How Peter D. Williams Denied Solus Christus and Sola Gratia in his Debate with James R. White on Indulgences

By Pierre Bruneau (1689 London Baptist Confession)

I just finished watching the debate between Dr. James White (the Protestant debater) and Peter D. Williams (the Roman Catholic debater) on the topic of indulgences. Throughout the debate both sides claimed to believe in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice and the sufficiency of grace. I am not surprised by this because Rome has historically claimed to teach these things. What does this mean, that both sides have reached a kind of consensus or agreement? Absolutely not! The debate between James White and Peter D. Williams clearly demonstrated that while Roman Catholics and Protestants often use the same words and phrases they mean entirely different things by them. The difference between the two debaters can be summarized as follows: Peter D. Williams was saying that grace is sufficient to make our salvation possible but that we then have to do certain things to make it a reality, and although Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient we must do certain things for it to become effective or remain effective. Dr. White, on the other hand, was saying that grace not only makes our salvation possible, but an accomplished reality that requires no work on our part, and that it is on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice alone, which has actually removed the debt of all punishment and given us peace and access to God on that basis alone. You see, for Rome grace is only sufficient to make salvation possible, while the Reformation has always taught that it is sufficient to make it an accomplished reality. There is a vast difference between the two!
A good way to illustrate this is to use an illustration used by Peter D. Williams during the debate. I will summarize it here but you can watch the debate to listen to his full argument. He likened God to someone who provides all the necessary funds and materials to build a building, but the builders still have to build the building. But the analogy breaks down when you bring it to the light of Scripture, because if the builders have to build the building, it means that they have to work, but Scripture clearly tells us that “if it is by grace it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6). Not only that, but if the builders are working, then they deserve a wage, and if the funds provided are analogous to God’s grace or Christ’s merits, then the builders would be earning God’s grace and Christ’s merits! Is this the conclusion Peter D. Williams intended us to come to? Did he not realize how such horrible blasphemy can be communicated through his seemingly innocent illustration? But the reality is that the Catechism of the Catholic Church explicitly asserts that we can use grace to earn further grace, and the Council of Trent and many other official Roman Catholic Church documents have consistently claimed the necessity of works for salvation (for example see the CCC section 2010 and the 6th session of the Council of Trent). But to make any kind of work necessary for salvation is to make God out to be our debtor, as Scripture says, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor but as what is due. But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness…” (Romans 4:4-5).
Towards the end of the debate Mr. Williams also plainly denied the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. While he affirms substitutionary atonement he denies its penal nature. Again, I am not surprised by this because I have heard and read many Roman Catholic apologists say the same thing. Although Dr. White responded adequately to this and other arguments made by Mr. Williams during the debate, I would also like to point out the passage of the suffering servant where it says that “he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but YHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him” (Isaiah 53:5-6), and it goes on to say that this was “for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due” (53:8), and it says very clearly that “YHWH was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief…” (53:10). Anyone who fails to see that God is punishing Christ for the sins of his people in this text is clearly wearing a blindfold of false presuppositions!
I will not summarize the whole debate between Dr. White and Mr. Williams here, but I recommend that people watch it because it clearly shows the difference between Roman Catholicism and the biblical gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Surprised by God’s Word: What Cessationism Actually Implies

Maverick Witlouw

Reformed Anglican Perspective

“Yeah, I know it’s crazy, Reformed people tend to be quite serious about the Word of God, yet somehow they are missing out on God’s Spirit.” So goes the misguided rant of the “Calvinistic Charismatic,” and most charismatics for that matter. For some reason, the assumption is that a cessationist theology necessarily precludes the modern day occurrence of miracles. Of course, that is an absurd claim. It is not only rooted in poor exegetical ground, but it demonstrates ignorance of a deeper historical theological question. The problem with a theology like cessationism is that, just as charismatic theology it has various forms even though the key premises tend to be the same. There are some more “hyper,” than others. What I am proposing is an historically Reformed hermeneutic, to essentially set the record straight about what Reformed cessationists are actually saying, and not what they are not saying. Sound fair? Some people are led to believe that Reformed theology is essentially rationalistic, and that denies any form of deep intimacy with God. Of course, the opposite can only be true, when one actually considers the works of various Reformers across Reformed traditions, look at the Confessions, what do you see?

