Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Grand Reunion

Today is the day I've waited for. I am picking up my wife and our two daughters at the airport at 2:15PM. I won't repeat all the details regarding our situation. I've posted about it before.

I may be absent for a week or more as we catch up and get settled into this next stage in our family's life.

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for this day to come.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Wisdom From Warfield

This statement needs no help from me. So without further ado:

“To ask us to set aside ‘external authority’ and throw ourselves back on what we can find within us alone - call it by whatever name you choose, ‘religious experience,’ ‘the Christian consciousness,’ ‘the inner light,’ ‘the immanent Divine’ - is to ask us to discard Christianity and revert to natural religion.” B.B. Warfield

This is why I am a cessationist. This is why I reject anything other than Scripture that claims to impart spiritual truth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Three Aspects of Grace (excerpt from B.B. Warfield)

There are, especially, three ideas which are conveyed by the word “grace,” all of which must be given full validity if we are to understand what the apostle was impressing with such earnestness upon the Ephesians.

The first of them is the idea of power. Grace is power. And it is only because grace is power that it can save, save dead men, men dead in trespasses and sins. If men were not dead, possibly they might be saved by something else than power. By good advice, say; by pointing out to them something, some good thing, to do, by which they might inherit eternal life. That is what the law does. And that is why the law cannot save, cannot, that is, save dead men. The law tells us what we ought to do. Because the law is the law of God, perfect and holy and just and good, it tells us perfectly what we ought to do. But it is of no avail to tell dead men what they ought to do. Dead men cannot do anything. They need not instruction but life; not good counsel but power. That is the reason why Paul, when he is assuring the Romans that the salvation which had been begun in them should certainly be completed, hangs it all on the fact that they were not under law but under grace. “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” he promises them — and what a great promise that is! — “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.”1


If they were under law, sin certainly would have dominion over them. Law can do nothing but tell us what is right and what is wrong; and after that there is nothing that law can do. It cannot enable us to do the right and refuse the wrong which it has made known to us. But grace is power. It does not instruct, it energizes; and what dead men need is energizing, such energizing as raises the dead. Only God’s grace, which is almighty power, can do that. It is, says Paul, the same working of the strength of his might which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.2

This is the first idea which is conveyed by the word “grace,” when we are told that it is by grace that we have been saved. Grace is power, and because it is God’s grace, it is almighty power.

The second idea conveyed by the idea of grace is love. Grace is power. But it is not bare power; wild power, as we say; power operating without direction, producing any variety of effects. It is power directed by love.

That is the fundamental meaning of the word “grace” — favor, love, yearning desire. And that is what grace always means when it is spoken of in the New Testament with reference to God. It always expresses the idea of good will, kindness, favor, love. Power, in itself considered, may blast as well as bless. The power that grace is always blesses, because grace is love. The grace of God is the power of God exerted in kindness. It is the love of God acting, according to its nature, in blessing. And therefore, in the passage from Ephesians which has been in our mind—that is, Ephesians 2:1-10—it is because he is telling his readers that it was due only to the riches of God’s mercy and “his great love wherewith he loved us”3 that we are saved, that Paul is led to interject suddenly in explanation of it all, “By grace have ye been saved.”4

To be saved in the riches of God’s mercy because of the greatness of his love, that is what it is to be saved by grace. For the same reason, when Paul comes to speak a little later of the manifestation of the exceeding riches of God’s grace in our salvation, he explains that the precise thing in which these exceeding riches of God’s grace are manifested, is “kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”5

Grace is manifested in kindness. To deal kindly with us is to deal graciously with us. The second idea which is conveyed by the word “grace,” when we are told that it is by grace that we are saved, then, is that we owe our salvation purely to the love of God. Grace is love and because it is God’s grace by which we are saved, our salvation is a pure product of the love of God.

But there is a third idea conveyed by the word “grace” as well and it is the idea of gratuitousness. Grace is gratuitous just because it is love. That is, because it is the “love of benevolence,” as we say, the love that is good will, kindness, favor. It is the very nature of the love that is good will, kindness, favor, that it is gratuitous. We might do something, perhaps, to attract to ourselves, to secure, to deserve the love of complacency. That is to say that kind of love that seeks and finds gratification for itself in its object rather than is intent only on benefiting its object; that seeks its own pleasure in its object rather than purely seeking to do it good. But that is not the kind of love that grace is.

Grace is the love that is good will, kindness, favor. And the love that is good will, kindness, favor is in the nature of the case gratuitous. At all events this is what the Bible speaks of when it speaks of the grace of God. Paul, for instance, is at great pains to make it clear that the grace of God is not earned by us, is not secured by us, is not obtained by us; but is just given to us, comes to us purely gratuitously.

What is of grace, he tells us, is by that very fact not of works; if it be in any way, in the slightest measure, earned, by that very fact it ceases to be of grace. He carries the idea, indeed, to its extreme height. Grace, with him, is not only pure kindness, kindness which has not been earned—had it been earned, it would have ceased to be kindness—but kindness to the undeserving in the positive sense, kindness to the ill-deserving. Grace is very distinctly and very emphatically love to the ill-deserving.

This is the third idea which is conveyed by the word “grace” when we are told that it is by grace that we have been saved. Our salvation is a pure gratuity from God. We have not earned it. We have not secured it. We have not obtained it. God has fixed upon us in the riches of his mercy and the greatness of his unconstrained love pouring out upon us in the exceeding riches of his grace, his pure kindness in Christ Jesus.

This is, then, what Paul means when he tells us with reiterated emphasis that it is by grace, by grace and nothing else than grace, that we have been saved. He means that we have not saved ourselves. It is God who has saved us, God and God alone.

If we had saved ourselves or supplied anything whatever which entered into our salvation as in any measure its procuring cause, it would not have been distinctively by grace that we have been saved. And Paul’s strong emphasis on the assertion that it is by grace, that it is by nothing else than grace that we have been saved would be misplaced. We were in point of fact dead in our trespasses and sins and therefore utterly unable to move hand or foot to seek salvation. We were helplessly and hopelessly lost. We owe our salvation wholly to God’s kindness, to his undeserved love, to his grace.

It is all from him, in its beginning and middle and end: all from him. Just as Lazarus was called out of the grave by the sheer power of the God who raises the dead, we have been called out of our death in trespasses and sins by the sheer grace of God, the grace which is the power of God, working under the direction of his ineffable love, poured out in gratuitous kindness upon ill deserving sinners. We have not made the first step in knowledge of the salvation of God until we have learned and made the very center of our thought of it this great fact: that it is by the pure grace of God, by that and that alone, that we are saved. And, as we have said, this is the heart of the heart of the gospel.

