Declared Righteous: Rome vs. the Reformation
Rome set forth their doctrine -- and still does -- that God will never declare a person just until that person actually, under divine scrutiny, is found to be just...when God looks at us, he will not say that we are just until he sees that we really are just.
Rome teaches that we cannot be just without grace, that we will never become just without faith, and that we will never become just without the assistance of Christ. We need faith, we need grace, and we need Jesus. We need the righteousness of Christ infused or poured into our soul, but you must cooperate with that grace to such a degree that we will in fact become righteous. If we die with any impurity in our soul, thereby lacking complete righteousness, we will not go to heaven. If no mortal sin is present in our life, we will go to purgatory, which is the place of purging. The point of the purging is to get rid of the dross so that we become completely pure. It may take three years or three million years, but the object of purgatory is to make us righteous so that we can be admitted into God's heaven.
Part of the reason for this belief, that justification is rooted in an inherent righteousness in the sinner, comes from something unfortunate in church history. In the early centuries, when the Greek language passed away from the central attention of the church fathers and Latin became the dominant language, many scholars read only the Latin Bible, not the Greek bible, and they borrowed the Roman or Latin word for justification, iustificare, from which we get the English work justification. The Latin verb ficare means "to make" or "to shape" or "to do." Isutus means "righteousness" or "justice," so iustificare literally means "to make righteous," which we believe is what happens in sanctification, not in justification.
The Greek word that we are dealing with here in the Romans text is the word dikaioo, dikaiosune, which does not mean "to make righteous" but rather "to declare righteous." In the Roman Catholic view, God will never pronounce a person just or righteous until, by the help of God's grace and Christ, that person actually becomes righteous. [But] If God were to judge us tonight, what would he find? Would he find sin in our lives? Could he possibly declare us just if he considers only the righteousness that he finds in us today? Remember what the Apostle Paul said: "By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (3:20). That is precisely why the ground for our justification cannot be found in us or in any righteousness inherent in our souls. That is why we need so desperately what Luther called a iustia alienum, an alien righteousness, a righteousness that comes from outside ourselves. Luther called this righteousness extranos, outside or apart from us.
In simple terms, this means that the only righteousness sufficient for us to stand before the judgment of God is the righteousness of Christ.
Excerpt from Romans (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul
Believing is the Evidence of the New Birth - Dr. John Piper
Book Review: Our Secure Salvation, by Robert A. Peterson
One of the most central questions related to the daily, practical living out of the Christian life, in any age, is that of preservation and apostasy â€“ May I be sure of final victory over sin, the flesh, and the devil? If so, for what reasons and upon what basis? What can I do today to increase my assurance of final salvation? And what if I apostasize? If I have come to Christ with genuine faith, can I fall away later and lose my salvation? These and similar other questions have plagued (and sometimes paralyzed!) believers in Christ throughout Church history. Beliefs about the security of salvation in Christ and the reasons for that security (or lack of it) have a greater impact upon the everyday experience of Christians all across the world than just about any other theological topic. Wrong beliefs may lead to a lifetime of fear and frantic, works-based endeavors, on the one hand, or a casual flippancy and carelessness, on the other â€“ but right beliefs are certainly one great means of energizing humble, faithful, joyful perseverance in the truth of the gospel and the fruit of good works. Robert Peterson's biblical-theological treatment of the themes of preservation and apostasy, Our Secure Salvation, has found just the right balance: in this substantial and yet accessible volume, Peterson deals competently with the many strong preservation texts and the sobering apostasy texts alike, and brings them all together in a coherent and mutually-supportive whole.
Dealing with four basic blocks of text: the Old Testament, the Gospels and Acts, the Pauline Epistles, and the General Epistles and Revelation, Peterson first moves in clear, logical progression through the multitude of texts dealing with preservation; then, through the equally numerous texts dealing with apostasy and its certain end of eternal torment; and finally, he ties all the data together in a unified overview. The discussion and exegesis throughout is brief, to the point, and easy to follow, but it is also up to date, deals fairly and extensively with opposing viewpoints, and is not loath to quote from sources friendly to his thesis. The balance of academics and forthright, non-technical presentation is a perfect fit for any serious-minded Christian who struggles with assurance of salvation, regardless of his level of theological training.
The capstone of Peterson's book is his last chapter, entitled, â€œConnecting the Dotsâ€. This chapter contains a summary of his findings, for one thing; but more than that, it also brings together all of the seemingly-contradictory bits of information in a way that they can be understood in their manifold and consistent inter-relationships, and then applies that full-orbed understanding to the Christian's psyche. Sin, Satan, fears, doubts, sorrow over failures, anxiety over future temptations â€“ these all afflict the soul of Christians in many ways. How can such an afflicted believer gain hope and peace in the gospel? Well, Peterson's analysis seems directed specifically toward answering those questions. His conclusions are not just abstract, they are experimental (in the old, Puritan sense of the word).
