Completed by the Spirit Part 4: The ‘Poverty of our Sanctification?’

This is the fourth part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. Despite Paul’s warn­ings that the law arouses sin, many will point to the law as a prime mover in sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, essen­tial to con­vict­ing us about our remain­ing sin and mea­sur­ing our growth in holi­ness. In doing so, they will attempt to draw a dis­tinc­tion between being “under the law” and fol­low­ing the law. For example: This con­vict­ing use of the law is also crit­i­cal for the believer’s sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, for it serves to pre­vent the res­ur­rec­tion of self-righteousness — that ungodly self-righteousness which is always prone to reassert itself even in the holi­est of saints. The believer con­tin­ues to live under the law as a life­long penitent. This chas­ten­ing work of the law does not imply that the believer’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is ever dimin­ished or annulled. From the moment of regen­er­a­tion, his state before God is fixed and irrev­o­ca­ble. He is a new cre­ation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). He can never revert to a state of con­dem­na­tion nor lose his son­ship. Nev­er­the­less, the law exposes the ongo­ing poverty of his sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion on a daily basis. He learns that there is a law in his mem­bers such that when he would do good, evil is present with him (Rom. 7:21). He must repeat­edly con­demn him­self, deplore his wretched­ness, and cry daily for fresh appli­ca­tions of the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses from all sin (Rom. 7:24; 1John 1:7, 9).[1] Is that really what the Chris­t­ian walk should be, one of  repeated per­sonal con­dem­na­tion? If there is “now no con­dem­na­tion for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), does that now mean the believer must sup­ply his own self-condemnation? What a dis­mal, rot­ten and… Read More

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He Took the Cup: The Cup Symbolizes the New Covenant

A Covenant Is Not a Testament Todd Braye He took bread. Then He took the cup. He gave thanks for it, and said it was the new covenant in his blood. In other words, the cup symbolizes the new covenant, a covenant His death put in force. The old, Mosaic Covenant, the one the Scripture summarizes as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28), was put in force by the blood of young bulls (Exodus 24:5-8). Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the altar, read the words of the covenant to the people, and, after a pledge of obedience by the people, he sprinkled the people. “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words,” he said. So, blood establishes a covenant. “A covenant is not a testament,” Robertson writes. “A covenant is a bond in blood. It involves commitments with life and death consequences. At the point of covenantal inauguration, the parties of the covenant are committed to one another by a formalizing process of blood-shedding. This blood-shedding represents the intensity of the commitment of the covenant.”[1] So, the question is: “What commitments, what covenantal promises did God make that Christ inaugurated by His blood shedding?” And therefore, when we drink the cup, what promises are we ‘drinking’ by faith? This is big. Jeremiah 31:31-34 speaks of this new covenant. I’ll simply read that passage from the ESV and insert some observations. The New Covenant 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of… Read More

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Mark My Words: Galatians 5:2-4

Introduction Galatians 5:2-4 ESV Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.     In chapters 1-4 of this letter, the apostle Paul has set forth the gospel message of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. Now he intends to apply this teaching vigorously to the situation in Galatia. Speaking with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, he expects the Galatians to make immediate changes in their beliefs, attitudes, words, and actions. These changes must be in conformity with the grace of God in the gospel. After the bridge verse (5:1), Paul instructs the Galatians to cling to Jesus Christ alone as their only hope of being right with God. Then the remainder of the letter will set forth the new covenant way of life in the Spirit. Paul uses some strong words to do this. But strong words are necessary when professing Christians listen to error like the Galatians did. It is no small error to listen to teaching that is contrary to the gospel of Christ! So then, he begins by restoring them to right thinking. To have true change, we must always start with the inner person of the heart, and that means starting with the mind. The right order is first the mind, then emotions, then the will. The title of this message is taken from the NIV translation of the Greek particle, which could also be translated as “Look! See! Listen!” It is a word that demands attention. The apostle wants them… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit: Part 3 – The Law Cannot Cope With Sin

This is the third part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. The first of the five propo­si­tions we intro­duced in Part 1 of this series is that the law can­not cope with sin. The law can­not pre­vent sin; the law can’t curb sin; the law is pow­er­less against sin. In fact, Paul tells us, the law pro­vokes sin. Although what the law com­mands is holy, it was given to stiff-necked Israel to increase trans­gres­sions until the Mes­siah, the sin­gle seed of Abra­ham, was to come: [19] Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. [20] Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one. [21] Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. [22] But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. [23] Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. [24] So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. (Gala­tians 3:19–27)[1] In his analy­sis of this pas­sage, Jason C. Meyer ref­er­ences Thomas Schreiner’s argu­ment that, “although the phrase ‘because of trans­gres­sions’ could refer to defin­ing or increas­ing trans­gres­sion, the lat­ter option is prefer­able.”[2] Schreiner gives three rea­sons for that inter­pre­ta­tion: first, that the con­text of the pas­sage is that sal­va­tion can­not be attained by the law; sec­ond, that the rela­tion­ship of “under law and… Read More

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Stand Firm in Freedom – Galatians 5:1

