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Mar 19 2010

Why we are baptizing our children.

by randy

In the covenant of grace God promised that he would be God to both Abraham and to his children (Gen 17:7).  The sign and seal of this covenant was marked by the rite of circumcision (Gen 17:11; Romans 4:11). The cutting rite of circumcision indicated the need for cleansing in the hygienic act of the removal of the foreskin of the flesh (Col 2:11).  In the fulfillment of this covenant, called the New Covenant, the promises were no longer limited to the blood line of Abraham (John 3:16; Romans 11:15). Gentiles were grafted in as the people of God and made partakers of these promises as well (Romans 11:17; 1Pet 2:6-10).  The promises to the people of God and to their children were not revoked as some Christians teach today.

The book of Acts emphasizes the fulfillment of these promises and states, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself (Acts 2:39).”  The scriptures teach that households of believers are Holy (1 Cor 7:14; Acts 11:14; 16:15; 16:31; 18:8) and much like the seed of Abraham, also partake of the benefits of the covenant (Gal 3:29). In the new administration of the covenant, baptism replaces circumcision and pictures a literal cleansing (1Pet 3:21), “the putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism (Col 2:11-12).”  In the words of our Catechism- baptism is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Mar 14 2010

Christian Liberty and Drinking Alcohol

by randy

Can the Christian drink? The scriptures answer with an astounding “NO” if the intent is drunkenness or communion in the world’s drinking parties (1 Peter 4:2-4).  In fact I would submit that there are many so called Christians in danger of not inheriting the Kingdom of God because of a failure to distinguish so called Christian liberty from an excuse for sin (Gal 5:19-21).  Do not mistake me for saying that fermented drink, made by God, is wrong or sinful. Quite the contrary, it is made by God to be enjoyed.

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” they say from their pulpits across the nation. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom and false humility, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.  They are after-all based on human commands and teachings (Col 2:20-23).  This all to often characterizes the fundamentalist preaching that adds to the conscience- man made laws and commands absent from scripture.

Some have argued that the American culture of drinking has rendered alcohol sinful. But drunkenness, drinking parties and consciences who are stumbled over wine are not foreign to the culture set in scriptures.  Paul even tells us that if wine makes a brother stumble it should be avoided (Rom 14:21). This did not stop our savior from making wine (John 2:1-11) or commanding its use in his feast (1 Cor 11:25-26).  In fact the scriptures are full of commands and celebrations that make use of wine and strong drink even in worship. Take for example Deut 14:26, “and spend the money for whatever you desire-oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.”

Some have attempted to argue that the wine in those days was actually grape juice or some watered down equivalent.  This is a gross historic fallacy that can be refuted even in light of scripture.  Lets not forget the rebuke to those at the Church in Corinth for getting drunk off of the communion wine (1 Cor 11:21-22).  It is the aged fermented wine (Luke 5:39) also described in vivid detail concerning the Kingdom blessings (Is 25:6) that men are rightfully to enjoy.

There is no universal command to avoid wine or strong drink.  In fact, select groups that did abstain were worthy of mention as acting differently than the accepted biblical practice. For example those under the nazarite vow (Numbers 6:2-6) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).  Interestingly, in contrast to John the Baptist Jesus did come eating and drinking and his doing so resulted in many falsely calling him a winebibber and glutton (Luke 7:33-35).

In the final analysis we must be able to distinguish between the use and abuse of fermented drink. While scriptures contain strong warnings concerning the abuse of wine (Prov 23:21, 30; Deut 21:20; Eph 5:18; 1 Tim 3:8; Titus 2:3) they also contain strong warning concerning sexual perversion.  We do not however condemn all sexual activity, only its abuse.  While any of God’s gifts can be abused, we must avoid the ascetic temptation to deem them as evil.

