Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

God the Sustainer: Almighty and Sovereign


"...then we must conclude that the storms that blow against us are not from God. They are part of the natural order which follows a course of natural law." [Jim Evans, quoted in the Opelika-Auburn News, C1, 3 September 2005 under "Where is God in the Storm?"]

In response to the above quote concerning Hurricane Katrina made by a pastor near Auburn, Alabama (where I used to live), Paul Stith, of Grace Heritage Church (where I was once a member), made the following comments:

Why is it that we feel compelled to let God off the hook, as it were? Why do we want to find comfort by saying that God had nothing to do with this? Are we really better off with a God who is little more powerful than the Red Cross, running to the disaster to hold our hand in the aftermath? This is the god that some have constructed in their imaginations.

In stark contrast to this ‘god of our imaginations’ the Bible presents God as omnipotent [that is, "all-powerful"].

God’s omnipotence is majestically and undeniably demonstrated in the first act of creation in which the universe was created out of nothing by God's Word, but often we are distracted by the visible matter around us in such a way as to miss the continuing activity of God throughout creation. We may be quick to acknowledge God as Creator, as I am sure the pastor quoted from the article above would do, but may fail to glorify God by declaring that “He sustains all things by His powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). That ‘all things are sustained by God’s might’ should clue us in to what the phrase “all-mighty” really indicates: namely, that “God’s omnipotence brings out every phenomenon of existence. This is the essential and sufficient cause of all things.” [Fredrik Brosche, Luther on Predestination (1978).]

God is in control because He is almighty. All power belongs to God. Any power in the natural world–from the force of the hurricane to each movement of the human will–is secondary and derivative from God, who is the Sustainer.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Divine Sovereignty Over the Human Will


Both the scriptural evidence and proper theological reflection demonstrate that God is sovereign over His creation in general. But there is a commonly held view that God has limited His sovereignty when it comes to human choices. This popular view is due more to human philosophy than to God’s revelation, for the Bible clearly declares God’s sovereignty over the human will.

God’s sovereignty in the will of the lost is demonstrated in Scripture. God is presented as sovereign in judging the wicked by hardening their will against His Word in Romans 9:17-18, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” God is presented as sovereign in the saving His elect from their lost condition by the intervention of His Word in Acts 9:1-6,

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

God’s sovereignty in the will of believers is also demonstrated in Scripture. God is presented as sovereign over our hearts’ desires in Psa 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” God is specifically presented as sovereign over our desire to do His will in Phil 2:12-13,

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is in control. There is no corner of the universe–even within the human heart–outside of God’s control.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Maverick Molecules


My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isa 46:10b).

Bible teacher R.C. Sproul, in his classic work Chosen by God, magnifies God’s sovereignty in governing His creation:
God is sovereign over His entire creation. If something could come to pass apart from His sovereign permission, then that which would come to pass would frustrate His sovereignty. If God refused to permit something to happen and it happened anyway, then whatever happened would have more power and authority than God Himself. If there is any part of creation outside of God’s sovereignty, then God is simply not sovereign. If God is not sovereign, then God is not God.
If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the grand and glorious plan that God has made and promised us. If a grain of sand in the kidney of Oliver Cromwell changed the course of English history, so our maverick molecule could change the course of all redemptive history. Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from returning. (26-27)
The LORD is God. He is sovereign. No part of His creation is outside His control. His purposes cannot be thwarted. 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Divine Sovereignty: Scripture and Reflection


God is presented as the Sovereign Creator at the beginning of Scripture in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
God is presented as the Sovereign Creator again when creation is spoken of in light of Christ in John 1:3, “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.”
God’s sovereignty is established in creation as we read in Acts 17:24, “The God who made the world and everything in it: He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands.” God’s sovereignty is demonstrated in His sustaining power over His creation as we read in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'”
God’s sovereignty over His creation is seen throughout the Scriptures:
· In inanimate creation (Job 37:6-13; 38:12, 22-32; Ps. 104:4, 14; 135:6-7; 148:8 Matt. 5:45)
· In animals (Job 38:39-41; Ps. 104:27-29; Matt. 6:26; 10:29)
· In seemingly random or chance events (Prov. 16:33)
· In the affairs of nations (Job 12:23; Ps. 22:28; Dan. 4:34-35)
· In the will of kings (Ezra 1:1; 6:22; Ps. 33:14-15; Prov, 21:1)
· In the will of believers (Phil. 2:13)
· In every aspect of our lives (Job 14:5; Ps. 139:16; Prov. 16:9; Prov. 20:24; Jer. 10:23; Matt.6:11; Gal. 1:15; Phil. 4:19)
We may sometimes feel out of control. The truth is, even on our best days– as we exercise God-given wisdom in how we order our actions, as we practice godly self-control–the amount of control we are able to exercise is still quite limited. But God is always in control. As we trust in God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can take comfort that He is working out everything for our ultimate good and His glory (Rom 8:28).

