When You Don’t Have a Good Dad on Father’s Day

On Father’s Day, children of all ages hit the stores looking for cards that thank our dads for being loving and teaching us the important things in life. We look for ways to honor our dads. We express our affection and the debt we owe them.

But some of us struggle to know what we could thank our fathers for.

Some dads never made an appearance in our lives. Some are barely present physically, let alone emotionally. Others might be known for their destructive words and the bruises they leave behind. Maybe they love their beer more than their babies or make it hard for us to believe any man could be gentle and loving. They don’t just make us wonder if they love us; they make us wonder if anyone could love us.

We hate this day called Father’s Day, because it reminds us of the father we never had.

But on this day, we can still be encouraged. Though we may rightly lament the pain our earthly fathers caused (and seek help if we’re in an abusive situation), we can also find hope in our sonship before our heavenly Father. Though our earthly dads fathered us in sin, he fathers us in perfection and righteousness. We aren’t fatherless.

Here are six truths to remember about our flawless Father.

1. He Is Near When We’re Brokenhearted

Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Our dads may have made fun of our pain or ignored our cries. Perhaps they’ve continued to break our hearts over the course of years. But God is near to us when we’re crushed in spirit. He shows us compassion. When we don’t know how to pray, his Spirit helps us (Rom. 8:26–27). He doesn’t ridicule our pain but brings purpose to it (Rom. 8:28–30).

2. He Doesn’t Condemn Us

As believers we will never be condemned by God (Rom. 8:1). Our earthly fathers may have found every possible fault and mistake in us because we weren’t the perfect child they envisioned. But our heavenly Father placed all of our deserved punishment on Christ. We no longer have to walk in shame; our Father sees us justified because of the righteousness of Christ. Rather than wrath and condemnation, we experience God’s loving discipline that protects, grows, and sanctifies us (Heb. 12:4–11).

3. He Adopted Us

Some dads make it obvious they never wanted their children. We were a “mistake” and “unplanned,” and he would rather spend his life doing something other than caring for children. In contrast, our heavenly Father is not only involved; he’s adopted us as his own. Ephesians 1 tells us that God purposefully chose to adopt each of his children before the foundations of the world were laid, predestining them to be saved by Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:3–7). Though our self-sufficient God didn’t need us for anything, he gladly chose to set his love on us.

4. He Will Never Forsake Us

Earthly dads can abandon us. They can remove themselves from our lives or remain deliberately distant. But God promises that he will never forsake us. He remains faithful—even if we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). He promises to see us to completion, raised in newness (Phil. 1:6). Though our dads may give up on us, God will faithfully sanctify us.

5. He Will Train Us in Righteousness

We may wish our dads had invested more time in teaching us how to love God, how to choose a good spouse, how to respect authority, or how to lead with kindness. Instead, they modeled the complete opposite. But our good and perfect Father has changed our hearts to love his law:

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26–27)

We’re unable to obey God in our own power, so he gave us both new hearts that desire to obey and his Spirit to enable us to love his law.

6. He Gave His Son for Us

Earthly dads can be selfish. They may do everything for their own good—even if it’s at our expense. But our heavenly Father gave his Son for us:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:4–6)

Rather than allowing us to continue our hell-bound course in sin, God crushed his Son on the cross. He poured out his wrath on the Son to bring us near and give us eternal life. By this sacrifice, our guilt is taken away, and we receive Christ’s righteousness if we trust him (Rom. 10:9–10).

The Father loves us more than even the best earthly dad could comprehend. He has showered us in grace. Because of this, we are freed from bitterness. We are freed from anger. We can find refuge and hope in knowing the greatest Father. This Father’s Day, when the memories of our earthly dads’ failures overwhelm us, we can turn our hearts to our heavenly Father, who loved us perfectly before we loved him.

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Was He Too Prone to Wander? Robert Robinson (1735–1790)

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.

Robert Robinson wrote these words as a young man in his twenties, a few years after his conversion. They appeared in 1758 in one of the stanzas of his now classic hymn, “Come, thou fount of ev’ry blessing.” The hymn as a whole is a great testimony to the grace of God that had saved him, notwithstanding a heart that was “prone to wander.”

By the time of his death at 54 years of age, however, some wondered if Robinson had indeed wandered, at least theologically. He died just after spending time with Joseph Priestley, one of the most infamous political and theological radicals of the late eighteenth century. Priestley and his fellow Unitarians (who denied the deity of Christ) were quick to claim Robinson as one of their own. Priestley even claimed that Robinson “attacked Orthodoxy more pointedly and sarcastically than I had ever done in my life.”

So how far had Robert Robinson wandered?

Poor, Uneducated, Fatherless

Robinson was born in a small market town near Norwich in southeast England in 1735. He was born the same year that the great evangelist George Whitefield was converted in his college rooms at Oxford, and while a local revival was stirring Jonathan Edwards’s parish in New England and spreading up and down the Connecticut River Valley. But it would be another seventeen years before Robinson would hear Whitefield preach and be himself drawn into the orbit of the revival movement.

In fact, his home was “devoid of piety,” and his parents’ marriage was described as a disaster. By the time young Robert was entering his teens, his dissolute father was being sued for debts. His father abandoned the family and died soon afterward. Although his mother’s family had wealth, lands, and houses, Robert’s grandfather resented the marriage and as a cruel gesture left his daughter only half a guinea (about $100 in today’s terms). Robert’s mother could see that her son had some intellectual capacity, so to keep him in school she took in boarders and “plied the needle” as a seamstress. Soon it was all too much, though, and by the time Robert was thirteen, his formal education had to be given up.

A friend of the family had a brother in London who was a barber, and the decision was made to send Robert to the city to be bound as an apprentice in that trade. This meant he would become the charge and responsibility of his master for seven years, until his apprenticeship was complete. He would spend his teen years away from home in the big city.

