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Chapter 3

Deliver us from Dispensationalism
and Sovereignty without a Sovereign: Alike!

Bay of Retractable Islands, Mission from the Mainland
Chs.   18,    19


There is a confusion which sometimes seems to sully the sympathies and understandings of theologians... and not these alone! It concerns the law and the lawgiver.

There is with some a feeling that the law is inexorable, irrepressible, irrefragable, persisting, pursuing, unyielding. It seeks out nooks and crannies, finds mice here or bacteria there, proceeds to act, as uncompromising as uncorrupted.

This is entirely correct.

However, unfortunately, this feature of the law, is sometimes attributed without further ado... to the LORD in a purely and distinctly negative manner!

(Cf. Items 17, 20, 29, Biblical Blessings Ch.3, The Other News, 33 and SMR Ch.9, pp. 751ff.)

A. Holiness, Hygiene and Love


Let us clarify. In a hospital, there ought to be (or if it is one in which I am to be, let us HOPE, there IS) a sense of cleanliness, of hygiene, so that against bugs, germs, poisons and all the paraphernalia of disease, there is in place scope and work for its prevention. ALL is to be in order, ready to act, as it were, jealously, management being jealous of the CONDITIONS which make for help. There is (or ought to be) no slackness here. Plagues and deaths can accrue from more causes than from golden staph. I like to think of a hospital as a place in which to get better, not worse through the curse of slackness and mismanaged hospitalisations!

So with the law. It is kindly in intention, but STRICT in application. It knows no curves, let alone sensuous ones! It brings ALL THE WORLD UNDER CONDEMNATION, as Paul exultingly tells us, in Romans 3. That is as it should be. Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous, He informs us. Reality precedes sound operations, not glossy pretence.

The LORD however is the ONE, Christ is the PERSON, who has the KINDLY intentions from such stringencies, strictnesses and unallayed, unalloyed STANDARDS! Heaven with low standards is merely another name for hell, with a face lift, an image face lift. Those who like images can have them; I prefer reality.

Some, then, seem to imagine that God is diligently seeking to send people to hell, as if this were some sort of form of love, the kindness towards man of which Paul speaks in His letter to Titus. This is certainly not a view in the Bible.

God is SLOW to anger and of GREAT GOODNESS. True, He is not mocked, but there is no mockery in mercy when it is sought and received in reality and in truth. THIS is a saying worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. HE would have all men to come to a knowledge of the truth. The sovereignty-without-the-sovereign brigade, who speak as if to make a sort of objectified, depersonalised sovereignty march with jack-boots through occupied world (read occupied Europe in 1939, for the parallel), are astray. Even without the imagery, they are astray in depriving the sovereign - whose after all the sovereignty is, of whom it is but an expression - in any such presentation, of the love of which He speaks in Colossians 1:19-23, I John 4:7 and many other places. ( For this, see SMR Appendix B, pp. 1113ff., Jonah 3:9-11, Luke 19:42, I Timothy 2:1-5, II Peter 3:9, II Chronicles 36, Romans 10:1-3, Titus 2:11, 3:4, John 3:17, and Member Contribution 3). *1

GOD LOVES, and there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 too (self-)righteous to need it, or even having repented to life in Christ already. It already excels in this sense: ONE has come HOME! Barren, bared and bare, one has come to the fulness of the beauty of the kingdom of heaven. That is the character of God. JUSTICE is so, no less. He in justice has sent the offering of love that those who come to Him in repentance through faith, might HAVE this wonderful stringency without which - well, just take a look at II Corinthians 12:20 - things are not right, hence not good enough!

This is a propitiation on behalf not only of our sins (I John 2:1-2), but of those of all the world! Let us be clear here. The SUBSTITUTIONARY sacrifice relates ONLY to the elect, it is a limited atonement (Romans 8:32 makes it clear that those whose sins He bore are those for whom all things are available). Yet the UNDERLYING LOVE is such that this sacrifice is AVAILABLE FOR, ADAPTED TO and SUFFICIENT FOR ANYONE, who comes.

The attitude is without limit; the action is with great limit.

The love is expansive, the justice is selective; but the selection is NOT on merit, lest as Paul again puts it, any man should boast. It is WITHOUT the works of the law (Romans 3), and wholly by grace through faith, the gift of God, given to "the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3-10). It is indeed such that those who do not receive it, as in John 1-3, are deemed to have rejected the light which came in and as Jesus Christ. THAT without a shadow of a doubt is the context in John 1-3. It is a massive, a Matterhorn context , so focussing, so centrally on the advent of Jesus Christ. That being so, THIS is their condemnation, that LIGHT IS COME into the world, but men have PREFERRED DARKNESS. (See Member Contribution 3.)

It is NOT the case that men choose God; but it IS the case that they CHOOSE not-God! Now when GOD chooses HIS elect, it is based on the PRINCIPLES He constantly and repeatedly enunciates concerning His love, which would reconcile ALL things to Himself, by Christ: yea though they be in heaven or on earth! (Colossians 1:19-23). Why not then believe Him! That is always the more righteous, not to say honourable path!

