Thursday, February 23, 2006

saved in hope

"As Isaac Watts has written:

Sin, my worst enemy before,
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
My inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.

What a heaven this will be! I think that if I could become absolutely free from every tendency to sin, I would not care where I lived – on earth or in heaven, at the bottom of the sea with Jonah or in the low dungeon with Jeremiah. Purity is peace; holiness is happiness. He who is holy as God is holy will be happy as God is happy. This is the chief goal of our hope." - C. H. Spurgeon

free will? absolutely.

Question: Does a person have the ability in and of themself to choose what they want? Answer: Yes.

"...we always choose according to our greatest desire--we always choose the option that we most prefer. This makes every choice determined (it is determined that I will choose the option that I find most preferable), yet free (since we are not being forced to choose, but are choosing what we want to) Our choices are free and truly our choices because we think through the situation for ourselves and come to the conclusion about which choice is best through our own thought processes."
- Matt Perman

The question shouldn't be, "Does a person have the ability in and of themself to choose what they want?", but "What do they WANT?" Before we are given the new birth, we don't desire God. We may desire the benefits of knowing God, i.e. peace, contentment, joy, etc..., but not God Himself (Rom 3:11). Post re-birth, we have our will changed by God, so that afterwards, we want Him freely. He becomes irresistable.

"Man is nothing: he hath a free will to go to hell, but none to go to heaven, till God worketh in him to will and to do his good pleasure"
- George Whitefield

"Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven"
- C.H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

the greatest kind of love

Love is the focus of Valentine's Day. Today's blog is no exception. Here is the last paragraph from the book of the Prophet Micah. This is true love indeed:

"Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?

He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.

He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.

You will cast all our[e] sins
into the depths of the sea.

You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old."

- Micah 7:18-20

Monday, February 13, 2006

30,000 foot view of Romans

Here is a great quick summary of Romans by Michael Horton:

The problem that all humanity faces is the wrath of God which is entirely justified because the Gentiles know God according to general revelation, and the Jews know God according to special revelation, yet both have failed to truly acknowledge God since both have violated His Law.

Now, since everyone is under sin and God's wrath, the only way out is the gospel, the announcement that in Christ, God has provided a righteousness that satisfies His holy requirements. Christ has absorbed God's wrath in His death, and justifies the wicked in His resurrection.

All of this is received through faith alone apart from works, as the examples of Abraham and David demonstrate. Yet God has not only secured our salvation from the condemnation of the law, but also the dominion of sin and death.

Baptized into Christ's death and resurrection, we're made new creatures, and yet we continue to struggle with indwelling sin throughout our life. The only hope we have is to look outside of ourselves to Christ with the indwelling Spirit testifying in our hearts to our free adoption, and keeping alive within us the hope that not only we, but the whole creation will share in the final redemption.

In the light of all this, nothing can separate us from God's love. But how then can we trust this gospel if God has been unfaithful to His earlier promises to Israel? Well, God has always maintained His prerogative of election even among the physical descendants of Abraham. So salvation isn't a matter of physical descent or of human decision or effort, but of God's mercy alone.

God has been faithful to His promises, because even now, an elect remnant is being saved from among Jews and Gentiles; and after God brings alien gentile branches to the tree of Israel, He'll finally bring in the fulness of the Jews as well.

In view of all these mercies that stagger our imagination, we can now offer not the dead sacrifices of animals for atonement, but our own bodies as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. In that light, stop judging each other about things indifferent, and get on with the business of loving and serving each other.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

faith alone

Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls...There is no gospel except that of Christ's substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God's children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ's saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him. We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice. We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ's righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
- Cambridge Declaration

Friday, February 03, 2006

geerhardus vos :: theology, part 2

• The grand drama of the unfolding of God's self-revelation in redemptive history raises dilemmas, dilemmas like the fall, the giving of the Sinaitic covenant, and the exile demand to be resolved. It is God who confronts us with those dilemmas. He is holy and we are sinful, and that produces a dilemma for all who have made God their delight. That dilemma is resolved in Christ. In fact history itself continues unresolved until the coming of Christ.

