In our second of two episodes on the implications of covenant theology, Jon and Justin consider the purpose and point of the whole Bible. It’s not an instruction manual. It’s not a step-by-step guide to godliness. It’s not a medicine cabinet to cure everything that ails us. Rather, the Bible is about redemption. It’s about Jesus. The guys unpack the implications of that and consider how to go to the Bible, how to use it, and how to understand it.
Semper Reformanda: Jon and Justin talk about the relationship between covenant theology and redemptive-historical theology (hint: they’re the same). After that, we take a deeper dive into covenant theology. In particular, we discuss the tri-covenantal framework of redemption, works, and grace.
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By Ref Cast — 4 months ago
Jon and Justin talk about adoption–how God has brought us into his own family through the blood of his Son. We now call God, “Father.” The guys also get into some law/gospel stuff and a biblical understanding of God’s holiness.
Giveaway: “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes
1 John 3:1
Semper Reformanda Transcripts
Justin Perdue: Welcome to the Semper Reformanda podcast. I know we were being funny with the title For God So Hated the World, but that is so often how it comes across. “God is just really angry and reluctantly at best is saving sinners. But really, I don’t even know if He wants to do that. If it didn’t bring in glory, He surely wouldn’t do it because He has no interest in our wellbeing.” That’s just so far from the biblical picture. He is holy, He is righteous, He is just, and He is gracious, merciful, tender, and delights to save sinners, and that’s why He is so worthy of worship. Here we are to talk about that more.
I’m mindful of Luke 12:32, about how Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s delight to give you the kingdom.” That’s a wonderful thought here, too. But where I’d love to pivot this conversation to is like a Romans 8 idea, along with other passages, of how we have been adopted into God’s family. Like 1 John: we’re now sons and daughters of God. And how we’ve not been given a spirit of fear, but we have been given the spirit of adoption through which we cry, “Abba, Father,” and God is no longer our judge. God is no longer scary. I’m preaching to myself here. He’s no longer scary, He’s no longer threatening, He no longer condemns us, He’s not our judge anymore—He is our Father. We don’t have to do anything to climb up into our Father’s arms to be held by Him and to be loved by Him. That’s already been given.
Jon Moffitt: He picks you up.
John 20, Jesus comes out of the tomb and Mary realizes that Jesus is not the gardener, but is Jesus. The King James mistranslated it and it was very confusing. It says, “Don’t touch me.”
Justin Perdue: Don’t you criticize the King James version.
Jon Moffitt: Oh my. I got myself in trouble with that.
She grabs him—I’m imagining that she’s holding him around the legs as if she’s saying, “I’m not letting you go.” Jesus gives her motivation to let go. This is what he says: “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.'” I love it. It’s like he’s saying, “We’re brothers. We’re family. Your Father and my Father.” Why can Jesus proclaim the inclusion that he makes? Because he gave the right to adoption to sinners. His blood is the ink on the page that says you belong. It’s amazing.
Justin Perdue: Thinking about adoption, JI Packer’s book Knowing God is a Christian classic. I think the best chapter in that book is the chapter on adoption. Packer makes the argument—and this was written in the 1970s—that it is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Scriptures. Like you said, the ink is literally the blood of the son of God. Our adoption is secure and our status as adopted children is going nowhere. Just to think about God’s love for us and how He did these things for us. If we thought more about it, we would be greatly helped—and I think he’s right.
Martin Luther famously wrote the hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. And there’s that line, I think, at the end of the third verse (at least the way we sing it at CBC) where he’s talking about the devil. That song is about God being our fortress and how the devil and spiritual warfare is real, but we’re safe and secure in the Lord, and in particular in Christ and what he’s done for us. But at the end of that one verse, Martin Luther writes that one little word that will fell the devil. Luther was cited as saying that that one little word, as he had it in mind when he wrote the hymn, was Abba and how us being able to call God “Father” is what ultimately undoes the devil in all of his work and power. That’s a remarkable thought: God being our Father and us being able to call him that and being able to, with confidence, approach the throne of grace because of God’s fatherly, gentle disposition toward us is the undoing of the evil one. What a blessed thought.
