Archive for December 2010

Increasing in the Knowledge of Him, by David Bishop

December 27, 2010

Colossians 1:9 reads, “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of Him.”

We don’t begin as Christians in the lie, and then increase to the truth. We begin in knowledge and then increase in that knowledge.

According to John 6, God’s will is than Christ shall lose none of those the Father has given Him. The gospel includes the news that all Christ has accomplished He has accomplished solely for the elect. According to John 6 then, eternal security is a propositional truth inherent in the gospel. It is also a propositional truth that Arminians reject.

The rejection of eternal security constitutes a full rejection of the gospel, for the word of truth is not the word of truth without it. The disagreement between the gospel haters and the justified elect centers on the how and the when of salvation. They think some are saved even though they’ve been led to believe a lie about God.

No Arminian is saved. Not one. Some of the elect are led out of Armianism before they are saved, but no one is saved through an Arminian gospel. Gordon Clark assumes far too much and reads far too much into the text when he makes the claim that the thief on the cross knew nothing of the atonement.

How exactly did Clark know this? After all, the thief says some very peculiar things. For instance, he calls Jesus Lord. Now why would he do that? The Jews called Him Rabbi and teacher, but aside from the thief, Peter was the only other one to call Him Lord, and he did this after the Father had revealed it to him. Also, this thief tells the other thief that Jesus was innocent. How did he know that?

They Thought They Were Safe

December 8, 2010

There is no need to waste time talking about works until we know if a person has repented of Arminianism. If a person still thinks she was saved as an Arminian, then she has not yet obeyed the gospel, no matter how much knowledge she has or how many works she has. Many works prove nothing!

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done it is said by the Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel.

Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

Legalists put the stress on the nature and quality of faith, but not on the righteousness complete by Christ which should be the only object of faith. Those with false gospels debate about if faith is alone or if faith includes works. They squabble about the “instrumentality” of faith alone. But the false gospels all fail to see that the sovereignty of God without the completed righteousness of God is still not good news.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. The only way not to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were characteristic enough. They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their characteristic deeds.

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” added to their faith. They thought they were safe. Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost.

Why? Was it because they lacked enough “characteristic obedience” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? They never were saved and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

They trusted a comfortable gospel because they, like all legalists, had flattered themselves about their obedience being acceptable. We who are Christians now must confess that we too once did the same thing, and that it is only because Christ died for us that we came to repent of that comfortable gospel.

Should Our Obedience be Put into the Assurance Equation?

December 8, 2010

As long as you credit God as the power for your works, most Calvinists have no problem putting your obedience into the equation. Read carefully what Hafemann writes about the “obedience of faith” (p188): “Still others consider obedience to God’s law to be the necessary evidence of faith. For them, if one believes, then obedience becomes the mandatory sign of something else, namely faith, which is the human response to God’s grace that actually saves us. Faith must lead to obedience as a sign that it is real.”

While that it is an accurate description of most Calvinists’ theory about assurance, it is not biblical assurance. We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God.

But most Calvinists, along with the Arminians, think that faith is the response that saves us. Yes, they disagree about the cause and source of faith, but they both leave election out of their “atonement” and out of their “gospel”.

It does not matter that some Arminians say that there was “substitutionary satisfaction” for every sinner, since they think faith is what actually saves. It does not matter that some Calvinists say that there were “multiple-purposes” for the atonement, so that the propitiation was only for the elect, since they preach that it’s God gift of faith which actually saves.

Though the true gospel knows that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel knows that it is the righteousness alone (and not the faith created) which satisfies God’s law.

The legalist Calvinists of course are careful to say that works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. Nevertheless, these legalists do not test their works by their doctrine of righteousness. These legalists think you can be wrong about the doctrine of righteousness, and still give evidence by works of one’s salvation. They raise doubts about those who oppose “Lordship salvation”, but not about sincere hard-working Arminians.

Walter Marshal (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification) teaches us, as Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death.

Since both the Arminian and the legalist Calvinist agree that not everybody will be saved but not about how many sinners Christ died for, they both get assurance from the “tenor of life” of the professing believer.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about other “evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. Only after a person knows what the gospel is, can we then ask if that person judges by that gospel.

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done it is said by the Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel. Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. The only way not to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were characteristic enough. They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their characteristic deeds.

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” added to their faith. They avoided the law/gospel antithesis that Hafemann wants us to avoid. They thought they were safe.

Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost. Why? Was it because they lacked enough “characteristic obedience” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? That’s a trick question: they were lost because they were born lost, and they never were rescued and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

The Law Was Not the Gospel for Adam Either: Against the Covenant of Works

December 8, 2010

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however, is about the satisfaction of God’s law for God’s elect. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function.

Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation: only one sin would put Adam and his seed under its curse, and no matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law could never promise everlasting life.

The antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation. The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

Christians sin, and therefore their “fulfillment of the law” (see for example, Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But the law will not go unsatisfied.

The law, once satisfied by Christ, now demands the salvation of all the elect, for whom the law was satisfied. God the Father would not be just, and God the Son would not be glorified, if the distribution of the justly earned benefits were now conditioned on the imperfect faith of sinners. Yes, faith is necessary for the elect, but even this faith is a gift earned by the righteousness of God in Christ’s work.

This is how the law/gospel antithesis explains Romans 3:31. The law is not nullified but honored by Christ. The only way that its requirements will ever be fully satisfied in the elect (Romans 8:4) is by the imputation of what Christ earned. “

If the law were the gospel, even saying that there’s law (in the garden and now) would be “legalism”. But God is a legalist against legalism. God has told us that the law is not the gospel and that it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5—“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

The legalist identifies law and gospel, and then reduces the demand to including what the Spirit does in the elect. But what God does in us (by grace) must be excluded from the righteousness.

The “covenant of works” theory teaches a ”hypothetical gospel” in which Adam supposedly “could have” earned righteousness for others by keeping the law. One clear way to say that the law is not the gospel is to say that the it was not the gospel for Adam either. But the “covenant of works” is not inherent to the law/gospel antithesis.

Our “Characteristic” Obedience or God’s Righteousness?

December 8, 2010

Scott Hafemann’s The God of Promise and the Life of Faith (Crossway, 2001)

In footnote 6 on p244, Hafemann writes: “ The position I am advocating is based on a reassessment of the traditional Lutheran, Calvinistic and dispensational view of the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. The traditional view saw a conflict between the two, with the law viewed narrowly as God’s demand for sinless obedience as the ground of our salvation, while the gospel called for faith In God’s grace in Christ, who kept the Law perfectly in our place.”

Hafemann does not understand correctly the antithesis he is opposing. Yes, the law is the divine demand for perfection (and also for satisfaction for sins). But he is wrong to focus on a demand for perfection being replaced by a demand for faith. The proper difference would not be faith but the righteousness obtained and imputed by God. What the law demands the gospel gives.

Hafemann is inattentive to three facts about the divine alien righteousness. First, Christ died under the curse of God’s law only for the elect alone. Second, faith has as its object not just any Jesus or any “grace”, but the Jesus who satisfied the law for all who will be justified (and not for the non-elect). Third, this faith is not only a sovereign gift but a righteous gift, given on behalf of Christ and His law-work (Philippians 1:29; John 17).

These three facts are denied by Lutherans and are not being taught by Calvnistic neo-nomian moralists. When Hafemann makes the difference to be between a demand for faith and a demand for perfect obedience, the only thing left to discuss Is the nature of faith. And this is where Hafemann goes: does faith include works or not? If faith works and faith is an instrument, why can’t works of faith be an instrument? Since faith is a result of regeneration, won’t that faith confess the Lordship of the Savour?

Of course Hafemann does discuss the object of faith. His theme is that the law/gospel antithesis is wrong to put all the emphasis on the past. He denies that the past work of Christ is sufficient or the only object of faith. He insists that we look also to the life of Christ in us, and to the future work of Christ in us.

If the gospel is about righteousness, and if the gospel is (also) about what happens in us, then is the righteousness not yet complete? Even though I agree that regeneration is part of the gospel, what the Holy Spirit produces in us is not any part of the righteousness.

To his great credit, Hafemann openly acknowledges his differences with the law/grace antithesis. He thinks his different gospel is more biblical. I think we would all see the difference between the two gospels if we stopped explaining the antithesis by talking only about “faith alone”. The word “imputation” is missing from Hafemann’ s description of the gospel he is opposing. So is the concept of an “alien righteousness”.

