"For they shall all know Me" Jeremiah 31:34 (Presbyterians only please)

Discussion in 'OT Prophets' started by JTB.SDG, Jul 19, 2017.

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  1. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Guys,

    My intent isn't to start an argument so I'm asking only Presbyterians to answer for this. Wanting to know the historic position here. Reading Calvin, I think he basically says this is understood comparatively; IE, compared with OT Israel, in which at times very few were actually saved, in the new covenant dispensation there will be an overwhelmingly greater figure of those who truly know God.

    *Does that sound about right? Are there other/alternate answers we give as Presbyterians?
    *Would one helpful way to see that "all" is comparative be to look back to verse 30, where Jeremiah, also in the context of speaking of the NEW covenant, recognizes that some in the new covenant visible church still won't really know the Lord?
    *Does anyone historically take this is actually referring primarily to ETHNIC Israel? Very interesting parallel to Romans 11 language, where "all" (ethnic Israel) will be saved.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    To be accurate, Jer is saying that the day will come when we will no longer need teachers-it is at that time 'all' will know the Lord. This passage is a *now and not yet* prophecy that reaches back to Gen 3, ultimately finding fulfillment in glory; in glory, 'all' will know the Lord and we will at that time, no longer need teachers.
     
  3. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    In his commentary on Jeremiah 31 itself, Calvin seems to take it more as a law/gospel contrast. But in his commentary on Hebrews 8, Calvin says this:

    “But it may be asked, whether there was under the Law a sure and certain promise of salvation, whether the fathers had the gift of the Spirit, whether they enjoyed God’s paternal favor through the remission of sins? Yes, it is evident that they worshipped God with a sincere heart and a pure conscience, and that they walked in his commandments, and this could not have been the case except they had been inwardly taught by the Spirit; and it is also evident, that whenever they thought of their sins, they were raised up by the assurance of a gratuitous pardon. And yet the Apostle, by referring the prophecy of Jeremiah to the coming of Christ, seems to rob them of these blessings. To this I reply, that he does not expressly deny that God formerly wrote his Law on their hearts and pardoned their sins, but he makes a comparison between the less and the greater. As then the Father has put forth more fully the power of his Spirit under the kingdom of Christ, and has poured forth more abundantly his mercy on mankind, this exuberance renders insignificant the small portion of grace which he had been pleased to bestow on the fathers.” (Calvin on Hebrews 8:10). Calvin then adds: “If it be objected and said, that the faith and obedience of Abraham so excelled, that hardly any such an example can at this day be found in the whole world; my answer is this, that the question here is not about persons, but that reference is made to the economical condition of the Church.” IE: He's speaking not of individuals but of the Church as a whole.

    I read this as an "administrative" difference between old/new covenants of measure/efficacy of grace. Is this still the accepted understanding? Or are there several possible ways of understanding this (including the now/not yet)?
     
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Heb.8 provides apostolic help for understanding the Jer. prophecy accurately. It is Heb.8 that reminds us of the priestly-mediator context of the plea for teaching. The OT priest-teachers were sometimes far off, sometimes weak, sometimes useless. Jesus is better than them all.

    It does appear that the power of the gospel, energized by the Spirit's outpouring, has resulted in millions more coming to faith, than when the visible church was confined to a single nation. Here may be seen a comparative advantage.

    Yet there is surely an eschatological aspect to the final fulfillment of the NC, for then the condition will be perfect: that all men (not in hell) know the Lord. Moreover, they will be face-to-face with the Mediator, the God-Man, to be "taught of him." Since that is the "not yet," we have preaching mouthpieces. We also have the "now" reality that we still plead with our neighbors and brothers to go to him (by going to his ordinary means) for the knowledge they need unto salvation. We have teachers yet. We're still persevering. But at least we have a perfect Priest.

    So, we are in the inaugurated NC, but not the consummated NC. We are better off than in the time before Christ, both in terms of the world-condition, and the state of the church; but the best is yet to be.
     
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  5. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Reverend Winzer helped me out with this. I posted my thoughts on this topic to my blog. Also, if you are going to read Jeremiah 31 you should consider chapter 32 also.

