The Internalization of the Law is Not New to the NT - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
Check out these books on Covenant Theology.
When dealing with Covenant Theology “simple” is a good thing. After the Bible, this work is the FIRST that you should read, or one that you should introduce to a friend if they are struggling with covenant concepts.
There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.
Dispensational theology teaches us that Pentecost in Acts 2 was an event that gave the church the Spirit. Is this right? Did the Old Testament Saints have the spirit of God? Was the law in their hearts as it is in the modern day Christian heart post-Pentecost? Read and see!
Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”
One of the more famous verses in the Psalms that Christians memorize is Psalm 119:11. Psalm 119 is a cornerstone Psalm about the magnificence of the Word of God, the Law of the Lord, and the Psalmist’s desire to keep it steadfastly. Psalm 119:11 is set in the “beth” section of the acrostic psalm (the second section corresponding to the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with Psalm 119 having 22 sections). The first section (aleph) sets the stage for the entire psalm. It speaks of those who remain undefiled as a result of walking in the law of the Lord, keeping God’s testimonies, seeking God with their whole heart through the Law, and remembering those who taught them the law. The second section begins with the question “Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his ways?” The immediate answer to this is through the Word of God. He has sought the Lord, and desires that he would not stray from God’s commandments. Then the psalmist says that the Word of God is hidden in his heart, in order that he might not sin against God. Certainly there is much to be said about hiding the Word of God in our hearts. But for the purposes of this article, it is important to note that The Word of God actually made it into the psalmist’s heart. Now, this might not seem so important. But in light of Dispensational theology that views the New Testament as internalized, and the Old Testament as externalized, noting the reality that the Word of God was hid in the heart of the psalmist is crucially important.
Radical Dispensational theology (such as those following Ryrie, Chafer and Walvoord) divides the redemptive purposes of God into a number of separate “dispensations” (usually seven) where the current plan of God is taking place in the “age of the church.” A milder version of this theology is seen in Baptistic theology that separates the plan of God into two distinct time periods and two manners in which God works among His people – a time of promise (through the various of covenants in the Old Testament) and a time of newness (the “new” covenant in Christ). Radical Dispensationalism sees the Old Testament in various stages where God works in other salvific ways through physical means with the nation of Israel, and then spiritual means through the church later on, culminating in the pouring out of the Spirit in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. God having now turned from Israel to the church, this age being a special dispensation of grace, He has internalized His law where in the Old Testament it is externalized on tablets of stone. Mild Dispensationalism still picks up this distinction in many ways claiming that Jeremiah 31:33 (the foundational passage for Baptistic theology’s dichotomy) speaks to this, “After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Here, they say, demonstrates the necessity of a regenerate membership which have the law written on their hearts. This is what makes the “new covenant” “new.” This, then, seems to be a contrast to what God was doing in the Old Testament where unregenerate people could be part of the covenant community (cf. Korah, Dathan, Achan, Saul, and some infants of believing parents, etc.) For the dispensationalist, then, there seems to be a change in the New Covenant that demonstrates that the law, not previously written on the hearts of the people of God in the Old Testament, is now part of the “new package” in the New Testament.
