Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Other Worldview by Peter Jones - A Review

Peter Jones’ book, The Other Worldview, was published by Kirkdale Press in June of 2015. Having received a complimentary copy from Lexham Press/Faithlife Corp. it’s my pleasure to offer this brief review.

The Other Worldview, written by Peter Jones, is a sober wakeup call and warning to the West. Chronicling the decline of the Christian philosophical underpinnings of Western culture, Jones documents the resurgence of ancient paganism in modern dress. Indeed, the author frames the situation with the metaphor, “where the dark forces of Sauron have taken power in the once-Christian Shire of Western culture.” If that seems far-fetched to you, then this may be a worthwhile read as Jones makes an effective case. This “other worldview” is what Jones labels as Oneism, a philosophical system which
“sees the world as self-creating (or perpetually existing) and self-explanatory. Everything is made up of the same stuff, whether matter, spirit, or a mixture. There’s one kind of existence…”
Essentially this is a worldview and belief system which denies that there are two distinct realities in the universe, the Creator God who is independent and self-existent and his very dependent creation. This worldview opposing Oneism is what Jones labels as Twoism:
“The only other option is a world that is the free work of a personal, transcendent God, who creates ex nihilo (from nothing)... There is God, and there is everything that is not-God…”
In the Oneism worldview all reality, seen and unseen, is of one unity, that of the creation. There is no recognition by creation of the sovereign “Other.” This is actually fairly standard Christian doctrine as Jones’ notes, taught in Scripture in places like Romans 1. What is new is how Jones frames Oneism and Twoism as today's epic cultural battle. He traces Oneism's roots back to the old religions of paganism and he makes the case that Twoism (essentially biblical Christianity) is the foundation upon which western cultural has been built. The evidence convincingly concludes that Oneism is supplanting Twoism.

To make his case, Peter Jones makes abundant use of Scripture while supplying ample references to and quotes from secular writers/thinkers such as Carl Jung, Saul Alinsky, Deepak Chopra, Descartes, Heinrich Himmler, Camille Paglia to name several. Jones gives a convincing  if not troubling diagnosis of our present western culture. So much so that the reader may feel at times a bit overwhelmed by the reach of this new godless reality as it becomes more and more mainstream. He traces the reappearance of this Oneism or paganism over the past 100-plus years in order to establish that It is now the dominant “religious” belief system animating much of the West. 

Laying out a plethora of historical evidence, Jones contends that the modern day wellspring feeding this new Oneism is found in the teachings of 20th century psychologist Carl Jung. Now that may sound surprising and it was somewhat so to me, even though I had come across Jung in my biblical counseling studies in seminary. Jones effectively unpacks the lesser known but more authentic Jung for the reader, that of a spiritual pantheist whose mystical and philosophical musings are found to be interwoven with various modern movements such as the Sixties sexual revolution, the so-called Age of Aquarius, new age mysticism, yoga, redefinitions of gender and sex and the related redefining of the institution of marriage. In this “new” yet really old worldview all good and evil, all right and wrong, male and female, indeed all creational opposites of importance simple cease to exist as such... defined away. Rather than separate entities or opposing realities they are just various integrated parts of the whole. All is homogenized and accepted as good because it exists. The only wrongs are biblical moral distinctions and the acknowledgment of a sovereign Creator God.

The book is divided into three sections:
Part 1 - Coming Apart traces Oneism’s initial threats to biblical Christianity growing from the 18th thru 20th century, the rise of secular humanism (materialistic Oneism), the promotion of pagan mythology and sexual liberation, and the undermining of the “moral virtues that were still presupposed.”

Part 2 - Given Over examines how what once was a Christian cultural consensus slowly eroded “through secularism, Jungian psychology, the cultural changes of the Sixties, and the appearance of Eastern religions in the West.
Part 3 - Not Giving Up is the wakeup call to arms, so to speak. What are those presently living in the West to do in order to stem this Oneism tide? In general Jones’ answer is biblical Christianity and more specifically the Gospel. The goal is to regain “Christian living (Rom.12:1) and Christian thinking (Rom. 12:2)." And in so doing “gear up for a struggle with a culture under the powerful sway of Satan.” He highlights how parts of the Christian Church have unwittingly adopted some of Oneism’s worldview and practices. And so the call goes out for Christians to wake up and turn back to their biblical foundation. The power for this new living and thinking is nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And Jones clearly presents it as the Truth that counters the Lie, the Good News that is the remedy for the Bad News. 