I will conclude with an excerpt from G.I Williamson’s “The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes” (pg 195) who concludes:

  1. that God alone has legitimate authority over the conscience,
  2. that his Word alone is the rule thereof,
  3. that the doctrines and commandments of men which are either contrary to or additional to God’s Word in respect to worship have no authority to bind the conscience,
  4. that to permit the conscience to be bound by such is sin, betrayal of true liberty of conscience, and a denial that God alone is one’s Lord, and
  5. that Christian liberty must be distinguished from antinomianism (which means “freedom to sin”).
Mar 9 2010

The Modern Evangelical’s Invisible Foundation

by randy

Modern evangelicals accuse Reformed Christians of following men.  Ask any modern evangelical and they will tell you that their Christianity is built on nothing but the Bible alone.  It is, however, their ignorance of the history of American evangelicalism that creates this false sense of independence.  It can be easily pointed out that their faith stands on the invisible foundation of America’s 19th century sectarians.  While they do read their Bible, they do not read it alone.  They read through the hidden lens of men like Darby, Scofield, Finney, Wesley and others who have in recent days come up with novel ideas in their interpretation of scripture, eschatology, soteriology, pneumatology and more.  These views, passed down via oral tradition and modern Christian culture serve as an invisible filter to every Christian who thinks they stand alone.

The Christian who holds to the historic faith recognizes that he stands on the shoulders of giants.  He boasts that God is sovereign over history, and that history has helped to shape the church.  He does not claim that he or his church have arrived at their own interpretation of scripture without the aid of those in the past.  Instead he rejoices that his rich faith is the result of the doctrinal battles fought by men throughout history.  He can identify with men such as Augustine, Luther, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, Johnathan Edwards, the puritans and more…  It is the faith that is aware of its historic context and unstated assumptions that is better equipped to distinguish between truth and error.

Find me a Church or Christian that boasts in her non-denominational status and I will show you a Church and a Christian who is ignorant of her invisible foundation!

Feb 12 2010

Christian Liberty as the Basis of Christian Vocation

by randy

The doctrine of Christian Liberty (Inst. 111, 19) forms the appendix to justification, and without it there cannot be the “right knowledge of Christ, or of evangelical truth, or of internal peace of mind.” But when this doctrine is mentioned there are two violent reactions: some, “under the pretext of liberty, cast off all obedience to God, and precipitate themselves into the most unbridled licentiousness; and some despise it, supposing it to be subversive of all moderation, order and moral distinctions” (par. 1). These are the reactions of the worldling and the ascetic. Calvin is equally opposed to these two evils, worldliness and world-flight. This, however, does not make him a middle-of-the-roader in the sense of one who wants his cake while he eats it. Calvin did not straddle issues, but his balance is scriptural, and he goes as far as the Word goes.

In its essence, of course, Christian liberty is spiritual. It consists of freedom from the bondage of the law and restoration to voluntary obedience to the will of God. Since we are free from the law as an instrument unto salvation, we respond as children to the service of God with joy and alacrity. Liberty is enjoyed in the way of faith and it ought to animate us to virtue, but slavish minds, who would use it to fulfill the lusts of the flesh, have no part in it.

Since Paul makes all external things subject to our liberty (Rom. 14:14), there is nothing unclean in itself, provided we use our freedom before God and not before men. God’s good gifts are abused if they are too ardently coveted, too proudly boasted, and too luxuriously lavished. However, unto the pure all things are pure, but all that is not out of faith is sin, and “unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure: but even their mind and conscience
is defiled” (Titus 1: 15) .

The Christian, who is God’s freeman, uses this world in faith, that is, in obedience to the commandments of God unto his glory. He must observe moderation lest he abuse God’s good gifts; he must be patient and submissive when deprived of earthly blessings. He is called to exercise love and forbearance in the use of his liberty, so that his neighbor may be edified. But since the things of this world are not sinful in themselves he may possess them, but must guard
against being possessed in the process. The pursuit of cultural achievement and the attainment of wealth are not evil in themselves; the enjoyment of food, drink and luxury are not to be despised or condemned, but God’s curses fall upon the rich because they are immersed in sensual delights and their hearts are inebriated with present pleasures while perpetually grasping for new ones (Inst. 111, 19, 9 & 111, 6-10). In his meditation upon the future life Calvin says we must learn to despise this present world because it draws us away from our calling. In that sense the things good in themselves become evil to us; hence we must learn to look upon all things in the light of eternity.

