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Soli Deo Gloria

(38 posts)

When God Kills

Monday··2006·11·06
Erasmus feared that the teaching of a human will that is not free, even if true (which he denied), served no good purpose and would cause people to neglect their own responsibility to respond to the gospel. Luther responded: ‘What use or need is there, then, of publishing such things when so many harmful results seem likely to follow?’ I reply: It should be enough to say simply that God has willed their publication, and the reason of the Divine will is not to be sought, but simply to be adored, and the glory given to God, Who, since He alone is just and wise, wrongs none and can do nothing foolish or inconsiderate—however much it may seem otherwise to us. This answer will satisfy those who fear God. However (to say a little more than I need, since there is so much more that I can say), there are two considerations which require the preaching of these truths. The first is the humbling of our pride, and the comprehending of the grace of God; the second is the nature of Christian faith. For the first: God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realises that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. So these truths are published for the sake of the elect, that they may be humbled and brought down to nothing, and so saved. The rest of men resist this humiliation; indeed, they condemn the teaching of self-despair; they want a little something left that they can do for themselves. Secretly they continue proud, and enemies of the grace of God. This, I repeat, one reason—that those who fear God might in humility comprehend, claim and receive His gracious promise. The second reason is this: faith’s object is things not seen. That there may be room for faith, therefore, all that is believed must be hidden. Yet it is not hidden more deeply than under a contrary appearance of sight, sense and experience. Thus, when God quickens, He does so by killing; when He justifies, He does so by pronouncing guilty; when He carries up to heaven, He does so by bringing down to hell. As Scripture says in 1 Kings 2, ‘The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up’ (1 Sam. 2.6). (This is no place for a fuller account of these things; but those who have read my books are well acquainted with them.) Thus God conceals His eternal mercy and loving kindness beneath eternal wrath, His righteousness beneath unrighteousness. Now, the highest degree of faith is to believe that He is merciful, though He saves so few and damns so many; to believe that He is just, though of His own will He makes us perforce proper subjects for damnation, and seems (in Erasmus’ words) ‘to delight in the torments of poor wretches and to be a fitter object for hate than for love.’ If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no need for faith. But as it is, the impossibility of understanding makes room for the exercise of faith when these things are preached and published; just as, when God kills, faith in life is exercised in death. —Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Revell, 1957) 100–101.

It’s Not about Us

Tuesday··2007·07·24 · 5 Comments
Much of the reason that Christians lack full assurance of their salvation is because they do not possess a right understanding of the purpose of salvation. Most Christians think their salvation is first and foremost about them. When I begin premarital counseling with a couple in our church, one of the first things we talk about is the purpose of marriage. I usually astonish the couple when I tell them that their marriage is not about them. After the initial shock, the young man and woman usually just look at me with blank stares. I then go on to explain that marriage is first and foremost about God and his kingdom (Ephesians 5:30–32). We spend some time talking about the creation ordinance to be fruitful and multiply, and, considering the possibility that the couple may not have children in the future, I explain that their marriage is intended to bring glory to God as each fulfills his or her covenant role in the relationship. I explain that they are getting married not just to live under the same roof with the same last name, but that their relationship is to reflect the relationship between Christ and his bride (5:25–29). When the couple understands that, they have a solid foundation on which to build a loving and full marriage. —Burk Parsons, Assured by God (P&R 2006), 26.

