Authority of Christ

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

You couldn’t have a more authoritative command from anybody, because it comes from the risen Son of God. He was on a mountain top in Galilee speaking to His eleven disciples who had gone there to meet Him. They had been told to do so by Mary Magdalen and the other Mary at the behest of the resurrected Jesus whom they met while on the way to the disciples. (Matthew 28:10)

I wonder what the disciples thought might happen when they met Jesus. Would He tell them He was about to overcome the Roman occupying forces and establish Himself as King of the Jews? Would they sit with Him in positions of power and authority in Jerusalem? (Matthew 20:20-24)

Instead, none of this happened. After commissioning them to make disciples who were to make more disciples, (Matthew 28:18-20) He lifted up His hands and blessed them. As He did so He parted from them into heaven. (Luke 24:50)

Previously He had told them they were to be witnesses to Him, and that all nations should hear the preaching of repentance and remission of sins in His name. This preaching was to start in Jerusalem and spread from there to the whole world. (Luke 24:46-48)

They still had not twigged-on to what sort of kingdom Jesus had come to establish. It was not a physical kingdom as they had assumed, but a spiritual kingdom where His followers would worship Him in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)

How would it be done? It would be done in the power of the Spirit – the Holy Spirit that He had promised His Father would send to them. (Luke 24:49; John 14:26) At Pentecost the Spirit was manifested in great power. (Acts 2:1-4) Endued with the Spirit, the disciples did many miracles, (Acts 5:14-16; 9:32) even raising people to life, (Acts 9:36-41; 20:7-12) thus demonstrating their authority in the Lord.

Sadly, many Christians do not exercise the authority they have been given. They may not even be aware of it. They cannot forgive sins, but they can tell of Jesus who is able. Only He has the authority to forgive sins, and by His authority He commands His disciples to make more disciples in His name. (Matthew 28:19) They are to teach what He taught them, and with this knowledge and by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, people will be born again. (John 3:3)

Making Disciples

There’s a very good book on the subject of making disciples. It is called, ‘Make Disciples!’, by Frederick Serjeant. You can find it at www.amazon.co.uk . Just insert details of the author’s name and the title of the book into the search box, and you’ll find Kindle and paperback versions of the book.

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God/Man Relationships

What is the Bible all about? Those who read and study it will know that the whole book centres on the Lord Jesus Christ and His relationships with the people He created. From beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the central character. He was the Creator of the world and Author of the Universe. (John 1:3) Without God ‘speaking’ the world into being (Genesis 1:3, 6,9, 11, 14, 20, 24) and creating the earth’s inhabitants, both humans and animals, there would be no relationships between them.

Many animals, and virtually all humans are gregarious. In other words they like the company of their kind. Men and women are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26) God, although One, (Mark 12:32) is also Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All three Persons have a relationship of perfect love and harmony. When ‘He’ made the world God said, “Let Us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26) He did it with a view to having a relationship with them, so that they could enjoy Him for ever.

His eternal plan was to have them live with Him in a perfect land/world where they would live with Him without end. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

As we read the Bible we discover there was a harmonious relationship between the first man Adam, and God. God created him from the dust of the earth, (Genesis 2:7) and He created Eve as a partner for him. She was made from one of Adam’s ribs, (Genesis 2:21, 22) and because of this there was a direct relationship between them. They were of the same kind – Adam a male, and Eve a female. They were to have a perfect, loving relationship, (Genesis 2:23, 24) and a special relationship with God and His creatures. (Genesis 1:27, 28) All of God’s creatures were to multiply. (Genesis 1:22, 28; 9:7)

In the Genesis account we come to a point in time when things appear to go pear-shaped, but it was all in God’s plan. The serpent enters the Garden of Eden and lures Eve into disobeying God who had imposed one rule for Adam and Eve to keep. They were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16, 17) God warned them that if they did, they would surely die. Eve succumbed to the serpent’s cunning and ate of the tree. Adam also ate of it, at which moment they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. (Genesis 3:6, 7) They hid in the garden, but to no avail, for God found them, and He cursed the serpent and ‘put enmity’ between him and Eve’s Seed, saying, “He (the Seed) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

These words encapsulate the theme of conflict between Jesus and satan (the serpent/devil) that runs through the Bible. The ‘Seed’ with a capital ’S’ is Jesus, who would ultimately overcome the serpent. However, the serpent would strike Jesus. He would suffer and die as a result, before being raised to life, triumphantly outmanoeuvring the serpent (devil) whom He would finally cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10)

The Old Testament tells the story of God’s special people, the Israelites, (Deuteronomy 7:6) who would inherit a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:8, 17) However, there were conditions of obedience to God if they were to enter the land.(Deuteronomy 26:16, 17) They miserably failed to obey His laws, but for the sake of His name, (Ezekiel 20:44) after 40 years of wandering in the desert under the leadership of Moses, Joshua led their sons and daughters into the land of Canaan. (Joshua 21:43-45)

In due time after many failings and warnings from the Prophets, Israel and Judah were united under the kingship of David. (2 Samuel 5:1-5) God promised him that his Seed would sit on his throne forever. (2 Samuel 7:12, 13; Revelation 4:9, 10) The ‘Seed’ was the same Seed who would overcome the serpent, and whose lineage could be traced to Adam. (Luke 3:23-38) However, God’s people repeatedly disobeyed Him. In turn He exiled them to Assyria and Babylonia. Eventually a remnant returned to their homeland and rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem, but there followed about 460 years of silence from the Prophets until the time of Jesus, who was the prophesied Prophet like Moses, and whom the people were to hear. (Deuteronomy 18:15)

The New Testament continues the Seed’s story. He would be killed as prophesied (John 11:49-52) and raised from the dead to triumph over the serpent. (Luke 24:44-48) He would call a people to Himself (1 Peter 2:9, 10) who would live with Him forever in a perfect, new land without blemish. This will be the new earth where the new Jerusalem will be full of God’s glory and its inhabitants will have no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4) There will be no more curse. (Revelation 22:3) The curse of Adam will be annulled. (Genesis 3:17-19)

