This World is God's World - News and Views from a Christian Perspective (8) February 2023

February 2023

By Rev Peter Ratcliff 

This World is God's World (Edition 8) February 2023 - News & comment from a Christian perspective

By Rev Peter Ratcliff 

TWO CONFERENCES - 4th March in London and 25th March in Wolverhampton

The Protestant Conference is a UK wide organisation formed to encourage fellowship and evangelical witness throughout our nation. Presently we have two public meetings each year, on the first Saturdays in March and November. 

These meetings are held at St John's Wood Road Baptist Church, 39 St. John’s Wood Road, London NW8 8QX.[closeby Warwick Avenue Tube on the Bakerloo line]. 

We warmly invite evangelicals throughout our nation to our coming event which will address:    The vitality of The Coronation Oath

The Coronation of King Charles III is expected to take place on Saturday 6th May.

No doubt it will be a joyful day when the country comes together regardless of our divisions.

However the Coronation is not all pomp and show. In the service King Charles is expected to make a solemn oath which has been made in a similar form by Kings and Queens for several centuries.

In this Oath the monarch promises to uphold the Protestant Reformed religion. This may sound strange but it is basically a defence of Evangelical Christianity. Such an oath is quite remarkable and both the atheists and Popes would rather it wasn't said. In practice the oath is trampled under foot by parliament.

The Coronation Oath administered to Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey involving both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, representing the established churches in England and Scotland, included the following questions: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Before signing the Oath the Queen kneeled and placed her right hand on a copy of the Bible saying: “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.” 

It is quite wonderful that the holder of the highest civil position in our land is obliged by law to make solemn promises to uphold the Protestant Christian faith.

If more Christians were aware of the oath then they might remind their MPs that they also have sworn or affirmed allegiance to the monarch.  Therefore MPs should only legislate in parliament what is consistent with the Coronation Oath. 

This is a free conference to be held [DV] on Saturday 4th March, 2023 at 2pm in 

St John's Wood Road Baptist Church, 39 St. John’s Wood Road, London NW8 8QX

"The History, Integrity and Relevance of the Coronation Oath" 

Speaker: Charles Scott-Pearson (General Secretary: The Protestant Alliance) on the subject of the Coronation Oath. 

All are very welcome.

Further details from The Secretary, The Protestant Conference, Mr Raymond Stewart, moc.yks@7151dnomyar‎,  Phone/text/WhatsApp  07801 756112

The Church of England (Continuing)

MIDLAND CONFERENCE

St Silas Church, Long Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1HU

(bus & rail stations 2 mins walk, pay & display car park in Broad St)

Saturday 25th March 2023 D.V.

REFORMATION & REVIVAL

Morning Session 11am

Reformation – The Importance of Theology

The life & work of Heinrich Bullinger

Speaker: The Rt Rev Edward Malcolm

Presiding Bishop, Church of England (Continuing)

Light lunch & hot drinks available

Afternoon Session 2pm

Revival – The Primacy of Preaching

Speaker: The Rev Peter Simpson

Minster, Penn Free Methodist Church

3pm Evening Prayer

ALL WELCOME

E-mail: moc.liamg@1vwsalists‎ Phone; 07477 704921/07925 693504

REV JOHN HOLLINS

Our friend and Bible teacher John Hollins died at Bethany Christian Care Home in Plymouth on Saturday 21st January 2023, aged 87. 

John studied maths at Cambridge and during national service came under Christian influence and conversion among the Plymouth Brethren. John also came under the influence of Roy Hession and the idea of a complete uncompromising Christian life. John trained at Oakhill before serving at Highbury in the Church of England. John later served in a very rough part of Manchester where he saw many people become Christians. The text "I have much people in this city" came to John's mind as he went around door to door walking up staircases stinking of urine in rough council estates and this ministry was very fruitful.

John and his wife Elizabeth served for a while with Operation Mobilization in Belgium and George Verwer was a lifelong friend, but John felt disappointed that he did not succeed in that work. John taught at Birmingham Bible College and became vicar of Stalybridge near Manchester where he took a firm line against a couple who were remarried after bad divorces. This made John unpopular. On one occasion he refused to take part in an ecumenical procession and his church went ahead and did it in spite of him. Meanwhile over the years Elizabeth suffered debilitating conditions and yet she suffered patiently as a godly woman. 

