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Author Topic: The Dilemma of Neo-Antinomian Dispensationalism  (Read 2283 times)

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Azenilto Brito

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The Dilemma of Neo-Antinomian Dispensationalism
« on: August 10, 2008, 10:36:50 AM »

The Dilemma of Neo-Antinomian Dispensationalism

       In a certain Brazilian SDA Orkut community an Evangelical pastor started a new topic for discussion with the challenging question, “Where is there an order for the Church to keep the Sabbath?”
       In the development of the discussions what happened is that we answered his question fully, and in retribution addressed him another question which he NEVER answered: “Where is there an order for the Church NOT to keep the Sabbath?”
       In answering his question we simply quoted what orthodox Protestantism has been teaching along the centuries--that the 10 Commandments are the rule of Christian life in ALL their precepts. Those Mother-churches (like the Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Lutheran, Anglican) from which so many other Evangelical/Protestant movements have stemmed have in their confessional documents this basic and official teaching, which is something that the majority of Evangelicals ignore.
       There is, of course, the “detail” that they reinterpret the 4th commandment to apply to Sunday, which is ANOTHER DISCUSSION. Actually, they are right in teaching the validity of the 4th commandment, even recognizing its Edenic origin, thus being a commandment of MORAL and UNIVERSAL character (the Westminster Confession of Faith even stresses that it is of the NATURAL LAW). However, they are WRONG in arguing that Sunday took the place of the seventh-day Sabbath in the event of Christ’s resurrection. The texts they quote trying to prove that simply don’t deliver. . . They simply don’t prove that allegation.
       Then, to show how unfounded is this neo-antinomian dispensational theology of modern Evangelicalism, we addressed him the question, “How were sinners saved in Old Testament times?” His answer to this question revealed the tremendous confusion that prevails in Evangelicalism today due to the preaching of these neo-antinomian dispensationalist theories since the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
       Analyzing briefly his answers we collected the following strange ideas:

       a) there was no grace before Christ and some who were saved, that was due to the pure “mercy” of God.

       Then I asked what difference is there between “grace” and “mercy”. So far he did not answer, in spite of my insistent questioning on that.

       b) He also said that Jesus went preach to “the spirits in prison”. But the text, from 1 Pet. 3:19, 20 (considered an obscure passage in the Bible), says that such “spirits in prison” were limited to the DAYS OF NOAH!

       I asked him why, first of all, Jesus went preach to spirits “in prison”, that is—condemned ones. And since they were of “the days of Noah,” what happened to those who were of other times?
       Besides, if those who were convicted could repent and be saved, that would be antibiblical, in the light of Heb. 9:27--granting a 2nd. opportunity to unsaved people.
       Do I need to say that he hasn’t answered this also?
       I cannot generalize, but on the evangelical field, after the tremendous “dispensationalist” brainwashing, the confusion on this and other points is really widespread.
       Most evangelicals simply don’t know how to answer this question. They face a tremendous dilemma: if they allege that salvation in the OT times was by the keeping of the law (as some say), that would be an impossibility. Never a man was able to gather to himself enough virtue and credit to deserve going to live with God forever. If they admit that salvation then was also by grace that destroys the foundations of this dispensationalist division of the law/grace eras.
       The Sabbath ordinance was recommended to “all people” in Isa. 56:2-7 when God called the foreigners to join Israel in accepting His special covenant with that nation, so that His ideal to the world were accomplished, as expressed in vs. 7, “for mine house shall be called a house of prayer FOR ALL PEOPLE.”
       The Sabbath was chosen among all the commandments as a certificate of the conversion of peoples worldwide, for what Israel was to act as a divine instrumentality, placed at the crossroads of three continents, with the mission to be “IHWH’s witnesses” (Isa. 43: 10, 11) “light of the nations . . . unto the end of the Earth” (Isa. 49:6).
       What we see among many Evangelicals is a micro worldview regarding God’s plan for Israel and the world, which characterizes this neo-antinomian theology, whose fruits can be seen in the total confusion regarding their understanding of the way by which sinners were saved along human history. That certainly is the “other gospel” (Gal. 1:8) that Protestant Christianity was submitted to since the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
       Anyway, the participation of this pastor in our community with his challenge has been a blessing to show our brothers and sisters who also participate as members of the community, or anyone who just accompanies the discussions independently, the total fallacy of these neo-antinomian sophistries. As we put this material into English and Spanish this blessing will be multiplied to many more people around the world, thanks to our analyses of these errors.
       This is what I call the BALAAM FACTOR again in action, as has already been shown here with other studies that accompany these discussions.

