J.Calvin on Psalm 146: “…So many reasons why we should hope in him.”

JCalvinPic1For our further meditation on Psalm 146 today, we include this commentary of John Calvin on vss.7ff., where he remarks on the character and works of God that call us to hope in Him and to praise Him. May His words encourage us to see God for Who He is and to fall down before Him in perfect (complete) trust and adoration.

7. Rendering right, etc.

He instances other kinds both of the power and goodness of God, which are just so many reasons why we should hope in him. All of them bear upon the point, that the help of God will be ready and forthcoming to those who are in the lowest circumstances, that accordingly our miseries will be no barrier in the way of his helping us; nay, that such is his nature, that he is disposed to assist all in proportion to their necessity.

He says first, that God renders justice to the oppressed, to remind us that although in the judgment of sense God connives at the injuries done to us, he will not neglect the duty which properly belongs to him of forcing the wicked to give an account of their violence. As God, in short, would have the patience of his people tried, he here expressly calls upon the afflicted not to faint under their troubles, but composedly wait for deliverance from one who is slow in interposing, only that he may appear eventually as the righteous judge of the world.

It follows, that he gives bread to the hungry. We learn from this that he is not always so indulgent to his own as to load them with abundance, but occasionally withdraws his blessing, that he may succor them when reduced to hunger. Had the Psalmist said that God fed his people with abundance, and pampered them, would not any of those under want or in famine have immediately desponded? The goodness of God is therefore properly extended farther to the feeding of the hungry.

What is added is to the same purpose — that he looses them that are bound, and enlightens the blind. As it is the fate of his people to be straitened by anxiety, or pressed down by human tyranny, or reduced to extremity, in a manner equivalent to being shut up in the worst of dungeons, it was necessary to announce, by way of comfort, that God can easily find an outgate for us when brought into such straits.

To enlighten the blind is the same with giving light in the midst of darkness. When at any time we know not what to do — are in perplexity, and lie confounded and dismayed, as if the darkness of death had fallen upon us — let us learn to ascribe this title to God, that he may dissipate the gloom and open our eyes. So when he is said to raise up the bowed down, we are taught to take courage when weary and groaning under any burden.

Nor is it merely that God would here have his praises celebrated; he in a manner stretches out his hand to the blind, the captives, and the afflicted, that they may cast their grief’s and cares upon him. There is a reason for repeating the name Jehovah three times. In this way he stimulates and excites men to seek him who will often rather chafe and pine away in their miseries, than betake themselves to this sure asylum.

What is added in the close of the verse — that Jehovah loves the righteous, would seem to be a qualification of what was formerly said. There are evidently many who, though they are grievously afflicted, and groan with anxiety, and lie in darkness, experience no comfort from God; and this because in such circumstances they provoke God more by their contumacy, and by failing for the most part to seek his mercy, reap the just reward of their unthankfulness.

The Psalmist therefore very properly restricts what he had said in general terms of God’s helping the afflicted, to the righteous — that those who wish to experience his deliverance, may address themselves to him in the sincere exercise of godliness.

J.Calvin on Psalm 145: “…We only praise God aright when we are filled and overwhelmed with an ecstatic admiration of the immensity of his power.”

JCalvinPicAs we meditate on the glory of God revealed in Psalm 145 today, we may also benefit from these thoughts of the Reformer and Biblical scholar-servant, John Calvin. Here he reflects on the opening verse, showing us the main purpose of this portion of God’s Word, namely, that we be moved by gratitude to magnify our great and gracious God.

May his words also serve to stir us up to humble thanks and praise to our wondrous God, this day and all our days.

1. I will extol thee, my God and my king.

David does not so much tell what he would do himself, as stir up and urge all others to this religious service of offering to God the praises due to his name. The design with which he declares God to be beneficent to the children of men is, to induce them to cultivate a pious gratitude, he insists upon the necessity of persevering in the exercise; for since God is constant in extending mercies, it would be highly improper in us to faint in his praises. As he thus gives his people new ground for praising him, so he stimulates them to gratitude, and to exercise it throughout the whole course of their life.