A Position About Scripture Primarily

The premise of cessationism is firstly found in our position about the Scriptures. The Scriptures are the God-breathed word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures are a result of the revelation to the prophets, through whom God spoke (Heb 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21), but the ultimate revelation was Christ (Heb 1:2). Of course, the point of Hebrews is precisely that, after God has spoken to Jews by prophets, the fulfillment was speaking “in” the Son. Jesus Christ is “the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 10:4). Jesus is the “substance” of all that the prophets spoke about, and the apostles and prophets have receive that revelation (). Paul beautifully sums this up, “…how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words, 4. by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5. which in other generations was not made known to the children of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5). You see the apostles and prophets (apostolic associates) received the revelation of the mystery of the gospel, and they inscripturated it in the New Testament canon. Since this “mystery” is the fulfillment of God’s shadows, and God’s ultimate answer, we do not expect more revelation, because God’s revelation is enough. Charismatic theologian Wayne Grudem concedes this point, albeit inconsistently, “The New Testament writings contain the final, authoritative, and sufficient interpretation of Christ’s work of redemption. The apostles and their close companions report Christ’s words and deeds and interpret them with absolute divine authority. When they have finished their writing, there is no more to be added with the same absolute divine authority. Thus, once the writings of the New Testament apostles and their authorized companions are completed, we have in written form the final record of everything that God wants us to know about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and its meaning for the lives of believers for all time. Since this is God’s greatest revelation for mankind, no more is to be expected once this is complete. In this way, then, Hebrews 1:1–2 shows us why no more writings can be added to the Bible after the time of the New Testament. The canon is now closed.” (1994:44) Furthermore, Paul identifies the offices of the apostle and prophet being foundational, that is, having a specific purpose for a specific time (Ephesians 2:20). We do not go beyond what is written, we should contend for “the faith” (the objective faith), as well as build ourselves up in “the most holy faith” (Jude 3, 20). The central crux of a closed canon is closed revelation, and ultimately the sufficiency of Christ.

The Place of the Spiritual Gifts

The closed canon is closed, because we do not lay a foundation again. The foundation of apostles and prophets has been completed (Ephesians 2:20), the revelation has been codified and given (Ephesians 3:3-5). We do not add more revelation (Rev 22:18-19), because we seek not to go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6). What about the spiritual gifts then? Should we not conclude that the spiritual gifts continue normally? Isn’t differentiating between gifts an unbiblical inference? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are various sources, and I wish I could interact with those, but let’s go a simply route. Remember, it is not so much an issue of the spiritual gifts directly, but the position of the Scriptures.

There are certain gifts that are placed above others, the office of the apostle and prophet are such gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:28-29 speaks of the apostle and prophet as being counted among the spiritual gifts, so I do not in the slightest see the need to differentiate these offices from the gifts. Paul identifies the apostle and the prophet as the “foundation,” and links these two offices to the giving of gospel revelation (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). This is what the spiritual gifts are primarily for, for authentication. I concede that they do not exhaust the function of the spiritual gifts, but authentication is one major reason these things occur. Hebrews 2:2-4 states, “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense; 3. how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation–which at the first having been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard; 4. God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders, by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” The context of these passages deals with the danger of covenantal/ecclesiastical apostasy that is, forsaking the faith that one professes in confession and holy baptism. You must not go against and apostatize against what God has authenticated, that’s the rationale here. You see, the “by signs and wonders, by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” serve the function of “testifying,” of authentication. This is the case of Moses, Elijah, and others in biblical history, miracles primarily functioned to show God’s seal of approval. Guess what? A matter is established on the witness of two or three, and the apostles and their message were authenticated in this (Deuteronomy 19:15).

