Fred Malone on the Biblical Covenants

On January 8-10, Pastor Fred Malone will be teaching on Covenant Theology at Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary in Owensboro, KY. Clink the following link for the class syllabus: Link to Covenant Theology Syllabus.

Click the image below to listen to an interview between Dr. Sam Waldron, the academic dean of CBTS and Dr. Malone on the Confessing Baptist Podcast.

The course will follow the following outline:


I. Hermeneutics for the study of God’s Covenants
II. The Definition of a Divine Covenant
III. The Divine Covenants in Scripture
A. The Counsel of Redemption
B. The Covenant of Works in Adam
C. The Covenant of Grace in Christ
1. The Covenants of Promise
a. Noah
b. Abraham
c. Moses
d. David
e. The New Covenant Promises
2. The New Covenant of Fulfillment
a. Old Testament Prophecy
b. Instituted by Christ
c. Membership
d. Blessings
IV. The Implications of Covenant Theology for Baptists
A. Justification and Evangelism
B. Sanctification
C. Ecclesiology and Sacraments
D. Eschatology


Dr. Fred Malone has served as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton, Louisiana since 1993, following eleven years as founding pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas. He holds a B.S. from Auburn University, an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in New Testament from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Malone has served as a board member of many organizations including Founders Ministries, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Administrative Council of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America and the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Seminary in California.

Click the link below to hear a preaching series by Pastor Malone on the Covenants at Monergism.com:

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John Erskine’s “The Nature the Sinai Covenant”

Originally posted on Contrast:

Owen

Owen’s work on the Mosaic Covenant is tremendous. He was bold enough to recognize that the Old Covenant was separate from the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant), that it was made with the nation of Israel, that it was based upon works, and that it was limited to temporal life in the land (not eternal life).

However, when it comes to the question of what type of obedience was required, I think Owen can be improved upon. He noted:

owenThis is the nature and substance of that covenant which God made with that people; a particular, temporary covenant it was, and not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace.

That which remains for the declaration of the mind of the Holy Ghost in this whole matter, is to declare the differences that are between those two covenants, whence the one is said to be “better” than the other…

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The Aim of the Atonement, part 3

There are generally two primary views on the Atonement in Protestant Evangelical circles: (1) that the aim of the atonement was to make all men savable, and (2) the aim of the atonement was to save some men. Theologian Louis Berkhof frames the issue this way:

The question with which we are concerned at this point is not (a) whether the satisfaction rendered by Christ was in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men, since this is admitted by all; (b) whether the saving benefits are actually applied to every man, for the great majority of those who teach a universal atonement do not believe that all are actually saved; (c) whether the bona fide offer of salvation is made to all that hear the gospel, on the condition of repentance and faith, since the Reformed Churches do not call this in question; nor (d) whether any of the fruits of the death of Christ accrue to the benefit of the non-elect in virtue of their close association with the people of God, since this is explicitly taught by many Reformed scholars. On the other hand, the question does relate to the design of the atonement. Did the Father in sending Christ, and did Christ in coming into the world, to make atonement for sin, do this with the design or for the purpose of saving only the elect or all men? That is the question, and that only is the question.

In discussing these issues with folks who have a high view of man, you hear it stated that the Calvinist view is based purely on inference and logic and has no Biblical support. My intention here is not to cover everything the Bible says about Atonement, there are too many quality works that do that, but rather to provide a handful of Biblical passages that assert that Christ’s First Coming and Death had a definite purpose.

God Has a Purpose

The first thing, in my opinion, that must be dealt with is the understanding that God has an eternal plan and purpose for the things that happen in this world.


In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will... (Eph 1:11)

What things does God work according to his will? All things. What about bad things or things we don’t like? Well, the Scriptures teach us that God is good and that He doesn’t like bad things either. But, either bad things happen because they are a part of God’s larger plan for good, or they happen randomly, without purpose, and not in accordance with God’s purpose and plan. When we come to the realization that God is God and that His authority and purpose rules sovereign over all things, it transforms the way we see God, Scripture, and ourselves!

