Grace & Law (What Have These To Do With Us?)

Grace & Law (What have these to do with us?)

 

Romans 6:14:  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

It is greatly to be feared today that a believer – any believer in the free, unmerited grace of God through the payment of our sin, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account and standing before God – may well be unaware that God’s grace and moral law are not antithetical to one another, but rather, stand together as friends. Many who come to know God’s grace in Christ Jesus have a truncated understanding of what part God’s moral law plays in their lives. They suppose that, having died to the law by burial with their Lord and Savior, they now have no part of that law as a part of their lives, although they may well feel some compunction to “live well” before their God. Such a compunction – a rather nebulous yet anxious feeling that they must do what Jesus did (which has its own inherent problems), may be applauded, as far as it goes, yet it does not go far enough, and it goes too far, at one and the same time. Continue reading “Grace & Law (What Have These To Do With Us?)”

Advertisements

WHAT IS SUBMISSION?

What Is Submission?

(This is a sermon I preached a couple of months ago to our congregation at On The Way Reformed Baptist Church, Oak Hills, CAI asked input from my brethren on whether I should post it as a blog article, and the consensus was overwhelmingly “yes,” much to my surprise. Here it is, therefore – I pray it is of use to the body catholic, as it was to my brethren as the local covenant community).

Ephesians 5:21: submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This verse, when exposited, gives us practical implications to better help us in learning how we are to submit to God and one another, and shows that submission takes place in a hierarchy, or a hierarchal order. That order is prevalent throughout Special Revelation (Scripture), and always begins with the creature submitting to the Creator. While the Creator/creature distinction exists, the need to recognize that distinction exists, and it works out, practically, down through the created order. Continue reading “WHAT IS SUBMISSION?”

HERMENEUTICS: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei

This is the title of chapter two of CONFESSING THE IMPASSIBLE GOD: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (CIG). The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the two most necessary hermeneutical principles that are required when doing theology – not only theology proper, as is the concern of CIG, but all theology. As the title states, these are the hermeneutical principles of Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei, which are the Latin phrases for The Analogy of Scripture and The Analogy of the Faith.

Before going forward, defining these most important hermeneutical principles, and stating where they come from, is necessary.

To put it simply, these principles are not formulated and then imposed upon Scripture, but rather, and drawn from the way that the Biblical writers themselves did theology. Thus, they come from Scripture, and so, from God – they are principles of understanding Scripture which the Author of Scripture imbedded in His Special Revelation to us, that we might not make the mistake of pitting Scripture against Scripture, but could rather understand it, and all the doctrines which it teaches us, by a synthesis of the whole. Continue reading “HERMENEUTICS: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei”

Half baked food for thought on fasting

This post is not an instructional presentation on how to fast, when to fast, how often to fast, or on the efficacy of fasting.  The purpose of this article is to describe a typological view of fasting by first establishing a biblically founded understanding of food, eating and sacrifice, and then from that extrapolating what its denial would illustrate.  This article is an expurgated version of my thoughts on this matter.  It is not meant to be a fully comprehensive treaty on the subject, but merely point out a few connections that should spur on individual study.  I may at some point expand the scope of relevant passages, tighten up and more fully develop the connections that paint this illustration and write a book.  If I ever find the time and desire to go back to school I could seriously see this as being a focus of my study and research.

Gen. 9:1: And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6  “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed,

for God made man in his own image.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Couched in between the command of God to fill the earth with His image, albeit one marred and corrupted by sin, we are told that the animals are given to us as food.  There is a prohibition stated with the explanation of the connection and correlation of life to blood.  From that the movement turns back as the reason for the application of justice for the shedding of man’s blood, who God created in His own image; the image of God that man is to fill the earth with.  These verses (Gen 9:1-7) should bring to our memory Gen 1:26-31; Gen 2:7-17; Gen 4:1-15.  We should note the continuity in these passages as well as the drastic changes and see why the differences are there.

Adam, our federal head, was created in the unblemished image of God and placed in the garden, the temple of the living God.  He is commanded to subdue the earth, expand the bounds of this temple and fill it with the uncorrupted image of God (sinless image bearers of God would produce more sinless image bearers of God).  During this probationary time plant life was given as food for Adam as well as to all the animals that have the breath of life.(Gen 1:29-30).

His failure to attain the glory of God by his sin corrupted the image of God that we in turn bear (sinful image bearers of God produce more sinful image bearers of God Gen 5:1-3) and plunged all of his posterity under condemnation and in need of the second Adam; the promised seed of the woman; the Christ who would succeed in every way that Adam failed.  His seed would be clothed in His righteousness, and conformed to His image (Christ being God/The exact imprint of His nature), filling His kingdom with the cleansed image bearers of God.  His seed here would be the temple of the living God.  The new earth and the new city would have no temple because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.

The first recorded sin after the fall and expulsion from the garden is the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, and his blood cries out to God for justice.  This crime while manifested horizontally (man against man) its essence is vertical.  The seditious nature of the crime is against God Himself.  The intent of Cain in his hatred and hostility toward God, is to kill God and take his throne, by eliminating His image that He has put on man.  The blood of Abel cries out, but it is God that deserves and demands perfect justice; it is God that will exact judgment and vengeance in perfection.  It is not until after the judgment of God wiping out life on the world that we come to Gen 9:1-7 where God now gives animals that have the breath of life in them as food, with the prohibition of blood.  We see the same prohibition, the connection of blood to life, and its correlation to justice and atonement found in Lev 17:10-16.  Keep in mind the connection to the priests as far as the ceremonial aspect of sacrifice and the food that they consume (Deut 18:1-3).

Deut 18 “The Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the Lord’s food offerings as their inheritance. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their brothers; the Lord is their inheritance, as he promised them. 3 And this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach.

Lev 17:10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood.

13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

There are a few things we can take away from laying out these passages and examining the connections.  First is that there is a very real function that food plays in the physical context of lives of man.  God is the provider of our food source; He has given us animals to eat.  One of the ways God sustains our lives is through the killing and eating of animals.  The physical sustenance of our lives in one sense depends upon the death of another life.  It is interesting to note the warning in the Lev 17 passage for eating that which dies itself or what is torn by beasts and not go through the physical cleansing process.  While health and disease may be part of the reason, I would assert that what is being pictured here is specifically is hunting or the act of killing; Taking life to sustain your life.  This is a concept that our western culture has sanitized when it comes to food.  Gratitude to God for providing food in the form of life that we must take and consume in order to live.  The two other aspects that go beyond the purview of this article but that are tangentially related to this portion directly are clothing and shelter.

