Lecture 28: Treaties and Law
Course: Biblical Hermeneutics
Lecture: Treaties and Law
Let me read you something from Karl Barth. Karl Barth is the greatest theologian of the 20th century. It doesn’t mean you agree with him in everything he says, but his impact was greater than any theologian. If you have to agree with somebody completely – the greatest theologian in my opinion in the 20th century has to be me. I am the only one I agree with completely. [Laughter in audience]
Even then I have to [? - hard to hear]. I don’t know. So I am not sure.
But KB is certainly the most significant and the most prolific writer in the 20th century. On December 31st, 1962 he preached this sermon in Basel Prison. Between 1954 and 1964, he visited the prisons some 28 times and would preach in the prison. Think of the man who was the most busy theologian of the 20th century but he still goes to prison and preaches to prisoners.
“‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9. This is a very short text. A mere 6 words. The shortest I have ever preached on. The brevity is an advantage for you. You can contain it better. I might say in passing that every time I come here I am very concerned that no so much my sermon but that the text that it follows may really sink in and go with you. This time then my grace is sufficient for thee. The wonderful spice of its saying lies in its brevity. The 6 words are enough. Some of you may have heard that in the last 40 years I have written many books. Some large. I will freely and frankly and gladly admit that these 6 words say much more and much better things than all the heaps of paper with which I have surrounded myself with. They are enough which cannot be said even remotely in my books. What may be good in my books can be at most that from afar. They point to what these 6 words say. When my books are long since outdated and forgotten and book in the world with them, these words will shine with everlasting fullness. ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’”
Father in heaven we are thankful for a man who had such fame and notoriety and yet despite all his writings he knew that these 6 words of scripture were far more important than all that he had ever written. Grant our father too that as we become more successful in the ministries that we are in and if fame should happen to come our way that we can learn from Karl Barth and his humility. And also be interested in only one thing. To have all people know that your grace is sufficient for all. Bless us now as we meet for we meet in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We have an exam next week. I will do it again like we did it the last time. As soon as you come to class we will have the exam first. Then afterwards we will have some more material and we will have that and then we will have one more day of class on the 3rd of December and then we will have the final exam. There s no class on the 19th because of various society meetings and then there is no class the following week because its Fall reading days. So after next week we have one more full day of class and then the final exams. We will talk about the examination later during the second hour. The second part of our time together.
We want to talk today about the genre of a covenant. The genre of a covenant. During the latter part of the 19th, early 20th century, a lot of work was done by what was the History of Religions school.
And this school sought in the Middle East, parallels to Biblical texts. And this was needed and helpful. Sometimes you get carried away and if you see anything that looked related to what the Old Testament says, the New Testament says… well all Old Testament all New Testament referred to this kind of thing. Somebody referred to this kind of a thing as parallelomania, where people got crazy with parallels and all sorts of kinds of things.
An example of this that Dr. Bruce Metzger pointed out and that was in Mithraism which was one of the mystery religions at the time of our Lord. They found in one of the Mithrains, which was a cave where they worshipped, a carving of a picture in which people were meeting together and a loaf of bread was being passed and on it was the cross and someone went absolutely bonkers on it. “See the whole doctrine of the cross of Jesus Christ goes back to Mithraism! You see here is the cross and Christianity borrows all of its ideas and understanding of the cross of Jesus from Mithraism.” Well after a while it became clear that nothing of the sort was true.
That the reason there was a cross on the bread was that it was a lot easier to break the bread if you had divided it into parts with the cross. You could break them in half a lot easier. So there was a lot of this silliness going on, but a lot of very useful materials that were parallel were also being found.
And they found in the A.N.E. – capital letters - Ancient Near Eastern literature, the especially the Hittites which were a group in Southeastern Turkey, a particular kind of covenant form, which soon as they began to see this, looked very much like the Biblical form of a covenant. It was a covenant that looks very much like the one we have in the Old Testament.
When you have a covenant, you have agreements between people. There are essentially two kinds of covenants.
