Saturday, December 24, 2011

JESUS THE GOD-MAN

Excerpted from "Holding Fast Our Confession"
http://www.amazon.com/HOLDING-FAST-OUR-CONFESSION-ebook/dp/B006ZSV90Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327388023&sr=8-1

 (See Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 8, paras 6-8)

Introduction
The redemption promised to the Old Testament believers came to pass through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among His people. He is the One who lived the perfect life by keeping God’s Law for His elect people. He is the One who laid down His life to pay for the sins of His elect people. All who trust in Him alone for salvation are His elect people. Therefore, whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And at the heart of the Gospel message is the requirement for people to believe in Him.
But what about His people in the Old Testament? What about those who lived before the incarnation of the Word? What about those who lived before the 2nd Person in the Trinity took to Himself human flesh? How were the Old Testament saints saved? Well, the Old Testament saints were saved the same way the New Testament saints, i.e., you and I are saved. We all are saved – whether Old or New Testament – by Christ’s perfect life and atoning death.
This is the grace of God toward us. Which is to say that the God-man Jesus Christ kept the Covenant of Works perfectly, and also paid the price owed for the breaking of it. This is what we mean when we say that we believe in Him. We believe that He is the perfect Man who kept God’s covenant Law perfectly. And we believe that He paid the price we owe for not keeping God’s Law perfectly. And we believe that everything Jesus did was as our substitute or representative. Which is to say that we believe that He stood in for us. He represented us, and continues forevermore, to represent us, before God.
We believe, therefore, that God has accepted the perfect work of His Son. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is testimony enough that God’s justice has been fully satisfied by the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament saints were saved through believing that the Promised One was coming to satisfy God’s justice. And the New Testament saints, (including you and me) are saved through believing that the Promised One has come and has satisfied God’s justice.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all the saints of God whether Old or New Testament. He is the Saviour of all who believe.

The Person of the God-man

If you were asked what you think is the most valuable thing in the world, how would you answer? Would you say your spouse? Or your children? Or your family? We would answer that question about the most valuable thing in the world by stating what was most valuable to us personally. Maybe it’s your car, or your house, or your combine-harvester!
But what is it that gives a thing value in the first place? Is it your love for it? Or is it your need of it? Or perhaps both? Well, surely you can see that Jesus Christ is the most valuable thing in the world? For isn’t He what the world needs and is He not what we love most? But, someone might say that Jesus Christ is not in the world. And if He is not in the world how can He be the most valuable thing in the world? But of course He’s in the world! He’s been in the world from the very beginning!
Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” So, if the LORD God was walking in the Garden of Eden way back in the beginning, then Christ has been in the world from the beginning!
We need to be careful here, don’t we? We’re not saying that Christ in human flesh was in the Garden. But we are saying that the One who took to Himself human flesh and became Jesus at His incarnation was in the Garden. So, we’re saying that the One who, in the fullness of the time, became Jesus was in the world at a time prior to becoming Jesus. He was in the world at a previous time because He is God, and as God, He is not bound by time as we are.
But the point I make, is that when the Word became flesh, i.e., when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, He didn’t become another person, or a different person. He remained the same Person He always was, always is, and always will be. His incarnation didn’t change the fact that He is God the Son, the 2nd Person in the Trinity. The God-man Jesus Christ has two distinct natures – the Divine and the human. But His divine nature is not changed or altered by His human nature. Nor is His human nature changed or altered in any way by His divine nature. As the Scripture says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8. Therefore, if we are going to talk about the most valuable thing in the world, we need to talk about Jesus Christ, don’t we?
Jesus Christ is God in the world. He is our Immanuel, which means, God with us. Therefore, because His human nature is united to His divine nature, He is the most valuable thing in the world. How so? Well, God is infinite in being and perfection. And if Christ is infinite in His being and perfection He must give infinite worth to His humanity. And if He gives infinite worth to His humanity, He also must give infinite worth to the perfect deeds done in His human body.
Are you still with me? Think about it this way: Jesus Christ has saved us from our sins. What do our sins deserve? According to Scripture, we deserve to suffer the wrath of God forever in Hell for our sins. Hell is the place of everlasting torment. Jesus speaks about Hell being the place of “…fire that shall never be quenched— ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’” Mark 9:43&44. He says in Matthew 25:46, “These [i.e., the wicked] shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
So the question then is this?  If it’s everlasting punishment we deserve for our sins, how could Christ pay that debt of everlasting punishment we owe to God? The answer is that He, on account of being Divine, is of infinite value. Therefore any work that He does, has done, or will do, is of infinite value. If He were not a Divine Person His life and death would not be of infinite worth. And if His life and death are not of infinite worth, then how can He pay the penalty of everlasting punishment?
Everlasting is a long time, isn’t it? In fact everlasting is forever and ever! Well, that’s what Christ has paid for a numberless multitude! All of humanity is deserving of everlasting death, i.e., conscious torment in the fires of Hell forever. But Jesus Christ, on account of His Person, has paid that price in full! His perfect life and atoning death is infinitely more than enough to pay for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” His work of redemption is enough to cover all the sins of everyone in the world who will believe in Him for salvation. Therefore, the work of the Mediator is enough to cover the sins of those believers who were in the world before His incarnation.
The value, effect and benefit of this redemption have been communicated to God’s chosen people since the beginning of the world. The Old Testament people saw the Seed of the Woman who would crush the Serpent’s head in the promises, types, and animal sacrifices. Immediately after man sinned in the Garden God promised that in time the Seed of the Woman would crush the Serpent’s head. The Old Testament people saw a type of this, e.g., in Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and also king David; all crushed their enemies. The victories these men accomplished under God were typical of – or were pictures of – the ultimate victory of Christ over the Devil.
Circumcision and Passover were, of course, types of Christ and what He was coming to do. And with the Old Testament sacrifices they revealed that the Promised One was going to take away their sins. John says in Revelation 13:8b that Jesus Christ is “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Therefore, it is on account of His Divinity He has been in the world since it’s beginning. And He has been successfully communicating to His elect in all ages progressively, what He was going to do, and now what He has done.
He was and is able to do this because of who He is as a Person. Jesus Christ is the God-man. Which is to say that He is One Divine Person with two distinct natures forever.