The dispensationalist knows that this is a problem and he has certain answers at his disposal. Inevitability rings, and the dispensationalist attempts to correct this thinking by saying that “some” Old Testament saints were regenerate, but not indwelt by the Spirit of God. Charles Spurgeon, the famous 19th century English Baptist preacher is a prime example of this confusion when he says that the Holy Spirit “bounces around” in the Old Testament where in the New Testament he “lands.” Spurgeon says, “Being endowed more richly with the Spirit of God, the modern church should attempt grander works than Israel ever thought upon, and so there should be a shining more and more unto the perfect day.” (MTP Volume 27, Page 330) In other words, the Old Testament people of God were not richly endowed. He also says, “The Spirit of God was not given till after Jesus had been glorified.” (MTP Volume 9, 365). This is quite plain according to his stance that the Spirit was given at Pentecost, and not before. He asserts, “At the commencement of the Old Testament dispensation, what manifestation do we get? God gives his people a law. At the commencement of the New Testament dispensation, what do we get? A law? No, the Lord gives his people the Spirit. That is a very different matter…. No more have we the law upon stone, but the Spirit writes the precept upon the fleshy tablets of the heart… The Lord is among us in a higher degree than ever he was in Sinai, where bounds were set to keep off the trembling people (MTP Volume 30, page 396).” Spurgeon seemed to believe two distinct ideas: 1) That Old Testament people could be saved in the Old Testament by faith, but 2) that only New Testament believers had been given the promise of the Spirit. For instance, he says, “The Lord is in the midst of his people in love and fellowship, and by the indwelling Spirit whereby he leads the sacred matchings of his redeemed. Pentecost was thus the inauguration of the gospel dispensation. THE GREAT COVENANT BLESSING OF THE CHURCH…is the gift of the Holy Ghost… He is permanently resident in the midst of the church (MTP Volume 20, Page 19).” A key here is his understanding of “permanency.” In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit “bounced around” without a sense of permanency. In other words, believers today are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but in the Old Testament they were simply regenerated. This makes little sense theologically speaking, but this seems to be what Spurgeon meant. Spurgeon says, “And now, secondly, let us note that THIS TWOFOLD MINISTRY IS SECURED. According to our text, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come.” They always do say it, and always will say it till Jesus comes. The Spirit says it. What a cry must this be which comes up from the Spirit of God himself! Given at Pentecost, he has never returned nor left the church, but he dwells in chosen hearts, as in a temple, even to this day (MTP Volume 22, Pages 501-502).” Spurgeon attempts to solidify this in his theology through his erroneous interpretation of the promise of Joel, and Peter’s use of that prophecy in his sermon at Pentecost. He comments, “Further, notice, in the next place, that the time of this proclamation is present; for Peter tells us that the time spoken of by the prophet Joel began at Pentecost. When the rushing, mighty wind was heard, and the flaming tongues sat upon the disciples’ heads, then was the gospel dispensation opened in all its freeness. The Holy Ghost, who then came down to earth, has never returned; he is still in the midst of the church, not working physical wonders, but performing moral and spiritual miracles in our midst, even to this day (MTP Volume 32, Page 812).” Spurgeon’s understanding of the Spirit and the time of His “giving” was at Pentecost, and not before. Something about the Spirit in the New Testament makes New Testament saints different than in the Old Testament. The problem here is theologically avoiding the salvific issues that surround this.
This typical misunderstanding does a great amount of damage to the work of the Spirit throughout the time of redemptive history. In contrast to what he says above about the Spirit being given at Pentecost, Spurgeon also says this, “[Such a] man is no Christian who is not the subject of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; he may talk well, he may understand theology, and be a sound Calvinist; he will be the child of nature finely dressed, but not the living child (Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 1 Page 33).” He also says, “We who are born unto God have the first fruits of the kingdom of God in possessing the indwelling Spirit; and in the first fruits we see the entire harvest (MTP Volume 28, Page 37).” If Old Testament saints are “born unto God,” what is the distinction that Spurgeon so adamantly makes in the previous paragraphs, unless of course he does not think they are born unto God? The distinction is a dispensational attempt to create a false dichotomy between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God in the New Testament. If Old Testament saints were not indwelt by the Spirit of God, and if they did not have the Spirit of God writing the law of God on their hearts, then the prophets, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles we all wrong about the manner in which the Spirit of God operated through redemptive history, and all those Old Testament saints were lost and damned. 1 John 5:1 says that whoever believes Jesus Christ is born of God. We know the Gospel was preached to Abraham and he believed it, being the father of our faith (Galatians 3:8 and Romans 4:3). Abraham was born of God in the same exact way we are today – by faith in Christ, and he was indwelt by the Spirit, being given the seal of the age to come – the city made without hands that he longed to see.
