Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Lord's portion

"The Lord's portion is His people." Deuteronomy 32:9

How are they His portion?

First, by His own sovereign election. He chose them, and set His love upon them. He chose them altogether apart from any goodness in them at the time, or any goodness which He foresaw in them. He had mercy on whom He would have mercy, and ordained a chosen company unto eternal life. Therefore, are they His by His unconstrained election.

They are not only His by choice--but by purchase. He has bought and paid for them to the utmost farthing--hence there can be no dispute about His title to them. The Lord's portion has been fully redeemed, not with corruptible things, as with silver and gold--but with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! See the blood-mark upon all the elect, invisible to human eye--but known to Christ, for "the Lord knows those who are His!" He forgets none of those whom He has redeemed! He counts the sheep for whom He laid down His life, and well remembers the people for whom He gave Himself.

They are also His by conquest. What a battle He had in us--before we would be won! How long He laid siege to our hearts! How often He sent us terms of surrender! But we barred our gates, and fortified our walls against Him. Do we not remember that glorious hour--when He conquered our hearts? When He placed His cross against the wall, and scaled our ramparts, planting the blood-red flag of His omnipotent mercy on our strongholds?

Yes, we are, indeed--the conquered captives of His omnipotent love!

Charles Spurgeon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Two for Tuesday - The Basics of the Reformed Faith

Basics of the Reformed Faith: Election

Kim Riddlebarger 
As Americans raised in a democratic republic, we cling tenaciously to the principle “one person, one vote.” It is very easy (and almost natural) to carry over this principle to our understanding of the doctrine of salvation. It is easy to simply assume that God should give everyone a chance to go to heaven, and if people refuse God’s gracious offer, then people, in effect, send themselves to hell by refusing God’s gracious gift. This makes perfect sense on democratic presuppositions because in the political sphere each individual is assumed to be entitled and empowered to determine their own course in life. And if this is true in American political life, then it should be true when it comes to the salvation of sinner. Right?

Well, no. The Bible does not allow us to understand humanity’s redemption from sin in such rosy terms.

Because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinners by nature and by choice, and we are born guilty for Adam’s act of rebellion in Eden.

The Bible speaks of this as being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), meaning....  Continue reading HERE


Basics of the Reformed Faith: The Covenant of Grace
Kim Riddlebarger 
It has been said that covenant theology is at the center of Reformed theology. No doubt, this is correct. In Eden, all of humanity fell when Adam, the first of our race, rebelled against his creator and plunged the entire human race into sin and death. It will take a second Adam (Jesus Christ) to perfectly obey the commandments of God so as to fulfill all righteousness (cf. Matthew 3:15). It will also take a second Adam to remove from us the guilt of our individual sins, as well as that guilt imputed to us from our first father, Adam (cf. Romans 5:12-19). But in order for a second Adam to accomplish these things, there must be a different covenant than the covenant of works (and its demand for perfect obedience), in which God allows a second Adam to do what is necessary for us and in our place to be saved for us, and to earn sufficient merit to save us.

This brings us to the covenant of grace.

The covenant of grace is the historical outworking of an eternal covenant of redemption (the so-called “covenant before the covenant”) in which the members of the Holy Trinity decreed that Jesus was to be the redeemer of those whom the Father had chosen in him, and that Jesus would do this on behalf of, and in the place of, all those sinners chosen from before the foundation of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14). This means that God’s saving grace......Continue reading HERE

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Kin

Eddie Eddings over at Calvinistic Cartoons has hit the nail on the head with an R.C. Sproul Jr. quote:

Eddie said, "Anyone who is bought by the blood of Christ is your brother or sister...even if, they are a little off on their theology. I was an Arminian and it took me a while, as I wrestled with Scripture to give in to the Truth of God's Word. Jacob was twisted in his thinking and he was one of the elect!

