“The Standards continue to prove themselves wonderfully serviceable in defending the faith and exposing errors. But more than that, if the church is to reach the world, we must be able clearly and effectively to declare the mind of God revealed in His Word.”
As part of the 2022 “Mission of the Church” Conference at Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Newcastle, England, GRN Executive Council member Dr. David T. A. Strain delivered an address on “Confessionalism & Mission.” In it, he argues for the importance of theological and biblical confessionalism for the church’s faithful pursuit of its God-given mission. He explains why a public statement of belief accurately summarizing and presenting the whole counsel of God is vital for serving Christ according to His commission and command.
In the last section of the address (starting at 22:55), Dr. Strain draws from the work of James Bannerman in The Church of Christ to present three aspects of the church’s ‘essential work’ that call for creeds and confessions. In other words, Dr. Strain uses Bannerman to answer the question, for what missional purpose does the church need creeds and confessions?
1. We need a confession for holding the truth, for the sake of a unity.
“Our testimony to Christ will shine bright and clear when brothers and sisters who may well differ in background, and temperament, and culture nevertheless link arms in a common devotion to the Savior and in a common love for one another.”
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By Nick Batzig — 1 year ago
Every time we see the rainbow we should remember God’s covenant faithfulness in sending the Redeemer to save a people for himself. Just as God had placed a rainbow in the sky to show his steadfast covenant fidelity, so there is a rainbow around the throne of Jesus Christ in glory (Rev. 4:3). We, like Noah, are beneficiaries of the mercy established in the Noahic Covenant in Jesus Christ.
The Noahic covenant was the first covenantal administration after God’s initial covenant promise to redeem and restore humanity (Gen. 3:15). It is also the first time that the word בְּרִית (Berith, translated Covenant) is used in the Scripture (Gen. 6:18). What has not been frequently observed, however, is how the Noahic covenant falls squarely in the realm of redemptive history.
Consider the following ways in which Noah and the Noahic covenant play a part in redemptive history:
The Redemptive Role of Noah as a Type of Christ
Noah was a type of Christ. He was a typical second Adam, a typical redeemer, and a typical rest giver. Like Adam, God gave Noah similar instructions with regard to being fruitful and multiplying, filling the earth and subduing it. He was not the second Adam but was a type of the second Adam who pointed to Christ.
Jesus is the second and last (eschatological) Adam who redeems his people and fulfills the creation mandates. Noah was a typical redeemer. Everyone with Noah on the ark was saved. Everyone in Christ is saved. Noah was not “the Redeemer.” He was a typical redeemer, providing typical redemption for all those who descended from him. Jesus came to redeem all those he represented spiritually.
Noah was a typical rest-giver. Noah’s name meant ‘rest.’ His father had named him ‘Rest,’ saying, “This one will give us rest from the ground which the Lord had cursed.” Noah only gives typical rest, as the remainder of the Bible bears witness to the ongoing need for redemptive rest.
Jesus is the one who finally and fully gives rest to the people of God and to the creation that was brought under the curse at the fall. He is the one who said, “Come unto me and I will give you rest for your souls.” He is the one who takes the curse on himself when he wears the crown of thorns—the symbol of the curse on the ground.
The Redemptive Foreshadowing of the New Creation
The book of Revelation tells us that the “new heavens and the new earth” will be the new Temple where God dwells fully and permanently with the redeemed. Noah and all of creation were together in the ark, as in a typical temple. This was foreshadowing the new creation-temple. Interestingly, the ark and Solomon’s Temple had three levels. It seems that the biblical data substantiates that the ark was a temple where God dwelt with his creation.
Noah also led the way into a typical new creation when he and his family stepped off of the ark and into a world that had been typically cleansed of pollution. Jesus brought about the new creation through his death and resurrection.
Noah knew that the flood had not really made “all things new,” because he sacrificed when he stepped off of the ark. The flood waters could never cleanse the evil out of the heart of man. God had destroyed the earth with a flood because “every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
God promised never to destroy the earth with a flood again because “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21). The reason for the latter declaration was that the flood was never meant to deal with man’s real problem—the sinful pollution of his heart.
