“In Christ Alone”: Resurrection “in undiluted monergism” – S.Ferguson

As mentioned here last week, I have been reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone for part of my Sunday reading. Last night I read the next chapter, which treats Jesus as “The Resurrection and the Life”. Ferguson’s focus is on Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. In connection with that, he brings out three main points, one of which is the clear display of Jesus’ divine and saving power.

In Christ Alone - SFergusonAs he writes on this, Ferguson points out that Jesus, the “giver of new life”, accomplishes this resurrection from the dead by “His spoken word”. And this raises the question as to whose work this really is. He makes it plain, as you will see.

This has often puzzled theologians. The gift of new life is a sovereign act of God. It is monergistic, not synergistic, in character.  God alone is the agent; we do not cooperate in receiving new life. Yet, according to Scripture, it is through the Word of God that we receive this new life (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).

Question: Surely the instrumentality of the Word (to which we actively respond) implies an activity on our part? Do we not, in this sense, contribute something to being born anew?

Answer: No more than Jesus’ command implies that Lazarus contributes life energy to his own resurrection. Lazarus comes out of the tomb because Jesus raises him from the dead, not in order that he might be raised from the dead. In him, our Lord’s words are fulfilled: ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live’ (John 5:25). When prayer to the Father and the word of command to the dead come from the lips of Jesus, His voice opens deaf ears and raises the dead.

What was true then remains so now (which is why we join prayer and preaching), and will continue to be at the last, when by His powerful command Christ once again will raise the dead (1 Thess.4:16). In undiluted monergism, He called the galaxies into being , and He gives life to the dead in the same way (Rom.4:17).

In Christ Alone: The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever

In Christ Alone - SFergusonBefore worship services (and sometimes during – the offertory!) I have been reading on my Kindle Sinclair Ferguson’s In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life (Reformation Trust, 2007), a collection of previous articles written by the author arranged under six headings. I have always appreciated Ferguson’s writings (they breath Christ and the Scriptures!) and I am profiting from this collection as well.

I have found many “quotable” selections, and yesterday I came across another gem, which I share with you today. In the section of the book from which I quote Ferguson is pointing out how Christ is portrayed in the book of Hebrews. In this particular part he is explaining the significance of that oft-quoted verse in chap.13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever.” This is part of what he has to say about this revelation of Christ:

The Constancy of Christ

Christ is always the same. Here at the end of his letter, the author echoes a theme from its beginning. ‘To the Son He says: …”You [remain] the same”‘ (Heb.1:8, 12, citing Ps.102:27). But now he makes explicit what earlier was implicit. The immutable One of Psalm 102 is none other than the incarnate One of the gospel.

The practical implication of this becomes clear when we remember that Psalm 102 is possibly the most eloquent description of depression and despair found in the entire Psalter. The psalmist’s mental salvation lay in his rediscovery of the immutability of God. Hebrews gives that truth flesh-and-blood dimensions in Jesus Christ. You can trust Him; He is always the same.

Do not mistake the meaning. This is not the immutability of the sphinx – a Christ captured once for all in a never-fading still photograph. This is the changelessness of Jesus Christ in all His life, love, holiness, grace, justice, truth, and power. He is always the same for you, no matter how your circumstances change.

Say this to yourself when you rise each day, when you struggle, or when you lay your head down sadly on your pillow at night; ‘Lord Jesus, You are still the same, and always will be.’

Two “New” and Noteworthy Books: “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” and “Believing Bible Study”

In this post I wish to highlight a couple of “new” books that have come into our Seminary library and which are of interest to our audience. I put “new” in italics because both of these titles are reprints of previous editions, with one being updated and revised once again.

PrintThat title is David J. Engelsma’s Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 1994, 2014; 224 pgs.). As you will note, this is the third edition, and this edition contains further additions and enhancements (such as pictures and descriptions of those whose positions are stated in the book). In his preface to this edition Engelsma sets forth the continued need for this book after thirty years:

Does it still address a significant, lively issue in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches and among theologians who regard and present themselves as Calvinists?

