Collect of the Day
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
2. Christian liberty seems to me to consist of three parts. First, the consciences of believers, while seeking the assurance of their justification before God, must rise above the law, and think no more of obtaining justification by it. For while the law, as has already been demonstrated (supra, chap. 17, sec. 1), leaves not one man righteous, we are either excluded from all hope of justification, or we must be loosed from the law, and so loosed as that no account at all shall be taken of works. For he who imagines that in order to obtain justification he must bring any degree of works whatever, cannot fix any mode or limit, but makes himself debtor to the whole law. Therefore, laying aside all mention of the law, and all idea of works, we must in the matter of justification have recourse to the mercy of God only; turning away our regard from ourselves, we must look only to Christ. For the question is, not how we may be righteous, but how, though unworthy and unrighteous, we may be regarded as righteous. If consciences would obtain any assurance of this, they must give no place to the law. Still it cannot be rightly inferred from this that believers have no need of the law. It ceases not to teach, exhort, and urge them to good, although it is not recognized by their consciences before the judgment-seat of God. The two things are very different, and should be well and carefully distinguished. The whole lives of Christians ought to be a kind of aspiration after piety, seeing they are called unto holiness (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:5). The office of the law is to excite them to the study of purity and holiness, by reminding them of their duty. For when the conscience feels anxious as to how it may have the favor of God, as to the answer it could give, and the confidence it would feel, if brought to his judgment-seat, in such a case the requirements of the law are not to be brought forward, but Christ, who surpasses all the perfection of the law, is alone to be held forth for righteousness.
From: Institutes III, xix, 2–3. Calvin, J. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Darryl G. Hart: "And to honor your Reformed convictions, you don’t cooperate in ministries with Arminians. You can’t have the five points of Dort and the four points of the Remonstrants. You can’t ordain men only and have deaconesses. Sometimes the truths you profess require a choice."
[I might add you can't be a Calvinist and an Amyraldian or one point Arminian. The two do not go together. Charlie]
James T. Dennison, Jr.: Excerpt from a Critique of Meredith Kline's Neo-Pelagian Doctrine of the Sinaitic Covenant
Calvin interprets the conditionality of the Mosaic covenant in terms of the Augustinian paradigm. God, who demands the condition, must supply the grace to fulfill the condition. He commands us to perform the condition that we might further see our need for grace—that we might cast ourselves upon him and his unmerited mercy so as to supply what is necessary for us to obey him.
This is not only how Reformed Augustinians interpret the conditional obedience required in the Mosaic covenant, it is also how Reformed Augustinians interpret the conditional obedience required in the new covenant: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”—the God who makes the condition must perform the condition; hence any notion of human ability to act on the condition, apart from the regenerating grace of God, is nonsense or Pelagianism masking as Reformed theology. This is the fundamental Pauline-Augustinian-Calvinistic-Reformed doctrine that so many do not understand today. They reason like Pelagius who see divine mandates and consequent promises of blessing for meritorious obedience. They suggest that demand of the condition augurs an ability in the sinners obliged to perform the condition; and having performed the condition, to merit or earn blessings on the ground of their obedience.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12 ESV)
Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:14 ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 ESV)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)
The Occasion of the Letter
Paul had planted the pure teaching of the Gospel among the Galatians, and with it the righteousness of faith. But after he left, certain false teachers crept in who overthrew all that he had taught. The devil cannot but argue furiously against the true teaching and cannot rest as long as he sees any spark of it remaining. We too, simply because we preach the Gospel, suffer from the world, the devil, and his ministers all the mischief they can work against us on every hand.
The Gospel is a doctrine that teaches a far higher matter than the wisdom, righteousness, and religion of the world; it teaches free forgiveness of sins through Christ. But the world prefers its own things instead of the Creator and tries to get rid of sin, be delivered from death, and earn everlasting life in its own way. The Gospel condemns this. On the other hand, the world cannot abide things being condemned when it values them highly and likes them best; and therefore it claims that the Gospel is a seditious doctrine, full of errors, that it overthrows governments, countries, and empires, and therefore offends against God and the emperor, that it abolishes laws, corrupts good manners, and sets everybody free to do what they want. Therefore, with what appears to be holy and righteous zeal, the world persecutes this doctrine and abhors its teachers and adherents as the greatest plague on earth.
