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A Study of Dispensationalism
by Arthur Pink

"But there is further reason, and a pressing one today, why we should write upon our present subject, and that is to expose the modern and pernicious error of Dispensationalism. This is a device of the Enemy, designed to rob the children of no small part of that bread which their heavenly Father has provided for their souls; a device wherein the wily serpent appears as an angel of light, feigning to "make the Bible a new book" by simplifying much in it which perplexes the spiritually unlearned. It is sad to see how widely successful the devil has been by means of this subtle innovation."

Theology
The curse of the serpent and the covenant of grace
J. C. Evans | God's covenant relationship to us

The following is a transcript of a sermon delivered on August 25, 2002 to Covenant of Grace Church in Elk,WA.

INTRODUCTION

As Christians we shall never plumb all the depths of God’s covenant relationship to us in Christ, and for us this is exceedingly good news. Yet, we like to speak of God’s gracious covenant in terms of ourselves, and leave it at that. But God’s covenants have a universal impact on not only individuals, but also families, nations, and epochs. When we fail to acknowledge the broad impact of His covenants, we fail to laud His Love, Mercy, and Holiness in the proper Biblical perspective. When we own up to the covenants by God’s grace in Christ, we see overwhelming victory rather than defeat; hope and life, rather than despair and death. Likewise, we envy not the wicked and their passing pleasures, knowing full well their fiery end.


THE COVENANT THEME OF SCRIPTURE

What is a “Covenant,” Biblically speaking?

Biblically speaking, a covenant is a solemn oath and promise that God sovereignly administers and sees through to the end. What’s more, God’s covenant can also be seen as a kind of friendship, though not a friendship of equals, rather, as a friendship between Lord and humble servant. And finally, God’s covenant has sanctions: blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience.

How Many Covenants are in the Bible?

Covenants pop up in the Bible everywhere. We can speak of two covenants made with Adam and Eve, one made with Noah, one with Abraham, one with Moses and the children of Israel, one with David, and one with Christ.

Throughout all of these covenants we see one theme, one covenant, reasserted through them all: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” In this sense, we can speak of one covenant-the covenant whereby God creates a people for Himself whether it be from dust, a deluge, an old man and barren woman, an enslaved people, a humble shepherd, or the incarnate Son of God.

Throughout all of these covenants, however, we see multiple administrations of the one covenant just mentioned. For example, some emphasize the necessity of works (the covenant of creation and the Mosaic covenant), while others emphasize sheer, undeserved, unmerited grace (Noah, Abraham, David, Christ). This does not mean that the covenants are ultimately opposed to each other, but it does mean that God is trying to get our attention through emphasis. So, in the end, we can speak of one covenant being administered in various but harmonious ways.

Furthermore, the covenants of the Old Testament often seem to be ones of defeat for God’s people and victory for Satan, whereas victory only appears in the New Testament. This is not the best way to view the covenants, though. Instead, we should view the Old Testament covenants as the arena in which God graciously worked out His purposes according to His timetable. Then, in the fullness of His timing, God sent His son to die an atoning and victorious death on the Cross. In this way, we learn patience and dependence upon God in the older covenants, and the full sweetness of the new covenant.

Lastly, we should not think of God’s covenants as simply sporadic, spur-of-the moment ideas. Rather, God builds off of His covenants and culminates them in the final covenant made with Christ Jesus, our Lord.

The Covenant Made with Adam and Eve after the Fall

Today we will be focusing on the covenant made with Adam and Eve at the Fall, through the perspective of Genesis 3:15. When we pay attention to what the Bible demonstrates a covenant to be, and when we pay attention multiple yet harmonious nature of the covenants in the Bible, we being to understand the covenant made with Adam and Eve at the Fall. This, in turn, helps understand that this covenant is also with us and our children.


