Thursday, November 29, 2012

Replacing the CoW


I have come to the conclusion that the Covenant of Works has to go. Instead of being systematic here I'll start with what kicked off my decision to leave the CoW behind, and work may way upward to a larger picture of what I think takes it's place.
This is a picture of my son helping me wash the car. If you want to be technical it's a picture of him and I working.


That, that right there is works in the NT. That's what God has in mind. A better word is grace. Understanding God as Father transforms works from a master/slave, Lord/vassal into something else entirely. You can't call it works, because it's a joy.
This is the only way to understand what Christ did. John 5:19 "So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise."This isn't Jesus meriting salvation because He is fulfilling an eternal promise, this is Him doing what His Father does because that's who He is, and what a Son does. My son didn't wash the car because I told him that after we finish we can go out for ice cream, he washed it because that's what love does, and I took him out not because he earned it, but because that's what I like to do.
The same relationship Christ had in this is our portion (John 20:17), as it says in 1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."  
His commands, our obedience, is not a work, it's a relationship.
And that is my problem with the CoW: it would have you believe that this passage in John means the same thing as what Israel was told at Sinai; but what it really means is that obeying His commands is a partnership with Him, a delightful, joyous, magnificent experience. Works are the physical, outworking of a grace that so cannot be contained that it shoots out of your body. Works are the outward expression of the inward joy.
The CoW at worst takes this smile off of God the Father. At best it obfuscates it. Dead wrong.

Once I settled in my mind that this model is unsuitable to understanding the NT, I concluded that it had to be junked. Now with this in mind I went back and tried to make sense of the holes that were left. And here is what I think: there are two covenants, both have elements of works, both are built on, and sustained by grace.

The Old Covenant - A covenant of service, slavery, sorrow, marked by failure and human faithlessness. It's requirements must be met or there will be punishment. Grace is seen in it by God giving second chances, and third chances, and fourth and fifth chances, perhaps summed up by the word tolerance. Works are the commands that must be performed, which mainly amounts to sorrow for sins, sacrifices for wrong doing. It's signs are reminders of God's faithfulness, and reminders to be faithful, circumcision, Sabbath resting. Punishment is meted out. Adam stands as the perfect representative of this covenant because of his complete failure and betrayal of God. One word to describe it: do. Do or else, but man does not, man is only capable of failure.

The New Covenant - A covenant of Sonship of deep and abiding love, marked by an unbreakable salvation and faithfulness. It's requirements have already been met by Jesus. Grace is seen by exchanging His righteousness for ours and keeping us forever as His own treasured possession. Works are the delight of the sons and daughters as they play together with God. It's sign is baptism, a reminder that we have died to keeping the rules, as they have been kept. Fatherly discipline is meted out of love. Christ stands as the perfect representative of this covenant because of His complete and total success in keeping it, and being God's true, obedient Son. One word to describe it: done.

This model elegantly explains what Paul was talking about in the purpose of the law, to bring us to Christ. It's why he would say that Sinai is slavery, just like Hagar. It's purpose was to point us to Christ, to the one who would be the true Son we were meant to be. (Gal 3:22-23)
It tells us that Adam had absolutely everything he needed in the garden, but lost it, and that the story of the Bible is God restoring it. From son, to slave, to son again.
It explains, so much better than Federalism, why Christ sits as the second Adam, because of His sonship, not because He was going to fulfill a covenant of works righteousness requirements.
It explains why the Old Covenant is called, the Old Covenant, and why it's passing away as obsolete. (Heb 8:13)
It explains why Jesus said "No longer do I call you servants." (John 15:15a)
It explains why there are both works and grace in both covenants.
It exalts Christ Himself, placing Him at the center of the covenants structure, rather than abstracts like law and grace.

Just for good measure let's throw down a table. 
 

Old Covenant
New Covenant
A Covenant of
Slavery
Sonship
Marked by
Failure, sorrow, faithlessness
Completion, Joy, loyalty
Works
Do it or else face the wrath
Washing the car together
Grace
You get another chance
All is forgiven
Person
Adam
Christ
Sign
Circumcision
Baptism
Summary
Do
Done

Yes, the whispers of the New Covenant blow through the times of the Old Covenant, particularly in Jeremiah 31, in this way I think the traditional understanding of the CoW and CoG makes a good point.
But ultimately the CoW falls apart, or upon examination, gives way to the notion not of works, but of relationship, of sonship. Which fits the Biblical data so much better.
One could argue that this looks a lot like the covenant of works, and the covenant of Grace, and I'm giving them a slightly different bend, and retooling their names. But I'm not, this is the Covenant of Sonship Broken, and the Covenant of Sonship Restored. And that seems to me to be the message of the Bible.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thought on casting out demons

Mark 1:27 "And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
Jesus did something new when He healed by casting out demons- He brought evidence of Spiritual authority.There are only two logical explanations for that kind of authority that the demons obey. One is that He is the prince of demons. Obviously Satan has dominion over the demons and can command them, and have them obey him. This is the conclusion the Pharisees came to,

Matthew 9:33-34 "And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons.

