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Dr. Samuel Waldron At The Salisbury Conference

Category Articles
Date October 19, 2006

This was my first visit to the Salisbury Conference on 7th October which was held at the city’s Emmanuel Church which is pastored by Malcolm Watts. Two hundred people turned up, the largest number so far. It was the tenth conference and thus a kind of milestone. Next year it will be held in July with Joel Beeke, God willing, as the speaker. This year Samuel Waldron of Heritage Baptist Church, Owensboro, Kentucky sought to elucidate his discerning congregation by explaining three major issues facing the gospel church.

1. The New Perspective On The Apostle Paul

What does this perspective teach?

1. First Century Judaism was a religion of grace.
2. The problem Paul’s doctrine of justification addresses is Jewish exclusivism, not how a sinner can be right with God.
3. Works of the law in Paul’s epistles refer primarily to Jewish boundary markers.
4. Righteous terminology refers either to covenant faithfulness or to covenant membership.
5. Faith, because it is the true fulfilling of the law, and faithfulness is the badge of covenant membership on the basis of which we are declared to be covenant members.
6. Justification has nothing to do with the righteousness of Christ being imputed to believing sinners.

Dr Waldron suggested that the pivotal biblical passage in considering this new perspective on Paul was Romans 4:3, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Dr Waldron considered the Jewish approach supplying the conference with ten references from Jewish writings of the pre-Christian period. They all suggested that Abraham’s faith was considered righteous because it actually was righteousness. For example Jubilees 23:10 says, “For Abraham was perfect in all his actions with the LORD and was pleasing through righteousness all of the days of his life.” The apostolic alternative as seen in Romans 4 is that Abraham was considered ungodly when righteousness was credited to him He was uncircumcised when he was justified. Until God called him he lived as a Gentile unbeliever. Even after God’s call Abraham often sinned against God and stood in need of God’s forgiving grace and delivering mercy.

Abraham simply and only believed God’s promise and then he was counted righteous. The Jews of Paul’s day interpreted Abraham in terms which can only be called legalistic; the works of the law with which faith is contrasted by Paul are not simply the Jewish boundary-markers. The Scriptures support the historic doctrines of imputation and refute the new perspective rejection of this doctrine. There is a double imputation – our sins to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us. The words of Romans 4:3 – “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” – vindicate a passive view of justifying faith and refute the activistic view that faith is ‘justifying faithful conduct’ as taught by the new perspective. Abraham as an ungodly man was resting on the promise of God and was receiving the Christ as his salvation. So concluded the first address.

For a popular treatment of the new perspectives, see “Getting the Gospel Right” by Cornelis Venema (Banner of Truth 2006). A fuller treatment by the same author will be published in November 2006(USA) and December 2006(UK) in a book entitled “The Gospel of Free Acceptance”.

2. The Law And The New Covenant Theology

New Covenant Theology teaches that only those parts of the law which are repeated or reiterated in the New Covenant era are for Christians to observe. Reformed theology teaches that whatsoever is not abolished in Christ continues, as the 1689 Confession states (19:2), “The same law that was first written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall, and was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables, the four first containing our duty towards God, and the other six, our duty to man.”

There is substantial identity of and continuity between the law as it was written in the heart of Adam and the ten commandments. The phrase ‘law written on the heart’ suggests the redemptive blessing of the new covenant, but the Confession is not implying that. It simply means that Adam was aware of the standards of God’s moral law. The classic portion of God’s word on this issue is Romans 2:12a, 14&15; “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law . . . (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)” It speaks of “the requirements of the law.” As the written law confronted the Jews with the standards of God’s moral law so Gentiles confronted themselves with the requirements of the law written on their hearts.

1. The Question Assumed. How can men sin, let alone perish, without the law? The issue is how can God be justified to punish men who never possessed special revelation. This issue Paul addresses in this section assuming that knowledge of the law is necessary if one is to be punished for sin – “sin is not imputed where there is no law” (Rom. 5:13).
2. The Answer Provided. “These to themselves are the law” says Paul. The Gentiles really are confronted by God’s law. They may be without Scripture, but they are not without the law. By nature the work of the law is written in their hearts. As John Murray says, “The law of God confronts them and registers itself in their consciousness by reason of what they natively and constitutionally are.
3. The Solution Amplified. The identity of the law is made clear. In the phrase “these . . . to themselves are (the) law,” ‘law’ lacks the article and seems abstract. Some question whether it is the law of God, but ‘law’ without the article often refers to the law of God in Romans (Roms 2:13, 25, 7:25, 13:8, 10). So Gentiles without ‘law’ had plenty of law. What they lacked was the written law of God. In verses 14 and 15 it is specifically the law that is in view. They did by nature the things in the law. The work of the law is written in their hearts.

The law in view is substantially the same as the Ten Commandments. The phrase ‘the law’ in the entirety of Romans 2 designates the law delivered to Israel on Mount Sinai, specifically the Ten Commandments (vv. 13, 17-29). Gentiles are in possession of the law. The Ten Commandments and the law of creation are substantially the same. The Ten Commandments were in effect before Sinai, many passages teaching that the law written in the heart of man continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness after the fall.

