December 31, 2009

Jesus' Character Displayed

"In considering the association of Jesus with the people at large, we are struck at once with the fact that though pure and sinless, he did not shrink from contact with the most sinful and the most despised. He was in this respect the very opposite of the Pharisees. Their name signifies separatists. Fundamental in their conception of a pious life was the idea of scrupulously avoiding any social intercourse, or even the slightest contact, with persons who habitually violated the ceremonial law, as well as with those guilty of gross immorality. This was the idea of personal purity materialized, and pushed to an utter extreme. Accordingly, the Pharisees found it hard to believe that one could be a prophet, a teacher come from God, who would consent to eat at the table of a publican, or would allow his feet to be washed with the tears of a fallen woman.

"Jesus often found it necessary to explain and vindicate his course in this respect; and it was for this purpose that on one occasion he gave the three beautiful parables which tell of joy at the recovery of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Contact with vile people is proper or improper according to our aim and the probable results. It must be avoided or carefully limited if of such a character as would probably assimilate us to them. But the thoughtful and consistent followers of Jesus have been moved by his example and teachings to far more of kindly effort to redeem the vile than ever existed in the world beyond the influence of Christianity; and to do still more in this direction would only be acting according to his spirit.

"Jeremy Taylor has said that Jesus moved among the despised of humanity like sunshine, which falls among foul things without being itself defiled. To imitate this in our measure must be an attainment full of blessedness for us and rich in blessing to others. Jesus was very weary with months of earnest teaching as he sat that day beside Jacob's well; yet he aroused himself to speak most kindly with one who came to draw water, and that a woman who was living sinfully with a man not her husband. His conversation with her is a suggestive model of skill in the introduction of religion into private conversation - one of the finest of all accomplishments for Christian men and women. The delicate tact with which he aroused her conscience and thus turned her thoughts away from the mere satisfaction of bodily thirst to the water of eternal life, is among the most wonderful touches in his consummate teaching."

December 30, 2009

Whate'er My God Ordains is Right

Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708)

Whate'er my God ordains is right:

His holy will abideth;

I will be still whate'er He doth,

And follow where He guideth.

He is my God, though dark my road,

He holds me that I shall not fall;

Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate'er my God or-dains is right:

He never will deceive me;

He leads me by the proper path;

I know He will not leave me.

I take, content, what He hath sent;

His hand can turn my griefs away,

And patiently I wait His day.

Whate'er my God ordains is right:

Though now this cup, in drink-ing,

May bitter seem to my faint heart,

I take it all unshrinking.

My God is true; each morn anew

Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,

And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate'er my God ordains is right:

Here shall my stand be taken;

Though sorrow, need or death be mine,

Yet I am not forsaken.

My Father's care is round me there;

He holds me that I shall not fall;

And so to Him I leave it all.

HT:21st Century Puritanism

December 29, 2009

Leon Morris on the Person of Christ

I have been helped immensely by the writings of the late Leon Morris. Here is a 1960 article he wrote about Jesus. He lays a foundation of sober thinking of our situation before launching into the riches of the person of Christ.

"The Bible makes it abundantly clear that as we live out our lives we are not engaging in some light-hearted parlour game, with no particular importance. Our actions have eternal significance. What we are in the next life is determined by what we are in this life. Since all men are sinners (Rom. 3.23) the prospect is very bad."

HT: Church Society

December 28, 2009

The Belgic Confession of Faith (1561): Concerning the Word of God

Article 3: Of the written Word of God.

We confess that this Word of God was not sent, nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, as the apostle Peter saith. And that afterwards God, from a special care, which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit his revealed word to writing; and he himself wrote with his own finger, the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.

Article 4: Canonical Books of the Holy Scripture.

We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These are thus named in the Church of God. The books of the Old Testament are, the five books of Moses, namely: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Ruth, Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two of the Kings, two books of the Chronicles, commonly called Paralipomenon, the first of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, the Psalms of David, the three books of Solomon, namely, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; the four great prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; and the twelve lesser prophets, namely, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Those of the New Testament are the four evangelists, namely: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, namely: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews; the seven epistles of the other apostles, namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.

Article 5: From whence the Holy Scriptures derive their dignity and authority.

We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.

Article 6: The difference between the canonical and apocryphal books.

We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, namely: the third book of Esdras, the books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Syrach, Baruch, the appendix to the book of Esther, the Song of the three Children in the Furnace, the history of Susannah, of Bell and the Dragon, the prayer of Manasses, and the two books of the Maccabees. All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy, as that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith, or of the Christian religion; much less detract from the authority of the other sacred books.

Article 7: The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, to be the only rule of faith.

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul saith. For, since it is forbidden, to add unto or take away anything from the word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear, that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts, whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, Try the spirits whether they are of God. Likewise, if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house.

December 27, 2009

Christian Classics on Google Books

If you can't afford a kindle but would like to have some digital books available for reading in any browser, try Google Books.

Here's the library I've compiled so far, with an eye towards reading them over my lunch hours. I'm not sure how the library link will work, so I'm going to wing it and then try it out on another laptop.

(PS - Looks like the link works fine so I'll leave it in place.)

Not all the Blood of Beasts

Not all the Blood of Beasts
by Isaac Watts

Not all the blood of beasts
On Jewish altars slain
Could give the guilty conscience peace
Or wash away the stain.

But Christ, the heavenly Lamb,
Takes all our sins away;
A sacrifice of nobler name
And richer blood than they.

My faith would lay her hand
On that dear head of Thine
While like a penitent I stand
And there confess my sin.

My soul looks back to see
The burden Thou didst bear
When hanging on the cursed tree
And knows her guilt was there.

Believing, we rejoice
To see the curse remove;
We bless the Lamb with cheerful voice
And sing His bleeding love.

HT: 21st Century Puritanism

December 26, 2009

Thoughts on Scripture and the Style of Catechisms

I was reading through one of Horatius Bonar's books this morning in Google Books. It is his republication of ancient Scottish catechisms. He said something in the preface that caught my eye, simply as food for thought about catechisms in general.

