Jesus: Mediator of a Better Covenant (Part One)

[button link=”http://www.desiringgod.org” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Desiring God![/button]     Jesus: Mediator of a Better Covenant  (pt.1) (Hebrews 8:6-13) 
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the Mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8 For finding fault with them, He says, “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; 9 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. Replacement of Shadows with the Reality Last week we saw that Christmas is the replacement of shadows with the Reality that casts the shadow. Remember from Hebrews 8:5 that the priests serve… Read More

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What Really Matters: Galatians 6:15-18

Introduction: We come now to the end of this great letter about the Lord Jesus Christ and the message of his saving work—the gospel or the good news. The original readers of this letter needed the teaching written here, because they were being tempted by false teachers to turn back from Christ and the gospel to the rules and rituals of human religion. We need its message, because we face the same kind of challenges today. In this passionate end to this letter, which Paul writes with his own hand, the Spirit of God calls all who read back to what really matters. It throbs with the zeal of a man who knew what really matters, and what really mattered to him was not religion or a pleasant life, but the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel. One of our problems is that we dabble in everything and are not passionate about anything. We have so many alternatives to occupy our attention that we cannot focus on even what is crucial. We all have “destructive distraction disorder” that disables us from passionately following Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. The glory of the cross of Christ does not stir us, because we are distracted by so many other pursuits. These closing words call us to break from lesser matters and to live for what really matters—Christ and the gospel. Theme: Since Christians should only glory in the cross of Christ, we must be prepared to think and act according to the gospel. Exposition I. Let us understand what counts. 6:15-16 A. External ceremonies or rituals do not count. 1. Nothing external can cause a saving change in a person; nothing external matters. Illustration: The type of schooling, the family environment, the kind of church, the amount of zeal, etc., all… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit Part 12: Not of the Letter, But of the Spirit

This is the 12th 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. If an exter­nal code is the antithe­sis of a life in the Spirit (as we noted in our previous install­ment), what is the expres­sion of a life in the Spirit? Love. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). That love, that love from God via the Holy Spirit given to dwell in us is, as Paul tells us, the ful­fill­ing of the law: [8] Owe no one any­thing, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has ful­filled the law. [9] For the com­mand­ments, “You shall not com­mit adul­tery, You shall not mur­der, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other com­mand­ment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neigh­bor; there­fore love is the ful­fill­ing of the law. (Romans 13:8–10) There are those, espe­cially from the camp that Graeme Goldswor­thy char­ac­ter­izes as “evan­gel­i­cal Judaism,”[1] who will turn verse 10 on its head and say that Paul is telling us that the way we achieve love is through obe­di­ence to the law. For exam­ple, Vin­cent Che­ung writes, “The real bib­li­cal def­i­n­i­tion of love, that is, the love that the Bible com­mands us to have, is defined by obe­di­ence to the law in all of our rela­tion­ships (Romans 13:9–10) – and this includes the com­mands that it makes to both the mind and the body.”[2] Fur­ther­more, Che­ung makes the auda­cious state­ment that God’s love is demon­strated by “prac­ti­cal benev­o­lence” and that the love of the Chris­t­ian should be one of  “accu­rate obe­di­ence.”[3] “In other words,” Che­ung oddly asserts, “you walk in love by obey­ing… Read More

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Recommended: Why I Believe In Believer’s Baptism

Review: Courtesy Edwin Trefger Justin Tay­lor of Cross­way recently had an inter­view on The Gospel Coali­tion web­site with Dr. Stephen J. Wellum of South­ern Bap­tist The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary on cre­dobap­tism. I agree with the way that Dr. Wellum lays out the case, and he does it very well: suc­cinctly and completely. After explain­ing that pae­dobap­tist Reformed the­ol­ogy “flat­tens out” the covenants and wrongly — and per­haps sim­plis­ti­cally — equates Old Covenant Israel with the New Covenant church, Tay­lor asks, “What does that have to do with baptism?” Wellum responds: Every­thing. Under the old covenant, one could make a dis­tinc­tion between the phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual seed of Abra­ham (the locus of the covenant com­mu­nity is dif­fer­ent from the locus of the elect). Under the old covenant, both “seeds” (phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual) received the covenant sign of cir­cum­ci­sion and both were viewed as full covenant mem­bers in the national sense, even though it was only the rem­nant who were the true spir­i­tual seed of Abra­ham. But this kind of dis­tinc­tion is not legit­i­mate under the new covenant where the locus of the covenant com­mu­nity and the elect are the same. In other words, one can­not speak of a “rem­nant” in the new covenant com­mu­nity, like one could under the old covenant. All those who are “in Christ” are a regen­er­ate peo­ple, and as such it is only they who may receive the sign of the covenant, namely baptism. You can read the com­plete inter­view at The Gospel Coali­tion web­site: Why I am a Cre­dobap­tist. Wellum and co-author Peter J. Gen­try have a book com­ing out next June (cover shown above) which could be a ground­break­ing ref­er­ence: King­dom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Under­stand­ing of the Covenants. [Linked: This Mystery]

