Friday, December 2, 2016

The Priority of Justifying Faith - Owen

 "Wherefore we say the faith by which we are justified is such as is not found in any but those who are made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and by him united to Christ - whose nature is renewed, and in whom there is a principle of all grace and purpose of obedience. Only we say that it is not any other grace, nor any obedience that gives life and form unto this faith; but it is this faith that gives life and efficacy to all other graces, and form to all evangelical obedience; all gospel holiness and good works presupposes faith as their root and principle: and without which there are no such things. Yet we do not assign to them the same influence to our justification which faith hath, nor indeed any influence whatever. We are justified by faith alone. For no other grace is capable of the office of faith in justification nor can be joined with it, to receive Christ and the promise of life by him, and to give glory to God on their account."
John Owen: The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Through the Imputation of the Righteousness of Christ - Explained, Confirmed, and Defended,  p. 60
[emphasis added]

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Comfort of Christ and the Christian...

Encouraging Gospel words of sanctification and comfort from John Colquhoun.

If you would, read slowly, consider, and take them in...
True comfort, with regard to its object, is a rejoicing more in the amiableness and excellence of Christ, manifested, than in the manifestation of them; but counterfeit joy, is a rejoicing more in the manifestation itself, than in the excellence of the Divine object, manifested.
The true Christian, rejoices most in the holy, and amiable nature of the things of Christ: the formalist delights most in his own pretended interest in those things. That which delights him, is not so much the beauty of the Lord, as the beauty of his own experience. 
The delight, which the believer taketh in the Lord, and in his word, is his chief delight, his exceeding joy. The dearest delights of nature, are, in his estimation, infinitely below Christ, and God in Him. The presence and enjoyment of Christ will, in his esteem, supply the want of all other comforts. But, the chief delight of the hypocrite, is not in the Lord, but in some other object.
True consolation usually accompanies, or follows, godly sorrow for sin; but the joy of the empty formalist, springs up quickly, and without contrition of heart. If the hypocrite but offers to mourn for sin, it will effectually hinder his rejoicing in God. 
The godly sorrow of the believer, will be a matter of joy to him: he rejoices more, when his heart is melting for sin, than he would do, though he had all the carnal delights in the world.
The consolation of the believer is holy: it hath a holy, a sanctifying influence upon his soul. It disposes him to practice willingly and cheerfully, universal holiness. It strengthens, encourages, and enlivens his heart in holy obedience. It invigorates him for it: it excites him to it. But the joy of the hypocrite is unholy: it leaves his heart, as carnal, and his life, as unholy as ever; nay, it strengthens his lusts and encourages him in sloth, and in the practice of some secret iniquity.  
True comfort humbles the sincere Christian, and lays him in the dust at the footstool of a God of infinite holiness, and sovereign grace; but counterfeit joy, puffs up the empty formalist, with pride and self-conceit.
Pure consolation, is accompanied with a constant fear of displeasing the Lord; but delusive joy, is connected with no fear, except that of suffering from him.
Spiritual comfort cannot be maintained, without a holy tenderness of conscience, and a constant struggle against all manner of sin; but carnal and hypocritical joy is preserved, without, either the one or the other.
True consolation, renders every sin more and more hateful; but counterfeit joy leaves the hypocrite under the reigning love of all iniquity, and especially, of some darling sin.
Holy comfort, disposes the believer to the frequent exercise of impartial self-examination; but delusive joy, inclines and encourages the hypocrite to neglect that exercise. 
In a word, True consolation is permanent. It is by the Holy Spirit so fixed in the heart, that it can never be wholly removed; and it is so strong, that it swallows up almost, all matter of unwarrantable fear and grief. Indeed, when the believer hath lost all sight of his personal interest in the Saviour, he cannot, as formerly, exercise his joy in God, and cannot, in such a case, but lose the sense of that joy, even while the principle and habit of it still remain. But, though the hypocrite's persuasion of his pretended interest in the Divine favor, continues; yet his joy ceases: his sense of that interest becomes insipid to him.  
 John Colquhoun, A Treatise on Spiritual Comfort. (pp 33-36)


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Confessing Christ's Righteousness Imputed to Sinners - Justification Received Through Faith Alone.