Bonar wrote:

If the Bible has proved itself unsuitable to any age or nation, it must have proved itself destitute of that which is one of the special characteristics of a revelation, universal adaptation. Flexible yet not mutable ; capable of expansion yet not of compromise ; possessing every variety of note, yet never uttering an uncertain sound ; speaking to the Apostolic age, speaking also to the age of the Reformation; teaching the first century, yet teaching the nineteenth with equal explicitness ; such is the Bible.

Nor is this adaptation secured at the expense of accuracy, or by means of allegory. On the contrary, the more that its minute accuracy and literality are assumed, the more complete is its adaptation found to be. It is the EVERLASTING word ; not the word of this age or that age, of this nation or that nation ; but of all; not the word that suits one national character but not another, that does with barbarism but not with refinement, that falls in with one temperament but not with another ; that speaks to the Jew but not to the Greek, to the Athenian but not to the Roman, to the Persian but not to the Scot, to the Genevese but not to the Parisian, to the Teuton but not to the Celt; but truly the word which finds passage for itself into every ear, which wakes up a response in every soul; suiting all men, all ages, all minds, all nations ; the only book which can bear translation into every language, and which, the more literally it is taken, is found the more suitable to all.

And as is the Bible, so are those works which most largely embody it; which are most thoroughly penetrated by its truths ; which come nearest it in spirit and in diction. Such we believe our Reformation standards to be ; not the Scottish only, but the English, the Helvetian, the Belgian, the Bohemian, the Gallican, and others of that era. Being human compositions, arranged after human manner, clothed in human phraseology, and compiled to meet the exigencies and errors of a particular age, they do not partake of the largeness and manifold fitness or expressiveness which belong to the divine volume ; yet they have less of the provisional and ephemeral than uninspired compilations usually have. We meet with expressions once and again, which we should be disposed to part with, especially when we get upon sacramentarian ground ; for the dregs of the baptismal and eucharistic opus operatum of Popery are visible in many a Reformed document; but, discounting some small expressions, we accept these old creeds as still true and still suitable ; more universal in their teaching than some modern progressionists like to allow. We can still safely say to our children as our fathers did to theirs,

" Go, reid the buik, repeit the storyis auld."

Our Scottish catechisms, though grey with the antiquity of three centuries, are not yet out of date. They still read well, both as to style and substance ; it would be hard to amend them, or to substitute something better in their place. Like some of our old church bells, they have retained for centuries their sweetness and amplitude of tone unimpaired. It may be questioned whether the church gained anything by the exchange of the Reformation standards for those of the seventeenth century. The scholastic mould in which the latter are cast has somewhat trenched upon the ease and breadth which mark the former ; and the skilful metaphysics employed at Westminster in giving lawyer-like precision to each statement, have imparted a local and temporary aspect to the new which did .not belong to the more ancient standards. Or, enlarging the remark, we may say that there is something about the theology of the Reformation which renders it less likely to become obsolete than the theology of the covenant. The simpler formulae of the older age are quite as explicit as those of the later ; while by the adoption of the biblical in preference to the scholastic mode of expression, they have secured for themselves a buoyancy which will bear them up when the others go down. The old age of that generation is likely to be greener than that of their posterity.

December 24, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - #6

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV)

After several weeks on the shelf, we resume our walk through Philippians. Speaking of "walking", recent travels have given me an appreciation for a wide variety of walking styles. Having visited both Chicago and San Francisco on business this fall, I can heartily testify that walking in the city is much different than walking in the rural midwest. Given my bent towards a slower pace of life, perhaps a more fitting title for this series would be "ambling around Philippians", or "moseying in Philippians". In a tip of the hat to our Aussie readers, perhaps "walkabout Philippians"? I can appreciate the rapid pace of life in the big cities through a brief visit but I wouldn't trade my slower-moving life for a bajillion dollars. And with that, on to the text.

Paul seeks a three-fold blessing for the Philippians in his prayer. First, overoverover flowing love that continues to overflow more and more. We looked at this part of his prayer earlier in the series. The blessing of overflowing love is no small gift of God. How many blessings would arise out of the generosity of abundant love? They cannot be numbered. Surely this is the pinnacle of blessings, and they have their beloved friend Paul pleading their case before the Almighty. And yet...

Isn't it interesting that Paul pleads for more than love? He alloys overabundant, overflowing love with both knowledge and discernment. While love is the greatest virtue, it does not stand best by itself. Love needs the sound and sure footing of knowledge and discernment in order to stand strongly in the face of a wicked world. Due to the twisting of reality by sin even the highest form of love must be bolstered and supported.

In today's world it is common to think of love as simply an internal emotion, a warm feeling that you have inside. Sin has so twisted us that love is no longer seen as an outward-directed commitment to do good to others but rather it has been turned in upon itself, becoming the driving force fueling a quest for feelings and emotions experienced by and for our self. But this is not love. It is a sin-soaked lie. Feelings take wings and fly away. We are as fickle as the wind if our lives are founded on feelings. One minute we enthusiastically pursue a goal, focusing our entire life around it. The next minute it has become a curse to be replaced as quickly as possible with something that makes us feel better.

Paul is not seeking to bless the Philippians with a warm fuzzy feeling. He desires that they abound in and overflow with active love informed by real knowledge and full insight. In doing so, they will live blameless, holy lives that redound to the praise and glory of God. Love like this is action-packed, just as God's love for the world is. And it does not simply make good in the lives of the Philippians. They are able, through use of knowledge and judgment, to perform the greatest acts of love for their fellow man.

How fitting it is that Christians earnestly pursue active, abounding, overflowing love in accordance with knowledge and insight. In so doing, they earnestly demonstrate the infinite love of the Savior for a lost world. Dear brother and sister, here is real fuel for your prayer fire. It is a rich and precious vein of ore to return to time and time again on behalf of your brothers and sisters. Mine riches for the household of faith and ask God in Christ for His treble blessing of love, knowledge, and insight on their behalf.