That does explain part of it, the power, but it fails to explain the motive, for what reason would Satan have to cast demons out of people and restore them to health? If anything Satan would want as many people bound and kidnapped into darkness as possible. It's this very point Jesus addresses in

Luke 11:17-19 "But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul." 

Which only leaves us with the other possibility to explain why Jesus has both the authority and motive for casting out demons: Jesus is God. 
 

Jesus is God.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some thoughts on the COW

The bible is a book that in many ways is like life itself, it must be read forwards and understood backwards.
Failure to do so results in strange consequences.
For example, if you start at the front, in the OT, and study the idea of a covenant sign, by the time you get to the NT you see that padeo-baptism is the only thing that makes sense. The covenant signs are to be given to all the members of the covenant community, children are of the community, therefore baptism should be given to children. However, if you start by thinking through the same issue backwards, you realize that the new covenant is something new, and that baptism is for professed believers, which means it's not for babies. The new covenant community is by believing, not by ethnicity or bloodlines. Very different conclusions arise depending on where you start your thought process.

So it is with the Covenant of Works. If you start at the the front and read about Adam you naturally come to the idea that this is a good model for understanding the holiness required by God. This is buttressed by the idea of the Israelites being told to keep the law and be holy, just as God is holy. Then when you get to the part in the upper room in John where Jesus now calls them friends and no longer just servants, well, case closed.
As such it has the support of the Bible, which makes for a very strong concept, no matter what that theological cyborg David Ponter says. But even though it's very compelling and logically sound, it's wrong, because that's the same worldview the Jews had, and look at the rebuke they get in the NT.
I hadn't thought through the COW too much, honestly, because it seemed right, and it explained a lot as I moved through the Bible. I really focused on looking closely at the pieces, going from one bit of evidence to the next and never really took a step back, way back, and examined the big picture, the idea that I should be holy because it will get me good things, and if I'm good enough, God will reward me. 100% wrong. I don't obey God because I'm a mercenary, I obey because I'm His son.

If you start back to front then you get a very different understanding of God's covenant with Adam. It seems to me now that the covenant of works is really only the outword working portion of the covenant of sonship. God makes Adam as a son, in His image, just as Seth was a son in Adam's image, then God covenanted with Adam not to set up a master/servant relationship, but to draw him closer to Himself through joyful obedience. The point of the covenant was a relationship, expressed through works. The whole point was to deepen the relationship, which was already there.
Did God give Israel the law before or after the Exodus from Egypt? After. After they were free. And so is the covenant with Adam, it's given because he's a son, not in order that he may become one.

A son works, and obeys, and does what His father asks, because he's a son. Working, and listening, and obedience does not make you a son. This is the mistake of the Covenant of works - it sets up the manifestation (or proof) of the covenant as the chief end- work for righteousness sake. The angels are to understand God as a master, but we are to understand Him as a Father. Which means our covenant with Him is a personal, intimate, delightful thing, and as a result we obey His commands which are not burdensome.

And this seems to me to be the reason why the covenant of works seems so Biblical - because I've been thinking it forward, while Paul has been showing me the truth- the Bible must be understood backward, with Christ at it's center.

Nehemiah 3 Notes


[1] Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.
·         Eliashib is the high priest, the grandson of Jeshua the high priest from Zerubabbel’s day (Neh 12:10) and he’s out here building with the rest. There is literally nobody, from top to bottom not engaged in this work. This is a stunning statement.
·         The Towers of the hundred and hananel are along the northern face.
·         They also sanctified it, made it full, set it apart for God.
·         The sheep gate was thought to be the gate near the temple where the sheep were brought in for sale and sacrifice. The priests were nearest to the gate, so they fixed it.
·         This is sort of out of order chronologically, obviously you can’t hang gates until the wall is finished, but this is a record of who did what, so it’s listed in this way.
·         Jeremiah 31:38 has these two towers mentioned in reference to the new Kingdom.

[2] And next unto him builded the men of Jericho. And next to them builded Zaccur the son of Imri.
·         The men of Jericho did not build the gates, but they did help with that portion of the wall
·         The northern face was likely fairly well demolished compared to the rest of the wall, which was protected more by natural geography.

[3] But the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build, who also laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.
·         Next to the tower of Hananeel was the fish gate and it’s segment of wall. Merchants used to use this gate to come in and set up the market.
·         2 Chron 33:14 has the record of the tower nearby being built.