It’s not entirely clear to me how much Jones sees the gospel as a means to a cultural end, i.e. reconnecting western culture to its biblical moral moorings or, simply that any cultural benefits which may occur are just the possible positive side effects of the Gospel earnestly going forth. To a degree in some parts of the book the former might be a fair inference as Jones’ main concern seems to be that of restoring the West’s traditional worldview. That said, Peter Jones clearly presents the Gospel of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as the hope not only for the declining culture of the West but more importantly for lost souls who need to hear the Good News of forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ in order to counter the Bad News of sin and this fallen world into which all are born. Jones wonderfully writes near the end, “So the gospel is all about God’s work: the forgiveness of our sins and a future life resurrected with him.” Amen!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Justification: Sins of the Elect Imputed to Christ, Christ's Righteousness Imputed to the Elect - John MacPherson (4)

To finish up this series of posts (herehere, and here) on the imputation of the elect's sins to their Surety, Jesus Christ we have the words of Rev. John MacPherson who, in his commentary and notes on the Sum of Saving Knowledge (mid-17th century exposition on WCF doctrines), helpfully defines imputation and further explains what is meant by the imputation of sins to Christ and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the elect for
their justification received through faith...
The doctrine of Imputation set forth in the words on which we are commenting, involves the rejection of that theory of infusion of righteousness to which we have referred. The term imputation, as used in theology, does not mean simply a charge upon or against one, but rather the making of such a charge in terms of law and justice. We speak of the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, the imputation of man's sin to the second Adam, the imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who believe,—the imputation in each case being made in terms of the covenant of grace. Under the express conditions of that covenant, sin and righteousness respectively are regarded as of right belonging to the parties referred to therein. The ground of the sinner's justification is the work of Christ, the merit of which is attributed to us on condition of our believing in Him [see Note below ]. The friend of another man's debtor says to his friend's creditor, put that debt to my account; when this proposal is accepted, the debt is imputed to me, who before this imputation was not chargeable with it, and he who was before a debtor is now in the state of one against whom the creditor can no longer advance a charge. Thus by the imputation of the sinner's guilt to Christ, the sinner who believes is justified.  
That which is imputed to the sinner for his justification is described as Christ's perfect obedience to the law and satisfaction on the cross unto justice. This embraces the whole work of Christ, His active and passive obedience, His doing and suffering, His life and death. Like the changes of state in the believer enumerated in this section, these distinctions in regard to the work of Christ are not to be viewed as successive and temporally separable parts of Christ's life, but as two aspects illustrated throughout its entire course. He suffered in doing and He did in suffering. In His passion, which began in the first stages of His humiliation and was only consummated on the cross. He was not passive in the sense of merely submitting to a superior power : no man took His life from Him, but He laid it down,—not merely suffered it to be taken, for He had power to lay it down (John x. 18). The ground of our justification lies not in the death of Christ upon the cross alone. Christ's whole life of obedience unto death is that upon which we must depend for our justification.
The Sum of Saving Knowledge - With Introduction and Notes, 1871 - by Rev. John MacPherson M.A., page 127 - 128. 

* Note: MacPherson explains what is meant by 'on condition of our believing in Him' on page 66:
But under the covenant of grace, God was dealing with a corrupt nature where selfishness and pride were already present. When faith was introduced in place of works as the condition of the covenant on man's side, there would be a danger of man's regarding faith as a work of his own upon which he might pride himself. It was necessary, therefore, in order to exclude boasting, to show those who are children of God by faith, and to make them remember that their faith was no work of their own, but a gift of God. Now, this is just another way of stating the doctrine of election. Those on whom God bestows the gift of faith are the chosen. It is His sovereign good pleasure alone that determines who are to receive this gift. It is the divine election which is the condition of our receiving His gift of faith. At the same time, so far as we are concerned, God's choice of us in His electing love, can become known only through our possession of that grace of faith which is the gift from God by which all His chosen are distinguished. In bestowing this gift He showeth mercy unto whom He will have mercy (Ex. xxxiii. 19; Rom. ix. 15).

Monday, February 8, 2016

"Sins of the redeemed... imputed to innocent Christ" is the teaching of the WCF - David Dickson (3)

The Westminster Standards do not explicitly use the term imputation when speaking of Christ's bearing the sins of the elect. Yet, lest there be any question as to whether those confessional Standards teach the Substance of that doctrine and was so held by Presbyterians in Scotland at the time of the Assembly, one need only consult the treatise on the those Standards authored by Rev. David Dickson and Rev. James Durham, The Sum of Saving Knowledge. Although not produced by the Westminster Assembly, it was originally published along with the Confession of FaithLarger CatechismShorter Catechism, and Directory for Publick Worship (DPW co-authored by Dickson, see the two historical sketches * below) in Scotland (1650) and more or less consistently well into the 19th century. Here is the relevant excerpt from that work:
"9. To make it appear how it cometh to pass that the covenant of reconciliation should be so easily made up betwixt God and a humble sinner fleeing to Christ, the apostle leads us unto the cause of it, holden forth in the covenant of redemption, the sum whereof is this: It is agreed 
  • "betwixt God and the Mediator Jesus Christ the Son of God, surety for the redeemed, as parties-contractors, that the sins of the redeemed should be imputed to innocent Christ, and he both condemned and put to death for them, upon this very condition, that whosoever heartily consents unto the covenant of reconciliation offered through Christ, shall, by the imputation of his obedience unto them, be justified and holden righteous before God; for God hath made Christ, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, (saith the apostle), that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." [2 Corinthians 5:21]

