The Captain’s Eight Theses: On the Biblical Basis for Infant Baptism
1. Israel is the Church–the Church is Israel.
2. God commanded Israel to circumcise their households (believers, their children and anyone else of any status in the household).
3. Divine Commands remain in place if they are never rescinded.
4. Israel, by the plan of God, was a mixed multitude of believers whose circumcision signified the circumcision of their hearts (their faith and repentance), and unbelievers whose circumcision was a constant reminder to them of their need to circumcise their hearts (to repent and believe).
5. In Christ, the sign of circumcision–the sign and seal of faith (Romans 4:11)–was changed to baptism (see how the one is identified with the other in Colossians 2:11-12), and this sign continued to be given not only to individuals, but also to households in the New Testament.
6. The command to apply the sign and seal of faith to households is nowhere rescinded in the New Testament; therefore, the command remains in force.
7. For this reason, it is biblical to baptize the infant children of believers before they make a profession of faith.
8. In conclusion, the Bible teaches Christians to baptize their children with a view to raising them to repent and believe in the providential timing of the Lord.
God Imputes Righteousness, Not Faith
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification (Romans 4:5; 10:10); but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
Believing is not a good work. It earns nothing. If there were such a thing as a righteous person other than Jesus Christ, there would be no need to impute his righteousness to him. For this hypothetical person who earns righteousness by his own good works, having Christ’s righteousness imputed or credited to him would be superfluous, redundant, and unnecessary.
Christ did not come to call those who think their righteousness is good enough. God did not send his Son to die for those who never come to admit that they deserve to die because of their sin. In Romans 4:5, Paul describes God as “him who justifies the ungodly.” The ungodly one who despairs of his inability to earn righteousness by his good works is the kind of person whom God justifies, or declares righteous in his sight.
In this same passage, Paul explains that “his [the ungodly person’s] faith is counted as righteousness.” This is the biblical doctrine of imputation, and Paul elaborates on it in the rest of his sentence which concludes in verses 6 -8: “… just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts [imputes] righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count [impute, KJV] his sin.’” As you see, the Bible teaches that while a man’s faith may in one sense be “imputed,” or “counted” as righteousness, in a greater sense, what is really going on is that Christ’s righteousness is being imputed to the ungodly believer–the righteousness of Christ is counted as the righteousness of the ungodly believer. It is a careless misreading to interpret the Bible as teaching that God imputes faith to the ungodly; rather, God imputes the righteousness of Christ to him.
What, then, is the source of this faith by which we are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ? “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:10). In the song, “Rock of Ages,” Christians sing, “Nothing in my hand I bring/Simply to the cross I cling.” It is not the work of our hands by which we are justified, but the gracious gift of faith which emerges from a regenerate, spiritually living heart which has been newly freed from sin and empowered to rest on the finished work of his righteous Savior who has been crucified and risen for him. We may be justified by a righteousness that is not our own, but that righteousness is received by a faith that is very much our own, graciously enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Answer #73 of the Westminster Larger Catechism, then, further denies that the faith by which he is justified was not imputed to him—it was not the faith of another, but his own faith which arises by God’s grace from his own regenerate heart. His faith is the fruit grown on the good tree of his own regenerate heart.
How Faith Does NOT Justify
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 3:28), nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.
Faith is the means which God has ordained for the elect in order that he may declare them righteous in his sight. Man, unfortunately, assumes he must perform, to achieve a perfect score when it comes to keeping God’s moral law. In this assumption, he is sadly mistaken. Paul writes in Galatians 3:11, “no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Later in his great exposition of the gospel in his epistle to the Romans, Paul echoes this truth when he writes, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
In keeping with this Pauline distinction between faith and the law, the framers of the Westminster Standards of 1649 write in their Larger Catechism, “Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it…” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A #73). Here they write that good works are the fruit of faith, not the condition the elect must meet so God will declare them righteous in his sight (justify them). The catechism answer also denies that the other graces that accompany faith are the way we receive God’s justifying declaration of righteousness. For example, graces such as hope, love, joy, or any others are excluded, along with good works, as the basis on which faith justifies the sinner.
In short, faith does not justify because of good works; rather, good works are the result of justification by faith alone.
The Biblical Basis of the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms
As a member of a local confessional Presbyterian church and coming from my background as an Independent Baptist, I can’t help but notice how easy it is to confirm the common accusation that “Presbyterians often seem to cite the Confession more readily than they do the Bible.” As I listen to teaching (that of no one in particular, and this is not restricted to my own congregation), I often find myself listening to it as if I were a Baptist who was hearing this presentation for the first time. It doesn’t take long before all the biblicist defenses go up. A Reformed teacher will teach a vital biblical truth and then they will cite the Westminster Standards or something from the Three Forms of Unity (click on the “Creeds, Etc.” link at the top of this webpage for more information on these Reformed doctrinal standards). The response a self-respecting biblicist is trained to make to a presentation like this is, “That’s nice, now what does the Bible say about it?” or, more boldly, they might declare, “I don’t care what your confession or catechism says, what does the Bible say?”
It occurs to me that if Presbyterians and those of other confessional Reformed denominations want to persuade those from outside their tradition, like Baptists, to believe that what Reformed confessions and catechisms teach is based on the Bible, then perhaps it would be time well spent to express their biblically based confessional statements by first disclosing what the Bible says and working from this to showing how what the confession or catechism says is solidly based on what the Bible says.