From this sketchy outline of the Bible’s revelation of Jesus, and His resolution to redeem a holy nation to Himself, you can see it is mainly about relationships. God relates to the people whom He has created. Many reject His offer of love and reconciliation through His Son, (John 3:16) but those who take hold of it have a relationship with Him and with one another. God called them to Himself, and He calls them to love one another as He loves them. (John 13:34; Romans 13:8)

Initially, the relationship right from the time of Adam’s transgression was broken for him and for his offspring, because of his disobedience which brought death. All were doomed to die, because in Adam all mankind sinned. (Romans 3:23) Not until Jesus paid the price for the sin of Adam, by dying as a sacrifice for the elect, was the relationship restored with those who would believe in Him. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast’. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

Those who are ‘in Christ’ have a living relationship with the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Spiritually, they live in the land of promise, and in time to come they will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

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Fasting

A Christian friend of mine mentioned that he fasted, and I asked him why. He said he found fasting helpful for his walk with the Lord. At times he felt he was falling short of the devotion he should have for Him, and he was dissatisfied with his own conduct and commitment to living worthily of Him. On such occasions he found fasting got him back on track. Sometimes he would fast for as long as three days without food, drinking only water, and while doing so he would engage in intense study of the Bible, coupled with prayer. The outcome for him was always positive. Afterwards he found he was refreshed and zealous for continuing his walk of obedience, desiring wholeheartedly to serve the Lord.

My conversation with my friend got me thinking. Why didn’t I fast? And, what does the Bible teach about it?

But, instead of going to the Bible, my first reaction was to turn on my computer and Google Christian fasting. I was amazed to discover loads of information telling of different fasting practices that take place in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox churches – each having their own directives as to how, and when fasting should be done, but how biblical are their rules and regulations, if at all? Are they nothing more than observances and stumbling blocks devised by men?

Googling was getting me nowhere; it was a distraction. I had been distracted, just as Martha had been distracted from the teaching of Jesus when He was a guest at her house, along with others. (Luke 10: 38-42) Instead of doing the needful thing, which was to pay attention to the Lord, Martha became preoccupied with ‘serving’ people, and she became upset because her sister Mary was not helping her.

Instead, she should have focussed her attention on the Lord and to what He had to say. That’s what I should be doing! So I’ll turn now to His Word to hear what He has to say about fasting.

Some Texts Relating to Fasting

Isaiah 58:1-14 is all about the attitudes of those who fast. God told His people through Isaiah that He was not pleased with them, because while fasting, they were more concerned about having a good time and with exploiting their labourers than with delighting Him. They should have repented, done good works, and freed people from their bondage. They should have released them from their heavy burdens, sheltered the poor and provided for the naked. Graciously, God said that if they were to come to Him with sincere delight and genuine devotion, He would feed them with the heritage of Jacob, (v 14) and guard them with His glory. (v 8)

Had the Israelites fasted with the right attitudes and with good works, they would have been rewarded by the LORD.

Matthew 4:2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He was hungry.

Jesus, having been baptised by John, saw the Spirit of God alighting upon Him, and the voice of God was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:16, 17) Shortly afterwards He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

There he fasted for forty days and forty nights, but why did He fast?

He was placed in a position of unimaginable temptation, but He did not succumb to the wiles of the devil. Without His fasting, the devil could not have tried exploiting the situation of Jesus’s extreme hunger. He tried tempting Him by saying, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,”  Jesus rebuked and humiliated him by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 ‘……. man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. (Matthew 4:4)

The Deuteronomy passage comes within the context of the Israelites’ forty years of wanderings in the desert. They had been humbled and chastened by God for lack of obedience to His word, despite the fact they had been dependent upon Him for the provision of manna and garments that did not wear out. If they were to enter the Promised Land and occupy it, they would only succeed by obeying His commandments. (Deuteronomy 8:1-6)

From this we learn that the fasting and temptation of Jesus was for preparing and strengthening Him for His great mission of overcoming the devil, sin and death. Bear in mind, this was a superlative temptation, since Jesus, although He was the Son of God, was also a man who could have been tempted, but unlike Adam he remained obedient to God.

Matthew 6:16-18

This too, is about attitudes and motivations for fasting. Jesus says to those who fast, they are to hide the fact, and their Father who sees them in the secret place, will reward them openly. (Verses 17-18)

Ezra 9:5

At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God.’

The fasting of Ezra within the context of Chapter 9, was one of sorrow and of contrition for the sins of God’s people, the priests, and the Levites who had disobeyed Him by not separating themselves from the Canaanites and other abominable nations. Their menfolk had ‘taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands.’ (v 2)

Ezra, as the leader of the people, fasted to express his remorse to the LORD for the iniquities of those who had forsaken His commandments. (v 10)

Nehemiah 1:4

‘So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.’

Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer, was distressed when he heard of the pitiful condition of his brethren, the survivors in Jerusalem, the walls of which were broken down, and its gates were burned with fire. (Nehemiah 1:1-3) His response was to fast and pray. He pleaded with God to let him go to Jerusalem to rebuild it.

Conclusion

Well, I could look at many more texts about fasting, but from the ones above, what is to be learned?

Both the Old Testament Jews and the people of the New Testament fasted, Jesus was the notable example in the NT. We see from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 4, that He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Fasting helped prepare and strengthen Him for His mission of overcoming the devil, sin and death, and calling a people for Himself.

We learn from Isaiah, chapter 58 that it is necessary for those fasting to have the right attitudes of heart, and to please God by living righteously.

In Matthew 6:16-18 we note that it pleases God for those fasting to hide the fact. He knows what is in their hearts.

In Ezra 9.5 we discover Ezra fasted because of being sorrowful for the sins of God’s people. They and the priests and the Levites had broken God’s commandments by marrying foreigners, so Ezra petitioned God to help him restore the situation.

Nehemiah 1:4 reveals Nehemiah’s penitence and sorrow for the abysmal state of Jerusalem which caused him to fast and pray for its restoration.

Summary

Fasting can help one to prepare and be strengthened for ministry, but it should be done with the right attitudes of heart, and in secret. Fasting can be an expression of sorrow for sins, and coupled with prayer it can be used to petition God.

Should I fast?

Yes, when I have the heart and desire to do so. I thank my friend for drawing my attention to his practice of fasting.

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Separate Gender Meetings within a Church?

The Proposition

Is it biblical to hold separate gender meetings within a church, especially on a regular basis? I believe not, apart from the meeting of elders, and yet it is the practice of many churches.

