Monday, May 2, 2016

Walther to Fonville to Miller - Good fruit comes only from Good Seed...

Thanks to John Fonville for relaying (on Facebook) this great quote from C.F.W. Walther, who
Tinker to Evers to Chance
points us to the good seed of the gospel, Jesus Christ:

"Concern about pure life and not pure doctrine is like a farmer concerned about good fruits but paying no attention to good seed!" - C.F.W. Walther
Walther nails the problem in this one sentence by defining the opposite approaches to battling sin and living unto holiness! In a word, where our concerns are, there will be our focus. 

Some thoughts...
I'm a sinner (unsurpisingly no one objects to his confession). To focus on the task of holy doing, i.e. eradicating impurity in my life (an impossibility for a saved sinner even with the help of grace) in order to live purely is a sure road to either failure and hopelessness or self-righteousness. Why? Because it's based on a wrong belief that in this life I can and should, even with God's help, be able to move beyond the struggle with sin (1 John 1:8). It's not going to happen. To understand that the lack of a 'pure life' in my thoughts, words, and deeds, though self-deflating, is well beyond my earnest efforts to rectify is to acquire a necessary perspective. One that is a reorientation away from focusing on the question, "Why can't I stop temptation and sin in my life?", to one more basic and relevant, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (impurities, big and small, do keep popping up!) - Romans 7:24. In other words, the problem of sin is such that until death it will be with us.  Our fallen human effort cannot eradicate it. This humbling desparate epiphany born of the Holy Spirit, that of ourselves we are not master over sin, is that which God uses to divert our gaze, again and again, from efforts at establishing a righteousness of our own, toward Jesus our Righteous sin-bearer, the only remedy given of God for the impure, who by his blood cleanses believers of the very sins that trouble their consciences (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 9:14). 

So then, is that all there is? Are we to be resigned with living as "in-time-sinners" because we're now forgiven - God accepts me as I am? Yes and No. Forgiveness of sins is at the heart of justification. Saved sinners never graduate from needing the assurance of acceptance with God that comes from that wonderful doctrine of comfort for troubled souls. So as sinners, we should indeed joyfully resign ourselves to that truth. Yet there is more. To know God's "in-time forgiveness" poured out in Christ for our "in-time sins" is then to be led to real "in-time-thankfulness" and a renewed "in-time-desire" to turn from sin to obedience and follow our Lord.  Humbled with refreshed faith, we can then choose the doing-fruit part, not to gain the approval we need, but for that and more which Christ has already done and secured for us. This sanctifying change of heart and direction is not of us, but is wrought by the Holy Spirit as a sinner/saint's faith looks to Christ offered in the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and points us to the forgiveness, cleansing, and righteousness found only in Christ. (John 15:26, 16:8). The 'good seed' Walther refers to and to which we are to focus our attention is Jesus Christ in whom God has accomplished redemption for the ungodly and impure (Romans 4:5), sinners like us. Daily acknowledging our in-time sins and lack of purity with eyes fixed on Christ, God as promised faithfully cleanses troubled and guilty consciences from dead works by the blood of Jesus. He renews a right spirit within us that we might freely choose to walk in a manner worthy of the Savior in this ever-present, ongoing battle. Good fruit comes only by grace through faith in the Good Seed set forth in the gospel (Epesians 2:8-10). How great a salvation - Praise the Lord.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Struggles With Sin No Cause for Distrust of the Savior; Rather a Sign of the Spirit's Work...