Here is the crux of the matter. This is the decisive issue! For Calvin one’s cultural striving is good or bad, depending upon one’s faith. All that is not out of faith is sin. All apostate culture is selfseeking in which man saves himself by his works and exalts his own glory. But the doctrine of justification by faith with its appendix of Christian liberty sets man free to serve God in his cultural calling. Abraham Kuyper, in his Stone Lectures, signalizes this point when he reminds us that it was this liberation of the medieval man from the burden of gaining salvation by works that set free the energy and interest which produced our modern world of science, industry, and invention. For, by Calvin’s emphasis on the proper use of this world, the gaze of the believer was directed to this beautiful cosmos in which God calls us to be his cultural agents, and to have dominion over the earth, to replenish it, and to cultivate the ground.

(The Calvinistic Concept of Culture, Henry Van Til)

Feb 10 2010

Calvary Chapel Misquotes the Bible for the Sake of Tradition

by randy

Here is an example of the heir (Chuck Smith’s son in law) of Calvary Chapel selectively quoting the bible in order to support his Arminian doctrine of man’s sovereignty.  Broderson quotes Matthew 11:23 as a proof text that God’s desire for Chorazin and Bethsaida to repent “failed”. Yet he misses the context of Matthew 11:25 that it was purposely hidden from them for God’s good pleasure. A perfect example of proof texting and failing to read the context that follows. Oops!

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The entire audio commentary of Calvary Chapel’s “Pastor’s” Perspective.

Jan 20 2010

Late Great Planet Church: Against Dispensationalism

by randy

Late Great Planet Church.

Jan 19 2010

Van Til’s “The Calvinistic Concept of Culture”

by randy

It is certainly folly for God’s people to think that they can live in two separate worlds, one for their religious life and devotional exercises, and the other usurping all other time, energy, money — an area in which the priests of Secularism are calling the numbers. One can not keep on evangelizing the world without interfering with the world’s culture. It devolves upon God’s people, therefore, to contend for such a “condition of society which will give the maximum of opportunity for us to lead wholly Christian lives [italics added] and the maximum of opportunity for others to become Christians”.  To divide life into areas of sacred and secular, letting our devotions take care of the former while becoming secular reformers during the week, is to fail to understand the true end of man.


To conclude, religion and culture are inseparable.  Every culture is animated by religion.  A religion that is restricted to the prayer-cell is, in light of the above definition, a monstrosity and historically has proved unfruitful.  True religion covers the whole range of man’s existence. The basic covenantal relationship in which man stands to God comes to expression both in his cultus and his culture. Hence culture is never something adventitious, the color added as in the case of oranges and oleomargarine, to satisfy the eye. Kroner’s suggestion that the story of the fall belongs in a category with that of Prometheus, who stole the divine fire and thus began man’s cultural achievements, for which he was punished, is wrong.  This would make man’s cultural striving a doubtful addition to the divine intention.  This is surely an egregious misinterpretation of the biblical narrative, which presents man as both creature and of co-worker with God to fulfill his creative will from the beginning. The first sin of man consisted of an act of disloyalty in accepting Satan’s interpretation concerning the cosmos and man’s place in it, instead of living by the word of God’s revelation. Kroner is right in holding that man never regains paradise by his own efforts, but he is most certainly wrong in holding that culture as such is to be blamed for man’s tragic fiasco.  In the final analysis Kroner cannot reach an integration of culture and faith because he sees the antithesis between God and Satan as a tension immanent in “creation” from the outset.  This is not only theologically reprehensible, since reconciliation is changed from an ethical transaction centering in the vicarious atonement of Christ on Calvary to an ontological (that which pertains to being) one, thereby shifting the central message of the Gospel to the “incarnation.” but on this basis, no Christian culture is possible, since then all of man’s works are under the judgment of God on the basis of their creatureliness. However in Christ man is restored to God as cultural creature to serve his Maker in the world and as ruler over the world for God’s sake.

