Are Paul's Writings Really Scripture?

Are Paul's writings to be considered scripture, as many liberal scholars challenge? Let's ask Peter:

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation ; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 4:14-16)
Asked and answered, brethren.

Holiday Traditions

We've got a couple of holiday traditions that I thought some Christians might like to take part in, if they knew about them:

  1. George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation - sure, the pilgrims probably gave thanks, and there were various times and proclamations for a day of thanksgiving, but it was our first president that declared that a Thursday would be a day of national thanksgiving, and many presidents following did the same, and that is why it continues to be a day of thanks-giving. But what is this? Our first president commanded us to give thanks to God??? Lincoln and FDR did the same??? Yes, Washington even states that it was the providence of God that led to the forming of our nation. In the face of claims that Washington was a pure deist, and aligning cleanly with the strong statements our forefathers pitted against atheists ("infidels", they called members of this "foolishness"), this proclamation is a wonderful way to point out the faith of our forefathers in the midst of laying the foundations of our freedom with the bricks of their sacrifices and the mortar of their blood: http://www.leaderu.com/humanities/washington-thanksgiving.html
  2. Jesse Tree (or similar advent scriptural readings) - no, I don't believe that Christmas is a biblically mandated or even inspired holiday; but our church tradition is thick with countering the pagan holidays around this time of year with an earmarked celebration of our Lord. In fact, there is some evidence that Christmas began as a result of resisting and/or countering the celebration of Sol Invictus (aka Saturnalia), and this in the midst of heavy persecution. So, when in Rome, why not? I don't think it's idolatrous, unless you allow your covetousness to outweigh your zeal for a time of dedication to reading the word and other such Godly activities. That said, a Jesse Tree or similar advent-related study allows a family to focus on the end-to-end story of Jesus Christ, from creation itself and the fall of mankind to the coming of Christ and His true purpose to pay for our sins. It's a beautiful time to share that thread, to view the shadows and types of His completed covenant, and the prophecies the directly foretell of it, to the beautiful moment that He enters into a humble existence and prepares for a life of servitude and dedication. Amazing, trust me. Here's one version that we've chosen to use (the chart at the bottom contains the scriptures to be read): http://www.crivoice.org/jesse.html


What is Love?

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous ; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly ; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth ; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails;
As believers in Christ, the lamb of God, we need to consider that "the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). As we continue to seek to emulate Christ, we should make sure that our tongues are bridled, our tempers cooled, our flesh kept in check, our thoughts captured, and that we strive to emulate love to our neighbor (as defined above), and most of all to God - through worship and dedication to glorifying Him in every way we can. These are the greatest commandments, as defined by Christ.

Some other thoughts... We should not use the example of Christ clearing the temple as an excuse to constantly lambast brethren and allow our tongues and tempers to run unchecked... The ONLY reason why we should look to others' sins is to discern where they might be able mature in Christ, or be kept in check so as to not cause others harm... There is a strong line between God's judgment and our discernment of sin, one that should not be crossed... the law is a tutor to bring non-believers to Christ, and should never be used to condemn or curse a believer... we are called to first serve and encourage brethren, and only rebuke and discipline when absolutely necessary, and only as a last result (and that should still be done in LOVE)... If we have not love, then the most miraculous signs and wonders are useless.


What is Homosexuality?

This one's pretty simple. The bible is clear that it is an aberration, and that it goes against the natural order. The average person can look at the sexual parts and determine their best fit, with nominal reading. As much as liberal scholars try to dance around the language in the new testament, most agree that the language points to homosexuality not being in God's plan. God in His Mosaic Law equates it to bestiality and deems it worthy of death - in the very least, it should continue to be considered aberrant behavior under the New Covenant. Though God has changed His way of dealing with His people, salvation has always been by grace alone and sin still separates us from God without the intervention of the mediator, Christ Jesus. So homosexuality is deemed a sin, there is no gay gene, and the strongest case anyone can come up with for it being an imparted trait is that of hormonal imbalance (which is curable through medication, as any other hormonal imbalance).