Azenilto Brito

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Re: The Dilemma of Neo-Antinomian Dispensationalism
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2010, 11:37:58 AM »

       Dear friends Later on I will publish our customary comments on the last Proclamation! Magazine issue [Fall 2009], which was out of circulation for a good time. So, the triumphalistic claims that God provided miraculously for its regular circulation won't seem so convincing by now. . . Anyway, most of this last last issue is dedicated to Ellen White, for which we have enough material to defend.
       But, let's see how Mr. Ratzlaff in this last issue of his anti-SDA publication struggles again with the God's law theme, this time resorting to a passage that simply explodes on the face of those who do it—2nd. Corinthians 3. Instead of being an anti-Sabbatarian asset, this passage is a tremendous argument IN FAVOR of the Sabbath truth, as we have discussed already, giving response to the 36th question of a challenging questionnaire of "40 Questions for Seventh-day Adventists" as published in the Adventist Forum, that can be accessed by this link:

       But we added a little detail of how John Calvin helps us wonderfully to reinforce what is exposed in said discussion. How about reproducing, then, the entire text once more?:       

       36th. Question: The Ten Commandments written in “letters of stone” are a ministry of death, according to 2 Corinthians 3:7. This ministry of death would perish (2 Cor. 3:11). However, it is not certain that you Adventists, when quoting the commandments, often leave out these introductory words? Would it be because this text shows that the commandments were given only to Israel (no matter how much they show to us, Gentiles, the holiness of God), and are unable to understand that the Adventist doctrine is wrong?       

       ANSWER: It is amazing how something so meaningless could be said on this text, presenting God to us as a terrible executioner who delivers to His chosen people a law of death! Let us see how we have discussed this text, revealing that those who resort to that argument don’t realize they are engaged in a shot that backfires: Some imagine that in 2 Corinthians 3 Paul is discarding the Decalogue, to replace it for another set of rules for the Christian community. But what the Apostle is really doing is contrasting the ministry of the old covenant with the new covenant. As he applies the qualification of “ministry of death” by mentioning the “tables of stones”, some Bible interpreters hastily take his language to mean that the contents of these tables of stones represented a “ministry of death”.       
       Then, we have something very strange—God, who presented Himself to Israel as “longsuffering, merciful, good, forgiving” actually prepared a terrible trap to that people at Sinai: He offered them there a legal code that would result inescapably in death! He reserved the “law of love and grace” only to the New Testament folks! Is that the God Who is no respecter of people?       
       Going back to the scenery of where God’s law was solemnly proclaimed to the people we can read in Exodus 19:10ff God’s order that Israel purified and even abstained from sexual activity (vs. 15) for an integral dedication to Him in preparation to the utterance of the law. Limits were set around the mount so that not even animals should roam across the area. Finally the Ten Commandments were audibly pronounced before being recorded on the tables of stones. Now, all this preparation, expectation and remarkable solemnity for the deliverance of a . . . “law of death”! That’s incredible!       
       Any one would feel cheated! Notwithstanding, that is the bottom line of the exegesis that can be read in the writings of certain interpreters of a neo-antinomian orientation, who are unable to realize that “the law of the Lord is perfect and restores the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Truly, David has in mind the entire law (Torah), but that means the inclusion, not the exclusion, of the Decalogue.       
       Anyway, something went wrong in that agreement, turning its ministry into a death-producing factor. Why? Where was the problem? Was the law of such a tenor—generator of death? Then it couldn’t be “perfect.”       
       What some people can’t understand is that the problem was not with the law, but with the people who, even before knowing fully what would be proclaimed, precipitously declared regarding the Sinai proclamation: “we will do everything the Lord had said” (Exo. 19:8).       
       But that was a stiff-necked people, so often condemned for their stumbling. Thus, it’s easier to understand: the problem was not in the law, but in the people. That is made very clear in the promise of the New Covenant at Ezekiel’s time— “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Eze. 36:26). The ones who had the wrong heart were the people, then the necessity of this people to change their attitude allowing God to perform a serious change—their stony heart removed and replaced by one of flesh.       
       And a noteworthy detail is that as Paul utilizes the “tables of stone/tables of flesh” metaphor it is implied that he intends to include ALL the commandments belonging to the “tables of stone”, as now transferred to the “flesh stones”. Otherwise, the use of the comparison wouldn’t make sense and he would have to employ a different and more appropriate language in vs. 3:3, something like “being manifested as letter of Christ, ministered for us, and written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in tables of flesh of the heart, i.e., only nine commandments of the tables of stones, excluded that of the Sabbath day. . .” But that was not Paul’s language. Consequently, the Sabbath commandment SHOULD BE INCLUDED on the tables of flesh.       
       Let’s see how John Calvin explains wonderfully this principle, establishing the necessary connection between Heb. 8:10 (the New Covenant promise that God Himself writes His law in the hearts and minds of those who accept the terms of the New Convenant [New Testament]):       

