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LAW, GRACE AND LORD
See also Tender Times for
Timely Truth Ch. 2 for broad
of many other extremes from the biblical centre, to add to the ones here exposed
Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee
How often do the ugly insistences come, I DO AS I PLEASE AND GOD LIKES ME! so that law is ignored or regarded with perfunctory eye!
How often again, comes the insidious wisdom, I MUST KEEP THE LAWS BECAUSE OTHERWISE I AM ACCURSED!
The first extreme, error, is called antinomianism, and the second legalism. Both are foolish, and like tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, they love to strive.
The one is apt to state robustly, I do not have to be concerned to keep a day of rest, it is ALL rest; and I do not bother to have my children given the covenantal sign of baptism, nor do you find in me any fear of God, for perfect love casts out fear, and I proceed in my own smooth way.
The other as assuredly declares freely, I am kept on the way by my fear, and I know that I must not slip, for many brave men are asleep in the deep, so I make sure of my salvation by watching continually lest something grab it from me; and I work and slave and am content to make it rest on my own labours, for who else. As to God ? He wants it so.
Each is wrong biblically, and neither has rest and reality. Indeed, as to their infighting, they DESERVE each other!
Thus it is obvious that when Christ declared
that every jot and tittle of the law and the prophets would be
that the one who keeps the least of these commandments
He was not wishing to intimate that
really, what is required does not matter much.
In His presence such things proceeded, and by His will such was the force of the word of God.
Again, when He noted that all this would be FULFILLED (Matthew 5), it is equally clear that He as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and so announced from the first light of His ministry as Messiah, would fulfil plenty, just as Isaiah had indicated. What was NOT fulfilled of course, would continue in all its classic consistency. As priest offering Himself as sacrifice on the alter of the Cross, vicarious target for sin and operator to present pardon, God as man divesting guilt from the souls of those who received Him, He fulfilled masses of law in one act (Hebrews 8-10), the 'shadows' being finished in the substance of His own work, done once for all (Hebrews 9).
It was equally clear that pardon does not mean impurity (Romans 6), and that love does not mean laxity for, as He declared, Go and sin no more (John 5:14); and again, in Revelation, He declares, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Rev. 3:19), requiring them to "be zealous and repent".
"WHY," He asked, "do you call Me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say!" (Luke 6:46). One of the things He said was the above, concerning the "least of these commandments". So far from indicating a poor understanding of the bash, the pilgrimage, the nature of the case, such obedience to His word was rather an index to greatness. This is not surprising when you realise that the first command is to love, and that without this there is nothing (I Corinthians 13), but WITH it, faith working by love, there is much (Galatians 5)! And by WHAT ENABLEMENT does it work ? God, say Peter as in Acts 5:30, gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. It is not that only super-Christians receive Him (as Romans 8:9 categorically shows), but that any Christian on His work bent by faith, is specially enabled by the Lord's own presence (II Cor. 3:17).
A Lord whose word is dust is no Lord but something fussed. If you call Him Lord, act like it! The message is not obscure...
Antinomianism is founded on a misconception that if you LOVE, everything will happen. This is true within a certain number of conditions. If you LOVE GOD, firstly; if you love Him with ALL your heart AND soul and MIND and STRENGTH, secondly; and these being the first commandment, they probably rate some attention even from the delinquent.
If you do that, then obviously you will notice that He speaks, and loves you to do what He says (John 14:21ff.).
But WHY ? It is because of, and out of love, and that is precisely the ELEMENT of truth in the antinomian position. As with Baptism, where the Baptist would have NO child baptised in infancy, and the baptismal regenerationist, who might have it done with fear lest the kid be damned, there is here just the so common matter of extremes based on exclusion of some of the word of God, and the natural carnal desire to carry things through with limited vision, but almost unlimited determination. This leads in many conflicts to almost irreparable ruin. Determination is good, if it is on a good thing: to be zealous as Paul teaches is good, so long as it is about a good thing (Galatians 4:17-18).
Loving your neighbour as yourself is one of those things which the Lord commands, and keeping His words concerning either or both of these commands, it is the part of the disciple. The fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (II Cor. 3:17) does not mean that you are enabled to BE God, or to disregard who He is and what He wants, says and commands; but rather it intimates that there is a deliverance from fear, from the desire to be your own saviour (in practice) or part-saviour; and thus that there is such nearness to God that in your unction to function, you are given facility and grace, joy in service and strength in resolve, so that God is actually working WITH you, a thing better than rapture, in its way, and privilege unspeakable. Of course, all has its part, and outcomes betoken prior incomes!
But let us now reflect on the opposite extreme.
As to the fearful, who MUST do this and that or be damned (and we hear that it can be very productive financially in some bodies with the name of 'church' in the tithing area, using Malachi 3), there is a whole array of contrary promises such as John 5:24, 4:14, Romans 5:1-11, I John 5:11ff., John 10:9,27-28, I Peter 1, Job 19, Romans 8, Psalm 17, 145 and so on, so that it is a psychological wonder that any could actually even entertain such a notion, as if their salvation depending in any part upon themselves. SALVATION, Jonah cried with the voice of understanding, is OF THE LORD! (Jonah 2:9), having been seeing what appeared as the bars of hell!
Salvation is a grant and bounty (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 6:23, 3:23-27, 5:1-17, John 5:24, 4:14). It is exclusive of boasting because of this.
It is not 'slavation' but salvation! You may feel like working for Christ with a warmth of love for Him and His kingdom so that it is like being a slave, but a very happy one, and this not as one trying to be accepted, but rather because of prior acceptance (Ephesians 1:6), so delighting to act in such a domain of deity, however humbly the task may be set.
When one further finds that perfect love*1 casts out fear (I John 4:18), we wonder how this legalistic state of affairs could persist in any who believe the Bible to be the word of God Himself, speaking as He will and what He will.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.
But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."
Fear in what way ? There is here explicitly the question of torment, of being scared you will be excluded, or become the butt of divine wrath. This is out of the question if you are Christ's, for His seed remains in you (I John 3:9). Thus perfect love casts out fear.
His seed does not wander, but if implanted in you, is your dower and inheritance, making you that specific child of God that you are. Born a child of Smith, you have Smith genes; born a child of God you have HIS seed in you, so that you are a new creation, and this seed STAYS! That is what is written. Hence you are able to read I John 5:11-12, and find John TELLING you who believe that he wants you to know that you have eternal life; and this is why he who drinks of that water which Christ gives, as He told the woman at the well (the tense is not present continuous, but aorist), will CERTAINLY NOT THIRST FOR EVER. It is why He can tell the crowd as in John 6, that He who eats His flesh (again the tense is aorist in both 6:50 and 6:51), both has eternal life and will be raised by Him at the last day.
