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. I'm also curious as to why you changed the pattern of language you were using? To say, "on Saturday you can go to the football game" is just another way of saying, "you don't have to keep the weekly Sabbath." It seems to me that you have changed your language in an advantageous way which obscures the fact that the passage in question contradicts the Reformed Confessions. Instead of saying, "you don't have to keep a new moon, you don't have to keep a festival, and you don't have to keep a weekly Sabbath, you instead say, "you don't have to keep a new moon, you don't have to keep a festival and on Saturday you can go to the football game." But I digress. I will allow you to continue with your thoughts.


"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.

1 comment:

  1. The Sabbath was God's day in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 58.13,14)
    The Lord's Day is God's day in the New Testament. (Rev.1.10)
    God's always had a special day.
    "The Lord's Day is kinda like Old Sabbath in Genesis" John MacArthur.
    But as the good Pastor said (and as WCF, LBCF says the Mosaic Sabbath is abolished.