Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Method and Fruits of Justification, A Sermon By Martin Luther, Part 5



Here they learn that they do not satisfy the law, although outwardly they live according to its precepts. They pretend to obey it in works, although in mind they hate it; they pretend themselves righteous, but they remain sinners. These are like unto those of Cain's progeny, and hypocrites; whose hands are compelled to do good, but their hearts consent unto sin and are subject thereto. To know this concerning one's self is not the lowest degree toward salvation. Paul calls such constrained works the works of the law; for they flow not from a ready and willing heart; howbeit the law does not require works alone, but the heart itself; wherefore it is said in the first psalm of the blest man, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth he meditate day and night." Such a mind the law requires, but it gives it not; neither can it of its own nature: whereby it comes to pass that while the law continues to exact it of a man, and condemns him as long as he hath such a mind, as being disobedient to God, he is in anguish on every side; his conscience being grievously terrified.
 
Then, indeed, is he most ready to receive the grace of God; this being the time appointed by the Father when his servitude shall end, and he enter into the liberty of the sons of God. For being thus in distress, and terrified, seeing that by no other means he can avoid the condemnation of the law, he prays to the Father for grace; he acknowledges his frailty, he confesses his sin, he ceases to trust in works, and humbles himself, perceiving that between him and a manifest sinner there is no difference at all except of works, that he hath a wicked heart, even as every other sinner hath. The condition of man's nature is such that it is able to give to the law works only, and not the heart; an unequal division, truly, to dedicate the heart, which, incomparably excels all other things, to sin, and the hand to the law: which is offering chaff to the law, and the wheat to sin; the shell to God, and the kernel to Satan; whose ungodliness if one reprove, they become enraged, and would even take the life of innocent Abel, and persecute all those that follow the truth.
 
Those that trust in works seem to defend them to obtain righteousness; they promise to themselves a great reward for this, by persecuting heretics and blasphemers, as they say, who seduce with error, and entice many from good works. But those that God hath chosen, learn by the law how unwilling the heart is to conform to the works of the law; they fall from their arrogancy, and are by this knowledge of themselves brought to see their own unworthiness. Hereby they receive that covenant of the eternal blessing and the Holy Ghost which renews the heart: whereby they are delighted with the law, and hate sin; and are willing and ready to do those things which are good. This is the time appointed by the Father, when the heir must no longer remain a servant, but a son; being led by a free spirit, he is no more kept in subjection under tutors and governors after the manner of a servant; which is even that which Paul teaches in the following:
 
Verse 3. "Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the word." By the word elements thou mayest here understand the first principles or law written; which is as it were the first exercises and instructions of holy learning; as it is said: "As concerning the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God." "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world." "How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage."
 
Here Paul calls the law rudiments; because it is not able to perform that righteousness which it requires. For whereas it earnestly requires a heart and mind given to godliness, nature is not able to satisfy it: herein it makes a man feel his poverty, and acknowledge his infirmity: it requires that of him by right which he has not, neither is able to have. "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." Paul calls them the rudiments of the world, which, not being renewed by the Spirit, only perform worldly things; to wit, in places, times, apparel, persons, vessels, and such like. But faith rests not in worldly things, but in the grace, word, and mercy of God: counting alike, days, meats, persons, apparel, and all things of this world.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Method and Fruits of Justification, A Sermon By Martin Luther, Part 4



Whatsoever we do of our own power and strength, that which is not wrought in us by His grace, without doubt is a work of the law, and avails nothing toward justification; but is displeasing to God, because of the unbelief wherein it is done. He that trusts in works does nothing freely and with a willing mind; he would do no good work at all if he were not compelled by the fear of hell, or allured by the hope of present good. Whereby it is plainly seen that they strive only for gain, or are moved with fear, showing that they rather hate the law from their hearts, and had rather there were no law at all. An evil heart can do nothing that is good. This evil propensity of the heart, and unwillingness to do good, the law betrays when it teaches that God does not esteem the works of the hand, but those of the heart.
 
Thus sin is known by the law, as Paul teaches; for we learn thereby that our affections are not placed on that which is good. This ought to teach us not to trust in ourselves, but to long after the grace of God, whereby the evil of the heart may be taken away, and we become ready to do good works, and love the law voluntarily; not for fear of any punishment, but for the love of righteousness. By this means one is made of a servant, a son; of a slave an heir.
 
We shall now come to treat more particularly of the text. Verse 1. "The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all." We see that the children unto whom their parents have left some substance are brought up no otherwise than if they were servants. They are fed and clothed with their goods, but they are not permitted to do with them, nor use them according to their own minds, but are ruled with fear and discipline of manners, so that even in their own inheritance they live no otherwise than as servants. After the same sort it is in spiritual things. God made with His people a covenant, when He promised that in the seed of Abraham, that is in Christ, all nations of the earth should be blest. That covenant was afterward confirmed by the death of Christ, and revealed and published abroad by the preaching gospel. For the gospel is an open and general preaching of this grace, that in Christ is laid up a blessing for all men that believe.
 
Before this covenant is truly opened and made manifest to men, the sons of God live after the manner of servants under the law; and are exercised with the works of the law, altho they cannot be justified by them; they are true heirs of heavenly things, of this blessing and grace of the covenant; although they do not as yet know or enjoy it. Those that are justified by grace cease from the works of the law, and come unto the inheritance of justification; they then freely work those things that are good, to the glory of God and benefit of their neighbors. For they have possest it by the covenant of the Father, confirmed by Christ, revealed, published, and as it were delivered into their hands by the gospel, through the grace and mercy of God.
 
This covenant Abraham, and all the fathers which were endued with true faith, had no otherwise than we have: although before Christ was glorified this grace was not openly preached and published: they lived in like faith, and therefore obtained the like good things. They had the same grace, blessing, and covenant that we have; for there is one Father and God over all. Thou seest that Paul here, as in almost all other places, treats much of faith; that we are not justified by works, but by faith alone. There is no good thing which is not contained in this covenant of God; it gives righteousness, salvation, and peace. By faith the whole inheritance of God is at once received. From thence good works come; not meritorious, whereby thou mayest seek salvation, but which with a mind already possessing righteousness thou must do with great pleasure to the profit of thy neighbors.
 
Verse 2. "But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father." Tutors and governors are they which bring up the heir, and so rule him and order his goods that he neither waste his inheritance by riotous living, nor his goods perish or be otherwise consumed. They permit him not to use his goods at his own will or pleasure, but suffer him to enjoy them as they shall be needful and profitable to him. They keep him at home, and instruct him whereby he may long and comfortably enjoy his inheritance: but as soon as he arrives to the years of discretion and judgment, it cannot  but be grievous to him to live in subjection to the commands and will of another.
 