Moreover, preaching true doctrine overthrows the devil, destroys his kingdom, and wrests out of his hand the law, sin, and death (by which he has subjugated all mankind). In short, the devil’s prisoners are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and liberty. Will the devil permit all this? Will the father of lies not use all his force and ingenuity to obscure, corrupt, and utterly root out this doctrine of salvation and eternal life? Indeed, St. Paul complains in this and all his other letters that the devil shows himself skillful at this.
The Gospel is a doctrine that condemns all sorts of human righteousness and preaches the sole righteousness of Christ. To those who accept this, it brings peace of conscience and all good things; yet the world hates and persecutes it bitterly.
I have already said that the reason Paul wrote this letter was that after he left, false teachers among the Galatians destroyed what he had built with much hard work. These false apostles were Pharisees—men of authority, highly esteemed—who boasted that they belonged to the chosen people, that they were Abraham’s descendants (see Romans 9:4–6), that they had the promises and the fathers, and, finally, that they were ministers of Christ and scholars of the apostles, with whom they had been conversant and whose miracles they had seen. Perhaps they had even performed some miracles themselves, for Christ says that the wicked do perform miracles (see Matthew 7:22).
Moreover, these false apostles defaced St. Paul’s authority, saying, “Why do you rate Paul so highly? Why do you have him in such great reverence? He was merely the last of all those who were converted to Christ. But we are the disciples of the apostles; we knew them well. We saw Christ performing miracles and heard him preach. Paul came after us and is inferior to us. It would be impossible for God to allow us to go wrong when we belong to his holy people, are the ministers of Christ, and have received the Holy Spirit. Further, there are many of us, and Paul is on his own and neither knows the apostles nor has seen Christ. Indeed, for a long time he persecuted the church of Christ. Do you think God would allow so many churches to be deceived, just for Paul’s sake?”
When such persuasive men come into a country or city, people soon admire them, and those men deceive not only the simple but also the learned with their apparent godliness. They even deceive people who seem to be pretty well established in the faith. Thus Paul lost his authority among the Galatians, and his doctrine was brought under suspicion.
Against this boasting of the false apostles, Paul firmly asserts his apostolic authority. Although he does not do anything like it elsewhere, he will not give way to anyone, even to the apostles themselves, much less to any of their followers. To stop these men’s pharisaical pride and shameless boldness, he mentions what happened at Antioch, where he withstood Peter himself. He ignores any possible offense and plainly states that he was so bold as to accuse and reprove Peter, the chief of the apostles, who had seen Christ and knew him really well. “I am an apostle,” he says in effect, “and was not afraid to chide the pillar of all the rest.”
Luther, M. (1998). Galatians. The Crossway classic commentaries (24–26). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.
Justification is not only by grace alone and by Christ alone; it must also be by belief alone. That which God has done outside of us in his Son must be believed. Faith comes by hearing this message of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith does not bring salvation into existence. It does not produce the righteousness by which God justifies us. Faith does not make; it takes. It is assenting to an arrangement already made by God. The object of faith is completely objective. It is not faith in what the Holy Spirit has done within us. It is not faith in our sanctification or in some past experience of being born again. It is not faith in our faith. It is not faith in the church. It is not faith in baptism. Faith is focused on what is in Heaven, on what we have in Christ at God’s right hand (Colossians 3:1-4). Therefore, we must decisively say that sanctification, being on Earth, being in the believer, is no part of the righteousness that is by faith alone. --John Robbins-- Quoted from: The Relationship between Justification and Sanctification
Therefore, it is as plain as day, and may be clear to all save those who are obstinately blind, that the Spirit sanctifies the believer by means of believing and understanding the Word of God, and that Word includes both Law and Gospel. The man who is being sanctified will exhibit the same attitude to the law as the man who wrote Psalm 119. Just as there is no justification for those who reject the Gospel, so there is no sanctification for those who despise the Law. The Word, therefore, is the indispensable means of sanctification. The Gospel brings the inspiration and power for obedience, and the Law illuminates the path of obedience. Sanctification, however, is neither our obedience nor our good works; those are the result of our sanctification by the Word and Spirit. --John Robbins
The Holy Spirit is the divine agent of sanctification, yet he uses means to accomplish his great work. We may classify the means as primary and secondary.
