Archive for the ‘covenants’ category

If God’s sovereignty causes it to happen, it must be grace-which is why you were born a Christian and an American

February 14, 2017

Douthat–“That’s not who we are.” So said President Obama, again and again throughout his administration, in speeches urging Americans to side with him against the various outrages perpetrated by Republicans. And now so say countless liberals, urging their fellow Americans to reject the exclusionary policies and America-first posturing of President Donald Trump. The problem with this rhetorical line is that it implicitly undercuts itself. If close to half of America voted for Republicans in the Obama years and support Trump today, then clearly something besides the pieties of cosmopolitan liberalism is very much a part of who we are.”

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton

Mike Horton–Hebrews assumes a category of covenant members who are in some sense beneficiaries of the Spirit’s common work through the means of grace. They are covenant members “who have once been enlightened” (ancient church documents use “baptized” and “enlightened” interchangeably), “who have tasted the heavenly gift [the Supper], and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away” Specifically, they have fallen away from the new covenant… Through their covenant membership they have shared in God’s common grace, and now, if they respond in unbelief, they will bear the curses of the new covenant. A Baptist interpretation cannot account for this category of common covenant beneficiaries of grace who spurn the objective common grace delivered to them and fall away. It is only covenant theology that accounts for this tertium quid between “foreigners to the covenant” and “elect members.” Some non-elect brothers and sisters share the new covenant in common with the elect.

Mike Horton—”Covenant theology does not teach that the covenant of grace itself is “breakable”. God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not… The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ with all of his benefits. …..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? ”

We did not choose to be born in America, so doesn’t that prove that it’s grace to be born in America?

If God’s sovereignty causes it to happen, it must be grace—This is why you were born a Christian and this is why you need to become a Christian?

Was the election of Obama and Trump an accident OR was it OUR mistake?

If American cannot become some better, isn’t that saying that America is equivalent to what America always was?

We made some bad decisions, but that’s not who we are?

If America did something terrible even one time, does that mean that American could maybe do it again?

When we go to the meetings, we say, We are Americans, it’s been four years since we voted

But we were born here, and so we cannot say that we are not Americans anymore (we are not baptists anymore)

We can watch everybody else, but nobody but us can watch us

having a king was not God’s idea
your idea, God told them, but God is still king
and what will happen now with your king
is not God’s will but then again not against God’s will
call it a “hand over”

Since you did not choose your parents, and you did not choose where to be born
therefore it must be all grace, not a choice

so why do you hear so many sermons commanding you to “become what you are”?

Do this because of who you are now or because of who you will become—Those appeals makes sense.

But become what you are?

If we are x, we do not need to become x unless of course there is some kind of “as if fiction” happening.

Because you are justified, become thankful

If you are justified, you stay justified, unless you are in a covenant where Christ is not the mediator.

if you are justified, you don’t become condemned, unless you are in a covenant which is not governed by election and take as good news an atonement which is not governed by election.

Nobody has always been justified, but those who have been justified are not still being justified, unless they are in a covenant where law is grace and grace is law.

http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/four-views-on-eternal-security

Sam Storms: “The contention is that the blessings listed in Hebrews 6: 4-5 are experienced neither by the “saved” nor the “unsaved” but by those persons who belong to the covenant community but who have not been regenerated or come to saving faith in Christ. The contention is that to such persons the warning passages, threatening the consequences of apostasy, are addressed. Other views are faulted for failing to recognize “a category for a person who is in the covenant but not personally united by living faith to Jesus Christ”

Sam Storms– I find this entirely unpersuasive. There is no indication in the New Testament that anyone was regarded as a member of the New Covenant (as promised in Jeremiah 31 ) apart from faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. …

A “synagogue sermon” which scandalizes both exclusivists and inclusivists

December 12, 2016

John 1: 6 There was a man named John
who was sent from God.
7 John came as a witness
to testify about the light,
so that all would believe through him
8 John was not the light,
but John came to testify about the light.

I Corinthians 15: 13 But each in his own order:Christ, the first fruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when Christ abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For Christ must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death

The age to come has now come, the age to come has not yet come. The day of recompense to come has not yet come, and this explains the discontinuity between the old covenants and the new covenant. Some of us focus on the unbelief of the disciples and John the Baptist, and others of us notice their lack of understanding of the meaning of Christ’s kingdom. The age to come which has now come with Christ is not the same as the ages of the old covenants but it is also not the same as another age to come after this age. That day will be a day of vengeance and recompense. As usual I want to notice what tends to get skipped or not commented on some famous texts

Isaiah 35—The wilderness and the dry land will be glad;
the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose.
2 The land will blossom abundantly
and will also rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
steady the shaking knees!
4 Say to the cowardly:
“Be strong; do not fear!
Here is your God; VENGEANCE IS COMING
GOD’S RETRIBUTION IS COMING; God will save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy,
for water will gush in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the parched ground will become a pool of water,
and the thirsty land springs of water.
In the haunt of jackals, in their lairs,
there will be grass, reeds, and papyrus.
8 A road will be there and a way;
it will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.
Even the fool will not go astray.
9 There will be no lion there,
and no vicious beast will go up on it;
they will not be found there.
But the redeemed will walk on it,
10 and the redeemed of the Lord will return
and come to Zion with singing,
crowned with unending joy.
Joy and gladness will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee.

