The Old Man Crucified: An Essential Book

by Stephen Unthank

At the end of this week’s outstanding podcast on the Historical Adam and Crucifying the Old Man, the question was asked about which books should be considered essential reading when it comes to the doctrines of our union with Christ, Federal headship, and Imputation. Each book suggested I too would affirm as non-negotiable in wrestling with these issues.[1] I still remember cutting my teeth on John Murray’s “The Imputation of Adam’s Sin” in my seminary soteriology class and having, what seemed like, a thousand light bulbs go off in my head on how the whole Bible fit together.

But I want to offer one more book to this list of essential readings on why these doctrines matter and specifically a book which helps apply these glorious doctrines to the everyday man.

I’ve recently started meeting up with a small group of men in my church early on Sunday mornings to help them fight against sin as well as give encouragement in their war against lust. We’ve begun reading through and meditating on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Exposition of Romans Chapter 6: The New Man, published by the Banner of Truth. If Murray is the high-minded Ivory Tower theologian working out the minute and much needed details of federal headship and union with Christ, then Lloyd-Jones is, as one member in my church put it, the blue-collar version the rest of us can understand.

Lloyd-Jones in his preaching through Romans chapter 6, has wonderfully taken these glorious, and admittedly tough to understand doctrines, and he has presented them in such a way that the average man can get it. But more importantly, I think, he’s applied these doctrines to why they matter for us in our everyday walk with Christ.

In one sense, Lloyd-Jones is taking the argument of Paul in Romans six and slowly, verse by verse, unpacking it; taking out the doctrine of federal headship and the Christian’s union with Christ, and applying it, turning it over and over, allowing us to see every facet and aspect of this truth. And then, not content to stop there, he makes sure we know what this means for us today; for our sanctification and walk with Christ.

“Indeed, I do not hesitate to say that to understand the meaning of [Romans 6] is the key to understanding the Apostle’s whole doctrine of salvation – in its full sense.”[2]

Indeed, he argues that these doctrines which Paul is presenting, are “one of the most glorious aspects of the Christian truth, one of the most profound, one of the most stimulating, one of the most comforting – indeed I rather like to use the word exhilarating. There is nothing, perhaps in the whole range and realm of doctrine which if properly grasped and understood, gives greater assurance, greater comfort, and greater hope than this doctrine of our union with Christ.”[3]

And to be sure, as the group of men I’ve met with on Sunday mornings begin to wrestle with and really sink their teeth into what Lloyd-Jones is expounding, I am seeing more and more their hope for glory increase, and their assurance in Christ strengthened, and therefore their fight against sin reinvigorated.

After Lloyd-Jones gave two historical examples which help us understand what it means to no longer be under the reign of sin and therefore dead to the old man, he gives this stirring bit of encouragement. “The whole object of the Apostle in this sixth chapter is to get us to realize [who it is we belong to]. ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin’. You are therefore to realize it, to reckon it. Realize also that you are ‘alive unto God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. It is not true yet, perhaps, in your experience; but though it is not yet true in your experience it is true as a matter of fact. We have got to believe it…. This is not a matter of experience primarily; he is dealing with a matter of fact. He says you died to sin as a matter of historical fact.”

There were not a few teary eyed men in my Sunday morning gathering after hearing this exposition; men burdened under the weight of their experience and tempted to forget and no longer believe the truth that they are in Christ that they are in union with him. I am more convinced that every church bookstall should not only make available Lloyd-Jones on Romans 6, but that Christians of all stripes should be reading this volume and letting the exposition of Romans 6 infiltrate their lives.

Perhaps the locus classicus of this volume is where Lloyd-Jones applies these truths to the preaching of the Gospel. He writes that, “the true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge [of antinomianism] being brought against it. There is no better test to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”[4]

And yet, Lloyd-Jones does an excellent job unpacking for us the absolute necessity of good works and obedience. But not before he hammers down the truth of the Gospel. Believing the truth that our identity is in Christ even when our current experiences may chip away at any assurance will help produce obedience in the believer. But, warns Lloyd-Jones, “[we] all proclaim whose slaves we are by the way in which we live. The slave-owner insists upon a certain type of conduct; therefore if you look at a man’s conduct you can tell who his master is.”[5] Again, “If [Paul] granted for a moment that a man could be justified without the process of sanctification starting at exactly the same time, he would not be able to answer the objection voiced in the words, ‘What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?’”.[6]

But Lloyd-Jones is always sure to put the burden of ability back upon God. It is God’s power that enables. “The command is enough because it is the command of God, but such is the grace of God that he never leaves us with the bare command, he supplies us with reasons for listening to it and for obeying it.”[7]  Indeed, “You cannot, you shall not go on living in the realm and under the final power of sin. Why? Well, because of the reason that he has already given in verse 16 of the first chapter: ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.‘ Why? ‘It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.’”[8]

These are truths that are good to be reminded of as we continually fight against sin, and Lloyd-Jones has done a marvelous job expositing them for us and helping us to believe and keep on believing. Take up and read.

 Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.


[1] I’d want to also add Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, chapters 1-18.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 14.

[3] [3] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 30.

[4] [4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 8.

[5] [5] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 206.

[6] [6] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 217.

[7] [7] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 285.

[8] [8] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: The New Man, (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 2003), p. 25.