Peterson gives four reasons to vindicate his attention to his themes: 1) the Bible often speaks of preservation and apostasy; 2) God uses preservation to assure his children; 3) God teaches his children the need to persevere to the end; 4) God warns his children of the danger of apostasy. These are the conclusions that he has spent the better part of his book laboring to establish. But at the end of his book, he takes another step, and traces out in brief the relationships between these themes â€“ how does God use the doctrine of preservation to assure his children, for instance? By basing that doctrine, not on our lives of fruitfulness, but upon the roles of the Trinity in salvation, the attributes of the godhead, the saving acts of Christ, the faithfulness of God's promise. This foundation paves the way for understanding the nature of our need to persevere, and the complex relationship between perseverance as a fruit of divine preservation, on the one hand, and a necessary means of divine preservation, on the other. The apostasy warnings, given in the light of this basic paradigm, have several vital functions and purposes as well, which Peterson draws out â€“ in sum, all the parts of a complex whole are given an appropriate place, and the result is a solid foundation for pursuing a godly life that is serious and sober, but also joyfully and assuredly rooted in the certain truths of the gospel.
Peterson ends with a reference to what was perhaps the most compelling chapter of the book â€“ his treatment of the Hebrews warning passages, and in particular the warning found in 5:11 â€“ 6:12. In this justly famous passage, Peterson finds not just one of the strongest warnings against apostasy, but also (although not quite so well known!) one of the strongest assurances of preservation. In fact, the four joint themes of perseverance, apostasy, assurance, and preservation are all found in full and harmonious expression in this one passage. Just this one chapter on the warnings in Hebrews would be well worth the reading.
The Church is full of Christians who are growing dull of hearing, and need to be woken up by the serious apostasy texts of scripture; it is also full of insecure, struggling, and doubting Christians who desperately need their faith in the immutable nature, promises, and saving acts of God to increase. Peterson's book deals fairly and in context with both of these widespread biblical themes; and therefore, it is a recommended book for believers whose personality, background, and theological underpinnings tend to cast them into either one of these dangerous and potentially deadly errors.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood...
In the Christian life we have three basic enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. I am not sure about which category this cat's issue should be placed. - JS
Are You New To Reformed Theology?
Dr. R. C. Sproul (Ligonier Ministries) has made the following three teaching series available to watch and listen to free of charge:
1. What is Reformed theology? - "There is something healthy about returning to oneâ€™s roots. When it comes to evangelical Christianity, its roots are found in the soil of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Just as the Reformers protested the corrupt teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, so today evangelicalism itself is in need of a modern reformation. In "What Is Reformed Theology?", Dr. R.C. Sproul offers a comprehensive introduction to Reformed theology. Simply put, it is the theology of the Protestant Reformers and the heart of historical evangelicalism. As C.H. Spurgeon once said, "Reformed theology is nothing other than biblical Christianity.""
2. The Making of the Protestant Reformation - "The division of the church that occurred during the Protestant Reformation was not something that the Reformers originally intended to happen. However, when it became clear that the church authorities would be unwilling to submit themselves to the teaching of sacred Scripture, Martin Luther knew that it was necessary to stand against them for the sake of the Gospel.
In this series, Dr. R.C. Sproul explores the historical background of the Protestant Reformation. He looks at the life of Martin Luther and the teachings of the medieval church in order to remind us of the truth of the biblical Gospel and the reasons why we must tenaciously cling to it."
3. Chosen by God - "Many people reject Reformed theology or Calvinism because they believe it teaches that God drags people kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God against their will. This, however, is a gross distortion of the biblical doctrine of election, which is grounded in Godâ€™s love for His people. In this series, Dr. Sproul carefully explains the meaning of Godâ€™s sovereignty in the work of redemption and shows how it relates to the will of man."
I have either watched or heard these series a number of times over the years and recommend them very highly. You will find them online here. - JS
Justification - is it a Process?
In this video below (which lasts approximately 31 minutes), Dr. James White responds to an audio presentation by Tim Staples who articulates the Roman Catholic view of justification, namely that it is a process. The Protestant and Roman Catholic views are clearly contrasted. - JS
Strangers in a Hostile Land
Throughout the first epistle of Peter, the apostle is addressing a group of believers who are manifestly different from the citizens of the lands in which they find themselves compelled to live, and who are therefore misunderstood, maligned, and persecuted. Although at one time these believers were at home in their places of earthly residence, they have now been vastly transformed by the great power of the gospel. They were formerly not a people of God, but have now become a people (2:10). They had been full of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander, but were now constrained as newborn infants to desire something altogether different, that is, the true milk of the Word of God (2:1). In times past they had carried out the will of the Gentiles, giving themselves over to debauchery, sensuality, drunkenness, idolatry, etc., but that time has all passed, and now their former compatriots consider them strange and alien, and mock and slander them, because they no longer do those wicked things (4:-3-4; 1:14). Because of this great change, they who had once been citizens of this world, and loved by their own, and partners with them in this world's lusts, are now exiles and sojourners, whether in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, or any other place they may live (1:1-3). Hence, Peter exhorts them to live in accordance with their new character as temporary pilgrims in this world, and not according to their former futile ways (1:17-18).
