Archive for December, 2008

Understanding Covenant Theology #3

December 17, 2008

What is the Bible all about?  That is, what is its overall message and theme? 

We could say that the Bible is the story of Christ, or we could say that it is the story of redemption, or we could say it is the story of grace; we could give each of these as our answer and be correct in each case. 

The Bible, BOTH OLD TESTAMENT AND NEW, is the story of Christ, the gracious redeemer.   

This is important for us to understand, for some of us have been taught, either directly or by implication, that the Old Testament is about Israel, and the New Testament is about the Church.  Or it might have been said this way, “The Old Testament is about Moses and the Law, and the New Testament is about Jesus and grace”, pitting Israel against the Church, Moses against Jesus, and Law against Grace.  This idea, that the Old Testament and the New Testament stand in opposition to one another, comes from that system of doctrine known as DISPENSATIONALISM.

But listen, friends, if you take a closer look at scripture, you’ll see that Moses, the Law, and Israel works in concert WITH Jesus, grace, and the Church in bringing about God’s plan.  This is what the system of doctrine known as COVENANT THEOLOGY teaches.

For example, Moses declares the authority of Jesus when he (Moses) prophecies:

Deuteronomy 18:15 (KJV) The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 

And we see that the Law was not an enemy of grace at all, but an helper to it:

Galatians 3:24 (KJV) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

And we see that the Church and Israel were more alike than they were different in that they are both called “the people of God,” (NOT the peoples of God), with Israel being called “the church” in a certain place and the Church being called “the Israel of God” in a certain other place:

Acts 7:37-38 (KJV) 37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

Galatians 6:16 (KJV) And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

Further, notice in the following passage how Moses is said to prefer the suffering of the people of God and the reproach of Christ to the riches of Egypt:

Hebrews 11:24-26 (KJV) 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Do you see how “Christ” and “the people of God” are used as if they were almost the same thing?  And that is speaking of an OLD TESTAMENT EVENT! 

Do you see the continuity yet?  Let’s keep going.

Did you notice that phrase in the verse from Hebrews that is quoted above:  “the people of God”?

DISPENSATIONALISTS tell us that there are TWO peoples of God – the Church, and Israel.

But it is clear that COVENANT THEOLOGY gets it right by pointing out that there is only one people of God, as scripture makes abundantly clear:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (KJV) 11 Wherefore remember, that ye beingin time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

We could provide more scripture proofs, but this should suffice for the present.  We must note this ONE people of God in this age is the CHURCH, and the “Church age” continues throughout the remainder of human history:

Ephesians 3:21 (KJV) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

DISPENSATIONALISTS tell us that the “Church age” will end some day, and God’s people will go back to Moses’ Law.  This is in direct contradiction of the plain teaching of scripture, and I might add that dispensationalists like to boast that their interpretation of scripture represents the “normal and plainest meaning of the scripture”. 

Well now, this post has not gone the way I had planned.  It is not as short as I would have liked, but it is important to established the importance of understanding continuity in the Bible before I can go on to explain the Covenant of Redemption , and other issues I raised in my last post. 

We will endeavor to proceed to those issues in the next installment.

This Blog May be Moving Soon

December 7, 2008

I’ve had it with the filth on WordPress.  I opened the WordPress home page tonight and was greeted with “Merry ****ing Christmas” from some blog in the “Hawt Post”, whatever that means.

It’s one thing if people want to blaspheme on their own blog, but neither myself nor my children should be subjected to such insulting garbage.

If it happens again, I’m outa here.

Joel.

Understanding Covenant Theology #2

December 3, 2008

As I struggle to get a fuller understanding of Covenant Theology myself, I want to share with my readers what little nuggets of truth I might have captured along the way.  I will do some small posts – sound bites, if you will, geared toward helping my dispensational friends grasp the concepts at a very basic level.  This is not to insult those who might have an advanced understanding of the issues, but to help those that are like myself, needing concepts broken down into basic building blocks before I can see the whole.

And I would like to invite any experienced Covenant Theologians that may happen by to critique my work here so that we may all learn.

First of all, the thing to know about Covenant Theology (CT) and Dispensational Theology (DT), is that it is not so much about the idea of covenant against the idea of dispensation, but it is the idea of continuity or flow against the idea of discontinuity or stop/start. 

CT emphasizes the continuity of scripture — the flow, as a river is a single body of water, and flows from its head to its end.  DT emphasized the changes in scripture — like a river that flows but is quickly confronted by a dam which requires a major diversion of the flow before it continues.

But this does not mean that CT does not recognize changes, nor does it mean that DT does not recognize continuation.  The difference is in the emphasis and how those aspects fit into the puzzle as a whole.  For example, CTer’s often speak of dispensations, and likewise DTer’s often speak of covenants.  But when a CTer speaks of a “dispensation”, he may or may not be talking about a period of time, whereas a DTer is nearly always talking about a period of time.  CT recognizes that “dispensation” can mean either a period of time, but more often, it means to dispense or distribute in the working out of a commission or or tasking.  See Ephesians 3:2 for an example of this.

But let’s get back to the idea of flow and my example of a river.  Imagine a River named “Covenant”, and the head of this river is called “Grace”.  CT speaks of the “Covenant of Grace”, which is the single, continuous, unifying theme of the entire Bible.  We learn of this Covenant of Grace first of all in Genesis 3:15: 

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” 

This is the first time in the Bible we read of a promise from God to save His people.  “It shall bruise they head” is the promise to Adam and Eve and their believing descendants that Christ (the “seed”) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan), thereby silencing the “accuser of the brethren”.

Since God was not obligated to save Adam and Eve, the fact that he DID save them is called “grace”, hence, the Covenant of Grace.  From this point forward, the entire remainder of the Bible is the story of how God brings about the fulfillment of that Covenant.   

Let’s think about these things for now.  Here  are some things I will cover in coming installments:

– The covenant of redemption

– The covenant of works (both of which preceeded the covenant of grace)

–  The issue of discontinuity and “economy” in the dispensational view

–  How does the Law flow in the same direction as the Gospel

– To whom does the Covenant of Grace apply?