Except for the meetings of male elders for church business or prayer, I cannot find scriptures that support the practice of regular separate gender gatherings of church members for worship or for any other business. Indeed, scriptures written post-Pentecost, when the Church came into being by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 2:1-4) nowhere advocate the assembling of separate gender meetings. On the other hand there are scriptures that reveal the occasional meetings together of some women for specific purposes, such as when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome gathered at the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body. (Mark 16:1-2)

The teachings of Paul in his letters to Timothy preclude women from holding positions of eldership and authority over men; therefore Bishops, deacons or elders – all such ‘overseers’ were men. (1 Timothy 3:2, 8) When they met to discuss particular issues, there was no reason why they shouldn’t have invited women to attend, particularly if an issue being discussed related to women.

Because single gender meetings were not the norm in the early church, I believe we should follow that same practice today. Furthermore, I can find no mandate, command, or even a hint that single gender meetings should take place.

The fact that Christ’s twelve Apostles were all men had no bearing on the mixed gender composition of the Church. Jesus called the Apostles at that time to preach the Gospel and to be His witnesses. (1 Corinthians 15:7) They were to participate in founding the Church, with Him as the Chief Cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20) Of course, the Holy Spirit was instrumental in giving birth to the Church at Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-42)

It is my contention the practice of holding separate gender meetings is one of tradition, but traditions can be dreadfully wrong, and we should test them to see if they conform to Scripture. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

Scriptural Support for the Proposition

I’ll support my proposition that separate gender meetings within a church are non-biblical by consulting books of the New Testament only, because the Church did not exist in Old Testament times. The first mention of Christ’s church comes in Matthew 16:18 when He said He would build His church on ‘this rock’ . Apart from that text and Matthew 18:17 there are no other mentions of Christ’s church per se in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We therefore have to turn our attention to the other books, four of which have texts providing information on the matter.

The Acts of the Apostles

As we read through Acts we find that after Christ’s ascension, both men and women ‘continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.’ (Acts 1:14)

Shortly after the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and addressed the Jewish men of Judea saying that he had a message for them and all who dwell in Jerusalem, i.e., both male and female. (Acts 2:14) He quoted Joel 2:28-32 which said God would pour out His Spirit on ‘all’ flesh and ‘sons and daughters’ who would prophesy. (Acts 2:17, 18) The pouring out of the Spirit would be on both men and women, and both would prophesy. Indeed, in Acts 21:9 we read that Philip the evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied. Peter said the promise of the Holy Spirit was for ‘all’ whom the Lord will call. (Acts 2:38, 39) Three thousand souls were added that day. They, both men and women, continued in the breaking of bread and in prayer. They had all things in common, selling their possessions and goods. Believers were increasingly added to the Lord – multitudes of both men and women. (Acts 5:14)

Several years later, Barnabas sought and found Saul at Tarsus and took him to Antioch where for a whole year they ‘assembled with the church and taught a great many people’. There, the disciples were called Christians, a derisory term. (Acts 11:25, 26) The church was composed of both men and women who met together to worship God and receive instruction.

Herod, after killing James the brother of John, imprisoned Peter, but the Lord’s angel released him, and he went to John Mark’s mother’s house where many were gathered together praying. They were astonished at the miracle that had taken place. (Acts 12:1-17) Both men and women were gathered together in prayer (v 12) at the house, where Peter was greeted by Rhoda. (v 13)

1 Corinthians

The next significant mention concerning the meeting together of men and women can be found in chapter 14:34 of 1 Corinthians. There Paul describes how women are to conduct themselves during worship. He says, “Let your women keep silent in churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” Clearly this verse supports the principle of men and women being together during church worship and the relationship of submission of the women to men. By extension it is reasonable to apply this principle to all male/female relationships within the Church. Indeed, Paul clearly presents the argument of submission in Ephesians 5:17-27.

Colossians 3

In Colossians 3:15-17 we find Paul emphasising that the church is ‘one body’ whose members are to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. By way of Paul’s teaching, it would appear that women, even though submissive to men, can admonish both men and women; therefore the keeping of silence required in I Corinthians 14:34 must refer specifically to ‘prophesy’ mentioned in verse 31. They were not to prophesy at church gatherings. Today, there is no prophesy, since all prophecy ceased with the completion of Scripture. (Revelation 22:18)

I Timothy

Paul desired that men and women should worship together; the men praying and the women dressed in ‘modest apparel’. (1 Timothy 2:8, 9) He said women should learn in silent submission, and he did not permit them to teach or have authority over men. (v 12)

Conclusion

Having diligently searched relevant scriptures, i.e., the whole of the New Testament, I have not been able to find any that are contrary to my proposition. Indeed, I’ve found the above mentioned texts support it. My purpose in presenting this article is not to bring division, but to promote unity in the body of Christ, which is one in Him. (Galatians 3:26-29) Therefore divisions of gender, colour, race, or of any kind do not accord with those who have ‘put on Christ’. We are ‘free’ to have separate gender meetings, but as Paul said, all things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

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Benefits of the New Covenant

The Bible’s focus and theme from beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation, is Jesus Christ the Son of God and His people whom He would redeem. As history unfolds, the mystery of salvation (Mark 4:11) through Jesus is gradually revealed by the prophetic writings, made manifest through the enabling of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 16:25, 26) The Spirit speaks today to those who have been baptised in Him; He is the Spirit of Truth. (John 16:13)

None of this could have been possible without Jesus actually fulfilling the law and the Prophets. (Matthew 5:17) The fulcrum point of His fulfilment was the act of the shedding of His blood at Calvary. He sacrificially laid down His perfect and sinless life so that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life. (John 3:16) Christians are commanded by Him to remember His death as often as they drink the cup of ‘the new covenant’ in His blood. (1 Corinthians 11:25)  They are to ever remember and be grateful for what He has done, while looking to the future coming of Him again. (John 14:3)

So what are the benefits (blessings) of the New Covenant?

