COUNSEL: Stop it!

Now here is some of the best the world has to offer in the way of COUNSEL…in a comedic way, of course.  Sadly, this is much of what so-called “Christian” counsel gravitates toward, in assuming that the believing-sinner (each of us) has only to appropriate the counsel (precept of God) in order to ‘make-it-all-happen’.  Sounds like something out of Palestine, oh, about 3400 years ago:

Newhartian Counsel

Canonicity: Distinct Canons

Meredith Kline once wrote:
“Together the old and new covenant canons share in redemption’s eschatological movement with its pattern of renewal, of promise and Messianic fulfillment, the latter is the semi-eschatological and consummate stages….As polities for two different covenant orders, the Mosaic and the Messianic, the two covenantal canons stand over against one another, each in its own individual literary-legal unity and completeness.

Covenant: Context of

William Dumbrell is said to have uttered:

“[T]he Sermon on the Mount is a ‘covenant recall to Israel’ which ‘recalled Israel to the covenant and had the reconstitution of scattered Israel in mind.'”

EXACTLY, and others have likewise concluded the same.

The Sermon on the Mount is not for the Church of Jesus Christ to assume as a direct ethical prescription.  To miss the covenantal framework in which this passage is set, is to miss the heart of what Christ was declaring as the Last and Greatest Prophet of Israel.  The majority view has long been one of assuming Christ is here conveying the ethical scheme the New Covenant Community would live and die by, when in reality it is the Scheme Christ himself would live and die under.

Unfortunately, this (the majority view) is nothing more than an abstract, a-covenantal reading of the text.

New Covenant: Priority of Indicative

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones once wrote:

“[T]he Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not to be regarded as a law- a kind of new ‘Ten Commandments’ or set of rules and regulations which are to be carried out by us-but rather as a description of what we Christians are meant to be” (D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol.1, [IVP, 1966], 23).

Reaching the Top and Depths w/ The Gospel

Elyse Fitzpatrick in an interview (re: Because He Loves Me):  “Simply put, I think that this is the most important book I’ve written because I’m finally writing about the One who is preeminent, Jesus Christ. I feel like much of my life has been spent pursuing godliness and encouraging others to do so while leaving Jesus behind. Not that I didn’t love him, just that I didn’t see how relevant he is to everything in my daily life.

“I can’t imagine ever writing on anything else again because once you’ve reached the pinnacle of God’s work in the world, what else is there to say? I’ve spent a good part of a year confining my thinking and reading (when not being silly or reading fiction!) to one topic: God’s love for us in Christ, and it’s transformed my heart. I can see how it’s been so easy for me to gloss over God’s love and move on to my responsibility, and I can see how deeply wrong that is.

First Importance

Lee Irons said:   “Paul makes it clear [1Cor.15.3] that the gospel is “of first importance,” literally, “among the first (i.e., most important) things” (ἐν πρώτοις, cp. BDAG). This implies that there are many other important issues in the Christian faith and life — perhaps some of the topics Paul has addressed in the foregoing parts of his first letter to the Corinthians, e.g., church unity, church discipline, the dangers of immorality, lawsuits, marriage and divorce, food sacrificed to idols, and spiritual gifts — but none of these stands on the same level as the gospel itself.”

A New Letter and Pure Devotion

Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor.5) sum up the essence of obedience in the New Covenant (3.6):

In 5.14, Paul speaks of our actions springing from the love of Christ for us, in His having died (5.15) for us.  This alone is the exclusive cause of our not living for ourselves but for His sake. 

For, in Christ, we are no longer regarded according to the flesh (5.16), but are now partakers of the new creation (5.17) through the ongoing transforming ministry of the Spirit (3.6,8,18); all of which is of God (5.18)!

We then are partakers of a most glorious and permanent ministry of righteousness (5.21; 3.9,11), and are equipped with the weapons of righteousness (6.6,7), not waging a fleshly warfare (10.3-5), according to a ministry of death and condemnation that no longer has any glory (3.7,9,10)!

So then, it is Jesus Christ we proclaim (1.19; 2.17), in whom all the promises of God are fulfilled (1.20) and by whom we are enabled freedom by the Spirit (3.17) from every defilement of the body (physical sins) and spirit (idolatry) (7.1) unto a maturing holiness unto the Lord. 

Our having fellowship with the Holy Spirit (13.14) – who writes His letter upon our heart (3.3) – is antithetical to a ministry of Stone (3.6). 

Being mindful of these things, we maintain a sincere and pure devotion to Christ and resist the Devil’s first lie (11.3) that mere knowledge of “right and wrong” suffices, which is nothing more than “another Jesus,”  a “different spirit,” and a “different gospel” (11.4). 

If not Christ, then what?

