Saturday, May 29, 2010

BAGPIPES & BREATHING

(Photo from Web)

An English satirist once said that the definition of a Scottish gentleman is one who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn’t! To be sure, bagpipes in the wrong hands can become lethal weapons! But did the Scots invent the bagpipe? Some say the invading Romans brought them, having inherited them from the Greeks. However, we are sure the Scots were very capable of bringing them (along with the Stone of Destiny, a.k.a. ‘Jacob’s Pillow’) to Scotland for themselves without Roman help.

However, the origin of the Highland bagpipe, along with that other definitively Celtic instrument, the harp, can infallibly be traced to a man named Jubal. For 'He was the father of all who play the harp and pipe' Genesis 4:21. Jubal, though a master craftsman of musical instruments, was of the wicked line of Cain.

When Job was going through his ‘troubles’ he reminisced of the wicked, saying, 'They sing to the tambourine and harp, and rejoice to the sound of the pipe' Job 21:12. Then he says of himself, 'My harp is turned to mourning, and my pipe to the voice of those who weep' Job 30:31. Indeed, like an extension of man’s body, the harp and bagpipe can express joy, or war and sorrow; jigs and reels, or pibrochs and laments.

The word translated ‘pipe,’ (sometimes as ‘flute,’ or ‘organ’) is derived from a Hebrew word for ‘breathing after’ as in ‘doting after.’ It is interesting to note that '… the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being' Genesis 2:7. Christ, is ‘Wisdom Incarnate,’ and says of the time man was created, 'Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him. Rejoicing in His inhabited world, and my delight was the sons of men' Proverbs 8:30&31. As a man breathes into a bagpipe so God breathes into man the breath of life.

But does God dote on the wicked? Does God love those who use their bodies as instruments to play tunes of hatred? Surely the Damascus road conversion of Saul/Paul testifies that God by His grace alone redeems wicked people. 'Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…' Acts 9:1.

Indeed man is fallen, and like Saul needs God to breathe life anew into him. As a bagpipe needs to be brought out of its wooden case to be played, so a man needs to brought out of his coffin! The hymn-writer captures the thought: Breathe on me, Breath of God / Fill me with life anew / That I may love what Thou dost love / And do what Thou wouldst do.

The earth, like Ezekiel’s ‘Valley of Dry Bones’ needs the grace and Spirit of God before its dead will rise to dance the tune of life again. Thus the Master Craftsman Jesus needs to delight anew in the sons of men.

After breathing His last upon the cross and then being placed in a tomb, He was raised from the dead. He appeared to His disciples. 'He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit"' John 20:20-22.

Dear reader what tunes does your body play? God needs to savingly breathe His Holy Spirit into you before you will be able to play ‘The Sinner’s March to Heaven.’

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

GOSPEL COVENANT OR COVENANT OF GRACE

The Covenant of Grace is the Gospel by another name. Immediately after Adam had broken the Covenant of Works (by instead covenanting with Satan and eating the forbidden fruit) God began to reveal the Covenant of Grace. This He did by giving the Gospel promise, cursing the serpent Satan and also saying to him: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” Genesis 3:15.

As per the Gospel promise, in time the Seed of the Woman inflicted a fatal or head wound when He bruised or crushed the serpent’s head at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull – while having His own heel as opposed to His head wounded, ie, receiving a non-fatal or temporarily fatal wound.

Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8b). Therefore it was actually God who sacrificed His own Son (as pre-figured by Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his (only) son Isaac, Gen. 22). The promised Seed, ie, Christ was to come from the loins of the aged Abraham and his (barren) wife, Sarah (Gen. 18).

The Gospel promise was made earlier to Abraham where God says, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” Genesis 12:3b. The blessing flows through Christ, the Word, who is the promised Seed, Gal. 3:16. Also, “The Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” Genesis 15:1. And, as Abraham’s shield and exceedingly great reward says, “Your father Abraham rejoice to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” John 8:56. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all peoples is toward the fulfilment of all the families on earth being blessed…

Abraham seemed very much like a man who had heard Good News, ie, the Gospel. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel to Abraham beforehand saying, ‘In you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’” Galatians 3:8.

By the time of Moses the people of God were seeing the Gospel depicted in the Ceremonial Law, ie, the sacrificial system, the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and then the Temple etc. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all these. These all were types. He is the great antitype. Thus the Old Testament is full of the Gospel!

