Sunday, May 31, 2015

Every Word Out of the Mouth of God...

Reading David VanDrunen's latest book, Divine Covenants and Moral Order, got me to thinking about Adam's temptation in the garden and the temptation that Jesus faced many millennia later. VanDrunen posits that the natural law was given covenantally to man as part of the image of God woven into his being at his creation.
By their image-bearing nature human beings were morally obligated before God, and by their image-bearing nature they were destined for eschatological life.  The absence of any covenant-making ceremony and of the word ברית in Genesis 1-2 may be explained by the fact that humanity's very creation established a covenantal relationship requiring no further establishment or confirmation. p. 85
In other words, the righteousness of the moral law written on Adam's heart requiring obedience had a view to an end - a fulfillment, or as the Divines wrote, a "fruition of him as their blessedness and reward " (WCF 7.1). Thus the creation of man was itself a covenantal, "voluntary condescension" of God due to the hope of eschatological blessedness.

Taking that view, the prohibition to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil upon penalty of death that came later to Adam, as VanDrunen writes, can then be understood
not as supplementing Adam's natural obligation but as focusing it. As I argued earlier in this chapter, the command to work and to guard the Garden served as a concrete test of Adam's general and natural obligation to subdue the earth. Likewise, the command to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would become a concrete test of his general and natural obligation to exercise dominion over the creatures. The commands of 2:15-17 did reveal something that Adam could not have know simply by his image-bearing nature... pp. 85-86
God put Adam in the garden to "guard it" and to exercise dominion (rule with justice) over all including the serpent. The tree prohibition was a concentrated test of Adam's faithful obedience to God's creation mandate, moral law, and God himself. And it was particularly focused for the reason that the prohibition was a positive command that came from without. The command to not eat of the forbidden tree wasn't directly found in the natural law directly given at Adam's creation. There wasn't anything inherently wrong with eating that fruit that could be understood from the moral law. Yet it was God's command. In the upcoming test Adam had only God's outward spoken command to lean on. In other words, the prohibition to not eat of the forbidden tree wasn't inherently known by Adam, an image bearer of God. Obedience was required to a command that in and of itself that one could say seemed arbitrary and morally neutral. And yet being God's spoken word it wasn't neutral. It was indeed both morally right to obey and morally wrong to disobey.

The point I'm focusing on is simply that God's law-command regarding the tree was a outward one apart from the moral law written inwardly on Adam's heart. So in that sense it was a command extrinsic to him, i.e. not subjective or inherent to him. His obedience would lean solely on the outward word - "Thus God said..."

That being said, for Adam to bow to the serpent and disobey the outward command to not eat of that tree was indeed a violation of the moral law, especially in light of the first commandment.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me."
And to violate just one command of God is to be guilty of all the law (James 2:10).

When challenged on the outward command to not eat Adam fell from his original righteousness, bowing before the serpent. Adam disobeyed the command that came not from the law written inwardly on his heart but that came outwardly from the mouth of God.

Turning to the New Testament we see a similar scene played out in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus had just completed forty days of fasting. Satan's presents the first of three temptations to Jesus and upon first blush it hardly seems like the temptation has anything that has to do with a moral right and wrong. Is there a moral law against nourishing oneself after a fast? Or turning a stone to bread to do so? We know later in a different circumstance Jesus does perform a food miracle by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish in order to feed a multitude of people and we presume himself.  So Satan was working from that same old play book he used in the garden with Adam.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
The Spirit of God had led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and the divine lead up to that test was forty days of fasting. Though starving, one could infer that Jesus knew that as man it was not his to take up his own judgment and efforts to end that divine mandated fasting. For Jesus to rule justly and exercise dominion as a man required his absolute obedience to and reliance on his Father. So it is of no small coincidence that as the Second Adam Jesus replied with words that echoed the battle that took place long ago in the garden of Eden concerning God's original outward command to Adam.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  
Jesus had been given by the Spirit of God a wilderness test that included coming to near starvation and three temptations. The fasting wasn't to be over until the final temptation was over.

Upon Satan's third temptation, Jesus as a man in obedience to his Father judged the tempter with righteousness and authority by quoting God's word:
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

It was at that point, when the Jesus's temptation had ended, that nourishment and relief were given to him from above.
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
A man, the Second Adam, once again had righteous dominion over all creation, including over the serpent.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Law as a Covenant of Works at Sinai...

A View of the Covenant of Works by Thomas Boston

18             The Covenant of Works           Part I. 

1. Here is a concurrence of all that is necessary to constitute a true and proper covenant of works: The parties contracting, God and man; God requiring obedience as the condition of life; a penalty fixed in case of breaking; and man acquiescing in the proposal. The force of this cannot be evaded, by comparing it with the consent of subjects to the laws of' an absolute prince- For such a law proposed by a prince, promising a reward upon obedience to it, is indeed the proposing of a covenant, the which the subject consenting to for himself and his, and taking on him to obey, does indeed enter into a covenant with the prince, and having obeyed the law, may claim the reward by virtue of paction. And so the covenant of works is ordinarily in Scripture called the law, being in its own nature a pactional law. 

2. It is expressly called a covenant in Scripture, Gal, iv. 24. For there are the two covenants, the one from the mount Sinai, &c. This covenant from mount Sinai was the covenant of works*, as being opposed to the covenant of grace, namely, the law of the ten commandments, with promise and sanction, as before expressed. At Sinai it was renewed indeed, but that was not its first appearance the world. For there being but two ways of life to be found in Scripture, one by works, the other by grace; the latter hath no place, but where the first is rendered ineffectual: therefore the covenant of works was before - the covenant of grace in the world; yet the covenant of grace was promulgated quickly after Adam's fall; therefore the covenant of works behoved to have been made with him before. And how can one imagine a covenant of works set before poor impotent sinners, if there had not been such a covenant

* That the covenant of works was, For special ends, repeated and delivered to the Israelites on mount Sinai, our author has proved in his notes on the Marrow of modern divinity, chap. ii. sect. ii.3. The reader may also consult Witsius's Economy of the covenants, book iv. chp. 4. 47. &c.

