Monday, December 18, 2006

The Bible's testimony against Christmass

At this time of year many churches are busy with carol services, nativity plays, Christmass day services and the like. Very few stop to ask why they do these things. Does God in His Word require these things? If he does not, how do we know whether or not they are acceptable?

The origins of the festival of Christmass in Babylonian paganism in terms of its date and its customs are quite obvious (see Alexander Hislop's study The Encyclopedia Britannica makes this clear "In the south of Europe, in Egypt and Persia, the sun gods were worshipped with elaborate ceremonies at the season of the winter solstice, as a fitting time to pay tribute to the benign god of plenty, while in Rome the Saturnalia reigned for a week. In northern lands mid-December was a critical time, for the days became shorter and shorter and the sun was weak and far away. Thus these ancient peoples held feast at the same period that Christmas is now observed." (1961 ed.), 5:643.

Christmass was not celebrated by the apostles or the early church. It was not until the middle of the 4th century, that many churches in the Latin west celebrated Christmass and during the 5th century, Christmass became an official Roman Catholic holy day. The Roman Catholics of that time believed in bringing pagans into the Church by "Christianizing" their pagan religious customs and practices. They simply transferred the symbols of the worship of pagan gods and gave them a Christian significance. Although a successful "missionary strategy" outwardly it was in direct rebellion against God who commands: "Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain" (Jer. 10:2-3). "Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods" (Deut. 12:31).

Even if Christmas had no pagan associations of the past or with Roman Catholicism we ought to reject it because the Bible does not teach the observance of Christmas. The Scriptures make it clear exactly how we are to worship God, including special days that we should observe, “what thing soever I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it”. (Deut. 12:32 cf Lev. 10:1-3). For other Scriptures maintaining this principle see: Genesis 4:3-5; 2 Samuel 6:3-7 and 1 Chronicles 15:13-15, cp. Numbers 4:6 and 15. The second commandment teaches us that we are only to worship God in the way that He requires. Answer 109 of the Westminster Larger Catechism explains that the commandment forbids "any other wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself." The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ reinforces this: - “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7-8). The Apostle Paul likewise warns against “will worship” (Col. 2:22-23), worship that originates in the wishes of man wants to do rather than the commandment of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ commands the Church to teach men to observe all things that He had commanded (Matt. 28:20). They had no authority to add or take from what He has commanded. This scriptural teaching that whatever Scripture does not command is to be excluded from worship is known as the "regulative principle”. We exclude uninspired hymns, musical instruments and also holy days appointed by man. It is of course appropriate to respond to the providence of God with days of thanksgiving or prayer and humiliation as the Westminster Directory For Public Worship explains: “Nevertheless, it is lawful and necessary, upon special emergent occasions, to separate a day or days for public fasting or thanksgiving, as the several eminent and extraordinary dispensations of God’s providence shall administer cause and opportunity to his people” (Westminster Directory For Public Worship), it goes on to say, however, that, “festival days, vulgarly called ‘Holy-days’, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued”.

While events and situations in providence vary across the years and century and across nations, the facts of the redemption that has been accomplished do not. The death and resurrection of Christ are commemorated through the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Day. No other days have been appointed and therefore they are not needed. To appoint other days is to reject the wisdom of God, believing that His appointment was insufficient.

King Jeroboam of Israel violated the regulative principle by ordaining a holy day “which he had devised of his own heart” (1 Kings 12:32-33). It was similar to the one that God had ordained and it was in worship of the same God but it was not on the day that God had commanded but on a day of Jeroboam’s devising.

v32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of
the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

v33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day
of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart;
and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar,
and burnt incense.

Some may appeal to the feast of Purim in the book of Esther. The feast of Purim was not, however, worship as Esther 9:18, 26, and 28 makes clear. It was a day of gladness, but not an institution of worship like Jeroboam’s sacrifices. The Westminster Confession speaks of “solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.” (WCF Chapter 21, Section 5). It uses Esther 9:20-22 as a proof text for “and thanksgivings upon special occasions”, not for the ordinances of worship which it deals with before this.

For an excellent study of this matter see The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas by Brian Schwertley

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Third Day

On which day did the Lord Jesus Christ rise again from the dead?
The Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the dead on the third day (1 Cor 15:4; Luke 24: 7, 21, 26; Acts 10:40).

Why does Scripture speak of resurrection after three days as well as on the third day?
Scripture speaks of the resurrection as upon the third day most frequently which assumes only 1 day and 2 nights intervening between the day of His death and His resurrection. Scripture uses the same expression in other instances e.g. Luke 2:46 “after three days” which means the third day. According to the divine commandment circumcision was to be on the eighth day after birth which would allow for only six whole days intervening, but Scripture says that Christ was circumcised after eight days – it is plain however that both expressions mean the same thing (Luke 2:21). Three days and the third day are therefore to be regarded as equivalent.

How do the Scriptures prophesy of Christ's rising from the dead on the third day?
By types, prophecies and the words of Christ Himself.

Who were the types of Christ's rising from the dead on the third day?
Jonah, who was in belly of the fish for 3 days and nights (Matt. 12:40). Even so Christ was taken out of the jaws of death and restored to the land of the living. Isaac was to Abraham dead for 3 days while he prepared to sacrifice him and he was restored to life in a figure (Gen. 22:4; Heb. 11:19).

What else was a type of Christ's resurrection on the third day?
1.Moses receiving the law (Ex. 19:11, 15-16, 20) when it was said that “the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai”and that the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount.
2.Under the ceremonial law purification from the pollution of death was effected on the third day (Num. 19:12, 19; 31:19).
3.The peace-offerings had to be eaten before their corruption the third day (Lev. 7:15-18; 19:6-8). Thus Christ did not see corruption in the grave (Ps. 16:10).
4.The first-fruits were offered the day after the sabbath of the Passover (Lev. 23:10-12), which was the exact day on which Christ arose. One sheaf was selected as the best and waved before the LORD in the name of all the rest. Thus Christ is the firstfruits “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1 Cor. 15:20 & 23). It was on the third day of creation that the earth brought forth her fruit (Gen. 1:11-12), these were the very first firstfruits.

Where is Christ's resurrection on the third day prophesied?
Hosea prophesies of Christ's resurrection “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.” (Hos. 6:2-3). David prophesies of it in Psalm 16:10 in making it clear that the Messiah would not see corruption in the grave (Acts 2:27). The Lord Jesus Christ refers to these in Luke 24:46.

Where does Christ predict His rising again from the dead on the third day?
He speaks most frequently of rising on the third day (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:23; Matt. 20:19; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:34; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:7) and on two occasions of rising after three days (Mark 8:31; John 2:19).

Who, besides the disciples, were witnesses that Christ rose on the third day?
The soldiers who guarded the tomb until the third day (Matt. 27:64).

Why did Christ rise on the third day?
If He arose suddenly and immediately it would be open to question by doubters that He may merely have swooned and revived without dying completely. It was necessary therefore to assure all that He did die and then arose from the dead. Lazarus arose from the dead after 4 days by which time his body had entered into corruption as expected (Jn. 11:39). Christ rose on the third day without His body entering into corruption because it was preserved by His divine nature to which it was still united though parted from His human soul.

How does Christ's resurrection on the third day relate to the sabbath?
Christ rested in the grave on the Old Testament sabbath but rose again on the first day of the week to sanctify the Christian sabbath, thus preserving the commandment but changing the day. Christ rested from His works of laying the foundation of the New Creation in and by His resurrection. The Christian sabbath remains then, as a pledge of our future full entering into His rest (Heb 4:9-10).

Why was the day changed?
For His own honour and service and to mark the completion of redemption, Christ, who is the Lord of the Sabbath, has appointed this day above that of the Creation sabbath - which was connected with the Covenant of Works. The rest of Creation was spoiled by the Fall, but the rest of Redemption can never be marred. Redemption is therefore a far greater and more excellent work than even that of Creation. The yearly calendar was changed after the Exodus (Ex. 12:2 and Deut 5:15), yet the redemption wrought by Christ was greater therefore a change in the day is equally appropriate.

How can the change of the Sabbath from the last to the first day of the week be proved from Scripture?
(See Fisher's Catechism).
1.the Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection, met ordinarily with His disciples on the first day of the week;
2.after the ascension, He poured out His Spirit in an extraordinary manner on that day;
3.the apostles honoured this day above all others for the public worship in their example
4. by command of the apostles this day was to be kept for Sabbath service
5.this day is given the special title of the Lord's Day

Friday, November 10, 2006

relationship not a religion?

Among many evangelicals the word "religion" is quite literally an anathema. The slogan that real Christianity is a "Relationship not a Religion" is everywhere. For many it is the key content of evangelism, "What God wants is for you to respond to His invitation to join Him in a relationship", they say. For others it is a crucial principle of church growth theory. Potential church members are supposed to be looking for fulfillment, meaning, balance, relationships, mentors, a sense of community, and, first and foremost, "Relationship, not Religion."

As with all slogans there is an element of truth distorted by generalisation. Slogans were never meant to be definitions but simply an advertising technique. Of course it's possible to make religion an end in itself and to be very religious but miss salvation altogether. Those that go about to establish their own righteousness through religion but have not submitted to the righteousness of God which is by faith. The problem is not so much with religion itself but with the way in which people use it. If we are to despise everything God-given that man in his depravity can abuse we will be left with nothing.