One is the Parity Covenant. Par – You shoot par in golf, you equals what the golf course says you should shoot. That’s a covenant made between equals. It’s the covenant that you may make among yourselves on something like that. You have various covenants in certain residential areas when you move in. Everybody who moves in agrees and has a certain kind of covenant together like you can’t build a moveable garage in your lot or something like that or you can’t. We lived in an area where you couldn’t hang up your clothes to dry in your backyard. That’s a kind of a crazy one. Yeah. Well. Everybody who lived in that community had that kind of agreement. That’s a kind of a parity agreement.
But there was an another kind of agreement and it was named after the rulers that made this agreement. And the Suzerain was a – think of him as a king. And there was a Suzerainty treaty covenant or treaty form which was made. It was not one made between equals. It was made by the Suzerain, the king and you could either take it or leave it. It had to be a gracious covenant and people would generally accept it. But it was a one way covenant. It was from the king to the people. Kind of like agreements we make in class about grades here. They are not Parity covenants, they are Suzerain covenants. You have a Prof and the students.
Now, in these Suzerain covenants, as they looked at them, they noticed that it had a form very much like the kind of covenant form that would be found in the Old Testament - a Suzerain covenant form. Covenant treaty agreement, but let us use the term covenant because it is a term frequently found in the Bible.
Now, one of the great tragedies that we have is that, I think most people in the Baptist church tend to [? – hard to hear] what a New Covenant is. And it plays a very very important role in the Bible.
Covenants – we don’t talk much as Baptists about covenants. If you are Reformed you talk about covenants. If you are Presbyterian, you might talk about covenants. But Baptists don’t talk about covenants usually in our teaching and our preaching and the like. But, the Bible starts out with a covenant. It starts out with a covenant where in Genesis 17, God makes a covenant with a man named Abram or Abraham. In the 17th chapter of Genesis,
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram,
and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be
blameless. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and
will make you exceedingly numerous."
3 Then Abram fell on his face;and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your
name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you
the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly
fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring
after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to
be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you,
and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien,
all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their
9 God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you
and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is
my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your
offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You
shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the
covenant between me and you. 12 Throughout your generations every
male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,
including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your
money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13 Both the
slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be
circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting
covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the
flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my
Now here is the beginning of the covenant that God makes with Abraham and through Abraham, his offspring and then into the New Testament. Notice, its not Abraham and God haggling over terms of the covenant. It is a gracious covenant, but it is made one-sidedly. God dictates the terms. Abraham can reject it, but there is no give or take in working out agreements other than that.
This is the way the covenant is and works and operates. It is from top down. Now that covenant is remembered in the book of Exodus. Exodus begins that way. In the 2nd chapter of the book of Exodus, we have in verses 23-25, that the people of Israel are in bondage, they are suffering and in chapter 2, verse 23,
“23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.”
So what is going to happen now in the Exodus is due to the fact that He had made a covenant with Abraham and He remembers that covenant. That covenant continues throughout the Old Testament and then when we get to the New Testament, we get to Mark, chapter 14 and we have one of the two rites of the Christian church.
22 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing
it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body." 23
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all
of them drank from it. 24 He said to them, "This is my blood of the
covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will never
again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in
the kingdom of God."
Then we have in the book of Acts, Peter preaching and he has preached on the Day of Pentecost, and in the next chapter he is in the temple witnessing and he makes these comments, beginning at Acts 3:22
He quotes the Old Testament and he says,
22 Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you
from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to
whatever he tells you. 23 And it will be that everyone
who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the
people.' 24 And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel
and those after him, also predicted these days. 25 You are the
descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to
your ancestors, saying to Abraham, 'And in your descendants all the
families of the earth shall be blessed.' 26 When God raised up his
servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you
from your wicked ways."
The Gospel message is that God has remembered the covenant that He made with the people of Israel. And He sent His Messiah. And then Paul, when He tells the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper, he says, this cup is the New Covenant in my blood, do this as often you drink it, in remembrance of me.
So the essence at the heart of a biblical message is this idea of a covenant. A covenant that God unilaterally makes with His people. A covenant that looks like in its form – the Suzerain covenant form found in the ancient near eastern literature.