How fitting indeed that the God who demonstrated infinite love would have us abound in love mixed wholly with understanding and wisdom. What great light shines daily in the kingdom of darkness that is this brokenness when we understand what our lives are to be about and know how to pursue it.

December 12, 2009

Jesus, the Savior of Hopeless People

A man named Jairus came to Jesus, begging him to help his dying daughter. Before they could get to his home, she passed away. In a hopeless situation, Jesus reassures Jairus, "Do not fear, only believe."

November 28, 2009

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis nourishment to hungry souls,
And to the weary rest.

Jesus! my Savior, Shepherd, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.

(a hymn by John Newton)

Resting in Jesus

Justification by Faith Alone Illustrated

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 "BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." (NASB)

One of the great truths of the Gospel that was recaptured and rightly emphasized through the Reformation was the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone was so foundational to the work of reformation that it became embodied in one of the slogans of the Reformation--Sola Fide (Faith Alone). It is not the only "sola" of the Reformation and there is a need to see it in combination with the other solas to understand the full picture. But such an examination is outside the scope of this little note. We are going to focus our attention on sola fide and will leave the broader examination for another time.

During the Reformation, "Faith Alone" was set in contrast to the Roman Catholic concept of works of merit done in a state of grace for which it was fitting (in the Catholic view) for God to judge them as worthy of reward. But the Reformers uncomprisingly held to the Biblical witness that our salvation is based SOLELY on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and not on anything done in us or by us. The Reformers held that God's judicial verdict of "righteous" in favor of us could be based solely on our sin being counted to Christ and correspondingly Christ's perfect righteousness being counted towards us. How can our sin be laid upon Jesus and His righteousness made ours? By placing our faith in Jesus as Savior, trusting Him to save us. This faith in Jesus has, at times, been described as "resting in Jesus".

"Faith Alone", like all Biblical doctrines, can be misunderstood. One way it is misunderstood is when people hear "faith alone" and think it means the following:

God does not justify us because of our good works. He justifies us because of our faith. Our faith stands in the place of good works. Our faith is what deserves our justification before God. In other words, faith becomes the one good work which we must do so that we deserve to be saved.

In such a view, faith itself is seen as being our righteousness, not as the means of connecting us with the righteousness of Christ. In this view, faith replaces the work of Christ and becomes the basis upon which God gives salvation to us. Repeatedly throughout the years, as I have discussed "faith alone" with people, I have been conscious of the danger of misunderstanding "faith alone" in such a way. As I was thinking about "faith alone" and how to overcome this misunderstanding, the imagery of resting in Jesus came to mind. Let me describe what unfolded in my mind's eye.

As I thought on the phrase "resting in Jesus", an illustration came to mind which might help us see why faith itself is not why God will justify us. Now, this is an illustration, and no illustration is perfect. Think of your bedtime. At the end of a long, wearying day you look forward to a night of restful sleep. When bedtime arrives, you sit on the edge of the bed, turn off the light, pick your feet up off the floor, and rest on your bed. When you pick your feet up and lay down, your full weight is carried by the bed beneath you. You are "resting in bed". It is the bed which is holding you up. It is bearing the burden of all your weight. You cannot lay on it harder or softer. Your entire weight is all you have and no amount of "laying down harder" will put any additional load on the bed. We don't speak of laying down hard or soft. It's not a matter of degree. Laying down is not done in parts. It's all of you. When we speak of "resting in Jesus", it is this kind of resting that is being described. This kind of "full weight laid upon another to bear the load" is what I have in mind for "resting in Jesus".

Well, if you misunderstand "faith alone" to mean that you are saved by your work of faith instead of by Jesus' righteousness, how would that change the illustration? You would probably want to do the best job you could of laying in bed. So once you pick your feet up off the floor, you may think this way, "I must lay down as good as I possibly can. I am doing such a good job of laying here. I'm certain that this bed is going to recognize the quality of my laying here and reward me for it. Others can see that I am doing my best at laying here. I will continue to do my best at laying here." Perhaps you will think you should lay down harder, bearing down on the bed with all of your might (which really accomplishes nothing and certainly does not contribute to your rest). Or maybe you become convinced that you should lay lighter, but how would that be done? Perhaps you should stand and merely lean on the bed? Once again, you will not find true rest in such a posture. Are you really contributing anything to the bed's ability to hold you up as you lay there? Of course not! It is the bed that is upholding you and not anything to do with your laying will make you to be held up any better or more than you already are.

You see, "faith alone" is "resting in Jesus". This resting is a placing of all your weight on Jesus for HIM to bear you up. This resting, like physical resting, is not something which can be done more fully through exertion. It is a trust in HIM to uphold your full weight. It is a resting in HIM from the weariness of sin. Who does the work? Jesus does the work in holding you up, just as the bed alone holds you up and you contribute nothing to it without ruining your rest. And when people look to your resting in Him, what will they see? Not the fact that you are resting so well that God should forgive you, but that Jesus is holding you up entirely and perfectly. When you look to your own resting, what will you see? Not your resting, but the Beloved One who holds you up.

Do you see that faith alone does not point to your resting or to your faith but to the one upholding you. He is the one bearing you up fully and completely. This is "faith alone". This is for His praise and glory. Amen.

November 27, 2009

A Better Declaration By Far

This evangelical-authored, evangel-oriented declaration far exceeds other declarations of the past 20 years, including ECT I, II, and Manhattan. Since the collective evangelical mind thinks 'church history' extends clear back to last Sunday's sermon, it might be a bit of a stretch to consider something from ten years ago as relevant. But it is. It is.

Sola Scriptura: The Belgic Confession

Article 7: The sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, to be the only rule of faith.

We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul saith. For, since it is forbidden, to add unto or take away anything from the word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear, that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself. Therefore, we reject with all our hearts, whatsoever doth not agree with this infallible rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, Try the spirits whether they are of God. Likewise, if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house.

November 26, 2009

Speaking of the Manhattan Declaration...