John came under the influence of Rev BG Felce of All Saints, Preston, who in 1994 was a founding member of the Church of England Continuing. John was secretary of Mr Felce's reading group which introduced clergy to the Protestant Reformers. At one time the Rev BG Felce helped John when he had trouble with the bishop. John wondered how he could be defended. Mr Felce assured John,  "The Bible is above the bishop".

Matters came to a crisis as John's health suffered through mental exhaustion and he had to retire. John and Elizabeth moved back to Cornwall where Elizabeth came from and they lived in a wonderful house high above Looe and with an amazing view out to sea.

There they joined a vibrant Methodist chapel led by a vigorous young American pastor, John Gillespie. The church greatly helped John care for Elizabeth as she was very sick and dying over several years of losing her bodily functions. 

John greatly supported John Gillespie in leaving Methodism as Mr Gillespie could not agree with the ambiguous stance of Methodism on homosexuality. In 1994 an independent Evangelical church was formed called Grace Community Church. It initially met in Looe Comprehensive School. John also helped Pastor Gillespie move from a Wesleyan Finneyite view to a Calvinist one, preaching the imputed righteousness of Christ. 

John was a founding member of the East Cornwall Rendezvous, a monthly public meeting with traditional hymns and invited Reformed speakers from outside Cornwall and an excellent book table. 

John also ran an excellent Monday evening Bible School which was attended by a range of keen Christians from around the area. I was struck by how he spoke on heaven in Revelation, rather than speculative questions John summed it up in a way which has stuck with me: "heaven is most solid". 

In his later years further challenge came as John got older so his son took out a loan to extend John's house so he could have lodgers who could look after him. This worked out brilliantly until his son went broke and John lost his lovely home, moving to a flat in Liskeard. More deep suffering followed as his son was sent to prison for attempted murder of his wife and John was unable to continue contact with his grandchildren. John seemed to believe that his son was innocent and continued to be very gracious toward him.

For all this John suffered gladly the spoiling of his goods and continued to love the Lord unwaveringly and he encouraged a great variety of friends in the Gospel.

John became weak in his last year and confined first to his flat and then to care homes.

John was a brilliant man, full of fire. He loved the Lord Jesus and he hated to see churches going wrong. He was brilliant at understanding situations and he learned like a child but applied his learning as a man. John was certainly a strict Christian and was interested in a wide range of missions. He was influenced by Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones and shared his brilliant analytical mind. 

Personally speaking, I met John in 1994 when I was converted at Grace Community Church. He was the greatest help. His Monday Night Bible School thrilled and inspired me. 

It was only some years after I first met John that I realised that Elizabeth had only died a few weeks before I met him. Yet he was so thrilled to be teaching a keen new convert and my friend Trevor Christmas, also just converted, that I would never have guessed that John had only just lost his wife. Years later John said he had never known the Lord so close to him as in the first months after Elizabeth died. It certainly showed! 

In later years John would come up to London and visit us. John was not an elder at Grace but he felt a pastoral burden for the glory of God and he would fight for the purity of the church when he felt it was under serious threat, for example from drama or pentecostalism. He said he came to visit us for a rest from all his concerns as he shared his burdens with us. He also offered me extremely helpful criticism of my preaching which was very hard to take but only such a friend could give. 

I might sum up John's dedication to serious Christianity by what happened the first time I stayed at John's house. It had been a late night and an early morning but his first question at breakfast was, "Well what have you been reading in the Word this morning that has spoken to you ?" 

I am immensely thankful to our good God for giving me John for such a friend, teacher and godly influence.

THE MISUSE OF PARLIAMENT TO CORRUPT THE CHURCH

It was reported in the Guardian newspaper on 17th January that the Home Secretary Penny Mordaunt is saying that the Church of England must (not should) permit homosexual marriage.

I used to edit English Churchman newspaper and often noted that the church of England was pushed about by the non Christian Houses of Parliament. This should not be so. Prophets of old rebuked kings. John the Baptist rebuked King Herod and lost his head for it.

It is time to not be afraid.

But the Church of England long ago decided to follow the world and it is heading to hell.

That is why I like the Church of England Continuing and the Independent, Congregational, Baptist and Presbyterian churches which are ruled by the Bible and with confessions of faith in their constitutions which prohibit them from being ruled by secular powers.

