Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
1. Predestination is conditional on God foreknowing who would believe.
2. Christ died for all, although only believers will be saved.
3. Human beings are sinners and cannot believe apart from the grace of God.
4. Saving grace may be resisted.
5. The doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints needs further investigation.
There was much heated discussion over the Remonstrant Articles. It was perceived that the proposed five points constituted a direct threat to the Calvinistic basis of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1618 a Synod was convened in Dordtrecht to decide whether the position of the Remonstrants was in accordance with the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions. At stake was nothing less than the glory of God in the salvation of lost sinners by free and sovereign grace alone.
Although occasioned by theological controversy in Holland, the Synod had an international flavour with delegates from Reformed Churches in Great Britain, Germany and Switzerland meeting alongside their Dutch brethren. Simon Episcopus and a group of his supporters were invited to represent the Arminian agitants.
From the deliberations of the Synod of Dort emerged what are popularly called the “Five Points of Calvinism”, usually set out under the mnemonic TULIP. These points do not represent a complete account of Calvinistic theology. They were simply intended to be a blow by blow rebuttal of the five point Remonstrance. The original order of the points has to be reworked for TULIP to fit.
On the face of it, the Arminians agreed with the orthodox Calvinists that all human beings are sinners and that we are saved by grace. But they redefined grace to mean that God gives all people the ability to be saved if they so wished. We must cooperate with the grace of God and decide to accept his offer of salvation. Thus man is only partially depraved by sin. He is able to exercise a choice to believe and be saved. The Synod of Dort rightly smelled a rat. According to Scripture, man in sin is totally depraved. That does not mean that we are all as bad as could be, but that every human faculty has been radically affected by sin. The mind is incapable of receiving God’s truth (Romans 8:7), the heart is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), the will is enslaved by sin (John 8:34). Scripture teaches that man in his fallen state is not damaged, but dead (Ephesians 2:1-4). There is no possibility that a sinner in such a state could ever choose to be saved (Jeremiah 13:23). We don’t need “grace” that will simply facilitate our choice to believe but a gracious act of God that will bring us back from the dead.
Jacob Arminius taught that election is rooted on God foreseeing who would believe and be saved. In that sense election is conditional on the sinner’s response to the gospel. However, if human beings are in fact totally depraved and incapable of choosing to be saved, then conditional election is an impossibility. The Cannons of Dort insist that God chose to save certain sinners from condemnation, not because of anything in themselves, but because of his sheer love and free grace (Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9). The elect were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, redeemed by Christ in the fullness of time and are called to saving faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith are the fruit of election, not its cause (Acts 13:48).
Regrettably, the doctrine of predestination has often been a cause of angry discussion and unhelpful speculation in the church. We should guard against such an attitude, “this teaching must be set forth with a spirit of discretion, in a godly and holy manner, at the appropriate time and place, without inquisitive searching into the ways of the Most High. This must be done for the glory of God's most holy name, and for the lively comfort of his people.” (First Main Point of Doctrine, Article 14).
Reflection on unconditional election should cause the believer to cry out, “Why, O Lord such love to me? Glory to God in the highest!”
This is probably the most difficult and controversial of all the “Five Points of Calvinism”. I’m not sure that “limited atonement” is the best way of describing the Reformed view of the cross. “Definite atonement” is probably more appropriate. The Arminians claimed that Christ died for all, although only believers will be saved. However, if Christ died for all, but not all are saved, then his death was limited in its effectiveness. Some for whom he died will nevertheless go to hell if they perish in unbelief.
Arminians seem to have Scripture on their side when they say that Christ died for the “world” or for “all men” (1 Timothy 2:5 & 6, 1 John 2:2). True Calvinists should have no problem with such texts. Christ did die for a world of guilty sinners. He laid down his life for all kinds of human beings. But we should also bear in mind another strand of biblical teaching that reveals that Christ laid down his life for his “sheep” (John 10:11). Sheep who will most certainly be saved (John 10:27-30). Consider also that Jesus gave himself for the “church” (Acts 20:28, Ephesians 5:25-27).