The Perseverance of the God-man

The God-man will persevere forever with and for His people because he is One Divine Person with two distinct natures forever. And He will persevere by interceding for them forever. And He will continue with them by revealing to them the revealed truths of salvation in and by the Word. And He will persist in effectively persuading them to believe and obey by His Spirit and His Word. And He will carry on ruling in their hearts by His Word and Spirit. And He will persevere in defeating all His people’s enemies by His almighty power and His wisdom. And He will do so in such manner and ways as are most agreeable to His wonderful and unsearchable administration of all things. So, in a word, the God-man will persevere with us and for us! 
He intercedes for us before God on the strength and value of the perfect life He lived, and His infinite sacrifice at Calvary. Mark 10:45, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” 1 Timothy 2:5&6, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave His life a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
So, His life of infinite worth was given to ransom us, to redeem us, to buy us back from Hell. He kept the Covenant of Works perfectly for all who believe in Him and His works. And His infinite sacrifice, i.e., the sacrifice of Himself, was to fully satisfy God’s Divine justice for us. Therefore all the sins of all the saints, past, present, and future have been paid for in full. For, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8b.
This perfect life and infinite sacrifice is communicated to all who will believe. The God-man makes absolutely, positively certain that they will hear and believe. Therefore He effectively applies and communicates to them the redemption He has purchased for them. Jesus says in John 10:14-16 says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” So, His sheep hear His voice. His voice is heard when the Word and the Spirit work together in the elect person.
He brings His flock into the fold through the proclamation of His Gospel. His Gospel is preached, and will be preached, every Sunday in every faithful congregation until He comes again. Where a person keeps on repenting and keeps on believing in the Gospel, there is the God-man applying and communicating to that person His purchased redemption. For the Spirit works with the Word effectively persuading that person to believe and obey the Gospel.
And Jesus says in John 6:37-39, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”
So, the God-man is going to persevere with all the Father has given Him and raise us up at the last day. And He will continue to rule in our hearts until that last day, and then forevermore. He rules in our hearts by His Spirit and His Word. As even the Old Testament psalmist says, “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” Psalm 119:11. And the following is written in Psalm 110:1&2, “‘The LORD said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!”
So, the God-man rules in our hearts by His Word and His Spirit. And His enemies are being made His footstool – even now! The Apostle Paul speaking of Christ says, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” 1 Corinthians 15:25. (This, of course, is not suggesting that His reign will come to an end when all enemies are put under His feet. For that would mean that His enemies will – albeit inadvertently – conquer Him!)
So we see then that He will persevere till all enemies are under His feet. And since all Christ’s enemies are our enemies we are more than conquerors in Him! And since it is God who is making His enemies into His footstool His kingdom cannot fail! For God is almighty in power and in wisdom. And Jesus Christ is the incarnate omnipotent and all-wise God. In this we see that the God-man does His work of Mediator according to both His natures.
In fact, because of the unity of His Person, Scripture Itself sometimes attributes what is proper to one nature to the person named according to the other nature.  Luke records the Apostle Paul saying to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” And John 3:13, where Jesus says, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”
One perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily speak of God shedding His blood because God is Spirit and therefore has no blood to shed. And neither perhaps would one ordinarily speak of the Son of Man as having come down from heaven, since the name “Son of Man” suggests a human person, i.e., a man. But we may and do say these things because Jesus Christ is the God-man. Which is to say, that because He is One Divine Person with two distinct natures, anything that pertains to either nature is rightfully ascribed to His Person. Did God shed His own blood? Some prefer to translate that verse to say that God shed the blood of His own: “His own”, as in His own Son. But regardless, any blood that was shed was shed only by the Person who is Jesus Christ. Which is to say that the God-man shed His blood.
We need to be very careful, therefore, not to be guilty of transferring or ascribing His Divine attributes to His humanity, or His human attributes to His Divinity. To be sure, Christ’s Divinity gives infinite value to His humanity. But this is not going a millimetre towards alleging that His humanity has any attributes that belong to His divinity.
An example of this error would be the very popular teaching that the resurrected Jesus is able to walk through solid doors. In John 20:19 we are told only that when the disciples were in a room and when the doors were shut Jesus came and stood in the midst. Is this verse teaching that Jesus de-materialized in one place and re-materialized at will in another, like Mr Spock in Star Trek? I put it to you that you are confusing the two natures of Christ if you think this. You are mixing His Divinity with His humanity. Therefore be very careful not to go beyond what the Scripture is actually stating. How Jesus came to be in that locked room is not stated. But I would think long and hard about the fact that Jesus is One Divine Person with two distinct natures, human and Divine forever, before I would draw any conclusions!
But alas! Rome with their doctrine of Transubstantiation teaches that Jesus Christ can be in more than one place bodily at their Mass. And, arguably, so do the Lutherans with their doctrine of Consubstantiation. Both these doctrines, if you don’t know, have to do with the physical i.e., the bodily presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper, i.e., the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity. But we believe that Jesus Christ after His bodily resurrection was raised bodily into Heaven where He remains bodily till He returns bodily after all His enemies have been made His footstool. Therefore the God-man is in Heaven bodily right now, and He is interceding on our behalf. For as John says in 1 John 2:1, “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
What does an advocate do? He pleads the cause of others. Therefore Jesus Christ is in Heaven pleading the cause of His elect seed before His Father. And He is doing this as our Representative. He is advocating for us on the strength or value of the perfect human life He lived, and His atoning human death. But if He is presently no longer one of us, (i.e., if His Adamic nature has changed and is no longer Adamic) He would be doing a poor job of representing us human beings! An angel might as well represent us! But Scripture says that Jesus remains like us in every way apart from sin.
Hebrews 4:14&15, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has Passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” So, we see then that our High Priest sympathizes with us because He is, and remains as, one of us even in Heaven. As Hebrews 2:14 testifies, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same…”
I put it to you, that if Christ’s human nature has taken on attributes belonging to His divinity then He no longer is fully and truly Man; and therefore cannot be called the second Man or last Adam. And if He is no longer fully and truly Man, then we don’t have a true man, i.e., a true representative interceding for us in Heaven! If we don’t have a true man in Heaven interceding for us, then we are doomed to perish (as He must have done – if indeed He no longer has a human nature!) But the work of Christ in His role as our Mediator is not over and never will be! Yes, His High Priestly work of offering up Himself as the sacrificial Lamb on the cross is finished (John 19:30). But His High Priestly work as our intercessor is not finished and never can be finished. For a priest, as you know, was one who was appointed and anointed by God to offer up sacrifices to God for the sins of his people AND also to intercede for them.
His work as intercessor will never end, because that is what the Scriptures say! Hebrews 7:24&25, “But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” How much plainer could it be? He, i.e., the God-man Jesus Christ, continues forever. But if either of His two natures changes, even for a moment, He no longer continues as the same Godman for that moment. But we are told here that He continues forever in His role as Mediator between God and men. For He saves to the uttermost, i.e., He saves forever, those who come to God through Him. How is it possible for Him to save to the uttermost, even forever? Well, it’s because He always lives to make intercession for them. Which is to say that His role as Mediator is forevermore!
Therefore He will be making intercession for us as the God-man forever. This is good news to all saints in all ages!

