Monday, September 30, 2013

Old Testament Saints - Law and Gospel

Excerpt from The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher. Notes by Thomas Boston.

EVANGELISTA, a Minister of the Gospel.
NOMIST, a Legalist.
ANTINOMISTA, an Antinomian.

Ant. Why, then, sir, it seems that those who were saved amongst the Jews, were not saved by the works of the law?

Evan. No, indeed; they were neither justified nor saved, either by the works of the moral law, or the ceremonial law. For, as you heard before, the moral law being delivered unto them with great terror, and under most dreadful penalties, they did find in themselves an impossibility of keeping it; and so were driven to seek help of a Mediator, even Jesus Christ, of whom Moses was to them a typical mediator: 14 so that the moral law did drive them to the ceremonial law, which was their gospel, and their Christ in a figure; for that the ceremonies did prefigure Christ, direct unto him, and require faith in him, is a thing acknowledged and confessed by all men.
[14] That is a type, he being to them a typical Mediator.
Nom. But, sir, I suppose, though believers among the Jews were not justified and saved by the works of the law, yet was it a rule of their obedience?

Evan. It is very true, indeed: the law of the ten commandments was a rule for their obedience; 15 yet not as it came from Mount Sinai; 16 but rather as it came from Mount Zion; not as it was the law or covenant of works, but as it was the law of Christ. The which will appear, if you consider, that after the Lord had renewed with them the covenant of grace, as you heard before, (Exodus 24 at the beginning) the Lord said unto Moses, (verse 12), "Come up to me into the mount, and be there, and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law that thou mayest teach them"; and after the Lord had thus written them the second time with his own finger, he delivered them to Moses, commanding him to provide an ark to put them into; which was not only for the safe keeping of them, (Deut 9:10, 10:5); but also to cover the form of the covenant of works that was formerly upon them, that believers might not perceive it; for the ark was a notable type of Christ; and therefore the putting of them therein did show that they were perfectly fulfilled in him, Christ being "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," (Rom 10:4). The which was yet more clearly manifest, in that the book of the law was placed between the cherubim, and upon the mercy-seat, to assure believers that the law now came to them from the mercy-seat; 17 for there the Lord promised to meet Moses, and to commune with him of all things which he would give him in commandment to them, (Exo 25:22).
[15] The obedience of the believing Jews.
[16] That is, in the sense of our author, not as the covenant of works, but of the twofold notion or consideration under which the ten commandments were delivered from Mount Sinai.[17] From an atoned God in Christ, binding them to obedience with the strongest ties, arising from their creation and redemption jointly; but not with the bond of the curse, binding them over to eternal death in case of transgression, as the law or covenant of works does with them who are under it, (Gal 3:10). The mercy-seat was the cover of the ark, and both the one and the other type of Christ. Within the ark, under the cover of it, were the tables of the law laid up. Thus was the throne of grace, which could not have stood on mere mercy, firmly established in Jesus Christ; according to Psalm 89:14, "Justice and judgment are the habitation [marg. 'establishment'] of thy throne." The word properly signifies a base, supporter, stay, or foundation, on which a thing stands firm, (Ezra 2:68, 3:3, Psa 104:5). The sense is, O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Psa 89:19), justice satisfied, and judgment fully executed in the person of the Mediator, are the foundation and base which thy throne of grace stands upon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Justification of Our Persons and Works - Now And "At That Day"

John Calvin on justification - God's gracious pardon for sin and acceptance of our persons and works as righteous through faith alone in Christ alone... both now and at that Day:
Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness. (Institutes 3.17.8)
Accordingly, when the Scripture speaks of "a crown of righteousness which God the righteous Judge shall give" "at that day," (2 Timothy 4:8) I not only say with Augustine, "To whom could the righteous Judge give the crown if the merciful Father had not given grace, and how could there have been righteousness but for the precedence of grace which justified the ungodly? how could these be paid as things due were not things not due previously given?" (Angust. ad Valent. de Grat. et Lib. Art.;) but I also add, how could he impute righteousness to our works, did not his indulgence hide the unrighteousness that is in them? How could he deem them worthy of reward, did he not with boundless goodness destroy what is unworthy in them? Augustine is wont to give the name of grace to eternal life, because, while it is the recompense of works, it is bestowed by the gratuitous gifts of God. But Scripture humbles us more, and at the same time elevates us. For besides forbidding us to glory in works, because they are the gratuitous gifts of God, it tells us that they are always defiled by some degrees of impurity, so that they cannot satisfy God when they are tested by the standard of his justice; but that lest our activity should be destroyed, they please merely by pardon. But though Augustine speaks somewhat differently from us, it is plain from his words that the difference is more apparent than real. After drawing a contrast between two individuals the one with a life holy and perfect almost to a miracle; the other honest indeed, and of pure morals, yet not so perfect as not to leave much room for desiring better, he at length infers, "He who seems inferior in conduct, yet on account of the true faith in God by which he lives, (Habakkuk 2:4) and in conformity to which he accuses himself in all his faults, praises God in all his good works, takes shame to himself, and ascribes glory to God, from whom he receives both forgiveness for his sins, and the love of well-doing, the moment he is set free from this life is translated into the society of Christ. Why, but just on account of his faith? For though it saves no man without works, (such faith being reprobate and not working by love,) yet by means of it sins are forgiven; for the just lives by faith: without it works which seem good are converted into sins," (August. ad Bonifac., Lib. 3, c. 5.) Here he not obscurely acknowledges what we so strongly maintains that the righteousness of good works depends on their being approved by God in the way of pardon.  (Institutes 3.18.5)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Knowing God...