The book of Acts tells us exactly which gifts functioned to authenticate the apostles and their associates. They speak of speaking in various languages (Acts 2:6, 11; 10:46); prophecy is mentioned too with speaking in tongues (Acts 19:6). The gift of healing, which is different from mere healing (something I will spell out afterwards), is also mentioned as happening (Acts 5:16; 8:7; 9:34; 10:38; 28:8, 27). Judging from their purpose as authentication, it seems then conclusive to say, that since they have served that purpose, there is no need for their occurrence outside of this. Tongues and prophecy were revelatory sign gifts, since they have served their purpose which includes revealing divine gospel mysteries (1 Cor 14:2), and authentication, their normative functioning would thereby cease. Furthermore, to put it quite briefly, prophecy is never seen as anything but perfect revealing of God’s truth (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Less than accurate prophecy is something I cannot find in the New Testament text. However, I will not deal with this here.

Who’s Afraid of Miracles?

Furthermore, no cessationist denies that God still does miracles. What we are however saying is that there are certain kinds of miracles which are unique to the foundational period of the church. The difference between the gift of healing and God healing is that in the first instance, it is God empowering a specific vessel like an apostle or apostolic associate to heal someone directly. Cessationists are saying, that kind of special empowering of people to heal does not happen, however, we are not saying God does not heal in response to prayer. God still does do all of those amazing things, we just do not expect miraculous gifts which are given for revelatory and authentication purposes to continue. This is the Reformed hermeneutic. Baptist theologian MacArthur points out, “Clearly, there has been no parallel in history to the unique healing miracles that occurred at the time of Christ and the apostles. Today is no exception. The apostolic gift of healing has ceased.” (2013:176)

To be fair, the extraordinary is not something any cessationist denies. It is a lot more nuanced than most care to admit. It will not take you long until you find some startling experiences and statements by cessationists, and perhaps you might seem that it is weird. No, cessationists are all for dynamic encounters with God. It is not at all something we shy away from; we simply believe that it must be viewed from the lens of Scripture.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Works Cited

Grudem W 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Bible Doctrine. InterVarsity Press: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

MacArthur J 2013. Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship. Nelson Books: Nashville, Tennessee.

 

Romans 8:1-8 and the Inability of Man…

 

By Anthony W. Brooks

**This is actually a “vintage” article from the old website. But I believe that it addresses the recent challenges that Dr. Leighton Flowers raised on his YouTube channel about the common Calvinist understanding of Romans 8:1-8. Does Romans 8:1-8 address how one goes from being in the flesh to being in the spirit? If so does is say that this process is irresistibly caused by God? Our answer is, no, 4 verses (5-8 in which he is referring to) do not address this massive question. But the entire Bible might. We call this “Tota Scriptura”.**

One day I was messing around on a debate page on Facebook and I came across a post over Total Depravity. It was asking Calvinists which verses best supported the doctrine. I saw many of the classic responses: Romans 3, John 8, Ezekiel 36-37, Ephesians 2:1-4… But I didn’t see my favorite, Romans 8:1-8 on the list… So I decided to post it.
Well, to my surprise, Leighton Flowers (pre-doctorate) was responding to the comments and he responds to mine. The man can normally talk, but this time it was a short conversation that basically ended in his saying that Romans 8 doesn’t say enough to support this assumption.
I was surprised because I believe that it does say enough. So, in the words of Dr. Flowers, let’s unpack it:

Romans 8:1-8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

This text is packed with truth from God. We have a contrast between the Life in the Spirit and the Life in the Flesh.

Life in the Spirit: they are set free, the law is fulfilled in them, they set their mind on the things of the Spirit, they have life and peace…

Life in the Flesh: they are condemned, they cannot fulfill the law, they set their mind on things of the flesh, they only have death, they are hostile to God, the will not and cannot submit to God’s law, they cannot please God.

