A Door No Man Could Open

Sealed Shut by Grace
My Lord has much better for me than the thing behind the door that He  just slammed in my face. I certainly don’t have the sense or the confidence to believe it as confidently as I should, but I know that God is using all things for my good, because He’s given me the Spirit of Christ.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Have you ever been in a situation where things wouldn’t budge? Sure it’s disappointing, but most people find alternative routes. “When one door closes another opens” is one of the most popular adages of our time. (Either that or “When God closes a door He opens a window.”)

Minus the reductionistic nature of the quote, this may describe your normal experience. By default, we troubleshoot through our setbacks. Christians, whether they face very difficult situations or not,  pray to the LORD for His help. It is the blessing of our gracious LORD that people are able to hold down a stable job, that husbands and wives stay married, that children continue in the way of their parents, granted their parents have trained them in the wisdom and grace of God. Sometimes we are forgetful of these regularities. However, just because we forget, doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t continually sustaining all things by the Word of his Power.  (Heb 1:3; Col 1:17) Our Lord and Savior  is speaking to us, and the order of things visible and invisible are His words. The Scriptures are the glasses enabling us to see these things. (Matt 7:24) God isn’t going to build anything else. And if He doesn’t build, then we’re all wasting our time because it isn’t going to happen. (Psalm 127:1)  We just need the eyes to see, and the ears to hear, yet another gift from God. (Prov 20:12)

What about the doors that are sealed shut? What happens when the window, which was the alternative,  is barred over? What happens when the routes you may have otherwise taken, are unavailable to you? Many may call this  “The Twilight Zone”, though I’m sure there are many others who call it home.  Job, Jonah, and Jeremiah once did.

It was God’s pleasure to glorify Himself through the suffering of these men, even in Jonah’s case, when he reacted as many of us would today. In the land of opportunity, we believe too quickly that our lots will be similarly wonderful. If everything is operating accordingly, we will all have good careers, wonderful marriages,  and “the pie in the sky, by-the-by” . I too quickly believe these things and God sanctifies me by acquainting me with all of my weaknesses.

God will purify His children from their iniquities (Zech 13:9) , He will give us peace and hope if we ask for it, (Romans 15:13; Phil 4:6-7)  but we will all suffer in Christ. (Romans 8:17; Phil 1:29) Each of us are given a special measure, according to the grace of God. (Eph 4:7; 2 Cor 10:13, 1 Cor 7:17, Romans 12:3) These are all general truths. It is the particularities that often cause me to stumble.

Providence: The Points and Planes of Suffering

It is often difficult for me to place my own “point” of suffering on the “plane” of genuine Christian experience. But I believe Christ’s invitation is open to the weary, even when their weariness is cause by their own doing.

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD,
“who carry out a plan, but not mine,
and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit,
that they may add sin to sin;
who set out to go down to Egypt,
without asking for my direction,
to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh
and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!” (Isaiah 30:1-2)

We run to Egypt, to gather the things God hasn’t given us, and wonder why we are wearied and enslaved by our own devices. But “Gracious” and “Merciful” is God’s covenant name (Exodus 34:6);

Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.”  (Isaiah 30:18)

The Dark Night of the Soul
Even more confusing is knowing that there are many occasions when my suffering is not connected to any sin of mine at all. It’s just there. I know that many illnesses and traumatic events can cause mental suffering. However what happens when you don’t have anything external to point to, when asked why you can’t get moving like everyone else?

“He has besieged and enveloped me
    with bitterness and tribulation;
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
    he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
    he has made my paths crooked.” (Lam 3:5,7-9)

This description certainly matches the experience of depression and anxiety, unintended or not. It puts the DSM-5 to shame in that respect.

Talk about a real theological diagnosis of the inner turmoil of depression : “Patient seems to have been besieged and enveloped by God, causing symptoms of weariness with life, near unexplainable sorrow, and internal turmoil that interferes with daily life and interpersonal relationships.”

