The Antiquity of the Covenant of Grace

 

From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant :

But now, in the second place, we come to notice ITS EVERLASTING CHARACTER. It is called an everlasting covenant. And here you observe at once its antiquity. The covenant of grace is the oldest of all things. It is sometimes a subject of great joy to me to think that the covenant of grace is older than the covenant of works. The covenant of works had a beginning, but the covenant of grace had not; and blessed be God the covenant of works has its end, but the covenant of grace shall stand fast when heaven and earth shall pass away.

The antiquity of the covenant of grace demands our grateful attention. It is a truth which tends to elevate the mind. I know of no doctrine more grand than this. It is the very soul and essence of all poetry, and in sitting down and in sitting down and meditating upon it.

I do confess my spirit has sometimes been ravished with delight. Can you conceive the idea that before all things God thought of you? That when as yet he had not made his mountains, he had thought of thee, poor puny worm? Before the magnificent constellations began to shine, and ere the great centre of the world had been fixed, and all the mighty planets and divers worlds had been made to revolve around it, then had God fixed the centre of his covenant, and ordained the number of those lesser stars which should revolve round that blessed centre, and derive light therefrom. Why, when one is taken up with some grand conceptions of the boundless universe, when with the astronomers we fly through space, when with we find it without end, and the starry hosts without number, does it not seem marvelous that God should give poor insignificant man the preference beyond even the whole universe besides?

Oh this cannot make us proud, because it is a divine truth, but it must make us feel happy. Oh believer, you think yourself nothing, but God does not think so of you. Men despise you but God remembered you before he made anything. The covenant of love which he made with his Son on your behalf is older than the hoary ages, and if ye fly back when as yet time had not begun, before those massive rocks that bear the marks of gray old age upon them, had begun to be deposited, he had loved and chosen you, and made a covenant on your behalf. Remember well these ancient things of the eternal hills.

Reading Plans for the New Year

 

In a recent post, I offered some encouragement on how to avoid failing at your New Year’s Bible reading plan.  Here I’d like to recommend one of the plans that was included from the links referenced in that post.

This particular reading plan may help you avoid some of the issues and frustrations discussed in the previous post, that often lead to reading plan failure.  The title of this plan is called the Legacy Reading Plan.

Designed by the folks at the Christian Research Institute, the Legacy Reading Plan “is an innovative approach to reading…strategically designed to empower you to ‘eat the elephant ‘one Book’ at a time’.  The Format is specifically formulated to make your time in God’s Word the best it can be.”

Legacy is an acronym that stands for:

L – Location: an isolated place where you can hear from God through His Word.

E – Essence: Comprehend the essence of “God as communicated by reading each Book as a whole.”

G – Genre: “To understand Scripture in the sense in which it is intended, it is important to pay special attention to the genre we are reading.”  This is largely how the plan is organized.

A – Author: a further organization of the reading plan is authorial.  This allows the reader to develop familiarity with a particular author’s style, terms, theology, etc.

C – Context: this rounds out the logic of the reading plan organization; “Context has an impact on how you contextualize one set of biblical Books in relation to another.”

Y – Years: “The overarching objective of the Legacy Reading Plan is to read through the Bible once a year, every year for the rest of your life. The reading calendar is naturally segmented into seasons and the seasons into months.”

As you may have gathered from the description above, this plan is different than some of the other yearly reading plans in that it doesn’t have a rigid schedule to follow.  Instead, it organizes Scripture reading logically, seasonally, then monthly.  Likewise, it allows flexibility in the amount of Scripture that one reads, but still keeps the reader on a general schedule so that they can accomplish their goal of reading through the Bible in a year.  So for example, one day you may have time to read 10-12 chapters, while another day maybe only 1 or maybe you’ve had to skip for one reason or another.  This is flexible enough to avoid what has been a major hindrance for some who follow a stricter plan, i.e. once you fall behind on chapters or days, its nearly impossible to make them up and then the inevitable reading plan failure ensues.  The Legacy Plan may help alleviate that obstacle.

What I like about the Legacy Plan:

  • Daily readings in Proverbs
  • Consistent, regular readings in the Psalms throughout the year (3 chapters per week)
  • Flexible reading allows for more reading on days when time is available, yet guilt free reading should a day or two be missed
  • Logical ordering
    • OT
      • Similar to the Hebrew canon (Tanak)
      • Hebrew Pentateuch and Hebrew Poetry
      • Hebrew History
      • Hebrew Prophets
        • The Prophets are in monthly proximity to Revelation
    • NT
      • Begins with the writings of the Apostle John allowing for consistent familiarity with his terms, writing style, etc.
      • Moves to the collection of Pauline and Pastoral epistles
      • The three synoptic gospels along with Acts are reserved for the Advent Season

If you are looking for a year-long reading plan, but have been met with some of the frustrations, obstacles, and ultimately failures that I’ve mentioned before, then The Legacy Plan may be a reasonable option to consider.

