Christ

Entering The Kingdom of God

The teaching of the Bible concerning the kingdom of God is far too vast to exhaust in a blog series. However, entering into the kingdom is crucial. It is something every person who has ever lived will face. Although I won’t be delving too far into the nature of the kingdom of God, others have handled that marvelously and I would commend them to you. Dr. Alva J. McClain wrote his work, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 1959; 1974), which is the definitive work on the subject. For a series of lectures dealing with aspects of the kingdom, consult the Faculty Lecture Series from The Master’s Seminary. These works cover this immense teaching wonderfully. To the person who needs to understand God’s kingdom, this is where to go.

However, with all of that, I have concluded that there needs to be a fresh look at aspects of the Kingdom of God that have rarely been discussed. That is not to say that they have never been discussed until I came along. It is to say, rather, that the discussions that often accompany the considerations of the little series that I am beginning oftentimes becomes so muddled that a person either is tired of talking about it, and the last man standing (who is usually the one with the most stamina) wins. Or, people forget what it is they are discussing since the whirlwind of opinions and views on the matter convolute it something fierce.

I want to consider the subject from a broad stroke perspective, and fine tune it a bit to specifics so that there is no question as to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter.

Here are the items I will deal with in this series:

  1. What is the Kingdom of God?
  2. Where did it come from?
  3. What does it look like?
  4. How can it be entered?

The auxiliary items that are needed to understand along with the above are:

  1. Nature of eternal life.
  2. Election.
  3. Salvation.
  4. The “problem” of evil (Theodicy).
  5. The eternal state.

Starting next post, I will explain the kingdom of God from key passages in both Old and New Testaments. I believe that, given the prominence that the Kingdom of God plays in both testaments, and given the fact that the Lord came preaching it (Matthew 4:17; 13; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 9:2; John 3:3, 5; 18:36), as well as Paul and the other apostles so very often (Acts 28:30-31; cf 8:12; Hebrews 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 1:6, 9 etc.), then we must give great attention to it in order to understand it and preach it also (Matthew 24:14).

So, starting next post, we will begin getting a handle on this topic so that God’s glory can, again, be on display in the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).

The Pastor’s Home-pt.2

Last post, we introduced the requirement, mandate really, of the pastor being proven and qualified by the condition of his home. We considered that the godliness of the people in the household qualifies a man for ministry because it is in the home wherein all the other qualifications play out and are demonstrated. If a man is above reproach, truly, it will be first and foremost demonstrated in the home. His wife and children will be able to testify and validate the temperance, faithfulness, and soundness of theology in the private times of the household. Again, a man can “flip the switch” and turn on godliness in public. But what he is in private is really him. His passions, his desires, his direction, his interests, all testify of the singular focus of that man’s leadership.

The impetus for this series was my observation of a number of situations over the years that were made known to me concerning the household’s of pastors. I have either observed, or heard of, a number of situations in which a pastor’s home had completely fallen apart. However, this is not simply in a divorce, or wayward child, or the like. This is also in a wife who is bitter about the ministry her husband is in. Or, a child who, although when younger appeared well-trained and on the right path, once older has decided that the world had more to offer than the church, or Christ. Or, a man who privately, repeatedly, committed adultery while in the pulpit. These are all stories that are far too common in the church, in pastor’s homes.

My intent in this series is not to point out all the failures of pastors. My real intention is: 1) to establish the fact that if a man cannot lead his household, he cannot lead God’s household. 2) to admonish that if a man is not leading his household properly, according to the instructions of the Word of God, he must either be taking steps to remedy the situation immediately, or step away from his ministry so that another man can take the leadership of the church. 3) to call churches to realize that they must hold their pastor or pastors to the standard that God has laid out in Scripture. This is not to beat him up, or seek to destroy his effectiveness. It is to increase it. The bottom line in this discussion is simply that man is not the head of the church. Jesus Christ is. As such, the Lord, who is glorious, holy, and exalted, is to be served by those whom He has qualified for that position. It is not a matter of making a man like that as it is identifying him. God makes the man.

I also want to add that I don’t have a wide readership. However, I do hope that those who do read these blogs will not be offended, or simply scoff at what is written. Rather, I am held to this same standard as will be outlined in this series and I would ask that the Word of God be taken seriously. I realize that it is hard to shepherd God’s people and raise a family and maintain a marriage all at the same time. There are so many pitfalls, temptations, lack of information, as well as the sin in our children, wives, and ourselves that keep us busy. However, men, that is exactly what God is calling us to. We must take up the challenge of leading in all these areas with holiness, godliness, righteousness, and capability. That is why I say that a man needs to be willing to humble himself and learn what is required of him, where he is not meeting those requirements, and be willing to admit that maybe God did not qualify him for ministry.

Given that, let’s review some basics about pastoral leadership.

First, our responsibility is a calling from Jesus Christ. When I use the word “calling,” I am using it in the sense of stewardship for which a person will be held accountable for faithfulness to the One calling him. Jesus taught this fact of stewardship in Matthew 25:14-30. In that parable, the emphasis is that the man who went away, after depositing varying amounts of money with his three slaves, will return and expect something for His investments. Two of the three slaves were faithful to make the most of the money and gain the praise of their master. The assumption is that the master expected that to happen and the slaves were faithful to do what they would expect their master to do. The third slave did nothing with his share, and received the punishment of the master. After all, he was a hard man (v.24). Essentially, the two slaves were faithful, the third, lazy. The two, as slaves, did their jobs according to their own ability (v.15). The third, had no ability by virtue of the fact that he did not do what his master would have expected with the money.

This really is a picture of many things which God has given to people. It does not mean to limit the parable to only one kind of work or person. The point is that God expects something from His slaves, and those who refuse to obey will be punished. Pastoral ministry was not created by man. It is a position of slavery to God created by Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ Himself said, "

Matthew 23:34–35

“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Paul taught us that when Christ ascended, sent the Holy Spirit, He assigned certain men to positions of work by reason of their gifting.

Ephesians 4:7–8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.”

When we talk of pastoral ministry, very often it is full of the trappings that accompany the office in our day. We immediately think about counseling, preaching, taxes, conferences, and the like. However, for a faithful slave, there is only one thing on the forefront of his mind: “What does my Master expect? What does it take to get it done?” It is very common for pastors of our day to never have that kind of thought even enter their minds. Afterall, there are so many pressing needs in the church. Yet, according to the parable, those men who did not take what they were given and use it accordingly, all the while concerned about the Master’s will, are the unfaithful slaves who will never know the praise of the Master.

Second, since we are given our task by Christ, we represent Him. This truth is crucial. As a slave, your will is no longer in existence. You are subject to a Master. He determines where you go, what you do, and how you do it. And, in the end, he will reward you or not. His expectations, His instructions, and His “money” all express His person. It is to be used wisely.

I am afraid that many pastors think that they are the church. I was watching a man preach the other day in a typical Baptist church. This man makes his rounds in Evangelical, Bible-believing churches and is a big name in the one of a thousand movements in modern Christianity. As I watched this man, who said he was about 50 years old, and yet was obviously physically fit and spends a fair amount of time in the gym, I watched him “pose” as he was preaching. Flinging his arms, exposing his physique, and simply in general, drawing all attention to himself. It was deplorable. On top of that, what he was preaching was not worthy of “preaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The slave does not exist, except to serve his master. For a slave to replace his master is treason.

Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, were offering “strange fire” one day and God killed both of them on the spot. Why? Because they were not performing their “service” according to the instructions of the Master (v.1). Therefore, God punished them. The statement from Moses reminding their father, Aaron, is important to hear. He said,

Leviticus 10:3

Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.’ ” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Aaron’s response was apt-he kept silent. What could he say? His sons were disobedient, and may have even been drinking (v.9). Aaron could say nothing. Men, realize that every Sunday, or under any other venue, when you ascend the lectern to preach God’s holy Word, you represent God, the same God who incinerated Nadab and Abihu and could do the same to you for offering “strange fire…which [God has] not commanded.” If for no other reason than that, take the money from the Master and use it accordingly.

Third, your homes represent the Lord as well. The condition of our homes, marriages, children and their submission to Christ, as well as finances, home orderliness, and a myriad of other things, are all meant to reflect the glory and beauty of God. As I mentioned before, most men can “flip the switch” in the pulpit and no one would ever know that he just had a knock-down, drag-out fight with his wife before church. However, that man who has done that really should not even “open the book” until he repents. Personally speaking, preaching is a very good way for me to not hang on to sin. I cannot preach unless I know that I have repented from any sins of that time prior to entering the pulpit. Sometimes, it is just a matter of confessing it in my heart and turning from it. Sometimes, it involves speaking with someone before service, or at home, asking for forgiveness. Whatever it is, I cannot preach in good conscience knowing that I have sinned against the God whom I am supposed to represent in the pulpit.

As we will see in our next post, the purity, wholesomeness, righteousness of our households, or the lack thereof, are the proofs of able-bodied, godly leadership in the home, or not. That is the man who has been qualified by God for leadership in His church.

Biblical (and Unbiblical) Teaching on the History of Head Coverings-pt.2

My previous post on the teaching of head-coverings generated a few responses. At the outset, I want to say that I realize that there are many dear, faithful, Christians who believe wholeheartedly in a woman wearing a head-covering during worship. They are dear people and faithful to the Lord. I am thankful for them. These posts are not directed to any one person, but are meant to clarify, what I believe to be, an erroneous understanding of this passage to such an extent that it is defrauding some of their prize of knowing Christ (Colossians 2:16-23). In an effort to attempting to correct an incorrect teaching, I have written these posts. And, judging by the statistics of the last post, I was right. Of all the blog posts I have written, the last one was, by far, the most read. I have received almost no responses, but that is okay. One response was made by a brother whom I know and I want to address that, because I believe it might help others.

This brother’s statement was that church history contradicted my conclusion that a head covering was not commended by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. I want to respond to that comment in a full post because I believe it demonstrates a major problem in the thinking of many. The statement that was made was, “I am not dogmatic on head coverings, however, church history would run counter to your conclusion. Traditionally, women have always worn head coverings until very recently — and that really only in the western world.”