Indeed, while Article 38 of the Church of England recognises the King's majesty and his magistrates, these powers are not in ministering God's Word. Therefore the King and his Government must not break the Word of God by trying to force sodomy onto the Church of England.

In better days men would have resisted. Bishops were prepared to be burnt at the stake by Queen Mary for not re-Romanising the church. What pathetic bishops we have today if they will not plainly preach that the world is wrong.

The argument put by Mrs Mordaunt and Mr Bradshaw MP, ie both right and left wing MPs, is that if a thing is legal then it must be promoted by the church. Yet adultery is legal and sex before marriage is legal. Abortion is legal. False religions are legal. Gambling is legal. Drunkenness and swearing are legal. Lying is legal. Taking the Lord's name in vain is legal. Greed and gluttony and envy and lust and pornography and all covetousness is legal. Must the Church of England also promote all this? O, and it is even legal to be right wing and a climate change skeptic. Surely the Church of England isn't meant to promote these things!

Let us see if the Guardian will publish our letter! They didn't! 

OPEN AIR PREACHING REPORTS: 

January got off to a slow start with rain and injuries but we have been giving out the remainder of our Trinitarian Bible Society Calendars. We have noticed that it is mainly elderly, black and immigrant people who take them and have mentioned the cause of this in the article about education, see below. Another factor is prosperity. In Colliers Wood and Wimbledon there is less interest than in Mitcham. We had a long and interesting conversation with market stall holders in Mitcham, clearing up many misapprehensions about the Christian faith.

Next we were out on Friday 13th January in Wimbledon at 5:30pm

The hour turned into 1hr 45 minutes as it sometimes does.

The highlight for me was two particularly good long conversations of about half an hour each. The first was even before starting preaching, a man from a Polish Roman Catholic background engaging seriously and clearly feeling something needful. The second, after preaching, with a man from a local modern evangelical church but who was keen to explain something of why we are so different from his church.... and why he would like to come to us! It is very rare to hear something like this! We'll see! ...He came along to church and said he’ll come back next week too! We’ll see...( four weeks later he is still with us!)

In between these two conversations I preached for half an hour or so and we engaged with various people. We had good relations with the street people as usual, whom I like a lot. They are no worse off than others in many ways but they do listen and yet they still haven't come to church yet. My four helpers also engaged with various people.

So we'll see! We keep praying.

Friday 20th January 2023, Wimbledon, 5:30pm

I preached for about 45 minutes without interruption from John 17:3, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I recorded it so the video is on Facebook.

There were a good number of people waiting near the bus stop and I preached into their ears although they didn't acknowledge it. A few passers-by gave encouragement. 

The helpers had some good conversations with passers-by and gave our tracts. Someone gave one of the helpers £1 for the tract! 

Otherwise nothing else to report. Let's leave it with the Lord in prayer.

Friday 27th January, 5:30pm.

Enabled to preach a challenging but encouraging message for an hour or so with plenty of nice interruptions to talk with passers by. 

Several people stopped to talk with me this time. A couple of Polish men pretending to be Russian and saying nuclear war was coming next week, under the influence of drink and dope. Generally quite a lot of cannabis smell around. This is Wimbledon, not Brixton! Also a very lovely Romanian man. And a Brazilian man. These people having varying degrees of English language show it is worth having literature in different languages. The Brazilian was Portuguese speaking but was happy to take a Spanish tract written by Richard Bennett, the late converted Roman priest. The Romanian spoke good English but was from the Eastern Orthodox Church but again, a Richard Bennett tract aimed at Roman Catholics would be helpful so was given and gladly received.

My favourite question "Are you going to heaven?" invariably quickly shows that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are totally ignorant of the Gospel. They talk about not knowing about what sin is bad enough. One said that Jesus was his Saviour so I pressed him and it was clear that the word Saviour is used without meaning. Likewise asking what is the Gospel? They know only of the four Gospels in the Bible but not of the Gospel of saving grace. 

Many tracts were taken and the helpers had good conversations.

One of the local drinkers who is very open now has a Bible in his pocket. He has a black eye which had been severely damaged, presumably by someone hitting him. He didn't say how it happened but thankfully after 24 hours in hospital he hasn't lost his eyesight. He is such a lovely man but is ruined by drink and general breakdown. Some of these folk are much closer to being saved than the average person. 

Let us pray for a real breakthrough! 

