By Edward A. Hara
Part of the problem which continues to separate the various denominations and hinder the unity of the church, which Christ prayed for, is a lost understanding of the covenant of salvation for which Christ died to inaugurate. Without a proper understanding of the salvation covenant, each denomination lays claim to being the only church with complete understanding and perfect interpretation of Scripture. Some even go so far as to suggest that if you are not a member of their denomination, your salvation is in peril. All such nonsense comes from a terrible lack of study of the salvation covenant. To study and properly understand the covenant is to come to understand that the Church of the covenant, which Christ established, can only be the Catholic Church.
I hope to be able to make a start in explaining from Scripture the nature of the covenant and how it affects mankind. In this paper, I will attempt to establish the covenant, show that it is one and only one covenant, trace its history from Old to New Covenant, show to whom it applied, and apply it to today's believer. By God's grace, I will use much of the Bible to prove the points I will be trying to make and may the Lord bless these meager efforts.
THE COVENANT ESTABLISHED FROM THE BEGINNING
Since there are those who would completely deny that God's dealings are in any way dependant upon a covenant between God and man, it is incumbent upon me to prove that the covenant of God has been established from the beginning of God's earthly creation.
Ho 6:7 But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
Note that the word"men" in the Hebrew is "Adam", and KJV footnotes even admit to this. Therefore, we may accurately change this verse to read as follows:
Ho 6:7 But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
God, in describing the perfidy of the nation of Israel, against whom he was bringing a case of covenantal disobedience and judgement, compares their breaking of the covenant as being like to Adam's. We seem to have the beginnings of a strong argument for the covenant's being established from the creation of Adam. However, for the sake of those who would argue that I am pulling verses out of context, without reference to other verses, allow me to introduce further evidence for my case.
Ge 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.
Notice that God does not tell Noah that He will establish a covenant or even explain to Noah what a covenant is. The pronunciation from God to Noah is done in such a way as to indicate that the covenant was a known fact among the antediluvian peoples. The knowledge of the covenant was apparently, as was the knowledge of animal sacrifice for sin, passed down from Adam to his progeny by oral tradition. The men of Noahís day knew what the terms were and were not innocent of their violations of the covenant.
Furthermore, upon what principle did God even punish those who were drowned in the Great Flood? One of the principle tenants of a covenant is that it has terms, which are agreed to under the conditions of a self-maledictory oath. If the men of Noah's day had no covenant that they violated unto their own destruction, then upon what principle did a just and holy God punish them? To say that there was no covenantal violation, just because it hadn't been inscribed upon stone as was later in Genesis, is to ascribe to God a capriciousness and a cruelty which is totally out of character with His just nature.
Ge 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Here is the first presentation of covenant and terms to the newly created son of God (Luke 3: 38). That this is a covenant is manifest by the presence of oaths and sanctions. Without oaths (promises from both sides) and sanctions (rewards and punishments for obedience and disobedience) you do not have a covenant because there is nothing which has been agreed upon. This is a covenant, and it is, by the presentation of the sanction, a conditional covenant.
But this is more than just a mere legal device. It is God presenting to His new son the conditions of family blessing and the warnings of disinheritance. Included in the family blessings of verse 16 is the right to eat freely of the Tree of Life. This suggests, by pictures of this Tree in Revelation and the Tree upon which our Lord hung, that some manner of intimacy with Christ Himself was in view, an intimacy which gave unto Adam and potentially, all who would spring from Him, life. Adam and Eve were not, despite all theological protestations otherwise, immortal beings in and of themselves. To say that they were is to say that they were the same as the transcendent God.
1Ti 6:15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.
Adam and Eve werecreated beings, they were not intrinsically immortal. Therefore they needed the Tree of Life for their lives to continue. Perhaps they ate daily or possibly monthly. We have no way of knowing; therefore we cannot make a definitive statement. But knowing that God alone is the only immortal being in the universe, we know that they had to partake in some manner of this immortality for their mortal lives to continue. They were posse non morte, that is, possible not to die, by their intimate union with Christ as the Tree of Life.
Also please notice that they had toEAT. It was not mere faith which would sustain them, not an intellectual assent to the fact that the Tree of Life gave life, but an actual partaking of the substance of the Tree itself which conferred most intimately to them the Life within that Tree. This is no small picture of the Blessed Eucharist and our union with God through it.
In like manner, had Adam and Eve not sinned, their offspring would have inherited the same condition and the same need for the Tree of Life. A state of sinlessness does not indicate that the sinless is immortal, for as we have shown from Scripture, only the transcendant God, Who is totally different from His creation, is immortal.
What was the purpose of God's establishment of a family on earth?
Ge 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: andhave dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Who had dominion at the time that command was given? God did.
The whole purpose of the creation of the family of man was the creation of a race of god-like beings who would share in their Father's glory. They would never be exactly like Him, any more than a copy is the same as the original, but they would grow in knowledge, holiness, dominion, and glory. Conceivably this plan would include reaching a certain place of holiness and godlikeness and being translated from earth for further service unto the Father and His Kingdom which would be unavailable on earth. The entire covenantal program was set up in order to produce manysons who would share in the Father's glory.
Heb 2:10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things,in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Although Adam failed to do this, Christ (the Second Adam) did not fail. Adam, as the covenantal head of the race, plunged the race into ruin and separation from both God and the Tree of Life. Christ, the Second Adam, redeemed the program which Adam failed at, and placed the race back into relationship with God and the Tree of Life, the life-giving Cross. Now, just as Adam and his progeny, when we eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, we live and partake of immortality. No wonder the Early Church Fathers called the Blessed Eucharist "the medicine of immortality"!!
GOD'S SALVATION PLAN -- BY COVENANT ONLY
What is a covenant? The Westminster Shorter catechism defines a covenant as "an agreement between two or more people" This is the barest and most legal sense of the covenant of God, which, while correct and applicable within proper understanding, misses the intimacy of a familial understanding of the covenant. The importance of the legal aspect of covenant is that it takes the holy God of the universe and binds Him to certain promises. Since God is holy and under no obligation to any of His creatures, especially His enemies (Romans 5), it is most important to have a legal promise from Him that He will agree to certain terms and conditions in regards to our salvation.
On the other hand, of far greater importance to us is the fact that God deals with us as beloved children. One of the great correctives that Christ brought to the understanding of the Pharisees was that God dealt with mankind as a Father rather than on the basis of pure legality. This is not to deny that within a family structure there is a form of law, differing from culture to culture and family to family, but we naturally understand a father as having a much greater grace than a cold and formal judge who is moved only by the letter of the law.
Ge 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Here is the first promise of the One who would come and establish the covenant of salvation. This is called the protoevangelum, the promise of the Messiah. So notable and striking was this promise that the evil one wasted little time in bringing forth hoards of pretenders to the throne of the Messiah. As early as Genesis 10 we find Nimrod, one of the central figures in the Mother/Child cult of the Babylonian mystery worship. Some have tried to convince us that the reverence paid to Mary is a copy of this Babylonian cultural religion. But I think they have it backwards. Where would Nimrod and the Babylonian culture have gotten such an idea several thousand years before the church at Rome even existed? I think it more likely that Satan took the truth and twisted it to keep men in darkness. It was Babylon copying truth and twisting it to the destruction of men, making them believe in a false Messiah. It was not Rome copying idol worship and calling it Christian. The enscripturations of the Early Church attest to the fact that they understood the Body of Christ to be organically united, and as such, honored Mary and the saints and offered petitions to them.
Ge 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Ge 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
Ge 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
Here is the first mention of the covenant of salvation through which the whole earth and all its races would be blessed. God sovereignly chooses out Abram, changes his name to Abraham, and makes him the father of many nations, promising to bless all the families of the earth through him.
Ge 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Here we see again an amazing fact that many in the reformed faith have missed altogether. It is important because in establishing the type, we set a proper foundation for the fulfillment, or antitype. The fact is this:
CIRCUMCISION IS THE COVENANT
IT IS NOT JUST A SIGN OF THE COVENANT.
Read again, slowly and carefully, Gen. 17:3 & 10 again. It says that circumcision is the covenant. It isthe covenant of circumcision. And furthermore, it is a BLOOD covenant. Keep this in mind for when we study the New Covenant. Blood is shed in establishing the covenant between the sinner and a holy God.
Ps 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that havemade a covenant with me by sacrifice.
That circumcision is the covenant is also obvious from the malediction pronounced upon those who would not be circumcised. They were cut off from their people and the covenant was broken. This is more than a mere sign. Something very significant was happening when the male head of the household was circumcised or his male child was circumcised. One is not punished for merely forgetting to use a sign of something. If circumcision was a bare sign, then God would hardly have sought to kill Moses for forgetting a sign, for Moses could have well done that which he had merely forgotten to signify. No, there is much more to both circumcision and baptism than a mere sign. There is life or death in the doing of or forgetting of these Sacraments.
