by Peter Ditzel
The next day, I received the following email from Dr. Ella:
Subject: Re: Dud squibs are useless ammunition
Dear Peter, Please call me George. I must remind you that you took the initiative in approaching me in person and determined the method and tone of your communication with me. I gave you a Roland for your Oliver and this has dismayed you. I, for my part, trusted it would help you to plan your Christian strategie better. I am still hopeful. As a better and more profitable way, I suggest you isolate those traits which are typical of the NCT movement from the orthodox-looking wrappings that you give them. I would thus appreciate your giving me one idea at a time so that we do not lose sight of the trees in the wood. Would you mind starting with the NCT opinion that God’s eternal law, the revealation of His immutable nature, has been abolished? I do not ask for your view which appears to diverge radically from that of the NCT, but for the official pronouncements of leading NCT authors. I have read them myself and take them literally at their word. You read them quite differently. I would like to know why you feel your interpretation and application are correct and my literal interpretation wrong. Yours sincerely,
It took me a while to respond, but my answer is below:
I am sorry that, because of other responsibilities, I was forced to put our dialogue on the back burner for so long.
You asked, “Would you mind starting with the NCT opinion that God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature, has been abolished?”
You asked not for my view “but for the official pronouncements of leading NCT authors. Although I have answered with the quotes below, I do, in fact, somewhat mind your question. First, NCT authors no more speak with one voice on all matters than do Covenant Theologians. I am sure that I could find many points on which you, Calvin, Bullinger, Zwingli, Hodge, and Herman Hoeksema, for example, disagree.
Second, I know of no NCT author who has specifically stated that “God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature,” has been abolished. Since it is you who say that they have said this, the onus is on you [to] produce quotes. In a series of five articles and one book review, you have failed to produce such a quote.
Third, the burden is on you to establish that a) There is such a thing as “God’s eternal law,” b) “God’s eternal law” is the revelation of His immutable nature, and c) NCT has the opinion that “God’s eternal law” has been abolished.
Nevertheless, to prove that I do not make the above points with rancor, I have fulfilled my homework assignment as best as the truth will allow. I have found the following quotes on the general topic, but none of them say what you seem to think NCT writers say.
John Reisinger writes, “A New Covenant was ratified in the blood of Christ at the cross. The Old Covenant written on the Tablets of Stone at Sinai have been ‘fulfilled’ and done away. The claims of the Old Covenant have been met; its curse has been endured and removed; and its blessings have been secured by Christ and bestowed on His Church…. It was the Tablets of Stone that blocked the way into the presence of God’s presence, but now the terms of the covenant written on stone (Ten Commandments) have been fully met and we enter boldly into the Most Holy Place (Heb. 10:1-23)…. A new Pedagogue took over in the conscience of the New Covenant believer. The Tablets of Stone were, in themselves, the old Pedagogue in the conscience of an Israelite. That old Pedagogue has been dismissed (Gal. 3:24, 25) and been replaced by the indwelling Holy Spirit” (John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone,
Southbridge, MA: Crowne Publications, 1989, pp. 84-85).
Steve Lehrer writes, “When the Old Covenant had fulfilled its purpose, the Law of that covenant and the covenant itself came to an end…. The Old Covenant and its institutions only illustrated what the New Covenant and the work of Jesus Christ actually accomplished…. Therefore, what Christ means when He says, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them is that He is the eschatological culmination of the entire plan of God…Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection, has brought to an end the Old Covenant era and has accomplished all that the Old Covenant had revealed in picture form. According to this option, we should understand the verses as the following paraphrase suggests: ‘Until I accomplish all that I came here to do (live the perfect life, reveal the Father, and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of My people), the Old Covenant will remain in full force. In fact, God would sooner wipe out everything than bring the Old Covenant to naught before I have accomplished my mission.’ When was His mission accomplished? It was accomplished at the cross…. Let me summarize my answer to this question by showing you how this interpretation of Matthew 5:17-19 makes sense of the apparent conflict between Matthew 5:17, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them’ and Ephesians 2:14-15, ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.’ Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets and yet he does abolish the law with its commandments and regulations.
“This interpretation leads us to the conclusion, as stated earlier, that Jesus did not come to turn all of God’s preparatory work (the law and the prophets) on its ear and to make it utterly meaningless. In addition, the Mosaic Law was still in effect throughout Jesus’ ministry and He even taught that people must obey the minute details of the Mosaic Law. In both senses, Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets. But His work on the cross did bring the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant to an end. Also, when Jesus died on the cross and inaugurated the New Covenant in His blood, he brought the binding nature of the Law of the Old Covenant to an end and put the Law of the New Covenant into effect. In these ways, Jesus did ‘abolish the law with its commandments and regulations'”
(Steve Lehrer, New Covenant Theology—questions answered, 2006, pp. 132-136).
John Zens writes, “Rather than trying to get the ‘moral aspect of Moses into the Messianic age, we do well to submit ourselves to the progress of redemptive revelation. New Covenant subjects are under the ‘law of Christ (Gal.6:2). Whatever law binds the Christian is in the hands of Christ, not Moses. The covenant of which Moses was the mediator is abolished. We are now under the law of a better’ covenant. Obviously, there is no place for antinomianism’ (anti-law; lawlessness) in the New Covenant. In it, the law will be put in the heart by the operation of the Spirit”(John Zens, “Is There A Covenant of Grace?”).