B. Neither God's Sovereignty, His Love nor His Grace are Detachable to Fit Any System:
nor is human autonomy attachable to His salvation

1. Love Undetachable.

In attitude then, this is the case. God does not change, and Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of the everlasting God. In predestination process, or action, or eventuation, or authority, then, GOD so acted with SUCH an attitude, and to deny this is to deny His word. What does it (in the last analysis) matter HOW He did it? In my PREDESTINATION AND FREEWILL, I simply show one way of visualising or at least conceptualising it, so as to prove that the divinely declared principles are in harmony. How in fact it happened is entirely God's affair, for IN THE FORM OF GOD, THERE IS BRILLIANT LIGHT TO WHICH NO MAN MAY APPROACH (I Timothy 6:16).

2. God's Choice Undetachable.

It may be in this way and it may be in that, in practice; but it surely is the case that in His foreknowledge, God has known all relevant to His wise decision: whom He foreknew, He predestinated, is what is written. It certainly is not based on good works, good character, knowledge of the same, and so on, lest any man should boast, and so that the purpose of God according to election might stand (Romans 9). The word of God however TELLS us that human refusal is what HE holds up in the face of His love, against the rejected. THAT is enough for me. Certainly, in a state of unredeemed sin man cannot understand or know God, and to the natural man, these things are foolishness, so how would an unredeemed sinner choose them in his natural state, being unconverted!

Certainly! It is not a matter of his choice (John 15:1-4), but of the Lord's choice. It always was and it always will be. HE IS SOVEREIGN.

3. God's Word Undetachable.

But He is SUCH A SOVEREIGN as He declares (I Timothy 2:1-5, I John 4:7-8).
I do not favour talk of His holiness as if it meant that He is not what He claims, or does not have such a willingness as He declares! There is nothing of the fear of God to admire in that! And it is the fear of God which is clean, and as noted earlier, in our hospitals and in our lives in this sinful world, we NEED CLEANNESS!

  • The Lord is not a mechanic amidst His laws. On the contrary: He is the immutable and loving Person of illimitable heart.
  • Negativity about His love is
  • as inept as that about His law, or
  • the necessity of His ever over-arching grace.

The truth must be adhered to on all sides and in all features. "I am" is not manipulable. Mental idols are no less pleasant than physical ones; another Jesus, another Spirit, another God is not to be desired (II Corinthians 11).

4. "I AM" - No Feature Detachable or Attachable

The dispensational double vision is likewise awry. The law was never a means of salvation, and the gospel of Abraham is not different in kind from that today; nor was it rescinded. The law acted like a schoolmaster to show the exceeding sinfulness of sin and to bring us the more readily to God, focussing sharply the true folly of sin: as it really is! (Romans Chs. 4,7). The Cross put the coping stone to this exposure of sin, as the look of the Lord there showed in some detail the result of the sins of man, in the presence of God: its desert and its thrust were inscribed upon Him as He bore its terrible impact (cf. Zechariah 3:9)..

The LAW then IS terrible, awe-ful, right, sound, godly, holy, it needs no excuses. Paul makes this so very clear (Romans 7).It declares what we need to know. Its fulfilment in Christ declares likewise the love of the sovereign whose wonder law it is. It had picturesque pictorial modes of teaching in the Old Testament, and has substantial realised consummated modes in the New: but it is the holiness of the law of the Lord which never departs (see Hebrews 12). The LORD whose law it is, is holy and loving and merciful, and has shown the way to combine intense and world-covering mercy with intense and sin exposing justice, on the cross. The cover offered is for the sins of the whole world; the cover provided is for the sins of those who come.

5. God's Salvation is not Detachable.

Those who do not come, do not do so in the light of the predestinative power of the Lord who WOULD HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, but has in His own narrow way but few. Love is like that: God's love, the prototype of all love. He does not force, but He has love's beauty and fulness in its depths within Himself. To it, He gives His name. From His name, it gains what it is. He is neither susceptible to our demanding enquiries on the topic, nor lacking in that breadth of love which He unceasingly proclaims. He will show mercy on whom He will show mercy, and answers to none erecting him/herself as putative sovereign and court of review; BUT WHAT IF, as Paul puts it in Romans 9:22-23, God with extreme patience endured for long the follies of those whom He rejected!

The love of God, then, may be neither distanced nor diminished by some detachable sovereignty, nor reached by some attachable human resolve, will or autonomy.

"I am that I am", says the Lord (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58). God is not interested in IMAGE-BUILDING, but in truth, and it is those who worship Him in spirit and in truth that He desires. When He states His desires, it is best, not to say modest, not to say realistic, to believe Him.

The name of God is a very great name. NOTHING must be done to sully its magnificent features; and to this end, we must keep precisely, continually and in all things, to His word (Psalm 119:20).

All that remains is this: to trust Him, and believe what He says. Surely that is not too onerous!

Now we come to another kind of negativity in dispensationalism.




It is the matter of the state of the Jews after they return to Israel as predicted (see SMR pp. 751ff. for a review in terms of the Bible), AND LATER many of them come to Christ (Zechariah 12:10ff., and to His eternal and irrevocable New Covenant - Ezekiel 36:24-25, 37:5-14, 22-28, Daniel 7:13-27).

Having grasped the Biblical series of events from the above, then it would be an apt way to proceed quickly, if the reader were to cover SMR pp. 513, 520, 796, 822-830, 894-895, 1088B-D,G on sacrifices.

