Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Abrahamic Covenant is One

The Disagreement Stated

In examining what Scripture teaches concerning God's covenant dealings with Abraham, Jeffrey Johnson finds a helpful conversation partner in Nehemiah Coxe, who was perhaps the chief architect of the Reformed Baptist Confession [the 1689 Confession]. However, there is a point of disagreement that Johnson notes between he and Coxe:

Coxe goes on to explain that God had established two distinct covenants with Abraham at two different periods in Abraham's life. Abraham received a covenant of grace in Genesis 12 and a covenant of circumcision/works in Genesis 17. Twenty-five years separated these two covenants from one another. According to Coxe, the first covenant was a covenant of grace and the second was a covenant of works, which he called a covenant of circumcision. The covenant of grace promised Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.  This was in reference to Abraham's spiritual offspring, which would include believers out of every race of people. The covenant of circumcision, on the other hand, promised blessings to a single nation. This nation was limited to Abraham's physical offspring. [Jeffrey Johnson, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism (Free Grace Press, 2010), 216.]
While in agreement with Coxe's main point (that we must differentiate between promises to Abraham's physical seed and his spiritual seed), Johnson writes:

Unlike Coxe, I hold that God's promises to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 17 cannot be separated. I believe that these promises recorded in these two chapters are a part of the same covenant. [Ibid.]
The Proof Considered

I believe that Johnson's view of this matter is correct, and provably so.

Let us consider: are readers to understand Genesis 15 and 17 as two distinct covenants? Should we think, speak, and write about Abrahamic covenants rather than the Abrahamic Covenant? I believe that, due to language found in the context of the Abrahamic Covenant, and due to how God later speaks of the covenant, we should view the Abrahamic Covenant as one.

In Genesis 17, God establishes or confirms His covenant with Abraham. This is different language from what was used in Genesis 15. In Genesis 15, the language of “cut” or “make” was used to describe God’s covenant-making activity. [I write of Genesis 15, rather than Genesis 12-as in the quotes above-because, while the promises of the covenant appear in Genesis 12, there is no formal inauguration of the covenant until chapter 15.] In Genesis 17, the language of “establish” or “confirm” is used. As noted regarding the language of the Noahic Covenant, “cut a covenant” refers to the initiation of a covenant, whereas “establish a covenant” refers to the renewal of a previous covenant arrangement.

A consideration of the term used in Exodus 2:24 and 6:4-8, along with the context of these verses, offers definitive proof that we should view the Abrahamic Covenant as one. In these verses, God refers to “covenant” in the singular, mentioning the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the historical storyline of Scripture, the early chapters of Exodus are leading up to God’s delivering the Israelites from Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land. In making the covenant with Abram (in Genesis 15), God spoke of Abram’s descendants being enslaved in Egypt and then being delivered. In establishing the covenant with Abraham (in Genesis 17), God spoke of Abraham and his descendents receiving Canaan. These promises are inseparable, and they are part of a singular covenant with Abraham.

The Point

Understanding the Abrahamic Covenant as a singular covenant arrangement with distinct aspects is helpful when considering other covenants as well. An examination of the covenants with Adam and Noah reveal that there may be various facets to a covenant (the Adamic Covenant being both the Creation Covenant and the Covenant of Works) or different movements in God’s covenant-making activity (God began extending covenant words to Noah before the Flood, Gen 6:18, but the Noahic Covenant was ratified after the Flood, Gen 8:22-9:17). However, in each of these cases readers should consider that God was dealing with Adam, Noah, and Abraham not as private individuals to whom He was making various covenants. Rather, He was dealing with these men as federal representatives through whom certain promises would come to humanity.

The idea of a dichotomous nature to a single covenant may have implications to how we understand the Mosaic Covenant as well.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Noahic Covenant: The Renewal of the Creation Covenant for the Purpose of Redemption


In telling Noah how to escape the world-wide flood–the means that God had chosen to blot out life from the earth–God said, “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you” (Gen 6:18). This is the first time the word “covenant” actually appears in the biblical text. Note, however, the phrase “establish my covenant;” this phrase is different than “cut a covenant,” which is used of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15:18. “Cut a covenant” refers to the initiation of a covenant, whereas “establish a covenant” refers to the renewal of a previous covenant arrangement.[1] The Noahic Covenant was a renewal of the Creation Covenant aspects of the Adamic Covenant. [2]

            The terms in which God established the Noahic Covenant were reflective of God’s original act of creation. When it was first made, the earth was formless and void: covered with water (Gen1:2). God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Following the flood in Noah’s day–in which the earth was returned to a watery, formless state, God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night (Gen 8:22).