“For who among men,” says Paul, “knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God.” I Cor. 2:11. The Holy Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God, and reveals them unto man. God has made Himself known. Alongside of the archetypal knowledge of God, found in God Himself, there is also an ectypal knowledge of Him, given to man by revelation. The latter is related to the former as a copy is to the original, and therefore does not possess the same measure of clearness and perfection. All our knowledge of God is derived from His self-revelation in nature and in Scripture. Consequently, our knowledge of God is on the one hand ectypal and analogical, but on the other hand also true and accurate, since it is a copy of the archetypal knowledge which God has of Himself.
Berkhof's Systematic Theology

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Federal Vision: to the point - by a GB commenter...

Jason Loh meanders a bit and then zeros in (with a revision or two by me) on the FV error in his comments at Green Baggins...
According to Scripture as interpreted by the Westminster Confession of Faith, David Reece is not the only Presbyterian who says that Peter Leithart is a heretic according to the WCF.
I’m sure Leithart is a nice, good and even a sincere person. But we are talking about the Gospel here. It cannot be strongly emphasised enough that the saying that THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS applies most aptly here. NOT that it is necessarily to be taken literally at all — but St James did warn about the greater condemnation that teachers shall receive … St Peter warned about false teachers who twist and turn Scripture to their own destruction … St Paul spoke of the Judaisers with the damned gospel …
And the Federal Vision is one version of the Judaising/legalistic [i.e. false] gospel that is at enmity with the true Gospel. The FV may be a good blueprint as a socio-political ideology and vision. But please remember that Jesus did distinguish between theology and politics.
If we read the Gospels carefully, we see that the theology of Jesus was completely at odds with his [the current religious] politics [of his day]. The one who ate with prostitutes, publicans and the social outcasts was also the one who warned that our righteousness must exceed those of the Pharisees … who said that we are to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect … the One Who claims to have come to fulfill the Law breaks [the Pharisees' understanding of] the Law for the sake of neighbour …
IOW, the FV as the confusion between the two kingdoms/ Law and Gospel/ divine and human righteousness/ Old and New Adam/ theological and political uses of the Law, etc. ends up having NO home in either the theology or [any supposed] politics of Jesus...

Read more HERE

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Union with Christ - context...

John 16:27 - For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

To fit the doctrine of our union with Christ into the order of salvation presents a bit of a challenge, to say the least. Phrases such as in Christ, in Him, in the Beloved, Christ in you - all pointing to union - take on different textures of meaning when considered in the context of passages in which they're located. It's in that light that I find helpful the following section from John Calvin's commentary on John. He interrelates concepts such as God's fatherly love for the elect before creation, God's love in Christ for us while yet enemies, God's effectual call, the faith which embraces Christ, and our union with God through Christ. As I understand it, these are various threads of God's identification with his people - those he chose in the Beloved and redeemed in Christ - all pointing to different shades of God's union with his people.
These words remind us that the only bond of our union with God is, to be united to Christ; and we are united to him by a faith which is not feigned, but which [union] springs from sincere affection, which he describes by the name of love; for no man believes purely in Christ who does not cordially embrace him, and, therefore, by this word he has well expressed the power and nature of faith. But if it is only when we have loved Christ that God begins to love us, it follows that the commencement of salvation is from ourselves, because we have anticipated the grace of God. Numerous passages of Scripture, on the other hand, are opposed to this statement. The promise of God is, I will cause them to love me; and John says, Not that we first loved Him, [105] (1 John 4:10.) It would be superfluous to collect many passages; for nothing is more certain than this doctrine, that the Lord calleth those things which are not, (Romans 4:17) raises the dead, (Luke 7:22,) unites himself to those who were strangers to him, (Ephesians 2:12,) makes hearts of flesh out of hearts of stone,   (Ezekiel 36:26,) manifests himself to those who do not seek him, (Isaiah 65:1; Romans 10:20.) I reply, God loves men in a secret way, before they are called, if they are among the elect; for he loves his own before they are created; but, as they are not yet reconciled, they are justly accounted enemies of God, as Paul speaks,     
  • When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, (Romans 5:10.)    
On this ground it is said that we are loved by God, when we love Christ; because we have the pledge of the fatherly love of Him from whom we formerly recoiled as our offended Judge.