Indeed, so long as sin remaineth in the believer, he must, in order to grow in grace, have distress and comfort, either alternately, or both together; to the end that, when he is sorrowful, he may not be cast down too low, and that, when he is rejoicing, he may not be lifted up too high. 
Are Christ and God in Christ, together with his grace, mercy, and truth, as hath been said above, the primary grounds of a saints comfort and hope? I hence infer that, his manifold infirmities and deficiencies, in his exercise of grace and performance of duty, should at no time discourage him. Believer, thy remaining darkness, deadness, carnality, weakness, and indisposition of spirit for holy exercises, should indeed occasion in thy soul, much godly sorrow and self-loathing; but, they should never discourage thee in thy holy endeavours, nor cause thee to despond. They should not make thee distrust thy faithful Redeemer, or doubt of any promised blessing; because thy title to grace and glory, is not founded on thy own performances, but on the consummate righteousness of the Lord Jesus; and thy exercise of hope, should be suitable to the grounds of thy hope. Be not disquieted, then, though thou feelest the corruption of thy nature, strong and active; while thou findest, at the same time, thy renewed nature, striving in opposition to it, and mourning under a painful sense of it. Unbelieving discouragement, arising from a sense either of sins or of wants, of desertions or of temptations, will weaken thy hands, and indispose thy heart for spiritual obedience. It was when Peter began to fear, that he began to sink in the water.
Doth the Lord Jesus, usually afford inward and sensible comfort to his children, about the time of their first conversion? They may see in this, an illustrious display of his manifold wisdom, as well as of his redeeming love to them. One thing that he designs by this, is, that they may perceive as early as possible, the inexpressible advantages, that they have gained by the gracious change, which his Holy Spirit hath produced in them; and thereby be encouraged, as well as inclined, so to run the race that is set before them, as to attain the prize of inexpressible and endless joy, in his immediate presence. For, having marrow and fatness in their Father's house, instead of husks in a far country; spiritual and substantial delights, instead of pleasures that are carnal and empty; they cannot, even at the beginning of their Christian course, but acknowledge themselves already unspeakable gainers.
John Colquhoun. A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Our Disqualification of Sin Is Our Qualification for Grace...

"He came as a Physician for the sick, and does not expect that they should recover their health, in the least degree, before they come to Him (Matt. 9:12 ). The vilest sinners are fitly prepared and qualified for this design, which is, to show forth the exceeding riches of grace, pardoning our sins, and saving us freely (Eph. 2:5, 7). For this end the law of Moses entered that the offence might abound, that so, where sin abounded, grace might much more abound (Rom. 5:20). He loved us in our most loathsome sinful pollution, so as to die for us, and much more will He love us in it, so as to receive us when we come to Him for the purchased salvation. He has given full satisfaction to the justice of God for sinners, that they might have all righteousness and holiness, and all salvation only by fellowship with Him through faith. Therefore, it is no affront to Christ, or slighting and condemning the justice and holiness of God, to come to Christ while we are polluted sinners..."
Walter Marshall. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

Friday, April 22, 2016

Salvation Possessed By Faith - Expressed in Obedience

Some thoughts on faith and obedience and the necessity of both for salvation... It is said that once justified through faith in Christ believers then have a title to eternal life. It is also sometimes said that in order to actually possess that eternal life one must do so by obeying the commands of God. Indeed, obedience is not optional for the justified believer.
Yet certainly some nuance and a careful understanding of this matter is in order so that one not fall into a "get in by grace, stay in by works" theology. Westminster's Larger Catechism Q/A 32 is often cited to show the necessity or role of obedience as the way believer's possess salvation, and that it does, but not as a "get in by grace and then complete the deal by works" bargain.
WLC Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediatorand life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and 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.
Following is a brief break down of Answer 32 into bite size morsels in order to better digest it... (Scripture quotes are those supplied by the divines in the Westminster Larger Catechism). The answer states that

1. God freely provides and offers a Mediator, Jesus Christ, to sinners.
2. God freely provides and offers life and salvation by Jesus Christ.
3. God requires faith in the sinner in order to gain an interest in Christ.
John 3:16, 36. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.… He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 1:12. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name
4. God promises and gives the elect sinner the Holy Spirit who works the required faith in them.
 John 14:16–20. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 
1 Cor. 12:3, 9. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.… to another faith [is given] by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit. Eph. 2:8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...
5. The Holy Spirit also works all other saving graces in the elect sinner including enabling them to a new holy obedience.
Gal. 5:22–23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Ezek. 36:27. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. Eph. 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  
6. This new Holy Spirit-enabled obedience is evidence of a true and lively faith in Christ as well as the elect sinner's thankfulness to God for his salvation.
James 2:18, 22. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.… Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
 2 Cor. 5:14–15. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
7. This God given, Holy Spirit-enabled obedience is the path that God has predestined/ordained them to walk in this life as those who are saved and being saved.
Eph. 2:10. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Titus 2:14. … who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. 
Walter Marshall (17th century Puritan) offers some crucial perspective that I think helps inform how to navigate the requirements of faith and obedience so that we can unreservedly and boldly claim that sinners are saved by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone -
"This persuasion of our future enjoyment of everlasting happiness cannot tend to licentiousness, if we understand well that perfect holiness is a necessary part of that happiness, and that though we have a title to that happiness by free justification and adoption, yet we must go to the possession of it in a way of holiness (1 John 3:1-3). Neither is it legal or mercenary to be moved by this persuasion, seeing the persuasion itself is not gotten by the works of the law, but by free grace through faith (Gal. 5:5)... 
"1. By faith we have the actual enjoyment and possession of Christ Himself, and not only of remission of sin, but of life, and so of holiness. Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17). We live to God; and yet not we, but Christ lives in us by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:19, 20). He that believes on the Son of God has the Son and everlasting life that is in Him (1 John 5:12, 13; John 3:36 ). He that hears Christ's word, and believes on Him that sent Christ, has everlasting life and is passed from death to life (John 5:24). These texts express clearly such a faith as I have described. Therefore the efficiency or operation of faith, in order to the enjoyment of Christ and His fullness, cannot be the procurement of a bare right or title to this enjoyment; but rather it must be an entrance to it, and taking possession of it. We have our access and entrance by faith into that grace of Christ in which we stand (Rom. 5:2). 
"2. The Scripture plainly ascribes this effect to faith: that by it we receive Christ, put Him on, are rooted and grounded in Him; and also that we receive the Spirit, remission of sins and an inheritance among them which are sanctified (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26, 27; Col. 2:6, 7; Gal. 3:14; Acts 26:18). And the Scripture illustrates this receiving by the similitude of eating and drinking: He that believes on Christ drinks the living water of His Spirit (John 7:37-39). Christ is the bread of life; His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. And the way to eat and drink it is to believe in Christ and, by so doing, we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, and we have everlasting life (John 6:35, 47, 48, 54-56). How can it be taught more clearly that we receive Christ Himself properly into our souls by faith, as we receive food into our bodies by eating and drinking, and that Christ is as truly united to us in this way as our food when we eat or drink it? So that faith cannot be a condition to procure a mere right or title to Christ, no more than eating or drinking procures a mere right or title to our food; but it is rather an instrument to receive it, as the mouth that eats and drinks the food."
Walter Marshall. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (pp. 27, 52-54). Kindle Edition. 
[emphasis added]

Bottom line: Salvation is not possessed by obedience after faith, but through faith expressed in obedience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Comfort of Assurance not found in works but in Christ alone...

Some Christians claim that part of the believer's assurance of salvation is to be found in 
the evidences of his obedience. The basis for that assertion, I've been told, is
found in the WCF 18 - Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation. Frankly I don't find it. And I would posit that the measure of our obedience is ever changing, never perfect, and sometimes, due to sin, outright missing. Yet, I would say that our obedience nonetheless can to a degree help strengthen the assurance of our salvation inasmuch as we see even our imperfect obedience as 'fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith' (WCF 16.2) in Christ alone. Let's take a brief look.

WCF 18
Paragraph #1 describes who it is that may find assurance of salvation in this life. It is the true believer. Assurance is promised to those who
 'truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him...' Endeavoring to obey the Lord is a characteristic of a true believer, but obedience itself is not here mentioned as a source or part of the ground of the believer's assurance.

Paragraph #2 states that the certainty of our salvation is 'an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption'. Our obedience is a work that we do and should hardly be included with the 'inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made' which seems to point to those graces such as forgiveness of sins, a new heart and right-will, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that come to a believer through faith in Christ.

Paragraph #3 makes note that one may by justified by faith before such a time as he comes to an assurance of his salvation. But such assurance comes to all believers in due time as they diligently partake of the ordinary means of grace. Obedience is here listed as one of the 'proper fruits of this assurance' not a cause or source.

Paragraph #4 teaches that assurance can waver due to negligence of partaking of the means of grace, falling into sin and temptation, or a season in which God seems removed and far off. Yet this wavering doesn't extinguish the new birth in Christ and 'by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived'.