* #1. Brief bio of Rev. David Dickson and the place held by The Sum of Saving Knowledge relative to the Westminster Standards:
  • The authorship of this short treatise on Christian doctrine, which is made the basis of the following notes, is ascribed to the celebrated Scottish divine, Mr. David Dickson. This able theologian and valiant defender of the faith was born in Glasgow in 1583. After passing through the regular course of study in Glasgow University, he was licensed, and in 1618 ordained as minister at Irvine. Sentenced four years later, because of his opposition to Episcopacy, and especially his bold denunciation of the erastianism of the attempt to impose any form of Church government against the will of the people, to deprivation of his ministerial charge and to exile to Turriff, in Aberdeenshire, he continued his useful labours, aided by the testimony of a good conscience. Returning in 1623, he resumed his labours in Irvine, and much blessing attended his ministry there. In 1641 he was appointed Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow, and about 1650 he was transferred to occupy a similar chair in Edinburgh. He continued to hold the Professorship of Divinity until his death in 1662. Thus for twenty-one years he was actively engaged in the systematic study of theology. He was a ripe theologian and a cultured scholar, according to the learning of his day. At the time when the Westminster Assembly met, in 1643, Dickson, along with David Calderwood and Alexander Henderson, drew up by command of the General Assembly that Directory of Public Worship which is bound up with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms among the Subordinate Standards of the Church of Scotland. In this volume we also find the Sum of Saving Knowledge. In the Act and Declaration concerning the publication of the Subordinate Standards of the Church of Scotland in 1851, in the enumeration of documents, this one is described as 'a practical application of the doctrine of the Confession, 'as  a valuable treatise which, though without any express Act of Assembly, has for ages had its place among them.' It is understood that Dickson and Durham consulted together in drawing up this summary. For those who may be somewhat doubtful as to the effect of strictly doctrinal summaries on the spiritual condition of our youth, it may be interesting to learn that M'Cheyne attributes his first clear perception of the way of salvation to the reading of this treatise. His diary of March 11, 1834, has this entry 'Reading the Sum of Saving Knowledge, the work which I think first of all wrought a saving change in me.' [See Scots Worthies on David Dickson, edited by Mr. Carslaw and editor's note on p. 294.] 
The type of doctrine here presented is precisely the same as that set forth in the Westminster Confession. The editor has in his notes entered into detailed exposition of the earlier sections, where historical references are helpful; while in the later sections, which did not seem to call for such treatment, he has confined himself to short, and purely explanatory notes. (Rev. John MacPherson. commentary and notes on the Sum of Saving Knowledge - 1871)

* #2. The Sum of Saving Knowledge was included in a new edition of the Standards published in 1725. Below is an excerpt from the introduction. Though not produced by the Westminster Assembly,
  •  "the Sum of Saving Knowledge and the Practical Use thereof... for more than Seventy Years has constantly been published with our Westminster Confession and Catechisms. It was never yet condemned, in any Head or Article thereof, by any Church-judicatory; but, on the contrary, has met with such Approbation in the Hearts and Consciences of the Lord’s People, and been so universally received, as if it had been a publick Standard, that now it may pass for such by common Consent; it being A brief Sum of Christian Doctrine, contained in Holy Scripture, and held forth in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms; and will be quarrel’d by none, who hold the Mystery of Faith in a pure Conscience, and go aside neither to the right nor left-hand Extremes." (The Confessions of Faith, etc. - Edinburgh: Lumisden and Robertson, 1725, vi–vii) 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The sins of the elect were imputed to Christ... (2)

... in order that Jesus Christ should legally stand in our place before God's Law and, having taken upon himself our sins (though in his own person he was and is sinless), in order that he would take upon himself the Law's just sentence of death for our sins which we alone committed and which penalty of death we alone should have borne except for Christ, our Surety, who intervened on our behalf. John Calvin elaborates:
"Moreover the kind of death is not without mystery. The cross was cursed, not only by human opinion but by the decree of God's law (Deut. 21[23]). So when Christ was affixed to a cross He made Himself subject to the curse. It was necessary that this be done: that the curse which we deserved served and which was prepared for our sins be transferred to Him, in order that we might be delivered from it. That had been previously done as a figure in the law. For the victims which were offered for sins were called by the same name "sin" [Lev. 4:1-5:13; 16]; by that name the Holy Spirit wanted to signify that these victims accepted all the curse due to the sin. What was done then by representative figure in the Mosaic sacrifices was fulfilled in truth by Jesus Christ, who is the substance of the figures. That is why, in order to obtain our redemption, "He made His soul a sacrifice for sin;' as the prophet says, in order that all the curse which we deserved as sinners, being cast back on Him, might no longer be imputed to us (Isa. 53[10, ii]). The apostle declares this more clearly when he says that "the One who had never known sin was made sin for us by the Father, in order that in Him we might obtain righteousness before God" (2 Cor. 5[21]). For the Son of God, being pure and clean of every vice, took and clothed Himself with the shame and ignominy of our sins and, on the other hand, covered us with His purity. This is also shown in another passage of St. Paul where it is said that sin was condemned as sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8[3]). For the heavenly Father destroyed the strength of sin when its curse was transferred to the flesh of Jesus Christ. It is clear now what this sentence of the prophet means, that "all our sins were placed on Him" (Isa. 53[6]), that, desiring to wipe out the stains of sins, He first accepted them in His person in order that they might be imputed to Him. So the cross was a sign of that; when Jesus Christ was affixed to the cross He delivered us from the curse of the law (as the apostle says) by being made a curse for us (Gal. 3[13]). For it is written: "Cursed be the one hung on a tree" [Dent. 27:26; Gal. 3:10]. Thus the blessing promised to Abraham was poured out on all peoples. Nevertheless we must not understand that He took our curse in such a way that He was covered and crushed by it, but on the contrary, in receiving it He brought it down, broke it, and tore it in pieces. That is why, in the damnation of Christ faith lays hold on absolution, and in His curse it lays hold on blessing." [emphasis added]
John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion 1541 French Edition. Translated by Elsie Anne McKee William