[4] And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.
·         Repair work between the fish gate and old gate were done by Meremoth, Meshullam, and Zadok’s families. The head of the family stands for the accomplishment of the whole.
·         Meshullam was an important person in the city. See Neh 6:18.
·         The word repair, meaning to strengthen, is different than the word for built. It’s likely this section of wall was not as badly damaged, like the other section of wall.

[5] And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
·         This is probably because they were loyal to Sanballat and Tobiah, and didn’t want to work against them. Neh 6:17 has a record saying that the nobles sent many letters informing the enemies of the progress.
·         These were rebelling against God, not man. There is no sitting on the fence.

[6] Moreover the old gate repaired Jehoiada the son of Paseah, and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, and the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.
·         Meshullam was a pretty hard worker, he was on both sides of the gate.

[7] And next unto them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite, and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah, unto the throne of the governor on this side the river.
·         There is some ambiguity in the text, but it looks like Melatiah and Jadon are not of Jerusalem. This shows that the report was famous, and many people came from all around to help in the work.

[8] Next unto him repaired Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, of the goldsmiths. Next unto him also repaired Hananiah the son of one of the apothecaries, and they fortified Jerusalem unto the broad wall.
·         Hananiah the perfumer and Uzziel the goldsmith helped on this portion of the wall. They were not professional builders, in fact there is no record of anyone being a mason expert, although they likely had them.
·         They closed the gap leading south to the broad wall. The broad wall was more than 20 feet wide. It was broken by Joash king of Israel, 2 Kings 14:13, and was repaired by Uzziel with greater strength.

[9] And next unto them repaired Rephaiah the son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem.
·         Rephaiah also helped repair this section. This is interesting because of how high ranking he was. Both he and Halohesh who ruled over the other half got out and repaired the wall

[10] And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house. And next unto him repaired Hattush the son of Hashabniah.
·         Here the people are repairing near their houses, this happens 5 times in the text. Just go outside and fix your stuff that will be fine.

[11] Malchijah the son of Harim, and Hashub the son of Pahath-moab, repaired the other piece, and the tower of the furnaces.
·         At the end of the broad wall was the tower of the furnace

[12] And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.
·         Even the daughters of Jerusalem are fixing the walls

[13] The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits on the wall unto the dung gate.
·         The corner and valley gates are mentioned as being built by Uzziah in 2 CHron 26:9
·         They worked the distance of 1000 cubits, which is something in the neighborhood of 1500 feet of wall. This shows that the walls were in good shape
·         Zanoah was likely the area west of Jerusalem

[14] But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Beth-haccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof.
·         It’s possible Malchiah and the Rechabites built the dung gate
·         The Rechabites were a group of people who lived in tents to show their dedication to God, Jer 35:2 has them as an object lesson

[15] But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Col-hozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David.
·         Now the distances compresses, and Nehemiah keeps a more accurate count of who is doing what because of the small spaces

[16] After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.
·         It looks like he is repairing the second, outer wall that encompasses the tombs and water pools

[17] After him repaired the Levites, Rehum the son of Bani. Next unto him repaired Hashabiah, the ruler of the half part of Keilah, in his part.
[18] After him repaired their brethren, Bavai the son of Henadad, the ruler of the half part of Keilah.
[19] And next to him repaired Ezer the son of Jeshua, the ruler of Mizpah, another piece over against the going up to the armoury at the turning of the wall.
[20] After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
[21] After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah the son of Koz another piece, from the door of the house of Eliashib even to the end of the house of Eliashib.
[22] And after him repaired the priests, the men of the plain.
[23] After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house.
[24] After him repaired Binnui the son of Henadad another piece, from the house of Azariah unto the turning of the wall, even unto the corner.
[25] Palal the son of Uzai, over against the turning of the wall, and the tower which lieth out from the king's high house, that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh.
[26] Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out.
·         A lot of people repairing the lower sections that had been knocked out

[27] After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel.
·         The Tekoites were quick and dispatched their original commission, then came to help the other groups

[28] From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house.
·         So the priests lived in the north eastern portion of the city, and they went outside and began to repair their houses

[29] After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate.
[30] After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another piece. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber.
·         And for a three peat, Meshullam does the section of wall in front of his own house, which was near the temple.

[31] After him repaired Malchiah the goldsmith's son unto the place of the Nethinims, and of the merchants, over against the gate Miphkad, and to the going up of the corner.
[32] And between the going up of the corner unto the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants.
·         And that’s how the building went down. A map of my guesswork makes all of this much more clear, but it should be kept in mind that that’s just a guess.
·         Some thoughts on the importance of the wall: this is clearly related to Revelation 22 when the new Jerusalem is given great details of the gates and walls.
·         The story of God’s people is the story of the city: taken down and humiliated, now brought back up and rebuilt. This is the promise Isaiah gives that God would rebuild His people