The Covenant of Grace was differently administered in the Old Testament. Thus Circumcision and Passover were pictures of the Gospel, the Good News. These blood sacraments became the unbloody New Testament sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper respectively. Circumcision and Baptism have the same Covenantal meaning, (ie, regeneration, the removal of sin, cleansing etc.) And Passover and the Lord’s Supper both speak of “the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.”

The saints in both the Old and the New Testaments looked to the Messiah, the Christ, the One who would be Covenantally anointed in His baptism with water and with the Holy Spirit (John 1 etc.), the One who, at His last Covenant Meal transformed the Passover into the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19-20).

Thus God’s eternal Covenant was differently administered at different periods throughout the Old Testament, but all of it spoke of Christ, the Seed of the Woman.

This is what we call the Covenant of Grace. It is the promise of God in which He says that He shall be our God and that we shall be His people, Immanuel (Lev. 26:12). In our own day the shorthand way of speaking of the Covenant of Grace is to use the word “Gospel” or “Good News.”

The Seed of the Woman was as it were conceived in Genesis 3:15 and was born in the New Testament. However, this was no unplanned pregnancy, but had been planned from eternity as per God’s eternal Covenant. He is our God and we are His people!

Monday, May 17, 2010

COVENANT OF LIFE OR WORKS

The Westminster standards refer to the everlasting Covenant as it applies to Adam (and mankind as represented by him) as the Covenant of Works or Life. In this administration of the eternal Covenant God graciously condescends to enter into this Covenant of Works or Life with Adam.

Upon Adam’s creation God has written His Covenant Law (or Ten Commandments) on Adam’s (and therefore mankind’s) heart in positive terms (Romans 2:14&15). The outward *test* of this Covenant with Adam was that Adam was not to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for disobedience was death: “In the day you eat of it you shall surely die” Genesis 2:17.

To be sure there was grace in abundance involved in this Covenant of Life or Works. God laid on everything in a beautiful garden for Adam, gave him a wife and gave dominion over all creatures of the air, land and sea. We call this the Cultural or Dominion Mandate: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” Genesis 2:28.

As Scripture attests, Adam, of course, broke the Covenant of Works: “Like Adam, they have broken the covenant” Hosea 6:7 (NIV). By breaking the Covenant of Works Adam forfeited eternal life (but not his everlasting existence). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23. Thus, had Adam kept the Covenant of Works, then Adam (and mankind with him) would have received the eternal life that we now have in Jesus Christ, “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45).

As God’s replacement Adam, Jesus Christ kept the Covenant to Works or Life perfectly on behalf of all who the Father has given Him (John 17:12). Therefore when Adam was threatened with death upon breaking his Covenant probation, he was conversely promised life – the eternal life that we receive from Jesus Christ.

Had Adam kept covenant he would not simply have kept on living as he had been before he broke the covenant. Thus had Adam not broken the Covenant he would have received the bliss and blessings that we have in Jesus Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ” Ephesians 1:3.

The Land flowing with Milk and Honey was merely a token of the bliss and blessings that we have in our new Adam, Jesus Christ. For the covenant promise made to Abraham, the father of believers was the whole cosmos. “For the promise that he would be heir of the *world* was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” Romans 4:13.

By breaking the Covenant Adam disqualified fallen mankind from receiving eternal life (ie, everlasting bliss and blessings) by keeping God’s Covenant Law. However, Jesus Christ is without sin and as such is able to keep the Covenant of Works or Life. Scripture says, “Do this and live”: eg, “The man who does them shall live by them” Galatians 3:12.

Jesus Christ kept every jot and tittle of God’s Covenant Law perfectly on behalf of those whom the Father has chosen (before the foundation of the world) to give Him. Jesus by His death on the cross has redeemed them from God’s justice. He has purchased their redemption from death and Hell. God raised Him from the dead as proof of our redemption. Jesus “was raised because of our justification” Romans 4:25.

Yes, God was kind and gracious to enter into a Covenant of Works or Life with Adam as our pre-Fall representative. However, He was even more kind and gracious to enter into a Covenant of Grace with Jesus Christ as our post-Fall representative. Thus the Covenant of Works or Life that condemns us became a Covenant of Grace in which Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Covenant of Works or Life, and paid the penalty we owed for breaking it.

