IBL01: The First Commandment (Craig Press)

The Laws of Covenant Membership


*This is an unedited and unoffical print version of R.J. Rushdoony’s lecture.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:02 Exodus 12. The laws of covenant membership. The Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, this month shall be unto you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house.: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

R.J. Rushdoony: 00:47 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. Ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month, and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire.. His head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

R.J. Rushdoony: 01:29 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And ye shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:16 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial, and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread. Even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses, for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel. And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you. No manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.

R.J. Rushdoony: 02:59 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread, for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses. For whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.

R.J. Rushdoony: 03:36 Ye shall eat nothing leavened, in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread. Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason, and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians, and when he seethe the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

R.J. Rushdoony: 04:20 And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, “What mean ye by this service?” That ye shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses,” and the people bowed the head and worshiped. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon and all the firstborn of cattle.

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:16 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt,, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and your children of Israel,” Go and serve the Lord, as ye have said. And take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone and bless me also. And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We be all dead men.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 05:58 And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses, and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment. And the Lord gave the Egyptians favor, the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent, to better gaze, unto them such things as they required, and they spoiled the Egyptians. And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them, and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

R.J. Rushdoony: 06:43 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any vittle. Now the sojourning of the children of Egypt, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years. And it came to pass at the end of the 430 years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. This is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations. And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the passover.” There shall no stranger eat thereof.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 07:40 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. In one house shall it be eaten, thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house. Neither shall ye break a bone thereof. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it, and when a stranger shall sojourn with thee and will keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it. And he shall be as one that is born in the land. No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is home born, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. Thus did all the children of Israel, as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they. And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies.

R.J. Rushdoony: 08:49 The Commandment, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me, the First Commandment. Is the basic, the root Commandment of all laws. Those who obey this Commandment are members of God’s covenant. The two basic rights or rituals of the covenant are, in the Old Testament, covenant the circumcision and Passover, and in the New, baptism and communion. It is important for us to understand the meaning of these covenant rights.

R.J. Rushdoony: 09:33 First of all, circumcision. Circumcision was instituted as the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and at the same time that God ordained circumcision, he made it clear that the requirement of the covenant is obedience to God’s morale law. Circumcision is required by the law of Moses, in Leviticus 12:3, on the eight day. It was required of all who took the Passover. And we cannot understand circumcision apart from the fact that, although circumcision was common, in antiquity, and into relatively modern times, of all cultures around the world, it differed erratically from what you find in other cultures.

R.J. Rushdoony: 10:38 Now, anthropologists, as they analyze, Biblical circumcision, they said, of course this was a common right in antiquity and in modern times, of every civilization we encounter. Now, this is true, but of course, they do not tell us the origin of it. And we cannot understand this, apart from the fact that apparently all nations in the beginning had a geneal revelation from God, which made clear, the fact of circumcision. They cannot account for the fact of circumcision and its universality. We believe, of course, that it was ordained by God, and it was established with Abraham. How it passed to other peoples, or whether it had been assigned previously to Noah, and had disappeared in Abraham’s family, we do not know.

R.J. Rushdoony: 11:48 But we do know that it’s beginnings in the Bible are with Abraham. Its meaning was made clear from very early years, from Abraham days. But what it signified was this, that even as the foreskin, of the male organ, was cut off, so man was to realize there was no hope in himself or in generation, or any act of man, as far as saving himself was concerned. That there is no hope in generation, or in any generation of man, but man’s hope instead is in regeneration. Moses repeatedly speaks of the symbolic meaning of circumcision. He says, for example, “Circumcise, therefore the foreskin of your heart and be no more stick necked, that is rebellious against God. And he declares the Lord will circumcise, by in heart, and the heart of thy seed to love the Lord thy God, with all my heart. And with all my soul that thou mayest live.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 13:05 Another basic difference between Pagan circumcisions and Biblical circumcision, appears in the fact that Biblical circumcision was required on the eight day. If circumstances prevented it, it was to be assumed, thereafter as possible. Now this in itself is a remarkable fact, which indicates clearly revelation, required on the eight day. Why? Why not on the first or the second or the third day? Well the answer is, that recently we have discovered that the blood of the child, the first seven days of its life after birth, does not permit coagulation. So that any operation runs the very, very great risk …

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:01 Runs the very, very great risk of bleeding to death. So the circumcision during the first seven days would probably result in the bleeding to death of the child. But beginning on the eighth day, the blood coagulates.