The righteousness of Christ is reckoned or imputed to sinners, not infused or worked in them, and is received through faith alone for their justification.  Good works done by the believer play no part in his justification. Rather it is Jesus Christ's obedience to the point of death, even death on a cross that is the sole meritorious ground upon which a sinner is accepted by God.
Heidelberg Catechism 60 Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.  
Belgic Confession 22 Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness.  
Westminster Confession of Faith 11.1 Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them.  
Westminster Larger Catechism 71 Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepts the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.  
Westminster Shorter Catechism 33 Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
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Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that having died to sins we might live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 

Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 

Romans 6:1-7 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be done away, so that we would no longer be in bondage to sin. For one who has died has been justified from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more hath dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. [see Robert Haldane's Romans Commentary]

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 

1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 

Romans 8:1-4 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

Romans 3:20-26 For by works of the law no human being[c] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. 

Romans 7:1-4 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Biblical Preaching is Persuasive Preaching (2)...

Some thoughts of mine on the matter of persuasive preaching:
Persuasive preaching seeks to convince not just inform! A battle rages for hearts and souls. 
Persuasive preaching engages Christians, not just the lost, in order that they see their sin and hear afresh the offer of Christ crucified for them in the gospel.  
Persuasive preaching recognizes that the Christian life is a spiritual warfare. 
Persuasive preaching recognizes that Christians by nature do still yield to sin. 
Persuasive preaching recognizes that Christians struggle with their sin and unbelief. 
Persuasive preaching recognizes that Christians struggle with sins in their lives and thus often feel discouraged, even despondent. 
Persuasive preaching presents Christ crucified as the remedy for the sins of not only the unsaved but Christians. 
Persuasive preaching diagnoses sin as a deadly cancer and not merely a flesh wound. 
Persuasive preaching calls for faith and repentance in the hearers. 
Persuasive preaching presents Christ crucified and him alone as the full remedy for the guilt of sin and God's full provision for godly living. 
Persuasive preaching presents Christ's substitutionary-penalty-paying-death on the cross and his resurrection as the power of God that breaks the dominion of sin in believers. 
Persuasive preaching doesn't primarily present Biblical truths for living the Christian life, but rather Christ crucified as the power of God unto justification, sanctification, and salvation. 
Persuasive preaching dares to confront hearers/sinners where Scripture confronts and comforts them where Scripture comforts. 
Persuasive preaching appeals to the hearts of the hearers, believer and unbeliever alike, with the Good News of Christ. 
Persuasive preaching appeals to the hearers, saved and lost, to trust in Christ - "all who labor and are heavy laden." 
Persuasive preaching exposes our lack of trust in Christ, our need of Christ, and presents Christ to us as he is offered in the gospel, the One who is completely trustworthy. 
Persuasive preaching presents the love of God in Christ who died for sinners, believer and unbeliever alike...
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Friday, October 14, 2016

Biblical Preaching is Persuasive Preaching (1)...

Gleaned and adapted from Tim Keller's book on preaching...
Persuasive preaching seeks to convince hearers to put their trust in Christ alone and renounce all trust and hope in themselves. 
Persuasive preaching not only understands the Biblical text, presenting it with a clear theme, but presents it with a persuasive argument that engages the hearer's heart. 
Persuasive preaching presents Christ as the key to understanding each biblical text and also the key to bringing the Word persuasively home to the heart and life of the listener. 
Neglecting persuasion in preaching neglects the heart of the listener and undermines the purpose of preaching. 
Persuasive preaching is offering Christ as a living reality - the One to be believed in, encountered, and embraced by those who listen. 
Persuasive preaching engages listeners' with the truth of Scripture on a level of where they live. Christ is thus presented as coming to them. 
Persuasive preaching preaches Christ from the whole Word of God and preaches him not only to the mind but to the heart of the listener. 
Persuasive preaching presents to the listener the Bible's unique, divine, living power with the Word's own penetrating power (Heb. 4:12). 
Persuasive preaching seeks to change people by not only logically engaging listeners' minds with Scripture's truth but by moving their hearts with the love of God in Christ. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Mere Mercy of God...