Well Meaning Friends with Useless Advice

Then there is the real possibility that those closest to you will not understand. Even when they try to, you are causing tension and stress when you voice your experience. God has made us finite, and we must realize that it is a blessing to be unable to completely understand ourselves and the people around us. We must also realize that God gives us the ability to share truth and offer help and comfort even though we don’t fully understand. Then there other times when we are tempted to offer something else. Like, advice.

Advice can be really helpful. However just because advice is helpful, doesn’t mean we should share it in every situation. Advice does not always universally apply. Using a fork to eat my green beans doesn’t mean it will be just as helpful using a fork to remove toast from the toaster. Swimming is always good exercise, but that doesn’t mean I should go swimming during a thunderstorm. “Okay this is getting a little ridiculous” you may say, and you’re right. However, good advice can be ridiculous sometimes. Being “slow to speak” is something we should all practice.

Think of Job’s three friends:

(1)  Eliphaz, acknowledges that Job has been a source of strength to others (Job 4:3-4). But then he turns and puts the blame for Job’s suffering squarely on Job himself. “Think now,” he says, “who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8)

(2) Bildad, says much the same. “See, God will not reject a blameless person nor take the hand of evildoers” (Job 8:20)

(3)  Zophar, repeats the refrain. “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, do not let wickedness reside in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.…Your life will be brighter than the noonday” (Job 11:14-15, 17).

“Their reasoning is a syllogism. God sends calamities upon wicked people only. You have suffered a calamity. Therefore you must be wicked. Job himself avoids this false syllogism.”  (source)

It may be that this is a hidden premise in our own hearts (it certainly is for me), and so we pray that God will continually remind us of His mercy. Christ invites us to take on His yoke. He is the suffering servant, and the only mediator between God and man. He is able to sympathize with our suffering, and is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11,17; Heb 4:15). This doesn’t remove suffering, but it certainly is a relief to remember that suffering isn’t without purpose.

God raised Jesus from the dead, and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me (Romans 8:11) God takes delight in delivering His children. (Zeph 3:17) I need to be reminded of this when I’m stuck. Maybe we could all use this reminder

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

Gungor’s Reckoning: There is No Box (and other metaphysical myths told by fundies!)

Recently, many individuals in the evangelical community have been disappointed once again, but this time by a talented band that represented all things Christian. Websites reported Gungor saying “I lost my metaphysic” and that they lost their belief in  “[s]tories that we lived by, defined ourselves with, but can no longer believe in.”

The article continues;

Why? Not because my life looks like Jesus or doesn’t look like Jesus. But because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE.” Then he nails down exactly what he doesn’t believe—in Adam and Eve or the Flood. He has “no more ability to believe in these things then I do to believe in Santa Claus.”

Two words that Gungor used to identify this “epiphany”: Apophatic Mysticism.

I was saddened after reading all of this a few days ago, though it wasn’t exactly surprising. As a fan of Gungor’s work (especially “Beautiful Things”) I listened to his music, and knew the lyrics pretty well. He did a great job expressing his thoughts on biblical truth. I found myself saying “amen” to the dimensions of biblical truth he sang of, with the musical composition and skill with that of a genius. There were, however,  a couple of lyrics in “Cannot Keep You”  that always irritated me. I know that many are not as concerned as I am about precision when speaking of God and His Self-revelation to us. I also know that my zeal for precision can also be a vice, turning me into an arrogant jerk.

Despite my failing, scripture is still adamant about “a form of sound words”. Paul, under The Holy Spirit’s direction and breathing, wrote to Timothy, who was the closest thing he had to a son;  “Hold fast the form of sound words, that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  ( 2 Timothy 2:13-14).

These “sound words” are treasured by Paul. His life had been a testimony of  his treasury of scripture, and with his life coming to an end, he instructed Timothy, as Timothy had been since he was a child, to treasure all of Scripture as God’s Speech, concerning the covenant he made with man in Christ.

