Steps to Homeschool Success

Parent Magazine recently posted an article with eight steps to a successful homeschool education. For those that may follow the blog, you may find this article helpful in preparation of educating your children at home. Working part time for a classical tutorial that aids families who choose to homeschool their children one of the common pitfalls I find is mentioned within the article. It reads,

Homeschoolers say there are three issues that often stymie beginners. First: feeling isolated. Make sure you’ve followed the advice in Step 3 and joined a support group. It’s not just for the kids, although socialization is critical for them. Homeschooling parents need to connect with likeminded adults too. Another potential problem is committing to a curriculum too early. Dobson notes that some new homeschoolers purchase an expensive packaged curriculum right away, only to find that it doesn’t suit their child’s learning style. Experiment for a while before you plunk down a lot of cash.

You can read the full eight steps to homeschool success here. 


Twisted Modalism

modalIf there is one great problem (heresy) I have encountered during my four years in Baltimore Maryland it is modalism, or sometimes called  sabellianism, modalistic monarchianism, modal monarchism, or as those who I have encountered claim to believe in the oneness of god. Another way of describing it (my way) is the non-trinitarian or better yet, anti-trinitarian belief that  leads one to the worship of a false god. What exactly is modalism?

In the early Church a form of unorthodox teaching on the Trinity which denied the permanence of the three Persons and maintained that the distinctions in the Godhead were only transitory. Among its leading exponents were Praxeas, Noetus, and Sabellius. It was a form of Monarchianism and also known as Patripassianism. There is only one person in God who represents himself in the roles of three persons. Michael Horton simply defines it, “they believe there is only one person in God who represents himself in the roles of three persons.”

Acts 2:38 reads, And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Believing that there is only one person of the Godhead who manifests Himself in three ways as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Oneness Pentecostals appeal to this verse along with Acts 8:16, 19:5, and Mt 28:19 as support. In doing so they embrace modalism, an anti-Trinitarian heresy that was condemned by the Synod of Smyrna in a.d. 200. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds also condemn modalism. The Scriptures are full of references to the triune nature of God (see Mt 3:16–17; Lk 1:35; Jn 14:26). More than 60 NT verses mention the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same verse. The members of the Godhead are co-existent and co-equal, one in essence and yet three in person.

R.C. Sproul has written on modalism the following,

One of the first of these heretical movements that emerged in the third and fourth centuries was monarchianism. Few people are acquainted with this theological term, but the root word is quite familiar: monarch. When we think about a monarch, we think of a ruler of a nation, a king or a queen. If we break down the word monarch, we find that it consists of a prefix, mono, which means “one,” coupled with the word arch, which comes from the Greek arche. This word could mean “beginning”; for instance, it appears in the prologue of John’s gospel, when the apostle writes, “In the beginning was the Word.” But it also could mean “chief or ruler.” So, a monarch was a single ruler, and a monarchy was a system of rule by one. Monarchianism, then, was the attempt to preserve the unity of God, or monotheism. The first great heresy that the church had to confront with respect to monarchianism was called “modalistic monarchianism” or simply “modalism.” The idea behind modalism was that all three persons of the Trinity are the same person, but that they behave in unique “modes” at different times. Modalists held that God was initially the Creator, then became the Redeemer, then became the Spirit at Pentecost. The divine person who came to earth as the incarnate Jesus was the same person who had created all things. When He returned to heaven, He took up His role as the Father again, but then returned to earth as the Holy Spirit. As you can see, the idea here was that there is only one God, but that He acts in different modes, or different expressions, from time to time. The chief proponent of modalism was a man named Sabellius. According to one ancient writer, Sabellius illustrated modalism by comparing God to the sun. He noted that the sun has three modes: its form in the sky, its light, and its warmth. By way of analogy, he said, God has various modes: the form corresponds to the Father, the light is the Son, and the warmth is the Spirit.

A second form of monarchianism that appeared was called “dynamic monarchianism” or “adoptionism.” This school of thought was also committed to preserving monotheism, but its adherents wanted to give honor and central importance to the person of Christ. Those who propagated this view held that at the time of creation, the first thing God made was the Logos, after which the Logos created everything else. So the Logos is higher than human beings and even angels. He is the Creator, and He predates all things except God. But He is not eternal, because He Himself was created by God, so He is not equal with God. In time, according to adoptionism, the Logos became incarnate in the person of Jesus. In His human nature, the Logos was one with the Father in terms of carrying out the same mission and working toward the same goals. He was obedient to the Father, and because of His obedience, the Father “adopted” Him. Thus, it is proper to call the Logos the Son of God. However, He became the Son of God dynamically. There was a change. He was not always the Son of God, but His Sonship was something He earned. Those who defended this view cited such biblical statements as “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15). They also argued that the New Testament’s descriptions of Christ as “begotten” carry the implication that He had a beginning in time, and anything that has a beginning in time is less than God, because God has no beginning. In short, they believed the Logos is like God, but He is not God. These views prompted the first of the ecumenical councils, the Council of Nicea, which met in AD 325. This council produced the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Christ is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and that He was “begotten, not made.” It further declares that He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God … being of one substance with the Father.” With these affirmations, the church said that scriptural terms such as firstborn and begotten have to do with Christ’s place of honor, not with His biological origin. The church declared that Christ is of the same substance, being, and essence as the Father. Thus, the idea was put forth that God, though three in person, is one in essence.

Maybe those that are so willing to allow such belief a part of their protestantism could address such understanding like that of the Athanasian Creed, Section 28—“He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity” (Qui vult ergo salvus esse, ita de Trinitate sentiat). The error of modalistic monarchianism is in their (blind) focusing on the oneness of God, holding to a strict undefendable definition of oneness to the exclusion of the mass of Biblical proof of the distinction of God. United Pentecostals and Apostolic’s (like Sabellius did) focus solely on the oneness passages (Deut 6:4 & Jn 10:38) to the exclusion of the wealth of scripture that shows the oneness of God is best understood in terms of unity rather than a specific number.


Francis Schaeffer on True Education

In the distant past, it took so long for cultural concepts to spread that by the time they had reached other areas they had sometimes already changed at their place of origin. But today the world is small, and it is very possible to have a monolithic culture spreading rapidly and influencing great sections of mankind. No artificial barriers, such as the Iron Curtain, can keep out the flow of these ideas. As the world has shrunk, and as it has largely become post-Christian, both sides of the Iron Curtain have followed the same methodology and the same basic monolithic thought form—namely, the lack of absolutes and antithesis, leading to pragmatic relativism. In our modern forms of specialized education there is a tendency to lose the whole in the parts, and in this sense we can say that our generation produces few truly educated people. True education means thinking by associating across the various disciplines, and not just being highly qualified in one field, as a technician might be. I suppose no discipline has tended to think more in fragmented fashion than the orthodox or evangelical theology of today. Those standing in the stream of historic Christianity have been especially slow to understand the relationships between various areas of thought. When the apostle warned us to “keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world,” he was not talking of some abstraction. If the Christian is to apply this injunction to himself, he must understand what confronts him antagonistically in his own moment of history. Otherwise he simply becomes a useless museum piece and not a living warrior for Jesus Christ. The orthodox Christian has paid a very heavy price, both in the defense and communication of the gospel, for his failure to think and act as an educated person understanding and at war with the uniformity of our modern culture.


Back to School, and Back to Letting Go

Four quick suggestions for parents with children in education, or parents in education. I presently teach at three different institutions: 7th, 8th, and 9th graders at a classical tutorial, 20-22 year old college students, and a wide range from 20-60 years of age at the seminary. That gives me enough interaction with parents during a week of work that one would need for a semester. It does not matter if I am dealing with the parent of a student, or a parent themselves in my class, the same issues occur. Maybe they will be of some help.

back_to_school_948975-resized-6001. Be Diligent, not Demanding – Work from the beginning to the end of the year with your child and the teacher, and not only show up when you have something to complain or worry about. A harping parent, leads to a harping student.

2. Be Responsible, not Lackadaisical – Accept your role as the parent and make education a priority in your home, and stop expecting the teacher, tutor, or professor to do everything for your child’s growth. You the parent have to work too.

3. Be Attentive, not Absent – Stop your child immediately when bad behavior appears. Show him or her what to do and provide an opportunity
to do it correctly. Discipline should be appropriate and consistent. If there comes a time you take the day off from working with your child, they will understand they as well can take days off from their education.

4. Be Precise, not Vague – Provide clear, detailed, and direct instructions. I find parents expecting much from their child, yet failing to convey to them exactly what they expect for them in education.


Children Learn Regardless: Instruct Them in Holiness

If you neglect to instruct [children] in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie. If ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring.

John Flavel


How Can the Puritans Help Seminary Studies?

lead_largeThe Puritans were a fascinating group of Protestants during the 16th and 17th Century intensely concerned with pious living. The seminary student of today can learn much from the Puritans. In the Puritans we see a people opposed with growing in the knowledge of God and the deep things of Christ. In thought and outlook they were radically God-centered. Their appreciation of God’s sovereign majesty was profound, and their reverence in handling his written word was deep and constant. They were patient, thorough, and methodical in searching the Scriptures.[1] In them we see a great example for the modern seminary student to emulate. The Puritans were also immensely concerned with living out the truths of Scripture in their day to day lives. Puritan Richard Baxter wrote on this point

“Sound doctrine makes a sound judgment, a sound heart, a sound conversation [life] and a sound conscience.”[2]

This shows just how closely related doctrine and practice were for the Puritans. This can be directly correlated to the seminary student of today, namely to live, love and apply the doctrinal truths learned in their studies to their daily lives. It is pointless in my opinion to enter seminary studies if this is not the student’s ultimate goal. The Puritans are one of the best examples of just how this is to be accomplished.The Puritans can also help the seminary student to read the Scripture through an Christological lens. A major principal of interpretation used by the Puritans was the idea, firmly rooted in Scripture, that all of God’s Word points to Christ.[3] This can help the student immensely in their studies because once the student grasps this important hermeneutical principle they will see the bible in a deeper and fuller sense.  Any student studying the Scriptures should desire this, namely to see Jesus Christ in all aspects of their theological studies.

The Puritans can teach the seminary student a great deal in the area of prayer and communion with God. The Puritans had a resolute prayer life and communion with God was of chief importance in their lives. The Puritan Thomas Goodwin described prayer in this manner;

“prayer is the soul’s breathing itself into the bosom of its heavenly Father.”

