Paul's Passing Thoughts

Calvin’s False Gospel: On the Wrong Side of the Law; Galatians 3:15-25

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 11, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally published March 1, 2014

“If Christ had to keep the law perfectly, or if you will, fulfill it, the inheritance no longer depends on The Promise, but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through The Promise.”

“In a manner of speaking, Moses’ law was useless until Christ died. It was a will that promised an inheritance, but without the death of its testator, there is no inheritance; namely, eternal life. So why would Christ have to fulfill the law through obedience? His death alone resulted in the inheritance. Obedience to a will does not fulfil it, only death fulfills it. A will is a promise fulfilled by death only.”

The reason Calvinism is a false gospel is simple and glaring; Calvin was on the wrong side of the law. In fact, Calvin constructed the exact soteriology that the apostle Paul continually railed against. Simply stated, Paul sought to separate law from justification while Calvin sought to fuse law with justification.

Calvin condoned this by making Christ’s perfect obedience to the law part of the “atonement.” This is another caveat we will be discussing: Calvin also misused the word “atonement” and seems to have had a fundamental misunderstanding about what it is. As good Protestants we think of atonement as being central to the cross, and indeed it is VERY important, but not central. I will explain this further along—how Calvin’s understanding of atonement makes the L in TULIP an oxymoron.

Calvin made perfect law-keeping justification’s standard; Paul said, NO! law has nothing to do with being justified whatsoever! Calvin said Christ fulfilled the law for us, and His perfect obedience was imputed to us along with His personal righteousness. Hence, we are righteous positionally, and also righteous factually. Therefore, the “atonement” is a “covering”—no matter what the Christian does, when the father of wrath looks at us, He only sees Christ’s “doing and dying” and not anything we do. This is part and parcel with Martin Luther’s alien righteousness construct as well. It seems logical until you start reading the Bible. But this makes the concept of “covering” very important to the Reformation.

Also, this construct leads to various and sundry formulas for sanctification in which we conduct ourselves in a way that continually reapplies the “doing and dying” of Christ to our lives as opposed to “anything that we do”…and a lot of confusion following. And unfortunately, the elder’s soft whispering in our ear that says, “just trust us” as well. That’s not a good idea.

Let us now examine Galatians 3:15-25 to make these points:

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case (NIV).

Really, the crux of Christianity is the covenant God made with Abraham. EVERYTHING goes back to that. God’s complete plan for the ages is bound up in “The Promise.” That is another name, really the formal one, for the Abrahamic Covenant: “The Promise.” One must understand that Reformed theology and Calvinism in particular, is a complete deconstruction of biblical truth and the gospel. Reformed theology holds to the idea that The Promise was conditional. The idea, especially among renowned Southern Baptists, that common ground can be found with Calvinism is the epitome of biblical illiteracy, and this is just one point among many: Paul makes it clear in verse 15 that The Promise cannot be changed or annulled. Furthermore, it does not depend on anything that man does as demonstrated by the fact that God put Abraham in a deep sleep during the ceremony that consummated this covenant.

16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ (NIV).

Verse 16 is very helpful in understanding something basic about all biblical covenants, here referred to by Paul as “promises.” In the Bible, “promise” is an idiom for “covenant.” The two words are used interchangeably. All of the “promises,” plural, are built upon the one “promise,” singular. All of the covenants build one big historical picture, much of it future, but all based on the one Promise. It is interesting to note that Paul identifies the formally unregenerate Gentiles of his day as alienated from the Promises (plural) of Israel (Eph 2:12).

Verse 16 also makes a distinction in Abraham’s national descendants and spiritual descendants. Abraham is the father of Israel, but not all descendants of Israel are of the “seed of the woman” which is Abraham’s spiritual seed. But be sure of this: that does not negate the promises to national Israel (see Jer 31:31ff.) and those who are of “faith” within national Israel. The point of verse 16 is that belief in Christ denotes the only seed that can give life by “faith” alone apart from anything else. That’s why Paul continues in this way:

17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise (Ibid).

