“Grow Up: Advice for YRRs” (Young, Restless and Reformed) (part 2) by John MacArthur

Dr. John F. MacArthur

John MacArthur,

If I could impress on Young, Restless, Reformed students just one word of friendly counsel to address what I think is the most glaring deficiency in that movement, this is what it would be: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

I’m very glad the ranks of YRRs are growing numerically. Many good things about that movement are full of promise and potential. In order to fulfill that potential, however, this generation of Reformers desperately needs to move past the young-and-restless stage. Immaturity and unrest are hindrances to spiritual fruitfulness, not virtues.

When Paul told Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12), he wasn’t suggesting that Timothy should forbid people in the church to disapprove if the pastor were to display immaturity, juvenile misbehavior, youthful indiscretion, or other traits of callow character.

Much less was the apostle suggesting that Timothy should cater exclusively to young people while purposely marginalizing the elderly. That, I’m sorry to say, is the kind of advice we sometimes hear nowadays from many self-styled church-growth
….[continue reading at Grace To You]

“Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming. Advice for the Young, Restless, Reformed” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur

John MacArthur,

It has been five years since Christianity Today published Collin Hansen’s article titled “Young, Restless, Reformed.” Hansen later expanded the article into a book with the same title (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). He has carefully documented a very encouraging trend: large numbers of young people (college age and younger) are discovering the doctrines of grace, embracing a more biblical and Christ-centered worldview, and beginning to delve more deeply into serious theology than most 20th-century evangelicals were prone to do.

In short, Calvinism, not postmodernism, seems to be capturing the hearts of Christian young people.

Hansen cites evidence that Calvinistic seminaries are growing. Several new national conferences feature speakers committed to reformed soteriology (R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others)—and these conferences are consistently full to overflowing with students. Books rich with meaty doctrinal content rather than relational fluff have begun to show up on Christian best-seller lists. There is even a surge of interest in Jonathan Edwards….[continue reading at Grace To You]

Sound Doctrine Foundational to Sound Living — R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul,

God…commands us to progress in doctrinal understanding. Let us follow the apostle Paul’s exhortation to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) so that we might press forward to the goal of Christian understanding. In evil we are to be babes, but in understanding we seek mature adulthood (1 Corinthians 14:20). We don’t do this to become arrogant in our knowledge, but that we might grow in grace. Mature understanding is the foundation for mature living.

Growing in the knowledge of God is a great joy and privilege. It is a matter of delight for us. Yet it is more than a privilege; it is also a duty. God commands us to grow up into the fullness of Christ. Consider the Shema of Old Testament Israel:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

At the heart of this sacred command is the solemn duty of learning the law of God, of mastering His revelation. It is by no means a casual or cavalier enterprise. To master God’s Word is to be deeply immersed in the study of theology. . . .

. . . .It is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology. In this sense, theology must never be viewed as an abstract science. It is a matter of life and death, even eternal life and eternal death.

R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992), introduction, xx–xxi

Avoiding Chronological Snobbery — William Boekestein

A very good article by William Boekestein,

A Call to Add Church History to a Healthy Spiritual Diet

Many of us may struggle with the feeling that the church is already too old-fashioned. If so, why should we study church history? Shouldn’t we stop looking backward to the 16th century and start living in the 21st century?

Contrary to our concerns, the church has always realized that a forward looking church is also a backward looking church. Likewise, well-balanced, progressive Christians will be students of church history.

The Bible supports this. Christianity, as revealed in Scripture, is an inescapably historical religion. The Christian conception of time itself is linear not cyclical. That is, time has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is within this spectrum of time that the great themes of the Bible are all rooted. The Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration of humanity are not merely ideas; they are real events that remind us of the importance of history….[continue reading at Reformation 21]

(image added)

“Who Is Regulating Affairs On This Earth—God, or the Devil?” — A.W. Pink

Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

Arthur W. Pink,

Who is regulating affairs on this earth today-God, or the Devil? What impression is made upon the minds of those men of the world who, occasionally, attend a Gospel service? What are the conceptions formed by those who hear even those preachers who are counted as “orthodox?” Is it not that a disappointed God is the One whom Christians believe in? From what is heard from the average evangelist today, is not any serious hearer obliged to conclude that he professes to represent a God who is filled with benevolent intentions, yet unable to carry them out; that He is earnestly desirous of blessing men, but that they will not let Him? Then, must not the average hearer draw the inference that the Devil has gained the upper hand, and that God is to be pitied rather than blamed? 

But does not everything seem to show that the Devil has far more to do with the affairs of earth than God has? Ah, it all depends upon whether we are walking by faith, or walking by sight. Are your thoughts, my reader, concerning this world and God’s relation to it, based upon what you see? Face this question seriously and honestly. And if you are a Christian you will, most probably, have cause to bow your head with shame and sorrow, and to acknowledge that it is so. Alas, in reality, we walk very little “by faith.” But what does “walking by faith” signify? It means that our thoughts are formed, our actions regulated, our lives moulded by the Holy Scriptures, for, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). It is from the Word of Truth, and that alone, that we can learn what is God’s relation to this world…

Pink goes on to write,

…Who is regulating affairs on this earth today-God, or the Devil? What saith the Scriptures? If we believe their plain and positive declarations, no room is left for uncertainty. They affirm, again and again, that God is on the throne of the universe; that the sceptre is in His hands; that He is directing all things “after the counsel of His own will.” They affirm, not only that God created all things, but also that God is ruling and reigning over all the works of His hands. They affirm that God is the “Almighty,” that His will is irreversible, that He is absolute Sovereign in every realm of all His vast dominions. And surely it must be so. Only two alternatives are possible: God must either rule, or be ruled; sway, or be swayed; accomplish His own will, or be thwarted by His creatures. Accepting the fact that He is the “Most High,” the only Potentate and King of kings, vested with perfect wisdom and illimitable power, and the conclusion is irresistible that He must be God in fact as well as in name.It is in view of what we have briefly referred to above that we say, Present-day conditions call loudly for a new examination and new presentation of God’s omnipotency, God’s sufficiency, God’s Sovereignty. From every pulpit in the land it needs to be thundered forth that God still lives, that God still observes, that God still reigns. Faith is now in the crucible, it is being tested by fire, and there is no fixed and sufficient resting-place for the heart and mind but in the Throne of God. What is needed now, as never before, is a full, positive, constructive setting forth of the Godhood of God. Drastic diseases call for drastic remedies. People are weary of platitudes and mere generalizations-the call is for something definite and specific. Soothing-syrup may serve for peevish children, but an iron tonic is better suited for adults, and we know of nothing which is more calculated to infuse spiritual vigour into our frames than a scriptural apprehension of the full character of God. It is written, “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits” (Dan. 11:32).

