Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Three Forms of Covenant Theology (part 3; The Law of the New Covenant)

I've finally gotten the time to record , edit, and publish this very important message. The Message is in 2 parts. The first section is a proof that the New Covenant must be comprised of a new law, both logic and Scripture require this. After having shown that the New Covenant must have a new law, part two identifies and explains what that new law is.

Part one ends at the 25 minute mark, so if you just want to know what the law of the New Covenant is, and you're pressed for time, then I recommend that you begin at that mark. However, if you don't see how the New Covenant requires the establishment of a new law that did not exist in the Old Covenant, then be sure to watch from the beginning.

I identify the law of the New Covenant in four sections,

1. The commands of Christ
2. The example of Christ
3. The Apostolic instructions written in the NT
4. The Record given to us in the OT

I also, spend some time contrasting the law of the OT vs the law of the NT.

I'm certain that I could have done a much better job on this. I worked on this message for a long time, struggled to preach it, and have never been perfectly happy with it. However, I pray that the Lord may use my weakness for his own glory, and I pray that you will be spurred on to learn more for the purposes of becoming more like Christ.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Forms of Covenant Theology Part 2: 1689 Federalism and New Covenant Theology

Last time we examined the 3 major forms of Covenant Theology. This week we will examine a new form of Covenant Theology called New Covenant Theology. This form is very close in almost every aspect to 1689 Federalism. However, there are some important differences.

I was contacted by a few individuals who were unsure how they differed after watching part 1 of this series. In this video I explain the two major differences between the systems. One difference concerning a covenant in the Garden of Eden, and the other difference concerning the nature of the Decalogue.

I hope you are edified and encouraged. I don't use any quotes from New Covenant Theologians in this presentation since I'll be covering what they believe in more detail in Part 3 of this series.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Three Forms of Covenant Theology

Over the past twenty years, thousands of young Christians have been leaving behind the Dispensational and Arminian theologies of their parents. This is a good thing in my opinion. I think the Dispensational ideas have been hurtful to Christianity. But with the many young men and women of my generation leaving Dispensationalism, the question is, "where are they going?"

Most young Christians, the Young, Restless, and Reformed, and many other young people, are heading into the Reformed school of thought. This is a good thing. But as they enter they are usually unaware of what "Reformed" actually  means. Some think that holding to Calvinism makes one "Reformed."  Some think that holding to the "5 Solas" makes on Reformed. Those things, and others, are important aspects of Reformed Theology, but they do not form the basis of Reformed Theology. And at it's core, "Reformed" means that one holds to one of the Confessions which underpin Covenant Theology, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith (for Presbyterians) or the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (for Baptists).

However, what many don't realize is that there are 3 forms of Covenant Theology?
There is actually a Covenant Theology for Presbyterians, a different form of CT for Baptists, and a third, which is a mix of the Presbyterian and Baptist forms.

1. Westminster Covenant Theology
2. 1689 Federalism
3. A freakish blend of 1 and 2. It is sometimes referred to as 20th century Baptist Covenant Theology.

In the video below I'll try to adequately describe all of the views for you, so that you can begin to understand what being Reformed is and why the difference between Presbyterians and Baptists has nothing to do with Baptism, but everything to do with the way they view the Mosiac Covenant vs. the New Covenant. (The Abrahamic Covenant is of great importance as well, but I'll save that for another day)


I seek to study well and confirm all positions before I speak about one. I want to bring correct and unbiased views when I present information. However, every time I put forth someone's theological position, they respond by saying, "that's not a correct representation of the position."  Additionally, within each view there are sub-groups which may vary on various aspects. So for the record, I'm posting links so that each position may be able to speak for itself.

The major points that I'm trying to get across are

1. Presbyterianism =  One Covenant of Grace with Two administrations (the Mosaic vs. the New)
2. 20th Century RB = One Covenant of Grace with two administrations (with the exception of infant baptism)
3. 1689 Federalism = Two distinct covenants (Mosaic and New; the New being the Covenant of Grace)

The first link connects to the Westminster Confession which posits that there is only one covenant and two administrations.

The second link is from the blog of Brandon Adams who is a scholar and a man of understanding who specializes in 1689 Federalism (as well as all other Reformed topics), and is more than adequate and qualified to communicate what 1689 Federalism (this Historical Baptist view) teaches. Clearly, the 1689 view rejects the Presbyterian view and sees two completely different covenants.

The third link is again from Brandon Adams who contrasts the 1689 Baptist view with the 20 Century Baptist view.

The forth link is posted at Brandon Adam's blog but is an argument from Sam Renihan against the 20 Century view and for the Historic 1689 view.

For more information, is a great source.

