Monday, April 19, 2010

The Fifth Difference and God's Constancy

I guess Calvin finally decided that there was enough cause to warrant listing a fifth difference between the Old and New Covenants, and personally I see it as a valid difference.  The Old Covenant was made between God and one nation, the nation of Israel.  His grace was specifically given to them excluding people of all other nations.  The New Covenant is for people of all nations.  In the words of Paul, Christ has, "broken down the middle wall of separation" (Ephesians 2:14).

Calvin finally concedes that "The calling of the Gentiles, therefore, is a notable mark of the excellence of the New Testament over the Old."  He notes that even at the beginning of Christ's ministry, he was specifically witnessing only to the Israelites and he only sent his apostles to the Israelites (Matthew 15:24, 10:5).  Eventually, Christ's mission seemed to change focus when he welcomed in the gentiles and his disciples were shocked.  "For it seemed completely unreasonable that the Lord, who for so many ages had singled out Israel from all other nations, should suddenly change his plan and abandon that choice."  If his disciples had rightly interpreted prophecies from the Old Testament, they would have realized that this was part of God's plan from the beginning.

So, why did God change - or did He?  Let us look back at Galatians 4 which we have examined several times recently.  Verses 1-7 read:
Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:1-7, NKJV)
Paul compares the Israelites to children and Christians to young men.  Parents treat their children in a different manner when they are toddlers versus when they are teenagers.  Is it the parents who have changed or the children?  It would be unreasonable to give a teething biscuit to a teen for comfort or take the car keys away from the toddler as punishment.  They are at different stages of development, therefore they require different parenting skills.  Calvin writes, "Thus, God's constancy shines forth in the fact that he taught the same doctrine to all ages, and has continues to require the same worship of his name that he enjoined from the beginning.  In the fact that he has changed the outward form and manner, he does not show himself subject to change.  Rather, he has accommodated himself to men's capacity, which is varied and changeable."

In typical fashion, Calvin sets straight those who might question why God waited to give us the New Covenant rather than having it be the only covenant.  He writes, "But let us not doubt that God has done everything wisely and justly - as all godly persons ought to believe - even if we often do not know the reason why it should have been so done.  It would be claiming too much for ourselves not to concede to God that he may have reasons for his plan that are hidden from us."  It is sometimes natural for us to question God's plan, but we must always remember that "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD" (Isaiah 55:8, NKJV).  His thoughts and ways are always better than ours.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.12.1-2.12.3

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf