Images of the Savior (30 - The Laws of Clean and Unclean)
The very heart of the Levitical laws, being summed up in this one phrase, â€œYou shall be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy,â€ signified the need for God's people, in the midst of whom he had condescended to dwell, to be separate from all that was common, or tainted with the manifold deleterious effects of sin and the curse. And of the many ways in which this basic truth was taught to the children of Israel, one of the most instructive was the elaborate system of laws making a separation between the clean and the unclean, and governing the way in which God's people had to go about their daily lives, if they should continue in his presence without being consumed by his wrath. In this symbolic code, we may learn very poignantly, and in very concrete and exemplary fashion, the truth that, if we should be permitted to enjoy God's fellowship, we must distance ourselves from all that is contrary to his nature: God is a God of order, life, wholesomeness, and consistency; and nothing that is chaotic or commingled in a disorderly fashion, nor anything tainted by death or the curse, nor anything unwholesome or abnormal may be found in his presence. We may also learn, moreover, that these unclean elements which God will not tolerate are all around us, ever barring us from his courts; but that he has provided a way to restore, renew, and cleanse us again, and make us separate from the defiling agents of sin and its loathsome consequences. Of course, this cleansing is to be found only in Jesus Christ, as we shall soon observe.
Reformation Day Book Special
For Reformation Day we have an incredible special discount offer. We are extending an additional Discount 10% off the entire order for all customers of Monergism Books who purchase The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. Please read below to learn how to get the discount:
Carson on Ministering under Grace
It is rare for me to finish a sermon without feeling somewhere between slightly discouraged and moderately depressed that I have not preached with more unction, that I have not articulated these glorious truths more powerfully and with greater insight, and so forth. But I cannot allow that to drive me to despair; rather, it must drive me to a greater grasp of the simple and profound truth that we preach and visit and serve under the gospel of grace, and God accepts us because of his Son. I must learn to accept myself not because of my putative success but because of the merits of God's Son. The ministry is so open-ended that one never feels that all possible work has been done, or done as well as one might like. There are always more people to visit, more studying to be done, more preparation to do. What Christians must do, what Christian leaders must do, is constantly remember that we serve our God and Maker and Redeemer under the gospel of grace. [D. A. Carson. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008, pp. 92-93]
Principles for Voting by Dr. R. C. Sproul
In Acts 14, Luke sets forth for us the events that took place on Paul's first missionary journey, a journey on which Barnabas accompanied him. We've seen this pattern emerge over and over again. The apostles would come into the synagogue or the public square known as the agora. They would proclaim the gospel openly. And there would always be some people who responded in faith by the power of the Holy Ghost while others in attendance would stand up in outright hostility and oppose them. Indeed, it was through great tribulation that the gospel bore fruit in places like Antioch and Iconium. And everyday Paul and Barnabas were subjected to threats, insults, hostility and even physical danger. We can see how things degenerated to such a degree here in the latter part of chapter fourteen: the Jewish leadership actually convenes a kangaroo court and imposes the death penalty upon Paul! A rioting mob is gathered and begins to throw stones at Paul with deadly force. Paul is knocked down by the repeated blows to the face, arms, torso, and head. His would-be executors then drag him out of the city, leaving him for dead.
Now ladies and gentlemen we can't read that and say, "Ho-hum, isn't that interesting?" Passages like this speak to the truthfulness of the adage "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." These sorts of things happened to a multitude of Christians who did not recover as swiftly as Paul did on this occasion. Indeed, many in the Christian community of the first century became human torches in the gardens of Nero. Others were thrown into the arena to go against professional gladiators, or to be fed to the lions while crazed emperors and a depraved public watched the spectacle with perverted glee. That's our history as Christians. And down through the ages every time the gospel has been preached openly in the public square, it has been met with some degree of hostility, violence and persecution. And no doubt such things continue in our day in various pockets of the world.
Now one of the things that I think about in terms of my own ministry is why I've never been cast into jail. Why has no one ever thrown a stone at me because of the boldness by which I preach the gospel? Well, I preach it in a safe zone, I suppose--a zone that has been declared something of a reservation. The church has been banished in our day from the public square, and a deal has been made. The deal goes something like this: If we confine our preaching and teaching to spiritual matters (matters of the world to come) and keep our mouths shut about what's going on all around us in the culture in which we live, then we will be protected by the powers that be. But if we venture off the reservation and intrude our opinions into the public square, then we will feel the full measure of the wrath of the culture and indeed of the government itself. That government today perpetuates a myth which is totally ungrounded in American history.
