Friday, July 31, 2015

The Answer To Our Longings...

"Through the gospel, [God] has become our Father, and he has declared that an inheritance awaits us, bought not by ourselves or any other mortal creature, but by Jesus Christ. He, though very God, became man, that we might find in him that which we could never have found in the world."
John Calvin. Sermon on Discerning Who Belongs To The True Church

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Assurance Rests on Christ Alone...

"Thus, Paul concludes here that if we wish to be grounded upon the gospel and enjoy assurance of salvation, we must never entertain thoughts of our own merit, nor believe that we can contribute anything of ourselves, for it is simply a matter of accepting that which has been offered to us. Jesus Christ is not half a saviour, he is the Saviour!"

John Calvin. Sermon - On Discerning Who Belongs to the True Church

The Ground of Justification

"The ground of our justification, therefore, is that God reconciles us to himself, from regard not to our works, but to Christ alone, and, by gratuitous adoption, makes us, instead of children of wrath, to be his own children. So long as God looks to our works, he perceives no reason why he ought to love us. Wherefore, it is necessary to bury our sins, and impute to us the obedience of Christ (because [his is] the only obedience which can stand his scrutiny), and adopt us as righteous through his merits. This is the clear and uniform doctrine of scripture, "witnessed," as Paul says, "by the law and the prophets" (Rom. 3:21); and so explained by the gospel, that a clearer law cannot be desired. Paul contrasts the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of the gospel, placing the former in works, and the latter in the grace of Christ (Rom. 10:5, etc.). He does not divide it into two halves, giving works the one, and Christ the other; but he ascribes it to Christ entirely, that we are judged righteous in the sight of God."
John Calvin. The Necessity of Reforming the Church

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

That which makes a man righteous, that which the law demands...

"The Apostle in express terms says that God imputes righteousness to the sinner. (Rom. iv. 6, 24.) By righteousness every one admits is meant that which makes a man righteous, that which the law demands. It does not consist in the sinner's own obedience, or moral excellence, for it is said to be "without works;" and it is declared that no man can be justified on the ground of his own character or conduct. Neither does this righteousness consist in faith; for it is "of faith," "through faith," "by faith." We are never said to be justified on account of faith. Neither is it a righteousness, or form of moral excellence springing from faith, or of which faith is the source or proximate cause; because it is declared to be the righteousness of God; a righteousness which is revealed; which is offered; which must be accepted as a gift. (Rom. v. 17.) It is declared to be the righteousness of Christ; his obedience. (Rom. v. 19.) It is, therefore, the righteousness of Christ, his perfect obedience in doing and suffering the will of God, which is imputed to the believer, and on the ground of which the believer, although in himself ungodly, is pronounced righteous, and therefore free from the curse of the law and entitled to eternal life." [emphasis added]
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology

Friday, July 10, 2015

Christ Sent to Meet the Law's Demand for Both Satisfaction and Merit

... that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:4
And so the Apostle's meaning is this; God sent his Son into the World not only to be a Sacrifice for sin, and thereby to condemn sin (by his bearing the Law's penalty due to it); but also, by his active obedience and conformity to the Law's commands, to bring things to this that the righteousness of the Law should be fulfilled in believers. Christ's being a Sacrifice for sin was not sufficient to answer all the ends and demands of the Law; there must be the doing of what it commanded as well as the suffering of what it threatened; therefore Christ was sent for both, and both were accomplished by him. Man in his lapsed state stood in need of two things, * Satisfaction and Merit; Satisfaction, with respect to God's punitive Justice, the expiation of sin by the undergoing of the punishment incurred by it, &c. Merit, with respect to eternal life and the possession of the heavenly blessedness; the measure and foundation of which Merit was the fulfilling of the Law in active obedience: Now both of these are here distinctly spoken unto; Christ for sin condemned sin in the flesh, there's Satisfaction; and he also fulfilled the righteousness of the Law in the stead (at leastwise for the good) of Believers, there's Merit. So that in the words we have a further account of that full benefit and complete Salvation which sinners have by the Lord Jesus: and so much for their main Scope and the general explication of the matter contained in them. [emphasis in the original]
Eighteen Sermons on Romans 8:1-4, p. 567 ( 1672). Thomas Jacomb 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Acceptable To God By Virtue of Christ's Obedience...