The definition that "Religion is the human effort to reach God through rules and rituals" is a bit off the mark. What they have defined is salvation by works, some religions are based upon that but not all have to be. Of course we need to be apprehended of Christ in salvation and to come into union and communion with Him by faith. But there is also the vital matter of obedience as an evidence of that union and communion. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15). There is relationship and religion but they are not being opposed. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." (1 John 2:3-5). The claim to a relationship without any fruit of holiness and obedience is just as empty as religion that has no true bond with the Saviour.

The problem is that the Bible uses the word religion, and it uses it in a positive way. What about the pure and undefiled religion of James 1:27? Keeping oneself unspotted from the world - isn't there rules and regulations in that? Religion involves a distinctive set of beliefs as well as distinctive life and worship. It isn't just a claim to "know Jesus" without making it clear who the Lord Jesus Christ is, how He is to be worshipped and served. The word relationship can mean lots of things. There are many kinds of relationships. It seems to allow for the cherished idea of "unconditional love no matter what we do". Forgiveness is a precious doctrine and reality but so is sanctification.

The root problem is with popular evangelicalism rather than with religion itself. It has turned conversion into mental assent, worship into a carnal feel-good factor, and made obeying Christ as Lord into an optional extra. They have attracted people that come to church for the music and the friends, the relationships but yet they are not really converted. Is it any wonder that they are finding that there is very little reality in this at all?

The word religion comes from a Latin word which means "to be bound back". We ought to be bound back to God by covenant. We must have been drawn by His lovingkindness (Jer. 31:3), with the cords of a man (Hosea 11:4) and held by covenant grace. When we are baptised we are engaged to be His, there are covenant obligations sealed in that ordinance, that we should love and serve God all the days of our lives. The name of Christ is upon those that have been baptised, in the most solemn of vows. As the Puritan Christopher Nesse puts it: "The covenant of your God is upon you, the bond of the covenant should bind you fast (as the word 'religion' signifies) unto God and godliness. O break not those bands, nor cast away those cords from you, for then you are sure to be broken as a potter's vessel that cannot be patched up again...[as] he that breaks His covenant with the great God who will assuredly avenge the quarrel of His covenant. O keep yourselves in the love of God and continue in Christ's love, which constrains you to obedience and holiness." O to know that sweet constraint, the constraint of true religion 2 COR 5:14 "the love of Christ constraineth us". A constraint that enables us to put sin to death and to keep ourselves from the world. "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart" (Psalm 119:32).

Monday, November 06, 2006

what 5 November means for Scotland

Scots have a reason to remember the 5 November 1688, the beginning of the glorious revolution, when William III landed at Torbay at the head of 15,000 men in order to save Protestantism. Eventually he displaced the Romanist Stuart king James II from the throne. James was determined upon restoring Roman Catholicism in Britain. In the spring of 1688 he ordered his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the penal laws against Catholics, to be read from every Anglican pulpit in the land. The Church of England and its staunchest supporters, the peers and gentry, were outraged. The birth of an heir, James Francis Stuart (later known as the Old Pretender) increased public concern about a Roman Catholic dynasty; fears confirmed when the baby was baptised into the Romanist faith. Open favour to the Roman Catholic cause was in fact manifest when the official commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot in Edinburgh (Fountainhalls Notices, 5 November 1685) was discontinued; no sermon was preached and no salute of cannon from the castle ramparts took place. The object apparently was not to upset any papists.

In Scotland James had waged war upon the Covenanters and they were hunted across the mountains and moors. According to Daniel Defoe's report to the English Parliament during the Killing Times over 18,000 men, women and children were killed or suffered severe hardship in the furnace of persecution, he reckoned that “above 18,000 people have suffered the utmost extremities their enemies could inflict”. It was a war still continuing in 1688. As Alexander Shields, the author of A Hind Let Loose, a defence of the Covenanters first printed in Holland in 1687, says: 'The more they (i.e. the authorities) insisted in this inquisition, the more did the number of witnesses multiply, with a growing increase of undauntedness, so that the then shed blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church; and as, by hearing and seeing them so signally countenanced of the Lord, many were reclaimed from their courses of compliance, so others were daily more and more confirmed in the ways of the Lord, and so strengthened by His grace that they chose rather to endure all torture and embrace death in its most terrible aspect, than to give the tyrant and his accomplices any acknowledgement, yea not so much as to say, God save the King, which was offered as the price of their life'.

James Renwick, Scottish Covenanter, was born on February 15, 1662 and was executed on February 17, 1688. He was the last Covenanter minister to be martyred for the faith during the "Killing Times." In June 1688, in Sorn, Scotland, the Royalists interrogated a sixteen-year-old boy called George Wood. hoping for leads. When he proved unable or unwilling to tell them anything they shot him. Wood was officially the last and youngest victim of the Killing Times. The most notorious and vicious of the persecutors was John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee known as "Bloody Clavers" because of his brutality. In 1688 when William of Orange invaded, James II made Graham second-in-command of the Scottish army and named him Viscount Dundee. Less than a year later he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Killikrankie.

On 5 November 1688 the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion and they were as men that dreamed. It was a revolution which ended the Stuart tyranny and extinguished the fires of persecution. As John Willison of Dundee, the evangelical minister of the 18th Century put it:

"BUT behold how the mercy of God appeared for us, after innumerable provocations, and when all ranks had made fearful defections from God and their engagements to him. And after this church had lien under oppression for near twenty eight years, and Popery was far advanced, and the civil power in the hands of Papists, and there was but little wanting to accomplish the ruin both of our civil and religious liberties; the mighty Lord stept in, and in made a wonderful appearance for us, by sending over the Prince of Orange (afterwards proclaimed king) in November 1688, to rescue us from Popery and tyranny, and that at a time after several attempts for our relief had misgiven, and the hearts of all true Protestants were beginning to faint within them, and the Popish faction had a numerous army to support them. Yet now, when God's time was come, our deliverance was brought about with great facility, through the wonderful working and concurrence of Divine Providence: So that it was not our own arm, but the Lord's right hand, that wrought this salvation for us; a salvation never to be forgotten by the friends of religion and liberty.—In particular, the church of Scotland ought always to commemorate the glorious deliverance and revolution in 1688, whereby she was raised out of the dust, and to be thankful to the great God the Author thereof, and to have a savoury remembrance of the name of king William the happy instrument of it under God."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

sins of omission and the 10 commandments

Does God require a perfect conformity to His law?

Yes; there is a curse pronounced against every one that continues not in all
things written in the book of the law to do them, Gal. 3:10. Every deviation
from God's holy law, in terms of omitting what it commands is sin, Isaiah

What are the sins of omission relating to the first commandment?

They are the omission or neglect of anything due to God, required in this
commandment;[Isa. 43:22-24]:
not knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God
and also not having and avouching him for God, and our God;[1]
not worshipping and glorifying Him accordingly,[2]
not thinking on Him [3]
not meditating on Him,[4]
not remembering Him,[5]
not highly esteeming Him,[6]
not honouring Him,[7]
not adoring Him,[8]
not choosing Him,[9]
not loving Him,[10]
not desiring Him,[11]
not fearing Him;[12]
not believing Him[13] trusting,[14] hoping,[15] delighting,[16] rejoicing in
not being zealous for Him;[18]
not calling upon Him, giving all praise and thanks,[19] or yielding all
obedience and submission to Him with the whole man;[20]
not being careful in all things to please him,[21] or sorrowful when in
anything he is offended;[22]
and not walking humbly with him.[23]

1. I Chr. 28:9; Deut 26:17; Isa. 43:10; Jer. 14:22; Psa. 81:11
2. Psa. 29:2; 95:6-7; Matt. 4:10
3. Mal. 3:16
4. Psa. 63:6
5. Eccl. 12:1
6. Psa. 71:19
7. Mal. 1:6
8. Isa. 45:28
9. Josh. 24:15, 22
10. Deut. 6:5
11. Psa. 73:25
12. Isa. 8:13
13. Exod. 14:31
14. Isa. 26:4
15. Psa. 130:7
16. Psa. 37:4
17. Psa. 32:11
18. Rom. 12:11; Num. 25:11
19. Phil. 4:6
20. Jer. 7:28; James 4:7
21. I John 3:22
22. Jer. 31:18; Psa. 119:136
23. Micah 6:8

What are the sins of omission relating to the second commandment?

They are:
not receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious
worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word;[1] particularly
prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ;[2] the reading, preaching,
and hearing of the word;[3] the administration and receiving of the
sacraments;[4] church government and discipline;[5] the ministry and
maintenance thereof;[6] religious fasting;[7] swearing by the name of
God,[8] and vowing unto him:[9]
not disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship;[10] or, not
according to our place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of

1. Deut. 32:46-47; Matt. 28:30; Acts 2:42; I Tim. 6:13-14
2. Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20
3. Deut. 17:18-19; Acts 10:88; 15:21; II Tim. 4:2; James 1:21-22
4. Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23-30
5. Matt. 16:19; 18:15-17; I Cor. ch. 5; 12:28
6. Eph. 4:11-12; I Tim. 5:17-18; I Cor. 9:1-15
7. Joel 2:12-13; I Cor. 7:5
8. Deut. 6:13
9. Isa. 19:21; Psa. 76:11
10. Acts 17:16-17; Psa. 16:4
11. Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22

What are the sins of omission relating to the third commandment?

