Category Archives: Covenant Theology

Why weekly Lord’s Supper

We recently moved to weekly Communion on Sunday mornings. The two best reasons I have ever heard for not doing it weekly:

  1. It will become less special
  2. In order to really guard the Table, we should do it less

Regarding number 1, is there really anything else that we treat like that? Regarding number 2, is there really anything else we treat like that? For both, I think the answer is to just do it well every time. I try to kiss my wife goodbye everyday when I go to work. As long as I really mean it, I think it is a valid kiss. And even sometimes when my mind is not as fully there as it should be, it is still a good thing.

To those I will add one more possible reason for not doing it weekly: in Calvin’s Geneva, the civil government did not allow it. Ok, maybe in that case, that is a good reason to not do it weekly.

Outside of that, there are a lot of reasons to do it every time the church gathers for worship on the Lord’s Day:

  1. It appears to be the NT pattern (Acts 2.42, Acts 20.7)
  2. As often as you do it, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Cor 11.26). I repeat, as often as you do it, you proclaim the death of Christ!
  3. It forces Christians to examine themselves every week
  4. It helps non-Christians in attendance see who the Body of Christ is, and understand they are not a part of it yet
  5. It is the central benefit to church membership- anyone under the discipline of a church should be barred from the Lord’s Table; taking the Lord’s Supper once a month is like barring everyone three times a month

I could go on and on. It really comes down to what you think “this is my body” and “this is my blood” really means. Unless you say “I think Jesus meant this is not his body and blood,” I think you always give up a good thing if you do not practice it on any given Sunday.

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What does “God so loved the world” mean?

It is so easy to think John 3.16 means “God loves every single human being so much” and leave it at that. But it has to mean more than that. It says “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.”

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave Jesus.” But it has to mean more than that. It says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” John 3.16 starts with the word “for”! And right before that, Jesus says, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” So just like Moses lifted a bronze serpent (a symbol of a cursed and defeated enemy) for the life of the Israelites, so Jesus must be lifted up (on the cross, as a crushed enemy of God!) for the life of believers. God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son to die!

It still might be easy to think it means “God loves every single human being so much, so He gave His Son to die.” But it has to mean more than that. For what does dying have to do with love? If you know the gospel, you know that Jesus died in the place of sinners, so that sinners would not have to die. So that does sound loving. But John 3.16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son (to die), that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

So many conclude John 3.16 means “God loves every human being so much, so he gave Jesus to die in their place, to give them a chance to be saved.” That is where good old fashioned logic helps. In John 3.16 God’s love leads to the sending of the Son, which leads to every believer being saved. The end of God’s love is every believer being saved. Go ahead and read John 3.16 again, and see if that is not what it actually says. In other words, God’s love does not merely produce a chance. God’s love produces salvation for believers!

Good Friday is good because it is the day God loved the world!

What does it mean to be “Reformed”? part 4

First, it means you are unashamedly Protestant. Second, it means you are unashamedly Calvinist. Third, I propose to you, it means you have a Covenantal understanding of history.

This one is mostly a historical argument. Covenant Theology is articulated in much of the Reformed Confessions from the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly the Westminster Confessions, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dordt, and, not to mention, the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith. I encourage you to read those confessions, search the Scriptures to see if what they are saying is true, and see if you are not a Covenant theologian on some level.

I would also argue this is a logical necessity if you consider yourself a Calvinist. There is a lot more that could be said, but I would just point out three major elements of covenant theology, and ask a few questions to help you discern whether or not you are a Covenant theologian.

  1. Covenant Theology makes the gospel Trinitarian- The Father, Son, and Spirit are all distinct Persons working for the salvation of sinners, and all working in total unity with each other for the salvation of sinners. Do you believe God decreed all of history from all eternity (Isaiah 46.8-10)? And if you do, do you belive that decree is unitarian, or Trinitarian? If you say “Trinitarian,” then I say you believe in the Covenant of Redemption.
  2. Covenant Theology says God’s covenants frame all of the bible and all of history- from that one Covenant of Redemption flows all of the Bible. Do you believe any promises or warnings from God in the Bible fall outside of the Covenant of Redemption? Forget ‘continuity and discontinuity’; do you believe the Bible is united or divided? If you think the Bible is a unit, then I say you believe in the one Covenant of Grace.
  3. Covenant Theology says God has chosen to save and sanctify and bless one people from Genesis to Revelation- within the one Covenant of Grace, there is a people that the Father gives to the Son. Not two peoples. Not two plans. Not two blessings. Not a replacement of one people with another. One people that the Son laid His life down for (Ephesians 5.2). Do you believe the Bride of Christ is made up of Jews and Gentiles? If you do, then look at all of God’s promises in the Bible to His elect Bride, and I think you will find you have a Reformed view of the people of God.

I do not think Dispensationalists are heretics in the false teaching sense, at all. But I do think the classic and normative views of Dispensationalism are not Reformed at best, and are taking the focus off of Christ and His love for His Bride at worst. They can say they are gospel-centered, but when the “hope” of a Jew lay outside of the blessings for all peoples, tribes, nations, and languages– even a 1000 years of non-gospel blessings in the view of many– it no longer keeps the gospel at the center of the story.