There is a lot of buzz in the evangelical blogosphere about the Manhattan Declaration. Several folks have chimed in, both pro and con, including Justin Taylor, Al Mohler, Dave Doran, Dan Phillips, John Macarthur, and Alistair Begg.

The declaration is eloquently worded, yet everyone is not coming to the same conclusion about it. Some of us remember earlier declarations that also found evangelical leaders landing on both sides of the coin. Why?

I strongly recommend a book that R. C. Sproul wrote a decade ago that walks through ECT II and shows in vivid, high-definition resolution how to read carefully. It's not a long read but can make a real difference in how you read religious declarations.

A Prayer On Redemption

Grant, Almighty God, that as we now carry about us this mortal body, yea, and nourish through sin a thousand deaths within us; O grant that we may ever by faith direct our eyes toward heaven, and to that incomprehensible power, which is to be manifested at the last day by Jesus Christ our Lord, so that in the midst of death we may hope that thou wilt be our Redeemer, and enjoy that redemption which he completed when he rose from the dead, and not doubt that the fruit which he then brought forth by his Spirit will come also to us when Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and may we thus walk in the fear of thy name, that we may be really gathered among his members, to be made partakers of that glory which by his death he has procured for us. Amen

--John Calvin

November 24, 2009

"Come Unto Me"

I had the blessed opportunity to preach in my home church last Sunday. For those interested in listening, you can download the mp3 here. It is right at 35 minutes long.

November 20, 2009

True Freedom

Now that the Christian message is so generally disbelieved or forgotten, the human race is sinking gradually into bondage; the advance in material things, extraordinary though it is, is being dearly purchased by a widespread loss of human freedom. But when the gospel is brought to light again, there will again be life and liberty for mankind.

November 2, 2009

Continue In Your Work...

Continue in thy work. Thou who art a minister, it is a work for thy lifetime; and not to be taken up and laid down again, according as it may best suit a man's carnal inclinations, and outward conveniences. The apostles that laboured with their hands, have, by that example, set the conscience of a minister at liberty, to provide for the necessities of this life by other employments, when he cannot live of the gospel; yet certainly no man that is called of God to this work, can with a safe conscience abandon it wholly. Paul, for example rather, than necessity, both preached, and wrought in a handy-craft. As preaching doth not make working unlawful, so neither should any other business of a minister make preaching cease.

--Robert Traill, taken from his Works, Vol I, p.236

October 25, 2009

1655 Midland Confession of Faith

3rd. We profess and believe the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, to be the word and revealed mind of God, which are able to make men wise unto Salvation, through faith and love which is in Christ Jesus; and that they are given by inspiration of God, serving to furnish the man of God for every good work; and by them we are (in the strength of Christ) to try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the pretence of truth. II Timothy iii.15-17; Isaiah viii.20.

October 24, 2009

Knowing the Father and the Son - Gibberish To Jehovah's Witnesses

In my studies this morning I ran across this passage.

Mat 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (ESV)

This places the Son in such a glorious and unique position. It's hard to fathom what a Jehovah's Witness would get out of this, since they hold that Michael was the first creation of Jehovah. From their point of view, it seems to be saying something like this:

"Everything has been handed over by Jehovah to one of his created beings. No one knows this created being except Jehovah and no one knows Jehovah except this creature and anyone to whom this created being chooses to reveal him."

Are there any JWs who are willing to share their thoughts on the following questions?

did the Father hand all things over to the Son?

How could infinite God hand over all things to a finite creature?

Why can't any other creatures know their fellow creature?

Why can only God know this creature?

Why is this the only creature that can know Jehovah without assistance?

How can this creature know God without assistance?

Why is this creature in control of choosing who to reveal God to?

October 23, 2009

Biblical Innerancy - Chicago-style

Thirty-one years ago, nearly 300 evangelical leaders affixed their names to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy. Included among them were R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, Roger Nicole, Norman L. Geisler, Robert Preus, James Montgomery Boice, John Gerstner, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, Harold Lindsell, John Warwick Montgomery, Earl Radmacher, Francis Schaeffer, and John Wenham.

I know several of our younger readers here are not aware of this brief yet important work. Some of the names above are possibly familiar but others are unknown. It may seem that 31 years ago is equivalent to eternity past from our historically-truncated viewpoint but it isn't. You will know this experientially when you turn 31. Rest assured that it is well-written and worth your investment in reading it. It is a document that I have re-read and thought about many times over the years.

Christ's Poverty Our Riches

As it is certain that nothing but grace can save the sinner, so it is as certain there is nothing more unpleasing to the sinner than grace; than that good, which when received he must always own the bounty of the giver, and never to eternity be able to say, "My own hand hath made me rich." Christ will bring none to heaven that are in that mind. He that will not be rich in Christ, must be poor and condemned still in the first Adam. Know ye not, saith the apostle, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich, yet he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich, 2 Cor. 8:9. The riches of a believer stands in the poverty of Christ; and every true believer counts Christ's poverty his riches.

October 21, 2009

Free MP3 Sermons by Tim Keller

A sampling of sermons by well-known author and pastor Tim Keller is now available online. When I tried the site earlier tonight it was obviously drowning in traffic.


October 20, 2009

Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism

For those of you who are not aware of theology on DVD, here is a great example for your consideration. I am currently watching the series and am enjoying it immensely. There is a lot of gold in this treasure chest.

Rich in graphics, dramatic vignettes, and biblical analogies, Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism features many of the finest reformed thinkers and pastors of our time: Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Dr. George Grant, Dr. Stephen Mansfield, Dr. Thomas Ascol, Dr. Thomas Nettles, Dr. Roger Schultz, Pastor Walt Chantry, Dr. Joe Morecraft, Dr. Ken Talbot, Pastor Walter Bowie and Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr..

You can purchase it at for a very affordable price.

October 18, 2009

Hebrews 9-10: Christ our Atonement and High Priest

Today in our Sunday School class we explored the Day of Atonement in the New Testament. At the conclusion of the discussion period, we watched the following video since it covered the most focused section of Scripture on Christ as the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament. This is Ryan Ferguson reciting Hebrews 9-10 from memory. It is about 11 minutes long and well worth the time to watch.