• ...God's purpose for history is personal, including intimate communion with His chosen people, even to become one with them as the Persons of the Godhead are one. God's revelation, then, while necessarily encompassing a cognizant element, goes beyond that. It is a personal revelation whose end is personal communion one with another. And God's revelation not only informs us it transforms us in our inner man and conforms us to the image of that eternal life which is God's purpose.

• Throughout the history of God's revelation, what was present from the beginning progressively comes to light. Nothing new is "added," though different aspects of God's plan become evident which beforehand had been hidden. Revelation progresses in epochal installments or intrusions. The coming to light of that which was shrouded in previous revelation brings new responsibilities to the people of God. One cannot live in the light of full revelation and behave as one for whom that full revelation has not come.

• Since what is present in the consummate revelation of God in His Son, Jesus Christ, is also present, however shrouded, in earlier stages; it lies upon us to uncover where the types and shadows testify the coming reality. For as we have stated before, in light of the culminating revelation of God, the Scriptures, even from the first stages of their growth, are opened up to us in a whole new way. We cannot understand them outside of the context of their fulfillment, a fulfillment which the earlier stages of revelation testify.

• ...from the beginning all redeeming acts of God aim at the creation and introduction of this new organic principle, which is none other than Christ. All Old Testament redemption is but the saving activity of God working toward the realization of this goal, the great supernatural prelude to the Incarnation and the Atonement.

• God chooses men to whom He extends special grace and causes them to stand as figures of the One to come before His people. These heroes are not heroes because of anything inherent in themselves, but because God raises them up and bestows them with special characterizations of the One to come. God projects Christ onto these men and then holds them up before His people so that they might see their Savior, however dimly. But it is essential to understand that these men while types of Christ are types of Adam at the same time. While they testify to the reality to come, they also testify that they are not that reality, in fact, that they need that reality. Nevertheless, God is pleased to call them "friend," and "man after my own heart," and "personal consort" for He sees in them what He has projected onto them, that is His Son.

• The teachings, or word-revelations, accompany the covenantal acts of God, event revelation, and flow from it. Thus it cannot be expected that the teachings of Ezra will have the fullness of scope that the teachings of Peter, though they will be organically unified and complementary. The expressions of devotion from David's heart in the Psalms is uniquely linked to that great self-revelatory act of God in bringing the kingdom of Israel into existence. These expressions inform Paul, but Paul's expressions are more comprehensive, his own expressions being linked to that ultimate self-revelatory act of God in bringing the kingdom of heaven in the person and work of Jesus Christ, that kingdom for which David's kingdom was merely a type. The continuity between David's kingdom and Christ's is that Christ was David's son. The discontinuity is that Christ is David's Lord.

• Vos's theology was driven by the doctrine that pre-fall man had an eschatological hope that transcended life in this creation. The hope set before Adam was a higher estate even from the beginning, for in Vos' words neither God nor man "could be satisfied with an acquaintance based on indirection." In other words, the hope was more God's occasional visitation in which He came and went in the garden. The hope from the beginning was permanent fellowship on a higher plane in which life flowed into life. The course of history, especially sacred history, realizes this hope; and the genius of Vos's biblical theology is his tracing of the covenantal redemptive epochs of history until their climax in Jesus Christ, the last Adam, and His success (first for Himself and then for all who are joined to Him through supernatural regeneration) where the first Adam failed (first for himself and also for all who were in him). Thus all of redemptive history realizes the original purpose of God for His creation, namely eternal (eschatological) Sabbath union with all those whom He chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world as their God and Father.