In the same manner stands the case of the children of God, which are brought up and instructed under the law, as under a master in the liberty of sons. The law profits them in this, that by the fear of it and the punishment which it threatens, they are driven from sin, at least from the outward work: by it they are brought to a knowledge of themselves, and that they do no good at all with a willing and ready mind as becomes sons; whereby they may easily see what is the root of this evil, and what is especially needful unto salvation; to wit, a new and living spirit to that which is good: which neither the law nor the works of the law is able to give; yea, the more they apply themselves to it, the more unwilling they find themselves to work those things which are good.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Method and Fruits of Justification, A Sermon By Martin Luther, Part 3

Perhaps some godly man may think, if the matter be so, and our work do not save us, to what end are so many precepts given us, and why doth God require that they be obeyed? The present text of the apostle will give a solution of this question, and upon this occasion we will give an exposition thereof. The Galatians being taught of Paul the faith of Christ, but afterward seduced by false apostles, thought that our salvation must be finished and made perfect by the works of the law; and that faith alone doth not suffice. These Paul calls back again from works unto faith with great diligence; plainly proving that the works of the law, which go before faith, make us only servants, and are of no importance toward godliness and salvation; but that faith makes us the sons of God, and from thence good works without constraint forthwith plentifully flow.

But here we must observe the words of the apostle; he calls him a servant that is occupied in works without faith, of which we have already treated at large; but he calls him a son which is righteous by faith alone. The reason is this, although the servant apply himself to good works, yet he does it not with the same mind as doth the son; that is, with a mind free, willing, and certain that the inheritance and all the good things of the Father are his; but does it as he that is hired in another man's house, who hopes not that the inheritance shall come to him. The works indeed of the son and the servant are alike; and almost the same in outward appearance; but their minds differ exceedingly: as Christ saith, "The servant abideth not in the house forever, but the son abideth ever."

Those of Cain's progeny want the faith of sons, which they confess themselves; for they think it most absurd, and wicked arrogancy, to affirm themselves to be the sons of God, and holy; therefore as they believe, even so are they counted before God; they neither become holy nor the sons of God, nevertheless are they exercised with the works of the law; wherefore they are and remain servants forever. They receive no reward except temporal things; such as quietness of life, abundance of goods, dignity, honor, etc., which we see to be common among the followers of popish religion. But this is their reward, for they are servants, and not sons; wherefore in death they shall be separated from all good things, neither shall any portion of the eternal inheritance be theirs, who in this life would believe nothing thereof. We perceive, therefore, that servants and sons are not unlike in works, but in mind and faith they have no resemblance.

The apostle endeavors here to prove that the law with all the works thereof makes us but mere servants, if we have not faith in Christ; for this alone make us sons of God. It is the word of grace followed by the Holy Ghost, as is shown in many places, where we read of the Holy Ghost falling on Cornelius and his family while hearing the preaching of Peter. Paul teaches that no man is justified before God by the works of the law; for sin only cometh by the law. He that trusts in works condemns faith as the most pernicious arrogancy and error of all others. Here thou seest plainly that such a man is not righteous, being destitute of that faith and belief which is necessary to make him acceptable before God and His Son; yea, he is an enemy to this faith, and therefore to righteousness also. Thus it is easy to understand that which Paul saith, that no man is justified before God by the works of the law.

The worker must be justified before God before he can work any good thing. Men judge the worker by the works; God judges the works by the worker. The first precept requires us to acknowledge and worship one God, that is, to trust Him alone, which is the true faith whereby we become the sons of God. Thou canst not be delivered from the evil of unbelief by thine own power, nor by the power of the law; wherefore all thy works which thou doest to satisfy the law can be nothing but works of the law; of far less importance than to be able to justify thee before God, who counteth them righteous only who truly believe in Him; for they that acknowledge Him the true God are His sons, and do truly fulfil the law. If thou shouldst even kill thyself by working, thy heart cannot obtain this faith thereby, for thy works are even a hindrance to it, and cause thee to persecute it.

He that studieth to fulfil the law without faith is afflicted for the devil's sake; and continues a persecutor both of faith and the law, until he come to himself, and cease to trust in his own works; he then gives glory to God, who justifies the ungodly, and acknowledges himself to be nothing, and sighs for the grace of God, of which he knows that he has need. Faith and grace now fill his empty mind, and satisfy his hunger; then follow works which are truly good; neither are they works of the law, but of the spirit, of faith and grace; they are called in the Scripture the works of God, which He worketh in us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Method and Fruits of Justification, A Sermon By Martin Luther, Part 2

Christ teaches us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest; that is, sincere preachers. When we hear these preach the true Word of God, we may believe; which faith justifies a man, and makes him godly indeed, so that he now calls upon God in the spirit of holiness, and works nothing but that which is good, and thus becomes a saved man. Thus he that believeth shall be saved; but he that worketh without faith is condemned; as Christ saith, he that doth not believe shall be condemned, from which no works shall deliver him. Some say, I will now endeavor to become honest. It is meet surely that we study to lead an honest life, and to do good works. But if one ask them how we may apply ourselves unto honesty, and by what means we may attain it, they answer, that we must fast, pray, frequent temples, avoid sins, etc. Whereby one becomes a Carthusian monk, another chooses some other order of monks, and another is consecrated a priest; some torment their flesh by wearing hair-cloth, others scourge their bodies with whips, others afflict themselves in a different manner; but these are of Cain's progeny, and their works are no better than his; for they continue the same that they were before, ungodly, and without justification: there is a change made of outward works only, of apparel, of place, etc.

They scarce think of faith, they presume only on such works as seem good to themselves, thinking by them to get to heaven. But Christ said, "Enter in at the strait gate, for I say unto you, many seek to enter in, and cannot." Why is this? because they know not what this narrow gate is; for it is faith, which altogether annihilates or makes a man appear as nothing in his own eyes, and requires him not to trust in his own works, but to depend upon the grace of God, and be prepared to leave and suffer all things. Those holy ones of Cain's progeny think their good works are the narrow gate; and are not, therefore, extenuated or made less, whereby they might enter.

When we begin to preach of faith to those that believe altogether in works, they laugh and hiss at us, and say, "Dost thou count us as Turks and heathens, whom it behooves now first to learn faith? is there such a company of priests, monks, and nuns, and is not faith known? who knoweth not what he ought to believe? even sinners know that." Being after this sort animated and stirred up, they think themselves abundantly endued with faith, and that the rest is now to be finished and made perfect by works. They make so small and slender account of faith, because they are ignorant what faith is, and that it alone doth justify. They call it faith, believing those things which they have heard of Christ; this kind of faith the devils also have, and yet they are not justified. But this ought rather to be called an opinion of men. To believe those things to be true which are preached of Christ is not sufficient to constitute thee a Christian, but thou must not doubt that thou art of the number of them unto whom all the benefits of Christ are given and exhibited; which he that believes must plainly confess, that he is holy, godly, righteous, the son of God, and certain of salvation; and that by no merit of his own, but by the mere mercy of God poured forth upon him for Christ's sake: which he believes to be so rich and plentiful, as indeed it is, that although he be as it were drowned in sin, he is notwithstanding made holy, and become the son of God.

