The New Covenant

Jeff Gilbert led this class, taking his theme from Leon Morris’ book, ‘The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance’, and the section on ‘The New Covenant’. His notes are attached to this link.

After considering how the New Covenant was sealed with Christ’s blood, in the light of scriptures like Hebrews 7, we briefly pondered how the Church of Rome could sustain the teaching of the mass where the priest is a ‘real priest’ offering a sacrifice. To argue thus is to argue for a defect in the work of Christ on the cross, to make meaningless his cry, ‘It is finished!’. That it was a complete work is proved by the fact that he forgave sins for time and eternity while he walked this earth and, equally, all sin in the Old Testament saints was dealt with in like manner. Yet the Catholics hold the tradition and teachings of their popes and establishment as higher authority than the Scriptures or even sheer logic. Paul is very adamant with the ‘foolish Galatians’ who had added ‘works’ to suppliment the atonement, but there is no hope of salvation there. It must be all (of Christ) or nothing.


Affirmation 1d – The Divine Rule

These notes refer to the Doctrine Class of the 23rd October 2011, Alex Hutter leading. We covered the section of Affirmation 2010 where it says:

The 66 books of the Bible were recognized by the Lord’s people as inspired and, by these books’ own testimony, they became the divine rule by which all beliefs and practices were to be tried and tested.

  1. Our pathway so far:
    1. God speaks to us; we call this revelation
    2. God speaks to us as follows:

i.    General revelation (general to all peoples at all times)

  1. Nature / creation
  2. Conscience

ii.    Special (peculiar to specific groups or individuals at specific times)

  1. Miracles, dreams, voices, prophets etc)
  2. Jesus Christ is the “climax” of revelation “both perfect and complete”
    1. There is nothing revealed about God that is not perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ, or better revealed elsewhere.
    2. God’s revelation to us secured in the bible

i.    It is the infallible Word of God

  1. Despite human authors; they wrote under inspiration of God
  2. Despite having been compiled by the church; they too were guided by God who looks after His Word

ii.    It prevents against Chinese whispers if Word of God were transmitted verbally from person to person

iii.    We can arrive at a great esteem for the scriptures through an intelligent analysis but cannot absolutely prove it; in the end we believe it by faith

  1. The scriptures are “the divine rule by which all beliefs and practices [are] to be tried and tested”
    1. Having received this book, what are we to do with it?

i.    Base our own beliefs on it

  1. Do we have liberty to pick which bits we believe?
  2. Which particular bits are under attack in our day and age?
    1. Genesis; particularly the creation accounts in the first few chapters
    2. Many of the miraculous stories in both old and new testaments

i.    Esp the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Also many of the historical facts will often come under fire (e.g. some make a big fuss that they can’t find anything about Jonah in Nineveh’s archaeological data)
  2. Considering the affirmation, by its own statement, does not “cover every tenet of the Faith once delivered to us”, why was it considered necessary to include a statement like this?
    1. Are some apparent bible believers drifting in this area?
    2. What excuses are given by apparent “bible belivers” in respect of Genesis 1 – 3?
    3. NB: This has its own section in the Affirmation!
    4. Are we at liberty to compromise with some of these things in order to remain intellectually respectable?

ii.    Try the beliefs of others by it

  1. What if a much renowned and famous preacher we all respect greatly (think of one) comes one day and preaches that the Son of God has always been God but is not eternally the Son; but became so at the incarnation.
    1. Do you accept it because he said it, so it must be true?
    2. Do you hunt around for what others think?

i.    That can be helpful

ii.    Are we guilty of leaning too much on what others think (creeds and confessions; even the affirmation (!), without searching the scriptures ourselves?

iii.    Is there a weakness in that? What?

  1. In the end, we must go to the bible.
  2. What else are we to do with it?

i.    Try our practises by it!

ii.    Which is harder; to base our beliefs our practises on the bible? Give reasons.

