PMT 2013-046b Jeffrey K. Boer
Note: In our last PostmillennialismToday posting we began a brief series on how to find a biblical church. We will pick up where we left off. Please consult the previous article for the first four points.
5. Biblical Understanding of the Covenant
II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture [whether Old or New Testament] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be proficient, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
We believe that the one unchanging God has given us one consistent book of revelation composed of both Old and New Testaments. Many churches today primarily teach only the New Testament (dispensationalists, for example) or only the Old Testament (Jewish religions, for example). We believe that the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals God’s one covenant of grace, unfolded in various stages throughout history. Old Testament and New Testament believers are all saved by the one Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Since there is one covenant of grace, there is also one covenant people, made up of all nationalities and all races.
Galatians 6:26-29 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the [covenant] promise.”
The Scriptures tell us that there are two covenant heads of mankind: Adam (the first Adam) and Christ (the second Adam).
Romans 5:18-19 teaches: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all men [that is, Adam’s sin was imputed to all men; his guilt was placed on their account because he was their covenant head], so also the result of one act of righteousness [Christ’s obedience] was justification that brings life for all men [that is, the righteousness of Christ, the second Adam, was imputed to all men who are “in Christ” by covenant]. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Because there are only two covenant heads of mankind, all mankind is under one or the other. Either we are still under the first Adam, by birth, and still in our sins, or we are under the second Adam, by new birth (which is the gift of God), and we have His righteousness. Churches which teach that the way of salvation for Jews is different from the way of salvation for Gentiles are guilty of chopping, twisting, and mutilating the word of God. This biblical understanding of the unity of the covenant of grace is absolutely necessary for a proper interpretation of the Bible and a proper understanding of salvation.
Christ of the Covenants (by Palmer Robertson)
A classic study of covenant theology. Presents the richness of a covenantal approach to understanding the Bible. Treats the Old Testament covenants from a successive standpoint. This book shows how the covenants (and not dispensations) structure Scripture. Indeed without understanding the covenants, one will inevitably fail to understand much of Scripture.
6. Biblical Worship
Deuteronomy 12:28, 31-32 says, “Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you…. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates…. See that you do all that I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”
God is very much concerned about the manner in which we worship Him. These verses teach what is sometimes called the “regulative principle” of worship. God’s word must govern all our worship services on the Lord’s day (that is, we must do all that God commands and not do any things He doesn’t command or imply in worship). Since worship is the most important activity mankind will ever do, we must take special care that we do it in the way that God prescribes.
Worship services in a faithful church should not be side shows or entertainment. Worship should not be designed to attract crowds (although we certainly hope and pray that crowds will come) Rather, they should be structured in obedience to God’s commands regarding how we must worship. We should take care that God’s worship is led by God’s ordained servants in God’s prescribed way.
Although the Scriptures do not prescribe every detail as to the order of the various parts of worship, I Corinthians 14:40 does say, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
In keeping with this principle, faithful churches should follow the principles of worship which were recommended by our wise forefathers at the Westminster Assembly in the “Directory for the Public Worship of God” which they produced. These principles are also in keeping with the Scriptures and the OPC’s Directory for Worship.
7. Biblical View of Spiritual Gifts
I Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Every Christian is given gifts by the Holy Spirit. These gifts are to be used for the benefit of the other members of the body and for the glory of God. The Scriptures indicate, however, that some of these gifts (particularly the gifts of special revelation) were temporary.
I Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies [that is, divinely inspired messages from God], they will cease; where there are tongues [that is, inspired prophecies spoken in foreign languages], they will be stilled; where there is knowledge [speaking here of inspired messages from God], it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
In other words, once God’s revelation was completed and the Scriptures were all written down, that “perfection” or “completion” of God’s word would be realized. Since that has occurred, these temporary and partial forms of revelation have disappeared. The same is true of the special signs and wonders and miracles that attested to the Christ’s divine authority given to the apostles.
II Corinthians 12:12 says, “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.”
Hebrews 2:3 says, “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him [the apostles]. God also testified [past tense] to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
When the apostolic age ended and these new revelations of God in Scripture were completed, there was no longer any place for these special miracles and revelations. In a faithful church, the only inspired revelation that we should recognize as coming from God is His completed and sufficient written word (no more tongues or special prophetic messages are permitted after the completion of Scripture). And although God still brings about healing (sometimes in amazing and unexplained ways) in response to the prayers of His people, those special gifts of “miraculous” healings and those “signs and wonders” of the apostolic age no longer occur. In response to those who claim to have these gifts today, we simply state that we have not seen any modern day use of such gifts that even begins to compare with the tongues and miracles we see exercised in the days of the apostles. So whatever the modern phenomena are, they are not the biblical tongues and miracles. To desire and promote such things today, we believe, is tantamount to a denial of the sufficiency of the word of God in Scripture and is adding to that word. Although many churches, in sincerity and with good intentions, permit and even encourage such practices today, we believe that they violate God’s word.
“Israel and the New Covenant” (3 CDs by Ken Gentry)
These messages provide a Reformed analysis of the role of Israel in the New Covenant. They show that racial Israel will one day turn to Christ as the gospel spreads further in the world and that
Israel is no longer a distinctly favored people.