Jesus is the new Man. It was as a Man that He kept every jot and tittle of God’s Covenant Law. Therefore it was as a Man that Jesus Christ, the new Adam or Federal or Covenant Head of mankind, saved us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

ETERNAL COVENANT LOVE & LAW

God’s love and God’s law are eternal and eternally united because God is eternally Triune. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Father or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Thus, each Person is the eternal Godhead is eternally distinct from the other two Persons. Because the Father is not the Son or Spirit, nor is the Son the Father or Spirit, nor is the Spirit the Father or the Son, therefore, in accordance with the eternal Covenant each owns distinct, ie, private property. “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another … You shall not cheat your neighbour, nor rob him” Exodus 19:11;13a.

Eternally the Father loves the Son and the Spirit. Eternally the Son loves the Father and the Spirit. And eternally the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are God and Their bond of love and law, their Covenant bond, is eternal. It is the eternal love in the Godhead that God sheds abroad in time in terms of His eternal Covenant. “Father, that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me: for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” John 17:24.

The Triune God is eternally one. Therefore God eternally loves God and His neighbour as Himself. “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” Mark 12:29-31.

The eternally Triune God created Adam with His eternal Covenant Law on Adam’s heart, ie, the Ten Commandments written in positive terms, the summary of which is: “Love God and your neighbour as yourself.” Like the Triune God in whose image he was made, Adam was to mirror God on earth by loving God and His neighbour as himself. Thus, with God’s Law written internally, Adam was also given an outward command to test his faithfulness to the Covenant. “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” Gen. 2:16-17.

When Adam broke this pre-Fall application of God’s eternal Covenant, commonly referred to as the Covenant of Works, God in accordance with His love, immediately applied His eternal Covenant to Adam, this time as the Covenant of Grace. Thus Adam was no longer on probation, having broken its terms by eating the forbidden fruit. However, God’s Covenant justice must also be met. Therefore, since Adam had incurred the Covenant of Work’s penalty, ie, death for himself and all he represented, all mankind in him, mankind was plunged into an estate of sin, misery, and death. “The earth is defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” Isaiah 24:5.

As the new Adam, Jesus Christ, being both God and Man, is God and Man in covenant forever. As a Man He satisfied God’s justice by keeping God’s Covenant Law perfectly and also paid the death penalty the first Adam incurred for breaking it. Thus Jesus is the new Federal or Covenant Head of (redeemed) mankind. The eternal Covenant between the Father and Son (as witnessed to by the Holy Spirit and the (written) Word or Covenant) is referred to as the Covenant of Redemption: whereby Christ redeems a people innumerable chosen by the Father before the foundation of the world. Thus in the eternal Covenant the Father represents the Triune God and the Son represents mankind. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” Eph. 1:4a. “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Rev. 7:9-10. “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” Rev. 13:8b.

The compilers of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) refer to the Covenant of Redemption and Grace in their “THE SUM OF SAVING KNOWLEDGE” thus:

The remedy provided in Jesus Christ for the elect by the covenant of grace.
“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help.” Hos.13:9.

I. ALBEIT man, having brought himself into this woeful condition, be neither able to help himself, nor willing to be helped by God out of it, but rather inclined to lie still, insensible of it, till he perish; yet God, for the glory, of his rich grace, hath revealed in his word a way to save sinners, viz, by faith in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, by virtue of, and according to the tenor of the covenant of redemption, made and agreed upon between God the Father and God the Son, in the council of the Trinity, before the world began.

II. The sum of the covenant of redemption is this: God having freely chosen unto life a certain number of lost mankind, for the glory of his rich grace, did give them, before the world began, unto God the Son, appointed Redeemer, that, upon condition he would humble himself so far as to assume the human nature, of a soul and a body, unto personal union with his divine nature, and submit himself to the law, as surety for them, and satisfy justice for them, by giving obedience in their name, even unto the suffering of the cursed death of the cross, he should ransom and redeem them all from sin and death, and purchase unto them righteousness and eternal life, with all saving graces leading thereunto, to be effectually, by means of his own appointment, applied in due time to every one of them. This condition the Son of God (who is Jesus Christ our Lord) did accept before the world began, and in the fulness of time came into the world, was born of the Virgin Mary, subjected himself to the law, and completely paid the ransom on the cross: But by virtue of the foresaid bargain, made before the world began, he is in all ages, since the fall of Adam, still upon the work of applying actually the purchased benefits unto the elect; and that he doth by way of entertaining a covenant of free grace and reconciliation with them, through faith in himself; by which covenant, he makes over to every believer a right and interest to himself, and to all his blessings.