The People Christ Redeemed (Purchased) Are His Elect

Who does god justify? Those who He has predestinated. And for those he will provide everything essential to their salvation and sanctification.


Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
(Rom 8:29-32)

Continuing with Romans 8, we that Christ died for, loves, keeps, and makes intercession for us believers.


Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution...

The Good Shephard lays down his life for his sheep.


I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep ...As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

Christ gave Himself for the church.


Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)


Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27)

Christ gave Himself for Believer’s Sins


[Christ] gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Gal 1:4)


But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Rom 5:8-9)


[Christ] gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Tit 2:14)


Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (John 15-13-14)


For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Cor 5:21)


For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18)


Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal 3:13)


[Christ] bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Pet 2:24)

The Definite Scope of Christ’s Priestly Work

The priestly role of Christ is not limited only to providing a sacrifice, but also providing intercession. For whom does Christ intercede?


Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Rom 8:33-34)


I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. ...I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. ...Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. ...Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word... (John 17)


But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Many

Several verses in the New Testament appear make applicability of Christ’s atonement to the world, but there are many that specifically limit it to ‘many’.


Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mt. 20:28)


For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Mt 26:28)


And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. ...So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. (Heb 9:15-28)

Conclusion

Perhaps the Arminian would not be convinved by these arguments, clinging tenaciously to 1 Jn 2:2 as overthrowing all, at least let him not say we have no Scriptural basis for our argument. I found these in about 15 minutes of work. MUCH more could be said, but this should be sufficient for the present cause.

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Did A.W. Pink Agree w/ 1689 Federalism?

Andrew Suttles:

Some good thoughts here from Brandon Adams on AW Pink’s Federalism. I especially appreciate his summary statement “Perhaps if modern baptists had read Pink more carefully, we would have re-discovered this view (the Nehemiah Coxe and John Owen view, recently called 1689 Federalism) sooner.”

Originally posted on Contrast:

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A.W. Pink’s covenant theology came up recently in a Facebook discussion. It was being questioned if Pink held to 1689 Federalism or “20th Century Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology. (Federalism is just an old word for covenant theology)

First, here is a summary of 1689 Federalism:

By rejecting the notion of a Covenant of Grace under two administrations, the Baptists were in fact rejecting only half of this concept: they accepted, as we have previously seen, the notion of one single Covenant of Grace in both testaments, but they refused the idea of two administrations. For the Baptists, there was only one Covenant of Grace which was revealed from the Fall in a progressive way until its full revelation and conclusion in the New Covenant… If the Westminster federalism can be summarized in “one covenant under two administrations,” that of the 1689 would be “one covenant revealed progressively…

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George Barna’s Attack on the Church of Christ

Celebrity Christian speaker George Barna is the featured speaker at a local event sponsored by several local churches and para-church organizations. I’ve been asked by several folks about my opinion on attending and I must say that I CANNOT endorse the ministry of George Barna. He is very sound in his focus on strong and authentic Christian living, but his methods are sketchy and some of his teachings are very grievous to the Christian church!

I call upon all men of discernment to check the facts for yourself and to exercise discretion!

Background

George Barna was born into a devout Catholic family in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston College and majored in Sociology. After college, Barna went into politics in the Democratic party in Boston. His political work sparked an interest in marketing, polling, and market research, so he returned to graduate school to earn degrees in Urban Planning and Political Science.

During his time on the East Coast, Barna became dissatisfied with the Roman Catholic church, but was unable to find an agreeable Protestant church to join in fellowship. After leaving political work, he moved to the West Coast to perform consulting work, plying the skills he learned as a pollster and market researcher. In California, like on the East Coast, Barna could not find a church that suited his tastes and did not attend church.

Later, Barna found himself in Chicago working in the same field and was connected with the famous Willow Creek Community church and Bill Hybels. Barna joined Hybels in crafting the new movement known as the seeker sensitive church movement. The movement sought to throw out everything associated with traditional church worship and to use market surveys and polls to craft a seeker-sensitive and market driven approach to church growth. The results of this movement have given rise to the doctrinal softening and all forms of weirdness and heresy in the “at-large” Evangelical church today.

