Tag Archives: Atonement

Covenant (part 7) in Christ

Covenant of Grace: in Christ

This may also be referred to as the “New Covenant” and yet salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, as regenerated by the Holy Spirit, has always been God’s plan of salvation.

Visible/Physical elements: Israel, the Church, Baptism, Lord’s Supper,

John Calvin, although years ahead of Covenantal vs. Dispensationalism schools of thought, laid out in his Institutes, great sections on the continuances and differences between the new and old covenants. As I’ve shown before both the New Covenant (NC) and Old Covenant (OC) are two ways of looking at the one Covenant of Grace (or Salvation) as under two different forms of administrations. Some would illustrate this as running the same house but as differently in summer than in winter. I like to illustrate it as going to a concert. You act one way in line as you await the opening of the venue, but once the band is there and the venue open, you don’t continue to wait in line (what was right and appropriate while awaiting their arrival), you go in and enjoy their full presence.

So In the New Covenant, although we invisibly still have salvation by grace, through faith in Christ, as regenerated/baptized by the Holy Spirit, the “types and shadows” that OC saints looked to in hope of a messiah, are all outwardly replace or fulfilled by the actual Messiah, Jesus. The book of Hebrews is the best resource for looking at the OC as realized in Jesus. This is typically admitted when we look at the OC outward animal sacrifices, and we conclude that Christ’s NC once sacrifice of himself was the only true sacrifice that atoned for sin, thereby animal sacrifices are discontinued. It is this exact principle where the invisible reality was believed in by faith in both the OC and the NC, but outward visible sign is replaced by the actual. Some OC to NC transitions are not so easy if you’re not accustomed to seeing them. One example would be that as eternal life is the invisible reality in both covenants, the visible “promise land”, in the OC is replaced by the NC teaching of a new heaven and earth. Proof that the Israelites understood this transition is that they had no issue selling off ancestral land to see the Church grow.

The most tense discussions surrounding the institution of the NC is that Israel as the outward national people of God, are now clarified in the Gospels and in places like Romans 9 to really be those who believe, and yet true Israel was never those just born to Abraham, but those who believed the promises just as we now believe the promises are fulfilled. So who were any of the promises really made to, but those of faith in all ages, and according to those true invisible qualities? The unbelievers in all ages or covenants, at best only ever enjoyed the physical and visible signs of the promises, but will never really enter God’s true rest. So can national Israel still be the “people of God”? No, because those who do not have the Son do not have the Father. In a manner of speaking (visible/invisible distinctions) it both never was fully outwardly, but the people in it or even around it that believed, were the true Israel all along. It is in this same sense that the Church now exists, as the people of God by faith, and yet have visible sacraments to outwardly identify it from the rest of the world. But as stated in other parts of this series, just following the visible signs does not automatically make on inwardly and invisibly saved.

If anything I hope the series helps those unfamiliar with Covenant theology see the distinctions we hold and how we make the transition from new to old testaments, and how we see God working in one consistent manner in all ages. In opposing circles, I’ve been a part of, there is more confusion and inconsistent mixing of the signs and things signified or rather visible types get confused, fused or disconnected from their invisible and yet true spiritual realities.

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Covenant (part 6) Moses

The Covenant of Grace: with Moses

Immediately I understand that categorizing the covenant made with Moses (and Israel) as part of the covenant of grace, is not commonly understood or accepted. Arguments against this placement will usually cite Paul’s various Law vs. Gospel distinction passages. I admit these and yet like to clarify that Paul is not against the Law, as if it were evil, but wherever Paul or any NT writer, in shorthand, condemns the “Law”, they are in fact only ever condemning the incorrect use of the Law, as if it were meant to be a system of righteousness, which it is not, cannot be, and was never given to be such a system.

Visible/Physical elements: Moses, the people of Israel, the Ten Commandments, promises and curses.

Scenario: a seed of Abraham had become a physical blessing to many nations, as Joseph rose to fame and power in Egypt and saved many from starvation. A new Pharaoh rises who hates and is threatened by Israel and so imposed a harsh bondage upon them, whereas the people cry out to God for deliverance. Moses comes on scene as a deliverer figure fulfilling Gen. 15:13, Ex. 2:23-24. Via the power of God represented by and communicating through Moses, the people are set free from Egypt and journey towards the land originally promised to Abraham.