Concerning this assurance of salvation, John Colquhoun makes an important point. Of believers he writes, 'Their graces themselves are imperfect, and therefore that assurance of sense, which arises from the perception of them, must be imperfect likewise'...
"Although the sight of his evidences of grace, is indeed pleasant to a holy man; yet the sight of Christ in the offer and promise, should be much more delightful to him. Unbelief and a legal spirit, will dispose a man always to look for something in himself, as his ground of comfort; but a holy faith, will have to do with none but Christ. Nothing is such a delight to the Lord Jesus; because nothing honours him so much, as direct and unsuspecting confidence in him, for salvation. Whereas, looking to him, or looking upon him, through one's own graces and frames, reflects much dishonour upon him. The man, who so looks upon him, is like one who sees the sun reflected by water; which appears to move or waver, as much as the surface of the water does."
John Colquhoun, A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sweet Julia Grace...

I wrote this lullaby for my first grandchild in 2003. I'm posting it to celebrate her turning 13. Happy birthday sweet Julia Grace...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Christ our Consolation through Faith...

"Faith, when it is strong, can look through a thick cloud of desertion, and discern the affection of a Father, under the appearance of an enemy.
It is also according to the exercise of their faith, that believers are comforted. If the Christian seldom exercises faith, his consolation is proportionately small: if he exercises it frequently, and rather because it is his duty, than merely because he is impelled to it by a painful sense of need, his holy consolation is, in proportion, great. The more frequently, and simply, he acteth faith on Christ the Consolation of Israel, as the object thereof, and on the good tidings of great joy to all people, as the ground of it; the more, will he have the comfort of being conscious, that he has the grace of faith. Besides, the more cordially and frequently he exerciseth faith, the more of spiritual pleasure, will he enjoy: for, to trust cordially that, Jesus loveth and saveth me, and that, he will save me with an everlasting salvation, is in itself, a delightful, a cheering persuasion. Moreover, faith is the instrument by which, the believer received consolation at first, and by which, he continues to receive it still. It is by trusting daily in the Lord Jesus, for all his salvation, of which, holy consolation is a part; that the Christian derives daily, renewed supplies of spiritual consolation, from his fullness.
"The more frequent, and simple, and lively, his actings of confidence in his gracious Redeemer, are; the more of holy comfort, will he in every time of need receive. To feel comfortable, when he is conscious that, he has clear evidences of his vital union with Christ, is a duty; but, to take his comfort fresh from the fountain, by the direct application and particular trust of faith, is still a greater duty; a duty, by which he glorifies his faithful Redeemer more, and receives an increase of pure and solid consolation. Hence, are these cheering passages of Scripture: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see goodness of the Lord, in the land of the living." "I have trusted in thy mercy, my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation." "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." "Now the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing." "We who have believed do enter into rest.""
John Colquhoun, A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Brazen Serpent - Look to Christ...

Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Numb. xxi. 6 — 9.
"Soul, whoever thou art, that at any time art bitten with the guilt of sin, or by the prevalent working of any corruption; if thou wilt but look up to Jesus Christ with an eye of faith, thou mayest as certainly expect a cure to be wrought on thy soul as the Israelites, who, in looking up to the brazen serpent in the wilderness, might expect a cure to be done on their bodies. Therefore is salvation tendered upon this act of the soul, in looking up to Christ by an eye of faith, " Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth," Isa. xlv. 22
"Therefore, O soul, have a care, thou dost not leave looking up to Christ; there is nothing else will or can damn thy soul, but thy not looking up to Christ, as a Saviour and Redeemer, and resting upon him alone for life and salvation, as one that is "able to save to the uttermost," as the apostle speaks in Heb. vii. 25."
Thomas Worden, The Types Unveiled. Chapter XV: THE BRAZEN SERPENT, ANOTHER TYPE GIVEN TO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL IN THE WILDERNESS 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Comfort of Justification...

