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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Justification - Getting it Right by Pastor John Samson

Justification is a legal word - a word from the courtroom. It is the legal act whereby God declares the sinner to be righteous in the sight of God. It is not that the sinner is now righteous in and of himself, but that he is "declared" righteous because of the work of Christ. Though fully deserving a guilty sentence, along with all of its eternal consequences, instead, the justified sinner is pronounced "not guilty," is reckoned righteous, and made the very righteousness of God in Christ. This declaration of righteousness is what it means to be justified before God.

But how exactly can God make this kind of pronouncement without negotiating His holiness and righteousness? If the sinner is in fact guilty of sin, how is it right for a holy and righteous judge to declare a sinner's innocence? In other words, how can God still be just and yet justify the sinner?

The Biblical answer is found in Romans 3:21-28, which reads as follows: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (NASB)

Dr. R. C. Sproul, in summing up the teaching of this passage wrote, "Paul declares a way of justification different from justification by deeds of the law. It is not a novelty, proclaimed for the first time in the New Testament. This way of justification is witnessed to by the Prophets and by the law itself. It is justification through faith in Jesus Christ. This justification is not given to everyone. It is provided to all and on all, who believe. It is based on the righteousness of God that is provided to and on the believer. It is given both freely and graciously by God through the redeeming work of Christ. This manner of justification demonstrates God himself to be both just and the justifier."

Sproul continues, "Again, the dilemma faced by the sinner summoned to the judgment seat of God is this: The sinner must appear before a divine Judge who is perfectly just. Yet the sinner is unjust. How can he possibly be unjust and justified? The answer to this question touches the eye of the Reformation tornado. For God to justify the impious (iustificatio impii) and himself remain just in the process, the sinner must somehow become actually just by a righteousness supplied him by another."

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December 31, 2005  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Charge of Hypocrisy, Violence and Oppression

When an unbeliever is faced with the question of the identity of the person of Christ, one of the most common forms of resistance we find in objectors is the charge of hypocrisy among Christ's followers. Closely related to that is the charge that much oppression and violence has been done through history in the name of Christianity. Some major historical events cited to back up this charge might be the Crusades or the Inquisition. So how should we as Christians answer this charge? This short essay will hopefully equip you with a meaningful response.

Many shameful charges against individual Christians indeed are true, and even horrific. We should not pretend that Christians are morally superior in any way, because that is simply not the case, but we should, rather, openly acknowledge our personal and historical shortcomings. It does not help our argument to deny our sinfulness. However, one must, at the same time consider that when this is the response of unbelievers as to the identity of Christ, they are actually using a tactic of evasion. That is, they are really dodging any conclusion about the person of Christ by pointing to an important, but secondary issue that does not answer the question of who the person of Jesus Christ is.

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December 28, 2005  |  Comments (2)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Christmas Gift

From a missionary friend in Asia:

On Christmas day, we will gather in our churches and joyfully recount the Christmas story:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, when Thou camest to earth
for me; But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity.
Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang, proclaiming Thy royal decree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth, and in great humility.Thou camest,
O Lord, with the living Word, that should set Thy people free; But with mocking
scorn and with crown of thorn, they bore Thee to Calvary.

However, for over 2.5 billion people from the almost 6,800 least evangelized groups, this Christmas will come and go, unnoticed and irrelevant, unless a Christian leaves his or her culture to proclaim, in a culturally sensitive way, that Emmanuel has come!

What can we give to Jesus this Christmas? ... We can increase our support of a missionary working among an unreached group. We can support a missionary working among an unreached group this coming year.

We can all pray for the unreached, so that next Christmas, they’ll join us in singing:

When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing, at Thy coming to victory;

Let Thy voice call me home, saying, “Yet there is room, there is room at My side for thee.”

December 24, 2005  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

HELL YES! by Pastor John Samson

Hell is under attack! Well perhaps not hell itself, but the doctrine of hell as a place of eternal punishment for the wicked is certainly under full frontal attack in our day. As Christians we should not be surprised that hell is not a particularly popular concept in the minds of the general public. But what should concern us greatly is that a great many professing Christians are increasingly hostile towards the idea.

Some preachers are launching their attacks against the concept of hell openly from the pulpit; yet others are just as zealous in the fight, but wage their war through the act of silence, as they pride themselves on never mentioning the word "hell" at all in their sermons.