1. Romans 6:14
2 Ephesians 1:20.
3 Ephesians 2:4.
4 Ephesians 2:5.
5 See Ephesians 2:7

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cart Before The Horse

All Pelagian/Arminian systems make God’s election to salvation of an individual contingent upon His foreknowledge of the future faith and good works of the individual. They wish to place the cart before the horse and make God’s decree contingent upon His foreknowledge of who will freely believe in Him. Scripture explicitly denies such a fallacy of reason. Peter said that Christ was put to death according to the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” - in that order. God knows what will be precisely because He has decreed what will be; not vice versa. Hence we see that Total Depravity presupposes sovereign grace.

Indeed, Scripture forthrightly denies that God’s elective purposes are contingent upon His foreknowledge. Romans 9:11 teaches us that election is not based upon God’s foreknowledge of works. In fact, Scripture never speaks of God’s foreknowledge of events. Of course God knows all future events; He ordained them all. However, when Scripture speaks of God’s foreknowledge, the object of this knowledge is never actions or events, but rather, people. Those familiar with the vocabulary of Scripture are aware that to “know” is to “look upon with favor.” How else could Jesus declare to someone, “I never knew you?” (Mat. 7:23) How could God tell Israel that they alone were the people He knew? (Amos 3:2)

The Puritan John Owen, in his masterwork against Arminianism quotes Arminius as saying, “That God loveth none precisely to eternal life but considered as just, either with legal or evangelical righteousness.” To which Owen replies that the notion which makes our election contingent upon foresight of our good works, “contains a doctrine so contradictory to the words and meaning of the apostle, Rom. ix.11, condemned in so many councils, suppressed by so many edicts and decrees of emperors and governors, opposed as a pestilent heresy, ever since it was first hatched, by so many orthodox fathers and learned schoolmen, so directly contrary to the doctrine of this church, so injurious to the grace and supreme power of Almighty God, that I much wonder any one, in this light of the gospel and flourishing time of learning, should be so boldly ignorant or impudent as to broach it amongst Christians. To prove this to be a heresy exploded by all orthodox and catholic antiquity were to light a candle in the sun; for it cannot but be known to all and every one who ever heard or read any thing of the state of Christ’s church after the rising of the Pelagian tumults.”

We Reformed believers must continue to light that candle in the sun.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Question That Keeps On Giving

Several weeks ago a friend invited me to attend a financial seminar with him (the Financial Peace seminar by Dave Ramsey).

Last night was the last session. It was about giving. After the class was over, the moderator read the ever-famous tithes passage: Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. Mal 3:10-11 (KJV)

Suddenly a question popped into my head: Why is it that the churches that reject Covenant Theology and see a fundamental discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments read that passage in reference to New Testament church giving?

Of course, I could multiply the examples of the logical inconsistency that this demonstrates to me, but last night the oddity of it really struck me with particular force. So much of "Evangelicalism" bifurcates the Covenant of Grace by driving and insuperable wedge between the Old and New Testaments. All aspects of godly living get this treatment, from the sacrament to politics, but strangely enough, money escapes the divide unscathed.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sound Familiar?

This has a familiar ring to it, doesn't it?

"Receive first from me and by me [the gift of] Charis. Adorn thyself as a bride who is expecting her bridegroom, that thou mayest be what I am, and I what thou art. Establish the germ of light in thy nuptial chamber. Receive from me a spouse, and become receptive of him, while thou art received by him. Behold Charis has descended upon thee; open thy mouth and prophesy.” On the woman replying, “I have never at any time prophesied, nor do I know how to prophesy;” then engaging, for the second time, in certain invocations, so as to astound his deluded victim, he says to her, “Open thy mouth, speak whatsoever occurs to thee, and thou shalt prophesy.” She then, vainly puffed up and elated by these words, and greatly excited in soul by the expectation that it is herself who is to prophesy, her heart beating violently [from emotion], reaches the requisite pitch of audacity, and idly as well as impudently utters some nonsense as it happens to occur to her, such as might be expected from one heated by an empty spirit. (Referring to this, one superior to me has observed, that the soul is both audacious and impudent when heated with empty air.) Henceforth she reckons herself a prophetess, and expresses her thanks to Marcus for having imparted to her of his own Charis. She then makes the effort to reward him, not only by the gift of her possessions (in which way he has collected a very large fortune), but also by yielding up to him her person, desiring in every way to be united to him, that she may become altogether one with him.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 1, Chapter 13

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nothing New Under The Sun

Now the attitude of opposition which they have assumed, and this new heresy of theirs which puts them in a position of separation from the Church, had their origin in the following manner. There is said to be a certain village called Ardaba in the Mysia, which touches Phrygia. There, they say, one of those who had been but recently converted to the faith, a person of the name of Montanus, when Gratus was proconsul of Asia, gave the adversary entrance against himself by the excessive lust of his soul after taking the lead. And this person was carried away in spirit; and suddenly being seized with a kind of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to speak and to utter strange things…in a manner contrary to the custom of the Church, as handed down from early times and preserved thenceforward… Among those who were present on that occasion, and heard those spurious utterances, there were some who were indignant, and rebuked him as one frenzied, and under the power of demons, and possessed by the spirit of delusion, and agitating the multitude, and debarred him from speaking anymore; for they were mindful of the Lord’s distinction and threatening, whereby He warned them to be on their guard vigilantly against the coming of the false prophets. But there were others too, who, as if elated by the Holy Spirit and the prophetic gift, and not a little puffed up, and forgetting entirely the Lord’s distinction, challenged the maddening and insidious and seductive spirit, being themselves cajoled and misled by him, so that there was no longer any checking him to silence. And thus by a kind of artifice, or rather by such a process of craft, the devil having devised destruction against those who were disobedient to the Lord’s warning, and being unworthily honored by them, secretly excited and inflamed their minds that had already left the faith which is according to truth, in order to play the harlot with error. For he stirred up two others also, women, and filled them with the spurious spirit, so that they too spoke in a frenzy and unseasonably, and in a strange manner, like the person already mentioned, while the spirit called them happy as they rejoiced and exulted proudly at his working, and puffed them up by the magnitude of his promises; while, on the other hand, at times also he condemned them skillfully and plausibly, in order that he might seem to them also to have the power of reproof. And those few who were thus deluded were Phrygians. But the same arrogant spirit taught them to revile the Church universal under heaven, because that false spirit of prophecy found neither honor from it nor entrance into it. For when the faithful throughout Asia met together often and in many places of Asia for deliberation on this subject, and subjected those novel doctrines to examination, and declared them to be spurious, and rejected them as heretical, they were in consequence of that expelled from the Church and debarred from communion.

