“This is the astounding thing that happens to all who are Christians, all who are members of this body, which is the Bride of Christ. You have been given a new name by the Prince of glory, and wonder of wonders! it is His own name. There is no honour or glory greater than this. You are lost in a new name, and it is the highest name of all. We read that a day is coming when (at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth’ – and that is the name that is given to us who are constituted the Bride of Christ.
Then we see that out of that comes the fact that we are sharers in His dignity, in His great and glorious posidon. The Apostle has already said as much in chapter 2 where he has told us the amazing truth that ‘He hath raised us up together (in Christ), and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ That is true of us now. If we are Chrisdans at all we are ‘in Christ’ and that means that we are ‘seated with Him in the heavenly places.’ Wherever the bridegroom is the bride is also, and the standing, the dignity, and the position that belong to him belong to her. It does not matter at all who she was; the moment she becomes his bride she shares all with him. And woe betide anyone who does not accord to her the posidon and the dignity! There is no greater insult that can be offered to the bridegroom than a refusal to honour his bride. This is the truth, says the New Testament, about the Christian. It is something that we are told repeatedly. One statement of it occurs in the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel, verse 22, where our Lord says: ‘And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.’ The glory. He says, which the Father had given Him He has given to His people. It is something that happens invariably in a marriage; the bride, being a part of the husband, and having his name on her, shares his whole position. The glory which Thou gavest Me I have eiven them.'” —D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Life in the Spirit
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” —Genesis 2:16–17
“Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship,” so many an evangelical says. Ok, but what kind of relationship is it? It is a covenantal one. The saint’s relationship to God is a covenantal relationship and because that is so, we may say it is a religious relationship, for covenants involve oaths, vows, commandments, and sacrifices.
Also, insofar as we say Christianity is a relationship, that alone doesn’t make the Christian distinct from any other man. All men relate to God covenantally. The question isn’t whether or not you have a relationship with God, but what kind of relationship it is? Do you relate to God in Adam, under the covenant of creation, as one cursed, or, do you relate to God in Christ, under the new covenant, as one blessed?
As man fell in Adam, so He is redeemed in Christ. Man fell covenantally. He is redeemed covenantally. Both Adam and Christ function as covenant heads. A study of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 makes this clear and proves illuminating for Genesis 1 and 2. As Adam’s disobedience condemns, so Christ’s obedience justifies. In Adam we see the old humanity, fallen. In Christ we see a new humanity, raised up.
We call this covenant made with Adam the covenant of creation or the covenant of works and it is still in effect; not with promise, but with condemnation. It is in effect on all humanity as violated in Adam. When God makes a covenant, He makes it for keeps. His yes is yes and His no is no. He doesn’t make covenants lightly to break them once man has broken them. Left to himself, this is where man is, covenantally in Adam.
If you think you got a bad rep in Adam consider two things. First, how many times have you proven that Adam represented you well? You are no fine red citizen with an immoral blue representative. Second, if you are to have any hope of salvation, you want it so that another can rep you as your federal head. You are saved in a sense by the covenant of works. Saints, we are saved by works. They’re just not our own. Jesus bore the curse of God for our law breaking and He obeyed the Father perfectly in our place meriting our salvation that we might be clothed with His righteousness. He is the second Adam, the head of a new humanity.
And blessed be our God, things are now far better for us in Christ than they ever could have been in Adam. In Christ, we are not simply made in the image of God; we are being conformed to image of the Son. In Adam, there is the possibility of falling; in Christ, there is the assurance we never will. In Adam, the creation under man’s feet was under threat of a possible curse. In Christ, all is made new, and eternally glorious.