Bill Wilder:  “If I could issue a plea to our pastors and priests and ministers of the Word in the world today, it would be this: Give me Christ, or else I die.

“I mean that in the most specific sense—not just what Christ can do in me or to me or for me or through me (or the church or the world), but Jesus Christ himself, clearly portrayed as crucified and preached as having been raised from the dead. Not Jesus Christ as the assumption or foundation or the means for all that is preached, but as its very content and core.

“So, please, preach Christ. Preach him in all of Scripture….

“This is what I need to hear. Because my attention is so easily drawn to lesser things—to my plans, my ambitions, my problems, my triumphs, my failures, my family, my friends, my church, my community. So, please, turn my eyes upon Jesus. Help me to look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely clear in the light of his glory and grace.

“Do you want me to repent of my sins? Then show me Jesus—in his robust goodness and love and self-sacrifice. Linger on that. Do you want to bring me to hope in the midst of suffering? Then show me Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross and scorned its shame. Do you want me to know what it really means to be human? Then show me Jesus in his cruciform love and resurrection glory. Do you want me to worship God? Then show me Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.

“What I really need is a vision (not of myself or my community or even the church or the world but) of Christ! Give me that and all these things will be added unto me.


G’muse: What more essential thing is there to preach upon and worship than the Lamb of God who is the essence to all our existence now and forever?  Sadly, going to church on Sunday is too often (commonly) a taste of death, for Jesus Christ ends up merely an appendage to so much else that claims centrality.  Hence, the tail ends up wagging the head.




Foundational Indicative

Matt Harmon:  “So note the gospel pattern here [1Pt.2.21-25]: (1) exhortation to specific actions; (2) foundation in some aspect of the gospel. I think this pattern underlies all of the ethical instruction of the NT, even where the gospel foundation is not explicitly stated. In those cases, though, I believe we are required to make the connection in order to truly understand how to live out the commands of Scripture.”

G’M:  I find this spot-on concerning the *imperative* flowing from the *indicative* as grace flow from the Throne!  To reverse the principle— which is well established in Scripture—is to re-establish something of a works-righteousness orientation that will tend to obscure the Gospel itself (the very power of God unto ALL of salvation, including sanctification). 


Unfortunately, we too often fail to get beyond the surface where a richer understanding of redemption can be relished. 

Dead to the Law in Christ

The gist of it…Gentiles don’t have THE “written code” (Rom.2:27) but have THE “work” of the law on their heart, that is, no codified law of words but a functionality of right/wrong at work. There is a momentum within each and every person that reflects something of His maker’s original design, which is testified to by even their conduct (albeit not perfect) as its natural reaction to common injustice is retribution. Their consciences also bear witness to this reality in their inner man, though they do not credit God for such.

Those in Adam continue living according to the remnants of the first covenant made with man, that broken covt of works. Hence, fallen humanity limps along a path with some semblance of righteousness, and yet no law of Canaan or conscience will provide what it demands. These laws do not grant life but relentlessly demand what sinners cannot possibly render. Thus, *God did what the Law could not*, and He keeps on doing something within His people, even when they needlessly turn back to shadows and faded glory in hopes of becoming what they are.

God help us to understand that, what is obsolete (Mosaic covenant) is never to be resurrected, for it finds it’s end and incarnation in Chirst himself, the mediator of a better covenant.


Heart of Natural Law

Question:What exactly is written on the hearts of Gentiles in Romans 2? The entire Mosaic law or just part of it?”

Answer:  The Gentiles (all unbelievers) have a standard of righteousness (alluded to in Jn.16.8ff) written on their hearts, which is the *functional equivalent* or “work” (“Do this and live!”) of the Moasic order.

v12 All […Gentiles] who have sinned [which is ALL Gentiles] without the law [of Moses] will also perish without the law [of Moses]

v13 …the doers of the law [Law of Conscience (Gentiles) & Law of Moses (Jews)] who will be justified.

v14 …Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a LAW TO THEMSELVES, even though they do not have the law.


v15 They show that the WORK of the law is written on their hearts, while their CONSCIENCE also bears witness…


* More to come….


Irons(ing) out Gospel-sanctification


Lee Irons:  

“[I]t is not only justification but sanctification that has been merited by Christ. The merit of Christ, then, does not make sanctification optional but in fact a necessary part of salvation. Your sanctification is rooted in the merit of Christ. Christ has not only merited the right and title to heaven for his people, he has also merited the regeneration and progressive sanctification of his people. Both are grounded in the merit of Christ.

“You can see the connection between imputed righteousness and sanctification in Romans 8:9-13.

