Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 10, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: John Owen

If the death and oblation of Jesus Christ (as a sacrifice to his Father) doth sanctify all them for whom it was a sacrifice; doth purge away their sin; redeem them from wrath, curse, and guilt; work for them peace and reconciliation with God; procure for them life and immortality; bearing their iniquities and healing all their diseases; – then died he only for those that are in the event sanctified, purged, redeemed, justified, freed from wrath and death, quickened, saved, etc.; but that all are not thus sanctified, freed, etc., it is most apparent: and, therefore, they cannot be said to be the proper object of the death of Christ.  The supposal was confirmed before; the inference is plain from Scripture and experience, and the whole argument (if I mistake not) solid)…

And though perhaps the word many itself be not sufficient to restrain the object of Christ’s death unto some, in opposition to all, because many is sometimes placed absolutely for all, as Rom 5:19, yet these manybeing described in other places to be such as it is most certain all are not, so it Christ, John 10:15; the “children of God that were scattered abroad,” chap 21:52; those whom our Savior calleth “brethren,” Heb 2:11 “the children that God gave him,” which were “partakers of flesh and blood,” verses 13, 14; and frequently, “those who were given unto him of his Father,” John 17:2, 6, 9, 11, who should certainly be preserved; the “sheep” whereof he was the “Shepherd, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” Heb 13:20; his “elect,” Rom 8:33; and his “people,” Matt 1:21; farther explained to be his “visited and redeemed people, Luke 1:68; even the people which he “foreknew,” Rom 11:2; even such a people as he is said to have had at Corinth before their conversion; his people by election, Acts 18:10; the people that he “suffered for without the gate, that he might sanctify them,” Heb 13:12; his “church, which he redeemed by his own blood,” Acts 20:28, which “he loved and gave himself for” Eph 5:25; the “many whose sins he took away, Heb 9:28, with whom he made a covenant, Dan 9:27.  Those many being thus described, and set forth with such qualifications as by no means are common to all, but proper only to the elect, do most evidently appear to be all and only those that are chosen of God to obtain eternal life through the offering and blood-shedding of Jesus Christ.  Many things are here excepted with much confidence and clamour, that may easily be removed.  And so you see the end of the death of Christ, as it is set out in the Scriptures.

John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 9, 2008

Canons of the Council of Orange – Canons 16-20

THE CANONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE (529 AD)

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, “For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal. 2:21); and “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else “even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:29).

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which “has been poured into our hearts” not by freedom of will from our own side but “through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?

CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 6, 2008

Warning the Internet is not the Church

Spiritual growth outside of the Church is impossible.

 

A great article can be found here…and an excerpt as follows:

 

…The gospel is good news. The message determines the medium. There is a clear logic to Paul’s argument in Romans 10, where he contrasts “the righteousness that is by works” and “the righteousness that is through faith.” We were redeemed by Christ’s actions, not ours; the Spirit applies this redemption to us here and now so that we are justified through faith apart from works; even this faith is given to us through the proclamation of Christ. Since this gospel is a report to be believed rather than a task for us to fulfill, it needs heralds, ambassadors, and witnesses.

The method of delivery is suited to its content. If the central message of Christianity were how to have your best life now or become a better you, then we wouldn’t need heralds, but rather life coaches, spiritual directors, and motivational speakers. Good advice requires a person with a plan; good news requires a person with a message. This is not to say that we do not also need good advice or plans, but that the source of the church’s existence and mission in this world is this announcement of God’s victory in Jesus Christ.

Coaches can send themselves with their own suggestions, but an ambassador has to be sent with an authorized announcement. If the goal is to get people to go and find Christ, then the methods will be whatever we find pragmatically successful; if it’s all about Christ finding sinners, then the methods are already determined. Simply quoting verses 13-15 reveals the logical chain of Paul’s argument: “‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” The evangel defines evangelism; the content determines the methods of delivery; the marks of the church (preaching and sacrament) define its mission (evangelizing, baptizing, teaching, and communing).