"Let us recognize, then, the difference between the Head and the members. Let us learn that though by nature we are entirely given to evil, and although God may have regenerated us in part, still our flesh does not cease to chafe against God. However, by virtue of the obedience which we see in our Lord Jesus Christ, we do not cease to be acceptable to our God. If we do not yet do the good that we will, but the evil oftentimes pushes us, and there may be many failures, or perhaps we may be too slow to do good, let us look at what the Son of God suffered in order to make reparation for all our faults. Let us notice how He fought in such a way that there was no contradiction in Him when our crimes and sins were imputed to Him, as was explained more at length this morning. Let us see, then, how our Lord Jesus has made satisfaction in everything and for everything, but we today, although having taken the trouble to obey God, are not able to succeed, but we always droop our wings, must constantly repeat this: that we know that we shall not cease to be acceptable to God and that our imperfections will always be abolished by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they will not come into account before God. Besides, may each one according to the measure of his faith and of the grace which he has received exert himself to fight until we come to the heavenly rest. Seeing our weaknesses are still so great, being convinced that we shall not even know how to have a single good thought, and that having stumbled we shall not be able to raise ourselves, unless God extended to us His hand and strengthened us each minute, may we be advised to pray that He may augment in us the graces of His Holy Spirit; as He has promised it to us, and offers to us Jesus Christ for our Head and Captain, in order that after we are able to arrive at the victory which He acquired for us, of which we already experience the fruit, we shall experience it in perfection."
Now we shall bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.
John Calvin, Second Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ - Matthew 26:40-50

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Imputation Precedes Faith

Lord's Day 23:

At first view it seems absurd that we should be justified by any thing without us, or by something that belongs to another. It is necessary, therefore, that we should explain more fully how the satisfaction, or obedience of Christ becomes ours; for unless it be made ours, or be applied unto us, we cannot be justified by it, just as little as a wall can be white, if whiteness be not applied, or fixed upon it. We remark, then, that there are two ways in which the satisfaction of Christ is made over unto us: 
1. God himself applies it unto us, that is, he makes the righteousness of Christ over unto us, and accepts of us as righteous on account of it, as if it were ours. 
2. We apply it also unto ourselves when we receive the righteousness of Christ through faith, that is, we rest assured that God will grant it unto us, that he will regard us as righteous on account of it, and that he will free us from all guilt. 
There is, therefore, a double application; one in respect to God, and another in respect to us. The former is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, when God accepts of that righteousness which Christ wrought out, that it might avail in our behalf, and accounts us as righteous in view of it, as much so as if we had never sinned, or had at least fully satisfied for our sins. The other side of this application which has respect to us, is the act itself of believing, in which we are fully persuaded that it is imputed and given unto us. Both sides of this application must necessarily concur in our justification; for God applies the righteousness of Christ unto us upon the condition, that we also apply the same unto ourselves by faith. For although any one were to offer another a benefit, yet if he to whom it is offered does not accept of it, it is not applied unto him, and so does not become his. Hence without this last application the former is of no account. And yet our application of the righteousness of Christ is from God; for he first imputes it unto us, and then works faith in us, by which we apply unto ourselves that which is imputed; from which it appears that the application of God precedes that which we make, (which is of faith) and is the cause of it, although it is not without ours, as Christ says, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16)
Heidelberg Commentary, pp. 590-591 - Ursinus

Friday, July 3, 2015

Justification To Life, No Part of Works...

