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Covenant Theology discuss When did the new covenant "start" biblically in the Theology forums; I have been asked this question. If I asked you when the covenant with Abraham was enacted, you could show me. You could do so ...

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    ReformedWretch's Avatar
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    When did the new covenant "start" biblically

    I have been asked this question.

    If I asked you when the covenant with Abraham was enacted, you could show me. You could do so with the covenants with Moses and David as well. Can you do this with the new covenant?

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    I would say that the administration of the New Covenant began at Pentecost (Acts 2).
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    I would be more apt to say that you can't really nail down an exact time, or at least I can't. I'm more comfortable saying that Christ's death and resurrection, the institution of baptism, the Lord's supper, and the great commission, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost are all beginning elements of the New Covenant. It is also helpful to remember that this period of time is a time of transition, so perhaps the better question to ask is when did the transition begin to take place. Could it have been Christ's baptism? (just a thought)

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    When God took animal skins and clothed Adam and Eve.

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    Well, I told him that it started at Pentecost (as this was my original thought) and here was the response.

    Lk. 22:20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

    But I didn't ask the question to debate the timing of enactment. I was just curious as how you saw it based on your comments that the covenant confirmed in Dan. 9:27 was this covenant.

    How can a covenant that has not been enacted yet, get confirmed? To strengthen or verify a covenant, doesn't there have to be more than a prediction of a covenant?

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    Originally posted by Saiph
    When God took animal skins and clothed Adam and Eve.



    Calling all covenant theologians.....????

    [Edited on 10-25-2004 by webmaster]
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    I also agree that it was much earlier than the NT. It just became a fuller reality in the NT.

    Is the new covenant really 'new' and if it is, what is it's name?

    We have the covenant of redemption, works, grace and then what?



    [Edited on 10-25-2004 by Scott Bushey]
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    Has anybody read the Federal Vision yet? I am reading James Jordan's essay at the moment, "Merit or Maturity?" From what I can gather, he is arguing that there was no covenant of works with Adam; rather, Adam was to mature to a point where he would then rightly eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in order to banish the Serpent from the world. Again, there is much more to his argumentation than this.
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    Originally posted by Saiph
    When God took animal skins and clothed Adam and Eve.
    If the Covenant of Grace was being referenced, I would totally agree. However, I took the topic of this thread to be referring rather to the New Covenant, which is an administration of the Covenant of Grace, just as the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants were. In reference to the New Covenant in particular, I'm basically with Craig.
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    Were not all Biblical covenants initiated with a sacrifice?

    Then the New Covenant was initiated at the crucifixion of Christ, hence the tearing of the veil.

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    " For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
    For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
    Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood".Hebrews 9:16,17,18

    It started at the cross.
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    Jacob,

    Unfortunately, I am very familiar with the Federal Vision. IMHO, James Jordan is a nut. He argues that Joesph not Moses wrote Genesis. Jordan has all kinds of wacky ideas. I am not surprised he denies the Covenant of Works.
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    I still don't know what to think about Jordan, as of yet. I was at Auburn Avenue this morning and expressed my doubts about his article and they told me, "We understand if you don't accept his arguments; most people don't."
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    Originally posted by Saiph
    When God took animal skins and clothed Adam and Eve.
    Interesting. Could some one expound on this view?
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    The New Covenant is a fuller expression of the C.O.G (Gen 3:15), fulfilled in Christ. The New covenant is not new in the way one might understand new. This erred understanding is at best dispensational.

    [Edited on 10-27-2004 by Scott Bushey]
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    Ah.
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    If the blood of bulls and goats do not save - then what made the sacrifices of the OT efficacious for imputation of sin?

    Answer: the Cross of Christ.

    If that is the case - and it is is - then how can we say the "cross began with the tearing of the veil??"

    If we do say it began at that time, then we will have to come up with a brand new way of interpreting the OT sacrificial system and discard everything the church thought (and the book of Hebrews teaches) concerning Christ's sacrifice.

    Animals skins don't save. Only animal skins recieved with a foresight to Genesis 4:1 "behold I have brought forth the man." and ultiamte to Genesis 3:15 save. That emans Christ's cross is not restricted by the half dimension of time, but is regarded as effectual through infinite application to various stages of time in general. The corss is not one dimensional, it is multi faceted in this respect (a designation I call "the continuum of God").
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    Phillip said:


    Were not all Biblical covenants initiated with a sacrifice?
    and...


    Then the New Covenant was initiated at the crucifixion of Christ, hence the tearing of the veil.
    For the most part, this seems to have been overlooked. Wonder why?

    Also, can someone show exegetically that Adam and Eve were covered with the skins of animals that God sacrificed and made?

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    Genesis 3:21

    But the making of animal skin clothing did not initiate the New Covenant. The making of animal skins covered the nakedness and shame of Adanm and Eve and pointed to Christ's sacrifice on the cross. It also established the principle of the shedding of blood for the remission of sins.

    But the New Covenant is the New Covenant in Christ's blood, and therefore could not have been initiated until His blood was shed. Luke 22:20; Hebrews 10:11-18.

    Confusing the covenants and failing to see the New Covenant as a covenant in its own right leads to all sorts of answers other that the answer Scripture provides. Every covenant in the Bible between God and men was initiated with a sacrifice. What blood was shed to initiate the New Covenant? Christ's. Let's not get ahead of ourselves in an attempt to defend a systematic against simple truth.

