Romans 13 — The Way Reformed Exegeses Used To Handle It

‎”Tyranny being a work of Satan, is not from God, because sin, either habitual or actual, is not from God: the power that is, must be from God; the magistrate, as magistrate, is good in nature of office, and the intrinsic end of his office, (Rom. xiii. 4) for he is the minister of God for thy good; and, therefore, a power ethical, politic, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power; and is no more from God, but from sinful nature and the old serpent, than a license to sin. God in Christ giveth pardons of sin, but the Pope, not God, giveth dispensations to sin.”

~Samuel Rutherford, Lex Rex, p.34

Article Review of D. G. Hart’s “Church Not State” Part I

At the link below Dr. D. G. Hart seeks to establish his vision of a common square without Christianity in the name of Christianity.

In this article Hart seeks to designate his view as “the conservative view,” but as the this review unfolds it is hoped that it will be clearly seen that Dr. Hart’s views, if they are Christian, are of the anabaptist variety, and that they are Libertarian and definitely not Conservative.

Dr. Hart opens his article and his first problematic presupposition is laid bare in the first and second paragraph when he suggests that it is possible for religion to be excluded from the public square. Hart writes, “Religion was honored in the public square—and incorporated into politics.” This is significant because Hart is going to argue in his article that religion should not be honored in the public square, or conversely that religion is most honored when it is excluded from the public square. Hart desires for the public square to remain naked in terms of religion. This problematic presupposition shows up again in Dr. Hart’s second paragraph when he writes, The loss of religion’s formerly privileged place…. Note again that Hart assumes that it is possible for religion to ever not have a privileged place in the public square.

Of course the problem with this is that religion in the public square is a inescapable concept. Dr. Hart repeatedly misses the fact that it is never a question of whether or not the public square will be shaped and formed by religion but only a question of which religion will influence the public square. Even were it possible to strip the public square of the influence of religion that stripping of the public square of the influence of religion would come about from the influence of the religion that states no religion should influence the public square. Thus Dr. Hart’s opening presupposition about religion and the public square is seen to be an absurdity. Religion’s privileged place in the public square remains, even if it is not the Christian religion’s privileged place.

I’m fairly confident that Dr. Hart would say that he wrote this article as a Historian and not a Theologian and yet Dr. Hart’s article is laden with (bad) theological assumptions. Hart’s appeal to history is read through his Anabaptist theological glasses. I only offer this observation because another of Dr. Hart’s methodological problems is that he assumes that he can cordon his history from theology. Dr. Hart would have us believe that his history is not theologically conditioned and yet his whole article screams of Anabaptist theological premises.

In Dr. Hart’s third paragraph we find this statement,

“Over the last 30 years, born-again Protestants have overwhelmingly backed Republican candidates in the belief that for religion to matter, it must influence not only what people do when they gather for worship but also what they do every other day of the week.”

People should not miss this sentence because implicit in this statement is Dr. Hart’s argument that Christianity (that is the religion, after all, that Hart is referencing) doesn’t need to influence what born-again Protestants do every other day of the week. For Dr. Hart Christianity is something that should influence born-again Protestants in the Redemptive realm but it should not influence them in the common realm, or, to try and put it more charitably for Dr. Hart, Christianity is not a religion that finds its credibility in influencing the public realm. In Dr. Hart’s fifth paragraph we find that theme referred to again when he laments about “conservatives (having) identified with arguments for the worldly relevance of faith…” Here again Dr. Hart is going to stump for a conservatism that explicitly eschews relevance of the Christian faith in the world. How can anyone take this position of Dr. Hart to be Conservative, let alone Christian?

Dr. Hart then tries to convince us that the “truly conservative position is to contend for faith’s own inherent merits, quite apart from any benediction from the civil government,” and Professor Hart worries for that his advocacy for this putatively sui generis “conservative position” is to risk his “sounding liberal—or even worse, secular.” Actually, strictly speaking it sounds Anabaptist.

We find Dr. Hart’s position here paralleling nicely the Reformed Anabaptist John Piper writings. Dr. Piper agrees with Dr. Hart when he writes,

We express a passion for the supremacy of God…

5) by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order… Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths)… We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism. “If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight” (John 18:36)….