God’s purposes from all eternity, and all of his actions from beginning to end  were made clear, and were revealed in our precious Savior Jesus Christ. He abolished death. He brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim 2:10)

It was because of this, and to this  that Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher. And it was for this reason that he rejoiced in suffering for it. “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Tim 2:11-12)

There is no room for me, or anyone else (especially me) to be apathetic about this mystery that has been revealed. God becoming known to us, by His own choosing. Not only that, but He was made like us in every way, yet without sin.

Scripture is  God-breathed. The Character of Scripture is authoritative because it is God in which it originates. How convenient it is for we who are skeptical, or who have reservations, or are embarrassed by a Holy God to say “well man was involved with writing scripture, so it isn’t going to be perfect”. There are many problems with this kind of sophistry, besides being a lousy methodology, and I do not intend to touch on it here.

The verse that was of concern in “Cannot Keep You” say;

“we cannot keep you in a church
we cannot keep you in a Bible
or it’s just another idol to box you in”

The first line of this verse is okay. We know of God’s transcendence, that His essence is not constrained to one place at a time. He is Self-occupying, before there was anything to be occupied, He was, and still is today and for all eternally I AM.

But it is also said that God walked in the garden (Gen 3:8). Does Gungor believe that to be true or false? Is it literal (however he is using this word, literal is a confusing word to use given that it could mean the original intention of the author, or referring to a wooden, prima facie, sort of literalism)

It is also said that God met with Moses on Mount Sinai, by His own choosing, in the form of an unburning bush (Ex 3:1-22). The unburning bush was a sign of God’s transcendence, but His free decision to dwell with Israel, not consuming them as if He needed them, but covenanting with and caring  for them nonetheless.  Does Gungor believe this is true or false? Did we put God in a box? Did God put Himself in a bush?

This kind of phraseology is ambiguous at best, and intentionally deceptive at worst. I understand that there is a desire to keep anyone from putting words in God’s mouth. However, saying “You can’t put God in a box” can just as easily be used to backdoor false teaching. Think about the line above;

“We cannot keep you in a bible or it’s just another idol to box you in”

One of the most problematic things about this reasoning, is the hypocritical nature of it. Whether it was intended by Gungor this way or not. The subtle hypocrisy can be exposed by asking this question;

“Oh yeah? Says who?”

Think about it. Who defines idolatry?

If you said “God” you are correct. If you said YHWH, then you get an added bonus of 100 points for being more specific.

Next question. Where do we get the definition of idolatry?

Is it from Scripture? Or is it a pious agnosticism that uses a lot of words to communicate not much of anything?

Think about it until the follow up

A Word From The Past: Geerhardus Vos

In the fourth place the Reformed theology has with greater earnestness than any other type of Christian doctrine upheld the principles of the absoluteness and unchanging identity of truth. It is the most anti-pragmatic of all forms of Christian teaching. And this is all the more remarkable since it has from the beginning shown itself possessed of a true historic sense in the apprehension of the progressive character of the deliverance of truth. Its doctrine of the covenants on its historical side represents the first attempt at constructing a history of revelation and may justly be considered the precursor of what is at present called biblical theology. But the Reformed have always insisted upon it that at no point shall a recognition of the historical delivery and apprehension of truth be permitted to degenerate into a relativity of truth. The history remains a history of revelation. Its total product agrees absolutely in every
respect with the sum of truth as it lies in the eternal mind and purpose of God. If already the religion of the Old and New Testament church was identical, while the process of supernatural revelation was still going on, how much more must the church, since God has spoken for the last time in His Son, uphold the ideal absoluteness of her faith as guaranteed by its agreement with the Word of God that abideth forever. It is an unchristian and an unbiblical procedure to make development superior to revelation instead of revelation superior to development, to accept belief and tendencies as true because they represent the spirit of the time and in a superficial optimism may be regarded as making for progress. Christian cognition is not an evolution of truth, but a fallible apprehension of truth which must at each point be tested by an accessible absolute norm of truth. To take one’s stand upon the infallibility of the Scriptures is an eminently religious act; it honors the supremacy of God in the sphere of truth in the same way as the author of Hebrews does by insisting upon it, notwithstanding all progress, that the Old and the New Testament are the same authoritative speech of God.

