From Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology pg. 292
In the Patriarchal period the gracious character of the Covenant [of Grace] stood out more prominently than in the later period. The promise was more in the foreground, Rom. 4:13, Gal 3:18. Yet even this should not be stressed unduly as if there were no legal burdens, both moral and ceremonial, before the time of Moses, and no gracious promises during the period of the law. The substance of the law was in force before Moses and sacrifices were already required and gracious promises are found in great abundance in the post-Mosiac writings. The only real point of difference is this: because the law constituted for Israel an explicit reminder of the demands of the covenant of works, there was a greater danger of mistaking the way of the law for the way of salvation. And the history of Israel teaches us that they did not escape the danger.
The Siniatic covenant included a service that contained a positive reminder of the strict demands of the covenant of works. The law was placed very much in the foreground, giving prominence once more to the earlier legal element. But the covenant of Sinai was not a renewal of the covenant of works; in it the law was made subservient to the covenant of grace. This is indicated already in the introduction to the ten commandments, Ex. 20:2, Deut 5:6, and further in Rom. 3:20, Gal 3:24. It is true that at Sinai a conditional element was added to the covenant, but it was not the salvation of the Israelite but his theocratic standing in the nation, and the enjoyment of external blessings that was made dependent on the keeping of the law, Deut 28:1-14. The law served a twofold purpose in connection with the covenant of grace. (1) to increase the consciousness of sin, Rom. 3:20, 4:15, Gal 3:19, and (2) to be a tutor unto Christ, Gal 3:24.
pg. 298-299 cont.
There have been several deviating opinions respecting the Siniatic covenant which deserve attention…
c. Still others are of the opinion that God established three covenants at Sinai, a national covenant, a covenant of works, and a covenant of grace. The first made with all the Israelites and was the continuation of the particularistic line which began with Abraham. In it God demands external obedience and promises temporal blessings. The second was a repetition of the covenant of works by the giving of the Decalogue. And the last a renewal of the covenant of grace as it was established with Abraham in the giving of the ceremonial law.
You will here some say in the Reformed world that the Mosaic Administration is a republication of the Covenant of Works, citing most effectively Leviticus 18:5 (“So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.”) and other places where it seems that obedience to the Law as given by Moses is the requirement for the Lord’s blessing and therefore life. However I believe that one can cite the same verses and make the opposite notation, that the Law being an administration of the Second Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, is not a Covenant of Works because most strikingly that which a Covenant of Works is cannot be fulfilled by the Mosaic Covenant. So there is I think a definitional mistake by categorizing the Mosaic administration in any part of a Covenant of Works because in doing so it presupposes that one can follow the Law to receive salvation like Adam (even if such a thing were possible, which it is not), who was first under the Covenant of Works for salvation and failed. Since Adam failed the probationary test we cannot now fulfill the requirements of this covenant and since according to Romans 5 the curse of this failure continues in us since Adam was our covenantal head it would therefore not make sense that God would put is again under a covenant which had been broken by Adam’s disobedience (and our disobedience in Adam). Especially since we continue under its curse. The Covenant of Works had already been abrogated, why would/should it be instituted again by the Mosaic administration since we who are descendants of Adam were already condemned? It seems to be unnecessary to put us again under condemnation a second time.
The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7, sections III, IV, & V makes clear that the Law (or Mosaic covenant) is an administration of the Covenant of Grace.
Chapter 7 –
Of God’s Covenant with Man.
III. Man by [Adam’s] fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.
IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.
V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.
You see in section V that the Divines at least believed the Law (thereby meaning the) is just a special administration of the Covenant of Grace. While administered differently than “in the time of the gospel” it still is part of the Second Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace.