Nor was He signifying some kind of cannibalism, as if the flesh were AVAILABLE on earth, which was crucified and rose, for any kind of suffering ever again, for said He, John 6:65-66, what if He should go back to heaven! Then where would they be! No! He indicated, "It is the Spirit who gives life. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life." Moreover HIS sacrifice DID involve suffering, and if He were to repeat it, it would mean suffering again; and bloodless and imaginary sacrifices are for that reason wholly ineffectual as well as blasphemous, since without the shedding of blood, there is no remission!
So you should not have this craven sort of terrified fear, this genuine doubt; faith does not live with that, and love does not believe such things of the cordial assurances of God.
However, as I Peter 2:17 reminds us, "Fear God. Honour the King."
Psalm 89 tells us what many in Pentecostalism have recently seemed to forget, to their great shame:
"God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
and to be held in reverence by all those around Him."
"The fear of the Lord is CLEAN," says Psalm 19:9, "enduring forever."
Revelation 15:2-4 moreover records this of heaven as the Age comes to its concluding phases, and of those who populate it in glory:
And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gained
the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark,
and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.
And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty;
just and true are thy ways, You King of saints.
"Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
for You only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before You;
for Your judgments are made manifest."
Here beyond any doubt, are those who can have no craven fear, for their eternity is already present in heaven, their victory already registered in heaven, and they SING a song which includes the fact that such is the wonder and power, the might and marvel of God that anyone would fear Him in such a light, and His judgments are already apparent. Who WOULD NOT FEAR YOU! This is the fear that is of a blazing and glorious fire which is not to be tampered with, which has a beauty of power and wonder, but which rightly regarded is delightful. It is not craven but awe-stricken, and awe, it is a thing of beauty, communicated by what stirs it!
As in I Peter 1ff., so here, the combination of fearing God in reverence, glory and wonder, reverencing His greatness and delighting in His majesty and rule, is as far removed from the concept of terror as love is from that of hatred. Here in Revelation 15, the reverential 'fear' of God is a bloom on the blossom of adoration in glory, for those who have already gained the victory, and populate the magnificence of heaven.
Thus the concept of 'fear' is no excuse for feared outage from the grace of God and lack of faith in His promises. On the contrary, His reverence-inducing magnificence is a ground of security and a testimony of faithfulness, a purity better than crystal, with no darkness at all in it (I John 1:5).
Thus neither the laxity of presumption, or even arrogance, which readily infills and instils itself into antinomianism, nor the quaking of legalism are in the least degree justified. What IS justified is the one who has put heart's trust in Christ as Redeemer and Lord, Saviour and God, whose word is thus cherished while to His way, glory is assigned (Romans 5:1, Titus 3:4ff., Ephesians 2:1-12, Romans 8:29ff.). Ephesians 2 tells us literally that by grace you are having-been-saved ones through faith! It is a condition, an estate, or as Ephesians 1:11 tells the Christian, already an inheritance obtained!
Well therefore might Paul be assured that neither things past nor future will separate him from the love of God, nay more, will be even ABLE to so separate him! Small wonder that he KNOWS whom he has believed and is persuaded that He is able to keep what is committed to Him against that day, and that a crown is laid up for him, a crown of righteousness (II Timothy 1:12, 4:8). Since of course, this righteousness is Christ's, we see the elders in holy homage casting their crowns before Him (Revelation 4:10-11, Romans 5:17). Let us contemplate the former.
"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that lives for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
You art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power:
for You hast created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created."
As to this gift of righteousness which God grants (II Cor. 5:17ff., Romans 5:17), it is for ever (Romans 8:29ff., I John 5:11-12, Romans 5:1-11). This is vicarious justification (Romans 3:23ff.); and it is the only one in sight of sin that man is going to get, because he is born a sinner since the Fall, and his redemption has been infinite in cost (John 3, I John 3), perfect in kind, infinite in acceptability because it is God's own granted in gift format. It is the righteousness of Christ which is given, one which in Him has been experimentally manifest, testimonially absolute, and then graciously conferred as cover to His people. This He has done while He who has accepted the guilt of their sins, has been raised past their every power and wit to destroy or condemn.
It is eternal, so that the redemption is called "eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12).
Thus the Christian, we learn, has an anchor 'beyond the veil' (Hebrews 6:19), that is beyond all preliminaries in the very heart and presence of God, through faith; and that is Christ, elsewhere our ark of resurrection (I Peter 3:21) or Rock (I Cor. 10). As to this anchor (as in I Peter 1:3-8), He is "both sure and steadfast" in His anchoring of those who have "fled for refuge" to Him. No storm can displace Him, and His redemption being eternal, leaves all evanescent things mere contrast and debris.
Justified "without the works of the law" (Romans 3:23-27), and freely, recipient of a "gift by grace" (Romans 5:15), vicariously justified, is the Christian. What then are you doing, if legalist and drawing on the Bible, if you are in any sense, degree or manner seeking to justify yourself! Do you not realise that if you are justified (Romans 5:1 - like any Christian), then far more are you to be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:9-10)! If however, you are not justified, then you reject Paul who declares this as a consequence of the most radical kind of the death and resurrection of Christ, through faith (Romans 4:24-5:1). If His, justified; if not justified, not His. Does not Paul in Romans 4:24-5:1 make this as clear as crystal in heaven! HE was delivered up for our offences and raised up for our justification (do you believe that ? if not, there is nothing Christian involved at all - Romans 10:9, for you are denying a critical basis given by the word of God). Very well, at once Paul declares of such who by faith have so received Him, HAVING BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, you have peace with God (Romans 5:1).
Such an approach of legalism, therefore, casts rubbish on the Gospel, disgrace on the Cross, and disfavour on divine donation of salvation.
It is thus precisely this that Paul attacks, with such vigour, in Romans 10:1ff.., concerning those "going about to establish their own righteousness", declaring of them that they "have not submitted to the righteousness of God."
This is depicting the very fault of the unbelieving Jew, going about to justify himself, as the apostle declares of such a case. NOTHING the ungodly does can justify him (Romans 5:6-9), since this is the office of Christ (Romans 3:23), and fiddling with what omnipotent perfection alone can offer (Psalm 49:7,15) is not merely unbelieving in disposition, but belligerent towards the grace of God which insists that the "gift of God is eternal life" (Romans 6:23), that "gift by grace" (5:15) and not by something else like works; for
"if it is by
works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work."
If, however, it is
"by grace, then it is no longer of work: otherwise grace
is no longer grace"
NONE can boast, and what better case for boasting than making a determinative contribution, either relatively or absolutely, to your place in heaven. Hence we hear from the apostle such words as these: "Where is boasting then ? It is excluded. By what law ? Of works ? No, but by the law of faith." That is the NATURE of faith, and grace is the nature of its operating medium, for BY GRACE are you saved through faith, and that (the whole action, such being the grammatical endings) is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). As to the "saved" in this verse, in the Greek, let us stress that it is "having been saved ones". You HAVE BEEN SAVED by grace. It is not future or optional, but current and operative now. Hence such are characterised as "having obtained an inheritance" (Ephesians 1:11), just as in I John 5:11-12, they are exhorted to be aware of that fact.