Firstly, believers are no longer under the wrath of God (Romans 8:1) who justly and rightly is Sovereign over all whom He has created. His creatures are accountable to Him. (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13) They are without excuse, for they all know they have fallen short of what He requires, i.e., obedience to Him. (Romans 1:18-32)

Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus believers are forgiven their sin. (Ephesians 1:7) They are accounted righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. (Romans 4:5) God sees them as He sees His Son, the One with whom He was well pleased.(Matthew 3:17; 12:18; 17:5)

Christians have freedom to obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 5:13:-14; 6:2) They can walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) because they are led by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18)

Those born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-8; Luke 3:16) have access to God through His Son by the Spirit. They have communion with the Father, Son and Spirit, as well as with those who are in the Son. (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; 2 Corinthians 13:14)

Believers will be given an inheritance in the new earth, and they will dwell with God. (John 14:2; Revelation 21:1-3) This could not happen without Jesus fulfilling the new covenant and God’s sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 2:1-4) Had the Holy Spirt not come in great power, the Church of Jesus would never have been born. God’s new Israel,  (Galatians 6:16) His believing people, will dwell with Him in a perfect Paradise.

What better news could there be than this? It is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There will be no more death, no sorrow and no pain; for all of these things will have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Jesus came to give peace and goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:10-14) Therefore, why not repent and turn toward Him? (Matthew 3:2; 4:17)

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The Fallibility of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith?

All men are fallible. The only infallible being is God. He has never made a mistake, and He has never apologised. He has given His Word, i.e., the Bible, to men as a revelation of Himself and of His will for them. His Son, Jesus said, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; He also said no one can come to His Father except through Him. (John 14:6) If we accept and believe this, while confessing our sins before Him, obeying and following Him in faith, because of His atoning work on the cross, we can be counted as redeemed, along with myriads of His saints, past, present and future. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It is essential, therefore, that we hear and take in the truth of Jesus Christ. The prime way of obtaining the truth is the study of His Word, which was written by willing writers ‘inspired’ by the Holy Spirit. They wrote in their own styles, but each was guided by the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21)

Christian beliefs are determined by inwardly digesting biblical texts and appropriating them. It is therefore important to understand what the writers desired to communicate. The more the reader learns about the contents of the sixty-six books comprising the Bible, the better is his comprehension of them. The Bible alone is sufficient for man’s understanding of God’s desire for His creatures, and for their salvation, but not without regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit, who imparts spiritual life to those who become believers. Without the life-giving Holy Spirit, all are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13) and those who remain as such, are condemned to eternal punishment in Hell. (Matthew 18:8; John 3:17, 18; Revelation 21:6-8)

Because men (and women) are fallible, they cannot be relied upon to tell the truth, even to know the truth, and yet Jesus said He was the Truth. (John 14:6) Jesus was the only man who could say truthfully He was the Truth. He could do this because He was God and man at the same time, yet without sin. If He is the Truth, He cannot lie.

Followers of Christ over the ages have wanted to clarify their beliefs and understandings of the Holy Scriptures, and to this end they have devised Creeds and Confessions of Faith. There are numerous versions of such. All Christians, whether they realise it or not, have their own confessions of faith. They may not write them down, but in their minds they have a framework of biblical understanding – sometimes very limited, because of only having been fed on milk (1 Corinthians 3:2). Others may be more mature through diligent study and by revelation of the Spirit. (John 15:26)

Whichever is the case, both may be flawed, because although seeking the truth, they are not the Truth! On this premise it is reasonable to suggest that men will not always get their Creeds and Confessions of Fatih right, so as to tally with God’s Word.

I have spoken to men who have a great desire to learn more of their Lord Jesus, and with this endeavour they have taken on studies at biblical seminaries. Quite rightly, before applying for a course, they have examined the seminary’s Statement of Faith, and, as is quite often the case, it subscribes to a particular Confession of Faith – perhaps the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, or the Westminster Confession of Faith. The applicant may say with some assurance, the reason for his choice of seminary is because its Statement of Faith subscribes to a particular Confession of Faith.

This indicates that the applicant wishes to discern between seminaries based on his knowledge of the Scriptures and the seminaries’ Statements of Faith, but there is a problem, because the applicant’s discernment is limited by his knowledge of the Scriptures, the very reason for him wanting to learn more of the Gospel of Truth. He may ask friends or church leaders to suggest or recommend a seminary, but they may be in the dark also. There is a further problem, in that the preferred Confession of Faith was written by fallible men; albeit, probably a consensus of Godly men who devoutly loved the Lord, and desired only to explain the truth of the Gospel.

Each one of us who worships the Lord has a responsibility to seek the truth contained within the Bible. We must use our reasoning in like manner to that of the Bereans who diligently searched the Scriptures to ascertain the truth. (Acts 17:11) The answer for us is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth as we study the Bible. (John 16:13) By relying on fallible Confessions of Faith we can be led astray. We must rely on God’s Word alone; appropriate it and live it in the Truth, i.e. for Jesus to His glory. We must abide in Him. (John 15:4, 5) We should not put our faith in men, but trust Jesus and His infallible Word. (1 Timothy 4:10)

Are there Flaws in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith?

In no way do I want to be judgmental about the 1689 (Second) London Baptist Confession of Faith. In all humility I recognise my own fallibility and my limited academic knowledge of the Scriptures. I also recognise I do not have a vast knowledge concerning their writers, their histories or their cultures, but according to what has been revealed to me through my study of the Bible, I believe I may have found flaws in the 1689 London Confession of Faith.

I would welcome your feedback, especially if you disagree with me, so that I may learn of errors on my part.

My Observations

My first point refers to the validity of a so-called ‘covenant’ mentioned in:

 Chapter 7: Of God’s Covenant

1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

( Luke 17:10; Job 35:7,8 )

I ask the question, “Which Covenant?” See 2 below, which makes me equally perplexed.

2. Moreover, man having brought himself under the curse of the law by his fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace, wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

( Genesis 2:17; Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:20, 21; Romans 8:3; Mark 16:15, 16; John 3:16; Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 6:44, 45; Psalms 110:3 )

Again, I ask which of these supporting texts refers to a ‘covenant of grace’? God is indeed gracious by offering sinners life and salvation through Jesus, but He does not make a ‘covenant’ of grace’ with them.