Asterius Urbanus, ca. 232AD

Sound familiar?

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Athanasian Statement of Faith

1. We believe in one Unbegotten God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, that hath His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced nor mental, nor an effluence of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue (Gr. προβολή); but absolutely perfect Son, living and powerful (Heb. iv. 12), the true Image of the Father, equal in honour and glory. For this, he says, ‘is the will of the Father, that as they honour the Father, so they may honour the Son also’ (Joh. v. 23): very God of very God, as John says in his general Epistles, ‘And we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and everlasting life’ (1 Joh. v. 20): Almighty of Almighty. For all things which the Father rules and sways, the Son rules and sways likewise: wholly from the Whole, being like the Father as the Lord says, ‘he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’ (Joh. xiv. 9). But He was begotten ineffably and incomprehensibly, for ‘who shall declare his generation?’ (Isa. liii. 8), in other words, no one can. Who, when at the consummation of the ages (Heb. ix. 26), He had descended from the bosom of the Father, took from the undefiled Virgin Mary our humanity (ἄνθρωπον), Christ Jesus, whom He delivered of His own will to suffer for us, as the Lord saith: ‘No man taketh My life from Me. I have power to lay it down, and have power to take it again’ (Joh. x. 18). In which humanity He was crucified and died for us, and rose from the dead, and was taken up into the heavens, having been created as the beginning of ways for us (Prov. viii. 22), when on earth He shewed us light from out of darkness, salvation from error, life from the dead, an entrance to paradise, from which Adam was cast out, and into which he again entered by means of the thief, as the Lord said, ‘This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise’ (Luke xxiii. 43), into which Paul also once entered. [He shewed us] also a way up to the heavens, whither the humanity of the Lord (ὁ κυριακὸς ἄνθρωπος) in which He will judge the quick and the dead, entered as precursor for us. We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor. ii. 10), and we anathematise doctrines contrary to this.

2. For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same (μονοούσιον καὶ οὐχ ὁμοούσιον) essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we ascribe the passible body which He bore for the salvation of the whole world to the Father. Neither can we imagine three Subsistences separated from each other, as results from their bodily nature in the case of men, lest we hold a plurality of gods like the heathen. But just as a river, produced from a well, is not separate, and yet there are in fact two visible objects and two names. For neither is the Father the Son, nor the Son the Father. For the Father is Father of the Son, and the Son, Son of the Father. For like as the well is not a river, nor the river a well, but both are one and the same water which is conveyed in a channel from the well to the river, so the Father’s deity passes into the Son without flow and without division. For the Lord says, ‘I came out from the Father and am come’ (Joh. xvi. 28). But He is ever with the Father, for He is in the bosom of the Father, nor was ever the bosom of the Father void of the deity of the Son. For He says, ‘I was by Him as one setting in order’ (Prov. viii. 30). But we do not regard God the Creator of all, the Son of God, as a creature, or thing made, or as made out of nothing, for He is truly existent from Him who exists, alone existing from Him who alone exists, in as much as the like glory and power was eternally and conjointly begotten of the Father. For ‘He that hath seen’ the Son ‘hath seen the Father (Joh. xiv. 9). All things to wit were made through the Son; but He Himself is not a creature, as Paul says of the Lord: ‘In Him were all things created, and He is before all’ (Col. i. 16). Now He says not, ‘was created’ before all things, but ‘is’ before all things. To be created, namely, is applicable to all things, but ‘is before all’ applies to the Son only.

3. He is then by nature an Offspring, perfect from the Perfect, begotten before all the hills (Prov. viii. 25), that is before every rational and intelligent essence, as Paul also in another place calls Him ‘first-born of all creation’ (Col. i. 15). But by calling Him First-born, He shews that He is not a Creature, but Offspring of the Father. For it would be inconsistent with His deity for Him to be called a creature. For all things were created by the Father through the Son, but the Son alone was eternally begotten from the Father, whence God the Word is ‘first-born of all creation,’ unchangeable from unchangeable. However, the body which He wore for our sakes is a creature: concerning which Jeremiah says, according to the edition of the seventy translators ‘The Lord created for us for a planting a new salvation, in which salvation men shall go about:’ but according to Aquila the same text runs: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman.’ Now the salvation created for us for a planting, which is new, not old, and for us, not before us, is Jesus, Who in respect of the Saviour was made man, and whose name is translated in one place Salvation, in another Saviour. But salvation proceeds from the Saviour, just as illumination does from the light. The salvation, then, which was from the Saviour, being created new, did, as Jeremiah says, ‘create for us a new salvation,’ and as Aquila renders: ‘The Lord created a new thing in woman,’ that is in Mary. For nothing new was created in woman, save the Lord’s body, born of the Virgin Mary without intercourse, as also it says in the Proverbs in the person of Jesus: ‘The Lord created me, a beginning of His ways for His works’ (Prov. viii. 22). Now He does not say, ‘created me before His works,’ lest any should take the text of the deity of the Word.

4. Each text then which refers to the creature is written with reference to Jesus in a bodily sense. For the Lord’s Humanity was created as ‘a beginning of ways,’ and He manifested it to us for our salvation. For by it we have our access to the Father. For He is the way (Joh. xiv. 6) which leads us back to the Father. And a way is a corporeal visible thing, such as is the Lord’s humanity. Well, then, the Word of God created all things, not being a creature, but an offspring. For He created none of the created things equal or like unto Himself. But it is the part of a Father to beget, while it is a workman’s part to create. Accordingly, that body is a thing made and created, which the Lord bore for us, which was begotten for us, as Paul says, ‘wisdom from God, and sanctification and righteousness, and redemption;’ while yet the Word was before us and before all Creation, and is, the Wisdom of the Father. But the Holy Spirit, being that which proceeds from the Father, is ever in the hands of the Father Who sends and of the Son Who conveys Him, by Whose means He filled all things. The Father, possessing His existence from Himself, begat the Son, as we said, and did not create Him, as a river from a well and as a branch from a root, and as brightness from a light, things which nature knows to be indivisible; through whom to the Father be glory and power and greatness before all ages, and unto all the ages of the ages. Amen.