“What then, are the ways in which the covenant of grace has been dispensed under”the”old dispensation? Well, you go first of all Genesis 3:15. If you are interested in the technical term it is generally called the protevangel. In other words, there is a kind of foreshadowing of the whole gospel in Genesis 3:15. Now to me this is one of the most fascinating and thrilling things anyone can ever encounter. Here is this great book; we divide it up and we call it the Old Testament and the New Testament and we all know what we mean by that. But, you know, if we were to be strictly accurate we would not describe it in that way. The real division of the Bible is this: first, everything you get from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 3:14; then everything from Genesis 3:15 to the very end of the Bible. What you have up until Genesis 3:14 is the account of the creation, and of God’s original covenant of works with man, and of how that failed because man broke it. Beginning with Genesis 3:15 you get the announcement of the gospel, the covenant of grace, the way of salvation, and that is the whole theme of the Bible until you come to the last verse of the book of Revelation. That is the real division of the Bible.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Why study the covenants? Saints, because they’re ours. Your Bible is divided up into an Old Testament and a New Testament. “Testament” is an unfortunate though understandable rendering. “Covenant” is the idea. Old Covenant. New Covenant. That’s your Bible.
It is true that these labels are man made, but they are goodun’s. Read Hebrews again if you doubt that. If you don’t doubt it, then you can reach this conclusion: you cannot understand your Bible if you do not understand covenant. “Covenant” is like the spine of your Bible holding all its pages together. The Bible is thoroughly covenantal. The covenants are yours the way the Bible is yours. Because the Bible itself is covenantal through and through and because the covenants are yours, the Bible is yours.
There are many who would dispute this. Dispensationalist Bibles have weak spines. When you pick up a Scofield or Ryrie study Bible, a lot of stuff falls out. Dispensationalism has been the majority report within Evangelicalism since shortly after J.N. Darby planted the invasive seeds of it in the mid 19th century. Dispensationalism basically sorts all the Bible into one of two boxes labeled “Ethnic Israel” and “Spiritual Church.” Sure, upon close examination they say there are seven boxes in total, but those others are more like jewelry boxes whereas these two are shipping containers. Progressive dispensationalists allow some things to go into both boxes, but for the classic guys like Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, those boxes didn’t leak. Regardless, in both schemes, progressive and classic, there are two distinct plans, one for ethnic Israel, one for the church. The people of God are divided, and thus, so too is the Bible.
But what God has joined together, let not man separate. Two have become one, Jew and Gentile are made a new humanity, a singular people in Christ. All that was foreshadowed in the Old Covenant, the saints enjoy in fulness. Abraham is ours. Our hearts have been circumcised. The blood of the Passover Lamb marks us. We draw near to the most holy place coming to a throne of Grace. We are part of the true Exodus. Like the patriarchs, we are exiles looking for that city whose builder and maker is God. We are heirs according to the promise—the promise made in the Old Testament.
Let us not be strangers to what we are no longer strangers to—the covenants of promise. The covenants (plural) promised (singular) the Christ. In Christ, all of God’s promises are yes to His people, and by His blood, we are part of that people.
“The difference between being a Christian and not being a Christian is not one of degree, it is one of essence and quality, so that the most unworthy Christian is in a better position than the best man outside Christianity. Perhaps the best way of understanding all this is to think of it in terms of relationship. It is a question of blood, if you like; the humblest and the most unworthy member of the royal family is in a more advantageous position from the standpoint of social arrangements in most countries than the greatest and most able person outside that family. A man outside the royal family may be much more cultured, may be a finer specimen of humanity in every respect, yet on all state occasions and great occasions, he has to follow after the humblest and the least worthy member of the royal family. How do you assess his position? You do not assess it in terms of ability and achievement, you assess it in terms of blood relationship. Now that is precisely what the New Testament says about the Christian. He is one who had become a partaker of the divine nature; he is in an entirely new relationship; he has a new nature and quality; a new order of life has entered into him.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation, (Crossway, 2000) pp. 137, 138
11 As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.
The 40th psalm opens in praise and morphs into petition. Or, we might say we have a petition prefaced by praise, but not in a forced, unnatural, manipulative way. The petition doesn’t betray a hypocrisy in the praise, rather, the sincere praise speaks to righteousness of the plea. Laud is a good warm up for lament. Just as it was a lament heard that let birthed laud (v. 1), so laud now lays the way for lament—the kind of lament that is heard. Petition has led to praise and now praise prefaces petition.
