Monthly Archives: January 2011

Thomas Manton v. “Westminster” West

There is not only direction given to us to obey the gospel but a charge and obligation is laid upon us. The gospel is sometimes called ‘The counsel of God’ (Luke vii 30 ‘They rejected the counsel of God against themselves.’) Sometimes the law of God is called his counsel as it is the result of his wisdom and his law as it is the effect of his legislative will. He would not only direct and instruct the creature by his counsel but oblige him by his authority; “Exhortation or advice serveth to direct or excite one that is free but a decree and law implieth a necessity to obey.” So Jerome: “Counsel and precept differ. Precept saith, not only we shall do well to do so but we must do so. Counsel respects friends, a precept subjects. There is a coactive power in laws; God hath not left the creatures to comply with his directions if they please; no, there is a strict charge laid upon them; they must do it at their peril. Laws have a binding force, from the authority of their lawgiver. God giveth us counsel as a friend but commandeth us as a sovereign. Therefore we read much of the ‘Obedience of faith’ Rom xvi 26 ‘The gospel was manifested to all nations for the obedience of faith’ and Rom i 5 ‘We have received apostleship for the obedience of faith’ among all nations: so Acts vi 7 ‘And a great company of priests were obedient to the faith’ and 2 Cor x 5 ‘Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;’ and 1 Pet i 22 ‘Having purified your hearts in obeying the truth through the spirit;’ and Acts v 32, ‘The Holy Ghost which is given to them that obey’ All this is said to show it is not arbitrary or indifferent but we are bound by the authority of this new law.

via Hierodule.

Luther v. Ryle on baptism, faith, and assurance

J. C. Ryle:

Are you born again? This is one of life’s most important questions. Jesus Christ said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

It is not enough to reply, “I belong to the church; I suppose I’m a Christian.” Thousands of nominal Christians show none of the signs of being born again which the Scriptures have given us—many listed in the First Epistle of John.

First of all, John wrote: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (I John 3:9). “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (5:18).

A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.

If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (I John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing in both his words and his actions. He knows that “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Second, John wrote: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (I John 5:1).

A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour who can pardon his soul, that He is the divine person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, and beside Him there is no Saviour at all. In himself he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ’s finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God’s sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm.

He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ, and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness, his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church, and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Third, John wrote: “Every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (I John 2:29).

The man who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God’s will, to do the things that please God and to avoid the things that God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example as well as his Saviour and to prove himself to be Christ’s friend by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself that is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.

Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.” What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fourth, John wrote: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14).

A man who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love, but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Saviour, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home as when he is in their company.

He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers, fighting against the same enemy. They are his fellow travelers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways—in rank, in station and in wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father’s sons and daughters and he cannot help loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Fifth, John wrote: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (I John 5:4).

A man who is born again does not use the world’s opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world’s ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him they seem foolish and unworthy of an immortal being.

He loves God’s praise more than man’s praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is to please God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

Sixth, John wrote: “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself’ (I John 5:18).

A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that evil communications corrupt the heart and that evil is more catching than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chief desire is to spend it profitable.

He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country—to wear his armor continually and to be prepared for temptation. He is diligent to be watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?

These are the six great marks of a born again Christian.

There is a vast difference in the depth and distinctness of these marks in different people. In some they are faint and hardly noticeable. In others they are bold, plain and unmistakable, so anyone may read them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person.

But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God.

How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion—only those who are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not have these marks are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us to come. Do you have these characteristics? Are you born again?

So does this seem like the solution for a tortured conscience?

And now here’s Martin Luther who reputedly knew something about a tortured conscience:

But these leaders of the blind are unwilling to see that faith must have something to believe–something to which it may cling and upon which it may stand… These people are so foolish as to separate faith from its object to which faith is attached and bound on the ground that the object is something external. Yes, it must be external so that it can be perceived and grasped by the senses and thus brought into the heart, just as the entire Gospel is an external, oral proclamation. In short, whatever God effects in us, he does through such external ordinances (“Larger Catechism,” p. 440 in The Book of Concord [trans. and ed. T. G. Tappert; Philadelphia: fortress, 1959]).