Back in California, Barna started applying his market research skills to write books on the habits and trends amongst American Christians. Barna has used this popularity to write soft doctrinal and practical (and alarmist!) books about the Christian life – all based on his knowledge of the desires and trends of young people (most of whom are unregenerate pagans!).

Questionable Methods

Barna calls himself the most quoted man in Christendom, but some question whether Barna’s numbers should be trusted at all. In an open letter to George Barna, Pastor Frank Turk (of Pyromaniacs fame), exposes barna as manipulating statistics to support his own agenda. You can read his open letter HERE.

As every armchair politician knows, the results of polls can be manipulated based on how questions are framed and based on the definitions of words. Additionally, we all know what Mark Twain famously said about statistics. Consider the work of Bradley Wright, a sociologist at UConn wrote (THIS BOOK), which (in part) explores “several Barna studies and explains the shoddy and sloppy work and interpretation done” (quote from review of Wright’s book).

One of Barna’s primary contentions in his books (to be discussed further below) is that the modern church does not work, has no Biblical basis, and should be abandoned! He supports this dangerous and faulty thesis using the results of polling work. Polling work that is skewed to assist Barna to have the results he needs to justify the subject matter of his books. For more on Barna’s views on the local church read on below…

Questionable Doctrine

My concern would not be so deep if it was simply based on Barna’s pragmatism. Barna is simply an ENEMY of the local church. According to his book Revolution, Barna believes that one can be a “God-exalting Christian without any formal involvement in or connection with the [local] church” (Sam Storms). According to Sam Storms, Barna believes that for some believers, “a genuine, thriving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is only possible only by forsaking membership in, support of, and allegiance to a local congregation of believers.

Some quotes from Barna -

  • ““whether you become a Revolutionary immersed in, minimally involved in, or completely disassociated [sic] from a local church is irrelevant to me (and, within boundaries, to God)” (Barna Quoted by Sam Storms
  • Believers “distancing themselves from formal congregations does not reflect a willingness to ignore God as much as a passion to deepen their connection to Him” (Barna Quoted by Sam Storms)
  • “Christians who are involved in local churches are actually less likely than Revolutionaries to lead a biblical lifestyle” (Barna Quoted by Sam Storms)
  • “‘the [local] church’ is a human construct that was neither dictated by God nor described or found in the Bible.”(Interview)

In place of the local church, Barna advocates for informal “boutique churches” that reflect the customized experiences and personal preferences of worshipers (Sam Storms). Pastor Frank Turk (linked above) calls Barna’s methods and theology “half-baked” HERE and claims that Barna is simply “not credible”.

According to fellow blogger Five Solas Guy, “The only keys [Barna's Book The Rabit and the Elephant] has to offer, sadly, are the keys to heresy and unbiblical practices and stumbling blocks and false converts.” (book review).

A simple google search will reveal many such quotes from conservative Bible believing, Christ exalting pastors and theologians!! For example, the Gospel Coalition (which has members: Voddie Baucham, Alistair Begg, Don Carson, Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Kent Hughes, Albert Mohler, John Piper, etc. ) posted the following book review of Barna’s book: Pagan Christianity:

  1. The church should not contain any hierarchy at all.
  2. The senior pastor is actually an obstacle to the fully-functioning body of Christ.
  3. The idea of a sermon in a church gathering is pagan (after all, that brings about a clergy/laity distinction).
  4. Church buildings take away from the biblical teaching that the Church is a people.
  5. Any routine in worship is wrong. All liturgy, whether Protestant, Catholic or free church is misguided and stifling to the Holy Spirit.
  6. Dressing up for church is a leftover from paganism and hypocritical for Christians.
  7. No one should lead in singing. To have a worship leader picking songs is an affront to freedom in Christ.
  8. Tithing is completely unbiblical and now serves to prop up the unbiblical institutionalized church and the salaries of unbiblical clergy.
  9. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been coopted by pagan mysticism.
  10. Christian education doesn’t work because everything is mind-focused. Discipleship should be an apprentice-ship, not just filling the head with information.
  11. The Bible needs to be read in context, not as a jigsaw puzzle.
  12. We need to be like Jesus – revolutionaries who are ready to turn aside all tradition.