Conclusion

Who is the God-man? He is Jesus Christ, who is one Divine Person with two distinct natures, which natures will never be changed, combined, or confused. Hebrews 10:12&13, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.”
Notice that these verses are saying that this Man sat down at the right hand of God. And notice what this Man is waiting for, and for how long He will be sitting there. He is waiting till such time as His enemies are made His footstool. Therefore He is going to persevere for as long as it takes to make His enemies His footstool. And once His enemies have been subdued they will remain subdued as His footstool forever.
He is the Promised Seed of the Woman who has crushed the Serpent’s head. He crushed the Serpent’s head by becoming the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world who was slain in the fullness of the time. Therefore He conquered His enemies in principle at Calvary’s cross. Now He is waiting till God has fully put that principle into practice.
If Christ crushed the Serpent’s head in principle as the God-man, then as the God-man He will persevere till He has overcome all His enemies in practice. It is a Man who is sitting on the throne till God makes His enemies His footstool. Therefore His human nature must remain united to His Divine nature. Otherwise, we who were once His enemies, but have now been conquered, (i.e., converted by His grace), have no Mediator, no High Priest, no Advocate interceding for us in heaven! For if either of Christ’s two natures changes, or become combined, or confused at anytime with the other (e.g., in order to pass through a solid door!), then that’s the time we are without a proper Mediator! But let’s be thankful that the perseverance of the God-man is forever, because the Person of the God-man is forever.
Therefore we will never be without our Mediator – not even for a moment.

Taken from my e-book "Holding Fast Our Confession" http://web.mac.com/macfhionn/More_Snow_on_the_Ben/Holding_Fast_Our_Confession.html

Monday, December 19, 2011

ONE COVENANT


Excerpted from "Holding Fast Our Confession"

http://www.amazon.com/HOLDING-FAST-OUR-CONFESSION-ebook/dp/B006ZSV90Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327388023&sr=8-1

 (See Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7, paras 4-6)
Introduction
All Biblical covenants are one. All Biblical covenants are one covenant because the Triune God is One God. The triune God is in eternal covenant relationship with Himself. Therefore it is little wonder then that the Triune God should reveal and express Himself to man by way of covenant.  Thus when the Triune God created man in His own image He entered into a covenant arrangement with man.
The first covenant arrangement is commonly known as the Covenant of Works. In the Covenant of Works God put man (Adam) on probation. In that arrangement God promised man life upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. The penalty for disobedience in that covenant arrangement was death. Death was to be the penalty man received for breaking the Moral Law of God, which Law God had written in the heart of man at his creation. God also gave man an outward test, forbidding man to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The first covenant, i.e., the Covenant of Works was sovereignly administered by God to man. Man was to be obedient to God by expressing the covenantal nature of the eternal God in creation. As each Person in the Godhead loves the other Persons, so man was to love God and his neighbour as himself in all his undertakings at the creaturely level.
So we see then that the Covenant of Works is the revelation and expression of God – of His covenantal nature – to man in his unfallen state. God, therefore, revealed and expressed Himself to man by way of the Covenant of Works. In other words, the Covenant of Works was the pre-Fall in time administration of God’s eternal covenant. And since God’s covenant is an eternal covenant, it, like God, has no beginning and no end. And as Heaven overarches Earth, and Eternity overarches Time, so God’s everlasting covenant overarches all temporal Biblical covenants.
In a word, all Biblical covenants are simply earthly expressions of, and administrations of, the one eternal covenant in the Godhead. In human terms, God has His eternal covenant written in His heart – of which His Moral Law (of love for God and neighbour) is its eternal expression. And, in real terms man has the everlasting covenant of God written in his heart. Love for God and neighbour is its temporal or earthly expression.  Therefore, since God is progressively bringing to pass in time all things that He has decreed in eternity, the administrations of His covenant on earth is progressive. Which is to say that there have in time been different administrations of the one eternal covenant.