Isaiah 61: The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim LIBERTY to the captives
and FREEDOM to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s FAVOR,
and the DAY OF OUR GOD’S VENGEANCE

to comfort all who mourn,
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify Him.
6 But you will be called the Lord’s priests;
they will speak of you as SERVANTS of our God;
you will eat the wealth of the nations,
and you will boast in their riches.
7 Because your shame was double,
and they cried out, “Disgrace is their portion,”
therefore, they will possess double in their land,
and lasting joy will be theirs.
8 For I Yahweh
will faithfully GIVE THEM RECOMPENSE
10 I greatly rejoice in the Lord,
I exult in my God;
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation
and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness,
as a groom wears a turban
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth produces its growth,
and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

When Jesus came to his own, his own received Him not. Instead they were SCANDALIZED by Jesus. They were OFFENDED by Jesus. The conservatives who liked the status quo thought Jesus was being too “political”. And those who wanted to overcome the Roman occupation thought that Jesus was being too “spiritual” (instead of political).

I often speak of “synagogue sermons” with contempt. By this I mean sermons which are not about Christ but about morality and charity, sermons which could be given to anybody, anywhere. My reference is to “sermons that think they are universal not sectarian” but which carefully exclude (or fail to attend to) anything which might possibly offend anybody. These are sermons that could be given in a mosque or a synagogue with the same (very little) effect. I hear these sermons in Christian churches, both liberal and conservative.

But there is one “synagogue sermon” which caused its hearers to be angry and to attempt violence against Jesus. Were they angry because they were atheists who did not believe in God? No. Were they angry because Jesus left off the part of the quotation from Isaiah which left out the part about the Day of Recompense? It’s not obvious that this was the case. Were they disappointed that the Age to Come they had expected had not yet come? Perhaps, but’s it’s not clear. Were they scandalized because Jesus talked about including Gentiles as well as Jews? I don’t think so. I think the main offense was that Jesus, like John the Baptist, talked about not all the Jews being included. Jesus was not “new perspective” nor was Jesus teaching a new gospel which was “more not less inclusive”.

Luke 4: 16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down to teach. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Jesus.21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

22 They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth….Jesus said to them, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed —only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged.29 They got up, drove Jesus out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Jesus over the cliff.30 But Jesus passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

Even though John the Baptist may not have been confused about the exclusion of some Jews from the kingdom, even John was bewildered and doubting about the nature of the kingdom age which had come with Jesus. What the old covenants had taught about the age to come seemed like it was all done at one time, not in two ages, with still another age to come. John the Baptist had already scandalized many, both Pharisees and Sadducees

Matthew 3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” 3 For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!
5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. 7 When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his water baptism, John said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

John the Baptist preached news about Christ as the one who had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. John pointed to Christ as the one who had come to bring the Day of Recompense. John the Baptist preached the law in order to point to Christ as the gospel.

Matthew 11: 2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, John sent a message by his disciples 3 and asked Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4 Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:5 the blind see, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed,the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.6 And if anyone is not OFFENDED BECAUSE OF ME, he is blessed.”

7 Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. 10 This is the one it is written about:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You;
he will prepare Your way before You.

Chaplains of the status quo teach us that it was all a big misunderstanding, that some people think that the kingdom is political but it is not. Chaplains of the status quo wear soft clothes and live in king’s palaces. But John, in preaching the law, was negative about the chaplains and the status quo. John was positive about a coming day of wrath and recompense. Even though John the Baptist was wrong about the timing, John was not wrong about God’s law being satisfied in the future. God’s wrath is satisfied not only in Christ’s death which was ordained by God but which was organized by the Jewish political status quo. God’s wrath was shown in that age by the Roman destruction of the temple and will be shown in the destruction of all the non-elect in the Day to come.

But all these events , John’s preaching and even the synagogue teaching of Jesus (Luke 4) all happened before Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. All that preaching had more repenting in the message than it did “believe and you shall be saved”. Without saying that any one person needs to hear law before gospel, it does seem that for a time what is being heard is law as a preparation for the gospel. Do all the law and you will be saved. But you can’t do all the law, so you won’t be saved. Now you are ready for the gospel. But in some stores. it seems like nobody ever gets to the gospel, because everybody is stuck in law-mode, both those who know they are doomed because they can’t do the law and also those who think they do enough of the law and thank God for giving them the sincerity and ability to do the law, and to “at least” be better than those who killed John the Baptist.

Matthew 14 Herod had arrested John, chained him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4 since John had been telling him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her!” 5 Though Herod wanted to kill John , Herod feared the crowd, since they regarded John as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 So Herod promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 And prompted by her mother, she answered, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter!” 9 Although the king regretted it, Herod commanded that it be granted because of his oaths and his guests. 10 So Herod sent orders and had John beheaded in the prison. 11 John’s head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

God does not teach all the law and gospel to any one person at all time, no matter what ‘”soundbite” they have landed on. God did not teach all the law to Adam or to Moses or even in the Sermon on the Mount. And God did not teach all the gospel to Adam or to Abraham or to David or to the disciples and John the Baptist.

Hebrews 2: We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, 3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. 4 At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will. For God has not subjected to angels the world to come that we are talking about.
7 You made him lower than the angels
for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor
8 and SUBJECTED EVERYTHING everything under his feet.
For in subjecting everything to Jesus, God left nothing that is not subject to Jesus. As it is, we do NOT YET see everything subjected to him. 9 But we do see Jesus

The age to come has not yet come.

Stanley Hauerwas—We say that the Psalm Sunday crowd got it wrong because they were wanting freedom in this world and in this age, and then we who either love the status quo or think nothing will change say that Jesus was offering only spiritual freedom, a kingdom after we die, and a death which is not really death. Instead of Passover and resurrection, we teach an inherent immortality that claims that all humans are eternal.

That way we can say the kingdom is in our hearts. Instead of obeying the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth, we can say that the Sermon on the Mount is only for after we die, and now go out and buy our guns. All we need to do is be careful not to buy those guns as a church but as individuals.

