Thursday, March 06, 2008

Overthrow at the End of the Ages?

Let's get back to some theology, shall we?

There has been a good discussion over at Green Baggins about the nature of apostasy under the New Covenant. As you may know, our friends in the Federal Vision love to appeal to Paul's warning in I Corinthians 10 to demonstrate that the Old and New Covenants are virtually the same with respect to our experience of divine grace and the ability to resist temptation.

To the text....

What I find interesting is that, after telling his readers that Israel's "overthrow" in the wilderness is "written down for their instruction," Paul reminds the Corinthians that it is upon them that "the ends of the ages have come" (v. 11). He then warns them against haughtiness, after which he assures them that God will be faithful to his promises to them, not allowing them to be tempted beyond their ability, but with every temptation will provide a means of escape (v. 13). Then in vv. 14ff he starts talking about the Lord's Supper.


There are passages in which Paul highlights continuity exclusively, and there are passages in which he focuses strictly upon discontinuity, but this is one of those texts where he expresses both (with the weight toward the former, to be sure).

But even here, where he draws an analogy between Israel's overthrow and our temptations, the apostle cannot resist mentioning that we are set apart from those who went before us in that the Spirit of the risen Christ has descended upon the New Covenant people of God and has served as a "Helper" in the midst of temptation.

My point is that we can no more easily draw a line straight from the Old Covenant community to ourselves than we can assume, without proving, that the only difference between the subject of Romans 7 and that of Romans 8 is his mood, disposition, or degree of covenant faithfulness.