Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Does the Blood of Christ Come into an Explanation of the Gospel or Salvation?

Please read parts one and two of this now series.


At the dinner table and in family devotions this week, I talked about what the blood of Christ does for us at salvation.  I have a wife and three kids at that table now.  One daughter is a freshman in college, but she's at home for dinner usually.  My son is away at college.  I asked the kids and my wife what they thought about the blood of Christ.  They say it washes away sin.  They have read the Bible on their own, but that view comes also from my teaching the kids about salvation as they grew up in our home.  It's something my wife has heard again and again, and then talked about.

When I evangelized my own children in family devotions, and when I talk to people outside of the home, I don't leave out the blood of Christ.  My outline in presenting the gospel usually has four points to it.  The third part is "Jesus died for us."  When I talk about that, I will say that there are two parts to that, not one.  I say Jesus died as a substitute for the penalty of our sin and that He shed His blood to cleanse us of our sins, two separate aspects to what Jesus did.  He died as a substitute.  He shed His blood as a sacrifice.  Both were necessary and both did different things.  Certainly there is overlap, but they both are necessary.  If He only died, that wouldn't have been enough.  If He only bled, that wouldn't have been enough.  And I say it wouldn't have been enough, because both are presented that way in Scripture.

Jesus' blood cleanses us of our sin.  Jesus' blood washes away our sin.  Atonement itself is an Old Testament concept.  The word "atonement" is found 69 times in the Old Testament of the KJV and only once in the NT (Romans 5:11).  The Greek word translated "atonement" is elsewhere translated "reconciliation."  It means "reconciliation."  Atonement in the OT was a covering.  Jesus' blood does more than cover.  It washes away.  It cleanses.  It does more than atonement.  You could say that Jesus' blood is an atonement for our sin, but it is actually more than atonement (Here's a book that I bought and read a long time ago, that is very good on this).

I tell someone in explaining the plan of salvation that Jesus didn't just die.  He also shed His blood.  I say that the shedding of the blood meant that His death was a sacrifice for us.  But that's not all, the blood itself has a quality that results in a spiritual washing of sin, not like soap and water, because sin isn't like dirt.  However, God can see sin.  Sin is spiritual and God is a Spirit.  So God sees our sin.  The blood of Jesus effectively washes away our sin.  I use 1 John 1:7, Revelation 1:5, 7:14, or Hebrews 10:22.   The blood of Christ spiritually washes away our sin.  I talk about the blood doing something separate from the death of Christ when I present the plan of salvation.

Would modern evangelicals and fundamentalists (is this MacArthur, Harding, Doran, and Don Johnson, etc.?) include this in their plan of salvation, or would they assume that the blood does nothing and leave it out?  What do you think of a plan of salvation that explains that all that was necessary was death, a bloody one, but only death?


An Addendum

I'm going to write how I think a modern evangelical and fundamentalist would have to explain the blood part of the plan of salvation.  The first option is to say nothing about it, because it doesn't mean anything except death, so just say death.  It doesn't do anything itself, so nothing would need to be said about the blood.  I'm not trying to be funny here or make some kind of backhanded attack.  This is what they've said, so it's not a necessity in a gospel presentation, because the blood itself doesn't save. No one's getting injected with Jesus' blood, you know.  But if you were to attempt to bring it in, how would you do it?  I can see leaving it out merely because of how hard it is to explain as doing nothing itself, but if you were going to do that, what would you say?  Here goes.

So Jesus died for us.  He died in our place.  When Jesus died, He bled a lot.  It was a very violent death.   He needed to bleed because blood has a part in the remission of your sins, that is, the canceling of your sin debt.  How does it cancel your sin debt?  The blood itself doesn't do anything itself to cancel the sin debt.  The death is the actual payment, but when Jesus died, He had to bleed a lot or the death itself wouldn't be enough to cancel the debt.  It had to be a death with a lot of bleeding.  Blood means life.  The penalty of sin is the loss of life.  Jesus as a sacrifice lost His life and when God the Father saw sufficient enough blood shed that would indicate a loss of life, He knew that a life was given for a life, so that the penalty was canceled for the recipient of the sacrifice.  Scripture says that blood cleanses sin.  When it says that, it means that the sin is canceled by the offering of a sufficient sacrifice for sin.  Jesus' death was enough for someone to have his sin debt canceled, and the canceling of it is akin to cleansing.  Cleansing and canceling are the same thing.  In the way that the death cancels the sin debt, it is like having your sinful soul cleansed of its sin by that canceling.

Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I guess it would be done.  It doesn't read like I see Scripture read, but something like it is what seems to be what one would need to say to be honest with his position.  Again, maybe he leaves it out or just says that sin is cleansed by the blood without telling the person that it isn't the blood that actually does do the cleansing, since it doesn't do anything.  Mind you, that all this is important to keep the doctrine of the humanity of Christ intact, not to be Eutychian.  A human had to die, and if the blood does anything, that would make it divine, and then the person dying wouldn't be human---kind of like that, I guess.  I always have a hard time working out the details of doctrine that I don't believe.  Maybe it doesn't work out for me because it isn't true.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Story of the Blood Issue (from my Perspective)

In 1983, Moody Press published John MacArthur's Hebrews commentary.  That summer I read it completely, all the way through.  I had never heard anyone explain "the blood issue," so MacArthur filled a bit of a void for me.  I had really no view and now I had read one.  By default, I took the MacArthur position without being introduced to any other position.  That's often how I rolled in those days, and maybe you can relate.  I was open to change my position, but I then had a position, the one MacArthur wrote in his Hebrews commentary.

In April of 1986, Bob Jones University published something in Faith for the Family that called MacArthur's view on the blood, "heresy."  You can see how in tune I was on this issue at the time.  I was in my second year of a M. Div. program at the time, and I would go into the periodical room of the library every week, as a habit, to look at the new periodicals.  Yes, I was freaky.  I read that Faith for the Family article and disagreed with it.  I thought they were slandering MacArthur, misrepresenting his position.  I was very defensive of him.  I had read his Hebrew commentary and I thought that Bob Jones was simply giving a cheap-shot to MacArthur because they didn't like him.  I had not heard or read the comments that he had made in sermons earlier (Al Gore had not invented the internet yet) that might have given me some concern (I don't know).  Later, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (the FBF) took some strong stands against MacArthur.  I read their criticisms too and very much disrespected their answers to him.  They were horrible.  I still think they were.  They would have the net effect of sending me toward the MacArthur position.

In 1987, I wrote my paper on the blood, that I mentioned in the first article in this now two part series.  Nobody had given me a blood position, but MacArthur.  My teacher criticized my paper, but he had not provided me with any kind of alternative to MacArthur's position or showed me that MacArthur's position was new.  That kind of work had not been done, that I knew of.  Maybe it had, but I had never read it.  I still don't know if anyone had written anything like that as an an answer to him.