This done, we see that the sacrificial system was, as Hebrews Chs.8-10 so abundantly shows, a pattern or figure or preliminary treatment of man's need and God's provision, to be substantiated and fulfilled in due time by the realities of the One who would provide eternal redemption with ONE sacrifice made ONCE in the end of the Age, offered by ONE person for ONE purpose; so that those who look for Him shall find Him come without sin a second time for them.

The Old and the New

The OLD Covenant,

so drastically to be merged into the fulfilment of the New,

where CHRIST is the sacrifice (Isaiah 66:1-3, 52:12-53:13, Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 40:1-8, 22:1-8,22-30, 72:1-14, Ezekiel 16:60-63, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Isaiah 19:20-25, 32:1-4, 42:1-7, Micah 5:1-3)

that the Ark will be forgotten and will not even be built, yes will not even COME TO MIND (Jeremiah 3:16)

in this New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31ff., as often elsewhere):


"NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS" is this atonement provision and application of the law of God (Jeremiah 31:32);

indeed it will be such (Isaiah 66:1-3) that if someone presumed to make an animal sacrifice, it would be as if he were killing a dog! It would be irrelevant, cruel, unauthorised, banal! The ark is forgotten and wholly out of mind.

The New Offering


What is NOT forgotten is SIN, and SACRIFICE, but the one who is to provide this sacrifice and atonement is one who will grow up as a root out of a dry ground (Isaiah 53:2). A "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" is He, and He is to be "marred in His visage more than any man".

Yet it is He who will "sprinkle many nations".

He will be put to death (53:9) though truth is His only utterance (53:9),

and make atonement (53:11),

being righteous and without blemish, as required of atoning sacrifice ( Leviticus 4:3, Malachi 1:10-14, Psalm 49:7),

and this in contradistinction to all mere mortals, who are neither sinless nor, like Christ, deity in human form (Psalm 45, Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 2); nor is it other than blasphemy for SUCH AS THESE to be trusted in, for cursed are such (Psalm 2:12, Jeremiah 17:5ff.). Yet the Messiah MUST be so trusted to the utmost for the ultimate (Psalm 2:12).

True, Messiah is to suffer affliction and be murdered (Psalm 22, Daniel 9:24, Zechariah 3:9, 13:6, Isaiah 52:13-53:12), This is focussed and featured at length and in depth (cf. Luke 24:25). Yet despite this, in the power of deity from whom and as whom He comes (Isaiah 9:1-6, Psalm 2, 45, 72, Micah 5:1-3, Isaiah 48:16, Zechariah 2:8), He shall be there to find satisfaction in the reality and effectiveness of His own work (53:11) as was prophesied likewise for this regal victim of Psalm 22, who though killed with appalling atrocity as the Psalmist shows, can say, "I will declare your name to My brethren: in the midst of the assembly I will praise you... For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard" - Psalm 22:22ff..

"A posterity will serve Him; it will be accounted to the Lord for a generation" (cf. 102:16-21, Isaiah 53:8-10, Psalm 110:3, ). And this? When the Lord "shall appear in His glory", and "regard the prayer of the destitute", and coming, "hear the groaning of the prisoner", acting to "release those appointed to death" (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3, Ezekiel 34), and to declare the name of the Lord in Zion. WHO? It is the Lord who searches out His sheep, who Himself comes as He says, and so conducts Himself in the grandeur of His compassion and the enormity of His truth, rising like a colossus, descending as glory.

THIS, then, shall be written for the generation to come (about 1000 years on from the Psalmist in fact), and as to Him, His glory is interminable (Psalm 72:12-14,17).

The Messiah has the Form of a Man

This Messiah of course is a man (Isaiah 32:1-4, Psalm 72:1-2, 2:7) as is appropriate for someone who is to have his face marred, his body whipped, to die, to have his clothes bartered for, and indeed to be called a man (Isaiah 32:2, Zechariah 4:12-13), to have His body pierced and His sinlessness entire. He is man, yet God with powers equally unlimited. Thus Isaiah chs.29,35 show the extent of the miraculous powers to accompany Him, as does Isaiah 11:1-10.

Indeed the wicked will be summoned and sentenced by His mouth, we there find! When His triumphant completion of His task proceeds, this Son of David as He is also called (cf. Jeremiah 23:5, Zechariah 4:12-13, and in Ezekiel 34:11-25, where God embarks on His own personal shepherding program)! Yet who is David's Lord! (Psalm 110:1ff).THOUGH (as in Psalm 2) we are left in no doubt that this Messiah of the Lord, like His Father, will be the object of rebellion and that indeed, the Messiah will be rejected entirely (cf. Isaiah 52-53), yet HE WILL RULE! (cf. Isaiah 9:6, 53:12, Ezekiel 34:23-24, Psalm 72:8,17). There is an undoubted sequence which is picturesquely but with the utmost gravity dramatised in Psalm 2 in particular. That rule will be total and certain, when the day of its revelation comes.

Now all this is covered in much detail in SMR, but aspects are summarily noted here for convenience.