LEAVING THE SMOG BEHIND
It is thus time to leave these squalling brothers, and their artificial bothers, and to look beyond.
When then we come to the fact that Christ made so clear in Matthew 5, namely this: that when God speaks, He does not grow up, or down, or around (cf. Malachi 3:6), but MEANS just what He says, UNLESS it is fulfilled: then we find at once many things. Thus we discover from this that a day of rest is not fulfilled, for rest was always an option, one which they forgot to take, in NOT acting in faith as we see in Numbers 14 and Psalm 95, cited in Hebrews 4. Such rest was David's as in Psalm 32, which is cited in Hebrews 3.
And WHY, does Hebrews there tell us, did those of the Old Testament day there indicated, NOT enter into their rest ? Was it some 'dispensational' matter ?
Far from it. It was because they DID NOT BELIEVE! Faith always has this result in the Lord, on the basis of His covenant. Grace is always the gift, goodness the base and mercy the operating power in the wisdom of God, providing rest (cf. Psalm 43:5, Psalm 116:7). As to the latter, it reads, "Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.".
You do not return to what you never had, and here you see the norm to which the soul returns after waves and billows have pressed upon it, as a ship returns to an even keel, which is its natural path.
Hence rest is not something new, but something kept for the people of God in a select category, though substantially offered, available and found by many beforehand. That is the nature of spiritual rest which His children have found, do find and continue to receive. You do not FULFIL what is THERE ALREADY.
Nothing is fulfilled in such a category, but merely paid for, seen in consummation and continued in abundance. What then of the matter of the PAST, the creation-consequence of Exodus 20, a periodic day for restoration and worship ?
Resting one day in seven BECAUSE of the way we were made (Exodus 20:8-11 - and much space is given in the 10 commandments to this, some 4 verses out of 17), is in Moses explicitly given as the ground for the day of rest for the believers in God. Creation is not heaven, is not coming: it has come. We were made that way, and must act that way FOR THAT REASON, says Exodus.
This has no stated basis in the future as symbolising that realm, in these commandments. On the contrary, and perfectly explicitly, it rests for reason on the PAST, on the WAY in which man was created by GOD. It is this which is statedly dominant and the criterion.
Such a thing is not fulfilled. Creation is history! It is simply followed.
You cannot re-write it. It is done. Further, it is in this that our natures were furnished by the God who does not change, so that any endeavour to squirm or turn from this is illicit at once. It is to ram God's words right back into His mouth. One cannot at times wonder to what extent some twisted doctrines of this type are helped by a liberalism which does not like God to be too definite, and likes room always to be left for man to interpolate with his rebellion, even if it is to be dressed in gnostic knowledgeability, which of course is not satisfied with simply accepting WHAT He says and, where He gives grounds, those which HE adduces!
Of course, the ceremonial sabbaths (Colossians 2:16 - correctly translated in the AV and the NKJ version from the Majority Greek text), which in context are part of the apparatus of symbolic law for which the Mosaic covenant is famous, with all their various types and dire stringencies (cf. Numbers 15:32), and associated with various feasts in various ways as they were, are in this regard symbolic. They are symbolically ceremonial in kind. They go, therefore, when Christ has fulfilled the sacrificial masterpiece as He did at Calvary; as do the sacrifices and the feasts; and thus not surprisingly the apostles and brethren insisted on removing any sense of dutiful necessity regarding the multiplied provisions of the pageantry and formalism of the legal array (Acts 15).
As Christ had already made so clear in Matthew 5 especially, what is fulfilled is fulfilled. What is not remains in force. God said it.
HE fulfilled much (as in Matthew 26:55-56) personally. This makes for a vast change, because the learning materials of the past in such fulfilments, go.
Thus, you do not need a Temple when the Holy of Holies is already entered once and for all (Hebrews 4-8, Matthew 27:50), nor sacrifices when He has covered the redemption with eternal redemption once for all (Hebrews 8-10), nor do you need the festivals of figurative kind when the journey into heaven is already covered by Christ. However there is no fulfilment in the case of creation, for man is restored when converted to the IMAGE HE ONCE HAD (Colossians 3:10); and is not made into some kind of superman! What is applicable to the image remains so, morals stay the same, the smallest part indeed, though of course NO figurative and fulfilled part, remain applicable to performance, having already been done (Matthew 5:17ff.). Such is the word of Christ.
Thus the way you were created and the way you have to live because of this as stipulated in the 10 commandments, stay as unfulfilled and as binding. They are ways of life. They are not ways of earning a granted and free salvation; they are not ways of seeking to change the grace of God; they are however ways of acting as a child of God ought to do, shining as a light in a dark place (Philippians 2:15). The day of rest continues in principle, in spirit and in substance for release, worship and as mercy to man.
Naturally it becomes Sunday, since there WAS in principle no rest while the disciples were in fear, and had not yet seen Christ, just as there was of necessity rest when they realised He was resurrected and basked in the greatest of the divine accomplishments seen there before their eyes, and touchable by their hands! (Luke 24:39, 43, John 20:27-29). The sequence of one in seven is the point, and the rest is shared as from God, now, when HE rested from His greatest work, that of the New Covenant salvation in His blood, as witnessed on the day where worship alone now becomes New Testamental, and not depraved from duty, as if to derogate His passion. Rest day remains.
The same applies to infant covenant application, which was so important that not 4 verses, but one challenge to life itself met Moses when he failed to have it done to his child (Exodus 4:24ff.). Death would be the payment for refusal, we discover! Moses made haste to act.
Circumcision of an infant, there the issue with Moses, of course did not and could not save, since God is Spirit and not pageant (Jeremiah 9:25-26 cf. Questions and Answers Ch. 2):
" 'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord,
'that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness.
'For all these nations are uncircumcised,
and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.' "
Nor was it ever said that it would save, that symbol, or any other!
What DOES matter is given just before this, in Jeremiah 9 also:
"Thus says the Lord:
'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord."
CONFUSION FROM MIXING SALVATION AND CEREMONY
Thus if people want to mix salvation with symbol and ceremony (an error which the Lord utterly excoriated and repudiated as in Isaiah 1), then this is mere perversity of heart before His word. If, on the other hand, they want to react to those who have done this, and so ditch the symbol given, then this is presumption and reaction instead of that due response, measured and spiritual, in which the word of God continues to rule.
The Baptist position is grievously involved with a reaction which is of this type. It is sad, as is the Salvation Army approach in dispensing with the liquid in the Lord's Supper, and this again may well have been because of abuse, as it appears. It is good to avoid abuse; but it is also good not to abuse what is abused by ignoring it on that account.
Thus when God indicates and indicts His attitude to the family so clearly in terms of circumcision of the infant and the coming of all the congregation in witness (as in Deuteronomy 29:10-11), and when you find so clearly the spiritual significance of circumcision, as when for example many in Israel are accused of NOT being circumcised in heart, as we have just seen in Jeremiah 9, there is no question of His being equivocal, double-minded or vacillatory. He lays down His attitude as Creator, to families in His people. He has spoken, and our ears are for hearing.