Luther the Calvinist

Friday··2007·09·28
I know it’s not quite right to call Luther a Calvinist, but it’s kind of fun. In any case, I might still be a Lutheran if Lutheranism more accurately reflected the doctrine of Luther, and if Lutherans didn’t work so hard to distance themselves from Calvin. The following commentary on Romans 8:28 sounds a lot like the Calvinist heresy I was warned about as a young Lutheran. I apologize for the length, but it didn’t seem right to cut it up. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (8:28.) The Greek text has the singular “works together” (sunergei), which is more fitting, since the referece is to the Holy Ghost; for this is the (Apostle’s) meaning: We must not be surprised that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, since He works together with God’s saints in all they do. That is the true exposition of the statement: “He maketh intercession for the saints.” In this (intercession) He works together with us, as He works together with us in all other things (Luther here follows the Greek reading: Panta sunergei ho Theos: in all things God works together with us for good.) The Apostle here says without any qualification: “Who are the called according to his purpose.” There is only this one purpose, namely, the purpose of God, which those recognize who recognize God. There is no other purpose than the one divine purpose (of salvation). This passage is the foundation on which rests everything that the Apostle says to the end of the chapter; for the means to show that to the elect who are loved of God and who love God, the Holy Spirit makes all things work for good even though they are evil (in themselves, e.g., sickness, persecution, etc.) He here takes up the doctrine of predestination which is not so incomprehensible as many think, but it is rather full of sweet comfort for the elect and for all who have the Holy Spirit. But it is most bitter and hard for (those who adhere to) the wisdom of the flesh. There is no other reason why the many tribulations and evils cannot separate the saints from the lover of God than the are the called “according to His purpose.” Hence God makes all things work together for good to them, and to them only. If there would not be this divine purpose, but our salvation would rest upon our will or work, it would be based upon chance. How easily in that case could one single evil hinder or destroy it! But when the Apostle says: “Who is he that condemneth?” “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:33, 34, 35), he shows that the elect are not saved by chance, but by God’s purpose and will. Indeed for this reason, God allows the elect to encounter to many evil things as are here named, namely, to point out that they are saved not by their merit, but by His election, His unchangeable and firm purpose (of salvation in Christ). They are saved despite their many efforts (to lead them into perdition). What then is there to our own righteousness? To our good works? To the freedom of the will? To chance in the things that occur? That (denial of all these things) is what we must preach, (as does the Apostle), for that means to preach rightly. That means to destroy the wisdom of the flesh. So far the Apostle has destroyed merely the hands, feet, and tongue of the wisdom of the flesh; now he wipes it out utterly. Now he makes us see that it amounts to nothing, and that our salvation altogether lies in His hands. God absolutely recognizes no chance; it is only men who speak of chance. Not a single leaf falls from the tree without the will of the Father. All things are essentially in His hands, and so are our times. There are yet three thoughts that should be considered in connection with the subject (of divine predestination). First there are the proofs of God’s unchangeable election, gathered from the words of Scripture and His (divine works. The Apostle says: “Who are the called according to his purpose .” “Purpose” here stands for God’s predestination, or His free election, of His (eternal) counsel (regarding the salvation to individual persons) later, in chapter 9, the Apostle illustrates God’s eternal election by referring to Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau (v. 8f.). As he clearly shows, the difference between these men rests solely upon divine predestination. Lastly, for God’s eternal election the Apostle quotes two passages: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (9:15); and : “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth” (9:18). Similar passages are found elsewhere in Chapters 9 and 10. There are passages treating of God’s eternal election also in other books of Scripture. Thus we read in John 13:18: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen” and in John 10:27-29: “My sheep here my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal love; and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater that all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand’; and in II Timothy 2:19: “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knows them that are his.” A further proof of God’s eternal purpose of election we find in His works. First, in the works which God did to Ishmael and Esau, Pharaoh and the Egyptians, as they are reported in this chapter and the following, Again, in the divine acts by which He gives over His saints to so many evil and rapacious enemies and yet does not permit them to lose their salvation. This clearly proves that His election stands firm and so cannot be hindered by any creature. Then also this act of God proves the divine election that He permits may to commit great sins and yet they are brought to repentance and are saved (David: II Samuel 12:13). While others who in the beginning lead a pious life and do may good works not saved (Saul: I Samuel 13:13). Compare for this also Judas and the thief on the cross (Matt. 26:14; Luke 23:41). The second thought (that we should consider in connection with God’s eternal election) is that all objections to predestination proceed from the wisdom of the flesh (human reason). Hence, whoever does not deny himself and does not learn to keep his thoughts in subjection to the divine will, never will find an answer to his questions. And that rightly so, for the foolish wisdom of the flesh exalts itself above God and judges His will, just as though this were of little importance. It should rather let itself be judged by God. For this reason the Apostle refutes all objections with two brief statements. First, he checks our arrogance by asking: “O man, who art thou that thou replies against God?” (Rom. 9:20) Then he defends the divine election by asking: “Hath not the potter power over the clay?” (v.21) The first and most flimsy objection against divine election is this, that man has been given a free will by which he can earn for himself either merit or demerit. To this I reply: Man’s free will without divine grace has not the least ability to secure righteousness, but is totally corrupt. The second objection is this: “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4); that is, God gave His Son into death for us, as He has created us for life eternal. Again: All things exist on account of man; but he himself exists for God’s sake to enjoy first; for all these statements are realized properly in the elect, as the Apostle writes in II Timothy 2:10: “I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that thy may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” A third objection reads: Where there is not sin, there God does not condemn. But whoever is a sinner of necessity is condemned unjustly. To this I reply: We are all sinners of necessity and so under condemnation, but no one is a sinner by coercion, or against his will. A fourth objection is this: God hardens the will of man so that he desires to transgress the divine Law all the more. Hence, God is the cause why men sin and are condemned. This is the strongest and most weighty objection. But the Apostle meets it by saying that so it is God’s will, and that if God so wills He does not act unjustly, for all things belong to Him as the clay belongs to the potter. He thus establishes His law in order that the elect may obey it, but the reprobates may be caught in it, and so He may show both His wrath and His mercy. Here indeed the wisdom of the flesh objects saying: “It is cruel and regrettable that God seeks His glorification in my misery.” Ah, it is the voice of the flesh that says: “My, my!” strike out this “my, my” and say instead: “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!” Then you will be saved. The wisdom of the flesh seeks its own glory and is more afraid of suffering than of desecrating God. Hence it follows its own will rather than the divine will. We must think differently of God than we do of men; for He owes us nothing. That is what the Apostle teaches at the close of the eleventh chapter: “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (11:35) The third thought (that we could consider in connection with God’s eternal election) is that this doctrine is indeed most bitter to the wisdom of the flesh, which revolts against it and even becomes guilty of blasphemy on this point. But it is fully defeated when we learn to know that our salvation rests in no wise upon ourselves and our e conduct, but is founded only upon what is outside us, namely on God’s election. Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine, as the Apostle himself illustrates this. To them, (His elect), Christ says: Fear not , little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). So also God says in Isaiah 35:4: “Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.” Everywhere in Scripture those are praised and encouraged who listen to Gods Word with trembling. As they despair of themselves, the Word of God performs its work in them. If we anxiously tremble at God’s Word and are terrified by it, this is indeed a good sign. If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken on contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one who is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect. The reprobates despise it, or at least pay no attention to it, or else they declare in the arrogance of their despair: “Well, if I am damned, all right, then I am damned.” With reference to the elect we might distinguish between three classes. First, there are those who are satisfied with God’s will, as it is, and do not murmur against God, but rather believe that they are elected. They do not want to be damned. Secondly, there are those who submit to God’s will and are satisfied with it in their hearts. At least they desire to be satisfied, if God does not wish to save, but reject them. Thirdly, there are those who really are ready to be condemned if God should will this. These are cleansed most of all of their own will and carnal wisdom. And these experience the truth of Canticles 8:6: “Set me a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death.” Such love is always joined with cross and tribulation, for without it the soul should becomes lax, and does not seek after God, nor thirst after God, who is the Fountain of Life. —Martin Luther, Luther’s Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1954), 111–116.

How Will You Glorify God?

Monday··2008·09·22 · 1 Comments
I recently had rather odd dream. I was a kid again, and back at a Bible camp. At this camp, we were singing a number of the “7-eleven” songs that were popular twenty-plus years ago. The final song in my dream was Lord, Be Glorified. In my life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified In my life, Lord, be glorified today. If you’ve sung this chorus, you know it can be strung out indefinitely by substituting any number of things for “my life.” In my dream, we were doing just that, but with even more absurd, mind-numbing repetition than ever in reality. “In my ____, Lord, be glorified, . . . Fill in the blank with any noun you can think of, and we sang it. I was glad to wake up. Trivializing repetition aside, it is, of course, good and right to pray that God will be glorified through us. This ought to be our chief motive in everything. But what came to mind was the fact that we ought not pray that God will be glorified through us as if it is possible that he might not. I think many, if not most, Christians believe that it is possible to live a life that does not glorify God; but that is just not true. The truth is that God will be glorified through every one of us. He has been glorified through the lives of faithful saints throughout time, from the beginning of creation to this present day. But he has also been glorified through the failures of those saints, and even through the most heinous sins of history’s most notorious villains. God was glorified in Genesis 6, not only through Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” but through the “wickedness of man” which he judged in the flood. God was glorified not only through Isaac, but through Ishmael also. He was glorified through Joseph’s brothers, who sold him into slavery. He was glorified through Joseph as Joseph was faithful and righteous and, by his God-given wisdom, saved a nation. He was glorified through Pharaoh as Pharaoh enslaved God’s people, and was then judged for it. And as Israel wandered away from God, God was glorified as he repeatedly punished them and extended his grace to them. God was glorified through Christ and the apostles, and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; but he was also glorified through Caiaphas, Judas, and Pilate. In short, God will be glorified through us, one way or another, either as his grace is displayed in our lives, or his judgment is meted out to us. His grace may come to us in the form of discipline, as well as obvious blessing. His judgment on the wicked may be seen here, as with the Genesis flood, or it may not be seen until the final judgment; but it will be seen by all, and God will be glorified. He will be glorified through every act of every one of his creatures. The question is not, will God be glorified through me, but how will he be glorified through me?

