Archive for October 2015

The Problem with “Us” Theology

October 14, 2015

Mark 9: 40 For whoever is not against us is for us.

Some Christians “act as if some vast conspiracy is brewing in America over the Christian faith, with naysayers organized against Christians. They feel like they live life on the cultural margins, so they take that as their identity–they count their marginalization as their righteousness. They are not looking to Jesus as their only righteousness, and so they act from prejudice, assuming that everyone hates them, and they act in a way that confirms this.” (Crucifying Morality, p 105, R. W. Glenn)

“For the manifestation of His glory”—that is how the Bible itself explains everything. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

The Bible was written to those who believe the Christian gospel (not the message of tolerance and loves everybody), so when Bible readers see a “loves us”, they need to ask the question Tonto asked the Lone Ranger— “who’s the us?” https://sojo.net/magazine/january-february-2002/tonto-principle

According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and that love is never conditioned on the sinner. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Anti-individualism is the reigning ideology of our day. Most political and religious self-help books end with the exhortation to find fulfillment by finding community. We meet together to be chastised again for being too concerned about ourselves alone. We are reminded that “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) does not eliminate the greater truth that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:2).

Since me does not rule out us, then us does not rule out them. And since almost nobody talks about elect and non-elect, the truth that Christ died for His sheep cannot be understood as denying that Christ died also for goats. So the Arminians tell us. Election yes, but not when we are talking about Christ’s death

But what about the “Calvinists” who will also not talk about election when they are talking about Christ’s death and love? They only say, “if you put your trust in Him,” and will not spell out the antithesis between sheep for whom Christ died and goats for whom Christ did not die. They double-talk about God’s love. On the one hand, everyone listening to them is regarded as one of the “us” who Christ loves. On the other hand, listeners are being warned that Christ’s love depends on them “putting their trust in”. At issue here is not only the extent of Christ’s love but the nature of Christ’s love. If Christ’s love is often unrequited, then even His love for those who love Him back is of a very different nature than the biblical love which never lets go of any God gave His Son.

It does no good to say that God took the initiative, or even that God loved the unlovely. In our own relationships, one of us takes the first step. But if the other person does not respond to the first love, it amounts to nothing. Think about that. I say it quite seriously. If Christ’s love is an initiative which depends on our response, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing.

Galatians 2:20 does not say that the Son of God loved you and gave Himself for you. Nor does the text give clergy the authority to extrapolate that God loves you and gave Himself for you. Rather, the next verse says “if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” If Christ’s love depends on you keeping the law to put your trust in Him, then Christ’s love amounts to nothing and His death was for no purpose.

A love which possibly amounts to nothing? In our relationships, we love the lovely. We become lovely to those who are lovely to us. In the same way, the false gospel depends on our becoming more lovely. If we don’t become lovely enough to at least put our trust in the love of the false Christ of the false gospel, then that love fails.

What good is a love for the unlovely which depends on them becoming lovely at some point? A love which CAN amount to nothing always DOES amount to nothing. We are unlovely sinners who cannot respond to initiatives. If we think we can do one lovely thing to respond, then we presume that God is wooing us. We think God is appealing to the part of us which God finds lovely. So then, no matter what we say, we don’t really believe that God loves the unlovely. We can’t believe it.

A divine love which CAN fail amounts to a meaningless nothing, because such a love disregards the cross and the death by which Christ paid for the sins of the elect alone. Many “Calvinists” think of election and definite redemption as two different things, because they think of love and propitiation for the elect as two different things.

Not so in the Scripture! John 10 does not say that the good Shepherd loves the goats so that they can become sheep if they respond. John 10:12 says that “he who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

Notice the antithesis. The good shepherd does not act like the hired man. The hired man’s love amounts to nothing. How do we know the Shepherd loves the sheep? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Does this mean that the Shepherd dies as a representative of the sheep along with the sheep? No. The Shepherd is not only the leader, not only the first to die. The Shepherd dies as a substitute for the sheep. Because the Shepherd dies, the sheep do not die. John 10 does not separate Christ’s love and Christ’s death. Christ loves those for whom He dies. Christ dies for those He loves.

So what’s my point? Christ did not die for “us” if you think “us” means everybody.. John 10 makes this clear and simple. It does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.” It’s NOT if you put your trust in me, then you will become my sheep.

