The following is adapted and expanded from a portion of my July 28, 2009 presentation, “I Did Not Come To Abolish” given at the New Covenant Theology Think Tank in Evans, N.Y.
Despite its brief mention and a lack of a far-reaching or biblically-explicit context to support the notion, there have been whole theologies and there have been whole NCT doctrines built around a systematic, rather than an exegetical and biblical theology approach to “the Law of Christ.”
Covenant Theologians would typically refer to it as identical to the moral law or Ten Commandments, and would consider as the imprimatur, “I have not come to abolish the Law,” full stop. Continue reading
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (ESV)
There are some on the edges of New Covenant Theology who wish to make the law of Christ into a new codified law, which may make logical sense from a systematic approach, but which goes beyond the context of the phrase in .
Thomas Schreiner points to loving one another as the identity of the law of Christ:
It seems most promising to identify the law of Christ with the admonition to love one another (), for there is a clear link between and 6:2. The Old Testament law “is fulfilled” (peplērōtai) in the injunction to love one’s neighbor as oneself ( in ). And the law of Christ “is fulfilled” (anaplērōsete) when believers fulfill one another’s burdens (). If we carry the burdens of other believers, we show our love for them. Sacrificial love for fellow believers, then, fulfills the Old Testament law and the law of Christ. Such a reading fits with –10, where the Old Testament law is capsulized in the admonition to love one another. We also could say that Christ’s life, and the sacrifice of his life in his death, exemplifies to the uttermost the law of Christ. That is, Christ’s life and death are the paradigm, exemplification, and explanation of love. However, –10 guards us from oversimplifying the nature of Christ’s law, for love is expressed when believers fulfill moral norms. The law of Christ is exemplified by a life of love, but such love is expressed in a life of virtue.
From the First London Baptist Confession, 1646:
The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law, but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him.
Preparationism, the notion — among some Puritans, but existing to this day — that an unrepentant sinner needs to be beaten down by the law before hearing and receiving the gospel, is destructive. It can breed a lack of assurance by those who believe they were not chastened enough by the law or a false assurance in those who were made to feel guilty but who did not hear and believe.
The New Testament doesn’t preach the law. It preaches Christ and Him crucified.
Over the past several years, I’ve seen, read, and participated in a lot of discussions about what laws or commandments we need to follow in the New Covenant, what a Biblical Theology of the New Covenant should be, or what the eschatology of NCT adherents should be. (That last one is a particularly volatile one at the moment, with some amills wanting to kick out the premills.)
In other words, there’s a lot of conversation about NCT orthodoxy.
But what about NCT orthopraxy?
What should a church that teaches New Covenant Theology look like? What are its hallmarks? Continue reading
The language is striking, for the servant is actually identified as a covenant. A covenant, however, in this instance is not a pact or agreement between two equal parties. From the parallel word light (i.e. salvation), we learn that it is actually a divine bestowal of Grace. God sovereignly bestows to man His blessings of salvation and it is this sovereign dispensation that is called a covenant.
That the servant is identified with the covenant of course involves the idea of his being the one through whom the covenant is mediated, but the expression implies more. In form it is similar to our Lord’s “I am the resurrection and the life,” or the phrase in 49:6, “to be my salvation.” To say that the servant is a covenant is to say that all the blessings of the covenant have their root and origin in, and are dispensed by him. … Moses was a mediator of a covenant but the servant is the covenant. In New Testament terms, this means that they to whom God sovereignly bestows the grace of salvation receive the servant Himself.
As one of many in New Covenant Theology circles who is trying to push the discussion forward while seeing a stronger Biblical Theology/Redemptive History case made for what we believe to be the best understanding of Scripture, it grieves me to see those who advocate NCT — even some of its pioneers — aim to shut down the discussion, ostracize brothers, or toss people out of the movement.
On one hand, there are those in what has been called the “Classic NCT” camp who would like to shut down any discussion of what is the nature of the Law of Christ. So-called Classic NCT wants to find a new set of statutes in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. I’m among those who would respond that Jesus did not come to die for sin, rise from the grave and ascend to the Father only to bind people to a more stringent law, but that He came as the One with all authority to free us to walk in the light, live without fear, and love without limit. Christ is the enfleshment of the law.
Furthermore, He gave us His Spirit to dwell in us as the fulfillment of ff and ff; the Holy Spirit is Himself the promise fulfilled.
I’m convinced that this understanding lays great groundwork for the pioneering thought and study that has preceded us. Unfortunately, instead of opening up dialog, it has caused those who advocate this understanding to be made targets by some of those who champion so-called Classic NCT.
Certainly discussion and critique of any view should be welcomed. But putting people outside of the camp should not be tolerated.
Similarly, another assault has been made — unnecessarily — on those in NCT who hold to a premillennial view, suggesting that they should not be part of NCT. I’m not a premillennarian myself, but I see no need to push people out of the discussion who are.
This movement is too new and its foundations still are being constructed. It is sinful to ostracize those working to grow the movement and build its foundations. And it is most egregious to see those who have themselves been ostracized take part in it.
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (ESV)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (ESV)
Justin Taylor of Crossway has an interview today on The Gospel Coalition website with Dr. Stephen J. Wellum of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on credobaptism. I agree with the way that Dr. Wellum lays out the case, and he does it very well: succinctly and completely.
After explaining that paedobaptist Reformed theology “flattens out” the covenants and wrongly — and perhaps simplistically — equates Old Covenant Israel with the New Covenant church, Taylor asks, “What does that have to do with baptism?”
Everything. Under the old covenant, one could make a distinction between the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham (the locus of the covenant community is different from the locus of the elect). Under the old covenant, both “seeds” (physical and spiritual) received the covenant sign of circumcision and both were viewed as full covenant members in the national sense, even though it was only the remnant who were the true spiritual seed of Abraham. But this kind of distinction is not legitimate under the new covenant where the locus of the covenant community and the elect are the same. In other words, one cannot speak of a “remnant” in the new covenant community, like one could under the old covenant. All those who are “in Christ” are a regenerate people, and as such it is only they who may receive the sign of the covenant, namely baptism.
Update: we’re postponing the launch until January 2 so that we can get the largest possible participation.
More about the Porterbrook Network may be found on our local site’s website, porterbrookROC.com.
Porterbrook Network is a two-year church-based theological training program with a supported self-study structure with others who are training in a similar field, church or geographic affiliation.
Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, co-authors of Total Church and founders of The Crowded House, created The Porterbrook Network in the U.K. in 2006 in response to a conviction for churches to become more Gospel-Centered and for new Gospel-Centered churches to be planted.
The vision of Porterbrook is to equip individuals and churches to rediscover mission as their DNA, to become better lovers of God and lovers of others, and to proclaim the Gospel through word and action for the Glory of God. Porterbrook is being used in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Italy, Ukraine, India, South Africa, and Australia, and Porterbrook Learning material is currently being translated into Chinese, Russian, and Italian.