Pastor Richard Barcellos joins the Regular Reformed Guys to talk about his upcoming, as yet unnamed book about the Covenant of Works, the Garden of Eden and a number of other questions in relation to the New Covenant Theology…
That which “remains” is “a Sabbath rest.” The noun “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]) is used only here in the Bible. Various cognate forms of it are used in the Septuagint (LXX) in at least four places (Exod. 16:30; Lev. 23:32; 26:34; 2 Chron. 36:21). Each use in the LXX, when referring to men, refers to Sabbath-keeping in terms of an activity in the (then) here and now. Lincoln admits this, when he says, “In each of these places the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath.” This can be seen especially in Exodus 16:30, Leviticus 23:32, and 26:35.
So the people rested (LXX: ἐσαββάτισεν [esabbatisen]; a verb) on the seventh day. (Exod. 16:30)
It is to be a sabbath (LXX: σάββατα [sabbata]; a noun) of complete rest (LXX: σαββάτων [sabbatōn]; a noun) to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep (LXX: σαββατιεῖτε [sabbatieite]; a verb) your sabbath (LXX: τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν [ta sabbata hymōn]; a noun). (Lev. 23:32)
All the days of its [i.e., the land’s] desolation it will observe the rest (LXX: σαββατιεῖ [sabbatiei]; a verb) which it did not observe (LXX: ἐσαββάτισεν [esabbatisen]; a verb) on your sabbaths (LXX: τοῖς σαββάτοις ὑμῶν [tois sabbatois hymōn]; a noun), while you were living on it. (Lev. 26:34-35)
Something interesting occurs in the LXX version of Leviticus 23:32a. The LXX text reads as follows: σάββατα σαββάτων ἔσται ὑμῖν (sabbata sabbatōn estai hymin). The NASB translates this verse: “It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you.” The word σάββατα in the LXX compliments the verb “to be” (ἔσται). The word σαββάτων (“of complete rest”) modifies σάββατα. Both nouns clearly refer to an activity, a Sabbath-keeping to be rendered by those addressed in the passage. In Leviticus 23:32b of the LXX a verb is followed by its direct object as follows: σαββατιεῖτε τὰ σάββατα ὑμῶν (sabbatieite ta sabbata hymōn [“you shall keep your sabbath”]). Here a Sabbath for the people of God to keep is pressed upon them, explicitly by verbs and implicitly by nouns. Also, in each case the word “Sabbath” is the same used by Moses in Genesis 2:2, “and He rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). Pertinent to our discussion as well is the fact that God’s creational rest in the LXX of Exodus 20:11 is referred to with the verb κατέπαυσεν (katepausen), the same word translated “rest” in Hebrews 3 and 4. In the LXX, what for the Creator is “rest” implies a Sabbath day to be kept for creatures. Hebrews 3 and 4 seem to follow this septuagintal pattern (see the discussion on divine rests above and the exposition of Heb. 4:10 below).
Robert P. Martin has an excellent discussion on the word “a Sabbath rest” (σαββατισμὸς [sabbatismos]). In the context of interacting with Andrew T. Lincoln, Martin says:
It is interesting that Lincoln acknowledges that “in each of these places [i.e., the LXX texts cited above] the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath,” i.e., not a Sabbath rest as a state to be entered into but a Sabbath-keeping as a practice to be observed. This, of course, corresponds to the word’s morphology, for the suffix —μoς indicates anaction and not just a state. This at least suggests that if the writer of Hebrews meant only “a Sabbath rest,” i.e., “a Sabbath state” to be entered into, he would have used the term σάββατον (“Sabbath”) or continued to use κατάπαυσις (“rest”), for he already had established the referent of κατάπαυσις as God’s own Sabbath rest which is to be entered into by faith (cf., 4:1, 3-4, 11). Thus σαββατισμὸς suggests a Sabbath action, i.e., “a Sabbath-keeping,” although the idea of a “a Sabbath state” is not necessarily excluded because of the overarching theme of the larger context.
Throughout the passage thus far, the word translated “rest” is κατάπαυσις (katapausis). This word is also used in Hebrews 4:10-11. The shift from katapausis to sabbatismos at Hebrews 4:9 is deliberate. But why the change? Joseph A. Pipa suggests the following:
The uniqueness of the word suggests a deliberate, theological purpose. He selects or coins sabbatismos because, in addition to referring to spiritual rest, it suggests as well an observance of that rest by a ‘Sabbath-keeping’. Because the promised rest lies ahead for the New Covenant people, they are to strive to enter the future rest. Yet as they do so, they anticipate it by continuing to keep the Sabbath.
