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The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, Part 7: Martin Luther’s Unveiling of the Bondage of the Will

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on July 14, 2015

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Welcome truth lovers to Blog Talk Reformation, this is your host Paul M. Dohse Sr. Tonight, part 7 of “The Magnum Opus of the Reformation: Martin Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, Martin Luther’s Unveiling of the Bondage of the Will.”

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Tonight, we continue in our sentence by sentence evaluation of the HD [Heidelberg Disputation] after addressing some asides in parts five and six. We hear a lot about Martin Luther’s bondage of the will. Tonight, we are looking at the very conception of Luther’s beliefs on the human will. What we are going to find is that Luther’s explanation of human will derived from his position of mortal and venial sin.

Simply stated, if one believes that every act they perform is mortal sin, even their good works, their life is forgivable. Man must not believe he can do a good work. Let’s use theses 11 and 12 to segue into thesis 13 which is the first unveiling of Luther’s bondage of the will.

Thesis 11: Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.

This is clear from Thesis 4. For it is impossible to trust in God unless one has despaired in all creatures and knows that nothing can profit one without God. Since there is no person who has this pure hope, as we said above, and since we still place some confidence in the creature, it is clear that we must, because of impurity in all things, fear the judgment of God. Thus arrogance must be avoided, not only in the work, but in the inclination also, that is, it must displease us still to have confidence in the creature.

Here is something that I haven’t talked about enough in this series: the Reformers were masters of doublespeak. So far, it is obvious that Luther disavowed any value in regard to human life. Yet, in some sentences, he sort of makes it sound like that the issue is life without God. This isn’t the case at all; this is a strict dichotomy between 100% evil and 100% good with nothing in-between.

In contrast, God makes new creatures of mortal men. This flies in the face of Reformed ideology and all of the theology that flows from it. Note that, like all good Gnostics, Luther saw impurity in “all things.” And of course, that includes mankind.

Hence, as stated in this thesis by Luther, man must not have any confidence in self. In other words, God’s creation of man has no inherent ability. The natural ability to do anything is the glory story. Anything that brings glory to man diminishes God. Listen, as one example, the Puritans didn’t dress like they did for no good reason. To wear something with a little color or style would have been the glory story. By the way, do you want to help people? Know this: EVERYTHING people do they do for a reason. Logic drives action. If you want to help people, find the logic behind the action.

So, Reformed ideology splits reality into a strict either/or dichotomy; it’s either the glory story or the cross story. The glory story, or the story of man, can only bring about arrogance.

Let’s pause here to look at the foundational ideology of the Reformation which deals primarily with metaphysics. Like I said, everything people believe and do flows from their logic, so what is the logic that all of this stuff flows from? This is a very simplified version, but it really boils down to this: God does everything that He does because of His self-love. And because God loves Himself, He created evil as a contrast to His holiness. In other words, evil helps to define His holiness by contrast.

This leads to the essence of state of being, or metaphysics, or why things are, or their state of being, according to the metaphysical narrative. What’s a metaphysical narrative? Simply stated: state of being is a story written by God. Everything that is happening in the world today, right down to what people decide to wear, is predetermined by God in His historical prewritten narrative.

All of this benefits God’s self-love. Everything is for His glory. And according to this story, man thinking that he has freedom of choice on any level is evil, and what is he doing? Right, he is writing his own story. If you think that it was your decision to wear what you wore today, you are writing your own glory story. Either you are writing your own life story, or God is writing your life story. You are either god writing your own reality, or God is writing your realty.

Of course you don’t have freedom of the will—that would be writing your own reality—that would be making yourself God. We can also stop here and talk about how the Bible fits into this. The Bible becomes a prototype or model for interpreting reality according to God’s story which is primarily about redemption. The Bible is therefore a tool for interpreting reality according to the cross story, or God’s prewritten metaphysical narrative. And folks, this is everywhere. This way of using the Bible saturates the institutional church.

An example, one of myriads, is the Bible Mesh study material. Listen carefully to what these guys are saying in this promo for the study:

Notice the constant theme of Bible as story, and everything in the Bible being about Christ; ie., redemption. Notice that the Bible is also “your story” and this study enables you to put yourself in the story. You have heard me talk often about the redemptive historical method of interpreting the Bible and this is what it is. They make the Bible a tool for interpreting all of reality according to Martin Luther’s cross story metaphysics. And frankly, 90% of the evangelicals occupying the pulpit in the institutional church take this approach to the Bible.

Thesis 12: In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.

This becomes sufficiently clear from what has been said. For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us, according to the verse, »Confess your misdeed so that you will be justified« (cf. Isa. 43:26), and according to another (Ps. 141:4), »Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds«.

So, if you look at two slides on the program slide show, you see two contemporary illustrations published by the Reformed camp that explain where we have come to this point. The two man chart explains the metaphysics,

the-fetus-of-cog2Cross Chart WB

and the cross chart explains the application as stated in this thesis by Luther: “For as much as we accuse ourselves, so much God pardons us…” His use of Isaiah 43:26 pretty much puts it in a nutshell: confession of sin leads to ongoing justification which can only be found in the institutional church. If we believe man has no will to choose good, and that everything we do is sin, we qualify to be forgiven for purposes of ongoing justification. It’s not complicated.

Thesis 13: Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.