Monday, February 1, 2016

Double Imputation: Christ stood in the place of the elect... (1)

"XIV. Both may be said in a sound sense, viz, that our sins, as many of us as are elect, are ours not Christ's, and that the same sins are Christ's, and no more ours. They are ours, because committed by us, and because by them we brought upon ourselves the guilt of eternal death, and thus far they will remain ours for ever: that is, it will be always true that we committed them, and, in so doing, deserved the wrath of God. For what is done, can never become undone, and thus they are not Christ's, because he did not commit them, neither did he contract any personal guilt. Neither could they become his sins; because the nature of things does not suffer that the same numerical act which was committed by us, should be done by Christ. But the sins which we committed became Christ's, when imputed to him as Surety, and he on account of his suretiship took them upon him, that in the most free and holy manner he might satisfy for them; and they cease to be ours, in as much as for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, we neither ought, nor can, in the judgment of God, be brought to condemnation or satisfaction in our own person on their account. And these things seem so evident to me, that there can be no difference as to the matter itself among the orthodox...
"... as what I say is orthodox: because as Christ representing the person of the elect, was made sin for them; so also on the other hand, the elect considered in the person of Christ become the righteousness of God in him: and because his righteousness is as much their righteousness, as their sins were his sins; both by imputation: [3.] but an imputation so valid, that as he could not but be punished on account of their sins imputed to him, so they cannot but be saved on account of his righteousness imputed to them."
Herman Witsius. Conciliatory, or Irenical Animadversions, p 27, 33

Monday, January 25, 2016

Law and Gospel in Scripture - William Tyndale

The law (says the gospel of John in the first chapter) was given by Moses. But grace and truth were given by Jesus Christ.
The law, whose minister is Moses, was given to bring us into the knowledge of ourselves—that we might thereby feel and perceive who we really are by nature. The law condemns us and all our deeds, and is called by Paul (in 2 Corinthians 3) the ‘ministration of death’. For it kills our consciences and drives us to desperation, inasmuch as it requires of us that which is impossible for our natures to do. It requires of us the deeds of a whole man. It requires perfect love, from the very bottom and ground of the heart, as much in everything we suffer as well as in the things we do. But, says John in the same place, grace and truth is given to us in Christ so that when the law has passed upon us and condemned us to death (which is its nature to do), then in Christ we have grace—that is to say, favor and promises of life, mercy and pardon, freely by the merits of Christ. And in Christ we have verity and truth in that God, for his sake, fulfills all his promises to those who believe. Therefore the Gospel is the ministration of life. Paul calls it, in the afore-mentioned place in 2 Corinthians, the ‘ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness’. 
In the gospel, when we believe the promises we receive the spirit of life and are justified, in the blood of Christ, from all things in which the law condemned us. And we receive love for the law, and power to fulfill it, and grow therein daily. Of Christ it is written, in the afore-mentioned John 1, This is he of whose abundance, or fullness, we have all received grace for grace or favor for favor—that is to say, for the favor that God has to his Son Christ, he gives to us his favor and goodwill, and all gifts of his grace, like a father to his sons. Paul affirms this, saying, He loved us in his beloved [that is, in Christ] before the creation of the world. Thus Christ brings the love of God to us, and not our own holy works. 
Christ is made Lord over all and is called in scripture God's mercy-stool [or, mercy seat]: therefore whoever flees to Christ can neither hear nor receive from God anything other than mercy. 
In the Old Testament are many promises, which are nothing other than the Evangelion, or gospel, to save those who believed them from the vengeance of the law. And in the New Testament there is frequent mention of the law to condemn those who do not believe the promises. Moreover, the law and the gospel may never be considered as if they are separate the one from the other, because the gospel and promises serve only for troubled consciences brought to desperation by the law—which consciences feel the pains of hell and death under the law and are in captivity and bondage to the law. In all my doings I must have the law before me to condemn my imperfectness. For all I do (be I ever so perfect) is yet damnable sin when compared to the law, which requires the ground and bottom of my heart. I must therefore always have the law in my sight so I may be meek in the spirit and give God all the laud and praise, ascribing to him all righteousness and to myself all unrighteousness and sin. I must also have the promises before my eyes so I do not despair—in which promises I see the mercy, favor and good-will of God upon me in the blood of his Son, Christ, who has made satisfaction for my imperfectness and has fulfilled for me that which I could not do myself.
A Pathway Into the Holy Scripture
By William Tyndale (c. 1494 – 1536) 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sanctification (3), "a native consequence of union with the second Adam, of justification, reconciliation, and adoption"

