Friday, April 25, 2014

Covenant Questions...

Is the New Covenant the same as the Covenant of Grace?

Is the New Covenant the same as the Abrahamic Covenant?

Is the New Covenant the same as the post-fall promise (proto-evangelium) in the garden?

Are the proto-evangelium and the Abrahamic Covenant the same as the Covenant of Grace?

Are the proto-evangelium and the Abrahamic Covenant intrinsically part of the Covenant of Grace? In what way?

Did the Covenant of Grace precede them? How?

Is the New Covenant part of the Covenant of Grace? In what way?

What initiated the Covenant of Grace? ... A broken covenant of works or, if you don't like that, Adam's breech of God's command which promised life upon obedience and threatened death upon disobedience? 

Was the Covenant of Grace only a response to the broken Covenant of Works? 

If in some way the Covenant of Grace was initiated before or preceded the Adam's sin in the garden, how?

Is the Old Covenant-Mosaic administration of the Covenant of Grace merely the infancy (not fully formed) state of the New Covenant-Gospel administration? 

How are the Old and the New different administrations of the Covenant of Grace?

Are they highlighted more by their similarities or their dissimilarities? 

If the Covenant of Grace runs through the Old and New testaments, and if the Mosaic Covenant given at Sinai is the Old Testament administration (law given, types pointing to fulfillment) of the Covenant of Grace under Moses, is Christ's Covenant given at the cross in his blood the New Testament and final administration (grace and truth realized, fulfillment) of the Covenant of Grace?

"... who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own [eternal] purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began [times eternal], and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...” (2 Tim 1:9-10)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Regarding the Law-Gospel antithesis...

Who wrote these words?
"The law itself does not produce sin; it finds sin in us. It offers life to us; but we, being evil, derive nothing but death from it. Hence, the law works death only in relation to man...
"For the law without Christ has nothing solid about it, and in fact avails us nothing...
"The law in itself is a source of light: but we enjoy its brightness only when Christ appears to us in it...
"In regenerating us, Christ brings the law itself to life, and reveals himself as the fountain of life...
"To put it another way, it is the function of the law to uncover the disease [sin]; it gives no hope of its cure. It is the function of the gospel to bring healing to those who are without hope. The law, in so far as it leads men to put their confidence in it, consigns them necessarily to death. The gospel, on the other hand, leads us to Christ and thus opens the gate to life. Thus, in one word, the property of the law by which it kills, even though not essential to it, is permanent and inseparable from it; for, as the apostle says elsewhere, all those who remain under the law are subject to the curse."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Comfort of the Gospel - What Jesus Did For Me - An Extended Analogy...

All analogies are imperfect. But they can help point to truths that are not always clear. This is an attempt to that end - what Jesus did for me (the forensic is relational).

I am one who is grievously in debt. I come from a family of debtors. The first father of our family incurred so much debt that his alone is too much for any of us to pay. And to top it off, I am a chronic debtor, in a word, a debtor by nature. And the mountain of  debt that I have accumulated has been acquired foolishly and irresponsibly.  I owe immense sums of money and my debt continues to grow. Payment is long overdue.  The Law Court, in fact, already considers me in violation of its Law because of my debt and has put out a warrant for me to appear before the Judge. The Court will soon issue a verdict that will demand my punishment, one that entails life imprisonment or until such time as all the debt, interest, and penalties have been paid in full - something I would never be able to do in a million lifetimes. And yet despite this sword hanging over my head, I continued to irresponsibly and habitually add to my indebtedness. I know there is no way of evading the judgment of the Law Court. I can only hopelessly wish for a miracle - someone to take my place, to serve my sentence, someone to pay my debt. But that is only a dream.

But then I find out there is such a Someone who, though by all appearances poor, is yet completely just and debt-free before the Law. It is this One who has stepped forward for me. Unbeknownst to me, years ago this Person, who knew of me and my predicament and out of selfless love, had arranged with the Law Court to take my place, to be my Surety for all the debt and penalties I would accumulate -  past, present, future. Without any involvement on my part, the Law Court had covenanted with him and accepted Him as my Surety. And as a result all judgments upon me were transferred to him, legally accounted to him and put in His name. Amazingly, my Surety's benevolence towards me had preceded my awareness of my predicament.

The Law Court thus imputed all my debt and punishment to Him. All my guilt was put upon Him. He, not me, now was legally guilty and owed the debt even though He was not by nature a debtor and had never incurred any debt and certainly not mine. He now legally owed what I owed. He, not I, was now liable before the Law for all my penalties that He had not incurred. In effect, the Law Court considered Him to be the debtor, even though I am the one who went into debt.  And the Law Court assigned the judgment of my imprisonment to be on His head, not mine. And in prison He would remain until every last penny was paid off.