Book Review: What is Biblical Preaching, by Eric J. Alexander
In his booklet, Eric J. Alexander very clearly works his way through eight propositions on the nature of biblical preaching; and in each of these propositions, the one great underlying theme is the supremacy of God. This truth, more than anything else, colors the nature and importance of preaching. Because preaching has to do with the word of God himself, it must necessarily be fundamental in importance; because it has to do with God's word as that which was given to restore fallen man to a favorable relationship with himself, it is certainly spiritual in its essence; because only the truth of God can set us free, it must be didactic in its nature, and expository in its form; biblical preaching must likewise be systematic in its pattern, pastoral in its concern, clear in its structure, and relevant in its application. In a word, biblical preaching, recognizing as it does the supreme importance of God, and the utter dependence that God's creation has upon his word, must cast aside all the wisdom of the preacher, and for the good of the people of God, trust in the sufficiency of what he has said to meet every need of those who are his. The supremacy of God and his word must certainly lead the minister to careful reflection and study; but it likewise demands of him that he be eminently concerned about those for whose advantage God sent his word, recording in it everything necessary for their eternal life and happiness. In other words, it demands that he be a rigorous scholar in his study and exposition, and a compassionate pastor in his care and application. But further than this, it must also lead him to the realization of his own insufficiency for the task: the goal of preaching is to affect the people of God with the truth of God, and that goal can be accomplished by the Holy Spirit alone; thus, at the same time that the nature of biblical preaching demands a careful use of all possible means, it also demands a full-orbed reliance on the allpowerful Spirit. Prayer and humble dependence on God is as requisite to true preaching as scholarly acumen. Without God's anointing, preaching will accomplish absolutely nothing, no matter how wellcrafted the sermons may be. Although this booklet is only 32 pages, they are rich, thought-provoking pages, answering poignantly and succinctly that question, What is Biblical Preaching? I would highly recommend it to all current or aspiring ministers of God's word. Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford What is Biblical Preaching, by Eric J. Alexander available at Monergism Books
In his booklet, Eric J. Alexander very clearly works his way through eight propositions on the nature of biblical preaching; and in each of these propositions, the one great underlying theme is the supremacy of God. This truth, more than anything else, colors the nature and importance of preaching. Because preaching has to do with the word of God himself, it must necessarily be fundamental in importance; because it has to do with God's word as that which was given to restore fallen man to a favorable relationship with himself, it is certainly spiritual in its essence; because only the truth of God can set us free, it must be didactic in its nature, and expository in its form; biblical preaching must likewise be systematic in its pattern, pastoral in its concern, clear in its structure, and relevant in its application. In a word, biblical preaching, recognizing as it does the supreme importance of God, and the utter dependence that God's creation has upon his word, must cast aside all the wisdom of the preacher, and for the good of the people of God, trust in the sufficiency of what he has said to meet every need of those who are his.
The supremacy of God and his word must certainly lead the minister to careful reflection and study; but it likewise demands of him that he be eminently concerned about those for whose advantage God sent his word, recording in it everything necessary for their eternal life and happiness. In other words, it demands that he be a rigorous scholar in his study and exposition, and a compassionate pastor in his care and application. But further than this, it must also lead him to the realization of his own insufficiency for the task: the goal of preaching is to affect the people of God with the truth of God, and that goal can be accomplished by the Holy Spirit alone; thus, at the same time that the nature of biblical preaching demands a careful use of all possible means, it also demands a full-orbed reliance on the allpowerful Spirit. Prayer and humble dependence on God is as requisite to true preaching as scholarly acumen. Without God's anointing, preaching will accomplish absolutely nothing, no matter how wellcrafted the sermons may be.
Although this booklet is only 32 pages, they are rich, thought-provoking pages, answering poignantly and succinctly that question, What is Biblical Preaching? I would highly recommend it to all current or aspiring ministers of God's word.
Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford
What is Biblical Preaching, by Eric J. Alexander available at Monergism Books
Humility and the Kingdom of God- Rev. Charles R. Biggs
This week we celebrate the 491st anniversary of the Reformation of the 16th century. As part of my meditation on the Reformation, I wanted to think more about how Reformed truth should bring humility to believers, especially as Reformed Christians seek to make the gospel known and build Christ's Kingdom.
It is so easy to lose our focus on what truly matters as Christians, and oftentimes rather than humility in Christ, we can find ourselves waging war as the world does.
What does this Reformed-Kingdom-Building project look like, and how is it accomplished? I think we have the answer in Philippians 2:1-11. HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
Monergism Five Solas Sweatshirt
Monergism Five Solas Sweatshirt - limited edition coming soon
This Weeks MP3 Features
Here are 'This Week's Features' we have been working on at Monergism MP3 Library.
I have created new sermon folders for: Reformation Heritage Conference Lectures, Herman Bavinck, Eric Alexander, John MacArthur's GTY Jude Audio Study, Sermons For Women Historical & Biographical Studies and True Woman 2008 Conference, Gospel Coalition Facebook Videos and Ken Sample's A Christian World View and A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth - Claims to the Test.
Book Review: A New Inner Relish: Christian Motivation in the thought of Jonathan Edwards, by Dane Ortlund
Reviewed by John Hendryx
A New Inner Relish: Christian Motivation in the thought of Jonathan Edwards by Dane Ortlund is a gem of a book. Books on scholarly research are not usually the ones I gravitate toward when considering a book review in the hope that the average reader will be interested in it. In fact, I was not planning to read this one at all but casually picked it up off our store bookshelf the other day to skim through. Having been immediately captivated by it, I read further and found that I could not put it down. Ortlundâ€™s research of Jonathan Edwards writing on motivation is anything but dry and could even be said to be devotional in nature. If you are interested, as I am, the biblical doctrine of regeneration taken to a deeper level I would encourage you to pick this one up.