Ge 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
Look at the conditions of circumcision. Not only were the adult males to be circumcised, but the male children of eight days old also were to be circumcised. The covenant is with infant children also. It is a household covenant and is made with the males of the family. Authority is placed upon the male of the household and is passed down the family line by the laying on of hands at the time of the death of the covenantal head.
Ge 27:27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field, which the LORD hath blessed: 28 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee. 30 And it came to pass, as soon as Isaac had made an end of blessing Jacob, and Jacob was yet scarce gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. 31 And he also had made savoury meat, and brought it unto his father, and said unto his father, Let my father arise, and eat of his son's venison, that thy soul may bless me. 32 And Isaac his father said unto him, Who art thou? And he said I am thy son, thy firstborn Esau. 33 And Isaac trembled very exceedingly, and said, Whom? where is he that hath taken venison, and brought it me, and I have eaten of all before thou camest, and have blessed him? Yea and he shall be blessed.
Here is the passing on of the covenantal blessing. This is the principal of continuity. It is both familial, happening only within the bounds of a particular family, and legal, in the sense that it is binding upon all other members of the family. The authority and covenantal blessing resident in the father is now passed on to the eldest son. Except in this case, God was pleased to have that blessing reside upon Jacob, for we read in Romans:
Ro 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
God, for His own purposes and reasons of divine will, ordained that the blessing of the covenant fall to Jacob. It is important to note also that this verse does not prove Calvin's idea of "positive predestination to wrath", or, more simply put, that God hated Esau and damned him from before the foundation of the earth. Calvinists attempt to prove that the above verses prove that God selects some unto eternal wrath, but they are totally out of context of what is being discussed here --covenantal headship. The hatred and the selection, which God has in mind in Romans, is that of covenantal headship. Verse 12 defines what is being talked about when it states that "the elder shall serve the younger." God hated Esau because He, knowing Esau's heart, knew that the covenant meant absolutely nothing to Esau, a fact which he proved later by selling it for a bowl of pottage. This is an example of the typical sloppy hermeneutics of Calvinists.
So we see that the covenant is an important promise made first to Abraham and passed down from generation to generation. It was important because it involved the salvation of the world. So important was it that Satan tried to destroy the lineage of Abraham, and almost succeeded in the times of the kings of Israel.
2Ki 11:1 And when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king's sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bedchamber from Athaliah, so that he was not slain.
The evil one almost destroyed the line, which would lead from the covenantal promise given to Abraham to David, which in turn led to Christ. One small child saved, by God's intervention, and the covenant goes on. It continues from king to king till it rests with David, the prefigure of Christ. In Matthew we find the complete line attested to. Christ is called of the seed of David. But this almost was not so, had it not been for Jehosheba.
To explain this further we need to tie together what we have covered because there is a lot of confusion with regards to the covenant. There are some who would teach that there are two separate covenants, an old one, which has passed away, and a completely new one which Christ came to establish. This is impossible for several reasons: it destroys the promise made to Abraham, it denies clear Scriptural teaching, and it places enmity between the Old and the New Testaments which leads to erroneous teachings on the nature of the Church. In fact, almost all erroneous teachings can be traced back to a false understanding of the covenant.
Did God perform that which He promised to Abraham?
Ro 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Ga 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Ga 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
Ga 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The promise is that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us Gentiles. What is that blessing? Is it not the covenant? Theold covenant, as some would call it. But how is it the old covenant when Scripture declares us to be under a new covenant?
To whom were the covenantal promises made? Abraham and his seed. Who is the seed? Christ, according to Gal. 3:16. But in Gal. 3:29, we are also called Abraham's seed, and this seems to contradict 3:16.
Until you remember that we are in Christ. We are not considered outside of Christ to be anything in regards to the covenant. It is only in Him that we partake of the blessings of the covenant and are called the seed of Abraham. If you note carefully, this ties in with Paulís statement in Romans 2-28:29. When I first read these verses, I kidded around with a friend of mine, saying, "Hey, I'm a Jew. I'm Jewish" But the full impact of what I had said didn't hit me until years later when I understood that I am just that. I really am a Jew if I am in Christ. Salvation is, as our Lord said, of the Jews.
Of course, since I am not of the physical seed of Abraham, this must have a spiritual reality. God certainly would not lie about something so important. These verses show the continuity of the covenant by establishing the link between the old covenant and the new covenant communities of believers. God says distinctly here that new covenant believers arechildren of Abraham, not something else, in describing their relationship to Him. We are not called by a new name nor given a different distinction. We are linked to Abraham by this one covenant which by God promised to bless the world. Do you notice the familial concept at work here? Please do not miss this, for this takes the covenant out of the realm of mere legality and continues the idea of a family covenant, which started with Adam as the son of God.
Therefore, just as the Church is merely the extension of Israel into the new age (aion), so are believers the extension of Abraham's covenant family. The Jews tried to lay claim to this when they boasted to Christ "We have Abraham as our Father." Christ's response was to remind them that He could (and did) raise up children from the stones around Him.
In the destruction of Israel in AD70, the covenantal cursings of Deuteronomy came upon the Jews with full vengeance spoken of in Matthew 23. Israel was removed from being the keepers of the Kingdom, the vineyard spoken of in Matthew 21: 33-46, and the Church was brought in fully to take the place of Israel. An important detail to notice in this change of administration is that when the owner of the vineyard changes the administration, hedoes not change the size, shape, or nature of the vineyard itself. This indicates a continuance of the nature of the Kingdom while the administration (i.e. Israel to Church) does change. Dispensationalism would have this parable to indicate that God set aside the nation of Israel for a while, gave a different vineyard to the Church, and will restore Israel again for 7 years during the reign of the "Anti-christ". This completely destroys any lucid and good quality interpretation of the parable in Matthew 21:33-46.
The significance of this parable and other supporting verses is that while the administration of the covenant change from Israel to the Church, the nature of the covenant did not, and this is highly significant in many areas, not the least of which is our ecclesiology. In other words, it is the old covenant we are under, but at the same time, with the fulfillment of the ceremonial Law and the change of administration from Israel to the Church, it is the old covenant changed into the new.
GETTING INTO THE COVENANT -- THEN AND NOW
In beginning to understand the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant (and hence grasp the significant elements involved), it is important to emphasize that we are not dealing with multiple covenants here but one and the same covenant. Nevertheless, something indeed has changed. We know that because we know that we do not worship exactly like the Jews, we do not observe certain laws like the Jews used to, and we see a distinction made by the use of the term "the new covenant". At the same time, many of the distinctives of the Kingdom, such as a continuing mediatorial priesthood and a liturgical Church calendar remain. Therefore, it is necessary to come to a right understanding of the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. Error in this understanding will lead us into all kinds of ecclesiastical problems. A misunderstanding of the covenant is, in my opinion, the foundation for all the heresies and heretical doctrines by which men have become separated from the Church. All the divisions, and all the misunderstandings of doctrines, especially in the establishment of the foolishness of premillenialism, and the pretensions of certain denominations that they alone are the guardians of salvation, come from this misunderstanding of the covenant.
In the old covenant, the Jewish male became a member of the covenant through circumcision. Once circumcised, the Jewish male was a member of the old testament church, the nation of Israel. He and his family had access to God through the Temple and the Sacraments. He could hear the oracles of God read and present a sacrifice for his sin to those who God had authorized to receive and administer such sacrifices in His name.
Ps 22:22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation(edah in the Hebrew) will I praise thee.
Heb 2:12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church(ekklesia in the Greek) will I sing praise unto thee.
From Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary:
edah "congregation". This word may have etymologically signified a "company assembled together" for a certain purpose, similar to the Greek words sunagoge and ekklesia from which our words "synagogue" and "church" are derived.
ekklesia from ek, "out of " and klesis, "a calling" ..... It has two
applications to companies of Christians, (a) to the whole company
of the redeemed throughout the present era, the company of which
Christ said, "I will build My Church (assembly or called out ones)
Matthew 16:18, and which is further described as "the Church which
is His Body" Eph. 1:22; 5:23...
In other words, the Church is the assembly of those whom Christ has called unto Himself. And since the words are the same from the old to the new covenant, it is not a stretch to say that the Church is of old, even from the calling of Abraham, who would be the father of the Church. I believe that I have every right to interpret this as such, seeing that the author of the book of Hebrews does the same thing in translating the word "congregation" in Psalms 22:22 as "church" in Hebrews 2:12. The Church of the new covenant is simply the continuation of the Church in the old covenant. Or let me put the wording another way. The assembly of the old covenant is the assembly of the new covenant. It is an assembly of covenantal people under authority given by God by means of the laying on of hands and the legal transferring of that authority from generation to generation.
