A Biblical Rebuttal of "The Fulfillment of the Promises of God"
Chapter 6: The Mosaic Covenant
A Biblical Rebuttal of:
The Fulfillment of the Promises of God,
An Explanation of Covenant Theology
by Dr. Richard Belcher, 2020.
As mentioned in the Introduction, chapters 1 through 8 in this article match the chapter titles and ordering of their respective chapters in Dr. Belcher's book. This chapter overlays chapter 6, pages 75 through 96 in the book.
- Simple body text looks like this, this and this, and like this, this and this.
- A quote from Scripture looks like this.
- A quote from Dr. Belcher’s book “looks like this” [ch X, pg Y[, emphasis mine]]
- An inline comment [looks like this.]
I suppose that Dr. Belcher is being provocative with his lead statement:
“The Mosaic Covenant is the most difficult covenant to understand. Prominent reformed scholars have disagreed on its nature and character. Questions abound concerning its relationship to the Covenant of Grace, the role that the law plays in the covenant, the purposes of the curses of the covenant in relationship to Israel's inheritance of the land, and the relationship of this covenant to Christ and the New Covenant.” [ch 6, pg 75, emphasis mine]
So, let’s consider this carefully: through the lens of CT, “The Mosaic Covenant is the most difficult covenant to understand.”. If one reads the account in the book of Exodus with a mind to understanding what is there, there are many details but nothing of the "difficulties" the CT tries to create.
[As I’ve maintained is other places in this article, the CT appears intent on creating complexity where none exits. Perhaps it is a subconscious need to justify the framework in the first place, not to mention the so-called Covenant of Grace. How can one expound on the "relationship" to a covenant which doesn't exist?]
Dr. Belcher is trying to solve a CT-created problem. Sometimes, knowledge "goes to seed"; it progresses to the state at which it is no longer useful and begins to spread in chaos. “Prominent reformed scholars” do not influence my reading and understanding of the Bible: they may be right or wrong, but their perceived status in theology carries no authority if they have no support from the Scripture.
[If these so-called scholars maintain the Mosaic Covenant is difficult to understand because it doesn't mesh with the fictitious Covenant of Grace, then I have only contempt for them.]
By Dr. Belcher’s own words, these so-called problems occur when the Mosaic Covenant is viewed through the lens of CT. His solution? Simply modify the clear facts and details of the Mosaic Covenant to fit the self-defined confusions of CT. (This is not a formula for success in the truths of the Bible.)
Isn’t it time to jettison the CT framework and its predetermined dispositions and return to the pure food of the Scriptures? Dr. Belcher – and seminary student! – it will taste so much better!
“The aim of this chapter is to explain the meaning of the Mosaic Covenant, its relationship to the Covenant of Grace, and its role in redemptive history.” [ch 6, pg 75]
What Dr. Belcher really is saying here is that he will now force-fit the Mosaic Covenant into the mold of CT. Remember: CT "undergirds" Scripture!
The Historical Context of the Mosaic Covenant [page 75]
God’s Promises to Abraham [page 75]
“The promise of innumerable descendants (Gen 15.5; 17.6) begins to be fulfilled in the land of Egypt as the sons of Israel transition from a family of 70 to a nation (Exo 1.1-7).” [ch 6, pg 76]
The reference to Exo 1 describes those Jews who came to Egypt and multiplied as “exceedingly mighty”; that much is true. But what is not true is that the Exodus transforms those early Jews into a nation.
There is only a single reference to Israel as a nation in the book of Exodus; it was made by the LORD and expressed in the future tense:
and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
A similar thought is expressed in Deu 26.19:
and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the Lord your God, as He has spoken.
Moses refers to Israel as a nation in his prayer to the LORD. It was in response to the LORD’s warning that, “for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” Moses clearly understands the gravity of the situation, so in his prayer he 'presents the best case possible', namely, that he views the Jews as a nation, though the LORD has not yet referred to Israel in that manner. Remember, Moses is their advocate:
Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.
The LORD’s primary goal for Israel was that they were to be a holy people; that they would become a mighty geopolitical nation would then be a necessary side effect.
Regarding the citations of Gen 15.5 and Gen 17.6, let’s look at the texts:
And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.
Gen 15.5 awaits fulfillment since Israel is approximately number 101 out of 233 nations of the world (by population) according to the United Nations . Specifically, its population is much smaller than the number of stars.
Gen 17.6 also awaits fulfillment. Kings did indeed come from Abram, beginning with David. However, “nations” (plural) have not yet come from Abram.
So, yes, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt did begin the “transition”, just not nearly as generously as Dr. Belcher’s comment would suggest.
God Remembered His Covenant with Abraham [page 76]
“The promises of the Abrahamic Covenant provide the historical impetus for the deliverance of God's people from Egyptian bondage and the institution of the Mosaic Covenant.” [ch 6, pg 77, emphasis mine]
“historical impetus”: This is quite a phrase and another example of the anthropomorphizing of history. This is a very odd phrase to use in a book entitled “The Fulfillment of the Promises of God”. Dr. Belcher: what did you expect? The LORD would somehow miss the "fulfillment of His promises" to Abram and need "history" to force the issue?
I’m going to use a very technical literary term here to summarize this citation: “YIKES”!
The Setting of the Covenant (Exodus 19) [page 77]
“The people of God do not need to be terrified of God even as they see His mighty power displayed at Mount Sinai (20. 18-19), but they do need to have the proper respect for God that leads to a heart willing to obey his commands and to keep them from sin.” [ch 6, pg 78-79, emphasis mine]
Dr. Belcher appears intent upon softening the relationship which the LORD had with Israel. Did the early Jews “need to have the proper respect for God”? Yes, certainly! Did they ever demonstrate that respect? Nearly never!
Rom 3 is enough to convince any serious Bible reader that OT Israel – being kept under the Law – would never develop a willing heart on their own (that is, without the life-giving conversion power of the New Covenant). I expect Dr. Belcher to know that, since his chapter 8 is on the New Covenant, the covenant in which the LORD will create the willing heart by changing the old, dead heart of the Jews, deliberately apart from the old covenant at Sinai! That dead, natural heart will never and can never be produced by the Law of the Mosaic Covenant.
[In a few places to this point, Dr. Belcher has mentioned Reformed Theology and has seemed inclined to it. That the dead, natural heart is incapable of turning itself is a fact of Scripture (though well expressed by Reformed Theology, at least typically). How is Dr. Belcher even able to express thoughts like these in a book that purports to talk about the LORD "fulfilling His promises"!!]
OT history is abundant in examples that demonstrate that young Israel was never obedient from the heart. At every opportunity they turned against the LORD and were severely punished for it. Note that this was well before this condemnation in Numbers:
Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice …
Their systemic obstinance was also one of the last declarations of Moses:
Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”
Finally, this is their legacy at the end of Moses' ministry to them:
“The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.’”
It is not yet apparent to me why Dr. Belcher is spinning his “a heart willing to obey” narrative.
One other item concerning “…to keep them from sin.” If at any time the OT Jews were “[kept] from [sin]”, it was out of fear and not out of love for the LORD.