The first part is clear, for the will is captive and subject to sin. Not that it is nothing, but that it is not free except to do evil. According to John 8:34,36, »Every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.« »So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.« Hence St. Augustine says in his book ›The Spirit and the Letter‹: »Free will without grace has the power to do nothing but sin«; and in the second book of ›Against Julian‹, »You call the will free, but in fact it is an enslaved will,« and in many other places.

The second part is clear from what has been said above and from the verse in Hos. 13:9, »Israel, you are bringing misfortune upon yourself, for your salvation is alone with me,« and from similar passages.

Again, we will take note of something Luther was accustomed to in his doublespeak. Though he quotes Augustine saying that the will can do nothing but sin without grace, we know that Luther also believed that the will can do nothing but sin WITH grace. This is just another example of his doublespeak. This seems to be very indicative of Reformed teachers; they sow seeds of doubt that they are stating outrageous ideas, but after a space of time the outrageous, tempered by a contradictory statement, will be accepted through repetition. The doublespeak is a red herring until you are fully indoctrinated.

Luther is stating here that the will is “not free except to do evil.”

Thesis 14: Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.

An illustration will make the meaning of this thesis clear. Just as a dead man can do something toward life only in his original capacity (in vitam solum subiective), so can he do something toward death in an active manner while he lives. Free will, however, is dead, as demonstrated by the dead whom the Lord has raised up, as the holy teachers of the church say. St. Augustine, moreover, proves this same thesis in his various writings against the Pelagians.

Here is where we will employ some help from one of the leading Reformed scholars on Luther’s theology of the cross. This is from Gerhard O. Forde’s “On Being a Theologian of the Cross” which is a commentary on the HD.

Theses 14 and 15 are an attempt to define a little more closely what sort of ability may be ascribed to the will. If, as we have seen in thesis 13, the will is not nothing and is not forced or determined, and if, as we might say, we are not puppets, how then may the power of the will be described?


Stop right there. This is the Reformed, “But of course we are not puppets, so how do we explain this?” But the only logical conclusion to Reformed ideology is that we are in fact puppets. In classic Reformed teaching protocol, the brainwashing technique is to deny the logical conclusion while hoping that you will function according to the very logical conclusion and goal that they are seeking.

Listen, according to their very own redemptive-historical hermeneutic, we are nothing but characters in a narrative. No, no, no, we are not puppets, rather, we are mere characters in a metaphysical narrative who are penciled in. And we have a choice, and this is a paraphrase, “…join the plot of the divine drama that includes your story, or attempt to be your own god and write your own glory story.” That’s it. That’s it in a nutshell.

I have been learning a lot from Susan about Jonathan Edwards, and she has so much data already accumulated that I don’t know whether she is going to be able to find this or not, but she was sharing with me about Edwards’ view of the will. Basically, he believed that before a person performs an action, God puts the thought, idea, will, and decision to act in one’s mind beforehand. This kind of goes hand and hand with Edwards’ belief that God is recreating reality at every moment. So, in essence, everything you do is a recreation of reality when it gets right down to it.

So this is how this works: the Reformed will continue to deny that we are puppets while teaching all of the elements of puppeteering. If you teach all of the elements constantly while never speaking of the logical conclusions, people will eventually function according to the logical conclusions which is what they are after. Functionality is the goal—not understanding. Reformation ideology is vehemently opposed to reason and understanding.

Here is another example: the official Reformed doctrine of already not yet. So classic. Sure, sure, you are already saved, of course you are! But not yet. So you think: “Well, sure, our salvation will be fully realized when we are resurrected. That makes total sense.” Well guess what? You just bought into progressive justification. See how this works? Salvation doesn’t have a beginning and an end. It’s a conception. Conception is a onetime final event that completes its work in an instant. You didn’t exist, now you do—end of story.

Let’s continue with Forde’s quotation.

If the claim is that we are to “do what is in us,” then the question quite naturally follows: What then is in us? What sort of capacity do we have?

Pause. Stop right there. Let me shortly answer that question according to 1John chapter 3 before we move on: God’s seed. God’s DNA. We are literally born of God and have His seed IN us. We are new creatures born of God.

To get at the question Luther here uses a distinction current in his day between what our translation has called a “passive capacity” and an “active capacity.” What does that mean? In its passive capacity the will can do good when it is acted upon from without but not on its own, not in an active capacity. A commonly used physical analogy is water. Water has a passive capacity to be heated, but it can’t heat itself. It has no active capacity to do that.

The example Luther uses in his proof is even more to the point because it deals with death and life. On the one hand, corpses could be said to have a passive capacity for life because they can be raised from the dead. But not, of course, on their own power, not in an active capacity, not even in the slightest. Not even by doing their best! The capacity they have is strictly passive. They can be raised, but only by divine power. On the other hand, it is of course true that while a people live they have the active capacity to do something about life and death. They can take life, either their own or some other, but they can’t create or give life. Yet, that only demonstrates that, after the fall, will in its active capacity can only do evil. Since will after the fall is dead and bound to do deadly sin, it can be rescued only from without, as indicated by the fact that it could not bring life out of death but could only be commanded from without by our Lord.

Thus, the fact that even after the fall the will is not nothing means that there is something there. What is it? It is a strictly passive capacity, not an active one. That means that it can be changed but it will not change itself. To be changed, it will have to be accessed “from without.” But it will take radical action. It will take death and resurrection. So we are again pointed toward the cross.