Oct 31 2009

Individualism: The Church or the Island?

by randy

After my previous post concerning the “verse by verse” boast of Calvary Chapel I was asked the question, “would you have come to your current state of understanding had you been put on an Island alone with your Bible?”

I was thinking about that statement and it truly reflects the individualistic mindset of the post-modern church.  Honestly, if I was put on an island alone with a bible and no prior knowledge of Christianity I am not quite sure I would come to an understanding of the trinity, the deity of Christ or MANY of the doctrines of the Church… and the reason?!  Because Christ established a Church, not an island!  Not even the Ethiopian eunuch could figure out how to be saved on his own.  “What must I do to be saved?!”  He had the scriptures to read, but Philip needed to be transported to his aid. (Acts 8 )

The Church was established to teach, instruct and to care for the saints.  The Bible is not organized as a textbook with a table of contents for doctrine.  The church was also established to protect and derive biblical doctrine.  A clear example of this is when Peter began teaching the error that gentiles must be circumcised.  Paul refuted Peter to his face and now here you have one apostle against another.  Who was there to decide the truth?  The CHURCH!  The Presbyterian (elder) model of church was in effect.  There are no individual final authorities, popes or islands.  Elders gathered from many churches to form the Council of Jerusalem.  Their task?  To search the scriptures, debate and derive doctrine!  They went back and forth, preached to one another and finally came to a conclusion.  The counsel’s decree, derived from scripture, stood as the authority. (Acts 15)

The believer is not an island, and neither is the Church.  If left to ourselves, any individual or church’s Christianity would be error prone, surface level and divided.  The test of good doctrine is not, “would we have come up with this if left alone.”  We are called to unity and every part of the church is called to be subject to authority.  This was a major point of the reformation.  The believer is under the authority of the local church.  The local church is united to the orthodox historic church and makes up today’s church as a whole.  Today’s church as a whole is tied to the generational church at large.. and the Christ of the scriptures trumphs over all. We see this example in scripture.  Ironically, the so called “Moses model” was a picture of the collective elders appeal to Christ, not a pope.

Many councils have met since the Council of Jerusalem.  Ironically modern evangelicals presuppose the canon of scripture without recognizing the source.  They would like to imagine that God selected the books to be included in the Bible and hand delivered it to every publishing house that prints them. Truth is, it was a council, that did very much like what was done in Acts 15.

The Church throughout History has derived doctrine from the scriptures and has passed down knowledge throughout the generations.  Elders and Pastors were not self appointed, they were appointed by a Church “by the laying on of hands.”  This indicates continuity.  The post-modern Church rejects the generational church, knowledge and scholarship and claims they have done it all and can do it all on their own.  In so doing, modern evangelical’s individualism is the cause of division.  Not only do they lack the biblical model of leadership, but in their individualism they have set their church and their followers on an island.

Oct 30 2009

Calvary Chapel “Verse by Verse Teaching through the Bible”

by randy

The Pharisees often prided themselves in having a solid understanding of the scriptures and for teaching them.  They studied the scriptures in  detail and yet Jesus says of them, “you search the scriptures, for in them you think that you have eternal life but these are they that testify of me.” (John 5:39)

Jesus indicates that it is possible to study the scriptures, to comment on the scriptures, to read and to teach the scriptures and yet miss the forest for the trees.  The fact that someone has a process of working through the scriptures in a sermon series: verse by verse, chapter by chapter and book by book does not guarantee that the person is handling the text rightly.  To mutilate a George Orwell quote, “math doesn’t lie, but liars use math.”  In like manner the Bible doesn’t lie, but liars use the Bible!  Reading the text verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book is not a fool proof way to guarantee the text is taught in context or that the full counsel of God is being proclaimed.  So often I have heard Calvary Chapel pastors read texts verse by verse and use them as platforms to tell stories about unrelated concepts, newspaper prophecy, or as a comedy routine.  Teaching verse by verse does not excuse anyone from the false handling of scriptures.

