Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 3)

Click here for: Part 1, Part 2.

Chapter XI. The glory of Christ in the recapitulation of all things in him.

  • "Moreover, his being and goodness are the same. The goodness of God is the meetness of the Divine Being to be communicative of itself in its effects. Hence this is the first notion of the divine nature, -- infinite being and goodness, in a nature intelligent and self-subsistent."
  • "Being and goodness must be the first outward effects of the divine nature, which, being wrought by infinite power and wisdom, do represent unto us the glory of God in the creation of all things. Infinite being in self-subsistence, which is necessary in the first cause and spring of all things, -- infinite goodness to communicate the effect of this being unto that which was not, -- and infinite wisdom and power in that communication, -- are gloriously manifested therein."
  • "To suppose any other race of intellectual creatures, besides angels in heaven and men on earth, is not only without all countenance from any divine testimony, but it disturbs and disorders the whole representation of the glory of God made unto us in the Scripture, and the whole design of his wisdom and grace, as declared therein. Intellectual creatures not comprehended in that government of God and mystery of his wisdom in Christ which the Scripture reveals, are a chimera framed in the imaginations of some men, scarce duly sensible of what it is to be wise unto sobriety."
  • "There is no contemplation of the glory of Christ that ought more to affect the hearts of them that do believe with delight and joy, than this, of the recapitulation of all things in him. One view by faith of him in the place of God, as the supreme head of the whole creation. Moving, acting, guiding, and disposing of it, will bring in spiritual refreshment unto a believing refreshment unto a believing soul.

    And it will do so the more, in that it gives a glorious representation of his divine nature also. For that any mere creature should thus be a head of life, motion, and power, as also of sovereign rule and disposal, of the whole new creation, with all things reduced into order thereby, is not only an impious, but a foolish imagination.

    Did we live more in the contemplation of this glory of Christ, and of the wisdom of God in this recapitulation of all things in him, there is not anything of our duty which it would not mind us of, nor anything of privilege which it would not give us a sense of, as might easily be demonstrated."
  • "Whatever there is of order, of beauty, of glory, in heaven above, or in earth beneath, it all ariseth from this new relation of the creation unto the Son of God. Whatever is not gathered into one, even in him, in its place, and according to its measure, is under darkness, disorder, and the curse."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Friendship of God

"Let it be of great comfort to the saints that God is their father and friend and is always present with them and in them; that they live and move and have their being in Him who loves them with a great and everlasting love. Our earthly friends cannot be with us always; we are often called to part with them. But God is a friend who is always at hand, always with and in those who are His. Let those, therefore, who have given themselves to God and have chosen God to be their God consider this: You are in Him and are favorable to Him. He delights in you and always consults your good and seeks your welfare. You are in Him and no one can separate you from Him; wherever you are, you are still with God. This is a matter of consolation to such persons, whatever dangers and difficulties they are brought into, that they are with God. He is nigh at hand, so that they need not be terrified with any amazement; for they are in Him who orders all things and who loves them, so that He will surely take care of them and order all things well for them. If they pray to Him in their difficulty and beg His help, He is present to hear their prayers. They need not go far to seek Him nor cry aloud to make Him hear, but He is in them and hears the silent petitions of their hearts. If they are in solitude and are very much left alone, yet God is with them. None can banish them from the presence and society of God. A Christian never needs to be lonesome as long as he is in the company of such a one."

Jonathan Edwards, God Is Everywhere Present, pp. 217–18

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Martin Bucer on Good Works as Secondary Cause of Salvation

Martin Bucer was John Calvin's "father in the faith."