Link 1: The Westminster/Presbyterian view posits one covenant and two administrations (paragraph 5 and 6)

Link 2: The 1689 Reformed Baptist View rejects the Presbyterian view of one covenant of Grace with with two administrations

Link 3: The most popular view of the 20th century is the freakish blend of view 1 and 2.

Link 4: A 1689 Federalist seeks to correct a 20th Century Baptist View of Covenant Theology

Friday, May 5, 2017

Les Lanphere and the Warning Passages

This morning, Les Lanphere put a challenge to Baptists. He states,

Show me that the New Testament warnings of covenantal apostasy are just hypothetical to put fear in the Saints, and I'll show you an immediate contradiction in thinking. If you know they can't happen, then you can't be fearful of them.
The warnings would only work on people that don't yet know they can't actually happen, so the warnings are temporary for people with bad theology. And you explaining it to me would be effectively causing me to stop being fearful of them. This is an unintelligible interpretation. God doesn't warn against things that can't happen.


If you know anything about Baptist beliefs, you must know that we submit that the only members of the New Covenant are saved individuals. One who professes to be a part of the New Covenant and is not really saved may profess to be in the covenant, but he is not.

Presbyterians on the other hand seek to advance the claim that there are saved members in the New Covenant, and there are unsaved members of the New Covenant. Thus, Les' statement about "covenantal apostasy" make sense. He believes that there can be members of the covenant who become apostate and are removed from the covenant.

The warning passages in Scripture seem to support this idea. After all, "how could a warning be hypothetical?" If it were hypothetical, an empty threat simply made to "put fear in the Saints" that would be "an immediate contradiction in thinking." I mean, "if you know they can't happen, then why be fearful of them."  That's madness! Obviously, these warnings are real, and they can happen. Thus, we must confess that people can be tossed out of the covenant. But if we acknowledge that God will never lose any of his own, then we must confess that there are those in the covenant who are not "God's own," those who are not saved. Hence, the membership of the New Covenant must consist of both the saved and the unsaved. See? It's all very logical. Logical... and wrong.

At times there are Scriptures that directly contradict one another, if I may speak that way. For example, in Ephesians 2, Paul says that salvation comes "by faith, not works" while in James 2, James says, "
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." Of course, we protestants understand how these passages complement one another. We understand that instead of being contrary, they give the Christian a more accurate and holistic understanding of salvation.

Thus, those who err on this matter do so only when they take one passage as "the way it is" and ignore the other passage. For example, those who over-focus on salvation by faith end up falling into the error of the ever-sin-loving "believer" who is saved no matter what his life looks like. While those who over-focus on Jame's salvation that is comprised of faith with works and ignore the passages about salvation by faith alone, end up teaching that salvation is by faith plus works. The key to interpreting Scripture however is to reconcile the two seemingly contrary passages. We can't afford to "explain away" the claims of a particular passage simply because it contradicts a passage that we value.

At this point, perhaps you're asking, "why is this important? And what does this have to do with Les Lanphere and the Presbyterian position. Well, it seems to me that Mr. Lanphere is erring by over-emphasizing one passage to the neglect of another. Instead of harmonizing the two passages as he ought, he emphasizes the warning passages while he ignores the passages that seem to contradict the verses that he values.


In Jeremiah 31, the prophet tells us that all those in the New Covenant are saved. Their iniquity is forgiven and their sins are "remembered no more." In fact, Jeremiah says that this is true of all the members of the New Covenant, "from the least to the greatest." Therefore, since we know that when God says, "their sins are remembered no more" that all members of the New Covenant are saved. There is no exiting the New Covenant to find ourselves in a place where God will remember our sins again. Once you're in the New Covenant, there is no leaving it. There is no way to be lost. But, didn't we see earlier in Mr. Lanphere's argument that people can commit "covenantal apostasy?" Didn't we already see that the warning passages have to be real because after all, "God doesn't warn against things that can't happen." Therefore, it must be possible to exit the covenant, and if it's possible to exit the covenant, then the covenant must be made of some saved and some unsaved.

So here we are. We have two passages that seem to contradict one another. On one hand, Jeremiah says that all who are in the covenant will "have their sins remembered no more" and all who are in the New Covenant must be permanently saved. But on the other hand, God doesn't warn against things that can't happen, therefore, exiting the covenant and being damned must be possible. What are we to make with these contradictory passages? Mr. Lanphere, and our other Presbyterian brothers decide that they will focus on the meaning of the warning passages and ignore the fact that Jeremiah 31 contradicts their interpretation. They of course will claim that Baptists focus on Jeremiah 31 and ignore the fact that the warning passages contradict our interpretation. And perhaps that may be true for some baptists. But I will now show the harmonization between the two passages which validates the Baptist interpretation. (Conversely, I posit that Mr. Lanphere and other Presbyterians cannot harmonize Jeremiah 31 with their interpretation. Let them attempt to do so if they wish).


