By request, here’s the complete paper from July 2010 from which the Completed by the Spirit blog series was adapted. You’re welcome to download it and distribute it freely as long as you do not modify it:
This is the 22nd and final part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
The apostle Paul writes throughout his epistles that the law was given for a different covenant and that believers are not under its jurisdiction. He makes no qualifications in this: he does not separate the law into component parts – moral, civil and ceremonial – and he does not prescribe commands of the Torah for our Christian walk.
Paul warns us of the power of the law to promote sin in the flesh and implores us not to submit to its yoke of slavery.
While John is often referred to as the apostle of love, love is a major focus of Paul’s teaching. (A search for “love” in the Pauline epistles returns 115 results in the ESV.) It is love that fulfills the law in the Christian; it is a perfect love of God and of neighbor that is a reflection of the relationship among the Trinity and it is a perfect love of God and of neighbor that is the outworking of our completed Christ-likeness in glory.
Until then, an increasing reliance upon the love of Christ – given to us by His Spirit –molds us more and more into His image.
No law can produce the fruit of the Spirit. All that the law can do is produce sin, despair, self-condemnation and self-righteousness in our remaining imperfection.
It is our union with Christ through His Spirit that results in our sanctification.
“I have come to realize,” writes Jerry Bridges, “that the deep work of spiritual transformation of my soul has been what the Holy Spirit has done, not what I have done. I can to some degree change my conduct, but only He can change my heart.”
Thus, while Paul gives us imperatives in his exposition of what it means to be a follower of Christ in our hearts and in our conduct, those imperatives have their basis only in the indicative of what Christ has done in us.
“ There is therefore now no condemnation,” self or otherwise, “for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” ().
Next: Commentary on this series, the aftermath of the paper, and further thoughts on the Gospel vs. Law sanctification debate — perhaps several posts!
 Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), 106.
This is the 21st part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
Given all that we’ve studied in this series, how do we apply what is shown to us about sanctification in Scripture?
How do we grow in holiness or counsel those who are combating sin by relying on the Holy Spirit and following imperatives grounded in the indicative of the gospel and the gift of the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us?
Our study has provided us two answers: one positive and one negative.
We do focus on the gospel.
We do not focus on the law.
When we set our eyes on Christ and look at His person and work, we behold more and more what it is that our union with Him has granted to us. Continue reading
This is the 20th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
As we noted from the writings of Thomas Schreiner in our previous installment, Paul doesn’t give us commands, or imperatives, in the form of laws, but rather as based in the indicative — that is, in our position in Christ. Paul exhorts us to be who we now are.
In addition to those previous examples, we can also look to Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians for imperatives grounded in the indicative.
:  I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk,” (imperative), “in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” (indicative).
4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (ESV)
This is the 19th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
We certainly are given imperatives — commands — in the New Testament. Indeed, many imperatives are included in Paul’s epistles.
But it is vitally important to understand that Paul’s imperatives are not in the form of laws, but are imperatives that are dependent upon the indicative of the gospel.
Professor and theologian Thomas Schreiner explains:
Paul’s exhortations do not fall prey to legalism, for they are rooted in his gospel and the promises of God. Another way of saying this is that the imperative (God’s command) is rooted in the indicative (what God has done for believers in Christ). Believers are saved, redeemed, reconciled, and justified even now, and yet we have seen that each of these blessings is fundamentally escahatological. Believers are already redeemed, and yet they await final redemption. Justification belongs to believers by faith, and yet they await the hope of righteousness on the last day (). Believers would not need any ethical exhortations if they were already perfected. But in the interval between the “already” and the “not yet,” ethical exhortation is needed. If the priority of the indicative is lost, then the grace of the Pauline gospel is undermined. The imperative must always flow from the indicative. On the other hand, the indicative must must not swallow up the imperative so that the latter disappears. The imperatives do not compromise Paul’s gospel. They should not be construed as law opposed to gospel. The imperatives are part and parcel of the gospel as long as they are woven into the story line of the Pauline gospel and flow from the indicative of what God has accomplished for us in Christ.
This is the 18th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
If sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, why do believers — who have received the Spirit — still need instruction and exhortation?
First, it is important to remember that believers are still imperfect this side of glory. As we have seen, the incarnate Christ as God-Man was the prototype of the believer given the Holy Spirit.
But unlike us, the incarnate Jesus’ communication with the Holy Spirit was perfect.
