Copyright © March 10, 2012
This article is a continuation of Jerald Finney’s systematic development of the doctrines, application, history, and legalities of “separation of church and state.” See EN1 for more on this matter. This article is an edited version of Section III, Chapter 3 of the book God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed). (Link to Contents of “Separation of Church and State Law” Blog which has links so that the new follower can start his study at the beginning. “Line upon line, precept upon precept.”). See EN2 for information on books by Jerald Finney which thoroughly examine “separation of church and state law.”
Dispensation Theology versus Covenant Theology
In order to understand religious liberty and the history of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (freedom of speech, press, association, religion (or religious liberty), and conscience; soul liberty; separation of church and state; and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances), one must understand Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology. The Puritans were Covenant Theologians. Historic Baptists were Dispensationalists (in belief, although the term “Dispensational Theology” was not coined until sometime in the last few hundred years). These two theologies clashed in the English colonies of America, the Baptist view prevailing with the adoption of the First Amendment. Unknown to most contemporary “Baptists” the warfare between various biblical theologies continues and will continue until the kingdom of heaven is established by our Lord. Most “Baptists,” not to mention members of denominations and religions, have unknowingly succumbed to false religious beliefs and philosophies as end-time prophesy unfolds as foretold in Scripture. This article explains Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology, distinguishes them, and will be invaluable in one’s quest for understanding of the biblical principle of separation of church and state and the American application thereof.
Although many biblical principles run from Genesis to Revelation, the rules for church and state and for the Jewish religion-state are not the same. Under Judaism (the Jewish religion as ordained by God), religion and state operated hand-in-hand under God; that is, the religion and state were unified by God, both religion and state instructed by God to work together directly under God for the same goals. The church has not replaced Israel, and the rules for the church and state are different than the rules God ordained for the theocracy in Israel. Distinct rules, as discussed in Chapter 4 of God Betrayed and also in the next article to be published on this website (entitled “Distinct differences between church and state”), are laid down in the Bible concerning Judaism and Israel and the church and state. It is a grave mistake to Judaize the church, a mistake which has many consequences. Dr. C. I. Scofield was correct in his assertion that:
“It may safely be said that the Judaizing of the Church has done more to hinder her progress, pervert her mission, and destroy her spiritually, than all other causes combined. Instead of pursuing her appointed path of separation from the world and following the Lord in her heavenly calling, she has used Jewish Scriptures to justify herself in lowering her purpose to the civilization of the world, the acquisition of wealth, the use of an imposing ritual, the erection of magnificent churches, the invocation of God’s blessing upon the conflicts of armies, and the division of an equal brotherhood into ‘clergy’ and ‘laity.’” (Dr C. I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, First Edition, January, 1896), p. 12).
The “Judaizing” of the church is based upon false biblical interpretation, upon a false philosophy of history. “Karl Lowith defines ‘a philosophy of history as ‘a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which historical events and successions are unified and directed toward ultimate meaning’” (Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 17, citing Karl Lowith, Meaning in History (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1949), p. 1; see also, Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, New Jersey: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), p. 1). This definition “centers on three things: (1) the ultimate goal of history; (2) the unifying principle; and (3) the recognition of ‘historical events and successions,’ or a proper concept of the progress of revelation in history” (Ryrie, p. 17). The Bible contains a philosophy of history because it deals with the issue of meaning, offers a systematic interpretation of history, covers the entire scope of history from beginning to end, including the what and why of the future, presents a unifying principle which ties together and makes sense of the whole gamut of events, distinctions, and successions, and demonstrates that history has an ultimate goal or purpose (Showers, p. 2; Ryrie, p. 17).
The two main systems which Bible-believing scholars have developed to exposit the Bible’s philosophy of history over the last three or four hundred years, Dispensationalism or Dispensational Theology and Covenant Theology, have produced two systems of theology. Dispensational Theology contains all the necessary elements of a valid philosophy of history. “Dispensationalism, [which] can be defined very simply as a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of the sovereign rule of God, represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by several dispensations of God’s rule” (Showers, p. 27).
“The essence of dispensationalism … is the distinction between Israel and the church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purposes of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well” (Ryrie, p. 41).
Although Dispensationalism was not developed as a scheme in a systematic fashion until the 17th century, early church leaders did recognize some of the biblical principles basic to Dispensational Theology. The word from which dispensation is translated, oikonomia, appears nine times in the New Testament. Only once is it translated dispensation. It refers to a responsible office or ministry entrusted to one’s care by a higher authority in six passages and to a particular way of God’s administering His rule over the world in three other passages. “[T]he term dispensation as it relates to Dispensational Theology could be defined as a particular way of God’s administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose of world history” (Showers, pp. 27-30; see also, Ryrie, pp. 28-31). Another way to define “dispensation” is “a distinguishable economy in the outworking of God’s purpose” (Ryrie, p. 28). “Dispensationalism views the world as a household run by God” (Ibid., p. 29; see pp. 29-31 for definitions of “dispensation” by various scholars).
There are important characteristics and considerations concerning dispensations. There are three characteristics of each dispensation necessary to make it distinct from all other dispensations. First, each dispensation is characterized by a unique ruling factor or combination of ruling factors. “Second, it must involve a particular responsibility for man.” “Third, it must be characterized by divine revelation which had not been given before.” Three secondary characteristics are that each dispensation applies a test to man to see whether or not man will perfectly obey God’s rule, each dispensation demonstrates the failure of man to obey the particular rule of God of that dispensation, and each dispensation involves divine judgment because of man’s failure (Showers, pp. 30-31; see also, Ryrie, pp. 33-35).
Some important considerations are first, the different dispensations are different ways of God’s administering His rule over the world, not different ways of salvation. Since the fall, individuals have always been saved by grace through faith. The sacrifices of the Israelites in the Old Testament did not provide salvation. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin” (He. 10.4). “The Israelite’s offering implied confession of sin and of its due desert, death; and God ‘covered’ [or ‘passed over,’ …] his sin, in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice, which did, finally, ‘put away’ the sins ‘done aforetime in the forbearance of God’” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Ex. 29.33, p. 110).
