The Minister’s Sabbatical

 

How to make enemies in the ministry.

From 1988 to my retirement from the factory in 2008 I labored as a bi-vocational pastor. I continue to serve in the ministry of the gospel. (I’ll be 72 later this month.)  For a number of years I preached two messages every Lord’s Day and taught a mid-week bible study. It was five years before I could enjoy two weeks vacation. After 15 years I had earned three weeks of vacation and that number remained the same until my retirement. Most months of any given year I was scheduled to work between 44-48 hours a week so a little vacation was much appreciated. It was also during those years I gave much of the free time I had to doing digital ministry. The wife and I had five children. It wasn’t easy but we survived.

I’m sure you know that this is leading up to something that I want to spit out.

Sabbaticals

Of late I have heard of a number of men in the ministry taking extended leaves. They describe these leaves as sabbaticals. A good bi-vocational friend of mine is taking a two month sabbatical. Another who is not bi-vocational is taking an extended sabbatical to write. Taking a sabbatical seems to be a growing trend.

There are legitimate reasons for taking an extended leave due to health reasons. At the factory we would request a “sick leave” provided it was required by the family doctor. If we were injured on the job we applied for workmen’s compensation to meet our needs while we healed. There are few or no other options for the working poor.  For them a sabbatical is a pipe dream.

Some years ago I knew a brother/pastor who confided to me that he received a brand new automobile from a generous member of his congregation.  He did not want to share the news of this blessing with others. He was afraid that other men in the ministry would be envious if the word of this generous gift got out. He was right. Like other men, pastors can become envious of one another. The same may also be true of any person.

Blue collar working folk know and hear of preachers who seem to have it all while they struggle to spend a few extra days at the beach with the wife and kids. To be fair not all pastors and academics enjoy the luxury of taking a sabbatical or having the keys to a brand spanking new automobile handed to them.

Listen to Paul as he speaks to the pastors of Ephesus. Acts 20:32-35 CSB

“And now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me. In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

What would your response be if several families informed you and your church that they were going to be away on sabbatical for several weeks?

Brothers, we have heard it said that we who minister the word of God are not professionals. Do you agree with that statement? There are those times in life when it is better to deny ourselves the privileges that come our way for the sake of the Gospel. As Paul has said, we ought to be examples to the flock.

In love,
Moe

 

The New Way Of The Spirit

Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6 ESV)

Paul’s Analogy

In Romans 7:1-6 the apostle Paul uses the analogy of a Jew who was covenanted through marriage to the Law of Moses. Once the Jew’s spouse (the Law) has died the marriage covenant has come to an end. The widowed Jew is then free to enter into a new marriage covenant.
Paul goes on to explain that we have also died, through the body of Christ to the Law, so that “you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
Mark this well. The departed spouse was specifically, “that Law,” and the new spouse is specifically, “Him who was raised from the dead.”
Paul takes great care to not say the second marriage is to “the Law of Christ.” He could have said that but he did not say that. Why didn’t he? I believe it is simply because the union we have with the risen Christ cannot be reduced to the language of “law.” 
The union the saints of God enjoy is one of a wife to her beloved. It is a union rooted in the “newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter.”

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV)

The Christian’s union to Jesus Christ cannot be compared to mere law keeping. That would not do justice. Jesus Christ is the Word of God who was made flesh thus He transcends words printed on paper or etched in stone. As important are the words on the printed page they are limited. The can only draw a word picture. There is a day coming when God’s saints will see their Husband face to face.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 ESV)

This new relationship, is truly a wedded union, of two hearts forever joined in marriage. Their hearts are bound together in love. The Bride’s desire is to please her husband. Within this blessed union the indicative and the imperative are joined together and given expression.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4 ESV)

Partakers of Christ

Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it so sweetly.

Every true child of God is one with Christ. This union is set forth in Scripture by several images, to which we will just refer, but upon none of which can we just now enlarge.
We are one with Christ and partakers of him as the stone is cemented to the foundation. It is built upon it, rests upon it, and, together with the foundation, goes to make up the structure. So we are built into Christ by coherence and adhesion, joined to him, and made a spiritual house for the habitation of God by the Holy Ghost.
We are made partakers with Christ by a union in which we lean and depend upon him. This union is further set forth by the vine and the branches. The branches are participators with the stem, the sap of the stem is for the branches. It treasures it up only to distribute it to them. It has no sap for itself alone, all its store of sap is for the branch. In like manner we are vitally one with Christ, and the grace that is in him is for us. It was given to him that he might distribute it to all his people.
Furthermore, it is as the union of the husband with the wife, they are participators the one with the other. All that belongs to the husband the wife enjoys and shares with him. Meanwhile she shares himself, nay, he is all her own. Thus it is with Christ. We are married unto him—betrothed unto him for ever in righteousness and in judgment, and all that he has is ours, and he himself is ours.
All his heart belongs to each one of us. And then, too, as the members of the body are one with the head, as they derive their guidance, their happiness, their existence from the head, so are we made partakers of Christ. Oh, matchless participation! It is “a great mystery” saith the apostle; and, indeed, such a mystery it is as they only know who experience it. Even they cannot understand it fully; far less can they hope to set it forth so that carnal minds shall comprehend its spiritual meaning.
The day cometh when we shall be partakers of Christ to the highest and uttermost degree that symbols can suggest, prophecy forestal, faith anticipate, or actual accomplishment bring to pass; for, albeit, though of all that our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven we have a reversionary interest to-day by faith, we shall have a share in it by actual participation ere long.[1]