John Colquhoun discusses sanctification in relation to union with Christ and justification:
7th, It is a native consequence of union with the second Adam, of justification, reconciliation, and adoption. — It is a fruit of vital union with Christ. By vital union with him, we become members of his mystical body, of that body to which he is united, as the glorious Head of sanctifying influences; but as the head is holy, the members must be holy also. Besides, they who are united to Christ are in him; but all who are in Christ are sanctified. "To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus," 1 Cor. i. 2. In virtue of this union, the believer lives in Christ, and Christ in him: he partakes of the same Spirit that dwells in Christ. 
It is a necessary fruit of justification, and inseparably connected with it. It is connected with it in the decree and promise of God, in the offices of Christ, and the design of his obedience unto death. When the blood of Christ is sprinkled on our conscience for justification, it has a special efficacy for sanctification. It purges the conscience from dead works, and then the believing sinner is enabled to serve the living God. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." The sprinkling, or application of the blood of Jesus, has a sanctifying efficacy; for it removes the curse of the law which is the strength of sin, and which hinders the acceptance, both of the sinner's person and performances. When this is done, the dominion of sin is taken away: its power and pollution begin to be gradually removed. Hence are these reviving expressions; "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, — that we might receive the adoption of sons, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 
It is also a fruit of reconciliation. No sooner does the sinner begin to have peace with God in Christ, as one reconciled to him, than a way of free communication is opened between Christ the head of influences, and his soul. Besides, the sanctifying efficacy of the blood of Christ arises from its atoning or pacifying virtue, Heb. ix. 14. 
It necessarily follows adoption. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son; that he might be the first-born among many brethren," Rom. viii. 29.
John Colquhoun. Sermons, chiefly on doctrinal subjects, 171-72

In other words...
Union with Christ has the double-benefit of justification and sanctification. But the hallmark of an early modern Reformed doctrine of union with Christ is according theological priority to justification over sanctification, or priority of the forensic over the renovative. Another way to say this is that justification is the legal basis of a believer's redemption. Or still yet, a person can say, "I am sanctified because I am justified." But he cannot say, "I am justified because I am sanctified." - John Fesko. Beyond Calvin: Union with Christ and Justification in Early Modern Reformed Theology (1517-1700), pp 29-30

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sanctification (2), the Work of the Triune God - John Colquhoun

Continuing with excerpts on sanctification from John Colquhoun's sermon:
3d, As to the subjects of sanctification, they who are sanctified are elect sinners. This inestimable blessing belongs to them and to none else. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth," 2 Thess. ii. 13. And in another place, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy," etc...
Thus the whole man is the subject of sanctification. As in union with the first Adam, the old man possessed every faculty and member, so, when united to the second Adam, the new man in his turn possesses the whole. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Thess. v. 23. Though, however, every part be sanctified, yet no part is perfectly sanctified in this world. There is no spiritual grace implanted without having corruption in the same faculty struggling against it, Gal. v. 17...
4th, Sanctification is both a privilege and a duty. — It is a privilege, as graciously promised in the Gospel. " I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them," Ezek. xxxvi. 27. it is a duty, as required in the law. "Make you a new heart, and a new spirit: purify your hearts, ye double-minded." It is a privilege, for it is purchased for us, given to us, and wrought in us by the sanctifying Spirit. As a duty, we study it, and attain to higher degrees of it. We daily receive it out of the fullness of Christ, by faith in his death, resurrection, and promise...
5th, The causes of sanctification are various. — The impulsive cause of it is the sovereign grace, or good pleasure of God, Phil. ii. 13. ; Tit. iii. 5. The blessing of sanctification is of more value than all the treasures and kingdoms of the world, and yet it is freely bestowed. God sanctifies none because of any previous good qualities in them, for before it they have none; but merely from his sovereign grace. Nay, he often overlooks persons of the sweetest natural tempers, and bestows sanctifying grace on the most rugged and stubborn. O the freeness of his sovereign grace!... 
The meritorious cause of it is the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God. "Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate," Heb. xiii. 12. This infinitely precious blood, as it has an atoning, so it has a sanctifying efficacy. It purges the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. — It has also a regulating cause, namely, the holy law. It is denominated holiness, because it has a resemblance to the holy nature of God, and righteousness, because it corresponds to his law as a rule of duty. The instrumental cause of it is saving faith, Acts xv. 9.

