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Each month the "Cross-Examina-

tion" column presents a summary


statement of a Reformed and
Reconstructionist conviction in theol-
ogy or ethics, and then offers brief
answers to common questions, objec-
tions or confusions which people have
about that belief. Send issues or ques-
tions you would like addressed by Dr.
Bahnsen to the editor.
WE BELIEVE
We have seen that the covenant
signs of circumcision and baptism
pointed to the cleansed and conse-
crated (holy)character of God's people,
even though not everyone within the
covenant community (or church) lived
up to that signification in the Old
Testament, just as not everyone within
the NewTestamentcovenantcommu-
nity (or church) lives up to it. Nev-
ertheless the signs of circumcision and
baptism retain their value and impor-
tance in the eyes of God, the Lord of
the covenant.
This may seem confusing to some
readers. How can a person bear the
token of being clean and holy -- and
bearitat God's direction -- even though
that person is not actually clean and
holy? The answer is that such a person
shares the designation of the wider
religious community of which he or
she is a part (Le., the mixed church is
viewed as "clean" and "holy" by her
Redeemer), and that this designation
is meant ina ritual or ceremonial sense.
The church on earth as the community
formed by God's saving covenant has
been "cleansed and consecrated" in a
ceremonial or religious fushion, being
looked upon in a special and sacred
way by God. The covenant commu-
nity has been set apart as His own
unique people and separated from the
common world of spiritual defilement
and unbelief.
There is at least three ways in which
the Bible uses the terminology ofholi-
ness and cleansing. We may think of
holiness and cleanness as concepts
which can be applied in an external
sense (e.g., a "clean" sheet or "pure"
gold, e.g. Matt. 27:56; Ex. 30:3). They
may also be applied to inward matters
in a moral sense (e.g., a "clean" heart or
"holy" living, e.g. Ps. 24:4; 1 Peter
1:15). But there is also a third kind of
way in which the Bible speaks ofholi-
ness and cleanness, a way which can
be designated ceremonial or ritual.
The meats which were called "un-
clean" in the Old Testament were not
given that designation because they
were outwardly dirty or inwardly im-
moral. They were rather unclean in
some ritual sense. They were "com-
mon" meats that the unbelievingworld
might eat, but not God's special or
holy (consecrated) people. (This dis-
tinction is maintained even today
amongJews who observe dictates about
"kosher" eating.) The words of Levit i-
cus 11:44-47 are very insightful here.
God commanded Israel: "Be holy ...
neither defile yourselves with any kind
of[unclean meatl ... make a distinction
between the unclean and the clean."
Israel was to be "holy" (set apart, con-
secrated) by maintaining a "clean" diet.
This "ritual" or ceremonial sense of
cleanness and uncleanness is utilized
throughout the Old Testament: e.g.,
Lev. 11:32; 13:58; 14:4; 15:13; 17:15;
20:25; 24:6-7; Deut. 23: 10, etc.
The holiness and cleanness of the
Old Testament Jews as God's chosen
people was not always in every case an
internal, moral reality. Yet even with
the unregenerate among them they
were nonetheless the special people of
God -- "holy" and "clean" in the cer-
emonial or religious sense that He had
entered into a saving covenant with
them, setting them apart from the other
nations or unbelieving groups of the
world. That explains, for instance,
why Ezra 6:21 speaks of the children
ofIsrael who had come out of captivity
and gone back. to the holy city of
Jerusalem as "all such as have sepa-
rated themselves from the filthiness of
the nations." Once again lsrael would
be a "holy nation" for God's own pos-
session (d. Ex. 19:5-6).
This concept of ceremonial or ritual
"holiness" and "cleanness" is evident
in the New Testament as well. When
May, 1993 THE COUNSEL of Chalcedon 7
Jesus disputed with the Pharisees over
11)aking the outside of the cup "clean"
(Matt. 23:25-26) or about the "defile-
ment" of eating with unwashed hands
(Matt. 15:2, 11, 20), neither party to
the argument was concerned with
physical filth or moral virtue. The
controversy was over religious or cer-
emonial consecration (what was "ko-
sher" or not, if you will). The New
Testament often speaks of ceremonial
cleansing or .ritual pUrification (e.g.,
Luke2:22;John2:6; Luke 17:14,etc.).
