Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Michael Horton on Justification

Theologian Michael Horton has a new two volume work on Justification. They are available on Amazon. There are massive but worth the effort to read about a thousand pages. I just read an interview with Horton on Books at a Glance about them here. Here are a couple of gems from the interview.
On Justification – that in this marriage between Christ and us, there’s a great exchange of our rags for his riches; he becomes poor so that we may become rich; he becomes a sinner so that we may become justified; he becomes the most unholy thing in the universe so that we can be the very righteousness of God.

There are basically two trajectories or trends in the later Middle Ages. You could have Augustinians who are also modern, the via Augustini moderna, but the via moderna, the modern way, was more often associated with the nominalists. And the nominalists were, for the most part, Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. That is, they either believed that God’s grace wasn’t necessary at all, or they believed that God’s grace was something he gave after you, by your own free will, took the first step. You take the first step, repenting and believing in Christ and then he gives you grace for the rest of the way.

Other people, and I place myself in this camp, say that union with Christ is an umbrella term for all of the benefits that we have in Christ. We are chosen in him, redeemed in him, called effectually to union with him; where we receive, through faith, which is a gift, we receive justification, sanctification and glorification. But within that union that we have in Christ, sanctification can only come about, the process of being made new, being conformed to the image of Christ, can only come about on the basis of God’s verdict that we are declared righteous only for the sake of Christ. Think of adoption or marriage, analogies, of course, that the Bible itself uses for all this. First, you have to be legally married before you can sleep together and have a proper relationship in marriage. Before you go home and become part of the family, you have to be legally adopted. And so, justification really is the legal ground that gives us security and certainty. When we are justified, we can go home rejoicing, knowing that nothing can ever separate us from the love of our Father in Jesus Christ. We can grow in our marriage, our union with Christ more and more each day knowing that we can never be severed from his body. Why? Because Romans 5:1, having been justified through faith we have peace with God.
There’s no middle ground here. Well, the middle ground is precisely what the medieval church occupied. We are saved by grace, but we are also saved by our cooperation with that grace. Justification is that cooperation with grace. The reformers said, look at these passages, not just in Paul, but in the Gospels. Not only in the New Testament, but in the Old Testament. There’s nothing we can do. We can’t make the first move to God; he has to regenerate us; and he has to declare us righteous; we can’t make ourselves righteous. How much can you cooperate with grace in order to be justified? The Scriptures teach that we are justified, and therefore, we cooperate with God’s grace. It doesn’t tell us that we are justified by cooperating with God’s grace. What was Abraham doing in Genesis 15, when he believed God and was justified? He believed the promise and right then and there, hashab is the Hebrew word, he was justified, then and there. What does that mean? Well, Paul tells us what that means in Romans 4, and elsewhere. So, really, it was coming back to the Scriptures. When we come back to the Scriptures and see how they contrast the helpless condition of fallen human beings with the all-sufficient grace and power and mercy of God in Jesus Christ that we really understand the Gospel.

The only way you can be right with God is to come with your sins; to come with your doubts; to come with your despair; to come to him just as you are, as we sing, without one plea, except that Christ died for you and was raised for you. Think of the contrast that Jesus draws between the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee looks over at the tax collector and says, I thank you God that I am not like one of those guys. Notice, he wasn’t saying, what a great guy I am, I did it all by myself. He’s not a Pelagian, he’s not denying God’s grace. He says, I thank you God that I am not like this person over here. And then he goes on to list all the ways that he cooperates with God’s grace. But the tax collector can’t even lift his eyes up to heaven. Imagine this guy probably swindled old ladies out of their estates, and he can’t even raise his eyes to heaven. And he cries out, Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And Jesus says that man went home that day justified, rather than the other.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Motivation for Reading Scripture

 “Formed by our reading of Scripture, we become better readers of Scripture. This is not because we become better skilled at applying biblical principles. The practice of reading Scripture is not about learning how to mold the biblical message to contemporary lives and modern needs. Rather, the Scriptures yearn to reshape how we comprehend our lives and identify our greatest needs. We find in Scripture who we are and what we might become, so that we come to share its assessment of our situation, encounter its promise of restoration, and hear its challenge to serve God’s good news.”  New Testament Scholar Joel B. Green.  