Some speak of a second chance after death, violating the clear teaching of Hebrews 9:27 that states, "It is appointed for men to die once and after that face the judgment."

Still others would draw us towards a new concept of hell; that is, annihilation. Rather than joining the redeemed in heaven, the wicked will be destroyed. If you think about it, this would be wonderful news for the sinner... why, a man can sin all he wants to in life: he can steal and murder and lie at will, and there are no eternal consequences!

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December 23, 2005  |  Comments (0)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

The "Justification" of Christmas

Dear Beloved in Christ,

At the heart of the Reformation was the returning to a biblical view of how a person can be righteous before a holy God. The theological doctrine that taught us how we can be righteous or just before God was justification by faith alone. At Christmas, we as Christians should be thankful to God for justification based solely on Christ's righteousness alone, and that this biblical doctrine was articulated and taught in the Reformation and by God's grace has been preserved for us to this day.

Yet sadly in many evangelical churches the doctrine or theological teaching of justification by faith alone is disregarded, unimportant, or misunderstood. Some have not been introduced to this biblical teaching, and some cannot understand why theology would be important anyway. But this is the article upon which the Church stands or fall (Luther), and the hinge on which the door of the Reformation swung open to reveal heaven for poor sinners (paraphrase of Calvin).

Do you know what justification by faith means? Can you articulate it to others? Are you able to seek to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:3-10) by knowing that you understand how you are to be righteous before a holy God today, but especially at the Final Judgment Seat of Christ? Will you be telling Jesus all you have done for him, proudly wearing your WWJD bracelet, or will you be saying humbly: "God have mercy upon me a sinner, I have only the righteousness of Christ to claim before your holy throne an in your awesome presence"? Do you understand justification by faith alone? Does every member of your family? It is extremely important, literally a matter of eternal life and eternal death!

This Christmas, I offer to you the "justification" of Christmas. The following is an acrostic based on 'CHRISTMAS' that I hope will help you to know what justification means for yourself and for others you love!

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December 22, 2005  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther on the Bondage of the Will

Many of the following quotes I found to be really delightful. They come from, what Luther saw as his most important work,"The Bondage of the Will".

For context, Luther, is responding to some of Erasmus' assertions in support of our natural moral ability to obey the gospel. Erasmus presupposed that all of God's commands to obey proved that we had the "free-will" to do so. Luther, with great wit and irony exposes why free will is an erroneous, unscriptural doctrine which, ultimately, undermines the gospel itself.

These quotes hit the crux of the issue: whether grace alone saves or whether salvation is a mixture of nature with little sprinkling of grace. This is still extremely relevant for today's Christian, for many of us carry the that unbiblical assumption that Erasmus held, which concludes any command from God to believe or obey the gospel, must somewhow imply the moral ability to to do so. Large numbers of evangelicals today make this same jump in logic and build a whole theology on it ...assuming God's commands somehow automatically implies moral ability (this belief includes, ironically, many Lutherans), but as Dr. Luther said to Erasmus, "when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations ... I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all" ("...through the law comes knowledge of sin."). In other words, the commands exist to show what we cannot do rather than what we can do and our inability to repay our debt to God does not take away our accountablity to do so.

This includes God's command of all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, an impossible act of will apart from a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit uniting us to Christ. Only the quicking grace of Jesus Christ applied by the Spirit can illumine The Text in such a way (to open blind eyes and deaf ears) wherein we and able to see Christ's beauty and excellency. Those who are unregenerate cannot see Christ's excellency and thus have no capacity to love what is spiritual and so are not partly but wholly dependent on God to translate them from darkness to light. The following are some quotes from Dr. Luther to this end:

"For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?" Martin Luther BW pg. 149

"...'if thou art willing' is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing...a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively." "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. pg 157

"the commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded." pg. 160

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December 20, 2005  |  Comments (51)   |  Permalink

Christ vs. Moralism by John W. Hendryx

Death is the wages of sin (Rom 6:23) and Jesus Christ had none (Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5; 2 Cor 5:21). Death, therefore, had no rightful claim on Him thus Jesus died an unnatural death. This means that Jesus, the true remnant of Israel, alone fulfilled the covenant from our side, pleasing God. And all who are united to Him share in His distinction that death has no rightful claim on them (6:23b). So Jesus alone is our focus, our religion, our righteousness. Yet we still, as Christians often get caught up in our own spirituality. That is, we focus incessantly on how we are doing, whether reading the Word, praying, involving myself in a body of like-minded believers, being a witness,. etc. We often do this in a way where we expect to win God's approval and somehow become more spiritual. While all these things are all good and helpful when done in the right spirit, it is not exactly what is meant by giving oneself fully to the Lord, or being spiritual.

