Nathan Eshelman

Law Opposed to Law

The Covenant of Grace is a “law of the spirit.” The Spirit of God has instituted this covenant and applies it to the lives of men and women who believe. Manton said that Christ himself speaks of covenant in terms of spirit and truth. He says, “Not only because of its spiritual nature, as it cometh nearer and closer to the soul than the law of outward and beggarly rudiments; and therefore Christ called the ordinances of the gospel, spirit and truth (Works of Manton, 11.395).”

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

In our circles today, it is not popular to speak about the Gospel as Law or the Law of the Gospel. The Gospel message is one that is received by faith and the division between Law and Gospel is often driven so sharply that there is no room for Law in Gospel or Gospel in Law.
The Puritans, including Thomas Manton, saw grace in law and law in grace, all while maintaining a rigorously Christ-centered Gospel of free grace. There was no hint of the errors of Federal Vision, and yet speaking in terms of law was common parlance for the time.[1] Manton demonstrated in his treatment of the greatest chapter that law is able to be opposed to law—with the Gospel’s law triumphing.
Where does Manton get the idea of the Gospel’s law? Citing several verses which use the language of the law of the Gospel, Manton finds law used positively in the Scriptures. Speaking of the coming Gospel age, Isaiah looked forward to the time when “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Matthew 28:20 also uses language of law as Jesus sends his ministers into the nations preaching the Gospel. Jesus says, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” The Apostle would speak of believing the Gospel in terms of obedience when he condemned those “that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”  (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul also reminded the Christians in Galatia to press on in the Christian life: “ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 5:7).
The language of law in reference to the Gospel age is much more connected than we are comfortable with today.
Manton helped his readers to see their connectedness to law as well as their disconnectedness in his exposition of Romans 8:2 as he divided the law opposed to the law.
Two Laws
The two laws that are described in the second verse of Romans 8 are the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life. Manton does not imagine these laws as the 10 Commandments versus the Gospel, but clearly articulates that the laws are the two covenants that we find in the Scriptures: the law of “sin and death” is the Covenant of Works and the law of the “Spirit of life in Christ” is the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Works became a law of sin and death when Adam sinned and brought the curse on himself and “for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation…(Westminster Shorter Catechism, 16).”
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Space Oddity

“When the Son came for salvation, he did not take angelic nature into union but became human.” “Then again, in the visions of Revelation, John saw “living creatures” representative of creation gathered around the throne of God in worship of the Lamb…This was a vision, but we must suppose it represents a reality… While we are not given a detailed answer to our question and must leave it in the hands of all-wise God, it seems that eternity will be filled with praise and obedient faithfulness from throughout the animate and intelligent cosmos.”

What if aliens were discovered…or discovered us? Would that change your opinion of the Bible, the Christian faith, and the centrality of humanity as image bearers of God? Recently there was some buzz in the online-news about NASA hiring twenty-four theologians to help them understand how humanity would respond to the discovery of alien life.
Although the facts around NASA hiring have been called into question, the truth remains that those in the scientific community–and many people–want answers to theological questions concerning the existence of life “out there.” 

One online magazine said, “Though NASA certainly gave money toward the program, it didn’t go as far as to hire anyone from it. A spokesperson from NASA told the Associated Press that the researchers involved in the program were never directly employed by the space agency. Individuals who receive grant funding from NASA are not employees, advisors, or spokespersons for the agency, the spokesperson told the AP in an email. Thus, the researchers and scholars involved with this study were not hired by NASA, but instead received funding… to conduct this work.”
So what is the answer? Do alien lifeforms, or extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) exist? In all my reading of the puritans, reformers, Covenanters, Seceders, and others, I have never found an answer to whether we would find ETI if we explored the universe. For the most part, I didn’t care, but the question does get asked.

In Robert Letham’s Systematic Theology (which was published in 2019 rather than 1619) he confronts the question of ETI and the existence of alien life forms. Again, I don’t remember this question being posed in any of the old dead guys. 