After all, a “Confession” is not intended to be a rival for the Bible, but an expression of what Reformed churches believe the Bible teaches. To use the word “Confession” alone does not necessarily communicate this ultimate point to those from outside the tradition. That’s why when I personally explain things related to the Confession of Faith, I will put the word “Confession” in a sentence that attempts to fully express what a Confession of Faith is. For example, “This biblical truth (whatever it may be) is worded this way, or that way, in the Confession of what Reformed churches believe best summarizes the teaching of the Bible.”
Now I realize there are many good Reformed teachers who are careful to base their arguments on Scripture, but the stereotype that the Reformed in general have a bad habit of quoting the confession more than they do the Bible is grounded in verifiable reality. I love hearing an explanation of what the Confession teaches, but then, I have already gotten over the hurdle of being persuaded that what the Confession teaches is what the Bible teaches, although not infallibly, of course.
For this reason, I have decided to engage in a little exercise for a while, which I will share with my readers. In the spirit of how I would like to hear the teaching of the Reformed confessions and catechisms expressed, I’m simply going to take the Scripture Proofs cited for almost any given phrase in the Westminster Larger Catechism (which my church currently happens to being going through), summarize the point being highlighted in the verses, cite the verses themselves, then explain that this is the reason the Catechism reads the way it reads.
Sound like fun? I hope you’ll join me! In the following post, I will give this treatment to the first clause in Question and Answer #73 of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
Harold Camping Preached Judgment, Not Christ
This is the day proclaimed by false teacher Harold Camping as the beginning of Judgment Day. According to him, May 21, 2011 begins a five month period in which earthquakes will destroy those of us who do not believe his false gospel of God’s wrath. But God will rapture those, and only those, believers in him who have believe that Satan is in control of all the churches (and has been since 1988), have left them and have embraced the message, not of Christ’s sinless life, propitiatory death and glorious resurrection for sinners, but of the coming of Judgment Day on this day, May 21, 2011. Camping and his followers see themselves, not as the apostles bearing witness to the death and resurrection of Christ and proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through repentance and faith in his name, but as the Old Testament prophets, principally like Jonah, who are sent with a message of impending judgment, calling on all to “cry mightily unto God for mercy.”
This is nothing but a simple case of losing focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ in Christian proclamation. The apostle Paul writes that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Elsewhere, he writes, “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:8-11). What is the principal work of Christ in focus in this call to faith? His resurrection on the third day after his death for sinners. Verse seventeen of this very passage points out that it this word of Christ, his death and resurrection for sinners, through which faith comes, and no other. If we lose focus on the cross of Christ, even in favor of his other works, like his promised return in glory, we will not be preaching the message through which the Holy Spirit will impart faith, and those to whom we preach will not be saved. This is just one of Harold Camping’s numerous errors, not to mention heresies, in his so-called “radio ministry.”
For this reason, I want to survey the Acts of the Apostles and see how that they who were called to lay the foundation of the church (see Eph. 2:20) bore witness to Christ throughout the world in order to be reminded of the centrality of the cross in our testimony before the lost world.
In the first book [The Gospel According to Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart fromJerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:1-11; emphasis mine)
With this introduction of Christ’s call to bear witness to him throughout the world to an ever-widening extent, our focus in this survey will be upon a selected few of the ten major speeches recorded in the Acts. Three are preached by Peter, one by Stephen, and six by Paul, of whose consist of one from each of his missionary journeys (the first addressing Jews, the second Gentiles, the third Christians, followed by three defense speeches before authorities).
Peter’s Witness (Acts 2:14-36)
In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension, he first explains how that the disciples’ speaking in tongues is a fulfillment of Joel’s apocalyptic prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) emphasizing not the coming of Judgment Day, but salvation through faith (Acts 2:14-21). In verse 22, he transitions from the miraculous to the subject of his sermon by the fact that Jesus’ miracles attested to his divine sanction, and immediately proclaims the death of Christ as being the predetermined plan of God (v. 23), and proclaims his resurrection, explicitly stating that it is this to which they bear witness: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:32).
Stephen’s Witness (Acts 7:1-53)
After preaching Christ as the promised prophet who is like Moses in that he would mediate a better covenant than that which Moses mediated (Acts 7:37; cf. 2 Cor. 3), although explicit reference is not made to Christ’s death and resurrection, it is at least assumed (his audience were Jews who were well aware of the death of Jesus), and his resurrection and ascension are implied by his declaring his vision of the exalted Christ, sitting on the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:56). Then Luke, the human author of Acts, portrays Stephen’s death as an allusion to the propitiatory nature of Christ’s crucifixion (that it renders God favorable toward sinners) as the martyr prays that his executioners’ sins would be forgiven, just as Christ also prayed (see Luke 23:34), and his very death is thus a testimony to the cross of Christ itself (cf. Col. 1:24). The word “martyr” in fact means “witness,” and such witness Stephen indeed bears to his death. Saul of Tarsus held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, but he would not come to faith until he himself would come face to face with the risen Christ.
Paul’s Witness (Acts 17:22-31)
Contrary to Harold Camping’s emphasis that the cross and resurrection need not be preached, but exclusively the coming judgment, Paul preaches God’s judgment as signified and assured to come due to Christ’s resurrection from death (v. 31). The response of the Athenians to Paul’s preaching of the resurrection shows its central character in his sermon (v.32) and we see that as a result of such preaching, faith was granted to Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris (v.34).