More importantly than this is the fact that such an understanding demands that we have a visible Church and not the "invisible church" fantasy which Protestants have concocted in their rebellion. By being an extension of the visible nation of Israel, the visible "new nation" of the Catholic Church continues to offer Sacrifice for sin and entrance into covenant with God by means of His ordained Sacraments. Without a visible Church in this world, how in the world can we have a "pillar and ground" of truth and a testimony to the nations of the truths of God's Christ and His kingdom? It is an impossibility, and worse than that, a foolish fondness of Protestantism, since thousands of conflicting denominations, all claiming to speak for God by means of the Bible can never give an orderly definition to truth, but instead make a laughing stock of the Christian faith before pagans.
Now -- what is the means of entrance into the assembly?
Ge 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Do you see this? The male who was not circumcised wascut off from his people. He was not a member of the covenant. And a thorough study of the Old Testament will confirm this. No circumcision meant that there was no membership in the assembly of Israel.
In Israel there were 12 tribes. Tribal membership was a matter of great pride. Look at the boasting of Paul of his membership in the tribe of Benjamin. It was no small matter.
Ex 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
I hope by now you can see what I am getting at. There are assemblies (denominations) today who have the audacity to claim that they alone are the kingdom and the sole assembly of the Lord. I have to ask this of them: To whom does baptism belong? Is it your sacrament or God's? To whom did God give it? He gave it to the Church, which was founded upon St. Peter. All denominations have the right to baptize and bring others into the Kingdom. The Catechism of the Catholic Church even acknowledges this as a fact, unlike the Orthodox, who believe that only an Orthodox baptism has salvific qualities. But only the Catholic Church is the Church, which our Lord established.
Re 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall bepriests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
All those who have part in the first resurrection, which is the conferring of covenantal life, are priests unto God.
Circumcision is of the old covenant. The old covenant was a bloody covenant by which the national Jew, his children, and the stranger were made to be members of the assembly. Just as circumcision made entrance into the kingdom on earth, so now baptism accomplishes the same thing: entrance into the covenant of Abraham and membership, as his seed, in the Kingdom here on earth. What it does not confer is a permanent state of eternal life, for just as there were circumcised Jews of whom Paul said:
Ro 9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Paul was saying that they were part of the Kingdom but not in right relationship with God, not the true Israel of God. So also has history shown us a multitude of people who were baptized only to turn away from the Lord and His kingdom and never return, and this unto their damnation. They were baptized into the Kingdom, making covenant with God, but then broke the covenant by apostasy.
Ro 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
There it is. We are baptized into Christ. In doing so, we are baptized into His death and into the covenant, which that death made with God. We become partakers of the covenant. We are also partakers of His life as a foretaste of the good things to come in Christ in eternity. As long as we remain in Christ, we can attest that we are sharing in His life and as such, have eternal life.
BAPTIZED INTO THE COVENANT
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Interestingly enough, if you look at these verses, we find baptism doing several things: putting off the body of sins of the flesh, quickening together with Christ, and forgiving of all trespasses. We put off the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, which is being buried with Him in baptism.
What a strange wording we see in this verse, thecircumcision of Christ. What could that mean? Allow me to suggest some things here. First of all, circumcision is a cutting off, a separating. How are we cut off in Christ? Well, remembering that we are baptized into His death, wasnít that death His being cut off because of our sins? Are we not then, as we enter the new covenant by means of baptism, buried with him and entered into His circumcision. And what did that circumcision effectively cut off for us?
I believe it severed our relationship with Adam, who is the old man of the flesh. We are now entered into relationship with the new Adam. We are taken from the bondage of the old nature, and can enter into a covenantal relationship with God through Christ. Where the old nature of Adam was a depraved slave of sin, we are severed from that slavery and restored to having a will that is free to either serve or reject Christ. This places us into the same position that Adam's children would have had if Adam had not sinned. We are once again children of the Heavenly Father, just as we would have been if Adam had not sinned as our covenantal head.
Oh yeah, I know the Calvinists are frothing at the mouth at this point. Huh!! Tough. Your preposition of total depravity was another of Calvin's theological novums, which the Church did not know for 1500 years. Am I supposed to think that everyone prior to Calvin was a dummy? I also know that at this point, many will object, saying that God's salvation plan is eternal and those who are saved are promised to persevere to the end. May I quote Scripture to defend my supposition?
Heb 6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
2Pe 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Jude 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
"IF they shall fall away." "Keep yourselves" "...fall from your own steadfastness." Why the strident and urgent warnings if salvation is eternal? Or perhaps we need to understand something else about the salvation program of God. The writers are speaking to those who are in the covenant, but just as the Jews, are not necessarilyeternally saved. This is why I must take issue with those who insist that baptism equals salvation equals eternal life. This is a confusing use of several words, which seem to indicate the same thing, but in reality are talking about different parts of God's salvation plan. One may lose one's position in the covenant and in the Church, thus placing himself outside of the salvation plan of God. The election of God, which is a divine mystery, is simply that God chooses some to be able to persevere to the end, thus becoming unable to lose their salvation. But since none of us know who is among the "many sons chosen unto salvation", Paul warns all in a most general way against falling away and out of the covenant.
Baptism enters one into God's salvation plan, or more specifically, the salvation covenant, which in the Greek tense is in the ongoing tense. The way it is written does not indicate a once and done thing as the evangelicals claim. We enter into salvation much the same as one might enter into the Chunnel between England and France. Not entering at all means we never will get to France. In the same way, just entering into the tunnel does not mean that we will eventually reach our destination. It is the coming out at the other end which insures that the tunnel does what it was intended to do (i.e. that it delivers us into the land of France). In like manner, baptism enters us into the salvation covenant of God, but it is only by His election that those who will persevere to the end shall emerge into the sunlight of heavenly glory. God's election is the automobile that surely gets us safely through the Chunnel to the desired end. Without the election of God unto perseverance, the sinner's old nature can and will draw him out of the covenant. It is God's choice, His election of the saints, known unto Him from the foundation of the world. It is furthermore, a mystery known only unto God, and therefore we, like Paul, work out our salvation "in fear and trembling".
I know that there are those who will object to this understanding. They write in such a manner as to object to the idea of anyone persevering to the end by virtue of the calling and enabling of God. Yet their own Council of Trent declared that God in His divine mystery has chosen some from the foundation of the world to persevere to the end. They do not like the idea that man must have the blessing of divine election to make it all the way to the end.
LEGAL COVENANT vs FAMILY COVENANT
There is a great conflict between the adherents of forensic (or imputed) justification and experienced (or infused) justification. This conflict has spilled over into the arena of the covenant; therefore, it must be dealt with. You see, there is an idea about which discusses the covenant in terms of declarative (forensic) justification. I quote now from Ray Sutton:
Ro 3:24 Being justified[legally declared right with God] by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [payment] through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Ro 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted[imputed] for righteousness.
When a man is saved, righteousness is laid to his account, and he isdeclared right, justified. This way, unregenerate men can have salvation. They do not have to become good before they can be saved. They cannot become good before they are saved. They are objectively saved because God declares them to be saved. They are objectively good because God declares them to be objectively good. He can do this in terms of His covenant because of Christ's objective work of salvation in history. That objective work is imputed to the redeemed person by God's grace. In theology, this is often described as the objective side of salvation. Always, the objective forms the basis of the subjective. Normally, the term "objective" is applied to salvation, but this redemptive concept pulls over into all of life, making every relationship grounded in the legal or objective. That which is declared legal by God is therefore objectively legal. (THAT YOU MAY PROSPER Dominion by Covenant by Ray Sutton Dominion Press 1987)
Having quoted from Bishop Sutton, I now find it my distinctly distasteful task to take issue with what he has written. His understanding is totally correct, but lacking in fullness. I am hardly in a league to take on such a formidable mind as Bishop Sutton, yet having further studied this issue of the covenant of God as one would study a diamond, looking at all the facets, I must confess to a considerable uneasiness about his position. It plays too much into the hands of those who have neither ecclesiastical history nor hermeneutical correctness on their side. It is merely legal and forgets the love and mercy of a Father to His children.
For some reason, Bishop Sutton's adopts the position of a purely forensic and declarative righteousness. Quite frankly, his first error is to treat this doctrine as if it has been the understanding of the Church from its humble beginnings in Jerusalem. However, other equally impressive minds, such as Anglican theologian and historian Alister McGrath, have studied and declared that "forensic justification" was a theological novum, which began with the Reformers. While Bishop Sutton's outline of the covenant is the all-important skeleton upon which the entire framework of the covenant must stand, he has failed to clothe it in the familial framework of our organic unity with our Lord. I fear this has obvious and disastrous ecclesiastical ramifications.