The Mere Mercy of God

This calling of Abram is a signal instance of the gratuitous mercy of God. Had Abram been beforehand with God by any merit of works? Had Abram come to him, or conciliated his favour? Nay, we must ever recall to mind that he was plunged in the filth of idolatry; and God freely stretches forth his hand to bring back the wanderer. He deigns to open his sacred mouth, that he may show to one, deceived by Satan's wiles, the way of salvation. 
But this is done designedly, in order that the manifestation of the grace of God might become the more conspicuous in his person. For he is an example of the vocation of us all; for in him we perceive, that, by the mere mercy of God, those things that are not are raised from nothing, in order that they may begin to be something.
John Calvin, Genesis, (Banner of Truth), p. 343

Monday, August 15, 2016

Calvin: Paul says For Believers No other Righteousness but Christ's, Salvation by Grace Alone!

"Hence we infer, according to the reasoning of Paul, that it was not of works. In like manners when the prophet says, "The just shall live by his faith," (Habakkuk 2:4) he is not speaking of the wicked and profane, whom the Lord justifies by converting them to the faith: his discourse is directed to believers, and life is promised to them by faith. Paul also removes every doubt, when in confirmation of this sentiment he quotes the words of David, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered," (Psalm 32:1.) It is certain that David is not speaking of the ungodly but of believers such as he himself was, because he was giving utterance to the feelings of his own mind. Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the Church, (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19.) Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, viz., ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but "by grace are ye saved," "not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians 2:8, 9.)
John Calvin. Institutes of Religion. 3.14.11
 

Monday, August 8, 2016

"He Dwelt Among Us" - Encouragements that flow from the Incarnation of the Son of God...

In part three of his sermon, The Incarnation of Christ, John Colquhoun concludes by unfolding some of the practical comforts, encouragements, and exhortations that flow from the mystery of Christ's incarnation.