The man we met the week before last has been to church twice and plans to come again. Did I tell you, he said his old modern evangelical church was like going to a swimming pool but ours was like getting in the pool! Such things are encouraging. But the thought that thousands of people prefer churches that are just about "going to" rather than "being in" is chilling.

Next Day, Saturday 28th January, I just came out of Aldi and got chatting to a man about our bicycles and then asked him what he did and he asked me too, so this turned the conversation to the things of God and a very good time. He was attending the local Roman Catholic church and was quite willing to hear my explanation of the sure and certain hope of the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith being so different to his works based and very doubtful hope of eternal life.

Friday 3rd February

Report: Preached for nearly an hour from various texts. I got to the point of emphasizing that people are made my God, which is the reason why people are so amazing. Evolution and atheism just don't fit with who we are and don't offer any of the explanation or help we need. They are only an excuse to be anarchists. Rather I suggested that as God made us he also owns us and knows us. Our problem is that our sin has separated is from God and his judgement is hanging over us. I explained that no religion can help but only the salvation that comes from God in Jesus Christ being the full sacrifice for sin. I emphasise that this is good news for the poorest and most helpless souls and that Jesus didn't come to save the righteous but to save sinners. There were some people listening very carefully. 

One man at the end, smoking dope, as so many seem to be doing in the street, asked why I was doing what I was. Surprisingly he said he trusted Jesus and went to the Church of England opposite where we meet and he named the two local vicars in the team. I checked when I got home and it was the right names. The particular church is traditionally extremely liberal so I tried to explain that I used to go to churches like that but there was no Gospel there. He said he believed that Jesus helped him but he had no idea of eternal life or the fact that people without Christ needed to be saved from hell. He thought I contradicted myself because I said that smoking and drinking didn't prevent someone going to heaven. He just hadn't got the idea that God could help us and give us a change of lifestyle through getting saved.

Otherwise our little team seemed to get on quite well and our helpers had some conversations. We are looking forward to the lighter evenings fast approaching and some warm weather although I think we have got used to the cold. 

The man we met a few weeks ago is still attending services, for which we thank the Lord. This has been very encouraging. We aren't wanting to snatch people from other churches except from the rotten ones. Please pray that we may get more people joining us soon. Without them taking that leap from the street meeting to the church services they will be like the stony and weedy ground hearers of whom Jesus spoke in the parable of the sower, who initially hear the word gladly but are soon distracted and don't go on with the Lord.

Thanks for your prayers.

THOUGHTS IN BRIEF

The present times are not destroying but purifying the church! Apostasy will be overthrown! From a sermon on Revelation 11:5-13, 

https://www.youtube.com/live/6sQPkBTZfZk?feature=share 

Providentially I occasionally bump into one of the leading ecumenical "evangelicals" in the world. Please pray that I might be able to persuade him to repent and to denounce the papacy.

"I charge you before God never to believe anything because I say it, but to listen only to my Master, and yield your faith only to the infallible book. We urge this upon you because, even if you believe the truth because we say it, you have not believed it in the right way. Truth is to be received because it is true, and because Jesus Christ’s authority proves it to you to be true, not because any poor mortal who happens to preach is supposed to possess authority to decide such questions."

CH Spurgeon

I do love it when people ask, do you think Jesus will return soon? I have absolutely no idea, but the thought is wonderful.

BOOK REVIEW

Britain's Forgotten Protestant History.

"Romanism and the Reformation from the standpoint of prophecy" by Henry Grattan Guinness, 1887 and reprints

A superb book. So very much lost among almost all of today's evangelicals who simply follow each other without wanting to rock the boat. This is our heritage and yet when eventually the Roman Catholic Church was successful in selling alternative eschatology to evangelicals it has strangely now become obscure or even "unkind" to hold to the old faith of our godly Reformers, Puritans and Evangelicals. 

I am reminded of how after Wellhausen's false theory against Moses's authorship of the Pentateuch was exposed, the liberals didn't return to believing the Bible. Likewise, now that the Jesuit Futurist and Preterist alternatives to the old Protestant view are largely rejected, Evangelicals are not returning to the long held view that the Papacy is the Antichrist, but are rather saying that it is all spiritual as if there is no real Antichrist at all.

THE RUIN OF OUR PEOPLE THROUGH FIFTY YEARS OF CORRUPT RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

LIttle Children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21

We commented last month in our street preaching reports that children are under extreme stress because of poor upbringing. On the one hand children are taught at school that they are special, having a right to be included in everything with equality, yet they are not taught that they have a sinful nature or that there is a God to save them and help them. Therefore they are sent off into life with unattainable expectations which will lead to despair, tragedy and even suicide.