Without a doubt a world-crisis is at hand, and everywhere men are alarmed. But God is not! He is never taken by surprise. It is no unexpected emergency which now confronts Him, for He is the One who “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11). Hence, though the world is panic-stricken, the word to the believer is, “Fear not!” “All things” are subject to His immediate control: “all things” are moving in accord with His eternal purpose, and therefore “all things” are “working together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” It must be so, for “of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Yet how little is this realised today even by the people of God! Many suppose that He is little more than a far-distant Spectator, taking no immediate hand in the affairs of earth. It is true that man is endowed with power, but God is all-powerful. It is true that, speaking generally, the material world is regulated by law, but behind that law is the law-Giver and law-Administrator. Man is but the creature. God is the Creator, and endless ages before man first saw the light “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6) existed, and ere the world was founded, made His plans; and being infinite in power and man only finite, His purpose and plan cannot be withstood or thwarted by the creatures of His own hands. (from The Sovereignty of God, A.W. Pink)

Related Posts:

“New to Reformed Theology?” – Online Teaching Resources By R.C. Sproul (Highly Recommend!)
The Humbling Doctrine of God’s Absolute Sovereignty — A.W. Pink
“Election and Predestination” — A.W. Pink
“God’s Absolute Sovereignty” by John MacArthur
“God’s Sovereignty and Human Temptation” – John MacArthur
Charles Spurgeon In Defense of the Doctrines of Grace
Free-Will Doctrine……What Does It? — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon In Defense of the Doctrines of Grace

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) Picture from Vanity Fair, 10 December 1870

“According to the freewill scheme the Lord intends good, but he must wait like a
lackey on his own creature to know what his intention is; God willeth good and
would do it, but he cannot, because he has an unwilling man who will not have God’s
good thing carried into effect. What do ye, sirs, but drag the eternal from his throne,
and lift up into it that fallen creature, man; for man, according to that theory, nods,
and his nod is destiny.”
-C.H. Spurgeon

“Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it; there it stands.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“I take it that the highest proof of Christ’s power is not that he offers salvation, not that he bids you take it if you will, but that when you reject it, when you hate it, when you despise it, he has a power whereby he can change your mind, make you think differently from your former thoughts, and turn you from the error of your ways.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“That doctrine which is called ‘Calvinism’ did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“Have you ever noticed, in the great summary of doctrines, that, as surely as you believe one, you must believe the rest? One doctrine so leans upon the others that, if you deny one, you must deny the rest. Some think that they can believe four out of the five points, and reject the last. It is impossible; God’s truths are all joined together like links in a chain.” -C.H. Spurgeon

“Hebrews 6 and the Loss of Salvation” — John MacArthur

“Hebrews 6 and the Loss of Salvation”

Does Hebrews 6:4-6 teach that a true believer can lose his salvation?

No. In that passage, the writer of Hebrews is speaking to the unsaved who have heard the truth and acknowledged it, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. The Holy Spirit warns them, “You had better come to Christ now, for if you fall away it will be impossible for you to come again to the point of repentance.” They were at the best point for repentance–full knowledge. To fall back from that would be fatal.

Because they believe the warning is addressed to Christians, many interpreters hold that the passage teaches that salvation can be lost. If this interpretation were true, however, the passage would also teach that, once lost, salvation could never be regained. There would be no going back and forth, in and out of grace. But Christians are not being addressed, and it is the opportunity for receiving salvation, not salvation itself, that can be lost.

The believer need never fear he will lose his salvation. He cannot. The Bible is absolutely clear about that. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29; see also Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 1:6; and 1 Pet. 1:4-5).

If you are in Christ, rejoice. Your salvation is secure forever.

(Today’s post adapted from the MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Hebrews, p. 146.)
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org


“Is the Doctrine of Election Unfair?” by John MacArthur

“Is the Doctrine of Election Unfair?”

John MacArthur

In spite of the clarity with which Scripture addresses this topic, many professing Christians today struggle in their acceptance of God’s sovereignty — especially when it comes to His electing work in salvation. Their most common protest, of course, is that the doctrine of election is unfair. But such an objection stems from a human idea of fairness, rather than the objective, divine understanding of true justice. In order to appropriately address the issue of election, we must set aside all human considerations and focus instead on the nature of God and His righteous standard. Divine justice is where the discussion must begin.

What is Divine justice? Simply stated, it is an essential attribute of God whereby He infinitely, perfectly, and independently does exactly what He wants to do when and how He wants to do it. Because He is the standard of justice, by very definition, then whatever He does is inherently just. As William Perkins said, many years ago, ‘We must not think that God doeth a thing because it is good and right, but rather is the thing good and right because God willeth it and worketh it.’

Therefore God defines for us what justice is, because He is by nature just and righteous, and what He does reflects that nature. His own free will and nothing else is behind His justice. This means that whatever He wills, is just; and it is just, not because of any external standard of justice, but simply because He wills it.

Because the justice of God is an outflow of His character, it is not subject to fallen human assumptions of what justice should be. The Creator owes nothing to the creature, not even what He is graciously pleased to give. God does not act out of obligation and compulsion, but out of His own independent prerogative. That is what it means to be God. And because He is God, His freely determined actions are intrinsically right and perfect.