The real point of the law-gospel antithesis is not “conflict”. It is non-identity. The law is not the gospel. The gospel is not the law. The gospel, however, is about the satisfaction of God’s law for God’s elect. Though law and gospel are not the same thing, they are not opposed because they never claim to have the same function. Law says what God demands. Gospel says how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. The law never offered life off probation; not only one sin would put you under its curse, no matter how many acts of obedience to the law, the law could never promise everlasting life.

Hafemann thinks that the antithesis understands “Christ to bring the law to an end in the sense of abolishment”. The antithesis does NOT understand Romans 10:4 in terms of abrogation. The “end of the law” is Christ completing all that the law demanded, so that there is no remainder left for the Spirit enabled Christian to do. The gospel says DONE. The gospel does not say “to be done by the life of Christ in the elect”.

Hafemann unfairly reduces the law/gospel antithesis to the abolishment of law. While that it is a good description of Lutheranism and dispensationalism, it misses what the gospel says about Christ’s satisfaction of the law for the elect. Christians sin, and therefore their “fulfillment of the law” (see for example, Romans 13) cannot ever satisfy the law. But the law will not go unsatisfied.

The law, once satisfied by Christ, now demands the salvation of all the elect, for whom the law was satisfied. God the Father would not be just, and God the Son would not be glorified, if the distribution of the justly earned benefits were now conditioned on the imperfect faith of sinners. Yes, faith is necessary for the elect, but even this faith is a gift earned by the righteousness of God in Christ’s work.

This is how the law/gospel antithesis explains Romans 3:31. The law is not nullified but honored by Christ. The only way that its requirements will ever be fully satisfied in the elect (Romans 8:4) is by the imputation of what Christ earned. “Not under law” means not under the curse and not under further demands “for righteousness”.

But to Hafemann, to Wesley, and to all other legalists, Christ’s taking away the sanctions of the law for the elect means eliminating the practical importance of what God demands from all human beings and results in antinomianism.

Back to footnote 6 on page 244: “In this view, the law itself taught a legalism that Adam and Israel failed to keep but that God continues to demand in order to drive us to the gospel.” I want to think about this “legalism”. Hafemann does not define it. Does it mean a demand for perfection? If God demands perfection, is God therefore a “legalist”? It seems to me that the only alternative to a demand for perfection is either no law at all or a “new” demand which calls only for imperfect righteousness so that “grace” makes up the difference.

Hafemann is simply following in the wake of Barthians like the Torrances who reject the “contract God” who demands perfection and operates by justice. These Barthians put “grace” and not justice into the pre-fall situation of Adam.

If the law were the gospel, even saying that there’s law (in the garden and now) would be “legalism”. But God is a legalist against legalism. God has told us that the law is not the gospel and that it never was the gospel. Romans 11:5—“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is not on the basis of works; otherwise grace would not be grace.”

It is Hafemann who is the legalist, because he identifies law and gospel, and then reduces the demand to including what the Spirit does in the elect. But what God does in us (by grace) must be excluded from the righteousness. What God does in us (by grace) is necessary for a different reason than the satisfaction of God ‘s law.

Legalism is lookng to what’s happening in you to still get the law satisfied. In the process of “getting busy for God”, legalists always stop looking completely to what CHRIST GOT DONE ALREADY. What Christ got done was done only for the elect, and not at all for the non-elect. So what Christ already did is the difference between saved and lost.

Yes, there were some forms of dispensationalism which taught that God has more than one gospel. And many non-dispensationalists claim that the OT saints only knew about God’s Lordship or about resurrection. Also of course, most evangelicals tend to teach that “grace” is mostly about what happens in the sinner.

Yes, the “covenant of works” theory teaches a ”hypothetical gospel” in which Adam supposedly “could have” earned righteousness for others by keeping the law. One clear way to say that the law is not the gospel is to say that the it was not the gospel for Adam either. But neither the “covenant of works” nor the plural gospels of dispensationalism are inherent to the law/gospel antithesis.

Hafemann does at least resist reducing everything down to one “the covenant of grace”. Even though he claims that neither the old nor the new covenants demand perfect righteousness, Hafemann wants to focus on the increased power “available” in the new covenant. For him, it is easier (do-able) for those in the new covenant to get it done.

Hafemann seems to think that “legalism” is not giving the Spirit the credit for what you did!. But as long as you are careful to say “thank you God that I am not like this”, and you– not like some– really mean that when you sincerely say it, then you are not a legalist.