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Ro. 3.23-25. See 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 2 to Ro. 3.25, p. 1195.).
“And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9.15).
Second, “[a] dispensation is a particular way of God’s administering His rule, but an age is a particular period of time”—hence a dispensation is not an age of history. Third, a dispensation may involve God’s administering His rule over all mankind or over only one segment of mankind. “Fourth, a dispensation may continue or discontinue some ruling factors of previous dispensations, but it will have at least one new ruling factor never introduced before.” “Fifth, each new dispensation requires new revelation” (Showers, pp. 31-32).
Dispensations have characteristics. Primarily, dispensations are stewardships. All in a particular dispensational economy are stewards, although one man usually stands out. For example, Paul was used by God more than any other to reveal His grace. Nonetheless, all the apostles and every other believer are also stewards of God’s grace. All have a responsibility to respond to that grace. God will judge those who fail to do so (See Ryrie, pp. 56-57).
Most theologians recognize seven dispensations: “Innocence (Gen. 1.28); Conscience (Gen. 3.23); Human Government (Gen. 8.20); Promise (Gen. 12.1); Law (Ex. 19.8); Grace (John 1.17); Kingdom (Eph. 1.10)” (The 1917 Scofield Reference Edition, see the notes accompanying the quoted verses. See also, Showers pp. 33-49 and Ryrie, pp. 45-57 (Showers and Ryrie call the Dispensation of Law the Dispensation of Mosaic Law and the Dispensation of Kingdom the Dispensation of the Millennium; Ryrie calls the Dispensation of Human Government the Dispensation of Civil Government.)).
In each dispensation, God used or uses a ruling factor to govern man. Man failed or will fail in every dispensation, even in the last dispensation in which Christ Himself will rule over a perfect government and exceptional conditions. Man’s failure in that dispensation will bring God’s judgment. Those who rebel outwardly during that time will be executed (See, Is. 11.3-4; 29.20-21; Je. 31.29-30), and “God will crush the huge revolt which will take place immediately after the seventh dispensation sending fire to destroy the human rebels and casting Satan into the lake of fire for everlasting torment (Rev. 20:9-10)” (Showers, pp. 33-49).
Dispensational Theology recognizes distinctions of things which differ in history by asserting that distinctions are the result of God’s administering His rule in different ways at different periods of history. “There is no interpreter of the Bible who does not recognize the need for certain basic distinctions in the Scriptures” (Ryrie, p. 16). The Covenant Theologian also makes rather important dispensational distinctions even though he views them as related to the unifying and underlying Covenant of Grace. For example, Louis Berkhof, after rejecting the usual dispensational scheme of Bible distinctions, enumerates his own scheme of dispensations or administrations—the Old Testament dispensation and the New Testament dispensation. “However, within the Old Testament dispensation Berkhof lists four subdivisions, which although he terms them ‘stages in the revelation of the covenant of grace,’ are distinguishable enough to be listed.’” Thus, he recognizes five dispensations—four in the Old Testament and the New Testament dispensation (Ibid., citing Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), pp. 293-301).
“[T]he way in which the two systems meet [the] requirements [for a valid philosophy of history] affirms that dispensationalism is the more valid and helpful system” (Ibid., p. 17). First, Dispensationalists find the goal of history in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, an optimistic view which insists that the glory of the sovereign God must be seen in the present heavens and earth. According to Dispensational Theology, all history moves toward the ultimate goal for God to glorify Himself by demonstrating that He alone is the sovereign God. Throughout Scripture, God is glorified. The First of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” an absolute, rock-hard rule, indicates that God wants to be glorified. Everything is seen in the Bible as being for His glory (See Showers pp. 50-51 for an excellent overview of Scripture that substantiates this point.). The successive dispensations glorify God by (1) demonstrating that God is sovereign throughout history despite Satan’s attempts to overthrow God’s rule and man’s rebellion against God since God can “hold man responsible to obey His methods of administering His rule and can judge man for his” disobedience; (2) “displaying the disorder and tragedy which result from the rejection of God’s rule;” and (3) by “progressively [moving] history toward the fulfillment of its God-intended climax” (Showers, pp. 50-51).
On the other hand, the Covenant Theologian seems pessimistic and sees the present struggle between good and evil terminated by the beginning of eternity at which point there will come catastrophe and divine judgment (Ryrie, pp. 17-18 citing Alva J. McClain, “A Premillennial Philosophy of History,” Bibliotheca Sacra 113 (April 1956): 113-14).
Second, in Covenant Theology, the unifying principle for the philosophy of history is the Covenant of Grace, a soteriological principle. Dispensational Theology has a unifying principle—the sovereign rule of God—which “ties the distinctions and progressive stages of revelation together and directs them toward the fulfillment of purpose in history” (Showers, p. 52). Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of the elect plus many other programs are all parts of God’s purpose for history.
“In dispensationalism the [unifying] principle is theological or eschatological or doxological, for the differing dispensations reveal the glory of God as He manifests His character in the differing stewardships, which culminate in history with the millennial glory. This is not to say that dispensationalism fails to give salvation its proper place in the purpose of God…. If the goal of history is the earthly Millennium and if the glory of God will be manifest at that time in the personal presence of Christ in a way hitherto unknown, then the unifying principle of dispensationalism may be said to be eschatological (if viewed from the goal toward which we are moving) or theological (if viewed from the self-revelation of God in every dispensation) or doxological (if viewed from the perspective of the overall manifestation of the glory of God)” (Ryrie, pp. 17-18; see also, Showers, p. 53).