In the book, “Calvary Distinctives” Chuck Smith makes the mistake of assuming that by going through the bible in this manner he is guaranteeing the proper handling of the text.  To quote him, “Yet, it’s so important to take the people through the Word, line upon line, precept by precept.  When we do, we are delivering to them the whole counsel of God.”  Ironically, he is quoting Isaiah 28:13 and Acts 20:27 out of context.  In the context of “line upon line, precept upon precept” it is presented as a curse so “that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.”   The reference to Paul being “innocent the blood of all men because he did not shun to declare the full counsel of God” comes from the book of Acts (Acts 20:27).  Paul is referencing his prior statement in v20 “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” and Ezekial 33:8, “If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”  These are not proof texts stating that the only legitimate method of teaching the bible is verse by verse, nor does it indicate that by teaching verse by verse you are guaranteed to handle it rightly.

I am amazed, no longer being in Calvary Chapel, learning how much of the Scriptures I have missed out on over the course of seven years.  The mystery passages of Hebrews 6, Hebrews 9, Acts 2, Romans 9, John 6 and the many other passages that made absolutely no sense without the God of the covenant, the doctrines of grace or election now make complete sense and glorify Christ and His work. Old Testament passages no longer require complicated charts to understand, they too speak of Christ.

Calvary Chapel is quite often guilty of reading the recently invented dispensational view of scriptures into texts that are actually speaking of Christ.  In this sense they search the scriptures for in them they think they ‘can interpret the newspapers’ or ‘tell the future’, but these are they that speak of Christ!  This is typical of end-time movements.  Having gone through the scriptures with Chuck Smith on tape and taking notes; I am amazed, looking back, at how many times Old Testament illustrations of Christ’s first coming and ascension are mistaken for pictures of a secret rapture…  Or how Daniel’s prophecy of the first coming are mistaken for the dispensational “third coming.”

Texts are often grossly mutilated.  I have heard more than one Calvary Chapel pastor entertain cultist myths of Angels having sexual relations with men and talks of aliens by Chuck Missler.  I have also heard all of Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith and Jon Courson teach that Col 3:15 tells us how to hear the mystical voice of God “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” when in fact it is in context teaching the unity of the body of Christ! I can’t count the number of times I have heard this verse of scripture used to teach the modern evangelical equivalent of the Mormon “burning bosom sensation.” In fact I have a Greg Laurie booklet for new believers that explains this bizarre pagan practice to, the soon to be confused, new converts who are never sure why they don’t hear God speak to them as clearly as he seems to speak to everyone else.

I am often humbled by the fact that I remained in Calvary as long as I did.  I honestly thought we were teaching the bible, I honestly thought these were respected views of scripture and I honestly thought we proclaimed “the full counsel of God.”  Instead, we mocked those who took the time to learn the original languages, we mocked the reformation martyrs who brought us out of Rome, we mocked the Puritans who established America, we mocked the Biblical mandate for Pastors to be dedicated to prayer and the study of scripture.  We rejected the sovereign grace of God.  Seminary was called cemetery and we replaced learning with the babbling’s and regurgitation’s of the Pope: the bishop of Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith.  We went back to Rome.

Oct 24 2009

Theological Significance of the Mosaic Covenant: O. Palmer Robertson (Part II)

by randy

The Place of the Covenant of Law in the History of Redemption

Three aspects of the Mosaic covenant may be stressed in an effort to place this distinctive covenant in its proper biblical-theological setting: the covenant of law is related organically to the totality of God’s redemptive purposes; the covenant of law is related progressively to the totality of God’s redemptive purposes; the covenant of law finds its consummation in Jesus Christ.

First, the covenant of law is related organically to the totality of God’s redemptive purposes. To speak of an organic relationship is to suggest a living,vital inter-connection as over against an isolationistic compartmentalization.  The clear enunciation of the will of God at the time of Moses did not appear as something novel in the history of redemption.  At the same time, law did not disappear after Moses.  Law functioned significantly in the period preceding Moses, and law functions significantly in the period succeeding Moses.  While the summation of law in an externalized form may remain as the distinctive property of the Mosaic era, the presence of law throughout the history of redemption must be recognized.