By Might and Right

Monday··2010·07·05
Among the many internet postings yesterday commemorating the anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online blog called attention to the final stanza of the John Phillip Sousa march, Stars and Stripes Forever. I had not been aware that there were any lyrics, but now that I do, I like the piece a lot less. The whole thing is pretty poor both rhetorically and poetically, but the last stanza really stands out in a Nebuchadnezzarian* way. Read it for yourself: Hurrah for the flag of the free. May it wave as our standard forever The gem of the land and the sea, The banner of the right. Let despots remember the day When our fathers with mighty endeavor Proclaimed as they marched to the fray, That by their might and by their right It waves forever. Other than the fact that he wrote a pile of great marching music, I know nothing of Sousa, but I can glean a couple of facts from that verse: He was ignorant of American history, particularly of the circumstances of the Revolution, and He was entirely ignorant of what the Bible says about the rising of kings and nations. The American Revolution was not won by might or right.† That the war was won at all borders on the miraculous, as the historical record shows.‡ More importantly, admirers of Sousa’s sentiments should take note of the words of Scripture. He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. —Job 12:23 And those who think otherwise had better beware. All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” At that time my reason returned to me And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride. —Daniel 4:28–37 I don’t claim to know the mind of God or to be his counselor, but the Sousa doctrine—which is the American doctrine—sounds a lot like Nebuchadnezzar. It is not for me to say that the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar parallels the fallen and still falling glory of the United States, but it would be foolish to deny the similarities. How will it end for this nation? Well, I’m no prophet, and neither are you. But I can say without any doubt that it does not end well for those who steal God’s glory and credit his blessings to their own might and right. * Of course it’s a word. You read it, didn’t you? † The jury is still out, in my mind, as to whether or not the Revolution was a just war. In either case, it was not won by anyone’s “right.” Having said that, I will not be entertaining comments arguing either way. ‡ Read David McCullough’s 1776 and John Adams.

Hymns of My youth: We Praise Thee, O God

Saturday··2010·09·04 · 5 Comments
This hymn seems to be unknown outside of Lutheran circles. If you’re a Lutheran today, and you’ve sung this hymn, chances are it’s been a neutered version with updated and decidedly unpoetic language, no violence (“battles” are now “struggles”), sans any “great Jehovah.” I give it to you con carne. 20 We Praise Thee, O GodWe praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator; In grateful devotion our tribute we bring. We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee; We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing. We worship Thee, God of our fathers, we bless Thee; Through trouble and tempest our Guide hast Thou been. When perils o’ertake us, escape Thou wilt make us, And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win. With voices united our praises we offer to Thee, great Jehovah, glad anthems we raise. Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us, To Thee, our great Redeemer, forever be praise! —The Concordia Hymnal(Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). The tune is Krember, which you may recognize as We Gather Together.

Hymns of My Youth: Ye Servants of God

Saturday··2010·10·09
This is one of the many great hymns of Charles Wesley. 32 Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, And publish abroad His wonderful Name; The Name all victorious of Jesus extol, His kingdom is glorious and rules over all. God ruleth on high, almighty to save, And still He is nigh, His presence we have; The great congregation His triumph shall sing, Ascribing salvation to Jesus our King. Salvation to God, who sits on the throne, Let all cry aloud and honor the Son; The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb. Then let us adore and give Him His right, All glory, and pow’r, all wisdom and might; All honor and blessing with angels above, And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love. —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). The Concordia tune is Lyons, composed by Johann Michael Haydn, the younger brother of Joseph Haydn. You might also recognize it as O Worship the King. It is also commonly sung to Hanover. The tunes are quite similar. Lyons (organ) Hanover (men’s chorus)

Made for Worship

Thursday··2010·10·14
George Swinnock on Our Great End: Now the great end to which man is designed by God, is the exercising himself to godliness. God erected the stately fabric of the great world for man, but he wrought the curious piece of the little world [man] for himself. Of all his visible works he did set man apart for his own worship. Man. saith one, is the end of all in a semicircle , intimating that all things in the world were made for man, and man was made for God. . . . The great God, according to his infinite wisdom hath designed all his creatures to some particular ends, and hath imprinted in their natures an appetite and propensity towards that end, as the point and scope of their being. Yea, the very inanimate and irrational creatures are serviceable to those ends and uses in there several places and stations. . . . Surely much more is man, the point in which all those lines meet, designed to some noble end, suitable to the excellence of his being; and what can that be, but to worship the glorious and blessed God, and the exercising himself to godliness? “The Lord made all things for himself.” God made things without life and reason to serve him passively and objectively, by administering occasion to man to admire and adore his Maker; but man was made to worship him acutely and affectionately, as sensible of, and affected with, that divine wisdom, power and goodness which appear in them. As all things are of him as the efficient cause, so all things must necessarily be for him as the final cause. But man is an special manner is predestined and created for this purpose: “Thou art mine; I have created him for my glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him.” There is both the author and the end of our creation: the author, “I have created him;” the end, “for my glory” . . . . Man is made as a glass, to represent the perfections that are in God. A glass can receive the beams of the sun into it, and reflect them back again to the sun. The excellencies of God appear abundantly in his works; man is made to be the glass where these beams of divine glory should be united and received, and also from him reflected back to God again. —George Swinnock, Trading and Thriving in Godliness: The Piety of George Swinnock, ed. J. Stephen Yuille (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 69–70.