ENMITY: EVE, THE SERPENT, THE SEEDS,
AND VICTORY THROUGH BRUISING (Genesis 3:14-15)

Concerning the text, we might be tempted to say that the cursing of the serpent has nothing to do with us in covenant with Christ. But this is not true. We miss the covenantal purposes of God if we do not see His covenantal curses and blessings in twin perspective. Thus, we will focus on the curse of the serpent and link the cursing of and promises to Adam and Eve through this text. In this way, we will see the full picture of the covenant made here after the Fall. We will also see that God’s curses ultimately bring about blessing for His people and that these blessings have a world-wide impact.

Enmity between the Serpent and the Woman

For Eve, to be at enmity with the serpent was also to announce the coming of a savior. For Satan, to be at enmity with the woman was to announce his defeat. We need both the good news and the bad to make sense of the good news and the bad news.

Some have interpreted the enmity between the woman and the serpent to refer solely to the hatred women generally have of snakes. While this certainly is one aspect of the text, we cannot be so shallow as to leave the text at this elementary understanding. We must go further. God is not talking about snakes alone, he is talking about Satan-the great dragon of old. You women, when you feel contempt for snakes, should immediately think of contempt for Satan.

When we see a snake slithering in the dust, we should think of how God has cursed Satan. We should think of how Satan’s grand schemes end in dirt and grime. Shall we then listen when confronted by the smooth and sweet-sounding words of Satan’s blasphemous tongue? We shall certainly not do so. For between his crooked tongue lies the venom of death.

Even God’s creation teaches us such. Who denies the wariness of a horse when confronted by a snake or the watchfulness of a mouse when it senses its foe is near? Shall we prove more foolish than dumb animals? Shall we carelessly stumble close to Satan? Eve listened and she fell. Adam stood by and watched it all happen. Let us learn from the creation and our first parents-Satan is cursed and woe to those women who do not honor this curse with enmity. Have your wits about you, for Satan is a snake.

Men, you should have learned this lesson from your mothers. And if you did not, you should be discerning enough to learn now and keep in mind how you might instruct your wives and daughters.

Now, to illustrate the point further, let us turn to Judges 4:14-21. At this point you may recall the story of Deborah who hated the minions of Satan with a godly hatred. As a godly daughter of Eve, Deborah lived out enmity against Satan. You might also recall that Deborah charged the weak but godly man Barak to assemble Israel against her enemies. Thus, Deborah both acknowledged that men must stand on the front line against Satan but also that women shirk not from their enmity against Satan as well. But we have probably forgotten or never noticed how Jael, the wife of Hebor, was a Genesis 3:15 kind of woman too.

Having enmity against Satan does not always mean tucking tail and running. It more precisely means to foil Satan’s plans with the means God has provided. In this account of Jael, we notice how she triumphs in a dangerous situation over God’s enemy. We notice how she drives the peg through Sisera’s temple and how Sisera goes into the dust to join his captain-Satan. She gives no foothold for God’s enemy and so illustrates the enmity put between the woman and the Serpent at the Fall.

Finally, we learn the importance of enmity even from our own culture. Recently, some sociologists have realized that when women lose their virtue-their enmity against evil-society as a whole suffers greatly. Women who give everything (and therefore nothing) to the evil desires of ungodly men, successively lower the bar of righteousness in a society. Thus, society becomes more and more depraved because women lack enmity against Satan. We care nothing for the wisdom of the world, but these sociologists-whether known to them or not-are operating under the auspices of Genesis 3:15. For as we own up to the curses in the Fall, we actually promote the promise of the Redeemer. We will see this point clarified as we continue through Genesis 3:15.

To summarize the point thus far, let us remember the principle of God’s covenant. We cannot escape God’s covenant in Genesis 3:15. All of us participate in it. We either are of the Serpent or of the Woman. We either are bruised or crushed. It is one or the other, and we cannot have it any other way. Thus, Genesis 3:15 plays itself out throughout Scripture and throughout our lives. Furthermore, God builds off of this covenant through Scripture, and we must be attentive to the details here to make sense of the unpacking that God does later. When we pay attention to Genesis 3:15 covenantally, we will make sense of our own struggles with Satan and know what to do. This is especially demonstrated by the enmity that the woman has against the Serpent.