Book Review: Calvin and the Sabbath, by Richard Gaffin
â€œIf Sunday is the Sabbath then part of the Christian Church is living in wholesale disregard to the will of God and is under his condemnation,â€ begins the provocative back cover of Richard Gaffin's analysis and critique of Calvin's understanding of the fourth commandment; and then, to round out the sober contention, it continues, â€œIf the Sabbath is no longer binding on the Christian then sections of the Church are guilty of Pharisaism and are adding extra rules to Christ's teachingâ€. It may not actually be the case that every dispute over the nature of the fourth commandment and its specific application to the Church today necessarily implies as serious an error as this blanket statement suggests â€“ after all, Gaffin sees fit to disagree with Calvin on many pertinent points, but with a respect and demeanor that would be loathe to charge the Reformer with either â€œwholesale disregard to the will of God,â€ or â€œPharisaismâ€ â€“ and yet in this assessment the importance of the discussion is at least underscored by drawing out the seriousness implicit in adhering too tenaciously to either extreme edge of what may be a wrong understanding of the Sabbath question. And furthermore, even in cases of rather more mild disagreements, the concrete effects on the actual practice of the Church may be very significant. It is indisputably the case, therefore, that this question is worth a great deal of sober reflection, especially at a time in which the visible Church is clearly fragmented over the issue.
A careful, full-orbed examination of what the great Genevan Reformer really had to say about the fourth commandment is a very valuable starting point in any discussion of the topic, for several reasons: first of all, the degree of respect accorded to Calvin in the Protestant, Reformed tradition needs no apology; simply by virtue of his towering intellect, exegetical acumen, and personal piety, he deserves a very careful hearing, and when his rank as one of the acknowledged pillars of the Protestant Reformation and his place among the greatest theologians of Church history is added to the mix, his opinion becomes very weighty indeed. But on this specific question, what he has to say becomes even more interesting to discover, simply because adherents to all angles of the Sabbath question have attempted to wrest his words in support of their own understandings. The most ardent Sabbatarians have sought succor from his exegetical writings, particularly his commentaries on Genesis; and those who have gone to the opposite extreme of denying that the fourth commandment applies to the Church today in any sense whatsoever have found much ammunition in the anti-Sabbatarian tenor of his theological and confessional writings, particularly his Institutes. Compounding the problem, certain respectable theologians have gone so far as to assert that on this point, Calvin is hopelessly self-contradictory, and that his commentaries flatly contradict his Institutes â€“ a theoretically possible contingency, but given Calvin's usual consistency and intellect, quite unlikely.
Gaffin proceeds on the reasonable assumption that, unless utterly impossible, every effort ought to be made to understand all of Calvin's writings as consistent with each other on this point â€“ after all, from the very earliest to the latest of his confessional writings, during which time he was writing his various commentaries, there seems to be no major change of opinion, just some minor development. In fact, Calvin appeared to have died with the same basic interpretation of the Sabbath that he first gave expression to in his (earliest) 1536 edition of the Institutes. That he would have contradicted himself at so many points along the way, without ever revising his opinion, seems incredible. And with that basic assumption in mind, along with the aid of an approach that seeks to understand the historical context of the Reformer, and refuses anachronistically to read into him the later Sabbatarian debates of the Puritans, et al, he does come to a convincingly consistent interpretation.
In Gaffin's opinion, Calvin's view follows a via media between the Roman sabbatarians and the Anabaptist antinomians. In his Institutes, â€œTwice Calvin departs from the narrow course of exposition to deal with views he deems false, the propositions first of the 'restless spirits' and then of the 'false prophets'. Each is the polar opposite of the other on the Sabbath question. The 'false prophets,' reflecting a Roman Catholic viewpoint, held that the Lord's Day is a strict continuation of the Jewish Sabbath. The 'restless spirits,' representing an Anabaptist outlook, opposed any distinction of days.â€
So what did this via media look like in concrete terms? In Gaffin's analysis, Calvin's positive interpretation of the fourth commandment and its application to the Church today may be summed up in three points: â€œ1. Christians must practice a perpetual Sabbath through the whole of life, resting from their sinful works, so that God, through his Spirit, may work in them. 2. Christians must observe the lawful order of the church, constituted for preaching, for administering the sacraments, and for public prayers. 3. Christians must not inhumanly oppress those subject to their authorityâ€. After demonstrating this basic approach from Calvin's theological writings, Gaffin then attempts to show how, when read in their historical context, the exegetical writings are fully compatible with that general framework.