I left to California in 1987 and then was in the work here and continue in California still.  When I established permanent residence, fairly quickly I sent for several periodicals.  I ordered BibSac, the former Calvary Theological Journal, Grace Journal, and more.  I read all those and others.  That year, the Calvary Baptist Theological Journal did a series on the blood of Christ.  They were "fundamentalists" who seemed to position themselves with MacArthur on the blood issue.  Others in the FBF did.  I remember Jim Singleton in Tempe, AZ taking the same position as MacArthur on the blood, which was a bit of a controversy.  Singleton always seemed to be a maverick in the FBF.

As I recall that time period, I remember that a major attack angle on MacArthur was that he was espousing the teachings of R. B. Thieme and that he denied the blood.  By denying the blood, I took that to mean that he didn't believe that Jesus bled very much.  MacArthur wasn't saying that Jesus didn't bleed.  He was saying that Jesus bled a whole lot.  I rejected that MacArthur denied the blood, understanding that "denying the blood" meant that you said that Jesus didn't bleed or barely bled.  Or "denying the blood" meant that Jesus didn't need to shed His blood, which MacArthur also rejected.  He taught that Jesus had to shed His blood for us to be saved.  He was just breaking down how everything occurred with Jesus' blood like no one else seemed to be doing at the time.

After a few years, "the blood issue" calmed down and I rarely heard about it anymore.  However, as I preached through books of the Bible and read more and more outside material, I didn't see that MacArthur position as tenable any longer.  I didn't think it accurately represented all the passages in the Bible about the blood of Christ.  I tweaked my position to something different.  And then upon further reading, I saw MacArthur's position as different than the historical position on the blood.  I didn't know of anyone who taught his position (and he represents his thinking in a youtube audio that I critiqued in part one and part two here).  What initially gave me trouble was Acts 20:28.  And that sent me to all the references on the blood and into history.

How is MacArthur changing the historic position?  MacArthur says that blood means death.  It's no more than a synonym or metonym for death.  The death is what saved us, and when the Bible references Jesus' "blood," it is simply saying "bloody death."  MacArthur says that he is swinging away from Roman Catholic teaching about the blood.  Fine.  But he's also swinging away from Baptist and Protestant teaching too.  He attacks an artificial boogeyman, who says that the blood has mystical or magical qualities to it.  MacArthur says that blood doesn't do anything itself.  His position on that comes from a logical leap for him.  Jesus took a human body ("flesh and blood"), so the passages that say His blood does do something have to be seen in the light of that.  That was new.

People have taken the MacArthur teaching even further to say that people who say there is some other quality to Jesus' blood than physical and human, are denying the humanity of Christ.  And now they are also Eutychians at least practically.  We've jumped all the way to this.  And since they are denying the humanity of Jesus, they're Gnostics.  What I've found is that you can find about any so-called early Christian heresy to call anyone who takes a different position than you do.  I can spin almost anyone to any form of Gnosticism that I want, if he takes a different position than I.  For instance, I could call the MacArthur position a neo-Nestorian position, because Nestorianism says Jesus had two separate natures while he was on earth.  I could see how Nestorianism could fit quite nicely for MacArthur.  And the argument would go like the following:  "You're Eutychian."  "Well, you're Nestorian."  "You're Eutychian!"  "You're Nestorian."  Then the pies start to fly.

If you're going to talk about who it is that has seemed to take some non-historical or unhistorical teachings about Jesus' nature and Person, you could point at MacArthur, because he for most of his life, until relatively recently, denied the eternal Sonship of Christ.  He believed that Jesus became the Son of God at the point of his incarnation.  He has recanted of that, but he fought for that position for years, in addition to his new teaching on Jesus' blood.

Where I know I have a problem with MacArthur's teaching now is that he denies that the blood itself does anything.  And this is where I hear the strawmen come from him and others.  They say that Jesus' corpuscles, molecules, or fluid can't save us.  Chuckle.  Chuckle.  Sounds weird.   The doctrine of the molecules.  It's a strawman, because who in fact is saying that?  I've never heard it and I don't even think Roman Catholics are saying things like that.  Maybe it was a reaction to M. R. DeHaan and his Chemistry of the Blood.  Maybe there.  I've never read any DeHaan material, so I can't relate to that.

So we're wanting to know whether the blood does anything.  MacArthur says "no," even though the Bible and historical theology say that it does.  That's new teaching.  But if you say now that you believe the old teaching, you're a Eutychian.  Does anyone see the facetiousness of that?  Everyone was a Eutychian until MacArthur and maybe Thieme.  That's a motive to change.  But it also means there was some kind of total apostasy on the blood of Christ until MacArthur came along.  Everyone was a Eutychian.  I am Spartacus.  No, I am Eutychus.

Jesus had flesh and blood "the same" as us, Hebrews 2:14.  Alright, so go ahead and have bright light coming from inside of you like Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Oh, that was divine.  Fine.  But it was physical light.  And it came from His body.  His body could do things that ours can't do.  So "the same" doesn't mean identical.  It means that we are the same because Jesus had all the qualities of a human.  He had flesh and blood the same as us.  We both have flesh and blood.  He had more though.  He was still 100% human and yet still could do things humans can't do and with His body.  This is what people have believed throughout history.  Now you deny the humanity of Jesus if you believe that?  That's what my first post here was about.

I write this story, because it is the story of a change in the doctrine of the blood of Christ.  We want to be accurate about who changed it.  I'm not changing it.  I'm actually reporting what others have believed.  MacArthur changed it.  Maybe someone else did too, who he relied upon, but I don't think he got his teaching from Thieme or the Jehovah's Witnesses.  All the emphasis today on "human blood" is new.  I've shown that.  What's it in reaction too?  Is there some big, bad problem with people denying the humanity of Jesus?  If anything, the bigger problem is with the deity of Christ.  Jesus' deity has shrunk to people.  He's a more human Jesus than ever.  Just look at evangelicalism and now fundamentalism.  Everything is more human.  The Bible is more human.  Worship is more human.

I let MacArthur have his position for decades without complaint.  I defended that he didn't deny the blood, but now I get what bothers people.  MacArthur, to take his position, has to turn them into theological weirdos, as a defense.  Others are taking this even further.  I recognize that some, out of reaction to MacArthur, have said wacko things.  But they weren't saying them until MacArthur started with his position and then they moved out into the theological nether in reaction to him.