If I’ve learned one thing in my past teaching ministry, it is that the easiest thing in the world to do is to forget to tie that which you teach or apply to the cross and resurrection of Christ. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the gospel is kept central in all of our preaching and teaching because it, and only it is the message by which God promises to save those who believe (1 Peter 1:25; James 1:21). If we learn anything from the tragedy playing out before our eyes this weekend, let it be the importance of the cross of Christ. Pray for your friends and loved ones who may have been deceived by Camping’s false gospel of Judgment Day that they might lose faith in Camping, but that their faith in Christ crucified and risen for them may not fail.
“Rob Bellion” is as the Sin of Witchcraft!
In past years, one of my children was exposed to the teaching of Rob Bell by means of at least one of his Nooma videos played in my former church’s youth group, and presumably in some ways through his influence on the teacher of that class. Knowing his interest in Bell’s teaching, and being singularly interested in keeping up with who’s teaching what, I urged him a number of times that Bell’s teaching is not good for an orthodox church. The rest of the time I would tease him in a good-natured, but persistent way, that “Rob Bellion” is as the sin of witchcraft! This is my own personal play on the KJV’s translation of Samuel’s words to Saul when he refused to obey the Lord’s commands regarding the spoils of his fight with Amalek, whom he was to wipe out entirely as God’s appointed means of judgment against them for the way they attacked the children of Israel at Rephidim while they were still lead by Moses and the pillar of cloud and fire (1 Samuel 15:23; cf. Ex. 17:8-16; Deut. 25:17-19). Notice from the parallel line of 1 Samuel 15:23, that Saul’s “rebellion” is tantamount to a rejection of the word of the LORD regarding his plans to judge and destroy his enemies (see the whole passage, 1 Samuel 15:1-35). Such is the heresy of the universalist Rob Bell.
Justin Taylor at “Between Two Worlds,” a Gospel Coalition blog, shows Bell’s promotional material related to his latest book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, surely not to help sell his book, but to raise our awareness of how Bell’s trajectory towards theological liberalism is becoming more and more apparent in his growing trend of teaching the heresy of universalism. This is the doctrine that, in eternity, regardless of one’s reception or rejection of Christ during his lifetime, everyone will be forgiven and reconciled to God, and none will justly spend eternity hell. It’s funny how so many people who break the law wind up complaining about the fact that they had to suffer the consequences of their crime. This is analogous to the fact that unbelievers find the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell so unattractive. Hell, condemnation and the righteous judgment of an infinite, eternal and holy God is bad public relations for Christianity, if you listen to Rob Bell. But compare the concept of universalism with what the Lord Jesus said in John 3:16-21:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Here, Christ clearly states that the condition for escaping condemnation is faith in him. Reader, be clear: if you do not trust the Christ of the Scriptures, not the Christ of any cult’s misinterpretation or “reimagining” of him, not the Christ of the Gnostic gospels, but the Jesus Christ of historic, apostolic, catholic, orthodox, evangelical Protestant Christianity, then you are already under the condemnation of God. If you persist in this unbelief, you will not be saved in the end. Your end will be the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Confess that you are indeed a sinner, repent by turning from your sins and cling to Christ (Acts 26:18) who suffered for sinners in every nation, sinners like you (1 John 1:8-10). Reject your false gods and goddesses (you know who you are!), and run to Christ, who lives to justify the wicked who repent and believe.
With Rob Bell, on the issue of universalism, finding the error in his teaching is no longer a matter of reading between the lines. Watch the video below and you will see Bell himself explain how we need to deny the Biblical doctrine of eternal, conscious torment in Hell because it makes people reject Christianity. Apparently, what the world thinks about Christianity is more important to Bell than what God reveals in his Word. Read Taylor’s post, “Rob Bell: Universalist?”
If you find that your church has been, or is being exposed to the teachings of Rob Bell, I would suggest that you present the facts regarding Bell to your pastor and patiently, but persistently, help them see that he is not just an emerging evangelical postmodern hipster, but a theological liberal of the first order whose materials ought to be avoided by every church and Christian that loves the Word of God. This is a process I had the regretful duty of engaging in myself back then.
This article by former co-founder of Brian McLaren’s Emergent Village, Mark Driscoll (who later separated from them when they began showing signs of postmodern liberalism) navigate what he calls “The Emerging Church Highway.” It would also behoove you to read D. A. Carson’s book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and It’s Implications (2005, Zondervan).
David Prays Like a Calvinist
“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1Corinthians 4:7
Since the turn of the New Year, our family decided to work our way together through the ESV Study Bible reading plan. Each night, we stop what we’re doing for a good half hour or so, and take turns reading aloud each of the four sections of Scripture, as divided up in the plan. A few days ago, we finished the book of 1 Chronicles, and this prayer of David’s caught my attention:
Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”(1 Chronicles 29:10-19 ESV, emphasis mine)
When reading through the passage above, I had to chuckle a little, as I was reminded of this passage from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “Free Will—A Slave.”
Your fallen nature was put out of order; your will, amongst other things, has clean gone astray from God. 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.”
Is there one here—a solitary one—man or woman, young or old, who can say, “I sought God before he sought me?” No; even you who are a little Arminian, will sing—
“O yes! I do love Jesus—
Because he first loved me.”