God intends in this physical context to illustrate a truth far greater; one with eternal consequences; one of a spiritual nature.  The reality of physical death points us to that of spiritual estrangement from any grace of God, eternal torment for our treason and rebellion against a pure and holy God.  The wages of sin is death.  Our good God being just must adjudicate these capital crimes against His sovereign rule and reign.  The life/blood of man must be shed as a requirement to His perfect justice.  The God-Man Christ Jesus stood in place of judgment propitiating the full measure of God’s wrath and vengeance, a reckoning for the life of man.  The spiritual sustenance of our lives depends upon the death of another life, that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God here is the provider of this spiritual food (Gen 22).  We consume His life of perfect obedience lived in our place and death in our place.  More on this double imputation in a bit.

All of the elements discussed so far come together in the Passover narrative, as the physical seed of Abraham are removed from their slavery and bondage to go worship God, pointing to the reality of the spiritual seed of Abraham being removed from their bondage and slavery to sin and its consequences to worship God who delivered them.  Take a look and recognize in this passage everything mentioned thus far, noting the very real physical parts that illustrate the spiritual, focusing on the consumption of the Paschal Lamb and what that represents.

Exodus 12:1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

7 “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

In Luke 22 Jesus is making covenantal distinctions between the Old and the New covenants, rooted in the covenant of redemption.  Here He is connecting Himself to the Passover, its observance for the physical seed of Abraham and the institution of the LORDS supper for the spiritual seed. It is in the LORDS supper that we actively participate with Christ in His life, death and resurrection.  It is more than a memory, and is a means of grace.  We remember Him as we consume the bread and wine a picture of His body and blood.  Christ is the reality that the Passover pointed the physical seed of Abraham towards, the reality of the New Covenant in His blood.  An interesting item to note is the stark change now in place concerning the consumption of blood as compared to the Passover feast, and Levitical practices, and prohibitions laid out in Genesis and Leveticus as well as the prohibition not to eat what dies of itself.  We see more of the details of the picture to fill in as we turn our attention to the connection that Christ makes of Himself, to the historical narrative concerning God’s provision in physical food to His physical seed illustrating His provision of spiritual food to His spiritual seed in the Son in John 6:25-59.

John 6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

As pertaining to food, Jesus here is pointing us back to passages like Exodus 16.  While there is no talking of life to sustain life, the point of this passage is to show the supernatural provision of God to sustain His physical people and connect that provision of food with the Sabbath.  Jesus relates Himself here as the supernatural provision of God in sustaining the spiritual life of His spiritual people.  In verses 51-59 moves the discussion of  being the living bread that comes down from heaven to the feeding on His flesh and drinking of His blood, bringing the life for life reckoning back to the discussion.  Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2), entered God’s rest and has also rested from His works as God did from His.  His work is the supernatural provision of God to give life by the laying down of His; His active obedience (His perfect life of righteousness that He lives in our place because we don’t) and passive obedience (His suffering and dying the death that we deserve).  This is His righteousness imputed to us and our sin to Him.  When we take all of these passages together we see God’s intention in showing us various pictures of the gospel message in the simple act of eating; how He is just to justify sinners in active rebellion against Him and reconcile them to Himself.

As we read these final verses in the passage from John 6 again our minds should be drawn to the LORDS supper.  We see our communion with Him; abiding in Him and Him in us; the life we have in Him; the participation in His life, death and resurrection.

This brings us to the idea of fasting, and by this I mean a deliberate and often prolonged abstinence from food and sometimes drink.  Fasting was commanded for the Day of Atonement.   It was seen and used at times to be a sign of penitence, humility and repentance.  A cursory look through biblical passages that deal with fasting provides a glimpse at several reoccurring themes that coincide with this practice.  They are mourning, tearing of clothing, sackcloth and ashes, all of which are expressions of grief and associated with death.

All those who by the atoning work of Christ have been reconciled to God, have also united with Christ, life death and resurrection.  We have died to sin; to our old self, to a life lived for ourselves, and have risen to walk in the newness of life in Christ.  Our old self enslaved to sin was crucified with Christ.  This is the picture of repentance, of turning away from our rebellion and the life of sin that leads to death and turning to God and eternal life in His Son.  We no longer live for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and rose again.

Luke 9:23-24; John 12:23-26; Romans 6:1-23; Romans 8:1-11; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:1-21; Galatians 2:19-21; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:17-5:13; Philippians 2:1-11; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-6.

It is the death of our old self that we affirm with fasting; in the denial of the life sustaining food. We are looking past the temporal physical promises of this life to the greater spiritual eternal promises that they represent (Hebrews 11). Only we don’t mourn or grieve like the hypocrites but rejoice in the granted repentance and newness of life.  There is an interesting flow that happens in the sermon on the mount.

Mat 6:16“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Work Out Your Own Salvation?

Yes. Why? To borrow a line from Dr. Mark Jones- “because the Bible says so.” But what does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” Some tend to think that it simply means to focus on the Gospel and what Christ has accomplished for sinners to the glory of God. The idea is to reflect upon that and the Spirit will move the sinner towards obedience. While I agree that any sanctification (progressive) in the pursuit of holiness needs to have a sound understanding of the Gospel, justification by faith alone and must do as the author of Hebrews encourages “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). To be sure, there is no such thing as pursuing holiness in sanctification apart from Hebrews 12:2. Yet I do not believe that is all Paul is saying when he writes ,“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12).

So what does it mean to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? Well I believe it looks like what the author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 12:1- “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,.”  That is to say that personal holiness in the life of believers is a deliberate, willful and conscious effort to eliminate sin in their lives; as empowered by the Holy Spirit, by the grace of God, as justified sinners declared righteous by virtue of Christ’s perfect law-keeping life. It is to “mortify the flesh,” ” to be killing sin,”and to be actively doing as Peter says “…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (2 Pe. 1:5-9).

 