Wherefore, take heed that thou nothing doubt that thou art the son of God, and therefore made righteous by His grace; let all fear and care be done away. However, thou must fear and tremble that thou mayest persevere in this way unto the end; but thou must not do this as though it consisted in thy own strength, for righteousness and salvation are of grace, whereunto only thou must trust. But when thou knowest that it is of grace alone, and that thy faith also is the gift of God, thou shalt have cause to fear, lest some temptation violently move thee from this faith.

Every one by faith is certain of this salvation; but we ought to have care and fear that we stand and persevere, trusting in the Lord, and not in our own strength. When those of the race of Cain hear faith treated of in this manner, they marvel at our madness, as it seems to them. God turn us from this way, say they, that we should affirm ourselves holy and godly; far be this arrogance and rashness from us: we are miserable sinners; we should be mad, if we should arrogate holiness to ourselves. Thus they mock at true faith, and count such doctrine as this execrable error; and thus try to extinguish the Gospel. These are they that deny the faith of Christ, and persecute it throughout the whole world; of whom Paul speaks: "In the latter times many shall depart from the faith," etc., for we see by these means that true faith lies everywhere opprest; it is not preached, but commonly disallowed and condemned.

The pope, bishops, colleges, monasteries, and universities have more than five hundred years persecuted it with one mind and consent most obstinately, which has been the means of driving many to hell. If any object against the admiration, or rather the mad senselessness of these men, if we count ourselves even holy, trusting the goodness of God to justify us, or as David prayed, "Preserve Thou me, O Lord, for I am holy," or as Paul saith, "The Spirit of God beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God"; they answer that the prophet and apostle would not teach us in these words, or give us an example which we should follow, but that they, being particularly and specially enlightened, received such revelation of themselves. In this way they misrepresent the Scripture, which affirms that they are holy, saying that such doctrine is not written for us, but that it is rather peculiar miracles, which do not belong to all. This forged imagination we account of as having come from their sickly brain. Again, they believe that they shall be made righteous and holy by their own works, and that because of them God will give them salvation and eternal blessedness.

In the opinion of these men it is a Christian duty to think that we shall be righteous and sacred because of our works; but to believe that these things are given by the grace of God, they condemn as heretical; attributing that to their own works which they do not attribute to the grace of God. They that are endued with true faith, and rest upon the grace of the Lord, rejoice with holy joy, and apply themselves with pleasure to good works, not such as those of Cain's progeny do, as feigned prayers, fasting, base and filthy apparel, and such like trifles, but to true and good works whereby their neighbors are profited.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Method and Fruits of Justification, A Sermon By Martin Luther, Part 1

Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be Lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Gal. 4:1-7

This text touches the very pith of Paul's chief doctrine. The cause why it is well understood but by few is, not that it is so obscure and difficult, but because there is so little knowledge of faith left in the world; without which it is not possible to understand Paul, who everywhere treats of faith with such earnestness and force. I must, therefore, speak in such a manner that this text will appear plain; and that I may more conveniently illustrate it, I will speak a few words by way of preface.

First, therefore, we must understand the doctrine in which good works are set forth, far different from that which treats of justification; as there is a great difference between the substance and its working; between man and his work. Justification pertains to man, and not to works; for man is either justified and saved, or judged and condemned, and not works. Neither is it a controversy among the godly, that man is not justified by works, but righteousness must come from some other source than from his own works: for Moses, writing of Abel, says, "The Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering." First, He had respect to Abel himself, then to his offering; because Abel was first counted righteous and acceptable to God, and then for his sake his offering was accepted also, and not he because of his offering. Again, God had no respect to Cain, and therefore neither to his offering: therefore thou seest that regard is had first to the worker, then to the work.

From this it is plainly gathered that no work can be acceptable to God, unless he which worketh it was first accepted by Him: and again, that no work is disallowed of Him unless the author thereof be disallowed before. I think these remarks will be sufficient concerning this matter at present, by which it is easy to understand that there are two sorts of works, those before justification and those after it; and that these last are good works indeed, but the former only appear to be good. Hereof cometh such disagreement between God and those counterfeit holy ones; for this cause nature and reason rise and rage against the Holy Ghost; this is that of which almost the whole Scripture treats. The Lord in His Word defines all works that go before justification to be evil, and of no importance, and requires that man before all things be justified. Again, He pronounces all men which are unregenerate, and have that nature which they received of their parents unchanged, to be righteous and wicked, according to that saying "all men are liars," that is, unable to perform their duty, and to do those things which they ought to do; and "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually"; whereby he is able to do nothing that is good, for the fountain of his actions, which is his heart, is corrupted. If he do works which outwardly seem good, they are no better than the offering of Cain.

Here again comes forth reason, our reverend mistress, seeming to be marvelously wise, but who indeed is unwise and blind, gainsaying her God, and reproving Him of lying; being furnished with her follies and feeble honor, to wit, the light of nature, free will, the strength of nature; also with the books of the heathen and the doctrines of men, contending that the works of a man not justified are good works, and not like those of Cain, yea, and so good that he that worketh them is justified by them; that God will have respect, first to the works, then to the worker. Such doctrine now bears the sway everywhere in schools, colleges, monasteries wherein no other saints than Cain was, have rule and authority. Now from this error comes another: they which attribute so much to works, and do not accordingly esteem the worker, and sound justification, go so far that they ascribe all merit and righteousness to works done before justification, making no account of faith, alleging that which James saith, that without works faith is dead. This sentence of the apostle they do not rightly understand; making but little account of faith, they always stick to works, whereby they think to merit exceedingly, and are persuaded that for their work's sake they shall obtain the favor of God: by this means they continually disagree with God, showing themselves to be the posterity of Cain. God hath respect unto man, then unto the works of man; God alloweth the work for the sake of him that worketh, these require that for the work's sake the worker may be crowned.

But here, perhaps, thou wilt say, what is needful to be done? By what means shall I become righteous and acceptable to God? How shall I attain to this perfect justification? Those the gospel answers, teaching that it is necessary that thou hear Christ, and repose thyself wholly on Him, denying thyself and distrusting thine own strength; by this means thou shalt be changed from Cain to Abel, and being thyself acceptable, shalt offer acceptable gifts to the Lord. It is faith that justifies thee, thou being endued therewith; the Lord remitteth all thy sins by the mediation of Christ His Son, in whom this faith believeth and trusteth. Moreover, He giveth unto such a faith His Spirit, which changes the man and makes him anew, giving him another reason and another will. Such a one worketh nothing but good works. Wherefore nothing is required unto justification but to hear Jesus Christ our Savior, and to believe in Him. Howbeit these are not the works of nature, but of grace.