‘Jesus Sought Me’

One historian talks about “the guilty apprentice syndrome,” meaning that there were many young men who left the morally reinforcing social structures of the countryside and got into trouble when immersed in the anonymity and temptations of a city like London. When such young men happened upon the evangelical preaching that was spreading throughout the metropolis, their consciences were easily wounded.

This is exactly what happened to Robinson. On Sunday, May 24, 1752, he was one of a gang of young people who went and got a fortune-teller drunk on cheap gin, and then visited Whitefield’s Tabernacle at Moorfields “to mock the preacher and pity his hearers,” but instead Robinson was haunted by Whitefield’s sermon on the wrath to come. Day and night he was troubled as he recalled the message. This unrest culminated three years later in his wholehearted conversion. We know this from a cryptic notation he made in Latin on a blank leaf in one of his books. It said that on Tuesday, December 10, 1755, he “found full and free forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” No wonder he would soon write in his famous hymn:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Bought me with his precious blood.

Embracing the Baptists

About the time he was completing his apprenticeship, he began to have thoughts about entering the ministry, and he used to practice preaching sermons to himself for up to an hour at a time. He stayed in London, working in his trade for a couple of more years, and then in 1758 he returned home to his uncle’s farm in Suffolk, near where he grew up. He was now 22 years of age, and he began in earnest to copy Whitefield and the other Methodists, preaching without notes and gathering a society in the village. He was soon invited to preach at James Wheatley’s Tabernacle up the road in Norwich. It was in a hymnbook published by Wheatley that Robinson’s famous hymn was first published.

Though his time in the Norwich area was short, it was significant. It was here that he met and married Ellen Payne, with whom he would have twelve children. Here too his convictions led him to dissent from the Established Church, with whom the Methodists were still closely connected, and to set up an Independent Calvinistic church in town. Then he went on to receive adult baptism. He would be a Baptist ever after.

It was the famous Baptist writer Anne Dutton who informed the deacons in the Stoneyard congregation of Particular Baptists at Cambridge that “there was a youth at Norwich who had been preaching among Methodists but had lately been baptised and wanted to settle in a Baptist congregation.” He began preaching for the Cambridge Baptists in a kind of probationary role. He felt unworthy, given his irreligious upbringing, his lack of education, and his youth. But after two years, he was ordained as their permanent pastor.

Pastor of the Dissenters

His ministry began with 34 people huddled in a “damp, dark, cold, ruinous, contemptible hovel” in a town that despised Dissenters. Still, he remained faithful to his calling, and in time a new church meeting house was erected, and within fifteen years there were two hundred families in the church, with morning congregations of six hundred and evening gatherings of eight hundred. He reached a thousand more through his itinerant preaching in surrounding villages during the week. At a time when the percentage of Dissenters was falling in most of the counties around Cambridge, Robinson’s influence increased their numbers significantly in Cambridgeshire.

Robinson was unquestionably a beloved and effective pastor for three decades in Cambridge. This was his principal ministry. We don’t know a lot about his continued use of hymns, but there is a note in the church book that will seem familiar to anyone today who has met with conflict over styles of music in church: “Heady people . . . found fault with certain tunes.” These were the so-called “sprightly tunes” introduced in the Sunday evening lectures, designed to reach a wider “town and gown” audience. Evidently some church members did not like Robinson’s “seeker friendly” methods.

Tolerant to a Fault

In the mid-1770s, Robinson was increasingly drawn into public activism to defend religious and civil liberties. He was keenly aware that the laws of the land still imposed disabilities on Dissenters. Robinson was driven to study church history to defend the cause of Nonconformists. For him, the Reformation was principally about freedom of conscience, rather than doctrinal statements. “The right of private judgment,” he wrote, “is the very foundation of the Reformation.” He came to dislike the binding of anyone’s conscience by a statement of faith.

In the political sphere, he was an active voice for parliamentary reform (and was mentioned by name in the House of Commons by Edmund Burke). He was also an early opponent of slavery and the slave trade, preaching and petitioning against it. He stated clearly that slavery was incompatible with Christianity. On the same principal of liberty, he welcomed the American and French Revolutions. In fact, he was visited by General Reed, Washington’s second-in-command, who offered him passage to America and land if he would drop everything and come.

Robinson was a man open to other viewpoints and tolerant — perhaps to a fault. He was friendly with political and theological radicals, including Unitarians and others who denied Christ’s divinity (Socinians). There was a small Socinian group in his congregation in Cambridge, and he refused to take sides against them when division opened up over the question.

Like many others before and since, Robinson wanted to appeal only to the Bible and not to any statements of faith or creeds. But there is always a danger that this way of thinking can lead to an unhealthy elevation of private judgment. If we think we can recover the true Bible message on our own, without any dependence on doctrines derived from Scripture and received by the wider church, we may indeed find ourselves “prone to wander.”

When Freed from Sinning

How far Robinson, in fact, wandered theologically by the end of his life is a question still debated. If he hadn’t gone to Birmingham and preached in Priestley’s church just days before his death, he might have been remembered differently. A year before he died, he reaffirmed what he had written earlier, that the Socinians were mistaken brethren, and in one of his last letters he affirmed he was neither a Socinian nor an Arian.

Six years after Robinson died, the Anglican evangelical John Newton wrote to Robinson’s biographer, saying that he hoped his own spiritual history would terminate where Robinson’s began. He worried that Robinson in his later years was more inclined to help people doubt than believe. And he worried Robinson had been traveling the same road as Joseph Priestley from skepticism to Unitarianism.

It is hard to know for certain. But Newton was surely right about the early years of Robinson’s ministry. There is abundant evidence from the 1750s and 60s to show that Robinson was animated by an evangelical faith and piety that was later compared to Jonathan Edwards.