6th, It is initial and progressive.Initial sanctification is the same as regeneration, or the renewing in effectual calling. It is the sowing of the spiritual seed of grace, in the heart of the dead sinner. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him," 1 John iii. 9. In initial sanctification, the Spirit of Christ enters the heart with all his train of spiritual graces, and implants them there. He introduces spiritual life, impresses the soul with the image of God, creates new inclinations and motions, or, in other words, forms the new creature. This he does in an instant. How inexpressibly happy is the soul that is favoured with it! In this initial sanctification, the sinner is entirely passive.Progressive sanctification is the Holy Spirit's carrying on the work already begun, till he brings it to perfection. Initial sanctification introduces a perfection of the parts of the new creature; progressive, is the gradual advancing of each of those parts to perfection, till this new creature grows to a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. In progressive sanctification, the body of sin is more and more mortified; the image of Satan is more and more defaced; the graces of the Holy Spirit are gradually strengthened; and the image of the second Adam is more distinctly expressed...
 John Colquhoun, Sermons, chiefly on doctrinal subjects. pp 167-171

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sanctification (1), the Work of the Triune God - John Colquhoun

" By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ -once for all." — Heb. x. 10.
It was the will of God, of God essentially considered, in the Person of the Father, that his eternal Son should stand in the place of elect sinners, and give complete satisfaction for their sins. On this great object the heart of the whole glorious Trinity was set from all eternity. Accordingly, Christ not only revealed but fulfilled this will, in his obedience unto death. Now, in our text we are told, that it is by this will, as fulfilled by Jesus Christ, that believing sinners are sanctified.  By the which will we are sanctified;" as if the apostle had said, it is in consequence of this will and appointment of God, as fulfilled by Christ, that we who believe are sanctified; that we are sanctified not ceremonially, as the Israelites were by the typical sacrifices under the law, which could only sanctify to the purifying of the flesh; but effectually and substantially, in our actual deliverance from the power and pollution of sin, and our separation to the service and enjoyment of the blessed God. The apostle adds, "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." As the sacrifice of Christ's human nature, of which his body was the visible part, was once offered, so it is on account of it, and by virtue derived from it, that any sinners of mankind are sanctified...
I. First, then, I am to speak in general of the sanctification of believers. 
And here, in the 1st place, to sanctify has in Scripture various significations. It signifies to acknowledge that to be holy which was holy before. Thus, to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, is to acknowledge him to be infinitely holy, and to celebrate with all our heart the praises of his holiness. It is to pray as Christ taught his disciples, that his name may be hallowed. It also signifies, to separate any person or thing to a holy use, Exod. xiii. 2. and John x. 36...
It signifies to dedicate to God and his service. Thus the altar, temple, priests, and sacred utensils, were sanctified; that is, were dedicated to God and his worship. In a similar manner, the elect are sanctified; they are dedicated to God; they are a peculiar treasure to God, above all people...
2d, The Author of sanctification is God alone. "That they may know that I am the Lord that sanctifieth them," Ezek. xx. 12. Nothing can be the source of created holiness but that which is uncreated. The sinner himself cannot be the author of it: he can indeed pollute, but he cannot purify himself. The law commands us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to make to ourselves a new or a clean heart; but the law is the rule of our duty, and not the measure of our ability. To sanctify a sinner is the work of God, and is a greater work than to create a world. It is the work of a whole Trinity of Divine Persons. As all the Persons of the glorious Trinity were jointly engaged in making man a living creature, so they jointly concur in making him a new creature. This is effected by God the Father, Jude 1., by God the Son, Eph. v. 26., and by God the Holy Spirit. Hence we read of the sanctification of the Spirit, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Although, in the economy of grace, sanctification is more immediately ascribed to the Holy Spirit, yet this is not to be so understood as if, the Spirit were more immediately concerned in it than the Father and the Son. The powerful influence by which believing sinners are sanctified is common to all the Persons in the Godhead, and is exerted by each of them equally. The one does not accomplish this work by the other, as an instrument. As the Spirit follows the Son in their order of subsistence, so he follows him in the order of operation. As sanctification, therefore, follows upon the righteousness and blood of the Son, so it is, by special appropriation, attributed to the operation of the Spirit, as the Spirit of the Son.
John Colquhoun, Sermons, chiefly on doctrinal subjects. pp. 165-167 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Thoughts on the Law-Gospel Antithesis...

A few things to keep in mind going into the new year... The law, as Paul says, is spiritual (Rom. 7:14). Yet nonetheless, that spiritual law can only direct and tell us our duty while also condemning us for our failures. It provides us no power to obey, thus no way to avoid condemnation. We lack the power or true goodness in ourselves for the required perfect obedience because by nature we are sinners. This is true before regeneration as well as after (WCF 16.5). Lacking the righteousness of the law, we are in need of another righteousness, one not conditioned on our law-keeping.

Looking at John 1:17, the apostle writes, "The law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) It is the gospel which supplies to sinners what the law demands and cannot itself give. Salvation offered to the OT saints was obtained in the promise of righteousness through faith given to Abraham by God, not through their obedience to the law given under Moses. God, when forgiving the Israelites again and again, did so for the sake of his promise to Abraham not the law given to Moses. The law under Moses served to remind the Jews of their duty and sin, their condemnation under the law, and the need for forgiveness and righteousness.