We can see from this beautiful quote that the Puritans were zealous about prayer and took prayer seriously. They give a great example to follow and the seminary student can learn that even the most studious of students must obtain their education through thoughtful time spent in prayer. Lastly, the Puritans can teach the modern student a great deal in nearly every aspect of the Christian life and practice. I outlined in this paper a few examples of this, but the Puritans can teach us so much more.  Whether its zeal for God, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in all things, the atrocious nature of sin, or the proper understanding of doctrine. The Puritans were great teachers from the past and the modern student would be wise to learn from such men.

 

[1] The Puritan Study, “The Delights and Pains of Puritan Study”, https://spurgeon.wordpress.com/2006/09/06/the-puritan-study-part-1-the-delights-and-pains-of-a-puritan-study.html (accessed March 27,2014).

[2] Peter Lewis, The Genius of Puritanism, (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo GloriaPublications, 1977), 12.   

[3]  Joel Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine For Life. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012) 31.


Why Historical Theology Matters in a Seminary Curriculum

History-repeatsJust why is theological history important, because the study of history provides a classic mode of learning. Examinations of primary and secondary sources help students to think about their subject rigorously. They must learn to organize and assess evidence, analyze problems, interpret complex events, and finally to write with clarity and precision. In short, studying Church History helps students learn how to learn.

History is popular. History’s special appeal comes from its distinctive subject matter, the human past. Church History is interesting because it deals with real people and events, not with abstractions.  The history of the Christian Church from the earliest times to the present offers a boundless variety for selecting favorite topics and pursuing personal interests.

Historical knowledge is important. Amnesia is devastating on the individual level. If I do not know who I am and where I have come from, then I cannot know where I am or should be headed.  Studying Historical theology links seminary students to the Church’s past. Examining the history of Church doctrine down through the ages gives students a better understanding of their own beliefs and their origins. It gives the student a solid foundation of doctrine firmly established throughout the ages and gives depth to their own faith.

Studying Historical Theology helps distinguish orthodoxy from heresy. Knowing the past is important because those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it. The heresies of today are nothing new, they are old heresies resurfaced. A good understanding of church history gives one the ability to recognize heresy. For example the modern day cult known as the Jehovah Witnesses is actually a form of the ancient heresy of Arianism, which was dealt with at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. This example shows just how essential it is to know the Church’s past. It gives the student another tool to defend the truths of Christian orthodoxy against all its opponents.

Studying Historical theology also helps with biblical interpretation. Looking at the development of Christian doctrine throughout the ages helps the student to contrast one’s own interpretation with that of the church’s past. Historical theology gives the student a proper lens through which to test their own orthodoxy. For example creeds from the early church such as the Apostles Creed and the Athanasius Creed are some of the earliest attestations of proper biblical interpretation. If a believers interpretation contradicts that of these ancient creeds it would be wise to reevaluate this interpretation. These are just a few reasons why studying Historical theology is important.  It shows us that we are not alone in our Christian faith but that we stand on the shoulders of those great men who have gone before us, history matters.

 

 


Reasons to Consider a Seminary Education

seminary-woes2When one considers seminary education there are several factors that should influence the perspective student’s decision making. First and foremost, any person considering seminary education should have a love for God’s Word, along with a great desire to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Him (Eph. 3:17-19).  In my opinion this is essential, because any person desiring to study God’s Word cannot do so half heartily, he or she must do so with diligence and passion (2 Tim. 2:15).

A second reason one may consider seminary education is out of love for Christ and His Church. Even a casual on looker would be able to ascertain today that the Church is rampantly anti-intellectual and not doctrinally detailed. Seminary education is essential for anyone who desires to preach and teach the Word of God because they will be held accountable for the congregation’s edification and spiritual growth. The bible teaches that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos.4:6). Seminary education helps a believer to grow in God’s Word, equipping them to defend sound doctrine, keeping Christ’s church doctrinally sound.

Thirdly, studying at a seminary helps equip a person’s spiritual walk because studying God’s Word inevitable leads to this end (2 Pet. 3:18). Biblical studies and spiritual growth are linked. Why one asked, because without proper study a believer will remain stagnate in their pursuit of holiness, being limited to milk rather than growing and feeding on the meat of the Word. Seminary education helps equip the believer in their walk, giving them the tools to walk wisely, and in an increasingly unbelieving and hostile world.

Fourth, seminary education can help with family worship – the study of Scripture leads to the worship of the triune God. Therefore when one begins to attend seminary and dedicate his or her time to the study of Scripture this leads to the worship of the God. Learning biblical truth at a seminary will help with family worship because when a person begins to learn biblical truth at seminary he or she will want to share the truths he or she learns with friends and family. They will want to honor God through what they have learned sharing God’s Word with the people that they love.

Lastly Seminary studies equip the believer with the tools to go out and do their part in the spreading of the gospel for Christ Kingdom. The Bible tells us to be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Seminary is a great place to study and grow in the knowledge of the truth so that we may become good soldiers of Jesus Christ and for His Kingdom.

 

 


Essential Tools Essential for Seminary Studies

theological-toolsBefore entering seminary there are several tools that a perspective student should become familiar with and learn how to use before ever taking a class. I dare say (to the traditionalist) that a lap top computer is essential. It would help the student immensely to become familiar with this technology and acquire basic computer skills. Proper note taking skills are important part of the reason why one must have a lap top prior to attending seminary. The better the student is at taking notes the more likely he or she is prepared for their quizzes, tests, and exams. Before the student begins taking notes there are several steps that can be taken to help in the note taking process. First before class begins the student would be wise to select a seat in the classroom where they can see and hear the speaker well. Second it is important when taking notes to focus on information that may be new and to consider key points and concepts. Lastly, it is helpful when taking notes to use abbreviations and short meaningful phrases when necessary. Thinking that one can keep up to speed typing every word the professor ever says is near impossible. Learning how to short hand notes will give the student the ability to keep up with the teachers lecture so that they do not fall behind.

Another area that is of importance for study is the ability to memorize and retain information. In seminary this is essential because students are often asked to read and memorize a lot of information they have never heard. Some strategies that may help the student in the memorization process are as follows, this can be done by two simple tasks. The first key is to focus on the task at hand, it is important to concentrate on the subject and not to multi task. Second, organization is helpful, organizing the subject matter into related categorize makes memorization easier. It is helpful to read the required material over and over again until you can recite it from memory. Proper Communication skills are also a skill that is used to refine for seminary students. Communication skills can help in many different areas in a person’s life and studying at seminary is no different. Communication skills are important and integral in many classroom assignments. Many seminary courses require students to give oral presentations, speeches, and sermons. Therefore students must become comfortable speaking in front of an audience and learn to articulate their ideas clearly and as intended. Learning such skills will not only help the student during their time at seminary but also in their future careers.

Lastly the ever dreaded reading assignments for seminarians can be a daunting task. It is helpful for any seminary student to begin their own disciplined plan in order to keep them accountable to the semester reading assignments. Seminary courses often require a lot of reading so it is important to set aside sometime each day to focus on reading.  Reading is important but retaining what is read is essential, taking notes as you read helps also the highlighting key passages makes retention easier. If necessary reread the text, especially parts of the text that are complicated and hard to understand. These are just a few simple tips to help any perspective seminary student in their future studies.


Before Entering Seminary Studies

tumblr_mic9jvHIo31qlu4bqo1_500There are several areas I wish I would have considered before entering seminary. I will focus on five things that are of chief importance for anyone considering seminary studies. One thing that I have discovered in my studies is the importance of proper research and writing skills. Why had I never heard of the Turabian style format before? It would help any perspective student to familiarize themselves with the Turabian style of writing. Along with proper writing skills a student must learn proper research skills, this goes hand and hand with paper writing, learning such skills before one enters seminary will help the student immensely, and save much time taken away from their primary studies in seminary.

Another area that is of great importance for seminary studies is a lab top. Most classes require a laptop because many Professors send the class notes and the course syllabus electronically, or expect you to type notes while they lecture. A laptop is also useful in assisting students in their studies, online libraries, and various websites that allow students to purchase class textbooks electronically if they so chose. Laptops also help to make any student self sufficient in their studies. Laptops also assist students in their research and writing, because a laptop gives the student access to websites that can give references to research paper examples and proper format. These are just a few of the many benefits of having a lab top for perspective seminary students.

Another factor I wish I would have considered before entering seminary is the cost of books for my personal library. Nearly every class at seminary requires a textbook sometimes two or three or the list goes on. This can add up after awhile, however there are several places online where you can go and search for the best deals to help you cut down of your textbook expenses. Speaking of books, I wish I would have considered how to effectively use a library for research, this is of utmost importance. Before staring at seminary it would be wise for any perspective student to familiarizing oneself with the ins and outs of a library. For example get to know the different cataloging systems different libraries use, such as Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal etc, or their own institutional cataloging systems they may have for study centers.  Visit your local library and talk with the librarian for help in these areas. This will put you one step ahead of the game and when the time comes when you need to use the library for research you will be more familiar with it. Nothing is worse than learning how to use a library for research when needing to cram a thirty page paper within a week.

The last area to consider before entering seminary is how time consuming theological studies can be. This is important because seminary studies cannot be just a hobby one pursues on the side, (unless you plan on being a part time student for the rest of your life). Full time study takes time and effort one must not only have time for class, but also set aside several hours each day for reading, homework, and studying for exams. Before I entered seminary I did not realize just how time consuming this could be. Seminary is a full time job one must be passionate for theology to invest such time and effort; any perspective student must consider this when having a full time job, family, especially children.

 


C. H. Spurgeon Books

2286_019a83e0661f4d9f93ff79fe904e77e8Logos Bible Software has proven to be a wonderful resource for prepping, researching, and studying for academic papers. More directly, the Spurgeon Collection in the software has been of great assistance in my personal studies. There are a significant amount of articles from a number of resources within Logos, making it convenient for research as everything is in the same program. One of the helpful features about the program is the fact that a search can be tailored to the desire of the searcher. For example, if I wanted to research the piety of Charles Spurgeon I would simply type “piety” in the search bar after having pulled up the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Collection. The search results display all of the articles, letters, sermons, etc., that include the desired word. It actually highlights the desired word within the article so that you can locate that particular area of the topic as well as read the rest of the article for the context of the content that you are seeking. Another good feature is that when you copy and paste a quote or an article it automatically puts in the footnote on the document which makes the process much quicker if you are writing a paper in which citing is required. Using Logos for reach, studies, and writing at an academic level saves time, and who does not want more of that?

