Orphans Adopted

The Gospel, Theology

(By: Chris Marley)

A world of orphans
	Alienated
Long lost sinners
	Isolated
A global orphanage
	And angry mob
Of shaking fists
	And attempts to lob
Stones of furious words
	Like “God is dead”
Hoping to drown out
	Existential dread
Heaving bricks through windows
	Of their own intellect
Shouting “follow us”
	To every tribe and sect
“We will tear down God
	like twisted iconoclasts
And replace Him ourselves
	And we will stand fast
On the day of judgment
	That will never come
Compile our numbers
	To a powerful sum”
But yet there are some
	Who hear the truth
Later in song but
	At first uncouth
First, the conscience
	That screams out the Law
Breaking facades
	And leaving them raw
Exposing unrighteousness
	Revealing unworthiness
The calling of “lawlessness”
	Shows them their life’s a mess
Broken and destitute
	Like Rahab the prostitute
Pleading for mercy
	They cannot deserve
Pleading for grace
	From the one they don’t serve
Like dogs for crumbs
	From the master’s table
Drowning in guilt
	They know they’re unable
To earn love
	From their God
Since their ancestor
	Was formed from the sod
Breathed into life
	Yet broke the law
Tore fruit from the branches
	And finally saw
What evil was
	Within himself
And though once high
	On sacred shelf
He fell, with his wife,
	And all posterity
Fell broken and bent
	From that prosperity
Creating the orphans
	Lost from their God
Repressing the truth
	They ever applaud
Their works
	To drown out the noise
Clinging to riches
	Their lusts and their toys
Yet there are some
	Who from past eternal
God chose to save
	From fate infernal
And sent His Son
	In the fullness of time
To clothe them himself
	In His works sublime
To turn away wrath
	And absorb it alone
Now cursed was the one
	Who once sat on the throne
Cursed by their sin
	Through imputation
Drinking the cup
	For their salvation
That orphans convicted
	Could now be adopted
By grace through faith
	Their salvation allotted
For they are made heirs
	Through redemption applied
Eternal inheritance
	Through Christ now supplied
Calling, “Abba, Father”
	Who wipes away tears
And approaching the throne
	With boldness, not fear
Pitied
	Protected
		Provided for
			Chastened
Sealed to that Day
	By everlasting salvation
Not of themselves
	What they’ve done
		Or will do
No man can stand
	To receive his own due
It’s not what they’ve done
	But what they have heard
Of what Christ has done
	And salvation assured
In the Gospel of Peace
	To orphans long lost
Through faith we now see
	That adoption’s cost
In the cry, “It is finished!”
	Made from the cross
And now He is risen
	In Heaven he waits
For when angels carry us
	Past those pearl gates
To glory eternal
	New heavens, new earth
Changed out like a garment
	In cosmos rebirth
Where the children adopted
	By faith and by grace
In the arms of their Father
	Will then know their place

Chris Marley is the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ.

Finally Blameless: Thomas Brooks on the Christian’s Final Judgment

Christian Living, Church History, Devotional, The Gospel, Theology

It’s a foundational tenet of Christianity that all people are destined for a final judgment at the end of this age. Gospel hope hinges on this fact: those in Christ will pass that judgment and be found fit for heaven. The reason for this is the gospel itself, the spiritual reality that Christ satisfied the curse on his people’s behalf when he was crucified on the cross, and furthermore, that his righteousness is imputed to them as a free gift by faith. On the basis of this gloriously good news, a Christian knows that his final judgment day need not be a terror, it is the day when God will fulfill all the final promises of the gospel. This is Christianity 101 (which is typically the most important part).

Yet there is a question related to this final judgment that Christians sometimes ponder without full clarity. The question is this: on the final day of judgment, although we know that all who are in Christ will be found in the final analysis to be cleansed of sin, covered by Christ’s righteousness, and thus be blameless in the sight of God; in the process of that verdict being rendered, will a Christian’s sins, both before and after conversion, be publically made known to all creation?