III. For the accomplishment of this covenant of redemption, and making the elect partakers of the benefits thereof in the covenant of grace, Christ Jesus was clad with the threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King: made a Prophet, to reveal all saving knowledge to his people, and to persuade them to believe and obey the same; made a Priest, to offer up himself a sacrifice once for them all, and to intercede continually with the Father, for making their persons and services acceptable to him; and made a King, to subdue them to himself, to feed and rule them by his own appointed ordinances, and to defend them from their enemies.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

UNDERSTANDING THE ETERNAL COVENANT

The Covenant is eternal because God is eternal. God is eternally Triune, therefore, God, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, is in an eternal covenant with Himself. Thus “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” Eccl. 4:12b.

Yes, it is impossible for finite human beings to comprehend the eternality of the Triune God. And, because His Triuneness has to do with His eternality we also, on account of our finitude, have trouble comprehending God’s Triuneness.

Thankfully the eternal Triune God has condescended to reveal Himself to us by way of His eternal Covenant as per the Book of His Covenant, ie, the Bible. As the Triune God says to Abraham, the father of all who believe, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you” Gen. 17:7.

A Covenant is a bond, ie, a conditional promise. God, by His Spirit, has given His Word, that if He were to break the eternal Covenant He would no longer be God. Thus God applies His Covenant “according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” Eph. 1:11.

The whole Bible is revelation of the eternal Covenant of God. The eternal Covenant was revealed and applied to the pre-Fall Adam as the Covenant of Life or Works. In this application of the eternal Covenant Adam was promised eternal life. Thus, if Adam were to break the eternal Covenant (ie, the Covenant of Life or Works) he would forfeit the eternal life he (and his posterity in him) was promised. Thus God gave Adam, the Federal or Covenant Head of mankind, an outward test. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die’” Gen. 2:16-17.

God had written His eternal Covenant Law (albeit in pre-Fall positive terms), on the heart of mankind when He created Adam (and us in Adam) in His own Covenant image. Thus God, while giving His blessing, mandated Adam, our pre-Fall representative (with his wife Eve and their posterity), to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” Gen. 1:28.

Tied or bonded to the Triune God by His eternal Covenant, pre-Fall mankind (in Adam) had losable eternal life (but unlosable existence), upon condition of perfect obedience to God in all his endeavours. However, by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam broke his covenant probation with God while at the same time formed a covenant with the serpent Satan against the eternally Triune God.

Yes, Adam (and mankind in him) broke covenant with God. However, being eternally Triune, God cannot deny or break covenant with Himself. Therefore God graciously and immediately after the Fall began to reveal His eternal Covenant as it applies to fallen mankind. Thus the Covenant of Grace or Gospel Covenant; in which the eternal Triune God says to the serpent (mankind’s new covenant partner), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” Gen. 3:15.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, is the Seed of the woman. Thus from eternity past the Father has made the conditional promise to His Son (as the Federal or Covenant Head of all who are in Him), that if He, as the new Adam, were to keep the Covenant of Life or Works perfectly, if He were to keep the eternal Covenant as it applied to pre-Fall Adam, then the Father would give to the Man Christ Jesus the eternal life blessings that were promised to the pre-Fall Adam as mankind’s representative. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” Eph. 1:3.

The eternal life promised by the Father to pre-Fall Adam (and the Son of Man in eternity past and in time in Adam) is summed up in eternally Triune God’s gracious gift of Holy Spirit. As Jesus says, “Wait for the Promise of the Father” Acts 1:4.

Christ kept every jot and tittle of God's Covenant Law perfectly on behalf of those He represented. And He paid the penalty of death for mankind’s breaking of the eternal Covenant. And, being the eternal Second Person in the Triune Godhead His work on the cross is of infinite value. And because “a threefold cord is not quickly broken,” God raised Him from the dead. Then after ascending bodily to the right hand of majesty, both the Father and the Son poured out the Promise (as promised throughout the Old Testament’s administration of the eternal Covenant), the eternal Covenant’s blessings upon all mankind. Thus “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” Rom. 8:16.

Jesus Christ is our covenant keeper. Jesus Christ is our covenant. And, about Christ the eternal Covenant, “Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: ‘I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” Isa. 42:5-7.