How then should Christians approach gays? With love, like any other non-believer. Or, if a believer is struggling with such a sin, it should not be approached with shock and disdain, but with love and encouragement - all believers struggle with sin, and it is of all sorts of facets and types against which we struggle. The morale is that believers run FROM sin rather than running TO it.

How should we NOT approach homosexuals? Never with a complete acceptance of a lifestyle devoted to that which is identified as sin. Never with a shrug of the shoulders or a wink of an eye at sin. We should challenge all brothers alike in their weaknesses, and encourage each other to press on and defeat sin - not allow each other to slip constantly into decadence and licentiousness. Advocates of sin should be disfellowshipped, if they refuse to repent. There is no other way, because God knows best.

Love, not license. So, for those of you struggling in an existence of heart-wrenching relations that will never fill the void that only God can fill... I love you, and I hope for the best for you. May God reach into your heart and pull you onto the solid rock, out of the drowning waves. I hope you won't give up on Him. Reach out, embrace Him, realize that your wants and desires are secondary to God's glory, and the love that He offers.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Many liberals attempt to twist the hermeneutics of textual criticism by saying that the New Testament doesn't condemn homosexuality, and that the language has been improperly translated. I assure you that the agenda is clearly found in the liberals' court, as I have found after solid research on the matter that the New Testament irrevocably condemns homosexuality as unnatural and unbecoming of any that are a part of God's kingdom. It amounts to a similar claim of saying that "limp in the wrist" cannot be used as a synonym for homosexual men. Oh, and for those that say that the writings of Paul don't really pan out as inspired scripture, you should think again, because Peter includes Paul's writings with those of all holy scripture:

Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation ; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 4:14-16)
Probably speaks pretty strongly against the liberal scholars that seek to distort a sound interpretation of the word, as well.


The Political Party of God

Democrat? Republican? Libertarian? Constitution Party? Which one best represents the scriptures, or even best represents the interests of God in our governmental system? How can we best hope to be a good representative for God's kingdom within our earthly kingdom? I believe that we're supposed to be a good witness in everything we do, including voting for a candidate that will adequately represent us on Capital Hill, but how do we do that?

Here are some thoughts and/or guidelines for Christians:

  1. Does the party platform align with scripture? Take a look at the party's general tenets - what it stands on, how its members generally vote, etc. For me, the Constitution Party is closest to the scriptures, with the Republican party coming in a far second. I have issues with some of the national Constitution Party's theonomistic tendencies, though. I don't like the idea of stoning homosexuals to death, one part of Rushdoony's M.O.; and this modern harbinger of extreme Mosaic Christian Reconstructionism is closely associated with many of the founders of that party. However, they do want to rid the country of abortion (a.k.a. murder), they would never consider homosexual marriage to be a norm and therefore deserving of federal funding, and they would certainly enter into war a lot less quickly than others. The Republicans say that they stand for these things, but their party members are not zealous enough to do drastic things to accomplish the "impossible". Some of the Tea Party-backed Republicans certainly have the right tendencies, though. They also desire a biblical tendency of fiscal responsibility, shunning socialism and promoting a very biblical ideal of equipping people to work for themselves. Democrats, on the other hand, prefer to deny the biblical definition of life, tax and spend at an irresponsible rate, and have little respect for consulting scripture in the midst of law-making.
  2. Does the candidate's platform align with scripture? What's his voting record? Does he follow through on his word? Does his life represent his platform? Liars should never be rewarded with an office, and we are responsible for researching if the candidate is a believer that would represent my best interests (which is God's kingdom) in governance. I would lean toward an individual like Ron Paul to most adequately represent those interests. Though the Constitution Party candidate could better fulfill that role, there is no chance in our current two-party system to elect such an individual, and there never will be while their platform is based primarily on Mosaic law.
  3. No party is perfect. Even the Constitution Party. Of the two big parties, Republican platforms more closely align than that of the Democrats. Yes, there are gaping holes in the areas of mercy, tenderness, and control of the dangers of life (e.g., gun control, financial regulations), but is that really the role of our federal system? Is it meant to be the role of any state system, even? I think that the enumerated powers should keep them limited in these areas. Besides, if the church were doing its job, the government wouldn't need to step in.
  4. No one is righteous, but believers have more of a shot at doing God's will. 'Nuff said. I believe that there are more atheists, non-evangelicals, and church absentees in the party of the donkey. Though unfortunately there are a handful of those in the Elephants, they mostly seem to desire church, the scriptures, and evangelical leanings. They certainly have more of a tendency for allowing more faith-based initiatives and freedoms of religion. The Dems want to stamp out all expression of public religious displays, especially where it is related to public funding in any way. Jefferson never meant as much through his letter to the Danbury Baptists, and anyone who has done at least a little due diligence on the matter knows it well.
  5. Can one adequately vote their conscience? If I had to vote my conscience, I'd probably end up writing in my pastor every time. Even then, sin prevails at times. He's not perfect, no party is perfect, and I think we need to help affect change by voting in the primaries and general election for a candidate that will realistically win. Writing in a candidate that may not even be counted is an absurd waste of time. To not vote would be to shun one of the greatest opportunities we have as believers to shape our communities and the greater good of the state. I don't buy the argument that our country should be punished by the policies of the Dems if an adequate candidate is not presented by the Republicans, and I think anyone shirking their vote should have to continue to live under those liberal policies even when the 'pubs rescind them. Don't want ObamaCare? Tough, you should have voted, so now individually you have to continue living in that cursed environment. Ah, well, maybe not.
So, short of voting for the "Christian" party, there really is only one best option, though it's definitely far from being perfect... voting Republican. Especially when it's a Tea Party-backed candidate (and no, I'm not a racist or anything silly like that, so don't go there; I think that whole claim is a straw-man to dodge the real issue of fiscal responsibility). No one else even comes close to a real chance of winning, in our current environment. Vote your conscience, or vote effectively. I choose to effect change and actually have someone representing. The challenge after that point is keeping these representatives accountable for actually voting their promises into effect.