Did Jesus believed that men like Abraham, or any Old Testament saint among the Israelites, were saved and indwelt by the Spirit having the law written on their hearts? Yes. Jesus says in John 3:3 and 5 that “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” If Noah, Abraham and Moses were not born again, they did not, they cannot, enter heaven. This is why Jesus was so forthright with Nicodemas in understanding the continuity of His rule and reign and the Old Testament. In John 3:10 he rebukes Nicodemas for misunderstanding the role of the Spirit, His indwelling and regeneration, when He says, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” Nicodemas, a ruler of Israel, should have known about the indwelling power of the regenerating Spirit of God in changing the heart of the people of God. (cf. Ezek. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26). The implications here are enormous. If Nicodemas is a ruler of the Jews, and a teacher of the people of God, this operation of the Spirit of God should have been something he knew about and something he was teaching the people of God as the prophets had always done. The operation of the Spirit of God indwelling and regenerating the heart was an Old Testament doctrine. Even 1 Peter 1:11 is quite plain, “Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Here Peter is referring to the “prophets (verse 2).” Certainly, Old Testament saints were indwelt by the Spirit of the same Jesus that rose again from the dead four-hundred years after those prophets had long died. Indwelling by the Spirit of God is not a New Testament doctrine.
Why then was Spurgeon (and contemporary Baptists) so confused about what happened at Pentecost? Was Pentecost the first time the Spirit of God had been given to the people of God? No, not at all. Is a pouring of the Spirit something new that the Old Testament saints were not aware of? Could they deny the working of the Spirit in Moses, Elijah, Elisha or the prophets? Isaiah 32:15 says, “Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.” Isaiah 44:3 says, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring; They will spring up among the grass Like willows by the watercourses.’” In the restoration passage of Ezekiel 39:29, God states, “’And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.” In Joel 2:28, the classic passage, God says, “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.” This idea of the pouring out the Spirit is an Old Testament doctrine realized in the fullness of the divine promises in Jesus Christ. As Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced.” Again, this is a restoration passage of the exiled people of God. In Numbers 11:26 it says, “But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp.” The word “rested” is “noo-akh” which means (in Qal form) “to rest and remain.” There was no “bouncing around.” When the Spirit rested on someone, He remained there. Even the Baptist document, the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, says that those who are effectually called and saved, “receive the spirit of adoption.” (Chapter 12:1) Did Spurgeon miss this? At least at this point, Particular Baptists who had been over influenced by the Westminster Confession of Faith seemed to have understood that the Spirit of Adoption was received by those saved, no matter what age they were in (unless they simply copied it without thinking through it). What has happened today? Today, it seems, more people are affected by a growing dispensational theology.
What do we do with the few instances in the Old Testament that speak of the Spirit departing? For Samson, the Old Testament judge, some would say the Spirit was taken away from him. Judges 16:20 says, “But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.” This is not referring to the Spirit of his salvation (as one of the faithful to be spoken of in Hebrews 11) but in the help of the Lord by His Spirit. For Saul, the reprobate king who was not converted, 1 Samuel 16:14 says, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.” Here we see the contrast, not of salvation, but of influence around Saul. The evil spirit tormented Saul, as the Spirit of God had briefly helped him. This verse has nothing to do with salvation, or the possibility of becoming “unregenerate” after being “regenerate.” In Numbers 12:7 we see the same thing – God will not remain “near” in the operations of His help to those who rebel against Him, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed,” speaking of God’s disdain for the actions of Miriam and Aaron who were jealous of Moses. Such retreat of God’s aid is often seen in His withdrawing from His people for their chastisement, “Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims (Ezekiel 10:18).” This, though, does not mean that Old Testament saints were saved, then lost their salvation, or could lose their salvation by God’s Spirit departing from them (cf. Psalm 51:11). That would obviously overthrow the sovereignty of God.
To understand that Old Testament believers were saved and indwelt by the Spirit of God, the internalization of the law in the heart of the Old Testament believer should be understood. The writing of the law on the heart is not something new to the New Testament. It is the central focus of the Old Testament and God’s redemptive plan, something the New Testament explains. God’s final plan did not end in the tablets of stone – that was a visible representation of what should have happened in the heart of the believer. Such is also the case of the visible sign of circumcision – the tearing away of the flesh as symbolic of regeneration – for the visible sign of regeneration was given to the federal head of the home. The Old Testament is full of verses speaking about the Law written on the heart, and the working of the heart in contemplation of that Law in this regard. The following are some samples:
Deuteronomy 4:39, “Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
Deuteronomy 6:6, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”
Deuteronomy 8:2, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”
Deuteronomy 11:18, “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Deuteronomy 30:14, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
Zechariah 8:17, “Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”
Psalm 37:31, “The law of his God is in his heart; None of his steps shall slide.”
