R.C. Sproul: The Influence of Dr. John Gerstner

R.C. described Dr. Gerstner as a lifeline through seminary [Pittsburgh Theological Seminary]. Many could see the influence Gerstner had on R. C. Many even heard it. No doubt R.C. was the brightest shining star in the constellation of Gerstner’s students over decades of teaching. You might recall, however, that R.C. began his time at PTS not all that impressed with Gerstner. That changed almost immediately.

In a fall class in his first year, Gerstner was offering a critique of the presuppositional apologetics of Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, when R.C. rose in defense. Earlier that spring, for a college class, R.C. had written a paper critiquing the classical arguments for the existence of God from a presuppositional viewpoint. R.C. had become a presuppositionalist under the influence of Dr. Thomas Gregory, who had been taught by Van Til himself. R.C. made his case. Then Gerstner spent the next ten minutes dismantling R.C. Or, as R.C. put it, it took Gerstner ten minutes ‘to wipe off the spot where I stood. And not only did he dismantle my arguments and destroy them, but the thing was I knew it… I lost, and I knew I lost.’ In that instant, R.C. had a deep-seated respect for Gerstner that continued to grow over the years.

Gerstner was the champion of orthodoxy at Pittsburgh. Jeffrey S. McDonald, Gerstner’s biographer, speaks of Gerstner’s isolation among the faculty…. Gerstner would often simply stay quiet in faculty meetings. He knew his vote would not matter, and he also knew his colleagues ‘appreciated my not talking too much, because it was a waste of time.’ But he was never quiet in class, or on the debate stage, or in the many pulpits he filled.

R.C. sensed a similar theological isolation. He recalls that there were about five other theologically conservative students at PTS at that time…. R.C. also felt the tension in his classes from the theologically liberal faculty. The seminary curriculum had one course that surveyed all of the New Testament books. As they finished Acts, the professor said, ‘Most theologicans get excited about Romans, but I don’t. Let’s go now to 1 Corinthians.’ These students were studying to be pastors, yet they were not taught even one minute’s worth of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans’ It’s easy to see why R.C. called Gerstner a ‘lifeline’ during his seminary days. Of Thomas Gregory, R.C. said succinctly, ‘He was precise, and he knew his stuff.’ The exact same could be said of Gerstner. Precision and a high level of competency, mastery, would come to be similar hallmarks of their protege.

Taken from the brand new biography R.C. Sproul; A Life by Stephen Nichols (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), pp.60-62.

Published in: on May 15, 2021 at 9:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

Ascension Day 2021: “My Soul Is Anchored in Heaven”

What does the ascension of Jesus into heaven mean? 

        The Scriptures are full of its significance.  Colossians 3:1, 2:  “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Or, I Peter 3:22:  “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God.”  That is, because He ascended into heaven, Jesus is our King, who rules the world.

        But the main, central, blessing of the ascension is the certainty of the believers’ salvation, the absolute surety of the hope that is to be found in Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ entrance into heaven means that all who, by the grace of God, belong to Him are secure in Him and have the absolute certainty of being fully glorified.  All who are in Christ are now in heaven.  Our soul is anchored in heaven.  Jesus Christ cast an anchor into heaven when He ascended.  And He will draw us there to be with Him.  And now, as we are in the tides of this life with so many things pulling us away and working against our faith, or as we endure stormy waves of this life that would dash us and destroy our faith, we, through the ascension of Jesus Christ, are anchored in heaven.

        There are the tides of grief that pull, and despair, and depression, and loss, and loneliness, and rejection of friends.  And, like a boat, we can be pulled away from Christ.  There are the stormy winds of evil lusts and temptations and greed as great waves seeking to cast us upon the rocks of wickedness.  What will hold us?

        Jesus Christ is ascended into heaven.  The anchor of our faith and hope is secure in Him.

  I call your attention today to a very beautiful passage concerning the ascension of Jesus.  It is Hebrews 6:19 and 20.  There we read:  “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”

The Holy Spirit is giving to us here a figure of speech, a picture, which is very striking.  When we think of the ascension of Jesus Christ, says the apostle, we must think of an anchor that is sure and steadfast.  We must think of massive hooks and weights, like the anchor pulled up on the aircraft-carrier Abraham Lincoln.  Only this anchor is not cast down into the depths of the water to hold a ship.  It is cast up into heaven to hold our souls.  This anchor, says the apostle, has been cast into that which is within the veil.  Therefore, we have a hope in us that is as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.  Our hope is the future glory, the complete blessings in Jesus Christ, the inheritance and the promises of eternal life and salvation when we shall be with Him.  That is our hope.  He says that this hope is an anchor of our soul.  It keeps our soul from drifting off into unbelief or wickedness.  Our hope of heaven anchors us in this present world.