Keach's Catechism from 1677 on the Word of God

Q. 4. What is the Word of God?

A. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
(2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Isaiah 8:20)

Q. 5. How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?

A. The Bible evidences itself to be God's Word by the heavenliness of its doctrine, the unity of its parts, its power to convert sinners and to edify saints; but the Spirit of God only, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in our hearts, is able fully to persuade us that the Bible is the Word of God.
(1 Cor. 2:6,7,13; Ps. 119:18, 129; Acts 10:43, 26:22; Acts 18:28; Heb 4:12; Ps. 19:7-9; Rom. 15:4; John 16:13,14; 1 John 2:20-27; 2 Cor. 3:14-17)

Q. 6. May all men make use of the Scriptures?

A. All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted, to read, hear, and understand the Scriptures.
(John 5:39; Luke 16:29; Acts 8:28-30; 17:11)

Q. 7. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of man.
(2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 20:31; Acts 24:14; 1 Cor. 10:11; Eccles. 12:13)

October 9, 2009

A Little More Gospel Courage

Here is a 25 minute sermon on Gospel Courage that I preached in 2009 at my home church. Paul set such a wonderful and vivid example for us to follow. I'm not John Piper but we do have one thing in common - God's Word.

October 8, 2009

Gospel Courage

Here's a recent sermon by Piper on courage in and suffering for the gospel. I pray my young brothers in the faith take it to heart. Today is the day of fear and weakness. We need brave ministers of the gospel to preach true truth wholeheartedly.

October 7, 2009

The Doctrine of the Atonement by James Haldane

James Alexander Haldane (1768-1851) lived in a day not unlike our own when men misunderstood the Bible. Two prominent authors had written works seeking to establish the doctrine of universal atonement. This brought confusion concerning the work of Christ to the church in Haldane's time. Haldane set out to reply to their errors and to set forth a sound understanding of Christ's work of particular redemption. I had benefited from Haldane's insights in a shorter work, so I looked forward to reading one of his major books.

Haldane served as pastor to the same congregation for over 50 years. Throughout his life he wrote about the atonement. Obviously it was a subject near and dear to his heart. While he was not a controversialist by habit, nearly every book and tract he wrote on the atonement was in defense of truth and in response to specific errors put forth by his contemporaries.

The Doctrine of the Atonement was written to specifically reply to the errors of Drs Wardlaw, Jenkyn, and Payne. Haldane wrote The Doctrine of the Atonement well into his seventies yet displays a strong and active mind, both in general discourse and in seeing inconsistencies and weaknesses in the works he is contending with.

Generally speaking the book is helpful. Haldane looks at many aspects of the atonement, including its nature, extent, and effects. He explores the free offer of the gospel to all. He examines God's love for mankind. Several controversial questions are toppled by the weight of Scripture.

And yet... it's a struggle to read. Haldane writes with a very sharp razor. He doesn't provide any background on his opponent's arguments. He simply refers the reader to the page number in their works and launches into his reply. For the original audience this was likely not an issue since they had ready access to the opposing works. Not so in this day. Over the years I've wondered why this book of Haldane's hasn't been widely available. Now that I've read it, I understand why. There are other works on the atonement that are much more accessible.

I'm glad I read it, but can only offer a muted recommendation.

September 20, 2009

I shall return... soon.

I should be back in action on the blog in the next couple of weeks. I hope to see you here in the meta.

August 27, 2009


Dear Friends, I must take a hiatus from writing due to a family health situation. Lord willing, I will return but I do not know when.

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
(2 Corinthians 4:6-11)

August 15, 2009

Not What My Hands Have Done

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

I praise the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
My Lord has saved my life and freely pardon gives;
I love because He first loved me, I live because He lives.

Horatius Bonar, 1861

Sola Scriptura: The Scottish Confession of Faith

The following section is excerpted from the confession drafted in 1560 by six Johns of Scotland, including Knox.

The Scots Confession

Chapter 19 - The Authority of the Scriptures

As we believe and confess the Scriptures of God sufficient to instruct and make perfect the man of God, so do we affirm and avow their authority to be from God, and not to depend on men or angels. We affirm, therefore, that those who say the Scriptures have no other authority save that which they have received from the Kirk are blasphemous against God and injurious to the true Kirk, which always hears and obeys the voice of her own Spouse and Pastor, but takes not upon her to be mistress over the same.

Chapter 20 - General Councils, Their Power, Authority, and the Cause of Their Summoning

As we do not rashly condemn what good men, assembled together in general councils lawfully gathered, have set before us; so we do not receive uncritically whatever has been declared to men under the name of the general councils, for it is plain that, being human, some of them have manifestly erred, and that in matters of great weight and importance. So far then as the council confirms its decrees by the plain Word of God, so far do we reverence and embrace them. But if men, under the name of a council, pretend to forge for us new articles of faith, or to make decisions contrary to the Word of God, then we must utterly deny them as the doctrine of devils, drawing our souls from the voice of the one God to follow the doctrines and teachings of men. The reason why the general councils met was not to make any permanent law which God had not made before, nor yet to form new articles for our belief, nor to give the Word of God authority; much less to make that to be his Word, or even the true interpretation of it, which was not expressed previously by his holy will in his Word; but the reason for councils, at least of those that deserve that name, was partly to refute heresies, and to give public confession of their faith to the generations following, which they did by the authority of God's written Word, and not by any opinion or prerogative that they could not err by reason of their numbers. This, we judge, was the primary reason for general councils. The second was that good policy and order should be constitutes and observed in the Kirk where, as in the house of God, it becomes all things to be done decently and in order. Not that we think any policy of order of ceremonies can be appointed for all ages, times, and places; for as ceremonies which men have devised are but temporal, so they may, and ought to be, changed, when they foster superstition rather than edify the Kirk.