There are numbers of such instances concerning the meaning of circumcision, as in Deuteronomy 10:16
'circumcise therefore the foreskin of your hearts,'
and again in Jeremiah 4:3-4,
'Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire..."
It is apparent that the meaning of this sacrament is cleanness of heart, cleansing from improper pre-occupations, zeal for the Lord, removal of obstruction to clear knowledge of Himself, In fact, it concerns the essence of what the covenant provided, of which this is simply a symbol, though an important one, since it sums it up, and indicates decisively that this soul has been committed to God on the divinely authorised mode. What He will do about it will be seen; what the PARENTS have done about it IS seen.
It is NOT seen in some dedication; it is seen in the application of specific covenantal symbol, so that it is upon the child. That is what was ordered on pain of death.
ALL things in the household are to the Lord, not merely in essence or spirit; and when it comes to persons, in a personal way, where ONLY the covenant as PRESCRIBED is even relevant, involved is this covenant of salvation, applicable to believers, to be imprinted on the infants concerned.
Symbolising this does not bring its fruits to the child necessarily, for symbols signify, they do not impart the thing itself, which is as God wills and faith indicates.
The symbol is a divinely sent index, not a substitute for life. It does however betoken much in the work of God in the nation and in the home. Moreover, it DOES bring glory to God in having all things, even loved children, put where the covenantal reality is prized. There are actions from God to provide, to stamp, to seal, to decree, to give His own highly specialised index on children, because they are in a house committed to Him, where His rule and power according ONLY to His covenant is celebrated, and where He is able to do wonders according to His own good pleasure.
It sets the scene, but it does not secure a specified scenario. God is very deep, and considers all things, including the willingness to be ONLY His and ONLY in terms of His word; for there is to be neither dalliance nor the worship of will, but of God only (cf. John 1:12-13). Once the follies of imaginary baptismal regeneration are removed with the ash can of delusion, then the follies of baptismal delay are to go with them, the one a testimony to ceremonialism and the other to voluntarism; while both attest rebellion from clear scriptures which forbid such autonomous imaginations or celebratory short-cuts.
God may show mercy in many ways, but these ways are firstly prescribed, and secondly set in the plane of communication which He has erected. While omission is therefore an affront, commission is not the same as salvation, but not least an express and determinate register of obedience and consecration of the parents themselves, and thus in their parental role. IF this is in place, then the result are in place for each need as it arises.
Again, symbols signify, but they are not the power of God, except where and how He chooses to use them, His own power being immeasurably above them. No ceremony conveys salvation; at most a ceremony, granted in grace, supplies it to spirituality. In this matter, then, they show something, but what they show is obedience, conformity to covenant, and the insistence on stamping everything in some way with the covenant, the agreement, the grace divine.
As to the substance and reality of salvation itself, the covenant in Christ's blood secures the thing, but it does not invent it (Ephesians 1:7, Romans 3:23ff., Hebrews 9-10). It was always in blood (Hebrews 9:22), and the Lamb of God was the one symbolised in the animal sacrifice interim, to complete forever (9:12) what had been an ongoing, repetitive and preliminary work of portrayal. Sin, sacrifice, confession and covenant obtained. Such was the case; such is the case. The preliminaries have been consummated, but they are all of one reality.
God has never signalled that He has changed His mind on these principles*1A concerning His creation, man; and if He had it would be a phenomenon of the most amazing and incredible kind! After all, man is in His image, and starting like that, continues the same!
What then ? God has not changed (cf. James 1:17, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). NOWHERE in the New Testament is there the slightest suggestion that God has thought better about His 'former' attitude, and that He now prefers - He who would kill Moses if the thing were not done to the child, to ignore the whole matter, leaving it to prayer and various spontaneous actions of the parent.
On the contrary, in Acts 2:38-39, it is made clear that this is a family matter, not of course as it never was, in guaranteeing the salvation of an infant, but in the same sense that it had been. Thus we have in perfectly comprehensible exhortation, the announcement that the promise to you and to your children and to those who are far off.
This referred to believing in repentant frame, and receiving the Holy Spirit. Such was the promise and such was the impact. The way children related, without word of change, would of course be just as it had been in principle. God is not about to be corrected, as if it were contrary to Himself to have such a symbol planted on infants; is He to be brought to account by some political philosophy of our own, based on a foul misconception, not to be found in scripture, called baptismal regeneration ? Are two human additions to the scripture to substitute for one divine imprimatur. Let us take care then, not to offend the most high, or to deprive children of the sign which our households are required to portray for the glory of God.
When young the little ones would receive the preliminary sign of the covenant, just as they had. This Gospel then was applied just as it had been, and this new development fitted into the framework of what God had long said, and would continue to apply: not only to the present, but to the future; not only to adults, but in the normal way, to children in their due covenantal relationship, that of the New Covenant in His blood (Matthew 26:28) which of course required the change from the symbol of circumcision, which was associated with sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 12:3ff., Luke 2:21-24). It was changed for entrance as in Acts 2:37ff., to baptism, as equally attested in its corporate identity in Colossians 2:11-12.
The concept that what was not changed and what was contra-indicated in the stress on "to your children" and the household terminology, as before, in Acts 16, was to be thrown out for some unaccountable reason, and that this was to be added to the words of the apostle, falls slain by the word of God in Proverbs 30:6. You may not add to the word of God. He is perfectly capable of saying what He wants, and we of hearing what He says! He has spoken; let that suffice.
All this would work in the presence of God according to assured arrangements and secure provisions. ALL the household was so stamped. NOTHING was left out. So now all are covered in the new symbol, nothing is left out. If pots in the Lord's House are to be holy, how much more are children to be sanctified in this specialised sense, set apart before God (Zechariah 14:20): yes, how much more are persons in the household of faith to be sanctified in this symbolic sense!
Much the same is seen in Acts 16:9ff., so that if the intention were to divorce the concept from the Old Testament covenantal approach, it would not be possible more gravely to misrepresent it, than Paul did.
However the apostle was guilty of no misrepresentation, but merely continued what GOD HAS NEVER UTTERED ONE SYLLABLE ABOUT CHANGING, namely the covenantal prescription and approach. Indeed, in view of Acts 2 and 16 alone, if God were intent on misleading His people concerning the continuity of the Old Testament household concept ("and your household"), this would be an excellent way to do it. Such rubbish is merely the obverse of the fact that the Lord has kept it pellucid that NO CHANGE is in view. He is not like that. He knows what He is doing from the first. He expects us to listen to the last, and not to provide psychological notes on presumed change!