I met a Calvinist once who said no one could enter Heaven unless he or she believed in the 5-Points of Calvinism. Well, that just barred the door for small children, the mentally disabled and the thief on the cross!

In Heaven, we will all know the Truth of God's sovereign grace but here, in this sinful world, some can be confused or accept some preachers ideas without examining them with the Word."

To that I say... Amen!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Regeneration Precedes Faith - By R.C. Sproul

 From Nicene Council

One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors went to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: "Regeneration Precedes Faith."

These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again. I use the words in order here for a reason. I was thinking in terms of steps that must be taken in a certain sequence. I had put faith at the beginning. The order looked something like this:
"Faith - rebirth -justification."
I hadn’t thought that matter through very carefully. Nor had I listened carefully to Jesus’ words to Nicodemus. I assumed that even though I was a sinner, a person born of the flesh and living in the flesh, I still had a little island of righteousness, a tiny deposit of spiritual power left within my soul to enable me to respond to the Gospel on my own. Perhaps I had been confused by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome, and many other branches of Christendom, had taught that regeneration is gracious; it cannot happen apart from the help of God.
No man has the power to raise himself from spiritual death. Divine assistance is necessary. This grace, according to Rome, comes in the form of what is called prevenient grace. "Prevenient" means that which comes from something else. Rome adds to this prevenient grace the requirement that we must "cooperate with it and assent to it" before it can take hold in our hearts.
This concept of cooperation is at best a half-truth. Yes, the faith we exercise is our faith. God does not do the believing for us. When I respond to Christ, it is my response, my faith, my trust that is being exercised. The issue, however, goes deeper. The question still remains: "Do I cooperate with God's grace before I am born again, or does the cooperation occur after?" Another way of asking this question is to ask if regeneration is monergistic or synergistic. Is it operative or cooperative? Is it effectual or dependent? Some of these words are theological terms that require further explanation.
A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person. The prefix mono means one. The word erg refers to a unit of work. Words like energy are built upon this root. A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things. 

The prefix syn -
means "together with." I labor this distinction for a reason. The debate between Rome and Luther hung on this single point. At issue was this: Is regeneration a monergistic work of God or a synergistic work that requires cooperation between man and God? When my professor wrote "Regeneration precedes faith" on the blackboard, he was clearly siding with the monergistic answer. After a person is regenerated, that person cooperates by exercising faith and trust. 

But the first step is the work of God and of God alone.
The reason we do not cooperate with regenerating grace before it acts upon us and in us is because we can- not. We cannot because we are spiritually dead. We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him for the dead.
When I began to wrestle with the Professor's argument, I was surprised to learn that his strange-sounding teaching was not novel. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield - even the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas taught this doctrine. Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries his theological teaching was accepted as official dogma by most Catholics. So he was the last person I expected to hold such a view of regeneration. Yet Aquinas insisted that regenerating grace is operative grace, not cooperative grace. Aquinas spoke of prevenient grace, but he spoke of a grace that comes before faith, which is regeneration.
These giants of Christian history derived their view from Holy Scripture. The key phrase in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians is this: "...even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)" (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place 'when we were dead.' With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.
This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.

(from the book, The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, Tyndale House, 1990

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two for Tuesday

Spotlight on two great Puritans - 

Richard Baxter -

Richard Baxter was born in 1615, in Rowton, near Shrewsbury, in Shropshire. He was the only son of Beatrice Adeney and Richard Baxter, Sr. Because of his father’s gambling habit and inherited debts, and his mother’s poor health, Richard lived with his maternal grandparents for the first ten years of his life. When his father was converted through “the bare reading of the Scriptures in private,” Richard returned to his parental home, and later acknowledged that God used his father’s serious talks about God and eternity as “the Instrument of my first Convictions, and Approbation of a Holy Life” (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:2-4).