Now, lets look at a couple of covenants and see the material that makes up such a covenant. A covenant usually begins and we have a covenant form in the book of Exodus, when God renews His covenant with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. Usually there is a preamble in which the person who makes this covenant identifies himself. And in Exodus 20:1, God identifies Himself with the people of Israel and He says the following … uh actually in verse 2, this is 20. Then God spoke all these words.
“I am the Lord your God.”
So the covenant maker identifies Himself in the preamble. I am the Lord – the name that God gives to Moses to identify Himself, the I AM THAT I AM, Yahweh the Lord, whose name you are not to take in vain.
“I am the Lord your God.”
And now you have the covenant maker identifying Himself. The word LORD in capital letters is the way we translate the Tetragrammaton, the sacred name for God, “Yahweh”.
Now after the identification of the preamble there is usually a historical prologue. Sometimes – you will see in the next example, there is a very extensive and lengthy prologue. In this verse it is “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
So the covenant maker identifies Himself and tells what He has graciously done for this people, which they were not in any way deserving of. They had no prior claim to this, but nonetheless this is what the covenant maker did.
“I brought you out of the land of Egypt. Out of the house of slavery.”
There is always a gracious description of the character of God. Now after this prologue and preamble, there are various stipulations that are given and the stipulations here are what we call the 10 commandments.
3 you shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of
anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them
or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing
children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth
generation of those who reject me, 6 but showing steadfast love to the
thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God,
for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall
labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the
LORD your God; you shall not do any work — you, your son or your
daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien
resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day;
therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long
in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your
neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything
that belongs to your neighbor.
Now here you have various stipulations that are given. Now please note – the stipulations are not given in order that God will make a covenant. The stipulations are not for people to enter into this covenant. Because the covenant’s already been made.
Those – you already have in historical prologue what God has done and has entered into this covenant with them so stipulations are not to enter into covenant but to remain faithful within the covenant already.
So what does that tell you already about faith and works here? The covenantal relationships exists before the command to keep the commandments. As one might say “the stipulations are to keep you within the covenant.” Not to cause you to enter into it. The covenant has been made graciously and now this is what you must do to remain in that covenant and faithful in it.
Oftentimes there is a provision for a continual reading of the covenant. In Exodus 24:7, we have something like this:
Then Moses took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of
the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do,
and we will be obedient."
So you have here, provision for the continual reading of that covenant to remind you are the people of the covenant and the terms of the covenant. Then there is oftentimes reference to various witnesses that are present.
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the
ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, "All
the words that the LORD has spoken we will do."
Verses 3 and 7, so there is a witness to what is going on there. Sometimes a stone or something, a memorial is erected, so that whenever you look at that and when the people would pass by it, they will remember that there is a covenant that agreed to and that God graciously made with them.
The frequently blessings and curses associated with the covenant in this particular one we don’t have it as readily as some of the others, but we have references elsewhere to a covenant which God graciously blesses those for a 1,000 generations to those who are faithful, but God will not acquit those who disobey his covenant. And then there is the oath that the people make, “We will obey the covenant. All that the Lord has said, we will do.”
Now this is the covenantal form.
Now let us look at a larger example of this and that is in the book of Joshua, where in the concluding chapter of the book of Joshua, we have this covenant coming up once again. The 24th chapter of the book of Joshua and once again we have in verse - the opening verse, Joshua 24:1-2a, the preamble:
1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and
summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel;
and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people,
"Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel…”
So you have the Lord – Yahweh – the God - Elohim of Israel. Ok. So you have the preamble in verses 1 and part of 2 in this chapter. Then you have a very extensive historical prologue all dealing with past tenses where God has shown what He has done graciously to the people and for the people. And this goes from verse 2b, 2nd part of 2, all the way through verse 13. Let me read them to you.
Long ago your ancestors — Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor
— lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3 Then I took
your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all
the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.
“Yeah. That’s right.” The people would say “Yes. That’s right. You did that. You blessed Abraham and we have become a great nation.”