Fairmount ARP Church October 26, 2008
Scripture Lesson Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Sermon “The Death of Moses” Benjamin P. Glaser
In the closing days of the Second World War Franklin Delano Roosevelt succumb to the effects of a hardening of the arteries surrounding his brain. He had been President for over 12 years at the time of his death; having directed the United States through the Great Depression and the vast majority of World War II. FDR was responsible for leading us through some of the toughest and harshest days this nation has ever known, before or since. Whether he did a good and commendable job in his control of our nation’s government is up to the historians but there is one thing that we can be sure of in looking back to those days. Franklin Roosevelt was unable to see, unable to experience the spoils of victory, which included deliverance of the Jews from the Concentration Camps, the release of Chinese nationals from the Japanese labor camps or even to see the surrender of his enemies, but probably most importantly for FDR he did not see the day where the men fighting overseas were able to come home and be out of harms way. As well FDR saw the foundations of the future of this country. Although he was all but being assured of the victory in Europe he knew that the alliance he had made with Joseph Stalin and the Russians would lead to a long and protracted time of tension between the Soviets and the West. Things were less than settled when he died in April of 1945. It would be safe to say that on the day that FDR died there was still a great discomfort and a guarantee that much more would await America in the years to come, for the people he had led the last 12 years.
In our Scripture lesson for this morning we read of the death of Moses on Mount Nebo, but before we speak about Moses death I’d like to spend a little bit of time reminding us about why it was that Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land. Because it should seem a little strange to us that the man responsible for leading the Israelites out of Egypt, by God’s power, parting the waters of the Red Sea, providing for the worship of the Lord our God, receiving the Law, guarding the chosen people of God for over 40 years in the desert, among many other things that he had faithfully and willingly done for the Glory of God in his life should be kept from experiencing the joys and wonders of the Promised Land of Israel? I’d like for you if you might to turn with me to Numbers chapter 20 verses 1 through 13 as we read together the background for the reason for God’s refusal to allow Moses into the land promised to Abraham. You can find it on page 000 of your pew bible. [pause for 7 seconds] Starting at verse 1, “In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Sin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried [who was Moses’ sister remember]. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”
Now at first reading it seems God was a little harsh to Moses and Aaron. Moses did what the Lord our God had instructed did he not? I mean Moses hit the rock just as the Lord had commanded? So why were they punished? Well Psalm 106 provides us with a little commentary on why it was God had punished Moses. Verses 32 and 33 from Psalm 106 say, “By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD, [they being the Israelites] and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” So here we have Moses being punished, one for his failure to control the people of God and for his and Aaron’s immature, almost childlike screaming at the people and their taking credit for the miracle of God. Look again at verse 10 in chapter 20. Moses says. “”Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Now who brought water from the rock? Did Moses bring the water from the rock? I do not think so. Moses in taking credit for the work of God had committed sin, the same sin that the representatives who had gone in chapter 13 of Numbers to explore Canaan had committed against God, not trusting in the Word of God to provide His people with the necessities that they needed and with the promises of His Word. This is key for us to understand in this time of great upheaval in our nation. Shall we be like the Israelites challenging God and His will in these times and shall we be like Moses reacting with anger and resentment, lashing out in rashness? We must trust in God, trust that God is not only in control of everything that is happening but also that it has a purpose in his providential hand and will in due time prove beneficial to God and His people. We must also remember that it is God who provides for us and must never come to the understanding that we can provide for ourselves using the means God has commanded for us as Moses tried to do here in this passage from the Book of Numbers, because we have seen what the punishment for such a lack of trusting and understanding in what God has planned for us in his Divine Hand.