Some say that the only application is the regenerated church member who has fallen into sin is this fleshly individual… But remember what they get, “death”. A regenerated individual will not get death… And the unbeliever will still live according to the flesh anyways because he doesn’t have the Spirit to live in.

But let’s focus in on the ability aspect for a moment. We have one aspect of this fleshly, carnal, individual that is pointed out here. That aspect is that they cannot please God. So I want to point out what the non-Calvinist says we must do to find salvation in the simplest of terms: Humility, Faith, and Repentance.

Humility is the act of denying oneself and humbling oneself to recieve his Grace. James 4:6 says “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” so this is something we must do to be saved. Well according to David, humility is pleasing to God, Psalm 149:4 “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” And no one will deny this.

Second is faith. Faith is an obvious requirement, Ephesians 2:8-9. And faith is the instrument by which we live. So it is extremely important to us and our relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 says this, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” That blatant statement is a repellent to the carnal man. He doesn’t have faith, it must be given, he can’t have it because he is an enemy of God.

The last thing is repentance. So much is said about Repentance… My favorite being Psalm 51 where verses 16-17 say this, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
So in this text, God is pleased with a broken and contrite heart (aka a repentant heart). And David spends the whole text repenting and being broken in his heart.

Now these three things are the items that Dr. Flowers would see as requirements of salvation. Humility, Faith and Repentance. All of them are pleasing to God, and the text says clearly that the carnal man cannot do them, because they are pleasing. They cannot do them unless the Lord gives them to him effectually. So I disagree with the assumption that this text doesn’t support Total Inability.

Soli Deo Gloria!

It is Undeniable that the New Testament Teaches Jesus is God

Anthony W Brooks

I am often dumfounded at the attempts that people make to tell me the New Testament nowhere teaches that Jesus is God… All I need is three verses to disprove this monstrous assertion, but first I want to make an apology.

 

My apology is for the extended break I took from the blog. That is my fault and I apologize for not letting you know.

 

Now, my evidence.

 

John 1:1-2- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

This well-known verse has been abused by opponents of the incarnation for millennia, starting with the arians all the way up to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others. It says two things: 1. The Word (Jesus, see v.14) was God. What is clearly in view here is that Chirst (Called here Logos, or the Word) is God. He was also “with” God. This is clearly distinguishing between the persons, as in Jesus is not the Father, the Father is not the Son, etc. This is a necessary distinction to be had. 2. All things were made through him. He was a necessary and active component in creation. If he is God as we said above, then it is not shocking to owe creation to him, since all creation belongs to God alone.

Colossians 1:15-16 -“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

This verse is confusing at times. But I think we can unpack it consistently. 1. He is the image if the invisible God. This is not the same thing as our image. Since God is uncreated [see comments above on John 1:1-2 about the Word being God] this simply means that Christ is God made visible. 2. Firstborn of all creation. This gets a little tricky so I’ll quote the Reformation Study Bible on this point:

“Paul is not saying that the Son was the first created being (v. 17 note). In the Old Testament, a firstborn son would be the principal heir of an estate (Deut. 21:17; cf. Ex. 4:22Ps. 89:27). Used of Christ, the term “firstborn” means that He has such honor and dignity, not that He was the oldest child in a family. Christ is especially loved by His Father (v. 13), and all things were created in Him, by Him, and for Him (vv. 16, 17).”

Source here.

3. By him (Jesus) all things were created. By Jesus all things were created in heaven and earth. He is the preexisting one, the text makes this clear. He is again paired with the text of the Genesis creation account.

Colossians 2:9-10- “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

1. In him (Jesus) is the fullness of deity. Deity here is θεότης which is “Theotes”. This word means literally “that which makes God himself” Or “that which makes God “God””, aka deity. A clear reference to Christ being of the same substance as the Father and can be compared with Isaiah’s Temple vision (Isaiah 6).