Jon Moffitt: You said a couple of things. When you are dealing with someone who says, “Yeah, but I think you guys are deemphasizing the holiness of God. And because of that, if you continue to present this position of Jesus, then people will not see it necessary to be holy.” Your response to that is?
Justin Perdue: A number of thoughts. One of them is what I said in the regular show that I think that when we rightly present the totality of God’s nature, rightly emphasizing His holiness, justice, righteousness, and His love and grace and mercy, and help us understand that the holy God is the one who delights to save sinners, what is actually produced by that whole accurate presentation is reverence and awe before the Lord. I am amazed that this God loves me and has saved me and sent His Son to live, suffer, bleed, and die for me to the extent that I am moved to worship and my desire is to love and serve and obey this God. So that’s one of my responses. Yes, we uphold the holiness of the Lord and His righteousness so that we can accurately represent Him in His grace and mercy. That is most obviously seen in the work and in the cross of Christ, which I think is the most moving, gripping, epic message in the universe and would produce awe and reverence before the Lord. It would do anything but produce licentiousness, looseness, and apathy towards the things of God. I think, if anything, the message where holiness is overemphasized and it’s all about righteousness and wrath and the like, what that ends up producing is either hatred of God or it produces a fear of God, like I said before, where the last thing in the world we want to do is be near Him. And it’s like He’s not really worthy of worship, except for the fact that like a dictator, I feel like I have to or I’m going to die. In the other position, my heart’s cry is that I love God because of what He has done for me. I don’t deserve it—I’m a wretch and He loves me. He is incredible and awesome. Praise be to His name and I will delight to live in His presence forever with the other redeemed saints. It’s a disconnect for me.
I think my other response is a basic law and gospel response. I was having this conversation the other day with the guy who was on staff with me here at the church, and we were on our way to a meeting with some people from our church. We got into just talking about some other churches in our area that we know of and some things that have been brought to our attention lately. Just talking about how there is such a lack of law and gospel preaching, and how if I or the guy on our staff were ever invited to a church like this particular church, our sermon is a law and gospel sermon. We just begin with what the Lord requires. The 10 Commandments are great, but let’s just even simplify it more than that and let’s take it straight from the lips of Christ himself: we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves. How are you doing with that? We preach the law of God in all of its holiness, because the irony is many of the people that scream about wrath and scream about God’s holiness else are over there relativizing the law. They are telling people to live a certain way, and they can, in one sense, please God. Or they take a scalpel to the law or a machete to the law and say, “I’m just going to cut some parts out and leave in other parts. I’m going to emphasize this and throw this over here.” Whereas, I think what we need to do is preach the law in all of its holiness and frankly, in all of its terror apart from Christ because we are ruined and crushed by that. Then, having preached the law to people who cannot keep it and then showing us that we can’t keep it, then we preach Christ and his work and what he came to do in his own words, that he, “did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” And then you begin to see that this is what the Lord has been doing all along. This is why he gave the law in the first place. This is what the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the day of atonement, the Passover, and all the feasts and all these things were about. This was about what God would accomplish through Christ, and we preach that message.
That’s my response. I agree with you that we need to emphasize holiness, and we need to do it in such a way where we are astonished at the grace of God and the fact that He loves sinners and actually celebrates when we come to faith and repent—which is His work anyway, but He celebrates that. And then preach the law and preach the gospel. I don’t think anybody’s going to get it twisted that we don’t think God’s holy.
Jon Moffitt: As you were speaking, these are the thoughts that came to my mind: mercy, rightly taught, creates merciful, Christians. And grace, rightly taught, creates gracious Christians. But what ended up being taught in the modern Calvingelical legalistic context is law, and it creates legalistic Christians.
Justin Perdue: Self-righteous Christians.
Jon Moffitt: Right. Legalistic, self-righteous Christians.