THE ROLE OF CHURCH HISTORY

First, I want to address the fact that women have always worn head coverings until very recently. It is true, as you read through some historical information, that head-coverings were common. However, going about your life without a head-covering was common also. Michael Marlowe has a decent summary of Greek, Roman, and Jewish practices concerning these things here. It would appear that head-coverings were worn by both men and women in public, private, and religious processions. It would also appear that head coverings were also not worn by both men and women in public, private, and religious processions. However, that is pagan life. That does not determine the meaning of Scripture. Best to say that the customs, traditions, of the town of Corinth, at least of many, was to be covered from the head down to below the shoulders, and in some cases, more. They also wore headbands, hats, and scarfs as well, just like today. Many women wore their hair in a braid and “bun.” They often adorned their hair with items such as coins, jewels, and other valuable items (see 1 Timothy 2:9). So, just like today, you have a mixture of practices that come together in the church at Corinth.

Second, as far as church history is concerned, it appears that the confusion over head-coverings also continued. One of the more direct writings on this is Tertullian’s On The Veiling of Virgins. This long letter written around 200 A.D. addresses the practice, and reason, for women to wear a veil (which was not a doily, but an actual veil that included covering everywhere long hair would go). His conclusions are that every woman, married, widowed, unmarried, should have a veil. He wrote,

“It remains likewise that we turn to (the virgins) themselves, to induce them to accept these (suggestions) the more willingly. I pray you, be you mother, or sister, or virgin-daughter—-let me address you according to the names proper to your years—-veil your head: if a mother, for your sons’ sakes; if a sister, for your brethren’s sakes; if a daughter for your fathers’ sakes. All ages are perilled in your person.” Chapter XVI

His conclusions, then, are that a veil aids in modesty for every woman, married or single, during worship and out of worship. It is to be worn at all times, and the more it covers the better. He wrote,

“The region of the veil is co-extensive with the space covered by the hair when unbound; in order that the necks too may be encircled. For it is they which must be subjected, for the sake of which “power” ought to be “had on the head: “the veil is their yoke. [4] Arabia’s heathen females will be your judges, who cover not only the head, but the face also, so entirely, that they are content, with one eye free, to enjoy rather half the light than to prostitute the entire face. A female would rather see than be seen.” Chapter XVII

Thus, according to Tertullian, the veil should reach as far as the hair would go when “unbound.” In fact, he invokes Arabian women as the judges over Christian women in this practice thereby saying that the Arabian women are more modest in their dress than the women in the church.

Therefore, to be consistent, women who believe that they are required to wear a veil, or doily, or something, should, according to the authority of Tertullian, extend that veil to her shoulders and even over portions of the face all day long. To Tertullian, to have your face visible (this is not during worship, mind you) is to “prostitute the entire face.”

If a person were to look at the practice of head coverings through the ages, you certainly would see murals, pictures, and reliefs from the early days of the church to around even the 1700’s with women whose heads were covered. However, as mentioned before, many were also uncovered. It was certainly a practice, custom, expectation, of many through the ages for women to cover their heads (but that was also for men as well). But, this was not just during worship. It was all the time. Further, there was much discussion for the kind and thickness of the veil as well. The assumption from all of this was that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, teaches that a woman should cover herself with a physical covering, i.e. a hat, shawl, or linen of some sort, while praying or prophesying. So, even with church history with us, we still come down to, “What does the text mean?”

This brings me to my next point, which is far more important. I can summarize it this way:

Church history is not our hermeneutic.

That is, we cannot interpret the Scripture’s meaning by the practice of the early church, nor the latter church, or any church. We cannot interpret Scripture’s meaning by looking at the habits and practices of the church throughout the ages. The meaning of Scripture is determined by the Scripture. And, Scripture judges church history. What I have found is, unfortunately, some would rather rest in the works and teachings of the fathers and reformers (and excel in the knowledge of their writings), rather than wholeheartedly understand and believe the Scripture…and they do not realize it. They unwittingly act as if the Scripture is unclear and to be doubted and that we need extra-biblical revelation to understand it. I am not saying that we should not learn from the faithful teachers throughout the ages. However, no godly teacher would ever suggest that what he says/writes is on the same level as Scripture.

For example, many times when Paul wanted to teach on the responsibilities of man and woman he did not appeal to customs or practices for authority. He went back to God’s created design. He does this in 1 Corinthians 11:6-9. His appeal is to creation. He did not appeal to a custom for authority. He was actually trying to correct a custom, as a response to the Corinthians’ writing to him (1 Corinthians 7:1). There were some in the church carrying over the practice of the day of head-coverings. And, like today, many women find their entire sense of righteousness and propriety in her head-covering. Some also find it in their church membership, prayers, or singing in the choir. Paul is addressing the fact that some in the church were being factious over the head coverings and, head-coverings, along with other topics, were causing divisive confusion. A woman’s hat is not her true head, her husband, and man in general, is. So, the real question for a godly woman is not, “Where is your head-covering?” The real question is, “How is your heart?”

 

BIBLICAL EVIDENCE

Just glancing through the Bible looking for a statement about “head-covering” you will find very little. There are references to “turbans” (Exodus 28:39, 40, 42; 39:27-29), “veils” (Genesis 24:65-a better translation is “shawl”; Song of Solomon 4:1; 6:7-used in marriage settings), and in Isaiah 3:19-20 there is a reference to “veils” and “headdresses.” These were, no doubt, customary and not commendable as God says that He will, in the day of judgment, remove them along with other items of ornamentation that the women of Judah were coveting (see vv.22-26). Interestingly, in Genesis 38:12-19 the story of Tamar’s treachery contains the fact that since she sat by the road with her face covered, Judah thought she was a prostitute (v.15). Leviticus 13 contains teaching concerning those with skin disorders to be covered and uncovered accordingly. In Deuteronomy 22:5, a man is told to never wear a woman’s clothing thereby making clear distinctions between men and women (which I believe has some bearing upon 1 Corinthians 11). But, I have found no Old Testament instruction for women to veil themselves as a direction from God for worship. To be sure, a woman should have a designation of the fact that she recognizes authority over her (1 Corinthians 11:13-15). However, that is the desire of the heart and will of a godly woman (1 Peter 3:3-6; cf. 1 Timothy 2:9-15). Her submissive heart is demonstrated, not in her hat, but by her “chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:2). As King Lemuel wrote, “Let her works praise her…” (Proverbs 31:31).

What does all of this mean? It means that Tertullian’s letter giving directions to virgins, widows, and married women in the churches, does not help us one way or another to interpret the passage. The practice may have been popular, but instructions for the practice of head-covering by the apostles for the women in the church is lacking. Further, as mentioned the other day, the more important issue is not the linen on the head or the upper body. The issue is whether or not a woman loves, submits to, and appreciates the authority (and responsibility) she is under.

Again, Clement, Tertullian, and others may have simply elevated a custom or opinion (Romans 14:1f.) not based upon a clear understanding of Paul’s writings (thereby perpetuating confusion and unnecessary/ineffective restraint of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23) which was not unusual for the day). It is obvious, as you read Tertullian, that his thinking is flavored with a spiritualistic hermeneutic, not a sound, historical/grammatical one. For example, to verify his hermeneutic, He wrote,

“Herein consists the defence of our opinion, in accordance with Scripture, in accordance with Nature, in accordance with Discipline. Scripture founds the law; Nature joins to attest it; Discipline exacts it. Which of these (three) does a custom rounded on (mere) opinion appear in behalf of? or what is the colour of the opposite view? [2] God’s is Scripture; God’s is Nature; God’s is Discipline. Whatever is contrary to these is not God’s. If Scripture is uncertain, Nature is manifest; and concerning Nature’s testimony Scripture cannot be uncertain.56 If there is a doubt about Nature, Discipline points out what is more sanctioned by God. [3] For nothing is to Him dearer than humility; nothing more acceptable than modesty; nothing more offensive than “glory” and the study of men-pleasing. Chatper XVI

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It is interesting that Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 follows a flow of thought. It appears that Paul is addressing a question that the Corinthian church had about women praying to God. We know this because Paul repeats their question in v.13. He writes, “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” Paul’s letter is a response to questions the Corinthians had for him (1 Corinthians 7:1). Thus, it appears that they wrote about a confusion concerning women praying with their head uncovered (He also, just as much, answers the question about men covering their heads during prayer and preaching). The answer is, no. A woman praying or prophesying should not do so without her head covered. He deals with their custom of wearing a head-covering, probably much like the Romans who did so in their pagan rituals, men and women alike [“Archaeological evidence from Rome itself to the Roman East is unambiguous, Oster urges, in depicting the “liturgical head covering” of men when they pray or use prophetic speech: “the practice of men covering their heads in the context of prayer and prophecy was a common pattern of Roman piety and widespread during the late Republic and early Empire. Since Corinth was a Roman colony, there should be little doubt that this aspect of Roman religious practice deserves greater attention by commentators than it was received.” [Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 823]. But, the fact that they had these coverings is superfluous to Paul. Why? Because nature itself, God’s design, certainly teaches us that a man with long hair is disgraceful toward Christ, his Head (and, all things originate from God-v.12). And, a woman without it is disgraceful toward her head, man. Please remember, Paul had to correct sexual sins in the church in Corinth, as well as sexual responsibilities and distinctions. This teaching is no different. That is why he is doing it here.

Finally, I need to make one plea. I realize that even Peter had a hard time understanding some of what Paul wrote (2 Peter 3:14-16). This is a more difficult passage. However, it is not difficult because Paul was unclear, since we know that his main thought was to verify that a man is the head of a woman, thus she should have a recognition of that authority over her by maintaining her long hair since that is why God gave it at creation in the first place. The lack of clarity comes in when we believe other sources of information with the faith that we are supposed to give to Scripture (1 Corinthians 1:2-5). We must not approach the Scripture

  • With the thought that other writings are equal to Scripture.
  • With doubt about its veracity.
  • With a sense of judgment over it.
  • With the idea that we can mold it however we want.

