Creation Then Covenant

In our first installment, we noticed that eschatology drives revelation, and revelation, in turn, drives the illumination of that covenantal structure by which our God has deigned to communicate His will to us in an ever-increasing manner of promise, via the historic covenants, which promises find their final form in that which we call the ratified Covenant of Grace, which is the New Covenant.

In our second installment, we noted that God relates to us, in His revelation, by covenants. We also noted that “covenant” is not a construction superimposed upon the Scripture, and so revelation, but that it is imbedded within it by our God from before the world began, so it behooves us to pay attention.

Creation came before God instituted covenants with man, and this is, necessarily, founded in the eternal transaction between the Father and the Son which we have, with covenant theologians from Paul, the apostle, to the Reformers, to the post Reformation scholastics in the 17th century, and on into the present day, among those who hold to the orthodox, Reformed faith (which is to say, Biblical Christianity), called, variously, the Eternal Covenant, The Covenant of Peace, or the Covenant of Redemption (as noted in our last installment, all these designations are found within Scripture).

Here, however, we note this: Man was created prior to the covenantal structure of Scripture being revealed. We see, first of all, the creation of all things and all other living creatures, then man (Genesis 1:26). Man was not immediately in covenant with God through virtue of God creating him, but was placed in the Garden of Eden and given that moral law to obey God (Genesis 2:7-8; 15-17). Thus, the first covenant we have in Scripture has come to be known, by covenant theologians, as “The Covenant of Works,” for it required Adam’s perfect obedience to God in cultivating the Garden and keeping himself from eating of the forbidden fruit. We call this the first publication of the Moral Law of God in that the entirety of obedience to God is encompassed by both the positive and the negative aspects of the commandments given. Although it is not said, in precise words, that the Lord our God commanded Adam to cultivate the Garden, the implication of positive obedience is strongly implied, while the explicit negative obedience – “do not eat” was given, with consequences. The implications of keeping (and the Hebrew word may also mean “guard,” as it is used of the tabernacle and temple duties of the priests) the Garden has consequences to the way man will relate to the world God created, which in turn has reference to the second table of the Moral Law (last 6 Commandments of The Decalogue), while the explicit command to refrain from doing that which God has forbid has direct relation to the first table of the law (first 4 commandments of The Decalogue). Thus, in both a positive and negative sense of obedience, in order to not only retain the righteousness/goodness with which he was created (and attain to a still higher righteousness/goodness in the eternal state), Adam must obey God by doing that which he was commanded to do (cultivate/guard the Garden) and not doing that which he was forbidden (disobey God), with the consequence that failing to obey God perfectly would result in the loss of life. Scripture reveals, as it unfolds, that this loss of life was first spiritual communion with God, and secondarily physical loss of life (Romans 5:14; cf. Galatians 3:21).

In noting that creation comes before Covenant, we are merely affirming that which was given in our first post in this series, which is that fact that eschatology not only drives Covenant Theology, but drives that very vehicle which gives rise to our ability to understand Covenant Theology, which is revelation. Without the decree of our God, we would have none of the building blocks of revelation, and those building blocks invariably resolve themselves into the covenantal structure by which God has been pleased to communicate His decree (and so His revelation), to mankind.

May we be blessed to understand that this communication of covenantal dealings has, as its model, that first covenantal dealing before time and creation began, in the Covenant of Redemption within the counsel of our God with Himself, and by disclosure, He has deigned to reveal His pleasure in that counsel to we who are His created creatures, to our benefit, and His glory. The unfurling of redemptive history echoes both the dealings of God with His elect in Christ Jesus, and His dealing with those who will not have Him as their king. These are the two main themes which we will find again and again throughout the history of mankind, which is to say, quite simply, redemptive history.

May God use these inadequate words from an inadequate disciple to bless and nourish those who are considering these truths.

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Specifics Of God’s Calling 2 – Continued (Part 2)

Thus, the beginning of our text, “Blessed be God…” runs through the entirety of the passage, and is the underpinning for all the reasons to give Him such praise. Without this theme being noticed, the meaning of the pericope loses coherence, for what God works to our benefit is always to show that which He is, that being not merely the source of all that is good and holy in the unique manner that belongs only to God, but to express His inexpressible, self-contained, infinite, eternal and unchanging essence in a manner that elicits wonder, and the expression of that wonder resulting in paeans of thankful praise from those creatures He deigned to create to show that which is true of Him alone.

