Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Judicial Laws of the Old Testament and the Westminster Confession

If you read through the laws of the Old Testament, you probably find yourself thinking about their relevance and obligation in the present day. You are not the first person to consider that question. It has been a topic of study and discussion throughout the ages. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) gave a mature and thoughtful framework for us to use in its chapter 19, "Of the Law of God." It speaks of the moral law (rooted in creation and summarized in the Ten Commandments), as well as the ceremonial laws and judicial laws which God gave Israel. It argues that the moral law forever binds all people and the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament have been abrogated in the New Testament. But its handling of the obligation of the judicial laws on modern nations is more nuanced. It states,
"To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require."
To explain this statement, I have written an article which has been published on The Daily Genevan, "The Judicial Laws of Moses and General Equity." I note at the beginning that there is a debate on whether the position known as "Theonomy," such as articulated by Greg Bahnsen, fits within the parameters of this statement. I do not answer that question in the article, since it would take another article to define "Theonomy" and its variations, but my short answer is that it does. But understanding this statement is not just important with regard to that debate - it has many practical ramifications whether you identify with Theonomy or not, as I point out by referring to the debate over women in combat. You can read the article here:

Friday, February 21, 2020

How God Makes Us Partakers of the Covenant of Grace

Our confession of faith and catechisms were written by the Westminster Assembly in the 1640s, and when they began to be published, publishers included what you might call a gospel tract, written by two Scottish ministers, David Dickson and James Durham. It was called "The Sum of Saving Knowledge." You can read it online at this link. Its presentation of the gospel centers on the concept of God's covenant with us, which I wrote about in my last post. Here is how "The Sum of Saving Knowledge" describes the outward means God uses to make people partakers of this covenant:
"The outward means and ordinances, for making men partakers of the covenant of grace ... are especially these four: i. The word of God ii. The ordinances iii. Church iv. Prayer. 
"In the word of God preached by sent messengers, the Lord makes offer of grace to all sinners, upon condition of faith in Jesus Christ; and whoever does confess their sin, accept Christ’s offering, and submit themselves to his ordinances, he will have them received into the honour and privileges of the covenant of grace. By the ordinances, God will have the covenant sealed for confirming the bargain on the foresaid condition. By the Church, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward to the keeping of the covenant. And by prayer, he will have his own glorious grace, promised in the covenant, to be daily drawn forth, acknowledged, and employed. All these means are followed either really, or in profession only, according to the quality of the covenanters, as they are true or counterfeit believers."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Doctrine of the Covenant

What is a covenant? A covenant is an alliance between two parties in which they swear loyalty to each other. For example, covenants were made between kings and their vassals, between friends or peoples (e.g. David and Jonathan, Israel and the Gibeonites), and between husband and wife. A covenant is an oath that establishes a relationship between two parties and defines its nature and obligations, binding them to mutual fidelity.

What is God’s covenant? When God makes a covenant with people, he establishes a mutual bond of fellowship and loyalty with them, taking them under his special care, promising eternal life and blessing.

What is the covenant of works? Initially, God’s covenant with man was conditioned upon perfect obedience. This arrangement we call the “covenant of works.” In it, God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, blessed them as his children, confirmed his promise of life with the tree of life, and they served him in accordance with his commands. Yet, this covenant was broken by sin and we lost fellowship with God. Outside of grace, all the heirs of Adam are condemned as treacherous covenant-breakers.

What is the covenant of grace? God was pleased to make a second arrangement, establishing his covenant with his chosen people through Jesus Christ, requiring faith as the condition to receive the benefits of Christ’s mediation. This arrangement we call the “covenant of grace.” God made his covenant with sinners on this basis beginning in Genesis 3, separating his people from the serpent by creating enmity between them and promising them salvation through the “seed of the woman” (i.e. Jesus Christ). In this covenant, God delivers his people that they might be his, enjoying fellowship with him and loyally walking in his ways (e.g. Luke 1:68-75).

How did God administer this covenant before Christ? The broken covenant of works and its condemnation is always the background of God’s covenant dealings, our default context apart from the gracious provisions of the second covenant. But ever since the fall, God has made his covenant with his people on the basis of grace through Christ, building up their faith in Christ before his coming through promises, sacrifices, and other types and ceremonies. We find this covenant revealed in more detail as God renewed it with his people from generation to generation, especially in his dealings with his people under Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.