And for good measure here is Steve Schlissel from the 2001 Pastors Conference at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church:

But what kind of faith is sola fide faith? There is a certain quality to this saving faith, and there is the spurious faith and there is the pretentious faith. Then the pulpits want us to begin examining our faith. Then we have to “bring up” our faith. Before you know it, everybody thinks that he or she is not saved. “How can I really and truly be saved?” To find out, come back next week and the preacher will make you feel guilty, by golly. Week after week the people are berated, bullied, and tortured in their consciences on the presupposition that God is as niggardly as the preacher believes Him to be. God only saves with the greatest possible reluctance. When somebody manages to squeak into the kingdom, He snaps His fingers and says, “Shucks! Another one made it. I was hoping that he would be deceived into thinking that he had saving faith when he really didn’t have it.” The whole notion of God is distorted, as if Paul preached a Gospel so full of qualifiers that faith becomes a new work–and outdoes what the most wicked, abominable, self-righteous Pharisee (as our own Reformed fathers viewed the Pharisees) ever taught about works that had to be performed to enter the kingdom of God.

And here is Joel Beeke on Protestant history and assurance:

One of the greatest struggles of the theologian and pastor of the post-Reformation churches lay with the area of personal assurance of faith and its relationship to saving faith. Their labor for theological precision in this area gave rise to a rich technical vocabulary in which they distinguished between assurance of faith and assurance of sense; the direct, actus directus, and reflexive, actus reflexus, acts of faith; assurance of the uprightness of faith and assurance of adoption; the practical and mystical syllogisms; the principle and acts of faith; objective and subjective assurance; assurance of faith, understanding, and hope; discursive and intuitive assurance; the immediate and mediate witness in assurance; and the being and well being of faith.

Such terminology was used within the context of a series of correlative issues such as possibilities, kinds, degrees, foundations, experiences, times, obstacles, qualifications, and fruits of assurance–all placed within a word regulated, Christologically controlled, and Trinitarian framework. With such scholastic distinctions the modern church and most scholars have little patience.

Thank God! I lose patience just reading the summary.

And here’s John Barach at the afore-mentioned conference:

When you read some books, even some reformed books about assurance, they will say something like this, that anyone can have assurance provided he continues in godliness for a certain space of time. How long? Five minutes good? Does it have to be ten? Does it have to be a year or two of godliness before you can have any assurance? And I began to wonder what do you do with somebody who has struggled against sin, who falls into sin, terrible sin, wants to flee from them, finds himself terribly attracted to them, can a person like that have assurance of salvation or does that wait until much later on after he has already conquered his terrible sins that he is struggling against? But then how do you conquer sin when you have no assurance? How do you battle against sin when you are not sure that God loves you? When you are not really sure that Christ died for you? And when you’re not really sure that you are one of his people, how could you ever fight against sin? What power would you have to fight with if you are not really sure that he has given you his Holy Spirit?

Do you remember people saying no one would ever accuse “federal visionists” of being antinomian (Romans 6.1 and Martin Lloyd-Jones litmus test which seems to be canonical in some quarters)? Most of the time, these same people accuse “federal visionists” of being antinomian.

It is all over the place. We make it too easy to be a Christian. Want to know if you have the Spirit on your side? Just say “Jesus is Lord.”

The Article by Which the Church Stands or Falls: Santification By Faith, 1

When Paul related how Jesus commissioned him, these were the words he related from the Lord:

But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

via Passage: Acts 26:16-18 (ESV Bible Online).

I think I first heard of “sanctification by faith” while teaching through Hebrews 11 in a Sunday School class. But while in seminary I ran into it because I found Daniel Fuller’s Gospel & Law: Contrast or Continuum. There is a lot of flaky stuff going by that name, but Fuller did some more serious work–albeit not entirely bereft of flakiness in my opinion. I think the idea that the Reformers were guilty of the Galatian heresy veers in that direction! But Fuller was quite fruitful to work through and think about. Later came John Piper’s book Future Grace which was quite excellent. It is more readable when you are in the mood for a devotional book (it has 31 chapters, if I recall, for daily reading) but it has significance as a serious theological as well as pastoral work.