The truth defended in the book is sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel. The book contends that this truth is fundamental to the theology of the Reformed faith in its entirety, that is, to scripture’s gospel of salvation by grace alone and to the authoritative confession of the gospel by the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordt.

The charge against the truth, by nominally Reformed theologians and churches, that the book refutes is hyper-Calvinism. This is the charge that the doctrine of particular grace in the preaching of the gospel is, or necessarily leads to, the error of preaching only to the elect, including calling only the elect to repent and believe.

The heresy that the book exposes and condemns is the teaching that the promiscuous preaching of the gospel with its unrestricted call to all hearers to repent and believe is, in fact, the saving grace of God to all who hear the preaching, reprobate ungodly as well as elect. It is the false doctrine of universal, impotent, saving grace with its concomitant error that the efficacy of the saving grace of God in the preaching, and therefore the salvation of sinners, depend not on the grace of God made effectual by the Holy Spirit, but on the acceptance of an offered salvation by the sinner himself.

The heresy that the book exposes  parades shamelessly in the Reformed community of churches, seminaries, and book stores, like a brazen whore in the seductive ‘come hither’ scanty garb of the well-meant offer of salvation.

It is my conviction, as evidently that also of the publisher, that the truth defended by the book continues to call for defense in 2013 (xv-xvi).

This edition also contains the Foreword of Dr.John H. Gernstner found in the previous edition. You are encouraged to obtain this new edition and to read and study carefully its apologetic. Not only if you are a PRC member who needs to be informed again of this essential element of our Reformed faith, but also if you are a Reformed Christian who needs better to understand the nature of the preaching of the gospel, especially because of the rampant error of the free offer and its counterpart, hyper-Calvinism.

BelievingBible Study-EFHills-2014-front_Page_1The second book of note in this post is one we received as a gift from Russell H. Spees, friend of the PRC Seminary and of the late Dr.Ted Letis, and President/Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies. The book is titled Believing Bible Study (3rd ed., Christian Research Press, 2014) by Dr. Edward F. Hills (1912-1981), who served as a mentor to Dr.Letis and from whom Letis grew in his passion for and defense of the Traditional text (textus receptus, or “received text”) in the church. Hill was also an ardent defender of the King James Version (Authorized version) of the Bible as the best English translation for the church today (See his The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts, 1956).

In his cover letter with the book, Spees states:

IBTS was pleased to work with the Hills family (Christian Research Press) to provide a digital reprint of Dr. Hills’ sequel to his “King James Version Defended.”

We thank the Hills family for faithfulness in keeping Dr.Hills in print. We acknowledge Mr.Paul Watson for his design of the book cover. We thank our supporters for prayer support and certainty of God’s hand in the project. We thank our Sovereign God for preserving his Holy Word to and for us.

To get a taste of Hills’ starting point in this work I quote his opening paragraphs in chapter 1, Believing Bible Study, Old Testament”:

The man who is well pleased with himself, with his prospects, and his whole manner of life will never read the Bible believingly. His entire outlook must be changed before believing Bible study becomes possible. For this reason God often uses the hard experiences of life to prepare His children for believing Bible study. Bereavement, childlessness, loneliness, longings that have never been satisfied, ambitions that have never been fulfilled, vain regrets over lost opportunities, the severe limitations of poverty, the pain and weakness of sickness, and the approach of death – these are the things that bring men low. These are the harrows which God uses to soften hardened hearts. These are the hammers with which He is wont to bend proud necks and make men willing to read His holy Book believingly.

Reader, if you are perishing in the furnace of affliction, or if you are walking in darkness with no light, or if your heart i s fretted with anxieties and corroding cares, or if your will is bound under wretched slavery to sinful lusts, or if your soul is chilled with the fear of death and the unknown, then the Bible is the Book, the only Book for you. For the Bible will show you how your sins may be overcome by the power of Christ and how you may enter into everlasting life through the door of hope and obtain your inheritance in the everlasting glory. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I include here the cover (front and back) because of the information about the book and its author which may be found there. A search revealed that the book is not yet available on the IBTS website or Amazon. But it may be ordered  through this address (Christian Research Press, P.O. Box13023, Des Moines, IA 50310-0023; phone: 515-249-4304) or by emailing: email@kjv-ibts.org or Christianresearchpress@yahoo.com.