At this moment I will now turn it over to Matthew Poole to elaborate on Philippians 2:12-13.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Poole writes:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed: having confirmed the example of Christ’s admirable condescension and affection from the glorious issue of it, he doth here reassume his exhortation, with a friendly compellation, commending their former sincere endeavours to obey the gospel (so chap. 1:5, and ver. 15 of this) in following Christ, Matt. 11:28, and moving them to persevere in obedience and love to God and man. Not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence; that it might be evident, whether the eye of their pastor were upon them or no, a prevailing love to Christ, and their own souls’ welfare, was prevalent with them; but especially, being he was now detained from them, and might be jealous of some defects in them, James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, did engage them more than any thing to embrace his exhortation, which he enlargeth in other words. Work out your own salvation: he moves them as saints, chap. 1:1, in whom God would perfect his work begun, ver. 6, having given them to believe and suffer, ver. 29, that they would seriously and earnestly busy themselves in those things, which on their parts are necessary to salvation, as John 6:27; Heb. 6:9, and without which it cannot be had, as chap. 1:10; Matt. 24:13; Col. 3:10, 12, &c.; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 6:19; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7, 8; 2 Pet. 3:17; yea, press on in the way to their own salvation, as he moved, 1 Tim. 4:16, not that they should not be solicitous about others, for that mutual care is implied, as elsewhere required, Heb. 3:13; 10:24; but that every one should strenuously go on towards the mark with a special regard to himself, and the temptations he may meet with, knowing he must bear his own burden, Gal. 6:1, 5, and therefore should take heed lest he fall. The papists’ arguings hence that our actions are sufficient and meritorious causes of salvation, are altogether inconsequent. For the apostle doth not say our actions work out salvation, but, Work out your own salvation, which is much different. It were absurd to say, because the Jews were enjoined to eat the passover with loins girt, that loins girt were eating of the passover. Indeed, what the papists urge is contrary to this doctrine of Paul, who doth elsewhere place blessedness in remission of sins, and shows eternal life is the gift of God, Rom. 4:6, 7; 6:23; and we are saved by grace, not of works, Rom. 3:20, 24, 25; 4:16; Eph. 2:8; Tit. 3:5; and contrary to the main scope of the apostle, which is to beat down pride and conceit of deserving, and persuade to humility. He drives at this, that we should not be idle or lazy in the business of salvation, but work together with God, (yet as instruments, in whom there is no strength which is not derived from him,) that we may evidence we do not receive his grace in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1, 2. But this co-operation doth not respect the acquiring or meriting of salvation, which is proper to Christ alone, and incommunicable to any others, Acts 4:12, who cannot be said to be their own saviours: this co-operation, or working out, respects only the application, not the performing of the payment, which Christ hath abundantly perfected: but the embracing of the perfect payment, is not that which can be the cause and foundation of right for which it is deservedly conferred; but only the way and means by which we come to partake of salvation. With fear and trembling; i. e. with a holy care to do all acceptably: he doth by these two words mean not any servile fear and slavish despondency, arising from doubting, chap. 4:4, but only a serious, filial fear, implying a deep humility and submissiveness of mind, with a reverential awe of the Divine Majesty, and a solicitude to avoid that evil which is offensive to him and separates from him. We find these words used to the like import, Psal. 2:11; Dan. 5:19; 6:26; Rom. 11:20; with 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:5; Eph. 6:5; connoting that, after the example of Christ, we should be humble, and though we distrust ourselves, yet we are to trust solely to God, (as an infant may be afraid, and yet cling fast to and depend upon, begging help of, the parent, going over a dangerous precipice,) for the accomplishment of our salvation.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
That they might not be negligent in working out their salvation with humility, from any conceit or carnal confidence any might have that they could believe and repent when they pleased, imagining their wills to be as pliable to good as evil; the apostle urgeth the effectual grace of God, as a powerful inducement and encouragement to embrace his exhortation. For it is God which worketh in you: they should not despond of any attaining salvation, or think they did labour in vain in the diligent use of means, and should altogether fall under the dominion of sin, considering, though they were free agents, yet the efficiency and sufficiency was of God, Rom. 6:13, 14; 1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 3:5; who worketh within them powerfully and effectually, carrying on the work through all difficulties and obstacles, with victorious efficacy, till it be wrought, chap. 1:6; Isa. 41:4; Heb. 13:20, 21: God worketh not only by suasion to gain assent, but by a special energy effecting what he would have us to do. Both to will: and not only in a general way, Acts 17:28, but in a special way, making us willing, Psal. 110:3, remotely in regard of the principle, nextly in regard of the act: circumcising the heart, Deut. 30:6; taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh, Ezek. 11:19; 36:26, 27; causing light to shine out of darkness, 2 Cor. 4:6; and so renewing the will, to choose that which is savingly good, the natural bent of which, before the influence of this insuperable grace, stands another way, John 8:44, viz. to will and do contrary: yet he doth not necessitate by any compulsion, but powerfully, yet sweetly, and suitably to man’s free faculty, incline the will to that which is good, John 6:37, 44, i. e. to a certain effect. For the will influenced to will that it doth perform, it undoubtedly wills somewhat that is certain, and so is determined by God. And to do; to do that which is savingly good. Whereupon being made willing, it hath not only an inclination, and doth not only exert a woulding, but, being moved by God’s insuperable grace, 1 Cor. 3:7, that will is effectual, and is the very deed, where the command of the will is executed to the glory of God, as the author. As in alms, not only doth God incline the will to relieve the poor, but further contributes special gracious aids to perform what was deliberated, which evinceth that it is from another principle than ourselves. It is not, that ye may be able to will, and may be able to do; but he worketh both to will and to do: which connotes the very act itself; that ye will to believe, obey, pray, persevere, and that ye do believe, obey, pray, persevere: of unwilling, he makes willing; and further, to will and to do. It is true, to will, as it is an act of the will, is ours by creation; and to will well is so far ours, we being made effectually willing by God’s grace: yet not ours, as though of ourselves we begin to will, or go on, but it is of him who worketh in us. Not that we cannot will well, but that of ourselves we cannot will well. The precept therefore requiring our obedience does not show what we can or will of ourselves, but what we ought to will and to do by God’s special help. But though God work in us obedience, yet we obey, we ourselves act, being acted of God. Of his good pleasure; not for any previous disposition in any of us, but of, or according to, his own good pleasure, Luke 10:21; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:11, with 2 Tim. 1:9. In working out our own salvation, the very beginning in the will, as well as the perfection, is ascribed to the efficacy of God; his good pleasure is the procreating and helping cause of this work on the will, and not the will’s good pleasure.”*

 

*Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 3, pp. 691–692). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

Was Louis Berkhof an Antinomian? No.

Let’s let Berkhof speak for himself. Here he is specifically speaking on sanctification.  Please note what Berkhof points out about Karl Bath’s views of justification and sanctification. He writes, “And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.”

Berkhof states that  Barth is trying to prevent  self-righteousness in the believer but goes too far and confounds justification and sanctification. In fact what he criticizes Barth for, in my opinion, can be said of Tullian Tchividjian and his followers.  To be sure Berkhof is no antinomian but neither is he in the same field as Tullian on this topic.

2. IT CONSISTS OF TWO PARTS. The two parts of sanctification are represented in Scripture as:

a. The mortification of the old man, the body of sin. This Scriptural term denotes that act of God whereby the pollution and corruption of human nature that results from sin is gradually removed. It is often represented in the Bible as the crucifying of the old man, and is thus connected with the death of Christ on the cross. The old man is human nature in so far as it is controlled by sin, Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24. In the context of the passage of Galatians Paul contrasts the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, and then says: “And they who are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.” This means that in their case the Spirit has gained predominance.

b. The quickening of the new man, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. While the former part of sanctification is negative in character, this is positive. It is that act of God whereby the holy disposition of the soul is strengthened, holy exercises are increased, and thus a new course of life engendered and promoted. The old structure of sin is gradually torn down, and a new structure of God is reared in its stead. These two parts of sanctification are not successive but contemporaneous. Thank God, the gradual erection of the new building need not wait until the old one is completely demolished. If it had to wait for that, it could never begin in this life. With the gradual dissolution of the old the new makes its appearance. It is like the airing of a house filled with pestiferous odors. As the old air is drawn out, the new rushes in. This positive side of sanctification is often called “a being raised together with Christ,” Rom. 6:4, 5; Col. 2:12; 3:1, 2. The new life to which it leads is called “a life unto God,” Rom. 6:11; Gal. 2:19.