It’s important to note that, as the New Testament teaches (Gal. 3:17), the covenant of grace/promise via Abraham is still the context in the days of Moses as to why Israel is considered the people of God, why they can call on God, and why He moves to deliver them. The institution of the grace/law covenant with Moses, DOES NOT replace the promises, but only adds the dimension that if you are a child of promise, by faith, given to you as was given to Abraham, then this new heart should function in these “10” ways.

Now, because physically they cannot see everyone’s heart, but yet physically all reside with or are within a household of Abraham/Israel, all the males are to be outwardly circumcised. Now all those outwardly circumcised (regenerate by faith or not) are expected to keep the commandments of God, as expressing their love for God and neighbor in tangible everyday living. To the invisible/spiritual Israel or church they are just living out the faith and love they have received internally. The unsaved or those who do not have faith, but are externally part of physical Israel are still required conditionally to obey the commandments, which because of sin can only offend them and drive them to be “stiff-necked” toward God and others.

So the Ten Commandments, along with all other instituted levitical laws do not replace the covenant of grace, but as it were, enhances it to now say what the people of God’s name and faith actually do. It’s to show the world how their hearts beat differently than others in all matters of tangible daily living. The faith filled Israelites, I think, would rejoice in this, as now elements of their entire day allows them to focus on God. The new commandments are embraced because of the heart they’re given, and not the other way around. Doing the commandments did not and could not make someone a child of grace, faith and promises, except in their external/physical sense. In the modern church we claim a better than type and shadow revelation, stronger witness of the Spirit and freedom in Christ, but our outward and daily walk with God can hardly be said to entirely focus on God. We consider ourselves “good” if we remember to pray before falling asleep.

Taking things just a bit further. You see throughout the rest of the Old Testament this visible/invisible and physical/spiritual context and tensions in how God treats “His people”. Israel is typically in trouble for breaking covenant relationship with God. So God physically punishes them (removing sometimes almost all physical covenant blessing from them), for their breach, but yet invisibly still calls the faithful of them “His people” (because by the promise to Abraham, God will answer against Himself for their breaches) and further promises to restore them.

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Covenant (part 5) Abraham

Covenant of Grace: with Abraham

Visible/Physical elements: A son for Abraham, Abraham the father of many nations, Abraham as a blessing to all people, God to be Abraham’s shield and great reward, the caldron through the pieces, sign of circumcision, land promise.

Scenario: In a few instances where God proves to deliver Abraham in battles and causes him to prosper, God verbally and via theophanies makes promises to Abraham about his future, security, fame, and linage. Yet, because God both issues and ratified the covenant in and by walking through the animal pieces Himself, the covenant is really 100% God’s and therefore to be maintained and fulfilled from a spiritual context. But, just like in salvation for us, Abraham is given physical gifts and promises that although they have visible signs are in reality only invisibly and spiritually fulfill in Himself, in Christ. I think most of us get the idea that Abraham is like us in that:

1. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, as we are to be living sacrifices,

2. We don’t really die on our behalf, just as Abraham didn’t really have to sacrifice his son.

3. This obediance is a product of the gift of faith, Abraham didn’t refuse his son, or anything from God, so too are told if we love God we will keep His commandments and be perfect.

4. We do neither perfectly, but as such it’s God who is to atone/answer for our failure.

So inwardly Abraham is just like us, receiving the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, just as we are synonymously made alive, given a new heart, born again, baptized by the Holy Spirit. He is thus given by God an outward sign of the transformation of circumcision and instructed to pass along the sign to all his physical posterity whereas we are given the sign of water baptism and likewise by Christ, instructed to pass down the sign to all disciples.

Visibly Abraham is to walk with God as a physical father of a physical people who will be outwardly marked by circumcision and a designated land indicating that they belong to God. Spiritually/invisibly Abraham is the father of all who will believe by faith, as inwardly born again of God, regardless of nationality, lands or outward signs.

I plan to say more on circumcision later, but for now it’s enough to say that it’s a visible sign used to signify an invisible reality, whereas they are distinct in this way, they must not be viewed as able to be separated. God so tied Abraham to the importance of the visible sign, that anyone without it is cut off from his people (curse language as of those things to be offered up to destruction). Yet via the New Testament, it is clearly delineated that faith and righteousness came to Abraham apart from and prior to the sign.

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Covenant (part 4) Noah

Continuing our review of the covenants from the visible/invisible distinctions.