Christ’s atoning death did not make salvation a possibility should anyone choose to be saved. Rather he actually saved us by his blood (Ephesians 1:7). The Canons are careful to point out that Christ’s death was of infinite value because he who died for sinners was the eternal Son of God in the flesh (Second Main Point, Articles 3&4). He died as a substitute, bearing the penalty of sin specifically for those whom the Father had given him in eternity. Those for whom he died will most certainly be saved by the power of the Spirit. With definite atonement we see all three Persons of the godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit united in a single purpose, to redeem a great multitude that no man can number. The definiteness of the atonement is no bar to the free offer of the gospel,
“Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.” (The Second Main Point of Doctrine, Article 5).
Are you trusting in finished work of Christ to put you right with God?
Again, while TULIP may be a handy aid to memory, “irresistible grace” may not be the best way of putting it; “effective grace” is more accurate. As Stephen pointed out, the offer of grace may certainly be resisted, Acts 7:51. But the Father effectively calls all those whom he has given to Christ for salvation (John 6:37, Romans 8:29).
In the Arminian scheme, saving grace is synergistic. Man must co-operate with God in order to be saved. But this is contradicted by the Bible’s teaching on regeneration or the new birth. This is a monergistic act of divine grace. God alone can breathe new life into those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:4&5). Grace is effective because it is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit by whom sinners are born again (John 3:8).
Effective grace does not mean that God does violence to the human will when he savingly unites a sinner to Christ. Rather, he liberates the enslaved will from the shackles of sin to enable his people freely to repent and believe the gospel. As Jesus said, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7). And only the Spirit of God can give you new life in Christ.
Perseverance of the Saints
Initially the Remonstrants suggested that this doctrine needed further investigation. They did not reject it outright. But by the time of the Synod of Dort their position had hardened. Now they argued that it is possible for a genuine Christian to loose his or her salvation. This not only flies in the face of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions, it is also detrimental to the believer’s assurance. The Canons acknowledged that even the best Christians fall into sin, but God will not allow any of his lovingly chosen, blood-bought people to perish. We are kept by the power of God unto salvation. None can pluck us from the mighty hands of the good shepherd. But the assurance of divine preservation should not induce spiritual carelessness. Without holiness no one will see the Lord. It is the saints, God’s holy people who will persevere to the end. We can be certain that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
Arminianism represented a serious challenge to the Reformed Churches and the subtle arguments of the Remonstrants had to be met with clear scriptural answers. It is often the case that controversy helps to clarify the teaching of the church. We see this with regard to the Trinity and the Person of Christ at the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. The Synod of Dort delivered the definitive Reformed response to Arminian error (see the complete Canons here). The biblical Calvinism of the Synod offers a coherent and compelling vision of the sovereign grace of God in salvation. To him alone be the glory!
* An edited version of this article was published in November's Evangelical Times.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Paul's "theology" is God's word: 1 Thess 2:13, and is to be received as such. The centre of Paul's gospel is Christ's death and resurrection: e.g., 1 Cor 15:3-4. The death and resurrection of Christ are mutually dependent in the salvation of sinners. The cross only saves because Jesus is risen. He was raised from the dead because he died on the cross for our sins, Romans 4:25.
1 Cor 15:20: Christ the "firstfruits". The firstfruits were offered to God as a part of the whole harvest. The resurrection is one great event in two episodes. Christ the "firstfruits" guarantees the ingathering of the whole resurrection harvest.
Col 1 : 18: Christ the "firstborn". He is supreme over death and able to save his people from the power of the grave.