He, therefore, that endeavors to attain to these things by works shutteth the way to the gospel, to faith, grace, Christ, God, and all things that help unto salvation. Again, nothing is necessary in order to accomplish good works but justification; and he that hath attained it performs good works, and not any other. Hereof it sufficiently appears that the beginning, the things following, and the order of man's salvation are after this sort; first of all it is required that thou hear the Word of God; next that thou believe; then that thou work; and so at last become saved and happy. He that changes this order, without doubt is not of God. Paul also describes this, saying, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and, how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and, how shall they hear without a preacher? and, how shall they preach except they be sent?"

Friday, May 18, 2012

Counted As A Strange Thing


I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. Hosea 8:12

Much could be said about the doctrine of this verse, but what I really wish to look at is the last phrase: "Counted as a strange thing." The subject is the Word of God, and He accuses His people of treating it as a strange thing. Truer words were never spoken. I'd like to make a few observations about the treatment the Bible often receives – not at the hands of infidels, mind you, but at the hand of professing believers.

The Bible is often outright ignored. It’s a sad fact that many of us are more familiar with TV and movie celebrities, with sports stars and singers than we are with Bible characters. What excuse do we have for such behavior? And what could we possibly present to God on Judgment Day as a justification for such neglect of His Word?

Secondly, the Bible is often mishandled. There are more foolish, ignorant statements made in Sunday sermons every week than there are grains of sand on the seashore. I have heard pastors preach contradictory messages two consecutive Sundays. When I hear the idiocy spewed forth by the likes of Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, Kenneth Hagin, Morris Cerrulo, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Schuller, etc… I am amazed that God does not rend the heavens and stop them mid-sentence to put an end to their enormities! But one day, He will; rest assured: one day He will. “You are judging,” someone will say. CORRECT! I am told to judge. John 7:24, Jesus says, “Judge righteous judgment.” The holy Word of God is not a plaything to be toyed with by ignorant, arrogant men.

Lastly, as our verse says, the Bible is treated as a “strange” thing. The word “strange” in the King James means “foreign.” One does not need to watch modern Christendom for very long to see that the Bible is foreign to it. How often does someone actually “turn the other cheek?” How often are we encouraged to let unbelievers mistreat us? When was the last time we heard a sermon on lending and not asking for the payment in return? There are myriads of Bible principles that are slighted, ignored and downright rejected as impractical because we have “renewed our minds” and we are striving to live the Christian life according to the dictates of worldly wisdom and secular philosophy. This is why Christians today indulge in behavior that unbelievers of 100 years ago would never have dreamt of engaging in. It is no secret that the Church is worldly. Nearly a half century ago, A.W. Tozer wrote, “Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is white-washed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers.”

Every month, all over the world there are Christian conferences held on every subject imaginable – except the Bible! The Bible is treated as a strange thing. With all due respect to Rick Warren, why is it that millions of congregations joined in the “40 Days of Purpose” program, but never a “40 Days of Exodus 20,” or even “2 Days of Matthew 5-7?” The Bible is quoted and read out of a sense of obligation or tradition, but it really is foreign to most of us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old Testament Pre-figuring of Christ


The Lord made advance preparation for his own suffering, in the patriarchs and in the prophets and in the whole people; through the law and the prophets he sealed them. That which more recently and most excellently came to pass he arranged from of old. For when it would come to pass it would find faith, having been foreseen of old.

Thus the mystery of the Lord, prefigured from of old through the vision of a type, is today fulfilled and has found faith, even though people think it something new. For the mystery of the Lord is both new and old; old with respect to the law, but new with respect to grace. But if you scrutinize the type through its outcome you will discern him.

Thus if you wish to see the mystery of the Lord, look at Abel who is likewise slain, at Isaac who is likewise tied up, at Joseph who is likewise traded, at Moses who is likewise exposed, at David who is likewise hunted down, at the prophets who likewise suffer for the sake of Christ.  And look at the sheep, slaughtered in the land of Egypt, which saved Israel through its blood whilst Egypt was struck down.

Melito of Sardis, On Pascha 57-60

(translated by Alistair Stewart-Sykes.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Herman Witsius: Our Mediator Must Be Both God And Man


Had he been God only he could neither have been subject, nor have obeyed, nor have suffered: if mere man, his obedience, subjection, and suffering, would not have been of sufficient value for the redemption of the elect. Nay, a mere creature is so bound to fulfill all righteousness for itself, that its righteousness cannot be imputed and imparted to others: and should we suppose a man truly and perfectly holy, but yet a mere man, who, according to the law of love, offered himself even to die for his brother, he himself would doubtless obtain a reward by his righteousness; but could merit nothing for a guilty person, unless perhaps exemption from punishment at most. And therefore it behooved our Surety to be man, that he might be capable to submit, obey, and suffer; and at the same time God, that the subjection, obedience, and suffering, of this person God-man, might on account of his infinite dignity, be imputed to others, and be sufficient for saving all, to who it is imputed. 

Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man 2.4.20

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Christian’s Warfare


For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Romans 7:22-25

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I will not be discussing the popular ideas about spiritual warfare, as popularized by the Peretti novels. This sort of dualistic “the-physical-world-is-a-mirror-of-the-spiritual-realm” paradigm is little other than Manichean Gnosticism.

No, we will be looking at the daily Christian battle against the corruption of his own sinful nature, what Paul calls, “the old man.”

The hinge upon which everything swings in this regard is the law of God.

Before a man comes to Christ, he hates the law of God because he thinks it is too severe. He can’t imagine how anyone could possibly be happy under such repressive authority. He believes that the commandments of God are grievous.

Further, he hates God’s law for being, in his view impractical. If he were to read Matthew 5:39, he would reason that turning the other cheek will encourage people to treat you as a doormat. Surely, he thinks God could not really expect that. I mean, if a man smacks you, it is insulting enough as it is. If a right-handed person slaps you on the right cheek, presumably it is a slap by the back of the hand, which would be considered even more insulting than a slap by the open palm. People will walk all over you, he reasons, if you let them treat you like this.

Moreover, he hates God’s law for its breadth. God’s law addresses, not only acts, but even the internal motives from which these acts proceed. The unregenerate man hates anything that peers into his true motives. He is blind to the depravity of his own soul and therefore he will hate anything that exposes this evil for what it is.

And to top it all off, God is not a fad follower. His law does not change with the changing mores of society.

Paul informs us that the Law was given only to show us bluntly our own depravity.  By the deceitfulness of our heart, we not only refuse to obey it, but excuse our violations of with the flimsiest of excuses.  We imagine that our occasional “good days” (like lucky shots on the pool table) represent our real character and that we when we behave badly (our normal behavior), we imagine that we are merely having an off day.

When a man comes to Christ, this all changes. The law of God is no longer an enemy. However, as Edward Elton puts it, “No sooner does a child of God find delight in good things, but his own corruption makes resistance and opposition against that delight of his and seeks to hinder it and shake it out of his heart.” The “law of sin and death” is always fighting against the good and holy law of God - a war waging within us.