There are actually some crumbs of truth in some of Barna’s points, but the overall tenor and goal in his writing, but the most dangerous lie is always the one wrapped around a kernel of truth! Barna, in many of his writings, is starting to sound less seeker sensitive and more like heretical cult leaders (think Jim Jones, Harold Camping, Joseph Smith, etc) who have said similar things and have led thousands out of the doors of sound Bible believing local churches!

Questionable Discernment

What I have said above should be enough to alert any Bible believing Christian to be cautious about Barna. Is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or just badly errant and in need of church discipline – an enterprise not possible with the un-churched Barna. An additional concern is Barna’s own questionable discernment. He wrote the book Pagan Christianity with Frank Viola, who is noted for his mysticism, approved of the heretical book The Shack, is emergent, and has many other doctrinal deficiencies including opposing local churches in favor of “open participation” meetings without elders or leadership. In this Interview, Barna lists the following men as those that inspire him most: Matthew Barnett and Andy Stanley. Matthew Barnett is a charismatic TBN regular and pastor of the Los Angeles Dream Center. Andy Stanley, of course, is a doctrinally shallow mega-church pastor who has recently come under fire for his weaked stances regarding infallibility and homosexuality.

Several of Barnas other co-authors and conference co-speakers are troublesome as well, but I spare you. Do your own research into the matter.

Conclusions

Why has George Barna become such a famous name in Christendom? I think it is because of a tendency toward hero-worship in Evangelicalism at large combined with a general lack of Bible knowledge and discernment. Additionally, Barna’s research gives pastors the ammunition to say the things they want to say in the pulpit, but with an air of authority. Also, Barna gives young Millennials the permission (rather praise) to skip church on Sunday (what with all the preaching, discipline, fellowship, and giving) and instead spend the time golfing or hanging out at a coffee shop. Tell me that philosophy doesn’t sell books! (and if you think I’m kidding, read reviews of his book Revolution)

Could Barna have many helpful things to say in his presentation here in a few weeks? Of course! But I simply cannot support the methods of a shallow, market-driven pragmatist, who has undermined the role and structure of Christ’s body. The enemy of the body of Christ is the enemy of Christ. Barna is playing with fire and I, for one, do not want to stand close.

References

Having said all this, I also collected a number of other book reviews and Barna links with the heretical emergent church, but I’ve decided to end this here. Originally this section of the post contained links to dozens of internet articles and calls to repentance, but instead, I’ll leave it to you to do your own research.

I leave you to remember the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy (possibly the pastor of the local church in Ephesus):

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Tim 4:1-4)

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The Aim of the Atonement, part 2

In part 1 of the series, I described how that the evangelical debate regarding the atonement does not concern: the nature, value, or benefit of the atonement, but simply the design or intent. There are several positions regarding the aim of the atonement:

  • Semi-Pelagian – The Semi-Pelagian view is that man failed under his first arrangement to maintain his righteousness; so God gave him a new covenant, based on easier and more gracious terms, in which salvation is attained on the condition of faith and repentence (which man has the natural capacity to provide) as a new form of obedience. In this view, then, Christ’s atonement applies equally to every man and every man has an equal chance to attain it (or lose it).
  • Weslyan – The Weslyan view is that the Atonement of Christ removes original sin from every man and secures the drawing work of the Holy Spirit for every man. Those that cooperate with the drawing work of the Spirit are led to salvation
  • Lutheran – The Lutheran view is that Christ made actual satisfaction for the sins of all men; on this basis the gospel is to be preached to all. Grace is offered in the sacraments, which if unresisted, aid the sinner to have faith and accept the gospel
  • Amyraldian – This view is that Christ made a full satisfaction for all men, but all men are fallen in sin and unable and unwilling to receive it. Since the gospel would be universally rejected, God elects some to eternal life and gives them the grace to believe
  • Calvinist – According to the Calvinist, all men are spiritually dead in their sin and unable to do anything for the benefit of their souls. God determined before time to show his mercy and grace on some and provided the needed atonement for them and enables them to receive it.