The day of judgment arrived. This One is declared the guilty debtor in my place. He is stripped of his freedom, put into chains and thrown into prison. And there He is to sit under my life sentence of condemnation. Yet from the bounty of His immense generosity, he not only takes my place for the judgment due me, but I find out that rather than one in poverty he is one with a storehouse of wealth. And this One has legally arranged to make me a joint-heir to His family fortune! All this was to be put into force upon the moment when he would take my place in judgment. He would pay off my debt in full, including all penalties. Thus according to the Court ruling, He would execute the legal agreement making me a joint heir to all His wealth and take my penalty! Accordingly, upon becoming wealthy in the eyes of the Law, the Court would never again judge me to be a debtor in that any future debts I would incur would have already been covered by the infinite wealth credited to my account. I would be able live as one truly debt free.

When the moment of my sentencing arrives, the Law Court's Official Emissary and Witness brought me the good news that this wonderful Man, this Surety had set me free from my sentence and that I was absolved of all wrong doing! The Emissary comforts me and explains that all I have to do is acknowledge my guilt of debt, believe this good news, accept the free gift of this One, and give my allegiance to Him. I believe against disbelief. Something in the Word delivered to me by the Emissary causes me to believe the unbelievable. I joyously accept what this Man has done for me as explained in the good news that I have heard. I leave my prison cell and go forth a man free from debt. I am no longer under the Law Court condemnation because of the completed transaction enacted between the Court and my Surety.  As in a dream - but it’s not a dream - Another has willingly been judged in my place. And because He legally took my place, the Law Court imputes to me his payment and satisfaction to the Law. All my debt (past, present, and future) is forever blotted out and taken away. All this, my Surety, freely did for me.

And wonder of wonders, since this Person, standing in my place, has put forth his wealth and paid all my debts and penalties, the Law Court then no longer has any legal basis to continue his incarceration! Prison cannot hold Him. He has no debt in His Name. My debt is paid through him. The Law is satisfied. The Law being just requires that He be released. He has served my sentence. He went to prison and paid my debt in full. He satisfied every judgment and demand of the Law Court.  As to His own person, my Surety was not a debtor and never had been. Even though for a time the Law Court did legally considered Him a debtor it no longer does. Once my debt was paid, He was vindicated to be what He had always been - without debt, wealthy, and just before the Law. And based on His substitution-sentence-serving, I am now declared just, wealthy, and without debt in the eyes of the Law Court. The Court is satisfied regarding all its demands of the Law. It therefore no longer has any legal-judgment interest in me or my Surety. His perfect satisfaction of the Law is imputed to me. Justice demanded by the Law and Mercy shown towards me have fully met in my gracious Surety.  

I am justified before the Law’s judgment.  Not under the Law because my debt and punishment is paid, I am now under the favor or grace of this One who has done all of this for me!  And, little did I know until I was given the good news of my freedom from the Law’s condemnation, that the Surety who took my place was actually the One to whom all my debts were owed!! And not only that, but his Father was also the very Judge who was presiding over my case.  This Father had given his willing Son as payment for the penalty and debt that I owed to His Court while in the same act making me His adopted son, a joint-heir with His Son in His family. How great a love of this Father and Son! What a blessed, undeserved, and sweet exchange has been accomplished for me, a debtor...
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14). All my debt (sin) has been remitted - paid by Another. Debt no longer can put me under the judgment of the Law. The Law is no longer hanging over my head because of my sin. All my debt - past, present, future - has been paid. How? - by the finished work of Christ, by riches of His grace. I am no longer under Law but under Grace. Sin/Debt cannot reign over me ever again even though at times I do still sin/incur debt. Yet, Christ’s satisfaction of the Law trumps any debt I may incur. All those debts have been reckoned by the Law Court to have been paid. Amazing grace. So now I consider myself a debtor not to the Law in fear of its condemnation, but a debtor only to grace and to the Surety who forever stands between me and the Law's judgment.

“For the death that he died, he died unto sin [my debt] once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin [my debt is as far from me as death is from life because the Law is satisfied with Christ's penalty payment], but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” [if you are dead to sin, you are alive to God] (Romans 6:10-11).

