Friday, November 28, 2014

Bucer's Admonition to Proclaim Christ Faithfully...

"But in this matter it is specially to be noted that the doctrine of Christ is to be faithfully proclaimed not only in the public gatherings of the church, but also in the home and to each one individually, following the example of Paul in the third and fifth texts. Thus in the third text [Acts 20:18-21] he states: I have proclaimed the doctrine of Christ to you and taught you in the general and public assembly, δημοσίᾳ-- and also privately from house to house, κατ’ οἴκους. And afterwards: For three years I never stopped warning each of you day and night. And in the fifth text [1 Thess. 2:5-12]: Like a father his children I have warned each one of you &c. The doctrine of the holy gospel is the doctrine of eternal salvation, and on account of our corrupt nature there is nothing more difficult and troublesome for us to learn; that is why this doctrine requires the most faithful, earnest and persistent teaching, instruction and admonition that anyone could ever employ."
Martin Bucer, Concerning The True Care Of Souls: p 181.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Samuel Petto: Covenants and Conditions

I just finished reading Michael Brown's book Christ and The Condition - The Covenant Theology of Samuel Petto (1624-1711). For anyone who wants to get a solid introduction into the development of covenant theology from the time of the Reformers through the high Reformed Orthodox period this is a valuable read. As the title indicates, the main focus is the covenant theology of Samuel Petto, a 17th century reformed theologian. Though hardly a household name today, Brown places Petto among the several influential covenant theologians of his day.

Only 124 pages, yet Brown covers a lot of ground, surveying that period of history with concise historical summaries, quotes, and insights. He looks at the covenant theology of Calvin, Ursinus, Olevanius, Rollock, Perkins, Polanus, Wollebius, Ames, Sibbes, Ball, Bolton, Strong, Rutherford, Dickson, Calamy, Cocceius, Patrick Gillespie, Owen, Turretin, Witsius, and of course Petto. The question in focus throughout is, "how did the Mosaic Covenant relate to the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace?" Brown documents what were a variety of approaches to that question among these many theologians. Crucial to these Reformed theologians, and especially Petto, was understanding the Mosaic covenant in such a way as to not impinge upon the unconditional promise of salvation in, and the continuity of, the Covenant of Grace throughout Scripture. And very much related to that was their view that the Mosaic covenant was not a re-inauguration of the Covenant of Works for one's salvation.

Here are two shorts excerpt taken from the book:
"The better Covenant and that at Sinai, are contradistinguished, and so must be two distinct Covenants, else the opposition were groundless, Jer. 31.31, 32 -- I will make a New Covenant -- Not according to the Covenant I made with their Fathers -- i.e. not according to the Sinai Covenant; for that was it which was made when they were brought out of the Land of Egypt. He doth not say, I will set up a new administration of my Covenant (though that had been true) but a New Covenant; there is a plain opposition between Covenant and Covenant, and therefore the New and that at Sinai must be two distinct, and not one and the same in two different forms; and the rather, because this New Covenant is not opposed to the Covenant with Abraham, and to that with David, but only to that with Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai..." (Petto, p. 101)
... He [Petto] refused to call faith, repentance, or obedience "conditions," either antecedent or subsequent ones. He acknowledged that if there was a condition for believers in the new covenant, it would seem to be faith, yet that cannot be the case. A condition "properly taken," he argued, earns the right to the benefit promised. This, said Petto, cannot apply to faith, because faith receives a benefit; it does not earn a right to it. While recognizing that the New Testament often uses conditional language to speak of the necessity of faith, repentance, and obedience, he stressed that these are gifts earned by Christ's obedience and bestowed upon believers by the inward working of the Holy Spirit. "In the very Covenant it self, it is promised that he will write his Laws on their hearts, Heb. 8.10. and that inplyeth Faith, Repentance, and every gracious frame." (p. 113)
[The quotes that Brown uses here are from Petto's Difference between the Old and New Covenant]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Competent Turk?

And now for something completely different...

Screen shot
Frank Turk inquires into my thinking regarding a comment I made in response to this post of his. The conversation is below. It seems that Frank's style is to opt for condescension, a quick exit rather than engagement - and then a hasty closing off any further comments in order to have the last word and prove he stands alone as the smartest guy in the room. Impressive...

