Return To Our Regular Programming

I have been at Presbytery for most of last week, which was why I was almost entirely absent from the blogging world. But I am back now, and ready to hit the saddle again. To start off with, I owe Doug a response. In the continuing debate about covenant theology, he has responded in this way (his words in block quotations, and my response underneath). This is from his blog post Obedience and Life, one of the comments.

Lane, it was apparent that we were not rejecting obedience because we insisted on it just a few sentences before the passage you quoted.

I don’t believe that I was saying that you were rejecting obedience (what FV’er does?). I was saying that you were rejecting any overlap between obedience and works, such that you could say that the CoW was based on grace, and that obedience was required, but works were not. I am challenging that assertion. More below under the discussion of Paul.   

We distinguish between obedience and works because Paul does. In the Pauline vocabulary, deeds without faith is works. Deeds done in faith is obedience.

So, when Paul talks about justification being not by the works of the law, is he excluding all works done by faith or without faith, or is he only excluding some works? Is he excluding obedience from that? If so, then your distinction (I would say divorce) of works and obedience falls to the ground. It does not sound to me as if you are rejecting all works as being part of justification. What does the phrase “works of the law” mean? I argue that it means any and all works, whether done from faith or not. As such, it would certainly include everything under the label of obedience. Now, of course, Paul is talking about the CoG here, not the CoW. In the CoW, Adam would have been justified by works. Out of curiosity, what is your interpretation of Romans 2:13? Is this a statement that says that people will actually be justified on the final day by works, or does it mean “do this and live,” a hypothetical but realistically impossible schema (impossible because of sin)?

We are bi-covenantal if we believe there are two covenants. This we believe, holding the covenants have with different terms and different promises, but with the same gracious God as the other party to the covenant. You are saying that we cannot be bi-covenantal unless we believe that the two covenants are radically different in nature. But you can’t find that in the Confession, which is why numerous Reformed theologians agree with us that the “covenant of works” was gracious.

The confession says that the principle of Adam’s obtaining eternal life was obedience, and in no way is that true of the CoG. That is a radical difference, if you ask me.

Intelligent Design 101

When I opened up the package to find this book inside, I wondered if the release of this book and the documentary Expelled at roughly the same was a coincidence or not. Having asked the press agent at Kregel this question, I was assured that it was coincidence, and not intentional. Still, a very interesting coincidence. If people would like a one-stop resource to understand what the ID movement is all about, this is the book. The major players are here (including Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson, and a forward by William Dembski), and the major issues are addressed. Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial) argues that the main issue here is whether God had a role in the origin of the universe (pp. 28-29), in his article entitled “Bringing Balance to a Fiery Debate.”

J.P. Moreland, in his article entitled “Intelligent Design and the Nature of Science,” Moreland argues that anti-intelligent design arguments suffer from extremely bad philosophy (pg. 43). Darwinists nowadays cannot tell a philosophical claim without basis in observable fact from scientifically viable theses. In order to defend ID, therefore, ID proponents must be better philosophers than their opponents (quite aside from the obvious need for more scientific study).

Casey Luskin finds evidence of intelligent design in nature, in his article entitled “Finding Intelligent Design in Nature.” This is probably the most technical of the articles, and of the most interest to scientists looking for such evidence.

Michael Behe gives a summary of his arguments put forth in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, in his article of the same name.

Jay Richards asks the question “Why Are We Here?” which answers many philosophical questions concerning the implications of ID versus a naturalistic interpretation. Eddie Colanter furthers this line of reasoning, with special attention to bioethics. Wayne House burrows into the legal ramifications of the Scopes Trial, among other cases, and Luskin and Logan Gage round out the book with a detailed response to Francis Collins’s arguments on the common ancestry of apes and humans.   

Taking the Kingdom By Force

Matthew 11:12

4/20/2008

Audio Version

Polycarp of Smyrna was one of the very earliest Church Fathers. He was a bishop of Smyrna, which is in Asia Minor, now called Turkey. He was a disciple of the Apostle John. So he was only one generation younger than the apostles. Polycarp lived into his 80’s. However, at the very end of his life, he was taken by the Romans. They asked him not only to bow down to the emperor, but also to renounce Jesus. Polycarp said that he had served His Lord for 86 years, and His Lord had never done him any harm. Why would he renounce his Lord now? So, at the age of 86, he was martyred for his faith.

