Friday, May 28, 2010

Why So Many Denominations?

It is very common for supposed "Calvinists" to be charged with "arrogance" in their defense of the historic Reformed Christian faith. It is almost a certainty that this accusation would come from those who purport to hold to a "Bible only" paradigm of theology, piety, and practice. In their biblicism, these folks, however, fail to realize that it is actually within their position that hubris is intrinsic, and upon the fetid cesspool of their self-styled, isolated interpretations of Scripture that the multiplicity of cults and sects flourish.

Unwittingly, though seemingly defending the tenet of Sola Scriptura, these earnest souls have, in reality, bought into the serpentine lie of the Garden of Eden and have gorged themselves on the apple of Gnosticism. Allergic to tradition, they have looked within themselves for the answers, and like the first couple, have been found naked, wandering, and destined for demise.

"Whenever we think of the gospel merely in terms of some vague religious feeling, rather than the record of the work of God in real history, we're thinking in a Gnostic direction. Whenever we display indifference to or suspicion of the physical world, we're betraying a kind of Gnosticism. Whenever we think of our salvation as a way to escape the limitations of human nature (including the limitations of our embodiment) instead of a pilgrimage of faithfulness within the good limits of our createdness, we're thinking like Gnostics. Whenever we think that true faith is just a matter of spiritual insights and sensations, or something that addresses only our motives, and not a matter of evoking specific works of love and obedience in the real world of space and time, of matter and history, we're thinking like Gnostics.

Today, Gnosticism among contemporary Americans takes a slightly different form. Some of us may not be convinced that it's evil to have a body, but we are suspicious of our embodiment in the sense that to be embodied means to live in history, it means to live in a particular community, and it means to live in creation. Roger Lundin again has said that the form of our contemporary Gnosticism is to embrace the idea that the individual self can know truth immediately without any reference to the created order that Solomon himself relied on to know truth; without any reference to the community of faith that we're a part of, which is the church; without any reference to the tradition that we're a part of, which would be the theological tradition of the church. I think that's one of the reasons why denominations and sects have flourished in America; we have something like twenty-thousand denominations in this country-some outrageous number like that-because of the fact that we've been instilled with this idea that each individual has the capacity to know truth apart from any tradition, apart from history, apart from what God has done in the church or in nature
" (Kenneth A. Myers, 'More than Meets the Mouth Or, the Meaning of Meals,' Modern Reformation, July/August, Vol. 18 No. 4 2009, pp. 19-24).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ethical Triangulation

"I will argue that 'What would Jesus do?' is a necessary but not sufficient question for Christian ethics. First, the necessity will be seen by observing that Jesus is really human according to the biblical testimony. He lives an authentic human life and, thus, models ideal human behavior. Second, the insufficiency is shown by noting that Jesus fulfills a unique calling in redemptive history, to which no one else is called. His example must be qualified in several respects. By viewing ethics in light of the Incarnation and the atonement, his continuity and discontinuity with us, then, we can appreciate the importance and the difficulty of imitating Jesus.


Because Jesus was fully human, 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15), he can function as a moral exemplar. It is important to note that the biblical teaching of humanity as the 'image of God' is heightened with regard to this particular human. In fact, the process of salvation involves being 'predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers' (Rom. 8:29). Jesus is humanity perfected, transfigured, even glorified. As even his ascended reign is continuous with human existence, we ought to ask what he does and how we might follow.

Because Jesus was really human, perfectly human, he is the climax of the 'great cloud of witnesses' described in Hebrews 11 and 12. Indeed, the chapter break sadly skews much interpretation of this text. Hebrews 12 offers the highest heights of human faithfulness: 'Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God' (12:2). The term 'author' might better be rendered 'prototype,' highlighting the exemplary function of Jesus' faith in the midst of suffering. Jesus is human; his experience is continuous with ours; thus, he can and should be imitated.


The Christ's life saves precisely because, while human, he was also human in a very different way. He can help his brothers and sisters because he is also the anointed one, set apart and sanctified by the Spirit for the work of salvation. In other words, several factors qualify our attempt to follow Jesus by imitating his behavior.

First, Jesus does not relate to God as a child redeemed from his own sin, while we must always commune with a Father to whom we have been reconciled. Hebrews is very explicit about his innocence: 'It was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people' (7:26-27). He needed no atonement because he was sinless.