We must approach the Scripture with it as our authority-final authority; sufficient authority. It alone determines how we interpret it. It was given as a collection of books written by real men, in real time, with actual revelation from God, written in words on a page, and with absolute truthfulness in all that it contains. When we allow the teaching of men, however godly they might have been (or might be), to merge with the text, we end up clouding the issue. The confusion of inserting the thoughts of men into the pristine text of Scripture is a travesty and we must commit ourselves to the study of the text, and the text alone, for our understanding.

“Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, NASB95)

The Biblical (and Unbiblical) Doctrine of Women’s Head Coverings

Yesterday, I began a little series on what it means to follow Jesus Christ. This issue is such a foundational, serious, nature, that time must be given to it as often as necessary. According to Paul, the heart of the issue of what it means to follow Christ is that you submit to His righteousness. We see this in Romans 10:3,

For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

 

Paul summarizes here the problem with the Jews during Jesus Christ’s ministry-they would not let go of their own, personal, righteousness. In the previous verses, Paul indicates that they are unsaved since they have a zealous ignorance about God’s righteousness. They thought they were righteous. However, the reality is, the righteousness they thought they had, which they believed would commend them to God, did not commend them to God. Rather, it confirmed their own condemnation. This is the heart of ministry. This is the heart of the conflict in ministry. A faithful pastor must confront people as to where they believe they derive their righteousness. Further, he must expose those “crutches” that people use in order to feel, or believe, that they have attained a kind of righteousness that they think God is pleased with. However, the fact of the matter is, God is never pleased with our righteousness. He is only pleased with His own through His Son, Jesus Christ. We are required to submit to His righteousness by believing Him (Romans 10:4). He, then, produces in us His own righteousness by His own working in us and this righteousness is summarized by:

Galatians 5:22–23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

One such “crutch” that many lean on is a woman’s use of head coverings during worship. I have personally seen the devastation it produces in the hearts of women when they believe that their holiness is all wrapped up in their head covering. In an effort to demonstrate the fallacy of that kind of thinking, and hopefully to liberate women from a false righteousness, I will be examining Paul’s teaching, in summary, on the issue from 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, which says:

1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.

3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head.

5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.

7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;

9 for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.

10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?

14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,

15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.

16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

Much could be said from this passage; more than can be said here in this post. However, what needs to be said will be. Remember, the church in Corinth was not an exemplary church. To see what an exemplary church looks like, look to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1-2). Paul wrote all 4 letters (2 of them we do not have) to the Corinthian believers because of the multitude of sins resident in that fellowship, many of which were caused by false apostles and false brethren. With all of this, the issue of head covering became an important thing.

This is a fascinating section of Scripture. Paul instructs the church in Corinth concerning the use of physical head coverings during worship, i.e. preaching and praying (vv.4-5). He writes to them about this because they had questions about it (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:1). In fact, the issue was producing schisms in the church, just as it does today (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). There were some who held to the “custom” of wearing a physical head-covering of some kind during their worship services, which were already full of confusion (cf. vv.17-34). This practice, in the immature church at Corinth (3:1-4), was causing major division and strife. The factious nature of this kind of thinking is evident by the divisions that were produced by those who believed they are more holy and godly than others. The reality is, Paul is debunking the practice of a physical head-covering in 1 Corinthians 11, not establishing it. Let’s look at God’s Word.

First, notice Paul’s theme in this section (11:1-16). It is found in the indicative statement of v.3-

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

This is a subordinate clause to vv.1-2 in which Paul praises the church for imitating him, to the degree that they are doing it, and that they, in all their confusion, still hold to the teaching that Paul gave to them. However, he begins v.3 with an adversative conjunction which indicates a contrary statement to v.2. Translating it as “but” is good. It could also be translated, “Yet,” “However,” or, “In spite of this.” The idea is that in spite of the commendable fact that they are still on his side, there are things that he needs to correct in their thinking, behavior, and worship. And he proceeds to do that (and so should every pastor). So, from the start, we see that Paul is correcting a practice that is produced from improperly understanding headship, thus the main theme of vv. 3-16. Paul says that he wants them to really understand something. He wants them to grasp a teaching. This is apostolic authority at work in the church-it is dealing with speculations that have infiltrated the mind of these people and he needs to correct them (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) because it was devastating the unity of the church. The focus of this error is the question, “From where does headship come?” And, “Is it important?” The second answer first-Yes! Headship is important. Why? Because a kind of headship exists in the godhead. God is the head of Christ. That is our pattern. Christ is not inferior to God (John 10:30). However, God is the head of Christ and thus headship is defined by that. Further, that pattern is established in creation-man is the head of a woman. You cannot reverse that. Adam was created before Eve (see vv.7-9; 1 Timothy 2:13). Thus, he is her head. This is not limited to a husband over a wife, although that is a particular headship that a man has over a particular woman (Ephesians 5:23). The language in 1 Corinthians 11 does not refer to marriage anywhere. Rather, it refers to general creation and general worship. Thus, by virtue of creation, and thus responsibility, a man has headship over a woman. Some women will balk at that. However, that is only because they are rebellious against the truth stated here. Paul is clear. I have also seen some parents teach that their daughters will not submit to anyone but their husbands. However, what that creates in the heart of that depraved child is a “sanctified rebellion” that exhibits itself in every relationship she has. She destroys God’s glory when she does that.

The point that Paul proceeds to make is not that her hat or doily is her head-man is. That is where her headship comes from. She us under men, her husband in particular. Man, not her hat, is the head of a woman. She, then, is to have a submissive, gentle, spirit which God considers precious (1 Peter 3:4). She lives her life rejoicing in God’s design! Some will say, “Does that mean that she is to obey every command given to her by men other than her husband?” No. But it does mean that in every man she meets, a godly woman appreciates, and admits to the created responsibility that man has over her. Obviously, if he is wicked and godless, she should not be in that relationship to begin with. But hypothetical situations do not interpret Scripture.

Further, every man who wears a head-covering disgraces his Head (vv.4-5). A man who conducts worship while wearing a hat disgraces his Head, who is Jesus Christ. A cranium can’t be disgraced. However, Paul already gave us the information we need to interpret what he means. It is a disgrace to Jesus Christ, who is on display in the man (v.7), to cover Him by wearing a hat at that very time when He is to be displayed. His leadership should be on display, not covered up.

However, a woman, who is made from the man, is not the image and glory of God in the same way that a man is. She is the image and glory of God through the man. Case in point, woman originates from the man and she is for the man (vv.7-9; see Genesis 2:18-24). This does not denigrate the woman any more than Christ is denigrated by having God as His Head.

A woman who has her head uncovered might as well also have her head shaved, Paul says (v.6). This is sarcasm, which Paul uses often in these letters. In their custom of head-coverings, which Paul is attempting to correct, Paul is demonstrating that if a woman, in their thinking, is to remove her hat during praying and prophesying, then let her also remove her real covering, her hair (v.15). Further, if she is disgraced by having her hair cut off, let her wear a hat. A man, though, should not have his head covered since he is the image and glory of God. The woman is not the direct image and glory of God, but of the man (v.7). So, a woman who insists upon wearing a hat during praying and prophesying must do so, according to their own custom. To remove it is to be like one who has just shaved her head.

And that is the issue. In saying this, Paul is not saying that the true covering for the woman is the hat, doily, or shawl. The real covering for the woman is her hair. That is the comparison that Paul is making. Notice how he relates their custom to the reality of the hair. It is true that a woman needs a demonstration of headship over her because of angels, who are looking into these things (v.10; cf. 1 Peter 1:12). However, her true head is not the doily, nor is it her hair. Her true head is the man, particularly, if she is married, her husband. Again, that is Paul’s point. The submissive heart of a woman will recognize that and maintain her long, beautiful hair for that reason so that the angels will glorify God on her behalf.

In vv. 13-15, we have Paul’s teaching on the matter. Even nature tells us (see Romans 1:20) that a woman should have long hair for a covering. She should not pray to God “uncovered” (v.13). She should have a covering on her physical head. Alternatively, a man, because he is the direct image and glory of God and the head of woman, should rise up to that responsibility for all to see and not have long hair (v.14). It is disgraceful, naturally, for a man to have long hair (there were provisions for the Nazirite vow of the OT [Numbers 6]. However, that vow was a time of consecration and self-abasement to which a man, or woman, would commit themselves for dedication to God and His service. It was a time of humiliation and social distinction and only for a time-period promised by the one making the vow. Afterwards, they would return to “normal”-see Acts 18:18]).

Paul’s statement at the end of v.15 is important to what Paul has been thinking all along.

…For her hair is given to her for a covering.

Literally, Paul says, “[nature teaches that on the one hand it is disgraceful for a man to wear long hair; but a woman with long hair, on the other hand, is a glory to herself [by means of herself-i.e. she is an instrument of glory to her head, man/husband] because long hair was given in place of/as an equivalent to something to throw over the head.

ὅτι ἡ κόμη ἀντὶ περιβολαίου δέδοται 

The Greek sentence you see above is 1 Corinthians 11:15b. I will break it down for you and give you the meaning and implications of each word:

ὅτι  = this conjunction is causal in nature. That is, it says that the previous verses of 14-15a are true because

ἡ κόμη  = “long hair.” The verb form of this word means “to wear long hair; let one’s hair grow long.” (κομάω –Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 234).

ἀντὶ  = preposition that means “in place of,” or “equivalent to” something. That is to say that long hair is the equivalent of a head covering.

περιβολαίου  = a noun referring to something that is draped over something else. It is a compound word literally meaning, “to throw/cast upon” something.

δέδοται  = this verb is in the Perfect tense. In Greek that is a strong verb that indicates a permanent action. The verb means “to give/commit.” It is a passive verb which means that the action of the verb was not done by the subject or the object of the verb. The action of the verb was done by someone or something outside of the subject or object. It was done for the subject or object by someone else. Thus, long hair was given to the woman (since it is disgraceful for a man to have long hair by creation) by God, since Paul is dealing with creation in the context.

Paul is saying, no matter what one believes about head-coverings, “At creation, long hair was given to the woman as a head covering.