1. Law is significant in all administrations prior to Moses.

References to the will of God and to the necessity of obedience to that will may be noted in each of the biblical covenants.  Adam, while receiving gratuitously the promise of a saving seed, must work in the sweat of his face to sustain life until the seed should come (Gen 3:19).  Noah receives an integral part of his mercy-filled covenant the decree of God’s will concerning the disposition of man-slayers: “Who so sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen 9:6)

Even more comprehensively, the Abrahamic covenant of promise builds on the responsibility fo God’s people with reference to the revealed will of God.  The total allegiance to his Lord demanded of Abraham involves the whole of his life (cf. Gen 12:1; 17:1).  The patriarch must leave his father’s house and walk before the Lord in whole-hearted obedience.

Subsequent happenings under the administration of the Abrahamic covenant further indicate the presence of covenantal law, especially with regard to the sealing ordinance of circumcision.  According to Genesis 17:14, “the uncircumcised male… who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” Quite a hair-raising incident in this very connection is recording subsequently in connection with the life of Moses.  After having received his commission to deliver Israel in fulfillment of the promise of the Abrahamic covenant, Moses begins the return trip to Egypt with his family:

Now it came about at the lodging-place on the way that the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.

Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, ‘You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.

So He let him alone.  At that time she said, ‘You are a bridegroom of blood’– because of the circumcision (Exod 4:24-26).

Under the provision of the Abrahamic covenant of promise, God almost slays Moses for failing to observe its stipulations.  Obviously law plays a vital role in this covenantal relationship.

The presence of stipulations in the covenants prior to Moses does not detract from the uniqueness of the legal codification under Moses.  No other covenant could be characterized convincingly as “the covenant of law.” No more fitting designation could be applied to the Mosaic covenant.  Yet the continuing presence of covenantal stipulations in every earlier administration relates the covenant of Moses organically with that which precedes.  Law simply becomes predominant under Moses.

2. Law is significant in all administrations subsequent to Moses.

Both the Davidic covenant and the new covenant continue to recognize the significance of divine law in redemptive history.  At the conclusion of the Mosaic epoch, Israel’s history immediately begins the movement “toward a kingship.” The establishment of a permanent monarchy in Israel ultimately finds realization by the institution of the Davidic covenant.  The provisional dimension of God’s covenant with David is expressed rather pointedly at the time of covenant inauguration.  Concerning the line of a descendency from David, God says: “When he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men….” The framework in which this potential punishment of iniquity is to be understood is spelled out quite pointedly in David’s subsequent death-bed charge to Solomon his son and successor:

As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth.  Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man.  And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is writen in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the Lord may carry out His promise when he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel'” (I Kings 2:1-4).

The law of Moses is thus seen to have an integral role in the Davidic covenant.  The entire historical narrative concerning the kings of Israel may be regarded as one magnificent verification of the promise to David, together with its accompanying threat of punishment based on the provisions of the Mosaic covenant of law.

Both the psalm-singers and the prophets of Israel sing and prophesy of the law of God. “Oh how love I they law; it is my meditation all the day,” sings the Psalmist (Ps. 119:97). “I wrote for him the ten thousand things of my law; but they are accounted as a strange thing,” complains the prophet (Hos 8:12). Quite obviously, the law functions significantly in the period of Israel’s history embraced by the Davidic covenant.  The Davidic covenant cannot be regarded as functioning as an entity to itself, isolated from the decrees of Sinai.  The “ten words” continue to posses a primary significance for God’s people.

It is with respect to the new covenant that the greatest problems arise concerning the continuing role of law.  Is the covenant of law still significant for participants in the new covenant? Do legal prescriptions apply to Christians today?  This difficult question shall be treated first by noting some general considerations that need to be kept in mind.  Then positive evidence form the New Testament confirming the role of law in the life of the Christian will be noted.

