Sunday, August 29, 2010
My friend, pastor Jay Bennett, recently preached a sermon on the text "Gal. 3:11-12, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, ‘For the righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’" Which, according to his own summary includes the themes and thesis:
Themes: Law and Gospel, liberty of conscience, justification
Thesis: Confusing the principles of Law and Gospel (Works and Faith) undermines the truth of the gospel.
Take a listen here.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
I was reading Richard Sibbes and this section jumped out at me. Sibbes almost completely parrots Calvin on this point, but it is interesting how Sibbes frames the importance of Union. The Spirit in uniting us to Christ is spoken of as granting faith, assurance and making the purchased benefits of Christ's ours. For Sibbes, Union seems like another way of speaking of imputation and how imputation is a reality and not merely a legal fiction. I'm not quite sure about Sibbes' full thoughts on imputation and union, comments are welcome:
"But you will say, the liberty of justification is wrought by Christ; we are justified by the obedience of Christ; and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.
Answer: It is true that Christ is our righteousness. But what is that to us unless we have something to put it on? Unless we are united to Christ, what good do we have by Christ, if Christ is not ours? If there is not a spiritual marriage, what benefit do we have by him if we do not have him to pay our debt? For his riches to be ours and our debt to be his, there must first be a union.
Now this union is wrought by the Spirit. It is begun in effectual calling. From this union there comes a change: his righteousness is mine, as if I had obeyed and done it myself; and my debts and sins are his. This is by the Spirit, because the union between Christ and me is by the Spirit. For whatever Christ has done, it is nothing to me till there is a union.
And likewise, freedom is by the Spirit, because the Spirit of God works faith in me not only to unite and knit me to Christ, but to persuade me that Christ is mine, that all his is mine, and that my debts are his...so with this reflexive action [faith], the Spirit brings liberty in justification; just as it is a means of union by which all that is Christ's becomes mine, and mine becomes Christ's."
-Richard Sibbes. Glorious Freedom: The Excellency of the Gospel above the Law. pg 34-35
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.
Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.
Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.
Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.
Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.
Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.
Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.
Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.
Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.
Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.
Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.
Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.
The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him.
HT: Justin Taylor
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
When my wife's grandfather's church started using guitars in their service, he complained that all they sang was 7-11 songs: seven words, sung eleven times. Issac Watts, Gadsby, Wesley and Luther had been replaced by Chris Tomlin, Third Day and Matt Redman. The exchange left a dearth of theological content to the songs the congregation was to sing as worship. Lately, some artists and churches have recognized they have been robbed by contemporary artists that have more musical passion than theological knowledge. Without chucking the guitar, many have begun to bring back the meaningful lyrics of the old hymns to new musical arrangements for guitars and a folksy style. Here are a few of the groups if you tire of being told to "sing to the Lord" without being told why:
Indelible Grace: Based in Nashville Tennessee, Reformed University Fellowship PCA pastor Kevin Twit enlists the few Reformed leaning artists in the Christian Music scene (Derek Webb, Andrew Osenga, Sandra McCracken, Dan Haseltine - of Jars of Clay, etc) to put old hymns to new music. I think this is the best produced of those engaged in this project of new old hymns.
Red Mountain Music: a Church in Alabama started their own goal of putting old hymns to new music. They have especially focused on Gadsby's hymnal and William Cowper's hymns and poems, returning the lament to our hymn catalog.
Sandra McCracken - new old hymns: Two of Sandra's hymns have focused on new old hymns, many of which have ended up on the Indelible Grace albums. (BTW - this is Derek Webb's wife)
Soujourn Music : a community church influenced by Indelible Grace, I am less familiar with their works.
Matthew Smith: one of the artists involved with Indelible Grace, his solo projects pick up on the theme and include many great selections not on Indelible Grace's albums.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Guess, without Googling: Which Dead Theologian wrote these comments from Psalm 59 on 1) The uselessness of our own righteousness, 2) the lack of anything good in ourselves to bring to God 3) the role of preaching the law in bringing us to terror?
Commenting on Psalm 53:3 "For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me"
"There are also other men strong, not because of riches, not because of the powers of the body, not because of any temporally pre-eminent power of station, but relying on their righteousness. This sort of strong men must be guarded against, feared, repulsed, not imitated: of men relying, I say, not on body, not on means, not on descent, not on honour; for all such things who would not see to be temporal, fleeting, falling, flying? but relying on their own righteousness.…“Wherefore,” say they, doth your Master eat with publicans and sinners? (Matt 9:11) O ye strong men, to whom a Physician is not needful! This strength to soundness belongeth not, but to insanity. For even than men frenzied nothing can be stronger, more mighty they are than whole men: but by how much greater their powers are, by so much nearer is their death. May God therefore turn away from our imitation these strong men.…The same are therefore the strong men, that assailed Christ, commending their own justice. Hear ye these strong men: when certain men of Jerusalem were speaking, having been sent by them to take Christ, and not daring to take Him (because when he would, then was He taken, that truly was strong): Why therefore, say they, “could ye not take Him?” And they made answer, “No one of men did ever so speak as He.” And these strong men, “Hath by any means any one of the Pharisees believed on Him, or any one of the Scribes, but this people knowing not the Law?” (John 7:45-49). They preferred themselves to the sick multitude, that was running to the Physician: whence but because they were themselves strong? and what is worse, by their strength, all the multitude also they brought over unto themselves, and slew the Physician of all.…"
And on Verse 10: Behold what is, “My strength, to Thee I will keep:” on myself I will in no ways at all rely. For what good thing have I brought, that thou shouldest have mercy on me, and shouldest justify me? What in me hast Thou found, save sins alone? Of Thine there is nothing else but the nature which Thou hast created: the other things are mine own evil things which Thou hast blotted out. I have not first risen up to Thee, but to awake me Thou hast come: for “His mercy shall come before me.” Before that anything of good I shall do, “His mercy shall come before me.”