Ortlund does a great job of explaining why motivation is a critical component of our faith, influencing every aspect of our sanctification and lay at the heart of Edwardâ€™s theology. Three motivating factors we often associate with the Christian faith is 1) what Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross, 2) our new identity as heirs and children of God and 3) the blessing that await us in heaven. But as Ortlund points out, Edwards believes that these motivators, in themselves actually provide no power to obey from the heart that loves God. None of these can stimulate righteous living apart from God granting our hearts a new relish or disposition. In other words, these three motivators are impotent apart from grace. These truths merely applied externally are not the efficient cause of regenerating grace. Faith and obedience, he says, will not be authentic without renewal of heart.
Regeneration v. The Idolatry of Decisional "Evangelism" by Paul Washer
HT: Lanes' Blog
mp3 | Not What My Hands Have Done
At Intown Presbyterian Church (PCA) our Chief Musician Matthew Curl has released another rough cut from the studio, this time of "Not What My Hands Have Done" Lyrics by Horatius Bonar
Not what my hands have done Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers, And sighs and tears Can bear my awful load.
Thy work alone, O Christ,Can ease this weight of sin
Thy blood alone O Lamb of God,Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me O God, Not mine, O Lord, to Thee
Can rid me of This dark unrest,And set my spirit free!
Images of the Savior (29 - The Strange Fire of Nadab and Abihu)
Although the book of Leviticus is largely full of very detailed instructions for the priestly class, teaching them how to approach God with acceptable sacrifices, how to make a distinction between clean and unclean, and between holy and unholy, at what time and in what ways the solemn festivals are to be observed, and so on, it contains as well a historical prelude immediately following the first series of regulations concerning the offering up of sacrifices, in which Aaron, having been consecrated for his work, offers up the first acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, for his people Israel; and then his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer up unacceptable incense, and are put to death. This account serves to underscore the seriousness of the instructions which are detailed everywhere else throughout the book, emphasizing both the vastly salutary and effective nature of the true sacrifices, and the vastly devastating consequences attendant upon approaching Yahweh in any other way. As we have already observed how particularly the priestly class, ministrations, and vestments speak of Jesus Christ the High Priest; and how the various sacrifices speak most clearly of Christ the spotless Lamb of God; we may learn most importantly, from this historical account, of what immeasurable importance those christological types are: for those priests and sacrifices that are in accordance with God's commands, which everywhere foreshadow Christ, are effective to reconcile his people to himself, and to facilitate his presence and good pleasure among them; but those that do not come from himself he is very displeased with, and instead of being propitiated by them, he responds only in great wrath and fury. So true religion ever begins with God, and comes down by his own initiative, and in his own way, and through his own Christ; every other religious work, which originates in the heart of man, is utterly abominable to him.
Book Review: Recovering the Reformed Confession, by R. Scott Clark
Synopsis: By all appearances, Reformed Christianity is in a heyday of growth and fervor; but how well-rooted in the historic Reformation, with its prolific confessions and deliberate piety, is the modern Reformed resurgence among younger Evangelicals? R. Scott Clark would argue that it has more to do with bare predestinarianism than with the full-orbed Reformed life of the past; and in making his case, he demonstrates a competent understanding both of the past and the present, and is not at all hesitant to prescribe very specific steps towards true reformation. Whether one should finally agree or disagree with all of Clark's prescriptions is a little beside the point: in any case, he has accurately described a troubling trend, and he has been bold enough to suggest a remedy. He has brought the issues to the table, and shown that they demand a response. May the discussion that his work stimulates assist the Reformed community, in the spirit of their forebears, to be semper reformanda â€“ always reforming.
Would You Grow in the Grace of the Fear of God?
Wouldest thou grow in this grace of fear? then take heed of A MURMURING AND REPINING HEART, for that is not a heart for this grace of fear to grow in. As for instance, when men murmur and repine at God's hand, at his dispensations, and at the judgments that overtake them, in their persons, estates, families, or relations, that their murmuring tendeth to destroy fear; for a murmuring spirit is such an one as seems to correct God, and to find fault with his dispensations, and where there is that, the heart is far from fear. A murmuring spirit either comes from that wisdom that pretends to understand that there is a failure in the nature and execution of things, or from an envy and spite at the execution of them. Now if murmurings arise from this pretended wisdom of the flesh, then instead of fearing of God, his actions are judged to be either rigid or ridiculous, which yet are done in judgment, truth, and righteousness. So that a murmuring heart cannot be a good one for the fear of God to grow in. Alas! the heart where that grows must be a soft one; as you have it in Job 23:15, 16; and a heart that will stoop and be silent at the most abstruse of all his judgmentsâ€”"I was dumb, because THOU didst it." The heart in which this fear of God doth flourish is such, that it bows and is mute, if it can but espy the hand, wisdom, justice, or holiness of God in this or the other of his dispensations, and so stirs up the soul to fear before him. But if this murmuring ariseth from envy and spite, that looketh so like to the spirit of the devil, that nothing need be said to give conviction of the horrible wickedness of it. - Excerpt from The Fear of God by John Bunyan
The Testimony of Dr. Daniel Wong
Hear the powerful and moving testimony of Dr. Daniel Wong, Professor of Bible at The Master's College.