If you feel it, first of all be humbled by it. Let this teach you of your need of Christ. The sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit is the only remedy. Mortification, though seldom mentioned in these dregs of time in which we live, is still God’s solution for the battle against the sinful remnants of our old man. The felt struggle should drive you humbly and promptly to the strong tower of Jesus’ strength.

The true believer will feel wretched when he considers the heinousness of his sins against a holy God. Whitefield told his listeners that if they had never felt as David did, saying, “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me,” (Psalms 38:4), then they were deceiving themselves to think that they were true Christians. John Newton immortalized this sense of sin when he wrote the line, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound; that saved a wretch like me.” It should worry us immensely if we have never felt this. I'm not talking about the emotionalism Finney whipped his audiences into so that they be assured of their conversion. I mean a sincere and God-given awareness of our true sinfulness. The saintlier a person is, the more intensely he is likely to be aware of this.

However, the believer will not be crushed under the weight of hopelessness. Rather he seeks deliverance from the remains of the resident corruption. Paul writes, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) He longs to rid of all the taints of the Fall and to dwell in the pure light of God’s holy presence. 

Reading the very next verse (Romans 7:25 – “I thank God…”) tells us something else: The believer is thankful for every victory God grants him along the way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why We Baptize Infants, by John Murray


Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the New Testament that we call sacraments. Baptism is administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Baptism “in the name of” means “into union with” or “into the discipleship of.” Baptism in the one name of the triune God means baptism into subjection and devotion to the one living and true God. It means that the mark of the triune God is placed upon the recipients of it. The placing of the mark of God upon us in baptism does not, however, mean that it is the authentication or seal of an ownership on the part of God or of discipleship on our part that is naturally and natively a fact. It is true that there is a natural ownership on the part of God and an inalienable devotion that we as His creatures owe to Him. But baptism is not the mark of an ownership that is natively and properly God’s nor of the devotion on our part that we naturally owe to Him. It is the mark of an ownership that is constituted, and of a devotion that is created, by redemptive action and relation. In other words, it is the mark of the Covenant of Grace. In it, and bearing it, we profess to renounce every other lordship but that of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost in all the manifold relations that we come to sustain to each Person in the terms of the Covenant of Grace.

More specifically, baptism signifies washing or purification, washing from the defilement or pollution of sin by regeneration of the Holy Spirit, and washing from the guilt of sin by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Manifestly, it is only in and through Christ and His work that these blessings can be enjoyed. Union with Christ, therefore, is the bond that unites us to the participation of these blessings. Our Shorter Catechism gives a rather succinct and comprehensive definition when it says that “Baptism is a Sacrament, wherein the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.” We believe that Scripture warrants the dispensing of this ordinance of baptism to infants. Just as infants were circumcised under the Old Testament – and circumcision meant fundamentally the same thing as baptism, namely, the removal of the filth of sin and the imputation of the righteousness which is by faith – so children who stand in a similar covenant relation with God should be baptized under the New Testament. What, we may ask, does this precisely mean? It means that children, even newly-born infants, stand in need of cleansing from sin both in its defilement and in its guilt. Children do not become sinful after they grow up or in the process of growing up. They are sinful from the very outset. They are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity. They go astray from the very womb. No one who is truly convinced of sin remembers when he became sinful. He knows that it was not by some deliberate decision or act on his part that he became sinful. He knows that he was always sinful. Truly he recognizes that that innate and inherent sinfulness has been aggravated, and has repeatedly come to expression, in his voluntary acts of sin. But it was sinfulness already inherent that was aggravated, and came to expression, in his voluntary acts of sin. Furthermore, no one who is truly observant of the growth and development of others from infancy to adulthood remembers any point when sin first began to take possession of their heart and interest and purpose. The disposition is always with us, and is at the present time particularly prevalent, to minimize the seriousness of this fact. There is the tendency to think and act in terms of the innocency of little children. The consequences of such an attitude are disastrous to all true nurture and instruction. For to eliminate from our attitude and conduct so basic and far-reaching a fact as the innate pollution of fallen human nature is to eliminate a fact without which nurture and direction must lead on to a perversion and falsehood manifoldly more desperate than that with which it began. Infant baptism is a perpetual reminder that infants need what baptism represents and there can be no escape from, or amelioration of, that awful fact.

But baptism is after all a sacrament of grace. And therefore it means more than the fact of need. It means that by the grace of God infants may enjoy precisely and fully what baptism represents. They may be regenerated by the Spirit and justified in the blood of Christ. They may be united to Christ in all the perfection of His mediatorial offices and in all the efficacy of His finished work. We should pause to consider the preciousness of these truths. Truly we shall have no appreciation of their preciousness unless we are persuaded of that awful fact to which we have already made reference, namely, that of original sin. But if we sincerely face the fact of the dismal pollution of human nature in its present state, no human words can adequately express the joy we experience in the contemplation of that which baptism means for infants. We may briefly reflect on the preciousness of these truths for two considerations. First, children may and often do die at a very early age. If they should die without regeneration and justification, they would be lost just as surely as others dying in an unregenerate state are finally lost. The baptism of children, then, means that the grace of God takes hold of children at a very early age, even from the very womb. That is to say, in other words, we must not exclude the operations of God’s efficacious and saving grace from the sphere or realm of earliest infanthood. It is to this truth our Lord gave His most insistent and emphatic testimony when He said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God.”

We would not, of course, be misunderstood when we assert this principle. We do not say that the operations of God’s saving grace are present in the heart of every infant. The fact is only too apparent that multitudes grow up to years of discretion and intelligence and show that the saving grace of God did not take hold of their hearts and minds in the days of their infancy. Neither are we taking the position necessarily that all who die in infancy are the recipients of the saving grace of God. For ourselves we must leave that question in the realm to which it belongs, namely, the unrevealed counsel of God. But it is nevertheless true – and that is the point we are now interested in stressing – that the grace of God is operative in the realm of the infant heart and mind. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” What a blessed thought and hope and confidence is extended to believing parents when in baptism they commit their children to the regenerating and sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit and to the purging efficacy of the blood of Christ, so that, if perchance the Lord is pleased to remove them in infancy, they – believing parents – can plead and rest upon the promises of the Covenant of Grace on their behalf. It can surely be said of them that they have no need to mourn as those that have no hope. But secondly we should appreciate the preciousness of these truths for the reason that children do not need to grow up to the years of discretion and intelligence before they become the Lord’s. Just as children are sinful before they come to the years of discretion and understanding, so by the sovereign grace of God they do not need to grow up before they become partakers of saving grace. They may grow up not only in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but also in His favor and sanctifying grace. They may in their tenderest years be introduced into the family and household of the heavenly father. When believing parents present their children for baptism they are confessing that their children are innately sinful, they are confessing their need of regeneration and justification, but they are also pleading on the behalf of their children the regenerating and justifying grace of God. In reliance upon the promise that “the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them,” they are entertaining the encouragement and the hope that “those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright; he is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Baptism is the ordinance that initiates into the fellowship of the visible church. The visible church is a divine institution. It is the house and family of God. It is a divine sanctuary where God’s glory is made known. It is the channel along which normally the current of God’s saving grace flows. What a privilege it is for parents by divine authority in the reception of the ordinance of baptism to introduce their children into this blessed fellowship.