The Old Testament Administration

We’ve already mentioned that the first or pre-fall administration of the one covenant is the Covenant of Works. It’s ancient history that Adam, man’s covenant or federal representative, broke that first covenant arrangement. We know this because God’s covenant revelation, the Bible – the very Word of God – tells us. Therefore, the Bible is revelation of the History of the one covenant. Hence the revelation of God’s covenant is progressive – progressive revelation.
The next administration in time of God’s eternal covenant was the Covenant of Grace. The Covenant of Grace began to be administered immediately upon man’s breaking of the first covenant, (i.e., the way the eternal covenant was set up pre-Fall in the Covenant of Works). Hence this second covenant is most commonly referred to as the Covenant of Grace.
In the Covenant of Grace salvation is promised to man through the One who would crush the Serpent’s head, but would Himself be wounded for our transgressions. Genesis 3:15b, “…He [i.e., the Promised One] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” And Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, and was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
For the Old Testament saints this, of course, referred to the promised Christ who was to come. And for the New Testament saints it refers to the promised Christ who has come. Therefore, for both Old Testament and New Testament saints it refers to Christ – the Anointed One. Therefore, the Covenant of Grace refers to the Person and the works of the One God promised to send into the world to salvage or save those condemned by the broken Covenant of Works. And it is on account of this salvation that this administration of the one covenant is called the Covenant of Grace.
To be sure, the Covenant of Works was full of grace, but the Covenant of Grace is even more so on account of man’s sin. This covenant of Grace was differently administered in the Old Testament or before Christ, than it is in the New Testament after Christ has come.
There are various administrations of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament. From Adam to Noah the administration of the Covenant of Grace was very broad and general. From Noah to Abraham the administration became more particular. And it became even more particular again from Abraham to Moses. And from Moses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ it was very, very particular. But in all these administrations of the one covenant, the revelation of God and the expression of His gracious covenant was historically progressive. In other words, it was all leading to, or going somewhere. All history has a goal or purpose. That goal or purpose is revealed and expressed by God to us by way of covenant – His covenant.
If it is God’s covenant, then that covenant is eternal because it is the expression of the triune God who is eternal. But this doesn’t mean that any particular administration in time of the eternal covenant will be the final administration. However, it does mean that there are certain principles pertaining to the covenant that are to be administered for eternity. In other words, God’s grace will be administered to His elect for evermore. The grace never changes, but the period of administration does.
After making the promise to send One to destroy the Devil and his works, the LORD confirmed His covenantal promise to Adam and Eve by clothing them: “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” Genesis 3:21. Don’t miss the covenant significance of this. The tunics of skin speak of the shedding of blood. And the tunics or coats or garments of skin are literally “coverings”. Therefore the LORD God confirmed or established His covenant with Adam and Eve by covering them with a sign or token of that promise, even the skin of animals.
The Hebrew word for “skin” in Genesis 3:21 has to do with nakedness. Therefore the LORD made an animal or animals naked to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Literally, the LORD God covered their nakedness with skin. And don’t forget to think about this in terms of the covenant promise of the shed blood of the Seed of the Woman who was going to be bruised temporarily while bruising the Serpent’s head.
We see the continuity of this covenantal promise with Noah. In Genesis 9:11, God speaking to Noah says, “Thus I establish My covenant with you…” Notice that God calls the covenant “My covenant.” “Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
So, God has made a covenant promise. And in Genesis 9:16 we see the heart of that covenant promise: “The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” Therefore, when we look at a rainbow we are reminded with God of God’s everlasting covenant. It is the sign or token-reminder that God is overarching or covering our sins. However, the rainbow doesn’t detail to us the particulars of God everlasting covenant. However, Noah’s ark was a type of the Christ to come, as the Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 4. For He speaks there of the Flood in terms of a baptism which points to the Christ who saves us from God’s judgment.
After the flood when Noah came out of the ark he planted a vineyard. Genesis 9:21-23, “Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.”
Just as the LORD God Himself covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve, so the offspring of Noah covered his nakedness. And according to the covenant promise, One was coming to cover the sins (i.e., the spiritual nakedness) of all His people. And He would do so by being nailed naked to a tree while shedding His blood unto death. But His death would bring with it the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, everything that was promised to Adam in the Covenant of Works. 
The revelation of the everlasting covenant becomes progressively clearer by the time you get to Abraham. God revealed His everlasting covenant to Abraham in more detailed terms. In fact, in Genesis 12ff. we see that God makes covenant promises to Abraham. The LORD promised Abraham offspring as numerous as the stars. And we see the LORD also promise Abraham a place for his descendants to live in.
But most remarkably we see the LORD cut a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. That’s when the LORD God temporarily incarnated Himself in the form of a smoking fire pot – a Theophany. The smoking oven and burning torch passed between the animals Abraham had cut down the middle and had laid out as per the LORD’s instruction. “On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” Genesis 15:18. Literally the Lord God “cut” a covenant with Abram, for that’s what the word means.
So we should note that the shed blood of animals figures prominently in the Covenant of Grace. As it has since God clothed Adam and Eve after the Fall in the Garden, so the sacrificial shedding of the blood of animals represents God covering the nakedness of His people. It all was pointing to the promised Seed of the Woman who would destroy sin and its workers.
His shed blood would cover all the sins of all His people, i.e., the people for whom He died. As David, the sweet psalmist of Israel says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” Psalm 32:1. As Paul the Apostle while quoting him says, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are covered” Romans 4:7.
To be covered is to be clothed spiritually by the Covenant of Grace. To be spiritually naked is to be still dead in your sins. As Noah’s offspring clothed him when he was naked, so the Offspring or Seed promised to Adam and Eve, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will clothe the Old Testament Fathers. But not only will He clothe the Old Testament Fathers, He will also clothe all true descendants of Abraham.
This promise was confirmed or established with Abraham by the administration of circumcision. Genesis 17:10&11, “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.” Circumcision was to make the male member naked – to reveal his nakedness. And as the male member needs skin for a covering, so man needs the LORD God to cover his nakedness (just as the LORD God covered Adam and Eve with skin after the Fall). In a word, circumcision was the LORD God cutting a covenant with His people. It spoke of the promised Seed of the Woman – the One who would cover our sin by being “cut off”.
By the time we get to Moses we see all these administrations of the Covenant of Grace become something spectacular. The priesthood clothed in the fancy priestly garb ministered daily in the glorious Temple. There even were annual feasts, including Passover, for the people to attend at Jerusalem.
But in short, the Covenant of Grace was administered in the Old Testament by promises, prophesies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover Lamb, and other types and ceremonies entrusted to Old Testament Israel. These all fore-signified the Christ to come, and for that time were sufficient and effective; which, through the operation of the Spirit, instructed and built up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had complete forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation, by whom they had their sins covered.

The New Testament Administration

I hope you can see that just as the covenant is one, so the New Testament church is one with the Old Testament church – same church! There only ever has been one covenant people of God because there has only ever been one covenant. To be sure, we’ve seen that in the Old Testament the Covenant of Grace was differently administered at different times. But surely we can all see that it was always one and the same covenant that was being administered.
So, in light of what we’ve looked at thus far, what is the main crux of the covenant? It’s about having your sins covered, isn’t it? It’s about having your spiritual nakedness covered by Christ. In a word, it’s about putting on, or being clothed in and by Christ. E.g., Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” So, that means that the Old Testament promises, prophesies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover Lamb, and other types and ceremonies, were simply calls to put on Christ, doesn’t it? In a word, all Old Testament calls to put on Christ are simply the Gospel in the Old Testament. For Christ could be seen in Old Testament promises, prophesies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover Lamb, and other types and ceremonies.
But why don’t we in the New Testament need the Temple with all its elaborate symbolism with the Ark of the Covenant, and the Seat of Atonement in the Holy of Holies, etc.? Why don’t we need all these painted signposts that met Old Testament Israel’s eyes at every turn? Well, just as you don’t need blatant reminders to go to the doctor when the doctor has come to you, so you don’t need the same reminders that the Messiah is coming when He is come.
We no longer need all the outward glory of the Old Testament administration now that Christ the substance has come. In the New Testament the Covenant of Grace is now dispensed or administered by: 1. The preaching of the Word. 2. The administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These, of course, have less outward glory than that of the Old Testament, but in them is communicated greater fullness, clarity, and spiritual power. And most importantly, this greater fullness, clarity, and spiritual power is held forth to all nations, Jew and Gentile alike, whereas the Old Testament administration of the Covenant of Grace, especially from Moses onward, was mainly restricted to Old Testament Israel. So, in a word, we New Testament saints have the Gospel in its simplicity.
The church today is to preach the word and administer the two sacraments. We don’t need glorious temples or men clothed in fancy priestly garb. All we need are the Bible, water, bread and wine. The Bible records the covenant history with its promises. And the water and the bread and the wine confirm or establish those promises in Jesus’ name.
To preach from the Book of the Covenant, i.e., to preach the whole Word of God, is to uncover and expose people’s spiritual nakedness. While at the same time it is to point people to the place to go for covering for our sins, i.e., Christ. It‘s the proclamation of the shed blood of Christ who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:5. But more than that, it’s the proclamation that the One who was bruised by the Serpent (while He was bruising the Serpent), has been raised to life again. He is the One who says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” And because He was dead, the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it can now be bequeathed to the elect covenant people of God.
Good Reformed men have differed on how Hebrews 9:15-17 ought to be translated into English. The following is a common translation: “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.”
The first covenant being referred to there is not the Covenant of Works, but rather the Covenant of Grace (as it was administered immediately prior to Christ’s arrival). The writer to the Hebrews says of that previous administration, “Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood” Hebrews 9:18.
The blood has always spoken of the death of the testator. The Testator is Jesus Christ. A testator is the maker of a will. And when he dies the testator is the one leaving the will. Therefore Jesus Christ by the shedding of His own blood, i.e., by dying, has bequeathed to His people the covering for their sins. And not only that, by His death He has bequeathed to His people every spiritual blessing.
God declared Jesus Christ dead by raising Him from the dead! If Jesus was not dead before He was raised, then Christianity is a farce! But the Scriptures make it very plain that He was dead before He was buried. Therefore when He was dead and buried His will was executed. But are those covenanted blessing to be revoked now that He has been raised again? Does God ever renege on His promise? Jesus Christ fulfilled all the conditions of the everlasting covenant. He lived a perfect life for His people and He laid down His perfect life for His people. Because He was perfect, i.e., without sin of His own, this means that death could not hold Him. Therefore, God according to His covenant promise had to raise Him.
And since all God’s promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ, preaching the resurrected Christ is the proclamation of God’s promise to all nations. Therefore the whole world is sharing in the covenanted blessings in Jesus Christ. The covenant is proclaimed to the nations by the preaching of the Word. The covenant is confirmed to the nations by Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. New Testament Baptism means the same as Old Testament Circumcision. And the Lord’s Supper means the same as the Passover. However, now that Christ literally has shed His blood we no longer need the literal shedding of blood in Circumcision and the Passover Lamb. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are bloodless, but both still speak of the blood of Christ that covers our nakedness, even the nakedness of our sins.
I hope you can see the Gospel in this. Adam and Eve with all other Old Testament saints certainly could!