Passages to Consider

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV)

His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
(Song of Songs 5:15-16 ESV)

“My beloved is mine, and I am his…”
(Song of Songs 2:16 ESV)

 [1] “A Persuasive to Steadfastness”: Delivered on Thursday Evening, February 29th, 1872

NCT, as it now stands, will not survive as a viable theological system

Read Disclaimer
The opinion expressed is that of the publisher and not necessarily the view of other CMC contributors.

Explanation. Since the 1980’s I have pursued within New Covenant Theology (NCT) circles a more perfect understanding of the teaching of God’s word pertaining to the New Covenant. Little has changed since 2012 when I first put my thoughts together here at CMC with regards to the future of New Covenant Theology. It is now 2018 and I remain a skeptic for the following frustrating reasons:

  • There is no common agreement within NCT as to how to apply God’s word and for that reason there is no agreement on the newness/nature of the new covenant itself.
  • There is no common agreement as to what constitutes the Law of Christ
    • Some struggle with the application of commands derived from the Old Testament scriptures (ie., What commands remain applicable from the Old Testament in the New Covenant?)
    • Others see all of the Decalogue binding (albeit in a non-covenantal sense), with the exception of a no longer binding Sabbath command.
    • Some see only New Testament commands as binding.
    • Some seek to replace Reformed Theology’s “rule of life” and “third use of the Law” with a new code derived from the New Testament scriptures.
    • There is little to no agreement as to what constitutes the content of the law written upon the heart.
  • There is no common ground with respect to typology and eschatological fulfillment.
  • There is no common agreement with regards to future things (eschatology).
    • Some believe there is no special future relationship for saved Jews within a Millennial kingdom under the rule of Messiah.
    • Others believe all of the saved in the New Covenant are true Jews who share a common inheritance with saved Gentiles and not one without the other. (This group believes in “one people of God” made up of saved Jews and Gentiles joined together in Christ.)
    • Yet, others do not hold to a specific view of future things.
    • While others, espouse a Preterist or partial-Preterist view.
  • There is little agreement as to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
    • As unbelievable as this is, little to no consideration is given to the nuts and bolts of the new covenant of the Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s relationship to the promise made to Abraham (Gal 3:14; 2Corinthians 3).
    • There remains a lack of emphasis on the role of the Spirit of God in sanctification, both positional and progressive.
    • Obedience is rightfully emphasized while enablement by the Spirit to obey is neglected.
    • Some advocates of NCT hold to Cessationism while others to Continuationism.
    • Perhaps most tragic is how some deny the importance and necessity of the indwelling Spirit by flattening the old and new covenants.
    • There is little to no agreement with regards to the differences between regeneration (new birth) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
    • Few advocates understand the “Letter / Spirit” contrast as defined Paul in 2 Corinthians 3 and Romans 7:1-6. A right understanding of the way of the Spirit is an essential for agreement.But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6 ESV)
  • Though almost all advocates of NCT are Baptist in name not all are congregationalist with regards to church polity.
    • Some hold to the strong pastor model while others insist more or less upon eldership rule and the equality of elders.
    • Others insist on a “hire and fire” model of professional ministry. (This statement is not to be construed as  opposition to compensation for those who teach.)

Going forward it remains my intention to gain by God’s grace a greater and more perfect understanding of the New Covenant. A mature theology of the New Covenant is most desirable. That much has not changed. If the last 30 years have shown me anything it is this. New Covenant Theology (NCT) has a long way to go if it is to go beyond the law and grace controversy that gave NCT its birth among the Reformed & Sovereign Grace Baptists in the last half of the last century. There remains much to think about and prayerfully consider.

Presently, I am encouraged by the more recent and robust theological movement known as “Progressive Covenantalism“.

The above is to be considered a work in progress. I have not composed the above with the intent to divide. Revisions will be published as needed.

In His love,
Moe Bergeron
_____________________
About our publisher: At the present time Moe serves on the pastoral team of Sovereign Grace Fellowship located in Boscawen, New Hampshire. For fourteen years he served as pastor for Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Salem, NH.  He has also enjoyed speaking engagements at numerous churches and conference venues in the North East United States and the Virgin Islands. As a Christian Internet pioneer he established the original online sermon library for Dr. John Piper.

Statement on the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

 

Help or Hindrance?