The marks of the true church are the proper preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, and discipline. The mission of the church is simply to execute these tasks faithfully. Throughout the Book of Acts, the growth of the church is attributed to the proclamation of the gospel: “The word of God spread.” Waking the dead, this gospel proclamation is not only the content but the method. Those who believed were baptized along with their whole household. They were not simply added to the conversion statistics, but to the church-the visible church, which is no more visible in this world than when it is gathered around the Lord’s Table in fellowship with their ascended head. Furthermore, the apostles and elders-and, by Acts 6, the deacons-served the church as officers representing Christ’s threefold office of Prophet, King, and Priest…

…In this way, Christ makes himself not only the gift, but the giver; not only the object of faith, but the active agent, together with the Spirit, in giving us faith. And he not only gives us this faith in the beginning, but deepens, matures, and increases our faith throughout our lives. The gospel is not something that we need to “get saved” so that we can move on to something else; it is “the power of God unto salvation” throughout our pilgrimage. So we need this gospel to be delivered to us regularly, both for our justification and our sanctification…

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 3, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: Louis Berkhof

The Principium Cognoscendi Externum is God’s special revelation.  The knowledge which God desires that we should have of Him is conveyed to us by means of the revelation that is now embraced in Scripture.  Originally God revealed Himself in creation, but through the blight of sin that original revelation was obscured.  Moreover, it was entirely insufficient in the condition of things that obtained after the fall.  Only God’s self-revelation in the Bible can now be considered adequate.  It only conveys a knowledge of God that is pure, that is, free from error and superstition, and that answers to the spiritual needs of fallen man.  Because it has pleased God to embody His special revelation in Scripture for the time being, this, in the words of Bavinck, has the character of a “causa efficiens intrumentalis of theology.”  It is now the prinicipum unicum, from which the theologian must derive his theological knowledge.  Some are inclined to speak of God’s general revelation as a second source; but this is hardly correct in view of the fact that nature can come into consideration here only as interpreted in the light Scripture.  Kuyper warns against speaking of Scripture, or God’s special revelation, as the fons theologiae, since the word fons has rather definite meaning in scientific study.  It denotes in general a certain object of study which is in itself passive, but which embodies  certain ideas, and from which man must, by means of scientific study, extract or elicit knowledge.  The use of that word in this connection is apt to give the impression that man must place himself above Scripture, in order to discover or elicit from these the knowledge of God, while as a matter of fact this is not the case.  God does not leave it to man to discover the knowledge of Him and of divine things, but actively and explicitly conveys this to man by means of His self-revelation.  This same idea was later on also stressed by Schaeder and Barth, namely, that in the study of theology God is never the object of some human subject, but is always Himself the subject.  We should bear in mind that the word ‘ principium,’ as we use it in theology, has a casual signification, just as the corresponding Hebrew and Greek words do in the Bible, when it speaks of the fear of the Lord as the principle (reshith) of wisdom (Ps. 111:10) or knowledge (Prov 1:7), and of Christ as the principle (arche) of creation and of the resurrection (Col 1:18; Rev 3:14).  By means of His self-revelation God communicates the requisite knowledge of Himself and of divine things to man.  Man can know God only because and in so far as God actively reveals Himself.  And if we do speak of Scripture as the fountain-head of theology, we shall have to remember that it is a living fountain from which God causes the streams of knowledge to flow, and that we have but to appropriate these.  The same point should be borne in mind, when we follow the common custom in speaking of God’s special revelation as the source of theology.  Man cannot place himself above his object in theology; he cannot investigate God.

 

Louis Berkhof, The Idea and History of Dogmatic Theology   

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 2, 2008

Canons of the Council of Orange – Canons 11-15

THE CANONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE (529 AD)

CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is written, “Of thy own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14).

CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.

CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, “Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us” (Ps. 79:8), and again, “My God in his steadfast love will meet me” (Ps. 59:10).

CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed, but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other, according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10).

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 27, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: John Owen

The second rank contains those place which lay down the actual accomplishment and effect of this oblation, or what it doth really produce and effect in and towards them for whom it is an oblation.  Such are Heb 9:12, 14, “By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us…The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living  God.”  Two things are here ascribed to the blood of Christ; on referring to God, “It obtains eternal redemption;” the other respecting us, “It purgeth our consciences from dead works:” so that justification with God, by procuring for us an eternal redemption from the guilt of our sins and his wrath due unto them with sanctification in ourselves (or, as it is called, Heb 1:3, a “purging our sins”), is the immediate product of that blood by which he entered into the holy place, of that oblation which, through the eternal Spirit, he presented unto God.  Yea, this meritorious purging his ascension:  Heb 1:3, “When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” and again, most expressly, chap 9:26, “He hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself:” which expiation, or putting away of sin by the way of sacrifice, must needs be the actual sanctification of them for whom he was a sacrifice, even as “the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh,” verse 13.