They are not using of God's name as is required;[Mal. 2:2] especially:
not using holily and reverently the name of God or any means whereby he
makes himself known, in terms of His titles, attributes,[1] ordinances,[2]
the word,[3] sacraments,[4] prayer,[5] oaths,[6] vows,[7] lots,[8] His
not using these holily and reverently in thought,[10] meditation,[11]
word,[12] and writing;[13] by an holy profession,[14] and answerable
conversation,[15] to the glory of God,[16] and the good of ourselves,[17]
and others.[18]

1. Matt. 6:9; Deut. 28:58; Psa. 29:2; 68:4; Rev. 15:3-4
2. Mal. 1:14; Eccl. 5:1
3. Psa. 138:2
4. I Cor. 11:24-25, 28-29
5. I Tim. 2:8
6. Jer. 4:2
7. Eccl. 5:2, 4-6
8. Acts 1:24, 26
9. Job 36:24
10. Mal. 3:16
11. Psa. 8:1, 3-4, 9
12. Col. 3:17; Psa. 105:2, 5
13. Psa. 102:18
14. I Peter 3:15; Micah 4:5
15. Phil. 1:27
16. I Cor. 10:31
17. Jer. 32:39
18. I Peter 2:12

What are the sins of omission relating to the fourth commandment?

They are not sanctifying or keeping holy to God the Christian sabbath, or
The Lord's day.
not holy resting all the day,[1] from such works as are at all times sinful,
or from worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful;[2]
not making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as
is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy)[3] in the public and
private exercises of God's worship:[4]
not preparing our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and
moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we
may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.[5]
omitting any duty required on the sabbath,[6]
omitting from the quality of those duties through a careless, negligent, and
unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them;[7].

1. Exod. 20:8, 10
2. Exod. 16:25-28; Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-22
3. Matt. 12:1-13
4. Isa. 58:18; 66:23; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2; Psa. ch. 92; Lev.
5. Exod. 16:22, 25-26, 29; 20:8; Luke 23:54, 56; Neh. 13:19
6. Ezek. 22:26
7. Acts 15:7, 9; Ezek. 33:30-32; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13

In the case of heads of families, employers and rulers, sins of omission are
not ensuring that the sabbath is observed by all those that are under their
charge; and not ensuring that they require nothing which would prevent the
proper observance of the day[1]

1. Exod. 20:10; 23:12; Josh. 24:15; Neh. 13:15, 17; Jer. 17:20-22

What are the sins of omission relating to the fifth commandment?

In considering the fifth commandment we should remember that its general
scope covers the duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as
inferiors, superiors, or equals.[1]

1. Eph. 5:21; I Peter 2:17; Rom. 12:10

Inferiors are prone to omitting duties required to superiors [Matt. 15:4-6],
due reverence in heart,[1] word,[2] and behaviour towards their
prayer and thanksgiving for them;[4]
imitation of their virtues and graces;[5]
willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels;[6]
due submission to their corrections;[7]
fidelity to,[8] defense [9] and maintenance of their persons and authority,
according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places;[10]
bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may
be an honour to them and to their government.[11]

1. Mal. 1:6; Lev. 19:3
2. Prov. 31:28; I Peter 3:6
3. Lev. 19:32; I Kings 2:19
4. I Tim. 2:1-2
5. Heb. 13:7; Phil. 3:17
6. Eph. 6:1-2, 5-7; I Peter 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-5; Heb. 13:17; Prov. 4:3-4;
23:22; Exod. 18:19, 24
7. Heb. 12:9; I Peter 2:18-20
8. Titus 2:9-10
9. I Sam. 26:15-16; II Sam. 18:3; Est.. 6:2
10. Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6-7; I Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6; Gen. 45:11; 47:12
11. Psa. 127:3-5; Prov. 31:23

Superiors are prone to neglect of the duties required of them towards
inferiors,[Ezek. 34:2-4] especially according to that power they receive
from God, and that relation wherein they stand:
to love,[1] pray for,[2] and bless their inferiors;[3]
to instruct,[4] counsel, and admonish them;[5]
countenancing,[6] commending,[7] and rewarding such as do well;[8]
discountenancing,[9] reproving, and chastising such as do ill;[10]
protecting,[11] and providing for them all things necessary for soul [12]
and body:[13]
grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God,[14]
honour to themselves,[15] and so to preserve that authority which God hath
put upon them.[16]

1. Col. 3:19; Titus 2:4
2. I Sam. 12:28; Job 1:5
3. I Kings 8:55-56; Heb. 7:7; Gen. 49:28
4. Deut. 6:6-7
5. Eph. 6:4
6. I Peter 3:7
7. I Peter 2:14; Rom. 13:3
8. Esth. 6:3
9. Rom. 13:3-4
10. Prov. 29:15; I Peter 2:14
11. Job 29:12-17; Isa. 1:10, 17
12. Eph. 6:4
13. I Tim. 5:8
14. I Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:3-5
15. I Kings 3:28
16. Titus 2:15

Equals are prone to omitting the duties required by this commandment [Rom.
13:8] in:
not regarding the dignity and worth of each other,[1]
not giving honour to go one before another;[2]
not rejoicing in each other's gifts and advancement, as their own.[3]

1. I Peter 2:17
2. Rom. 12:10
3. Rom. 12:15-16; Phil. 2:3-4

What are the sins of omission relating to the sixth commandment?

We omit from the requirements of the sixth commandment by:
not carefully and lawfully endeavouring, to preserve the life of ourselves
[1] and others [2] by resisting all thoughts and purposes,[3] subduing all
not avoiding all occasions,[5] temptations,[6] and practices, which tend to
the unjust taking away the life of any;[7]
not justly defending the lives of any against violence,[8]
not patient bearing of the hand of God,[9] quietness of mind,[10]
cheerfulness of spirit;[11]
not making sober use of meat,[12] drink,[13] medicine,[14] sleep,[15]
labour,[16] and recreations;[17]
not displaying charitable thoughts,[18] love,[19] compassion,[20] meekness,
gentleness, kindness;[21] peaceable,[22] mild and courteous speeches and
behavior;[23] forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and
forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil;[24]
not comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending
the innocent.[25]

1. Eph. 5:28-29
2. I Kings 18:4
3. Jer. 26:15-16; Acts 23:12, 16-17, 21, 27
4. Eph. 4:26-27
5. II Sam. 2:22; Deut. 22:8
6. Matt. 4:6-7; Prov. 1:10-11, 15-16
7. I Sam. 24:2; 26:9-11; Gen. 37:21-22
8. Psa. 82:4; Prov. 24:11-12; I Sam. 14:45
9. James 5:7-11; Heb. 12:9
10. I Thess. 4:11; I Peter 3:3-4; Psa. 37:8-11
11. Prov. 17:22
12. Prov. 25:16, 27
13. I Tim. 5:23
14. Isa. 38:21
15. Psa. 127:2
16. Eccl. 5:12; II Thess. 3:10, 12; Prov. 16:26
17. Eccl. 3:4, 11
18. I Sam. 19:4-5; 22:13-14
19. Rom. 13:10
20. Luke 10:33-34
21. Col. 3:12-13
22. James 3:17
23. I Peter 3:8-11; Prov. 15:1; Judg. 8:1-3
24. Matt. 5:24; Eph. 4:2, 32; Rom. 12:17, 20-21
25. I Thess. 5:14; Job 31:19-20; Matt. 25:35-36; Prov. 31:8-9

What duties are we prone to omit from the seventh commandment?

Sins of omission in connection with the seventh commandment are,
not maintaining chastity in body, mind, affections,[1] words,[2] and
not seeking to preserve chastity in ourselves and others;[4]
not having a watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[5]
not having temperance,[6]
not keeping chaste company,[7]
not being modest in apparel;[8]
not marrying when we do not have the gift of continency,[9]
not showing conjugal love,[10] and cohabitation;[11]
not labouring diligently in our callings;[12]
not shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations

1. I Thess. 4:4; Job 31:1; I Cor. 7:34; Prov. 5:7
2. Col. 4:6
3. I Peter 2:3
4. I Cor. 7:2, 35-36
5. Job 31:1
6. Acts 24:24
7. Prov. 2:16-20
8. I Tim. 2:9
9. I Cor. 7:2, 9
10. Prov. 5:19-20
11. I Peter 3:7
12. Prov. 31:11, 27-28
13. Prov. 5:8; Gen. 39:8-10

What duties are we prone to omit from the eighth commandment?
The sins of omission in connection with the eighth commandment are:
not maintaining truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce
between man and man;[1]
not rendering to everyone his due;[2]
not making restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners
not giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the
necessities of others;[4]
not maintaining moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections
concerning worldly goods;[5]
not ensuring a provident care and study to get,[6] keep, use, and dispose
these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our
nature, and suitable to our condition;[7]
not pursuing a lawful calling,[8] and diligence in it;[9]
not maintaining frugality;[10]
not avoiding unnecessary lawsuits [11] and suretyship, or other like
not endeavouring, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and
further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.[13]

1. Psa. 15:2, 4; Zech. 7:4, 10; 8:16-17; James 2:15-16; I John 3:17
2. Rom. 13:7
3. Lev. 6:2-5; Luke 19:8
4. Luke 6:30, 38; I John 3:17; Eph. 4:28; Gal. 6:10
5. I Tim. 6:6-9; Gal. 6:14
6. I Tim. 5:8
7. Prov. 27:23-27; Eccl. 2:24; 3:12-13; I Tim. 6:17-18; Isa. 38:1; Matt.
8. I Cor. 7:20; Gen. 2:15, 3:19
9. Eph. 4:28; Prov. 10:4
10. John 6:12; Prov. 21:20
11. I Cor. 6:1-9
12. Prov. 6:1-6; 11:15
13. Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1-4; Exod. 23:4-5; Gen. 47:14, 20; Phil. 2:4, Matt.