Bishop Sutton's approach is the classic approach of the Reformers, (i.e. purely legal and forensic) which is all the more odd in that he is an Anglican cleric. Methinks the good Bishop has had one too many glasses of claret with his Presbyterian bowling buddies. He certainly has imbibed fully into their soteriology rather than traditional and historical catholic soteriology. The issue, my dear Bishop, is that when a man is saved, he is more than just declared righteous by an outside source which works outside of him, he is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and an alien righteousness fills him, making him truly good. It is the righteousness of God come by grace to live in us and organically unite with us. Man is righteous because he has been filled with righteousness. He is not just declaratively righteous, but by the force of our union with Christ, is intrinsically righteous. You state that God declares a man to be good and that makes him good. But your plea is to that which is objective and external to the man, which leaves him unchanged and untouched internally. Does the Holy Spirit come into a man and insulate Himself into some compartment of a man's being, or does he unite Himself intimately with the man so as to distinctly affect what that man is in his core being? I must opt for the latter.
Of even more concern, I must ask if God can call that which is intrinsically evil to be good? Did God declare the Creation to be good and then it became good (implying that it was either neutral, or worse, evil, before such declaration), or did God declare that which was already fact? When He said of Noah that he saw Noah a righteous man in a wicked generation, was God declaring that which truly existed, or was He making Noah to be righteous by declaration? I must beg for the former. You sound far too Presbyterian here, my brother. Remember, you are supposed to be English catholic, not English Presbyterian in your theology.
Bishop Sutton also bows to the understandings of Presbyterianism, which place a premium on perfection rather than grace. Justification, in Presbyterian theology, can only be given when the sinner is declared to be just because he has the perfect righteousness of Christ. This is a good legal definition of justification, but I would rather have a loving Heavenly Father who forgives me in grace rather than a relationship with a cold and impersonal judge who only deals with me because I hide under a blanket of righteousness not my own.
Please do not misunderstand me at this most critical juncture. I do not wish to come to God outside of the covenant and bring my own pathetic attempts to placate the wrath of God. Outside of the covenant, I am neither a child of God, nor one who has anything of worth to God. But in the covenant, I have been adopted, I am called a beloved child, and because in Christ I am a covenant keeper, God can deal with me as a child, which is to say that He can deal with mein grace and not in the Law, which condemns. All those who are outside the covenant will appear before God with the demands of the Law insisting that they be perfect. If they have not Christ's covenant by organic unity with Him, what they are trying to do by their works is to establish their own covenant with God and this will not work! Christ is a covenantal sacrifice for us. His Blood is called the Blood of the New Covenant. Remember that all covenants are blood covenants. The giving of a life (the shedding of blood) ratifies a covenant.
Heb 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
The man who comes to God without Christ must make his own blood covenant, which means that he must give his own life a sacrifice -- eternally. Christ did just this as fully man. When we step into Him through baptism, we step into the covenant, which His bloody death ratified, and we become partakers of it. God can now deal with us according to mercy instead of bare justice because we are in the covenantal relationship and have a sacrifice, which has established that relationship for us.
Brother Ray, you actually strive to meet the Presbyterian understanding, an understanding which distinctly tortures Scripture by claiming that when one falls away from the faith, that one was never a believer in the first place. I think Presbyterians are scared to accept that a man may be declared righteous by infusion of righteousness and then lose that righteousness. It seems to cast God in the position of being an Indian giver. However, it is not God who is unfaithful, it is us. Have not you yourself said that we can expect the blessings of the covenantonly as long as we remain faithful to that covenant? Why then take the position of those who deny this by their insistence that man is made righteous only by a permanent legal decree?
In regards to your appeal to Romans, I would simply ask this:
"Is faith a work?"
I hope your answer is yes, for our Lord thought it so when He replied to those asking Him what they must DO to inherit the Kingdom.
Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
"THIS is thework of God, that you believe upon Him whom He has sent" Christ does not rebuke those seeking Him, correcting them as He has done others by insisting that their understanding is wrong and that faith alone saves them. No, but He answers in kind and tells them exactly what the work of God is which will enter them into the covenant and begin their trek to the Heavenly City. Faith is just the first of a series of works in a process of salvation, which will lead us to be judged, by our works, according to Romans 2: 6-11:
Ro 2:6 Who willrender to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
This understanding is in line with James says when he states under the pen of divine inspiration that we are justified by works. Unlike Luther, who ran in screaming fits to find his scissors every time he came across that book in Scripure, I find no conflict between the issue of infused and imputed justification. Certainly if I have received the Holy Spirit of God upon my baptism, who would deny that I have indeed been infused with an alien righteousness which becomes my righteousness? At the same time, cannot God impute to me the righteousness of Christ as I continue in the covenant, which He has established? Cannot God declare me to be righteous in the same way He declared the world to be good at the Creation, because I am good, due to the fact of my union with Christ as long as I stay in that union? Or perhaps He does this at the Estuation Judgement, thus making my works, flawed at best by the flesh I live in, seen as perfect by the eyes of omnipotence. Perhaps He does it at a time separate from the experience of my baptism. But either He does it or purgatory is a real place. There is only one of two possibilities here. Either I am declared perfect and become perfect by that declaration (which seems to limit such declarative justification to the Eschaton Judgement, since I see no perfect Christians here on earth). Or else God makes me to be objectively perfect by a final purging of what sins may yet be clinging to me.
If our righteousness is merely declarative, and then we can have a righteousness, which is separated from a vigorous and living unity with our Lord, which expresses itself in a life of good works. This is the whole basis of the "once saved -- always saved" heresy" in which a man may live like hell on earth yet full expect that he may obtain Heaven because he has been declared righteous. In such a theological milieu, the believer need never again consider the state of his soul from day to day, for he has been once and for all justified. As such, he has no need of living out through the Church and connection to the Sacraments the life of Christ within. Since it is merely heavenly paperwork, so to speak, then there is no need of the Sacramental life to confer the grace of God so why bother? Let's all become Anabaptists, for who needs further grace when one is declaratively righteous for all eternity? At least Anabaptists are epistomologically correct in the way they worship. In fact, if taken to its logical end, such declarative justification destroys the whole idea of participation in the Body of Christ. Again, why bother? Its me and Jesus, based upon the declaration of God that I am righteous in Christ.
I cannot begin to count the numbers of people with whom I have talked who, as a logical outcome of this thinking, have told me point blank that they do not need to be a member of the Church in order to be a Christian. My response would be to remind them of the saying of St. Cyprian:"He who will not have the Church as his mother will not have God as his Father." There are going to be a lot of people horribly surprised to find that they are spiritual bastards on the great Day of God's Judgement because our historical catholic faith never taught such an idea of the covenant. Such a covenant would be an unconditional covenant. Where in Scripture does God have an unconditional covenant, which is made man/God? Even the covenant of Abraham almost came to an end as God almost killed Moses for not circumcising his son. In the parameter, which Bishop Sutton has discovered and written of, oaths/sanctions lies the very fact that the covenant is conditional, for an unconditional covenant would not have oaths and sanctions. Baptism is an oath. Eternal death is the sanction. Salvation is conditional unto eternal life as the reward/inheritance of the faithful.
I believe we are called to a family covenant within which there are certain rules (the legal aspect of the covenant). The new covenant is familial, starting with Adam as the son of God as declared in Luke 3. He is not a servant under law, but a son in family. There is family law, but there is sonship, which prevails over that. These are not my ideas. This is historic catholicism.
Called as sons, we are first made like our Father by the adoption of grace, which takes place in our baptism. Having thus received, if we are imputed righteousness and stand as fully justified before God, why are we called to Theosis, to becoming like Christ? Forensic justification is a declaration that we are already like Christ in God's eyes, for He sees not us, but Christ. If God's declarative justification gives us the perfect righteousness of Christ, then why are we called to grow in holiness? If declarative justification makes us really perfect, where are all the saints in time who suddenly one day were objectively as perfect as Christ upon this earth? If in the forensic model, all we must do is die and we are perfect, why are we warned of the Eschaton Judgement of our works either unto eternal life or eternal death in Romans 2: 6-8? Forensic justification makes this an exercise in silliness. Why judge someone as to whether or not they have been a faithful covenantal son if they are guaranteed to enter Heaven anyway? I hear someone say that it is for determining the rewards in Heaven of the faithful, but that is not the way the verses in Romans are written.