        And he says that this anchor is sure and steadfast, for it has entered into that within the veil.  The idea, as I said, is not a chain, an anchor on the end of a chain, going clang, clang, clang down into the bottom of the harbor or lake, into its mud.  But the idea is of a grappling hook being thrown up.  This hook (anchor) goes beyond the veil and catches fast hold of what is within the veil.  It is not an anchor down in the rocks of the sea or on the sandy bottom.  But it is an anchor that is cast into that which is in heaven, the very throne of God.

        The Holy Spirit is referring to the Old Testament tabernacle in the time of Moses, which had its veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.  That Most Holy Place, and in it the ark of the covenant, was the symbol of the presence of God.  You will remember that the veil in the Old Testament temple was torn in half when Jesus Christ died upon the cross, thereby signifying that our entrance into heaven has been secured through His blood-letting upon the cross.

        Now, the apostle says, in the ascension of Jesus Christ, the anchor has been cast beyond that veil and it is hooked into the ark of the covenant of God.  It is hooked into the very throne of God.  It is sure and steadfast.  When Christ ascended into heaven He became the anchor of our soul, so that we are held sure and steadfast to the throne of God.  That anchor is not going anywhere.  It is sure and steadfast. 

        And all of this is based on the glorious truth of Christ’s ascension into heaven.  The apostle says, “Whither [that is, into heaven behind the veil] the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”  Jesus’ ascension is the casting of the anchor of our soul into heaven.  As a ship is anchored, our souls are anchored in heaven by His ascension.  We are moored there.  He is the forerunner, “Whither the forerunner is for us entered,” the One who has gone before us, the One who has come to appear for us in heaven.  He is the One who is the forerunner for us.  He represents the people of God.  He represents God’s children.  And He has gone ahead of us now into heaven.  And His presence in heaven is as the anchor of our souls.

        The point is this.  By His infinitely precious blood, Jesus Christ has opened heaven for us, and now, as the ascended Lord Jesus, He has gone before us.  His presence in heaven at the throne of God is an anchor for us so that we may say that our hope of going to heaven is sure and steadfast.  United to Christ who is in heaven, our soul is anchored.  Our hope is sure and steadfast. 

        We need, desperately, this anchor of the soul.

        A ship in the harbor or in the inlet needs anchorage so that it is not pulled out by the tide.  And a boat off a rocky shore, off cliffs, needs an anchor so that it is not pushed by the waves upon and up onto the rocks to be destroyed.

        So our souls, which belong to Jesus Christ, are now in this world and we need an anchorage.  We need something reliable.  We need something sure.  The tides of grief pull upon our hearts to sweep us into despair and hopelessness.  There are the currents of trials and struggles that cause us to say, “What’s the use?  It’s no good.  I can’t believe anymore.  Why should we keep trying?  We’re going to quit.”

         And then there are waves.  The stormy winds of temptations blow.  They come upon us.  Or those sudden, sinful urgings of the flesh appear within our mind as a storm to cast us upon the rocks of sin and destruction.  I need an anchor.  My soul otherwise would be swept away into despair or crashed upon the rocks. 

        Now I have an anchor in Jesus Christ.  Christ has ascended.  He is the One to whom we belong by the grace of God.  He is ascended and is in heaven.  He is not going anywhere.  That anchor holds.  It is sure and steadfast.  For a certainty, our hope of life eternal is sure and steadfast.  For Jesus has ascended there for us.

Taken from a Reformed Witness Hour message of Rev. Carl Haak for Ascension Day.

Published in: on May 13, 2021 at 9:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

Spring 2021 Treats and Treasures

Only God the Creator and the Lord of providence can bring the spring season with all its unique wonders. And daily He loads our lives with treats and treasures that fill our souls with blessings and our mouths with praise. Sometimes in the midst of life’s heaviness and sorrows, we take our eye off His goodness. May these spring photos remind us of how good He is. Always.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. ~ Song of Songs 2:10-13