In using the term daily, he denotes perseverance in the exercise. Afterwards he adds, that should he live through a succession of ages he would never cease to act in this manner. The repetitions used tend very considerably to give emphasis to his language. As it is probable that the Psalm was written at a time when the kingdom of David was in a flourishing condition, the circumstances deserves notice, that in calling God his king he gives both himself and other earthly princes their proper place, and does not allow any earthly distinctions to interfere with the glory due to God.

This is made still more manifest in the verse which follows, where, in speaking of the greatness of God as unmeasurable, he intimates that we only praise God aright when we are filled and overwhelmed with an ecstatic admiration of the immensity of his power. This admiration will form the fountain from which our just praises of him will proceed, according the measure of our capacity.

The Revelation’s Potent, Imaginative Style

Reversed Thunder - EPetersonThis past weekend I picked up in a local thrift store a used copy of Eugene H. Peterson’s book on the NT book of Revelation, titled Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination (Harper & Row, 1988). While one may differ with Peterson’s theology at points (he is “moderate” Presbyterian), he is a good writer and one can appreciate his emphasis on profiting from the Bible’s variety of literature and style.

In this work in which he addresses the last book of the Bible and all its “last words” (his chapter headings read like this: “The Last Word on Scripture”, “The Last Word on Christ”, “The Last Word on the Church”, etc.), Peterson comments on the striking character of Revelation’s style in his introduction. Since this too relates to how words are used, not merely in literature in general, but in the Bible specifically, it is fitting for this “Word Wednesday”.

What walking through Maryland forests does to my bodily senses, reading the Revelation does to my faith perceptions. For I am quite as dull to the marvelous word of Christ’s covenant as I am to his creation. ‘O Lord, and shall I ever live at this poor dying rate?’ Not if St. John’s Revelation has its way. A few paragraphs into the Revelation, the adrenalin starts rushing through the arteries of my faith, and I am on my feet alive, tingling. It is impossible to read the Revelation and not have my imagination aroused. The Revelation both forces and enables me to look at what is spread out right before me, and to see it with fresh eyes. It forces me because, being the last book of the Bible, I cannot finish the story apart from it. It enables me because, by using the unfamiliar language of apocalyptic vision, my imagination is called into vigorous play.

To that he adds this a page later:

God’s faithfulness, new every morning, finds me heavy-lidded. I am thick-skinned to the Spirit’s breeze, dull-eared to the heaven-declared glory of God.

…Is there no vision that can open our eyes to the abundant life of redemption in which we are immersed by Christ’s covenant? Is there no trumpet that can wake us to the intricacies of grace, the profundities of peace, the repeated and unrepeatable instances of love that are under and around and over us? For me, and for many, St. John’s Revelation has done it. Old dogmas are revisioned; familiar lines of scripture are revoiced; ancient moralities are subjected to intense testings from which they emerge glistening and attractive; valued but dusty beatitudes are plunged into waters from which they reappear washed, clean, and ready for fresh use.

And, finally, he says,

I do not read the Revelation to get additional information about the life of faith in Christ. …Everything in the Revelation can be found in the previous sixty-five books of the Bible. The Revelation adds nothing of substance to what we already know. The truth of the gospel is already complete, revealed in Jesus Christ. There is nothing new to say on the subject. But there is a new way to say it. I read the Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination (pp.x-xi).

Good food for thought, I believe.

And by the way, that title to the book comes from these lines about prayer from the English poet George Herbert:

Prayer [is]…

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing speare,
The six-dayes world transposing in an houre.