3. This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament; and it is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect; and it is alone by the grace of this covenant that all the posterity of fallen Adam that ever were saved did obtain life and blessed immortality, man being now utterly incapable of acceptance with God upon those terms on which Adam stood in his state of innocency.
( Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 11:6, 13; Romans 4:1, 2, &c.; Acts 4:12; John 8:56 )

God never made a covenant with Adam. He simply commanded him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17) In this same verse we note that God warned Adam of the consequence of disobedience in this matter – he would ‘surely’ die. Genesis 3:15 states there would be ‘enmity’ between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s Seed who would ‘bruise’ the serpent’s head, and the serpent would bruise the heel of the Seed. This is both a promise and a decree. It is not a covenant. God cannot lie, and He is Sovereign; therefore what He said would take place, and it did take place! Jesus, the Seed, overcame the serpent (satan) at the cross. He triumphed over him by rising from the dead, having fulfilled the Prophets (Luke 24:44; Matthew 26:56; Acts 13:27) and by bringing into effect the New Covenant in His blood. (1 Corinthians 11:28; Hebrews 8:13; 9:15; Matthew 26:28)

Regarding the eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect’, as far as I am aware, there is no mention in the Bible of a covenant being made between the Father and Son. A covenant cannot be made with oneself. There must of needs be more than one party involved in making a covenant. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29); therefore He cannot make a covenant with Himself.

Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator

4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

( Psalms 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10:5-10; John 10:18; Gal 4:4; Matthew 3:15; Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; Matthew 27:46; Acts 13:37; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; John 20:25, 27; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9, 10; Acts 1:11; 2 Peter 2:4 )

The body of Jesus after His resurrection had ‘different’ properties, in that it could appear and disappear (Luke 24:31) and it could pass through shut doors. (John 20:26) In that sense, it was not the ‘same’ body.

Before his resurrection His body was just like yours and mine, and yet He walked on water, (Mattherw 14:25) but so did Peter. (Matthew 14:29) Both events were miraculous. At the mountain where Jesus was transfigured (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2) His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. This too, was a miraculous event.

At all times before His resurrection, Jesus, although fully God without loss of deity, was fully man. He was born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:20, 23), but was conceived of the Holy Spirit. In order to be Spirit and ascend to His Father, who is Spirit (John 4:24), of necessity, His resurrected body and present-day body had to be transformed into a spiritual body. The substance of His new body must therefore be different to what it was when He was fully man. It is not the ‘same’ body.

Chapter 10: Of Effectual Calling

3. Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit; who worketh when, and where, and how he pleases; so also are all elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
( John 3:3, 5, 6; John 3:8 )

As far as I am aware, nowhere does Scripture state that infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit. The nearest text I can find to one supporting this view is where Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God,” (Mark 10:14) but this was purely an illustration showing how believers must trust and depend on Jesus. Without faith and trust in the Lord, no one can enter Heaven. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

The supporting texts of John 3:3, 5, 6 and 8 are irrelevant because, only those who have faith and who have repented (Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21) of their sins are justified by Christ. (Galatians 2:16; Acts 13:39) That’s not to say that God can’t or won’t save infants or those with impairments that make them incapable of understanding and having trust in the Saviour. He is Sovereign and He does whatever He pleases, but as far as I can see, He makes no positive statement in His Word, the Bible, to the effect that infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit.’

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith

2. By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself, and also apprehendeth an excellency therein above all other writings and all things in the world, as it bears forth the glory of God in his attributes, the excellency of Christ in his nature and offices, and the power and fullness of the Holy Spirit in his workings and operations: and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed; and also acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come; but the principal acts of saving faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

( Acts 24:14; Psalms 27:7-10; Psalms 119:72; 2 Timothy 1:12; John 14:14; Isaiah 66:2; Hebrews 11:13; John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:20; Acts 15:11 )

by virtue of the covenant of graceWhen, and with whom did God make a, ‘Covenant of Grace’? As I said when referring to Chapter 7: Of God’s Covenant, the Bible does NOT mention the making a covenant with Adam and with his offspring, He simply commanded Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [See Chapter 7, above.] The penalty for doing so was death. (Genesis 2:17)

Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

1. God gave to Adam a law of universal obedience written in his heart, and a particular precept of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

( Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:10, 12 )

None of the supporting texts show what is highlighted to be the case. Indeed Galatians 3:10, 12 says of things written in the ‘book of the law’ to do them. The Book of the Law constitutes the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, also known as the Pentateuch, which includes the Ten Commandments which were specifically given to Old Testament Israelites at Mount Sinai. (Exodus 20:3-17).

Adam, the first human, was created by God at least 1,400 years before Moses was born; therefore if Moses was the author of the Pentateuch, Adam could not have been held responsible to keep the laws therein. [The general accepted date of the Sinai Covenant and the giving of the Ten Commandments was 1445 BC.] Therefore Adam could not have been placed under a covenant of which he was not aware, and he was not subject to the Ten Commandments that Moses delivered to the elders of the people at Mount Sinai.

2. The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.
( Romans 2:14, 15; Deuteronomy 10:4 )

It is obvious the same law was not written in the heart of man from the time of Adam, as explained above. However, I concede that God could have given Adam a law or code of conduct for him and his posterity to follow, but we are not told of it in the Bible. Adam at the time of his creation was perfect and good (Genesis 1:31). God walked in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8), and there Adam had no need of a law, because there was no evil or sin. Indeed, he could not have committed adultery (Genesis 20:14), because there was no other woman than Eve. He simply had to obey one command given to him by God, i.e., not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

3. Besides this law, commonly called moral (the Ten Commandments – my interjection), God was pleased to give to the people of Israel ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties, all which ceremonial laws being appointed only to the time of reformation, are, by Jesus Christ the true Messiah and only law-giver, who was furnished with power from the Father for that end abrogated and taken away.

( Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:17; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 2:14, 16, 17; Ephesians 2:14, 16 )

The Bible never describes God’s laws as ‘moral’ or ‘ceremonial’.

4. To them also he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any now by virtue of that institution; their general equity only being of moral use.
( 1 Corinthians 9:8-10 )

The Bible never describes God’s laws as ‘judicial’.

5. The moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof, and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it; neither doth Christ in the Gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.
( Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8, 10-12; James 2:10, 11; Matthew 5:17-19; Romans 3:31

The Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, the Pentateuch – none of them ‘bind’ believers who are freed under the Law of Christ through the New Covenant! Salvation is by grace through faith, not by works. (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Jesus fulfilled the law on the part of believers, His elect, both Gentiles and Jews. (Matthew 5:17)

6. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to shew what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unallayed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise shew them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.