What are the sins of omission relating to the ninth commandment?

The particular sins of omission relating to this commandment are:
not preserving and promoting of truth between man and man,[1] and the good
name of our neighbour, as well as our own;[12]
not appearing and standing for the truth;[3] and not from the heart,[4]
sincerely,[5] freely,[6] clearly,[7] and fully,[8] speaking the truth, and
only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice,[9] and in all other
things whatsoever;[10]
not having a charitable esteem of our neighbors;[11]
not loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;[12] sorrowing
for,[13] and covering of their infirmities;[14]
not freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces,[15] defending their
not readily receiving of a good report,[17] and being unwilling to admit of
an evil report,[18] concerning them;
not discouraging talebearers,[19] flatterers,[20] and slanderers;[21]
not showing love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need
not keeping of lawful promises;[23]
not studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely,
and of good report.[24]

1. Zech. 8:16
2. III John 1:12
3. Prov. 31:8-9
4. Psa. 15:2
5. II Chr. 19:9
6. I Sam. 19:4-5
7. Josh. 7:19
8. II Sam. 14:18-20
9. Lev. 19:15; Prov. 14:5, 25
10. II Cor. 1:17-18; Eph. 4:25
11. Heb. 6:9; I Cor. 13:7
12. Rom. 1:8; II John 1:4; III John 1:3-4
13. II Cor. 2:4; 12:21
14. Prov. 17:9; I Peter 4:8
15. I Cor. 1:4-5, 7; II Tim. 1:4-5
16. I Sam. 22:14
17. I Cor. 13:6-7
18. Psa. 15:3
19. Prov. 25:23
20. Prov. 26:24-25
21. Psa. 101:5
22. Prov. 22:1; John 8:49
23. Psa. 15:4
24. Phil. 4:8

What are the sins of omission relating to the tenth commandment?

We are guilty of sins of omission relating to the tenth commandment when we
do not have a full contentment with our own condition,[1] and such a
charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our
inward motions and affections respecting him, tend unto, and further all
that good which is his.[2]

1. Heb. 13:5; I Tim. 6:6
2. Job 31:29; Psa. 122:79; I Tim. 1:5; Est. 10:3; I Cor. 13:4-7

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

what to pray for

Sometimes we feel that "we know not what to pray for as we ought". There is much help from the Puritans in this area but The Church of Scotland's Directory for Family Worship 1647 is also a vital document which gives sound advice and encouragement for secret and family prayer. It gives some suggestions as to the structure and content of such prayers "for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of".

-Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come in his presence, and how unfit to worship his Majesty; and therefore earnestly ask of God the spirit of prayer.

-They are to confess their sins, and the sins of the family; accusing, judging, and condemning themselves for them, till they bring their souls to some measure of true humiliation.

-They are to pour out their souls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of sins; for grace to repent, to believe, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and that they may serve God with joy and delight, walking before him.

-They are to give thanks to God for his many mercies to his people, and to themselves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the gospel.

-They are to pray for such particular benefits, spiritual and temporal, as they stand in need of for the time, (whether it be morning or evening,) as anent health or sickness, prosperity or adversity.

-They ought to pray for the kirk of Christ in general, for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular, and for all that suffer for the name of Christ; for all our superiors, the king's majesty, the queen, and their children; for the magistrates, ministers, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their neighbours absent in their lawful affairs, as for those that are at home.

-The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire that God may be glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his Son, and in doing of his will, and with assurance that themselves are accepted, and what they have asked according to his will shall be done.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How to Get the Most from Reading your Bible

by Thomas Watson
Abridged and Adapted

1. Remove hindrances. (a) remove the love of every sin (b) remove the distracting concerns of this world, especially covetousness [Matt. 13:22] (c) Don't make jokes with and out of Scripture.

2. Prepare your heart. [1 Sam. 7:3] Do this by: (a) collecting your thoughts (b) purging unclean affections and desires (c) not coming to it rashly or carelessly.

3. Read it with reverence, considering that each line is God speaking directly to you.

4. Read the books of the Bible in order.

5. Get a true understanding of Scripture. [Ps. 119:73] This is best achieved by comparing relevant parts of Scripture with each other.

6. Read with seriousness. [Deut. 32:47] The Christian life is to be taken seriously since it requires striving [Luke 13:24] and not falling short [Heb. 4:1].

7. Persevere in remembering what you read. [Ps. 119:52] Don't let it be stolen from you [Matt. 13:4,19]. If it doesn't stay in your memory it is unlikely to be much benefit to you.

8. Meditate on what you read. [Ps. 119:15] The Hebrew word for meditate' means to be intense in the mind'. Meditation without reading is wrong and bound to err; reading without meditation is barren and fruitless. It means to stir the affections, to be warmed by the fire of meditation [Ps. 39:3].

9. Read with a humble heart. Acknowledge that you are unworthy that God should reveal himself to you [James 4:6]

10. Believe it all to be God's Holy Word. [2 Tim 3:16] We know that no sinner could have written it because of the way it describes sin. No saint could blaspheme God by pretending his own Word was God's. No angel could have written it for the same reason. [Heb 4:2]

11. Prize the Bible highly. [Ps. 119:72] It is your lifeline; you were born by it [James 1:18] you need to grow by it [1 Pet 2:2] [cf. Job 23:12].

12. Love the Bible ardently [Ps. 119:159].

13. Come to read it with an honest heart. [Luke 8:15] (a) Willing to know the entire and complete will of God (b) reading in order to be changed and made better by it [John 17:17].

14. Apply to yourself everything that you read, take every word as spoken to yourself. Its condemnation of sins as the condemnation of your own sin; the duty that it requires as the duty God would require from you [2 Kings 22:11].

15. Pay close attention to the commands of the Word as much as the promises. Think of how you need direction just as much as you need comfort.

16. Don't get carried away with the minor details, rather make sure to pay closest attention to the great things [Hosea 8:12].

17. Compare yourself with the Word. How do you compare? Is your heart something of a transcript of it, or not?

18. Pay special attention to those passages that speak to your individual, particular and present situation. e.g. (a) Affliction -- [Heb. 12:7, Isaiah 27:9, John 16:20, 2 Cor 4:17. (b) Sense of Christ's presence and smile withdrawn -- [Isaiah 54:8, Isaiah 57:16, Ps. 97:11] (c) Sin -- [Gal 5:24, James 1:15, 1 Peter 2:11, Prov 7:10&22-23, Prov 22:14] (d) Unbelief -- [Isaiah 26:3, 2 Sam 22:31, John 3:15, 1 John 5:10, John 3:36]

19. Pay special attention to the examples and lives of people in the Bible as living sermons. (a) Punishments [Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Num 25:3-4&9, 1 Kings 14:9-10, Acts 5:5,10, 1 Cor 10:11, Jude 7] (b) mercies and deliverances [Daniel, Jeremiah, the 3 youths in the fiery furnace]

20. Don't stop reading the Bible until you find your heart warmed. [Ps 119:93] Let it not only inform you but also inflame you [Jer 23:29, Luke 24:32].

21. Put into practice what you read [Ps 119:66, Ps 119:105, Deut 17:19].

22. Christ is for us Prophet, Priest and King. Make use of His office as a Prophet [Rev 5:5, John 8:12, Ps 119:102-103]. Get Christ not only to open the Scriptures up to you, but to open up your mind and understanding [Luke 24:45]

23. Make sure to put yourself under a true ministry of the Word, faithfully and thoroughly expounding the Word [Prov 8:34] be earnest and eager in waiting on it.

24. Pray that you will profit from reading [Isaiah 48:17, Ps 119:18, Nehemiah 9:20].

Natural obstacles You may still be able to profit from reading even though:

a. You don't seem to profit as much as others do. Remember the different yields [Matt 13:8] though the yield isn't as much as others it is still a true and fruitful yield.

b. You may feel slow of understanding [Luke 9:45, Heb 5:11].

c. Your memory is bad (i) remember you are still able to have a good heart despite this (ii) you may still remember the most important things even if you cannot remember everything, be encouraged by John 14:26.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why the Bible contains difficult passages

Adapted from William Whitaker's Disputations on Holy Scripture

1. Because God intends that we should be stirred up to be persistent in prayer in order to seek His help in interpretation.

2. Because God intends that we might come to know and acknowledge that the understanding of the Word is given by God Himself.

3. Because God intends to stimulate our diligence in reading, meditating upon, searching and comparing the Scripture and making use of the due and ordinary means of understanding and interpretation.