If interested in Logos, and more-so the Charles Spurgeon Collection, you can purchase the 149 volumes from Logos.


Understanding How the Justice & Goodness of God go Hand & Hand

Righteousness or sometimes called the Justice of God
Many understand the justice of God like that of Johnny Cash, who writes, “Go tell that long tongue liar, Go and tell that midnight rider, Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter, Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.” Yet Justice does carry two sides, but it shows forth his wrath and judgment, but does include his grace and mercy as we will see. Joel Beeke has stated that in the justice of God, “we see the moral purity in addition to God’s holiness.” As the righteous God he is, God has established a moral order for the universe.  His righteousness means that not only is he righteous and just in himself, but that he will also treat all his creatures fairly. Righteousness is associated with straightness or consistency, and integrity within relationships. In that sense, righteousness is an attribute to God and man. (Psalm 7 gives us this understanding). When it comes to God we may say that divine righteousness is the divine self-consistency within God’s own character and will.  Louis Berkhof describes this as a “strict adherence to law” but we need to understand that this is not to be conceived of in a neutral fashion. God is a law unto himself, not in a way that is given to sudden or unaccountable changes, but in a sense that is true to his own character that never changes. We cannot apply to God what was said of God’s people under the Old Testament, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes then.” God is never a law to himself in this way. God cannot deny himself, for he is faithful to himself and his holy character. The justice of God is the inherent and infinite righteousness of God. God is always straight unto himself. In the Old Testament, the basic words denoting righteousness and justice cluster around two word groups.

The Biblical Terminology of Justice
1. Misphat (mish–pawt): Comes from meaning to judge, it is the result or act of judging, giving a verdict, sentence, or decree.  It is translated often with justice, judgment, ordinances, and right. There are twenty -five passages in which this word is used in reference to God himself and his justice, ordinances and judgments. Examples; Gen. 18:25 reads “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Deut. 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” The other word used within the Jesus’ Testament is…

2. Tsadaq ([t]saw-dak): There are various nouns associated with this verb and all of which basically speak of conformity to an ethical or moral standard of righteousness. In the Old Testament that standard is the character and nature of God himself. God is called righteous and just in himself. The Bible repeatedly indicated that forensically, his judgments and dealings with all mankind are just. In the New Testament we find a rich set of words that connote the righteousness of God. Specifically…

3. Dikaios (dik-ah’-yoce): This is the New Testament term thatmeans just, agreeably to right, uprightly, righteousness. These terms are used in a variety of ways, but commonly refer to right conduct before God, or God’s right conduct to men.  The phrase “the righteousness of God” as used by Paul speaks of a forensic transaction whereby the sinner is pardoned and justified by God.  With such a comprehensive term there is a wealth of biblical material.

The Elements of Justice
1. God’s Moral Purity: Righteousness is very close to Holiness; God does what is right, and does so while always being holy. It is a summary term in Scripture for God’s moral correct behavior or thinking. Some examples; Isaiah writes about the Lord speaking in righteousness in chapter 45, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness.” In the New Testament there are similar references; Matt. 6:33 speaks to “seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” In Romans 5:18 “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Sometimes Christ is referred to as the Righteous One, 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This whole concept of God’s righteousness and moral purity is spoken of in reference to covenant. This brings us to the second area of Justice, the…

2. The Covenantal Context of Justice: This is particular in reference to God’s living relationship with his people, set again and again in this covenantal context.  It means that God’s righteousness is his total consistency with his covenantal revelation of himself and his covenantal pledge to his people. God shows his righteous acts to all the villages of Israel.  In terms of manifesting righteousness, it is expressive of divine integrity bound up in it.  God’s divine-human relationship is forged in the context of covenant.  That is the reason why the supreme revelation of divine righteousness is found in Jesus Christ on the cross, there the heart of God was revealed in covenantal righteousness, and it is a critical aspect of his dynamic relationship to us. In this context we can speak of human righteousness in the covenant creature.  Precisely because we are created in the divine image of the God who is consistent with his covenant, righteousness is both possible and required in us. When Jesus’ Testament speaks about human righteousness, it speaks of possessing integrity in our covenantal relationship with God. That is why the believer in the Old Testament who is described as righteous, is the one who is radically faithful to his covenant obligations (Deut. 24:13).  God looks upon this action as righteous in his own sight. There are two aspects vivid in Jesus’ Testament. The principle that the righteousness of God is manifested in one, terrible condemnation, and two, merciful deliverance.  This is a result of a proceeding truth, which is, the absolute integrity of God to the revelation given of himself in his covenant. If we lack either perspective which lies at the root of his righteousness we lose the full biblical picture of God’s righteousness. There is a side that speaks of his love and grace and that which speaks of his re-trib-u-tive justice. Example:  Consider Martin Luther. Luther named the righteousness of God as retributive, viewing the idea as a thought of punishing.  He hated the word righteousness.  That righteousness is not to be equated only with punishing/retributive justice and began to understand God’s righteousness as manifested in the gospel as part of God’s mercy and covenant faithfulness.  Luther came to understand that as a righteous God he is a Savior. This moves him from seeing it in terms of justice as also manifested in grace and salvation within the context of covenant.

3. Justice &Righteousness (from the root ṣdq) in the Old Testament it is a simultaneously forensic and relational term. It is a “right relationship” that is legally verified by obedience to the covenantal stipulations. It is related closely to mišpaṭ (justice). God’s righteousness is also connected with his mercy, especially in the Psalms. “The maintenance of the fellowship now becomes the justification of the ungodly. No manner of human effort, but only that righteousness which is the gift of God, can lead to that conduct which is truly in keeping with the covenant.” God has a moral vision for his creation, which is revealed in the various covenants that he makes with human beings in history, and his righteousness involves his determination to see that vision through to the end for his glory and the good of creation. At the same time, God’s righteousness cannot simply be collapsed into his mercy (i.e., justification by grace through faith). As the revelation of God’s moral will (i.e., law), God’s righteousness condemns all people as transgressors; as the revelation of God’s saving will (i.e., the gospel), God’s righteousness saves all who believe (Ro 3:19–26). In both cases, God upholds his own righteousness. Against Albrecht Ritschl’s view, which collapses righteousness into mercy, Barth affirms that God’s righteousness includes the concept of distributive justice—“a righteousness which judges and therefore both exculpates and condemns, rewards and also punishes.” Yet for Barth, this condemnation turns out to be just another form of love and grace. According to Barth, God’s wrath is always a form of mercy. However, in Scripture, God’s wrath is his righteous response to sin and his mercy is a free decision to grant absolution to the guilty. As we have seen, God is free to show mercy on whomever he will and to leave the rest under his just condemnation. The righteousness that God discloses in the law brings condemnation, but the gift of righteousness that God gives brings justification and life (Ro 3:19–22). Once again, it is at the cross where we see the marvelous unity of divine attributes that might seem otherwise to clash. This paradox is lost if mercy, righteousness, and wrath are synonymous terms.

The Applications of Justice
To the saved: There are much more nuanced applications for the believer of Christ than the unbeliever.

1. We should reflect God’s justice/righteousness.

2. In financial dealings we should be equitable, reflecting the fairness of God.  This is something that is not thought of as often as it should be.

3. We should revere God’s justice. We read of that in 1 Peter 1, where Peter speaks in vv. 17-19.  We understand that God judges rightly and only by Christ’s righteousness that we have been saved.  The Lord loves judgment and forsakes not his saints.

4. We also hope in God and his justice for remuneration, Isa. 30:18.  God will make things right on the Day of Judgment. We know that he will be righteous and judge even though we don’t see it here.  2 Thess. 1:4-8. We should defer to God’s justice for retribution, Rom. 12:19.  God is in control and exercises just retribution.

5. We should appeal to God’s justice; we do so in our intercessions. Example; Gen. 18:23-25, Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?  He appeals to the righteousness of God.  We should model that for our people too.  We should rest in God’s promises that he will perform them since he is always righteous and true to his Word.  God is always true to his word of warning and salvation and grace. He is just in his dealings with his children. He protects us and guards us and works all things together for good.  God will not forsake us nor make any mistakes with us.  God is righteous. We should bless and praise God for his righteousness, Ps.  33:4-5 reads, “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.”

To the unsaved: They are called to repentance.  No one can escape God’s righteous judgment. Rom. 2:3 reads, Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” [6]  People need to be warned and we need to warn them in our ministry not to despise God’s goodness and forbearance.  Paul goes on to say in Romans 2:4, the unbeliever looks around and doesn’t see punishment for wrong done right now and presumes that God will not punish at all forgetting God’s timeless character. God’s righteousness stands over that and declares that God will judge without respect of person, by standards of law and gospel therefore you must repent and get right before God, you must immediately seek his face in repentance and faith.

The Goodness of God
Is one of the most familiar themes of the Scriptures when speaking about God.  He is good in an incredible diversity of ways to all his creatures. Most Reformed systematic theologians take up the attributes of mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering.  That does not mean that each of these terms are identical, but it does mean that a God who is fundamentally good expresses that goodness in many different ways like; mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering. Michael Horton wonderfully writes on this area, “God’s knowledge, wisdom, and power are inseparable from his goodness. In fact, in the strict sense, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk 10:18). God’s infinite goodness is the source of all creaturely imitations. Precisely because God does not depend on the world, his goodness is never threatened. God is good toward all he has made, even his enemies (Ps 145:9, 15–16; Mt 5:45). He can afford to be, because he is God with or without them.

The Biblical Terminology of Goodness
1. Towb (tobe = tove): This is the most common word within the OT.  It is used as an adjective, sometimes as a verb, but mostly as a noun, translated good, goodness, kindness, prosperity, bountiful.  It’s specifically used of God’s goodness 84 times in the OT.  The LORD is good and does good.

2. tuwb (toob = toov): meaning; goodness, gladness, to go well with, and it is used of God at least 17 times with the OT.

3. yatab (yaw-tab): to do good and to do well; used of God 19 times in the OT; refers to God’s beneficent attitude particularly in his dealings towards his people. In the NT we read of 2 main family words…

4. agathos (ag-ath-os): the most general word for good, what is morally proper, beneficial.  Translated as good or well, used 10 times of God’s goodness in the NT.