3. IT AFFECTS THE WHOLE MAN: BODY AND SOUL; INTELLECT, AFFECTIONS AND WILL. This follows from the nature of the case, because sanctification takes place in the inner life of man, in the heart, and this cannot be changed without changing the whole organism of man. If the inner man is changed, there is bound to be change also in the periphery of life. Moreover, Scripture clearly and explicitly teaches that it affects both body and soul, 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:12; 1 Cor. 6:15, 20. The body comes into consideration here as the organ or instrument of the sinful soul, through which the sinful inclinations and habits and passions express themselves. The sanctification of the body takes place especially in the crisis of death and in the resurrection of the dead. Finally, it also appears from Scripture that sanctification affects all the powers or faculties of the soul: the understanding, Jer. 31:34; John 6:45;—the will, Ezek. 36:25–27; Phil. 2:13;—the passions, Gal. 5:24;—and the conscience, Tit. 1:15; Heb. 9:14.

4. IT IS A WORK OF GOD IN WHICH BELIEVERS CO-OPERATE. When it is said that man takes part in the work of sanctification, this does not mean that man is an independent agent in the work, so as to make it partly the work of God and partly the work of man; but merely, that God effects the work in part through the instrumentality of man as a rational being, by requiring of him prayerful and intelligent co-operation with the Spirit. That man must co-operate with the Spirit of God follows: (a) from the repeated warnings against evils and temptations, which clearly imply that man must be active in avoiding the pitfalls of life, Rom. 12:9, 16, 17; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Gal. 5:16–23; and (b) from the constant exhortations to holy living. These imply that the believer must be diligent in the employment of the means at his command for the moral and spiritual improvement of his life, Micah 6:8; John 15:2, 8, 16; Rom. 8:12, 13; 12:1, 2, 17; Gal. 6:7, 8, 15.
E. The Characteristics of Sanctification

1. As appears from the immediately preceding, sanctification is a work of which God and not man is the author. Only the advocates of the so-called free will can claim that it is a work of man. Nevertheless, it differs from regeneration in that man can, and is in duty bound to, strive for ever-increasing sanctification by using the means which God has placed at his disposal. This is clearly taught in Scripture, 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:5–14; 1 Pet. 1:22. Consistent Antinomians lose sight of this important truth, and feel no need of carefully avoiding sin, since this affects only the old man which is condemned to death, and not the new man which is holy with the holiness of Christ.

2. Sanctification takes place partly in the subconscious life, and as such is an immediate operation of the Holy Spirit; but also partly in the conscious life, and then depends on the use of certain means, such as the constant exercise of faith, the study of God’s Word, prayer, and association with other believers.

3. Sanctification is usually a lengthy process and never reaches perfection in this life. At the same time there may be cases in which it is completed in a very short time or even in a moment, as, for instance, in cases in which regeneration and conversion are immediately followed by temporal death. If we may proceed on the assumption that the believer’s sanctification is perfect immediately after death—and Scripture seems to teach this as far as the soul is concerned—, then in such cases the sanctification of the soul must be completed almost at once.

4. The sanctification of the believer must, it would seem, be completed either at the very moment of death, or immediately after death, as far as the soul is concerned, and at the resurrection in so far as it pertains to the body. This would seem to follow from that fact that, on the one hand, the Bible teaches that in the present life no one can claim freedom from sin, 1 Kings 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Rom. 3:10, 12; Jas. 3:2; 1 John 1:8; and that, on the other hand, those who have gone before are entirely sanctified. It speaks of them as “the spirits of just men made perfect,” Heb. 12:23, and as “without blemish,” Rev. 14:5. Moreover, we are told that in the heavenly city of God there shall in no wise enter “anything unclean or he that maketh an abomination and a lie,” Rev. 21:27; and that Christ at His coming will “fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory,” Phil. 3:21.
F. The Author and Means of Sanctification

Sanctification is a work of the triune God, but is ascribed more particularly to the Holy Spirit in Scripture, Rom. 8:11; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2. It is particularly important in our day, with its emphasis on the necessity of approaching the study of theology anthropologically and its one-sided call to service in the kingdom of God, to stress the fact that God, and not man, is the author of sanctification. Especially in view of the Activism that is such a characteristic feature of American religious life, and which glorifies the work of man rather than the grace of God, it is necessary to stress the fact over and over again that sanctification is the fruit of justification, that the former is simply impossible without the latter, and that both are the fruits of the grace of God in the redemption of sinners. Though man is privileged to co-operate with the Spirit of God, he can do this only in virtue of the strength which the Spirit imparts to him from day to day. The spiritual development of man is not a human achievement, but a work of divine grace. Man deserves no credit whatsoever for that which he contributes to it instrumentally. In so far as sanctification takes place in the subconscious life, it is effected by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit. But as a work in the conscious life of believers it is wrought, by several means, which the Holy Spirit employs.

1. THE WORD OF GOD. In opposition to the Church of Rome it should be maintained that the principal means used by the Holy Spirit is the Word of God. The truth in itself certainly has no adequate efficiency to sanctify the believer, yet it is naturally adapted to be the means of sanctification as employed by the Holy Spirit. Scripture presents all the objective conditions for holy exercises and acts. It serves to excite spiritual activity by presenting motives and inducements, and gives direction to it by prohibitions, exhortations, and examples, 1 Pet. 1:22; 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:4.

2. THE SACRAMENTS. These are the means par excellence according to the Church of Rome. Protestants regard them as subordinate to the Word of God, and sometimes even speak of them as the “visible Word.” They symbolize and seal to us the same truths that are verbally expressed in the Word of God, and may be regarded as an acted word, containing a lively representation of the truth, which the Holy Spirit makes the occasion for holy exercises. They are not only subordinate to the Word of God, but cannot exist without it, and are therefore always accompanied by it, Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:21.

3. PROVIDENTIAL GUIDANCE. God’s providences, both favorable and adverse, are often powerful means of sanctification. In connection with the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word, they work on our natural affections and thus frequently deepen the impression of religious truth and force it home. It should be borne in mind that the light of God’s revelation is necessary for the interpretation of His providential guidances, Ps. 119:71; Rom. 2:4; Heb. 12:10.
G. Relation of Sanctification to Other Stages in the Ordo Salutis

It is of considerable importance to have a correct conception of the relation between sanctification and some of the other stages in the work of redemption.