“As a holy nation Israel will demonstrate the blessings that come with being in a relationship with God. He promises to pour out abundant blessings on his people (Deu 7.8-16; 28.1-14) so that she can influence the nations. By living in obedience to God in the land He is going to give them, Israel will draw the nations to the God she worships.” [ch 6, pg 79, emphasis mine]
Both passages do list the blessings which Israel would enjoy if she obeyed the LORD, along with the very clear warnings of what to expect for disobedience.
The element which Dr. Belcher does not mention is the one-sided nature of the LORD's agreement for blessing:
The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The element which is missing from both cited texts is these extraordinary assertions by Dr. Belcher:
- “… so that she can influence the nations …”
- “… Israel will draw the nations to the God she worships.”
Consider what the texts cited by Dr. Belcher contain:
The Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.
If Israel was truly obedient, the nations around her would be defeated and terrified. And, as OT history abundantly teaches, when Israel was disobedient to the LORD, the nations surrounding her became very aggressive and systematically destroyed Israel and took her land and killed her people.
Again, it is not obvious what Dr. Belcher is trying to do with this very one-sided view of the Mosaic Covenant.
The Ratification of the Covenant (Exodus 24) [page 79]
“Already in Exodus 19.8 the people commit themselves to do all that Yahweh has spoken to them. God moves forward with his Covenant purposes by  giving to Israel His law (Exo 20.1 - 23.19),  reminding them of the promise to conquer the land of Canaan (Exo 23.20-33), and  ratifying the covenant through a covenant ceremony (Exo 24.1-18). These matters are important for understanding the Covenant that God makes with Israel.” [ch 6, pg 79, [numbered points] mine]
“… the people commit themselves to do all that Yahweh has spoken to them …”
Dr. Belcher is correct when he states that the people committed themselves to obedience; however, he has been strangely silent on Israel's consistent disobedience throughout OT history, beginning with the Exodus. Their commitment was really in name only, with no substance behind it.
Dr. Belcher also fails to highlight the warning in Exo 23.20-21:
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.”
The next three subsections handle each of the numbered points in the citation above.
The Giving of the Law (Exodus 20:1-23:19) [page 80]
“A relationship has already been established between God and Israel and now that relationship is formalized in a covenant that will make the people into a nation. The covenant relationship between God and Israel is primary and the law will regulate that relationship.” [ch 6, pg 80, emphasis mine]
Dr. Belcher is mostly correct here: Israel is not merely to become a nation, it is to become a holy nation, a kingdom of priests if they are obedient.
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
To the extent that Israel was unfaithful to their privilege, they lost that privilege. As a result of their numerous rebellions, the LORD divorced Israel:
Thus says the Lord, “Where is the certificate of divorce by which I have sent your mother away? Or to whom of My creditors did I sell you? Behold, you were sold for your iniquities, And for your transgressions your mother was sent away.”
And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.
Dr. Belcher also has not mentioned what I would call the "big picture" view of the Law:
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
The Law was never the end; it was the means to the end, which is faith in Christ. Dr. Belcher appears to speak only in the most general - and generous - terms regarding the Law and the Covenant.
Note what the Holy Spirit says through the Apostle Paul:
What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
The promise/covenant He speaks of is that which was declared in Gen 15:
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying …
The point is that nothing done during the time of the Exodus and the giving of the Mosaic Covenant could change in any way any portion of the covenant which the LORD made with Abram in Gen 15 (approx. 400 years earlier). It was then that the LORD declared that Abram's descendants would have a special position in the LORD's plan. By Gen 17, it was clear that Abram would be the “father of a multitude of nations” (Gen 17.4-6).
The distinction made in Exo 19.6 was not that Israel would be a nation (this appears obvious from the time of Abram, since he was to be the “father of a multitude of nations”, the first being Israel), but that Israel would be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. This latter designation would be uniquely Israel's; no other nation in history would ever be so described by the LORD or be in such a privileged position.
Moreover, the Mosaic Covenant from its inception was designed to become obsolete when the Lord Christ was revealed:
When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
[In context, the ‘first’ [covenant] is – and can only be – the Mosaic Covenant.]
There is a hint of this when the LORD said:
The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord.
This is a very interesting statement: the LORD did not say “… and may believe in Me forever”, but that the OT Jews should believe in Moses forever. The gospels show this unquestioning disposition by the Jews to Moses but rejected the One foretold by Moses:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
Instead, they did this:
They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.”
Once understood property and in context, it becomes apparent that Gen 18.15 and Gen 19.9 speak more to a future state of being 'given over to sin' than to merely a pair of historical details in the Pentateuch (Rom 1.24,26,28): the Jews would believe in Moses to the exclusion of the true meaning and purpose of the Law, which pointed to the Lord Christ!
Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, …”
The Lord Christ quoted from this passage:
And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
The Conquest of the Land (Exodus 23:20-33) [page 81]
“God's presence is represented by an angel that God will send before them to lead them to the place Hs has prepared for them. This angel must be obeyed; in fact, the voice of this angel is identified with God's instructions ('do all that I say').” [ch 6, pg 81]
As I stated above, Dr. Belcher only partially quotes from the passage. The part which he leaves out is this:
Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.
The history of the OT is one long, essentially unbroken record of Israel's rebellion against the LORD and her severe punishments, terminated by being “[torn] to pieces” by the LORD himself:
For I will be like a lion to Ephraim
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away,
I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.
I will go away and return to My place
Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face;
In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.
The Covenant Ceremony (Exodus 24) [page 81]
“The formal ratification of the covenant is described in Exodus 24.4-8.” [ch 6, pg 81]
“The people were bound by oath to honor God by keeping the covenant. The use of blood shows that the extremes of life and death were in view. Keeping the covenant would ensure life but breaking the covenant would lead to death.” [ch 6, pg 83, emphasis mine]
“… honor God by keeping the covenant” should read “… honor God to keeping the covenant”. The emphasis of the oath should really be on the command to keep the covenant, not whether they kept the command to keep the covenant.
This is one of the few instances where Dr. Belcher mentions the negative aspects of the Mosaic Covenant.
Deuteronomy: Covenant Renewal [page 84]
“While Moses was receiving the law of God on Mount Sinai, the people rebelled against God in the golden calf incident. Although idolatry almost led God to destroy the people and start over with Moses (Exo 32.7-10), his intercession caused God to relent from this course of action (Exo 32.11-14).” [ch 6, pg 84, emphasis mine]
Let's look at Exo 32.7-10:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
Dr. Belcher's interpretation of this event is basically wrong, but not from the standpoint that the LORD lacked the power to “start over” and form another nation from Moses' descendants.
Based on the promises He made to Abram, the nation of Israel would ultimately be kept and secured. He would not start over! I consider (and will prove below) that this a matter of the LORD's secret will.
The LORD’s secret will is the working through and together of those elements we don't and can't see because the LORD has not revealed them. This will can't be compromised or changed:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
My readers may be puzzled by my statement; how can I consider this matter the "secret will" of the LORD when all of the above appears boldly in the text of Exo 32? What could possibly be "secret" about it? Isaiah 55 (above) makes it crystal clear that Dr. Belcher's interpretation is impossible: "... idolatry almost led God to destroy the people and start over ...". So how can this be resolved?
The answer involves some serious and subtle theology, with a view always that the LORD says what He means and means what He says.
It is with this backdrop that we carefully work to understand the LORD’s statement of "starting over with Moses". There is quite a bit here to digest.