From Volume 4, Second Series of the NPNF

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some Augustinian Thoughts

It is common to hear people use the term Augustinian when referring to the Reformed/Calvinist doctrinal scheme. This is because all of the doctrines generally called Calvinist are actually as old as Christianity itself and were systematically formulated by St. Augustine.

These are a few of the doctrines Augustinianism teaches:

God foreknew what would occur because He purposed it to occur. What actually does happen, God intended should happen. Although His purposes or intentions cannot fail, He uses no influence to secure their accomplishment that is not compatible with the perfect liberty and entire responsibility of rational creatures. Since God is infinite in power and wisdom, He can control all events. Therefore the course of events must be in accordance with His will, because He can mold or direct that course at pleasure. Two things are evident from this. First, events must be the interpretation of His purposes. Secondly, no objection can be brought to bear against the purpose or decree of God, which does not bear equally against His providence. The Augustinian system, therefore, is nothing but the assumption that God intended in eternity what He actually does in time.
Augustinianism is founded on the assumption of God’s sovereignty. It assumes that, due to God’s perfection and relation to the universe of sinners as Creator, Preserver, Ruler and Judge, He can deal with them according to His own pleasure. God can rightfully pardon some and condemn others. Therefore, it is not of man, but of God that one and not another is made a participant of eternal life. On the other hand, all anti-Augustinian systems take for granted that God is bound to provide salvation for all; to give sufficient grace to all; and to leave the question of salvation and perdition to be determined by each man for himself.

It is vain for us to deny that God is a sovereign in the distribution of his favors if in His providence it is undeniable that He acts as a sovereign. There is perhaps no more clearly observable fact than this. Some are born rich, others poor. Some are intelligent; some are not. Some are born in possession of all their faculties; others are born blind, deaf or lame. Augustinianism accords with these facts of providence, and therefore must be true. It only assumes that God acts in the dispensation of His grace precisely as He acts in the distribution of His other favors; and all anti-Augustinian systems which are founded on the principle that this sovereignty of God is inconsistent with His justice and His parental relation (i.e., the Universal fatherhood of God) to the children of men are in obvious conflict with His providence.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And They Say The Dutch Reformers Invented Covenant Theology!

All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer King,
To Whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring:
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David's royal Son,
Who is the Lord's name comest, the King and blessed One!

The company of angels are praising Thee on high,
And mortal men and all things creating make reply:
The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went:
Our praise and prayer and anthems before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exulted, our melody we raise:
Thou didst accept their praises - accept the praise we bring,
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King!

(Theodulph of Orleans c. 800AD)

And people say the Dutch Reformers invented Covenant Theology!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

God's Sovereignty Over Salvation And Reprobation

And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Matt 11:23

This is one of the most startling statements Christ ever made. Moreover, it is one of the most unnoticed statements as well. People seem to be able to read right over this verse and not even notice what is says, and more importantly, what it implies.

On the surface it seems like a straightforward rebuke of Capernaum for its hardheartedness towards Christ. Jesus says in the next verse that Sodom will have an easier way to go on Judgment Day than Capernaum. So at first glance we can easily see that Jesus was condemning Capernaum as an incredibly wicked city – one that would face severer judgment than Sodom.

But the implications of this verse are amazing. And let me hasten to add that the Arminian is completely unarmed for the handling of this passage. Jesus is as much as saying that Sodom was denied the privilege Capernaum was given. Had Sodom been given a chance to hear Christ they would’ve repented! In other words, they were denied the chance to hear what would have led to their repentance. This can only mean one thing: God is sovereign over perdition as well as salvation. Only those whom He chooses even get a chance to hear the Gospel.

You may be surprised to read that, but look over the passage carefully and tell me this isn’t directly implied. Furthermore, this isn’t the only passage in the Bible where such an idea is openly expressed. In Acts 16, Paul and his companions were traveling about preaching. They were about to enter the area of Asia but they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do so. In other words, God did not allow them to preach the Gospel in that area. Instead He specifically called them elsewhere (see Acts 16:6-10). They went to Macedonia assured that, “the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.”

Actually though, God’s sovereignty goes farther than just denying the means of grace, i.e., the preaching of His Word. It extends to the personal response of the listeners. Arminians dislike this idea. In fact, their whole system is built on a denial of it. It seems to me that their furor is misplaced. Arminians complain that we should assert that God is sovereign over the wills of men in their response to the Gospel. I say, save your breath. If God so influenced my will that I savingly believed in Christ for my salvation, I would certainly NOT complain: I have been shown an incomparable favor. If the Arminian wants to complain about fairness, he should think about a passage like 1 Samuel 2:25 which says that Eli’s sons refused to hear godly rebuke because God intended to kill them. In other words, God’s plan to kill them was the cause of their refusal to heed their father’s rebuke. There is simply no honest way to get around that.

No one even gets the Gospel preached to them unless God's sovereignty wills it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pet Peeve

One of my pet peeves is when people claim that they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian. There is so much wrong with that statement that I don’t even know where to begin. First of all it assumes that two mutually exclusive claims can both be true. This is patently false. Believe in both/and propositions all you want, you and the semi truck cannot both cross the intersection at the same time without grave consequences. There is only truth and error. There is only life or death.

More importantly, this statement reveals a fundamental ignorance of what both sides actually represent. What baffles me about this is that the statement itself implies a knowledge of both sides and a fair amount of study.

Before going any further, I should perhaps clarify at least a few things about both sides so that my point becomes clear. First of all, the distinction between Calvinist and Arminian, although other things are logical consequents of the respective positions, is a distinction regarding the doctrine of salvation: i.e., How is one saved? Even without delineating what either side believes, it should be clear that this is an important issue. Doctrine is important. It does matter what you believe, especially when it come to the question of how one is saved.

The person who makes this claim is typically one who eschews theological terminology. This in itself is problematic. No one comes to the Bible without a set of presuppositions. When someone says, “It’s just me and my Bible,” that person is invincibly ignorant. How do you reason with someone who refuses admit their presuppositions.

