Reprobate in the Visible Church…Again

Posted by Bob Mattes

Many of the various blog discussions on the Federal Visionists’ so-called “Non-Elect Covenant Members”, which orthodox Reformed folk have called simply “reprobates” for almost 500 years, concern the benefits that these reprobates receive while members of the visible church. One Federal Visionist was honest enough to admit that they haven’t worked out the detail on this yet. On the other hand, Steve Wilkins said of the reprobate in the visible church:

They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God. (The Federal Vision (Monroe, Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2004), “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation” on page 62)

I thought that I would help out by covering what orthodox Reformed theologians have garnered from the Scriptures over the last almost 500 years, and even way before that.

For the purposes of clarity and accuracy, I will join my orthodox brothers by referring to the Federal Visionists’ “Non-Elect Covenant Members” or NECMs by what they really are: “Reprobate Covenant Members” or RCMs. This makes it clear that they were never, are not, and never will be saved, nor share in pseudo-saving benefits that Wilkins offers them. Their eternal destiny was, is, and ever shall be hell.

Common grace, of course, benefits everyone on the face of the earth, plus those aliens that visit us in their flying saucers. (Well, just kidding about the aliens.) Berkhof, on page 122 of his Summary of Christian Doctrine, defines common grace as:

When we speak of common grace, we have in mind either (a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted; or (b) those general blessings which God imparts to all men without any distinction as He sees fit.

This meshes with Jesus’ words in Mt 5:45b:

for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (NKJV)

and Paul in Acts 14:17:

Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

These passages which mention God’s grace as shared in common by all men take this fact for granted as part of other arguments. So with Calvin on Mt 5:45b:

He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. He quotes two instances of the divine kindness toward us, which are not only well known to us, but common to all: and this very participation excites us the more powerfully to act in a similar manner towards each other, though, by a synecdoche, he includes a vast number of other favors.

In the Old Testament, Psalm 65 treats God’s providence to man, especially in verses 9-13:

9 You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water;
You provide their grain,
For so You have prepared it.
10 You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers,
You bless its growth.
11 You crown the year with Your goodness,
And Your paths drip with abundance.
12 They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing.

These verses lay out the extent of the category of common grace: the natural process through which God blesses all men without exception, their church affiliation notwithstanding. Berkhof, continuing from his except above, states this very well:

In distinction from the Arminians we maintain that common grace does not enable the sinner to perform any spiritual good, nor to turn to God in faith and repentance. It can be resisted by man, and is always more or less resisted, and at best affects- only the externals of social, civil, moral, and religious life. While Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, nevertheless the whole human race, including the impenitent and the reprobate, derive great benefits from His death. The blessings of common grace may be regarded as indirect results of the atoning work of Christ.

But what about the reprobate in the visible church? WLC Question 63 offer the following:

What are the special privileges of the visible church?

The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’ s special care and government; (Isa. 4:5–6, 1 Tim. 4:10) of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; (Ps. 115:1–2,9, Isa. 31:4–5, Zech. 12:2–4,8,9) and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, (Acts 2:39,42) and offers of grace by Christ to all members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, (Ps. 147:19–20, Rom. 9:4, Eph. 4:11–12, Mark 16:15–16) and excluding none that will come unto him. (John 6:37) [bold added]

I left the Scripture proofs in the text as an exercise for the reader. Note that, in comparison to our previous discussion above, these benefits are not accorded to those outside the church. They are not part of the broader “common grace” as summarized so aptly by Berkhof, but specialized gifts given to the visible church. Yet, nothing on this list constitutes a saving benefit or even remotely resembles one. Hence my bold in the excerpt to emphasize grace “offered” vs. “possessed.”

Also note in the proof texts some with which Federal Visionists take great liberties, like 1 Tim 4:10 (especially Jim Jordan as covered in two updates here) and Acts 2:39. Yet, the Divines did not take these verses beyond their context to accord psuedo-saving benefits to reprobates as Federal Visionists like to do. The Divines understood that the gifts shard by the reprobates in the visible church fall way short of the saving benefits accorded only to the elect. This is in all senses, not just “in some sense”–the FVer’s favorite wiggle phrase.

Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology, lays out three definitions of the church. He summarizes the three on pages 568-569:

Thus the Church was defined as the company of the elect who are called by the Spirit of God (coetus electorum vocatorum), as the body of those who are effectually called (coetus vocatorum), or, even more commonly, as the community of the faithful or believers (coetus fidelium). The first two of these definitions serve the purpose of designating the Church as to its invisible essence, but give no indication whatsoever of the fact that it also has a visible side.

These first two definitions exclude the reprobate, or non-elect. The third definition, then, touches on the reprobate in the visible church from the point of view of baptism and profession of faith:

From the point of view of baptism and profession the Church has been defined as the community of those who are baptized and profess the true faith; or as the community of those who profess the true religion together with their children. It will readily be seen that this is a definition of the Church according to its external manifestation. [bold added]

Note the words “profess” and that last phrase, “according to its external manifestation.” There is no inner change in the reprobate’s hearts nor possession of true faith (fiducia), just an external imitation of those that the Spirit has changed. Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, i, 7, covers the difference exceedingly well:

The judgment which ought to be formed concerning the visible Church which comes under our observation, must, I think, be sufficiently clear from what has been said. I have observed that the Scriptures speak of the Church in two ways. Sometimes when they speak of the Church they mean the Church as it really is before God—the Church into which none are admitted but those who by the gift of adoption are sons of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit true members of Christ. In this case it not only comprehends the saints who dwell on the earth, but all the elect who have existed from the beginning of the world. Often, too, by the name of Church is designated the whole body of mankind scattered throughout the world, who profess to worship one God and Christ, who by baptism are initiated into the faith; by partaking of the Lord’s Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, agree in holding the word of the Lord, and observe the ministry which Christ has appointed for the preaching of it. In this Church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance: of ambitious, avaricious, envious, evil-speaking men, some also of impurer lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because their guilt cannot be legally established, or because due strictness of discipline is not always observed. Hence, as it is necessary to believe the invisible Church, which is manifest to the eye of God only, so we are also enjoined to regard this Church which is so called with reference to man, and to cultivate its communion. [bold added]

Note carefully Calvin’s argument, especially the parts that I bolded. Again, profession of faith is a far cry from possession of faith. Calvin could not be clearer that the reprobate in the visible church “have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance.” This is the orthodox Reformed view and stands contrary to the Federal Vision, the latter nicely summarized by Steve Wilkins in regards to the reprobate in the visible church:

“In fact, covenant is a real relationship, consisting of
real communion
with the triune God through union with
Christ. The covenant is not some thing that exists apart
from Christ or in addition to Him (another means of
grace) – rather, the covenant is union with Christ. Thus,
being in covenant gives all the blessings of being united
to Christ. There is no salvation apart from covenant
simply because there is not salvation apart from union
with Christ. And without union with Christ there is no
covenant at all.” (”Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation,” in
The Auburn Avenue Theology, pg. 262)

The contrast between real Reformed theology and the Federal Vision could not be clearer than this contrast between Calvin and Wilkins. Again we find ourselves at 1 Jn 2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out gthat they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Turrretin in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 3, Page18, covers this beautifully. He writes on 1 Jn 2:19:

The foundation of the apostle’s reasoning is the perseverance of true believers, of which they who are destitute by that very thing testify that they are such and of the true members of the church. Augustine explains this satisfactorily when he distinguishes the sons of God–of whom he says there are some who are not yet considered us, but still are reckoned as sons of God; others on the contrary are called sons by us, who are not sons to God himself. “There are those who are called by us sons of God on account of grace received even temporarily, and still are not such to God, of whom John says, ‘they went out from us, but because they have not remained with us, they were not of us.’ He does not say, ‘they went out from us, but because they have not remained with us, they are not now of us'; but he says, ‘they went out from us, but they were not of us,’ that is, even when they seemed to be in us, they were not of us” (Admonition and Grace 9[20][FC 2:269; PL 44.928]). And a little after he says, “Those who did not remain, were not even then sons of God, when they were in the name and profession of the sons of God” (ibid.). [my bold]

Thus Turretin and Augustine provide no comfort for Federal Visionists. Contrast their words with Wilkins’ own where he gives reprobates in the visible church “all the blessings of being united to Christ.”

The reason that the title of this post says “Again” is because this is the fourth time that I’ve written on this topic. You can read the others here, here, and from the WLC here. Each one approaches the topic from a different vantage point and/or cites different Reformed witnesses. While some Federal Visionists continue to assign RCMs pseudo-saving graces and others simply say they possess some pseudo-saving benefits but haven’t worked out the details, I have tried to show that the Scriptures HAVE worked out the details and that our Standards, faithful Reformed expositors, and their forebearers have explained it at great length.

Unless, of course, a handful of clever men in the later 20th and early 21st century have discovered what our learned forefathers have missed for 2000 years, including orthodox Reformed theologians for almost 500 years. But I don’t think so.

Posted by Bob Mattes

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112 Comments

  1. Alan D. Strange said,

    January 21, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    I agree, of course, that RCMs do not receive or possess saving grace in any of its expressions. But that all in the visible church are properly understood to be made “offers of grace” seems potentially obscured, Bob, by the phrase in your penultimate paragraph–“While some Federal Visionists continue to offer RCMs pseudo-saving graces.” One could take this phrase to imply that RCMs can in some sense be known by us (or themselves). I don’t think you believe this at all, but that interpretation presents itself as a potential.

    When we promiscuously offer grace to all our hearers in the ministry of the word, we have no warrant whatsoever to suppose that any particular person hearing us is a reprobate. We may suppose that reprobates are hearing us, but because we do not know who they are, we heartily encourage all our hearers to believe the promises of the gospel to the saving of their souls. To know, because the Word tells us, that the church contains elect and reprobate, is not taken ever to mean that we can know anyone to be a reprobate, as if it could ever be known that any person in particular is reprobate and could be identified as such (short of biblical declaration, e.g., Esau).

    It seems to me that we are instructed to handle this high mystery of predestination with special prudence and care (WCF 3.8). I think that that confessional imperative applies in just such cases, so that all who attend to this doctrine will do so with encouragement. While we know that reprobates in or out of the visible church never possess saving grace, we should be particularly careful to handle this doctrine in a way that would prompt no particular person to speculate that he is reprobate, which would be contrary to the teaching of every Reformed confession and theologian.

    Again, I agree with all your doctrine, but I think that we do have to self-consciously tread very lightly when we discuss these matters. I do read what you write as encouraging us to know that if we have received saving grace we are God’s elect and need not fear that we are reprobates who have received something that we may lose. I think that we need to be painfully clear, though, in writing about these things, so that such encouaragement is manifest and that no one would properly speculate that he is reprobate and thus immune to saving grace. Some of these concerns along these lines are expressed in an upcoming article of mine to be published in New Horizons.

  2. January 21, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    [...] January 21, 2008 in Covenant, Justification, Pastoral Ministry According to Bob Mattes at GB. [...]

  3. David Gadbois said,

    January 21, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    I feel all warm and fuzzy inside – not just because you quoted Berkhof, but because you quoted Berkhof *and* Turretin. Or, as I call it, a cocktail of super-concentrated FV poison.

  4. dlw said,

    January 21, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Jacob and Esau were both covenant members. But God only chose and loved Jacob, while Esau was hated from the womb. I think an important issue is defining what the “covenant benefits” are. Salvation was never inherent in one’s admission to the covenant community. Common grace, yes. And there were non-Israelite members (such as servants) who were circumcized into the covenant community because of the familial, cultural, economic, and perhaps educatonal benefits that came with such membership. But there were also plenty of other covenant members who were considered reprobate, just as the historically reformed view holds. Thanks for the post!

  5. January 21, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Dr. Strange,

    Thank you for taking time to read and comment on my post. I look forward to your articles in New Horizons.

    One could take this phrase to imply that RCMs can in some sense be known by us (or themselves). I don’t think you believe this at all, but that interpretation presents itself as a potential.

    You are correct that I do not mean or believe that we can know who is reprobate. No one here has seen the Book of Life. That statement, and indeed the whole post, was designed to counter as directly as possible the Federal Vision errors that assign pseudo-saving benefits to the reprobate. It was written in a direct manner towards the core truth of the matter. Other approaches have proven singularly ineffective. I certainly agree with everything you said regarding the pastoral aspects of the issue.

    Thank you again for taking time to offer your wise counsel.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  6. January 21, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Hi David,

    I’ve always liked Berkhof, and used his Manual of Christian Doctrine to teach an advance adult course in Florida. To further warm your heart, though, I ordered Turretin’s Institutes after reading your posts. I’ve been very happy with the work and appreciate your recommendation.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  7. January 22, 2008 at 1:49 am

    [...] in the Visible Church…Again I published the subject post over on GreenBagginses. After seeing Federal Visionists continue to stumble at this simple point, I’ve penned a [...]

  8. R. F. White said,

    January 22, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Bob, based on your reading and correspondence with FVers, are you able to identify the factors that account for their (FVers’) preference for explanations of the RCMs other than those of Berkhof, Turretin, et al.?

    Also, see Douglas Wilson’s 01/21/08 blog “Hearing the Click,” in which he touches on this topic of covenant benefits for RCMs.

  9. pduggie said,

    January 22, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    You say “nothing even remotely resembles a saving grace”

    1. That would be hard to prove by your criteria, since you so set the bar so high for “resembling” a saving grace. Can you offer criteria whereby you could be persuaded that something resembles a saving grace without being one?

    2. “The visible church hath the privilege of … enjoying the communion of saints,”

    The commuinion of saints. Not “offers of the communion of saints”. But NECMs, by the confession, seem to actually ENJOY the communion of saints.

    NECMs commune with you as you commune with Christ. That’s getting pretty close to “resembling” a saving benefit, I’d say. A “real relationship”.

  10. pduggie said,

    January 22, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    “In this Church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance: of ambitious, avaricious, envious, evil-speaking men, some also of impurer lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because their guilt cannot be legally established, or because due strictness of discipline is not always observed.”

    Does Calvin here put pre-teens and teenagers in this category?

    Would stricter discipline, for Calvin, blessedly reduce the number of hypocritical teens and pre-teens?

    What stricter discipline would you recommends for the PCA to reduce the number of hypocritical teenagers?

  11. Mark T. said,

    January 22, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Pduggie,

    Your argument affirms that enjoying the communion of the saints is tantamount to a real relationship with Christ, because you confuse “communion of the saints” with “communion with Christ” and you exchange “saving benefit” with “saving grace.” Subtle move, but not honest.

  12. Mark T. said,

    January 22, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Dr. White,

    Regarding the analogy in your link, I would make a slight modification: A Federal Visionist stole the car and took it for a joyride while he was drunk.

    Thank you.

  13. pduggie said,

    January 22, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Do saints have communion with each other apart from Christ?

    Its entirely honest, BTW.

    I note I misquoted. Fine. replace every occurrence of “grace” with “benefit” in post 8.

    Or are we inventing a new category of “common benefits” held savingly by the elect and non-savingly by the non-elect?

  14. Roger Mann said,

    January 22, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    11: Mark T. wrote,

    Dr. White, Regarding the analogy in your link, I would make a slight modification: A Federal Visionist stole the car and took it for a joyride while he was drunk.

    Yes, but the FVists have fastened their seatbelts and heard the “click,” so they’re good to go (even though they’re three sheets to the wind!). Also, did you notice that the perfect “obedience of Christ” is imputed to both elect and reprobate covenant members in Wilson’s analogy?

    “Is the obedience of Christ given to the reprobate car-rider? Yes, but no click. Is the obedience of Christ rendered to every elect covenant member? Absolutely . . . and click.”

    They have both received the imputed righteousness of Christ. The only difference between the elect and reprobate is that the reprobate didn’t fasten their seatbelt properly!

    “We have all been expressly told to buckle up, and we have mostly done so. Some of those buckled have just shoved the thing in thoughtlessly, but the converted covenant members hear the click. That click makes all the difference, for everyone and in everything.”

  15. anneivy said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Certainly gives those with their seat belts securely fastened something to boast about, doesn’t it?

    What a good thing they’re smart and careful enough to fasten it correctly!

  16. Roger Mann said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Bob Mattes wrote,

    For the purposes of clarity and accuracy, I will join my orthodox brothers by referring to the Federal Visionists’ “Non-Elect Covenant Members” or NECMs by what they really are: “Reprobate Covenant Members” or RCMs.

    How can the reprobate be considered genuine covenant members, when the WLC clearly states that the covenant of grace was made solely with Christ and the elect in Him?

    Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?

    Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

  17. anneivy said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I thought the FV defines “the elect” in Q.31 to be those “elect to the Church”, not those “elect to eternal life.”

    Seeing as how if it’s indeed the latter, that lets the air out of the FV’s tires.

  18. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Roger, #15:

    So, all children of Christians are excluded from God’s covenant, as far as we know?

    Are you a Baptist? (honest question, I have no idea who you are)

  19. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Anne, #16:

    You show how little you actually know about the FV in every single post you make. It is astounding. Of course WC31 is referring to those predestined unto eternal life. You have not affected the air in my tires one bit.

  20. anneivy said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Well, Gabe, it’s not as if I’ve never seen people driving cars with one or two flat tires, presumably oblivious to the lack of air in them. ;-)

    The “elect” in Q. 31 being those elect unto eternal life ought to put the kibosh on the FV’s theological theory.