    Jeremiah 32:38-41
    And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.

    https://rpcnacovenanter.wordpress.c...ovenant-a-better-mediator-of-the-word-of-god/
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  6. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Sophomore

    I also agree with the priestly-mediator view. This article spells out why.

    Also, in recent years, I have become more and more uncomfortable with the idea that (unlike the OC) the NC is necessarily filled with many more true believers than false. I know there are numerous passages that suggest a greater pouring out of God's Spirit in the NC, but it's harder to say if these refer to our present time or to the eschaton. I think there is a danger in the assumption that a super-majority of the NC church is saved. Many pastors preach as if everyone in the congregation is most definitely converted, just by being there and outwardly professing Christ.
     
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I thought about him, too, as I was writing first in another thread on the topic of the Spirit and his NT benefit. I was actually getting the connection he pointed up earlier, as I was writing on the other topic, seeing it clearly as I never had.

    So, when this fresh inquiry came up, I brought it in. So, thanks to Rev. Winzer from me too.
     
  8. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bruce and others,

    Is this the best proof-text for the old/new covenant administrative difference of greater measure/extent/efficacy of grace in the new as opposed to the old covenant? Anthony Burgess says:
    "The second particular difference [between old and new covenants] is in respect of the measure of grace. Hence the Scripture speaks, as if they had under the Old Testament none at all, merely because there was not such a plentiful effusion of his Spirit upon them. . ." What Scriptures is he speaking about? Is the best example of this administrative difference what we see here in Jeremiah 31?
     
  9. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Perhaps e.g. 2Cor.3:6; Gal.3:10,14; Rom.8:2-4; Jn.1:17.

    The Joel 2:28ff passage may offer some room for fruitful inquiry. I suppose that the promise to pour out the Spirit on "all" flesh not to be a distinction between "none" and "all," but between "some" and "all."
     
  10. BG

    BG Puritan Board Junior

    whenever I'm trying to figure out what a passage is saying I try to remember that there are always two context,1 the entire Bible and 2 the book that the passage is written in.
    Here is the full passage

    34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them,

    Does Jeremiah mean that they will all know the Lord from the least to the greatest without exception or is this a figure of speech or hyperbole ?

    So Jeremiah uses the phrase from the least to the greatest three times once in chapter 8 once in chapter 6 and once in chapter 31 however we interpret 31 we must apply the same meaning to the other passages.

    Here is ch 6
    13For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

    If we take this passage to mean all without exception then all of the prophets deal falsely including Jeremiah and I think that is a problem .

    I think the all without exception interpretation is wrong because it forces us to be inconsistent in other places, I'm leaning toward hyperbole but willing to listen.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
  11. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Does anyone else have thoughts on this? I think I've come somewhat the other way in my thinking. Can/ought a faithful pastor in the NC ever say what Moses said in Deuteronomy 29:4, that the Lord has still not given them a heart to know and ears to hear? My understanding is that OVERALL, in the OC, it was the REMNANT that was saved, period. Not a lot, comparatively. I think this is a difference in administration. I also believe there are many unconverted people in the churches, but I think there's a big difference between *many* and *most*. Jesus used the word *many* in Matt.7, but not *most*. OT economy seems to be *most* over and above *many*. What does everyone think?
     
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    How about a stock-ticker metaphor, that's trending downward over the long-haul in the OT? Can your theory handle fluctuation? Can the generation that leaves Egypt fall in the desert for unbelief, but the generation reared in the desert inherit the land because of faith? Remember my comments about the value of the faithful mediators (in a diff thread).

    As for the NT, post-mils tend to think the ticker started uptrending long term at Pentecost. But I'm not post-mil, but amil...
     
  13. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    I definitely believe in revival in the OT. So I think that's part of it. But Moses in that verse in Deuteronomy was still addressing the *new* generation, right?
     
  14. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    However, the last thing I want to do is teach something that may or may not be true. It just seemed to me that this (greater abundance/effect/application of the gospel) was the best way to understand Jeremiah 31:33. At the same time, there are a few things I think that make me somewhat uncomfortable with it myself (like what you point out Bruce).

