In applying covenant theology, we need to recognize that God covenants corporately and not simply individually. God’s covenant with Abraham was not just to Abraham but “to [his] offspring” (Genesis 15:18. 17:7). This does not remove the individual, but the individual does not simply remain an individual. Every individual is born naturally into a family and a people. Likewise, an individual believer is born supernaturally from above into a fellowship with Christ as Head. The individual Christian is part of a family; the “household of God” (Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19, 1 Timothy 3:15, Hebrews 3:6, 10:21). Thus the application of the covenant primarily happens in the household of God, that is, in the church. It certainly has implications for the individual and for the natural family, but is seen primarily in the church. This means that a faith expressed solely as “just God and me” is foreign to the pages of scripture.
Covenant Theology Applied, Donny Friederichsen, Tabletalk, October 2020
A free offer from Ligonier Minstries.
The providential timing of this month’s theme in Tabletalk magazine, “Fear,” is hard to miss. To encourage you and build you up in a time when our families, neighbors, and coworkers need to see Christians firmly trusting in Christ alone, we have made the March 2020 issue free to read.
Christians fight fear with faith in the Lord. Moreover, God’s people must remember that the fear of the Lord rightly orders all other fears. Long before this latest global health threat surfaced, the editors of Tabletalk planned this issue to address many of the concerns and anxieties that can beset all of us:
“Fear is a primal emotion so powerful that it can wreak havoc on our hearts. The question is, What do we do with our fears? Do we wallow in the mire of fear, act as if we have no fear, attempt to hide our fear, or try to face our fears with sheer tenacity? Or do we turn to the Lord? Only when we turn to the Lord do we hear Him say, ‘Do not fear.’ However, the Lord commands us not to fear not so that we might ignore our fears or overcome them by sheer willpower but because He has promised, ‘I am with you.’”
Thank you to the many supporters of Ligonier Ministries who enable us to provide timely service and edifying words to the church around the world.
If you don’t already receive Tabletalk magazine, you can request a free, three-month trial at TryTabletalk.com.
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there s a next-best-thing, if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ordinary.
Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.
Far from a call to low expectations and passivity, Horton invites readers to recover their sense of joy in the ordinary. He provides a guide to a sustainable discipleship that happens over the long haul not a quick fix that leaves readers empty with unfulfilled promises. Convicting and ultimately empowering, Ordinary is not a call to do less; it s an invitation to experience the elusive joy of the ordinary Christian life.”
To affirm true conversion implies that there is also false conversion. Put simply, there is such a thing as non-saving faith. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” has entered the narrow gate (Matt. 7:21). People may know the truth and may have felt grief regarding their sin, but it is a selfish sorrow over what their sin has caused them to suffer, not how it has offended a holy God. The most stark example of a false conversion we have in Scripture is that of Judas Iscariot. In a counterfeit conversion, there is no death to self, no submission to the lordship of Christ, no taking up a cross, no obedience in following Christ, no fruit of repentance–only empty words, shallow feelings, and barren religious activities. On the contrary, with a true conversion sin is abhorred, the world renounced, pride crushed, self surrendered, faith exercised, Christ seen as precious, and the cross embraced as one’s only saving hope. more
Excerpt from Tabletalk Magazine, July 2016, The False Calvinist, by Rev. Joe Thorn.
The one who embraces the absolute sovereignty and unbreakable love of God, in light of our own moral inability to do good or please Him, will be struck with awe and overwhelmed with meekness. The Father chose us, the Son died for us, and the Spirit awoke us when we were rebelling, refusing, and resisting. Salvation is truly of the Lord, leaving us no room for boasting or pride.
Redemptive History by Richard Phillips, Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier, Tabletalk Magazine, October 1st, 2006.
The Bible’s primary message deals with two great issues: sin and redemption. It relates these to two different covenants, one of which man broke and other of which Christ fulfilled. These two covenants — the covenant of works and the covenant of grace — provide the architecture on which the Bible’s teaching is erected and serve as the key to our understanding of salvation.
As I told my Jewish neighbor, God entered into a covenant with Adam. In this way, God imposed the terms by which Adam and his posterity might continue to enjoy life in the garden, namely, “perfect and personal obedience” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 7.2). A test was implemented with regard to one tree: “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God ordained that “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Through obedience, Adam would retain life in the garden, but if he broke the covenant, he would suffer death. Reformed theology refers to this as “the covenant of works,” since by Adam’s own works he would either stand or fall.
Adam’s breach of the covenant of works is the great problem for which the rest of the Bible presents God’s answer. This answer is the covenant of grace, which God promised as His remedy for the broken covenant of works. Since the serpent (representing the devil) had tempted the first humans into sin, God’s grace was first presented in terms of his defeat. God told the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). Theologians call this the Protoevangelion, that is, the first preaching of the Gospel. God then displayed how the covenant of grace would succeed: a sinless sacrifice would die in the place of sinners, providing His righteousness for them and paying their penalty in His blood. Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
The covenant of grace provides unity to the Gospel’s unfolding in successive generations. God’s covenant with Noah preserved the covenant of grace, so that the human race would continue until the birth of its Savior. God’s covenant with Abraham promised not just many offspring, but also the single offspring in whom the covenant would be fulfilled (see Gal. 3:16). By the time of Moses, Abraham’s family had become a nation, and God’s covenant with Moses provided priests who would offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of their sins. God’s kingdom also needed a sovereign, and God’s covenant with David promised a king who would never fail or die.
But through all the long generations, the broken covenant of works remained unfulfilled — Adam and his line still needed the righteousness that comes only through perfect obedience. So, as Paul put it, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4:4–5). This is covenant theology at its finest. As Jesus stated, He came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17); that is, he came to fulfill the covenant of works on our behalf. Then, by dying on the cross, Jesus laid the foundation for God’s grace for sinners in the covenant of grace. This is the meaning of Christ’s words in establishing His “new covenant,” bringing the covenant of grace to fruition for those who believe. Anticipating His atoning death, Jesus declared, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).
Covenant theology is vital not merely for understanding the Old Testament and the Gospels, but also for the apostolic doctrine taught in the Epistles. How, for instance, can God be just and yet be “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26)? Covenant theology provides the answer: believers in Christ are justified both by His fulfilling the covenant of works on our behalf and by the atonement in His blood offered by the covenant of grace. Here is another important question: How can faith make us righteous before God, apart from works of our own? Covenant theology gives the Bible’s answer: Jesus performed the works we owe to God under the covenant of works, which we receive by faith alone under the covenant of grace. more