    It’s the same as how Christ’s clear statement that those who who do not believe, do not believe because they are not His sheep reallyought to put the kibosh on Arminian theology, but there it is….it doesn’t. Doesn’t even make a dent.

  21. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Gabe, re: 17,

    Regardless of Roger’s status as a Baptist or not (I don’t believe he is), where on earth does Roger imply that children of believers are excluded from the covenant? He is saying that the Catechism says the covenant of grace is made exclusively with the elect. He is not saying that children of believers are reprobate, is he?

    re: 18,

    This is just unnecessarily rude.

    re: 19,

    I would say this is indeed off-topic, but I’m not qualified to make the final determination. Mark T. does document his claims, and has explained his reasons for anonymity. This may not be very satisfying, and he may very well put his own spin on the documentation he provides, but there is nothing inherently dishonest or cowardly about anonymity. Sometimes simple prudence demands it.

  22. January 22, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    [...] Reprobate in the Visible Church…Again Posted January 22, 2008 A good post over at Greenbagginses. [...]

  23. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Anne, I agree with your interpretation of the Catechism.

    Kyle,
    If covenant children are not part of the covenant, how are they still covenant children? If they’re not part of the covenant of grace, what other covenant are they a part of? If we interpret the covenant as being made with Christ and the elect as meaning “people we know are elect,” then of course we don’t know if anyone is in the covenant of grace. I guess I’m trying to figure out what Roger means by referring to that Catechism question, so I can flesh out a little more what point it is he’s trying to make AGAINST the FV position.

    I don’t believe I was being rude to Anne, and I hope she didn’t take it that way. I’m merely making an observation that she continually says “the FV says this” without citation or anything like that, when it seems to me she may just be repeating “hearsay” from others. I find that to be tragic, and I wish we would all be more willing to question what someone believes before stating something without knowing for sure if its the case, aiding in even MORE hearsay and false information.

    There’s nothing “inherently” dishonest about being anonymous, this is right. There is a problem with being slanderous, lacking charity, and making broad accusations without allowing a person to respond to a Christian name. If you want to do anonymous reporting and conceal your identity (why anyone against the FV would need to do this is beyond me… it is FV supporters who should be afraid of being “found out” these days, not opponents to the FV), that’s fine, but don’t be a gutless, cowardly attacker of others’ integrity, status before God, and other such heinous, sinful things, under the cowardly protection of anonymity on the Internet. There is no way to “document” one’s “claims” with integrity or godliness when those claims are in regards to another minister’s salvation or anything of the like. God is not mocked, you reap what you sow.

  24. Machaira said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Gabe #17

    I think it’s a bit unfair to read something into Roger’s observation when clearly he said no such thing.

  25. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    There’s nothing fair in what I’ve said about Roger’s comments. His paragraph could just as easily have read:

    How can children be considered genuine covenant members, when the WLC clearly states that the covenant of grace was made solely with Christ and the elect in Him?

    I want to know his nuances in regards to this objection, if it could be called such. No one has given me a straight answer yet, and that’s all I want.

    If “reprobates” are not members of the covenant, ever, according to Rogers’ beliefs, then how can children be considered in the covenant either? A judgment of charity? Well, if that’s the case, then why would a person be wrong to treat ALL Christians as Christians, even those who may one day apostatize? Why is it wrong to say, “Christ died for you, dear one,” when we don’t know for a fact if they will persevere? Or is it wrong? Am I missing anything, here? Please share. Thank you.

  26. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    “There’s nothing un-fair…” is what I meant, of course. :)

  27. its.reed said,

    January 22, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Ref. #26:

    All, just a caution to keep the rein on your responses. No one’s going over the edge … just want to make sure we keep it that way.

    Please consider Gabe as offering an honest appeal for clarity, as he has said. Respond to him as if he’s trying to reason it out, not make brownie points (again, as he has stated).

    Roger, you might the best to respond at this point.

  28. January 22, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Dr. White, RE #8,

    You are a better person to answer those questions than I, but I’ll offer you my view. I see several threads centered on particular individuals. Most pertinent to the PCA is Wilkins. He seems to draw his theological system around children and baptism. He uses this approach to defend the error of paedocommunion, but in doing so he necessarily cuts a wider swath. If he is to confer saving benefits on baptized children, then by necessary inference he must do so for all reprobates in the visible church to be consistent. So he writes in “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation”:

    The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect-they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing. But their falling away doesn’t negate the reality of their standing prior to their apostasy. They were really and truly the elect of God because of their relationship with Christ.

    And, of course, they got there via baptism. The entire section of that essay under the heading “Covenant and Redemption” ties his “baptismal regeneration lite” to this flawed view of election and covenant. For Wilkins, all who are baptized are in union with Christ and get all the benefits of that union, save perseverance, as the quote in my post showed.

    Unrelated to the PCA, but since you brought him up, Wilson’s writings also tie it all back to baptism. Some of his earlier writings spoke to his concern that we were “lying” to the children we baptized if we didn’t ascribe to them all the benefits of Christ. For both Wilkins and Wilson, this includes paedocommunion. Hence the mythical “objective covenant.” They seem most unsatisfied with the historical Reformed treatment of these relationships, orthodox treatments which have withstood the test of almost 500 years of scrutiny.

    As for Wilson’s post, I saw that as well. It is just the cartoon version of the Wilkins quotes in my post. He even includes the IAOC:

    By “benefits of that covenant” let us use the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, but I believe the same thing applies to all the blessings of the covenant. The elect enjoys them with the result of ultimate salvation at the last day. The reprobate enjoys them temporarily as the common operations of the Spirit, to use the language of Westminster.

    Here Wilson clearly misunderstands the meaning of the phrase “common operations of the Spirit,” confusing it with the special operations given only to the elect. The Standards are quite clear on the difference, and the common operations have no part of the IAOC in them. Same old Federal Vision stuff which my post was written to refute.

    Again, you are far more qualified than I to comment on these trends. But thanks for asking.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  29. January 22, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    pduggie, RE #9,

    That would be hard to prove by your criteria, since you so set the bar so high for “resembling” a saving grace. Can you offer criteria whereby you could be persuaded that something resembles a saving grace without being one?

    No I can’t, because they don’t exist. I didn’t set the bar that high, Scripture did. The gap between common operations of the Spirit and saving grace would engulf the universe and still have room for more universes if they existed. Can’t get there from here.

    The commuinion of saints. Not “offers of the communion of saints”. But NECMs, by the confession, seem to actually ENJOY the communion of saints.

    To the best of my knowledge, communion with the saints is a pot luck, not a saving grace. OK, I exaggerated that a bit, but there’s a huge divide between communion with the saints and communion with Christ.

    NECMs commune with you as you commune with Christ. That’s getting pretty close to “resembling” a saving benefit, I’d say. A “real relationship”.

    I strongly disagree. You can’t become a whale by standing next to one. Only God can supernaturally make me one.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  30. Andrew Duggan said,

    January 22, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Paul, Are you so sure that enjoy means only to participate? Perhaps you might consider that RCMs can’t really enjoy the communion of saints because they cannot enjoy God. cf. WSC 1. While it’s man’s chief end to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, only the elect can attain that by the application of God’s grace in Christ. All men will glorify God (some as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction), but only those in Christ can (and do and will forever) enjoy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Do you think that those who cannot love or enjoy God, can enjoy communion or real fellowship with Christ’s saints? Really how does one really enjoy anything worth enjoying when one has dead cold heart of stone? The basis of all the communion of the saints with each other is their mutual glorifying and enjoying God in Christ.

  31. pduggie said,

    January 22, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Is the communion of saints a merely human, natural communion?

  32. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Gabe, re: 22,

    If covenant children are not part of the covenant, how are they still covenant children? If they’re not part of the covenant of grace, what other covenant are they a part of? If we interpret the covenant as being made with Christ and the elect as meaning “people we know are elect,” then of course we don’t know if anyone is in the covenant of grace. I guess I’m trying to figure out what Roger means by referring to that Catechism question, so I can flesh out a little more what point it is he’s trying to make AGAINST the FV position.

    FVers have frequently attributed (without adequate enumeration, it must be said) all sorts of “salvation-like” benefits to “non-elect covenant members.” NOT merely as a matter of pastoral treatment, but in distinguishing “non-elect covenant members” from “non-elect non-covenant members.” Hence the whole bit about NECM’s losing something “real,” or “falling from a state of grace,” when they apostasize. This is what Roger’s objection is germane to. Roger is not saying “covenant children” are not part of the covenant. What he is saying is that reprobates are not part of the covenant, only the elect are. I don’t see where this becomes “only those whom we know are elect.” You are either misreading Roger or reading too much into what he’s said.

    As for you comment to Anne, perhaps I misread the tone, but “You show how little you actually know about the FV in every single post you make. It is astounding” “sounds” rather rude to me.

    As for Mark T., anonymous or not, he documents what he says. If anyone really is worried about it, why not simply discredit his documentation? Is that really so hard to do? Why is he dismissed because he is anonymous? (And let’s not go on about a lack of charity. I’ve seen plenty of harsh words from Doug Wilson, Mark Horne, and James Jordan.) He’s not simply making “hit & run” comments as your typical anonymous internet persona. Indeed, he’s technically pseudonymous rather than anonymous, as he uses a consistent name for himself (which he does not pretend is real, for that matter), and he presents a consistent personality. I just find the objection to anonymity overly silly, and the more hysterics FVers get into over it the sillier I find it. (More so after I was personally accused of “effeminacy” when I said once that I find myself trusting Doug Wilson’s words less and less.) Provide documentation to counter his claims, and should that not be a sufficient response? So far, the only things done in response have been to accuse Mark T. of slander and threaten lawsuits against him for posting E-mails from a semi-private list. Anyway, I think it better that you take it up on Mark T.’s blog rather than here, because Mark T.’s integrity or lack thereof really is not on topic.

  33. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Pduggie (#29)

    Is the communion of saints a merely human, natural communion?

    That’s an excellent question. Back in my dispensational days, I would have said “yes.” But slowly over time, I realized that God cares about His *church*, which means that He cares simultaneously about the individuals who are truly his (cf. 2 Tim 2.9) and also about the body here on earth that bears his name — and that the two are distinguishable but not divisible.

    (To this extent, I agree with the FV; I just can’t go the last step of calling the Visible Church, “the Church.”)

    So now come back to 1 Cor 11-14 or Eph 4. It’s clear that God takes very seriously our obligations to one another; hence the judgment on those communing in an unworthy manner.

    So to whom are our obligations directed? The Visible Church. Whom ought we consider to be our fellow body members? Those who belong to the Visible Church.

    BUT

    Membership in the Visible Church is not the only piece of information we have about who truly belongs to Christ’s church. We also are permitted — even commanded — to look at the fruit borne by those members; and at times, if the fruit is completely out of character with the profession of faith, then (notwithstanding their baptism!) we have a duty to remove them from the VC. And members themselves are also to look at themselves and their profession and consider whether they truly believe (2 Cor 13.5); and if not, then to repent and believe.

    This may seem scattered, but here’s the point: the building up of the temple in Ephesians 2, which is the dwelling place of the Spirit and the true body of Christ, is a process that is God-directed and not entirely visible to us. The evidences I mention above allow us to discern *in part*, and so we have an obligation to conduct our fellowship according to the knowledge we have.

    And so the complicated, unable-to-be-simplified answer to your question is this: The communion of saints is divinely ordained, empowered by the Spirit, accomplishes the building up of the body of Christ, but is always limited by our imperfect knowledge of who really belongs in that body.

    To bring Paul’s language forward, Not all who are of the Church, are the Church. Saying that doesn’t deny the supernatural character of the fellowship of the saints. It just puts a necessary boundary on it.

    Jeff Cagle

  34. January 22, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    pduggie, #31,

    From Johannes Vos’ commentary on the Larger Catechism on Q63, page 140, covers this issue in the context of this question:

    What is meant by saying that the visible church enjoys the communion of the saints? This means that the members of the visible church receive encouragement and spiritual benefit from one another as they have fellowship with one another. It is extremely difficult to live a Christian life in isolation from other Christian people. But with friendship, encouragement, and support from other Christians, it becomes much less difficult.

    WCF 25.3 talks about the the visible church being “for the gathering and perfecting of the saints” amongst other things. Again the implication in this context is in earthly fellowship with fellow professors and possessors of the true faith. Remember that the visible church only exists on this earth in this life.

  35. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Kyle (#30): I’m reacting to your sentence below, but the comments are directed generally

    And let’s not go on about a lack of charity. I’ve seen plenty of harsh words from Doug Wilson, Mark Horne, and James Jordan.

    Why in the world should we not go on, and on and on, about a lack of charity?

    Let’s start with me; I’ve been rude, superior, and dismissive of my fellow elders on this blog. Not often, or egregiously, Lord willing — but I knew my heart. I could cite the posts, but I’m too lazy to search for them. Isn’t my lack of charity in those posts a metric for how shallowly Biblical doctrine has a hold on my heart?

    Weep with me a little, brothers, for our lack of charity as we argue over who gets to claim the title to the doctrines of grace.

    Is it “U.N.-like” to think that the Lord will hold us to account for every idle word? Is it “naive” to believe that “harsh words stir up anger”? Is it foolish or unsophisticated to recognize that we type things that we would never counsel our flocks to say to one another?

    We have to find a way, gentlemen, to say “I think you are wrong, and your positions are worth opposing”, without saying, “You’re a vile heretic.” Green Baggins is not a church court, and we don’t have the authority to make those declarations.

    Jeff Cagle

  36. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Jeff, re: 33,

    Why in the world should we not go on, and on and on, about a lack of charity?

    I understand what you’re saying. My point is that going on about Mark T.’s
    “lack of charity” is strikingly empty in light of some of the words from some of Federal Vision’s major promoters. Nothing more, nothing less. At any rate, for myself I shall leave that aspect of the discussion rest here.

    As I’ve said three times now, I don’t really think it’s on topic. (Not that I have an administrative say in the matter.) So, to move along:

    Roger, re: 15,

    I did want to ask you whether you think reprobates may participate in the outward administration of the covenant of grace, and what would be the important difference between saying that and using the terminology of “reprobate covenant member”?

    Personally, I think “reprobate member of the visible church” is a more precise term, and I’d wonder what you’d think of that, as well.

  37. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    The first part of #36 was meant in reply to Jeff’s #35, of course.

  38. January 22, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    OK, enough of the comments on anonymity and who may or may not suffer from “lack of charity”. Let’s stick to the subject of the post.

    Also, I’ve accepted two comments that were stuck in the queue early in the discussion. That caused the posts below them to be renumbered. Nothing I can do about that. Reference numbers may be one or two values too low, so please take that into account when tracing back. I know it’s annoying, but that’s the way WordPress works.

  39. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Well, Bob, that explains how my numbers got confused. Oh well!

  40. January 22, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Yeah, when threads start to run into the hundreds, it really starts to get confusing. I don’t think that the WordPress software can tell or even checks when an early comment is added late. Rather than use some intermediate numbering like 12.1 or 12a. for those situations, it just tosses them in and renumbers the entire comment set below that point. Just part of living in a fallen blogosphere, I guess.

  41. Gabe Martini said,

    January 22, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Roger is not saying “covenant children” are not part of the covenant. What he is saying is that reprobates are not part of the covenant, only the elect are.

    What about reprobate covenant children?

  42. Kyle said,

    January 22, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Gabe, re: 41,

    Well, evidently Roger thinks that reprobate children, even those in the visible church, are not members of the covenant of grace. If I am right, a judgment of charity hardly presents a challenge to his position (cf. your #25), but simply acknowledges the limits of the extent of our knowledge of God’s decree. So, if you are missing something, you’re missing that Roger has not concluded that we can only speak (for lack of a better term) “covenantally” to those whom we know to be elect.

    But Roger will perhaps have to clarify his position. I can only go on what he’s written thus far!

  43. pduggie said,

    January 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    “This means that the members of the visible church receive encouragement and spiritual benefit from one another as they have fellowship with one another.”

    Is Vos saying that the benefits are just like those experienced by a Rotarian club or a fraternity? The same “common grace” source? There’s no additional “oomph”?

  44. Roger Mann said,

    January 23, 2008 at 12:10 am

    18: Gabe wrote,

    Are you a Baptist? (honest question, I have no idea who you are)

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but this is the first chance I’ve had all day to get back to this blog. No, I’m not a Baptist, I’m a Presbyterian. My view on this issue is the same as explained by A.A. Hodge below:

    “The Calvinist view, therefore, is, that God having determined to save the elect out of the mass of the race fallen in Adam, appointed his Son to become incarnate in our nature; and as the Christ, or God-man Mediator, he appointed him to be the second Adam and representative head of redeemed humanity; and as such entered into a covenant with him and with his seed in him. In this covenant the Mediator assumes in behalf of his elect seed the broken conditions of the old covenant of works precisely as Adam left them. Adam had failed to obey, and therefore forfeited life; he had sinned, and therefore incurred the endless penalty of death. Christ therefore suffered the penalty, and extinguished in behalf of all whom he represented the claims of the old covenant; and at the same time he rendered a perfect vicarious obedience, which was the very condition upon which eternal life had been originally offered. All this Christ does as a principal party with God to the covenant, in acting as the representative of his own people…” (A.A. Hodge, Commentary on the WCF 7.3)

    So, all children of Christians are excluded from God’s covenant, as far as we know?