 



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Vincenzo Paravicino and the Valtellina Massacre

by Simonetta Carr

Vincenzo Paravicino was one of the many Italians who lived in today’s Swiss Canton of Grisons. He was born in 1595 in Traona, in a scenic valley on the Italian side of the Alps, known as Valtellina. After completing his basic studies at Zurich’s Collegium Carolinum, he moved to the University of Basil, then to the Geneva Academy. In 1619, he was ordained pastor at Zuoz, Switzerland.

            His fairly ordinary life was interrupted the following year, when a mixture of papal troops, local rebels, and Spanish soldiers sent by the Spanish governor of Milan slaughtered hundreds of Protestants in the same area where he was born. The death toll included some of his relatives.

The Massacre

            The district of Valtellina, together with neighboring Chiavenna and Bormio, had been a dependency of the Swiss Three Leagues since 1512. In 1526, Reformed worship was officially allowed in these lands, alongside with the Roman Catholic mass. With time, coexistence of the two religions became increasingly difficult. The Thirty Years War brought these conflicts to a head.

            In the spring of 1620, a group of exiled Roman Catholic noblemen began to plot a revolt, backed by Jesuits, Capuchins, and the Spanish governor (who had an interest in opening a path from Milan to the Roman Catholic Augsburg lands along the eastern Alps).

            Their plan was enacted on Sunday, July 19, 1620, after the troops had surrounded the area, blocking every way of escape. After taking over the town of Tirano by killing or putting to flight the Protestant leaders, the conspirators called the Roman Catholic population to arms. The weapons were taken from the local military arsenal. From there, the newly formed local army went after the Protestants who were still in the area, quickly moving to other neighboring towns.

            In nearby Teglio, the soldiers waited outside the Protestant church in order to kill those who were inside. When the people refused to exit, they proceeded to shoot them through the windows and to set fire to the building. The slaughter continued for about two weeks, until all the Protestants in the valley were either killed or put to flight. A few Catholics who seemed favorable to the Protestants were murdered too. The total number of victims ranged from 400 to 600 people, including men, women, and children.

The Refugees

            Hundreds of fugitives sought refuge in Switzerland, especially in Zurich, where about 250 people found temporary residence. Some traveled further, to Germany and Holland.

            Paravicino’s family had been divided for some time. It was predominantly Protestant, but two of its members had moved to the Roman Catholic camp, leading the opposition. Fifty-five of his relatives arrived in Zurich, while sixteen died during the attacks or while they tried to flee.

            It was not an ideal time for Zurich, that had recently been flooded with refugees first from from Locarno, Switzerland, and later from lands that had been conquered by the Austrians. The City Council agreed to host the Italian refugees for five years, then those who were healthy and strong had to leave.

            In the meantime, the council had to provide the Italian immigrants with pastors who could speak their language. They chose Vincenzo Paravicino, who preached in Italian for six years in a section of Zurich’s Predigerkirche which had been set for this purpose.

            During this time, Paravicino wrote a True Narrative of the Massacre in Valtellina, a popular account which was immediately reproduced in French, English, and German. He also wrote some Reformed books in Italian and translated a few more for the benefit of his congregation and other exiles.

The Aftermath

            In 1634, the French crown sent the Huguenot Duke Henri II de Rohan to take Valtellina back from the Spaniards. Rohan asked for Paravicino’s assistance as chaplain and consultant.

            This new vision galvanized Paracino, who published more Italian translations of Reformed works, including an Italian Psalter and a short treatise by French pastor Jean Mestrezat, entitled Communion with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which was meant as a rebuttal of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine’s defense of transubstantiation.

            Rohan’s military strike had mixed results. The actual attack, launched on October 31, 1635 in the Valley of Fraele (a gateway between Italy and Germany) was successful. His 15,000 men easily crushed the 7,000 soldiers of the imperial army that was stationed in the area, causing about 2,000 casualties. The outcome, however, was far from positive for the locals (almost exclusively farmers), as Rohan had all their houses burned in order to prevent further imperial occupations.   

            In 1639, France signed a peace treaty with Spain, giving Valtellina some independence while allowing Spanish troops to transit through the valley. As for religion, the valley remained Roman Catholic.

            Paravicino moved to Coira where he worked first as teacher, then as rector of the Collegium philosophicum. There, he planted another church for Italian exiles and their descendants, and continued to assist them until his death in 1678.

            Many of his descendants moved to Basil, where they occupied important positions. His brother Venturino became pastor of the Italian community in Zurich and took trips to London and Holland in order to raise funds for the needy Italian exiles. His son was also a pastor.

 



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The Old Man Crucified: The Basics

by Tim Bertolet

In Romans 6:6, the Apostle Paul writes, “We know that our old self [or old man] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” As we engage a series on “the old man,” we want to ask the basic question: what is the old man crucified?

Let’s start first with “the old man.” The old man is who we were in our sinful estate and in our slavery to sin. It is the person who is “in Adam” with all the guilt and consequences of Adam’s sin upon them plus their own slavery and bondage to sin. This is the person who is dead in their sins. This “old man” could be described using Ephesians 2:1-3.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

This “old man” is the state of the entirety of humanity apart from union with Christ. In fact, we should say that it is only for the believer that this state is “old.” Paul elsewhere describes this old self/man in Col. 3 and Eph 4:22

Col. 3:5-9 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices

Eph. 4:22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

The old man is the man enslaved to sin. This enslavement manifests itself all sort of evil and wicked behavior. The “old man” is the man enslaved to the flesh who walks according to the flesh. He does not desire to obey and he is unable to obey God (Rom. 8:5-8).