SO: we have a New Covenant, NOT like the old one. In that, animal sacrifice is ludicrous, contemptible, ridiculous; in this, the central figurative features of the Old Covenant, like the Ark, are gone, passed completely, precisely in accord with Hebrews 8. In the New Covenant, this we are told, in the Old it is predicted. Thus the concept that the Jews will engage in MORE Old Testament sacrifices in some way acceptable to God, though Christ has come, and the Leader and the Commander of the People is now HERE (Isaiah 54:3-4): this is a gross libel on the Lord. "Hear," it says of Him in 55:3, "and your soul shall live!"

"WHY?", it asks, "do you spend money for that which is not bread..." Rather, "Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without price!" (55:1). Free is the gift of God who provides (Genesis 22:8,14 - Jehovah Jireh sums it up in His name! and Isaiah 53:5,12). "My dead body will they arise," He declares (Isaiah 26:19) of those He called "my people", who shelter in His refuge which He provides; and hide in Him (cf. Isaiah 4:6, 32;1-3). "Come, " He says, "Hide yourself ... for a little moment until the indignation be past" - against sin (cf. Isaiah 64:1-65:1-2,13-16).

The Messiah is Ineradicable


Thus as to the Old Covenant,

in much specialised as a prototype, with its preliminary ways:

  • it is no more to be understood as to come or as operative,
  • in view of and in the light of Biblical principles shown in the New Covenant and prophesied expressly and abundantly in the Old,
  • than that HELL has somehow come to earth, and that Israel is its placement!

These are figures such as all figures, to be understood in the light of principles made liberally clear, so that the imaginative thrust can be permitted, in order to shock the mind into awareness. Thus as God says in Hosea, did He multiply visions and figures, in the desire by all means to wake up His people (Hosea 12:10). Yet it is HE who will be the plagues of death, and it is HE PERSONALLY who says, "I will ransom them from the grave", HIMSELF CONSTITUTING the PLAGUES of death (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 53:6, 10-12).

"O Israel, it hurls you to destruction that you are against ME, your help," He says in this context, in line with Isaiah 49:7, 42:6, where Israel is shown as a nation, to ABHOR the One given as a COVENANT, yes constituting and composing and COMPRISING it, a light to the Gentiles. THIS is the servant whose voice will not be lifted up (Isaiah 42:3, 52:7), who will care for the "bruised reed" as also shown in Psalm 72: the king, the son of David, and it is HE who is the ONE -unlike Israel, in whom God found none to hand - who is "Mine Elect in whom My soul delights" (Isaiah 41:27-42:3). It is He who coming, bears the glory, and who will not depart though His seasons for advent are His own.

There is only One who is King, son of David, tender, sinless, an adequate atonement, ultimate healer of deaf, dumb and blind, commander of the people, clear-cut and unequivocal witness (Isaiah 55:1-6); none but He has done these things, and only He has met the Biblical criteria of this GOSPEL (Isaiah 52-53) which is to be accepted in such bulk by the Gentiles that some of whom will be its "priests" (Isaiah 66). GOD HAS PROMISED to foretell what concerns His people (Amos 3:7); and having predicted this scenario, and allowed its advent into history, right to the death of the Messiah, and that at the predicted time (SMR pp. 889ff.), together with the Gospel inseparably annexed to Him: He faces the human race with fact! He has come; this is He; and HERE is the gospel predicted as moving to burrow deep into the Gentile world. It was to be; it was; and it is . With God, not only is nothing impossible; what He says is THEREBYT both possible and assured.

THIS MESSIAH is it, the end. It is HE who is the criterion, the One whom we ALL must believe and follow, Jew or Gentile, or have for the blasphemous presumption of gratuitous negativity, something that God will REQUIRE of him! (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Thus the sacrifices of Zechariah 14, which follow the gospel message and close coverage of the Messiah in this prophet (3:9, where the sins of the people are absolved in one day, 9:6, where the King comes on an ass's colt, 11:10-12:10, where the treachery of His people against Him occurs, and their subsequent repentance in terms of Him whom they pierced is displayed, this and much more): these have nothing to do with the merely preparatory specifics which are included in the Old Covenant. The Messianic blessing is "not according to" this, we are instructed by the Lord, in Jeremiah 31; and its most intimate items are wholly irrelevant now, being fulfilled, as we are shown explicitly.

These Old Covenant-formatted terms of Zechariah 14:16ff. represent in Old Covenant shadows*2, what is to be performed in a New Covenant setting. Hence the principles of the New Covenant in one phase as in another, and in particular with the return of the endlessly governing Prince (Isaiah 9:6) the son of David born of a virgin, are to apply. These principles make the symbolic forms which are used in terms of the Old Covenant setting of Zechariah, to have poignant and intensive force. Yet they require them to be understood in terms of the New Covenant, so that items of the Old do not even come to mind!

Further, like the showbread given to King David by the priest, to cover the leader's emergency, they are to be interpreted as to their significance: indeed the baked "bread" itself disappears, like the altar of Jeremiah 3; and ONLY the meaning now remains. The glory of it is this: THAT meaning now is LESS abstract than before, MORE concrete and utterly personal, moving from Christ, who proceeded from His Father to those of this race who receive Him. In all things, Christ has the pre-eminence, and all things are gathered up in one in Him (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:10); and here is the resting point of all symbol for its nexus. This then is the situation in Zechariah 14.