But even while I think it is great to consider how we are sanctified by faith, that has pretty much nothing to do with the expression in Acts 26.18. Fuller and Piper are using a modern technical theological term that in the Bible is a word used in other ways. In fact, I think (I may be wrong) it is usually used in another way.  They are thinking of Sanctification as the Westminster Confession uses it:

They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

The prooftext at the end of this paragraph provides the rationale for using the term “sanctification.” It is found in Hebrews 12.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

The term “holiness” is the same root as what is translated as “sanctification” in many other places. This is unquestionably about behavior and growing in obedience (as a comment for another series of posts, in context it is also quite corporate in its emphasis). It is thus a fine term to use in such a way.

But the term is also used in Scripture much differently. In fact, it is used in the book of Hebrews much differently.

As I have time I’d like to fill out the following argument.

  1. Holiness is often or even usually a “status” rather than a description of one’s behavior. It refers to having access, having a right to the presence of, and/or being brought near to God the Holy one. It implies special behavioral demands and promises behavioral change because one must act a certain way in God’s presence, and in God’s presence you cannot be the same as you were before.
  2. Thus, to be sanctified is to have this status conferred upon you. You are reconciled where you were once exiled. It is, in short, incredibly close to being justified, in its implications.
  3. The work of Christ is often described as this form of sanctification, going back to the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant. Christ’s blood brings us near.
  4. The pivotal stories of Gentile inclusion in Acts 11 and 15 are in fact all about sanctification and use that language and imagery. The issues of access and inclusion in the Church are, at their core, questions about whether not everyone is holy.
  5. That rather than being focused upon in two Pauline letters, this issue is in all Paul’s letters. It explains why he can write such a generic letter to the Ephesians, that is all about the work of Christ and salvation, and never feel a need once to talk about justification or even righteousness as a forensic concept.
  6. This in fact is the universal presupposition mentioned in all the Epistles, Pauline or not, as they are addressed to “saints.” This is the revolution that has occurred (for Marxists it would be “comerade”). No more degrees of access. No more degrees of holiness. We are all saints. We all have access. We are all righteous in God’s sight. Justification is a consequence in a part of sanctification if it is understood as standing or status.


Hearing God had his Son murdered for you should not call you to repentance?

The gospel is not a cause for shame and repentance.

via Is the Gospel Preached or Lived? « Heidelblog.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter the legalist: “Do this and live.”

The Obama Administration knows that their “healthcare” hurts people

If you would like to know what the White House really thinks of Obamacare, there’s an easy way. Look past its press releases. Ignore its promises. Forget its talking points. Instead, simply witness for yourself the outrageous way the White House protects its best friends from Obamacare.

Last year, we learned that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had granted 111 waivers to protect a lucky few from the onerous regulations of the new national health care overhaul. That number quickly and quietly climbed to 222, and last week we learned that the number of Obamacare privileged escapes has skyrocketed to 733.

Among the fortunate is a who’s who list of unions, businesses and even several cities and four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee) but none of the friends of Barack feature as prominently as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

How can you get your own free pass from Obamacare? Maybe you can just donate $27 million to President Obama‘s campaign efforts. That’s what Andy Stern did as president of SEIU in 2008. He has been the most frequent guest at Mr. Obama‘s White House.

Backroom deals have become par for the course for proponents of Obamacare. Senators were greased with special favors, like Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and his Cornhusker Kickback and Louisiana Democrat Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and her Louisiana Purchase. Even the American Medical Association was brought in line under threat of losing its exclusive and lucrative medical coding contracts with the government.

via WOLF: Tawdry details of Obamacare – Washington Times.

So does learning what Christ has done not involve an imperative?

This business of “living the gospel” is one of those popular evangelical slogans that, on reflection, turns out to be not very helpful. The gospel is by definition ‘good news.’ It’s an announcement. The gospel is the announcement of what Christ has done for his people.

via Is the Gospel Preached or Lived? « Heidelblog.

But doesn’t the announcement itself involve a new command? Jesus said

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

And Paul wrote:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Is “the law of Christ” a command he gave or a principle he embodied in his life and an ability he gives? Is there a difference. Jesus bore our burdens so that we are able to bear the burdens of others in Christ. We have command, example, and empowerment, all included in the reconciliation found in Christ’s death for our sins. The announcement involves all.