And on the Law: "The Conscience is not to be healed, if it be not wounded. Thou preachest and pressest the law, comminations the judgment to come, with much earnestness and importunity. He Which hears, if he be not terrified, if he be not troubled, is not to be comforted."
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
One of my favorite works by John Owen is "The Dominion of Sin and Grace." (Buy book here) Here, Owen deftly expounds on the Biblical teaching of the dominion of sin, and the dominion of grace (and also issues of Law and Gospel) that helps Christians understand both the failure and victory in sin we have as believers. I've highlighted my favorite parts.
The ground of this assurance is, that believers are “not under the law, but under grace.” And the force of this reason we may manifest in some few instances:—
First, The law giveth no strength against sin unto them that are under it, but grace doth. Sin will neither be cast nor kept out of its throne, but by a spiritual power and strength in the soul to oppose, conquer, and dethrone it. Where it is not conquered it will reign; and conquered it will not be without a mighty prevailing power: this the law will not, cannot give.
The law is taken two ways:— 1. For the whole revelation of the mind and will of God in the Old Testament. In this sense it had grace in it, and so did give both life, and light, and strength against sin, as the psalmist declares, Ps. xix. 7–9. In this sense it contained not only the law of precepts, but the promise also and the covenant, which was the means of conveying spiritual life and strength unto the church. In this sense it is not here spoken of, nor is anywhere opposed unto grace. 2. For the covenant rule of perfect obedience: “Do this, and live.” In this sense men are said to be “under it,” in opposition unto being “under grace.” They are under its power, rule, conditions, and authority, as a covenant. And in this sense all men are under it who are not instated in the new covenant through faith in Christ Jesus, who sets up in them and over them the rule of grace; for all men must be one way or other under the rule of God, and he rules only by the law or by grace, and none can be under both at the same time.
In this sense the law was never ordained of God to convey grace or spiritual strength unto the souls of men; had it been so, the promise and the gospel had been needless: “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law,” Gal. iii. 21. If it could have given life or strength, it would have produced righteousness, we should have been justified by it. It discovers sin and condemns it, but gives no strength to oppose it. It is not God’s ordinance for the dethroning of sin, nor for the destruction of its dominion.
This law falls under a double consideration, but in neither of them was designed to give power or strength against sin:—
1. As it was given unto mankind in the state of innocency; and it did then absolutely and exactly declare the whole duty of man, whatever God in his wisdom and holiness did require of us. It was God’s ruling of man according to the principle of the righteousness wherein he was created. But it gave no new aids against sin; nor was there any need that so it should do. It was not the ordinance of God to administer new or more grace unto man, but to rule and govern him according to what he had received; and this it continueth to do forever. It claims and continues a rule over all men, according to what they had and what they have; but it never had power to bar the entrance of sin, nor to cast it out when it is once enthroned.
2. As it was renewed and enjoined unto the church of Israel on Mount Sinai, and with them unto all that would join themselves unto the Lord out of the nations of the world. Yet neither was it then, nor as such, designed unto any such end as to destroy or dethrone sin by an administration of spiritual strength and grace. It had some new ends given then unto it, which it had not in its original constitution, the principal whereof was to drive men to the promise, and Christ therein; and this it doth by all the acts and powers of it on the souls of men. As it discovers sin, as it irritates and provokes it by its severity, as it judgeth and condemneth it, as it denounceth a curse on sinners, it drives unto this end; for this was added of grace in the renovation of it, this new end was given unto it. In itself it hath nothing to do with sinners, but to judge, curse, and condemn them.
There is, therefore, no help to be expected against the dominion of sin from the law. It was never ordained of God unto that end; nor doth it contain, nor is it communicative of, the grace necessary unto that end, Rom. viii. 3.
Wherefore, those who are “under the law” are under the dominion of sin. “The law is holy,” but it cannot make them holy who have made themselves unholy; it is “just,” but it cannot make them so, — it cannot justify them whom it doth condemn; it is “good,” but can do them no good, as unto their deliverance from the power of sin. God hath not appointed it unto that end. Sin will never be dethroned by it; it will not give place unto the law, neither in its title nor its power....