 
Study Bibles can both help and hinder Bible students. To be sure, the editors of CMC pray that Crossway’s newest Study Bible, the Gospel Transformation Bible, will be of tremendous help and encouragement to those who use it. However, we have serious concerns.
Notwithstanding the fact there are contributors with whom we hold much in common, we are compelled to offer our critique. We do so for no other reason than to point out what we believe are major theological issues. As the contributors themselves are fully aware, we all bring our preunderstandings to the text of Scripture. And it is more than obvious the assumptions of Covenant Theology with its law vs. grace framework are much in play here.
The publishers produced a superb introductory video. In it, Ray Ortlund, Jr. explains that while other Study Bibles focus on what believers are to do and where they must do it, the Gospel Transformation Bible deals with the “how” and proper motivation of obedience. If the Introduction to the volume is any indication of what the study notes peppered throughout the subsequent pages are like in terms of theological flavor, then we cannot, nor will we, endorse The Gospel Transformation Bible.
Motivation of Grace
Let us explain. On page nine of the Introduction, under the heading “Motivation of Grace,” we find the following statement:

“The Bible recognizes no definition of grace that encourages moral license. Instead, feasting on grace fuels love for God that enables us to fulfill the commandment that is foundational to all others: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). When we love him rightly, we delight to walk with him in every dimension of our lives. Only the grace of God ultimately displayed in the provision of Christ for sinners can stimulate such loving obedience.”

Indeed, we affirm wholeheartedly and without any reservation that Biblical grace does not encourage moral license. Nothing could be plainer. However, we take issue with the heart of what follows in the paragraph. Does Mark 12:30 record “the commandment that is foundational to all others?” Or, is this the commandment upon which all others hang? Matthew 21:40 gives the answer: “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  The ESV renders “krematai” as “depends.” It literally means “to hang.” To love God with all that we are is indeed the greatest commandment. It is not a basement or platform (on which something rests) but the highest affection, the attainment of which ipso facto fulfills the lesser commands which hang from it below. In other words, love fulfills the Law. Law does not fulfill love! This is a huge, life and death difference. The Gospel Transformation Bible has it upside down.
Furthermore, is it true that God “enables us to fulfill” this commandment? What does the text say? Paul writes:

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

We don’t fulfill it. Instead, God Himself fulfills it in us, “who walk…according to the Spirit.” There is a world of difference here. That God enables us to fulfill is not the same as saying, with Paul, that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…” The former elevates us; the latter frees us. While believers are indeed active in sanctification, we insist that God’s activity in men’s souls, even by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, stimulates, and even causes, obedience.
Next paragraph:

“Warnings and rewards are also clearly given in Scripture to motivate believers through identification of the consequences of disobedience and the blessings of obedience. But in themselves, these motivations do not create an obedience that is a product of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, if we only or primarily obey God to avoid consequences and/or to gain rewards, then self-love motivates us more than love for God. For the believer, biblical warnings must be understood as expressions of care from a loving Father, and blessings must be received as benevolent responses to inadequate performance. Without this perspective the warnings and blessings accomplish the opposite of their biblical purpose–creating fear and pride rather than love and thanksgiving.”

Is it true that obedience primarily to gain reward and/or avoid consequences is motivated more by self-love? If that is true, then the Bible becomes a very perilous book. Case in point: Did Jesus Himself not endure the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews12:2)? According to this latest Study Bible, if it be consistent, Jesus was motivated more by self-love than the love of His Father! But we know this is not the case. Obedience for reward is not at odds with Biblical Christianity. To follow Christ is to be obedient to the point of death for there are pleasures forevermore at His right hand! It is good to be motivated by the eternal reward of heavenly joy. John Piper has written extensively on this. With reference to Luke 14:13-14, Piper writes:

“Is this true–that we are selfish and not loving if we are motivated by the promised reward? If so, why did Jesus entice us by mentioning the reward, even giving it as the basis (“for”) of our action” (Desiring God, 194)?

He continues, asserting that “…it is simply wrong to say that Jesus does not want us to pursue the reward He promises” (Desiring God, 195). Instead, Piper rightfully argues that the pursuit of heavenly reward is faithfulness to Jesus! Loving God and pursuing His promised joy are not at odds.
Final Words
Evidently, the Gospel Transformation Bible is largely produced by a group of theologians that, for one reason or another, does not give Biblical weight to the work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. This is a major oversight since the covenant Christ purchased is defined by Him (2 Cor. 3, et al). Furthermore, there is good reason to think the notes will largely reflect the theological framework of the respective contributor and not the actual texts themselves. Therefore, CMC does not recommend the work. Should you decide to purchase, we urge your caution and discernment.
CMC
 
 

TGC Asks: Should pastors separate…

 

…the Christian wedding ceremony from the civil rite?

 
Over at The Gospel Coalition Collin Hansen posted a most interesting blog post/article. I am hoping you will take the time to read the entire article along with the comment section. Here is the top section of Hansen’s post followed by my own pointed opinion.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker did not surprise observers when he decided on August 4 to overturn Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. But as Albert Mohler and others have noted, Walker handed advocates of homosexuality a clear victory with strongly worded language that dismissed defenders of traditional marriage as irrational. He dispatched with centuries of custom and wisdom, taking it upon himself to redefine marriage and assert, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage.” He also drove a wedge between religious and civil marriage:

Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter. Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil marriage. Religious leaders may determine independently whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship under state law.