So you see, that in attributing to the LORD himself all that David and the people freely and willingly did, David betrays a theology that is not unlike that theology which has been derived from Scripture from the earliest days of the church, against which the ungrateful and self-sufficient regularly hurl accusations. Augustine’s prayerful confession of God’s absolute sovereignty and grace to empower the believer’s very obedience provoked Pelagius to twist Scripture to his own destruction in order to make man the source of his own salvation; Calvin’s systematization of this Biblical and Augustinian faith entrusted to him by his fathers in the faith provoked, after his death, a Dutch Reformed theologian named Jakob Hermanszoon, that is, Jacob Arminius (in Latin), to, if not distort the Word as devastatingly as Pelagius had before him, so distort the doctrines of grace that his followers would later remonstrate against them, creating the need for the Synod of Dort, which produced the world famous Canons of Dort (find them at my Creeds, etc. page) which serve as the source and inspiration of the infamous, yet Biblical acronym, TULIP. Even Great Awakening revivalist, George Whitefield endured the fiery darts of his beloved friend and fellow revivalist, John Wesley. How gracious is the Lord, who generously grants salvation to even those who do not properly recognize his absolute sovereignty, suffering the remaining sin within them which persists in grasping for some way to have a hand in his own eternal salvation.
Praise the Lord that King David’s eyes were clear in this regard as he lead the people of Israel in freely and willingly making generous donations toward the planned building of the temple in Jerusalem, which was entrusted to David’s son, Solomon. King David’s public confession of their unworthiness to even do so at all, and acknowledgement of the LORD’s gracious provision of the very materials which they would freely and willingly offer, contrasts sharply with the self-congratulatory words of that proto-Pelagian king, Nebuchadnezzar, who would one day take David’s kingdom into the original Babylonian captivity (see Daniel 4:28-33).
How beautiful is the corporate confession of the Reformed in this regard! In the words of the Belgic Confession (also linked to from the Creeds, etc. page), the Reformed confess the teaching of the Scriptures that “’A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven(John 3:27’” and so confess:
Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man’s free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is “given him from heaven.”
For who can boast of being able to do anything good by himself, since Christ says, “No one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws him”? (John 6:44)
Who can glory in his own will when he understands that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God”? (Romans 8:7) Who can speak of his own knowledge in view of the fact that “the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God”? (1 Cor. 2:14)
In short, who can produce a single thought, since he knows that we are “not able to think a thing” about ourselves, by ourselves, but that “our ability is from God”? (2 Corinthians 3:5)
And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: “God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
In this way it is clear that the content of King David’s “Calvinist” prayer demonstrates how consistent with Scripture is the Reformed confession of faith.
Heresy in Defense of the Fundamentals
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV).
Recently, I heard an Independent Fundamental Baptist preacher comment that he believes in salvation “by the blood of Christ, not his death.” One who heard this comment with me registered his shock at the statement. Having discussed this issue with this particular preacher in the past, I knew what he meant by it, and was able to fill in my companion. The following bullet points are a summary of the things I shared with him.
Suffice it to say that there is a segment of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism that so wants to defend the “literal” interpretation of Scripture that it will often deny simple figures of speech in Scripture to the extent that it begins to distort the very fundamentals it intends to defend. One such fundamental of the faith that has suffered such distortion is that of the hypostatic union of Christ’s human and divine natures, of which the historic conciliar statement produced by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) expresses the Biblical doctrine quite thoroughly and has served the church well in defining the orthodox position. Although an appeal to the so-called “Definition of Chalcedon” as an expression of Scriptural teaching on the matter falls on deaf fundamentalist ears, it does not change the fact that, historically speaking, for the Protestant as well as the Roman Catholic, to dissent from this Ecumenical Council on the hypostatic union is to be led by blind guides into the ditch of formal heresy. Sad to say, this is the fate of the kind of irresponsible Biblicism that often goes on in the Fundamentalist movement.
I’ve posted on this topic before here and here. The names I’ve used for this fundamentalist heresy are “Divine Blood” and “Celestial Flesh.” These titles describe the ways in which fundamentalists blur the distinction between Christ’s human and divine natures to a possibly heretical extent. This explains the use of these terms in the following bullet points:
- Divine Blood proponents believe a biological myth that the male seed provides the blood to the conceived egg (see this post).
- Divine Blood proponents believe in the seminal headship of Adam to the neglect of his federal headship. The Reformed affirm that seminal headship conveys actual moral corruption by means of “ordinary generation” (WCF 6.3), and that federal headship is the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all of his posterity (aka, “original sin”).
- Divine Blood proponents therefore conclude that sin itself is actually transmitted in human blood from Adam through the father to his offspring, and that therefore Christ was sinless primarily because he did not have a human father who would transmit his sin-tainted blood to him, thus making him a sinner.
- Divine Blood proponents misinterpret Heb 10:5 to teach that God the Father specially created an embryo and implanted it in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus was not the result of the supernatural fertilization of one of Mary’s eggs. This Christological error dates back to the radical reformation of the Anabaptist movement in a teaching called the “Celestial Flesh of Christ” (see this post).
- Divine Blood proponents believe that the references in Hebrews to a “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11-10:14) mean that Christ had to actually transport this divine blood shed on the cross into the presence of God after his resurrection, but before his appearance to the apostles, in a “literal” heavenly temple to pour it on a “literal” mercy seat. Little do they realize that Scripture elsewhere reveals Christ as the true Temple (see John 2:18-22; Heb. 10:20). Thus his sacrificial death, associated with and proclaimed as the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system by metonymous reference to his blood, is his offering of this ultimate sacrifice “once for all (time)” on the cross (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10). His ascension and heavenly session actually serves as the anti-type to the references to the yearly repetition of the Aaronic priesthood which is contrasted with Christ’s sitting down at the right hand of the Father after making his ultimate once for all sacrifice (Heb. 10:11-14).