If infant baptism has the divine warrant, then what dishonor is offered to Christ and what irretrievable damage is done to the church and to the souls of children by refusing to introduce children into this glorious fellowship. No argument from apparent expediency, no seeming evangelistic fervor will counteract that dishonor to our Lord and that damage done to the souls of men. In concluding this brief study of the meaning and privilege of infant baptism, there are two warnings that must be given. The first is that against the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. We must not look upon baptism as having some semi-magical effect. Baptism derives all its efficacy from the sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit. We do well to remind ourselves of the words of our Shorter Catechism, “The Sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.” We must never take for granted that the infant who is baptized is by that mere fact assured of eternal life. Baptism is certainly a means of grace which God has, in accordance with His appointment, abundantly honored and blessed throughout the whole history of the Christian church. But we must ever preserve the true evangelicalism of our Christian faith that, in the last analysis, we are not saved by any external rite or ordinance, but by the sovereign grace of God that works mysteriously, directly and efficaciously in the heart and soul of each individual whom He has appointed to salvation. The second is that infant baptism does not relieve parents or guardians, as the case may be, of that solemn responsibility to instruct, warn, exhort, direct and protect the infant members of the Christian church committed to their care. We must repeat again the text we have already quoted, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him and his righteousness unto children’s children, to such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them.” The encouragement derived from a divine promise must never be divorced from the discharge of the obligations involved. It is only in the atmosphere of obligation discharged, in a word, in the atmosphere of obedience to divine commandments, that faith in the divine promise can live and grow. Faith divorced from obedience is mockery and presumption.

Originally published in The Presbyterian Guardian, Vol. 5, 1938.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Man’s Savior must be God and Man Hypostatically United (2)


The relation of the deity and humanity was resolved at the Council of Chalcedon (451), which taught one Christ in two natures united in one person, or u9postasiv (hypostasis – hence the term, Hypostatic), yet remaining, “without confusion, without conversion, without division, without separation.” This was later refined to mean that the human nature is enhypostatic, meaning that it subsists in and through the divine nature. Further, Chalcedon declared, there are two wills – a human and divine – in the one Christ. The Monotheletes, as the advocates of a single Divine will in Christ were called, were summarily confuted by Maximus the Confessor by his argument that a human being without a human will is a mere mental abstraction. If Christ had no human will, He would not be fully human and therefore could not represent Man before God.

In the treatment this subject received during the Reformation, some less careful writers focused on a union of two natures in which the human nature is assumed into the divine. This position verged on the interpenetration of natures Chalcedon had tried to avoid. They posited an interpenetration of natures; hence this Christology is perilously akin to the Eutychian scheme. The weakness of this system can be exposed in the following simple manner: Two substances cannot be mixed without losing the essence – or nature – of both. If we mix water and honey, for instance, the result is neither water nor honey, but a third substance. If the two natures in Christ were mixed in such a way, He would be neither God nor man, but a third, different kind of being. And as such, He could not mediate between God and Man.

The Calvinists on the other hand, began with the divine person, which assumed humanity. They saw a direct union between the natures, adding to the patristic conception of the communicatio idiomatum the concept of the communicatio operationum in which the properties of the two natures coincide in one person. So they could speak of an active commuion between the natures without teaching a doctrine of mutual interpenetration. The communicatio operationum adjusts patristic theology’s somewhat static way of speaking of the Hypostatic Union by seeing the person and the work of Christ in inseparable unity. In other words, the Incarnation and the Atonement are complimentary in essence.

Christ knew what He came to do and was always aware of His Divine identity. There have been many speculations about Christ’s self-consciousness. We can assert with certainty that Christ did at all times walk in full conscious awareness that He was God and man in one person. The Spirit was given to Him as a consequence of the personal union in a degree that no mere man could possess. This constituted the link between the deity and the humanity, continuously imparting the full consciousness of His personality, and making Him aware of His Divine Sonship at all times (Luke 2:49).

Christ came as the God-man to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Any attempt to water-down the deity of Christ or His full manhood destroys salvation. His sacrifice at Calvary was not primarily a demonstration of God’s love, as many are so wont to say. Rather, it was a demonstration of God’s holy wrath and hatred of sin. Unless God’s wrath against sin were actually poured out on Christ, His death was purposeless. Atonement must be made for sin; God’s justice must be satisfied; His honor must be vindicated. Christ’s death cannot be a demonstration of love unless it is a demonstration of hatred.

Here is the weakness of the “moral suasion” theology. Good examples are not salvific. Only actual atonement for actual guilt is sufficient. Unless someone from our race was placed, like Adam, as the federal head of the race, we could never have been redeemed. A mediator must be on equal footing with both concerned parties. Christ, as God and Man, can represent man before God and can represent Man before God. He can pay the debt mankind owed to God that only God could pay. There is a great deal of truth in these fine words of George Smeaton, “The whole application of redemption is not to be regarded as man dealing with God, but rather as the action of the God-man, in His capacity as His people’s representative dealing with the Father, and the Father dealing with the Son, according to the counsel of peace between them both, for man’s acceptance.”[1] In the final analysis, “salvation is of the LORD.”[2]


[1] George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pt.2 chap. 5.
[2] Jonah 2:9

Friday, May 4, 2012

Man’s Savior must be God and Man Hypostatically United (1)


There is a beauty to correct theology that is difficult to express. We may put it best by saying that it is a harmonious unity of parts. All portions connect to and mutually prove the others. If we surrender one point, we lose everything. Such is the case with our present topic. If we consider what sin is and what it means to make satisfaction for sins, we will see how the Hypostatic Union is the only live option. Conversely, if we reject the Hypostatic Union, we thereby either destroy all hope of salvation or reveal a secret commitment to the religion of Cain.

All creatures, by virtue of their creaturehood, owe to God, as their Creator and Sustainer, perfect conformity to His will. Sin, then, is nothing else than to not render to God His due. Every thought of a rational creature should be subject to God’s will. This is what man and angel owe to God. Everyone who does not do this, sins. When a person sins, he robs God of the honor of perfect obedience. Consequently, everyone who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God. This is the satisfaction that every sinner owes to God. Moreover, the satisfaction should be proportionate to the guilt.

What payment would we make for our sins: Repentance, a broken and contrite heart, self-denial, various bodily sufferings, pity in giving and forgiving, and obedience? But what do we give God in all these things that we do not already owe Him as His creatures? Nothing. How will we then be saved?