In my ministry as a pastor, I’ve been asked this question more than once. Sometimes the person is asking because of a guilty conscience from hidden sin, and so the best answer is to examine the call to mortify sin in our lives. Gospel promises can never be biblically used as a cover for unrighteousness (see Romans 6:1).

But other times, the question is being asked because even in a regenerate mind, the staggering reality of the grace of God can be hard to believe.

How forgiven are we, really?

How thorough is salvation?

How complete is my justification?

In other words, does the gospel really clean my record out completely, or are there still indictments that remain? Luther was right when he said the Christian is simultaneously righteous and a sinner, but do we sometimes so emphasize the latter half of that maxim that we miss the full grace of the former?

In my life as a Christian, I’ve asked these questions in my own heart. Since you’re reading this article, I assume you’ve asked them too, or that if you haven’t, they have at least piqued your interest enough in this article that you’re still here reading. You are, after all, still reading.

We’re not the first ones to ponder this. Thomas Brooks, a Puritan author and pastor of the seventeenth-century, addressed this question directly. Brooks wrote:

But here an apt question may be moved… Whether at this great day [the final judgment at the end of the age], the sins of the saints shall be brought into the judgment of discussion and discovery, or no? Whether the Lord will in this day publically manifest, proclaim, and make mention of the sins of his people, or no?[1]

Let’s look at how Thomas Brooks answered the question. Although the following thoughts belong to Brooks, I have updated the language, condensed the content, and edited for modern readability.[2]

*****

I humbly judge, according to my present light, that he will not; for the four following reasons:

  1. From the description of the final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46

This first reason is drawn from the Christ’s judicial proceedings in the last day, as they are described so clearly in Matthew 25. There Christ brings to light only the good works his sheep have done, but takes no notice of their spots and blots, their stains and blemishes, nor the infirmities and weaknesses and wickedness of his people (Duet. 32:4-6).

  1. From Christ’s vehement objection that any of his people should ever come into judgment

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)[3]

Notice that none of the gospel writers use this expression truly, truly, except for John, and he never uses it unless it is a matter of great weight and importance. He uses it to show how earnestly his spirit yearns for the thing said, and to grab our attention, and to put the thing said beyond all question and all contradiction. He is saying that it is absolutely out of the question that true believers will come into judgment, truly, truly it shall not be!

  1. Because not exposing our sins is most in keeping with the many precious expressions that we find scattered like shining and sparkling pearls throughout all Scripture

These glorious passages are of seven main types:

(1) Those passages which speak of God blotting out the sins of his people

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

Who is this that blots out transgressions? It is the one who has the keys of heaven and hell on his belt, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; it is the one who has the power of death and life, of condemning and absolving, of killing and making alive – this is the one who blots out transgressions. If some servant blotted out an indictment, that may do a little good; but when the king and judge himself blots out the indictment with his own hand the indictment is gone forever. This is the reality and joy of every believer.

(2) Those passages which gloriously assert that God remembers our sins no more

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

By this God means that our sins will be completely forgiven, never again mentioned, never taken notice of, and not mentioned ever again. God has a memory of iron and never forgets the sins of the wicked; yet he promises to never remember the sins of the righteous.

(3) Those passages which speak of our sins being cast into the depths of the sea and behind the back of God

He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

When sin is pardoned, the remission can never be repealed. Pardoned sins can never be brought before God against a pardoned man ever again; this is what these figures of speech are meant to teach. If our sins were cast into a river, they could perhaps be brought back. If they were cast upon the sea, they might be found in the drift and brought back to land. But when they are cast into the very depths, to the very bottom of the sea, they shall never again float back up to the surface.

In this metaphor the Lord is teaching us that pardoned sins shall rise no more, they shall be seen no more, they shall never count again; indeed, God will drown them so deep even he will not see them a second time.