- Thus, Divine Blood proponents confuse the human and divine natures of Christ. If his blood isn’t ordinary human blood derived from a human conception, albeit overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, then his blood is less than fully human, a compromise of the historic orthodox interpretation of Scripture, which is exemplified by the Chalcedonian Definition. The confusion of Christ’s human and divine natures repeats the kind of mistake made by the monophysites of ancient church history. The “hypostatic union” of a completely human nature and a completely divine nature without confusing them or so separating them that they are no longer united in one person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the orthodox, biblical teaching on the God-Man. One should not define Christ’s human nature in terms of his divine attributes, nor define his divine nature in terms of his human attributes. To hold to a “celestial flesh” and “divine blood” view of Christ’s nature is just such an error.
I found an excellent, but lengthy, treatment of this doctrine by an Irish Reformed minister. If you’ve ever heard of this doctrine before, and are the least bit concerned about it, please invest the time in reading “Fundamentalists and the ‘Incorruptible’ Blood of Christ” by Martyn McGeown of Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, North Ireland. Although it’s by an Irish writer, much of his essay interacts with American fundamentalist contributions to the controversy as well.
Jesus Christ: Sinless Man/Eternal God
Here’s a follow-up on my series of posts on “Compromising the Full Humanity of Christ” which dealt with the “heavenly flesh of Christ” heresy. In my reading through Calvin’s Institutes in commemoration of his quincentenary, I recently got to a passage in which he deals with this very issue, which he indicates that it predates Anabaptism, tying it to Manichaeism. Let’s read Calvin himself on this . . .
Indeed, the genuineness of his human nature was impugned long ago by both the Manichees and the Marcionites. The Marcionites fancied Christ’s body a mere appearance, while the Manichees dreamed that he was endowed with heavenly flesh. But many strong testimonies of Scripture stand against both (Book 2, chapter 13, section 1)…Marcion imagines that Christ put on a phantasm instead of a body because Paul elsewhere says that Christ was “made in the likeness of man . . . . being found in fashion as a man” (Phil. 2:7-8)…Mani forged him a body of air, because Christ is called “the Second Adam of heaven, heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:47) (Book 2, chapter 13, section 2).
You can read summaries of both of these sections at “Blogging the Institutes” from Reformation21.org, just follow the links in the two parenthetical references in the excerpt above.
Finally, in section 4, Calvin concludes his defense of the biblically orthodox view of Christ’s full humanity (which accords with the Definition of Chalcedon), explaining how it is that Christ’s human nature could be identical to our human nature without original sin–for Calvin, it’s simple, the Holy Spirit sanctified his human nature:
The absurdities with which they wish to weigh us down are stuffed with childish calumnies. They consider it shameful and dishonorable to Christ if he were to derive his origin from men, for he could not be exempted from the common rule, which includes under sin all of Adam’s offspring without exception. But the comparison that we read in Paul readily disposes of this difficulty: “As sin came in . . . through one man, and death through sin . . . so through the righteousness of one man grace abounded” (Rom. 5:12, 18). Another comparison of Paul’s agrees with this: “The first Adam was of the earth, and earthly and natural man, the Second of the heaven, heavenly” (1 Cor. 15:47). The apostle teaches the same thing in another passage, that Christ was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to satisfy the law (Rom. 8:3-4). Thus, so skillfully does he distinguish Christ from the common lot that he is true man but without fault and corruption. But they babble childishly: if Christ is free from all spot, and through the secret working of the Spirit was begotten of the seed of Mary, then woman’s seed is not unclean, but only man’s (you can hear that from many independent Baptist fundamentalists in the 21st century–I heard it all my life.) For we make Christ free of all stain not just because he was begotten of his mother without copulation with man, but because he was sanctified by the Spirit that the generation might be pure and undefiled as would have been true before Adam’s fall. And this remains for us an established fact: whenever Scripture calls our attention to the purity of Christ, it is to be understood of his true human nature, for it would have been superfluous to say that God is pure. Also, the sanctification of which John, ch. 17, speaks would have no place in divine nature (John 17:19). Nor do we imagine that Adam’s seed is twofold, even though no infection came to Christ. For the generation of man is not unclean and vicious of itself, but is so as an accidental quality arising from the Fall. No wonder, then, that Christ, through whom integrity was to be restored, was exempted from common corruption! They thrust upon us as something absurd the fact that if the Word of God became flesh, then he was confined within the narrow prison of an earthly body. This is mere impudence! For even if the Word in his immeasurable essence united with the nature of man into one person, we do not imagine that he was confined therein. Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!
That Christ’s human nature is equally sinless and at the same time the product of Mary’s reproductive system is easily seen in Scripture. The Spirit illumined this to my understanding by a simple reading of Luke 1:35 once I came to realize the modern fundamentalist heavenly flesh view with which I was raised had to be wrong:
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
See the word “therefore” in this verse? The former activity is the reason for the latter condition; the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing Mary in Jesus’ conception is the reason for his holiness. It’s as simple as that! Long ago, I got a grasp of the fact that names in Scripture usually reflect something of the nature or behavior of the people who bear them. In this case, the Spirit’s name is “Holy Spirit.” In short, he’s the Spirit who makes people holy. The human nature of Jesus was holy because of his conception via the Holy Spirit. And believers today are being sanctified (being made holy) by the Holy Spirit through the ordinary means of the preaching of Law and Gospel, signified and sealed to them in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
YouTube Fundy vs. Calvinism
Steven L. Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Pheonix, AZ, has a very full YouTube page of videos featuring his preaching and teaching ministry. Some of the arguments made in some of the videos, it must be said, range from the average, to the illogical, to the hilariously absurd. StuffFundiesLike featured one of the more amusing ones (view it here), but Fundamentally Reformed once posted on one I’ve yet to see topped (view it here)! Compared to these two, the one I’m posting and commenting on today is rather ho-hum.