Moving back to Deuteronomy 34 and our Scripture lesson this morning we have come to the end of Moses life, the wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai has ended. The last of those God had promised would have to die before they could enter the Promised Land has passed away and now God has allowed for the Israelites to approach the River Jordan to begin the process of preparing to take control, to annihilate the residents of Canaan as God had commanded them. Starting in verse 1 we read, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” John Calvin at this point in his commentary on this passage makes a statement that we must understand at this juncture in the Scriptures, he says, “Now, the ascent of Moses was equivalent to a voluntary going forth to death: for he was not ignorant of what was to happen, but being called by God to die, he went to meet death of his own accord.” We observe in verse one that Moses, though of an advanced age required no assistance to scale a large mountain, which tells us that he was not in poor health. I do not know about you but I am a young, spry 28 year-old man and I could not imagine being like Moses who was 120 at the time of his death climbing all the way to the peak of Mount Nebo in the mountain range of Pisgah. Also we notice that Moses died alone with God on the top of Nebo, with none to hold his hand, alone to face the reality of his sin. [pause for 5 seconds] Though why is any of this important? Why does it matter if Moses went on his own accord to die upon the mountain? Why should we feel sorry for Moses? Firstly it matters because it had been appointed by God that it be so. It matters because Moses was a faithful follower of God’s call and God’s will, knowing that God had commanded that he should not enter the Promised Land. He was perfectly satisfied by God’s providence to get an understanding of what God has provided in the boundaries of the Kingdom that will come to be in Palestine, Moses knows by faith that God will be true to his promise and give him a gaze into the blessing which God had promised, that which was but a type of the blessing Moses himself was about to receive in his death. Moses had learned from his earlier sin at Meribah. He had learned to trust in what God had called him to do. Though most importantly these verses of God’s Holy Word teach us something even greater.
I ask you now to think of anybody else in Scripture that this reminds you of, anyone else in Scripture who went willingly to His death on a mount, who otherwise was in perfect health, who lovingly carried out the will of His Father who is in Heaven. Who else died alone on a mountain? Who also was given a glimpse of the glory that awaited Him for following the Will of God?
Turn with me if you will to the book of Matthew chapter 27, verse 41, which is page 000 in your pew bibles. [pause] Starting at verse 41, “The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus here like Moses went freely to His death. He also like Moses died alone, abandoned by the disciples, abandoned by His people, to die an excruciatingly painful death upon the Mount of the Skull outside of Jerusalem. There was isolation in that hour of unexplained desertion; misery and loneliness that is unfathomable to us. Christ sounded an intense cry quoting the 22nd Psalm, of which we can barely even begin to understand, this chasm that was created between God and Jesus in Christ’s death was greater than any expanse we can imagine. We get a picture of this chasm in our Scripture lesson when we read of Moses’ separation from the Promised Land. Moses was looking out across the plains of Moab, across the River Jordan in to the land that would be Jericho’s, the plains which Joshua would lead the Israelites in battle against all who currently lived in the Land God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses was barred from this place because of the sin of his people and his own personal transgression. Alexander MacLaren writes, “Christ was parted from God in His death, because He bore on Him the sins that separate us from our Father, and in order that none of us may ever need to tread that dark passage alone, but may be able to say, ‘I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me’—…Christ died that we might live. He died alone that, when we come to die, we may hold His hand and the solitude may vanish.” Christ died alone so that we who call upon Him and receive Christ as our Savior will not die alone as Moses and Jesus himself did at Mount Nebo and on Calvary.
Most hospitals in this country have a policy that no one is to die alone and when someone is close to death the nurse is required to contact the on-duty chaplain so that even those with no family present can have someone hold their hand as they die. They do this because even they recognize the idea that there is something intrinsically wrong with dying by yourself, with no one to share in your pain and in your ache. If those outside of Christ see the agonizing sadness of dieing alone how much more do we who are the followers of Christ have not to fear dying by ourselves because we know that Christ is with us?
In closing, Moses had been called by God to save his chosen people from the chains of slavery in Egypt. Moses had led them through the Wilderness, providing for them in every way that God had commanded him to do. In the same way Christ had been ordained by God, born of a virgin in the City of David, to die so that we, God’s chosen people, the Israel of God may live in the Promised Land of the Age to come. Moses got a glimpse of that land from far away but those of us who live in Christ Jesus are greater than Moses, we have been given the opportunity, the ability in Lord’s Day worship to experience the glory and the power and the presence of Jesus Christ and his Spirit here today. Let us not take for granted, as many have done, the pleasures of worship and the glory that we are able to enjoy because of Christ’s atoning death. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross we who have been blessed to be in Christ because of God’s choosing get to receive this glimpse of the Promised Land each and every Lord’s Day right here at Fairmount Church. Just as Moses was allowed a glimpse of the Promised Land, Christ is our promised place of refuge and peace. So as we go out into a world that is hostile to the Word of Christ let us remember one thing, that we go not alone even to our death. For Jesus Christ, our Savior and King, is with us always, even to the end of the Age.