Baxter’s education was largely informal; he later wrote that he had four teachers in six years, all of whom were ignorant and two led immoral lives. Nevertheless, he had a fertile mind, and enjoyed reading and studying. A prolonged illness and various books—particularly William Perkins’s Works—were the means God used to “resolve me for himself,” Baxter wrote (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 1:3-4). When he was fifteen, he was deeply affected by Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed: “Sibbes opened more the love of God to me, and gave me a livelier apprehension of the mystery of redemption and how much I was beholden to Jesus Christ.” Subsequently, Ezekiel Culverwell’s Treatise of Faith (1623) “did me much good” (ibid., 1:4-5).

Baxter’s education took a turn for the better when he transferred to the Wroxeter grammar school, where he received some tuition support from a schoolmaster named John Owen. His best teacher there was an erudite minister, Francis Garbet, who took a real interest in Baxter. At the age of sixteen, under Owen’s persuasion, Baxter decided to forego university in favor of placing himself under the instruction of Owen’s friend, Richard Wickstead, chaplain at Ludlow Castle, who tutored him rather half-heartedly for eighteen months.

In 1633, Baxter went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, in the court of Charles I. Joseph Symonds and Walter Cradock, two godly Puritan ministers in London, roused his sympathy for nonconformity, but he stayed in London only four weeks. Having become dissatisfied with the worldly court life in London and desiring to care for his ailing mother, he returned home in 1634; his mother died in May of 1635. He spent the next four years privately studying theology, particularly that of the scholastics, including Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham.

At age twenty-three, having as yet “no scruple at all against subscription,” and thinking “the Conformists had the better cause” (ibid., 1:13), Baxter was ordained deacon ..... Read rest of Bio HERE

Samuel Rutherford -

Samuel Rutherford was born in 1600 in Nisbet, Roxburghshire, eldest son of a well-to-do farmer. His parents noted his intellectual gifts and believed that God would call him to the ministry, though they seldom spoke about Christ in an experiential way. Rutherford later wrote that in his birthplace “Christ was scarce named, as touching any reality or power of godliness” (Letters, p. 680). Rutherford was educated first at Jedborough, then at the University of Edinburgh, where he excelled in Latin and Greek, and earned a Master of Arts degree in 1621.

In 1623, Rutherford was chosen to serve as Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh, with responsibilities as a Latin tutor. Two years later, he was forced to resign after behaving inappropriately with a young woman named Euphame Hamilton, whom he subsequently married. God apparently used this incident to initiate or further his conversion. In a letter to Robert Stuart (1637), Rutherford wrote, “Ye have gotten a great advantage in the way of heaven, that ye have started to the gate in the morning. Like a fool, as I was, I suffered my sun to be high in the heaven, and near afternoon, before I ever took the gate by the end.”

In 1625, Rutherford studied theology at Edinburgh under Andrew Ramsay. Two years later, he was asked to pastor the church in Anwoth by the Solway in Kirkcudbrightshire—the charge with which his name is inseparably bound. John Welsh, the godly son-in-law of John Knox, had ministered at that church from 1595 to 1600. Anwoth was a rural parish; its people were scattered in farms over a hilly district.

Rutherford rose at 3 a.m. each day, devoting many hours to prayer and meditation. He wrote of a favorite place where he often walked to ponder spiritual truths: “There I wrestled with the angel and prevailed. Woods, trees, meadows and hills are my witnesses that I drew on a fair meeting between Christ and Anwoth” (cited in Nigel Clifford, Christian Preachers, p. 132).

Rutherford worked effectively and tirelessly for his congregation for nearly a decade. One aged, contemporary pastor wrote, “I have known many great and good ministers in this church, but for such a piece of clay as Mr. Rutherford was, I never knew one in Scotland like him, to whom so many great gifts were given; for he seemed to be altogether taken up with everything good, and excellent, and useful. He seemed to be always praying, always preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechizing, always writing and studying…. Many times I thought he would have flown out of the pulpit when he came to speak of Jesus Christ. He was never in his right element but when he was commending Him. He would have fallen asleep in bed speaking of Christ”               Read rest of Bio HERE

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Gospel

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more!