Jesus did trust his Father, believing that joy would come on the far side of Calvary (12:2). Yet Jesus did not believe his Father would forgive him his sins. Indeed, such an issue was moot. Jesus is 'one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (4:15). Jesus' piety was not shaped by confession or gratitude for forgiveness. Quite to the contrary, the Christian is meant to do all things in the shadow of the cross. Every good gift and every righteous response to God is meant to be a glorying in the cross (Gal. 6:14). Our trust in the Father must be cross-centered in a way that the incarnate Son's was not and could not be, for we are only adopted children and not children by nature (like Jesus).

Second, Jesus' faithfulness is maintained by a superabundant blessing by the Holy Spirit, which is greater than any such blessing promised for his followers in this life. Again, Hebrews witnesses to the Spirit-anointed works of the incarnate Son. His identity as Messiah is evident due to the witness of 'signs and wonders and various miracles,' all of which can be termed 'gifts of the Holy Spirit' (2:4). Furthermore, his priestly ministry surpasses that of the Old Covenant (chapters 8-10), because his messianic work was 'through the eternal Spirit' (9:14). The Spirit perfected Jesus' humanity during his earthly life, whereas no such gifting is promised to his followers. Unlike the one who was to be a perfect lamb, Christians will be perfected only upon resurrection. Whereas he was transfigured prior to death, our glory comes only on the other side of the tomb.

We do receive the same Spirit that rested upon Christ, and we will do things greater than even the Son (14:12). Thus, we should have a rock-solid confidence that the same Spirit-who ministered to the Messiah in the wilderness and who kept him faithful while suffering hell on the cross-rests upon us. Still, we have no promise that the Spirit will ensure our sinlessness now. We must be realistic by realizing the story arch into which we have been cast. We will not obey as consistently or perfectly as does the Son, because we are not wholly sanctified like him in the here and now.

Third, Jesus' lifestyle was that of the Messiah, whereas we are to be followers of this pioneer of the faith (Heb. 12:3). The same Epistle to the Hebrews that emphasizes the likeness of Jesus and his followers also heightens the once-for-all nature of his atonement and his ministry. He is the 'great high priest' and 'after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high' (1:3). There is a sharp discontinuity between the human life of Jesus and, well, everybody else. This must be honored if we are not to lose the singular sufficiency of the Christ for salvation (solus Christus).

The issue is distinguishing what is repeatable from what is not. Herman Witsius argued that we are to imitate his humanity but not his mediatory work. For example, consider his obedience to the law. Jesus obeyed the law that he might be perfectly suitable as a sin-offering. None of us needs to serve as a sin offering. We might imitate his obedience, however, without the goal of being sin offerings. Whereas he loved persons by dying on their behalf, his followers are to love their neighbors by pointing them to Jesus' death, not by dying themselves. There are differences in vocational calling to be teased out.

Fourth, Jesus' obedience was settled within the cultural contexts and constraints of the first century, whereas we live in different times. This difference is the most obvious and, therefore, needs little unpacking. Various actions that he performed would have different social meaning if repeated identically today. Imitating him is necessarily a hermeneutical enterprise because we live in a world without the Roman Empire, Pharisees, and so forth.

Fifth, Jesus' piety is documented for us in the New Testament, yet the 'life of Jesus' that we can glean from these texts does not directly exemplify any number of social issues that we might imitate. For example, we have no idea how Jesus would act within marriage, for we have no evidence that he was married. While he taught certain things related to marriage, he does not act as a moral guide by means of his own behavior in this regard. We could multiply this limit by showing the number of areas that are simply not recorded by the evangelists or that Jesus presumably did not interact with personally. Whatever he did, we know he did perfectly; but we are not told what this looks like or what it involves.


How might we move forward? I suggest that a key principle will be the practice of 'ethical triangulation,' where we imitate Jesus well by imitating those who have followed him (especially the disciples and apostles of the New Testament). Our whole task is trying to locate godly behavior on the moral map. Just as a cellular signal can be located by viewing it relative to a number of towers, so the path of obedience can be discerned by viewing the life of Jesus as one of several examples given to us in the Bible.

We should read the stories of Jesus as happening in our own moral world; but, as Robert Sherman says:

If we see ourselves in such a narrative, we should not be too quick to identify ourselves with the character of Christ, seeking to imitate him in some univocal fashion. Rather, we should identify ourselves with the disciples, recognizing how the conditions and obligations of their lives have been changed because of what Christ has accomplished for them, and because of the Spirit's continuing power and guidance.