2. Him who is the head head of all rule and authority. As in “He’s the head of everything, aka, he’s God. No one is higher or grander than He.

 

Long story short, Jesus is given explicit credit as God in the New Testament. Nothing is higher or greater than him who is creator of all and the firstborn son (heir of the Father). God of God, light of light, Very God of Very God. There is much much more that we can bring out to prove this point. Jesus is often placed in subordination to the Father. This is certainly true in the New Testament. But the Reformed view is clear that this is not eternal subordination, and that this is not evidence against his (Jesus’) deity. When we consider these texts, we need to consider the thought that flows through the Gospels and into the apostle’s teaching. They are not at odds with each other.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Why all believers should spend some time in the King James (Authorized) Version

By Anthony W. Brooks

There was a time in my life where all I read was the KJV. When I was in private school, I learned the history of the King James translation, and was sold on it’s accuracy. I carried this conviction all the way into college where my New Testament professor threatened me with failing grades if I didn’t use a modern translation. Of course, I did eventually make use of other translations like the ESV. But recently the Lord has been reviving my love of the Authorized Version. And because of this, I want to encourage all believers to make use of the King James and spend at least some time exploring this historic translation.

  1. It is the translation of our forefathers of the Faith.

As protestants we can look throughout history and see the AV as the translation of our forefathers. This can go deeper than just translation into discussions of the Critical Text vs the Majority Text traditions but lets just say that the manuscript and translational traditions are what was in use until the dawn of the Critical Text. This should bring a certain nostalgia into our minds to look back and experience the past of our faith. What did Matthew Henry or Charles Haddon Spurgeon read when they were writing their sermons? How about John Edwards or John Wesley? They used the AV.

  1. It is a difficult read.

This translation has at least a 12th grade reading level, higher than most of us can comprehend (believe it or not). But this has an added benefit of forcing us to think about what we are reading as we read it. Translations with lower reading levels are often seen as hard to comprehend because they are breezed through by the reader and they come out not comprehending what they read. With translations of higher levels, they force the reader to contemplate the meaning of words and sentences so as to understand the meaning of the text. The AV is no different. When I read the AV I actually have to think about the words I am reading and try to understand them so I don’t butcher them while I read.

  1. It is poetic.

The AV is actually considered a literary masterpiece in the world of literature. It is poetic and uses high Elizabethan English. This makes it a work of art and beautiful to read.

All in all, I believe that the common believer should spend some time reading the King James (Authorized Version). I believe doing so will allow the believer to appreciate where the church has been and where it is going. It will also allow the believer to see and appreciate the history of the English Bible and give insight into the common Bible you hold in your hand.

The Lord’s Day And Why It Stands

Maverick Victor Witlouw

The church has historically held that Sunday, the Lord’s Day is the Christian day of worship (Rev 1:10). It is the challenge of dispensational and New Calvinism’s “New Covenant Theology” that makes this affirmation difficult. Various New and Progressive Covenanters, if they could even be called “covenantal” propose that the Sabbath has been “abolished in Christ.” Why do those of us in the Reformed confessional streams of theology deny this claim?

An Arbitrary Hermeneutic

“New Covenant” theologians lament that somehow only the reinstated commandments found in the New Covenant are those we should keep. They continue that only 9 commandments, rather than all 10 are mentioned. What can we say about this?

Firstly, this hermeneutic is absurd flat on its face. It is based solely on an assumption that cannot be proven. The Old Testament was legitimately seen as canonical and relevant to the New Covenant church (2 Timothy 3:16 cf. Rom 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 Cor 14:21; Eph 6:1-3; 1Tim 1:8-10). Even at the Acts 15 Council, the Law was seen as useful, “For Moses from generations of old has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:21) Waldron rightly points out, “the Christian is under the Law as a rule of life. He is obligated to obey its instruction in righteousness.” (2017:18) The Old Testament was seen as inspired, and a rule of faith, the apostolic/prophetic revelation and tradition, namely the New Testament should be seen as an authentic and inspired commentary of the Old Testament not as a replacement.