Religious and civil marriage have historically been closely linked in America, many of whose founders inherited their views from 16th-century Genevan reformer John Calvin. Splitting with fellow reformer Martin Luther on the issue, Calvin required engaged couples in Geneva to register with civil magistrates, according to John Witte Jr., author of From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition. They received from the magistrate a marriage certificate, which they gave to a pastor. He would then announce their pending marriage for three weeks in a row, thereby inviting anyone to offer objections privately. If authorities heard no objections or found them unpersuasive, the couple would be married in the church within six weeks. Thus, Calvin set a pattern linking religious and civil marriage that persists in America today.

Perhaps the time has come, however, for pastors to rethink this position. Some leaders, including D. A. Carson, have already declared their preference for more clearly differentiating between civil and religious marriage, citing practices in other nations, particularly France. I surveyed four experienced pastors for a new feature, TGC Asks: Should pastors separate the Christian wedding ceremony from the civil rite?

Immediately following the above the opinions of pastors Steve Dewitt, Ryan Kelly, Jay Thomas and Bob Bixby weighed in.
Read the entire post here: http://tinyurl.com/lnplhqb
I left the following comment.

“Interesting question. I did not notice if anyone mentioned the fact that officiating at a marriage is not a duty defined by God’s Word for pastors in the first place. The honor was always a privilege granted by the state. Officiating at funerals is another task that is generally accepted to be the Biblical role of a pastor but once again the Word of God is silent. The fact is we need to first examine the role of pastors with God’s Word before we complain to the state concerning its failure to honor God’s word.”

In our assemblies it is the Christian pastor who encourages God’s lambs to live by revealed truth. Perhaps he needs to do the same in this matter? What does your Bible say?
A portion of D.A. Carson’s declared preference is helpful.

“…I would argue that marriage is a creation ordinance, not a church ordinance. I’m not sure that ministers of the gospel should be involved in the legal matters of weddings at all. I rather like the practices that have developed in France (though I admit that they developed for all the wrong reasons). There, every marriage must be officiated by a state functionary. Christians will then have a further service/ceremony/celebration, invoking the blessing of God and restating vows before a larger circle of family and friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Similarly, Christians seeking to be married may well undergo pre-marital counseling offered by the church. But the legal act of the wedding is performed exclusively by the state. That is one way of making clear that marriage is not a distinctively Christian ordinance (though it has special significance for Christians, including typological significance calling to mind the union of Christ and the church) ; it is for a man/woman pair everywhere, converted or not, Christian or not—truly a creation ordinance. Ideally, of course, the state should adopt the same standards for marriage and divorce as those demanded by Scripture. But where that is not so—whether by sanctioning marriages after prohibited divorces, or by sanctioning marriages between persons of the same sex, or whatever—Christians will be the first to insist that because we take our cues and mandates from Scripture, our own standards for what will pass for an acceptable marriage will not necessarily be those of the state. So our own members will observe the biblical standards, regardless of what the state permits. The tensions we feel on these occasions arise from one of the most obvious truths in the New Testament: we live in the period of inaugurated eschatology, in the period between the “already” and the “not yet. ” As a result we have two citizenships. We owe allegiance to “Caesar, ” to our country in this world, and we owe allegiance to the kingdom of God. But where the two allegiances conflict, we must obey God rather than human beings. In this light, and remembering the history of marriage in the Western world, ministers of the gospel who perform marriages (as I do) better remember that when they do so, they are not performing a sacrament, or making a marriage union more holy; they are functioning as officials of the state, licensed by them. They are discharging their duties as citizens of an earthly kingdom. Then, in the larger service in which the wedding is performed, they may also be discharging their duties as Christian ministers—assigning to marriage a much higher value than the state does, drawing attention to Christian obligations for husbands and wives, reminding all present of the wonderful typological connection between Christ and the church, and so forth. In France, all of these Christian duties are separated from the legal marriage vows themselves; here, they are integrated (in church weddings) precisely because the minister is serving both as a minister of the gospel and as a minister of the state. It is this intertwining of church-based and state-based obligations that makes some of these matters of divorce and remarriage so difficult. One of the purposes of the ecclesiastical court is to sort out the hard cases.” Read the complete document.

~ Moe
__________________
About our publisher: Maurice “Moe” Bergeron
At the present time Moe serves on the pastoral team of Sovereign Grace Fellowship located in Boscawen, New Hampshire. For fourteen years he served as pastor for Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Salem, NH.  He has also enjoyed speaking engagements at numerous churches and conference venues in the North East United States and the Virgin Islands.
On the Internet front our brother did establish Piper’s Notes in 1995 which for many years had served as the foundation for the sermon library for Dr. John Piper and Desiring God. For a brief history of Moe’s relationship to John Piper and Desiring God open to this blog page at Desiring God.
 