From praise for past deliverances David will turn to petition for his present distress. The experience of previous deliverance prepped David to plea with praise on his lips. Deliverance in this life isn’t prep for a life of ease. It is prep to meet the next trial with grace. The result: praise doesn’t simply follow petition answered, it is mingled with petition given.
In Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy we find said boy, Shasta, exhausted from completing one good and hard work quickly be given another. At this, we’re told Shasta’s heart grew faint and he was in turmoil at the cruelty of such a demand. The narrator explains, “He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.” Here, David, no longer a boy, receives such a trial with greater dignity. Where did David learn such grace? Through the grace of trials. The cycle of petition and praise led to their blurring of lines and the mingling of one with the other. This is a cycle that will persist in this life as we say, “Praise be! Jesus has come!” and “Come Lord Jesus!” This cycle will persist until that ultimate lament gives birth to eternal laud.
“What matters, we are told, is that a man should have ‘the spirit of Christ’ and that he should desire to imitate Christ’s example. That makes him a Christian! Doctrinal correctness, they maintain, has been over-emphasized in the past. A man may be shaky on the very Person of Christ may not believe in the doctrine of the Atonement, or in the Virgin birth, or in the literal physical resurrection of our Lord, but if he has an open mind, and is tolerant of other opinions, and is kind and friendly and ‘gracious’ and concerned about others, and especially about suffering and need and anxious to right all wrongs, political and social, he is a true Christian. What a man is, and does, we are told, is of much greater importance than his doctrinal views. Moreover, it is argued, nothing but a demonstration of this so-called ‘Christian spirit’ will have any effect upon those outside the Church who have no interest whatsoever in doctrine. Indeed, to hold doctrinal views strongly and to criticize other views is virtually regarded as sinful and is frequently described as being ‘sub-Christian’. This is how the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love’ is being commonly interpreted.
It would be very easy to give some remarkable and almost astonishing illustrations of what I am saying. For instance, it is quite amusing to notice how a well-known reviewer of religious books, when he comes across any criticism of other views in the book he is reviewing, immediately criticizes the spirit of the author. That seems to be his one test of scholarship! ‘Scholarship’ has come to mean that you find all views very interesting, and that there is something to be said for all points of view. If you want to be regarded as scholarly you must not say that one view is right and the other wrong; you must not criticize, for to criticize is to deny the spirit of Christ, and to be entirely devoid of love. ‘Speaking the truth in love’ has come to mean that you more or less praise everything, but above all, that you never criticize any view strongly, because, after all, there is a certain amount of right and truth in everything.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Christian Unity, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 243
1 I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
2 I was mute and silent
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
3 My heart became hot within me.
As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
In the 39th Psalm we see David both silent and speaking under the Lord’s discipline. That is clear. The question is, when is he sinning? The easy answer is to say that David was saintly when he was silence and sinful when he was speaking. But remember that David’s son would later say, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28). Mere silence can be mistaken for sanctification, but it is not always so. A silent mouth doesn’t always indicate a quiet soul. It was while David was silent that his heart burned and it was while he spoke that he came to a place of renewed silence (vv. 7–9).
When was David sinful? I think it was both while he was silent and while he was speaking. When was David saintly? I believe it was both while he was silent and while he was speaking. Before you write off David’s words following verse 3 as complaint consider two things:
First, David doesn’t blaspheme God in the presence of the wicked. He lifts up this cry in the presence of God. David isn’t silent, but he is still guarding his lips and thus at least partially keeping his vow.
Second, these words that David spoke were given to Jeduthun, a chief leader in Israel’s worship (2 Chronicles 25:1). This psalm isn’t a historical record. It is a song. It is not just poetic expression. It is a song given by Israel’s king to a priest who is a choirmaster of Israel.
So what are we to make of these words? I believe it is clear that as David speaks, he still guards his words. What you have here is a lament for when your soul wants to complain. Here is a lament that walks right up to the edge of complaint and then stops. The complaint is understood, but it is a lament that is spoken. The complaint is suppressed. The lament is expressed.
