Monday, January 16, 2017

Calvin: The Confession of Sins and The Right Hand that Rescues...

How are we forgiven of our sins? Or put another way, what is entailed in the confession of
our sins that effects our pardon? We have been addressing this topic of confession (Here and Here) by highlighting John Calvin's thoughts on the matter. In the passaged below, Calvin refutes the Roman Catholic teaching of the requirement to confess (list) all of one's sins to a priest in order to be forgiven of those sins. 
As for the fact that they impose a law of listing all sins and they deny that sins can be forgiven unless one has the firm intention of confessing; and they say that the entrance to paradise is closed to those who have scorned the opportunity to confess: those things must not be tolerated at all.
How is this not a sort of "forgiveness through works?" The question isn't whether Christians should or shouldn't confess individual sins. But to focus solely on specific sins is to miss the core corruption which is us, the sinner who sins, the sinner who deceives himself, the sinner who is all too blind to his own weaknesses and trespasses of the moral law. 
For how do they think one can list all sins? Since David who, I believe, had very well thought about the confession of his sins beforehand, nevertheless could not do otherwise than cry: "Who grasps his sins? Lord, purify me of my secret sins!" (Ps. 19:12). In another place he says: "My iniquities have gone over my head, and have overwhelmed my strength like a heavy burden" (Ps. 38:4). Certainly he understood how great was the abyss of our sins and how many kinds of crimes there are in a person, how many heads this monster of sin has, and how long a tail he pulls behind hind him. He did not set himself then to make a full recounting, but from the depth of his sins he cried to God: "I am submerged, buried, suffocated, the doors of hell have closed around me; let your right hand draw me out of this pit in which I am drowning, and from this death into which I have fallen!" Who now will think that he can keep account of his sins, when he sees David could not discover the number of his?... 
... For in occupying themselves completely with listing their sins, they meanwhile forget the secret abyss of vice which they have in the depth of the heart, their inward iniquities and hidden filth. In order to have the knowledge of the latter they have to think chiefly about their wretchedness. On the contrary, this is the right rule of confession: to confess and recognize such an abyss of evil in us as overwhelms our senses. We see that the confession of the publican was composed in that form: "Lord, be favorable to me, a sinner" (Lk. 18:13), as if he said: "All that is in me is only sin, such that my thought and my tongue cannot grasp the greatness of it. So let the abyss of your mercy swallow up the abyss of my sins!" [emphasis added]
- John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion: The First English Version of the 1541 French Edition
"Let your right hand..." One can easily overlook this phrase employed by Calvin. Yet to do so would miss the import of his final sentence, So let the abyss of your mercy swallow up the abyss of my sins! In Scripture and especially the Psalms the right hand of God is a metonym for the mercy and authority of God, i.e. the Messiah (Psalm 17:7; 18:35; 60:5; 63:8; 108:6; 138:7; 139:10). It is by and in the Messiah Jesus Christ that God pardons sinners. It is Christ who offered himself up once for sins who is the abyss of God's mercy, who alone provides complete cleansing of the sinner and all his sins (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12) - known or unknown - which mercy is received freely by all who look to him. As the New Testament writers teach, this Jesus Christ is now at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. He has been given all power and authority (Matthew 28:18) and he is the Savior of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). By faith let us flee to him...

Friday, January 13, 2017

Confess Your Sins to One Another...

