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(14 posts)

A Turning Point

This week, Pulpit Magazine began a series of posts on “Lordship Salvation” taken from the writings of Pastor John MacArthur on that subject. Today, they republished a 2003 article titled A 15-Year Retrospective on the Lordship Controversy, which begins by noting that it was fifteen years (now eighteen) earlier that MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus was published. The article gives a brief discussion of the nature of the controversy, and why a correct view of the lordship of Christ is so important to our Soteriology. The Pulpit article caused me to do a retrospective of my own. I remember very well when The Gospel According to Jesus was published. I was newly married and living in Fridley, Minnesota. I was driving a delivery van for a formal wear company, which gave me the opportunity to listen to the radio most of the day as I made my rounds around the Twin Cities and surrounding area. It was during this time that I was introduced to John MacArthur through the Grace to You radio broadcast. MacArthur was the first genuine expository preacher I had ever encountered, and it wasn’t long before I was hooked on Grace to You. I was no undiscerning listener, though. I had mentioned MacArthur to some friends from the Lutheran Bible School I had attended, and one of them had warned me that he was a Calvinist. I had not heard any overtly Calvinist teaching on Grace to You, but I was on guard lest I be taken in by that heresy. The first point of doctrine that impressed me while listening to Grace to You was MacArthur’s conviction that salvation was more than a pardon from damnation. A redeemed sinner cannot continue in sin. The “carnal Christian” is a myth. The Gospel According to Jesus completely changed my perspective on so-called “Free Grace” Theology. My opposition to this absurd heresy had formerly been legalistic. To think that one could be saved and still do whatever he wanted was repugnant. Although I affirmed that salvation was by grace alone, there was a sense in which I believed that salvation was contingent upon obedience. I would have denied it, but I really believed that we are saved by grace, and kept, at least in part, by works. I think things through slowly, and do not usually change my mind quickly (I regret the times that I have, as I have been wrong in almost every case), so it took me longer than just reading this book for the truth to sink in. I eventually came to understand that a true believer lives obediently not out of obligation, but because his desires have been changed. He is being conformed to the image of Christ, not by his own effort, but by “God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). As much as I appreciated MacArthur’s expositions of Scripture and his stand against the antinomianism of the “Free Grace” movement, I remained on guard against any sneaky Calvinism that might creep into my thinking. I still have my first-edition hardcover copy of The Gospel According to Jesus, with one paragraph marked where he snuck in his belief in eternal security. I was greatly disappointed, since the rest of the book was so good. Over a period of at least ten years, as I listened to Grace to You, read MacArthur’s books and study guides, increased my study of other theological sources, and searching the Scriptures “to see whether these things were so,” I learned two things. First, I learned that I had been right. Calvinism as I understood it is heresy. Second, I learned that I had been wrong. Arminianism is serious error, and some of what I had believed was heresy. Third, I began to see that genuine Calvinism is no less than Biblical theology, but it would still be a few years before I would understand that completely and be willing to say so out loud. In fact, there are some points that I have only recently come to terms with, and others that I know I never will. I am convinced that many of the debates over the finer points of Calvinist Soteriology are attempts to answer the unanswerable. The more I see of these discussions, the less they interest me. To conclude these somewhat rambling thoughts, the Pulpit Magazine series on “Lordship Salvation” takes me back to a major turning point in my life. That first edition of The Gospel According to Jesus on my shelf is a memorial to the day in my life when I really began to pursue theology seriously. Since then I have read many other books, including many that are better and more important, but The Gospel According to Jesus is the one that started it all. And I reached that turning point because I was working a low paying, dead end job that allowed me to listen to the radio all day.

Paul’s Example: Slave of Christ

Tuesday··2008·06·03 · 1 Comments
Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. —1 Corinthians 4:16 When Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says we should follow his example, it behooves us to give attention to that example. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; —Romans 1:1–6 In this passage, we see more than one important characteristic of Paul; but we need read only three words to find the first, and most important: he considered himself to be a slave of Jesus Christ. Of all the Bible translations on my shelf, not one renders this phrase as it should, with the word slave. The NASB, quoted here, comes closest, yet still softens the word to “bond-servant.” But the word used here (δουλος, for those who care) is correctly translated as slave. Paul did not think of himself as possessing any independence. There was no sense of self-ownership. He was owned by the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore had no rights to anything that the Lord himself did not grant him—and he was even willing to yield those rights, if doing so would enable better service to his master (2 Thessalonians 3). He was completely yielded to serving God in the calling he had been given. All of his own needs and desires were entirely subservient to his assigned task: preaching “the gospel of God.” Are you and I yielded to God as slaves? Do we think of ourselves as his property, serving him because he owns us, or is our service to him something that is ours to give to him? Paul said “I am the property of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and lived accordingly. Let us do the same.