  1. The devil believes! (James 2:19)
  2. We are to be doers, not hearers only (James 1:22). This implies hearing is easy.
  3. Parable of the sower;
    1. Those that fell on stony ground; believed but had no root and withered away in times of persecution
    2. Those that fell on thorny ground; believed, but got choked by the deceitfulness of riches

iii.    We might enjoy a doctrine class and intellectual study, but unless our lives show that there is a true love for God (not just for theology) by obedience to His commands, there is no salvation.

iv.    What prevents us trying our practises by the Word of God?

  1. The practises of others
    1. Both the world and the church!
    2. Just like we might lean too strongly on the creeds and confessions for belief; so also we might lean too strongly on others for practises!

i.    This is how everyone else behaves

ii.    This how others spend their money

iii.    This is what others do

  1. How do we react when our practises are challenged by the practises of others?

i.    Legalism!

  1. Backsliding / coldness of heart (we don’t care what God says)
  2. Lack of familiarity with scripture?
  1. If we are to try all beliefs and practises by the bible, what does this obviously imply?
    1. That we read it!
    2. That we study it, when necessary
    3. That we learn from those who know more about it than we do

i.    Sermons

ii.    Books

iii.    Articles relevant to the times

  1. The bible is said to be a sword

i.    Would you go in to battle having never used a sword?

ii.    Do we think to be well armoured Christians, ready for the fight, without being practised with our swords?

Affirmation 1e – Commending word-for-word translations of Scripture

These notes relate to the doctrine class of Sunday 20th November 2011, Alex Hutter leading.

As we have seen in previous weeks, God speaks to us through general revelation (creation and conscience), and special revelation (specifics about the gospel that come to our hearts directly, dreams, miracles, Scriptures, Christ). Having a text enabled the church to ‘freeze dry’ truth. Speech is ephemeral, text is not. Scripture  also interprets general revelation for us. We get our beliefs and practices from it. We’re to be hearers and doers.

In our studies of the Affirmation 2010, we have arrived at:

God, by His singular care and providence, has preserved His written Word.7 The authentic and preserved Texts are the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Received Texts, and these are the Texts which underlie the Authorized Version, which is by far the best and most accurate English translation of God’s infallible and inerrant Word currently in use.

We reject modern and unfaithful versions, based upon corrupted texts and making free use of dynamic equivalence in the translation.

In the first place, how can we be sure that we’ve got the word of God? The original manuscripts may have been legitimate, but we’ve only got copies. We cannot compare the copy with the originals. We only have that which is ‘close’ to the word of God. Thus, it is said, we need textual critics who can tell us which is which. But the Bible is the product of a supernatural act of God. It is that which was ‘Once delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:6). Jesus and the apostles were happy to quote from the scriptures as if they were the originals, even though they didn’t have them. For example,

Luke 4:16-21: ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your hearing’.

No doubt the Lord was reading from a copy. The doctrine of the preservation of scripture is clear in Ps 119:152, Ps 119:160, Is 40:8, Is 59:21, Matt 24:35, 1 Pet 1:24-5. It thus is enduring, not just for as long as we have the original papyrus. God cares for his word – he looks after it. The very idea which undermines a full view of the inspiration of scripture is based on unbelief.

If I am reading a translation, can that still be God’s word? Yes, Jesus and the apostles would quote from the Septuagint. Unless I’m going to be as good as the translators, then I have to question whether I am going to do a better job than them? In general, the Old Testament Masoretic texts are generally accepted as authentic.

A useful text on these matters is ‘The Lord gave the Word’ by Malcolm Watts (available free on the TBS website). The Masoretes were a guild of scribes possibly dating as far back as 70AD. They were very strict in the way they copied the scriptures.

However, the New Testament is far more contested. The ‘Greek Received texts’ get laughed at in spite of being the basis of our Bibles up to and including the King James and New King James versions. Also known as the Byzantine or Majority texts, the oldest copies we have are dating back to 5th century.