I DO NOT CHANGE! He declares (Mal. 3:6). Beware then not to act as if He did! If He has declared the importance of the infant covenantal seal, which represented the whole covenant, and never retracted it, and imparted that the Philippians gaoler’s faith MEANT action for all the house, then let us
neither imagine the action was OTHER than it had always been,
a seal of significance but not imparting salvation,
nor MORE, as if it saved,
nor LESS as if God had persuaded Himself of some error in viewpoint,
and no longer felt any need for the covenantal symbol to be imparted.
Let us moreover not change the scripture that imparts the parallel in circumcision
and baptism. If one means the other, then who is he or she who dare exclude it,
saying, in effect,
‘For me, however, this is not so,
and I shall divide what God has put together in Colossians 2:11-12’ !
On the contrary, let us leave the word and ways of God alone,
neither omitting His word, falsifying His principles nor changing His perspective,
and so profit in doctrine from all scripture as commanded (II Timothy 3:16, Matthew 5:17-20).
Notice from the latter that God does not lightly regard His slightest word;
how much less is reconstruction appreciated! Indeed, it is not written
that we should NOT find profit, instruction and doctrine in ALL scripture, but that we SHOULD!
In fact, there seems a parallel to liberalism in this deviation from the clear import of scripture concerning the will of God and covenant impact and imprint, when it is given and to whom.
It is likewise in line with a dip of the cap to political culture of the modern era,
since atomism is now so popular, every person with his or her own will,
all in their own right with no account given to any. This is fulfilled in this derogation of family involvement and unity which lies in the 'believer's baptism' approach, as if
all depended on the way a person feels, and not on the desire and mode of approach of God Almighty, clear towards infants for millenia with no jot or tittle of change except in mode:
sacrifice being part of the circumcision content, and so now impossible because of Calvary.
But Calvary does not change the mind of God: it merely implements it in culmination!
Are we to assume that you change your driving principles because you have a new car ?
Would it not be better to ASK you because such presumptuous assumption ?
And when the Christ Himself declares that no jot or tittle is going till all is fulfilled,
this becomes more than presumption, verging on the very creation of new doctrine
in dereliction of duty!
When in addition we find it STATED DIRECTLY that ALL scripture is profitable for doctrine
does this mean that we think our own thoughts and put the tag 'of God' on them
in some inscrutable way, as if the very summit of wisdom in ourselves!
Thus, as if changing God’s mind were not enough, adding to His words, this then this error proceeds to contradict His stated perspective. Anything else in mind then ? One would hope then that the point being perspicuous, the joint errors of baptismal regeneration and infant exclusion from the covenantal sign would cease. These extremes tend to invade Christendom, but of the word of God, they have no part, either the one nor the other.
Thus Paul with reason declares, WE ESTABLISH THE LAW! There is no rubbish tin for its way, merely a filter for what is fulfilled, as Christ made obvious (cf. Romans 3:31).
The concept that the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24) is entirely irrelevant to this aspect, since tutors are not hired to bring you to error, but to truth; and what in pageantry was fulfilled, was finished indeed, but not its significance.
Thus its principles or its declarative core and kernel continue as from a good tutor. Early mathematics is not contradicted by later, though it may be surpassed; for we are not taught in order to be led astray, but in order to learn. The law dinned in their sinfulness and the meaning of God's actions (Hebrews 7-10, Romans 7:13); but it was as far from authorising any dispensing with its points of orientation and perspective as it is possible to be, and its message is as far from being forgettable as is our early training. It is all for edification and correction, not for being corrected by the presumptuous and intrusive thoughts of man. We are not 'gods' but adopted children of the household of faith, who come in faith to Him; and we come in repentance and in regeneration, not in unruliness and peremptory protocols of our own! That, it is not the way of children.
Nor has He failed to give us even further help than this.
Symbolisms go; the word remains - that is the word of Christ, whose religion, after all, this is (I Peter 1:24-25). But its enduring forever in its truth, we do not find that the meaning is that it will alter and be a sort of spiritual rouse-about ready for service as man directs by his political preferences, social culture and divisive thoughts. To be divided from men is one thing, but to be divided from God, this is another!
Moreover, there was not only former symbolism but prophetic signification of sprinkling with WATER for cleansing in Ezekiel 36:25, where the culmination of the curse passing, the introduction to the new way that Isaiah 65:13-15 insisted would be required for Jew OR Gentile is shown, one which leads straight to the Messianic kingdom (37:22-26) which never changes nor can be quenched. This linked with the blood sacrifice of God's only begotten Son (Isaiah 7,9, 50-55, 66:2ff.), and the consequent irrelevance of all other sacrifice, is for the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31) where ALL are a kingdom of priests (I Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6), so that all are like Levites (Numbers 8:6-7), engaged in spiritual service and office before the Lord, and so sprinkled with water as a part of their introduction to their profession (of faith) and their calling (to be Christ's, Messiah people, 'Christians').
This prophetic forecast of the entry covenant requirement, in Ezekiel 36, merely meets the fulfilment as in Acts, where now water is needed, baptism such as in Hebrews 9:10 specifies generically of the sprinkling enumerated below that in verse 13. It is a pity the word 'baptism' is not used in translation in 9:10, but there it is in the Greek, used of all this paraphernalia of sprinkling in the law, where of course sprinkling was the mode de rigueur as a symbol for purification, where as in Exodus 20, where it was a lavish coverage of structure, book and people, or in the case of leper's houses, or various sin offerings. The same principle of part for whole is seen in the hands and feet washing in Exodus 40:30-31 for Moses, Aaron and his sons, to which of course Christ referred in His talk with Peter (John 13), declaring that there was no need to wash more than hands and feet, for this covered all!
Whether then in divine approach to families, to covenant, or prophetic forecast, there is one result. God means what He says, says what He means and does not change. Where sacrificial aspects are involved they go, but the principle does not go. God does not change His attitude in fulfilment, but simply fulfils what has been preparatory, as in the case of animal sacrifice. Families, however, these are not 'fulfilled', but part of the structure of humanity created in the divine image. Neither God nor these change.
What is the position then ? The household was a covenantal unit, and it remained so. When God wishes to let you know He has changed, wait for it; for it will not come! (cf. Psalm 102!). In the meantime, do not DO IT FOR HIM!
That would be to add insult to revolt; and if it were done only in confusion, yet it is to avoided as one avoids walking with boots in the sea, as if the collision of dry and wet, water, leather and skin would be in some way a desirable novelty. Such extravaganzas of importation and mixture of truth with error in extreme mode, whether from confusion or waywardness of mind or heart, are in no way helpful, but tend only to demean both the doer and the testimony.
Thus it is scarcely surprising to find that in His divine grace, God does trace out in Colossians 2:11-12*2, the fact that IF you have been baptised, then you have been circumcised in terms of spiritual meaning (since obviously it is not so physically!). The core and crux of one is the other, to the point that if you have the former, you have the latter. This is what the word of God says.