To give oneself to the Lord means that you begin align yourself with God and his redemptive plan for the world. It means to lose all confidence in oneself and recognize Jesus as the all in all. The gospel remains our only hope as a Christian. All of these other activities don't make you in any way more pleasing to God. He is already pleased with you in Christ and the covenant he has made with you in Him. When we realize this, these other activities are overflow, not duty driven acts to put on our spiritual resumé. Our delight is in the Lord and the story of His redemptive activity through history culminating in his finished work in Christ on the cross. It is not about our piety ... instead we work out of salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord. The more we look at Him the more we are transformed into His likeness (2 Cor 2:18). As long as we view the core of spirituality as some morbid self-introspection and practice of disciplines then we fall into the danger of taking our eyes off of Jesus.

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December 19, 2005  |  Comments (11)   |  Permalink

Future Grace (Book Review) by Pastor John Samson

Earlier this year, our church took something of a spiritual journey together by reading (and hopefully applying) the book “Future Grace” by Dr. John Piper. The book has 31 chapters which conveniently works out to be one chapter for each day of the month. I was very pleased with the results we saw in our church and wanted to write a few lines here to recommend that individuals or churches consider taking the same journey we did.

As the people of our church read "Future Grace," I frequently heard comments such as "now I feel I am beginning to understand God's grace," or "now I believe I can overcome the issues I've been facing at my job," etc. Of course, as a pastor, this was a delight for me to hear.

In a nutshell, the message of the book is this: in respect to justification, grace stands opposed to works (Rom. 4:4-5; 11:6). However, in respect to sanctification, grace is the source of works. This simply means that whereas we are saved by grace and not by works, we are saved by grace to do good works (Eph. 2:8-10). Good works are the fruit and not the root of God’s saving grace, which are fueled by a forward look to the “Future Grace” of God.

God's grace is a huge subject with many facets to it. Grace has meaning only when mankind is seen as fallen, unworthy of salvation, and fully deserving of eternal wrath. It is precisely because people today have lost sight of the depths of human corruption and sin that they think so little of divine grace. Grace is not “amazing grace” to them, but merely “boring grace.” But what makes Paul's declaration that we are saved "by grace" so significant is his earlier declaration that we were "dead" in trespasses and sins, "gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature," "following its desires and thoughts," and were by nature the children of divine wrath (Eph. 2:1-10).

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December 16, 2005  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

"Where Is He Who Has Been Born King of the Jews?": Christmas Day Worship of Christ!

Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him. —Matthew 2:2

The Magi trekked a long distance on Christmas to worship the newborn king. Imagine celebrating Christmas Day this year without worshipping and thanking God for HIS indescribable gift in Jesus Christ to us? Well, you may think this is strange to celebrate Christmas Day without the formal worship of Christ, but some are considering it! In fact, there are many congregations who are planning on closing their doors on Christmas Day. I guess if Jesus had been born in our consumeristic American culture of the present, the magi would not have found an open church to worship the newborn king (I guess again, they would have had to take him to a cave or manger!). These planned church closings on Christmas were even deemed newsworthy and made a report in the Associated Press:

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December 15, 2005  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Jonathan Edwards' 'The Excellency of Christ': Edited and Updated by Charles R. Biggs

Dear Beloved in Christ,

In my reading and study, I am oftentimes reminded of what C. S. Lewis said one time concerning the reading of old books. In essence, Lewis wrote that for every new book we read, we ought to read at least three old ones. What he wanted to communicated wisely to the Church was that the reading of old books takes us out of our culture and religious "present-tense" context and allows us to see a clearer and bigger picture of the teaching of Scripture without being hindered by the biases and narrowness of our present cultural milieu or context.

Recently, as I was studying and praying generally for the future of Christ's Church, and considering more specifically gaining wisdom with regard to how to pastor Christ's people, I came across a discourse, or study written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century. Jonathan Edwards was a great and godly preacher of God's Word, and was perhaps the finest and most able theologian America has ever produced!

The discourse or study is entitled 'The Excellency of Christ'. The study struck me deeply in my heart and mind because it helped me to reflect on the glory of God in the incarnation, but perhaps even more practically, it helped me to think of how Christ builds and matures His Church in a way consistent with the incarnation, yet paradoxical with regards to the ways and methods of the world.