R.J. Rushdoony: 14:25 Now, all pagan circumcisions were performed at the onset of maturity when the boy was about 13 or 14. Here is a remarkable difference. In all pagan circumcision, the meaning of circumcision was that now that the young man was reaching maturity, he now had adult capacities and was able in effect to save himself, because pagan cultures also recognized that there was something wrong with the race of mankind, that mankind was tainted. It did have propensities to evil so that mankind was faced with a problem. It needed saving. But the basic thesis of mankind in all paganism, as well as in all humanism today, was that man was able to save himself.

R.J. Rushdoony: 15:42 And so, with this act of circumcision of the boy when he reached maturity or began his adolescence, there was signified his initiation into the male fraternity of those who were now going to rule and save mankind. It was a doctrine of self salvation.

R.J. Rushdoony: 16:06 But as administered to a child on the eighth day, in such an act, the child was wholly passive. The child did nothing except to receive the rite. It set forth the total, the sovereign grace of God, that this covenant rite we’ve set for our salvation represented not an act of man. It was not man who saved himself. But it represented the fact that it was entirely of God and all man does is to receive it, and his reception of it is passive. Circumcision, therefore, symbolized justification, regeneration, and sanctification.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:06 The sign of the covenant in the New Testament was very early set forth to be baptism. In the Old Testament, the priests were symbolically baptized when they put on their garbs to set forth that which was to come when the bright, great high priest Jesus Christ came. And so the priests were symbolically washed. That is, they were sprinkled or aspersed. And in Ezekiel 36:25 and 26, we have the sign of the new covenant set forth as baptism and as sprinkling.

R.J. Rushdoony: 17:48 And so it is that biblical baptism being baptism being patterned after circumcision as the sign of the covenant, the membership in the covenant is to administered to children, to adults only when they become converts late in life. But children of believers are to be circumcised to indicate, are to be baptized even as in the Old Testament they were circumcised to indicate their membership in the covenant, to indicate the fact that salvation is the act of God, not of man. It is entirely of grace.

R.J. Rushdoony: 18:35 Now, the other great covenant rite is Passover, the communion of the Old Testament. And the Passover was to celebrate the redemption of Israel which was from Egypt. Nine plagues had been passed against Egypt. These nine plagues had laid each a blow, but Egypt was still unwilling to surrender the Israelites, to release them from their slavery. And so came now the culminating judgment, the culminating plague against Egypt, the death of all the firstborn of man and beast.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:23 Only those who placed themselves under the blood of the lamb, signifying Jesus Christ, the messiah who was to come, and who killed the sacrificial lamb and sprinkled the blood upon the side posts and the lintel of the door were spared from the death of the firstborn.

R.J. Rushdoony: 19:53 And so it was that night, all Egypt found death striking every household, the firstborn. Now, the firstborn symbolically represents in antiquity and until fairly recent times the totality in that the firstborn represented the head of the household that was to take the place when the father passed on. He was the head of the clan, as it were. And so the death of the firstborn represented the death of the whole, as St. Paul echoing this declared in Romans, “If the first fruit be holy, then is the lump,” that is the totality is holy in that the first fruit you see represents the whole.

R.J. Rushdoony: 20:46 So the death of the firstborn represented God’s judgment against all of Egypt. Now, this was a literal salvation. They were slaves. They were released from bondage by this judgment which the Passover set forth so that when they ate it, that is the Passover lamb, thus shall ye eat it with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand, and he shall eat it in haste, ready to move. Ready to move how? Ready to move in terms of the fact that before the night is over and before you have finished the meal if you doddle over it you won’t be able to eat because your salvation will have come.