Sherman's words are to be heeded, precisely because they echo the emphasis of the New Testament. The apostle Paul called on his readers to imitate him (Phil. 2:19-30; 3:16; 1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; Gal. 4:12; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9). The writer to the Hebrews offers a number of examples for the congregation's consideration: 'Those who through faith and patience inherit the promises' (6:11), 'your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God' (13:7), and, most importantly, 'those who have faith and preserve their souls' (10:39). This last group includes the saints from Abel to Jesus, and their obedience is described in multiple ways. They are to be imitated as those whose belief impelled radical obedience (11:6).

How will our Christian life relate to the life of Christ? We will look to his life story as a source for Christian ethics, but we will view his obedience within the canonical context provided by the saints. They are not sinless, evident by the many names in Hebrews 11 that are linked to certain scandals in the Bible (e.g., compare Abraham in Heb. 11:8-12 and 17-19 with Gen. 12:10-20 and 20:1-18). Still, the Bible points us to the righteous behavior of these imperfect images of Christ. As we reflect on their search for faithful ways to honor God, we will have our eyes opened to the way this would look in our own callings and contexts. They serve as final authorities for Christian practice, not because of their own merit but because God has employed them in this biblical capacity.

We should follow and even imitate Jesus, the true and perfect human. Yet we must never allow this emphasis to become a principle of identical repetition, for we are not like him in every respect. Noting key differences and adjusting our moral standards accordingly will be aided by looking also to the example of saints in the pages of the Bible. In so doing, we look to Jesus within canonical and covenantal context."

Michael Allen, Imitating Jesus, Modern Reformation, March/April Vol. 18 No. 2 2009, pp. 27-30.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Theology of the Cross

"The theology of the cross gives us a paradigm for witness, friendship, and support in the normal routines and in the emergencies of those around us. The Lord calls us into their lives to embody the Living Presence of his love. As Paul sketched his theology of the cross, above all in the first two chapters of his first epistle to the Corinthians, we see that this paradigm for Christian realism first of all defines who God is for us. He is not some hidden form, whose plans and counsels we can only dimly sense. The God hidden behind his own majesty and glory is a god shaped in our own image, as Feuerbach observed. The only God we know is the one whose righteousness-whose right way of being God-is revealed in the sacrificial love of the blood-drenched cross. The only God there is appears to us as the kid in the crib, the criminal on the cross, the corpse in the crypt. The fullness of God was pleased to dwell in the one who reconciles all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his very own cross (Col. 1:19-20).

Second, the paradigm of the cross defines who we are. We are those people who know ourselves only when we come to see that we are sinners, justifiably forsaken by God and utterly vulnerable to death. We see our reflection in the image of a dying incarnate God (Mark 15:34).

Third, the cross shows us the way back to life: through faith-alone! Neither empirical proof nor rational proof will place us in the hands of God; these epistemologies serve well on earth, but they place the object of our search for knowledge under the dominion of our own minds. God maintains his Lordship over our minds. He speaks his promise of life from the cross. This promise elicits and creates faith. God destroys the wisdom of the wise and thwarts the discernment of the discerning; he saves those who believe, through the proclamation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:18-25).

Fourth, the cruciform paradigm reveals how God restores life: by letting the law pay us the full wages our sinfulness has earned us (Rom. 6:23a), by burying us as sinners in Christ's tomb and thereby giving us life again as an absolutely free gift-genuine human life (Rom. 6:4, 23b).

Finally, the theology of the cross presents us with the way in which we live our lives in him. Our resurrected life as God's new instruments of righteousness is a life which bears crosses for others-for the sake of Christ (Matt. 16:24). We evaluate our success neither in terms of how many blessings we experience nor in terms of how much suffering we have endured. Rather, we find satisfaction in serving up the love of Christ to those who are thirsting for love, as God places them in our paths.

The theology of the cross directs us away from all attempts to speculate about God as he is hidden behind nature or the clouds of our imagination. The theology of the cross directs us to God in human flesh, God on the cross, God raised from the dead. To all the modern questions about what truth might be and what kind of claim truth might have on us, the God who is revealed in crib, cross, and crypt seizes us anew as we present him to those who have lost their way. We introduce our God on his cross. We witness to God revealed as Jesus, on the cross.

For people who are dissatisfied with their old identity, the cross helps explain why they do not 'feel good' about themselves. The theology of the cross helps us understand the fullness of what it means to be human, and thus how broken humanity is. The theology of the cross points us to the center of our humanity, our trust in Jesus Christ. From the foot of the cross we see how wrong we were-no matter how well we behaved-because we did not love and trust in Yahweh above all things. We witness to the God who calls us to trust him and who bestows our new identity in this trust.