Each view sees man as sinful and unable to be saved apart from God’s grace. Each sees Christ’s atonement as having an infinite value. Each limits the atonement to a portion of sinners either by the choice of man or the choice of God. Lutherans, Amyraldians, and Calvinists base (at least in part) the cause of some coming to faith in eternal election. Semi-Pelagians and Weslyians tend to put more faith in human effort and free-will. Calvinists and Amyraldians see Christ’s atonement as ‘saving’, the other views see it as making men ‘savable’.

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The Aim of the Atonement, part 1

I recently participated reluctantly in a small debate on a fundamentalist website about Calvinism.  Sadly, I spent most of my effort attempting to undue the many fallacious and shallow strawman arguments the author was putting forward in his defense of his own personal Weslyianism (which he called ‘biblicism’).

In this post I’d like to lay out a few of the different views on the atonement within modern fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity and summarize why I think the Calvinist view is best.

A few important remarks first (summarized from Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology text):

  1. The debate does not concern the nature of the atonement. The atonement is a sacrifice which makes satisfaction for sin. This is agreed upon by all conservative Bible students
  2. The question does not concern the value of Christ’s atonement. Both Calvinists and proponents of a general atonement admit the infinite value of Christ’s shed blood (the only exception are some groups of hyper-calvinists and a small group of hyper-dispensationalists who have mystical views of Christ’s literal blood). If it were possible for God to elect 10,000 additional souls, no single additional drop of Christ’s blood would need to be shed.  His sacrifice is of sufficient value to atone the sins of all mankind if that were to please God.  Augustine said “sufficient for all; efficient for the elect”.
  3. The question doesn’t concern who benefits from the atonement of Christ. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that Christ’s atonement only ‘savingly’ benefits those who believe. Only universalists (outside the scope of this debate) would argue that Christ’s atonement ‘savingly’ benefits all men. So, if the atonement does not save all men, it is limited in some way. Was it limited by God’s intent and design – intending that for those whom He chose before time, He would provide everything necessary for their justification? Or, is it limited by man? Did God ‘intend’ to save some or to make all men ‘savable’?

With the question framed, future posts will focus on differing views concerning the ‘intent’ of the atonement and Biblical evidence for the particularist view.

 

Click the link to see older posts regarding Christ’s Atonement;

 
 

[Calvinists] are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer “No.” They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we will go back to the old statement—Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say “No;” you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to infallibly secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it. (CH Spurgeon)

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Baptist Views on the Mosaic Covenant

Introduction

Historic reformed theology splits the history of God’s dealing with man into two divisions: works and grace.  The first division is the era in which man could stand or fall before God based on his own obedience (Covenant of Works).  This period ended when Adam fell and was expelled from the garden of Eden.  From the time of Adam’s fall until the return of Christ, God began dealing with man as either fallen in Adam or standing in Christ.  In other words, there are two representatives for all men: Adam and Christ.  The time from Adam’s fall to the return of Christ is a period of grace, because for any man to be restored in his relationship to God, he must receive God’s grace.

Debates amongst Bible students arise when we consider the role of grace and works and the covenant made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.  Clearly, the people had been graciously chosen by God, and not for any good work they had done, and they had been miraculously delivered and made a people.  But, this people were given laws to follow in order to remain in fellowship with God and to retain his blessing.  There are several traditional views within Protestantism to try to explain the Sinai Covenant.

Dispensationalism

Old School Dispensationalists believed that the covenant at Sinai was for the people of Israel a covenant of works conditional covenant respecting their salvation.  God offered the Hebrew people his grace through the Abrahamic Covenant, which they subsequently rejected, and so God made a works-based arrangement with them.  Some also believed that Jews would receive salvation by obedience to the law and observance of the ordinances.

The Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law Exodus 19:8.  Grace had prepared a deliverer (Moses), provided a sacrifice for the guilty, and by divine power brought them out of bondage Exodus 19:4 but at Sinai they exchanged grace for law.  (Scofield Reference Bible, Notes on Genesis 12:1)

The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace.  (Scofield Reference Bible, Notes on Exodus 19:25)

As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 3:34-26, Romans 4:24-25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation

Administration of the Covenant of Grace

Many reformed theologians, in placing emphasis on the continuity of God’s Plan of Salvation between the Old and New Testaments, have considered the Old Covenant, not as a separate and distinct substance from the New Covenant, but rather as only a different administration (or dispensation) of this same gracious covenant.  The Mosaic Covenant then, is wholly a gracious covenant.  The people are given laws, not for the salvation of their souls, but rather to organize life in the promised land and to foreshadow the coming Messiah.  This is Sam Waldron’s view and that of many popular reformed baptist pastors.

Of a Different Substance from the New Covenant

Many Baptist covenant theologians have viewed the Mosaic as being of a wholly different substance and administration from the Old.  They emphasize the legal nature of the Old Covenant, but unlike dispensationalists, do not believe the legal nature was in regards to salvation, but rather was a purely carnal covenant which offered blessing/curse to the people of Israel as a condition for remaining in the land of promise.   This is AW Pink’s view and the view of Pascal Denault and the 1689 Federalism blog.

Republication View

Some Baptists have a sort of hybrid view of the Old Covenant in which the Covenant is seen as being a republication of the law of man’s creation (see Marrow of Modern Divinity).  In other words, God has re-published the original Covenant of Works, made with man in the garden of Eden.  These Baptists, like dispensationalists, believe the covenant offered life and salvation by the perfect keeping of the law of God.  Unlike dispensationalists, however, they believe that no man was able to keep the law of God perfectly to the saving of his soul – with one notable exception!  Our Lord Jesus Christ was born under that covenant and kept the law perfectly!  So, for Jesus Christ, the Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Works.  For the nation of Israel, the covenant was a national covenant that offered blessing in the land through obedience (but not salvation) and offered a sacramental system to ceremonially atone for the sins of the nation and to foreshadow and prepare the way for Christ.  For individual people who lived in the covenant, God dealt with them through his gracious plan of salvation whereby their sins could only be righteous by the sacrificial death and meritorious work of Christ.  This is the view of Jeff Johnson and is similar to recent views held by some Paedobaptists.

Conclusion

This is a thorny issue and each view point has much scriptural support and great theologians speaking for it.  Although a difficult and tough knot to untie, I think that studying grace/works/continuity/discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants is the key for understanding the scriptures!

…[God] was pleased to make known His eternal purpose of mercy unto the fathers, in the form of covenants, which were of different characters and revealed at various times. …Each one reveals some new and fundamental aspect of truth, and in considering them in their Scriptural order we may clearly perceive the progress of revelation which they respectively indicated. They set forth the great design of God accomplished by the redeemer of His people.  (AW Pink)

The post linked below contains a very helpful discussion of these manners and a very lively and edifying series of comments by several great Baptist men who hold to traditional Particular Baptist views.  The brotherly tone and challenging back and forth is very edifying example of charitable theological discussion and many key issues are clearly discussed.

Clarification on the Mosaic Covenant and Eternal Life

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Resources for the Epistle to the Hebrews

I’m compiling a list of resources on the book of Hebrews. This post will serve as a repository for those items as I find commentaries/audio/etc.

Commentaries Online

AW Pink Hebrews Commentary

Commentaries Recommended by FF Bruce

A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1924) – James Moffatt

The Epistle to the Hebrews (1903) – Brooke Foss Westcott

The Greek Testament: Volume 4 (1878) – Henry Alford

Commentary Used for RBS Hebrews Class

William Lindsay’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 1
William Lindsay’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 2

John Owen’s Commentary

Hebrews Commentary Volume 1

Hebrews Commentary Volume 2

Hebrews Commentary Volume 3

Hebrews Commentary Volume 4

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Grace: The ONLY Basis of Your Salvation

Introduction

I listened to a sermon last week on the nature of faith and works. The preacher was concerned that so many have been led to sinner’s prayers without making a firm commitment to follow Christ and was advocating that believers present a fuller gospel to prospective converts in order to press upon them a necessary willingness to reject sin and follow Christ. This idea has some merit, but it comes all to close to the errors of John MacArthur’s so-called ‘Lordship Salvation’ where a person is saved (in part) by making a pre-conversion commitment to good works in order to receive salvation (or at least his views can easily be confused this way).

