Another REC Volume Is Now Available

My friend Rev. Rick Phillips has come out with another volume in the REC series, this time on Jonah/Micah. One can hope that he is planning on finishing out the Minor Prophets. This is his second volume on the Minor Prophets. I purchase every single one of these volumes that comes out.

Romans 4:9-11 Destroys the FV/Lutheran/Anglican/RCC View on Baptism

Proposition 1: The FV, the Lutherans, the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, and the Reformed all agree that the structure of circumcision is basically the same as that of baptism. Yes, there are differences in the recipients (males and females for baptism versus only males for circumcision), and in the mode (bloody forward-looking sign in circumcision versus backwards-looking bloodless sign in baptism). However, for our purposes, it is the similarity of its sacramental meaning that is our concern. As sacraments, circumcision and baptism function analogously among all these groups (though these groups do not all agree on how they work).

Proposition 2: The main difference between the FV/Lutheran/Anglican/RCC view of baptism and the Reformed view of baptism is that, for the former group, the rite of baptism conveys something beyond sign-ness and seal-ness. The language of sign and seal is therefore (usually) interpreted by the former group to mean “convey what it signifies.”

Proposition 3: We must be careful in how we use the term “baptism.” The way we normally use the term is when we use it to refer to the rite of a minister administering the sign of water in the name of the Triune God. However, the term “baptism” can also refer to the entire sacrament. If we remember our definition of a sacrament, we remember that there are three parts: the sign, the thing signified, and the sacramental union between the two. In the case of baptism, the sign is water, the thing signified is the cleansing blood of Christ, and the sacramental union between the two is the Holy Spirit working faith in the individual, thus connecting the sign and the thing signified. So the term “baptism” can be used to indicate the whole kit and kaboodle, including salvation, though not implying by this that the sign causes the thing signified. The sacramental union of the Holy Spirit working faith in the individual is what causes the thing signified to be present. However, this is not the normal usage of the term, and it is not how I am going to be using the term in this post. I will be using the term in its more familiar usage of the rite of a minister administering the sign of water in the name of the Triune God.

The question before us, then, is not whether baptism has any efficacy. All agree that it does. Where we disagree is in the nature of that efficacy, and the relations of the sign, the thing signified, and the sacramental union, specifically, what causes what. It is the thesis of this post that the sign/seal does not cause the thing signified/sealed. This is proven conclusively by the passage mentioned. I will post it in Greek and in my two favorite translations.

Romans 4:9-11, Greek:

ὁ μακαρισμὸς οὖν οὗτος ἐπὶ τὴν περιτομὴν ἢ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκροβυστίαν; λέγομεν γάρ, Ἐλογίσθη τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην. πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη; ἐν περιτομῇ ὄντι ἢ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ; οὐκ ἐν περιτομῇ ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ: καὶ σημεῖον ἔλαβεν περιτομῆς, σφραγῖδα τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πατέρα πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων δι’ ἀκροβυστίας, εἰς τὸ λογισθῆναι καὶ αὐτοῖς τὴν δικαιοσύνην.

ESV: 9. Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well.

HCSB: 9. Is this blessing only for the circumcised, then? Or is it also for the uncircumcised? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness.” 10. How then was it credited—while he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while he was circumcised, but uncircumcised. 11. And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also.

The most important point to notice here is that Abraham had both faith and righteousness before circumcision. If this is true, then circumcision could not have brought about either faith, or the righteousness that comes by faith. The next most important thing to notice here is that both “sign” and “seal” are present in this passage in verse 11. Therefore, neither the sign-ness nor the seal-ness of circumcision brought about the faith or the imputed righteousness. Instead, it was the Holy Spirit working faith in Abraham, which constitutes the sacramental union between sign and thing signified. So, given proposition 1 above, baptism works the same way as circumcision. Therefore the sign-ness and seal-ness of baptism does not bring about faith or the righteousness of faith (imputed righteousness). Rather, it is the Holy Spirit who connects the sign to the thing signified in the believer by bringing about faith. It is faith that is instrumental for bringing about imputed righteousness for the believer.