Conclusion

When Adam and Eve sinned God covered their nakedness with animal skin. The animal skin was the reminder to them both of their nakedness and also their need of the promised Messiah.
God used sacrificed animals all through the Old Testament to show His people the One who would cover us, i.e., Christ, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. And since Scripture says in Revelation 13:8b, that Jesus is “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, then He was slain in principle before any animal. But now that the Lamb has been slain in time and space, i.e., 2,000 years ago at Calvary’s cross, a new era or new administration of the Covenant of Grace has arrived. 
But it’s my hope you can see that there only ever has been one covenant differently administered. The Old Testament pictured the death of the Testator, Jesus Christ, in all animal sacrifices. Therefore the everlasting inheritance, and all things belonging to it, had to wait until the death of the Testator pictured in the Old Testament sacrifices – right from the Fall onward.  But now that the reality revealed and expressed in those Old Testament administrations has come, we can proclaim the blessings of the Covenant of Grace to all nations, including Australia!
Therefore, repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ to have the nakedness of your sins covered by His shed blood, and receive His blood-bought blessings.
See full exposition of Westminster Confession of Faith: http://web.mac.com/macfhionn/More_Snow_on_the_Ben/Holding_Fast_Our_Confession.html

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BY WAY OF COVENANT

Excerpted from "Holding Fast Our Confession"

(See Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7, paras 1-3)

Introduction

There’s a Proverb addressed to the lazy person in particular that says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise…” Proverbs 6:6. If you’re going to consider an ant it’s best to take a magnifying glass with you! Ants tend to be wee things! I remember cutting my toenails outdoors in Queensland and being amazed to see a team of ants move in and quickly carry off the clippings. They reminded me of pygmies carrying ivory tusks in some old Tarzan movie or other! What on earth would a bunch of ants want with a bunch of toenail clippings? Who knows! But the point I make is that you have to stoop down in order to consider the ant.

Now, if the distance between a man and an ant is great, the distance between God and man even must be greater. Ants and men have something in common – both are creatures. But what does God the Creator have in common with man the creature? Well, man, unlike the ant, has been made in the image and likeness of God. If God were a creature (which He is not), He would look like man.

Ants might enjoy the odd toenail clipping from man, but unlike ants, men are able to enjoy God Himself as their blessing and reward. But when you think about it, God has to stoop down. He has to condescend. He has to lower Himself. He has to humble Himself, in order for man to be able to enjoy any blessing and reward from Him.

The way God expresses the blessing and reward of enjoying Him is by way of covenant. What’s a covenant? Well, that’s what we’ll be looking into. For a start there are two covenants in the Bible. These two covenants are commonly known as the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace. They are distinct but very much related.

In the following we’ll be looking at these two covenants. And as we do so, it will become clear that they are really just two aspects or two administrations of the one everlasting Covenant. In other words, whether it is the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, or New Covenant etc., all are simply administrations of the one overarching covenant. The overarching covenant is the covenant of eternity between the Father and the Son as witnessed by the Holy Spirit.

The First Covenant
The Bible opens with God creating the heavens, the earth, the sea and all that is in them. Then in Genesis 1:26 we read these words, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” We know from this verse and the rest of the Bible that it was the Triune God, i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who made man in His image and likeness. And we know from this verse and the rest of the Bible that when God created man He wrote His Law in man’s heart. For God’s Moral Law is the expression of God’s nature and character, and is a major aspect of man as the image of God. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul testifies to this where he writes in Romans 2:14&15 that “…when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law in their hearts…”

So then, with the knowledge that man was created with God’s Law in their hearts, let’s now look again to Genesis 1:26f. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” The passage then goes on to speak of the abundance of fruit and vegetation God has also blessed mankind with for food.

So, we see then that God is gracious. He has condescended to make mankind in His own image. He has blessed man with rulership over all creation – which includes creeping things such as ants! But the point that needs to be made at this point is that man was to have dominion or rule over creation for God in accordance with the Law of God – which Law He had written in their hearts.

All mankind’s subduing the earth and domineering its creatures was to be done in accordance with the Ten Commandments, i.e., the Moral Law of God written in their hearts. This, therefore, is what we mean by the Covenant of Works. All the works of man were to be done in accordance with God’s Moral Law. In other words, man would enjoy the blessing and reward of God by keeping God’s Law. That was God’s first covenant with man – the Covenant of Works.

