by Peter Ditzel
Reformed Theology Versus the End of the Old Covenant
Likewise, to say that Christians must keep the Old Covenant law is to deny that Christ came in the flesh to fulfill and end that law. Why? Although those who hold to it will not agree (some, because they do not understand the logical implications of the system they claim to believe), Covenant Theology holds people in legalistic bondage to a law that Christ has completely fulfilled and is no longer in effect. In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you…” Make you what? In covenant with God because of your physical descent? subject to the Old Covenant law? obligated to the Ten Commandments? debters to the “moral law”? A thousand times, NO! “The truth shall make you free”!
Notice what the Jews Jesus was speaking to replied. “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” Is this not what is at the heart of Covenant Theology? Covenant Theologians can also say, “We are in covenant with God because of our descent from our believing parents. What do you mean we must be made free? Surely, you don’t mean free from the law.” “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:33-36).
And who commits sin? Everyone who tries to keep the law! Paul makes this very clear: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20); “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:7-9); “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56).
But hear the remedy: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14); and, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4). How is this accomplished? By Jesus keeping the law perfectly in our stead, and by His taking our sins upon Himself and suffering God’s wrath and dying for them, thus completely fulfilling the law for us so that it ended.
Another way that Paul expresses this is by saying that we have become dead to the law. This is just as a wife becomes dead to the law of her husband when he dies so that she is then free to marry another: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-6).
Read again what Paul says in the verses above. He says that we have “become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” Therefore, to say that we have not become dead to the law, to say that we are still under Old Covenant law because the Old and New Covenants are just two administrations of the same covenant, is to reject the work that Christ completed in His body, to deny that Jesus did everything in His body that the Bible says He did, and, thus, to deny Jesus Christ is come in the flesh in all that that implies. It is, by John’s definition, a spirit of antichrist.
Why Am I Writing This?
Occasionally, I am asked about other people’s salvation. These are questions such as, Are any Arminians saved? Are there any saved people in the Roman Catholic Church? Is Herbert Armstrong in hell? I rarely respond to these questions because I have found that they usually come from people who have already made up their minds and are merely trying to pick a fight. Nevertheless, my answer to such questions would be this: It is God who elects (1 Peter 1:2), Jesus Christ who saves (Luke 2:11), the Holy Spirit who regenerates (John 3:5), and Jesus Christ who is the righteous Judge (2 Timothy 4:8). Peter Ditzel has nothing to do with this. God’s saints are to be discerning, but not condemning. This does not mean that we must continue to have “open dialogue” and “irenic relations” with every heretic in the world; Jesus and his followers often hotly debated with those who were trying to promote teachings that were contrary to the Gospel. But we must not take God’s place as Judge of someone’s eternal destiny.
That said, I want to make clear that I did not write this article to condemn anyone. I wrote it for two reasons:
1. I wrote this article to warn those who believe any system of theology that denies in any way that Jesus is come in the flesh. John does not pussyfoot. To call someone an antichrist is strong language. An antichrist’s work is contrary to the work of Christ on earth. It does not gather God’s sheep to their Shepherd. It scatters them by sending them off in the wrong direction to works, law-keeping, outdated covenants, or anything that does not center on Jesus Christ alone (Matthew 12:30). I hope that some people will take this as a wakeup call and examine whether what they believe is really solidly based on the Bible.
2. I wrote this article to warn Baptists (and others) who have come to believe the Doctrines of Grace. I want to caution them away from Reformed or Covenant Theology. The Doctrines of Grace are biblical, but much of Reformed Theology is not. It is, in fact, largely unbiblical and was fabricated by magisterial Reformers to help them retain the power the Roman Catholic Church had held in partnership with the civil authorities (pictured in Revelation 17 by the harlot riding the beast). I am concerned that Baptists are getting their education in the Doctrines of Grace by the writings of Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan theologians and, along the way, they are picking up Reformed/Covenant Theology.
As Sovereign Grace Baptist preacher Jerry Locher, in an article titled “A Recovery of Baptist Ecclesiology,” explains:
The reason that the reformers reached back into the Old Covenant for part of their ecclesiology is because they were in opposition to Baptist New Covenant ecclesiology. They were able to lay hold of the sword in the Old Covenant to persecute Baptists who stood in opposition to them.
There is another element in this equation as to why we need a recovery of a Baptist ecclesiology. With the recovery of the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace, many Baptists who have embraced Calvinism have done so by reading the reformers and the Puritans. In doing so, they have swallowed the reformed and Puritan ecclesiology. The constant use of the word “reformed” by Baptists has no doubt led to many of our Baptist fathers turning over in their graves! To call a Baptist church reformed leads only to blur Baptist distinctness in ecclesiology. A Baptist cannot be reformed and be a Baptist!
Baptists should recover the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace in the gospel, but at the same time reject any and all reformed ecclesiology that does not follow the pattern of the New Testament (and much of it does not)…. The Roman Catholic Church was never reformed by the reformers; they went out from it to start all over, but in doing so they took a lot of Rome with them. Parts of Rome remain with all Protestant churches to this day….
It is time to stop playing around with doctrines that entangle us in law-keeping, works, covenants that are ended or anything that turns our focus away from the centrality of Jesus Christ and denies anything that He came to accomplish. It is time to turn from the spirit of antichrist to the Spirit of the Lord, for, “…even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:15-17).
Copyright © 2010 Peter Ditzel