Second, Christ’s own admission refutes any claim that Sabbath would be abolished: “”Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. 19. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20) The only laws that the Scriptures present as being “not for today,” are those positive laws (ceremonial and civil laws), “For the priesthood being changed, there is of necessity a change made also in the law.” (Heb. 7:12 cf. Ephesians 2:15) It is important to note here that the Reformed distinction between moral, ceremonial and civil laws are not arbitrary; but rather they present a dichotomy between essential/moral laws which are transcovenantal, and positive laws which are time-bound expressions of the one covenant of grace. The New Covenant presents a positive institution of the Lord’s Supper and baptism (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 11:25), which replaces the positive institutions of the ceremonial law of the Old Covenant (Heb 8:6; 12:24).

Third, Christ himself points to the natural or moral aspect of the Sabbath law. He states, “He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Matt 2:27) Christ furthermore identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, indicative of the fact that the Sabbath was a divine institution rather than a time-bound Old Covenant practice (Matt 2:28). Considering this alongside the Sabbath’s consecration at creation, it is hard to simply dismiss the on-going validity of the Sabbath law (Genesis 2:2-3).

A proper Christological hermeneutic does not assert something arbitrary. NC Theologians need to indicate to us why the Sabbath has been abolished when the emphatic teaching of the New Testament implies something else (Matt 5:17-20). The Decalogue by necessity stands, as Christ demonstrated. The conclusion of NCT theologians is one that therefore leads to a precarious and dubious premise, the premise of Genesis proclaims a Sabbath rest before the Mosaic covenant, and Christ does not seem to water this down in his own declaration,

Sunday or Saturday?

I do not intend to go into lengthy discussions and proposals as to why the Reformed church has historically held to a first-day observance/administration of the Sabbath. But I will point a few things out:

Firstly, the Sabbath is a creation ordinance (Genesis 2:2-3). The consecration of the Sabbath at the creation did not have specific stipulations. The Mosaic stipulations came after the giving of the Law, before that the rationale or stipulations for the Sabbath were not positive spelled out as is here found (Exodus 20:8-10; 35:2). These Mosaic stipulations are bound to the Mosaic covenant, therefore the New Covenant administration of the Sabbath need not be seen as the necessity of the seventh day (Waldron 2017:22-25). At the same time, I concede Waldron’s other point, “It is possible to argue for a Christian Sabbath without necessarily presupposing the creation ordinance. One need only see that as the Sabbath memorialized the redemption of Israel from Egypt to rest in Canaan, so the Lord’s Day memorializes the redemption of the Church in Christ to the resurrection-rest of the Eternal Sabbath.” (2017:60) No matter how someone is able to spin it, the Sabbath stands on both the fact that it was consecrated at creation, and at the same time the covenantal unity between Old and New covenants.  The NCT hermeneutic unnecessarily over spiritualizes the clear practice of Sabbath-keeping, something which is not warranted by the text. A proposition that supposes that the Sabbath has been abolished in Christ is as valid as saying that we no longer keep the rest of the commandments, simply because they have been fulfilled. It is altogether dubious.

Secondly, the Sabbath is natural as marriage. Marriage just like the Sabbath, was instituted at creation, yet in the same sense and the same (or similar) way, marriage did not have specific stipulations, expect the essential stipulations given at Genesis (Genesis 2:24). Christ when correcting a faulty understanding of marriage did not point to the Mosaic administration, he rather alluded to natural/moral law, as it was in the beginning (Mark 10:6). When NCT and dispensationalist theologians propose their understanding of the Sabbath, we have only to point to the way it has always been – that from beginning, there has always been one day in seven that had to be kept as holy.

