Saturday, 19 November 2011

Dr John "Rabbi" Duncan writes:

It is a great thing to be the sons of God now; “but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Faith's view of Christ is transforming, it is glorifying. But it is not so transforming, not so glorifying, as the vision of immediate presence. “Hence,” says the apostle, “we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord; for we walk by faith, not by sight –” Faith is an imperfect medium of communion with Christ.

It is a true medium, the only medium we have here on earth. O! What a glorious medium of communion with Christ faith is! And yet it is an imperfect medium. “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory” – in the same place, and eye to eye, not by report. It is on report that faith goes – we have nothing for it but report.

It is faith – and “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” It is a solid and substantial report, it is true, it is the testimony of God who cannot lie; but, it is report, it is testimony. But He shall be seen. “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty;” thou shalt behold Him, not with faith's dim vision. I say faith's dim vision, taking faith at its brightest. But faith at its brightest is dim compared to sight – “We walk by faith, not by sight.” What we have heard, we shall see; what we have heard and believed, we shall yet see. “Said I not unto thee, that if thou shouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” – “if thou wilt believe, thou shalt see.” “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.”

“It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” Ah! Can we form little conception of sinlessness “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” Oh! Surely if the saints could quarrel with the way of salvation – if they could quarrel, it would be about this – that there is no sinlessness in the present life. But it is God's plan. But oh! To be out of the inbeing of sin! To be out of the effects of sin! To be out of this mortal body, and mortality swallowed up of life! Being where Christ is, and beholding His glory! Oh! Is it miserably little that I know of Jesus Christ – miserably little; but with this, I sum up all the brightness of the beatific glory – the being with Christ where He is, and beholding His glory. Ah yes!

Spiritual Adultery Is Apostasy.

The Bible continually tells us that the church is the bride of Christ.  For the church of God to turn away is spiritual adultery, apostasy.  She had slidden back from her rightful Husband.  And because the church is the people of God, when they backslide, the church backslides.  When one member suffers, all suffer.  And when many members falls way, the whole church becomes irreparably damaged.  She degenerates into a religion, a religious organisation, a religious machine. 

When the church "plays the harlot," and her real condition denied by her official teachers, then the situation is very serious.  When she turns away to false gods, she has forsaken her Lord.  When the church of Christ consciously or unconsciously turns away from God's written Word, THE TRUTH, she has turned to harlotry. 

But no one wants to admit that this is, in fact, the case.  I remember being on a Presbytery Commission that was responsible for a vacant congregation, and speaking to one of the other ministers who knew the situation well, said, "You know, there's not one known Christian in this congregation."  My immediate response was, "In what sense, then, is it a Christian or Presbyterian congregation?"  I got no answer.  The important thing is that you 'play the game.'  You must 'play the game.'  Forget about truth, forget about God, forget about the Gospel; 'play the game.'  Pretend all is OK. Pretend it is a real church, and keep your head down! 

Such a church, and more importantly such an attitude from an evangelical minister can have only one result:  it defiles the entire land, and not only the church of Christ.

Now in a post-Christian world and also in a post-Christian church, it is necessary to point out wherein this apostasy lies.  One thing is certain: we must call apostasy by its proper name, say it as it is.  If we don't, then any hope of real divine blessing for the church is as far away as ever.

Apostasy - a Dirty Word!

God speaks through His prophets.What they say in Holy Scripture, God says.  So we are obligated to listen to Him!

One of the main things He says to His church through Jeremiah, relates to the apostasy of His people in Jeremiah's time.  Despite the Lord's goodness to Israel, she continued in her vileness and rebellion, going so far as to desert the Lord who redeemed them to follow after other gods, which are no gods.  He had taken her as His own Bride, but she, as His bride, went a-whoring after other husbands.  She was unfaithful to Him!

That's what apostasy is essentially.  It is a departing from the Lord.  And there is more than enough evidence that this has happened in today's church!  In fact, Dr Francis A. Schaeffer states that this "is a hallmark of this generation," and who could disagree with him on that!  It is difficult to argue that the church of today is experiencing one of her high times knowing the blessing of God.  When a retiring church minster who has a house in a particular seaside resort in Northern Ireland is puzzled as to what church he will attend, things are bad!  The church has departed from her Lord and Master.  She is not engaged to another husband, one that does notlve her as her Lord did.  