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [by grace and favor] in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin [debt] and of death [punishment for debt]. For what the law could not do [it only demands, it doesn’t fulfill], in that it was weak through the flesh [my propensity to accrue debt], God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [taking our place as a debtor, though in himself not one] and for sin [for my debt payment], condemned sin in the flesh [punished Jesus for my debt]]: that the ordinance of the law [its just sentence for debt and its demand for debt-freeness] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh [i.e. my efforts to remove my own debt and earn freedom], but after the Spirit [through faith trusting in the Surety given for me, for it is the Spirit who brings us the good news of Christ’s bearing the penalty of death demanded by the Law and fulfilling the righteousness demanded of the Law on our behalf]” (Romans 8:1-4).
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“For the death that he died, he died unto sin [my debt] once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin [my debt is as far from me as life is from death because the Law is satisfied with Christ's penalty payment], but alive unto God in Christ Jesus” [if you are dead to sin, you are alive to God] (Romans 6:10-11).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [by grace and favor] in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin [debt] and of death [punishment for debt]. For what the law could not do [it only demands, it doesn’t fulfill], in that it was weak through the flesh [my propensity to accrue debt], God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [appearing as a debtor, though not one] and for sin [for my debt payment], condemned sin in the flesh [punished Jesus for my debt]]: that the ordinance of the law [its just sentence for debt and its demand for debt-freeness] might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh [i.e. my efforts to remove my own debt and earn freedom], but after the Spirit [Who creates in me the the eyes of faith to trust in the Surety given for me, for it is the Spirit who brings us the good news of Christ’s death on our behalf]” (Romans 8:1-4).
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:1-11)

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Sinai Law: In a sense - a Covenant of Works...

Of the Law of God

1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.
2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

Robert Shaw comments,
It may be remarked, that the law of the ten commandments was promulgated to Israel from Sinai in the form of a covenant of works. Not that it was the design of God to renew a covenant of works with Israel, or to put them upon seeking life by their own obedience to the law; but the law was published to them as a covenant of works, to show them that without a perfect righteousness, answering to all the demands of the law, they could not be justified before God; and that, finding themselves wholly destitute of that righteousness, they might be excited to take hold of the covenant of grace, in which a perfect righteousness for their justification is graciously provided. The Sinai transaction was a mixed dispensation. In it the covenant of grace was published, as appears from these words in the preface standing before the commandments: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage;" and from the promulgation of the ceremonial law at the same time. But the moral law, as a covenant of works, was also displayed, to convince the Israelites of their sinfulness and misery, to teach them the necessity of an atonement, and lead them to embrace by faith the blessed Mediator, the Seed promised to Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed. The law, therefore, was published at Sinai as a covenant of works, in subservience to the covenant of grace. And the law is still published in subservience to the gospel, as "a schoolmaster to bring sinners to Christ, that they may be justified by faith."—Gal. iii. 24.
Robert Shaw. The Reformed Faith, Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith (1845): Chapter XIX - Of the Law of God.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Knowing Christ Crucified...

OF THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST CRUCIFIED. IT is the most excellent  worthy part of divine wisdom to know Christ crucified.  The Prophet Esay saith; The knowledge of my righteous servant: that is, Christ crucified, shall justify many. And Christ himselfe saith; This is life eternal, to know thee the only God, and whom thou  hast sent, Jesus Christ. And Paul saith; I have decreed to know nothing among you, but Jesus Christ  and him crucified. Againe, God forbid that I should rejoice in any thing, but in the cross of our  Lord Jesus Christ. Againe, I thinke all things but  loss, for the excellent knowledge sake of Christ Jesus my Lord, and do judge them but dung, that I might win Christ.

In the right way of knowing Christ crucified, two points must be considered: one, how Man for his part is to know Christ: the other, how he is to be knowne of man. Touching the first: Man must know Christ, not generally and confusedly, but by a lively, powerful, and operative knowledge: for otherwise the devils themselves know Christ.

In this knowledge, three things are required. The first is notice or consideration, whereby thou must conceive in mind, understand, and seriously bethinke thy selfe of Christ, as he is revealed in the history of the Gospel, and as he is offered to thy particular person, in the ministery of the word and Sacraments. And that this consideration may not be dead and idle in thee, two things must be done. First, thou must labour to feele thy selfe to stand in need of Christ crucified; yea, to stand in excessive need even of the very least drop of his blood, for the washing away of thy sins. And unless thou throughly feelest thy selfe, to want all that goodness and grace that is in Christ; and that thou even stand in extreme need of his passion, thou shalt never learne to teach Christ in deed and truth. The second thing is, with the understanding of the doctrine of Christ, to joine thirsting, whereby man in very soule and spirit, longs after the participation of Christ, and saith in this case as Sampson said; Give me water, I die for thirst.