Now you may say that MacArthur was right to change it, because it has been wrong for centuries.  That would need a lot, a very lot of exegesis.  You can't just brush by Hebrews 2:14 and say you're done.  That's not going to do it.  You can't just quote the Chalcedonian creed and think that you've made some major point on the blood issue.  Read the Chalcedonian creed.  It doesn't say anything about the blood of Jesus.  I'm pretty sure that Owen, Flavel, and Charnock all believed the Chalcedonian creed.  So there's zero mileage on the Chalcedonian creed on this blood issue.

You don't get to say or even think (which is where it is now) that people, who call Jesus' blood "divine blood" and believe that it is "incorruptible" and that there is some quality there that is superhuman, are stupid and heterodox.  You, my friend, are the one making the change.  I'm reporting what people have believed.  If you want to call it those things, fine.  It's your sandbox.  But that doesn't make it true, even if you put it in gold foil and have someone wearing a funny hat when he pronounces it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are You Stupid If You Believe the Blood of Christ Isn't Merely Human?

Make sure to keep up with Thomas Ross's series on saving faith.


Over twenty-five years ago, while I was in seminary, I wrote a paper on the blood of Christ which was something very close to John MacArthur's view.  I got the paper back and a "B+" was on the front.  As I read the grading, it looked like I got the grade because the teacher didn't agree with the position, so I went in, argued a little, and got an "A-".  I say all that to say that I haven't had a bias in this.  I just want to believe and represent the truth.

Fast forward a few years, when I'm pastoring and preaching, and I am rethinking the whole issue, not because of anything that I heard in fundamentalism.  I was disconnected from fundamentalism by then.  Because of preaching and teaching through books of the Bible, I tweaked my view to what I'll talk about later in this post.

I write, however, mainly because of something I read by Mike Harding in a discussion about fundamentalism.  I don't enter into reading those discussions looking for something wrong.  I actually think I'm going to agree with people and then certain statements are made.  Harding writes:

The Divine Blood theory is heterodoxy because it denies the true humanity of Christ which by implication nullifies the true nature of the substitutionary, various sacrifice of Christ.

Wow.  Heterodoxy.  I've been studying the Bible for years and it is such a curious, odd statement to me.  I don't see how believing in "divine blood" denies the true humanity of Christ.  I believe in the true humanity of Christ.  I believe he was 100% human.  And then it "nullifies the true nature of the substitutionary, various (sic, he meant "vicarious," I'm sure) sacrifice of Christ."  Wow again.  I don't see that being able to be proven.  I believe Jesus had human blood, but there was something to His blood, as part of the hypostatic union, that was also divine, so His blood was both human and divine, like His Person.  Among other things, Acts 20:28 convinced me of this.  Then Harding writes this:

For the most part the same people who misunderstood the blood issue are the people who misunderstand the translation issue.  It's hard to fix stupid. [Since this post was written, this last sentence has been erased.  Harding writes:  "I have asked Aaron Blumer to remove my sarcastic note on this issue in my previous post.  It was unnecessarily pejorative and a poor attempt at humor."]

It's hard to fix stupid.  Wow.  Wow. Wow.  Someone who takes the same view of the text and the blood as I do is John Owen.  Identical.  So John Owen was heterodox and stupid.  This is how you win over the other side, is by calling the people who take the position "heterodox and stupid."  Personally, I believe that my position is the historic position on both counts.  John Owen wouldn't be the only person though that is "stupid," however, on the blood of Christ.

Louis Sperry Chafer, who would have a little different soteriology, was also stupid.  He believed in divine blood.  So did  John Flavel.  Samuel Rutherford.  Robert Traill.  Samuel Eyles Pierce. A. W. PinkJohn Bunyan (and here).  Thomas Brooks.  James Ussher.  John Newton.  Thomas Watson.  John Owen (and here).

It's hard to fix stupid.  There we go fundamentalists.

Try to find "human blood" in the history of Christian theology, as if there were some rich history to this doctrine, the orthodox and smart, brainy, doctrine.  Genius.  You won't find it.  You find John Flavel write:

The Satisfaction of Christ is the procuring Cause of our Remission. . . . No other price could purchase this Privilege, Micah vi. 6, 7.  not Rivers of Oil, or of human blood.

Do you think that John Flavel denied the humanity of Jesus?  The first I saw of "human blood" being an emphasis was John Gill, and only one reference, one reference in hundreds of years that I ever saw.   And when I read the one mention of Gill, I don't believe he was making a point about human versus divine, but human versus animal.  In other words, the blood of animals couldn't save.  And you still don't get "human blood" mentioned, that I know of, except that once, until the late 20th century.   As far as I read, you don't get this human blood idea or at least emphasis until around the time of John MacArthur.  This isn't historical doctrine.  You don't hear "human blood."  After MacArthur, you start hearing, "human blood," "human blood," and "human blood," and now suddenly you're even stupid if you believe in "divine blood."

In the late 20th century, strawmen begin appearing about the blood of Jesus.  They sound like they are mimicing each other.  "Jesus' blood did not possess a mystical, magical quality."  What?  What false doctrine is that combating?  Mystical and magical?  How could anyone agree with His blood being mystical and magical?  Before you would read, "Jesus' blood," or "His blood."  But now you read "Jesus' human blood," language that never appeared in the entire history of theology.  Who started this?

You do get identical language from R. B. Thieme as that which MacArthur uses.  I'm not saying that's where MacArthur got it, but he didn't get it from church history.  I'd be happy to see where.  The only place, besides Gill, that I could see the idea that Jesus' blood was human, that idea, and perhaps we're saying "merely human" was in a booklet called "The Kingdom Is at Hand," published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah's Witnesses) in 1944.  They are comfortable with that teaching.   No evangelical was saying that.  No fundamentalist was saying that before 1980.

I believe that the accurate position is that Jesus' blood was both human and divine by means of the hypostatic union.  I don't know how it is divine, but it has some quality that makes it divine in addition to being fully human.  I go into great detail in a previous post at another location (pt. 1, pt. 2).

Isaac Watts wrote this verse of one of his hymns, stupid as he may be:

No more let human blood be spilt---
Vain sacrifice for human guilt!
But to each conscience be applied
The blood that flow'd from Jesus' side.

But Mike Harding says you are too stupid to fix if you believe that Jesus' blood isn't merely human.  What do you think?