Hauerwas—-“If Jesus is all about getting us to love one another, then why did almost everyone reject Jesus? They did so, I think, because when Jesus was told by the devil that he would be given the power to turn stones to bread, Jesus refused; when Jesus was offered authority over all the kingdoms of this world, he refused; when he was offered the possibility he would not die, he refused. Jesus refused these goods because God’s kingdom cannot be forced into existence using the means of the devil.

Hauerwas—Jesus’s refusal to play the devil’s game does not mean that the kingdom Jesus proclaims is not political. Jesus refuses to use the violence of the world to achieve “peace.” But that does not mean Jess is any less political or that Jesus is not about the securing of peace. His arrest is often thought to represent the apolitical character of Jesus because Jesus commands Peter to put away the sword Peter had used to cut off the ear of the priest’s slave. Jesus rebukes Peter, but Jesus does so because that is not the “cup” the Father has given him. But the cup from which Jesus must drink is no less political for being nonviolent.

Hauerwas—The character of Jesus’s politics is manifest in his response to the high priest who questions Jesus about his teachings in John 18.19-24. That Jesus is questioned by the high priest may suggest that his mission was “religious” rather than political, but such an account cannot be sustained for no other reason than Jesus’s answer: “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”

Hauerwas—They tell me that you are the King of Jews. Is that true?” Pilate’s question is meant to see if Jesus is “political.” Jesus responds by asking if Pilate came up with such a view on his own or did others tell him such was the case. “I am not a Jew, am I?” replies Pilate.. “If my kingdom were FROM this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. ” This is a response used often to deny that Jesus was political. But Pilate rightly saw that Jesus’ denial that his kingship was not of this world is not the denial that Jesus is king. Jesus denied that his kingdom was just another form of Rome.

John Howard Yoder— the Constantinian shift the meaning of the word “Christian” changes. Prior to Constantine it took exceptional courage to be a Christian. After Constantine it takes exceptional courage not to be counted as a Christian. … After the establishment, Christians knew that God was governing the world in Constantine, but they had to take it on faith that within the nominally Christian mass there was a community of true believers. No longer could being a Christian be identified with church membership, since many “Christians” in the church had not chosen to follow Christ. To be a Christian is transmuted to “inward-spirituality.”

Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (2006)

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

Did Jesus save the elect by getting the blessing of the law or by getting the curse of the law?

July 1, 2015

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Deuteronomy 27:26)

11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall LIVE by faith.” (Habbakuk 2:4)

12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall LIVE by them.” (Leviticus 18:5)

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— (Deuteronomy 21:23)

Even elect Gentiles (who were never under the Mosaic covenant) are saved because of Christ’s bearing the curse of the Mosaic law.  Some who reject the need for law-keeping imputed are Socinians who deny the need for any law satisfaction at all. If forgiveness is sovereign, they claim, there is no need to satisfy the law at all in any way, Thus the Socinians say, if there is any need to satisfy the law, then there cannot be any forgiveness. They play off God’s sovereignty against God’s righteousness.

I am not doing that. But I am contrasting Christ’s death as the satisfactory curse of the law over against the traditional idea that the law cannot be satisfied by death but only by “active obedience”, which is how the Reformed tradition often refers to the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ.  Christ’s death can keep you from death, we are told. But if you want life from the law, then Christ’s death won’t get you that, because for that, you need to be imputed with Christ’s Mosaic law-keeping.

But what is being kept from death if not life? The tradition seems to say that Christ’s death only gets us back to where Adam was, which was life on probation, which was life only because no sins were yet counted toward us. The tradition says that Adam could have gotten immortality if only he had kept the law (the tradition even tends to say that Adam was keeping the Sabbath, since it equates “moral law” with “Mosaic law”), and therefore the tradition says that Christ got immortality for us not by His death but by His law-keeping.

Calvin—“In His death and resurrection, all things are furnished to us, expiation of sins, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.”

I am very glad when Reformed folks at least don’t reject the idea that the blood (the death of Christ) is no part of Christ’s righteousness. But we need to be very careful how we say that. Many folks are saying that the death is the new covenant remission, but that the Mosaic law-keeping is the righteousness

Let’s be clear about justification—while agreeing with Calvin and Romans 4 that we can equate forgiveness and justification, I do teach that justification entitles us to all the positive blessings of salvation, not only forgiveness of sins but access to God and etc

The non-imputation of sins IS imputation of righteousness. The pardon of sins IS justification of sinners This does not mean that we who teach that Christ’s death is our righteousness are saying that justification is only forgiveness. I am not teaching that. (Piscator did not teach that either.) While sins of omission are also remitted, that does not change the fact that God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect results in the new birth, faith in the gospel, glorification, all the positive things are earned by Christ’s death.

The greater problem comes with folks like Shepherd and Hornes when they say that only initial justification by the death, and future justification by “union with the Spirit of the risen Christ causing us to work”.

I reject Shepherd’s view. It’s easy to to assume that there are only two sides—if I don’t agree to union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus (union with his circumcision, union with his water baptism, union with his praying, union with his believing, etc), it can be assumed that the only other choice is a future justification (access) by the Holy Spirit causing me to work, to “progress in sanctification”.