Should Scripture Influence Our Political Leanings?

Yes, most definitely. I'm not a theonomist, nor am I a strict Christian Re-constructionist. But I do believe that scripture should inform our every thought, movement, and certainly worldview (presuppositions, framework of ideas, and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it) as individuals and as a collective body acting on behalf of a present and future kingdom. Consider the following:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness ; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
That's right. EVERY good work. So, if we have any concept of what is good, and want our lives to be good, then it certainly must be informed by the word of God.

Apart from a relationship with God, and doing things in His name, there is no good work, because "...we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6). Filthy rag is pretty nasty in this context - having to do with a woman's cycle - referencing one of those things which were absolutely unclean according to the Jews. We can do no good in and of ourselves, it is only through God's grace and affect upon our lives through the counsel and leading of the Holy Spirit that we can do anything truly good. I can hear the choruses of people objecting to this, saying "what about the Dalai Lama?" (or other such holy figures that having nothing to do with Christ). Answer: what seems good to us, affecting good will toward men in the absence of a love first for God, is actually filthy and disgusting in God's eyes. His definition, not mine.

Though I don't believe that any throne or political power can adequately represent the righteousness of God in this fallen world, I certainly believe that we will be accountable for our actions to represent God to this world, to affect the greater good or even affect minimal good by fighting the greater evil. We have the responsibility of representing God in such a manner in this country - through representatives, by voting them into office. We are (relatively speaking) responsible for what our elected representatives do on our behalf. So it really is our responsibility to vote for the one that will best represent the kingdom of God in a fallen system. If you're looking for normative proof from the scriptures, it's defined a bit loosely by the selection of tribal representatives in the kingdom of Israel, as outlined by the Mosaic law (no, we're not under the law, but it certainly represents a level of wisdom that can be effected in different manners). That's in Exodus 18, Numbers 31, 2 Samuel 18, 2 Chronicles 1, and 2 Chronicles 25. Though more hierarchical in nature, the model of leadership by representation was instituted by God.

In light of this, I'd like to cover which political philosophy might more closely align with the scriptures in my next post.