Baptist want to harmonize all of Scripture (as does anyone who loves God's word; and I count many Presbyterians in that group as well.) But my contention is that there is a difference between wanting to harmonize the Scripture and actually doing it. Mr. Lanphere is guilty here of wanting to harmonize the passages but failing to do so.

Here are the competing claims of Scripture

1. All members of the New Covenant, from the least to the greatest shall have their iniquity forgiven and their sins remembered no more.
2. God warns of those who exit the new covenant and are damned (because their sins were NOT forgiven.)

Baptists harmonize these two passages by affirming Jeremiah, that all members of the New Covenant will be saved and by affirming that the warning passages are real, yet "it can't happen," it never will happen. God warns of something that will never happen. Therefore, the passage in Jeremiah is free to stand as is, and the warning passages are free to stand as is as well. Of course, Les is arguing that it's illogical to say God would "warn against something that could never happen." But a lot of things in Scripture are illogical. For example, Jesus is 100% God and 100% man (that's 200% for those of you keeping score). God is immortal, yet he died on the cross. God ordains all men's actions, yet man is 100% responsible for his own actions. God is one, yet at the same time He is three. Logically, none of these things make sense. How can you be both one and three at the same time? But we believe them not because we can logically make sense of them, but because Scripture teaches them. And this is Len's error. He wants logic over Scripture. He wants to focus on the warning passages and ignore Jeremiah 31. This way the logic can stand. He is right after all, "it's an immediate contradiction" because "God doesn't warn against things that can't happen." Logically, he makes perfect sense. But what if I told you, that God does warn against things that can't happen?

Okay Mr. Lanphere, if you want me to show you that the New Testament warnings can be hypothetical to put fear in the Saints, then I will. I just ask that you listen with a willingness to hear the argument and consider that I may be onto something. Turn in your Bible to Acts 27. Here we find that Paul is sailing to Rome to stand before Caesar. As they make their way across the sea, a mighty storm happens upon them. The men become fearful for their lives and begin to panic. What they don't know is that Paul had already been visited by an angel who promises that all will survive. Let's read the text.

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss.
 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

So we we see that God Himself, by way of an angel, has promised that "there will be no loss of life among you" and again, that God has "granted you all" to arrive in Rome.

So now that all of them have been guaranteed, by God himself, to keep their lives, how silly and illogical it would be for God to warn them that they could die. But let's keep reading. Skip down to verse 30,

And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship's life boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, 31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 

Well that's weird!  Why would God start by promising that none of them would die and then immediately turn around and say, "if those men get off the ship, you will die?"  That's what Les Lanphere would call, "an immediate contradiction."  But there it is, staring us right in the face, mocking us, challenging us to surrender our natural logic and calling us to wrestle with the Scriptures.

How shall we answer Paul here? "But Paul, how can you warn us that we will die if those men get off the ship? You already promised us, by a promise of an angel from God, that none of us will die?!"

Should we believe Paul here? Should we believe that they would in fact die if those men got off the ship? Is Paul's warning of certain death even applicable since he had already warned of certain life?  Shall we tell Paul that his warning of death can't be true? Or are both statements true? Is this one of those times when Scripture seems to have a contradiction and we have to figure out how to harmonize them before we arrive at the truth? What's the answer to this illogical dilemma?

Let us look at the text again.

Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go."

What purpose did the warning of death serve? The warning actually caused the men to take the action necessary that fulfilled the original promise that no one would be lost. The promise of life actually came to fruition because of the warning of death. Was the warning of death true? Yes. We have to believe that it was. We have to hold that Paul was telling the truth, IF those men left the ship, then the others would die. That is true. But, we already knew that those men would not get off the ship because their life had already been assured. Thus, we see that the warning was not given because there was a possibility of those men getting off the ship, but the warning was given because there was NOT a possibility of those men getting off the ship. The warning actually functioned as a tool in the hands of God to ensure that His promise of life would hold true.

So in this case, God did indeed give a warning of something that could not possibly happen. For if it could have happened, then God's original promise of certain life would have proven to be a lie, and God cannot lie. So why give the warning if it couldn't happen? Because it was the warning itself that ensured that it would not happen. It was the warning of death that caused the soldiers to cut away the life boat keeping all on board, thus sparing the life of all and bringing to pass the original promise from the angel, that "there will be no loss of life among you."

Did the soldiers take the warning seriously even though they had already received the promise of certain life? Yes they did. Do we as believers do the same? Yes, we do. Is this an immediate contradiction. I suppose so. But it's true.