For those who are seeking the right way of living and thrashing about for a new identity, the theology of the cross confirms what the disciples of psychologist Erik Eriksen all know. Successful human life begins by learning to trust, and trust accompanies those who can live at peace throughout the progression of their lives. The theology of the cross leads us to place our lives in God's hands, through the power of his Holy Spirit, rather than try to master life on our own terms. It helps us understand fully what the biblical writers mean when they say that those who are truly human-the just-do live, in fact, by faith. The theology of the cross also shows us how God restores the true identity of those whom he has called to be his children. He does that by taking us through the death of Christ into our own death as people who have fouled our own nests and have to live with the consequences of our sin. The theology of the cross leads us from our old life being crucified with Christ into a new life which is raised with him. We witness to new life for old, dying sinners by carrying people on the Lord's words to his cross.

The shape of that new life becomes clear through the theology of the cross. For those who have learned no boundaries and delight in finding sure boundaries through some kind of regulations of the law, the theology of the cross comes as a freeing word. It puts the whole world at our feet because the whole world is at our Lord's feet. And following the example of our Lord, we learn that we stoop to lift the world at our feet and hold it, with all its misery, in our arms. In modern America many people are searching for a formula for a satisfying and successful life. When the Lord says to us that we find that kind of life by taking up our cross, our initial reaction is surprise. Christians help one another to practice the kind of life that does not depend either on temporal success or temporal suffering but depends only on faithful following of the Lord into the lives of those who need us in the course of daily life.

Therefore, we come to hurting people with the word from the cross. For the prodigals whose broken lives seem beyond repair and who find no way out of their apostasy, despair can be broken by the theology of the cross. The light from the other side of Christ's tomb may again shine into their hearts through an evangelistic approach which grows out of this theology.

For those who hate themselves so much that they wish they were dead because they have been betrayed and exploited by others, or because they have failed to live up to their own understanding, Christian witness can give the gift of death to an old identity and a horrible past. The theology of the cross then gives witness to the gift of new life which replaces the wages paid by Christ's death.

For those who long for a new identity, or a new sense of security and safety in life, or a new meaning and feeling of worth for life, this death to the old way of living expressed in the theology of the cross will come as the life-bestowing breath of fresh air direct from Eden.

The theology of the cross is not only a good way of approaching the content of Scripture for study and learning. It also offers an analysis of human experience, and of God's way of dealing with the human experience, which provides power and insight for evangelistic witness. For the theology of the cross presents God's message for North Americans at the turn of the twenty-first century in a dynamic and meaningful way which will reshape their lives and give them the gift of faith in Christ Jesus. His dying and rising are the truth and the only way to life."

Robert Kolb, Is Anybody Home? What To Do When It Seems Like God Isn't There, Modern Reformation, July/August Vol. 6 No. 4 1997, pp. 14-17.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

10 Arguments for the Regulative Principle of Worship by T. David Gordon

WCF XXI.1: "But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture."

I. Argument from the character of God as jealous

A. Brief description of the argument.

God is revealed to be a jealous God in scripture, and his character as a jealous God is introduced into texts which prohibit certain things (creating images) in the worship of God. Thus, the prohibition of creating graven images or any other likeness of anything in heaven or earth is grounded in God’s character as a jealous God. As a jealous God, He does not accommodate himself to the forms of worship to which humans are accustomed, but rather insists that He be worshiped as He wills.

B. Sample of relevant texts—Ex.20:4-5; 34:14

II. Argument from those passages where piety is described as doing exclusively what God wishes.

A. Brief description of the argument.

In many passages, the wicked are described not as doing what is contradictory to God’s will, but what is beside His will. Similarly, the pious are described by their trembling in God’s presence, their doing exclusively what God wishes. This being the case, "creative" worship; worship which is beside what God has revealed, which is anything other than what God has revealed to be a delight to him, is impious.

B. Sample of relevant texts—Isa.66:1-4; Dt.12:29-32; Lev. 10:1-2; 1 Sam.13:8-15; 15:3-22

III. Argument from the severity of the temporal punishments inflicted upon those who offer to God worship other than what He has prescribed (this is the "heart" of the traditional argument).

A. Brief description of the argument.

There are places where people offer worship to God, in an apparently good-faith desire to please Him, yet they do so in some manner not prescribed by God, and His punishment of them is severe. The severity of the punishment reveals that God is intensely displeased by such.