Third, the church gathered on the first day of the week rather than the seventh (Rev. 1:10; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). At least, this is what we know historically and it is found upon the premise that Christ was risen on the first not the seventh day (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2-9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1-19). The apostolic/ecclesiastical pattern shows that the first day, was the day of corporate worship and rest for the church. Historically also, the term “Lord’s Day,” “κυριακη ημερα” (Rev 1:10) coincides with the “the Lord’s Supper,” “κυριακον δειπνον” (1 Cor 11:20) in the original Greek.  Here then we view the Lord’s Supper as a Sunday institution of the church. It needs to be rightly pointed out that the term “Lord” in both are adjectives not nouns. It is the “Lord’s-day” and the “Lord’s-Supper,” not merely the day and supper of the Lord. Herein, there is a separation between the eschatological day of the Lord and the Lord’s Day (2 Peter 3:10). Remember the Lord’s Supper; namely “the breaking of bread” was the practice for the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) “They are marked by the only two occurrences of the strong possessive form of “Lord” in the New Testament, κυριακος. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, we read of the Lord’s Supper, and in Revelation 1:10 of the Lord’s Day—both memorialize the redeeming work of Christ. Just as the Passover memorialized the sacrifice that secured the redemption, so also the Lord’s Supper recalls the great sacrifice that finished redemption. As the Sabbath memorializes the blessing purchased in the Exodus, so also the Lord’s Day reminds us of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of redemption.” (Waldron 2017:58) In the mind of the Jew, what Christians were doing, was in fact, functionally, a Christian Sabbath, “and make my Sabbaths holy; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am Yahweh your God.” (Ezekiel 20:20)

Important also is Waldron’s other comment, “Jews, like the disciples of Christ, were prepared to see the significance of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week by the peculiar significance of first and eighth days in the Old Testament economy. These days were not necessarily, of course, the first (or eighth) day of the week—but that is not the point. Despite this, the fact remains that, in a pervasive way, the Old Testament economy was fitted to give the impression of a special religious significance associated with first and eighth days in succession. It is this general impression that prepared the Jewish disciples of Christ to give more than passing interest to the fact of Christ’s first-day resurrection. With reference to the first day, a number of considerations are significant. The first day of Passover was a holy assembly (Exo 12:15-16; Lev 23:7; Num 28:18). The first day of the Feast of Booths was a holy assembly (Lev 23:35, 39).” (2017:72)

Explicit Sabbatarian Expectations in the New Testament

Finally, there are positive commands in the New Testament which indicate that principle of Sabbath-keeping stands for Christians.

Hebrews 4:9, “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.”
Hebrews 10:25, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.”

The explicit teaching here is that there remains a “Sabbath-keeping” for the people of God (the new covenant church – 4:9), paralleled by “not forsaking our own assembling together.” (10:25) Waldron remarks, “In fact, precisely because it is fulfilled in Christ, it is continued in the Lord’s Day. We have to do here with the peculiar effect that the overlapping of the ages (the old and new creations) have upon the typical institutions of the Old Covenant. Notice how the following diagram of the relations of Sabbath and Lord’s Day parallels that of Passover and Lord’s Supper.” (2017:59) Hebrews 4 notes that the people of God (in the Old Testament) needed faith to enter into the rest, this is comparable to us who need to enter into the rest as well. Hebrew’s point is that there remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God, as we wait for the Day (the eschatological Sabbath coming in the future) – Hebrews 10:25. The term for “sabbath-keeping” (4:9) is “sabbatismos,” Richard Barcellos, graciously making a snippet of his book available on the Confession Baptist site remarks,

“That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now… Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern” (Barcellos 2016:n.p.).

Just as the Sabbath of the old covenant looks back to the Sabbath at the old creation, the New Covenant’s Lord’s day looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath in eternity.