The second part of knowledge, is application, whereby thou must know and believe, not only that Christ was crucified, but that he was crucified for thee; for thee I say in particular. Here two rules must be remembered and practised. One, that Christ on the cross was thy pledge and surety in particular, that he then stood in the very roome and place, in which thou thy selfe in thine owne person, shouldest have stood: that thy very personal and particular sins were imputed and applied to him: that he stood guilty as a malefactour for them, and suffered the very pangs of hell, and that his sufferings are as much in acceptation with God, as if thou hadst borne the curse of the law in thine own person eternally. The holding and believing of this point, is the very foundation of religion, as also of the Church of God. Therefore in any wise be careful to apply Christ crucified to thy selfe: and as Elizeus, when he would revive the  childe of the Shunamite, went up and lay upon him, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his hands upon his hands, and his eyes upon his eyes, and stretched himselfe upon him: even so, if thou wouldst be revived to everlasting life, thou must by faith as it were set thy selfe upon the cross of Christ, and apply thy hands to his hands, thy feete to his feete, and thy sinful heart to his believing heart: and content not thy selfe with Thomas, to put thy finger in his side, but even dive and plunge thy selfe wholly, both body and soule, into the wounds and blood of Christ. This will make thee to cry with Thomas, and say; My Lord my God: and this is to be crucified with Christ. And yet do not content thy selfe with this, but by faith also descend with Christ from the cross to the grave, bury thy selfe in the very burial of Christ: and then looke as the dead soldier tumbled into the grave of Elizeus, was made alive at the very touching  of his body: so shalt thou by a spiritual touching of Christ dead buried, be quickened to life everlasting. The second rule is, that Christ crucified is thine, being really given thee of God the Father, even as truly as houses and lands are given of earthly fathers to their children; thus must thou firmely hold and believe: and hence is it, that the benefits of Christ, are before God ours indeede for our justification and salvation.

The third point in lively knowledge is, that by all the affections of our hearts, we must be carried to Christ, and as it were, transformed into him. Whereas he gave himselfe wholly for us, we can do no less then bestow our hearts upon him. We must therefore labour above all, following the Martyr Ignatius, who said, that Christ his love was crucified. We must value him at so high a price, that he must be unto us better then ten thousand worlds: yea, all things which we enjoy, must be but as dross and dung unto us in respect of him. Lastly, all our joy, rejoicing, comfort, and confidence; must be placed in him. And that thus much is requisite  in knowledge, it appeares by the common rule of expounding Scripture, that workes of knowledge imply affection. And indeed it is but a knowledge swimming in the braine, which doth not alter and dispose that affection, and the whole man.

William Perkins (1558-1602). Knowing Christ Crucified

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sanctification and the Third Use of the Law: Considerations...

For consideration regarding sanctification:  For those who put such priority on the 3rd use of the law as a strict obedience to the Mosaic Law, i.e. the Ten Commandments, how to explain the fact that between Adam and Moses there was no written law(!) affixed with blessings, threats, and curses, in the form of the Mosaic covenant? - Rom 5:13 "for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses..." There was clearly expressed covenantal law given to Adam ("thou shalt not eat...") and also given to Israel through Moses. But none given in the period between the two.  The law covenant of Adam ended when he disobeyed and ate the forbidden fruit. That covenant of law didn't extend into the patriarchal period. Also, Paul writes in verse 13 that sin was not counted [not imputed] in the period before the Mosaic law covenant was given to Israel. So, no accounting of sin in the absence of a covenant of law?... interesting. In addition, Abraham had no Written Law as a rule of obedience by which to live a godly life. There's little to support that he was all about keeping "God's laws" per se (gives Sarah as his "sister" to Abimelech!). Certainly Abraham was obedient to God ("By faith Abraham obeyed..." Heb 11: 8a), yet his obedience was done without aid of the Written Law.

And note that Abraham is called by Paul, the "father of us all." The emphasis in that title is on what Abraham received through faith - righteousness - because he believed God's promise, not on what he did in works of obedience: "That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Rom 4:16-17). 

Is this to say that we don't need the Ten Commandments or need not attend to the Law as the rule of righteousness and obedience informing us of the will of God? Not at all. The written law is a great help to better inform us as to God's holiness and our obedience as those created in the moral image of God. But I think the above does speak to the priority and ground of justification - the righteousness that comes through faith - when considering what empowers our obedience in sanctification; as well as the gospel truth that the moral law has been written afresh on the new heart and will of the justified sinner.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31: 33).   
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man (Rom 7: 22).