As long as you credit God as the power for your works, then Hafemann has no problem putting your obedience into the equation as being a necessary part of the righteousness demanded. Of course, since he does not think our works are perfect, and yet does not think that what Christ got done apart from our works is complete enough, Hafemann has to say that God does not require a perfect righteousness.

Read carefully what Hafemann writes about the “obedience of faith” (p188): “Still others consider obedience to God’s law to be the necessary evidence of faith. For them, if one believes, then obedience becomes the mandatory sign of something else, namely faith, which is the human response to God’s grace that actually saves us. Faith must lead to obedience as a sign that it is real.”

While that it is an accurate description of most Calvinists’ theory about assurance, it is not biblical assurance. We do not work to get assurance. We must have assurance before our works are acceptable to God. But most Calvinists, along with the Arminians, think that faith is the response that saves us. Yes, they disagree about the cause and source of faith, but they both leave election out of their “atonement” and out of their “gospel”.

It does not matter that some Arminians say that there was “substitutionary satisfaction” for every sinner, since they think faith is what actually saves. It does not matter that some Calvinists say that there were “multiple-purposes” for the atonement, so that the propitiation was only for the elect, since they preach that it’s God gift of faith which actually saves.

Though the true gospel knows that the justification of the ungodly does not happen until righteousness is imputed and faith is created by hearing the gospel, the true gospel knows that it is the righteousness alone (and not the faith created) which satisfies God’s law.

The legalist Calvinist of course is careful to say that works are the evidence of Christ’s work in them. Nevertheless, the legalist does not test his works by his doctrine of righteousness. The legalist thinks you can be wrong about the doctrine of righteousness, and still give evidence by works of one’s salvation. They raise doubts about those who oppose “Lordship salvation”, but not about sincere hard-working Arminians.

As Hebrews 9:14 and Romans 7:4-6 teach us, that a person not yet submitted to the righteousness revealed in the gospel is still an evil worker, bringing forth fruit unto death. (See Matthew 7.) Since both the Arminian and the legalist Calvinist agree that not everybody will be saved but not about how many sinners Christ died for, they both get assurance from the “tenor of life” of the professing believer.

Indeed, unless we are universalists or fatalists (some Primitive Baptists are both), we cannot avoid the search for evidence. But we need to see that the evidence is submission to the gospel, which involves knowledge about election, imputation and satisfaction. It is a waste of time to talk about other “evidence” unless a person knows what the gospel is. Only after a person knows what the gospel is, can we then ask if that person judges by that gospel.

There is no need to waste time talking about works until we know if a person has repented of Arminianism. If a person still thinks she was saved as an Arminian, then she has not yet obeyed the gospel, no matter how much knowledge she has or how many works she has. Many works prove nothing!

We first test ourselves to see if we have excluded works as being any part of our righteousness before God. To include the works (done it is said by the Spirit) in the righteousness is evidence all by itself that a person still believes a false gospel. Along with legalism comes indifference about the question of election and about the truth that Christ did not die for the non-elect. Such things don’t matter to the legalist, since what got done on the cross is not enough anyway for the legalist.

Read Hafemann: “In other views, obedience may be possible, desirable, or maybe even necessary as the byproduct of trusting Christ, but it is not an essential expression of what it means to trust Christ in and of itself.” (p188) He is trusting in the false Christ who is now getting the rest of it done imperfectly in us.

He is putting the stress on the nature and quality of faith, but not on the righteousness complete by Christ which should be the only object of faith. Those with false gospels debate about if faith is alone or if faith includes works. They squabble about the “instrumentality” of faith alone. But the false gospels all fail to see that the sovereignty of God without the completed righteousness of God is still not good news.

There are many false gospels and only one true gospel. There are many different ways to be “legalist”. The only way not to be legalist is to know that the law demands perfect righteousness and that the gospel joyfully explains how Christ satisfied that demand for the elect. One certain result of the righteousness earned by Christ is that the elect will believe this gospel and not any false gospel.

Hafemann does not believe in perfect obedience but instead in “habitual” obedience enabled in us. But who is to say what is “characteristic” (P190)? The self-righteous Pharisee thanks his false god for enabling him to be characteristically different from the state-employee.