This is the expression of the first point: “Blessed be God.” This is not a suggestion of happiness based on interaction with anything, but an expression of that state in which God alone exists. While we are told, by our Lord, that we shall be blessed for various reasons (cf. Matthew 5:3-11), God, in Himself, is always blessed, which is to say in a state of perfection that has no need for any interaction with any but Himself. ([1]This goes into theology proper [the Doctrine of God]; however, we will not belabor the point here.) We must note that God did not need to create, but in our passage, that which is true of Him is observed and stated, for the purpose of bringing about that praise of Him which is due His inestimable, glorious holiness, and that by His creatures – not because He needs such to prove that which He is, but because it pleased Him, in His perfection, to decree such to come about.

The expression of the second point is clearly perceived in the words set forth in Holy Writ as well: “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

As has been stated, this is not of a need for our Great God to do such, but of His good pleasure. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (in the realms of the heavenlies) by His beneficent fiat, not due to our being owed such blessing.

If we are to ask, what blessings has God given to us, regarding that which pertains to such that we might be assured of His divine pleasure in both this life, and the life that is to come, it is simply answered: “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What greater blessing is there in this life that we can be assured of, or what better proof of that greater blessing which is to be given us in the age to come, than to surely know that we have these blessings now, at this time, here, for our benefit, to the praise of the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus?

This, alone, is cause to worship, and by worship, I do not intend merely acknowledgement of the greatness of our God, but of that which He has deigned to do. The worship intended here is that of thanksgiving for His glorious condescension to those creatures, such as you and I, whom He had no need to create in the first place!

If you think yourself worthy of such interaction and communication with our God, think again! He had no need of you, and He gains no glory through you, yet He has willed to receive that acknowledgement of who He is; you add nothing to His glory, yet He has willed to receive such paltry thanks and worship of Himself by that which He has done in His Son, and furthermore, He has revealed that unto you!

Do you give Him such thankful, worshipful praise? Do you render Him the praise that is due Him because of what He did for you in Christ, apart from any perceived merit on your part?  The particular merit belongs to Jesus Christ alone, whom God set forth as a propitiation for the sins of His people – this is both the fountain of and the reason for both our works and praise (see 1 John 2:2; 4:10 with Romans 3:21-31; Ephesians 2:10; Luke 7:7-10; etc.).

The remaining texts in our pericope simply add to the reasons for our doxological expression of thanksgiving towards our great and glorious God.

We will be given to worship Him in this continuing doxology as we consider the remainder of the particular portion of this Scritpure.

[1] See London Baptist Confession of Faith 1689 (hereafter LCF) Chapter 2.2; Also, God Without Passions: A Reader, edited by Samuel Renihan, 2015 – Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP – http://www.rbap.net)

Revelation is Covenantal – Covenant Theology – A Continuing Overview

Revelation is Covenantal

From our previous posts, we can see that covenant theology is not a construct we impose upon the Scripture, but rather, that paradigm which God has been pleased to reveal His dealings with those He created, for His glory, in revealing those dealings. That these dealings have to do with the Covenant of Redemption made by God eternally and unchangeably with Himself gives the proper weight to what we have come to know as Covenant Theology.

Consider the record: Acts 13:32-33:  And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ Hebrews 1:5: For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?  And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”

Hebrews 6:16-20: For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

This is the eternal counsel of the Almighty breaking in for our benefit to know that which He has done in the Son from before the world, or creation, began. That which He promised by an oath of everlasting and unchanging decree, He has deigned to reveal to us within His written Word. That which was decreed before the world began (eschatology), He has deigned to show us (revelation).

Because of this, we can see that as God has decreed to relate to us by means of the covenants He made with His people throughout redemptive history, so those covenants all contained within them, to varying degrees and in progressive manner, the unfolding of the Eternal/Everlasting Covenant. So, the revelation of that which He discloses to us in Holy Writ is none other than the means by which He also communicates with us, and the covenantal structure is plain to see throughout Scripture. The first promise made – the proto-evangelion (first gospel) unfolds further with each historic covenant, and the shadows become more substantive in each additional covenant, with key aspects of the promise being unfurled for us as we go through them. With the Noahic, we see the promise of the New earth and heavens, and a picture of salvation; with the Abrahamic, that of the further establishment of the people, the Priesthood of the Messiah (Genesis 12:3; 14:18-20; 17:1ff; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 6:20; 7:1-3, 11, 17), and the nation the Messiah would come through, with further pictures of salvation; with the Mosaic, the continuation and guarding of that line and the establishment of the Kingship the Messiah would inherit through the Davidic (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34-35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13; 10:12-13; 12:2) both with more types and promises (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1) concerning the Prophet who would come. All these were guardians of the lineage that brought about the Messiah, with hints and typical aspects of that which would be finalized by Him when He came into the world. Notice how that which was typical was realized in the anti-type of our Lord, and is being realized in His body (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20-22).