To say that election is unfair is not only inaccurate, it fails to recognize the very essence of true fairness. That which is fair, and right, and just is that which God wills to do. Thus, if God wills to choose those whom He would save, it is inherently fair for Him to do so. We cannot impose our own ideas of fairness onto our understanding of God’s working. Instead, we must go to the Scriptures to see how God Himself, in His perfect righteousness, decides to act.”

(Today’s post adapted from John’s foreword to Foundations of Grace )
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

Free-Will Doctrine……What Does It? — Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

“Free-will doctrine—what does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God’s purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God’s will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men, and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man’s own will, thus making the
atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy.” — C.H.Spurgeon

John MacArthur: On The Undeniable Truth Of Sovereign Election

“Considering Election (Not Politics)”

John MacArthur

“Election is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith (Romans 9:16). This doctrine is repeatedly taught in the Bible, and is also demanded by our knowledge of God. To begin with, let’s look at the biblical evidence.The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin — spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever “is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8, emphasis added). That describes a state of total hopelessness: spiritual death.The effect of all this is that no sinner can ever make the first move in the salvation process. This is what Jesus meant in John 6:44, when He said, “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”

This is also why the Bible repeatedly stresses that salvation is wholly God’s work. In Acts 13:48 we read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Acts 16 tells us that Lydia was saved when, “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”

Romans 8:29-30 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

Ephesians 1:4-5,11 reads, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will . . . also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

Ephesians 2:8 suggests that even our faith is a gift from God.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul tells his readers, “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

Second Timothy 1:9 informs us that God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

Occasionally someone will suggest that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of certain events. This argument suggests that God simply looks into the future to see who will believe, and He chooses those whom He sees choosing Him. Notice that 1 Peter 1:2 says the elect are chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and Romans 8:29 says, “whom He foreknew, He also predestined.” And if divine foreknowledge simply means God’s knowledge of what will happen in advance, then these arguments may appear to have some weight behind them.

But that is not the biblical meaning of “foreknowledge.” When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know,” in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Such passages as Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2 (KJV); and Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” Surely this means more than that God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of the elect, whom we are told God “foreknew” (Romans 8:29). That means He knew them — He loved them — before the foundation of the world.

If God’s choice of the elect is unconditional, does this rule out human responsibility? Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God’s choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. God alone is responsible for their salvation, but that does not eradicate the responsibility of those who persist in sin and are lost — because they do it willfully, and not under compulsion. They are responsible for their sin, not God.

The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 and Revelation 22:17 call “whosoever will” to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 and Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. First Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. Finally, the Lord Jesus said that, “the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

In summary, we can say that God has had a special love relationship with the elect from all eternity, and on the basis of that love relationship chosen them for salvation. The ultimate question of why God chose some for salvation and left others in their sinful state is one that we, with our finite knowledge, cannot answer. We do know that God’s attributes always are in perfect harmony with each other, so that God’s sovereignty will always operate in perfect harmony with His goodness, love, wisdom, and justice.”
This article here originally appeared at Grace To You. – © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

“God’s Elect Hear His Call” — R.C. Sproul

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [Romans 8:29]

Whenever people ask me, “Does the Bible teach predestination?” I give a resounding, “Yes, absolutely!” No one who has read the Bible can doubt that the Bible teaches predestination. Exactly what is meant by “predestination,” however, is a matter of dispute.

Some have argued from Romans 8:29 that predestination is based on God’s foreknowledge in the sense that God looked down the corridors of time and saw who would freely choose to believe, and then predestinated them. This position assumes that foreknowledge only means “knows in advance.” In the Bible, however, knowledge is often used in a sense of personal intimacy, as when Adam “knew” Eve and she conceived a son (Genesis 4:1). God’s foreknowledge is linked to his foreloving.

It is in this same sense that the Bible defines foreknowledge; it likens foreknowledge to foreloving. The idea conveys a personal relationship that transcends time.

We see in Romans 8:30 that everyone who was “foreknown” was also “predestined, called, justified, and glorified.” Does God glorify everyone? Does God justify everyone? No. Clearly then, in terms of what this passage is dealing with, God does not call everyone, does not predestine everyone, and does not foreknow everyone. In Romans 8:29-30 “foreknowledge” must have the sense of intimacy and personal calling and can refer only to God’s elect.

God’s predestination, however, does not exist in a vacuum, and it is not simply for the purpose of saving us from sin. Verse 29 shows us the purpose of salvation: that we might be conformed to the likeness of his Son. Ultimately, the reason God has saved you and me is for the honor and glory of his Son, “that he might be the firstborn.” The goal in creation is that God would give as a gift to his Son many who are reborn into Christ’s likeness.

Coram Deo

Election is a biblically compelling doctrine. Only by intellectual dishonesty can it be totally avoided, and only by inconsistent thinking can it be defined away. Admittedly it is a hard doctrine to embrace but one that was dear to Jesus, Paul, and the other writers of Scripture. If you struggle with this doctrine seek out someone who embraces it and who has the grace and gentleness to talk it through with you.

For further study: Deuteronomy 7:6-9; Psalm 121:1-8; Ephesians 1:3-12

(R.C. Sproul, Before the Face of God: A Daily Guide for Living from the Book of Romans Book I [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 1992], pgs. 288-289)

“New to Reformed Theology?” – Online Teaching Resources By R.C. Sproul

“Reformed theology is nothing less than a journey into the marvelous grace of God. May God grant you eyes to see why the apostle Paul would proclaim that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever.” – Ligonier Ministries

R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries have done the church a great service by offering, free of charge to watch and/or listen to, the three resources below. R.C. Sproul does all of the lectures in each series. If you have not watched or listened to anything by R.C. Sproul you are in for a treat. He is a very engaging speaker, possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Reformed and Historical Theology. Through his tapes, videos, books, and Tabletalk, Dr. Sproul has had a tremendous impact on my own life. Enjoy!