    No, the children of Christians are to be regarded as covenant members by virtue of God’s promise (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39), and are to receive the sign of the covenant by virtue of God’s command (Gen. 17:9-14; Col. 2:11-12). But this does not mean that God actually enters into covenant relationship with every child of believing parents (even those who are reprobate). This distinction is the main point of Romans 9:6-13 and Galatians 3:15-18, 22-29. It is not the “children of the flesh” that are counted as heirs of the covenant, “but the children of the promise [i.e., the elect] are counted as the seed” (Rom. 9:8). Even though God commanded Abraham to circumcise Ishmael with the sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:9-14), His covenant was only established with Isaac: “And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant…’” (Gen. 17:19). As WLC 31 states, “The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed” — not with every child of believing parents.

  45. Roger Mann said,

    January 23, 2008 at 12:12 am

    36: Kyle wrote,

    Roger, re: 15, I did want to ask you whether you think reprobates may participate in the outward administration of the covenant of grace, and what would be the important difference between saying that and using the terminology of “reprobate covenant member”?

    Yes, I believe that reprobates may (and do) “participate in the outward administration of the covenant of grace.” But this is quite different from saying that reprobates may be genuine members of the covenant. They are not and never have been, as I explained in my response (#44) to Gabe.

    Personally, I think “reprobate member of the visible church” is a more precise term, and I’d wonder what you’d think of that, as well.

    I agree that “reprobate member of the visible church” is a more accurate term.

  46. Gabe Martini said,

    January 23, 2008 at 6:07 am

    So the idea of “covenant breaking” is not a possibility, Roger? All those in the covenant of grace are so unconditionally? The new covenant is inviolable?

  47. January 23, 2008 at 6:17 am

    pduggie, RE #43,

    Is Vos saying that the benefits are just like those experienced by a Rotarian club or a fraternity? The same “common grace” source? There’s no additional “oomph”?

    That’s a silly implication. Have you ever read Vos? Then why impugn his orthodoxy? Vos explicitly supports every aspect of Q63 through 9 supporting questions, then concludes with:

    What is the importance of the visible church? Beyond question it is of very great importance. There are three divine institutions in this world: the church, the state, and the family. Each of these is supremely important in its own sphere. We should support the visible church faithfully because it is a divine institution, not merely a a human organization.

    My post clearly shows a gradation in steps from common grace for the entire planet, common operations of the Spirit limited to the visible church and shared by reprobates and the elect in that church, and the special saving operations of the Spirit only in the elect. This is my reading of Reformed orthodoxy, of which Vos is one of our honored Reformed fathers. One place where Federal Vision gets it wrong is in failing to make the proper distinction between common operations of the Spirit in the visible church in Q63 of the WLC and saving operations of the Spirit only in the elect in Q65-66.

  48. David Weiner said,

    January 23, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Gabe, re: #25,

    You ask “Why is it wrong to say, “Christ died for you, dear one,” when we don’t know for a fact if they will persevere?

    Well, first of all one has to decide the issue of limited atonement. But, without having to go there, it would seem that the more correct statement to make would be “Christ died for you, dear one, IF you believe God.” Then, going on to accurately explain what ‘believe in God’ means might be helpful to the child.

  49. its.reed said,

    January 23, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Ref. #47:

    Gabe:

    One of my concerns with the FV is in this area of how we are to treat (and talk with) our children.

    The FV proposes we say to our children, “since you’ve been baptized, you’re in the covenant. Since you’re in the covenant, you’re a Christian. Therefore, keep on believing in Jesus, or else.”

    My understanding of Scripture is somewhat different. I say to my children I believe are uncoverted, “In baptism God has given the sign of His covenant. This is His promise to you, if you believe. So call on Him, trust Him for His promise, that is ask Him to give you belief, and then keep on believing, and rest in His promises. There is no ‘or else.'”

    The FVers’ overreaction (my opinion) to decisional regeneration (seeing the boogey-man lurking under virtually every reformed pulpit in the land) lends them to discount what appears to me to be a biblical necessity for all; Acts 2:38, 39, Rom. 10:9, 10.

    Presumptive regeneration (necessary inference of FV doctrine) is as dangerous as decisional regeneration.

  50. David Weiner said,

    January 23, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Jeff, re: #33,

    You said many important things in this post (not at all surprising! :) ). I would like to ask about one of them. Your reference to 2 Timothy 2:9 was right on. It would be hard (but not impossible, of course) to imagine somebody misunderstanding that section as supporting your statement about God’s care for the elect.

    The last part of that sentence added that God cares “also about the body here on earth that bears his name” Do you have an equally sharp passage to support this assertion?

  51. David Weiner said,

    January 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Roger Mann, re: #44,

    I read your comment to suggest that a focus on ‘children of believers’ as being ‘in the covenant’ serves only to introduce confusion. Terms like descendants, seed and children do not remove the qualification of election. So, a child of a non-believer is no more in the covenant than the child of a believer if neither of them is elect. Am I understanding you correctly? If I have understood you correctly, then I wonder why we should regard them as covenant members as a result of a promise that does not apply to them if they are not elect?

  52. Roger Mann said,

    January 23, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    46: Gabe wrote,

    So the idea of “covenant breaking” is not a possibility, Roger? All those in the covenant of grace are so unconditionally? The new covenant is inviolable?

    Yes. That’s why Scripture teaches that all genuine members of the covenant of grace will persevere in the faith:

    “They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” (Jer. 32:38-40)

    “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Ezek. 36:26-27)

    “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 8:10-12)

    And that’s also why the Confession grounds the perseverance of the saints in part upon “the nature of the covenant of grace”:

    “This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.” (WCF 17.2)

    So how do we explain reprobate members of the visible church that apostatize?

    “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” (1 Jn. 2:19)

    Those reprobate members of the visible church that apostatize were never genuine “covenant members” — “for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.”

  53. Roger Mann said,

    January 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    51: David wrote,

    If I have understood you correctly, then I wonder why we should regard them as covenant members as a result of a promise that does not apply to them if they are not elect?

    I don’t have enough time to fully respond to your question today. However, the below quotation sums up my position fairly well. Hopefully it helps you understand where I’m coming from a little better:

    “Although all our children are in the sphere of the covenant [or “participate in the outward administration of the covenant of grace” -- RM] and therefore receive the sign of the covenant and are reared as covenant members, the covenant of God, the relationship of friendship in Jesus Christ, is established with the elect children only. The promise of the covenant is for the elect children only. The promise does not depend upon the faith of the child, but the promise itself works the faith by which the child receives the grace of the covenant in every child to whom God makes the promise. It is the elect children among our physical offspring who constitute our true children, even as the seed of Abraham was not all his physical descendants, but only Christ and those who are Christ’s according to election (cf. Gal. 3:7,16,29)…”

    “God realizes His covenant in the line of generations He gathers His church from age to age from the children of believers. As the Puritans were fond of saying, “God casts the line of election in the loins of godly parents.” For the sake of the elect children, all are baptized. It is the covenantal election of God that determines the viewpoint that believing parents and church take toward the children and that governs the approach in rearing them. We do not view them as unsaved heathens (“little vipers”), though there may well be vipers among them, any more than we view the congregation as a gathering of unbelievers because of the presence of unbelievers among the saints. But we view them as children of God…”

    “Viewing their children as God’s covenant children, believers must approach them as elect children in their teaching and discipline, even though there may indeed be reprobate and unregenerated children among them. Election determines the approach. All the children must receive the instruction that the regenerated must have and will profit from. By means of this rearing in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the covenant promise will work the fruit of conversion in the elect children.”

  54. pduggie said,

    January 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    So Rotarians experience common bonds, but this is not from the divine institution of the Rotarian club, but merely from common grace given by God.

    But the church experiences common bonds, and this is from its divine institution. But its with earthly professors, even false professors.

    So there’s something MORE to the experience of common bond for a false professor

    And that thing is the common union has a divine origin.

    But you refuse to stipulate that the false professor has any real experience of God? Why?

  55. January 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    pduggie,

    But you refuse to stipulate that the false professor has any real experience of God? Why?

    Oh, they have a real experience of God, but it is not salvation-like or pseudo-salvific gifts. It is called eternal condemnation. I think that I linked to several of my posts on that subject towards the end of the post above. Remember Jesus prayer in the Upper Room (Jn 17:8-10):

    “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

    Jesus isn’t praying for any reprobates, only the elect. He has lots to say about the reprobates, but you don’t need me to point them out to you.

  56. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    David (#50):

    The last part of that sentence added that God cares “also about the body here on earth that bears his name” Do you have an equally sharp passage to support this assertion?

    Pduggie (#54):

    So there’s something MORE to the experience of common bond for a false professor

    And that thing is the common union has a divine origin.

    But you refuse to stipulate that the false professor has any real experience of God? Why?

    The passages that persuade me the most that Christ cares for the Visible Church are these:

    * Rom 11 and 1 Cor 10-11 both show that Christ cares for the integrity of the Visible Church. If members either do not belong because of unbelief (Rom 11, 1 Cor 10) or because of disgraceful behavior (1 Cor 11), they are disciplined and even removed.
    * Passages such as Hebrews 13.7 give a certain amount of normative authority (qualified by Mark 10.42-43) to the leaders of the Visible Church. Likewise, the church discipline commanded in Matt. 18 makes sense only in the context of the Visible Church.
    * And finally, while we’ve focused a lot here on the parable of Wheat and Tares (Matt. 13) as indicating that the reprobate are reprobate from the start, it is *also* true that the parable shows God’s grace to the entire field — which I take to be the Visible Church — for the sake of the elect among it.
    * The entirety of the prophets show that God wrestles with Visible Israel as the one who *ought to be* the faithful bride, but isn’t. His solution: a faithful remnant. But he extracts out the remnant only after every other measure has been enacted (cf. Luke 13.1-9 and then vv. 34-35).

    So now Pduggie: I think the devil’s in the word “real experience.” I don’t think that question can be answered without de-equivocating the term. Pharaoh had a real experience of God, after all.

    What kinds of experiences of God can we stipulate from the Scriptures concerning the Tares? (I’m purposing to give up on NECM/RCM acronymology).

    How about these: They experience an exaggerated degree of common grace because of their proximity to the Wheat. They are the husbands and wives and children of the Wheat, and God seeks to build his body as a holy race — and thus He treats them with generosity and patience. We might compare here the trajectory of Chronicles, in which God treats the entirety of Visible Israel with patience.

    He also treats them, normatively, as holy. They are set apart and expected to act as God’s people, because they are, visibly, a part of His body.

    He also provides them with the regular experience of worship and his Word of promise.

    And He grants to them the honor of being called by His name.

    We can go this far, I think. At the same time, let’s set these boundaries:

    * Whatever experiences of God we might stipulate for the Tares, let’s agree that in the end, Jesus will say that “He never knew them.”
    * Let us also agree that those who are in the Church as reprobates do not actually belong there because of their unbelief, not because of their behavior. And thus, the Lord rightly disciplines them and removes them from the body for that cause.

    Here’s a final thought: perhaps, the experience of the Tares is so hard to nail down because it partakes simultaneously of grace and judgment. The dual nature of their experience happens because they attempt to have one foot in each kingdom. Unsurprisingly, that leads to a life that is in tension, and the discipline of the Lord, the eschatological judgment of the Lord (cf. the ministry of the prophets) is designed to resolve that tension and cause the Tares to fall out one way or the other: to repent and bear fruit, or to wither.

    If I could then critique the error of the credobaptists, it is that they attempt to “Tare-proof” their congregations by requiring a credible statement of Wheatness prior to baptism. Good luck with that.

    But if I were to critique the FV doctrine of the objective covenant, it is that they conflate the Wheat with the Tares. I don’t think that’s the intent (witness the high level of church discipline), but it’s the logical place to go if one believes that the Visible Church *is* the true Church of Christ and not an approximate church.

    Perhaps the high level of church discipline is a different way of trying to “Tare-proof” the congregation. I don’t know.

    But in any event, the boundaries I’ve mentioned above are, ISTM, some of the minimum standards for Biblical ecclesiology.

    Jeff Cagle

  57. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 23, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Bob (#56):

    …but it is not salvation-like or pseudo-salvific gifts. It is called eternal condemnation.

    See, I agree. And yet, somewhere in between pseudo-salvation and eternal condemnation, there is an exaggerated kind of common grace experienced by the Tares, yes? And at some level, it is genuine good-favor, yes?

    Jeff

  58. David R. McCrory said,

    January 23, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    “exaggerated kind of common grace ”

    I’d prefer intensified common grace, in the sense it is concrentrated within the very place God particularly gives grace, that is His church.

    Yet it always retains it’s common and non-salfivic attributes.

  59. pduggie said,

    January 23, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I overlooked my esteemed cousins remarks:

    “Do you think that those who cannot love or enjoy God, can enjoy communion or real fellowship with Christ’s saints? Really how does one really enjoy anything worth enjoying when one has dead cold heart of stone?”

    Jesus tells us that there are those who will receive his word with *joy*

    Pseudo-salvific is an excellent way to describe that I think. The seed did what it was supposed to: it grew and was lively, and produced joy. Until it whithers, it looks salvific.

  60. January 23, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Jeff,

    And yet, somewhere in between pseudo-salvation and eternal condemnation, there is an exaggerated kind of common grace experienced by the Tares, yes? And at some level, it is genuine good-favor, yes?

    Yes, the common operations of the Spirit in the visible church. The tares are not cut down until the final harvest. In the meantime, they share the general care that the farmer accords the crop, which is more than what the weeds by the road experience. WLC Q63 covers the extent of those benefits well.

    But they experience nothing like union with Christ, which is reserved solely for the elect. Not even pseudo-salvific benefits, which don’t exist except in the mythical “objective covenant” of Federal Visionists and in the theologies of Arminianism and the Roman church, all of which credit pseudo-salvific or even salvific benefits to the reprobates in the pews, though for different reasons.

  61. January 23, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    pduggie,

    Until it whithers, it looks salvific.

    It looked like it, but it wasn’t. That’s what Scripture and the Standards say, as well as a great cloud of Reformed witnesses already cited. A lot of mushrooms look alike, but you’d better be careful which ones you trust on your Philly steak sandwich.

  62. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 23, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Re: # 56
    Jeff, you’ve got to be one of my favorite dialogue partners ever (although partners rates my end of things to highly, since I pretty much just wind up agreeing with you). So, basically, I vote yes on measure 56 with a clear conscience…But I’ve been i.d.’ed as FV, so how does that work?

    Re: # 57
    That’s what I keep saying. And the question of why they are shown that good favor is important: is it at all connected with their participation in the covenant administration?

    Reading through all the comments here, I wonder whether we have taken into account the synecdoche that can be applied to the outward administration of the covenant. In the OT, circumcision is called “the covenant,” even though it is not the whole thing. The same thing seems to be happening here: the FV seems to be treating the administration as, in some sense (!), the covenant. Without faith, without election, does baptism just bounce off? Or does it really favor and obligate the baptized with and to something more than the ordinary pagan?

    And we’re back to the issue of “salvation-like” or “regeneration-like,” on which Reed and I went round and round…I would just agree with #57 & 59 on that issue of “likeness.” These benefits do look saving, and aren’t really…

  63. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 23, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Re: #60

    I don’t see what the problem is with calling them “pseudo-salvific,” since “pseudo” means “false.” They are “pseudo,” precisely because they look like some salvific benefits, but aren’t really. I would say they are false, because the RCM, acting in his own, works-oriented human nature, trusts them for his salvation rather than looking along them to the work of God. So, with baptism, he fundamentally believes: “I must be saved, since I got up in front of the church and was baptized,” rather than “My baptism points to Christ, who underwent the judgment-waters of death on my behalf…” The reprobate really believes the former, even though he may say the latter (and there may be some elect who believe the latter, even though they say the former!).

  64. Seth Foster said,

    January 23, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    My understanding of the wheat and the tares is that Jesus in His parable was not referring to the church but to the world. See Matthew 13:38. If we do try to apply this parable to the visible church, then can we assume that the visible church is not the true church but rather a smaller microcosm of the world? If that is the case, then isn’t this whole discussion of elect and non-elect covenant members an exercise in futility?

    I discovered a new and very insightful blog entitled “Into the Light: Exposing the Darkness of the Federal Vision”. In the very first post, the writer makes the case that the visible church is not the true church, but like the Roman Catholic Church, is a “baseless fabrication” of the Federal Vision.
    http://www.neh-intothelight.blogspot.com .

  65. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 23, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    And a comment about Wilson’s seat belt analogy:

    The ‘click’ is not our works, but rather the opposite–if the seat belt clicks, we are relying on it to do its job in keeping us safe. But if it doesn’t click, we are holding the seat belt on by ourselves, relying on our own strength to hold on to the belt, which simply won’t work. We must let the seat belt do its work, not focus on our own hanging on really tight in a crash.

    Maybe that’s too charitable, or not what Wilson has in mind, but that’s just a cursory observation…

  66. January 23, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Joshua,

    Here’s what Wilson says:

    We are all in the car, we all have a seat, we all have equal access to the drinks and snacks in the cooler, and we are all buckled up, except for some sons of Belial in the way back. We have all been expressly told to buckle up, and we have mostly done so. Some of those buckled have just shoved the thing in thoughtlessly, but the converted covenant members hear the click. That click makes all the difference, for everyone and in everything. [bold added]

    Sounds like buckling involves works to me. The reprobate just don’t shove the buckle in until it clicks.

  67. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 23, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    #64 Seth — my attempt to get to that URL didn’t “click.”