Violence against the kingdom of God has been part of human history since the very beginning. As Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote, in his book the City of God, all of humanity is divided into two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. This conflict started with Satan tempting Eve. The conflict was given verbal form when the Lord said that He would put enmity (or strife) between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Cain, the seed of the serpent, killed Abel, the seed of the woman. The conflict continued in Egypt when the kingdom of man started killing the little boys of the kingdom of God. Then, when the Israelites went to the land that was promised to them, they had to fight with the people of the land. The wickedness of the people of the land had risen to such a height that the Lord judged them by having the kingdom of God fight against the kingdom of man, and wipe out the inhabitants of the land.

The problem, of course, is that even within the people of Israel, there were always members of the kingdom of man. That is why the people of Israel persecuted all the prophets who came to tell them that they were misbehaving. So, even within the so-called people of God, there have been members of the kingdom of man. The relationship of the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God has always been an adversarial relationship. They are adversaries. But that relationship came to head, a climax, when Jesus Christ was born. When Christ was born, John the Baptist was also alive, a few months older than Jesus. John was a forerunner. We have seen that in the last couple of weeks. He was one who came before Jesus in order to pave the way for Jesus. But that way is not an easy way, as we will see from this verse.

This verse is probably the most difficult verse in all of Matthew to understand. There are several ways it could be translated. One is the NIV, which reads, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” This translation implies that it is the kingdom of God that is exercising force. However, other translations say it this way: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” This translation means that kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, rather than forcefully advancing. I believe that the second translation is more accurate. In other words, people have been attacking the kingdom of heaven ever since John the Baptist started his ministry. The reasons why I believe this are several: firstly, Jesus is talking about John the Baptist, who is currently in prison, having been persecuted for speaking the truth. Jesus knows that John is just about to pay the final price for his devotion to God. Secondly, Jesus hasn’t really been talking about the kingdom of God expanding. He has been talking about how great the kingdom of God is. But not really about how the kingdom is expanding. Thirdly, the last part of the verse makes much better sense as explaining the first half of the verse. And the last part of the verse is plainly saying that the violent are trying to take the kingdom of God by force. So, Jesus is saying here that the battle between the two kingdoms has escalated since John began his ministry.

Of course, Jesus does not mean that the OT battle is meaningless. But the battle has escalated since John the Baptist started his ministry. The reason, of course, is that Satan did not want Jesus to enter into the kingdom. That’s why Satan tempted Jesus three times. Satan knew that if he could only get Jesus to disobey God just once, then Jesus would not have been able to bring the kingdom in its fullness, because that kingdom was to be a kingdom of righteousness, perfect righteousness.

So what does this phrase mean, “violent men take it by force?” It refers to the fact that the kingdom of men is always trying to reduce the number of people that belong to the kingdom of God. Any way they can do that, they will. Satan has many ways of luring people, but there are two broad categories that encompass all of his ways. The first category is that of temptation. This is the soft way. If he can get people to sin, and keep them buried in sin, then that is more people for his kingdom. The other way is persecution. This is the hard way. If he can scare people enough, then they will not want to be part of a kingdom where the going is so rough. People often want to have a comfortable life. In fact, they will often make that an idol in their lives. They want comfort so much that they are willing to sacrifice anything and everything else to get it. This is a major problem today in a culture that is comfort-crazed. We are too comfortable. Was John the Baptist praised for being comfortable? No, he lived very simply in order to have his message be clear, and so that his message would not be compromised. We need to be wary of making an idol out of comfort. There is nothing inherently wrong with comfort. However, we must never let comfort get in the way of sharing the truth. And by comfort, I am including both physical and emotional comfort. After all, it is much more comfortable simply to stay at home, never bothering anyone else, and never letting anyone else bother us. Live and let live, we like to say. The difficulty with thinking that way is that we will fail to be prophetic voices in our culture today. We will fail to speak out against injustice and oppression. Furthermore, and more seriously, we will fail to share the Gospel with people. I think comfort often gets in our way. We need to pray to the Lord that He would remove this idol from our lives, so that we would be willing to take risks in order to love people and share the words of life.