(“Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, pp. 232-33)

Andy Stanley on Marriage

So apparently Andy Stanley is under the impression that we cannot use the phrase “biblical marriage” to define marriage. His reasoning;

“The more we know about the nature of a biblical character’s marriage relationship the less likely we are to reference them So… Let’s start talking instead about NewTestament marriages. Easier to define. Easier to defend.”

A couple of problems come to mind.

1)For one, we aren’t trying to model marriages off the characters in the bible. He’s confusing Holy Scripture’s descriptive character (for example, the hundreds of Solomon’s concubines) with Prescriptive character (for example, God’s Laws on marriage). There are points where the bible describes what the character does (descriptive) going against God’s laws (prescriptive).  So Andy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Tim 3:16)

2) Christ references the OT in defining marriage (Mark 10:8) as does Paul (1 Cor 6:16;Eph 5:31) in describing its telos.

Andy wants to focus on the NT teaching on marriage, but in doing so, one would still have to go back to the OT, which the NT presupposes in its teaching.

G.K. Beale on Genesis and Revelation

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4)

Dr. Greg Beale makes an interesting note of this passage, and how it alludes to Genesis 19. I’ll summarize a brief point he makes in the beginning

Particularly v.13-22 it’s repetition of the commands “Get Out! Up! Escape!” in light of the coming judgment of the city. Another note he makes is the force in which the angels took in getting him out. They not only commanded them to leave, but because he “lingered” ” the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand” and this was paired with “the LORD being merciful to him”. Then they commanded again to “Escape”.

The LORD’s commands, Lot’s refusal, and The LORD’s force and constraint in the obedience of those commands against his “lingering”. This says a couple of things, mainly that the LORD is sovereign, and concerning us, He is merciful on us despite the fact that we linger in sin, in dragging us out of it.

The audio is here

 

Some of Beale’s works are here and here

Dr. Gregory K. Beale is Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia

All men, All people, and All things All

In the previous post, I briefly stated the self-conscious presuppositions and affirmations that those in the reformed camp take concerning the salvation of man by the Triune God. In this post I will respond to a few objections made by those who disagree with particular redemption.. This will not be an in-depth exegetical criticism (because there is plenty of that made by more capable people than me). The intention is to get those who are in fundamental disagreement to think about what we are saying in light of Scripture.

 

The first objection stems from the usage of the word “all” in reference to salvation. The second is the usage of the word “world”. However in this post we will deal with the objections that stem from the usage of “all”.

Those opposed to particular redemption will quote from the following passages:

a) 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”

i) A prima facie reading of this verse will have one scratching their heads as to how one could come to the conclusion of particular redemption, but reading the bible in this way is naive. This kind of handling of the bible is not considerate of the author’s intent, but rather allows for an importation of meanings that don’t belong. We aren’t allowed to be the final court of appeal in what the meaning of Scripture is, the Holy Spirit speaking through the particular author is.

ii) Looking at the verse within it’s context, we see that Paul is urging the believers to pray for all men. He then defines the scope of what he means by “all” which is “for kings and all who are in authority (v2). Paul is exhorting believers not to disregard those who are in authority in above them in their prayers, even under their persecution. He commanded that they specifically pray for their salvation, because it was God’s intention to save all kinds of men, regardless of who they were/are or where they came from.  As NT scholar, Alan Kurschner notes:

“Paul has in mind that God does not intend to save only one particular social class of people, but all social classes, including kings and those in authority. To read “all people” as “every single person in the world” is not warranted by the context and reveals a reading of one’s tradition and false notions into Paul’s important message to Timothy.” {1}

b) The second passage usually quoted is Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men”

i) Again many of those opposed to an intentional sacrifice of Christ will quote this verse, and expect the text to say what they believe it to say. However, Paul defines his usage of the word “all” in the text, and it would do the objector well to read it. Paul describes 7 classes of people,  from v1-9, and has commands designated to 5 of them: Older men, older women, young women, husbands, children, young men, and bondslaves. God provides the grace necessary in which these commands can be followed, otherwise it would be impossible to obey God. Doing these commands require a changed heart, which Paul goes over in 3:5-6, which is “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”.  The conclusion that is drawn is that God’s grace is not limited to one class of men, but to all of the classes described above, which empowers men to follow God’s commands.