Calvinists aver that all men are dead in sin, thus no one is capable or willing to repent and believe savingly in Christ unless God first enable them by regeneration. Salvation is of the Lord. One becomes a Christian, not by a decision for Christ, but because God has resurrected them from the death of sin and given them faith to trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ who died as an atonement for their sins. Since Christ actually died to save them, and since they did not earn their salvation by any works of righteousness (including repentance and faith), their salvation is eternally secure because Christ has promise to not lose any of those given Him of the Father. Arminians place great emphasis on man’s supposed free-will. Further they affirm that one becomes a Christian by choosing, of their own uncompelled free-will, to believe in Christ. Moreover they believe that Christ’s death, rather than actually paying for their sins, makes it possible for God to forgive them. As a result, any lapse in Christian character endangers one’s salvation.

They difference is night and day. I am a Calvinist – unashamedly so. I am infuriated however when someone makes the ignorant remark that I follow a man rather than Christ. After all, didn’t Paul warn the Corinthians of saying they followed Apollos or Paul? The reason that is an ignorant statement is because Paul and Apollos were NOT teaching differing schemes of doctrine. Had Apollos been teaching salvation by works, Paul would’ve called him a heretic that the Corinthians needed to avoid like the plague. The issue at Corinth was not different theological parties represented by different teachers. The issue was petty, immature, schismatic sectarianism with no regard to actual doctrine.

Arminianism is always concerned that unless a person is saved as a result of a conscious free-will decision, then he has no incentive to live a holy life. Not only is this patently false, but it impugns the wisdom of God. If salvation is a regeneration – a real translation from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son – then it will produce a change in character. We needn’t bother ourselves with taking things into our own hands to make sure they get done properly. God is entirely capable. In fact Jude tells us, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

But there is another thing that this statement ignores. There are no other options. You either think you are saved solely by the sovereign power and choice of God or you think you play some part in the decision. There is no third option. That is why I said earlier that there is only life and death. A living person is not a corpse, nor is a corpse living. There are no shades of existence between the two options. Simply put, any attempt to ride the fence places one squarely in Arminianism.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What a Sermon!

The following quote is from a sermon by Bishop Horsley (1733 – 1806). It is a sermon on the Hypostatic Union, that is, the union of two natures in the one Person of Christ the God-Man.

I am dumbfounded whenever I read this paragraph! It is thick and heavy theology. It speaks volumes to me about the calibre of Horsley's congregation to hear material like this on a regular basis. Oh, for theologically profound sermons again!

“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.”

Friday, June 11, 2010

Christ's Pre-Incarnate Glory

Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him. Proverbs 8:30

The notes below may look suspiciously like a sermon outline. They essentially are. I have preached this message and I have read other sermons on the same passage. The notes below are distilled from John Flavel’s sermon on this passage. He did a better job than anyone else I’ve come across, certainly better than I ever did, (until now!).

The Holy Spirit describes the state of Christ before his incarnation with two delights,
(1.) The Father and Son delighted one in another without communicating that their joy to any other, for no creature did then exist.
(2.) They delighted in the work of salvation, though not yet extant, verse 31.

My present subject is the mutual delights of the Father and Son; which are in the text.
1. The glorious condition of the pre-incarnate Son of God, described by the person with whom his fellowship was, "Then was I by him," or with him; so with him as never was any, an expression of the greatest dearness and intimacy in the world; as if he should say, wrapped up in the very soul of his Father.
2. This fellowship is illustrated by a metaphor. The Hebrew sometimes rendered a cunning workman. "For all things were made by him." Others render it nourish; and so Christ is here compared to a charming child, sporting before its Father. The Hebrew root which our translation renders "rejoicing before him," signifies to laugh or play; so that, as parents delight to see their children sporting before them, so did the Father delight in beholding the darling of his bosom.
3. This delight is amplified by its perpetuity: "I was day by day his delight.” The delights of the Father and Son in one other was not interrupted for a moment.

Doctrine: The condition of Jesus Christ before his incarnation, was a state of the highest and most unspeakable delight and pleasure, in the enjoyment of his Father.

Now to sketch out this unspeakable blessedness, I consider it three ways: negatively, positively, and comparatively.

1. Negatively, by removing from it all abasement and sorrow which incarnation brought him under: as,

First, He was not then abased to the condition of a creature.

Secondly, Christ was not under the law.

Thirdly, He was not liable to any of the sorrowful effects of being human. As,
(1.) He was unacquainted with grief;
(2.) He was never pinched with poverty and wants while he continued in that bosom.
(3.) He never underwent reproach and shame in that bosom.
(4.) He was never offended with an impure suggestion or temptation of the Devil.
(5.) He was never sensible of pains and tortures in soul or body.
(6.) There were no hidings of his Father from him.
(7.) There were never any impressions of his Fathers wrath upon him.
(8.) Lastly, There was no death, to which he was subject, in that bosom.

2. Let us consider it positively, what it was, and guess by some particular considerations at the glory of it; as,

(1.) We cannot but conceive it to be a state of matchless happiness, if we consider the persons enjoying and delighting in each other: he was with God, John 1: 1. God is the fountain and center of all joys: Psalm 16:11, "In thy presence is fullness of joy." To be wrapped up in the soul and bosom of all delights, as Christ was had to be a state beyond comprehension.

(2.) Or if we consider the intimacy and oneness of those great persons with one another: the nearer the union, the sweeter the communion. Jesus Christ was not only near and dear to God, but one with him. “I and my Father are one," John 10: 30, one in nature, will, love and delight.

(3.) Consider again the purity of that delight with which the blessed Father and Son embraced each other; the best creature delights one in another, are mixed, debased, and allayed; if there be something ravishing and engaging, there is also something cloying and distasting. The purer any delight, the more excellent.

(4.) Consider the constancy of this delight; it was from everlasting; it never suffered one moment's interruption. The overflowing fountain of God's delight and love never stopped its course, never ebbed; but as he speaks in the text, "I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him."

3. Consider it comparatively, and this state still yet appear more glorious, comparing it with either the choicest delights that one creature takes in another, or that God takes in the creature, or that the creatures take in God: measure these immense delights, between the Father and his Son, by either of these lines, and you shall find them infinitely short: For,

(1.) Though the delights that creatures take in each other, be sometimes a great delight; such as Jacob's delight in Benjamin, or Jonathan in David, yet all this is but creature-delight, and can in no particular equal the delights between the Father and the Son.

(2.) Or if you compare it with the delight that God takes in the creatures, it is confessed that God takes great delight in some creatures. "The Lord takes pleasure in his saints, he rejoices over them with singing! And resteth in his love," Zeph. 3: 17. But yet there is a great difference between his delight in creatures, and his delights in Christ; for all his delight in the saints is secondary, and for Christ's sake; but his delights in Christ are primary, and for his own sake: we are accepted in the beloved, Eph, 1: 6, he is beloved, and accepted for himself.