Lord’s Day 38, 2008

I reioyced, when they sayd to me, We wil go into the house of the Lord. (Psalme 122:1) PETITIONARY HYMNS POEM IX. On War Augustus Toplady (1740–1778) Great God, whom heav’n, and earth, and sea With all their countless hosts, obey, Upheld by whom the nations stand, And empires fall at thy command: Beneath thy long suspended ire Let papal Antichrist expire; Thy knowledge spread from sea to sea, ’Till every nation bows to thee.Then shew thyself the prince of peace, Make every hostile efforts cease: All with thy sacred love inspire, And burn their chariots in the fire.In sunder break each warlike spear; Let all the Saviour’s liv’ry wear; The universal Sabbath prove, The utmost rest of Christian love!The world shall then no discord know, But hand in hand to Canaan go, Jesus, the peaceful king, adore, And learn the art of war no more. —The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987). Psalme 150 (Geneva Bible) 1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye God in his Sanctuarie: prayse ye him in the firmament of his power. 2 Prayse ye him in his mightie Actes: prayse ye him according to his excellent greatnesse. 3 Prayse ye him in the sounde of the trumpet: prayse yee him vpon the viole and the harpe. 4 Prayse ye him with timbrell and flute: praise ye him with virginales and organs. 5 Prayse ye him with sounding cymbales: prayse ye him with high sounding cymbales. 6 Let euery thing that hath breath prayse the Lord. Prayse ye the Lord. Grace be with you, and Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Five Truths about God

J I. Packer lists “five basic truths, five foundational principles” that will form the foundation of his study of God. 1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation. 2. God is Lord and King over this world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore him. 3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his children and to bless them accordingly. 4. God is triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and the work of salvation is one in which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it. 5. Godliness means responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. This, and nothing else, is true religion. —J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarstity Press, 1993), 20.
I want to know God. I want to know his nature and his thoughts. It is this desire that drives me to read his Word and books about him by writers who know his Word far better than I. What could possibly be more wonderful, as wonderful, or even remotely wonderful compared to the knowledge of the eternal, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God who is the source of all things, the epitome of holiness, righteousness, and justice? The answer is obvious: nothing compares. The greatest creations of the human imagination fade into utter insignificance in the glorious light of the ineffable perfections of almighty God. Why is it, then, that reading God’s Word becomes, at times, a chore to be done rather than a pleasure to be savored? I’m sure I can’t answer that question exhaustively, but I think I know at least part of the answer, and probably the greatest, most insidious part. Many would put the blame on Satan. Of course, the prince of darkness does not want me exposed to the light. Of course he wants to deceive me, and will do all he can to keep me from God and his Word. But I cannot shift the blame, not even to the father of lies. If God had destroyed Satan immediately after he deceived Adam, my worst enemy would still be right here with me. That enemy is me. I want to know God, I say again. I want to know him in all his glory. Yet there is a part of me that most definitely does not want to know him: my flesh. My flesh assiduously avoids all knowledge of God. Why? Because knowledge makes demands. My flesh does not like demands. Oh, it likes to make demands. It makes demands on people, on things, on circumstances, and even on God, but it hates demands made on me. What demands does the knowledge of God make? Knowledge of his holiness demands that I be holy. Knowledge of his sovereign lordship, of his ownership of all creation, including me, demands that I submit to his commands. Knowledge of his love demands that I love him and all that he loves. The knowledge of God does more than make demands. Just as a light shining into a dark corner reveals the dirt left unseen in the darkness, the light of God’s holiness exposes the filth in my heart. It discloses my unholiness, my intractability, my unloving selfishness. The knowledge of God leads to knowledge of self-knowledge I would rather ignore. So now, in addition to knowledge of God, I have knowledge of self. This is not a pleasant combination. Knowledge of God brings demands. Knowledge of self, of who I really am, crushes any hope that I can meet those demands. This brings with it yet another demand—that I be humble. But I am not humble. I am proud and independent. If I was humble, the logical thing to do at this point would be to acknowledge my helplessness, rest on God’s promises, and pray for grace. But very often, my reaction is anything but humble. Rather than praying, I resolve to do better. I will try harder. Can you believe it? I retreat to my own self-sufficiency! The very self-sufficiency that has already been destroyed! And that is exactly where I would be left, if not for the gracious, electing work of God; if not for the sacrificial redeeming work of Christ; if not for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. God takes a man who is unholy, unrighteous, unloving, whose knowledge of myself causes me to cringe from the knowledge of God, and gently, lovingly, draws me back into a place where I can say, with all my heart, I want to know God.

