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Resurrection and Redemption – Richard Gaffin

Recently, between reading Union with Christ by Rankin Wilbourne and Resurrection and Redemption by Richard Gaffin, the concept of union with Christ as resurrected as the central theme in Paul’s soteriology has been an enriching study. Here’s a quote from Gaffin:

The Death of Christ, and the Redemption of Men Thereby

synoddordtThis is an excerpt taken from the Canons of of the Synod of Dordt pertaining to the sure salvation Christ has purchased on behalf of His people. Far from being dry old dusty doctrines, these statements are full of life, hope and great to meditate over to give us a deeper sense of what has been accomplished by Christ in the work of Calvary. Whenever we sing the song When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts at church, well, this is what it means to survey it. We consider and stand in awe at what Christ endured on our behalf and how great His love is to do such a thing for wretched sinners. If you have not taken the time to ever read through this excellent statement affirming the great wonders of God’s grace and denying those ideas that attempt to subvert the Gospel’s greatness, I highly suggest it.

ARTICLE 1. God is not only supremely merciful, but also supremely just. And His justice requires (as He has revealed Himself in His Word) that our sins committed against His infinite majesty should be punished, not only with temporal but with eternal punishments, both in body and soul; which we cannot escape, unless satisfaction be made to the justice of God.

Radical Grace Produces Radical Forgiveness

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died, “Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” – Genesis 50:12-21

Often people wonder how in the world they can possibly forgive someone who has injured them so deeply. Whether it was a parent (or parents), a boyfriend, a rapist, a boss, a spouse, or a murderer who took away their child’s’ life, how can we forgive from the heart and it not be a forced thing that we know we’re supposed to do? How can forgiveness just come naturally as a way you operate when offended?

Promises for Those in Christ in Romans 8

  1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
  2. He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
  3. All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
  4. The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26)
  5. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  6. Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
  7. Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)
  8. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
  9. Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? (Romans 8:33)
  10. Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
  11. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
  12. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
  13. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Why Study Church History? – R.W. Glenn

(Excerpt taken from the PDF notes of R.W. Glenn’s MP3 audio lecture series on Church History found at www.solidfoodmedia.com in Minnetonka, MN)

A. Warrant for the Study of Church History

1. The Bible does not teach us everything about the outworking of God’s plan of redemption. Although this may sound like a controversial thing to say in a church that believes (rightly) in the sufficiency, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture, it is because of what Scripture teaches that I draw this conclusion cf. Matt 28:18-20; Rev 21:1-4. We learn from church history how God’s plan of redemption has been worked out from the time of the end of the first century until today. “The events of this world’s history set the stage upon which the drama of redemption is enacted.” (1)

2. The sovereignty of God over all of history cf. Isa 46:8-11. History is His story just as much as it is ours. Therefore we have an opportunity through the study of church history to see how God protected and preserved his people to the present day so as to bring about the sure accomplishment of his redemptive purposes in Jesus Christ.

3. The Christian faith is historical in character cf. Luke 2:1-2. Studying church history demonstrates concretely that the Christian faith is historical in character – it deals with real people in real places in real time.

The Soap Opera of the Old Testament

When we read Scripture and particularly the Old Testament, it is so easy to automatically view those heroes of the faith, those glowing golden embossed characters we have all read about as kids as if they did no wrong. Sadly, a lot of times, we carry those portrayals with us into adulthood. Sure they made “mistakes,” the thinking goes, but they are people who kept their act together 99% of the time and are worthy of imitation as a result. And unfortunately, this is where we think the teaching stops.

The natural result of this thinking and its resultant teaching is that the historical characters of the Scriptures merely become our models for how to live, people we should imitate in faith and good works. Now of course, to a certain extent that is true. Yet, is that all there is to these narratives? I thought the Bible was a book about God and His works? Does this not apply to every square inch of Scripture including every single narrative?

Spurgeon on Universal Atonement, John Wesley, and George Whitefield

Some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say, “It is so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself,” they say, “to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty.” I admit there is, but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might admire in the theory of universal redemption, but I will just show what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on His cross intended to save every man, then He intended to save those who were lost before He died. If the doctrine be true, that He died for all men, then He died for some who were in hell before He came into this world, for doubtless there were even then myriads there who had been cast away because of their sins.

Once again, if it was Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice.

That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. God forbid that we should ever think thus of Jehovah, the just and wise and good!

There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.

The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.” I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths [Doctrines of Grace], or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ as their Saviour, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist in or out of Heaven.

Excerpt taken from A Defense of Calvinism by C.H. Spurgeon: A Defense of Calvinism

Related article, what a defense! For Whom Did Christ Die? & What Did Christ Actually Achieve on the Cross for Those for Whom He Died? – John Piper

The Law in Relation to Redemption – John Murray

“To suppose that we are delivered from the law in the sense of such obligation would bring contradiction into the design of Christ’s work. It would contradict the very nature of God to think that any person can ever be relieved of the necessity to love God with the whole heart and to obey his commandments.” – John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg.44

Many would seem to suppose we are freed from the obligation of the law of God as a result of the reconciliation provided through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. However, as Paul points out in Romans 3:31, “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Not on the basis of yourself, but on the basis of the reconciliation you’ve experienced in Christ, and His fulfillment of the law, by his power, now obey it. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) As John Owen says, “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” We are reconciled to God in order that we may now freely obey Him from the heart, in order that we may glorify Him with our lives. We have been enabled, by His power to now gladly submit to His law. So indeed, the law absolutely has a place in the life of the believer. Tim Keller puts this very succinctly, “The gospel is ‘I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey’ while every other religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey, therefore I am accepted.'” The difference is vital to see.