“The Roman Catholic Church rejects the notion that the ordinary Christian can and should have full assurance that they will go to heaven. They argue that this will lead to license for sin. It will breed carnal security. For if heaven is already in the bag, then why bother living a holy life? But the paradox of the gospel is that it is precisely the opposite. Only if you have full assurance of your right and title to heaven on the ground of the merit of Christ can you begin to fight against your sins. Only the believer who is fully assured that they are glory-bound is able to get up after they have sinned and move foreward in the confidence that their sins do not condemn them.

“The imputed merit of Christ, then, so far from leading to license for sin, is in reality the only way the believer can have any hope of fighting against sin and making progress in sanctification.


Monergistically Sanctified!!!

Chad Bresson:  “I’d call it a paradox, not a contradiction.

“Enablement theology” (at least the way some in the Reform community postulate it) is veiled Romanism/humanism/Gnosticism all rolled into one.  He who perseveres to the end will be saved, but he who perseveres to the end will find it was God’s workmanship through the Spirit’s monergism all along to make it happen and it is Christ’s righteousness, not his own, which is vindicated at the last day as if it were his own.  Imputation doesn’t end with the point of origination of my salvation… it continues and will continue into eternity.  I will never have a righteousness I can call my own.

“We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.  None of it is me.  All of it is Christ.  If it is Romanist synergistic infusion/impartation to suggest that I have something to do with my past salvation, it surely is the case for my present (and future) salvation as well.

[This statment captures quite well how the Gospel (person & work of Christ) continues to be that single: focus & food of faith, giver & grower of grace, helm & home of hope, regulation & reign of righteousness, and life & liberty of love.  In a word, Chad unpacks how God is the Gospel! mm]

Christ justified (for Him and us)

Vos:   “For the supreme fruit of Christ’s justification, on the basis of passive and active obedience, is nothing else but the Spirit, and in turn the Spirit bears in Himself the efficacious principle of all transformation to come, the resurrection with its entire compass included.

“Christ’s resurrection was the de facto declaration of God in regard to his being just. His quickening bears in itself the testimony of his justification. God, through suspending the forces of death operating on Him, declared that the ultimate, the supreme consequence of sin had reached its termination. In other words, resurrection had annulled the sentence of condemnation.


This is very likely one of the most succinct explanations of how the Gospel pertains to ALL faith and practice that I’ve yet heard!  Mike Bullmore has confirmed in this one message what I’ve been striving to grasp and communicate for a number of years now.

Thank you, MIKE!

Mike Bullmore, The Life: Applying the Gospel to ALL of Life

“THE” Ground of Christian Conduct

D.A. Carson:  “Paul never lets Christians forget that all our giving is but a pale reflection of God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15), which of course lies at the heart of the Gospel.    So much of basic Christian ethics is tied in one way or another to the Gospel.  When husbands need instruction on how to treat their wives, Paul does not introduce special marriage therapy or appeal to a mystical experience.  Rather, he grounds conduct in the Gospel:  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25).  If you are looking for maturity, beware of any “deeper life” approach that sidesteps the Gospel, for Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6 – 7).  Of course, there is “deeper life” in the sense that Christians are exhorted to press on toward greater conformity to Christ Jesus and not to be satisfied with their present level of obedience (e.g., Phil.3).  But none of this is an appeal to something that leaves the Gospel behind or that adds something to the Gospel.     We must avoid the view that, while the Gospel provides a sort of escape ticket from judgment and hell, all the real life – transforming power comes from something else — an esoteric doctrine, a mystical experience, a therapeutic technique, a discipleship course.  That is too narrow a view of the Gospel.  Worse, it ends up relativizing and marginalizing the Gospel, stripping it of its power while it directs the attention of people away from the Gospel and toward something less helpful.

Righteousness: Revealed/Demanded/Fulfilled

John Piper: “So how is this good news – that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel [Rom1.17]? Here’s the answer: God demands righteousness and we don’t have it, so the only hope for us is that God himself would give the righteousness that he demands. That would be good news. That would be gospel. And that is what he does. What is revealed in the gospel is the righteousness of God for us that he demands from us. The reason the gospel is the power of God for salvation – the way that the gospel saves believers is that in it God reveals a righteousness for us that God demands from us. What we had to have, but could not create or supply or perform, God gives us freely, namely, his own righteousness, the righteousness of God.

Law inspired Hatred

It was added because of transgressions. [Gal.3.19]

Martin Luther:  “In other words, that transgressions might be recognized as such and thus increased. When sin, death, and the wrath of God are revealed to a person by the Law, he grows impatient, complains against God, and rebels. Before that he was a very holy man; he worshipped and praised God; he bowed his knees before God and gave thanks, like the Pharisee. But now that sin and death are revealed to him by the Law he wishes there were no God. The Law inspires hatred of God. Thus sin is not only revealed by the Law; sin is actually increased and magnified by the Law.”