Hymns of My Youth II: Give Praise to God

Saturday··2011·09·10
The first Hymns of My Youth series took us through the Concordia hymnal, which was the primary hymnal of the churches in which I was raised. In that series, I limited myself, with few exceptions, to hymns that I actually remembered singing during that time. This second series will use one of the secondary hymnals of those churches, Great Hymns of the Faith, and I’m going to include hymns that I learned on my own, as I perused the hymnal alone or with friends. This is one of those. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above Sing praise to God Who reigns above, The God of all creation, The God of power, the God of love, The God of our salvation. With healing balm my soul He fills, And every faithless murmur stills: To God all praise and glory. What God’s almighty power hath made His gracious mercy keepeth, By morning glow or evening shade His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth; Within the kingdom of His might, Lo! all is just and all is right: To God all praise and glory. The Lord is never far away, But through all grief distressing, An ever present help and stay, Our peace and joy and blessing. As with a mother’s tender hand, He leads His own, His chosen band: To God all praise and glory. Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud Thy praises, That earth may hear the grateful song My voice unwearied raises. Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body bear your part: To God all praise and glory. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: Ye Servants of God

Saturday··2011·11·12
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” —Revelation 7:9–12 Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, And publish abroad His wonderful Name; The Name all victorious of Jesus extol: His kingdom is glorious and rules over all. God ruleth on high, almighty to save, And still He is nigh–His presence we have; The great congregation His triumph shall sing, Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King. “Salvation to God, who sits on the throne,” Let all cry aloud and honor the Son; The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb. Then let us adore and give Him His right— All glory and pow’r, and wisdom and might, All honor and blessing with angels above, And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Hymns of My Youth II: Come, Christians, Join to Sing

Saturday··2011·12·31
After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her.” And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! her smoke rises up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:1–8 Come, Christians, Join to Sing Come, Christians, join to sing— Alleluia! Amen! Loud praise to Christ our King— Alleluia! Amen! Let all, with heart and voice, Before His throne rejoice; Praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen! Come, lift your hearts on high— Alleluia! Amen! Let praises fill the sky— Alleluia! Amen! He is our Guide and Friend, To us He’ll condescend; His love shall never end: Alleluia! Amen! Praise yet our Christ again— Alleluia! Amen! Life shall not end the strain— Alleluia! Amen! On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore, Singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!” —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Isaiah’s Vision of Sovereignty

Wednesday··2013·11·13
If the apostle Paul is the New Testament figure most associated with the teaching of God’s sovereignty,” writes Richard Phillips, “his Old Testament counterpart is surely Isaiah.” Both men learned of God’s sovereignty in the most dramatic way: in person. The prophecy of Isaiah contains some of the boldest proclamations of God’s sovereignty in Scripture. In chapter 45, he compares God’s relationship with mankind to that of a potter and his clay, making of His creation whatever He will. In chapter 46, Isaiah points out the utter sovereignty of God’s will: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:9–10). In chapter 59, Isaiah speaks of God’s sovereignty in terms of the long arm of the Lord, by which He is able to will the salvation of His people anywhere: “His own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” (Isa. 59:16). Isaiah’s message about divine sovereignty wouldn’t have been any more popular in his time than it is in many circles today. But where did Isaiah get this radical conception of God? Was Isaiah under the influence of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinking (as is often said of those who espouse his teaching today)? Was Isaiah a closet rationalist, under the influence of Plato and Aristotle, so that he can be written off as a prophet of the Greek philosophers rather than of Israel’s God? These can hardly be the case, given that Isaiah wrote in the late eighth and early seventh centuries BC. So where did Isaiah gain these peculiar views in which God is truly God? The answer is that Isaiah learned of God’s sovereignty through his personal experience of the Lord. And he wasn’t the only one. Paul got his view of a sovereign Christ on the Damascus Road, Jonah attained his “Calvinism” in the belly of the whale, and Habakkuk gained his grasp of God’s sovereignty in his watchtower. In other words, Isaiah—like the other prophets and the apostles, who worshiped God’s sovereign glory—gained his doctrine from the Lord Himself. —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 3–4.

To Make Known His Glory

Wednesday··2013·11·27
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. —Romans 9:19–24 Along with the doctrine of unconditional election comes the difficult doctrine of reprobation. It is this doctrine most of all that causes many to cry, “That’s not fair!” That cry comes from the prideful assumption that man is the center of redemptive history. But we are not the center; the center of the biblical narrative, God’s story, is God himself. Barnhouse tells of a shop in Paris that is world—famous for its magnificent, intricate white lace. To display their samples in the store windows, the proprietors place the darkest black velvet behind the lace; only in this way can the intricate details of the craftsmen’s achievement be seen. It is the same with God’s grace. Were no one ever condemned—were there no display of God’s judgment and wrath—there would be no knowledge of the glories of God’s grace. In that case, the true God would be unknown to His creatures, and His purpose in creation—to display the fullness of His glory—would be unrealized. Having failed in this purpose, God would no longer be God. For this reason, God’s decree of reprobation is necessary. God being perfect in every attribute, it is necessary for His every attribute to be exercised: goodness in creation, power in triumph, mercy in grace, and justice in wrath. —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 44.

In Failure or Success

Thursday··2013·12·05
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. —Philippians 1:6 In our inevitable failure, God has a purpose. In our success, he gets the credit. In both, he is faithful. An awareness of God’s present grace—His grace for the journey as well as for its beginning and end—should elevate our hopes for daily joy. This is what’s so great about the perseverance of the saints: the certainty believers have at all times that God is graciously working for our salvation. Perhaps, for instance, a grace-centered believer falls into a sin. Instead of being undone by inward doubts and questions regarding his or her salvation, the believer should ask how God is using this failure for his or her sanctification. I might ask, is God revealing my overconfidence in the flesh and my need to rely more closely on His Word? Is God preparing me for a future challenge, so that I will not fail then? Is God humbling me or showing me a particular vulnerability? The answer is probably somewhere along these lines. But what a liberating difference it makes to view life in terms of God’s certain success instead of in terms of our inevitable failure! The doctrine of God’s preserving grace may be even more important in the event of our success and spiritual achievement. Instead of glorying in ourselves, to which we all are prone—“Look what I have done!”—we glory in God’s faithfulness and might. We celebrate what God is doing in us and draw nearer to Him instead of puffing up with self-reliance that can only draw us away from the spring of God’s flowing grace. In either case—failure or success—possessing a firm confidence in God’s preserving grace makes all the difference now. Are you a believer in Christ? Then realize that this is a work of grace begun in you by God. What He has begun, He is certain to bring to completion and perfection! —Richard D. Phillips, What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? (Reformation Trust, 2008), 95–96.