“Free Grace” Legalism

Monday··2008·10·20 · 7 Comments
I came across the following quotation at The Riddleblog: The biblical picture of a saving experience is masterful in its clarity and simplicity. A single, one-time appropriation of God’s gift results in a miraculous inward transformation that can never be reversed. Since this is true, we miss the point to insist that true saving faith must necessarily continue. Of course, our faith in Christ should continue. But the claim that it absolutely must, or necessarily does, has no support in the Bible. . . . It is sufficient to observe that the Bible predicates salvation on an act of faith, not on the continuity of faith. —Zane Hodges, Absolutely Free We advocates of so-called “Lordship Salvation” are called legalists for insisting that genuine saving faith is God’s gift to those whom he has regenerated as new creatures, whose lives are then marked by the new behavior that comes naturally to the new nature. We have the audacity to believe that if God transformed a cat into a dog, it would from that day forward bark, and not revert to meowing. But observe the inherent legalism of the quotation above. Salvation results from the performance of an act. God offers the gift, but the sinner must do something—something that is contrary to his nature, like a cat barking—to receive it. It sounds like Free Grace is not Absolutely Free. In fact, it sounds Absolutely Impossible. Observe also the contradiction: performing that act “results in a miraculous inward transformation that can never be reversed,” but we are wrong “to insist that true saving faith must necessarily continue.” Exactly what is this impermanent permanent transformation? Is it something like the Arminian temporary eternal life?

Hymns of My Youth: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

For the first time in this series, I think I’m presenting a hymn that should be familiar with many of you, and unlike any of the previous installments, I actually have this one in my mp3 library. My copy is from the Together for the Gospel Live album of 2008. With the difficulty I’ve had finding audio for some of these hymns, I’ve been thinking I might have to record them myself. Well, I guess it’s come to that now. I can’t quite make out my voice from the crowd, but I’m in there somewhere (I wonder what’s happened to my royalty checks?). The Concordia tune is Coronation, the same as the Together for the Gospel recording, and probably the most familiar and suitable for congregational singing. I am familiar with two other tunes, Diadem and Miles lane; both are very nice, but I’ve always liked Diadem, which requires a slight lyrical rearrangement as well. 7 All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all! Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him Lord of all! Ye seed of Israel’s chosen race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all! Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all! Hail Him, ye heirs of David’s line, Whom David Lord did call; The God incarnate, Man divine, And crown Him Lord of all! The God incarnate, Man divine, And crown Him Lord of all! Let ev’ry kinded, ev’ry tribe, On this terrestrial ball, To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all! To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all! O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall; We’ll join in the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all! We’ll join in the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all! —The Concordia Hymnal (Augsburg Publishing House, 1960). Coronation Diadem

Hymns of My Youth II: Fairest Lord Jesus

You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. —Psalm 45:2 Fairest Lord Jesus Fairest Lord Jesus! Ruler of all nature! O Thou of God and man the Son! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown! Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing. Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration Now and forever more be Thine. —Great Hymns of the Faith (Zondervan, 1968).

Above All Names

Faith in Christ requires an understanding of who he is. Jesus is Savior, and Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:36). Therefore, faith in Christ is infallibly marked not only by trust in his saving work, but also by submission to his Lordship. The New Testament’s names and titles for Jesus make for a rich and inspiring study. But what is the name that God has given Jesus, the name that is above every name? It often happens that Christians who read this passage assume that the name that is above every name is the name Jesus. But Paul had a different name in mind. He went on to say that God has exalted Christ and given Him the name above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). The name that is above every name is the title that belongs only to God, Adonai (“Lord”), which refers to God as the sovereign one. Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience in the role of a slave, God moved heaven and earth to exalt His Son, and He gave Him the name that is above every name, so that when we hear the name of Jesus, our impulse should be to fall on our knees and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. When we do so, when we exalt Christ in this way, we also exalt the Father. —R. C. Sproul, The Work of Christ (David C. Cook, 2012), 16–17.

Do we love that yoke?

Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” —Psalm 2:1–3 We have, in these first three verses, a description of the hatred of human nature against the Christ of God. No better comment is needed upon it than the apostolic song in Acts iv. 27, 28: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” The Psalm begins abruptly with an angry interrogation; and well it may: it is surely but little to be wondered at, that the sight of creatures in arms against their God should amaze the psalmist’s mind. We see the heathen raging, roaring like the sea, tossed to and fro with restless waves, as the ocean in a storm; and then we mark the people in their hearts imagining a vain thing against God. Where there is much rage there is generally some folly, and in this case there is an excess of it. Note, that the commotion is not caused by the people only, but their leaders foment the rebellion. “The kings of the earth set themselves.” In determined malice they arrayed themselves in opposition against God. It was not temporary rage, but deep-seated hate, for they set themselves resolutely to withstand the Prince of Peace. “And the rulers take counsel together.” They go about their warfare craftily, not with foolish haste, but deliberately. They use all the skill which art can give. Like Pharaoh, they cry, “Let us deal wisely with them.” O that men were half as careful in God’s service to serve him wisely, as his enemies are to attack his kingdom craftily. Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull. But what say they? what is the meaning of this commotion? “Let us break their bands asunder.” “Let us be free to commit all manner of abominations. Let us be our own gods. Let us rid ourselves of all restraint.” Gathering impudence by the traitorous proposition of rebellion, they add—“let us cast away;” as if it were an easy matter—“let us fling off ‘their cords from us.’” What! O ye kings, do ye think yourselves Samsons? and are the bands of Omnipotence but as green withs before you? Do you dream that you shall snap to pieces and destroy the mandates of God—the decrees of the Most High—as if they were but tow? and do ye say, “Let us cast away their cords from us?” Yes! There are monarchs who have spoken thus, and there are still rebels upon thrones. However mad the resolution to revolt from God, it is one in which man has persevered ever since his creation, and he continues in it to this very day. The glorious reign of Jesus in the latter day will not be consummated, until a terrible struggle has convulsed the nations. His coming will be as a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap, and the day thereof shall burn as an oven. Earth loves not her rightful monarch, but clings to the usurper’s sway: the terrible conflicts of the last days will illustrate both the world’s love of sin and Jehovah’s power to give the kingdom to his only Begotten. To a graceless neck the yoke of Christ is intolerable, but to the saved sinner it is easy and light. We may judge ourselves by this, do we love that yoke, or do we wish to cast it from us? —Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Passmore and Alabaster, 1883) [read entire commentary on Psalm 2 at].

Lordship Defines the Church

The Lordship of Christ is so central to Christianity that it literally defines the church. R. C. Sproul writes: The title Lord is so central to the life of the New Testament Christian community that the English word church derives from it. The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which is brought over into English in the word ecclesiastical. The English word church is similar in sound and form to other languages’ word for church: kirk in Scotland, kerk in Holland, and kirche in Germany all derive from the same root. That source is the Greek word kuriache, which means “those who belong to the kurios.” Thus, church in its literal origin means “the people who belong to the Lord.” —R. C. Sproul, Who Is Jesus? (Reformation Trust, 2009), 38–39.

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: Fairest Lord Jesus

Fairest Lord Jesus Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; Isaiah 33:17 Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature, O Thou of God and man the Son; Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul’s glory, joy and crown. Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing. Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight, And all the twinkling starry host; Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer Than all the angels heaven can boast. Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration, Now and forever more be Thine! —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

In Preparation for the Lord’s Day: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name . . . Jesus Christ is Lord Philippians 2:9–11 All hail the pow’r of Jesus’ name! Let angels prostrate fall, Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Ye ransomed from the fall; Hail Him who saves you by His grace, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. Let every kindred, every tribe, On this terrestrial ball, On this terrestrial ball; To Him al majesty ascribe, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall, We at His feet may fall! We’ll join the everlasting song, And crown Him, Crown Him, crown Him, crown Him, And crown Him, Lord of all. —The Hymnal for Worship & Celebration (Word Music).

Halfway to Christ

Do you come to Christ as a Saviour to deliver you from the wrath to come? It is well; but if ye go no further, ye go but half the way to Christ. If you will come home to Christ indeed, you must go to him, not only as a Saviour, but as a Lord; not only to receive pardon from him, but to be ruled by him; not only to be saved, but to be sanctified; not only for happiness, but for holiness too, for Christ is both or neither; and if ye come for one and not for the other, indeed you come not at all; you do but delude yourselves with thoughts that you are already come; Christ will have as much cause to complain of you as of the Jews, ‘Ye will not.’ —David Clarkson, Men by Nature Unwilling to Come to Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 1988), 1:335.


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