I gave him Isaac; 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau
the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went
down to Egypt. 5 Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt
with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out.
“That’s right. We remember that. And every year we go through the Passover celebration. We remember that.”
6 When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea;
and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen
to the Reed Sea. 7 When they cried out to the LORD, he put darkness
between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them
and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt.
“That’s right. We didn’t deserve any of that. That was all your gracious doing.”
Afterwards you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought
you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan;
they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took
possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then King
Balak son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and
invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam;
therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand.
“That’s right. You rescued us from Balak and the others.”
11 When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of
Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the
Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites;
and I handed them over to you. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which
drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your
sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored,
and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of
vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.
Now on what basis can Israel say, “Yes. That’s right. We earned all of that.”? All of this is God’s graciousness. And notice it all comes before the stipulations. So God’s grace which they have already experienced is not based on the stipulations that are going to follow. They are separate from them. God’s graciousness has been revealed.
Now in verses 14 to 21, you have a description of the stipulations, whereas the previous verses, 2b-13 all deal with the past, 14 begins now in light of this gracious historical activity which is described in this prologue:
14 "Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in
faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the
River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 Now if you are unwilling to
serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods
your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the
Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my
household, we will serve the LORD."
16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should
forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17 for it is the LORD our God who
brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He
protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the
peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the LORD drove out before us
all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also
will serve the LORD, for he is our God."
19 But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the LORD, for he is
a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions
or your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he
will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you
good." 21 And the people said to Joshua, "No, we will serve the LORD!"
Now verses 22 and 23, we have reference to these witnesses that are there.
22 Then Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against
yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him." And they said,
"We are witnesses." 23 He said, "Then put away the foreign gods that
are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel."
Then in verses 26-27 – we will jump ahead and we will come back to the other two verses. You have the provision for continual reading.
26 Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large
stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the LORD.
27 Joshua said to all the people, "See, this stone shall be a witness
against us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to
us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with
You want to go back to verses 24, 25. We have the oath of the people.
24 The people said to Joshua, "The LORD our God we will serve, and
him we will obey." 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that
day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.
Alright. That pretty much is a more extended example of this covenant form that we have. Very important and it’s a very important hermeneutical tool to understand what is going on here, because the whole issue of how stipulations – how law relates to God’s grace is at stake here, and if you once know the form of a covenant, you realize that the commandments that are given in the Old Testament are not legalism as such, but are stipulations to people who have graciously entered into a covenant with the Lord, their God. And these are stipulations to guide the community in that covenant, and it is not a matter of entering into it, but if they disobey, they will essentially be thrown out of that covenant.
Alright. Let me stop and see how we are going in regards to the covenant form.
Student: Was it pretty much the King said ‘This is your deal. This is the covenant. Take it or perish. Was it a situation like that?’
Dr. Stein: No used car dealing and bartering. It’s the one that we have. But the covenant is such a gracious thing, you want to jump at it. For example, who wants to deny a covenant and say, “I don’t like it”, when you say, “Look what God has done for us. We were slaves in Egypt. He took us out. He brought us into the Promised Land, defeated all our enemies for us. We have cities here that we didn’t build, we have fields and fruit trees that we didn’t plant. We would be crazy not to accept this. It is always a gracious covenant and on all grounds you would have to be out of your mind not to accept it. But Israel lots of times is out of its mind, just like we may be.
Student: Salvation? [? – hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: This is the blood of the New Covenant, Jesus says.
Student: Covenant – and you want to relate to the Old Testament covenant - you want to believe [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: There are some passages in the New Testament that seem to teach that. If you read the book of Hebrews, read about people having experienced all these wonderful things, tasted the first fruits of the Spirit and look at all those things and I said, I look at them and I say, “You know there are people in my church that think they know the Lord that never experience any of these things. And these people are lost and people in my church think well you know “They got my decision card, when I was six years old in the church. And once saved always saved. That’s what the Bible says.”
Dr. Stein: I haven’t found that verse yet, but how are you gonna preach those things. And you have to … you know its interesting, of all the points of Calvinism, the one that Calvin was least sure of was the one that we call eternal security.
