord when he was on the cross. He was in the presence of people who acted like dogs, lions, wild oxen, and raging bulls. When the psalmist writes, but I am a worm and not a man, he did not mean that Jesus changed species, morphing from human into worm. Isaiah also uses animal imagery (Isa. 11), but for different effect. He mentions lions and other animals who act in a manner contrary to their nature. The young lion is having straw for lunch and then taking a nap with a fatling.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. (Isa. 11:6, 7, KJV)

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iah 11 describes the peaceful nature of the citizens of the kingdom after it has been established. What indicates that we ought to interpret lion in Isaiah 11 as a four-legged animal instead of as a symbolic picture of a two-legged man? Why can we not consider Isaiah to be referring to someone like Saul of Tarsus, whose nature was transformed from that of a roaring lion into a gentle lamb by the power of the gospel? Your theology may not allow you to believe it, but Saul of Tarsus, transformed by the gospel and eating with Christ’s lambs, instead of eating them or persecuting them unto death, fits Isaiah 11 quite nicely, just as the symbolic language of beastly behavior fits Psalm 22. Let me add that I have no problem believing that the scenario described by Isaiah 11 could take place in a literal sense during a millennial reign of Christ if God so willed it. God can easily change the nature and the digestive system of a lion. However, I do not find any New Testament evidence that Jesus shed his blood so that a lion can eat straw. Our Lord died to change the nature of human beings, not the nature of animals. It is neither my intention nor my hope to convert anyone to my prophetic view. It is my intention, however, to raise awareness about the link between hermeneutics and prophetic views. Hermeneutics drives theology. All theologies, including NCT, derive from an interpretation of the promise/ fulfillment motif and its significance for the nature of the kingdom of Christ. It is also my intention to refute the notion that rejection of the hermeneutics of both dispensationalism and Covenant theology equates with rejection of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. It is my hope that all parties in this discussion will acknowledge that the people who read lion symbolically in Isaiah 11 love God’s Word just as much as do those who read it literally, and vice versa. It is also my hope that we will clearly understand why we read as we do.

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In our next article, we will look at the first rule of hermeneutics held by most Christians and unanimously among dispensationalists. Andy Wood, in his extremely informative article, “Literal, Grammatical, Historical Methodology”3 uses this definition:

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Post-reformation biblical interpretation employs what is called the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation. Let us break this phrase down into its component parts. The dictionary defines literal interpretation as that type of interpretation that is “based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning...not going beyond the facts.” Two concepts seem to be in view. First, according to Ram, literal interpretation encompasses the idea of assigning to every word the same meaning it would have in its normal usage, whether employed in speaking, writing, or thinking.4

Wood then refers to this method of hermeneutics as “Cooper’s Golden Rule of Interpretation” and states that it “incorporates such an understanding of literalism:”
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.5

Dispensational hermeneutics allow for lion in Psalm 22 as metaphor: it means ungodly men acting like roaring lions. However, a dispensational reading of lion in Isaiah 11 takes the word literally: it means a real fourlegged lion. In Psalm 22, lion refers to a man acting like a lion, but in Isaiah 11, the same word refers to a lion acting like something else. Dispensationalists may be correct in their conclusion, but what interpretive rules guide them? Both passages allow a poetic reading, so why would we take the word lion literally in one passage (Isaiah 11), and symbolically in another (Psalm 22)? Contextually, both passages refer to the time of Messiah. Both passages have something to say about the nature of Messiah’s kingdom. Psalm 22 indicates the violent means by which Messiah wins the kingdom and the equally violent nature of those outside the kingdom. Isa-

We will apply this principle to Revelation 20:1-9 to determine whether to apply a literal or symbolic approach to the term one-thousand years and other words in the text. m

3 I do not agree with this writer’s position but he is both thorough and fair in his presentation. 4 http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/ documents/articles/25/25.pdf 5 Ibid.

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Maxcey—Continued from page 3

the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of a New Covenant, Jesus Christ personifies, embodies, and incarnates the New Covenant. Thus, He Himself is the New Covenant (Isaiah 42:6; 49:8; Luke 22:20).”6 Additionally, Bresson asserts, “The New Covenant is not like the covenant made with the people through Moses. Embodied and personified in Christ, the New Covenant brought into existence through the life and cross work of Christ is made with his redeemed people through grace. God’s people do not enter the New Covenant by works, but by grace through faith; it is radically internal, not external; everlasting, not temporary.”7 Advocates of Picture-Fulfillment NCT are emphatic in stressing that it is essential for the New Covenant believer to understand the “Christ is the Covenant” principle if they are to experience a dynamic Spirit-filled life. Regarding the “necessity” of this doctrine, Bresson states:
Because Christ has become a Covenant for His people and the Spirit has descended to indwell Christ’s people as the law written on the heart, there is an altogether new dynamic inherent to the question of New Covenant ethics. No longer do imperatives find their impetus from without as was true of the Mosaic Code (exemplified in the Tablets of Stone), but from within. The nature of the command itself is no longer external, but internal. Obedience 03 September 2011; available from http:// earthstovesociety.com/?p=197; Internet, Tenet 17. 6 Chad R. Bresson, “The Exceeding Righteousness of the New Covenant” (a message prepared for the Christ My Covenant website in June 2009) accessed 7 October 2011; available from http:// christourcovenant.blogspot.com/2009/06/ exceeding-righteousness-of-new-covenant.html; Internet, Paragraph 1 of “The New Covenant” subsection. 7 Bresson, “What is New Covenant Theology?” Tenet 22.