I. What Is Reformed Theology? with Dr. R.C. Sproul
*You may watch this entire Teaching Series online for free.

II. The Making of the Protestant Reformation with Dr. R.C. Sproul
*You may listen to this entire Teaching Series online for free.

III. Chosen By God with Dr. R.C. Sproul
*You may watch this entire Teaching Series online for free.

“What is the Reformed Faith?” by Michael Horton

“What is the Reformed Faith?”

by Michael Horton

How do I go to God?”, someone asked the Scottish Presbyterian, Horatius Bonar. The parson answered, “It is with our sins that we go to God, for we have nothing else that we can truly call our own.”

The Reformed tradition was forged out of the mighty storm known as the Protestant Reformation. John Calvin (1507-64) was a Frenchman who, through his own study of the Scriptures and reading the tracts of Luther and other older Reformers, became a convert to the “evangelical” faith. Like Luther, Calvin was anxious about the state of his soul. How does a sinner become acceptable to a pure and holy God who cannot tolerate sin and who has told us that He has prepared a place of eternal torment? “Just love the Lord,” they told Calvin. “Love Him?” he asked. “How can you love a God who is always pointing His finger at you, just waiting for your foot to slip?” But then a marvelous discovery came to the French scholar, much the same way it came to Luther, and in no small measure through that great Reformer’s writings. The Bible declares that Christians are justified by faith in Christ and not by anything they do. That revolutionized this timid, shy Frenchman and made him, reluctantly, a major influence on the Western world.

But what did Calvin teach that was so revolutionary in his day? Or Edwards or Whitefield in theirs? What made Charles Spurgeon such an amazing evangelist and launched the modern missionary movement, with William Carey, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and John Patton? What caused the Great Awakening and the Evangelical Revival in Britain and Europe? And why do we think these ideas – which are no more than the ideas of the Bible itself, could cause another revolution or reformation in thought and life today? First, the basic beliefs.

This Is My Father’s World

Calvin wrote much on the beauty of the world as a “theater” in which God’s attributes were displayed and highlighted. “As ever in my master’s eye,” wrote the famous Calvinistic poet, John Milton, expressing the sense of belonging to this world the Christian ought to feel. Of course, we are ultimately bound for eternity, but this life really does count…..continue reading (here)

“The Doctrine of Election” by John MacArthur

“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined” …. (Romans 8:29)

Redemption began with God’s foreknowledge. A believer is first of all someone whom He [God] foreknew. Salvation is not initiated by a person’s decision to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Scripture is clear that repentant faith is essential to salvation and is the first step that we take in response to God, but repentant faith does not initiate salvation. Because Paul is here depicting the plan of salvation from God’s perspective, faith is not even mentioned in these two verses.

In His omniscience God is certainly able to look to the end of history and beyond and to know in advance the minutest detail of the most insignificant occurrences. But it is both unbiblical and illogical to argue from that truth that the Lord simply looked ahead to see who would believe and then chose those particular individuals for salvation. If that were true, salvation not only would begin with man’s faith but would make God obligated to grant it. In such a scheme, God’s initiative would be eliminated and His grace would be vitiated.

That idea also prompts such questions as, “Why then does God create unbelievers if He knows in advance they are going to…..continued at the MacArthur New Testament Commentary series page (Click here for link) Be sure to listen to the short audio Q and A with John MacArthur. I know you will be blessed.

“Predestination and the Glory of God” by W. Robert Godfrey, Ph.D.

“Predestination and the Glory of God”

by W. Robert Godfrey, Ph.D.

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!…For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

In Rome there is a church by the name of Saint Peter in Chains. It is not the famous Basilica of Saint Peter, but a smaller church, and in that church there is one of the most famous pieces of sculpture ever done by man, the “Moses” by Michelangelo. If you have seen that statue, you must have been struck by the vitality Michelangelo has been able to communicate to marble. Moses has come down from Mount Sinai and is seated with the tables of the Law in his hand—seated, yet almost as if he were about to rise up not only from his seat but also out of the stone itself. It is an amazing representation. As you looked at it you may have noted that on the head of Moses there are two little horns. This is surprising at first glance, until you remember, as I am sure you do, that in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate the passage that says, “When Moses came down from the Mountain his face shone” (cf. Exodus 34:29-33) is mistranslated and reads, “his head was horned.”

One wonders what Michelangelo might have done had Jerome translated the passage accurately. Because what really happened was that Moses had so basked in the glory of God on Mount Sinai that when he came down from the mountain his face literally radiated the glory of God. No doubt even Michelangelo would have been defeated in his effort to represent in marble the glorious shining of God’s glory in the face of Moses.

I fear that I may also fail this morning as I consider the glory of God. What an incredible subject to address: the glory of God in predestination! Paul directs our attention to it in Romans 11.

Surpassing Glory
As we think about God’s glory it is good to begin with Moses, because after Moses had come down from Sinai and had confronted the sinfulness of his people, in his great distress he turned to the Lord in prayer. His prayer, as we find it in Exodus 33, was this: “Now show me your glory”—in the face of the disobedience of your people, in the face of frustration and disappointment, in the face of having broken the tablets of the Law-“show me your glory” (v. 18). As we want to see the glory of the Lord, we might follow Moses back up the mountain, remembering what Moses saw as he climbed it. The mountain was covered with a cloud, and in the midst of the cloud “there was a devouring fire.” After Moses had ascended the mountain God promised to show him his glory. But he said, “You cannot see my glory as it is in itself; I will hide you in a cleft of the rock, and as I pass by I will put my hand over you so that you will not be destroyed and will remove my hand as I pass by so you can just see my back, just a portion of my glory, and I will preserve you so you will not be destroyed.” It was having seen that glory of God that caused Moses’ face to shine when he came down from the mountain.

Then we read a little further on that this glory came down from the mountain when the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed. God’s glory was manifested among his people in the Tent of Meeting.