"Although eternal life was, in the covenant of works, promised to Adam and his posterity on condition of his perfect obedience, and that only, yet a man is to be counted a legalist or self-righteous if, while he does not pretend that his obedience is perfect, he yet relies on it for a title to life. Self-righteous men have, in all ages, set aside as impossible to be fulfilled by them that condition of the covenant of works which God had imposed on Adam, and have framed for themselves various models of that covenant which, though they are far from being institutions of God, and stand upon terms lower than perfect obedience, yet are of the nature of the covenant of works. The unbelieving Jews who sought righteousness by the works of the law were not so very ignorant or presumptuous as to pretend to perfect obedience. Neither did those professed Christians in Galatia who desired to be under the law, and to be justified by the law, of whom the apostle therefore testified that they had "fallen from grace' (Galatians 5:4), presume to plead that they could yield perfect obedience. On the contrary, their public profession of Christianity showed that they had some sense of their need of Christ's righteousness. But their great error was that they did not believe that the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone was sufficient to entitle them to the justification of life; and therefore they depended for justification partly on their own obedience to the moral and ceremonial law. It was this, and not their pretensions to perfect obedience, that the apostle had in view when he blamed them for cleaving to the law of works, and for expecting justification partly on their own works of obedience to the moral and ceremonial laws, they and the apostle informed them, were fallen from grace; Christ had become of no effect to them. And they were "debtors to do the whole law" (Galatians 5:3-4). By depending for justification partly on their imperfect obedience to the law, they framed the law into a covenant of works, and such a covenant of works as would allow for imperfect instead of perfect works; and by relying partly on the righteousness of Christ, they mingled the law with the gospel and works with faith in the affair of justification. Thus they perverted both the law and the gospel, and formed them for themselves into a motley covenant of works."
John Colquhoun, A Treatise on the Law and Gospel pp. 18-19.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marriage, the World, and the Gospel...

Some thoughts rumbling about in my head regarding the recent Supreme Court marriage ruling:

The cultural environment is arguably becoming more anti for the Christian church in America, though hardly rising to anything I would would label as persecution. Certainly not a pleasant thing for Christians and possibly even more so for pastors going forward. But I wondering if this development, this increase in antithesis between Christ’s kingdom and the kingdom of this world, may be something that ends up helping to clarify the gospel call to believe in Christ. Similarly, as when the antithesis of Law and Gospel is diminished things get dangerously fuzzy concerning the role of believer's faith and works in their salvation, maybe also the lack of antithesis between church and state in America muddies the church's identification with Christ's kingdom that is not of this world. The result? Too many in the world end up seeing the church as only a “clean club” and hearing her message as just one of many vying to establish its own particular beatific vision of how life should be lived in America. The gospel's offense of the cross, though not intended, sadly ends up taking a back seat. Just wondering…

The Constitution, fairly read, indeed should protect the free exercise of religious belief. But maybe the time is here when the world in the person of the State isn’t inclined to read the 1st Amendment fairly. The words of Jesus are helpful and comforting to me:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Update: The Bible doesn't teach that the role of the church is to get the world to shape up or back off, but to proclaim the gospel, calling sinners out of the world into the kingdom of Christ. To the Church: preach Christ and him crucified. The rest, we are promised of God, will fall into place...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Calvin: Man, Law, and the Civil Kingdom

"Since man is by nature a social animal, he is disposed, from natural instinct, to cherish and preserve society; and accordingly we see that the minds of all men have impressions of civil order and honesty. Hence it is that every individual understands how human societies must he regulated by laws, and also is able to comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence the universal agreement in regard to such subjects, both among nations and individuals, the seeds of them being implanted in the breasts of all without a teacher or lawgiver. The truth of this fact is not affected by the wars and dissensions which immediately arise, while some, such as thieves and robbers, would invert the rules of justice, loosen the bonds of law, and give free scope to their lust; and while others (a vice of most frequent occurrence) deem that to be unjust which is elsewhere regarded as just, and, on the contrary, hold that to be praiseworthy which is elsewhere forbidden. For such persons do not hate the laws from not knowing that they are good and sacred, but, inflamed with headlong passion, quarrel with what is clearly reasonable, and licentiously hate what their mind and understanding approve. Quarrels of this latter kind do not destroy the primary idea of justice. For while men dispute with each other as to particular enactments, their ideas of equity agree in substance. This, no doubt, proves the weakness of the human mind, which, even when it seems on the right path, halts and hesitates. Still, however, it is true, that some principle of civil order is impressed on all. And this is ample proof, that, in regard to the constitution of the present life, no man is devoid of the light of reason."
John Calvin. Institutes: Christian Religion, 1.2.13

Monday, June 22, 2015

We Can Glory Only in His Mercy...