So, we need both to resist temptation, and stand firm in the time of persecution. Persecution is coming, you know. There are many groups of people out there who would like nothing better than to beat up on Christians. Certainly this is true in government. However, it is rapidly becoming true in the private sector as well. Even here in North Dakota, there are people who cannot stand “those religious people.” The would just as soon shut up those religious people so that there could be no more evangelism. Persecution is coming. Will we stand fast, holding to our confession? People have now been martyred for the Christian faith even in America. Think of Columbine High School. If someone were to come up to you with a gun and ask if you were a Christian, and he told you that if you are a Christian, he will kill you, what would you say? I have often asked myself this question. What I always have to do is to pray to the Lord that the Lord would keep me steadfast, and that He would strengthen me to seal my testimony with my own blood. You never know when something might come to that, as unlikely as it looks sitting here in a country that still has religious freedom. Those freedoms are eroding as surely as North Dakota wind erodes the land.

Furthermore, we need to be in prayer for the persecuted church. How often do we remember those Christians around the world who are being persecuted? And do we pray that the persecution would end? That is not necessarily what they need, even though that is usually the first thing that comes to our minds. A Chinese Christian once told fellow Christians in the US to stop praying that the persecution would cease, and instead pray that the persecuted Christians would stand fast, and hold on to their confession. Persecution is one of the best things that can happen to a church, because it purifies the church. Hypocrites will not stand up in the time of persecution. They will fall away, leaving those who truly are Christians. In fact, church discipline is hardly even needed in churches that are being persecuted. They love each other with an undying love, and help each other as much as they possibly can. As the early church father Tertullian put it, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This is the main reason why God allows persecution of the church. Some estimates say that China will be 40% Christian in under 20 years, if the present rate is any indication. The Gospel is exploding over there, precisely because of the persecution that is happening. The same thing is happening in the Middle East. So, although violent men seek to take the kingdom by force, we know that the very gates of hell itself wil not prevail against the church.
 

Van Til: A Review With Remembrance (Part II)

I drove up in front of Van Til’s home in an old faded blue 1966 Peugeot that I had bought for $400 from a fellow WTS student, Greg Reynolds, who had graduated and moved to New York (as many of you may know, Greg is now the editor of the OPC magazine Ordained Servant). The floor board had rusted out and plywood now served to conceal the road from appearing under your feet. Van Til was sitting out on the porch waiting for my arrival. I jumped out of the car and shouted, “Are you ready?” He waved and got up and slowly made his way down the sidewalk to greet me. “You got a good Reformed automobile there!” he exclaimed. “Huh?” I puzzled out loud. “I’ll tell you all about on the way,” he said, as we climbed in to make the short trip over to Faith Theological Seminary in Elkins Park. Peugeot, as Van Til went on to explained , was founded by a Reformed Christian, Armand Peugeot, and Peugeot donated many a car to Reformed ministers in France. He had no more finished telling me this interesting tidbit then we arrived at our designation. Faith seminary occupied the old Widener estate at the time. The estate, built early in the twentieth century, looked like something out of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, “The Great Gatsby” – but it had seen better days. The once neatly trimmed hedges that surrounded the mansion had the disheveled appearance of having been tended to by one disinterested seminarian after another for many years. Weeds sprouted up through the cracks in the parking lot, and the grand fountains out front had long ceased to function. Still, it was an impressive place. Marble floors, Greek columns, flying arches, tall double doors, all served as reminders that this was once a magnificent palace. The chapel originally had been a majestic ballroom with fine walnut walls and mounted chandeliers. Around the top of the walls were moldings of little angelic cherubs peering down. But the most impressive thing were the paintings in the ceiling. The center one, the largest of them all, depicted in classical style a Greek scene involving Venus. Surrounding the huge center painting were four smaller paintings depicting the four classical elements of earth, water, air, and fire. But we had not come on a sight seeing tour. We had come to hear Gordon Clark lecture in that spectacular chapel on Empiricism, particularly its dangers.

Dr. Clark, like Van Til, was in his 80’s, but was in fine form that night. Van Til and I sat in the front and he nodded frequently in agreement, as Clark lectured. After the lecture was over, Clark came over and the two of them shook hands and posed for pictures – one with me in between the tall Dutchman and the diminutive Clark. We lingered for over an hour listening to Clark field questions and then said our goodbyes and climbed back into my Calvinistic chariot and drove to Van Til’s home. I was chattering like a magpie asking question after question. Then there was silence. I looked over at Van Til. He had nodded off to sleep!