May we see that which God intended for us to gather from His disclosure of His divine purpose from before the world was formed, rather than to read into His revelation our predictions to justify our particular paradigms of that which He has communicated to us in His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria – Bill H

What Is Covenant Theology – A Continuing Introduction

Creation Then Covenant

In our last installment, we noticed that eschatology drives revelation, and revelation, in turn, drives the illumination of that covenantal structure by which our God has deigned to communicate His will to us in an ever-increasing manner of  promise, via the historic covenants, which promises find their final form in that which we call the ratified Covenant of Grace, which is the New Covenant.

Man was created prior to the covenantal structure of Scripture being revealed. We see, first of all, the creation of all things and all other living creatures, then man (Genesis 1:26). Man was not immediately in covenant with God through virtue of God creating him, but was placed in the Garden of Eden and given that moral law to obey God (Genesis 2:7-8; 15-17). Thus, the first covenant we have in Scripture has come to be known, by covenant theologians, as “The Covenant of Works,” for it required Adam’s perfect obedience to God in cultivating the Garden and keeping himself from eating of the forbidden fruit. We call this the first publication of the Moral Law of God in that the entirety of obedience to God is encompassed by both the positive and the negative aspects of the commandments given. Although it is not said, in precise words, that the Lord our God commanded Adam to cultivate the Garden, the implication of positive obedience is strongly implied, while the explicit negative obedience – “do not eat” was given, with consequences. The implications of keeping (and the Hebrew word may also mean “guard,” as it is used of the tabernacle and temple duties of the priests) the Garden has consequences to the way man will relate to the world God created, which in turn has reference to the second table of the Moral Law (last 6 Commandments of The Decalogue), while the explicit command to refrain from doing that which God has forbid has direct relation to the first table of the law (first 4 commandments of The Decalogue). Thus, in both a positive and negative sense of obedience, in order to not only retain the righteousness/goodness with which he was created (and attain to a still higher righteousness/goodness in the eternal state), Adam must obey God by doing that which he was commanded to do (cultivate/guard the Garden) and not doing that which he was forbidden (disobey God), with the consequence that failing to obey God perfectly would result in the loss of life. Scripture reveals, as it unfolds, that this loss of life was first spiritual communion with God, and secondarily physical loss of life (Romans 5:14; cf. Galatians 3:21).

In noting that creation comes before Covenant, we are merely affirming that which was given in our first post in this series, which is that fact that eschatology not only drives Covenant Theology, but drives that very vehicle which gives rise to our ability to understand Covenant Theology, which is revelation. Without the decree of our God, we would have none of the building blocks of revelation, and those building blocks invariably resolve themselves into the covenantal structure by which God has been pleased to communicate His decree (and so His revelation), to mankind.

May we be blessed to understand that this communication of covenantal dealings has, as its model, that first covenantal dealing before time and creation began, in the Covenant of Redemption within the counsel of our God with Himself, and by disclosure, He has deigned to reveal His pleasure in that counsel to we who are His created creatures, to our benefit, and His glory. The unfurling of redemptive history echoes both the dealings of God with His elect in Christ Jesus, and His dealing with those who will not have Him as their king. These are the two main themes which we will find again and again throughout the history of mankind, which is to say, quite simply, redemptive history.

May God use these inadequate words from an inadequate disciple to bless and nourish those who are considering these truths.

Soli Deo Gloria – Bill H

Covenant Theology – An Overview From An Introduction

It has come to my attention that, although I would not consider myself the best expositor of the Covenant Theology of the Particular Baptists of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (what today is called 1689 Federalism), that there is an interest in my posts regarding these doctrines.

At the outset, let me say that covenant theology, of whatever camp among the orthodox Reformed (of which I, and others, count our Particular Baptist brethren of past years, and so ourselves), must, of necessity, deal with various motifs which occur in such theological constructs. As a result, it is unavoidable that eschatology, the “temple motif” of Scriptures, and various other doctrines, which are inextricably intertwined with the doctrine of the covenants should be left out of such discussions (at least, to me, it is unavoidable).

To this end, I posted my first post entitled “What Is Covenant Theology,” which deals quite briefly with these various elements, but brings them to the attention of the reader for further consideration.

Subsequent posts will follow seeking to define, in an introductory manner, some of these elements.