    Read through Hebrews 8-10 and watch the steps that take place from the Old to the New Covenant - and it is all centered around the cross. There Christ etsablished the New and made the Old obsolete.

    (see especially Heb 9:15-16)

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    Scott Bushey's Avatar
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    When did the covenant of grace begin?
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    Originally posted by houseparent
    I have been asked this question.

    If I asked you when the covenant with Abraham was enacted, you could show me. You could do so with the covenants with Moses and David as well. Can you do this with the new covenant?
    Adam,

    Has anyone recommended "The Christ of the Covenants" by O. Palmer Robertson to you yet? If not, allow me to be the first. I think it will answer many of the questions you just asked.

    As for me, I believe the New Covenant began at the cross. However, the Covenant of Grace began at the Fall. I do believe the New Covenant is part of the Covenant of Grace.
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    Seth,
    Please tell me what is new about the new covenant? Is the effectiveness of the cross different for the old testament saint?
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    Perhaps what some people are trying to get at is that the New Covenant was fully revealed at the Cross, even though it was enacted at the same time as the Covenant of Grace. In this respect, it is different from the other administrations of the Covenant of Grace, since all of them (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic) were enacted and fully revealed simultaneously, whereas since it was the final and complete revelation and administration of the Covenant of Grace, it was not fully revealed until long after it was initially enacted.
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    Originally posted by Me Died Blue
    Perhaps what some people are trying to get at is that the New Covenant was fully revealed at the Cross, even though it was enacted at the same time as the Covenant of Grace.
    The C.O.G. is the new covenant..........At least, thats the historic orthodox belief. All of the devines who penned the WCF embraced this.
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    It has been a while since I read the Bible, but I think it mentions the lamb being slain "before the foundation of the world" if you want to get really picky about it.

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    Originally posted by Scott Bushey
    Originally posted by Me Died Blue
    Perhaps what some people are trying to get at is that the New Covenant was fully revealed at the Cross, even though it was enacted at the same time as the Covenant of Grace.
    The C.O.G. is the new covenant..........At least, thats the historic orthodox belief. All of the devines who penned the WCF embraced this.
    I'm basically thinking along the lines of Matt's chart, which shows the Covenant of Grace as being the covenant made after the Fall, with various administrations, the last and most fully revealed of which is the New Covenant. Furthermore, in WCF.VII, the Covenant of Grace is spoken of as being differently administered in the time of law, called the Old Testament, and the time of gospel, called the New Testament. I guess I've always mentally associated the former of these with the various covenantal administrations of the Old Covenant (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic), and the latter of these with the covenantal administration of the New Covenant. Let me know if and where I'm misinterpreting something.
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    Originally posted by Scott Bushey
    Seth,
    Please tell me what is new about the new covenant? Is the effectiveness of the cross different for the old testament saint?
    What is new about the New covenant is the ending of blood sacrifices. The end of circumcision (because it is replaced by baptism). The fact that this is an everlasting covenant.

    No, the effectiveness of the cross is not different for the OT saint. That's why I say the New Covenant is part of the Covenant of Grace. What I mean by that is: In the New Covenant we are saved by grace, just like the OT saints. However, the New Covenant is in fact a new administration of the Covenant of Grace. It is different from the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. However, it is also similar to them (still saved by grace).

    I'm not arguing any kind of "dispensational" type of brand-new-covenant-that-never-existed-before. But I am saying that there is in fact a New Administration of the Covenant of Grace that began at the cross.
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    What is new about the New covenant is the ending of blood sacrifices. The end of circumcision (because it is replaced by baptism). The fact that this is an everlasting covenant.
    The elect of God have always been saved by grace, whether old or new testament. The blood sacrifices of bulls and goats were always insufficient alone. In fact, Matt has already dealt with this idea earlier in the thread:

    "If the blood of bulls and goats do not save - then what made the sacrifices of the OT efficacious for imputation of sin?

    Answer: the Cross of Christ. "

    Mark Kodak (Saiph) made mention laso that Christ was the "Lamb slain prior to the foundation of the world".

    The reason the Abrahamic covenant is an everlasting covenant is because God decreed it as such. The sign, whether it be circumcission or baptism, is that which points toward that promise. The sign, in this regard, is irrelevent. So, the sign is not new; just the way the sign is placed.



    No, the effectiveness of the cross is not different for the OT saint. That's why I say the New Covenant is part of the Covenant of Grace.
    The new covenant is something then that the OT saint never experienced...........This is not true. The consistant answer which reconciles this contradiction is the fact that the NC is noit new, it is an extension of the C.O.G, more fully revealed. It is NOT part of the C.O.G., it is the C.O.G.



    What I mean by that is: In the New Covenant we are saved by grace, just like the OT saints. However, the New Covenant is in fact a new administration of the Covenant of Grace.
    Please expound upon this statement. How is it administered? By grace? Through faith? Don't go down that road and say the sign changed as you will drive yourself into a semi Pelagian corner.....


    It is different from the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. However, it is also similar to them (still saved by grace).
    I agree.

    I'm not arguing any kind of "dispensational" type of brand-new-covenant-that-never-existed-before. But I am saying that there is in fact a New Administration of the Covenant of Grace that began at the cross.
    Please expound........

    [Edited on 10-28-2004 by Scott Bushey]
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    I have this funny feeling that we agree more than we disagree.

    I'm not trying to avoid any of the questions you asked, but maybe if I just explain a little more, it will clear some things up. If you don't think it does, let me know and I'll go back and answer your questions as directly as I can.