Late that same week, Gordon Clark had dinner with my family. He was a delightful conversationalist and spent a good part of the time discussing mathematics, when he discovered that my wife had been a math major at San Diego State University. After dinner we retired to the living room for coffee and dessert. Clark spoke highly of Van Til and mentioned that he even used Van Til’s apologetics syllabus when he taught back in the late 30’s and early 40’s at Wheaton. Above all Clark said that CVT treated him kindly all through the now famous Clark case. Ned Stonehouse, he declared, was the guy in the black hat. I asked Dr. Clark if he would sign about a half-dozen or so books of his that I had in my library – which he did. I took the books back to my study and returned to the living room to find that Dr. Clark had nodded off to sleep in the wingback chair in which he was sitting!

Given the significance of the Clark/Van Til controversy, I am going to focus on this in Part II and Part III of my review. Chapter 4 in John Muether’s biography of Van Til is entitled “Reformed and Evangelical” and gives us a blow by blow account of the now famous Clark/Van Til controversy. But, as pointed out in Part I, this cannot be understood in isolation from Van Til’s identity as Reformed Apologist and Churchman. Muether’s provides us with this context in the first three chapters. He traces Van Til’s background as a child of the Afscheiding in the Netherlands and the influence of Abraham Kuyper. From here Muether details Van Til’s family migration to the United States and Van Til student days at Calvin College and the various theological controversies that embroiled the Christian Reformed Church during his formative years.

Van Til’s determination to pursue seminary training at Princeton stemmed, to a large degree, from the desire to leave the confines of Grand Rapids and broaden his horizons in the foremost Reformed seminary in the world. In this part of the chapter, the decisive influence of Geerhardus Vos and J. Gresham Machen on Van Til is delineated with the kind of attentiveness that Boswell bestowed on Samuel Johnson.

The decision to leave Princeton to help establish Westminster Theological Seminary is likewise dealt with by Muether with the meticulous care of someone who has combed through the archives at Westminster. Of particular interest was this juicy morsel: “As early as 1928, Machen saw Van Til’s potential when he observed that “Van Til is excellent material from which a professor might ultimately be made.” If some interpreters exaggerated the affinities between the two by suggesting that Van Til prompted Machen’s movement away from evidential apologetics, others have less ground in proposing that their differences were irreconcilably great. Allan MacRae, an early member of the faculty of Westminster, maintained that Machen privately told him in the ‘the strongest language’ that he ‘stood with Warfield and against Van Til.’” Machen, MacRae recalled, was too busy during Westminster’s early years to address the “harmful effects” of Van Til’s teaching. Had Machen devoted the time to studying the matter, he would certainly have asked Van Til to leave” (p. 68). Muether hints here and elsewhere that MacRae’s recollection is difficult to reconcile with Machen’s attitude towards Van Til as well as Machen’s own deep suspicions about Premillennialism – especially the dispensational kind that MacRae embraced. For instance, MacRae later served as one of the contributors to the Revised Scofield Reference Bible. Secondly, not only Van Til, but John Murray also had serious issues with premillennialism and MacRae’s disconnect with the Westminster Standards on this very point. A year after Machen’s death MacRae would side with Carl McIntire and Oliver Buswell and split off to form Faith Theological seminary and the Bible Presbyterian Church. Interestingly, the first thing this group did was to revise the Westminster Standards so that Premillennialism could be explicitly affirmed. Thirdly, Van Til was actually relieved that the MacRae/McIntire faction broke away. In light of this I am of the opinion that Machen would have preferred that MacRae and not Van Til leave Westminster. Like Machen, Van Til wanted very much a confessional Reformed seminary as opposed to one that was more broadly Evangelical and less distinctively Reformed. I well remember one Thursday night gathering at Van Til’s home when he became very animated and in a stentorian voice declared,” You are not Evangelicals! You are Reformed! There is a big difference. Do you understand?” There was some muttering and the like from some of the fellows who had come out of a Campus Crusade for Christ background, but Van Til pressed his point with even more forcefulness. One of the front burner issues at the time was the ‘Joining and Receiving’ overture between the PCA and the OPC. Van Til was very much opposed to it and let it be known whenever he was asked. He had some well-founded doubts about the makeup of the PCA and that denomination’s broad evangelical background, i.e. churches that had left the old Southern Presbyterian Church as well as the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (that had split earlier from McInTire and MacRae’s Bible Presbyterian Church).