Jack Miller said...
Hearty Amen. Nicely reasoned - of course, with the help of your younger brother! The Spurgeon quote is icing on the cake...
5:59 PM, NOVEMBER 21, 2014Jack Miller said...
But I would say that Jones wasn't really saying his sanctification was imaginary as to demean the sanctification that God works in him (us), but that compared to the standard of God's holy law his obedience or sanctification in this life is but a meager start and far from (imaginary when compared to...) the holiness that is required in the Law. 
6:27 PM, NOVEMBER 21, 2014Frank Turk said...
Jack --
I think that it would be great if that's what he said. Can you show me where he said that? Because his words are pretty clear:
Personally, I am so thankful for my right standing with God because, after all, my sanctification is more imagined than real. But my justification is more real than imagined.
And if you ask me which blessing I love most right now, the answer is easy: union with Christ. For, in him, I have everything, so that I don't really need to decide whether I love justification or sanctification more than another. I'm comforted, primarily, by the fact that I belong to Christ and his work for me and in me will not fail.
That passage is pretty clear. Where does he say that stuff about God's law?
If anything, the expanded quote says this: I don't have to worry about my sanctification at all because Christ's ultimate work for me is all that matters. If I love Jesus, that's enough.
I'm not the one who asked the question, nor am I the one who wants to propose an answer which hides behind an MLJ quote which is often misused to mean that we can be careless about whether what we preach is antinomian.
I think what Jones said there was flowery, and full of puppies and bunnies, and gravely mistaken -- but I am open to see how you find your interpretation of his words in his words. 
9:19 AM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014Jack Miller said...
Frank, given how short Jones' post is I don't think one can say definitively what he means here and there. But in trying to give him a charitable read I take him as simply saying that his justification is fully complete and perfect in Christ. And that his sanctification by comparison is far, far (therefore the metaphor imaginary) from complete. As for the union bit I don't agree with his emphasis there. I think he may be presenting false choices between the three. But still, his comparison/contrast between justification and sanctification is consistent with the Reformed standards. And wouldn't you agree that the expression of sanctification in one's life would show itself in a direction of obedience to God's law? If so, then growing in sanctification would imply growing in obedience to the law.
WLC Q. 70. What is justification? [perfect & complete]
A. Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Of Sanctification [ongoing & partial in this life]
1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
Heidelberg Q. 114.
But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?
No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience... 
11:20 AM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014Frank Turk said...
Dear Jack --
I always find it hilarious when people quote the WCF or the Catechism on Justification to mop up their crumby reading of what it says about sanctification.
Thanks for the laugh. Have a nice weekend.
2:27 PM, NOVEMBER 22, 2014
New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator.

Calvin: Embrace Christ Fully...

"It is indeed true, that we are justified in Christ through the mercy of God alone; but it is equally true and certain, that all who are justified are called by the Lord, that they may live worthy of their vocation. Let then the faithful learn to embrace him, not only for justification, but also for sanctification, as he has been given to us for both these purposes, lest they rend him asunder by their mutilated faith."
John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:13.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Role Does the Law Play In Our Daily Renewal?

What role does the law play in our being renewed in righteousness and true holiness by the Spirit, i.e our sanctification? To answer that I think it is safest to look primarily to the confessional standards such as:
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 [see Q. 95 below], 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.
WLC Q. 95. Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A. The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and will of God, and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives: to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery, and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and of the perfection of his obedience.
So the moral law points the regenerate to Christ and his fulfilling of that law as a covenant of works for us (which we couldn't fulfil and still can't) and that he endured the curse of the law in our place (we are miserable offenders). And all of this he alone accomplished for our good. And it is this good news that increases and provokes more and more thankfulness in us as we grow in the blessedness of God’s grace in which we stand. That thankfulness finds its expression in our grateful duty as we endeavor to walk in conformity to Christ’s moral law, it being the guide or rule of our obedience.

Regarding sanctification, it seems to be more a function of God’s grace than his law:
WSC Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Certainly the law is used by God, through both preaching and His written Word, yet it is Christ himself who has been given to us for both justification and sanctification and, as the earlier quotes make clear, even our whole salvation. John Calvin responding to Sadoleto:
… We deny that good works have any share in justification, but we claim full authority for them in the lives of the righteous. For if he who has obtained justification possesses Christ, and at the same time, Christ never is where His Spirit is not, it is obvious that gratuitous righteousness is necessarily connected with regeneration. Therefore, if you would duly understand how inseparable faith and works are, look to Christ, who, as the Apostle teaches (1 Cor. 1:30) has been given to us for justification and for sanctification.Wherever, therefore, that righteousness of faith, which we maintain to be gratuitous, is, there too Christ is, and where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates [an ongoing process] the soul to newness of life.

The Way Appointed to Salvation...

Lest there be any confusion:
O Christians, men and women, hear this and learn. For surely the ignorant man shall perish in his ignorance, and the blind who follows another blind man will fall into the ditch with him. But there is one way to life and salvation, and that is faith and certainty in the promises of God which cannot be had without the gospel; for by hearing it and knowing it living faith is provided, together with sure hope, and perfect love for God and a lively love toward our neighbor. Where then is your hope, if you contemn and scorn to hear, see, read, and retain this holy gospel?
From John Calvin’s preface to Pierre Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534)

Monday, November 3, 2014

*Gospel Sanctification*

"This whole matter of sanctification and holiness is peculiarly joined with and limited unto the doctrine, truth, and grace of the gospel; for holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls...
"The “law,” indeed, for certain ends, “was given by Moses,” but all “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” There neither is, nor ever was, in the world, nor ever shall be, the least dram of holiness, but what, flowing from Jesus Christ, is communicated by the Spirit, according to the truth and promise of the gospel."
- John Owen, Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Priority of Justification in Good Works

10. In this way we can admit not only that there is a partial righteousness in works, (as our adversaries maintain,) but that they are approved by God as if they were absolutely perfect. If we remember on what foundation this is rested, every difficulty will be solved. The first time when a work begins to be acceptable is when it is received with pardon. And whence pardon, but just because God looks upon us and all that belongs to us as in Christ? Therefore, as we ourselves when engrafted into Christ appear righteous before God, because our iniquities are covered with his innocence; so our works are, and are deemed righteous, because every thing otherwise defective in them being buried by the purity of Christ is not imputed. Thus we may justly say, that not only ourselves, but our works also, are justified by faith alone. Now, if that righteousness of works, whatever it be, depends on faith and free justification, and is produced by it, it ought to be included under it and, so to speak, made subordinate to it, as the effect to its cause; so far is it from being entitled to be set up to impair or destroy the doctrine of justification that it is what it is.
John Calvin, Institutes of Religion - Book 3.17.10