What has shew done?  She has followed the ways of the world.  More specifically, she has taken into her thinking the relativism of Hegel the philosopher which says, in effect, that there are really no such thing as right and wrong, but there is a bit of right and wrong in everything and in everybody; so let's come to a middle ground, a compromise, a synthesis.  In this way, we will all be happy.

Within the church, this pans out like this: since all things are relative, we must not be too tight on what a Christian is, or on what obedience to the Lord is all about.  After all, there is no right and wrong, and truth lies somewhere in between.  One minister thinks that unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God; and another says that as long as you live a decent life, you're a Christian.  The church's task is how to, and here's Hegel's term, "synthesisie" this situation, so that all will be happy.  So the church agrees not to take definitions too seriously, to allow plenty of room for everybody, those who believe in the necessity of the new birth and those who deny this.  So a form of words are arrived at to which every party can subscribe. 

Does this sound like your church?  An apostate church no longer knows what she believes.  Forget about written confessions and such like; they tell us nothing but what the church thought was proper at a given time in history.  They DO NOT tell us what any particular church believes today.  What does tell you what a church is like is by looking at the kind of membership there is, and if that membership is really committed to the Gospel. 

That's enough to be going on with, isn't it?

God’s Spirit Rules Over Us.

Although we are full of disobedience, yet God’s Spirit rules over us to hold down the passions and to keep them in subjection. Therefore it is said that we have risen with him (Christ), as Paul declares in … Colossians. But this was not yet made manifest under the Law. Therefore, it was necessary that the fathers who lived at that time should have some help, such as the sacrifices, to nourish them in the hope of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they might know that their sins were washed away by the blood of the mediator. Similarly, they had the Sabbath day as a warrant for the grace that was purchased for us in order to put to death our thoughts and passions, so that God might live in us by the power of his Holy Spirit (Gal 2.19,20).
What an encouragement it is to know that God’s Spirit is given to rule in our hearts so that our passions may be subdued and held in check.  Don’t think that you are worse than others just because you are plagued by lusts and passions.  God knows you, and has made provision for these very eventualities.  He has given us His Spirit to do this sanctifying work in our hearts and prepare us for our home in heaven.  Remember, our sins have been washed away in the blood of Christ so go to Him when you sin, and plead for His free mercy and forgiveness.  The Sabbath day is the guarantee that God will yet be gracious to us, that He cares for us, and that He will keep us close to Himself.  Take yourself to Him afresh today, confessing your sins; come with grief and hatred of those sins, and accept His free pardon from His hand.  He is waiting to be gracious to you.

The Day of Rest!

The prophet Isaiah says that if the day of rest is not kept, anything else is of no worth (Isa. 58.13). Therefore, men must give up their own virtues and be content to leave them, or else it is not the LORD’s Sabbath, nor will he approve of what they are doing. In this we see that it is useless just to observe the ceremony. For the Jews kept the ceremony very properly when they assembled on the Sabbath day; and they didn’t lift a finger to do housework, yet they fed their own wicked desires. Afterwards they followed their desires and thereby mocked God, abusing his name and defacing and falsifying the entire order that he had ordained. For this reason he rebuked them. The most important thing was for them to see the meaning of the figure, which was to serve God spiritually. It was necessary for the Jews to keep the ceremony as they were commanded. But God kept them from having its pure substance. Instead they had only the shadow until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Sabbath day observance is not just a ceremony – if it is only that to you, then you have not kept it!  Is it merely something that you do, or is it something that God has provided for your good?  If it is just an action that you do, then, says Calvin, it is not the LORD’s Sabbath that you are keeping.  Does that surprise you?  Does it offend you?  How often we imagine we are observing God’s Sabbath when in fact we are breaking it religiously!  We deserve to be rebuked by our Father.  The most important lesson for us is to see to it that we serve God spiritually everyday, and not just one day a week.  Do you do that?  Make up you mind today to make every day a Sabbath to the LORD.  