This gives some insight into what glory is. The root meaning of the Hebrew word for glory is “weight.” But as the Hebrews expanded on the meaning of this root word, they moved from the idea of weight to “wealth.” Somebody who had a heavy weight (of silver or gold) was a wealthy person. From the notion of wealth the word developed the sense of “importance.” Someone who is wealthy is usually an important person. At last we find it applied to God as the preeminently weighty, wealthy and important one.

Glory also became associated with the notion of light, since God most often reveals his glory to man in the form of a visible radiance. As he is in himself, God is, of course, inherently invisible. But when God wants to display his glory to us, he does it in terms of beautiful light, pointing to and illustrating his purity and holiness. The glory dwelt inside the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting, because God could never fully display what he is in himself to a sinful people.

We also see something of the hiddenness of the glory of God in Jesus. We read in John’s Gospel: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, …full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Yet that glory is veiled. John says, “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us,” using the word that literally means “tented” or “tabernacled” among us. You see, the glory of God is still in the Tent of Meeting, but the Tent of Meeting is now Jesus Christ our Lord. In him we are in contact with God’s glory.

Charles Wesley expressed it beautifully in his hymn “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” when he declared:

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the Incarnate Deity.”

That expresses how the glory of God came down and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ. That glory is displayed even in that most unlikely of places, the cross. For it is of the cross that Jesus declared, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). The glory of the mercy of God is displayed on Calvary.

But in Jesus, too, we see something of the visible display of God’s glory. You remember the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus was suddenly transformed, and light shone forth as he talked with Moses and Elijah. So, too, in the vision of our ascended Lord that we find in the first chapter of Revelation, Jesus is seen walking among the lamp stands of the church and is described in this way: “His eyes were like blazing fire … His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (vv. 14, 16).

So much glory! So much to glorify the Lord for! It is with this in mind that Paul is moved at the end of Romans 11 to praise God, saying, “To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Mercy Upon All
What in particular moved Paul to glorify God? There are so many things for which we could glorify God. If you look through the Psalms, you will find God glorified for a wonderful range of activities. But Paul, in this verse, has been moved to glorify God particularly by his reflection on God’s mercy.

When you think about it, all of Romans 9-11 has been a reflection upon God’s mercy to his people. When Moses asked God, “Show me your glory,” the Lord responded by saying, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD…I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” Exod. 33:19). In response to the request of Moses to see God’s glory, God said, in effect, “You will see it in knowing that I am a God who shows mercy upon whom I will show mercy.” Paul quotes this passage in Romans 9. The discussion begins, then, in chapter 9 and concludes in chapter 11.

All sorts of men have been bound up together in disobedience to God, so that the Lord in his mercy might bind up all men, Jew and Gentile from every part of the earth, in the experience of his mercy. That is what evokes Paul’s doxology. What a wonderful God we have! What a glorious God, who manifests himself in such sovereign mercy! That is why Paul, in declaring his praise of God, says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36).

A Mercy Planned
In these words we see salvation displayed: “from him,” a mercy planned; “through him,” a mercy preached; “to him,” a mercy perfected.

A planned mercy is what Paul was talking about in Romans 9 through 11, as he reflected on God’s great purpose. This is what Paul has reminded us of over and over. God from all eternity has had a plan as to what he will do and what he will accomplish. That plan is, above all, that he will have a people for his name. His purpose is that the human race which he has created for fellowship with himself will not be lost but that out of fallen humanity he will raise up a people to have fellowship with him. That purpose will not be thwarted, neither by the will of Satan nor by the will of man, for God’s will stands over all. The tragedy of theologies that do not grasp this fact is that they reduce God’s plan only to making salvation possible and therefore leave open the possibility that God may not have a people for his name, that Jesus may have died but actually has saved no one.

This plan is profound in its richness. God has determined to create a people composed of Jew and Gentile alike, as Paul rehearses over and over again in these chapters. The church is built out of all the peoples of the earth: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him” (Rom. 10:12). This is his richness, as he draws a people from every tribe and tongue.

Not only is God’s plan rich. It is also wise. It is wise because it accomplishes man’s glorification. You remember the golden chain of Romans 8:30: “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” That is God’s wise plan, a plan that moves from the beginning to the end. God will accomplish his purpose. He will have his people manifest his glory. We cannot increase God’s glory. We can declare it.

What a contrast between the wisdom of that plan and the foolishness of men. Paul spoke eloquently about that foolishness in Romans 1, when he wrote: “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images, …the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised” (vv. 22, 23, 25). God’s wise plan is that we will be creatures in fellowship with our Creator. The foolishness of man is to miss that glory, reject that wisdom and, in the foolishness of our understanding, to create images for ourselves to worship. The Psalmist says, “All who serve them become like them.” (Ps. 115:8). And, oh, the tragedy! We who are called to reflect the image of the immortal God become reflectors only of the passing things of this world.

When we think on the riches and wisdom of God’s plan we dare never be apologetic that we are reformed. If you do not talk about the reformed faith, you are failing to give God all his glory. If you do not talk about it, you are not sharing the richness of God’s salvation with fellow Christians. Oh, do not harp on it! Do not beat people over the head with it! But do declare it! Declare the richness, wonder and glory of that plan.

A Mercy Preached
There is also a mercy preached, for it is not only from him but also “through him” that we know mercy. The first thing that needs to be said as we reflect upon the mercy of God preached is that this mercy is preached above all by God himself. God does not make his plan and stand back. No, God remains active in the preaching of his mercy. We read in Romans 9:33: “As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’” So also in Romans 10:21: “But concerning Israel [God] says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’” God, who holds out his hand in mercy and calls people to himself promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” God remains the great preacher and declarer of this Word in the world.

But God has also appointed preachers to carry that message. Paul states that, and it is important for us especially who occupy the official office of preacher to remember our great privilege and responsibility.

Some of us are occasionally tempted to just sort of trudge off to church – either into the pew or into the pulpit – and take this as a matter-of-fact affair. But it is an awesome responsibility both to preach and to hear God’s Word. It is an awesome responsibility of the preacher to handle the Word of truth rightly, and it is an awesome responsibility to hear that Word. The apostle declares that the preaching of the Word is the savor of life unto life and death unto death (2 Cor. 2:16). For those who hear the Word and treasure it, it is life. For those who hear it and reject it, it is death.