Thus, seeing that God both promised the sailors their lives and warned them of death, we can affirm that God does give warnings for those things that cannot happen because those warnings serve God's purposes. And ultimately, we see that the words of Jeremiah 31 do not contradict the warning passages. The promise of life stands, even when the warning of death remains present. The warnings actually affirm the promise, and they work to assure that the promise stands steadfast and true.

So is Les Lanphere right about hypothetical warnings being an "immediate contradiction?" Yes. He is. This is an example of a logical contradiction, like so many other 'contradictions' in Scripture. But God calls us to submit our often mistaken, fallen and errant "logical" conclusions to the truth of His word. Yes, God is both one, and three at the same time.  The immortal can die. The Christ was 100% God and 100% man. And God gives warnings of death to serve his purpose, knowing that death will never come' "for all in the New Covenant will know Me, from the least to the greatest, and I will remember their sins no more." 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dr. Renihan confesses New Covenant Theology to Be True

Well, it's official. The old guard for Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology is starting to crumble. Dr. James Renihan has ceded the NCT interpretation of Colossians 2:16-17. OK, perhaps I'm being overly hopeful. But back in 2005, Dr. Renihan unknowingly confessed that the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment, has been abolished. Allow me to quote the good Doctor below. What I have transcribed is an excerpt from his sermon, entitled, "New Covenant Theology" and can be found here. The sermon is centered mainly around a critique of the book "New Covenant Theology" by Wells and Zaspel. That book can be found here
Without further ado, let me allow Dr. Renihan make his case.

"Those of us who believe in the Sabbath principle do not wish to blink our eyes at texts like Col. 2:16-17 and I had the same kind of struggle with this text that I had with a text like 1 John 2:2 on the subject of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, wanting to be faithful with the text. Now what do you do?

Well I found something very interesting as I was reading and studying this text one day, and it's in J.B. Lightfoot's commentary on the book of Colossians. And Lightfoot points out something that is of great interest to me. He demonstrates that there are six places in the Septuagint, (which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) there are six places where [one can see] the very words which Paul uses in Colossians 2:16; "festival" "new moon" and "sabbaths."

There are six places where those words occur together in the Septuagint translations, 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 31:3; Nehemiah 10:33; Isaiah 1:13-14; Hosea 2:11; and Ezekiel 45:17.
And if you were to take the time and go and look at each one of those six occurrences of this same set of 3 words in the Old Testament, you will find that in every case the writers of the OT used these words as a package to refer to the fullness of time related days that were bound upon Israel to obedience.
And I think that Paul, who was trained in Old Testament theology and who understood the use of technical terms as they are found in the Old Testament. (I think we can even say at this point Rabbi Paul, who trained at the feet of the Gamaliel, the rabbi, understood how words were used in the Old Testament.) And when he uses these 3 words in the same way here in Colossians chapter 2, he is using these words in the same way that they are used elsewhere in the Bible.
This is the principle that our brother set out before us in the last hour when he said that we interpret Scripture by Scripture. A surface reading of the text seems to tell us that there are no Sabbaths and no one is to judge you on the basis of those Sabbaths, but everywhere else in the Bible, brothers and sisters, everywhere else in the Bible, where these three words are used together, they are used to describe the fullness of days that were obligatory for the nation of Israel.
And it's my conviction (and I think Lightfoot is right) that Paul uses these words in the same combination and in the same way. He refers to the package of "Jewish" days. That's what Paul is seeking to say, he's referring to the package of Jewish days.
And so you and I, as those who believe that there continues to be a day of observance under the NC, can alongside of Paul gladly assert with every possible boldness, that every characteristically "Jewish" day has been abolished. You don't have to keep a new moon, you don't have to keep any of the Jewish festivals, and on Saturday you can go to the football game and rejoice. And you don't have to go to worship on that day.

Now please allow me to interject Dr. Renihan. It seems to me that you just acknowledged that the 4th commandment was a "Jewish day" and that Colossians 2 puts forth the case that we as Christians no longer have to observe Jewish days, namely, the fourth commandment. Thus, we can ignore the commandment given to Israel and go to a football game on a Saturday.
Thus, Dr. Renihan, if you confess that Colossians 2 puts an end to the 4th commandment and its requirement to keep Saturday, then it seems that we're all agreed. The Sabbath commandment is abolished. You only follow 9 of the 10 commandments. But, I'll let you continue...


"We can say that with all the strength of our conviction, but saying that in no way undermines the possibility of the obligation of a distinctively Christian day, the Lord's day, as a memorial of Christ's work in establishing the new creation, the new exodus, and his eschatological triumph, which is the line of reasoning that we find in Hebrews 3 and 4.