I quite agree with Dr. Hart that the Christian faith has it’s own inherent merits and it is precisely because of those inherent merits that the Christian faith pronounces benediction or cursing on the civil government that pronounces benedictions or curses upon the Christian faith. Dr. Hart’s problem here, once again, is that he presupposes that the common realm is, can be, and even should be, neutral.

In part I of this critical review of Dr. Hart’s opinion piece we have found that Dr. Hart’s position is plagued by irrational presuppositions that argue for the neutrality of the public square faith, the irrelevance of the Christian faith for the public square, and the fact that the Christian faith should not influence the public square. We have seen that Dr. Hart’s reasoning parallel’s Dr. John Pipers reasoning on the same subject thus showing the truth that “politics do indeed make strange bedfellows,” and we have begun to suggest that Dr. Hart is more than flirting with a Anabaptist theology that is informing his social order theory. We will see more of that as we continue this critical review.

Rev. McAtee Contra Rev. Stellman — Rev. McAtee Contra R2K (Again) — Part II

Rev. Stellman writes,

What, then, of the dominion mandate?

We read in Psalm 8 a divine commentary on Genesis 1:28, one in which David speaks of man thus:

You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet… (vv. 5-6).

Sounds great, right? It sounds like the dominion mandate is still in force, reiterated in all its prelapsarian glory. But again, we need to keep reading. When we come to Hebrews 2, which is a commentary on Psalm 8 (which is a commentary on Genesis 1), we see a truly Christocentric interpretation of the dominion mandate. According to the writer,
Now in putting everything in subjection to [man], [God] left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (vv. 8b-9).

Talk about an already/not yet hermeneutic! According to the author here, there is a promise to man of dominion that is still outstanding and unfulfilled, one which we do “not yet see.” But what do we see? “We see Jesus” who, like Adam, was made for a litte while lower than the angels. He is the One who exercises dominion, the One to whom has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Will we, the men and women whom Jesus represented and whose nature he assumed, ever get to share in this dominion? Indeed we will, but the writer to the Hebrews insists that this dominion is “not yet.” Immediately preceding the quotation from Psalm 8, Hebrews says:

Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking (v. 5).

The implication is that though this present fallen order is not under man’s control, the world to come will be. The conclusion, then, is clear: The dominion mandate of Genesis 1 has not been revoked, but due to the Fall, man cannot by his own cultural labors usher in the power and glory of the kingdom like Adam could have. Rather, this promise is now reformulated Christocentrically, with Jesus experiencing “the dominion of the resurrection” now, as demonstrated in his ascension to the Father’s right hand. We, on the other hand, do not see these things with our eyes, but only embrace them by faith and hopeful cross-bearing. The day will come, however, when faith will give way to sight and the cross will give way to glory. On that day, and not before, “the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” and we will reign with him forever and ever.

1.) Rev. Stellman’s point is that because Christ reigns from heaven the Church, as organism, is not to seek to extend the Crown Rights of King Jesus over every area of life. In order to reign in this fashion the Church, as organism, has to wait until Christ’s return in order to share in the Lord Christ’s dominion.

And yet, Hebrews 11, which Rev. Stellman does not allude to, tells us that we are to emulate the faith of the Old Testament saints. And some of the faith of those OT saints we are to emulate was of such a character that,

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

These OT saints, who earlier in the chapter were described as “strangers and exiles on the earth,” still had the character of faith to conquer Kingdoms, and the quality of the OT Saints faith is what is being held up to the Hebrews as faith to emulate. Apparently the writer of Hebrews was not a advocate of R2K “theology,” for if he were he never never would have included examples of Faith for these NT saints to emulate that included “conquering Kingdoms.” Apparently the inspired writer didn’t get Rev. Stellman’s memo that the NT saints are not to share in Christ’s dominion until He returns.

2.) Rev. Stellman’s analysis likewise falters by the fact that he conveniently leaves out other divinely inspired commentary on Psalm 8. In I Corinthians 15 St. Paul gives us some commentary that makes hash of Rev. Stellman’s Klinean amillennial theorizing.