Psalm 119:10, “With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”
Psalm 119:34, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
Psalm 119:69, “The proud have forged a lie against me, But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.”
There are also a number of Scriptures that deal with the law specifically said to be in the heart of God’s Old Testament people. Again, here are some samples:
Isaiah 51:7, “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults.”
Psalm 40:8. “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”
Proverbs 3:1, “My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands.”
Certainly, on the same note, the idea of regeneration is seen as the circumcised heart. Deut. 30:6 says, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deut 10:16 also mentions this, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” In Jeremiah 4:4 we find this statement, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.” And it is clear that circumcision had a direct correlation to the heart even into the New Testament “but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God (Romans 2:29).” Even Romans 2:15 demonstrates that the Gentiles, in a base manner, had the law written on their hearts even though they were without the law, “who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness…”
There are explicit references to people in the Old Testament with their hearts changed and having the law written on it, and serving God out of a changed heart. The previous verses are enough, but to repeat them, and to note more stresses the point. Consider Deut. 30:10, “if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” The turning of the heart, having the law written there in pleasing God, was God’s intention. Moses is quite explicit in Deut 30:11-14, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.” Joshua 22:5 says the same, “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” This heart change was an expected aspect of the Old Testament, and of fundamental obedience to God. Consider also 2 Kings 10:31, “But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.” Jehu did not exemplify a heart change, and walked contrary to God. On the positive side we see Ezra preparing his heart to keep the law in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Good king Josiah also is said to have had a heart that walked after God’s law in 2 Kings 23:25, “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” Hezekiah also did this as stated in 2 Chron. 31:21, “And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.” The Psalmist is also quite explicit in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”
If the law was not in the hearts of the people of God in the Old Testament, then these passages, and others like them, in fact Jesus’ teaching in John 3, is utter nonsense. For some reason, dispensationalists believe that there are some “people of God” who have “a super portion” of the “Spirit” than others. They think that Pentecost inaugurated a “Spirit” that was not previously “permanent,” to use Spurgeon’s language. David said, “Lord do not take your Holy Spirit from me,” so some believe that after being “regenerated” in the Old Testament sense (whatever that means to them for the Old Testament saint in general) that such an “indwelling” or “temporary residing” could be taken away. But Jesus had taught that even in the simple prayers of the people, those who asked for “more” of the Holy Spirit, or the power of His influence in their lives, could be attained, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13) Jesus did not distinguish between the Old Testament saint and the New Testament saint in this regard. Jesus taught this as a present reality even before he died on the cross, and before the upper room incident in Acts 2. Those people could have prayed for more of the Spirit’s influence in their life, and they would have received it. Elisha asked this of Elijah and received it 2 Kings 2:9, “And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” (Even Jesus Christ, our Lord, was given the Spirit (not savingly but by empowerment) without measure before He died on the cross and ascended into heaven. As a matter of fact, such empowerment was given at His baptism, “And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove (Mark 1:10).” Even here we see the consistent operation of the Spirit for the work of the ministry, as is seen beginning in Acts 2).
According to Spurgeon’s dispensational thinking, there are saints (like Abraham, the father of our faith) who have less of the Spirit than Christians do today. There are some people who are “post-Pentecost” that have “Super test” Spirit, and others, like poor Abraham in the Old Testament, who are simply running on regular gas. Yes, there seems to be a super high test Spirit, and a regular Spirit. This, though, seems to do more damage to the nature of the Spirit of God than it does to the individual who is thinking he is better than Old Testament saints in some spiritual way more “complete.” Does the Spirit of God really have such a different ministry and different indwelling power in subsequent ages? Or, have people like Spurgeon simply misunderstood, the nature of the continuity of the Spirit’s work? Either a person has the Spirit of God, or he does not. There is no middle ground, as the Pentecostals and charismatics would like us to believe – some baptized in the Spirit and others not baptized. Dispensationalists seem to take up this argument to some extent by misunderstanding the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. We should turn there for a moment as well.