But there are more than two choices I reject union with the Mosaic law-keeping of Jesus . Union with Adam’s sin was not union with Adam’s entire life of sinning. But I also reject in any way the Shepherd/ Gaffin idea that the death is not enough righteousness, and that future blessings are conditioned on what i do in union with the resurrected Christ. Justification is forgiveness, but more than forgiveness

Mathew 5: 17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Mosaic Law or the Mosaic Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will be satisfied from the law until not only my death is accomplished but more importantly I have spent my entire life obeying to the Mosaic law. Therefore, whoever teaches people that Christ’s death alone will be enough justice for God to forgive all their future sis will have to teach them they will need to obey the Mosaic law because they forget that Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law is the justice that God uses to actually bless elect sinners positively….. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 24: 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ suffer these things and enter into His glory, but also that was not enough, since there would have been no hope for our entering glorying unless the Mosaic law keeping of the Christ be imputed to us

I Corinthians 15: I gave over to you as of first importance that which I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised the third day according to Scriptures, and so that gets us back to where Adam was, but according to the Reformed tradition, Christ kept the Mosaic law and this was what God imputed to us in order for us to have eternal life

the rich young ruler asking what must I do—
—keep the covenant of works for a significant period of time sell you stuff and give it to the poor, or you will die
—-or the other choice, for the rest of your life, attend the sacramental means of grace which will assure you that Christ has kept the covenant of works for you—in any case, don’t trust in my death alone, not enough, no hope without something more, some other plus factor—–i am keeping the law for those who accept the “sincere offer” ….

Romans 3:24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Him as a propitiation[ through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 but God also presented His entire life of vicarious Mosaic law keeping to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, because His death alone was not enough justice to pass over sins, and God needed the Mosaic law-keeping of Christ in order to declare righteous the one who has faith in Christ Jesus……Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! If we only trusted in the death of Christ alone , of course, that would be ignoring the positive results which come from obeying the law. But on the contrary, because we know also that there is no hope (none) without Christ’s life of obeying the Mosaic law we uphold the Mosaic law and the Mosaic law was what Adam already knew all about and also the standard by which we define anything Jesus commanded or did by way of example….

Romans 8:3-4 What the law could not do since it was limited by our flesh, God DID by sending His son to keep the Mosaic law for us, 4 in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who are legally united to his Mosaic law keeping

Hebrews 10: 10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified not only through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all time because that would merely leave us where Adam started but we have been sanctified through the offering of the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus Christ for 33 years (since he was not killed as a baby)

11 Every priest stands day after day ministering and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this great high priest did take away sins, but that was not enough to take away our sins of omission against the covenant of works, so this man, before offering one sacrifice for sins forever, day after day for 33 years kept the Mosaic law an there would be no hope only in the death if it were not for what Christ did to satisfy the law before then because not even His death would have been enough to perfect permanently those who are sanctified.

II Cor 5: 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, but that alone was not enough in order for us to become the righteousness of God in Him, so He also had the One to not only not sin, but to do positive acts and works to keep the Mosaic law, and it is that positive stuff He did (not the death) which is the righteousness which is imputed to us which causes us to legally become the righteousness of God in Christ

Romans 5:9 having been now justified by His keeping the Mosaic law, because His death only remitted sins but did not justify…..we shall be saved by his entire life of keeping the Mosaic law, because His resurrection from death is not what shall save us, because there is no hope without His entire life of keeping the Mosaic law….

Galatians 2:21 for if righteousness is through the Mosaic law keeping of Jesus, then Jesus DIED for no reason

Romans 10:4 is the law Christ’s goal or is Christ the law’s goal?

Christ’s end is to keep the Mosaic law? or is it the Mosaic law’s end to witness to Christ? (Or both?)

Philippians 3: 10 to know Him and the fellowship of His keeping the Mosaic law for us

My goal is to be conformed to His keeping of the Mosaic law

I Thessalonians 5 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,10 who kept the Mosaic law for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him

Calvin on Romans 4:25 —When we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting the completion of perfect righteousness.

There is Now Only One Israel, So We Don’t need the Pharisee Infant Water

May 25, 2014

Galatians 3:16 Now the promiseS were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to seedS,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your seed,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean–the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul A covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promiseS of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that THE PROMISE by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those AS MANY AS WHO believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we would be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus YOU are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For AS MANY AS YOU many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

I am not somebody who reduces the Abrahamic promises to one promise. I am all for noticing the various promises, beginning in Genesis 12. Abram will become a great nation, and he can’t have a great nation without land, territory for many people, mostly all biologically related to Abram, a land with no other altars allowed except to Yahweh the King. God also promises blessings for other nations based on their relation to Abram’s nation, with curses for those nations which don’t relate favorably to Abram’s nation.

So I am not reducing all these promises to one promise. I deny that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant. I deny that the Abrahamic covenant is “the covenant of grace” or “part of the covenant of grace” or “an administration of the covenant of grace”. Since I know how to talk about the continuity of the Abrahamic covenant to the Mosaic covenant and to the new covenant without saying that they are one covenant, I very much want to notice the various promises associated with Abraham, and to see how they are fulfilled in the circumcision of Christ on the eighth day (Luke 2).

Circumcision is not simply about “spiritual cleaning”. The sign of circumcision is not even only about pointing to the bloody sacrifice of Christ, which cuts the justified elect off from legal solidarity with Adam. Circumcision is an initiation rite for priests, and every male in Abraham’s family (even if one parent did not go testify before the presbytery!) was obligated by Abrahamic law to be circumcised as a sign that Abraham’s family consisted of consecrated priests.

So circumcision was a sign of many things, but not a sign to any person in particular (except Abram himself )of election to justification and eternal life and faith in the gospel.

What belonging to Abraham’s family means now and what it meant then is not the same thing. Zwingli and other Reformed folks like to start with what they think it means now and then read that back as if that was what belonging to Abraham’s family meant then. Thus they notice the promise about the one seed which will bring in the righteousness, but they don’t notice some of the other promises.