22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God[c] has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

Paul’s presentation of the postmillennial kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 overturns all the innovative commentary offered by Rev. Stellman. This clear Scriptural testimony reminds us that, contrary to the teaching offered in the blockquote above, that we should anticipate Christ’s, in principle already accomplished gospel triumph as it unfolds in history.

The teaching here in I Corinthians 15 forces us to take the strongest exception to Rev. Stellman’s handling of Hebrews 8 for what I Corinthians 15 teaches is that which is to precede the conclusion of history is not the gloom and despair found in the amillennial report but rather in vs. 24 we read, “the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father.” The end of earth history is brought about “whenever” (literally) Christ “delivers up” the triumphant kingdom to the Father.

Dr. Ken Gentry helps us out with the Greek construction of I Corinthians 15,

In the construction before us the “delivering up” of the kingdom must occur in conjunction with “the end.” The Greek for “delivers up” here is (paradidoi), which is a verb in the present tense and subjunctive mode. When the word translated “when” or “whenever” (hotan) is followed by the present subjunctive (as here), it indicates a present contingency that occurs in conjunction with the main clause, which is “then comes the end.” Here the contingent factor is in regard to the date of the “end”: “whenever” it may be that he delivers up the kingdom, then the end will come.

Associated with the predestined end here is the prophecy that the kingdom of Christ will be delivered up to the Father. But this occurs only “when he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” In the Greek text the hotan (“when”) is here followed by the aorist subjunctive, katargese. This construction indicates that the action of this subordinate clause precedes the action of the main clause. The phrase here should be translated: “after he had destroyed all dominion, authority and power.”

So, in summarizing what the exegesis is teaching us, we note that the “end” is dependent. The “end” is dependent upon whenever the Lord Christ delivers up the Kingdom to the Father. However, this only occurs “after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” Consequently, “the end” will not occur, Christ will not turn the kingdom over to the Father, until after he has abolished his opposition. Here is the certain hope of postmillennialism!

Listening to Dr. Ken Gentry again,

As we continue to vs. 25 of I Corinthians 15 we read, “he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Here the present infinitive translated “reign” indicates the continuance of a reign then in progress. References elsewhere to the Psalm 110 passage specifically mention his sitting at God’s right hand. Sitting at the right hand entails active ruling and reigning, not passive resignation. he is now actively “the ruler over the kings of the earth” who “has made us kings and priests to his God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Rev. 1:5).

Here in 1 Corinthians 15:25 we learn that he must continue to reign, he must continue to put his enemies under his feet—but until when? The answer is identical to that which has already been concluded: it is expected before the end of history. Earlier it was awaiting the abolishing of all rule, authority and power; here it delayed until “he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The repetition of the expectation of his sure conquest before the end is significant. Furthermore, the last enemy that will be subdued is death, which is subdued in conjunction with the Resurrection that occurs at his coming. But the subduing of his other enemies occurs before this, before the Resurrection.

In verse 27 it is clear that he has the title to rule, for the Father “has put everything under his feet.” This is the Pauline expression (borrowed from Psa. 8:6) that is equivalent to Christ’s declaration that “all authority has been given Me.” Christ has the promise of victory and he has the right to victory. Psalm 110, especially as expounded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, shows he will have the historical, pre-consummation victory as his own before his coming.

So, we see here that if we are to listen to all the New Testament commentary on Psalm 8:6 and not just the commentary that Rev. Stellman would direct our attention to, we can not conclude that there the Dominion mandate is a “Spiritual” dominion, or that it is a Dominion Christ has no intent of bring to bear until His return. Rev. Stellman’s theology is all “not yet,” and while we must surely avoid the opposite error of having a theology that is all “now,” we can surely see that all of Scripture does not allow us the retreatist mindset that Rev. Stellman’s teaching inculcates in God’s people who take it seriously.