Men under the law will attend unto their convictions, and endeavour for a while to shake off the yoke of sin. They will attend unto what the law saith, under whose power they are, and endeavour a compliance therewith; many duties shall be performed, and many evils abstained from, in order to the quitting themselves of sin’s dominion. But, alas! the law cannot enable them hereunto, — it cannot give them life and strength to go through with what their convictions press them unto; therefore, after a while they begin to faint and wax weary in their progress, and at length give quite over. It may be they may break off from some great sins in particular, but shake off the whole dominion of sin they cannot.
It is otherwise with them that are “under grace.” Sin shall not have dominion over them; strength shall be administered unto them to dethrone it.
“Grace” is a word of various acceptations in the Scripture. As we are here said to be under it, and as it is opposed unto the law, it is used or taken for the gospel, as it is the instrument of God for the communication of himself and his grace by Jesus Christ unto those that do believe, with that state of acceptation with himself which they are brought into thereby, Rom. v. 1, 2. Wherefore, to be “under grace” is to have an interest in the gospel covenant and state, with a right unto all the privileges and benefits thereof, to be brought under the administration of grace by Jesus Christ, — to be a true believer.
But the inquiry hereon is, how it follows from hence that sin shall not have dominion over us, that sin cannot extend its territories and rule into that state, and in what sense this is affirmed.
1. Is it that there shall be no sin in them any more? Even this is true in some sense. Sin as unto its condemning power hath no place in this state, Rom. viii. 1. All the sins of them that believe are expiated or done away, as to the guilt of them, in the blood of Christ, Heb. i. 3, 1 John i. 7. This branch of the dominion of sin, which consists in its condemning power, is utterly cast out of this state. But sin as unto its being and operation doth still continue in believers whilst they are in this world; they are all sensible of it. Those who deceive themselves with a contrary apprehension are most of all under the power of it, 1 John i. 8. Wherefore, to be freed from the dominion of sin is not to be freed absolutely from all sin, so as that it should in no sense abide in us any more. This is not to be under grace, but to be in glory.
2. Is it that sin, though it abides, yet it shall not fight or contend for dominion in us? That this is otherwise we have before declared. Scripture and the universal experience of all that believe do testify the contrary; so doth the assurance here given us that it shall not obtain that dominion: for if it did not contend for it, there could be no grace in this promise, — there is none in deliverance from that whereof we are in no danger.
But the assurance here given is built on other considerations; whereof the first is, that the gospel is the means ordained and instrument used by God for the communication of spiritual strength unto them that believe, for the dethroning of sin. It is the “power of God unto salvation,” Rom. i. 16, that whereby and wherein he puts forth his power unto that end. And sin must be really dethroned by the powerful acting of grace in us, and that in a way of duty in ourselves. We are absolved, quitted, freed from the rule of sin, as unto its pretended right and title, by the promise of the gospel; for thereby are we freed and discharged from the rule of the law, wherein all the title of sin unto dominion is founded, for “the strength of sin is the law:” but we are freed from it, as unto its internal power and exercise of its dominion, by internal spiritual grace and strength in its due exercise. Now, this is communicated by the gospel; it gives life and power, with such continual supplies of grace as are able to dethrone sin, and forever to prohibit its return.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
My Main Listening diet:
The Reformed Forum (a group of Reformed pastors interview theologians and talk books/theology)
Morning Prayer. A daily podcast with prayer and Scripture readings based on the Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer service. Great for a 15 minute ride to work.
Other programs I will listen to on occasion:
(Reformed pastors calling the church back to the Biblical Ordinary means of grace)
Ask Pastor John. A very short podcast series of reader questions that John Piper answers off the cuff.
9 Marks Interviews (Mark Dever)
NPR – Religion
(Stories on Religion from NPR from the week)
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
"There are still abroad forms of a Christless gospel. There prevails still a subtle form of legalism which would rob the Savior of his crown of glory, earned by the cross, and would make of him a second Moses, offering us the stones of the law instead of the life bread of the gospel."
-Geerhardus Vos. Anthology. pg 181
(Matthew 7:9 - "which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?")
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
He who wants to know God, love God, worship God, and serve God should learn to know Christ aright, should love Christ, should worship Christ, and serve Him. To know, love, worship, or serve God without Christ is impossible.
Monday, August 09, 2010
I had wondered a few times about the compiler of "Valley of Vision," a book of Puritan prayers that has been personally rewarding and our church sometimes uses for worship. Justin Taylor has posted a short biography of the man, Arthur Bennett, that was an evangelist to the homeless and greatly ministered to by the early puritan movement, especially in the piety of prayer.
"Who is Arthur Bennett?"
Friday, August 06, 2010
I've been trying to listen to more of Sinclair Ferguson's sermons lately, as they have been recommended to me by several people. These I found particularly helpful. Doctrinal, serious in their call to holiness (the topic addressed in these sessions) but also gospel-filled. Take a listen to these from a Ligonier Conference:
Titus 2:11-14 - Our Holiness: The Father's Purpose and the Son's Purchase
John 15 - Our Holiness: Abiding in Christ's Love