Conservative Uprising

So, everyone assures me that the Republicans are now in the driver's seat, and that they feel that they have a mandate to run the record against the policies recently voted into law by the Democrats. We'll see. The last time that the Republicans had complete control of the country, they spent just as much money as the Democrats, just on different toys, different causes. I wonder if any of these candidates will remain true to their Tea Party leanings, now while in office. I wonder if any of them really wants to get out of debt. For the average family, that means rice and beans for dinner every day for months, even years. I wonder if the average family is prepared and patient enough for the maelstrom that may occur with all the budget cuts it's going to take to get out of debt. We'll see.


Oh, The Stupidity of It All (a.k.a., Politics)

I recently read an article in a "mainstream" newspaper (online) that bemoaned a failing democratic candidate's run for Senate in NC. With typical aplomb for liberal values and a push to detail the unfairness of the Republicans, the article was obviously slanted for the Democrat, decrying that the deep pockets of the Grand Old Party was the only reason why the Democratic candidate was doing so poorly in the polls. It "obviously" had nothing to do with a failing economy, nor any of the other socialist ideals that have been crammed down the public's throats... no, it was all about money. Normally I would just shrug this off as yet another sign that most of the mainstream media is firmly in the pocket of the leftists (except Fox, which is equally as much in the pockets of the conservatives), but there is something inherently confounding in the midst of the author's logic: money buys political position. Worse yet, image and marketing buys votes.

What really concerns me about this logic is the idiocy underlying the idea that voters are looking for a candidate that "seems" or "looks" like the office, desperately hoping that their values are represented by one candidate or another, but really hoping that one guy looks the part more so than the other. Thus, really cool looking candidates in sun glasses playing the sax on Late Night... commercials that denigrate the opposition, and shine the light on tag-lines that represent the best candidate since John Lennon... mailers with all the graphic depictions of political sartorial delights, pronouncing both the genius of one candidate and poo-pooing the other candidate in every way possible (but hardly ever detailing the positions and platform of either candidate)... voters that believe the lies and promises of every candidate, while failing to simply read their position on issues... oh, and those really cool signs that you see EVERYWHERE. How nice.

I'd love just once to have a test for every voter in the largest elections at all levels (full term), not as an entry exam to allow them to vote, but just to see who really understands all of the issues at hand, and whether or not they understand each candidate's positions in those matters. I bet it would be similar to the street polls that were taken before the presidential election... NOT A SINGLE PERSON UNDERSTOOD WHAT OBAMA STOOD FOR, nor did they understand anything about any of our most powerful representatives in our country... (they certainly knew all about the dirt that was reported in the media, though)...


COME ON. How does anyone get elected? Because "I like Democrats"... They pay my bills... or, I like Republicans... they let me buy assault weapons... or whatever asinine logic most voters use! Most people have no idea what their chosen party stands for. I'm sure that the republican voters are equally as ignorant. Poll 10 people about which party is more closely aligned with "redistribution of wealth", or which party is more closely aligned with the "rights of the unborn", and you'll get all sorts of answers.

I challenge everyone out there to get the vote out based on RESEARCH. That's right, with something this important, y'all need to get off your soft couches, put the remote down, and go research the party platforms, the candidate positions on important issues, and make an informed decision based on who would benefit your country the most... not who would best benefit you, or your Aunt Mae, or even your kids. And don't vote on who looks the part, or who is more cool... you might as well hand the country over to Jessie Ventura or someone else equally qualified to mess up everything. Who would be the best leader in the manner that they are supposed to lead based on the constitution of your country and/or state, and the definitions of the position for which they are running? Look it up. Educate yourself for once, rather than just voting a party line. Vote responsibly for once. PLEASE.


Who is in need?

I've had several people ask me, "who's in need?" They were confused by my video, and I think that some are wondering: are we supposed to be spreading the gospel, or feeding the poor? My answer: YES. Obviously, we have been commanded to preach the gospel, that Jesus' blood shed on the cross is the only propitiation for our sins against God, and that full faith in Him is the only way to come before a holy God and remain with Him for eternity.

BUT... The gospel is judged as being effective in a person's heart based on their works. Thorn trees and fruit. Faith without works is dead. Loving our neighbors is best represented by the Good Samaritan, who cared for a strangers' needs, completely unaware of his standing as one of the elect. By the way, any of you absolutely sure who is of the elect and who is not? Then how can we withhold benevolence from ANYONE, especially as we are told to love our enemies? Sure, there is something to be said about a person that refuses to work and is just obstinately lazy. But we should judge lightly and work to "teach a man how to fish", while providing a few fish and a fishing rod to help him along his way. The world will know us for our love for each other, as well as the love we bestow on our neighbors.