The workers who came before the the judgment in Matthew 7 were sure that their works were characteristic enough. They were not antinomians and they were not insincere. They probably believed in election also (or at least the unconditional right of Israel to the land!). But instead of pleading a Christ who got done a perfect righteousness, they pleaded their characteristic deeds.

They didn‘t say they had “faith alone”. They were not into “easy believism”. They didn’t say that their obedience was a “second step” added to their faith. They avoided the law/gospel antithesis that Hafemann wants us to avoid. They thought they were safe. Yet despite their false assurance, they were lost. Why? Was it because they lacked enough “characteristic obedience” or was it because they trusted in the false gospel? That’s a trick question: they were lost because they were born lost, and they never were rescued and we know that because they never believed the revealed gospel.

They trusted a false gospel because they, like all legalists, had flattered themselves about their obedience being acceptable. We who are Christians now must confess that we too once did the same thing, and that it is only because Christ died for us that we came to repent of that false gospel.

Hafemann writes on p60: “God’s promises are given to us unconditionally. Only then, sandwiched between what God has done for us and what he promises to do for us in the future, do we find the commands of God for the present as the necessary link between the two.” This is a false “unconditionality”. It makes the gospel “unconditional” in the same way as the law is: if you do it enough right, then God promises not to kill you…..

I will not at this point deconstruct the Daniel Fuller (John Piper?) distinction between grace as the cause of the conditions and the conditions as the cause of grace. That distinction always keeps falling apart. But why do these people find the distinction necessary? They don’t want to keep talking about election. The idea of “unconditional to the elect sinner, and conditioned only on what Christ got done for the elect sinner” says way too much for them about election. In that kind of election, it is the death of Christ (and not faith) which sets one sinner apart from another. (See Hebrews 10:14)

II Peter One reverses legalism by commanding us to examine our works by first making our calling and election sure. By what gospel were we called? Was it the gospel of “characteristic obedience” or was it the gospel of “Christ paid it all for the elect”? Are you trying to follow Christ as Lord without first submitting to being saved only by God’s perfect righteousness?

Christ the Same Today: Christ, Now Risen, Exalted, and Ascended

December 3, 2010

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and to the ages.”

I Corinthians 15: 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

I Corinthians 15:45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Romans 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

Christ is the vine to whom all Christians have been joined, grafted, connected. The reason we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness ( the result sharing in having legal property in Christ’s finished work) is because we are united to Christ the risen person.

I will not say that first we are united to Him and then logically imputed with His work, because 1. there is no union with His risen person apart from legal imputation. There is no being joined to His risen person which is not also being joined to His finished work.

2. There is an union to His work before there is an union to His risen person and this means that Christ died for the elect, and only for the elect. The elect are chosen in Christ, not chosen to be in Christ, so Christ died for them before they exist and before they are united to His risen person. (This does not answer all questions about the nature of Abraham’s union to Christ, before Christ died for Abraham.)

3. Is there a difference between Romans 5:18 (being constituted righteous) and II Cor 5:21 (become the righteousness of God in Christ)?

Is there a difference between John 15 and Romans 6? Is John 15 something other than (even more than) the legal of Romans 6?

Christ is now lifted up, raised high like the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses (John 3:14). “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he…” (John 8;28) The lifting up is mainly Christ’s death: the elect were always chosen in Christ, but Christ was not always dead. Only now has Christ been dead and risen: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to show what kind of death He was going to die.” (John 12:32-33.

Now Christ is seated in heaven (Acts 2:34; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:13). The justified elect are not in heaven, except by legal union/imputation with Christ. The justified elect have not ascended to a place from which they never descended. (John 3:13)

Psalm 110:1–“The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The justified elect do not share God’s throne and do not sit at God’s right hand. The heavenly glory Christ had enjoyed in the Father’s presence before His incarnation has now been “crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death. (Hebrews 2:9) Sitting there at the right hand, Christ does not simply wait but intercedes for the justified elect.

We cannot simply talk about Christ’s death that has now happened, which had not happened before. We must also talk about Christ’s exaltation and ascension. An ascent directly into heaven from the cross would be Plato’s pagan idea of death as the release of an immortal soul; it would be a gnostic resurrection of only the spirit, and not a bodily resurrection. So the being lifted up on the cross to die was the beginning of Christ’s exaltation but not yet the return of the now incarnate Son in embodied glory to his Father.