"We, indeed, are perfectly conscious how poor and abject we are: in the presence of God we are miserable sinners, and in the sight of men most despised — we are (if you will) the mere dregs and offscourings of the world, or worse, if worse can be named: so that before God there remains nothing of which we can glory save only his mercy, by which, without any merit of our own, we are admitted to the hope of eternal salvation and before men not even this much remains, since we can glory only in our infirmity, a thing which, in the estimation of men, it is the greatest ignominy even tacitly to confess."
John Calvin. Institutes, Book 1 

What Christ Won for the Elect - Greater Than If Adam Obeyed

Following up on the last post: if eternal life was indeed promised in the covenant of works, then is there no difference between what Adam could have won for his posterity and what Jesus Christ actually purchased for those in him? Again, John Colquhoun:
It ought here, however, to be observed, that though the eternal life in heaven, which was promised in the covenant of works, was the same in its nature, with that which is promised in the covenant of grace; yet, in several respects, it would have been inferior to it. — I shall mention a few of them.
1. The title of Adam in innocence, to eternal life, could not have been confirmed, in the adorable person, and stupendous death, of the Son of God incarnate; nor could the charter of his right to it, have been what it now is, to every true believer in Jesus, — a new testament, or new covenant in his blood. Adam was to have had good security for life, namely, the covenant of works fulfilled; but the true Christian, has a far more glorious charter; — the everlasting covenant of Grace, written with blood, the infinitely precious blood, of Jesus the only begotten of the Father. 
2. Upright Adam, could not have seen in heaven, what the glorified saint will now behold, the incarnate Lamb, the Lamb, as if it had been slain. He was to have enjoyed bright discoveries of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: but he could not have been blessed with the beatifical vision of the eternal Son, in human nature; — that immaculate Lamb, who is ten thousand times brighter than our meridian sun, and will to all eternity, continue to be the light of the heavenly temple. He could have beheld Jehovah sitting upon the throne; but not, the Lamb in the midst of the throne. He could have contemplated the only-begotten Son, in heaven, and in the bosom of the Father, but not, in the human nature; not, as his near kinsman, his brother, who for him and for his salvation, was dead, but is now alive, and liveth forevermore. He could have had none of those astonishing, and transporting,  manifestations of the glory of Jehovah, in the face of Jesus Christ; none of those delightful discoveries of his perfections, and purposes, in the glorious work of redemption, which, in heaven, are and shall be enjoyed by the ransomed of the Lord. 
3. Again, Innocent Adam, could indeed have praised Him who sitteth on the throne, as the Creator and Preserver of all things; but he could not have joined, in this transporting anthem: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father: to him be glory, and dominion for ever and ever, Amen" (Rev. 1.5, 6).
4. Adam could have dwelt in heaven, as the creature, the servant, and the friend, of God the Son; but the redeemed present themselves there, as his brethren and sisters, bis spouse, his members (Eph. 5.30; John 14.19), and his spiritual seed, the fruit of the travail of his soul. He could not have been so early allied, nor so intimately related, to the only-begotten Son, as they are honoured to be.
5. Upright Adam, could have sat down before the celestial throne, arrayed in the garment of his own righteousness; but not, as invested with that spotless, that best robe, the immaculate righteousness of the incarnate Redeemer, with which, as their garment of salvation, his ransomed are adorned,
6. In a word, Adam's enjoyment of eternal life, could not have been sweetened, by his remembrance of any sad experience, that he formerly had had of sin, or of misery, or of sorrow; as will be that of the redeemed from among men. The relish, which the saints shall have, of the pleasures that are at the right hand of God, will, after their bitter experience of sin, sorrow, sickness, and pain, be higher than Adam's could have been, who is supposed never to have known, what it was to experience any of those evils. [emphasis in the original]

Treatise of the Covenant of Works, John Colquhoun, pages 76-78

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Eternal Life Promised in the First Covenant...