What is the old man crucified? The old man crucified is when the individual has moved from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ.” As a result of being “in Christ” we have come to share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What happened to Jesus has now been applied to us in such a way that it happens to us: the old man [who I am in my enslavement to sin] is put to death and life is given to a “new man” I am imparted with the Holy Spirit so that Christ’s resurrection life is at work in me.

Rom. 6:3-7 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

The old man was so enslaved to sin that they were dead in it. They were “not able to not sin” sin was their proclivity, the sinful flesh that desires sin was the master. This is not to say the person could not do anything kind or nice in relative terms—even the worst sinner can help an old lady cross the street. Rather, it is to say that all actions were done and lived out in rebellion to God.

The new man, where the enslavement has ended, is now able to walk in the newness of life. We have a new master: Jesus Christ. So the man is “new” because he is in Christ. Those in Christ are “able not to sin” we can resist temptation, we can grow in holiness, and walk in obedience to the LORD. We no longer live with every act and intention to be in rebellion against God. This is not to say our good works ever reach absolute perfection. The “new man” still has the presence of sin in them and that will be true until we die and/or are glorified.

The life of the believer in Jesus Christ is not a mix of “old man”/”new man.” Our position in the Lord is not schizophrenic. Of course, we still have the remnant of sin as long as we live in our mortal bodies. We battle the flesh’s desires that wages war in us (1 Peter 2:11). The battle itself can be a constant back and forth of losing ground and gaining ground. Yet, we do battle from a position of being liberated from our old master, the self enslaved to sin. We have been placed under a new master, the LORDSHIP of Christ, who by the presence of the Holy Spirit gives us a new being in our inner self.

Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary.  He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.



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The Old Man Crucified: Free to Struggle

by Rachel Miller

Struggling to be Free or Free to Struggle?

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Gal 2:20, NASB

What should the Christian life look like? Should we be trying to prove our worth to God? Are we free to live how ever we want because “grace”? Should we expect to achieve sinless perfection?

When I was in college, our RUF pastor used to ask us, “Are you struggling to be free, or are you free to struggle?” His point was that until we come to faith in Christ we will struggle and fight an impossible battle to make ourselves right with God. We will struggle to be free of our sin and guilt.

The good news of the gospel is that through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we have been set free from sin’s power. Sin no longer has dominion over us. We are at peace with God. This is our reality right now, and it can’t be taken away from us. But there’s more to the story. We have been set free and given a purpose.

Because we have been united to Christ by the Spirit, we have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20) and are dead to sin (Rom 6:11). But we have also been raised with Christ, so that we may “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). What does this mean for us?

Our pastor is preaching through Romans, and this Sunday, he preached on the first part of Romans 6. He used the illustration that being dead to sin and alive in Christ is like moving from one country to another. When we move, the rules of our old country no longer apply to our lives. The same thing is true with sin. We have been transferred from the kingdom of sin to the kingdom of Christ. Sin isn’t our master anymore. Christ is.

Since Christ is our master now, we shouldn’t live like sin and death reign over us. And that’s where the second part of my campus minister’s question comes into play, “Are you free to struggle?” Even though we are free from the reign and power of sin, we’re still sinners. But because the Spirit is at work in us, we are now free to struggle against our remaining sin. By God’s grace, our struggles will produce fruit.

Understanding the difference between struggling to be free and being free to struggle protects us from many common errors about salvation. Some people believe that our works help save us. They believe that we’re saved by a combination of God’s grace and our good works. But our works don’t save us, even a little bit. We’re not stuck on a treadmill of good works hoping to do enough to free ourselves and earn God’s approval and our salvation. We’re free already by grace alone!

Others believe that since we’re free from sin then it doesn’t matter much how we live. They forget that our salvation includes the life-long process of sanctification. God doesn’t leave us in our sin. As Paul says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2). Our lives should reflect our growth in grace and holiness.

But we must also remember that our lives will be marked by struggle. We have not been set free to rest on our laurels. We have been set free to “fight the good fight” (2 Tim 4:7) and to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).

Don’t get me wrong. We won’t be perfect this side of glory. We will fight against our indwelling sin until our dying breath. We live in the already and not yet. We have been saved from our sin (justified). We are being saved from our sin (sanctified). And we will one day be saved from our sin (glorified). While we struggle against our remaining sin, we can trust that we will succeed. Christ has won the victory, and our victory over sin is secure.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

Rachel Miller is News Editor for the Aquila Report. She has a BA in History from Texas A&M University. She is a member of a PCA church in the Houston area and the homeschooling mother of three boys.

 



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The Rhythms of the Lord

by Dan Doriani

My Problem

     I’m not sure why I have such a hard time resting and heeding the fourth commandment. Maybe I’m still trying to silence my grade school teachers, who constantly berated me for laziness (Actually, I was lazy). Or maybe I just follow the American way.

     Last summer, I decided I needed a mentor if I hoped to change and selected Estelle, my four-year-old grand-daughter as my guide. On Fridays, Estelle arrives at my house at 7 a.m., accompanied by her mother and little brother. After a few minutes, we sit down for breakfast. Afterward, I turn off my phone, hoping to silence the ticking in my mind, and we head for a nearby park featuring cascading streams, bridges, interactive sculptures, boulders that are perfect for little climbers, and a lake stocked with hungry fish. After we arrive, we hop down a flight of steps that take us to a gurgling, insect-laden stream. Soon, we reach a sculpture of a girl running and she sprints ahead, heels flying. After we feed the fish, we head for a course of rocks, which she climbs because their crevices shelter flowers, bees, and dragonflies. On higher rocks, she reaches for my hand, but she holds on after the danger has passed. We may name flowers or launch a tiny raft on the water, but by 9:00, I began itching to get to work, because decades of devotion to goals and efficiency have shaped me.