Our topic is confession of sins and forgiveness which began with Calvin's encouragement to readily come to Jesus Christ who is our Physician in order to find healing for our infirmities, peace for our troubled consciences from the guilt of our sins. Christ shed his blood for this very purpose. But is private confession made alone to God the only kind of confession of sins? A while back, my wife observed that one never feels more like a Christian than when he or she has confessed their sin to and asked for forgiveness from someone they've offended. Amen. All who have done this know the difficulty with which this is accomplished, one involving the struggle against our stubborn pride and self-justifying rationalizations. Yet when we follow through - as James writes, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed - we find ourselves refreshingly humbled and renewed, having arrived at a simple and godly stance - that of thankful, forgiven sinners at the foot of the cross, resting solely in Jesus's sacrifice for us. Calvin continues...
Moreover, scripture commends to us two other kinds of confession. One is made for our own sake. That is what St. James' saying is directed toward, that we confess our sins to each other (Jas. 5:16). For he means that, making known our weaknesses to each other, we may mutually help each other with counsel and comfort. The other kind of confession is done for the love of our neighbor who has been offended by our sin, to reconcile and find peace with him. Christ speaks about that in St. Matthew, saying: "If you present your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there and go, reconcile yourself with your brother first, and then you will present your offering" (Matt. 5:23-24). For we must reunite love/charity, which has been cooled and weakened by our offense, by recognizing our sin and asking for pardon. 
As for the first kind of confession, although scripture does not assign a person to whom we may unburden ourselves and leaves us free to choose among the faithful whoever seems good to us as the one to hear our confession, nevertheless because pastors ought to be fitting above others for that, it is better for us to go instead to them. Now I say that they are more suitable than others since, on account count of their office they are established by God to instruct us how to overcome come sin, and to certify God's goodness in order to comfort us. That is why, when he feels in such perplexity of conscience that he cannot help himself without the help of another, let each faithful person prudently not neglect the remedy which he is offered by God; that is, in order to relieve and free himself from scruples let him confess individually to his pastor and receive comfort from him, since it is the pastor's office to comfort God's people with the teaching of the gospel individually as well as in public. However, we must always hold to this mean: that consciences must not be bound and brought under some yoke with regard to things which God has left free.John Calvin. The Institutes of Christian Religion, The First English Version of the 1541 French Edition
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

Isaiah 55:6-7

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

'As For The Confession of Sins...' - Calvin

There are so many admonitions in the Bible for Christians to confess their sins. Certainly one of the reasons is that we don't readily do so, no? There is this inherent stubborn resistance we find within to readily humble ourselves and not only confess individual sins by name, but also own and present ourselves before our Lord as rebellious and unfaithful servants. For us he died and yet we all too often callously sin, that is we reject the righteousness that Christ won for us.

Below is John Calvin on the confession of sins: to whom and in what manner we confess. As is always the case, there is much to mine in this short excerpt. But one major take away is Calvin's pastoral call for the redeemed to avail themselves of the blood of Christ shed for them for forgiveness of sins and cleansing of troubled consciences.
"As for the confession of sins, scripture teaches us thus: because it is the Lord who forgives, forgets, and wipes out sins, let us confess to Him to obtain grace and pardon. He is the Physician so let us show Him our wounds and sores. It is He who has been offended and wounded so let us ask of Him mercy and peace. It is He who knows the hearts and sees all the thoughts so let us open our hearts before Him. It is He who calls sinners so let us withdraw to Him. 
"David says: "I have made known to you my sin and I have not hidden my iniquity. I said, `I will confess against myself, I will confess my unrighteousness to the Lord, and you have pardoned the iniquity of my heart"' (Ps. 32:5). Another confession of the same David is similar: "Have pity on me, Lord, according to your great mercy" (Ps. 51:1). Such is likewise the confession of Daniel: "We have sinned, Lord, we have done what is perverse, we have committed impiety and have rebelled against your commandments" (Dan. 9:5). There are enough other similar ones which are seen in scripture. "If we confess our sins;' says St. John, "the Lord is faithful to pardon us" (1 Jn. 1:9).  
"To whom do we confess them? To Him certainly. That is, if with an afflicted and humbled heart we bow ourselves before Him; if in true sincerity, rebuking and condemning ourselves before His face, we ask to be absolved by His goodness and mercy. Whoever makes this confession of heart before God will also no doubt have a tongue ready to confess, when there is need to proclaim God's mercy among the people. And this not only to disclose the secret of his heart to a single person, once, in the ear, but freely to make known his poverty as well as God's glory, more than a few times, publicly and with all the world hearing. In this way, after having been rebuked by Nathan and being pierced with a goad of conscience, David confessed his sin before God and before people. He says: "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Sam. 12:13), that is, "I do not want to excuse myself anymore, or equivocate so that everyone will not judge me to be a sinner, or so that what I wanted to hide from God might not be clear even to people." This is the way we must take the solemn confession which is made by the whole people at the admonition of Nehemiah and Ezra [Ezra 10:1-17; Neh. 9:1-37]. All churches ought to follow this example when they ask pardon from God, as is certainly the custom among churches which are well ordered." [emphasis added]
John Calvin. The Institutes of Christain Religion, The First English Version of the 1541 French Edition 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Covenant Children Born Condemned?