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A Bruised Reed

Suffering deepens and enriches our experience of grace in ways that can only happen by suffering.  Oftentimes suffering is the tool that God uses to stir up a passion for Jesus and the gospel that has grown cold.  I don’t need to suffer to understand and believe the gospel, but I’ve noticed a pattern in myself and in others close to me with similar experiences in their own gospel wakening, where suffering in some form is what God brought into our lives to gently awaken us to the sweet aroma of the gospel and a renewed passion for the beauty of Jesus.  Sometimes he brings us back to our first love by the tough things we go through and the ugly things he lets us see in ourselves.  But even then, he is gentle and compassionate.  Look at this description of Jesus from Isaiah. …a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:3) Sometimes God bruises us to give us eyes to see things and a heart to love things that had we not been bruised, we would never perceive and understand from the heart.  Sometimes he bruises us to deepen our love for him and our compassion for others. Our bruising gentles us down and magnifies Jesus in us. But even in our bruising, he is kind, compassionate, and gentle.  Isaiah’s description of Jesus is comforting because in my bruised condition, he will never break or destroy me.  There are times when my wick may be dimly lit and little more than a faint flicker, but he’ll not put it out.  He takes this bruised reed and smoldering wick and fans it into a new flame that is unlike the old one.  I like what Jared Wilson said about this… Read More

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Glory in the Gospel: Galatians 6:14

Introduction: Connection with the previous verses: in the Greek text this verse begins with a “but”. The false teachers boasted in ritual, but Paul boasted in Christ. Or they were seeking to avoid persecution because of the cross, but Paul gloried in the cross. “Cross of Christ” always refers to our Lord’s redemptive work, which he accomplished by dying on the cross. It refers to the historical fact plus the proper Biblical interpretation of the event (Mk 15:32; 1 Cor 1:17; Gal 6:12, 14; Ph 3:18). This is the good news or gospel! Christ did everything that was needed for our salvation and acceptance with God. We should remember what the cross meant in Paul’s day. “It is difficult, after sixteen centuries and more during which the cross has been a sacred symbol, to realize the unspeakable horror and loathing which the very mention or thought of the cross provoked in Paul’s day. The word crux was unmentionable in polite Roman society (Cicero, Pro Rabirio 16); even when one was being condemned to death by crucifixion the sentence used an archaic formula which served as a sort of euphemism: arbori infelici suspendito, ‘hang him on the unlucky tree’ (Cicero, ibid. 13).” [Bruce, p. 271] Exposition: How can we glory or boast in the gospel that centers on the cross of Christ? How should the cross change us? I.            This is a very strange boast in the view of people apart from God’s grace. A.            In their view the cross of Christ seems irrelevant to the needs of people. 1.            “What can the death of a Jewish man do for me?” 2.            The answer is, “Who exactly was the One who died? And what was the purpose of his death?” The person who died is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and his… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit Part 11: Not of the Letter, But of the Spirit

This is the 11th 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. There is one more pas­sage in which Paul speaks against the law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion, and that is 2 Corinthi­ans 3. It is per­haps the most spe­cific com­par­i­son between a law of let­ters and of the Spirit – the γράμμα/πνε̣̣ῦμα antithesis. [1] Are we begin­ning to com­mend our­selves again? Or do we need, as some do, let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion to you, or from you? [2] You your­selves are our let­ter of rec­om­men­da­tion, writ­ten on our hearts, to be known and read by all. [3] And you show that you are a let­ter from Christ deliv­ered by us, writ­ten not with ink but with the Spirit of the liv­ing God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. [4] Such is the con­fi­dence that we have through Christ toward God. [5] Not that we are suf­fi­cient in our­selves to claim any­thing as com­ing from us, but our suf­fi­ciency is from God, [6] who has made us com­pe­tent to be min­is­ters of a new covenant, not of the let­ter but of the Spirit. For the let­ter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:1–6) Verse 6, the com­par­i­son between the let­ter and the Spirit, is often used to con­trast the inef­fec­tive­ness of the Mosaic law against the power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. And indeed, the con­text of the fol­low­ing verses in which the “min­istry of death, carved in let­ters on stone,” clearly refer­ring to the tablets given at Sinai as opposed to the min­istry of the Spirit, sug­gests a com­par­i­son between the Deca­logue and the Holy Spirit given to believers. But the letter/Spirit antithe­sis actu­ally goes fur­ther. It is not only the Deca­logue – the law which… Read More