R.J. Rushdoony: 21:48 And we read that in the middle of the night, they were already on their way because Pharaoh said, “Get out of the land. We have been destroyed by you and your God.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:02 So they ate with their staffs in their hand, with their sandals on their feet. And in those days, people took off their shoes at the door Oriental fashion when they came in. But they ate in the house with their sandals on their feet, their loins girded, that is, belted up, ready to move.

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:28 It was not only a spiritual salvation. It was a physical redemption. They were literally slaves. With this eating, they were to be free men, or, “I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment. I am the Lord.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 22:59 Now, the salvation of Israel was their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. It was spiritual. It was physical. Our salvation is the cross of Christ and is the Resurrection. It is for us also a physical as well as a spiritual redemption. It declares that God is able to overthrow and destroy our enemies, to deliver us from the bondage of sin and death, to redeem us from all our enemies.

R.J. Rushdoony: 23:48 Unfortunately, in the church today the sacrament has been made too spiritual. Its meaning has been limited to the spiritual aspect. But if we are to see it as exactly that which the Passover was, the New Testament Passover, we must therefore, as we partake of the sacrament, recognize that it declares unto us that the God who destroyed Egypt is able to destroy the tyrant and the enemy today. We take it, therefore, to signify that we believe that Jesus Christ has died to redeem us from sin, that He is the lamb of God, our Passover lamb. This all of the New Testament declares. But he is also our deliverer from the enemies [inaudible 00:24:51] and that we are to take it in this state and in this confidence.

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:03 But this is not all. What is the meaning of the Passover as it is declared?

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:11 It shall come to pass when your children shall say unto, “What mean ye by this service?”

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:19 And you shall say, “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses, and the people bowed the head and were hit.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 25:45 Now, the whole of the Passover was geared to teaching the children the meaning of God’s salvation as well as celebrating it as a household so that the youngest male child in the family was old enough to talk and understand, was to ask at this passover this question. What mean ye by this service?

R.J. Rushdoony: 26:16 And the father as he officiated was to make known to that child the meaning of the service. This meant, therefore, that the children participated, did they not? And at this point, I have very few in any branch of the church who agree with me, but I have found none yet who tell me where I am wrong in my interpretation of scripture. But when we come to the New Testament, we find that the Lord’s table was celebrated by the people of God Sunday evening. Why? Because Sunday was a workday for them. It was not a legal holiday in those days. So when did they meet? In the evening in the home.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:18 And what does Paul tell us in Corinthians as he deals with the sacrament. It was in those days a potluck dinner because these men came from work, long hours. The women folk brought the food there. They had the service, and then they ate.

R.J. Rushdoony: 27:38 Now, the children all ate, did they not? And we have from the records of the early church and the early church fathers that the children did eat. Now, even after in terms of the injunction of Paul, it became a symbolic meal, the bread and the wine instead of a full meal as in the very early years. The children still-

R.J. Rushdoony: 28:00 -as in the very early years. The children still partook of it, and the service was geared to making known to the children the meaning of the Lord’s redemption. We cannot understand until we go to the origins of the Lord’s supper in the Passover the totality of its meaning. It sets forth the whole salvation of our God, and if we take it only believing that we are saved from our sins and that is all, important though that is, we are neglecting a basic meaning. It means salvation from sin and death on the one hand, and that God will destroy our enemies materially, on the other hand. This is the double aspect of the Lord’s table, but there is another aspect of the original celebration, which we have in the 13th chapter of Exodus and must be discussed in connection with it briefly because our time is short.

R.J. Rushdoony: 29:42 In the 13th chapter we read that in the first two verses and verses 11 though 16, “When the Lord speak unto Moses saying sanctify unto me all of the first born, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is mine.” What does this mean? Now, the passover was a witness to blood in a double sense. The term blood is a common one in scripture. We cannot understand The Bible without understanding the meaning of blood. Now, the idea of blood is of life taken violently, of death.

R.J. Rushdoony: 30:35 And as we read the various passages of scripture as they deal with blood we find first that there is no greater act of love, or of sacrifice, or of service than a sacrifice unto blood. Reader, “Love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friend.” Second, the greatest evil is to take life against the law of God. No life can be taken apart from the law of God. Third, the penalty for taking life unlawfully is death. And fourth, the only possible atonement is life for life, blood for blood.