The ‘critical text’ – mainly based on 5, or very few texts. Two of them Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Sinaiticus. Two scholars, Westcott and Hort, theorised that the minority texts are the oldest and therefore must be the most reliable. The New International Version is based on this – Mark 16:8 is the last verse of this gospel according to this corrupt text. So, according to the critical text, the rest of Mark 16, with the resurrection and ascension, are not in Mark. Or consider John 8:1-11 which “ought not to be there” says the corrupt text. Perhaps that which appears older, may just not have been used as much. There are other parts missing too. Mr Watts points out that two key underlying texts are evidently less accurate. Luke 22:31 – the KJV uses ‘you’, not because it is archaic, but because it is accurate. English is quite unusual for having dropped a plural/singular distinction. ‘We reject modern and unfaithful versions…’ almost all the modern Bibles except the KJV and the NKJV are based on the wrong texts. Should our Bibles be based on a corrupted text found in a Roman Catholic library or at the foot of Sinai? Another problem with most modern translations is their use of ‘dynamic equivalence’ – it is not a word-for-word but a phrase-for-phrase translation. We have noted before how important a single word in the Old Testament was for Paul: Galatians 3:16 where a ‘seed’, not ‘seeds’, refers to Christ.

The New Living Translation says, ‘He died’, not, ‘he slept with his fathers’, because it does not expect modern man to understand the phrase translated literally. The preface of the NIV is clear enough: because these days the ‘Lord of Hosts’ does not mean much to us, it becomes ‘God Almighty’ – I feel a sense of outrage – you’ve got no right to do that! God commands the hosts of heaven, this is what God says about Himself. Even a human writer would object to his work being mangled in this way! The Bible is God’s word and work. We’ve ‘improved’ the Bible, we’ve got “more than a word-for-word translation” says the NIV preface. If it is dynamic equivalence, is that then the word of God? In a sense, the NIV opened the flood-gates. The Message: in John 3:16 ‘a whole and lasting life’?!

We have got the word of God. We should at least stick to a Bible that uses a word-for-word translation method.

Question 3 What do the Scriptures principally teach?

As this question leads into the rest of the catechism questions and answers, I thouht it worth considering the books of the Bible in turn as to how they each answer this question according to the catechism’s response:

The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.

First though, we need to consider what the main message of the Bible is as a whole. The www.Biblica.comoffers two perspectives:

  1. the wonderful presentation of salvation.
  2. the revelation of God’s plan and purpose for the universe.

Don Carson gives his summary in 6 minutes in this YouTube videois worth watching. It is an important question and worth considering how you would answer an enquiry like that. Taking a collaborative approach, we took a list of the books of the Bible and a pile of post-it notes. Then we split up into pairs and the challenge was to answer 3 questions on every book of the Bible, writing them down in one-word or one-phrase answers. Each post-it should begin with the title of the Bible book at the top. The three questions are:

  1. Believe:  What does this book teach about what man is to believe concerning God?
  2. Duty: What does this book teach about what duty God requires of man?
  3. How: How does the book deal with the answers to questions 1 and 2?

Then the post-its were laid out one at a time in a line so that everyone could peruse them. Every time a pair completed a Bible-book post-it, they started on a new one until all the books were finished or we run out of time. Then we spent a moment perusing the postits and sat down together again. To finish up we considered the catechism question and answer again in the light of what we saw on the post-its. Everyone felt quite humbled by the task, challenged to consider the overall message of the books they had looked at. It was useful to reflect on how we can become so passive in our consumption of the spiritual food we’re served up.

Here are the ‘stickie notes’ completed by us at the doctrine class. You may need to visit the picture’s home page in order to get a big enough zoom to be able to read them.

20111113 Closeup of stickies from Doctrine Class

20111113 Old Testament stickies from Doctrine Class

20111113 New Testament stickies from Doctrine Class