This is the 17th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges
Paul’s repeated explanations of the gospel and his doxologies to Christ are not given because the people to whom he writes do not have Christ — or don’t know Him — but because they do know him. Paul writes to the Romans words that echo those we saw last time from :
 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.  But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. ()
Paul is bringing the words and truth of Christ to remembrance, because it is the gospel of Christ that brings about all aspects of salvation: justification, sanctification and glorification.
9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, (ESV)
14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
This is the 16th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
The Holy Spirit is “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” Paul wrote in . It is, according to Abraham Kuyper, a “mystical union with Immanuel.”
Our sanctification is achieved by God through our union with Christ. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” ().
The great existence-altering event that happens in our salvation is our union with Christ through His Spirit.
Paul writes in : “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
To the Romans, he writes:
 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his ().
27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (ESV)
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (ESV)
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (ESV)
This is the 15th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
While we have seen that the law is ineffectual against sin, and (as Paul argues) that the law promotes sin in sinful flesh, and while we have just seen that it is love that fulfills the two tables of the law, we then must ask, “What, according to Paul, produces growth in holiness?” And that brings us to the great antithesis between the Spirit and the flesh that Paul expounds in . Let’s emphasize once again that Paul is writing to the church. He is not writing a treatise solely on justification by faith. He reminds the Galatians, as we noted above, “You were running well!” These are believers that Paul is cautioning against turning from the Spirit.
 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ()
While the struggling man of may or may not be a representative of the unregenerate man facing despair in trying to obey the law, the man addressed by Paul is one who fights the Christian fight, the war between the flesh and the Spirit. Continue reading
5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (ESV)
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (ESV)
7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)
Pastor Chad Richard Bresson at the 2011 Bunyan Conference
At last week’s Earth Stove Society think tank, Chad Richard Bresson presented a paper entitled, “The Incarnation of the Abstract: New Covenant Theology and the Enfleshment of the Law.”
Chad asks the question, “What does the Priority of Jesus have to do with New Covenant ethics?” He lists five implications:
1. That the Law is a Person means the Law of the New Covenant is not encoded in external imperatives or principles.
2. The Law Incarnate has placed a Person, the Holy Spirit, within the believer as the law written on the heart. That’s the upshot of ’s understanding of . The law written on the heart should not be identified in its typical form, but its Antitypical… a Person, living and breathing life into and through the New Covenant member. The entire law “category”, as it moves from Old Testament to New, lands on a person. The trajectory of the fulfillment of the law does not land on a new set of rules or principles, or even a summarized list of the law of Christ. The Law as a type has its end in Christ. The law as a type fades away into oblivion because all types do… it has become a person
3. Abrogation of the law and a denial of third use is a given. The law, like any other type of the Old Testament, has fulfilled its prophetic and revelatory role and is gone and done now that the AntiType has filled up its intended meaning to the fullest.
4. Imperatives have a role to play in the New Covenant, but they cannot eclipse the Indicative, a Person, from whence they come. It’s not a matter of balance, as some have suggested. The New Testament doesn’t not speak of, explicitly or implicitly, a so-called balance between the Indicative and imperative. In fact, seeing the New Testament as having a heavy emphasis on the imperatives says more about the presuppositions of the interpreter than it does about proper hermeneutics.
5. An Incarnate Law does not mean that commands in the New Covenant are not important. It does not mean that obedience is not important. It simply means the grounds for the discussion have changed. Obedience to commands is the manifestation of the inward obedience-causing law written on the heart.
Chad has more at his blog, The Vossed World, including a link to his paper on Scribd.
3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (ESV)
31:1 “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”
2 Thus says the Lord: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, 3 the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. 4 Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. 5 Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit. 6 For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’”
7 For thus says the Lord: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ 8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. 9 With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ 11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him. 12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. 13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. 14 I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord.”
15 Thus says the Lord: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
16 Thus says the Lord: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country. 18 I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God. 19 For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ 20 Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.
21 “Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. 22 How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man.”
23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Once more they shall use these words in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I restore their fortunes:
“‘The Lord bless you, O habitation of righteousness, O holy hill!’
24 And Judah and all its cities shall dwell there together, and the farmers and those who wander with their flocks. 25 For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”
26 At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.
27 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord. 29 In those days they shall no longer say:
“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30 But everyone shall die for his own sin. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
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.”
35 Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name: 36 “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”
37 Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”
38 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord. It shall not be uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.” (ESV)