As earlier noted, the same applies to the end of Isaiah 66, where the SPIRITUAL realities of hell are depicted as if they were occurring on earth, and as if people went to some physical place to observe them. We all use symbols of former times, or other things to represent something with vital force and impact at times; it is part of the value of having capacity both imagination and for symbolic thought within our construction as in the image of God.

In these places, the principles securely in place, we are to understand the teaching implicit in the patterns, and not to imagine that God has become divided in mind: but rather this, that if we do not accept it, we are "foolish and slow in heart", as Christ indicated when He chided His disciples. And for what did He chide them? for not seeing His place in its regal and overall setting, commanding and commandeering all else, in the suffering phase as likewise in the phase of His glory.

Thus, to revert to the text of Zechariah 14, even the pots "shall be holiness to the Lord", just as the "walls" predicted for Isaiah 60's presentation of Jerusalem, are t be "salvation" and its gates "praise"! It is no part of holiness to be obtuse to what is so written that to fail to understand is to be embroiled in the ludicrous, and to understand is to be deepened in the fundamental realities God reveals so often, in so many ways and with such final authority. Now at last, the "shadows" of material emblems are replaced with the spiritual substance itself (cf. Hebrews 10:1-13), as soon again, will the structure itself (Isaiah 65:17, when God shakes the unshakeable and demonstrates His magnificence with prodigious directness, in Christ - Revelation 5:12-13).

As Hebrews 8 tells us of the Old Covenant, it is fading away, obsolete.

The Curse and the Shock

ANY other gospel is ACCURSED, as Paul says, and ANY idea that God would regress to an earlier teaching mode is as contrary to the Old Testament as to the New. THOSE things are passed: HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS MY FOOTSTOOL. WHERE IS THE HOUSE THAT YOU WILL BUILD ME, AND WHERE IS THE PLACE OF MY REST! God declares in Isaiah 66, as He proceeds to pour scorn, for this by then extensively reported Messianic period, on the very notion of animal sacrifice! "So," He says, "will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because when I called, no on answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight" - Isaiah 66:4. "WHO," He asks in Isaiah 53:1 as He unveils the Messiah, "has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?"

Not Levity About Levites: But illumination about the Gospel

"I will take some of them," God declares in this same context, "for priests and Levites!" Obviously the Levites, a specific tribe, are not generated from a motley mix of Gentiles; but here is the language of shock awakening - precisely like the reference to the killing of a sacrificial ox being like killing a man, or that of a lamb being like breaking a dog's neck, or the offering of an oblation being like presenting swine's blood, or the offering of incense resembling blessing an idol, earlier in the same chapter! (v.3).

The intention beyond question is to shock into awareness. The effect is to make His people realise their folly, and to prevent their concentration on symbolic features to the exclusion of their real and vital meaning! Accordingly, children of Abraham physically, can be called children of the devil spiritually (John 8:37-44), while stones can be made more eloquent than those blind and dumb in the presence of their spiritual King from glory, Jesus Christ (Luke 19:40)! Amos 9:7 refers to the children of Israel in their rebellion with parallel sting, therapeutic impact to alert to peril: "Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel? says the LORD." And then ?

Judgments are then pronounced; and the case resembles that in Isaiah 65:1-2,10-13), where there appear shafts of bare, gleaming light that expose evil with their brilliance, amid the judgments that now break critically upon the fallen nation, long failing to return. "I WAS FOUND BY THOSE WHO DID NOT SEEK ME. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' to a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people." "A rebellious people", God declares of the contemporary Jewish nation, drawing near with their mouths, while the heart is far from God (Isaiah 29:13). To OTHERS, then, will go a free grace!

Similarly these words of Isaiah 66:3 prepare their hearts for that great liberation of the New Covenant (Acts 15:10) where the realities are far more directly expressed, and where, monumentally, Christ as the Lamb of God replaces in one vast offering of Himself, all other blood sacrifice. The horror of reversion therefore is here explosively presented, as a thing of repugnance and horror, very much in line with the New Covenant book of Hebrews. But let us return to Isaiah 66 and the missionary activities of vv. 19ff..

In short, and in line with the explosive character of this Chapter, God is here speaking to His people and contrasting their field with themselves, for THEY are to go to the GENTILES! Yet Levites to be brought as an offering, from such a missionary field, so distinguished and so characterised in contradistinction from those sent ? Those who have "NEVER" seen His glory... nor "HEARD" His fame are to COME! This is "AMONG THE GENTILES". THIS is the field, and from it are to come LEVITES!

Without miraculous intervention, such a thing would be physically impossible, a contradiction in terms: unless it meaning were seen. And that ? It is the whole point. It is a case of understand, or else be mocked by the Lord, whose word is so lightly taken that Christ can be "rejected of men" and become One whom "the nation abhors" (Isaiah 49:7). It requires an understanding, as so often in the Bible, of the principles already made clear. In this way, God sometimes both awakens the slackening hearts of His people, and prepares them either for repentance, things to come or both.