Glorious sunrises in the last two weeks – through fog, frost, and clouds, God’s sun still pours forth its light.
Wildlife behind seminary – almost a daily treat
Rhododendron at home
Happy wind flowers in the rock garden at home.
Tulip Time Holland 2021! (Tonight actually) – always a treat
Granddaughter Liliana at her first Tulip Time in Holland, MI
Grandson Gale loves big trucks and construction equipment! We found some recently at Covenant CHS and he was in his glory.
Granddaughter Abbey playing JV softball for the CCHS Chargers
A favorite grandchildren pastime – relaxing in the hammock
Grandson Carson playing varsity baseball for the CCHS Chargers
Another season of golf with dad and sons – almost 88 and still shot a 45 his first round this spring!
Published in: on May 8, 2021 at 9:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Two Birds – How to Respond to God’s Chastisements

This “Grace Gems” meditation was published earlier this week, and while I had hoped to publish it sooner, today is just as fitting. You will understand why, I’m sure, no matter what your particular circumstance is.

The two birds!

(J.R. Miller, “Finding God’s Comfort” 1896) 

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

He is not happy at the time, at least, in the world’s way. No affliction for the present seems to be joyous–but grievous. No one enjoys having troubles, sufferings, trials, sorrows. Therefore this statement made by Eliphaz appears very strange to some people. They cannot understand it. It is contrary to all their thoughts of happiness.

Of course the word ‘happy’ is not used here in the world’s sense. The world’s happiness is the pleasure that comes from the things that happen. It depends on personal comfort, on prosperous circumstances, on kindly and congenial conditions. When these are taken away–the world’s happiness is destroyed.

But the word happy, here means blessed–and the statement is that blessing comes to him who receives God’s correction. To correct, is to set right–that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way–a blessing has come to the man!

Afflictions are ‘God’s corrections’. They come always with a purpose of love in them. God never afflicts one of His children, without meaning His child’s good in some way. So blessing is always intended by God. It is usually afterward that people begin to see and to understand the good that God sent them in their trial. “You do not understand what I am now doing” said Jesus, “but you shall understand hereafter.” “No chastening seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” So when we have troubles and afflictions, we may know that God wants to do us good in some way through them.

Since this is so, Job was exhorted by Eliphaz, “Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” God chastens us to bless us–to do us good. He chastens us because He loves us.

He is not a true parent, who sees his children doing wrong, and yet fails to correct them for fear he may hurt their feelings. He ought to think of their higher good, and chasten them now–to profit them afterward.

This is the way our heavenly Father works. He never loves us better–than when He is correcting us. Therefore we ought not to despise this chastening. We ought not to murmur or complain when God does not give us our own way–but checks us, lays His afflictive hand upon us, and sends trouble upon us! We ought to have such faith in God–that we shall submit quietly, confidently, and sweetly to his will–even when it brings a heavy cross into our life.

A great many people need to pause at this line–and learn it. They do not treat God’s chastening with reverence. Sometimes they are crushed by it, and refuse to look up into God’s face with submission and love. Sometimes they grow bitter against God and say hard things of Him! We ought to reverence God’s chastening; we ought to listen to the voice that speaks to us in our grief or pain.

The way in which God brings blessing through chastening, is emphasized: “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He strikes, but His hands also heal.” Job 5:18. God never smites with both hands at once! When one hand is laid upon us in affliction–the other hand is reached out to help, to uphold, to heal.

Sometimes there is a trouble in a man’s body which requires the surgeon’s knife. There must be amputation, or cutting away, or cutting into. In such a case the skillful surgeon does not hesitate. He thinks far more of his patient’s health for the future–than of his comfort at present.
So he uses his knife–that he may cure disease, or save life.
He wounds–to heal.
He makes sore–that he may bind up. It is just so in all afflictions which God sends.
He chastens–that He may deliver from the power of temptation.
He hurts the body–that he may save the soul.
He takes away earthly property–that He may give true, heavenly riches.

Image result for canary

One writer tells of two birds and how they acted when caught and put into a cage. One, a starling, flew violently against the wire walls of its prison, in unavailing efforts to escape–only battering and bruising its own wings. The other bird, a canary, perched itself on the bar and began to pour forth bursts of sweet song from its little throat. We know which bird was the wiser and happier.

Some people are like the starling–when they are in any trouble, they chafe and fret and complain and give way to wretchedness! The result is, they only hurt themselves, make themselves more miserable, and do not in any sense lessen their trouble.

It is wiser always, as well as more pleasing to God, for us to bear our trials patiently, singing songs of faith and love–rather than crying out in rebellion and discontent.

Job wanted to get near to God in his great trouble. He cried, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” He felt sure that that would be the best and safest place for him to be.