Certain it is, that whosoever was either polluted or guilty, for whom there was an expiation and sacrifice allowed in those carnal ordinances, “which had a shadow of good things to come,” had truly; – first, A legal cleansing and sanctifying, to the purifying of the flesh; and, secondly, Freedom from the punishment which was due to the breach of the law, as it was the rule of conversation to God’s people: so much his sacrifice carnally accomplished for him that was admitted thereunto.  Now, these things being but “shadows of good things to come,” certainly the sacrifice of Christ did effect spiritually, for all them for whom it was a sacrifice, whatever the other could typify out; that is, spiritual cleansing by sanctification, and freedom from the guilt of sin: which the places produced to evidently prove.  Now, whether this be accomplished in all and for them all, let all that are able judge…

…Christ, then, so bare our iniquities by his death, that, by virtue of the stripes and afflictions which he underwent in his offering himself for us, this is certainly procured and effected, that we should go free, and not suffer any of those things which he underwent for us.  To which, also, you may refer all those places which evidently hold out a commutation in this point of suffering between Christ and us:  Gal 3:13, “He delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;”

John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 26, 2008

Canons of the Council of Orange – Canons 6-10

THE CANONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE (529 AD)

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to come to a successful end or persevere in good works.

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 20, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: Louis Berkhof

God is the Principium Essendi.  This is equivalent to saying that all our knowledge of God has its origin in God Himself.  God possesses a complete and in every way perfect knowledge of Himself.  He knows Himself in the absolute sense of the word, not only as He is related to His creatures, nor merely in His diversified activities and their controlling motives, but also in the unfathomable depths of His essential Being.  His self-consciousness is perfect and infinite; there is no sub-conscious life in Him, no subliminal region of unconscious mentality.  And of that absolute, perfectly conscious self-knowledge of God, the knowledge which man has of the divine Being is but a faint and creaturely copy or imprint.  All human knowledge of God is derived from Him, Matt 11:27; 1 Cor 2:10 f.  And because there can be no knowledge of God in man apart from self-consciousness in God, Pantheism spells death for all theology.  It is impossible to deduce a conscious creature from an unconscious God, a creature that knows God from a God that does not know Himself.  We can find the principium of our theology only in a personal God, perfect in self-consciousness, as He freely, consciously, and truly reveals Himself.

 

Louis Berkhof, The Idea and History of Dogmatic Theology

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 19, 2008

Council of the Canons of Orange – Canons 1-5

THE CANONS OF THE COUNCIL OF ORANGE (529 AD)

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 14, 2008

What is the nature of the kingdom of God? (Lesson 7: Question 3 Answer)

3. If being born again is a pre-requisite to entering the kingdom of God, what does this suggest about the nature of this kingdom?

 

 

As we continue to consider the discourse that our Lord engaged in with Nicodemus, we want to explore the implications it has on our understanding of the kingdom of God.  Although, not the primary emphasis of the discussion, the kingdom of God is at least a consequence of our Lord’s teaching here.  Thus, the discussion at least implicitly has some implications on how we define the nature of God’s kingdom.  In this task we will be focusing on the following verses of the text:

3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

 

There are divergent opinions in the Church about the nature of the kingdom of God.  As noted previously in our treatment of Christ as king the author’s views on this issue have evolved in hopes of becoming more consistent with all the biblical testimony on the matter.  The verses of concern in this particular text are indicative of the primarily spiritual nature that the kingdom of God has in this present evil age.  This seems to be fairly evident since the condition of regeneration is required prior to entering or even seeing the kingdom of God, according to our Lord.  Thus, in formulating a view of the kingdom of God it should be heavily influenced by this notion that the kingdom of God is distinct from this present evil age.

