Thursday, January 18, 2018

To Abhor or Not To Abhor? The Reformed Witness of a Credible Profession of Fatih - Part 3

Because of one's sinfulness, the self-abhorence and humility of the believer before God has been part of a Reformed, biblical confession of faith in Christ going back centuries and even longer to the earliest periods of time (Job 42:6). Yet some today would consider the humble repentance of a believing sinner confessing his self-aborrence because of his sinfulness before a holy God to be a kind of self-image-heterodoxy which deceptively entices the Christian down a path to a negative self-esteem (modernism alert!). Those of past ages would be more than a bit disturbed by such a self-enhancing interpretation. This is not some theoretical exercise of potential error but a present insidious bit of swerving-from-biblical-truth roaming about today as a 'roaring lion'. (see Part 1 and Part 2)

For those who confess the Westminster Standards read on...

Robert Shaw. A Reformed Faith: Commentary on
The WCF. (1800s)

WCF Chapter 15. Of Repentance Unto Life
4. True repentance includes hatred of sin, not only as that which exposes us to death, but as hateful in itself, as the abominable thing, which God hates, and as that which renders us vile and loathsome in his sight. If this hatred of sin is genuine, it will lead us to loathe and abhor ourselves, and it will extend to all sin in ourselves and others.—Job xiii. 6; Ezek. xxxvi. 31; Jer. xxxi. 19; Ps. cxix. 128, 136.
______________________________________________

Thomas Watson. A Body of Divinity: Contained In Sermons Upon The Westminster Assembly's

Catechism (1600s)
(2.) What justifying faith is. True justifying faith consists in three things: 
(1:) Self-renunciation. Faith is going out of one's self, being taken off from our own rmerits, and seeing we have no righteousness of our own. Not having mine own righteousness.' Phil 3:3. Self-righteousness is a broken reed, which the soul dares not lean on. Repentance and faith are both humbling graces; by repentance a man abhors himself; by faith he goes out of himself. As Israel in their wilderness march, behind them saw Pharaoh and his chariots pursuing, before them the Red Sea ready to devour; so the sinner behind sees God's justice pursuing him for sin, before, hell ready to devour him; and in this forlorn condition, he sees nothing in himself to help, but he must perish unless he can find help in another.
(2:) Reliance. The soul casts itself upon Jesus Christ; faith rests on Christ's person. Faith believes the promise; but that which faith rests upon in the promise is the person of Christ: therefore the spouse is said to lean upon her Beloved.' Cant 8:8. Faith is described to be believing on the name of the Son of God,' I John 3:33, viz., on his person. The promise is but the cabinet, Christ is the jewel in it which faith embraces; the promise is but the dish, Christ is the food in it which faith feeds on. Faith rests on Christ's person, as he was crucified.' It glories in the cross of Christ. Gal 6:14. To consider Christ crowned with all manner of excellencies, stirs up admiration and wonder; but Christ looked upon as bleeding and dying, is the proper object of our faith; it is called therefore faith in his blood.' Rom 3:35.
(3:) Appropriation, or applying Christ to ourselves. A medicine, though it be ever so sovereign, if not applied, will do no good; though the plaster be made of Christ's own blood, it will not heal, unless applied by faith; the blood of God, without faith in God, will not save. This applying of Christ is called receiving him. John 1:12. The hand receiving gold, enriches; so the hand of faith, receiving Christ's golden merits with salvation, enriches us… 
When once God gives those who now dress themselves by the flattering glass of presumption, a sight of their own filthiness, they will abhor themselves. ‘Ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils.'...
God's people are a humble people. The livery which all Christ's people wear is humility. Be clothed with humility.' 1 Pet 5: 5. A sight of God's glory humbles. Elijah wrapped his face in a mantle when God's glory passed by. Now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself.' Job 13: 5, 6. The stars vanish when the sun appears. A sight of sin humbles. In the glass of the word the godly see their spots, and they are humbling spots. Lo, says the soul, I can call nothing my own but sins and wants. A humble sinner is in a better condition than a proud angel. 
II. Sin is evil in the nature of it. 
It makes God loathe a sinner, Zech 11:8; and when a sinner sees his sin, he loathes himself. Ezek 20:42
This is one reason God has left original sin in us, because he would have it as a thorn in our side to humble us. As the bishop of Alexandria, after the people had embraced Christianity, destroyed all their idols but one, that the sight of that idol might make them loathe themselves for their former idolatry; so God leaves original sin to pull down the plumes of pride. Under our silver wings of grace are black feet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

To Abhor or Not To Abhor? Charles Hodge Weighs In - Part 2

This post is part 2 dealing with the 3rd membership vow of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and whether it is an accurate description of the Christian's confession of faith, specifically focusing on the vow's teaching of self-abhorrence. Part 1 is found here >>> To Abhor or Not To Abhor? That Is The Question.