We should also remember with some sympathy that Robinson was, late in life, a broken man. By 1790, the year he died, he was physically and mentally ill. His sermons became incomprehensible, and some described him as insane. He never recovered from the death of his 17-year-old daughter Julie in 1787. He faced a financial crisis that could have sent him to debtors’ prison. And many of his friends had turned against him.

Thinking of his suffering at this distance, the final verse of his great hymn takes on more poignancy. The verse isn’t sung much anymore, but we can perhaps imagine Robinson at the end singing its first quatrain, trusting, as we all must, in Christ’s “boundless grace” as the ultimate hope in the face of death:

On that day when freed from sinning
I shall see thy lovely face,
Clothèd then in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing thy boundless grace.

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Should I Look For a Reward from God?

Those who trust in riches now will have their reward now, and those who trust in full bellies now will have their reward now. In this lab, John Piper teaches that those who trust in the coming kingdom will receive their reward — the greatest reward — when Christ returns.

Some questions to ask as you read and study Luke 6:20–26:

  1. Why do you think God often mentions rewards when he calls for obedience? Does this make us selfish or selfless?
  2. Read Luke 6:34–36 and Hebrews 11:24–26. What role did reward have in Moses’s obedience? What role should reward have in ours?
  3. Read Luke 6:20–26. Identify the specific rewards God offers to those who follow him through hard things on earth. What would you say to someone who says it is wrong to follow God to gain a reward?

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Principle for Bible Reading

Ground

This is one of the richest relationships in the Bible. A ground gives support or a reason for another statement. One way to think of it is that it is the ground upon which another statement is built. The supporting (or grounding) statement comes after the statement it supports. When you come to a grounding statement in the Bible, ask what came before it that it supports.

Key Words

Conjunctions, or connecting words, are very important in the Bible because they tell us how two statements are related to each other. In this case, a grounding relationship is usually connected with for, because, or since.

For example: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” How do we know that Jesus loves us? For (or because) the Bible tells me so.

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A Simple (Catechism) Game For Little Kids

When I was discussing who God is with my Muslim barber, I was helped by my 4-year-old piping up from the waiting area: “God is a loving union of three: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

“All right,” the barber said with a shrug, “I’ll go with that then.”

Ruby, the evangelist.

It’s from my shorter Shorter Catechism, also known as “The Question-and-Answer Game.” She holds each of my fingers as I ask:

  1. Who is God? A loving union of three.
  2. Who are the three? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  3. Who is Jesus? The Son of God.
  4. Why was he born? To become our brother.
  5. What did he teach us? To love God and love others.
  6. Why did he go to the cross? To die our death.
  7. Why did he rise? To give us new life.
  8. Why did he go to heaven? To pray for us.
  9. Who did he give us? The Holy Spirit.
  10. What are we waiting for? Jesus to come back and make everything new.

Then you hold onto her fingers and switch roles. It’s a game, see? The Question-and-Answer Game.

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Margin Notes: Reading Joshua 22

Joshua 22:9–30 (NET) — 9 So the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites in Shiloh in the land of Canaan and headed home to their own land in Gilead, which they acquired by the Lord’s command through Moses…and built there, near the Jordan, an impressive altar.11 The Israelites received this report: “Look, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the entrance to the land of Canaan, at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side.” 12 When the Israelites heard this, the entire Israelite community assembled at Shiloh to launch an attack against them…15 They went to the land of Gilead to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and said to them…‘Why have you disobeyed the God of Israel by turning back today from following the Lord? You built an altar for yourselves and have rebelled today against the Lord…You are rebelling today against the Lord; tomorrow he may break out in anger against the entire community of Israel…don’t rebel against the Lord or us by building for yourselves an altar aside from the altar of the Lord our God…21 The Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the Israelite clans..we decided to build this altar, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, 27 but as a reminder to us and you, and to our descendants who follow us, that we will honor the Lord in his very presence with burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tokens of peace. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to our descendants, ‘You have no right to worship the Lord.’28 We said, ‘If in the future they say such a thing to us or to our descendants, we will reply, “See the model of the Lord’s altar that our ancestors made, not for burnt offerings or sacrifices, but as a reminder to us and you.” ’29 Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord by turning back today from following after the Lord by building an altar for burnt offerings, sacrifices, and tokens of peace aside from the altar of the Lord our God located in front of his dwelling place!” 30 When Phinehas the priest and the community leaders and clan leaders who accompanied him heard the defense of the Reubenites, Gadites, and the Manassehites, they were satisfied.

Barely had the Israelites taken possession of Canaan then they faced civil war. And over what? One group assuming they knew the motives of another group, and interpreting their actions according to their misunderstanding.

Things haven’t changed much, have they?

Of all the lessons in the Christian life I’ve needed to learn personally, this one certainly falls into the top 5 if not the top 3. I do not know, I CANNOT know the motives of other people’s hearts. And how desperately I need to reserve judgments until ALL the facts are in.

This scenario is a simple albeit tricky, and nearly disastrous one. After all 12 tribes of Israel had fought to so hard to take possession of Canaan, the 2 & 1/2 tribes who had been assigned their inheritance east of the Jordan, finally went home to live in it. And as the text notes, when they got to the Jordan – they built a large, conspicuous altar there. Moses had made it abundantly clear that God was going to choose a place in Israel where He would have the one official altar built – the single altar where sacrifices for sin and worship would be located. At that place alone, all the males in Israel would have to appear 3 times a year according to God’s command. No other such altar was authorized. And now, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and 1/2 of Manasseh had built this altar. What to do? The text says that as soon as the others heard about it – they “assembled at Shiloh to launch an attack against them.” Nobody asked any questions. No one sought for clarity first. They just strapped on their weapons, got on their horses and full of their righteous indignation – got ready for the massacre.

How much like me.

Fortunately, the 2.5 tribes didn’t just say “bring it on” – but took the time to explain themselves. And when they did, the war was averted. And the text says the 9.5 tribes “were satisfied.”