The Utter Depravity and Wickedness of Man – Part II – Grace Alone

Having described the condition of man apart from the intervening work of the Holy Spirit in my last entry on the depravity of man, it is important to understand that there is a great deal of error amongst those that call themselves evangelicals as it pertains to how we are saved. This error in the minds of these individuals has to do with the “slight” inclusion of human exertion and will in the work of grace, that man somehow cooperates with the work of grace. This is called synergism (or in it’s extreme form, human monergism) and comes in many different forms, from out-right heresy (human monergism), to slight contradictory inclusion of heresy (synergism).

The original debate concerning what role man plays in his salvation originally began between Augustine and Pelagius. The root of the Pelagian heretical error had to do with a dispute on the doctrine of original sin, or the imputed sin of Adam to the entire human race, that when Adam sinned, we all sinned. Pelagius denied this. Pelgius believed all men to be in the same place as Adam before the fall inherently. This heretical error was condemned first by Augustine but then officially condemned at the Council of Orange in 529 AD. This heresy is humanism at its base (or human monergism), that man controls his own destiny and is his own god, and indeed can attain perfection apart from God. And though it was officially condemned as heretical by the church, the Pelagian error began infiltrating the church in the form of synergism, that man cooperates with the work of grace. Throughout church history, this debate has reared its head one way or another, with Augustine and Pelagius, Luther and Erasmus, and Whitefield and Wesley. And the debate is alive and well these days. This “slight” humanistic thinking is prevalent within the church today and removes the only power by which people are saved: God alone. “So then it (meaning the granting of mercy) depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (And here’s the argument by Paul for the former statement) For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.‘ So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.” – Romans 9:16-18.

One of the results of the Reformation was the Five Solas (Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone as our sole infallible authority; Solus Christus – Christ alone accomplished our salvation; Sola Gratia – God saves by grace alone; Sola Fide – through faith alone apart from works; Soli Deo Gloria – everything is for the glory of God alone). Pertaining to the work of grace in the life of man, Sola Gratia in particular states that it is grace alone that regenerates a soul or causes the new birth which then gives rise to faith within the believer (a gift of God), not grace plus something else (i.e. human choice, exertion, running, will, etc). If our doctrine of the utter depravity of man is true, then no man honestly wants anything to do with God when left to himself. But God must first regenerate our souls and free our hearts from sin to believe in Christ. Because of the dead state of man in his sin, he will never choose Christ when presented with the Gospel, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit alone (i.e. Grace Alone) to regenerate the person who is to be saved. Man will always choose sin by necessity (John Hendryx, great quote!). Why? Because we’re dead in sin! That’s what that means. Our souls our incapable of any moral good, apart from a work of God within us first. Therefore, because of this, the work of grace in the life of the individual who is to be saved is the only thing that will bring to life the heart and soul of a sinfully dead individual, in order that he cannot help but believe in Christ because He is irresistable in His beauty and glory and lovliness.

In Ezekial 36:26, God states that He will come in power and remove His people’s hearts of stone, giving us instead hearts of flesh (removing our resistance to Him, and instead giving us a willing heart). Is this not monergism (the work of Grace Alone) in the life of dead sinners? There is no cooperation with grace, otherwise it is not grace. Grace is receiving something you do not deserve, and I would even add that it is something you don’t even want in your naturally sinful state. We must first be made genuinely willing (regeneration, second birth). “At the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Did we ask for our hearts to be regenerated? No! We naturally kick and scream at such a prospect. We love sin, it’s the best thing humans do. And oh how much energy we use to that end! If we could only harness that energy for the cause of Christ! God freely gives of Himself on His own timing and to whom He pleases. When I came to know Christ truthfully, I was such a rebel against anything holy, and I can honestly say that the only reason I became willing is because God came and changed my heart. I did not cooperate with this grace, but was simply the unworthy recipient. God saved me by grace alone through faith alone, apart from works. This faith even was a gift of God. What do I now have to boast about before God or man? Nothing! If I cooperated with this grace in any manner, then when I walk into heaven, God has me to thank for making the right choice and I would have something to boast about. “Good job, David, you made the right choice man. Way to exert that ‘free will.’ You must have been smarter, more intelligent and more sensitive than the rest of those wicked sinners.” Wrong! Does this in any way sound like the God of the Bible? I think not. I was dead in trespasses and sins, corrupted by own perverse nature, in every facet of my existence, in my mind, will, thoughts, soul, heart, acts, motives, flesh, relationships, everything. He removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh, a heart that was sensitive, willing and able to love Him. “We love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19) not the reverse. This is the work of grace alone (monergism).