Initially, it would be appropriate for us to consider the concept of the kingdom of God to Nicodemus during his time in the nation of Israel.  The theocratic nation of Israel as an earthly institution was the kingdom of God in this world where the cult (religious) and culture (state) were ruled under the law of God. This kingdom occupied the territory of Palestine where the Davidic King who was God’s anointed ruled from Zion.  Upon Israel’s obedience to the stipulations of the Sinaitic covenant the Lord would bless this kingdom causing its enemies to flee before them (Deuteronomy 28:7).  As they brought the entire Promised Land under the dominion of God’s rule, expelling the wicked and maintaining holiness they served typologically as the kingdom in the age to come.  Nonetheless, Israel never achieved this obedience, the Davidic line failed to enforce the covenant and they were exiled from the Promised Land.  Although, the theocracy did not endure God promised a restoration to Israel and they accordingly returned to the land of promise.  The restoration of the theocracy, however, would elude them until the coming of the Messiah. 

It was perceived in Israel during this time that when the Messiah arrived the Davidic dynasty would be reinstated and the earthly institution would be reestablished (Amos 9:11-15).  This expectation would not be fulfilled as it was the Lord’s plan to send the Messiah as a suffering servant (Isaiah 53) who would accomplish redemption (John 17:4-5) instead.  The explanation of this “unexpected” coming and subsequent promised return has been manifested by three different types of eschatological views.  These three different eschatological views can be categorized into three different headings an under realized eschatology, an over realized eschatology and the biblical view of eschatology. It is not the intent of this study to perform an in depth examination of each of these views, however, we will seek to summarize the strengths and weaknesses relative to a biblical view of the kingdom of God.

Under realized eschatology

An under realized eschatology is best represented by pre-millenarians, especially the Dispensational version.  Essentially they are anticipating the same thing that Israel was expecting 2000 years ago.  This will be manifested by the return of Christ to the physical land of Palestine who will assume the throne of David in Zion.  His rule will last for 1000 years on the earth and will be a restoration of the theocracy where cult and culture are ruled by God’s law.  The present age, known as the Church age, is just a parenthesis until God fulfills in a strict literal sense His promises to Israel.  The kingdom of God in this scheme is entirely in the future and will commence upon Christ’s return. 

The strength of this view is that it takes the biblical material seriously that suggests that we do not live in the age to come, however, are living presently in an evil age.  Also, this view properly views the full consummation of the kingdom of God arriving in a cataclysmic event in lieu of a gradual or incremental realization.  Nonetheless, it has several weaknesses especially the Dispensational version of the view summarized as follows:

  •      It misunderstands the redemptive historical purpose of the nation of Israel, which was typological in nature.  It wrongly identifies the Church as the parenthesis in lieu of the nation of Israel.  This incorrect understanding stems primarily due to an inaccurate view of the covenants revealed in the Bible.
  •      The hyper literalistic hermeneutic also persuades them to conclude that the kingdom of God is not currently present on the earth in any form.  It must await the return of Christ to have any presence in our age, remaining only spiritually in heaven.  Chafer would even go so far as saying that Christ is currently not a king8  
  •       It’s hyper literalistic hermeneutic applied to the Scriptures emphasizes that God’s promise was to give the physical land of Palestine to Israel, in lieu of the heavenly Canaan.  When Christ returns they indicate that the theocratic government will resume, as it was revealed in the Mosaic Law, including the resumption of the sacrificial system.

There are many difficulties with the hyper literalistic hermeneutic employed in this view, which leads to most of the incorrect positions.  This is especially evident in its understanding of the theocratic nation of Israel.  Although this view is correct in concluding that the kingdom of God in this age is spiritual, to say that it is not present in this age and Christ in no manner whatsoever is ruling in this age is problematic (Acts 17:7; Mark 1:14-15).  Since the kingdom of God has in some sense been established on earth, this view must be rejected.

Over realized eschatology

An over realized eschatology is best represented by the post-millennial or transformationalist views.  Essentially the post-millennial position promotes the notion that the kingdom of God has been realized, since Christ’s ascension.  Most modern post-millennialist, similar to transformationalist, believe that the kingdom of God will have gradual success overtime until the entire world will be under the dominion of the kingdom of God.  The goal of Christianity in this age is to advance the kingdom of God into all aspects of the culture.  Thus, kingdom work is defined as any effort to transform the culture for Christ ranging from politics, business, education, entertainment, and social action.  Although there are certainly slight variations amongst this group, they would all be unified in the notion that the role of the kingdom of God is to expand and take dominion over the created order until Christ returns.  An extreme form of this is seen in theonomy, which seeks to bring all of life (cult and culture) under the law of God as expressed in the Pentateuch (except for the sacrificial system).