My impression of Dr. Belcher's comment is that he has an incomplete understanding of the LORD's revealed and secret wills (or perhaps which is to be found in Exo 32). Every detail of the historical record to this point shows that the LORD was going to bring Israel to the Promised Land. He was working in and through the unchangeableness of the fact that "in [Abram] all the families of the earth will be blessed." This was His revealed will; in effect, it was as if the LORD had given the entire book to us to read, and we are able to skip ahead to the final chapter which details the blessing actually imparted to the families of the earth.
To be sure: when the LORD told Moses to leave Him alone, and that He would make of Moses a great nation, that is exactly what He meant. He lacked neither the power nor the disposition to do so.
But, we also know that the Scripture tells us that the Son of David must proceed from the line of Judah – not Levi!
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from (A)the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?”
So, how could this be? Seemingly, both can’t be true.
Dr. Belcher goes astray when he says “Although idolatry almost led God to destroy ...”; He told Moses that He was ready to destroy the people, not that He was “almost ready”. Dr. Belcher attempts to soften/justify/rationalize/something?? of what the text of Exo 32 says.
No, this can never and is never a correct approach to the difficult passages of Scripture. Instead, we need to recognize this for what it is: a once-in-a-lifetime test placed upon Moses. The LORD chose Moses to lead His people, and certainly part of the leadership is the phenomenal responsibility he had as a mediator. And Moses was a fearless, faithful, and humble mediator to be sure!
Faced with the trial (and, yes, it was a trial) of between being elevated to be the head of his own nation or interceding with the LORD for Israel (and enduring their sure and continuing obstinance!), Moses chose the latter! The LORD heard Moses’ humble entreaty for the nation, and then relented. The end was never in doubt – this was the LORD’s secret will. He knew that Moses would "step up":
Therefore He said that He would destroy them,
Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him,
To turn away His wrath from destroying them.
Dr. Belcher is in error because the LORD intended from the beginning to make of the descendants of Abram a nation for Himself - that plan could never be changed regardless of Israel's faithfulness or lack of faithfulness. This is the surety of the covenant the LORD made with Abram. A son of Judah must/would sit upon the throne of Israel in a time to come, and that son of Judah would come from Israel as it then existed: a physical, cultural, national, geopolitical entity.
[The entire episode also demonstrates that the LORD ensures that His faithful, praying servants are notified/aware of what He is about to do to incite/encourage them to prayer.]
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself …
This is the essence of Moses' prayer, and the one the LORD heard and "caused" Him to relent of the destruction of Israel. In other words, the LORD's course of action caused Moses – and Israel – to proceed along exactly the path that He intended all along. (His secret will ‘revealed’.)
[Another example of this type of divine action was when the LORD told Hezekiah through Isaiah the prophet that he [Hezekiah] was going to die, but then relented when the king prayed for deliverance.
2 Kin 20.1-7]
The lesson here is that prayer is vital and powerful, despite whatever appearances may indicate.]
Dr. Belcher is more careful in the remainder of the paragraph to mention some of Israel's abundant failures and how the LORD maintains His purposes throughout their history.
“This is an interesting statement because it confirms that the covenant at Mt. Horeb/Sinai was made with a new generation even if they were not alive at the time. There is a debate concerning how to understand Moses' statement that the covenant was not made with our fathers but with us who are alive here today.
One solution is to say that Moses wanted to make the covenant-making event of the past vivid for his contemporaries who were not present at Mt. Sinai.
Another solution is to understand 'not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant' as referring to the patriarchs, which means that 'this covenant' does refer to the covenant at Sinai. …
This seems to be the best solution.” [ch 6, pg 85, emphasis mine]
The “debate” to which Dr. Belcher refers seems like a distraction: how is the text in Deu 5 not clear?
The solution not mentioned by Dr. Belcher is to recognize that the covenant of Exo 20 was immediately broken, and therefore no longer in force. (This is certainly demonstrated in a graphic way when Moses destroyed the tablets even before he got back to the camp. What could be more clear?)
[This was the "covenant at Horeb", Deu 5.2.]
“This covenant” (Deu 5.3 ) can only refer to the covenant the LORD was making at that time. (“with all those of us alive today” – remember, their (male) parents, with the two exceptions of Joshua and Caleb, are all dead!). Why is this so difficult to understand that Dr. Belcher must provide not one, not two, but three possible explanations!
[This is a pet peeve of mine: I think that sometimes “theologians” attempt to appear intellectual by bringing in multiple interpretations and various esoteric thoughts. Moses certainly did not teach in that manner, and neither did the OT prophets, the Lord Christ or the writers of the Epistles. They taught; modern 'theologians' talk and/or write without actually teaching anything.]
“Fourth, the treaty form of Deuteronomy emphasizes the need for covenant renewal. There is a consensus that Deuteronomy fits a suzerain-vassal form of treaty that was common in the ancient Near East.
A treaty between a great king and a vassal people would need to be renewed with each successive generation or if the stipulations of the treaty were broken. The passing away of Moses and the transition to new leadership made it essential that the Covenant be put into writing with a full and final statement of the terms of the Covenant.” [ch 6, pg 86]
Whether Deuteronomy 'fits a suzerain-vassal form of treaty' or not is irrelevant! The simple fact is that the LORD, through Moses, repeated the Mosaic Covenant, broken by their parents, with the new generation in Deu 5 - 28.
… not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke …
The LORD made a new covenant with Israel because the covenant of Exo 20 had been broken and was thereby abrogated. We need, however, to deal with a two very large problems here. We'll deal with the second one first:
- Dr. Belcher's assertion of "a full and final statement of the terms of the Covenant."
- Dr. Belcher's assertion of "be renewed with each successive generation".
1. I have yet to see any covenant the LORD made that was not complete in every way the moment that the LORD executed it. Every covenant and its terms have always been "full and final". For Dr. Belcher to suggest otherwise shows that he hasn't studied the covenants very deeply.
2. No, Dr. Belcher, it is false to state that a covenant (made by the LORD!) needs "to be renewed with each successive generation". The covenant of Deu 5 is a new covenant, not a renewed covenant of Exo 19+. The LORD repeated the terms of the covenant of Exo 19+ into a new covenant (Deu 5) because the Jews were a disobedient and stubborn people and had broken the first covenant and therefore rendered it null and void.
[Witness the fact that the Jews of that first generation did not enter the Promised Land. Witness also the fact that the covenant of Exo 19+ specified how the generation entering the Promised Land would be either blessed or cursed depending on how well they obeyed the terms of the Mosaic Covenant. Instead, that generation which came out of Egypt spent 40 years wandering in the desert – they never even entered the Promised Land. There was no covenant for them.]
Regarding Dr. Belcher's superfluous detail of the "suzerain-vasal whatever", it simply does not matter! This is what happens when theologians start bringing in extrabiblical documents and treating them as authoritative truth. It nearly always leads to error.
[See notes on Deu 29.4 and Deu 31.21 above.]
[To my reader I make this appeal: if you are reading or listening to a "theologian" and he continually references extrabiblical documents in his sermon/lesson/etc., RUN AWAY AS FAST AS POSSIBLE! He can’t be trusted with truth since he shows contempt for it by intermingling the thoughts of man with the LORD’s thoughts.!
Moreover, even if the extrabiblical source is factually true, it has no intrinsic authority!! Pastor, teacher: if you stand to teach the Word, then teach the WORD!]