3.) Rev. Stellman seems to be on the verge of denying the Unio Christi. God has placed all things under the feet of Christ. We (the church) are the body of Christ and the physical presence of Christ on earth. In other words we are the feet, connected to the Head, under which all things have been placed. To suggest that the head (Christ) has Dominion without His body taking any part in that Dominion strikes me as a casting asunder what God has placed together. Now, once again, it would be a mistake to embrace a eschatology that is too over-realized but it is just as grievous an error to embrace a eschatology that is too under-realized. Remember, one of the ways that the new covenant is distinguished from the old covenant is that in the old covenant the “not yet” of the “now, not yet” was front-loaded because the King and the Kingdom had not yet come. However, with the coming of King Christ, and with His ascension to rule we are now living in a covenant that is front loaded with the “now.” Now, certainly a “not yet” remains but compared to the Old and worse covenant it is a retiring “not yet.” One of my problems with the Escondido “Theologians” is that they seem to live in the old and worse covenant with their front loaded “not yet” pessimism. The Lord Christ has bound the strong man. The Lord Christ pronounced “It is Finished.” The Lord Christ has ascended on High and is seated the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet (note the Psalm 8 commentary again) and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body (note the unio Christi theme again), the fullness of him who fills all in all.

4.) We see this heavy gloom and doom “not yet” theology in Rev. Stellman’s statement, The implication is that though this present fallen order is not under man’s control the world to come will be.”

Remember, the point that Rev. Stellman is laboring to prove is that Redeemed man should not have dominion, nor should expect to have dominion, so when Rev. Stellman says the above italicized statement what he is telling us is, by way of logical necessity, that non-redeemed man will have dominion. Look, Dominion is an inescapable category. Either the redeemed will have it, or the Christ haters will have it. There is no neutrality. You can not make Dominion go away by pretending there is a neutral common realm where nobody and / or everybody will have dominion. All the Escondidoists have to do is open their eyes. Is it not self evident (a little “Natural Law” lingo there for my R2K fans) that currently Dominion is being exercised by the Christ haters in the common realm?

So, what Rev. Stellman does is he concedes that the “age to come” ushered in by our Lord Christ is to have no impact in his “common realm” — a realm that is characterized in the Scripture as “this present wicked age.” This is a very odd stance for a minister of the Gospel to advance.

5.) When Rev. Stellman writes, “man cannot by his own cultural labors usher in the power and glory of the kingdom like Adam could have,” he does those who oppose him a disservice for none of us believe that man can by his own cultural labors usher in the power and glory of the Kingdom like Adam could have.” All of us who oppose R2K Escondido Theology believe that the Spirit of God ushers in the already present in principle Kingdom in its finality as men who are filled with the Spirit of God increasingly bring all things into submission to God’s revelation. It is not man, in his own power who usher’s in the power and glory of the Kingdom but man as he humbly submits to God’s instruction as he is filled by the Spirit of the living God to do so. There is no humanism in those who oppose Rev. Stellman.

6.) Rev. Stellman gives us a “tell” in his theology when he writes, “On that day, and not before, “the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,” and we will reign with him forever and ever/”

This is classic Klinean amillennialism. Rev. Stellman has told us bluntly and with the full force of his expression that the Kingdom of God is not present in this world. Oh, sure, it might be present in the Church, but the Kingdom that Christ brought is not and never will be invading this present wicked age. In my way of thinking that is a breath-taking assertion and explains why the R2K lads are forever railing against notions of “Christian Education,” “Christian Families,” “Christian Magistrates,” or “Christian culture.” It is their conviction that these areas, being non-redemptive in definition can not be affected by the impact of the “age to come” on these realities as they exist in this present wicked age.

Besides what I’ve covered in Parts I & II of McAtee Contra Stellman, what Rev. Stellman has written is something I fully agree with.

Conversation On R2K, McAtee contra Stellman — Part I

R2K Aficionado Rev. Stellman writes,

“I agree that God told Adam to exercise dominion over creation, and I agree that Adam’s dominion-taking would have helped usher in God’s eternal kingdom, a kingdom which would have brought with it eternal life and Sabbath rest for Adam and his posterity. But where many go wrong, in my view, is in the fact that they seem to stop reading at Genesis 1.

After the Fall, God tells man that the elements of prelapsarian life, such as marriage, childbearing, and labor are to continue on, albeit in a context of curse. In a word, these aspects of life will now be perverted to reflect the curse sanction that God had pronounced on creation due to Adam’s rebellion. Marriage will now be a power-struggle, childbirth will now be painful, and bread will now be produced through sweat and an uncooperative earth. The same is true of the dominion mandate.”