( Romans 6:14; Galatians 2:16; Romans 8:1; Romans 10:4; Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7, etc; Romans 6:12-14; 1 Peter 3:8-13 )

The law has no power to ‘restrain’ from ‘corruptions’. The only ‘release’ from ‘corruptions’ is forgiveness through Christ who paid for the sins of repentant believers. His sacrifice and atonement is sufficient for all, but only believers are the full beneficiaries.

Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished.

( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )

The early church did come together on the first day of the week to break bread, but this does not mean that Christians must do so. (Galatians 4:10, 11; Colossians 2:16, 17)

There has never been a ‘perpetual’ commandment, binding on all men to keep holy one day in seven as a sabbath. The sabbath for a Christian is his perpetual rest in Jesus (Hebrews 4:10). Every day and every moment he is enveloped in this rest.

As for the Old Covenant Jewish Sabbath on the last day of the week, this was commanded of God at Sinai (Exodus 20:8), but for partakers of the New Covenant, i.e., true believers with faith and trust in Jesus, their Sabbath of rest is perpetual.

8. The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )

Believers under the New Covenant are not subject to keeping the whole of one day set aside for worshipping God, i.e., the Jewish Sabbath, for the reasons stated above under paragraph 7.

Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth, and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.
( Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:2; 2 Chronicles 6:22, 23 )

Under the New Covenant, Christians should not swear oaths. (James 5;12; Matthew 5:34)

Chapter 31: Of the State of Man after Death and Of the Resurrection of the Dead

2. At the last day, such of the saints as are found alive, shall not sleep, but be changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and none other; although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.
( 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Job 19:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 15:42, 43 )

Logic dictates that ‘selfsame’ bodies cannot have ‘different’ qualities. Also, please see my appended note to Chapter 8, verse 4, regarding the nature of the resurrected body of Jesus.

Conclusion

It is my hope that having studied my critical notes, you will have done so with an unbiased view with the objective of finding the truth. This attitude will have enabled you to compare the use of biblical texts from both sides, i.e., those of the 37 members who signed up to the Confession of Faith, and mine in response.

The ratio of 37 people to 1 proves nothing. Only the truth counts.
I would welcome your feedback.


Web lInks

1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith www.reformedreader.org/ccc/1689lbc/english/1689econtents.htm

Westminster Confession of Faith https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Confession_of_Faith

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My Understanding of New Covenant Theology (NCT)

New Covenant Theology’s Hermeneutic

NCT’s hermeneutic interprets the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. With this eschatological perspective it sees the chosen people of God of the Old Testament (physical Israel) as being composed mainly of unbelievers. Nevertheless, in the providence of God, according to the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5, 6 ), the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt and they inherited a literal land, the land of Canaan (Joshua 24:13). By contrast, New Covenant Christians (Matthew 26:28) are rescued from the slavery of sin and eternal hell (John 8:34 – 36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). By the grace of God they inherit a spiritual land, bought and paid for by Jesus, through His death on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:20) and by His fulfilment of the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17).

Four hundred and thirty years before the Mosaic Covenant (Genesis 15; Galatians 3:17), God made a covenant with Abram [Exalted Father], whom He renamed Abraham [Father of a Multitude]. This covenant is known as the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:1 – 8) It was two-fold, involving Abraham and his offspring. The sign of the covenant was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). Every male person had to be circumcised; otherwise he would have to be put to death, which is the meaning of, ‘cut off’ (Genesis 17:10 – 14; Hebrews 8:7 – 13).

New covenant theologians see the Old Testament Israelites as a ‘figure’ or ‘picture’ of the New Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), i.e., the Church from Pentecost onwards. Members of Christ’s Church are  spiritual citizens of God’s kingdom through faith in Jesus and His atoning death on the cross. New Testament believers in Christ inherit an everlasting ‘land’ through the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:27, 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25) by faith. When they believe in Jesus and repent of their sins, they become spiritual citizens of God’s kingdom, and they all know Him and have His laws written on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31 – 34; Hebrews 8:7 – 13).

By the grace of God, the OT Israelites inherited the physical land of Canaan, but only a few of them became inheritors of the spiritual land of God through faith. Notable examples were Joshua and Caleb who also inherited actual land in the land in Canaan. Like all believers, their justification was in Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Believers of all ages are recipients of the everlasting, spiritual land of promise, but believers from the time of Pentecost onwards have the advantage of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1 – 4; Matthew 2:11 – 12; John 15:26, 27; Acts:2:17, 18).

NCT is based on Scripture alone – all 66 books of the Bible – not on man-made constructs, theologically contrived covenants, creeds, or confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith [1646] and the Second London Baptist Confession [1689]. This is important, because such manmade edicts, doctrines etc can be off the mark, since they may not accurately and truthfully interpret the biblical texts they purport to be based on. A fundamental principle of NCT interpretation is to ascertain the meaning of the original Greek, Hebraic or Aramaic words within their contexts, and to compare them with the same words in other relevant passages. The Bible speaks for itself. It is accountable to no one, since it’s author is God Himself through the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). It stands alone and authenticates itself. As stated in my introduction, the overarching principle of the NCT hermeneutic is to interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament – not the other way around. This follows the pattern of the Apostles and Christ Himself. Where passages and words are symbolic, or they take the form of metaphors, they are treated as such, and where they are literal, they are translated literally.

Progressive Revelation of Jesus Christ

NCT supports the view that God’s plan with mankind is one of progressive revelation of His nature and will, especially how man should relate to Him in light of His revelation. The climax and pivotal point of His revelation is Jesus Christ at the cross. Jesus is the express image of God (Hebrews 1:1 – 4).

Paul the Apostle, speaks of the ‘mystery kept secret since the world began  ……… now made manifest by the Scriptures’ … obedience to faith … to God. (Romans 16:25), i.e., Jesus Christ.