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Free Will - Confusion Abounds

 From the Reformed Apologist -

The nature of man, whether pre-fall, post-fall and unconverted, post fall and converted, or glorified, does not affect the discussion of whether any moral being can act contrary to how he does. No moral being can have libertarian free will (LFW).

LFW is simply the power of contrary choice. Put another way, it is the ability to choose with equal ease between alternatives out of pure contingency and no necessity. Consequently, if one is endowed with LFW, he can choose contrary to what God knows he will choose. (In fact, if God has LFW, then he too can choose contrary to what he knows he will choose!) My position on the matter is straightforward. LFW is a philosophical surd. If it is true that one can choose something different than he will choose, then the future God believes will come to pass might not come to pass; and even if the future does come to pass as God believes, he will not have been thoroughly justified in his belief. He would have just been lucky, or at best very insightful.

A brief word about the relationship between the truth of a future choice, God’s knowledge and the grounding of that truth is in order. God’s knowledge of a future choice does not ensure its fruition. Rather, it presupposes the deterministic nature of its fruition. Knowledge is receptive not causative. Accordingly, that a choice cannot be contrary to what it ends up being is not a matter of God’s foreknowledge but rather it is a matter that it is true that the choice will come to pass. God knows it because it is true, for God knows all truth. The grounding of that truth is of course God’s determination. In sum, God determines that it will be true that X chooses Y in circumstance Z, therefore, God knows it as true.

Confusion abounds, even in Reformed circles:

John Frame once noted:

“I don't know how many times I have asked candidates for licensure and ordination whether we are free from God's decree, and they have replied ‘No, because we are fallen.’ That is to confuse libertarianism (freedom from God's decree, ability to act without cause) with freedom from sin. In the former case, the fall is entirely irrelevant. Neither before nor after the fall did Adam have freedom in the libertarian sense. But freedom from sin is something different. Adam had that before the fall, but lost it as a result of the fall.”

I resonated with John’s observation the very first time I read his lament. This is a very serious matter. These men to whom John refers may have very well been ordained and licensed in Reformed denominations (or have gone on to teach other men at seminary; or if they've really arrived, have their own Blog!) - yet without any appreciation for the implications of their religious philosophy as it pertains to free will. So many Reformed people (including Reformed ministers as John rightly observes) are willing to assert that Adam prior to the fall.......

Read rest of post HERE

Friday, February 10, 2012

Corky pays a visit to The Reformed Dawg

Nothing like a Romans 9 grenade to spiff up the place!

Thanks to Eddie at Calvinistic Cartoons!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Prayer of The Arminian (Concerning His Free Will) by Charles Spurgeon

…Any one who believes that man’s will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall…

But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer – for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it.

Fancy him praying,

“Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not-that is the difference between me and them.”

That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, “I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?” If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, “My dear sir, I quite believe it-and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Do I hear one Christian man saying, “I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me”?

No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say-

“Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o’erflow;
‘Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go.”

From Spurgeon’s Sermon, Free Will – A Slave

Courtesy of Monergism

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sound doctrine is useless--if.....

.... it is not accompanied by a holy life!

"The doctrine which is according to godliness" 1 Timothy 6:3

It is my firm impression that we need a thorough revival of Scriptural holiness.

I have had a deep conviction for many years, that practical holiness and consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians. Worldliness has eaten out the heart of vital piety in too many of us! The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background. The standard of Christian living has become painfully low in many quarters. The immense importance of "adorning the doctrine of God our Savior" (Titus 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers--has been far too much overlooked!

The details and particular ingredients of which holiness is composed in daily life--ought to be fully set forth and pressed on believers. True holiness does not consist merely of believing--but of doing and a practical exhibition of the active and passive graces.