Prior to the 20th century, the Romans 7 passage below was widely understood among Reformed theologians to be speaking of the normal Christian experience (see Rev. Kim Riddlebarger’s article “Romans 7 and the Normal Christian Life”):
Rom. 7: 21-8:1 - So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
From the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Book of Church Order, Membership vow #3:
Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?
The meaning in both Paul’s words and those of the vow echo one another. They express the normal experience of Christians who, though redeemed, yet remain real sinners who increasingly comprehend the reality of their sinfulness (the flesh) in light of an increasing apprehension of God’s holiness. As the Christian grows in Christ, he is convinced more and more that there is no other remedy for comfort and refuge from his sinfulness but to flee by faith to Christ alone for his salvation.

There is a long and rich Reformed testimony to the doctrine found in the OPC 3rd membership vow stretching from the earliest days of the Reformation to our time. Here is one:

Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology - 1871: 
Chapter VIII - Sin, Section 13. Original Sin, Second Argument from the Entire Sinfulness of Men, 5. Argument From the Experience of God's People. 
"In the New Testament the sacred writers evince the same deep sense of their own sinfulness, and strong conviction of the sinfulness of the race to which they belong. Paul speaks of himself as the chief of sinners. He complains that he was carnal, sold under sin. He groans under the burden of an evil nature, saying, O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? From the days of the Apostles to the present time, there has been no diversity as to this point in the experience of Christians. There is no disposition ever evinced by them to palliate or excuse their sinfulness before God. They uniformly and everywhere, and just in proportion to their holiness, humble themselves under a sense of their guilt and pollution, and abhor themselves repenting in dust and ashes. This is not an irrational, nor is it an exaggerated experience. It is the natural effect of the apprehension of the truth; of even a partial discernment of the holiness of God, of the spirituality of the law, and of the want of conformity to that divine standard. There is always connected with this experience of sin, the conviction that our sense of its evil and its power over us, and consequently of our guilt and pollution, is altogether inadequate. It is always a part of the believer's burden, that he feels less than his reason and conscience enlightened by the Scriptures, teach him he ought to feel of his moral corruption and degradation."

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

To Abhor or Not To Abhor? That Is The Question - Part 1

The Pharisee and the Publican
The 3rd membership vow of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church reads as follows:
(3) Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone
Abhor... such an antiquated and negative word, at least as many understand it today. I submit that we moderns really need to refresh ourselves with a biblically and theologically sound understanding of the word abhor. It isn't a word commonly used anymore. Today, the shorthand definition or synonym is "to hate." Yet the word abhor understood in a theological sense and as used in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church 3rd membership vow does not mean "to hate" (i.e. to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; to detest). And why, you ask, is this the subject of a blog post? Because in some corners of the OPC the third membership vow is indeed controversial because the understood meaning is that to abhor myself means to hate or detest myself, which I agree is a somewhat negative and extreme position to take as a Christian. And, as the thinking goes, for a Christian to abhor himself because of his sinfulness is to deny that God loves him as he is now in Christ and therefore the use of the word abhor in the vow should be rejected.

My purpose in this post is limited to showing that a believer abhorring himself as a sinner doesn't deny God's love, grace, and redemption in Christ, but rather more clearly affirms it. Or put another way, to abhor oneself because of one's sinfulness and at the same time to affirm God's love in Christ are not an inconsistent positions.

From what can easily be found, consulting various dictionary sources, Abhor essentially is defined as "to regard with horror or loathing" and comes from the Latin word *abhorrre* which means to shrink. 

Let's look at a verse from the early Christian hymn (Ambrose), Te Deum Laudamus: 

When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man : thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb

And the Christmas carol, O Come, All Ye Faithful:
God of God, light of light, Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb
Now working back from the negative use above to the positive use, are we to understand that prior to the incarnation God hated or detested the Virgin's womb? That doesn't make sense since children are a blessing of God (Ps. 127:3). Scripture also teaches that in Christ, God did not abhor taking humanity upon himself (Luke 1:26-38; Matt. 1:20). Does that mean that before the incarnation God hated and detested humanity? No. 