If we suppose that our contrite heart and repentant feelings are enough to blot out our sin, this is only because we have not considered aright what the true nature and burden of sin is. In his classic work, Cur Deus Homo, Anselm of Canterbury asks: “If you should find yourself in the sight of God, and someone said to you: ‘Look over there;’ and God, on the other hand, should say: ‘It is not my will that you should look;’ ask your own heart what there is in all of existence which would make it right for you to give that look contrary to the will of God.[i] Of course, we would all answer that there is absolutely no motive that would make it right. Anselm continues by asking, “what if it were necessary either that the whole universe, except God himself, should perish and fall back into nothing, or else that you should do so small a thing against the will of God?”[ii] The deed, which seems so insignificant, when viewed as contrary to God’s will, becomes the worst deed imaginable.

This is precisely the case of man. In Adam we have all given the look God forbade. It is contrary to God’s honor that man be reconciled to Him while this reproach is still heaped upon God. Man still owes God the perfect obedience required of Adam before the Fall. But man is no longer capable of this because he is conceived in and born in sin. Man has a two-fold plight: His depravity makes him unable to render to God the obedience God demands, and he stands under the just wrath of God for this violation.

God must recover His right. Supreme justice cannot forego this. Therefore it is an absolute perversion of justice for man to receive from God what God designed to give him, unless he return to God everything which he took from him. But this cannot be achieved except in this way: In the fall of man all humanity was corrupted and tainted with sin. God will not choose one of this nature to fill up the number in his heavenly kingdom. But, if man gained this victory, as many men as are needed to complete the number which man was made to fill, could be justified from sin. But a sinner cannot do this: a sinner cannot justify a sinner. Only God can do what man needs done. But that serves no purpose, since God is the offended party. Man must pay what only God can afford. God cannot pay the debt owed to Himself. This is surely the mother of all quandaries and an enigma that only the mind of God could unravel.

Hence when we look at the state of fallen man in Original Sin, we see that no other solution will prevail but that which God has actually given in His Son, Jesus Christ. The only solution to this dilemma is if God could become a man, and, as a man could pay man’s debt to God. Enter Jesus Christ - very God and very man, hypostatically united as our Mediator!

One of the finest New Testament passages describing for us the Hypostatic Union is Luke 1:35:
kai; ajpokriqei;" oJ a[ggelo" ei\pen aujth'/, Pneu'ma a{gion ejpeleuvsetai ejpi; sev, kai; duvnami" uJyivstou ejpiskiavsei soi: dio; kai; to; gennwvmenon a{gion klhqhvsetai, uiJo;" qeou'.

And the angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

These words contain a brief description of the supernatural conception. They not only show us that Christ’s humanity was sinless, but also that it was never in Adam’s covenant. The second clause more fully describes what is affirmed in the first clause. (We are all familiar with the exegetic rule that in corresponding members of this type the darker is to be explained by the clearer.) The significance of both clauses is this: The Holy Spirit was the former of Christ’s human nature; and that the Son by assuming it into personal union, made it His own by a right unique to Himself – that is, by a union that is personal and incommunicable to the other Persons of the Godhead.* It was united to Him in such a sense that it also (kai9) is the Son of God. That Holy Thing began to be at the conception of the Spirit.  And these words are important to refute those who dislike the idea that our Lord’s flesh was formed by the Spirit from Mary’s substance, and imagine to themselves a certain heavenly flesh brought with Him from above.

*(The words “of thee” (en sou~), deleted by many in the phrase, should probably be retained in the text. They are found in such a number of Fathers (Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Jerome) that the balance of authority from this source alone goes far to counterbalance the evidence of faulty manuscripts against them.)

There are two poles of error regarding the union of natures in Christ. There is the heresy of Nestorius - Nestorianism, the rejection of the “hypostatic union” meaning that Christ was two persons, one human and one divine. Nestorianism denies any union between the two natures, making Christ a split personality, in fact, a dual personality. Christ becomes something of a schizophrenic whose actions cannot be clearly attributed to His humanity or His deity.

Springing from the same source, the opposite error is Eutychianism, the heresy of Eutychus (d. 454). His doctrine that the incarnate Christ had only a single, divine nature, clad in human flesh is sometimes called monophysitism. Incumbent in the heresy of Eutychus is the denial that Christ’s flesh derived from the virgin Mary.

We can expose the fallacy of this thinking quite simply. Christ either did or did not take human flesh from Mary. If He did not take it from her, then we must inquire what manhood He put on when He came among us. If His flesh did not come from the seed of Abraham and David and finally of Mary, then we must show what man's flesh he descended from, since, after the first man, all human flesh is derived from human flesh. If we name anybody beside Mary the virgin as the cause of the conception of Christ Savior, we will have stamped deception on the Godhead for shifting to others the promise of the prophecies made to Abraham and David that from their seed salvation would arise for the world. On the other hand, if it was not a truly human body, the Godhead is likewise convicted of falsehood for displaying to men a body that was not real and thus deceiving those who thought it real. If it was not a truly human body, the result is in essence no different than Docetism. But if flesh had been formed new and real but not taken from man, what was the purpose of the whole drama of the conception? Where is the value of His passion? The error of Eutyches takes its rise from the same source as that of Nestorius. Therefore, it ends the same way: the human race has not been saved, since man who was dead in sin and needed salvation was not taken into Godhead.

Returning to our text we note that the words dio; kai indicate that there is both: an eternal generation, and a holy thing begotten - created when assumed and assumed when created. And the result is not two Persons, but one; for the holy thing to which Mary gave birth is also called the Son of God.

Therefore it is abundantly clear from Scripture that the Lord’s humanity was produced by the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way, which at once prevented the possibility of contracting guilt from Adam and which, by an act of infinite wisdom and power, put Him within the human family as a kinsman-Redeemer, and yet exempted Him from being in Adam’s covenant; for He was the second Adam, the Son of man.

The mother did not need an immaculate nature. The question, “How could pure humanity be derived from a defiled source which unanimously entails corruption on others?” is a difficulty that has confounded many: the Valentinians, the Anabaptists, the Quakers and some of the Plymouth Brethren on the one side, and the entire Church of Rome on the other. The sects named attempted to meet the difficulty by representing Mary as but a pipe or channel (swlh9n) through which a heavenly body or flesh, immediately created by the Holy Spirit, but not formed from her substance, was introduced into the world. But on this principle the Lord Jesus would belong to another order of beings and would not be our brother, born into our family[iii]. Redemption was only possible when affected by a goel, or kinsman-Redeemer.[iv]

The Romish church met this difficulty (in the Papal Bull of Dec. 10, 1854) by affirming the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and her exemption from all taint of original sin before she was born. Of this theory, the presupposition (or, as the theologians express it, the prw~ton yeu~dov) can be nothing else but the theory of Flacius on the subject of original sin, viz., that sin had become the very essence of man. The theologians who confuted Flacius immediately saw that on such a supposition the Incarnation would have been impossible. They saw that human nature, corrupted as it was by the sin of Adam, was still, as a work of God, good, and was therefore capable of redemption. We can distinguish in idea between the good work of God and the vitiating taint superinduced upon it. We cannot separate these elements. God can do both – redeem His creature, and separate sin.