Introduction: Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. How would you describe the purpose of Christ’s coming? Why did Jesus come to die and rise again? We can answer in a number of sound biblical ways. The Savior came that we might be forgiven of our sins and right with God, that we might be reconciled to God, and that we might have a relationship with God (1 Pt 3:18). He came that we might serve the living God (1 Th 1:9). Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 Jn 3:8), that we might have life in its fullness (Jn 10:10), and that we might live godly and do good (Ti 2:11-14).  The answer of our text is unlikely to be suggested out of a context like our text. Our minds, including our evangelical minds, tend to run in other directions. Yet a clear understanding of the answer provided by this text will help us arrive at a better understanding of God’s saving call of grace to us. This is a “bridge verse”, like a land bridge between two continents. It summarizes what has come before and introduces the rest of the letter about true godliness. Now please do not simply nod your heads at this point! What he says here forms the basis of all that will follow. The context of freedom is necessary to avoid turning the pursuit of holiness into legalism. Exposition: I.          The purpose of Christ’s saving work was to set us free, in order that we might live as free people. The worldly person, held fast in the chains of sin, cannot believe that there is liberty in Jesus, the Risen Lord. Every Christian must lay hold of and… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit, Part 2: A Resurrection Like His

This is the sec­ond part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. In the first arti­cle in this series, we looked at five propo­si­tions that Paul intro­duces in his epis­tles about our rela­tion­ship to the law and its rela­tion­ship to our sanctification: First, law can­not cope with sin. Sec­ond, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is ful­fills the law. Third, it is the Spirit that pro­duces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remain­ing sin­ful flesh can only pro­duce sin. Fourth, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion – a growth in holi­ness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhor­ta­tions about what it means to be Christ-like. Fifth, that the imper­a­tives Paul gives to us are not them­selves laws and are not given as laws or in the cat­e­gory of law, because they flow from the indica­tive of our reliance upon Christ and our posi­tion in Christ. Before we address those five propo­si­tions indi­vid­u­ally in future arti­cles, we need to con­sider the escha­tol­ogy of our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. We will indeed be glo­ri­fied, Paul promises (Romans 8:30). What is impor­tant now about that final and com­plete sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.” Cer­tainly the apos­tle John gives us the most poignant view of what we will be: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). But Paul also com­pre­hends and explains to us that we indeed shall be like our Sav­ior. In his bene­dic­tion at the end of 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, Paul writes, “[23] Now may the God of peace him­self sanc­tify you com­pletely, and may your… Read More

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Foundations: “The Sabbath” (Part Three) — Hebrews 3:7b-4:13 — Todd Braye

Please open your Bibles to Hebrews 3:7. Today we resume our studies on the Sabbath. And though we shall pick up from where we left last week with chapter 4, we’ll read from chapter 3 verse 7 for the sake of context. Hear then the holy and inerrant word of God: 7b … “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. 4 Therefore, while… Read More

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Children of the Free Woman – Galatians 4:21-31

Introduction This section is addressed to those “who want to be under the law.” In the context of the letter to the Galatians, this would mean those Galatians who had fallen under the influence of the false teachers, often called Judaizers. In our day it could be addressed to many who are legalistic or who follow various kinds of scripture twisters, who seek to put people back under the law. This includes a whole class of people that assume that the way to God is by the observance of various rules and/or rituals. It also includes those who think that their relationship with God “depends on a strict adherence to regulations, traditions and ceremonies. They are in bondage to them” (Stott). Paul exposes the inconsistency of their position. “You want to be under the law? Really now, have you ever paid attention to what the law says?” (Observe the shift in Paul’s use of the word law from covenant to the Scriptures.) There are three stages in his argument in this passage.   Exposition I.          The first stage: historical (4:22-23) Observation: The early church used and knew the Old Testament Scriptures. The New Testament Scriptures were in the process of being written and distributed. Therefore, the Old Testament Scriptures were the Bible, along with the teachings of the apostles and new covenant prophets. So then, how much do you use and know the Old Testament Scriptures?             A.        Paul gives an argument that is rooted in Old Testament history.                         1.         The facts of history were that God had made a covenant with Abraham and that the Jews were descended from him. However, the Jews (cf. John 8:1-59) and the false teachers afflicting the Galatians insisted on an interpretation of those facts that the Scripture would not allow. Therefore, Paul… Read More

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What Is The Christian Faith

-Adapted from the writings of John G. Reisinger 1. CHRISTIANITY IS A PERSON Christianity is not a set of rules. It has some very important rules, but Christianity is neither preaching nor obeying rules. There is a very simple but effective way of testing every preacher we hear. The false preacher is always reminding us of what we must do. His message is constantly focused on man’s efforts and is always “do” centered. The true preacher keeps reminding us of what Christ has done for us, and his message is focused on Christ and is “done” centered. One threatens with law and the other appeals by the cross. Christianity is not a series of ceremonies. It has ceremonies such as baptism and communion, but the essence of the Christian faith is not in the ceremonies and symbols. You may be baptized and take communion every day and still be as lost as the worst pagan in the world. Christianity is not a certain feeling that we get that enables us to smile and be at peace with ourselves and our fellow man. If we truly receive the forgiveness of sins through faith in the gospel, we will surely feel differently; but the Christian faith is not a feeling, it’s a Person. Christianity is not joining a group. You may even join the right group, but that will not make you a Christian. Becoming a Christian is far more than joining a church or any other organization. Christianity is not a cause. Many people in our day are trying to make a revolutionary cause to be synonymous with the Christian faith. God is said to “be on the side of the poor,” so every movement or cause that is aimed at helping the poor becomes the gospel. The cause may be… Read More