And he believed this because it had to be the result of his understanding of the first four. But the one that he was least sure of. Now we have a lot of people that have one point of Calvin, that’s eternal security, and throw everything else away. But you lose sight of the fact that you only have that as far as Calvin is concerned because of the first four. Now you have other understandings by Christian people, who say “Yeah. You can lose your salvation.”
Student: But in terms of a covenant, you said it was one way. The covenant is made by a king, so if I don’t have half the power to make the covenant, I don’t have the power to break the covenant. If you look at the Old Testament, God never goes back on His Word, no matter what the people do. I am of the opinion, that it’s the same way with Christ. It’s a gift. I didn’t do anything therein. So I couldn’t think of anything there is to do to lose it. Cus the covenant [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: But the warnings in the Old Testament is that if you break these things. Why does Joshua say, “You better watch out about this covenant. God will/wont[? - hard to hear] forgive you if you break this covenant.” There are warnings. Now. One of the things, when you get a system of theology – let me say to first year students, hold off on a system of theology. Let it kind of ferment in your mind, for your years here at seminary, till you get all the other evidence, passages that, what I worry about is, you get a system here so quickly, that and once you have that, that’s a grid that now stands over your Biblical text. And if the text doesn’t seem to fit it, well, its kind of play dough, we can kind of squish it and make it fit the system and the system becomes an end in itself. And that’s scary. Our system forces the Bible to fit it, rather than our system fitting the Bible.
I know there are some of you here that not only are TULIP Calvinists, but you are Chrysanthemum types – you need a lot more letters or something like that, for your Calvinism. Hold off on that and try to wrestle with some of these issues, and if you do want to talk about eternal security, use the kinds of expressions that the theologians who worked carefully on this used. And they didn’t use once saved always saved. They talked about the Perseverance of the Saints. I’m comfortable with that. The work that God began in you, he will complete it. I believe that.
You say, what about a person who doesn’t persevere? Well. The saints persevere. That’s all I know. And you leave it that way. And it may well be that we need to have some people start thinking about whether that decision is a 6 year old which has never affected ones life at all and that there is no great love for Jesus Christ or passion for Him. And our lives are no different than any unbeliever’s life. Maybe that kind of person needs to rethink seriously. Doesn’t the Bible say make sure you don’t miss out on the salvation.
Student: So all of God’s covenants are out of His grace. Is that[? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: A covenant by its very nature is gracious. God doesn’t have to do it. It is an act of loving grace in which He establishes a relationship with us. There are stipulations in it that we must keep and if a person things that they can enter a covenant and not have to worry about keeping God’s commandments, then I am wondering what kind of covenant they have entered into. Good trees bear good fruit. Evil trees bear evil fruit.
Student: Children of Israel ever become not God’s people from their lack of [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: When you talk about the Old Testament covenant, there seems to have been a two-sided dimension on this. There is a sense in which the covenant extends to all the physical offspring of Abraham. Those have to do with land issues and so forth, but the spiritual benefits of the coming Messiah and a relationship with God, the coming of the Spirit tend to be to those who later on become more and more referred to as the remnant in the Old Testament, the faithful remnant.
And I think that – when you get to the New Testament, that national kind of covenant doesn’t exist anymore. And now you have a inner covenant dealing with the renewal of the heart, where you are not talking about two dimensions, everyone who is in this is part of the remnant, following the footsteps of the prophets and the true Israel.
That’s why I think for instance, you can circumcise infants, because they are part of that larger covenant. That’s why I don’t think you can baptize infants. That’s quite different there.
Alright let me then comment a little about the stipulation or law in the Old Testament and in the New. I think its quite clear that to understand God’s commandments or laws as the reason why we obtain a salvation by keeping them perfectly or so forth or keeping them as best as we could is a misunderstanding. I don’t think that Legalism is a possibility. I think that Legalism is the idea that somehow, if I keep the laws perfectly, that will merit me eternal life. I don’t think that that’s at all what the Bible teaches about law in this regard.