What I Mean When I Say “Imperatives Not Required”

Yes. I said that. And I say that. And yes, it sounds dangerous and heretical. If it doesn’t, just listen again: “Imperatives aren’t required for a New Covenant saint to walk in paths of righteousness.” In order that I’m not misunderstood, allow me to explain why I say this.
First, let me explain what I don’t mean. I don’t mean imperatives are to be ignored. The commands of Christ and His apostles are authoritative. If we love Christ, we will obey Christ. We won’t consider His instruction to us as optional and push it under the carpet. Not at all! Let me be abundantly clear. The Christian must obey Christ, i.e. His commands written in New Covenant Scripture. This is my position. That I don’t define these commands as the Law of Christ doesn’t mean I reject His commands. To make that conclusion is to make a wrong one, allowing a theological framework to undermine a Biblical distinction. According to Jeremiah, new covenant law is internal, not external. How then, can New Covenant law be understood to be outside us, written on a page? It’s my conviction that it cannot.[1] But it’s also my conviction, that though not law (which is good news for those of us who do not obey Christ perfectly), Christ’s commands are in Scripture to be heeded.
So, what do I mean? It’s quite simple actually. When I say imperatives aren’t required I mean to say that “Christ in you” is sufficient for walking in a way that pleases God. Of course, appeal to the Scriptures is always required. Just listen carefully to these selected texts (italics and boldface mine):

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
 
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

These two verses are amazing to me. The Thessalonians had “no need” for written instruction because they were “taught by God” to “love the brethren” which is what they were doing. The Lord makes “you increase and abound in love” that “he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness.” Our hearts are established blameless in holiness because God does it, making us abound in love for one another, how? Is love not produced by the Spirit, even the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22)? Indeed, this internal reality is consequential. Christ in you in His Holy Spirit is a determining, governing ‘Law,’ not just a mere doctrine. As Ezekiel promised: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (36: 27). Or as David put it: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3).
So, imperatives are not required because Christ in you is sufficient. I am not advocating a word-less, quietist, grace-cheapening, subjective, situational-ethic “Christianity.” I’m simply calling for a Christianity that is Biblical, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, and truly holy.



[1] While in my view the Law of Christ is internal and not written on a page, it is not at odds with what is written on the pages of the Bible but in keeping with it.

 
 
 
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/todd-braye.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blacke, Alberta, Canada. After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, he served a Baptist church in eastern Ontario for six years before coming home to Alberta. He has been SGBC’s pastor since October 1, 2005.[/author_info] [/author]

New Calvinism & The Net

 

Mark Dever, Justin Taylor, Tim Challies & the Net

 
On their respective blogs, Justin Taylor and Tim Challies’ have recently speculated about the rise of New Calvinism. Taylor’s post at The Gospel Coalition referenced Mark Dever’s series of 10 blog posts that according to Taylor, “combined his historical gifting with his insider look at the roots (under God) of what has been happening and why.”
Taylor framed his post with the following title;

“Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From? A (Serious) Top 10 List from Mark Dever’s”

Tim Challies in his blog post referenced and built upon Justin Taylor’s post beginning with his own title;

“Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?”

As the good blogger that he is Challies continued with the following;

Justin Taylor recently revived Mark Dever’s 2007 series of articles titled “Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From?” This was a ten-part series that looked to the rise of New Calvinism and sought to discover the sources of a theological resurgence. Dever said,

“Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.” But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter. Means do matter. And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.”

Obviously both Justin and Tim agree with Mark Dever’s summary though I will give Tim Challies a much higher grade for expanding on Taylor’s post. (I love Justin and can’t believe he left out something as important as this.)
Tim’s observation…

“There is one factor that neither Dever nor Taylor has listed and one I consider absolutely critical to the growth of the movement: the Internet.”

He then explains why…

The Internet has allowed people to find community based on common interest—a new kind of community that transcends any geographic boundary. It used to be that people of common interest could only find others who shared their interests within a limited geographic area. The Internet has forever changed this and this is true in any field, whether it pertains to vocation, hobby, sports, religion or anything else. As web sites began to spring up, and then individual blogs and then group blogs and then YouTube channels and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, people began to discover that there were others like them, people who believed roughly the same things or who had roughly the same interests. Where there may have been only a small number of enthusiasts in a single town or city, the Internet brought together enthusiasts from hundreds and thousands of cities and towns. These people could now congregate online with those who shared their interests.
 
The New Calvinism is no exception. While the theological seeds had been planted in previous years and decades, the movement was awaiting a catalyst that would allow the isolated individuals to coalesce into a movement. The catalyst in this case was the Internet and social media.
 
The New Calvinism is a distinctly twenty-first century, digital-era development. It is the Internet in general, and social media in particular, that first tied the movement together and that have since drawn people in. Where there may have been only five or six Calvinists in a church of several hundred, when they went online they found a whole community of people who believed just what they believed. This dispelled much of the sense of isolation and gave them a corporate identity. People have often remarked that the Christian blogosphere is dominated by Calvinists and I believe this is exactly why—because in those early days of blogging it was the outliers who were looking for community they did not have in their local church fellowships.
 