We ought not to lose this lesson. When trouble is upon us–the true thing for us to do, is to flee to God! Some people, in their affliction and sorrow–flee away from God. Thus they lose their joy and peace, missing the comfort which they would get if only they kept near to Him. The right way to respond, is to try to find the way to God’s very presence. He is the only safe refuge, when the storms of trouble break upon us. The first thing always, in any time of trouble–is to find God and hide away in His bosom, as a child runs to the mother in alarm, or as the little bird flies to its nest. To find God–is to be safe!

God is our truest and best friend! He is our Father–we need never fear to go to Him. He gives heed unto our cries. He loves us. All His omnipotence is on our side. No mother’s heart was ever so full of love for her child–as is the heart of God for us, His children!

Published in: on May 7, 2021 at 2:52 PM  Leave a Comment  

The May 1, 2021 Standard Bearer: Special Issue on the Letters to the Seven Churches

The May 1, 2021 issue of the Standard Bearer is the second special issue of this volume year (97) and features articles on the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor as recorded in Revelation 2-3.

The publisher of the magazine, the Reformed Free Publishing Association (or RFPA for short), did a blog post on this issue back on April 23, when the digital issue was issued to subscribers. They featured Rev. Aud Spriensma’s article on the letter to Sardis, quoting part of it. I reference a different section of his article in this post. For the full article visit the RFPA’s webpage. And if you would like to subscribe to this Reformed b-monthly periodical, visit the SB’s homepage.

But sadly, the church in Sardis was dead. There were only a few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments! Of the majority, the flesh dominated. The Lord accused her that her works were not perfect before God. This means that the church as such, and believers individually, failed to walk in those works that are required of them. She might talk theology and search high and low if her pastor is using the right words in his sermon, but is she listening to the sermon to hear what the Spirit is saying regarding her faith and walk? Does she seek to apply the word spoken to her life? The church had a name that she lived; but she was dead. She did not let her testimony go forth in the midst of the world. She was not a light in the midst of the darkness of this present world. Rather, she, like her pastor, loved the things of the world living in sin. Therefore she could not be distinguished from the world.

What was the admonition of the Lord to such a dead church? She was called to be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die (v. 2). They were to “remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (v. 3). There was still hope for the church in Sardis. She was still a true church. There were a few names that had not defiled their garments. Others were still alive but sleeping. There were things that remained, though they were about to die. Like the church in Ephesus, the church must remember how they had first heard and received the gospel: with joy and faith. Do you remember when you first heard the gospel?

I remember a believer who complained to me about those who joined our churches who came from the outside. This person said that these folks weaken our churches. “No,” I said, “these are exactly what our churches need desperately.” It is when the church does evangelism, and new converts are brought by God into our churches that we see an eagerness for the gospel and a zeal for living the Christian life. Their living faith becomes contagious in the church! They love what they have learned and believed. They are excited about being disciples of Christ. These are things that it is easy for those of us who have been raised all of our lives in the church to take for granted and become lethargic. It is “ho, hum.” Therefore, there is the admonition, “Be watchful, wake up! And strengthen that which is about to die!”

The situation in Sardis was miserable, but not hopeless. Most of the members had already fallen sound asleep; the rest were about to die. The congregation as such could still be changed and repent. The admonition to Sardis was similar to that which was given to the church of Ephesus. They were admonished, “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen.” To the church in Sardis the Lord writes, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard.” The church in Sardis is a further development of what was the case in Ephesus; the church that has lost its first love is about to die. There is something about their past that might appeal to them and cause them to repent. What profound joy was wrought in their hearts when they had heard the gospel preached to them! What enthusiasm when they took the gospel and witnessed to all around them of the grace of God and the wonderful salvation that there is in Jesus Christ. By the grace of God they walked in a new and holy life, fighting the good fight of faith. Remembering their former state, they see how far they have fallen, and repent.

Is this true of you and of me? Do we need to wake up and be aroused by what we had, and repent and return to our former state? I am saddened when there are many today who listen to sermons, not to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church, but to find fault with the angels of the church. This is not so much about correct theology, but a spirit of pride.

Published in: on May 1, 2021 at 10:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

Library History Thursday: Vintage Supplies that Kept Libraries Running



Published in: on April 29, 2021 at 3:57 PM  Comments Off on Library History Thursday: Vintage Supplies that Kept Libraries Running  

A Prayer for Sunday Morning Worship

For our Sunday morning devotional we turn once again to the book The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett (The Banner of Truth, 1975). This one is taken from the final section (“A Week of Shared Prayers”), and is titled “First Day Morning – Worship.”