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in question is the same in both verses:

In another place, he notes, “Christ is the Law of the New Covenant, incarnating the new standard of judgment as to what ‘has had its day’ in the law and what has abiding validity (Col. 2:17). The Holy Spirit is the indwelling Law of Christ, causing New Covenant members to obey Christ the Law in conformity to His image.”9 However, one must ask not only if the Bible truly teaches that Christ incarnates the New Covenant, but also if such an understanding is truly necessary for the Spirit-filled life of the New Covenant. The Hebrew of Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 Contrary to the teaching of PictureFulfillment NCT, Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 do not support the assertion that Christ incarnates the New Covenant, and this can be demonstrated both grammatically and contextually.10 The phrase
8 Chad R. Bresson, “The Incarnation of the Abstract: New Covenant Theology and the Enfleshment of the Law” (a message prepared for 2011 New Covenant Theology Think Tank, Rushville, NY) accessed 7 October 2011; available from http://www.earthstovesociety.com/essmedia2011/bresson%20-%20The%20Incarnation%20of%20the%20Abstract%20 -%20NCT%20Think%20Tank%202011. pdf; Internet, 2-3. 9 Bresson, “What is New Covenant Theology?” Tenet 43. 10 Advocates of Picture-Fulfillment NCT also cite Luke 22:20 as a proof text for their assertion that Christ is the incarnation of the New Covenant. Luke 22:20 declares: “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’.” The natural reading of this verse indicates that the cup of the Lord’s Table is the New Covenant, that is, the sign of the New Covenant. Luke appears to use a synecdoche in this verse to indicate that the cup of the Lord’s Table is the covenantal sign of the New Covenant, just as the Sabbath

ִ ְ ִ ָ liběrȋt ‘ām (‫ .)םע תירבל‬Isaiah 42:6 declares, “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people (liběrȋt ‘ām), as a light for the nations.”11 Isaiah 49:8 similarly states, “Thus says the LORD: ‘In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people (liběrȋt ‘ām), to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages’.” Grammatically speaking, the Hebrew text is quite clear that ִ the prefixed preposition lě (‫ )ל‬in both
instances of liběrȋt ‘ām is functioning in a comparative manner.12 For example, a similar construction is used in Isaiah 42:6 immediately following liběrȋt ‘ām: “as a light to the nations” ְ (le’ôr gôȋm –‫ .) םיִוֹגּ רוֹאל‬Contextually speaking, it is also quite clear that liběrȋt ‘ām and le’ôr gôȋm in Isaiah 42:6 are parallel phrases. Regarding
was the sign of the Old Covenant. Also, the phrase “in my blood” indicates not the nature of the New Covenant but its purchase/inauguration price. See David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 382. Here, these authors write: “…Luke (and Paul) relates touto [i.e. this] to the cup that is, together with its contents, the symbol of the new covenant, which the blood of Jesus inaugurated.” As a result, proponents of Picture-Fulfillment NCT cannot justifiably use Luke 22:20 to undergird their assertion that Christ Himself is the New Covenant without distorting its remarkably clear meaning. 11 All of this author’s Bible citations are from the ESV unless otherwise stated. 12 Ronald J. Williams, Williams’ Hebrew Syntax (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967; reprint 1976, 2007, 2008, 2010), 109. See also Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Conner, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 206.

this point, Edward J. Young states, “Parallel to the expression covenant of the people is the phrase light of the Gentiles. Not merely does the servant bring light or lead into light, but he is himself the light. Light is a figurative designation of salvation (49:6).”13 In other words, liběrȋt ‘ām and le’ôr gôȋm both function as figurative references to Christ’s redemptive work. Now, unless advocates of PictureFulfillment NCT, for the sake of grammatical and literary consistency, are willing to say that le’ôr gôȋm teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is composed of literal photons of light, it seems obvious that liběrȋt ‘ām, like le’ôr gôȋm, is functioning as a simile. The phrase le’ôr gôȋm teaches that Christ will metaphorically function as a light to the nations in that He will not only expose their darkness (i.e., their sin) but also cast it out.14 Similarly, with regard to liběrȋt ‘am, Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 both indicate that in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant15 the Lord Jesus will function like a covenant, binding His chosen people to God. Moreover, Christ is the Lord and Mediator (cf. Heb. 8:6) of the New Covenant, not the covenant itself. Young aptly notes:
That the servant is identified with the covenant of course involves the idea of his being the one through 13 Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 121. 14 Consider other metaphorical uses of “light” in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus calls both Himself and His followers the “light of the world” (John 8:12; Matt. 5:14-16). Furthermore, the Apostle Paul takes Isaiah 49:6, another instance where the phrase le’ôr gôȋm occurs, and applies it to himself and Barnabas. Obviously, these passages are using ‘light’ metaphorically, not ontologically. 15 The contexts of Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 indicate that the Messiah’s fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant is primarily in view. However, seeing as how the Abrahamic Covenant is ultimately fulfilled in the New Covenant (NC), the NC is likely in view as well.