    First, the New Covenant (NC) is the final administration of the Covenant of Grace (COG). I think we agree on that.

    The Adamic, Abrahamic, Noahic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants were all administrations of the COG. I think we agree on that.

    I, however, believe there are things that distinguish the NC from all previous administrations of the COG. For one, blood sacrifices are no longer required. Although the blood sacrifices never saved anyone in the OT (salvation has always been of grace) they were required by the Law. Another distinction is that circumcision is no longer required under the NC. And although circumcision never saved any one in the OT (again, all of grace), it was required for the people of God.

    So, there are things that are different about the NC. It is a different administration of the COG.

    Does that clear things up?
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    Whatever view you hold regarding the Covenant of Grace you have to see that the NC was a covenant in time initiated with teh sacrifice of Christ. it is the covenant in His blood.

    The verse that says He was slain before the foundation of the world does not mean that God put Jesus up on a Cross to bleed to death before He said, "Let there be light." It means God's determined purpose was to sacrifice His Son for His people from even before the world began. The actual murder of Jesus though took place in time, at Jerusalem, as recorded in the gospels.

    Also, the New Covenant is a better covenant with better promises. The words "new" and "better" refer to a quantative difference - not a renewed covenant of the same kind, but a new, different covenant.

    I highly recommend the article in the current issue of The Reformed Baptist Theological Review by Dr. James White on The Newness of the New Covenant. His exegesis is magnifiscent. Here is part of what he wrote (available at the RBTR site Here.)

    THE NEWNESS OF THE NEW COVENANT:
    Better Covenant, Better Mediator, Better Sacrifice,Better Ministry, Better Hope, Better Promises


    James R. White[1]

    The epistle to the Hebrews embodies one of the strongest apologetic defenses of the supremacy of Christ´s work in all of the NT. The purpose of the book, its intended audience, its historical setting, and its deep use of the OT, provides a rich treasure of inspired teaching on the work of Christ, especially in his office as High Priest.

    For those who take seriously the consistency of God´s self-glorification in his establishment and continuance of the covenant of grace, through all its manifestations down through time, the discussion of the diaqh,kh kainh,, the new covenant, drawn from Jer. 31:31-34, must be given its due prominence in answering the question, "œExactly what is the nature of the covenant in the blood of Christ (Lk. 22:20; Heb. 13:20), and how does it differ from other administrations of the covenant of grace?" A full-orbed investigation into the nature of the New Covenant has led many to conclude that the "œnewness" of this covenant leads inevitably to conclusions that impact many other areas of theological inquiry. If this New Covenant is, in fact, based upon better promises, and has a better Mediator, with a better ministry, who offers a better sacrifice, resulting in a better hope, so that all those who are within the boundaries marked out by its very identification as a covenant made in the blood of Christ know him and experience the forgiveness of their sins, then it follows that such issues as covenant membership, its relationship to the external church, and our understanding of apostasy, must start with these truths. If we approach the topic backwards, beginning with traditions regarding covenant membership, signs, or a particular view of apostasy, we run a great danger of turning the direct and plain exegesis of the text of Hebrews upon its head.

    Recent Developments

    P&R Publishing released a compendium of articles edited by Gregg Strawbridge titled The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism in 2003. In this work the issue of the nature of the New Covenant comes up often and is in fact the subject of an entire chapter, written by Pastor Jeffrey D. Niell of Emmanuel Covenant Church (CRE), Phoenix, Arizona, titled "œThe Newness of the New Covenant." Pastor Niell and I co-authored a publication for Bethany House Publishers, The Same Sex Controversy, which was released in 2002. We are both graduates of the same college (both having an emphasis in the study of Greek under the same professor, one year apart from one another) and seminary, and both came into a knowledge of, and acceptance of, the doctrines of grace at the same time. He visited the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church with me before I became a member, and I was involved in his ordination. To say that we "œgo back" a long way is to make an understatement. And yet our journeys in Reformed theology have taken us to very different conclusions regarding the nature of the New Covenant, and hence to disagreement on the membership of the covenant, the nature of apostasy, and the giving of the covenant sign. It is my hope to model proper Christian disagreement between brothers, based upon a common belief in the ultimate authority of God´s Word, its perspicuity, and the over-riding need to engage in consistent exegesis of the inspired text so as to lay the only foundation upon which disagreements can be resolved.

    In this two-part article[2] we will examine the concept of the New Covenant in the context of Hebrews, focusing upon its classic expression in chapter eight, but likewise noting other passages (especially 10:10-22) that directly impact our understanding of this vital truth. We will look at the broad contextual background, specifics regarding significant textual variants, and the relevance of the theme of the "œbetter" in this section of Hebrews. Then the key passages will be exegeted. Exegesis will be followed by interpretational conclusions. Then we will respond to the presentation made by Pastor Niell, and contrast some comments offered by Richard Pratt of Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando) in his chapter in the same volume.