Third, Dispensationalism gives a proper place to the idea of development, whereas Covenant Theology does not. In Covenant Theology in practice there is extreme rigidity even though Covenant Theology does include in its system different modes of administration of the Covenant of Grace, and although those modes would give an appearance of an idea of progressiveness in revelation. Dispensational Theology states that each new dispensation requires a new revelation, thereby supplying the element of a proper concept of the progress of revelation. According to Dispensationalism, under different economies, God gives new revelation which is increasingly progressive in scope. The similarities in different dispensations are part of a progression of development by God rather than
- “a result of employing the unifying principle of the covenant of grace…. Only dispensationalism can cause historical events and successions to be seen in their own light and not to be reflected in the artificial light of an overall covenant.
- “Thus a correct philosophy of history with its requirements of a proper goal, a proper unifying principle, and a proper concept of progress is best satisfied by the dispensational system. Like the need for biblical distinctions, the proper concept of the philosophy of history leads to dispensationalism” (Ryrie, p. 19).
Three factors are indispensable to Dispensational Theology.
- First, Dispensational Theology recognizes the distinction between the nation Israel and the Church. Covenant Theology is convinced that Israel and the church are essentially the same. “The theological liberal, no matter how much he speaks of the Judaistic background of Christianity, recognizes that Christianity is different from Judaism” (Ryrie, p. 16; Showers, p. 52).
- Second, Dispensational Theology, unlike Covenant Theology, uses a single hermeneutic or method of interpreting Scripture—the historical-grammatical method. “If plain or normal interpretation is the only valid hermeneutical principle and if it is consistently applied, it will cause one to be a dispensationalist” (Ryrie, p. 16, see also, Showers, p. 53). “Covenant Theologians are well known for their use of nonliteral interpretation, especially when interpreting prophecy, and they are equally well known for their amillennialism, which is only the natural outcome of such a hermeneutic” (Ryrie, p. 20; Showers, p. 53). Thus, the 144,000 of Revelation 7 cannot refer “to literal Israel, but the spiritual Israel, or the church, [etc.]” (Ryrie, p. 20, citing George E. Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids: Eardmans, 1956), 126).
- Third, Dispensational Theology recognizes that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the demonstration that He alone is the sovereign God, unlike Covenant Theology which advocates that the ultimate purpose of history is the glory of God through the redemption of the elect. “[A]lthough Dispensational Theology recognizes that the redemption of elect human beings is a very important part of God’s purpose for history, it is convinced that it is only one part of that purpose.” God is working out many other programs in addition to the program of redeeming people, all of which must be contributing something to the ultimate purpose of history (Showers, pp. 52-53).
Covenant Theology, “a system of theology which attempts to develop the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of two or three covenants,” “represents the whole of Scripture and history as being covered by those two or three covenants.” Covenant Theology began as a system in the 16th or 17th century and was introduced into America primarily through the Puritans (Ibid., pp. 7-8; see also, Ryrie, pp. 183-184).
This chapter will not examine Covenant Theology in detail, but some explanation is necessary. Some information will repeat some of the concepts discussed supra. This book is primarily concerned with Covenant Theology, as practiced in the American colonies by established churches (more on this in Section IV), and the resulting unbiblical practices including persecution of dissenters. The two or three covenants involved are called the Covenant of Redemption, the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace. One version of Covenant Theology combines the Covenant of Redemption with the Covenant of Grace. Covenant Theology teaches that God established the Covenant of Redemption in eternity past when God determined to provide redemption during the course of history for the elect. This Covenant placed requirements on the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father gave the Son the responsibility of paying for the sin of Adam and His elect (those the Father had given Him). He could do that by keeping the law thereby assuring eternal life for His children (See, e.g., Showers, p. 9).
According to Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace came after God created man. These covenants are deduced by Covenant Theologians and are not specified in Scripture. The Covenant of Works was established between the creation and fall of man. It required “implicit and perfect obedience of Adam” (Ibid., p. 10; see also, Ryrie, pp. 188-189). Adam broke the Covenant of Works after which God established the Covenant of Grace.
The Covenant of Grace has been defined as “that gracious agreement between the offended God and the offending but elect sinner, in which God promises salvation through faith in Christ, and the sinner accepts this believingly, promising a life of faith and obedience” (Showers, pp. 10-11; see also, Ryrie, p. 184 citing Berkhof, p. 277) God is the first party to the covenant, and, depending upon the theologian, the second party is the sinner, the elect, or the elect sinner in Christ. Some people who never become regenerate are included in the Covenant of Grace since it exists as both ‘a communion of life’ experienced by only the regenerate and as a ‘purely legal relationship’ experienced by both believers and their children. The children of believers experience the Covenant of Grace as a legal relationship in four ways: They are in the Covenant (1) “as far as their responsibility [to repent and believe] is concerned;” (2) “in the sense that they may lay claim to the promises which God gave when He established His covenant with believers and their seed;” (3) “in the sense that they are subject to the ministrations of the covenant;” and (4) “as far as the common covenant blessings are concerned.” A person who is a child of the regenerate is regarded as a member of the covenant even if he does not enter into the communion of life aspect through a confession of faith (Showers, pp. 11-13). As one Puritan preacher, in an attempt to remove objections of some against partaking of the Lord’s Supper because of fears of not being born again, preached in order to persuade them:
“The children of those who are members of the visible church are, by the constitution of God, from their first coming into existence, members of his kingdom in common with their parents. So it was under the Jewish dispensation; and so it is now, [under the Christian] if there is any validity in one of the principal arguments, by which we vindicate our practice, in baptizing the infants of those who are members of Christ’s church” (Isaac Backus, A History of New England With Particular Reference to the Denomination of Christians called Baptists, Volume 2 (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, Previously published by Backus Historical Society, 1871), p. 171).
According to Covenant Theology, the main promise God made in the Covenant of Grace was: “I will … be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee (Ge. 17.7);” and “includes the following promises: temporal blessings, justification, adoption, eternal life, the Spirit of God with His many ministries, and final glorification” (Showers, p. 14, citing Berkhof, p. 277). Establishment of religion in Christianity depends upon this covenant. Isaac Backus taught, “All establishments of worship by human laws, that ever were erected under the Christian name, were built upon calling the covenant in Gen. xvii the covenant of grace.”