What should not be mistaken is that this is to addressof Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology (i.e., 1689 Federalism) in exhaustive, or even slightly exhaustive detail. This is simply to give the reader some building blocks to consider upon which to build.

May our God see fit to bless you as we meditate upon these series of posts as they are forthcoming. Please be patient – I am working on more than one project, and the synthesis of certain documents to bring about these articles will take some time.

In His name, to His glory alone, in and by the application of our Lord’s merits to those who undeservedly gain such benefit – Bill H

Specifics Of God’s Calling, Part 2

This will be another ongoing series of posts – I do not know what number it will reach. Although this was not my intention, initially, the subject matter of the Scriptures of which the initial post treats makes such necessary.

It is hardly an expectation to think that such matters as I am addressing could or would be so addressed within the scope of one posted article, yet I had not thought to go beyond that one article. However, since these things frequently come up in discussions, I thought it might be good to further address them in another passage which treats of them, for the benefit of those who are assisted by a lay-teachers/elders’ handling of such things.

I posted an article exegeting Romans 8:29-30 some time ago, regarding the specifics of God’s calling of His people, regarding the covenant He decreed for man to be saved, which is according to the Triune Covenant of Redemption He decreed in counsel with Himself (Ephesians 1:3), some time back, on a blog I formerly posted articles to; I reposted it on the blog I now share in posting articles with my good brother in the faith, Fernando Cassie Ramirez, and which is also a blog that give information on how to contact us at our present house church location (the information for contact is the email addresses given in the definition of the blog).

It was entitled “Specifics of God’s Calling,” and was somewhat of an exegesis of Romans 8:29-30.

Consequently, because I felt the need to somewhat expand upon this, I am writing this follow up article, but this time, it will deal with a portion of Ephesians 1 as to some of those specifics.

Here is our text:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

3   Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5   he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this text, the reasons for our praise (doxology) to the Father are given in that work of God accomplished in the incarnate and glorified Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. These reasons are: [1]

  1. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (all spiritual blessings) in the heavenly places.
  2. He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (v 4[2]).
  3. He predestined us in love for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (v 5).
  4. This is for the purpose of praise towards Him for this glorious grace (v 6).
  5. He blessed us in Christ (the Beloved – v 6).
  6. He gave us redemption through the sacrificial death of Christ (in His blood – v 7a).
  7. This redemption accomplished forgiveness of our trespasses, according to His gracious riches (made in Christ v 7b, c).
  8. He lavished these riches of His grace on us in all wisdom and insight (v 8).
  9. As a consequence of this lavishing of His riches of grace, this wisdom and insight is how we apprehend (making known) the mystery of His will (all these things, again, are given us in Christ), and this is according to His purpose (v 9).
  10. That purpose is set forth in Christ as His plan for the fullness (completion, recapitulation) of times (eschatological terminus of redemptive history) which is shown in the uniting of all things in heaven and earth in Christ (v 10).
  11. Because of His predestination of us, who works all things according to the counsel of His will, we have been given an inheritance (in Christ – v 11).
  12. This is all to the praise of His glory, both for those who were first chosen, and subsequent generations of those who believe according to that predestinating, lavish grace of God in Christ vv 12-14).
  13. This is all proven by the downpayment, or surety, of His Holy Spirit sealing all believers unto that final redemption (vv 13-13)

These propositions could be divided differently, but this is a basic working outline of the passage which shows what God has done for us in Christ, and we need to notice the first thing that especially dominates this passage, which is that God is the subject, and we are the objects of His actions in Christ Jesus. The Father works through the Son to give us the blessings and lavish grace that secure our immediate salvation from the effects of sin and the present power of sin to bring about our present regenerate status, and ultimate glorification in the age to come. All these things are to bring about His glory (our present and future praise of Him) for the reasons listed above.

This will be followed by posts dealing with the specifics, but I did wish to make a start.

Blessing in Christ, to the solo glory of our God – Bill H.

[1] The following is largely dependent upon the excellent exegetical work of Pastor Richard Barcellos on this passage. I do not attempt to handle the technical details of the Greek grammar as he did (nor could I). His article is available in the following book: Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Volume 1, 2012, chapters 5 & 6, An Exegetical Case Study in the Doxological Trajectory of Scripture: Ephesians 1:8-10 in Light of its Immediate, Contextual Meaning and Redemptive-Historical and Canonical Trajectory, Parts 1 & 2

[2] This has rightly been called a statement of eschatological importance, although dealing directly with our salvation. The fact that it refers to that period when God chose us, which was before creation, is the eschatological factor; this also shows us that eschatology, rooted in who God is, precedes revelation.