Enmity between the Serpent’s Seed and the Woman’s

The enmity between the woman and the Serpent also plays out in the seed of the woman and the Serpent. Hence, we men cannot escape and say this doesn’t apply to us. Our children and our children’s children cannot say this doesn’t apply to them, for it does. If we are of the woman, then we have victory. If we are of Satan, we have crushing defeat.

Throughout the Bible, we see the two seeds warring against each other: the godly versus the ungodly, Cain against Abel, Moses against Pharaoh, Jael against Sisera, the prophets against the wanton Israelites, Mary and Joseph against Herod, Jesus against the Pharisees-a brood of vipers indeed. What’s more, we see that even in their various trials and sufferings, the godly are always in the process of triumphing over sin and the wicked.

At this point, we rightly ask the question: “How can I tell the difference between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent? Didn’t David fall into tremendous sin, and isn’t he part of the godly seed? Was not Judas numbered among Jesus’ hand-picked disciples, and didn’t he turn out to be a snake himself?” Difficulties like these, in the end, reveal not the difficulties with Genesis 3:15 and the principle of covenant; rather, they reveal our shortcomings in being biblically literate.
So, we must look closer at what our passage is saying and how
this should influence our understanding of the two seeds throughout Scripture.

First, we must notice that God is the one setting up and bringing to pass this covenant in both blessing and cursing. You recall the emphasis we previously laid on our having enmity with the Serpent; but you might not have noticed that you were being set up. Look again at the first part of Genesis 3:15 and see that God is the One who sovereignly puts enmity between Eve and the serpent, and between her seed and his. This means the division between ungodly and godly is His work and operates according to His rules and His timetable. Cain, for instance, is placed among the serpent’s seed by God (not man) after killing his brother. Seth, on the other hand, is appointed to Eve by God (not man) and counted among the godly seed.

Second, we remember that enmity characterizes the division between godly and ungodly seed. The godly seed demonstrates enmity against unrighteousness-even when found in his or her own members-while the ungodly seed exhibits enmity against righteousness even while God is using the ungodly to bring about His purposes. This means that Moses, while still sinning in the wilderness, is to be counted among the godly because he saw unrighteousness in himself and in Israel and thus repented. This also means that Pharaoh, while being used by God to demonstrate His redemptive power towards His people, is to be counted among the unrighteous because he rejected God.

Third, we understand that the natural offspring of the godly is to be counted among the righteous until otherwise proven. We rest our case for this not upon a human decision or work performed, but simply upon the promise of God. Of course, this does not mean that we can say all of our children are justified by the necessity of being our children; yet, this does not mean that we can say that our children are anything other than holy before God (1 Corinthians 7:14). Between these two boundaries, we find that we must trust God with our children and teach our children to do likewise. We, like Eve, must exclaim at the birth and during the upbringing of a covenant child “the Lord has appointed another seed for me…” We count no covenant child outside the church until formally put there by God’s discipline-even then hoping for restoration (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).

Individual sinners are certainly responsible for their own sin, and so simply being in the lineage of sinners does not alleviate personal guilt. Nonetheless, we must say at the same time that we stand in united rebellion with our Fathers and Mothers, and thus are privy to their bequeathing sin to us. God has designed His creation to operate along these lines, and thus it is so.

Likewise, justification-the setting right of individuals with God by the atoning work of Christ-is something done on an individual basis, and does not depend upon being brought up in a Christian home. Nonetheless, we must say at the same time that the children of believers stand in covenant with their parents and that covenant children are called holy with their parents. God has designed His creation to operate along these lines, and thus it is so.

To summarize this point of the seeds, let me say that the imputation of sin and righteousness are bound up with the warp and woof of the family. This is so because God says so, and not because any of us are extra holy or somehow merit divine favor apart from Christ for our children. We trust what God says and we do not try to shove our words into God’s mouth.