Into the Mystic – Peter Lillback

Into the Mystic by Peter Lillback | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014Yesterday I finished the main articles on this month’s Tabletalk theme, dealing with the 14th century of the church. The fourth and final article is written by Dr.Peter Lillback, president and professor of historical theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

His article carries the above title – “Into the Mystic” – and treats the significant movement of mysticism during this century of the church’s history. This too is “must” reading, for mysticism is always found in the church, – today too –  and always presents unique challenges to the church’s doctrine and life, as Lillback properly points out.

I give you a part of the end of his article and encourage you to read all of it at the Ligonier link above.

The Scriptures teach us to test the spirits because false teaching emerges from the fallen hearts of mankind, including our own. Salvation is not man-centered, whether in terms of feelings, choices, ideas, or visions. All truth and wisdom are gifts of divine grace and are found in Christ. Our pursuit of God must be Christ-centered and based upon the revealed Word of God.

Thus, biblical Christianity, especially with its restoration in the Reformation, rejects unfettered mystical experiences in favor of the scriptural revelation of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the fallen nature of man means that we must reject our inner impulses as our primary spiritual guides and instead practice humble reliance on the Word and Holy Spirit. When we meditate, we should meditate upon Scripture. When we seek extraordinary experiences, we should consider the extraordinary miracles that God has performed in history and recorded in His Word. When we seek to know God, we should know the Scriptures that speak of Him (John 5:46), pray to our loving Father, and participate in the church and sacraments.

We should thereby embrace the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27), remembering that neither our minds nor our feelings will lead us to God without the true “inner” experience of the Holy Spirit’s grace in Christ grounded in His inspired Word.

 

J.Calvin on Psalm 143: “…We must pray for the pardon of our sins.”

JCalvin1Also for our meditation on and profit from Psalm 143 this day we consider these comments of God’s Reformer, John Calvin. Here he reflects on v.2, where we learn again the importance of confessing our sins and casting ourselves upon God’s mercy in Christ. May these words too point us to the only gospel of comfort and hope in Jesus Christ.

2. And enter not into judgment, etc.

I have hinted already why he proceeds to pray for pardon. When overtaken by adversity, we are ever to conclude that it is a rod of correction sent by God to stir us up to pray. Although he is far from taking pleasure in our trials, it is certain that our sins are the cause of his dealing towards us with this severity. While those to whom David was opposed were wicked men, and he was perfectly conscious of the rectitude of his cause as regarded them, he freely acknowledged his sin before God as a condemned suppliant.

We are to hold this as a general rule in seeking to conciliate God, that we must pray for the pardon of our sins. If David found refuge nowhere else than in prayer for pardon, who is there amongst us who would presume to come before God trusting in his own righteousness and integrity? Nor does David here merely set an example before God’s people how they ought to pray, but declares that there is none amongst men who could be just before God were he called to plead his cause.

The passage is one fraught with much instruction, teaching us, as I have just hinted, that God can only show favor to us in our approaches by throwing aside the character of a judge, and reconciling us to himself in a gratuitous remission of our sins. All human righteousnesses, accordingly, go for nothing, when we come to his tribunal. This is a truth which is universally acknowledged in words, but which very few are seriously impressed with. As there is an indulgence which is mutually extended to one another amongst men, they all come confidently before God for judgment, as if it were as easy to satisfy him as to gain man’s approval.

In order to obtain a proper view of the whole matter, we are first to note what is meant by being justified. The passage before us clearly proves that the man who is justified, is he who is judged and reckoned just before God, or whom the heavenly Judge himself acquits as innocent. Now, in denying that any amongst men can claim this innocence, David intimates that any righteousness which the saints have is not perfect enough to abide God’s scrutiny, and thus he declares that all are guilty before God, and can only be absolved in the way of acknowledging they might justly be condemned.

Had perfection been a thing to be found in the world, he certainly of all others was the man who might justly have boasted of it; and the righteousness of Abraham and the holy fathers was not unknown to him; but he spares neither them nor himself, but lays it down as the one universal rule of conciliating God, that we must cast ourselves upon his mercy.