Covenant of Grace: with Noah

Visible/Physical elements: Noah’s ark, flood, rainbow.

Invisible/Spiritual: God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

Scenario: Those not within the covenant of God’s grace are seen as continuously evil and so according to the covenant of works, they are to be wiped out via the means of the flood. Noah found favor before God and so via mercy, grace, and faith he is to build a boat (ark) that will shelter him, his family, and the animal population. The flood serves a two fold purpose, it preserved Noah while cleansing the world. Just as in the final judgement as fire is said to destroy all things, we are told our spiritual good will remain (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

The covenant is expressed in two parts. First that Noah and family will come through the flood, and then after they are delivered, Noah and all the earth are given a covenant promise that God would never again flood the entire earth. New commands are given that they can eat anything moving or plant life, but that mankind will be at odds with the animal kingdom. Man, as seen in grace, is reissued the command to be fruitful and multiply.

So via our visible/invisible distinction we can say that the visible deliverance and destruction are a one to one comparison to their invisible subjects (Noah in an estate of grace and the destroyed as in their estate of sin and judgement under the covenant of works). Yet we can also say that although His entire family is saved outwardly it is not a sign of the entire family’s righteousness. Ham will later be cursed by Noah and in a manner cut off from his family. So those within a visible family can contain both spiritually/invisibly saved and unsaved persons, although outwardly it would appear they are all part of God’s family.

The NT, in 1 Peter 3:18-22, calls us to compare Noah’s ark to baptism. Within the context of this section we are to understand that Noah was not exactly a type of Christ, because whereas Noah was safe above the flood in the ark, Christ had to be killed in/by the “flood” (wrath of God) for our sins. In the spiritual conquering death, Jesus satisfies the spiritual/invisible judgement of the flood, which is why our spiritual baptism (symbolized in our visible/physical baptism) is identification with Him via the Holy Spirit, as already conquered death, so we say we have eternal life “in Him”. Whereas the flood could only cleanse the earth of people polluted and guilty of sin, Christ actually dealt with the pollution and guilt of sin, such that we can be identified as back in covenant relationship with God.

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Covenant (part 2)

As discussed in part one, all that is happening in scripture is because covenant relationship with God (law and love in harmony) has been broken by man and God is at work as the only one who can restore it.

Covenant of Works/Life: At creation, God’s relationship with Adam and his posterity whereby Adam was required, in his free estate, to obey and follow God, expressly evident in the command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Law is always present as God’s Holy character whereby Adam’s transgression is both a breach of legal precept and a personal offense. Because Adam despised the very heart of God in his disobedience, in the fall he lost his heart for God (and by consequence, a proper heart for man) in favor of his own self-determining pleasures.

Covenant of Grace: God eternal and triune relationship with His people (the church/elect in all ages), as they are united to Christ by grace, through faith. God’s Holy character will once again be written on/in the hearts (of flesh) of His people (not mere precepts), as regenerate and baptized by the Holy Spirit, in time. The relationship between God and His people is healed/redeemed by God. The legal breach and personal offense from Adam is satisfied by Jesus’ blood. The Cov. of Works requirement of perfect obedience and love is fulfilled in Jesus’ life. By substitution and mediation our guilt is credited to Christ and His righteousness is credited to us. This is the only means of salvation in both testaments of Scripture.

Covenant with Noah: God promises not to destroy the world by water again. The rainbow is given as a sign of remembrance. As a further clarification of the Cov. of Grace, those who find grace in God’s eyes are adopted and saved through even the most destructive circumstances of divine justice. Although Noah is said to walk with God, he is not credited for this as his own work, but it is instead a clear fruit of his already being a regenerate child of God, who follows God’s instruction and promises by the faith given to him.

Covenant with Abraham: A further clarification of the Cov. Of Grace, whereas the promises of inheritance, a son/linage, to be a blessing to nations and that God will be his God, are given to Abraham (and to his seed, by faith), but God assumes the responsibility of both parties to the covenant. The character of law and love, that man cannot live up to perfectly, God will absorb in Himself, yet God awards relationship to Abraham as if he had been perfect. By grace God promised all He did to Abraham, and yet God assumes the role of covenant breaker indicating Abraham (man) cannot possibly atone or pay the debt due for disobedience. In one sense the covenant is between God alone, as Christ is ultimately the Seed of Abraham in scope. In another sense the promises are clearly with man as to follow and believe that God will accomplish through time and flesh, His promises. Christ is clearly then the only one, as the God/Man, who satisfies both aspects of this covenant shadow in one person.

