The Parable of a Man and a Bride

Christian Living, The Church
(By: Nick Kennicott)
Cat-Reception-CakeToppers-Traditional-tThere was a man who had a growing interest in a young lady, so he patiently, slowly, prayerfully, but excitedly learned all that he could about her. He would visit with her every Sunday, and eventually was even visiting her in the middle of the week for an hour or two. As the weeks went on, he was meeting more and more of her family and began to sense that he was fitting in quite well with all of them. Before he knew it, he was doing everything he could with the young lady and her family, and he couldn’t imagine doing the rest of his life without her. So, he made a covenant with the young lady and they were married.

At first, the marriage was beautiful. The man was always serving his bride, doing everything he could to make sure she was taken care of. He was attentive to her needs, he was listening for ways he could be a blessing, he was even feeling more and more comfortable with finding ways to lead her and take initiative to see that she was doing new, creative, and different things to fulfill all the goals they talked about fulfilling when they first got married.

After a while, the newness wore off. He didn’t always agree with decisions she was making and he was beginning to see that her family wasn’t as perfect as he once thought them to be. In time, she just wasn’t the same beautiful lady that he remembered marrying several years ago. She hadn’t really changed all that much, but his perception and commitment did. First, it was the extra events that they had been engaged in throughout the week that he started setting aside. His bride remained committed to the same routine they had set out on before, but he was losing interest. Her family would lovingly and gently ask him if everything was alright, and if there was any reason why he seemed to be pulling away from his bride; it seemed so unlike him after being so faithful to her in so many ways over the years. Eventually, he was even finding more and more reasons to skip the regular Sunday time together that they kept up from day one.

Soon, the man was setting his eyes on another young lady. In many ways, she looked a lot like his bride did when they first met. This girl was welcoming, encouraging, and eager for him to meet her family. So, over time he spent fewer and fewer Sundays with his bride, and more and more with the new girl. Even when his bride suspected something else was going on, he regularly retorted that he’s just busy with life. But eventually he was spending all of his time with the new girl; It looked a lot like it did when he was first showing interest in his bride. Eventually, he convinced himself to break it off with his bride. This new relationship would be different. The problems he had before would go away because she’s a lot more of what he was looking for in the first place. Her family is better—less judgmental and a lot more loving—and he’s sure to tell everyone that he doesn’t regret, and is even thankful for the time he spent with his bride, but she just wasn’t helping him become what he wanted to become anymore. It was time to move on.

Now that he had found a new girl and entered into a covenant with her, it was all going to be so much better. But it wasn’t. A few years down the road, the newness wore off…

Leavers, Cleavers, and Covenant Union

Christ in the Old Testament, The Church, Theology

(By: Chris Marley)

Christ and His Bride foreshadowed in Genesis 2:24

William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1825-1905)_-_The_Proposal_(1872)After Introducing the Princess Bride to the Prototype of an Ideal Husband as Our Lady of the Rib, we are told, “…A man shall leave his father… and shall cleave unto his wife” in Genesis 2:24. Here, a general precedent is set for a man to leave his home, his place of origin, and cleave to his bride. The man is called upon to leave his father’s house, wherein he lacks no need and has the comfort of familiarity, out of a desire for a bride. In leaving one home, he must then undertake the responsibility of head of the new household, becoming the provider of his family, and lead in the new home. The now-husband assumes the debts and needs of his new bride.

In like fashion, Christ came from heaven, leaving the heavenly home and Father, and redeemed for himself a bride. He left heaven and Father where he held the glory and sovereignty which he shared with the Father  (John 17:5). He left an earthly mother, Mary, in order to endure the hardships of life in a fallen world. He lived a perfect life of obedience in order to clothe his bride and fulfill her debt. He would even be obedient unto the death of the cross, declaring vows that sealed the bride to himself. In doing these things, he assumed the debt of the bride and paid it in full. He took the Federal Headship, leaving home, father, and mother, in order to cleave to his bride.The second theme in this verse is that a man and his wife shall be one flesh. Now remember, this is God who is creating. He could have made

The second theme in this verse is that a man and his wife shall be one flesh. Now remember, this is God who is creating. He could have made us asexual creatures, but one of the major reasons he did not is in order to provide us with a metaphor of his relationship to us. On the pragmatic side of things, it is important to note that this is about “wife,” “girl in a committed relationship,” or “girl man has very strong feelings about,” but “wife.” This is about covenant relationship. Men and women are not meant to seek the physicality of marriage without the covenant of marriage.