There are loads of commentaries and papers written on Pentecost. It is out of the scope of this short paper to discuss Pentecost at length, but the overall picture is quite plain to ascertain. In Acts 1, Jesus ascends into heaven. The disciples are instructed to wait in Jerusalem for the empowering of the Holy Spirit to come upon them to preach. They go. Previously, according to Luke, Jesus had already opened their mind to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45). Now they were waiting for an anointing or power to accompany the message. Acts 2 details this. The Spirit baptizes them. How? Tongues of fire “set” upon their heads (effusion). Tongues? Why tongues of fire? And why tongues of fire? They are being empower to preach! They are empowered to preach, and Peter does preach to the listening Jews. The judgmental eschatological reality of the baptizing fire from Jesus Christ moves in and through preaching. In commenting on the “fire” of John the Baptist’s prophetic word about Jesus in Luke 3:17 Richard Gaffin says succinctly, “Verse 17 plainly shows that the fire of the Messiah’s baptism is destructive, or at least includes a destructive aspect (cf. verse 9), and that this baptism as a whole involves nothing less than the eschatological judgment with its dual outcome of salvation or destruction. Messianic Spirit-and-fire baptism is of a piece with God’s great discriminating activity of cleansing the world-threshing floor or, to vary the metaphor slightly, harvesting the world-field, at the end of history (Perspectives on Pentecost, Page 15).” The point is not that the Spirit is given as an extra-added bonus to the church, something they did not have before, but that Jesus Christ will be present in and through the Spirit in the Church post-glorification and ascension for empowerment for ministry. Jews had been saved and had the Spirit, but now such an outpouring goes also to the Gentiles, which is an eschatological judgment reality. This is why the subsequent passages that Luke deals with in Acts demonstrate the Spirit reaching to the Gentiles, and baptizing them as well (cf. Samaritans in Acts 8:12-13; the eunuch in 8:36; Cornelius in 10:47; Lydia from Thyatira in 16:15; the Romans jailor in 16:34; and The Ephesians in 19:3). Those baptized at Pentecost were not suddenly converted (cf. for instance Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16:16). Rather, all of them powerfully affirm the work of God in subsequent tongues that are known (real languages of the peoples around Jerusalem to hear of the glory of God by way of the mouth), and the people believe them to be drunk. Peter corrects these misguided Diasporatic Jews, causing them to understand through preaching that this is the promise of Joel being fulfilled there in their midst. The promise of Joel surrounds restoration. The restoration passages of the Old Testament are exceedingly important, and often misunderstood (as Spurgeon does). Joel’s prophecy surrounds the ingathering of the exiled Jews. The exiles of the Diaspora had been called back by Peter’s message, and those represented there, from the surrounding provinces and towns, were hearing the glory of God given in their own tongues. Coincidence? Not at all. This is the beginning of the eschatological fulfillment of God’s work in and through Christ by His Holy Spirit. God had planned a regathering of His people from exile under the reign of the coming Messiah who rules and reigns from heaven, on His everlasting throne, but by the fire of the Spirit. Here, at Pentecost, this comes to light. Jesus is the Messiah, and these Jews put Him to death. He rose again and ascended into heaven, and sits on the throne of His father David, who prophesized about His coming. To create a dichotomy between the “church age” and the Old Testament saints is to miss the point of the entire passage, and the prophecy of Joel. Jesus came for the restoration of the Jewish people, as Matthew 15:24 states emphatically, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” On Pentecost, the ingathering of the people of God (the Jews’ restoration from exile) is the point here, and three thousand souls were saved that day. More will be saved (more Jews) as many as are afar off – as the Lord calls them through His word, and in His time. Joel makes this quite plain when he says “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” Joel 2:32 continues the thought of verse 27, “I am in the midst of Israel.” Joel’s prophecy is to the house of Israel, not the Gentiles. The Gentiles will not come into the picture, formally, until later (though sporadic elements can be seen with people such as the Samaritan woman, the Centurion, and the Syrophonecian woman (John 4:7; Matthew 8:8; Matthew 7:26)). Yes, Jesus has “other sheep” (the Gentiles, John 10:16) which He will bring into the fold through the preliminary labors of Peter (Acts 10:21) and the subsequent labors through Paul (Acts 13:46). Thus, those “afar off…whom the Lord shall call” in Acts 2:29 in Peter’s speech at Pentecost, are Joel’s remnant as stated in Joel 2:32, the “remnant whom the LORD shall call.” These are the exiles Jews coming back through restoration. Peter is making a covenant call in Acts 2 to the Jews there. John Owen says, “So Peter tells them, in his first sermon, that “the promise was unto them and their children” who were then present, —that is, the house of Judah; and “to all that were afar off,” —that is, the house of Israel in their dispersions (Works, Volume 22, Page 122). Even A.W. Pink, a Baptist, says, “The very first inspired sermon preached after the new covenant had been established, Peter said to the convicted Jews (Exposition on Hebrews, Volume 1, Page 508). Calvin says the same thing when he says that Peter is “addressing the Jews in his first sermon (Commentary on Hebrews, Page 130) (cf. Institutes 4:16:15).” Joel’s prophecy of the pouring out of the Spirit points to the regathering of the Jews from exile, and the restoration process which will take place under the Messiah. Later on Paul will then take the idea of those “whom the Lord will call” to apply to Gentiles (cf. Romans 10:13; Ephesians 2:17), those grafted into the tree stump of the covenant of God (Romans 11).