This aspect of Van Til the churchman factors prominently into the developments that gave raise to the controversy with Gordon Clark’s ordination in the OPC as Muether writes, “The debate over the ordination of Gordon Clark, therefore, was part of a larger battle over the denomination’s Reformed character. Clark was an instrument in the agenda of a faction in the Church that was discontented with its Reformed identity. Ultimately, what was at stake for the likes of Robert Strong (a Clark supporter) was whether the church’s ecclesiology would be Reformed or evangelical.”(p.107). I will return to this in Part III of this review-which will extend beyond the scope I had intended.

Posted by Gary Johnson

The Preface to the Joint Federal Vision, Revisited

I have gone through the entire Joint Federal Vision Profession (hereafter abbreviated JFVP). An index to the entirety of the discussion can be found here (second paragraph of links). For those who are incredibly lazy, the previous discussion of the Preface can be found here. And the JFVP itself can be found here. That should be enough preliminary, prefatory, introductory, forwardary links to get on with (and I even managed to end the sentence with two prepositions that time! Except for this parenthesis).

My thoughts on the matter have not changed much. I have not found the FV any more teachable than before. If anything, less so. I still have yet to see any major retractions of doctrinal error on the part of any one of the FV “conversation partners.” This is no doubt due to the massively non-existent evidence that no one in any of the major Reformed denominations (nor the denoms themselves) has amassed demonstrating the error of any single points of the FV. At least, to the FV thinking, anyway. We shall see.

There seemed to be a desire on the part of the signatories to say that they had no desire to present a “moving target.” I have found the FV to be an extremely moving target. The minute one has a logical argument against a position that has been written down, I am told that that isn’t their position. It was their position just a minute before, when what we had was written documentation. However, what always seems to happen is that I am told that I am a dolt, an irresponsible nincompoop, who cannot even understand plain English. Of course, not everyone in the FV camp has been doing this to me (Wilson being an example, though he doesn’t think I have proven one single aspect of any FV thinker’s theology to be out of bounds).

However, I will seek to prove one example where I believe that the FV statement is thoroughly non-confessional. As we all know, the PCA study committee report roundly reinforced a bi-covenantal structure to the WCF. The Covenant of Works, in chapter 7 of the WCF, plainly says that eternal life was promised to Adam upon condition of personal and perfect obedience. The JFVP says plainly that “the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements” (see under the section “The Covenant of Life.” Now, I am not sure what else Adam’s moral exertions or achievements could be other than his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience. So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP. The PCA has decided that this is not going to be an allowable exception to the Standards. And this is only one example. Others will come later.

Volume 4 Is Finally Here!

The long awaited fourth volume is finally available.

The Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 6:17

4/20/2008

Audio Version

The citizens of Feldkirch, Austria, didn’t know what to do. Napoleon’s massive army was preparing to attack. Soldiers had been spotted on the heights above the little town, which was situated on the Austrian border. A council of citizens was hastily summoned to decide whether they should try to defend themselves or display the white flag of surrender. It happened to be Easter Sunday, and the people had gathered in the local church. The pastor rose and said, “Friends, we have been counting on our own strength, and apparently that has failed. As this is the day of our Lord’s resurrection, let us just ring the bells, have our services as usual, and leave the matter in His hands. We know only our weakness, and not the power of God to defend us.” The council accepted his plan and the church bells rang. The enemy, hearing the sudden peal of bells, concluded that the Austrian army had arrived during the night to defend the town. Before the service ended, the enemy broke camp and left. The hope of salvation is so powerful. It is a helmet for us in the time of trouble. It protected the people of Feldkirch, and it will protect us also.

Paul continues on in his description of the armor of God, coming now to the helmet. We have seen that every piece of armor is vitally important if the believer is to fight Satan properly. The helmet is no exception. After all, a helmet protects the head. Most people generally want to keep their heads. So, if that is so, then we must cling to salvation literally for dear life. Now, a helmet is a very easy piece of armor to understand. There really isn’t anything I need to explain about how a helmet works. It has always worked the same way through the history of mankind. It protects the head. The only thing remaining is to explain the term “salvation,” and then examine how it protects us. It does not somehow protect our logical mind. Ancient people did not think of their mind as being in their head, believe it or not. They believed that their “brain” was part of the chest. So, we should not be looking for some kind of mysterious way in which salvation protects our minds, although it certainly does do that. It is another part of the armor that is essential, because it protects an essential part of us.