BelievingBibleStudy-EFHills-2014-back_Page_1

 

J.Calvin on Psalm 139: “…There is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker.”

JCalvinPic1For our further meditation on Psalm 139 today, we also post these thoughts of John Calvin on verses 17 and 23. May they also serve to cause us to glory in our great and gracious God in Jesus Christ.

17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me

…We are thus put in possession of the true meaning of David, to the effect that God’s providential government of the world is such that nothing can escape him, not even the profoundest thoughts. And although many precipitate themselves in an infatuated manner into all excess of crime, under the idea that God will never discover them, it is in vain that they resort to hiding-places, from which, however reluctantly, they must be dragged to light.

The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that he who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

23. Search me, O God! 

He insists upon this as being the only cause why he opposed the despisers of God, that he himself was a genuine worshipper of God, and desired others to possess the same character. It indicates no common confidence that he should submit, himself so boldly to the judgment of God. But being fully conscious of sincerity in his religion, it was not without due consideration that he placed himself so confidently before God’s bar; neither must we think that he claims to be free from all sin, for he groaned under the felt burden of his transgressions.

The saints in all that they say of their integrity still depend only upon free grace. Yet persuaded as they are that their godliness is approved before God, notwithstanding their falls and infirmities, we need not wonder that they feel themselves at freedom to draw a distinction between themselves and the wicked.

J.Calvin on Psalm 138: “…Nothing has a more sensible influence in stimulating us to thanksgiving than his free mercy.”

As we meditate on Psalm 138 this Sunday, we may also benefit from the thoughts of faithful Bible expositor, John Calvin. Here are his comments on v.2. May they also feed our souls this day and direct us to the true worship of our true and faithful God.

JCalvinPic2. I will worship towards the temple of thy holiness.

He intimates that he would show more than private gratitude, and, in order to set an example before others, come in compliance with the precept of the law into the sanctuary. He worshipped God spiritually, and yet would lift his eyes to those outward symbols which were the means then appointed for drawing the minds of God’s people upwards.

He singles out the divine mercy and truth as the subject of his praise, for while the power and greatness of God are equally worthy of commendation, nothing has a more sensible influence in stimulating us to thanksgiving than his free mercy; and in communicating to us of his goodness he opens our mouth to sing his praises.

As we cannot taste, or at least have any lively apprehensions in our souls of the divine mercy otherwise than through the word, mention is made of his faithfulness or truth. This coupling of mercy with truth is to be particularly taken notice of, as I have frequently observed, for however much the goodness of God may appear to us in its effects, such is our insensibility that it will never penetrate our minds, unless the word have come to us in the first place.

Goodness is first mentioned, because the only ground upon which God shows himself to us as true is his having bound himself by his free promise. And it is in this that his unspeakable mercy shows itself — that he prevents those with it who were at a distance from him, and invites them to draw near to him by condescending to address them in a familiar manner.

Good Psalm Music for Pentecost

Book of PsalmsWe may not think that the Psalms reveal much about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but this is a mistake. The book of Psalms frequently refer to the Holy Spirit and His wonderful operations in creation, providence and redemption. I give you just a few examples in this post, so that you may have some good Psalm music to listen to on this Pentecost Sunday.

1. In Psalm 51 David prays specifically that God will not cast him away from His presence by taking His Holy Spirit from him (v.11), expressed in this versification from the Psalter used in worship by the PRC (Ps.#141). You will find the full arrangement with piano accompaniment here.

1. Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true;
Cast me not away from Thee,
Let Thy Spirit dwell in me;
Thy salvation’s joy impart,
Steadfast make my willing heart.

2. In Psalm 104:30 the work of the Spirit in creation and providence is noted, and in Psalter #287 it is put into these words in the opening stanza (follow the link to listen to this versification):

1. Thy Spirit, O Lord, makes life to abound;
The earth is renewed and fruitful the ground;
To God ascribe glory and wisdom and might,
Let God in His creatures forever delight.