Time

     Estelle is teaching me that relationships need timelessness, not efficiency. That makes me wonder about time in the New Creation. Will it cease? Become a quiet friend, a term that merely labels sequences – this happened, then that. Whatever else happens to time, it will surely cease to be a foe that marches us toward decrepitude and death and presses us to accomplish more.

     My struggle is common in a culture dominated by clocks and efficiency. As we race to complete self-assigned tasks, time tracks our success. Other cultures construe time differently. Before people measured time with clocks, they rose with the sun, marked morning, mid-day, afternoon, sunset, and stopped working around dusk. People thought of time as a river; people sailed on time and it swept us where we needed to go.

     Today, clocks let us think about time in units, packets, or slivers – seconds, minutes, and hours. Clocks make it seem like a quantity of something, like coins. We limited minutes and hours, so we need to manage it, measure it, save it (In fact, we say we save time and make time, but we do neither.) The focus on efficiency may move us get more done, but it drives and harries us. Leisure seems like a waste. Relaxation doesn’t put money in our wallets or add to the gross national product. Efficiency becomes a demigod. If someone asks, “How was your day?” we reply, “Great! I got a lot done.”  

     That view of time hides something essential. Judged by the clock, every minute is identical, but God says some moments are more important than others and we should make “the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

     If time is a demigod, it feels like a hostile deity. We want to savor joyful moments and slow time down. We want the last ski run or the last laugh over dessert to continue forever, but they slip away. And we grow old.

     In fact, the Lord God is Master of time and seasons (Gen. 8:22), of calendars and everyone’s time on earth: “The length of our days is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength… Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:10, 12).

God’s pattern

     Many resist the whip of efficiency, the pressure for ceaseless productivity. Some seek jobs that bring fewer demands and more leisure. Believers should attend to the God-given rhythm of life since it both corrects laziness and offers relief to those who feel pressure to be industrious at all times. He teaches us to work, then pause to sleep, eat, pray, and rest each week.

     In the beginning, there was work, then rest, for God created, then paused to review what he had done (Gen. 1:1-2:3) Since God created us in his image, that’s our pattern, too. We should work, then reflect; ideally, we call it “good.” Sadly, Americans are prone to work, then work more. Others work too little. Perhaps they can’t find a good job; perhaps they are slugs. As fallen creatures, we typically work too much or too little. But God’s pattern, joined to his law, points us the right way.

     When the Lord created the universe, he lavished “boundless skill, energy, and inventiveness” on it. Yet he did not wholly immerse himself in his work, he held something back. He detached himself from creation, so that we can distinguish God’s work from God himself. There is more to God than what he does. At the end of each day of creation, he “pauses, stands back, and collects himself” (Ronald Wallace, The Ten Commandments, 65-66). The labor of creation did not exhaust God or bind him to this world. After creating all things, God chose to rest and assess his accomplishment. We should rest and evaluate too, for we are more than our work, just as he is.

    Astronomers estimate that there are 2 x 10 to the 23rd power stars in the universe. To get a sense of that, imagine that every person who ever lived – roughly one hundred billion people, according to demographic estimates – named stars for sixty hours a week, for sixty years, at a rate of five stars per minute. At that rate, everyone would still need one thousand lifetimes to name all the stars. But even in that incandescent act, the Lord remained distinct from his work.

    Similarly, Jesus loved his work and gave tireless, concentrated energy to it. Once, when he was tired and hungry, his disciples urged him to eat. He replied, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). He loves his work and it nourished his spirit (Eccles. 2:24-25). Similarly, before he gave up his spirit on the cross, he exulted “It is finished,” for he was satisfied with his work (John 19:30, Is. 53:11).

    Nonetheless, Jesus also stopped to pray, sleep, share a meal, strike up conversations, and worship, and so should we. Jesus didn’t decide he had to heal every sick person in Israel and we are not obligated to solve every problem we see. No matter how fulfilling our labor, God designed us for more than work.

    Specifically, we refrain from work on the Sabbath because the Lord “rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:10-11). Like the Lord, we should work enthusiastically, but we should also know when to stop.

     Productivity is good. Professionals, business leaders, engineers, and craftsmen rightly consider the efficient use of time, space, and capital. To waste time and talent is to squander God’s gifts. Time, skill, and materials are scarce. Farmers must work when it is time to plant and harvest (Prov. 10:4-5, 20:4). Wealth should be preserved. Still, we must be not read our passion for efficiency into Scripture. After all, when God created humans, he gave us a need for sleep and rest. We are not sharks who keep moving or die. We sleep daily and God ordains a day of rest. That creates about seventy “non-productive” hours per week, if anyone is counting. And God doesn’t seem to hurry as we do. His covenants unfold over centuries; he certainly doesn’t accomplish everything at once. And neither should we.

Dan Doriani teaches Theology and Ethics at Covenant Seminary. He earned his M.Div. from Westminster and talked everyone into a joint Yale/Westminster Ph.D. He also pastored a very small church for five years and a very large one for eleven. He plays tennis, hikes mountains, wrangles grandchildren, speaks at conferences, and writes books, including The New Man.