Now Dr. Renihan, I'm sorry for interjecting so quickly, but if you would let me to do so I find what you have said as very troubling. It seems that you agree with me that there is no command in Scripture, and so you call it a "possibility of an obligation." That seems strange to me.
You said, that abolishing the Jewish Sabbath (the 4th commandment) "in no way undermines the possibility of the obligation of a distinctively Christian day [the obligation to have a Christian Sabbath]"
I have to agree. After all, anything is "possible." I suppose that the abolition of the 4th commandment in no way undermines the possibility of the obligation to keep a special Sabbath in the New Covenant. But you yourself do not see an obligation, you only see a "possibility." Thus, there is no Christian Sabbath. It will always remain just "a possibility." The "possibility of the obligation" is not the same thing as an obligation.
So while you have argued masterfully against the commandment which required 7th day observance, you have yet still failed to show that a new commandment has risen up and taken the place of the old one. Where is the commandment to observe a Sabbath on the first day of the week? You've shown that the Scripture kills the 4th commandment, but where is the Scripture that shows it rising from the grave and laying down new obligations upon Christians?
One cannot prove that the 4th commandment has died along with the dietary laws, only to argue that the 4th commandment returns with new demands and the dietary laws return with new restrictions. If I wanted to argue that there were new dietary restrictions, then I'd have to show a definite commandment from Scripture. Likewise, if you want to show the new obligation to observe a Sabbath for Christians, you're going to have to show a definite commandment from Scripture.
The new moons have not come back to us in a different form, the festivals have not come back to us in a different form, and the dietary laws have not come back to us in a different form. With all of this you agree. Yet, for some reason, (because the Reformed confessions say so) you wish to assume that the Sabbath DOES come back to us in a different form. Why would all the other commandments mentioned in the exact same breath be abolished forever, while the Sabbath comes back with new form? That's very tricky of Paul to throw in one perpetual command right in the mix with dozens of dead ones.
Sincerely Dr. Renihan, you're going to have to show that there is not just "the possibility" of a new Sabbath, you're going to have to show that the command was actually given. A possibility of a command, does not a command make. Since you have so masterfully proven that the Jewish Sabbath (the 4th commandment of the Decalogue) has been abolished, please show me where a new "Christian Sabbath" is commanded?

Thank you for allowing that interjection, I'll allow you to continue.
This day [the first day of the week] has substance, it has firmness, (it is the body) in the way that the Old Covenant days never could. Because the first day of the week honors the final consummate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. All of those Old Testament days could only look forward in a typical way to his coming, but the first day of the week which is the only day that we observe, in all of it's fullness has substance because on that day we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. So you see? The fact that they (Wells and Zaspel) have not wrestled with an exegesis of a text, but 13 times have cited it is a serious flaw in the argument of the book. Incomplete exegesis means incomplete argumentation, and no treatment will carry the consciences of readers until it handles thoroughly all the exegetical questions that are relevant to the subject at hand. And up to this point in the publication of their book "New Convenant Theology," Wells and Zaspel have not done this. They have not provided a thorough exegesis of the text of scripture.
I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with your exegesis of the text. It is very clear that Colossians 2:16-17 abolishes any and all Jewish days, whether it be the Jewish observance commanded in Leviticus 23:9, the Jewish observance commanded in Numbers 29:1, or even the Jewish Sabbath commanded in Exodus 20:8-11, as recorded in the Decalogue. All Jewish observances are no longer binding upon Christians. So let's work on Saturday if necessary, or go to a sporting event, or whatever we wish. The commandment is no longer binding upon Christians. I also agree with what you said about "all of those Old Testament days" and how they could "only look forward in a typical way to Jesus' coming." An observance of a day can only be typical. It can only be shadow. And of course this is exactly what Paul says in the very text of Colossians 2. All Jewish day are only a shadow, and Jesus himself is the substance. This is why I'm confused, because I know that you agree with the nature of the Sabbath as just a shadow. You agree that the food laws were also just a shadow. Why then, in light of Paul's words, "but the substance belongs to Christ" do you resurrect a the 4th commandment and declare, "the substance belongs to the first day of the week?" It just doesn't make sense.
You have however exegeted Colossians 2:16-17 perfectly. Now, your next task is to find a passage to exegete that shows the resurrection of the 4th commandment, and the command to return to observing a Sabbath. Don't worry, I won't hold my breath. I know that the Seventh Day Adventists have been offering money for decades to anyone who can produce one single text that commands Christians to observe a Sabbath on the first day of the week. I know that no such text exists. Thus, I can't help but wonder why you teach that such a command exists? And I can't help but wonder why, you yourself referred to this command as "the possibility of the obligation" to observe a weekly Sabbath? Have you not just admitted that the Christian Sabbath is not actually a fact? It reminds me of the evolutionists who claim, "it's possible that men came from chimpanzees." Or, "it's possible that "life just began on its own." Yes indeed, that is the type of language one uses when he has no evidence for his position.
Thank you Dr. Renihan. I appreciate that you have taken the time to exegete the text of Colossians 2:16-17. I'm sure that Wells and Zaspel appreciate it as well. You did a fantastic job. I'll rest easy at night knowing that I am not obliged to observe any days which come to me from the Old Testament. But it does make me wonder why you still contend that there is one particular Old Testament command that must be followed, namely the Fourth commandment, albeit you do change the day from the last to the first of the week. But where do you get the authority to do such a thing? Did the Apostles teach that the fourth commandment changed from the last day to the first day? Obviously not, for if they had, Paul would have mentioned it here in Colossians 2. So where do you get the authority to resurrect a commandment that you yourself claim the Apostle has abolished?
Thank you for your time Dr. Renihan.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How Reformed Baptists Err on Old Covenant Law


