Monday, January 20, 2014

THE COVENANT OF WORKS

The Westminster documents (i.e., the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Sum of Saving Knowledge, etc.) refer to the everlasting Covenant as it applies to Adam (and mankind as represented by him) as the Covenant of Works (or Life). In this pre-Fall administration of the eternal Covenant God graciously condescends to enter into this Covenant of Works (with the promise of life) with Adam.

Upon Adam’s creation God has written His Covenant Law (or Ten Commandments) on Adam’s (and therefore mankind’s) heart in positive terms (Romans 2:14-15). The outward test of this probationary Covenant with Adam was that Adam was not to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for disobedience was death, i.e., “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die” Genesis 2:17.

To be sure there was grace in abundance involved in this Covenant of Works (in which was the threat of death for disobedience and, conversely, the promise of life). God laid on everything in a beautiful garden for Adam, gave him a wife and gave dominion over all creatures of the air, land and sea. We call this the Cultural Mandate, (sometimes referred to as the Dominion Mandate), “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’” Genesis 2:28.

As Scripture attests, Adam, of course, broke the Covenant of Works, e.g., “Like Adam, they have broken the covenant” Hosea 6:7 (NIV). By breaking the Covenant of Works Adam forfeited eternal life (but not his everlasting existence). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. Thus, had Adam kept the Covenant of Works, then Adam (and mankind with him) would have received the eternal life that we now have in Jesus Christ who is “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45).

As God’s replacement-Adam, Jesus Christ kept the Covenant to Works perfectly on behalf of all who the Father has given Him (John 17:12) and received the promised reward (which was life). Therefore when Adam was threatened with death upon breaking his Covenant probation, he was conversely promised life – the eternal life that we receive from Jesus Christ.

Had Adam kept the pre-Fall covenant he would not simply have kept on living as he had been living before he broke the covenant. Thus had Adam not broken the covenant he would have received the bliss and blessings that we have in Jesus Christ, e.g., “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ” Ephesians 1:3.

The Land flowing with Milk and Honey was merely a token of the bliss and blessings that we have in our new Adam, Jesus Christ. For the covenant promise made to Abraham, the father of believers, was the whole cosmos. E.g., “For the promise that he would be heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” Romans 4:13.

Adam, by breaking the Covenant, disqualified mankind from receiving eternal life (i.e., everlasting bliss and blessings) by keeping God’s Covenant Law. However, Jesus Christ is without sin and as such is able to keep the Covenant of Works (and thus receive the life promised in that covenant). Scripture says, “Do this and live,” e.g., “The man who does them shall live by them” Galatians 3:12.

Jesus Christ kept every jot and tittle of God’s Covenant Law perfectly on behalf of those whom the Father has chosen (i.e., had elected before the foundation of the world) to give Him. Jesus by His death on the cross some two thousand years ago has redeemed them from God’s justice. He has purchased their redemption from death and Hell. God raised Him from the dead as proof of our redemption. Jesus “was raised because of our justification” Romans 4:25.

Yes, God was kind and gracious to enter into a Covenant of Works (with the promise of everlasting life upon probationary fulfilment) with Adam as our pre-Fall representative. However, He was even more kind and gracious to enter into a Covenant of Grace with Jesus Christ as our post-Fall representative. Thus the Covenant of Works that condemns us became a Covenant of Grace in which Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Covenant of Works, and paid the (death) penalty we owed for breaking it.

Jesus is the new Man. It was as a Man that He kept every jot and tittle of God’s Covenant Law. We are saved by His Law-keeping. Therefore it was as a Man that Jesus Christ, the new Adam or Federal or Covenant Head of mankind, saved us.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

BEAUTY


‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is a well-known way of saying that beauty can be subjective. As I pondered this aphorism I began to wonder if the other four senses could be included with the eye. A piece of music can be beautiful to the ear, food to the taste, perfume to the nose, and silk to the touch. So, why just the eye? Before we try to answer let us consider the nature of beauty. Let us just say that beauty is something that excites the senses. Perhaps a truly beautiful meal is on one that excites all five senses? When a gifted chef prepares a dish he/she considers how it looks as well as how it smells and tastes and also how it is going to feel to the tongue. Do top chefs take sound into consideration? Crispy lettuce, crunchy nuts and squeaky green beans spring to mind. We are sensual beings. A fresh red apple excites all my senses all at once. Beautiful!

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’ Genesis 3:6. We do not know what kind of fruit it was but what Eve fed to her husband was edible, beautiful and desirable. However, more importantly, it was forbidden. The gratification sought after by eating this meal was wisdom, but, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’ Proverbs 9:10.

The LORD God could have as easily drawn a line in the sand and told Adam and Eve not to cross it as an outward test of the covenant He had made with mankind, (Adam being our representative). However, He chose the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the outward test of their covenant faithfulness to Him. There may be some truth to the old adage, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’ The Serpent seemed to think so. He seduced Eve into eating the forbidden fruit but Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he ate (1 Timothy 2:14). However, notice what the Scripture says, ‘Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ Genesis 3:7. Yes, their eyes were opened. However, darkness not light poured in. Jesus says, ‘But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.’ Matthew 6:23. Thus the sensible became sensual. The eye of the beholder became untrustworthy, unable properly to distinguish good from evil, unable properly to discern the beauty of holiness from the ugliness of sin.

Is beauty really only what the beholder’s eye decides it is? Is the beholder able, for example, to distinguish between love and lust? When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they wanted to be the ones to determine what was good and evil without God’s interference. It was then that mankind’s eye of discernment grew a cataract resulting in our collective spiritual blindness. ‘But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.’ 2 Corinthians 4:4.

Only a mature Christian is equipped to truly appreciate beauty in God’s creation. God’s Word is likened to good food. ‘But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.’ Hebrews 5:14. We need God to renew us before we will be able properly to discern and really appreciate beauty in all five of our senses, for He made us. And, ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time’ Ecclesiastes 3:11a. ‘Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good’ Psalm 34:8a. And may you give thanks to Him whenever your eye beholds beauty!