On the other side of the metaphor, we should rejoice that Christ’s love is within the confines of a covenant. It is not seasonal, it will not fade, and it will not forget. It is the thing signified by marriage, and is greater than earthly marriage, because there is no “‘till death do us part” clause in the Covenant of Grace.

If we are meant to see Christ in every page of Scripture, why is this narrative being related to us? Because the bridegroom and bride will become one flesh, first by Christ taking on flesh, and then by our being born again in his likeness. How mysterious and beautiful is the union with Christ! The doctrine of Union with Christ is both delicate and volatile. Some would ignore it for fear of straying into error. Others may be too bold, even claiming that saints become God in some way as if they merge into some Christian version of Nirvana. There is a balance, and it is most easily found through this metaphor.

A husband and wife become one in marriage. There are imputed values (like a balance-transfer) that take place. A wife is given all of her husband’s assets and/or debts. Likewise, a husband receives all those belonging to his wife. They share a last name, a home, finances, and possessions. There is a physical union in the marriage bed. They should speak with a united voice on decisions made for the household and the purposes of the family. Everything becomes mutual in as much as is possible.

Yet distinctions do exist. There are still two physical bodies, two minds, two souls, two sets of interests and opinions that will never fully merge. It is foolish to pretend otherwise. The wife of a surgeon may receive esteem and the financial stability of a surgeon’s paycheck, but she should never take up the scalpel and attempt a heart transplant (unless she goes through medical school herself). My wife is trained as a florist, but that does not miraculously make me capable of building a bridal bouquet.

Likewise, the union of the believer with Christ is extraordinary. By imputation, the believer is counted as holding the righteousness of Christ’s earthly ministry. How beautiful! How mysterious! The Bride receives only of Christ’s good while Christ assumes only her debt to be paid on the cross. The more believers grow in grace and knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the more their mind is conformed to Him and the more their heart desires that which is good and holy. The saint has the security before God that the Son does! However much the saint is one with Christ, though, he is still separate and distinct. The believer will not achieve the archetypal knowledge of God, nor the power to speak and create ex nihilo. Certainly the glory and honor owed to God will ever remain his own. Only Christ, being God, could claim before the Father, “…Yours are mine.” John 17:10. We can only declare to God, “What is mine is yours.” Yet, the believer is bound to Christ more securely than a wedding license can provide, more intimately than the wedding bed, more magnificently than earthly marriage can display. This is union with Christ.

When the two become one in the earthly marriage, life is produced. This is not perfectly consistent because nothing is in earthly marriage. But what we see is a kind of bizarre mathematical concept that the one plus one equals one… plus one. God used the intimacy of marriage as the means to produce new life. I will not belabor the earthly aspect, but the thing signified in Christ and church bears exploring.

It is important to note that this does not defy the monergistic nature of salvation (a technical term for stating that it is Christ alone who saves). Some would claim that man co-authors his salvation (synergistic), but it is God who saves. The Father chooses, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit quickens. The church does not co-author that salvation, but God uses means and secondary causes. God uses his bride to accomplish salvation through the general call to salvation.

Paul states that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of the word of God, Romans 10:17. This is the ordinary means of salvation. God works through the foolishness of preaching to quicken the spirit, regenerating the heart to respond in faith to the message preached. It is not usual, ordinary, or to be expected that God should speak in an audible voice as he did with Noah, Abraham, and Paul. Rather, God uses his already-awakened redeemed to share the gospel that awakened them. Not every sharing of testimony or even every faithful, clear, gospel-preaching sermon automatically results in sinners being saved. It requires the attending work of the Holy Spirit for redemption to be applied.

Here is where the metaphor applies. For earthly children to be born, the husband and wife are to meet together in intimacy. For earthly men to be born again as children of the kingdom of God, the bride of Christ must meet with her husband. When Christ chooses to so visit his bride through his Holy Spirit, new life is produced. Not every sermon attended by the Holy Spirit results in salvation, but a sermon cannot change the hearts of men without the Holy Spirit. Essentially, this means that every sermon through which the Holy Spirit chooses to save will save whomsoever the Holy Spirit intends. This is the nature of Irresistible Grace.

This article first appeared at Credomag.com and is used here with permission. Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.