In so doing, having the one if you have the other, you do not omit an essential part of it, by spontaneous disregard of that part of the word of God which does not fit your reaction. Instead, the godly response is to accept all of what is said, which in turn, merely confirms what no change being uttered, has been indicated from the first. Baptism is the continuity concept, the symbolic exchange unit for circumcision. It is no other, has no divergent meaning, and is here arraigned into this position positively. It is important to avoid these unbiblical extremes, then, both of baptismal regeneration and of excluding baptism for infants; neither have scriptural sanction and both violate the word of God with importation of concepts.
Nor is this all.
We have considered REST and SACRAMENT, but now we look at SANCTITY.
In the matter, thirdly of SANCTITY, we look further at the way of the word of God. Thus we have found that we have the SABBATH - day of rest, changed, because the greatest work of God ended on Sunday, the day of the resurrection (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 12 ); but its crux is not, because this cannot be changed. This is part of it.
Then there was the SACRAMENT and the submission to the word of God in that, both avoiding the nonsense of baptismal regeneration and the presumption of changing the symbol-substance relationship in the family on God's behalf, without His sanction.
Now there is a further element in SANCTITY involved. Having looked at the reality of rest, we come to the rest of rest, that is, to the remainder of it, the realisation of the desires of the Lord and of His power to transform us to a composure that fits with freedom, and has relish in reality.
What is right, the word of God tells; what is to be done, the Spirit of God may perform within us (II Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:16, 5:5). What however is a further realm where our understanding needs to be resting on the foundation of God as He has provided it, as we rest also in Him ?
Now there is a further element in SANCTITY involved. Having looked at the reality of rest, we come to the rest of rest, that the remainder of it, the realisation of the desires of the Lord and of His power to transform us to a composure that fits with freedom, and relishes with reality.
What is right, the word of God tells; what is to be done, the Spirit of God may perform within us (II Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:16, 5:5). What however is a further realm where our understanding needs to be resting on the foundation of God as He has provided it, as we rest also in Him ?
The person is as in the Old Testament to be wholly devoted, cleansed, purified, at rest in the Lord. Hence there is to be a commitment and devotion, a dedication and a consecration which fits with Paul's specification in I Thessalonians 5:23-24:
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely;
and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."
There is to be no limit to sanctification, just as there is no pathological desire to secure it by some painful striving that does not wait on the Lord for its peace and power, grace and understanding (cf. Psalm 43, Isaiah 26:1-4; 33; 64:5; II Corinthians 3:18, Acts 4:23ff.; 8, 13; 16:6ff.). How does Psalm 119 depict zeal and humility, desire for righteousness that is dowered and empowered, being a gift of the Lord that moves in strength to, and then through the heart!
Now let us turn to a practical question in the midst of this milieu.
Let us take a simple, practical illustration.
HOW does this affect tithing ? do you, in these heady days, actually give a substantial amount to the work of Christ, to the Church of God for His purposes ? If people really and regularly did this, doubtless they would be somewhat more careful before following some guru who infects the Christian ranks for some new false teaching such as is found so often (cf. News 121, 122), just as Peter (I Peter 2:1ff.) predicted would be the case, as did Christ (Matthew 24:24).
First, note that in this case there IS a New Testament prescription, though one of a very general character. It is this: Give according as the Lord has prospered you (I Corinthians 16:2).
"On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside,
storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come."
The Sunday worship service then, the coming together, had this aspect (cf. Acts 20:7). However we also read more detail in II Timothy 3:16, to the effect that all scripture is profitable for instruction. That of course is so because it is the word of God (cf. I Cor. 2:9ff.). This being so, what was the Old Testament practice ? Tithing, again and again, in things small and great (cf. Matthew 23:23). Certainly Christ is to be seen attacking formalism, but note that He says, These things you ought to have done.
It was the atmosphere and the folly of meritorious-minded and even self-centred precisionism, not the spiritual dedication and the law, which after all is the word of God, which was at fault.
Malachi, as observed a little earlier, is used by some to induce giving the tithe today, on the ground that you are cursed by God if you do not. This is odd, since Christ has already borne the curse of sin for Christians as Galatians expressly states (Galatians 3) and we are to stand fast in this liberty (Galatians 5).
Obviously, then, this is illegitimate application. The point is that when Malachi wrote, there was law which expressed in a THEOCRATIC STATE, which then was, and now is not the case for Christians (as in I Peter 2:9ff.), who are neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female (Galatians 3:28). Hence civil laws do not automatically become law for Christians who are not any longer in this theocratic State, and this by ordinance of God (cf. Isaiah 65:13-15).
However, this is not all. While this civil State situation is not now applicable, it is not irrelevant. That is, the generic Old Testament stress on the tithe certainly had a significance. It meant that something substantial was given to the work of the Lord, and to its implementation towards the race and the human race, in terms of His word and will. If one is to give less, one has to consider the nature of that quality before shown; and further, the giving of tithes indeed by Abraham to Melchisedek, before the nation of Israel was operative in the region of Mosaic Law (Hebrews 7:4ff.).
Thus if we are to be INSTRUCTED as Paul indicates we should be, by ALL scripture, then this is instructive indeed.
If you are poor, who is to TELL you! You have to be instructed as you ponder the matter. Many would urge, If the law brought such an amount, should we give less who know the Lord since His own payment at Calvary, which was ... more than one tenth!
The matter therefore is not slight, and not to be slighted, but not to be woodenly impelled, like some goad. Is a goad indeed necessary, when one loves ... ? THAT is the question.
The same is applicable in all matters of dedication, devotion, consecration. Are the Hebrew race in a civic sense to be required to show this and that while you in love, show the fruits of love in mere modesty of giving, whether your giving be in time, tithe or passion of desire at work to show forth Christ ? Is this what was meant by loving God with all your heart ? It is not at all apparent that this is so; nor is a form to be inferior in any obvious way, to the spiritual reality to which it refers!
No in none of these things is there room either for slackness, nor for the Sergeant-Major approach! Love must operate; but if it does not do what love does, then consider yourself, what this love is that is so slight.
Thus do we find that continuous consistency in the word of God, that unchanging certainty and security of spirit, from the Father of spirits, which dispensationalism*3 in its imaginary dispositions so slights, antinomianism so avoids, and both so gratuitously; and discover how little loves may blight; but the Lord remains the same, and His ways do not change (Malachi 3:6, Habakkuk 3:6), being everlasting. A heart sanctified and at rest in Him is encouraged to walk in His ways, out of devotion, with grace, performance enhanced by His strengthening, passion enabled by His love, wisdom accorded with grace, rest in His completed salvation like the sky above, fresh and unlimited.
SANCTITY, VICE AND VICTORY
Nor let us end here, but watch another application of biblical wholeness to jostling extremes. Thus there is the brassy victoriousness which endlessness announces its successes, and there is the spiritually lugubrious sanctimony which insistently stresses its seduction, defeat or dereliction. Neither does justice to biblical sanctification as in I Thessalonians 5:23 and Romans 6. It is not a matter of some correlative to antinomianism which imagines it sees all, or that it is wholly unnecessary to ask the Lord to try me and examine me to see if there be any wicked way in me as David sought (Psalm 139:23-24):
"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Carnality loves to play, like dolphins in the sea, and it is necessary to be other than spontaneously delighted in one's way.