In the beginning God created humanity and saw that man, along with all creation, was very good (Gen. 1:31). Yet after the Fall with the introduction of sin into humanity God shrank back and separated from man, i.e. He removed His immediate presence and communion from sinful man so much so that in the Old Testament sinful man was threatened with death if certain rituals of cleansing from sin were not followed by the Israelites when approaching God in Temple worship. It wasn't because God hated humanity or the Israelites. But God, who is Holy, abhorred or looked upon His once holy man now sinful with an holy horror and separated from or shrank back from him lest he die immediately. An holy God and sinful man could not dwell together face to face without the resultant death of man. God's protection and care for man and his abhorrence of man as a sinner therefore were not inconsistent with one another.

After the Fall going forward and because of man's sinfulness, God abhorred the sinner in that He looked upon the corrupted man and woman with horror in what they had done and become. He separated Himself or shrank back from sinful humanity (Gen. 3:22-24) as He drove Adam and Eve from the Garden. He did this because of man's sinfulness. And yet God also did this because He had, and has, in His eternal plan a caring and providential love for mankind and a redemptive love specifically for Adam and Eve and their children of promise (Gen. 3:20-21)! To stay in God's immediate presence would have meant death for them. In a true sense we can say that for God to abhor the sinners Adam and Eve didn't exclude for God to love the sinners Adam and Eve. One can thus deduce that if God had not abhorred sinful man by separating from Adam and Eve, then mankind would have immediately died (in them) as can be understood by the warning God gave to Moses (Ex. 33:20). So God's abhorring or shrinking back from the sinner did not and does not exclude His love for the sinner.

Now looking again at the OPC 3rd membership vow -

(3) Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone
At issue is the question, is it unbiblical for the Christian, because of his sinfulness, to abhor and humble himself before God? Some would say yes. Why would someone think that? Well, as the thinking goes, to hate ourselves as Christians is to deny that God loves us! If God loves us and we are now His children it would be an act of unbelief on our part to hate that which God loves as well as a nonacceptance on our part of what Christ has accomplished on the cross to remove our sin and sinner-status before God. We are now children of God, new creatures! In short, the thinking is that to abhor ourselves because of our sinfulness and to be loved by God are exclusive of one another. This is an erroneous conclusion based upon an insufficient knowledge of God and knowledge of man.

Now back to the third membership vow. How do I interpret the first clause of he third vow? I think it says that being sinners who do still regularly sin and offend our Creator's holiness, we should have a certain regard or attitude toward ourselves when it comes to salvation. The attitude we are to have is that because of our sinfulness, we should completely shrink back from or separate from any perceived ground of goodness or righteousness in ourselves. Why? Because even our righteousness are as filthy rags before God (Isa. 64:6; Rom 3:10-1, 7:18-19; Phil. 3:9a). And that we, remaining sinners in this life, should regard ourselves with a kind of self-separation, loathing, or horror of ourselves as sinners who have and still do rebelliously sin against God (Ez. 36:24-32), especially in light of the mercy and grace lavishly bestowed upon us in our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian acknowledges a truth that is based on a biblically revealed knowledge of self:
That which is OF me produces no good or righteousness IN me. In other words, nothing OF me can move me toward an acceptance with God. Rather what I am in and of myself as a sinner can only move me away from God.
Thus the only ground, source, and hope for a righteousness that secures everlasting fellowship with God, and indeed eternal salvation, lies in abhorring oursleves (judging our sinful selves as completely wanting of any righteousness and shrinking from or turning away from ourselves), in repentance humbling ourselves before God, and trusting alone in the One who abhorred not the Virgin's womb. God in Christ Jesus ended the separation between Himself and sinful man by uniting Himself with our humanity. Jesus took upon Himself our sin in order that we should be counted righteous and without sin unto eternal life solely on the basis of His work of the cross (Phil. 2:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:21; John 3:16).

In a word, there is a G
ospel necessity, because of our sinfulness, to confess our self-abhorrence and humble ourselves before God as an integral part of placing our complete trust in Christ and his finished work alone for our salvation.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

John Colquhoun - The Believer's Duty: Obedience "From" Life Not "For" Life...