To put it a different way, instead of saying “you already have what the pharisees offer”, better to say what the pharisees offer, you don’t need, and could not have anyway.” Now you can be children of Abraham in only one way.

Now that Christ has been born and circumcised, it’s not possible for every jewish male infant to be born as types of the birth to come. The land promise needed for the jewish people to remain the genetic incubator for the Seed is now abrogated, and we need to attend to the discontinuity between the promise of the earth to those who believe the gospel and the promise back then in the Abrahamic covenant.

Reformed paedobaptists (besides Meredith Kline and Gary North) don’t like talking about the bothersome “intrusive” stuff (like negative sanctions) which otherwise does not fit with their neat straight-line continuity They say we should all agree about the unity of the Abrahamic covenant, but paedobaptists can’t stay with that, because they need to harmonize (homogenize) covenants so that we then identify the Abrahamic covenant with the new covenant (or with their “the covenant of grace”)

Sure, the promises to Abraham are typological. But they put non-Abrahamic people out of the territory, to make room for the biological-political heirs of Abraham. Why just look at Genesis 17, when you need to look back also to Genesis 12 and 15? Why not talk about all the promises, unless of course your confessions have already told you what “the promise” is?

So is the “inheriting the world” promise about Christ (the one seed) bringing in the righteousness so that the world belongs to Him and His elect? Or is “inheriting the world” about some conditional promise being made to everybody with one parent who professes to be Christian? Galatians 3 speaks of a promise given to “as many as believe”, and not about a promise given to the children of as many as who believe.

We need to notice the different “seed of Abraham”. Galatians 3 talks about the one seed, not the many, but then it ends with the many who believe the gospel. So two different seeds are in Galatians. But the seed born to the seed are not in Galatians 3, and the only way they can get there is in the collective imagination of some paedobaptists (not Lutherans or Roman Catholics but Reformed)

I am glad to recognize (as I have many times) that the Abrahamic covenant included by design many who were non-elect. Being circumcised and getting in was not the only thing one had to do to “stay in”. But if Reformed folks want to argue that the new covenant people of God are the same set as the people who were in the Abrahamic covenant, they are going to have to make their case.

These Reformed folks need to affirm again that Christ did not die for any non-elect people. If it is not Christ who kept all the conditions of the elect being in (and staying in) the new covenant, then we need to hear a lot more from these folks about the kind of “conditionality” involved in the new covenant. Is “election” simply a corporate thing, with which individuals to be decided later?

Is the new covenant “unbreakable” only in the sense that the covenant stands even if no individuals do what they have to do to “get connected” (and stay connected) with Christ’s death? If water baptism has no efficacy for the non-elect, what efficacy did water baptism have for the elect? Does water baptism promise that anybody will believe? Does water baptism cause anybody to believe? The gospel promises grace only to those who believe the gospel. It’s not the faith given to the elect which causes grace to be given. It’s grace that gives faith to the elect, and those who are never given faith in the gospel were NEVER given grace.

Ephesians 2 says covenantS, plural. The text in no way proves that the Abrahamic covenant is the new covenant, or that the Abrahamic covenant is “the covenant of grace.”. Nobody I know denies that the promise of the gospel concerning the one seed. But Reformed folks ignore the other promises, as they ignore other covenants.

When God says “not all Israel is Israel”, God is NOT saying “you gentiles can now be the kind of Israel you always wanted to be, the kind that there was before Christ was born”. Rather, there is only one kind of Israel now, and you can be in this Israel, and if Jews want to be in Israel now, this is the only Israel even for them now.

So sure, there’s continuity, but don’t ignore the great redemptive-historical change. Before those in the Abrahamic covenant could be in Israel and then become strangers to Israel. But now there is an Israel, the only Israel, and those in that Israel know the Lord.

Jews who don’t believe the gospel are not now Israel. They were Israel ( in one real sense) before Christ was born. But not anymore. Only as many as are called by the gospel (Acts 2) are now the rightful heirs. If your children are among the “as many as God shall call”, they too are rightful heirs. If not, not.

Many Reformed folks like to associate credobaptism with dispensationalism. It makes for a simple equation, and then they don’t have to think too much! But many of us credobaptists are NOT dispensationalists (who just don’t know it). There is only one Israel now and it’s the justified elect of God. Nor am I am of the tribe (John Murray, many amills as well as postmills) that says God has promised those with Abraham’s DNA something extra in the future. There is only one Israel, not a different second Israel which has been promised some land the others of us have not. There is only one Israel, not a different second Israel which are children born to one professing Christian, who are not yet allowed to eat at Israel’s table.

Which Covenant Did Christ Keep? The Old or the New? Or are Both ” The Covenant of Grace”?

May 20, 2014

For Richard Bax­ter, the ground of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion was NOT the imputed obe­di­ence of Christ, He held that Christ’s right­eous­ness caused a change in the demands of the law. Packer — “Where ortho­dox Calvin­ism taught that Christ sat­is­fied the law in the sinner’s place, Bax­ter held that Christ sat­is­fied the Law­giver and so pro­cured a change in the law. Here Bax­ter aligns him­self with Armin­ian thought rather than with ortho­dox Calvin­ism.”
Bax­ter sug­gested a scheme sim­i­lar to Rome’s old law/new law dis­tinc­tion: Christ’s work makes the terms of the new covenant more lenient than the old, procur­ing a change in the law that makes obe­di­ence possible.