In my study of justification, as I studied the Roman Catholic idea of mortal sin, I found myself asking, "How many works must I do? How perfect must they be? Which works lose the righteousness of God for me? At what point do my works guarantee me eternal life?" But I was missing the whole thrust of the covenant of God. It wasn't until I remembered the condemnation of the Pharisees that I understood the deeper nature of the covenant, a nature that goes beyond mere mercenary works for rewards' sake. I was thinking exactly like the Pharisees as I counted deeds in the same way they counted the tiny pieces of mint and cummin. Christ looked not at what they had done, but their lack of doing it in a loving relationship to the Father. They were acting as foreign mercenaries, not as loving children. Servants seeking reward based on merit of obedience rather than sons looking unto the inheritance to be received in love. They were those who would stand before God bringing a list of good deeds and expecting to be paid by "strict merit" rather than standing before God broken heartedly saying "Father, have mercy on me a sinner." Those who demand reward for their deeds shall find that the demands of the Law condemn them. Those who from the heart have lived lives of repentance and good deeds done out of love for the Father shall find that grace forgives their failures in that day.
Such a legal understanding as the Pharisees had places us in the position of doing good deeds to prove that we indeed are the people of God, while we miss the deeper riches of living a life of organic unity with our Lord as He meets us in the Sacraments. This is why the Anglican Church, like the Presbyterians, only recognize two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper. They recognize the legal requirements to get into and stay in the covenant, but they do not see the familial aspect of the covenant as our Savior comes to us to minister intimately to us. I must reject this in my desire to experience as much of God's nearness to me as I can in this life. Legal standing is not the same as having Christ come to us in the person of the priest and lay His hands upon us, confirming us into the Church. It is not the same as when Christ listens to us in the person of the priest and we hear Christ say through the priest, "You are absolved. Go and sin no more." It is not the same as Christ operating in our spouse in the Sacrament of marriage. Sacraments are more than just legal declarations. They are Christ uniting Himself with His beloved Bride in the deepest possible intimacy. Can mere legality replace the heart need we have of experiencing Christ in such intimacy? I think not. I find myself wondering why the good Bishop, with His fine understanding of the Early Church, runs from embracing that which the Early Church embraced.
Even the understanding of the Eucharist suffers from this legalism as Bishop Sutton's paradigm states that Christ is present in kind, but not in substance in the Eucharist. It is the almost-but-not-quite Real Presence, which is certainly not the understanding of the Early Church Fathers. Certainly Christ is ubiquitous, but that was not the understanding of these men who said that when they partook of the elements, they held in their hands the very same Flesh which was crucified for them and drank the very same Blood which was shed for them. One must ask why Augustine, Jerome, Clement of Rome, et al would think such a thing. From where did they get such an idea? The pagans? Hardly.
It has to be their understanding of the organic unity of the Body of Christ and its members. Just as infused righteousness proves an organic unity with Christ, a true interior unity we can live in and draw strength from, so does the Real Presence of historic catholicism provide a true and soul nourishing unity with Christ. We are re-infused whenever we thus partake, receiving more than just a restating of imputation, but a refilling of the original righteousness we were infused with at our baptism. Our righteousness, like ocean tides, has high tides and ebb tides. We have, like the Prodigal, wandered away from the household. Maybe not into the land of the swine, but certainly to the outer borders of the Father's Kingdom. Our love wanes, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and we suffer as we become worldly and lose our love for the Father. The Eucharist, when eaten in faith, brings us back into the household and seats us intimately at the Father's table. No mere declaration can do this. I need more than a declaration. I need real, true intimacy with God. And how much more intimately can I experience Him than to do that which He Himself commanded in eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood? It is for this reason that He said, "He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has life." Not "He whom the Father has declared to be alive is truly alive."
Scripture says that the life of the flesh is in the blood. May I apply that also to the life of Christ? The life of Christ is in His Blood, so that in partaking of that Blood, I partake intimately with that Life itself. Will the elect be just legally and declaratively related to God in Heaven, or will they experience an experience of God's love in a similar kind of unity and depth such as the Son has with the Father? Bishop Sutton's declarative paradigm gives false comfort to those who hold to the Real Absence in the Lord's Supper. This is a shame. Those who hold that the Table of the Lord is a mere bare remembrance should be confronted with a theology, which carefully presents to them the total bankruptcy of their position and embarrasses them into changing. They are those who stand outside the household and speak of knowing the Father, but they have not come to the Table andexperienced the Father through the Son. They have merely heard of Him and know of Him in a pleasant but most distant way. A concise summary of the difference between forensic (or imputed) righteousness and infused righteousness might help clarify the profound distinction I speak of:
BEING BORN AGAIN GOD'S WAY
Now we must try to bring this all together and understand exactly what God is doing in the Church, which is His body. Unfortunately, one of the things that has clouded our vision, as well as the discussions between the various denominations in the Church is the fact that many people have used a variety of words to mean the exact same thing. This has caused no little bit of confusion in regards to God's salvation plan.
Here are the words that relate to the salvation plan: born-again, regeneration, redeemed, saved, salvation, eternal life. Unfortunately, the people of God have used all of these to indicate the same thing, the attainment of the blessed end time resurrection and membership in the eternal kingdom of God. As they say at the carnival: "Folks, that ain't necessarily the way it is."
What we need to do is to understand what each of these words relates to and what God is accomplishing in His plan.
Let us start with the idea of being born-again. Evangelicals totally misunderstand and misuse this word. Evangelicals have made up something called "making a decision for Jesus" and have that as their sacrament of initiation into the Christian life, despite the fact that the Bible NOWHERE calls for such an action. Furthermore, to do so denies that there is a specific covenantal entrance of baptism, which is clearly continued from the old covenant entrance of circumcision. But of course, this is what you get when you practice dispensationalism and rip the old covenant completely away from the new, claiming falsely that they are two different covenants. To be a dispensationalist, one must ignore all the Scriptural proofs, which establish the fact that the covenant is one and the Church has taken place of Israel as God's kingdom on earth. It really comes from terribly lazy exegesis and no desire to study the Bible other than to reinforce one's prejudices. But, hey, we all do that, don't we?
The historical Church understanding correctly understands that we are "born-again" when we are baptized. This is the understanding from the very first century of the Church. Evangelicalism's idea of being born-again by waving one's hand, marching up an aisle, and saying a "sinner's prayer", only goes back to around the 1850's at best, having been introduced by the heretic Charles G. Finney. Mr. Finney ruined more people for true Christianity than he ever "got saved". Sacramental churches reported that for years after a Finney crusade in their towns, the people were spiritually ruined. They referred to the places that Finney went as "burned over districts".
The first clue we get is from the words themselves. Born -- to receive life. Again -- something that has happened once but must be repeated in some way. It is at this point that the reformers missed the boat entirely, for their premise is that the need to be born again comes from being dead in spirit. And for a long time, I believed this along with them. But a further study of the covenant and Early Church writings has made me not so sure of this. Here is why.
To say that one is "spiritually" dead would mean that man would cease to have any ability of rational thought or relationship to the spiritual world. It would, in effect, make us simply robots, controlled by the evil desires of the flesh so much so that all man could do would be to do acts of evil. There would be no will by which God could appeal to in the old covenant, calling men to come into covenant with Him and to be obedient to the Law of the covenant. If all men could do was to be evil, without restraint in a spiritually dead state, then none of the Jews would ever had responded positively to the injunctions for sacrifice and the calls to repentance. The reason I say this is that it is in the new covenant that something totally new is experienced, that is, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide the believer. Without the spirit, if man was indeed spiritually dead, that is, having no spiritually ability at all, then all he would have is the evil motivation of the flesh and all he would do is constantly rebel and sin against God.
I believe the death that Adam handed down to his posterity, the entire human race, is nothing less than the covenantal position of being dead to God -- of being out of covenant and in a state of violation to it. This does no violence to the will of man, neither does it do violence to the judgement of God upon man for his evil deeds. It is a corporate death, best expressed by the following verse:
Ro 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
My friends, the above is a statement not of individual damnation, but of corporate damnation, coming from Adam's violation of God's covenant. In that sense are all men dead to God, for they exist in the violation of Adam corporately. We are all organically connected to our father Adam and share in his state of separation, which is death. When Adam was in obedience to the covenant of God then he was in relationship with God. Or to quote Genesis once again:
Ge 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
And what does it mean to be in relationship with God through the covenant. It means to have very life itself, for look what God says of Himself:
Joh 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
Do you see this? HE IS LIFE. Not just the temporary act of breathing we experience on this earth, but the real and true life. He is the One who gives all life to mankind. Without being in covenant to Him, we are dead! It only needs for our heart to stop for us to experience that separation from Him that is eternal death. Those who are not united to Him are in a state of death. The temporary life we have on earth becomes the reality of permanent separation from God, the horror of eternal wrath.
So what does it mean when we are baptized into Him? Why, nothing less than being born-again, that is, the receiving of a new life, which is being in Him. Prevenient grace was shown to Adam and all his descendants in time. God legally saw the death of Christ as a completed act, and based on that, was able to extend to Adam and all the righteous of the old covenant the gift of temporary and physical life for Christ's covenant keeping. It is imputed to the whole human race corporately, for if it were not, then God, to be truthful to His Word, would have had to strike Adam dead the second he ate and disobeyed. This is where imputation worked in the Scriptures. Christ had not died, the covenant had not been recovered, and therefore, God had to impute preveniently the righteousness of covenant keeping in order to deal with the old covenant faithful in grace.