2. The believer's resurrection as a present reality
In Eph 2:1-3 those who are dead in sin "walk according to the course of this world". In Eph 2:10, believers walk in good works. What makes the difference? They have been raised with Christ, Eph 2:5-6: the new "walk" (Col 2:12-13; 3:1; Rom 6:1ff.; Gal 2:20)
4. Conclusions and expansions
a) The resurrection and Christ
It is significant primarily for his humanity, not his deity, "by man" (1 Cor 15:21); "the last Adam," "the second man" (1 Cor 15:45, 47)
In Paul's teaching Christ was "raised," not "rose". He is the passive object of God's resurrection power. A different emphasis is found in John 2:19-22 & 10:17-18. In Paul the resurrection is not so much a proof of Christ's deity as the vindication of the incarnate Son who suffered and died for sinners.
The Holy Spirit: At his resurrection Jesus became "the life-giving Spirit" 1 Cor 15:45. This is Paul's commentary on Pentecost cf. 2 Cor 3: 17 & Rom 1 :3-4.
- (the future) 1 Cor 15:44: the "spiritual" body
- (the present) the Christian life: Rom 8:9-11; Phil 1 :6
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I wander far and wide,
Expecting I may some time come
Close to my Father’s side.
Ahead of me I think I hear
Sounds of a heavenly choir,
A conquering host already gone
Through tempest, flood and fire.
Come, Holy Sprit, fire by night,
Pillar of cloud by day;
Lead, for I dare not take a step
Unless Thou show the way.
So prone am I when on my own
To stray from side to side,
I need, each step to Paradise,
My God to be my guide.
I have a yearning for that land,
Where the unnumbered throng
Extol the death on Calvary
In heaven’s unending song.
William Williams, 1717-91;
tr. by Robert Maynard Jones (Bobi Jones), 1929-
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Luke 24 Christ in the Old Testament
44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
25 And he said to them, "0 foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Does the Old Testament reveal Christ? Some conservative scholars (like Peter Enns, see here?) believe that Christ cannot be directly found in the Old Testament. When New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament with reference to Christ they were finding things in the text that were alien to the original meaning. Jesus' teaching here in Luke 24 calls that view into question. He taught that the Old Testament was about him.
Monday, November 09, 2009
The cost of bringing the gospel to the nations in the lives
of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson and John Paton
John Piper, IVP, 2009 126pp
Millions of people have yet to hear the gospel of salvation. The work of worldwide mission is far from over. But reaching the lost for Christ is a costly affair. As Jesus said, the grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die in order to bear much fruit (John 12:24). Paul was conscious that in the sufferings of his ministry he was filling up what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Colossians 1:24). This does not mean that the apostle was attempting to supplement Christ’s atoning work. But he knew that God’s love for the nations is revealed as his people undergo suffering for the sake of the gospel.
This is the great principle that John Piper seeks to illustrate in the lives of William Tyndale the Bible translator, and pioneer missionaries Adoniram Judson and John Paton. He tells the moving story of how these men were willing to suffer hardship and even death to bring the message of God’s grace to the nations. Each man is a powerful example of Christian courage, self-sacrifice and fortitude in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition and hardship. I defy any reader not to be deeply affected and challenged by Piper’s brief, yet gripping accounts of their lives. Tyndale, Judson and Paton knew what it was to die to themselves in order to serve Christ and win others for him. That is why their ministries bore much fruit. Are we willing to do the same in the great work of reaching the unreached with the good news of Jesus in our day?
Friday, November 06, 2009
I. What is Biblical Theology?
"Biblical Theology" gives careful, methodical attention to the actual history of redemptive revelation. Its focus is the history of special revelation.
While it is true that Geerhardus Vos is the father of Reformed Biblical Theology, the church throughout its history has been aware of the historical character of biblical revelation. Calvin was especially sensitive to redemptive-historical concerns.
II. What is Systematic Theology?
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
10.00 Welcome, Introductions and Devotions.
10.15 Richard Gaffin - "What is Biblical Theology & how is it related to Systematic Theology?"
11.20 Richard Gaffin - "How to interpret and preach the OT in the light of the NT"
14.00 Richard Gaffin - "The resurrection in Paul."