Exiled Preacher Guy Davies interviews John Hendryx
Blogging in the name of the Lord: John Hendryx interviewed by Guy Davies
ESV Study Bible: Covenant Vs. Dispensational
Many visitors have asked me where the new ESV Study Bible comes down on the issue of Covenant theology vs. Dispensationalism. The ESVSB being so broadly eccumenical again gave hesitation because I thought it may not take a stand on this issue. I was wrong again. Eccumenial in this instance, simply means the contributors included Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicals and Charismatic. But the is it overall most definitely Reformed and quite strikingly covenantal in most places. While the Study Bible (perhaps wisely) does not take a firm stand on any millennial view, it does seem to openly affirm some basics of Covenant Theology rather than Dispensationalism or New Covenant Theology.
Vern S. Poythress wrote the ESVSB introductory article at the front of the Bible entitled Overview of the Bible: A Survey of the History of Salvation. As a committed covenant theologian, this view is clearly articulated here. This is a great article but especially read the subsections entitled, Covenants, Offspring, Christ the Last Adam and Shadows, Prefigures, and â€œTypesâ€
Also in some of the Bible notes it has the same ideas expressed:
Regeneration in the ESV Study Bible
For visitors to Monergism.com who are considering the purchase of the ESV Study Bible, the following may be of particular interest to you. Ever since the ESV Study Bibles have come out I have been reading through some of the notes on various texts and skimming the theological articles so I could report back to you what I found. As you might have guessed, one of the first things looked for was whether the ESV Study Bible would take a clear Christ-honoring stand on the vital doctrinal issue of regeneration. Expecting to find an amorphous commentary that neither monergist nor synergist would be offended by, I am very pleased to report to you that the notes from editors of the ESVSB unambiguously affirm divine monergism in regeneration. Because we believe this is a vital biblical doctrine to understand correctly, we wholeheartedly applaud those editors who decided not to be vague on this issue. We are also thankful for the effort and time it must have taken to put the incredible resources available in this Bible together in one place. May the Lord be pleased to use it to His glory
Here are a few samples of ESVSB comments on the doctrine of regeneration:
On page 2531 of the ESVSB in the article entitled "Biblical Doctrine: An Overview" under the subheading of "salvation" it reads as follows:
From God's vantage point salvation begins with his election of individuals, which is his determination beforehand that his saving purpose will be accomplished in them (John 6:37â€“39, 44, 64â€“66; 8:47; 10:26; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; Romans 9; 1 John 4:19; 5:1). God then in due course brings people to himself by calling them to faith in Christ (Rom. 8:30; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:9).
God's calling produces regeneration, which is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in which a spiritually dead person is made alive in Christ (Ezek. 11:19â€“20; Matt. 19:28; John 3:3, 5, 7; Titus 3:5). The revived heart repents and trusts Christ in saving faith as the only source of justification.
Notice that the editors clearly affirm that a regenerated, revived heart precedes repentance and trust in Christ. It goes on to describe saving faith as follows:
God Saves Sinners - Dr. J. I. Packer
â€œThe very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.
â€œGod â€“ the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Fatherâ€™s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.
â€œSaves â€“ does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.
â€œSinners â€“ men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do Godâ€™s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners â€“ and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part manâ€™s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinnerâ€™s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the â€œfive pointsâ€ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.â€
J.I. Packer, â€œIntroductory Essay,â€ in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.
Images of the Savior (28 -- The Levitical Sacrifices)
At the end of the book of Exodus, God has just given Moses his servant very careful instructions for the building of the tabernacle, and for the institution of the Levitical priesthood to serve in it, in order to make atonement for the people, and bring them into the presence of the holy God; and in precise accordance with those instructions, Bezaleel, filled with the Spirit of God, has built the tabernacle and prepared the vestments for the priestly class, whom Moses has just finished consecrating for their ministry. Now, in acceptance of their careful adherence to his instructions, God has been pleased to establish his presence in the midst of Israel, filling the newly constructed tabernacle with his glory, and calling out to Moses from the midst of it, with the detailed instructions for its ongoing service and ministry that will take up the entire book of Leviticus. This book, then, has a very definite centrality and culminative nature both in the Pentateuch and the entire Old Testament: it is placed in the center of the Pentateuch, and at the shadowy climax of God's fulfilling his long-awaited promise that he should bring a people back to himself, and be their God, and dwell in their midst; and it is the most intricate and detailed typological intimation of just how he should accomplish that promised reconciliation in the searing daylight of the Gospel, elaborating as it does the sacrificial system for which the tabernacle and the priests existed and served day and night. Let us be very clear about the significance of this book of Leviticus, before we venture into its sacred pages: the very heart of the entire scriptures consists of that utterly crucial principle of substitutionary sacrifice and resulting atonement and reconciliation. This is what God first promised and signified to Adam and Eve after their sin in the Garden, this is what was typified and foreshadowed in countless ways throughout the history of God's people in the Old Testament, and this is precisely what was actually accomplished through that one great work for which all of history was designed, the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Son of God. And there is no more elaborate description of that absolutely central reality of all history than the sacrificial instructions contained within the book of Leviticus. If the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ stands at the pinnacle and climax of redemptive history, the very crux of that tree, casting its shadow backwards through the pre-incarnational history of the people of God, falls precisely upon the first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus. Father, if we cannot see Christ here, then where will we see him? Open our eyes to our spotless sacrificial Lamb!