Covenant with Moses: Keep the covenant and be unto God a holy nation/people of priests. The dynamic of the mosaic covenant is that as God moves from identifying with individuals and families, they will now take on more of a national role in the world. They will be God’s people by name and as identified with a multitude of ceremonies and laws meant to indicate that because God lives among them, they must by Holy in all areas and ways of life. This external visual, is never meant to replace or augment the standing promises of God and walking with Him by faith. Yet over time the externals of the nation replace any heart felt zeal for God and the people continuously fall away, yet a remnant of faithful persons always remain, yet as always saved according to the Cov. of Grace. The mosaic covenant is usually incorrectly associated with the Covenant of Works, but as Paul indicates it is good if one uses it correctly. Law can never be removed from the character of God and thus to be in relationship with Him, there must be a spirit of love for God and His law always within us (holiness and righteousness). Yet people go wrong when they think the law keeping can result in or force their way into relationship.

Old Covenant (OC): A summary name for the Covenant of Grace as administered during the OT time period (Gen. 3:15), until the inauguration of the New Covenant. This Covenant was able to save by grace granting faith in the shadows of the messiah to come. It is still a work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, new birth yet the life and work of Christ is veiled in symbols, ceremonies and types.

New Covenant: A summary name for the Covenant of Grace as administered from the resurrection of Christ until His second coming. Greater revelation and fulfillment of all the promises and previously associated types and shadows in the Old Covenant. By way of Jesus’ fulfillment of all things from the OC and the greater work of the Spirit and the clarity of the message of salvation, it’s deemed “greater” than the OC, but it is still the same Cov. Of Grace.

#CovenantReformation

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The Trinity of God – Diagrams

I tried to diagram this out as best and as humbly as I could.

Hope these help.

 

 

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Leviticus and the Church, Part 4 – Atonement

The need of sacrifice is somewhat troubling to us in our day, but there is a system to this. If the people left Egypt to go out and worship God, they would need priests. If there are going to be priests, there is a need for a process to ordain some. If the service to ordain some involves sacrifice, then Leviticus logically opens with instruction for how sacrifices of various sorts will be carried out. Yet aside from the practicality of all this is the relational aspect that sacrifice serves. The foundational way Israelites were to understand their exercise of worship and relationship was far greater than singing a song, prayer or sitting in church. The depth of their thankfulness was so great that they were willing to offer to God something tangible from their own lives that would actually cost them something.

Atonement for sin is that other significant aspect of offering a sacrifice because sin within the presence of God demands His judgment. In the Old Testament, this idea of judgment is far more significant than the way we understand it today. It is easy to picture judgment as anger for just stepping out of line, but the offense of God is one of personal offense. For God to provide a sacrifice in our place that can take that judgment away is incredibly gracious. We understand Him to be extremely merciful. If for sin we really deserve death it is incredibly significant that I can have my sins forgiven and something or someone else can take my place.

This may better be explained by the Bible’s speaking of Christ being our “ransom”. We might think of ransom being paid as if we are imprisoned by someone evil and so a ransom is paid to let you go free. This is not the way ancient Israel would have understood the term.

28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him.
– Exodus 21-28-30

From the passage the idea of ransom is quite the opposite. Think of a couple who is deeply in love, where the two really cherish each other. Now say that one member of that couple is brutally gored by the ox described above, and the neglectful owner knew of the animal’s behavior to gore in the past. It is a deep and serious tragedy, and yet a ransom is a price that can be laid upon the owner so as to set him free from the righteous judgment of death. The ransom is imposed upon the guilty by the innocent. The penalty or ransom to be paid is far less that what it is deserved. In this manner although God is offended and we stand as guilty before Him, He is able to set the ransom for our lives, one that indicates both the seriousness of our crime and the deep love that He has for us. When God or the surviving spouse does this, they are in fact stating that they will accept peace over continued enmity and that they are passing over their right to exercise justice. In the case of God not only does He set the ransom for our lives, He pays it Himself knowing we are not able. This is a ludicrous type of grace echoed by Paul in Romans;

7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. – Romans 5:7-9

The Grace of God is not just setting a term of substitution on our behalf, but in actually paying that substitution price for us. The line from a hymn of Charles Wesley states, “Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

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