1. TO REGENERATION. There is both difference and similarity here. Regeneration is completed at once, for a man cannot be more or less regenerated; he is either dead or alive spiritually. Sanctification is a process, bringing about gradual changes, so that different grades may be distinguished in the resulting holiness. Hence we are admonished to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, 2 Cor. 7:1. The Heidelberg Catechism also presupposes that there are degrees of holiness, when it says that even “the holiest men, when in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience.” At the same time regeneration is the beginning of sanctification. The work of renewal, begun in the former, is continued in the latter, Phil. 1:6. Strong says: “It (sanctification) is distinguished from regeneration as growth from birth, or as the strengthening of a holy disposition from the original impartation of it.”

2. TO JUSTIFICATION. Justification precedes and is basic to sanctification in the covenant of grace. In the covenant of works the order of righteousness and holiness was just the reverse. Adam was created with a holy disposition and inclination to serve God, but on the basis of this holiness he had to work out the righteousness that would entitle him to eternal life. Justification is the judicial basis for sanctification. God has the right to demand of us holiness of life, but because we cannot work out this holiness for ourselves, He freely works it within us through the Holy Spirit on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us in justification. The very fact that it is based on justification, in which the free grace of God stands out with the greatest prominence, excludes the idea that we can ever merit anything in sanctification. The Roman Catholic idea that justification enables man to perform meritorious works is contrary to Scripture. Justification as such does not effect a change in our inner being and therefore needs sanctification as its complement. It is not sufficient that the sinner stands righteous before God; he must also be holy in his inmost life. Barth has a rather unusual representation of the relation between justification and sanctification. In order to ward off all self-righteousness, he insists on it that the two always be considered jointly. They go together and should not be considered quantitatively, as if the one followed the other. Justification is not a station which one passes, an accomplished fact on the basis of which one next proceeds to the highway of sanctification. It is not a completed fact to which one can look back with definite assurance, but occurs ever anew whenever man has reached the point of complete despair, and then goes hand in hand with sanctification. And just as man remains a sinner even after justification, so he also remains a sinner in sanctification, even his best deeds continue to be sins. Sanctification does not engender a holy disposition, and does not gradually purify man. It does not put him in possession of any personal holiness, does not make him a saint, but leaves him a sinner. It really becomes a declarative act like justification. McConnachie, who is a very sympathetic interpreter of Barth, says: “Justification and sanctification are, therefore, to Barth, two sides of one act of God upon men. Justification is the pardon of the sinner (justificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner righteous. Sanctification is the sanctification of the sinner (sanctificatio impii), by which God declares the sinner ‘holy’.” However laudable the desire of Barth to destroy every vestige of work-righteousness, he certainly goes to an unwarranted extreme, in which he virtually confuses justification and sanctification, negatives the Christian life, and rules out the possibility of confident assurance.

3. TO FAITH. Faith is the mediate or instrumental cause of sanctification as well as of justification. It does not merit sanctification any more than it does justification, but it unites us to Christ and keeps us in touch with Him as the Head of the new humanity, who is the source of the new life within us, and also of our progressive sanctification, through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The consciousness of the fact that sanctification is based on justification, and is impossible on any other basis, and that the constant exercise of faith is necessary, in order to advance in the way of holiness, will guard us against all self-righteousness in our striving to advance in godliness and holiness of life. It deserves particular attention that, while even the weakest faith mediates a perfest justification, the degree of sanctification is commensurate with the strength of the Christian’s faith and the persistence with which he apprehends Christ.*

*Berkhof, L. (1938). Systematic theology (pp. 533–537). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co.

John Owen on Rewards

4. We must also consider that holiness is not confined to this life, but passeth over into eternity and glory. Death hath no power over it to destroy it or divest us of it; for,—(1.) Its acts, indeed, are transient, but its fruits abide for ever in their reward. They who “die in the Lord rest from their labours, and their works do follow them,” Rev. 14:13. “God is not unrighteous to forget their labour of love.” Heb. 6:10. There is not any effect or fruit of holiness, not the least, not the giving of a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ in the name of a disciple, but it shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and abide for ever in its eternal reward. Nothing shall be lost, but all the fragments of it shall be gathered up and kept safe for ever. Every thing else, how specious soever it be in this world, shall be burnt up and consumed, as hay and stubble; when the least, the meanest, the most secret fruit of holiness, shall be gathered as gold and silver, durable substance, into God’s treasury, and become a part of the riches of the inheritance of the saints in glory. Let no soul fear the loss of any labour, in any of the duties of holiness, in the most secret contest against sin, for inward purity, for outward fruitfulness; in the mortification of sin, resistance of temptations, improvement of grace; in patience, moderation, self-denial, contentment;—all that you do know, and what you do not know, shall be revived, called over, and abide eternally in your reward. Our Father, who now “seeth in secret,” will one day reward openly; and the more we abound in these things, the more will God be glorified in the recompense of reward. But this is not all, nor that which I intend. (2.) It abides for ever, and passeth over into glory in its principle or nature. The love wherewith we now adhere to God, and by which we act the obedience of faith towards the saints, faileth not; it ends not when glory comes on, but is a part of it, 1 Cor. 13:8. It is true, some gifts shall be done away, as useless in a state of perfection and glory, as the apostle there discourseth; and some graces shall cease, as to some especial acts and peculiar exercise, as faith and hope, so far as they respect things unseen and future;—but all those graces whereby holiness is constituted, and wherein it doth consist, for the substance of them, as they contain the image of God, as by them we are united and do adhere unto God in Christ, shall in their present nature, improved into perfection, abide for ever. In our knowledge of them, therefore, have we our principal insight into our eternal condition in glory; and this is, as a firm foundation of consolation, so a part of our chiefest joy in this world. Is it not a matter of unspeakable joy and refreshment, that these poor bodies we carry about us, after they have been made a prey unto death, dust, worms, and corruption, shall be raised and restored to life and immortality, freed from pain, sickness, weakness, weariness, and vested with those qualities, in conformity to Christ’s glorious body, which yet we understand not? It is so, also, that these souls, which now animate and rule in us, shall be delivered from all their darkness, ignorance, vanity, instability, and alienation from things spiritual and heavenly. But this is not all. Those poor low graces, which now live and are acting in us, shall be continued, preserved, purified, and perfected; but in their nature be the same as now they are, as our souls and bodies shall be. That love whereby we now adhere to God as our chiefest good; that faith whereby we are united to Christ, our everlasting head; that delight in any of the ways or ordinances of God wherein he is enjoyed, according as he hath promised his presence in them; that love and good-will which we have for all those in whom is the Spirit, and on whom is the image of Christ; with the entire principle of spiritual life and holiness, which is now begun in any of us,—shall be all purified, enhanced, perfected, and pass into glory. That very holiness which we here attain, those inclinations and dispositions, those frames of mind, those powers and abilities in obedience and adherence unto God, which here contend with the weight of their own weakness and imperfection, and with the opposition that is continually made against them by the body of death that is utterly to be abolished, shall be gloriously perfected into immutable habits, unchangeably acting our souls in the enjoyment of God. And this also manifesteth of how much concernment it is unto us to be acquainted with the doctrine of it, and of how much more to be really interested in it.

