Monday, July 31, 2006

Federal Headship

Federal Headship

Federal Headship is foreign to the modern mind, but it is a biblical concept. It is the teaching that the father is the one who represents his family, his descendents. Proof of this can be found in Heb. 7:8-10.

"Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. 9Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, 10for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him."

Levi was a distant descendent of Abraham, yet it is said that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek even though he wasn't born. How is this so? We know that Levi did not physically carry out the act of paying tithes, but we do know that Abraham did and we also know that Abraham was the representative head of his descendents. This is how it can be said that Levi also paid tithes to Melchizedek.
Federal Headship also finds its place in the Epistle of Romans when Paul says in Rom. 5:12-14,

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come."

The Bible knowledge Commentary says, "The federal headship view considers Adam, the first man, as the representative of the human race that generated from him. As the representative of all humans, Adam’s act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made the penalty of everybody."1 Also, "The federal headship of Adam presupposes and rests upon his natural headship. He was our natural head before he was our federal head. He was doubtless made our federal representative because he was our natural progenitor, and was so conditioned that his agency must affect our destinies, and because our very nature was on trial (typically if not essentially) in him. Whatever, therefore, of virtue in this explanation the natural headship of Adam may be supposed to contain the federal theory retains."2 Therefore, it should be clear that Adam represented us and when he fell, we fell.
But some may object and say that this is not fair. They will say that we should not be held responsible for Adam's sin because we never sinned. If this is the position that they want to hold, then let's take a look at the cross and see why Federal Headship is important in relation to Jesus.

Jesus represented His people

1 Cor. 15:45 says, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit." The "last Adam" is a reference to Jesus because of the similar relationship that exists between them both. That is, both Adam and Jesus are representative heads. Please consider 1 Cor. 15:22 that says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." This is teaching us that Adam and Christ are heads of groups. Notice "in Adam" and "in Christ" referencing our position in relationship to both of them.
If Adam did not represent mankind, then Jesus could not represent the Christians when He died on the cross. As Adam's offense resulted in condemnation to all people, so also, Jesus' sacrifice results in justification for those who believe in Him (Rom. 5:18). It is because of Federal Headship -- legal representation -- that we are able to be saved at all. As Adam's sin was imputed3 to us because of the Fall, our sin was likewise imputed to Jesus on the cross and Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us when we receive Him. In other words, if it was not for the biblical idea of Federal Headship (of one person representing others), then Jesus could not have represented us on the cross. If Jesus did not represent us on the cross, then it could not be said of us that " have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God," (Col. 3:3); and, "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him," (Rom. 6:8).
Jesus represented us so completely on the cross that it can be said that we have died with Him. If it were not for Federal Headship, this would not be possible and we could not have died to sin.


Federal Headship is a biblical concept with some very important ramifications. Because of the biblical concept, we are able to enjoy salvation; we have died to sin, and we can rest in Christ who represented us before the Father in His satisfaction of the Law of God.

1. Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.
2. Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology, (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group) 1999.
3. To impute means to reckon to another's account, to credit to another's account.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Defending My Father’s Wrath

Defending My Father’s Wrath

June 14, 2006

There are cultural forces at work inside and outside the church that make me eager to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defense. But I believe he would be honored by it. And he commanded us, “Honor your father” (Exodus 20:12).

I write this from Cambridge, England, and my indignation about the assault on my Father is British-born. The calumny I have in mind is the following paragraph from a popular British writer:

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: "God is love". If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003], pp. 182-183).

This is breathtaking coming from a professing Christian. On behalf of my Father in heaven I would like to bear witness to the truth that before he adopted me his terrible wrath was upon me. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus. Paul puts it like this: We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath.

My destiny was to endure “flaming fire” and “vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was a “son of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). I was dead in trespasses and sins. And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: “Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).

There was only one hope for me—that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.

This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.

How did he do it? He did it in the way Steve Chalke slanderously calls “cosmic child abuse.” God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love “morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith,” it was not different in Paul’s day. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba Father (Romans 8:15). Therefore, I pray, “Please know, heavenly Father, that I thank you with all my heart, and that I measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Down Grade" II

"Down Grade" II

    In April, The Sword and the Trowel carried a second article entitled "The Down Grade." In it, Robert Shindler continued his overview of the history of the decline of Puritanism. He laid the blame for the downhill slide at the feet of the church leaders. Even those who were orthodox in their teaching were not earnestly contending (Jude 3), but were weak in defending the faith, Shindler said. As one example, he cited Philip Doddridge (1702-1751), best known today as the hymn writer who penned "O Happy Day" and "Grace, 'Tis a Charming Sound." Doddridge, according to Shindler, "was as sound as he was amiable; but perhaps he was not always judicious; or more probably still, he was too judicious, and not sufficiently bold and decided."[9]
    Doddridge had been principle of the academy where most non-conformist ministers went for training in the mid-1700s. Shindler's judgment was that "[Doddridge's] amiable disposition permitted him to do what men made of sterner stuff would not have done. He sometimes mingled in a fraternal manner, even exchanging pulpits, with men whose orthodoxy was called in question. It had its effect on many of the younger men, and served to lessen in the estimate of the people generally the growing divergence of sentiment."[10] In other words, Shindler felt that Doddridge's tolerance of unorthodox teachers obscured from his ministerial students the awful reality that these men were guilty of serious error, and left the students exposed to the deadly effects of their heresy. But, Shindler hastened to add, no one could "insinuate even the suspicion of heresy" against Doddridge himself.
    Because of the attitude of tolerance implanted by Doddridge, the academy at last succumbed to Socinianism, then was dissolved in the generation after Doddridge's passing.[11]
    Shindler paraphrased Hosea 4:9: "Like priest, like people," and wrote, "Little good can be expected of such ministers, and little hoped for of the hearers who approve their sentiments."[12] He warned against such tolerance, suggesting it is better to err on the side of caution:
In too many cases sceptical daring seems to have taken the place of evangelical zeal, and the husks of theological speculations are preferred to the wholesome bread of gospel truth. With some the endeavour seems to be not how steadily and faithfully they can walk in the truth, but how far they can get from it. To them divine truth is like a lion or a tiger, and they give it "a wide berth." Our counsel is—Do not go too near the precipice; you may slip or fall over. Keep where the ground is firm; do not venture on the rotten ice.[13]