The Ten Commandments also remain in effect in the New Testament. That is seen in Paul’s appeal to the fifth commandment in Ephesians 6:1-4 which he cites as it stand in the Old Testament assuming its authority for New Testament believers. It is further cited as the first commandment with a promise. The first of the Ten Commandments! The Fifth Commandment where and as it stands in the Old Testament is the believer’s rule of life. Or again consider the wording and order of I Timothy 1:9&10 “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers.” It is a summary of all violations of the moral law – those who are lawbreakers and rebels. It is a summary of violations of the first four commandments – the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious. It mentions the worst violations of the fifth commandment – those who kill their fathers or mothers. It mentions the worst violations of the sixth – murders. It mentions the worst violations of the seventh – adulterers and perverts. The worst violations of the eighth – slave trader (or kidnappers). The worst violations of the ninth – liars and perjurers. It alludes to the tenth – whatever else.

The 1689 Confession does not teach that the Ten Commandment exhausts the moral law but that it points to a comprehensive summary. There are other Old Testament laws that have a moral significance, for example, Leviticus 18.

Thus Romans chapter 2 wrecks the new covenant theology. The law of Christ is the law Christ gave on Sinai now free from the civil and cultural attachments. We must always remind ourselves that the law is not a covenant of works but is a rule of life. It informs us of our view of life and how we may please our Saviour. The law is not our enemy but our friend. It is good. So concluded the second address.

3. The Miraculous Spiritual Gifts: Continuationism Or Cessationism?

Dr Samuel Waldron is the author of a book on this subject, entitled To Be Continued, (Calvary Press Publishing. Merrick, New York He raised this one crucial question, whether there are living apostles of Jesus Christ in the world and presented the solid biblical arguments for the cessation of the apostles.

The biblical definition of an apostle is ‘one sent,’ and among the Jews an apostle was a legal representative. There is a distinction in the Scriptures between apostle and apostle. One apostle is a legal representative of a congregation, sent by them to do a certain work as its messenger. The other is the legal representative of Jesus Christ. The distinction between apostle and apostle is in the nature of the one who is the sending one. If a church sends him then he has the authority of that church; if the Lord Christ sends him then he has the Lord Christ’s authority.

There were three indispensable characteristics of an apostle of Christ, that he has seen the risen Saviour, that he was directly appointed by him and that he could confirm his ministry by miraculous signs. There are apostles who had messianic authority, the legal representatives of Christ. What they wrote and did were as his representatives with his authority behind them. They were as the Man from heaven himself. Today there are indeed apostles/messengers of churches today but there are no messengers of Christ.

i] The apostles of Christ are the foundations of the church. They tell us what he was and taught. They are foundational in the historical sense. None such exist today.
ii] The apostle Paul tells us that he was the last eye-witness apostle (I Cor. 15:5-9).
iii] The gift of being an apostle is not to be sought in prayer by Christians (I Cor. 14:1ff). We are urged to seek the greater gifts such as prophesy, but in the earlier list in I Cor. 12:28&29 Paul teaches that the apostles are the highest gift, putting them in first place, as he does in Ephesians 4 saying that Christ gave first of all apostles. But when Paul encourages Christians to seek spiritual gifts he does not urge them to seek this office, for he was the last representative of apostle in the world.
iv] No modern apostle is capable of receiving the commendation of the original apostles as Paul did and so could claim that he was an apostle in the highest sense of the word. He was an apostle not by man (Gals. 1:1) and his apostleship was accepted by Peter himself and he gives to Paul the right hand of fellowship. No man claiming to be an apostle toady can claim that one of the original apostles has confirmed his authority.
v] The canon of the New Testament is firmly closed. The apostles have written it; the book has their authority. No addition can be made without the authority of the apostles.

The conclusions of Dr. Waldron are as follows:

The New Testament makes clear that apostles of Christ are not given to the church today; they lived only in the first century. We know for sure, therefore, that one gift, and that the greatest gift, has ceased to be given. This clear New Testament teaching provides a vital premise for the argument against Continuationism. Unless it wishes to contradict the plainest evidence, Continuationism cannot claim that there is no difference in the gifts given to the church today and the gifts given to the church in the first century.

Prophets in the Old Testament were a clearly identified and regulated institution that contributed prominently to the formation of the Old Testament canon. There is no reason to think New Testament prophecy is fundamentally different than Old Testament prophecy. There is, in fact, every reason to think it is fundamentally the same. Since biblical prophets were foundational (Eph. 2:20), infallible, and canonical, then prophecy has ceased.

Tongues-speaking is substantially equivalent to prophecy according to the New Testament. According to 1 Corinthians 14:5 tongues plus interpretation equals prophecy. As such, tongues-speaking-like prophecy-has ceased.

Miracle-workers performed miraculous signs intended to vindicate the divine authority of the messages with which they were entrusted. It is impossible, therefore, to suppose there could be miracle-workers today without supposing they were either apostles or prophets bringing inspired messages from God. Since we have already concluded that the miraculous gifts of apostles and prophets have ceased, we must also conclude that Christ no longer gives miracle-workers to the church. This assertion, however, does not require the conclusion that God himself does no miracles today.

See The Final Word (Banner of Truth) by O Palmer Robertson for a consideration of tongues and prophecy, and Counterfeit Miracles (Banner of Truth) by B B Warfield

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