    Hebrews: There is Nothing to Go Back To "“ Christ is All in All

    The context of the book of Hebrews is, obviously, central to a proper understanding of such phrases as diaqh,kh kainh,, new covenant, or krei,ttonoj diaqh,khj, better covenant. This is an apologia, a defense offered in the form of an exhortation to those Hebrew Christians who would be subject to the pressures created by their cultural context. That is, the work is written to those who would hear the siren call of the old ways and, upon seeing the difficulties inherent in following Christ, be tempted to give in and "œgo back" to the old ways. The constant emphasis upon exhortation to continuance and perseverance speaks directly to this issue, and explains the format of the book´s progressive explanation of Christ´s superiority to each of the chief aspects of the "œold way" of a Judaism that stood firmly opposed to the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. By demonstrating the superiority of Christ to all aspects of the old ways, and that by arguing from the Holy Scriptures themselves, the writer to the Hebrews provides a solid foundation upon which to stand against the temptation to "œgo back." When one is truly convinced in one´s soul that Jesus Christ is superior to every aspect of the old Judaism, the heart of the temptation is removed, and the call to go back is rendered powerless.

    Any work of apologetic weight, however, must provide some kind of compelling argumentation. And when one examines a major element of such an apologetic argument, a simple question suggests itself, one that should always be asked of any interpretation offered. "œWhat is the role of this particular concept or passage in the over-all apologetic of the author? And does my interpretation strengthen, or weaken, the attempted argumentation?" This is important in examining the New Covenant concept in Hebrews, for surely it is part of the writer´s demonstration of the supremacy of the work of Christ over the "œold." If we allow deeply held traditions to influence our exegesis, so that the apologetic element of the author´s presentation of the New Covenant is compromised, we can see by this that we have erred and must "œpractice what we preach" and alter our views in accordance with our motto, semper reformanda.

    The narrative context is that of the fulfillment of the types and shadows, and in particular, those embodied in the priesthood and the sacrifices of the tabernacle, in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The author has opened and addressed numerous aspects of Christ´s superiority as High Priest, interweaving various themes around the major presentation of Christ as the one and only perfect High Priest. Practical exhortations and warnings are attached to each aspect of Christ´s priesthood as it is presented. After presenting Christ´s priesthood after the order of Mechizedek in chapter five, for example, the warnings of 6:1-8 follow, concluded by the encouragement and exhortation of 6:9-12, where we read in closing,

    And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

    The text then moves back into another demonstration of an important aspect of Christ´s superiority, in this instance moving toward the extended discussion of the supremacy of the work of the one High Priest, which forms the substance of chapters seven through ten. The discussion of the New Covenant is inextricably linked with this demonstration of the supremacy of Christ´s priesthood and salvific work (7:22-25; 9:15, 23-25; 10:10-18). It is important to follow the connections inherent in the text itself. Considering the covenant apart from such issues as Christ´s priesthood, mediation, sacrifice, and resultant salvific work, is to mis-handle the author´s words and to isolate one contextual element to the detriment of the others. Our author thinks holistically, not in the Western "œpigeon hole" style wherein doctrines and beliefs exist separately from one another and do not come together to form a coherent fabric of truth. As such, his view of the New Covenant as "œbetter" must be seen in light of the perfection of Christ´s work of mediation and every other aspect of the argument as he presents it.

    Exegetically Significant Textual Variants

    In focusing upon the description of the New Covenant in chapters eight through ten of Hebrews, we encounter two highly significant textual variants that directly impact the translation, and hence interpretation, of the text. The first is found in 8:8a, and the second involves a variant between the Massoretic Hebrew (MT) text and the Greek Septuagint (LXX). None of the other variants in the relevant passages are overly difficult to decide.[3]

    The first variant touches on whether the text is indicating that God was finding fault "œwith them," i.e., with those who had lived under the Old Covenant in the days of Jeremiah, as most translations have it, or, whether it would be better to render the text as, "œFor, finding fault [with the Old Covenant], He says to them"¦." The difference in the reading is between auvtou.j and auvtoi/j, between the accusative plural and the dative plural. While some see little difference between the readings,[4] it is important to consider the possibilities inherent in the two readings. The external data can be argued either direction,[5] and internal argumentation can go both ways as well, making it a particularly difficult variant. The NA27/UBS4 texts adopt auvtou.j, while Philip Hughes argues for auvtoi/j.[6]

    I would like to suggest that one aspect of this variant needs to be allowed consideration in the exegetical process. In Heb. 8:7 the writer uses the Greek term a;memptoj, blameless, which, of course, is merely the negation of me,myij, which in its verbal form is me,mfomai, the very term which appears at the beginning of v. 8 and which may, if we read the variant as auvtoi/j, govern the translation, as the verb me,mfomai can take its object in the dative or the accusative (hence the translations "œfinding fault with them" or "œfinding fault, he said to them"). The connection between saying the first covenant (the term diaqh,kh does not appear and is understood) was not without fault (a;memptoj) is maintained strongly by reading the dative auvtoi/j and rendering it, "œFor finding fault [with the first covenant] he says to them." The only other way to make a meaningful connection with "œfinding fault" (me,mfomai) in 8:8a is to connect it with "œfor they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them" at the end of v. 9. But the connection here is much more tenuous, both for the reason that the terminology differs substantially as well as the fact that the phrase "œI did not care for them" is a variant between the MT and the LXX (the second major variant we will examine). While this is not enough to make a firm decision, it is relevant to the statement of the writer that the first covenant was to be faulted, while the New Covenant is placed in a position of direct contrast thereto. As we will note in the exegesis, the Old Covenant was "œfaulted" in that "œthey did not continue in My covenant" hence, for the New Covenant to be superior, it would have to be inviolable, as the exegesis itself suggests. This point is strengthened if we take the dative plural auvtoi/j and read it with le,gei, "œhe says to them."