John 1:12, Regeneration and Adoption
A visitor named Rey was reading an essay on Monergism.com and sent the following:
You say "Monergism is the biblical doctrine that regeneration (the new birth) both precedes and elicits faith in Christ"
Excuse me, my friend, but have you ever read John 1:12? I don't think you have.
John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,"
It is clear that belief comes first, THEN they receive the right to become children of God. He gave the right to become children of God to those who believe. He did not make those who are already children of God believe. You have reversed the passage. But not only that! He only gave the right to become children of God to those that believe. He did not actually make them children of God yet. He gave them the right, or as the KJV says, "the power." Now, where or when is this "right" or "power" utilized?
Galatians 3:25-27 "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor, because you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, because all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
The right that he gave to all who believe is uses when they submit to believers baptism. To all who believe he gave the right or power to become sons of God. And this right or power they used in baptism, for which purpose Paul says we are sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus (because that's when we received the right to be regenerated or reborn) because we were baptized (because that's when we actually used the right to be reborn and were then born "of water and of the Spirit"). Of water because we were dunked in water in the name of the Trinity, and of the Spirit because we received the Holy Spirit inside believers' baptism, as Peter says in Acts 2:38 "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Thanks for your email. I actually agree with you that one must believe the gospel to be justified and an adopted child of God. You do well in pointing out the important text John 1:12 which shows this very thing. I fear however that you may be confusing the concepts of regeneration and justification and that this is simply another case of reading a verse in isolation and building a theology around it without looking at the immediate context. The very next verse (V.13) of John chapter one actually qualifies the statement about how be become adopted children of God in verse 12. It does this by asserting that this gift does not come about by the will of man but through the new birth or regeneration.
Lets read the whole thing in context:
Those Arminian texts?
"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." - John 12:32
I have not always been reformed in my thinking as a Christian. I remember well the long arduous transitional time when I came to understand the biblical teaching on the doctrines of grace. Slowly but surely and in all honesty, often with great reluctance, I began to reassess certain texts that seemed to teach Arminian doctrine. I had believed certain traditions for decades. It was a painful process at times to admit that many things I held dear to my heart could not be confirmed by serious study. Some of these things were just assumed - some things were obvious (I thought) and do not need study, simply because it was obvious these things were true. This is the very hallmark of tradition of course.
What happened? Well, after taking the time to look at well known verses in their biblical context, my traditions were revealed, unmasked before me. To say this was surprising would be a huge understatement. I had no idea that as a direct result of this study process, I would need to forsake certain traditions to remain intellectually honest regarding what scripture actually taught. Traditions are such very powerful things.
I remember the whole process well. I was convinced that there were verses in the Bible that taught reformed theology, but there seemed to be those "Arminian texts" that, for the life of me, I could not dismiss lightly. At least that was what I thought. As I looked at the scriptures, I would sometimes throw up my hands in frustration, believing it was impossible to reconcile all that the Bible taught in this area. I still believed the Bible was the inspired word of God and was convinced that one day we would all see things the right way (perhaps only in heaven), but I continued to wrestle with the scriptures, seeking to come to an understanding of their true meaning. On some issues, this remains the case. All of us see through a glass darkly on some issues (1 Cor. 13), but I have to say that now, years on, some things have become unmistakably clear.
I now believe that there are absolutely no "Arminian texts" in the Bible. To some people this may seem like a very obvious statement. To others, these will be shocking words and very hard to believe. I think many people feel that there are verses on both sides of the issue that are in conflict with each other and impossible to reconcile.
Of course, God is not confused on these things, even if we are. Though some things remain very mysterious, I also believe God has made His truth clear. The secret things belong to the Lord our God and the things revealed belong to us (Deut. 29:29). But is the doctrine of election and predestination one of these secret things? I suggest not, simply because God Himself has revealed so much about the issue in scripture.
In light of this, I would like to present the following short article regarding two scriptures I struggled with for some time and relate to the issue of whether God draws all men to Christ. I hope it is helpful to some who may be struggling with the issues of election and predestination. My advice is to "struggle on" for far too many Christians do not struggle enough. - John Samson
Question: I understand the following to be a brief summary of Jesus' words regarding God's Sovereign purpose in election from John 6:35-45: Unless it is granted, no one will come to Christ. All to whom it is granted will come to Christ, and all of these will be raised up to eternal life on the last day. So, this being the case, can you please explain to me the meaning of John 12:32, where Jesus said: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."?