In Baxter’s doc­trine of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, he has a notion of a twofold right­eous­ness. “As there are two Covenants, with their dis­tinct Con­di­tions: so there is a twofold Right­eous­ness, and both of them absolutely nec­es­sary to Sal­va­tion.” The first of these two is what Baxter called legal right­eous­ness, that is, the right­eous­ness earned under the law of works. This right­eous­ness is not per­sonal to the believer, “for we never per­son­ally sat­is­fied the law,” but is “wholly with­out us in Christ.” Baxter claimed this to be the type of right­eous­ness of which Paul spoke in Philip­pi­ans 3, jux­ta­pos­ing it to the right­eous­ness that comes by faith in Christ.

The sec­ond type of right­eous­ness, how­ever, is evan­gel­i­cal right­eous­ness, which, accord­ing to Bax­ter, does belong to the believer, and con­sists of the believer’s faith. Bax­ter: “faith is imputed for Righteousness…because it is an Act of Obe­di­ence to God…it is the per­for­mance of the Con­di­tion of the Jus­ti­fy­ing Covenant. Alli­son: “Jus­ti­fy­ing faith, for Bax­ter, is that which is imputed and reck­oned for right­eous­ness as a con­di­tion of the new covenant.”

Bax­ter takes the posi­tion that Christ him­self ful­filled the con­di­tions of the old covenant, and thereby pur­chased for us eas­ier terms within the new covenant. On account of Christ’s right­eous­ness, our own right­eous­ness (faith and repen­tance) is accounted, or imputed, as accept­able right­eous­ness. We are, in other words, jus­ti­fied by our own right­eous­ness on account of the right­eous­ness of Christ. Baxter thinks that Christ’s right­eous­ness makes jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by a believer’s right­eous­ness (i.e. his faith) possible.

That the Reformed ortho­dox found this for­mu­la­tion upset­ting comes as no sur­prise, for their con­fes­sional stan­dards taught the very oppo­site about faith, namely, that it was not the ground of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion,(i.e. HC 60–61; BC 22; WCF 11.1–2; WLC 70–73). What they found even more provoca­tive in Baxter’s posi­tion was his insis­tence that jus­ti­fy­ing faith con­tained works, which is the third point we must con­sider in Baxter’s doc­trine of justification.

For Bax­ter, faith itself is not the sole ground of a believer’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion; rather, faith must be joined to works. “Both jus­ti­fie in the same kinde of causal­ity, viz. as Causae sine quibus non…Faith as the prin­ci­pal part; Obe­di­ence as the less prin­ci­pall. The like may be said of Love, which at least is a sec­ondary part of the Con­di­tion.”

http://www.blog.christurc.org/2011/02/11/not-by-faith-alone-the-neonomianism-of-richard-baxter/

Josh Moody, pastor of College Church , No Other Gospel, Crossway, p 170

“Living as a godly Israelite in Old Testament times was not legalistic; salvation was always by faith because the promise came first. But trying to live under Moses, when Christ has arrived, is legalism….

p 171–” Justification was always by faith…But now that Christ has arrived, the operation of this justification by Christ HAS BEEN REVEALED…Christ now says, ‘with me you can’ and we find that by His Spirit we do and we want to do.”

This is Josh Moody manipulating language to ignore the discontinuity of the covenants. Instead of pointing to a change of covenants, he writes about “the revelation” of what supposedly always there. And more importantly, instead of explaining a change of covenants, he describes a change in “us”, so that we now can and want to do the law.

Part of the problem here is using a word like “legalism” which can mean almost anything . Moody’s claim is that in the Old Covenant there were godly folks who did not live “legalistically”, even though “the operation of” justification by faith had not been revealed.

So 1. Some were justified by grace through faith in the righteousness of Christ in the Old Testament. I certainly agree with that. But 2. He says that some of the godly were not “legalistic” during the old covenant despite the lack of new covenant revelation.

How this is possible, he does not explain. If he simply means that no true Christian is ever a legalist, that is certainly not what he argues elsewhere in his book. But if he wants to say that the revelation has now released the justified elect from “legalism”, how can he think that the justified elect in the old covenant were also free from this “legalism”? Moody is ignoring the change of covenants.

Perhaps it was not “legalistic” for the justified elect under the Mosaic covenant to do what the Mosaic law told them to do. It was not for them a means of justification. So when Moody speaks of “trying to live under Moses when Christ has arrived”, he is not thinking of “legalism” as trying to be justified by the law.

Moody needs to define “legalism”, and state his different definitions when he changes his meanings.

But there is still a problem. In Galatians 3, when Paul is writing about “before faith came, the law was our cop”, he was not only revealing a change in covenants and in redemptive history. In these same verses, Paul is concerned with individuals “getting justified” by Christ, concerned about individuals being baptized by God into Christ

Even though I don’t think it’s right for Moody to ignore the difference between the old and new covenants (thus only stressing that now people can do the law and want to), the solution is not only to see that the old covenant law is not the same as the new covenant law.

The solution is to remind us that, even during the time of the new covenant, there are many non-elect folks for whom Christ never died and who have never been baptized into Christ by legal justification.

Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing’s Slander of Herman Hoeksema

April 29, 2014

Salvation by Grace: The case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration, by Matthew Barrett, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2013.
I start with a quotation from p 78.

“In the Twentieth century, hyper Calvinism has shown its head yet again in the work of Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)Building off of HIS VIEWS ON election and reprobation, Hoeksema argues that there can be no well meant offer of the gospel, which would imply and desires the salvation of the nonelect, for Scripture is clear that God determines to harden the hearts of the nonelect, not to save them. In fact, says Hoeksema, God does not even desire the salvation of of the nonelect, nor does God act favorably toward the nonelect, but only acts to further their sentence to destruction. When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect. The only thing the nonelect receive in hearing this message is condemnation.”