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. (Isaiah 38:17)

This last phrase is again a figure of speech, borrowed from the way that men cast behind their backs things they do not care to see, regard, or remember. Although our own sins are ever before our face, the Lord casts them behind his back. An earthly father soon forgets and casts behind his back the sins that his child keenly remembers. So too it is with our Heavenly Father.

(4) Those passage which sweetly speak of God pardoning the sins of his people

I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. (Jeremiah 33:8)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)

The Hebrew word here translated pardon means a taking away. When God pardons sin he takes it completely away: even if you search for it, you wont find it.

In those days and in that time, declares the Lord, iniquity shall be sought in Israel, and there shall be none, and sin in Judah, and none shall be found, for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant. (Jeremiah 50:20)

As Micah said above, God passes over the sin of his people. Like a man deep in thought, or a busy man caught up in business doesn’t notice what’s right in front of him; like David didn’t notice Mephibosheth’s physical defects because he saw so much of his dear friend Jonathon in him; so too God beholds in his people the glorious image of his Son, and takes no notice of all our faults and failures. This is what enabled Luther to say, “Do with me what you will, since you have pardoned my sin.”

And what is it to pardon sin, but not to mention it?

(5) Those expressions of forgiving and covering

The blessing of Psalm 32:1 (Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sins is covered) is, in the original Hebrew, in the plural: blessednesses. It is a plurality of blessings, a chain of pearls. A similar statement in made in Psalm 85:2, again using the metaphor of covering.

Covering is the opposite of disclosing. That which is covered is hidden. This metaphor is all around us: the dead are covered up in the ground, clothes cover up our bodies, The Egyptians were covered over by the Red Sea, a great cleft in the earth is filled up and covered over with dirt, the mercy seat as well was presided over by a symbolic covering. All these metaphors show the same essential truth: the Lord will not look, he will not see, he will not notice the sins he has pardoned; he will never again bring them to his judgment seat.

Like a rebel pardoned by a gracious prince, the pardoned person will never hear of and never have to give account for his sins, ever again. When Caesar was painted he would conceal his scars and blemishes by covering them up with his hands. God puts his hands over all his people’s scars and blemishes; all that remains is what is good and lovely.

(6) Those expressions of not imputing sin

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:2, see also Romans 4:6-8)

To not impute iniquity is to not charge it against a person, to not credit it to them. This is the precise blessing of pardon: that I will not have my sins brought against me.

(7) That particular promise of Psalm 103

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

What a vast distance there is between east and west!

These seven categories of precious promises form the third reason that God will never again bring our sins against us in judgment.

  1. Because Christ exposing our sins seems out of place on that great day, for three reasons.

(1) It seems out of place, given the great glory and solemnity of the day, which for God’s people will be a day of refreshing, a day of restitution, a day of redemption, a day of coronation, as we have already seen. Now, how suitable to this great day of solemnity the exposure of the sins of all the saints would be, I leave the reader to judge.

(2) It seems out of place, given the relationship of Jesus Christ to his people. He is their father, brother, head, husband, friend, and advocate. Now, are not all these relations bound rather to hide and conceal the weakness of their loved ones, at least from the world at large? And is not Christ so much more? He is more a father, brother and friend to us in his spiritual love than the best of all human relationships.

(3) It seems out of place, given what the Lord himself requires of us in this world. The Lord requires that his people cast a covering of love, wisdom, and silence over one another’s weaknesses.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. (Proverbs 10:12, 1 Peter 4:8)

Love’s covering is very large; love finds a bandage for every wound.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:5)

Would Jesus Christ have us to act toward one another in one way, while he acts in a completely different manner? If it is an evil to expose the weakness and faults of saints in the world, how could it be a glory and virtue for Christ to do the same on the final day of this age?