What is the new covenant? With the coming of Christ, this covenant of grace reached its final and permanent form, known sometimes as the “new covenant.” Jesus came to confirm the covenant of grace by providing its basis in his death and resurrection. He made the former ceremonies obsolete, fulfilling them and instituting simpler and clearer ordinances by which the covenant would be administered, namely, the preaching of the Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. He also poured out the Holy Spirit in great abundance so that this covenant is held forth in greater fullness and efficacy to all nations.

How has God dealt with the children of believers when he has made his covenant? In the Old Testament, the covenant was made with the believer’s household and offspring. Consider Noah (Gen. 6:18; 9:9), Abraham (Gen. 17:7-14), and the Israelites (Deut. 29:10-15). Believers entered into an alliance with God, an engagement to be the Lord’s, with their households. As Joshua said when the covenant was renewed, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15). God always welcomed the believer and his household into this alliance. Male infants received the sign and seal of the covenant, circumcision (Gen. 17:7-14, Rom. 4:11). The children of believers grew up with special obligations and privileges as members of God’s people. The covenant was still conditional on faith - apostasy was possible. The practice of including the believer’s household was not changed in the new covenant, but rather was affirmed in the proclamation of the new covenant (Acts 2:38-39, 16:31-34).

What was the condition of the covenant made with Israel? If membership was conditioned on works, it would not have lasted a day. If membership was conditioned on physical descent, none could have ever broken it. Membership was conditioned on faith, and therefore it belonged to all those with true faith in the Savior, a faith which proved itself by its works (Heb. 3:7-4:13, James 2:14-26). The covenant sign bound all the heirs of the covenant to share the faith of their father Abraham. Otherwise, they would be cut off as covenant breakers. Today, the true heirs of the covenant and its promises are those who believe in Christ, along with their children, who like the Israelite children of old are called to keep covenant by exercising faith in the Savior.

“They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.” -Romans 11:20

Friday, February 14, 2020

Why Discussing Infant Baptism Is Important

This Sunday I will begin teaching a five-part series on doctrines related to the practice of infant baptism in my church's afternoon Sunday school time. Feel free to join us! You can see our Sunday schedule here.

In the video below, I suggest several reasons why it is important to discuss infant baptism. Not only it is important to know whether we should baptize the children of believers or not, but the discussion brings up other important matters, such as the relation between the Old and New Testaments, the doctrine of the church, and how we ought to view and raise our children. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Thou Shalt Not Covet

The final commandment of the Ten Commandments forbids covetousness:
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:17) 
From this commandment, I would note several things:

1. Coveting is an unlawful desire. Not only can actions and choices be sin, but your desires can be sinful as well. You ought to repent not only of your sinful choices, but also for your inclinations for what is forbidden, since even the desire to sin is sin.

2. Coveting is both a sin and a temptation to more sin. Coveting allures us to commit other sins like stealing and adultery. This is one way that Jesus was not tempted - by indwelling corruption. For example, he was not tempted by his own greed, lust, or pride - for he had none. He had natural cravings like hunger, but not sinful cravings like coveting. He "in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). He did not give in one bit. But when we give in, it entices us to go further. Coveting will not be content to be alone - it loves the company of other sins.

3. Coveting is an unqualified (or improperly qualified) desire for that which belongs to another. This commandment does not forbid you from seeking to buy your neighbor's donkey or asking for charity if you are in need. Good desires are desires that are qualified by things such as lawfulness, permission, and love for others: “I would like that if…” For example, one might properly think, “I would like that sandwich if it is for sale and if I have enough money.” It does not desire a sandwich which has an owner who is not willing to share. It does not desire something that is inherently unlawful for you to have, like your neighbor's spouse. Proper desire for good things evidences its goodness by being content if the qualifications are not met. Bad desires are desires that are unqualified: “I want that.” They are not content to hear “no.”