Opposite in direction to this, is that heavy-countenanced defeat which almost seems sometimes to glory in being beaten. It is one thing to glory in infirmities, in the sense that when you are weak you are strong, when you are NOT self-affirmative, then being Christ-affirmative you find the strength which He gives to the receptive heart and ready members (II Cor. 12:8-9). It is quite another to glory in your defeats, so that NOT ONLY do you not affirm yourself, which is good, but you affirm the self-centred failures which come from affirmation of depression, concession or some indentation or other of sin into a spoilt life!
Life is given MORE abundantly (John 10:10), and this is the victory, even your faith (I John 5:4). It is not the same as defeat. Defeat may awaken humility, dint pride, import realism and occasion cleansing, but it is not the same as victory such as Paul indicates so clearly and incisively in Romans 5:17, 6:16-17, not to mention 8:9-17. We do not need, or find scriptural, the legalistic insistence on spiritual pedanticism any more than the antinomian-allied preclusion of realism.
It is never wise to look at the waves, as Peter so dramatically and perilously showed when called by Jesus to come to Him on the water, walking as He did (cf. Matthew 14:25-33). It is wise to look to the Lord whose irradiating power and empowering presence enable the 'impossible' as it would assuredly be without His action. It is also pointed then to examine oneself, lest in any way some weight or folly enter in, for foolishness loves dearly to find a home, and where there is any space left, when the Christian is not filled with the spirit but flirting with fancy, it seeks to become a spiritual squatter.
By the grace of God, then, the law challenges, the mercy strengthens and the power overcomes. Unwise is he who imagines that less than vast is the overcoming required, or less than far greater the power supplied.
Love fires its people to engage the enemy and overcome, and the law of the Lord still sets targets for it, for the love of the Lord, so far from distancing from His mouth, His words, His expressions and desires, His priorities and His perspectives, His duty and responsibility to Him as the Ultimate in Regality, draws closer to these things, seen however not as so many goads, but as glimmers of goodness and facets of perfection; not as so many occasions to fall, but as so many opportunities to jump over the hurdle, in quiet assurance of His guidance, the eye set on the end, His glory, His kingdom, His good pleasure and as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven (Philippians 3:21), that place which He has prepared where wonderful in counsel, He has carved the site of companionship to come (cf. Philippians 1:20-23).
Therefore, you are not in the face of what excludes, but in the hands of what is seeking to include. Foreknown without works, by His own knowledge are His people, and the WAY in which they are foreknown, and so found before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) is in the presence and by the power of the SAME God whom Christ definitively showed (Hebrews 1:3), that Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, that unchanging, marvellously immutable and immutably marvellous God (Hebrews 13:8, Psalm 102, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1, 9:28, I John 3:1-3, Titus 2:13).
It is He for whom the Christian looks eagerly with expectation, for His coming to resurrect, in His regality and faithfulness. It is He who with the Father and the Spirit, foreknew, predestining and reaping in due season! God's crops have their own period! (cf. Matthew 13:30)
Thus the principles shown in His word, and in His Son (cf. SMR Appendix B), are precisely those true of His own immutable self, whether in predestining, foreknowing or finding in history itself. The love with which Christ wept for a Jerusalem with closed eyes (Luke 19:42ff.), moving to its ruin, is that which was always at work, whether in predestining or personal presence in history, in Jerusalem!
It is not when, but who that matters, in the beauty of God's love and dealings towards man, and as to our God, this is His nature and way, His love and His mercy. Moreover, as seen in Micah 7:18-20. HE loves to show mercy, and in receiving it, you do not tax His grace but fulfil His delight. What does Christ say, indeed, in Luke 15:7:
"I tell you that likewise there will be more joy in
heaven over one sinner
who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
Does repentance however feel stand-offish! (Luke 13:1-3!). On what ground then does it stand ? God's mercy must be found in the way that He provides, just as you car needs a hoist for certain inspections! It is for HIM to show mercy as He will; and since He will, it is the wonder and grandeur of His majesty that it is to be found in the Cross of His only begotten Son, where HE became a very picture of man-in-sin, though having no sin of His own, making the coming so much simpler ... for any who do come (II Cor. 5:17-21).
Not merely is the very thought of God changing His principles wholly contrary to biblical teaching, and that emphatically so, as we see in Matthew 5:17-20, where His NOT doing so relates to criteria for what is great in the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, which is what Jesus announced as at hand, as in Mark 1:15. It is here in particular from the lips of Christ that we see this fact in the uttermost of majesty: this is the case in the very kingdom of heaven, that very epitome of His own rule and coming, reaching into the realms of reward as in the Sermon on the Mount, and the new spiritual depth of divine law from His lips. There is nothing changing from the mouth of the living God, who binds as He will, and releases when He will.
Indeed, ALL scripture is profitable for edification and instruction, yes for reproof (II Timothy 3:16), so that to suggest a changing God is as far from biblical spheres as possible. How could you reprove on an idea that God had chucked out as not really quite right or good!
God has made it clear that ALL His commandments may be spread out (Psalm 119:160,144,96,86115-118,140,142) and taken as truth. Thus
"The entirety of Your word is truth,
And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever."
This match is from the Old and New Testaments, from the lips of Christ and the mouth of God before He came to earth, alike. He has not instructed man to look in vain for this or that that comes alive from time to time, but objectively all the words of His lips and all His statutes and commands are without exception to be obeyed, savoured, understood and applied for instruction, correction and learning. What is profitable for doctrine is not for man to determine by his traditions, but for God by His mouth. He does not share the cockpit in this craft, and makes this clear with vigour in Mark 7.
What God desires in this, however, is by no means what man has always done!
It is in the uttermost degree unfortunate that there has been a conformity on the one hand, to the rule of aristocracy and even autocracy, as is summarised in the papacy, but not in this figure alone, since the Holy Roman Emperor had the same large notions contrary in the extreme to Matthew 23:8-10, where all are but brethren with ONE MASTER by the name of Jesus the Christ; and on the other to its virtual opposite. That ? It is the notion of individual freedom and even atomism, to the point that not only is the individual to be the crucial item (and God DOES deal direct with individuals, for example in their being born again), but the individual's will and his inclination as in consumerism and political philosophy of the day, in opposition to the gaunt horrors of collectivism, has become almost as if God!