Here, we have plunged the depths of Martin Luther’s bondage of the will. Man is dead, and death is defined as the waters of mortal sin. The waters of mortal sin are not only what man dwells in, he is those waters. He is passively dead. The only active works he can do is dead works. The material realm is man’s glory story of death. He ebb and flows between dwelling in death and experiencing resurrection resulting from him being acted upon from the outside. Being acted upon is completely determined by God’s decision and good pleasure. The long and short of being saved is merely giving testimony to this fact and seeing it for what it is. Saving faith is giving testimony to what you see only, and not anything that you do.

To think you are not dead is mortal sin that cannot be qualified for forgiveness. And again, do see what these guys do? No, no, we are not puppets, right? A question: what do we know about puppets? Well, we know that they are dead. We know that they cannot do anything until they are acted upon, right? This Gerald Forde guy is just like all of the Reformed; he will deny that he is saying that we are mere puppets, and then will describe our Christian existence as puppetry.

This is what annoys me so deeply about people who listen to these yahoos because, “they say some good things.” Why would anybody spend any time investing in this intellectual dishonesty?

So, what is the biblical view of the will? Romans chapter 6. Before one is saved, they are enslaved to sinful desires and free to do good works. Slavery indicates the type of wages that the slave gets—only wages for death. Unsaved people are also indifferent to the law that they will be ultimately judged by. They do not love God’s law. But, they definitely have a free will to follow their God-given conscience and receive rewards for doing so. A person who lives a good common sense life will of course suffer fewer calamities than the foolish. But in the end, this only means less condemnation.

The saved person also has a free will. They are enslaved to righteousness, but unfortunately free to commit sin. However, they do not receive wages of death because they are no longer under the condemnation of the law. They can only receive wages for life. They are no longer indifferent to the law, but love God’s law and its truth. The chart below may help:


The new birth is a reversal of sin and slavery resulting in a change of direction. No one sins perfectly, and no one loves perfectly. It’s a direction, not perfection. But if you look at the Reformed cross chart again, neither is it a downward direction of sinful perfection resulting in making the cross bigger.

That’s the end of our lesson tonight—let’s go to the phones.

A Clarification on my Anti-Reformation, Anti-Protestant Stance

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on June 23, 2015

AdamsIt is true, I have totally written off every Calvinist that has ever lived in regard to having any value for sanctification or justification except for two, one being Dr. Jay Adams. After all, I don’t want to be extreme.

So, what’s my excuse for excusing Adams? He brings something to the table that isn’t Reformed. Sure, he may argue that it is Reformed, but nevertheless the results are the same: people find a measure of real help in a contemporary church where there isn’t any help. In fact, the consensus is in: people are better off after they leave church. This ministry has witnessed several marriages on their way to divorce court until the couple simply stopped going to church. In fact, I dare say their marriages are getting better.

We are in a Protestant Dark Age. A movement is needed where the wisdom of God found in the Scriptures is rediscovered in Western culture. What needs to be rediscovered specifically? It starts with the knowledge that the Bible is written for the able individual. That’s first.

Secondly, the issue of how we interpret reality must be addressed. The Reformers did not interpret reality literally, and that tradition was passed down to all that followed them. In the church today, by and large, the pastorate does not interpret state of being in the same way that congregants do. The Reformers reinterpreted every word and term according to their own worldview. For example, “God’s glory” really means “God’s self-love.” Stated simply, John 3:16 in reverse.

The Reformers devised an ingenious indoctrination system of sliding metaphysics. They redefined every word and term, and allowed the listeners to assume what they meant by each word and term. In the process of using these words and terms in a certain way, listeners are slowly indoctrinated in accordance with the primary goal of the Reformers: a desired functionality albeit foggy understanding.

Let me give some specific examples. Total depravity. From the beginning in Reformed thought, this included believers. So, while assuming total depravity pertains to the unregenerate only, many are eventually indoctrinated into the original Reformed idea that this also includes believers.

Sola scriptura. The assumption is Scripture alone, but the Reformers knew that few would ask the following question: “What exactly did the Reformers believe about the Scriptures?” Sure, Scripture alone, but for what purpose?

Election. The assumption is that this argument focuses on man’s ability to choose God for salvation, but it goes much, much deeper than that and is directly relevant to what the Reformers believed about reality itself. Few know that Calvin believed in three classes of elect: non-elect, temporarily elect, and the final elect, or those who persevere.

The Reformers believed that reality is a narrative written by God in which mankind is written into the script. Reformers such as Jonathan Edwards believed that man has no will per se, but God preordains every thought that precedes every act of man which makes it seem as if man has a will. My wife Susan will be doing three sessions on Jonathan Edwards at this year’s TANC conference. Many will find her research fairly shocking.

Sola fide. The assumption is faith alone for salvation/justification. By far, this is the one that the Reformers get the most mileage out of. Using this assumption, they continually talk about sanctification in a justification way. Eventually, sanctification becomes justification. Eventually, the Christian life becomes perpetual re-justification which is the Reformation gospel in a nutshell.

Protestantism is truly the super-cult of the ages.

And the institutional church finds itself in a huge dilemma. Traditional institutional worship beginning with the Reformation was tailored for perpetual re-justification down to the alter call routine. The Lord’s Table is a solemn ceremony where additional grace is imparted through repentance. In reality, the first century assemblies met for dinner, and the fellowship meal was supposed to remind them of their fellowship with God and His Son. It was all very informal and not for the purpose of imparting additional grace.