To God Alone Be the Glory, this day and forevermore, Amen
In this third post on the Covenant of Works I want to begin looking at the different “administrations” of the Covenant. We have already looked at the Adamic Covenant and I want to for right now skip Noah and go on to Moses (we’ll come back to Noah later). There has been some debate as to how we should look at the Covenant given to Moses at Sinai within Reformed circles so this post is more a of an intramural debate then a proof text either way for how we should look at the Mosaic Covenant since Covenant Theology imparticular is a Reformed thing nearly explicitly. So with this in mind I want to post a few Scripture texts that will be our main focus in this post. Firstly God has already made a little “c” covenant with Moses way back in chapters 3 and 4 in the Book of Exodus. God through the burning bush told Moses that he would free his people from bondage in Egypt and bring them first to Sinai to worship Him then on to the Promised Land they will go. So here in the beginning of Exodus we have God promising to Moses deliverance from Egypt for the people of God from bondage to freedom. Now we ask at this point what has Israel done to deserve deliverance? Some say we must be careful how we read into the text the “glory story” but here in Chapter 3 we see the type of the salvation that we are to receive. In other words those of us in the Covenant of Grace have been saved from bondage to sin (cf: Rom 8:15, 21) just as the Israelites were saved from bondage in Egypt, through no work of their own but by being the chosen people of God (Ezek 36:28, John 6:65). Back to Exodus 24 we go for now.
Exodus 24 is chock full of all kinds of scrumptious morsels for us to chew on but we must limit ourselves to the question at hand. However I exhort you to take a look at verses 4 and 16 especially in depth at another time. This chapter begins with Moses, along with Aaron and his sons Nadab and Abihu (who are to feature prominently in the book of Leviticus) being called to go up to the LORD and then Moses is to worship and then go back and recount these things to the people. This he does. In verse 3 Moses goes to the people and in verses 3 and 7, “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!'”, “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’.” This sounds like the Covenant of Works we all know and love. God presents to Moses the Law and the “ordinances” and the people say with one voice “I Will”. The people have promised to obey and live by God’s Law. Now what is their motivation for doing so? What shall they gain by following the words of God? Well here in Exodus 24 the people, moving off Moses promise that they shall receive the promised land, believe that by following the Law to its completeness they will be given entrance to Canaan, the land of their ancestors. We know from the rest of the story that Israel fails and are punished by not being allowed to enter the promised land, they are punished for their failure to live up to the Covenant. So as we can see in this short and somewhat stilted look at the Mosaic Covenant there are elements of both the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace in this particular Covenant.
I could go on for days just in this chapter but this being a blog it does not lend itself to long drawn out explanations so we will stop here for right now and pick this up later.