"To the understanding of this subject, there is no necessity for an anxious discussion, (which in no small degree perplexed the ancient doctors), as to whether the soul of the child comes by transmission from the soul of the parent. It should be enough for us to know that Adam was made the depository of the endowments which God was pleased to bestow on human nature, and that, therefore, when he lost what he had received, he lost not only for himself but for us all. Why feel any anxiety about the transmission of the soul, when we know that the qualities which Adam lost he received for us not less than for himself, that they were not gifts to a single man, but attributes of the whole human race? There is nothing absurd, therefore, in the view, that when he was divested, his nature was left naked and destitute that he having been defiled by sin, the pollution extends to all his seed. Thus, from a corrupt root corrupt branches proceeding, transmit their corruption to the saplings which spring from them. The children being vitiated in their parent, conveyed the taint to the grandchildren; in other words, corruption commencing in Adam, is, by perpetual descent, conveyed from those preceding to those coming after them. The cause of the contagion is neither in the substance of the flesh nor the soul, but God was pleased to ordain that those gifts which he had bestowed on the first man, that man should lose as well for his descendants as for himself. 
"The Pelagian cavil, as to the improbability of children deriving corruption from pious parents, whereas, they ought rather to be sanctified by their purity, is easily refuted. Children come not by spiritual regeneration but carnal descent. Accordingly, as Augustine says, "Both the condemned unbeliever and the acquitted believer beget offspring not acquitted but condemned, because the nature which begets is corrupt." Moreover, though godly parents do in some measure contribute to the holiness of their offspring, this is by the blessing of God; a blessing, however, which does not prevent the primary and universal curse of the whole race from previously taking effect. Guilt is from nature, whereas sanctification is from supernatural grace.""
 John Calvin. Institutes of Christian Religion

God Made Favorable To Us - John Calvin

In his exposition on the Apostles' Creed, John Calvin lays emphasis on a gospel truth not often highlighted - that 'God has been made favorable to us' - rather than the reciprocal
truth of we made favorable to God. Calvin extends this marker by stating that 'Christ earned for us God's good will in which lies the principle guarantee and confidence of our life.' Is this a mere rhetorical flare by Calvin? Or is he underlining that God's acceptance of forgiven sinners is not that of a reluctant Judge, but of a loving Father. Believers, often burdened and discouraged by their less than victorious efforts in fighting sin, all too easily lose sight of God's sure and steadfast love sealed for them in the reconciliation that Christ has won. It is not just that we, by the blood of Christ, have been made minimally acceptable to God, slipping in the door of heaven as it were. But by the finished work of our savior Jesus Christ God himself has been made favorable to us! His is a willing and unhesitant embracing of blood-washed sinners for Christ's sake. And that they, now seeing God as their heavenly Father, would then likewise be so bold as to embrace him as his beloved sons and daughters. God was moved by his great love to offer up his own dear son Jesus Christ for us in order that we would not only be reconciled to him but that he would be reconciled to us! Amazing grace...
That is why, when it is a question of seeking reassurance of salvation, we must come to this redemption by which God has been made favorable to us, the opening which has been made for us in heaven, and the righteousness which has been obtained for us. For scripture does not teach anything more often than this: that by the power of His sacrifice, Christ earned for us God's good will in which lies the principal guarantee and confidence of our life; that the filth and stains of our sins (by which God's will is turned away and alienated from us) have been washed and cleansed by His blood, as the saying of St. John indicates, that His blood purifies us of all sins (1 Jn. 1:7). Here, then, is the summary of our redemption: that, being delivered from the bonds of sin by Christ's satisfaction, we are restored to righteousness and holiness and reconciled to God who does not hate anything in us except our sin.
John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion: The First English Version of the 1541 French Edition 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Helps in Understanding Baptism in Romans Chapter Six

To understand Paul's use of the word baptism involves not only understanding covenantally what is meant by 'union.', but also the significant difference between a sacrament as a sign - that which signifies a truth that itself is not - and the reality that the sign itself represents and points to. In a word, the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper are not the actual body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ but signify them. And the water of baptism is not that which actually cleanses from sin nor is it the agent of spiritual union with Christ but represents those blessings bestowed by Christ himself through the Spirit on his elect in the office of baptizer of his people (Matthew 3:11). Speaking of the sacraments, Augustine wrote, "For they be signs of things, being one thing, and signifying another."