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Monday, May 11, 2015

A Summary of the Doctrines of Grace Expressed in the 1689 Confession

[Below is the text of a document-the title of which is listed as the title of this post-that has hung on the wall in the older adult Sunday school class of Kosmosdale Baptist Church since before I first became a member there, about eight years ago. I do not think that other Baptist confessions lend themselves to such a summary-with the doctrines of grace so explicit-as readily as the 1689. The 1689 is, in the words of Dr. Tom Nettles, who once served as pastor for Kosmosdale, our "richest confessional treasure." As we at Kosmosdale are currently considering whether to amend our constitution regarding our confessional standard, I believe that it serves us to once again consider these things.]

We believe in the one true and living God, in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who is invisible, personal, omnipresent, eternal, dependent on none, unchanging, truthful, trustworthy, almighty, sovereign, omniscient, righteous, holy, good, loving, merciful, longsuffering, and gracious.

We believe that Almighty God has revealed all that is necessary to life and salvation in the sixty-six books of Holy Scripture which are the Word of God. All Scripture was given by inspiration of God, is infallible and inerrant, and is the final arbiter in all disputes. Its authority is derived from its author and not from the opinions of men.

We believe that God made our first father Adam perfect, holy and upright. He was appointed representative and head of the human race thereby exposing all his offspring to the effects of his obedience or disobedience to God’s commands.

We believe that Adam fell from his original righteousness into sin and brought on himself and all of his offspring death, condemnation, and sinnership.

We believe that it is completely beyond the power of fallen man to love God.

We believe that God sent His Son into the world, conceived of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, unchangeably sinless, brought God’s righteousness on behalf of His people.

We believe that God’s Son died upon the cross to effect propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, and atonement for His elect people. God bore testimony to His acceptance of His Son’s work by raising Him from the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ is now seated at the right hand of His Father and is enthroned in glory where He intercedes on behalf of His people and rules over all things for their sake.

We believe the elect, who are called by grace, are justified in the sight of God on account of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ which is received by faith alone.

We believe that such are regenerated, called, and justified shall persevere in holiness and never finally fall away.

We believe that baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper are gospel ordinances belonging only to believers.

We believe that the local church is under the authority of Christ alone. Nevertheless, He has appointed pastors (as His undershepherds) and deacons (as His ministers of mercy) to represent Him as they care for His body.

We believe that the local church is an assembly of baptized believers covenanted together for the furtherance of the Gospel and their mutual edification and fellowship. The worship and ministry of the church finds its primary expression in the exposition and application of the Word of God through preaching.

We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ shall personally and visibly return to judge this sinful world, and that the righteous shall enjoy everlasting life and the wicked endure everlasting punishment.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

Classic, Calvinistic, Confessional Christian Doctrine and Greek Philosophical Thought


Often, in theological debates between fellow Christians (or, sometimes, in debates involving heretical groups seeking to claim the Christian label), a certain charge will be made by the party seeking to re-examine the established doctrine. We find this charge expressed by Clark Pinnock in his infamous article, “From Augustine to Arminius” [Pinnock actually went beyond Arminius into the heresy of Open Theism]:
[T]he classical model of Christian theism, [was shaped] decisively by Augustine under the influence of Greek philosophy, [placing] high value on the Deity's being timeless, changeless, passionless, unmoved, and unmovable… classical theism [accommodated itself] to the Hellenistic culture.