So then, Calvin adhered to a middle ground, of sorts, in which the most basic application of the fourth commandment pertained to the Christians' resting from sin every day of the week, and in which the applications related to specific days of rest had only to do with humane employer/employee relationships and order and consistency in the worship of the Church; but mattered nothing either with regard to a particular day of the week or even the ratio of one day in seven. But this begs the further questions, â€œHow does this understanding fit in with the contemporary Reformed creeds and confessions?â€; and in particular, â€œIs Calvin reconcilable with the development expressed in the later Westminster Confession?â€. Although he points out along the way that the disparity between Calvin and the Westminster Confession of Faith is not so stark as has often been made out, it is to Gaffin's credit that he resists the urge to force a compatibility between them where a full reconciliation is not in fact possible. Recognizing the essential discrepancy, he spends the last portion of his book evaluating Calvin's thought in a way that respectfully disagrees with some of his foundational tenets. Whether the reader will finally side with Calvin or Gaffin on this particular point (I for one, tend to sympathize with the Reformer on the key points), at least the issues are made clear, and the arguments for either side are given without distortion â€“ a huge boon in an often abrasive discussion.
Available at Monergism Books
Chapter Three: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in Our Unworthiness to be Loved
It is no strange thing when someone loves the beautiful and intelligent, the admirable and worthy. In fact, a man of great wisdom, courage, and charisma may even inspire many followers to give up their lives for his sake. But Christ's love is much greater than this, for when we were yet sinners, he died for us (Rom. 5:7-8). But consider more fully just how unworthy we are to be loved by the almighty Son of God: first, as mere creatures, we are infinitely below him in dignity by our very nature. We would think it an amazing thing if a powerful king or emperor paid any attention to us, or called us out from the crowds to enter into his private suites; but kings are our own kind, and have only a prominence of rank and position, not of essential nature. But Christ by his very nature is infinitely above us, and hence his love for us is far more amazing than any mere love of human to human could be. But not only are we by nature inferior to the Son of God, we are also sinful and disgusting in his sight; and not only have we sinned, which to Christ in his holiness is utterly loathsome (Psalm 119:104), but we have directed our sin personally against him (Psalm 51:4): we have rejected his kingly authority by violating his sovereign commands (1 Samuel 8:7); we have despised his infinite worth by forsaking the Fountain of living waters and hewing for ourselves broken cisterns (Jer. 2:12-13); we have perverted his glory and fashioned him into our own corrupt image (Rom. 1:21-23); and then, after flinging such great opprobrium at the most glorious Holy One, we have added insult to injury, by neither wanting nor seeking to be reconciled and forgiven (Rom. 3:11), and positively resisting the free advances of the Spirit, and the gracious and heartfelt cries of the Savior for our salvation (Mat. 23:37-39; Eph. 2:1-3). How great the love of the Savior must be, that he still loved us when we were so unworthy to be loved, and when we hated and despised him who alone deserves to be loved and worshiped!
Book Review: Sola Scriptura, edited by Don Kistler
Anyone who has even the most basic awareness of Reformation history will know that the Latin phrase sola scriptura means â€œscripture alone,â€ and that it is a foundational dividing point between Roman Catholic and Protestant theologies. But what exactly did the Reformers understand sola scriptura to mean, in what ways is it different from the Roman understanding of authority, and more importantly, how is the doctrine of the Reformers faring in modern Protestantism? The cast of Protestant contributors to Reformation Trust's recent reprint, Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible, have done a tremendous job of answering those questions. The result is not just a book that Roman Catholics would do well to read if they sincerely want to understand where Protestants are coming from â€“ it is also, and perhaps even more fundamentally, a book that modern Protestants would do well to read if they sincerely want to know whether or not they may appropriately consider themselves the heirs of the Protestant Reformation at all. The excellent selection of contributors â€“ Joel Beeke, R. C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson, James White, among others â€“ is enough to warrant a presupposition of capable and stimulating writing, and in this expectation they have not failed to disappoint.
In his foreword, Michael Horton immediately affirms a point which will be well substantiated throughout the remainder of the book: â€œWhile this book has the Roman Catholic Church's view of scripture in mind when it asserts Protestantism's position, it is Protestantism that this book is trying to reach as much as Rome. We contributors lament that Rome is so aggressive in its error, yes, but we equally lament that Protestantism is so passive in its capitulation.... But this book is not simply a lamentation; it is a way forwardâ€. Perhaps, more than any other characteristic, that is what makes the book valuable. As an apologetic aid to Rome, it will doubtless have some value; but as a way forward for unknowingly errant Protestants, its value is apt to be much, much greater.
