This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Category: New Covenant Theology (page 1 of 4)

The law of Christ is not a set of laws

law-books-291676_1280The 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)

Schreiner on the law of Christ

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.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Ques­tions About Chris­tians and Bib­li­cal Law (40 Ques­tions & Answers Series). Ed. Ben­jamin L. Merkle. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Aca­d­e­mic & Pro­fes­sional, 2010. Print. 40 Ques­tions Series.

 


Bear one another’s bur­dens, and so ful­fill the law of Christ. (ESV)


14 For the whole law is ful­filled in one word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” (ESV)


18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own peo­ple, but you shall love your neigh­bor as your­self: I am the Lord. (ESV)


Bear one another’s bur­dens, and so ful­fill the law of Christ. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. (ESV)


Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. (ESV)

How to disagree agreeably

This video from The Gospel Coali­tion with Tim Keller, Matt Chan­dler and Michael Hor­ton was pub­lished in 2011, but reposted by TGC on Sep­tem­ber 18, 2015 on Facebook.

I wish I had found it ear­lier. It sums up the issue I have with a newly-published book. I’ve been debat­ing whether or not to review it.

This sums up what the author did not do: “Be able to describe the other person’s posi­tion in a way that they would under­stand it before you earn the right to cri­tique it.”

Per­haps that’s enough of a review.

Why just one day in seven?

sign-44353_640I came across this blog post recently: Seven Good Rea­sons to Stop Break­ing the Sab­bath Right Now

The author writes: “If you are con­sumed with sec­u­lar activ­i­ties and unwill­ing to devote merely one day a week to God, you have every rea­son to be con­cerned with the state of your soul.”

I’d reply: If you are will­ing merely to devote one day a week to God, you have every rea­son to be con­cerned with the state of your soul.

The sab­bath rest of the New Covenant is Christ Him­self, “for who­ever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” ( ESV)


10 for who­ever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (ESV)

They got it right the first time

From the First Lon­don Bap­tist Con­fes­sion, 1646:

CoFThe 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.

Fulfilling the Law of Christ: Applying NCT in church life

burdenOver 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

Loving God, loving neighbor

In Defense of Jesus, the New LawgiverI was revis­it­ing John G. Reisinger’s In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver tonight, par­tic­u­larly his dis­cus­sion of .

He is pretty much on the mark (more on that after the quote.) And it’s why in our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, we look to Christ and not a check­list, because it’s not a check­list writ­ten on our hearts.

[W]e are just as emphatic that it does not mean that God inscribes a New Covenant list of rules on the heart of a Chris­t­ian. We are skep­ti­cal of any attempt to cre­ate a new list to replace the old list. There is no New Covenant Deca­logue. We dis­avow the way some NCT peo­ple use the term law of Christ. We do not think there is a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive, revealed list of the spe­cific laws of Christ any more than there was a con­crete, unchang­ing, all-inclusive list of God’s moral law revealed at Sinai. Under the New Covenant, God puts “love God, love neigh­bor” into the heart of every per­son in Christ by the Spirit. There is a sense in which the com­mands to love God and love neigh­bor are as suf­fi­cient as a com­plete list would be.

– Reisinger, John G. In Defense of Jesus, the New Law­giver. Fred­er­ick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2008. Print. p. 117–8.

I say “pretty much on the mark,” because it is the giv­ing of the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of the believer that ful­fills . The very nature of God — His love — in the Spirit of Christ is His law writ­ten on our hearts.


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)


31 “Behold, the days are com­ing, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their hus­band, declares the Lord. 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. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neigh­bor and each his brother, say­ing, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the great­est, declares the Lord. For I will for­give their iniq­uity, and I will remem­ber their sin no more.” (ESV)

The servant is the covenant

From E. J. Young’s three-volume Isa­iah com­men­tary, Vol. 3, pages 120–1, on :

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.


“I am the Lord; I have called you in right­eous­ness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the peo­ple,
a light for the nations, (ESV)

Not the time for NCT to build fences

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.

(Pas­tor Todd Braye has sum­ma­rized this argu­ment well in a recent out­line at Christ My Covenant, Five Rea­sons Why I Object to Clas­sic NCT’s Def­i­n­i­tion of the Law of Christ.)

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)

Why I believe in believer’s baptism

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?”

Wellum responds:

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.

You can read the com­plete inter­view at The Gospel Coali­tion web­site: Why I am a Cre­dobap­tist.

Wellum and co-author Peter J. Gen­try have a book com­ing out next June (cover shown above) which could be a ground­break­ing ref­er­ence: King­dom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Under­stand­ing of the Covenants.

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