The primary means of the Spirit’s sanctification of the believer is the Word of God.
”Sanctify them through your truth: Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).
”And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).
”Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word .†.†. “ (Ephesians 5:25, 26).
”Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).
”Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
”Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. .†.†. Take heed unto yourself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you” (1 Timothy 4:13, 16).
”All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
”As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby .†.†.” (1 Peter 2:2).
The greatest danger exists when men try to separate God’s Spirit from his Word. As Luther complained against the Enthusiasts, they sit in a corner or gaze up into Heaven for the Spirit, instead of studying the Word of God.
First, we should realize that the Word is compared to seed. As the life of the plant is in the seed, so the life of God is in his Word. He who receives the Word of God into his mind receives the very life and character of God. The germinating principles of truth will work like leaven to transform the entire life into the likeness of the divine character.
Second, Christ is always present in his Word.
”But the righteousness which is of faith speaks in this way, Do not say in your heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above); or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what does it say? The Word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the Word of faith, which we preach .†.†.” (Romans 10:6-8).
In fact, Christ is the Word and the Word is Christ. Paul says, “We have the mind of Christ.”
Third, the Word “is the vehicle of the Holy Spirit. When the Word is read, the Spirit is present” (Luther). Rather than words being a mere vehicle, Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Whether the Holy Spirit convicts, converts, quickens, comforts, heals, guides, or strengthens, he always does it by the Word. The Word may reach the heart in the words of the preacher, the entreaty of a friend, or even the warning of a foe. All these agencies God may use as instruments to declare his Word. But it is of utmost importance to realize that “God’s Spirit is annexed to his Word” (Calvin). Being filled with God’s Spirit is the same as being filled with God’s Word (see Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16). That is why Luke records that every time someone was filled with the Spirit, he opened his mouth and declared the Word of God (Acts 2:4, 11, 22; 4:31; Luke 1:67; etc.). If man’s heart is filled with the Spirit, he will give evidence of it by speaking the words of God. “For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God: for God gives not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34). So when Paul commanded the Ephesians, “be filled with the Spirit,” he added by way of explanation, “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18, 19).
Much that is being said today about the impartation of the Spirit is false. Many are claiming to have an exciting experience in the Holy Spirit who is given directly to them quite apart from any objective revelation of God’s Word. There are signs, miracles, tongues, laughter, and private revelations, but the exposition of God’s Word is conspicuous by its absence. In some charismatic meetings, the reading of the Word of God is the least regarded part of the meeting.
The only safe place for our feet is to stand with the Reformers’ declaration that men do not receive the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. He mediates himself to us only through the Word. Warned Luther: “Therefore I exhort you to be on guard against those noxious spirits who say: A man acquires the Holy Spirit by sitting in a corner, etc. A hundred thousand devils he will acquire, and you will not come to God.” Therefore, we must affirm that there is no sanctification for those who neglect the Word.
Law and Gospel
The sanctifying Word comes to men in two forms-Law and Gospel. God’s Word, as “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), has two cutting edges. Says the Lutheran Formula of Concord, “These two doctrines [Law and Gospel], we believe and confess, should ever and ever be diligently inculcated in the Church of God even to the end of the world. .†.†.” The right use of God’s Word means the right use of the Law and Gospel. For instance, the Spirit uses the Law to convict of sin and wound the conscience (Romans 7:7-13), but the Spirit is not communicated to men through the law. “The Spirit is life” (Romans 8:10), but “if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21).