The Bible reveals that God’s dealings and interactions with mankind are characterised by a covenantal relationship. Christ is central to the whole of Scripture, and the covenants play a big part in the relationships God has with mankind. God is Sovereign, and He determines the outcomes of His covenants (Deuteronomy 32:39). Nevertheless, man cannot abdicate his responsibilities of obedience to God (Romans 1 – 3:26; John 14:21). Adam failed by disobeying God in the Garden of Eden when he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16; 3:1 – 7), and since that time the whole of his offspring has been marred with the stain of sin which brings spiritual and physical death.

Jesus came to restore the relationship of the elect (Romans 8:33), i.e., those chosen for salvation by God, and who were spiritually dead in Adam’s sin (Romans 3:21 -26). They are made alive and they are given new birth by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3 – 8). God sees them as He sees His Son, perfect in righteousness. Their sins He remembers no more (Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).

Jesus is the Author of Creation (Genesis 1 – 2:3; John 1:1 – 3). From before the beginning of creation, God had His purpose and plan (Acts 2:23 – 33). He is the Sovereign, Universal King of heaven and earth (John 17:2, 3), and salvation comes exclusively through faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8, 9) by Jesus’s atoning, sacrificial death on the cross. He satisfied and satisfies God’s righteous wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), and He is the Mediator between the Father and His elect (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24).

Jesus will come to the earth again to bring about a physical resurrection of all who have lived, and He will judge them according to their deeds, words and inward thoughts (Revelation 20:12). Those who persevere in faith will be given new spiritual bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13 -16) and they will dwell with God eternally in a new heaven and a new earth [land] (Revelation 21).

The Abrahamic Covenant

Israelites of the Old Testament were largely disobedient and unfaithful, but they were given the physical land of Canaan (Joshua 24:13). The LORD God made a two-part covenant (Genesis 17:7, 8) with Abraham decreeing he would become the ‘father’ of many nations whose citizens would inherit an everlasting land. They would receive the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession, and the LORD would be their God (Genesis 17:8).

This Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:7 – 14) required obedience on the part of Abraham and his descendants. Every male had to be circumcised. Circumcision was the ‘sign’ of the covenant. (Genesis 17:11) It was a covenant of ‘works’. The penalty for disobedience was death. The disobedient would be ’cut off’!

Old Testament Israelites had no direct access to God (Exodus 19:12, 13, 21), and they never did, except for Moses, who was their intermediary. He spoke face to face with God (Exodus 33:11). In this respect he pre-figured Christ who is the Supreme Mediator between believers and God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:24).

The Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant

At the mountain of Sinai (Exodus 19), God made a conditional covenant with Moses and the Israelites. This is known as the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19:5, 6), and by the keeping of it, the Israelites would become a ‘special’ treasure to God and a kingdom of priests, a holy nation – IF they faultlessly obeyed and kept their side of covenant! The people declared they would obey ‘all that the LORD had spoken’ (verse 8).

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1 – 17) were 10 of many laws in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7) – 613 in total, any of which, if broken precluded individual Israelites from entering the land (James 2; 9, 10). Of the original Israelites 20 years and above, only Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land (Numbers 14:30). God blessed Joshua with faith and perseverance. The others who entered were all born during 40 years of wanderings in the wilderness, but prior to entering Canaan it was required of them to be circumcised (Joshua 5:5 – 7). Moses, himself, never entered the promised land on account of his disobedience at the rock in the wilderness (Numbers 20:7 -12). Instead of speaking to the rock as instructed by the LORD, he struck it twice with his rod.

Every unbelieving Israelite, both before and after entering Canaan, died in their sins. They never entered the spiritual land of God’s rest, because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16 – 19) and because of being under the curse (Deuteronomy 28:15 ff). On account of sin inherited from Adam, they were unable to keep God’s law. The same applies to all people (Romans 3:23). By contrast, Jesus who was without sin (Hebrews 3:15) fulfilled the law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He inherited the everlasting land on behalf of His elect and thereby gives them His rest (Hebrews 4:1) Jesus was the only person capable of fulfilling the Mosaic law on account of his perfect obedience and sinless life (Colossians 1:28).

The great majority of OT Israelites never entered into Christ’s spiritual rest, but as a people, they were an unbelieving picture or figure of God’s new Israel, the Church. They foreshadowed or pointed to a new people of God who are mainly composed of Gentiles and some Jews. Together, these elect are the true ‘Israel of God’ (Galatians 6:16) who enter into His land and have spiritual rest (Hebrews 4:1 – 8).

Jesus, having fulfilled the Mosaic law through obedience and faith (Matthew 5:17), and having triumphed over sin and death at the cross, made the Old Mosaic Covenant obsolete and replaced it with the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7 – 13; Matthew 26:27 – 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25). From that momentous moment, access to the Father was opened to all who believe. The temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51) symbolising access to the kingdom, i.e., access to the spiritual land where Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. It is a glorious kingdom inhabited by kings and priests (Revelation 1:6) who have the law of Christ written on their hearts (Hebrews 8:10). They are members of Christ’s church, and they are in-LAWed (ennomos) to Him (1 Corinthians 9:21). They are not ‘under law toward Christ’, as most Bible translators interpret this verse. Practitioners of New Covenant Theology are not antinomians, as critics would claim, because they obey the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, 16).

Believers are not restrained by a law of works, i.e., the Mosaic law, but they are beneficiaries of the law of perfect freedom in Christ, i.e., the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) – laws taught by Him (Matthew 5:2 ff) and His apostles, as recorded in their inspired writings (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). Christians are not chastised into obeying the Mosaic law, to which John Calvin would have had them yoked – particularly to the Ten Commandments for sanctification. The law of Moses, written on tablets of stone, has truly become obsolete! (Hebrews 8:7, 13). The law of Moses could only bring death (Romans 8:2), but John Calvin, great man of God that he was, mistakenly taught that Christians should be whipped by it, as ‘idle and balky  (stubborn, obstinate) asses’.* On the contrary, Christians love God more than sin, and they seek to serve and please Jesus, because the law they obey is written on their hearts (Hebrews 9:10, 11). They never want to grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

  • “The Law acts like a whip to the flesh, urging it on as men do a lazy sluggish ass. Even in the case of a spiritual man, inasmuch as he is still burdened with the weight of the flesh, the Law is a constant stimulus, pricking him forward when he would indulge in sloth.” John Calvin (The Institutes of the Christian Religion: 2.7.12 – English Version first published in 1845)