You cannot understand the gospel without the OT

1 Corinthians 15.3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

When Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel, he includes the fact that Jesus’ death in the place of sinners and his third-day resurrection is in accordance with Holy Scriptures. Just a few implications of that:

  • Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are what the OT is about. If that is not what you are drawing out of the OT, it is your loss.
  • Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT is a part of the good news. Somehow, God comforts us by telling us that His Son’s life, death, and resurrection were all a part of His good, unshakeable, unstoppable plan from all eternity.
  • Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are devoid of a lot of its meaning if it is ripped out of the context of the entire Bible. Presentations of the gospel that do not open up how Jesus’ life is “according to the Scriptures” may not have the Spiritual power to save.

If someone shows any spiritual interest, my first thought is now to take them to the Scriptures. We should be much quicker– especially in our day, in our country– rather than to say, “would you like to ask Jesus into your heart?” we should instead ask, “would you like to have a Bible study together?”

 

The Debate heard under water

I do not blame you if this kind of stuff does not intrigue you, but I never get tired of talking about it. There has been a good series of great writers weighing in on credobaptism vs paedobaptism, and its implications for young children. You should consider skimming through it:

http://9marks.org/article/mailbag-5-not-baptizing-children-small-groups-elders-and-porn-again/

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/06/no-you-cant-be-baptized-yet.php

http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/guest_post_jonathan_leeman_on_baptism_and_a_theology_of_children

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/when-to-baptize-our-believing-children

And this may be the best one:

http://patrickschreiner.com/?p=12730

I really do not have much to add. I definitely lean toward Patrick Schreiner’s position. One thing I would say is that a church should probably have more say about whether an individual should get baptized than the individual in question should. We should expect that the local church would be able to discern a person’s life better than the person (whether the individual wants to get baptized or whether the individual is hesitant to get baptized because they are not sure if they are a Christian).

Do not resist Covenant Theology for the wrong reasons

Covenant Theology is a system for understanding how to put the whole Bible together. It is the understanding that God made one over-arching covenant within the Trinity before the foundation of the world, and the entire Bible’s story is an outworking of that one covenant, known as the Covenant of Redemption, or the Covenant of Grace.

Outside of Presbyterian circles, it seems there are hardly any Covenant theologians. Though I am no expert in these matters, I would classify myself as one. And because I have only recently (in the last five years, really) taken on that label consciously, it has brought about many conversations with many friends. I would encourage you to consider studying covenant theology, and attempt to be persuaded by the many great Reformed minds of the last 400 years. Covenant Theology really stems from the Reformation, and has been held by those who subscribe to the Westminster and 2nd London Baptist Confessions ever since. From my limited experience, I perceive that most American Christians reject Covenant Theology for four bad reasons:

  1. No regard for history- just because something has been believed for many years does not make it right. Let me be clear on that. But it seems to me that most Christians in America are not big readers, and if they are, they only read things from the last 100 years or less. Please do not reject Covenant Theology just because you are unwilling to read harder books (many older books are harder, and much of the writings of Covenant theologians are older).
  2. It is not the language of Scripture- I think we should get our theology from the Bible, period. Just like any other responsible Christian. But just because we get theology from the Bible does not mean we do not have to do some synthesizing and harmonizing at times. Just because the term “covenant of redemption” does not appear in the Bible does not mean we should reject it, right? (You simply cannot get around the “Trinity” comparison here)
  3. They think it is a Presbyterian thing- many Reformed-ish Baptists seem to reject Covenant Theology simply because it is largely a Presbyterian system for understanding the Bible. I would say the majority of Covenant theologians have been Presbyterians. But as I mentioned, the 1689 Baptists were all Covenant theologians!
  4. “It is not what I learned growing up”- just because you never heard this growing up is no reason to reject it. I know you would all agree with that, but it seems to me many people just hate admitting they are wrong about things, and will go to the grave rejecting certain things simply because of that.

One great resource: “Covenant Theology” by Greg Nichols

Is “Limited Atonement” that important?

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” (Ezekiel 36.26)

There is a growing movement of 4-point “Calvinists” (many, like Bruce Ware, reject “Limited Atonement” for reasons they back up well with Scripture; but many don’t). Most people reject Calvinism because of the doctrine of “Limited Atonement.” Most people who reject Calvinism misunderstand the doctrine of “Limited Atonement.” I get it. I understand the difficulty of initially accepting this doctrine.

BUT, I want to defend the importance of this doctrine. Do I think you have to believe this to be a Christian? MAY IT NEVER BE! Do I equate “Limited Atonement” with the gospel, or even with Calvinism? Of course not. Do I think any Christians should divide over this doctrine. Absolutely not! But do I think it is worth talking about and even defending? Yes. Truth is truth.

Just a quick word on why anyone would believe Jesus only died for certain persons, AND NOT others: Jesus actually accomplished something on the cross. And among the many, many things He died for was the new heart and the Holy Spirit that everyone in the New Covenant receives. Why does God decide to make someone alive together with Christ (Eph 2.4-5)? It is because Jesus paid for God to do that.

This doctrine is not the gospel. But it does help protect the gospel. Please do not demonize a position just because you disagree with it?