Monday, March 30, 2015


[This is from Wade Burleson's blog and is exceptional.]

What You Believe Does Dictate How You Behave: Old Covenant Theology vs. New Covenant Theology

I've often said the greatest - and most overlooked - evangelical theologians of the past two millenniums were early 18th century English Baptists who penned the First London Confession of Faith. It's not my purpose in this blog post to go into all the details as to why this is so, suffice to say I am follower of Jesus Christ affiliated with a Baptist Church because of my agreement with these preeminent theologians. In short, they (and I) believe the New Testament to be the apex of God's self-revelation because in them is revealed how "the righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

My wife and I recently enjoyed some fellowship with a woman in her seventies. She was raised Dutch Reformed and is now active in the Presbyterian Church of America. She is a delightful lady, one with whom we enjoyed visiting. However, through the course of our conversation there arose a stark and pointed difference between what she believes as a Presbyterian and what we believe as Baptists. She is a "Law person," and emphasized over and over that "God blesses obedience."

Of course, nobody would disagree with this statement. God does bless obedience. The question is "Whose obedience?" Our Presbyterian friend seemed to be emphasizing her and her husband's personal obedience. My wife and I only emphasize Christ's obedience (i.e. "His fulfillment of the Law"), and God's blessings freely given to us because of our faith in Christ.

This is the fundamental difference between Old Covenant Christians and New Covenant Christians.

Baptists historically have been New Covenant Christians. The early 18th century Baptists were uninterested inturning sinners into Mosaic Law-keepers and solely concerned with turning sinners into Christ believers. When Jesus Christ told us He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, He meant it (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled the Law with His life, death and resurrection, and then He abolished it and became a new Law Giver for His people. He said:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Some might wonder about the practical differences between an Old Covenant believer as compared to the New Covenant believer. One of the best illustrations of the differences between the behavior of Old Covenant Christians when compared to the behavior of New Covenant Christians is given by my friend Jon Zens.

Jon points out that the Puritans (Old Covenant Christians) came over to the New World and found themselves facing the Native Americans (Indians). Old Covenant typology dominated their behavior toward the Indians. The Puritans saw their exodus from England paralleling Israel's exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament. The Puritans viewed their crossing of the Atlantic as a parallel to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea. The Puritans believed that their arrival in the New World paralleled Israel's arrival and entrance into the land of Canaan. The Puritans hoped that the New World would indeed be a land "flowing with milk and honey."

But now came the mistake the Puritans made because of their emphasis on the Old Covenant.

The Puritans believed that the Native Americans they met in the New World paralleled Israel meeting the heathen nations in the land of Canaan. How should they respond? Old Covenant typology pointed to casting out the Native peoples by force, precisely as Israel cast out the heathen nations in Canaan. However, New Covenant theology commands believers in Christ to love their enemies. Should the Puritans follow the Law of Christ by loving and evangelizing the Indians, or should the Puritans follow the example of Old Covenant Israel and kill the native dwellers? According to Zens, the Puritans behaved in a manner consistent with their Old Covenant beliefs. Over time they removed or exterminated the Indians, claiming the New World for God.

Now, back to the Presbyterian lady we met. Her husband was not a believer. She had been married to him for over fifty years, but it had been "exceedingly difficult." She so desperately wanted her husband to be 'obedient' to God's Laws (worshipping on the Sabbath, tithing on their income, etc...) because "God blesses our obedience." I was worn out listening to her.

I would suggest that what her husband needed was a wife who was so full of Christ, so appreciative of the perfect righteousness that has been given to her because of her faith in Jesus, that she loves her husband exactly the way Christ loves her. It seems to me that if the New Covenant was the foundation of her theology and philosophy of living, then she would set aside any emphasis on her husband's performance--or lack thereof -- and simply love him without expectations or conditions.

Obviously, this post has simplified some very complex issues, but my goal is not so much to convince anyone of this truth as much as it is to encourage the beginning of a journey toward truth. It's an axiom that if there is maladjustment in one's behavior toward people, it's usually because of a problem in one's beliefs about God.