(3.) Compare it with the delights that the best of creatures take in God, and Christ, and it must be confessed that is a choice delight, and a transcendent love, with which they love and delight in him. Our love to God (at the best) is still imperfect; that is the burden and constant complaint of saints, but this is perfect; ours is inconstant, up and down, ebbing and flowing, but this is constant.


Inference 1. What an astonishing act of love was this, for the Father to give the darling of his soul for poor sinners! "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." Which of us would deliver a child, the child of our delights, an only child, to death for the greatest inheritance in the world? What parent can endure parting with such a child? When Hagar was taking her last leave (as she thought) of Ishmael, Gen. 21:16, the text says, "she went and sat over against him, a good way off: for she said, ‘Let me not see the death of the child.’ And she sat over-against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept:" though she was not the best mother, yet she could not give up the child. What a hole has the death of some children made in the hearts of some parents! Yet surely, never did any child lie so close to a parent's heart, as Christ did to his Father's; and yet he willingly parts with him, though his only one, to death, a cursed death, for sinners, for the worst of sinners. If the Father had not loved you, he had never parted with such a Son for you.

Inference 2. Be forever astonished at the love of Jesus Christ to poor sinners; that ever he should consent to leave such a bosom, and the ineffable delights that were there, for such poor worms as we are. Jesus Christ who was embraced in that bosom after another manner than ever you were acquainted with, freely left it, and laid down the glory and riches he enjoyed there, for your sakes; and as the Father loved him; even so (believers) has he loved you, John 17: 22. What manner of love is this! Who ever loved as Christ loves? Who ever denied himself for Christ, as Christ denied himself for us?

Inference 3. Hence we are informed that interest in Jesus Christ is the true way to all spiritual preferment in heaven. Do you covet to be in the heart, in the favor and delight of God? Get interest in Jesus Christ, and you shall presently be there. What Israel said of the children of his beloved Joseph, “Thy children are my children,’ the same God says of all the dear children of Christ. You see among men how persons rise in this world as they are befriended; preferment goes by favor: So it is in heaven, persons are preferred according to their interest in the beloved, Eph. 1: 9. Christ is the great favorite in heaven: his image upon your souls and his name in your prayers, makes both accepted with God.

Inference 4. You see how infinitely the Father delights in him, how he ravishes the heart of God; and shall he not ravish our hearts? Why do you lavish away your precious affections upon vanity: None but Christ is worthy of them: when you spend your precious affections upon other objects, what is it but to dig for dross with a golden shovel? He that left God's bosom for you deserves yours.

Inference 5. If Christ be the beloved darling of the Father's soul, think what a grievous and insufferable thing it is to the heart of God, to see his dear Son despised and rejected by sinners. What a dismal word is that; 1 Cor. 16:22. "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha," (i.e.) let the great curse of God lie upon that man till the Lord come.

An Exhortation:

1. To saints: If Christ was content to forsake and leave this bosom of love for your sakes; then,

(1.) Be you ready to forsake and leave all the comforts on earth for Christ: Moses left all the glory of Egypt. Peter and the other Apostles left all. But what have we to leave for Christ in comparison of what he left for us? Christ is the highest pattern of self-denial in the world.

(2.) Let this confirm your faith in prayer: If he intercede with the Father for you, then never doubt of audience and acceptance with him; surely you shall be accepted. Christ was never denied any thing that he asked. The Father hears him always; though you are not worthy, Christ is, and he lives to make intercession for you, Heb. 7: 25.

(3.) Let this encourage thy heart, O saint, in a dying hour, and not only make you patient in death, but in a holy manner impatient till you be gone; for your soul is going to that bosom of love from whence Christ came? John 17: 24. "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."

2. To sinners: Whatever you are, or have been; whatever guilt you lie under; embrace Christ, who is freely offered to you, and you shall be as dear to God as the holiest and most eminent believer in the world: but if you still continue to despise and neglect such a Savior, sorer wrath is treasured up for you than other sinners. O that these discoveries of Christ may never come to such a fatal issue with any of your souls, in whose eyes his glory has been this day opened!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Is Not What I Expected

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the strong, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11

I have always enjoyed the irony this verse details. It really demonstrates man’s weakness and God’s sovereignty.

Note how Solomon describes observation: I again saw under the sun. This is something he has seen repeatedly. There are two sides to his observation: negative and positive. The negative particulars he sees are:

1. The race is not to the swift
2. Nor the battle to the strong
3. Nor the bread to the wise
4. Nor wealth to the discerning
5. Nor favor to men of ability

The positive observation is: But time and chance overtake them all.

By “time,” Solomon means that God has allotted a certain time to every purpose and action. By “chance,” he simply means occurrence. The same Hebrew word (פֶּגַע) appears in 1 Kings 5:4 and is rendered occurrence. Solomon is not advocating “chance” in the sense of luck or fortune. Thomas Manton writes, “The success is such as the counsel of God has foreordained, yet to us it seems to be a mere chance. Things casual to us are counsels to Him.” It may be chance to men, but it is providence to God who “works all things after the counsel of His will.” Nor is Solomon being Epicurean or atheistic when he says, “time and chance overtake them all.” This remark is prefixed to his observations about the vanity of worldly things.

Sometimes it turns out that those who are most fitted, prepared and diligent are frustrated of that which they so earnestly intended and hoped for.

We all know of well qualified people who are overlooked. We all know stories of great athletes tripping at the last second. We all know of otherwise intelligent people doing something stupid. I read a story about Einstein running his boat aground with the excuse that he must’ve been thinking about something else.

The best of God’s servants often provoke Him to disappoint them because they place too much confidence in themselves. To say and do, or to make a thing to be, is the act and name of God and He will not share His glory with another. Lam. 3:37 - Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?

This teaches us:

1. The nothingness of the creature and the all-sufficiency of God.

This is a great spiritual lesson. We are all nothing when compared to God, indeed, less than nothing. He alone is I AM. Excluding God, we really are nothing. He not only made us, but He holds us in existence both physically and spiritually. In opposition to God, we might as well be nothing. “All they that were incensed against thee shall be shall be as nothing” Isaiah 49:11

2. It establishes our dependence on God. Rom 4:17, 18.

3. It is intended to show us that without God, all is futility. We should not rely on our skills and talents.

In the lottery of human affairs we should look after surer comforts than those which earth has to offer. We should seek God in all our plans regarding our future. What good are our efforts without God? (Prov. 16:13) When we have done our duty, we can quietly refer the success to God. The wisest and best men must not expect to always be happy, but should prepare themselves for adverse circumstances.

