By Editorial Staff
Published March 31, 2008
By Ray Sutton
“I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and possess the land.”
- Exodus 23:30
How do we establish a society based on the biblical covenant? This question needs to be raised because there is some confusion about how a Christian society is created. Covenantal culture cannot come from the top-down, meaning by some “theocratic elite” forcing everyone to be a Christian, or believe a certain way. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
God told the Israelites that their biblical culture would come “little by little.” It did not come suddenly, or overnight. It came gradually. The covenantal society can only come the same way. That is, if it is to survive, it must come from the bottom-up. Sure, the covenant structure can be implemented in the home and established in the church. But its fulfillment in society-at-large will be much more difficult. It can only successfully come about (and stick), if it takes hold at the grass-roots level through evangelism.
The expansion of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome serves as an example. Jesus says at the beginning of Acts, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This verse summarizes the spread of the Gospel from one part of the world to the rest. It began in Jerusalem, and ended up in Rome. The method was little-by-little evangelism, just like the land of Canaan.
Yes, Acts parallels the book of Joshua. Joshua is the account of the conquest of the land; Acts is the story of the conquest of the world. But there is one striking contrast. Joshua took the land by use of the sword, even though it played a secondary role. None of the Apostles used the sword to spread the Gospel. Why the difference? Joshua, although a type of Jesus Christ, was under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was a covenant of the flesh, graphically portrayed in the sacrament of circumcision. And, if anything, the Old Testament teaches that the kingdom of God could not be established in the flesh, meaning by the sword.
The garden of Eden was sealed off by a “flaming sword” (Gen. 3:24), prohibiting reentrance. Man could not return to that particular garden by a carnal weapon because his sword could not stand against God’s. Even David, a great man of God, was unsuccessful in creating God’s kingdom. He was a man of war, so he was not allowed to build the Temple (1 Kings 5;3). When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6), they were expressing their confusion about the nature of the kingdom of God. They still thought it would be a political order, that is, a kingdom established by the sword.
They were wrong. The next verses in Acts speak of a new regime. The New Covenant kingdom is created by the spirit. God had conquered Jericho by His might, to be sure. But the Holy Spirit had not come in all of His historical fulness. Christ had not yet come in history. Israel needed to use the sword, but Israel ultimately failed. The Church succeeded. In Acts, the Spirit of God went forth and created the beginnings of a Christian world from the bottom-up.
The instrument the Spirit used was evangelism, witnessing. The role of the witness is twofold. Positively, he stands before men and the courts of the world, and he testifies of the Resurrected and Living Christ. Peter, John, Stephen, and Paul all became witnesses in the courts of man. Indeed, Acts tells how God sent them before Jewish and Roman courts, and even into prison for this reason. The task of evangelism is the challenge of being a witness in the unbeliever’s place of holding court. As we see in Acts, this can be a place of education or doing business, as well as an official court for passing judgment (Acts 19 and 16). The idea is that God sends His witnesses before man’s seats of judgment to proclaim God’s judgment, particularly through Jesus Christ.
Much has been said and written about evangelism, so I will not spend any more time on this phase of little-by-little covenant expansion. The sword cannot hold the inheritance for the future; only education, missions, and evangelism can. The Gospel is to be spread household-by-household, a very bottom-up approach to witnessing.
The Covenantal Lawsuit
It is the other bottom-up aspect of being a witness, a negative side that is virtually unknown, or neglected that needs to be addressed. Bringing testimony can also become a covenant lawsuit. Taking dominion in a pagan society is frustrating at times – these days, most of the time! One of the greatest concerns is the “wicked people” – abortionists, pornographers, statist politicians, etc. – who stand in the way of the visible reign of Christ (Heb. 2:8ff.). How should they be dealt with? Because the Biblical covenant commands Christians to be lawful, they are not allowed to use violence, except in the event of self-defense and a legally declared war by proper civil magistrates. Are they, therefore, left only with what some Christian activists call “a smile and a ‘God loves you’”?
No. The Bible specifies a special kind of lawsuit that can be filed with God against the wicked called a covenantal lawsuit. This Biblical concept is consistently used by the prophets. In a covenantal lawsuit, the blessings and curses found in Deuteronomy 28 are turned into accusations against lawless covenant-breakers and enemies of the Church, calling down God’s sanctions on them. Yes, a covenant lawsuit asks God to remove the wicked. God removes the wicked one of two ways: by conversion or destruction. So, a covenantal lawsuit is not “unloving.” But it is a Biblical method for taking dominion when opposition is met! A Christian’s greatest weapon in the face of opposition is not a “carnal” weapon but a spiritual one (2 Cor. 10:4), the covenant itself turned into a lawsuit before God.
Who Files the Lawsuit Today?
There are only two classifications of people: covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers. These are the only two, each having opposite inheritances. The covenant-breakers may appear to be blessed on the “front end” of life. But in the end, they will lose everything forever. The covenant-keepers get to be like Job: greatly tested but richly blessed in this life and the one to come.
In the Old Covenant, the prophet brought the covenant lawsuit. The question is: “Who files the lawsuit today?” Can any individual curse someone he doesn’t happen to like? Does the State file the lawsuit? Does the Church?
Jesus sheds some helpful light on these questions when He says, “Where two or three have gathered in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matt. 18:20). Two things stand out. First, the reference to “two or three” is a formula used for legal testimony in the Old Testament: “On the evidence of two or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence [literally “mouth”] of one witness” (Deut. 17:6). Second, Jesus applies this formulas at the end of the section on Church discipline.
Thus, we should conclude that a covenantal lawsuit can only be brought in the context of a Church court, or worship service (also a Church court before God’s throne), since the imprecatory (judgment) Psalms (Ps. 83, 94) were intended to be used in worship. Individuals need witnesses in order to file a lawsuit with God, and certainly the State has no function in filing a covenant lawsuit before God. Imprecatory Psalms should only be prayed “where two or three have gathered.” This means that these prayers are offered as worship when people have entered the presence of God.
The imprecatory Psalms are not to be treated lightly, nor autonomously. They have a two-edged nature to them. If they are abused, they could kill the user!
Is it wrong for Christians to use the covenant lawsuit? Are not Christians supposed to “love the sinner and hate the sin?” No! God hates the sinner as well as his sin (Psalms 11:5). And since the Church is the New Israel, Paul commands it to pray and sing the Psalms (Eph. 5:19) – all of them, especially the imprecatory Psalms that call down God’s destruction and conversion of the wicked (Psalms 74, 83, etc.).
Israel was built by the covenant, it was torn down on the basis of the covenant. Man gains dominion by covenant, and he loses it by breaking the covenant. We are reminded with richer understanding of Moses’ words, “So keep the words of this covenant to do them that you may prosper in all that you do” (Deut. 29:9)! Now we know the words of the covenant are kept and applied in society little by little.
Excerpted from: That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant, by Ray Sutton, Dominion Press, 7112 Burns St., Ft. Worth, TX 76118.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Reconstruction
Your comments are welcome!
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the free Study Guide!
Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?
This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.
Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.
The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?
As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).
Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.
Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!
Running Time: 195 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.
Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
$9.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)