*****

Brooks goes on to briefly discuss the glory of passing over a transgression, and then ends his answer with this concluding paragraph, which is presented here without major editing or updating of the original style:

The heathens have long since observed, that in nothing man came nearer to the glory and perfection of God himself, than in goodness and clemency. Surely if it be an honor to man, ‘to pass over a transgression,’ it cannot be a dishonor to Christ to pass over the transgressions of his people, he having already buried them in the sea of his blood. Again, saith Solomon, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a thing,’ (Proverbs 25:2). And why it should not make for the glory of divine love to conceal the sins of the saints in that great day, I know not; and whether the concealing the sins of the saints in that great day will not make most for their joy, and wicked men’s sorrow, for their comfort and wicked men’s terror and torment, I will leave you to judge, and time and experience to decide. And this much for the resolution of that great question.

As Thomas Brooks writes, it is for you the reader to judge his view of the final judgment. Is it biblical or not? If you answer no, at least take care upon what grounds you reject it. Never settle for a shallow view of the forgiveness of sins in Christ. The sea of his blood is deep indeed. The cross is bloody and the tomb is empty. The Christian’s final hope is to be finally blameless in Christ, to his gracious glory, and by his glorious grace.

(By: Nicolas Alford)

[1] Thomas Brooks, The Works of Thomas Brooks, 220.

[2] The full original can be read on pages 220-24 in the Banner of Truth’s The Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1.

[3] All Scripture references have been updated to the English Standard Version.

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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– 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)

THE NEW COVENANT– The Law and the Heart: AN EXPOSITION OF JEREMIAH 31:31-34 (PART 4)

Law, Scripture, The Church, The Gospel, Theology, Uncategorized

The Law and the Heart

These next four posts are the most important for getting a handle on the covenant recipients. Though my own views of baptism do not depend upon the answer to this question, this has certainly been a very important question in the baptism debate. Jeremiah (and Hebrews) do not have baptism view, but there is no question that they do have in mind certain recipients of the new covenant. We have seen that these recipients are Christ and, via union with him, his church. Now we want to be more specific regarding the church. For in the (visible) church there are both true and false believers.

We will unfold these four posts by taking a look at the biblical meaning of three positive phrases about the new covenant, each of which is followed by a positive effect. The first involves the law on the heart its effect. The second involves teaching the law and its effect. The third involves breaking the law and its effect. Notice then that law is involved in the new covenant. It isn’t that the new covenant is without law. I would argue that all covenants, by definition, involve law. Law is the “stipulations” of a covenant. Law is what you have to “do” in order to “keep covenant.” Instead of having no law in the new covenant, it is our relationship to the law because of Christ The Law-keeper that now marks the “newness” in this regard. But his law-keeping does something else. It marks a newness in the recipients of the covenant from old to new. This is what we will look at now.

This post and the next are about the law and the heart. The phrase is, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jer 31:33). Hebrews puts it this way, I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10). Hebrews takes Jeremiah’s “law” and makes it plural. Perhaps it does this so that you know it is talking about the actual commandments within the Torah.

Of course, this begs the question, “Which laws?” This is a difficult question to answer. Hebrews clearly has in mind the ceremonial laws, which I believe come via the post-Sinai/Golden-Calf covenant referred to as the Levitical covenant (Neh 13:29; Jer 33:21; Mal 2:4, 8). But would God write ceremonial laws on our hearts when he says that the ceremonials laws like washings and animal sacrifices are done away? A different NT passage talking about the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3) seems to have the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic covenant in mind. In that passage, it talks about the Corinthians as actually being letters written by Christ, not on stone, but on flesh (2Co 3:2-3).[1] Yet, some will make the same charge even about moral law. “We are not under law, but under grace,” as they try to apply this “no law” view even to Moses. “Why would God write these on our hearts now? That would seem to defeat the whole point of not being under law.”

