"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Prayer Changes Things (Pastor's Corner)



            Have you ever been surprised in an answer to prayer? Perhaps you prayed for something, and were shocked that it actually happened. In the book of Acts Chapter 12, that exact thing happened. Peter is arrested and the authorities were ready to execute him for preaching the gospel. The Church was still in shock from the death of James, the brother of John. They prayed, (Acts 12:5) but knew Peter was likely headed for the same fate.
            Yet, in the middle of the night, like a dream, an angel of God frees Peter from prison and Peter decides to visit a group of Christians who at that moment were praying, probably for his release (Acts 12:12). The servant girl is so shocked he leaves Peter at the door knocking and tells the praying Christians who don’t believe her! (Acts 12:15) When they finally opened the door, Scripture says “they saw him and were amazed.” (Acts 12:16)
            There is much to love in this story. First, the humor of Peter showing up and being left knocking at the door. But also, it is amazing to see the church pray for something they seemed not to believe would be answered in the way they desired. Perhaps this shows that the strength of the faith of our prayer is not the factor, but the strength of the One to Whom we pray is what counts! Certainly, God does not always answer us exactly how we want. Jesus prays to avoid the cross if possible, praying “may this cup pass from me” but ultimately submits to His Father, that His Father’s Will be done: “not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Our prayers, for the sake of our good and God’s glory must sometimes be answered: “no.”
            That fact, however, should not lead us to abandoning prayer because it would “not change anything.” God is sovereign, yet still God sovereignly decided that prayer would change things humanly speaking. God loves to use means (our confession of faith even says so! WCF 3.1). God does not have to use the means of his Word to convert, yet God uses that secondary means. God also does not have to use the means of prayer to affect events, yet God ordains the prayers and events of history at times to aid our faith, and even advance the gospel. Stephen prayed for Saul, and Saul was converted. The church prayed for Peter’s release, and Peter was released. Hezekiah prayed not to die, and God gave him 15 more years. God answers prayers, for our benefit, and sometimes intervenes in ways that would be different if not for our prayers because God wills that prayer be the deciding factor. Prayer becomes a means of our peering into the graciousness and mercy of a Father who listens to His beloved children.
            One such prayer, that changed all of our lives, was uttered by Christ on the cross. “Father, forgive them.” Although God does not answer all of our prayers “yes” he does answer the prayers that are best for us. We can thank God then for a “no,” such as the Father answered Jesus’ prayer that the cup pass from Him, so that God could answer “yes” to the prayer: “Father, forgive them.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Prayers of a Mother (Pastor's Corner)


            Prayer is powerful. It is powerful not because prayer itself is powerful, but because the God to Whom we pray is powerful and is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.[Ephesians 3:20] We might hear that, but does it actually happen?
            Aurelius Augustus (popularly known as “Augustine”) was a saint, as all are who believe in Christ, but if you read his life in his autobiography “Confessions,” your first reaction would not be to call him holy. Augustine recalls his “hedonistic” days when he stole for the fun of it, was a womanizer, and followed every new worldly philosophy he encountered.
            This was not how Monica, his mother, raised him. She had as her desire that he would get married, live near her, and most of all to be a faithful Christian. But as Monica watched Augustine shacking up with various women, follow teachers and philosophers around and even move hundreds of miles away – she did more than watch. She prayed. A lot.
As Augustine wrote his autobiography, the narrative is the form of a prayer to God as he sees the hand of God on his life, and God seeking him, even when Augustine was not seeking God. Soon, Augustine met a Christian friend and listened to a preacher named Ambrose and picked up the Scriptures after hearing a child’s voice playing, saying “Tolle Lege!” or “Take and Read!” Augustine read a section of Romans about the evils of sin and glories of Christ and was convicted, turning to Christ. The first thing he did was tell his mother, whom he knew was praying for him. He wrote:
“From there we went in to my mother, and told her. She was filled with joy. We told her how it happened. She exulted, feeling it to be a triumph, and blessed You [God] who ‘are more powerful to do more than we ask or think’ [Ephesians 3:20]. She saw that you had granted her far more than she had long been praying for in her unhappy and tearful groans.” [1]
Our Confession calls prayer a “means of grace.” Yet, prayer is unique since the grace for whom it may be a means may not even be the one who is praying. Prayer was a means of grace for Saul as Stephen prayed for his soul. Prayer was a means of grace for Augustine as Monica prayed for her son’s soul. Prayer can be a means of grace as we pray, “offering up our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies”[2] as we pray for grace for our family, friends and even enemies to know the God of grace.


[1] Augustine. Confessions. chapter VIII.xii
[2] Shorter Catechism Question 98

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good Works and Salvation



John Colquhoun’s propositions on “The Necessity of Good Works” [From A Treatise on the Law and Gospel. Pages 289-303]:

In what ways good works ARE NOT necessary:
1.       Good works are not necessary to move God to be merciful and gracious to us.
2.       Our good works are not necessary to afford us a right to trust in Christ for salvation
3.       Neither are good works necessary to acquire for us a personal interest in Christ
4.       Good Works are not requisite to acquire for us a right to increasing degrees of sanctification
5.       Once more, good works have no place in obtaining for the saints a right to eternal life in heaven.