Oh what a grace is here for us saints. When our hearts burn and sin is present within, here is grace. Grace for us to have something to sing and to pray that will guard our hearts from further sin. Here is a lament for our lips to guard us from complaint when it is in our heart. Here is a prayer to keep you from grumbling. Here is cry to keep you from blaspheming.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
In Evangelical, prosperity gospel-eschewing churches one may speak of sickness and offer comfort and one may speak of sin and aim at conviction, but should sin and sickness be mentioned together, we squirm. Fear of being misunderstood cripples us in communicating what we should. And what we should confess is this: all sickness, indeed all sickness, sorrow, and suffering are rooted in sin. They are the fruit of sin. Now, that does not say everything, but this much must be said.
Not all sorrows are due to a particular sin your life, but all your sorrows are rooted in sin. We can even say they are rooted in a particular sin—Adam’s. As sin multiplied, so did our misery. Look around. What you see is not just sin proliferated, but the woes of sin multiplied. True, many of your sins result in no personal sickness, at least as far as we can observe. But this fact allows us to draw this sobering conclusion: there is not a soul among us suffering even a billionth of what our own sins deserve. On this earth men do taste of judgment, but even in the worst judgment in this life, there is still a degree of mercy. Thomas Brooks warns, “He that hath deserved a hanging hath no reason to charge the judge with cruelty if he escape with a whipping; and we that have deserved a damning have no reason to charge God for being too severe, if we escape with a fatherly lashing.”
This connection makes us uneasy for how it can make us uneasy. Every time we get sick we might question whether or not our sickness is due to sin. As I see it, there are only two ways to know this information.
The sin itself makes you sick. This can be more immediate, like a hangover due to drunkenness. Or it can be more removed from the sin, as with a history of drunkenness leading to cirrhosis of the liver.
As I already spoke of eschewing prosperity gospel heresies, I’ll take it you can understand why I’m not going to run with number 2. Even so, sickness can act like a smelling salt to rouse us to perceive sin that we have been ignoring. This is not to say that perception implies causality. You shouldn’t worry about sickness as though it were a puzzle to solve. You should repent of any clear sin. Done.
All this has been a set up for us evaluate yet another kind of sickness that is related to sin. In regard to the 38th psalm, some believe David is sick due to his sin—that the sickness is punishment for sin. I don’t buy that. I do believe David is ill. But David feels sick, not due to some virus as punishment, but due to conviction. God’s hand is so heavy on his soul, his body bows. The arrows of conviction so pierce that his bones ache. Child of God, have you never experienced conviction of sin so sharply, that you lose you appetite? Have you never felt like vomiting because of your sin? Such is the sin-sickness of David’s soul.
In our therapeutic age this kind of soul-sickness is too often chalked up to brokenness in the body or the mind. Sin has indeed broken the body and the mind. There is common grace to be had in medicine. But there is a kind of soul misery that we try to mask. Common grace is no substitute for special grace. Special grace will not heal your cold. Common grace cannot heal your soul. Sometimes man should feel miserable. There is a misery every soul outside of Christ should know. Many a man’s greatest problem is that he has not yet been made miserable enough to truly deal with his misery. We want to get over deep sorrows as quickly as possible to enjoy superficial joys. Try anything else, and whatever cure you may think you find, only makes you worse. And the worst cure is the one that makes you feel best, while your sin remains.
There is only one remedy for the sin-sick soul. You must cry out to the Great Physician; the very one who as a surgeon is causing your pain. If you are His child, those are not His arrows, they are His scalpel. He hurts to heal. He makes the scalpel feel like an arrow that you might fear God and cease ignoring your Father. God has told you how you must position yourself for Him to heal and until you bow on your knees in repentance, He will persist in causing pain of soul, precisely because He is good and He refuses to allow you to destroy yourself.
“The history of the Church shows clearly that her great and glorious periods, such as during and after the Protestant Reformation, always follow the mighty preaching of doctrine. It is unintelligent to admire great heroes of the faith such as the Covenanters unless you understand them. What made those men the men they were was the fact that they knew the great doctrines of the Christian faith. This is the protein and the iron which give strength. The great doctrines of the faith must be the basis of the Christian diet. Following the doctrine must come the teaching which applies the doctrine.” —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Christian Unity, (Baker Book House, 1987) p. 205