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The Old Man Crucified: Putting Off & Putting On

by David Smith

The terms old and new are like the terms high and low, tall and short and big and little; they are relative terms; we know what they mean as they are used in relation to a fixed measurable standard. I am short in relation to some people, tall in relation to others. When the term old man or old self (depending on one’s English translation) is used by the apostle Paul (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9) he uses it in relation to the regenerated or born-again person; the person given spiritual re-birth by the Holy Spirit. The born-again person has been made new, they have been made a new creation by God (2Cor. 5:17) and now are commanded and enabled to reject sin which is identified with the old person. By the very nature of the case it alerts us to, among other things, our salvation’s personally progressive character.

            Not long ago I read on a Christian web site a short essay on how the Bible teaches that salvation is not a process, but the result of a decision in a moment of time. Of course, there are Scriptural passages that teach this point. The problem is that Scripture also teaches very clearly that salvation is a continuous work by God in which he changes a sinner to be more and more conformed to the image of his Son. Furthermore, salvation is not merely a historically progressive work in the lives of individual Christians, but thereby also in the entire Church to which all true Christians are united, and in which they are to “work out their salvation” (Phil 2:12). This historical work by God of saving his covenant people is not merely confined to one generation of Christians but every generation in history. Moreover, God is not only saving a corporate community called the Church but also his entire cosmos from sin (God’s creation received a covenant sign before God’s people, cf. Gen. 9 & 17), and this means that time and space (created realities) are objects of God’s rescue from sin. The idea, then, that salvation in the biblical sense is not to be considered in any way a process is categorically, and clearly contrary to the Bible and, frankly, a dangerous belief; it denies key aspects to our salvation from sin and therefore the Christian life.

Let the record show: According to the Old and New Testament, salvation from sin is both a definitive act by God and a process applied by God; it progresses in and through God’s created order to, in, through and even by God’s covenant people and therefore to, in, through and by individual Christians. Yet, this is only because of and by the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit in and with the individual Christian as they participate in and with God’s covenant people, the Church.

            Among other things, this means that those being saved from sin in and through the time/space realm created, sustained and saved by God are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in them both to will and work for his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). God has raised many sinners from the spiritual dead, giving them new life, a different life from their old way of living, and thereby he has given every individual Christian, and his corporate body, the Church, powers that are exclusive to this new life (Rom. 6:1-14; Eph. 3:14-19; 4:1-24; Col. 3:1-17). It means, as Paul puts it, that Christians should and can “put off the old man” and “put on the new.” The language and concepts speak of a continuous process of work whereby the Christian in the corporate life of the Church willingly participates with God in God’s cleansing of his people from sin throughout their earthly lives.

            Our continual participation with God in this work whereby God progressively and persistently cleanses his covenant people of their sin means that our putting off the old (sin) and putting on the new (holiness, the fruit of the Holy Spirit) is our continual submitting ourselves to God. It highlights what many call “the means of grace.” It stresses the corporate worship of God’s people whereby God’s word is preached by those men set apart by God to preach his living and active word, his life-giving word applied by God’s Spirit, as well as the administration of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and even singing biblically sound “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16). It is not a mere coincidence that Paul wrote of putting on the new man to the whole church and in connection with its corporate life in which her Lord’s word is ministered to her, not merely once, but at least weekly.

            The biblical doctrine of salvation does not merely equate salvation with being declared righteous by God (justification) but with the whole earthly process of the Christian’s being regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). We are acted upon by our Triune Lord that we might act in accord with those divine powers by which we have been acted upon (Rom. 12:2). It is a continuous process of salvation whereby we put on the new self in this earthly life.      

David P. Smith (Ph.D.) is the author of B. B. Warfield’s Scientifically Constructive Theological Scholarship (Wipf & Stock) and co author with Ronald Hoch of Old School, New Clothes: The Cultural Blindness of Christian Education Wipf & Stock). David is Pastor of Covenant Fellowship A.R.P. Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.  



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Wibrandis Rosenblatt – A Quiet Matriarch

by Simonetta Carr

Wibrandis Rosenblatt – A Quiet Matriarch

Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504-1564) is often nicknamed “the Bride of the Reformation,” because she became successively the wife of four men, three of whom were famous Reformers. Her memory is often limited to this oddity, and her voice to a couple of letters. And yet her influence as a courageous woman who did what needed to be done in her ordinary sphere was essential for the unity and continuity of the Reformation in Strasbourg and Basel.

Four Husbands

            A native of Bad Säckingen, Germany, Wibrandis moved to Basel, her mother’s hometown, while her father was in the service of Emperor Charles V. There she met her first husband, Ludwig Keller, a member of a circle of biblical humanists. Their marriage, mostly unreported, lasted only two years, from 1524 to 1526, as Keller died unexpectedly, leaving Wibrandis (then 22) with a young daughter.

            Two years later, she married 46-year old Johannes Oecolampadius (a Hellenized form of the German name Hausschein, meaning “house shine). Oecolampadius, one of Ulrich Zwingli’s closest friends, had remained a staunch bachelor until his mother died. Even after her death, he said he would marry only if he found a wife like Monica (the famous mother of Augustine of Hippo). No lesser standard would do. Wibrandis passed the test.