4. Because God wanted to prevent our losing interest in the Scriptures and the temptation to despise it or place small value on it. Our corrupt nature grows weary of easy things and we think we have gone beyond what we have understood completely.

5. Because God intended that the truth would to be sought and found with real effort and labour and to be the more esteemed and valued because of that - things easily obtained are despised but matters of great difficulty are only surmounted with extraordinary effort.

6. Because God wished to subdue our pride and expose to us our ignorance

7. Because God willed that the sacred mysteries of his word should be opened freely to pure and holy minds and that impure dogs and swine be kept from holy things.

8. Because God wished to divert our minds from the pursuit of external things and daily occupations and focus them and our time upon the study of the Scriptures.

9. Because God intended to accustom us to a certain internal purity and sanctity of thought and feeling because this is what we need in order to profit from the Bible. Those who bring profane minds to the reading of the Scriptures do not profit from reading and seeking to understand them but those with holy minds get real spiritual advantage from them.

10. Because God willed that in his church some should be teachers and some disciples. We are more apt to esteem the ministry of the Word which has been ordained for the opening and interpreting of Scripture when God uses it in order to make plain the difficult areas of Scripture (Eph 4:11&14).

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hold fast to God's Word

[An extract from notes of a sermon preached on the text "Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" - Revelation 3:11 at the induction of Rev. James Tallach at Kames, 4th May,
1931. The preacher is presumably Rev. Donald Beaton. The notes were published in the Free Presbyterian Magazine in September 1935. Headings have been added to make it easier to read on the internet. This extract shows how we must hold fast to God's Word in spite of all opposition.]

Hold fast so that you do not let it slip

When we are exhorted here to "Hold fast," it is a command, and implies...that you should not hold it loosely so that it might slip. Hold it fast, and although you should lose the world, and even your very life, don't lose your hold. Others held it so fast in Scotland, that they allowed their lives to be taken rather than lose God's Word. Alas, that we should be the offspring of such men and women, when we esteem the Word of God so lightly - the Word that they gave their lives for. How worthless we are when we would not say to any man, who would try to take this Word out of our hands - "Hands off, that belongs to me. It is God's Word, and He gave it to me, and commands me to hold it fast." It cannot be said that you are holding it fast if you let this and that part slip. You must hold it so that not one iota of it will slip out of your hands.

Hold fast so that it it is not take from you

It also implies that there will be some who will try to take it from you, otherwise there would be no reason to ask you to hold it fast, and it is then that you will have to show what grip you have of it, and what value you see in it, and how much you are prepared to sacrifice in order to keep it.

The great enemy of God's truth down through the ages, from the days of Cain and Abel, never ceases to try to take this treasure from God's Church. Satan has done his very utmost to take this Word out of the hands of the Church, and when we look into the history of the Bible, of Cain and Abel, that is what he was trying to do there. What we have there is whether Abel would let go God's truth and hold by the opinions of his own brother, and there are many in the world who think that anything they may devise is a worship good enough for God, and that He is bound to accept of it, but will He?

What was the cause of all the misery that came upon the Old Testament Church? Was it not because they allowed Satan and his false prophets to take God's Word out of their hands. Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, and he was doing this, and so strong was the force he had in the days of Elijah, that when that Prophet of God on Mount Carmel came to try to take the people back to the worship of God, there were over a thousand false prophets to face one man, who was holding fast by God's Word. There is nothing new in our day when you look back on the history of the past.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

wandering thoughts in the worship of God

How often is it that you find your concentration lapsing either in personal devotions or in public worship? Once, a few times or even perhaps much of the time? The most helpful book on this subject is 'A Remedy for Wandering
Thought in the Worship of God' written by the Puritan Richard Steele (recently it has been reprinted by Sprinkle Publications). The following is an abridged extract in slightly updated language from that book. The passage deals with the problem of distraction and the vital duty of watchfulness in every individual part (or ordinance) of worship. Steele calls watchfulness the perpetual or most continual duty of a Christian: this is the garment we must put on every day, in every duty.

Watching in worship
What is the first step in an ordinance? Watchfulness. What is the second step in an ordinance? Watchfulness. The third step? Still watchfulness.

In Prayer
Prayer is a pouring out of the heart unto the Lord; by a distraction you pour it aside. 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him' Psalm 62:5. A distraction imposes two masters on the soul to wait on. Rovings in prayer make that which is our most reasonable service the most irrational thing in the world. There is nothing more foolish than speaking to one person while thinking of another.

In hearing God's Word
This is the audible address of the Almighty to your soul. A distraction lets him talk unto the walls. When you come to a sermon, you 'stand on your watch, and set yourself on the tower, and watch to see what God will say to you' Habakkuk 2:1. By a distraction, you are doing almost the same as a servant who stops his ears at the orders that his master is giving.

In reading
In the Scriptures you peruse God's heart in black and white, where you may believe every letter to be written in bleeding love. A distraction neither understands nor applies those sacred letters. Would you read your father's last will in this way, especially in matters that concerned yourself? One chapter, one page, one verse, well read and applied will do your heart more good than a hundred read with half a heart.

In singing psalms
You need to watch in the singing of the psalms. By this ordinance you pay to God the rent of his mercies. With a distraction it is as though the payment is made with a counterfeit coin because it turns the heart to do homage unto the Devil. David had the best resolution: 'Bless the Lord. O my soul, and all that is within me praise his holy name' (Psalm 103: 1). Your melody is debased if the main strength of your soul is not in it.

I am persuaded that God has allowed this ordinance in particular to be slurred again and again, to be neglected by some and rejected by others out of his just judgement because there is such a widespread disregard for doing it with felt, inward grace. Where is the worshipper who actually lets each word and line in the psalms run through their heart as they sing them? The truth is that hardly one passage is felt from the beginning to the end, because if it were what heavenly affection it would produce and leave upon the soul! If you felt something of this you would not part with this ordinance for all the world in either your families or congregations.

In meditation
Here you must watch, or else when the soul is soaring aloft, like the eagle, before you are even aware these darts will strike down the heart again. How hard it is to spend even a quarter of an hour in meditation without a distraction! If there is anything in the imagination or memory, anything in the room, if there is anything in the world, you will have it in withdrawing your heart from God. As a rule, the more spiritual the duty, the more distractions.

The permanent habit of Watchfulness
You can be safe nowhere without watchfulness, at all times, in all places, with all companies, even with no company at all, in all callings: there is a snare for the heart everywhere. 'Wait on thy God continually' (Hosea 12:6) 'Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long' (Proverbs 23:17), especially but not only in your morning and evening sacrifices.

Many praying people are extremely devout and serious in God's service morning and evening, but follow them all day long and hardly one word of God or heaven is in their mouths, as though religion were hemmed up in times of worship. Be in the fear of the Lord, involved, surrounded and swallowed up in the sense and fear of God's glorious presence all the daylong. This will put you in the right spirit for duties of worship. A watchful Christian has his heart ready and on call. It is easily put into tune when it was never out of tune. Holy duties are not unwelcome to a holy heart. A short preface or none at all is sufficient in approaching him with whom you have been conversing all the day. Sometimes, however, the whole work of a prayer is in making God's acquaintance.

Heavenly contemplation

At one point in The Pilgrim's Progress the pilgrims reach the Delectable
Mountains where they were able to view the Celestial City through a glass or
telescope. It is a picture of meditating upon heaven and experiencing
something of a foretaste of that future joy. The Puritans often stressed the
importance of focussing upon heaven, pointing to the doctrine that we have
been made to 'sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus' (Ephesians
2:6). In Colossians chapter 3 Paul develops and applies the doctrine: 'If ye
then be risen wih Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ
sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on
things on the earth'. Puritan ministers also sought to remind their readers
and hearers that as Christians they ought to make much of the fact that
their 'conversation [life] is in heaven' (Philippians 3:20) and that we are
to be changed from 'glory to glory' (2 Corinthians 3:18). The benefit of
this was unfolded by Richard Sibbes who spoke of it as necessary
to holiness, strength and devotion in the Christian life: "If we walk aright
in God's ways, let us have heaven daily in our eye, and the day of
judgement, and times to come, and this will stern the course of our lives,
and breed love in the use of the means, and patience to undergo all

Richard Baxter wrote a whole book on this particular subject entitled The
Saints Everlasting Rest
. Baxter wrote the book during illness and against
the backdrop of the Civil War raging through England. The Saints Rest opens
up the themeby urging believers to 'meditate on the joys above' expressly
seeking to imagine what it will be like to experience them. We need concrete
thoughts concerning glory suggests Baxter or else they are not particularly
fixed: 'get the liveliest picture of them in thy mind that possibly thou
canst', he says, 'meditate of them as if thou wert all the while beholding
them, and as if thou wert even hearing hallelujahs, while thou are thinking
of them; til thou canst say,"Methinks I see a glimpse of glory"'. It is
important to focus closely upon what the Bible teaches and to see by the
means of Scripture, "without these spectacles we are lost, and have nothing
to fix our thoughts upon". John Bunyan held the same point, speaking of the
throne in Heaven as described in the book of Revelation: "We must labour for
more clear Scripture-Knowledge of this Throne; for the Holy Word of God
is...the Magnifying-glass that will cause us to behold with open face the
glory of this Lord".