"He dwelt among us." The original verb, which is here translated " dwell," properly signifies, He tabernacled, or pitched his tabernacle; that is, he dwelt in human nature among us (p 32).
Now, from what has been said on the whole subject before us, we may see the high honour which is put up on human nature. The greatest and most wonderful work that ever God did was done in our nature. The work of redeeming a lost world was a greater work than the creation of millions of worlds; and yet this most wonderful work was performed in the human nature. If he hath honoured our nature so highly, ought not we to glorify him in our bodies and in our spirits, which are his? Shall we debase our nature, which has been thus highly honoured, by yielding to any motion of sin or temptation of Satan? Should not we employ all the faculties of our souls, and members of our bodies, in performing works of faith, and labours of love, and in maintaining good works?
2. Hence we see, that the law as a covenant of works is magnified and made honourable, in the highest degree possible. It has been honoured with the perfect obedience of a Divine Person in human nature. It is honoured and magnified more with the meritorious obedience of the Son of God, than ever it has been dishonoured by the disobedience of man. Whenever, therefore, the law as a covenant finds its way again into the believer's conscience, and charges him with the guilt of dishonouring it by acts of disobedience, let him present in the hand of faith to it, the consummate obedience and the complete atonement of God his Saviour; let him also, in reliance on promised grace, perform that sincere and evangelical obedience to it as a rule of duty by which he will honour it as the law of Christ. Since the Lord Jesus, believer, honoured the law at a covenant for your salvation, it is surely your duty to honour it as a rule for his glory, and the glory of God in him.
3. Hence learn this sovereign remedy for our having been conceived in sin, and our having brought a depraved nature into the world with us. Our Lord Jesus Christ brought a human nature perfectly holy into the world with him, and, as the Surety for sinners, presented to the law an holy human nature; which holiness of nature is imputed to believers as a fundamental part of their justifying righteousness. He at the same time purchased the saving influences of the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of their nature. This is ground of comfort to you, to whom the sin that dwelleth in you is the most oppressive and grievous burden.
4. Did the Lord Jesus tabernacle among men, and thereby show that he was not to remain long an inhabitant of this world ? Then let believers study to be more and more conformed to him by living so as daily to confess that they are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Let them declare plainly, that they seek a better country, and that their conversation is in heaven.
5. Hence we may see what ground we have of thankfulness and praise to our gracious God and Father. Our nature is indissolubly united to the Divine nature in the person of his only-begotten Son. And what reason have we to thank and praise his dear Son for remembering us in our low estate, and for condescending to be made flesh and dwell among us; and so to unite our low nature to himself by a personal and indissolvable union, that he might lay a sure foundation for the spiritual union of our persons with his adorable Person! 
We ought to thank God for Moses and the prophets, for evangelists and apostles; but, above all, for Jesus the incarnate Redeemer, the Messenger of the covenant, the Desire of all nations. But some disconsolate believer will say, "I ought indeed to be thankful that ever Christ united the human nature to the Divine in his person; but I find it very difficult to be heartily thankful for it. If I where satisfied that I was vitally united to Him as my Kinsman-Redeemer, I should find it easy to give thanks for that personal union; but my fear that this is not the case renders the sincere performance of such a duty very hard to me.
Indeed, if you be under prevailing doubts as to your union and communion with Christ, you cannot be cordially thankful for any thing connected with him. But is it true that you are not united to Christ? Then whence is it that you see indwelling sin so plainly, and feel it so sensibly, as to loathe it, and long for deliverance from it? This must be from the Spirit of Christ. False professors pretend that they see the corruption of their hearts; but that which they see never either discourages their presumptuous confidence, or makes them loathe themselves in their own sight before the Lord. How comes it that you complain bitterly of your want of love to Jesus Christ, and to God in him? Union of affection is a good evidence of vital union. 
If you were entirely destitute of true love to Christ, you would not bewail your want of love to him. And whence is it that you complain to him of your want of conformity to him in holiness, and of the prevalence of iniquities against yon, by which you dishonour him? Is it not, that you delight in his law after the inward man, and long for perfect conformity to it? Credit the reports of sense [feelings] less, and of faith more. Be thankful for the signs of union with Christ which you have, and especially that, by the offers of the Gospel, you are warranted to come as a sinner in yourself, and to trust in him for all his salvation. Let it fill you with gratitude to the God of all grace, that he hath made this your present duty.
6. In conclusion: Let saints and sinners suffer the word of exhortation. As for you who have not only your nature, but your persons united to Jesus Christ, be persuaded, first, to meditate frequently on the transcendent glory of his person. It is the master-piece of the manifold wisdom of God. Devout meditation on this glorious object is attended with many advantages. It is a means of confirming faith, hope, love, admiration, and conformity to the Lord Jesus; 2 Cor. iii. 18. 
2d, Take encouragement in the midst of all your conflicts with corruption and temptation, from that personal union: for so long as it continues, the union between your persons and the person of Christ shall not be dissolved. There is no condemnation to you, for you are in Christ Jesus; and, in union with him, sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law as a covenant, but under grace.  
3d, Study to make a particular and daily application of Christ to yourselves, in virtue of the union of your nature with him; saying, "Spread the covering of thy spotless righteousness over me, for thou art a near Kinsman." What is the reason that little of love, desire, zeal, courage, joy, and holiness, is in many of the saints at this day? They do not, as they ought, appropriate to themselves the person of Christ, nor place the confidence of their hearts in him for all their salvation.   
4th, Did the only-begotten of the Father obey the law as a covenant, and endure the execution of the curse of it in your nature? You are therefore bound to obey it as a rule of life in your persons. His design in assuming your nature was, that he might yield perfect obedience to the law as a covenant of works for your salvation; and his intention in obeying it under that form was, that he might merit the sanctification of the Spirit, to enable you to yield sincere obedience to it, as the rule of righteousness in his kingdom. He obeyed it as a covenant for your justification of life, that you might obey it as a rule for his glory, and the glory of God in him. Study, then, in reliance on his promised grace, to fall in with the gracious design of his incarnation and obedience unto death, in your nature. From principles of faith and love, advance daily in holy conformity to him. Glorify him in your body and in your spirit, which are his. 
As for you, who are not by faith united to the incarnate Redeemer, and have no communion with him in his righteousness and salvation, be convinced of your sinfulness and misery. If the Son of God had not seen from eternity that you are lost, he would never have stooped so infinitely low as to be made flesh. Do not imagine, that because he assumed your nature, you are secured from perishing in your sins. Except your persons be vitally united to him by a living faith, you cannot inherit eternal life. "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Oh be persuaded to embrace and trust in the compassionate Saviour, as he is freely offered to you in the Gospel. "Him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out."
John Colquhoun. Sermons chiefly on doctrinal subjects. 1836; pp 32, 35-39

Friday, August 5, 2016

"Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor..."