            It was a busy and challenging time in Basel, which had just become an official Reformed town. This required much wisdom, organization, and teaching, and Wibrandis was busy in her supporting role. The couple was much maligned by Roman Catholics because of the age difference. “A few days ago, Oecolampadius married a non-inelegant girl with intent to castigate his flesh during Lent,”[1] Desiderius Erasmus quipped. The marriage, however, didn’t last long because Oecolampadius died suddenly in 1531, leaving Wibrandis with three more children.

            Around that time, 54-year old Wolfgang Capito, a Strasbourg theologian and scholar, was suffering from melancholy after the death of his wife Agnes, and his doctor advised him to marry again. As it often happened in those cases, his friends went to work to find him a suitable wife. The Reformer Martin Bucer, who had earned a reputation as matchmaker, suggested Wibrandis. One of her most qualifying traits, he said, was her “demure” attitude, a good match for Capito’s “mercurial”[2] character.

            After considering different possibilities, Capito visited Wibrandis and was touched by her care of her children. She moved to Strasbourg where the two married in 1532. At 28 years of age, she was still considerably younger than her husband. The couple had five children. During this time, Wibrandis’s mother moved in with her and stayed with her ever since.

            In Strasbourg, Wibrandis became an active participant of the community of pastors and their wives, which worked together to promote the Reformation in the city. As it was typical at that time, Capito and Wibrandis opened their home to a constant stream of visitors and refugees.

            When the plague struck Strasbourg in 1541, Capito was one of its casualties, followed by three of his and Wibrandis’s children. The same plague claimed many other lives, including that of Elisabeth Silbereisen, wife of pastor and theologian Martin Bucer. Before dying, Bucer’s wife suggested that he take Capito’s place by joining the two households. When Bucer agreed through his tears, she presented the same proposal to Wibrandis.

            Bucer and Wibrandis married soon after Elisabeth’s death. It was a happy union, even if it took Bucer some time to recover from the pain of having lost his dear Elisabeth and five of her children and to adjust to Wibrandis’s different nature. “There is nothing that I could desire in my new wife save that she is too attentive and solicitous,” he said. “She is not as free in criticism as was my first wife, and now I realize that such liberty is not only wholesome but necessary.”[3]

            Wibrandis and Bucer had two children together and raised them together with Elisabeth’s only surviving child, Nathaniel, who had a developmental disability. The couple also adopted Bucer’s niece who had lost both of her parents. Once again, Wibrandis kept busy hosting students and refugees, including the Italian Peter Martyr Vermigli, who was surprised by the Bucers’ example of Christian home. While he didn’t mention her by name, she was certainly responsible for the management of the home through “godly frugality,”[4] on Capito’s salary of 300 florins a year.

            In 1548, the institution of the German Interim (a period of religious uncertainty while awaiting the decisions of the Council of Trent) brought serious impositions on the Reformed churches. Accepting the invitation of English Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Bucer moved to England in order to help the Reformation there. Initially, he stayed there alone, but in 1549 he asked Wibrandis to join him and help him to face some of the challenges of the English climate and diet, which he described as “everlastingly meat, meat, meat.”[5] He asked her to bring along her daughter Agnes Capito, plus one or two of their maids who could help in looking after the house. “You know what king of housekeeper I am,”[6] he wrote.

            With the help of her son-in-law Christolph Söll (Bucer’s secretary and husband of Aletheia Oecolampadius), Wibrandis organized her trip to England, where she found her husband plagued by poor health, including insomnia, arthritis, and intestinal problems. Some symptoms suggested tuberculosis. After assessing the situation, she left Agnes with Bucer and returned to Strasbourg to get the rest of her family. Her English stay didn’t last long, as Bucer died in 1551.

            Once again widowed, Wibrandis wrote Cranmer to ensure his support, then returned first to Strasbourg and then, driven by another bout of plague, to Basel. She stayed in Basel from 1553 to 1564, when she also succumbed to the plague, together with about seven thousand victims in that city alone. She was buried next to Oecolampadius.

Wibrandis’s Children

            Little is left of Wibrandis’s voice – only a letter to Cranmer and one to her son Simon John Capito, where she discloses her sorrow over his choices. “I haven’t heard from you for some time, but I well know that if I had, the news would not have been comforting,” she said. “You contrive always to be a cross to me. If only I might live to the day when I have good news from you. Then would I die of joy. Be thrifty, study hard, no drinking, gaming, or wenching[7]. If you would follow in the footsteps of your father, then Grandma, the sisters, and the in-laws would lay down their very lives for you. But if you won’t behave differently, no one will give you a heller.”

            She also reveals a strong and determined character that has no time for shenanigans. “If you will behave yourself properly, come home. If you won’t, then do as you will. I wish you a good year. Your faithful mother.”[8]

            Apparently, Simon didn’t listen to his mother and was declared missing in 1567.

            Wibrandis’s other children, however, went on to lead fruitful lives. All the surviving girls – Wibrandis Keller, Elisabeth Bucer, Aletheia Oecolampadius, and Agnes and Irene Capito – had very large families (14 children for Aletheia and 13 for Elisabeth), leaving Wibrandis with a host of descendants, some named after her. Seven of Agnes’s children were born while Wibrandis was alive. Her youngest son, Wofgang Meyer, became a theologian. At his death, he was buried next to Oecolampadius and Wibrandis. Many of Wibrandis’s descendants are still living today in the region of Basel.[9]


[1] Roland H. Bainton, Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy, Augsburg Publishing House, 1971, p. 82

[2] Ibid, p. 85.