I remember hearing of an old Welsh minister, who preached in a church that had a great high pulpit with a high staircase. He would conduct most of his service from below. But when the time came for the sermon he would climb those stairs and preach. Some Sunday mornings he would walk to the bottom of the stairs, look up into the pulpit and say, “I cannot go into that awful place.” Then he would turn around and walk out of the church. This left the elders somewhat disconcerted, as you can imagine. But it was a good testimony to the awesome responsibility of being a declarer of God’s Word. Moreover, it impressed upon the people that preaching could never be merely commonplace and ordinary. The pulpit was an awful place in the sense of inspiring awe and reverence before God.

Christ must always be the center of our preaching. That is why Paul returns in chapter 10 to Christ as the essence of the gospel. His declaration is that Christ is the “end of the Law” (v. 4). Christ in his own life has fulfilled all righteousness, has been obedient in our place, and then has gone on to bear the wrath of God for us on the cross. Paul says he is also a resurrected Savior, risen from the dead in the power of God, who now declares his gospel to all who will come to him. In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul talks about “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (v. 4). This is Christ’s glory – that he is the Savior of his people, that he has done it all: accomplished righteousness, borne the curse, risen victorious over sin and death, and now lives to make intercession for us. That is why we must always return to Christ as the very center of the gospel.

Luther once remarked, “People are always saying, ‘Give me something new! Give me something new! I don’t want to hear just about the death and resurrection of Christ.’” Luther remarked, “What a tragedy! As if that great center of the gospel should ever become old, stale or a matter of indifference to us.”

When mercy is preached, it is preached in Christ. And it is preached unto faith. This also echoes through Romans 9 – 11. The preaching of faith is not all opposed to the preaching of election. Paul weaves them together. In Romans 11 he declares: “You stand by faith” (v. 20). In Romans 9:30 he speaks of “a righteousness that is by faith.” This does not make faith the one good work we do. Rather, faith is our link to Jesus Christ, and we are righteous through faith because faith puts us in touch with the righteousness of Christ. Christ and his work are our righteousness, and faith is our link.

What a stumbling block this is to pride! We all want to do something, particularly in the new world. We have been taught that we are to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But Paul says that there is nothing we can do – nothing, except to find refuge in Jesus Christ.

In Romans 10:16 Paul expresses this in ironic terms when he says, “But not all the Israelites obeyed the good news.” Israel was always talking about its obedience, but the people missed the whole point. It is not in our obedience that we are made right with God. It is in the gospel. Moses came with the Law so that people might be driven to Christ. The Law was to show us our sinfulness. But Israel missed that great function of the Law. Therefore, instead of being driven to Christ as their only hope and refuge, they took refuge in their pretended claim to self-righteousness. That is why Paul says we must preach faith. Paul warns over and over against being wise in our own conceits. We are not to repeat the mistake of Israel and say, “We are God’s covenant people. He’s obligated to us.” Oh, no! It is all by mercy. We have to rest in him and his completed work.

The contrast Paul draws in Romans 10 is between condemnation and righteousness. In our self-righteous efforts to fulfill the Law we will find only condemnation, but in Christ we will find righteousness and hope. That is, righteousness is harmonized with the theme of election. Election is never a threat. Election never undermines our faith but rather under girds it.

Luther expressed that beautifully in these words:

“Now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will and put it under the control of his, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running but according to his own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that he is faithful and will not lie to me, and that he is also great and powerful so that no devils or opposition can break him or pluck me from him” (The Bondage of the Will).

That is the certainty that election gives us. I do not want salvation to be in my hands. I want my salvation to be in God’s hands, because he is faithful and able. That is the mercy that we preach and the confidence that we have. That is the mercy that glorifies God, for it is a mercy grounded in God’s plan and declared to his people.

A Mercy Perfected
Finally, there is mercy perfected: “To him are all things.” God is active from the beginning to the end. He will accomplish his purpose, and God’s purpose is that he will glorify himself in glorifying us. What an assurance that is! God’s original intention was to give glory to his creature, man. You remember the words of Psalm 8: “You made him [man] a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (v. 5). In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul declares that “man… is the image and glory of God” (v. 7).

Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” But the amazing thing is, although God will not give his glory to another god, he does give his glory to man, made in his likeness. Man lost God’s glory in his sinfulness: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But God determined to restore that glory – not the fading glory that Moses had shining in his face when he came down from the mountain, the glory that passed away – but rather a permanent, unfading glory. In 2 Corinthians 3:11 Paul develops this, saying, “If what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” We are to grow in that glory even now: “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (v. 18). Moreover, we can spread that glory to others who have not heard: “The grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15).

Finally, we have the culmination in the fulfillment of glory that awaits us. This must influence the whole way we live. Everything that happens to us in this life must come under the arc of God’s coming glory. Paul says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). Paul, who had gone through shipwreck, torture, imprisonment and who was now facing martyrdom, can refer to these problems of life as his “light and momentary” trouble in comparison to that eternal weight of glory which is beyond all comparison.

Calvin recommended meditation on the future life as a spiritual exercise. He said the only way we could really bring things into perspective in this life is to remember that our real home is in glory. Evangelicals are sometimes accused of preaching “pie in the sky by and by.” But meditation on the future glory does not make us “no earthly good,” as some say, but rather gives us that liberty as sons of God that was expressed on the lips of a Spanish soldier in the sixteenth century: “I would rather face a whole army than one Calvinist convinced he is doing the will of God.” That is what happens when you realize that whatever goes on in this world is only a momentary affliction.

Paul did not say this easily or lightly. Paul knew the reality of suffering. But he looked beyond this life to the eternal weight of glory that awaited him. Our Lord said, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43). Peter promised: “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Pet. 5:4). Moses had only a fading crown of glory, but ours will be unfading. With that crown of glory we will glorify God for eternity. This is what John saw in the Revelation: “The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power’” (Rev. 4:10, 11). There it is, you see. God glorifies us, and we take that glory and consecrate it back to him, glorifying him forever.