We must beware of self-confidence. “The battle is the Lord’s.” He sometimes delights to thwart us to maintain His right when we rely too much upon our own strength.

4. It prevents discouragement for those who are perhaps less talented. “LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power” (2 Chron. 14:11). God frequently passes over the wise and powerful and gets Himself the most glory by protecting the weak.

In conclusion, let us bear all things that befall us as from the wise hand of the Lord’s providence and encourage ourselves in His sufficiency in all obstacles and difficulties.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What God Cannot Do

God Cannot

  1. Lie - Hebrews 6:18
  2. Endure iniquity Isaiah - 1:13
  3. Dwell with evil - Psalm 5:4
  4. Be silent in the face of immanent disaster of His wayward people - Jeremiah 4:19
  5. Look on evil - Habakkuk 1:13
  6. Be pleased by those controlled by the sinful nature - Romans 8:8
  7. Deny Himself - 2 Timothy 2:13
  8. Be tempted by evil - James 1:13

These are moral inabilities, not physical inabilities. They are glorious incapacities.

There does not fall under the scope of God's omnipotence anything that implies a contradiction. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I QXXV, art. 4.

All things are possible with God, but intrinsic impossibilities are not things. Circles squares are not only intrinsically impossible, they are nonentities: nonsense.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Good Grief

And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. Ezek 20:43

There is little our society abhors and avoids more than shame and guilt. The Bible knows no problem with shame and guilt, provided that they are induced by a biblically-informed awareness of our true evil nature. Our society shuns anything that represses what it calls “natural” urges or instincts. Scripture informs us that we are absolutely and totally corrupt and depraved; therefore we have much that should be repressed. Actually repressed is the wrong word. God does not intend that our evil nature simply be untreated so long as it is repressed, i.e., not acted upon.

Biblically informed guilt is proper and healthy. Paul writes, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” 2 Cor. 7:10 Too often we are prone to feel sorry or repentant for the things we do, rather than for what we are.

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.

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.

Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better
Eccl 7:3

Monday, June 7, 2010

Remember Worldliness?

The credit for the idea behind this post comes from my Sunday school teacher, Dr. Beale. His grasp of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament has been inspiring.

Close to the very end of the Bible we read these words: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities” (Rev 18:4-5). The Bible practically ends on a theme that runs throughout Scripture.

We first encounter this command of God to His covenant people when God in Genesis 12: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee (Gen 12:1). Looking back at the end of Genesis 11, we see that Abram was in Haran at this time. [And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. Gen 11:31] However Stephen tells us, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee (Acts 7:2-3). This means that when God tells Abram to come out of Haran this was the second time Abram had been so commanded: first in Ur, then in Haran.

You may have noticed that the English wording of Genesis is “Get out.” The Hebrew word used in this passage and in the others we will cite means “get out,” or “come out.” English uses two distinct words for the ideas of ‘come’ and “go.” In many other languages, Hebrew included, one word does the job.

We encounter this command to “come out” again in Genesis 19. In verses 14 through 16 we read, “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.” Here we see conveying the command to his future sons-in-law, which they ignored to their own destruction. Later we see the angels forcefully make Lot obey the command because of God’s mercy on him.

In Exodus 6:6-9, the command is implicit. Moses relates to Israel God’s plan to cause them to ‘come out” of the Egyptian bondage they desperately wanted to escape, yet the passage concludes by stating that the children of Israel refuse to hearken unto Moses.

Again this theme surfaces in Isaiah. The Lord declares through the prophet, “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD” (Isaiah 52:11).

Once more we read, “My people, go ye out of the midst of her, and deliver ye every man his soul from the fierce anger of the LORD” (Jer. 51:45).

Lest we think that this is merely some Old Testament motif whereby God commands His people to leave physical locations that He intends to judge, Paul clearly applies this to God’s covenant people in the New Testament when he writes, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17).

The New Testament therefore illuminates the true intent of the Old Testament warnings. They are warnings against spiritual adultery, i.e., worldliness. One thinks of Jesus’ words to the Disciples in John 15:19. Also 1 Corinthians 5:9, 10 comes to mind. We are in this world, but we are to NOT BE OF IT in any sense of those words.

I now return to the title of this post: What Ever Happened To Worldliness. When I was a child, I heard countless warnings against worldliness. Such warnings were almost exclusively directed as certain behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, cussing, etc. I hear no such warnings today. It may be argued that drinking an occasional glass of wine does not make one worldly, but surely worldliness has not become an obsolete category. Perhaps we have so assimilated the world’s mindset and values that the distinction between sacred and secular has been blurred beyond recognition. The world’s values so permeate the Evangelical Christianity of our day that we can’t even define worldliness anymore. Here is the definition of worldliness my Sunday school teacher gave, which is actually a quote from David Wells: Worldliness is what any society does to make sin appear normal and righteousness seem strange.

That’s something to think about, isn’t it? Sin seems so normal to us anymore that we don’t even flinch when our theologians and pastors sweep aside God’s commands with a sleight of hand that would make a magician jealous. Every day I hear discussions about whether the Bible really forbids homosexuality or fornication. Every day I hear profanity pour forth from the mouths of professing Christians. This is not pietism on my part, friends; it is a call to “Come out” from the world lest we be polluted and defiled by her sins.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Doctrine Is Supposed To Divide.

We have all heard the familiar refrain, “Doctrine divides.” I think this is true, but I deny that it is a bad thing. Doctrine is supposed to divide. It is supposed to sift us out and show who among us is walking in intentional error. Whenever heresy or schism is spoken of in the Bible, it is always implies that the schismatics were intentionally deviating from the doctrine handed down to them.

What about love? There is no love in letting a person live in error. It is not loving to let someone drag unsuspecting souls into damnable heresies because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

The simple fact is: whenever someone appeals to “love” against doctrine, they are betraying their secret belief that doctrine is unimportant. This is simply the Osteen-esque idea that as long as someone is sincere and tries to be nice and smile they can get into heaven, regardless of what they believe. Away with such unity!