The Holy Spirit is communicated to men, not through their hearing of the law nor by their doing it, but by their understanding and belief of the Gospel (Galatians 3:1-3). Says the apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, “For our Gospel came unto you not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance .†.†.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). When Peter went to the home of Cornelius, he preached the message of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, and the revelation states, “While Peter was speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the Word” (Acts 10:44). We see all sorts of gimmicks being resorted to today that men may receive the Holy Spirit. Some advocate five steps; others more or less. People even take lessons on how to talk in tongues, or laugh, or they do something else to manipulate mind and emotions so that souls are carried away by some spiritual euphoria called the baptism of the Spirit. It is surely a sign of the end time, as Paul declares, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils .†.†.” (1 Timothy 4:1). Let the priests of Baal scream and laugh and work themselves up to a high pitch of excitement around their altars, but let those armed with the Gospel, like faithful Elijah, raise the altar of God and place on it the true sacrifice for sin. When God sees this sacrifice presented in faith, he answers by fire. There can be no greater evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence than when the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed and men believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Besides the fact that the Holy Spirit comes to men through faith in the Gospel (Galatians 3:13, 14) (and it is his presence that sanctifies), the Gospel brings with it a sanctifying influence: The Gospel is a revelation of the divine character. The gift of Christ reveals the Father’s heart. In the cross we see truth and justice blended with mercy and compassion. As his people behold God as revealed in his crucified Son, the darkness of misapprehension of God’s character is swept from their minds, and they come to appreciate his beauty of character. And the more they come to know him, the more they admire his character. This has a great sanctifying effect on the human character. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Gospel of the cross is a revelation of God’s estimate of sin. Here we see that sin is the most costly thing in the universe. The unrelieved heinousness of sin is put on display in the sufferings of God’s dear Son. God will by no means spare the guilty. Sin merits awful punishment. In this universe all debts must be paid. Here is no easygoing benevolence that easily overlooks sin. By the cross sin is discerned in its hateful nature, and the believing soul is imbued with the resolve to hate sin and drive it from the soul.
The Gospel of God’s love and forgiveness becomes the motive for all right conduct (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). The strongest inducement for a Christian to obey the divine law is the fact that he has been graciously pardoned for having broken the law. He follows after sanctification because he has received justification. He obeys the law not in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven (William G.†T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology [Zondervan, 1969], 2, 558).
Nothing enters so fully into the motives of conduct as a sense of the pardoning love of Christ. Forgiveness of past sins becomes the greatest incentive to avoid future ones. They are the great promises of the Gospel which rouse the believer to separate from everything displeasing to God (2 Corinthians 7:1; Romans 12:1; 2 Peter 1:4; etc.).
The Gospel does what the law cannot: bring life and salvation to sinners. The ceremonial law points us to Christ; the moral law drives us to Christ; and Christ also points us back to the moral law as a rule of life. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). It was only when Paul was delivered from the law as a covenant of works that he could gratefully confess, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man .†.†.” (Romans 7:22).
In the matter of justification the order is Law and Gospel. The law exposes our guilt and stops our mouths (Romans 3:19, 20) so that we are prepared for the message of justification by grace alone, for Christ’s sake alone, through faith alone (Romans 3:24-26). Again, the law is a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Yet in some of the Pauline epistles we discern a different order. When writing to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, for instance, the apostle first reminds them of the Gospel (the indicative), and on that basis he lays down the law (the imperative) as a rule of life for the believing community. So in the matter of justification the order is Law and then Gospel. But in the matter of sanctification it is Gospel and then Law. Paul virtually says, “First, here is the Gospel. Now in view of what God has done for you and what you now are in Christ, this is how you ought to live.”
Sin means breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). Justification means being set right before the law (Romans 2:13; 3:20-31). And what is holiness but a life conformed to the law of God? The effect of sanctification-the keeping of God’s commandments-needs to be driven home in this permissive age. Legalism used to mean the method of trying to be saved by our obedience to the commands of God. But as Dr. Gordon Clark has pointed out,* it has taken a new meaning. Today it is often taken to mean any conscientious obedience to the will of God as revealed in his Word. The man who trembles at God’s Word (Isaiah 66:5) and is careful to submit his life to the authority of God’s rule is in danger of being called a legalist.