    I also don't know how comfortable I am with saying there was a greater *degree* of the Spirit poured out on believers in the NT compared with the OT. This is a bit different, and speaks not to a greater outpouring IN GENERAL upon the people of God (how I'm seeking to understand, tentatively, Jeremiah 31:33); but rather a greater measure of the Spirit on PARTICULAR believers in the NT than the OT. It seems to me that the Puritans themselves were somewhat torn on this particular issue. Some seemed to say this was so; others clarified that they were only speaking of the effect of the Spirit's work on the people of God IN GENERAL: IE, no, we don't have a greater measure of the Spirit than David.

    But it seems that to explain certain Scriptures (like Jer.31:33 or Jn.7:39) you have to pick at least ONE of these understandings, right? Just want to be faithful.
     
  15. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    My first thought is how remnants "work," which is just like salt and light, Mt.5. The remnants preserved Israel, even if there were fewer of them than the rest always. So, maybe the conquering generation was by an objective measure yet meager in numbers of saints.

    I'd like to think otherwise. Did the Spirit expend all his effort in the wilderness (40yrs!) in order to form a highly disciplined and largely unspiritual regiment, which triumphed not by faith but by self-righteousness?

    I actually do not think terms like Dt.29:4 can tell us what the general character of the whole people was at that instant, any more that v18 can tell us the opposite, i.e. that this covenant is made (v14) so that no heart would turn from the Lord. Is that an indicator that ALL were redeemed? No, that's not a reasonable inference.

    Moses speaks in such terms of solidarity (cf. v15; & 5:2-3), he could be addressing any assembly of Israel, of any size, any composition, or any OT era; even all eras.

    My second thought is how up-and-down children can be. Israel was a "child." Do we not spend what seems like inordinate time counseling and repeating ourselves to them? (I've done it already this morning.) And, often I think I can discern a portion of heart-to-listen and obey, which is in conflict with the childish flesh of that child; and (more in faith than anything) I believe there to be a growing seed of spirituality within him that, however dimly, sees by God's help the wisdom and wants it, but has a hard time grasping it.

    I can ask my children: "Where is your heart to obey? Do you even have one? How often must I rebuke you? Should it be this often, if you are interested in "obeying your parents in the Lord," honoring your father and mother?" And what I mean by these terms is not that I have no good hope by grace for them, any one or all together.

    I'm not waiting for some infallible sign of a new heart; nor am I registering them as reprobates until they reliably shape up. I'm not presuming their innocence or regeneration; nor am I excusing their sin because they are safely elect.

    Here are Calvin's thoughts, Dt.29:4:
    4. Yet the Lord hath not given. By reproaching them with their past stupidity, he stirs up their desire for a better understanding, as if he had said, that they had been too long indifferent to so many miracles, and therefore they should no longer delay to rouse themselves, etc., to give greater heed to God; not because they had been so senseless that His acts had altogether escaped their notice, but because all acknowledgment of them had immediately come to an end. For, just as the drunken man, or one suffering from lethargy, when he hears a cry, raises his head for a moment, and opens his eyes, and then relapses into a state of torpor, so the people had never seriously applied their minds to consider God’s works; and when they had been aroused by some miracle, had immediately sunk back into forgetfulness, wherefore there is good cause why Moses should seek to awaken them from their dulness and stupidity by various methods.

    But he does not merely condemn their senselessness, and blindness, and deafness, but declares that they were thus senseless, and blind, and deaf, because they were not inspired with grace from above to profit duly by so many lessons. Thence we learn that a clear and powerful understanding is a special gift of the Spirit, since men are ever blind even in the brightest light, until they have been enlightened by God

    What Moses relates of the Israelites, is unquestionably common to us all. He declares, then, that they were not induced by the conspicuous glory of God to fear and worship Him, because He had not given them either mind, or eyes, or ears. It is true that at man’s creation He had naturally bestowed upon him a mind, and ears, and eyes; but Moses means, that whatever innate light we have, is either hidden or lost, so that, as far as regards the highest point of wisdom, all our senses lie useless. True that in nature’s corruption, the light still shineth in darkness, but it is light which is soon obscured; therefore, the entire understanding and faculty of reason, in which men glory and pique themselves, is nought but smoke and darkness.