Bret responds,

1.) Stellman seems to see no progress of Redemption between the Covenant of Grace before Christ ushered in the Kingdom and the Covenant of Grace after Christ ushered in the Kingdom. In Rev. Stellman’s thinking the “not yet,” of the “now, not yet,” is front loaded in both covenants. With the coming of Christ, who now has Dominion, the capacity of God’s people is not enhanced in their dominion taking activity even though we have the Spirit in order to, with earnest purpose, live according to all the commandments of God. Instead, even though the Kingdom has now come in Christ Rev. Stellman tells us that the thing that is most important about our existence is that we live in the context of the curse.

2.) Rev. Stellman, like all R2K practitioners is afflicted with amillennialitis. Rev. Stellman presupposes that we can not have dominion because good never excels over evil in history and as such, voila, he finds in Scripture that God’s people can not have dominion because good never excels over evil in history. When engaging with R2K types one must always keep before them their rabidly pessimistic eschatology. That pessimistic theology drives the rest of their “theology.”

3.) To hear Rev. Stellman tell it, all Christian marriages are disappointments as Christian men and women are constantly at each other’s throats. All babies are only children as the pain mothers have in childbirth make them resolve to never have another child. All vegetables are grown in a desert. Yes, we continue to struggle against the reality of our fallen world and our own fallen-ness but none of that negates the call to take godly dominion.

4.) The main problem is that while God pronounced the curse on our parents that Rev. Stellman notes, God never in that pronounced curse says, “And Cursed be you for in the day you ate of the fruit thou dids’t give up being a dominion bearing agent as you struggle in the context of the curse.” So, when Rev. Stellman says, “the same is true of the dominion mandate,” he is both adding to the text and subtracting from the text by voiding God’s clear command. The Scripture does not have good things to say about those who add to, or subtract from, the text.

Rev. Stellman presses on,

“The dominion motif comes to the fore again after the flood, only now Noah is to practice his mastery over creation in the context of a covenant that is not redemptive but common, a covenant made “between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations” (Gen. 9:1-17). As shown by the inauguration of the kingdom of man in Genesis 4, the cultural work of human hands is valuable for building a temporal, common kingdom, but due to the Fall, our cultural endeavors cannot bring about the kingdom of Christ (a kingdom which Jesus said “is not of this world”).”

1.) Note here the propensity in all R2K “Theologians” to divide “cult,” from “culture,” as if culture has no direct and intimate relation to cult. R2K advocates are forever calling for a “common culture” as if a common culture is not the consequence of the people who are sharing a common culture embracing a “common cult.” A common culture can only happen among people who embrace a common cult. Different peoples living in one social order embracing different cults always produce culture wars, which make the common realm anything but common. This severing of cult from culture is perhaps one of the most dreadful errors of R2K.

2.) Rev. Stellman’s reading of Gen. 9 is innovative to Dr. Meredith Kline. Scripture never says that the dominion mandate of Gen. 1:28 and the re-capitulation of it to Noah in Genesis 9 are divided the way the disciples of Kline insist. It is just as possible to read Gen. 9 as Noah coming through the flood to a new garden existence and as a type of second Adam he is given the earth and as God’s image bearer he is told to have dominion. Scripture never says that the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28 and the dominion mandate of Genesis 9 are anything but the same command given at two different times.

3.) Actually, it is easier to make the argument that the “Great Commission,” of Matthew 28 is a re-articulation of the dominion mandates of Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9 then it is to argue that Gen. 1 and Gen 9 are to be divided the way the disciples of Kline would have us believe. In Matthew 28 dominion is advanced over all the world by making disciples and by teaching men to observe all things that Christ has commanded. Certainly success in the Great Commission would lead to the complete godly dominion over all the earth that all Biblical Christians anticipate before Christ returns.

4.) “‘My kingdom is not of [ek: out from] this world,’” is a statement about the source — not the nature — of His reign, as the epexegetical ending of the verse makes obvious: ‘My kingdom is not from here [enteuthen].’ The teaching is not that Christ’s kingdom is wholly otherworldly, but rather that it originates with God Himself (not any power or authority found in creation.”