The most popular opposing view to this doctrine is that of another dispensationalist group – the Grace Evangelical Society. Their view is that since salvation is all of grace (and not of works), no pre-conversion commitment to follow Christ (a good work) is necessary. In fact, no good works are necessary at all (!!) – even after conversion. One may be in a state of justification with seemingly no change of nature or visible sanctification at all.

Critique

The problem with both of these views is that they are man-centered. Salvation is not of man, salvation is of the Lord! It is His work through and through. On the one hand, it is certainly not a commitment to Christian cross-bearing that saves us, it is Christ’s cross-bearing that saves us. On the other hand, it is not possible that the Holy Spirit washes one, takes out his heart of stone, writes God’s law on his heart, makes him a new creature for whom all old things (life of sin) are passed away, and seals him with the Holy Spirit of Promise, and all this can make no impact or change on him whatsoever.

In the sermon I heard, the preacher at one point made the mistaken statement that works are the ‘basis’ for our salvation. I certainly don’t think he meant exactly what he said – he was not being careful. But oh what confusion we cause when we are not careful in what we say! We must understand, of course, that works ARE NOT the ‘basis’ of our salvation, but are the ‘necessary evidence’ of our salvation. This may sound like a mere semantic distinction, but the difference between the two is the difference between sound doctrine and heresy!

Below is an examination of the key passage of Scripture bearing on the nature of faith, grace, and good works – Ephesians 2:8-10.

Bringing Scripture to Bear

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

By Grace

Paul begins here by telling us that our salvation is ‘BY GRACE’ … ‘Not of works’. In matter of fact, our salvation is wholly of works. No one is saved apart from sinless perfection. What makes salvation gracious is that when we rebelled (in our father Adam) and lost all ability to obey God or do anything to please him, He sent his son to bear away our sin and live a life of sinless perfection on our behalf. Yes – salvation must be merited, but it is merited by Christ for us! There is so much comprehended in that simple phrase “By Grace…”.

Through Faith

So how do we attain this gracious gift? By making a firm commitment to our own sub-par and ineffectual good works? By pure force of will or intellect? No! This grace comes to us simply through the instrumental means of faith. A simple child-like faith that trusts in Christ and his merit receives life-giving (and sustaining) grace from God.

But is that act of faith itself a good work? Paul tells us that it is not – “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”. Paul teaches us that faith is far from being a human effort – it is a gift given by God. Even the very pleading for mercy is not a capacity the hardened sinner possesses. God Himself gives the desire to reach out to him for mercy and grace.

The reason you or anyone is saved is not because of ANYTHING you have done – NOT your willingness to exercise your own man-made faith or a commitment to clean living. The application of this is “lest any man should boast”. There is nothing that distinguishes one from another in God’s Kingdom, except God’s free dispensing of grace – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom 12:30)

Unto Good Works

So what is the result of our salvation – good works – a changed life that glorifies God, the mortification of sin. One is not saved based on a pre-commitment to good works, but for the one who is regenerated, good works necessarily follow.

Conclusion

I think the reason there is so much confusion in the church about this issue is because those who share the gospel are confused about 1) how much content they need to impart to the hearer for the hearer to make a sound decision, and 2) how much commitment is required from the hearer before we consider the conversion legitimate. This is the wrong approach! We should be concerned with presenting as much gospel truth as we are capable of and have time for and leave the converting work to the Holy Spirit. Preachers should strive to teach the whole counsel of God – those given faith to believe will take hold of it (perhaps slowly). Those who simply have not been given the gift of faith will drift away. True believers will evidence fruit in their life by the power of the holy spirit – public profession in Baptism, hatred for and rooting out of sin, desire to know God and to seek His face, etc.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

These are my thoughts… put yours in the comment section below.

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