Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Moses, the Law, and the Covenant of Works...

Some thoughts on the Mosaic covenant, the law as a covenant of works, and the Westminster Confession of Faith...
CHAPTER 19
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. 
CHAPTER 7
Of God's Covenant with Man
2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.
3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,
My thoughts:
[WCF 7] - It can be fairly said that upon the fall, the only thing that changed concerning the law was that man was no longer capable of keeping it as a covenant of works? The law as a covenant of works didn't end or change. Rather innocent man had changed and, as a sinner unable to obey, was brought under the curse of that law/covenant of works. In other words, the law/covenant remained in effect.

[WCF 19] - The moral law given to Adam was given as a covenant of works (LC 93). Upon the fall there is nothing that indicates, either in Scripture or the confession, that the law ceased to still embody the covenant of works. And there isn't anything, is there, that indicates that with the advent of the covenant of grace (protoevangelium and Abraham) that the covenant of works ended? And it was THIS law in section 2 (referring to the law as a covenant of works defined in section 1) that God delivered on Mt. Sinai and yet, though no man could fulfill it, all were and are still obliged to obey it as a perfect rule of righteousness as originally given in the garden.

Now whether one argues that God delivered the law as a rule of righteousness or that he delivered it both as a rule of righteousness and a covenant of works for pedagogical and typological reasons, it seems fair to affirm that the law after the fall was still connected to the covenant of works (LC 93) and as such was present in the Mosaic covenant.
Q. 93. What is the moral law?
A. The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul, and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.
Isn't that why, when we speak of our justification, we say that we are imputed with Christ's obedience to the law's demand/requirement for perfect obedience? It rightly can be said that we have fulfilled the covenant of works in Christ. Before the law as a covenant of works His obedience is counted as ours.

Section 2 of chapter 19 is also reinforcing the truth that God's moral law remained in force after the fall under Moses and for the New Testament church - yet for believers not as a covenant of works. This point was especially important for the Divines to emphasize given their concerns of antinomian influences in England at that time, which concerns hung over the Westminster Assembly deliberations. Also playing into the Divines' concern was the interpretation of some more radical groups who advocated that with the coming of Christ that obedience to the moral law as a rule of righteosness was no longer binding for believers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Here, Do Nothing Nor Render Anything To God...

Evangelista: No, indeed; none of Christ's are to have anything to do with the covenant of works, but Christ only. For although in the making of the covenant of works at first, God was one party, and man another, yet, in making it the second time, God was on both sides: God, simply considered in his essence, was the party opposed to man; and God, the second person, having taken upon him to be incarnate, and to work man's redemption, was on man's side, and takes part with man, that he may reconcile him to God, by bearing man's sins, and satisfying God's justice for them. And Christ paid God till he said he had enough; he was fully satisfied, fully contented, (Matt 3:17), "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Yea, God the Father was well pleased, and fully satisfied from all eternity, by virtue of that covenant that was made betwixt them. And thereupon all Christ's people were given to him in their election. (Eph 1:4) "Thine they were," says Christ, "and thou gavest them me," (John 17:6)... 
So that all the covenant that believers are to have regard to, for life and salvation, is the free and gracious covenant that is betwixt Christ [or God in Christ] and them. And in this covenant there is not any condition or law to be performed on man's part, by himself; no, there is no more for him to do, but only to know and believe that Christ hath done all for him...

I beseech you to be persuaded that here you are to work nothing, here you are to do nothing, here you are to render nothing unto God, but only to receive the treasure, which is Jesus Christ, and apprehend him in your heart by faith, although you be never so great a sinner; and so shall you obtain forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal happiness; not as an agent but as a patient, not by doing, but by receiving. Nothing here comes betwixt but faith only, apprehending Christ in the promise. This, then, is perfect righteousness, to hear nothing, to know nothing, to do nothing of the law of works; but only to know and believe that Jesus Christ is now gone to the Father, and sitteth at his right hand, not as a judge, but is made unto you of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."
Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity

In a word, from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

Jesus, Jeannie C. Riley, and the Harper Valley PTA

The following post is by long-time friend and brother in Christ, Danny O'Daniels. It was written with a specific church situation in mind and yet touches upon an issue related to church leadership and churches in general. Having been edified by this essay I wanted to share it with the readers of TWR. Thank you Danny for graciously consenting to having it published here!

