Monday, 29 December 2014

What is Christianity?

According to Charles Hodge:

Objectively, Christianity is God's testimony about man's redemption through Christ contained in the Scriptures.

Subjectively, 'It is the life of Christ in the soul... which is due to the indwelling of his Spirit.'

Charles Hodge was a Professor at Princeton in the 19th Century. I read the above quote in Bitseize Biographies, Charles Hodge, by S. Donald Fortson III, another inspiring read in the series published by EP.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sabbatical Update - Week 1

Although my Sabbatical began on Christmas Day, it is probably easier to begin the week count from Lord's Day tomorrow. So, Sabbatical Week 1 begins tomorrow.

For the month of January we will be visiting family in South Africa. We therefore have a lot of things to do before we fly, so goals this week will be really simple:

1. Greek language revision.
2. Lessons 1 to 3 of Hebrew, set by Philip Eveson.  I have got the Alphabet sorted, so that's a start.

In case you are interested, in February I will be doing a tailored made course with the John Owen Centre.  I have many unanswered questions about Judgement and Hell which I would like to explore.  My interest is primarily pastoral, as applying these doctrines in preaching and pastoral visitation is extremely sensitive.  (I should say before you read the questions that I do not doubt that there is a Judgement, nor do I doubt that there is a hell.  I believe that all who die without Christ will have to suffer eternal condemnation in hell.)

I would like to find robust, theological answers to the following questions: 
  • Why must there be a Judgement?
  • Who is Judgement for?
  • Why is hell forever?
  • Who is hell for?
  • When and to whom should a pastor preach hell?  
  • Does Jesus’ audience have something to teach us about whom we should preach hell to, and when we should preach hell?  
  • Do the epistles and Revelation have lessons to teach us about whom to preach hell to, and when to preach hell?
  • What comfort does a pastor have to offer to a Christian whose family member or close friend has died without Christ?
  • How has the doctrine of hell developed theologically over the centuries since Christ’s first coming?
  • Which Christian writers have been most influential in shaping the church’s understanding of Hell?
  • Do we need to take the imagery that Jesus uses to describe hell literally?
  • What will the church lose if it stops preaching the doctrines of Judgement and Hell?
Comments on these questions would be appreciated to get me thinking.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Rock of Ages

On his deathbed Augustus Montague Toplady, author of the hymn 'Rock of Ages', was asked if he had recanted his belief in the electing love of God for sinners. This was his reply:

'I recant my former principles! God forbid that I should be so vile an apostate!'

He paused and then he added: 'And yet that apostate would I soon be, if I were left to myself.'

I read this in Bitsize Biographies: Augustus Toplady, by Douglas Bond which is well worth a read.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Order of Salvation - What it Is, Why it Matters, and Who Got it Wrong - Part 2

PART 2: Redemption Applied

Redemption was planned: Chosen by the Father in Christ before the foundation of the world.  Redemption was accomplished: The death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Over the next few days we will see how Redemption is applied, with particular reference to the Holy Spirit.

Look at Romans 8:29-30.  These verses alone do not tell us everything that is involved in the application of redemption, but they do show us that salvation is not “one simple and indivisible act.”[1]  Therefore, they provide the biblical basis for the application of redemption in a series of steps.  Or as John Murray explains, “a series of acts and processes”.  In other words, there is such a thing as an Order of Salvation.

After election, and the accomplishment of redemption, then comes the following: Calling, regeneration, conversion, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, glorification.

I need to say something here about Union with Christ.  The New Testament says over and over again that we are “in Christ”, “in Christ, “in Christ”.  This is Union with Christ.    There is debate about where this should come in the order.  I am not going to enter into that debate here.  However, it is important to see that if we were not “in Christ”, then none of these things in the Order of Salvation would be true of us.  As an example, God didn’t just choose us before the foundation of the world.  God chose us “in Christ” / “in him” before the foundation of the world, so says Ephesians 1:4.  Also, God didn't just regenerate and sanctify us.  He regenerates and sanctifies us "in Christ": “We are his workmanship, created in Christ to do good works.” (Eph 2:10, emphasis mine).  We could go on.

Over the next few days will look at the steps in the Order of Salvation, one or two at a time.

[1] Murray, R:A&A, p. 80

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Order of Salvation - What it is, Why it Matters and Who Got it Wrong - Part 1

PART 1: Redemption Planned and Accomplished

Redemption Planned

Before the world was made and before there was ever a second or a minute or an hour, the Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit existed. God has no beginning, God has no end, as Psalm 90 says, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

In eternity past, the Triune God planned the redemption of a people. This people God the Father gave to his Son. The Son agreed to purchase this people with his own blood, and the Spirit agreed to apply this salvation to those the Son would die for.

This people that were chosen were chosen by the sovereign electing grace of God. God did not look ahead and see that these people would be nice and therefore choose them. God did not look ahead and see that these people would have faith, and therefore choose them. God chose them, in Christ, before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, for the praise of glorious of his grace, as Ephesians 1 explains.

This is what we call election. God elected a people. Our redemption has been planned. John Murray helpfully explains how election, far from being a doctrine that Christians should argue over, is actually a doctrine which magnifies the love of God. God’s choice was not heartless, but full of love. God did not have to choose us. He didn’t have to save anyone. God was not lonely, as some have taught! God had no need for us, but he chose us and having chosen us, it became necessary for his Son to die to redeem us.

It’s good to pause, isn’t it? It’s good to pause and praise God for his grace. He chose us because of grace. It’s good to pause and praise God for his love. His choosing to give us everlasting life was a costly choice, full of love. There was no other way or one to redeem us than through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross.

Redemption Accomplished

This redemption was planned in eternity, but we must see that it was accomplished in time. Look at Gal 4:3-5.

The Shorter Catechism summarises the work of redemption from start to finish: He was born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing all the miseries of this life, the wrath of God and the cursed death of a cross; in being buried and that in a low condition and continuing under the power of death.

It goes on: He rose again from the dead on the third day, he ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and he is coming to judge the world at the last day.

Redemption has been accomplished!

I want to make the point here that Christ did not die to make salvation possible. He died to save. He died to save his people. He died for the church of God. He purchased them with his own blood. As John Murray says, “Christ did not die to put men in a redeemable position but to redeem a people.” Those whom God chose before the foundation of the world, those are the ones that Christ came to redeem. And he succeeded! Mission Accomplished! Redemption Accomplished!

Monday, 15 December 2014

I am starting up my blog again as I begin my Sabbatical. I will be studying with the John Owen Centre. I intend to dig deeper into the Scriptures, considering Judgement and Hell, and thinking through issues related to these doctrines, such as why the church needs to preach these truths and the pastoral issues related to believing doctrines. I will be using this blog to write up some of my findings.