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A Strained Relationship – Galatians 4:12-20

Introduction We need always to look at ourselves through three lenses: the lens of creation, the lens of sin, and the lens of redemption in Christ. As we understand what we are by creation (all made in the image of God), by sin (rebellious and relationship mess makers), and by redemption (united in Christ with all believers), we will have a starting point to work through the messiness of friendship in Christ. Oh yes, sometimes believers’ relationships with one another can be strained! But we should see how even strained relationships can be opportunities to serve one another in love for gospel growth. This passage sets forth a fact of Christian experience. A person can be a staunch defender of the faith and at the same time very zealous for the good and eternal salvation of people. In fact, the person who loves the truth of the gospel also loves people, who need the salvation purchased by the Christ of the gospel. Illustration: Surely there are many throughout church history that show forth both of these qualities. If you would like to read the stories of two of them, I recommend biographies of George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon. In our text Paul relates his love for the Galatians, while at the same time he expresses his zeal for the truth. He is willing to work through their messy relationship to establish them more firmly in the truth. May we learn this lesson well.   Exposition I.            Paul appeals for reconciliation (Gal 4:12). A.            He was open toward them. 1.            The phrase “become like me, for I became like you” means “‘I have come to regard myself as one of you’—more particularly, I am your father and you are my children (cf. v. 19)” (Bruce). See also 2 Cor 6:11-13. 2.           … Read More

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Completed by the Spirit, Part 1: Five Propositions

This is the first part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010. For the apostle Paul, the Mosaic law – or any external commands not grounded in the indicative of the Spirit of God given to dwell in the believer – is antithetical to our growth in holiness; rather it is the Holy Spirit who is transforming the believer from “one degree of glory to another,’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul´s teaching on the inability of the law to effectively combat sin in the life of the Christian has been distorted by many, resulting in an improper focus on law that continues to enslave believers in sin.[1] Perhaps Paul´s exasperated exclamation and rhetorical questions to the “foolish’ Galatians is summary enough of Paul´s view of the law: [2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [4] Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? [5] Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— [6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? (Galatians 3:2–6) “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?’ That antithesis – the Spirit and the flesh – draws the battle lines for Paul between those who would have believers continuing as slaves to sin instead of living as slaves to Christ and reaping the fruit of the Spirit. It is, as Paul tells the Thessalonians,… Read More

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Caution: Handle God’s Possessions with Care

1 Corinthians 8:11-13 Introduction[1]   We will be finishing up 1 Corinthians 8 this morning. It will be helpful for us to do a bit of recap before jumping into the text. I will remind you of five things. 1. In Corinthians 8 Paul is addressing the issue of eating meat which has been sacrificed to idols (see 8:1, 4). 2. There are two different camps in the Corinthian church; the strong and the weak. The strong feel full liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols while the weak do not. The strong can eat such idol meat with a good conscience because they understand that there is only one God and that idols are nothing in the world (8:4). The weak, on the other hand, are those who have recently converted out of idolatry (8:7). Because they have recently converted out of idolatry they are still in the process of adjusting to the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity. They weak cannot eat meat sacrificed to idols with a good conscience because, being new to the Christian faith, although they have embraced Christian truth, they have yet to understand the full implications of Christian truth. 3. Paul agrees with the strong theologically (vss. 4-6). However, he rebukes the strong for not being willing to give up the right of eating idol meat for the sake of their recently converted, vulnerable brothers and sisters in the faith. 4. Paul’s greatest concern is that these newly converted brothers and sisters will fall back into idolatry by mindlessly imitating their spiritual mentors (the strong). The weaker brothers have always and only eaten meat sacrificed to idols as an act of worship to whatever idol the meat was sacrificed to. They do not know how to distinguish between eating idol meat and worshipping idols.… Read More

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NEW COVENANT PROVISION FOR KING DAVID’S SIN

2 Samuel 12:1-31 So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. (2) The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, (3) but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. It lived and grew up with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. (4) Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest. (5) David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! (6) Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.” (7) Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. (8) I gave your master’s house to you and your master’s wives into your arms, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah, and if that was not enough, I would have given you even more. (9) Why then have you despised the command of the LORD by doing what I consider evil? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife–you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword. (10) Now therefore, the… Read More

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Foundations: “The Sabbath” (Part Two) — Hebrews 3:7b-4:13 — Todd Braye

Introduction Today we press on in our studies on the Sabbath. To that end I invite you to open your bibles to Hebrews 3:7. The full text is Heb 3:7b – 4:13. We won’t get through all of it today. But I hope that what we do accomplish this morning will set the stage for next week. Hebrews 3:7b – 4:13. Hear then the precious and inerrant word of God: A Rest for the People of God “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his… Read More

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