Mr. Backus goes on to point out that “Those who have seen the nature of original sin, cannot tell how to keep up the idea of children’s being born in the covenant of grace, without some regard to grace in their parents. And in the same chapter where the unbelieving consort is said to be sanctified by the believer, a widow is required to marry only in the Lord….” [He then refers to a parable wherein to make his point the author thereof describes a church which advised a member to marry a certain woman of grace in the church rather than a woman he loves who is not of grace. Of the woman of grace, the church says:]
- “As to some trifles, which a carnal man would object to, it becomes you as a spiritual man, to make no objection. It is true, she is of a mean family, and a very weak understanding; she is peevish and fretful to the highest degree; her shape is semicircular; she is what the world calls monstrous ugly; every feature is adapted to mortify carnal desires, which is much better than to have them gratified; she is the queen of sluts, and without any polite education. But she has grace, saving grace; she is regenerated; let your grace wed with hers, and a sweet bride she will be. Moreover, she is past the flower of her age, and we suppose need so requires.”
- Backus goes on to say that this parable can be applied to no church on earth, but says “[H]ow mean and spiteful it is to treat the Word Grace [in the manner treated by Covenant Theologians]! Affixing the word to the covenant of circumcision, where God never put it, is the source of [a difficulty of a church at Stockbridge where to be sanctified by the believer, a widow is required to marry only in the Lord]”. (Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 2, pp. 238-241.)
Most Covenant Theologians have divided postfall history into two dispensations, the Mosaic dispensation sometimes called the “Old Covenant,” and the Christian dispensation, usually called the “New Covenant;” and they claim that the Covenant of Grace, although administration of that covenant differed between the dispensations, exists throughout these dispensations. “[E]ach dispensation or covenant named in the Bible is simply another stage of the progressive revelation of the nature of the Covenant of Grace” (Showers, pp. 14-16, citing Berkhof, pp. 282-283 and Ernest Frederick Kevan, “Dispensation,” in Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, editor-in-chief, Everett F. Harrison (Grand Rapids; Baker Book House, 1960), p. 168).
Covenant Theology has both commendable and problem features. It is commendable in that it emphasizes the grace of God, the redemptive work of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith, recognizes Jesus Christ as the central figure of world history, and has exhibited a commendable motive in that it has made an honest attempt to be faithful to the Scriptures while expositing the biblical philosophy of history (Showers, p. 19).
On the other hand, Covenant Theology has many problems. Many of them are pointed out in this chapter as well as throughout this book. Several significant shortcomings of Covenant Theology follow, repeating some already discussed supra:
- First its “ultimate goal of history[, also discussed supra, the Glory of God through the redemption of the elect,] is too narrow….
- Second, Covenant Theology denies or weakens some of the distinctions which are in the Bible by insisting that distinctions are simply different phases of the same Covenant of Grace…. In addition, Covenant theology denies the existence of distinctive gospels in the Bible…. Covenant Theology insists that there is no essential distinction between the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) and the New Covenant…. Covenant theology also denies the distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church.…
- Third, Covenant Theology is mistaken when it teaches that each of the biblical covenants is a continuation and newer phase of the Covenant of Grace….
- Fourth, Covenant Theology’s unifying principle is too limited or narrow. [First, Covenant Theology is too limited in that it unifies history through the Covenant of Grace from either the fall of man or the time of Abraham. It is too narrow because it deals only with God’s redemption of the elect, and it does not unify the program of redemption with all God’s other programs.] Second, … it does not unify prefall history with postfall history, which a valid exposition of the biblical philosophy of history must do….
- Fifth, in order to make its system work, Covenant Theology must employ a double hermeneutic (a double system of interpretation)…” (Ibid., pp. 19-25 citing Berkof, pp. 298, 300; Bernhard W. Anderson, “The New Covenant and The Old,” in The Old Testament and Christian Faith, ed. by Bernard W. Anderson (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969), p. 232; and Johannes Behm, “kainos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, pp. 447, 448, 449. See Showers for a more detailed explanation of the deficiencies listed.).
According to the Covenant Theologian, “the idea of dual covenants functioned as a warning against reliance on good works for salvation.” The Covenant of Works required obedience for salvation. According to the Covenant of Grace one could only be saved by faith in Christ (E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Sheridan Books, 2003), p. 40).
Yet, the Covenant of Works remained in effect.
“This meant, first, that New Englanders whom God had not yet called effectually into salvation remained entirely under a covenant of works and subject to its moral restraint. It meant also, according to Cotton, that the burden of moral expectation should drive the sensitive conscience to Christ. It was ‘the usuall manner of God to give a Covenant of Grace by leading men first into a Covenant of works.’ Living under the covenant of works, Shepard explained, they would discover their sinfulness, and their ‘terrors, and fears, and hopes’ would turn them to Christ. And it meant, third, that even Christians safely within the covenant of grace remained subject to the moral substance of the first covenant. Abolished as a ‘covenant of life,’ Shepard said, the law still remained a ‘Rule of Life.’ These were the traditional three uses of the law in Reformed theology; covenantal language provided a lively way to restate them” (Ibid.).
Covenant Theologians teach that God’s commands are “too severe even for Adam in innocency, and that grace[, through the covenant of circumcision and its successor, baptism,] gives an exemption from that severity,” under the Covenant of Grace.
Covenant Theology, which does not recognize or correctly analyze the roles of the Old and New Covenants, is at odds with a correct interpretation of the Bible on this issue. Isaac Backus explained:
“[The law is holy, just, and good]; it [is] spiritual; but [man] a carnal slave to sin, instead of having such high dignity and liberty as he before imagined he had…. A false imagination of good in the forbidden fruit, drew our first parents into rebellion against God; and such imaginations are the only source of sin in all their children. James i. 14, 15. Good is still their pursuit, but they have lost the knowledge of who can give it, or of what it is; but the regenerate soul knows both, and this is the precise difference between them. Psalm iv. 6, 7. Who does not know that debtors and criminals are not fit judges in their own causes? [Y]et that is the case with all reasoners against the truth and perfection of God’s written word…. And to hear many speaking evil of things they know not, but what they know naturally as brute beasts, and in those things to corrupt themselves; to see them tread down the good pastures, and foul the deep waters, and thrust others with side and shoulder, serves to confirm believers in the truth of revelation, and in the hope of a speedy deliverance from such evil beasts. Jude 10. Ezek. xxxiv. 18, 25” (Backus, A History of New England…, Volume 2, p. 254).
