Paul Gardner on covenant theology (part 2)


These notes were taken in the context of a lecture and are not a full transcript nor are they verbatim. Some ideas may be misrepresented by me.

Paul Gardner

Supranational, international covenants. Abraham, clearly, but also Moses.

We are to image God.

We are idols (to be worshipped? Surely not) because we are the image bearers of God. We are not to make inanimate idols and practice idolatry when living human beings are the only true image bearers, though flawed.

When Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ, he is not being arrogant but simply stating that sanctified Christians are imaging God and that image is tobe emulated.

What is true of the king is true of his people. The king is holy, you are holy so be holy. The king is righteous, you are righteous so be righteous.

Circumcision was a “cutting” which humbled the vassal covenant party. God humbled his people and the “cutting” was a permanent reminder to the men of Israel that they were owned by God, that their offspring also belongs to God, and all will be judged and cut off unless they follow their true Lord and master. The men of Israel would be reminded several times a day that they would be cut off for covenant breaking.

Every covenant sign in the Old Testament points two ways. New Testament covenant signs also point two ways. Baptism points in one direction to the promises of God in Christ, it also points to judgement for covenant breakers. You are baptised into the death of Christ, which is his death for sin under the judgement of God. Communion is clearly one of two directions, 1 Cor 11 you can eat and drink judgement.

Children are members of the covenant community and as such receive the visible blessings and we pray that God never allows the child to slip into judgement.

Blessing and cursing is the way of constantly putting the gospel before people. Jesus fulfills all the covenant conditions for us securing the blessings and protecting from curses.

Covenants contain a number of elements:

1.Grace – Covenants are always God’s initiative
2.Promises – God always makes an antecedent promise
3.Sacrifice – usually animals but pointing to Christ
4.A sign is attached to a covenant. Rainbow, circumcision, law, bread and wine and baptism.
5.Obedience is required – the faithfulness of God enables obedience

Federal Vision – theonomy an underlying background. Theonomy arose in the mid-seventies, Greg Barnson lecturing on it. They argue from a Reformed perspective for a continuity between the old and new covenants. The whole of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ but in such a way that the only way things changed was that Christ arrived. Puritan theocracy. Theonomic rule of God would be played out. God is King of kings and the laws of the land would be the law of the Old Testament, so that teenagers might be stoned for sexual misconduct today. They criticised the view that the moral law continues and the sacrificial law and ceremonial law ceases. This criticism was justified because the distinction in the threefold use of the law does not work that easily. The response was to say all OT law applied today unless explicitly ruled out by the NT.

Federal Vision goes explicitly against any reformed theology which attributes any merit to salvation. Therefore, Christ does not merit salvation through his work. His righteousness is not applied to us but we are simply made perfect by the fact that Christ was perfect. [is meritorious righteousness an outworking of the covenant of works? If so, what if the covenant of works wrong?]

FV – serious biblical theology. Good. Much higher level of operation than most evangelicals.

Imputation of Christ righteousness to us. If no merit then how are we righteous? Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our account. Traditionally, how we have understood that is that Christ worked that righteousness, he lived the life we ought to have lived, as he imaged God. What he does counts. He is not just righteous by nature but by obedience. His obedience is then imputed to us. That theology is gone in some FV theology. If we distinguish too much that Jesus is righteous and that covenants are about promises alone then we overlook much of what the gospels say about the work of Christ.

New Perspective – formed through much study of inter-testemental period. Fascinating as it gives great insight to what was going on in Jesus’ day. Evangelicals believe that Jews thought they were saved by works not grace. But many Jewish writers saw that salvation was by grace and that in 2nd temple, inter testemental texts, we find a tremendous emphasis on the grace of God in salvation through the covenants. Luther sees a works-righteousness in medieval Catholicism after reading Galatians and so believes that Jewish contemporaries of Jesus were similar. However, the New Perspective says we enter the covenant community by faith in the grace of God. The law was God’s gracious gift. We stay in the covenant by obedience to the law. This is covenantal nomism. The works of the law, obedience to Christ, are the means by which we stay in the covenant. How then are we justified? Justification is talked about in scripture as a past tense event. What happens if we talk about staying in the covenant by works? You end up with two types of justification. There’s the primary justification through the work of God in Christ. The second justification takes place in the law court and believer is justified by his works. But reformed theology says our works are irrelevant for the final outcome. Works are important but not for our justification.

We need to develop a response to New Perspective, bearing in mind that Paul is dealing in his epistles with popular culture and the theology of the people not great theological systems created by inter-testemental theologians. Having said that, inter-testemental literature is far more variegated than New Perspective has ever admitted. There are those who preach grace, those who preach on merit and “variegated nomism” [get volume 2 “Paul and variagated nomism.]

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