*Owen, J. (n.d.). The works of John Owen. (W. H. Goold, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 374–376). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

This brings us, finally, back to our beginning text, wherein is shown the manner in which those who preach and teach the church must regard those whom they teach; in other words, their example of living by the Spirit imparting the grace of God in Christ Jesus to their own lives, in various circumstances, demands that they see the results of that great sacrificial death in those they are preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ too.

The proposition put forth is that of not seeing those who are bought by the death of Christ as if they were in their carnal estate, but as if they are already in their eternal estate. The second proposition put forth is that the first is done because they no longer look to Christ as He was before His glorification, but indeed, as having died and risen in glory. We might well reverse these propositions thusly: Since Christ has suffered death for those He purchased for God, and has risen in glory as the first to be resurrected, preceding all those encompassed in that propitiatory death, we do not look at Him as He was before that death, but as He is, sitting on the right hand of majesty; since all He died for are, indeed, encompassed in His death and resurrection, we view them according to the work of our Lord which was completed upon their behalf. These propositions necessarily entail our looking at one another according to the new creation God began in the resurrection of His Son, so that we all consider ourselves according to that new creation, and not in light of the old creation, which has commenced passing away, and which new creation will be fully realized at the eschaton, where we are given, of God, those new, glorified bodies which will be like our Lord’s glorified human body, to dwell in the perfection of God’s completed new creation eternally, per His glory in Christ Jesus.

Noticed, by saying “we” here, Paul is now not only showing how those who lead and feed the church of Christ must view those under their charge, but invites those so being nourished by the preaching, teaching, prayers and manner of life of the elders to partake of this same referent. This is the ultimate covenant of God in Christ Jesus realized, and the eschatological reality that will be (to which we look forward) is to be perceived in the interadvental relations of not only the elders to the flock they shepherd, but indeed, is to be that view of the sheep of Christ for one another. It is looking with eyes of hope which see the eternal state as already being present, in part, in joining to worship their God together; it is a piece of the eschatological culmination of God’s new creation that is to be both the perspective and experience of His children now, especially in corporate worship, but extending to all relations in and among those of the church of Christ.

As the office of those who teach and preach the Word of God is to be exemplary, according to the value of He whom they represent (that is, the value derived from beingin Christ,” for no matter the reputation they hold, it cannot be of equal value, but draws from the excellency of God’s grace in Christ by the power of His Spirit acting upon their regenerate nature), such received example of His virtue which inhabits their teaching and conduct towards those entrusted to their care also instructs them, by the same teaching and example, through the same power of God by His Spirit, how they ought to act towards one another, which is “to regard no one according to the flesh.” Since the apostle has shared this truth with the Corinthians, they are now both obligated and privileged to follow his example and see themselves, separately and corporately, as those who are not walking in the manner which they formerly did. Because it is the love of Christ controlling them, just as with those who teach them, the principles of a covenant community of believers must be followed, and chief among these principles, as with those who lead and teach, is seeing all who are a part of that covenant community with the eyes that look towards the culmination of all things, to God’s glory, as being presently applied to each and every member of said covenant community. This is what it means to be “a new creation;” it is not enough to regard one’s self, as an individual, as created anew in Christ, but to regard each and every man his neighbor, in the covenant community, as part and parcel with that new creation which is hidden in Christ in God, the former principle and manner of living having been put to death by His crucifixion (Colossians 3:1-4). This is the whole of the appeal of the apostle when he shares not only the doctrine of Christ, but the sufferings he and his companions have endured, just as Christ, for the sake of all His elect, endured hostility and suffering, and ultimately death.

We count ourselves as crucified with Him as to our old life, and raised in power with Him in His glorious estate, as to our new life (Romans 6:4-5). This we have from the Scripture, and this we have as the example and teaching of our elders by example and God’s prescription in Scripture; in fact, it is right to say this we have by God’s decree from Scripture, because it is not just prescribed commandment, but assured promise, which again, the apostles, in instructing those who are elders, commends to them, as well as to those they teach (2 Timothy 3:10-12; cf. Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

Notice, again, it is according to that which has been accomplished that the elders give teaching and example, not by their own power; notice, again, also, the eschatological focus on the eternal state as if it were here and now.

The outcome of such instruction and example is laid out by the apostle Paul, for interaction in the covenant community, which focuses on the eschatological reality presented over and over, by the practical experience of that reality here and now in many places (See, for example, Ephesians 4:20-32; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 2:1-3, and the list may easily be greatly multiplied).

Finally, the entirety of the force is to make known what God has done in Christ, which is the provision of forgiveness of sins and the blessing of eternal life. This has been given to us now, to enjoy the fruits of as if we are already entered into the final state of dwelling in glorified bodies with our King, Redeemer and God forever, and it is the foundation of all of the means of grace which He has provided us with to partake of such eschatological blessedness at the present time.

Although the remaining vv. in chapter five were not intended at the beginning of this study, a fitting conclusion, regarding the heading and theme, can be found in the last part of Calvin’s comments of vv. 18-19:

2 Corinthians 5:18-19: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

The ministry of reconciliation – “Here we have an illustrious designation of the gospel, as being an embassy for reconciling men to God. It is also a singular dignity of ministers — that they are sent to us by God with this commission, so as to be messengers, and in a manner sureties. This, however, is not said so much for the purpose of commending ministers, as with a view to the consolation of the pious, that as often as they hear the gospel, they may know that God treats with them, and, as it were, stipulates with them as to a return to his grace. Than this blessing what could be more desirable? Let us therefore bear in mind, that this is the main design of the gospel — that whereas we are by nature children of wrath, (Eph_2:3,) we may, by the breaking up of the quarrel between God and us, be received by him into favor. Ministers are furnished with this commission, that they may bring us intelligence of so great a benefit, nay more, may assure us of God’s fatherly love towards us. Any other person, it is true, might also be a witness to us of the grace of God, but Paul teaches, that this office is specially entrusted to ministers. When, therefore, a duly ordained minister proclaims in the gospel, that God has been made propitious to us, he is to be listened to just as an ambassador of God, and sustaining, as they speak, a public character, and furnished with rightful authority for assuring us of this…And hath committed to us. Again he repeats, that a commission has been given to the ministers of the gospel to communicate to us this grace. For it might be objected, “Where is Christ now, the peacemaker between God and us? At what a distance he resides from us!” He says, therefore, that as he has once suffered, (1Pet. 3:18) so he daily presents to us the fruit of his suffering through means of the Gospel, which he designed, should be in the world, as a sure and authentic register of the reconciliation, that has once been effected. It is the part of ministers, therefore, to apply to us, so to speak, the fruit of Christ’s death.” [1]