Furthermore, my final consideration is based on the Decalogue itself. On what premise do we base that the law of the Decalogue has been superseded by a new law? The transcovenantal nature of the Decalogue is clearly seen in the Messiah’s own point, which namely the Law will always stand (Matthew: 17-20). It is interesting that Christ never once really attacks the Mosaic Law; he rather puts the erring application of the Law in his time on trial. He has an issue with “what is said,” (Matthew 5:38; 42) but not what “what is written”. These Matthew 5 points which Christ speaks about is emphatically not Christ criticizing the Law as I have heard, but rather the erring application of the Law, probably the currently Rabbinic interpretations or some erringly Jewish understandings. Christ hereby interprets what the Law is really about, and interprets it giving it a better understanding. I propose that this is what is meant by “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The Law of Christ is not some kind of ethereal kind of commandment floating in the air applied by some kind of subjective feeling of love, nor is it utterly distinct from the Decalogue (2 Cor 3:3).

Conclusion

It is hard to fight a theological position which is propagated ad nauseam in Christian book stores. Dispensationalism and her daughter NCT continue to influence theological academia. As for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we propose a strong antidote to a theological position which hinges upon a faulty assumption. The Sabbath, the Lord’s Day stands. The Decalogue has not been abolished, and I find no basis to conclude that NCT can legitimately present itself without some drastic error. I would rather do what God commands, than build a theology of the Sabbath on silence.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Bibliography

Waldron S 2017. The Lord’s Day: Its Presuppositions, Proofs, Precedents, and Practice.  Chapel Library. Pensacola, Florida

Barcellos R 2016. Getting the Garden Wrong: A Critique of New Covenant Theology on the Covenant of Works and the Sabbath. Founders Press, from a forthcoming book. (http://confessingbaptist.com/upcoming-book-snippet-on-the-remaining-sabbatismos-for-the-people-of-god-heb-49-richard-barcellos/)

The Objective Promise of Baptism… (The Post that Might Kill this Blog)

I have a feeling that this post will get me into more trouble than anything I’ve written before. But I want to make a few things clear before we get started:

1. I am in complete subscription to the Westminster Standards on the subject of baptism.

2. I do not believe that as water goes on, saving grace goes in.

3. I believe that saving faith and saving grace are coupled. You can’t have one without the other.

4. Baptism is not efficacious for everyone.

5. I believe in all Five Solas of the Reformation.

Okay, now that that is over. I can explain my angle here. I have recently come to the conclusion that many Presbyterians are just Inconsistent Baptists… They baptize their infants, placing them into the covenant, but refuse to believe that this baptism does anything for their child, and even refuse to call them Christians. This is sad to me, and I’m about to quote the Larger Catechism and make a few people angry in the process. But I wish to encourage all Presbyterian/Dutch Reformed Christians to pay attention to the argument and try to find fault with it. Examine it like a good Berean would. With that said, here’s the Larger Catechism:

Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

Sometimes it makes evangelicals uncomfortable when you tell them that their baptism was more than just a step of obedience. The Westminster Assembly was unified on this statement. Baptism is an effectual means of salvation. How so? Well not because water hit my head, or because the minister baptizing me was ordained, or because the act of baptizing had any power at all, but because the Lord chose to work through that medium to place me into an objective covenant relationship with him through the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out this scripture:

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We were buried with him in baptism… We were baptized into Christ… Baptized into his death… We were raised in that baptism by the glory of the Father. That is objective language. This doesn’t mean that everyone who is baptized is regenerated. Not everyone who is baptized is elect. Neither does this mean that one can’t be saved without it… Calvin believed that we shouldn’t limit God to the sacraments for his salvation. Baptism places us unto an objective covenant relationship with Christ that, when broken, breaks his heart. We should take this seriously. Baptism does not guarantee salvation, just like circumcision didn’t secure salvation for the Jew. But when the Jew broke the covenant, God was upset.

What can we learn from this? Baptism is important. It is blessed by Christ to be a medium of Covenant Relationship by which he sanctifies us. We can always look to our baptism as a seal of our covenant relationship with Christ.

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Here are some resources on the Confessional view of Baptism…