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December 14, 2005  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

An Interview with Vern Poythress By Marco Gonzalez

poythress-03.jpg Dr. Vern Poythress teaches New Testament studies at Westminister Theological Seminary. With his strong objective thinking from his studies in mathematics, professor Poythress has published some of the finest works on the New Testament. He has published books on Christian philosophy of science, theological method, dispensationalism, biblical law, hermeneutics, Bible translation, and Revelation. Some of his works include: a book on Revelation, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1995), and Understanding dispensationalism Dr. Poythress has a close relationship with Dr. John Frame and they both co-share a website togeather http://www.frame-poythress.org/


1. Can you share with us some background information on yourself?

I was born in 1946 in Madera, California, into a Christian family, and grew up on a farm. I have one older brother, Kenneth. When I was nine years old I placed my trust in Christ at a church camp, and made an initial public commitment to Christ. Over the years my parents and my brother and I were members of several Bible-believing American Baptist churches in California. My first exposure to Reformed theology was in college, when I read John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I majored in mathematics at Caltech, and then did a Ph.D. in mathematics at Harvard University.

My Diane and I have two children, Ransom and Justin, who are presently in college. I am an ordained teaching elder in the Eastern Pennsylvania Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. I do not pastor a congregation, but teach as Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

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December 13, 2005  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

A Reminder to the Covenant God by John Hendryx

It is pretty common knowledge that it rains quite a bit here in our city of Portland, Oregon. Most often it is a very light rain such that the city-dwellers do not even use umbrellas when they go about their business. But recently we had quite an unusual phenomenon. My wife and I were in our home early in the evening just before sunset and over the airwaves came the news that a major electrical storm would be passing over our area. It is not very often that thunder and lightning accompanies the rain here, but especially at this magnitude. As we went out on our front porch the sky became dark and gloomy while lightning flashed from one end of the sky to the other. But since the sun was near to setting in the west, its light came through underneath the dark clouds creating a surreal glow among the half-darkness.

Then as we looked out at the beauty of the moment, what appeared to be a transcendent rainbow, one like I had never seen in my life, sprang to life in full color in the midst of the mournful sky. While most rainbows seem to be partial, disappearing into the clouds, this one created a full arc or a half-circle from one end of the heavens to the other. Then another rainbow was revealed creating a double rainbow. We just stood in awe at its dreamlike quality and immediately both my wife and I, who were now sitting on the front porch transfixed at the vision, recalling its biblical significance spoke of it as a sign of a great blessing from God. I also saw several neighbors come out of their houses to view the unusual prism of colors. I approached to see if our next door neighbors had seen it and one of them said they thought was that it was “the end of the world”, but my wife and I recalled that rainbows are not signs of the end but of a new beginning in which God looks at His creation with favor. God uses covenant signs to create and affirm His covenant relationship toward us.

In fact, if we look back into the Old Testament book of Genesis, the rainbow was a sign of the covenant in which God would not again destroy creation with a flood. The Scripture reads:

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December 12, 2005  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Necessity v. The Sufficiency of Grace by Pastor John Samson

There is no doubt that the 16th century witnessed the greatest ever split in Church history. Some view the Reformation as a sad or even an evil episode. Others see it as a time when God restored the one true biblical Gospel back into the hands of the masses. But what exactly were the issues back then? And what are the issues in our own day? Was this a mere tempest in a tea cup?

I suggest that the issues then and now are exactly the same - who or what speaks for God, and what exactly is the Gospel?

In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church believed (and still does today) that justification is by grace, through faith, because of Christ. What Rome does not believe is that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. According to Rome, justification is by grace plus merit, through faith plus works; because of Christ plus the sinner's contribution of inherent righteousness.

In contrast, Martin Luther and his Reformers had 5 main slogans, all using the word "sola," which is the Latin word for "alone." It was this word "alone" that designated the biblical Gospel and set it apart from all other pretenders. The cry of these Reformers was not simply "FAITH!," "GRACE!," "CHRIST!," "THE SCRIPTURE!," or "THE GLORY OF GOD!" All embracing a false Gospel could do that!

The cry was "FAITH ALONE!," "GRACE ALONE!," "CHRIST ALONE!," "SCRIPTURE ALONE!," "THE GLORY OF GOD ALONE!" With Scripture alone as the sure foundation, the Reformers affirmed that justification is by grace alone, received through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone.