Salvation means two things in the Bible. Firstly, salvation refers to that point in time when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. At that point in time, we are justified by God’s grace when He declares us not guilty, and also declares that we are heirs of the kingdom of God. This happens because Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to be ours. Furthermore, God adopts us as His children, and implants the Holy Spirit in us so that we will become more and more holy throughout life. So, our sins are all forgiven when we come to faith. In this sense, we will never be more saved than we are right now.

However, that is not the only way that the Bible uses the term salvation. We only have to go to 1 Thessalonians 5:8 to realize this: “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” The hope of salvation indicates something that we do not fully have yet, since no one hopes for what he already has. In this sense, the Bible means the whole Christian life from conversion all the way through life, through death, and including resurrection from the dead. That is something that we do not have, at least in its fullness. We must keep in mind these two definitions of salvation, because great confusion can happen if do not keep them distinct. For one thing, when we think of salvation as that point of time when we come to faith, we have to exclude all works of any kind from that salvation. In that salvation, works play no part whatsoever. However, in the broader sense, which includes our whole lives, our works do play a role. They are essential, as a matter of fact. So, are works necessary for salvation? No, in the first sense, yes in the second sense. If we include works in the first sense, then we have to do something to obtain favor with God. The Bible everywhere condemns such thinking. However, excluding works from the second sense would mean that it doesn’t matter what we do.

However, we must be even more careful, because we cannot say that our works are done in our own strength, nor can we say in any way that eternal life depends on them. Our good works earn rewards above and beyond salvation, but they only earn those rewards because of God’s grace. As one writer puts it, God crowns His own gifts to us. Ultimately, they are to be for God’s glory, and not our own. However, God has promised that He will reward us for those good works.

So, it is this understanding that helps protect us. How does it protect us? Well, for one thing, Satan is always seeking to attack our salvation. There are a myriad of ways he does this. He will seek to get us to be afraid that we have sinned our way out of salvation, or that because God has hidden Himself, He has abandoned us. Or, that we are just a little bit better than our neighbor. The answer to all these things is still to come back to the Gospel.

So what do you do when you have sinned, and you feel guilty about it, and are afraid that God has given you over to your sin? Maybe it is a sin that you have committed many times, and cannot seem to get over it. What do you do? You remember your helmet. Salvation is not something that you can take on and off. In that respect, actually, it is not like a helmet. However, when we remember that we are always at war, then the parallel becomes exact again, because as long as we are at war, we need to have our helmet on. I remember a scene from a war movie where a surgeon was not wearing his helmet. The commanding officer told him that he had to wear a helmet. The surgeon said that he couldn’t use his stethoscope if he wore his helmet. The general told him to cut two holes in his helmet so that he could. We like to put up excuses for not wearing this helmet in wartime, but the fact is that always having it on is the wisest course of action. So, back to our question, what do you do? Remembering your helmet means that you remember what Christ has done for you. You remember that you are now a temple of the Holy Spirit. You remember that God will always forgive a penitent heart. There are no exceptions to that. A penitent heart God will not despise, says the Psalmist. We need to come back to the Gospel. Our forgiveness once for all is dependent on what Jesus has done for us. When that happens, we are forgiven of all our sins past, present and future. However, that is not the only kind of forgiveness we need. That kind of forgiveness saves us from the wrath of God. However, when we sin as Christians, we incur God’s fatherly displeasure. That means that we need to ask forgiveness every day for our offenses. That is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our debts.” That is, forgive us our sins, forgive us what we owe and cannot repay. After you have asked God for forgiveness, then you need to pray to the Lord for help and strength to resist that temptation better the next time it comes around. This is extremely important to remember, because victory on the battlefield of sin is a cumulative thing. The more battles you win by God’s help, the less that sin will have any hold over you. It is always an uphill battle, but there is increasing victory that you can have.