Just so, is there a new name (Isaiah 65:10-13, 62:1-3) for God's people, and indeed, a new SIGN, the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14 - metonymy for the heart of the Gospel, linked to its historical reality, as in Isaiah 52-53, Psalm 2 et al. This Gospel, Christians will proclaim and as to the fruits of this great drive (cf .Matthew 28;18) ? Yes, Christian missionaries and ministers will result! The new-named Levites will not be lacking! The details as well as the crux are all covered.

Indeed, the Messiah is going to "sprinkle many nations" and be "a light to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 52:15, 49:6, 24:16, Psalm 138:4, 145:12, 148:11, 117:1, Deuteronomy 32:43, Jeremiah 10:7, 16:19-17:9). Here, similarly, God is speaking of ALL nations, and THIS is where the Levites are found. They are found here, the ministers of God, because there HE has placed them! Yes, "I will call my servants by another name!" - Isaiah 65:10-13, 62:1-3. Judaism is merely a continuation of the surpassed, with its added traditions built on the avoidance of what God has commanded in Christ. Its ways are noted in Romans 10:1-4. It is NOT another name; but what God has commanded IS another name! What His commander has commanded brings another name! What the Messiah has contracted for has another name! It is another name which God has undertaken to use for His servants.

His Kingdom is Not Ruled
by One whose Words Mutate or Pass Away

Let us then not be obtuse and imagine that God is about to contradict Himself, and bring blessing where He attributes cursing; but rather realise that Jew and Assyrian, Egyptian and all are on ONE basis IN the new name; and by no means is this KINGDOM about to lose its Messiah or His significance (Daniel 7:13-14, Isaiah 42:1-6,18ff., 19:21-24, 9:6-7). It is poly-racial with severe indifference (Galatians 3:28) in its salvatory proceedings and all its glory is for Christ (Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 1:18-20): like lava it covers, and nothing escapes; but unlike lava, it is never forced. The cover is gracious, not domineering; but it is still God who elects in love, receiving His own. From before the foundation of the world He has chosen IN CHRIST, and in none other (Ephesians 1:4-5, I Timothy 2:1-5).

Indeed, God's covenant with Abraham is the prototype of the sacrificial provisions of Christ, so that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4), the law being a teacher to impress on man the exceeding sinfulness of sin! NO CHANGE is there in the divine heart, which understands all things, and whose understanding being infinite, is not susceptible to variation. Thus Psalm 32 shows the same identical approach in New and Old Covenants to mercy and the basis of forgiveness. No change is ever in view.

From Abraham to Christ, there is ONE: it is foreshadowed to the patriarch and not foreshortened to us (cf. Genesis 15:1-6,9-12, 22:8-13). One faith, one sacrifice (coming or to come), one accreditation of pardon on the basis of it, one God in whom is no shadow of turning (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17): it does not turn on a people for whom Paul could wish Himself accursed, going about to establish their own righteousness (Romans 10:1ff.) but on a people, Jew or Gentile indifferently, who by a new name are HIS (Ephesians 4:4)!

Thus this aspect of dispensationalism is not only a mischief in misleading the Jews, but a folly in dealing with the ineradicable, unmolestable, uniquely acceptable, wholly unchangeable Gospel of Jesus Christ. This in New and Old Testament alike, is ultimate, irrevocable, irreversible, indispensable (Acts 4:11-12, Galatians 1:6-9, Matthew 24:35, Daniel 7:11ff., Psalm 72, 45:1-6,17, Revelation 5:1-13).

We know that people can be misled; and it is not our purpose to judge anyone; but THIS we must in the fear and in the love of God judge, that tampering with these eternal realities is a dangerous error and a derogation of the crown rights of Jesus Christ. Christian, avoid it as you live, and follow HIM in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form, so that for you inwardly, as for all outwardly in its time, Christ will in ALL things have the pre-eminence! (Colossians 1:18-19, Daniel 7:11-14).

The "substance" (Hebrews 10:1-3) having come, all thought of reversion to what the Bible calls "shadows" is merely to eclipse the "sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4) who comes with "healing in His wings", and to act as if to restore Christ to the womb, delete the incarnation and to change Daniel's kingdom that will have no end, in terms of the Son of man, to open that stutters and gaps. However, Acts 4:10-12, like Colossians 1:18-23, Psalm 2 and Ezekiel 37, like the whole of the New Testament (e.g. Galatians 1:6-9, Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 10:26ff.), remain. They continue adamant, and such added injury to the name of Christ is given especially scalding rejection in Hebrews 10.

The reversionary concept, of returning to the Old Testament program in its preliminary features, is as close to the Bible as is the newly-created GARDEN OF EDEN, to the valley of the shadow of death. It is distanced by an explicit, irrevocable epoch, command and resolve in God Almighty. There is NO WAY to the Father except by Christ (John 14:6) and NO END to His rule. (See also Parts 13 and 17 in Barbs, Arrows and Balms, pp. 55ff., 99ff..)

A Personal Note

  • Is it not a marvel that there are no unanswered problems ? Certainly there are wonderful new green pastures of understanding; but what we have is soglorious a harmony, so challenging, arresting and delightful a spiritual campus that we can delight ourselves in the Lord, as well-groomed young lambs, and more reflective older ones, in the Spring pastures by the blue streams.