Indebted to God.

Now let us see if we are to be excused when we defraud God of his due by disdaining to open our lips to confess how much we are bound and indebted to him after we have received so many benefits at his hand. Let all the blessings that all the men in the world can give to God be laid in the balance against the blessing with which he enriches them; and which has the greater worth? All that they can put forward is that it is needful for them to confess that they can neither say nor do anything that is worth while, whereas at the same time God shows us that he has all that is requisite for our happiness. Therefore it is not without reason that Paul says here that the faithful must fully devote and apply their minds and endeavours to bless the name of God, seeing that he gives them so great cause, for otherwise they would be unthankful and churlish… 

When he says ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’, it must be explained in this way, that the God whom we feel so favourable to us is the Father of our Lord Christ. This circumstance deserves to be noted well.

Calvin is at pains to emphasise the innumerable blessings that God has given us.  Section after section, he highlights God’s sheer goodness to guilty worms such as we are.  His utter astonishment at His treatment of us is unmatched.  Hence, the passion with which he calls us to worship and praise His great and holy Name.  Have you really worshipped Him today?  Has your heart been filled with love for Him?  Do you know personal assurance of His love for you?  Then, thank Him.  If not, seek Him for this most precious spiritual gift and blessing, and He’ll give it to you.

How Does God Bless Us?

After what manner does he [God] bless us?  We do not bless him as he blesses us. We come far short of that. For (as I have shown already from the sixteenth Psalm) all our services can do him no good. Again, we have to conclude that (as I have also shown from Ps.116) all that we can bring to God is no more than this acknowledgement that we are bound to him for all the good things we have. You see then that all our blessing is but to yield the sacrifice of praise to God. Let that serve for one point.

But now, when God blesses us, is it simply in words? No! No! But it is a filling of us and a bestowing of all things upon us that we want, as far as is needful. And why is this word ‘blessing’ attributed to him? Because he does not need to labour and take great pains to help his servants and to give them what he knows is expedient for them. If he simply says the word, that is to say, if he only declares his will, the thing is done.

Since then God, having created the world by his word alone, has power also to do us good simply by commanding it, therefore it is said that we become rich by his blessing alone, that is to say, by his showing himself loving and favourable to us.

To keep us humble, Calvin reminds us that we can add nothing to God.  What we have, we received from His gracious hand. His blessing of us far exceeds our blessing of Him. Let us acknowledge today His great goodness to us, with thankfulness and joy. His blessing of us is much more than mere words – His blessings are most practical.  Name His many blessings to you one by one, and you’ll be surprised at what the Lord had done for you today.  And be thankful, without complaining.

Calvin and the Atonement

The extent of the atonement is an argument that Calvin never faced, having died some 50 years before the question was posed by the Remonstrants. This is factual, but is used by Donald Macleod in a review article he wrote in 2009 as a pretended defense of Calvin, though in what sense is difficult to ascertain.  This point has been forwarded by other Reformed men in an attempt to ‘explain away’ rather than ‘explain’ Calvin’s constant use of universalist language in his teaching.  Macleod holds that ‘here is a love on God’s part for the whole of mankind.  God loves all men ...beyond the general love of God for the whole of mankind, there is a special love for those who are his own choice people. ...God’s general love for the human race confers upon mankind a vast array of precious blessings,’[1] and these are the blessings of common grace. He states quite emphatically that ‘God ... doesn't want anyone to perish.  He wants all men to be saved.’[2]  ‘At immeasurable personal cost he made himself a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.’[3] 
So Macleod himself is most comfortable with universalistic language when describing God’s attitude and relationship to humanity; this is also the language of Calvin and Amyraut, but more importantly, it is the teaching of Scripture. The argument seems to be that if the Arminians had been around when Calvin was alive, he would not have used such ‘Arminian’ language, but would have followed the theological trajectory set by Beza, and adopted more particularistic language.

[1]   Donald Macleod, A faith to live by, (Ross-shire, Christian Focus, 1998), 45.
[2]  Ibid. ,283.
[3]   Donald Macleod, From Glory to Golgotha.  (Ross-shire, Christian Focus Publications, 2002), 125.