How are we to have our 'conversation' (life) in heaven? The answer is
perhaps best given in a little Puritan book that was one of the first godly
books that John Bunyan ever read: his first wife brought it with her amongst
her belongings after their marriage: Arthur Dent's Plain Man's Pathway to
. Here life in heaven is explained as an 'inward conversation with
God' that may only be maintained 'by much prayer, reading, meditation, and
heavenly affections'.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Specific Directions for the mortifying of sin

Adapted from John Owen On the Mortification of Sin in Believers

1.Consider the dangerous symptoms of the sin that you are seeking to mortify:
(a) Is it inveterate? Has it been allowed to fester and gain strength for a long time and also become familiar to the mind and conscience?
(b) Does your heart retain a good opinion of itself and think that it can satisfy the conscience with certain evidences of grace while ignoring sin? Does it think that there is mercy without mortifying the sin?
(c) Does the sin gain frequent success against you?
(d) Do the only arguments that you use against the sin relate to its consequences or punishment and not to gospel privileges and motivations?
(e) Is there a spiritual hardening with it?
(f) Has the sin has already withstood God's dealings and chastisements against it?

2.Get a clear abiding sense in your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger and evil of the sin:
(a) Its guilt is aggravated and heightened by the amount of grace and light that you have received and against which you are sinning.
(b) Its danger lies in loss of peace and strength all our days, chastisements and temporal corrections because of it, the peril of being hardened by its deceitfulness, eternal destruction if we are resolved to continue in that sin.
(c) Its evil lies in grieving the Holy Spirit, wounding Christ afresh and taking away our usefulness in our generation.
3.Load your conscience with the guilt of the sin:
(a) In general terms that it is against God's law, that it removes evidence that you are free from the condemning power of sin, that it undermines the truth and purpose of the gospel.
(b) In particular things such as God's infinite tenderness towards you in many instances in gracious providences and especially in recovering you from the hardening power of sin.
4. Get a constant longing in your soul for deliverance from this sin
5.Consider how you are naturally prone to this sin:
(a) It is important to stress that this does not relieve you of the guilt of it but rather aggravates that guilt
(b) It means that you will be better able to watch against it
(c) You will be then be able to deal with the appetites of the body by fasting in watching
6.Consider what occasions and opportunities it takes and watch against them
7.Rise immediately against the first actings of this sin
8.Meditate upon things that will humble and abase you with a sense of your own vileness. Meditate upon the difference between God's majesty, greatness and holiness and yourself. Meditate also upon how little you know Him and Christ in His being and perfections.
9.Do not speak peace to your guilty soul until God does so

1. Act faith upon Christ, on His provision and fulness in expecting relief from Him in the war against your sin
2. Act faith on the death of Christ

Saturday, August 26, 2006

8. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Useful

The doctrine of election is not an abstract truth with no practical significance for the Christian, rather it is vitally edifying when handled aright. As Calvin describes it “though the discussion of predestination is regarded as a perilous sea, yet in sailing over it the navigation is calm and safe, nay pleasant, provided we do not voluntarily court danger. .those who investigate it rightly, and in the order in which it is exhibited in the word, reap from it rich fruits of consolation”. When Puritans sought to make practical application of doctrine they spoke of its uses. The Biblical doctrine of Election is preeminently full of practical use and application.

Some say that election should not be preached because it is so mysterious or difficult but all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, and Scripture is full of expressions and implications of this doctrine. Although it may be unpopular or challenging it must still be preached. If preaching election can fan doubts and fears for genuine believers, preaching regeneration easily could do the same for those who have fears and doubts whether or not they have truly been born again.

Preaching exalts God in Christ and abases man and this is the true result of unconditional election by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. Calvin rightly says: “Those who preclude access, and would not have any one to obtain a taste of this doctrine, are equally unjust to God and men, there being no other means of humbling us as we ought, or making us feel how much we are bound to him.”

In preaching, however, election is to be handled with special prudence, humility and care so that it is only emphasised in proportion to the degree that it is stressed in Scripture. It would be unwise to press it prominently upon anxious seekers, sceptics, or those who have not grasped the gospel and other basic truths first. It must be taught in relation to effectual calling and obedience to the gospel with proportionate emphasis upon man’s responsibility.

Assurance and comfort
Election is the basis of our eternal hope: that those whom he predestined, them he also called. We have no hope in ourselves as guilty, lost and ruined. But we have hope in the only Redeemer of God's elect who is Himself the elect one appointed to lay down his life for the people given to him in the eternal counsels. The golden chain joining election and glorification assures us that Nothing will thwart God's ultimate purpose. We doubt ourselves but we cannot doubt his promises.

The Canons of Dordt wisely counsel that the elect gain assurance of their election “not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God such as, a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.” The Christian receives comfort and assurance by following these fruits of election to their source. The Spirit thus assures us of our adoption and therefore of our election: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." Rom. 8:16).

In their useful summary of the orthodox doctrine of election the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England affirm winsomely the same teaching as Dordt that “the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God”.

Election when rightly considered in this way will truly humble us to say with David, “Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house that thou hast brought me hitherto? ... And is this the manner of men? And what can David say more unto thee? For thou, Lord GOD knowest thy servant?” The sense of that debt flows out in loving obedience to his revealed will. The elect are called with an holy calling (2 Tim. 1:9) unto holiness and their manner of life shows this. Election does not produce carelessness but careful obedience and acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness. The Canons of Dordt indicate this: “The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before Him, for adoring the depth of His mercies, for cleansing themselves, and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to Him who first manifested so great love towards them. The consideration of this doctrine of election is so far from encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands or from sinking men in carnal security, that these, in the just judgment of God, are the usual effects of rash presumption or of idle and wanton trifling with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.”

Praise and devotion
Election should instill within us a spirit of praise, love and devotion. It is all to the “praise of the glory of his grace” and "we love him because he first loved us". No credit is due to the creature but all the glory belongs and is due to God alone. "We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (2 Thess. 2:13). What a high privilege election is. They are a people chosen to show forth his praises. They are blessed indeed "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts" (Ps. 65:4). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him" (Eph. 1:3, 4). Does the Lord say: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." And will not our love rise in response? This spirit of praise is well expressed in the following words of the Dutch theologian Herman Witsius:

Didst thou, O Lord, from eternity, entertain thoughts of glorifying me, a miserable wretch, who am less than nothing; and shall I not again carry thee for ever in my eyes, and always in my bosom? shall I not delight in meditating on thee? shall I not cry out, how precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! Psalm 139.17. Shall I not, with the most sincere repentance, bewail that time, in which so many hours, days, weeks, months, and years, have passed over my head, without one single holy and pleasing thought of thee? Didst thou, out of mere love, choose me to salvation? And shall not I again choose thee for my Lord, my king, my husband, for the portion of my soul, for my chief, or rather my only delight?

Unconditional Election must bring us to this. It will naturally lead to this when handled with special prudence and care as the Westminster Confession teaches: “So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel”. We emphasise again Anthony Burgess's words: 'This point of election... is not to be agitated in a verbal and contentious way, but in a saving way, to make us tremble and to set us upon a more diligent and close striving with God in prayer, and all other duties.' May this be our own experience to the praise of the glory of his grace alone.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

7. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unchallengable

It was well said by G. S. Bishop that, "The reason why any one believes in election is, that he finds it in the Bible. No man could ever imagine such a doctrine—for it is, in itself, contrary to the thinking and the wishes of the human heart. Every one, at first, opposes the doctrine, and it is only after many struggles, under the working of the Spirit of God, that we are made to receive it...The reason why any one believes in election is just this, and only this, that God has made it known. Had the Bible been a counterfeit it never could have contained the doctrine of election, for men are too averse to such a thought to give it expression, much more to give it prominence."

Election is consistently God-centred and supernaturalist from beginning to end. This is why it is hated so much, our proud carnal nature sees things from a man-centred rather than a God-centred perspective. We always begin with ourselves and make man the measure of all things. “We have turned every one to his own way”, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God”. Where this natural tendency is given full rein it rejects God and His claims altogether, because Sovereign grace is the direct opposite of human rebellion. Those who had assumed for many years that the sun revolves around the earth must have been astonished to discover that the earth actually revolves around the sun. How much greater is the change when a sinner acknowledges experimentally that salvation is all of the Lord and that in Him we live and move and have our being. All opposition to unconditional election comes ultimately from a man-centred perspective, there are two main such objections: one that it is unreasonable and the other more common and forceful objection is that it is unjust.

Some object against election because they cannot comprehend it and there are aspects of it beyond their reach, so they reject it as unreasonable. To be consistent they must equally dismiss the doctrines of the inspiration of Scripture, the trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the final resurrection since some aspects of these are beyond comprehension. It is in itself unreasonable to reject the truth of election solely upon the basis that human reason cannot entirely fathom it. If we will believe no more of God and His ways than we can comprehend, then we are simply putting him on the level of any man. As AW Pink has said: “Faith has an assurance that God is too wise to err, too righteous to be unjust; and therefore that He is infinitely worthy of our trust and subjection to His holy will."

The principal and most common objection to the doctrine of unconditional election is that it makes God guilty of gross injustice. In an age when rights and equality are exalted but authority is despised it is no surprise if it is seen as unjust for God to elect some to glory but pass others by without consideration of their works. In Romans 9 Paul anticipates this very objection, 'For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then, Is there unrighteousness with God?' v11-14. He immediately follows with 'God forbid!' It is unthinkable and impossible that it be so, God is a God of faithfulness and without injustice.