[3] Ibid, pp. 87-88

[4] Ibid, p. 88

[5] Ibid, p. 90

[6] Ibid, p. 91

[7] Seeking prostitutes.

[8] Ibid, pp. 93-94

[9] See also Ernst Staehelin, Frau Wibrandis: A Woman in the Time of Reformation, transl. by Ed L. Miller, Wipf & Stock, 2009.

 



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The Old Man Crucified Podcast

by Jonathan Master

Dr. Carlton Wynne is the assistant professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, and one of the speakers at the Quakertown Conference on Reformed Theology, entitled The Glory of the Cross.

How does the historical Adam magnify the cross of Christ? Carlton gives us a little glimpse into the glorious topic he’ll be addressing at the conference November 9 and 10.

Redemptive history is God’s theme for our faith, and Carlton comprehensively walks us through the imputation of Adam’s sin to all men, and how God deals with this catastrophic event through the person and work of Christ.

 

Show Notes

The Glory of the Cross

Romans 6

No Adam, No Gospel: Adam and the History of Redemption by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.

1 Corinthians 15

Genesis 3, 4, and 5

 

We are giving away a few free registrations for The Glory of the Cross Conference. Register here for the opportunity to attend free of cost!



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Place for Truth is a voice of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Place for Truth and the mission of the Alliance.

Heaven on Earth?: Where do I go when I die?

by Joel Wood

Where you going, Dad?

This question, above all others, comes from the lips of my now 10 year old son. He has always, from his earliest days, been keenly aware when I’m walking out the door, or even looking like I might walk out of the door. Then, it comes: “Where you going, Dad?” With pastoral work, especially counseling, I’m not always able to tell him specifics: out to meet with someone, a meeting, to counsel with somebody. Any of these has come to satisfy his urge to know: where is dad going?

There’s a more important question about my destination that I’m much more concerned to pass on to him: where I will go when I die. When that day comes, and my heart beats its last upon the earth, I want him to know just where Dad went. But this question is larger than for just me. Everyone eventually confronts this question. So far, the ratio of births to deaths is 1:1, and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. So, where are you going, friend?

First, we should be clear that everybody goes somewhere when they die. There is an existence beyond this one. No one fails to slip the surly bonds of earth. In discussing Christ’s second coming, the writer of Hebrews reminds us: As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this comes the judgment… (9:27, MEV). One cannot be judged, if he no longer exists.

Second, we should be clear that there are only two places that one might go after they die. From the Roman Catholic Church to Mormonism, there are those who claim to agree with what the biblical says and, yet, so many continue to add places to land post-death to the biblical eschatology. Heaven or Hell. These are the options. We see this no more starkly presented than in Jesus’ story about “The Rich Man & Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31).  Now, you may want to debate whether there really was a Rich Man with a beggar who lived just outside his house name Lazarus. While I believe there was, Jesus grounds this story, a parable, in the historical truth. When he was done, nobody said: “Awwwww, Jesus, you almost had us there! Everybody knows that [insert unbiblical, personal eschatology here]!!” No. They all knew that when you die on earth, you live on in either a place of blessing and reward or of punishment and misery. Additionally, no one asked where the people were who were in purgatory, limbo, celestial kingdoms, etc.

Third, we should be clear what guarantees entrance into those two places. For Hell, that’s easy. We are born condemned after our father Adam’s fall. Jesus reminds us of this in John 3. He didn’t have to condemn the world, because it was already in that predicament. For Heaven, one must be saved by saving faith, that faith which is of God and finds as its only object Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God who gave his life as a ransom for many. Paul, the Apostle, said it best: “For those whom He foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:29–30, MEV).

Fourth, we should be clear just what heaven is all about. The Apostle John described heaven in his recording of the Revelation that he had while a prisoner on Patmos. Just this portion tells us that Heaven is so much more than we could ever imagine or hope for:

I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city has no need of sun or moon to shine in it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall never be shut by day, for there shall be no night there. They shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. No unclean thing shall ever enter it, nor shall anyone who commits abomination or falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:22–27, MEV).

If we’re not happy with the things of Jesus, the gospel, and the glory of God on earth, we most certainly won’t be happy with Heaven. Heaven isn’t the perfection of what WE want on earth in our sinful flesh. No. Heaven is all about Jesus. John Piper put it well when he said:

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? (John Piper, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself)

If you don’t like Jesus here, you won’t like him there.

Finally, we should be clear that we want others to believe and to enter Heaven. Like Joshua stated, as the options were laid out before God’s people as their wilderness wandering came to a close, giving that cosmic cheat sheet, we say: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life…” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Yes, friend, choose life. Choose today. Choose Christ and live in him. Know that when you die that you will be with him. (2 Corinthians 6:8)

Joel Wood is the pastor of Trinity RPC in Burtonsville, MD, between DC and Baltimore. He holds M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is 1/4 of The Jerusalem Chamber podcast, a roundtable discussion about the doctrine, worship, and piety of the Westminster Confession of Faith.



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Place for Truth is a voice of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Place for Truth and the mission of the Alliance.