Tongues of fire fired up the one hundred and twenty to glorify God and to testify with their empowered tongues about the glory of Christ. Why were they filled again later in chapter 4 through prayer if this was some sort of “new conversion experience?” Acts 4:31 says, “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” The rushing wind seemed to have again shaken the place, as before He had come with a rushing wind in the upper room. The Spirit came to accompany the message of those already born again – now they needed the influence and power of the Spirit upon them (just as all Christians do). Yet, this does not mark a “new” way of being saved, or the “indwelling” aspect of the Holy Spirit that was “unavailable” in the Old Testament. Christians have been so radically fooled by dispensational thinking that they revel in and believe that they have something “greater” than father Abraham!
Such warped sentiments do not overthrow the reality that the Word of God, the Law, was written on the hearts of Old Testament saints, in the same way, by the same Spirit, and by the same power as they are today. Regeneration has not changed. It is an Old Testament concept now continuing until the consummation (final restoration) of God’s people at Christ second coming. At that second coming, the people of God will be gathered together (1 Thess. 4:17), will know God from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:34; Hebrews 8:11) and will inherit the whole of the earth, instead of a small parcel of land to be restored to (Psalm 37:9; Isaiah 49:8; Matthew 5:5). To say otherwise is to reject Abraham as the father of our faith, and the promises made to him by God (Genesis 15 and 17). He could not possibly be the father of our faith if the Holy Spirit were doing something different in the Old Testament than He is in the New Testament (if there was a plan A and plan B). That would make Romans 4 wrong, and subsequently, all of Paul’s arguments up and through Romans 9 would be nonsense. Quickly the Christian faith comes tumbling down when Dispensational thinking enters into the church. Spurgeon is just one of many who attribute to the current downward spiral of Dispensationalism in contemporary Christendom. But if we understand that the internalization of the Law is not new to the New Testament, we will understand the continuity of the work of God more clearly as we mimic the faith of Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11). The Law has always been written on the hearts of God’s people. It is only way He works in saving men. Christians should say with the Old Testament psalmist – “I have hidden Your word in my heart…”
Christian, are you like the psalmist of the Old Testament? “The law of his God is in his heart (Psalm 37:31).” “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart (Psalm 40:8).” If you are not, then you are not a Christian. If you are, then you are of the faith and lineage of father Abraham, who saw Christ’s day and was glad (John 8:56).
The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
Check Out these Books on Covenant Theology
Presumptive Regeneration, or, the Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants by Cornelius Burges (1589-1665)
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism by Cuthbert Sydenham (1622-1654)
Infant Baptism of Christ’s Appointment by Samuel Petto (1624-1711)
Covenant Holiness and Infant Baptism by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
The Manifold Wisdom of God Seen in Covenant Theology by George Walker (1581-1651)
The Covenant of God by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
A Chain of Theological Principles by John Arrowsmith (1602-1659)
The Covenant of Life Opened by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
The Covenant of Redemption by Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
The Doctrine and Practice of Infant Baptism by John Brinsley (1600-1665)
God’s Covenant and Our Duty By Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
God’s Glory in Man’s Happiness by Francis Taylor (1589-1656)
Infant Baptism God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison (1640-1729)
Jesus Christ God’s Shepherd by William Strong (d. 1654)