The Bible is its own authority. It is not strengthened if other ancient laws/texts/etc. agree with it, nor is it weakened if other ancient laws/texts/etc. disagree with it. It is surprising the number of theologians who don’t know and/or don't believe this!
The Mosaic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant [page 87]
“There is unity to the Covenant of Grace that includes the Mosaic Covenant. This unity is based on several factors. There is continuity between the Mosaic Covenant and the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. In fact, the Mosaic Covenant was necessary for the Abrahamic promises to be fulfilled. Israel had to be organized as a nation in order to take the land that God had promised to Abraham's descendants.” [ch 6, pg 87, emphasis mine]
Here, Dr. Belcher has returned to the CT narrative in force: he simply declares the Covenant of Grace subsumes the Mosaic Covenant without any basis in Scripture. He then proceeds to overlook the fact that the Mosaic Covenant - the very definition of LAW - is not, and can't be, based on grace:
So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live IF he does them; I am the Lord.
So, exactly, how does the Mosaic Covenant show “the continuity to the Covenant of Grace”?
Dr. Belcher's argument that:
“In fact, the Mosaic Covenant was necessary for the Abrahamic promises to be fulfilled. Israel had to be organized as a nation in order to take the land that God had promised to Abraham's descendants.”
is wrong for at least two reasons:
- The Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional while the Mosaic Covenant was conditional. In the former – and into the far future – the LORD promised Israel a very large swath of land. (See my article The Day of the LORD, Addendum: The Promised Land Fulfilled) In the latter, the LORD speaks of the near term, and makes Israel’s possession of the land something for which they are accountable. If they are obedient, they will possess the land; if disobedient, they forfeit the land. This latter case is what happened. The Abrahamic Covenant will be fulfilled, but that is future even for us in our time.
- Yes, by the time the Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled, Israel will be a nation, but not because it became ‘organized’. Dr. Belcher puts the ‘cart before the horse'.
“The use of ‘my covenant’ in Genesis 6.18 (Noah), 17.2 (Abraham), and Exodus 19.5 (Moses) shows the unity of the Covenant of Grace, with the Mosaic Covenant being part of the development of that covenant. WCF 7.5 associates the Covenant of Grace with the administration of law when it states that. ‘This covenant [the Covenant of Grace], was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel.” [ch 6, pg 88]
Let’s take a look at the uses of "my covenant":
But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”
Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
There are only two ways to understand these verses and they are mutually exclusive:
- ‘My covenant’ refers each to the Noahic, Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants, respectively. (This is the natural meaning of the context.)
- ‘My covenant’ refers to the one (imaginary) Covenant of Grace which therefore subsumes the Noahic, Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.
Let's consider the error of that last phrase (from WCF 7.5!): "[the Covenant of Grace], was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel." Really!?!? The LORD executed a covenant (the mythical Covenant of Grace in context), then 'carved out exceptions' for it when the Mosaic Covenant came along, then did so again when the Gospel came along. Are suggesting that the LORD did not know when He crafted the Covenant of Grace that the Mosaic Covenant design would not quite mesh with it? And the same when the Lord Christ began preaching the gospel, that perhaps He didn't understand the inner working of the Covenant of Grace? What kind of 'god' are you proposing, Dr. Belcher?
And all this takes place under that phrase of "... the unity of the Covenant of Grace". This is no "unity" at all: it's chaos.
[See Appendix: The Problems in the WCF for details.]
“The Mosaic Covenant did not supplant the Abrahamic Covenant because it remained in force, nor did it annul it, but stands in unity with it. Thus, the primary way the Mosaic Covenant should be understood is part and parcel of the of Covenant of Grace.” [ch 6, pg 88]
Why should the Mosaic Covenant either supplant or annul the Abrahamic Covenant? A much better question would be "When have any of the LORD’s unconditional covenants ever expired, or even replaced a prior covenant?" How can Dr. Belcher even compare the Mosaic and Abrahamic covenants? They have no common elements other than the LORD executed both.
Dr. Belcher is correct that the Abrahamic Covenant remained in force; it is an unconditional covenant that does not expire. The Mosaic Covenant was conditional; it does not expire as long as it is unbroken.
It is meaningless to speak of the potential "supplant[ing]" or "annul[ling]" of the Abrahamic Covenant. Even the LORD Himself can't do either of those: He made a covenant with Abram and it will stand until the end of the age!
[Actually, it is more accurate to say that both the covenants of Exo 19+ and Deu 5 have been broken and that neither is currently in force. I said earlier, it is shocking that a theology which purports to be built upon and expound the covenants should be so ignorant of them.]
This entire subsection was theologically clumsy.
The Distinctive Nature of the Mosaic Covenant [page 88]
“ The nature and role of the Mosaic Covenant in the history of redemption is greatly debated. The emphasis on the law, Israel's keeping of the law to keep the land, and Paul's use of Leviticus 18 5 in Romans 10 5 has led to a variety of views on the relationship between the Covenant of Works and the Mosaic Covenant. Many described the Mosaic Covenant as ‘in some sense’ having a principle of works embedded in it. But the meaning of ‘in some sense’ is the major question. The best view of this matter is that the Mosaic Covenant is not a republication of the Covenant of Works, but that the requirement to keep the law in the Covenant of Works continues and everyone who does not keep the law perfectly stands condemned by it.
 The requirement to keep the law through personal and perfect obedience still stands and everyone who is born into this world stands condemned by the law because no one is able to keep it perfectly.
 The law is unable to save anyone because of human sinfulness, but the righteous requirement of the law still needs to be met. It is important to keep this distinction because there is a tendency to admit or overlook the fact that the obligation of perfect obedience to the law continues even as the basis of the law as a way of salvation is denied. This obligation to keep the law is the ‘righteousness that is based on the law’ that Paul writes about in Romans 10.5 over against the ‘righteousness based on faith’.” [ch 6, pg 88-89, emphasis mine, [numbers] mine]
Once again, we encounter the question of “debate” of some theological point. Of course, it is purely coincidental that a component of that debate is a mythical speculation (the Covenant of Works). This is surprising, and somewhat confusing, since theologians always concur on "truth". (#SARC)
Back to reality: once the Covenant of Works is removed from the “debate”, the entire issue magically evaporates.
Ostensibly, these three clips are about sin: its nature and origins.
 One point that I've made thru far and will likely repeat again: the fictitious Covenant of Works was executed long before the Law was given in Exo 19+! This simple but profound point would eliminate 99+% of the error of the CT's view of sin. Statements such as "... the requirement to keep the law in the Covenant of Works ..." would disappear. There can be no requirement to the Law if the Law does not exist!
A follow-on point here is that since the Covenant of Works does not exist, then there can be no "... relationship between the Covenant of Works and the Mosaic Covenant ...". The only (partial!) phrase that can stand is "... everyone who does not keep the law perfectly stands condemned by it". The reminder of clip  is noise.
[I refuse to be drawn into a faux argument.]
 As long as the context of this clip is indeed "... everyone who is born into this world ...", then it stands as written. However, as we'll see, there is verbiage in clip  which potentially disputes that condition.
 Let's unpack this clip one point at a time.