To show that God has “disannulled the national covenant which he made with Abraham,” Backus offered the following insights:
- “First, Abraham had no right to circumcise any stranger, until he had bought him as a servant for money. Gen. xvii. 12, 13. But God says to his children, Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men. I Cor. vii. 23. And he says to his ministers, Feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood. Acts xx. 28. He also says, Ye have sold yourselves for nought, and ye shall be redeemed without money. And this is the gospel of peace. Is. lii. 3, 7; Rom. x. 15. Thus do the apostles explain the prophets.
- Secondly, The children of Israel had no right to receive strangers into the church by households, until the day in which they came out of Egypt, when the Passover was instituted. And then God said, Every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. Exod. xii. 44—48. Circumcision and the Passover were as binding upon servants as children; and both ordinances pointed to the blood of Christ, which he was to shed for his people. And in reference to that, God said, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. Jer. xxxi. 31, 32. And an inspired apostle says, In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. Heb. viii. 7—13; x. 9. And can old and new, first and second, mean but one covenant? Surely no.
- Thirdly, Circumcision is the name which God gave to his covenant with Abraham. Acts vii. 8. And though Jews and Mahometans are still zealous for it, yet all Christians allow that circumcision is repealed. But after the apostolic age, men took away the name which God gave to that covenant, and added the name Grace to it; and they held that dominion is founded in grace. And from thence the nations have made merchandise of all the vanities of time, and of slaves and souls of men. But the plagues of Babylon will come upon all men who add to the word of God, and take away from the words of his book, if they refuse to come out of that practice. Rev. xviii. 4—13; xxii. 18, 19. And there is not a word in all the Bible for bringing any child to baptism without his own profession of faith in Christ, nor for forcing any man to support any religious minister; and all national churches are built upon these two superstitions.
- Fourthly, Circumcision was the shedding of human blood; and when Abraham received it, it was a seal of righteousness of the faith which he before had in Christ, in whom believers are justified by his blood. Rom. iv. 11, 23; v. 9; Gal. iii. 16; Gen. xv. 6; xvii. 24. It was a seal to him; but neither circumcision nor baptism are ever called seals to any other person in the Bible. But God says to true believers in Christ, In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. And he also says, Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Eph. i. 13; iv. 30. After believing in Christ, the Holy Spirit seals the merits of his death, and the promises of his grace to the soul. And all believers from the beginning, looked through the bloody ordinances which God appointed, to the blood of Christ for justification. And after the beast arose out of the bottomless pit, God said, All that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. xiii. 8. Force and cruelty is the general character of the beast; but Jesus, who is the root and offspring of David, will cause all evil beasts to cease out of the land. Ezek. xxxiv. 4, 25; Rev. xxii. 16.
- Fifthly, the believing Jews were suffered to go on in circumcision for a number of years past the death of Christ, and then God said to them, If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. …. Whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace. Gal. v.2—4. So far was the covenant of circumcision from being the covenant of grace. That bloody sign not only pointed to the death of Christ, but also to the death of all true believers in him. Therefore Paul says, I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. … The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts. Gal. ii. 19, 20; v. 22-24. Adam and Christ are the only two public heads of mankind, as to the great affairs of the soul and eternity. For as by one man’s disobedience, many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous. Rom. v. 19. For parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is of infinite importance; but we can find no warrant for any to bring them to baptism without a personal profession of faith in Christ….
“God said of Abraham, I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Gen. xviii. 19. He will and They shall, was the language of God’s covenant with Abraham; but I will, and They shall, is the language of the new covenant, since the death of Christ. Heb. viii. 10; x. 9. It was the will of God that the visible church should continue in the line of Abraham’s posterity, until Christ came and died for his people, and then the holy spirit was given, and believing Jews and Gentiles were united in his church. And they never were called Christians, until believing Gentiles were received into the church without circumcision….
“[T]he holding that the children of believers are born into the covenant of grace, or that baptism can bring them into it, without their own knowledge or choice, is such a confounding of grace and works together as holds multitudes in blindness and bondage.” (Ibid., pp. 364-366, 371-372, 373).
We should look at the Dispensation of Grace to find the duties of believers today.
Who are the true seed of Abraham? Mr. Backus again correctly divided the Word of Truth in answering this question:
“Circumcision was only for males, but females are equally the subjects of baptism, which proves an essential change of the covenant. And our Lord gave the gospel commission to the eleven, who were all born again; and he said to them, Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy ghost; teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matt. xxviii. 16—20. This promise is only to his children, in the way of obedience to all his commandments. And as the covenant of circumcision gave Israel a right to buy the heathen for servants, and circumcision was only for the males, the gospel says to believers, Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s then ye are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal. iii.26—29. Abraham was an eminent type of Christ, and none are his spiritual seed but believers in Christ.” (Ibid., pp. 370-371).
Dispensationalism correctly explains the Covenants of Law and Grace. God made a covenant with the children of Israel called the Mosaic Covenant. The Mosaic Covenant of Law applied to an earthly people.