But notice the gracious nature of the Covenant of Works. God gave Adam authority over all the earth and dominion over all its creatures. But wait, there’s more! Genesis 2:8&9, “The LORD God planted a Garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

So, it just gets better and better for man! Not only does God condescend to make man in His own image, and not only does He give man authority over all the earth and all its creatures, but God treats man like royalty by placing them in His own private and beautiful garden! Genesis 2:15: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden to tend and keep it.” So we see then that the man was to tend or cultivate God’s garden according to the Law written on his heart. And, that he was to keep or guard God’s garden according to the Law written in his heart.

So, let’s see what we know thus far: a) Man is to bear fruit in accordance with God’s Law. b) He is to multiply himself in step with God’s Law. c) He is to fill the earth in line with God’s Law. d) He is to hold dominion over all the earth, sea, and sky’s creatures without contravening God’s Law. e) He is to be a gardener tending God’s garden with God’s Law at heart. And, f) he is to keep or police or patrol God’s garden, thus enforcing God’s Moral Law. Thus God’s Moral Law governed everything that Adam was commissioned by God to do.

Adam would continue to enjoy these blessings and rewards from God for as long as he continued in loving obedience to God’s Law in all his works. But, as you know, there is more to the Covenant of Works than general obedience to God’s Law in all endeavours.  When the LORD God planted Adam in His garden to tend and keep it He spoke to Adam. Genesis 2:16&17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” So we see then that the LORD God gave Adam an outward test. In other words God placed Adam on probation for an unspecified period of time to test his character.

Think about it, how hard would it be to really enjoy the delights of life with the sword of Damocles always hanging by a single horsehair over your head? Well, so it was for mankind working for God beneath or under the Covenant of Works. Therefore Adam’s probation was only for a time – the length of which Scripture doesn’t say.

To break the least of God’s Commandments is to break them all, which is to break the horsehair, as it were, and have the sword of death fall upon you. Therefore God was gracious in setting an outward commandment and test for Adam in the garden for an unspecified period of time.

But notice four things about the first covenant, i.e., the Covenant of Works: 1. That there are parties involved in the covenant – God, and man as represented by Adam. 2. That there is a promise of life. 3. That there is a condition for receiving this life. 4. That there is a penalty for breaking this condition. Parties, Promise, Condition, Penalty – that’s what makes a covenant. A covenant then, even the Covenant of Works, is a conditional promise. In the Covenant of Works life was promised to Adam, and his descendants in him, on condition of perfect and personal obedience. Failure to keep the condition meant death.

Now, all Christians know that Adam broke the Covenant of Works by eating the forbidden fruit. Thereby, on account of his breaking God’s Moral Law, i.e., the Ten Commandments, he forfeited for himself, and all his descendants, the life that was promised. And since man by his fall had made themselves incapable of life by that covenant, it pleased the Lord to make a second, commonly known as the Covenant of Grace.

The Second Covenant
To properly understand the second covenant, i.e., the Covenant of Grace, an intimate knowledge of the first covenant, i.e., the Covenant of Works, is crucial. This is because, what is seen as the Covenant of Grace by us, is actually the Covenant of Works for the replacement Adam, Jesus Christ.

When Adam and Eve broke the Covenant of Works in the Garden, God immediately condescended to reveal a second covenant. The initial revelation of the Covenant of Grace is found in the promise of Genesis 3:15, where the LORD God said to Satan the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

We know that Jesus Christ is the “Seed of the Woman” because Paul tells us so in Galatians 3:16. “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.” So we see then that the promise of the Seed who would break the serpent’s head continued on from Adam through Abraham all the way down to Christ.

Jesus Christ is the One who God was sending to destroy the Devil and his works by bruising his head. And as you know, it was the Devil who deceived Eve who gave the forbidden fruit to her husband, Adam, to eat. But where the first man under the first covenant broke God’s Moral Law, the second Man under the same first covenant (but which was the second covenant to us) kept God’s Moral Law perfectly and personally.

Jesus Christ as the Last Adam did what the first Adam failed to do. Jesus kept the Covenant of Works perfectly and personally. Like the first man the second Man lived with a sword dangling above His head by a horsehair, even a thread from a spider’s web! Jesus knew that His earthly probation would end the same way Adam’s probation ended – with death!

However, Jesus knew that where Adam’s breaking of the covenant brought judgment and death to all men, so His keeping of the covenant would bring righteousness and justification to God’s elect. In other words, Jesus’ death on the cross was to pay the penalty owed for the broken Covenant of Works. And just as the penalty for disobedience was death, so, conversely, the promise for obedience was life. Philippians 2:8: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

So we see then that Jesus Christ is the true image of the God who condescends to bring grace to fallen men. There was grace in the first covenant – the Covenant of Works. And there is even more grace in the second covenant – the Covenant of Grace. And in the Covenant of Grace God freely offers to all sinners, i.e., fallen humanity, life and salvation by Jesus Christ.

The old way of receiving life was by Adam perfectly and personally keeping the Covenant of Works. But the new way of receiving life and salvation is by Jesus Christ – the second Adam – who alone perfectly and personally kept the Covenant of Works. Therefore to receive the life that was promised in the Covenant of Works we need to be trusting in our representative or federal head Jesus Christ as revealed in the Covenant of Grace.

As you know, the Gospel is the Covenant of Grace, because the Gospel tells us about the salvation that was purchased by the perfect works of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept the Covenant of Works perfectly from the moment of His conception to His death on the cross. His Law-keeping as Man representing men is imputed to those who will, through the condescending grace of God, trust in Him. And to make sure that all those who have been chosen by God to receive life and salvation will trust in Jesus and His righteousness He has promised to give them His Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is given to those who are appointed to life to make them willing and able to believe. So, in the Covenant of Grace God freely offers sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ. But those who don’t believe in the Gospel will not receive life and salvation by Jesus Christ. And the wrath of God will abide on them because they have broken the Covenant of Works in Adam and by their own sins (John 3:36).

God deals with all rational or reasonable creatures such as angels and men by way of covenant. In the beginning God dealt with unfallen man by way of the first covenant – the Covenant of Works. And after the Fall of Man, God immediately introduced the second covenant – the Covenant of Grace

We noted that Adam represented himself and all his posterity before God in the Covenant of Works. And Jesus Christ in the Covenant of Grace represents elect mankind before God. In other words, Jesus Christ represents all who will repent of their sins, i.e., repent of their covenant breaking, and believe in Him as revealed in the Gospel. So, we see then that it all boils down to this: either Adam is your representative in the Covenant of Works, or Jesus Christ is your representative in the Covenant of Grace.