Dr. Greg Bahnsen
God & Politics — pg. 27

B. F. Wescott speaking of John 18:36 could comment,

“Yet He did claim a sovereignty, a sovereignty of which the spring and the source was not of earth but of heaven. My Kingdom is not of this world (means it) does not derive its origin or its support from earthly sources.”

The Gospel According To John — pg. 260

John 18:36 along with Matthew 22:15-22 are two of the passages that are often put forth as defeaters for the comprehensive sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over this world. Bahnsen clearly shows here, quite in agreement with the Greek scholar B. F. Westcott, that God’s Kingdom, as it manifests itself in this world, is energized by a source outside this world. This is important to emphasize because many people read John 18:36 as proof that the Kingdom of Jesus does not and should not express itself in this world. Often this verse is appealed to in order to prove that God’s Kingdom is only “spiritual” and as such Christians shouldn’t be concerned about what are perceived as “non-spiritual” realms. Support for such thinking, if there is any, must come from passages other than John 18:36.

What we get from some contemporary Calvinists, is the quote of Christ telling Pilate that ‘His Kingdom is not of this World,’ as if that is to end all conversation on the Lordship of Christ over all cultural endeavors. What is forgotten is the way that John often uses the word ‘World.’ John often uses the word ‘World’ with a sinister significance to communicate a disordered reality in grip of the Devil set in opposition to God. If that is the way that the word ‘world’ is being used in John 18:36 then we can understand why Jesus would say that His Kingdom ‘was not of this world.’ The Kingdom of Jesus will topple the Kingdoms of this disordered world changing them to be the Kingdoms of His ordered world, but it won’t be done by the disordered methodology of this World and so Jesus can say, “My Kingdom is not of this World.” Hopefully, we can see that such a statement doesn’t mean that Christ’s Kingdom has no effect in this world or that Christ’s Kingdom can’t overcome the world.

John 18:36 is often appealed to in order to prove that the Kingdom of God is a private individual spiritual personal reality that does not impinge on public square practice(s) of peoples or nations corporately considered. Those who appeal to John 18:36 in this way are prone thus to insist that God’s Word doesn’t speak to the public square practice(s) of peoples or nations since such an appeal (according to this thinking) would be an attempt to wrongly make God’s Kingdom of this world.

The problem with this though is it that it is a misreading of the passage. When Jesus say’s “My Kingdom is not of this world,” his use of the word “world” here is not spatial. Jesus is not saying that His Kingdom does not impact planet earth. What Jesus is saying is that His Kingdom does not find its source of authority from the world as it lies in Adam.

Jesus brings a Kingdom to this world that is in antithetical opposition to the Kingdom of Satan that presently characterizes this world in this present wicked age. The Kingdom that Jesus brings has its source of authority in His Father’s Word. As a result of Christ bringing His Kingdom w/ His advent there are two Kingdoms that are vying for supremacy on planet earth. Postmillennialism teaches that the Kingdom of the “age to come” that characterizes Christ’s present Kingdom will be victorious in this present spatial world that is characterized by “this present wicked age,” precisely because, in principle, Christ’s Kingdom is already victorious in this present spatial world.

All nations will bow to Jesus and all kings will serve him and his mustard seed kingdom will grow to become the largest plant in the garden with the nation-birds finding rest in its branches. His kingdom is the stone which crushed the kingdoms of men in Daniel 2 and which is growing to become a mountain-empire which fills the whole earth, until all His enemies are made His footstool.

Because Christ’s Kingdom is victorious on this planet His Kingdom extends beyond the personal private individual realm and so impacts the public square. Another way to say that would be precisely because Christ’s Kingdom continues to be populated by a swarming host of individuals those individuals take that Kingdom that has overcome them and in turn overcome all that they touch with the Kingdom.