Sooooo.... how can we have any kind of conscience and allow ourselves to remain stagnant while we know that a number of Christians are dying every day, and not move to exhaust our resources, both in prayer and monetarily, to help them? I, the hypocrite, am the worst transgressor, falling back on the excuse that I have six children to raise. But the one thing that I can call for, as I work to reform my family's habits, is a reformation of the way that we think about church. The American church needs to repent of its spending habits, needs to simplify its Christian infrastructure to one that needs a lot less money, and move closer to the model found in the scriptures... less debt... more giving to the poor... primarily funding to spread the gospel into ALL nations... did I mention less debt??? Really, can anyone help me to understand why we need a different denominational building on every corner, when there are plenty of empty warehouses and strip malls that would more than accomodate us? Could it be image? Pride? Lasciviousness? No, I don't judge, but I do ask the body to examine its choices in light of the fact that people are dying every day from a lack of simple funds that we could easily provide, if we tried just a little.

View the video... http://jpechin.blogspot.com/2010/10/feed-my-sheep.html


Feed my Sheep

So here's a non-debatable that I'd like to convict every Christian about... an actual, effective, works-accompanying gospel. Jesus wants us to reach out with the word and with compassion. I made a video, because I recently found some images that broke my heart. I hope you are equally as convicted as I was.


Debatable Convictions

I'm glad that many of my brethren have mighty convictions against the ways of the world. Unfortunately, not all Christians have the same convictions, especially as it relates to debatable matters. How then do we approach such matters, especially when it pertains to believers in your own church. Here's some advice...

  1. In all things, love.
  2. Where scripture speaks strongly, so we also should speak strongly.
  3. Where scripture speaks lightly, so we also should speak lightly.
  4. Don't make excuses for your own sin. Our own self-righteousness will often masquerade as an excuse to summarily excuse others from your love and grace. Remember, the standard by which you judge others will become the standard by which you are judged, and if you refuse to forgive, you might not be forgiven yourself. Always be careful to examine your own heart and motives before talking to others about their behaviors or lifestyles. Unfortunately, I know this one from experience.
  5. If you have children that you do not want to expose to particular elements, if you do not believe that they can be raised in a manner that they should be, or if you yourself are being harmed by the body you are fellowshipping with, you must first confront others about things that you feel strongly about, especially if there is any basis in the scriptures at all for your convictions (is there any other way???). If others are completely unwilling to respect your convictions or the concerns you have for your family and/or if they are completely unwilling to examine themselves, you may need to limit the people that your family fellowships with, or even find a different church. Holiness is no joke, for those that love our Lord. He wants us to "...offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."
  6. Love is patient, love is kind... (look it up... emulate it).


What is Moses' Law to Christians?

Quid est veritas? It's maddening sometimes to parse the scriptures. When attempting to perform proper exegesis on the scriptures pertaining to some of the more debatable issues, I am tempted to throw my hands in the air and side with the atheists and anti-Christian pundits when they cry "contradictions... the bible is full of contradictions!" I realize in more sane moments that it is my own fleshly short-comings that allow me to think in such a way. There is one truth, one way, one life. God has shone His word before my feet, and calls deep within my soul that I should order my steps thereby. I need to align myself with His word as best I can. I am finding that the best way to do so is to start from a position of Christ's most important commandments - Love God with your everything, and love your neighbor as you would yourself.

But how are we supposed to love? Do we love in a relativistic manner, allowing all to just "be themselves", "find their own path", allow ourselves and others to sin, "that grace may abound/increase?" Certainly not, according to Paul. So, there are constraints that are laid on the believer of the new covenant, as we see consistently throughout the new testament scriptures. But are these constraints none other than the "ho nomos kai hoi propheteis" - the law and the prophets - the fullness of Moses' law and the testament of the prophets, minus that which is abrogated or replace explicitly by the new testament law? Is R.J. Rushdoony right in stating...