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Sampling Tom Holland's "Romans, The Divine Marriage"

CMC highly recommends this work to those of you who are laboring towards a biblical understanding of the New Covenant. It’s a “must” read! Douglas Moo, the author of the highly acclaimed “The Epistle to the Romans” provided the following endorsement. As the subtitle indicates, Tom Holland’s Romans is truly both biblical and theological, as the letter is set firmly in its unfolding canonical context. Holland shows how Romans contributes to our understanding of God’s covenant arrangement with humankind. The commentary digs deeply into current scholarship on the Old Testament roots of Paul’s teaching, yet presents its conclusions in accessible language. — Douglas Moo, Blanchard Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College __________________ The following extract is an excursus from Romans: The Divine Marriage by Dr Tom Holland. It is published by Wypf and Stock, 2011. Reviews can be seen at http://www.romansthedivinemarriage.com. The extract may be circulated as long as it is acknowledged in any use that is made of it but it remains copyright of the author. Sin in the theology of Paul Paul has much to say about humankind’s sinful condition. His understanding has huge implications for how Christians understand the Bible’s teaching on the state of man, i.e., how he stands before God and how he relates to the rest of creation. The following discussion is an attempt to highlight the danger of absorbing ideas from the culture which Paul would have never owned, particularly about sin, and reading them back into Scripture. These non-Hebraic thought-streams have become so embedded in Western Christian thinking that we unintentionally misrepresent what Paul and the other Scripture writers actually teach.[1] OT background of NT sarx (NIV translation: “sinful nature”) The Greek word σὰρξ (sarx) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew םָשָר (bāsār), the accepted English translation of both sarx and bāsār being “flesh.” It requires a close study of each OT… Read More

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Recommended: "Radical" by David Platt

Do you believe that Jesus is worth abandoning everything for?  This book blew me out of my warm fuzzy feeling churchy comfort zone! – Moe Bergeron Author/Pastor David Platt invites you to encounter what Jesus actually said about being his disciple, and then obey what you have heard. He challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated a God-centered gospel to fit our human-centered preferences. With passionate storytelling and convicting biblical analysis, Platt calls into question a host of comfortable notions that are common among Christ’s followers today. Then he proposes a radical response: live the gospel in ways that are true, filled with promise, and ultimately world changing. – CMC Recommended!

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Guard the Gospel: Galatians 6:11-13

Introduction: For many weeks we have read, listened to, and thought about Paul’s letter to the Galatians. We have been taught the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Today is a time to celebrate this good news! Often this is called “Reformation Sunday”, but we could just as well call it “Gospel Sunday,” since the gospel of Christ is the main point of the Reformation—that the Sovereign God saves sinners by the power of the gospel. Five great principles about the good news were proclaimed at that time, and we will do well to remember them today.   According to the Scriptures alone By grace alone Through faith alone In Christ alone To God alone be the glory However, these truths are not clear to everyone who claims to be a Christian. There has always been a struggle between those who believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, and those who assume that salvation comes by grace through a ritual or through keeping rules. Both sides will talk about grace, but one believes that grace is from God’s sovereign action, the other that grace is controlled by human action, like participating in a sacrament. We must understand that it does not matter what the ritual is. In the passage before us, the issue was circumcision. In other cases, it is baptism (whether by sprinkling or immersion); in still others, it may be an altar call or baby dedication. The form does not matter, as long as one believes that grace is given through the method. If you believe that someone “enters the covenant” or is “saved” by participating in the prescribed ceremony, then you are a ritualist. So Paul concludes his letter to the Galatians with a warning against such ritualists and… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit Part 10: The Law of the Spirit of Life Has Set You Free

This is the 10th 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 Romans 8, Paul pro­vides the solu­tion to the wretched state of the chap­ter 7 man, as he joy­fully pro­claims, “[1] There is there­fore now no con­dem­na­tion for those who are in Christ Jesus. [2] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:1–2). But that does not mean that the law is now harm­less to the regen­er­ate man who nev­er­the­less still has remain­ing sin – and as we noted above – will con­tinue to have remain­ing sin in his flesh until glory. Paul issues this stern warning: [5] For those who live accord­ing to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live accord­ing to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. [6] For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hos­tile to God, for it does not sub­mit to God’s law; indeed, it can­not. [8] Those who are in the flesh can­not please God. (Romans 8:5–8) Sim­i­larly, in 1 Corinthi­ans, Paul reminds us, “[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the vic­tory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:56–57). To focus on the law in our regen­er­ate state is to set our minds on the very thing that pro­vokes sin in the flesh and to set our minds on the very thing that gives sin its power over our flesh.… Read More