One of the main causes of this tragedy has come about from a change in religious education that was introduced in the late 1970s to teach about non-Christian religions. This has not been done well. 

Furthermore, rather than make things better, since 2018 the RE Policy Unit, an alliance including atheists, is proposing to broaden religious education to include all views about life including atheism and, who knows what. (The RE Policy Unit is a strategic partnership between the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), the Religious Education Council (REC) and RE Today as main stakeholders.)

The change began in 1976 with a report written by the Religious Education Council entitled “What Future for the Agreed Syllabus?” The report proposed that as Britain was no longer a Christian country and that many children came from non Christian religions, Religious Education should teach about all religions or at least the major ones. This change was introduced in the late 1970s in schools and the effect has been disastrous.

Most tragically, the new system has presented all heathen religions from a positive or neutral perspective, so Baal and Buddhism, Molech and Islam, are now taught as being on a par with our Creator, the ONLY God who can give us life and peace and love. While the original thought was that Christianity would remain the main religion in schools, this has not been the case. False religions are presented in a sanitised way and Christianity is taught as if it is irrelevant for any except those who call themselves Christians. 

Consequently people under 60 in the UK have been almost completely ruined with confusion and excuses and despair. What has been taught is that it is irrelevant what you believe. Therefore the typical child is encouraged to ignore their conscience and go into life as an atheist. We have even met some have become Buddhists through what is presented in school RE classes!

Another consequence of this terrible education is that now when Christians seek to give out Christian literature, there is virtually no interest from people under 60. If these people are pressed about God and sin then they strongly object to their personal autonomy being so challenged.

There is however a strong interest from people who have come to the UK from other countries who have not been spoiled by our absurd education. These people know full well how terrible are the other religions from which they have fled and they have not been inoculated against their conscience by UK Religious Education. 

What can be done? Other than taking children out of school, there remains little hope. Positively we might attempt to increase Sunday Schools but parents born in the UK are opposed to allowing their children to come under such an influence. Therefore we also need to understand and try to reach those who are suffering the effects of living the atheist lifestyle since they were at school. This is the vast majority of indigenous British people under the age of 60! This is a matter of prayer and great concern. We need to pray for openings. Street preaching is one, if we can get an ear, but we need more.

We need to show our spiritually damaged people that the effects of atheism have been so ruinous to them. For example there was in the news recently a porn actor being accused of crimes. One could see from the awful photos of his haggared face that his ruinous state was caused by his life of sin. Likewise we see atheists dying in care homes without the peace which aged Christians have. The evidence is all around us that sin brings ruin but Christ restores souls and keeps us into old age. At the end comes death and the most obvious division of all: the great divide between those who go to heaven and those who go to hell. Yet all this is whitewashed through the dangerous effect of multifaith education.

So again, what can we do? We can write to our Members of Parliament but regrettably we don’t expect much, if any, understanding. Nevertheless we can point out to them the trouble that has been brought upon us since the change in the 1970s which has only removed the fear of God among us. We can urge them to change the curriculum to teach only from the perspective that Protestant Evangelical religion is true and that other religions and atheism are dangerous to the soul. We need to emphasise that if Christianity is again taught as truth, this will not mean that young people are not prepared for living in the world. On the contrary one great aspect of Christianity is to love our neighbours including our enemies: one of the main reasons that people have fled from lands of false religion to come to Christian countries like Britain. Other religions can be mentioned briefly and shown to be wrong without fear of children being unprepared to live in a diverse society. We welcome people to the UK and kindly commend them to turn from their idols to Christ. Conversion to Christ is the gift of God so we don’t bully people into conversion. 

We certainly need to do everything we can to make our churches great examples of places to which people can come and find Christ. No doubt the Lord is quite able to awaken people out of their misery and draw them to him regardless of how badly they have been affected from living as atheists. 

Christians may have forgotten that it was the following of the idols of false gods that destroyed first King Solomon and then almost all the people of God in the Old Testament. Today, when Bible passages about idols are read, it is common to apply them to modern day idols like the worship of pop music, sport, fashion, money and prestige. However we rarely, if ever, hear warnings about the danger of the presence of false religions in our midst. This is not a racist matter as there are Christians of every shade of skin colour. Indeed those who flee false religion are often persecuted by their own families. When at the end of John’s First Epistle he warns, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”, his reference was to his spiritual children who were adults. How much more does this warning apply to little children in school having idols presented to them as equivalent to God. 