Barrett continues: “Hoeksema’s view is deeply unbiblical. Scripture everywhere affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel, as Capsar Olevian termed it, whereby God genuinely desires the salvation of the lost (II Peter 3:9, I Timothy 2:4). Jesus Himself DID KNOW who was the elect and noneelect were and yet he offered the gospel freely (Matthew 22:3-8, Luke 14:16-21, John 5:38) Hyper Calvinists like Hoeksema are wrongly used as representatives of Calvinism instead of the traditional Reformed Reformed theologians.”

1. Throughout Barrett’s book the reference to “historic” or “traditional” Calvinism is used as a code word to mean the “universal sufficiency” view of Andrew Fuller. The idea is to appeal to a broad historic tradition, at least for appearance sake, but in the meanwhile to exclude and marginalize other historic views as not being really “historic”. The strategy is often used by Kenneth Stewart to argue that Reformed people should be more “evangelical”. Steward is one who endorses this book, along with Haykin, Timothy George, Robert Letham, Greg Forster. Bruce Ware, Fred Zaspel, and other Andrew Fuller fans. It’s a tricky strategy, because on the one hand, it’s saying that the “God does not love everybody” view is a tiny blip, not really Calvinism, but then on the other hand, it acts as this “hyper” threat is very dangerous and important.

2. Putting 2 Peter 3:9 or some other reference in parenthesis is not careful PHD exegetical work. It’s simply begging the question.

3. There’s no mention of the details of the “offer” debate. Barrett does not discuss the views of Gerstner, Gordon Clark, and others who agree with Hoeksema in denying that God loves everybody. Barrett simply quotes Anthony Hoekema, with whom Barrett agrees. From Hoekema’s Saved by Grace: “The Bible teaches that God seriously desires that all who hear the gospel should believe in Christ and be saved. To our finite minds it seems impossible that election and this should both be true… One type of rational solution is that of Hoeksema and the hyper-Calvinists. Since the Bible teaches election, it cannot be true that God desires the salvation of all to whom the gospel comes. Therefore we must say that God desires the salvation only of the elect among the hearers of the gospel. This kind of solution may seem to satisfy our minds, but it completely fails to do justice to Scripture passages (Ezekial 33:11, Matthew 23:37, II Corinthians 5:20, and II Peter 3:9).”

We see that Anthony Hoekema is also a master of the parenthesis (without exegesis). His finite mind is simply not satisfied with any idea that God loves some sinners and does not love other sinners, so Hoekema assumes that only other minds perhaps more finite than his own would be satisfied with a rational solution. Hoekema assumes that his own rational solution is a better solution and that this conclusion somehow transcends even being rational. It does, you must remember, come along with some Bible texts referenced in parenthesis. But nowhere does either Barrett or Hoekema prove from the Bible that God loves the non-elect or desires the salvation of the nonelect. They simply begin with that assumption and then argue in a circle back to it.

4. It will always be said that the problem here is merely semantics, and that we need to remember that God has “two wills” and that we must use the word “will” in two senses. But the truth of it is that people who advocate the “free offer” are intentionally use the word “will” in a double sense so as to sneak in their assumption without making an argument for it. Of course God’s law does not depend on the ability of humans to keep it for that law to be legitimate. Of course God can and does command all sinners to believe the gospel. Barrett writes as if Hoeksema somehow denies that responsibility depends on ability, and that this is somehow in parallel to the Arminian argument that inability to keep the law would mean that we have no duty to keep the law. But Hoeksema nowhere makes this argument, and Barrett is projecting it onto Hoeksema to avoid basic questions about God’s supposed desire to save all sinners. Barrett assumes that God loves all sinners. When Hoeksema denies that, Barrett accuses Hoeksema of making duty depending on ability.

Barrett is doing what Andrew Fuller did, which is confusing the gospel with the law. It was not Hoeksema but Andrew Fuller who ultimately made duty depend on ability, because it was Andrew Fuller who said that if God commanded all sinners to believe the gospel, then we must make some kind of distinction between “moral inability” and “natural inability” so that we can say that all sinners can be told that God loves them. Fuller got this from the New England Theology (and Jonathan Edwards). Instead of merely saying that God commands all sinners to believe the gospel, the Andrew Fuller approach of Michael Barrett turns this into the “will of God” and then confuses this “will of God” with the non-biblical idea that God “wants and wishes and desires” to save all sinners. It comes down to the idea that, since God commands you to believe the gospel, then that must mean that God wishes (unsuccessfully in many cases) that you would believe the gospel, and that those who deny this are being “insincere” when they call people to believe the gospel.

In what way do we make a distinction between the command to believe the gospel and the gospel itself? is the command itself part of the gospel? Is the gospel in the end no different from law, with commands and “conditions”? In what way do we make a distinction between the promise of the gospel and the gospel itself? What is the promise of the gospel (or of “the covenant”)? Is the promise of the covenant that God loves everybody, or is it a promise that God only loves those in the covenant? Or only the elect in the covenant?

But to return to Barrett’s language (first paragraph above) when he’s describing Hoeksema’s position—”When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect.”

I will ask two questions.

1. Does God desire the salvation of the sinners who never hear the gospel? Barrett keeps saying that God desires the salvation of all who hear the gospel. What about those who never hear the gospel? Does God want them to be saved as well? If the gospel in the end is also the law, so that only those who hear the gospel can justly be condemned, how can those who never hear “the gospel” be justly destroyed by God? And why, if God really loved them, did God not send somebody with the gospel to these people? If Jesus died in order to condemn those who resist them, how can God condemn those who never heard of Jesus? Now it will be argued that these questions are another topic, and not appropriate for the book Barrett wanted to write. But if there can be no sin unless God has first somehow loved you and desired your salvation, then this changes everything about how we approach the Bible. Instead of beginning with our plight (before the law), the Andrew Fuller school begins with a well-intentioned solution, which is God’s love, which is supposedly universally sufficient but in the end not quite enough.