In the words of Martin Luther:

“Just as in the days of the apostles, so at this day we are forced to hear from certain denominations that we (by our obstinacy to the truth) do offend against love and unity in the churches, because we reject their doctrine. It would be better (they say) that we should let it pass, especially since the doctrine in dispute is what they call ‘non-essential’. And, therefore, (they say) to stir up so great a discord and contention in the church over ‘one or two doctrines’ (and those not the most important ones) is ‘unfruitful’ and unnecessary. To this I reply: Cursed be that love and unity which cannot be preserved except at the peril of the Word of God!”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thomas Goodwin on Apostles

“I hear there are apostles abroad, at least those that say there are to be apostles still in the Church, and to the end of the world; and those that affirm it are not of the Romish party only, who make the popedom a perpetual apostleship, but of those who would be in all other things most contrary unto the Pope. To refute whom, this is here sufficient, that the apostles’ call is to be ‘by the (immediate) will of God,’ as hath been opened in Acts i. You read that when Judas was dead, all the eleven apostles could not have chosen another apostle; yea, they would never have thought of adding another, had not God by a prophecy said, ‘Let another take his bishopric,’ (and he quoteth a Psalm to warrant it, Ps.lxix.,) that is his office of apostleship; and he there mentions a qualification that was to be in him that should be chosen to that office, which I am sure hath not been found in any man these fifteen hundred years; and he puts a necessity upon it that he that was to be chosen should be so qualified, a must, upon it, ver. 21, 22, ‘Of those men that have accompanied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto the same day that he was taken up, must one [if any] be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.’ And though they named two, for God to pick one, to shew that God’s immediate call was requisite to authorize an apostle, that it might not be by man but God, they by prayer cast lots, and it fell to Matthias; and it is God alone who, by an immediate hand, doth dispose the lot, as Solomon tells us: for apostles were to be by the will of God immediately.” Thomas Goodwin, Works 1:10

I won't expound on this much, since Goodwin says it so much better than I could anyway. But let me simply say that when we see the heresy infesting large portions of the Christian world under the guise of supposed "apostolic" ministry, we have only our own spinelessness and historical ignorance to blame. Had the Church simply had the courage and doctrinal integrity 100 years ago to excommunicate anyone who even shook hands with an Irvingite, we wouldn't be witnessing the demoniac nonsense of Benny Hinn, C. Peter Wagner, Matt Ford, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar and the whole host of other foolish people that parade around the world bringing reproach on Christ's name. Now let me tell you how I really feel!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Advice For Young People

I frequently hear parents complain about the way kids act these days. Even the parents of kids that grow up in the church register the same complaints. It seems ironic that there should be a decline in the character of young people, at least among church kids, for the simple fact that no self-respecting church is without a substantial, sometimes inordinately substantial, youth program. Most churches wouldn’t be caught dead with a hip youth pastor that knows how to communicate to the kids “in their own language.”

I could say a lot about this phenomenon. I could question the wisdom of teaching our young people maturity by supplying them with a pastor who behaves like one of them. I could question the entire practice of segregating young people and tailoring ministry to them (since Scripture provides no precedent). But I will restrict myself to showing what our churches used to teach their young people.

The following advice comes from a book entitled Thoughts on Religious Experience, by Archibald Alexander (1772-1851). Alexander was the first professor of Princeton Seminary, so it may be said with confidence that he knew about teaching young people.

Here is Alexander’s advice to young people:

1. Aim at consistency in your Christian character. Alexander warns about compartmentalizing one’s life, therefore being inconsistent in character – being guided by principle in some areas of life, but by custom and fashion in other areas.

2. Let your relationships with others be marked by a strict and conscientious regard to truth, honor, justice, kindness and courtesy. Here Alexander encourages young people to be guided by the Golden Rule, giving the proper respect where it is due and being forgiving of others’ shortcomings.

3. Govern your tongue. More sin is committed by the tongue than any other part of the body. If one cannot control his tongue, his “religion is in vain” (James 1:26). This includes, Alexander stresses, all profane speech, obscenity and falsehood. Scripture warns that “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” (Prov. 10:19). Talking too much will get you into trouble. Double entendres and sexually suggestive language anesthetizes one to the inappropriateness of such behavior among Christians and inevitably leads to temptation.

4. Keep a good conscience. It is important to have a biblically informed conscience, first of all. Our consciences only guide us according to the best standard we have been taught. But presuming we have been taught God’s Word, it is of utmost importance to never violate one’s conscience. Paul warns of one having a “seared” conscience, one that no longer feels hesitant about sin, because it has been frequently ignored.

5. Learn to bear affliction with fortitude and resignation. Here is a great lesson for our degenerate, nihilistic and narcissistic age. Christ resigned Himself to the Father’s will even under the most difficult of circumstances, saying, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” The sort of patience and strength which Scripture commends can never be developed by people who will not tolerate adversity. Christian maturity comes inevitably through hardship.

6. Cherish and diligently cultivate genuine piety. Alexander notes that “Early piety is the most beautiful spectacle in the world.” By piety we mean holiness. Our society has so conditioned us that we shrink from holiness because we actually believe that it will detract from our happiness. It is a reproach on our Creator to indulge such a thought. Holiness of life is God’s aim in saving us. Someone has said that God never justifies a man He doesn’t intend to sanctify. God intends to conform us to the image of His Son. Christian life with no living notion of holiness and continual growth in holiness, is no Christian life at all.

7. Seek Divine direction and aid by incessant fervent prayer. It used to be the hallmark of an unbeliever to pray only when he was in trouble: “God, if You get me out of this fix, I promise I’ll serve You.” But since Evangelicalism has turned God into a slightly glorified coach, most so-called “Christian” prayer is no better. Right doctrine is of little avail if we only seek God’s guidance as a last resort because we can’t solve our own problems. It is easy to be a Calvinist orthodox in theology, yet brazenly Pelagian in practice.

Alexander concludes with this final “serious and affectionate recommendation:

8. Make immediate preparation for death. Happy-go-lucky, healthy young people may not want to think about this subject. But the fact is young people die every day. Alexander also points out that nothing makes a person slow down and think twice than a grasp of the fact that death must be encountered by everyone. It can come at any time for anyone. Will we insanely close our eyes to this reality? Repentance towards God for all our sins, trust and reliance on Christ’s atoning sacrifice, regeneration of heart, and a renewed life – these are the proper preparations for death.

I wonder what our youth groups would produce if they were fed this kind of teaching?

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