The gatherings were an extension of worshipful living specifically designed for private homes and nothing more. The institutional version is an extension of two pillars of Reformed theology: the doctrine of progressive justification, and the politics of church-state. Hence, traditional institutional worship necessarily circumvents the original intent of Christ’s mandate for His assemblies.

With all of that said, Adams supplies a little help that can be found right now in the institutional church, and at least for the time being, we need to seize upon everything we can get. I am not talking about those who think they are helped by adopting a Reformed worldview of zero-sum-life (viz, “second generation” biblical counseling). I am not talking about those who seem to stand strong in the face of adversity because they see all of life as nothing but a divine prewritten narrative for the sole benefit of a divine self-love. No, here is my reasoning in regard to Adams per a comment I posted yesterday:

God used Jay Adams to save my life. How? Jay emphasized the need for biblical counseling using a grammatical approach to the Scriptures. This approach proffered the idea that seizing upon the literal promises of God in the Bible is curative. Of course, this would seem evident. That gives hope; if I follow God’s instruction on this, God will do that.

In the midst of the hell I found myself in, I could begin to please God. Nothing could keep me from doing so except myself, and in God’s timing, and in God’s way, it would be curative as well.

As someone who prided himself as a knowledgeable, objective evangelical, Jay’s teachings exposed the fact that I was really a functioning mystic that used all of the orthodox verbiage. While I disagree with Jay on many things, this is the powerful approach that he brings to the table.

“Christians” have a choice to make in regard to how they will interpret the Scriptures and reality itself: grammatically, or according to Christocentric Gnosticism. I am not talking about pseudo grammatical interpretation used for a purely redemptive outcome, I am talking about authentic exegetical interpretation, not cross-centered eisegesis leading to the antinomianism of “second generation” biblical counseling.

And, Jay is an example to all of us in practicing our gifts faithfully to the end. There is no retiring from a love for the ministry that you are called to whatever it is.

May the Lord give God’s people many more years of his living sacrifice.

Am I willing to give a Calvinists credit where credit is due? Yes, if he brings something to the table that can give life. If we were in a time when the laity has retaken its rightful place in Christ’s mandate supplying ample sanctification wisdom, would I recommend Adams in any regard? I am not sure, my due to him in this particular age notwithstanding.  But for the time being, we must scrape up everything we can get until the laity obeys its calling, as long as it is truly worth scraping up.

The Reformation has failed. A resurgence of it commenced in 1970. By 2008, it dominated American evangelicalism and continues to do so today. But, the chickens are coming home to roost. Its leaders are dropping like flies. The damage control is now unmanageable. The institutional church is a train wreck while the Nones and the Dones are laying about everywhere on the landscape. The latest trail blazer of the neo-resurgence to fall at the hands of his own gospel sanctification Reformed doctrine is Tullian Tchividjian. He is one of seven of the most visible leaders of the movement to resign for misconduct in less than two years. Others have been the focus of controversial bully-like conduct in the same time frame, along with numerous Neo-Calvinist mega church pastors who have resigned for sexual misconduct, three in the Orlando, Florida area alone.

The answer is NOT Reformation—the answer is a laity revolution. The laity has been conned into investing huge sacrifice in Reformed academia, and to what end? Who will deny that the laity understands less about Christian living than we ever have? Rather than seeking God’s face on our own, we run to orthodox sand boxes like The Warburg Watch and play with the same regurgitated Reformed talking points. This only serves to help the failed Reformation with its damage control. It only serves to send the message that being confused is acceptable.

But we do not serve a God of confusion. It’s time for the laity to stop worshiping Reformed academia and give honor to the one who sanctifies us with truth—not the traditions of mere men.


Two Hour Crash Course on Calvinism

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on May 4, 2015

Six Characteristics of the Protestant Anti-Gospel

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 22, 2015
  1. Progressive Justification. The Protestant Reformation turned every aspect of the true gospel completely upside down. “Justification by faith” is really justification by faith alone in sanctification (the Christian life). What they call “sanctification” is the progression of justification to a final justification.
  2. Dualism. It deems the flesh (body/members) as inherently evil and something that cannot be indwelled by holiness. The contemporary expression of that is the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us. This is based on Martin Luther’s alien righteousness. Therefore, the new birth must be denied along with any personal holiness associated with it. All righteousness must remain completely outside of the believer.
  3. Law as Justification’s Standard. The Reformers made law the standard for justification (see the Calvin Institutes 3.14.9-11). Therefore, the law has a single dimension and can only judge/condemn. This keeps “Christians” under law (instead of under grace) which is the very definition of a lost person. In contrast, law and justification are mutually exclusive.
  4. Redefinition of the New Birth. The Reformers made the new birth a change of realm rather than a literal transformation of the person. The “believer” is given the ability to “see” the kingdom, but not participate in its good works.
  5. Lovelessness. The ability of the Christian to love is circumvented because the law is only a standard for justification and must be kept perfectly to obtain any merit. The Christian is not free to use the law to love without fear of condemnation because the law can’t be kept perfectly by mortals. Hence, any loving act by a Christian cannot have merit.
  6. Two Seeds Instead of One. Since law is the standard for justification according to the Reformers, if fulfilled, it is a second seed that can give life (Gal 3:16). So, the promise was not only to Abraham and his offspring, but also to the law.

The Potter’s House: Biblical Covenants: An Overview and Relevance to the Gospel, Parts 1 &2

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 4, 2015

HF Potters House (2)

Revised Covenants

Part 1: The Fact that Clarifies: God Never Made a Covenant with Adam

    If there is an area where the laity is very confused, it is in regard to biblical covenants. This booklet seeks to clarify the issue.