Over time there was an inevitable shift so that the Internet was no longer merely tying together those who had long held to Calvinistic doctrine, but it also became the medium through which others were introduced to this stream of theology. What at first simply tied people together now drew new people in.
 
Thus this movement has not been carried by magazines or radio or televangelists—not primarily. Rather, it has been carried by the new media, the videos and blogs and podcasts. It has been carried by books that have been reviewed on blogs and purchased online. Through it all, the Internet has played a critical role. It has provided the forums for introducing people to this theology, for discussing the parameters of the movement, for reacting to the challenges that have come at it from outside and from inside.
 
The Protestant Reformation depended upon a medium that was able to disseminate its ideas; this came in the form of the printing press. With the advent of movable type, books and treatises could be printed in mass quantities and distributed widely, quickly and efficiently. Without confusing the impact and importance of the two movements, I believe it is safe to say that the New Calvinism was awaiting the Internet, the medium through which isolated pockets would be drawn together into a whole.
 
Where did the New Calvinism come from? It came from all the sources that Dever and Taylor identified, and inevitably some they have overlooked. And it came through and in some ways because of the Internet.

 
I have no doubt in mind Challies has it right about God’s use of the Net and the role those who love the Doctrines of Grace have played and continue to play in furthering the Gospel. Perhaps Justin Taylor simply overlooked it. I deeply respect Justin but in my humble opinion he should have said it first. I say this because Justin played an instrumental role in making it happen “on the Net.” I know because I played a small but important part in making it happen with him.
Coming up at CMC
In the coming weeks I will seek to convince you as to why I believe, Christian writers and publishers must freely distribute their theological works absolutely and totally free, through the Internet, in the same manner we have freely made available sermons and other Christian literature and study helps. It’s not about us my friends. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ setting people free from the power of sin and death and the edification of His Church throughout the world.
~ Moe
 

Practicing the Presence of the Holy Spirit

[learn_more caption=”Editor’s Note” state=”open”] Dear Reader, Over at TGC Justin Taylor has served his readers quite well by highlighting the following words of wisdom from Richard Lovelace’s work. I fully agree with Justin’s sentiment and that’s why I have shared it with you. It is a rich treasure! – Moe[/learn_more]  
[The following content was posted at The Gospel Coalition. You can read and comment at TGC by following this link]
I hope that a new generation of believers discovers the rich treasure of wisdom found in Richard Lovelace’s The Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (IVP, 1979). I found the following quote instructive, convicting, and encouraging at the same time:

This failure to recognize the Holy Spirit as personally present in our lives is widespread in the churches today. . . . Even where Christians know about the Holy Spirit doctrinally, they have not necessarily made a deliberate point of getting to know him personally. They may have occasional experiences of his reality on a hit-and-run basis, but the fact that the pronoun “it” is so frequently used to refer to him is not accidental. It reflects the fact that he is perceived impersonally as an expression of God’s power and not experienced continually as a personal Guide and Counselor.

 
A normal relationship with the Holy Spirit should at least approximate the Old Testament experience described in Psalm 139: a profound awareness that we are always face to face with God; that as we move through life the presence of his Spirit is the most real and powerful factor in our daily environment; that underneath the momentary static of events, conflicts, problems and even excursions into sin, he is always there like the continuously sounding note in a basso ostinato.

 
But Lovelace gives a metaphor for what sadly seems often to be the case:

The typical relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit in today’s church is too often like that between the husband and wife in a bad marriage. They live under the same roof, and the husband makes constant use of the wife’s services, but he fails to communicate with her, recognize her presence and celebrate their relationship with her.

 
Lovelace asks, “What should be done to reverse this situation?” Here is his answer:

We should make a deliberate effort at the outset of every day to recognize the person of the Holy Spirit, to move into the light concerning his presence in our consciousness and to open our minds and to share all our thoughts and plans as we gaze by faith into the face of God.
 
We should continue to walk throughout the day in a relationship of communication and communion with the Spirit mediated through our knowledge of the Word, relying upon every office of the Holy Spirit’s role as counselor mentioned in Scripture.
 
We should acknowledge him as the illuminator of truth and of the glory of Christ.
 
We should look to him as teacher, guide, sanctifier, giver of assurance concerning our sonship and standing before God, helper in prayer, and as one who directs and empowers our witness.
 
We should particularly recognize that growth in holiness is not simply a matter of the lonely individual making claims of faith on the basis of Romans 6:1-14. It involves moving about in all areas of our life in dependent fellowship with a person: “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16 NASB).
 
