Friday and Saturday of this past week I had the privilege of speaking to congregation of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) and to their guests in Ft Worth, TX on “The Abraham Paradigm.” They were very gracious and patient with me. It is always good to be in Texas, where I enjoyed good fellowship, good BBQ (California take note), and where no one thought that my boots were odd. Indeed, there was a well-used boot jack sitting on top of the TSA bag scanner at Love Field.
When I stumbled across your lecture series, “I Will be a God to You and to Your Children” it began a revolution in my understanding of the unity of Scripture where Abraham is the spiritual father in the faith for all those who believe God’s promises, where the sacraments are the visible Word. The initiatory signs of circumcision and baptism point everyone in the visible covenant community to those promises, and the Lord’s Supper confirms and strengthens those who believe in them.
In Gen. 15:17, is a particular significance in the smoking fire pot and a flaming torch? Are they to represent particular things?
They represent God himself, pledging that He alone will will perform all the stipulations of the covenant of works and suffer the penalty of death for breaking it, so that Abraham, and all his children in the faith, would receive the grace of imputed righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone in God’s pledge, when God alone walked through the pieces. That is the gospel which was fulfilled by Christ, and to whom all the types and shadows point to. Heb. 6:17 God guaranteed the promise to send the Savior that He first made to Adam by pledging Himself to fulfill it, to make it perfectly certain that the covenant would be fulfilled and that the penalties for breaking it would be paid on behalf of those who believe God’s promises.
this is an interesting question. Someone at the conference raised this question too. I don’t have a strong opinion. I take them as symbolic of aspects of God’s character and nature but without more information (e.g.,their significance in the ANE culture some clear biblical allusion) I’m reluctant to see much more in them. I’m influenced by Paul’s comment in 1 Cor 10:4: “and that rock was Christ.” I take that as paradigmatic for the way I approach theophanies.
Thank you, Dr. Clark. A very bad interpretation of that passage (in my opinion) that I’ve heard is that the 2 items of the fire pot and the torch represent the 2 parties of God and Abraham, with God invoking the death sanction on Himself if either party broke the deal. To prove that Abraham’s party had obligations in this covenant, the speaker jumped to Genesis 17 to argue that because the Jews failed to keep circumcision, God had to die. I found this very sloppy exegesis because (1) the covenant scene in Gen 15 knows nothing of a suzerain-vassal covenant but only a promise covenant, (2) the speaker had to jump to a different covenant scene to prove his point, and (3) his interpretation completely ignored that the different covenant scene (Gen 17) has a penalty for not keeping circumcision in verse 14.
On a different topic, I listened to Michael Horton’s covenant theology debate with Jeffery Johnson (author of “The Fatal Flaw in Paedobaptist Covenant Theology”) and found Jeffery Johnson’s idea of covenant theology to not be systematic or clear, but extremely convoluted and confusing. Is his view of covenant theology the norm for Reformed Baptists? Or are there different covenant theologies they can hold to?
Google: Brandon Adams interviews Jeffery Johnson about The Fatal Flaw. His two peoples of God, under two different covenants, for two different purposes of God theology becomes eye openingly clear.
Sadly this interview has been taken down. The book speaks for itself, but it you don’t want to go to the trouble of reading it, Johnson spells out a summary of his ideas in a sermon available on Sermon Audio, called the Primacy of the Abrahamic Covenant fro 02\17\2013 Jeffrey Johnson of Grace Baptist Bible Church, Conway. Page 9 of his listed sermons on Sermon Audio.