"Hence learn how the believer ought to perform the duties of holiness. He ought not to perform them for life, or in order to entitle himself to life ; but to perform them from life, from the faith and hope of eternal life. Jesus the adorable Surety fulfilled all righteousness for life to his spiritual seed: his design in doing so was to entitle them to life. Instead then of obeying for life, or thrusting your duties in the room of his surety- righteousness, your duty is to rely on his obedience for a title to life, and then to obey from life. You who have believed through grace are under the firmest obligations to advance in holiness ; but you must not, under pretense of this, rely on your performances for your title to life. This would be to erase the Surety's name out of your debt-bond, or, at least, to impute imperfection to his payment of the bond. Relying on his righteousness for all your title to the justification of life, repose the confidence of your hearts in him for grace and glory. Trust that he will be graciously and sensibly present with you at his Holy Table; saying with the Psalmist, "I shall surely be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple," Psal. lxv. 4." 
SERMON V: ON THE SURETISHIP OF CHRIST.
John Colquhoun


WLC Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?

A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Thomas Boston - The Impossibility of Obedience to the Law FOR Life...

"Salvation by works of our own is quite impossible; there is no life nor salvation to be had by the law: Gal. 3:10. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Will ye bring your good meanings and desires, your repentance, your obedience, such as it is, and think to get life, and salvation, and acceptance with God, thereby? Remember, if ye will be doing in order to live, your obedience must be perfect and perpetual; and that if you fail, you are under the curse. That is the tenor of the covenant of works, and it will abate nothing. And therefore ye must quit the way of that covenant, or perish forever; for ye are absolutely incapable to answer its demands."
A View of the Covenant of Works by Thomas Boston 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Rom. 8:13 - Promise of Life Not Made to the Work of Mortification But to Him Who Works, For Christ's Sake

Robert Haldane on Romans 8:13:

  • For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. 
  • "Ye shall live." — Here eternal life is promised to all who, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body. The promise of life by the Gospel is not made to the work, but to the worker; and to the worker, not for or on account of his work, but according to his work, for the sake of Christ’s work. The promise, then, of life is not made to the work of mortification, but to him that mortifies his flesh; and that not for his mortification, but because he is in Christ, of which this mortification is the effect and the evidence. That they who mortify the flesh shall live, is quite consistent with the truth that the gift of God is eternal life, Romans 6:23; and in this gift there is no respect to the merit of the receiver. This describes the character of all who shall receive eternal life; and it is of great importance. It takes away every ground of hope from those who profess to know God, and in works deny Him; for they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  [Robert Haldane, Commentary on Romans]

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A "Rude and Vulgar Idea": That Our Works Aid Us In Possessing Redemption

"The Lord had formerly taught the same thing by his Prophet: "I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him," (Hosea 14:4.) Assuredly he is not influenced by works if his love turns to us spontaneously. But the rude and vulgar idea entertained is, that we did not merit the interposition of Christ for our redemption, but that we are aided by our works in obtaining possession of it."
John Calvin. Institutes of Religion, 3.14.6 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Lest There be any Confusion as to Grace, Works, Faith, and Salvation... C. Hodge: "Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works"

It's rhetorical, man...
How many works are necessary for final salvation? There are some out there who might be prone to see this question as indicating a legal spirit in the questioner. Well, inasmuch as the question relates to the recent discussions of "final salvation" or "final justification" they would be wrong. Rather, the question is asked not to pin down a quantifiable number of good works needed, but posed rhetorically to make the very important point that when it comes to the question, the answer is NONE. In the same way, one could ask, how sincere or of what quality must our evangelical works be in order to secure final salvation? If the answer is this or that level then, as the marine in the movie Aliens said, 'Game over, man! Game over!'


And as Charles Hodge wrote, 'Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works.' 