5. chrestotes (khray-stot’-ace): refers to moral excellence; usually translated goodness, kindness, gentleness, used 6-7 times of God of its eight times used in the NT. All of these combined, the Scriptures speak 136 times that God is referred to as good.

The Displays of God’s Goodness
1. Creation: God is concerned about the well being of his own creation and does things to promote that well -being, but not outside of righteousness and holiness.  Rather because he does what is righteous and holy he promotes their well-being. One of the classic texts is James 1:17, “every good gift and perfect gift…no variableness or shadow of turning.” Another text is Matt. 7:11, where it refers to human beings knowing how to give good gifts to their children….It comes as no surprise to us given the inherent goodness of God that Scripture abounds with God’s goodness in a variety of ways. God declares his creative goodness when he declares his creation good.  In Ps. 136:5-9, his goodness endureth forever. Puritan Stephen Charnock, spends 11 pages on the display of God’s goodness in creation. There he expounds the idea that the world was made for man, to gratify man with all his goodness. Creation drips with God’s goodness.

2. Providence: Ps. 136:25 reads, “who gives food to all flesh, his goodness endures forever.”  God gives it to all flesh, all living creatures. He provides food for man and beast alike. His providence manifests itself in a variety of ways: in its covenantal foundation, Gen. 6:17-19 and 9:8-11.  The point is that God is good to Noah as a covenant keeping God in the realm of natural things.  God perpetuates life in our family and society. He tempers the curse that man deserves, Gen. 9:2.  He makes abundant provision to keep us alive, restrains sin in society, and calls men to repentance.  God is lavish; his providence is not only keeping people alive but he gives abundantly.  How good God is in so many ways in his providence that we often take for granted.  There is a special kind of goodness that he manifests in a special providence over those that fear him.  The Lord preserves all them that love him. It focuses particularly on his children. The Lord pities them that fear him.

3. Redemption: Preeminently God’s goodness in his redemption of us.  This is apparent in his dealings with the exodus and redemption from Egypt.  Manifested today as well in redeeming us from sin in Jesus Christ and in bringing the Holy Spirit to teach us the things of God.  Every individual believer in his path of salvation experiences the goodness of God.  We receive every spiritual blessing as believers in Christ Jesus.  That is God’s goodness. God applies his redemption to us initially (Eph. 2:1-10), but also by continuing to apply redemption to us over and over again.  Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  One day, God’s goodness will lead us into the new heavens and new earth, we will sin no more, Ps. 23:6.

One theologian wrote, “Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news, My head’s been wet with the midnight dew, I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee, He spoke to me in the voice so sweet, I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet, He called my name and my heart stood still, When he said, “John go do My will!” Johnny Cash experience the goodness of God.

The Practical Applications of God’s Goodness
1. We should contemplate God’s goodness, Ps. 107:43 reads, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

2. We should hunger and plead to grasp God’s goodness.

3. We should proclaim God’s goodness. Having been forgiven much they ought to forgive much.  Having tasted of the love of God we ought to love him.  Our lives ought to reflect that goodness in our lives, imitate it, and love our enemies, Matt. 5:45.

4. We should anticipate God’s goodness.  We should not wallow in unbelief and fear the worst and we forget that God is always good, Ps. 27.  One way to not become overwhelmed in trying circumstances is to consider, when has God not been good to me?  That will take care of your problems. We should appreciate his goodness; treasure it, love it, Ezra 3:11.

5. We should show deep respect for God for his goodness, Ex. 34:8.  The goodness of God ought never to produce shallowness in us, but sacred worship.  Irreverent familiarity is an abuse of God’s goodness and doesn’t come from him.  So many say that God is good and flippantly go on their way, but a real understanding of God’s goodness makes us make haste, bow our heads and worship.

 

 


The Spirit Stamps God’s Image on Believers

Jonathan Edwards writes,

When God sets his seal on a man’s heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in Scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark stamped by the Spirit on God’s children is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God’s children; they have the image of their Father stamped upon their hearts by the Spirit of adoption.

***Taken from Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).


John Owen on the Spirit of Adoption

If you are doubtful concerning your state and condition, do not expect an extraordinary determination of it by an immediate testimony of the Spirit of God. I do grant that God doth sometimes, by this means, bring in peace and satisfaction unto the soul. He gives his own Spirit immediately “to bear witness with ours that we are the children of God,” both upon the account of regeneration and adoption. He doth so; but, as far as we can observe, in a way of sovereignty, when and to whom he pleaseth. Besides, that men may content and satisfy themselves with his ordinary teachings, consolations, and communications of his grace, he hath left the nature of that peculiar testimony of the Spirit very dark and difficult to be found out, few agreeing wherein it doth consist or what is the nature of it. No one man’s experience is a rule unto others, and an undue apprehension of it is a matter of great danger. Yet it is certain that humble souls in extraordinary cases may have recourse unto it with benefit and relief thereby. This, then, you may desire, you may pray for, but not with such a frame of spirit as to refuse that other satisfaction which in the ways of truth and peace you may find. This is the putting of the hand into the side of Christ; but “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

*** Taken from John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 6 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 594.


Why Use Collaborative Activities in the Online Classroom?

Additionally, collaboration allows students to:

  1. Think deeply and clarify their own thinking on various topics and ideas
  2. Explore other points of view
  3. Develop teamwork skills that are valuable in the workplace and ministry
  4. Break down complex problems into manageable chunks
  5. Understand how to give and accept effective feedback
  6. Gain better communication and interpersonal skills
  7. Test new ideas in a supportive environment
  8. Grasp another culture’s understanding of the ideas in discussion

Adoption is a Greater Mercy than Adam had in Paradise

Adoption is a greater mercy than Adam had in paradise; he was a son by creation, but here is a further sonship by adoption. To make us thankful, consider, in civil adoption there is some worth and excellence in the person to be adopted; but there was no worth in us, neither beauty, nor parentage, nor virtue; nothing in us to move God to correct us, but nothing to move him to adopt us, therefore exalt free grace; begin the work of angels here; bless him with your praises who has blessed you in making you his sons and daughters.
***Taken from Thomas Watson, author of, A Body of Divinity (1692)

Understanding both, the Justice and Goodness of God

Righteousness or sometimes called the Justice of God

Many understand the justice of God like that of Johnny Cash, who writes,

“Go tell that long tongue liar, Go and tell that midnight rider, Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter, Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.” Yet Justice does carry two sides, but it shows forth his wrath and judgment, but does include his grace and mercy as we will see.

Joel Beeke has stated that in the justice of God, “we see the moral purity in addition to God’s holiness.” As the righteous God he is, God has established a moral order for the universe.  His righteousness means that not only is he righteous and just in himself, but that he will also treat all his creatures fairly. Righteousness is associated with straightness or consistency, and integrity within relationships. In that sense, righteousness is an attribute to God and man. (Psalm 7 gives us this understanding). When it comes to God we may say that divine righteousness is the divine self-consistency within God’s own character and will.  Louis Berkhof describes this as a “strict adherence to law” but we need to understand that this is not to be conceived of in a neutral fashion. God is a law unto himself, not in a way that is given to sudden or unaccountable changes, but in a sense that is true to his own character that never changes. We cannot apply to God what was said of God’s people under the Old Testament, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes then.” God is never a law to himself in this way. God cannot deny himself, for he is faithful to himself and his holy character. The justice of God is the inherent and infinite righteousness of God. God is always straight unto himself. In the Old Testament, the basic words denoting righteousness and justice cluster around two word groups.

The Biblical Terminology of Justice

1. Misphat (mish–pawt): Comes from meaning to judge, it is the result or act of judging, giving a verdict, sentence, or decree.  It is translated often with justice, judgment, ordinances, and right. There are twenty -five passages in which this word is used in reference to God himself and his justice, ordinances and judgments. Examples; Gen. 18:25 reads “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” Deut. 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” The other word used within the Jesus’ Testament is…

2. Tsadaq ([t]saw-dak): There are various nouns associated with this verb and all of which basically speak of conformity to an ethical or moral standard of righteousness. In the Old Testament that standard is the character and nature of God himself. God is called righteous and just in himself. The Bible repeatedly indicated that forensically, his judgments and dealings with all mankind are just. In the New Testament we find a rich set of words that connote the righteousness of God. Specifically…

3. Dikaios (dik-ah’-yoce): This is the New Testament term thatmeans just, agreeably to right, uprightly, righteousness. These terms are used in a variety of ways, but commonly refer to right conduct before God, or God’s right conduct to men.  The phrase “the righteousness of God” as used by Paul speaks of a forensic transaction whereby the sinner is pardoned and justified by God.  With such a comprehensive term there is a wealth of biblical material.

The Elements of Justice

1. God’s Moral Purity: Righteousness is very close to Holiness; God does what is right, and does so while always being holy. It is a summary term in Scripture for God’s moral correct behavior or thinking. Some examples; Isaiah writes about the Lord speaking in righteousness in chapter 45, “By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness.” In the New Testament there are similar references; Matt. 6:33 speaks to “seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” In Romans 5:18 “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men Sometimes Christ is referred to as the Righteous One, 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This whole concept of God’s righteousness and moral purity is spoken of in reference to covenant. This brings us to the second area of Justice, the…

2. The Covenantal Context of Justice: This is particular in reference to God’s living relationship with his people, set again and again in this covenantal context.  It means that God’s righteousness is his total consistency with his covenantal revelation of himself and his covenantal pledge to his people. God shows his righteous acts to all the villages of Israel.  In terms of manifesting righteousness, it is expressive of divine integrity bound up in it.  God’s divine-human relationship is forged in the context of covenant.  That is the reason why the supreme revelation of divine righteousness is found in Jesus Christ on the cross, there the heart of God was revealed in covenantal righteousness, and it is a critical aspect of his dynamic relationship to us. In this context we can speak of human righteousness in the covenant creature.  Precisely because we are created in the divine image of the God who is consistent with his covenant, righteousness is both possible and required in us. When Jesus’ Testament speaks about human righteousness, it speaks of possessing integrity in our covenantal relationship with God. That is why the believer in the Old Testament who is described as righteous, is the one who is radically faithful to his covenant obligations (Deut. 24:13).  God looks upon this action as righteous in his own sight. There are two aspects vivid in Jesus’ Testament. The principle that the righteousness of God is manifested in one, terrible condemnation, and two, merciful deliverance.  This is a result of a proceeding truth, which is, the absolute integrity of God to the revelation given of himself in his covenant. If we lack either perspective which lies at the root of his righteousness we lose the full biblical picture of God’s righteousness. There is a side that speaks of his love and grace and that which speaks of his re-trib-u-tive justice.