    Jeff

  68. Seth Foster said,

    January 23, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I think the period at the end of the sentence messed it up. Try again:
    http://www.neh-intothelight.blogspot.com

  69. January 23, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Yep, that was it. Apparently WordPress converts urls into links automatically if it recognizes them, but includes any following punctuation. So, all I did was put a space after the url and before the period. WordPress must end the url upon encountering the first space or paragraph mark. For future reference.

    That is an interesting blog.

  70. David Weiner said,

    January 24, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Jeff, re: #56,

    Please believe me that I am not trying to be argumentative for I do truly value your thoughts. Your statement about God’s care for each of His elect was just so clearly and simply supported by your reference to 2 Timothy 2. The support of your parallel statement about God’s care for the visible church is of an entirely different sort. For example, to use Hebrews 11 as support requires one to interpret figurative language to see the message of God’s care of the visible church. In fact, the word church or visible is nowhere in site in this chapter. Am I imagining a difference in the way one must support each of these two statements? Can these two areas of God’s care really be equivalently true and yet require such different use of Scripture to support them?

  71. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Hi David,

    I intended Romans 11 rather than Hebrews 11. Does that help?

    Jeff

  72. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Re: #66

    Dude, it’s an analogy. No one said it was perfect. You don’t want us to push the details of figurative language like the parable of the unforgiving servant, but you’ll take a detail of an analogy as definitive evidence of theology? And no, I’m not comparing Wilson to Jesus here, just the types of language…

    In the third comment on that post, Wilson seems pretty clear that what makes the seatbelt click is faith, which is in fact something we do (although it is only instrumental, not meritorious).

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Josh (#62):

    Thanks for your kindness. I’ve enjoyed our discussions as well.

    In general, I find this debate has forced me to really probe the language of the back half of the Confession and reckon with its Biblical backing.

    I’ve been i.d.’ed as FV, so how does that work?

    Fight the power; resist the labels ;). I take the FV on an idea-for-idea basis. The ones that seem really objectionable, I object to. And not all are in that category (IMO).

    Jeff Cagle

  74. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Re: #56

    Jeff, should we put Eph. 5:25ff. in the mix, or is this passage referring only to the invisible church?

  75. January 24, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Joshua, RE #72,

    Wilson want to squeeze the sap out of Jn 15:2 into the mouths of the reprobate, so I’m just going by his record. His point in the post about the IAOC being credited to both the elect and the reprobate, even if only for a season to the latter, says enough for me.

  76. David Weiner said,

    January 24, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Jeff, re: 71,

    Spelling was never one of my strong points! I too meant Romans 11 ;) . So, I am still left troubled that I don’t see the visible church there except through creative interpretations. And, that just doesn’t seem the way that God gives us truth. Pictures yes; fundamental truth, I just don’t think so.

  77. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Oh, OK.

    Well, let’s see how much agreement we can achieve via good and necessary inference.

    Agree or disagree?

    (1) Hebrews 13.7 is talking about the visible leaders of the church. All who are within the audience of Hebrews owe those leaders respect.

    (2) If one begins the discipline process (Matt. 18.15ff) with someone in the church (“Fred”), then his obligation to go to Fred is grounded in Fred’s visible membership in the church.

    (3) The parable of wheat and tares positively teaches that there are some reprobate who are both (a) within the kingdom, and (b) not uprooted for the sake of the elect.

    Exegetical note: Seth makes the valid point that the field is identified as ‘the world'; but it is also identified as ‘the kingdom of God’ both in the parable itself in v. 24 but also in the explanation in v. 41. “…they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” So I don’t know exactly why Jesus alternated between those two (“The universe is God’s kingdom” seems reasonable, but so does viewing the field as an almost literal census of the world, which would include therefore reprobate church members), but my point was simply that there *are* Tares within the kingdom of God currently.

    (4) Romans 11 positively teaches that Israel, the children of Abraham (both natural and ‘grafted’ or ‘adopted’) is holy. Additionally, Romans 11 teaches that some of Israel is broken off because of unbelief. Hence it follows that the tree as a whole in Romans 11 is certainly not limited to the elect. I think the only other available option is the visible people of God.

    (5) God in Hosea addresses all of those within the nation of Israel despite the fact that many of them are reprobate. For example:

    The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

    (6) God disciplines the Corinthians in 1 Cor 11 because of their behavior (i.e., failure of moral obligations) towards their fellow visible church members.

    (7) The children and spouses of believers are considered holy for the sake of their believing family members (1 Cor 7.14).

    Here, I would argue that the imagery confirms the positive teaching: that the visible people of God is (a) the instrument that administers discipline, (b) not entirely subject to purification for the sake of the elect, (c) considered holy (i.e., set apart) because of their membership in the church, (d) cared for by God even though not entirely purely consisting of believers.

    Jeff Cagle

  78. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Joshua (#74):

    Should we put Eph. 5:25ff. in the mix, or is this passage referring only to the invisible church?

    Well, here’s my take: Paul is referring to “the church”, and if we look from the outside and ask “whom should we consider the object of our obligations as church members?” (Thinking about Eph. 4, for example), the answer should be “all who claim the name of Christ.”

    But if were to have God’s perspective and ask, “who actually belongs? For whom did Christ actually give himself?”, the answer is “all who are actually united to Christ as head.”

    Is that what you were asking? I realize it’s a “both/and” kind of answer, but that’s the nature of the visible/invisible distinction.

    Jeff Cagle

  79. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 24, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Jeff, I’m totally comfortable with both/and answers.

    I suppose my question was more how we deal with the individual/corporate aspect: Christ gave himself for the one bride, which is the church. Now, this cannot simply mean the elect, the regenerate, or the justified (and remember that I’m only using that term in the WCF sense) *considered as* elect, etc., because from the divine standpoint, that church is already without blemish, since she receives her perfect righteousness from her husband and head. So, the church that Christ gave himself for is not the church viewed as elect, but viewed as historical, since it still contains blemishes and spots. Are those blemishes and spots
    1) the continuing sins and sinful tendencies of the elect? or
    2) the unregenerate, false “sons” in the church? That is, are the spots and blemishes in Paul’s analogy the same as the tares in that parable?

    Or is there a third option?

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I think a third option close to the other two, found by questioning the syllogism:

    JWDS:

    (1) From a divine standpoint, the church is already without blemish (certainly supported by Eph. 5 and Rev. 20).
    (2) And she receives that righteousness from the groom (ditto, and more).
    (3) Thus, “the church that Christ gave himself for is not the church viewed as elect.”

    (3) is hard for me to see from (1) and (2). In fact, 5.25-26, “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…” seems to state that Christ gives Himself for the church as it is, in order that it becomes the church as it should be in glory. The metaphor drives this also; the husband gives himself for the wife, with her spots and imperfections, seeing her as one with himself.

    So it is the church with its imperfections that Christ gives himself for, similar to (3), but the end result of the giving is the elect church in glory. He unites himself to imperfection with the result of perfection. So at the beginning of the process, it is an imperfect church to whom He unites himself; at the end, a perfect one.

    So what do the imperfections consist of? At minimum, I would link in the behaviors mentioned in 4.17 – 5.20.

    The real question is whether we might also include the false teachers of 4.14. That is, should we read Eph. 5.25ff as if Christ gives himself for “the Church as we see it”? And the cleansing process as including pruning off of unclean branches?

    If we do, then we start asking questions like “So does Christ unite himself to non-saved people?”, and the whole FV cycle starts up again.

    On reflection, I don’t think so. Jesus’ declaration “I never knew you” is so stark that it makes it hard to read visible membership in the church as an “in some sense” union with Christ. Ditto the words of Rom. 2.28,29 and 9.6,7.

    Better to say this, perhaps: The church consists of people; it is not an empty container into which people fit. BUT, if we treat the whole church as an aggregate, its boundaries are fuzzy.

    And so if churchman Fred asks me, “Did Christ give himself for me?”, then he’s asking a question about the boundaries: “On which side do I fit?”

    The FV answer is, “You’re baptized and in good standing; you’re in.”

    I would say, “You’re baptized and in good standing. Do you believe the promises of Christ? Do you walk consistently with those promises? Then you have great confidence. And if you fear — Jesus doesn’t cast out those who come to him. So take the fears and ask him to help your unbelief.”

    OTOH, if churchman George comes to me and says, “I don’t need to be reconciled to Fred even though I insulted his mother. He’s a rank heretic. He doesn’t belong in the church.” At that point, I would say, “You don’t have access to that knowledge. He’s a member in good standing; as far as you know, he’s a brother. Matt. 18.15 applies to you; go to it.”

    And then church discipline can and should deal with George’s rank heresy, if applicable.

    I don’t know whether that answers the question. Summary: Eph. 5.25ff refers I think to the elect, but only seen from God’s side of the ledger (which we can’t see). And so the cleansing process is primarily removing the imperfections of the elect.

    But it is possible that I’ve overly restricted it here.

    Jeff Cagle

  81. David Weiner said,

    January 24, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Jeff, re: # 77,

    First, thank you for your effort in putting together a very clear and logical basis for the view I am questioning. I’ll try to deal with each of your points (briefly ;) ) and then the conclusion:

    1. Hebrews 13:1-7 is a listing of things to do. Verse 7 seems to me to say remember those who led you and spoke the Word of God to you. The reason for remembering them is so that you can copy their faith if fruit in the lives of these leaders was visible. It wouldn’t seem to make sense to tell this to unbelievers; so, I conclude that it is spoken to believers. The fact of there being RCM in their visible church would not change this.

    2. Church discipline is clearly about restoring visible people to a right standing within the fellowship in which both parties worship. Trying to restore one who is an RCM is an effort in futility. The RCM can not understand the things of God. So, again, discipline is about believers dealing with believers. When one is put out of a fellowship, enough has gone on (hopefully) so that the possibility that that one is an RCM is fairly high. We, of course, can never be sure of such things.

    3. Wheat/tares. The issue here seems to hinge on one’s understanding of kingdom in the context of this parable. In verse 24 the kingdom of the heavens is compared to a man who did something. I don’t see it being compared to the field or the world or the visible church. Let me ask you this: At the end of the age is it only the reprobate in the visible church who are burned with fire? As far as here and now, I doubt that we would disagree that there are tares in the world (i.e., planet earth) and that there are tares in the visible church. And, that Jesus has authority (kingdom rule) over all of this.

    4. Romans 11: Agreed, Israel was holy, set apart, for God. Agreed, some (most?) of Israel were not saved because of their unbelief. Agreed, the tree is not limited to the elect; it never was. God set Israel apart; but, did not purify it. It always contained a mixture of saved and lost people. So, I believe we agree on much of what you say here. Where I think we begin to diverge is when you say “I think the only other available option is the visible people of God.” To say that the tree is a metaphor for the visible church is to say too much, IMHO. True, all people are God’s people (hold on, here it comes ;) ) in the sense that He is their creator. But, the tree is the realm of all humanity to whom God is now offering salvation. Many won’t accept it; but, they are in the right place to accept it. The church is something all together different. The real church, that is. And, yes, I agree that all we can see is the visible church. However, that does not change what the church is, the bride, the body, etc. Not a bunch of RCM in it at all.

    5. Hosea: We agree that God is dealing with the nation as an entity and not as individuals. The problem comes when the physical nation and God’s dealings with it is morphed into the visible church.

    6. 1 Cor 11: Verse 1 says that the ones to whom Paul is writing should imitate him as he imitates Christ. Can an RCM possibly imitate Paul in this way? The church most likely had RCM; but, Paul is not talking to them, at least in this chapter.

    7. 1 Cor 7:14: Being set apart (holy) and being declared righteous are not the same things. Being sanctified and being declared righteous are not the same things.

    I guess it all boils down to who are being addressed in the Epistles. I say the saved, the body, the church, the elect, etc. You say the mixed group (saved and unsaved) who attend or gather at location xyz. Since we can’t find a Scripture (not a proof text) that clearly shows that God cares for the visible church in the same way that He cares for the nation of Israel, then I guess we are forced to agree to disagree.

  82. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    David (#81): I’m willing to agree to disagree, but I’ll give it one more round for the sake of not talking past one another and also because I’m stubborn (I had “slightly stubborn” and decided to be honest about it). :)

    (1) I’m not saying that Hebrews 13.7 is *addressed* to unbelievers within the church (although Heb 6 and 10 suggest strongly that that might be the case). Rather, I’m saying that the *object* of the command — the leaders of the church — are part of the visible government of that church.

    That is to say, the Hebrews owe due respect to real people, without having the benefit of slapping on a salvation-o-meter to see whether or not those leaders are truly elect or not.

    Hence, we see God’s concern to show a certain measure of honor to the visible church in the form of its government.

    (2) Similar story. Granted that restoring a reprobate may not be possible (I think “impossible” is too strong a word; even unbelievers can make up after quarrels!), still and all, the *object* of the command is my fellow professing believer, and I must approach him without the benefit of knowing whether he is elect or not.

    Hence, we see God’s concern for the fellowship of the visible church.

    (3) We’re not far apart, as long as we agree that there *are* tares within the kingdom, acc. to Matt. 13.41.

    (4) To say that the tree is a metaphor for the visible church is to say too much, IMHO. True, all people are God’s people (hold on, here it comes ;) ) in the sense that He is their creator. But, the tree is the realm of all humanity to whom God is now offering salvation. Unnhh… I think there are three excellent reasons to believe that the tree is Israel.

    First, the topic of the entire section is Israel (ch. 9-11).

    Second, if the tree is all of humanity, then what are we to make of branches grafted in? Did non-humans become humans? Or branches broken off because of unbelief? Did the non-believers lose their share in humanity?

    Or more reasonably, are the natural branches and the grafted branches the Jews and Gentiles respectively?

    And third, after Paul speaks of re-grafting the natural branches, he then becomes explicit: there is to be a hardening of the Israelites until the full number of Gentiles has come in.

    I submit that this one text alone serves as a proof-text that there is a nation (Abraham’s children) who are cared for by God and yet who are not all, “head-for-head”, believers, but who *should* be believers. And thus, are pruned out if not.

    (5) The problem comes when the physical nation and God’s dealings with it is morphed into the visible church.

    Yes, that is certainly one of the “big problems” of Protestantism. Let me take aim at one extreme solution without necessarily attributing it to you.

    The Darby, Chafer, and Ryrie schools of dispensationalism divided up Israel and the Church along the lines of physical v. spiritual. Israel, it was said, was the “physical people of God”, and the Church was the “spiritual people of God.” There were a variety of reasons for doing this, but one of the primary ones was to give new life to the old Anabaptist arguments against infant baptism.

    IB, it was alleged, led to a corruption of the church by admitting people into fellowship without first discerning whether or not they believed. And thus we had churches that were filled with people who thought they were Christians (because of their baptism) but weren’t really. And that, the critique went, was the major explanation for the coldness in English and American churches.

    The proposed solution was to “recognize” that Israel and the Church operated on two entirely separate principles; the first, by physical generation, a physical governmental structure, a physical sign of circumcision, physical sacrifices, a physical temple, &c. And the second, by spiritual rebirth, a fellowship of saints, a spiritual sign of baptism, a belief in the final sacrifice, participation in the temple of the Spirit, &c.

    And of course, the end-result was separate physical and heavenly destinies for the two, culminating in pre-Trib, pre-Mill. eschatology.

    If one listens to John MacArthur’s sermons on baptism, basically argues that IB leads to the corruption of the church along these lines.

    It turned out that there were multiple problems with the Dispie solution, which ultimately led to a tremendous softening of the position in the ’90s by Bock and Blaising.

    The one problem I want to focus on here is this: The “physical nation of Israel” as constituted under the Law, replete with sacrifices and temple and so on, came 400+ years after the giving of the Covenant to Abraham.

    And the Scripture is crystal-clear in at least two places (Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4) that we who are in Christ are participants in the covenant with Abraham.

    That is to say, the fulfillment of the Law in Christ, which we all agree to, still and all does not negate the promise made to Abraham and our participation in it. Gal. 3.17 and 4.28 are pointed prooftexts here.

    (The dispensationalist response to this argument, BTW, is to claim that we are “spiritual descendents” of Abraham, not “physical ones.” Too bad the Scripture doesn’t actually come out and say that, then — not once.)

    Now the promise to Abraham was the same (only bigger!) as the promise to Eve: the promise of a seed. Of a family. Of a nation. Of many nations. And we participate in that promise!

    And that means our children participate as well, both the believing ones and unbelieving ones.

    BUT

    The unbelieving ones, like Esau, are not suffered to participate forever. But until such time as they are removed as branches, they are family. (This will connect to (7) below).

    (6) 1 Cor 11 is big. What I had in mind was the discussion of communion in vv. 17-33. That discussion is complicated, but a large point stands out: the Corinthians owed the debt of love to all within the church, and they were disciplined because they failed to honor that debt. As with (1) and (2) above, they did not have the benefit of a salvation-o-meter to determine who within their fellowship really belonged (and anyways, can you imagine what havoc would be caused in the Corinthian church by attempts to ferret out the non-believers?!).

    (7) Being set apart (holy) and being declared righteous are not the same things. Being sanctified and being declared righteous are not the same things.

    Total agreement, and I would rush to say that “sanctified” here is certainly not intended to be a synonym with “dead to sin”, nor does it entail justification. Absolutely.

    Instead, being holy entails being attached to the family of God in a non-salvific sense (cf. vv. 15,16). And for the children, it entails being treated as participants in the covenant like Jacob and Esau, without the benefit of knowing who is which.

    In short, this is “normative holiness” — being set apart because you *should* believe, not because you necessarily *do*. Exactly as Israel (corporately) was holy.