The just shall live by faith. But where faith, which is the key, was the means by which God imputed righteousness to the Old Covenant saints, faith now infuses us with a true righteousness. In the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit did not come in to possess the believer. The believer was not filled with an alien righteousness, which made him organically righteous. This is why the Old Covenant saints had to wait in Paradise for the finishing of the covenantal restoration upon the Cross. Once that was completed and the New Covenant began, they could be filled with the Holy Spirit also, made intrinsically righteous, and brought to Heaven.
The entrance of the Holy Spirit and His intimate union with the believermakes the believer intrinsically righteous.
When we are baptized, we are taken out of complete and total involvement in Adam and place in Christ while still living in this flesh. This is the war between the two natures which Paul talks about in the epistles., Our organic unity with Adam pulls us towards sin, but the righteousness, which lives within us pulls us towards increasing righteousness. Please understand, a mere declaration would not have such an effect. We are organically united to Christ in a most intimate way, sharing in His nature as fully as we share in our yet human and corrupt nature. When death severs us from that old nature, then we shall enjoy uninterrupted that righteousness which we have been given at baptism and have striven to increase here on earth.
So it is most correct to say that baptism is the act of being born againIF WE ARE LOOKING AT IT COVENANTALLY!!! In this sense, regeneration means the same thing. It is being returned to the covenantal relationship with God through the covenantal obedience of His son. It is both legal and very real, being organically united with the Body of Christ. It is not merely legal, for that would have no effect upon me from within.
The next word that is confused is salvation.
The reformed idea that man's spirit is dead is equally wrong. To claim such leads to the idea that to obey God, we first must receive new and eternal spiritual life. It makes for a false opinion of baptism. Let us look at the wording of the baptismal understanding from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
"THE EFFICACY OF BAPTISM IS NOT TIED TO THAT MOMENT OF TIME WHEREIN IT IS ADMINISTERED; YET, NOTWITHSTANDING, BY THE RIGHT USE OF THIS ORDINANCE, THE GRACE PROMISED IS NOT ONLY OFFERED, BUT REALLY EXHIBITED, AND CONFERRED, BY THE HOLY GHOST, TO SUCH (WHETHER OF AGE OR INFANTS) AS THAT GRACE BELONGETH UNTO, ACCORDING TO THE COUNSEL OF GOD'S OWN WILL, IN HIS APPOINTED TIME." Westminster Confession of Faith.
What is being said here is that baptism is a mere sign of something that God may or may not do in the future, according to His good pleasure. This is a total misunderstanding of what baptism accomplishes, and these men missed it because they were not thinking covenantally. They were, due to the times they lived in, trying to think NOT CATHOLICALLY and that blinded them badly. Baptism does indeed accomplish something AT THE MOMENT IT IS DONE! Baptism gives us an entrance into the covenant kingdom and removes from us the curse of Adam so that our wills are free to pursue the Lord. Baptism regenerates us unto temporary covenantal standing, and by making us members of His Church (the Body of Christ) makes us able to be recipients of eternal life, given by Christ to those whom He has chosen. As Dan Dunlap has well said, it is time we stop letting Presbyterians do our theology for us, and the above quote gives ample proof of Brother Dunlop's wisdom.
Joh 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
All may be in the covenant kingdom, just as every circumcised Jew was a kingdom member in the old covenant. But only those to whom Christ gives eternal life, the everlasting water springing from within, the seal of the Holy Spirit is the promise of perseverance and heaven. Therefore, it may rightly be said of Christians, "For they are not all Christians, who are Christians" just as Paul said, "For they are not all Israel who are Israel." This is keeping with the old covenant type.
We receive in baptism salvation from the covenantal condemnation in Adam. Without baptism, those who are not baptized into Christ are condemned to die in the covenantal death of their father Adam. They are not"saved" from it. I hope you see how the word saved has a broader application than the evangelicals have given to it.
Let me give you one more idea on salvation. Look at the world outside of Jerusalem in the first century. Look even as close as Rome. Look at the cruelties practiced by those who are in bondage to their state of covenantal death. They practice evil. All of the terrible works of the flesh are found in their societies, including cannibalism, patricide, infanticide, and ritual murder. Then comes the Gospel and men and women are baptized into the new covenant and into a relationship of life in Christ. See how the societies change? See how the Church brings in her wake kindness, love, deeds of charity. Do you see how the regeneration of the covenantal relationship, made possible by Christ's perfect obedience, brings SALVATION to societies and individuals so that even if they do not have eternal life, they are saved from the tyranny of living in the kingdom of darkness. They are translated to the kingdom of light in a real and practical way right here on earth. Please, be very careful not to mix up the words. This is a common error that has led to all kinds of confusion and is the primary source of the separation in the Church today.
INFUSION vs IMPUTATION
Without a doubt, the single most contentious issue regarding justification between Protestants and Catholics (by which I mean the Orthodox, the Romans, and the Anglicans) is the issue of imputed vs infused righteousness. How are we made righteous? What are the ramifications of each position? In delving into this subject, I will list here list all the verses in the New Covenant regarding imputation so that we might study them more closely.
Ro 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed(logizomai -- to take an inventory, ie estimate (lit or fig), conclude) unto them also:
Ro 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
Ro 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed("ellogeo" -- impute, put on account -- note how this is a different word than is used in all the other NT verses involving imputation) when there is no law.
Jas 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend
I don't have to be a Greek scholar to see that there is a world of difference between taking an inventory of that which really exists and accounting it to be sovs. accounting something to be put on someone's account because they have nothing of their own. The use of the word logizomai indicates that God was taking inventory of Abraham's condition, and was recognizing the reality of Abraham's righteousness and counting it as such. It is not a giving to Abraham of something, which did not exist in Abraham until God "loaned" it to him. This is Luther's egg, which Calvin hatched and nurtured. The hideous doctrine of "once saved -- always saved" is the monster child, which the next three centuries nurtured to maturity. Such thinking is not a sign of Luther's great faith, but rather his lack of faith in the ability of the Sacraments to confer upon him forgiveness and unity with His Lord. Luther's faithless and tormented mind is hardly the model upon which we should either do our theology or exegesis.
Protestants will immediately ask "How can a perfect God accept OUR righteousness, which Scripture says is as filthy rags?" Once again, they make assumptions based on bad exegesis of Scripture and pulling verses out of context. Because we are not righteous in and of ourselves, it is faith IN GOD, the True and Living God, which is righteousness. And because of Abraham's faith in God, the work of Christ was preveniently applied to Abraham's faith, making it a complete righteousness in His sight. Even though there was no indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Covenant, it was the same God in the OT as in the NT who was making covenant with Abraham through the work of Abraham's righteous faith. God was NOT imputing to Abraham something he did not have, but was recognizing that which he did have and applying the work of the Cross to Abraham even in the Old Covenant paradigm, which is another whole paper entirely!
Jer 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Is it too much of a stretch to say that Christ is the visible representation of the Law? Is it too much of a stretch to say that the Law dwelling in the hearts of the NT saints is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? If so, then you must tell me in what other way the Law of God would get into us, live in us, and so intimately affect us. Certainly it couldn't be by mere hearing of the Word, for the people of the Old Covenant had that and it failed miserably to convert them. In the New Covenant, we have organic unity with He who is righteous. Our works are no longer seen as divorced from Him, but rather, as He doing these works of righteousness through us. As such, we do indeed do works which God can declare to be righteous, and therefore declare us to be righteous.
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
The righteousness we have is God's righteousness, but it is our righteousness also. This is catholic theology. This is not the imputation of Luther, which leaves us as a dunghill covered by the whitest snow. A dunghill is still a dunghill. We are transformed by the indwelling of Christ, not merely covered over. As we continue to obey the Holy Spirit through obedience to the authority in His Body, we continue to grow in that righteousness and increase it. If we break covenant with God, we decrease the righteousness within us, and if severe enough, we leave the covenant and lose our position as sons, much the same as the Prodigal Son did when he left the father's household.
The other problem with Protestant understanding of righteousness is that they want to define for God what He considers righteousness. They want to insist that the righteousness of man must be quantitative, i.e., that it must be of such a perfect quality that it cannot grow and increase. This violates the idea of our growing in grace and sanctification. If we are made perfect, then what point is there for the following injunctions:
Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
1Pe 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.
To the Protestant mind, the righteousness of God cannot be germinal. They insist upon a full flowered PERFECT righteousness, yet knowing that such only comes from years of being in God's training school, they have to come up with something which they believe that God will accept for entrance into Heaven. Thus the idea of imputed righteousness.