Dr. Belcher mentions "human sinfulness", the "perfect obedience to the law", a "way of salvation", the "obligation to keep the law", the "righteousness that is based on the law" and the "righteousness based on faith". He certainly draws contrasts and comparisons between the law and faith but provides no clear context for the whole clip (is he speaking primarily of the lost or the saved?).
Let's move from start to finish through the clip to see what we can establish.
"The law is unable to save anyone because of human sinfulness, but the righteous requirement of the law still needs to be met." Concerning the last half ("... requirement of the law still needs to be met.") "Met" by whom? If he speaks of the lost, then yes, they are still under the Law (they - not Adam!), and it is true that they can never be saved by the Law (but not for the reason Dr. Belcher gives - more on this below).
Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus ...
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
If he is speaking of the saved, then no, they are not under Law in any sense. It is, therefore, meaningless to speak of the Law in the context of the saved.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Once grace came through the Lord Christ, those who are His people were delivered from the slavery to sin. There is no longer any requirement to the Law!
[Dr. Belcher/WCF will argue later in his book that the Law is useful to the Lord's people to keep them from sin. Even so, he seems to not have a clear distinction between the definition and activity of justification and sanctification.]
However, let's look again at that first phrase: "The law is unable to save anyone because of human sinfulness ...". No! This is misleading! The "... the law is unable to save ..." because it was never designed to do so! This is more than a theological subtlety to be debated by theologians. It is a vital part of a true and mature Doctrine of Sin - and the reason I keep pointing to Rom 5.12-21!
Notice these well-known texts:
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
First, the Law was our tutor; it was given in the interim between the time of the giving of the Law of Exo 19+, until the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Christ.
Second, from the beginning the LORD made it clear that it would be faith that justifies. (Rom 4.3,20-22, Gal 3.6, Jam 2.23) And just as importantly, faith and Law are mutually exclusive in all ways.
You see, it's not about the contrast between "This obligation to keep the law is the ‘righteousness that is based on the law’ that Paul writes about in Romans 10.5 over against the ‘righteousness based on faith’." as Dr. Belcher closes this clip. There is no contrast because the option of the "‘righteousness that is based on the law’" is not available to anyone at any time, past, present or future!
[I’m going to do a bit of speculation here: the CT declares the Covenant of Works as his starting point of his view of the Doctrine of Sin, expounding this mythical covenant somewhere from the first 3 chapters of Genesis (rather than by expounding Rom 5.12-21 as he should). He can’t actually expound any specific text, and nothing in those chapters even remotely resembling a covenant can be found. But, regardless, the CT declares the Covenant of Works is firmly established (Rom 5.12-21 merely gets in the way).
Many texts of the NT make it clear that the LORD demands perfect obedience, again, without a hint of the Covenant of Works! The CT will not be dissuaded, though, because the Covenant of Works is there nonetheless telling us the same thing.
The dangerous element in all this is that the CT finds these "truths" in a non-existent covenant; the non-CT finds them in the Bible without the Covenant of Works.]
“... the differences between Adam and Israel show that the Mosaic Covenant is not a republication of the Covenant of Works. Adam was sinless and had the ability to perfectly keep the law, but Israel was fallen and did not have the ability to keep the law perfectly. Thus, when Israel sinned, she was not immediately cast out of her land. Israel was not under a probationary test in the same way is Adam.” [ch 6, pg 89-90, emphasis mine]
Dr. Belcher's assertions here are particularly odious.
First, Adam did have the ability to obey the LORD's very few commands, but "sinless" is not an appropriate adjective to use here: Adam was innocent. If Adam had been sinless he would have obeyed the LORD and we would be living in a very different world!
[The Lord Christ was sinless! The Lord Christ was perfect in every way; Adam fell and took his posterity with him.]
However, just for a moment, let’s assume Dr. Belcher’s description of Adam as “sinless” is valid. This would therefore clearly affirm the following oxymoron: “Adam was sinless – until he sinned.”
Second, we see this "keep the Law" mantra, something which was impossible for Adam since the Law had not yet been given. (I've already handled this error which has been repeated many times in Dr. Belcher's book.)
Third, on the matter of "probation", Dr. Belcher puts forward two cases, Adam and Israel.
[Merriam-Webster provides two definitions for "probation":
- "critical examination and evaluation or subjection to such examination and evaluation".
- "the action of suspending the sentence of a convicted offender and giving the offender freedom during good behavior under the supervision of a probation officer".
Only definition #2 has any applicability to this discussion, as we will see.]
Neither definition fits the case of Adam very well at all. Adam and Eve were placed in the perfect environment; everything around them was declared "good" by the LORD Himself. Neither Adam nor Eve had sinned in any way (so definition #2 doesn't fit all). There is no indication in the text that Adam was "in probation" or that Adam understood that he was under some type of probation. Everything around Adam was orchestrated to his success. When Adam fell, it was completely "of Adam". Note what the Apostle Paul teaches here:
1 Tim 2.13-14
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
The immediate context is the truth that women are not allowed "to teach or exercise authority over a man", the two reasons being the creation order (Adam was created first) and Eve was deceived (which means that Adam was not!). This comports perfectly with Rom 5:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned...
Adam sinned deliberately; he was not deceived. He was not "subject to examination or evaluation" (Webster). The LORD gave him a command and he disobeyed; it is just that simple. It was not that the LORD said: "Adam, I'm placing you in the garden and watching you every moment, so you better behave yourself." No, Adam was not 'in probation' in any way.
The matter of Israel is different: they had sinned many times and experienced the LORD's wrath many times as a result. So, yes, the experience of Israel in the Promised Land would meet definition #2 above well. So, Dr. Belcher's assertion that "Israel was not under a probationary test in the same way is Adam." is true, but for the wrong reasons: Adam was never under probation.
“In Deu 29 Moses calls the people together to renew the covenant. He summarizes God's past dealings with Israel, restates the present situation of the offer to accept the covenant, and addresses the options of covenant disobedience and obedience. He highlights the problem of unbelief by stating that Yahweh has not given the people a heart to understand or eyes to see (29.4), which will eventually lead to the curse of exile from their land (29.25-27). In Deuteronomy 30 the people will return to God, obey his voice (30.1-3), and God will bring them back to the land and circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their offspring (30.5-6). Apart from God's regeneration the people have no hope to keep the covenant. The history of Israel's disobedience to God demonstrates this truth. Israel loses the land because she breaks the covenant and lives in disobedience to God (second use).” [ch 6, pg 90, emphasis mine]
This paragraph contains at least four half-truths and misleading assertions:
1. Misleading: “renew the covenant”.
These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.
The word “besides” [מִלְּבַד H905 besides + H4480 out from], in combination with the statements of:
Deu 29.9: “this covenant”
Deu 29.12: “that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today”
Deu 29.14: “Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath”
The LORD was not renewing the covenant! The covenant at Horeb (Exo 19+) had been broken even before Moses had fully descended the mountain. This is confirmed by the damning statement:
Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
How could it even be assumed that the covenant at Horeb (Exo 19+) was still available (much less in effect) when the LORD's own words declare that Israel had been utterly incapable of obeying it! There was no “covenant to renew”, as Dr. Belcher claims. This was a new covenant (Deu 5+), essentially a copy of the covenant of Exodus!
2. Misrepresentation: “the offer to accept the covenant”.
This was no offer: it was an imposition of a new covenant by the LORD upon Israel, just as He had done with the covenant of Exodus 19+!