The law-gospel antithesis operated and existed in the OT. Under the covenant given through Moses one of the purposes of the law was to bring a despair to the Jews because of their sin and so drive them to look to the promised mercy of God in Christ. Under Moses that covenant of grace mercy was not given through law-commands (though they attended it), but,
it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation... (WCF 7.5)
All these types and promises lacked in themselves the actual grace to be communicated, but rather pointed to Christ, the substance of the gospel promise. The moral law as found in the Ten Commandments as well as the ceremonial laws were not given in order to remove sin and impart righteousness.

The same law-gospel antithesis exists in the NT. 
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe... (Romans 3:21-22)

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
 Dr. Michael Horton writes in The Christian Faith"The law’s imperatives tell us what must be done; the gospel’s indicatives tell us what God has done..." And,
"The promises of the law depend upon the condition of works,” Calvin notes, “while the gospel promises are free and dependent solely upon God’s mercy.” 

[*condition of works - do this and live **God's mercy - believe and live]

John Calvin expands on the doctrine,
For this reason, the promises offered in the law would all be null and ineffectual, did not God in his goodness send the gospel to our aid, since the condition on which they depend, and under which only they are to be performed--viz. the fulfillment of the law, will never be accomplished [i.e. by us]. Still, however the aid which the Lord gives consists not in leaving part of justification to be obtained by works, and in supplying part out of his indulgence, but in giving us Christ as in himself alone the fulfillment of righteousness. For the Apostle, after premising that he and the other Jews, aware that "a man is not justified by the works of the law," had "believed in Jesus Christ," adds as the reason, not that they might be assisted to make up the sum of righteousness by faith in Christ, but that they "might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law," (Gal. 2:16). If believers withdraw from the law to faith, that in the latter they may find the justification which they see is not in the former, they certainly disclaim justification by the law. Therefore, whoso will, let him amplify the rewards which are said to await the observer of the law, provided he at the same time understand, that owing to our depravity, we derive no benefit from them until we have obtained another righteousness by faith. Thus David after making mention of the reward which the Lord has prepared for his servants (Ps. 25 almost throughout), immediately descends to an acknowledgment of sins, by which the reward is made void. In Psalm 19, also, he loudly extols the benefits of the law; but immediately exclaims, "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults," (Ps. 19:12). This passage perfectly accords with the former, when, after saying, "the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies," he adds, "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity: for it is great," (Ps. 25:10, 11). Thus, too, we ought to acknowledge that the favor of God is offered to us in the law, provided by our works we can deserve it; but that it never actually reaches us through any such desert. Institutes 3.17.2  [emphasis and bracketed comment added]
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Justification of Life is Only Upon the Ground of a Perfect Righteousness

Scottish minister John Colquhoun closes his two-part sermon on Justification with this appeal:
"This subject [justification] suggests grounds of trial. — Are you justified or not? I do not ask if you justify yourselves, or if men justify you; but does God justify you? If you are guilty but of one sin, and have not repented, you are as certainly condemned as if you had been guilty of ten thousand. The chains of natural corruption with which you are girded declare you to be still under condemnation. Now, have you seen and felt yourselves in a state of condemnation? 
"Justification is a judiciary sentence, and before you can expect it, you must appear in court, and answer to your libel. Do you see your want of a perfect righteousness, the insufficiency of your own performances, and at the same time, the gift, suitableness, and sufficiency of the righteousness of Jesus Christ? Do you trust cordially in Christ as Jehovah your Righteousness? And are you humbled for your unbelief? Have you ever been grieved and troubled for the legal propensity of your heart? Is your self-righteous temper a burden, and a sore grievance to you? If so, it is a favourable sign. Do you rely on Christ's righteousness for all your title to eternal life? Believe more, trust more; for they who believe are justified from all things, etc.  
"Let secure sinners consider, that every sermon addressed to them is a summons put into their hands, to answer for their innumerable sins at the bar of that omniscient God whose eyes are as a flame of fire. What consternation will seize you, O condemned and impenitent sinner, when you shall see an infinitely just Judge upon his great white throne; when you shall find a strict law before you, and an accusing conscience within! Like Shimei you have broken through your rules of confinement, and are men of death. Be persuaded that you cannot be justified but on the ground of a perfect righteousness; and you have no such righteousness of your own. Rely, then, for the justification of life on the surety-righteousness of the Lord Jesus, freely offered in the Gospel to you. Renew frequently your actings of faith on Him as your righteousness and strength, and glory in his finished work."
John Colquhoun. Sermons, Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects - Justification, Sermon IX, 162-163

*Earlier posts with excerpts from Colquhoun's Justification Sermon are here and here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Manner of a Sinner's Justification - Colquhoun