3. The young women of the Chamber Choir of Covenant Christian High (2013) sing a versification of Psalm 143 from the 1912 Psalter (#391). Note especially the third stanza (at the link provided here).

 

Pentecost 2014 – The Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Father and the Son

Pentecost-John14-16On this Pentecost Sunday we depart from our meditations on the Psalms and focus on our Lord’s promises concerning His gift of the Holy Spirit as recorded in John 14. Here is the pertinent section:

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.22Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

With these sure words of our Lord, fulfilled on the great day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, we include these comments of John Calvin:

16.And I will pray to the Father.

This was given as a remedy for soothing the grief which they might feel on account of Christ’s absence; but at the same time, Christ promises that he will give them strength to keep his commandments; For otherwise the exhortation would have had little effect. He therefore loses no time in informing them that, though he be absent from them in body, yet he will never allow them to remain destitute of assistance; for he will be present with them by his Spirit.

Here he calls the Spirit the gift of the Father, but a gift which he will obtain by his prayers; in another passage he promises that he will give the Spirit. If I depart, says he, I will send, Him to you, (John 16:7.) Both statements are true and correct; for in so far as Christ is our Mediator and Intercessor, he obtains from the Father the grace of the Spirit, but in so far as he is God, he bestows that grace from himself. The meaning of this passage therefore is: “I was given to you by the Father to be a Comforter, but only for a time; now, having discharged my office, I will pray to him to give another Comforter, who will not be for a short time, but will remain always with you.”

And he will, give you another Comforter. The word Comforter is here applied both to Christ and to the Spirit, and justly; for it is an office which belongs equally to both of them, to comfort and exhort us, and to guard us by their protection. Christ was the Protector of his disciples, so long as he dwelt in the world: and afterwards he committed them to the protection and guardianship of the Spirit. It may be asked, are we not still under the protection of Christ? The answer is easy. Christ is a continual Protector, but not in a visible way. So long as he dwelt in the world, he openly manifested himself as their Protector; but now he guards us by his Spirit.

He calls the Spirit another Comforter, on account of the difference between the blessings which we obtain from both. The peculiar office of Christ was, to appease the wrath of God by atoning for the sins of the world, to redeem men from death, to procure righteousness and life; and the peculiar office of the Spirit is, to make us partakers not only of Christ himself, but of all his blessings. And yet there would be no impropriety in inferring from this passage a distinction of Persons; for there must be some peculiarity in which the Spirit differs from the Son so as to be another than the Son.

If you would like some additional reading on the gospel of Pentecost, you are encouraged to visit the featured resources on the PRCA website. There you will find both articles and pamphlets on the subject of the Holy Spirit.

PR Psalm Choir – Great Music Videos on YouTube!

Psalm Choir – YouTube.

If you missed the recent PR Psalm Choir concert (May 11, 2014), or haven’t heard about the Psalm Choir channel on YouTube yet, it is time you checked it out and listened to some great music based on the Psalms!

Nick Kleyn has produced these videos and Josh Hoekstra, the director of the choir and also one of the music arrangers for the Psalm Choir, has put them on his Psalm Choir channel (See the link above.).

You may also be interested to know that I have been linking these videos to the Psalter pages on the PRC website. Here is just one example. I have also included some Hope Heralds’ videos for the same purpose. Here is one of those.

In addition, Josh has also made a channel featuring various PRC choirs and PR school choirs singing the psalms. The value of this channel is that the Psalms are listed in order, so that you can easily find the Psalm and Psalter number you may be searching for.

Here’s just one example of the beautiful, artistic arrangements of our Psalter:

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 136

Psalm 136As we get ready to enter the Lord’s courts of praise and prayer this Lord’s Day, we give our attention to the next Psalm, Psalm 136. Even as the previous psalm was a song of praise to God for His mighty works in creation, history and redemption, so too is this psalm. Psalm 136 is a song of thanksgiving to the Lord “who alone doeth wonders.” And once again the psalmist leads the people of God in reciting those wonderful works of God in creation and in salvation, as well as in calling for their response of praise and thanksgiving.