Noah’s sons would populate the earth along with depraved sinners. Only the blood of Jesus could cleanse the hearts of sinners. The cleansed world onto which Noah and his family stepped when the waters receded was a type of the “new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
By Kendall Lankford — 1 year ago
Like the generation whose dead bodies lined the wilderness floor, the generation who killed God’s Son would be shut out of God’s New Covenant kingdom and would pay mightily for their crimes. That is the context we must understand if we are going to understand Matthew 24, which is one of the most misunderstood chapters in all of the Bible.
The Confusing of Curses
As a child who grew up on Disney, I learned that curses came from magic spells, brought to boil in a big black cauldron, were wielded by wicked witches in shadowy towers, and cast upon unsuspecting innocents. These evil potions turned princes into frogs and princesses into ogres, that would be locked away in castles. But, should a hero arise, discovering the magical power of eroticism, and other such things that will make you gag, then the curse would be broken by the power of love and all would turn out right again.
Perhaps nonsense like this is why I had so much trouble understanding curses in the Bible and why God was the one putting people under them.
I was never told that God invented blessings and curses as a feature of covenantal relationships and not as a weapon against the innocent. You see, a covenant is a terms-based relationship between God and man. It is a relationship where a holy God makes promises to dwell with a sinful people. To do that, laws must be instituted to limit human sin and sacrifices must be given to atone for that sin. Without that there would be no relationship.
Then, once the relationship has been codified, God gives a sign to the people to remember their commitment to God and His commitment to them. For those who obey God’s covenant, great blessings and favor end up coming upon the people. The greatest and best blessing of course is being near to and knowing God. But, for all those who hate God, spurn His commands, and live in opposition to His covenant, God would rain down curses upon them.
In the Bible, curses do not come from the hand of a malevolent tyrant but a merciful God. They are not applied to good people who need to be rescued, but to deplorable people who must be destroyed. And the way these curses are avoided is not through the triumph of a love-sick, dragon-slaying, hero but by the loving obedience of the dragon-slaying LORD.
By the time we get to Matthew 23, the people have hated God so ferociously and lived in opposition to His covenant for so long, that the cup of His bitter curses was about to tip and drown them in His suffocating wrath.
The Need for Curse
God was gracious to outline all of the stipulations, laws, and requirements in the Mosaic covenant. He gave them explicit and specific commands to obey, feasts to attend, and sacrifices to offer whenever they sinned. He gave them priests to represent them before God and to mediate reconciliation on their behalf. The point of the law was not perfect obedience lest a lightning bolt will be slammed on top of your head. The covenant was a relationship of grace with a thousand mercies for sinners to be reconciled to God. Only those with the hardest of hearts toward God would experience the curses laid out in chapters like Deuteronomy 28.
In that passage, God warns the ones who persist in covenant rebellion, that they will be brought under a total and unrelenting curse (Dt. 28:14). This curse would impact their food supply, it would poison their produce, and would kill all the livestock in their possession. It would cause the nation to be plunged into insanity, confusion, and chaos. It would doom their children, infect their citizens with incurable illnesses and diseases, rain down plagues upon the population, and leave their soldiers dead and roasting in the sun.
If the people did not repent after the first round of seven curses, an additional seven curses would be poured out onto the people with terrifying and increasing intensity. This would culminate in a bitter exile where the people would be violently removed from their ancestral lands and mistreated in a place that was not their home. If they still did not repent, even after all of that, a terrifying nation would overwhelm them, besieging them in their cities, cutting off their food supply, raping and killing them, leaving them so hungry for food that they would willingly roast their children in the fire (Dt 28:15-68). As revolting as all of this sounds, this was precisely the kind of disasters that befell Judah during the Roman invasions of AD 70.
In Malachi-like fashion, Jesus came to Jerusalem to forecast their destruction. The culmination of all of God’s covenantal fury was soon to descend upon them, destroying the root and branch of Jesse through covenantal cursing. In Matthew 21-22, Jesus came into the city with the prophetic fire (Mal. 4:1-2) but the people refused to repent. Now, in Matthew 23, His righteous indignation is boiling over and the hard-hearted people will be left to their demise.