Free Will in Philemon 1:14
Visitor Question:Hey John - my name is Paul - and I am a regular visitor of your websites - Monergism and Reformationtheology. I love your articles on regeneration - and I appreciate your ministry very much. Thank you for your faithfulness to truth. I do have a question though - about the ESV.
In Philemon 1:14 the translators wrote: "I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will."
For one who holds to Reformation Theology - how does one respond to this passage? If I encourage people to use the ESV, and yet affirm Reformation Theology - what do I say to those who read this passage, and come back to me with their questions? Do you think that this passage was traslated faithfully? If so - how do I explain myself?
Thank you for your time, Paul
Hi Paul -- Thank you for your inquiry of the usage of "free will" in Philemon 1:14. First of all, it is important to remember that believers have been set free from the bondage to sin. Total Depravity is the condition of the unregenerate person. When Christ sets us free from the the bondage to sin in regeneration we freely (i.e. voluntarily") choose to folllow Christ because we have a new heart which desires to do so. It is because God has done a work of grace in us, turing our heart of stone to a heart of flesh that we gladly exercise our will to believe the gospel.
When non-Reformed people use the terms "free will' it is always good to define terms by asking, "Free from what?" Free from sin? Free from God's eternal decree? No. Of course not. Rather, what many of these persons mean by the phrase "free will" is that mankind is free from external coersion. On this we can all agree with other Christians. But just because we are free from coercion does not mean that we are free from other things such as sin. Consider the statement: we are free from coercion but not free of necessity. What do I mean by this? I mean we are free from anyone forcing (coercing) to make choices from the outside but not free of the corruption of our natures. By necessity does an unregenerate person feel hostile toward Christ. Apart form the work of the Holy Spirit people will always reject Christ and they cannot do otherwise. The Scripture says in no uncertain terms that "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit." But with the Holy Spirit giving me a new heart, my will is free from such bondage.
For this passage in particular, consider who the passage was written to in context?
"I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brotherâ€”especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord." - Philemon 1:13-16The passage is obviously spoken to a believer about making good choices. This just means 'voluntarily' and since it is directed toward believers who are already free from sins' bondage, of course they can 'freely' or voluntarily chose to do right. All people who already have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are free from the corruption of nature - so in Biblical terms (see Rom 6) they have already been set free. Freedom in the Bible is not defined as the freedom to do otherwise, but freedom from bondage to sin. God is the most free since He cannot sin. So in conclusion, this passage in Philemon is not referring to the innate spiritual ability of unregenerate persons, but of regenerate ones. Hope this helps John H.
Note: The newest version of the ESV has updated its translation of verse 14 as follows: "but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord."
Billy Graham - 50 years ago
Church History did not start with Billy Graham but as this video of a sermon on "the Great Judgment" 50 years ago shows, God certainly used him mightily both at home and abroad, as the simple Gospel thundered from his lips.
Steve Camp wrote on his blog: My father worked with Billy in the early days and helped launch his ministry in radio around the country. This is the evangelist/Bible preacher I so appreciate. My friend, the late Stephen Olford, told me once of his early encounter with Billy before the Lord granted him a wider audience to preach to. He said that Billy's preaching was average, his understanding of biblical truths ordinary, and the results almost nonexistent. But they embarked together on a journey spiritually over the next several weeks of confession of and repentance of sin; and a concentrated study of God's Word and long seasons of prayer.
I will never forget what Dr. Olford then said to me, "Steve, for reasons known only to heaven, the next time Billy preached the Holy Spirit was at work; people came and filled the churches; and before the end of the sermon could even be concluded, they were streaming down the aisles in repentance of their sins to receive and follow the Lord Jesus Christ."
How I treasured hearing this message this evening and I pray it will encourage your soul as well. Oh for THAT Dr. Graham to be duplicated once again in today's young men of God seeking to serve the Lord Jesus! There was never the mark in those crusades of the sooty ordure of the culturally driven preachers like there is today. On the contrary: the Word preached faithfully and the gospel presented clearly.
True biblical ministry is not defined by the times, but by the truth of God's Word. It was enough then... and it should be enough in ministry today as well.
Images of the Savior (27 -- The Institution of the Aaronic Priesthood)
Although the priestly office of Jesus Christ our Savior is most properly to be thought of in the order of Melchizedek (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20), who stands as the pre-eminent Old Testament type of Jesus our High Priest, yet the Aaronic priesthood, as well, although not precisely in continuity with Jesus' priestly ministry, is nevertheless full of images and symbols that speak of the later work of the Messiah, and foreshadow his mediatorial, intercessory, and reconciliatory roles. We may obtain an overview of the diverse and numerous ways in which this is so from a cursory examination of the instructions given to Moses on Mount Sinai, pertaining to Aaron his brother, in which regulations concerning the persons, the vestments, and the ministries of the priestly class are enjoined upon him in some detail; and of which we may read in Exodus chapters twenty-eight through thirty.
Christ Alone Sufficient
Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves theeâ€“it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves theeâ€“it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrumentâ€“it is Christâ€™s blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee downâ€¦There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionallyâ€“namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect delieverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let his death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him. (The Forgotten Spugeon, Iain Murray, pg. 42.)