Dr. Geehardus Vos was not a postmillennialist but some of the things he taught captures what I am trying to communicate regarding Christ’s Kingdom while at the same time delineating Darryl’s misconceptions. Vos wrote,

“The kingdom means the renewal of the world through the introduction of supernatural forces.” (page 192)

“The thought of the kingdom of God implies the subjection of the entire range of human life in all its forms and spheres to the ends of religion. The kingdom reminds us of the absoluteness, the pervasiveness, the unrestricted dominion, which of right belong to all true religion. It proclaims that religion, and religion alone, can act as the supreme unifying, centralizing factor in the life of man, as that which binds all together and perfects all by leading it to its final goal in the service of God.” (page 194)

Geerhardus Vos
The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church

So, what Christ was saying to Pilate when He said “My Kingdom is not of this world” was “My kingdom does not gain it’s authority from Rome or the Sanhedrin. My authority comes from on high.” Pilate understood this. The irony is that the pagan tyrant understood, but Christians like Rev. Stellman expressly insist that it doesn’t mean that today. So the authority of Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, but nonetheless, the kingdom has invaded this civil realm, the family realm, law realm, economics realm, and every other realm you can think of for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” Every aspect of our social order is touched by the kingdom of God.

No Images — On The Second Word

Text — Exodus 19:4, 20:22-26, 34:17, Lev. 26:1-2, Dt. 4:15-24, 11:16-17, 27:15
Subject — Images
Theme — Prohibition of Images
Proposition — The consideration of why God prohibits images should once again awaken within us the grandeur of the God we serve.


The Necessity to preach on God’s Law,

As we continue to consider God’s law we are mindful of the fact that we consider this law as His children. Because of Christ’s complete sacrifice for us, we are no longer strangers and aliens to God, under His personal wrath because of our violation of His just law. Because of Christ we could and did successfully sue for peace and because of God’s benevolence we have we have been delivered from the sting of the law’s eternal condemnation and have been delivered to the soothing comfort of the law as a a guide to life.

Outside of Christ, or as we are in Adam, we hate God’s law and find it burdensome since it forbids us to be our own gods and puts us in the service of another God. Outside of Christ we desire to be a law unto ourselves. United to Christ we love God’s law and on it we meditate both day and night. Belonging to Christ we find God’s law, “Holy, Just, and Good.” We do not convince ourselves that in and of ourselves we are law keepers but having been freely given Christ’s law keeping righteousness we now live in terms of ever increasing obedience to God’s law as we “with earnest purpose do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God.” (Q. 114 — HC)

And so we understand that our motivation in attending to God’s law is one of love to God for delivering us by our Mediator, the Lord Christ, who came to glorify the Father with His obedience to the Father’s law and so was rewarded with the Church as an inheritance. And we understand that the work of the Spirit is to work within us so that we put off the old man with his penchant for lawlessness and put on the new man who walks in good works according to God’s law. (Q. 91 — HC)

We boldly affirm that there is a need to return to God’s law in sanctification as there is in the Reformed Church a lawless spirit and a despising of God’s law as a guide to all of life.

This Lawless antinomian spirit can be seen by the way well known Reformed ministers are denigrating the role of the law in the life of the Christian by suggesting that an awareness of God’s law is somehow in opposition to an awareness of God’s grace.

“A taste of wild grace is the best catalyst for real work in our lives: not guilt, not fear, not another list of rules.” Tullian Tchividjian

“So the key to living the Christian life — the key to bearing fruit for God — the key to a Christ exalting life of love and sacrifice — is to die to the law and be joined not to a list of rules, but to a Person, the the risen Christ. The pathway to love is the path of a personal, Spirit-dependent, all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ, not to resolve to keep the commandments.” John Piper

Note in these quotes how the Reformed ministers suggest that God’s rules (Law) is somehow in opposition to Christ for the Christian as if the Christian doesn’t understand that he has been delivered from the law’s condemnation and having been swept up in the finished work of Christ for sinners he now identifies Himself with the one who identified with God’s law (Heb. 10:7). You can not drive a wedge between those who have had a taste of wild grace and their delight in God’s law both day and night. And when people have a all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ the result is that they do resolve to keep the commandments precisely because they have a all satisfying relationship with the risen Christ.

All that is by way of Introduction. This morning we continue to consider God’s law, specifically the Second commandment.

Background On The Ten Words

As we approach God’s law we remember that when God gave His law to His people, He gave it as one who had already revealed Himself as gracious to His people. God had brought His people out of the House of Bondage and had born them on Eagle’s wings away from Pharaoh’s persecution. And so the giving of the law to God’s people follows a Gospel (God doing all the saving) Law (God’s requirement’s upon His people) Gospel (the proleptic forgiveness found in the Sacrificial system that pronounced Christ).