B. Sample of relevant texts—Lev. 10:1-2; 1 Sam.13:8-15

IV. Argument from the sinful tendency towards idolatry (Rom. 1).

Paul’s point in Romans 1:19ff is that the human race, in its revolt against God, has "worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator." Further, this is not due to ignorance, but to moral defilement: "Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give him thanks…"

Cf. Thomas E. Peck, Miscellanies, vol. I, pp. 96-97: "Man, then, is incompetent to devise modes of worship, because he knows not what modes are best adapted to express the truth or the emotions which the truth is suited to produce."

V. Argument from the nature of worship as covenant renewal.

If, as we have attempted to demonstrate, corporate worship is a gathering of God’s people to renew covenant with him, and if the nature of that covenant is sovereign (instituted entirely by God’s free choice), and if the duty of that covenant is our complete obedience in all areas of life, then the service in which we renew our commitment to such a covenant ought especially and explicitly to reflect the utter lordship of God over us.

VI. Argument from the Limits of Church-Power

A. Brief description of the argument.

The Church is an institution; instituted by the positive command of the risen Christ, and authorized by Him to require obedience to His commands and participation in His ordinances. The Church is given no authority to require obedience to its own commands, and is given no authority to require participation in ordinances of its own making. The Regulative Principle of Church-Government lies behind the Regulative Principle of Worship.

B. Sample of relevant texts—Mat. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 1:24; Rom. 14:7-9

VII. Argument from Liberty of Conscience (or argument from charity, cf. the following outline for a further elaboration)

A. Brief description of the argument.

The Bible teaches that Christ is the sole Lord of an individual’s conscience; that believers owe implicit obedience (obedience that needs no justification in reason or arguments) to Christ alone. God alone may require us to do something simply because He has said so. To induce someone to act contrary to what they believe is right is sinful. Further, God requires us to worship Him only as He has revealed. Therefore, to require a person, in corporate worship, to do something which God has not required, forces the person either to sin against his/her conscience, by making them do what they do not believe God has called them to do, or to not participate in portions of public worship, which offends the principle of corporate worship (John Murray and Edmund Clowney have articulated this view very clearly).

B. Sample of relevant texts—Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8:4-13

VIII. Argument from Faith

A. Brief description of the argument. By its very essence, faith is a trusting, obedient response to what God has revealed. Faith, that is, looks outside of the self to God, depending not on self but on God, relying on Him, believing Him, acquiescing in His judgments and ways. Where God has not revealed himself, no faithful response is possible, by definition. And, without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, God cannot be pleased by worship which is unfaithful, that is, worship which is not an obedient response to his revelation (John Owen makes this argument compellingly).

B. Sample of relevant texts—Rom.14:23; Heb. 11:6, and entire chapter.

IX. Argument from the distance between the Creator and the creature.

A. Brief description of the argument.

God’s ways and thoughts are above ours as the heavens are above the earth. He is clothed in mystery, and it is his glory to conceal a thing. The hidden things belong to him, but the revealed things belong to us. What makes us think we can possibly fathom what would please God?

B. Sample of relevant texts—Isa. 40:12-14; Deut. 29:29; Isa. 55:9; Prov.25:2

X. Argument from Church History

A. Brief description of the argument.

Church history amply demonstrates that fallen creatures, left to their own devices, inevitably produce worship which is impious. Especially the Reformation, as an historical movement, bore testimony to the corruption which creeps slowly yet inevitably into worship when worship is not regulated by the revealed will of God.

Source: Regulative Principle Handout

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Church Fathers on T.U.L.I.P.

The "5 Points of Calvinism," or the "TULIP," as it's often affectionately called, did not originate with the French Reformer, but were doctrines that even the early Church held on to and defended. The ubiquity of Arminianism in the modern evangelical landscape is testimony to how far and wide heresy can spread and gain legitimacy when the historical weight of the Christian faith is left in the sidelines.

The following are quotations from prominent early Church fathers that put forth passionate support for the glorious doctrines of grace.


Barnabas, associate of Paul (A.D. 70): "Learn: before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak."

Ignatius (A.D. 110): "They that are carnal [unbelievers] cannot do the things that are spiritual...Nor can the unbelievers do the things of belief."

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): "Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners...No good thing dwells in us...For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit...Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God...He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life...Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold...Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly."

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190): "The soul  cannot rise nor fly, nor be lifted up above the things that are on high, without special grace."

Origen: "Our free will...or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner."