How careful we must be here Believer. How easily we can assign motives to actions before we’ve ever bothered to really ascertain the truth. And how often Christians throughout the centuries both on the Church level, and personally – have waged needless, bloody and divisive conflicts all because we were absolutely sure we knew the motivations lurking in the hearts of others. Father forgive us.

The truth is, some things can take on a very sinister appearance at first glance, which when investigated more fully, could actually be the very opposite. What appears to be sin or rebellion to the naked eye, may in fact, be careful devotion.

Beware. None of us knows the motives of others hearts until they are revealed in thoughtful dialog and disclosure. Base no decisions on why you “think” or “feel” someone did or said what they did. Brother to brother, seek them out and ask. And who knows but that your union will be all the greater for having disposed of unwarranted suspicions.

Father help us. Help us to live in love, and not baseless suspicion of hearts and motives we cannot possibly know.

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Mika Edmondson on Conversing across the Divide

“James 3:17 says, ‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle’—listen to this—’open to reason, full of mercy.’ Think about the national discourse around hot topics. Does it sound peaceable, gentle? Are people open to reason when they talk about these things? Do they ever say, ‘Well, you know, that was a good point you just made?’” — Mika Edmondson

Date: April 2, 2019

Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast.

Related:

Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page.

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Book Notice: MY SUNFLOWER GIRL, by Dyfan Williams

A Brief Book Notice from Books at a Glance

Here is a father’s compelling narrative describing the unexpected death of his ten-year-old daughter Megan. The book is well written, factual and honest. Readers may soon find tears in their eyes as they read of the overwhelming grief and pain felt by parents and family in losing their precious daughter. Probing questions are asked in a prayerful and struggling submission to the sovereign providence of God yet in the context of the glory awaiting believers like Megan who trust in Christ.

Endorsements

Sinclair B Ferguson:

To read My Sunflower Girl is to overhear the soliloquy of Dyfan Williams, husband, father, and pastor, as he walks through the dark valley where shadows fall around him from the death of his beloved daughter Megan. As in King David’s great psalm there is a confession of deep faith (‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’). But at times these pages also become conversations between a bruised but trusting soul and the Lord whose presence holds him fast in the dark (‘you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me’). Personal loss is profoundly individual. Yet here, in the poetic soul of Dyfan Williams, you will find an honesty combined with faith, an understanding nourished by experience, and a compassionate and gentle pastoral wisdom. My Sunflower Girl is a profoundly moving testimony to God’s presence with his people in their darkest hours.

Elinor Magowan:

To lose your daughter at the age of ten would leave one reeling with grief and crying out in anguish to God. The loss of Megan and the impact on Dyfan, his wife Caroline and their children Lloyd and Siân is deep, distressing and lasting but you will see God’s presence and faithfulness evident through the darkest of days. … To have such a book written by a father provides an important perspective. Dyfan’s thoughtful reflections on Scripture and sensitive use of poetry ensure the pain of death and the parting that results are not minimised and yet he shows how strength, comfort and help were provided. … I would encourage you to read this book and be helped. You will not forget Megan, her loss and the Williams family, but it will also strengthen your hold on the one who is always with us; never leaves us or forsakes us and never lets us go. As your feet remain here on earth the eyes of your heart will be lifted towards heaven.

About the Author

Dyfan Williams is currently pastor of Emmanuel Church, Leftwich, Cheshire. He married Caroline in 1991 and they have three children: Megan (1993-2003), Lloyd (1995) and Sian (1998).

Buy the books

My Sunflower Girl

EP Books, 2019 | 154 pages

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How Should a Husband Treat His Quarrelsome Wife?

Audio Transcript

In the last third of the book of Proverbs, the theme of the quarrelsome wife is brought up five times (Proverbs 19:13; 21:9; 21:19; 25:24; 27:15). And those references raise a question: Is a husband encouraged to separate himself from such a wife? This is the question today, not from a man, but from a woman, a listener named Sarah.

“Hello, Pastor John! My question is regarding verses in Proverbs to husbands about their wives. Specifically Proverbs 21:9 — ‘Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.’ And Proverbs 21:19 — ‘Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.’ In the verses, and specifically in Proverbs when talking about the quarrelsome wife, I get the impression that the man should not stay with a wife of this character. Or at least it is not good to be with a wife who is quarrelsome.

“Is this a warning to men in being wise in selecting a wife? Or is this for women, a warning to wives and future wives to root our hearts in God’s wisdom so we don’t become quarrelsome? And how does this verse apply if a wife does in fact become quarrelsome later in the marriage? I know God’s will is for a man and woman to stay together for life. But can you bring clarity on the meaning and wisdom that should be pulled from these verses that seem to suggest separation?”

Evidence of a Hardened Heart

If a man reads Proverbs 21:9 and Proverbs 21:19 — “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife,” and “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” — and concludes in his heart that divorce and remarriage are being commended here, we know that he is in the power of a hardened heart, which God disapproves of.

“The man with a quarrelsome wife is not free to abandon her. He has made a covenant with her.”

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We know it because that’s what Jesus said. The Pharisees said that Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away for being a quarrelsome wife. That’s what they said to Jesus: Moses let a man have a certificate of divorce and send a quarrelsome wife away (Mark 10:2–4). But Jesus said to them,

Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, “God made the male and female.” “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his [quarrelsome] wife.” (Mark 10:5–7)

There are pointers in Proverbs that leaving this woman for another is not what God approves of. For example, Proverbs 2:16–17: “You will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.”

Now, this cuts both ways, for the man and the woman, because a covenant obliges both partners in the covenant. Covenant-keeping in marriage is obliged by covenant-keeping with God. It goes both ways in marriage because it’s rooted in covenant with God. For God’s people, human covenants are rooted in the divine covenant. The man with a quarrelsome wife is not free to abandon her. He has a covenant. He’s made a covenant with her.