Friday, February 22, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 4

Habakkuk 2:4, the heart of the entire book of Habakkuk, referring back to the statement of Genesis 15:6,[i] and in light of other Old Testament texts that promise salvation to believers,[ii] states:  “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.”[iii]  The great fact that the just shall live by faith was to be engraven plainly upon tablets.[iv]  The ungodly, whether unbelieving Israelites[v] or idolatrous Babylonians,[vi] are proud, their souls lifted up;  in contrast, the people of God, those who are just, shall live by faith.[vii]  Habakkuk sets before Israel the example of Abraham—the patriarch was justified by faith alone, and his faith, because of saving character, produced a life of persevering obedience (cf. Genesis 22).  In such a manner, Habakkuk affirms, the people in his day needed to experience true conversion by faith and evidence the reality of that conversion in a life of faithfulness. A life of open rebellion was unacceptable, but one of mere outward rigorism or moralism would also not suffice, for without a root of faith and a renewed heart, all religious and moral actings were vain (Isaiah 1:10-15; Hebrews 11:6).  The word faith [viii] (‘emunah) in the verse, a noun related to the verb believe in Genesis 15:6, means in Habakkuk 2:4 a steadfast trust which results in faithfulness, combining the ideas of faith and of faithfulness that flows from it.[ix]  It is used for stedfastness and steadiness,[x] God’s truthful faithfulness,[xi] human faith, truthfulness, and faithfulness,[xii] and what is true and faithful in itself.[xiii]  Other words in the ‘aman word group, that of belief/faith/faithfulness,[xiv] mean faithfulness,[xv] verily, truly, indeed,[xvi] trusting, faithfulness,[xvii] faith, support,[xviii] constant,[xix] and firmness, faithfulness, truth.[xx]  Thus, as Genesis 15:6 indicates that believers are righteous, Habakkuk 2:4 indicates that those who are just are those who live by faith—and faithfulness is impossible without faith, for those who have, through the instrumentality of faith, embraced Jehovah as their own God and trusted in His promise of redemption through the Seed, will also characteristically trust in God and live their lives as the people of God out of the faith that is the fundamental or radical root of their spiritual life. Righteousnesslife, and faith, in both their earthly “already” and their eschatological “not yet,” are indissoluably connected.

For strong evidence for the fact that in Habakkuk 2:4 is properly rendered faith, and that faithfulness is a result of faith, see the comment on Habakkuk 2:4 in The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, O. P. Robertson, NICOT; note also that ‘emunah is translated in the LXX by pistis with some frequency.  “The context . . . justifies pi÷stiß, even in the sense ‘trust’ . . . and it was so translated by Symmachus, Aquila, and Theodotion, and in the other Greek versions” (Lightfoot, Galatians, on 3:11).  Furthermore, the meaning “‘belief, trust’ . . . [for] ‘emunah. . . seems decidedly to have [been] adopted . . . in the rabbinical Hebrew” (Lightfoot, Commentary on Galatians, sec. “The Words Denoting ‘Faith’”).  Warfield comments:

The notions of “faith” and “faithfulness” lie close to one another, and are not uncommonly expressed by a single term (so pi÷stißfides, faith). . . . “[F]aith,” in its active sense . . . occurs in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament [in] Deuteronomy 32:20 where it represents the Hebrew NUmEa, and Habakkuk 2:4 where it stands for the Hebrew ‘emunah; and it . . . [is] really demanded in . . . Habakkuk 2:4. The very point of this passage . . . is the sharp contrast which is drawn between arrogant self-sufficiency and faithful dependence on God. The purpose of the verse is to give a reply to the prophet’s inquiry as to God’s righteous dealings with the Chaldæans. Since it is by faith that the righteous man lives, the arrogant Chaldæan, whose soul is puffed up and not straight within him, cannot but be destined to destruction. The whole drift of the broader context bears out this meaning; for throughout this prophecy the Chaldæan is ever exhibited as the type of insolent self-assertion (Habakkuk 1:7, 11, 16), in contrast with which the righteous appear, certainly not as men of integrity and steadfast faithfulness, but as men who look in faith to God and trustingly depend upon His arm. The obvious reminiscence of Genesis 15:6 throws its weight into the same scale, to which may be added the consent of the Jewish expositors of the passage. Here we have, therefore, thrown into a clear light the contrasting characteristics of the wicked, typified by the Chaldæan, and of the righteous: of the one the fundamental trait is self-sufficiency; of the other, faith. This faith, which forms the distinctive feature of the righteous man, and by which he obtains life, is obviously no mere assent. It is a profound and abiding disposition, an ingrained attitude of mind and heart towards God which affects and gives character to all the activities. Here . . . the term . . . in the Old Testament . . . rises to the full height of its most pregnant meaning. (“The Biblical Doctrine of Faith,” Warfield, in Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of Works).

In both the Old and New Testament, “[t]he trusting man (NyImSaAm = pisteu/wn) is also the faithful man (NDmTa‰n = pisto/ß.”(pg. 198, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 6, Kittel).

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i] Compare Nehemiah 9:8 also.

[ii] A goodly number of texts of this sort are found in the Old Testament that do not specifically contain the word believe;  cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6-10; Isaiah 55:1-3; Jeremiah 3:22; 4:4; Hosea 14:2, etc.  Such an employment of other terms for saving faith and conversion appears in the New Testament also, of course (Matthew 7:13; John 6:37, 57; 10:9; Revelation 22:17, etc.).

[iii] :h`RyVjˆy wñøtÎn…wmTaR;b qyäî;dAx◊w wóø;b wäøvVpÅn hñ∂rVvÎy_aøl h$DlVÚpUo h∞E…nIh
e˙a»n uJpostei÷lhtai oujk eujdokei√ hJ yuch/ mou e˙n aujtw◊ˆ oJ de« di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stew¿ß mou zh/setai (LXX; note that 2:4a is not at all literally translated)
Ecce qui incredulus est, non erit recta anima ejus in semetipso; justus autem in fide sua vivet. “Behold, he that is unbelieving, his soul shall not be right in himself: but the just shall live in his faith.” (Vulgate)
:N…wmy◊yåqtˆy NOwhVfv…wq lAo aÎyåqyîdAx◊w NyElIa lDk tyEl NyîrVmDa NOwhVbIlVb aÎyAoyIvår aDh (Targum Jonathan)

[iv] Habakkuk 2:2.  The word Aj…wl, employed in Habbakuk 2:2 of the tables upon which the message that the just shall live by faith was to be engraved, was also employed of the tables of the ten commandments (Exodus 24:12).

[v] Habakkuk 1:5; Acts 13:39-41.

[vi] Habakkuk 1:6ff.

[vii] In Habakkuk 2:4b, the accentuation of :h`RyVjˆy wñøtÎn…wmTaR;b qyäî;dAx◊w indicates that the affirmation of Habakkuk is:  “the just, by his faith shall live” or “the righteous shall live-by-his-faith,” rather than “the just by his faith, shall live” or “the righteous-by-his-faith shall live.”  That is, the Hebrew accents support the translation of the Authorized Version:  “the just shall live by his faith.”

[viii] hÎn…wmTa.