As there are only seven chapters in the book, and each contributes to the topic in a unique and vital way, it will perhaps not be out of place to give a brief summary to potential readers: the first chapter, by W. Robert Godfrey, is a foundational overview of what is meant by sola scriptura and how it differs from Roman teaching, together with a helpful analysis of some of the ways in which Catholics and Protestants may inadvertently talk past one another, and a cursory description of the testimony of the scriptures about themselves.
In the second chapter, James White gives a hugely helpful overview of the doctrine of sola scriptura in early Church history, providing along the way some clarification and context for a few of the mis-contextualized quotes from the fathers that are often slung about on both sides of the debate.
Next, R. C. Sproul takes on the whole topic of canonicity, refuting the claim of the Roman Church to have authoritatively determined the canon and addressing the question of the Apocrypha.
Derek H. W. Thomas then examines the nature of divine authority, and makes a solid case for grounding all spiritual authority in the very Word of God, above any other power.
John MacArthur contributes a chapter focused on the sufficiency and perspicuity of scriptures, dealing specifically with Catholic teaching on the inherent insufficiency of the unmediated Word, but producing along the way some material very germane to many modern Protestants whose practice likewise implies some essential insufficiency in the Word of God.
Sinclair Ferguson then delves into a discussion of the interplay between tradition and scripture in the Roman Church which is very notable for tracing out recent but little-known developments within the attitudes and perspectives of some of her outstanding thinkers and scholars.
And finally, in the Puritan-like fashion that I've come to expect from him, Joel R. Beeke, together with Ray B. Lanning, makes all of the sound theology developed throughout the book richly devotional and intensely practical. This chapter, above all others, is geared specifically toward modern Protestants, and should be read by everyone claiming the legacy of the Reformers. These two contributors do not just show what sola scriptura is intellectually, they also trace out minutely and accurately the appropriate way to respond to that doctrine, and motivate the believer to follow those instructions with a rich array of immense spiritual blessings doubtless to follow.
That overview should give any potential reader a basic feel for the focus and emphases of the book which may serve to set it apart from other similar publications. For anyone feeling the need or confronted with the opportunity to engage Roman Catholics in dialogue on the topic, it will doubtless prove to be very helpful in providing some instruction as to what the issues really are, how the points may be argued from scripture, and thanks to James White, how the Church fathers may be brought into the mix (an area in which the average Protestant will likely feel much more poorly equipped than many Catholics); and for any Protestant feeling the emptiness inherent in so much of Protestantism today, in spite of the schmoozy productions and slick entertainment within the Evangelical Church at large, the immoveable and certain foundation of the holy scriptures alone for all of life and worship, faith and practice, will be driven home with what I trust will be a liberating and soberly joyful forcefulness.
Sola Scriptura: Available at Monergism Books
The Big Three
Matthew 23:37, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 are the three main "proof texts" quoted by Arminians to deny the reformed doctrines of election and predestination. In this video below, Dr. James White provides exegesis of these verses in their proper biblical context and the result is the exposing of many man-made traditions.
The Thief on the Cross by Pastor John Samson
Luke 23: 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, â€œAre you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!â€ 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, â€œDo you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.â€ 42 And he said, â€œJesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.â€ 43 And he said to him, â€œTruly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.â€
I have often contemplated the potential scene in my mind as one by one, the proponents of all religions were given the opportunity of talking to the thief on the cross, and what they would say to him. This was a man who was a criminal, a notorious sinner, and definitely one whose so called "bad deeds' would outweigh the good ones. Being nailed to a cross negates any further opportunity for good works to be done. But it would be an interesting conversation, wouldn't it, to hear what each religionist might say to him? In every case (apart from perhaps universalism which teaches that all people will be saved regardless of their works) each religion would require the man to somehow come down from the cross to do something.
What would a spokeman for Islam say? How about a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness? What would a Buddhist say? or a New Age guru? How about a Roman Catholic? If each could speak to this man, what religious advice would or could they give to him for the purpose of being saved (however they even define what that means)? Some might say that all he could do would be to hope for mercy, but Christ, the biblical Christ gave him far more than just hope. In contrast to what all man made religious systems could give the man, Christ gave him full assurance of salvation - and not just eventual salvation after countless years in the fires of purgatory, but bliss and paradise that very day!