Eusebius (A.D. 330): "The liberty of our will in choosing things that are good is destroyed."

Augustine (A.D. 370): "If, therefore, they are servants of sin (2 Cor. 3:17), why do they boast of free will?...O, man! Learn from the precept what you ought to do; learn from correction, that it is your own  fault you have not the power...Let human effort, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ...What God promises, we ourselves do not through free will of human nature, but He Himself does by grace within us...Men labor to find in our own will something that is our own, and not God's; how can they find it, I know not."


Clement of Rome (A.D. 69): "Let us therefore approach Him in holiness of soul, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, with love towards our gentle and compassionate Father because He made us an elect portion unto Himself...Seeing then that we are the special elect portion of a holy God, let us do all things that pertain unto holiness...There was given a declaration of blessedness upon them that have been elected by God through Jesus Christ our Lord...Jesus Christ is the hope of the elect..."

Ignatius: "To the predestined ones before all ages, that is, before the world began, united and elect in a true passion, by the eternal will of the Father..."

Justin Martyr: "In all these discourses I have brought all my proofs out of your own holy and prophetic writings, hoping that some of you may be found of the elect number which through the grace that comes from the Lord of Sabaoth, is left or reserved [set apart] for everlasting salvation."

Irenaeus (A.D. 198): "God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life...Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever."

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190): "Through faith the elect of God are saved. The generation of those who seek God is the elect nation, not the place [i.e., not an earthly, political nation] but the congregation of the elect, which I call the Church...If every person had known the truth, they would all have leaped into the way, and there would have been no election...You are those who are chosen from among men and as those who are predestined from among men, and in His own time called, faithful, and elect, those who before the foundation of the world are known intimately by God unto faith; that is, are appointed by Him to faith, grow beyond babyhood."

Barnabas (A.D. 70): "We are elected to hope, committed by God unto faith, appointed to salvation."

Cyprian (A.D. 250): "This is therefore the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach."

Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 380): "In predestination the Church of God has always existed."

Augustine (A.D. 380): "Here certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world because God foreknew that we would be good, not that He Himself would make us good. This is not the language of Him who said, 'You did not choose Me, but I chose you' (John 15:16)."


Barnabas (A.D. 70): "[Christ speaking] I see that I shall thus offer My flesh for the sins of the new people."

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): "He endured the sufferings for those men whose souls are [actually] purified from all iniquity...As Jacob served Laban for the cattle that were spotted, and of various forms, so Christ served even to the cross for men of every kind, of many and various shapes, procuring them by His blood and the mystery of the cross."

Irenaeus (A.D. 180): "He came to save all, all, I say, who through Him are born again unto God, infants, and little ones, and children, and young men, and old men...Jesus is the Savior of them that believe; but the Lord of them thhat believe not. Wherefore, Christ is introduced in the gospel weary...promising to give His life a ransom, in the room of, many."

Tertullian (A.D. 200): "Christ died for the salvation of His people...for the church."

Cyprian (A.D. 250): "All the sheep which Christ hath sought up by His blood and sufferings are saved...Whosoever shall be found in the blood, and with the mark of Christ shall only escape...He redeemed the believers with the price of His own blood...Let him be afraid to die who is not reckoned to have any part in the cross and sufferings of Christ."

Lactantius (A.D. 320): "He was to suffer and be slain for the salvation of many people...who having suffered death for us, hath made us heirs of the everlasting kingdom, having abdicated and disinherited the people of the Jews...He stretched out His hands in the passion and measured the world, that He might at the very time show that a large people, gathered out of all languages and tribes, should come under His wings,  and receive the most great and sublime sign."

Eusebius (A.D. 330): "To what 'us' does he refer, unless to them that believe in Him? For to them that do not believe in Him, He is the author of their fire and burning. The cause of Christ's coming is the redemption of those that were to be saved by Him."

Julius (A.D. 350): "The Son of God, by the pouring out of His precious blood, redeemed His set apart ones; they are delivered by the blood of Christ."

Hilarion (A.D. 363): "He shall remain in the sight of God forever, having already taken all whom He hath redeemed to be kings of heaven, and co-heirs of eternity, delivering them as the kingdom of God to the Father."

Ambrose (A.D. 380): "Before the foundation of the world, it was God's will that Christ should suffer for our salvation...Can He damn thee, whom He hath redeemed from death, for whom He offered Himself, whose life He knows is the reward of His own death?"

Pacian (A.D. 380): "Much more, He will not allow him that is redeemed to be destroyed, nor will He cast away those whom He has redeemed with a great price."