When this practice of the presence of God is maintained over a period of time, our experience of the Holy Spirit becomes less subjective and more clearly identifiable, as gradually we learn to distinguish the strivings of the Spirit from the motions of our flesh. (pp. 130-131)
 

Monergism's Bias

 

Please Read

The popular online book seller Monergism recently notified many if not all of their customers that they will not make available Gentry and Wellum’s “Kingdom Through Covenant” (Crossway) because in their opinion, “KTC” is not a “Christ-centered biblical theology,” which they believe their own Reformed/Covenant theology reflects.
May we ask a simple question?
How is it that a system derived through a man-made theological construct of the covenants can make their brand of theology more of a “Christ-centered biblical theology,” when it has artificially created a “covenant of works” and a “covenant of grace” at the expense of the two major biblical covenants as defined by II Corinthians 3 and Galatians 4:21-31?
This is all quite sad given that Monergism has served for many years as a respected source for many within the New Covenant Theology and Progressive Dispensational communities.
Our Opinion
Why would you purchase from Monergism if they continue to sell works that do not properly define the two biblical covenants?
Given Monergism’s own faulty reasoning customers who do not embrace Covenant Theology ought to think twice before supporting this online ministry.
[Update: Over at the Gospel Coalition Matt Smethurst wrote, “I corresponded with Gentry and Wellum about their proposal, ironic similarities between the two dominant systems, recent accusations, and more.” Most interesting was what he wrote with regards to TGC’s plan for the near future. “Soon TGC expects to publish a forum featuring responses to this proposal by Darrell Bock, Michael Horton, and Douglas Moo.” It’s rather ironic that Monergism’s refusal to sell “Kingdom Through Covenant” has in all probability generated a greater amount of exposure and sales for this super work by Wellum and Gentry. – Moe] [learn_more caption=”Read Monergism’s Statement Here”] — Begin Quote —
“PLEASE READ”
As most of you already know. Monergism Books is dedicated to upholding a Christ-centered biblical theology, which we believe, Reformed/Covenant theology most closely reflects. If you have been following us for any amount of time you should know that we try, by the grace of God, to carefully choose books and resources to promote and warn visitors about books with theological problems. This is one of those times. We believe that Kingdom through Covenant both misrepresents Covenant Theology and promotes an unbiblical alternative. Of course we are not trying to decide for you what to buy, but rather, encourage you in the right direction when you have a choice in the books you read. Some might be under the false impression that we oppose the theology in this book because it is Reformed Baptist. But this is not the case. Kingdom through Covenant is not a Reformed Baptist work or Reformed at all. Historically Reformed Theology has been synonymous with Covenant Theology. So—called New Covenant Theology is actually a reaction against confessional Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians and Covenant Theologians in general. We are not against it because it is Baptist. by no means. In fact, We carry and encourage you to purchase Baptist Greg Nichols excellent work of covenant theology because we think that it accurately represents classic Covenant Theology from Baptist perspective. Just to clarify, we will not be selling Kingdom through Covenant or making it available. We regard “New Covenant Theology” as a significant theological error but of course you are free to purchase it elsewhere. We appreciate your understanding that we are taking a stand on this issue and we do appreciate your business even though it may not be for his particular book. So we recommend Sacred Bond and Nichols book over Kingdom through Covenant. — end quote — [/learn_more]

Which Stack of Paper… Controls You?

Wrong Question!

The truth of the matter is: Neither.

The well intentioned illustrator got it wrong. The Bible, God’s written word, by itself cannot control a person.  The illustrator should have compared the love of money to love for God.
The problem for mankind is that we are totally incapable of knowing and submitting to God and unless God by his Spirit makes us alive to Him we will never be able to know and submit to his perfect revealed will.
We believe this is why it is important for a theology of the New Covenant to have a right understanding of Pneumatology (A Doctrine of the Holy Spirit). If we fail to understand pneumatology’s centrality to the believer’s doctrine of the New Covenant then we are no better off than the man who looks to the Bible with its leather bound covers and paper pages to make him holy in God’s eyes.
You and I can read the Bible from cover to cover and never know God anymore than a picture of George Washington on your currency can enslave you to greed.
So you see my friend, even if you are a theologian you can know about God yet never really know God. Union with God requires a life giving miracle. Of this miracle the apostle Paul wrote;

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.   But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.   If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:9-11

So the question is simply this;  what or who controls you?
God’s Word testifies to the truth that a man or woman to be truly free they must walk (live day in and day out – all the time) empowered by the Spirit of God. It’s the only way for us to have victory over the sinful appetites of our flesh. God’s written word in our Bibles speaks to this very truth.

The Free Walk by the Spirit of God

Unlike others who look in every direction to find their help except to the Spirit of God I will tell you plainly, the Spirit of God guarantees to the one who seeks his aide victory over the desires of their flesh.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  – Galatians  5:16-17

It’s high time for God’s saints to lose their language of defeat by looking to God for the victory he’s promised. So look to God. His written word tells you to. Your love for God will be evidenced by your dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit to fulfill his perfect will.
 
 

Five Reasons Why I Object to Classic NCT’s Definition of the Law of Christ

[box] CMC endorses Todd Braye’s viewpoint as expressed in this article.[/box]

Handout Theology: The Law of Christ Defined
Todd Braye

Classic NCT defines the Law of Christ in terms of the commandments of Christ & His apostles found in the NT, written on the pages of Scripture, written in ink.[1] It’s defined, therefore, as something external, outside the believer.