If we look to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden and to Christ’s obedience in the wilderness and the Garden of Gethsemane, we will not think it a small matter whether we yield conscientious obedience to God or not. We will see that there is no greater evil in the universe than sin-the transgression of God’s holy requirements. As disobedience to God’s law is the sum of all misery, so obedience to his law is the sum of all happiness. God did not send his Son to suffer and die in infinite shame and humiliation in order that we might enter a new order in which we can regard his holy commandments lightly. The purpose of the atonement was not merely our salvation, but that the divine law and government might be maintained and vindicated. It was so the whole universe might understand God’s estimate of sin and God’s estimate of the holiness of his law.
If the confessions of the Reformation are unanimous in their rejection of salvation by the law, they are also at one in their insistence on the fact that we are saved for the keeping of the law. John Calvin declared, “Let us put far from us the ungodly notion that the law is not to be our rule, for it is our changeless rule of life.” The Scripture teaches us that it is not in man to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23). This is as true of the converted man as of the unconverted man. It is true that the believer has the Holy Spirit, but we must not get the idea that the Spirit sets a man free from the need for an objective rule of life. The apostle Paul does not arrive at a “Spirit ethic.” The Spirit is present in God’s Word. Just as he leads us outside of ourselves to that “cross without” for justification, so he leads us to the “law without” for sanctification. We are justified by the outside righteousness of Christ and led in the way of holiness by the outside Word of Christ. Says the apostle, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). It is very apparent that Paul includes Law as well as Gospel in “all Scripture,” for does not the Spirit use the law “for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness”? And although the Gospel inspires and motivates to good works, how may we be informed as to what works please God, except by understanding his law?
Therefore, it is as plain as day, and may be clear to all save those who are obstinately blind, that the Spirit sanctifies the believer by means of believing and understanding the Word of God, and that Word includes both Law and Gospel. The man who is being sanctified will exhibit the same attitude to the law as the man who wrote Psalm 119. Just as there is no justification for those who reject the Gospel, so there is no sanctification for those who despise the Law. The Word, therefore, is the indispensable means of sanctification. The Gospel brings the inspiration and power for obedience, and the Law illuminates the path of obedience. Sanctification, however, is neither our obedience nor our good works; those are the result of our sanctification by the Word and Spirit.
The Spirit of God also works through secondary means to promote the believer’s growth in the life of holiness. God’s people are called to separate from fellowship with unrepentant sinners:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The apostle warns the church:
”Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Be not therefore partakers with them. .†.†. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:6, 7, 11, 12).
”Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
”Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).
The assembly of believers, who have been called out from the world and from false religious assemblies, is what the New Testament calls “the church.” Here God’s Word is preached and heard, the sacraments are administered, and the redeemed community has the benefit of Christian fellowship. The church is the kind of environment that every Christian needs. It is not Heaven, but as Luther says, the church is an inn for convalescents. Here the Christian needs to be encouraged, fed, edified, warned, and disciplined by the Word. The Bible says:
”.†.†.not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
”Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).
”Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1, 2).
In the assembly the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are administered as secondary means of grace. Apart from the Word, they are worthless. And apart from the Word, the assembly is worthless.
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I'm not Roman Catholic and I am not sympathetic to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. However, in the United States the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion and that there can be no government interference in religious matters or teaching. When the state tries to impose its politically correct views on abortion and birth control on a Catholic college the rights of every Christian church and institution is threatened. The principle of the separation of church and state works both ways, not just in the direction of preventing churches from posting the Ten Commandments on court house grounds. The state may not tax, hinder or interfere with individual churches or denominations or any of their institutions in any way. To do so is to violate the First Amendment rights of individuals and their churches.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Click on the title to see the Remonstrandts' confession of faith. This is the doctrinal system that the Canons of Dordt where written to refute. You'll notice throughout the equivocation used by the Arminians to justify their views regarding conditional election, foreseen faith, and conditional perseverance. Is it any wonder that the Dutch Reformed churches condemned Arminianism as a return to Rome and semi-pelagianism?
In its battle against the errors of the Federal Vision scheme—”in by grace, stay in by faith and works”—the just-concluded Synod of the United Reformed Churches in North America clarified its doctrines regarding election, justification, sanctification and sacraments in publishing the 15 points below. The references are from the Belgic Confession of Faith, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. [Click on the title to see the full article].