19               a proper covenant.

with man in his state of integrity?  Hos. vi.7. But as for them, like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant. Our translators set the word Adam on the margin. But in Job xxxi. 33. they translate the very same word, as Adam. This word occurs but three times in Scripture, and still in the same sense. - Job xxxi. 3 3. If I covered my transgressions as Adam. Psalm lxxxii. 7. But ye shall die like Adam. Compare ver. 6. I have said, Ye are gods,- and all of you are children of the Most High; compared with Luke iii. 33.- Adam, which was the son of God. And also here, Hos. vi. 7. While Adam's hiding his sin, and his death are made an example, how natural is it that his transgression, that led the way to all, be made so too? This is the proper and literal sense of the words: it is so read by several, and is certainly the meaning of it.

Thomas Boston's notes in the Marrow of Modern Divinity noted in the above footnote:
[8] The transaction at Sinai or Horeb [for they are but one mountain] was a mixed dispensation; there was the promise or covenant of grace, and also the law; the one a covenant to be believed, the other a covenant to be done, and thus the apostle states, the difference betwixt these two, (Gal 3:12), "And the law is not of faith, but the man that DOETH them shall live in them." As to the former, viz: the covenant to be believed, it was given to their fathers as well as to them. Of the latter, viz: the covenant to be done, Moses speaks expressly, (Deut 4:12,13), "The Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire, and he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to PERFORM [or DO] even ten commandments." And (5:3), he tells the people no less expressly, that "the Lord made not THIS COVENANT with their fathers."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I'll Fly Away...

Making a little music with my friends...

"I'll Fly Away", is a song written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley and first published in 1932. It's an old gospel favorite recorded by many artists over the years, such as Willie Nelson. Here's our down-home addition to the tradition...

Vocals: Roxylee, Richard Schletty, Jack Miller
Mixing by Rich-Sir-Mix-a-Lot and Jack.
Guitar and harmonica by me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A View of the Covenant of Works by Thomas Boston

A View of the Covenant of Works by Thomas Boston
It [the Covenant of Works] commands without any promise of strength at all to perform. There is no such promise to be found in all the Bible, belonging to that covenant. It shews what is to be done, and with all severity exacts the task; but furnishes not anything whereof it is to be made. So the case of men under that covenant is represented by Israel’s case in Egypt, Exod. v. 18, “God therefore now and work,” said Pharaoh to that people; “for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.
Under the covenant of grace, duty is required, but strength is promised too, Ezek. xxxvi. 27, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” And the commands in the hands of the Mediator are turned into promises, as appears from Deut. x. 16, “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked.” Compare chap. xxx. 6, “And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.” Yea, the Mediator’s calls and commands to his people bear a promise of help; Prov. x. 29, “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.
But there is no such thing in the covenant of works; the work must be performed in the strength that was given; they must trade with the stock that mankind was set up with at first: but that strength is gone, that stock is wasted; howbeit the law can neither make it up again, nor yet abate of its demands...” (p. 132-133)
The holiness of God gave out the holy commandment in the covenant, justice annexed the threatening of death to the breach of it, truth secures the accomplishment of the threatening, and so lays the  sinner under justice, without relief. So that there is no parting of them, till the utmost farthing be paid (2 Thess. i. 9. punished with Gr. justice or vengeance, everlasting destruction) by the sinner himself, or a cautioner. (p. 162)
Thomas Boston, A View of the Covenant of Works,

Friday, May 8, 2015

Law and Gospel in the Old and New Covenants

Simply to say, there is law and there is gospel in both the Old and New Covenants. In the Old, "Do this and live" (law) stood as God's righteous demand upon Israel and all men for perfect holiness, pointing to eternal life through perfect obedience. And it was a judgment unto condemnation against sinners, all who disobeyed in Adam. The righteousness of the law gave no power to the elect to fulfill its demands. Rather, serving God's redemptive plan it drove and guided the elect to seek through faith the refuge of salvation found in God's mercy and forgiveness in Christ as offered in the promises, ceremonies, and sacrifices (gospel).

In the New Testament, Christ born under the law fulfills the promise given in the Old and meets for his people the "Do this and live" demand of the law through his obedient holy life and his sacrificial death on the cross for sin. For those who believe, the law is still law but its requirements are now fulfilled and established by Jesus Christ for their salvation which they receive through faith by the hearing of this gospel. "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law." (Rom. 3:31)

As to the so-called third use of the law for believers, it is still law. The threats of the law as given in the covenant of works no longer put the believer in jeapordy, but rather humble and inform him of what would be due his sins if not for Christ's debt payment on his behalf. In Christ this serves only to urge him toward a more thankful obedience in faith (WLC 97). Jesus Christ has fulfilled God's law for his people and yet as with all men created in God's image, they are still obliged to obey, but no longer out of fear of failure and condemnation as sinners in Adam, but willingly (though not without struggles against their ever present sin) in the assurance of God's love for them as his chosen children for whom Christ died.

So then in the New and Old covenants there is both law and gospel. But the righteousness that saves doesn't, and cannot, come to sinners through the law. As Paul writes , "the law is not of faith" (Gal. 3.12). The righteousness that saves only comes through faith in Christ (Phil. 3.9). The law cannot give that righteousness. It only comes through faith in Christ the law-keeper and sin-bearer, who has established and fulfilled it unto salvation for all who believe in him (Rom. 8.4; 10.4).