4. Coveting will influence your attitude toward your neighbor. It will blossom into other sinful attitudes directed at the owner of what you covet. Coveting blossoms into envy, resentment, and malice. It leads you to think things like, “I don’t want him to have that,” “I can't stand him since he won't give that to me,” “no one should have more than me,” and “this is unjust - the government should do something about it!” And resentment feeds more covetousness, causing you to have thoughts like, “I want that because they have that.” But when coveting is replaced with contentment, contentment blossoms into respect and love towards your neighbors. It helps you to seek their welfare as well as your own. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

And so, to summarize with the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q. 80. What is required in the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbor, and all that is his.

Q. 81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Two Purposes for Clothing: Usefulness and Honor

In my most recent sermon, "Trusting God for Your Daily Bread," I took a moment to comment on the two main purposes for the covering that clothing provides and how these purposes should guide us in our choice of clothing.
By the way, we see here [in Matthew 6:25-34], and elsewhere in the Bible, two main purposes for clothing: first, it is a necessity of life to protect you from the elements, and second, it is adornment to give honor. The entrance of sin has made both things more necessary, by the curse making conditions harsher and by introducing shame among humanity (Gen. 3). These two purposes also should guide us in the clothing we choose. As Peter Martyr Vermigli, one of the 16th century Reformers, said, "since clothes were invented for usefulness and honor in this present life, those [clothes] that lack these two properties deserve censure" ("Theses on Genesis," 1543). Some people only pay attention to one of these purposes, while others today throw out both purposes and choose clothing that is both impractical and shameless. But we are humans, and especially in this age, we need clothing to protect us and dignify us. 
I could refine the point further and say that in some situations one of these purposes may be more important than the other (e.g. usefulness is more important when weeding the garden and honor is more important at a wedding), although both should always be kept in mind. Also, I will add that John Calvin has a similar remark on clothing in his commentary on 1 Peter 3:3, "Two things are to be regarded in clothing, usefulness and decency; and what decency requires is moderation and modesty."

In the sermon, I then go on to reconnect this point with the main point, which is that God cares for the needs of his children.
Sometimes good clothing is hard to come by, and we are reminded in the epistle from James to not show partiality based on whether someone has clothing which is fine or shabby (James 2:1-13). But even if you don’t always have the clothing you want, God knows that you need it and he will clothe his children. If he gives protection and adornment to the grass of the field which lasts for a day, will he not also sufficiently provide for you?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

God is Building His Temple

In my experience, it seems that evangelicals talk about their bodies being God's temples quite often and rarely talk about the church being God's temple. Certainly there is a verse that speaks of our bodies as temples:
"Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:18–19)
This is part of Paul's exhortation against sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. There he argues that since your bodies are members of Christ, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and you are not your own because you were bought with a price, therefore, you must not use your body to commit immorality. While it seems the main use of this verse among evangelicals today is in arguments about the care of the body, Paul does not call the body a temple to exhort people to take care of their bodies (although you should), but rather to exhort people to not use the body to commit sin. Temples are holy, so they ought not be defiled by sin.

There are other verses which communicate the same idea of God dwelling with the individual believer, even though they do not use the word "temple." For example, Jesus says in John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."

Nevertheless, the normal practice in the New Testament is to refer to the church as God's earthly temple. (In the following passages the "you" is plural, referring to "you all.")
"So then you [all] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you [all] are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you [all] also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19–22, see also 1 Peter 2:4-6)
"For we are God's fellow workers. You [all] are God's field, God's building ... Do you not know that you [all] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you [all]? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you [all] are that temple." (1 Corinthians 3:9, 16-17) 
"What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Jesus had prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would loose its significance and be destroyed (John 4:21, Matt. 24:1-2). Rather, the dwelling place of God on earth would be in the body of Christ, the church.

Ephesians 2 teaches that each Christian is a stone in the temple, becoming part of the temple as he or she rests on Christ and the apostolic and prophetic Scriptures and is joined with the other stones (i.e. other Christians). A stone on its own is not a temple. God is building his temple by drawing people to Christ and gathering them into the church.

This means that we should treat the church with love and respect. God has zeal for his holy temple, for the place where his name dwells. As 1 Corinthians 3 teaches, God will destroy those who destroy his temple. In context, this refers to those who were tearing apart the church through jealousy and strife.