The study of Hermeneutics or better said the way in which we read and study biblical text is a dying art in the evangelical, let alone the liberal, world. There used to be a very serious set of principles that a person would employ when they came to the Biblical text that was nearly as sacrosanct as the text itself. For those of us in the Reformed circles this was done in the guise of reading the Scriptures in the framework of the Covenants between God and man. In other words when a Reformed pastor or theologian would come to a biblical text he would read it first with the idea that the Bible was constructed with a certain organizing principle, constructed by the Holy Spirit so that we could both understand the larger picture and how the little things work for the overall Glory of God in history. We all come to the text with presuppositions about the nature of the text, the way we understand God to work in his creation, etc. Through all this we take things like God’s covenant with Noah and Abraham through different eyes than Talmudic or Dispensational scholars. The Talmudic scholar will read the promises to Noah in relation to the modern Jewish milieu. The Dispensationalist will see the Noahic Covenant as the beginning of a new dispensation that is different than the one given to Adam or Moses. Once we come to this understanding the question that comes before us is why do we think we can read Scripture in such a way that it does not inform on itself? For example in the arguments between those who support Women in Ordained ministry and those who do not the defenders of the egalitarian position often posit the observation that Jesus employed women to bring the news of his resurrection to his Male disciples as one fact supporting ordained female clergy. In other words Jesus uses women to bring the Good News to the disciples, therefore women can be messengers of the Gospel, ergo Women can be preachers of the Gospel and enter ordained ministry. Understand the argument? Ok. This argument sounds pretty good on the surface and looks secure in its logic, which if taken by itself it is logical.
Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 12:38-41 is a good place for us to start in working with a Biblical hermeneutic. What are the details in this text? Pharisees and Scribes are asking Jesus for a sign after the crowds call him the “Son of David” for healing the blind and mute man possessed with a demonic force. The Pharisees want him to prove that he is this person whom the crowd claims him to be. So after Jesus and the Pharisees exchange pleasantries Jesus reminds them of Jonah (whom Jesus recognizes as both real and verifiable, which is another issue for another day) and what it was that happened to Jonah. He also reminds them of Nineveh and Nineveh’s repentance and applies this text not only to himself but to the recompense that is coming. All in order to show them that the signs have already been given to them in the Law and the Prophets (cf: The Rich Man and Lazarus) and that they have no need of new signs because why? Because there is nothing new in what Christ is teaching and what he is coming to do in their time. Jesus understands (and so does Zacharias) that the Law and the Prophets not only speak of him but are about him. This is all to say that a proper Biblical hermeneutic takes into account more than just what is in front of us on the page, more than the bare logic of a pericope.
Which brings us back to Matthew 28:1-10 (also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, and John 20:1-10) and the reporting of the Resurrection. Now as we saw before the argument brought forward by egalitarians makes perfect sense, in isolation. Now how does the story look in context? We’ll answer that in the next post. But for now I want you to think about it and come up with your own explanation using a Covenant hermeneutic.
(I had a much better and longer post but I somehow deleted it so this is the cliff notes version as I do not have time to rewrite the 1500 words I had finished)
We have moved from the 16th to 17th to the 19th centuries and have watched how the unanimous voices of Reformed orthodoxy in the past have spoken against the construction (or injection-molding, chipb) of images of the entire Godhead. In this part we will look at the modern effects on how we view not just the Decalogue but the Mosaic Law in general. How is it that now one cannot go 10 feet without seeing the Scandinavian-“Jesus” plastered on everything from T-shirts to Billboards? Well Greg Bahnsen in his work on Post-Millennialism entitled Victory in Jesus (published post-mortem) has a very good short section on the three things plaguing not just the rampant violation of the second commandment but other problems encroaching on orthodox Reformed Christianity in the West. While his focus is presenting a case for Post-Millennialism and why it has fallen out of favor he is correct in identifying the three major issues confronting orthodoxy in general. Two of these three movements would not even consider the Second commandments words on imagery binding today but it is their influence in the minds of those who may that bring them into this discussion.
Bahnsen begins by identifying firstly Liberalism. By Liberalism Bahnsen means to direct his words to the movement that began under the influence of men like Hermann Samuel Reimarus and Heinrich Paulus who were the forerunners of and greatly influenced 19th century Historical Jesus research. Also understood in this section is the work by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy continues to undergird nearly all persons in the West. Included in this is the work of higher critics like Julius Wellhausen and David Strauss. However for Americans the greatest influence was brought forth by Friedrich Schleiermacher whose thoughts and ideas are still taught in every mainline seminary. The effect these men had on the subject of this essay is in the way we now approach the Scriptures in the West. Out of all of their criticisms of the Biblical text the most divisive has been the hatchet job done on the Pentateuch especially on the Mosaic Law. If the law was not received by Moses in toto (as Scripture testifies it did, Ex. 20-23) then what bearing does it have on us today? How can a collection of separate instructions hold any weight for today’s Christian? These are serious questions that cannot be answered by simply dismissing these ungodly men and their followers away by wrote. They must be challenged and confronted in a manner that does not cause their descendants to shun orthodoxy.