Ephesians 1:20 describes God’s mighty power “which He exercised in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and enthroned Him at His right hand in the heavenlies.” See also I Peter 1:21, 3:22; Eph 4:8-10; and I Timothy 3:16 (“He was taken up into glory”)

Luke 24:26-” Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter His glory/”

Acts 3:15–“You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.”

Romans 8:34–“What judge will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus who died, and more than that, was raised to life, who indeed is at the right hand of God, and who is pleading our cause?”

Some Who Once Got Into the Abrahamic Covenant Will Not Stay In

December 1, 2010

Gen 17:9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.”

Gen 18:19 “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

When Jeremiah contrasts the new covenant with the one made with the fathers, the contrast is to the Mosaic covenant and not to the Abraham covenant. But neither is it accurate to say that the new covenant is only a renewal of the Abrahamic covenant. As Genesis 17 and 18 suggest, the Abrahamic covenant also had its “conditional” aspects.

One way some people put this all together is to say that the unconditional aspect of covenants only refers to God’s promise to save a people, but that which INDIVIDUALS are part of the people is conditioned on covenant obedience.

I speak not only of Arminians, who say that Jesus died for everybody and that the difference is their faith and obedience.
Instead of saying that all blessing is conditioned only on the imputed righteousness, many Calvinists bring into the picture the sovereign grace of God which enables the elect to meet the conditions of the covenant.

This failure to glory only in the cross is supported by a view of the new covenant which separates “covenant” from election and particular redemption. Abraham stayed in because he was enabled to obey, but some who are in get broken off because they do not obey.

The “state” of those in the new covenant does not depend on our conduct and walk. Those who try to walk to life will never arrive there. The Christian walk is a fruit of life and a guaranteed “stand in grace”. (Romans 5:1-2).

I want to think about Meredith Kline’s By Oath Consigned (Eerdmans, 1968). Despite Kline’s use of new information about extra-biblical treaties to talk about “covenant”, his conclusions are more traditional than many Reformed writers who are now distancing themselves from ANY conditional/unconditional distinctions.

I interact with Kline because I agree with his holding the line on the law/gospel antithesis. Ultimately of course Kline’s book is about infant baptism. Unlike the confessions which speak of the water as a means of assurance, Kline says that the water puts individuals into a conditional covenant, and introduces them to potential curse as well as potential blessing. But my focus in this short essay is not baptism, but Kline’s view of covenants.

If there is such a thing as “being in the covenant” but not being in Christ, what are the blessings of “being in the covenant” for those for whom Jesus did not die? Is there a “common grace” of being “in the covenant”, if one assumes that the non-elect can be included for a time in the covenant? Kline cautions that “we are not to reduce the redemptive covenant to that proper purpose.”

Those who don’t continue to believe the gospel are condemned. (John 3:18). But this is something different from saying that the non-elect are in the new covenant, and will be cursed and broken off if they don’t continue to believe..

But Kline resists the “bent toward such a reduction of covenant to election. To do so is to substitute a logical abstraction for the historical reality…” The historical reality for Kline is the reality of covenant threats and “actual divine vengeance against the disobedience as covenantal elements”. I agree about divine vengeance but my question is if this wrath is “covenantal”.

Do those who are never initiated into the new covenant experience wrath? I am sure Kline would agree with me that they do. But this is something different from saying that those who experience the wrath of God were once members of the new covenant. This is one way that the new covenant is not like the Abrahamic covenant.

Those who hear the gospel and reject it face greater condemnation but this does not prove that they EVER knew the Lord covenantally. Matthew 7 teaches us that there are those who never knew the Lord. I agree that the blessing of the new covenant comes through covenant curse on Jesus Christ. But if Christ has kept the covenant for all those in the new covenant, then how can Kline speak of “dual sanctions” for those in the new covenant?

Kline thinks that those who were never elected and those for whom Jesus never died can be initiated into the new covenant. And his pattern for this is not only the Mosaic covenant but the Abrahamic covenant. Not all the children of Abraham are children of Abraham. It was possible to be in that covenant but not be justified like Abraham was.

Not all Israel is Israel, and there is nothing the non-elect can do about it. The non-elect cannot get themselves out of the Abrahamic covenant, no matter how much they might want to, and they can never get themselves into Christ (not that the non-elect ever want to saved by the true Christ.)