When I became a Christian, somebody gave me a Scofield Bible, within a week or two after my conversion. This became my Bible and my Systematic Theology. And it was nice having not only an inspired Bible, but an inspired group of interpretations and interpretive notes.
That’s one of the real dangers of Study Bibles. I laugh at it now, because I am mature, but I remember the first time I disbelieved some of the Scofield notes, I was really scared, wondering if I had become a liberal or had lost my salvation or what was going on here.
I can laugh now, but it wasn’t then. It was very kind of scary and that’s the danger. Somehow if you find notes in the Bible, doesn’t inerrancy, infallibility, the plenary inspiration of the text, doesn’t some of that rub off onto the notes when you read them? For instance when you read a Bible , a text and there is a footnote on it, which says A, and they ask me and I say, “No. I don’t think that’s right. I think that it is B.” Who are they going to believer? I am not in the Bible!
So we have to be careful in how we teach our people to use footnotes and so forth. Well. Anyhow, in the Scofield Bible, in the chapter 19 of the book of Exodus, verse 8, it reads this way.
“So Moses came, summoned the Elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded them”
And now here is verse 8,
“The people all answered as one, ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken, we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.”
Now there is a footnote there in my Scofield Bible which says,
“This was the most terrible thing which Israel could have ever said, because now they were depending on their works, not on God’s grace.”
And I looked at that and I said, “What were the people of Israel supposed to say? ‘All of the things that the Lord has said, we are not going to do.’?”
I mean how else do you answer that? It was a positive statement. So it was a wrong understanding. I think they didn’t realize that within the grace of the covenant which has already been established now you have the stipulations. Well, anyhow. Law and laws are gracious. They are gracious ways in which God shows us how you can please them.
When you are in love with somebody, you really want to know how to please someone. What can I do to make my beloved happy? Well. God says, if you want to make me happy, I want you to do these things. So unlike the rest of the world that is groping and wondering what in the world God demands, we don’t have to worry about that. God has given us His laws. And we know, they don’t [? - hard to hear] out there. We know because God has given us His laws.
Now when the Reformation took place, they began to wrestle with the issue of what about all these laws in the Old Testament. What – there are some six hundred and thirteen in the Pentateuch or something like that. Are they all to be kept still? Is there something that’s happened since the coming of Christ? And so the result was that they began to wrestle with that. The Laws, some of the laws were civil laws – punishment for crimes. What do you do if someone steals something and is caught? There are laws that deal with such things as cities of refuge. When you kill somebody by accident, not maliciously, it has just been an accident. You are to provide cities of refuge so these people can go and flee and then when you are in that city you don’t have to worry about vengeance on the part of the family of the person who has been killed.
So there are civil laws or regulations. There are also cultic laws or regulations. Let me just read some of the civil laws to start with. In Deuteronomy 19. Now this is the case of a homicide which might flee there and live. These have to do with cities of refuge. This is what you do. Verse 14,
“14 You must not move your neighbor's boundary marker, … 15 A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing … Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.
These deal with civil kinds of laws of one sort or another.
In chapter 22
1 You shall not watch your neighbor's ox or sheep straying away and
ignore them; you shall take them back to their owner.
What you do with kinds of civil issues of one sort or another.
Now the cultic issues, well, if you go to the book of Leviticus chapter two through six, you have these various kinds of sacrifices. Whenever anyone presents a grain offering to the Lord, this is what you do with a grain offering. If you have a sin offering and offer sheep, verse 32, when you have heard of public adoration to testify and so forth.
So you have cultic rules and laws that exist at this time. Let us think of government laws, back[? - hard to hear] Or things of that nature.
Then you have ethical kinds, when I think of the ten commandments here. Moral laws. Now there has been some protests, Jewish scholars especially and others who said that, in the time of Jesus for instance, Jewish people didn’t think of the laws in those categories. They are all laws that you were to obey and if you disobeyed them, you were disobeying God and that was wrong.
Now they didn’t make a big difference between civil, cultic, and ethical kinds of laws. That may be true. That may be true. But Jesus makes a distinction. In the seventh chapter of the book of Mark, Jesus makes a statement, “It is not what goes into a man’s stomach that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart.” Thus Jesus declared all foods clean. Now, these cultic laws involved things such as what foods you can eat.