    So, let’s get into the primary covenants.  There are six, NOT seven. They follow: Noahic, Abrahamic, Palestinian, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant.

    God never made a covenant with Adam. How do we know this? Because when God makes a covenant, He states it as such. God never calls any arrangement He made with Adam a “covenant.”

    In the Garden of Eden, God calls them “trees” not a covenant. How do we get “covenant” from “tree”? In the six actual covenants, God says, “I will make a covenant.” God’s work arrangement with Adam was never called a covenant. His relationship with Eve was never called a covenant. When God covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness after the fall, He didn’t call that a covenant either. In all cases it’s pure assumption. However, when God says, “I will make a covenant,” that’s not an assumption.

    Curiously, Adam is said to have broken the covenant, but the issue is that he disobeyed and ate from the tree of good and evil which is a separate issue from these other considerations: his task of caring for the garden, being fruitful, etc. Clarifying what this covenant was exactly and how Adam broke it by eating from the tree is speculative at best. Whenever God makes a covenant, He calls it a covenant, He specifies who the covenant is to, and also specifies the terms.

    Granted, the tree of life ends up in the New Jerusalem, but what we primarily look for as Christians is the city built by God, not the tree. The tree of life is one of the results of the Abrahamic covenant, but it isn’t THE covenant or even a salvific covenant. The tree is never called a covenant. Those who posit the idea that God made a covenant with Adam must now split that covenant into two different covenants: the Edenic covenant of innocence, or the covenant of works prior to the fall and the Adamic Covenant of grace. This is what happens when you make something a covenant that isn’t a covenant; you have to come up with more covenants to explain the first covenant that wasn’t a covenant.  You search in vain for the covenants of innocence, works, or grace.

    Ultimately, Christians look for the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant, not some Adamic covenant. Let’s look at some Scripture:

2Peter 3:13 – But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

We aren’t waiting for a tree, we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth.

Hebrews 11:10 – For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Abraham was looking for a city, not a tree.

    The definition of a salvific biblical covenant follows:  they are NEVER based on anything man does, nor are they predicated on an agreement between God and man. Covenants are predicated on one thing and one thing only: God’s promises. The six covenants are covenants of promise. They are NOT agreements between God and man, they are promises TO man.

Where Does Election Fit In?  

    Furthermore, ELECTION is the means by which God executes His promises. Why must God elect the means? Because He cannot break His promises. He elected Christ to make the promises possible, He elected angels to enforce the covenants of promise, and He elected Israel to execute the covenants on a human level aided by the Holy Spirit.

    God does not elect individuals, but rather the means of fulfilling His Promises. God is only limited by His character, but is not limited by any of His attributes. God cannot break a promise, and He cannot be unjust.  Individuals are not elected; only the means for fulfilling His promises are elected. Otherwise, the promises cannot be to anyone in particular; in other words, if individuals are elected, they themselves cannot know definitively that the promise is to them.

    Hence, the promises are to everyone who will believe. If that is predetermined, the promise is useless because it is only a promise to those who have been predestined which means the promises of God must be qualified with an “IF.”

“Yes, it’s a promise; you just don’t know whether it’s to you specifically or not.” The Bible states that the promises of God are to all who believe. If the promises are only to the elect, that should be easily stated and clarified. It is worth noting that God never calls the Gentiles His elect. Why? Because they were never His means of bringing salvation to the world—they are merely recipients.

John 4:22 – You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Any reference to Gentiles being elect is speaking to the salvation they obtain by inheriting the promises made to the Jews:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation (Jesus) for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham (Luke 1:68-73, also see Eph 2:12).

    This is much like the gospel, or “good news.” Why is, “Maybe you’re in, but maybe you’re not” “good news”? You really have no way of knowing whether it is necessarily good news for you or not. In the same way, you are presented with THE promise without any way of knowing whether the promise is really to you. The only way you can know for certain that the promise is to you is if the “IF” relies on your choice to believe the promise which is to EVERYONE who believes. Let’s look at an example of this:

Acts 3:36 – Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

    See the words “the promise”? Whenever you see that in the New Testament it is referring to the Abrahamic Covenant. An example is the aforementioned 2Peter 3:13. Peter stated on Pentecost that the promise was to them, their children, and those far off which probably referred to the Jews not present that day. Yes, it could also refer to the Gentiles, but more than likely refers to the Jews who didn’t make it to Jerusalem for Pentecost that year. The promise is to all of them, but the promise must be obtained by faith. God calls all men to Himself, but they must come by faith, and that being faith in the Son of God.

    We will not stop here to examine all of the gospel implications of what Peter said, but a few things should be mentioned. Saving faith believes God’s promises. But past a mere mental assent, I think it also involves a desire to be a recipient of the promise. Salvation does not come by any kind of obedience to the law—it comes by believing God’s promises. Abraham, the father of our faith, was made righteous because he believed God’s promise concerning an heir and being made a great nation (Genesis 15:1-6). Saving faith believes what God says. Saving faith believes God’s promises. Why should anyone believe if they cannot be sure the promise is to them?

    Also note that the promise includes the gift of the Holy Spirit. That necessarily means the new birth. That’s part of the promise. This is where we must conclude that Peter is talking about more than just water baptism. Peter exhorted them with “many other words” that may have very well included more information about the new birth and baptism. The new birth means the old us dies with Christ and a new us is resurrected with Christ (Rom 6:1-14).