It is a beautifully fitting prayer for us to make as we enter our Father’s sacred house of worship today. May God bless us according to our desires as expressed in these words.

First Day Morning: Worship


We commune with thee every day,
but week days are worldly days,
and secular concerns reduce heavenly impressions.

We bless thee therefore for the day sacred
to our souls
when we can wait upon thee and be refreshed;
We thank thee for the institutions of religion
by use of which we draw near to thee
and thou to us;

We rejoice in another Lord’s Day
when we call off our minds from the cares
of the world
and attend upon thee without distraction;
Let our retirement be devout,
our conversation edifying,
our reading pious,
our hearing profitable,
that our souls may be quickened and elevated.

We are going to the house of prayer,
pour upon us the spirit of grace and supplication;
We are going to the house of praise,
awaken in us every grateful and cheerful emotion;
We are going to the house of instruction,
give testimony to the Word preached,
and glorify it in the hearts of all who hear;
may it enlighten the ignorant,
awaken the careless, reclaim the wandering,
establish the weak, comfort the feeble-minded,
make ready a people for their Lord.

Be a sanctuary to all who cannot come,
Forget not those who never come,
And do thou bestow upon us
benevolence towards our dependents,
forgiveness towards our enemies,
peaceableness towards our neighbors,
openness towards our fellow-Christians.

Published in: on April 25, 2021 at 8:15 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Tractable (and Irreplaceable) Apostrophe

“It would be nice if one day the number of apostrophes properly placed in it’s [it is] equalled exactly the number of apostrophes omitted from its [possessive], instead of the other way around. In the meantime, what can be done by those of us sickened by the state of apostrophe abuse? First, we must refute the label ‘dinosaurs’ (I really hate that). And second, we must take up arms. Here are the weapons required in the apostrophe war (stop when you start to feel uncomfortable):

correction fluid
big pens
stickers cut in a variety of sizes, both plain (for sticking over unwanted apostrophes) and coloured (for inserting where apostrophes are needed)
tin of paint with big brush
guerrilla-style clothing
strong medication for personality disorder

…We lovers of the apostrophe will not stand by and let it be abolished – not because we are dinosaurs who drink tea out of saucers (interesting image) but because we appreciate the way the apostrophe has for centuries graced our words and illuminated our meaning. It is no fault of the apostrophe that some of our words need so much help identifying themselves. Indeed, it is to the credit of the apostrophe that it can manage the task. Those spineless types who talk about abolishing the apostrophe are missing the point, and the pun is very much intended.
The next day after the abolition of the apostrophe, imagine the scene. Triumphant abolitionist sits down to write, ‘Goodbye to the Apostrophe: we’re not missing you a bit!’ and finds that he can’t. Abolish the apostrophe and it will be necessary, before the hour is up, to reinvent it.”

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

From the chapter, “The Tractable Apostrophe” (pp.66-67) in Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss (New York: Gotham Books, 2003). I have been making my way through this fun but instructive book and its approach to proper use of punctuation. After reading this chapter, you will never slight the apostrophe again. 🙂

Published in: on April 21, 2021 at 10:39 PM  Leave a Comment  

Luther at the Diet of Worms: 500th Anniversary

This weekend- April 15-18 – marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s historic appearance at the Diet of Worms (1521). There have been several notices of this by Christian websites, but none like Ligonier Ministries.

Their entire April 2021 issue of Tabletalk is devoted to it and they had several events this past week that featured the event. On Tuesday April 13 they held a live-streamed mini-conference with a number of speeches covering it.

And today they released a special episode of “Luther in Real Time” titled “Here I Stand.” This one is also a ‘must’ podcast to listen to!

Here are a few quotes from the April Tabletalk – the editor’s note introducing the theme and Dr. R. Godfrey’s feature article “There He Stood: Luther at Worms.”

Steadfast in the Truth:

When Luther appeared at the Diet of Worms on April 15–18, the assembly had already been meeting for nearly three months. At first, Luther was not scheduled to appear. He was summoned after he publicly burned the papal bull Exsurge Domine on December 10, 1520. The bull, drafted largely by Eck and issued by Pope Leo X in June, listed forty-one charges against Luther and threatened his excommunication if he did not recant his teachings against some of the actions and teachings of the church, particularly as they pertained to the sale of indulgences to fund the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther burned the papal bull in response to Eck’s burning of Luther’s books throughout Germany. Luther’s refusal to repent prompted Leo to excommunicate Luther in another papal bull titled Decet Romanum Pontificem on January 3, 1521. However, Luther remained under the protection of the elector of Saxony, Frederick III, which gave him freedom to preach and teach throughout the Saxon region. Luther’s audacious actions fueled the growth of his teachings’ popularity, leading many churches throughout the region to support and follow him.

