Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's Wrong With Dispensationalism II

Having laid a foundation for the case against dispensationalism in part one, I will now take up proving why dispensationalism is untenable and incompatible with the gospel message.

The Jewish Mistake One – The nature of the Covenant Of Works forgotten

We changed after the fall, but the Covenant of Works didn’t. As a result Covenant which promised life now guarantees death, for it offers no grace. There’s nothing kind or gentle about it- it’s do this and live, keep every word, don’t do wrong.  There is no mercy for failure, no second chances, no redemption, and since we already have a stain on our record there remains now only a fearful expectation of judgment rendered against us (Ps 139:7-8).

We found this new state of affairs intolerable, so we decided to fix it by playing God and unilaterally re-issue the terms of the Covenant (to ourselves) in a fashion more to our liking.  Of course this amounted to little more than an absurd demand that heaven is ours because of who we are, or that we get in because we’re still good people (Luke 18:18). 

The Jews made this mistake repeatedly, demanding entrance to heaven based on their own perceived self righteousness, or bloodline. John the Baptist argued the Pharisees who argued that they were chosen by God through Abraham and Isaac- they had the promises, the covenant, the favor of God, and so were immune from condemnation. John reminds them that perfect righteousness is what matters, God's not interested in our counter-offers (Luke 3:8-9).

Jesus also takes up this theme and points out to the Pharisees that the righteousness they clung to was not sufficient to save (John 8:39-40), and Paul labors in Romans to point out that it’s not who you are but what you are that matters to God, (Romans 2:25-29). A Child of Abraham is someone who has the righteousness and good standing before God of Abraham, not his physical bloodline. 

Mistake Two - The Intent of the Covenant Of Works Forgotten

Moreover, thanks to our indwelt sin not just the nature, but intent of Covenant was twisted from “this is how I may see and know God” to “God wants me to be righteous.” At first glance that reduction may look identical to the original, but in actuality they are night and day different- the original intent terminates on the person and nature of God, in the mistaken case it terminates on the creature as supreme. The goal moves from making it to heaven to becoming more righteousness than my neighbor.

And here again the Bible is not deficient in its correction of our mistaken notions on this very thing. In a number of places it reminds us that because God is spirit (John 4:24) the intent of the Covenant was a Spiritual one (John 6:63), and the Kingdom was a Spiritual one (John 18:36).  Abraham was given the promise of the land, but this promise was in fact a spiritual one, and Abraham was looking for a better country in heaven (Heb 11:16). Moses left Egypt because he was looking forward to a better spiritual reality (Heb 11:26). The redemptive history of the Jews stands as a type and shadow that we may use to understand the real spiritual reality in everything from Adam (Rom 5:14) to the tabernacle (Heb 8:5). The promise land, the wilderness wanderings, are instructive for us (Heb 4:2) about how heaven works.

In forgetting why God gave them the law in the first place they forget that His intent was to save their souls before Him. The Jews then crassly reduced everything to their own physical reality. The promised land became about a physical plot of ground, the rules for Sinai guided how you may have your best life now, and ultimately the Messiah became a political ruler who would make Israel great. Jesus in turn constantly reminded them that the real intent of the Covenant was to keep you from Gods wrath in the world to come (Matt 5:29-30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:33).

Mistake Three - The Rejection of the Covenant of Grace

In forgetting or rejecting the fallen state of man the covenant of grace becomes superfluous and collapses under the weight of a works based righteousness, for why must we now wait for a savior from our sin if we are already pre-qualified for heaven?

When God gave the Jews the law from Sinai and explained to them the way of righteousness more fully He was really raising the bar to show them that they weren’t and could never be good enough (Leviticus 11:44) because the Covenant curse stood against them still (Gal 3:10).  The law was not enough to save (Rom 2:23) because it was to show men their sins (Rom 3:21), from the very beginning (Rom 4:13) mirror to point them to Christ who could save them (Rom 8:3). In point of fact the law actually increased the trespasses (Rom 5:20, 7:8) because of our sinful nature (Rom 7:14). The honest ones admitted as much (Acts 15:10).

Instead of begging for mercy in humility at the weight of trying to keep this law, the Jews took its existence as a sign that God wanted to save them, and as a demonstration he gave them the law, so that they could keep the law and be saved.  No longer are we all sinners in need of a savior who will give us His righteous standing before God by faith (Acts 15:11) we are those who have a natural righteousness and those who don’t. And those who have this self righteousness need no physician. They have dropped the Covenant of Grace because they don’t need it.

The Great Mistake – Rejecting Righteousness that comes through Christ

As a consequence of dropping the offer of the second covenant Israel has failed to achieve what it was seeking, that is, righteousness, because they have pursued it as if it were based on works (Rom 9:32, 11:7) while the Gentiles have accepted the covenant of grace (Rom 9:30) and become righteous, for Christ is the end of the law for us who believe (Rom 10:4).

They have rejected the need for a substitute; they have appealed to justice based on their record.  They have rejected the offer of mercy, so they stumbled over the stumbling stone.
But no man comes to God except through Jesus (John 14:6).

Therefore the Jews had rejected Christ, turned down His righteousness, and discarded any need for the Covenant of Grace, for why should an innocent man plea for mercy?  They warped the nature of the Covenant of Works into a kind of ‘good enough works based righteousness’ and its intent into a ‘this physical life is all that matters.’ In every possible way they took the opposite approach to how the Scriptures teach us we must be saved, in humility and faith.

All that to say this: The unsaved Jews failed to honor the righteousness that comes by faith.


Mistake of the Dispensationalists same as that of the Jews

At last we are ready to make the argument against Dispensationalism, and it is this: it makes every mistake the Pharisees did with regards to the two Covenants. We call it dispensationalism, but it may as well be the Pharisaicalism, for it says that the Promised Land was physical, that God will save the Jews apart from Christ through because of their physical inheritance, and that righteousness doesn’t come from faith alone.

To prove this I will close with the words of Scofield, the grand daddy of Dispensationalism, from his original reference Bible: “As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; 4:24,25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation” (Notice it does not say that the Covenant of Grace was fulfilled at the cross, but begins for all men at the cross, therefore the Old Testament saints were saved by their works righteousness, while Christians and men afterward are saved by grace through faith.

And having thus demolished their viewpoint I will add this: dispensationalists may be in error, but it’s not a crushing error. Unlike Hyper-Calvinism which makes the same mistake as the Pharsiee (I am right before God because I’m elect, I don’t need to be righteous) dispensationalism says I am a sinner in need of grace.  It’s point of failure is that it says others may be saved by something other than grace through faith. And that’s why they may be very confused brothers and sisters but they are certainly our brothers and sisters.


City Lover-Country Dreamer said...

So were you there Sunday (3/25)? I was really confused. Did the pastor teach that Abraham was saved by faith (in God)? And did he teach that the Abrahamic covanent still stands?

Phil said...

Alas I was in Virgina beach Sunday morning, so I didn't get to hear it.