Example:  Consider Martin Luther. Luther named the righteousness of God as retributive, viewing the idea as a thought of punishing.  He hated the word righteousness.  That righteousness is not to be equated only with punishing/retributive justice and began to understand God’s righteousness as manifested in the gospel as part of God’s mercy and covenant faithfulness.  Luther came to understand that as a righteous God he is a Savior. This moves him from seeing it in terms of justice as also manifested in grace and salvation within the context of covenant.

3. Justice &Righteousness (from the root ṣdq) in the Old Testament it is a simultaneously forensic and relational term. It is a “right relationship” that is legally verified by obedience to the covenantal stipulations. It is related closely to mišpaṭ (justice). God’s righteousness is also connected with his mercy, especially in the Psalms. “The maintenance of the fellowship now becomes the justification of the ungodly. No manner of human effort, but only that righteousness which is the gift of God, can lead to that conduct which is truly in keeping with the covenant.” God has a moral vision for his creation, which is revealed in the various covenants that he makes with human beings in history, and his righteousness involves his determination to see that vision through to the end for his glory and the good of creation.

At the same time, God’s righteousness cannot simply be collapsed into his mercy (i.e., justification by grace through faith). As the revelation of God’s moral will (i.e., law), God’s righteousness condemns all people as transgressors; as the revelation of God’s saving will (i.e., the gospel), God’s righteousness saves all who believe (Ro 3:19–26). In both cases, God upholds his own righteousness. Against Albrecht Ritschl’s view, which collapses righteousness into mercy, Barth affirms that God’s righteousness includes the concept of distributive justice—“a righteousness which judges and therefore both exculpates and condemns, rewards and also punishes.” Yet for Barth, this condemnation turns out to be just another form of love and grace. According to Barth, God’s wrath is always a form of mercy. However, in Scripture, God’s wrath is his righteous response to sin and his mercy is a free decision to grant absolution to the guilty. As we have seen, God is free to show mercy on whomever he will and to leave the rest under his just condemnation. The righteousness that God discloses in the law brings condemnation, but the gift of righteousness that God gives brings justification and life (Ro 3:19–22). Once again, it is at the cross where we see the marvelous unity of divine attributes that might seem otherwise to clash. This paradox is lost if mercy, righteousness, and wrath are synonymous terms.

The Applications of Justice

To the saved: There are much more nuanced applications for the believer of Christ than the unbeliever.

1. We should reflect God’s justice/righteousness.

2. In financial dealings we should be equitable, reflecting the fairness of God.  This is something that is not thought of as often as it should be.

3. We should revere God’s justice. We read of that in 1 Peter 1, where Peter speaks in vv. 17-19.  We understand that God judges rightly and only by Christ’s righteousness that we have been saved.  The Lord loves judgment and forsakes not his saints.

4. We also hope in God and his justice for remuneration, Isa. 30:18.  God will make things right on the Day of Judgment. We know that he will be righteous and judge even though we don’t see it here.  2 Thess. 1:4-8. We should defer to God’s justice for retribution, Rom. 12:19.  God is in control and exercises just retribution.

5. We should appeal to God’s justice; we do so in our intercessions. Example; Gen. 18:23-25, Abraham’s intercession for Sodom and Gomorrah. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?  He appeals to the righteousness of God.  We should model that for our people too.  We should rest in God’s promises that he will perform them since he is always righteous and true to his Word.  God is always true to his word of warning and salvation and grace. He is just in his dealings with his children. He protects us and guards us and works all things together for good.  God will not forsake us nor make any mistakes with us.  God is righteous. We should bless and praise God for his righteousness, Ps.  33:4-5 reads, “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.”

 To the unsaved: They are called to repentance.  No one can escape God’s righteous judgment. Rom. 2:3 reads, Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”  People need to be warned and we need to warn them in our ministry not to despise God’s goodness and forbearance.  Paul goes on to say in Romans 2:4, the unbeliever looks around and doesn’t see punishment for wrong done right now and presumes that God will not punish at all forgetting God’s timeless character. God’s righteousness stands over that and declares that God will judge without respect of person, by standards of law and gospel therefore you must repent and get right before God, you must immediately seek his face in repentance and faith.

The Goodness of God: Is one of the most familiar themes of the Scriptures when speaking about God.  He is good in an incredible diversity of ways to all his creatures. Most Reformed systematic theologians take up the attributes of mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering.  That does not mean that each of these terms are identical, but it does mean that a God who is fundamentally good expresses that goodness in many different ways like; mercy, grace, loving kindness, and longsuffering. Michael Horton wonderfully writes on this area,

“God’s knowledge, wisdom, and power are inseparable from his goodness. In fact, in the strict sense, Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Mk 10:18). God’s infinite goodness is the source of all creaturely imitations. Precisely because God does not depend on the world, his goodness is never threatened. God is good toward all he has made, even his enemies (Ps 145:9, 15–16; Mt 5:45). He can afford to be, because he is God with or without them.

The Biblical Terminology of Goodness

1. Towb (tobe = tove): This is the most common word within the OT.  It is used as an adjective, sometimes as a verb, but mostly as a noun, translated good, goodness, kindness, prosperity, bountiful.  It’s specifically used of God’s goodness 84 times in the OT.  The LORD is good and does good.

2. tuwb (toob = toov): meaning; goodness, gladness, to go well with, and it is used of God at least 17 times with the OT.

3. yatab (yaw-tab): to do good and to do well; used of God 19 times in the OT; refers to God’s beneficent attitude particularly in his dealings towards his people.

In the NT we read of 2 main family words…

4. agathos (ag-ath-os): the most general word for good, what is morally proper, beneficial.  Translated as good or well, used 10 times of God’s goodness in the NT.

5. chrestotes (khray-stot’-ace): refers to moral excellence; usually translated goodness, kindness, gentleness, used 6-7 times of God of its eight times used in the NT.

All of these combined, the Scriptures speak 136 times that God is referred to as good.

The Displays of God’s Goodness

1. Creation: God is concerned about the well being of his own creation and does things to promote that well -being, but not outside of righteousness and holiness.  Rather because he does what is righteous and holy he promotes their well-being. One of the classic texts is James 1:17, “every good gift and perfect gift…no variableness or shadow of turning.” Another text is Matt. 7:11, where it refers to human beings knowing how to give good gifts to their children….It comes as no surprise to us given the inherent goodness of God that Scripture abounds with God’s goodness in a variety of ways. God declares his creative goodness when he declares his creation good.  In Ps. 136:5-9, his goodness endureth forever. Puritan Stephen Charnock, spends 11 pages on the display of God’s goodness in creation. There he expounds the idea that the world was made for man, to gratify man with all his goodness. Creation drips with God’s goodness.

2. Providence: Ps. 136:25 reads, “who gives food to all flesh, his goodness endures forever.”  God gives it to all flesh, all living creatures. He provides food for man and beast alike. His providence manifests itself in a variety of ways: in its covenantal foundation, Gen. 6:17-19 and 9:8-11.  The point is that God is good to Noah as a covenant keeping God in the realm of natural things.  God perpetuates life in our family and society. He tempers the curse that man deserves, Gen. 9:2.  He makes abundant provision to keep us alive, restrains sin in society, and calls men to repentance.  God is lavish; his providence is not only keeping people alive but he gives abundantly.  How good God is in so many ways in his providence that we often take for granted.  There is a special kind of goodness that he manifests in a special providence over those that fear him.  The Lord preserves all them that love him. It focuses particularly on his children. The Lord pities them that fear him.

3. Redemption: Preeminently God’s goodness in his redemption of us.  This is apparent in his dealings with the exodus and redemption from Egypt.  Manifested today as well in redeeming us from sin in Jesus Christ and in bringing the Holy Spirit to teach us the things of God.  Every individual believer in his path of salvation experiences the goodness of God.  We receive every spiritual blessing as believers in Christ Jesus.  That is God’s goodness. God applies his redemption to us initially (Eph. 2:1-10), but also by continuing to apply redemption to us over and over again.  Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  One day, God’s goodness will lead us into the new heavens and new earth, we will sin no more, Ps. 23:6.

One theologian wrote,

“Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news, My head’s been wet with the midnight dew, I’ve been down on bended knee talkin’ to the man from Galilee, He spoke to me in the voice so sweet, I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet, He called my name and my heart stood still, When he said, “John go do My will!” Johnny Cash experience the goodness of God.

The Practical Applications of God’s Goodness

1. We should contemplate God’s goodness, Ps. 107:43 reads, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

2. We should hunger and plead to grasp God’s goodness.

3. We should proclaim God’s goodness. Having been forgiven much they ought to forgive much.  Having tasted of the love of God we ought to love him.  Our lives ought to reflect that goodness in our lives, imitate it, and love our enemies, Matt. 5:45.

4. We should anticipate God’s goodness.  We should not wallow in unbelief and fear the worst and we forget that God is always good, Ps. 27.  One way to not become overwhelmed in trying circumstances is to consider, when has God not been good to me?  That will take care of your problems. We should appreciate his goodness; treasure it, love it, Ezra 3:11.

5. We should show deep respect for God for his goodness, Ex. 34:8.  The goodness of God ought never to produce shallowness in us, but sacred worship.  Irreverent familiarity is an abuse of God’s goodness and doesn’t come from him.  So many say that God is good and flippantly go on their way, but a real understanding of God’s goodness makes us make haste, bow our heads and worship.

 


A Child’s Failing

A father out of indulgence may pass by a failing when his son waits upon him; for instance, suppose he should spill the wine and break the glass; but surely he will not allow him to throw it down carelessly or wilfully.”