The Promise is by faith alone and is the only seed that can give life. The law, which came 430 years later, does not CHANGE anything in regard to The Promise. ALL life is in faith alone, or the seed of faith. One must simply believe. Faith gives life completely separate from the law. Let us expedite the point with verse 21:

… For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law (Id).

You may argue that law can further define righteousness after the fact, but it cannot give life. The law is completely separate from justification/righteousness. The fulfillment of the law by anybody, including Christ, does not impart life—only faith imparts life. A keeping of the law for “atonement” changes the promise:

18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise (Id).

If Christ had to keep the law perfectly, or if you will, fulfill it, the inheritance no longer depends on The Promise, but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through The Promise. So, why the law? Paul will tell us:

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one (Id).

Moses was the mediator of the covenant of the law given at Mt. Sinai, and the angels enforced its inauguration. This was the unimaginable apocalyptic scene that guaranteed lack of interference from the forces of darkness. In the book of Revelation, we have a description of how angels will be used of God to once again enforce this covenant. Even though the law was added, this was not the addition of another seed of faith; ie., Moses, but there is only one seed that signifies The Promise and the only seed that can give life. Moses’ covenant cannot give life.

So why the law? Now we can talk about, “atonement,” well, sort of. The law was a covering of sorts by way of a will. Under the Old Covenant, if you believed God, you were in the will and guaranteed the inheritance. Remember what Paul said in verse 18?

For if the inheritance depends on the law…

The Old Testament law was a will that protected believers until Christ came and died for our sins. In that sense, they were “covered” until Christ came. Christ is the mediator of a “better” covenant because Moses’ covenant only protected believers from the consequences of sin until Christ came. Moses was the mediator of the will, but Christ is the testator:

22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe [Note what we have discussed in prior essays: “Scripture” and “law” are synonyms].

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Hebrews 9:15 – For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

16 – In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Id).

In a manner of speaking, Moses’ law was useless until Christ died. It was a will that promised an inheritance, but without the death of its testator, there is no inheritance; namely, eternal life. So why would Christ have to fulfill the law through obedience? His death alone resulted in the inheritance. Obedience to a will does not fulfil it, only death fulfills it. A will is a promise fulfilled by death only.

Moreover, in regard to justification, it would seem that the point of the Old Testament law was the temporary imputation of sin, and not the need for a righteous fulfillment. The law imputes NO righteousness, but in regard to justification was a “covenant of death” (2Cor 2:12, 3:6,7). More than likely, the idea is a will of death because it required a death, and can only bring death to those who attempt to be justified by it.  Therefore, Christ was the “end of the law for righteousness.” If the definition of “sin” is lawlessness (and it is, see 1John), Christ didn’t merely cover sin—He ended it.

This brings us to “atonement” and the whole “covering” idea. First of all, it is likely that Christ was not crucified on the Day of Atonement because that day has exclusive Jewish cogitations for the future. It’s Jewish eschatology. It is the day when the sins of Israel are cleansed and they are restored as a nation:

Atonement

(Online source: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Yom_Kippur/YomKippur.pdf )

Secondly, atonement doesn’t allude primarily to “covering,” but rather an exchange:

Atone 2

(Ibid).

Therefore, the idea of a “limited atonement” makes no sense at all. First of all, the limitation would only pertain to Israel. Secondly, in regard to Calvin’s overall soteriology, “covering” is only a plausible rendering of atonement; covering versus exchange must be weighed in the balance. In Calvinism, a covering over of our wickedness by the righteousness of Christ is feasible, but what about an exchange of death for life, and sin for righteousness? In the end, what is the passing from death to life? (1Jn 3:14). If we are only covered and not changed, that must be interpreted as mere realm transformation that is only experienced, or the allegory of choice that fits a preferred presupposition.

It’s ironic, even camps that reject the Calvinist label buy into the Calvinist idea of atonement.  More buy into the idea that Christ had to keep the law for us. Even more buy into the idea that we are merely covered and not changed: “We are all just sinners saved by grace.” “When God looks at us, He only sees Christ.” We have all said these things.

This is a fundamental misinterpretation of the law’s relationship to grace. And that must change; we mustn’t be on the wrong side of the law.

paul

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