"...the gospel is news about what God has already been done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. The primacy of his work, not our work, is part of the essence of faith. In other religions, God reveals to us how we can find or achieve salvation. In Christianity, God achieves salvation for us. The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction. " ...the gospel is all about historic events, and thus it has a public character. "It identifies Christian faith as news that has significance for all people, indeed for the whole world, not merely as esoteric understanding or insight." [Brownson, p. 46] ...if Jesus is not risen from the dead, Christianity does not "work". The gospel is that Jesus died and rose for us. If the historic events of his life did not happen, then Christianity does not "work" for the good news is that God has entered the human "now" (history) with the life of the world to come....the gospel is news about what God has done in history to save us, rather than advice about what we must do to reach God. The gospel is news that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection in history has achieved our salvation...Jesus does not just bring good news; he is the good news." - Tim Keller
Christâ€™s all-sufficiency means, by implication, that we are insufficient of ourselves. Indeed the Scripture says â€œNot that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.â€ 2 Corinthians 3:5
There may be More Active Christians in China than in Any other Country
Christianity in China
Sons of heaven
Oct 2nd 2008 | BEIJING AND SHANGHAI
From The Economist print edition
Inside Chinaâ€™s fastest-growing non-governmental organisation
ZHAO XIAO, a former Communist Party official and convert to Christianity, smiles over a cup of tea and says he thinks there are up to 130m Christians in China. This is far larger than previous estimates. The government says there are 21m (16m Protestants, 5m Catholics). Unofficial figures, such as one given by the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in Massachusetts, put the number at about 70m. But Mr Zhao is not alone in his reckoning. A study of China by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, an American think-tank, says indirect survey evidence suggests many unaffiliated Christians are not in the official figures. And according to China Aid Association (CAA), a Texas-based lobby group, the director of the government body which supervises all religions in China said privately that the figure was indeed as much as 130m in early 2008.
If so, it would mean China contains more Christians than Communists (party membership is 74m) and there may be more active Christians in China than in any other country. In 1949, when the Communists took power, less than 1% of the population had been baptised, most of them Catholics. Now the largest, fastest-growing number of Christians belong to Protestant â€œhouse churchesâ€.
Should we use altar calls in our evangelism?
Genuine conversion - its something every true child of God wishes to see. As Christians, we all pray to God for souls to be saved and thankfully, this is happening all across our world. We also seek to reach out to people at home and abroad with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is both a privilege and a duty. What we often fail to question is our own methodology in evangelism. We all have traditions. Some of them are biblical and helpful; others are not so.
So what about the altar call?
It may be something of a surprise for most Christians in our day to learn that the "altar call" is very much a modern day invention in Church history, made famous by the heretic Charles Finney. It may sound like extremely strong language and even ridiculous to some people for me to class Finney as a heretic. He is perceived by many as one of the great heroes in Church history, especially for his efforts in evangelism. Yet I do not say these words lightly. If I met someone on the street (who did not have the famous name of Finney) and they denied the substitutionary atonement of Christ, justification by faith alone, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ (amongst other things) I would immediately seek to lead that person to Christ. If they remained convinced that these biblical doctrines were error, I would be very surprised to see that person in heaven. Yet Finney clearly denied these major doctrines (for more on this, read his Systematic Theology and these articles and lectures here)
Before Charles Finney, the "altar call" was basically unknown. The likes of Martin Luther, George Whitefield and C. H. Spurgeon, great Evangelists in the history of the Church, were men who shook entire nations as they were used mightily by the Lord in evangelism, yet never once did any of them use the modern day "altar call."
If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?
If your position is [on divine election] correct, then why the Great Commission "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" Matthew 28:19 and "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9. These are just a few of the numerous verses that point to our responsibility. Does God call us to evangelism and discipleship as a practical joke? If already predestined, then what's the point? Free will exists because God allows it. God is in control and knows our every move, but the responsibility for belief and sin falls squarely on our shoulders. Without choice, it is impossible for love to exist.
Since a Calvinist believes salvation is wholly God's work without any partnership with man, he or she approaches evangelism nonaggressively. Calvinism teaches there is nothing whatsoever a person can do to become savedâ€”we can't "decide for Christ" or "receive Christ" enabling a person to "become a Christian." To do this would give man a part in salvation. Calvinists believe salvation is from God and God alone. To make salvation hinge on an individual's "accepting Christ" or "receiving Christ" makes salvation partially a human endeavor. A true Calvinist believes that nothing whatsoever a person does or is contributes anything at all to salvation. Salvation is God's work alone and we play no part in itâ€”not even receiving salvation counts.
Response: Well, first of all, the doctrine of predestination does not save anyone, Christ does. Furthermore, according to Calvinism, and more importantly, according to the Bible, a person must put their faith in Jesus Christ if they are to be saved.
I believe you may be confusing the concepts of justification with regeneration. All Calvinists have historically believed that it is vital that the gospel must be preached and received in order for a person to be saved. The Reformers called this the ministry of Word and Spirit. No one will ever be justified (or made right with God) without receiving Christ ... that is why I have personally been a committed missionary for 10 years.