Now supposing your particular problem is not a particular sin, but rather that you doubt your salvation. This helmet is impervious to Satan’s attack. If you are in fact truly saved, then the helmet will not come off. Comfort for doubters can be found in the promises of God. Remember this, that if you have ever truly experienced the grace of God, you cannot lose it. God may be hidden from you right now, but that is only to make you seek Him more. It is never to make you doubt. Only Satan wants those doubts. God wants you to trust Him more. These promises will enable us to doubt our doubts. Salvation is not temporary. Salvation is permanent. The story is told of the great Englishman Oliver Cromwell on his deathbed. He asked the ministers there (John Owen and Thomas Goodwin, both renowned Puritans) if we could be sure of salvation. They responded by saying that if he had ever experienced true grace, then he could be sure that it had never left. On hearing that, Cromwell was happy, and he said that he had no fears then, for he knew that he had received grace before. Fortunately for us, grace is not dependent on our feelings. Just because we feel something wonderful doesn’t mean that it is grace. So also, just because we don’t feel wonderful doesn’t mean that grace is absent. Grace makes itself known in strange ways sometimes. Grace always makes us grow, and that is a hard thing for us to learn.

And so, whether our problem is a particular sin, or whether it is doubt, we need to put on our helmet of salvation, which is sure to protect us from Satan’s blows.
 

Finally Available!

At long last, this book on Calvin’s soteriology is out. This is a very controversial book, touching at issues that divide Westminster East from Westminster West. Very important reading.

Hebrews 3:1-2

“Therefore, holy brethren, sharers of the heavenly calling, carefully consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus, who is faithful to the One who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in His entire house.”

We have seen that Jesus is superior to the prophets (1:1-3), and He is superior to the angels (1:4-2:18). We might think that Paul has proven everything that he needs to prove. However, there is one even greater (according to Jewish thinking) than the angels. Paul needs to prove that Jesus is even greater than Moses. Here is what an ancient Jewish rabbi said about Moses: “God calls Moses faithful in all His house, and thereby He ranked him higher than the ministering angels themselves.” So, if Jesus is even greater than Moses, then there is no one greater than Jesus. That is what Paul is now going to prove in chapter 3.

Paul starts by saying that Christians are holy (set apart from the world). “Brethren” here includes women. Paul tells us that we are sharers in the heavenly calling. Jesus is in heaven. Therefore our minds should be on the things of heaven. The next two words “carefully consider” are full of instruction. I am convinced that one of our greatest problems in the Christian life is that we will not delve deeply into who Christ is. We are a very superficial people, oftentimes, thinking that we know everything about Jesus that we need to know. These two words “carefully consider” mean that we should contemplate with a long and searching gaze who Jesus is. When we do that, we will find out that He is the Apostle of God, and He is our High Priest.

The word “apostle” means a person who is sent by someone else. Jesus is sent by God to accomplish the will of the Father. This is the only time in the New Testament where Jesus is called an apostle. What was He sent to do? He was sent to be our High Priest. He is the One who offers up the sacrifice (which is also Himself!) to the Father, that we might not have to suffer wrath. And, He is even now in heaven interceding for us.

This Apostle and High Priest is faithful. Utterly faithful. He was faithful to the One who appointed Him Apostle and High Priest (who is the Father). In fact, He was even more faithful than Moses was. Moses was a faithful Mediator. He interceded for the people even when it was inconvenient, even when, if he hadn’t interceded, he could have had blessing from God. Jesus is the same for us. And Jesus is also greater than Moses because Moses was a created being, whereas Jesus is the God-man. Is He your High Priest?

A Post Doug Should Answer

I know, I know, this post comes from the self-proclaimed Fully Documented Anonymous Attack Blog, or FDAAB for short. You all will notice that I don’t link to that blog. I simply cannot, and Mark knows why, and has accepted that fact. However, I will admit to reading every post of his. Hypocritical? Probably. I would like for Doug to answer this post, though, if he has a minute. The evidence is all from Doug’s own blog, which is public for everyone to read. Would he chalk it up to rhetorical flourish? In which case, Mark T’s comment still stands: does this rhetoric make the charge of lying worse or better? Wilson does seem to have charged people with lying, and not just seeing through their paradigm-limited glasses. I am thankful that he has recently dialed down such rhetoric. The internet is far too vitriolic as it is. But has he never accused Scott Clark or Guy Waters of lying? By the way, (totally off-topic!) you might be a red-neck if you’ve ever been accused of lying through your tooth.

Update: See Wilson’s post for his answer, and also my comments in the combox. I have closed this thread. We will move on.

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