He gave specific examples of how tolerance had led to disaster, noting that the "tadpole of Darwinism was hatched. . . [in a pew] of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury," where Charles Darwin had first been introduced to skepticism by a pastor who was enthralled with Socinianism. And he noted that the chapel once pastored by Matthew Henry, author of the famous commentary on the whole Bible, had for years been teaching "full-blown Socinianism."[14]
    The Baptists, Shindler noted, had seen their share of churches on the down-grade. He named several churches in the county of Kent that had embraced Socinianism: those at Dover, Deal, Wingham, and Yalding.
    But, he noted, there were a few notable exceptions to the rule. Those churches willing to fight for the faith and uphold the doctrines of grace and God's sovereignty had managed to avoid the fate of those on the down-grade. They were singular illustrations of the up-grade, Shindler said, showing the down-grade in bold relief.
    How did so many Bible-believing churches go astray? And why does this happen again and again in human history? Shindler raised these questions:
In the case of every errant course there is always a first wrong step. If we can trace that wrong step, we may be able to avoid it and its results. Where, then, is the point of divergence from the "King's highway of truth"? What is the first step astray? Is it doubting this doctrine, or questioning that sentiment, or being sceptical as to the other article of orthodox belief? We think not. These doubts and this scepticism are the outcome of something going before.[15]

What was that "something"? What was the common denominator between all those who started on the down-grade?
The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God's Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. "To the law and to the testimony," is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him.
    In looking carefully over the history of the times, and the movement of the times, of which we have written briefly, this fact is apparent: that where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way. But when, on the other hand, reason has been exalted above revelation, and made the exponent of revelation, all kinds of errors and mischiefs have been the result.[16]

Shindler noted a correlation between Calvinistic doctrine and a high view of Scripture, suggesting that the great majority of those who remained committed to the authority of Scripture were "more or less Calvinistic in doctrine."[17] In the "Notes" section of that same issue of The Sword and the Trowel, Spurgeon added this: "We care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system; but we believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold men to the vital truth."[18] The clear implication to both Spurgeon and Shindler was that a high view of Scripture goes hand in hand with a high view of divine sovereignty. Moreover, Shindler noted, those churches that held firmly to sound doctrine remained healthy and flourished, while those that embraced Socinianism inevitably began to dwindle and die. Shindler quoted the Rev. Job Orton, a man who evidently had Socinian leanings himself but nonetheless wrote a warning to pastors flirting with liberal theology:
"I have long since found," says [Orton] "(and every year that I live increases my conviction of it), that when ministers entertain their people with lively and pretty things, confine themselves to general harangues, insist principally on moral duties, without enforcing them warmly and affectionately by evangelical motives; while they neglect the peculiars of the gospel, never or seldom display the grace of God, and the love of Christ in our redemption; the necessity of regeneration and sanctification by a constant dependence on the Holy Spirit of God for assistance and strength in the duties of the Christian life, their congregations are in a wretched state; some are dwindling to nothing, as is the case with several in this neighbourhood, where there are now not as many scores as there were hundreds in their meeting-places, fifty years ago. . . . There is a fatal deadness spread over the congregation. They run in 'the course of this world,' follow every fashionable folly, and family and personal godliness seems in general to be lost among them. There is scarcely any appearance of life and zeal."[19]

Shindler wryly added, "It would seem that Orton had seen the folly of 'the down grade' course, and was anxious to bear his testimony, to deter others."[20]
    Then he closed that article with an appeal to the centrality and sufficiency of God's Word:
But leaving men and their opinions, the Word of the Lord standeth fast forever; and that Word to every one who undertakes to be God's messenger, and to speak the Lord's message to the people, is "He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord."
    "The Lord help us all to be 'steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.'"[21]

With that the two-part series ended.
    Shindler appended it with a third article for the June Sword and Trowel. The June article offered an analysis of a heresy trial in America involving some professors from Andover Theological Seminary, Andover, New York. Andover had been founded less than a hundred years earlier in response to Socinianism at Harvard. Andover's founders, Shindler wrote, "were sound Calvinists of the Cotton Mather type, and the College was instituted for the special purpose of training men in that faith."[22] Shindler accused "the five gentlemen who now fill professorial chairs" with having "seriously departed from the faith of the founders." They did this by deceit, Shindler said. Having subscribed to the school's doctrinal statement, they were now undermining it by their teaching, which had been labeled "Progressive Orthodoxy" by some. Shindler had his own assessment: "Indeed the progression is so considerable that the "orthodoxy" is lost sight of.[23] He went on to chronicle the heresies taught by these men, which, though considered subtle in the late nineteenth century, were indeed serious defections from the faith.
    Shindler saw the Andover disaster as an object lesson on the dangers of the down-grade, and he did not hesitate to make the point, using American Baptists as an illustration, that The Baptist Union in England was headed down the same road.
    Three months later, Charles Haddon Spurgeon himself would write about "the down-grade." The controversy was only beginning to heat up.