The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Concluding Thoughts (Part 8)

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The New Covenant: Some Concluding Thoughts

As I conclude this series on the new covenant, I wanted to spend a post making some observations. The first and most obvious is a point I made in the first post, that the new covenant is the battle field for baptism arguments. In my own view, this is more than unfortunate, as I do not believe this question should have any bearing on who it is that we baptize. I understand that everyone makes this “the reason” to baptize infants or not to baptize them. I just happen to be a credobaptist for reasons completely unrelated to who is in or out of the new covenant. I do not make that argument, and deliberately steer far away from it.[1] For this reason, however, it is difficult to find a truly objective study of the new covenant, as both sides really need this passage to legitimize their views of baptism.[2] Hopefully, you can at least see the potential here to not be fair with the text, which is something we all should want to be, but often for other reasons can’t.

Second, the new covenant is not completely dissimilar nor completely similar to the old covenant(s). A friend of mine says to his Paedobaptist friends that their job is to make the Baptist prove from Scripture the reason he holds to covenant discontinuity (the baptism question immediately emerges here). This point is terribly difficult for me to comprehend, as Jeremiah couldn’t say it any more bluntly. The new covenant is “not like” the old. “Not like” would seem to imply discontinuity to me. We have seen from the language of Jeremiah that the “not like” part is especially related to the percentage of people in the new covenant (i.e. “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest”).

This doesn’t mean that the new covenant is completely unlike or unrelated to former covenants. That, unfortunately, is a topic not for a blog, but for a whole encyclopedia. Different systems of covenant theology have different ways to answer this. But sticking just with the text of Jeremiah 31:31-34, we see that he incorporates all kinds of OT covenantal language that has been the focus of our posts. There were true believers in the old covenant(s) and in the new. Some in the old had God as “their God,” some “knew the Lord,” and some had their sins forgiven.

But that leads to the discontinuity again, and this is something upon which we can all agree. The truest, best “newness” of the new covenant is that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, has obeyed all of the laws under the old covenant, especially the ceremonial laws. Thus, his once-for-all sacrifice into heavenly places has secured eternal redemption. His sending of the Holy Spirit has brought about for the first time (as far as the language of the Scripture is concerned) a “circumcision of the heart.” While OT saints were regenerated by faith in Christ and were taught to know the Lord even as they knew the Spirit, something new clearly took place at Pentecost and only in the NT do we read about the circumcision of the heart prophecies actually coming to fruition in God’s people.

Therefore, if are in Christ you are a new creation. You are in the new covenant. Therefore, make it you goal to obey him in his other commandments related to this covenant, such as being in a local church, confessing your sins, obeying him out of thankfulness, and so on. If you are not in Christ, you have no reason to appropriate the new covenant blessings to yourself. But look to Jesus and they will be yours. For all who place their trust in him will never be put to shame.

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

— — — —

[1] You can read my rather unique argument that we baptize professing adults because this is in line with how the OT covenantal rite of baptism was practiced. Baptism comes from baptism. See Douglas Van Dorn, Waters of Creation: A Biblical-Theological Study of Baptism (Erie, CO: Waters of Creation, 2009).

[2] I realize that this is a difficult chicken and egg question: Does exegesis of Jeremiah 31 bring people to the conclusion that infant baptism is correct, or does the assumption of infant baptism bring people to the conclusion that Jeremiah 31 teaches that infants are in the new covenant? Few if any would ever admit to having a system drive their exegesis. But in dealing with a web of beliefs like this, it is almost impossible to answer that question. My own experience has shown me that on both sides of the debate, the baptism question (which is not even in Jeremiah’s radar) is always there just under the surface lurking like a shark with his fin above the water, ready to gobble away any argument from exegesis that an opponent will give that would endanger the life of that “who is in the new covenant” baptism assumption. Unless one’s view of baptism is totally and always unrelated to who is in the new covenant, I don’t see how the question of objectivity can ever truly go away.

THE NEW COVENANT– FORGIVENESS OF SINS: AN EXPOSITION OF JEREMIAH 31:31-34 (PART 7)

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The Law and Forgiveness: Your Sins Are Remembered No More

We have now taken a look at two of the three promises of the new covenant and their effects. The first was that God will write the law on the hearts of all his new covenant people with the effect being that he will be their God and they will be his people. The second is that God would teach each person in the new covenant to “know the Lord” through the Holy Spirit, with the effect being that they will “all” know him. Both of these ideas point directly at regeneration. Not that regeneration is new, but the percentage of people in covenant with God who receive it is far greater.

The last thing promised in the new covenant is truly amazing. In a previous post we said that remembering is part and parcel of covenants. I recently read a great “reminder” from Desiring God Ministries that the reason why people grumble, complain, get angry, hold grudges, get bitter, and other things starts because they forget. Jesus told us, “This is the blood of the covenant, do this in remembrance of me.” How can people who have tasted of this good salvation, who know the cost of their own sin to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who recognize the horrible depravity of their rebellion, even for a single moment act like this?