I can hear the retort already: aren’t you then a Baptist in saying this? On the contrary. I have been seeking to prove that the sign does not bring about the thing signified. I have not been trying to argue that the thing signified has to come about before the sign can be given. I have been arguing instead that the thing signified comes at the time-point of faith, whenever that is. It can come before, during, or after baptism, whenever the Holy Spirit chooses to give it. My target here is those groups of people who want to say that the sign-ness and seal-ness of baptism is instrumental in bringing about what it signifies. I would argue that saying this usurps the position of faith in being instrumental.

Reading the Silences

I am currently reading the third volume of Pauline Theology, the volume on Romans, edited by David Hay and Elizabeth Johnson. The first article is by Leander Keck, and he makes a most interesting claim. He believes that answering the question of what makes Romans tick cannot be answered unless we take into account both what is present and what is absent from the book (pp. 16-17). I really wonder whether this is a profitable approach. Keck spent a great deal of time (pp. 7-16) going through the various literary analyses concerning whether certain passages are genuine or not, or interpolations; a useless enterprise, in my judgment, if one is concerned about what makes Romans tick. For if we ask the question of what makes Romans tick, then we are inherently asking a question concerning the final form of the text.

However, Keck goes on to state the unusual position regarding the silences. I regard reading the silences as a very perilous undertaking. The reason for this is that “reading the silences” attempts to explain why something is not present in the text for the purpose of gaining a greater appreciation of the author’s intent. The difficulty here is that there could be various explanations for why something is not present in a text. How can one be certain that one has ruled out all the various possibilities, or that one has even thought of all the possibilities? Exegeting the text is difficult enough without adding to it the exegesis of what is not in fact there!

On Nineteenth-Century Commentaries

I’ve noticed two things about nineteenth-century commentaries that make me very cautious about ignoring them as most modern commentaries do (with the exception of a very few that are still quoted). The first thing is that they often have a much better grasp of the flow of the book of the Bible than modern commentaries, which tend to atomize the text rather a lot. And yet, the nineteenth-century commentaries are still more up-to-date on text-critical issues than the earlier commentaries (although sometimes hopelessly one-sided!). In fact, the older commentaries require the modern reader to wrestle with the flow a great deal more than their modern counterparts tend to do. I’m thinking especially of the Word Biblical Commentary, which not only atomizes the text in almost every place imaginable, but further atomizes its own understanding of the text, dividing up its sections into text-critical, form-critical, exegetical, and application sections. This drives me crazy, and I know I’m not the only one. D.A. Carson hates it, too.

The older commentaries also tend to require a greater attention span to follow the thread of their reasoning. Modern commentaries are written in the television age. Like it or not, this affects the way that the commentator grasps the text. Now, I am far from disparaging modern commentaries, as some of my persuasion do. I tend to pursue the most recent commentaries as well, knowing that there are things in them that the older commentaries do not have. However, it is amazing to me that the more I read, the fewer new things I find in the modern commentaries that have not already been said.

Also, I find that the older commentaries still say many things that the modern commentaries do not. I say these things to prevent chronological snobbery in either direction when it comes to commentaries.

The second major thing I find about nineteenth-century commentaries is their ability to see the big picture. They are often much more synthetic in their approach to the exegetical enterprise, and as a result, they don’t get lost in the forest. It must be said that these are generalizations. There are a fairly decent number of exceptions on both sides. For instance, there are nineteenth-century commentaries that atomize, and there are good modern commentaries that don’t. Similarly, there are nineteenth-century commentaries that lose the forest, and there are modern commentaries that don’t. However, this is what I’ve discovered in reading them. Therefore, I am planning on reading the nineteenth-century commentaries, so that I don’t fall into the same traps that modern commentaries often do. I have and would recommend Lange’s commentary, the Pulpit Commentary, Meyer’s Commentary, and Barnes’ Notes.

New Book on the Glory of God

This new book looks interesting. If it is somewhat like the first book in the series, it will have exegetical and thematic articles written by a team of authors who share basically the same perspective on the subject, and will be therefore seeking to unite the theological disciplines together in an explanation of the doctrine. I like the premise of the series, and hope it will foster more interdisciplinary studies.