We only add this further observation: Not only do the ministers communicate the grace of God in Christ’s death, but that grace which is presently in His life, by those means we have designated throughout the body of this article. It is through preaching, teaching, life example in suffering and bearing all things for the sake of the gospel of Christ, of which the last is communicated in fellowship amongst the believers the elders shepherd (whether in worship, most especially, but by other forms also, such as teaching doctrine through writings), that the members of the covenant community are likewise to be empowered for living by and for He who died that they might live. This is the importance of not only proper gospel preaching and teaching, but that Spirit empowered life of Christ formed in us through these gifted channels who lead, feed, and protect the flock of which they have been given charge, according to the gifts given them for such. Thus, the elders exhibit that life of Christ through their dying to self in these employments of the various means of grace by which our Lord has willed to have His sheep in local covenant communities led, fed and protected, by both positive example and prohibitive modeling, so that the life that flows from Him may flow through that structure He instated in His church, whereby each member, when properly functioning, becomes a conduit of that grace to each other member (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 4:11-16; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

This, then, is the full-orbed revelation of the knowledge of Christ, which is not merely expounding of doctrine to be understood intellectually, but also works out in showing that faith which cannot fail to trust Christ during the best and under the worst of circumstances, and that He has willed for this to be modeled, by the power of the Spirit and the Word, to show those who lead, feed and protect His sheep that such grace is always available to them under similar conditions, that doctrine that is first learned by the mind infuses the entirety of the life of the elders, and so those they shepherd, even as Christ’s life infused the entirety of the life of God through the power of His Spirit and doctrine to these, whom we have called, truly, the first elders of the church, and that paradigm which can say “follow me as I follow Christ” and “fill up the sufferings of Christ in you as you see me do; let us both die to self together, that the life of Christ may be manifest to others through our death.”

This concludes this series of articles; I hope they have been beneficial to those who read them.

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Introduction

[1]Calvin, Commentary on all the Epistles of Paul (1548) – spelling and formatting changed to modern in part.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 5

Now, we are up to chapter 5 of this second epistle to the Corinthians, and the theme of temporal loss, followed by the comfort God gives through His grace in Christ, as patterned by the elders for the sake of each member of the covenant community to emulate that pattern by the same grace, continues immediately.

The first four verses of this chapter reach all the way back to the apostle’s words in chapter one:

2 Cor. 5:1-4: For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3ff.) Again, we see the thrust of the apostle in sharing his and his companions’ trials with the Corinthian believers, a further unfolding of the reason for these sufferings and the comfort that accompanies them in the lavishly bestowed grace of God our Lord Jesus Christ has earned for us; a grace that is bestowed so abundantly because it is of the eternal and infinite riches of God in Christ (Eph. 1:7-8). This is the grace that not only saved us, but is conforming us – even giving us the desire to be conformed – into that image of our Lord, and this transformation is proven not only by the shared sufferings of the shepherds of God’s churches, but among the saints, as they apprehend the meaning of the apostle’s words.

In v. 5, Paul gets back to the crux of the comfort that not only allows us to go through the trials and sufferings, but grants us the sufferings so that we may experience the grace of God in Christ Jesus. It is through that grace Jesus procured for His saints though His life, death and ascension to glory that such provision is made, and it was first displayed in His life, sufferings and glory, to be provisionally given to the church, both modeled and displayed in the first disciples (apostles and their companions) who planted the first churches through preaching, teaching and example, subsequently, in further displays of the same to those who teach and preach and display this active and endless supply of grace, which comes from our Lord on the throne of grace to the least saints in need of that grace, as they have need, at the time of that need (Ephesians 4:8-16; 1:22-23; 2:19-22; cf. Hebrews 4:14-16).[1]

In vv. 6-7, Paul gives the logical connection for (the reason, or rationale) that settled state of mind that results in good courage by referring back to God, whose grace in Christ Jesus has prepared (them) for this very thing, that thing being the undergoing of such trials and sufferings for the sake of knowing the sovereign God has willed such opportunities to trust in His provision in Christ Jesus, which preparation, with its attendant understanding, is not a result of the mutable circumstances of such trails or sufferings in and of themselves, but the certain perception of knowledge which comes about by faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit, giving to the eyes of belief that confident, experiential comprehension which is true of such gracious provisions of God. The sure knowledge and trust in God is brought about through that abundant and timely provision of grace in Christ Jesus being brought to believers by the Holy Spirit, given to believers as an assurance (guarantee) that these things are so. Note, this settled state of assurance is not the result of either the circumstances or the state of mind they undergo, for we have shown that despair, above, that thinks death is at the door, yet in the midst of such mutability of emotions and circumstances, the strong assurance of God’s sovereign purpose in these circumstances is known to the believer, who can therefore say, with Job, though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15a). All these things are brought about by the implanted word of God operating in the believer’s regenerate nature via His Spirit (John 6:63; James 1:21).

The preference of the apostle and his companions is, in adverse and pleasant situations, to be out of that body of yet corrupt flesh, in a world that is yet under the curse, and rather to be present with the Lord, which is the believer’s goal both now, and at the eschaton (v. 8); this is that grace given, confident knowledge and trust that causes us to be seeking to please the Lord while yet undergoing various trials and afflictions in our present body (v. 9), knowing even believers will answer to God for what they have done while in these present bodies, not regarding salvation, but regarding use of the gifts they have been given (see The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:15ff., noting that this is speaking to use of the grace of God in Jesus Christ given to believers, except for the last servant, which is a warning to false professorsa similar understanding can be inferred by way of application from our current text, although not a similar exposition). The fear of the Lord should be an ever-present reality with all believers, not as facing certain judgment for their sins, for such judgment has been borne by our Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His children, but of awe and reverence to the God who has condescended to claim them as His own through His Son’s suffering and mediatorial work, as well as certain knowledge that those things we do that are not pleasing to Him will certainly bring discipline in this life, and be shown to be worthless before our Lord’s judgment seat (vv. 10-11a).

The boasting is not for personal commendation, therefore, but an appeal to God’s sure knowledge of what the apostle and his companions are, in their work for the church by His grace, and so the example they set forth is for those they are writing and ministering that grace of God towards, to be able to see them as an example of God’s sovereign grace enabling them to not only pass through such difficulties, but for those who are witness to these facts (whether by word or letter) to have that same confident ability under like circumstances.