We need more New Covenant theology preaching in our churches so that our behavior as believers toward others will match our beliefs of God's behavior toward us in Christ - as taught in the apex of God's self-revelation, otherwise known as the New Testament.

Thursday, March 05, 2015


I've noticed something. People are just people. Our biggest problem may be that we are human beings. I have a friend who said one time that he could get along with people, it was just human beings he couldn't stand. [Funny I thought.] It generally doesn't matter if folks call themselves Christians or atheists or Democrats or Republicans or ministers or Americans, they still act like people and they are still human beings.

Case in point. [Actually a kind of "snapshot."]

I've seen people angrily react to what they perceive as failure in someone and then go to the opposite end of the spectrum in order to correct that perceived failure. For an example of this I'll use my experience in church life.

A congregation perceives their pastor as not being a good people person, [though he is a great bible teacher] and, upon his leaving for another congregation, the people decide they want a people guy with a winsome personality and they find one. Now his preaching is geared toward feeding milk [spiritual pablum] to the people, who are children biologically and spiritually. No ability in the pulpit really but all the kids of both kind [biological and spiritual] love him. It's wonderful.

For a while.

Then he's in trouble because he can't preach a lick. [The attention span of children being what it is.] Yet he is the same as he was at the beginning of his pastoral ministry. He's just himself. But now he's not enough for them and they are angry about it all. [People being just people.]

On the other hand, to prove my point, a pastor can be a great people person but is as weak as motel coffee in those two cup packets in the pulpit. [That's weak, trust me.] But when he leaves for a new congregation the left behind people are glad he's gone because they wanted some real preaching anyway and were angry he couldn't. So, they go after a thunder and lightning orator who curls their hair with fire and brimstone.

He's a REAL preacher you see. They are now hearing real preaching for the first time in a long time. [Since a sane conversational style by any man in the pulpit doesn't qualify as real preaching, I guess.] It's wonderful because The thunder and lightning guy has arrived. It's great.

For a while anyway.

But they then begin to notice he winds up disappearing from the flock from Monday to Saturday except for those chosen few [usually wealthy] who are admitted into his presence on occasion. So he's soon in trouble too because he just doesn't like being with people. Although he hasn't changed an iota since his loud arrival the people are still mad about it. It's human nature you see. [People being just people.]

But it's not just church people. One need only to observe the current political landscape as evidence. When Bush was President the people got to where they didn't like his shredding the Constitution [their words] with his blustering swagger. If Bush said it, did it, thought it, it was wrong. After two terms the people wanted it different. Those running for the office of President even ran on not being Bush-like in anything. Trust them, they said. They will be different, they assured us.

Enter Obama!
 People were confident that in Barack Obama things would be different with a quiet, gentle, bringing people together sort of President tenure. But division is greater than ever and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that. The problem is it [bringing people together] can't be done with human nature being what it is, I promise. People will be angry and want it different next time too. There is something in human nature that never is satisfied, at rest, at peace, in touch with reality and it's been this way since the fall. [People being just people.]

A snapshot of fallen nature.

I could show other snapshots like people accepting what costs them nothing and under-appreciating it ultimately because it was free. [Have you noticed how people do that?]

Or people who are sure they know why someone holds a different view about something, take women in ministry for example, so they trumpet the perceived motive of the one who holds that view which they are sure they know as fact, "They are just afraid of going against culture," people say.

But they don't know really know of course since they are not God and can't see another person's heart, yet they then ask you to trust their opinion over the other person on the issue. I could go on and on. [People just being people.]

I can let it go in politics. I really expect little else. But I'm thinking that judgment may need to really begin in the House of God. [Kingdom kids are by nature different remember.]

I realize I'm drawing attention to the problem of human nature.

The need of a pastor who is good with people AND can and does preach the word is legitimate. A political administration that DOES know how to deal with the need for housing and feeding the poor AND creating a good business working environment is needed as well. All these issues do need thoughtful and deliberate actions and people who do them.

But human nature [being what it is] needs the gospel. As believers my hope is that we'll leave all other things as important, but secondary, and stay primary on presenting the gospel because that's the only thing that can change human nature.

Paul B.