R.C. Sproul Announces A New Bible College in Central Florida

Orlando, Fla. July 19, 2010 Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul are pleased to announce the undergraduate programs at Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies in Sanford, Florida. The founding of this Bible college establishes a premier center for discipleship and for in‐depth instruction and fellowship in central Florida, united around Ligonier’s core ministry commitments. Applications are being accepted now for Fall 2011 enrollment.

“Ligonier Academy is a Bible college for the next generation that offers a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in Theological Studies, and an Associate of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies,” says founder and president, R.C. Sproul. “I am convinced that if you ground students in biblical truth at the college level, it will capture their thinking for the rest of their lives and enrich the church, and enrich the culture in which we live.”

Ligonier Academy will welcome students with a range of educational goals. Some will lay a foundation for seminary or graduate school. Others will prepare for further undergraduate work by first laying a foundation in biblical and theological studies, while some will complete their college education begun at another institution. Still others will seek personal enrichment and development through structured learning opportunities.

Dr. Fowler White, vice president for academic affairs, explains the academic focus. “Our degree programs are designed to give graduates a thorough knowledge of the Bible, a firm grounding in theology, and a conversance with the classic works of literature, philosophy, and music that shaped the intellectual world within which the great theologians of the church lived and wrote.”

The Academy is now accepting applications for its first two‐ and four‐year undergraduate degree programs, beginning Fall 2011. Faculty includes Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. Fowler White, Dr. Keith Mathison, Rev. Michael Morales, and other outstanding teachers such as Dr. Paul Helm, Dr. Stephen Nichols, Dr. Duncan Rankin, and Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr..

Ligonier Academy is committed to the historic Reformed faith as expressed in the solas of the Reformation and in the consensus of confessional standards from the Reformation era. The institution’s doctrinal commitments also include endorsements of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The student body of the Academy will represent a broad range of evangelical affiliations. Ligonier Academy is a natural expansion from the ministry’s nearly four decades of teaching Christians to think deeply, critically, and obediently about every aspect of their faith.

About Ligonier Academy
Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies was established in 2009 to provide a destination for in‐depth teaching and learning essential to Ligonier Ministries’ purpose to equip Christians to know what they believe and why they believe it. Founded by Dr. R.C. Sproul, the school offers a Doctor of Ministry program, two‐ and four‐year undergraduate programs, and a distance education Certificate Program. Ligonier Academy is located in Sanford, FL.

Ligonier Academy can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr. Follow LigonierAcademy on Twitter or become a fan of Ligonier Academy on Facebook.

About Ligonier
Ligonier Ministries is an international Christian education organization established in 1971 to equip Christians to articulate what they believe and why they believe it. The ministry is home to the Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul radio program, broadcast internationally; Tabletalk devotional magazine, read internationally; The Reformation Study Bible with R.C. Sproul as general editor; Reformation Trust Publishing, the publisher of new titles by Dr. Sproul and other contemporary authors and theologians; numerous teaching series, sacred music, national and regional conferences, an extensive catalog with more than 3,000 unique resources online at and the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies, an institution focused on instilling rigorous biblical knowledge in its students.

Reader’s Greek/Hebrew Bible

Now you can have it all in one place. And the combined edition is so much better than the Hebrew-alone version, since the binding is much better (I have never liked two-tone: it doesn’t feel nice in the hand), and the title is on the front. They made the very sensible move of having the Greek NT in the front part of the book, and the Hebrew Bible starting from the back. Furthermore, it is bound in signatures. The only downer is that I don’t like the Greek font much. I felt they could have used a clearer font. Also, the UBS Greek Reader’s Bible has a bit more parsing than the Zondervan edition. Nevertheless, if you want an all-in-one Bible, this is the best on the market if you want to be able to read straight through.

I’m going back to the old template

I just don’t like the aesthetics of the new template that much (and I think losing the numbered comments isn’t going to work, either). I liked the old template better. However, in response to comments concerning the font size, I am going to be changing the font size that I use. In order to be easier on tired or aging eyes, I will use this medium font size. It’s a bit more work for me, but I am more than willing to do that to make it more readable for folks.