Here is my answer to which laws. First, simply put, it says that God will write the law(s) on our hearts. Jeremiah is talking about some kind of laws in the OT, therefore it has to be some kind of OT laws. A blogger has said, “Anyone claiming to be in covenant with G-d under the New covenant has had the Torah written on their hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:31-33)! We cannot accept Torah being written on our heart and mind while summarily rejecting Torah as old & nailed to a cross.”[2] Whether this blogger understands how the Torah has been nailed to a cross is one thing, but the point being made is another—and it is correct. New covenant Christians want to keep the law.

As it regards the moral law, I don’t see how you can read 2 Cor 3 and come away with an answer that doesn’t at least include these. The Ten are now written on our hearts. Second, we have to realize that even civil and ceremonial law are kept in the church. But they are kept differently in the church than they were in the OT nation. Paul applies the “do not muzzle the ox” (civil law) passage to paying the pastor. He is taking an eternal moral principle and applying it in the NT economy. Paul also uses all kinds of ceremonial language and applies it to us with perhaps the most well known being, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices…” (Rom 12:1). So it isn’t that all law ceases, it is our stance towards it that is different.

Our stance is now understood through the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ. The law demands obedience. Jesus obeyed. The law promises life when there is obedience. Jesus was raised from the dead because he is The Law-Keeper. By his death through faith alone, God pardons our law-breaking because he is pleased with The Son. Therefore, the law no longer condemns us, because Jesus put that work to death on the cross. Now, we are free to obey the law not out of guilt or fear of punishment, but for another reason. But this begs the question of who has the law written on their heart? Everyone in the whole world? Infants born into Christian families? The elect prior to faith? The elect after coming to faith?

What might it mean to have the law written on your heart, and how would this be a new thing? Recall King Josiah of whom it is said that he “turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses” (2Kg 23:35). Or David who says that the law is in his heart (Ps 37:31; 40:8). I see three possible differences in the new covenant from what we see here. One thing that is not different is if someone concluded that Jeremiah is predicting that finally, in the new covenant, people will be saved. No. David and Josiah were saved. They were regenerated by God, justified by faith, and they loved God’s law.

The first difference could be the people in the covenant. No longer is God keeping the writing of the law within the bounds of the nation of Israel and the elect within her (i.e. Josiah and David). No, now he is extending it to Gentiles. Very importantly, the Apostle Paul does say something about the law in relation to Gentiles. He says that they “do what the law requires” even though they do not have the law and this makes them “a law to themselves” (Rom 2:14). He adds, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (15). Critically, Paul’s “work of the law” is different from the law itself. The work of the law is to condemn or show a person to be right in their actions. All men know God’s law. All men have this work of the law already on their hearts. But this is different from personally deeply longing do obey and do God’s law. Gentiles know it and do it because they can’t live with a dirty conscience as it were. But do they love God’s law? If they are in the new covenant they sure do. This is what it means to have the law now written on your heart.

A second difference would be the place where the law was kept. In the OT, the law was “kept” on tablets of stone in a tabernacle of wood and gold. In the new covenant, the law is now “kept” in the people’s hearts. This is part of the implication that believers are God’s “temple.” The Holy Spirit descends on the church at Pentecost, and the “place” of God’s dwelling, and thus the law, thereby changes as well.

A third difference is the percentage of people within the covenant that want to keep the law. If this is correct (and Baptists and Infant Baptists disagree on this point), I believe it is very significant. God seems to be saying that he will write the law on the hearts of 100% of those who are in the new covenant. Not everyone who is in the visible church per se, but everyone who is in the new covenant. The church is the vehicle through which the new covenant is received, but it is not the new covenant itself anymore than Abraham was a covenant. No, he was a person through whom the promises of his covenant came. We will see this better as the next three posts unfold more of the meaning of the language of the promises of the new covenant to us.

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[1] Is this an interesting allusion to how Christ is the one who originally wrote the letters on the stone on top of the mountain with Moses?

[2] Messianic Jewish Blogger ShaliachShalom, in a comment at: https://standingonshoulders.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/where-did-the-term-old-testament-and-new-testament-come-from/

(by: Doug Van Dorn)