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February 2012 whom the covenant is mediated….To say that the servant is the covenant is to say that all the blessings of the covenant are embodied in, have their root and origin in, and are dispersed by Him. At the same time He is himself at the center of all blessings, and to receive them is to receive Him, for without Him there can be no blessings.16 [emphasis mine]

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It is readily conceded that the statement, “Christ is the New Covenant” is biblical, provided that it is understood metaphorically, not ontologically.17
16 Young, Isaiah, 120-21. See also C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume VII: Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973), 179-80. Keil and Delitzsch understand Isaiah 42:6 metaphorically to indicate the Messiah’s role as the “mediator” and “medium” of the covenant. 17 Although some Classic NCT theologians state that Christ is the New Covenant, they, unlike advocates of PictureFulfillment NCT, invest this statement with a metaphorical meaning. As a result, it is inappropriate for proponents of Picture-Fulfillment NCT to appeal to such Classic NCT sources for support. Consider the following statements by certain advocates of Classic NCT. See Fred G. Zaspel, The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011), 3. Zaspel writes: “It [the New Covenant] is held out as Israel’s hope in an array of Old Testament passages – once under the name ‘new covenant’ (Jer. 31:34), seven times as an ‘everlasting covenant’ (Jer. 32-33 [cf. 32:40]; 50:5; Ezek. 16:60; 37:26; Isa. 24:5; 55:3; 61:8; cf. Hos. 2:14-23), three times as the ‘covenant of peace’ (Isa. 54:10; Ezek. 34:25; 37:26), sometimes with the no specific ‘covenant’ name attached at all (Ezek. 36:22ff), and once the Servant of the Lord is said himself to be the covenant (Isa. 49:8).” See also John Reisinger, “The Marks of a New Covenant Ministry: A Study in 2 Corinthians 3 – Part 4,” Sound of Grace 166 (April 2010): 4. Concerning the phrase ‘the Lord is the Spirit’ in 2 Cor. 3:17, Reisinger states: “But what does Paul mean by writing that the Lord is the spirit? I suggest that we read Paul here this way: Christ not only

However, this is precisely the issue with Picture-Fulfillment NCT teaching: its advocates understand Christ to be the New Covenant ontologically, not metaphorically. Consider a metaphorical understanding of Isaiah 42:6 and 49:8 in light of other metaphorical Messianic titles of the Lord Jesus Christ in both the OT and NT: the Branch (Is. 4:2; Jer. 23:5, 33:15; Zech. 3:8, 6:12); the Root of Jesse (Is. 11:1, 10); the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36; Rev. 5-7, 12-15, 17, 19, 21-22); a Horn of salvation (Luke 1:69); the Bread of Life (John 6:33-35, 48, 51); the True Vine (John 15:1, 4-5); a Light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32); the Light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5); the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5); and the Root of David (Rev. 5:5). Some may argue that this is wholly an issue of semantics, but as this paper continues to unfold, the reader will soon discover this is not the case. Is the Holy Spirit the Law of Christ? A second distinctive of PictureFulfillment NCT is the claim that the Spirit is the “law” written on a believer’s heart. Bresson writes, “The Holy Spirit is the indwelling Law of Christ, causing New Covenant members to obey Christ the Law in conis the mediator and the surety (guarantee) of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22), he is the covenant (Isa. 42:6). The Greek word for spirit used here is pneuma, which translates variously as breath, vital spirit/ life, or rational spirit/mind. Jesus Christ is the sine qua non of the New Covenant; that without which there would be no New Covenant. He is as essential to the New Covenant as breath is to life. He is the ruling principle and the essence of the New Covenant—he is the covenant itself. Christ is the sacrificial lamb; he is the Great High Priest; he is the altar; he is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant; and he is actually the covenant itself.” Surely Reisinger understands this statement metaphorically, not ontologically.
Maxcey—Continued on page 12

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formity to His image.”18 Elsewhere, he states, “For the New Covenant church, the law of God is no longer an external standard that demands compliance with the will of God. The Law of Christ as the indwelling Spirit is now an internal person who causes and inclines us to obey God from the heart.”19 In “Incarnation of the Abstract,” Bresson again notes:
Because Christ has become a Covenant for His people and the Spirit has descended to indwell Christ’s people as the law written on the heart, there is an altogether new dynamic inherent to the question of New Covenant ethics. No longer do imperatives find their impetus from without as was true of the Mosaic Code (exemplified in the Tablets of Stone), but from within. The nature of the command itself is no longer external, but internal. Obedience isn’t acquiescence to an external demand, but the manifestation of an inward reality.20

Maxcey—Continued from page 11

liever’s heart not only upon their systematization21 of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:24-28 but also their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 2:144:6. Bresson writes: “A proper biblical theology of the Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel New Covenant passages shows the ‘law written on the heart’ is one and the same as ‘the Spirit placed within’. This is Paul’s interpretation of the Old Testament’s New Covenant passages in 2 Corinthians 3.” Does 2 Corinthians 3:6 Identify the Spirit as a New Law? Contrary to the teaching of PictureFulfillment NCT, 2 Corinthians 3:6 does not allow for the assertion that the Spirit is the law written upon a believer’s heart. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 declares, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” With the final statement of 2 Corinthians 3:6, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” the apostle is not contrasting “the letter” (i.e., the Mosaic Law) and “the Spirit” as two types of “law”. In other words, Paul is not pitting “the letter” as a “law” containing objective written/external commandments against “the Spirit,” a new “law” containing no objective written/external commandments. Rather, he is contrasting two distinct eras of redemptive history, the Old Covenant age (characterized by the Mosaic Law) and the New Covenant age (characterized by the Spirit). Regarding “the Spirit-letter contrast” in 2 Corinthians 3:6, Thomas Schreiner states that “the Spirit’s work represents the coming of the new era in
21 Although prominent promoters of Picture-Fulfillment NCT may insist otherwise, their interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Ezekiel 36:24-28 reflects a systematic, not biblical, approach to these two texts.