[ix] hÎn…wmTa . . . from ’âman, to be firm, to last[,] [denotes] firmness (Ex. 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 33:4; 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jer. 7:28; 9:2; Ps. 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in ’ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne’ĕmân and he’ĕmīn are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne’ĕmân in Neh. 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Gen. 15:6 that h¡DOwhyèA;b N™ImTaRh◊w, “he trusted, or believed, the Lord;” and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in h`RyVjˆy wñøtÎn…wmTaR;b qyäî;dAx◊w to Gen. 15:6, “he believed (he’ĕmīn) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh.” It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. “What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word h`RyVjˆy” (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, ’ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God. The Jewish expositors, therefore, have unanimously retained this meaning here, and the LXX have rendered the word quite correctly pi÷stiß. . . . The deep meaning of these words has been first fully brought out by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11: see also Heb. 10:38), who . . . makes the declaration oJ di÷kaioß e˙k pi÷stewß zh/setai the basis of the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith” (Comment on Habakkuk 2:4, Commentary, Keil & Delitzsch).  That is, “in Habakkuk 2:4, faith was simply an unwavering trust in God’s word. In contrast to the overbearing disposition of the wicked, the believer, like Abraham in Genesis 15:6 and Isaiah in Isaiah 28:16; 30:15, put an immovable confidence in the God who had promised his salvation and the coming Man of promise. It was a steadfast, undivided surrender to [Jehovah], a childlike, humble and sincere trust in the credibility of the divine message of salvation” (pg. 196, The Promise-Plan of God, Kaiser).

[x] Exodus 17:12; Isaiah 33:6.

[xi] Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; 36:6; 40:10; 88:11; 89:1, 2, 5, 8, 24, 33, 49; 92:2; 96:13; 98:3; 100:5; 119:75, 90; 143:1; Isaiah 25:1; Lamentations 3:23; Hosea 2:20.

[xii] 1 Samuel 26:23; 2 Kings 12:15; 22:7; 2 Chronicles 19:9; 31:12; 34:12; Proverbs 12:22; 28:20; Isaiah 11:5 (the faithfulness of the incarnate Messiah);  59:4; Jeremiah 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Habakkuk 2:4.  Note also 1 Chronicles 9:22, 26, 31; 2 Chronicles 31:15, 18 where those put in office were to be trustworthy or faithful and act in fidelity (cf. KJV margin).

[xiii] Psalm 37:3; 119:30, 86, 138; Proverbs 12:17.

[xiv] See BDB for the definitions.

[xv] NRmQOa, Isaiah 25:1.

[xvi] NEmDa, Numbers 5:22; Deuteronomy 27:15–26; 1 Kings 1:36; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Nehemiah 5:13; 8:6; Psalm 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; 106:48; Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 11:5; 28:6. Also hÎnVmDa, Genesis 20:12; Joshua 7:20. Also MÎnVmUa, Genesis 18:13; Numbers 22:37; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18; Psalm 58:1.  Also MÎnVmDa, Ruth 3:12; 2 Kings 19:17; Job 9:2; 12:2; 19:4–5; 34:12; 36:4; Isaiah 37:18.

[xvii] NUmEa, Deuteronomy 32:20 (unconverted Israelites as “children in whom is no faith”); Proverbs 13:17; 14:5; 20:6; Isaiah 26:2.

[xviii] hÎnDmSa, Nehemiah 9:38; 11:23.

[xix] hÎnDmSa, Song 4:8; 2 Kings 5:12;  the likely significance of the name of the river and of the region from which it flows.

[xx] tRmTa, used of God’s faithful truth (Genesis 24:27; 32:10; Exodus 34:6; 2 Chronicles 15:3; Nehemiah 9:33; Psalm 25:5, 10; 26:3; 30:9; 31:5; 40:10, 11; 43:3; 54:5; 57:3, 10; 61:7; 69:13; 71:22; 85:10–11; 86:11, 15; 89:14; 91:4; 108:4; 111:7–8; 115:1; 117:2; 119:43, 142, 151, 160; 132:11; 138:2; 146:6; Isaiah 38:18, 19; 61:8; Jeremiah 4:2; 10:10; 42:5; Daniel 9:13; Zechariah 8:8), of true, faithful, and right things (Genesis 24:48; Deuteronomy 13:14; 17:4; 22:20; Joshua 2:12; 2 Samuel 7:28; 15:20; 1 Kings 10:6; 22:16; 2 Kings 20:19; 2 Chronicles 9:5; 18:15; 31:20; 32:1; Nehemiah 9:13; Esther 9:30; Psalm 19:9; 45:4; 51:6; Proverbs 3:3; 8:7; 11:18; 14:22; 16:6; 20:28; 22:21; 23:23; Ecclesiastes 12:10; Isaiah 39:8; 42:3, 9; 59:14, 15; Jeremiah 14:13; 26:15; Daniel 8:12, 26; 10:1, 21; 11:2; Hosea 4:1; Zechariah 7:9; 8:19; Malachi 2:6), acts (Genesis 24:49; 47:29; Joshua 2:14; 24:14; Judges 9:15, 16, 19; 1 Samuel 12:24; 2 Samuel 2:6; 1 Kings 2:4; 3:6; 17:24; 20:3; Psalm 15:2; 145:18; Proverbs 14:25; 29:14; Isaiah 10:20; 16:5; 38:3; Isaiah 48:1; Jeremiah 9:5; 23:28; 28:9; 32:41; 33:6; Ezekiel 18:8, 9; Micah 7:20; Zechariah 8:16), and individuals or groups of individuals (Genesis 42:16; Exodus 18:21; Nehemiah 7:2; Proverbs 12:19; Jeremiah 2:21; Zechariah 8:3).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How Is the Bible the Sole Authority for Faith and Practice? pt. 2

Part One

In part one, I explored what Baptists have meant by "the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice."  I said that one aspect of what Baptists meant is that the Bible is the only "infallible" authority for faith and practice and the supreme judge, but not the only judge.  In other words, Baptists have thought there were other authorities besides the Bible, but they were not parallel.  Roman Catholicism has placed tradition on the same level as Scripture.   A Catholic Dictionary (p. 41) writes:

It is an article of faith from a decree of the Vatican Council that Tradition is a source of theological teaching distinct from Scripture, and that it is infallible. It is therefore to be received with the same internal assent as Scripture for it is the word of God.

When saying "the only authority," Baptists have meant the supreme authority, that is, no authority is parallel with the Bible.  I don't think that Baptists believed there were no other authorities but the Bible.

What is ironic about this assertion is that the phrase "sole authority for faith and practice" itself is verbiage not found in the Bible.  It is a teaching of the Bible, but not the Words of Scripture from any passage.  So the expression itself is a communication of tradition.  A tradition of New Testament churches is that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.  Sure, it's a biblical tradition, but it isn't the Bible itself; therefore, exploring the meaning of the phrase isn't akin to studying an interpretation of Scripture.  It is considering the interpretation of a tradition.