Note for moderators: Any future posts you would like to make need to have the code for medium font size around each and every paragraph. You can find the code here. All you have to do is copy and paste the <span style etc., and change from "x-small" to "medium" in the code, and then don't forget to close the bracket with the span closing. *New Edit* I am also using Garamond font. In the example linked, substitute garamond for comic sans ms and medium for the font size, and we’re all set.

Seventeen Points of Denominational Renewal, part 1

Rev. Jon Payne’s motion, which became the Northwest Georgia Presbytery’s motion, which was adopted at our 38th General Assembly, has seventeen points related to true denominational renewal. This resolution passed by an overwhelming margin. I’d like to post a few thoughts on these excellent points. Our denomination has passed it, and therefore we should give it due weight.

The first five points relate to the worship of God. They are preaching, sacraments, Sabbath, the Regulative Principle of Worship, and private, family, and corporate worship of God. Let’s take them one at a time.

Preaching is God’s ordained way of getting the Word to people. The Reformed dictum was that the preached Word of God is the Word of God. This generalization is understood to be qualified, of course, by the caution that the preaching must be accurate to what the text says in order to be the Word of God. Nevertheless, this qualification does not take the teeth out of the equation. This preaching, as Payne notes, must be “exegetical, Christ-centered, application-filled, expository preaching.” Notice that this is first in position, as taking pride of place, as it should. Recovery of this will result in the recovery of all the other points. For the rest of the points constitutes a great deal of the whole counsel of God, which is indeed what should be preached.

Sacraments are efficacious. Notice the presence of the word “efficacious” in the second paragraph. While we will not go Federal Vision on this issue, nevertheless, we need to remember that the Sacraments are ordinary means of grace. What kind of grace is conveyed to worthy recipients is a discussion for another time (it’s been discussed ad nauseum on this blog!). The point is that the signs are not empty signs. In other words, we do need a high view of the efficacy of the Sacraments. We need to use them as God has ordained. It is very easy to forget them, and it is also very easy to use them improperly. The Larger Catechism has a great deal to say about how we should use the Sacraments. We would do well to remind ourselves of these truths.

The Sabbath is becoming much neglected these days. I can hardly count the number of young men coming out of seminaries these days who take exception to the Catechism on the Fourth Commandment. They usually go further than this and deny that the purpose of the day is worship, and not some kind of idleness. I have even heard people denying that work is forbidden on the Sabbath day. Now, some of these men have actually done all the research into why and how the Westminster divines wrote what they wrote on the subject of the Sabbath. However, most of the time, they take an exception there only because it is fashionable to do so, and they haven’t a clue as to why the divines wrote what they did. They have done no exegesis of Isaiah 58:13-14. Therefore, they often have no clue as to why the “no recreation” clause is in the Larger Catechism.

The Regulative Principle is also coming under attack. Our Reformed forefathers would be incredulous, to tell you the truth, at some of the attacks on this doctrine that have come up within supposedly Reformed circles. Outright denial of this doctrine, or complete redefinition, is commonplace nowadays. The Regulative Principle is quite simply this: if the Bible has not commanded us to do a certain thing in worship, then we may not do it. If the Bible doesn’t mention it, then it’s forbidden. While this is stated negatively here, it actually has an extremely positive meaning: we are not bound in our conscience to do anything in worship invented by man. Humanity has no right to bind the conscience. Only the Word of God binds our conscience. Sometimes the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of justification receive so much of the limelight that we forget that the RPW can really be described as the third great principle of the Reformation alongside the other two of Scripture and justification. Probably the reason why it is not viewed that way is because the Lutherans do not accept this principle.

Fifthly, private, family, and public worship of God is what we were made to do. This is our highest purpose in life. It is more important than work, play, entertainment, eating, drinking, sports, arts, education, or even evangelism. John Piper understands this, which is why he said, “Evangelism exists because worship doesn’t.” Exactly. Evangelism exists for the purpose of our being God’s instruments to create worshipers of God. That’s the goal of evangelism. And we need to worship God on all these levels (private, family, and public) because each of these levels defines who we are in relation to God. God’s Word speaks to us on these three levels, and so also must we speak back to God on these three levels.

Part 2 of Dr. Beach’s Critique

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