2. “When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect”. What if I flip the phrases around here in the structure of this sentence? What if I “deconstruct” the implied (but un-argued) difference? Are there any elect who will never believe the gospel? Are there any non-elect who will believe the gospel? When the gospel is preached it is meant only for those who believe, to as many as who believe, for all who believe it. The gospel is not good news for those who will not believe it. How can it be gospel for who will perish to be told that those who won’t believe will perish? Thus far I leave out the word “election” (the word most Calvinists want to leave out when they do evangelism), but my point is that Barrett has not yet argued for a real difference between those who believe and those who are elect. This is good news for those who believe. This is good news for the elect. There’s no ultimate difference, unless you are somehow ashamed of the word “election” and want to leave it out and say something like “covenant” or “promise”.

Use that word “promise”. The gospel is a promise of life (not maybe, but certainly) if and when a sinner believe the gospel, only for them, as many as them. all of them. no more than them. I know a couple of preachers who actually use the word “free offer” and that’s all they mean by the expression. But they should not use the expression, because “historically” it now has built into it a false idea that God also desires the salvation of those who never believe the gospel. Barrett believes that God DOES (now, I don’t know about later, will God still be desiring their salvation after the second coming and the second death?) desire the salvation of the non-elect. But Barrett needs to argue directly for this, instead of falsely representing Hoeskema as agreeing with Arminians that duty depends on ability.

Election is God’s love, and when the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we can stipulate is that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as God’s propitiatory love will not be proclaimed.

You can use a word without agreeing with the Bible about what it means. A propitiation for the non-elect which does not save the non-elect amounts to NOTHING. Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to NOTHING. The “young restless and Reformed” (and the “confessional” who support them) need to stop playing with words and tell the truth.

Do those who talk about being “Reformed” love the gospel of election, or do they hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individuals written in the lamb’s book, but the “sort of people” who continue to meet “covenantal conditions”. Many of these Ian Murray/ Errol Hulse “free offer Calvinists” refuse to talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Even worse, they want to say that God wants the non-elect to be saved (even though these people officially agree that Christ did not die for these people that God supposedly desires to be saved!)

These folks want you to “love Christ back” without knowing anything about election. Then someday they will teach you that all who “give themselves” to Christ were given to Christ. Like Norman Shepherd, they will justify this (God loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved) as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect.

I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is not our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings). But this is no excuse for leaving the doctrine of election out of the doctrine of redemption and propitiation by the cross. And it certainly no excuse for telling everybody that God loves them and wants to be their Father!

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense- in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect-he was not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling that plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense. This universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with the nature of propitiation. He denied that Christ in the past propitiated the Trinity for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller taught that Christ died to make a “free offer” of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, what’s important is the “covenantal design and intent” of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the “free offer” of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith. Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is an old and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a very subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to mislead those who had a different meaning for the words.

What did Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He “Can” do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the “free offer”? Andrew Fuller changed the meaning of the propitiatory love of Christ. With the Arminians, he made the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith.

Andrew Fuller ended up putting the emphasis on God’s supposed universal love as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to give faith to elect sinners because of Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been JUSTLY propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture. Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sovereign grace” is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice by his references to divine universal love.

Two final comments. First, even though Fullerites want to say that the only way to be consistent in teaching a definite propitiation (what Christ WAS as laying down his life) is to teach an eternal justification, where the elect only subjectively find out that they were always justified, I do not (and Abraham Booth did not) teach that any unbeliever is justified. All the justified elect are people who believe the gospel. Belief in the gospel is an immediate consequence (not a condition) of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect (not of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ).

“Through faith” in Romans 3:25 does not mean “conditioned on faith”. Faith for the elect is what God’s justice demands will happen as soon as righteousness is imputed by God. I do not say this gift of faith is “our right” but it is Christ’s right because of what Christ WAS AND DID. Once sins were imputed to Christ, then Christ died by the law because of these sins, and now Christ is free and justified before the law.

So I can and do say to any unbeliever, unless you believe the gospel, you are not yet justified. But I also say to those unbelievers: your believing is not something you can or will do unless Christ died for you, and you will never know if Christ did until you believe the gospel.

Second comment. Fuller was teaching that God is governmentally sovereign and therefore God can do whatever God wants to do now with what Christ did then.
If so, why did Christ die? Does God’s love make salvation possible? Does God’s love mean that propitiation “might” happen? To ask such questions leads to another question. If God is so sovereignly superior to strict justice in His government, why did Christ need to die at all? If the meaning and effectiveness of the propitiation was only to be assigned later, is that meaning a matter of justice or only arbitrary?

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

Although the gospel teaches that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the gospel does not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 explains how the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But folks like Andrew Fuller use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse people who disagree with thinking there is no command for faith in the gospel. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it.

There is no justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. But those who follow Andrew Fuller practically deny any distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

At the end of the day, these folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of “faith” to “covenantally unite” people with that propitiation. Though they may formally agree to some “legal aspect” to “union”, for all practical purposes they ignore the reality that God already imputed the sins of only the elect to Christ.

In this way, the followers of Andrew Fuller make way for the idea of some “universal sufficiency” in Christ’s propitiation. And when it turns out that this “sufficiency” is not enough to save the non-elect, they answer: “well, you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

The followers of Andrew Fuller teach universal sufficiency and a “free offer” ( at least to everybody who is not already dead) . They claim that we can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. God did not really impute specific sins, according to Andrew Fuller.