Four Lessons

So, what do these verses mean? That’s what she wants to know. What effect should they have on us when we read them? I think I’ve got three or four things to mention.

1. Find the Right Woman

The first implication is for young men who are not married: Don’t marry a quarrelsome woman. Live in a desert if you have to. Live in a tiny room on your roof with your parents if you have to before you do that.

The reason I say the first implication is for young unmarried men is because when you start reading the book of Proverbs, you get the impression that this book is a summation of the teaching of fathers and mothers that they taught to their sons while growing up. That’s the impression you get when you read chapters one and two. Twice at least, the men referred to as the audience here are called young men and may not yet be married (Proverbs 7:7; 20:29). So beware, young men: he who finds a wife finds a good thing (Proverbs 18:22). Wait for her. That’s the first implication.

2. Seek to Be Agreeable

Second, a woman who listens in to the counsel of these verses — and I think it’s assumed that over time, women are going to hear the book of Proverbs — will take them to heart and seek not to be a quarrelsome or contentious wife.

“God is able to make out of a quarrelsome wife a helpful and prudent wife.”

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Of course, she will take the hint that she too might want to be content to live on the roof or in the desert than to marry a quarrelsome husband. It cuts both ways. It’s a lesson: Don’t marry quarrelsome people. And if you’re married, women, do your best not to be quarrelsome and contentious.

3. God Changes Hearts

Third, if the Proverbs teach that a prudent wife is from the Lord, a gift from the Lord, then God is able to make out of a quarrelsome wife a helpful and prudent wife. If he gives the gift, if he sovereignly gives the gift, he can give it before marriage, and he can give it after marriage by changing the wife.

That’s what the Proverbs teach: “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14). He can cause you to marry such a woman, or he can create such a woman after you’re married. That’s the third implication.

4. Keep Loving Her

Fourth, the Proverbs do not teach that we should repay evil for evil or quarrelsomeness for quarrelsomeness or abandonment for quarrelsomeness. What does it teach? It teaches, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17), and, “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21).

“God calls us to treat a quarrelsome wife better than she deserves, not worse than she deserves.”

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The wife, of course, should not be seen as an enemy. But if her quarrelsomeness constantly puts her in that category, she’s going to act like an enemy, at least a verbal enemy. Here’s how to treat her — namely, better than she deserves, not worse than she deserves. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (especially the closest neighbor) doesn’t show up first in the New Testament. It shows up first in Leviticus 19:18, which is long before Proverbs. It is more than affirmed in Proverbs 24:17 and Proverbs 25:21, which talk about loving your enemy.

When Proverbs says, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife,” it means that this greater ease, greater comfort, greater peace of the housetop over going downstairs and loving this woman is true. It’s true.

It’s easier, it’s more comfortable, it’s more peaceful to just go up on the roof and get away from this nagging and quarreling wife, from this contention. It’s true. It’s better in many ways, but it’s not to be chosen over the path of love. There’s a covenant, and there’s a command: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

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Are You Defensive?

We all have blind spots that need to be identified and point out. One of the main ways God points out our blind spots is through other Christians approaching us about them. When you get approached or corrected about something in your life, how do you receive it? Are you defensive?


Hear the full sermon here.

Pastor of Student Ministries open for Application

This is to let you know that we are looking for our next Pastor of Student Ministries here at Bridgeway. We are accepting applications through July 3rd.

The Pastor of Student Ministries at Bridgeway will strive to help all our students grow in their understanding and confidence in the truth of God’s Word and to cultivate a deeper and more joyful satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus Christ.

If you are interested, or know of someone who is, go to www.bridgewaychurch.com and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the Home page until you find the tab, Careers. It will take you to the job description and an on-line application form. Blessings!

Sam

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Margin Notes: Reading Joshua 17

Joshua 17:14–18 (NET) — 14 The descendants of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you assigned us only one tribal allotment? After all, we have many people, for until now the Lord has enabled us to increase in number.”15 Joshua replied to them, “Since you have so many people, go up into the forest and clear out a place to live in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites, for the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you.” 16 The descendants of Joseph said, “The whole hill country is inadequate for us, and the Canaanites living down in the valley in Beth Shean and its surrounding towns and in the Valley of Jezreel have chariots with iron-rimmed wheels.”17 Joshua said to the family of Joseph—to both Ephraim and Manasseh: “You have many people and great military strength. You will not have just one tribal allotment. 18 The whole hill country will be yours; though it is a forest, you can clear it and it will be entirely yours. You can conquer the Canaanites, though they have chariots with iron-rimmed wheels and are strong.”

We can imagine our inheritance as too difficult to attain, and thus get sidetracked seeking an easier way. But there is no other inheritance appointed for us other than conformity to Christ’s image. And there is no shortcut around confronting and rooting out the remnants of our indwelling sins to arrive there.

There will always be those in the Body of Christ (and I among them) who complain that they did not get enough, and are in more difficult circumstances than everyone else and thus deserve something more or something other than what has been appointed. Indeed, they are somehow being put upon much more than all others and should have special consideration. Not so. These are the very ones who need to be challenged to pursue what has been their lot.

And how often this has been my own wicked heart. Telling God that what He has appointed for me in life are things I do not want, and are too hard for me. The sins I have to wrestle with, the circumstances which are adverse and sometimes seem to overwhelm, the blessings I’ve not enjoyed; on and on and on. All of it, basically accusing Him of not loving me enough, or not being as wise as He ought to be in my case.

Father forgive me. Help me to see that you have proscribed for me nothing but the best in that glorious path toward being conformed to the image of your Son. That you always provide by your Spirit and your Word all that I need to face what is too great for me in the natural. Sanctify my thoughts. Correct my vision and my attitudes. Teach me how to submit graciously and sweetly, resting in your infinitely loving divine appointments and assignments. Give me the mind of Christ.