First, but Second

Monday··2013·12·16
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant— As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old— Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us; To show mercy toward our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. —Luke 1:68–79 Roman Catholics worship saints.* While Protestants scoff, we often hold our revered ones too highly. Worse, we often think too highly of ourselves. Let us be reminded that the only thing that gives any of us significance† is the same thing that gave John the Baptist significance. There were two parts to Zechariah’s blessing. First, he blessed God for the visitation of his salvation (Luke 1:68–75). Then he blessed his newborn son (Luke 1:76–79). The order is significant. In spite of his fatherly pride, Zechariah recognized the subordinate position of his son. John was the last the last and greatest prophet of the old covenant, but what made him great was his relationship to Jesus. He was first in the birth order, but second in significance. Zechariah understood this, so his benediction was mainly for Jesus. Nevertheless, John had an important part to play in the coming of salvation, so he too received a blessing. —Philip Ryken, The Incarnation in the Gospels (P&R Publishing, 2008), 95. * Yes, I know: dulia, latria, blah, blah, blah. Prayer is worship. Period. † Including unbelievers who, as bearers of the imago Dei, glorify God one way or another.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Sing Praise to God

Saturday··2014·02·15
Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above Ascribe greatness to our God! Deut. 32:3 Sing praise to God Who reigns above, The God of all creation, The God of pow’r, the God of love, The God of our salvation. With healing balm my soul He fills, And every faithless murmur stills: To God all praise and glory! What God’s almighty pow’r hath made His gracious mercy keepeth, By morning glow or evening shade His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth; Within the kingdom of His might, Lo! all is just and all is right: To God all praise and glory! The Lord is never far away, But through all grief distressing, An ever present help and stay, Our peace and joy and blessing. As with a mother’s tender hand, He leads His own, His chosen band: To God all praise and glory! Thus all my toilsome way along I sing aloud His praises, That men may hear the grateful song My voice unwearied raises. Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body bear your part: To God all praise and glory! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Saturday··2014·02·22
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty . . . praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven . . . Daniel 4:37 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Join me in glad adoration. Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth, Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been Granted in what He ordaineth? Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, If with His love He befriend thee. Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again: Gladly for aye we adore Him. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Made to Worship

Thursday··2014·02·27
‘The Lord made all things for himself,’ Prov. xvi. 4. God made things without life and reason to serve him passively and subjectively, by administering occasion to man to admire and adore his Maker; but man was made to worship him actively and affectionately, as sensible of, and affected with, that divine wisdom, power, and goodness which appear in them. As all things are of him as the efficient cause, so all things must necessarily be for him as the final cause. But man in an especial manner is predestinated and created for this purpose: Isa. xliii. 1, 7, ‘Thou art mine; I have created him for my glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him.’ There is both the author and the end of our creation: the author, ‘I have created him;’ the end, ‘for my glory.’ As man is the most exact piece, on which he bestowed most pains, so from him he cannot but expect most praise. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:48.

The Chief Reason

Friday··2014·02·28
The Talmud is, of course, no authority, but its theory of why man was created on the sixth day is, at least, interesting. And it is certainly correct in naming the purpose for which man was created. George Swinnock wrote: A philosopher may get riches, saith Aristotle, but that is not his main business; a Christian may, nay, must follow his particular calling, but that is not his main business, that is not the errand for which he was sent into the world. God made particular callings for men, but he made men for their general callings. It was a discreet answer of Anaxagoras Clazamenius to one that asked him why he came into the world; Ut cælum contempler, That I might contemplate heaven. Heaven is my country, and for that is my chiefest care. May not a Christian upon better reason confess that to be the end of his creation, that he might seek heaven, and be serviceable to the Lord of heaven, and say, as Jerome, I am a miserable sinner, and born only to repent. The Jewish Talmud propounds this question, Why God made man on the Sabbath eve? and gives this answer: That he might presently enter upon the command of sanctifying the Sabbath, and begin his life with the worship of God, which was the chief reason and end why it was given him. —George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:49–50.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: O Worship the King

Saturday··2014·03·01
O Worship the King Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty; Psalm 104:1 O worship the King, all glorious above, And gratefully sing His wonderful love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. O tell of His might, O sing of His grace, Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space! His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, And dark is His path on the wings of the storm. Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite? It breathes in the air, it shines in the light, It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain. Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail: Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Holy God, We Praise Thy Name

Saturday··2014·03·08
Holy God, We Praise Thy Name I will bless Your name forever and ever. Psalm 145:1 Holy God, we praise Thy Name; Lord of all, we bow before Thee; All on earth Thy scepter claim, All in Heaven above adore Thee: Infinite Thy vast domain, Everlasting is Thy reign. Hark, the glad celestial hymn Angel choirs above are raising; Cherubim and seraphim, In unceasing chorus praising; Fill the heavens with sweet accord: Holy, holy, holy, Lord. Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit: Three we name Thee, Though in essence only one, Undivided God we claim Thee, And adoring, bend the knee While we sing our praise to Thee. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator

Saturday··2014·03·15
We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; 1 Chronicles 16:25 We praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator In grateful devotion our tribute we bring; We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee; We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing. We worship Thee, God of our fathers, we bless Thee Thru life’s storm and tempest our Guide hast Thou been; When perils o’ertake us, escape Thou wilt make us, And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win. With voices united our praises we offer To Thee, great Jehovah, glad anthems we raise; Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us, To Thee, our great Redeemer, forever be praise! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 11, 2014