Notice that Pipa includes “spiritual rest” in his understanding of the word sabbatismos. This is an important observation, also made by Martin above (i.e., “the idea of ‘a Sabbath state’ is not necessarily excluded because of the overarching theme of the larger context”).
Though many commentators take sabbatismos as either salvation rest in Christ now and in the future or exclusively eschatological rest, its use here in light of the flow of the contextual argument and its LXX usages suggest a different meaning. The LXX use has already been noted. In the context of Hebrews 4:9-10, the divine rests referred to have at least three things in common: 1) a divine rest after a divine work; 2) a rest to be entered in terms of man’s obedience and worship in light of the divine work/rest; and 3) a day of rest as a pledge and token of the divine work/rest and of man’s entrance into it. Each divine rest as given to the people of God (i.e., at creation and Canaan) both had an abiding rest day remaining once the rest was instituted. If the other two divine rests included rest-keeping in the form of a Sabbath day, it is not without warrant to expect future divine rests (assuming they occur) to include the same. I am suggesting Hebrews 4:9-10 indicates just such a rest.
 Lincoln, “Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New Testament,” 213.
Just as the temple yields to Christ and is transformed to fit the redemptive-historical circumstances brought in by his sufferings and glory, so the Sabbath yields to Christ and is transformed to fit the same redemptive-historical circumstances. The inaugurated new covenant has both a temple and a Sabbath. This connects Christ’s teaching on the temple and the Sabbath with subsequent revelation.
It is necessary to distinguish between symbols and types. A symbol portrays a fact or reality that presently exists. A type is prospective. Perhaps Geerhardus Vos’ discussion of the fourth commandment can help at this juncture. In his Biblical Theology the fourth commandment gets much more comment from Vos than the others. One of the reasons is due to its origin and modified applicability throughout redemptive history.
(Recall that we discussed this with Dr. Pipa here and here, as well as featured this audio interview with Richard Barcellos on “Knowing The Truth” Radio regarding New Covenant Theology and the Law and this conference.)
The Panel Discussion (Day 1)also featured Richard Barcellos with most of the questions directed towards him. Also on the panel was Jospeh Pipa and Tony Curto. Below is a timeline followed by the audio:
• 00:52 – 08:35 “In relation to the threefold division of the law, how should we understand the distinction of clean and unclean animals in Genesis 7 and what appears to be Levirate Marriage in Genesis 38?”
• 08:47 – 10:20 “Do you disagree with the Marrow Men and Fisher when they say that the substance of the Covenant of Works was Moral Law?”
• 10:44 – 13:45 “Did John Bunyan hold the Mosaic Covenant to be a republication of the Covenant of Works for eternal life?”
• 13:50 – 17:38 “Can you explain New Covenant [Theology’s] interpretation of Jeremiah 31:31ff and offer a critique?”
• 14:47 – 22:33 “Can you make a few comments about the use of the law to bring a Christian to Christ in the context of counseling…”
• 22:38 – 24:34 “What is the best and most succinct way to defend Sabbath keeping for those who claim that since it is not a command repeated in the New Testament it is not applicable to Christians.”
• 24:43 – 28:28 “What key passages from the Apostolic practice of evangelism among the Gentiles demonstrate the Law’s role in Gospel work.”
• 28:36 – 31:48 “Given the denial of the three-fold division of the law by New Covenant Theology advocates what Biblical principles govern their understanding of the day of worship?”
• 31:56 – 42:00 “Would you open up more practically how one might open up the law… in terms of evangelism.”
It is the appendix by Richard Barcellos, “John Owen and New Covenant Theology: Owen on the Old and New Covenants and the Functions of the Decalogue in Redemptive History in Historical and Contemporary Perspective.”
If one reads some of the difficult sections of Owen’s writings, either without understanding his comprehensive thought and in light of the theological world in which he wrote, or in a superficial manner, some statements can easily be taken to mean things they do not. When this is done, the result is that authors are misunderstood and sometimes, subsequent theological movements are aligned with major historical figures without substantial and objective warrant. Two such instances of this involve John Owen and New Covenant Theology (NCT).
John G. Reisinger claims that Owen viewed the Old Covenant as “a legal/works covenant.” He goes on and says:
“This covenant was conditional because it was a legal/works covenant that promised life and threatened death. Israel failed to earn the blessings promised in the covenant. But under the New Covenant, the Church becomes the Israel of God and all her members are kings and priests (a kingdom of priests). Christ, as our Surety (Heb. 7:22), has kept the Old Covenant for us and earned every blessing it promised.”