And there is a distinction that Jesus sees here between cultic laws and ethical laws. In other words, so you eat some pork, it doesn’t make you a sinner, because that goes into the stomach and then later goes out and ends in the latrine, but it doesn’t … that’s not the issue. He says what comes out of the heart is what defiles a man… defiles a woman. What you have here is a distinction between what would be cultic – foods to eat and so forth and so on – and what has to do with moral laws of one sort or another. Cultic regulations, the New Testament sees them as having come to an end. You have the experience of Peter, with the sheep coming in from Heaven with unclean animals. He is told, “Rise. Kill and eat.” Peter says, “No. I don’t do those things. I am a kosher Jew.” The Lord says, “Don’t call unclean what God has called clean.”
Paul in Romans says, “Eat whatever is set before you. Don’t worry about those things. Let everybody be convinced in their own mind as to whether they can eat meat or something of this nature.”
So the cultic aspects have gone away. Christians don’t feel obligated to have a particular diet of one sort or another. It is not a religious issue. They can eat whatever they want. And one person may eat barbecued spare-ribs and give God thanks … “Barbecued spare-ribs are great. I thank you Lord for them!” And another says, “Lord. I don’t feel it is right. I won’t do this, because I think I can serve you better by not doing it.” God is pleased because He looks at the heart.
So cultic issues have gone out - are no longer in effect. The ethical issues of course are, because the Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s character. That doesn’t change. These are not just arbitrary matters where He says, “I just think arbitrarily, it wouldn’t be right to kill people.” Now this reflects His character and understanding of morality as ethical being itself. So the ethical aspects of Old Testament law are still binding.
The Ten Commandments are still issues that we should keep. Civil laws, we are not a theocracy. We are not a religious state. All we can suggest is that our government should think seriously about some of these understandings that are present there. Shouldn’t any good government take in consideration, that it should be an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Not two eyes for an eye and two teeth for a tooth.
That kind of regulation which says that punishment should fit the crime is the basis I think that any good state would have. And we would urge you know I would say that biblical teaching here is a very good one. But I don’t think in our secular situation we could say, we should do it because the Bible says so. If it would arise, we would say, this is a good basis for any society to be built on in that way.
Student: [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: No. In the sense that if you defined the ethical laws as you should love your neighbor as yourself, the very nature of God is a loving relationship within the Trinity.
Not eating pork – that was an arbitrary law. If you try to explain it and say well, it really is based on hygienic issues. The answer is no. It is not based on hygienic issues. You say “Well. Yeah. Trichinosis was a real bad disease.” It was as bad in the 1st century A.D. as it was in the 5th century B.C. It didn’t change. Nothing is ever built on that. It is just that God is seeking to show that everything in life is clean or unclean. No decision in life are lacking in religious matter so that whatever you do you should do all to the glory of God and it extends even into the matter of what you eat and things of that nature.
But that lesson has apparently been learned. The period of being under a teacher to lead us to Christ has come to fulfillment and therefore in the maturity that which we supposedly have we are granted freedom so that we can better serve the Lord and not have to worry about do’s and dont’s with regard to cultic issues of one sort or another.
Student: What is your … not necessarily … you don’t have to get into … like that or anything … cause a big disagreement. But as far as … do you see them as stipulations of a covenant that God has made with Adam? Which they were … with children of Israel…or do you see them in the character of God? [? - hard to hear]??
Dr. Stein: Oh. I see them as continuing. I think for instance for the Christian, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself” is a continuation of those ethical laws - a summary of them. I think that continues.
On the other hand, these tend to be arbitrary. What you cannot eat. What you can eat and so forth and so on and the kinds of sacrifice and things of that nature, those no longer are necessary since we have the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus. So in light of the fulfillment of aspects of that covenant with Abraham, some of these things have … have no longer a necessity of existing.