"1. He had the curse of the broken law to endure. The apostle Paul informs us, " that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us," Gal. iii. 13. As the people in whose room Christ undertook to serve, were all by nature under the curse in consequence of transgression, it was an article in the contract of service between the Father and him, that he should, both in their nature and their stead, bear the curse due to them for sin. No sooner, therefore, did he partake of human nature, than the curse seized upon him. That dreadful curse which would have sunk a whole elect world to the lowest hell, he began at his incarnation to bear, and he bore it all the time of his humiliation, till at last it brought him to the dust of death. Hence we read, that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and that he at last began to be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. We read also, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor; for as the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow, so his curse is sufficient to render a man poor. This, then, was an article inexpressibly arduous; it was beyond the power of any of the children of Adam to accomplish it, and yet it was but little in comparison of the other parts of service assigned to Christ.
John Colquhoun. Sermons, chiefly on doctrinal subjects. 1836: "On The Incarnation Of Christ" p 44

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Calvin: Law/Gospel Antithesis...

"To justify therefore, is nothing else than to acquit from the charge of guilt, as if innocence were proved. Hence, when God justifies us through the intercession of Christ, he does not acquit us on a proof of our own innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness, so that though not righteous in ourselves, we are deemed righteous in Christ. Thus it is said, in Paul's discourse in the Acts, "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses," (Acts 13:38, 39.) You see that after remission of sins justification is set down by way of explanation; you see plainly that it is used for acquittal; you see how it cannot be obtained by the works of the law; you see that it is entirely through the interposition of Christ; you see that it is obtained by faith; you see, in fine, that satisfaction intervenes, since it is said that we are justified from our sins by Christ. Thus when the publican is said to have gone down to his house "justified," (Luke 18:14) it cannot be held that he obtained this justification by any merit of works. All that is said is, that after obtaining the pardon of sins he was regarded in the sight of God as righteous. He was justified, therefore, not by any approval of works, but by gratuitous acquittal on the part of God. Hence Ambrose elegantly terms confession of sins "legal justification," (Ambrose on Psalm 118 Serm. 10)."
John Calvin. Institutes of Religion. 3.11.3

Sunday, July 31, 2016

When the Law Speaks, When the Gospel Speaks...

Edward Fisher: The Marrow of Modern Divinity
“Briefly, then, if we would know when the law speaks, and when the gospel speaks, either in reading the word, or in hearing it preached; and if we would skillfully distinguish the voice of the one from the voice of the other, we must consider:— 
The law says, ‘Thou art a sinner, and therefore thou shalt be damned,’ (Rom 7:2, 2 Thess 2:12). But the gospel says, No; ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'; and therefore, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (1 Tim 1:15, Acts 16:31). 
Again the law says, ‘Knowest thou not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; be not deceived,’ &c. (1 Cor 6:9). And therefore thou being a sinner, and not righteous, shalt not inherit the kingdom of God. But the gospel says, ‘God has made Christ to be sin for thee who knew no sin; that thou mightest be made the righteousness of God in him, who is the Lord thy righteousness,’ (Jer 23:6). 
Again the law says, ‘Pay me what thou owest me, or else I will cast thee into prison,’ (Matt 18:28,30). But the gospel says, ‘Christ gave himself a ransom for thee,’ (1 Tim 2:6); ‘and so is made redemption unto thee,’ (1 Cor 1:30). 
Again the law says, ‘Thou hast not continued in all that I require of thee, and therefore thou art accursed,’ (Deut 27:6). But the gospel says, ‘Christ hath redeemed thee from the curse of the law, being made a curse for thee,’ (Gal 3:13). 
Again the law says, ‘Thou are become guilty before God, and therefore shalt not escape the judgment of God,’ (Rom 3:19, 2:3). But the gospel says, ‘The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son,’ (John 5:12).”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Preaching the Person of Jesus Christ Himself" - Sinclair Ferguson

"Who is the Christ who IS the gospel, and how is he equipped to save us?" [23]
Footnote [23] - As a codicil to this comment, we should also notice that knowing how to"preach Christ from the Old Testament," or understanding biblical theology, or seeing the flow of redemptive history, or knowing how to get to Christ from any part of the Scriptures does not necessarily result in actually preaching the person of Jesus Christ himself. Seeing Christ as the solution to a series of clues embedded in the Old Testament is not actually the same as proclaiming Jesus himself, in our flesh, bearing our sins, dying our death, and rising for our justification. A formula for preaching Christ is not identical to the persona of Christ, and we must never confuse hermeneutical principles with Christ himself. The former did not die for us on the cross; the latter did.
 "If we are slow to grasp the distinction, its significance can be illustrated by reflecting on contemporary evangelical preaching and writing. Wherever the benefits of Christ are seen as abstractable from Christ himself, there is a decreasing stress on his person and work in preaching and in the books that are published to feed that preaching. This is accompanied by an increased stress on our experience of salvation rather than on the grace, majesty, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Is it possible that most preachers reading these pages own more books on preaching (and even preaching Christ) than they own on Christ himself?