    Well then may David ask that his eyes may be opened to behold the secrets of the Law (Ps.119:18). Still this defect by no means frees us from blame; because (as we are told) none have wisdom, but those to whom it is given by the Father of lights; for we are ignorant through our own fault. Besides, every one is sufficiently, and more than sufficiently convicted by his own conscience, that his ignorance is closely connected with pride and indolence, and is therefore voluntary. The word heart is not here used for the seat of the affections, but for the mind itself, which is the intellectual faculty of the soul.​
     
  16. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bruce,

    I think the Puritans talked about both aspects. In one sense the OT people of God were like children, and that is one difference of administration. But as far as I can tell, Calvin and the Puritans and Witsius (who in particular refers to that Deut.29 verse, V2, p372), speak of this as a distinct difference in administration between the OC and NC. Calvin does though word it so we see things positively about the NC, rather than negatively about the OC. He says: "We are not to surmise from this difference between letter and spirit that the Lord had fruitlessly bestowed his law upon the Jews, and that none of them turned to him. But it was put forward by way of comparison to commend the grace abounding, wherewith the same Lawgiver. . . honored the preaching of the gospel. For suppose we reckon the multitude of those whom he gathers into the communion of his church from all peoples, men regenerated by his Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. Then we will say that in ancient Israel there were very few—almost none—who embraced the Lord's covenant with their whole hearts and minds. Yet, reckoned by themselves without comparison, there were many.” (Institutes, 2.11.8).

    Again, I don't take the older writers as the gospel. And I just want to be faithful in communicating truly the differences between the old and new covenant manifestations of the Covenant of Grace. I could very well be wrong, that's why I need everyone's help. My working assumption about Jeremiah 31:31-34 in general is that the NEW covenant would be different than the OLD because "they" (IE, many/most/the majority of) OT Israel broke the Sinai covenant (IE, if that was a Covenant of Grace, they failed to embrace Christ by faith). Whereas in the new covenant, God won't let that happen; IE, God will cause effectually His Word to be applied with power by His Spirit in such a greater proportion in the NC that He can say "they" (IE, many/most/the majority of) NT people of God will truly know Him.

    Here's what I've got (minus footnotes). Wondering whether to keep it or scrap it:

    EFFECT: You may be familiar with the theologian Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening that became associated, in part, with his ministry. It was at the height of the Great Awakening, in July 1741, that Edwards preached a sermon called, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. God spoke to the listeners of this particular sermon in such a powerful way that Edwards was interrupted several times by people audibly moaning, and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?” But not everyone knows that this was actually the second time Edwards preached this sermon. He preached the same sermon to his own congregation earlier, and as far as we know, there wasn't nearly the same effect. Sometimes God is pleased to work more powerfully than at other times. And this is another way that Scripture seems to contrast the old and new covenants. In Jeremiah 31:33, the Lord tells His people about the new covenant He would make with them, contrasting it with the covenant He had made with them at Sinai, saying: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'” This is truly an amazing promise; but it also leaves us wondering: Didn't God do the same thing in the Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace? Did God only begin to write His Law in the hearts of His people in the New Testament? Wasn't it David who wrote, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11)? How then are we to understand the prophecy in Jeremiah? I think in this way: God did write His Law on the hearts of His old covenant people. There were indeed many in the Old Testament, such as David, who embraced God's covenant through faith. God took His Word and applied it effectually to their hearts. But, sadly, there were also countless others who remained unchanged. Moses even told his entire congregation in the wilderness: “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4). It seems that most of them had still not embraced the covenant from the heart. So then, though many in the old covenant embraced the message of the gospel, many more remained unchanged. So that if we think of the multitude of those whom God is now effectually drawing to himself in the new covenant Church, we have to say that those who embraced the covenant in ancient Israel were few by comparison. This is the point of Jeremiah's contrast. Just as with Edwards' sermon, the content was the same in the Old Testament; the old covenant was no less about the gospel (Hebrews 4:2,6). But the effect would be different in the new covenant, because God now applies His Word powerfully to the hearts of His people, by His Spirit, in a much greater proportion. As one writer put it: “as one star differs from another in glory, thus did the Church of the Jews, from that of Christians. They had drops, but we have the fountain; they had glimmerings, but we have the sun itself.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2017
  17. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Jon,
    I like your paragraph, and I suppose I could present it as my own thinking, mostly and in a general sense. But for adding in a few of the observations--or maybe better put, the emphases--that I put forth above. Namely,