Because of the abuse of tradition by Catholicism, most Baptists and most evangelicals, it seems, have pendulum swang away from "tradition."  "Tradition is bad.  We don't want to be traditional.  Tradition is anti-Scripture."  I believe this is a bad reaction to tradition.  Tradition itself isn't bad.  It can be helpful.  It should not be ignored.  I'm saying that it is even an authority, although not the authority.  As an authority, we are reponsible to tradition.

I am saying here that tradition should have some authority to Baptists, to Christians, to New Testament churches.  The authority subjugates itself to the Bible, but it should not be an authority that is ignored.  The ignorance of tradition relegates Baptists, Christians, and church members to regular new and fanciful ideas that sweep through churches.  When Paul wrote, "beware of tradition," to the Colossians, he wasn't writing, "don't have any traditions."  The fact is traditions can be good or bad.  There are harmful traditions (Mt 15:3, 23:4; Col 2:8) and helpful ones (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6).

One way that evangelicals and fundamentalists and others combat tradition is with an unorthodox position on "Bible as sole authority."  I've read the usage of 1 Corinthians 4:6 to defend this.

that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another

They say, "If it is not mentioned in Scripture, then we cannot view it with any kind of authority."  And by this, they are talking about music standards.  The Bible, the sole authority, doesn't have a play button, so it doesn't play for us what style of music is permissible.  Therefore, judging music, they would say, is "above that which is written."  They would say that advocates of traditional music are operating "above that which is written."  And, after all, tradition has no authority, and beware of tradition.

I am contending that the Bible itself, the sole authority, leads us to depend on tradition for our belief and practice.  Violating a tradition should concern a Christian, but it does not today.  It's almost a badge of honor now to go untraditional, saying something like, "We're not traditional here."  Traditions are the beliefs and practices that are being passed down from before.  We pass down a Bible, yes.  God has preserved His Words.  Part of our ruination as a people is the ignorance or disregard of the tradition.

How is tradition an authority?  It must be based on the Bible.  It must be believed and practiced by believers.  You have certain plain teachings or clear implications of Scripture.  Christians universally flesh them out, unpack them into their lives in a particular way.  Those actions are the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  Those are the unity of the Spirit.  They don't stand as inspired Scripture, but they are a common understanding of the teaching and practice of the Bible itself, coming from the Holy Spirit.  In a church, when that is disregarded, it is heresy.  That is why departure from longtime teaching and practice is called heresy.  It is dividing from tradition.  The division is caused by the new, not by the old.

When the new, tradition defying belief and practice comes on the scene, it relies on Scripture to move out the old.  It says that the old is "above that which is written."  When those beliefs and practices are dropped, which several have been, there should be some valid explanation for that.  We should be able to trace the exegesis of Scripture, the proving of the old to be unscriptural through that sold exegesis.  We should be able to trace the work of those godly students of Scripture with the transition from the old to the new, like a fossil record.  Without the missing links, we should reject the new.

The silliness of evangelicalism and fundamentalism has risen from the debris of tradition.  Traditions have been demolished like a bad remodel job, thrown willy-nilly into the dumpster.  The new teachings are retrofitted into Christianity.  That cannot be done, has not been done, without causing irrevokable damage to the structure that has been spared.  The ease at chucking the traditions is a very bad portend of things to come.  No doubt the silliness will lead to even more of it, until the original idea is barely recognizable.  I encounter more and more former professing evangelicals, who out of desperation, if not having already ejected from church, have moved to some ritualistic form as a choice between little to no tradition or some.

Today's churches look at the traditions like mp3 users view the 8-track.  It's not the same thing.  That is an undiscerning look.  It's destructive.  Certain forms or structures or vehicles or symbols or modes have not only derived, but inherent meanings.  They carry along and preserve what is sacred.  They are in fact how the passages ought to be practiced.  No alternative behavior is suitable as an application of the text.  The traditions are the means by which Scripture is obeyed as the sole authority.  God cannot and will not be honored without them.

You hear people in baseball today say, "respect the game."  They have so much respect for the game that they want to pass it down to the next generation of players in the same condition as it is today.  In order to keep the game intact, they have to respect the traditions of the game.  People act like they like that about baseball.  Those traditions become sacred to baseball players.  I wish that Christians, that Baptists, could respect their traditions in the same way.  They are convinced from convoluted distortions of tradition and the Bible teaching of it, that they are respecting the "game" by changing things regularly and radically.  By doing so, somehow they are honoring Scripture.  Their innovations to them are a kind of freedom given to them, a liberty for which they give Christ the credit.  I have news for them.  Christ wouldn't want the credit.  They are disrespecting Him by what they are doing.

More to come

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Is the Bible the Sole Authority for Faith and Practice?

When Baptists say that the Bible is their sole or only rule or authority for faith and practice, what do they mean?  Millard Erickson in his Theology (vol. I, p. 258) speaks of a Baptist seminary president, who said, tongue in cheek, "We Baptists do not follow tradition.  But we are bound by our historic Baptist position!"  Does having the Bible as sole authority mean having no authority but the Bible, including tradition?

Baptists have distinguished themselves from other denominations with this distinction, the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice.  However, the London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF, 1689) reads:

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.

That's how the London Baptist Confession of Faith starts.  It doesn't say that the Bible is the only authority for faith and practice, because it goes on.

although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation.

Later we read in the section on Scripture:

Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

And even later,

our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

It ends with the following:

The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved.

The LBCF also says that "light of nature" and "works of creation and providence" are authorities.  Then  it says that the "illumination of the Spirit of God" is a necessary authority.  After which, it says that "light of nature and Christian prudence" orders "circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies."  And finally it says that the Holy Spirit again is an authority in the persuasion and assurance of the truth of the Word.  The latter is how the church identified and agreed upon the sixty-six books of Scripture.

I write all this to say that Scripture is not the sole authority for faith and practice, but the sole infallible authority for faith and practice, and, therefore, the supreme judge.  That contrasts with Roman Catholicism which places the Bible parallel with tradition.  So does tradition and history have no authority?  I contend, "no," and I take you in part back to the original statement of the Baptist seminary president in Erickson's theology.  "We are bound by the historic Baptist position!"

Baptists have no authority but the Bible.  So how did they get their distinctives?  They're in the Bible, yes, but they're the distinctives of Baptists through history.  These are the distinctives that have distinguished Baptists through history.  Do you hear another authority there?  There are other authorities, just no other infallible authority besides the Bible.

Roman Catholics use 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 as a basis of tradition as an authority.  Are those two verses legitimate as a basis for tradition as an authority?  They sound like it to me.  However, they are not a basis for tradition as parallel with the authority of Scripture.