            When God made human beings, He directed them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), and He gave them instructions concerning the food that they were to eat (Gen 1:29). Likewise, in the context of the Noahic Covenant, God directed people to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 9:17), and He instructed them concerning the food they were to eat (Gen 9:3). The most basic human functions–eating and procreation–are circumscribed by God’s commands, both according to God’s original dealings with humanity in creation and according to the Noahic Covenant.

Some parallels between the context of God’s work in His original creation and in His dealings with Noah:

-The earth was formless and void: covered with water. Gen 1:2
-The earth was entirely covered with water. Gen 6:17-20

-God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Gen 1:3-5, 14-19

-God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night. Gen 8:22
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 1:28
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 9:17

-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 1:29
-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 9:3

The Gracious, Unconditional Nature of the Noahic Covenant

            Spirit-inspired Scripture declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). There would be one exception to this rule (Heb 4:15), but Noah was not that exception. God’s choosing of Noah was an act of His grace (the word translated “favor” may be translated “grace”).

            God had told Adam that he would face death for eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the day that he ate the fruit (Gen 2:17). Adam indeed experienced the condemnation of death, the curse of suffering, and forsakenness from God from the very day that he broke God’s command. But Adam did not immediately drop dead; he was not immediately cast into Hell, which is what he deserved. Instead–even as God was pronouncing curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent–God also issued a promise. God promised that a seed from the woman would–though having His heel bruised by the serpent’s seed–nevertheless bruise the head of the serpent’s seed (Gen 3:15). This seed, who would break the serpent’s head, had not yet been brought into the world during Noah’s time. Therefore, the Covenant of Redemption–as it first began to be revealed in God’s promise concerning the seed of the woman–came to depend on God’s gracious, covenantal dealings with Noah. If Adam had immediately been destroyed in the Garden of Eden, then he would have had no hope of salvation; if all mankind had been destroyed in the flood, then God’s eternal plan (the Covenant of Redemption) would have been frustrated, and His promise concerning the seed of the woman would have been broken.[3]

            Seen in this light, the Noahic Covenant was a means used by the Father, by which He (re-)set the world-stage in order to fulfill His eternal decree concerning His Son (the head of the Covenant Redemption and the promised seed). For this reason, the Noahic Covenant–unlike some other covenants–did not include a curse that would be given if people broke this covenant. The Noahic Covenant “was simply a unilateral promise to save Noah and his family and never destroy the world by water again. God Himself even supplied the ‘sign’ of the covenant (Gen 6:18-22; 9:8-17).[4] Man could do nothing to break the covenant so that God would destroy the world by water again as a curse.”[5]

            As a unilateral covenant given for the purpose of redemption, the Noahic Covenant (which was given in connection with an acceptable sacrifice, Gen 8:20-21) was similar to a later covenant: the New Covenant established in Christ. The similarity between the Noahic Covenant and the New Covenant is not just something that modern scholars may “read-in” to the text. Rather, the Spirit-inspired Prophet, in a passage predicting the New Covenant, declared, “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you” (Isa 54:9). The Noahic Covenant set the stage for and pointed forward to the New Covenant: the Covenant of Grace by which the blood of Christ removes God’s wrath toward elect sinners.




            [1]Peter J. Gentry, “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 12, Number 1 (Spring 2008), 20.

            [2]There is a single Noahic Covenant. Though the “covenant” with Noah was first mentioned in Genesis 6:18, the covenant was not ratified, along with the covenant sign being given, until Genesis 8:22­­-9:17. God gave an initial expression of a covenant commitment to Noah before the flood, followed by a formal inauguration of the covenant after the flood. Robertson notes: “This covenantal activity fits a frequent pattern of covenantal administration in Scripture. It is not necessary to posit two covenants with Noah, one preceding the flood and one following the flood” (Robertson, 110n2). Likewise, Goldsworthy notes that God spoke of the covenant using the singular: though the details were different each time God spoke of the covenant with Noah, and the covenant is revealed in several places, we must think of it as one covenant. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 114-115.

            [3]Coxe and Owen, 65.

            [4]That is, unlike the Abrahamic Covenant–in which people had to administer the covenant sign of circumcision–the sign of the Noahic Covenant–the rainbow–was unilateral (Gen 9:12-13).

            [5]Malone, 59-60.


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Monday, November 09, 2015

A Meditation on Psalm 37:4


Delight yourself in the LORD,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)

As we come to Holy Scripture, we seek to hear the voice of God. We do not want to impose our own meanings upon the text, but we want to hear from Him. Through the God-breathed word (2 Tim 3:16)–this vehicle of the Holy Spirit–we receive the comfort that only He can give. As we approach this particular text, we must pray for the illumination of the Spirit, considering carefully: (1) what does it mean to “delight yourself in the LORD?” (2) what does it mean for the LORD to “give you the desires of your heart?”