In A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort, John Colquhoun presents a truth taught by many Reformed ministers and theologians before and after his time:
"The comfort of justification, because it is founded upon a righteousness which is perfect, and always the same, is more stable and permanent, than that of sanctification. The great things, which believers have in possession, and the greater, which they have in hope, are the sustenance of their consolation. The suitableness of those inestimable blessings to their hearts, together with their sense of personal interest in them, affords them unspeakable joy '. As to their experiences and evidences of grace, these are, strictly speaking, not grounds, upon which they build their comfort "; but they are proofs, of their saving interest in those grounds of consolation, above mentioned, as well as, encouragements to build their comfort upon them; and so, they are matter of consolation to their souls. The most comfortable of the saints; are they who, trusting at all times in the second Adam. as given for a covenant to them, can think of all dispensations, of all conditions, and of all duties, with comfort. They who have the love of Christ displayed in the covenant of grace, most constantly in their view, and most frequently warm on their heart; are of all believers, the most free from perplexing doubts and fears."
More than 250 years earlier, John Calvin wrote similarly in his Institutes of Religion 3.19.2:
Therefore, laying aside all mention of the law, and all idea of works, we must in the matter of justification have recourse to the mercy of God only; turning away our regard from ourselves, we must look only to Christ. For the question is, not how we may be righteous, but how, though unworthy and unrighteous, we may be regarded as righteous. If consciences would obtain any assurance of this, they must give no place to the law. Still it cannot be rightly inferred from this that believers have no need of the law. It ceases not to teach, exhort, and urge them to good, although it is not recognized by their consciences before the judgment-seat of God. The two things are very different, and should be well and carefully distinguished.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5: 1-2)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"It is finished!" Calvin unpacks...

John 19.30 - “It is finished.”
"He repeats the same word which he had lately employed. Now this word, which Christ employs, well deserves our attention; for it shows that the whole accomplishment of our salvation, and all the parts of it, are contained in his death. We have already stated that his resurrection is not separated from his death, but Christ only intends to keep our faith fixed on himself alone, and not to allow it to turn aside in any direction whatever. The meaning, therefore, is, that everything which contributes to the salvation of men is to be found in Christ, and ought not to be sought anywhere else; or -- which amounts to the same thing -- that the perfection of salvation is contained in him… 
"If we give our assent to this word which Christ pronounced, we ought to be satisfied with his death alone for salvation, and we are not at liberty to apply for assistance in any other quarter; for he who was sent by the Heavenly Father to obtain for us a full acquittal, and to accomplish our redemption, knew well what belonged to his office, and did not fail in what he knew to be demanded of him. It was chiefly for the purpose of giving peace and tranquillity to our consciences that he pronounced this word, It is finished. Let us stop here, therefore, if we do not choose to be deprived of the salvation which he has procured for us."
[emphasis added]
Calvin, John. Complete Commentaries, Gospel of John

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Spirit: Comforter and Advocate

"The Spirit, therefore, not only openeth and applieth the promises to the heart; but, openeth the heart for the comfort of the promises; and then pours consolation into it. He comforts the saints also, by enabling them to trust that, in the Lord Jesus, they have righteousness and strength, forgiveness of sins, and a title to eternal life; as well as, by renewing them after the image of the Son of God, and so, uniting their hearts to the holy will of God. The original word, in the New Testament, which we have translated, a Comforter, signifies likewise, an Advocate [John 14.16]. 
One special way, in which, the Holy Spirit comforts believers, is the exercise of his Advocacy or intercession in them. The more they are enabled to pray in faith, the more do they walk in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost."
John Colquhoun. A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort, 1814 

Monday, March 21, 2016

The God Of All Comfort...

All believers struggle at times with doubts and fears pertaining to their standing with God. This often descends upon one as a pall of inward discomfort and guilt issuing forth from no readily discernible source. Other times the source is known to the believer, i.e. sin. Maybe there are duties of obedience that are being neglected or sins that are being glossed over or "protected." Maybe what disrupts our peace are the subtle yet fiery darts of temptation from our Adversary the Devil that we mistake for our own sins. Inevitably though, one begins look within - automatically it seems - measuring, bargaining with God, and adjusting one's self as if to possibly rectify whatever is amiss and regain peace of mind. But at this point to focus on one's self is to look only with the lens of the law as if the law was a friend offering a remedy or power to change. Now this isn't all that odd considering we, by nature, are born under the law as a covenant of works. The promise of the law indeed is "Do this and live!" So understandably one is inclined to run to works and inner renovation (stop the bad, renew the good) as the law's promised road to peace and life. And this might be true except for that inconvenient reality of something called indwelling sin (Rom. 7.21). This legal path therefore leads only to a dead end of frustration and condemnation as one mistakenly looks away from the only source of comfort held out by God to sinners, that of Jesus Christ as presented in the gospel. 