Christ.” 22 In defense of his apostolic ministry, Paul contrasts the two redemptivehistorical eras via their respective covenants throughout 2 Corinthians 2:14-4:6 in order to demonstrate the New Covenant’s superiority over the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was a “ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7) and “condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:9), and its defining dynamic was the Law of Moses, which, although a blessing for the regenerate23 Israelite (e.g., Ps. 19:7; 40:8; 119:72; 97; 174), inexorably resulted in death for the unregenerate24 Israelite (2 Cor. 3:6). However,
22 Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010), 144. See also A. Blake White, The Newness of the New Covenant (Frederick: New Covenant Media, 2008), 36. Regarding 2 Corinthians 3:6, White states, “Second Corinthians 3:4-4:18 is an important text on the relation of the old and new covenants in Paul. He expounds the superiority of the ministry of the new covenant over the old. He writes that God ‘made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter (gramma) kills, but the Spirit (pneuma) give life (3:6, cf. Rom 2:29, 7:6)’. The context makes clear that Paul uses ‘letter’ to refer to the Mosaic Law (3:3), which has an inseparable connection to the Mosaic Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3. The gramma/pneuma contrast should be understood in terms of salvation history.” [emphasis mine] 23 The regeneration of the OT remnant of Israel by the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the spiritual promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, not the Old Covenant. 24 The OC community of Israel was largely unregenerate. For example, Jeremiah 9:26b proclaims that “all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart” (cf. Is. 1:9; Heb. 3:16-4:6). See also John G. Reisinger, Abraham’s Four Seeds (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998), 77. Reisinger states that Israel was “indeed a special nation….but the nation by and large was unregenerate.” See also John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone & the History of Redemption (Frederick, MD:

Advocates of Picture-Fulfillment NCT base their assertion that the Spirit is the law written upon a be18 Bresson, “What is New Covenant Theology?” Tenet 43. See also Tenet 47 of the same message. See also the comments of Steve Fuchs in the Christ Our Covenant blog entitled “The Various Branches of New Covenant Theology” (available at http://christourcovenant.blogspot. com/2009/02/all-proponents-of-nctbelieve-christ.html). In the introductory description of Picture-Fulfillment NCT, Fuchs writes, “Christ’s Spirit indwelling God’s people is what is written on their hearts. He isn’t there to etch any words on the heart or mind, HE himself IS what’s etched - He is both the standard of righteousness and the cause of righteousness within them. He is the perfect anti-type of codified law….The Law of Christ is the Spirit of Christ written on your heart. He is both the Standard of God’s righteousness and the Cause of righteousness in your nature.” 19 Ibid., Tenet 49. 20 Bresson, “The Incarnation of the Abstract,” 2-3.

the Mosaic Law resulted in death for unregenerate Israelites not because it contained objective written/external commandments (as Picture-Fulfillment NCT advocates assert) but because the Old Covenant did not guarantee to its members the internal work of the Spirit (i.e., regeneration).25 This internal working of the Spirit was only experienced by a small remnant of the OC community to whom God freely and sovereignly chose to extend it in order to fulfill the spiritual promises made to Abraham. In contrast to the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is a “ministry of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:8) and “righteousness” (2 Cor. 3:9), and
New Covenant Media, 2004), 44. On page 44, Reisinger writes, “It is true that God showed special favor to the Jews in their redemption from Egypt, but that was a physical redemption. Most of those Israelites were still hard-hearted sinners who needed to be convinced of their lost estate (Heb.. 3:16-19).” 25 Picture-Fulfillment NCT proponents insist that the Old Covenant’s codified system of written/external commandments (i.e., the Mosaic Law) is precisely what made that covenant a “ministry of death” (2 Cor. 3:7) and “condemnation” (2 Cor. 3:9). However, such a conclusion misses the mark. The Apostle Paul declares the Law and its commandments to be “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12), “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), and “not contrary to the promises of God” (Gal. 3:21). The Mosaic Code resulted in death, cursing, and condemnation for unregenerate Israel, not because it contained written/external commandments, but because the OC community, apart from the internal (i.e., regenerative) working of the Holy Spirit, was utterly incapable of keeping the Law. In other words, the problem with the Old Covenant was neither the covenant itself nor its commandments; rather, the problem was the fallen, unregenerate state of the covenant community. See A. Blake White, The Newness of the New Covenant (Frederick: New Covenant Media, 2008), 17. White rightly declares, “Indeed, Israel was unable to serve the Lord (Josh. 24:19), lacking the heart inclined to keep the Torah (Deut. 30:6; 31:16).”

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its defining dynamic is the Spirit, who inexorably produces “life” (2 Cor. 3:6) in all members of the New Covenant. Paul Williamson argues that the “most radical distinctive of the new covenant” is that it “would affect the entire covenant community” unlike its predecessor:
Internalization of the law was not a radically new concept (Deut. 11:18; cf. 30:14), nor was the associated idea of circumcision of the heart (Deut. 10; cf. 30:6). But such had certainly not been the collective experience of the covenant community [under the OC]. Rather, such had been the distinguishing mark of individuals in the community who constituted Israel’s righteous remnant. The majority – as Jeremiah himself had underlined (cf. Jer. 17:1) – had hearts engraved with sin and were thus spiritually uncircumcised (cf. Jer. 9:26; 16:10-13). However, the law would be internalized by everyone who belonged to the covenant community of the future… [T]he entire community will reflect such knowledge of Yahweh….That such knowledge issuing in obedience will be reflected in the entire covenant community (‘they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest’ TNIV) is clearly one of the most distinctive features of the new covenant.26

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Is the Spirit the “Law” Written Upon the Heart?