To put it as simply as possible, it can be said that because these ministers of God’s grace to the church have undergone such things and come through with a confidence, growth and desire to continue serving God in such a manner, so, too, are all believers, regardless of their circumstances or stations, able to persevere in like manner, for it is the same God who is over all. This is a negation of those who wish to boast in outward appearance in opposition to what is according to love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5; cf. v. 12 of our present text). A pretense of piousness can imitate that godliness which comes from truly trusting in God, but will be seen for what it is, ultimately, because such false holiness is for the purpose of being seen by men, rather than commended of God by means of the gift of faith He has graciously given to those who are His (Matthew 6:1-8).

The ministry of these first elders, in planting and feeding the church of Christ in its various local assemblies, was at times seen as being a sign or indication of mental instability (1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Acts 26:24), for the way of salvation God has provided to His children goes against every effort, thought, and desire of self-serving, man-made religion (“religionhere being used in its broadest sense, since man, being created in God’s image, always places worship, of a type, in something; if not the God of Scripture,

even – and especially, in many forms – in himself). It is only apprehended by that grace in Christ Jesus’ work, given by the Holy Spirit to those He raises from spiritual death, and can only be grasped by such a new nature imparted which is simultaneously indwelt by the mind of Christ (the Holy Spirit) to give the understanding of the things of God (things of the Spirit1 Corinthians 2:11-16). In direct opposition to the false religious worship placed in other things by those who have not received this new life in Christ, those who have received the Spirit of God see the true rationality of these truths He has given us, and both these are comprehended in v.13 (that is, the view of the unbeliever and the view of the believer alike). However, regardless of the perspective of the one hearing these truths, they remain objective and true of the reality of being saved by grace through faith, according to God’s sovereign gift of salvation, and the purpose of the exercising of the gifts of the elders remain for the service to and growth in holiness, knowledge of God, and ability to persevere in all circumstances. Such is imparted not only in doctrine, but by example, as we have shown in the above brief commentary of this epistle to the Corinthian church. It is in a character matching the doctrine that is taught that we see the true service of the undershepherds of God’s church on both the local and global levels; this was true for the first ministers of the gospel, such as the apostles and their companions, and remains true today, to which the record of Scripture testifies (Philippians 3:17; 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Such examples show the love of Christ being the controlling factor, knowing the extreme depth of such love which our Lord demonstrated in paying for the sins of, and vouchsafing peace and life eternal for his children in such sacrifice as the cross (vv. 14-15; cf. Ephesians 3:14-19 – notice again the priority of prayer in the Eph. reference, as joined with both the doctrine taught and the example of the life of the teacher).

Our next post for this series will be the conclusion.

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

[1]Thanks to Richard Barcellos for a sermon preached on this text (Hebrews 4:14-16) on 3/2/2014 at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church of La Mirada, CA; my meditations in this section were helped greatly by this sermon.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 4

Continuing our look at the pastoral perspective of these first five chapters of 2 Corinthians. as we go quickly through chapter 4, we see the apostle citing again the mercy of God as the reason for not losing hope, which would be a direct reference to what we were told in chapter 1 of this epistle, as well as similar statements in our current chapter.

Paul appeals to the conscience of the Corinthians by stating his doctrine is not by using the word of God in deception, trying to change that which God has revealed, and includes his companions’ pastoral endeavors in this appeal, again citing that such commendation is “in the sight of God.” (v. 2). Then, no doubt in consideration of those who denied that the apostle was, indeed, an apostle of Christ (and, by extension, the other apostles of Christ, as well as those who joined him in his ministerial endeavors were, indeed, God gifted evangelists and elders – 2 Corinthians 11:12-14), Paul speaks of those to whom his gospel is hidden, and how it is the god [1] of this world that has so hidden it from such false believers and false workers (vv. 3-4). This is followed again by the fact that they are proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ as His servants, and that God has shone the light of this gospel into the formerly darkened hearts of Paul and his companions (and, by extension, to all who are saved by His grace, such as the Corinthians reading this epistle, and future generations of believers, such as ourselves) to give the darkness dispelling light of His glorious knowledge in the face (person) of Jesus Christ.

Going back to the reason that he and his companions in ministry can offer such consolation and support to those whom they minister unto, and whom he is writing too, Paul again refers to the weakness of the vessels in contradistinction to the surpassing power of God who works in and through them for the benefit of those they are ministering too (v. 7); then, the apostle recites a truly amazing litany of trials, harkening back to the first chapter (vv. 8-9; cf. chapter 1, vv. 1-10), and looking ahead to more experiences of such hardships he will share with them (11:23-29), ending with the fact that these trials and sufferings are endured to show the death of Christ working in Paul and his companions, for the sake of the life of Christ being subsequently seen in them, and consequently ministered to the Corinthian Christians reading this epistle (vv. 11-12).

Regarding the next v. (v. 13), the study notes from the Geneva Study Bible of 1599 are informative and enlightening: “He declares the former sentence, showing that he and his associates die in a way to purchase life for others, but yet nonetheless they are partakers of the same life with them: because they themselves do first believe that which they offer to others to believe, that is, that they also will be saved together with them in Christ,” after which he speaks of the surety of he and his companions being resurrected from their infirm bodies to that glorified state our Lord attained as the firstborn of the New Creation (Colossians 1:15, 18), and which our God has promised us all on that great Day of the Lord (v. 14). These statements are illustrative of the life a believer is to consider, in keeping with their great Redeemer’s example, and that of the faithful men who have followed Him throughout the history of the church (Acts 14:22; 20:22ff; 2 Peter 1:13-14; Philippians 1:29); it is even more incumbent that those who are the undershepherds of the flock follow this example, by the same power of God each believer has been given, and that is what we see, not only in the book of Acts, but in various of the epistles where the apostles recount that which they were told they would suffer by our Lord, and what trails and testings they go through in order to deliver that means of grace which is the doctrine and Spirit empowered example all members of the body need. Life that looks upward cannot hold this present life more dear than the call of the Lord (vv. 17-18; Colossians 3:1-4), and this is the manner in which we are taught by those gifted men God has graced His church with, as in these examples just cited, as well as the example we have seen continuing in our quick traversing the first four and two-thirds chapters of 2 Corinthians to get to the text we began at. The end result will be to be with the Lord, together with the faithful apostles, those who ministered with them, and all the faithful throughout redemptive history (v. 14); indeed, as Christ gave the example and gives the power through His Spirit to these faithful ministers, so we have a further, and continuing example of our great hope, and as they do not lose heart and persevere, so are we to do ( vv. 15-16), until we end at that glorious destination only the grace of God in Christ Jesus gains us, all the while keeping us in the journey.

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 5

[1]There is some discussion among orthodox theologians as to the phrase, “the god of this world.” Some take it to intend our great God (ὁ Θεος), in this passage, as it is said elsewhere that God has “given them over to uncleanness…vile affections…” and “sends them a strong delusion,” (Romans 1:24, 26; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Regardless of the view one takes here, God is proven sovereign over the designs of Satan, and the meaning of the passage remains intact.