    The second major variant involves the always challenging area of differences between the Hebrew MT and the Greek LXX. It is important to note this variant, as this author has encountered Jewish apologists who refer to it as a means of attacking the veracity and accuracy of the NT text. Given the general ignorance of even trained ministers on the subject of textual criticism and the textual history of the OT, springing such a surprise (using the differing translations found in Jer. and in Heb.) can result in a very awkward, difficult situation. Though the variant seems quite major (in the sense made of the passage), in reality it is probably based upon a single letter in the Hebrew. As rendered by the NASB, the MT reads, "œ"˜My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,´ declares the LORD." However, the LXX, cited in Heb. 8:9, reads, "œ"˜for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them,´ says the LORD." The difference between "œI was a husband to them" and "œI did not care for them" could be construed as presenting a complete opposite. Now, it is true that the writer to the Hebrews does not repeat the phrase, nor base any particular statement upon it. However, it does seem that the LXX rendering could be seen as more consistent with the point being made, especially with the strong contrast between the Old and New Covenants and those who participate therein.

    But the variant can be fairly easily explained, as suggested by the textual apparatus of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. The verb "œto be a husband to" in the MT is yTil.[;îB'. One may recognize the root ba-al, here, to be master, lord, husband. But there is another verb in Hebrew, ga-al, or as it would possibly have appeared here, yTil.[;îG', which means "œto despise, abhor." The visual similarity of B with G is clear to anyone. This might explain the origination of the LXX reading. But the question arises, did the writer to the Hebrews know of the variant, and if so, would this not mean the choice of the LXX was purposeful? But if the LXX is simply the "œdefault" translation being used, one could not put any weight upon the variation. These issues go beyond our scope here, but they do touch upon a number of important passages in the New Testament.

    Better: No, Really

    When a writer repeats a particular term we must always take into consideration the possibility that he is indeed seeking to communicate a particular concept through that term. The writer to the Hebrews uses the term "œbetter" in key passages throughout his work. This is hardly surprising, in light of the fact that the writer is engaged in a comparison of the old and the new, the old law and its fulfillment in Christ. Looking at the comparative form, better, here are those things which are "œbetter" in Hebrews:

    "œhaving become as much better than the angels, as He inherited a more excellent name than they" (Heb. 1:4)

    "œWe are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation" (Heb. 6:9)

    "œand on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God" (Heb. 7:19)

    "œso much more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb. 7:22)

    "œBut now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (Heb. 8:6)

    "œTherefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these" (Heb. 9:23)

    "œBut as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one" (Heb. 11:16)

    "œWomen received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;" (Heb. 11:35)

    "œAnd all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect" (Heb 11:39, 40)

    "œand to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:24)

    The term "œbetter" can be understood in various ways. One can argue that one item in a class is "œbetter" than another item in the same class. That is, one can argue that one kind of motorcycle is superior to, better than, another kind of motorcycle. Both, however, are motorcycles by nature. Or, one could say that something is better qualitatively. One might say that a high quality diamond is better than a cubic zirconium, and such a statement would be making a comparison differentiating between the items on the ground of nature. The nature of the diamond is better than that of the cubic zirconium.

    When we look at the use of this term in Hebrews, the kind of "œbetterness" can be clearly discerned. When the writer says that Jesus is "œbetter than" the angels (1:4), is he not saying that Jesus is better than the angels qualitatively, on the level of being? Surely he is not saying that Jesus and the angels are in the same category, and Jesus is simply a better kind of angel than any others. In 6:9 the writer refers to "œbetter things concerning you, things which accompany salvation." There the distinction is between things which do not of necessity accompany salvation and things which do. Are actions which accompany salvation merely "œbetter works" than those which are non-salvific, or is there a qualitative difference? In 7:19, is the "œbetter hope" ushered in by Christ just a larger, grander hope than that provided by law, but a hope of the same kind? Could anyone truly draw near to God by means of the law? No, for "œthe Law made nothing perfect." The hope inaugurated by Christ is qualitatively different. In 11:16, when they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one, is the heavenly country of the same kind as an earthly country? Is it just better as in bigger, or brighter? Or is the heavenly country better on the level of nature and quality?

    The reason for these considerations comes into play when we consider what it means to speak of better promises, better sacrifices, and a better covenant. When Christ is said to be the guarantee of a better covenant in 7:22, is the covenant that is here described as "œbetter" merely better in the sense of being "œbigger" or "œlarger" or "œmore grand," or is it better on a substantial, qualitative basis? Does this really mean that there are just more of the elect in the "œbetter" covenant, and this is why it is "œbetter"? Or is there a more fundamental distinction? Likewise, in 8:6 the term appears twice. First, Jesus is said to be the mediator of a better covenant which is based upon better promises. This is all placed in the context of describing a "œmore excellent ministry." Is this ministry simply of the same kind as the ministry of the old priests, only, in some fashion, "œmore excellent"? Or is the point of the passage that the Messiah´s ministry, the covenant in his blood, and the promises upon which the covenant stands "“ all these things are substantially different, better, than that which came before?

    This is plainly brought out in 9:23 when the writer speaks of the "œbetter sacrifices" by which the heavenly things are cleansed. Here Christ´s sacrifice (as the following context makes plain) is said to be "œbetter" than the animal sacrifices, those of goats and bulls. Surely, at this point there can be no argument that the betterness of the sacrifice of Christ is qualitatively superior to that of the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant. His death is not just more effective or in some fashion greater than the sacrifice of a lamb or a bull. That sacrifice differs on a fundamental, foundational level. It is better by nature and definition.