Robert Haldane's Romans Commentary, Chapter 6 -
Ver. 3. Know ye not, that so many of was were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death? 
In the verse before us, the Apostle proves that Christians are dead to sin, because they died with Christ. The rite of baptism exhibits Christians as dying, as buried, and as risen with Christ. Know ye not. He refers to what he is now declaring as a thing well known to those whom he addresses. Baptized into Jesus Christ. By faith believers are made one with Christ: they become members of His body. This oneness is represented emblematically by baptism. Baptized into His death. In baptism, they are also represented as dying with Christ. This rite, then, proceeds on the fact that they have died with Him who bore their sins. Thus the satisfaction rendered to the justice of God by Him, is a satisfaction from them, as they are constituent parts of His body. The believer is one with Christ as truly as he was one with Adam — he dies with Christ as truly as he died with Adam. Christ’s righteousness is his as truly as Adam’s sin was his. By a Divine constitution, all Adam’s posterity are one with him, and so his first sin is really and truly theirs. By a similar Divine constitution, all Christ’s people are one with Him, and His obedience is as truly theirs as if they had yielded it, and His death as if they had suffered it. When it is said that Christians have died with Christ, there is no more figure than when it is said that they have died in Adam. 
The figure of baptism was very early mistaken for a reality, and accordingly some of the fathers speak of the baptized person as truly born again in the water. They supposed him to go into the water with all his sins upon him, and to come out of it without them. This indeed is the case with baptism figuratively. But the carnal mind soon turned the figure into a reality. It appears to the impatience of man too tedious and ineffectual a way to wait on God’s method of converting sinners by His Holy Spirit through the truth, and therefore they have effected this much more extensively by the performance of external rites. When, according to many, the rite is observed, it cannot be doubted that the truth denoted by it has been accomplished. The same disposition has been the origin of Transubstantiation. The bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper are figuratively the body and blood of Christ; but they have been turned into the real body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord, and the external rite has become salvation. 
So many of us. This does not imply that any of those to whom the Apostle wrote were not baptized, for there could be no room for such a possibility. It applies to the whole of them, as well as to himself, and not merely to a part. It amounts to the same thing as if it had been said, ‘We who were baptized;’ as in <440324>Acts 3:24, ‘As many as have spoken,’ that is, all who have spoken, for all the Prophets spoke.  
Ver. 4. Therefore we are buried with him baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 
The death of Christ was the means by which sin was destroyed, and His burial the proof of the reality of His death. Christians are therefore represented as buried with Him by baptism into His death, in token that they really died with Him; and if buried with Him, it is not that they shall remain in the grave, but that, as Christ arose from the dead, they should also rise. Their baptism, then, is the figure of their complete deliverance from the guilt of sin, signifying that God places to their account the death of Christ as their own death: it is also a figure of their purification and resurrection for the service of God. 

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Michael Horton's Systematic Theology, The Christian Fatih.
This means that union with Christ is a soteriological category. However true it may be that all creatures exist in analogical dependence on God’s being, the Spirit communicates Christ’s eschatological righteousness and life, not the divine essence, to believers. Paul explains in Romans 5 that we enter the world united to Adam as our covenant head, with his guilt imputed and corruption imparted. From the womb, we are declared ungodly, and we live out that status in daily unbelief and sinful actions. Baptized into Christ, we are transferred to another covenant head, who is the source of righteousness imputed and holiness imparted. Hence, Calvin encourages us to find our purity in Christ’s virginal conception, our anointing with the Spirit in his baptism, our mortification in his tomb, our life in his resurrection, and the gifts of the Spirit in his sending of the Spirit at Pentecost, which is echoed also in the Great Litany of the Book of Common Prayer. 
Therefore, union with Christ is to be understood in covenantal terms. The Messiah not only saves; he is the corporate head of the people whom he represents and makes to share in the spoils of his victory. As goes the King, so goes the kingdom. As the firstfruits of the whole harvest, Jesus Christ is not merely an example to be imitated by his followers, but the head of a covenantal body to be incorporated into by the Spirit. Whatever is true concerning the King must also be true in principle concerning his people. 46 This is what it means to be baptized into Christ... 
Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11 Paul teaches that his readers were baptized into Christ just as their old covenant predecessors were “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1Co 10: 2). However, the exodus generation enters the true promised land only together with us, their entry having been foreshadowed when they “all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.” “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (vv. 3–4)...
The Scriptures locate believers “in Christ,” which means in his church: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3: 27—28).

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