The ff. is sourced from Brian Lugioyo's Martin Bucer's Doctrine of Justification: Reformation Theology and Early Modern Irenicism (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology):

By faith alone means that in faith Christians contemplate Christ, and because faith comes with the bestowal of the Spirit of Christ, they become possessed by him so that believers now live in him and he in them. In this sense of mutual inhabitation, Christians are allowed to cooperate with God in salvation, since these works are not their own but the work of Christ in them. This agency is expressed in Bucer primarily in terms of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, [285] being clothed in Christ, [286] participation in Christ, [287] being in communion with Christ, and so forth. [288] If a believer “does any good, it results from the fact that he is a creation of God, created for good works, works which God himself prepares, makes and performs, so that he rewards in us gifts which are already his.” [289] Hence, Bucer follows Augustine’s view that “when God crowns our merits, he crowns nothing but his own gifts.” [290] Merit is not the result of works but the result of the believer cooperating with the Spirit who works within the believer:

Nevertheless, when God wants us to cooperate with him by good works for our salvation, or rather, even to “work it out” (κατεργάζεσθαι) [Phil. 2:10] and has thus determined to repay us according to our deeds, there is brought about also in its own way our justification; that is, eternal life is assigned to us as a result of works. But this is the case only when through our election and the purpose of God formed before the ages, there is already assigned to us before the foundation of the world this life of God as a result of the grace of God and the merit of Christ [Ephesians 1 and 3]. This life moreover is assigned to us through faith, that is, after we believe in Christ and have in some way become already possessed of him. This of course comes about at that blessed beginning of faith which belongs to the sons of God through the Spirit, who is the pledge of this inheritance. For good works are the fruit of this faith and of the Spirit. [291]

Works are in a sense a cooperating cause, which Bucer speaks about as a secondary cause elsewhere.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Vision of Christ and the Necessity of Good Works

The first thesis in Luther's famous 95 states that all of the Christian life is characterized by repentance. Repentance, by its very nature, necessarily includes faith in its exercise. This faith, to be true faith, can only have one object of focus, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Putting faith in Christ is synonymous to looking unto Him (Heb. 12:2), and this vision of Christ transforms the beholder into His image and likeness (faith now conforms progressively [2 Cor. 3:18], while actual sight in glory conforms instantly [1 John 3:2]).

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1.

Chapter VI. The glory of Christ in the discharge of his mediatory office.

  • "It is our duty to endeavour after freedom, willingness, and cheerfulness in all our obedience. Obedience has its formal nature from our wills. So much as there is of our wills in what we do towards God, so much there is of obedience, and no more. Howbeit we are, antecedently unto all acts of our own wills, obliged unto all that is called obedience. From the very constitution of our natures we are necessarily subject unto the law of God."
  • "He unto whom prayer was made, prayed himself night and day. He whom all the angels of heaven and all creatures worshipped, was continually conversant in all the duties of the worship of God. He who was over the house, diligently observed the meanest office of the house. He that made all men, in whose hand they are all as clay in the hand of the potter, observed amongst them the strictest rules of justice, in giving unto every one his due; and of charity, in giving good things that were not so due. This is that which renders the obedience of Christ in the discharge of his office both mysterious and glorious."
  • "We might here look on him as under the weight of the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; taking on himself, and on his whole soul, the utmost of evil that God had ever threatened to sin or sinners. We might look on him in his agony and bloody sweat, in his strong cries and supplications, when he was sorrowful unto the death, and began to be amazed, in apprehensions of the things that were coming on him, -- of that dreadful trial which he was entering into. We might look upon him conflicting with all the powers of darkness, the rage and madness of men, -- suffering in his soul, his body, his name, his reputation, his goods, his life; some of these sufferings being immediate from God above, others from devils and wicked men, acting according to the determinate counsel of God. We might look on him praying, weeping, crying out, bleeding, dying, -- in all things making his soul an offering for sin; so was he 'taken from prison, and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off from the land of the living: for the transgression,' says God, 'of my people was he smitten,' Isa. liii. 8. But these things I shall not insist on in particular, but leave them under such a veil as may give us a prospect into them, so far as to fill our souls with holy admiration."
  • "How glorious is the Lord Christ on this account, in the eyes of believers! When Adam had sinned, and thereby eternally, according unto the sanction of the law, ruined himself and all his posterity, he stood ashamed, afraid, trembling, as one ready to perish for ever, under the displeasure of God. Death was that which he had deserved, and immediate death was that which he looked for. In this state the Lord Christ in the promise comes unto him, and says, Poor creature! how woeful is thy condition! how deformed is thy appearance! What is become of the beauty, of the glory of that image of God wherein thou wast created? how hast thou taken on thee the monstrous shape and image of Satan? And yet thy present misery, thy entrance into dust and darkness, is no way to be compared with what is to ensue. Eternal distress lies at the door. But yet look up once more, and behold me, that thou mayest have some glimpse of what is in the designs of infinite wisdom, love, and grace. Come forth from thy vain shelter, thy hiding-place I will put myself into thy condition. I will undergo and bear that burden of guilt and punishment which would sink thee eternally into the bottom of hell. I will pay that which I never took; and be made temporally a curse for thee, that thou mayest attain unto eternal blessedness. To the same purpose he speaks unto convinced sinners, in the invitation he gives them to come unto him."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Highlights of John Owen's "The Glory of Christ" (Part 1)