Calvinists are a minority today, and we can sometimes be discouraged. We can be discouraged by the surrounding secularism and because we sometimes feel that non-Calvinistic Christian groups are more successful than we are. That may be true in some areas. But we have a great task to perform, and that is to open to fellow Christians and to the world at large the depths, riches and wisdom of God’s glory.

We live in a day when many have eclipsed the glory of God in their teaching. They have eclipsed it by ignoring God’s perfect plan. The sinfulness of sin is reduced so that man’s free will may be unimpaired, and therefore the work of Christ is reduced. Man needs only a partial faith. By contrast, we who have looked deeply into God’s Word know that we are dead in our sin and unable to help ourselves. Therefore, at the right time Christ died for us, and by the irresistible work of his Holy Spirit, brought us to faith in himself. What a gospel that is! What a Savior we have! “To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

© 2008 Westminster Seminary California All rights reserved
By W. Robert Godfrey, Ph.D. © 2008 Westminster Seminary California. Website: www.wscal.edu. E-mail: info@wscal.edu. Phone: 888/480.8474
Click here for article at Westminster Seminary California for purposes of printing article..etc…

“The Origins of Calvinism” by Joel Beeke

This article, by Joel Beeke, posted at Monergism.com is a very nice overview of the Reformation and Reformed Theology. It also has a very nice, and lengthy bibliography at the end for further study. (Click here) to read the article.

Stephen Nichols: On His Pilgramage To Reformed Theology…..And God’s Use Of R.C. Sproul

“In the Wisdom and Providence of God”

by Stephen Nichols

The first time I heard R.C. Sproul speak was at a Ligonier Ministries’ National Conference. As he systematically unfolded the doctrines of grace, he boldly proclaimed the biblical Gospel, and at the end of his message, he pointed his finger directly at me, or so it seemed, and said, “If you don’t believe that you are radically corrupt and saved by the electing grace of God alone, you need to repent.” I thought to myself: “Who does this Sproul guy think he is?” That same year, I received my first issue of Tabletalk magazine, and on the front cover was a picture of a smiling baby wrapped in a blanket and stamped across the page were the words “Total Depravity.” I again thought to myself: “Who do those guys at Tabletalk think they are?” Two years and many arguments later, I was committed to the doctrines of grace. I repented of my self-reliant Christianity and found myself humbled by God’s sovereign grace.

It was my eager study of the Word of God that convinced me of the doctrines of grace, but the Lord used Tabletalk to help me study the Scriptures with greater insight and understanding. For years, I cross-referenced the passages found in the Tabletalk daily studies pages with my New Geneva Study Bible. It was Tabletalk’s consistent exposition of sacred Scripture that brought me into line with the Word of God and with orthodox Reformed theology.

After I completed my bachelor’s degree in biblical studies, I began my studies in seminary and was hired at Ligonier Ministries. One evening, during my first semester of seminary, I wrote in my journal a prayer to God asking Him to provide me with a mentor under whom I could study all the intricate nuances of biblical theology. I wrote of my desire to learn from a man who would challenge me theologically and encourage me spiritually as I prepared for ministry. And though I had not yet even met R.C. Sproul, I wrote and prayed to the Lord to place me directly under Dr. Sproul’s tutelage and leadership. In His wisdom and providence, the Lord did just that, and He has blessed me with one of the most wonderful friendships I’ve ever known. So, in answer to the first question I ever asked myself about R.C. Sproul, my response is simple: He is my boss, my mentor, my pastor, my spiritual father in the faith, my brother, my friend, and the one who has taught me what it means to live authentically coram Deo, before the face of God.

We Recommend
R.C. Sproul A Man Called By God Article by Burk Parsons
Right Now Counts Forever Article by R.C. Sproul
Our Daily Bread on Steroids Article by R.C. Sproul Jr.

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

R.C. Sproul: On The Eclipse Of The Gospel

“None Righteous”

by R.C. Sproul

The Psalmist asked the question: “If the Lord marks iniquity, who should stand?” This query is obviously rhetorical. The only answer, indeed the obvious answer is no one.

The question is stated in a conditional form. It merely considers the dire consequences that follow if the Lord marks iniquity. We breathe a sigh of relief saying, “Thank heavens the Lord does not mark iniquity!”

Such is a false hope. We have been led to believe by an endless series of lies that we have nothing to fear from God’s scorecard. We can be confident that if He is capable of judgment at all, His judgment will be gentle. If we all fail His test — no fear — He will grade on a curve. After all, it is axiomatic that to err is human and to forgive is divine. This axiom is so set in concrete that we assume that forgiveness is not merely a divine option, but a veritable prerequisite for divinity itself. We think that not only may God be forgiving, but He must be forgiving or He wouldn’t be a good God. How quick we are to forget the divine prerogative: “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15 NKJV)

In our day we have witnessed the eclipse of the Gospel. That dark shadow that obscures the light of the Gospel is not limited to Rome or liberal Protestantism; it looms heavily within the Evangelical community. The very phrase “preaching the Gospel” has come to describe every form of preaching but the preaching of the Gospel. The “New” Gospel is one that worries not about sin. It feels no great need for justification. It readily dismisses the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as an essential need for salvation. We have substituted the “unconditional love” of God for the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If God loves us all unconditionally, who needs the righteousness of Christ?

The reality is that God does mark iniquity, and He manifests His wrath against it. Before the Apostle Paul unfolds the riches of the Gospel in his epistle to the Romans, he sets the stage for the need of that Gospel: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom. 1:18).

This text affirms a real revelation of real wrath from a real God against real ungodliness and unrighteousness of real men. No appeal to some invented idea of the unconditional love of God can soften these realities.