In this video, Pastor Anderson presents a few arguments from John 6 and John 15 against the doctrines of God’s foreordination of all things (Ephesians 1:11), predestination to salvation (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 9:23) and reprobation to condemnation (2 Peter 2; Romans 9:22).
Watch the video and interact with his arguments. I’m going to be out of town over the weekend and probably have little access to the internet. If you’re not familiar with the doctrines of Calvinism regarding the sovereignty of God over all things, even the salvation of sinners, feel free to ask questions. They’ll be welcomed and answered with gentleness and respect when I return, unless one of my Calvinist commenters is pleased to interact with you over the weekend (you know who you are–this is your cue!).
Here are the passages Pastor Anderson dealt with. View them for yourself and prayerfully examine their contexts and see the sovereign hand of a God who is not merely a one-dimensional “God of love” who is passive in the face of your sovereign self-determination, but “is love” and just at the same time.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16)
“Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him” (John 6:70-71; cf. Acts 1:16–indicating what Judas was actually chosen for).
“On” or “After”? Defending the Friday Crucifixion
In case you didn’t perceive it in the light of my series on St. Patrick (which is still ongoing–stay tuned, true believer!), one of my pet peeves about the anti-traditional wing of Christianity is that they will deny the established, sound views on things seemingly for the sole reason of not being in agreement with Roman Catholicism. It may just be me, but that’s the way things look to me. One example of this is the two competing sites in Israel for which the claim is made that it is the genuine site of Calvary and Christ’s tomb. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre has the vote of all the ancient churches, be they Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, what have you. Then there’s the Garden Tomb (formerly Gordon’s tomb), for which the claim was not made until a nineteenth century Protestant made it against the prevailing established evidence which overwhelmingly supports the validity of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Speaking generally, many Protestants tend to prefer the Garden tomb because it doesn’t have a big, old medieval or Crusader-era church built on top of it, ruining the view.
In the realm of traditional biblical claims, the question of on which day of the week Christ died is divided between those who aren’t uncomfortable with historic, established, orthodox traditional views and those who are. I was reading the Wikipedia article on Good Friday yesterday (here’s the link), in which the Good Friday customs of various groups are outlined. After the ancient Eastern and Western groups are treated, naturally the historic Protestant customs are described, followed by a section entitled, “Other Protestant Traditions.” The second paragraph of this section reflects the tendency I’m addressing:
Some Baptist, Pentecostal and many Sabbatarian and non-denominational churches oppose the observance of Good Friday, instead observing the Crucifixion on Wednesday to coincide with the Jewish sacrifice of the Passover Lamb (which Christians believe is an Old Testament pointer to Jesus Christ). A Wednesday Crucifixion of Jesus Christ allows for Christ to be in the tomb (heart of the earth) for three days and three nights as he told the Pharisees he would be (Matthew 12:40), rather than two nights and a day if he died on Friday.
I think this paragraph does a good job of highlighting part of the reason for the debate: wooden literalism. Firstly, the desire is to make sure the crucifixion of the Lamb of God takes place at the precise moment the copies and shadows of the heavenly things are offered, as if it just couldn’t happen at any other moment. Secondly, just because Jesus used the language in this one exchange that in modern English vernacular corresponds literally to a seventy-two hour period, the rest of the Gospel references to when Christ rose must be interpreted in the light of this verse understood this particular way. Anything else is unacceptable to such interpreters. Again, the fear being agreement with Rome on something. The net result becomes that Jesus couldn’t have died on Friday because it wasn’t a “literal” three days and three nights. Only Catholics and those other denominations that retain more Roman Catholic like practices than we do would be so gullible as to agree with the Friday view of the crucifixion.
One of the most popular denials the anti-traditional interpreters make is the traditional appeal to the fact that in the first century Jewish idiom a “day” can refer to either part of a day, or the entire day. I’ve yet to hear a persuasive argument against this linguistic phenomenon out of those who hold the Wednesday view, I just hear the unbroken mantra of “three days and three nights.” In other words, it seems to me those who hold this view simply don’t want to be confused by facts because they’ve got their proof text and they’re sticking with it.
All I’d like to do is focus on the other Gospel passages that refer to when Christ would rise from the dead. They tend to fall into two categories: those that have Christ rising “on the third day,” and those that have Christ rising “after three days.”
If the Wednesday crucifixion were true, and Christ did lie in the tomb for a literal seventy-two hour period, then perhaps the “after three days” verses are preferable. These passages are Matthew 27:63; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34. Here’s the first of Mark’s references, Mark 8:31–
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (emphasis mine).
On the other hand, if Christ did die on Friday, spend Saturday in the tomb and rise before sunrise on Sunday morning, then this scenario is more easily reflected by the “on the third day” verses. These passages are Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:64; Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46. Let’s use Luke’s final verse as an example, Luke 24:46–
“and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead . . . . ‘”
If life were simple and we could resort to a majority vote, the traditional view wins. But I know it’s not that easy. However, it is worthy of note that the time frame references that don’t explicitly reveal a seventy-two hour period outnumber the ones more favorable to the Wednesday crucifixion view. No wonder when the early church compiled the New Testament teachings of the apostles into creedal form, they used the language that favors the Friday crucifixion view:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Equal in Creation and Redemption; Complementary in Role
Yesterday on the Gender Blog for the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary responded to a USA Today op-ed column by Mary Zeiss Stange, professor of Women’s Studies and Religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The topic: of course, women’s role in church ministry. Considering her credentials, it’s easy to see that Stange is going to be an advocate of egalitarianism (look it up) between the sexes when it comes to church leadership. Dr. Mohler attempts to bring Stange’s, and the modern culture’s, basic worldview into focus, and he contrasts it with some basic comments regarding the biblical, complementarian (look it up), worldview of the roles of men and women in church life.
