Monday, July 29, 2013

What About Bob? --Revisited

I finally finished Greg Nichols' Covenant Theology. It is a slow read in the beginning (for me at least), but it picks up in Chapter 6 'Summary of the Classic Reformed Doctrine'. It was definitely worth the time to read through the whole book.

As I read through the chapter on 'The Mosaic Covenant', this sentence from my 'What About Bob?' post kept coming to mind: "Joshua 1 and Psalm 1 are talking about the spiritual prosperity of the believer, not temporal or earthly prosperity."

Since I'm an amillenialist, I'm very sensitive to the premillenial dispensational view of eschatology that I was fed as the "most literal" view of the Bible for many, many years. I now have a better understanding of the Bible, and I no longer believe that there are two separate ways of salvation: one for the Jews and one for the Gentiles; there is only one Covenant of Grace fulfilled by Christ the promised Redeemer. Because of my desire to move away from the view that one part of the Bible is for Israel and another part is for Christians, I tend to over-spiritualize the OT promises (like I did above with Joshua 1 & Psalm 1). Nichols' Covenant Theology book has given me a clearer picture of God's work of redemption throughout the OT and NT without flattening out all of His conditional and unconditional promises.

On page 274, Greg Nichols writes:
"The old covenant promises were evangelical. The Mosaic covenant was gracious and good. Yet God presented this pledge as a conditional promise of perpetual favor and blessing. Scripture insists that God required gospel obedience, not legalistic works righteousness (Deut. 30:6-10). God says, "If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant." His voice personally spoke from heaven the Ten Commandments to the entire nation. He promised them, on condition of evangelical obedience to the Ten Commandments, perpetual favor as God's special people and sustained theocracy: "then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples." In addition, God required gospel compliance with his statutes in the book of the law as the condition for receiving the manifold blessings of the old covenant. Conversely, God connects the curses of the old covenant to disobedience in unbelief to the book of the law. God addressed these conditions to Israel as a community.  Gospel obedience to the Decalogue is how Hebrew Israel sustains theocracy as a society (Exod. 19:6), not how individual sinners get right with God. Gospel compliance to the book of the law is how Hebrew Israel as a community sustains the blessings of national prosperity and avoids bringing the curses of the covenant on their society."
The Covenant of Grace is the same for the OT & NT; every elect individual is saved by heart circumcision that creates faith and repentance through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. However, there are conditional, temporal promises to the nation of Israel in the OT, such as Joshua 1:8.

God's righteous Servant Jesus dispenses the divine inheritance of the Holy Spirit to NT believers just like Joshua dispensed the divine inheritance of the land in Canaan to the Israelites. The old covenant had a condition, but no guarantee. Christ himself is God's guarantee that the promises of the new covenant can never be broken like Israel broke the old covenant.

A promise for the NT believer is found in Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." We cannot yank the OT temporal promises to the nation of Israel into the life of the NT believer like Robert Morris and the Word of Faith Prosperity teachers. The new covenant does not promise material and earthly blessings. God provides for the eternal needs of the soul (which presupposes His provision for the temporal needs of the body) and calls His people to suffer trials and persecutions for their own good (Rom. 8:28) and to conform them to the image of Christ.

So, I was wrong to say that Joshua 1 & Psalm 1 are referring to the spiritual prosperity of the (NT) believer, but the point still remains that these verses were not rightly taught by Robert Morris. The Covenant Theology that surrounds the OT and NT is much deeper than I ever thought.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD," (Isa. 55:8).