The strength of this view is that it takes seriously Christ’s ascension and corrects the error of the previous in acknowledging that Christ is currently king (Matthew 28:18-20; Revelation 1:5).  However, this strength ultimately turns into a weakness and its reaction overcompensates for the errors of Dispensationalism.  The main weaknesses can be summarized as follows:

  •       Its desire to emphasize the establishment of the kingdom of God and advance the kingdom in all aspects of life does not account for the spiritual nature that the kingdom has in this age.  Rather than taking dominion over the world the New Testament characterizes the life of the Christian in this age as exiles, sojourners or pilgrims.  These two principles are fundamentally opposed to each other.
  •      The already and not yet nature of the kingdom of God in this age derived from apparently competing biblical passages (Matthew 6:10; Matthew 4:17) is not dealt with.  This view emphasizes only the already aspect of the kingdom being imminent, manifested in its idea that the Church will dominate and be successful.  This does not take into account the biblical notion that in this age we suffer for the name of Christ.
  •      The view that the kingdom will be realized incrementally does not conform to the biblical passages that report this transformation will be instantaneous instead.  This most probably stems from confusion over the role the Church plays in cult and culture during this age.  It incorrectly sees continuity with the theocratic nation of Israel’s charge to purge evil out of land, which is thought to be normative for the Church in this age.
  •       An undeveloped doctrine of common grace seems to be responsible for this views desire to classify kingdom work beyond the limits of the Church.  The desire to credit God’s sovereignty and grace with the benefits realized in society is confused with finding its source from the kingdom work transforming culture for the good.  This is a confusion of the roles that common grace and special grace serve, which should be differentiated.

The roots of this view go deep into the history of Christianity where the role of the Church or individual Christian was confused.  This led to many grievous sins committed in the name of the Church or Christianity in Europe during the Middle Ages.  As a former proponent of this view it is our belief that many of the modern proponents of this view are simply reacting to the popularity of Dispensationalism and simply overcorrect their errors arriving at the opposite extreme.  However, as noted above there are several formidable reasons that make this view problematic including the spiritual nature of the kingdom in this age inferred by our passage.  It is difficult to affirm this view and still affirm the Beatitudes of our Lord (Matthew 5:1-12).

Two kingdoms

The solution to the errors or weaknesses found in the above mentioned positions, we believe is found in the two kingdoms model.  Essentially, the two kingdoms view rests upon two different biblical covenants.  These two covenants are the Noahic and the Abrahamic, which are different in nature as summarized in the following;

  •      Noahic:  This covenant is made with all of creation, thus it is common to all.  God promises not to destroy the earth by means of a flood and to restore the natural order of the seasons.  The benefits of rain and sun will be common to all for the blessing and sustenance of life to continue.  God also entrusts the state with the power of the sword to administer justice on the earth.  Thus, we conclude from the mandate to the state and the blessings of common grace that they are universal to all and for the benefit of all creation. 
  •      Abrahamic:  This covenant unlike the Noahic is selective in the extent that it applies not to all humanity, but is specifically limited to Abraham and his seed.  The benefits of this covenant are redemptive in nature categorized under the label of special grace as opposed to common grace in the Noahic.  Although the promise includes the benefits of being a blessing to all the families of the earth, this is further defined later in the New Testament to mean the salvation of the Gentiles from every tribe, nation and tongue.   

The kingdoms of this world have been granted authority by God to administer justice within the culture (Romans 13:1-7).  Moreover, the gifts of science, education, music, medicine and other cultural benefits are produced by the natural man endowed by his Creator.  The people of God who comprise the citizenship of His kingdom are pilgrims in this world and live peaceably under the rule of the state (or are otherwise persecuted) and participate in the benefits of common grace.  This is evident from the life of Abraham who according to our passage, met the condition of entering into the kingdom of God in being regenerate, yet he lived as a sojourner in the kingdom of this world looking forward to the age to come (Hebrews 11:8-10). 

