Archive for July, 2010

Mattie Ross on Presbyterian History and the Doctrine of Election

“Mrs. Bagby was not a Cumberland Presbyterian but a member of the U.S. or Southern Presbyterian Church. I too am now a member of the Southern Church. I say nothing against the Cumberlands. They broke with the Presbyterian Church because they did not believe a preacher needed a lot of formal education. That is all right but they are not sound on Election. They do not fully accept it. I confess it is a hard doctrine, running contrary to our earthly ideas of fair play, but I can see no way around it. Read I Corinthians 6:13 and II Timothy 1:9, 10. Also I Peter 1:2, 19, 20 and Romans 11:7. There you have it. It was good enough for Paul and Silas and it is good enough for me. It is good enough for you too.”

True Grit, Charles Portis

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I Found It Interesting

Why Are Parents so Unhappy? And Who Would Settle for Happiness, Anyway? – Here is a great article by Albert Mohler on parenting. It challenges much of the culture’s thinking on parenting.

How Being Saved Frees Us to Share the Gospel – A handful of great insights that Justin Taylor pulled from Tim Keller.

Are There Dangers in Being ‘Spiritual but not Religious?’ – A great article highlighting the self-centered-exaltation involved in the spiritual but not religious position. Regarding the title question – the headlining photo answers it pretty clearly.

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Westminster Wednesday – WSC #7

What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Often times, among armchair theologians, discussions on the decrees of God quickly turn to the specific order of the decrees. We like to do this because we get to use big words like infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and amyraldism. However, the Westminster Divines, those men who had a hand in writing the Westminster Standards, displayed far more wisdom and restraint in dealing with this grand subject. They simply sought to define what they were talking about. Five points can be developed from the Divines answer to WSC #7.

First, the decrees of God are his eternal purpose. Each of the last three words could be emphasized to bring out various issues. The decrees of God are HIS eternal purpose. The decrees of God are not my purpose, or yours, He is the one at work. The decrees of God are his ETERNAL purpose. As much as we understand that God is eternal, so his decrees are eternal. The decrees of God are his eternal PURPOSE. The decrees of God are neither his eternal slip-up nor his eternal reaction.

Second, the decrees of God are according to his will. In other words, God was not strong-armed into decreeing something. When we couple this with the first statement we are able to take comfort in all things knowing that while we may be surprised, God is not surprised or taken aback by our present situation. Rather, it is his purpose and according to his will.

Third, the decrees of God are for his glory. God is single-minded in his pursuit of his own glory, and he should be. After all, if there were something or someone other than God more worthy of being glorified then God would not be ultimate.

Fourth, the decrees of God are prior to the things decreed. God foreordained. Just to be clear, that means that God ordained it (whatever it is) before it actually was. This seems obvious, but alas, there are numerous theological attempts to hijack the plain meaning of foreordination. The argument generally goes like this. God is outside of time, so he looked down and saw what was going to happen then went back and foreordained it. The problem with this idea, beyond it being a man-centered attempt to put a leash on God so we can walk him around like a puppy dog in order to impress our more religiously sensitive friends is as follows. If God saw what was going to happen without his ordaining it to happen first then it doesn’t really matter what he decrees because it is only a reaction to our actions. In other words, if this is the case, God is a patsy unworthy of being glorified.

Fifth, the decrees of God encompass everything that is. God foreordained “whatsoever comes to pass.” Let that soak in. When this last phrase is considered along with the rest of the Divines answer to question #7 we being to understand why the Psalmist wrote Psalm 46 in which we are encouraged to “Be still, and know that I am God.” His God is absolutely in control. Here is the deal. Whatever situation you are currently in, God foreordained that situation for his glory according to his will as part of his eternal purpose. In other words, God has it under control. Go ahead, pick a situation, this applies. We can rejoice in hard circumstances and be humble in wonderful circumstances precisely because “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Now some will cry foul at this doctrine saying, “That’s not biblical! That goes against the free will of man! That offends every rational, autonomous sensibility in man! You only believe that because you are a Calvinist!” We will work backwards through these objections.