PDF Link Here: http://www.equip.org/PDF/LRP-WBG.pdf

http://www.equip.org/article/legacy-reading-plan/

 

*feature image reference: happynewyears2017.org

Deliver us from the Evil One

 

In so called reformed circles, it is sometimes common to hear of spiritual warfare that downplays any opposition to the devil or his minions.  Typically, this type of spiritual warfare focuses on the enemy within, namely sin, and poo-poo’s any battle with the evil one, because it is generally assumed that he has bigger and better things to do than cause your car not to start or give you a cold.  I say this last statement a bit tongue-in-cheek because there is another approach to spiritual warfare, that typical of the charismatics, that blames everything on the devil, from a flat tire to spilling your coffee on the way to work.

So what is the biblical approach to this?  Does the devil come against us either personally or by way of a second-tier demon, as in say The Screwtape Letters?  Or is there little to no evil activity by way of the evil one that is directed our way?

The first passage we will look at is a familiar one, though the proper translation is not as familiar, at least not familiar to most of us who memorized the KJV.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

The ESV, cited above, is in line with the King James Version on the translation of this passage, particularly verse 13 and the phrase, “deliver us from evil.”  Interpreted in this way, it would seem that our prayer should be for deliverance from general evil, which may come in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

However, this is not the best translation.

The NKJV gets this phrase right when it translates, “But deliver us from the evil one.”  How can we conclude that this is more accurate?  The Greek word for evil here is the word ponerou and it is an adjective.  Translating this word would leave us with the English equivalent for evil, however, as we can see in the ESV translation, it is functioning as a noun (technically a direct object).  How can an adjective function as a noun in the sentence?  Because it is functioning as a substantival adjective, meaning it acts as a noun in the original Greek grammar.  So wouldn’t this simply mean that the ESV translation is correct and our prayers should be to keep us from evil (note that the ESV recognizes the possibility of “evil one” in its footnote)?

Not necessarily, because not only is this word functioning as a noun, but it has a modifying article tou which when put together in its context would be more accurately translated, “the evil one” (tou ponerou).

This isn’t simply an academic exercise throwing around Greek words and phrases to impress or confuse, but has profound application in our prayer life and the direction toward which we should approach spiritual warfare.  It gives us a crystal clear statement that the devil, whether by secondary means or not, is in opposition to believers and that God is willing and able to protect us from the evil one (Luke 22:31-32).

Though outside of Matthew’s usage, similarly, this exact phrase is translated as I’ve just described in 1 Thess. 3:3

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” ESV

Here the ESV has chosen to translate the phrase “the evil one” while again offering a footnote for an alternative, this time for “evil”.  In this context, the Apostle Paul is concluding his second epistle to the Church at Thessalonica, by contrasting the faithless with the faithful Lord and stating His willingness and ability to guard them from the evil one, seemingly a related restatement of the passage from our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount cited above.

Additionally, John 17:15, in the midst of Christ’s High Priestly prayer we read

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” ESV

Again the translation choice of the ESV is towards a specific “evil one” and not a general concept of evil.  Context again shows a petition made that God would keep His saints from the evil one, and He will.

Summarizing this brief survey we may conclude several points:

  1. Satan is active in opposition towards believers.
  2. God is sovereign over Satan.
  3. Believers are to pray for God’s protection from the evil one.
  4. Christ intercedes on behalf of the saints for protection against the evil one.
  5. God is ready, able, and willing to protect them from the evil one. And He does.

Of particular interest is that in these passages we do not see any command or instructions on engaging in personal combat with Satan, as some charismatics would have us to believe.  Likewise, we see nothing of the diminishing attention that Satan gets in some reformed circles.  Perhaps in a future post, we’ll look at several passages that give us more insight into the operations of the devil in the lives of the believer and how we are exhorted to resist him, which is rooted and grounded in our Lord’s resistance of Satan 3 times in Matthew 4 and His subsequent death and resurrection (1 John 3:8).

 

See also: Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7, 1 John 2:13, Luke 22:31

For more on this translation discussion see Daniel Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pg. 233.

 

 

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"