Yes, many “Calvinists” reason, we also believe in election. We know that John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. We just don’t we should talk about that when we are talking about Christ’s loving and dying. When we talk about Christ’s love, we stay with the “if you trust in Him”, and don’t get into the business of them not being able to trust if they are not elect. Christ knew who was not elect, but we don’t

I agree that we don’t know who is not elect. Just because a person does not now believe the true gospel does not mean that person never will believe. Any person who will one day believe the true gospel is already a sheep. Christ already loves them, and Christ already died for them. But we can say all that without leaving the door open for anybody (Lutheran or “Reformed”) who teach that Christ died for everybody. (or died “in some sense” for everybody, either to make an offer or to make punishment just or for whatever reason).

If we do not say that Christ died for the elect and not for the non-elect, those who climb in other ways will be saying (not only thinking) that it all depends on “if you trust In Him”. If we don’t talk about Christ’s death and election at the same time, we ourselves will be heard preaching a love that depends on the sinner to respond.

My main point is not the motives of the These “Calvinists”. Surely some of them are hired men who know they won’t be hired if they talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Others of them sincerely have essentially the same false gospel as the thieves who teach a universal death conditioned on a sinner’s faith.

My point is that Christ’s love amounts to everything! Christ’s love meant dying on the cross for those He loved, and that love is decisive. That love is not one factor among many. Christ’s love is not about making some people lovely. Christ’s love is about a death which propitiates the wrath of God against elect sinners for their sins. Because of God’s love for individuals elect in Christ, God imputed their sins to Christ.

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Saying Babies are Christians Is Just as Much Against the Gospel as Dispensationalism

October 2, 2015

Instead of different dispensations, paedobaptists are committed to an erroneous “one covenant of grace” that includes more than just the elect.
Along with this error about covenants, paedobaptists teach false notions about about “common grace in the covenant” and about “sacramental grace” (even for the non-elect).

John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them. ” http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/calvin/bk4ch17.html

Mike Horton: “To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? If faith is the only way into membership , then why all the warnings to members of the covenant community to persevere in faith to the end? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator. ” http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton/

The Horton quotation suggests that only people presumed to be in the church (or in the covenant) can be addressed with the gospel. Is Horton saying that we need to think of our babies as Christians before we can command them to believe the gospel? If not, what is he saying? Is Horton saying that people who don’t go to church and don’t profess to be Christians can’t be warned about the need to believe  the gospel? Or is Horton saying that the only people who need to be warned to believe the gospel are those put in the covenant without first believing the gospel?

Douglas Bond, Grace Works P and R, 2014 p 92—“There are men today who encourage their congregations to tear out the page between the Old and New Testaments in their Bibles. Zealous to avoid the error of dispensationalism, these men make the continuity of the covenants the foundation of their preaching. But I wonder if it is a foundation that is able to support the scandal of grace. If we care about the distinction between law and gospel…then we will train our ears for those who don’t seem to want to keep the distinction between the old and new covenants.Their insistence on ‘the continuity of the covenants’ may prove to be a code phrase for confusing law and gospel. Where there is a merging of the old and new covenants, it will never be the law diminished by gospel. It will always be the gospel fatally diminished by the law.”

The Abrahamic covenant came before the old covenant (the Mosaic covenant), and therefore the Abrahamic covenant is NOT the new covenant. Abraham had two sons.

If circumcision was for Abraham a seal of the promise to Abraham that Abraham would have children and own a lot of land, then we cannot say that circumcision is nothing but a seal of righteousness that he had by faith. The circumcision is a sign of other things also. Circumicision was a sign of more than one thing.

Paedobaptists tend to read the Old Testament as if the Arahamic covenant and the new covenant were the same, and thus reduce the Abrahamic covenant to being only about the righteousness earned by Christ.

Romans 4:11 teaches that circumcision was a sign to Abraham that he Abraham had the righteousness. The circumcision is a sign that Christ will bring in the righteousness, but not a sign to anybody else but Abraham that they have or are promised the righteousness. The righteousness is promised only to as many as believe the gospel.

Israel is a type fulfilled by Christ, not by a mixed body of justified and non-justified folks we call “the church”. Circumcision is a type of the forensic “cutting off” from legal identity in Adam by means of Christ’s death.

Christ’s death is the legal death of the justified elect, and that death is not water, not regeneration, not “covenant membership” in a conditional covenant.

It’s not water that fulfills the type of circumcision. Christ’s death to the law imputed to the elect is the ultimate thing signified by circumcision. Christ did not become cleansed or regenerated, but His blood was shed to satisfy justice, and that’s the central truth to which circumcision speaks.