    To wrap up and forestall one other misunderstanding, when I’m talking about the visible church, I’m not talking about an entity entirely separate from the invisible church.

    Instead, I’m talking about the Church as we see it in space and time, with the recognition that our sight is not God’s sight.

    And because of that fact, corresponding to a “now/not yet” kind of knowledge as per 1 Cor 13, we are somewhat conflicted in our dealings with the church.

    If we consider our ethical obligations to God’s people, we must affirm that those obligations are due to all who are members of the church *as we see it* — the Church in its visible aspect.

    But at the same time, we are called to discern by means of fruit and profession of faith whether or not those members really, actually belong to the Church. And if not, then church discipline is appropriate.

    So “the visible Church” is not a different church from the invisible; it is “the Church” as we see it.

    Long-winded; does it help?

    Jeff

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 24, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Bob, can you fix my italics tag?

  84. jedidiah said,

    January 25, 2008 at 12:25 am

    I find it interesting that in so many discussions that appeal to Calvin on the covenant, discipline and sacraments that I have never heard or seen reference made to how he and the Genevan Presbyters ruled the Genevan Church. The Registers of the Consistory of Geneva at the Time of Calvin: Volume 1: 1542-1544, edited by Kingdon, Lambert and Watt are highly instructive in this regard and help evaluate hagiographical statements made about tight discipline in the covenant community at Geneva. I highly recommend picking up this valuable work, not only for its ability to create a realistic picture of how Calvin and the Consistory dealt with bad Christians but also because it is just plain enjoyable reading at times. I don’t think one can make definite conclusions from it but I can say that at times it surprised this reader how, shall I say, relatively lax Calvin was when it came to admitting people to the sacraments. Abysmal theological error or ignorance receives what might be considered a mere slap on the wrist at times.

  85. January 25, 2008 at 6:33 am

    Jeff,

    Sure, but which one? I didn’t see any obvious tag errors.

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 25, 2008 at 8:15 am

    The tag after “humanity” in point (4), post #82. I didn’t intend to italicize entire paragraphs!

  87. January 25, 2008 at 8:37 am

    OK, got it.

  88. Ron said,

    January 25, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Federal Vision (FV) theology borrows from Augustine at his worst while departing from Calvin and the Reformed confessions at their best. FV is correct that perseverance is a gift given to the elect alone but where the system is terribly flawed is in its doctrine of regeneration, which suggests that the reprobate can, for a season, enjoy the grace of faith and union with Christ prior to falling away. Consequently, the FV has no place to ground the assurance of salvation that is available to the regenerate because the system allows for the reprobate to receive the same measure of regeneration and faith as the elect. Assurance becomes predicated upon the secret decree of perseverance, which cannot be known being a secret! All of which stands in stark contrast to the biblical teaching, that the Holy Spirit bears witness with the believer’s spirit according to the unambiguous word of promise that all who God calls, He justifies and will glorify.

    If FV has brought something new to the church that exceeds the theological precision and exhaustiveness of the Reformed confessions, then what is it that its proponents have discovered? The simple answer is that the FV movement has brought nothing new to the church but rather denies what the Reformers taught. What is most disruptive is that FV’ists claim the tradition of the Reformers only to turn around and deny what they taught, and even died for.

    Ron

  89. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Jeff,
    I was afraid that my post wasn’t clear even as I posted it. Thanks for clarifying it, since essentially what I was trying to say was:

    “So it is the church with its imperfections that Christ gives himself for, similar to (3), but the end result of the giving is the elect church in glory. He unites himself to imperfection with the result of perfection. So at the beginning of the process, it is an imperfect church to whom He unites himself; at the end, a perfect one.”

    But I’m not willing to resolve the tension between, say, John 15 and Matt. 7, as you are, by saying essentially that “I never knew you” trumps “if anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch,” so the latter cannot be talking about union with Christ in any sense–at least in historical perspective.

    I agree with your approach to Fred and George as stated, but it seems to me that your response to Fred was much like that of the FV–I don’t think they leave it practically at “You’re baptized and in good standing: you’re in.” Wilson and Leithart, for example, have posted communion reflections, which exhort people to diligence in faith, not simply to contentment in their baptism and standing. To continue the question, however, what would you say to George about his own schism and divisiveness? It seems clear that he is justifying himself by his correct theology: how do we apply the medicine of the word to such a person?

    Thanks as always for your interaction…

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 25, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Josh (#89):

    …it seems to me that your response to Fred was much like that of the FV–I don’t think they leave it practically at “You’re baptized and in good standing: you’re in.”

    Great! Certainly, my discussions with Xon have taken the direction of multiple confirming evidences also. I guess I was reflecting certain statements in “TFV” that appear to place the entire weight of assurance on baptism and membership (cites available on request; I don’t have the book here with me).

    But I’m not willing to resolve the tension between, say, John 15 and Matt. 7, as you are, by saying essentially that “I never knew you” trumps “if anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away as a branch,” so the latter cannot be talking about union with Christ in any sense–at least in historical perspective.

    Well, let’s refine this. I would not want to think about passages as competitors who can trump one another (“I’ve got the ACE of John!” “HaHa — I have the two of ROMANS!”), so if I communicated that, I should backtrack. Rather, I see Matt 7 as a boundary that shapes our understanding of justification and union. So is John 15. And because Matt 7.23 appears to be very clear, it might, I suppose, “trump” John 15 only in the sense that the imagery of John 15 is more flexible and therefore subject to a broader range of interpretation. But not in the sense that it’s more true or anything like that. (essentially, WCoF 1.9).

    FWIW, I would see the branches in Rom 11 to be very parallel to the branches in John 15 (there’s some dim bell ringing in my mind that that’s a controversial point, but I don’t remember the arguments). And in Rom 9-11, it is clear that the unbelievers are “not Israel.”

    But, John 15 clearly does not mean nothing at all! The unfruitful branches are “in him” and thus do not have the status of those outside the people of God entirely.

    So…what are the options?

    Wilkins opts for making John 15 a clear statement of union with Christ. This suffers from a double problem. First, the phrase “union with Christ” is not, strictly speaking, a Biblical one. Instead, it is an invented theological term with a history. And so then we walk down the road of “is he using it in a way that is consistent with historical usage?”, etc. Second, having made the exegetical choice to read “in me” as a statement of union, he draws theological conclusions that lead down the road of “objective covenantal” features that are just too hard for me to understand in a Confessional light. In my view, while Wilkins does not *believe* in temporary justification, his reading of Eph 1 and John 15 seems to require it. Maybe I’m just not clear yet.

    But also, Wilkins’ view here that the branches “really do get the life-giving sap” runs counter to all of Jesus’ other agricultural metaphors. In every one that I’ve examined, the basic point has been “the fruit is the evidence of the root.” And Wilkins’ reading would have me understand that these fruitless branches have the good root of Christ, but bear no fruit anyway. Unnhh…

    OK.

    Lane, OTOH, puts forward the idea of branches being “administratively” in Christ; that is, they are members of the visible church only. This appears to solve the problems with Wilkins’ view. BUT, the primary objection to that view is that it leads to head-hurting questions like “So, I can be attached to Christ’s body, but I’m not united to him?”

    I think the answer to those questions could be “Yes, in the same sense as Matthew 7.”

    But along the way I would perhaps tweak Lane’s solution like this: the branches aren’t so much “members of the visible church” as they are “visibly members of the church.”

    In other words, it’s not that these branches belong to a completely different entity called “The Visible Church.” Rather, in our creaturely knowledge and maybe even their own creaturely knowledge, these branches have every appearance of being in Christ like the legitimate members of the Church.

    Except they aren’t. But they *should be*.

    Does that make them “branches stuck to the tree with Scotch tape”? I can swallow the charge if so, but I would say rather that they are branches stuck to the tree with some kind of invisible adhesive; we can’t tell it at first, but they aren’t getting any sap and therefore don’t bear any fruit.

    And visibly, therefore, God treats them with an accentuated measure of common grace. Simply being on the vine does bring benefits, like the birds in the branches of the mustard tree. The sap flows right past them, near enough to taste.

    …what would you say to George about his own schism and divisiveness? It seems clear that he is justifying himself by his correct theology: how do we apply the medicine of the word to such a person?

    Yes, I agree. The exhortation to Matt. 18.15 is just the first step of many…

    Thanks as always for your interaction…

    Likewise, brother.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  91. David Weiner said,

    January 25, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    Jeff, re: 82,

    I am certainly glad that you are so stubborn ;) ; I really didn’t want to let this one go yet either. If I may be so bold at the outset as to very tersely state our two views: You – God cares for the visible church. Me – God cares for the elect in the visible church.

    1) Hebrews 13:7 – I partially agree. God has ordained local church leaders; we are surely together on that. And, of course, they are real flesh and bones, visible people. They are there to be shepherds, to guide the flock, to build up the flock, etc. And, of course, we agree that there is no salvation-o-meter. But, even though God is sovereign, He tells the Hebrews in verse 7 to use their (God given) discernment to decide if they ought to emulate these leaders depending on the fruits they see. An unbeliever can not possibly do this. Further, God does not say, ‘honor whomever may show up to preach today.’

    Now, here is where we seem to diverge. I say that God is talking to believers, only believers. Sure there are others within earshot; but, they are not the focus. God is interested in His own and their edification. Nowhere, do I see here that we are to honor the reprobate church leader! Or, that we are to take into account the opinions of the reprobate church member. We are to do our best with the spiritual discernment God gives us to weed them out. Nowhere are we told to wait until the angels come to harvest the tares. Please understand that I don’t mean to infer that you are supporting any of these three-sigma kinds of approaches that I am condemning here. But, your view does seem to lean more towards this idea of the visible mixed church being what is in focus rather than the real part of the visible mixed church as God works through it to purify it.

    2) Yes, God is concerned about the fellowship of the visible church. Yet, the main issue here would not seem to be quarrels between sinning members. That ought to be dealt with and quickly by those who are (to the best of our ability to discern them) the spiritual leaders. I don’t think we disagree there. The issue seems to be what to make of the non-elect member of the visible church vis-a-vis fellowship. That person can not deal with their sin. So, discipline makes no sense in their case. Removal is the only solution until they are given the faith they need to believe. Please don’t read this to say that we should set up nice little antiseptic churches. Evangelism of everybody is right up there as a priority until we can be sure (and we can’t ever be) that they are not of the elect.

    3) Agree

    4) Now we are venturing into the deep end of the pool!! ;)

    First, the topic of the entire section is Israel (ch. 9-11). Yes, Romans 9-11 is about Israel, the ethnic nation; not the church.

    Second, if the tree is all of humanity, then what are we to make of branches grafted in? My understanding of the tree is that it is a metaphor for the place of blessing. Initially, the tree represented Israel as God was working through her. Gentiles at that point were without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:11ff). When some Israelites were broken off, they did not become non-Israelites. They became ones with hardened hearts who no longer had the ability or desire to come near to God. So, it is not about becoming humans or losing one’s humanity. It is about being near or far from God. In the tree, one is near.

    And third, after Paul speaks of re-grafting the natural branches, he then becomes explicit: there is to be a hardening of the Israelites until the full number of Gentiles has come in. I submit that this one text alone serves as a proof-text that there is a nation (Abraham’s children) who are cared for by God and yet who are not all, “head-for-head”, believers, but who *should* be believers. I agree completely.

    and thus, are pruned out if not. The pruning talked about here regarding the Jews had already happened at the time Paul wrote this. So, I agree with you here; but, I don’t then take this understanding and apply it to the visible church.

    5) OH MY! I thought the last one got us into the deep end of the pool. Now, I am really in over my head! I would love to pursue this; but, I don’t think the blog-master would or should suffer much of that. Let me just respond to one of your points here: And the Scripture is crystal-clear in at least two places (Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4) that we who are in Christ are participants in the covenant with Abraham.

    The Abrahamic Covenant had a number of components. I surely believe that those who are in the Body of Christ have been blessed through Abraham and the Covenant. That is one component; but not the whole thing. For example, there is that part about the land! Do you think the church has inherited the specified land? Or, do you think God took back that unconditional promise? Galatians 3, for one, speaks about the descendant (singular) of Abraham and not the descendants (plural) (Galatians 3:16). Gentiles share in a part of the Abrahamic Covenant (Jesus) but not all the parts as far as I can see. And, saying that Israel blew it doesn’t solve the problem since God knew all about that when He made the land promise in the first place, the eternal, unconditional, land promise.

    6) I certainly agree that we are to love one another. You said “ they were disciplined because they failed to honor that debt. I read 1 Corinthians 11:20 to say that they were disciplined because “when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,” The admonition was not because they were not loving; although they certainly were not loving one another. And, do you suppose Paul was concerned that the non-believers in the church were not honoring the Lord’s Supper? I think that would be an impossibility! I think he is talking to the believers to get their act together for they were sinning big time. When they had done that, they might be in a better position to also love the others in the visible church, whether saved or lost.

    7) Instead, I’m talking about the Church as we see it in space and time, with the recognition that our sight is not God’s sight. Absolutely; we are together on this. Where we seem to part is in seeing to whom the admonitions are addressed and who it is in the visible church that god loves. I fully agree that I (a lowly, dumb, helpless sheep) am not to go around dividing up the body so that I treat one in a loving way and another as a reprobate. That isn’t my job. On the other hand, I don’t see God desiring to get the non-elect to act like believers. I see Him either giving them faith and the rest will follow or He is leaving them to their own sinful nature.

    How we doing?

  92. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Moving towards understanding, definitely. And some agreement, I think.

    I would put my position like this: God cares for his Church, and in terms of *our* obligations to that Church, we owe them to the Church we see — the Visible Church.

    So it’s not that God’s wrath is somehow removed from unbelievers within the VC. Rather, for the sake of the elect, He extends an extra measure of common grace to those within the VC. I know that you view Israel and the Church as operating on different principles, but I would again cite Hosea and Chronicles on this point.

    But more can be said; I haven’t fleshed out yet the picture of the Church from the perspective of empirical evidence. From that perspective, we are called upon to recognize the Church by its fruits and profession. So for example, you said Nowhere, do I see here that we are to honor the reprobate church leader!, and I fully agree. But how do we *know* the reprobate church leader? By his fruits (Matt. 7). By his teaching (1 Jhn 2).

    And now, church discipline — the weeding out of tares — occurs when we combine the perspectives of obligations and empirical evidence. Yes, George is within the Visible Church. But if now he refuses to obey the Scriptures and his leaders urging him to obey the Scriptures, then that evidence is the basis for saying, “As far as we can tell, you aren’t acting like a follower of Christ. So we are removing you from the Church.”

    So coming back to (1) and (2), I think we’re not too far apart in terms of goals. My only exception to your statements might be something like

    The issue seems to be what to make of the non-elect member of the visible church vis-a-vis fellowship.

    And see, I would address that problem by appealing to various perspectives on our knowledge. How do we know that George is a “non-elect member”? We don’t have absolute knowledge of that fact. What we do know is his membership and baptism, his fruit and profession of faith, and his own self-reporting of his spiritual condition. So we deal with him on that basis.

    Wrt (4): The pruning talked about here regarding the Jews had already happened at the time Paul wrote this. So, I agree with you here; but, I don’t then take this understanding and apply it to the visible church.

    Suspend for a moment, if you can, the hard separation between Israel and the Church — if it helps to do so, note that such a hard separation is never positively taught in the Scriptures.

    Now look at Rom. 11.17-24 and note that the Gentile believers are part of the tree, and being threatened with breaking off if they are unbelievers. So clearly, Gentiles are a part of the tree.

    On what basis? To use your terminology, because they are “in the place of blessing.” Where is that place of blessing? The Church. And it’s not the true, pure Church as God sees it — else, they could never be broken off.

    (5) is indeed the deep end of the pool. I’ll leave it at two thoughts: Romans 4.13 shows that the promise of land was much larger than we thought, and yes, the Gentiles participate in that promise, too.

    And, Galatians 3 speaks of both the promised seed and also descendants plural.

    (6) Let’s agree that Paul characterizes their meetings as “not the Lord’s Supper” — and then keep moving into verse 21 to find out why.

    (7) Where we seem to part is in seeing to whom the admonitions are addressed and who it is in the visible church that god loves.

    I hope my comments above have cleared up some of this. I have no problem saying that the admonitions are only realistically addressed to the true members of the Church. All I’m arguing is that the objects of those admonitions are “the Church as we see it.”

    I also have no problem saying that God’s wrath remains upon the Tares within the Church. I’m simply arguing that God, for the sake of the elect, allows the Church to remain mixed until he comes again. This doesn’t negate the role of church discipline; rather, it puts church members on notice that they cannot rely on their membership as proof positive of belonging to Christ’s people. But, it also means that we owe debts of love and honor to the Church *as we see it.*

    Here’s a practical application. Suppose Alice becomes a Christian and decides that she need not worry her head about becoming a member of a church. After all, she reasons, she is already a member of Christ’s people, so why should she join some human organization in addition?

    What’s wrong with that logic? The flaw is that it tries to separate the Church from its visible manifestation. The Church *as we see it* is the visible church. So to claim Christ but refuse membership in the Church as we see it is to reject connection with his body.

    Jeff Cagle

  93. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 26, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Correction:

    I have no problem saying that the admonitions are only realistically addressed to the true members of the Church.

    “only realistically” is inept. I should say rather that the epistles were written to the entire church, with the understanding that (a) the audience was necessarily mixed (hence, the warnings of Rom 11, Heb 6, 10, etc.), but (b) the audience *ought* all to be Christians.