The human dilemma is this: God is holy, and we are not. God is righteous, and we are not. To be sure, it is openly admitted in our culture that “No one is perfect.” Even the most sanguine humanist grants that humanity is marred. But, on balance … ah, there’s the rub. Like Muslims we assume that God will judge us “on balance.” If our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds, we will arrive safely in heaven. But, alas, if our evil deeds outweigh our good ones, we will suffer the wrath of God in hell. We may be “marred” by sin but in no wise devastated by it. We still have the ability to balance our sins with our own righteousness. This is the most monstrous lie of all. We not only claim such righteousness; we rely on such righteousness, which righteousness in fact does not exist. Our righteousness is a myth, but by no means a harmless one. Nothing is more perilous than for an unrighteous person to rest his future hope in an illusion.

It was against such an illusion that Paul stressed by citing the Psalmist: “For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.'” (Rom. 3:9–12 NKJV)

What comprises just under four verses of the New Testament is so radical that if the modern church would come to believe it, we would experience a revival that would make the Reformation pale into insignificance. But the church today does not believe the content of these verses: There is none righteous — not one.

Who believes that apart from Jesus not a single human being, without exception, is righteous. Not a single unregenerate person can be found who understands God.

Seeking God? We have totally revised corporate worship to be sensitive to “seekers.” If worship were to be tailored for seekers, it would be directed exclusively to believers, for no one except believers ever seeks God.

Every person turns aside from God. All become unprofitable in spiritual matters. At rock bottom no one even does good — no, not one.

Good is a relative term. It is defined against some standard. If we establish what that standard is, we can congratulate ourselves and take comfort in our attainment of it. But if God establishes the standard, and His standard includes outward behavior (that our actions conform perfectly to His law) and internal motivation (that all our acts proceed from a heart that loves Him perfectly), then we quickly see that our pretended “goodness” is no goodness at all. We then understand what Augustine was getting at when he said that man’s best works are nothing more than “splendid vices.”

So what? The equation is simple. If God requires perfect righteousness and perfect holiness to survive His perfect judgment, then we are left with a serious problem. Either we rest our hope in our own righteousness, which is altogether inadequate, or we flee to another’s righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own inherently. The only place such perfect righteousness can be found is in Christ — that is the good news of the Gospel. Subtract this element of alien righteousness that God “counts” or “imputes” for us, and we have no biblical Gospel at all. Without imputation, the Gospel becomes “another gospel,” and such a “gospel” brings nothing but the anathema of God.

With the righteousness of Christ promised to us by faith, we have the hope of our salvation. We become numbered among those blessed to whom the Lord does not impute sin (Rom. 4:8).
From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. www.ligonier.org

“The Institutes of the Christian Religion” from Keith Mathison

“The Institutes of the Christian Religion”

from Keith Mathison

There are a very small number of books other than the Bible that have affected the course of history. One thinks immediately of books such as Nicholas Copernicus’ Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies, Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, or Albert Einstein’s Relativity. There are also a small number of books that have profoundly influenced the history and thought of the church. One might think, for example, of Augustine’s City of God, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, or Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. Among the few books that have shaped the course not only of church history but also of world history is John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.The first Latin edition of the Institutes was published in 1536, when Calvin was only in his late twenties. This first edition consisted of six chapters. A fully revised edition consisting of seventeen chapters appeared in 1539. While the first edition was viewed by its author as a compendium of doctrine and a confession of faith, the revised edition was intended as a theological textbook to be used in the training of candidates for the ministry. Calvin revised his work again in 1543, adding four chapters to the new edition. A fourth edition appeared in 1550, but it contained only minor revisions, the most significant of which was the numbering of the paragraph divisions. Finally, in 1559, the fifth and final edition of Calvin’s Institutes was published. This edition is substantially larger than its predecessor, containing 80 chapters. This definitive edition has been translated into many languages over the last 450 years. The standard English translation since 1960 has been that of Ford Lewis Battles. His translation was edited by John T. McNeill and published in the Library of Christian Classics.

John Calvin’s Institutes is, essentially, the first Reformed “systematic theology.” Its influence on the thought of all subsequent Reformed theology is immeasurable. The work is divided into four major sections or “Books.” Book One concerns the knowledge of God the Creator. In this Book, Calvin discusses God, Scripture, and man’s knowledge of God and of himself. Book Two concerns God the Redeemer in Christ. Here Calvin explains, among other things, the biblical doctrine of the fall, the Law, the incarnation, and the atonement. Book Three concerns the way in which we receive the grace of Christ. In this section Calvin discusses faith, justification, the Christian life, and more. Finally, Book Four concerns the external means by which God invites us into the church. Here, Calvin covers subjects related the church, the sacraments, and the civil magistrate.

Contrary to the portrayals of Calvin that one often finds in contemporary books and articles, Calvin was not a dry academic scholar. Such caricatures are evident the moment one takes the time to read his works. Calvin has a passion to see God glorified and Jesus Christ exalted, and this passion shines throughout the Institutes. Even those Christians who cannot read the entire work should take the time to read at least Book Three, chapters 6–10. The wisdom contained therein for the Christian’s daily walk with Christ is truly profound.

It is unfortunate, but many contemporary Christians who consider themselves “Reformed” or “Calvinist” have never read any part of this classic Christian work. Admittedly, the Institutes can be an intimidating work. The standard English translation, for example, consists of two large hardback volumes, and the text, not including introductions and indexes, itself fills 1,521 pages. It is easy when looking at a book of that size to pass it up in favor of something shorter and less difficult. However, many things that are worthwhile are difficult, and those who do pass up this work because of its size are missing the opportunity to sit at the feet of one of the church’s great teachers.

Completing the book is actually not as difficult as one would imagine at first glance. Each of the eighty chapters is divided into smaller sections, which average a little over one page in length. If a person reads four of these subsections (4–5 pages) per day, every day, he will complete the entire work in less than a year. Read two per day, and he will finish the book in less than two years. Such a reading schedule is actually helpful because it will give the reader time to contemplate what he has read each day. There are great Christian works, and then there are true classics. The Institutes is a true classic that we should all take up and read.

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