To drive it home, with a warning, Paul says, “If anyone is inclined (seems to be/appears) contentious about this custom of yours, realize that we (the apostles), nor the churches of God (see 1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17) have such a custom (as wearing head coverings).” In essence, Paul is saying that those contentious people who insist that women should wear a hat, doily, or otherwise are under extreme pressure to prove why they do it. The apostles don’t do it. The other churches in the known world don’t do it. If the apostles supported such a practice as this, don’t you think that they would teach it to the other churches as they did Paul’s ways confirmed by Timothy (4:17), and remaining in the responsibilities of life in which you were when you became a believer (7:17)? But here, he says that this little, divisive, group in the Corinthian church is the only group in any of the known churches which the authoritative apostles have established who have this custom of wearing a physical head-covering. The burden of proof is upon them. Meanwhile, other women in the church need to follow the teaching of the apostles and the example of the other churches established by Paul (it is interesting to me that Paul never wrote about head-coverings in any of his other letters, although he had occasion to do so-see Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-11; 5:9-16; Titus 2:3-5; see also 1 Peter 3:1-7), and not the example established by contentious women who cause division.

It is amazing how people love to have the last word. People who are characterized by this group of head-covering-wearers seem to desire to not submit to the righteousness of God in Christ. Many of them appear outwardly religious (after all, who can argue with the apparent piety of a woman who wears a head-covering), yet their hearts defy the very thing the head-covering is supposed to symbolize-submission.

A New Series: What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus Christ?

Jesus did not come to the this earth as a counselor. He did not come to earth as a meek and mild man, an effeminate homebody who simply wanted to revolutionize the world with love. He was nothing less than God Almighty in the flesh with all the rights and prerogatives to command humanity to bow the knee to His authority. The deity of Jesus Christ does not diminish His authority-it establishes it. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is such because He has been given a kingdom by the Father over which He rules, and will rule. This kingdom is the entire cosmos and everything in it. He has the right to give life and withhold it. He has the right to judge and to condemn. He has power over Hell, and Heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

Given that truth, the absolute authority and command of all existence, why do we think that He will wink at half-hearted submission? Does any king, or commander, appreciate and applaud rebellion? Can a war be won unless the entire army follows orders? Why, then, do we think that Christ’s kingdom is any different? Why do we think that He will wink at insubordination? Absolute allegiance and submission to Him is the requirement. Anything less, or else, is not worthy of Him.

I have recently been forcefully reminded of the condition of the church in these days. First, I understand what the Bible says the church is, and is to be. I understand its precious beginning and how it will conclude its days on earth. I understand what ministry looks like, how it should be done, and what its priorities are. All of this is easily surmised by a proper reading of the Word of God.

But I also understand this: the inclusion of tares among the wheat has devastated the church. The pure and pristine faith of true believers has been assaulted by doubt and controversy of men who themselves refuse to bow the knee to Jesus Christ. Oftentimes, this reality is couched in an amiable and gentle spirit, like a sheep, and yet the heart rages within. These men have infiltrated Christ’s bride and have wreaked havoc among the flock. The devastation is strewn about the horizon. Lives devastated; hearts cold; service rendered ineffective. All because of the one tool that Satan has in his arsenal more than anything else-fear, fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Satan drives people by fear. Since Satan is a liar, murderer, and imitator, he speaks what is false, seeks to destroy, and wants the glory that is rightly due Jesus Christ (John 8:44). Thus, he is tireless in his endeavors to subject people to his wicked schemes by polluting their faith. People who hear the Word of God, and should know better, are rendered powerless by the inclusion of doubt into what they hear. And doubt is a pollutant that robs faith of its power. And sadly, pastors, wanting to keep their jobs and more eager for the applause of men than the glory of Christ, will not do their tasks. We are afraid to contend for the truth, at every level, so that God’s dear people can feed on Christ’s doctrine without worry. We take the hits. We bear the weight. We embrace the bruises so the sheep don’t have to.

In this series, I will be systematically attacking what I believe to be erroneous teaching in the church at large which introduces doubt, leading to impotent faith,  slavery, and destroyed lives. Shame upon those who co-labor with Satan in this things.

The first place I must begin is  the cost of following Jesus Christ. Jesus said,

Luke 9:23–26

23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

24 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

25 “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?

26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Jesus came into this world to rescue. He is a Savior. He is a deliverer from the wrath to come. And, contrary to the common gospel presentation of today, it is not enough to “trust Jesus as Savior,” or, “invite Him into your heart.” Those formulas are the result of rebellious doctrine which confirms men in their sins, it does not free them. If Jesus wanted the world to be saved by such mutterings, He would have used them on everyone. He didn’t. There is no record of Jesus telling people to invite Him into the their hearts. What did He say?

If anyone desires to follow Christ, here is what Jesus Himself says is the requirement:

  1. Deny yourself.
  2. Take up your cross daily.
  3. Follow Him.

First of all, to be saved, you must deny yourself. This verb, “deny (reject ongoing relationship with-arneomai),” is a verb that indicates: 1) command (imperative), 2) at once action (Aorist), 3) third person (he/she). Thus, it can be read like this: “If anyone wants to follow behind Me, He must, at once, reject himself.” To refuse to allow your own will, purposes, and desires to control you is the idea. You are to subsume yourself under the will and purposes of Jesus Christ as discovered in the Word of God-this is faith. Some follow Christ because they want Him to do something for them (fix a marriage, restore a friendship, make new friends, etc…). Jesus says that if you want to come to Me, I want you to do something. I want you to see yourself as dead to yourself. Refuse to submit to your own will any longer. Deny yourself.

Second, consequently, Jesus further emphasizes this need when He commands (imperative) immediate crucifixion. This immediate command for a person to put himself on a cross, an implement of torture and death, indicates that you cannot keep yourself any longer. Again, this is an immediate command of the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you name any apostle who did not do this? Can you name any faithful martyr who did not understand this? Can you name any person who died for the sake of the gospel who did not understand this? Then, tell me, why do you believe you are any different? Notice that no one else carries your cross. You are commanded to pick it up, nail your own hands and feet to it, and hang there until you die…day by day by day.

Third, Christ is the example. Follow Him. Did He not deny Himself for the sake of the Father (Luke 22:41-42)? Are you greater than Christ? Did He not give His life for sinners? Are you greater than that? Are you too good for that? Or, is the fact of the matter that you simply don’t want to do it? To follow Him (akolouthew, to follow after/behind; imitate and pattern oneself after by obedience) is also a command. You must do it now! Subject yourself to His will and Word and refuse to any longer do your own! Where has it gotten you anyway?

Finally, to deny yourself, hang yourself on a cross, and obey Jesus leads to life-eternal life. You cannot have two masters-your will and His. Even if you gain the entire world by hanging onto yourself, and yet reject eternal life, what have you gained?

Those who will not submit to Jesus Christ’s commands is ashamed of Jesus Christ. Bottom line. If a person continues to value himself, express himself, set himself up as the pattern, he is ashamed of Jesus Christ. Fine. Jesus will be ashamed of you. When the millions of saints who abandoned themselves in obedience to the gospel join Jesus at His glorious coming, you will be judged by them. You will see their faces. They will see yours, and your conscience will scream for mercy. God’s glory is nothing to play with. Please don’t name the name of Jesus Christ if you are so ashamed of Him that you cannot obey His command to absolute allegiance.

In the next few posts, we will be exposing common teachings in the church which are enslaving people. These doctrines of men are not of Christ. And thus, they do not lead to true godliness but a false one. Christ’s teachings are our instructions and lead to life. However, many teachings in the church are said to be of Christ, but they are not. Thus, many are not actually following Christ.

Some of these teachings are:

  1. Refusal to leave father and mother for Christ.
  2. Refusal to believe the Word of God is clear.
  1. Refusal to believe in church unity.
  2. Refusal to believe in spiritual authority.
  1. Refusal to let go of the Law for righteousness.
  2. Refusal to be either hot or cold.
  3. Refusal to be please God over men.

Challenging Covenantalism: The Error of Type/Antitype Hermeneutics-pt.1

This series has sought to introduce the reality that the covenantal framework of Covenant Theology is more a contrivance of man than it is a fact of Scripture. The unbiblical nature of CT has led many, especially in recent years, to confusion more than enlightenment. The confusion that CT exhibits does not promote sanctification. God only sanctifies by truth, not error (John 17:17). Thus, the sanctification that God expects from His children is minimal in those who hold to CT, compared to those who have a right understanding of Scripture.

I have attempted to explain the proposition that

“…the positions and teachings as found in CT …are a departure from authentic, biblical, revelation. That is, although many components contained in CT are obviously true, e.g. man’s fall in Adam, election, Jew and Gentile in one body the church, that does not give license to take liberties with God’s Word to introduce teachings that are not found in Scripture, which CT has done. The result of introducing these teachings is a confusion over the nature of the church, eschatological realities, the work of God in the actual covenants listed in Scripture, as well as a number of activities which are affected by what one does with OT passages (e.g. parenting) which all in turn upset households who have been challenged to rethink the clear and straightforward teaching of Scripture on these issues, and many others. The result of this influence of dealing with Scripture is confusion and doubt, since the CT position in many aspects is not true, and therefore lack sanctifying power in the life of a believer (John 17:17). Overall, CT advocates different doctrines, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor with the doctrine conforming to godliness (1 Timothy 6:20-21) and therefore upset the faith of many by their confident assertions based upon philosophical musings and self-styled hermeneutical gymnastics which suit their assumptions.”

The significance of the error of CT results in confusion on many fronts. However, one teaching that particularly concerns me has to do with the understanding of who Jesus Christ is, especially as He is “found” in the Old Testament (OT). This post will concern itself with a very brief overview of my concerns. An accurate presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as the eternal plan of the Father, as carried out in Christ, will be forthcoming in future posts.

Put simply, since there is no “Covenant of Grace,” then Jesus Christ is not the mediator of that covenant. It is true that He is the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), the only One. However, that office does not extend from the so-called Covenant of Grace. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger has written:

“It is important to carefully consider the fact that the covenant of grace has a personal mediator–Jesus Christ–who is revealed to us in the types and shadows of the Old Testament through Moses’ office as mediator of that covenant God makes with Israel at Mount Sinai, as well as through the kingship of David and his rule over Israel, and even through the sacrifices for sin offered to God by the priests of Israel. All of these Old Testament events foreshadow the coming of God in human flesh.” (http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/3638>  accessed 10/16/2012).