The Biblical blessings found in the love and peace of this Messiah whose nature is indescribably delicious, whose love passes knowledge (Ephesians 3:18), whose peace passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), whose foreknowledge accounts not merely for providence but for miraculous intervention at His will, are first in this, that it is HE who is our shield and exceedingly great reward, in the same faith as that of Abraham, then in bud, now in flower. They are secondly in this, that we are in its final epoch, centred on the eternal and living word of God, the eternal life of God presented in flesh and for flesh that spirit might be liberated and set like a jewel in format eternal in the resurrection. And third? Look at what follows, and delighting yourself in this same sovereign, compassionate Lord, find the desires of your heart.

Consider Psalm 37! "Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (vv.3-4). And this:

"Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noonday.

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him: Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way."

There is no need to hurry in your heart when your heart is in Him whose is Eternity. There is peace that passes all understanding when one is in the hand of the One whose hands are pierced in solemn pledge of His love, and whose life has arisen from the grave in bodily form, the pledge of the power He showers on the Christian's way continually.

In the peace that neither passes away in endless successions of strange dealings,
nor is captive to the devil, but is always that of the God who does not change,
whose name is LOVE, yet being sovereign, who gives LOVE its PLACE: there is a celestial magnitude. Its source is God Himself, and its end is in Him, who begins it so that it does not end.

As to His love, it passes knowledge, and so far from being susceptible to guillotining on the one hand, or polluting into powerlessness on the other: by theologians or others, it shines in and through Him. Unavailable indeed to swine - to use His term for it - who would turn again and rend - but directed in ATTITUDE that all might be saved, it is no lack in IT, that they are not. It is for the very abundance of it, that those who call in faith are kept by immeasurable might, exquisite care and holy joy in their place, like Daniel, for their appointed lot by His side. When they "awake" in celestial eternity, they shall behold His likeness, and be like Him, derivative but conformed: for they shall see Him as He is (Romans 8:31-39, II Timothy 1:9, I Peter 1:3-10, Daniel 12:13, Psalm 17:15, I John 3:1-2). Read those blessed promises and rejoice.

He is tender: He is also true.

He is indeed magnificent, as we shall be reminded in our next Chapter.




This disastrous seeming imbalance, in which the SOVEREIGNTY of God is made into an extreme and radical thing, instead of one phase of the activities of the gracious God who is called "love" by the apostle John, is met on the other side by another disastrous seeming imbalance. In this, the "love" appears divorced from the sovereign, as if it were somehow in vacuo, and linked to a humanly directable phase. In this approach, it is as if God stands back and watches them "do" it, as they find Him or not.

Neither of these approaches is just, as shown at length in Predestination and Freewill (cf. The Love of God); but each tends to provoke the other, so that both appear in mixed conflict with some species of unbiblical extremism or other (1).

In fact, as He says, God SOVEREIGNLY and WITH UNDYING AND UNDIMMED LOVE, is never variable. He is never absent in His predestination as in His nature, He selects. NONE therefore will be rejected because of a deficiency of love; nor, on the other hand, will any find Him by some mere quirk of psychology.

The Biblical truth lies in neither extreme, nor in the middle. It is what God declares and not what philosophical presumption would wish to impart.
In fact, the tendency for these needless divisions so based, of what does it remind one ?

Of what more than those motors which, when one turns off the key, insist on going on, as if long custom gave them warrant to proceed, even when the driver's will is perfectly clear. They just chug on as if by force of habit, as if - to extend the parable, they felt a certain dignity in doing the thing last done, and had forgotten that the driver in such matters, is paramount. So it is with the word of God: it leaves NO room for assumptions and presumptions and continuities, and traditions founded on preferred procedures; but it requires that man live by EVERY WORD which proceeds out of the mouth of God, noting periods as they occur.

Similarly, unbalanced extremes occur in other matters. There are those:

2) of church music (Questions and Answers 13, in Questions and Answers), relative to Psalm singing on the one hand, and on the other, careless

sentimentality or modishness in the use of hymns which do not meet Biblical standards. Again, in baptism, there arises

3) 'baptismal regeneration' as one extreme and 'believers' baptism' the other (see Questions and Answer 11).

In parallel, as may be seen from A Question of Gifts, where the detail of these things is developed: you have

4) what could be called semi-automatic charismatics. Here we readily find radical innovative excrescences, laced with a) secular psychology and psychic modes, procedures and b) presumptions in speaking in the name of the Lord, as with c) popular relief if not indeed d) entertainment, in the field of increasingly wild and intemperate 'charismatic gifts' performances, requirements and codes.

The arduousness of unbiblical 'holy laughter' (A Question of Gifts, pp 91ff.) is merely the gargoyle at the end of the track, or at least one is to hope that it is near its end. On the other side, there is straight laced traditionalism which, ignoring such things as the multiple presentations of word and insight in early Scottish Reformation, and the Scripture alike,

  • defiantly rules out any operation of such things,
  • with an obtuseness bordering on blindness,
  • imagining that when we see God "face to face" - the terminus ad quem, the time for cessation specified in I Cor. 13 - is some time before the resurrection! - op.cit. pp. 1 ff..