Last time, I proved that Presbyterian Covenant Theology is wrong on the Basis of one verse, Gal. 3:15. I told you that the following week, I would show the errors of Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology. That was four months ago. Welcome to the second "week." (Sometimes I get too busy) But without further ado, let's just jump right in shall we?

Part 2 Proving Covenant Theology wrong with one verse

When I cite Galatians 3:15 as proof that the entire Mosaic Code has passed away and become obsolete, the Reformed Baptists cheer. They couldn't agree more. In fact, seeing the Mosaic Covenant as a whole that has passed away entirely is the fundamental basis for the Reformed Baptist view.

So, Galatians 3:15 really only destroys the Presbyterian Covenantal position. But in our day, many Baptists have failed to understand the historical and theological nature of CT and thus many Baptists are pretending that they can be both Baptist and Covenental at the same time. The modern day Reformed Baptist will side with the New Covenant theologian and agree with the entire argument from last *week (that the whole of the Mosaic Code has passed away). They will state that God's covenants are unchangeable and Christ came to completely fulfill and abolish the Old Mosaic Covenant.

One of the most well regarded spokesmen for the Baptist form of Covenant Theology is Richard Barcellos.  In his classic work, "In Defense of the Decalogue" a work purposed to debunk NCT, he argues that the whole Old Covenant is gone.  In that wonderful work, he says:


 "Hearty agreement must be given when New Covenant theologians argue for the abolition of the Old Covenant. This is clearly the teaching of the Old and New Testaments (see Jeremiah 31:31-32; Second Corinthians 3; Galatians 3, 4; Ephesians 2:14-15; Hebrews 8-10). The whole law of Moses, as it functioned under the Old Covenant, has been abolished, including the Ten Commandments. Not one jot or tittle of the law of Moses functions as the Old Covenant law anymore and to act as if it does constitutes redemptive-historical retreat and neo-Judaizing."

Clearly, Barcellos and other Reformed Baptist recognize that Paul's argument from Gal. 3:15 is air tight and not one jot or tittle of the law can still be in force upon Christians. However, Barcellos immediately contradicts himself when he suggests that the Decalogue continues to have "abiding moral validity under the New Covenant." In the eyes of Reformed Baptists, the law is both abolished, and has abiding moral validity at the same time.

But this is THE Reformed Baptist Covenant position. The RB takes the law, proclaims that all of it has passed away, and then declares that the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) "doth  for ever bind all... to the obedience thereof" with a "universal and perpetual obligation." 

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, and men like Barcellos who subscribe to it, make a terrible mistake by returning to the law when Christ has set us free from it. What the Reformed Baptists do is almost schizophrenic. The 1689 states, "neither does Christ in the Gospel in any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation [the 10 Commandments]." So the Baptist's declare that the ten commandments are "abolished" like Barcellos says above, and the obligation to keep them has been "strengthened."  So they are both abolished and strengthened at the exact same time? It sounds strange but I understand the reason for it. Let me explain.

Reformed Baptists believe that the Ten Commandments possessed two different characteristics when they were created. First, they were the summation of the Covenant that God made with Moses and the Israelites. Second, they were also God's moral, and timeless commands for the instruction of men. Thus, it makes sense to assert that once the Mosaic Covenant is fulfilled and gone, that that particular characteristic of the law would be "abolished" while the second characteristic (moral instruction) continues on. Here's a graphic I made to help see how they understand the Decalogue as both abolished and in force at the same time. 