Scottish minister and theologian John Colquhoun (1748-1827) writes:
That eternal life in heaven, was promised to mankind, in the first covenant, may be evinced by the following arguments:
1. The life, which the second Adam, by his surety-righteousness, merited for his spiritual seed, is the same that the first Adam had forfeited, by his disobedience. Now that was life eternal. If "he who believeth, hath eternal life," and, if "the just shall live" an eternal life "by faith," "The man which doeth those things, shall live by them" (Rom. 10.5); that is, shall also live the same eternal life. Hence too, are these words of the apostle Paul : "That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith; but the man that doeth them, shall live in them" (Gal. 3.11-12). That eternal life, then, which is received by faith, is here represented, as in substance the same with this, which, by the law, is connected with the perfect fulfillment of all its demands.
2. Our blessed Lord, when proposing the covenant of works, to a young man who was a legalist, told him, that he should have eternal life, as the performance of the promise of it, upon his fulfilling of the condition. "Behold one came and said unto him, good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, — If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt. 19.16-17). On another occasion, he returned a similar answer to a lawyer, who put a similar question to him: "He said unto him, thou hast answered right; this do and thou shalt live "(Luke 10.28), that is,— shalt live an eternal life. It was eternal life, then, which, in that covenant, was promised to Adam, upon condition of his perfect obedience to the law.
3. If for the breach of that covenant, Adam and all his natural posterity in him, were condemned to eternal death (Rom. 6.23; Matt. 25.46); it is requisite, according to the rules of remunerative justice, and the infinite equity of the Divine procedure, that if the condition of life had been fulfilled, they should have been adjudged to eternal life. Was the penalty of death eternal in the infernal world, annexed to the transgression even of a positive precept ? We may warrantably conclude, that life everlasting in the heavenly world, was included in the promise.
4. Reason also suggests, that, his all-bountiful Lord would promise to the man, as the reward of his obedience, a better life, than that which he already possessed; — that, as the earthly paradise, was adapted principally to promote the happiness of his body, there would be another, and a future state and place, fitted to afford such spiritual felicity, as should chiefly correspond to the spiritual, and heavenly, nature of his soul; — and that, after his present state of service and of trial, there would very likely be a future one, of reward and of enjoyment.
5. The divine appointment of the tree of life, as a symbol and seal of that covenant, plainly hinted that the promise of it, was a promise of a better, and even of an eternal life. — The tree of life signified and sealed to Adam, that upon the ground of his finished obedience, he should be confirmed in life, and should live for ever. It appears from the following words, that he so understood the design of it: "And now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever;  therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden. And he planted at the east of the garden of Eden, Cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen. 3.22-24).
6. Christ the second Adam, by his unsmiling obedience, merited for his spiritual offspring, that very life, which the law could not, because of the sinfulness of their nature, afford to them .— " For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8.3-4), &c. The law or commandment, under the form of a covenant of works, "was," we are told, "ordained to life;" ordained, to confer on them who should keep it, eternal life in heaven. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. 19.17). The inability of the law, therefore, to afford eternal life now, arises merely from the sinner's inability, to afford that perfect obedience, which it originally required, and still requires as the ground of a title to life. If sin had not been committed, the law as a covenant of works, could have still conducted men to that everlasting life, which Christ the last Adam, confers upon his children.
7. In the last place, Though justification, in which men are confessedly declared righteous, and entitled to eternal life, is, in the sacred records, affirmed to be altogether impossible now, by the works of the law; yet, it is nowhere suggested, that this proceeds from any other cause, than the sinner's own inability, to answer the just demands of the violated law (Rom. 3.19-20). It is nowhere hinted, that the reason why a man cannot be justified, or procure a title to eternal life, by the deeds of the law, is, that the law never had a promise of eternal life; but, that — "by the law, is the knowledge of sin;" and, that —  "all the world have become guilty before God." Thus it is manifest, that eternal life, was promised in the covenant of works.
[emphasis in the original]
Treatise of the Covenant of Works, John Colquhoun, pages 73-76