This will be the first post in a series of posts that will contain all the portions of John Owen's Meditations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ in His Person, Office, and Grace—or "The Glory of Christ" for short—that I highlighted.

This work by Owen is significant by virtue of the topic treated and the fact that it was the last book he ever wrote, thus reflecting the knowledge and wisdom of a mature, battle-worn faith that is now about to graduate into sight:

"There are some facts which impart peculiar interest to these Meditations. They were drawn up, according to the author's own statement, 'for the exercise of his own mind,' in the first instance; and illustrate, accordingly, the scope and tenor of his Christian experience. They form, moreover, his dying testimony to the truth, -- and to the truth, with peculiar emphasis, as it 'is in Jesus;' for they are the substance of the last instructions which he delivered to his flock; and they constitute the last work which he prepared for the press. It is instructive to peruse the solemn musings of his soul when 'weakness, weariness, and the near approaches of death,' were calling him away from his earthly labours; and to mark how intently his thoughts were fixed on the glory of the Saviour, whom he was soon to behold 'face to face.' On the day of his death, Mr Payne, who had the charge of the original publication of this treatise, on bidding Dr Owen farewell, said to him, 'Doctor, I have just been putting your book on the Glory of Christ to the press.' 'I am glad,' was Owen's reply, 'to hear that that performance is put to the press; but, O brother Payne, the long looked-for day is come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I have ever done yet, or was capable of doing in this world.'" (William H. Goold, Prefatory note.)

I can see these posts as being profitable to the reader as a devotional or as an introduction to Owen's theology of the beatific vision. May they serve to make Christ more glorious and beautiful—and thus desirable—to us as we look to Him now in faith, and thereafter in sight.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Start Workin' Like Bradley

It seems that good works as it relates to final salvation/final judgment is once again the talk of the town. Therefore, I am pleased to have in my hands this book by Bradley G. Green entitled, Covenant and Commandment (Works, Obedience, and Faithfulness in the Christian Life).

The ff. is from the Introduction, and it portends a book that is bound to be both clarifying and enabling:

Among the heirs of the Protestant Reformation there has been an emphasis on salvation by grace in general and sola fide (by faith alone) in particular. These were proper biblical recoveries during the Reformation era. It was important for the church to recover the central truth that we are justified by God, that this is an act of God’s grace, and that faith – apart from works – is the means by which we are justified. It is striking that evangelicals have had to ‘fight’ the battle of justification many times, and this issue continues to divide Protestants and Catholics today in intriguing ways. Related to the question of justification is a key issue in biblical interpretation and evangelical church life: the nature of works, obedience or faithfulness in the Christian life. While evangelicals can generally agree that one enters into a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible by grace (even solely by grace) apart from works, there is often much more disagreement over how to construe the nature of works, or obedience, inside this covenantal relationship. My argument is that in the new covenant, works are a God-elicited and necessary part of the life of the converted person, a constant theme in the New Testament (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; Rom. 2:13–14; 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Phil. 2:12–13; Heb. 3:6; 3:14; 4:14; 1 John 2:3–6; 3:24; 5:3; Rev. 12:17; 14:12). In short, ‘works’ are ‘necessary’ for salvation because part of the ‘newness’ of the new covenant is actual, grace-induced and grace-elicited obedience by true members of the new covenant. When the New Testament documents are read against Old Testament texts such as Jeremiah 31:31–34 and Ezekiel 36:22–29 (cf. Ezek. 11:19; 18:31), this obedience is seen as a promised component of the new covenant.
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