Every one can see that there is a grave distinction between sins of infirmity and wilful transgressions. A man may splash us very badly with the wheel of his carriage, as he passes by, and we may feel vexed, but the feeling would have been very much more keen if he had thrown mud into our face with deliberate intent. By the grace of God, we do not sin wilfully. Our wrongdoing comes of ignorance or of carelessness, and causes us many a pang of conscience, for we would fain be blameless before our God. Wilfully to offend is not according to our mind. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. Deliberation and delight in sin are sure marks of the heirs of wrath. Sin in believers is a terrible evil, but there is this mitigation of it, that they do not love it, and cannot rest in it. The true son does not wish to do damage to his father’s goods; on the contrary, he loves to please his father, and he is himself grieved when he causes grief to one whom he so highly honors. O my Lord, I pray thee let me not sin carelessly, lest I come to sin presumptuously. Make me to be watchful against my infirmities, that I may not fall by little and little.

*** Taken from C. H. Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Distilled and Dispensed (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 18.


Bird Tied by a String

A bird that is tied by a string seems to have more liberty than a bird in a cage; it flutters up and down, and yet it is held fast.

WHEN a man thinks that he has escaped from the bondage of sin in general, and yet evidently remains under the power of some one favored lust, he is woefully mistaken in his judgment as to his spiritual freedom. He may boast that he is out of the cage, but assuredly the string is on his leg. He who has his fetters knocked off, all but one chain, is a prisoner still. “Let not any iniquity have dominion over me” is a good and wise prayer; for one pampered sin will slay the soul as surely as one dose of poison will kill the body. There is no need for a traveller to be bitten by a score of deadly vipers, the tooth of one cobra is quite sufficient to insure his destruction. One sin, like one match, can kindle the fires of hell within the soul. The practical application of this truth should be made by the professor who is a slave to drink, or to covetousness, or to passion. How can you be free if any one of these chains still holds you fast? We have met with professors who are haughty, and despise others; how can these be the Lord’s free men while pride surrounds them? In will and intent we must break every bond of sin, and we must perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, or we cannot hope that the Son has made us free. O thou who art the free Spirit, break every bond of sin, I beseech thee.

***Taken from C. H. Spurgeon, Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Distilled and Dispensed (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 7–8.


Enjoying the Omnipotence of God

Puritan Richard Baxter writes,

From this greatness and immensity of God also your soul must reverently stay all its busy, bold inquiries, and know that God is to us, and to every creature, incomprehensible. If you could fathom or measure him, and know his greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he were not God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. You may know God, but not comprehend him; as your foot treads on the earth, but does not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon.”

Defining God’s Omnipotence
Chapter eight in our book covers the doctrine theologians call the omnipotence of God, commonly referred to in the Reformed circles as the Sovereign Power of God. The term omnipotencecomes from the Latin Potestas which means power, and Omni meaning all – thus we use the theological term omnipotence to describe that God is the all-powerful one. As creatures we have power too, this attribute is communicable, but incommunicable in that our power is limited, whereas God’s power is without limits or an end. God alone has self-existent power; this is something we do not have. The Scriptures teach of God’s incommunicable power (Omnipotence) specifically in three ways;

1. He alone has infinite power in Ephesians 1:19-23 “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

2. He alone has eternal power in Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

3. He alone has unchangeable power in Isa. 40:28 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

 

The Misconceptions of God’s Omnipotence
1. Total Omnipotence:
This is the doctrine of scholastics who claim that God is capable of doing everything without any limitation whatsoever. They are usually those who commonly enjoy telling others that God cannot be placed in a box. This understanding of total omnipotence leads to absurd conclusions that God for example can sin, cease to exist, effect contradictions making yes equal no, or the common question I get in seminary, “what if God chose to leave the Trinity” as if an unchangeable covenant between them could take place. It is important for us to know that the Scriptures make it clear that there are things that God cannot do. God is not a man that he should lie, and we know God cannot lie. 2 Tim. 2:13 we read, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” God will keep his promise in remaining faithful and cannot deny himself.  James 1:13 reads, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” God cannot be tempted with evil. The Scriptures, the very Word of the Lord himself limits what God can or cannot do. God does not have unqualified power to unaccountable changes of mood or behavior (commonly called capricious (ca-pri-cious). Three things in God’s character limit his power; One, his ideality, he is ideal. Two, His immutability, he is unchangeable, and three, his sovereignty, he cannot do something against his decree. The point we need to maintain on omnipotence is that God is consistent in his nature and cannot do something inconsistent with his own perfections.

2.  Actual Omnipotence: This view of God’s Omnipotence claims that God can only do what he actually does since he is unchangeable. Some people have dressed this up and called it process theology (which I mentioned before when dealing with God’s immutability). Those who espouse this error try to disconnect God in every way discretely from the evil they see in the world.  This particular understanding of omnipotence teaches that God cannot do anything about it, that he is helpless in himself, that he cannot fix or aid the problem of sin within the world. God is doing the best he can and would put an end to evil if he could, but he cannot.  This depreciates and belittles God’s credibility and weakens him in that it would make God a liar, because God has repeatedly asserted that God is over all things, good, and even evil. For example we read in Eph. 1:11, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Jesus himself asserts that this is false in Matt. 26:53, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Jesus could have summoned angels, but refrained from doing what he could have done.

Biblical Concept of God’s Omnipotence: In summary God can do anything and everything that he wills to do merely by willing it, since nothing can restrain him and nothing is too hard for him. This omnipotence is commonly broken down into three areas by theologians.

1. Concrete Substance: Most Reformed theologians (Calvin, Berkhof, Bavinck, and Brakel) refer to this as God’s ordinate power.  This relates to what God ordains and orders and purposes to do. They recognize the close association of God’s will and God’s power.  God’s power is part of his sovereign will.  There is overlap here; systematic theologian Louis Berkhof “classifies it as an attribute of sovereignty.” The great Princeton Theologian Charles Hodge distinguishes the power of God from the sovereignty of God. While yet the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck: doesn’t give it separate treatment, he states “there is a great deal of overlap” between the power and sovereignty of God.  Because I am more infatuated with the Dutch than Presbyterians, I have followed Bavinck’s example this morning – combining the Lord’s power overlapped with his sovereign rule (joking of course).

The focus on the word sovereignty draws our attention to the authority of God. God has power to effect and bring to pass what he will. Sovereignty has the right to do what he wills. The difference is in this area, it differs on the exclusive right of God that he disposes of creation as he wills. This is what man hates to hear, because man despises anything that challenges his autonomy.  Man resists sovereign power because that gives God the right to do with us as he will.  Some Reformed theologians properly define it as God’s sovereign will, like Berkhof (Cf. page 80) and Stephen Charnock (page 364) and Charles Hodge (vol. 1, 407-8). This teaches us three things: One, to give the Almighty the praise and honor that are his due, two, we ought to face our own limitations to recognize that we are not omnipotent, our entire life depends on God, and three, we should trust God and not charge him foolishly even when we experience severe afflictions.

2.  Supernatural Instrument: God can do everything merely by willing it. That is the supernatural instrument. He needs no other means (Ps. 33). He is capable of working miraculously without created means and working above them at his pleasure, even though he usually works through means.

3.  Infinite Source:Since nothing can restrain God, nothing is too hard for him – this is hard to grasp in our finite minds. The Scriptures speaks that nothing is too hard for the Lord.  This infinite source is an infinite source for us in daily life as well. It speaks of the infinite potentiality of God, who serves in relationship to resistance, in relation to difficulty, and in relation to feasibility.  No amount of opposition can oppose successfully God’s design, and there is no task God cannot complete.  Nothing is beyond the realm of feasible for God, to do exceeding above what we ask or think, as Paul reminds us in Eph. 3:20.  “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Some refer to this as God’s absolute power, because the Scripture presents it in absolute terms.  The actual exercise of God’s power does not express its limits in absolute power of God.  God’s power to do everything falls within the scope of God’s infinite potentiality. This distinction is used discreetly and we must have great caution here as well because some scholastics have employed this distinction of total omnipotence. There is a sense in which we can speak of God’s absolute power, but not mean total omnipotence. For a further study on this area, you can read Louis Berkhof on page 80 or Charles Hodge in volume 1 on page 409 on God’s supernatural power exercised without means. 

Practical Applications taken from God’s Omnipotence
1. This should teach us that all rebellion is futile.

2. This should teach us to trust God in all situations to believe what he says and what he promises to do, even if it is scientifically impossible. Past Example, Sarah laughed, but God rebuked her for laughing, there were those who laughed at the plagues of Egypt, but God rebuked. Present Example, today the world laughs at creation but God will rebuke. It is important to understand that God’s Word is true – let God be true, because every man is a liar.

3. As for pastors, it can become depressing I am sure to not come across, or see conversions taking place in one’s congregation they are ministering in. This doctrine should teach the pastor and his members that God’s infinite potential is able to convert the most hardened sinner.  We cannot do it and we learn that more and more by experience. No matter how wholeheartedly one may preach, the pastor does not convert the sinner, but with God all things are possible because of his power, men like Saul become Paul.

The Display of God’s Omnipotence
One can see God’s sovereign power in a number of ways within the Scriptures.

 

  1. God’s Omnipotence in Creation: Psalm 33:6-9, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
  2. God’s Omnipotence in Providence: Jeremiah 32:17-19, “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts, great in counsel and mighty indeed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.”
  3. God’s Omnipotence in Salvation: Luke 2, the virgin birth, miracles of Christ, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension and the application of salvation by his Spirit.
  4. God’s Omnipotence in Eschatology: The consummation of salvation here takes place, the 2nd coming of Christ, the glorification of the Church, the purification of the world by fire, the Final Judgment, eternal punishment of the wicked, eternal glory of heaven, and the abyss of hell; all proclaim God’s omnipotence sovereign power and rule over all things.

 

The Practical Relevance of God’s Omnipotence

  1. God’s supreme power instructs his people, it instructs us to bend the knee to no man and to call no man master, to serve the Lord not to live in the face of fear of man.
  2. God’s supreme power helps us to see deceivers for what they really are.
  3. God’s supreme power comforts his people in that what he has done for us, he will continue to do, until his return in Jesus Christ.
  4. God’s supreme power exhorts his people to bless him and praise him in creation, providence and redemption, to acknowledge and honor him, and to have confidence in him.
  5. God’s supreme power exhorts us to obey him and hope and wait for him, to seek him with great expectancy.
  6. God’s supreme power calls sinners to cease rebellion against the Lord and flee to Jesus Christ for pardon before such power consumes them.