It is in this religious sense,
quite obviously, that blood
is said to be used for cleans-
ing! (e.g., Heb. 9:14, 22-23;
1 John 1:7).
It is evident from Peter's
response to the sheet of
meats from heaven thatwhat
is "unclean" was identical to
what is "common: not ko-
sher (Acts 10:14; 11:8).
Whatever has been
"cleansed" by God is no
longetin the category of the
"common" (10:15). Those
who are Within the covenant
community, the church, are set apart
from the common world and viewed
by God, therefore, as "clean." As Paul
wrote, in contrast to "those who are
outside," God has not called the church
to be "unclean" but rather "holy" and
set apart (1 Thes. 4:7, 12). Christ's
redemptive work has "purified" (or
"cleansed") unto Himself a special
people for God's own possession (Titus
2:14). They are to be "separate" from
the world -- to "touch no unclean
thing" (2 Cor. 6: 1 7). Paul says this
right in the context of drawing a clear
distinction between the church and
the world, asserting that there is no
"commonality" between them (w. 14-
16). The New Testament places the
church in a religiously unique cat-
egory, being viewed as "clean" or .
"cleansed" from the ordinary world of
spiritual defilement.
Ukewise, "holiness" is repeatedly
used in the New Testament to speak of
what is religiously or ritually set apart
from the ordinary. Things which are
special - things which are set apart
from common use -- are called "holy"
(e.g., the unmarried virgin's body, 1
Cor. 7:34). You do not mix the ordi-
nary and extraordinary by giving what
is "holy" to dogs, nor pearls to swine,
said Jesus (Matt. 7:6). The temple
precincts were not ordinary ground,
but consecrated -- thus "holy" (e.g.,
Acts 6:13; 21:28; 1 Cor. 3:17; Heb.
8:2; 9:1-3). The place of the burning
bush was "holy" ground as well (Acts
7:33). Every male that is born is said
to be set apan ("holy") unto the Lord,
even if they 'grow up to be spiritual
rebels (Luke 2:23). Despite the rebel-
lion of Old Testament Israel, it was
God's consecrated or "holy nation."
And even though unbelief and mur-
derous sin was found in her, the city of
Jerusalem is called the "holy city" be-
cause it was chosen and set apart by
GodCMatt.4:5;Rev.1l:2;21:2,10;22:19).
The Old Testament writings were
in a special category from other hu-
man works, being the "holy scrip-
tures" (Rom. 1:2). The men who wrote
them were set apart from others --
were "holy" men or prophets (2 Peter
1:21; Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21). Our
brothers within the church are a spe-
8 WE CO{jNSEL of Chalcedon May, 1993
cial kind of family relation - a "holy
brotherhood" (Heb. 3:1). Ukewise,
the kiss or greeting which is given
between believers is not an ordinary or
common kiss, but a "!ioly kiss" (Rom.
16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20, etc.). Examples
could be multiplied where "holiness"
takes the sense of set apart from com-
man use (consecrated to a special pur-
pose). But of special interest is the way
in which the New Testament desig-
nates God's people as "the holy ones"
or "saints" (Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10;
Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 1 Cor. 1:2;
2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil.
1:1; Col. l:2: etc.). Regard-
less of their inward imper-
fection and daily sin, those
who are joined to Christ as
members of the church are
called "set apart" or "holy"
by God.
Our short examination
of Scripture has made us
aware, now, that the mixed
spiritual community of Old
Testament Israel was
deemed by Godas separated
from the defiled world of
unbelief, being "clean" and "holy" in a
ceremonial or ritual Sense. Similarly,
the New Testament covenant commu-
nity, despite its flaws, is looked upon
by God as consecrated from the world
of unbelief afld spiritual defilement,
being "clean" and "holy" in Hissight.n
(To Be Continued)
Further Investigation
Writefor acatalog of Dr. Bahnsen's
tapes and publications from Covenant
Tape MiniStry, 24198 Ash Conrt, Au-
burn, CA 95603 (and be placed on the
mailing list for the monthly update
from the Southern California Center
for Christian Studies, where he is the
resident scholar). A popular album is
"TheDisdncttvesoft.heReformedFaith"
(5 tapes). Also get hold ofhis senn,ons
"Biblical Baptism and Babies" and
"Baptism: ItslJeaning and Purpose."