And the Ten Commandments work similarly, also based not on what we do but on the announcement of what God has done for his people. Thus, the Westminster Larger Catechism,

Q. 101. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments is contained in these words, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Wherein God manifesteth his sovereignty, as being JEHOVAH, the eternal, immutable, and almighty God; having his being in and of himself, and giving being to all his words and works: and that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.

Following the Ten Commandments is “living out the good news” of deliverance from Egypt.

How God saves us by allowing us to wreck our economy

How the Bitters communicate fits Ronald Inglehart’s thesis from the early 1970s about post-materialist young people. Inglehart wrote that when children grow up in abundance, like many suburban evangelical kids, they are more concerned as young adults with “self-expression” than they are hard work and survival—the concerns of those who grew up struggling with scarcity.

via | Community | Blog Archive | Evangelicalism’s bitter 20-somethings.

Well, that’s about to change.

Well, you might be a Socinian or Arminian and I know a guy who says things in a book that contradicts your presbytery: SO YOU’RE GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY and I’m totally motivated by nothing but piety.

I was going to ignore this when it first floated in the swirling blogosphere. But then, of course, The Aquila Report reprinted it.

The only rationale given for Meyers’ innocence is that he believes that the first and second covenants aren’t the same.  In what is the only rationale given for the vindication of Meyers, the report states:
“TE Meyers unequivocally states, ‘I do not believe that the prelapsarian covenant is the same as the postlapsarian covenants.’”

Well, even the most thoroughgoing Arminian or Socinian would argue this point given the absence and presence of sin before and after the fall.  Also important is that this concern wasn’t ever raised in the LOC.  No one accused Meyers of believing that the first and second covenants are the same.

“The only rationale…”

Here is the report: there is more than one rationale listed.

“Also important is that this concern wasn’t ever raised in the LOC.  No one accused Meyers of believing that the first and second covenants are the same.”

The letter of complaint said in part:

1. TE Meyers rejects the bi-covenantal structure of Scripture as represented in the
Westminster Standards (i.e., his views do not merely take issue with the terminology, but
the essence of the first/second covenant framework) contrary to those Standards….

d. TE Meyers states that we are saved into the same covenant into which Adam was created at
the beginning of the world (Ibid.). Consequently, TE Meyers’ view is radically

The writer doesn’t seem to realize that “monocovenantal” means “one covenant” (mono = one). Thus, the statement, “TE Meyers unequivocally states, ‘I do not believe that the prelapsarian covenant is the same as the postlapsarian covenants.’” directly deals with a concern raised in the letter of concern.

“Well, even the most thoroughgoing Arminian or Socinian…”

So when you have the temerity to not agree with me when I accuse you of heresy I just feel free to move the goal posts and raise new heretical associations with your name. An atheist can affirm the historical birth and death of Jesus. So someone accuses me of denying the existence of Jesus, and I affirm it, then someone can say, “Well, even the most thoroughgoing atheist…” Well, so what?

The issue in the “letter of concern” was not that Meyers was an Arminian or a Socinian, but that he was monocovenantal. And he’s not. Stop piling on evil associations to smear his name.

And then there is other stuff like:

“I’d suggest you find a way of reading the first chapter of Guy Waters’ excellent book Federal Vision and Covenant Theology, which..”

Guy Waters book is stupid and misleading. It was born of hallucinatory lectures that were given to a highly prejudiced group in Mississippi, made horrible accusations against PCA ministers (including me), were circulated far and wide throughout the denomination, without ever notifying the targets or their presbyteries.

Note that this was probably eight years ago. Only after this stuff was circulated privately were these railing accusations finally brought up through the Church.

When I heard Guy Waters was writing a book I feared that it would contain the same misinformation. I contacted him and asked him to let me know what he was going to write about me so that I could interact with him and make his published work stronger. But he would have none of it. He refused to talk to any one of his targets as far as I know.