The reader of Owen’s treatise on the Old and New Covenants in his Hebrews commentary, however, will quickly realize that Reisinger’s comments above do not give the full picture of Owen’s position…
Another NCT advocate, Tom Wells, claims that John G. Reisinger “has adopted John Owen’s view of the Mosaic and New covenants, without adding Owen’s ‘creation ordinance’ view of the Sabbath.”14 Wells also claims that Owen held a mediating position on the relationship between the Mosaic and New Covenants and that Owen’s position is substantially that of Reisinger and hence, NCT…
Here is the first couple of paragraphs of the critique sections and the closing paragraph:
It goes without saying that Gentry and Wellum are to be commended for their detailed, careful, and extensive work. They are also to be commended for a desire to say what God has said in such a way that reflects the way that he has said it. But we must now turn to iron-sharpening and face the giants in the land.
The fundamental argument of Kingdom through Covenant is sound. God does indeed govern his world through dominion delegated by covenant. The overall metanarrative is also sound. There is a great tension/need in the progress of the historical covenants for one who will do perfectly all that God commands. But the authors are operating under a few false dilemmas.
They propose their system as a via media between covenant theology and dispensationalism. From all appearances, covenant theology equals paedobaptism. The only hint to the contrary is the brief mention of Greg Nichols’ book in the preface (12- 13). Forasmuch as the authors are weary of the rehearsal of the same arguments from covenant theologians, they would find many an ally among the federal theologians of the seventeenth-century Particular Baptists. A rejection of the idea that the historical covenants are simply “administrations” of the covenant of grace, an appreciation for the progressive nature of God’s covenantal dealings with man, and an insistence that the new covenant is the covenant of grace are arguments that have been brought forward in the past. But these arguments did not entail the same rejection of the covenant of works and covenant of grace as is seen in this book. Thus, it is a false dilemma to see no party besides paedobaptist federal theologians and dispensationalists…
Gentry and Wellum have produced a volume that demands attention, consideration, and interaction. At the very least, it provides a wealth of exegetical work and research for those who would want to study these issues. But more than that, it is a book that will add contour and detail to the reader’s understanding of the divine drama and all that God has done and will do for his people throughout the ages.
“There are some who choose to confess the 1646 London Baptist confession rather than the 1677 London Baptist confession. Their reasons for this choice vary, but among them are those who wish to adhere to what is known as ‘New Covenant Theology.’ In making this move, it is claimed, they are identifying with Baptists who did not hold such a ‘rigid’ stance on the law as it is expressed in the 1677 London Baptist confession. However, when examined in its historical context, there is no difference between the views of the early and later baptists concerning the law.”
A critical evaluation of D. A. Carson’s exegesis of Matthew 5:17-48. His interpretation of this crucial text — which includes Jesus’ relation to the law (vv. 17-18) and the nature of his six ‘antitheses’ (vv. 21-48) — is often appealed to by New Covenant Theology (NCT) advocates as emphatically supporting their distinctive teachings concerning the moral law of God, and as undermining the traditional Reformed or classical covenant theology (CCT) view of the same. After the Critique, Dr. Welty sets forth his alternative view in the Conclusion, and go on in the Appendix to briefly consider Fred Zaspel’s view of the same passage.
A comprehensive, critical evaluation of Mike Adams’s “In Defense of the New Covenant,” which was a reply to Richard Barcellos’s In Defense of the Decalogue. The appendix sets forth Dr. Welty’s “Five Points of Classical Covenant Theology,” as well as seven arguments for the essentially gracious character of the Old Covenant.
Was the Mosaic Covenant only concerned about temporal blessings? Was living long and peaceful lives in a land filled with milk and honey the ultimate reward for obeying the Law of Moses? Or was eternal life the ultimate promise of the Mosaic Covenant?
New Covenant Theology (NCT) views the Law of Moses as a code of morality that only demanded external obedience. Some NCT proponents have even sought to explain away the tenth commandment (thou shalt not covet) as a command not to steal. Regardless, for NCT, the Mosaic Covenant was merely an external covenant that promised external blessings to an external people. In some ways, NCT looks at the Mosaic Covenant and the nation of Israel in the same way Dispensationalists look at the New Covenant and the church—parenthetical to God’s overall redemptive plan.
I, on the other hand, believe that the Mosaic Covenant was more than just a parenthetical and typological covenant that was given to foreshadow New Covenant realities. In addition to that, I believe that the Mosaic Covenant was designed for Christ Jesus to fulfill in order to establish eternal life for all who believe. In other words, for national Israel, the Mosaic Covenant was typological and provided only temporal and physical blessings, but for Christ (the true Israel of God), who fulfilled the Mosaic Covenant, it brought eternal and spiritual blessings (i.e., eternal life). In other words, the Mosaic Covenant of works was necessary because the New Covenant of grace was born out of its fulfillment.