Claiming that theology has been polluted with Greek philosophy: the Open Theist objects to the classical Christian theist doctrine of God’s perfect knowledge; the Arminian objects to the Calvinist doctrine of God’s perfect sovereignty; the current modifier/denier of impassibility objects to the confessional doctrine of God’s perfect affections. How should someone who seeks to defend the classical, Calvinistic, and confessional view of God evaluate and respond to the charge(s) that Christian theology has become polluted with Greek philosophy?

[The following observation and response(s) are summarized from statements made by James Dolezal, in his interview on The Reformed Forum.]

Observation:
For those who seek to argue against a doctrine of classical Christian theism (or Reformed theology, or whatever doctrine[s] are being objected to) the bare assertion that the doctrine(s) are a product of Greek thought seems to suffice for an argument.

Response:
Notice: 1. the objector should have to prove that whatever Greek sources the early theologians may have been drawing upon were actually wrong; 2. the accusation of Hellenism often seems to [falsely] assume that there was a Greek consensus concerning the theology; 3. the objector should also consider whether in appropriating some forms of arguments found in Greek thought, the early Christians did not radically transform the substance of those arguments (formal similarities may exist with deep and significant differences).

Conclusion:
Though philosophical reflection must always be subservient to Scripture, philosophy can sometimes be an aid, rather than a hindrance, to rightly understanding God. The distinction between nature and person is a philosophical distinction, yet it helps in our reflection about the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When someone raises the charge that an aspect classical, Calvinistic, and confessional Christian doctrine is a product of Greek thought, we must carefully think about this charge.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The One Divine Will, Eternal Roles, and the Covenant of Redemption: Some Questions


To affirm dyotheletism regarding the Person of Christ [that is, the classic Christological view that Jesus, as the God-Man, had both a divine and human will] is to locate the will in "nature," not "person." This means that, though there are three co-eternal persons in the one being who is God, since He only has one undivided nature, He only has one will in His divine essence (though He added a human will through the incarnation). This observation leads to a serious questioning of the idea that ‘there are eternal roles of authority and submission within the Trinity’ [an idea currently popular in some evangelical circles]. If there is a single divine will, then what within the Son could eternally submit to the Father?

ON THE OTHER HAND:
Does an understanding that the single divine will precludes ‘eternal roles of authority and submission’ also argue against the Reformed understanding of an eternal Covenant of Redemption? Does the revelation of the Son as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) indicate an eternal arrangement by which the Son submits to the Father?

A series of questions I’m struggling with, in hoping to grow in my understanding of our glorious God, involves whether–in affirming the single divine will (an affirmation that I believe is necessary in order to properly affirm that “YHWH is One,” Deut 6:4)–we might also need to somehow affirm (in order to make since of other biblical texts) that the single divine will is eternally expressed through the three subsistencies [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit].

ALSO: does the current notion of ‘eternal roles of authority and submission’ dovetail with the Covenant of Redemption, or are these doctrines entirely distinct? Does an affirmation of the Covenant of Redemption undermine any proper basis for questioning the idea of ‘eternal roles of authority and submission’? If I believe that the Covenant of Redemption is a valid biblical category, am I–in fact–either affirming ‘eternal roles of authority and submission’ or at least admitting that there is nothing in principle barring such an arrangement?

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

God's Love and Impassibility


God is love. Since God is love, God can neither decrease nor increase in love. God’s love–as an
attribute of One who is eternal, who is ever active (always empowering, never empowered by His creatures; always providing, never passively receiving from His creatures), and who is pure being (never becoming)–is perfection rather than passion. This love is immutable, from within the Trinity, and had elect sinners especially in view from before the foundation of the world through the Covenant of Redemption. God’s love is presented as the basis for the incarnation: the means by which the second Person of the Trinity experiences suffering for the salvation of sinners. This passion is experienced according to His human nature, as it is impossible for the ever-blessed divine nature to suffer. The unchangeable love of God, expressed through the passion of the God-Man Jesus Christ, is the basis for our initial salvation and our perseverance in Him.

[My thinking on this matter has been tremendously helped by Samuel Renihan, in his teaching series,
his interview at Confessing Baptist, and the reader he produced: God Without Passions.]

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Monday, March 30, 2015

"Justification"

Below are quotes from John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. The outline is my own, based on Murray's flow of thought; in a few cases, the quotes have been slightly re-arranged from the order in which they occur in Murray's chapter:

I. The Need for Justification
John Murray


A. God's Wrath: "[W]e are all wrong with [God] because we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God[, earning] God's wrath (Rom 1:18): this is our situation and it is our relation to God; [therefore,] how can we be right with him?"