Certain religions would require baptism, others would require the man go through religious instruction and devotion of some sort, while others would ask him to do more good works before his death hoping that they might outweigh the bad ones. But here's my point, the man could never find salvation in those religious systems because he was stuck, pinned, nailed to a cross. His chance to help elderly people cross roads, or to give to charity or to live a life of service was gone. Nailed to a cross, works and service were no longer possible. His was a totally hopeless case.. except that crucified next to him was Someone who was able to save him by what He was doing, rather than what the man might do. Only the real biblical Jesus with the real biblical Gospel could announce to a criminal that before the day was over, he would be with Him in Paradise!
He breathed his last, â€“
And the beat of the rain came hard and fast,
And the lightnings writhed in the sudden blast,
And the fierce winds cried.
Is he then dead?
But no â€“
For, â€œIn him was life,â€ the beloved said,
And then, â€œBefore Abrahamâ€
(So his own words rang out long ago),
But there he hangs â€“
And bloody his lifeless, ghastly form,
And the legions of darkness around him swarm,
And they gnash on him with their death-glutting fangs,
And he is dead.
But what is this â€“ what stir, what rush?
In the pounding rain,
The rocks are split, the very heavens blush,
The temple-veil drops powerless, rent in twain â€“
And look! from their graves the godly slain
Come out, to live again.
Yes, â€œIt is done!â€
And after the storm, a breath
Kisses to life, while the demons still howl on.
His death is the death of death.
The minions of hell, that shrieked in horrid glee,
Now lift their voices in hopeless moans,
And, terror-stricken, flee.
And Sunday dawns.
Chapter Two: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in the Unparalleled Broadness of its Essential Nature
The love of Christ is unique in that it is all the love of his infinite and divine nature; and it is also the tender and empathetic love of the true humanity he assumed for our sakes. There is no other love like this, nor could there ever be another such love from anyone, for there is no other god to love with infinite magnitude, and no other person of the triune godhead to take on flesh; and he, having assumed our nature, embraced it forever, with an incarnation that can never be repeated, but which will last for all eternity.
â€œFirst Take the Log Out of Your Own Eyeâ€ by John Piper (excerpt)
One other saying of Jesus confirms how he designs mercy as a way of governing our experience of anger. One of the ways that anger expresses itself is in judging others. Jesus gave us a demand in this
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brotherâ€™s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, â€œLet me take the speck out of your eye,â€ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brotherâ€™s eye." (Matt. 7:1-5)
The command not to judge sounds as absolute as the command not to be angry. â€œJudge not, that you be not judged.â€ But what follows the command shows us that there is a kind of judging that is bad and a kind of judging that is necessary and goodâ€”just like there is good and bad anger. When Jesus says, First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brotherâ€™s eye,â€ he shows that it is necessary to make judgments about the speck in a brotherâ€™s eye. What turns this kind, caring,healing judgment into the judgmentalism that Jesus forbids is the failure to see the log in our own eye. It is the same as the unforgiving servant failing to live in the awareness of the â€œlog-debtâ€ that he had been forgiven (ten thousand talents), so that he could gladly forgive the â€œspeck-debtâ€ of his brother (one hundred denarii). Jesus assumes that when we see the log in our own eye, we know how to remove itâ€”that is, we know how to find forgiveness and help from Jesus. otherwise the delicate procedure of removing the speck from the eye of our brother would not be possible. You canâ€™t do delicate, loving eye surgery with a log hanging out of your eye.
So the point of Jesusâ€™ words about judging are to show us how the anger of judgmentalism can be broken. It is broken by a broken heart. We live in the consciousness of our own great sinfulness and in the awareness that only the mercy of Jesus can take the log out of our eye with forgiveness and healing. This awareness turns angry judgment into patient and loving forbearance and delicate correction. Legitimate anger may remain because we are displeased that eye-specks bedevil people we love. But that anger is not the anger of judgmentalism. Good anger is governed by the experience of mercy.
Excerpt from What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper
Book Review: The Elder, by Cornelis Van Dam
I just finished my first volume in P&R's new series, Explorations in Biblical Theology, which happened to be The Elder, by Cornelis Van Dam. If this volume is representative of the quality and characteristics of the whole series, it should prove to be a very helpful undertaking. Van Dam seeks to see â€œtoday's ministry rooted in all of Scriptureâ€; and the step he has taken to help provide that scriptural rootedness is stimulating and considerable. I, for one, came away with a much greater understanding of and appreciation for the ancient and honorable office of the elder; and I suspect my experience would be shared by persons of all sorts of backgrounds and levels of theological education. I would strongly recommend the book to congregations, to the end that they might be more appreciative of the tremendous gift that God has given them in his gracious supply of elders, and more inclined to show them the honor and gratitude befitting the dignity of their office; but much more strongly would I recommend it to all current or potential elders â€“ the gravity of the office will be very deeply impressed upon you, but the vast blessings that God has interwoven into this high calling will doubtless be a constant source of strength and motivation.