The issue comes down to this: is anyone naturally willing to accept the humbling terms of the gospel (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:11, 12, 8;7). Any true gospel preaching is done "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). Otherwise it comes to men only in word, with no saving effect at all. The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the elect at the church of the Thessalonians said, "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where the Holy Spirit is active, convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment, the gospel is spoken with power. Illumination and regeneration alone can open the eyes of our spiritual understanding and raise us from spiritual death so that we might have a new desire and thus take heed to the gospel when preached. In other words, the word of God does not work "ex opere operato," (automatically) rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart THROUGH THE WORD to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power". It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word.
In light of this, consider: If man had a free will, as you claim, he would have no need of the Holy Spirit. He could simply come to Christ in his own natural powers. But all Christians acknowledge that no one can say Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit. And as soon as any Christian admits that he cannot come to Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, he implicitly acknowledges that man has no free will, but that all are in bonage to the corruption of nature.
The Daily Scroll
Chris Ross (the founding contributor of The Conventicle), has just launched a new website called The Daily Scroll (www.dailyscroll.net). He created The Daily Scroll in order to promote posts from Christian bloggers that are informative, insightful, edifying, glorifying to God, entertaining, or all of the above.
Images of the Savior (26 -- The Tabernacle)
When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai, and was given instructions to make a tabernacle where God might dwell among his people, he was strictly enjoined to make it precisely in accordance with the pattern that God had shown him. This is because the tabernacle was symbolic of heavenly realities, and was intended to instruct the people of God concerning his holiness and the way into his presence through Jesus Christ, every part and arrangement answering to the true dwelling place of God and the manner in which his people might come before him (cf. Hebrews 9:23-24). The ways in which the tabernacle symbolized God's presence among his people are many, but every way is united and brought into harmony in the person of Jesus Christ: for the tabernacle was in one sense a microcosmic model of the entire universe, in which God created the earth for the habitation of men, the heavens where they might behold his glory, and the highest heavens in which is his very throne room, and into which they might not at all enter; and in another sense, it is constructed to depict the process of redemption, in which, through the shedding of blood, the washing of water, the fragrant incense of intercessory prayer, and so on, a sinner is brought from profane earth into thrice-holy heaven; and yet again, it depicts the movement of redemptive history as a whole, being reminiscent of the original paradise in Eden, prophetic of the New Covenant Church of Christ, and answerable to the final city of New Jerusalem, in which all history will find its fitting conclusion. But in all these things, there is brought about an admirable unity in Christ, through whom the universe was created, redemptive history is realized, sinners are brought to God, and New Jerusalem becomes the place of God's dwelling among men. But let us reflect on these things a little further.
Living for God's Glory - Excerpt from Preface
For many years, I have searched for a book that would cover the intellectual and spiritual emphases of Calvinism, the way it influences the church and everyday living, and its ethical and cultural implications. The book I had in mind would explain for todayâ€™s reader the biblical, God-centered, heartfelt, winsome, and practical nature of Calvinism, and would clearly convey how Calvinism earnestly seeks to meet the purpose for which we were created, namely, to live to the glory of God. By doing so, it would serve as a corrective to the many caricatures of Calvinism that still exist in North America and beyond. I searched in vain. Over the years, I have frequently used H. Henry Meeterâ€™s The Basic Ideas of Calvinism and Leonard Coppesâ€™s Are Five Points Enough? The Ten Points of Calvinism, as well as a number of smaller books on the five points of Calvinism. But none of these, good though they are, covered all the emphases I had in mind. After giving a number of addresses on Calvinism for Malcolm Wattsâ€™ conference in Salisbury, England, for the Puritan Project in Brazil, and for a conference in Adelaide, Australia, I realized more acutely the real need for the kind of book I envisioned. I wish to thank these groups for the warm fellowship I received from them, and I am glad that I can finally respond to their requests to publish these addresses as part of this introductory volume on Calvinism.
Ain't She Tweet
Some people are so narrow minded, their ears touch! They can look through a key hole with both eyes!
I have noticed that many people sometimes just need to chill out a little.. know what I mean? ... laugh at themselves a little more.. and just.. well.. just be nice!
God has a sense of humor.. just look in the mirror! Lets remember that God is never worried.. He knows His plans will always succeed. He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). He laughs at His enemies, thinking their attempts to prevent His Kingly rule in the earth is a big hilarious joke (see Psalm 2)..
anyway.. to aid us in getting more in touch with reality (yeah right!!), lets take a trip down memory lane and watch a few minutes of tweety.
Some might ask, "errrrr... what exactly has this got to do with reformed theology? show us the exegesis and it sufficeth us" - and you know.. that's the problem I am talking about.. there's a time to laugh or at least smile a little more.. The Bible tells us that a merry heart does good like a medicine...
I will be honest - I am not quite sure what tweety has to do with reformed theology, but give me some time and I may come up with something.. but maybe with the state of the nation, the church and the economy as it is right now, and with Arminian theology so rampant in the world.. this might just help someone out there..
It might not of course... but it just might. :-)
So for those who need it.. help is on the way.. here's "Ain't She Tweet"