       In vain then does God proclaim his Law by the voice of man, unless he writes it by his Spirit on our hearts, that is, unless he forms and prepares us for obedience. . . . . Thus it comes that the Law is ruinous and fatal to us as long as it remains written only on tables of stone, as Paul also teaches us. (2 Corinthians 3:3.) In short, we then only obediently embrace what God commands, when by his Spirit he changes and corrects the natural pravity of our hearts; otherwise he finds nothing in us but corrupt affections and a heart wholly given up to evil. The declaration indeed is clear, that a new covenant is made according to which God engraves his laws on our hearts, for otherwise it would be in vain and of no effect.       


       Conclusion: In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul doesn’t say that the law is of death, but the ministry of the old covenant came to be like that. The Pauline illustration of “tables of stone/tables of flesh” deals with the old divine promise to Israel in Ezekiel 36:26, 27 that by the action of the Spirit the stony heart would be removed from them so that a more malleable fleshy heart were granted. On the heart of flesh the complete God’s moral law would be written, as promised in the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6-10).       
      As Paul employs the “tables of stone/tables of flesh” allegory, which is about the same used by Ezekiel (see 11:19, 20 and 36:26, 27), he certainly wouldn’t think of excluding any part of the “tables of stone”, as Ezekiel wouldn’t either. Otherwise the Apostle would have to explain that the Christian would be a letter written, not in tables of stones, but in tables of flesh, excluding the Sabbath commandment, or something on this line. Paul’s intention is to show that for the Christians renewed by the Spirit, the terms of the divine moral law leave the cold tables of stone to be recorded on their hearts warmed by God’s grace (see Rom. 8: 3, 4). That makes Ratzlaff’s neo-antinomian interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:3ff another interpretative “shot” that backfires.



Azenilto Brito

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Classical Bible Commentaries (& Others) Confirm Our Interpretation
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2010, 11:40:12 AM »

John Gill:

I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; by the laws of God are meant not the precepts of the ceremonial law, which were now abrogated, but either the moral law, and its commands; which is a transcript of the divine nature, was inscribed on Adam's heart in innocence, and some remains of it are even in the Gentiles, but greatly obliterated through the sin of man; and there is in men naturally a contrary disposition to it; in regeneration it is reinscribed by the Spirit of God; and great respect is had to it by regenerate persons, in which lies one part of their conformity to Christ: or else, since the word "law" signifies sometimes no other than a doctrine, an instruction, the doctrines of grace, of repentance towards God, of faith in Christ, and love to him, and every other doctrine may be intended; and the tables where, according to the tenor of this covenant, these are put and written, are two tables, as before, the "mind" and "heart"; but not two tables of stone, on which the law of Moses was written, partly that it might not be lost, through defect of memory, and partly to denote the firmness and stability of it, as also to point at the hardness of man's heart; but the fleshly tables of the heart; not that part of our flesh that is called the heart; but the souls of men, such hearts as are regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit of God, and such minds as are renewed by him: and the "putting" of them into the mind, designs the knowledge of them, which God gives; as of the moral law, of its spirituality and perfection, showing that there is no life and righteousness by it, that it is fulfilled by Christ, and is a rule of conversation to the saints; and of all other laws, ordinances, and doctrines of Christ: and the "writing" them in, or on the heart, intends a filling the soul with love and affection to them, so that it regards them singly and heartily; and a powerful inclination of the heart to be subject to them, through the efficacious grace of God; and which is done not with the ink of nature's power, but with the Spirit of the living God, 2Co_3:3.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown:

make with — Greek, “make unto.”

Israel — comprising the before disunited (Heb_8:8) ten tribes’ kingdom, and that of Judah. They are united in the spiritual Israel, the elect Church (. . .)

I will put — literally, “(I) giving.” This is the first of the “better promises” (Heb_8:6).

mind — their intelligent faculty.

in, etc. — rather, “ON their hearts.” Not on tables of stone as the law (2Co_3:3).

write — Greek, “inscribe.”

Same commentary on 2a. Cor. 3:3, 6 and 7:

in fleshy tables of the heart — ALL the best manuscripts read, “On [your] hearts [which are] tables of flesh.” Once your hearts were spiritually what the tables of the law were physically, tables of stone, but God has “taken away the stony heart out of your flesh, given you a heart of flesh” (fleshy, not fleshly, that is, carnal; hence it is written, “out of your flesh” that is, your carnal nature), Eze_11:19; Eze_36:26. Compare 2Co_3:2, “As ye are our Epistle written in our hearts,” so Christ has in the first instance made you “His Epistle written with the Spirit in (on) your hearts.” I bear on my heart, as a testimony to all men, that which Christ has by His Spirit written in your heart [Alford]. (Compare Pro_3:3; Pro_7:3; Jer_31:31-34). This passage is quoted by Paley [Horae Paulinae] as illustrating one peculiarity of Paul’s style, namely, his going off at a word into a parenthetic reflection: here it is on the word “Epistle.” So “savor,” 2Co_2:14-17. . . .

the new testament— “the new covenant” as contrasted with the Old Testament or covenant (1Co_11:25; Gal_4:24). He reverts here again to the contrast between the law on “tables of stone,” and that “written by the Spirit on fleshly tables of the heart” (2Co_3:3).

not of the letter — joined with “ministers”; ministers not of the mere literal precept, in which the old law, as then understood, consisted; “but of the Spirit,” that is, the spiritual holiness which lay under the old law, and which the new covenant brings to light (Mat_5:17-48) with new motives added, and a new power of obedience imparted, namely, the Holy Spirit (Rom_7:6). Even in writing the letter of the New Testament, Paul and the other sacred writers were ministers not of the letter, but of the spirit. No piety of spirit could exempt a man from the yoke of the letter of each legal ordinance under the Old Testament; for God had appointed this as the way in which He chose a devout Jew to express his state of mind towards God. Christianity, on the other hand, makes the spirit of our outward observances everything, and the letter a secondary consideration (Joh_4:24). Still the moral law of the ten commandments, being written by the finger of God, is as obligatory now as ever; but put more on the Gospel spirit of “love,” than on the letter of a servile obedience, and in a deeper and fuller spirituality (Mat_5:17-48; Rom_13:9). No literal precepts could fully comprehend the wide range of holiness which LOVE, the work of the Holy Spirit, under the Gospel, suggests to the believer’s heart instinctively from the word understood in its deep spirituality. – Underlined by me.

Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge:

Heb. 8:10

this is: Heb_10:16-17

I will put: Gr. I will give, Exo_24:4, Exo_24:7, Exo_34:1, Exo_34:27; Deu_30:6; Jer_31:33, Jer_32:40; Eze_11:19, Eze_36:26-27; 2Co_3:3, 2Co_3:7-8; Jam_1:18, Jam_1:21; 1Pe_1:23
in: or, upon

I will be: Heb_11:16; Gen_17:7-8; Son_2:16; Jer_24:7, Jer_31:1, Jer_31:33, Jer_32:38; Eze_11:20, Eze_36:28; Eze_37:27, Eze_39:22; Hos_1:10, Hos_2:23; Zec_8:8, Zec_13:9; Mat_22:32; 1Co_6:16 – [Highlighted parts for application to 2a. Cor. 3:3 and 3:7]

John Wesley:

This is the covenant I will make after those days - After the Mosaic dispensation is abolished. I will put my laws in their minds - I will open their eyes, and enlighten their understanding, to see the true, full, spiritual meaning thereof. And write them on their hearts - So that they shall inwardly experience whatever I have commanded. And I will be to them a God - Their all - sufficient portion, and exceeding great reward. And they shall be to me a people - My treasure, my beloved, loving, and obedient children. [Underlined to highlight segments of the text].

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:

“God would honor His promises. He would make a new covenant, not new in essence, but new in fulfillment. His law would be written in hearts of flesh” (J. Arthur Thompson, “Covenant [OT], The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev., Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979], 1:792, emphasis added).

Some noteworthy observations by Adam Clarke:

Not of the letter, but of the Spirit - The apostle does not mean here, as some have imagined, that he states himself to be a minister of the New Testament, in opposition to the Old; and that it is the Old Testament that kills, and the New that gives life; but that the New Testament gives the proper meaning of the Old; for the old covenant had its letter and its spirit, its literal and its spiritual meaning. The law was founded on the very supposition of the Gospel; and all its sacrifices, types, and ceremonies refer to the Gospel. The Jews rested in the letter, which not only afforded no means of life, but killed, by condemning every transgressor to death. They did not look at the spirit; did not endeavor to find out the spiritual meaning; and therefore they rejected Christ, who was the end of the law for justification; and so for redemption from death to every one that believes. The new covenant set all these spiritual things at once before their eyes, and showed them the end, object, and design of the law; and thus the apostles who preached it were ministers of that Spirit which gives life.

Every institution has its letter as well as its spirit, as every word must refer to something of which it is the sign or significator. The Gospel has both its letter and its spirit; and multitudes of professing Christians, by resting in the Letter, receive not the life which it is calculated to impart. Water, in baptism, is the letter that points out the purification of the soul; they who rest in this letter are without this purification; and dying in that state they die eternally. Bread and wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, are the letter; the atoning efficacy of the death of Jesus, and the grace communicated by this to the soul of a believer, are the spirit. Multitudes rest in this letter, simply receiving these symbols, without reference to the atonement, or to their guilt; and thus lose the benefit of the atonement and the salvation of their souls. The whole Christian life is comprehended by our Lord under the letter, Follow me. Does not any one see that a man, taking up this letter only, and following Christ through Judea, Galilee, Samaria, etc., to the city, temple, villages, seacoast, mountains, etc., fulfilled no part of the spirit; and might, with all this following, lose his soul? Whereas the Spirit, viz. receive my doctrine, believe my sayings, look by faith for the fulfillment of my promises, imitate my example, would necessarily lead him to life eternal. It may be safely asserted that the Jews, in no period of their history, ever rested more in the letter of their law than the vast majority of Christians are doing in the letter of the Gospel. Unto multitudes of Christians Christ may truly say: Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.


Note: Most of the material above can be found in the website

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