c) The final text that is commonly used to support a general atonement  is 2 Peter 3:9 which says “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  For this I will provide a few considerations.

i) As we’ve seen before, we need to let the author define his intentions in the usage of a word, we cannot just read our own definitions into the scripture. In the whole of the book, Peter is addressing the church, and has classified two kinds of people, namely “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2Pe 1:1) and  “false prophets” who ” arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,”. Seeing this distinction, biblical scholar and theologian, John Gill noted in his commentary,

” {but is longsuffering} not to all the individuals of human nature, for the persons intended by us are manifestly distinguished from “some men” in the text, and from scoffers, mocking at the promise of Christ’s coming, in the context, ( 2 Peter 3:3 2 Peter 3:4 ) ; and are expressly called beloved, ( 2 Peter 3:12 Peter 3:8 2 Peter 3:14 2 Peter 3:17 ) ; and God’s longsuffering towards them is their salvation, (2 Peter 3:15 ) , nor is it true of all men, that God is not willing that any of them should perish, and that everyone of them should come to repentance, since many of them do perish in their sins, and do not come to repentance, which would not be the case, if his determining will was otherwise; besides, a society or company of men are designed, to which the apostle himself belonged, and of which he was a part; and who are described, in his epistles, as the elect of God, called out of darkness, into marvellous light, and having obtained like precious faith with the apostles;” {2}

ii) Let’s assume, for the sake of argument,  that those opposed to this rendering are correct. That “all” in this text really means “every single individual”.  Couldn’t God just wait longer? If God is sovereign over everything except the wills of men, then He could just extend the lives of the individual long enough for them to repent. God sets the life-span of each individual, right? Or would that violate their free will, as well?


A quick post on Reformed presuppositions concerning salvation.

One of the main objections charged of Reformed Christian Theism (i.e. Calvinism) is the adherence to a particular redemption.  That is, we affirm that God, in keeping with His attributes, chose to save some, and not others. This affirmation is summed up pretty well in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (WCF 3.6) {Scripture proofs}

Simply stated:
1) From eternity, God appoints a people to glory (that is, to enjoy an eternity in the presence with God via being united with Christ)
2)  Not only does He appoint the end, but the means as well, by the eternal and free purpose of His will.
3) Those whom are elected, who are fallen in Adam, are redeemed in Christ, and are effectually called to faith in Christ by the Spirit working in God’s own timing, and are justified, adopted, sanctified and kept by His power through faith, to salvation.
4) No one else is redeemed by Christ, and enjoy the benefits that union with Christ entails, but the elect.

Part 2: Shouldn’t we move away from tradition and get back to Scripture?

In the previous post, we went through some common objections to the Reformed tradition. In this installment, we will come to terms with the fact that we all have our traditions, whether they are biblical or not. As the Reformed Baptist pastor, apologist, and author,   Dr. James White says so well:

“the people most enslaved by their traditions are those who believe they don’t have any”.

This is simply just to say that  we all come to the text of scripture, along with everything else,  with presuppositions about how we should interpret it. We don’t read the Scripture in a vacuum, or in some neutral fashion, because according to Scripture, it’s impossible, as we will see in a quote from Van Til.

So why is the Reformed tradition superior? Well, it certainly isn’t because of the men that subscribe to it, or attest for it.

It is because of the emphasis that Scripture is our final authority in all matters of faith and life.  Even though we make use of church councils, creeds, and confessions, made by men, and even our own reasoning, we keep these things in subservience to the Word of God, which is the ultimate standard, or rule. Simply stated, the Reformed faith is consistent Christian Theism.