Epiphanius (A.D. 390): "If you are redeemed...If therefore ye are bought with blood, thou are not the number of them who were bought with blood, O Manes, because thou deniest the blood...He gave His life for His own sheep."

Jerome (A.D. 390): "Christ is sacrificed for the salvation of believers...Not all are redeemed, for not all shall be saved, but the remnant...All those who are redeemed and delivered by Thy blood return to Zion, which Thou hast prepared for Thyself by Thine own blood...Christ came to redeem Zion [a metaphor for the church] with His blood. But lest we should think that all are Zion or every one in Zion is truly redeemed of the Lord, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ form the Church...He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe."

Anselm: "If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you."

Remigius (A.D. 850): "Since only the elect are saved, it may be accepted that Christ did not come to save all and did not die on the cross for all."


Ignatius: "Pray for them, if so be they may repent, which is very difficult; but Jesus Christ, our true life, has the power of this."

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): "Having sometime before convinced us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life, hath now shown us the Savior, who is able to save them which otherwise were impossible to be saved...Free will has destroyed us; we are sold into sin."

Barnabas (A.D. 70): "God gives repentance to us, introducing us into the incorruptible temple."

Irenaeus (A.D. 180): "Not of ourselves, but of God, is the blessing of our salvation...Man, who was before led captive, is taken out of the power of the possessor, according to the mercy of God the Father, and restoring it, gives salvation to it by the Word; that is, by Christ; that many may experimentally learn that not of himself, but by the gift of God, he receives immortality."

Tertullian (A.D. 200): "Do you think, O men, that we could ever have been able to have understood these things in the Scriptures unless by the will of Him that wills all things, we had received grace to understand them?...But by this it is plain, that it (faith) is not given to thee by God, because thou dost not ascribe it to Him alone."

Cyprian (A.D. 250): "Whatsoever is grateful is to be ascribed not to man's power, but to God's gift. It is God's, I say, all is God's that we can do. Yea, that in nothing must we glory, since nothing is ours."

Arnobius (A.D. 303): "You place the salvation of your souls in yourselves, and trust that you may be made gods by your inward endeavor, yet it is not our own power to reach things above."

Lactantius (A.D. 320): "The victory lies in the will of God, not in thine own. To overcome is not in our power."

Athanasius (A.D. 350): "To believe is not ours, or in our power, but the Spirit's who is in us, and abides in us."

George of Nazianzum (A.D. 370): "To will is from God."

Jerome (A.D. 390): "This is the chief righteousness of man, to reckon that whatsoever power he can have, is not his own, but the Lord's who gives it...See how great is the help of God, and how frail the condition of man that we cannot by any means fulfill this, that we repent, unless the Lord first convert us...When He [Jesus] says, 'No man can come to Me,' He breaks the proud liberty of free will; for man can desire nothing, and in vain he endeavors...Where is the proud boasting of free will?...We pray in vain if it is in our own will. Why should men pray for that from the Lord which they have in the power of their own free will?"

Augustine (A.D. 370): "Faith itself is to be attributed to God...Faith is made a gift. These men, however, attribute faith to free will, so grace is rendered to faith not as a gratuitous gift, but as a debt...They must cease from saying this."


Clement of Rome (A.D. 69): "It is the will of God that all whom He loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent. He has established it by His almighty will. But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is His almighty will? And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of His?"

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 190): "Such a soul [of a Christian] shall never at any time be separated from God...Faith, I say, is something divine, which cannot be pulled asunder by any other worldly friendship, nor be dissolved by present fear."

Tertullian: "God forbid that we should believe that the soul of any saint should be drawn out by the devil...For what is of God is never extinguished."

Augustine: "Of these believers no one perishes, because they were all elected. And they were elected because they were called according to the purpose—the purpose, however, not their own, but God's...Obedience then is God's gift...To this, indeed, we are not able to deny, that perseverance in good, progressing even to the end, is also a great gift of God."

Source: Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace (Grand Rapids, MI Baker, 2002), Appendix.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Redemptive-Historical Preaching Vs. Moralistic Preaching in Sanctification

"I know that there are those who are terribly afraid that such Christ-centered preaching will lead to licentiousness; but I categorically deny it. I've witnessed with my own eyes the difference between believers who suffer through moralistic preaching and those who experience Christological preaching. The former are never as strong or vibrant in their Christian discipleship as the latter. In theory, we all say we believe, for instance, that good works are the 'inevitable' fruit of saving faith. I not only say this; I believe it.