[The following is an excerpt from the late John Robbins of The Trinity Foundation. Robbins gave a talk on the presuppositional apologetics of Gordon H. Clark. Amazingly, he mentions the issue of sanctified by sacraments, which had come up in a discussion I had with someone offline. To read the original article click on, An Introduction to Gordon H. Clark. Charlie.]
Salvation is by faith alone. Faith is belief of the truth. God reveals truth. Faith, the act of believing, is a gift of God. “By his knowledge, my righteous servant shall justify many.”
Clark’s view of salvation, reflected in the Westminster Confession’s chapter on justification, is at odds with most of what passes for Christianity today. Popular Christianity decries knowledge. Clark points out that Peter says that we have received everything we need for life and godliness through knowledge. James says the Word of Truth regenerates us. Paul says we are justified through belief of the truth. Christ says we are sanctified by truth.
There are three popular theories of sanctification today: sanctification by works, sanctification by emotions, sanctification by sacraments. The first, sanctification by works, is sometimes expressed by those who claim to be Reformed or Calvinist: They teach that we are justified by faith, but we are sanctified by works. Calvin had no such view, and the Westminster Confession refutes it. The second view, sanctification by emotions, is the view of the Pentecostal, charismatic, and holiness groups. Roman Catholic and other churches that believe in the magical power of sacraments to regenerate or sanctify hold the third view, sanctification by sacraments. But just as we are regenerated by truth alone, and justified through belief of the truth alone, we are sanctified by truth alone as well.
Nota Bene: Robbins rightly points out that the idea that communicants are "sanctified" by the sacraments is a Roman Catholic idea and not a Reformed view. One has to wonder where this idea comes from in Reformed circles?
Click on the title to see the blog entry. Apparently, R. Scott Clark has decided not to allow reader interaction anymore. He must be tired of policing the comments. At any rate his indirect jab at the presuppositional apologetics of Gordon H. Clark by calling Harold Camping a "rationalist" is a bit silly. Camping uses subjectivism as his method of choice in biblical exegesis, not logic or propositional truth. R. Scott Clark needs to re-examine his irrational theology of paradox before he winds up in the evangelical version of the neo-orthodoxy of Van Til and all the heresies to which it has given birth. What heresies you ask? How about John Frame's denial of the trinity when he says that God is one person and three persons, essentially a cave in to modalism. How about theonomy, which plainly denies the general equity of Calvin and the Westminster Confession. And how about the further neo-legalist theologies like that of Norman Shepherd, who was fired from Westminster Seminary, PA over his latent Arminianism. And let's not forget the Federal Vision and New Perspectives on Paul that is wreaking havoc in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America. No, I do not believe that irrationalism or paradox is the answer to "apparent" contradictions which actually can be explained biblically and rationally.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Justification by faith alone is the key
The Homilies are very much neglected in the experience of most Anglicans. How do they fit into the scheme of things?
Most people don’t realise that the first liturgical change Cranmer made was to insist on good solid biblical preaching in every Sunday church service. To ensure that, he and others gathered together a set of Homilies that were to be read in course throughout the year.
The first six of these sermons explain how one comes to a biblical understanding of having Jesus Christ as your Saviour by faith alone – and the gratitude that one receives from knowing God has saved you, even though you are not able to make yourself worthy of salvation.
That gratitude means that you live your life in service of him and of other people. God’s divine gracious love, shown in saving the unworthy, inspires a grateful human love, by which we serve God and other people.
For Cranmer, the glory of God is to love the unworthy – that’s his fundamental theological tenet. He understood that medieval theology, despite its clear intellectual breadth and brilliance, had a distinct Achilles’ heel – its insistence that you had to be made personally worthy for salvation before God could accept you.
Cranmer believed that this emphasis on merit produced only two possible alternatives – either you had great pride that you were worthy – or you had great despair that you never could be worthy. Neither one, of course, inspired loving obedience.
So this is the key to justification by faith.
You might be interested in hearing these talks again. Peter Jensen is the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia's Anglcan Church. He's a five point Calvinist and committed to the doctrines of grace.