This also means that we should promote the holiness of the church, cleansing ourselves from the defilement of sin. This is the point of 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1. This applies to each member of the church, that we might not defile the temple by our own sins, but repent of them, find cleansing in Christ's blood, and endeavor after greater obedience. This also applies to the church as a body, that we should be encouraging one another in the way of holiness and being holy in the way we treat each other. It means that those who rule the church should be diligent to maintain the holiness of the temple through their teaching, shepherding, and discipline.

This understanding of the new covenant temple shows why individual and corporate holiness should be a priority for Christians. It directs the believer to love and treasure the church. It also revolutionizes one's understanding and application of the Old Testament's references to the earthly temple and house of the Lord. God is currently building his temple by building his church through the gospel of Jesus Christ. With this understanding in mind, let us pray that the holiness and glory of the Lord would so fill the temple that all nations would be drawn to its brightness.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Are the Good Works of Christians Filthy Rags?

The following quote is from The Practice of Piety (1612) by Lewis Bayly. In this part of the book, he notes hinderances to the practice of piety which arise from misunderstanding passages in Bible. In this paragraph, he addresses a common misunderstanding of Isaiah 64:6 and explains a doctrine which would a few decades later be included in our Presbyterian confession of faith (WCF 16.6, see here). This doctrine is that when we are forgiven and accepted through faith in Christ, on that basis our imperfect but sincere obedience which is produced in us by God’s grace is pleasing to God. God delights in the good works of His children and graciously accepts their services through the intercession of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). Here is what Bayly says:
"Isa. 64:6, 'All our righteousnesses are as a filthy rags.' Hence the carnal Christian gathers, that, seeing the best works of the best saints are no better, then his are good enough; and therefore he needs not much grieve that his devotions are so imperfect. But Isaiah means not in this place the righteous works of the regenerate, as fervent prayers in the name of God; charitable alms from the bowels of mercy; suffering in the gospel's defense, the spoil of goods, and spilling of blood, and such works which Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22;) but the prophet, making an humble confession in the name of the Jewish church, when she had fallen from God to idolatry, acknowledges, that whilst they were by their filthy sins separated from God, as lepers are from men by their infecting sores and polluted clothes, their chief righteousness could not be but abominable in his sight. And though our best works, compared with Christ's righteousness, are not better than unclean rags; yet, in God's acceptation for Christ's sake, they are called white raiment (Rev. 3:18), yea, pure fine linen and shining (Rev. 19:8)..." 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Praying to "Our Father in Heaven"

In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus taught his disciples to pray using a prayer commonly known as "The Lord's Prayer." This prayer begins by addressing God, “Our Father in heaven…” (6:9). These opening words remind us of several truths:
  • God is our Father only through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who gives you the right to be called children of God (John 1:12). Jesus makes God your Father through your regeneration and through your adoption. To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray through his mediation, having been reconciled to God through faith in him. In this way, you may know God as your Father and not as a hostile judge. 
  • God is our Father, therefore we should give him reverence. We are commanded to honor our earthly fathers and mothers in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:12). Honor and revere, then, your Father in heaven (Mal. 1:6). 
  • God is our Father, therefore we should come with confidence. He cares for his children. "Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? ... If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (Matt. 7:9–11)
  • God is our Father in heaven, therefore we should distinguish him from the faults of earthly fathers and remember that God is all-powerful, and therefore able to do what we ask. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3).  
  • God is our Father, therefore we pray with brothers and sisters, children of the same Father. I do not just mean the people that you connect with - I mean the people that God has brought into his family, the church. If you love God, you will love his children (1 John 4:20-5:1). You should pray with God’s children, since Jesus envisions the disciples praying this together. You should pray for God’s children, since you make these requests for "us." You should remember God’s children even when you "go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret" (Matt. 6:6).  
And so to summarize in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
"The preface of the Lord's prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others."

This is adapted from a portion of my recent sermon on the Lord's Prayer. It is available online at this link

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ten Theses on Genesis 2:24

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother 
and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” 
Genesis 2:24

This verse is a key text regarding humanity, marriage, and family. It comes at the conclusion to the account of creation and is quoted at least four times in the New Testament. It continues to play a role in many discussions today, and so I propose the following ten theses, along with ten sub-theses, regarding some of its meaning and implications.

1. This verse teaches God’s intention for marriage to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, bound exclusively to each other.

2. This verse asserts the priority of the marriage bond over all other human relationships, even over the relationship between parent and child.