The Bible as an authority doesn't mean that whatever we think it means is an authority.   It's what it is actually saying that is an authority.  And what does it actually say?  What the Bible says is not new.  It's old.  And what's old, that gets passed down, is tradition.  It isn't superior to Scripture, but it shouldn't be ignored either.  There are some with the Bible as their only authority, who actually have what they want the Bible to mean or say as their authority.  The Bible itself gives authority to the church and the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

We live in an age that more than ever men invent new things for the Bible to say and mean.  They justify what they do with the Bible with interpretations and beliefs and practices that are new.  They claim the Bible as authority.  This is where tradition should not be ignored.   Other authorities exist.  They are necessary.  It's just that the Bible itself is the only infallible one.

Friday, February 15, 2013

“The just shall live by faith”— A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 3

Kaiser explains the relationship between faith and faithfulness or obedience in the receipt of the promises by Abraham and his seed:

The third and climactic element in the promise [of the Abrahamic covenant] was that Abraham and each of the successive sons of promise were to be the source of genuine blessing; indeed, they were to be the touchstone of blessing to all other peoples on the earth. All nations of the world would be blessed by them, for each was the mediator of life to the nations (of Abraham—12:3; 18:18; 22:17–18; of Isaac—26:3–4; and of Jacob—28:13–14).
The apostle Paul would later point to this phrase (“all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you,” Ge 12:3), and declare that it was the same “gospel” he preached (Gal 3:8). Simply put, the good news was that “in [the promised seed] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gal 3:8). Thus the embryo of God’s good news could be reduced to the linchpin word “blessing.” The one who was blessed was now to be the conduit of blessing of universal proportions to the whole world. In contrast to the nations who sought a “name” merely for themselves, God made Abraham a great name so that he might be the means of blessing all the nations on earth.
But, it might be asked, how were the nations to receive this blessing mediated by Abraham or any of his successive sons? The method must be the same as it was for Abraham. It would be by faith: “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Ge 15:6).
The literal rendering of Genesis 15:6 is simply he believed in [Jehovah] (he’emîn ba YHWH). This, of course, was more than a vague intellectual assent to a supreme deity in which he decided merely to become a theist. The object of his faith was to be found in the content of the total promise. As such, priority may be given to the oldest, most ancient, and most central part of that promise: the person or the man of promise signified by that male descendant who was to come from the seed (3:15). Indeed, when God first met Abraham, the issue of progeny was not specifically included but only inferred (12:1–3), for the first clause promised to make Abraham into a great nation. His trust, then, was in the Lord—but particularly in the Lord who had promised. . . .
Since the verb “to believe” in Genesis 15:6 is the Hebrew hiphil form (the causative stem) of the verb ’āman (cf. English “amen”), Geerhardus Vos pointed to the “causative-productive sense” of the verb and to the preposition. Both, in his judgment, showed that faith had its source and its object in the personal [Jehovah]. For Abraham, it meant he had to renounce all his human efforts to secure the promise (as witnessed by his attempting at first to legally adopt Eliezer as his son and the inheritor of his estate, Ge 15:2), and he had to depend on the same divine person who had spoken of the future to work in the present as well as the future, to accomplish what he said he would do. Thus, Abraham possessed the promises of God, as yet unrealized, when he possessed the God of the promises and his trustworthy word, even though he never got to enjoy the reality of the content of the promise—the land itself—during his lifetime. . . .
In Genesis 22:16–18 Abraham was told, “Because (kî ya’an ‘ašer) you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you . . . because (‘ēqeb ’ašer) you have obeyed me.” In Genesis 26:5 the blessing is repeated to Isaac “because (‘ēqeb ’ašer) Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” In my judgment, the conditionality was not attached to the promise, but only to the participants who would benefit from these abiding promises. If the condition of faith was not evident, then the patriarch would become a mere transmitter of the blessing without personally inheriting any of its gifts directly. Such faith must be evident also in an obedience that sprang from faith. Certainly, the promise was not initiated in either chapter 22 or 26; that had long since been settled. But each chapter did have a sensitive moment of testing or transition. Furthermore, the election of God had been with a purpose not only of blessing Abraham and the nation (18:18) but also of charging him and his household to “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that (lema‘an) the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (v. 19).
The connection is undeniable. The duty of obedience (law, if you wish) was intimately tied up with promise as a desired sequel. Therefore, the transition to the coming time of Mosaic law should not be all that difficult for any who had really adequately listened to the full revelation of the promise in the patriarchal era. But in no way was the promise-plan itself dependent on anyone’s obedience; it only insured their participation in the benefits of the promise but not on its maintenance. (pgs. 59-61, The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Walter Kaiser. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008)

One should note that the Lord does not merely promise Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan, but indicates that the patriarch himself will inherit the land (Genesis 13:15, 17; 15:7)—something that will take place after the resurrection in the Millenial kingdom when Abraham will dwell in Canaan with true Israel.  Such a resurrection, and the eternal felicity associated with it, is also involved in the fact that Jehovah is truly a God to Abraham (Genesis 17:7; 28:13; Exodus 3:6; Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:26).  Abraham’s faith led him to look both for the promised kingdom and “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10), the New Jerusalem.