So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.
that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today,
Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath
3. Carelessly stated: “addresses the options of covenant disobedience and obedience”.
The preceding texts make it abundantly clear that Israel was expected to obey the terms of the covenant. There would be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The term “options” is wron and leaves the reader with the idea that the LORD was also implicitly giving Israel the "option" of disobeying - though He strongly preferred she obey rather than disobey.
Throughout this section, Dr. Belcher is surprisingly understated when presenting and discussing the gravity of what the LORD imposed upon Israel.
[In the paragraphs above and below, Dr. Belcher uses the terms “the second and third uses of the Law”, then references Calvin's Institutes 2.7.6-13. I had never encountered these, so I looked up the references and found the following:
First Use: (Dr. Belcher's second): the LAW exhibits the righteousness of God.
Second Use: the LAW curbs sin and ensures punishment for disobedience.
Third Use: the LAW Active in the heart of the believer causes them to want to obey and flourish in obedience to their LORD.
These appear to me to be codification of simple context when encountering the word ‘law’. What purpose they serve beyond stating the obvious I don't know...]
4. Carelessly misquoted: “… the people will return to God, obey his voice (30.1-3) …”
This is NOT what Moses said:
“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity …
Dr. Belcher: this is a conditional promise! Can’t you see that!? Moses clearly said that "when you, X, Y, and Z, then the LORD …"! He did not say “… the people will return to God, obey his voice (30.1-3) …”! How can I not regard this as a special kind of contempt for the purity of the Word of God when you insert what is not in the text and you remove what is in the text!?!?
“The law also functions as a guide and blessing for the people (third use).
God gives the law to help the people understand how to live in a way that pleases God and brings blessing into their lives. Israel has the opportunity to fulfill God's Mission and be a blessing to the nations.” [ch 6, pg 90, emphasis mine]
The LORD's promise to make Israel a “blessing to the nations” was within the first promises the LORD made to Abram, even before he left Haran. (Gen 12.3)
It is important to note that the LORD's promise was not conditioned on Israel's obedience. Dr. Belcher, on the other hand, implies that the other nations will be blessed if Israel is obedient.
[This is true, because the LORD grants all sorts of blessings for obedience. My point is that nowhere are the nations promised a blessing because of Israel’s obedience.]
Israel's ‘mission’ was to conquer the Promised Land and “show no pity” to its inhabitants”:
You shall consume all the peoples whom the Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.
It is certainly true that Israel's obedience to this command would ensure that the seven nations of Canaan would be utterly destroyed! I’m sure, however, that they would take issue with Dr. Belcher’s notion that they were somehow “blessed” by Israel's existence and obedience. Being destroyed without pity seems to me to be the ultimate' anti-blessing'.
“These principles also apply to the nation of Israel in the king who is a representative of the people. The king took on a more elevated, representative role in the Davidic Covenant, which is also reflected in Psalm 2. Israel is God's firstborn son (Exo 4.22) and the king is adopted as a son: 'You are my son, today I have begotten you' (Psa 2.7).” [ch 6, pg 91, emphasis mine]
I was more than a little surprised by Dr. Belcher's handling of Psa 2! How he is able to miss the Messianic nature of the Psalm is astonishing! While Exo 4.22 does say that Israel is, in fact, the LORD’s firstborn son, the context of Psa 2 is Messianic, not nationalistic:
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed
“But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
“I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way …
The context of Psa 2 is that the “anointed one” is a person, not a nation!
Tell me, Dr. Belcher, how can Israel be installed as a king upon Zion (v6). Zion is a mountain in the land of Israel, upon which the future Temple will be built, and in which the throne of the prophesied Son of David – the Lord Christ – will be installed as the earth’s only King! Substituting the nation of Israel into that context produces only confusion.
[It’s interesting that this confusion is accepted without question by the CT.]
There is a special note regarding Psa 2.12a. Note that the Psalmist (David) obviously has this text in mind:
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
If you are still not convinced, then please refer to these NT uses of verses from Psa 2 (inspired by the Holy Spirit, Who knows the text better than anyone!):
And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today I have begotten You.’
For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?
“I will be a Father to Him
And He shall be a Son to Me”?
In no way can these verses be understood to be anything other than references to the person of the Lord Christ! Dr. Belcher, your irresponsible ‘interpretation’ is nothing less than willful distortion of the Word of God to fit the defective CT narrative!
[I assume that Dr. Belcher takes this position because if he admits that the person in view in Psa 2 is the Lord Christ, then he must also accept that the person in view in Psa 110 is also the Lord Christ, and that both passages can be understood properly only within the context of the Millennial rule of the Lord Christ (which has not yet begun!). I have yet to read a cogent exposition of Psa 110 by a CT.
BTW: There is only a single mention in the index to Psa 110 (page 20). There, it is used as an example of what Dr. Belcher calls ‘the promise of reward’. It really is the Father’s directive to the Lord Christ to assume His position as the Ruler of the nations to begin the task of eliminating evil from the earth. See Appendix: The Current and Future Kingdom of the Lord Christ.]
[About 11 or 12 years ago, my wife and I hosted a lunch for a young couple (25-ish?) who had just started attending our church. I knew that the husband claimed to be amil, and I was anxious to talk to him about Psalm 110. After lunch, we had a time of discussion, during which I opened the Scripture and showed him Psa 110.1-2. His reaction was stunning: he got the "deer in the headlights" look and was unable to proceed with any reasoning. He was completely baffled by the simple preposition "until" ("Sit at my right hand until ..."), which speaks of the current place of the Lord Christ while He awaits being installed as King upon Mount Zion by the LORD – "in the midst of His enemies", not to become a figurehead king of an unseen "spiritual kingdom" as the CT claims!]
There is yet more to challenge with Dr. Belcher’s incredibly irresponsible assertion that Psalm 2 is about national Israel instead of the person of the Lord Christ. Let’s look again here:
“You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.”
Dr. Belcher: did you miss the phrase about the “rod of iron”? Do you know where else that phrase is used, in the same context? Look at these and try to make the case that they speak of the nation of Israel rather than the person of the Lord Christ:
and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father;
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
One last point, also from Act 13.34, the verse following what I cited above:
As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
As I maintain throughout this article, the Lord Christ is the fulfillment of the covenant the LORD made with David, a fulfillment that makes sense, in every detail, only when the Lord Christ assumes the throne in Jerusalem at the commencement of the Millennium. Again, try to make the case that Psa 2, which Acts 13 is citing, is speaking of the nation of Israel and not the person of the Lord Christ! Even the attempt is meaningless and confusion.
This is the type of unmitigated foolishness that is inevitable when one maintains a false narrative – Covenant Theology – rather than responsible Bible exposition!
[In the leadup to the following statement, Dr. Belcher provides a reasonably valid summary of the activity of the prophets to call Israel to repentance and the LORD's punishment to a disobedient nation. His conclusion, though, is defective.]
“Although this remnant was important as a witness to the truth and a testimony against the nation, they were not able to stop the covenant curse of exile that resulted when people and king broke the covenant.” [ch 6, pg 91, emphasis mine]
Dr. Belcher partly misuses the term “remnant” here and, more importantly, who the “remnant” was during this critical time in Israel's history.
