Inherit the Earth (3)

Introduction:

Believers have for over a century retreated into antinomian pietism and pessimism. This retreat began in the 1870’s. They have lost the vision of victory which once motivated Christians to evangelize and then take over the Roman Empire. They have abandoned faith in one or more of the five features of Christian social philosophy that make progress possible:

(1) the absolute sovereignty of the Creator God; (2) God’s covenant that governs all men; (3) the tool of the covenant, Biblical law;(4)Biblical pre- suppositionalism – the self-attesting truth of an infallible Bible, which is the ultimate judge of everything; and (5) the dynamic of escatological optimism. We should conclude, then, that either the dissolution of modern humanist culture is at hand, or else the regenerate must regain sight of their lost theological heritage: dominion optimism and Biblical law. [1]

In 1985, a U. S. Anglican minister named Ray Sutton made a remarkable discovery. He had been considering the Bible’s symbols of covenant: in the Old Testament, circumcision and Passover, and in the New Testament, baptism and communion. What did they have in common, and what precisely, is the covenant?

One Old Testament scholar he consulted, Meredith Kline, suggested that Deuteronomy’s structure had significant parallels with the ancient pagan world’s suzerain (king-vassal) treaties. The king (suzerain) would initially announce his sovereignty over a nation, demand loyalty, impose sanctions for disobedience, offer protection for obedience, publish a law code, and establish the rules of succession. [2] Kline suggested that these might have five, six or seven parts. Were these treaties original documents, or had they in their day, been taken from Biblical literature? Intrigued, Sutton looked at Deuteronomy himself, to see if there was an identifiable structure; he found five parts.

Then, he examined other books of the Bible that were known to be divided into 5 parts: the Psalms, and Matthew’s Gospel. He also found a five part structure in some of Paul’s epistles, such as Romans. This led him to a conclusion: there was a 5 part structure to the Biblical covenant.[3]

The Covenant Structure:

What is a covenant? God comes before man and ‘lays down the law’-His law. Man must either conform to God and His law, or be destroyed. As He told Adam, “Eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and you will die.” God deals with men as a king deals with his subjects. His covenant is to prosper us when we obey and curse us when we rebel. [4]

 

Sutton concluded that a Biblical covenant has five sections:

1) An announcement that God is transcendent- the supreme Creator and deliverer of mankind. God is completely superior to and different from men and the world He created, yet He is also present with it: immanent.

2) The establishment of a hierarchy to enforce God’s authority on earth.

3) A set of rules or laws man must follow in exercising his dominion over the earth. God will judge man by how he follows these rules.

4) A list if judgments that will be imposed by God, who blesses man for obedience and curses man for disobedience.

5) A program of inheritance– a lawful transition that mortal men need in order to extend their dominion over creation.[5]

This can be abbreviated, this way:

1) Transcendence/Immanence (presence)

2) Hierarchy/Authority (submission)

3) Law/Dominion (stipulations)

4) Judgment/Oath (sanctions)

5) Inheritance/Continuity (survival)

Another abbreviation, drawing on the acronym THEOS (the Greek term for God), is:

1) Transcendence

2) Hierarchy

3) Ethics

4) Oath

5) Succession

 

A light-hearted way of considering this, is:

1) Whose in charge here?

2) To whom do I report?

3) What are the rules?

4) What happens to me if I obey (disobey)?

5) Does this outfit have a future?

B. The Structure Elaborated:

Remarkably, the Great Commission itself is essentially a paraphrase of the five components of the covenant: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat.28:18-20).

Covenantally, these verses can be considered this way:

1) Christ is sovereign over heaven and earth, yet present with His people. He is both transcendent (high above) and immanent (present) with us.

2) He is the Supreme Commander over a hierarchy, so His followers are to bring the nations under Christ’s authority through baptism.

3) His kingdom is a kingdom of law, meaning ethics, for Christians are commanded to teach men to observe (obey) all that He commands.

4) He judges the nations, for baptism is a covenant sign, a form of oath taken before God; violating the terms of the Biblical covenant always brings cursing (Deut.28:15-68), while obedience brings blessings (Deut.28:1-14).

5) There is continuity over the generations of men, for He promises to be with His people always, to the end of the age. [6]

(To be continued).



[1] North, G., “Liberating Planet Earth,” 1987, p.142.

 [2] ibid., p.52.

 [3]Sutton, R., “That You May Prosper,”1997. Sutton details his discoveries and conclusions. This paper draws heavily from his work.

[4] North, G., “Inherit the Earth,” 1987, p.5.

 

 

[5] North, G., “Inherit the Earth,” p.6.

[6] De Mar, G., “Ruler of the Nations,” 1987, p.4.

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