Let’s consider this statement, which itself is a mixture of truth and error. First of all, since the Scripture does not contain a covenant of grace, discussed in former posts, then the “fact” of the mediatorial nature of Christ of that covenant is not actually a “fact.” It is not true. However, that does not mean that Christ is not a mediator. It simply means that the economy which He mediates is not referring to that present by this contrived covenant. Further, Dr. Riddlebarger, as do most, if not all, CT adherents, believes in an highly extended, spiritualized “types and shadows” (T/S) condition of the OT when it comes to the presence of Christ found there. In other words, Jesus is explained in “types and shadows” in the OT, which appears to be a code-word for allegory, which is actually mythological in nature. The “types and shadows” hermeneutic is a large stone in the foundation of the hermeneutic of CT which has led to so much error. What tends to happen with the T/S hermeneutic is that few things in the OT are actually what they appear to be. Thus, they are treated as a kind of literary and not as historical fact.

One  example is Dr. Riddlebarger’s treatment of the temple as prophesied in Ezekiel 40-48. Although treating this fully is not possible in this format, there are a number of issues that I want to address by way of example of the use of T/S hermeneutic. The issue which Dr. Riddlebarger is addressing is the nature of the temple of which Ezekiel writes in chapters 40-48 of his prophecy. The position of CT can be summed up in this statement made by Dr. Riddlebarger, “First, the prophecy cannot be interpreted literally and still make any sense” (Unless otherwise noted, the rest of the citations will be from http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/1/16/eschatology-q-a-what-about-ezekiels-vision-of-the-temple-eze.html#comment1556909 , accessed 10/16/2012). I would suggest that he is right, in a way. The prophecy, as interpreted by a T/S hermeneutic, makes no sense. The hermeneutical shift, from literal plain language to mythical, which CT demands takes place when speaking of prophetic events, creates and maintains confusion. It does not clarify. Let me address a few points to demonstrate what I mean:

  1. Ezekiel is taken to a “high mountain” at the beginning of his prophecy (40:2). The assumption that this vision is non-literal begins with Dr. Riddlebarger’s observation that since there is no high mountain near Jerusalem, we should right away conclude that this section is to be taken non-literally. He writes, “Given the nature of Ezekiel’s prophecy, this language should alert us to the fact that what follows is given the symbolic geography of the prophet.” However, if we take the text with authority and sufficiency, we see that it is upon this same high mountain that stands a city-like structure. So, Ezekiel is on the very same high mountain as the city. Thus, if that high mountain does not exists, neither does this city nor its contents. The “high mountain” is spoken of many times in Scripture, especially in relation to future events (Is. 2:2, 3; Ezek. 17:23; 20:40; 37:22; Micah 4:1; Rev. 21:10). Thus, the Scripture makes sense when understood (and believed) just as it is written. There was a high mountain upon which stands a city. Upon this mountain, “In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day…” Ezekiel is shown an interactive vision by the “hand of the Lord.”

  2. Ezekiel also finishes his vision with the declaration that the city will have a name. The name of the city will  be “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). Dr. Riddlebarger (with supportive reference to Dr. Gregory .K. Beale) comments that this proves “[that] something much greater than a localized temple in Jerusalem during the millennium” is in view. What is being said is that since the city takes a name that the Lord is there, and the Lord is obviously spiritually superior to a geographical city on this planet, then this must refer to something more than a city on a mountain. This interpretation fails to give rightful authority to the Scripture. The vision indicates that the city is 18,000 cubits round about. It also names the gates of the city in previous verses (vv.30-34). Previous to that it lays out the portions for the literal tribes of Israel, as well as for other leaders along with the division of the land (vv.1-29). Are we to assume that because the city is named by God “the Lord is there” then all that information is meaningless, or spiritual (which, when used by CT, is the same thing as meaningless since it demands that words in the OT cannot mean what they say in normal language)? Further, the Lord is there and will remain there forever (Ezekiel 43:1-7; cf. Isaiah 12:6; 14:32; 24:23; Jer. 3:17; 8:19; 14:9; Ezek. 35:10; Joel 3:21; Zech. 2:10; 14; Rev 21:3; 22:3). Are we to assume that all these other passages, and more, are also some lesser-quality revelation that fails to accurately describe what is actually happening or going to happen?

  3. Further, Dr. Riddlebarger states, “Finally, it is obvious that Revelation 21 presents Ezekiel’s vision in its consummated fulfillment…” That is, Ezekiel’s temple is simply a lower-quality temple than John’s temple in Revelation 21. The vision that Ezekiel is given, apparently, was never meant to be take literally as a temple that would occupy time and space. It is obvious, he states, that the readers of Ezekiel’s vision really should not see that vision as true, real, or accurately representing what God will actually do at some point in the future. Yet God says, “As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them” (43:10-11; emphasis mine). God commanded Ezekiel to take the vision, write it all down, in detail, and explain it to Israel. Finally, God will dwell among them forever (Ezekiel 37:26–28; 43:7), as promised beforehand (Exodus 25:8; 29:45; Leviticus 26:12; Numbers 5:3; Deuteronomy 12:11). The differences and distinctions between the temple vision of Ezekiel and the temple vision of Revelation are significant enough, when taken correctly, to be referring to two different temples.

What is important to comprehend in this small list of illustrations is:

  1. Those who hold to this hermeneutical position (T/S) do so of their own authority. This kind of “type/antitype” is foreign to Scripture.
  2. Those who hold to this hermeneutical position often evade the real issues. Much of their thinking is built upon the presupposition that things aren’t as they seem. Thus, their thinking is also unclear and inconsistent. Their unstable thinking is taken by the untaught as profound.
  3. Those who hold to this hermeneutical position do not believe in inerrancy. Otherwise, they would tremble at the Word of God instead of making it mean what they want.
  4. Those who hold to this hermeneutical position lead others astray creating confusion instead of worship. Because of their philosophical thoughts, these men are often idolized and esteemed by others, especially in their own academic circles. However, God does not esteem them. Their praise will not be from God (“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”-Matthew 5:19).

I will explain, from Scripture, the truth about types and antitypes in my next post. For now, please consider the assertion of these men. To say that the types of the OT are fully realized in the antitypes of the NT is to deny the perspicuity (clarity) and inerrancy of the OT and thus Scripture itself (2 Timothy 3:16a). It is to impose an undue, foreign, structure upon the unity of the Scripture that, then, distorts the Scripture. Thus, once the Scripture is distorted, it is unrecognizable, although all the biblical verbiage is used. We must not settle for anything less than the absolute authority of Scripture over man; the inerrant nature of every word in Scripture; the glory of God in His Word; and the exact meaning of the authors in Scripture as consistent and non-contradictive in both testaments. Otherwise, we really cannot believe/understand the Scripture, unless these men “enlighten us.” In that case, we have run right back to Rome. The uneducated and unenlightened have so much to learn, if the Scripture does not mean exactly what it says, to the word, in both testaments.

Challenging Covenantalism: The Covenant of Redemption

What motivated God to initiate His saving work?

That is a fair and appropriate question to ask. The Covenantalist avers that it was an

“…inter-Trinitarian pact made in eternity past, in which the Father designed, the Son agreed to undertake, and the Spirit agreed to apply the results of redemption.”  (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/worksgraceredmpt.html , accessed 10/2/2012).

According to CT, God the Father and God the Son undertook a “pact”, or covenant, that Christ would satisfy the Father and do so on behalf of the elect. This is the foundation, they say, of all the other covenants. However, unlike the other covenants of CT, this particular covenant does not get as much press.

According to Witsius again, the initial passage that speaks of this Covenant of Redemption (CR) is Luke 22:29, which reads, “…and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you.” (Herman Witsius, The Economy Of The Covenants Between God and Man, vol.1 [London: Thomas Nelson, 1822], p. 166) If I were to presuppose a conclusion, like CT does here, I can easily concede that this would speak of a kingdom which was “covenanted” to Jesus before time. However, right hermeneutics would ask, “What does the context say?” Thus, in the next verse we read, “…that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Just as is taught by our Lord in and Matthew 19:28 and  elsewhere, which we will cover in a future post, this is not a kingdom promise because of a covenant between the Father and the Son in eternity past. This kingdom is reserved for the covenant fulfillment of David’s promise of 2 Samuel 7:13,16 (cf. Psalm 89; see also Daniel 7:22; Revelation 20:4). The teaching of the inherited kingdom of Jesus Christ is a vast, and easily verifiable, teaching of Scripture. Nowhere in that amount of data is an ‘inter-Trinitarian pact’ spoken of or alluded to. It is easily, and consistently, taught by reason of the actual covenants historically promised by God. The entire paradigm of the true, biblical, covenants, then, is undermined by the illusory covenants of CT. This is a very grave error.

A further error that I see repeated by CT is taking actual terms, events, and truths and superimposing the “covenantal” structure over them such that they become actually subject to the philosophy of CT. As R. Scott Clark has written, “Covenant theology structures all of Biblical revelation.” (R. Scott Clark, “Theses on Covenant Theology”, http://clark.wscal.edu/covtheses.php, accessed 10/2/2012). It this true? Does CT actually structure all biblical revelation? No, this is not true, since the Bible does not actually teach CT. However, what is happening is that CT is ‘extrabiblical’ and this  extrabiblical system is being imposed upon inerrant Scripture. The Covenant of Redemption is a very good case in point.

Michael Horton has written, “The covenant of redemption, therefore, is as clearly revealed in Scripture as the Trinity and the eternal decree to elect, redeem, call, justify, sanctify, and glorify a people for the Son” (Michael Horton, God of Promise [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 82). Is that true?

Taking apples and pasting them to an orange tree does not make the orange tree an apple tree.