Paul goes on to state 'He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth'. God is free and sovereign and not required by a necessity of His nature to show mercy. If God’s nature required Him to show saving mercy to any, then it would oblige Him to show mercy to all. We are also wrong to assign priorities among the divine perfections in supposing that God is more glorious in His grace and mercy than He is in His power or his justice.

In our objections to election we are not thinking of how God actually is but rather how we imagine him to be. We have an idea of what it is for God to be righteous and He must conform to our prescription. "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself" (Ps. 50:21). In other words we think of God according to our own categories and measure him by a human standard. We think of God's attributes such as mercy and justice according to the qualities of human mercy and justice. But this is altogether wrong. justice is not to be brought down to the same level as human justice. James Ussher defines God's justice as that attribute: "whereby He is infinitely just in himself, of himself, for, from, and by Himself, and none other.” The rule of God's Justice is His Own free will as Calvin affirms: “The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased. But if you proceed farther to ask why he pleased, you ask for something greater and more sublime than the will of God, and nothing such can be found.” God has made us how he will and for what purpose he will."Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?" (Rom. 9:21).

What after all is justice? It is treating each person equitably and fairly, giving to him his due. This is human justice but we cannot ask what God owes to man as his due or right. Is He in His Providence bound to give physical health and strength, intellectual ability, social status etc. to all? We know certainly that He does not. God is no man's debtor: for "who has first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (Rom. 11: 32, 33.). All of His creation is entirely dependent upon him and under obligation to him, "in him we live and move and have our being". No praise would be due to God for simply fulfilling a debt of obligation towards us.
Election is simply the taking of one and the leaving of another, and why should God be less free than man in this choice? To choose one person does not injure another –it simply leaves them as they were. Salvation is not a matter of justice, but of pure free grace, and grace is not anyone's right. It is a free gift freely bestowed and God says to our objections Matt 20:15."Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"

Others will object that election must be unjust because the Bible says that God is not partial or a respecter of persons. But when the Bible uses this expression it means that whereas men usually show preference between people according to their wealth, nationality, or other status when they are really equal. God's grace is precisely not a respecter of persons because it does not choose anyone for anything that they are or will be or will do. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. God often chooses those whom men would never choose. A respecter of persons gives unequally to those who are equal, when they are bound to give equally to all. But as we have seen God gives freely and is not bound to give anything to anyone.

Would God have been unjust in leaving all to perish in their sins? Not at all. But often it is objected: if all are equally guilty, why does he not punish all? It would be just if everybody was treated the same. He must either save all or punish all. The objector recognises that there would be no injustice in punishing all but why should it then be unjust to resolve to save some? There is no injury done to those not chosen, they still justly receive the punishment that the objector has already agreed would be just for them to receive. The objector, however, will only acknowledge that God is just if all are treated the same but this is to impose their own standard of justice on God.

Some want to object that since God has received a ransom sufficient for the sins of all, all should receive the saving benefits of it. It is true that the atonement of Christ has such value that it is potentially sufficient for all – though it is not intended for all. This objection supposes that infinite mercy relates to the number that are saved, but infinite mercy is better seen in the manner in which they are saved. Moreover, when God administers the ransom he is freely giving of that which is his own. He has not obligated himself to apply this ransom to all.
Men will still object that is unjust, selfish and cruel for God to afflict some for the sake of his own glory. But what is the highest good? God is alone good in himself and all things are from him and for him. It is only right that it is so. The glory of God is the highest good, there can be no greater good than this. It is not selfish but consistent for God to act according to this purpose – he would not be God if He did not. The holy wisdom of God with respect to that highest good determined that both the mercy and the justice of God should be displayed. We could only say that God was unjust if he punished any who did not deserve the punishment or whom he had forced to be guilty. But this is not so, men willingly fall into sin, and perish.

Some wrestle with God's justice by saying that it is unjust of God to condemn sinners because we cannot avoid his sovereign predetermination. Where is human responsibility? If God is in control how can we have any responsibility? Or as the apostle Paul anticipates the objection: "Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?" The reply comes back: 'But who art thou, O man, that repliest [or margin: disputest] against God?' Will we with our corrupt reason argue with the great God of heaven and earth? Who are we to argue with Him? We must seriously consider the One against whom we argue. Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it why hast thou made me thus? If we consider our own consciences honestly we will wonder how we can imagine ourselves to be such absolute judges of infinite justice and holiness. "Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not My way equal? are not your ways unequal?" (Ezek. 18:25). The Scriptures are quite clear that man is responsible to God for all his deeds. God treats him as rational and accountable, using appropriate means and motives to incline him to obedience unto his revealed will. In Romans 9, Paul goes on to argue that God's longsuffering with the vessels of wrath ver. 22 shows that men sin freely and harden themselves against His warnings.

God does not refuse mercy to any that seek it sincerely and penitently but He promises mercy to all such seekers. Those who refuse do so because of their own sinfulness which is not the effect of God's election. Who makes the lost to be lost? Whom has God ever caused to sin against his commandments and warnings? He says to the sinner: "Thou hast destroyed thyself yet in me is thine help" (Hos. 13:9). Anthony Burgess has said: “For no man is damned precisely because God hath not chosen him, because he is not elected, but because he is a sinner, and doth wilfully refuse the means of grace offered.” It has been said that "none shall be damned till his conscience acknowledges that he is worthy of it a thousand times."

We must simply submit to the fact that God desired for his own most wise reasons to show his mercy as well as his justice, showing what none deserved in some while showing what all deserved in others. Thomas Boston writes: "The glory and beauty of the divine attributes is displayed here with a shining lustre; as his sovereign authority and dominion over all his creatures to dispose of them to what ends and purposes he pleases; his knowledge and omniscience, in beholding all things past, present, and to come; his vindictive justice, in ordaining punishments to men, as a just retribution for sin; and his omnipotence, in making good his word, and putting all his threatenings in execution. The glory of his goodness shines likewise here, in making choice of any, when all most justly deserved to be rejected. And his mercy shines here with an beautiful lustre, in receiving and admitting all who believe in Jesus into his favour."

The Lord Jesus Christ could say as a perfect response to the truth of election: "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight". The more Christlike we become the more of this response to election will be evidenced in us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

6. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unsearchable

Election is a holy mystery and it is presented in Scripture for our humble adoration rather than for dispute. We often want to know answers to questions that we are not called to search out. We want reasons behind God's sovereign choice that Scripture does not give. Hugh Binning says that “the reason of God's proceedings is inscrutable to us, unless we could understand God as well as he understands himself. The rays of his infinite wisdom are too bright and dazzling for our weak and shallow capacities.” There are limits of enquiry: we cannot and must not go beyond what has been revealed. Scripture tells us all that we need to know. Calvin warns against prying into that “sublime eternal wisdom which it is his pleasure that we should not apprehend but adore, that therein also his perfections may appear. Hugh Binning counsels: "we must open our eyes upon so much light as God reveals of these secrets, knowing that the light of the word is a saving, refreshing light, not confounding, as is his inaccessible light of secret glory... This is the best bond of sobriety and humble wisdom, to learn what he teacheth us; but when he makes an end of teaching, to desire no more learning. It is humility to seek no more, and it is true wisdom to be content with no less."

At the end of Romans 11 the apostle Paul speaks of the eternal counsels as an unsearchable treasury, wondering at their infinite depth. They are infinitely merciful, infinitely just and infinitely free and sovereign. 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!'

Saturday, July 29, 2006

5. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unconditional

Ultimate purpose
Before we consider the cause and origin of election we must reflect upon its ultimate purpose. What someone purposes in any action tells us much about its character. A rational mind tends to plan something by first determining its purpose and then setting about the means that will accomplish that objective. When we consider the ultimate purpose of election we can see that election is all about God and not as we may like to think, all about man.

1.God's supreme purpose in His decree of election as in all of his decrees is the manifestation of His own glory. Of him and to him and through him are all things(Rom. 11:36). "The Lord hath made all things for himself" (Prov. 16:4). Everything that has been decreed finds its purpose in God himself. There could be no higher or greater purpose than the glory of God. (AW Pink) "As God swears by Himself because He can swear by none greater, so because a greater and grander end cannot be proposed than His own glory, God has set up that as the supreme end of all His decrees and works." The elect are set apart for God Himself. "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself" (Ps. 4:3) (Isa. 43:20, 21) "This people have I formed for myself", Ephesians 1:5, 6 "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself”

2.The second way in which the ultimate objectives and purposes of election are seen is in God's purpose that His people should be holy. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him" (Eph. 1:4). This begins in time and is perfected in eternity.

3.Thirdly, we can say that God’s purpose in election was the adoption of sons: (Eph. 1:5) "Having predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself according to the good pleasure of His will". Prof John Murray spoke of the prerogative of adoption as the apex of redemptive privilege. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2).
4.Fourthly and lastly it is clear that God’s purpose in election was the salvation of a people from a condition of sin, spiritual death and misery. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:9). "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (1 Thess. 2:13).