Victory through Bruising

Now, let us draw our attention to the bruising between the woman and her seed and Satan and his seed. Here God confounds our sentimental, feel-good piety by proclaiming that neither the godly or the ungodly can escape from bruising. As the godly seed, we know full well what the Lord has promised both times of ease and difficulty. Suffering, for the godly, however, is temporary and gives way to great gain and joy. We also know the Lord sends times of ease and prosperity to the ungodly but that this season of rest for the ungodly is for the sake of building up his condemnation and ultimate punishment. So, in the end, the godly triumph and the ungodly descend into the dust-despite what might appear to be contrary in the way things are going for the ungodly and the godly at the moment.

Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and their respective descendents are all covenantally tied to suffering in Genesis 3. The serpent is made to go upon his belly to lick the dust, Eve is cursed with great pain in giving birth and a tendency toward unruliness with her husband, Adam is cursed with great pain in toiling and tilling the earth, and the earth is cursed to bring forth thorns and thistles for Adam’s sake. But for Adam, Eve, and the earth, there is hope-hope which is covenantally tied to the enmity between the Serpent and the woman. For the Serpent, there is despair-despair which is covenantally tied to the enmity between the Serpent and the woman.

We, then, and all those around us are tied to this covenant made after the Fall. The snake still goes upon his belly, women and men still incur pain in their labors, women still attempt to usurp their husbands’ authority, and the earth still troubles us with thorns and thistles. With such clear evidence of the curse surrounding us daily, we ought to be reminded of the covenant in Genesis 3:15 daily. The curses that we daily experience, however, have a point-the curses serve as big, neon signs pointing us to the center of the covenant, that is, the promise of a bruised head and a bruised heel.

That the godly suffer bruises should not shy us away from doing things that causes us to be bruised. In doing good, we are often mocked by the world. In proclaiming the gospel, we are told of the supposed foolishness of our religion. Christians truly suffer at the hands of the ungodly because the ungodly know that their heads are being bruised. The more Satan thrashes about and persecutes the church, the more he extends his neck and places his head on the chopping block.

Even in suffering from the curses of the Fall, the godly witness a happy providence from the Lord. The pain of childbearing gives way to the joy of nurturing souls and insight as to how God delights in us as His children. The struggle toil and sweat that men put into their vocations gives way to the joy of watching the curse be rolled back as thorns and thistles get thrown into the fire in order to make way for fertile pastures and pristine gardens. And the sting of death gives way to a happy reunion in heaven with all of God’s hosts in the warm splendor or the Almighty’s courts.

Satan, and his seed, have no such happy providence. Instead, everything that happens to the ungodly is a tragedy. Times of wealth only give way to eternal poverty. The vocations and seed of the ungodly amount to nothing. They have no legacy, and their lives are really nothing more than a walking tomb. They and their descendents are food for the fiery worm that will consume them in unspeakable terror for all time. For reasons like these, the ungodly strike at the heel of the godly and cause bruises.

When the ungodly and godly feel the bruise of enmity, Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 should spring to mind: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” Suffering, in the godly, brings consolation in Jesus Christ, and this consolation brings praise unto Jesus Christ. Suffering, in the ungodly, brings about despair because they do not have Christ, and since they do not have Christ they are promised death.

Some of you may have been nodding your heads in consent up to this point, but perhaps others of you have noticed something missing thus far. For those that have noticed something missing, be of good cheer, for here it comes. For those of you who have been content and not at every point been asking, “When is he going to speak of the Cross?” then you must pay attention closely to the following application of this sermon.

APPLICATION: STANDING AT THE
HEEL OF THE CROSS ON GOLGOTHA

Like all of God’s covenants, the covenant made with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 finds it fullest and deepest expression in the final covenant with Christ. We who are in Christ covenantally are the true descendents of Eve and heirs of God’s promises; however, we have the responsibility to live on this side of the Cross. This means that through the finished work of Christ on the Cross, Satan has been defeated and God’s people redeemed from bondage. Our calling is to announce this good news to the world through our work and family-taking all captive to Christ-until all of our neighbors know the Lord Jesus (Jeremiah 31:33-34).