Cornelius Van Til, in his book,  A Christian Theory of Knowledge sums it up very well;

It is Christ as God who speaks in the Bible. Therefore the Bible does not appeal to human reason as ultimate in order to justify what it says. It comes to the human being with abso­lute authority. Its claim is that human reason must itself be taken in the sense in which Scripture takes it, namely, as cre­ated by God and as therefore properly subject to the authority of God…  The two systems, that of the non-Christian and that of the Christian, differ because of the fact that their basic as­sumptions, or presuppositions differ. On the non-Christian basis man is assumed to be the final reference point in predic­tion… The Reformed method…begins frankly “from above.” It would “presuppose” God. But in presupposing God it can­not place itself at any point on a neutral basis with the non-Christian… Believers themselves have not chosen the Chris­tian position because they were wiser than others. What they have they have by grace alone. But this fact does not mean that they must accept the problematics of fallen man as right or even as probably or possibly right. For the essence of the idea of Scripture is that it alone is the criterion of truth [1]

What Van Til means here is that the Reformed method, in principle,  is ultimately committed to the Triune God of Scripture in our approach to all things.  This means the Reformed method begins, on authority, with the truth of the Triune God’s existence, and that He has communicated with man in covenant fashion.

Again, it is the self-conscious commitment to Sola Scriptura that the Christian should commit to. Not to be confused with Solo Scriptura which is simply the “me and my bible and none else approach”. This is internally inconsistent as exegesis and exposition of the text of Scripture would lead one to reject that notion. Rather it is Sola Scriptura which says “The Scripture alone is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, it is the only source for Christian doctrine, It’s truths are accessible to all, as it is perspicuous and self-interpreting.

I am not aware of any other tradition who does any of what was described above. So to the question asked “Shouldn’t we move away from tradition, and get back to Scripture?” I would respond that the question needs to be qualified. If it is a tradition of men that the question references, and has it’s basis in a Philosophy after man, then I would agree with it. However, if by “Tradition” it meant “The Reformed tradition, and its outworking into Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Philosophical Theology and Apologetics, and Historical Theology” then I would answer no, because The Reformed tradition is self-consciously committed to Christ, through His Word, and it’s aim is to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and it is that which we strive to do as consistent Christian theists every day.

[1] A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, pp. 15, 18, 43.)

“Jesus Loves Me”

In growing up in a Southern Baptist church, one thing I can really look back on and appreciate is the traditional hymns. Some of the best theology that I learned as a child was through the ministry of the singing of hymns. Here at Kingdom Children, I would like to make it a common theme to reflect on the hymns that have been given to us by God as a means of learning about Him. By hymns, I refer to the lacing of Scriptures in lyrical form. In this edition we will be reflect on the Hymn “Jesus Loves Me”.

Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so;(1)

In this very line, we sing about what is, what we know, and how we know it. As surely as we believe the content of what is being sung here, so certainly this is the way it is. How is it that we know? Well the bible tells me so! What do I mean by the content of Christ’s love?  Look at the next line.

Little ones to him belong,
They are weak but he is strong. (2)

The Scriptures that come to my mind, personally when singing this line, are Romans, Chapter 5, verses 6-11.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (3)

Here we see, that we are the little ones. By we, Paul is referring to those who are united with Christ by Grace through Faith, which can be seen in Romans 6. The focus of our attention for now is Christ’s Love.  “For while we were still weak” ..what is meant here? We can gain insight from how the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul describes us elsewhere. In Ephesians chapter 2, verse 1, we are called “dead in the trespasses and sins”. In verse 2 Paul goes on to describe this deadness as “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”. Look at how our weakness, and lack of ability is being contrasted to Christ, The God-Man’s strength!

{For} at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (4)

Even though we were weak, spiritually dead, and are naturally opposed to God. Christ, at the right time died for us, the ungodly! This is how He demonstrates His love for us! Which one of us would die for someone who was unjustly condemned to die?  Could you imagine laying down your life for someone like that? It would be a very tough decision, that I, personally, would crumble under. Given the situation, I know I wouldn’t. Paul say this hardly happens. He goes on to say that one might be bold, daring, and adventurous to die for a good man. Someone who was an upstanding citizen, and did things for others . Yet Christ, The Creator, and Judge of the Universe, Lived Righteously, was crucified, and bled for our ungodly hearts and souls. This is why we sing “Jesus Loves Me”

Why did he do this? For our justification!