This Gospel – Law – Gospel motif is very important to note for it reinforces that the Law has a place in the Gospel presentation to God’s people. God has graciously done all the rescuing. Having been freely and fully rescued God continues to pour out His grace to His people by giving them a standard to live by so as to glorify Him, and His grace is poured out even more as God provides a means of Sacrifice for the ongoing forgiveness of sins.

Previously we looked at the first commandment and we noted that we are not to serve false gods. We tried to note the dangers of false gods and how we always end up projecting ourselves into our false gods and then ironically enough we reflect what we have projected. We noted how Idolatry was involved in the sin of our first parents. The second week we considered the idea of magic and how moderns still employ magic. Last week we saw that in the 2nd word we have prohibition concerning how the cultic worship is to be shaped. The Second word informs us we can only approach God on God’s terms, there are to be no Talismans between God and man — no mediation between God and man — except that which is ordained by God.

This week we start by noting the Unique Place of the Second Commandment. Roman Catholics and Lutherans wrongly lump the first two commandments together and count them together as the first commandment.

However, these two commandments deal with different subjects:

The 1st commandment deals with who we worship — We worship no God but God and so we oppose the worship of other gods.

The 2nd deals with the form of worship — no images of God. The second opposes designer worship.

The 1st deals w/ the true God. The second deals w/ true worship.

Last week we saw how necessary those distinctions are. More than once Israel wanted to worship the true god through idols. (see Deut.4: 15-18; the golden calf, Exod.32: 4; Jeoboam’s Gold Calves 1 Kings 12:28, etc.) Last week we considered that God’s prohibition against Images is a prohibition against constraining god. In an Image God is controlled but of course it is God who is the one who control us. You can not manipulate God

Illustration — (I Sam. 4:3-8 — Philistines ark of the covenant)

What other reasons might we give for God’s opposition to Images as a means to worship him besides the fact that he who controls the image controls not only god but the people who serve god. Remember in any culture or social order whoever is in charge of the god(s) is in charge of the people. If the state is god and the politician class is in charge of the state then the politician class controls the people. The second commandment teaches that God is in control of Himself.

2.) image worship is forbidden because it reduces God

a.) reduces his incomprehensibility to comprehensibility

Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? — Is. 40:13

And yet that is exactly what image worship allows for. God is reduced to a image that is comprehensively known and man’s knowledge reigns over God’s knowledge.

b.) reduces God’s majesty and transcendence

To capture Yahweh in an image is to misunderstand His majesty.

When the Lord spoke to the Israelites on Mt. Sinai, he spoke while the mountain burned with fire ‘to the midst of heaven’ (Deut.4: 11-12). Images, by contrast, do not hear, eat nor smell (Deut.4: 28). Image worship evokes ridicule and sarcasm. “To whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to him? Do you have to nail him down so he doesn’t fall over (Isa.40: 18; 41:7). The majesty of God is indicated in Scripture by the metaphor of darkness, by which he is covered (Deut.4: 11; 5:23) or unapproachable light, in which He dwells (1 Tim.6: 16). Darkness and light are opposites but they communicate this much, God is so majestic, so transcendent that he cannot be brought within man’s reach. Both darkness and light are impenetrable and a image denies that reality.

Perhaps the fact that God’s majesty and transcendence lies on believers so lightly indicates that images impinge upon their lives?

c.) Not only does the image reduces God’s majesty and transcendence but it also reduces God’s nearness and covenantal intimacy.

Unless you carry the image w/ you God is always located someplace else but God is a God that is near to His people where ever they are (Psalm 139).

Next week we will consider the blessing and cursings attached to the second commandment upon obedience and disobedience and spend some time chatting on the relation of blessing to obedience and we will consider what God’s expectations were among His people for the violation of the 2nd commandment.



Obedience is motivated by gratitude that we are constituted a new people by God because our disobedience to God’s law has been paid by Christ. Christ has reconciled the Father to us so that we are the people of God’s favor. Being the people of God’s favor we walk in terms of His Law-Word.