The covenant established in Genesis 3 cannot be divorced from Jesus Christ’s death for the godly on the Cross. If the curses and underlying promises of the Genesis 3:15 are not seen through Jesus Christ’s atoning death, then we have no hope and are of the Serpent. The enmity and bruising that we have been examining find their ultimate meaning in Christ. If we are not in Christ, then we cannot apply the covenant to ourselves as the godly.

Those of you who were not brought up in the covenant from birth, know that at one time you were enemies of God. You were a descendent of the Serpent, and you were far off from God’s mercy. But if Jesus has saved you from the condemnation of the Serpent and his seed, then you have been brought near to the heel of the Cross and stand in victory over the Serpent. God has adopted you and you now belong to Him. As such, the promises enumerated to the godly seed in Genesis 3:15 belong to your children, if you have been blessed with children.

Those of you who were or are being brought up in the covenant know that your placement in the covenant and the promise of bruising and blessing are yours because of Christ and not simply because of your parents godliness-which was also a gift from God. In this way, all the glory belongs to Christ and none of it belongs to you. If we have always been in covenant with Christ, it has always been because of His mercy and grace and not our works. As such, we have the responsibility to teach these things to our children and our children’s children.

Whether you have been adopted into the covenant from the Serpent’s seed or whether you have grown up in a covenant home, you have the high and wonderful responsibility of telling about the Lord’s great works in your life. Tell your children of how the Lord sustains you and blesses you from week to week. Speak to your neighbors the gospel in the hope that some might be saved. Look for every opportunity to place your heel upon the head of Satan-wherever he may be rearing his scaly head. As you incur bruises from fighting the evil powers and principalities, proclaim all the more the consolation you have in Christ. On your death bed, exhort those present to follow Christ and forsake not His Word-the Bible-which fully satisfies the soul. When persecuted-even to death-echo the words of Polycarp, a second century martyr: “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” Let no opportunity pass from you in which you might sing the praises of the Lord your God. In this way you will confound your adversaries by being always filled with faith in Christ, always hoping in Christ, and always loving Christ.

CONCLUSION

Be not beguiled by the dying gasps of an old snake. The enmity between Eve and the Satan, between Eve’s seed and the serpent’s, between the Son of God and the prince of darkness has not relented. Yet, the victory has been sealed, and Satan’s power has been crushed by the Cross. Let us not cease to route the enemies of God with the gospel of Christ until all of His foes have been vanquished.

J.C. Evans, ©2002


  Mr. Evans is a ministerial candidate at Greyfriars
Hall, Moscow, ID. He has studied at Oxford University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has edited and written for a number of theological publications. He is currently working on a book dealing with the proper relationship between Law-Gospel and Covenant Theology motifs in Systematic Theology.
 

 

 

Martyn Lloyde-Jones

From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
James 4:1

It is interesting and strange to note in what may be termed the religious attitude towards war, or the attitude of religious people towards war, two tendencies almost invariably manifest themselves.
 
CONTRIBUTORS
Rev. Paul Alexander
Rev. Greg Bahnsen
Nat Carswell
Gordon H. Clark
Edward Dalcour
Rev. William Einwechter
J. C. Evans
Kenneth Gentry
Perry A. Hess
Michael S. Horton
Ronald Kirk
Amanda Krystaponis
Rick Martin
Charles A. McIlhenny
Larry J. Michael, PhD.
Wil Pounds
Eunice V. Ray
Colonel Ronald D. Ray
Ernest Reisinger
P.Andrew Sandlin
Steve M. Schlissel
Geoff Thomas
Sarah Thomas
K. Cody Vest
Peter J. Wallace
 
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