I realize that the world isn’t consciously fettered to the clear teaching of Scripture, and it should be no surprise that the world would attempt to budge the church from faithfulness thereto. The world does a very good job of it, across the board, when it has to try at all, and doesn’t find a church eager to join the world’s parade regardless of which direction it’s going. But I thought in the light of the present discussion on those other sites, I’d post Paul’s controversial restriction on women in church leadership from 1 Timothy 2. And I mean the whole, short chapter. As you read the chapter, notice first of all the redemptive basis of his restriction, then notice the Old Testament or creational basis of his restriction:
2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
The redemptive basis of Paul’s restrictions on women in church leadership is found in verses five and six. Men and women share the same mediator. Elsewhere, in the context of roles in marriage, Peter instructs husbands to keep in mind that their wives are “heirs with [them] of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). The same is true in this context. Christ died, not only for “kings, and all who are in high positions,” or just for Jews and men (meaning males), but he died for all kinds of people. He died for the powerful and the powerless; for the Jew and for the Gentile; and the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and humans of both sexes. It is instructive to note that the word “man” in verse five translates the same Greek word that is translated people in verses one and four. Christ didn’t just die for males, he died for males and females. It is first in the light of this fact, men’s and women’s equality in redemption, that Paul gives any instruction at all to anyone. For here is the source of life: the message of redemption in Christ. No other message will grant to men or women the grace to serve God according to his will. And any differentiation of roles between the sexes would certainly not last, if not for loving gratitude to the Lord for what he has done for men and women.
Secondly, notice Paul’s Old Testament, or creational, basis for his restriction on women in the church leadership role. This is found in verses thirteen and fourteen. Refer to the passage above for a refresher. Paul states two simple reasons. I might add that they are reasons that were “breathed-out,” or spoken, by God himself. Reason one: Women should not “teach” or “excercise authority over a man,” but are to “remain quiet” because of creational chronology. Adam was created first, and Eve was created second. The simple fact is that the biblical revelation of the creation of men and women included from the very beginning inherent complementarian roles. Moses clearly writes that the woman was created to be “a helper fit (or corresponding) to him” (Genesis 2:18). Paul does not elaborate on this chronology as an excuse to institute complementarian roles in the church, just states it as the reason.
The challenge of competent biblical interpretation is to avoid going beyond what Scripture teaches. Yes, this includes the implicit teaching as well as the explicit, but not all inferences drawn from the text are equally valid or necessary. One must tread with caution when it comes to that. When the interpreter is not cautious in drawing inferences, misinterpretation results, and this misinterpretation will contradict the totality of biblical revelation. So it is in this case. The reason people get offended so easily by this passage is that when they hear that men were created before women, they don’t hear a chronological list, they instinctively hear a qualitative list, for want of a better word (if you’ve got one, submit it in your comment). In other words, they hear something like, men were created first, and therefore they are better than women. This is what I call an invalid, and unnecessary inference drawn from the text. This is not what Paul is saying. It is important to not “go beyond what is written” (compare 1 Corinthians 4:6-7).
Paul’s second Old Testament basis is the fact that Eve became a transgressor by being deceived in the fall, and Paul clarifies that Adam was not deceived. Here again, it is important to reign in our instinctive inferences based on sexual rivalry. Many hear this passage as implying that women should not teach men in church, or serve in the pastoral office, because they are somehow by nature more prone to deception, and that, in order to preserve the truth of Scripture, women should be restricted from the teaching ministry of the church. This, again, is an invalid inference. If this passage does anything, it points out the greater responsibility Adam had in the fall, as compared with Eve. Put simply, the devil tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit; Adam ate it, as they say, “of his own free will.” So here again, Eve is subordinate in role (not in inherent worth) not only in her creation, but also in her fall from original righteousness, into original sin. Thus Paul’s second facet of the creational basis of complementarianism in roles in the church.
So Adam and Eve were created and fell with reference to superordinate and subordinate roles. So, where do we find the inherent equality in worth? Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man (generic for both sexes) in our image, after our likeness.” Both men and women reflect God in righteousness, knowledge and holiness (compare Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Men and women were created equally righteous, but fell from this; they were equally rational–both have the capacity for reason which distinguishes them from the animal kingdom, and so reflect God. Men and women were also created equally “holy” or set apart by God to perform God-given roles. Although these roles differ, the fact that they are set apart for specific roles is equal.
So, in creation and redemption, men and women are equal. In role, men and women complement each other. When tempted to defer to the pressure of the world to conform to its egalitarian expectations, it’s important to recall that Paul quoted Old Testament Scripture as his sole reason for having men and women serve differing roles out of loving gratitude for the mediatorial life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The roles were not culturally contrived, and therefore dated and obsolete. The roles were built in at creation and are expected in the light of the cross. Paul stood on God’s Word, and so should the 21st century Christian.
The Devil is a Degenerate Creation of God
The following is from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, published in its final form in 1559 (for more on Calvin and the Institutes, read this). In his summary of the origin of Satan, see if you can tell what’s conspicuous by its absence, and what Calvin writes that has some bearing on what 21st century Christians generally would expect to see here. This passage is from Book 1, chapter 14, section 16.