The Christian Life - The Already and Not Yet...

Eph. 1:20 - Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places...
With the greatest propriety does Paul enjoins us to contemplate this power in Christ; for in us it is hitherto concealed. "My strength," says he, "is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9.) In what do we excel the children of the world but in this, that our condition appears to be somewhat worse than theirs? Though sin does not reign, it continues to dwell in us, and death is still strong. Our blessedness, which lies in hope, is not perceived by the world. The power of the Spirit is a thing unknown to flesh and blood. A thousand distresses, to which we are daily liable, render us more despised than other men.
Christ alone, therefore, is the mirror in which we can contemplate that which the weakness of the cross hinders from being clearly seen in ourselves. When our minds rise to a confident anticipation of righteousness, salvation, and glory, let us learn to turn them to Christ. We still lie under the power of death; but he, raised from the dead by heavenly power, has the dominion of life. We labor under the bondage of sin, and, surrounded by endless vexations, are engaged in a hard warfare, (1 Timothy 1:18;) but he, sitting at the right hand of  the Father, exercises the highest government in heaven and earth, and triumphs gloriously over the enemies whom he has subdued and vanquished. We lie here mean and despised; but to him has been "given a name" (Philippians 2:9,) which angels and men regard with reverence, and devils and wicked men with dread. We are pressed down here by the scantiness of all our comforts: but he has been appointed by the Father to be the sole dispenser of all blessings. For these reasons, we shall find our advantage in directing our views to Christ, that in him, as in a mirror, we may see the glorious treasures of Divine grace, and the unmeasurable greatness of that power, which has not yet been manifested in ourselves.
Commentary on Ephesians - John Calvin

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reconciliation in Christ...

Two prayers of John Calvin from his Commentary on Hosea
 Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou drawest us at this time to thyself by so many chastisements, While we are yet insensible, through the slothfulness and the indolence of our flesh, - O grant, that Satan may not thus perpetually harden and fascinate us; but that we, being at length awakened, may feel our evils, and be not merely affected by outward punishments, but rouse ourselves, and feel how grievously we have in various ways offended thee, so that we may return to thee with real sorrow, and so abhor ourselves, that we may seek in thee every delight, until we at length offer to thee a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice, by dedicating ourselves and all we have to thee, in sincerity and truth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant, Almighty God, that since we are too secure and torpid in our sins, thy dread majesty may come to our minds, to humble us, and to remove our fear, that we may learn anxiously to seek reconciliation through Christ, and so abhor ourselves for our sins, that thou mayest then be prepared to receive us: and that unbelief may not shut the door against us, enable us to regard thee to be such as thou hast revealed thyself, and to acknowledge that thou art not like us, but the fountain of all mercy, that we may thus be led to entertain a firm hope of salvation, and that, relying on the Mediator, thy only-begotten Son, we may know him as the throne of grace, full of compassion and mercy. O grant, that we may thus come to thee, that through him we may certainly know that thou art our Father, so that the covenant thou hast made with us may never fail through our fault, even this, that we are thy people, because thou hast once adopted us in thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
These are prayers of a Christian, one who is saved and being saved - reconciled and being reconciled. In this is the ongoing work of salvation found in the path of ongoing reconciliation, i.e. repentance of our sinfulness and faith in the One who by his blood reconciled and is reconciling us to God. We 'saved sinners' flee to the gospel again and again, for therein is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:16-21)
Paul implores those 'new creations' in Christ, those who have been reconciled, to continue to be reconciled to God.  He then points the believers to the gospel - 'For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.'  This is the business of the church - reconciliation - carried out through the proclaiming of Christ in his Word, the administration of Baptism and Lord's Supper, and shepherding of Christ's sheep.  As Paul writes to the same believers in another place, 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 (1 Cor. 1:18).