Putting Jesus In His Place

Jeff Miller gives a helpful review of Bowman's and Komoszewski's book Putting Jesus In His Place. Obviously, I think this is a book worth reading. I've read it through entirely once and have returned to it multiple times on specific questions. The HANDS acronym has stuck with me and serves to turn my mind towards contemplation of Jesus in worship and wonder.

The Curse Motif of the Atonement - R.C. Sproul

Here is a highlight clip of R.C. preaching on the atonement. Well worth the 10 minutes to watch it. (HT:Reepicheep)

August 12, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - #5

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV)

Paul loves the Philippians. He knows it. They know it. And we know it. We looked at that in the prior post of this series. Right on the heels of his profession of Christlike love for the Philippians - God as witness of Paul's heart - Paul explains the subject of his prayer for the Philippians. He prays for the Philippians frequently and with joy, but what does he pray for them? He approaches God out of the sincere desire of his heart for the benefit of his dear friends and the glory of his God. Paul wants the Philippians to grow and grow and grow and grow in their already abundant and overflowing love. It's something he requests of God on behalf of the Philippians, ultimately for the glory and praise of God.

Paul is looking to the Lord to show his might in the lives of the Philippians. It's not like they are starting at ground level and need to learn to love. They were no slouches in the love department, already displaying overflowing love repeatedly since their conversion to Christ. Here comes Paul, piling grace upon grace in his prayers for them. To paraphrase the missionary apostle, he is asking God to help them overflow deeper and deeper, again and again. Not simply to love. Not simply to reach a pinnacle of love and remain there. No, overflowing more and more. What a tremendous blessing he is seeking for the Philippians.

[Time for a praise break] If this is the case on this earthly plane, what does eternity with God hold in store for us who know Christ? Dare we hope for an eternity of abounding more and more in love, more in 10,000 years... more in 10,000,000 years... more in a trillion years! There is so much more to heaven than our puny, sin-soaked minds can even begin to grasp. Praise be to God who has shown us love in humility, in sin-bearing, in mercy and forgiveness.

In our current "it's all about me me me" culture, our first inclination on hearing what Paul was praying for is to turn it on its head and pray this blessing for ourselves and our own church. But that's not what's happening here. Paul is praying for others... one of the churches he helped establish and which has helped him in ministry and in trouble repeatedly.

Brother and Sister, this type of prayer can rightfully take its place in your worship vocabulary, following Paul's example in praying this blessing for others. How often we struggle with prayer, not knowing what to pray for on behalf of our missionaries and churches once we exhaust the short list of immediate concerns they give us. Here is biblical fuel for your prayer fire.

August 7, 2009

Just Read This

I just finished reading Kevin DeYoung's book on discerning God's will called Just Do Something. This is a delightful little book. Thank you Kevin for saying several things that needed to be said. Many people will be helped by your wise advice.

DeYoung takes on the over-spiritualized process of making decisions. In essence, God gave you a brain so use it. Don't be lazy and blame God for your inactivity as if it were deep spirituality.

The author insightfully diagnoses several contributing factors of our hesitancy to do things. He offers common-sense advice to move you to action. This is written so everyone can understand it. Once you read this, the excuses you're hiding behind will be vaporized.

It is primarily helpful for teens and young adults but also gave me some good insights into my mid-forties life that will impact what I do.

Just get it. Just read it. And for God's sake, just do something.

Trueman on Owen Redux

Here's a little more helpful info on Trueman's introduction to Owen. Trueman presses one specific work of Owen for your initial consideration. It is Communion with the Triune God. This is a light editing by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor of Owen's Of Communion with God.

In his video introduction, Trueman mentions the struggle many Christians have to understand the importance and impact of the doctrine of the Trinity on their everyday spiritual and devotional life. Owen's work explores the right relationship of the Christian to the one true God considered in the individual persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You can read Kevin Vanhoozer's Foreword, Justin Taylor's Note on This Edition, Preface, Chapter 1, and Glossary

Reality Check... this is not Owen lite. Reading him is hard work. Why bother? You will be better equipped to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

August 3, 2009

Bray: N. T. Wright's Inadequate Response to Piper

Gerald Bray offers an editorial summation of the interaction between N. T. Wright and John Piper. (HT:PJ)

Discern09 Apologetics Conference Coming in September

This year's conference at Calvary Santa Fe will be held September 12-13. The speakers at Discern09 will be Ron Rhodes, Bruce Ware, and James White.

You can listen to sessions from previous years here. Speakers include Rob Bowman, James White, Ron Rhodes, Mike Gendron, and many more.

August 1, 2009

Ferguson and Ligonier Panel on Calvin

Rev. John Samson has pointed out two very valuable sessions from the Ligonier National Conference that are currently available at no charge. The only cost is your time and attention.

(HT: Reformation Theology)

Wayne Grudem on Christian Essentials

Wayne Grudem is well known for his Systematic Theology. It's one of the best modern systematics that I am aware of. I've described it as a devotional systematic because I find myself worshipping by doxology while reading it. He has been teaching a series of Sunday School lessons on Christian Essentials that you can access here. He is an excellent teacher and well worth the space on your mp3 and the time on your calendar to listen and learn. (HT: JT)

Ed Komoszewski on Philippians 2

I'll try to claim this is a preview of the material in Philippians 2, but that's not the whole truth. I've known Ed for years and will never be able to communicate as clearly as he does. Watch this 5 minute clip to see how amazing Christ is.

Ed's website is

A Walk Through Philippians - #4

For God is my witness that I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:8, ESV)

Paul commits himself to the Philippians with a most solemn vow. Words can be easy, but these are not easy words. These are words with a long history of action behind them. They are words carried along on the blood, tears, and suffering which Paul paid out in his care for the Philippians and others. Paul isn't handing them a bagful of good intentions as yet unfulfilled. No, those would be easy words.

In this brief little verse I come under conviction again and again. How often I find myself offering heaping portions of good intentions to those around me but never fulfilling them in action. The royal robes of Christian love must be fitted to the body of Christian servanthood, else they are empty and useless.