In what ways good works ARE necessary:
1.       They are necessary as just acknowledgments of God’s sovereign authority over believers, and as acts of obedience to His righteous commands
2.       Good works are indispensably requisite as being one special end of election, redemption, regeneration, and effectual vocation of the objects of God’s everlasting love.
3.       Good works are also necessary inasmuch as they are one great design of the gospel, and of the ordinances and providential dispensations of the Lord.
4.       It is indispensably requisite that believers perform good works as expressions of gratitude to their God and Savior for all His inestimable benefits vouchsafed to them.
5.       Good works are not less necessary as they are our walking in the way which leads to heaven.
6.       Good works are also indispensably requisite in order to evidence and confirm the faith of the saints.
7.       Good works are necessary to believers for making their calling and election sure to them.
8.       Good works are indispensably requisite for the maintenance or continuance of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
9.       Good works are no less needful in order to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, and our profession of that holy and heavenly doctrine.
10.   Good works are also requisite to stop the mouths of wicked men and to prevent offense.
11.   They are necessary, moreover, for the edification and comfort of fellow Christians.
12.   Finally good works are indispensably requisite for promoting before the world the manifested glory of Christ, and of God in Him.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Colquhoun on Good Works and Salvation

In commending good works, John Colquhoun adds this important warning:

Believers are not saved either by their works, for their works, or according to their works:

We are not saved by them: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us." (Titus 3:5)

We are not saved for them. "It is not for your sake do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you" (Ezekiel 36:32)

We are not saved according to them. "He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:9) Men are indeed to be judged according to their works; but are not to be saved according to them. The rule of judgement will be the law; but the rule of salvation will be the gospel.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Arrabon of the Holy Spirit

"This phrase is twice used by Paul in another Epistle (2 Cor 1:22, 5:5). The metaphor is taken from bargains, in which, when a pledge has been given and accepted, the whole is confirmed, and no room is left for a change of mind." -John Calvin on Ephesians 1:14

Paul explains in Ephesians 1:14 that the Holy Spirit is given to us as an “arrabon” (αρραβων) (the Greek word here) or in English: “Pledge” (NASB), “deposit” (NIV), or “guarantee” (ESV, NKJV) or “down payment” (NET) or “earnest” (KJV, ASV) or “first installment.” (Message) When all those possible translations are taken together, the meaning starts to become clear. The Holy Spirit is the down payment or first installment of salvation, that which is begun and that which is to come.
So if the Holy Spirit is the down payment, the pledge, of our inheritance our salvation, then it is sure to be completed. Yet, some that will see the Holy Spirit pledged as a down payment or first installment and say that God can then take back the arrabon the pledge of the Holy Spirit. It has even been said: the arrabon of the Holy Spirit, the down payment of future glory is given to all members of the visible church merely by being baptized and can be lost.This is blasphemous.
To explain it in contemporary terms: you have all had a major purchase, whether a house or a car and know you that when you make a down payment, a pledge, a first installment, if you do not end up purchasing it or redeeming it, you do not get the down payment back. Once you hand over the pledge, that pledge or down payment is now theirs. Perhaps today, some of those rules vary, but it did not in Scripture.

The word “arrabon” appears in the Old Testament in the Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Old Testament) in Genesis 38. Judah gave the arrabon to Tamar, and this pledge of his signet, cord and staff was a guarantee of the final payment. When he did not pay the final payment of the goat, he lost his pledge, with his personalized signet.
That means, if God could give you the Holy Spirit as an arrabon, and does not in the end redeem you, then He doesn’t get the Holy Spirit back. If you can be given the Holy Spirit as an arrabon and end up in hell, that means the Holy Spirit can end up in hell. God would end up in hell.
To say one can lose the arrabon of the Holy Spirit is to call God a liar. You do not receive a pledge back if you don’t provide the payment. That’s what makes it a pledge. If you go back on your pledge, you lie. Now for someone to say that God can give the Spirit as a pledge and take Him back not only makes the whole transaction worthless, (what’s the point of the pledge then?) but saying God can give and then take back his pledge is calling God a liar. Or, it is to curse God to hell.
To all that have the Spirit as an arrabon, He is bonded to the soul of a believer. Where you go, He goes. Where ever you go, the Spirit goes.
Let me assure you, the Spirit will not go to hell. Christ experienced the wrath of God which is hell, but if God gives you the Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity knows what the Second Person of the Trinity endured in the hell of propitiation, of the hell of God’s wrath being poured out on Christ.
The Spirit bore Christ up during that, and He won’t go through that again. The Spirit will not be eternally grieved, the Spirit will not be thrown into hell, that means if you have the Spirit as an arrabon, as a down payment, BONDED to your soul, SEALED to your fate, your fate will not be eternal death.
Can God assure you any more than giving you Himself in the Spirit as the pledge, the guarantee of the inheritance in Christ? God is true to His word, we dare not blaspheme God in claiming otherwise.