Friday, March 15, 2019

On the Credibility of the Apostles to the Christian Faith

On the credibility of the Apostle to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and to the Christian faith. . . 
Says Stillingfleet (Letter to a Deist): “If the Christian religion had been a mere design of the apostles to make themselves heads of a new sect, what had this been but to have set the cunning of twelve or thirteen men, of no weight or reputation, against the wisdom and power of the whole world? If their aim were only at reputation, they might have thought of thousands of ways more probable and more advantageous than this. Consider the case of St. Paul. Is it reasonable to believe that when he was in favor with the Sanhedrin and was likely to advance himself by his opposition to Christianity and had a fair prospect of ease and honor together, he should quit all this to join such an inconsiderable and hated company as the Christians were, only to be one of the heads of a very small number of men and to purchase it at so dear a rate as the loss of his friends and interest and running on continual troubles and persecutions to the hazard of his life?  Shedd, W. G. T. (2003). Dogmatic theology. (A. W. Gomes, Ed.) (3rd ed., pp. 141–142). Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Old Testament as Divine Revelation

The Old Testament is not the history of men’s thoughts about God, or desires after God, or affections toward him. It professes to be a history of God’s unveiling of himself to men. If it is not that, it is nothing; it is false from beginning to end. To make it the history of the speculations of a certain tribe about God, we must deny the very root of any speculations which that tribe ever had. For this root is the belief that they could not think of him, unless he had first thought of them; that they could not speak of him, unless he were speaking to them.  Fredrick Denison Maurice, Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Gospel of Mark's Vision of the Church

"If we want to discover Mark’s vision for the Church, it is no good looking at the disciples! ... What the disciples represent is the typical human response to the gospel - enthusiasm for the good news, yet an inability to comprehend the ways of God; joy at what is offered, but reluctance to pay the price. Behind their inadequate response, we glimpse the Christian community of Mark’s own day — and of every day, for the disciples behave very much as Christians always behave. If we want to discover Mark’s vision for what the Church might be, we need to look first of all at what he tells us about Jesus himself, since the community is centered on him; and secondly at what Jesus demands of his disciples, but which they fail to give: a radical commitment to his gospel, even to the extent of literally taking up the cross. This is the demand that is addressed to everyone who would follow Jesus, and this is Mark’s Vision’ for the community that consists of all who respond to Jesus’ call." - Morna Hooker, "Mark's Vision for the Church."

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Value of the Psalms in the Christian Life

The Psalms can and should be part of the constant practice of the presence of God. Regularly read from beginning to end, they lead us again and again to consider aspects of life and of God’s will that we might not otherwise choose to remember or confront — let alone to embody in our living. Memorized in chunks the Psalms can provide ready response to the pressing realities of our days. When I have wakened in a panic in the darkness of the early morning hours — submerged in fear, self-pity, or self-doubt — the Psalms have often provided the assurance that my anxieties are known by God, who enlightens my dark places. So, I encourage you to make the Psalms your constant companion. Keep a copy at hand, and keep their words in your mind and heart and on your lips as you meet the challenges of your days and nights.” (The NIV Application Commentary, Psalms Vol. 1, 104.)

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Necessity of Preachers

I am reading a sermon called The True Excellency of a Minister of the Gospel by Jonathan Edwards to sharpen my mind and stir my affections for God and his people.  I often look to Edwards or John Piper when I need an infusion of a God-saturated view of life and ministry.  Here is a quote on the necessity of gospel messengers . . . 
But God in infinite mercy has made glorious provision for the restoration of light to this fallen dark world; he has sent him, who is the brightness of his own glory, into the world, to be the light of the world. "He is the true light, that ligheth every man that cometh into the world" [John 1:9], i.e. every man in the world that ever has any true light. But in his wisdom and mercy, he is pleased to convey his light to men by means and instruments; and had sent forth his messengers, and appointed ministers in his church to be subordinate lights, and to shine with the communications of his light, and to reflect the beams of his glory on the souls of men. 
If you are a preacher, small group leader, Sunday School teacher, etc. you are one of God's appointed means of light to shine his light in the souls of men and women!