So often we have it backwards. We want to speak, then act. To say 'I love you' and then put it on display. Oh how different our testimony could be if we lived love first, rather than merely stating our as yet unfulfilled good intentions. Which are blessed, the feet of those who bring good news or the lips of those who talk about bringing good news someday?

The Philippians themselves have each witnessed Paul's love for and commitment to do good to them in the way he has lived. Their heartstrings, tuned by the gospel of Christ, ring in unison for their beloved apostle as they help him in chains, in beatings, in lack. In Christ, their love has extended beyond their means but they continue to give help to Paul again and again, as he has also helped them. Why? Because Paul has loved them with the love of Christ.

Even though Paul has proven his love in action many times, he calls upon God as his witness. The Philippians themselves are eyewitnesses of Paul's external acts of love but this is not enough. Paul seeks to assure them that his love for them lives in the heart, which they obviously cannot see or know. Think about it for a minute... calling God as his witness. The ultimate Witness from whom nothing is hidden, before whom the hearts of men are laid open. The Witness who sees all, including Paul's own heart. Paul calls on Him as witness of his genuine longing for the Philippians. And even here, normal patterns of speech fail Paul. He longs for the Philippians, not merely with his own affection, as deep as that is. Rather, he longs for the Philippians with the bottomless affection of Jesus.

Christ and His affection are what brought Paul to and through all he has experienced with the Philippians. It is not a mere abstract concept or even Paul's own affection. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus himself, moving within Paul and moving Paul to serve them. What a profound commitment Paul has made, calling God to witness his love, which wasn't even his. It was the supernatural love of Christ.

In all of this we have an example to follow. May we seek to act in Christ's love for others before saying it. What does this look like in your specific circumstance? I will not attempt to reduce this to some sort of rudimentary checklist. It is lived in your life, not merely or only in your thoughts and heart. It is Christ at work within you, dear Christian, to live love towards those around you. Then, when you finally say it, no one wonders what you mean. They already know.

July 31, 2009

What is the Principal Exercise of Faith?

Pastor Ian Hamilton writes a brief contemplation to stir our affections for Christ. His reference to Paul in Philippians applies to our current series walking through that letter.

It is part of our humanity, and of our redeemed humanity, that we give our minds and affections to the people and places and 'things' that have most captured our imagination and impacted our lives. Think of how obsessive many men (and women) are today about football. They even talk about their favourite players as 'gods' and 'messiahs'. They cannot stop thinking about, speaking about, singing about their heroes. Their hearts rise and fall depending on the success or failure of their 'first love'. When you read the New Testament and especially Paul's Letters, you cannot help being struck by his obsession with Jesus Christ. He tells the Philippians, 'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.' He tells them that he is 'a one thing I do man': 'One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind . . . I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.' He tells the Corinthians that Jesus is God's 'indescribable gift'. He tells the Ephesians that God the Father has blessed believers 'with every spiritual blessing in Christ'. Is it any wonder Paul was obsessed with his Saviour?

You can read the full article here.

July 29, 2009

Machen Resources

Machen is a wonderful writer. The following link will give you a page that collects many of his own works, along with the commentary of others concerning his work. Machen's example gives me courage and encouragement as he shares his wisdom.

Machen's birthday


Trueman on Owen

Carl Trueman gives a good brief overview of John Owen's life and impact. He also presses one of Owen's works for our consideration, which I now plan to read in the near future. (HT: JT)

July 25, 2009

A Walk Through Philippians - #3

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Philippians 1:7, ESV)

Paul loves the Philippians. Truly loves them. In our age of busyness, constantly struggling to achieve one goal so we can get on to the next, we fly by Paul and the Philippians as merely a blur in our window while rocketing higher and higher towards a fully sanctified, devoted, and fruit-bearing life. And we miss so much.

Ok rocketboys and rocketgirls, let's turn off the afterburners for a few minutes. Re-enter the atmosphere... put on the airbrake. Sit down and take a couple of breaths.

Paul loves the Philippians. They have shared time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ. Christ has been all and in all of these things with the Philippians and Paul. Through all of this, Paul loves the Philippians. That's what he's telling them. "It is only right for me to believe that God will finish the work He began in you because I have you in my heart." Paul knows God's love for the Philippians, and he knows and owns his own love for his friends.

Paul has been in trouble, both in Philippi and several times after. They never abandon him. He ministered the grace of the gospel of Christ among them, which they received full-heartedly and shouldered Paul's burdens as much as they could. What love they have shown for Christ and for Paul in sticking with the apostle through thick and thin. They put their own skin on the line in many ways to help their beloved friend.

I've held my tongue until now, but I need to say something about the trouble Paul had. Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel. Suffered. He was beaten. He was stoned. He was imprisoned. He was shipwrecked. He went hungry. He was disowned, berated, and rejected. Many of today's media superstar preachers have "trouble" also. They don't have a large enough house in an exclusive enough neighborhood. They don't have a big enough corporate jet. They don't have enough cars or garage space to hold them all. They don't have a big enough yacht. They don't have long enough retreats at lavish enough resorts. They don't have white enough veneers for their toothy smile. They don't have enough money in the bank or a big enough church. They don't have enough designer suits in their closets or enough designer shoes for their feet. They don't have enough, but it is their calling to "suffer" these things for the sake of the gospel.

They do have enough of one thing. They have enough greed to last a lifetime. No danger of running out there. In distinct contrast, Paul shows what suffering for the sake of the gospel really looks like. The Philippians show what loving their preacher and brother really looks like. Can we suffer with and love the people in our lives like this? Well, has God changed? Has Jesus scrapped the gospel since it's so much trouble and switched to delivering a message of gospel-lite, otherwise known as prosperity? God has not changed. The good old gospel is still good news. And yes, by God's grace we can suffer with and love the people in our lives like this.