The basic presupposition of the book (in keeping with the thrust of the whole series) is that, in order properly to understand the New Testament office of the elder, one must be well acquainted with its Old Testament roots and development. The eldership did not begin with the New Testament Church; elders were first given to help Moses carry out his tremendous task of leadership, and they continued to be a very significant force in God's Church from that day forward. The first congregations of believers after the resurrection of Christ would have been quite familiar, to varying degrees, with this history, and would have used their common knowledge as an interpretive background to the instructions that Paul and the other apostles gave them on this topic in their epistles.
Van Dam sees the office of the elder as comprising two distinct divisions: first, the office of the teaching elder, which has much functional commonality with the Old Testament priesthood, and indeed serves in one (typological) sense as a New Testament priesthood, in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah 66; and second, the office of the ruling elder, which is built upon the role of those customarily designated as â€œeldersâ€ all throughout Israel's history. With an encyclopedic knowledge of the whole bible, he describes the functions of these offices, using the picture of a shepherd as an overarching interpretive image. When he arrives at the New Testament, he already has a very considerable framework in place, from which he competently deals with the power of the keys, the nature of the apostolic office and its relationship with the office of the elder, and the interplay and mutual responsibilities and privileges between the elders and the congregations.
Although it is not the burden of the volume, Van Dam addresses briefly but adequately two currently much-debated questions pertaining to the eldership: temporary or indefinite tenure, and female ordination. Finally, he concludes by detailing the privileges of the eldership, together with their attendant responsibilities, both with respect to elders and congregations. In this, there is much practical wisdom and fodder for deep and sober gratitude.
The tenor of the book is overall quite down-to-earth and applicational, notwithstanding its academic awareness. As Van Dam says in his preface, â€œAll of this has real-life implicationsâ€. Even as he often opined that the absolute necessity of the elder to have a very thorough knowledge of scriptures was inextricably linked to the need for a practical, heartfelt, and life-changing use of those scriptures, so he models that basic idea in his own writing. He is not just an academic speaking to academics â€“ he is speaking to real sheep with real and varied needs, who are really loved by the One Great Shepherd of the flock. And because of that, it is all the more imperative that his academic knowledge be extensive, but likewise that it be more than just academic. â€œElders do their work in the light of eternity,â€ he says in the concluding paragraphs of the book. â€œTheir shepherding work affects the eternal destiny of those in their charge. This breathtaking fact not only urges them to do their work as well as possible, but it also determines the manner in which the congregation receives their work.â€ In other words, the very magnitude and seriousness of this most precious gift of the Great Shepherd to his Church has very definite and eternal consequences both for elders and congregation. It would be a shame for either party to despise this tremendous gift because of a lack of knowledge and a cultural bent to egalitarianism. â€œCertain gifts need to be constantly rediscovered, lest they be taken for granted and neglected,â€ as Van Dam notes from the outset; and â€œthe eldership is one of those giftsâ€ â€“ a most beneficial gift indeed.
The Elder: available at Monergism Books
Due to the high purchasing volume over the Christmas season, some of our titles went out of stock for a couple of weeks. The following are some of these excellent books that we now have back-in-stock and on the shelves @MonergismBooks.
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D.A. Carson
Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions by David VanDrunen
The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges
The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever
What He Must Be: ...If He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Baucham Jr.
Why We Believe the Bible (DVD) by John Piper
What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
The Bondage and Liberation of the Will by John Calvin
Putting Amazing Back into Grace (Second Edition) by Michael Horton
Chapter One: Paul's Prayer for the Church in Ephesians Three
This is the first chapter of my new book, The Greatness of the Love of Christ. I can think of no better theme about which to write than the theme of this book, and I am more excited about it than anything else I have written before. I hope God will use it to strengthen the faith and increase the joy of many of his saints. For the next few months, I plan to post chapters periodically.
1. An Explanation of the Prayer
At the beginning of the third chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul begins to formulate an intercessory prayer for the church in Ephesus, upon the basis of the rich truths of the gospel which he had just been revealing to them in the first two chapters; but before he is able to express his prayer, he is drawn aside again to the greatness of the gospel mystery, and exults in the message which he has been entrusted with bringing to the Gentiles. This message is the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ, which in their depths and expansiveness had been hidden from the previous ages, but were finally being made known to all the world, viz., how all the nations of men, according to God's eternal purpose, were now being brought in to become full heirs of all the promises made to the saints, and how they had even more direct access to God the Father, and boldness to approach him such as even Abraham and Moses and other great men of God had never known. It is Paul's joy and passion to proclaim so great a gospel to every creature under heaven, not just so that many sinful men could come to know the free grace and boundless goodness of God, but so that, through this Church of redeemed sinners, the infinite and manifold wisdom of God might be displayed even before the highest angels and authorities in all creation.