You can’t take the fruit of God’s true work in time, and affix it to a man-made system and redefine what God has actually done! In an effort to support his claim, Dr. Horton refers to those wonderful passages in the gospel of John wherein Jesus teaches that the Father has given some (people) to the Son (see John 6:39, 10:29; 17:2, 4-10 etc.). However, just to get straight to the point, if we will once again notice the context of John 6:37-30, for example, we will see repeatedly that this “giving” is the result of the sovereign will of the Father (e.g. John 6:37, 38, 39, 40). So, in that scenario, how is it that there was an agreement between the Son and the Father, to say nothing of the Father and the elect? Otherwise, the Father’s will would not be free to do all that He would, and thus be sovereign. The Father’s will would be bound to an agreement, or some other motivation, that would actually add to His will. That would not, then, allow for absolute sovereign freedom to do all according to the kind intention of His will (Ephesians 1:5). Herein is the irony:

Covenantalists make ideal Arminians.

Instead of asserting and maintaining the biblical understanding of God’s sovereignty, they insist that God’s free will was actually bound by an agreement made between the Father and the Son prior to creation. Thus, the elect, too, can agree to the terms of this agreement, and/or other agreements, and enter into the redemption that is insisted upon because of this so-called Covenant of Redemption. In other words, man, once again, has a say in his salvation. This impugns the sovereignty of God, which those holding to CT so strongly, arrogantly, insist they believe. Yet, when compared with Scripture, we see the arrogance of man contributing to the pure, undefiled, will of God to sovereignly elect whom He will according to His kind intention.

What does the Bible actually say about all this?

The Father commanded the Son to enter into human history and become a Man; man who was made in His own image and likeness, and die the death that man so-rightly deserved. The Spirit of God empowered Christ by giving Him signs and wonders such that He would fulfill Scripture which said the Messiah would perform such signs verifying Who He was. The Son would be punished by the Father, die, then rise again. He would then ascend to share the throne of His Father until He re-enters earth and assumes a throne promised to the Seed of David, Himself the Seed of Abraham, thus the Seed of the woman. He would rule, fulfilling the promises upon which the true, biblical, covenants were made in history, for a time, as promised to Israel. Then, to restore the sovereign rule of the Father over everything, He, the Son, will return all things to the Father, and subject Himself to Him as well. Did/will all of this happen because of a covenant? No. This is all

“…according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11b, 12b

Does His glory involve a pre-temporal pact? No. It is the simple exertion of sovereignty. It is simply the will of the Father commanding the subjected (but not inferior) Son who obeys because He loves His Father, and for no other motivation (John 14:31). Thus, sending the Spirit to, in fact, create new creations from dead and sinful ones. The Son will subject all things to the Father once again, after He has vanquished all His enemies, so that the Father’s supremacy will be restored over all creation and the Father may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28), just like it was before Genesis 1:1. To add to that scenario is to add to actual revelation. It is to add to God’s purposes. It is to add to God and Who He actually is and what He has actually done. CT does this. Covenantal Theology needs to be held accountable for the confusion it has caused.

Challenging Covenantalism: The Covenant of Grace

I have been attempting to reveal the reality that there is not a covenantal scheme found in Scripture as is presupposed by those who believe in Covenantal Theology (CT). This belief system, built upon the assumption that there was a covenant between God and man, i.e. the Covenant of Works, is pervasive and subtle in all of its insinuations. The conclusions of such a system have become foreign to the actual statements of Scripture to an alarming degree. Over the next few posts, I will continue to lay the groundwork that is necessary in order to review these conclusions so that at least it can be understood what I am saying. Given the fact that I have little to no response from anyone on these posts, I can only assume that what I am writing is being considered, at least.

Last post we verified the reality that there is/was no Covenant of Works. One may believe that there was, but that does not make it real. Did God actually make a covenant in the garden, pre-fall, with Adam with conditions, stipulations, rewards, and blessings? No. That is a contrived system super-imposed over the Scripture. Adam already had full access to the Tree of Life, not contingent upon obedience. Adam already was blessed of God, not contingent upon obedience. Adam was instructed/commanded directly to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil under penalty of death, without condition. There was nothing to which Adam had to agree. He was under the sovereignty, authority, and care of his Creator who created all things simply according to His will (Revelation 4:11). There was no compulsion to create a covenant (an agreement, conditional or otherwise) in that perfect world which God created. As said in the previous post, love cannot be regulated by law (Galatians 5:22-23).

We come now to consider the next covenant as stated by CT, the Covenant of Grace. This covenant is stated as follows:

“The covenant of grace  is a compact between God and the elect sinner; God on His part declaring His free good-will concerning eternal salvation, and every thing relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant, by, and for the mediator Christ; and man on his part consenting to that good-will by a sincere faith” (Witsius, Economy of the Covenants, p.165).

It must be stated that the philosophical nature of CT is very appealing to many, which causes its popularity. This popularity is especially keen in the world of young men. There is a particular thrill that comes from engaging in dialogue and contemplation about deep things, contrived or true. The structure of CT is no different. Because of its philosophical nature, CT draws many to its system simply because it affords an exercise of the mind to a large degree. However, there is no greater exercise of the mind, heart, and will than to meditate upon truth. What God actually did is far more profound and engaging than anything man could dream of. Plus, truth is humbling. It breaks the will and sanctifies the person. This, to the glory of God.

As we come to the Covenant of Grace, we come to a subject that is indeed “deep”, profound, and eternal. We are talking about the work of God in Christ on behalf of sinners. The Covenant of Works discussion dealt with God’s dealing with Adam pre-fall. However, this “covenant” deals with Adam’s offspring post-fall. The redemption of sinners is the heart of the gospel. It is near to the heart of all that God has accomplished in Christ. It is territory to tread slowly and carefully upon. Of its nature, it demands absolute precision and care. Zeal is no substitute for accuracy. Zeal without truth cannot save (Romans 10:1-3).

This covenant states that God made a covenant, agreement, pact, with elect sinners that they might be saved. R. Scott Clark, who has written very detailed upon the entire subject and nature of CT, writes, “The term covenant of grace can be used broadly and narrowly. When used broadly, it refers to everyone who is baptized into the Christ confessing covenant community. When used narrowly, it refers to those who have received the double benefit of Christ: justification and sanctification” (R. Scott Clark, http://clark.wscal.edu/covtheses.php , accessed 9/10/2012). Dr. Kim Riddlebarger writes, “The covenant of grace is the historical outworking of an eternal covenant of redemption (the so-called “covenant before the covenant”) in which the members of the Holy Trinity decreed that Jesus was to be the redeemer of those whom the Father had chosen in him, and that Jesus would do this on behalf of, and in the place of, all those sinners chosen from before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14)” (http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/3636 , access 9/10/2012). Both descriptions assume a pre-creation covenant between God and Christ which is entitled, “The Covenant of Redemption".” Both authors state that that pre-Adamic covenant is the basis upon which all other covenants, and their accomplishments, flow. I am not attempting to deal with the topic of the Covenant of Redemption at this time. I will wait until a future post. However, it is enough to say, as I have said before, it is entirely unnecessary to assign a covenantal structure to God’s plan of redemption, outside of the stated covenants of Scripture, to which the New Testament writers explicitly refer based upon the teaching of the Old Testament. There is no need to subsume the biblical covenants under a larger one. For example, using the reference from Dr. Riddlebarger, Ephesians 1 makes it extensively clear that there was no compelling covenant in eternity pre-Adam demanding that God do what He did in creating the world, ordaining the fall of man, and the death of His Son. It was simply the expression of His free will. Consider these passages:

Ephesians 1:5–6 (NASB95)

5 In Love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:7–11 (NASB95)

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace

8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him

10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

Now, if we take these truths (God predestined us to become sons according to the kind intention of His will, for His glory, freely given to us, according to His rich grace, according to the kind intention of His will, according to His purpose, after the counsel of His will) and assign to them a pre-creation covenant that supposedly explains the initial compulsion of God to do what He has done in Christ, we have just confounded these verses. It is no longer according to the free counsel of His will, but counsel of His will based upon an agreement that He made with Christ and then the elect. Those are two very different statements. God is unaffected by any outside influence or compulsion. He does what He pleases (Psalms 115:3; 135:6). He is not compelled by any covenant, except what is stated in Scripture. He does what He pleases based upon His will. Some might say, “Yes, and it pleased God to make this covenant with Jesus Christ and the elect.” If that is true, then God’s compulsion was no longer to freely give, but to give out of duty. This is not freely giving. The essence of giving freely is that there is no previous cause compelling one to do what he is doing. Even the actual biblical covenants, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Priestly, Davidic, and New, were still initialized by God’s will, whether bilateral or unilateral. Paul teaches that the entire plan of redemption is the result of God’s will, not agreement. But we will deal with this further at another time.

The covenant of grace is fanciful on a number of fronts. First, it is not stated in Scripture. To take the terms Scripture does use (justification, sanctification, predestination, election etc.) and assign them to a concluding covenant out of which they flow does not make that covenant true. Again, Scripture does not indicate that God made an agreement with the elect, nor continues to do so when the elect are saved. The salvation of the elect is based upon the freedom of God’s purpose in Christ and that is all (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, the elect are saved on the basis of the New Covenant, not a covenant of grace. The two are not the same. The New Covenant is the basis upon which our sins are forgiven since that is what the Scripture actually says: “

Hebrews 8:12 (NASB95)

12 “For I will be merciful to their iniquities,

And I will remember their sins no more.”

This “better covenant” is based upon better promises than the Mosaic Covenant which could never cleanse the conscience. The salvation from the curses of the Mosaic Covenant for disobedience because of our depravity and God’s just wrath upon us for our disobedience is not based upon an agreement between God and man, elect or not. It is based upon the work of Jesus Christ through the New Covenant which was based upon better promises, the Abrahamic promise, which itself is based upon the promise of the Messiah in Genesis 3:15. Once Jesus Christ entered into the true tabernacle of heaven, after “offering Himself without blemish to God” (Hebrews 9:14), He obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12). That eternal redemption is because Jesus Christ fulfilled the New Covenant, not the covenant of grace (or redemption, for that matter). Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15; 1 Timothy 2:5). The true covenantal structure of the Scriptures are self-contained and sufficient for elucidating all that God has done and is doing and will do in the redemption of mankind and the entire creation. To go beyond that and state all of that is still the result of a larger covenant, the covenant of grace or redemption, is adding to what the Scripture has actually revealed and what God has actually done.