Student: [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: I think we as Christians should try to keep our Sabbath, Sunday and I practice Sunday worship, not Sabbath worship because the early church understood the 1st day of the week as being a special way… day as having replaced the Sabbath. Very quickly, Paul writes to the Corinthians that when they meet together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and collect their offering on the 1st day of the week, they should do that. When he meets with the church in Ephesus in the city of Miletus, they break bread on the 1st day of the week. The book of Revelation talks about the Lord’s Day and by then it’s the 1st day of the week and so forth.
So I think, the 1st day took over. I think probably in the history of the early church for a while, the church being primarily Jewish celebrated the 1st day of the week in a special way, but also the Sabbath. They continued to be Sabbatarians in that sense.
As the church becomes more and more Gentile in orientation, the Sabbath becomes of lesser importance and the 1st day of the week, the day of the Resurrection becomes the key day. For me the worse day of the year, of the whole universe was the Sabbath day. The day after Good Friday and before Easter was a miserable day. I want to celebrate the Resurrection Day and that’s what the early church seems to have wanted to do.
Now how to keep it. You have to realize that there are no laws here. If you look at the statement of faith of our seminary, it was written in a time when people were very strong Sabbatarians. And when I came here I had some problems with that.
“Do you have anything you have questions with?”
I said, “Yes. It’s the Sabbath. I don’t wash my car. I don’t mow my lawn on Sundays or anything like that. It’s a church day, but it’s a fun day. I have always wanted it to be a fun time for my children. I wanted them to like Sunday. Not hate it.”
And when you are in the pastorate, if your children begin to hate Sundays because they don’t have a father anymore, you better do something about that. It should be a kind of a special day for them.
Worldly amusements – well I love pro-football on Sundays. Maybe I should just sit and watch it with a Bible open or something like that. You have to play that by ear somewhat.
Ok. Anything else on the covenant – very important?
Student: Based upon the Old Testament - [? - hard to hear] – what you said about that regarding how the blessings [? - hard to hear] In light of that what covenant[? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: Are you keeping the covenant?
Student: [? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: I don’t think what happens when we as Christians sin is that we seek to be resaved over again. When we ask god for forgiveness, it is not that we will be forgiven in the Final Day of Judgment and be saved. That’s been done for when I have received Christ. When He forgave me of my sins, He forgave me of my past sins, but all the sins that Bob Stein was going to be associated with the rest of his life. That was taken care of. Therefore I don’t ask the Great Judge of Heaven and Earth to forgive me of my sins when I do that, but I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me so that the relationship we have together will not be stopped and hindered.
Not to be resaved but it is like a son coming to his father and saying, “Dad. I did something wrong. Would you forgive me? - To restore that relationship. It is not looking to be readopted or something like that. Or be received back into the family.
So the fellowship you have with the Lord is so special, that you don’t want anything to stand in the way of that. And if you do sin, you ask God to forgive you of that so that relationship can continue. But it hasn’t to do with a salvific – its not a salvific kind of experience.
Think of it as – you can’t divide God into parts but there is a sense in which the eternal judge of Heaven and earth forgave me of my sin once and for all. Now that He is my heavenly Father, I ask Him to forgive me when I offended Him and I have not been a good son and have shamed him.
Student: Even the blessings are not earned or merited for they are offered as rewards for obedience and not as pay for [? - hard to hear] I understand what you are saying there.
Dr. Stein: The idea of rewards and so forth[? - hard to hear]
Dr. Stein: I don’t know how it works out in the end time. I don’t think that there are layers of mansions and different suburbs and some of you are going to live out in nice suburbs and I am going to live out in a slum area of Heaven or something like that where the gold streets are a little more beat up than where you are where they are polished regularly or something like.
I think mostly … see … the well done, good and faithful servant – at that point will I be embarrassed – at that point will I hear “Well done. Good and faithful servant”? That that I am concerned about. Not what happens after that.
It is so hard to envision something that is so much unlike anything that I have experienced in [? - hard to hear] Do you sleep in heaven? There is no way you could [? - hard to hear] All I know is that any of the longings of my heart will be met in some way or the other.
Can I go skiing in Heaven? My guess is if the good Lord thought that would make me happy -Yeah.