Yet, since the devil was created by God, let us remember that this malice, which we attribute to his nature, came not from his creation but from his perversion. For, whatever he has that is to be condemned he has derived from his revolt and fall. For this reason, Scripture warns us lest, believing that he has come forth in his present condition from God, we should ascribe to God himself what is utterly alien to him. For this reason, Christ declares that “when Satan lies, he speaks according to his own nature” and states the reason, because “he abode not in the truth” [John 8:44 p.]. Indeed, when Christ states that Satan “abode not in the truth,” he hints that he was once in it, and when he makes him “the father of lies,” he deprives him of imputing to God the fault which he brought upon himself.
But although these things are briefly and not very clearly stated, they are more than enough to clear God’s majesty of all slander. And what concern is it to us to know anything more about devils or to know it for another purpose? Some persons grumble that Scripture does not in numerous passages set forth systematically and clearly that fall of the devils, its cause, manner, time, and charater. But because this has nothing to do with us, it was better not to say anything, or at least to touch upon it lightly, because it did not befit the Holy Spirit to feed our curiosity with empty histories to no effect. And we see that the Lord’s purpose was to teach nothing in his sacred oracles except what we should learn to our edification. Therefore, lest we ourselves linger over superfluous matters, let us be content with this brief summary of the nature of devils: they were when first created angels of God, but by degeneration they ruined themselves, and became the instruments of ruin for others. Because this is profitable to know, it is plainly taught in Peter and Jude. God did not spare those angels who sinned [2 Peter 2:4] and kept not their original nature, but left their abode [Jude 6]. And Paul, in speaking of the “elect angels” [1 Timothy 5:21], is no doubt tacitly contrasting them with the reprobate angels.
Give up? Calvin didn’t identify the pre-fallen Satan as bearing the name Lucifer, based on Isaiah 14:12! That would be because the word Lucifer is used to translate the Hebrew word for “morning star” or “day star” in the King James Version. This was carried over from the Latin Vulgate by the King James translators. “Lucifer” was historically a name for the planet Venus, which happens to be the morning star. Besides, the passage in Isaiah is a prophecy of judgment against the King of Babylon. It’s use in reference to the chief fallen angel is allegorical at best and simply out of context at worst. Before he fell, the Lord and his angels up in heaven did not call him Lucifer as if it were his name. This was popularized in Dante’s Inferno, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. See this Wikipedia article on Lucifer, and this one on Venus for more information.
Furthermore, our eagerness to derive a portrayal of the fall of Satan in Isaiah’s passage is just the kind of “lingering over superfluous matters” that “feed our curiosity with empty histories to no effect.” Calvin writes that things like this have “nothing to do with us” and that “the Lord’s purpose was to teach nothing in his sacred oracles except what we should learn to our edification.” Justin Taylor’s post at “Blogging the Institutes” summarizes Calvin’s remarks well (read Justin’s post here).
Therefore, class, your homework assignment is to memorize what the Bible explicitly (and actually), albeit sketchily, teaches about the fall of Satan and his angels–Jude 6. “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—”
(Deaf) & Dumb?
My wife and I teach a third & fourth grade Sunday School class at my local church. Yesterday, it was my week to teach the lesson, which concerned the birth of John the Baptist and the prophecy of Zechariah from Luke 1:57-80. So having explained the activity in verses 59-63, where the neighbors and relatives assume the infant will be named after his father, and Elizabeth tells them his name is John “And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered” (vv. 62-63), one of my students immediately raised his hand and asked, “If his only problem was that he couldn’t speak, then why did they have to use sign language to talk to him?”
Did you ever wonder about that? It never once crossed my mind. Are you as smart as a third grader?
Today, I looked it up at the online ESV Study Bible. Here’s what I learned.
They made signs to his father indicates that Zechariah was deaf as well as mute, or else they would simply have spoken to him (see note on v. 22). This is confirmed by the people’s amazement (v. 63) that he chose the same name as Elizabeth chose, something that would not have been surprising if he had been able to hear her.
So naturally I also checked out the note at verse 22, which explicitly states that Zechariah was “mute”. Here’s what that note reveals:
Mute (Gk. kōphos) can mean either “mute” or “deaf,” depending on the context, and there is some evidence that it can at times mean “deaf and mute” (see note on vv. 62-63).
So, once again, you learn something new every day. Are you smarter than a third grader? I’m not!
The Instrument of Faith
Who will become a child of God? The one who is “in Christ.” Who will get “into Christ”? The one who receives Christ by faith, or, according to the original Greek, believing “into” him. John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in (literally, “into”) his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
Faith which places the sinner “in Christ” is not merely an acknowledgment that there was a historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth who embarked on an itinerant ministry which lead many first century Jews to conclude that he was the Anointed One (“Christ”) proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets. Faith in Christ does begin with such knowledge, even assenting to the truthfulness of such a proposition, but it must also result in a willingness to rest on the righteousness which Christ is proclaimed in the gospel message to have earned by his flawless observance of the law of Moses which has at its heart the moral law of God, confessing that by one’s own observance of God’s law he will not be able to earn for himself the same kind of inherent righteousness. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:16:
So being found in Christ depends on having the righteousness of Christ which comes from God, and having the righteousness which comes from God depends on faith. In Philippians 3:9 it is written, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” So we see that when faith is imputed as righteousness, faith is not the thing that makes a person inherently righteous, but rather it is simply what the Westminster Divines call in Q&A #73 of the Larger Catechism, “an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.”