The clip above shows that he believes that there were two (competing) groups in Israel just before the exile and captivity:
- A large majority who was to be carried away in the exile. (This group is unnamed by Dr. Belcher.)
- A very small minority (the "remnant" in Dr. Belcher's terminology) who "witness[ed] to the truth" to group #1 in a futile attempt to call them to repentance (presumably).
[There are 3 uses of the term “remnant” used during this period:
- Those in Israel who were ultimately to be destroyed by the army of Babylon.
- Those in Israel who were spared from destruction but nonetheless were exiled to Babylon.
- The children of those who had been exiled to Babylon but who were to return to their native Israel after 70 years.
1. Those in Israel who were to be destroyed:
‘But like the bad figs which cannot be eaten due to rottenness — indeed, thus says the Lord — so I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I will scatter them. I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.’
2. Those exiled to Babylon:
And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family, that remains in all the places to which I have driven them,” declares the Lord of hosts.
3. The children of those exiled:
There are a few prophecies in Jeremiah about this group, which taken together show that the LORD intended a two-part (my term) process to protect His people during their exile in Babylon.
Both parts are revealed in this metaphor given by the LORD to Jeremiah:
After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the Lord showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord! One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness. Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness.”
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
‘But like the bad figs which cannot be eaten due to rottenness — indeed, thus says the Lord — so I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I will scatter them. I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.’”
The "bad figs" in the metaphor have no representation in Dr. Belcher's comments. They are those who did not survive the attack of the Chaldean army.
The "good figs" in the metaphor correspond to Dr. Belcher's unnamed group #1; they are those who are exiled into Babylon. However, this is only part of the story. Note this text from Jer 22:
“Many nations will pass by this city; and they will say to one another, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this great city?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord their God and bowed down to other gods and served them.’”
Do not weep for the dead or mourn for him,
But weep continually for the one who goes away;
For he will never return Or see his native land.
It is vital to understand that, while they are called "good figs" in the metaphor, those people who went into exile would die in Babylon and never return to their native Israel; remember, they were the rebels who were punished by the exile. It was to be their children who would survive the exile and enjoy the blessing of returning to their homeland, when the LORD turned their heart:
“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord. “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply.
Now that we have a biblical understanding of the “remnant” as it is used during this period of Israel's history, let's concentrate on Dr. Belcher's "witness[es]" comment.
Dr. Belcher assumes that who he terms the “remnant” of Israel attempted to stand by "witness[ing]" to the rest of the nation regarding their idolatry and disobedience. This "witness" failed and as a result the people to whom they "witness[ed]" went sent into exile in Babylon.
The question then becomes: who was this supposed group of "witness[es]"? The short answer is: they are no one! They never existed. Here's what the Scripture says:
[Note also that some of these refer to the false prophets of the day - those who should have been preaching the true Word of the LORD but didn’t.]
Yet I planted you a choice vine,
A completely faithful seed.
How then have you turned yourself before Me
Into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?
In vain I have struck your sons;
They accepted no chastening.
Your sword has devoured your prophets
Like a destroying lion.
“For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know.”
To whom shall I speak and give warning
That they may hear?
Behold, their ears are closed
And they cannot listen.
Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.
“Everyone deceives his neighbor
And does not speak the truth,
They have taught their tongue to speak lies;
They weary themselves committing iniquity.
Your dwelling is in the midst of deceit;
Through deceit they refuse to know Me,” declares the Lord.
“Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they all to Me because of their disaster.”
“I have forsaken My house,
I have abandoned My inheritance;
I have given the beloved of My soul
Into the hand of her enemies.
My inheritance has become to Me
Like a lion in the forest;
She has roared against Me;
Therefore I have come to hate her.”
This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.
Thus says the Lord to this people, “Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore, the Lord does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account.” 11 So the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.
“Indeed, who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem,
Or who will mourn for you,
Or who will turn aside to ask about your welfare?
You who have forsaken Me,” declares the Lord,
“You keep going backward.
So I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you;
I am tired of relenting!”
“Now when you tell this people all these words, they will say to you, ‘For what reason has the Lord declared all this great calamity against us? And what is our iniquity, or what is our sin which we have committed against the Lord our God?’ Then you are to say to them, ‘It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law.”
“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.”
So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.”’ But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will Act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
Then Jeremiah said to them, “You shall say to Zedekiah as follows: ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Behold, I am about to turn back the weapons of war which are in your hands, with which you are warring against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the wall; and I will gather them into the center of this city. I Myself will war against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm, even in anger and wrath and great indignation. I will also strike down the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they will die of a great pestilence. Then afterwards,” declares the Lord, “I will give over Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants and the people, even those who survive in this city from the pestilence, the sword and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their foes and into the hand of those who seek their lives; and he will strike them down with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them nor have pity nor compassion.”’
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and to all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that you have heard. 13 Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you.
Then, we have this text to consider:
I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord God.
Here is a pivotal text which proves beyond any doubt that the LORD saved a remnant despite the peoples' evil, not because they somehow persevered but were not quite strong enough to overcome the majority of the population:
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”
The LORD promised “to give them a heart to know Him” after they had been driven to exile! The remnant was the elect – before their heart had been made alive by grace.
Here is the LORD's testimony of the interaction between Jeremiah and the (exceedingly wicked!) people of his day:
Then I will make you to this people
A fortified wall of bronze;
And though they fight against you,
They will not prevail over you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,” declares the Lord.
So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.”
Where is the so-called "resistance" by the people (Dr. Belcher's "remnant") against the sins of their fellow countrymen? (They certainly resisted Jeremiah!) Where are the texts within the book of Jeremiah which document the “remnant” standing arm-in-arm with Jeremiah against the idolaters among them? Truly, Dr. Belcher's assertion is spectacular in its foolishness and a misrepresentation of clear history!
“The second use of the law that brought judgment against disobedience in the Mosaic Covenant presupposes that the requirements of the Covenant of Works are still operative even if the Covenant of Works itself is no longer in force.” [ch 6, pg 91-92]
Dr. Belcher appears here to maintain the illusion that there is/was(?) a Covenant of Works (though his chapter on this topic was completely unconvincing).
The question is: “Is the Covenant of Works in effect or is it not?” Dr. Belcher appears to be arguing the point and its opposite!
The reason I interpret his comment above to be self-contradictory position is this:
- The so-called Covenant of Works was active at the creation, but sometime after that ceased to be in force.
- The so-called Covenant of Works must, apparently, be viewed as the only action by which the LORD which created the concept of “Law”, especially as the instrument of enforcing His will. Until the Covenant of Works, the LORD could not enforce His will?
What does it even mean that “the requirements of the Covenant of Works are still operative even if the Covenant of Works itself is no longer in force.” This is theological gaslighting: is the Covenant of Works in force or is it not in force?
[Dr. Belcher goes on with a brief summary of the perfect obedience required by the Law.]
“Paul highlights a specific aspect of the Mosaic Law as the standard of righteousness required by the Covenant of Works. He is not arguing that God placed Israel under a Covenant of Works at Mt. Sinai. The Mosaic Covenant should not be identified with a Covenant of Works as a covenantal administration, but the requirement of perfect obedience set forth in the Covenant of Works is an abiding requirement.” [ch 6, pg 92]
Dr. Belcher continues his equivocation in the first and second sentences: what he establishes in the first ("required by the Covenant of Works") he retracts in the second ("He is not arguing..."). Again, the gaslighting is spectacular. The entire clip reads like a trick question for a seminary class essay question:
Question: "Where does the requirement of perfect obedience to the Law come from?"