Sunday··2014·03·16
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. —Psalm 9:1–2 Hymns of Thanksgiving Hymn XV. The General Thanksgiving in the Liturgy paraphrased. Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Eternal God, the thanks receive, Which thine unworthy servants give; Father of ev’ry mercy thou, Almighty and all gracious too! In humble yet exulting songs, Thy praises issue from our tongues, For that incessant boundless love, Which we and all thy creatures prove. Fashion’d by thy creating hand, And by thy providence sustain’d, We wish our gratitude to shew, For all thy temporal blessings due. But O! for this we chiefly raise The incense of admiring praise— Thy love unspeakably we own Which sent the willing Saviour down. For him, of all thy gifts the best, Th’ exceeding gift which crowns the rest, Chiefly for him thy name we laud, And thank thee for a bleeding God. Nor should we fail our Lord to praise, For all the assisting means of grace; Th’ appointed channels which convey Strength to support us on our way. To thee let all our thanks be giv’n, For our well-grounded hope of heav’n, Our glorious trust, that we shall reign And live with him who died for man. And O! so deep a sense impress Of thy supreme, unbounded grace, That anthems in full choir may rise, And shake the earth and rend the skies Make us in deed, as well as word, Shew forth the praises of the Lord, And thank him still for what he gives Both with our lips, and in our lives! O that, by sin no more subdu’d. We might devote ourselves to God, And only breathe to tell his praise, And in his service spend our daysl Hail, Father! Hail, eternal Son! Hail, sacred Spirit, Three in One! Blessing and thanks, and pow’r divine. Thrice, holy Lord, be ever thine! —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Ye Servants of God

Saturday··2014·03·22
Ye Servants of God Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. Revelation 7:10 Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim, And publish abroad His wonderful Name; The Name all victorious of Jesus extol: His kingdom is glorious, He rules over all. God ruleth on high, almighty to save, And still He is nigh, His presence we have; The great congregation His triumph shall sing, Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King. “Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!” Let all cry aloud, and honor the Son; The praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, Fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb. Then let us adore, and give Him His right— All glory and pow’r, and wisdom and might, All honor and blessing with angels above, And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Lord’s Day 12, 2014

Sunday··2014·03·23
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped. —Revelation 5:11–14 A Psalm of Praise Richard Baxter (1615–1691) Ye holy angels bright, who stand before God’s throne And dwell in glorious light, praise ye the Lord each one. Assist our song, or else the theme too high doth seem for mortal tongue. Ye blessed souls at rest, that see your Savior’s face, Whose glory, e’en the least, is far above our grace. God’s praises sound, as in His sight with sweet delight you do abound. Ye saints, who toil below, adore your heavenly King, And onward as ye go some joyful anthem sing; Take what He gives and praise Him still, through good or ill, Who ever lives! All nations of the earth, extol the world’s great King: With melody and mirth His glorious praises sing, For He still reigns, and will bring low the proudest foe that Him disdains. Sing forth Jehovah’s praise, ye saints, that on Him call! Him magnify always, His holy churches all! In Him rejoice and there proclaim His holy Name with sounding voice. My soul, bear thou thy part, triumph in God above, And with a well tuned heart sing thou the songs of love. And all my days let no distress nor fears suppress His joyful praise. Away, distrustful care! I have Thy promise, Lord, To banish all despair, I have Thine oath and Word: And therefore I shall see Thy face and there Thy grace shall magnify. With Thy triumphant flock then I shall numbered be; Built on th’eternal Rock, His glory shall we see. The heav’ns so high with praise shall ring and all shall sing in harmony. —Worthy Is the Lamb (Soli Deo Gloria, 2004). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Stand Up and Bless the Lord

Saturday··2014·04·12
Stand Up and Bless the Lord Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! Nehemiah 9:5 Stand up and bless the Lord, Ye people of His choice; Stand up and bless the Lord your God With heart and soul and voice. Though high above all praise, Above all blessing high, Who would not fear His holy name, And laud and magnify? O for the living flame, From His own altar brought, To touch our lips, our minds inspire, And wing to heav’n our thought! God is our strength and song, And His salvation ours; Then be His love in Christ proclaim’d With all our ransomed pow’rs. Stand up and bless the Lord, The Lord your God adore; Stand up and bless His glorious name Henceforth forevermore. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Sanctification: Synergistic, or Monergistic?

Monday··2014·04·14
Salvation is monergistic. There is nothing anyone can do to save or contribute to the saving of themselves. On this, biblical theologians all agree.* The natural man is dead in sin, and cannot raise himself. He cannot exercise any kind of faith, because he has none. He cannot acquire saving faith, because he cannot understand the word through which that faith is given (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 2:14). He must, in theological terms, be regenerated, or, in biblical terms, be born again (John 3:3), and that is only accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:7–8). Salvation is monergistic, because it must be monergistic. At the same time, there are the gospel commands. We are commanded to believe. We are commanded to repent. We are commanded to follow Jesus, and in doing so, to take up crosses (Matthew 16:14; cf. Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Unless we do these things, we will not be saved. We also know that perseverance is required (James 1:12). Volumes have been written in the desire to reconcile the demands of God and the responsibility of man with the clear witness of Scripture to the total inability of man and the sovereign, saving grace of God. In spite of that difficulty, monergism is maintained. We maintain that regeneration is a miracle, that justification is by grace alone, through faith—the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)—alone, and that our perseverance is assured (John 6:40–44) by God. Meanwhile, one portion of our salvation is plucked from the center and declared synergistic. I speak, of course, of sanctification. That opinion is held by no less than R. C. Sproul, who said, “Regeneration is monergistic, God’s work alone. Sanctification, the process by which we are made holy, is synergistic, God’s work with us.” During the recent 2014 Shepherds’ Conference, my most esteemed teacher, John MacArthur, and a panel of distinguished guests all agreed. It should be noted that they were responding to the antinomian views of Tullian Tchividjian and others, who seem to be espousing a Keswick-like “let go and let God” philosophy, but nevertheless, the statement was unambiguous: “sanctification is synergistic.” And the substance of everything they said was correct. I couldn’t disagree with a single word, but it was as though they were saying “2+3=7.” Yes, I agree with their definition of 2, and yes, of 3 also, but the conclusion was wrong. Yes, we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and if we do not, our sanctification simply will not happen, but how is that different from the fact that if we do not believe and repent, we will not be justified? In spite of those clear commands, we recognize the texts that just as clearly declare regeneration monergistic. Why can’t we acknowledge the command in Philippians 2:12, “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” while recognizing that as we do, “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (verse 13)? We don’t have to deny monergistic sanctification to avoid antinomianism or quietism any more than we have to deny monergistic regeneration to avoid the errors of hyper-Calvinism. It seems to me a “can’t see the forest for the trees” problem. Those who call sanctification synergistic need to step back and see who is really doing the work. Several years ago, while still very much an Arminian, I was discussing Calvinism versus Arminianism with a quasi-Arminian Pastor. He explained that the difference was that Arminians were looking at salvation from man’s point of view, while Calvinists looked from God’s point of view. He seemed to think that, as people dealing with people, we should be taking the former view, which has a certain pragmatic appeal, but is flat wrong. It seems to me that those monergists—or, perhaps I should say, semi-monergists, who believe in synergistic sanctification are making the same error. Or maybe I should trade soli Deo gloria for maxime gloria Deo (most of the glory to God). * I know, many theologians disagree, but I don’t consider them, however distinguished, to be very biblical. They may be fine Christians, but no one who fails to understand this most fundamental and reasonably perspicuous truth deserves any kind of theologically-related degree.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: All Creatures of Our God and King