The Second influence recognized by Bahnsen is the work of Evolutionary Progressivism. One may look at the title and wonder “How does that differ from Liberalism?” Well to answer the question a person needs to understand that their is a difference between what most people refer to in contemporary times as Liberalism and what academically should be referred to as Liberalism. This second part is what we would identify with the modern usage of the word. This movement led by men such as Charles Darwin and Walter Rauschenbusch delivered a focus that moved Christianity away from its foundation in the Older Testament to a purely New Testament focus, a recurrence of Marcionism. Also another thing that distinguishes it from Liberalism as defined above is its belief that man is is generally good and has evolved past the Mosaic prohibitions to a new era of life that looks not upon the strictures but upon the liberty brought by Christ. Hence the term “Evolutionary”. In other words Christianity no longer needs to worry about offending God by their actions as long as they do so with a kind heart and a loving mind. Therefore in regards to the Second Commandment the Evolutionary Progressivist has moved on from the old covenant completely and any attempt to use it in discussion is Pharisaical.
Thirdly in Bahnsen’s hypothesis is the effect of Dispensationalism on the mind of today’s Evangelical. Mostly brought to the forefront of Christianity in America by the work of Cyrus Scofield and his reference Bible and the writings of John Nelson Darby. The greatest effect Dispensationalism has had for this discussion is its emphasis on the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. Therefore the words of the second commandment can be properly explained as belonging to a prior dispensation and no longer applicable in there literal sense to today’s Christian.
Cumulatively these three positions have effected the way in which most in the Reformed camp come to the Decalogue and the Case Law of Moses imparticular. With a Hermeneutic of Suspicion the Second commandment (and its spiritual brother, the 4th commandment as we saw here in J.C. Ryle’s thought) is cast in a light of a “Canon within a Canon” as it passed over, with rest of the first table, in our times for all the reasons the three positions of Liberalism, Evolutionary Progressivism, and Dispensationalism have provided.
In the final part of this 7 part series on the Second Commandment I will present a Biblical and Systematic argument showing why it is not only unlawful according to the Older Testament but also in the New Covenant to picture the Godhead in physical form.
As we move on in the 1st Letter of Paul to Timothy who was at Ephesus the second pericope I will take a look at is Chapter 1:8-11. This short passage follows the instruction given by Paul in what is wrong with the teachers of the law who are ignorant about what they are to be teaching and the assumptions that should be made from the law. We read in verse 6 and 7 for a refresher:
For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
But what conclusions are they making from the law that Paul here is wanting Timothy to avoid himself and in teaching his students? Well to understand that we first need too understand what Paul has already written concerning this. We know that we can recall with certainty that Paul’s use of the phrase “Teachers of the Law” is not innocuous. He most assuredly means the Jews, his former brethren. We also can point back to any number of places in the rest of Paul’s letters to receive his full instruction on the Law, that Timothy must know already, but specifically I want to look back at Romans 3:19-20 because this other pericope I think encapsulates the use of the law Paul is highlighting here in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Paul says:
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
The last clause is vitally important for what Paul is about to say in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11, that:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals (here Arsenokoitais, cf. Robert A.J. Gagnon‘s The Bible and Homosexual Practice for further understanding of this word) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
So in this short section of 1 Timothy 1 we see Paul laying out for Timothy and for us a proper understanding of the Law of God (as given to Moses) and how the Law is to be properly understood in the context of Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone through Grace Alone. That, as Paul says in Romans 3, through the Law comes the knowledge of Sin.
(By the way make sure and check out Spurgeon’s Morning lesson for today.)