    Jeff

  94. David Weiner said,

    January 26, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Jeff, re: #92,

    Great exchange (at least from my perspective :) ). Also, I really do agree with many (most) of your specific statements. But, then there is this huge divide which leads to really different understandings. The degree of continuity between Israel and the Church may be the main driver. I have no idea how to bridge that gap. One of us (and of course it couldn’t possibly be me :) ) have to be wrong. I really wish I knew who that was.

    Of course, we have to deal with the church as we see it; no disagreement there. And, we have fallen into sin if in our arrogance and pride we think we can pigeon hole the other members and then treat them accordingly. This isn’t where we have a disagreement. This exchange started with me asking for hard Scriptural evidence that God loves the visible church. I meant this in contrast to His loving the elect within the visible church. Please understand that I am not saying God loves this person and not that one. That sort of thing is way above my pay grade. But, the admonitions to the visible church in the epistles can not be responded to by unbelievers. So, how can they be addressed to them? And so where is the logical fallacy in saying that the admonitions are addressed to a segment of the visible church? That is, the part of the church God cares for.

    You said “we are called upon to recognize the Church by its fruits and profession.” I don’t know where this is given us. I see us being asked this for individuals. Of course, if every individual is waiting for a space ship to take them home then I guess we could say their church has a problem. :)

    You said “Suspend for a moment, if you can, the hard separation between Israel and the Church — if it helps to do so, note that such a hard separation is never positively taught in the Scriptures.” Maybe so, certainly I can not think of a specific verse. On the other hand, is a hard coupling between Israel and the Church taught? I really would like to know of such a passage. Where we each stand on this continuity-discontinuity line is really the source of most of our trouble here, IMHO.

    You said “Where is that place of blessing? The Church.” This is not what I meant with regard to the tree metaphor concerning a place of blessing. And, what is the church? A group of people who have water baptized one another? A set of rituals? A calendar of events? A bunch of committees? A building? OR, the ones who God has declared righteous whatever they may do or say or have for a parent? A spiritually dead person can help me start my car when the battery dies and they can smile at my bad jokes. But, can a spiritually dead person give a spiritual blessing to a person who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. I really don’t think so.

    You said “Romans 4.13 shows that the promise of land was much larger than we thought, and yes, the Gentiles participate in that promise, too.” Are you saying that God, after so carefully spelling out the land boundaries to us in the OT, went and changed them to include the entire planet?

    You said “(6) Let’s agree that Paul characterizes their meetings as “not the Lord’s Supper” — and then keep moving into verse 21 to find out why.” Sorry, I can not see your point. These people were supposed to be coming together as a church body to remember Christ. Actually, they were coming together to satisfy their fleshly desires for food and at the expense of everybody who might hinder them in this selfish act. What am I missing?

    You said “I have no problem saying that the admonitions are only realistically addressed to the true members of the Church. All I’m arguing is that the objects of those admonitions are ‘the Church as we see it.’” Isn’t this the same as saying that both A and A’ are true? If the admonitions are addressed to the true members then how can they also be addressed to the Church as we see it when that group is made up of both true and false believers?

    You said “Suppose Alice becomes a Christian and decides that she need not worry her head about becoming a member of a church. After all, she reasons, she is already a member of Christ’s people, so why should she join some human organization in addition?” Alice seems confused. What could she possibly mean by saying that she is a member of Christs people? The body is not something one joins; one is put there. She ought to be shown that she has been given spiritual gifts for the building up of the rest of the ones who have been put there (and not the ones who have only been put there by means of a ritual). For that last group can not be build up until God gives them the faith to trust Him. And, it is also true that Alice will never be able to definitively tell them apart.

    So what does all this get us? We seem to be in essentially complete agreement on how we are to deal with those in the visible church. Love, love, love (and I certainly don’t mean kissy, huggy love). And, we surely agree that the visible church is a mixture of His and Satan’s children. He, on the other hand, knows what the situation really is and my view is that when He speaks to the church in the NT, He is talking to His own and not Satan’s children. For, Satan’s children are not part of the Body of Christ and God has no covenant today with Satan’s children.

  95. David Weiner said,

    January 26, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Jeff, re: #93,

    OOOPS, I didn’t see the correction before I posted my response.

    The makeup of the visible church is exactly what God wants. (Don’t ask me why, of course.) So, what do you mean that the audience *ought* all to be Christians? God knew exactly to whom He was writing. It is just that you and I have different views on who the recipients are. But, clearly, the letters were delivered to visible churches.

    I am sure we have different views on the warnings. Let me just explain my view of the warning to the gentiles in Romans 11. This is not a warning to the church. This is a warning to the entity known as gentiles. This entity is composed of all who are not physically related to Jacob. Paul has just explained how some of the Jews had been broken off. All he is then saying is that God could decide to do the same sort of thing to the gentiles if . . . . . It is not a warning to any individual, as such. Again, this is only my opinion.

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Great exchange

    I agree. :)

    The degree of continuity between Israel and the Church may be the main driver.

    Yes, I think so. We come to many of the same practical conclusions with very different theoretical underpinnings. I’m reminded of Vern Poythress’ book, Understanding Dispensationalists and of Bock and Blaisings’ Progressive Dispensationalism, both of which I read while leaving dispensationalism…

    So, what do you mean that the audience *ought* all to be Christians?

    I meant that, because they have been included in the family (cf. 1 Cor 7.14), they have a special obligation to believe the Gospel. Not “ought” in the sense that God’s providence has misfired, “ought” in the sense of moral obligation. (I general, that’s the way I use the word “ought”).

    You said “Romans 4.13 shows that the promise of land was much larger than we thought, and yes, the Gentiles participate in that promise, too.” Are you saying that God, after so carefully spelling out the land boundaries to us in the OT, went and changed them to include the entire planet?

    Well, let’s throw the question back. Paul says that God promised Abraham the world (Rom. 4.13). So where in Genesis does God promise Abraham the world?

    You said “(6) Let’s agree that Paul characterizes their meetings as “not the Lord’s Supper” — and then keep moving into verse 21 to find out why.” Sorry, I can not see your point. These people were supposed to be coming together as a church body to remember Christ. Actually, they were coming together to satisfy their fleshly desires for food and at the expense of everybody who might hinder them in this selfish act. What am I missing?

    Only my really cryptic point. :) Let me try again: the discipline of the Corinthians occurs because they are satisfying their fleshly desires at the expense of fellow church members.

    In other words, they had an obligation to treat their fellow church members (without benefit of salvation-o-meter) in a certain way, and they are being judged for their failure to do so.

    In other words, God cares about how we treat our fellow church members regardless of whether or not they are in fact elect. We don’t know whether they are elect; we have a moral obligation to them regardless.

    You said “I have no problem saying that the admonitions are only realistically addressed to the true members of the Church. All I’m arguing is that the objects of those admonitions are ‘the Church as we see it.’” Isn’t this the same as saying that both A and A’ are true? If the admonitions are addressed to the true members then how can they also be addressed to the Church as we see it when that group is made up of both true and false believers?

    Sorry to confuse; I was saying something completely different. If I command you to help an old lady across the street, you are the *subject* of that command; she is the *object*. Understanding this is very important for the overall point of posts #77, 82, and 90.

    The plentiful commands given to the various churches in every epistle have as their objects all those who are visibly members of the Church (that’s a better expression than “members of the Visible Church”).

    In other words, if we are asking “How do I know what the Church is?” for the purpose of asking “Whom should I treat as a brother in Christ in obedience to God’s various commands?”, then the answer is “Everyone who is visibly a member of the Church.” If the question is, “Whom should I obey as my elder?”, the answer is, “The elders of your church.” (And NOT just any Joe Schmoe who calls himself a preacher!)

    In other words, the Visible Church is the “normative perspective” on the question, “What is the church?”

    There are other perspectives: if we ask, “Who is it that gives evidence of belonging to Christ?” then we have to consider their fruit and their outward profession of faith. And if we ask, “Am I (legitimately) a part of the Church?” then we have to consider the question, “Do you believe the Gospel?”

    There’s more to say about Israel and the Church, and Romans 11, but I can stop here.

    As a last thought, I would encourage you to continue to think about the point that we’ve agreed to: that Rom 11 proves that there is a people (Abraham’s children) who is cared for by God. And then consider further what it means that Gentiles have been grafted into that people. And that they can be broken off through unbelief. And then pursue the question, “who is on this tree, anyways?”

    My answer is, the branches on the tree are the members of Israel (prior to Christ) and members of the Church (post-Christ).

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  97. David Weiner said,

    January 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Jeff, re: 96,

    If I remember correctly you teach physics. Well, I am reminded of my time there and how I was always so sure I understood what was being taught. Then the tests would come and oh boy! Well, I truly appreciate your questions which likewise force me to investigate what I really know vs. what I think I know. I really do thank you.

    Also, thanks for the book recommendations. I found Poythress on-line and have started to read his book on dispensationalism. If I may be so bold, why did you decided to leave dispensationalism. I am sure your full answer would not fit on the back of a book of matches so I am only asking for the 50,000 foot overview. And, I’ll certainly understand if you don’t want to go there.

    You asked: “Well, let’s throw the question back. Paul says that God promised Abraham the world (Rom. 4.13). So where in Genesis does God promise Abraham the world?” Great question. First, let me say that I don’t believe this promise has anything to do with land (neither Canaan nor the whole planet). Genesis 12:3 says that “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.?” I would venture to say that earth here and world in Romans 4:13 are pointing to the same thing, i.e., the universal dimension of the promise. Now, looking at Galatians 3:8 we see that Genesis 12:3 is definitely talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, Paul understood from Genesis 12:3 that both Jew and Gentile would obtain this promise (eternal life, justification, etc.) through faith and not law. This all still leaves the narrow (in a comparative sense) promise of the land of Canaan undisturbed. No transfer or extension of the land promise is in view in Romans 4:13. The inheritance there is Abraham’s universal fatherhood of all those who would have faith as his, whether Jew or Gentile. As always, just MHO.

    You said: “Let me try again: the discipline of the Corinthians occurs because they are satisfying their fleshly desires at the expense of fellow church members.” I found this statement very foundational to our differences. I think we agree on what is going on here. Yet, you conclude something that would never have occurred to me. Their sin is to think of themselves; keep themselves on the throne, if you will. Yes, that plays itself out by being a detriment to their fellow church members. All sin does that in one way or another. Our difference is that you see the sin and its gravity in terms of the disruption to the visible church and I see the problem as personal sin and Paul writing to them to stop sinning. The form and consequence of the sin is not really the focus in Corinthians. Please don’t misunderstand me, trashing the Lord’s Supper is not a trivial matter. Disrupting church fellowship is not a trivial matter. But, the root is self and not walking in the Spirit. Solve that and all the rest just beautifully falls into place. Trying to get people to act nice toward their fellow church members will not solve anything.

    You said: “In other words, the Visible Church is the “normative perspective” on the question, “What is the church?” I really appreciated your explanation here. Unfortunately, what it seems to lead to is that we each have to attach several paragraphs to key words in any of our utterances if we are to have any hope of being understood as we intended.

    Your last suggestion to me ended with “And then pursue the question, “who is on this tree, anyways?” Your answer to this question was very clear. I’ve already given my view and (surprise :) ) it is quite different. I don’t know if it is possible to come to a shared view but I certainly would like that. Here is how I approach the question and any specifics that you could provide to remove my error would be greatly appreciated.

    The term Abraham’s children in the OT identified a group of people. They were all physically related to Abraham and some were elect and some were not. When Paul refers in chapter 11 to Israelites (and himself) it is this group to which I believe he is pointing. Pre-cross, it seems that only Abraham’s children are branches. And, I believe that you would say that that also defined the visible church at that time.

    Today, there is another group known by that same name which includes those, Jew and Gentile, who have the same kind of faith as Abraham did and are all elect. Thus, the current term Abraham’s children is no longer a valid descriptor of the visible church. So far so good?

    Now, here is where my head starts to spin. You said: “And then consider further what it means that Gentiles have been grafted into that people.” Well, one thing that it means is that the group, Abraham’s children, is no longer called Abraham’s children after the Gentiles are grafted in. You say the new group should be called the visible church and as we both know, Scripture never identifies an entity called the visible church.

    So, we could say that we start with a physical group, we add another physical group to it and now we have a purely spiritual group of the same name as the first physical group. I know we are not to lean on our own understanding but doesn’t that just blow your mind? Identify the tree differently; don’t graft the Gentiles into the Jews, and none of the head spinning ensues.

    I promise that this is my last question (for now ;) ). What leads you to conclude that only those who are members of the visible church were grafted in when Paul just seems to talk about the grafting in of Gentiles with no modifiers attached. Where does Scripture show that only some Gentiles were grafted in?

  98. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Hey mods,

    I’m glad to take the discussion of dispensationalism offline, although I think it’s relevant to the issue of reprobates in the church.

    Jeff Cagle

  99. January 27, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Jeff,

    Because it’s the Lord’s Day and I’m sick as a dog anyway, go ahead. But as a judge might say, please show relevance somewhere. :)

    FWIW, I only really come down on rabbit trails if they turn ugly. This has been an excellent exchange of views, and I already know you’ll keep things on an even keel.

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Well, I truly appreciate your questions which likewise force me to investigate what I really know vs. what I think I know. I really do thank you.

    You’re welcome, and it’s a two-way street. I’ll be posting soon on my own blog concerning the Visible Church, and your questions have helped to sharpen my thoughts there.

    If I may be so bold, why did you decided to leave dispensationalism.

    In short, I left dispensationalism because I received *excellent* discipling by a bunch of dispensationalists, who taught me to value the Word of God above any ideas of men. I really value my time among them, and believe that their interactions with Presbyterianism have been a fruitful, if not always friendly, kind of dialogue.

    So, when I fell amongst Presbyterians and noticed that (a) they value Scripture too, but (b) they had really different ideas about what the Scriptures teach in certain (but not all!) areas, I felt that I had to jump in the pool and find out, to test my own beliefs against the Scriptures and see how well they held up.

    The first belief to fall was pre-Trib eschatology. In addition to being nowhere positively taught in Scriptures, it was very difficult to reconcile with two key Scriptures: 2 Thess. 2.1 – 4 (in which “our gathering to Jesus” occurs *after* the revealing of the antiChrist, not before as in the standard pre-Trib model) and Hebrews 10 (in which the sacrifices are clearly set forth as done away with, making a Jewish millennium impossible).

    The second belief was the notion that Scripture is divided up into clearly distinct dispensations with separate covenants and separate rules. For one thing, the only dispensation that seems to have vanished is the dispensation of the Law. Apart from that, Scripture always assumes a unity for itself. Paul and Jesus quote the OT without any qualification of “well, the prophets told you X, but nowadays, it’s Y.” And so I had to call into question the notion of clearly distinct dispensations.

    Following that, I discovered that the Scripture nowhere teaches a distinction between a “physical people of God” and “spiritual people of God”, nor does it teach that the Jews and Gentiles have separate destinies.

    In fact, that entire belief of mine rested on an inference, that the Jews were associated with the Law, and since the Law had been fulfilled, therefore, the Jewish paradigm was over; a new dispensation had begun.

    But Galatians 3 completely wiped that out for me. Paul argues this:

    The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. — Gal. 3.16,17

    Now, the first thing I understood was that Paul (under divine inspiration) is explicitly stating that the promise of the covenant, Abraham’s covenant, was given to one person and one person only: Jesus. And that was the moment that I realized that all in Christ receive that promise derivatively, by being united with Him.

    And the second thing I understood was that I was mistaken to associate the covenant with Abraham and the Law. Paul is very clear: the covenant with Abraham was not nullified when the Law came — and thus, it is not nullified when the Law is fulfilled, either.

    And further, Paul writes

    If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    And this is not the only place he says that, either. In fact, the more I looked, the more the Scriptures taught a unity between Christians and the covenant with Abraham. Rom 4, Rom 11 (more below), Eph 2, Gal 3 are all clear examples of this.

    And so I found myself asking, “Why, if the separation between OT Jew and NT Christian is so important, does the Scripture not only *not* teach it, but apparently teach against that separation in multiple places?!”

    And at that point, I was no longer dispensational. Now, infant baptism was a later development for me; I was basically a “Reformed Baptist” for a couple of years, until dating a dispensationalist forced me to answer the question, “What about the kids?”

    (we parted ways over this one. God had better in mind for me anyways)

    That’s the thumbnail.

    One point, and then back to Rom 11

    This all still leaves the narrow (in a comparative sense) promise of the land of Canaan undisturbed. No transfer or extension of the land promise is in view in Romans 4:13.

    Test this hypothesis. What features in the text lead us to believe that when Paul says that Abraham was promised to inherit the world, that he didn’t mean literally that?

    (And note: if OT Jews reign with Christ in the new heavens and earth, don’t they get “their land” plus everything else? It’s not (as alleged by some dispie teachers) that reading Rom 4 my way takes away the “literal promises” made to the Jews.)

    Our difference is that you see the sin and its gravity in terms of the disruption to the visible church and I see the problem as personal sin and Paul writing to them to stop sinning. The form and consequence of the sin is not really the focus in Corinthians. Please don’t misunderstand me, trashing the Lord’s Supper is not a trivial matter. Disrupting church fellowship is not a trivial matter. But, the root is self and not walking in the Spirit. Solve that and all the rest just beautifully falls into place. Trying to get people to act nice toward their fellow church members will not solve anything.