Saturday··2014·07·12
All Creatures of Our God and King Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; Psalm 148:13All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing Alleluia, Alleluia! Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam, O praise Him, O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Thou rushing wind that art so strong, Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along, O praise Him, Alleluia! Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice, Ye lights of evening, find a voice, O praise Him, O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Thou flowing water, pure and clear, Make music for thy Lord to hear, O praise Him, Alleluia! Thou fire so masterful and bright, That givest man both warmth and light, O praise Him, O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! And all ye men of tender heart, Forgiving others, take your part, O sing ye, Alleluia! Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, Praise God and on Him cast your care, O praise Him, O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Let all things their Creator bless, And worship Him in humbleness, O praise Him, Alleluia! Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, And praise the Spirit, Three in One, O praise Him, O praise Him, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Godliness in Eating and Drinking

Monday··2014·09·08
George Swinnock, typically Puritan, wrote at great length on the godly treatment of holy things. Now he turns his attention to How a Christian may exercise himself to godliness in natural actions, beginning with eating and drinking. As thy duty is to make religion thy business in religious, so also in natural actions. A good scrivener is not only careful how he makes his first and great letters, his flourishes, but also the smallest letters, nay, his very stops and commas. A scribe instructed for the kingdom of heaven, is heedful not only that the weightiest actions of God’s immediate worship, but also that the meaner passages of his life, be conformable to God’s law. A wise builder will make his kitchen as well as his parlour according to rule. A holy person turns his natural actions into spiritual, and whilst he is serving his body he is serving his God. It is said of a Scotch divine, that he did eat, drink, and sleep eternal life. Luther tells, that though he did not always pray and meditate, but did sometimes eat, and sometimes drink, and sometimes sleep, yet all should further his account; the latter as truly, though not so abundantly, as the former. And indeed it is our privilege that natural actions may be adopted into the family of religion, and we may worship God as really at our tables as in his temple. Saints must not, like brute beasts, content themselves with a natural use of the creatures, but use them as chariots to mount them nearer, and cords to bind them closer to God. Piety or holiness to the Lord must be written upon their pots, Zech. xiv. 20. ‘Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,’ 1 Cor. x. 31. Philo observeth that the ancient Jews made their feasts after sacrifice in the temple, that the place might mind them of their duty to be pious at them. It is a memorable expression, ‘And Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God,’ Exod. xviii. 12. In which words we have the greatness of their courtesy, and the graciousness of their carriage. For their courtesy, though Jethro were a stranger, and no Israelite, yet the elders honoured him with their company. And Aaron and all the elders came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law. But mark the graciousness of their carriage, they came to eat bread with him before God ; that is, In gloriam et honorem Dei, to the honour and glory of God, saith Calvin. They received their sustenance, as in God’s sight, and caused their provision to tend to God’s praise. God takes it ill when we sit down to table and leave him out, Zech. vii. 6, ‘When ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? ‘He sends us in all our food, we live at his cost; and therefore our eating may well be to his credit who is the master of the feast.—George Swinnock, The Christian Man’s Calling, Works of George Swinnock (Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:260–261

Lord’s Day 41, 2014

Sunday··2014·10·12
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. —Psalm 73:25–28 Hymn 94. (C. M.) God my only happiness. Psalm lxxiii. 25. Isaac Watts (1674–1748) My God, my portion, and my love, My everlasting all! I’ve none but thee in heav’n above, Or on this earthly ball. [What empty things are all the skies, And this inferior clod! There’s nothing here deserves my joys, There’s nothing like my God.] [In vain the bright, the burning sun Scatters his feeble light; ’Tis thy sweet beams create my noon; If thou withdraw, ’tis night. And whilst upon my restless bed, Amongst the shades I roll, If my Redeemer shows his head, ’Tis morning with my soul.] To thee we owe our wealth, and friends, And health, and safe abode: Thanks to thy name for meaner things, But they are not my God. How vain a toy is glitt’ring wealth, If once compar’d to thee! Or what ’s my safety, or my health, Or all my friends to me? Were I possessor of the earth, And call’d the stars my own, Without thy graces and thyself I were a wretch undone. Let others stretch their arms like seas And grasp in all the shore, Grant me the visits of thy face, And I desire no more. —The Psalms & Hymns of Isaac Watts. Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Book II: Composed on Divine Subjects (Soli Deo Gloria, 1997). Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation if you can possibly help it. But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these. Tweets about "sermon from:thethirstytheo" !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Come, Christians, Join to Sing

Saturday··2014·10·18
Come, Christians, Join to Sing! singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks Ephesians 5:19–20 Come, Christians, join to sing Alleluia! Amen! Loud praise to Christ our King; Alleluia! Amen! Let all, with heart and voice, Before His throne rejoice; Praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen! Come, lift your hearts on high, Alleluia! Amen! Let praises fill the sky; Alleluia! Amen! He is our Guide and Friend;To us He’ll condescend; His love shall never end: Alleluia! Amen! Praise yet our Christ again,Alleluia! Amen! Life shall not end the strain; Alleluia! Amen! On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore, Singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!” —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

