The Duty God Requires of Man
Q. What is the duty God requires of man?
#534, The Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)
William Cowper, 1779
O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heav’nly frame,
a light to shine upn the road
that leads me to the Lamb!
Return, O holy Dove, return,
sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made thee mourn,
and drove thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne,
and worship only thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.
The title I have selected for today’s post happens to be the title of one of my categories of posts which deals with topics related to church history. I am a big believer in the study of church history. I have often repeated, if not nearly often enough on this blog, that we need to know where we came from so we can see where we are now and so we can see where we are headed in the future. I was excited last night to hear master documentarian, Ken Burns, say this very thing in relation to the importance of history. Burns, who has produced some legendary documentaries for PBS, like The Civil War, and Baseball, was interviewed yesterday on FOX News Sunday about his newest documentary on World War II called, The War. One of Chris Wallace’s final questions for Ken Burns, and Burns’ memorable answer, were as follows:
Wallace: You say you’re in the memory business. Why so much focus on history? Why so much focus on reawakening the past?
Burns: I think we think that history is sort of like castor oil: a set of dry dates and events that aren’t good for us, you know. We need to know where we’ve been, in order to know where we’re going. The current moment is so fraught with different perspectives, that we have to allow you, the journalist, to sort it out. When we get some perspective, then history gives us access to things, and it is paradoxically about our future. When you know where you’ve been, you are armed, it seems to me, with some of the best ammunition Americans could have. It equips us with the mistakes we’ve made, with the strengths that we have, and the ability, I think, to make very complicated decisions–particularly in times like this–and to go forward into a future that, I think, armed with a usable, serviceable past, that is less uncertain, and less dangerous.
I have a strong opinion about the relevance and value of church history for one’s personal and denominational interpretation of Scripture. One should not trust his own, or his denomination’s pet interpretations of Scripture uncritically. He should expose these interpretations to the light of day in the form of the corresponding interpretations of the great teachers of his own, as well as past, times. If the truth of God’s Word is a deposit handed down to us from generations past which extend back to the age of the apostles, then we have an obligation to make sure that doctrinal and practical transmission arrives to us in as undamaged of a state as possible. Sometimes, when we examine this divine cargo, we find that some reconstruction and repair is in order. I believe we are accountable to God for the state in which the following generations find our doctrine and practice.
Two quotes from great Christians of the past stand out in my mind which I’d like to share with you on this topic. The first is from Charles Spurgeon, and the second is from C. S. Lewis. These quotes well encapsulate my convictions regarding the value of church history for faithfulness to God’s Word. Iain Murry writes in a footnote of The Forgotten Spurgeon (page 34, note 14, 1994 edition, Banner of Truth Trust),
“Spurgeon had no patience with those who said, ‘We will not read anything except the book itself, neither will we accept any light, except that which comes in through a crack in our own roof. We will not see by another man’s candle, we would sooner remain in the dark.’ Brethren, do not let us fall into such folly.”
It is true that Scripture alone is our final authority in all matters of doctrine and practice, and that all human writings are subordinate to it, but Scripture was not written, nor is it well interpreted, in the vacuum of our own minds and experiences. We as members of the body of Christ are dependent on those gifted to teach us the truth of God’s Word, not only in our own congregation, but also from the universal church of all ages. Only in this way will we be able to truly “devote ourselves” (Acts 2:42) to the apostles’ doctrine. Writing in the current issue of Modern Reformation Magazine, Carl Trueman reviewed Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, edited by Thomas C. Oden. He makes an interesting observation about the possible side effects of modern Evangelicalism‘s staunch position on the sufficiency of Scripture. He writes,
“Sadly, more recent Evangelicalism has, by accident or design, frequently isolated itself from such historic sources through a sincerely intended but naively executed commitment to the notion of scriptural sufficiency. This has borne unfortunate fruit. Over recent decades, the movement of many evangelicals to Rome or to Eastern Orthodoxy has been, in part at least, a reaction to such impoverishment of the Christian tradition within evangelical ranks. As people look for historical roots, Evangelicalism seems inadequate to meet the challenge, and such moves, though misguided, are at least understandable.”
“Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”
How easy it is to assume that our age is the most advanced, the best informed. This goes for theology as well as for science and other academic and intellectual disciplines. But we mess things up just as easily as other ages have–we still have our own biases and pre-conceived notions. Lewis’ words remind us that some of these pre-conceived notions may be mis-conceived, and therefore our recourse must be to the checks and balances of old books. If we fail to do so, we are destined to get off track, lower our interpretive standards, and lose our way on the road to a theologically sound future. Please always remember and never forget: we Christians must learn where we’ve come from, so we can see where we are now, in terms of faithfulness to the apostles’ doctrine and practice, and be able to see clearly where we are headed with our doctrine and practice in the future.