    1. the value of the remnant as salt and light, more of it or less of it, coloring the general character of the whole nation because of them;
    2. the possibility that in certain generations there was a remarkable work of the Spirit of God (true revival), resulting in (possibly) a majority of believers (see my comment above about v14);
    3. the irreplaceable importance of a righteous mediatorial king/head leading the people in his generation;
    4. thinking of regeneration and new life as both an instantaneous event (inflection point) and as a process; so, for example, Moses preaching on the plains of Moab that day, and on several occasions, could have resulted in pushing once and many times listeners along their path of salvation, some of them past their personal inflection point. On that "stock-ticker" illustration, I truly believe the conquering generation achieved some high-point of faith, but it was a movement and life of faith, not a snap-change. Yet, over all Israel's national history looked at generally, the trend is down down down, and fewer saints appear in the aggregate population total measured over centuries.

    [Sometimes I like to think of salvation in mathematical terms, like a function in calculus describing a path-of-personal-salvation like a simple parabola, that has a slope downward at one point, always upward past a particular point. That generation that Moses led, then Joshua led, has to be viewed as remarkable (it seems to me) for faith; whether you yourself might wish to constrain the comparison to other generations of Israel only, or as I would, even to every generation of mankind.]
    And if we would just allow ourselves to be impressed by Moses' Spirit-borne labors, but possibly more by Joshua's (that's the first_JESUS_in Scripture, remember), and see how the mediatorial head led the nation/body to believe and do His great things--even if the lone individual, personal life might have been nothing but ordinary, like a faithful mother taking care of her brood--then I think we could see that whole generation largely (though not 100%) being led day-after-day for 80yrs into living participation in faith-unto-salvation.​

    I believe in your work, Jon; I'm praying for you.
     
  18. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks Bruce.
     
  19. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Fyi, Here is the edited more finalized version. Thanks again all.

    EFFECT: You may be familiar with the theologian Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening that became associated, in part, with his ministry. It was at the height of the Great Awakening, in July 1741, that Edwards preached a sermon called, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. God spoke to the listeners of this particular sermon in such a powerful way that Edwards was interrupted several times by people audibly moaning, and crying out, “What shall I do to be saved?” But not everyone knows that this was actually the second time Edwards preached this sermon. He preached the same sermon to his own congregation earlier, and as far as we know, there wasn't nearly the same effect. Sometimes God is pleased to work more powerfully than at other times. And this is another way that Scripture seems to contrast the old and new covenants. In Jeremiah 31:33, the Lord tells His people about the new covenant He would make with them, contrasting it with the covenant He had made with them at Sinai, saying: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'” This is truly an amazing promise; but it also leaves us wondering: Didn't God do the same thing in the Old Testament? Did God only begin to write His Law in the hearts of His people in the new covenant? Wasn't it David who wrote, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11)? How then are we to understand the prophecy in Jeremiah? I think in this way: God did write His Law on the hearts of His old covenant people. There were indeed many in the Old Testament, such as David, who embraced God's covenant through faith. God took His Word and applied it effectually to their hearts. But, sadly, there were also countless others who remained unchanged. Moses told his congregation in the wilderness: “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” (Deuteronomy 29:4). And Isaiah cried out, “For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return. . .” (10:22). So then, though many in the old covenant embraced the message of the gospel, many more remained unchanged. Though there were periods of revival and decline in Israel, it seems on the whole that few embraced Christ. But it would be different in the new covenant. This is the point of Jeremiah's contrast. God would write His Law on the hearts of His people on a much greater scale. So that if we think of the multitude of those whom God is now effectually drawing to himself in the new covenant Church, we have to say that those who embraced the covenant in ancient Israel were few by comparison. Just as with Edwards' sermon, the content was the same in the Old Testament; the old covenant was no less about the gospel (Hebrews 4:2,6). But the effect would be different in the new covenant, because God now applies His Word powerfully to the hearts of His people, by His Spirit, in a much greater proportion. As one writer put it: “as one star differs from another in glory, thus did the Church of the Jews, from that of Christians. They had drops, but we have the fountain. . .”
     
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