{An interesting case - prodigy better - at the healing level is specified in its Biblical context in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock - SMR - pp. 338-342. The business of 'regulating' God by human traditions and guesstimates is at best cardinally unwise, at worst disgraceful, depending on the nature of the endeavour - Psalm 78:41. Neither His words nor His works are so susceptible; the fact that His WORDS to mankind per se are expressly finished till He returns is something HE has said, and one should keep to this.}

Amusingly, that would fit all too well with some of the more extreme or esoteric 'charismatics'! I Corinthians 13 as shown (A Question of Gifts, pp.1 ff.), however does not teach such a thing; and the gifts are to continue EXCEPT WHERE CLEAR BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES EXCISE THEM, UNTIL that time.

Precisely such principles, however, assuredly rule out any DOCTRINE ARISING, for the canon is closed with Revelation (as indicated in A Question of Gifts, p. 90: cf. pp. 112-123, 36-37 at *9, 43, 46, 78-81, 95ff.at *16, 11 at *20 in that volume; The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, Appendices C-D, esp. p. 1161):

  • gone is the authoritative power to speak 'in the name of the Lord' as part indeed of the divine specifications for the human race, as if a prophet of old. THOSE prophets did not have to have their words judged by the assembled brethren, and their prophetic gifts were in the time when the word of God to man was being presented.

They also rule out featuring, focussing, glamorising the exercise of those gifts which remain; and much more excise their 'use' to determine sanctity, or even conversion, or some vague suitability for general offices in the church. As shown in A Question of Gifts (see Section XI), it would however seem highly inappropriate for any Biblical pastor to lack the secondary gift of prophecy - that is, what remains when the canon is closed - a gift to understand and impart in the area of Biblical exegesis, a gift spiritual indeed, that is not some inert gas, as it were, like xenon, which has no combining power.

One remembers Dr Buswell of Covenant Seminary, of which he was Principal, bemoaning, or lamenting or expostulating on a topic nearly related. When he was young, those called to the ministry, he reflected, seemed to come to this vocation because they COULD DO NO OTHER. They were constrained, impelled, directed. THAT is part of it: it is a spiritual gift which is not some diploma of speech; but a call from God which is accompanied with what is needed in spiritual grace and development through His presence.

In the field of our present topic, we have yet a fifth case. Here -

5) dispensationalism appears as one extreme, a phase of slighting the "weightier matters of the law". It does this in the sense of over-riding and crucial Biblical principles which are spelled out in the word of God with immense emphasis. On the other side, amillenialism appears as a sort of theological nihilism in this area, striding rampant through contexts without taking the boots off, to consider their precise and intimate contextual requirements: a matter dealt with in detail in Appendix A of SMR and elsewhere.

The even-handed use of BOTH the over-riding interpretative, Biblically declared principles, AND the precise detail of the context, each one in its integrity: this tends to be forgotten. Again, each "corner" of radical extravagance in interpretation tends to exacerbate the other, or at least to aggravate the grandeur of its error: so leaving each extreme unusable and untenable.

When the desire is to follow the Lord, how great is the need for Paul's "let your moderation be known to all men", to apply. It is then that a "flexibility" (one translation of the Greek rendered "moderation") that sensitively follows the outline of the truth (II Timothy 2:15) may function. Then as context and principles are each given their due, and both are in the Book, each aspect of the word of God, followed with hallowing care as well as zeal, is allowed to bathe us in its light and its beauty. Then is the call to Timothy (II Timothy 2:15), better fulfilled!


Shadows and Certainties

Though it may seem unnecessary to add here, history would seem to teach that when it comes to understanding the word of God, the human heart is such that there is little which is not necessary. Let us then be very explicit. The KEY to the interpretation of the symbolic repetitious elements of the Old Covenant is clear in Hebrews 7-10: the patterns of worship in their shadows are lost in the fulness of the substance in Christ. THIS has the express sanction of God, and represents ONLY a fulfilment. Hence we are wholly obligated to adopt it, just as illumination on the realities to which the symbols referred has invited us to do so no less.

This however is far from the case when it comes to the singular and the promised. Just as the word of God INSISTS on fulfilling His promises in symbols in substance in Christ, whose sacrifice sums up in one the varied excursions of the worshipful ceremonials, so it INSISTS on fulfilling its express and personal undertaking to Abraham, citing THE DIVINE FAITHFULNESS TO THE POINT AGAIN, EXPLICITLY! This we find in Ezekiel 34-37, and of course in Genesis 15:13-21, 17:3-8. NOT FOR YOUR SAKES DO I THIS, God says, as He brings back the scattered remnants of a formerly mighty people, who had used His name in their goings, and who had named HIM their GOD! (Ezekiel 36:5-32).

HENCE we are precisely as disenabled from squashing these divine undertakings of an unconditional character and express kind, to Abraham, and to those who the Lord should elect in the time to come in accord with this, as cited in Ezekiel, as from failing to unify the sacrificial and ceremonial symbols in one, in Christ and in His ONE offering, ONCE FOR ALL, at Calvary. We are to be exegetes, not philosophers; and as God declares, so we interpret. We are following our squadron leader, not leading Him. As for God, He has an eternal mind of His own, manufactures minds: and who being His counsellor, has taught Him!

(See also Barbs, Arrows, Balms, Part 13, esp. pp.32, 36).)