  • The attraction of this view stems from its objective nature – it is external and outside of us!
  • However, the attractiveness of a view is not the proper ground or basis for acceptance; one’s theology must be shaped and grounded in exegesis of actual Scripture texts.
  • This is not intended to be exhaustive, but only an outline driving at, and demonstrating the evidence for, a specific conclusion. This handout presupposes some knowledge of NCT.

1. Christ is the Old Covenant Law’s fulfillment.
Matthew 5:17. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

  • The work the Father gave the Son to do, the Son did without fail and completely (cf. John 17:4; 19:30).

2. Christ is the Old Covenant Law’s Antitype.
Col. 2:16,17. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow [‘skia,’ a faint prototype, or representation] of the things to come, but the substance [‘soma,’ lit. ‘the thing itself’] belongs to Christ.”

  • Christ IS the true Law, the substance, the thing itself!
  • This is not to say the essence of the Law is Christ. One’s shadow is a mere resemblance, not his actual essence. God’s righteousness is fully revealed in Christ (the Son), not the Law (the shadow). Cf. Col 2:9.

3. Christ is the Incarnation of The Old Covenant Law.
John 1:1, 14. “In the beginning was the Word [λόγος]…and the λόγος became flesh.”

  • There is a connection between the Gk. λόγος and the Hebrew תֹּורָה , or torah, which refers to law, the first 5 books of the Bible.[2] The ‘logos’ refers to what the Jews called torah. Jesus is therefore the incarnation of the torah/law, an important consideration in this entire debate. Jesus is the eternal ‘torah’ who dwelt among men as a man.

4. The New Covenant Law is Christ Himself.
Galatians 6:2. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

  • Note immediate context (Gal. 5:16ff.) out of which this verse should not be snatched. Fulfilling the Law of Christ, while burden bearing is indeed a manifestation, can be seen as walking by, and keeping in step with (5:25), the Spirit. See below.
  • “fulfill” – Can mean simply ‘to carry out an obligation, obey’
  • “the law of Christ”- the grammar allows this to be translated ‘the law which/who is Christ’
  • So, “…and so carry out the obligation of /obey Christ.”
  • The Law of Christ is Christ!
  • See below on Isaiah 42:1-6

5. The New Covenant Law of Christ, As Christ Himself, Dwells Within, Not Without
1 Corinthians 9:19-21. “19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law [ὑπὸ νόμον] I became as one under the law [ὑπὸ νόμον] (though not being myself under the law) [ὑπὸ νόμον] that I might win those under the law. [ὑπὸ νόμον] 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) [ἀλλʼ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ,] that I might win those outside the law.”

  • Paul does not write “ὑπὸ νόμον Χριστοῦ (under the law of Christ), but ‘ἔννομος Χριστοῦ’ which means ‘in-lawed to Christ’ or even ‘in the law of Christ.’ It may even be translated ‘in the law which is Christ.’ Whichever translation is adopted, ‘under’ is not correct. The idea conveyed here is in-ness, not ‘under.’

Jeremiah 31: 33. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

  • “Within” not ‘without’
  • “on their hearts” not, ‘on paper with ink’

Notice also the word “covenant.” Isaiah defines this covenant that God writes “on their hearts” in Isaiah 42:1-6.
42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations”

  • Both Jeremiah and Isaiah speak of a future, that is, new, covenant. Isaiah defines that covenant as Christ Himself!
  • So, the law written on the heart, or the covenant ‘not like the one God gave the fathers’ = Christ Himself. Not a list of commands, but a Person.

Ezek. 36:25-27. “25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And 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. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

  • Significant & Noteworthy: Where Jeremiah says God will put His law within, Ezekiel says God will put His Spirit within. So, law written on the heart, or the covenant not like the one given to the fathers, the Person of Christ Himself = “My Spirit within you.”

Galatians 4:6. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

  • IN believers’ hearts
  • Hear the echoes of the Prophet Ezekiel! (“I will put My Spirit within you.”)
  • Cf. Gal.2. 20. “ I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…”

Conclusion: The Law of Christ is the indwelling Christ, written upon the hearts of believers in His Spirit. It is not external, but internal, not in the form of code, but a Person. New Covenant members are conformed to a Person, not to an external code, or list of imperatives. See Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:9-10. In no way is it intended to diminish the importance of the commands of Christ and His apostles. They have a vital role to play. The issue here is only one of defining the Law of Christ as the Bible defines it.


[1] I am aware various viewpoints regarding the Law of Christ exist within what has been labeled classic NCT. For a sampling, I recommend Blake White’s The Law of Christ: A Theological Proposal, or New Covenant Theology (Wells/Zaspel). However, it seems to me that the common aspect shared, whether that Law is defined in terms of the command to love or the commands of Christ & the apostle’s, is exteriority.
[2] Cf. G.R. Beasley-Murray, John, p. 8.