This also takes away from God the right to "have mercy upon whom I will have mercy", demanding instead that God have mercy only upon those who have been declared perfect. But this idea completely defeats the idea of grace. Grace isunmerited favor. If I am rewarded because I am either postionally, practically, or declaratively perfect where is the grace in that? That is coming to God under the very terms which God has promised to condemn, strict merit, i.e., I am getting exactly what I deserve for what I am rather than getting grace to cover my shortcomings.
I ask you, what is the difference between God giving us something we don't deserve by imputing us the righteousness of His Son, or by giving us something we don't deserve by giving us that very same righteousness? Neither one is based upon what we have done to deserve such. Both, by definition, are actions of God moving in unmerited grace to us. If I have been infused with Christ, which I do not deserve at all, but is, in fact, God moving through the agency of His Grace to me, is that not grace? Why do Protestants call it works if I do nothing for it at all? In fact, it is a real good reason we should baptize our babies, since they cannot do anything, not even exercise belief. That is real grace to the most helpless upon the planet. You can say that God's imputation is real grace. I counter that God's infusion is equally grace. Neither is deserved. That is grace.
BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH
What does it mean to say that we are baptized into the death of Christ? What was the death that Christ suffered upon the Cross? When Adam sinned, he was separated from the Garden and from the blessings of the covenant with God. This separation, if continued, would have led to death. Some have argued that the death of Christ is only individual, that is, it pays for our sins in an individual fashion. But what about the covenant? And why is Christ called the "second Adam". What likenesses to Adam do we expect to see?
Adam was in covenant with God. Through covenantal faithfulness, there was the possibility of eternal life with God. But through breaking that covenant, Adam forfeited this life, not only for himself, as we have shown, but corporately for the whole world, so that all were found to be separated from God and were brought under the ownership of the evil one. We were legally disinherited because we are organically united to Adam. We are flesh of his flesh in this organic unity. (I find it interesting that we are partakers of Adam's flesh by birth, but of the second Adam's flesh by eating, which is the same act which damned the human race). Adam forfeited the rulership he had over the creation by his act and gave up any legal claim for either himself or his progeny to that covenantal headship. The wicked one tricked him right out of his inheritance. Christ on the other hand kept the covenant with God perfectly. He turned on the Pharisees one day and demanded:
Joh 8:46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?(The word conviceth is the same word used in the NT for convicted)
No man could convict Christ of sin, of breaking the covenant of God. They were silent before Him. In dying upon the Cross, Christ suffered the death of Adam covenantally, that is, He took in His body that which Adam should have suffered in his body on the very day he broke covenant with God. Only by the timeless God looking forward, seeing Christ do this, and imputing this to Adam judicially, was God able to spare Adam's physical life. But a greater thing than this happened. Let us look at Romans to see the full effect of Christ's obedience:
Ro 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:(here is the corporate condemnation -- all are found guilty and dead in Adam)
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
Wow! How clear does that have to be? Just as in the first Adam, covenantal death passed upon all men, so by the second Adam, who took that death in the first Adam's place, covenantal new life (sounds suspiciously related to "born again" doesn't it) comes upon all men. I would go so far as to say that one sense of Christ's death was that Adam was hanging there upon the Cross. Adam(man) sinned; Adam had to be punished. God, in love for Adam, found a substitute in Christ for Adam. It was necessary that Christ be the substitute, not just to pay for Adam's covenant breaking, but to reestablish the covenant to its pristine condition. Christ picked up exactly where Adam dropped the ball. All man has to do is be found IN CHRIST by baptism, as we were found in Adam by natural birth. This is why it is called a spiritual birth, because the efficacy of baptism depends upon the Holy Spirit as the administrator of God's works to do a spiritual work and transfer us from the first to the second Adam. That is something, which is a physical impossibility. It is a divine spiritual mystery in which a real transfer of soul from first Adam to Second Adam takes place.
And what is the free gift? Is it not entering into the grace of the covenant? Do we deserve the new life? Do we deserve anything but death in Adam? Of course not, but in the second Adam, God gives us not only the blessings of temporal life, but He calls unto Himself a seed which He has promised to be more than the stars in the heavens. Moreover, Christ, in succeeding where Adam failed, in keeping the covenant of works which Adam failed to do, wrested away from the evil one total rulership over the creation of God. Once again, man rules, but this time it is the man who is also God in the flesh. He rules, yet is subordinate to the Father. What a mystery this is!! And what a glory!!
Now, as the rightful ruler, Christ as owner of creation, offers unto sinful men the opportunity to enter into this covenant of blessing. Is this not gracing, to be offered that which we have no right to demand of ourselves? The covenant has been re-established and one has kept it perfectly. This means that since One has kept it perfectly, God will judge all men's works by the standard of Christ. Anyone failing to keep the covenant in the same way Christ has done shall be damned. Such news is damning to man in his natural state, for we are separated from the covenant and under the condemnation of both Adam and our sin. No work done outside the covenant could be perfect. But here is the Good News -- Christ offers entrance into the kingdom via baptism, and once in the kingdom, He offers an even more wonderful thing. He offers eternal life to His elect by means of union with Him by the partaking of His Flesh. As flesh brought death into the world and upon all men by our partaking in it through our organic unity, so Flesh brings life into the world to those who partake in it by the eating of faith.
So we have two worlds. We have the world of non-covenantal people doing the feverish works they hope will entitle them to eternity with God. From washing in the filthy Ganges, to the asceticism of Buddhist monks, to the many deeds of the religious of all persuasions, men desperately try to pile up enough good works to merit heaven. But they shall fail, for they are "dead" covenantally in Adam and God regards them not. Without a covenant, God is under neither legal nor familial obligation. To believe that man, outside of the initiation of God, can either respond to the call of the Gospel or do works, which please God, is Pelagianism. That was accursed by the Council of Trent and all other orthodox councils dealing with the issue of man and salvation.
2Co 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
In Him are we made the righteousness of God, just as He was made to be sin? Did Christ simply make a legal expiation of sin, or was it more intimate than that? I think the latter. Based on Christ being called the Second Adam, it was Adam in his sin who hung there on the Cross in the person of Jesus. Such a thing would organically unite Christ with Adam's sin. I believe it was this, which Christ prayed to be spared from in the Garden, for their are many men who have faced mere physical death with no fear. But Christ faced becoming sin for us. He wasmade sin. We are made righteous. It doesn't say that we are merely declared righteous, but WE ARE MADE RIGHTEOUS. That must be an organic and infused true righteousness, obtained by sharing in the life of Christ by His Spirit.
Therefore, it is necessary that we find ourselves in Christ in the way that God has ordained. It is not through a "decision for Jesus". That is man's invention. It is not through works done outside the Church. That is again man's way. It is through baptism that we enter the new covenant, the covenant of His Blood, and put ourselves in the Church, uniting ourselves so intimately with Christ that when Saul of Tarsus was killing Christians, Christ asked Saul why he was persecuting Him.
More than that, sees God bringing to the first Adam his bride. So in like manner does God bring to the second Adam His lovely Bride, the Church? Man has nothing in this. All he may do is to enter into the covenant and pray that God would persevere him by the election of the saints bringing to him both eternal life and eternal membership in the Bride of Christ. Otherwise, all of Paul's admonitions against falling away and out of the covenant, all of his warnings to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" are foolishness statements that make no sense at all.
SALVATION AND SALVATION
The Greek word for salvation is soteria, from which we get our word, soteriology, or the study of salvation. But the Vine's Bible Dictionary, which is about as KJV as you can get, admits that it "denotes 'deliverance, preservationí, salvation" and is used not only in a sense of the saving of our souls, but of material and temporal deliverance from danger and apprehension". In other words, there is salvation, and then, there is salvation.
Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
Look at this curious verse. It talks not just about salvation, but abouteternal salvation. Now unless you are of the mind that God uses words in just a willy nilly fashion, there is an extremely important distinction being made here. Salvation is different from eternal salvation. And there are different types of salvation spoken of in Scriptures. It furthermore clarifies the condition of salvation, i.e. obedience. Indeed, salvation is conditional. It is of works, for obedience is a work and only through faith my one do perfect obedience unto God.
Joh 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Salvation is of the Jews. And why is that? Precisely because they were the keepers of the covenant of Abraham. This is why the "transfer" verses are so important.
Ro 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Ga 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Do you understand what is being said here? Salvation is indeed of the Jews because they are in the covenant. And now, those of us who have believed upon Christ and been baptized, enter into the new covenant, which God established with His Christ. And within that covenant is the opportunity that God shall indeed choose unto Himself a number greater than the stars of heaven and the sands of the seas. What a magnificent promise!