What the Bible Says About the Bible (Psalm 119) – R.Cammenga

SB cover-July 2014-SynodAnother part of my Sunday reading was this article from the July Standard Bearer (the “Synod 2014″ issue) by Prof.R.Cammenga. Writing under the rubric “Taking Heed to the Doctrine”, Cammenga is currently treating the doctrine of Scripture, specifically its “Revelation, Inspiration, and Infallibility”.

He has been treating these subjects under a sub-section titled “What the Bible Says About the Bible”, and is up to “the Testimony of the Psalms” (and with Psalm 119 in particular). Here are a few wonderful sections from this article that define what God’s Word is – and is for us as Reformed Christians who base all we believe and all we practice on this holy Book.

The Bible is a book like no other book. The Bible is the word of God. …The Bible is the word of God as a whole, and the Bible is the word of God in all its parts. From beginning to end, the Bible is God’s word. What it says, God says. From Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, God is speaking. In every book, in every chapter, in every verse, we are confronted with ‘Thus saith the Lord.”

This is what the Bible teaches about itself. The Bible proclaims itself to be the word of God. What is true of the Bible as a whole is also true of the Old Testament.

…Psalm 119 sets forth every important truth regarding the word of God. The truth of the word of God from A to Z is set forth in Psalm 119. This is very significant. The longest chapter in the lengthiest book of the Bible is not devoted to an exposition of the truth about marriage, the family, the church, the Trinity, or the coming of Christ. But this acrostic psalm is devoted to the truth of God’s word itself. This is of great significance. And undoubtedly the significance is that foundational to all truth and every individual truth revealed in Scripture is the truth that the Bible is God’s word. The psalm is an ode to God’s word. In the psalm, God’s word is exalted. And the psalm makes plain the central place that God’s word occupies in the church and in the life of the believer individually.

This is the main, really the only subject, of Psalm 119. In nearly every one of the 176 verses of the psalm, God’s word is referred to. Nearly every verse of the psalm contains a reference to God’s word, by means of one of the synonyms for God’s word that appears throughout the psalm… (pp.422-24).

Amen – W.Langerak

In the July issue of The Standard Bearer (the “Synod 2014″ issue), Rev.W. (Bill) Langerak penned another fine word study from the Bible, this time on the word “Amen.”

It is a fitting word for us as we worship the Lord this day and use this little word often in our prayers and songs. And do not forget that every sermon we hear ends with this vital, verbal witness. For it is not the word of man we hear, but the Word of God. “Thus saith the Lord.” It truly is! And so let it be!

Click on the image below to enlarge it for easier reading.

Amen-SB July 2014 - WL

 

And to accompany this article, we include this video of a performance of the “Amen” chorus from Handel’s Messiah.

 

 

The Ordinary Means of Growth

The Ordinary Means of Growth.

means of graceThis article appeared in the featured list from “The Aquila Report” this week (dated July 15, 2014). It is actually a reprint of an article Dr.Ligon Duncan wrote for Tabletalk magazine back in 2007. But it is worth republishing and repeating because what Duncan wrote seven years ago remains relevant. In fact, even more so now!

As we end our week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we continue to be committed to the “ordinary” means of grace. Which, are in reality, extraordinary, because they are the means by which God saves us through Christ and keeps us in Christ.

Below is a quotation from the heart of Duncan’s article. To read all of it – and it is all good reading! – visit the link found above.

Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context. Hence, God has given us both the message of salvation and the means of gathering and building the church, in His Word. However, important understanding our context is, however important understanding the times may be (and these things are, in fact, very important), however important appreciating the cultural differences in the places and times we serve, the ordinary means approach to ministry is first and foremost concerned with biblical fidelity. Because faithfulness is relevance. The Gospel is the message and the local church is the plan. God has given to his church spiritual weapons for the bringing down of strongholds. These ordinary means of grace are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.