In the Old Covenant dispensation, they had two purposes, first as a set of stipulations through which obedience would lead to reward, and second as a guide of morality. Since the Old Covenant is gone, so the promise of blessing for the obedient one is also gone (thankfully, the curses for the one who breaks a command is also gone. Praise God!) But since it also functioned as a guide for morality, they are also still in force. Thus, they are both abolished in one respect and untouched in another. It makes sense. There is however a problem with this view, and that is that the view perverts the Christian life in regards to "Sabbath" observance. 

Because the view declares all of the Ten Commandments to be moral guide for Christian living, it must declare that the Sabbath command is moral; when it is clearly not. This perverts the Christian's practice and seeks to place burdens upon believers that God never places upon them. The problems with Sabbath practice are myriad and cannot be addressed in one blog post, or even ten; but at the end of the day the Christian is required to bind upon his back aspects of law that Christ has freed us from.

Let's hear it straight from the 1689 London Baptist Confession.

"The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship 
and in the duties of necessity and mercy."  

Notice that as a believer, or even non-believer (since the command is universal) you are required to avoid employment on the first day of the week. You are required to avoid "words" about your employment on the first day of the week, and you are required to avoid "thoughts" about your employment on the first day of the week. So no talking or thinking about work on Sunday, thus saith the Lord, apparently. 

But we're not done yet. Notice that you cannot talk about, think about or do work on Sunday, but you also must avoid, words about recreation, and thoughts about recreation, and you certainly may not partake in recreation on Sunday. Instead, you must be "taken up the whole time in public and private worship" unless there is a duty of necessity or mercy. So no watching your team play football unless it's absolutely necessary, or if it's an act of mercy (which if your a Dallas Cowboys fan, it may be).
Flying a kite with your children on the Sabbath would be regarded as recreation unless you can justify it as an act of necessity or mercy. Any sort of recreation or entertainment is off limits, unless you can spin it to make it look like it's an "act of mercy or necessity." Thus, the claim that all ten commandments are of moral import obstructs a Christian's freedom in Christ and places burdens upon them in ways that God has never instructed, thus forbidding good and lawful things that God allows, simply because it's Sunday. The Reformed Baptist Catechism states:

Q. 66. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A. The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days...

So you see? There are things that you can do for recreation on every other day, like play a game of basketball, but on Sunday, it is "unlawful" according to the Reformed Baptist view.

To summarize, the Reformed Baptist view is a bit complicated because they hold to a New Covenant view of the law in that they affirm that all of it has been abolished, but then they assume all ten commandments are of moral import and so they return to pick the Decalogue up out of the dust, brush it off, and bring it with them into the New Covenant; and in that error, they part company with the New Covenant theologian who wants to leave the Sabbath behind and cling to whom the Sabbath pointed, Jesus Christ. For the Sabbath was "a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."  Col. 2:16b 

Next *week, I'll address how the Reformed Baptist's theology is inconsistent when he calls the Sabbath commandment moral and I'll prove that it's a ceremonial law that is no longer binding. 

*note: The word "week" can be relative when you're too busy for your own good. It may be a month or two... or three or four.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Proving New Covenant Theology with Only One Bible Verse

As I've grown in my understanding of Scripture, I've come to realize that the Bible can only be rightly understood when it is viewed through the lenses of the covenants that God has established. As I've examined what Scripture says about itself and how it is to be understood, I've come to the conclusion that New Covenant Theology is the truest and most accurate way to view the covenants of God and Scripture as a whole. (Some have begun to call NCT by the name of Progressive Covenantalism but I prefer the more popular New Covenant Theology)

Now NCT is a small group of men and women. When my previous pastor wanted to describe how small a group he belonged to he would say, " we could have our conference in a phone booth" and this certainly fits the NCT group. However, the NCT group is growing and I suppose it will continue to grow as more begin to realize the fatal flaw of classic Covenant Theology and are brave enough to call the Reformed confessions into question on some points.

Because of the growth of NCT, more and more people are asking questions about what it is and seeking to understand if it really accords with Scripture. This article will seek to answer both of those questions.


New covenant theology is a theology that sees the Mosaic covenant and law as completely fulfilled, thus having no binding significance on Christians. In other words, NCT says that we are no longer under the 10 Commandments, but we are under the "Law of Christ."  This sets NCT out as very distinct because both Baptist and Presbyterian forms of Covenant Theology state that we are in fact under the law of the 10 Commandments.

Covenant Theology divides the laws of the Old Testament into 3 parts, the civil law, the ceremonial law, and the moral law. The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, are described as being "the Moral law" and thus are binding upon all people at all times. New Covenant Theology denies this division and says that all the Old Covenant laws are fulfilled and gone. If one is gone, the rest go with it, if one is still binding then they all are still binding. This is what NCT teaches because this is simply what Scripture says. Thus, the law can't be divided, one must take it all, or leave it all. New Covenant Theology doesn't want to take it all because the law is a heavy weight that is a "ministry of death" (2 Cor. 3) so we choose to leave it all behind because we have "been released from the law." (Romans 7)

That's New Covenant Theology in a nutshell.


