Not what I expected

After being pressed by many online recommendations to read Calvin’s Institutes I have undertaken the task. My expectations were that this was going to be like paddling a canoe through mud. I was determined that I would exercise discipline and make it through. I was certain that I would learn, but I was expecting that it wasn’t going to be pleasurable. Though I’m just getting underway, I must say I am find the “unpleasurable”  part to not to be the case. Battle’s translation of Calvin’s writing is beautiful. Listen to this:

In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he “lives and moves” [Acts 17:28]. For, quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed, our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God. Then, by these benefits shed like dew from heaven upon us, we are led as by rivulets to the spring itself. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward. Thus, not only will we, in fasting and hungering, seek thence what we lack; but, in being aroused by fear, we shall learn humility. For, as a veritable world of miseries is to be found in mankind, and we are thereby despoiled of divine raiment, our shameful nakedness exposes a teeming horde of infamies. Each of us must, then, be so stung by some knowledge of God.

He is conveying solid theological truth, but doing so in a devotional, and beautiful way. To this point, early in the project, I look forward to my time each morning.


Calvin Knew Something of Post-Modernism in the 1500s

Happy New Year!!

The following quotation is from a preface to Calvin’s Institutes from a section in which he addresses the work to the French King. Calvin attempts to establish the basis for his argument and reveals the basis for his opponents attacks. He appeals to absolute truth, God’s Word, and indicates that his detractors appeal to “blind light of nature” and “free will”. Interestingly I’ve heard this same argument regarding contemporary arguments even in the past few weeks.

When Paul wished all prophecy to be made to accord with the analogy of faith [Rom 12:6], he set forth a very clear rule to test all interpretation of Scripture. Now, if our interpretation be measured by this rule of faith, victory is in our hands. For what is more consonant with faith than to recognize that we are naked of all virtue, in order to be clothed by God? That we are empty of all good, to be filled by him? That we are slaves of sin, to be freed by him? Blind, to be illuminated by him? Lame, to be made straight by him? Weak, to be sustained by him? To take away from us all occasion for glorying, that he alone may stand forth gloriously and we glory in him [cf. 1 Cor 1:31; II Cor 10:17]? When we say these and like things our adversaries interrupt and complain that in this way we shall subvert some blind light of nature, imaginary preparations, free will, and works that merit eternal salvation, even with their supererogations. For they cannot bear that the whole praise and glory of all goodness, virtue, and righteousness, and wisdom should rest with God. p 13

supererogations – the performance of more work than duty requires

This is a quotation from The Institutes by John Calvin, translated by Ford Battles.
Originally written in Latin in 1536, translated to French in 1541. Translated by Battles into English in 1960.

Falling on deaf ears

Falling on deaf ears

I found this post by Al Mohler to be a sad but true testament to the current reality of ministry. Several from my flock have returned after vacation or visiting friends with a gleam in their eye having been fed a 10 minute sermon, 10 praise songs, and a great latte with a review of “it was a great service.” How heartbreaking to hear people are content with husks when God has a fatted calf. I’m the best preacher I can be, and aspire to be better; but I preach His Word of which I am not ashamed. It alone is the power of God unto salvation, it is living, it is powerful. 

The beauty of God’s Holiness

Perhaps no thought has more impressed me for some time than the one that was revealed during my recent study of the Holiness of God. In reading Steven Charnock’s the Existence and Attributes of God I was very moved by the chapter on God’s Holiness (over 100 pages long), Charnock suggested an aspect of God’s Holiness that I had not previously considered or recollect considering. The chapter begins with a consideration of the Song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-11 and fixes the readers attention on verse 11:
(Exo 15:11 KJV)  11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

(Exo 15:11 ESV)  11 “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
Charnock then makes the point:
“The holiness of God is his glory, as his grace is his riches holiness is his crown and his mercy is his treasure. ” 
 – and –

“Holiness is a glorious perfection belonging to the nature of God. Hence he is in Scripture style often the Holy One, the Holy One of Jacob, the Holy One of Israel; and oftener entitled Holy, than Almighty, and set forth by this part of his dignity more than by any other.” – Stephen Charnnock
– and –
“Though we conceive him infinite in Majesty, infinite in essence, eternal in duration, mighty in power, and wise and immutable in his counsels; merciful in his proceedings with men, and whatsoever other perfections may dignify so sovereign a Being, yet if we conceive him destitute of this excellent perfection, and imagine him possedwith the least contagion of evil, we make him but an infinite monster, and sully all those perfections we acribed to him before; we rather own him a devil than a God.”
– and finally-
“As it seems to challenge an excellency above all his other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest. As it is the glory of the Godhea, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead. As his power is the strength of them, so his holiness is the beauty of them.” p113
Millerd Erickson acknowledges this aspect of God’s holiness in his systematic theology–“There are two basic aspects to God’s holiness. The first is his uniqueness. He is totally separate from all of creation. This is what Louis Berkhof called the “majesty-holiness” of God.” – Erickson
What is Beauty? Beauty is God’s Holiness. What is beautiful music? Holy music. What is Beautiful worship? Holy worship? Just as God is the definition of truth so too is God the definition of holiness and so too is God the definition of beauty. The world is so bent on changing truth,  and beauty to some subjective, relative definition of their own conjuring. Let us be cognizant that in so doing they are attacking the Holiness of God.
See: 1 Ch 16:29, 2 Ch 20:21; Ps 29:2; Ps 96:9

Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant

I began reading the recent three views book published by Regular Baptist Press, Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant. Though there are three views there are six authors and an editor: John Master, Dave Fredrickson, Roy E. Beacham, Elliott Johnson, Rodney Decker, and Bruce Compton; editor Mike Stallard. This morning I read pages 29-44 from the first chapter is “Which are the New Covenant Passages in the Bible” and it was written by Dave Fredrickson.

I can remember back to some of my first attempts at Bible study, twenty years ago, done with the goal of teaching. It seemed to me that mining the truths of the Scriptures was beyond me. With a computer science, and math background it was very unsatisfying to have “good men” take disparate views on a passage. Little did I know, and looking back how naive I was. In this chapter the author details various models that have been employed to determine what passages are referring to the New Covenant (NC). The naive me, and I’m sure many others suffering from the same ignorance, would have been unsettled by such a discussion. How does one have a debate over the NC if there is so much disagreement over something so fundamental as what passages are in view?  In answering the question–“Which OT texts refer to the New Covenant” the agreement begins and ends with Jeremiah 31:31. Beyond that one passage, that contains the sole explicit reference to the NC, there are varying opinions. I’ll write more on my own opinion when I complete the chapter.

What was interesting in this passage this morning was the approach that these very well trained, conservative, dispensational, Bible scholars took at answer this question. Five different approaches are detailed in this chapter. Generally, each takes Jer 31:31 (a solid starting place), and then distill aspects of that passage into clues that they then use to identify other passages. Some identify different clues and some apply those clues in different ways; hence the range of views. The hermenutical and exegetical exercise is very interesting (though I would hardly say captivating).

If anyone else is reading this book (Amazon, Faith Baptist Bible College, RBP)  I would love to interact with you regarding your perspective.

Dr. Kevin Bauder reviews this book in his Nick of Time Series. He is also writing an extended series on “The People of God” that discusses the church and its relationship to Israel that is pertinent to anyone interested in this topic.

Reflections on Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5  1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

The apostle Paul emphasizes how vital holiness is among the saints, and within his Church. With the warnings of Matthew 5, and the prevalence of immorality in our culture these words should give each of us pause. To make a covenant with our eyes, and to guard our hearts, and to possess our vessel in sanctification and honor. Paul makes it clear that this consideration should effect what we say, the language we use, what we think about, what we desire, and finally what we do. As Jesus so clearly thought, simply not committing the act is insufficient, it isn’t what is on the outside of the vessel that defiles–“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts” such as “adulteries and fornication” (Matt 15:19)

Central to the word “love” (v2) is the idea of sacrifice, “Love seeketh not her own” (1Cor 13:5). When placed in the context we see here in Ephesians 5 love for God stands in stark contrast to immorality, impurity, and covetous. If given the choice of chastity (in  word, thought, and deed), or a relationship with Jesus Christ, which would be your choice? What circumstances or situations would test your breaking point? John writes in 1 John 5:3 “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” What situations would  make this commandment grievous to you?

In verse 5 Paul identifies the real root of this issue of immorality, which is idolatry. What is idolatry? Putting something or someone in the position that only God should rightly occupy. Placing ultimate worth in something or someone other than God. Unless we begin to understand that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 13:30) we miss what it means to be his disciple. Unless we understand that discipleship begins by denying yourself we fail to enter through the straight gate.

Love between a husband and wife can be one of the most beautiful pictures this world holds. This is the case only if it is a true picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. In contrast, immorality is not love, it is just the opposite, it is a blasphemy against the message that God intends it to be. When a person places saving faith in Jesus Christ, they become one with Him. Once that relationship has been consummated by faith, there is nothing that can separate that person from the love of God. “This is a great mystery.”

Paul wrote to  the church of Corinth and said:  “I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2Co 11:2). As a pastor I too am jealous with godly jealousy. It is my desire to present my church as a “pure virgin” to Christ. Guard your hearts with all diligence. Love the Lord with all your heart.