NEW COVENANT THEOLOGY - AN OLD HERESY REVISITED

The pressure against biblical truth is relentless. One of the devil's most lazy and easy schemes is to wait until believers have forgotten the past and then to reintroduce old heresies. Such is the case with what is called New Covenant Theology. 

At the outset we need to say that New Covenant Theology (NCT) is an overt criticism of traditional Reformed theology. NCT believes that Reformed theology has some serious errors. Seeing as the Reformed faith, when it has been upheld, has served the church well for 500 years, this is a serious charge and it needs to be vigorously refuted.

Therefore, however much good the NCT folk are hoping to achieve, they must appreciate that we take the advocacy of NCT as an attack on historic theology so they must be prepared to be met with our most ferocious air defence missile systems.

Certainly we will consider any fair criticism in an attempt to avert conflict but the idea that Reformed theology should be dismantled and replaced is most serious and the advocates of NCT must appreciate that we do not need to apologise that our defence of the things we hold precious may come across as an attack on the things that they hold precious. However it is not, rather it is our defence of their attacking us! Nevertheless we understand that those on both sides accept each other as brethren in Christ and love one another and engage in discussion in a brotherly way. Phew!

PINNING THEM DOWN 

Having said that, NCT is notoriously difficult to pin down. This is because it defines itself mainly as a negation of historic confessional Reformed Theology but does not have its own confession of faith but rather a range of teaching. Therefore my main emphasis in this article/paper is to defend the orthodox Reformed position rather than to necessarily run in and out of NCT rabbit holes.

This point of vagueness of NCT is proved by reading the first line or two of the NCT wikipedia page: “New Covenant theology (or NCT) is a Christian theological position teaching that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the central focus of the Bible. One distinctive assertion of this school of thought is that Old Testament Laws have been abrogated or cancelled with Jesus' crucifixion, and replaced with the Law of Christ of the New Covenant.”

Right. Straight away one problem of NCT stands out: the New Testament defines no distinct “Law of Christ”. Let us deal with this point briefly first. 

THE LAW OF CHRIST HASN’T CHANGED

The NCT proponents take the phrase in Galatians 6:2, “the law of Christ” to imply that there is a change in the law because this phrase must refer to something different from the law of God. However Jesus is God so Christ’s law is the same as the law of God. What the NCT folk are doing here is taking a phrase and applying it to their ideas. That is a bad way to read the Bibie! 

In Galatians, Paul makes arguments comparing the right and wrong use of the law, not changing the law. There is no reason to imply that the “law of Christ” is anything other than the moral law of God.

Indeed the phrase “law of Christ” in Galatians 6:2 in its context is simply saying that we should bear one another’s burdens. This is nothing new or peculiar to the New Testament but it follows the normal law of God to love our neighbours. Likewise in Galatians 5, to live a life bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit is not the opposite of law keeping but the opposite to lawbreaking! To live without law is to bring forth what is described as the works of darkness. What are works of darkness but the breaking of God’s laws whereas the fruit of the Spirit is to uphold God’s law. 

The use of the phrase “law of Christ” is similar to when James 1:27 speaks of some characteristics of “pure religion”. James is not making some new definition of religion and neither is Paul making a new definition of law when he uses the phrase “the law of Christ”. Paul, like James, is using the phrase here simply to commend one aspect of godliness.

In 1 Corinthians 9:21 the error is all the more blatant and can quickly be dismissed because the modern translations follow a corrupt Greek manuscript to turn “the law to Christ” into “the law of Christ”.

So let us drop this NCT idea that the "law of Christ" is some alternative to the law of God! 

THE ORIGIN OF NCT

We do wonder what was the origin of NCT. It appears to have much in common with several similar schools of thought which desire to emphasise that the Christian faith is not characterised by abiding by God's law but rather by following the Holy Spirit. This emphasis sounds good but great care is needed. The work of the Spirit and the meditation on the law, the Word of God, are not contrary one to another. The Christian life is undoubtedly a response to God’s great gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Thankfulness for this salvation, not law, is indeed the chief motivation to live for God. 