Let me repeat what has already been asserted countless time by many others, including myself. Good works are indeed necessary in a believer's life. We are called to obedience in Christ. Good works are believing in Christ (John 6:29). Good works are fighting (mortifying) sin through the blood of Christ and repentance. Good works are loving and serving others. In short, good works are our obedience and duty to God. But to what purpose are these works necessary in the one who trusts in Christ for salvation? They are necessary in that our obedience shows forth a true and lively faith. Good works or the fruit of faith is how one judges the presence of a saving faith (James 2:18). Yet those necessary works which follow after faith are not necessary works as a means or ground for the securing or ensuring of one's salvation. The weight of that burden was willingly taken for us by the One who was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8; Matt 11:28-30). When it comes to works, faith, and acceptance by God it doesn't get any clearer than this:
XII. Of Good Works. (39 Articles of Religion)
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
All those whose names are written in the Book of Life (btw, written before the foundation of the world) will necessarily possess goods works (Eph 2:10) as evidence of their trust in Christ alone for eternal life - yet even more - evidence of Christ having chosen them not they having chosen him (John 15:16). So, the admonition to all is: Trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Know that you are called to obedience by him and in him. Know that you are by nature a sinner who sins. Daily walk the path of faith alone in Christ joined by a ready repentance for your sins. And seek to live obediently in a manner worthy of your Lord and Savior.

Now to Hodge:
Ephesians 2:8-9...
The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ye are saved by grace,' but further that salvation is by faith, i.e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4: 4-5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed. 
Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4:2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.
Charles Hodge. Commentary on Ephesians 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Good works that are judged good enough at the Judgment? Calvin on John 5:29

John 5:29. “And they who have done good to the resurrection of life, and they who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
And how does one attain to the resurrection of life? Certainly not by good works, but by God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone...
For without the pardon which God grants to those who believe in Him, there never was a man in the world of whom we can say that he has lived well; nor is there even a single work that will be reckoned altogether good, unless God pardon the sins which belong to it, for all are imperfect and corrupted. Those persons, therefore, are here called doers of good works whom Paul calls earnestly desirous or zealous of them, (Titus   2:14.) But this estimate depends on the fatherly kindness of God, who by free grace approves what deserved to be rejected.
Calvin, John. Commentary on John 5:29

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Comfort For The Sheep From Calvin: Despite Believer's Lack of Sufficient Good Works - "We Shall Not Cease To Be Acceptable To God"

Hey bro, get off the bike. His burden is light & yoke is easy
In light of the recent final salvation wars, it might be comforting to hear some encouragement from a Reformed theologian. And it comes from John Calvin who was not just a Reformed theologian, but a Reformed pastor, and a very good one! Calvin understood that real comfort for the believer, i.e. good news, needed to be preached to the sheep who daily felt the heavy weight of their struggles against sin.

In the sermon excerpt below, Calvin informs his congregation that not only believer's sins of commission (doing the things we shouldn't) have been imputed to Christ and therefore 'abolished by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ' but also our sins of omission, i.e. the good works we should have done but didn't! Calvin writes, '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 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: The Second Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ 

Amen!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone: God's Justification and Sanctification Intersection

“And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.” Exodus 25:21-22

The Mercy Seat sits above the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament in which is contained the Ten Commandments of the Law. This is a type pointing to Jesus who on the cross bore the penalty of our sins and fulfilled the righteous demand of that Law. It is there that God meets with his people.

Our imperfect obedience (i.e. believers' obedience in of itself is still measured as sinful before God's holy and unyielding standard) does not attain to the righteouseness of the Law. Nonetheless it is accepted by God our Father for Christ's sake alone, the Mercy Seat who covers our sins and our less-than-righteous good works. Regarding those imperfect works of believers the Westminster Confession of Faith states -
Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God's sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections. WCF 16:6 
Through faith alone we are united with Christ. Now being identified with him through faith, not only our flawed persons are accepted and rewarded but also our flawed works. 

Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone - God's justification and sanctification formula!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Calvin: Acceptable Good Works Justified By Faith Alone

"I say that it is owing to free imputation that we are considered righteous before God; I say that from this also another benefit proceeds, viz., that our works have the name of righteousness, though they are far from having the reality of righteousness.  
"In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works depends on the justification of the person, as the effect on the cause. Therefore, it is necessary that the righteousness of faith alone so precede in order, and be so pre-eminent in degree, that nothing can go before it or obscure it."
John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Purpose of the Law - To Humble Us & Point Us to the Gospel