“You only believe that because you are a Calvinist!” Perhaps, but if I answer the first objection then it very well may be the case that I am a Calvinist because I, along with Calvin, believe the Bible.

“That offends every rational, autonomous sensibility in man!” Which is exactly why so many people left Jesus when he taught the same thing as recorded in John 6.

“That goes against the free will of man!” You are partially correct. This goes against your understanding of the free will of man. However, if I answer the first objection this is your problem not mine.

“That’s not biblical!” – Well…

Gen. 1:1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Deut. 30:1“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.

Job 38:1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Psa. 33:10The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

Is. 14:24The LORD of hosts has sworn:
“As I have planned,
so shall it be,
and as I have purposed,
so shall it stand,
that I will break the Assyrian in my land,
and on my mountains trample him underfoot;
and his yoke shall depart from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.”
This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?

Is. 45:5I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

John 6:35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” 41So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught  at Capernaum. 60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

Acts 2:22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Rom. 9:6But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath  prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called  ‘sons of the living God.’”
And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.”

Rom. 11:33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Eph. 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Eph. 1:11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

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Christ the Cornerstone: 1 Peter 2.6-8

Annie, my wife, and I have been looking at houses for the last year-and-a-half. We love old houses. With five kids, there is only so much fixing up that is realistic, so there are a few issues that we ask about in every house we consider. One of the issues we always check is the foundation. It is simple really, if the foundation is not good, then the house is not good.

Long ago, a foundation was begun with the setting of the cornerstone. At some point, the advances in modern construction moved the cornerstone from its functional use to a ceremonial use marking the date and architect of the building. Nonetheless, the principle of a cornerstone is plain. The cornerstone was set first and then all the other foundation stones were set in reference to it. By extension, you could say the rest of the building was built in reference to this first stone set. The cornerstone is the standard for the rest of the building.

In 1 Peter 2.6-8, Peter quotes three Old Testament passages applying each of these passages to Christ. All three of these passages deal with cornerstones or a stone as the standard. He writes,

6For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do (ESV).

Peter’s message to the elect exiles to whom he writes is that Christ is the cornerstone on which their faith and life are to be built. Peter’s audience in this letter was Christians who had been exiled to a new and foreign land paganism and idolatry were the norm. In such a land, the opportunities to compromise one’s faith for the sake of some fleeting temporal security would have been many. Peter wrote to encourage these believers in the security and hope they had in Christ. He wanted them to know that a hope in Christ was a well placed hope and that a hope in anything else was like erecting a building around a poorly set or shaped cornerstone, it was doomed to fall.

Isaiah’s message to the people of Ephraim and Jerusalem was essentially the same. He writes,

15Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’
And I will make justice the line,
and righteousness the plumb line;
and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

The people of Ephraim and Jerusalem, acting in their pride, found their hope and in security in their vain attempts to establish their own name. They had built on a misshapen and poorly set cornerstone, and God was foretelling, through Isaiah, the coming destruction. Peter’s letter to the elect exiles is written that they may avoid a similar fate.

In our day, there are multiple opportunities to compromise everyday. We are constantly faced with the illusion of and temptation of self-security. Occasionally, as with the recent economic downturn, we get an honest look at the instability of our foundation. However, the issue for the people of Ephraim and Jerusalem was not simply that their foundation was weak; the issue was that it was sin. Failure to acknowledge God as the true and living God is sin. Finding our security and hope in something outside of the God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ and him alone, is idolatry and sin. The reason the walls built on this misshapen and poorly set cornerstone are doomed to fall is because the cornerstone is fundamentally flawed and our use of it reveals the fundamental problem of our heart, we are sinful idolaters.

We can learn much from the Peter’s letter to these elect exiles in Asia Minor. We would do well to hear and heed Peter’s encouragement to live in this world with Christ as our cornerstone rather than the misshapen and poorly set options the world has to offer, yet we must recognize this is not a passage given merely to self-help. Peter’s use of the cornerstone metaphor from Isaiah and Psalms is a call to repent of our idolatrous and sinful attempts to find security in something other than Christ.

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