    Let me take opportunity here to put all of this lordship salvation chaos to rest. Telling people that they have to do something in order to follow Christ and be saved is beside the point. Frankly, I don’t endorse telling people that they have to do anything other than believe God’s promise in order to be saved. But if they have something in their life that they don’t want to give up that is clearly opposed to God’s life prescription, they are basically saying they don’t want the promise! The death of who you are and the resurrection of a new you is part of the promise. This is not complicated.

    Before we move on, we will pause here for a moment to revisit this whole idea that God made a covenant with Adam though God never said He made a covenant with Adam. A whole bunch of this is tied up in the granddaddy of all theologies, Covenant Theology, which shows up in the 16th century. It posits the idea that the one command given to Adam about the tree of good and evil was a covenant of works, also referred to as the covenant of life, or as mentioned earlier, a covenant of innocence.  Adam was promised life/blessings for obedience, and death/cursing for disobedience.

    We could spend hours plunging the depths of all of this while including Dispensationalism to boot, and all of the various views on this which are myriad, as if God is a god of confusion, but let me make it really, really easy for you. As the theories go, born out of this idea that God made a covenant with Adam, when Adam sinned, and thereby breaking the first covenant, God instituted the “Covenant of Grace.” And what is this Covenant of Grace? It is the promise of the seed in Genesis 3:15—that’s the Covenant of Grace according to the Protestant brain trust. So, let’s turn now to where that takes place:

Genesis 3:14 – And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (ASV).

    Do you see the glaring problem here? Who is God talking to? When you make a covenant with someone, wouldn’t it be with the person you are talking to? Note what takes place after verse 15; God then addresses Eve, and then afterward addresses Adam separately. If there is a Covenant of Grace, it was made with the serpent! Adam and Eve are right there, and according to the Covenant Theology federal headship of Adam, any covenant made at that point should be addressed to Adam, no?

    This whole idea that God made a covenant with Adam is at the root of almost every errant view of biblical covenants that there is, and is also the basis of the Reformed doctrine of double imputation. This is the belief that Christ fulfilled the covenant of works that Adam violated through perfect law-keeping when He was on earth as a man. Hence, paradise is restored due to Christ fulfilling this covenant, which is a law covenant.

    In addition, key to understanding the salvific covenants of promise is Ephesians 2:11,12.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

     Notice that being unregenerate is synonymous with being alienated from the “commonwealth of Israel” and the covenants (PLURAL) of “promise.” Any salvific covenant must be defined as a covenant of promise, and NOT agreement, and MUST be attached to Israel. Problem: Adam had nothing to do with Israel. And…even if God did make some kind of covenant with Adam, it depended on something Adam did and not a promise despite any action by Adam. In other words, it was supposedly an agreement that was dependent on the actions of two parties. In order for God to fulfil His promises to a certain party, they have to remain faithful to their part of the contract. When Adam supposedly violated the covenant, God replaced it with another one. This is all fraught with speculation.

    At best, it would have to be some kind of law covenant, and shockingly, the Reformed crowd actually concedes this and makes the primary covenant of promise a law covenant. This is clearly a plenary affront to Scripture.  Nevertheless, this is how the Reformed, and frankly many others, including dispensationalists, interpret Romans 5:18,19.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

    Supposedly, the one act of Christ is His “passive obedience,” and the overall obedience of Christ is His “active obedience.” Hence, Christ came to fulfil a law covenant. Regardless of what Protestant camp you dwell in, you hear this all the time; viz, Christ kept the law perfectly for us; viz, Christ’s resurrection was proof that God was satisfied with His perfect obedience; viz, Christ had to keep the law perfectly in His life first before He could be the acceptable sacrifice; viz, we have the righteousness of Christ. Whether Calvinist or Arminian—you hear these truisms constantly.

    Here is where I want to enter in a quotation from Present Truth magazine because it perfectly articulates John Calvin’s view on this from his commentary on Romans:

After a man hears the conditions of acceptance with God and eternal life, and is made sensible of his inability to meet those conditions, the Word of God comes to him in the gospel. He hears that Christ stood in his place and kept the law of God for him. By dying on the cross, Christ satisfied all the law’s demands. The Holy Spirit gives the sinner faith to accept the righteousness of Jesus. Standing now before the law which says, “I demand a life of perfect conformity to the commandments,” the believing sinner cries in triumph, “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, His suffering and dying; mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, and suffered, and died as He did . . . ” (Luther). The law is well pleased with Jesus’ doing and dying, which the sinner brings in the hand of faith. Justice is fully satisfied, and God can truly say: “This man has fulfilled the law. He is justified.”

We say again, only those are justified who bring to God a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. This is what faith does—it brings to God the obedience of Jesus Christ. By faith the law is fulfilled and the sinner is justified.

On the other hand, the law is dishonored by the man who presumes to bring to it his own life of obedience. The fact that he thinks the law will be satisfied with his “rotten stubble and straw” (Luther) shows what a low estimate he has of the holiness of God and what a high estimate he has of his own righteousness. Only in Jesus Christ is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. Because faith brings only what Jesus has done, it is the highest honor that can be paid to the law (Rom. 3:31) [see The Truth About New Calvinism pp. 100, 101].