John Colquhoun (1748-1827): excerpts from his sermon on Justification -
"IV. Under the fourth general head, I was to consider the manner of a sinner's justification. The elect were justified, 1. Intentionally, or in the absolute purpose and decree of God. It is called "the justification of life." It is legal life, in opposition to legal death under the condemning sentence of the violated law, and as such is a constituent part of eternal life. Now, we are told that eternal life was promised and given to the elect in Christ, or to Christ as Representative of the elect, before the world began. "In hope of eternal life, that God who cannot lie promised before the world began." "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Hence justification, as a fundamental part of that life, was according to the purpose and grace of God, promised and given to the elect in Christ, before the world began. It was promised to Christ their Representative, in their name, upon condition of his fulfilling all righteousness for them in time. Thus on the ground of their federal union with their adorable Surety, they were justified according to the purpose and grace of God, even from eternity. Hence is this cheering declaration, "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all," Isa. liii.6...
"2d, They were justified virtually, in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. — When Jesus died, he died in order to satisfy Divine justice, as Surety of the elect: when he rose, he rose as their Representative, and in him they all virtually arose...
"3d, They are justified actually, when they apply this justification, each of them to himself by faith — "All who believe are justified from all things;" that is, are justified actually, so as to have the sentence declared, both in the court of heaven and in the court of conscience...
"Lastly, They shall be publicly justified at the last day. — Then they shall be solemnly absolved before an assembled world, and have their title to eternal life publicly proclaimed. In that day, judgment shall be passed, an irreversible sentence shall be pronounced on them. On this account, it is called the day of judgment, Matth. xii. 36. In that day, the good works of the saints shall be proclaimed, not as the ground of their justification, but as evidences of their interest in the spotless righteousness of Christ, and of their title to life eternal. This, the sentence of the righteous Judge implies, — "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you..."
"Thus the elect are justified... In the day of eternity, their justification was actually secured; in the day of Christ's resurrection, it was acually merited; in the day of believing, it is actually applied to the conscience; and in the day of judgment it shall be actually declared in the most public and solemn manner. From eternity, they were justified in the purpose of God; at Christ's resurrection, they were justified in the Son of God as their representative; at the time of their beginning to believe, they are justified in the court of God, the court of heaven, and the court of conscience; and in the last day, they shall be justified publicly at Christ's august tribunal."
 -John Colquhoun. Sermons, Chiefly on Doctrinal Subjects - Justification, Sermon IX, 152-156.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On the Back Burner...

1. The way to... 
WLC 32: ... giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.
'Holy obedience... the way... to salvation', i.e. the way by which believers obtain salvation or the way in which believers walk to possess salvation already obtained? I prefer the latter.
"Christ is the way to life, because he purchased us a right to life. The practice of Christian piety is the way to life, because thereby we go to the possession of the right obtained by Christ."  (Witsius, Animadversions, 162)
2. "The law is indeed by itself, as it teaches us what righteousness is, the way to salvation: but our depravity and corruption prevent it from being in this respect an advantage to us." (John Calvin)

3. Christians are forward-looking by looking back... to the cross of Jesus.

4. A wrong prescription always follows a wrong diagnosis. The two may be logically consistent (which makes it seem so right) and yet still be wrong. Get the diagnosis right!

5. There is a Man in the glory, seated at the right hand of God.

6. "Sacred euphemisms" of the experiential-centered-life:
a. experience life
b.  touch the Lord
 c. live in your spirit, not in your mind... (really?)
d. the highest authority is the Spirit within you... (oh my...) 
 e. to share your experience of the Lord...
 f. how to make a right decision... follow the "peace" within you 
 g. to be "blessed" is to be moved emotionally 
 h. Scripture is the Word of God only when "by the Spirit" we experience it so.         (conveniently supports letter 'd'... thank you, Karl)
7. One mark of a true Christian is the struggle against sin, even though it may be occasioned by frequent setbacks.

8. Christians don't so much progress as persevere.

9. "For Calvin the promises of God flow from the covenants of God by which God has bound himself, and the covenants flow from election." (Robert Godfrey, John Calvin - Pilgrim and Pastor)

10. Axiom of linguistics and theology: "A term or word doesn't necessarily have to be present in order for the substance of a concept to be present." (Brian Estelle)

11. Apostolic tradition... Scripture.

12. "God the Son became incarnate to obey as the substitute for sinners, to die in their place as a payment for sin, their propitiation and expiation, to rise from the dead on the third day for their justification, whose person and benefits (righteousness, life, sanctity) are received through faith (trusting) alone in him alone." (R. Scott Clark)

13. "The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. "Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried"--that is history. "He loved me and gave Himself for me"--that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive Church." (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, 29)

14. When moving away from a set liturgy defined by Scripture in favor of the spontaneous  "Spirit-led" form of worship, the church merely moves from one type of set liturgy to another. There is no re-inventing the wheel every week via the Spirit. Untethered from Scripture as a guide, Christ-centered worship inevitably morphs into a "worshipper-centered" experience both in its means and its end. **

15. "And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32).  What was once our disqualification before God's Law is now our qualification for God's grace in Christ; that grace being our sure ground in the Christian-life-liturgy of faith and repentance...

**I know, controversial to many...