B. The Question Raised: "[H]ow can sinful man become just with God?... Justification is the answer and justification is the act of God's free grace. (Rom 8:33)

II. The Definition of Justification

A. Justification is NOT to be Confused with Regeneration, Sanctification, or Glorification: "Justification does not mean to make righteous, or good, or holy, or upright. It is perfectly true that in the application of redemption God makes people holy and upright. He renews them after his own image. He begins to do this in regeneration and he carries it on in the work of sanctification. He will perfect it in glorification. But justification does not refer to this renewing and sanctifying grace of God."

B. According to the Common Use of the Term, "Justification" Does NOT Mean "To Make Righteous": "When we justify a person we do not make that person good or upright. When a judge justifies an accused person he does not make that person an upright person. He simply declares that in his judgment the person is not guilty of the accusation but is upright in terms of the law relevant to the case. In a word, justification is simply a declaration or pronouncement respecting the relation of the person to the law which he, the judge, is required to administer."

C. According to the Biblical Use of the Term, "Justification" Does NOT Mean "To Make Righteous":

1. As seen in the activity of righteous judges under the Mosaic Law: "[In the OT Law-as seen in passages like Deut 25:1] it was not the function of judges to make people righteous. The meaning is simply and only that the judges were to give a just judgment..."

2. As seen in the contrast between justification and condemnation: "Justification is contrasted with condemnation (cf. Deut 25:1; Prov 17:15; Rom 8:33-34). Condemn never means to make wicked, and so justify cannot mean to make good or upright" [emphasis added].

D. JUSTIFICATION IS FORENSIC: "It has to do with a judgment given, declared, or pronounced;"

III. Justification Based Upon Imputation

A. The Difference Between Human and Divine Justification: "Man must condemn the wicked, and he may justify only the righteous... God justifies the ungodly" [emphases in original].

B. Divine Justification a "Constitutive Act": "Justification is therefore a constitutive act whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account and we are accordingly accepted as righteous in God's sight."

C. The Ground of Justification, NOT Our Own Works: "Justification is not by the righteousness of performance on our part; it is not of works (Rom 3:20; 4:2; 10:3-4; Gal 2:16; 3:11; 5:4; Phil 3:9)."

D. The Ground of Justification, An Alien Righteousness:

1. The righteousness of God: "It is by the righteousness of God that we are justified (Rom 1:17; 3:21-22; 10:3; Phil 3:9)."

2. The obedience of Christ: "The obedience of Christ must therefore be regarded as the ground of justification: it is the righteousness which God not only takes into account but reckons to our account when he justifies the ungodly"[emphases in original]... "The righteousness of justification is the righteousness and obedience of Christ (Rom 5:17-19)."

IV. Justification Is By Faith Alone

A. PROOFS: "We are justified by faith, or through faith, or upon faith (cf. Rom 1:17; 3:22, 25-28, 30; 4:3,5,16, 24; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:8-9; 5:4-5; Phil 3:9)."

B. Faith, the Instrument by Which We Are Justified: "[F]aith is an indispensable instrumentality in connection with justification."

C. Faith, The Prerequisite to Justification: "We are justified by faith and faith is the prerequisite... God justifies those who believe in Jesus and upon the event of faith."

D. Faith Takes Hold of Christ and His Righteousness: "[F]aith... receives and rests upon another, in this case Christ and his righteousness."

E. Faith and Works Antithetical: "Faith stands in antithesis to works; there can be no amalgam of these two (cf. Gal 5:4)."

V. The Old Objection: 'Justification by Faith Alone Leads to License'

A. Justifying Faith Works Itself Out Through Love: "Faith works itself out through love (cf. Gal 5:6)."

B. Justifying Faith Does Works: "And faith without works is dead" (cf. James 2:17-20).

C. Justifying Faith Is Living Faith: "It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for the deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for the deliverance from the power of sin" (Rom 6:1-2).