But you will also notice that this psalm is unique in its presentation of  these things. There are two distinct yet related lines in each verse or stanza, the first being a description of God and His works, and the second being the repeated refrain, “for His mercy endures forever.” The New Geneva Study Bible calls it “an antiphonal liturgy” (calling for chanting/singing in alternation). The Nelson Study Bible explains this further: “Psalm 136 is the quintessential psalm of descriptive praise. The worship leader, perhaps a priest, would read the first part of each verse. The people would then respond with their praise centering on the mercy of God: ‘For His mercy endures forever.’ This psalm, known as the ‘Great Hallel,’ was often recited in the temple as the Passover lambs were being slain.”

So, as you read and meditate on this psalm today, think about the unfailing mercy of God to His church and people throughout the ages – to His remembering and redeeming us through the blood of The Lamb (vss.23-24), and then thank Jehovah, the God of gods and Lord of lords, for His creative and salvific deeds! For the One who alone does great wonders is also alone worthy of our great praise!

 Psalm 136

O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalter1912If you desire to meditate on Psalm 136 through music, I encourage you to listen to some versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Give thanks to God, for good is He,
His grace abideth ever;
To Him all praise and glory be,
His mercy faileth never.
His wondrous works with praise record,
His grace abideth ever;
The only God, the sovereign Lord,
Whose mercy faileth never.

2. His wisdom made the heavens to be,
His grace abideth ever;
He spread the earth above the sea,
Praise Him Whose sun doth bring the day,
His grace abideth ever;
The moon and stars His might display,
Whose mercy faileth never.

3. He helped us in our deepest woes,
His grace abideth ever;
He ransomed us from all our foes,
His mercy faileth never.
Each creature’s need doth He supply,
His grace abideth ever;
Give thanks to God, enthroned on high,
Whose mercy faileth never.

The Place of the Law in the New Covenant – Guy Waters

The Place of the Law by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014As I continue to make my way through the May issue of Tabletalk on the theme of the new covenant (“What’s So New About the New Covenant?”), I read the next main feature article yesterday. This was penned by Dr. Guy P. Waters, professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, and titled “The Place of the Law”.

In this article Waters presents the traditional Reformed understanding of how the law of God “fits in” with the age of God’s new covenant fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He shows what parts of the law are done away in Christ and therefore no longer binding on the NT church (its civil and ceremonial aspects), and which part continues to be in force, though with a fresh focus (the moral aspect).

Though not finding anything new as such, I appreciated Waters clear and concise presentation of this important aspect of the covenant of grace in the NT. Below is a portion of his article, taken from the very end of it. You are welcome to read all of it at the Ligonier link above.

Why, then, does the moral law carry over into the new covenant and not the ceremonial and civil laws? One reason is that, unlike the ceremonial and civil laws, the moral law predates the Mosaic covenant. The moral law, in fact, goes back to the creation. It is the standard to which God holds all human beings in all times and in all places. After indicting Gentiles in Romans 1:18–32 for what amounts to transgressions of the moral law, Paul goes on to underscore sinners’ moral accountability before God. Gentiles “by nature” may sometimes “do what the law requires” (Rom. 2:14). When they do this, they “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (2:15). Humans may not like or properly keep the moral law, but they know it and they know that God holds them accountable to it.

There is another, and perhaps deeper, reason why the moral law carries over into the new covenant. It reflects the very character of our God and Savior. Therefore, the moral law is, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “a perfect rule of righteousness” (19.2). For those who have been justified by grace and adopted into God’s family as His sons, the moral law shows us how to be like our heavenly Father. It provides a template of what we will be on the day when we will be fully conformed to the image of Christ (1 John 3:1–2; see Col 3:10Eph 4:24).

Our old covenant brothers saw Christ as their Savior, but only in shadows. We see Him in daylight. With our eyes set on Christ, we new covenant believers gladly make the words of the old covenant psalmist our own: “Oh how I love your law!” (Ps. 119:97).

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