The Theologian: The Internet Journal for Integrated Theology has an interesting series of audio messages by Lee Gatiss on The Reformed tradition in the Church of England. There are at least three ministers from the 18th century that I can think of right away: John Newton, Augustus Toplady, and George Whitefield. You could mention Archbishop Ussher as well (17th century). You might want to listen to these three lectures on church history by Lee Gatiss.
Friday, December 03, 2010
You might get a kick out of this extended defense of Arminianism as a "God-centered" theology, all the while the author accuses God of being the author of sin and evil and that God is a "monster". Ironic, isn't it?
If, therefore, we are taught, and if we believe, that we ought not to know the necessary prescience of God, and the necessity of the things that are to take place, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole Gospel entirely fall to the ground; for the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered. --Martin Luther
This mystery of his will God discovered to but a small number under the Old Testament; under the New, (the distinction between various peoples having been removed), he reveals himself to many, without any distinction of people. The cause of this dispensation is not to be ascribed to the superior worth of one nation above another, nor to their making a better use of the light of nature, but results wholly from the sovereign good pleasure and unmerited love of God. Hence they, to whom so great and so gracious a blessing is communicated, above their desert, or rather notwithstanding their demerits, are bound to acknowledge it with humble and grateful hearts, and with the apostle to adore, not curiously to pry into the severity and justice of God's judgments displayed to others, to whom this grace is not given. Canons of Dordt, 3rd & 4th Heads of Doctrine, Article Seven
Of Predestination and Election
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.
so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.
and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:8 ESV)
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, (Romans 9:22 ESV)
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4 ESV)
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls-- 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Romans 9:11-13 ESV)
As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- (Romans 9:13-23 ESV)
Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. . . .
. . . You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so.
From which it follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God. For the will of God is effective and cannot be hindered; because the very power of God is natural to Him, and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived. And as His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place, at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills. If the will of God were such, that, when the work was done, the work remained but the will ceased, (as is the case with the will of men, which, when the house is built which they wished to build, ceases to will, as though it ended by death) then, indeed, it might be said, that things are done by contingency and mutability. But here, the case is the contrary; the work ceases, and the will remains. [From: The Bondage of the Will: The Sovereignty of God.
Wherefore, their ridiculous play upon words, that all things take place from the necessity of the consequence, but not from the necessity of the thing consequent, amounts to nothing more than this—all things take place of necessity, but all the things that do take place are not God Himself. But what need was there to tell us this? As though there were any fear of our asserting, that the things done were God Himself, or possessed divine or necessary nature. This asserted truth, therefore, stands and remains invincible—that all things take place according to the immutable will of God! which they call the necessity of the consequence. Nor is there here any obscurity or ambiguity. In Isaiah he saith, "My counsel shall stand, and My will shall be done." (Isaiah 46:10) And what schoolboy does not understand the meaning of these expressions, "Counsel," "will," "shall be done," "shall stand?" (Ibid.)
And how can you be certain and secure, unless you are persuaded that He knows and wills certainly, infallibly, immutably, and necessarily, and will perform what He promises? Nor ought we to be certain only that God wills necessarily and immutably, and will perform, but also to glory in the same; as Paul, (Romans 3:4) "Let God be true, but every man a liar." And again, "For the word of God is not without effect." (Romans 9:6) And in another place, "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His." (2 Timothy 2:19) And, "Which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Titus 1:2) And, "He that cometh, must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that hope in Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
If, therefore, we are taught, and if we believe, that we ought not to know the necessary prescience of God, and the necessity of the things that are to take place, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole Gospel entirely fall to the ground; for the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered. (Ibid.)
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:17-25 ESV)
Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. (See Romans 9:21-23) Article 17
(See also, Double or Nothing: Luther's Doctrine of Predestination.
I recently had someone recommend this Reformed website by Jay E. Adams. Adams is an advocate of biblical counseling as opposed to secular focused "Christian" psychology. It would be worth your time to investigate what Adams has to say on this site.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus Christ's sake and that therein our righteousness before God consists, as David and Paul teach us. They pronounce a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works (Rom 4:6; Ps 32:1). The apostle also says that we are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).