On pages 288-289 he explores this question.
Letham begins with demonstrating that there are some that argue the vastness of our universe is connected to our planet’s uniqueness. He said, “Some argue that there is no extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) anywhere in the universe. The vast size of the cosmos, it is said, is necessary for humans to be able to live here on earth.Read More

Exemption from Condemnation

Union with Christ is a spiritual union, not one merely that is declared or imputed, such as justification. Mystical, real, and spiritual union with the Lord Jesus occurs when one is “in Christ.” 

Thomas Manton began his exposition of Romans 8 by telling his hearers “what condemnation importeth.” The world stands under condemnation because of sin—that black backdrop has made this chapter’s “No condemnation!” all the more precious to the believer. Manton next turns the reader’s attention to union with Christ as the means by which “exemption from condemnation” occurs in the life of the sinner. The sinner becomes a saint through union with Christ.
Extolling the benefits of “no condemnation,” Manton reminds his hearers that these benefits are only for those who are in union with Christ. “This privilege is the portion of those that are in Christ (Works of Thomas Manton, 11.388).” The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written by the Westminster assembly, of which Manton was a clerk, wrote, “How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?” The answer they gave is, “The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (WSC, 30).” Manton knew that union with Christ was central to the benefits described in this chapter.
“Late Cavils”
Confusion over union with Christ is not new to our day. Hearing objections and disagreements over how this union occurs became common in the theological milieu of Manton’s social context. Manton said,
I shall here show you what it is to be in Christ…the phrase noteth union with him. There is certainly a real, but spiritual union between Christ and his members… But late cavils make it necessary to speak a little more to that argument (The Works of Manton, 11.389).
“Real” and “spiritual” union is central to the relationship with Christ in the union theology of Thomas Manton, but these ideas were pushed against in his time. “Late cavils” references current disruptions and objections to biblical truth surrounding the doctrine of union with Christ.[1] Manton described the greatest of these cavils as those propounding “political” union.
According to Manton, union with Christ “is more than a relation to Christ as a political head.” Manton was not the only one concerned about the “late cavil” of political union. John Owen, a colleague of Manton’s in the chaplaincy of Cromwell, also saw political union as a threat to the union with Christ taught in Scripture. Owen wrote:
That there is such a union between Christ and believers is the faith of the catholic church, and has been so in all ages. Those who seem in our days to deny it, or question it, either know not what they say, or their minds are influenced by their doctrine who deny the divine persons of the Son and of the Spirit. Upon supposition of this union, reason will grant the imputation pleaded for to be reasonable; at least, that there is such a peculiar ground for it as is not to be exemplified in any things natural or political among men (Works of John Owen, Justification, 5:209).
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Enjoying the Means

When I speak of the means of grace, I have in my mind’s eye five principal things,—the reading of the Bible, private prayer, public worship, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the rest of the Lord’s day. They are means which God has graciously appointed, in order to convey grace to man’s heart by the Holy Ghost, or to keep up the spiritual life after it has begun. JC Ryle, Practical Religion, 14.

And enjoy him.
We all know the phrase. Our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God. This is the Presbyterian way.
Do we enjoy him? Do you enjoy him?
Do we enjoy the means given to us that allows us to know him, glorify, and enjoy him? These are important questions. This past week I was convicted by JC Ryle (as I often am) as he challenged his hearers on whether they are enjoying the means that God has given to them. I thought I would share a portion of that with you under this question:
Do you enjoy the means of grace? Ryle says,
When I speak of the means of grace, I have in my mind’s eye five principal things,—the reading of the Bible, private prayer, public worship, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the rest of the Lord’s day. They are means which God has graciously appointed, in order to convey grace to man’s heart by the Holy Ghost, or to keep up the spiritual life after it has begun. As long as the world stands, the state of a man’s soul will always depend greatly on the manner and spirit in which he uses means of grace. The manner and spirit, I say deliberately and of purpose. Many… people use the means of grace regularly and formally, but know nothing of enjoying them: they attend to them as a matter of duty, but without a jot of feeling, interest, or affection. JC Ryle, Practical Religion, 14.
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Water Heater Maintenance

Make your prayers for your minister more fervent than your complaints about his shortcomings. Let your children hear you praying for him and his calling.  Your prayers will strengthen him before the throne room of grace, and they will soften your heart toward him. This is important, especially if the hot water stops running for a season.