“The Mosaic Covenant (1) given to Israel (2) in three divisions, each essential to the others, and together forming the Mosaic Covenant, viz.: the Commandments, expressing the righteous will of God (Ex. 20.1-26; the ‘judgments,’ governing the social life of Israel (Ex. 21.1-24.11); and the ‘ordinances,’ governing the religious life of Israel (Ex. 24.12-31.18). These three elements form ‘the law,’ as that phrase is generically used in the New Testament (e.g. Mt. 5.17, 18). The Commandments and the ordinances formed one religious system. The Commandments were a ‘ministry of condemnation’ and of ‘death’ (2 Cor. 3.7-9); the ordinances gave, in the high priest, a representative of the people with Jehovah; and in the sacrifices a ‘cover’ (see ‘Atonement,’ Lev. 16.6 note) for their sins in anticipation of the Cross (Heb. 5.1-3; 9.6-9; Rom. 3.25, 26). The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace (Rom. 3.21-27; 6.14, 15; Gal. 2.16, 3.10-14, 16-18, 24-26; 4.21-31; Heb. 10.11-17).” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to Ex. 20.4, p. 95).
Christ was the mediator of a better covenant, called the New Covenant “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (He. 8.6. He.8.1-5 speaks of the Mosaic Covenant of Law).
“The New Covenant, Summary:
(1) “‘Better’ than the Mosaic Covenant, not morally, but efficaciously [or ‘as of having the power to produce the desired effect’] (Heb. 7.19 [‘For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.’]; Rom. 8.3-4 [‘For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’]).
(2) “Established on ‘better’ (i.e., unconditional) promises. In the Mosaic Covenant God said, ‘If ye will’ (Ex. 19.5-6a [‘Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine; And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.’]); in the New Covenant, He says, ‘I will’ (Heb. 8.10, 12-13 [‘By the which we are all sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.’]).
(3) “Under the Mosaic Covenant obedience sprang from fear (Heb. 2.2 [‘For if by the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward’]; 12.25-27 [‘See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.’]); under the New, from a willing heart and mind ([Heb. 8.]9-10 [‘Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:’]).
(4) “The New Covenant secures the personal revelation of the Lord to every believer (Heb. 8.11 [‘And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.’]);
(5) “the complete oblivion of sins ([Heb. 8.]12 [‘For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins, and their iniquities will I remember no more’]; Heb. 10.17 [‘And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.’]; cf. Heb. 10.3 [‘But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.’]);
(6) “rests upon an accomplished redemption (Mt. 26.27, 28 [‘And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’]; 1 Cor. 11.25 [‘After the manner also he took the cup, when he supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me’]; Heb. 9.11, 12, 18-23 [‘But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people. Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should by purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.’]);
(7) “and secures the perpetuity, future conversion, and blessing of Israel (Jer. 31.31-40 [‘Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner. And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.]; see also ‘Kingdom (O.T.),’ and 2 Sam. 7.8-17). The New Covenant is the eighth, thus speaking of resurrection and of eternal completeness.” (1917 Scofield Reference Edition, n. 1 to He. 8.8, p.1297).
“In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (He. 8.12).
Covenant Theology has had clear consequences. Roger Williams pointed out, concerning the religious persecution based upon Covenant Theology: “He [that is, the established churches] that kills and he [those defined as heretics by the established churches] that is killed, they both cry out, ‘It is for God, and for their conscience” (Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848), p. 33, First published in 1644.). Only one side can be right, and the Bible shows that side to be the persecuted Baptists. Both protestants and papists, Williams continued, “pretend they have spoke with Moses and the prophets, who all, say they, before Christ came, allowed such holy persecutions [and] holy wars against the enemies of holy church” (Ibid., p. 34).
It is impossible for a Gentile nation prior to the return of Christ to operate as a true theocracy. As seen in Section I, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed (which is published on this website in an edited version), a theocracy is a “Government of a state by the immediate direction of God; or the state thus governed.” All alleged “Christian” theocracies (church over state, state over church, or a combination of church and state; called ecclesiocracies by the author) are only poor imitators of the one true God-ordained theocracy in Israel. God never told the church to work with the state, over the state, or under the state.
Israel, the only theocracy which has ever existed, operated as a theocracy only until the Israelites rejected God and demanded a king, and God acted on their request and gave them King Saul. In the theocracy, all ten of the commandments were enforced. While operating as a theocracy, Israel was directly under God, and God initially spoke directly to the leaders of the nation of Israel. After God allowed Israel, at Israel’s request, to be ruled by a king, the Jewish religion and the civil government no longer worked together, although God spoke to the kings of Israel through his chosen prophets.
God no longer speaks directly to leaders of civil government, to the leaders of church government, or to others. He speaks to believers, led by the Holy Spirit, through His Word, the Bible. This is consistent with the fact that He only ordained one theocracy, Israel, prior to the second return of Christ. Yet Covenant Theology united church and state, with the church taking the place of God in speaking directly to the civil government. As a result, the “church” used the strong arm of the state to enforce its own particular brand of religion, or the state itself enforced its preferred religion. The only way to justify such a union is to use a false interpretation of Scripture, an interpretation which, since it is based upon Satan’s principles, must have been developed by Satan himself and implemented either by his children or by children of God who were not walking in the spirit according to knowledge.
The most noticeable and atrocious consequence of all church-state and state-church unions has been the confiscation of property, dissemination of lies about “heretics” as defined by the state-church, and other persecutions such as the beating, torture, imprisonment, and killing of untold millions of people who have dissented from the views of the state-church. The ultimate result of church-state or state-church alliances is always the same—the alliance of church and state called for by a perverted interpretation of Scripture forces others to profess allegiance to the doctrines of the official church under penalty of persecution, thereby attempting to stamp out those who practice free will. The state-church or church-state enforces its own peculiar doctrines including all of the Ten Commandments among which are the first four commandments which deal with man’s relationship to God. In effect, it requires many to be dishonest with both man and God. Since no one can be forced to choose to believe a particular religious belief in their heart, a lot of religious hypocrites are thereby created.
As history shows, the official corrupted “church” was vile to the core. The reformers became especially aware of the corruption within the Roman “church.” Corruption is inevitable when church and state are intermixed.