    So, what does church become? Or rather, what has church in fact become? It has become a ritual that we partake in for the purpose of Christ’s obedience fulfilling a law covenant. “Christians” verbalize these ideas all the time.  The Reformed call this “the obedience of faith.” Our faith alone in Christian living—Christ’s imputed obedience to fulfill the law covenant as long as we walk by faith alone. I had one person from the anti-Calvin, anti-Lordship salvation crowd tell me that Christians only obey one time—when they believe. After that, it’s all Christ’s obedience perpetually imputed to our account. I had another anti-Calvinist refer to en nomos to Christ. What’s that? It means in-lawed to Christ; the law is fulfilled for us in Christ. Calvinists call this the “vital union.” As long as we are walking by faith alone, Christ continues to satisfy the law for us.

    Listen, do you know why Calvinists and Arminians bicker back and forth in the SBC but will not separate? Do you know why an anti-Calvinist president of a major SBC seminary wrote me and stated that Calvinism isn’t a false gospel? The answer is simple; they all believe in the same law covenant. When it gets right down to it—they believe the same gospel. The tie that binds is this whole idea that God made a covenant of works with Adam. Note the two different charts below; one from the dispensationalist camp disdained by the Reformed, and the other one from the latter:

Dispensational Chart

Covenant Theology

    The Abrahamic covenant, the covenant that all of the other covenants of promise are based on, is based on promise and NOT law.  It doesn’t matter who keeps it—it’s NOT a law covenant. The apostle Paul spent all of his Christian life refuting this very idea.

Galatians 3:15 – To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

    If Christ had to keep the law for us, that makes the promise what? Right, “void.” Who keeps the law is not the point, law period is the point. Paul goes further to make his point with the ONE SEED argument. What’s that? If the law is part of the Abrahamic covenant, there are two life-giving entities and not just one being Christ. Verse 21, the law cannot give life. We are going to come back to this text when we get to the Mosaic covenant.

Part 2: Overview of the Covenants and Their Gospel Significance

    Let’s now do an overview of the covenants of promise starting with the Noahic  covenant.

Genesis 9:8 – Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

    This is pretty straight forward, but let me again point out that when God makes a covenant with someone, he tells them about it directly. In every case where God makes a covenant, He says, “I establish my covenant with you.” God never said to Adam, “I establish my covenant with you.” Moreover, in the text cited by Calvinists and Arminians alike to make a case for a “Covenant of Grace,” God is talking to Satan. In every other covenant of promise, God establishes the covenant with those he is talking to.

The Abrahamic Covenant  

    The foundational covenant of promise that the rest of the covenants of promise are based on is the Abrahamic covenant. To get the full breadth of this covenant, you really have to study Genesis from chapter 12 to pretty much the end of the book, but I would like to point primarily to chapter 15. In what is obviously some kind of ritual to establish a covenant, because verse 18 states such, God put Abraham in a deep sleep and executed the covenant Himself—He performed the ceremony with Abraham in a deep sleep. Why? Because the promise will be kept by God alone. It’s not some kind of mutual agreement commonly found in law covenants.

    This is the essence of law covenants: they are based on some kind of agreement. This is why the idea that the church is the bride of Christ is so popular; this makes the idea of a law covenant more feasible than a one direction covenant of promise.  Hence, “Christians” keep themselves “faithful to our covenant with Christ” by being “faithful members” in the local church by showing up every time the doors are open, tithing, serving, and being a “blessing to the pastors.” How often have we heard these things all of our Christian lives? When I was a member of the institutional church, every time I was able to spend some time with my family, we were packing everyone up and heading to church because “the doors were open.” Not being a “blessing” to the church equals being a bad wife to the bridegroom who is supposedly Christ.

    But when it gets right down to it, being a “faithful member” results in the “covering of Christ” that continues to fulfill the righteous demands of the law because the institutional church covenant is a law covenant. As long as we are faithful to the covenant; i.e., a member in “good standing,” Christ will continue to cover us with His perfect obedience in order to keep us righteous. Some pastures refer to this as, “keeping ourselves in the love of God.”

The Palestinian Covenant

   The Palestinian covenant (Deu 30:1-10), again, a covenant of promise, is a land promise to the nation of Israel. This is also included in the Abrahamic covenant. Dispensationalists contend with the Reformed that this is a promise God will keep while the Reformed argue that Israel broke their covenant with God, a marriage covenant, or law covenant, resulting in God divorcing Israel, and replacing them with the Gentile church.

    Therefore, this promise no longer stands because Israel was unfaithful to the law covenant. Nevertheless, on this wise, the Reformed are more consistent in regard to their partnership with Arminians in believing the same gospel based on the fulfillment of a law covenant. If Calvinists and Arminians appear to be like an old married couple constantly bickering back and forth—it’s because that’s what they are. They will never get divorced; it’s a marriage of institutional convenience.

The Mosiac Covenant

    Now we come to the Mosaic covenant and as mentioned beforehand we will go back to Galatians to shed some light on this covenant. After Paul’s argument that the Abrahamic covenant is according to promise and not law, does that mean the law is kaput?

Galatians 3:19 – 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came [Chrsit], we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor [guardian v.23] to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor [guardian v.23] (NKJV).

    What this is saying is that Christ ended the law for righteousness (Rom 10:4) when he died on the cross. Until then, until “faith came,” all the sins of the righteous were imputed to the law: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin… we were kept under guard” (also see Rom 7:6). All sin is transgression against the law (1Jn 3:4), so all sins that believers committed until Christ came were imprisoned in the law, and then Christ ended the law. Therefore, our sin is not merely covered by some law covenant, but actually ended. Where there is no law, there is no sin (Rom 5:13, “Apart from the law, sin lies dead” Rom 7:8).