Because we forget.

We must remember.

Now contrast this with God in the new covenant. The declaration is that he “will be merciful towards our iniquities.” The effect is that he will remember our sins no more.” When we forget, we sin. When God “forgets,” our sins are no longer remembered. Therefore we must remember what he has done. But what does this mean that God will remember our sins no more?

It tells us repeatedly in Hebrews 9-10 that Jesus’ sacrifice is “once for all” (9:12, 26-28; 10:10). This is in contrast to the sacrifices of the old covenant which were repeated. It then ties this in directly to forgiveness. “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb 10:18). This implies that under the old covenant, forgiveness was either non-existent or somehow quite different from the new covenant.

The OT does teach us that God forgave his people. So it isn’t that forgiveness as a concept is new. The word used in the Heb 10:18 translated “forgiveness” was used by Jesus at the Last Supper where his blood is poured out for the “forgiveness” or “remission” of sins. However, this word is rarely translated this way in the OT. There, the word is usually rendered as something like “release” (as in the Year of Jubilee) by English LXX versions. Of course, even in a year like Jubilee, while there was release for a time, it always reverted back to the period when debts would recur and “release” would be needed again. This is the same as the sacrifices which were repeated over and over again.

Therefore, the way God forgave the people in the OT was, as the Apostle says in Romans, by “passing over” sins in his “forbearance,” so as to be just and the justifier of those who would have faith in the God-man, Messiah. God’s OT forgiveness was not based on anything that could actually forgive sins. It is a good thing that God knows the future perfectly and is powerful enough to make it come to pass exactly how he wants it to, otherwise his forgiveness was in jeopardy of being unjust.

Jesus’ one-time sacrifice takes away sins once-for-all. This is why God forgets, because he debts we owe are fully forgiven. In the old covenant, God kept remembering, because there was not a sacrifice that truly appeased his wrath. No animal, no matter how pure and spotless, was capable of truly substituting for your sin and mine. But the Lamb of God was. Where sins were once only covered or passed over, the sacrifices had to keep being repeated. But where the One Sacrifice of Christ is, there is no more remembrance of sin.

Of course, it isn’t that God literally forgets. It is that he does not hold our sins against us. He is now merciful towards our iniquities. Nothing we do can ever sever his great love for us in Christ. For, the Father is perfectly satisfied in the obedience of his Son, and the Spirit has united us to the Son in perfect union so that when he looks upon us and our sin, God only sees the Righteousness of Jesus. This is the promise for those in the new covenant!

But you have to be in Christ to be in the new covenant. My friend, trust in this Lord Jesus today. Confess him before men. Bow before him as King. Repent of your dark, secret sins, of those things you have been refusing to bring before his throne. Come to know the gracious benefits of Christ dead and risen. Entered into the blessed covenant that God has now promised to all who trust in the Son today.

In the final installment, we will take a look at a few implications of this study on Jeremiah’s new covenant.

(by: Doug Van Dorn)

THE NEW COVENANT– KNOWING THE LORD: AN EXPOSITION OF JEREMIAH 31:31-34 (PART 6)

Christ in the Old Testament, Scripture, The Church, The Gospel, Theology

The Law and Teaching: To Know the Lord

We are continuing now with the second of three phrases in Jeremiah’s new covenant that we are exploring. The last two posts looked at the phrase, “I will put my law on their minds and hearts,” and its effect that, “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” We saw that the the language of both has rich OT background, and that both point to the idea that these covenant people are not only outwardly called, but inwardly called as well. This post looks at the second phrase, “They shall not teach saying know the Lord,” and its effect, “For they shall all know me.”

In the old covenant, you clearly had some people who were in covenant with God who were not elect, who died, and went to hell. Jesus refers to them as children of Satan, not Abraham (John 8:39, 44). A question in the baptism debate is whether or not this is also true in the new covenant. Are there some people in the new covenant who will nevertheless eventually be in hell? But this question should not be determined by presuppositions about who should receive covenant signs or by systematic frameworks that deal in continuity or discontinuity. The proper way to figure this out is through exegesis of the Scripture.