It is not that one should in the slightest degree reduce the significance of the individual - God Himself appeared as one - but one should not in the slightest measure increase his freedom to autonomy, as if the concept ruled all, and human will were in itself and its own operation, the criterion. It is not so, as is most explicitly taught from the Gospel of John in John 1:12, with flat negation of the concept, as likewise in Romans 9:16 in a most salient survey from the inspiration given to Paul. The preference of man may indeed negate, but the call of God is from Himself alone. As has often been shown (cf. SMR Appendix B, Great Execrations ... Ch. 7 and 9, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, Predestination and Freewill), God WOULD HAVE all to come, but Himself alone chooses, knowing the image of God in man and who are to be His, not by foresight of actions (Romans 9:11), but in His own self and being. This is what is taught and what is applied (as in John 6:65, Romans 8:29ff.).
This gives illustration to our present point and is in line with the general point made in Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, that there has been a large invasion of extremism into the God's merciful provision of His divine word, when it comes to theological schools. It is near epidemic proportions that this or that extreme, following some one facet without care to compare with all of scripture, is pushed without the limits of the rest of the word of God, or at times even with minimal self-control. It is like a dog chasing a rabbit, and passion frequently prevails over truth to the detriment of wisdom.
These extremes, as seen in the above reference, do not omit predestination in their course, with the system of Calvinism good, but not its omission, in one point involving contradiction in error, while the whole of Arminian distinction becomes an abhorrent thing contrary to the word, the two aggravating the temper at times, each of the other, so that party politics readily take precedence over scriptural writ! (cf. The Power of Christ's Resurrection Ch. 1, *2, Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2, *1, The Glow ... Ch. 4).
The resolution is simple: return to the Bible, read what it says and follow it. This is the course followed here and it leads not merely to a non-extreme because biblically controlled result, but to a vast virtue in the field of Apologetics (cf. What is the Chaff to the Wheat, Ch. 4 at A for example).
Thus this same passion for extremes which use the scripture as an aerodrome rather than a rock is found elsewhere.
For example, it appears in the area of Water Baptism. Here is the same trend to extremism, again like a dog chasing a rabbit with yelpings and emulation at times, or if you like it put that way, party groupings in different colours in the boxing corners. This becomes readily a revolting mêlée. Thus the cultural spin-off of aristocracy and regality which comes in infant baptismal regeneration meets its match in extremism, far from the ways of God in His word, with the concept of cutting out the covenantal conferment altogether. But God has not said so, and as we see, has said much to confirm what He has in fact said, again and again, both in principle and by implications (see for example below this note, in the main text of this chapter, with Of the Earth ... Ch. 12).
Here on the one hand, in the one extreme, then, the authority of man comes in place of that of God, who is utterly opposed to sacramentalism as Isaiah 1 shows so eloquently, just as Jeremiah 9:23 shows so pointedly in our present arena, as indeed does the outcome for Isaac, of his son Esau. That intrusion of tradition is a distortion profound. Many leaving such bodies as those harbouring Roman Catholicism, see this with clarity and revolt.
However in their haste, they may then rush to the other cultural intrusion and extreme, and becoming political philosophers all over again, insert the unscriptural concept, not merely of individuality which is most true, but of individualism, which is not at all true. Thus it is made to apear that it ALL DEPENDS on the will of man, which as just seen and often shown, is anti-biblical just as is the concept that God is not passionately concerned for all, seeking that all may come in repentance as He states repeatedly.
In this way, seeing infant baptism not as it is, an additive in such places as Romanism in conferring what is in that setting an imaginary gift of salvation on terms not applicable to the real gift, they decide to change the mind of God, in effect, and cut off infants from the covenantal sign altogether. This is not so much cutting off your right hand to prevent error, to use the image Christ gave, but to sever both! It is to depart from the declared mind of God in principle, just as it is in practice as we have seen from Colossians 2:11-12 (cf. What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 1, Of the Earth, Earthy, or Celestial in Christ Ch. 12).
To be captured by culture either in the aristocratic intrusions of an imaginary majesty of man, or in the philosophic enduements of twentieth century politics at the opposite extreme, both cultural intrusions and extrusions: it is as sad, in the one or the other extreme, and in either, it becomes distortion of the word of God. Indeed, whatever their source, such departures from the word of God are as sad. Let us however look further at the cultural aspect.
It is NEITHER of these cultural impositions, and hence neither of their squallings, for each has a point re the vulnerability of the other. It is ONLY scripture which counts and that for a very simple reason: ONLY this is the authorised and declared, validated and verified word of God to man. Traditional accretions He DETESTS (Mark 7:7ff.), and who would not, when someone else has the stark effrontery to add and 'interpret' with authority as binding, what one has said oneself. DO NOT ADD to His word is as much against Romanism as Mormonism, let alone such an effrontery by traditions of men. NONE of His righteous commands goes away, and the Gospel is NEVER to be changed (Psalm 111, Galatians 1).
It is not in robbing baptism from children, nor is it in surrounding it with a power it lacks as mere sacrament (mere, compared with eternal life itself, not a symbol but a fact of magnificent vitality and reality): it is in neither of these intrusions into the word and mind and stated principles of God that one is go go.
Instead, it is a matter of providing the chaste expression of the exact covenantal will and principle of God, that it is right and true. If God were to change His mind on principle, the universe would depart. No such God exists, and it is not merely this, but the Christ Himself binds to the jot and tittle. ALL of the household is to be in this covenantal relationship; and if many parents realised more fully how precious that is in the express interposition of the divine name for their upbringing, rather than some mere act of piety, much would be gained by many.
While WHAT IS FULFILLED, by this same word of Christ as in Matthew 5:17-20, is of course past, since it is part of the program that it should be, as spelled out in marvellous detail in Hebrews 7-10, you do not find fulfilment in symbols, but substance (Hebrews 10:1ff.). The substance is Christ and His high priestly sacrifice of Himself, on His own altar, the Cross, by His own freedom and in His own mediation of salvation, and all that this brings. It is not in ousting infants from the crucially important action of imparting the covenantal sign (cf. Exodus 4:22), as if God could be instructed, indeed shaved, or the removal of circumcision because of its use of blood in its interstices in some way became a ground for its excision altogether (cf. Luke 1:22ff.).
While sacraments do not save, and confusion is not eradication of faith, in the clean fear of God (cf. Psalm 19, I Peter 2:17), it is unwise to trifle with the word of God, and most unwise to continue in error when it is corrected. The mind of God is found from His word, not from the thoughts of man; and what He articulates stays until fulfilled, not until the programmatic works of bodies of men determine.
*2 See News 51, *1.
*3 and General Note.
See on all of these topics and allied matters:
Deliver Us from Dispensationalism,
Biblical Blessings Appendix News, Day of its Own, Say of its Own, Ch.12, Day of Rest;
News 124 on Missionary Organisations in Israel;
Barbs, Arrows and Balms 13, 17, 20, 23, *1 in 29, Appendix 2, 3.
Questions and Answers Chs. 9, 11, 13;
News 51; Joyful Jottings 17;
Things Old and New Ch. 8;
The Other News 14, 36;
The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.3 ;
cf. SMR Appendix A, pp. 1089ff., and Ch.9, pp. 751ff.;
and Little Things Ch. 9; Galloping Events 3