Archive for June 2013
Some commentators suggest that the structure of the middle section of Deuteronomy follows the ten commandments. Moses, having meditated on the law over the course of thirty-eight years in the wilderness, preaches an inspired sermon to Israel reflecting on the greater meaning and application of the law. There is some minor disagreement as to the exact boundaries within this part of Deuteronomy, but one possibility is given by James Jordan in his book, Covenant Sequence in Leviticus and Deuteronomy:
- First commandment: Deut. 6-11
- Second commandment: Deut. 12-13
- Third commandment: Deut. 14:1-21a
- Fourth commandment: Deut. 14:21b-16:17
- Fifth commandment: Deut. 16:18-18:22
- Sixth commandment: Deut. 19:1-22:8
- Seventh commandment: Deut. 22:9-23:14
- Eighth commandment: Deut. 23:15-24:7
- Ninth commandment: Deut. 24:8-25:3
- Tenth commandment: Deut. 25:4-26:19
This is in keeping with other places such as Proverbs and Matthew 5-7, where we see further wisdom drawn from reflection upon the law: Moses, Solomon and Jesus are all inspired commentators on the ten commandments. This also supports the church’s practice of striving to read and apply the commandments with maximum breadth. For example, Calvin writes that “in almost all the commandments, there are elliptical expressions, and that, therefore, any man would make himself ridiculous by attempting to restrict the spirit of the Law to the strict letter of the words.” He concludes that, “thus, the end of the Fifth Commandment is to render honour to [all] those on whom God bestows it” (Book II, Chapter 8, Section 8), since the Bible understands the term “father” quite broadly. In just the same way, the Westminster Shorter Catechism states that the fifth commandment requires us to bestow honor and perform duties “belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.” Paul himself seems to make this application of the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6, if we consider all of verses 1-9 to be joined together. And Moses does likewise in Deut. 16:18ff as suggested above.
This observation lends us an interesting bit of help in understanding how the Sabbath commandment can be transfigured in the new covenant from Sabbath to Lord’s day, from last day to first. In the fourth-commandment section (Deut. 14:21b-16:17), Moses mentions three of the seven feasts that God gave to Israel. We see the full list of feasts spelled out in Leviticus 23, beginning with the weekly Sabbath feast and culminating in the feast of booths. The three feasts that Moses lists here in Deuteronomy are the ones that God required to be celebrated at his house. Reading through the entire section, Moses’ application of the fourth commandment establishes the following principles:
- We obey the fourth commandment by bringing a tithe to God’s house
- We obey the fourth commandment by showing generosity and granting rest to others
- We obey the fourth commandment by keeping God’s appointed feasts at his house
These principles help us to understand how Saturday’s Sabbath is transfigured to Sunday’s Lord’s day in the new covenant. God’s house is the gathering of his people before him in worship, and in the new covenant all of the feasts of Leviticus 23 are fulfilled in one feast, the Lord’s supper. Connecting this to Moses’ application of the fourth commandment, we see that the Sabbath itself is fulfilled in the Lord’s supper. Certainly there is much more that needs to be said, but we can say this: when Jesus’s church gathers in his house to celebrate his feast with him and to bring him tribute, there the fourth commandment is being kept.
This also lends support to the practice of weekly communion.
The picture above was painted by my friend, the very talented Jermaine Powell.
The first foundation of righteousness undoubtedly is the worship of God. When it is subverted, all the other parts of righteousness, like a building rent asunder, and in ruins, are racked and scattered. What kind of righteousness do you call it, not to commit theft and rapine, if you, in the meantime, with impious sacrilege, rob God of his glory? or not to defile your body with fornication, if you profane his holy name with blasphemy? or not to take away the life of man, if you strive to cut off and destroy the remembrance of God? It is vain, therefore, to talk of righteousness apart from religion. Such righteousness has no more beauty than the trunk of a body deprived of its head. Nor is religion the principal part merely: it is the very soul by which the whole lives and breathes. Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice and charity among themselves. We say, then, that the worship of God is the beginning and foundation of righteousness; and that wherever it is wanting, any degree of equity, or continence, or temperance, existing among men themselves, is empty and frivolous in the sight of God. We call it the source and soul of righteousness, in as much as men learn to live together temperately, and without injury, when they revere God as the judge of right and wrong. — Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 2, chapter 8, section 11
In a recent post, I argued that Klaas Schilder was wrong in rejecting the notion of common grace. Schilder writes in chapter 18 of his book Christ and Culture:
Certainly, it is true that sin is being “restrained” and that the curse has not been fully poured out upon the world. However, the same thing can be said about the obedience which in Christ Jesus was again permitted to become a gift of God’s free grace and which by the power of Christ’s Spirit also was able to become a gift of this favour. Whoever calls the restraining of the curse “grace” should at least call the “restraining” of the blessing “judgment.”
He goes on to argue that God’s plan both to judge and to save a certain number of men requires as its very precondition the prolonging of time. Thus he says, this patience of God in the case of unbelievers cannot be exercised for the purpose of showing grace, since it is solely for the purpose of showing judgment:
This prolongation and development are no grace. Nor are they curse or condemnation. That is to say, if one wants to use these terms in a serious way. They are the conditio sine qua non of both, the substratum of both.
As I argued earlier, and as D. A. Carson develops in his book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, the fallacy here is Schilder’s insisting that God cannot be doing two things at once. Intermediately, God is showing genuine love, kindness and patience toward unbelievers. Ultimately, God intends to judge them. The two of these are not inconsistent.
Returning to Schilder’s charge that we should have to speak of a kind of “common judgment,” I think there is actually a sense in which he is right, except we should adopt the term “common injustice” or “common disgrace.” By this I mean that there is a kind of injustice or disgrace when salvation, vindication and deliverance are delayed. With Job, the Psalmist and others, we have a real basis on which to ask God “how long?” However, like Job, we must be willing to accept the answer that God is doing something greater, beyond our understanding, that the vindication we are waiting for is delayed for some greater purpose.
So, then, we have a kind of “common grace” which is the present patience and longsuffering of God toward unbelievers who will one day suffer his wrath; and a kind of “common disgrace,” which is the present suffering of believers for Jesus’s sake, who will one day be completely vindicated in him.
I submitted this letter to the editor of the News & Observer:
In every city, on any given week, the most important thing that happens is the meeting of King Jesus with his people in his house. The heavens stoop to earth for the king to hold court with his people, eat with them, and send them out as his servants for the life of the world.
This Sunday morning, a triathlon barricaded southern Wake County. Some travelers waited over 90 minutes before turning back. We left early, prepared to expect delays, but not this complete standstill.
Local leaders will answer to constituents for matters such as the interruption of family trips to the farmers’ market on a beautiful spring day. But many families were kept from church, and our leaders will answer to Jesus for the interruption of his worship. Jesus does not wish his people to be detained when he calls them together. I pray that our leaders would follow the example of Darius in Ezra rather than Sanballat and Tobiah in Nehemiah; that they would exert themselves to encourage and not obstruct the assembling of God’s people. Our cities will be blessed by God if they do so.
304 Kite Dr.