They may seem weak in the eyes of the worldly strong. They may seem foolish in the eyes of the worldly wise. But the Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation, and the Gospel means are effectual to salvation. These are the Spiritual instruments given by God with which Christian congregational Spiritual life is nurtured, the Spirit’s tools of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible.

 

New and Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

It has been some time since I highlighted a few new books that have come into the PRC Seminary library, so today I selected four that I have setting on the “new and noteworthy” shelf in the library. All of them are recent publications (2013 and 2014). I will simply note them with some basic information from the publisher and also include links for them.

These are all processed and ready for checkout should you decide you want to make use of these for some good summer reading! :)

To find these books and more, visit our online library catalog.

1. Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael Horton (Crossway, 2014; 271 pgs., paper). This is the fifth volume in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series edited by Stephen J.Nichols and Justin Taylor and published by Crossway. The publisher adds this note concerning this title:

John Calvin, a man adored by some and maligned by others, stands as a legendary figure in Christian history. In Calvin on the Christian Life, professor Michael Horton offers us fresh insights into the Reformer’s personal piety and practical theology by allowing Calvin to speak in his own words.

Drawing not only from his Institutes and biblical commentaries, but also from lesser-known tracts, treatises, and letters, this book will deepen your understanding of Calvin’s theology and ministry by exploring the heart of his spiritual life: confident trust and unwavering joy in the sovereign grace of God.

Taking God at His Word - DeYoung-20142. Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway, 2014; 138 pgs., hardback. Our copy includes a study guide as well.). This what Crossway says about this little volume:

Can we trust the Bible completely?
Is it sufficient for our complicated lives?
Can we really know what it teaches?

With his characteristic wit and clarity, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians andnon-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance.

Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage you to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s Word.

Reading Bible with Luther-Wengert-20133. Reading the Bible with Martin Luther: An Introductory Guide by Timothy J. Wengert (Baker Academic, 2013; 134 pgs., paper). Baker introduces this title with these words:

Prominent Reformation historian Timothy Wengert introduces the basic components of Martin Luther’s theology of the Bible and examines Luther’s contributions to present-day biblical interpretation. Wengert addresses key points of debate regarding Luther’s approach to the Bible that have often been misunderstood, including biblical authority, the distinction between law and gospel, the theology of the cross, and biblical ethics. He argues that Luther, when rightly understood, offers much wisdom to Christians searching for fresh approaches to the interpretation of Scripture. This brief but comprehensive overview is filled with insights on Luther’s theology and its significance for contemporary debates on the Bible, particularly the New Perspective on Paul.

Holy Communion - HOld-20134. Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old; edited and introduced by Jon D. Payne (Tolle Lege, 2014; 919 pgs., hardback). Just as Old has written an extensive history of preaching, now he has done so with the history of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed church world. This is a significant work, as these words of the publisher indicate:

All across the United States, Protestant churches have forgotten their sacramental roots.  The Lord’s Supper has often been reduced to an empty memorial if it is even celebrated at all, and the contemporary Protestant church suffers greatly from this lapse.

In Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church, Hughes Oliphant Old uncovers the central importance of Holy Communion in the Reformed tradition.  Beginning with Calvin and moving into modern times, Old pinpoints and explains the most pivotal developments in Reformed eucharistic theology—from the true nature of the communion elements to preparatory services and seasons.  Along the way, he shows that our doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is not merely an intellectual exercise; it has profound influence on the church’s life and operations—on her piety.

This volume is both a scholarly exploration of Reformed tradition and a pastoral call to the contemporary church to rediscover the most potent truths and edifying practices of our Christian forefathers.  In our day of debilitating liturgical innovations, Holy Communion proves yet again that God’s truth on any subject is timeless and evergreen.  Before we can display Christ fully in our day, we must recover a full commitment to biblical worship—in the Word preached as well as the Word made visible in the Lord’s Supper.

“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).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 485 other followers