Alliance Articles

Covenant Confusion

Thus says the Lord, "Stand by the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

There is a fine line between the use and the overuse of a word. The same is true with public figures. When someone is getting exposure, we are excited for them. But when they are over-exposed we are embarrassed for them. In my view, the word covenant has crossed that line in Christian circles. As such, one often hears it applied in dubious ways. We have gone from covenant people and covenant children to covenant schools and covenant businesses. I recently was given a bag of covenant coffee beans, which, by the way, I received as an effectual means of grace. Today, if you want to express a zeal to be distinctively Christian, and especially if you are Reformed-leaning, you are very likely to apply the word covenant to your activity or group or product. In the process, the word has begun to lose definition and take on little more than a vague nimbus.


The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul

Many intelligent Christians are puzzling today over what is being called "the new perspective on Paul." Seminary students run across it in their New Testament course reading and perhaps class lectures. Pastors hear about it from fledgling theologues wanting to impress them with their newfound knowledge of the latest thing in Pauline studies. Laypeople find it being peddled ubiquitously on the internet, on websites, in chatrooms or in various online discussion groups, as well as in numerous books on the Christian market, even from conservative evangelical publishing houses.

Why Talk About It?

We take up this subject mindful of the wise old dictum of the Westminster divines, who advise that in "confutation of false doctrines," the preacher "is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavor to satisfy their judgments and consciences against all objections."2 Our very taking up of the subject of the new perspective on Paul, then, assumes several things. (1) The new perspective on Paul is not some ancient matter, of no relevance to the current spiritual health of God's people, being trucked out to impress them with the preacher's skill in historical theology, New Testament exegesis and contemporary hermeneutics. (2) The new perspective on Paul is not a subject taken up unnecessarily. Indeed, to fail to take it up would leave church members, ministers and ministerial students vulnerable to an opinion that is, at the very least, undermining the definition of, and confidence in the historic Protestant understanding of, the Gospel itself. (3) The new perspective on Paul is productive of dangerous errors; errors which are increasingly common pertaining to our understanding of the nature of the Gospel, the meaning and importance of justification, the imputation of Christ's righteousness and more. And thus it needs to be understood and addressed so as to be confuted soundly. This presentation is one step in that direction.


An Appeal to Evangelicals

In the first week of October 1997, a coalition of individual Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants issued a joint statement of their common understanding of the Christian Gospel titled "The Gift of Salvation." It was an earnest attempt to state the message of salvation in language acceptable to heirs of the Protestant Reformation and to answer some of the objections that were raised to an earlier document known as "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" produced by many of the same people. On the surface, this new statement seems greatly improved, and in some respects it is. However, we are profoundly distressed by its assertions and omissions, which leave it seriously flawed. We understand it to be expressed in terms that are consistent with historic Roman Catholic theology, while failing adequately to express the essential Protestant understanding of the gospel, and we plead with our fellow evangelicals not to be misled by this new initiative but instead to hold firm to the doctrine of "justification by grace alone because of Christ alone through faith alone," which is the biblical Gospel.


The Problem of Tongues in I Corinthians 14

In a previous article I suggested an alternative explanation for the "other tongues" of Acts 2:4 (see A New Look At Tongues). Historical evidence demonstrates that both the Judeans from Palestine and the Diaspora Judeans shared the same native languages (i.e., Aramaic and Greek). The Judean crowd of Acts 2 had expected to be hearing the "holy tongue" (i.e., Hebrew) the proper language of the temple liturgy, the upper language of the Jewish diglossia. Instead, the disciples of Jesus when filled with the Spirit prophesied in their own native languages (i.e., Aramaic and Greek) and violated the Jewish diglossia. Luke designates these languages as "other tongues" (i.e., languages other than Hebrew). A natural response after exposure to this alternative explanation is to ask: "That makes sense in the context of Acts 2; how though does it make sense of the 'tongues' of 1 Corinthians 14?" This article provides an explanation for the "problem tongues" of 1 Corinthians 12-14.


A New Look At Tongues

The interpretation of Acts 2 most widely held throughout Christian history is the language miracle interpretation. According to this scenario, when the disciples used "other tongues" they were supernaturally speaking languages they had never learned. Proponents of this view assume (1) that the crowd of Acts 2 spoke many different native languages and (2) that the disciples were unable to speak these native languages (thus requiring a language miracle).

The narrative ofActs 2:1-13 makes no reference to any specific languages. The Acts 2:9-11 listing is of people-groups and geographical areas, not individual languages. In spite of this absence of reference to any particular language, some have conjectured that a dozen or more languages were spoken by the disciples. Stanley H. Horton claimed: "Some suppose that only the 12 apostles were filled [with the Spirit] (32). However, more than 12 languages were spoken." Carl F H. Henry similarly wrote: "The sixteen or seventeen, perhaps more, Pentecost tongues were not ecstatic utterances but recognizable human languages" (377).


Leadership & Conflict

I am a leader. I am a person of influence. So are you.

I serve the Lord as a pastor. You may be a Sunday school teacher, a youth sponsor, an elder in your church, or a deacon. You may own your own business, work in an office, teach in a school, or minister in a local hospital. You may serve as a police officer or in a local, state, or federal government position. Regardless of your title or responsibilities, you influence those around you. Therefore, you are a leader!

Leaders face many challenges. That is why they're leaders. However, the greatest test of leadership will occur in conflict. God has called me to pastoral ministry. God has also permitted conflict and trials to occur in my pastoral ministry. I neither sought nor desired these conflicts. However, God used these times of testing to make me the godly leader He desires. The same is true for you. I have come to believe that conflict is an indispensable tool God uses to develop godly leadership.


A King and His Kingdom

What is this Kingdom? Three questions must be answered.
1. What is the source and origin? Why did Jesus Christ “need” to be King and to have this Kingdom? What is THE PURPOSE?
2. What kind of Kingdom is it, the nature of it?
3. What is the extent of Christ’s Kingdom? When did it begin?
When will it end? Where is it? Who all and what all are included in Christ’s Kingdom? And where will this Kingdom be?


How Shall I Go To God

It is with our sins that we go to God, for we have nothing else to go with that we can call our own. This is one of the lessons that we are so slow to learn; yet without learning this we cannot take one right step in that which we call a religious life.

To look up some good thing in our past life, or to get some good thing now, if we find that our past does not contain any such thing, is our first thought when we begin to inquire after God, that we may get the great question settled between Him and us, as to the forgiveness of our sins.


God's Will & Man's Will

Much of the present controversy is concerning the will of God. On this point many questions have arisen. The chief one is that which touches on the connection between the will of God and the will of man. What is the relation between these? What is the order in which they stand to each other? Which is first?

There is no dispute as to the existence of these two separate wills. There is a will in God, and there is also a will in man. Both of these are in continual exercise; God willeth; and man willeth. Nothing in the universe takes place without the will of God. This is admitted. But it is asked, Is this will first in everything?


Detective Columbo As Theologian

To dig deeper into this subject, you can order Zerhusen's three lecture series, "A New Look At Tongues" (available on cassette in the Alliance on-line resource catalog here on this website). In these three tapes, Zerhusen presents his thesis of the meaning of tongues in the Book of Acts, as well as in 1 Corinthians. The final lecture is a presentation of the history and practice of tongues throughout church history.

One of the most popular fictional characters is Television Detective Columbo. Columbo uses the "scientific method" (i.e., asking questions. gathering data, testing theories) to arrive at solutions. Columbo episodes usually follow a set pattern. First, there is a murder, leading to a police investigation. The initial explanations of the crime make sense but are invariably wrong.