Delight yourself in the LORD

In Psalm 37, delighting in the LORD is contrasted with anxiety and envy regarding evildoers (Psalm 37:1). Our focus is to be on the LORD, not on the wicked. David, the author of this Psalm, was provoked in his spirit due to his enemies. When we are tempted toward stress or covetousness due to others’ evil plans or the good things bad people receive, we must re-focus our heart on God.

Psalm 37 defines “delight” towards the LORD in terms of trusting Him and doing good (v.3). Like David, we must believe in God’s covenant promises, even when we cannot see how those plans are coming to pass. Our beliefs, affections, and actions must be focused on glorifying God.

He will give you the desires of your heart

Once our focus is on the LORD, His Word will shape our desires, and we can trust in Him to bring about the fulfillment of our God-honoring desires. What does the psalmist desire in this passage? He desires to see the manifestation of God’s covenant promises. In Psalm 37, David desires God’s abundant provision (vv. 18-19; 25) and peace (vv. 10-11) in the Promised Land. These blessings may not be immediate, and they may be accompanied by trials, but God is faithful (v. 24).

Yourself

“You” in this passage is singular, not plural. Each one of us, encountering this verse, is accountable to the command to delight in the LORD. But all of us have turned aside, delighting in other things, seeking fulfillment in creation rather than the Creator. It is only in the New Covenant work of Christ, who always delighted Himself in His Father, that we can receive forgiveness and the new hearts that we need. In Christ, as we humbly trust in Him, we can receive abundant, eternal life. In Christ, we inherit the fulfillment of all God’s covenant promises, receiving a new and better country (Heb 11:6), seeing Him face-to-face (1 Cor 13:12).

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Saturday, November 07, 2015

Response to Seth Meyers Defense of HERO

Today, the following video from Seth Meyers has been trending on Facebook. Though told in a comedic manner, these are EXACTLY the arguments that supporters of the "Houston Equal Rights Ordinance" (HERO) were giving in its defense. Because Houston's mayor has vowed to continue to fight for HERO-and she has been joined by liberal voices across the nation-those of us who believe that the law is an affront to common decency must be ready to give a response. Following the video are some quotes pulled directly from the video, along with responses.


"The HERO law had a wide base of support across the country:"

-So we should all just jump on the bandwagon? Why should we believe that current popularity indicates that a law is just or good? What reasons do people have for supporting the law? Are these reasons better than those given by those who opposed the law?

"President Obama said he supported it, and a long list of companies came out in favor of it too."

-Why should we accept President Obama or the industrial complex as valid authorities concerning whether this law would be just or good for Houston?

"So what did the law do? It prohibited discrimination in housing and public accommodations, such as bathrooms, on the basis of fifteen different characteristics, including race, age, and sexual orientation, but it was gender identity that opponents had a problem with."

-Discrimination on the basis of race and age were already clearly prohibited under other federal and local laws, so those categories were just a smoke-screen for the actual purpose of this law.

"Opponents of the law claimed falsely that the bill would allow anyone of any gender to walk into any bathroom they wanted. The idea is known as the bathroom myth."

-Meyers says "falsely" and "myth" (he sounds persuasive, doesn't he?), but he does not give any proof as to why the law would not do EXACTLY what its opponents claim.

"There's also no evidence that this has ever been a problem in places that DO have these laws."

-Despite Meyers' claim, notice the analogous situation of Illinois' largest high school district, which has recently come under scrutiny for not allowing a transgender student into the girls' locker room and shower area. (See the Chicago Tribune story HERE.) If laws like HERO are passed across the nation, then lawsuits based on the prohibition of boys and men from the locker rooms and restrooms of women and girls would indeed, inevitably, become commonplace.

"Moreover, the idea that you can go into a bathroom and do anything other than use the toilet is ALREADY illegal in Houston."

-One problem with this line of argumentation is that it assumes that, as long as no mischief is occurring, gender doesn't matter in public restrooms. News-flash, Seth Meyers: if my daughter is in the public restroom, then I don't want a man walking in on her for any reason WHATSOEVER. Also, Meyers wants to claim that a person can't see anything inappropriate in the restroom anyway. However, as noted above, this issue has already reached to locker rooms and shower areas. The rationale behind this law has ALREADY resulted in government officials attempting to force a situation in which boys and girls would change clothes or shower in each others' presence. Furthermore: Meyers wants to say that the laws already on the books are sufficient to prevent mischief while ignoring the fact that there are laws already on the books that prevent true discrimination. His views are self-contradictory on a number of levels.

After the above quote, the rest of Seth Meyers' video is just a series of ridiculous ad hominem attacks.

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