    This is important to our examination of the New Covenant, for it is said to be a better covenant, with a better mediator, with better promises, based upon a better sacrifice, resulting in a better hope. So when we look at the description of the New Covenant in Heb. 8:8ff, we must see how each of these elements of the New Covenant are better than that which existed under the old administration.

    Exegesis of Hebrews 8:6-13

    The immediately preceding argument, leading to the key presentation of the New Covenant in Heb. 8:6-13, flows from the identification of Christ with the superior priesthood of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4, cited in Heb. 7:17, 21), leading to the description of Christ as the e;gguoj (guarantee/guarantor)[7] of the New Covenant, and also bringing the first use of krei,ttonoj diaqh,khj, better covenant, in 7:22, "œso much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant." Heb. 7:23-8:5 comprises a demonstration of the basis for the apologetic assertion that the New Covenant is, in fact, a better covenant (part and parcel of the purpose of the letter), one that flows from the priestly nature of Christ´s work. Heb. 7:23-25 proves this by the contrast of the mortal priests with the one priest, Jesus Christ; and 7:26-28 does so in light of the sinfulness of the many priests and hence their repeated sacrifices versus the singular sacrifice of the innocent, undefiled Christ. Heb. 8:1-6, then, provides first a summary statement of the preceding arguments (i.e., our one high priest has entered into the heavenlies) and then provides the thesis statement for the description of the superiority of the New Covenant from Jer. 31 with the assertion that Christ has obtained "œa more excellent ministry" than that of the old priests, that he is the mediator (in contrast, in context, to Moses, v. 5; Gal. 3:19; Jn. 1:17) of a "œbetter covenant" enacted on "œbetter promises." Some brief comments should be offered exegetically on these texts.

    First, Christ´s role as singular and never dying high priest, and the resulting assurance of the perfection of his work, is seen by the writer as part of the demonstration of why the covenant of which he is the guarantee is "œbetter" (7:23-25). While our English translations normally say something like, "œThe former priests existed in greater numbers" at 7:23, the literal reading is simply, "œthe priests," contrasting[8] the plural with the singular "œhe" (oi` vs. o`) in v. 24. The work of the many priests is, of necessity, imperfect, for they are "œprevented by death" from "œcontinuing" or "œabiding." But, in contrast, he "œabides forever," he is no longer subject to death. Hence, he, unlike the old priests under the Old Covenant, holds his priesthood (which has been shown to be superior in the preceding arguments) avpara,baton, permanently, or, in some sources, without successor. Both translations fit the context, for he never lays aside this priesthood, hence, it is "œpermanent" in contrast to the former priests. But likewise he has no successor in his office. The entire concept is meant to be in contrast to the old priests and their inherently temporary nature. As a result of the permanence of his priestly position,[9] Christ has an ability the old priests did not possess. He is able to save. The profundity of the words may deflect proper attention. The permanence of his life and position as high priest grants to him the ability to save. He is active in saving, and he is capable of so doing. As noted above, the soteriological content of the superiority of Christ´s work as high priest and of the New Covenant cannot be dismissed or overlooked. The extent of his salvific work is noted by the phrase eivj to. pantele.j, which can be translated "œforever" in the sense of permanence, or "œto the uttermost" in the sense of completely, similar, in fact, to avpara,baton above. Owen noted the propriety of seeing both senses in the text:

    Take the word in the first sense, and the meaning is, that he will not effect or work out this or that part of our salvation, do one thing or another that belongs unto it, and leave what remains unto ourselves or others; but "œhe is our Rock, and his work is perfect." Whatever belongs unto our entire, complete salvation, he is able to effect it. The general notion of the most that are called Christians lies directly against this truth"¦.That this salvation is durable, perpetual, eternal"¦ and there is nothing hinders but that we may take the words in such a comprehensive sense as to include the meaning of both these interpretations. He is able to save completely as to all parts, fully as to all causes, and for ever in duration.[10]

    Just as the Father´s will for the Son revealed in Jn. 6:38, 39 demands perfection in his role as Savior, so too here the very same soteriological perfection and completion is central to the work of the eternal high priest. This is brought out with strong force in the rest of the verse, for the author indicates both the object of the salvific work and the basis thereof, and both are intensely "œpriestly" statements. The singular priest saves "œthose who draw near to God through Him." This clearly harkens back to the people who drew near in worship to God in the temple, and their representative, the high priest on the day of atonement. There is specificity to the salvific work of the priest. He does not make a general plan of salvation available, he saves a specific people (cf. Matt. 1:21). And secondly, "œHe always lives to make intercession for them" points to the same perfection of the high priest. His indestructible life means he never lays aside his priestly role, hence, since the high priest interceded (evntugca,nein, Rom. 8:34) for those for whom he offered sacrifice, Christ ever lives to make intercession for those who draw near to God through him, resulting in the perfection of their salvation. The work of intercession guarantees the salvation of a specific people in this passage. This is vital to remember as we look at the key text in Heb. 8.

    Similar themes appear in Heb. 7:26-28, including the perfect character of the high priest (v. 26), which establishes another element of his supremacy over the old priests, for he does not have to offer sacrifice for his own sins, and then the sins of the people. But here also appears a concept that will be expanded upon greatly at a later point, for the author says, "œbecause this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." Self-offering is yet another aspect of what sets the priesthood of Christ apart, for obvious reasons, from the priesthood of old. The high priest presents the offering in his own body, a concept expanded upon in chapter nine. But he did so "œonce for all." The sacrifice is a singularity in time, for the author uses the temporal adverb, evfa,pax, to strongly emphasize this concept. The old priests sacrificed often for themselves, while Christ offered one sacrifice (himself) for the people.