The statement is, “They shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’” (Jer 31:34). We will focus on “teaching” first. Under the old covenant, God sent mediators who would teach the law. Moses and the firstborn of the tribes of Israel did this under the Sinai covenant, and this was followed by the priests whose job it was to teach the law, as Ezra did, under the Levitical covenant. Other teachers included the fathers who were to teach the children, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 11:19). The important thing to realize here is that even under the new covenant, we still have teachers (1Co 12:28; Eph 4:11; etc.). Therefore, if the new covenant is somehow “not like” the old, then the “teaching” it has in mind isn’t merely helping people grow in knowledge. Rather, it is knowledge of a more basic kind.

The content of the teaching is to “know the Lord.” This is not mediated knowledge “about” the Lord. It is immediate, personal, and direct knowledge “of” the Lord. Therefore, the declaration is that they will “no longer teach, telling people to know the Lord.” This will now be done immediately by the Holy Spirit. He will circumcise the heart and write the Commandments on us as living tablets of flesh. The effect of this promise is radically different than it was in prior covenants: “They will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” “All” is an important word, for this is how the new covenant differs from the old.

“Knowing the Lord” also has a rich OT background and Jeremiah is drawing up it. First, like the laws on your heart, to know the Lord is to obey him. “They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD” (Jer 9:3). “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’– in doing evil! But how to do good they know not” (Jer 4:22). “Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD” (Jer 9:6). “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD” (Jer 22:15-16). It is evident then that this kind of knowledge of the Lord is, as the Proverbs say, “the fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7).

But before this can happen, you have to have Christ revealed to you. In order to get to the point of the fear of the Lord, you have to have two different kinds of revelation happen to you. The first is objective, and comes from outside of yourself. “Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him” (1Sa 3:7). This knowledge comes to a person from the outside, not the inside. Samuel was called externally. He heard a voice. The context of the knowledge here is not mere head knowledge, but knowledge of a very specific person. Here, the One calling is called “the Word of the LORD.” The OT knows this person as the Angel of the LORD. The NT knows him as Jesus Christ. In the OT, very few people know Christ in this way. The Angel simply didn’t appear to very many people. They had to trust the prophets like Samuel who actually did know him and who spoke with him and talked to him. But in the NT, there is an objective sense in which everyone “knew the Lord,” because they could see him walking around all over Israel. He had followers, disciples, enemies, friends. He was physical, embodied, incarnated.

Now, today, he is no longer walking around. That is why it is so vital to tell people about him. The NT roots these events in the physical, the tangible, the sensory, and in history. People can only come to an inward knowledge of the Lord Jesus if they first recognize his outward coming, even as Samuel did with the Angel and then the disciples did with Jesus. He has to be revealed to people. In this sense, he was revealed to people–many people all at the same time. Because he has come in the flesh, the new covenant is clearly a better revealing of Jesus than the old was.

But new covenant knowledge of the Lord does not stop here! In the new covenant, necessarily, this external works its way into the internal. This is what the language means. We have already seen this with the “heart.” “The LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them” (Isa 19:21). Why are Egyptians sacrificing to him? Because they want to! Because they know him now. This is a prophecy of Gentiles coming to faith in Christ.

We have seen how Jesus takes a bride. In the OT prophecies, to know the LORD is to be married to him. This is an intimate knowledge of husband and wife. “I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD” (Hos 2:20). To be married to him means that you have been called and equipped by him. “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isa 45:4-5). Andrew once asked Jesus, “How do you know me?” “Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’” (John 1:48). When you are called like this, you follow. Period. It is irresistibly impossible not to. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). Can you hear the language of the new covenant in Jesus’ words? Are you hearing his voice even now?

People who are called and equipped and married to the Lord recognize his authority over them. Pharaoh didn’t. He said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go” (Exod 5:2). He didn’t recognize Christ’s authority, therefore he would not obey. So God did mighty works in Pharaoh’s presence. Thus, people who know the Lord recognize his mighty works. “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals” (Jdg 2:10-11). Is not the greatest work of all the resurrection of Jesus? “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos 6:2-3).

In the “infant in the covenant” debate, sometimes people will say, “Yes, but there is the already/not yet of the covenant.” I completely agree. There is. But we are see the already/not yet in different places. Infant baptists see that in the new covenant, it is not “yet” true that everyone knows the Lord. They put this promise out in the future, basically in heaven. But this is not what Jeremiah or Hebrews say. Where I agree with the already/not yet is at this point: Not all of the elect are in the covenant yet. Why? Because not all of the elect have yet believed. Nor have many of them even been born. According to Jeremiah, you are simply not in the new covenant until you “know the Lord,” and knowing the Lord means fearing him, having faith in him. You are to look to Christ alone for salvation, not to election. That is for your sanctification.

(by: Doug Van Dorn)