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December 08, 2005  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Awaiting our Lord's Coming: A Very Short thought on the 2nd Advent of Christ By Marco Gonzalez

The second advent of Christ has stretched out the minds of theologians since scripture was canonized. The interpretations of Christ’s return may vary but the declaration is truthful: Christ will trample his enemies and gather his church. When the son of man came incarnate, he was born of a virgin, both divine and human. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows; acquainted with grief. He had no form or beauty that we should look upon him and no majesty that we should desire him.

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December 07, 2005  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Understanding Free Will by Pastor John Samson

Why are you reading this? Yes, this particular sentence. There are billions of sentences out there just waiting to be read, in many different languages, but right now, you are reading this one. Why?

Well, it could be that some reformed and crazed individual has put a gun to your head and told you that if you did not read this article he would shoot you. He would definitely be what I, and others refer to as a cage-stage Calvinist. When after coming to understand the doctrines of grace, for a period of a couple of years or so, some people need to be locked up in a cage. That would be the best thing for everyone! Zeal for reformational truth needs to be augmented with sanity in human relations! A cage-stage Calvinist sends books, tapes, CD's, DVD's, and e-mails to all unsuspecting victims, regardless of whether or not they have ever shown an interest in these things. Christmas is the favorite time of the year for someone in this condition for they've been eagerly waiting for this excuse/opportunity to send R. C. Sproul's book "Chosen by God" to everyone they know. They are on a mission alright, but the best thing would be for them to cool down for a couple of years in a cage!

However, even with the "crazed reformed nut with a gun" scenario, you are still making the choice to read this article rather than face the contents of the gun. You prefer to read this rather than to feel the impact of the bullet. You are reading this because you want to - right now you do, anyway. In fact, because this is your strongest inclination, it is impossible that you would be reading something other than this right now. This will continue to be the case until you have a stronger desire to do or to read something else.

So what exactly is free will? Do people have it? Does God have it? How free is God's will? Can He do what He wants? Can we do what we want?

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December 06, 2005  |  Comments (31)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Advent Readings 2005

Click here for Printable Version

Eric Costa & John Hendryx

December 03, 2005  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

An Interview with John Frame By Marco Gonzalez

john_frame.jpgJohn Frame (b. 1939) - Is a Reformed Presbyterian, superb theologian and a theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (formerly at WTS). At RTS he teaches Apologetics & The History of Philosophy and Christian Thought. The content of his works include in-depth explorations of biblical doctrine while remaining easily accessible for the average reader. Many of his students appreciate his charitable spirit and willingness to take a hard look at both sides of the issue. He is known for treating the opposing view fairly before demolishing it. His arguments against libertarianism are particularly effective. Rev. Frame is a musician, media critic and is committed to the work of ministry and training pastors. Important titles include: Apologetics to the Glory of God; No Other God: A Response to Open Theism; The Doctrine of God & The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Frame's passion is in seeing the Lordship of God in every aspect of Christian life and thought. We appreciate his willingness to be interviewed by us.

1.Many people are unaware of your background, could you please give us a short biography of your life?

I was born (1939) and raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA, came to know Christ personally around age 13 or 14 through the ministry of Beverly Heights UP Church and of some Christian friends. The church’s youth and music ministries were equally influential in bringing me to faith. Since then, I have always been involved in the music/worship ministry of the church; that has been a large part of my life. I play piano and organ.

I did my undergrad work at Princeton University (AB in Philosophy), then went to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. At Westminster I studied with the “old faculty:” Van Til, Young, Stonehouse, Woolley, Murray—plus some young guys like Kline and Clowney. Then I spent some years at Yale, finishing with an M. Phil. degree. I never finished my dissertation there (my fault, not theirs).

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December 02, 2005  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Is Divine Election Fair? by Pastor John Samson

Ephesians 1:4-6 "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."

Perhaps the biggest hurdle people stumble over concerning the Biblical doctrine of Divine Election, is the idea that it just doesn't seem fair. It is the issue I struggled with for many years, as like many others, I had the idea that in order for God to be fair, He has to treat all people equally.

Lets consider this fact though: When a person gives that which he has no obligation to give, he is considered gracious in giving to other people; but he is certainly not considered unjust because he doesn't give to an additional party.

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December 01, 2005  |  Comments (21)   |  Permalink