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Although both Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:24-28 are important texts which detail the promises and stipulations of the New Covenant, to equate “my Spirit” of Ezekiel 36:27 with “my law” of Jeremiah 31:33 results in both an exegetical and logical fallacy. It neither logically nor exegetically follows here that these two particular NC promises (i.e., Ezek. 36:27; Jer. 31:33) should be equated with one another.28 By equating these two passages, advocates of PictureFulfillment NCT have unnecessarily blurred or obscured the important distinctions in these texts. The most natural way to reconcile Ezekiel 36:27 with Jeremiah 31:33 is to recognize that these two passages address two distinct ministries of the Holy Spirit. Whereas Jeremiah 31:33 speaks of regeneration by the Holy Spirit in terms of the internalization of God’s law (“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts”),29
28 Although the similar phraseology in “I will put my Spirit within you” (Ezek. 36:27) and “I will put my law within them” (Jer. 31:33) indicates that these two passages are related, such similarity does not demand that they be directly equated with one another. 29 See Peter O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, Pillar New Testament Commentary, ed. Donald A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 298-9. Beginning on page 298, O’Brien writes: “…in the new covenant there is a fundamental difference from the old: the Lord himself would write his law on the hearts of his people. The internalization of the law, that is, obedience from the heart, which was expected under the old covenant, will now be accomplished by God. Further, this writing is not in the hearts of ‘scattered individuals’ but of the people as a whole; it is not simply internal but also universal. The prophet’s words imply the people’s receiving of a new heart, and this was / is expressly promised in the parallel prophecy of Ezekiel: ‘I will give them an undivided heart and
Maxcey—Continued on page 14

Elsewhere, he writes, “Paul’s argument, therefore, is not that the letter associated with the old covenant is bad or inherently flawed. Rather, it is that it is vastly inferior to the life-giving Spirit associated with the new covenant.”27 To insist that Paul’s redemptive-historical contrast teaches that the Spirit is a new “law” and that all written/external commandments produce death is to stretch the text of 2 Corinthians 3 far beyond the apostle’s intent. It neither logically nor exegetically follows that Paul aims to teach either of these assertions.
26 Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2007), 154-56. 27 Ibid., 193.

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Beale, Gregory K. and Donald A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007. Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Volume VII: Isaiah. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973. Long, Gary D. Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Matthew 5:17-20. New York: Rochester, 1981. O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Hebrews. Pillar New Testament Commentary. Edited by Donald A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. Reisinger, John G. Abraham’s Four Seeds. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 1998. _______________. Tablets of Stone & the History of Redemption. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2004. Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2010. Waltke, Bruce K. and M. O’Conner. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990. White, A. Blake. The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2010. _____________. The Newness of the New Covenant. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008. Williams, Ronald J. Williams’ Hebrew Syntax. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967; reprint 1976, 2007, 2008, 2010. Williamson, Paul R. Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2007. Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972. Zaspel, Fred G. The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2011.

Bresson, Chad R. “The Exceeding Righteousness of the New Covenant.” A message prepared for the Christ My Covenant website in June 2009. Accessed 7 October 2011. Available from http://christourcovenant.blogspot. com/2009/06/exceeding-righteousness-of-new-covenant.html; Internet. ______________. “The Incarnation of the Abstract: New Covenant Theology and the Enfleshment of the Law.” A message prepared for 2011 New Covenant Theology Think Tank, Rushville, NY. Accessed 7 October 2011. Available from http://www.earthstovesociety. com/essmedia2011/bresson%20-%20 The%20Incarnation%20of%20the%20 Abstract%20-%20NCT%20Think%20 Tank%202011.pdf; Internet. ______________. “What is New Covenant Theology?” A list of NCT tenets prepared originally for the Christ My Covenant website but later posted to the Earth Stove Society website. Accessed 03 September 2011. Available from http://earthstovesociety. com/?p=197; Internet. Fuchs, Steve. “The Various Branches of New Covenant Theology.” A ‘Christ Our Covenant’ blog. Accessed 7 October 2011. Available from http://christourcovenant.blogspot.com/2009/02/ all-proponents-of-nct-believe-christ. html; Internet. Heiser, Michael. “An Unexpected Word.” Chapter 3 from an unpublished book. Accessed 7 October 2011. Available from h p://www.thedivinecouncil. com/Introduc on%20to%20the%20 Divine%20Council%20MTIT.pdf; Internet. Loubser, Gysbert M. H. “The Ethic of the Free: A Walk According to the Spirit! A Perspective from Galatians.” Verbum et Ecclesia JRG 27:2 (2006): 614-640. Reisinger, John. “The Marks of a New Covenant Ministry: A Study in 2 Corinthians 3 – Part 4.” Sound of Grace 166 (April 2010): 1, 2, 4, 14-17. m

Ezekiel 36:27 speaks first of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers forming the body of Christ at Pentecost30 (“I will put my Spirit within you”) and second of regeneration in terms identical to Jeremiah 31:33 (“I will… cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules”). Ezekiel 36:27 declares that the Spirit of God would not only indwell NC believers but also “cause” them to obey God’s commandments (cf. Phil. 2:13; Rom. 8:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). What are these commandments, if not the Law of Christ in the New Covenant? The Scriptures also declare that the Holy Spirit teaches believers “all things” (John 14:26a), brings to believers’ remembrance Christ’s teaching (John 14:26b), testifies of Christ (John 15:26), and guides believers “in all the truth” (John 16:13). These things, this teaching, this testimony, and this truth all center upon the Lord Jesus Christ, His Word, and His Law (i.e., the Law of Christ). The Spirit is not the law written upon a believer’s heart, but as part of His New Covenant ministry, He Himself performs divine “heartreplacement surgery”, whereby a NC believer is the recipient of a new heart which causes him to willingly obey God and keep His inscripturated commandments (i.e., the Law of Christ).
put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws’ (Ezekiel 11:19-20; also 36:26-27)” [emphasis mine]. 30 The body of Christ, which is the Church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24) was first formed as a redemptive-historical entity when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon believers at Pentecost in Acts 2 with its apostolic extensions in Acts 8, 10, 19. Recall Jesus’ promise to His disciples of the future indwelling of the Holy Spirit in John 14:17: “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