To quote a great Bible teacher: “The church that sets out to spiritualize the world will soon find that the world will secularize the church. When wheat and tares compromise, it is the wheat that suffers. Light and darkness, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error are incompatibles, and when they compromise it is the light, the right, the good, and the truth that are damaged” (W. Graham Scroggie, born 1877, twelve times the Bible teacher at the famous Keswick, England conference, They Knew Their God, Vol. 5, 194 cited in The Berean Call, February 2006, p. 5, available at www.thebereancall.org. Separation is a Biblical principle that runs throughout scripture—Pastor Hank Thompson gave a tremendous sermon on “Separation” on Sunday evening,February 12, 2006. Ask for notes on that sermon.).
As Pastor Hank Thompson, has preached: “Holy means set apart for God. You cannot bring that which is holy and unholy together without making the holy things unholy. Holy things combined with unholy things do not make the unholy holy. It always makes the holy unholy. Being around someone who is sick may make a well person sick. Being around a well person won’t make a sick person well. If you are grounded and touch the ground and a power line at the same time, you are cooked. If you try to touch God and touch the world, you will be corrupted.” (“Separation.” Sermon preached at Capitol City Baptist Church in Austin, Texas by Pastor Hank Thompson,February 12, 2006).
The Holy Bible, the basic source for all truth proclaims: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Co. 6.14-18. The doctrine of separation is taught extensively in the Word of God.).
Just as the union of church and state corrupted the Roman “church” and society, it also corrupted the established Protestant churches and the nations which had established Protestant churches.
The church proceeded under the New Covenant, whereas the Jewish theocracy operated under the Mosaic covenant. Isaac Backus, in pointing out that Jesus did away with the Old Testament Covenant of Law, wrote:
“When our Savior came, he fulfilled the law, both moral and ceremonial, and abolished those hereditary distinctions among mankind. But in the centuries following, deceitful philosophy took away the name which God has given to that covenant, (Acts vii.8) [the covenant of circumcision] and added the name Grace to it; from whence came the doctrine, that dominion is founded in grace. And although this latter name has been exploded by many, yet the root of it has been tenaciously held fast and taught in all colleges and superior places of learning, as far as Christianity has extended, until the present time; whereby natural affection, education, temporal interest and self-righteousness, the strongest prejudices in the world, have all conspired to bind people in that way, and to bar their minds against equal liberty and believer’s baptism.” (Isaac Backus, An Abridgement to the Church History of New England (Boston: Harvard University, 1804; reprinted. 1935), p. 136. cited in Beller, America in Crimson Red…, p. 446).
Scriptures, other than those already cited to show that the church and state are not to wed or to enter into any kind of relationship, especially for persecution of those who do not submit to the official religion, teach that the church is not to enforce spiritual laws in society in general, even with the help of civil government. The Lord commanded that men not remove the tares “lest [they] root up also the wheat [the children of the kingdom]” (Mt. 13.24-30, 37-43). Instead, they are to be permitted to grow together until the harvest when the Lord shall send forth his angels to gather the tares and cast them into a furnace of fire (Ibid.). The Lord commanded His disciples to leave the Pharisees, whom He referred to as the “blind leading the blind,” alone because “every plant, which [His] heavenly father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Mt. 15.13-14). He told his disciples: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall in the ditch” (Mt. 15.14).
As Roger Williams noted, “This sentence against [the blind Pharisee], the Lord Jesus only pronounceth in his church, his spiritual judicature, and executes this sentence in part at present, and hereafter to all eternity. Such a sentence no civil judge can pass, such a death no civil sword can inflict” (Williams and Underhill, p. 97).
Other relevant scriptures dealing with the actions of a Christian against his enemies, those who curse, hate, despitefully use, persecute and disagree with him include:
- “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so” (Mt. 5.44-47)?
- The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in they synagogues; [a]nd ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles” (Mt. 10.16-18). What sheep ever attacked a wolf or anything else?
- “And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mk. 9.38. See also Lu. 9.49-50).
- The Lord Jesus said to his disciples, James and John, who desired to command fire down from heaven to devour Samaritans who would not receive Him, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye be of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Lu. 9.55-56).
- “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life of the sheep” (Jn. 10.10-11).
- “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [i]n meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [a]nd they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Ti. 2.24-26).
The reason for not attempting to remove heretics, the tares, from the world seems to be, as Roger Williams noted:
- “because they who now are tares, may hereafter become wheat; they who are now blind, may hereafter see; they that now resist him may hereafter receive him; that that are now in the devil’s snare, in adverseness to the truth, may hereafter come to repentance; they that are now blasphemers and persecutors, as Paul was, may in time become faithful as he; they that are now idolaters, as the Corinthians once were, 1 Cor. vi. 9, may hereafter become true worshippers as they; they that are now no people of God, nor under mercy, as the saints sometimes were 1 Pet. ii. 10, may hereafter become the people of God, and obtain mercy, as they.
- “Some come not till the eleventh hour, Matt. xx. 6: if those that come not till the last hour should be destroyed, because they come not at the first, then should they never come, but be prevented” (Williams and Underhill, pp. 11-12).
Persecution of “heretics” is contrary to many New Testament teachings. True believers were promised that they would be persecuted, and never were told to persecute anyone. Jesus told the disciples that “the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (Jn. 16.2. This was spoken directly to the apostles, but the Bible and history show that it is applicable to all believers who have been persecuted or will be persecuted for Christ’s sake. Christ is actually speaking to all who are not of the world, but are the chosen of God. See, e.g., Jn. 15.).
The promises to the Jew in the Old Testament were significantly different than the promises to the Christian in the New Testament. No greater example can be cited than the contrast between the Old Testament promises that Israel would prosper and be blessed materially if they would keep God’s commandments and statutes or that they would be judged if they failed to do so (See, e.g., Ex. 15.26; 19.5-8; 24.3, 7; 34.18-35.3; Le. 18.3-20.27; 20.22-23; 26 (read in conjunction with De. 28-30); De. 4-11; 12.30-31; 28-30; 28.1-68; I S. 12.1-5; 1 K. 6.12-13; 9.1-9; 2 Chr. 7.12-22; 15.1-7; etc.) and the New Testament promise to Christians that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Ti. 3.12).