With this emphasis we would agree. However NCT exaggerates this distinction to the point of leaving people somewhat in the dark by taking away the plain law of God most simply expressed in the Ten Commandments. 

What NCT says is that the Ten Commandments have been cancelled and replaced by the "law of Christ" which includes renewing nine of the ten commandments except the fourth. The Sabbath is replaced by The Lord’s Day but without a clear legal obligation other than to try to meet for public worship. We ask what else is included in "the law of Christ" which is excluded from the law in the Old Testament. It appears there is a different definition of law here. We refer to the moral law whereas it seems as if NCT is confounding moral law with other principles and sacraments.

In practice, to its credit, NCT follows the law as set out in the New Testament. It is just rather indistinct.

We believe that NCT presents not only a false dichotomy, it is also an exaggeration of the difference between the Old and New Testament people of God. 

THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVEN’T CHANGED

The Bible doesn't make such a divide between Old and New, rather the Gentiles join the Jewish Church. Therefore Romans 15:6 has Jews and Gentiles glorifying God with one mouth so in verse 9 Christ leads the worship of both together in singing Psalm 18:49. Romans 15:10 sees this as a fulfilment of Deuteronomy 32:43 for the Gentiles to rejoice with the people of God.

Likewise Hebrews 2:11-12 quotes Psalm 22:22, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. The author here is Jesus who is therefore leading the singing. Indeed in Psalm singing we are close to the three persons of the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. The Holy Spirit could not be closer than when we sing the words of the Psalms, written by the Holy Spirit and all of which speak of the Lord and Christ. 

FAITH HASN'T CHANGED 

Galatians is not a comparison between Old and New Testament but rather between true faith and Pharisaism. Paul does not make a division between the Christian faith and the faith of Abraham but rather says they are the same! 

In Galatians 5:16-25, where Paul is talking of being led by the Spirit, he is not against the law but rather against being "under the law". Therefore when he describes the Christian life; it is characterised by "the fruit of the Spirit", not set against "the works of the law" but against " the works of the flesh".

Again in Galatians 6:8 the comparison is between living according to the flesh and the Spirit. 

Indeed what Paul is attacking in Galatians is not the law itself but compulsory circumcision and the observing of the Jewish festivals (4:10; 5:2,3; 6:12,13). Indeed, Paul in Galatians 5:6 is not altogether against circumcision, indeed he had Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3, but says it is neither here nor there. Paul is against circumcision being compulsory or something in which to glory. (Galatians 5:3-6; 6:13-15). 

THE LAW HASN'T CHANGED

The Bible is plain that "A man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ." Galatians 2:16.

Nevertheless at the same time the Bible also says: "I delight in the law of God" even "after the inward man" Romans 7:22. This is not delighting in a changing law but in the same law that Paul had before and after he was converted.

The idea of delighting in the law of God is quite foreign to NCT. This is where we have a problem with NCT and why we believe it is so dangerous. It sets up this false dichotomy of obeying God and the Spirit filled life as if we only need the latter.

Our question to NCT friends then is, don't you have godly fear? In practice surely most NCT friends will have a reverence toward God but our concern is that if this is theoretically removed then certainly in the next generation it will be practically removed. The result will be something of a caricature of God and of the Christian faith. This NCT theology that came about to bring about a warm relationship with God will ironically be found to evaporate into something in which God is more distant, less known and the Gospel will be less clear. 

Galatians 2:16,19 speaks of the works of the law in such a way distinct from faith that there is no reason to think that the law in the New Testament is different from the law in the old. This law here refers to the moral law of God by which a person may have wrongly been trying to be justified. This is seen in Romans 10 where the Jews are trying to establish their own righteousness. 

Also in Romans 2:14,15 it is plain that the Gentiles to some extent have the law written in their hearts. It is plain that this is the same law in both the Old and New Testaments as it refers to those who have not heard the Gospel. 

In Romans 3:20-22 it is emphasised that justification is not by the law but by faith. This doesn't mean that the law has changed. 

This is repeated in verse 28 and emphasised in verse 31. The phrase in verse 27, "the law of faith" might be picked up by NCT people to claim that it is referring to some change of law but that would be strange to the context. Rather "the law of faith" refers to the fact that justification is by faith, thus the law of faith is the “law” that salvation is by faith rather than by works. It is a law that justification is by faith, not works! The word law here means fact or truth as when we talk about laws of science or general principles. 