1. God's covenant with Adam required him to exercise dominion over the earth and to subdue it (Gen. 1:26 ff) under God according to God's law-word.

2. The restoration of that covenant relationship was the work of Christ, His grace to His elect people.

3. The fulfillment of that covenant is their great commission: to subdue all things and all nations to Christ and His law-word.
[R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (Nutley, NJ:Craig Press, 1973)]
Wow. That's a lot to take - subdue all things to God's law ("law-word"). Many are tempted to say, "but we are not under the law!" Some, likely the minority, might wholeheartedly agree with Rushdoony. Thus we have the battle lines drawn between the Antinomians (those that believe that there is no law) and the Theonomists (those that believe that God's law is still fully in effect, minus some points). Like many debates and battles between Christians (those that hold God's word to be authoritative), the truth is likely to be found somewhere between two extremes.

This is something I have agonized over for some time. Some would say that it's a silly debate, but I've been a member at a theonomist-leaning church, where some call for stoning to be re-instituted by the state for such infractions as adultery and homosexuality, and that it is God's incarnate love for a parent to stone a rebellious-lazy-good-for-nothing child. I once believed that these positions were completely tenable from the scriptures. Please, let me explain how this position can be defended...

It begins with the completely acceptable understanding that there is a continuity from Old to New Testaments, a "covenantal" understanding, whereby a God with unchanging/immutable attributes interacts with and makes promises to His people through the modicum of Covenants - thus, Covenant Theology. However, theonomy is born out of an overzealous treatment of this system of theology and of the scriptures that tie the Old and New Testament (old and new covenants) scriptures together, to the point that there is little separation between the two - the New is an extension of the Old, with a few tweaks. Similar logic is used to support infant baptism - every element from the OT must have a replacement from the new, unless somehow abrogated. Problems arise from a strict covenantal view, however, because the "shadows and types" of the old stones cannot possibly accommodate the perfect and living covenant of the new - they are not completely compatible, and find themselves at odds as it pertains to the "...weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith..." (Matt. 23:23b).

To theonomists, Matthew 5:17-21 is seen as a re-affirmation of the law and prophets by Christ, in a literal and wide-sweeping manner; we must all view ourselves, Jew and Gentile alike, to be law-bound, and all of its promises, blessings, cursings, rewards, punishments belong to us as Christians.

When presented with the positions from Galatians 3 that believers are no longer under the law, most theonomists attempt to draw a clear line between justification and sanctification, stating that the law does not pertain to justification in any way, shape or form. It becomes, though, the primary means by which the believer finds acceptance in God's eyes AFTER they have been saved - many would even say that the curses and blessings of Deuteronomy based on believers' adherence to the law yet belong to us in Christ. This logic is found wanting in light of Galatians 5:28, however, where those that are led by the Spirit are "no longer under the law" - this is a clear delineation of those that are being sanctified (one cannot be led by the Spirit, otherwise), and the proceeding passages outline the daily behavior of such a one that obeys and is sanctified in their obedience.

A true believer in Christ, theonomists say, will seek to follow the Mosaic law because He loves God - this, based on 1 John 3:5, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments ; and His commandments are not burdensome." (and God's commandments include the whole of the O.T.). Similarly, when confronted with the fact that we can no longer be under the curses of Deuteronomy 27, because "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law" (Gal 3:13a), theonomists claim that this is the singular curse of damnation, and that Revelation 22:3 is the final retraction of curses from mankind, only after the end of time and we meet God face-to-face. Until then, we will likely be cursed by God for sinning, though God may be longsuffering when He wills it. Surely this can't be the perfection that we are urged to seek, nor do I see the new covenant merely enveloping the old or expanding directly from its tenets into new and more complete codes (etched in stone) that all believers must harken to. No, there is a more direct relationship called for, a more perfect covenant called for, and theonomists are left with too many gaps and difficulties.