Third, as with the entirety of CT, if one believes in the covenant of grace, he teaches himself to impose upon Scripture and thus develops the habit of adding to the Scripture. No matter the subject, if we say something God has not said, it is never true (Jeremiah 23:25-32). Covenant Theology, as a system, is foreign to Scripture. Therefore, to impose it upon Scripture does damage to the Scripture.

Fourth, if the elect choose to enter into a covenant with God, how does that affect the sovereign nature of salvation. Calling the sinner to repent and follow Jesus Christ does not indicate a covenant or agreement. It is a command. To do so, is to disobey and be subject to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:6-10). If a sinner calls upon the Lord for salvation, is very different than saying that he agrees to a covenantal relationship with God. It does not appear that the idea of “covenant” ever describes the justification, sanctification, and glorification of a sinner (Romans 8:28-20). It is, again, the expression of the will  of God. We must maintain the purity of the will of God in all that He does.

In future posts, I will be dealing with the following subjects:

  1. The Covenant of Redemption.
  2. God’s Purpose in Christ.
  3. The True Covenantal Structure of God’s Plan.
  4. The Gospel.
  5. The Difference Between Israel and the Church.
  6. Eschatology and the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ.
  7. The True Nature of the Church.

There may be further topics as well as the need arises.

Challenging Covenantalism: The Covenant of Works-pt. 2

The last post posed a question: “Was there a Covenant of Works?” That is a legitimate question, given the weight that is attributed to this covenant. Since it becomes the foundational brick in the wall of Covenant Theology (CT), it must be examined and identified as true or false. To assume either way is detrimental to the revelation of God and will harm His glory.

We saw last time that CT asserts that God made a covenant with Adam in which if Adam were obedient, he would inherit eternal life. If he were disobedient, he would die. Or to put another way, if he obeyed, he would be blessed. If he disobeyed, he would be cursed. The backdrop for this reasoning is the assertion that the components of covenants are present in the narrative of Genesis 1-2. “the substance of covenant is the stuff that forms the contents of Genesis 1-3” (Meredith Kline, “Two Adams, Two Covenant of Works”, selected readings from Kingdom Prologue, 2000, p.1). These components also are present in the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) treaties identified in archaeological finds over the years. In comparing those finds, including significant discoveries like the treaties of the Hittites and the Ebla Tablets, with the biblical texts, it is believed that God followed the same pattern as those treaties and covenants as written in the ANE discoveries in the creation of the world.

  • I would like to challenge that assumption and clarify a few things concerning this hypothesis. Specifically, I do not believe that Moses is writing as one would from the structure of ANE treaties. Further, the components of a covenant are not present in the text of Genesis 1-2.

First, it is important that we insert a foundational tenant of Scripture, namely the doctrine of inerrancy. Inerrancy states that the Scriptures, in the autographs, are inspired by God through the instrument of human authors and as such the resultant text is infallible, true, and authoritative. Also, the basis of the inerrancy of Scripture, and the veracity of the resultant copies of those inerrant letters/books, is that God, who cannot lie (Titus 1:2), is the source of the information contained therein. That is, although man may have used sources other than dictation from God (e.g. Luke 1:1-4), the resulting text of Scripture is nonetheless truth and has God as the source of that information. Inerrancy is also claimed by CT as well. Why is inerrancy significant to our discussion? Because, when speaking of covenantal language in Genesis 1-2, A) does history interpret the event of creation, or B) does creation define and interpret history? The only correct answer is B, Scripture, and its account of creation, defines and interprets history. Therefore, let us consider the assertion that all the components of ANE treaties are present in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2 as patently false. There are a number of reasons, which I will give below, but begin by considering that God did not follow the conventions of culture (of ANE or otherwise) when He established the foundations of the earth. If it is asserted that God’s work in creation followed the pattern of ANE treaties/covenants, then we have committed eisegesis saying that God’s creation work was patterned after ANE cultural norms. Surely, inerrancy cannot be maintained with that assertion since creation came before the Hittites.

Second, the components of a covenant/treaty are not present in Genesis 1-2. The general components of the covenant of works are usually listed as preamble/prologue, contractual parties, stipulations, blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience, and concluding remarks usually calling upon witnesses to the agreement. Michael Horton, author and host of White Horse Inn, a Christian radio show from a Reformed perspective, also describes a “typical” covenant arrangement and attributes that back into Genesis:

" In addition, the literary elements of covenant-making seem to be present in the Genesis narrative, especially as interpreted by the rest of Scripture. Even in Genesis 1-3 we recognize the features of a covenant that we have delineated: a historical prologue setting the stage (Genesis 1-2), stipulations (2:16-17), and sanctions (2:17b) over which Eve and the serpent argue (3:1-5) and which are finally carried out in the form of judgment (3:8-19) (Michael Horton, God of Promise [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006], 90).

Kim Riddlebarger, professor at Westminster Seminary California and pastor of Christ Reformed Church, Anaheim, CA., lists them in summary form as:

“Although the term “covenant of works” does not appear in the creation account, all of the elements of such a covenant are clearly present in Eden. First, there are two parties involved (Adam and his creator), with God sovereignly imposing the terms of this covenant upon Adam and his descendants. Second, there is a condition set forth by God as spelled out in Genesis 2:17–“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Although this condition comes in the form of a specific prohibition (if you eat from the tree you will die), it can also be framed as a positive theological principle which describes the very essence of this covenant: “Do this [i.e., obey by not eating] and live.” Third, there is a blessing promised upon perfect obedience (eternal life) as well as a threatened curse (death) for any act of disobedience. If Adam obeys his creator and does not eat from the tree, then he will receive God’s promised blessing–eternal life. But should Adam eat from the tree, then he will come under the covenant curse–which is death (Westminster Seminary California, blog, http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/3608, accessed 9/4/2012).

 

If we simply use these writings as our starting points, we will discover that the ideal of the Covenant of Works is, in fact, the philosophy of man and not a true explanation of what God actually did.

First, Michael Horton indicates that the entire narrative of Genesis 1-3 fits into the ANE structure. Unfortunately, he does not seem to comprehend that the creation of the world and the cosmos does not fit into covenantal/treaty structure.  Although Moses wrote during the time when the Near East was not ancient, creation occurred before ANE culture. When these things are read into the biblical text, the text is treated as some literary piece and not actual history. Such is the common failure of CT.

Second, Dr. Riddlebarger, who has done much to confuse the Scriptures, states that if Adam would obey God, he would receive access to the Tree of Life. Once eating the fruit, he would then live forever. It is further stated that Adam is on a kind of probation to prove his obedience. There are a few problems with that teaching, however. Most CT teachers repeat Genesis 2:17, “…but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Along with this verse is the usual statement that this indicates a kind of test for Adam. In fact, this “condition” becomes the hinge pin for much in CT. Adam failed to maintain the condition by breaking the covenant, and thus he died as per this verse. The converse, they reason, is also true. If Adam does obey, then he will receive blessing. One glaring problem is the fact that the biblical text says in the previous verse, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely…” (v.16). Adam already had access, free access, to any other tree in the garden, including the Tree of Life. In fact, both eating of every other tree in the garden and not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are all under the umbrella of a “command” (v.16). It is just as much a command to eat freely as it is to not eat. This is also verified by the fact that the Tree of Life needed to be guarded from Adam and Eve after the fall (Genesis 3:24). He did, in fact, have access to that tree even after his disobedience! The reasoning with CT is that if Adam exhibits perfect obedience to the command (the stipulations of the “covenant”), then by not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he will then, in time, be able to have access to the tree of life, by the sheer fact that he will still be alive to do so. This conditional existence of Adam, according to CT, is the basis for the rest of their assumptions in theology. However, there were no conditions in the garden, and thus there was nothing for Adam to agree to. This is not a contractual agreement between two parties. In fact, is was not a “royal grant” either since God does not promise to benefit Adam in the least. Adam was already blessed, already possessed life, and already walked with God:

Let me reiterate. Adam already had free and unhindered access to the tree of life (Genesis 2:16). There was no condition, whatsoever, for Adam to be able to go up to that tree and take of its fruit and eat. He was already given free access by the Creator.

This is crucial to realize. Since there was no contractual condition for which Adam must attain, then there was no covenant. Since there was no covenant, this arrangement in the garden does not follow ANE treaty structure, or anything of the sort. God’s work in creation is simply an expression of His will. To assert and teach that Adam’s eating of the tree of life is based upon not eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is to 1) miss the actual words of the text, 2) misrepresent what God has done in creation, and 3) diverge from sound biblical revelation on the matter, and thus maintain an apostate position, thereby harming the church for whom the truth of Scripture belongs (1 Timothy 3:15).

Third, CT also asserts that God would bless Adam if he obeyed, and curse Adam if he did not. That is not true. As already stated, God already blessed Adam (Genesis 1:28). He already had life (Genesis 2:7). In fact, the restriction to the tree of life post-fall indicates that he would have been confirmed in some kind of perpetual physical life that could be sustained forever. That is not to say, however, that he would have inherited “eternal life” such as we have in Christ (i.e. partaking of the divine nature – 1 Peter 1:3). We know this because God indicates that if Adam and Eve, in their punished, fallen state, would have eaten of that tree, they would have been confirmed in that state. The tree itself, having properties that sustained and strengthened (see Revelation 22:2; cf. Ezekiel 47:12), did not possess the quality of eternal, divine, life since Adam and Eve would have been sustained in their fallen condition if they would have eaten of that tree. Therefore, to say that if they would have obeyed, they would have satisfied the covenantal agreement with God and would have been given access to the tree of life so that they would live eternally is false. Adam already had access to the tree of life (Genesis 2:16). Adam and Eve were already blessed of God (Genesis 1:28a). The tree of life simply perpetuated physical life forever, which is not the same thing as the quality of divine life that CT attributes to it.