Our tongues,
our tempers,
our natural passions and inclinations,
our conduct at home and abroad,
our dress,
our employment of time,
our behavior in business,
our demeanor in sickness and health, in riches and poverty
--all, all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. They go into particulars. They specify minutely, what a holy man ought to do an be in his own family, by his own fireside, and at the work-place.

True holiness is something of "the image of Christ" which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings!

J.C. Ryle

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is Doctrine Necessary?

by Michael Bremmer at Reformed Theology Resource

No statement more clearly shows the lack of Biblical thinking and discernment in Evangelical Christianity then, "I don't believe in doctrine, I believe in Jesus." I have heard this silly statement, and others similar to it, too often to believe that it is only the product of a few reckless individuals. Doctrine in Evangelical Christianity has become not only despised by many, but routinely mocked with seeming spiritual sounding cliches. In place of despised doctrine the Bible is shoved into our faces by these seeming pious individuals, who assert with a certain air of spiritual elitism, "We believe in just the Bible, not church dogma."

The word doctrine, however, comes from the Greek word didache and means "teaching." In Theology, that is, the study of who God is and what He is like, doctrine means "that which is taught as a formal truth or belief OF THE FAITH" (The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words, P. 75). Christian doctrines are those doctrines of our Christian faith, which were "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Therefore, to present the bible as something totally antithetical to Christian doctrine is absurd. Christian doctrines are those truths taught in Scripture that are Essential to the Christian faith.

The Apostle Paul viewed doctrine much differently then many Evangelical Christians do today. Paul used the "D" word some 12 times in his Epistles. Paul considered not only the ability to "EXHORT in sound DOCTRINE" a qualification for church leadership, but also the ability "to REFUTE those who contradict. (Titus 1:9). Later in the same letter Paul writes, "But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound DOCTRINE." (2:1). To his young friend Timothy, Paul writes, "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction [Didache]." To the believers in Rome Paul ends his epistle with these words, "Now I urge you brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching [Didache] which you have learned, and turn away from them." Paul's exhortation to the believers at Rome, and to us today, presupposes that one understands sound doctrine, therefore, one can discern false doctrine and turn away from those teaching it. How far Evangelical Christianity has moved from Paul's simple exhortations! Many Evangelical Christians today pride themselves upon the fact that they do not know doctrine, "just Jesus" therefore, are unable to discern false doctrine, let alone false teachers.

If the words of the apostle Paul are not themselves enough to convince of the necessity of doctrinal teaching and understanding, then listen to the words of Jesus Christ: "And He was teaching them many things in parables and was saying to them in His teaching [Didache]." While Jesus severally condemns the pharisees, He does not condemn the teaching of doctrine, only the teaching of FALSE doctrine: "The teaching as doctrine the precepts of men." To discern the difference between doctrine that is from the word of God from those that are merely the precepts of men, one must have a knowledge and understanding of biblical doctrine. To this end, was a large part of our Lord's earthly ministry; so much so that He often warn that those who did not abide in his teaching would perish.

The so-called Great Commission of Christ presupposes the teaching of doctrine: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit TEACHING them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:19-20). Christ commanded His people to disciple the nations. There is no other way to disciple one in Christianity then by the teaching of Christian doctrine.

To those who pride themselves on the fact that they have "No creed, just Christ," or "I am just a simple Christian, I believe just the Bible" I ask: Who is Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh? Then you believe in the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ. Do you believe that Christ paid the price for your sin? Then you believe the doctrine of the atonement. Do you believe that Jesus rose again from the dead? Then you believe the doctrine of the resurrection. Do you believe that we are saved by faith alone? Then you believe in the doctrine of justification by faith.

Considering the emphasis Scripture places on the importance of teaching and understanding Christian doctrine, What should be the response of the Christian? The Christian should not take pride in doctrinal ignorance, but rather study and learn carefully the doctrines of the Christian faith, so that he or she may not be led astray by false doctrine.