When Luther appeared before the diet, he remained steadfast in his insistence that the Word of God is the ultimate and only infallible authority for all of faith and life, for he knew that although he was standing before the most powerful men in Europe—men who could take his life—he also stood before God, who alone has the power to give life through the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes.

There He Stood: Luther at Worms:

Luther then delivered one of the most important speeches in the history of the church. We have no full text of the speech, but we do have several accounts from various observers and so have quite a detailed record of what he said. But ironically, we are not certain about one of the most-quoted and well-known statements in the address: “Here I stand; I can do no other.” Not all the accounts include this declaration, and many historians doubt that Luther actually said it. But we do know that he stood there before the powers of the world and the church with remarkable courage and commitment.

Luther had been remarkably brave to come to Worms. He was courageous to resist the pressure to make peace for himself and others by repudiating what he had taught and submitting to what the church had long taught. He showed that remarkable courage again in the bold words with which he concluded his address:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason—for I believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. [Here I stand; I can do no other.] God help me. Amen.

With these words, Luther made clear the source of and authority for the theology for which he was on trial. He had already been excommunicated by the church, and now he was at risk of being declared an outlaw by the state, with his life and property forfeit, for this teaching.

[Never forget your church history. Especially the great Reformation. Ever.]

Published in: on April 18, 2021 at 9:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Proper End and Design of Gospel Truth

Rest and satisfaction in Christ

The first goal of the gospel is to ‘take off the soul of man from rest and satisfaction in itself’ and to ‘seek after righteousness, life, peace, and blessedness, by Jesus Christ.’ The natural inclination of fallen human beings is to look inward at ourselves and what we can accomplish. Our problems may be moral, psychological, or spiritual, but the core conviction of our untransformed hearts is this: ‘I can do it. i can handle this.’ So we try to live better lives, to be better people, and to find within ourselves the resources we need for goodness and happiness (or in Owen’s words, ‘righteousness, life, peace, and blessedness’).

But the gospel ‘presseth to take men off wholly from their old foundations.’ It shows us our insufficiency and redirects our trust to Christ and his sufficiency alone. The gospel shows us that ‘present peace’ and ‘future blessedness’ are found not in ourselves or in anything we can do but only in Jesus.

Renovation of the soul

The second goal of the gospel is ‘the renovation of our minds, wills, and affections, into the image or likeness of God.’ We are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of [Christ],’ says Paul (Romans 8:29), and the primary means God uses to effect this transformation of the gospel, applied to our hearts by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

But how does this actually happen in practice? Owen answers: ‘by that power and efficacy, as to transform us into their likeness.’ In other words, transformation happens when the truth of the gospel comes into our hearts with both clarity and efficacy, logic and fire, conviction and passion, word and Spirit, light and heat.

A heart for worship

Finally, Owen says that evangelical truth ‘engageth the whole soul, in all its powers and faculties, through the whole course of its activity… to live unto God in all holy obedience.’ Worshiping God is the only rational response to the lavish mercies of God (Romans 12:1). But when the gospel does its work in our hearts, worship is not simply our duty to God (although it is) but the natural reflex of our hearts in response to God’s revelation of his grace and mercy through the cross and resurrection of Christ and the gift of his Spirit.

Satisfaction, renovation, worship – these are the intended effects of the gospel in our lives. Every time we encounter the drama of redemption in the pages of Scripture or hear the good news of Christ crucified and risen proclaimed or come to the Lord’s Table to feed on the body and blood of our Lord, we should be moved to this: deeper rest in Christ, greater likeness to Christ, and more vibrant worship of Christ.

Quoted in the book Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life and the twenty-first letter,”The Proper End and Design of Evangelical Truths” by Brian H. Hedges (Shepherd Press, 2014), pp. 86-87. In this letter Hedges is using John Owen’s treatment of apostasy in his Works, where he also treats the positive effects of the gospel in the life of the elect believer. Hedges’ book is in the form of letters to a new convert to the Christian faith (“Chris”), and treats the call of the believer to grow in grace and persevere to the end, because of God’s grace and in dependence on God’s grace, every day.

Published in: on April 17, 2021 at 9:57 PM  Leave a Comment