Jesus, Jeannie C. Riley, and the Harper Valley PTA
by Daniel O'Daniels

I work as a welder. I have been doing production welding for over 30 years. One of the byproducts of working in weld shops is I have been forced to acquire an appreciation for country music. In the late 60's a
country song came out that was so powerful that it crossed over into mainstream radio. It was made into a movie and television show and nearly 50 years later is still played today on country stations 2 or 3 times a week. That song is "Harper Valley PTA" by Jeannie C. Riley. In it she sings the story of a widow who is being harassed by a hypocritical community and how she goes to the PTA meeting and exposes their own sins and the hypocrisy of them judging her for wearing mini skirts, drinking, and running wild with men. This song really struck a nerve in late 60's America.

My brother and I were the only kids in our school raised by a single mom in the 60's and I always appreciated the way that song stood up powerfully for the single mom and socked it to the hypocrites. It was at the time a shocking indictment of mainstream America. What does this all have to do with Jesus? Well, 2000 years ago he appeared on the scene of 1st century Palestine and in the Sermon on the Mount shocked the religious world with his own indictment of their religious hypocrisy. What I would like to explore is: has the song "Harper Valley PTA" and its influence on culture colored our view of Jesus and what he is saying in the Sermon on the Mount?

Lately, I have been disturbed by messages on the Sermon on the Mount that seem to sound more like "Harper Valley PTA" than careful biblical exegesis. And yet they really resonate with the crowd. People clap at the end of those sermons and I find myself clapping along with them. Just like Jeannie, the preacher is socking it to the hypocrites and the people love it. The message can be summed up as something like this, “Don't judge, period. If you have lust in your heart you have already committed adultery. Come on guys, you all have done it so who are you to judge? If you are angry with your brother you are guilty of murder so who are you to judge?" The story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John's gospel is usually thrown in for good measure. Let him who is without sin throw the first stone. A dig at churches that practice church discipline is usually thrown in at this point equating church discipline with the worst forms of abuse and legalism and of being inconsistent with the gospel of grace. Is this what Jesus is really saying? Is the lesson to be taken that we are all still sinners and we have no right to be concerned with sin in the church?

Dan Allender in his excellent book Bold Love has examined this subject with careful thought. ( pg.201-202.)
Our first warning is not to judge unless we are willing to be measured by the same criterion... A second warning is to take the log out of our eye before we take the speck out of our brother's eye. Jesus is not implying that we are to be so "judgment free" that we are not to notice our brother's inability to see. We are to reflect, assess, and develop a strategy on how to remove the speck in our brothers eye. The implication is that we have judged his sight to be blocked, assessed the nature of the block, and figured out how to get it out. There is nothing wrong with being burdened and furious about a spouse's sin, but only if the huge log is being plucked from our own eye. The priority is always to look first in yourself. You will not stand before God required to deal with any life but your own. Therefore let judgment begin first with the house of God... A second trap is to assume we cannot love another until our log is gone. This person says, "I can't really deal with your speck because my log is so big." Indeed, if this were the case, no one would ever be rightly involved with another' s sin. We are called to restore one another and to pluck the sinner from the fire through tenderness and strength ( Galatians 6:1, Jude 2:23.) We must live with the ongoing work of removing our log, first and foremost, without neglecting the work of removing specks in the eyes of those whom we are privileged to love.
In other words, we are not to judge with hypocritical or self-righteous judgment. To be sure, there are insights to be gleaned by comparing and contrasting the Lord's teachings with such an important landmark in popular culture. The song is blasting those in established positions of power who pick on the weaker widow for not conforming to outward community standards, while not being at all concerned with her real welfare or with those standards in their own lives .They aren't humbly looking to themselves lest they be tempted and thus removing the log, or judging themselves first. They are not approaching her in tenderness and strength to address sin, and likewise, her response, though both wickedly clever and bold, lacks love. Tenderness and strength is exactly what Jesus communicates to the woman caught in adultery and to the hypocrites of his society. Like Jeannie, Jesus stands up to those in power with strength on behalf of the woman. Yet the difference is that Mrs. Johnson of the song justifies her sin on the basis that they are all sinners, while Jesus sends the hypocrites away and forgives the repentant woman with the warning to go and sin no more. She goes away saved, but the woman in Harper Valley, by justifying her sin, goes away empowered in a way, but not forgiven.