1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
How could Paul say that the Thessalonians were "appointed to obtain" when they were already baptized? Why did he not tell them that they already were possessors of salvation, as the Anabaptists teach, since they were already baptized? After all, isn't baptism supposed to be a sign of something that you already have (eternal life -- once saved, always saved) in their understanding? This seems to really blow their salvation idea right out of the water.
2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Here is another use of salvation, the eternal sense of it. We know Paul must be speaking of eternal salvation here because as we have earlier shown, the giving of the Holy Spirit in eternal life cannot be lost. He is river of living water and those who drink from this fountain shallnever thirst again (speaking of the thirst for righteousness which sinners in their convicted state feel). So we see that salvation can be of either a temporal or an eternal type. What we have failed to do is study to differentiate between the types, and in doing so, we have simply said "Hey, salvation equals eternal life, period." I'm sorry, that is wrong.
1Co 15:2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Here is another one of those telling verses that "once saved--always saved" people do not want to consider. What could Paul mean by saying yeare saved IF? IF.... I didn't know there was any if to salvation. Why, I thought it was once and done forever. Furthermore, what could it possible mean to believe in vain? Stop and think about it for a moment. Belief in the covenant of God brings one into the covenant by baptism, but if we are not brought into eternal salvation by the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, we believe, but in vain in regards to our eternal standing with God. It is a fearsome thing.
Ro 2:6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
How could one read the above verse in the most plain and literal sense and not see that eternal life is sought for by works? Did you know that faith itself is a work?
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Do you see this? Faith is a work. And that is why it, too, is impossible to man and must be the gift of God. We are saved by works, but more importantly,Godís works done through us saves us. That is what Ephesians 2 8-10 teaches, that eternally saving faith, the work of God is also the gift of God. It is not natural to us, or we would be able to have it, use it, be saved eternally, and then spend eternity boasting of it. But man, in his natural state simply cannot do this. Outside of the covenant, all that man does to curry favor with God are the works of the flesh, which are condemned.
We must do those works, which are pleasing to God. They must be perfect works. But we are sinful and our works of the flesh could never please Him. Only when we are filled with the Holy Spirit does God see our works in Christ and we can be said to be obeying Him. But it is really not us, is it? It is Christ, for salvation is completely of Him including the works of covenant keeping which keep us in Him. All man can do is enter into covenant with Him and begin a journey of seeking His righteousness by faith. This is how Paul could talk about believing in vain, because not all faith is of God, and only that which is of God produces Christ's righteousness in us.
SUMMARY OF POINTS:
I am starting to repeat myself, which means it is time to sum up this little exercise in mixing the oil of God's perseverance of the saints with the water of the fact that we can lose our salvation. Let me try to put it in a neat package.
1. Salvation, born-again, redeemed, regenerated, saved, and eternal life are different words that describe different aspects of the overall salvation plan of God, not a one time act.
2. We are regenerated out of the death of Adam by baptism, that is to say, we move from the old covenant of death and disobedience in Adam to the new covenant of life in Christ. We are baptized into Christ and thus are "saved" and "born again" as we receive a new life in Christ.
Ro 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Ga 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
3. Salvation is a process, not a once and done act as modern evangelism teaches. Coming to the end of the process insures us that we will inherit eternal life as the gift of God to His Son. We share in that gift if we have been filled with Him, i.e., His Holy Spirit.
4. Those who persevere to the end do so because the promise of God to His elect is that they will do so. The giving of the Holy Spirit is the earnest of the eternal life we will receive at the end of our lives if we remain faithful to the covenant.
5. Salvation (as a process) can be lost when we walk out of the covenant of God by apostasy and deliberate acts of wickedness, which place us outside of the Body of Christ. This is why excommunication needs to be restored and practiced, so that men will realize the gravity of their circumstance and hopefully be restored to repentance and the covenant of salvation, hopefully leading to eternal life in God's sovereign mercy.
1Th 3:5 For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour bein vain.
2Co 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of Godin vain.
6. Salvation is by works of righteousness. These works must be perfect to obtain eternal life as a reward. Only those who have been redeemed from the curse can perform such works, for their works are done in the Spirit and are thus Christ's works being done in them. So God sees not their works as being done in their flesh, but sees Christ doing the work.
Php 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
7. This in no way glorifies man, for he can do no perfect works. All he does outside of Christ in damnation to himself. The only way he gets into Christ is first through the covenant into the Church, and then by God's divine election, which is unfailing and unto life eternal, ordained for the elect from before the foundation of the world. This is a great mystery, the depth of which God alone understands.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
8. Those who are baptized into the covenant and are given the mysterious gift of perseverance will indeed persevere unto the end in good works, thus receiving the inheritance of eternal life promised to faithful covenant keeping children. This is the mystery of God, which we can neither know fully nor speculate upon with any great assurance for ourselves. It is the sin of presumption for any man to say that he is absolutely assured that he is among the elect of God. We are called to be faithful and work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
9. Since men in the covenant can and do perform good works not only from the right motivation of the Holy Spirit within, but also from the wrong motivation of working in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. It is entirely possible that we may see men doing good who are to be damned, for their works come from the wrong source, i.e. their fleshly desires not to be punished. But since we cannot see another's heart, it is dangerous to judge the reasons for another man's works unless we can see clear, present, ongoing, and unrepented of breaking of the Law of God,which we know from Scripture is a work of the flesh.
CONCLUSION: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS
THE NEW ISRAEL -- HEBREWS 9
So far I have mostly talked about one's personal covenant with God and how that brings us into the kingdom. There is a real confusion, however, in the minds of most Evangelicals and Calvinists which needs to be addressed.
Heb 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
This is the corporate covenant of Yom Kippur, made once a year by the High PriestALONE!! No other priest dared to enter the Holy of Holies where this was done, lest he be immediately struck dead. The High Priest offered for himself and for the people, which is a way of saying, for the nation of Israel as a whole. The offering of Yom Kippur was done not complete until the High Priest returned out of the Temple alive. When he returned, it was known of the people that the covenant was renewed for another year. The sacrifice had done its job, the covenant was renewed and God's judgement against the people for their corporate sins was held in abeyance.
Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come,by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
Please look at the language here. What is Christ acting as? High Priest. What is locale. The heavenly tabernacle? And to what purpose?
Heb 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these;but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
Heb 26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Evangelicals right here make a HUGE mistake in understanding by trying to apply this "once for all" language of the corporate covenant to the individual. This is why the Evangelical and Calvinist churches not only do not understand the need for the Mass, but accuse Catholics of "recrucifying Christ", which is simply not true.
This sacrifice is Yom Kippur. It is done for the covenantal nation. And because it is done in Christ's Blood, it is permanent. All covenants are conditional, but because, unlike the blood of bulls, goats, and lambs, which are not eternal and holy, Christ's Blood is eternal and holy, the covenant is permanently kept. There is no ability for anyone, even the few scoundrel Popes who have infested the Church, to break that covenant because God is dealing with an entirely new and better covenantal Head ó Christ Jesus and His permanent and unfailing corporate sacrifice done on behalf of His Bride. He cannot fail. He, and not the Pope is the ultimate corporate Head of the Church (which truth the Catholic Church recognizes in their catechism)
So the only thing left to prove is that the Yom Kippur done in Heaven, establishing the corporate covenant with God permanently, was done on behalf of the Church and not Israel. There are those who insist that the promises made to Israel were "for ever," but they fail to remember that even "for ever" is conditioned, covenantally, upon the faithfulness of the recipients. Israel failed. She broke the covenant numerous times until finally God divorced Her, which was His right to do in a covenant, and married the Church. Since Christ is the Church (the Body of Christ analogy), His own corporate covenant cannot fail. The Yom Kippur He did for the Church cannot fail. The Blood is still upon the altar, pleading for the corporate sins of the people as a one time sacrifice, just like it says in Hebrews above.
Go to Matthew 21: 33-46 and you will find the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen. In this parable, Christ tells of the owner (God) of the vineyard (the kingdom) who sent His servants (the prophets) to check on the progress of the husbandmen (national Israel). The husbandmen beat the servants and sent them away. Finally, the owner sent His Son, saying that they will reverence my Son. And they killed Him.
Notice what happens next. The owner casts out and destroys these miserable husbandmen, and brings in "another nation" which will bring to him fruits in due season. That nation, the "new nation" of 1 Peter 2:9 is the Church. Compare these verses:
Ex 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
This is replacement language. God identifies the Church by the same terms He used in identifying Israel. If you can make the Blood of Christ fail to do its job, then you can restore Israel like the premillenialists insist shall happen. Yom Kippur has been performed. The Church has taken the place of Israel, and because of the eternal nature of Christ's Blood, the Church can never fail and her corporate covenant can never be broken.©2000, "Covenantal Salvation", written by Edward A. Hara. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.