Original Cause
We have affirmed that election is a choice made by God not with the ultimate purpose of benefiting the creature but rather with the ultimate purpose of bringing glory to Himself by bestowing something upon the creature. It pleased the eternally blessed trinity to purpose to go out to certain creatures in free lovingkindness. Scripture will not allow us to find the origin of election anywhere else but in the sovereign will of God. "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15). Nothing outside of himself could control the will of God or force His choice. It was a free decision. The will of God could have no cause outside of itself, because that cause would then be greater and more excellent than God himself and he would be dependent on something outside of Himself. Eph. 1:9 It is all "according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself". Predestination is “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph.1:11). One divine has said that this act can be assigned to no other reason, but to that of God's royal prerogative as the righteous Judge and Governor of the world. Thomas Boston has written: "No reason can be found for this but only in the bosom of God. There is nothing before, or above, or without his purpose [which can be said to be] the cause of all that grace and goodness that he bestows upon his chosen ones”.

The original cause of election is in God's purpose only not man's works. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Rom. 9:11) "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth". It is clear that good works and holiness are not the cause but rather the effect of election. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Ephesians 1:4 declares "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him"— not because we were holy, but so that we "should be holy". Since holiness was the purpose of election, it could never be the cause of it. Election is of grace not works. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom. 11:5–6). A solemn consideration arises from that statement – when we introduce works into election we are taking grace altogether out of it.

Faith is not the cause or condition of election. The reason why any believe is because God gives them faith. Faith is not of ourselves but it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9), Phil. 1:29. “unto you is given to believe on Christ”. We read that "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48), not "as many as believed, were ordained to eternal life."
The Arminian doctrine of predestination says that election is based upon God's foreknowledge of our faith and works. In other words, God looks ahead through time to see who will accept the Gospel and believe, and who will not. Those whom he foresees accepting the Gospel in the future are those he chooses and elects to be saved. This kind of "election" is based on the condition of future faith. The Arminian can say with his head held high "God chose me, because I understood the Gospel; because I exercised my free will properly."

But foreknowledge is very different in Scripture. For instance, Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). God did not merely contemplate this event passively; He determined it. God foreknows everything that will happen, simply because He has ordained everything that shall happen. The only reason God can foreknow something is if it is certain to happen, but who made it certain? Only God can make anything certain. When we read of Christ as "a lamb" "foreordained before the foundation of the world," (1 Pet. 1: 19, 20) are we to think that God merely foresaw that He would suffer and then decided to foreordain him as Mediator? No. Those responsible for Christ's death did Acts 4:28 “whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”

It is a solemn thing to pervert the biblical doctrine of election because it tends to the doctrine of God. The Arminian doctrine of election challenges God's sovereign will and omnipotence (since God is dependent on whether man will or will not resist him).

Monday, July 03, 2006

4. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Unchangeable

Since election is the work of God we would expect it to be both everlasting and unchangeable. Ecc 3:14 "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him." Who will change it? Neither man nor angel can change this decree, how can they defeat the will of God "who doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand or say unto him what doest thou?" Dan 4:35. Is. 14.27. "The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?" God will not Himself change this decree, since with the Lord "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17) "I am the Lord, I change not." Mal 3:6. Is. 46.10. "my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." The Lord's wisdom and omnipotence cause His counsel to stand. This is why Scripture speaks (Heb. 6:17) of the "immutability of His counsel". "The foundation of God standeth sure" (2 Tim. 2:19). Nothing of all that there is in the universe or things future which the apostle Paul lists at the end of Romans chapter 8 "shall separate us from the love of God in Christ" "nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:35 - 39).

The eternal character of election shows it to be unchangeable. The golden chain of redemption of which we read in Romans 8:29, 30 stretches from before time to when time shall be no longer. "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son...Moreover whom He predestinated, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified and whom He justified, them He also glorified." The Apostle Paul puts these things in the past tense because with God the thing decreed is so certain to be fulfilled that it has been accomplished already in principle from all eternity. "These five golden links," says BB Warfield, "are welded together in one unbreakable chain... It is 'election,' ...that does all this" (Pamphlet, Election, p.10). Because of the unbreakability of election the believer will never be safer than he is now, for he is already as safe as he can be. "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing." Since election is unchangeable, the believer can have assurance of election from various definite marks. If it was not so, Peter could not counsel believers, "to make their calling and election sure," 2 Pet. 1.9,10. It can be known even to others for Paul says 1 Thess. 1.4. "knowing brethren beloved your Election of God."

Thus far we have spoken of election as an eternal act of God concerning specific individuals, centred upon Christ and unchangeable. But there is very little controversy with mainstream Arminian teaching thus far. Many would agree substantially with these points. It is however when we come to identify the basis or original cause of election that we come to the real heart of election and the eye of the storm. It is at this point when it becomes clear whether our doctrine of election is ultimately man-centred or God-centred, whether it is according to Scripture or carnal preference. The Dutch Arminians or Remonstrants spoke of election as God's unchangeable purpose, but they made that purpose conditional on man which means that it isn't properly unchangeable after all. Yet election is unchangeable precisely because it is not dependent or conditional upon anything outwith of God Himself.

Monday, June 26, 2006

3. The Biblical Doctrine of Election emphasises Union with Christ

While Karl Barth draws entirely false conclusions from Scripture's teaching that election is in Christ, we must not allow this error to detract from this glorious aspect of the doctrine and it is worth dwelling upon the positive side of this truth. Election in Scripture is not an impersonal,
fatalistic form of predestination such as Muslims profess, it is uniquely Christ-centred. As William Perkins put it, "to dreame of any election out of him, is against all sense". Election is in Christ and through Christ.

This is clearly expressed in the Canons of Dordt: "From eternity He has also appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of their salvation." (I.7). The Father first chose Christ to the office of Mediator, and so He is called God's elect, Isa. 42:1. Since the elect were chosen in Christ, it necessarily follows that He was first chosen. Therefore they were predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son as the "first-born among many brethren" Rom. 8:29. Thomas Goodwin expresses this quaintly: "In the womb of election He, the Head, came out first, and then we, the members".

The Lord Jesus Christ was not, as it were, an after thought in relation to election, or simply the means to make the decree of election effectual. AW Pink asserts that Christ was predestinated for higher ends than simply the saving of His people. As the God-Man he was chosen for God Himself to delight in, so that God might behold all His perfections in union with a creature. Being united to the second person of the Godhead, the man Christ Jesus was exalted to a closer union and communion with God than any other so that the Lord speaks of Him as "the man that is my fellow" (Zech. 13:7), and "mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isa. 42:1).

Calvin referred to Christ as the mirror of our election in two important senses. First, from God's point of view "he must have first looked on our Lord Jesus Christ before he could choose and call us" (Sermons on Ephesians 33). This reflects that Christ was chosen first in order of nature but does not mean that Christ or his merits are the ground or conditions of election. The merits of Christ are the effects and not the causes of election. It was God's free love that sent Christ and therefore he could not be the cause of electing love. It has been well said that election does not find men in Christ, but puts them there.

Second, Calvin says that from our point of view Christ "is the mirror on which we must cast our eyes and look, when we desire to come to the knowledge of our election (Sermons on Ephesians 48)". We are to come to Christ "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:4-5). We must go to Christ before we seek to be sure of our personal election. It is a grievous error to instruct seekers to be sure of their election before they close in with Christ or instead of closing in with Christ. We must be sure to be in Christ before we can hope to be sure of our election.

2. The Biblical Doctrine of Election is Ungeneralised

There have been various attempts to generalise election - many subterfuges to avoid what Scripture makes clear. Some have spoken of two kinds of election one election to faith (non-effectual) and another to salvation (effectual). Others have tried to say that election to glory is simply a general decree about salvation but there are no general and uncertain decrees only what Acts 2:23 calls the determinate counsel of God. Some have tried to teach that only the act of faith in the abstract was elected, but Scripture only speaks of people as the objects of election.

Then there is the view that God was not choosing some and rejecting others but merely "desiring" something in regard to sinners without being the cause of it. The Free Church of Scotland Declaratory Act of 1892 replaced the Westminster Confession's teaching on predestination by simply stating a vague conviction in: "the divine purpose of grace toward those who are saved". The liberal theologian Karl Barth taught yet another variation, that all men who have lived or will live were elected in Christ.

In contrast to all this error we must assert from the Bible that election is individual, personal, specific, and particular. God has made a distinction between some men and others. "Many be called, but few chosen" (Mat. 20:16); the apostle Paul (Rom. 11:7) distinguishes between "the election" and "the rest". Rom. 9 shows that there was personal election unto salvation within
the external election of Israel, "they are not all Israel who are of Israel" (9:6, 8). The names of the elect are said to be written in the book of life, while others are expressly said not to be written there, Rev. 17:8. They are a number which no man can number but are nevertheless known unto God.

The words used in the original Greek and Hebrew for election are personal, individual and particular. The main OT word for election bahar, expresses the idea of deliberately selecting someone or something after carefully considering the alternatives. The word implies a decided preference for, sometimes positive pleasure in, the object chosen. The OT also uses the
verb to know in the sense of love in relation to election e.g. Amos 3:2. When the NT speaks of foreknowledge it usually therefore means those who were foreloved. The NT always uses the verb to choose eklego in the middle voice, with a reflexive sense i.e. to 'choose out for oneself'.

The Canons of Dordt make it clear that "not all men are elect but that certain ones have not been elected" (I.15) and that the elect "a certain number of specific men" (I.7). The Westminster Confession refers to those predestined as "particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished" (III.4.).