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live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The life of Christ can be characterized by submission to the will of his Father: “I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). And in fact, Jesus had such a high view of Scripture that he could attribute to it the same power and authority that he did when he was referring to himself. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31, 32). And yet a few verses later, he could say, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 36). The apostle Paul, as we have seen, did not have difficulty integrating the ontological aspect with the ethical realm. For example, in Romans 15:1516, he wrote, “…because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” This is more of Paul’s “temple talk,” referring to the fact that their holy or righteous status is confirmed through the acceptance and indwelling presence of the Spirit. The phrase “the offering of the Gentiles” refers not to something the Gentiles offer, but that they are in a sense Paul’s offering. I like the reading suggested by the editors of the ESV: “the offering he (Paul) presents to God is Gentile converts. This offering is pleasing to God since it is set apart into the realm of the holy (sanctified) by the Holy Spirit.” Paul then moves seamlessly into the teleological aspect of their sanctification in verse 18, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed.” The term obedience here, in the words of Douglas Moo, is “denoting comprehensively the believer’s

response to the Lord Jesus Christ, including, but not limited to faith.”2 But we could ask at this point, is there an objective standard for this obedience? And Paul answers that in Roman 6:17, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed…(v. 19), so now present your members as slaves of righteousness leading to sanctification.” Again, I appreciate Moo’s perspective: “Paul wants to make clear that becoming a Christian means being placed under the authority of Christian ‘teaching,’ that expression of God’s will for NT believers… Paul would then imply that Christians, while no longer ‘under the Mosaic law,’ are nevertheless bound by an authoritative code of teaching.”3 And where do we find this “teaching” or that “expression of God’s will for New Testament believers”? For that answer, we really need look no further than 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is inspired by God (theopneustos) and profitable for teaching (didaskalia), for reproof (elegmos), for correction (epanorthōsis), for training (paideia) in righteousness.” There is no question in this verse that teaching (didaskalia) refers to “all Scripture,” especially the OT Scripture. If anything, Paul’s burden of proof is that the apostolic writings are included in what is “God-breathed.” Note that reproof (elegmos) is used only here in the NT, yet it occurs in the LXX, for example, in Leviticus 19:17 where it refers to “reproving” one’s neighbor and doing so in the immediate context of the absolute (unchanging) law of God, the second greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v.
2 Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1996), 892. 3 Ibid., 401-402.

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18). Similarly, the word the apostle uses for correction (epanorthōsis) is used only here in the NT. It is used in the LXX to mean “make straight” or “raise up” or “restore.” Why would Paul have chosen two words used only in the OT if he were not emphasizing the essential continuity of “all Scripture” with respect to correction and reproof? Must he not be assuming an ethical standard that still exists in “all Scripture”? Lastly, training or discipline (paideia) is a word that has a strong association with the Old Testament. The only other uses of this word in the New Testament (Eph. 6:4; Heb. 12: 5, 7, 8, 11) point to a connection with Proverbs 3:11, 12: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Note here as well, that this is one of the passages where reproof (elegmos) is found in the LXX. Again, if Paul did not want to imply an essential ethical continuity and abiding relevance of the OT, or if he wanted to imply or reinforce a radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, why would he choose terminology and references that reflect such a clear association between the two? Some would suggest, however, that the OT merely “informs” us. But Paul said, “All Scripture is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All Scripture is God’s self-revelation and can never merely “inform” us. Even God’s general revelation in creation obligates all who interact with it. All Scripture obligates us, whether by specific commandment, general principal, or by insight into God’s attributes. The specific application of a given passage will depend on its covenantal context as well as the New Covenant dynamic of Spirit, Word, and conscience.
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Furthermore, the significance of the word inspired or God-breathed (theopneustos)—used only here in the Scriptures—can’t be minimized. Paul here is thinking not only in terms of the origin or authority of the Scriptures—already referred to as “the sacred Scriptures” in verse 15—but the role of the Holy Spirit in their application to the individual believer. This may well be a Pauline parallel to the words of Jesus, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The picture painted by the words “proceeds from the mouth of God” certainly conveys a concept similar to the unique word (God-breathed) Paul uses in 2 Timothy 3:16. The use of this term may be a reference as well to Jesus’ words in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” The importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in the application of “all Scripture” can’t be underestimated. Paul wrote to the Colossian believers, “We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9, 10). To walk “worthy of the Lord” means to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). To walk in the Spirit is to be taught by the Spirit. A true leading of the Holy Spirit cannot be assumed when there is no legitimate appeal to Scriptural authority, and the teachings of the Spirit are in “all Scripture”—so asserts the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16. If it is the indwelling Spirit who defines the covenant people of God, and “all Scripture” is Spirit produced (God-breathed) and the direct expression of the will of God for his people, then is it not consistent with the

harmonious working of the triune God to see “all Scripture”—interpreted within its covenantal context—as authoritative in the life of the believer? The New Covenant stands in contrast to the Old Covenant taken as a whole, but the “law of Christ” stands in continuity with “my law” of Jeremiah 31 and is expressed and summarized in the two great commandments. The “law of Christ” is the highest expression of God’s law because it is ultimately fulfilled in Christ. The ethical requirement that a husband love his wife is transcovenantal—revealed in the creation ordinances, Yahweh’s relationship with the nation of Israel, and ultimately in the New Covenant commandments. But in the New Covenant, by virtue of Christ’s redemptive work, it reaches its highest expression: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” THE REFLECTIVE OR REPRESENTATIONAL ASPECT OF SANCTIFICATION—ETHICS In the context of 2 Timothy 2:19, we see the primary role of the ethical category, one that represents or reflects the Master himself:
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:19, 20).