With this in mind, there are at least nine reasons why I believe that the Mosaic Covenant promised eternal life.
1. The Promises of Mosaic Covenant Flowed Out of the Promises of the Abrahamic Covenant
2. Moses Taught that Eternal Life was Promised in the Mosaic Covenant
3. Paul Taught that Eternal Life was Promised in the Mosaic Covenant
4. Christ Taught that Eternal Life was Promised in the Mosaic Covenant
5. If the Law was Spiritual, then the Promises Must Have Been Spiritual (i.e., Promising Eternal Life)
6. Removes Christ from the Adamic Covenant of Works
7. Christ Fulfilled the Law of Moses
8. The promises in the Mosaic Covenant spoke of Eternal Realities
9. The Deficiency of Mosaic Covenant was not that It Promised only Temporal Blessings but that It was Unable to Establish the Spiritual Promises
Read his explanation of each of these points and conclusion.
Given our last twopodcasts I thought this post by Brandon Adams entitled Non-Dispensational, Calvinistic, Credobaptist Covenantalism Compass would be of interest:
How’s that for a title? A friend has asked me a few times to define or give an overview of what New Covenant Theology is and who represents it. I’ve told him it’s a bit difficult because it’s a fractured group with varying views, and some with similar views not claiming the “NCT” label. However, I thought this chart might help clarify the landscape of non-dispensational, Calvinistic credobaptists.
Be careful not to read more into this chart than is intended. Each author should be read on their own terms as each often has nuanced explanations of their position. I hesitate to place Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum on the chart as I haven’t had time to read through their new work yet, which is obviously nuanced – so I don’t want to misrepresent it. They clearly wind up on the right hand side of the chart, but I don’t know if it would be top or bottom. Given this fact, I hesitate to use the label “Progressive Covenantalism” in the bottom right because this is how they describe themselves… but I don’t know what else to call that position.
Basically, proponents of Re-Publication see the obvious conditional statements in the Mosaic Covenant and thus argue that it is a Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works. Opponents of this rightly say Sinai cannot possibly be a Re-Publication of the Covenant of Works for various reasons. But they then conclude that the Mosaic Covenant is entirely gracious!
In my attempt to better understand and work through covenant theology, I have been reading A. W. Pink’s “The Divine Covenants.” I highly recommend giving it a read. I especially recommend that paedobaptists read his section on the Abrahamic Covenant if for no other reason than to simply be educated and informed as to why one of the top Calvinist thinkers of the 20th century rejected paedobaptism as unbiblical (a belief that denied him numerous pastoral positions and eventually left him without a church to minister to).
In short, read Pink’s thoughts below. I would appreciate someone demonstrating where they believe Pink is in error:
While there are a number of problems with NCT (imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the law written on the hearts of all men, Matt 5, Rom 7:22, knowledge of the inward, spiritual law in the OT, distinction between Decalogue and rest of the laws of Moses from the beginning, etc, etc), I do not feel that Covenantal Baptists have done the best possible job in refuting NCT. Many of them have done a tremendous job of showing the new covenant spiritual understanding of the Decalogue, but in my opinion, they have not done a tremendous job of showing the Mosaic understanding of the Decalogue. I feel that too many Covenantal Baptists are content to rest on the shoulders of paedobaptist covenant theologians and allow them to do the heavy lifting. I do not think this is good for the baptist cause, or for critiquing NCT.
The paedobaptist understanding of the Mosaic covenant is completely at odds with the baptist understanding of the Mosaic covenant. While the WCF sees the Mosaic covenant as simply an administration of the covenant of grace, the (most likely) editors of the LBC denied the Mosaic covenant was an administration of the covenant of grace and instead believed it was an entirely separate covenant.
We deem it of great importance that a clear conception be obtained of the precise nature and meaning of that august transaction which took place at Sinai, when Jehovah proclaimed the Ten Commandments in the hearing of Israel… Yet it must be frankly acknowledged that the subject is as difficult as it is important: the great diversity of opinion which prevails among the theologians and divines who have studied the subject is proof thereof. Yet this is no reason why we should despair of obtaining light thereon. Rather should it cause us to cry to God for help, and to prosecute our inquiry cautiously, humbly, and carefully.
I’ve come across several people referencing John Owen’s tract “Of Infant Baptism.” The most recent was Brenden Link’s post. I have particular interest in Owen’s tract because of my deep appreciation for his view of the Mosaic covenant and how it relates to Baptist covenant theology.