It Concerns Us to Walk So

Tuesday··2014·11·04
. . . Hallowed be your name. —Matthew 6:9 When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are praying for our sanctification. We pray that God will conform us, as he has promised, “to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), that he may be glorified in us. There is holiness required, that we may not be a disgrace to God and a dishonour to him. The Lord saith, Ezek. xx. 9, ‘That his name should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they (his people) were.’ The sin of God’s people doth stain the honour of God, and profane his name. When men profess much to be a people near God, and live carnally and loosely, they dishonour God exceedingly by their conversation. Men judge by what is visible and sensible, and so they think of God by his servants and worshippers; as the heathens did of Christ in Salvian’s time,—If he was a holy Christ, certainly Christians would live more temperately, justly, and soberly. They are apt to think of God by his worshippers, and by the people that profess themselves so near and dear to him; therefore it concerns us to walk so, that our lives may honour him: Mat. v. 16, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ As the loins of the poor (saith Job) blessed him, Job xxxi. 20, namely, as they were fed and clothed by his bounty; so our lives may glorify God. David saith, Ps. cxix. 7, ‘Then shall I praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I have learned thy righteous judgment.’ There is no way to praise God entirely and sincerely until we have learned both to know and do his will. Real praise is the praise God looks after. Otherwise we do but serve Christ as the devil served him, who would carry him upon the top of the mountain, but it was with an intent to bid him throw himself down again. So we seem to exalt God much in our talk and profession; yea, but we throw him down, when we pollute him and deny him in our conversation. Our lives are the scandal of religion, and a pollution and blot to the name of God. So that with respect to ourselves, you see what need we have to go to God, that he will give us grace that we may please him and glorify his name. —Thomas Manton, An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, The Works of Thomas Manton (Banner of Truth, 1993), 1:78–79.

An Immortal Name

Tuesday··2014·11·11
. . . Hallowed be your name. —Matthew 6:9 When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we put ourselves and our own conceits in their place, and God in his. ‘Hallowed be thy name,’ not ours. There seems to be a secret opposition between our name and the name of God. When we come to pray, we should distinctly remember whose name is to be glorified, that God may be at the end of every request. We beg of God many times, but we think of ourselves; our hearts run upon our own name, and upon our own esteem. How often do we come to him with a selfish aim, as if we would draw God into our own designs and purposes! None are so unfit to glorify God, and so unwelcome to him, as those that are so wedded and vehemently addicted to their own honour and esteem in the world. Therefore Christ, by way of distinction, by way of opposition to this innate disposition that is in us, he would have us to say, ’Hallowed be thy name.’ That which gives most honour to God is believing: Rom. iv. 19, 20, Abraham was ‘strong in faith, giving glory to God.’ Now, none so unfit for the work as they that seek glory for themselves: John v. 44, ‘How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? ‘Affectation of vainglory, or splendour of our own name, is a temper inconsistent with faith, which is the grace that gives honour to God. I say, when we hunt after respect from men, and make that the chiefest scope of our actions, God’s glory will certainly lie in the dust; when we are to suffer ignominy and abasement for his sake, the care of God’s glory will be laid aside. The great sin of the old world was this: Gen. xi. 4, ‘Let us make us a name.’ There are many conceits about that enterprise, what that people should aim at there in building so great and so vast a tower, before God confounded their tongues. . . . Moses gives the main reason there, that they might have an immortal name among posterity. But now see how ill they reckon that do reckon without God. Those that are so busy about their own name, how soon will God blast them! When in any action we do not seek glory to God, but ourselves, it is the ready way to be destroyed. This was the means to bury them in perpetual oblivion. Nebuchadnezzar, when he re-edified the city, Dan. iv. 30: ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? ‘How doth God disappoint him, and turn him out among the beasts! Thus are we sure to be disappointed and blasted, when our hearts run altogether upon our own name. But now Christ saith thy name; when we are careful of that, this is the way to prosper. —Thomas Manton, An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, The Works of Thomas Manton (Banner of Truth, 1993), 1:85.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: All Glory

Saturday··2016·01·09
All Glory, Laud and Honor Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. John 12:13 All glory, laud and honor, To Thee, Redeemer, King, To Whom the lips of children Made sweet hosannas ring: Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son, Who in the Lord’s Name comest, The King and Blessèd One. The company of angels Are praising Thee on high, And mortal men and all things Created make reply: The people of the Hebrews With palms before Thee went: Our prayer and praise and anthems Before Thee we present. To Thee, before Thy passion, They sang their hymns of praise; To Thee, now high exalted, Our melody we raise: Thou didst accept their praises— Accept the prayers we bring, Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Arminian Philosophy

Friday··2018·01·05
Packer on the philosophical basis of Arminianism: The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. . . . From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first, that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him. —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 3. One must wonder what Arminians do with (1.) Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 2:14 (2.) John 6:37 (3.) Romans 9:11–13 (4.) Ephesians 2:8 (5.) John 6:37, 39–40. All of the Epistles, indeed, the entire New Testament, speak loudly against them.

No Small Difference

Tuesday··2018·01·09
The difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is no minor disagreement. J. I. Packer writes, The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God Who saves; the other proclaims a God Who enables man to save himself. One view [Calvinism] presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view [Arminianism] gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on the work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation; the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance. —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 13–14.

The One Point of Calvinism

Wednesday··2018·01·10
Although the five points are useful as a systematic expression of biblical soteriology, and were necessary as a refutation of the five Arminian articles, we ought to be careful not to separate them as though each stands alone. In fact, they are inseparable. As J. I. Packer writes, You cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God—the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father's will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves—does everything, first to last, that is involved from bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners—men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God's will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners—and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man's own, or by soft-pedaling the sinner's inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory forever; amen. —The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 14–15.

Total Depravity in Scripture

Friday··2018·01·12
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” —Genesis 2:16–17 This is really where the doctrine of Total Depravity is introduced, with his warning of the consequence of disobedience to God’s first command: spiritual death. But Adam did disobey. He did eat the forbidden fruit, he did die, and all mankind with him. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . —Romans 5:12 Note well: The language here is not of spiritual sickness, but of death. This is our condition from birth (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). This is why the illustration of throwing a rope (the gospel) to a drowning man doesn’t work. We are not drowning, but already drowned. A dead man cannot grab a rope. We do not need to be rescued; we need to be reborn. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12–13 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” —John 3:5–6 This rebirth is in no way a result of our own effort. It is nothing less than a miracle. In the same passage, Jesus continued, Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit. —John 3:7–8 We are born utterly without any hope in ourselves (Romans 8:7–8; 1 Corinthians 2:14), and would remain that way, if not for two beautiful words found in the following passage: “But God . . .” And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:1–5, 8–9 This post is a brief summary of The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, 2nd ed. (P&R, 2004), 21–27.

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