Kline agrees that Jeremiah 31 sounds like “discontinuity” with earlier covenants. “Jeremiah speaks, to be sure, only of a consummation of grace; he does not mention a consummation of curses in the new Covenant.” p76. But Kline maintains this is only a matter of focus: the emphasis is on eschatological blessing but curse is not denied

Kline asks: “But the theologian of today ought not to impose on himself the visionary limitations of an Old Testament prophet.”But why should we take this (Marcionite? to turn the tables!) attitude to Jeremiah? Perhaps the prophet really is seeing a new covenant which has no “dual sanctions” because it is altogether conditioned on the obedience of Christ.

Yes, there is excommunication in the New Testament. But what Kline needs to show is that those judgments are exclusions of those who are in the new covenant. Otherwise we simply assume the paradigm with which we begin. I John 2:19 says that those who sent out “were not of us.”

But John 15 says that those who do not abide in the vine are thrown away. Is the right exegesis here that those who began to abide were later broken off from “the covenant”?

As for me, I don’t see how saying that the vine is the covenant fits with Christ saying He is the true vine. Certainly there is such a thing as a false profession and assurance about Christ, but does it really answer any questions to introduce into John 15 a covenant with dual sanctions?

But Kline argues that the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 is ultimately not about now but about after the second coming. Thus he says that we who say that only the elect are now in the new covenant “prematurely precipitate the age to come.” (p77, footnote about Jewett). In other words, Kline does the already/ not yet number, with an emphasis on the not yet. The new covenant is really not yet, he thinks, because now there are those in it who do not know the Lord.

Kline argues from the covenant breaking of Israelites in Romans 11:17-21. If gentiles in the new covenant are grafted into the Abrahamic covenant, then we must not say that the new convent is unconditional because the Abrahamic covenant was not unconditional. Verse 21: “he may not spare you either”.

Of course we have the promise of Romans 8:32 that all those for whom God did not spare His Son will be spared. The condition of this blessing is Christ’s obedience (even to death) . So I think it is possible to warn and threaten folks ( he may not spare you either) without telling them that they have been initiated into the new covenant. I think Kline would agree: not all are in the new covenant, we have to be initiated.

But are there some in the new covenant who will not be spared? What good would it do to warn people in the new covenant about this if it were not possible for them to be broken off? Then again, what good would it do to warn people about any disobedience if they are so reckless as to put all their hope in Christ as the only condition of blessing?

Since I reject the theology of paradox, I seek reconciliation of all the biblical data. I don’t want a reduction which leave out the warnings. But I would argue that the issue in Romans 9 to 11 is not about “covenant keeping” but about continued faith in the righteousness of Christ.

When Romans 9:32 complains that some of the children of Abraham did not seek righteousness by faith, this does not mean that they did not work in the right way. Faith in the righteousness means NOT TO WORK AT ALL. Those who rejected Jesus were perfectly willing to give God credit for their works. They were just not ready to be told by Jesus that their works were not only unprofitable but also ungodly! .

The reason the works of the Israelites who stumbled were evil was not simply a lack of sincerity or moral effort. Their works were evil because they were done without faith in the gospel Abraham believed.

That gospel says that God justifies the ungodly who do not work (Romans 4:5). It was not a situation of being in a covenant but failing to meet certain conditions. The problem was people not believing the promise of the gospel.

Romans 10:3 “for they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. “

This is not a “premature” anticipation of the age to come. ALREADY in Romans 9-11, Paul makes two points:

1. Not every Jew is elect or justified: one could be in the Abrahamic covenant but not justified by God as an individual. So far, with this even the Jew who stumbled could agree. Yes, we are elect because God has made us able to keep the covenant. Thus we teach grace but also conditional covenant.

2. Paul has a second point to make in Romans 9:11, and this is the one many stumble upon. Paul claims that we cannot establish our own righteousness, not even if we give God the credit for our doing.

The claim of Romans 11:32 is finally that “God has committed them all to disobedience, to have mercy on all.”.This is not a claim that every individual will be justified. All for whom Christ kept all conditions will be justified. But this gospel hope is not founded on the obedience of those who will be justified.

There was a law-aspect to the Abrahamic covenant so that we can speak of some Israel being broken off. Some who once got into the Abrahamic covenant will not stay in. Not all Israel is Israel.

But those for whom Christ died will be spared. To tell a person that “you may not be spared either” is to warn her that she may not yet be in the new covenant.