Today and for a time, I will occasionally be posting quotes from John Colquhoun's book, A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort (1814) which very helpfully addresses this normal yet distressing Christian experience. Here is the first installment:
"Peace of conscience is that inward serenity, or tranquility of mind, which arises from the faith and sense of being justified in the sight of God, or of being in a state of union with Christ, and of conformity to him. "Being justified by faith," says the apostle Paul, "we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." The peace, with which the God of hope filleth the hearts of the saints, is peace in believing*...
  • *Luther says, that 'All things come from Christ to his church, in contraries : he is righteousness, but it is in sin felt : he is life, but it is in death : he is consolation, but it is in calamity.' Augustine likewise observes, that 'the Christian's life runs on between these two; our crosses and God's comforts.' 
"When the blood of Christ is, by faith, applied to the conscience, the conscience is purged by it from dead works; and the heart also is, at the same time, sprinkled by it from an evil conscience. The subject of spiritual peace, is a conscience that is purged. Purity and peace are connected together in the conscience; and they are both necessary to render it a good conscience. When the conscience is sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, it is thereby set free from the dread of revenging wrath. The mind is not as formerly, disturbed with alarming fears of God’s indignation, - nor disquieted by his judgments. This is accompanied usually, with a cordial acquiescence in, the will of the Lord, founded on a persuasion of his wisdom and sovereignty, of his holiness and goodness : and so far as a man attains this holy acquiescence in the Divine will, he is secure from disappointment; and free from uneasiness. Now, this peaceful serenity of soul, is the first degree of spiritual comfort. When the Lord Jesus would comfort his disconsolate disciples, he said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in me ye might have peace.""

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Two Justifications for believers? One for our person - Another for our good works?

On the sidebar of this blog is a quote from John Calvin that has caused confusion to some readers. The question that arises is, "Is Calvin saying there are two separate justifications for believers?" That is, is there one justification for the person of the believer and a separate and subsequent justification for his good works? The quote is:
In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works depends on the justification of the person, as the effect on the cause. (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)
Calvin explains from his commentary comments on verse 2 Corinthians 5:10 - [We must all stand before Christ to be judged. Everyone will get what they should. They will be paid for whatever they did—good or bad—when they lived in this earthly body.]
As the passage relates to the recompensing of deeds, we must notice briefly, that, as evil deeds are punished by God, so also good deeds are rewarded, but for a different reason; for evil deeds are requited with the punishment that they deserve, but God in rewarding good deeds does not look to merit or worthiness. For no work is so full and complete in all its parts as to be deservedly well-pleasing to him, and farther, there is no one whose works are in themselves well-pleasing to God, unless he render satisfaction to the whole law. Now no one is found to be thus perfect. Hence the only resource is in his accepting us through unmerited goodness, and justifying us, by not imputing to us our sins. After he has received us into favor, he receives our works also by a gracious acceptance. It is on this that the reward hinges. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in saying, that he rewards good works, provided we understand that mankind, nevertheless, obtain eternal life gratuitously. On this point I have expressed myself more fully in the preceding Epistle, and my Institutes will furnish a full discussion of it.
As shown in the diagram at the upper right, it is precisely because we are justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ (A) that God also justly and graciously looks upon or accepts those works done by us (B), those good works of ours that Scripture defines as good (WCF 16.1) - not for any perfection or merit that is in them but due solely to the forgiveness of sins wrought for us in Christ. The latter (B) flows from the former (A) as a necessary consequence and benefit of our justification. As Calvin notes, this justification or acceptance in Christ is effected for both our person and our works inasmuch as God in Christ is "not imputing to us our sins." Thus God graciously forgives us for those acts (thought, word, and deed), which violate his moral law as well as not imputing to us the imperfections or the remnant of sin, which resides within even our best good works (WCF 16.5,6).