Last week our water heater broke down. I thought the pilot light went out because we have had some heavy rains and flooding lately. As it turns out, it was not the pilot light going out, but rather the tank breathing its last. Due to busy schedules, our plumber could not replace it for a couple of days. Over those days we often thought about our lack of a hot water heater. I showered at the church building where I serve as pastor. We boiled water so that dishes could be properly washed. Unkempt children were allowed to ferment a bit longer than usual.
It was not suffering, by any means, but it was annoying and it disrupted our first-world lifestyle.  We went from never thinking about our hot water heater to thinking about it quite a bit.
Consequently, I meditated on a conversation that I’d had during my seminary internship. At that time, one of my mentors said to me, “Nathan, pastors are often treated like hot water heaters. Nobody really thinks about them when they are working, but when they stop working, they are not repaired; instead they are quickly replaced.”
In my time of pastoral ministry, I have talked with several hurting pastors who would resonate with the water heater statement. Many pastors work extra-long hours, are unable to “turn off” care for the church when not working, preach while on vacation (to afford the vacation), and have very few outlets for reducing the stresses of ministry. A year or so ago, my doctor told me that she could often tell which patients were pastors based solely on their high cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress-related hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands). Pastors suffer from high rates of depression as well. Pastoral ministry, although extremely rewarding, often fun, and spiritually refreshing is a demanding calling that, for many, results in being—well—broken.
I need to acknowledge that many in the church, not just pastors, have high-stress vocations and are frequently left without refreshment. Burnout is a symptom of our 24-7 culture, not merely of the stress of pastoral ministry. As the Bishop of Winchester said, “When we talk about pastoral burnout, we need to be careful not to invalidate the exhaustion many feel in all of life (citation withheld).”
With that said, this article will specifically address pastoral ministry. Without proper spiritual, physical, and emotional maintenance, the high stress and high demand calling of pastoral ministry will result in burn out, which will too often lead congregations to replace their minister rather than invest in their broken one.
No one repairs a hot water heater.
As I thought about the similarities between the calling to bring God’s Word to his people and the calling to bring hot water to the home, these five ways of investing in “hot water heater maintenance” were among my meditations amid boiling water and fermenting children.
How can you help to provide maintenance for your pastor rather than replace him?
Pray for him
Consider having a stated time each week in which you pray for your pastor. Include this in family worship times as well. Frequently, the conversations in homes of church members revolve around what their pastor could be doing better, how he falls short, and what he missed in his sermon. Make your prayers for your minister more fervent than your complaints about his shortcomings. Let your children hear you praying for him and his calling.
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Talitha Cumi

There will come a time when the graves will opened. And all of you ladies who are in Christ will hear: “Talitha cumi.”  “Little girl, get up.” And all of you men who are resting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin—you will hear: “Talay Cumi.” “Little boy, get up.” And you will be ushered into eternity—body and soul—by the one who conquered death. 

Most of the Gospel of Mark is written in Greek, and when the reader is confronted with Jesus speaking Aramaic, it ought to give pause. Jairus’s twelve year-old daughter–an only child–lay dead and the Lord Jesus had been called to her bedside to heal her. The Gospel records:
Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. Mark 5:41-42
With the quiet of the room and the mourning of the parents…
With Peter and James and John looking on…
With a twelve year old girl lying dead in her bed…
With all the wailing outside and the mockery of Jesus….
With the words of her death spreading around the small town….
Jesus, the precious savior, takes this little girl by the hand and whispers in Aramaic:
Talitha cumi.
These are two of the most precious words in all of the Word of God:
“Little girl, get up.”“Honey, it’s okay—rise up.”“Rise up, little girl.”
And she did.
She rose from the dead as Jesus brought her back to life through whispering two of the most precious words that have ever crossed the lips of humanity.
Talitha cumi.
Now go–if you will–with me into the next years and decades of life, along with this twelve-year old girl. Use your sanctified imagination.
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