This distinction between cult and culture, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world have been normative for mankind since the fall.  The only unique circumstance where God initiated the elimination of this distinction was the theocratic nation of Israel where the cult and culture was ruled under one kingdom.  This is not to say that this one distinction has not been perverted by man where the one kingdom model has been employed.  In the past this is seen in “Christianized” Europe during the Middle Ages and presently is manifested in the religion of Islam.  However, once theocratic Israel was brought to cessation this assimilated rule of cult and culture will not resume in God’s kingdom until the age to come, which is what Israel foreshadowed.  It is our contention that this view finds overwhelming support from the biblical text, which also makes the other paradigms problematic. 

When John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod, he doubted if Jesus was the Messiah to come who would restore God’s earthly kingdom.  The physical evidence pointed against the fact that the kingdom of God was at hand.  Nonetheless, our Lord’s response to John did not appeal to the imminent overthrow of the Roman Empire, but to spiritual signs and wonders performed in his midst (Matthew 11:1-6).  Thus, we submit that the presence of the kingdom of God on earth in this present age will be manifested in a spiritual manner, not physical.  We look not to the things seen (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) or seek the ordinary signs of a worldly kingdom to identify the kingdom of God.  In this age the kingdom is primarily concerned with the salvation of sinners, transferring them from the dominion of darkness into the spiritual kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13-14).  This is why we are referred to as aliens and exiles (1 Peter 1:2) in the world, which still remains under the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). 

Although there remains the blessing of God’s common grace that restrains evil and maintains a relative peace and order, the worldly system will see corruption falling under the influence and control of the evil one.  In instances where this perversion of justice is systemic the seed of the serpent will war against the seed of the woman and persecute her.  However, our response is not to call down thunder from the heavens (Luke 9:51-56) nor to take up arms and fight.  Our response is to take up our cross (Luke 9:23-27) and not repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).  We are to endure these suffering for we know that this world is passing away (1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31).  Before the end, however, the kingdoms of this world will rise up against each other and we will be persecuted (Luke 21:10-12).  This is a quite different picture than the global supremacy of the Church prior to our Lord’s return as the post-millenarian would suggest.  Our Lord likened the days of His return to the time of the flood or Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:20-37), which were periods of great wickedness and depravity.

It is evident from the testimony of the Scriptures that the Church in this age is not going to be the bastion of the successful, the powerful, the famous, nor the wise.  The more appropriate depiction is that of the pilgrim dwelling in a foreign land until we have been called home to that eternal city.  Yet, we are not helpless during our temporary stay, but have been equipped with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).  Those who call on the name of the Lord, who have been entrusted as stewards of the heavenly faith on earth, are nourished during their journey with Word and Sacrament.  These signs are the evidence that the kingdom of God does have presence on this earth, despite what the Dispensationalist would say.  The preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments are the in breaking of the age to come on this present evil age.  They sustain the redeemed of our Lord who are citizens of the heavenly city and have been spiritually reborn, yet dwell on earth in the Church.       

In conclusion, we concede that we were barely able to scratch the surface on this significant topic, which has such a great influence over our faith and practice.  Nonetheless, it is our contention that a biblical view of the kingdom of God in this age will be marked by the following:

  •      Although the kingdom of God is present in this age, it is a spiritual kingdom concerned with spiritual things.  Essentially the Church is the kingdom of God on earth entrusted with the signs of the kingdom (Word and Sacrament) and comprised of the spiritually re-born citizens of the heavenly country.
  •      The realm of culture is not under the control or jurisdiction of the Church or the kingdom of God in this age.  These are distinct kingdoms, however under the sovereign control of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  •      The transformation of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our God and of His Christ will be a cataclysmic event at the consummation of the age.  In the age to come the realms of cult and culture will once again be under the dominion of the kingdom of God.  All those who do not met the condition to enter this kingdom, namely be born again, will not dwell within this kingdom.  They will be cast out of the heavenly Jerusalem with the dogs and suffer eternal torment.  

  

Thus, we submit that the two kingdoms model provides the most accurate reflection of what the Scriptures teach.  It provides the proper balance that is lost in the other paradigms, providing the proper perspective for the Christian life. 

8 Keith A Mathison, Dispensationalism Rightly Dividing the People of God? (Phillipsburg, NJ, P&R, 1995) p 111

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