Heaven on Earth? Protestants & Dante

by Stephen Unthank

I have the pleasure of meeting with some very bright high school students twice a week to think through worldviews and the history of ideas. A large part of our time is spent discussing some of the great books of Western Civilization and this fall we’ve been reading through and discussing Dante’s Comedy. The question that continually arose, at least during the beginning of our reading and discussions, was how to read and benefit from a book, a poem really, that was not only so foreign to what we’re used to reading today, but a work that was so, well, Roman Catholic. Dante’s discussions of Catholic saints, of prayers for the dead, and an entire section devoted to the very unbiblical idea of Purgatory! What benefit, if any, is there for Protestant, Sola Scriptura affirming Christians in reading such a treatise. Here are some of my reasons.

Dante’s Divine Comedy is an allegorical epic meant to draw our minds towards contemplating truths in and through artistic images. It is a parable, of sorts, not meant to  be read as a systematic theology. Much in the same way John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress displays spiritual truths through inventive scenes. We don’t treat Bunyan’s scene of Christian crossing the Jordan into glory as a literal description, and so we shouldn’t with Dante.

Dante thus invites us to read his travels through the Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven) as more of a contemplation for how to live now than as a literal description of the afterlife. Indeed, the very first line of his epic includes us in his journey: “Midway in the journey of our life…” Here is a man, midway through life – having a “mid-life crises”, if you will – and he’s just awoken to find himself in a dark wood. In other words, he finds himself lost amidst his midlife slumber.

But by God’s grace he’s now woken up to his lostness. He’s at least aware. And what he does is now invite us likewise wake up, become aware, and now travel with him down into the darkness of Hell. And it’s there in the Inferno where Dante, in his crisis, fears his life and our lives are heading.

And once he’s there and he see’s what sin really leads to he’s led to a place where he can begin to work out his salvation in fear and trembling; a purging of sorts in Purgatorio. And this, in the end, will lead him, and us, to behold the end for which we were created – the beatific vision of God in His glory. And all of this is done within his lifetime and before he ever dies. Will such a pilgrimage have an effect upon his life and yours? Dante thinks so.

Dante’s guide is the Roman poet Virgil. Does this mean that Dante think’s Virgil, who didn’t know of nor believe in Christ, was actually saved and allowed into heaven? Probably not. Virgil actually isn’t allowed to guide Dante into Paradise; he must stop short and allow Beatrice to guide Dante the rest of the way. Dante, I think, is expressing the idea that great writers, and beautiful poetry in particular, have done much to help him contemplate the beauty of God. Here then is Dante’s gratitude to Virgil, the most beautiful of human poets, who has stirred Dante’s heart to seek after the most Beautiful Poet. There’s a lesson here for those who only listen to the artistically sub-par music (generally speaking) of Contemporary Christian Music.

As many commentators have noted in the past, Dante is inviting us to likewise wake up from our spiritual slumber and to embark on a tour of what lies beyond, a tour which ought to, hopefully bring sanctification. Here Dante is acting on what John says in 1 John 3:2-3, where we’re reminded that there is something actually purifying about looking forward in hope to what we will be in glory “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

This concept, I think, gives us, even as Protestants, great benefit in reading Dante. But still, why read his section on Purgatory if Purgatory is, for all intents and purposes, a fictional place? And I think the answer is this: because for the believer, purgatory is now. We are being sanctified and conformed more and more into the image of Christ now! And that’s what Dante is dealing with in this section of his Divine Comedy.

There is this wonderful section in the Purgatory, in Canto’s 19 and 20, where these yet-to-be-glorified but still hopeful souls are walking around repeating, actually meditating upon, Psalm 119:25, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!” In life they were people full of pride, but now in Purgatory they are humbled – literally by a massive boulder weighing them down and causing them to walk in lowliness! But their realization is more and more that it is a good thing to be humbled over sin and to find life not in their own will and wants but in God’s word.

Here, Dante meets one of his old drinking buddies, Forese Donati. Donati, along with other penitent souls who were once committed to drunkenness and gluttony are said to have “dark and sunken eyes, pallied in the face and so gaunt, that the skin took all its form from the bones” (Purgatorio 23:22-24). Then the poet makes a fascinating comment. He says, “Their eye sockets looked like rings with gems; and he who sees ‘omo’ written into the visage of men would have recognized the letter m” (Purgatorio 23:31-33).

In other words, their faces have become so thin, their eyes so sunken, that the nose and cheek bones form the letter m, with the eyes forming to o’s in the middle – that is, spelling the word omo, Latin for “man.” Jason Baxter, commentating on this account, points out that these sunken-face souls, while contemplating on and reading Scripture and groaning under the pains of Purgatory (think here of Romans 8), their very faces are being rewritten, so that their humanity is now becoming apparent once again. Dante’s old drinking buddy, Forese, was, as a drunkard, a text poorly written. But now, through God’s purifying grace, he is being rewritten back into true ‘omo’; his true humanity being restored.[1]

Dante weaves accounts like this in almost every page, leading the careful reader to contemplate not only the end for which vice will lead a man, but the grace of God in virtue and upon heavenly contemplation. I imagine Dante would have nodded with deep approval at the Puritan practice of memento mori, remembering death. Keeping an eye towards the afterlife, whether it be the glories of Heaven or the terrors of Hell, ought to produce a purifying – a spiritual purging – upon the true believer now. It is here where Dante and his beautifully written epic can serve the thoughtful and heavenly minded Christian.

Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC.  He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.


[1] Jason M. Baxter, A Beginner’s Guide To Dante’s Divine Comedy. (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI. 2018), 110-111.

 



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Place for Truth is a voice of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Place for Truth and the mission of the Alliance.