Because of Abraham’s faith in the Christ set forth in the Abrahamic covenant, as expressed in Genesis 15:6, God formally ratified that covenant with the patriarch (Genesis 15:7-22) and promised him that his seed would inherit the land.  Life in the Promised Land (Genesis 15:18-22) is specified as given, by grace and for Christ’s sake, to both Abraham personally and to his seed for ever, and ultimately to Christ as head over them all, as Abraham and his corporate and Messianic seed will possess the Land in the resurrection during the Millenial kingdom and eternal state.[i]  As eternal salvation is an undeserved gift of grace, so neither Abraham nor any of his fallen physical descendents possessed the Land in their lifetime, or will possess the Land in the eschaton, because of their inherent worthiness;  the inheritance is solely procured by grace (Deuteronomy 9:4-6; cf. Romans 10:8 & Deuteronomy 30).  Kaiser properly notes, concerning the unity and plurality of the “seed” concept:
When [Jehovah] appeared to Abraham, after the patriarch had arrived at Shechem, that ancient word about a “seed” (3:15) was again revived. Now, however, it was directed to Abraham (Ge 12:7). From there on, the importance of this gift of a child who would inherit the promises and blessings became one of the dominant themes in the patriarchal narrative, appearing, all told, some twenty-eight times. [Genesis 12:7; 13:15, 16 (2C); 15:13, 18; 16:10; 17:7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19; 21:12; 22:17 (2×), 18; 24:7; 26:3, 4 (3×), 24; 28:13, 14 (2×); 32:12; 35:12; 48:3, 4.] Eve had been promised both a “seed” and a male individual—apparently from that “seed.” Now in the progress of revelation, with much greater specification added, the concept was elaborated both on the corporate (all who believed) and representative (Man of promise/“Seed”) aspects of this promised heir. It was to encompass so great a number that, in hyperbolic fashion, they would rival the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore. But this “seed” would also be another “son”—born at first to Abraham, when all hope of his ever having children was lost, and then continued in the one born to his son Isaac, and later to the one born to Isaac’s son Jacob. A line of successive representative sons of the patriarchs who were regarded as one with the whole group they represented matched the seminal idea already advocated in Genesis 3:15. Furthermore, in the concept of “seed” were the two aspects: (1) the seed as a future benefit and (2) the seed as the present beneficiaries of God’s temporal and spiritual gifts. Consequently, “seed” was always a collective singular noun; few times did it have the meaning of a plural noun (as in “descendants”). Thereby the “seed” was marked as a unit, yet with a flexibility of reference: now referring to the one person, now to the many descendants of that family. This interchange of reference with its implied “corporate solidarity” was more than a cultural phenomena or an accident of careless editing; it was an integral part of its doctrinal intention. . . . Thus, we refer to the “one” and the “many” when we refer to the “seed,” or “offspring,” but the use of the translation “descendants” limited the reference only to the whole group who believed but did not include the representative of the whole group, the coming Messiah himself. (pgs. 56-57, The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, Walter Kaiser. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008)
This recognition of both the individual and corporate aspect of the “seed” continues in the New Testament (cf. Galatians 3:16, 29).

The promise of life was given to Abraham because he believed in Jehovah, not because of any works that he did, setting a pattern for all those who are of Abraham—for Abraham is the father of believing Jews and Gentiles—to also receive life in the kingdom, spiritual life now and eschatological life, through faith, through which they are accouted righteous (Romans 4).  Thus, believers are those who receive salvation,[ii] those who are established and prosper, both in having Jehovah bless them and protect them in the Land and in general by having all things work together for good to them (2 Chronicles 20:20).  They believe in Jehovah alone and reject any confidence in other gods (Isaiah 43:10).  They will be secure and protected by the virgin-born yet Divine Messiah from the temporal and eternal judgments that fall on the wicked.[iii]  They are the faithful who are saints or holy ones (Hosea 11:12), having been converted and having in this manner become the righteous (Hosea 14:1-9).  On the other hand, those who do not believe are those who are the objects of God’s wrath and judgment, those who do not inherit the Promised Land[iv] but are killed by plagues or the sword, or suffer exile from it as they turn to idolatry and are the objects of the Lord’s great anger.[v]  They are those who are removed from the Land in their lifetime (cf. Psalm 78) and will not inherit it in the Millenium or the eternal state, but are eternally cut off from true Israel,[vi] having not set their hope[vii] in God, but rejected His covenant, and been rebellious and faithless.[viii]  They are those who are not established in time or in eternity in the Land because they do not believe in Jehovah and Immanuel, the Posessor and Protector of the promised country,[ix] the Stone and sure foundation of Israel,[x] the Servant who would justify many by the offering of Himself.[xi]  There are no texts where true believers are lost or cast off because of a lack of circumcision, obedience to various commandments, or anything else;  in continuity with the New Testament, the Old Testament teaches that all believers receive salvation and all unbelievers receive condemnation.[xii]  Thus, following the pattern set in Genesis 15:6, believers are those who receive salvation in its temporal and eternal aspects, and unbelievers are those who receive temporal and eternal judgment.

This post is part of the complete study here.


[i] Genesis 13:15; 17:8; 28:13.

[ii] Exodus 14:31-15:2.  While the entire nation of Israel received salvation in that they were delivered from slavery in Egypt and from Pharaoh’s army, although the entire nation did not believe in an eternally saving fashion, nonetheless Exodus 14:31-15:2 does connect belief and salvation, and both the belief and the salvation received and sung about pass beyond the merely physical and temporal for the Israel of God (Romans 9:6) to encompass all that is involved, both temporally and eternally, in the affirmation “Jehovah . . . is become my salvation: he is my God.”

[iii] Isaiah 28:16; 8:14-15; 7:14; 9:6; Romans 9:33; 10:11.

[iv] Numbers 14:11-35; 20:12; Deuteronomy 1:32-40; 9:23-24.  Numbers 14:11-35 speaks, at least in general, of those who  do not believe in Jehovah at all, while Numbers 20:12 speaks of a lack of faith in the Lord in a particular situation by those who are true sons of Israel, namely, Moses and Aaron.  The language employed concerning those who do not believe in the Lord at all in Numbers 14:11-35 is much harsher than that in Numbers 20:12, although entrance into the Promised Land is taken from both groups.  It is noteworthy that Deuteronomy 1:32-40 indicates that the Lord was angry with Moses because of the larger unbelieving multitude that he led and represented (as, typologically, there is no problem with the Law itself, but because of sin, man is unable to receive eternal life through the Law), those who were rebellious all the time that Moses knew them and consequently did not believe nor hearken to the Lord (Deuteronomy 9:23-24).

[v] 2 Kings 17:7-23; Deuteronomy 27-28. Contrast the unbelief of 2 Kings 17:14 with Hezekiah’s “trust” in 18:5 and the temporal prosperity that was consequent upon it.

[vi] Exodus 30:33, 38; 31:14; Leviticus 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 17:4, 9; 18:29; 19:8; 20:17, 18; 23:39; Numbers 9:13; 15:30; Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Psalm 125:5; Isaiah 53:8; Jeremiah 4:4; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 14:2.

[vii] lRsR;k, Psalm 78:7; cf. Job 8:14; 31:24; Proverbs 3:26.

[viii] Psalm 78; cf. v. 7, 22, 32, 37.

[ix] Isaiah 53:1; 7:9-14; 8:8; 9:6; Hebrews 11:14.

[x] Isaiah 28:16; 8:14; Genesis 49:24; Psalm 118:22; Romans 9:33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:4-8).

[xi] Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

[xii] An affirmation that all true believers receive salvation in the Old Testament, as in the New, does not eliminate the possibility that one could, in Old Testament times, possess a type of spurious “faith” that fell short of the kind of true faith associated with real conversion, just as such spurious “faith” is mentioned in the New Testament (John 2:23-25) while salvation is still set forth as by means of faith alone (John 3:1-21).  The Old Testament indicates that one could assent, for example, to the fact that the Word from the Lord was true without having anything more than the “faith” of a hypocrite (Psalm 106:12ff.), while at the same time repeatedly stressing the salvation of all believers (Genesis 15:6).