While I desire that these thoughts magnify Christ and are a help to you, they can only help if they are lived by you in your life right where you're at. Today. Reading Philippians together won't make a lick of difference in your life without application to your heart and your life touching the lives of those around you. Reading Philippians without loving those around you makes the message ring empty. So turn off the touchdown-achieving afterburners and love the dear people in your life as Christ loves them. Spend and be spent for them with time, energy, work, labor, effort, preaching, teaching, learning, money, food, housing, prayer, concern, suffering, torture, imprisonment, criticism, poverty, questions, doubts, fears, generosity, laughter, meals, tears, sweat, illness, friends, death, life, the gospel, and ultimately Christ.

By His Grace. For His Glory.

July 21, 2009

Jesus Our Mediator - Reflections from Abraham Booth

Taken from chapter 11 of Abraham Booth's The Reign of Grace. Booth writes concerning the person of Christ in his atoning work.

"It was absolutely necessary also, that our Mediator and Surety should be God as well as man. For as he could neither have obeyed, nor suffered, if he had not possessed a created nature; so, had he been a mere man, however immaculate, he could not have redeemed one soul. Nay, though he had possessed the highest possible created excellencies, they would not have been sufficient; because he would still have been a dependent being. For as it is essential to Deity, to be underived and self-existent; so it is essential to a creature, to be derived and dependent. The loftiest seraph that sings in glory is as really dependent on God, every moment of his existence, as the meanest worm that crawls. In this respect, an angel and an insect are on a level. Every intelligent creature, therefore, whether human or angelic, having received existence from the Almighty, and being continually dependent on him, as the all-producing, all-supporting first cause; must be obliged to perpetual obedience, by virtue of that relation in which he stands to God, as his Maker and Preserver. It is highly absurd to suppose it possible for any creature to supererogate, or to do more in a way of obedience to Him from whom his all was received, than he is under the strongest obligations to perform, in consequence of his absolute and universal dependence. But whatever is previously due from any one, on his own account, cannot be transferred to another, without rendering the first devoid of that obedience which it is absolutely necessary for him to have. Universal obedience, in every possible instance, is so necessary in a rational creature, as such, being dependent on God and created for his glory, that the omission of it, in any degree, would not only be criminal, but expose to everlasting ruin.

The righteousness, therefore, of a mere creature, however highly exalted, could not have been accepted by the Great Supreme, as any compensation for our obedience. Because whoever undertakes to perform a vicarious righteousness, must be one who is not obliged to obedience on his own account. Consequently, our Surety must be a Divine Person; for every mere creature is under indispensable obligations to perfect and perpetual obedience. Now, as our situation required, so the gospel reveals, a Mediator and Substitute thus exalted and glorious. For Jesus is described as a Divine Person, as one who could, without any arrogance, or the least disloyalty, claim independence; and, when thus considered, he appears fit for the task. But of such an One we could have had no idea, without that distinction of Persons in the Godhead which the Scriptures reveal. Agreeably to this distinction, we behold the rights of Deity asserted and vindicated, with infinite majesty and authority, in the person of the Father; while we view every Divine perfection displayed and honoured, in the most illustrious manner, by the amazing condescension of the eternal Son: By the humiliation of Him who, in his lowest state of subjection, could claim an equality with God. Such being the dignity of our wonderful Sponsor, it was by his own voluntary condescension that he became incarnate, and took upon him the form of a servant. By the same free act of his will he was made under the law, to perform that obedience in our stead, to which, as a Divine Person, he was no way obliged.

The necessity there was that our Surety should be a Divine Person, might be further proved, by considering the infinite evil there is in sin. That sin is an infinite evil, appears from hence. Every crime is more or less heinous, in proportion as we are under obligations to the contrary. For the criminality of any disposition, or action, consists in a contrariety to what we ought to possess, or perform. If, therefore, we hate, disobey, or dishonour any person, the sin is always proportional to the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey him. Now the obligations we are under to love, to honour, and to obey any person, are in proportion to his loveliness, his dignity, and his authority. Of this, none can doubt. If then infinite beauty, dignity, and authority belong to the immensely glorious God; we must be under equal obligations to love, to honour, and to obey him; and a contrary conduct must be infinitely criminal. Sin, therefore, is a violation of infinite obligation to duty; consequently an unlimited evil, and deserving of infinite punishment. Such being the nature of our offences, and of the aggravations attending them, we stand in absolute need of a surety, the worth of whose obedience and sufferings should be equal to the unworthiness of our persons, and to the demerit of our disobedience. If to the evil there is in every sin, we take into consideration the vast number of sinners that were to be redeemed; the countless millions of enormous crimes that were to be expiated; and the infinite weight of Divine wrath that was to be sustained; all which were to be completed in a limited and short time, in order to reconcile man to God, and to effect his eternal salvation; we shall have still stronger evidence in proof of the point.

Were a defence of the proper Deity of Christ my intention, the Scriptures would furnish me with ample matter and abundant evidence in favour of the capital truth. For the names that he bears, the perfections ascribed to him, the works he has done, and the honours he has received, loudly proclaim his ETERNAL DIVINITY. But I wave the attempt, and proceed to observe,

That it was necessary our Surety should be God and man, in unity of person. This necessity arises from the nature of his work; which is that of a Mediator between God, the offended Sovereign, and man, the offending subject. If he had not been a partaker of the Divine nature, he could not have been qualified to treat with God; if not of the human, he would not have been fitted to treat with man. Deity alone was too high to treat with man; humanity alone was too low to treat with God. The eternal Son therefore assumed our nature, that he might become a middle person; and so be rendered capable of laying his hands upon both, (Job 9:33) and of bringing them into a state of perfect friendship. He could not have been a mediator, in regard to his office, if he had not been a middle-person, in respect of his natures. Such is the constitution of his wonderful person, and hence he is called IMMANUEL God with us, or in our nature."

July 15, 2009

The Painter of Creation

Last weekend I was able to spend an hour at the local Anderson Dance Pavilion on the riverfront here in Sioux City. The city keeps it wonderfully appointed with beautiful plants and flowers during the summer. Here are some of the photos that are the result. You can click on them for the full size versions. Enjoy.