Paedobaptists tend to minimize or ignore the other preliminary things signified by circumcision. Deyoung writes “And if this spiritual sign—a seal of the righteousness that comes by faith—was administered to Abraham and his infant sons, then we cannot say that the thing signified must always be present before the sign is administered.”,

For the sake of the gospel, we need to see that 1. in the case of Abraham, the righteousness signified had already been imputed to Abraham before circumcision. and 2. there is more than one thing signified but Deyoung has ignored that and now only focuses on the righteousness. 3. and even in regard to the righteousness which is signified, there is an ambiguity in which paedobaptists have their cake and eat it also.

On the one hand, they tell us we can’t know who is justified, and so the sign is not about an infallible knowledge that this infant will be justified. But agreeing with that, why not then give the sign to everybody? But then, on the other hand, their confessions teach that there is a promise to the children of those who are Christians.

Here there is more ambiguity, since first we can’t infallibly know which parents are justified, and second, there is no promise to Christians that they will even have children, and third, What exactly is this promise to the children of those who are Christians?

There is no promise that specific children will be justified. So at the most, what you have is some idea that they are “in the covenant” and thus perhaps more liable to “covenant curses”. But again, how are these infants different from any other infants, since all infants are born guilty in Adam and all need that righteousness, and none of them is promised that righteousness, and they can only know they have it if God gives them faith in the gospel?

Dispensationalists can’t really see the newness of the new covenant, because they can’t let go of the idea that the Abrahamic covenant promised land unconditionally to ethnic Israel. And paedobaptists can’t really see the newness of the new covenant, because they can’t let go of the genealogical principle of the Abrahamic covenant in which they presume that their babies are born Christians.

Despite Christ’s death as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, paedobaptists still think there is a genealogical principle at work in the new covenant. They think the Abrahamic covenant is no different from the new covenant, and that the new covenant is no different from the Abrahamic covenant. This is why they read Colossians 2:11-13 and assume that water baptism is the fulfillment of the sign of circumcision.

Renihan— The new covenant is distinct from the biblical covenants that preceded it in history, particularly the Abrahamic covenant. Simply put, the Abrahamic covenant promised (not only Christ the seed to come but also) earthly blessings to Abraham and his offspring. This covenantal relationship was expanded and developed in the Mosaic covenant and the Davidic covenant (the Mosaic covenant added laws for life in Canaan, and the Davidic covenant provided kings over the people). These three covenants established and governed the kingdom of Israel, comprised of Abraham’s people. The … new covenant is established on better promises, different promises. The new covenant alone is the covenant of grace, distinct from the Israelite covenants.

Throughout Israel’s history, many understood the messianic promises and looked to Jesus in faith prior to his advent (Hebrews 4:2-3; 11:13-16). The people of God, considered according to the federal headship and benefits of Christ, did not begin with the incarnation. The Israelite kingdom and its covenants were typological. Typology sustains two truths: on the one hand a type had significance in its own context while on the other hand a type pointed away from itself to a greater meaning in Christ. The author to the Hebrews states quite plainly that the blood of the Israelite sacrifices could not forgive sins. Why? Because although those sacrifices had meaning in the Israelite context, i.e., purification of the flesh, they were not Christ’s sacrifice and could not purify the conscience (Hebrews 10:1-4, 12-14).

Paul treats God’s dealings with Abraham the same way by calling believers the children of Abraham and finding a greater meaning in the word “offspring” as relating to Christ rather than simply Abraham’s posterity (Galatians 3:7, 9, 16, 27-29). It is not ONE OR THE OTHER, as though promises were made only to Abraham and his natural children or to Christ and his offspring (Abraham included). It is both, each with its particular but related meaning in a typical or antitypical context. And thus the kingdom and covenants of Israel were not the kingdom and covenant of Christ though they were driving towards his birth and revealing truths about him all along the way. Old Testament saints were saved by the promise of one who was to come, and the covenant that he would establish. Consequently we should not use the kingdom of Israel and its covenants as the pattern for churches.

Looking to the parent-child relationship is a misdirected attempt to understand covenantal membership. Redirecting our attention to federal headship brings clarity …. We blame Adam, not our parents, for the curse. The Israelites looked to Abraham, not their parents, for a claim to Canaan and its blessings, and to the conduct of the king, not their parents, for tenure in the land. So also, children must look to Christ, not their parents, for a claim to his covenant….We are born under Adam’s federal headship, and no one escapes the domain of darkness until God transfers them “to the kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).

http://www.placefortruth.org/placefortruth/article/the-case-for-credobaptism