Therefore we always hold to this firm foundation. We give all the glory to God, humble ourselves before Him, and acknowledge ourselves to be what we are. We do not claim anything for ourselves or our merits, but rely and rest on the only obedience of Jesus Christ crucified; His obedience is ours when we believe in Him.
This is sufficient to cover all our iniquities and to give us confidence in drawing near to God, freeing our conscience of fear, terror, and dread, so that we do not follow the example of our first father, Adam, who trembling tried to hide and covered himself with fig leaves. For indeed, if we had to appear before God, relying - be it ever so little - on ourselves or some other creature, (woe be to us!) we would be consumed. Therefore everyone must say with David, O LORD, enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for no man living is righteous before Thee (Ps 143:2).
 1 Jn 2:1.  2 Cor 5:18, 19; Eph 2:8; 1 Tim 2:6.  Ps 115:1; Rev 7:10-12.  1 Cor 4:4; Jas 2:10.  Acts 4:12; Heb 10:20.  Rom 4:23-25.  Gen 3:7; Zeph 3:11; Heb 4:16; 1 Jn 4:17-19.  Lk 16:15; Phil 3:4-9.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
[Click on the title below to see the context in the Belgic Confession. Charlie.]
We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God's Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man. It makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin. Therefore it is not true that this justifying faith makes man indifferent to living a good and holy life. On the contrary, without it no one would ever do anything out of love for God, but only out of self-love or fear of being condemned. It is therefore impossible for this holy faith to be inactive in man, for we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls faith working through love (Gal 5:6). This faith induces man to apply himself to those works which God has commanded in His Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification. For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works. Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good.
Therefore we do good works, but not for merit. For what could we merit? We are indebted to God, rather than He to us, for the good works we do, since it is He who is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). Let us keep in mind what is written: So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty (Luke 17:10)." Meanwhile we do not deny that God rewards good works, but it is by His grace that He crowns His gifts.
Furthermore, although we do good works, we do not base our salvation on them. We cannot do a single work that is not defiled by our flesh and does not deserve punishment. Even if we could show one good work, the remembrance of one sin is enough to make God reject it. We would then always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be constantly tormented, if they did not rely on the merit of the death and passion of our Saviour.
 Acts 16:14; Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 12:3.  Ezek 36:26, 27; Jn 1:12, 13; Jn 3:5; Eph 2:4-6; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:23.  Jn 5:24; Jn 8:36; Rom 6:4-6; 1 Jn 3:9.  Gal 5:22; Tit 2:12.  Jn 15:5; Rom 14:23; 1 Tim 1:5; Heb 11:4, 6.  Rom 4:5.  Mt 7:17.  1 Cor 1:30, 31; 1 Cor 4:7; Eph 2:10.  Rom 2:6, 7; 1 Cor 3:14; 2 Jn 8; Rev 2:23.  Rom 7:21.  Jas 2:10.  Hab 2:4; Mt 11:28; Rom 10:11.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ( Matthew 7:1-2, ESV)
The purpose of the law is to reveal that Jew and Gentile are both alike condemned by their own violation of the law of God. Even the most saintly Christian deserves hell as much as any "good" atheist. This is the part that Reformed Christians, Wesleyans, Pentecostals, Arminians, and various other "self-righteous" humans do not get. The only assurance the Christian can have is in grace, not personal holiness since personal holiness always falls short of the mark (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-9). Grace is not a license to sin. But the problem with legalism is that it looks for loopholes instead of admitting that no one keeps God's law well enough to deserve anything at all from God. All of the glory must go to God. All that is necessary to church membership is a credible profession of faith, not a super spiritual level of sanctification. All sanctification in comparison with God's holiness is merely a superficial righteousness that falls way short of God's absolute holiness. The sort of thinking that tends to exalt self is just semi-pelagianism masquerading as "Reformed" teaching. "We're not really that bad. After all, we don't fornicate, commit adultery, rob, steal or kill." But are you selfish? What is the disease? Are you focusing on the symptoms or on the disease? Listen to this sermon by Alistair Begg!