When I think about the woman at the feet of Jesus in Luke 7, what did Jesus constitute to her disposition? Much forgiveness. When I see people in my congregation who see that their sins have been massively forgiven, they tend to have a mass amount of mercy and patience and grace. When Paul says in Ephesians 4 to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” and immediately points to graciousness, mercy, and longsuffering, God has been merciful and patient and long suffering towards us. He says, “Look, I will not forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive.” The response of a Christian should be mercy and grace, and yet what I hear is legalism and law and self-righteousness.
Justin Perdue: It’s not surprising. I’m picking up on your idea and I think you’re exactly right. I just jotted this down as you were talking. I think when the law is mishandled, which is what you’re saying, 1 Timothy 1:8, we uphold the law when it’s used lawfully, but when the law is not used lawfully and is used irresponsibly, damage occurs. And in particular, what often happens is the law is preached to Christians and it’s confused.
In our churches, Jon, you and I mean to do two things in preaching to the redeemed. We do mean to preach the first use of the law every week to continue to remind us all that we can’t keep it and we need Christ for that and that he’s done it. So we do that. But then we also preach the third use of the law as the guide for our lives, but we do that in a way that is gentle and not threatening and not condemnatory because the law can no longer condemn us in Christ. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love it and that we don’t want to follow it—of course we do—but we’re not afraid of the law anymore. But what happens often is that the third use of the law, in the minds of many Calvingelical preachers, the guide part is actually preached with this threatening tone like it’s the first use. Then what occurs is when people are being told effectively to live better, it’s done with this edgy and threatening tone, which then produces people that are edgy and threatening in how they interact with everybody else when it comes to obedience. It’s always about doing something or else. That’s how we interact with each other. It’s not shocking. The tone and tenor of the preaching in how the law and the gospel are understood then affects the tone and tenor of all the relationships in the church.
Jon Moffitt: Justin and I could do this all day—we’d go off each other. But as you’re talking, what I hear is that preaching that should be relieving people of their burden and giving them hope for their burden, like in Galatians 2, bearing one another’s burden, instead, we are putting a burden on top of them and we’re exhausting Christians with the law inappropriately preached with the first use. And Jesus is saying, “No, no, no. My burden is light. The yoke that comes with me is a relief.”
Justin Perdue: Why is that? Because he’s done.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. So when I or any preacher of the gospel or even you who are sharing Jesus with your friends, neighbors, and your congregation, and you’re building each other up, it should be the relief of the burden off of them. You weren’t adding to the burden, but you’re carrying that burden. Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What gets me upset is there are people preaching Jesus and they give more burden. Paul says you preach Jesus and carry burdens; you don’t put more burdens on people.
Justin Perdue: Suffice it to say that Jesus is gentle, lowly, and compassionate toward those who know that they need him. He is always that way: he is not scary, he is not threatening, he is not disappointed. He welcomes us in love, he invites us to come to him, he reminds us that in him are found peace and rest and life, and we can approach him for those things. And he wants us to be with him. If anything, for me, one of the takeaways is that God so loves us that He rejoices to save us. That is a reminder that I don’t think we can hear enough.
Grace and peace to you saints who are listening to this podcast. We hope sincerely that you’ve been encouraged in Christ and in the love of your heavenly Father today. We have been as we’ve talked about it. Keep pressing on, keep trusting Christ, keep loving each other in your local communities. We pray that things continue to develop with SR and the app and the groups and all that good stuff so that even more community and encouragement can ensue. So pray for us.
Please continue to support this ministry. We’re very grateful for you and your partnership. We look forward to more of this and more rest in Christ and more joy in him and all that stuff, should the Lord tarry in the months and years to come.
Jon Moffitt: Join some groups. If you’re not in a group, join an online group or a local group. Let’s get this thing rolling.
Justin Perdue: Jon’s condemning all of you who haven’t joined the group yet now that we’re done with the gospel part.
Jon Moffitt: I’m encouraging you, not condemning.
Justin Perdue: Jon’s encouraging you. He is your kind adviser.
Anyway, before this goes off the cliff, we’re going to say goodbye. We will talk with you guys again next week on SR. Peace.