    Chapter eight begins with a summary of the preceding argument, focusing upon the ascended Savior who has "œtaken His seat" (v. 1) in heaven itself. The writer then notes that in light of the parallels he is drawing, the heavenly Priest would need to have "œsomething to offer" (v. 3) just as the old priests did. While he would not have been a priest while on earth (v. 4), he has "œobtained a more excellent ministry" (v. 6). How is it a better ministry? And how is this related to his sacrifice, which is clearly in the preceding context (see above) as well as in that which follows? To that we now turn in exegesis.

    End of Partial Sample

    [1] James R. White, D.Min., Th.D., is an Elder at Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, Phoenix, AZ, Adjunct Professor of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and author of many books.

    [2] The second part of this article is scheduled to be printed in RBTR 2:1, January 2005.

    [3] Most of the variants in the actual citation of the LXX flow from later scribes possessing a different "œstream" of Septuagint readings and seeking harmonization on that basis. There are some interesting, but not overly relevant, variants in how the text is cited in Heb. 8 and 10, but these do not impact the exegesis.

    [4] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1994), 597, says the variant "œmakes very little difference in sense, though the latter may be construed with either memfo,menoj or le,gei."

    [5] auvtou.j is the original reading of a, A, the original reading of D, some early uncials, most early versions in other languages, and a few early Fathers. auvtoi/j is the corrected reading of a and D, and is the reading of the early papyrus p46, along with B, 1749, 1881, and is the reading of the vast bulk of later minuscule manuscripts. Metzger indicated that "œthe direction in which scribal corrections moved" determined the acceptance of auvtou.j by the UBS translation committee (Metzger, Textual Commentary, 597), but one is left wondering what factors influenced such a general "œdirectional" tendency. The conjunction of p46, B, the early correction of a, and the consideration that other ancient language translations would not necessarily reflect an understanding of the fact that me,mfomai can take its object in the dative or the accusative, seems to this writer to give a slight edge to auvtoi/j.

    [6] Philip Edgecombe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 298, 299.

    [7] e;gguoj is a hapax legomena in the NT, appearing only in the Apocryphal books of Sirach and 2 Maccabees prior to this. It has semantic connections to avrrabw.n (down payment) in Eph. 1:14, for in common secular usage it refers to providing security or a guarantee, normally in a financial or business transaction. The guarantee then of the better covenant is introduced here within the context of Christ´s superior priesthood, his indestructible life, and divine ability to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:24-35).

    [8] Using the common me.n/de. form translated "œon the one hand/on the other hand."

    [9] o[qen, "œfor which reason."

    [10] John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in The Works of John Owen, ed., William Goold, ed. (Ages Digital Library, 2000), 20:646, 647.


    [Edited on 10-28-04 by pastorway]
    Pastor Phillip M. Way
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  32. #32
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    Scott, what are your thoughts on my previous post? Am I misunderstanding something?
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    I'm basically thinking along the lines of Matt's chart, which shows the Covenant of Grace as being the covenant made after the Fall, with various administrations, the last and most fully revealed of which is the New Covenant.
    I agree.

    Furthermore, in WCF.VII, the Covenant of Grace is spoken of as being differently administered in the time of law, called the Old Testament, and the time of gospel, called the New Testament.
    Agreed.

    I guess I've always mentally associated the former of these with the various covenantal administrations of the Old Covenant (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic), and the latter of these with the covenantal administration of the New Covenant. .
    Chris,
    I don't know if I'm following..........How is the administration different?
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    Well, it's obviously different in that it has new sacraments, and Christ is more fully and explicitly revealed in it even though He was just as present and effectual in the Old Testament administrations. Above you said that the New Covenant and the Covenant of Grace are one and the same, with no distinction. But if that is the case (rather than the New Covenant simply being the final adminsitration of the Covenant of Grace, after the other four sub-covenants), why in the chart is the New Covenant placed after all the covenants under the Old Testament, whereas the Covenant of Grace is seen as encompassing them all? In other words, if the New Covenant and the Covenant of Grace are one and the same with no distinction, then the Davidic Covenant must be seen as the last covenantal administration - but that does not account for the changes after Christ's first coming to earth that I mentioned above in this post. I think we're both really saying close to the same thing, and it just may not be clear yet..
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    I'm gonnna quote Kevin Easterday here as he expounds upon my premise well:

    "If there is but one mediator who is Christ, then we must conclude that there are various administrations of what is mediated. Jesus was not physically present as His fully revealed self in the OT, nor is He physically present now. For a time, He administered grace in person. But now, as before in the OT, Christ mediates from heaven. He was there in shadows, just as He is here in revelation. Christ is all over the OT as was the administration of His blood applied to God's Elect, just as He is with us in the blood He applies to us.

    There is but one covenant of grace. Grace can be seen all over the OT. While it is true that God's grace was revealed fully in Christ's glory, His covenant of grace was operative in every part of the OT. The law was given because of grace. Keeping the law was not burdensome, when accompanied by the power of the Spirit in the life of the covenant member. We tend to look at the dark side of the law because it is written on the mountain of cursing, because Paul says it brings death. But God formed the law so that we could be acceptable in His sight, not so that we would be forever hidden from His sight."
    ~End quote

    "Various administrations of what is mediated." The new covenant is an administration of the C.O.G.; as was the Davidic, Noahic, etc. Hence, the NC had to be instituted as described in Genesis for mediation to occur.