Quote from Romans: The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
Romans St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary by R. C. Sproul
The word predestinate in the Greek text also contains the prefix pro-. The word is proorizo, which means, according to the Greek lexicons, â€œa sovereign determination in which a fixed or definite limit is sovereignly decreed.â€ So, as the English word suggests, there is a destiny for certain people that God, from the foundation of the world, has established. He has fixed it. He has determined it according to the sovereign good pleasure of his will. Nowhere in Scripture is a foreseen, conditional, human response ever given as the rationale for the eternal decree by which God fixes for all eternity those whom he ordains and chooses for redemption. â€“ p.289
New Technology, Wandering Minds and Bible Reading Plans
I can well remember hearing a preacher in the course of his sermon asking a series of questions. His first question was "how many of you believe the Bible is the word of God?"
It was a Christian audience and so all raised their hands.
Then he asked, "how many of you have read it?"
Many raised their hands until he quickly added, "... all of it?"
I could hear audible grumblings around me as many of those with raised hands now slowly lowered them. Some mumbled, "I've read most of it", or "I've read all the New Testament."
One thing became very clear - only about 5% of the audience had actually read the Bible through.
He then asked, "how many of you have read any other book?"
All raised their hands once again.
Then the preacher said, "do you see how inconsistent this is? Here you are, having read other books, but the book you claim to believe is inspired by God Himself, is not something you have read. What does this say about your belief in the Bible?"
The silence that ensued was more than a little uncomfortable.
He went on, "If you sincerely believe the Bible is the word of God, should you not have read it?"
Again, he paused, allowing for the question to make its intended impact.
Finally, he then said, "Here's my challenge - start today and read three chapters a day and four on Sundays and by this time next year you will have read the Bible through."
I am sure there are better methods for reading through the Bible but the preacher's point is a good one. We as Christians need to be "people of the book." If there is one book we should read or should have read, it is the Bible. All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16) and it is unlike any other book out there. Job wrote that he treasured the words of God's mouth more than his portion of daily food (Job 23:12). He would rather go without food than miss time with the word of God. Can the same be said about us?
Justin Taylor wrote the following: "I really believe in the value of not just reading, but hearing, Godâ€™s Word... In listening to an old lecture recently by J. I. Packer, he made the comment that it was not until after the 17th century (as far as he could tell) that people started doing silent prayers and reading as opposed to praying and reading out loud. For most evangelicals, silence represents the vast majority of our reading and praying. But I wonder if thatâ€™s to our detriment. One of the great enemies to Bible reading and praying is a wandering mindâ€”and one of the great ways to make your mind wander is to do everything in your mind without involving your voice and ears! . . . Hereâ€™s something else to consider: the entire Bible on audio is usually about 75 hours (or 4500 minutes). If you commute to work 5 days a week, thatâ€™s about 260 days a year. And if it takes you, say, 17 minutes to commute each way to workâ€”and if you listen to the Bible on audio during your drive each wayâ€”youâ€™ll get through the entire Bible twice in a year."
There are many good daily Bible reading plans. For those who would like the convenience of an online source there are now many options. New technology allows not only the reading of the Bible, but hearing it too. If you enjoy the ESV here are six different plans to choose from - each of which allow for each daily segment to be sent to your e-mail address or as a podcast here.
Some might like to add to their Bible reading by going through reformed confessions each day. You can do so here. - JS
Imagine that the most powerful emperor who ever lived had a wise, beautiful, noble, and well-beloved son, the very paragon of all that we could conceive of as royal glory; and imagine further that, in the filthiest slums of his poorest city, there lived a prostitute as lowly and destitute and unlovely and crippled as ever crawled about in the filth of squalor. Now, suppose this noble prince set his love on that lowly woman; and suppose that, fearful to terrify her by the greatness of his glory, he gave up all his riches and prestige, took upon himself rags, and wandered for years in the squalor surrounding her, living as she did, surviving on moldy crusts, sleeping in gutters, trembling in the frost; suppose that he pursued her in this way for many years, and when she despised him he bore with it all patiently, and he gave himself up to care for and provide for her so that he might win her love. And suppose that, in doing this, he degraded himself so utterly in the eyes of his kingdom that all who had trembled before him, and bowed down in terror when he walked by, now only laughed and mocked at him, they spat upon and beat and bruised him; and finally, when they set their evil hearts to abuse this woman whom he had loved, he set himself between them, and gave up his life protecting her â€“ supposing all that, do you think you have formed a fitting picture of the love of Christ for his Church? No, you have not even scratched the surface, for the descent of this great Prince is as nothing to the descent that Christ made from a glory which far exceeds all the light and momentary splendor of earthly kings, so that he might pursue and win and love us forever.