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

"Justification Without Works"

The following are select quotes from Benjamin Keach's The Marrow of True Justification, a small book consisting of two sermons from Keach on Romans 4:5

The necessity of preaching justification:

"Other subjects a minister may preach upon, and that unto the profit and advantage of the people; but this he must preach-this he cannot omit-if he would truly preach the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Justification and the Covenant of Grace:

"Was it not the exaltation of the glory of God in all His attributes and blessed perfections, which was the result of that glorious counsel-held above between the Father and the Son, before the world began-in the bringing in and establishing of the Covenant of Grace?"

"[T]hat which Christ did and suffered, He did and suffered as a common person: as a head, surety, and representative for all the elect;"

The definition of justification:

"Justification is an absolute act of God's most sovereign grace, whereby He imputes the complete and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ to a believing sinner (though ungodly in himself), absolving him from all his sins, and accepting him as righteous in Christ."

"Justification is the acceptance of a sinner with God as righteous, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to him."

Justification is by faith alone:

"[B]elieving sinners are made partakers of Christ's righteousness, and the benefits of it: and that by faith alone, as that by which we wholly fly to Him for righteousness, trusting in the promise of life for his sake and merits."

Justification is on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ:

"[B]y Christ's righteousness imputed, he that believes is perfectly justified, and is freed from the curse of the Law, and accepted, and accounted righteous in the sight of God, and hereby hath a certain title to eternal life."

Our works have NO part of the basis for our justification:

"[A]ll works done by the creature are utterly excluded in point of justification in the sight of God."

"Good works done [even] by saints and godly persons cannot justify them in God's sight."

"[S]ince all boasting is excluded [from justification], all works are excluded."

"[E]very man before he is justified is like an evil tree,  and therefore can bring forth no good fruit, no good works; wherefore all works, 'tis evident, before faith and justification, are utterly excluded [as the basis for our justification]."

"[T]he doctrine that mixes any works of righteousness done by the creature with faith or the free grace of God-in point of justification-gives the Scripture the lie; therefore, that doctrine is false, and to be rejected."

"[A]ll works done by the creature are utterly excluded in point of justification..."

"Grace and works (let works be of what sort they will) are directly contrary, the one to the other. (See Rom 11:6)."

"There is no mixing of works and free grace together, but one of these does and will destroy the nature of the other; and as it holds true in election, so in justification: if justification was partly of grace, and partly of works done by the creature, or from foreseen holiness and sincere obedience done by us, then grace is no more grace, or works no more works."

Law and gospel:

"[The terms of the Law and the terms of the gospel] differ not only in degree, but in their whole nature."

"[T]he Apostle proves that the justice of God requires a perfect or sinless righteousness in point of justification, and also he proves that all have sinned."

"[T]he Law of God is but as a transcript, or written impression of that holiness and purity that is in His own nature, and serves to show us what a righteousness we must be found in, if we are ever justified in His sight."

"[Righteousness] must be fulfilled by us in our own persons, or by our Surety for us, and imputed to us."

"The [Moral] Law did not only proceed from the will of God, doubtless, as an act of His sovereign will and prerogative [i.e., as a Positive Law], but as an act proceeding from His infinite justice and holiness." [Therefore, God cannot lessen the demands of the Moral Law without contradicting His holy character.]

"[W]e are still under obedience to the Moral Law, the substance of which is to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. By the 'Law' is meant 'that rule of life God hath given,' whether as written in the heart, or given by Moses,"

"[N]o man, because a sinner, can be justified by his own works righteousness, or obedience; but all men are sinners,"

"God is just as well as gracious (Rom 3:26). He cannot suffer any wrong to be done to His holy Law."

"[W]hat we could not do in keeping perfectly the Law, He sent His Son in our nature, as our surety and representative, to do it for us."

"[B]y faith we get or attain to a perfect righteousness; even such a righteousness as the Law requires, by being interested in the complete and perfect righteousness and obedience of Christ to the Moral Law, in whom every type and shadow of the Ceremonial Law, and in whom each promise and prophecy is fulfilled also:"

Gospel call:

"Remember, sinners, you are guilty and must be justified in a way of righteousness as well as pardoned in a way of sovereign mercy,"

"[A]ll we have is of God's free grace."

"Sirs, there is no way in order to peace of conscience for us, but to do as Paul did, i.e., renounce all our inherent righteousness and obedience, and fly to the doctrine of justification by the grace of God, through the complete righteousness of Jesus Christ received by faith only."

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