Yes. In fact, it can be proven true by only one verse, Galatians 3:15. Now to be clear, just because it
can be proven in one verse does not mean that there is only one verse which affirms it, but rather, it's so plain that it needs only one verse to verify it. In Galatians 3 Paul is answering arguments that the Mosaic Covenant caused the Abrahamic Covenant to change. Paul wants to assure his readers that the Abrahamic Covenant has not been changed by the Mosaic covenant, and he does this by attempting to prove that it is impossible for one of God's covenants to change. So in verse 15 of chapter 3, Paul writes, "to give a human example brothers, even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified."  

At first glance, Galatians 3:15 may seem like an insignificant passage but it actually destroys any form of Covenant theology that would seek to divide some of the OT law claiming that some of it has been abolished and some of it continues on fully in force.

Paul is arguing in classic Hebrew form knows as "Kal Va'chomer"  which is to say, "if the lesser is true, then how much more-so is the greater true?"  Jesus did this often as well, remember when he asked his disciples "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask?"  

Notice the progression of logic, if the lesser and weaker is able to do such feats, how much more so is the greater and stronger able to do them?  This is exactly what Paul is doing. In Galatians 3 he is attempting to prove that the Abrahamic Covenant was not changed or annulled or altered in any way and he does this by arguing that God's covenants can't ever be altered, period. He argues in the classic Hebrew "Kal Va'chomer" style, the lesser to the greater. If a human covenant (the lesser) is unchangeable once it has been established, then how much more so is one of God's covenants (the greater) unchangeable? He just proved that the Abrahamic covenant was not altered or changed by way of Kal Va'chomer.

Let's consider what he's saying here. Imagine for a second that you sign a mortgage on a house. The interest rate is agreed upon, the details of loan amount, monthly payments, penalties, late payment fees, causes for repossession of property, etc. etc. Once you and all other parties sign on the line, you cannot decide that you want to change a part of the agreement. It is impossible to wake up the next morning and decide that you want to annul some of the requirements but keep others; "even with a man made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified." Now if you wish to pay off the mortgage by entering into another mortgage agreement, then you can refinance by taking out another loan with the new details that you desire and paying off the old one. But once you pay off the old one, it is fulfilled and is no longer in force, not one single letter of it. This is what Christ did essentially. He paid off the Old Covenant and established a New Covenant.

The Covenant theologian must answer the question, "how is it that some Old Covenant laws have been annulled and some have not?"  Paul explicitly says that this is impossible with a man made covenant and is even moreso impossible with a Divine covenant. The CT is essentially telling Paul that he is wrong, that parts of God's covenants can be annulled or added to even after they have been ratified. But this is wrong. God's covenants are unchangeable and unalterable once they have been ratified." (Especially since the Old Covenant was ratified with blood Ex. 24).

How can one argue that parts of the Mosaic covenant are annulled, (it's now acceptable to sow two different seeds in one field) that some are altered, (the Sabbath day has changed from a 7th day required observance to a 1st day required observance) and that some are still in effect and in force (the other 9 commandments)?  This tears Paul's argument to the ground and spits on it. If CT is true, then Galatians 3:15 is not. Paul's erred when he suggested that God's covenants were unchangeable. This is of course the crux of the matter. Either Paul was wrong and God's covenants can be changed and altered even after they are ratified, or the Covenant Theologian is wrong. There is just no way out of it for the Covenant Theologian, he must be right, or Paul must be right, but they cannot both be right. Either God's covenants can be altered or they can't be.

I throw my lot in with Paul. I believe that the only way to alter one dot of the Mosaic Covenant is if someone comes along and fulfills it completely (pays off the mortgage). Otherwise, all agreements are still in effect and unchangeable. But isn't this exactly what Jesus said, "not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is fulfilled." God's covenants are unchangeable until it's fulfilled, just like man made covenants. And if a man made covenant can't be altered or changed after it's been ratified, then how much more the case with a God made covenant?!


Next week, we'll look at how Reformed Baptists approach the covenants and establish their own brand of Covenant Theology. We will examine how they err in identifying our relationship to the law of Moses, how they too fail to grasp the splendid newness of the New Covenant; and how they mistakenly adopt a contradictory hybrid of a Baptist view and a Presbyterian view of Covenant Theology.

Baptists agree that the whole Old Covenant has been abolished, so how do they explain their return to the 10 Commandments as the summation of all moral law for Christians?  The 1689 Confession clearly teaches this, but does Scripture?

Christo et Ecclesiae