Monthly Archives: August 2014

Matt Dirks on Justin Taylor’s blog

Thankful for Matt Dirks, and his ministry at Harbor Church, and also for Justin Taylor, constantly promoting good, gospel-centered ministry. Check out the promotion for Matt and Chris Bruno’s new book here.

John Piper on Inerrancy

Some of the most edifying and convincing arguments you will ever hear about why you can believe every single word of the Bible is true (Piper speaks for the first 7 minutes):

Come hear John Piper at TGC Hawaii’s Overflow Conference Oct 17-18

You should consider becoming a Presbyterian, part 4

God works through covenants

(note: this discussion may not be that easy to follow as I might be assuming some of my readers, and I might not fully understand the whole issue as well as I think, but I will try and make the clear things as clear as possible)

It should be noted that all Christians pretty much agree on the fact that God works through covenants. But where I am indebted to Presbyterians is that they largely think explicitly about covenants to help understand the one storyline of Scripture, whereas the traditions I grew up in do not. The Westminster Confession of Faith refers to the “covenant of works”, which was the agreement between God and Adam at creation, which is why there is a curse on the world now; and it also refers to the “covenant of grace”, which is the agreement with God and His Son, that all those who trust in Christ will be saved. The covenant of grace finds different expressions throughout the Bible, culminating in the New Covenant. Adam is the first covenant head, Jesus is the second covenant head.

It really does help piece the whole Bible together. Everyone is born into the covenant of works, so everyone is condemned through our covenant head, Adam. But all those who enter the covenant of grace are saved through our covenant head, Jesus. That is all right out of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. That is why it is very accurate to say (as I once heard that Mark Dever has said, and this sounds like him) that covenant theology is the gospel.

What I have found to be a problem with the Presbyterian understanding of the covenant of grace is that there seems to be a loophole. Presbyterians argue that children of believers are partakers of the Covenant of Grace. That is why they baptize them. We also would agree that in the Covenant, God is making promises to all who receive the covenant signs. So my question is: If God is making promises to those who receive the sign, shouldn’t every child of a Presbyterian should end up being justified, sanctified, and glorified? If not, then the covenant is not a sure thing.

The two ways (I think) they would respond is that, one, the covenant of grace is a conditional covenant (which, to me, flies in the face of grace, according to Romans 4.16), and, two, the covenant members are not the same as the elect (which, to me, calls into question the reason for this covenant of grace, and would mean that there is no single covenant in the Bible that is a guarantee for any human being; in other words, there would be no single covenant exclusively God and the elect).

I think the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith is helpful when it says that the Covenant of Grace “is founded in that eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect.” (Reformed) Baptists are explicit about the Covenant of Redemption, an agreement within the Trinity to redeem an elect people from all tribes, tongues and nations through the blood of the Son. The two parties: the Father and the Son. It is a sure thing. Therefore, the different covenants of the Bible work out that one eternal covenant (Hebrews 13.20). It makes all those who are a part of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) completely confident that God will provide exactly what we need to receive all the covenant blessings.

This, I believe, still makes me covenantal, but, also in my opinion, more consistent. And at the end of the day, it is more comforting for believers. As you might see, it is difficult to talk about covenants without talking about covenant signs (the Sacraments). So that is where I plan to turn next.

Driscoll, Repentance, Restoration

There is a good blog post from Barnabas Piper, son of John Piper, about the “fall from grace” of Mark Driscoll (HT: Chris Bruno). It is a great reminder for Christians to respond as those who have received grace upon grace.

In my few years as a pastor, I have heard of so many stories of pastors who have fallen from grace because of seasons of unrepentant sin. This reminds me of two things for my own life and ministry:

  1. God has had so much grace on me. If you knew me during my college years, you would have wondered if I was a Christian. If you knew all of my daily struggles and sins, you would wonder if I was a Christian. There is no one that thinks I am less deserving to be a pastor than me. How much more grace should I have on other pastors who fall from grace.
  2. Should the Lord ever allow me to fall into unrepentant sin, I pray my main hope will not be restoration to pastoral ministry. I hope I will not see forgiveness from the church only in the form of “you may preach to us again.” If I were to live my life in such a way that KBC removed me from office, I pray that God will grant me repentance and restoration to the Church. I hope that I will feel forgiven the moment the church allows me to take the Lord’s Supper with them again.

May the Lord forbid this from ever happening to any pastor ever again. But if situations like this arise, let us think in terms of restoration to the Body before anything else, and remember that restoration in our relationship with God and His people is better than restoration to any temporal office or status.

You should consider becoming a Presbyterian, part 3

Let me be clear that my message here is that you should consider becoming a Presbyterian for all the reasons I laid out in my last post, but decide to be a Baptist for all the reasons I will lay out in the next few posts. And my reason for taking this time is twofold: to honor Presbyterians and the great Reformed tradition, and to show how this is an important issue with implications for the mission of the church.

Continuity vs Discontinuity

Is there a connection between OT Israel and the NT Church? Yes. Peter says the church is a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2.9). OT Israel is a type of the Church, meaning the church fulfills the pattern that God set with the nation of Israel in the OT (for full disclosure: Jesus is the True Israel, and the Church, by virtue of our union with Him, is also the True Israel). He even applies the language straight from Exodus 19 to the Church. Clearly there is continuity. But to say there is no discontinuity between Israel and the Church does not do justice to typology. Something is different about the church compared to Israel, in the same way something is different about a butterfly compared to a caterpillar.

HOWEVER, I do think the word “discontinuity” is a bit of a misnomer. It smacks of God stopping one thing and starting another. I believe the word “discontinuity” leads to confusion in many conversations. This is why the language of “progression” or “unfolding plan” becomes more helpful. God only has one continuous plan that He purposely unfolds throughout the Scriptures.

I am happy to call God’s elect people “the Church” in the OT. But it is God’s elect that are the Church in the OT. It is confusing to Christians to call Israel “the Church” in the OT without qualification. On the other hand, it is not helpful to accuse anyone of saying God replaces Israel with the Church. There is one continuous, unfolding plan for one people in the Scriptures. It is the nature of the unfolding that makes the New Covenant new, and that has persuaded me more than anything to be Baptist. It is to covenant structures we will turn next.

But for this post, to be clear: it is the nature of typology that has caused me to say “continuity, amen!, but with unfolding revelations along the way.”