I believe that as people's confidence in Christ goes they do, ordinarily and inevitably, bear fruit that accords with faith.Thus, there is no need for some trade-off here, or some alleged dichotomy suggesting that we need to preach morality if we are to have morality. No, preach Christ and you will have morality. Fill the sails of your hearers' souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives. Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ in his person, and the flock will long to be like him. Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them."

T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Preach

Source: JollyBlogger: T. David Gordon on Moralistic vs. Christological Preaching

Monday, May 3, 2010

Proud to Be a Member of Pasig Covenant Reformed Church

If you've been on a very long trip, and the destination is some place that has tugged at your heart ways before you even took the first step towards going there, then finally arriving must have felt to you the same way my having become a bona fide member of the only federation of Continental Reformed churches in the country feels to me now—I've arrived!

May 2, 2010 marks the day when I, my wife, and a host of friends, were inducted into the United Covenant Reformed Churches in the Philippines. Pasig Covenant Reformed Church, a member of the UCRCP federation, and the church where we have been attending, went to Tagaytay especially for this momentous occasion when we, former mere attenders, would now be admitted into the fellowship of the visible church as professing believers, now beneficiaries of all the blessings of being a part of the covenant community.

The significance of going up a mountain to meet with God was not lost on me in our trek to the mountainous region of Tagaytay. We were heading up there to confess and proclaim our faith in Christ, with this faith not being grounded on flimsy stuff but on the solid, granite-hard foundation of true, historic, confessional, biblical, Reformed doctrine.

To say that the food was great is an understatement, along with merely claiming that the oxygen-rich air blowing from the trees that surrounded us like sentries on duty did wonders for our minds and bodies; I may be shallow, being one not usually fond of going out (though I am a naturalist at heart), but it was a bit of paradise for me. All this was good since we who were about to undergo doctrinal interview were waging war with the butterflies in our stomachs, and we sure appreciated all the help we could get from both the culinary and "nature" fronts.

As each of the interviewees made their way, coming out victorious (not in the revivalist, triumphalist sense, of course), I was busy memorizing the Heidelberg Catechism's Q1 and 2, as my leakage told me that these two were sure staples. I prayed to the Lord that may He divest me of all pride, as if coming into the interview with an attitude of it as an avenue of showcasing my theological knowledge, realizing that I, in fact, still really know so little, and the little that I do know were all gracious gifts from Him. And so the memorizing continued.

My turn finally came and I was the last to be interviewed. I will not go into the details, but I will surely say that I and my family are tremendously blessed to be under such a knowledgeable, compassionate, and gentle a pastor as Ptr. Nollie Malabuyo.

The conclusion of the interview came with both of us agreeing that having the Lord's Supper celebrated every Lord's Day would be among the key instruments in "hastening" the sanctification of the members of the church, seeing that Holy Communion is not merely "symbolic" or "memorial", but an actual participation in the body and blood of Christ, in a union forged by the Holy Spirit through faith, and therefore immensely beneficial. Horton writes, "The impartation of grace we find in Holy Communion is not a grace that saves but a grace that restores the believer's confidence in the Word's pronouncement, 'Not guilty.' Communion is a refueling station not because we continually need to recover lost merits, but because we need to recover lost steam. We are weak; our hearts are easily cooled, and our souls need to feed on Christ just as truly as our bodies need to feed on bread. Holy Communion strengthens us not only because it symbolizes or represents something great, but because it really is something great. It is the actual nourishment of Christ himself who offers his body and blood for spiritual food. To those wearied by a tough week at the home or office or to those whose consciences never let them forget a sin they commit during the week, the sacrament of Holy Communion is there to communicate Christ and his forgiveness. There is no conscience that cannot be instructed and overcome by this powerful sacrament" (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), 191, italics original).

With everyone having been interviewed (all this taking place on Saturday, May 1, 2010), the next critical step was the actual profession of faith which took place the next day, during the Lord's Day service. Needless to say, the preaching was impeccable as Ptr. Nollie preached on the nature of the worship service, bringing to the fore its covenantal nature wherein the covenant between God and His people are renewed in loving dialog. As with every covenant, the ratification came in the form of a meal, this being the Lord's Supper. I distributed the elements and proceeded to draw grace from my union with Christ through the broken bread and wine.

These past two days were pivotal for me and my family, and as we drove down from Tagaytay, I ruminated on this fact and thanked the Lord for my brothers and sisters at Pasig Covenant Reformed Church.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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