3. This verse asserts that a child’s relation to his or her parents will change, and that parents should raise their children towards the responsibility and freedom of maturity.
  a. Other passages expect men to assume adult responsibilities when they reach the age of majority. In biblical Israel, men reached the age of majority at age twenty and were then responsible for military service, voting, and the head tax (Num. 1:2-3, 1 Chron. 12:38, Ex. 20:13-14).

4. This verse teaches that marriage is a normal part of reaching adulthood.
   a. Indeed, it is the duty of those of marriageable age to find a spouse and get married, unless they have a gift of continency (1 Cor. 7:2-9, 1 Tim. 5:13-14).
   b. As man and woman came from one flesh, so they naturally are designed to become one flesh, and unless this is consummated in marriage, fallen humanity will normally seek an illegitimate outlet for this natural design.

5. The context of this verse teaches that parents have a duty to help their children find callings and spouses when they reach adulthood.
  a. God provided a calling and bride for Adam, the “son of God” (Luke 3:38), just as he later provided a calling and bride (the church) for his only-begotten Son (John 6:38-39, Rev. 21:2). This pattern is reflected in the duties of human parents (Jer. 29:6, Ruth 3:1, Gen. 24:2-4, Eph. 6:4).
  b. Therefore, parents should prepare their children with the skills and character necessary for these responsibilities. 
  c. Parents should make these decisions in communication with their children. The initial suggestion of a spouse can come from parent or child. Both the couple and their parents should consent to the marriage; parents should not force marriage without the son or daughter’s consent, nor withhold consent without just cause.
  d. While the Bible certainly recognizes occasions when parents cannot afford it, it is expected that parents will help provide a financial basis for their children as they are able (Prov. 19:14, 2 Cor. 12:14). 

6. This verse and its context (Gen. 2:15-24, 3:12) teach that the man leaves his parents and receives his wife, in distinction from the woman who is given to the man.

7. This verse does not require the man to stay at his father’s house until marriage.
  a. A man might leave home to prepare for marriage and find a spouse. Isaac sent Jacob away to Laban to find and win a wife (Gen. 28:1-5). The heavenly Father sent the Son to earth to win his bride, the church (John 6:38-39, Rev. 21:2).
  b. As children mature and transition into adulthood, parents may delegate some of their authority to others for a temporary period of further training, such as in apprenticeship (one type of “slavery” in Ex. 21:3 and Deut. 15:12-18) and discipleship (1 Kings 19:19-21, Matt. 4:21-22, Acts 16:3).

8. This verse does not require a man to physically leave his father’s house when he gets married.
  a. This can be seen from numerous biblical examples, it being quite common, though not required, for three or four generations to live in one household under the authority of the patriarch. “Secession” from this arrangement was possible and sometimes for the best (Gen. 31), but it was often to everyone’s advantage to stay together. This is an uncommon arrangement today in America, but it is not an arrangement forbidden by Scripture. 

9. The context of this verse (Gen. 2:15-20) teaches that a man should be proven as a responsible worker and have a sense for his mission and his need for a helper before he gets married.

10. This verse does not teach that a man’s responsibility to honor and support his parents ends when he gets married (e.g. Prov. 23:22, 1 Kings 2:19, Matt. 15:1-9).

Friday, January 17, 2020

2020 Men’s Advance: Keep the Faith!

Check out the new video below, in which I talk about the upcoming Men's Advance, which our church will host on May 2nd, 2020. In the video below I explain this year's theme, which is "Keep the Faith." The speakers this year will be myself and Christian McShaffrey, pastor at Five Solas Church (OPC). For more information about the event and to register, follow this link.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Egalitarianism vs. Christian Hierarchy

It may seem like the victory of egalitarianism is now complete. As one article has declared, “Turning back this half century of feminist advance is impossible (leaving aside the fact that is deeply undesirable).”[1] While conservatives may try to make a stand for traditional values, they seem inevitably just one step behind the progressives. Yet, those who would declare the victory of egalitarianism do not account for one thing: that God may yet arise and scatter His enemies. “As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!” (Psalm 68:2) There is a God in the heavens and He laughs at the rebellion of the nations.