    *Chris, notice the framed area in Matts chart right below the cross.


    [Edited on 10-29-2004 by Scott Bushey]
    Scott Bushey
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  36. #36
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    Originally posted by pastorway
    Whatever view you hold regarding the Covenant of Grace you have to see that the NC was a covenant in time initiated with the sacrifice of Christ. it is the covenant in His blood.

    The verse that says He was slain before the foundation of the world does not mean that God put Jesus up on a Cross to bleed to death before He said, "Let there be light." It means God's determined purpose was to sacrifice His Son for His people from even before the world began. The actual murder of Jesus though took place in time, at Jerusalem, as recorded in the gospels.
    Phillip,
    This may be true, but God and Christ are outside of time. Under this understanding, how was the OT saint justified? How was sin propitiated? It was not a full justification then until Christ actually bled and died.
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  37. #37
    pastorway is offline. Inactive User
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    By grace alone through faith alone in the coming Messiah - just as we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in the Messiah who has come. Faith in the promise brought salvation secured by the fact that God had already planned from before the world began to sacrifice His Son for His people.

    Jesus was bound by time as He limited His divine attributes to become a man. He was both the sacrifice and the priest. And His death initiated the New Covenant in His blood.

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  38. #38
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    fredtgreco is offline. Vanilla Westminsterian
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    Originally posted by Scott Bushey

    I'm basically thinking along the lines of Matt's chart, which shows the Covenant of Grace as being the covenant made after the Fall, with various administrations, the last and most fully revealed of which is the New Covenant.
    I agree.

    Furthermore, in WCF.VII, the Covenant of Grace is spoken of as being differently administered in the time of law, called the Old Testament, and the time of gospel, called the New Testament.
    Agreed.

    I guess I've always mentally associated the former of these with the various covenantal administrations of the Old Covenant (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic), and the latter of these with the covenantal administration of the New Covenant. .
    Chris,
    I don't know if I'm following..........How is the administration different?
    Q34: How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
    A34: The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises,[1] prophecies, [2] sacrifices,[3] circumcision,[4] the passover,[5] and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,[6] by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.[7]

    1. Rom. 15:8
    2. Acts 3:20, 24
    3. Heb. 10:1
    4. Rom. 4:11
    5. I Cor. 5:7
    6. Heb. ch. 8-10; 11:13
    7. Gal. 3:7-9, 14

    Q35: How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
    A35: Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word,[1] and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism [2] and the Lord's Supper;[3] in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fulness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.[4]

    1. Mark 16:15
    2. Matt. 28:19-20
    3. I Cor. 11:23-25
    4. II Cor. 3:6-9; Heb. 8:6, 10-11; Matt. 28:19
    Fred Greco
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    "The heart is the main thing in true religion...It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man's soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God." (J.C. Ryle)

  39. #39
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    Originally posted by Scott Bushey
    Originally posted by Me Died Blue
    Perhaps what some people are trying to get at is that the New Covenant was fully revealed at the Cross, even though it was enacted at the same time as the Covenant of Grace.
    The C.O.G. is the new covenant..........At least, thats the historic orthodox belief. All of the devines who penned the WCF embraced this.
    The new covenant is an administration of the Covenant of Grace:

    V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel:[9] under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come;[10] which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah,[11] by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.[12]

    9. II Cor. 3:6-9
    10. Heb. 8-10; Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12; I Cor. 5:7
    11. I Cor. 10:1-4; Heb. 11:13; John 8:56
    12. Gal. 3:7-9, 14; Psa. 32:1-2, 5

    VI. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance,[13] was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper:[14] which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy,[15] to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles;[16] and is called the new testament.[17] There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.[18]

    13. Col 2:17

    14. I Cor. 1:21; 11:23-25; Matt. 28:19-20
    15. Heb. 12:22-24; II Cor. 3:9-11; Jer. 31:33-34
    16. Luke 2:32; Acts 10:34; Eph. 2:15-19
    17. Luke 22:20
    18. Gal. 3:8-9, 14, 16; Rom. 3:21-22, 30; 4:3, 6-8, 16-17, 23-24; 10:6-10; Heb. 4:2; Gen. 15:6; Psa. 32:1-2; I Cor. 10:3-4
    Fred Greco
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    Christ Church Blog

    "The heart is the main thing in true religion...It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man's soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God." (J.C. Ryle)

  40. #40
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    Originally posted by wsw201
    Jacob,

    Unfortunately, I am very familiar with the Federal Vision. IMHO, James Jordan is a nut. He argues that Joesph not Moses wrote Genesis. Jordan has all kinds of wacky ideas. I am not surprised he denies the Covenant of Works.
    Wayne is right. Avoid Jordan like the plague. He is one of the mkost dangerous writers in "reformed" circles today. His theological ruminations have death in them.
    Fred Greco
    Senior Pastor, Christ Church PCA (Katy, TX)
    Christ Church Blog

    "The heart is the main thing in true religion...It is the hinge and turning-point in the condition of man's soul. If the heart is alive to God and quickened by the Spirit, the man is a living Christian. If the heart is dead and has not the Spirit, the man is dead before God." (J.C. Ryle)

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