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One More Reason Why We Stink at Evangelism

Earlier this week I posted an article on what I call “The Dirty Dozen.” They are the primary reasons why we stink at evangelism. They are the typical excuses people use not to share their faith with non-Christians.

In the aftermath of that article, one person commented that there is yet another reason that may well be the most frequently cited of all. I think he’s right. I can’t believe I didn’t include it in the original list. But then who wants “13” when you can have “12”?!

The 13th reason why we stink at evangelism is simply that people don’t actually know what the gospel is, or if they do know it, they struggle to articulate it in face-to-face conversations with unbelievers. Feeling ill-equipped to explain the gospel, they look for ways to avoid interaction with non-Christians. So what is the gospel?

I was greatly helped by Tim Keller in answering this question, as he identified one of the major mistakes people make in thinking of the gospel. He explained how most Christians live in an “if / then” relationship with God. If I do what is right, then God will love me. If I give extra money to missions, then God will provide me with a raise at work. If I avoid sinful habits, then I will be spared suffering and humiliation, etc. It’s a conditional relationship that is based on the principle of merit.

The gospel calls us to live in a “because / therefore” relationship with the Lord. Because we have been justified by faith in Christ, therefore we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Because Christ died for us, therefore we are forgiven. Because Christ has fulfilled the law in our place, therefore we are set free from its demands and penalty, etc. This is an unconditional relationship that is based on the principle of grace. The difference between these two perspectives is the difference between religion (“if / then”) and the gospel (“because / therefore”). The “religious” life is not the “gospel-centered” life.

So, as we think about our responsibility toward the gospel, let us never forget what it is and what it isn’t. It is the gloriously great good news of what God has done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. From this I want to draw the following truths.

(1) The gospel is not what God requires. The gospel is what God provides! Yes, there is an intrinsic demand built into the gospel. The good news that is proclaimed calls for a response of faith and repentance. In fact, if we haven’t pressed upon human hearts the urgency of a response, we have failed in our ministries. But our faith and repentance, though they are the gift of God, are not themselves the gospel.

(2) The gospel is not an imperative, demanding things you must do. The gospel is an indicative, declaring things that God has done. Yes, of course we do things because of the gospel. But our doing things isn’t itself the gospel. To put it in terms more easily grasped, the gospel isn’t a command, it is a statement of fact!

(3) The gospel is not about human action. The gospel is about divine achievement. Yes, there are multiple consequences of the gospel, implications, entailments, results, all of which call in some measure for human action: racial reconciliation, social justice, peace, love, etc. But never confuse the content of the gospel with its consequences. Never confuse the essence of the gospel with its entailments.

(4) The gospel is not a moralistic Do! The gospel is a merciful Done! The gospel is first and foremost about what God, out of the depths of his mercy, has already done, in the past, in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, to secure all that is needed for our reconciliation to him and the forgiveness of our sins. Morality most certainly is the fruit of the gospel, but just as certainly not its root.

Thinking of the gospel in these terms helps explain what we see in Acts 20:24 – “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” How do we account for this kind of zeal, this depth of devotion? Perhaps the answer is found in something Paul said later in Acts 20 regarding God’s gracious work for us in Christ Jesus. In Acts 20:28, as part of his exhortation to the Elders in the church at Ephesus, Paul said this: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with his own blood.”

It strikes many as odd for Paul to speak of “God” the Father obtaining the church with “his own blood,” and rightly so, as the Father did not become incarnate and die on a cross. The Father did not bleed. The Son did. Thus a few manuscripts read, “to care for the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood,” the reference being to Jesus himself rather than to God the Father. But “the church of God” is almost certainly the superior reading and thus has in view the Father, not the Son. But if so, how can it be said that God the Father obtained the church with “his own blood”?

The best rendering of this statement is: “the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own.” The words rendered “his own” would then be a reference to Jesus (such as we find in Romans 8:31), designed to focus on the intimacy that characterizes the love between them. “His own” is the translation of a single word in the Greek text and is likely a term of endearment, portraying a close family relationship, thereby pointing to the affection and love of the Father for the Son. Hence, God the Father bought the church with the blood of “his own” dear Son, Jesus. This is the gospel! This is the good news we proclaim, that God has purchased or redeemed a community of scurrilous sinners by offering up as a ransom for their souls the precious blood of “his own” dear and greatly loved Son!

I’m not an alarmist by nature. I’m inclined to dismiss those who cry wolf or tell us that the sky is falling, and I’m especially impatient with last days fanaticism that insists the second coming of Christ is just around the corner (although, in the case of this latter prediction, I hope and pray they are right!). But I am alarmed and greatly concerned by something in our day and I am quite fanatical about alerting the body of Christ to what is happening. I’m talking about what has often been described as the morphing and muting of the gospel. By the “morphing” of the gospel I simply mean the many ways in which it is changing and being re-defined and re-cast in a way, so we are told, that is more compatible with the post-modern world in which we live. By the “muting” of the gospel I simply mean the tragic silence when it comes to proclaiming the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Let me focus here on a couple of ways in which the gospel is morphing in our day. I have in mind the tendency either to shrink the gospel or to expand it, both of which, by the way, are typically done in reaction to the other. Often people are tempted to shrink the gospel by paring off its rough and potentially offensive edges, thereby adapting it to the particular cultural context in which they live and minister. I’m all for contextualization. In fact, it’s largely unavoidable. But this does not require that the gospel itself be reconfigured or redefined so radically that it ceases to be concerned with the redemptive and saving activity of God in Christ.