Apart from grace, there is no honest submission to the Gospel, we are unable to submit even. But this does not alleviate your responsibility. If you reject Christ, the Messiah, there will be no one to blame but yourself; you cannot bring a successful accusation against God almighty when standing before the Great White throne after you die. Man is so hopeless apart from the work of God, carried out by the Holy Spirit, provided through the cross of Christ. Throw yourself at His sovereign mercy and pray for Him to change you inwardly, to incline you to Himself. Ask Him to give you the eyes to see His glory through Christ on the cross and the ears to hear the call of God unto salvation in order that you will believe in Him and be saved. God’s sovereignty in salvation is our only hope for being saved at all. It’s God alone that saves, not man alone, or man cooperating with God. We’re dead. Dead means dead. We have nothing else we can trust in but God alone, through Christ alone, His death and resurrection.

The Utter Depravity and Wickedness of Man – Part I

Mankind is so utterly deceived and blinded to the sinfulness and depravity that lies within the human heart. How foolish it is for man, in his endeavor to attain perfection, to even think that he is less than at odds with the great God of the universe. It is humanism that says man can attain perfection and setup a utopia of sorts where man can enjoy the benefits of his long endeavor to overcome war, evil, death, and make a name for himself, exalting himself above the level of God. Little do they realize they are doing the exact opposite, because only God displayed through Christ, through belief in Him, brings true peace and true joy. Didn’t we see this endeavor in the past at the Tower of Babel? What was the end result? God scattered the people and confused their language. Why? Because He is God and we’re not, even though man deceives himself to believe whole-heartedly that he is his own god and controls his own destiny. God is jealous for His own glory. How could He not be? For God to value the most important thing in the universe, He must value Himself above all things, because He is the supreme value.

The Tower of Babel is a great example though of the human condition and the utter foolishness of his ways. Are we that foolish to think we could usurp the great God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega? That the creation could overthrow the Creator? In Romans 3:10-18, Paul, quoting mostly from the Psalms, drives the nail in hard about our true condition, even if we do not see it that way. Let’s take a look at it:

As it is written:
‘None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.’
‘Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’
‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

Man. If this doesn’t sum up the human condition I don’t know what does. Someone may object that not everyone is as evil as they could be toward their fellow man. And that’s true. But we’re not comparing people to other people, but comparing people to God. Comparing finite against finite is useless. Comparing finite against infinite though brings about huge contrasts. Yes, at any given moment, we’re not as evil as we could be, thanks to the gracious restraint of the hand of God that we do not pursue what we desire most, sin. But in comparison to God, we are utterly wicked; we are foolish and deceive ourselves if we think differently. The human condition in comparison to the glory of God is so terrible, words cannot even describe it. This passage, amongst others within Scripture, is the closest to describing how desperate and helpless we are in our condition. Our sin has pulled a very opaque veil over our faces to the point where we think we are basically good people. This could not be further from the truth. John Calvin does an excellent job of describing this passage so as to unveil the truth of what lurks and lies within the heart of man:

“David says in Psalm 14:1, that there was such perverseness in men, that God, when looking on them all in their different conditions, could not find a righteous man, no, not one. It then follows, that this evil pervaded mankind universally; for nothing is hid from the sight of God.” “There is no doubt but that the character of men is described in those words, in order that we may see what man is when left to himself; for Scripture testifies that all men are in this state, who are not regenerated by the grace of God. The condition of the saints would be nothing better, were not this depravity corrected in them: and that they may still remember that they differ nothing from others by nature, they do find in the relics of their flesh (by which they are always encompassed) the seeds of those evils, which would constantly produce fruits, were they not prevented by being mortified; and for this mortification they are indebted to God’s mercy and not to their own nature. We may add, that though all the vices here enumerated are not found conspicuously in every individual, yet they may be justly and truly ascribed to human nature, as we have already observed on Romans 1:26.”

We are ruined in our natural state before this great God of the universe. The words of Isaiah ring true for all of us in Isaiah 6:4-5:

“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!'”

Or consider Ezekial in Ezekial 1:26-28:

“And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Take your place with Isaiah and Ezekial and bow before this great and powerful, righteous, and holy God. You are a sinner to your core. You have nothing to offer God. Give up on trying to please Him with your good works, because they are tainted with sin, corrupted and defiled as a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). Submit yourself to God in humble astonishment at His glory and how unworthy you are to have a Savior offered to you at all! Jesus Christ is God, the second person of the one God, He came to be one of us in great, infinite mercy because of the hopelessness of our condition, yet He was without sin, died upon a cross of His own will to pay the penalty for sin on our behalf, and rose from the grave by the power of God, in order that if we believe in Him, we will be saved from our plight toward hell, the just wrath of God against injustice done against Him. It is a command from the Lord Himself to believe in Jesus. If you ignore this command, you will receive the just penalty for this wickedness: eternal torment in the flames of God’s fury and wrath, forever. There will be no second chance after death (Hebrews 9:27-28). If you believe in Christ, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins (1 John 1:8-10). Consider these things …

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