• The eschatological hope of communion with God on a higher plane which has been promised in the old and fulfilled in the new through the work of Jesus Christ is what Geerhardus Vos preached his entire career. Any form of Christianity that did not aspire to that full and sweet fellowship with God in the heavenlies did not hold interest to Vos because he believed it to be out of step with the biblical witness.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

geerhardus vos :: theology, part 1

Today starts a two-part summary of Vos's biblical theology*:

• The study of God is something encouraged by God, and this is evident by His gift to us of His word. God's eternal purpose to know and be known covenantally by His creatures is revealed in His word, and from this we recognize that the Scripture's revelation of God is the foremost means by which this purpose is realized. It behooves us, then, to see the Bible as God's love letter to His people, a living document in which He discloses Himself. The Bible itself is a condescention on God's part, a grace, a show of favor. Thus, a covenantal approach to Scripture will yield peculiar insights as opposed to a systematic approach. Essentially Biblical Theology adopts God's system, and attempts to conform our understanding of God to God's calculated historical revelation of Himself.

• It is the knowledge of God, the heavenly foretaste of things to come, which enlightens man to himself and to creation around him.

• Essentially all theology is exegetical. There is no true knowledge of God apart from His word. Because the Bible is the source of human knowledge of God, it becomes imperative to make the Bible's own method of revelation our own foundation for formulating theology. Theology is the knowledge of God which God Himself has afforded to His covenant people in His self-disclosure. With this understanding, the study of theology cannot be infringed by the study of religion, which is essentially the study of the creature.

• Biblical Theology is not the study of the Bible, but the study of God as revealed in the Bible.

• God's own method of Self-revelation is supremely and perfectly logical. For it is the logos of infallible God which becomes our standard, not the logos of fallible man. Systematic theology, then, must submit to Biblical theology and formulate its science accordingly. The Bible is arranged not according to axiom but according to history. Good and necessary consequence, the sytematician's trade, must be informed by the theology of God's word, or else it fails in its task and cannot live up to its name. John Murray has pointed out that systematic theology views revelation as a finished whole, while biblical theology views revelation as organic process.

• Because the Bible is a living book, it alone among books accomodates its readers in every class, culture, time, and place. Failure to treat the Bible as "alive and powerful," leads to a perceived gap in culture and history which needs to be bridged by gleaning eternal principles from the text in order to make it relevant. The text itself is relevant by virtue of its nature as Qeo/pnuestoj(Theopnuestos). The Bible actively reaches out to include you. We stand in the same place with the Apostles, namely the semi-eschatological age of fulfillment, looking back at the cross and resurrection and seeing the culmination of God's revelation in Christ. We have been brought into that same wonder-world of redemption which Peter, John, and Paul found themselves in; and that world now compels us in our many stations and positions. It is the air we breathe.

• God has chosen history to be the vehicle of His Selfrevelation, and His Self-revelation is accomplished in the supernatural acts of redemption. This is God's prerogative as sovereign Lord of His creation. God reveals Himself to man as their Redeemer. Redemption for historical beings (man) must take the shape of a historical progress. Redemption cannot be separated from history, and history is the chronicle of God, the Author of history's, accomplishment of that eternal purpose. When history will have achieved that end to which it was brought into existence, it will pass out of existence. Special revelation is historical because redemption is historical if for no other reason than that the redeemed are historical beings.

• A key to Vosian Biblical Theology is the recognition of events as revelatory and prophetic. OT events, like OT prophesy, look for fulfillment, and they find fulfillment in Christ. The redemptive acts of God are patterned after the consummate redemption of Jesus Christ, and as such serve as prophesies of that eschatological act. Like prophesy, those events are sketchy and dim and can only be interpreted in light of the finished work of Christ and the Kingdom of God which His ministry inaugurates. God reveals Himself as the One who declares the end from the beginning, and He does so from the beginning of His revelation. The closer the consummation of history draws, the more evident God's purpose for history becomes, and we recognize in earlier revelation in often less distinguishable types the presence of the end.

* All excerpts from

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

life's journey

Always think of life as a journey to receive a great inheritance.

"Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his carriage should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way. What a fool we should think him if we saw him wringing his hands and blubbering out all the remaining mile, "My carriage is broken! My carriage is broken!"
-John Newton (author of Amazing Grace)