R.J. Rushdoony: 31:27 Now, the Passover was a double witness to blood. On the one hand, it was required of Egypt for unbelief, so that on the night of the Passover the blood of the first born of Egypt was shed. It was taken. God killed them. Now what does this tell us about communion? Communion therefore, is life to us because it is death to the unGodly, so that the act of communion has a double meaning, does it not? It is life to the people of God. It signifies their salvation by the Lord because it is at one and the same time a sentence of death upon the Egypt roundabout us. Now, how can we partake of the Lord’s table without setting for this meaning?

R.J. Rushdoony: 32:39 It becomes a superstitious right if a meaning is not proclaimed and understood. It is death to the world roundabout us when it is properly celebrated when we affirm its meaning by faith. but Israel was no less sentenced to death for its sins because it was unbelieving and doubting and stumbling to the last moment. There was no American then to save them. It was of the grace of God because they were the covenant people of God, and so in the sentence of death passed against Israel who assumed the death, the land? The lamb of God, who set forth the Messiah who was to come. So, that when John the Baptist first saw Jesus as he began his ministry, he pointed to him and said, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.”

R.J. Rushdoony: 33:54 What did Jesus Christ do as He prepared the last week, his disciples for the cross for his death? He declared at the same time the sentence of death upon Jerusalem, upon all Judea, did He not? He brought it to the temple, and He said, “Not one stone shall be left standing upon another.” He passed a death sentence upon the whole land, so that is atoning death was, at one and the same time, life to the people of God, and death to the enemies of God. This then is the double meaning of the Passover, and of the cross of Christ of the Lord’s table. Now the command, “Thou shall have no other Gods before me,” requires that a man know that his only hope of salvation is in the blood of God’s sacrifice the lamb of God to live in great obedience therefore to God. To recognize that all blood is governed by God and His long word, and to eat, or drink, or do nothing apart from God, or what, whoever is not of [inaudible 00:35:28] is sin, Saint Paul declared. Now in this chapter, the 13th, Moses called for the redemption of the first born of Israel. He said, “Every first born of man and beast,” verses 11 through 13, as well as verses 1 and 2, “belongs to me because I have spared your first born by the sacrifice of my first born,” symbolically set forth in the lamb. “Therefore, it must be given to me signifying that the whole must be given to me, so that every first born child had to be redeemed.” That is a payment had to be made to God signifying that the child was brought back from God.

R.J. Rushdoony: 36:33 Every first born of the livestock had to be redeemed or had to be killed if it were not redeemed because it belonged to God. Man could not keep it, except for their [inaudible 00:36:48]. The fact that they’d recognized that God has given his only begotten Son to die for them rather than passing the sentence of death upon them. So, in the redemption of the first born they confirmed that which was set forth in the covenant in circumcision. It was the Old Testament’s right of confirmation. Now, Christ is declared by all of the New Testament to be our first born and our first fruit. Christ our first fruit is sacrificed for us.

R.J. Rushdoony: 37:49 Ourselves also would have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves, grown within ourselves waiting for the adoption to with the redemption of our bodies. And so Saint Paul declares, “Our salvation in Christ being therefore of soul and body. The combination of it will be in the new creation the resurrection of our body as well as in our soul, so that we shall live in the new creation in perfect redemption in a physical life in a glorified body, as well as a resurrected soul. Well that’s what the Lord’s table set for, as well as the Passover, is the total redemption of bodies and souls.

R.J. Rushdoony: 38:58 Let us pray. Our Lord and our God we give thanks unto Thee for Thy so great salvation. We pray our Father [inaudible 00:39:11] make the people of God in this generation mindful of the sacraments set forth not only the salvation of our souls, but the judgment of death against thine enemies. Granted in this faith in this confidence we may move to prepare ourselves in the days ahead for the judgment that shall fall upon thine enemies, and for our triumphs, and our redemption in and of Thee through Jesus Christ our Lord. In His name we pray. Amen.

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

Learn more about R.J. Rushdoony by visiting: https://chalcedon.edu/founder