If Adam is your representative in the Covenant of Works, you are condemned in Adam by the broken Covenant of Works and your own sins. And therefore you will receive the penalty of the broken covenant which is death leading to eternal death. But if Jesus Christ is your representative in the Covenant of Grace, then you are justified along with Jesus by His perfect and personal keeping of the Covenant of Works. That’s what the Covenant of Grace is – it’s the revelation of the One God sent to do what the first Adam failed to do, i.e., keep the Covenant of Works perfectly.

How do you know whether Adam or Jesus is your representative in the Covenant of Works? John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” So, we thank God for His grace in giving the Holy Spirit to those He has appointed to life in order to make them willing and able to believe.

We see then, that the Gospel is the proclamation of Christ’s perfect Law-keeping unto death. And it is the promise of salvation and everlasting life to all who believe. Therefore, the condition for receiving this salvation and everlasting life promised in the Gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteous works (which faith is included in God’s grace). And the penalty for those who do not trust in the finished work of Christ is death – everlasting death in Hell on account of their sins. It is the broken Covenant of Works and their own sins that will condemn them. They will be condemned because they have failed to keep the perfect requirements of God.

To be sure, God’s promise of life for personal and perfect law keeping still stood even after the Fall of Man. I’ll give you a few examples: Leviticus 18:5: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” Nehemiah 9:29: “Yet they acted proudly, and did not heed Your commandments, but sinned against Your judgments, ‘Which if a man does, he shall live by them.’” Galatians 3:12: “Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’” Romans 10:5: “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, The man who does those things shall live by them.’

The trouble is that no one is able to keep the Ten Commandments of God perfectly and personally because Adam broke the first Covenant. Therefore the whole army of mankind got started off on the wrong foot by and with Adam. Subsequently and consequently man is out of step with God!

Isaiah reminds us of the result of breaking the first covenant: “The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” Isaiah 24:4&5. The Covenant of Works was the pre-Fall administration of the everlasting covenant.

Speaking of Old Testament Israel (in the preferred reading of Hosea 6:7) the LORD says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant…” Which covenant did Adam transgress? The Covenant of Works. But, what about Jesus Christ? Did He transgress the everlasting covenant as it was administered in the Covenant of Works? No! Is Jesus Christ able to do all the things God would have a man do to receive the promised life? Of course! For unlike us, Jesus Christ was sinless from the moment of His conception (Luke 1:35).

And if we keep in mind that God only and always deals with man by way of covenant we won’t go wrong in our understanding of who Jesus Christ is. God has given us His only begotten Son Jesus Christ as His Covenant of Grace: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, the whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (with Isaiah 42:6; 49:9).

Why would we perish? Well, we don’t perish for not believing in God’s only begotten Son. There are people who have never even heard of Jesus Christ who perish! Therefore, we perish because we have broken the everlasting covenant as it was administered in the Covenant of Works! Which is to say that we perish because of our own sins. To be sure we wouldn’t want to add unbelief in the only begotten Son of God to our list of covenant breaking sins! But men perish because they have broken the Covenant of Works, which was the first administration of the everlasting covenant of God. And likewise men receive salvation and life only because Jesus Christ has perfectly kept the Covenant of Works for them – He has kept, and will forever keep, the everlasting covenant.

This is the grace of God – the Covenant of Grace!

Conclusion
God always, and only, deals with mankind by way of covenant. With which covenant do you wish Him to deal with you personally? Do you wish for Him to deal with you by way of the first covenant or by way of the second? Surely your desire is that God will deal with you in accordance with His grace, even His Covenant of Grace. Give glory to God for the salvation and life His only begotten Son has purchased for us by His perfect and personal obedience to God – even unto the death of the cross!

And does the grace of God as revealed to us in His Covenant of Grace, i.e., the Gospel, not stir up in us the desire to show our gratitude to God for the salvation and life He has given us in Jesus Christ? And how do we show our thankfulness to God for saving us? Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

See my full exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith at: http://web.mac.com/macfhionn/Holding_Fast/CONTENTS.html

Monday, December 5, 2011

CHRISTIANITY & FREEMASONRY

It says in the blurb describing my From Mason To Minister book on the Nordskog Publishing website http://www.nordskogpublishing.com/book-through-the-lattice.shtml "Neither an apologetic nor a polemic, he corrects much misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Freemasonry."

As one who was converted to Christianity after becoming a Freemason I was immediately assailed by some zealous Christians who, because they perceived some connection of Freemasonry with the occult, urged me to leave the Lodge. As a new Christian I was eventually swayed by these well-meaning people, and cut my ties with Masonry, but was left wondering what all the fuss was about.

Yes, I had read many of those scarey books written by Christians depicting their perceived evils of Freemasonry. However, it seemed to me at the time that, as a Mason who was a Christian, I was missing most of what they were trying to get at. Their writings tended toward different degrees of innacuracy about Masonry.

I am not here trying to defend Freemasonry, I am only trying to be fair to the Craft. I have found an article written by a Church of Scotland minister and practicing Freemason who seeks to set the record straight regarding the compatability of Freemasonry and Christianity. It may or may not surprise you. But in the interest of honesty and truth I think it is worth the time to read. The article is called "Minister First, Then Freemason".
http://www.stbryde.co.uk/articles-and-contributions/152-minister-first-then-a-freemason

I belong to the Presbyterian Church of Queensland which is part of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. So is the Presbyterian Church of Victoria which has produced a paper called "Christianity and Freemasonry". It can be found at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cara Coffey's Review - From Mason To Minister

Neil McKinlay wrote a very poignant testimony of his life story growing up in Scotland in his book, From Mason to Minister, Through the Lattice. I learned a lot about that wonderful land as well as Canada and Australia because of his testimony. I appreciated yet again the drawing power of our Lord Jesus Christ as Mr. McKinlay shared his life with us. He also interspersed his book with his own poetry, and this lent a romantic air to this volume.

In the preface of From Mason to Minister, Through the Lattice, Mr. McKinlay explains how he did not write “the ordinary” of what is generally offered concerning freemasonry. He doesn’t make a case against it or for it, but he tells instead his testimony and how he was drawn to becoming a Mason but then how he left it in 1990 as a result of his soul searching for God and the Savior, Jesus Christ.

I appreciated the gentle approach this author has taken with freemasonry because it shows the confusion which is rampant about the belief systems of that organization and the mixture of Christianity with it. I also learned that there are some differences in other countries concerning freemasonry and it was refreshing to get a glimpse of someone else’s life in this regard. Although, I did not consider this book well organized; there was not continuity. It seemed to jump from one topic to another.