 


Let Anthony Burgess Brighten Your Day

In what way did Anthony Burgess see the High Priestly prayer of Christ in John chapter 17 as a special kind of prayer?
Burgess wrote on this prayer, insisting that the prayer found in John 17 is a special kind of prayer, in that it is a prayer of the One appointed by God to give eternal life to a definite group of people.  This prayer is a mediatory prayer and differs from all the prayers of men. This prayer by Christ according to Burgess is of a far more transcendent nature being a prayer from the One and only Mediator between God and man.

Describe how Anthony Burgess understood Christ ascension into heaven and how he saw this as a comfort to the believer?
Burgess list some of the comforts that are given to the believer after the ascension of Christ first Burgess writes “Hereby His Holy Spirit is given in more plentifully and abundantly (John 7:39). A second benefit is Christ going to the Father as enabling us with the holy and heavenly gifts; by sanctify way or a ministerial way. Thirdly Christ going to the Father is to prepare a place for His children (John 14:3). The fourth benefit Burgess sees is Christ going to the Father to be and Advocate to plead our cause before the Father. Lastly Burgess sees Christ departure from the Father as not permanent. He does not leave us forever, but will return and take us to the Father also.

Explain how Anthony Burgess describes prayer as a gift given by God to accomplish His purposes for His people?
Anthony Burgess gives several reasons how and why God uses our prayers to fulfill His purposes. The first reason God will have us pray to Him because by this God is acknowledge as the author and fountain of all good we have. Secondly, God graciously honors us when we pray. Thirdly, God has us pray because prayer is an appointed means by Him as well as faith and repentance. Fourthly, God appointed prayernot only for our honor and benefit for our advantage. Fifthly, Burgess sees prayer as means in which we may testify our desire and high esteem we have of the mercy prayed for. Lastly, God has made prayer necessary “because hereby faith is drawn out in all the choice and excellent effects of it. Prayer without faith is like a musical instrument without a hand to make a sound melodious.”

Explain the various points Anthony Burgess gives on the proper manner in which to pray in a heavenly manner?
Anthony Burgess explains the heavenly minded prayer giving four different points on this point. One, the Spirit is necessary the Spirit of God enables us and moves the soul to this duty. Second, a heavenly prayer must come from a heavenly heart that delights in heavenly things. Third, prayer is heavenly when it purifies and sanctifies the heart and affections for the enjoyment of God. Fourth, a heavenly prayer stirs the heart to delight in heavenly things. True prayer is like exercise making us stronger and more active.

Explain the six different aspects of prayer that Anthony Burgess stressed for the believer?
One, we must pray for what is lawful and good and agreeable to God’s will. “We should not pray like pagans in ignorance of what pleases God, for we have the Word of God to direct us and His Spirit to incline us”. Second, the order of what we pray for, that we seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Third, the words we use in prayer should be reverent, decent and proper. Fourthly, take into consideration who it is you are praying to the Almighty God therefore us should do so with an undivided heart. Fifth, we should pray in faith without doubting without faith the prayer is like a bird without wings (James 1:8). Lastly, keep in consideration the true purpose of the prayer “We must first seek God’s Kingdom before asking for temporal things”.


Brother Fuller! brother Fuller!

Do you, earnest reader, feel that you would rush at once into this work? Stay awhile, and hear another word or two; for it is well for you to know that it is no child’s play which is before you. Wisdom must guide you, or you will play the fool. A busy-body who is for ever babbling, is like a yelping cur which is no more esteemed than a dumb dog that cannot bark, and is thought to be a far greater nuisance. It has been said that “If a man were to set out calling everything by its right name, he would be knocked down before he got to the corner of the street;” and he who sets himself up as a general reformer of every other man’s follies, will likely enough receive the same treatment, and will have nothing to blame but his own impertinence. Casting pearls before swine has often led to the simpleton’s discovering the truth of the Saviour’s warning, “lest they turn again and rend you.” Sin may be foolishly rebuked, and so encouraged; it may be sinfully rebuked, and so multiplied. Much spirituality of mind is needed to speak for God; hence Paul puts it, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.” Such are fit to be soul-surgeons, whose tenderness and faithfulness give them a lady’s hand and a lion’s heart. “The art of reproving,” says Rayner, “is like the husbandman’s skill which his God doth teach him, in respect of the several kinds of grain, as to beat out cummin and fitches with a staff or little rod, and to bruise out the bread corn as wheat and rye by the force of the flail or the cartwheel. So God doth teach the spiritual man whom to touch with a twig of reproof, whom to smite with a rod, and whom to thrash with a flail of reproof.” We must consider both the offence and the offender, the sin and the sinner, so that our words may be fitly spoken, and prove effectual. It is written of Andrew Fuller, that he could rarely be faithful without being severe; and, in giving reproof, he was often betrayed into intemperate zeal. Once, at a meeting of ministers, he took occasion to correct an erroneous opinion delivered by one of his brethren, and he laid on his censure so heavily that Ryland called out vehemently, in his own peculiar tone of voice, “Brother Fuller! brother Fuller! you can never admonish a mistaken friend, but you must take up a sledge hammer and knock his brains out.” Gentleness and affection should be evident in all our remonstrances: if a nail be dipped in oil it will drive the more readily. There is a medium in our vehemence which discretion will readily suggest: we must not drown a child in washing it, nor cut off a man’s foot to cure a corn. Perhaps it will be less tedious to the reader if, instead of a long enumeration of the qualities required in a successful reprover, we instance the case of Dr. Waugh. There are two or three anecdotes which are eminently characteristic of his power:—“At one of the half-yearly examinations at the Protestant Dissenters’ Grammar School, Mill Hill, the head master informed the examiners that he had been exceedingly tried by the misconduct and perverseness of a boy who had done something very wrong, and who, though he acknowledged the fact, could not be brought to acknowledge the magnitude of the offence. The examiners were requested to expostulate with the boy, and try if he could be brought to feel and deplore it. Dr. Waugh was solicited to undertake the task; and the boy was, in consequence, brought before him. ‘How long have you been in the school, my boy?’ asked the doctor. ‘Four months, sir.’ ‘When did you hear from your father last?’ ‘My father’s dead, sir.’ ‘Ah! alas the day! ’tis a great loss, a great loss, that of a father; but God can make it up to you, by giving you a tender, affectionate mother.’ On this the boy, who had previously seemed as hard as a flint, began to soften. The doctor proceeded: ‘Well, laddie, where is your mother?’ ‘On her voyage home from India, sir.’ ‘Ay! good news for you, my boy: do you love your mother?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘And do you expect to see her soon?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Do you think she loves you?’ ‘Yes, sir, I am sure of it.’ ‘Then think, my dear laddie, think of her feelings when she comes home, and finds that, instead of your being in favour with everyone, you are in such deep disgrace as to run the risk of expulsion, and yet are too hardened to acknowledge that you have done wrong. Winna ye break your poor mother’s heart, think ye? Just think o’ that, my lad.’ The little culprit burst into a flood of tears, acknowledged his fault, and promised amendment. On one occasion, a young minister having animaverted, in the presence of Dr. Waugh, on the talents of another minister, in a manner which the doctor thought might leave an unfavourable impression on the minds of some of the company, Dr. W. observed, ‘I have known Mr. —— many years, and I never knew him speak disrespectfully of a brother in my life.’ At another time, in a company of nearly forty gentlemen, a student for the ministry entertained those around him with some ungenerous remarks on a popular preacher in London. Dr. Waugh looked at him for some time, with pity and grief depicted in his countenance, and when he had thus arrested the attention of the speaker, he mildly remarked, ‘My friend, there is a saying in a good old book which I would recommend to your consideration:—The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.’ ” Such rare powers of wise remonstrance may not be easy to acquire, but they are very precious, and should be greatly coveted.

***Selection taken from C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1865 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 18–20.


Nestorianism, Orthodoxy, Kingship, Priesthood and Mediator

Explain Nestorianism and the differences betweenthis view and the traditional orthodox understanding on the person of Christ?
Nestorianism maintains that Christ having two distinct natures, existed as two distinct persons. Many understood Nestorius to be arguing for two personal subjects in Christ, a man and a god similar to the ancient heresy of Paul of Samosata who argued that Jesus a man had been possessed by the divinity.  Nestorius did not mean that but this has become the popular meaning of the heresy of Nestorianism.  The Councils of Nicea in 325 A.D.Costantinople 381 A.D. and Chalcedon helped to establish the orthodox understanding on the Person of Christ. These Councils affirm that Christ is the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds God of God, Light of Light very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. This same Lord Jesus Christ for us men and our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man. Christ is one person with two natures one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation;  the distinction of nature’s being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated in to two persons, but one and the same Only begotten God the Word, Jesus Christ.

Explain the distinction John Owen made concerning the revelation of Christ in the Old Testament compared to the revelation of Christ in the New Testament?
John Owen made an important distinction concerning the revelation Christ delivered to the church in the Old Testament, the Son revealed God’s will to the prophets in His divine person, sometimes mediated through angels. In the revelation of the gospel Christ taking on humanity then taught it immediately Himself. Owen explains how Christ being omniscient, He knows everything there is to know. However in his mediatorial office, He revealed the will of the Father in an according to His human nature.

What were the two functions Stephen Charnock and John Owen ascribed to Christ priesthood explain?
Charnock noted that there are two functions of Christ’s priesthood one of oblation and intercession, Charnock notes they are both joined together, but one as precedent to the other. The oblation precedes the intercession and the intercession could not be without the oblation. John Owen agreed that these two acts must not be separate for it belongs to the same mediator for sin to sacrifice and pray. Owen states how in heaven Christ’s intercessory work is continued oblation of Himself. Christ impetrated, merited, or obtained by His death, must be applied on to upon them for whom He intended to obtain it, or else His intercession is in vain, He is not heard in the prayers of His mediatorship.  Owen makes the point that the particularity of Christ’s death on the cross relates to His intercessory work in heaven.

How did Puritans such as Reynolds describe Christ exaltation in relation to His office as King?
The Puritans and particularly Reynolds addressed this issue of Christ’s exaltation in relation to His kingship. The exaltation of Christ as King is fully realized in His enthronement said Reynolds. Goodwin saw this to be realized at His ascension when a military triumph is accorded Him (leading captivity captive) which shows that Christ subdued His enemies at the cross according to Goodwin.