Answer: "It comes from the Covenant of Works and it comes from the Mosaic Law. However, the Mosaic Law should not be identified with the Covenant of Works."
Professor's Note on the student's answer: "Congratulations, you captured the contradiction perfectly! 100% You'll do well as a CT."
Right... Makes sense to me. (#SARC)
“There are two ways to earn righteousness before God, the way of law/works and the way of faith, and both are proved from Old Testament texts. The Westminster Standards agree with this view of the Mosaic law as demonstrated in the proof texts. The WCF 7.2 uses the principal 'do this and live' to confirm the Covenant of Works with Adam. After speaking of the law as a Covenant of Works in WCF 19.1, WCF 19.2 goes on to state that 'This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai. Waters points out that Romans 10. 5 is not cited as proof of the Covenant of Works itself, but as proof for the moral law at the heart of the Covenant of Works.” [ch 6, pg 92, emphasis mine]
“The WCF 7.2 uses the principal 'do this and live' to confirm the Covenant of Works with Adam.”
As my notes in Appendix: The Problems in the WCF below show, WCF 7.2, WCF 19.1 and WCF 19.2 do not support the point for which Dr. Belcher cited them.
“… as proof for the moral law at the heart of the Covenant of Works.”
[I have no notes on the “moral law” gleaned from chapter 2 of Dr. Belcher’s book. He may have made some comments on the topic, but none that I noted during my review.]
“In summary, the Mosaic Covenant is primarily a development of the Covenant of Grace.” [ch 6, pg 93]
In a clip above, Dr. Belcher claimed "The Mosaic Covenant should not be identified with a Covenant of Works as a covenantal administration..." but here claims that "the Mosaic Covenant is primarily a development of the Covenant of Grace.”
This sure looks like a contradiction to me. Then, in the paragraph that follows, Dr. Belcher presents the idea that the Mosaic Covenant opened the way for people who broke the Law to nonetheless to be reconciled by means of the sacrificial system. This, apparently, is the meaning behind the citation above (since grace is at the heart of the substitutionary system).
An important 'oversight(?)' is that Dr. Belcher fails to mention the planned obsolescence of the Law in the LORD's ‘big picture’ of His plan of salvation:
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
When He said, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
Yes, grace is certainly found in the implementation of the sacrificial system. However, Dr. Belcher's comments tend to reduce the vast differences between the system implemented in the Mosaic Covenant and true, divine grace:
The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.
He does finally get there:
“This principle ultimately serves the Covenant of Grace pointing people to their need of salvation through an obedient mediator.” [ch 6, pg 93]
From the context of the two clips, and the immediate context of this clip, the 'principle' he refers to is "the Mosaic Covenant highlights the continuing obligation to keep the Law perfectly ..." . How is any of this even compatible with the NT which teaches us that the Lord Christ is the sole mediator of grace? What purpose does the so-called Covenant of Grace serve? What purpose could it ever serve in a mature and biblical understanding of grace? I have not seen a single morsel of anything that the mythical Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace contribute to real grace!
The Blessings and Curses of the Mosaic Covenant [page 93]
“How are we to understand the emphasis in the Mosaic Covenant on physical and temporal blessings and curses? This is part of the types and symbols of the Mosaic Covenant that points to other realities that are both spiritual and material. The land of Canaan is a type of the new heavens and earth so that the physical blessings of the Mosaic Covenant will be experienced by God's people in a form that is appropriate to their glorified existence. The physical curse of judgment will fall on unbelievers who will experience the curse in both spiritual and physical ways appropriate to their eternal existence. But the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant are not limited to the new heavens and a new earth, because they also have relevance for God's people today. The WCF 19.6 discusses this. It recognizes that true believers are not under the law as a Covenant of Works to be justified or condemned, but that the law can be of great use to them to inform them of the will of God and their duty to God (third use) and to show them the pollution of their heart and their need of Christ (second use).” [ch 6, pg 94, emphasis mine]
[See Appendix: The Problems in the WCF for details.]
Dr. Belcher's claim that “the land of Canaan is a type of the new heavens and earth” is extraordinarily bad. It is, though, the setup for Dr. Belcher’s conflation of the real land of Canaan (in biblical prophecy) and the New Heavens and the New Earth.
- The LORD promised to bless Israel only upon their obedience, and to cast them out upon their disobedience. There is no analog possible within the New Heaven and New Earth: they are permanent and not based on obedience because they are populated only by true, resurrected believers who are finally beyond the reach of sin and corruption.
- The land of Canaan was the smaller/nearer in time of the two promises the LORD made to Abram. (See my article The Day of the Lord.) Conversely, the New Heaven and the New Earth are enormous because of the sheer number of true believers who will live in them.
- It is the New Heaven (singular), not New Heavens (plural).
[Providing additional Scripture support for the fact that the New Earth is enormous is this text from Revelation 21:
The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.
If the New Earth will be the same size as current earth, it would mean that a city (New Jerusalem) whose size is 1500 miles cubic would rest upon a planet which is only 8000 miles in diameter. Such scene would be grotesque with proportions that would be cartoonish. Continuing with this thought is the fact that most earth satellites would travel through the lower levels of the city (if satellites existed – which they won’t). The upper levels of the New Jerusalem would be in deep space.]
“But the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant are not limited to the new heavens and a new earth …” How about, Dr. Belcher, you show us first how the Mosaic Covenant can even be applied during the time of the New Heavens and the New Earth!? This is an indefensible position!
Consider just a few
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Exactly how, Dr. Belcher, can the Mosaic Covenant even be in existence during the New Heaven and New Earth. Everything before that moment is gone! The “new” has arrived with NO remnants of the “old”.
If you are still not convinced, then fit this passage into your defective Eschatology:
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
If there is no more death (after all, the penalty in the Law for sin is death), how is there even a purpose for the Mosaic Covenant in the New Heaven and New Earth!?
This is an evil, irresponsible, crazy theory, thought up by theologians who obviously have never read Rev 21 and have way too much time on their hands between seminary classes!! (#SARC)
“There is no longer a one-to-one relationship between bad things that happen and covenant judgment.” [ch 6, pg 95, emphasis mine]
There never was a “one-to-one relationship ...". There is a general one-to-one correlation between evil and “bad things that happen”:
1 Tim 5.24-25
The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed.
However, it is not clear from the context of Dr. Belcher’s assertion of exactly what age he speaks.
“Thus, believers in the New Covenant can benefit from the teaching of the blessing and curses of the Mosaic Covenant.” [ch 6, pg 95]
The hearts of the believers in the New Covenant will be turned completely to the LORD by the LORD Himself. Dr. Belcher, have you never read:
not like the [Mosaic] covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt
What possible need of the old, dead, obsolete Mosaic Covenant will they have? Why are you hanging onto this!? The LORD will not hang onto it when the great day of the New Covenant comes for national Israel. Your position makes no sense at all!!
One thing is obvious: when it comes to covenants, the Covenant Theologian sees them as the solution-to-every problem, in the manner of the old saying, “To a hammer, everything is a nail.”