Conversely, and even more problematically, Antinomians decree, "there is no law!" In this camp, the law is not worth considering in any manner, except to display God's grace in that we are released from the law in Christ. They certainly have difficulties with Matthew 5:17-21, but try to cite a systematic refrain that allows us to be free in Christ and thereby retain no measure by law. They also have problems with such scriptures as Romans 7:7-12, 8:4, 1Cor 9:20, Galatians 3:24 that depict a useful place for the Mosaic law in a Christian's heart. It's not surprising that Luther decreed Antinomianism to be a heresy, among other mainstream reformers. Too bad he thought that absolute theonomy had to be the natural answer.

Never fear, the scriptures can be kept aligned with each system by tap-dancing around the difficulties. Maybe not, and maybe we don't have to. I think some flavor of New Covenantal position on the law is somewhat more tenable. It finds a much better balance by placing believers solely in the care of the Holy Spirit as it pertains to justification and sanctification, but realizing that there is still a place for God's law in our hearts and minds - to what extent, there is a great difficulty found while parsing that out. I think perhaps considering the "moral law" of the reformers is wise, but as an example I think that we need to be careful about the idea of how this applies to the state and the church. Unlike the reformers, I think that our efforts should be poured into evangelism and those things that we have been commanded to do by Christ Himself, in His covenant. So, instead of applying myself to one system or another, I think my most scriptural approach is to treat the Mosaic law instead with the system identified directly by the scriptures...

We know from various scriptures that Christ instituted a new covenant; in His own words, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood." (Luke 22:20b). We also know that the majority of scriptures seem to focus mainly on separating the new covenant from the old. What is the nature of this new covenant? Is it only an addendum to the first contract started by God? I sincerely doubt it. Hebrews 8:6 tells us, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises." A better covenant. Better promises. Paul continues by quoting Jeremiah 31, showing that God had always planned on replacing his old covenant with a new one, one where all believers would know him. God "has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Though I know that theonomists try to say that this applies only to the administration of the covenants - the slaughter of animals, the priesthood, and only those things that are obviously abrogated within the new covenant - this is highly unlikely, as God states that He will not make His new covenant "according to the covenant that I made with their fathers", and the old is "obsolete" and "is ready to vanish". The new replaces the old, and the old is obsolete (like an old wineskin or old garment - we don't put patches on it to get along, they are incompatible according to Christ, and we have to replace the object completely with the new, rather than applying new patches to the old).

Then, within this new and better covenant, God takes the focus away from works and calls His children to tend to the condition of their hearts (and this by grace and faith and the power of God alone); truly, God re-focuses us all on the circumcision of the heart, and He then asks us to do works out of the condition of our hearts. The focus is now to not fear the breaking of a code, but to love God so much that we live for His pleasure and glorification.

In this manner, I believe God has"circumcised" the old covenant with His people - He is stripping away the national treatments, the land grants, the physical trappings of a people that have to maintain symbols of separation from the other tribes and nations. Faith is outside of the law of Moses; God's promise came to a faithful Abraham before the law, after all. So God's promises remain true by His complete replacement of the old with the new - through faith, by grace, via the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ ALONE. All the blessings of eternity come in this manner, and in no other. The veil of flesh is pulled back with finality, and we have a perfect union with Christ, one in which we are saved AND sanctified in Him, and no means but faith is necessary to achieve all of it.

Should the old be thrown away, then? Do we find no place for the law at all? Paul says "may it never be!" Whither these collections of old wineskins and rags? I think they become the shadows and types of a better thing, the shining and pure objective that Christ always intended. Israel was a national image that represented the true bride of Christ. True, the elect were in Israel, but only by grace through faith, and only by looking forward to the promise of a messiah. In the new and better covenant, Christ is realized, we are all called to believe in the revealed Messiah or be left in the "outer darkness, where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth". Here is now a clear delineation - we each of us either know our savior heart to heart, or we are eternally dead. For the blind in need of guidance, the law either leads to Jesus or causes further death; once we come to faith in Christ, we have no more need of the law. We are led by the Spirit into salvation, yes, but we are continuing to be led by the counselor - certainly through God's word, but also as it pertains to our personal gifts, leadings, and even specialized revelation (another argument for another day). The Holy Spirit counsels us, leads us on a daily basis, and writes a NEW law on our hearts and minds - one that I believe transcends and does not contradict much of what is found in Moses' law.