Explain the threefold view Thomas Goodwin held pertaining to the glory of Christ and it application to Christ’s role as mediator?
Goodwin saw Christ glory as threefold, the first glory which all the orthodox agreed upon is that the Christ divine nature cannot be diminished in any way. The Son in His divine nature is coequal in glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Goodwin saw this glory as Christ essential glory. Secondly Goodwin saw how Christ has a personal glory not shared with the Father or the Spirit namely the glory of His person as the God-man; this belongs to Christ alone on account of the hyposatical union. Christ thirdlypossesses the glory of His office as mediator of the covenant of grace.


Christology Questions

Explain John Arrowsmith’s understanding on the nature of Christ human nature?
John Arrowsmithconcluded that Christ took a human nature clothed with infirmities as after the fall not before the fall. This is implied in his view by the word Flesh but he affirms that Christ did not take on all the infirmities of man distinguishing between painful infirmities and sinful infirmities, the latter Christ did not take on.

What distinction did Thomas Gooodwin make between the human and divine natures of Christ?
Thomas Goodwin declared that the two natures could not be changed into the other, for God was immutable and it was impossible for the nature of man should become the Nature of God, since the Essence of the Godhead is incommunicable. Therefore the perfections of Christ’s human nature come infinitely short of the attributes that are essential to the Godhead.

Describe some of Thomas Goodwin’s unconventional views on Christology? 
Crisp’s saw that John Owen’s view on Christology was not conventional like Owen Godwin wrote that the Spirit sanctified the human nature and constituted Him as the Christ. Goodwin saw the Spirit as the immediate author of Christ graces for though Christ being the Son of God dwelt personally in the human nature and so advanced in His nature above ordinary creatures. All Christ graces were from the Holy Spirit, the Puritans varied on this point.

Explain how the Puritans saw the Spirit as Christ inseparable companion?
The Puritans saw the role of the Spirit in nearly every major event in the life of Christ. The Father decreed that the Son should assume flesh. The Son voluntarily took on flesh according to the will of the Father, but the Holy Spirit was the immediate divine efficiency of the incarnation (Luke 1:35- Matt. 1:18, 20). At Christ baptism the Spirit descended upon Him the Spirit played a major role in His temptation. His miracles the Pharisees ascribed to Beelzebub but He lets them know they blaspheme the Holy Spirit by saying this. His resurrection is attributed to the Spirit (Romans 8:11).

Describe Bavinck’s view regarding the intimate relationship between the Spirit and Christ?
For Bavinck the work of the Holy Spirit with respect to Christ human nature does not stand by itself. The Spirits work began at conception but it did not stop there, it continued throughout Christ entire life, even right into the exaltation. The Holy Spirit is the author of all creaturely lifeand specifically of the religious ethical life in humans. If humans in general cannot have communion with God except by the Holy Spirit, then this applies even more powerfully to Christ human nature.


Obadiah Grew, The Lord Our Righteousness

Post written by Adam Mathis

27d3228348a08d82158ee010.LObadiah Grew, The Lord Our Righteousness: Morgan, Pa: Soli Deo Gloria, 2005. 102 pp. Hardcover

The Author of the book “The Lord Our Righteousness”, Obadiah Grew was born on November 1, 1607 the third son of Francis Grew and Elisabeth Denison. Obadiah was educated in the town of Reading under his uncle John Denison, and was later admitted into Balliol College, Oxford, in 1624. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree on February 12, 1629 he continued on to get his master’s degree on July 5, 1632.
Obadiah was ordained in 1635 by Robert Wright, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. During the outbreak of the First English Civil War he sided with the parliamentary party. In 1646 Grew took part with John Bryan in a public dispute about the matter of infant baptism at Trinity Church, with HanserdKnollys. In 1662 Grew was unable to comply with the Act of Uniformity because of this he resigned his living as a preacher. However his bishop John Hacket was anxious to retain him, and allowed him to preach a mouth beyond his appointed day to conform to the act.In late September he preached his farewell sermon. Grew continued to preach freely in Coventry, during1665when the plaque hit it so devastated the land that there was scarcely a preacher left. In 1682 Grew nearly lost his eyesight, was convicted under the Five Mile Act and was imprisoned for six months in a Coventry prison. During this imprisonment Grew dictated several sermons to an assistant. In 1687 after James II declared the Declaration of Indulgence Grew returned to his congregation in West Orchard. Grew preached there until 1689 when his health steadily declined. Obadiah Grew died on October 22, 1689 and was buried in the chancel of St. Michael’s. Many of Obadiah Grew’s sermons went into print among these include “The Lord Our Righteousness”“Meditations Upon Our Saviors Parable of the Prodigal Son” (1668) and “His Farewell Sermon on Acts 20:32” (1668).

In the book the “Lord Our Righteousness”author Obadiah Grew defends the doctrine of Christ imputed righteousness. That is to say the sinner’s righteousness is Christ righteousness made his, therefore Christ is the “Lord our righteousness”. Grew starts with the verse from which the book is titled. Jeremiah 23:6 “In his days Judah will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called the Lord our righteousness” (pg.1). Obadiah Grew makes a concise and thorough effort throughout this book to show just how this doctrine is to be understood and applied.
At the start of this book Obadiah Grew explains what he means when he declares that Jesus Christ is “the Lord Our Righteousness” (pg.2). He then defends his argument scripturally, by asking and then answering various objections to his opening statement. Throughout the book he follows this motif first by declaring the doctrine, defending the doctrine by scriptural backing and then showing how the doctrine can be understood and applied to the life of the believer.
In the preceding chapters Grew continues in his defense of the necessity of Christ righteousness being imputed to the believer. He shows throughout the book the importance of a proper understanding of this essential scriptural truth, which he calls “the vein of the gospel” (pg.28). He argues that to stray from such a truth leaves one in danger of seeking one’s own righteousness (pg.26). Throughout his book Grew lays out his argument, namely that the sinners only hope in being declared righteous before a holy and just God is to be declared righteous through Christ’s righteousness made his own. Grew concludes with as he sees it a key aspect of the doctrine, that is its application to the life of the believer. Grew explains how a proper understanding of this doctrine should give great comfort to the believer. In the eyes of Grew this should lead the sinner into a life of grateful obedience for God’s gracious gift, the gift of Christ (pg.101). In the preceding pages I will evaluate Obadiah Grew’s book in greater detail starting with chapter one through to the books conclusion.

In chapter 1 Grew begins by overviewing various names given for God in the scriptures, such as Jehovah Jireh“the Lord will see or provide” and others. He then comes to the name for God Jehovah Tsidkenu“the Lord our Righteousness” from which the book is titled. He then states the doctrine, namely how Christ is the Lord our Righteousness, or in other words the righteousness of a sinner is Christ righteousness made to him (pg.3). Following his open statement Grew goes through a series of questions and answers. Questions such as “how did Christ voluntarily take upon himself by his own consent and suffered what we as sinners deserve” (pg.7). Grew answers this question by stating the two ways in which Christ suffered punishment one being punishment of sense, Grew uses scripture to back his point “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). The other being the punishment of loss, he uses Psalm 22 to make this point “My God My God why hast thou forsaken me” (pg.7).

In chapter 2 Grew states “two things must be opened and demonstrated: that Christ is our righteousness, and how the righteousness of Christ is made ours so that we may comfortably so call it and use it”. (pg. 10) Grew writes the following “the Lord Jesus Christ is the righteousness of a sinner, and that for which God reputes and accounts a sinner a righteous man” (pg.10). He gives various passages of scripture to show just how this is so. Passages such as (Acts 13:39). “And by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the Law of Moses”. Grew gives further scriptural backing for this point by quoting (2 Corinthians 5:21) “He made him who knew no sin, sin on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him” (pg.11). In chapter 3 Grew intends to show the various guides that lead the sinner to justifying righteousness. Grew begins developing his point by showing how Israel sought their own righteousness, not the righteousness of God (pg.26). “Why did Israel fail, because they sought this righteousness apart from faith that is in Christ, but by works of the law” (pg.26). Grew explains how a sinner is lead to this righteousness by stating “So doubtless it is the Spirit of Christ that must help a sinner to find out his justifying righteousness and show him where it is”(pg.26). In Chapter 4 Grew explains the “great motive in justification” he explains by stating “The great motive to this way of justifying a sinner, and making him righteous by the righteous of the Lord Jesus Christ is the free grace and favor of God; it is an act of grace” (pg.32). Grew quotes Isaiah 63:9 to demonstrate his point “In His love, and His pity he redeemed them” (pg.32).

In Chapter 5 Grew gives four uses of the doctrine of Christ imputed righteousness. The first use, how the Christian must first be knowledgeable in this doctrine. He states the following on this point “You will never sit fast, nor be in a settled state, until then”. On the second use of the doctrine Grew tells the believer “to be well versed in Christ’s righteousness as founded in free grace, and it will be a good nurse to obedience and a godly life”(pg.41). Use three is on the free gift of this righteousness this free gift as Grew sees it should lead the sinner to Christ. Grew writes on this as follows “There is no price or money to be paid for it; it is of free grace it is a free gift (Romans 5)” (pg.42). On the fourth use of this doctrine Grew writes “This doctrine of Christ’s righteousness laid on free grace is a doctrine that galls proud Christians and men of parts to the heart; such as trade for their own reputation with their parts and duties” (pg.42). In Chapter 6 Grew focuses on God’s part in making Christ’s righteousness ours, Grew writes on this the following “The righteousness of Christ is made ours, on God’s part by imputation, God counts it unto us for righteousness, and it is so, as the Scripture says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (pg.46). Grew sums up his argument by writing “thus the righteousness of Christ that justifies us before God is not a righteousness of His in us, but a righteousness put upon us” (pg.47). In chapter 7 Grew explains his view on the role the sinner plays in making Christ righteousness his own. The summation of his argument in this chapter I believe can be summed up by the following, Grew states “Faith is the great and only instrument in man that God is pleased to use in transplanting Christ’s righteousness to him” (pg.60). So a man must have faith to come to Christ, but this faith is also a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

In the final chapter of his book Grew focuses on the application of this doctrine to the life of the believer. He concludes by exhorting the believer to have everlasting thankfulness to God and Christ for the riches of this free grace, and to live in grateful obedience because of his grace given to him (pg.101). In conclusion, I would recommend this book for anyone who desires to come into a better understanding of this important doctrine. Obadiah Grew in my view indeed gets the point across that through Christ alone is a sinner made right with God.

 


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