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."
But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." 
- Galatians 3:11-12
“Notice that Paul explains his meaning at some length here for us to comprehend why he separates the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith, showing us that they are incompatible and can no more be mixed together than fire and water. Not that there is any contradiction between the law and the gospel (as I have already made clear), for we know that they both proceed from the same God. But we must remember God’s purposes, as we have said all along. By giving us the righteousness of the law, he intended to humble us. Next, we will come before him realising we are condemned; this we would never have done if he had not revealed to us our own poverty. When we read that God promises justification if we serve him aright, he is saying in effect, ‘Poor creatures, what worth or value do you have in and of yourselves? Weigh up my commandments and consider what they involve, and then reflect upon how each of you have lived. This will make you feel as if you could drown in self-despair.’ Yet, though God speaks in this vein, he also grants a remedy —‘Come’, he says, ‘to the teachings of the gospel’. And what are they? Paul quotes the expression of Habakkuk, from chapter two and the fourth verse: ‘The just shall live by his faith’...
“[Paul] always taught that faith leads us to find salvation in God alone. The law, though it may appear to be teaching something very different, actually shows us that there is no life in us at all, if we understand it aright. The law says, ‘Work hard and do what you can to obtain paradise.’ Why does it say this? Not to feed man’s vain confidence in his own merits —certainly not! Rather, to prepare us to receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in humility.”
John Calvin. Sermon on Galatians 3:11-12


Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Five Solas of the Reformation...

Scripture Alone
VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
 Holy Scripture containeth all things
necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Articles of Religion, The Church of England

Grace Alone
Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church, (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19.) Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, viz., cleansing, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but "by grace are ye saved," "not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8, 9.)
John Calvin. Institutes of Religion. 3.14.11

Faith Alone
"For the Reformation, reconciliation precedes sanctification... Calvin insists that reconciliation means that the Christian is connected to the perfect righteousness of Christ by that faith that looks away from itself, which is [the] only… instrument of receiving the work of Christ." Faith is the vessel in which the riches of Christ's work are brought to us - reconciling us to God... Faith alone, which looks to Christ alone, has its works, but its works, its fruits, or its outcome are in no way part of justification.” … To say that one is saved by "grace alone" is not enough. The medieval [Roman Catholic] theologians taught that - that grace alone worked to so transform and sanctify one as to be the basis for final justification. Yet such improved life is still imperfect. What one needs to stand in the judgment is a perfect righteousness!

… ”Paul indeed taught that faith stands alone in receiving justification from the work of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26). Justification is not received or maintained by any kind of working, any kind of moral improvement, or any kind of sanctifying moral improvement."

… Peace with God comes only through faith in Christ alone - His merit, His sacrifice and satisfaction for sin...

As Luther wrote, "A man is justified, not by the works of the law, by by faith alone.
Dr. Robert Godfrey

Christ Alone
If Christ provides only a part of our salvation, leaving us to provide the rest, then we are still hopeless under the load of sin. For no matter how small the gap which must be bridged before salvation can be attained, the awakened conscience sees clearly that our wretched attempt at goodness is insufficient even to bridge that gap. The guilty soul enters again into the hopeless reckoning with God, to determine whether we have really done our part. And thus we groan again under the old bondage of the law. Such an attempt to piece out the work of Christ by our own merit, Paul saw clearly, is the very essence of unbelief; Christ will do everything or nothing, and the only hope is to throw ourselves unreservedly on His mercy and trust Him for all.
J. Gresham Machen: Christianity and Liberalism

To God Be The Glory Alone
And because all this is brought to pass through the only merits and deservings of our Saviour Christ and not through our merits or through the merit of any virtue that we have within us or of any work that cometh from us, therefore in that respect of merit and deserving we forsake, as it were, altogether again faith, works, and all other virtues. For our own imperfection is so great through the corruption of original sin, that all is imperfect that is within us: faith, charity, hope, dread, thoughts, words, and works, and therefore is not apt to merit and deserve any part of our justification for us. And this form of speaking use we in the humbling of ourselves to God and to give all the glory to our Saviour Christ, who is best worthy to have it…

And the said benefits of God, deeply considered, move us for his sake also to be ever ready to give ourselves to our neighbours and, as much as lieth in us, to study with all our endeavour to do good to every man. These be the fruits of true faith: to do good as much as lieth in us to every man, and above all things and in all things to advance the glory of God, of whom only we have our sanctification, justification, salvation and redemption; to whom be ever glory, praise, and honour, world without end. Amen.
Thomas Cranmer, Sermon on the Salvation of Man

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Apostolic Church

"The church is apostolic not because we can identify living apostles today but because it proclaims the apostolic doctrine in the power of the Spirit."
- Dr. Michael Horton