    Let’s agree that the root is self and not walking in the Spirit, and that the solution is to focus people’s attention on putting on the new self. Still and all, Paul explicitly states that they are being disciplined because of their behavior.

    OK, now the close reading on Rom 11

    The term Abraham’s children in the OT identified a group of people. They were all physically related to Abraham…

    Actually, no. This is one of the places where a “physical people” concept breaks down. Take Ruth, for example. She’s not physically descended from Abraham, and yet she is integrated — by faith! — into Abraham’s family in a central way. Ditto Rahab, any servants who received circumcision, etc.

    …and some were elect and some were not.

    Yes.

    When Paul refers in chapter 11 to Israelites (and himself) it is this group to which I believe he is pointing. Pre-cross, it seems that only Abraham’s children are branches. And, I believe that you would say that that also defined the visible church at that time.

    I would say, it defined the church. My justification for doing so is not simply symmetry between OT and NT; rather, my justification is that the Greek OT (the one quoted by Jesus, Paul, etc.) uses the work εκκλησια, “church” or “called-out assembly” over one hundred times to refer to the gathering of the Jews for worship. And there’s no “visible” or “invisible” qualification used in any of those passages, either.

    Today, there is another group known by that same name which includes those, Jew and Gentile, who have the same kind of faith as Abraham did and are all elect. Thus, the current term Abraham’s children is no longer a valid descriptor of the visible church. So far so good?

    Well, no. :( Three thoughts.

    (1) We must insist that the term “Abraham’s children” applies to believers today. And I would argue that the Scripture never once gives us cause to qualify that as “spiritual children.”; in fact, we are explicitly labeled as “heirs according to the promise” (NOT “promises”).

    (2) It turns out that the “physical people” model for Israel breaks down again when we consider what Paul has to say about who is *really* a Jew. Both in the OT *and* the NT, only those who had the faith of Abraham had the right to belong to his people. This is expressed in the OT in terms of “remnant theology”

    (3) The most important point: if these folk are all elect, then why are they threatened with breaking off?

    Now, here is where my head starts to spin. You said: “And then consider further what it means that Gentiles have been grafted into that people.” Well, one thing that it means is that the group, Abraham’s children, is no longer called Abraham’s children after the Gentiles are grafted in. You say the new group should be called the visible church and as we both know, Scripture never identifies an entity called the visible church.

    So, we could say that we start with a physical group, we add another physical group to it and now we have a purely spiritual group of the same name as the first physical group. I know we are not to lean on our own understanding but doesn’t that just blow your mind? Identify the tree differently; don’t graft the Gentiles into the Jews, and none of the head spinning ensues.

    Yes, my head does spin. But the scripture requires to see Jews and Gentiles grafted together:

    If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. — Rom 11.17-24

    I think we are in agreement that the natural olives are the Jews and the wild olives are the Gentiles; we must therefore affirm that Jew and Gentile have been grafted into the same tree. And for confirmation, go over to Eph. 2 and notice that Jew and Gentile, both OT (“prophets”) and NT (“apostles”), have been built into the same building.

    So let me propose a way to stop the head from spinning and remain faithful to Rom 11: the children of Abraham are all those who belong to Abraham, period. Jew, Gentile, OT, NT; they have all been joined in.

    (This is not to deny any distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church; rather, I’m denying a distinction between OT believers and NT believers)

    BUT,

    Both in the OT and NT times, those believers exist within a community called The Church. Our knowledge of the church is finite; therefore, we speak of people “visibly belonging to the church.” And some of those — at times, most of those do not properly belong to the church, and God prunes them off. So that when Paul writes to “the church in Rome”, he has to urge some of them to not be arrogant, because their visible position in the church is not enough — it needs faith to really belong.

    See whether or not that interpretation makes the spinning stop.

    Jeff Cagle

  101. David Weiner said,

    January 28, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Jeff, re: #100,

    Head Spinning Report: Even faster!

    I am really looking forward to your post on the visible church and so I’ll keep checking your blog.

    I have to apologize up front for what I have written here. I just re-read it and it sound to me like a bunch of snipping. Sadly, I don’t know how to fix it. I think the problem is that we have opened up so many areas at once that it isn’t possible to cover them all with any degree of depth without writing a book each time. I am open to any suggestions you might have for remedying this situation. And, I really hope you will not take any offense at anything I have written here.

    Thank you for sharing your journey from dispensationalism; I found it fascinating reading. I do have one or two simple questions ;) if you would indulge me.

    2 Thessalonians 2: I am really feeling very inadequate here. For, I can’t see where this verse says that “our gathering to Jesus” occurs *after* the revealing of the antiChrist. I can see that the day of the Lord comes after the apostasy but not our gathering. Are you seeing that verse 3 refers to an antecedent in verse 1 and not to the closer antecedent in verse 2. Can you provide a few more clues to help me see it your way?

    Hebrews 10: Jesus has now provided the one and only (it is finished) sacrifice. Absolutely true. However, does the millenium’s existence depend on their being a Jewish sacrificial system in operation as under the Mosaic Law? And further, doesn’t the Jewishness of the millenium involve more than just sacrifices?

    You said: “Now, the first thing I understood (from Galatians 3) was that Paul (under divine inspiration) is explicitly stating that the promise of the covenant, Abraham’s covenant, was given to one person and one person only: Jesus.” Paul clearly understands that the promise was to many of Abraham’s descendants (for example, Galatians 3:29 for one). He is making a point here that is not pure exegesis.

    You asked: “What features in the text lead us to believe that when Paul says that Abraham was promised to inherit the world, that he didn’t mean literally that?” I have no trouble with somebody saying that Jill inherited $10 from her uncle Joe. That can be taken extremely literally and it makes sense. However, I don’t understand what it means to literally inherit the planet earth. For example, my being put in the position to rule over the world would not seem to be a literal meaning for me inheriting the world. Can you help me understand what it literally means (i.e., with no figurative component) for Abraham to inherit the world?

    You said: “the children of Abraham are all those who belong to Abraham, period. Jew, Gentile, OT, NT; they have all been joined in.” If I knew what it meant to belong to Abraham I might be able to agree with this. On the other hand, Galatians 3:7 is hard to misunderstand. “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” I assume that even here there is room for a less than wooden literal interpretation in that sons probably can be taken to include females also.

    You said: “And that was the moment that I realized that all in Christ receive that promise derivatively, by being united with Him.” Again, I show my boldness by asking if you would define that promise. The reason I ask is that the Abrahamic Covenant had multiple aspects. Abraham was promised multiplied descendants (Gen 12:2), possession of the land (Gen 13:15-17), and his becoming the vehicle of blessing to all people (Gen 12:13). If you mean by that promise the part in Gen 12:13, then I agree. But, that then leaves the other parts unexplained, doesn’t it?

    You said: “Our knowledge of the church is finite; therefore, we speak of people “visibly belonging to the church.” But, God never does; at least I can’t find where He might have done that. What I find is a clear definition of what it means to belong to the church. And it doesn’t seem to have much to do with visibility.

    You said: “we must therefore affirm that Jew and Gentile have been grafted into the same tree. And for confirmation, go over to Eph. 2 and notice that Jew and Gentile, both OT (”prophets”) and NT (”apostles”), have been built into the same building.” Absolutely on the first part. Our trouble is in defining what it means to be a branch. We have each taken a shot at a definition and there we are; no way to come together. Also, I don’t see any indication that Ephesians 2 is talking about OT prophets. First they are not listed in the verse as you listed them above, the order is apostles and then prophets. This is exactly the order given in Ephesians 3:5 and 4:11. So, is this really a support of the continuity position?

    I said: “The term Abraham’s children in the OT identified a group of people. They were all physically related to Abraham…
    You responded: “Actually, no. This is one of the places where a “physical people” concept breaks down. . .
    Well, I looked and cannot find the term Abraham’s children in the OT. I guess the appropriate expression is my bad. I do, however, find a lot of use of the term Israel’s children. So, I was not precise enough. The promise was not through Abrahams children it was through one of them. But, it was through Jacob and his children that the Christ would come. That aside, they were a physical people and I can’t see how that concept breaks down. The fact that one could gain entrance into this group does not negate the fact that they were a flesh and blood group that was easily identified. Ruth and Rahab are never called children of Israel but they clearly were part of the nation of Israel even though they were not flesh and blood descedants of Israel.

    εκκλησια is not a technical term. It identifies any number of different types of assemblies. Until one lists the characteristics of those assemblies, one really can’t say that they are the same just because they are called an εκκλησια.

    You said: “The most important point: if these folk (Abraham’s children) are all elect, then why are they threatened with breaking off?” I know of no place in the NT where a person is identified as being a child of Abraham and then is threatened with losing their elect status. Threatened with the severe consequences of their sin, maybe; threatened with loss of salvation, no. Do you have any such reference?

  102. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Hi David,

    I think we’re in danger of talking past each other at this point. Answers to your questions:

    2 Thess. 2: There are two good reasons to believe that “the Day of the Lord” in v. 2 and “the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him” are synonyms.

    First, the structure of the Greek:

    1 ερωτωμεν δε υμας αδελφοι υπερ της παρουσιας του κυριου [ημων] ιησου χριστου και ημων επισυναγωγης επ αυτον

    2 εις το μη ταχεως σαλευθηναι υμας απο του νοος μηδε θροεισθαι μητε δια πνευματος μητε δια λογου μητε δι επιστολης ως δι ημων ως οτι ενεστηκεν η ημερα του κυριου

    “We ask you brothers, concerning the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering unto him, that you not be quickly shaken from your reason nor be alarmed, neither spirit, word, nor letter as from us as if the day of the Lord had come — 2 Thess 2.1-2

    The structure places the entire topic of conversation, the locus of their concern, as the appearing of the Lord and our being gathered to him. Thus, the “day of the Lord” is most naturally read as addressing their concern. That is, the fact that the day of the Lord has not come is supposed to quiet their alarm concerning the coming of the Lord.

    Second, Paul provides for them a piece of evidence by which they may know that the day of the Lord has not yet come: namely, that the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed.

    Now I ask you — if they are to be raptured before he is revealed, of what possible value is this evidence?

    You might also think about the timeline that Jesus sets forth in Matt 24 and when exactly “the elect are gathered to him.”

    Keep in mind that when I was thinking through this, I was not approaching it from the perspective of “how can I make the text fit X presupposition?” In fact, my presuppositions were quite dispensational. Instead, a dispensational friend of mine and I purposed over the summer of ’93 to read through the Scripture and come up with positive evidence for a pre-Trib rapture.

    We both came up empty. Rapture? Absolutely. Pre-Trib? entirely absent from the Scriptures.

    I need to get ready for work, so more later.

    Jeff

  103. David Weiner said,

    January 29, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Jeff,

    The VERY last thing I desire is to have us talk past each other. And, of course, I assume the same for you. All I can say is that if that happens then at least one of us is not walking in the Spirit.

    As to the work thing – how invasive it can become! Which is why I am amazed at the quantity of information that you generate each day (not just here) while having to put up with that unjust imposition! ;)

    2 Thessalonians 2:
    You asked: “Now I ask you — if they are to be raptured before he is revealed, of what possible value is this evidence?” Paul is telling them to calm down and not lose track of what they know about the order in which things will unfold. The Day of the Lord (DoL) is going to be bad but wrath is not their destiny (1 thess 5:9). Even though they had been hearing that the DoL had already started Paul shows them that that is impossible because he had not yet been revealed. So the order is still in place i.e., rapture, revealing, DoL. If the DoL had started then they had definitely missed the rapture, bummer! :)

    Does this in any way make the possibility that the rapture is not after the revealing seem like a possibility? My guess is no and that if I am to prove that we will have to come to agreement on what the DoL means in 2 Thess. 2. Thoughts?

  104. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    … WRT Hebrews 10, I was reacting at that time to the standard models of dispensationalism, which at that time all forsaw a rebuilding of the temple and a reinstitution of the sacrifices as a literal reading of Zech. and Ezek. It may be that dispensational thought has shifted since then — almost fifteen years, now — to a less literal reconstitution of Israel.

    For the purposes of this discussion, I’d like to focus more narrowly. I think we can summarize the distance between us like this (correct me if needed):

    (1) Dispute over whether Abraham’s covenant can be divided into separate parts, some of which apply to believers today and others of which do not.
    (1a) Whether Rom 4.13 is a restatement of the land promise of Gen 15.18-21
    (2) Dispute over the meaning of the tree and branches metaphor in Romans 11

    Now, on the last point, you ask, I know of no place in the NT where a person is identified as being a child of Abraham and then is threatened with losing their elect status. Threatened with the severe consequences of their sin, maybe; threatened with loss of salvation, no. Do you have any such reference?

    and this is where I think we were talking past each other. I don’t think anyone at all is ever threatened with loss of salvation; that’s a non-possibility.

    The problem is primarily one of knowledge: do we in fact genuinely belong to Jesus because we belong to his Church? Or in OT terms, do we in fact genuinely belong to Jesus because we are descended from Abraham?

    And I think we both would agree that the answer to the second question is a resounding NO — Luke 3.8 and Romans 9.6,7 are the most pointed prooftexts.

    But now I would like to argue that the answer to the first question should be NO as well.

    That’s clearly more difficult, because you’ve defined the Church, I think, as “the elect.” At least, you hint that way in a couple of places:

    Today, there is another group known by that same name [Abraham's children] which includes those, Jew and Gentile, who have the same kind of faith as Abraham did and are all elect.

    What I find is a clear definition of what it means to belong to the church. And it doesn’t seem to have much to do with visibility.

    I want to propose several things here.

    (1) “Belonging to the church” is used in two clearly discernible senses in the NT: in the sense of (a) “being an elect follower of Christ”, and in the sense of (b) “having fellowship with Christ’s people.”

    (2) “Belonging to the church” is sometimes used ambiguously in the NT, such that both senses seem to be in view at once.

    (3) Consequently, that the notion of “visibly belonging to the church” is an effective way to capture (1) and (2), and …

    (4) That God out of concern for (1a) will alternately tolerate and also prune out those in (1b) who are not (1a): professing believers who are not “possessing believers.” And the act of toleration is what I mean by “God’s care for the visible church.”

    [(5) and if space permitted, I would also argue that God's purpose in growing the church as a family leads to greater toleration on his part, but I think that would take us back into territory that we differ widely on]

    Let’s see how far I can get before I have to pick up my daughters…

    (1) First, the word Church appears to be used in two senses. On the one hand, Ephesians 1.22 fairly clearly speaks of the church as the sum of the elect, all those who are under Christ’s headship (Here is one place I part company with Federal Vision exegesis). Since we agree on this sense, I won’t multiply verses. So in this sense, the church consists of all of the elect who standing is both predestined and also secure.

    But in another sense, the church consists of all of those who are in fellowship with Christ’s people. A half-dozen verses spring immediately to mind, and another half-dozen are in queue.

    Consider Matt. 18.15-18. Here we have the case of a “brother” who nevertheless refuses to repent (by verse 17), and is therefore no longer considered to be a brother — notice that he’s treated as a “pagan.”

    Or more pointedly, 1 Cor 5 explicitly tells the Corinthians to judge those inside the church and expel them if necessary for their wicked behavior. So here, as in Matt 18, we have people who are inside the church who are not elect, who do not properly belong in the church.

    We see something similar in the letters to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea. Both groups of people are called “the church (at…)”; and yet clearly, there are many within the church who are not elect.

    Consider also the warning passages such as 1 Cor 10. The letter itself is addressed to the Corinthian church, and yet Paul now threatens some within that church of falling, and the example he draws (v. 5) makes clear that it is a falling that is unto death.

    Or consider the false teachers in Jude who are participants in their fellowship (12), yet are as far from election as possible (13).

    And so we must affirm that Scripture does use the term “church” at times to refer to a group of people who are mixed wrt election, who have fellowship under the name of Christ but not all of whom possess Christ.

    (2) BUT, in the NT epistles, it’s not always clear which sense is being used. Let’s take Ephesians as a good example. In chapter 1, it is clear that Paul speaks of the church as the company of the elect. But over in chapter 5, Paul warns them, the Ephesians, to not be partners with immoral, impure, or greedy persons. Now, it’s not so clear that he considers them all to be the elect.

    (This consideration, BTW, is what has driven the FV theology; basically, I’m offering up an alternative to the FV reading on this).

    Or take again the Corinthian church. It’s clear that as Paul writes to them, he considers them to have some non-believers in their midst. And yet, he says of them

    Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. — 1 Cor 6.18-20.

    It’s pretty clear that the non-believers to be removed (in chap. 5) are not those who “have been bought with a price.” And yet Paul speaks generally to the Corinthian church in this way.

    So if we were to ask, “What does Paul mean by the word ‘church’ in Eph. 1.1? In 1 Cor 1.1? Does he mean the same thing in both letters?”, I’m not sure a clear answer emerges.

    (3) So what do we make of this? Murray, I think, gets at this the best (chapter 3 of “Christian Baptism”). The Church, properly speaking, refers to all those who genuinely belong to Christ. BUT, the Church as we see it consists of all those who are in fellowship under His name.

    Not all of those belong to Christ. And those who do not will, in God’s providence, be weeded out as per Matt 13 and John 15. The function of excommunication per 1 Cor 5 and Matt 18 is part of that process.

    And this would be my own particular piece of language to add to this: for us who are bound in time and space and don’t have access to God’s point of view or His elective decrees — we have a baseline moral obligation to view “the Church as we see it” as “the Church.”