Confusion and debate on this particular issue arise in part from the efforts to understand the seemingly contradictory statements of the New Testament itself. On the one hand, a variety of new covenant Scriptures plainly assert:

Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14)

But now we have been released from the law, having died so that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6)

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (Gal 3:23-25)

On the other hand, Scripture equally asserts:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

Fur truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, no the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:17-19) .

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

…So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:7, 12).

What then is the Christian’s status? Does he have obligations relating to the Mosaic covenant of law? Or is he freed altogether from law-covenant?

One complicating factor in this whole matter relates to the varied ways in which the term greek:LAW is used in the New Testament. In the course of a few verses, the apostle Paul may use the same term in three or four different ways.  According to Romans 3:21, the righteousness of faith has been witnessed by “the law and the prophets.” The term “law” in this phrase refers to the Pentateuch as a literary unit.  But the first half of this same verse declares that the righteousness of God has appeared “apart from law.” The precise meaning of the term “law” in this phrase is difficult to determine.  Most likely it represents a “shorthand abbreviation” for the “works of the law” in terms of man’s capacity to please God by his own deeds of righteousness (cf. v. 20, which immediately precedes). But in any case, the meaning of “law” in the first half of Romans 3:21 is quite distinct from the meaning of the same term in the second half of the same verse.

Reading a little further in the apostle’s argument, a third use of the term greek:LAW appears.  In Romans 3:27, Paul poses a question.  By what “law” is boasting excluded from the justified?

Now Paul uses the term “law” to refer to a general principle.  It is by the “principle” of faith-justification that boasting over righteousness is excluded.

Earlier Paul appears to use the term in still a fourth sense (cf. Rom. 2:21-23).  First he cites three commandments of the Decalogue.  Then he accosts his readers: “You who boast in the law, through your breaking the law, do you dishonor God?” Paul now appears to use “law” to refer more narrowly to the Ten Commandments.  It is the “ten words” that his contemporaries have broken.

At other points, context seems to demand that the term “law” be understood as referring specifically to law-keeping a a means of justification.  In these cases, the term “law” becomes the equivalent of the Judaizer’s misapprehension of the proper role of the law in the history of redemption.

In Galations 4:21, Paul addresses himself to htose who want to be “under law.” He speaks to those who would attempt to achieve righteousness before God by personal law-keeping.  The apostle spells out a “formula of equivalencies” spanning the history of redemption.

Two antihetical alternatives for realizing acceptance by God face the Galations.  The first alternative traces its lineage back to Abraham’s slave-son Ishmael, who was born out of the patriarch’s efforts to assure the fulfillment of God’s promises on the basis of his own resources.  This alternative for “justification” manifests itself again in the law-covenant of Sinai, which corresponds to the “present Jerusalem.”

it is essential to understand Paul’s reference to the Sinai in the context of the equivalencies which he had developed.  The covenant of “law” corresponds to the “present Jerusalem,” the Jerusalem of the Judaizers.  It is the legalistic misapprehension of the Sinaitic law-covenant that is in the mind of the apostle. Slavery inevitably wil result from resorting to natural human resources as a means of pleasing God.  Ishmael, the current Judaizers, and unbelieving Israel conjointly find themselves to be slaves.

As this “formula of equivalencies” is considered, it must be stressed that the understanding of Mosaic law with which Paul is contending cannot be viewed as the divinely intended purpose of the giving of the law at Sinai.  Even though the middle member of this first triad (Hagar-Sinai-Present Jerusalem) is identified as “Mount Sinai” (v.25), it does not represnt the true purpose of the Sinaitic law-giving.

This assertion rests on the clear purpose of law-giving as explicated by Paul in Galations 3:24.  The purpose of the law was to lead to Christ, not to lead away from Christ.  The effect of the law on the current Judaizers was not in accord with God’s purpose in the giving of the law.  By reading the law in terms of an alternative way of salvation, current Judaism blinded itself to the true intention of God in the giving of the law.