Mr. McKinlay’s publisher also wrote a note assuring us this was a helpful book because it does not attack freemasonry but instead gives us assertion that this book is, “…a reasonable explanation for how apparently godly men might have associated themselves with an organization now so widely associated with the occult.” (Gerald Christian Nordskog, p188). I trust the Lord can speak through this gentle testimony to some within the ranks of freemasonry, and my hope is that these men will turn to the Lord and forsake it as wholeheartedly and completely as Mr. McKinlay testifies to us that he did.

See on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Mason-Minister-Through-Lattice/dp/0982707479/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322079421&sr=1-1
See review at Good Reads
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/236223017

Monday, November 21, 2011

KILLING LINCOLN

A quick two-minute review of KILLING LINCOLN – The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever.

Here is a real edge-of-the-seat page-turner from a collaboration between Fox New’s The O’Reilly Factor’s  Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.

This is history taught by two men who know how to keep your attention. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s short but pithy chapters had me wanting to read just a little more before I had to dash off to attend to things more pressing. It reads like an action diary with the clock ticking ever faster and ever closer to each historical event. I felt my heart rate speed as I read about the final moments before Lincoln’s death. Bang!
The details of battles in the Civil War had me on the battlefields smelling the gunpowder and hearing the gallop of hooves, gunfire and bursts of shrapnel. The surrender of General Robert E. Lee (a hero of mine!) to Grant is painted in considerable detail.

The shooting of Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre by J. Wilkes Booth and the slow-death aftermath as the doctor tried his best to save him had me weeping.

Thanks Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugan for enlightening me with the details of this great man’s last days on earth.   

DEMONIC

The following is simply a quick five-minute-review of the book…
Just finished reading Ann Coulter’s Demonic - How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America. In it she deals with the mob mentality of America’s left by contrasting it with the thinking of America’s right. She sees this as the difference between the actions of the purveyors of the atheistic French Revolution and those of the Christian American Revolution respectively.
I particularly loved the way she historically detailed the gory atrocities of the French Revolution with a great deal of insight into what evil incited and drove the unruly mob. Contrast this with the Biblically sound principles that undergirded the American Revolution. Coulter shows how the leftist mob (because it follows the mentality of the leftist mob!) sees the French and American Revolutions as one and the same!
Coulter begins her book by quoting Mark 5:2-9. This portion of Scripture records Jesus dealing with a demoniac. Jesus asked the demoniac, “What is your name?” To which the demoniac replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Herein lies the thesis for Demonic. Says Coulter, “The demon is a mob, and the mob is demonic.”
As I read her book I was reminded of a time I was home visiting Scotland. Whenever I mentioned the name of John Knox it would be met by a negative response. Though people knew virtually nothing about Knox, they knew only that they hated him! The party line is that Knox is to be demonized. Ask why, and you are likely to be demonized by the mob too! By way of example, try discussing with a group of people the concept that man-made global-warming is probably wrong or that the Theory of Evolution (goo to you) is fantasy and you’ll see what Ann Coulter is getting at in her book. The lynch-mob will gnash its teeth before it strings you up without a trial!
This book is liberally sprinkled (I use the word “liberal” here in the good sense of the word!) with witty gems of Coulter humour. She had me quietly sniggering and at times laughing out loud. I had to keep looking over my shoulder just in case some lefty would see me actually enjoying this book and report me to the thought police!
I suppose the only downside to Demonic is that a good grasp of American politics and the names of American politicians, news associations, news reporters etc. is needed to receive full benefit.
Well done Ann Coulter!

POLES APART

‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.’ Weren’t the North and South Poles called such because each had a wooden or a metal pole sticking out of them? Men would search for these poles so that they could attach a flag to them – men such as Scott, Amundsen or the controversial Peary. And, due to a motion of the earth called ‘Chandler’s Wobble’ it was hard for them to find the exact spot! The North and South Poles are just that, poles apart, and so is my thinking as an adult to what it was as a child! ‘But when I became a man, I put away childish things’ 1 Corinthians 13:11.
The Bible teaches that God and man are poles apart. ‘“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts”’ Isaiah 55:8-9. ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness’ Psalm 24:1. However, instead of subduing it to the glory of God, man has set about planting his own flag on it. Therefore, according to God’s Word, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way’ Isaiah 53:6a. To go your own way is to go the wrong way!
I once asked an elderly lady (with one foot in the grave) if she was right with God. She replied that she had been good all her life! Her way and God’s way of getting right with God are poles apart. If the elderly lady had meant that she was trying to be good as her grateful response to God for already having declared her right with Himself (on account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ), then I would have rejoiced. But the lady’s view of salvation was the wrong way round. Her way of salvation was by trying to get right with God by trying to be good. But, as Scripture says, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’ Proverbs 14:12. Though elderly, the lady was thinking of God as a child might think of Santa Claus! There is nothing wrong with trying to be good for goodness sake, but trying to be good as a way of salvation is poles apart from what God says in His Word.
When I was a non-Christian I thought as a non-Christian, but now by grace alone I am a Christian, I think as a Christian. Non-Christian thought is poles apart from Christian thought. See an example in the following: ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ 2 Corinthians 10:5. All sixty six books of the Bible, every jot and tittle thereof, were breathed out by God (Matt. 5:17-17; 2 Tim. 3:16). Yet some would argue against this knowledge of God! Others allege that they believe that some, but not all, of the Bible is inspired. Thus these, along with those who reject all of Scripture, are exalting themselves against the knowledge of God. Sadly, like the elderly lady I mentioned above, they follow their own way, which is not God’s way. Their thoughts and God’s thoughts are poles apart.
Our years on this earth are but few: ‘For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away’ James 4:14b. Morning mist melts as the sun rises.  ‘Our God is a consuming fire’ Hebrews 12:29, but He speaks good news to those with ears to hear: ‘The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night’ Psalm 121:5-6. As the Word of the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward’ Genesis 15:1. As vanishing vapour each of us needs God to cover us and to preserve us. You need to: ‘Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him’ Psalm 2:12. As far as Heaven is from Hell, so are those who trust in the Son of God alone for salvation from those who do not. Poles apart!
The elephant in the room is death. It came in through our front door. The death angel slew Adam, mankind’s ‘firstborn’ for breaking the covenant. Head of humanity’s household, he had declared our independence from God by eating the forbidden fruit. Thus all mankind entered a state of misery and death. But God is gracious. He clothed Adam and Eve with skin before ejecting them from the garden. The same salvation was pictured when the blood of the Passover lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel. God clothes, ie, covers us with His Son. He is the Lamb that shed His own blood to sprinkle us and protect us. He rose again from the dead, bodily. God invites, nay, He commands us to trust only in Christ and His righteousness to receive His pardon and everlasting life, now and in our future resurrection.
‘This is the way, walk in it’ Isaiah 30:21. Don’t be poles apart from God!