    If Christ kept the law for us, this posits the idea that there is a law that can give life. “But Paul, Christ kept it for us.” So what? That’s still saying that the law gives life if kept perfectly, but there is no law that can give life (Gal 3:21).

    This is why the Mosaic law is not ended. It still functions as a covenant of death to those who do not believe, for those whom faith has not come yet, or faith in Christ has not come. All sin is transgression against the law, so if belief in Christ ends the law, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). But if the Mosaic law is ended, there is no law in which to judge anybody—everybody is going to heaven. In this way, the Mosaic law is an instrument of the gospel because all of the sins of unbelievers are imputed to it. If they would only believe in Christ—their sins are ended and there is no law to judge them. We implore unbelievers to escape the law by fleeing to the blood of Christ.

    The Bible also refers to the Mosaic covenant as an inheritance, or a will. When Christ died on the cross, believers received their inheritance:

Hebrews 9:15 – Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.

    The New Covenant is a better covenant. Why? Because the Old Covenant only COVERED sin, the New Covenant ENDS sin. This is why the old is “becoming” obsolete and “passing away” (Heb 8:13). Also, let’s not forget the elect angels that enforced this covenant when God came down to make it on Mount Sinai. Undoubtedly, the forces of darkness were present that day, and when the God of Israel came down to meet with Israel to enact this covenant, we have this apocalyptic scene of the angels making a protective perimeter for the event. Angels are also at work daily in ministering to those who are God’s ambassadors, and will again be covenant enforcers in the last days (see the book of Revelation).  The angels are elected for this purpose.

    The Mosaic covenant is also a covenant of promise regarding blessings and cursings. This is a promise of blessing for obeying God’s law for purposes of love. Since the law cannot condemn us because it has been ended for righteousness, Christians can now be assured that their law-keeping is faith working through love (Gal 5:6). We can be assured that the law of condemnation is now the Spirit’s law that He uses to sanctify us (Jn 17:17).

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

And, we are blessed for obeying:

Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

James 1:25 – But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Philippians 4: 8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

These are promises for sanctification; we can only believe to receive the promises of justification, but in order to receive reward in sanctification, we must act in love:

Hebrews 6:10 – For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.

The Davidic Covenant

    We will spend little or no time on the Davidic covenant. It’s a promise that Christ will rule on David’s throne in the millennial kingdom. It’s founded on the Abrahamic covenant, and Peter eludes to it in his gospel presentation at Pentecost.  Again, all salvific covenants of promise are tied to Israel.

Lastly, the New Covenant.

    We have touched on the New Covenant to a point in discussing the Mosaic Covenant. The New Covenant which, here we go again, is a covenant to Israel specifically (Jere 31:31), was inaugurated by the death of Christ, but will not be fully consummated until the millennial kingdom. The inauguration of the New Covenant ended the law for righteousness, and ushered in the beginning of a better covenant. The Old is fading away, but we may assume that it will not be completely obsolete until the end of the millennial kingdom because that’s when the final judgment takes place. The law will be needed, unfortunately, to condemn those who appear at that judgment.

    How do we know that the New Covenant is not fully consummated at the present time? Read the covenant in Jeremiah 31:

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: 34 and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more (ASV).

    Are we in those days when Israel is completely given over to God and there is no need for teachers or the written law? Obviously not. Is all Israel saved according to Romans 11: 25-27? Obviously not. And by the way, this particular writing of the law on hearts does NOT refer to present-day Christians and does NOT abrogate the Old Testament law written on tablets of stone etc., ad nauseam.

This is how we know that the New Covenant is not fully consummated at this time. Besides, when Christ instructed us on the remembrance of the Lord’s Table, He said He would not drink of that cup again until he did so with us in the kingdom. I think this speaks to the full consummation of the New Covenant as well.


    Another thing we can associate with the covenants is the vanquishing of God’s enemies. Christ came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and performed a lot of healing of diseases. This is indicative of the millennial kingdom where there will be little disease if any. The Bible states that an infant will be 100 years old. In the new heaven and new earth, the last enemy to be defeated will be death. The new heaven and new earth is the consummation of the Abrahamic covenant when the city Abraham was looking for, heavenly Jerusalem, the real bride of Christ (Rev 21: 9ff), will descend from heaven and God will dwell among men.

    When Christ came and died on the cross, sin was defeated because the power of sin is the law (1Cor 15:56). That was the first enemy of God to be defeated. Why would Christ want to fulfil the law in our stead for righteousness? All that would do is empower sin that much more! “But Paul, what’s Matthew 5:17 talking about?” Answer: see Romans 8:3,4.

    The second enemy that will be defeated is disease in the millennial kingdom which is why healing was a major theme during Christ’s ministry.

    The last enemy to be defeated will be death at the consummation of the Abrahamic covenant (1Cor 15:24-28). That is also the Sabbath rest that yet remains for God’s people (Heb 4:9).

    In vogue in our day is the idea that Christians are still under condemnation and must live our Christian life by grace ALONE. We hear this constantly. Why? Because the protestant gospel is clearly grounded in a law covenant, not a “holy covenant” based on promise. Living by the same gospel that saved us, or living by faith alone, keeps us in the love of Christ resulting in Christ fulfilling an Adamic covenant that never existed.

It is a gospel based on a law covenant, and not promise.