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received  reconciliation.(5)

What does this Justification entail? It means that God’s wrath no longer abides on us, due to our sin. God has declared us Just, by faith in His Son (Rom 3:22). While we were enemies of God, because of our sinful state, we have been reconciled with Him, by the death of His Son. By Faith, Having now been justified  by His life, His death, and His resurrection! Because of this, we rejoice, sing, and reflect on these hymns! Our standing before God is like that of Christ’s, because He loved us!

Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so. (6)

(1) http://www.opc.org/hymn.html?hymn_id=851
(2) Ibid.
(3)Rom. 5:6-11 ESV
(4)Rom. 5:6-8  ESV
(5)Rom. 5:9-11 ESV
(6)Ibid.

Part 1: Shouldn’t we move away from tradition and get back to Scripture?

I found it to be necessary to start with this question as the first post, as:

1) This blog’s aim is to bring awareness to the Reformed tradition

2) This blog’s aim is to teach the Reformed tradition as the most consistent, and loyal position to the Scriptures.

i.e. Reformed Theology is consistent Christian Theism

A complaint one would  hear about the above statements, is about the label. I can understand the problem one would have in the label. The Scripture that would come to mind at this point is Paul’s letter to Corinth:

3. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4. For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Cor 3:3-4)

This Scripture is usually argued that “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” takes place when one labels himself as Reformed/Calvinist or Arminian. That is, the division Paul is speaking against to the Corinthians who were doing this, speaks to us for being “Reformed” or “Arminian”. It is an understandable complain but it hasn’t gone unanswered. One answer is that Paul was not speaking to doctrinal division, but rather pride. (1)

I won’t go too in depth with this, because it is clearly stated in the above link. For a brief example, one would pride themselves in one apostle, and another person would pride themselves in another apostle of the same foundation. Consequently, one member would find themselves to be better than another, not because of doctrinal differences exactly, but because they studied under one particular apostle. So the attention went primarily to who they were and what they did, rather than what the apostles taught.

A point to make is that Paul did appeal to his apostleship and teachings, and even taught the overseers/elders to do the same, over against false teachers and apostle, so that the flock would have a sure foundation to hold to.

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Phil 3:17) ESV

{Likewise}urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, (Titus 2:6-7) ESV

For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:15-16) ESV

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thes 1:6) ESV

just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am also of Christ. (1 Cor 10:33-11:1)

I’ll end this with the  following comments that are taken from John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Corinthian chapter 11 v. 1

Here there are two things to be observed — first, that he prescribes nothing to others that he had not first practiced himself; and, secondly, that he directs himself and others to Christ as the only pattern of right acting. For while it is the part of a good teacher to enjoin nothing in words but what he is prepared to practice in action, he must not, at the same time, be so austere, as straightway to require from others everything that he does himself, as is the manner of the superstitious. For everything that they contract a liking for they impose also upon others, and would have their own example to be held absolutely as a rule. The world is also, of its own accord, inclined to a misdirected imitation, (κακοζηλίαν) (2) and, after the manner of apes, strive to copy whatever they see done by persons of great influence. We see, however how many evils have been introduced into the Church by this absurd desire of imitating all the actions of the saints, without exception. Let us, therefore, maintain so much the more carefully this doctrine of Paul — that we are to follow men, provided they take Christ as their grand model, (πρωτότυπον,) (3)  that the examples of the saints may not tend to lead us away from Christ, but rather to direct us to him.(4)

 

(1) "You Follow Calvin? Well, I follow Christ!"
(2) Κακοζηλία as it is used here is an "absurd invitation"
(3) πρωτότυπον as it is used here is "the original"
(4) Calvin's Commentary on Corinthians- Volume 1