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Uphold the law by looking away from it and to Christ

“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”  -Romans 3:31, ESV Romans 3:31 is a proof text and pillar for Covenant Theology’s (CT) insistence for the ‘third use’ of the Law.[1] On the face of it, and within the framework of CT, it is not difficult to see how this verse lends itself to such an understanding. Confessedly, I once saw this verse as a reason to refute the claims of NCT’s view of Mosaic Law. However, three considerations make clear that CT’s view of this verse erroneous. 1. Romans 3:31 cannot oppose what Paul writes elsewhere concerning Mosaic Law & the Christian (e.g. Romans 6-8; 10:4; 2 Cor. 3; Galatians 3-5, Ephesians 2:14-15; Col. 2:14). This is to say nothing of the clear testimony of Hebrews 8-10. To pit Romans 3:31 against the weight and clear teaching of the rest of Scripture is unsound theological method. Paul would not assert one thing in Galatians (namely, freedom from the entire Mosaic legislation) only to contradict himself later in Romans. A high view of Scripture guards against such absurdity since God, the Author of Scripture, is a God of truth. Therefore, since truth by definition is non-contradictory, Paul is not at odds with himself. Romans 3:31 cannot undermine, or fly in the face of, what the apostle writes elsewhere. The veracity of Scripture as a whole is at stake here. 2. The immediate context does not support CT’s confidence. A few verses earlier, in Romans 3:21, Paul states that although justifying righteousness has been manifested apart from the law, the “Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.” The next phrase makes it clear; faith in Christ for righteousness is that to which “the Law and Prophets” bear witness. Therefore,… Read More

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Escape from Passivity: Galatians 6:7-10

Introduction: The believing church in America has been burdened by passivity, that grand art of doing nothing. There are various causes for this passivity, such as overreaction to liberal, salvation by works theology, or of the desire for freedom from hardship and work in helping. But we will not discuss such things today. Instead, let us concentrate on our responsibility to be doers of good. Let us ask ourselves, why should we be doing good? What encourages us to do good? How can we do good?       Exposition I. Two solemn principles (7-8) A. The character of God: he cannot be mocked. 1. This speaks of your attitude; you cannot successfully turn your nose up at God. He will justly act to display his surpassing worth. 2. Some people think they can treat God with contempt by living their own way. Something like, “God really does not care how I live, as long as I believe in Christ.” What this actually shows is a heart still in rebellion against God and his ways. Those who change their mind about God and sin, trust themselves to Christ, who only can save them from their sin. B. The law of harvest: you reap what you sow. 1. This is true in a natural sense; everything produces according to its own kind. Illustration: Consider Sharon’s friendship garden that some have worked so hard to keep it going. Whatever is there, whether lilies, irises, roses, produces after its own kind. 2. It is also true in the spiritual sense. a. Whatever is done for the flesh will only produce corruption; whatever is done for the Spirit will yield eternal life. “Corruption” speaks of all that is miserable to human existence: spiritual, physical, eternal suffering, anguish, pain and grief. “Eternal life” speaks of the… Read More

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Completed by the Spirit Part 9: ‘It Cannot Justify, It Cannot Sanctify’

This is the ninth 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. As we saw in our pre­vi­ous three installments, there are three ways the man of Romans 7 may be identified. 1. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as an uncon­verted Jew under the law, a view we saw explained in the pre­vi­ous installment. 2. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence, per­haps shortly after his con­ver­sion, as he sought sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion through the law. 3. Paul describes his expe­ri­ence as a mature Christian. But as we closed part 8, we asked, “Does it mat­ter to us as an appli­ca­tion of Romans 7 which of the three men Paul is describing?” Whichever of the three views one might hold, two of the same con­clu­sions can be drawn from Romans 7. First: the law can­not save us or sanc­tify us. Sec­ond: the regen­er­ate man is not, and must not live as, a slave to the law. Given those two propo­si­tions, how can it fol­low that the regen­er­ate man should use what enslaved him and what caused him to sin as some­thing to sanc­tify him? As Lloyd-Jones writes: The Apos­tle is not describ­ing his own expe­ri­ence here; but, as I have con­tin­ued to repeat, he is con­cerned to tell us a num­ber of things about the Law, and to show us that the Law can­not save in any respect; it can­not jus­tify, it can­not sanc­tify. That is his one object in the whole of the pas­sage. His inter­est is in the Law. In verse 5 he says that the Law makes us sin more than ever; in verse 13 he says “the law kills me.” He knew he would be crit­i­cized and mis­un­der­stood over this, so he answers the objec­tions. That is all he is doing;… Read More

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