I am not speaking for these writers, but my summation of what I read here is that Christ abolished the law only in the sense that He fulfilled it. And what He fulfilled is not something called “God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature.” You will have to prove that the Bible teaches something called “God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature.” You will have to show that the law God gave Israel through Moses at Sinai is “God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature.” ”You will have to show that because this law is “God’s eternal law, the revelation of His immutable nature,” Christ could not have abolished it in the sense of having fulfilled it, and that He could not have obrogated [to annul a law by enacting a new law—ed] it in the sense of having replaced it with the New Covenant. Otherwise, I will continue to believe that the Bible shows that Jesus fulfilled the law.
Suppose I am an artist, and I am engaged to paint a mural in the city hall. A contract is drawn up detailing the obligations of all parties involved. Once I have completed the painting and fulfilled my obligations to the city, and they have fulfilled their obligations to me, the contract is fulfilled and ended. It no longer has a legal hold over me or the city. In that sense, it is abolished. But suppose, before I fulfill my obligation in the contract, the state government steps in, reviews the contract, and says there is something about it that is contrary to state law. They then use their authority, or the authority of the court, to end the contract, to declare it void, to abolish or destroy the contract before it is fulfilled. Jesus was saying that He had not come with the authority of God to destroy the law before it was fulfilled, but that He was going to fulfill the law right down to every jot and tittle. Once He did that, the law would end because all obligations in the contract would have been fulfilled. The law changed when the Old Covenant law was fulfilled by Christ and replaced by New Covenant law, the law of Christ, which is, as Gadsby said, “the gospel of His grace, which is the law from Zion, called the law of faith, the law of liberty, and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”
You write in part 1 of your series of articles, “After all, Moses did not invent the law but was given it by the God of both Testaments. The law shows the eternal standard of Father, Son and Holy Ghost and is a description of the Divine character. As God is immutable, nothing can be added to or taken away from that character.” To me, you are confusing a creation of God, the law, with God Himself.
What do you make of Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19:8-9? “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”
Jesus is essentially saying that from the beginning, the law of marriage did not allow for divorce except for adultery. But the law later given by Moses allowed divorce for other reasons. And now, we are again to have no divorce except for adultery. If God’s law is as immutable as God, and if Moses was giving as law only what God gave him, how did he make the change he did? Or, again, if the law is immutable, how did Jesus change what Moses gave? What about Hebrews 7:12? Also, are the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 the eternal standard of Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Are they a description of the Divine character? Are they immutable as God is immutable? How, then, did Jesus declare all meats clean? Can some laws change and others cannot? Where does the Bible say this?
So, as I said at the beginning, the onus is on you [to] produce the quotes that you believe are so damning to NCT writers. And the burden is on you to establish that a) There is such a thing as “God’s eternal law,” b) “God’s eternal law” is the revelation of His immutable nature, and c) NCT has the opinion that “God’s eternal law” has been abolished.
Also, I would be very interested to know what you think of the following:
The Word of God does, most emphatically, teach that in Christ the believer is entirely free from the law, and for this simple reason Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth (Romans 10:4). We have been crucified with Christ, we are become dead to the law by the body of Christ” (Romans 7:4). Consequently there is no sense whatsoever in which it may be said that the believer is under the law as a rule of life….
When the Word of God declares, as it universally does, that all who look to Christ as their Lord, Saviour and King, are totally free from the law, this is what that freedom means:
1. We have no covenant with the law. The law has examined Christ and found Him perfect and holy. It has nothing more to say against Christ and, as we are in Him, no more to say against us. We now live under a covenant of grace.
2. We have no commitment to the law. Our commitment is to Christ, who obeyed the law for us.
3. We do nothing by constraint of the law. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”
4. We fear no curse from the law. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. For it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”…
The Ten Commandments are commonly referred to as “the moral law”. However, you will search the Word of God in vain to find a separation between the Ten Commandments and the “other” laws given by God, in the hand of Moses, to the children of Israel. When the scriptures declare that believers in Christ are free from the law and that Christ is the end of the law, the declaration is that we are free from all the Mosaic law (ceremonial, judicial, civil, dietary, economic, and moral) by which the nation of Israel was governed in the Old Testament.
Those who try to separate the moral law, that is, the Ten Commandments, from the rest of the law of God given to Israel tell us that the believer is free from the dietary laws, circumcision laws, sacrificial laws, etc., but he is still under the moral law. However, when Paul told the Galatians that such doctrine is no better than witchcraft (Galatians 3:1), and affirmed our total freedom from the law, he quoted a passage from Deuteronomy which specifically refers to the Ten Commandments (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:14-26).
[Readers: This quote is from Don Fortner, a Sovereign Grace Baptist pastor who usually has at least one article per issue of New Focus magazine. It illustrates my point that Dr. Ella’s views of the law and the covenants are out-of-step with those of many other New Focus writers, and that what those writers teach, Dr. Ella would condemn as New Covenant Theology. Source of quote:http://www.pristinegrace.org/media.php?id=291]
I am glad we are having this dialogue. But, again, please understand that I do not consider that I am obligated to know everything that every New Covenant Theologian has said and is saying, nor must I agree with everything they say to still be in the NCT camp.
By His grace alone,
Copyright © 2012 Peter Ditzel