The following quotation (which I have posted here before) from Bishop Horsley’s sermons will serve to elucidate the position we have affirmed here: “Neither of the two natures was absorbed in the other, but both remained in themselves perfect, notwithstanding the union of the two in one person, the Divine Word, to which the humanity was united, was not, as some ancient heretics imagined, instead of a soul to inform the body of the man; for this could not have been without a diminution of the divinity, which upon this supposition must have become obnoxious to all the perturbations of the human soul, - to the passions of grief, fear, anger, pity, joy, hope, and disappointment, - to all which our Lord without sin was liable. The human nature in our Lord was complete in both its parts, consisting of a body and a rational soul. The rational soul of our Lord’s human nature was a distinct thing from the principle of divinity to which it was united; and being so distinct, like the souls of other men, it owed the right use of its faculties, in the exercise of them upon religious subjects, and its uncorrupted rectitude of will, to the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus indeed ‘was anointed with this holy oil above His fellows,’ inasmuch as the intercourse was uninterrupted, - the illumination by infinite degrees more full, and the consent and submission, on the part of the man, more perfect than in any of the sons of Adam; insomuch that He alone of all the human race, by the strength and light imparted from above, was exempt from sin, and rendered superior to temptation. To Him the Spirit was given not by measure. The unmeasured infusion of the Spirit into the Redeemer’s soul was NOT THE MEANS, BUT THE EFFECT, of its union to the second person of the Godhead. A union of which this had been the means had differed only in degree from that which is, in some degree, the privilege of every believer, - which, in an eminent degree, was the privilege of the apostles, who, by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon them on the day of Pentecost, were, in some sort, like the Lord, anointed with the unction from on high. But in Him the natures were united, and the uninterrupted perfect commerce of His human soul with the Divine Spirit was the effect and privilege of that mysterious conjunction.”[v]


[i]Anselm, Cur Deus Homo
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Heb. 2:14
[iv] Ruth 2:20
[v] (Sermon IX) cited by Smeaton

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Justin Martyr Proves That Infant Baptism Is Of Apostolic Origins


In many previous posts, we have tackled the subject of infant baptism. In those articles, I have ardently defended this practice as truly rooted in Scripture. For that reason, I will not go over all the Scriptural defenses of the doctrine of infant baptism. If one is interested, all my other posts on the subject can be found here on my blog.

A secondary defense, however, is a legitimate appeal to the practice of the early church. When I say “early church,” I am not referring to the 4th or 5th Centuries, either. I’m talking about the period within a generation or so of the Apostles. If we can determine the Church’s practice during this era, it will be very instructive for us.

You may wonder about the legitimacy of such an appeal, but let me demonstrate how I intend to use it. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of living veterans of WWII. There are indeed perhaps one or two living veterans of WWI. If and when a discussion arises about details and circumstances of life during this period of time, we have direct access to people who can either verify or falsify various opinions about that era. If someone makes a faulty or inaccurate assertion about that time period, one of the thousands of people who were there can correct the false statement beyond question, because they were eyewitnesses.

Similarly, if we go back far enough into Church history and see something that was not taught be the Apostles being claimed to have been of Apostolic origin, we should expect to find protest from any other writer of the time who lived during any part of the Apostolic era. I said all that to say this: If we find infant baptism early enough in Church history, and we find no opposition to it at all from any quarter, then we may safely assume that the practice ruffled no feathers among those who belonged to the older generation and had actually been later contemporaries of the Apostles.

And this is precisely what we find! Justin Martyr claimed that "many" male and female Christians had been "illuminated through the Name of Christ." Such "had been disciples to Christ from childhood" (1st Apology 15:6). These people had obviously been 'sexually pure' when infants and little children. Justin is asserting that they had remained sexually pure thereafter -- and were continuing to "remain pure" even "at the age of sixty or seventy years."

The passive verb “made disciples” - (ematheteuthesan), in this place, as everywhere else in Justin’s writings, means "to become a disciple," that is, 'taught' follower of Jesus. This passive word was also used by Justin elsewhere -- to refer to baptism. Justin's word "illuminated," of course, was his regular cryptogram for "baptized," which was a device for evading persecution. A.C. Barnard remarks in his book I Have Been Baptized, writes: "This refers to the time when they received their status of discipleship -- i.e. at [and indeed right before] their baptism. Thus, they must have been baptized circa 80-90 A.D." (Cf. Justin's 1st Ap. chs. 15:6 and 61 & 65 with A.C. Barnard's I Have Been Baptized, DRC Bookroom, Pretoria, 1984, p. 78.)

Barnard places their baptism in 80 or 90 AD because he dates Justin’s 1st Apology to 150 AD. So, according to Barnard's understanding of Justin’s words in the quotation above, those lifelong 70 year-old disciples had been baptized when they were infants. That, believes Barnard, would have been around 80 AD, which is still during the apostolic era.

Barnard assumes a late date for the writing of the New Testament. Nevertheless, even had it been written a decade or so earlier, Justin's testimony would still suggest that infant baptism was an Apostolic practice; because at least some Apostles were still alive around 80 A.D!

More than this, the Anglican author William Wall has pointed out something extremely important: Justin's word ematheteuthesan -- 'were discipled' or 'made disciples' -- is the exact same word that Matthew used in expressing Christ's command in the Great Commission. This is Christ's injunction to His ministers to "'disciple' all the nations" - and to make them into His followers. We must ask: What nation has no children?

But Wall continues: "Justin wrote but ninety years after St. Matthew [28:19], who wrote about fifteen years after Christ's ascension...They that were seventy years old at this time [when Justin wrote], must have been disciples to Christ in their childhood...in the midst of the apostles' times -- and within twenty years after St. Matthew's writing." (Wall's History of Infant Baptism, Vol. I pp. 66-171) So, when Justin was writing around 150 A.D., some of his acquaintances had been Christ's disciples already since their childhood -- and for "sixty or seventy years." This means they had already become Christian disciples or 'taught ones' around 80 A.D., and thus during the apostolic age itself.  

Had infant baptism been an innovation of the later post-Apostolic age, it seems very peculiar, to say the least, that we do not hear of complaints against this innovation by older Christians who knew the Apostles and had witnessed their actual practice regarding baptism. Thus it is safe to assume that Origen was correct when he asserted that infant baptism was an Apostolic practice. 

In case that wasn't clear enough, let me state it again. Justin tells us of people who were baptized as infants during to Apostolic era; no one living during the Apostolic era complains about this as an innovation. Therefore, we may conclude that the practice originated with the Apostles themselves. It is from them that the Church learned this practice.

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