The true purpose of God’s law-giving at Sinai did not find its proper manifestation in the Judaizers of the first century. Their pride compelled them to pervert God’s purpose in law-giving.  Instead of serving to convict them of the absolute impossibility of pleasing God by law-keeping, the law fostered in them a deeply entrenched determination to depend on personal resources in order to please God.  Thus the law did not serve the purposes of grace in leading the Judaizers to Christ.  Instead, it closed them off from Christ. “Law” and “Sinai” in this context must refer to legalistic misapprehension of God’s purpose in law-giving rather than the proper apprehension of God’s revelation of law.

The contrary “formula of equivalencies” runs from the free-woman  Sarah through the covenant of promise to the “above Jerusalem.” God’s sovereign and gracious intervention in the life of sinful man invariably produces children that are free.

It may be acknowledged that something in the form of law-administration lent itself to an easy misapprehension of its proper purpose in man’s redemption.  The externalized, codified form of law readily came to be understood as offering a way of life other than the faith-principle crystallized under Abraham.  It was possible to understand law properly as a schoolmaster that would lead to Christ by increasing awareness of sin.  Or it was possible to misunderstand law as a taskmaster that led away from Christ by diverting concentration from faith-righteousness to works-righteousness.  It is this latter perspective that the apostle has in mind when he addresses himself to those who wish to be “under law.” “Law” in this context points to the misapprehension of the law’s purpose as reflected in Abraham’s misdirected efforts to provide a son for himself and in the Judaizer’s efforts to provide righteousnes for themselves.

To this point, several different uses of “law” in Paul have been noted.  Other more refined significances may be involved.  Clearly it is necessary to exercise extreme care in evaluating biblical statements about the role of the “law” in the life of the Christian.  When the New Testament affirms bluntly “you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14), clearly does not mean “you are not under Pentateuch.” It does not mean “you are not under the Ten Commandments.” Most probably in the context of Romans 6, it means “you are not under the Mosaic covenant as a principle which would make righteousness depend on the individual’s personal resources as law-keeper.”

One positive step towards solving the difficult question of the Christian’s relation to the law may be taken by noting once more the distincitiveness of law-administration emphasized under Moses. Under the Mosaic covenant, law appeared as an externalized summation of the will of God.  The Christian does not live under an externalized ministration of law engraved in stone tablets.  Instead, he lives with the law written in his heart.  While the Christian always stands obligated to reflect the holiness and righteousness required in God’s law, he no longer relates to that law as an impersonal code standing outside himself.  Instead, the Spirit of God constantly ministers the law within the heart of the believer.

This understanding of the question gives recognition to the fading form of law-administration under the Mosaic covenant, while also treating seriously the continuing significance of the essence of the same law.  While this explanation may not satisfy all the problems arising from the Christian’s relation to the law, it does provide one fruitful area for reflection.

In addition to these general considerations, it is important to present positive evidence from the New Testament which affirms the continuing significance of the Mosaic covenant of law:

First of all,  presumptive evidence favors the continuing significance of the essence if not the form of the Mosaic law-covenant into the present day.  It is obvious from Scripture that men today continue under the provisions of other administrations of the covenant of redemption.  Romans 16:20 refers to the ultimate bruising of the head of the serpent under the Christian’s feet. The language clearly indicates the continuing significance of God’s covenant with Adam.  II Peter 3:5-7 notes the significance of God’s judgment on the wicked in Noah’s day, and appeals to the covenanting word spoken to Noah which current preserves the earth.

The designation of Abraham as “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16, 17) indicates the significance today of the covenantal promise concerning an innumerable seed.  Even today, the “root of Jesse” rules as the hope of the Gentiles, in accord with the covenant with David (Rom 15:22).  These references to the continuing significance of the covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and David into the present could be expanded greatly.

Are we to conlcude that all the various covenantal administrations of the Old Testament find continuing significance for believers today with the single exception of the Mosaic covenant? Are we to presume that the covenant of law alone among the divinely-initiated covenants has lost its binding significance?

to be continued in Part III…