"If that is true (a survey would certainly be illuminating), we should probably ask a further question: Is it obvious to me, and of engrossing concern, that the chief focus, the dominant note in the sermons I preach (or hear), is "Jesus Christ and him crucified"? Or is the dominant emphasis (and perhaps the greatest energies of the preacher?) focused somewhere else, perhaps on how to overcome sin, or how to live the Christian life, or on the benefits to be received from the gospel? All are legitimate emphases in their place, but that place is never center stage. The same question can be asked more starkly in our techno-sermon age when many Christians listen not only to preaching in their own church but to their "favorite" preachers in the contemporary galaxy. Is the dominant theme, the lasting impression, the most natural word association, in relation to the preaching I hear "Jesus Christ and him crucified" -- or something else?"

The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson, pp 49-50

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Heart Experience of a Pastor

"3. Another thing required for this is, experience of the power of the things we preach to others. I think, truly, that no man preaches a sermon well to others who does not first preach it to his own heart. If someone does not feed on, digest, and thrive by what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison as far as he knows; for unless he finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach, is nothing more than to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach, is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before (in preparing our minds and hearts), and in delivering them so that we may benefit; and to be presented with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week, and not have his heart engaged once. This has lost us powerful preaching in the world and set up quaint orations instead; for such men never seek the experience of it in their own hearts. And so it has come to pass that some men’s preaching, and some men’s not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry. Though there be twenty or thirty thousand preachers, the nation perishes for lack of knowledge, and it is overwhelmed by all kinds of sins, and it is not delivered from them to this day."
Excerpt from The Duty of a Pastor (1682) - John Owen


Monday, July 4, 2016

Fesko on the Abrogation of the Covenant of Works...

"Simply stated, Venema believes the covenant of works is abrogated, and I do not. The promise of the law still Stands and functions, and has been unchanged by the entrance of sin into the world. That is, if you perfectly obey the law of God you will live and have eternal life. The law has not changed, and neither has the promise appended to it. Rather, what has changed is that human­ity has fallen and is unable to fulfill the requirements of the law. The defect, therefore, is with man, not with the law (Rom. 7:12; 8:3). To say, then, that the covenant of works is abrogated, fails to consider that its prom­ises and curses still hang over humanity, and the only way to be delivered from them is through faith alone in Christ. Jesus delivers sinners from the moral law as a covenant of works. This State of affairs is true now and was also true for believers in the Old Testament."
J.V. Fesko, The Confessional Presbyterian, Volume 9, 2013
[HT - John Fonville]

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Past Racism Imputed to the PCA?

I notice that the upcoming 2016 General Assembly for the PCA has somewhere in the neighborhood of forty overtures (see also here and here) expressing some form of condemnation, confession and repentance for what I'm calling the "institutional sin of perceived past church racism." Was there a judicial finding? And apparently quite a number of presbyteries want in on this. And it's all the more amazing given that the PCA only came into existence in 1973! It's kind of like looking into one's ancestry and finding that your great, great, great uncle was a slave holder. Your family is horrified and thus feels compelled that they should personally take responsibility not for any present overt sin of slave holding but those of the ancestor which through the magic of DNA has been imputed to the family through the bloodline. 

I'm sure much if not all of this is born of good intentions. Yet, it causes one to ask what's going on and whether it is indeed a good thing. From 76 years ago, C. S. Lewis offered some thoughts on matters like this...
Young Christians especially last-year undergraduates and first-year curates are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done? 
If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. 
When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’ 

C.S. “Jack” Lewis, “Dangers of National Repentance,” The Guardian, 15 March 1940!Cited from God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 189.

(HT from a PCA Christian]