You’d be amazed at the kinds of useless stuff that passes through my mind. Today I’m going to punish you with it. It’s just one of my little tests of friendship. Today, I wondered if I could come up with an acronym for the word “Propitiation.” You know, this year in AWANA, I’m teaching through Romans 3:21-26, which includes the gospel-rich terms “redemption,” ”justification,” and “propitiation.” No, I haven’t come up with any for the other two terms, but here’s what I got for ”propitiation.” I’m afraid it doesn’t help with the meaning of the term or anything, but it made me chuckle.
Notions . . .
. . . Charles Finney excepted.
Yes, Charles Finney was ordained by the Presbyterian church, and yes, he did “invalidate old notions.” What old notions, you ask? Only biblical things like . . .
Original Sin . . . “The doctrine of original sin, or of a sinful constitution, and of necessary sinful actions, represents the whole moral government of God, the plan of salvation by Christ, and indeed every doctrine of the gospel, as a mere farce. Upon this supposition the law is tyranny, and the gospel an insult to the unfortunate.” (Systematic Theology, Lecture 24 on “Moral Depravity”)
Penal-Substitutionary Atonement of Christ . . . Finney’s invalidation of the old notion: the Moral Government theory–”Consequently, we find that, in this atonement, God has expressed His high regard for His law and for obedience to it. The design of executing the penalty of the law was to make a strong impression of the majesty, excellence, and utility of the law. Anything may answer as a substitute, which will as thoroughly demonstrate the mischief and odiousness of sin, God’s hatred to it, and His determination to carry out His law in all its demands. Especially may the proposed substitute avail if it shall also make a signal manifestation of God’s love to sinners.” (Charles Finney on the Atonement see also, Theopedia: Governmental Theory of the Atonement)
Imputation . . . “The doctrine of imputed righteousness, or that Christ’s obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption.” (Horton, Michael: “The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney,” the quote may be found under the heading, “Distorting the Cardinal Doctrine of Justification.”)
Justification by Grace Alone through Faith Alone . . . “That gospel justification is not to be regarded as a forensic or judicial proceeding. Dr. Chalmers and those of his school hold that it is. But this is certainly a great mistake, as we shall see.” (Systematic Theology, Lecture 36, “Justification” )
The Miraculous Nature of Revival . . . “It is not a miracle, or dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means. There may be a miracle among 13its antecedent causes, or there may not. The apostles employed miracles, simply as a means by which they arrested attention to their message, and established its divine authority. But the miracle was not the revival. The miracle was one thing; the revival that followed it was quite another thing. The revivals in the apostles’ days were connected with miracles, but they were not miracles.” (Lectures on Revivals of Religion, Lecture 1, “What a Revival of Religion Is“)
But, after all this, if what you really want is some good reading on “propitiation,” then check out the Wikipedia article.
Benefits in Resurrection
Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ in the resurrection?
A. At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory (1 Corinthians 15:43), shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment (Matthew 10:32; 25:23), and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God (1 John3:2; 1 Corinthians13:12) to all eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
Blessed Are the Sons of God
#526, The Trinity Hymnal (© 1990)
Joseph Humphreys, 1743
Blessed are the sons of God,
they are bought with Christ’s own blood;
they are ransomed from the grave,
life eternal they shall have:
with them numbered may we be,here and in eternity.
They are justified by grace,
they enjoy the Savior’s peace;
all their sins are washed away,
they shall stand in God’s great day:
with them numbered may we be,
here and in eternity.
They are lights upon the earth,
children of a heav’nly birth;
one with God, with Jesus one,
glory is in them begun:
with them numbered may we be,
here and in eternity.
He was all about truth. And the number one truth was God’s grace and that led the late D. James Kennedy to found Evangelism Explosion, a program that taught others how to share their faith in Christ alone. On the day before his memorial service, don’t miss the next HAVEN Today with Charles Morris and a program called “A Life Remembered”.
Also, don’t miss the Live Webcast of Dr. Kennedy’s funeral which will take place at 1pm Eastern, 12pm Central.
Christianity Today has posted an article on the ministry and impact of Dr. D. James Kennedy, including links to many sites around the web regarding his life and his death.