    That is, we are obligated to show deference to the elders and pastors of our local church. We are obligated to show care and concern for the members of our church without the benefit of knowing their elect status. As far as we can tell, the church as we see it *is* the church.

    BUT

    That moral obligation is not unlimited. If our local church preaches another gospel, then per Gal 1 we should consider it fallen away from grace and find a real church. If an elder shows fruit unbecoming of Christ, then we should bring charges and (if convicted) depose him per Matt. 7. If a fellow “brother” is immoral, etc., then we should excommunicate him per 1 Cor 5. But, that excommunication should not be carried out by individuals; rather, the authority to do that is given to … the visible leadership of the Church.

    (4) So now, what more can be said about the entire set of people who have fellowship under the name of Christ? One thing is clear: God does not instantaneously prune that set in order to bring it to eschatological purity. He does prune it — we’ve seen above. But he also tolerates a large amount of impurity within it.

    This is empirically true, both in our experience with local churches and also in church history; the Medieval church was a sad, dismal fellowship at times and places; and yet, the Gospel was taught (how else did Wycliffe and Hus and Luther learn it?).

    It’s also Biblically true, as ref. Revelation 2 – 3.

    So why does God tolerate impurity even though he commands “expel the wicked man from among you?”

    And this is where I would go back to the parable of the wheat and tares. Regardless of how we might interpret the precise meaning of the field and its relationship to the church, nevertheless, the parable gives us some insight as to God’s motive for not uprooting the tares out of his kingdom. Namely, He cares for the elect.

    For whatever reason, a complete purification before the right time would damage the elect. And that’s it.

    (Now, (5) … one of the major reasons here is that God works in human, physical families. This is both empirically true and also Scripturally true. But I think we should agree to disagree on this point.)

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    …All I can say is that if that happens then at least one of us is not walking in the Spirit.

    Ya know, actually, I think works on our minds in his own time. It’s entirely possible for us to rest in the work of the HS and yet fail to understand the full counsel of God’s Word. So even if you disagree with me, I won’t think that one of us is sinning because of it.

    Jeff

  106. David Weiner said,

    January 29, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Jeff,

    It is not the disagreeing to which I was referring. It was the manner of the disagreement. I have come to the conclusion that it would be bad for us (the big us not just you and me) to reach a final agreement. If we ALL agreed that we knew that we knew exactly what the Scriptures teach, then how much ongoing study do you think there would be?

  107. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Ah. I agree with you, then. :)

  108. David Weiner said,

    January 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Jeff, re: #104,

    Regarding Hebrews 10: I appreciate your attempt to attribute a more reasonable type of dispensationalism to me than the hardliners who see a literal temple etc. in the millennium. Sadly, I am guilty. I believe there will be temple and performance of old rituals, etc. What I don’t say is that the meaning is as it was under the Mosaic Covenant. Since Christ has finished His work, that would not make any sense.

    Narrower focus is better. I agree with 1, 1a and 2. Although I would like to change the word ‘dispute’ to something softer; but, it’s not really an issue.

    I see there is no issue about ‘perseverance of the saints.’ Great.

    You said: “That God out of concern for (1a) will alternately tolerate and also prune out those in (1b) who are not (1a): professing believers who are not “possessing believers.” And the act of toleration is what I mean by “God’s care for the visible church.” This exchange started because I could not figure out where the Bible teaches God’s care for the Visible Church (VC). However, I agree with the situation you paint here. Further, who am I to say that you can not label it as you have chosen just because I wouldn’t have chosen that label. So, all of my confusion may have been semantic. How surprising! :)

    Please correct me if I am wrong here but I see you defining Jesus’ Church as the Visible Church. And, you are correct that I understand it as those who were/are/will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit during their time on earth, i.e., the elect who live between the cross and the rapture.

    You said: “But in another sense, the church consists of all of those who are in fellowship with Christ’s people.” First, let me dare to attempt to sharpen up your definition here. Do you mean that the VC consists of all those who have been taken into fellowship via baptism? (I assume this does not include Mormon Churches, etc.) I can agree with that definition. You go on to say: “Scripture does use the term “church” at times to refer to a group of people who are mixed wrt election, who have fellowship under the name of Christ but not all of whom possess Christ.” I can even agree with this, for this is reality, and Scripture is nothing if not about reality. Our sticking point, I think is in therefore attributing any significance to the unsaved part of the VC. I say that all of the passages you identify are only written to the believers in the VC. God has a reason for toleration but it isn’t to talk to the unbelievers in any of these ‘to the church’ statements (except to evangelize them, of course).

    I agree with your reading of ‘church’ in Ephesians 1:22. Matthew 18 is an altogether different situation. I know this is a severe sticking point for us so I don’t want to belabor it. Let me just ask two questions: 1) Did the church that is referenced here have any people in it that were indwelt by the Holy Spirit? 2) How did the church in Matthew 18 differ from the one that Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that He was going to build?

    1 Cor 5 was not addressed to the VC at Corinth although surely it was physically delivered to a person in the VC at Corinth. Nevertheless, I say that the letter is not written to the VC and the use of church in Verse 1:2 seems to make it clear that he is writing to a subset of the members there. Because of all of the descriptive terms here, I see a recognition of the fact that there are different kinds of people there. What I don’t see is any elevation or care for the unbelieving part.

    Again, with the Sardis and Laodicea churches, John is not writing to the church (i.e., the VC). He is writing to the pastor of these churches. No elevation of the VC aspect except as a postal address.

    With regard to 1 Cor 10 you say “The letter itself is addressed to the Corinthian church, and yet Paul now threatens some within that church of falling, and the example he draws (v. 5) makes clear that it is a falling that is unto death.” Again, verse 1:2 would seem to mitigate against the letter being written to all in the church. Further, falling, even including physical death, does not have to mean loss of salvation for the believer.

    Jude too is written to believers. Yes there are evil men in their VC. But, how does this support that the NT addresses the VC as important?

    Your conclusion was: “And so we must affirm that Scripture does use the term “church” at times to refer to a group of people who are mixed wrt election, who have fellowship under the name of Christ but not all of whom possess Christ.” I have no difficulty seeing this although I am not sure what importance should be attached to the fellowship of children of Satan and children of God. This can happen at the local Kawanis Club. However, it is the next step of attaching some ‘status’ to the concept of the VC that troubles me. None of the passages I have just looked at value the VC except as a dot on the map (I realize that this may sound sarcastic; that was not the intent.).

    You said: “But in the NT it is not always clear . . . . But over in chapter 5, Paul warns them, the Ephesians, to not be partners with immoral, impure, or greedy persons. Now, it’s not so clear that he considers them all to be the elect.” He is only writing to believers in the entire letter; that does change midstream. There may be some immoral, impure, or greedy believers or there may be some immoral, impure, or greedy non-believers, or both. I just can’t see how this makes the VC somehow a valued entity, a focus of God’s care?

    You say: “(4) So now, what more can be said about the entire set of people who have fellowship under the name of Christ?” Again, I see an attachment of value to something called fellowship. How is this fellowship any different than that which takes place at the local coffee shop. Surely, the unbelievers are not worshipping our Lord, or participating in the edification of the body through the use of their spiritual gifts? I am really struggling with the importance of this fellowship. The VC is a mission field, yes; but, to somehow smooth out the major differences among these people so as to address them as an entity, is something I do not see in any of the passages you note above.

  109. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Please correct me if I am wrong here but I see you defining Jesus’ Church as the Visible Church.

    Ah. Definitely not; in fact, that is the single core teaching of the FV that I identify as positively erroneous (as opposed to many that I could accept in a hugely qualified sense, but which therefore make me nervous as a teacher).

    I am defining Jesus’ Church proper as the company of the elect. BUT, I also acknowledge that when Scripture uses the term “church”, it sometimes applies it to the church as we see it rather than the church as God sees it.

    And all of the evidence I provide is simply to show that point.

    And further, I argue that God directs us to treat the church as we see it *as* his church — the members we see are the people we should treat as brothers; the elders we see are the people we respect as our pastors. That direction is not unlimited; it is conditioned by church discipline considerations. But our basic moral obligation is to treat the church we see as the church.

    Matthew 18 is an altogether different situation. I know this is a severe sticking point for us so I don’t want to belabor it. Let me just ask two questions: 1) Did the church that is referenced here have any people in it that were indwelt by the Holy Spirit? 2) How did the church in Matthew 18 differ from the one that Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that He was going to build?

    1) Yes, we certainly hope it did! And it also had at least one person in it who was not (probably) indwelt by the Spirit — namely, the one expelled from it.

    2) That’s a good example of the ambiguity that I’m talking about. I think we would agree that the Matt. 16 “church” is the prevailing, elect church. And yet the Matt. 18 “church” contains people who need removing.

    Again, with the Sardis and Laodicea churches, John is not writing to the church (i.e., the VC). He is writing to the pastor of these churches.

    I’m sorry, I have to disagree exegetically. John uses the second-person singular here, which might agree with talking to a single person. And yet look at the language:

    “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
    These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

    It is very clear from the phrase “some of you” that the second-person singular is a collective singular. It is also clear from the phrase “what the Spirit says to the churches” that the messages to the ‘angels’ of the churches (reasonably, their pastors; but not certainly) are considered as messages to the churches themselves.

    Now in the case of Sardis,

    To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
    These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

    It seems beyond doubt that the phrase “you have a reputation of being alive, but are dead” applies to the church, not merely its leader! (And I’ve never read any commentaries that apply these messages to the leaders only, either).

    This becomes even more clear in the letter to Laodicea:

    “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
    These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    Look at these points: (a) God “loves” the addressee(s) (v. 19); but (b) He is threatening to “spit them out of his mouth”; and (c) he is promising him or them forgiveness if they repent.

    Now, it seems like these points put you on the horns of a dilemma: If the addressee is an individual whom God loves, how can He be threatening him with loss of salvation? If on the other hand, the addressee is ONLY the elect in Laodicea, then how can He be threatening them with loss of salvation? And if on the other hand, the addressee is the entire church, then how can God love them?

    In any event, I’ve become confused about where we differ exactly. You seem to agree that the church as we see it is different from the church as God sees it.

    Do we agree that the church as we see it is the proper object of our respect and moral obligations (though not unlimited)?

    Jeff

  110. David Weiner said,

    January 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Jeff, re: 109,

    You asked: “Do we agree that the church as we see it is the proper object of our respect and moral obligations (though not unlimited)?”

    ABSOLUTELY! I don’t think we have disagreed about this from the beginning. The disagreement I see is 1) God is addressing the visible church in the NT in contrast to 2) God is addressing just the believers in the visible church. I think all of our spilt ink (metaphorically speaking, of course) has been aimed at reconciling those two differing views. In the mean time, lots of interesting minutia has come before us for discussion. I am intrigued by a number of the points you make in your last post and so I’ll respond to them. However, if you think we have exhausted this exchange, we can let it go and wait for the next time.

    Matthew 18: I asked: “1) Did the church that is referenced here have any people in it that were indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” You responded: “Yes, we certainly hope it did!” I was surprised by that answer; I expected either a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’. In any case, I can not think of a single verse that would lead one to believe that any of them were before Pentecost. What passage would you point to in support of this hope?

    Regarding the churches in Revelation:
    You said: “I’m sorry, I have to disagree exegetically. John uses the second-person singular here, which might agree with talking to a single person.” I knew that most of the you were singular; but, that wasn’t what I was referring to specifically in my comment. I was simply reading the introductions which are always to the ‘angel,’ singular and not the church as a group. Angel is simply a poor translation (IMHO) of the word here which is more likely messenger. The letter is written to the messenger which I take to be the pastor. The letter is written to the leader to bring to the body. Of course, when I say body, I mean the ones who are really in the body. Yes, the others in the church will hear the message also. But, they can’t do anything with it; thus it is sort of moot. So, no, I do not believe the messages are just for the pastor; they are just for the real body in the VC. At any rate, Jesus is simply following the established chain of command by writing to the messenger.

    Now, you highlighted the phrase ‘some of you’ in verse 2:10. And used this to say that clearly the singular you’s were to be taken in the collective sense and thus the you’s were the body. Well, I have never taken notice of this before but this particular you is plural. There is always something new and exciting to be found in the text!

    Regarding the church at Laodicea you said: “Now, it seems like these points put you on the horns of a dilemma” Truly, an uncomfortable place to sit :) My response is: How can you be so sure that the figurative phrase ‘spit you out of my mouth’ means ‘loss of salvation’ (which we have previously agreed was impossible) when the context is discipline of those God loves? Are the reprobate in that church in God’s mouth (figuratively speaking)? I think not.

    So what is fascinating is that as our discussion has progressed you became more and more convinced that you see the NT addressed to all in the VC and I became more and more convinced that it is only addressed to the believers. Truly amazing!

    Should you decide not to respond to any more of my babblings, let me say that I pray that God bless you richly for your service to Him.

  111. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I’ve enjoyed our exchange. I’ll sign off with a couple of thoughts, read your responses if any, and thanks and Lord bless!

    1) God is addressing the visible church in the NT

    The concern of who is addressed by the letters is not a primary concern for me. I actually agree with you that Paul probably intends for his letters to mostly be taken to heart by the believers within the church — with the possible exception of the warnings in 1 Cor 10 for example (which would actually serve something of the evangelistic function anyways).

    Rather, my concern is what those believers will *do* with the information they receive. Who is the *object* (not the subject) of the commands in Ephesians 4? Is it only the believers in the church that I should “speak truthfully in love” to? Or is it to all members in good standing?

    And oddly, I think we agree that the latter is the case; and if so, then we’re just debating vocabulary.

    (Of course, we could go on to debate who should be counted as members in good standing, but I think we would definitely disagree on that point)

    How can you be so sure that the figurative phrase ’spit you out of my mouth’ means ‘loss of salvation’ (which we have previously agreed was impossible) when the context is discipline of those God loves? Are the reprobate in that church in God’s mouth (figuratively speaking)? I think not.

    Is that a reasonable skepticism? Every evidence *in the text* points to the understanding that God views at least many of them as in the unsaved category: naked, blind, devoid of the fruit of salvation. Are the recipients of this letter supposed to receive this and think, “Well, God is going to spit us out of His mouth, but at least we’re saved”?!

    So why would I argue that the reprobate are “in God’s mouth”? For the reason of the principle that we agreed to above: the reprobates within the church of Laodicea have been heretofore protected from persecutions and granted a certain measure of (temporal!) grace. Why? Because of their proximity to the elect within the church. They have been “in God’s mouth” in the sense of an unpleasant, lukewarm taste that has been tolerated because the entire church is not apostate.

    Throw the question around: if it is the elect that are in God’s mouth, why is He displeased with them and ready to reject them? Are they not already accepted and dearly beloved in Christ?

    Matthew 18: I asked: “1) Did the church that is referenced here have any people in it that were indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” You responded: “Yes, we certainly hope it did!” I was surprised by that answer; I expected either a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’. In any case, I can not think of a single verse that would lead one to believe that any of them were before Pentecost. What passage would you point to in support of this hope?

    I see why you were surprised, and I admit I didn’t anticipate the question (else I should have answered it!). Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples for the church; those instructions are not limited to the period between this discourse and Pentecost (a year or so?!). So in general, the directions are to be applied to churches in which Spirit-filled believers dwell — along with, apparently, stubborn reprobates who are to be put out.

    So there it is. I anticipate posting on the VC by the end of this week.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  112. David Weiner said,

    January 31, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Our exchange has gone through its life-cycle and now I can deliver the eulogy :) It was a good one!

    The Visible Church (VC):

    Subject-Object has come up and not been dealt with in any depth. Nor will it be now. :) Where to start? How about law and man’s propensity to multiply them. I see only two commandments in the NT (1 John 3:23) for those living in 2008. One to the non-believer to believe and one to the believer to love. Could He have made it any easier for us? ;) So, the NT is addressed to all in the metaphorical tree in Romans 11. The Israelites had the Mosaic Law and that brought them into the tree; those living in 2008 have the NT (and the OT) and they now are in the tree.

    The Subjects of the letters are the believers. Some are even “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked“. Their obligation is not first and foremost to their pastor or the other members of their VC. Nor are the non-believers in the VC the Objects of the letters. The believers are the Objects as well as the Subjects. The Epistles are telling the believers in so many ways that they are running their own lives. The believers have to get off of their thrones. For until they are actually walking in the Spirit, they are lukewarm and of no use to anybody, least of all God. Of course, if we don’t really trust that God can lead and guide us then we have to make sure to pick and choose whom and how we are to love. This is simply the wrong focus. If God is actually on the throne guiding a believer, then God will love exactly whom He desires to love through the believer. I cringe every time a VC member says something like “I know I should blah, blah, blah; but I . . .” And, they then do exactly what they want to do. No walking in the Spirit there!

    The Matthew 18 church

    Jesus is giving instructions to the disciples about how to deal with a sinning brother in their assembly, i.e., the Jewish assembly operating under the Mosaic Law without any members who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The result of failure of the process is to treat the sinning brother as a Gentile. This would make no sense to members of a NT church made up of a whole bunch of gentiles. The context defines the meaning of εκκλησια and it can not be a NT church.

    One really last thought::

    It is not just the reprobates within the church of Laodicea to whom God grants a certain measure of (temporal!) grace. It is surely all non-believers, whether in or out of the VC. If that were not the case then none of them would be walking around today and what would that have meant about you and I becoming believers!

    Amen


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