process can be structured in light of his role as prophet, priest, and king. REFLECTIVE SANCTIFICATION: LORDSHIP AND CHRIST’S ROLE AS KING One of the likely sources for the second phrase in 2 Timothy 2:19 – “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” – is Isaiah 26:13: “O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.” Paramount in the discussion of ethics is the issue of authority. That is why Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” The question for every human being is not whether we obey rules, but whose rules? In Colossians 1:13, Paul wrote, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” The word translated transferred was often used in the context of the transfer of authority from a conquered king to the conquering king, an apt description of what has happened to God’s people. Referring to the role of missions and the second phrase in the Great Commission, John Piper wrote, “The aim of Christian missions is to cause people to obey a new commander. Sanctification is happening when the words of Jesus are being obeyed.”4 One of the tragic consequences of the misconception that biblical obedience is opposed to grace and a relationship with Christ—pitting Christ against his word—is the number of discouraged and frustrated believers that it has left in its wake. Now there is no denying that legalism and moralism also produces frustration and discouragement, but loving obedi4 John Piper, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, Romans 15:14-2, Desiring God Resource Library, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/ how-the-spirit-sanctifies (1984).

The ethical process changes us, protects us, blesses us, and affects our moment-by-moment relationship with Christ (a study for another time), but it is not first and foremost about us. It is about Christ, who he is, and what he has done. And a discussion of the

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ence is not to be equated with legalism. For as someone has said, “Grace is not opposed to righteousness, just self-righteousness.” Legalism is either replacing God’s commands with those of men, or keeping legitimate commandments with the motivation of justifying oneself—the imperatives without the indicatives. No longer in many of our churches is there an understanding of the joy that comes from faithful obedience to God’s word. I have often wondered whether it might not be profitable to interweave our sermons in Galatians with those from John’s gospel. Note the words of our Lord:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:911).

they point to the pending national exile, but ultimately to the new exodus and the origin of God’s New Covenant people. In Isaiah 52:7-11, we read:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace… The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

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Page 17 know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality… For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you…so that you may walk properly before outsiders (I Thess. 4:1-12).

Frank Thielman summarizes Paul’s thinking where he notes:
“Just as the people of Israel were the chosen people of God and were required to demonstrate their special status by observances that set them apart from ‘the Gentiles,’ so the Thessalonians are chosen by God and are therefore required to live sanctified lives, distinguished from ‘the Gentiles’ by their sexual purity…The close parallel between Paul’s language in I Thessalonians 4:8 and Ezekiel’s language in 36:27 shows clearly that the eschatological restoration of Israel as Ezekiel describes it is the source of Paul’s ethical admonitions in this passage.”5

Ezekiel gives the same emphasis in anticipation of the New Covenant:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek. 36:26-27)…They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions…they shall be my people, and I will be their God…They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes… and David my servant shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them…Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Ezek. 37:23-28).

REFLECTIVE SANCTIFICATION: HOLINESS AND CHRIST’S ROLE AS PRIEST Inherent in the doctrine of sanctification is not only moral and ethical purity but “separation,” a concept reflected in the phrase, in the world but not of the world. The national, geographic, and ceremonial boundary markers of God’s Old Covenant people have been fulfilled, but continuity is seen in the ethical categories that include love for neighbor, sexual purity, and freedom from idolatry. And these “boundary markers” figure prominently in the identity of the New Testament church. Yahweh told Israel, “I am the Lord your God who has marked you off from all the Gentiles…You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord your God am holy, and I have distinguished from all the Gentiles to be mine” (Lev. 20:24, 26 LXX). The theme of ethical purity and separation remains a central focus for Israel’s prophets, not only as

It is not surprising then that the NT authors take up this theme in the founding documents of the NT church. Peter quotes from Leviticus 19 when he writes in I Peter 1:15-16, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” Paul too incorporates wording from both Leviticus and Ezekiel in this first letter to the Gentile church:
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God…For you

Much of the contemporary emphasis on the New Covenant has missed the larger picture because of its focus on the believer’s experience. It is as if they take the promise of the Spirit in Ezekiel 36 and link it to freedom in Christ—and that is the end of story. But for the apostle Paul, freedom in Christ meant being “crucified with Christ.” God is the only being that can at the same time be self-centered and holy. He expects his name to be honored above all names, and his word to be honored above all other words or wisdom. The popular presentation of the New Covenant has ignored the OT context and the ultimate purpose for its fulfillment. These are the words of Ezekiel which precede the well-known promise of the Spirit:
Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not 5 Frank Thielman, Paul & The Law: A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 75, 77.
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for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came…And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes (Ezek. 36:22-23).

As believers in union with Christ, the ethical imperatives and our obedience to them not only reflect the character of our high priest, but clearly establish the boundary markers of God’s New Covenant people – “when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” REFLECTIVE SANCTIFICATION: WISDOM AND CHRIST’S ROLE AS PROPHET In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul points us to the enduring wisdom found in “all Scripture.” In the OT Scriptures, we read:
My son, do not forget my teaching,

February 2012 but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones (Prov. 3:1-8).