By Cole Newton — 3 months ago
As both truly man and truly God, Christ alone was worthy to work our salvation, to purchase the forgiveness of our sins. This is why we confess the forgiveness of sins as a doctrine within the Apostles’ Creed. It is a truth to be believed, not a work to be accomplished. Christ has already accomplished the work; all that now stands is for us to believe in its truth.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Hebrews 9:15-28 ESV
Yahweh’s relationship to Israel at Sinai was always one of great tension. On one hand, He called Israel his firstborn son and even slew every firstborn in Egypt whenever Pharaoh refused to let them go. On the other hand, they were a people just as sinful as the Egyptians and the other pagan nations. Thus, while God beckoned them to come to Him, He also had to warn them to stay away at the same time. We find a profound scene of this tension in action in Exodus 24:1-8, which describes the inauguration of the Mosaic Covenant. For context, Exodus 20-23 is the list of commandments that Yahweh gave to be Israel’s guide into keeping fellowship with Him, and those chapters conclude with God’s promise to give them their promised inheritance of Canaan as the children of Abraham. We then read:
Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”
Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
As this text shows and our passage in Hebrews as well, it is bloody affair for the holy God to covenant Himself with a sinful and unholy people.
A Death has Occurred // Verses 15-17
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. As is so often the case in Hebrews, this is a transitional verse. Therefore links it, of course, to our previous text, but it also serves as a kind of thesis statement for the following passage. Again, we find the author of Hebrews linking Jesus’ ministry as our great high priest to His mediation of the new covenant, for they both go hand-in-hand. Therefore, since Jesus entered the true and heavenly tabernacle as our high priest, He has also become the mediator of the new covenant. Through His priestly mediation, He has ensured that, by his redeeming death, all whom God has called to Himself will receive their promised eternal inheritance.
For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. If you have a bit of whiplash from wondering where these verses are coming from, you are not alone. Charles Hodge began his comments on these two verses by admitting, “These are difficult verses.” And he concludes by saying again, “The whole passage is very difficult.” The principal difficulty surrounds the word will, which in Greek is the same word that the author has been using for covenant. Thus, two broad interpretive choices lie before us as readers: should the word be translated as will or as covenant?
Sticking with covenant would seem to be more consistent with the author’s usage and emphasis upon God’s covenants with His people; however, a difficulty comes in attempting to understand why this covenant only took effect after the death of the one who made. Although ancient covenants were inaugurated with sacrifice and blood, that was often used as a visible picture of the curses that were invoked upon either party that might break the covenant. We see this in Genesis 15, where God Himself passed through the split sacrifices.
Viewing these verses as describing a last will and testament, Hodge says, makes “the two verses make good sense in themselves but have no connection with the previous as they should have as indicated by ‘gar’ [for].” With the utmost respect, I disagree with Hodge.
I believe the ESV’s translation is likely the best for a couple of reasons. First, the idea of a last will and testament does indeed link to verse 15 through the word inheritance, that is, clarifying inheritances is typically the main concern of a will. Second, I think we should read these verses as a kind of parenthetical statement, which the author is no stranger to. After all, 5:11-6:20 was essentially one gigantic parenthetical exhortation. Finally, the idea of inheritance and adopted sonship has already been established and will be brought up again. In Hebrews 1:14, we were called “those who are to inherit salvation,” and in 2:10-17 we were told that Christ made us into His brothers. This theme will come up again in 12:5-11, where the author reminds us that discipline is a marker of sonship. Thus, the topic of inheritances and wills is not coming out of thin air.
Just as a person’s death makes their will go into effect and whatever they have left as an inheritance is then distributed to their heirs, so too did Jesus’ death initiate the distribution of our inheritance, which as 1:14 said is our salvation. Our inheritance is being restored to communion with God and having that communion now be a familial bond: God is now our Father and we are now His sons and daughters. This is partly what our baptism symbolizes. In being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we essentially experience our adoption ceremony with the triune name of the Holy One becoming our family name.
Without the Shedding of Blood There is No Forgiveness // Verses 18-26
Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”