The church and state wed at the invitation of the Roman Emperor Constantine early in the fourth century. Some churches married the state and became the officially recognized “church.” After that unholy union, the established Roman Catholic “church,” working hand in hand with the state, persecuted believers. The persecution was continued by the Protestant churches which came out of Roman Catholicism, and finally was brought to America and our colonies by the Puritans, Anglicans, and others.
Throughout these teachings, Scripture and arguments are presented which refute Covenant Theology. Section I, which deals with government, explains that God, because of His covenants with Israel, will establish Israel in the land he has given them. Section II, which deals with the church, shows that Christ desires to be the only head of the church, that He loves the church and gave Himself for it, and that the church is the bride and wife of Christ. The distinct differences between the church and state, as will be shown in Chapter 4 infra, render the two mutually exclusive, operating in different spheres—the civil government or the state operates in the earthly sphere and the church operates in the spiritual realm (although application of spiritual principles affect earthly actions).
The Covenant Theology examined in this book cannot coexist with free will. As will be shown in Section IV, the established churches in almost all the American colonies advocated either a church-state or state-church, unions of church and state under which the strong arm of the state punished, sometimes by death, (execution of dissidents in the colonies was forbidden by England after four Quakers were hanged in Massachusetts as will be explained in Section IV) those the state-church labeled as “heretics.” Had the official churches prevailed, America would not have the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Thank God that Baptist dissenters led the fight that resulted in liberty of conscience guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
EN1 Why should believers, and especially pastors, be concerned about the area of church and state law? Because only through knowledge can they avoid dishonoring the Husband/Bridegroom/Head of their local church body and thereby failing to achieve their God-given goal—glorifying God and pleasing Him.
These articles systematically examine the biblical doctrines of church, state, separation of church and state and the application of those doctrines in America. For believers and churches, the information presented is—according to God’s Word—of great importance to our Lord. By reading and studying each article using the Bible as the standard, a believer will discover that the biblical principles are correct as presented. By studying the historical and legal facts presented—without bias, prejudice, illicit motive, or an overriding opposing agenda which has a vested interest in maintaining a status quo due to loss of finances, support or something else—and examining those facts in light of biblical principle, a qualified believer (a believer who has the necessary biblical, historical, and legal qualifications and education) can understand that the conclusions are correct.
That said, understanding the biblical principles, relevant history, and legal principles and facts is, first, impossible for one who is not a born again believer who is walking in the Spirit, and, second, daunting for even the spirit filled follower of Christ. Years of honest, open minded study is required to achieve the correct knowledge and understanding of all facets of church and state law. First, one must interpret Scripture correctly (See 2 Ti. 2:15) as to the relevant topics. After mastering the biblical principles, one must then labor through the annals of history, and the intricacies of law. In order to be qualified to comment upon the law, one must have an extensive legal education. He must understand how to do legal research and how to reach correct legal conclusions. Legal commentary by a pseudo lawyer can sound good to the untrained, while he may be correctly understood as frivolous and unlearned and probably heretical by the educated believer.
This is not to say that a non-lawyer cannot understand the legal and historical aspects of spiritual matters. In fact, the author knows some pastors and other believers who, having already correctly divided the Word of Truth and determined to seek to please God in all matters, have open minds and who have eagerly sought truth in the historical and legal church and state law arena. He is working with such a young pastor at this very moment. He is a brilliant young man who had mastered the Scriptures and Baptist history before the author met him. He excels the author in those matters, as do some other pastors and believers known by the author. Unlike most pastors, he does not have the disadvantages of having gone to either a secular or ecclesiastical (Baptist or otherwise) institution of higher learning. Secular colleges and universities usually corrupt even the most devout child of God; and religious colleges, institutions, and seminaries generally (with few exceptions, one of which the author has personal knowledge of)—by either mixing an ample dose of humanism with whatever biblically correct teaching they dose out; or by having totally having abandoned truth—likewise usually corrupt their students to one degree or another.
On the other hand, the author isvexed by what he reads in some books and websites concerning church and state law; particularly by some vicious, unfounded attacks upon the Biblical Law Center Declaration of Trust by unqualified, biased assailants who are attempting to mislead believers and churches through incorrect biblical and legal analyses and personal attacks upon and outright lies about those with whom they disagree in such matters.
Being a believer alone, even a pastor, does not by itself qualify one to teach on church and state law. The author has been a believer and faithful member of independent Baptist churches since his salvation. He was called by God to go to law school for His glory and to please Him. As a result of that calling, he obtained a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from one of the best law schools in the country and has practiced law for seventeen years. He has no motive for dishonesty. By design, he has never made a dime above expenses in his work in the church and state law arena. In fact, he has spent tens of thousands of dollars with total income of at most three to four thousand dollars in all the years he has worked in this area of law. Because of this he is beholden to no one and nothing but the truth and his Lord and Savior. Since becoming a lawyer, he has devoted untold thousands of hours in biblical, historical, and legal study and analysis of church and state law.
As always, he declares that if anyone can show him where he is in error, he will recant. Honest, loving believers have taught him much and caused him to modify some of his positions. He has also, in his continued studies, modified some of his conclusions and positions. However, he maintains his primary positions because neither he, through his continued studies, or others have shown him to be wrong about his basic church and state law principles and conclusions.
EN2. God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Link to preview of God Betrayed): may be ordered from Amazon by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Amazon.com or from Barnes and Nobel by clicking the following link: God Betrayed on Barnes and Noble. All books by Jerald Finney as well as many of the books he has referenced and read may also be ordered by left clicking “Books” (on the “Church and State Law” website) or directly from Amazon by going to the following links: (1) Render Unto God the Things that Are His: A Systematic Study of Romans 13 and Related Verses (Kindle only); (2) The Most Important Thing: Loving God and/or Winning Souls (Kindle only); (3) Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities? (Link to preview of Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities?) which can also be ordered by clicking the following Barnes and Noble link: Separation of Church and State on Barnes and Noble.