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of Christ. When we read Proverbs, we read it not as from Solomon, but from Christ himself in the context of NT revelation and fulfillment. And when we read Matthew 7:24, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock,” we don’t hear them as isolated statements of wisdom from the Sermon on the Mount, but as the encapsulation and full expression of all that has come before. Obedience to the commands of Christ leads us on a path of spiritual blessing and stability, one that causes us to “find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” The fruit of our walk with him points to his knowledge and wisdom. It is for that reason that Jesus told his disciples, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In the same vein, Paul urged the believers in Thessalonica to pay attention to their walk, “so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders” (1 Thess. 4:12).

As New Covenant believers we now read these words through the person and finished work of Christ. These words were ultimately from him and point back to him. In Proverbs 3:14, Solomon refers to wisdom as the personified word: “For the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” The personified word has now become the Word incarnate, and the wisdom of the prophets finds its full expression in the person, work, and words

“This is no ivory tower debate among academics far removed from the life of the church and individual Christians. Its crucial point addresses the identity and content of the final authority over the Christian’s conscience in matters of morality. 1. Is Moses the greatest lawgiver that ever lived? Is Christ indeed merely the true and final interpreter of Moses? Or, is Christ a new lawgiver with the inherent right to give higher laws? Does he replace Moses as lawgiver in exactly the same way that he replaces Aaron as high priest? 2. Are the Ten Commandments, as written on the stone Tables of the Covenant at Sinai, the highest moral standard ever given? Or, does our Lord give us even higher standards in the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of the New Testament Scriptures? These vital questions speak to the heart of the issue. They ask whether (1) the law of Moses, which was holy, just, and good, is the highest unchanging expression of law that God ever gave, or (2) if the laws of the kingdom established by Christ, based on grace and equally holy, just, and good, are much higher laws? The two different views have nothing to do with whether the Christian is under clear, concrete, objective moral absolutes as a rule for his or her life. The claim that we who believe that Jesus is the new lawgiver pit law against love is not at all close to the truth. Christians are under the laws of the New Covenant, and those laws are specific, definite, and objective. God, in the Old Covenant, gave Moses concrete, non-negotiable laws for the people of Israel, and Christ, in the New Covenant, has done the same for the church. He has given us laws that are just as non-negotiable, definite, and objective as those given to Moses.” John G. Reisinger, But I Say Unto You (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2006) 3, 4

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As the Scriptures begin, we find Adam—in the temple environment of the garden—walking with God in the context of commandment. David too walked with God in the context of commandment, and God said he “was a man after his own heart.” Those commandments were embodied in a culture of law, but they were integral to his sanctification. And of course, it was the loving obedience of our Lord—the 2nd Adam—to the commandments of his Father that provides us with the greatest example of how we are to walk. At the culmination of God’s written revelation, the last words we hear reinforce the relationship between obedience and God’s presence. Prior to the unfolding of the final vision of the New Jerusalem, the angel—as if to stress to John that the full expression of the “not-yet” is not here yet—says emphatically, “Write these things down” (Rev. 21:5). And with the final words of the angel, history ends the way it began: with an emphasis on the authoritative Word of God, and the distinction between “being holy” and “doing righteousness”:
Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book… I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God…Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy (Rev. 22:7-11).

ogy—by minimizing the importance of the Word of God—leads to a mancentered “Christianity.” In essence, we have done what Israel did, and their attitude and actions prompted a penetrating response from God back in the same chapter where we started, “You cast my words behind you…you thought that I was one like yourself” (Ps. 50:18, 21). But contrast the contemporary message—“come look at me now”—with that of the Word of God: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite of spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2). In the late 1800’s, a young convert rose to make a comment during a meeting conducted by D. L. Moody. Although he had little theological training, his last comment was memorable: “I’m not quite sure, but I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.” Also sitting in the audience that night was a minister named Daniel Towner. And while the style of the music may be dated, the words of the hymn that he wrote are timeless:
“When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.”6 m 6 Trust and Obey, public domain, 1887.

February 2012

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of the crucified Christ, and we are called to live as citizens of that city: Whatever happens, conduct yourselves as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ. (1:27, my translation of politeuesthe). Michael Gorman summarizes the message of Philippians:
Live faithfully now as a colony of citizens of that heavenly imperial city, in the midst of this colony of Rome. Your Lord and Savior – your “Emperor” – is Jesus, whose cruciform pattern of faith, love, power, and hope is the city charter of your colony. And as you live by this charter, do so in unity, for you must be one as you face persecution together for the sake of Christ, just as I, Paul, am imprisoned – though the gospel we sing, preach, and live is not.8

Jesus is the true Lord of the world. All will bow and recognize his authority. Believer, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility value others above yourselves and look to their interests, not your own, just like your Lord did. Adopt the Jesus mindset. m

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976), 148. 8 Gorman, Cruciformity, 359.

It has been said that progress in sanctification is measured by the growth in true humility. Is that what we see in the church today? One of the phrases in the contemporary song that I referred to at the beginning of this paper reads, “Come take a look at me now.” While not intending to make a personal reference to the songwriter, these words do say something about the perspective of the current church scene. In spite of a desire to magnify the work of Christ and our freedom in Christ, much of today’s theol-


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Mark Your Calendar! The 2012 John Bunyan Conference is planned for April 23-25 at the Reformed Baptist Church in Lewisburg, PA. Details to follow in upcoming issues of

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