We also have to remember that there are moments in all believers' lives where we lose track of who we are and commit sin as if we were non-believers. We are told to confront each other with God's word in such moments - "scripture is god-breathed" (inspired by God), " and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." Every word of God can be used to help us in our walk; we are not "under" the law - but neither can we be a judge over it (James 4). It is the place we go to see our Lord's character and nature - Judge and Savior in one. The law and the prophets pointed to Christ as the pinnacle achievement of history, and we give up the historical and moral perspectives of those texts to our own detriment. Christ was the fulfillment of the law, and more, and if we are to be anything like Him in "running the race so as to win", then we would be wise to reference the "weightier points of the law" - mercy, love, grace. Somehow, it's there, and it's up to us to keep it in mind as we range about this creation of His.

"We love God by following His Law!" the theonomist shouts. "Throw the law out altogether!" raves the antinomian. "I think it says commandments", I would say to the theonomist, and Christ commanded an impossible series of tasks of looking deep inside our heart, transcending the law of Moses in a manner that could never be enveloped by the Mishnah or any other codification of faith; the law is now written directly on our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit. And yet, I would tell the Antinomian that the word of God has been kept in its fullness and that the law can yet aid us in understanding our sin in our darkest moments; it also informs the non-believer of their need for a savior; and most of all, the Lord chastens those whom He loves, placing constraints on our hearts and lives in new ways that supersede the old.

I think we can all agree that we have one mediator, and that is Christ Jesus, and He is before the throne always pleading the case of His children, we covered by His imputed righteousness. We cannot think that with one hand He presents evidence against us (as we have broken every law) and with the other He pleas our innocence - instead, all sins we have ever committed are completely blotted out, and there is no more accounting for wickedness, for those of us that run against it (and yet sometimes stumble). We are not then to be bound to constant punishments and curses. And yet, our beloved is holy and pure, and our heart should leap for every glimpse we get of Him, even in those "shadows and types" that point to Him. Live for the wholeness of God's word, but fear not, for our Savior reigns over those whom He loves!

We had a great sermon at church today. I'd like to post the preparation notes that our church sent out before the sermon, as it was very impactful to me (then I'll post my thoughts)...

In-Line with the Gospel
(Galatians 2:11-16)

Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” It is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine for entrance into the kingdom, but the way we make all of our progress in the kingdom. We are not made right with God through faith in the gospel and then sanctified and matured through mere moral effort. Faith in the gospel is also the way to grow (Gal.3:1-3; Col. 1:3-6). It is common to think, “The gospel is for non-Christians. But once we are saved, we grow through work and obedience.” But work that is not “in line” with the gospel not will sanctify — it will strangle. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. The gospel changes every area of our lives. How?

Since Paul speaks of being “in line” with the gospel, we can extend the metaphor by saying that gospel renewal occurs when we keep from walking “off-line” either to the right or to the left. The key to understanding the implications of the gospel is to see the gospel as a “third” way between two mistaken opposites. However, this does not mean that the gospel is a compromise midway between two poles. It does not produce something in the middle, but something different from both. Specifically, the gospel critiques both religion and irreligion (Matt.21:31; 22:10).

Tertullian said, “Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, so this doctrine of justification is ever crucified between two opposite errors.” Tertullian meant that there were two basic false ways of thinking, each of which steals the power and the
distinctiveness of the gospel by pulling us “off the gospel line” to one side or the other. These “thieves” can be called moralism or legalism on the one hand, and hedonism or relativism on the other. Another way to put it is that the gospel opposes both religion and irreligion. On the one hand, “moralism/religion” stresses truth without grace, for it says that we must obey the truth in order to be saved. On the other hand, “relativists/irreligion” stress grace without truth, for they say that we are all acceptable and have to decide what is true for us. But truth without grace is not really truth, and grace without truth is not really grace. Jesus was “full of grace andtruth.” Any philosophy of life that de-emphasizes or loses one or the other falls into legalism or license. Either way, the joy, power, and release of the gospel is stolen by one thief or the other.

The gospel teaches us to say:
“I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe” (vs. antinomianism).
“I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope” (vs. legalism).