On the other hand, many do damage to the gospel by expanding it to encompass virtually everything. In other words, if we make the gospel mean everything, it ends up meaning nothing. If the gospel means everything, one can no longer differentiate it from its counterfeits. We must distinguish between what the gospel is and what are its inevitable or intended consequences. For example, the gospel is the work of Christ in reconciling us to God, but the intended consequence is that we also be reconciled to one another. The gospel is redemption of body, soul, and spirit through faith in Jesus, but the intended consequence is that this redemption extend to the natural creation and the deliverance of creation from the curse. The gospel is justification by faith alone in Christ alone, but the intended consequence is that it lead to the alleviation of poverty and suffering and homelessness.

Loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind and my neighbor as myself is of critical importance: but that isn’t the gospel. Taking note of Martin Luther King Day each year and being both aware of and actively engaged in the pursuit of civil rights is essential for all Christians: but that is not the gospel. Acknowledging Right to Life Sunday and actively working on behalf of the unborn is crucial: but it is not the gospel. Sharing your personal testimony of a radically changed life is something all of us should do: but that is not the gospel. In other words, the gospel must not be confused with what it produces. The content of the gospel is one thing; its consequences are another. As noted earlier, there is a difference between essence and entailment.

I conclude, then, that the gospel is not moral behavior; the gospel is not social action; the gospel is not raising money to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa; the gospel is not care for creation, interpersonal reconciliation, good deeds, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or housing the homeless. All these things are of crucial importance and Christian men and women should be encouraged to give of their time and money and energy to support these activities. Please do not think that by listing them in this way that I’m minimizing their value. But these activities are not the gospel. The gospel is God’s activity, not ours. The gospel is his action, his work in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to secure the forgiveness of sins of those who repent and trust in what he has done.

We celebrate and proclaim and protect this gospel because the gospel can accomplish what education cannot. Yes, education broadens the mind and enlightens the understanding and captivates the imagination, but it is powerless to convert the soul and renew the spirit and fill the heart with joy in Jesus!

The gospel can accomplish what science cannot. Yes, science can improve the quality of our lives on earth and protect us from infectious diseases and create devices that improve our communication. But it cannot redeem us from sin or impart forgiveness or give us hope in the face of death.

The gospel can accomplish what technology cannot. I’m grateful for technology, for the airline industry that enables me to travel, for the laptop computer on which I do my work and write my books, for the heating systems that keep us warm and the air conditioning systems that keep us cool. But technology cannot regenerate our hearts or bring us into the true knowledge of God.

Praise God for nuclear energy and economic development and the entertainment industry and athletics and the international banking system. But for all their good, they cannot do what only the gospel can. They cannot give us God. But the gospel can!

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How to Teach the ‘I Am’ Statements in John

I have found Andrew Sach, a pastor of Grace Church Greenwich, to be one of those teachers who repeatedly demonstrates that passages we may have heard taught the same way many times, may not actually be about what we think they’re about. And how does he go about gaining this kind of insight? His repeated admonition is to “go bigger, go older” when studying any passage in the Bible.

By going bigger, he means that we need to consider the larger chunk of Scripture in which the passage we’re teaching is found. And by going older, he encourages Bible handlers to look carefully for allusions to the Old Testament that will provide insight into the passage. These are exactly the tools Sach brought to the “I Am” statements in John in our discussion, helping us as teachers to go deeper into what Jesus was communicating about himself through vivid images such as bread, light, shepherd, door, and vine.

Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible.

Books by Andrew Sach

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Immersed in a New Covenant: Why We Baptize Believers

Human hearts are prone to grow dull to the wonders of God’s world, and the glories of his salvation — and baptism is no exception.

In the ordinariness of the waters, we may come to overlook what baptism dramatizes: that God himself has rescued us from omnipotent wrath, that he has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son, that he has plucked us from the course of this world and seated us, by faith, with his own Son in the heavenly places. If we only had eyes to see, baptism broadcasts the most stunning mercies and graces a fallen creature could ever receive, and does so with a striking individual focus.

While we partake together at the Table, one baptizee stands alone (with the baptizer) in the water, as God himself, through his church, communicates his particular acceptance, love, and commitment to the professing believer.

Immersed in the Covenants

Godly laymen, ministers, churches, and seminaries stand on both sides of the believer-baptist and infant-baptist divide. The issues can be diverse and complex. They can be as big as how we put the whole Bible together (how the Old and New Testaments relate) or how Christians have (and have not) practiced baptism for two thousand years.

As a believer-baptist, however, I’m slow to let the discussion get away from particular biblical texts too quickly. I find infant-baptists often eager to talk theological systems and constructs, which we must. But in the end, we must take care to continually return to the specific texts from which those systems and constructs arise. We dare not overlook or minimize the plain, stubborn, obvious reading of particular biblical texts, even if we indeed must proceed, in due course, to the theological and covenantal dynamics relevant to baptism.

I’ve already highlighted six massively important texts, among others, that any faithful vision of Christian baptism should not ignore or treat lightly. Now we turn to the relationship of the old covenant to the new, often the wheelhouse of the infant-baptist. I am persuaded that — when we think carefully through the continuities and discontinuities of the covenants and the fittingness of circumcision and baptism as covenantal signs — the discussion firmly favors the believer-baptist.

Mystery and Prophecy

The great doxology at the end of Romans captures, in sum, that the relationship of the old covenant to the new is one of both continuity and discontinuity:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25–27)

The Christian gospel is both prophecy fulfilled and mystery revealed. With Christian eyes, we look back at the old covenant and discover “the mystery that was kept secret for long ages” but “has now been disclosed.” World-shattering truths remained hidden until Jesus came (discontinuity). And yet, how is the mystery now made known? Through the prophetic writings (continuity).

It is along these lines of continuity that we commend many infant-baptists for their “God-honoring effort to see unity between the old and new covenant people of God” (John Piper, Brothers, 156). The issue, then, at least among Reformed believer- and infant-baptists, is discontinuity. And in particular the political and ethnic essence of the first covenant related to the new.