This may seem like harsh words for egalitarians. Perhaps it would be good to explain what I mean by egalitarianism. Nearly all Christians agree that individuals are of equal value and importance. They agree that every individual is made in the image of God. The point at which egalitarians differ from Christian orthodoxy is that they claim for every individual the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority.

Christianity, though, recognizes the importance of “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 65). This does not refer to superiority and inferiority in worth or importance, but rather in authority, privilege, age, and gifts. The catechism’s footnotes refer to the human relations of husband and wife, parent and child, and master and servant. These relations are the basic types of biblical hierarchical relations (Col. 3:18-4:1) and are foundational for other hierarchical relations in society. As the Westminster Larger Catechism explains in one of its eleven questions on the fifth commandment, "By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth" (Q. 124).

Christian hierarchy is not to be confused with other forms of hierarchy. Christian hierarchy is covenantal. The superior and inferior are connected and both have duties and privileges, even if they are different. For the superior to abuse the inferior is to hurt himself. For the inferior to rebel against the superior is to undermine his own authority. The biblical picture of the body and its interrelated parts is vital to this understanding (Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Cor. 12). Also, a certain equality under the sovereignty of God is a moderating factor, as we see in Job 31:13-15 and Ephesians 6:5-9.

Egalitarianism seeks to undermine and flatten these biblical relations. Feminism, youth rebellion, and radical individualism are expressions of this movement. Eventually a leveling of society, as found in communism and revolutionary democracy, is the end. The theory that all individuals are naturally born with the same rights, privileges, duties, and authority led to the social contract theories of Hobbes and Rousseau. This led to the French Revolution and centralized tyranny. As he faced this revolution of egalitarianism, John Randolph of Roanoke (1773-1833) declared that “I love liberty, I hate equality.” Egalitarians sought to destroy the mediating institutions, like the household and church, and left all men equal under the the single will of the people as declared by the state. In a feudal or hierarchical arrangement there were various relations that limited each other and were limited under God. This system of checks and balances leads to liberty. There might be someone under your authority, but you are also under authority (e.g. a man might be head of his family, but he also must submit to his elders at church).

The Bible does not teach egalitarianism. It does teach harmony, unity, and mutual honor and duties, but this is different than sameness. This biblical hierarchy has two reinforcing reasons. When Paul argued against women teaching or exercising authority over men in the church he appealed to creation and the fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14). These are universal truths about humanity, not limited to some particular situation. As Genesis 2-3 recounts, man and women were created differently, and then they sinned differently and were cursed differently. This is an true today as it is in Paul’s day. If man had never fell, there would still be “inferiors, superiors, and equals,” yet sin and the curse has made these distinctions even greater. Slavery, for example, is a result of sin and the curse. Some kind of slavery is inevitable in society during this age, though it is not desirable. God’s grace and redemption does not obliterate differences between people, but it does lessen the effects of sin over time. Thus slavery is softened and progressively minimized among Christians (1 Cor. 7:21-24). But our duties towards “inferiors, superiors, and equals” are more established by God’s grace, rather than lessened. Rebellion against God’s appointed order is a sign of rebellion, not grace.

Do not try hammering nails with a screw driver. Submission to God requires that we realize our created nature. We are not whatever we want to be. We are what God has created us to be. We are not inferior in worth just because we cannot do anything we want. The very traits that unfit us for one task may make us especially fit for another. Submission in faith to God’s order is the first step towards harmony and productivity.

A proper response to egalitarianism is not merely reactionary, but biblically principled, holding everyone to account and showing honor to all, especially to those who are weaker or inferior (1 Peter 3:7, 1 Cor. 12:21-25). It requires men and women who are converted by God's grace and equipped by God to fulfill their station in godliness. This revolution is real and must be met by words and deeds.

It is easy to underestimate or compromise with this revolution. Not only is it powerful in our culture, but it also sounds so nice. Yet egalitarianism is deadly. Egalitarianism undermines the authority of the household, the basic unit of society. It strikes at the root of civilization. It leaves the individual at the mercy of the state and the will of the people. Egalitarianism has resulted in bloody revolutions and tyrannical administrations. Egalitarianism in the form of feminism is primarily responsible for the holocaust of abortion. May God arise and scatter this revolt! And may we look at the destruction around us and seek to rebuild by taking responsibility for those around us, “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.”