The Davidic Covenant – God’s Promises to King David and his Seed

The significance of God’s promises to King David concerning his ‘seed’ who would build a house for God’s name must not be overlooked (2 Samuel 7:12 – 16). This direct seed was David’s son, Solomon, who built the temple (1 Kings 6:1, 14), but the ultimate Seed to whom the promise pointed was God’s Son, whose throne and house has been established forever (1 Chronicles 22:10). Without actually stating the word ‘covenant’, to all intents and purposes God’s promises to David constituted an unconditional covenant, and in 2 Samuel, chapter 23, verse 5, David himself confirmed it was a covenant by the use of the word ‘covenant’. Isaiah prophesied there would be a Son who would sit on the throne of David of which there would be no end. See, also, Isaiah 9:6, 7 and  Luke 1:30 – 33. Matthew’s Gospel outlines the legal ancestral lineage between the lesser and greater David (Jesus) by spelling out the genealogy of Christ, the Son of David. He starts with Abraham and ends with Joseph, who was the legal, but non-seminal father of Jesus (Matthew 1:1 -16), since Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26 – 35).

A mention of this ultimate Seed is found in Genesis, when the LORD God spoke to the serpent in the Garden of Eden saying He would put enmity between the serpent’s seed and Eve’s Seed. Her Seed would ‘bruise’ satan’s head, and he would ‘bruise’ the Seed’s heel (Genesis 3:15). This was a prophetic passage pointing to Jesus Christ, who would overcome and destroy satan and his seed. Jesus triumphed over satan at the cross. Christ, the Man, truly born of a woman, and yet without sin, made full atonement for Adam’s sin and that of the whole of God’s elect. The Messiah was victorious. He accomplished what He came to do. Moments before completing His mission of salvation by dying on the cross He breathed His last, and said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)

Satan, however, continues to ‘walk about like a roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8), but he is restrained (Revelation 20:1 – 6) until the Day of the Lord, i.e., the day of Christ’s second coming to judge the nations at the end of a ‘thousand years’ (Revelation 20:11). Meanwhile, His Church is [spiritually] resurrected in power with Him as He sits on His throne at the right hand of His Father. This understanding of Scripture most lends itself to an a-millennial view of the thousand year reign, i.e., a belief that Christ has brought about the ‘first resurrection’ by fulfilling the law and the Prophets when He died for His elect. He raised and raises His enlivened saints, born of the Spirit (John 3:3 – 6) to live with Him in His kingdom. His New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7 – 13; Matthew 26:27 – 28; 1 Corinthians 11:25) has been established, and He has created a spiritual kingdom of priests and kings (Revelation 20:6) i.e., Christ’s church came into being at Pentecost, and continues today.

The Thousand Year Reign and the End Times

Regarding the thousand year reign spoken of in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 20, verses 1 – 3, it is my belief that most new covenant theologians understand this period as figurative. They do not believe it to be a precise, literal one thousand years. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and He is infinite; He lives both in time and beyond time. He exists eternally beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8, 9). He said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14), i.e., the One who is and will be. A day for Him is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8). These things would seem to indicate a ‘figurative’ understanding of the thousand year reign, unlike the dispensational hermeneutic that employs a literal, grammatical-historical interpretation of Scripture, implying an actual one thousand year period when Jesus will rule in Jerusalem. [The MacArthur Teaching Bible, Overview of Theology, page 2192, The Holy Scriptures, paragraph 2, 3rd line.]

As I see it, the majority of those who subscribe to NCT believe they are already living in the millennial reign with God who is Spirit (John 4:24).

At the end of this figurative one thousand year period Jesus will return a second time to the earth to judge both the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). The dead in Christ will rise, and their souls will be united with their new resurrected bodies. Believers who are alive at the time will be caught up together with the resurrected saints from their graves to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16 – 18). The bodies and souls of all unbelievers throughout history will rise for their ‘second death’ (Revelation 20:6, 12), i.e., at their resurrection they will be judged ‘according to their works’, and they will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13 – 15) to join the devil, the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 20:10) where their torment will never cease (Mark 9:44).

Afterwards, all things will be made new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, citizens of which will be the bride of Christ, i.e., the resurrected Church (Revelation 21:9 – 11) and the Lord God Himself. They will dwell together forever (Revelation 21:1 – 3).

Noahic Covenant

The Bible also speaks of a Covenant God made with Noah (Genesis 9:8 – 11). The sign of the covenant was a rainbow (Genesis 9:13, 17). It was an ‘overarching’ covenant that continues today, guaranteeing preservation of the world until Christ’s second coming.

Footnote

All of the above is a summary of my understanding of New Covenant Theology. None of it is set in concrete, and I think the authors of the books below would go along with that.

ADDENDUM

Books and Authors

What is New Covenant Theology by A. Blake White

New Covenant Theology by Gary D. Long

New Covenant Theology and Prophesy by John G. Reisinger

Tablets of Stone by John G. Reisinger 

Abraham’s Four Seeds by John G. Reisinger

New Covenant Theology by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel

Christ is All David by H. J. Gay

Grace Not Law by David H. J. Gay

Believers Under the Law of Christ by David H. J. Gay

Understanding the New Covenant by Frederick Serjeant

The Internet

David H J Gay Ministry – YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCUbR4Mv0nnlRaROdFAx1Qg

Peter Ditzel – Word of His Grace:

http://www.wordofhisgrace.org/index.html

Cross to Crown Org (Sound of Grace and Desiring God Org)

http://crosstocrown.org

New Covenant School of Theology

http://www.newcovenantschooloftheology.org

IDS ORG – Geoff Volker22

http://ids.org

New Covenant Theology – A Challenge or a Threat by Frederick Serjeant

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=124151357522

Leaders of this movement include the following theologians: John Reisinger, Jon Zens, Peter Ditzel, Fred Zaspel, Tom Wells, Gary Long, Geoff Volker and Steve Lehrer.

The writings of Douglas Moo, Tom Schreiner, and D.A. Carson on the relation of the Christian to the law reveal their sympathies with NCT. However they have not wanted themselves to be so labelled.

John Piper also has many points of contact with this movement, but an article at the Desiring God Website carefully distinguishes his position from Covenant, New Covenant and Dispensational theological systems.

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