In none of these arrangements do we see conditions placed upon the man. God did not say, “Adam, if you obey Me, I will give you to eat of the tree of life.” He already had access to that tree under no grants or conditions. God simply created the tree for Adam and his offspring. Nor did He say to Adam, “If you obey Me, I will bless you.” God had already established a blessed state for Adam and his wife. There were no conditions, and thus no covenant. The text of inspired Scripture indicates that God blessed them (Genesis 1:28) and that was not contingent upon obedience. They already had it! It was the will of God. Once again, since nowhere in the text is there indication of conditions for blessing or access to the tree of life, then there is no covenant. Covenants are based upon conditions. Even unilateral covenants, such as with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:4-6), require a certain attainment of righteousness, albeit provided by Jesus Christ. However, all we have in the actual text of Scripture in Genesis 1-2 is God creating and giving freely to the man, the woman, and their children of His provision without cost or covenant. To say that the command to not eat from the tree presupposes a covenant is reading into the text to a detrimental degree. If anything, the command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a demonstration of the desire for Christ-like obedience from Adam since he was made in the image of God. How? Because the obedience would have been generated from love and subjection to the Father in the same way that the Son loves and subjects Himself to the Father (John 15:10; 1 Corinthians 11:3). Again, love does not need a law (Galatians 5:22-23). This is why Luke describes Adam as a “son of God” (Luke 3:38).

Since the influence of CT is widespread, especially throughout the Young, Restless, and Reformed people, there needs to be accountability for the mishandling of Scripture in such a fashion as is demonstrated by Covenant Theology. From beginning to end, it is not based upon proper exegesis of the actual text of Scripture, but rather the philosophical musings of men throughout the centuries which have dealt a harmful blow, overall, to the Scripture. Although the gospel itself was recovered by the Reformers, the need to continue a reformation stands. There needs to be a recovery of the authority of the Scripture once again. This authority is only understood and perceived through a hermeneutic of the grammar of a text and the historical context in which the text exists. Once the foundation of CT is laid down as truth, the Scripture cannot hardly be recognized since, by and large, its veracity and literality is compromised many times over, especially in such areas as creation, and eschatology. Both the beginning and the ending of God’s Word suffer a harmful blow by the likes of CT to the degree that we do not understand from whence we came, nor for what we have to look forward. Let us truly “keep reforming” and return to a proper, text-centered, study of God’s holy, inerrant, and precious, Word.

Challenging Covenantalism: “Was There a Covenant of Works?

In my previous post, I stated that Covenant Theology (CT) is built upon two (or three) stated covenants: the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. These so-called covenants are the fountainhead of the rest of this system of theology. However, they need to be examined in light of Scripture to see if they even exist.

Covenant of Works:

This covenant is described as the agreement between God and Adam, in the garden, wherein both God and Adam were the contractual parties. As was mentioned in the previous post, “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his prosperity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1646, chapter VII, section II). Herman Witsius, in his foundational work for Covenantalists entitled, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man (London, 1822), devotes a large section to the “contracting parties” of the Covenant of Works. It is said there that God, upon creating man, enacted a covenant with him that Adam should fulfill upon the penalty of death if he does not. Adam consented. Thus, the covenant of works. The assertion is that God “cut” a covenant (Hebrew, berit) , which was binding for Adam and for all man, at that time of creation, which in turn would demonstrate loyalty on Adam’s part. In this section of Mr. Witsius’ book are a number of Scripture references and quotes. However, by and large, they are misdirected and misleading. The truth of the references are unquestionable. The application of those truths to an assumed system, as found in the Covenant of Works, is unbiblical.

For example, on pages 46-47, the author states that God is one Party to the covenant, man the other. Thus when

“[Adam] consents thereto, embracing the good promised by God, engaging to an exact observance of the condition required; and upon the violation thereof, voluntarily owning himself obnoxious to the threatened curse. This the scripture calls… “to enter into covenant with the Lord,” Deut. xxix.12. “and to enter into a curse and an oath,” Neh. 29.”” (Economy, 46-47).

What Mr. Witsius is saying is that when God created Adam, He and Adam made an agreement by virtue of his being created, bearing His image. Thus, once Adam realized the stipulations of this creation agreement, he agreed to the contract. He entered into a covenant with the Lord, in the same way that is spoken of in Deuteronomy 29:12 in regards to Israel. Thus, the author puts the same binding agreement that Israel experienced with God through the Law of Moses upon Adam saying that they were equal. Another way to say it is that Mr. Witsius takes a postulated covenant and equates it with the reality of a clearly written covenant and makes them equal. Well, not really. In reality, Adam’s so-called covenant supersedes Israel’s covenant.

Did God make a covenant with Adam in the same way that He made a covenant with Israel? Further, does it matter? Let’s look at this carefully. First, there is never mentioned in Scripture that God made a binding, legal, agreement with Adam. In all of Paul’s writings (as well as the prophets) about Adam, he does not once state that Adam reneged on his contractual agreement with God. There might be two objections at this point. One: “What about Hosea 6:7? It clearly says that Adam broke his covenant.” Does it? What does Hosea actually say? Adam is not the subject of the sentence. Israel is the subject, as evidenced by the personal pronoun, ‘they’. They transgressed the covenant. What covenant? The only covenant Scripture indicates that God made with Israel and they continually broke (see the context of the entire book of Hosea, for example). But does it say that Adam broke a covenant also? No. It says that Adam transgressed (cf. Romans 5:18). It does not say that he transgressed a covenant since there is no recorded covenant in Genesis 1-2. The phrase, “like Adam”, is a comparison to the transgression and not the covenant. Besides, the better translation would say, “Like a man” and not “like Adam” since the article does not precede the word adam, which, when taken with the article, refers to the individual Adam. However, when the article is not there, it is man in general since the word ‘adam’ means ‘man’. This is the only verse in all of Scripture that actually uses ‘Adam’ and ‘covenant’ in proximity to each other and we can see that this is not even referring to a broken covenant made with Adam.

Objections:

Some might say,

“But the evidence of a covenant is there; stipulations, warnings, and punishment for failure.” Really? Did God need a covenant in order to maintain order in the garden? Did Adam have to agree to the terms of a covenant in order to go about his day? The observation of death upon disobedience, does that demand a covenant structure? According to the Apostle Paul, no.

Romans 5:12–14 (NASB95)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.

14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

It is clear that Adam did fall, and miserably so. He did sin. He did transgress God’s command. But this does not demand a covenant structure. Paul writes that through one man, sin entered the world and with it came death. We understand this event as that time when Adam, against the command of God, ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-7;cf. Genesis 2:16-17). However, Paul does not equate the disobedience of Adam to the breaking of a legal contract, i.e. a covenant. Death spread to all men because all sinned. This is because until the Law (Mosaic) sin was in the world, but it was not imputed to man. What does that mean? From Adam to Moses, the punishment of Adam was experienced-death. However, that same offense of Adam is not experienced by every man. Mankind, as coming from Adam, died because they were “in Adam.” However, they legally did not sin that sin which Adam did. They were made sinners as coming from Adam, but they, themselves, did not each take of the tree and eat. Therefore, sin, or the transgression of a commandment, was not legally marked down on their account as a broken law, i.e. imputed.  Paul is right, sin is not imputed when there is no law. After Adam, no one else ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So, technically, they did not sin. However, mankind is alienated from God and dead in their sinful natures. But, it was not until the Law of Moses that sin could be legally imputed to each man and thus each man bear the weight of his own transgression. Thus, Paul is saying that Adam did not break a covenant. Adam disobeyed God. Big difference. The stipulations of a so-called covenant were not broken because there was no covenant. We know this because Paul says that sin was not imputed. That is, Adam did not break a legal agreement. He did disobey. He did transgress. But the legal aspect, which CT asserts to be present, was not there. Thus, there was no covenant. It is simply God’s creation rising up in rebellion against his Maker.

Semantics?:

For some readers, this is pure semantics. However, how closely you define these things determines which direction you go in other doctrines. For the Covenantalist, since they assume a covenant here, they are free to assume other covenants, namely the Covenant of Grace. Thus, from there, they feel the freedom to assume other things as well. For example, they might feel the need to assume that since we are all under a covenant of grace, then Israel has merged with the church and there are no national promises made to Israel since they don’t exist anymore in God’s plan. Or, they might assume that they can take a text of Scripture and install a second meaning into that passage (a Covenantalist handles most of the Old Testament this way). To some, these issues are inconsequential. But to God, they are not. The assertion that God made a covenant with Adam, which he broke, misrepresents what actually happened, and thus distorts God’s revelation of Scripture, thus robbing God of glory. This is no small assertion.

So, what actually happened? Just what Paul said happened. Adam disobeyed a command of God. A command which, if obeyed, would maintain fellowship with God forever. As one unnamed writer stated (as quoted from within Mr. Witsius’ work and he summarily disagrees with)

“Prior to the fall there was properly no law. There… a state of friendship and love obtained, such as is the natural state of a son with respect to a parent, and which is what nature affects. But when that love is violated, then a precept comes to be superadded: and that love, which before was voluntary, (as best agreeing with its nature; for that can scarcely be called love, unless voluntary) falls under a precept, and passes into a law, to be enforced then with commination and coercion; which rigour of coercion properly constitutes a law.” (Economy, p.61).

He is right. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22-23,

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

There is no law to regulate love. You do not need regulation of divine love and relationship, such as that for which Adam was created. Adam was created in a condition of righteousness such that he was able to fellowship with God. This relationship is as a son to a father (Luke 3:38), not a servant to a master. A slave/master relationship exists with Satan and his subjects (John 8:31-44). Our relationship to God can also be described as slave and Master (Ephesians 6:6). Yet, ultimately, we are sons (Revelation 21:7) and as a true son, we will serve our Father just like Jesus Christ does as well as reign with Him (Revelation 22:3,5). Still, Adam was created as a son, in the likeness of the Son. There is no law, or covenant, to regulate that condition. It was not until the fall that that relationship was severed, Adam apostatized, Satan became lord over him, and began to rule. Thus, when the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed-free to be a son again (John 1:12-13; 8:31; Galatians 3:26). Therefore, when you say that there was a covenant between God and Adam, you are then distorting the love of God, and His image, and making it something other than it is.

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