Discontinuity Between Covenants

Ephesians and Colossians tell us that at the heart of this mystery, long hidden, now revealed in Christ, is a former ethnic focus on Jews now expanded to include Gentiles (non-Jews, as in “now . . . made known to all nations” in Romans 16:25–27). “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). Here two millennia later, the earth-shattering nature of this shift may be lost on many of us Gentile Christians.

In Ephesians 2:11–13, Paul writes to Gentiles, who are now Christians, reminding them of their status during the era of the old covenant:

Remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision (Jews), which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For Gentile Christians, this is marked discontinuity: we were far off; now we have been brought near. We were separated from Christ; now we are in him, united with him by faith. We were strangers to the covenants of promise; now we are included as beneficiaries. We were without God, and without hope; but now in Christ we have him, and in him true hope. And we were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”

Alienated from the Commonwealth

That the people of God, under the terms of the first covenant, were a “commonwealth” (Greek politeia), a political nation-state, is a striking difference from the global, transnational essence of the new covenant that now formally includes every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.

The first covenant established God’s people, the Jews, as a nation-state alongside, and in distinction from, the Edomites, Egyptians, Philistines, and eventually Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. God chose to raise up his own physical, ethnic nation to receive his first-covenant oracles (“the elementary doctrine of Christ,” Hebrews 6:1), preparing the way for his own coming in the person of his Son. God then transcended physical, ethnic, and political bounds through the cross-work of Christ, the giving of his Spirit, and the commissioning of his new-covenant people to take the message to the ends of the earth.

This is not to say that, under the terms of the first covenant, no Gentile could have been grafted into the people of God, but such was exceptional, not normative. God made provision for proselytes (Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:14; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 21:10–13). However, the fundamental dividing line between Jew and Gentile stood, and proselyte Gentiles were required, in essence, to become Jews to join the first-covenant people and tie themselves to the geographic center of the Jerusalem temple. A Gentile could not remain true to his original ethnicity and become a Jew. These were mutually exclusive ethno-political identities. To become a Hebrew would have meant to leave behind one’s people and nation.

The old covenant was irreducibly an ethnically centered covenant, which made circumcision (which is less fitting and more difficult with adults) an appropriate rite of initiation for those born into the covenant. The normal pattern of initiation into the old covenant was by physical birth, which is expressly not the way one comes to join in the new covenant. Rather, one is born again spiritually into the new covenant (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3, 23; James 1:18), which makes baptism (less fitting and more difficult with infants) an appropriate rite of initiation. John Piper summarizes the point:

Entry into the old covenant people of God was by physical birth, and entry into the new covenant people of God is by spiritual birth. It would seem to follow, then, that the sign of the covenant would reflect this change and would be administered to those who give evidence of spiritual birth. . . . The new thing, since Jesus has come, is that the covenant people of God are no longer a political, ethnic nation but a body of believers. . . . The visible people of God are no longer formed through natural birth but through new birth and its expression through faith in Christ. (Brothers, 160)

God’s People Grown Up

The discussion of relevant lines of discontinuity could go on at great length, but one additional note to include in this limited space is the paradigm of Galatians 3–4.

Having introduced Abraham in Galatians 3:14, and that in Christ “the blessing of Abraham” has “come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith,” Paul addresses the relationship between the law (of Moses) and the promise (to Abraham). The law — that is, the old covenant, which God gave through Moses — came 430 years after the promise to Abraham and does not nullify the promise (Galatians 3:17). Rather, God gave his law (the old covenant) to serve the fulfillment of the promise that he would bless the nations (the Gentiles) through Abraham’s offspring. Paul then asks, Why the law? Why did God give the law-covenant, the old covenant, through Moses? His answer, in part, comes in Galatians 3:24–29:

The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The law-covenant (the old covenant) served as a guardian, or tutor, for the people of God in their youth. From Moses until the coming of Christ, we find the people of God in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. The old covenant guarded God’s people in an era of redemptive-history immaturity and incompletion — until maturity and completion came with the coming of Christ, and God’s people matured beyond the guardians and managers of the old covenant (Galatians 4:1–5).

By Belief, Not Birth

Such a framework of old-covenant childhood to new-covenant adulthood corresponds with a shift from infant-circumcision to believer-baptism. The circumcision of male infants fits with the nature of the old covenant and its ethnic focus and geopolitical center. But the nature of the new covenant, with its trans-ethnic focus on “those who believe” (Galatians 3:22), fits with the baptism of professing believers. Entrance into the new covenant is not by birth but by belief. Not first birth but new birth.

The sign of the covenant, then, is properly applied to spiritual newborns, not physical newborns. Old-covenant circumcision, which Paul says was “made in the flesh by hands” (Ephesians 2:11), now has been fulfilled in new birth, the circumcision of the heart, “a circumcision made without hands” (Colossians 2:11), such that he would say, in contrast to unbelieving Jews, that Christian Gentiles, “who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,” are the true circumcision (Philippians 3:3).

As the old covenant guarded God’s people in their redemptive-historical immaturity, and circumcised their infants, so the new covenant binds together God’s people in their maturity, and baptizes those who have been born again and give credible expression to saving faith in Jesus.

Reformed Faith in Full Flower

For believer-baptists, such covenantal dynamics are not typically the first move in our argument, nor are they the end. I will turn, in another article, to how believer-baptism actually makes more of the (often overlooked) Reformed concepts of covenant signs and seals, the so-called “means of grace,” and the Westminster Confession’s commendation of lifelong baptismal “improvement” through faith.

An article like this can only scratch the surface of the biblical data, from beginning to end, relating to the continuities and discontinuities between the old and new covenants. However, my hope is that this brief sketch of the frameworks of Ephesians 2:11–13 and Galatians 3–4 will be helpful in establishing some of the key differences between the old and new covenants, and the corresponding appropriateness of infant-circumcision in the first and believer-baptism in the new.

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