NCT also gives the problem that there is one law for Christians and another law for others. However the law in the hearts of the heathen who have not heard the Gospel in Romans 2:14,15 is the same before and after Christ came. Yet NCT claims that Christians now live by a different law. 

It looks like a major problem with this new theology is that it is redefining the meaning of law to include principles. In this it is relegating the Fourth commandment from the moral law and putting it into the category of administration ritual like circumcision or the temple sacrifices or baptism and the Lord's Supper.

In replacing the Ten Commandments with "The law of Christ" NCT blurs the line between moral law and administrative rules. This will have the effect of confusing secondary issues with fundamentals. 

Paul is plain that the law has not changed when he mentions several of the Ten Commandments in Romans 13:9 with no indication whatsoever that any other of the commandments were cancelled and/or renewed. 

SUMMARY

It may appear that the moderate or more conservative end of the NCT spectrum  effectively keeps the Fourth Commandment as the Lord's Day, only in a less strict way than in the Old Testament, which ends up being very similar to the historic Reformed position!

The NCT says all law is moral so avoids the phrase "moral law". I understand the trouble with the use of the word 'moral' but the distinction is still important. The same moral laws today do not necessarily have the same sentences or punishments as in the Old Testament, so, for example, adulterers and Sabbath wood gatherers are not stoned today but we still shouldn't commit adultery or do unnecessary work on the Sabbath. This change of punishment is in part because the church in the Old Testament was synonymous with the state but this is no longer the case. Today we might rather put an adulterer or stubborn Sabbath breaker out of church membership, but it is the same law.

However the subject of Old and New Covenant needs to be understood in the context of what is written in different places in the Bible. There are several aspects to this. 

First, the traditional Reformed Covenant theology is not emphasising a continuity with Moses' law in the wilderness and in the promised land with tabernacle and temple and a church-state but rather the continuity of the Covenant being with Abraham and we are children of Abraham. This Covenant of Grace is not so completely different in the New Testament.

Second, another thing that can throw us out regarding the difference between Old and New that needs to be considered is that much of what Paul is writing is not against the Old Testament but against the false use of the law by the Pharisees. The law was NEVER intended to save. Eg in Romans 10:3,4 and many other places the law is the same law in BC it as AD. It is the wrong use of the law "to establish their own righteousness" by the Jews which is the difference. 

Third, another sense of Old and New Covenant is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here it is largely expressing the difference between the Covenant in times of temple sacrifices and the one sacrifice of Christ. Yet the law is the same as salvation was by grace through faith both in BC and AD. 

The fourth aspect is what I mentioned at the beginning of this summary, that the church is not a nation-state so the punishment for law breaking is rather different. 

The 39 Articles of Religion were drawn up in 1563 to settle disputes and they expressed this very clearly: 

VII. Of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

So I'd say, forget this sloppy NCT and stick with the old paths!

For further reading, see the Gospel Magazine website to obtain the book by Kevin McGrane on New Covenant Theology.

BOOK REVIEWS 

JOHN 17 by George Newton

A most highly recommended book, which we mentioned a couple of months ago, of sermons on one of the most high and glorious chapters of the Bible, John 17, our Lord's prayer in the night that he was betrayed. There is a richness here and it is a superb help for preachers to get a grip and framework. So much is included in nearly 400 large double columned pages that inspires us to think and apply this amazing prayer to the present day.

We understand that the series of sermons in this book had a profound influence on the church to which it was preached.

By Rev Peter Ratcliff, St Johns Continuing Church, London . Our Basis of Faith, Life and Worship is: Reformed, Protestant, Evangelical, 39 Articles of Religion, Authorised Version Bible, Psalm Singing. moc.loa@namhcruhchsilgne‎. www.wimbledonchurch.com Tel: 07946 465156

The Fatherhood of God

Rev Philip LIEVESLEY addressed the Free Church of Scotland Continuing General Assembly in Glasgow on Wednesday 22nd May 2024.

The Midlands Conference with our guest preacher Pastor Pooyan Mehrshahi from Cheltenham.

January 2024 This World is God's World - Edition 10-  News and Views from a Christian Perspective

The Church of England Continuing is expected to hold a day conference on 14th October 2023 to consider the subject "The Fatherhood of God". 

The Church of England Continuing General Assembly 1stJuly 2023

General Assembly: Saturday 1st July 2023