The Bible teaches clearly that the church's business is not to judge those outside the church but inside (1 Corinthians 5:12). To judge, not with self-righteousness or hypocrisy, but by speaking the truth in love. Let's pretend for a moment that the woman in the song was a Christian. According to Jesus's teaching in Matthew 18:15-19, she is to be approached at first by just one loving Christian who has looked at his or her life first. He is to have dealt with any logs in his own eye as best he could, prayed about the best way to approach her, and then in faith go to her with the goal of finding out what is really going on. Perhaps the accusations were false. Perhaps they are true and she is repentant. Then he gets the joy of restoring her as a priest of the
most high God. Maybe the charges are true and yet she totally denies them. Nobody said this was to be easy. If the accusations are true and she is hard of heart and refuses to deal with a wild lifestyle of drugs and sexual immorality that truly is unhealthy for her daughter, then others from the church should get involved. Yet they should do so never in an abusive way, never in pride or self-righteousness or without first looking to themselves but always with the goal of restoration. Jesus and Paul both made it clear that all of this is to be done in a spirit of gentleness, with great understanding and patience. But if the person after the repeated pleading of the church refuses to repent, then the scriptures teach there needs to be discipline for the sake of that person and the upholding of righteousness. The church, by severing fellowship for a time, does so with the hope that it will cause that person to wake up and repent. I have actually seen this carried out effectively several times.

Some will say, "Where on earth is one to begin? We all sin. We all have issues. What sin is bad enough to demand intervention?" All I can say is that Paul knew. They knew in the first century. We have to look to the Lord and to his Word. We must seek God for discernment. Paul said in Galatians 6:1 if anyone is caught in a trespass you who are spiritual are to restore him. To me that means we don't need to be on the hunt for these situations. But if your brother is caught in sin you need to be willing to help him. If a person is destroying his life or their family, the church, or the testimony of the church in the community, then that is surely a sign that intervention is needed. Is it easy? No. It is a task for the spiritually mature. Will you always get to sleep at a decent hour or not make mistakes and doubt yourself? Probably not, but you will be truly loving and caring for your flock. In 1 Peter 5 the apostle writes about the privilege of being a shepherd of God's flock, of coshepherding with Christ and knowing Christ in that way. Elsewhere in scripture we read about elders having to give an account for their ministry among the flock, and of the crown of glory they will receive from the Chief Shepherd. These are reasons enough. Sadly and ironically, churches today seem to have noninvolvement as one of their primary goals. They don't seem willing to risk practicing what is clearly taught in the Bible for the sake of the spiritual health of their flock. I don't know what the reasons are, whether they be financial or what. But I know God's Word has not changed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Gospel Mourning...

"Yet if you but consider the Lord's ways towards you, and your ways towards him, you will mourn with a gospel-mourning, reasoning with yourself after this manner: Was I under the law of works by nature, and so, for every transgression against any of the ten commandments, made liable to everlasting damnation? and am I now, through the free mercy and love of God in Christ, brought under the law of Christ, and so subject to no other penalty for my transgressions, but fatherly and loving chastisements, which tend to the purging out of that sinful corruption that is in me? Oh what a loving Father is this! Oh what a gracious Saviour is this! Oh what a wretched man am I, to transgress the laws of such a good God, as he hath been to me!  
"Oh the due consideration of this will even, as it were, melt your heart, and cause your eyes to drop with the tears of godly sorrow! yea, the due consideration of these things will cause you to "loathe yourself in your own sight for your transgressions", (Eze 36:31), yea, not only to loathe yourself for them, but also to leave them, saying with Ephraim, "What have I to do any more with idols?" (Hosea 14:8) and to "cast them away as menstruous cloth, saying unto them, Get ye hence," (Isa 30:22). And truly you will desire nothing more, than that you might so live, as that you might never sin against the Lord any more. And this is that "goodness of God which," as the apostle says, "leadeth to repentance"; yea, this is that goodness of God which will lead you to a free obedience. So that if you do but apply the goodness of God in Christ to your soul, in any good measure, then will you answerably yield obedience to the law of Christ, not only without having respect either to what the law of works either promiseth or threateneth; but also without having respect to what the law of Christ either promiseth or threateneth; you will do that which the Lord commandeth, only because he commandeth it, and to the end that you may please him" -
- Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Exhortation To the Justified in Christ...

Exhortation. 2. To justified persons. This privilege calls you to several duties.
1. Love the Lord, and love him much, for much is forgiven you. This may be oil to that holy flame, and therefore love will continue in heaven for ever.

2. Be of a forgiving disposition, Eph. 4.ult. 'Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.' The same Saviour that brought in remission of sins, binds us to love our enemies. And the bitter revengeful spirit against those we think have wronged us, is a sad sign that our own sin is unforgiven of God, Matt. 4.12. 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.' They who have found what a dreadful weight sin unpardoned is, and have at length got it removed, will thereby be helped to forgive.

3. Walk humbly. Ye are justified, but it is by the righteousness of another. Ye are pardoned, but it was procured to you by the satisfaction of a Saviour. Your debt is paid, your discharge is got up; but thanks to free grace, not to you, for it.

4. Bear your troubles and crosses in a world patiently.—Your life that was forfeited by sin is safe by grace; therefore take thankfully any troubles you meet with. For why should a living man complain, especially one that deserved to die, and yet is adjudged to life?

5. Lastly, Walk tenderly. God pardoning a sinner, dismisseth him as Christ did the penitent adulteress, John 12.11. 'Go, and sin no more.' Let not your broken bones be forgotten, but walk softly all your years. And if ye be pardoned, shew it by your holy and tender walk.
OF JUSTIFICATION by Thomas Boston, Minister of the Gospel at Ettrick, Scotland
excerpted from his Commentary on the Shorter Catechism

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sanctification upon Justification...

  • It seems that part of the confusion is the notion that when we’re talking about our sanctification we shouldn’t be referring to our justification, otherwise… well, otherwise what? Is it not fair to say that our justification, in some sense, is the ground upon which we live and walk the sanctified life? If I am sanctified daily through the work of the Holy Spirit can I any more move beyond the justification secured for me by Christ Jesus on the cross then when I go to the store I can leave the ground of the sidewalk upon which I walk? Not a perfect analogy certainly, but… Every grace of sanctification in the believer's life is logically secured upon the justification wrought for him in the finished work of Christ Jesus.
  • The old hymn reads, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…" I don’t think this is speaking of conversion, but of living the Christian life.
  • There is no work of ours that is sanctified except that the blood of Jesus was shed for us (Heb. 9 and 10). His finished work then is the basis by which our persons as well as our works with their remaining imperfections are cleansed, allowing them (and us) to be acceptable to God by grace through faith in Christ alone.

  • I’ve always found these words of Paul in Romans 7:18 to be intriguing (assuming this is the converted Paul, which I do):
  • "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."
  • I don’t think Paul is saying that he doesn’t offer his members unto righteousness or that he doesn’t make efforts to resist sin and obey God's law. Could it be it's just that he (we) never graduated from needing the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement in order that his every thought, word, and deed be cleansed and made acceptable to God? For none of Paul's good works could attain to the perfection of the Law anymore than ours can, that perfection of the Father in heaven to which he and we are called. He lacked the inherent holiness or "ability to carry it out." So, in our walk of obedience to God as we daily offer ourselves up as servants for righteousness (Rom. 6: 13), and in order that our consciences may be comforted, we must always keep our eyes not only on the law of Christ to guide our obedience but on the good news that "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 ESV)
  • WCF 16: 5. We can not, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they can not endure the severity of God’s judgment.
  • 6. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him, not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.
  • WCF 9:4 underscores my point above -
  • 4. When God converts a sinner and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so as that, by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.
  • Even our good works which we will to do, i.e. our obedience, are imperfect and still touched by the corruption of sin. Yet as new creatures in Christ we can and do will to do good. We can obey. But far from perfectly and not without sin. The ground of acceptance of our good works before God our Father is Jesus Christ our Mediator – His cleansing blood shed for us and perfect obedience imputed to us - not any inherent goodness found in our obedience. (WCF 16:6)
  • Therefore we confess that as believers we should obey. We can choose to obey. But in this life we never can offer an obedience to God that is pure or acceptable in and of itself, i.e. never free from the inherent corruption of our fallen nature. Thus the gospel (justified freely in Christ Jesus by grace through faith alone) is always relevant, even central, to our sanctification.