So a book written by a PCA minister, making charges of theological heterodoxy (I’m betting Waters tried as much to avoid making that direct statement as he tried to make sure readers left his book with that impression) against other PCA ministers, without in any way consenting to speak or correspond with the PCA ministers being so targeted… is supposed to refute a Presbytery that actually bothered to let the accused speak in his own defense.

The fact is that presbytery after presbytery is looking at the men that Waters found so easy to accuse, and is clearing their names (in the mere Church, of course, not the holy blogosphere). If I were Guy Waters, I’d be worried. I mean, it might become clear that his theological abilities, Duke Grad school notwithstanding, are quit substandard. Good thing The Aquila Report is trying to stave off a day of reckoning.

Then there is this:

The issue of merit is brought up as something that Meyers has had trouble with in the past. What’s not clear is whether Meyers is equivocating between condign merit before the fall and the works principle before the fall.

While the former issue is more within the realm of legitimate debate, the latter is not, given the absolute insistence upon the works principle in the Westminster Standards:

The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (WCF 7:2)

So a good question is whether or not Meyers believes works, as it is defined here as “perfect” and “personal”, to be operative before the fall as a means of securing blessing, and if so, how he defines the works principle.

But neither Meyers or anyone else at all in the PCA (or anyone else in the FV controversy) has ever denied that Adam had to be perfectly and personally obedient. He explicitly told the committee he agreed that Adam was in a conditional covenant. And he was accused of signing the Joint FV Statement (along with yours truly) which stated:

We affirm that Adam was in a covenant of life with the triune God in the Garden of Eden, in which arrangement Adam was required to obey God completely, from the heart.

Raising the possibility that Jeff would deny such a thing is libel several times over. He has affirmed agreement with Westminster. He signed a document that reiterated the same. I’ve heard him teach it as have many others. But why should that matter when Guy Waters brilliant book is out there with such clear arguments? Ha!

The rest of the article strives mightily to make obvious and quite patristic Trinitarian Theology into a heresy. For instance:

The same goes for the argument from history.  The doctrine of the Trinity was, for the early church, the most systematically, thoroughly, and precisely defined doctrines within the corpus of Christian thought and literature.  To argue from the church’s silence is only a nail in Meyers’ coffin.

We can prove from the development of Trinitarian dogma that an eternal covenantal relationship was foreign to the church’s thinking.  If the early church with all of the councils, decrees, creeds, formulations, debates, condemnations, and so on, deemed it best to describe the Trinitarian relationship in non-covenantal categories, why should we, who stand on the shoulders of the early church, attempt to re-define this central doctrine in categories foreign to this early creedal orthodoxy?

I’ll allow Lig Duncan to speak in Jeff Meyer’s defense:

Covenant theology flows from the trinitarian life and work of God. God’s covenant communion with us is modeled on and a reflection of the intra-trinitarian relationships. The shared life, the fellowship of the persons of the Holy Trinity, what theologians call perichoresis or circumincessio, is the archetype of the relationship the gracious covenant God shares with His elect and redeemed people. God’s commitments in the eternal covenant of redemptive find space-time realization in the covenant of grace.

A laymen writing stupid and false things on a blog is no real discredit to the PCA. But to be picked up and reprinted by a website associated with someone who was once a moderator of General Assembly?

Of course, no one is ever held accountable for spreading falsehoods, so if the Bible is true we should not be surprised this is happening.

Can the Unregenerate Be Part of the Body of Christ? Can the Unregenerate Baptize?

Have you ever wondered how the unregenerate could say to Jesus on the judgment day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” (Matthew 7:22). Could this power have been real, and from God, and yet not be a sign of new birth? I think so.

via Can the Unregenerate Heal the Sick? – Desiring God.

So if you were healed by an unregenerate person are you permitted to thank Jesus for healing you by his power? Or do you have to thank Satan?

Here is something the Apostle Paul wrote about miracles in the Church:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

This is from First Corinthians 12, which is the classic passage to explain the Ministry of the Church in Reformed Theology, going back to Calvin’s Institutes.  In the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 25, “Of the Church” we find this summarized in chapter 3. I quote it with the attached prooftexts (in the original archaic English version):

III. Unto this catholic visible Church Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and does, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

1CO 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. EPH 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. MAT 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. ISA 59:21 As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

Naming Christ and being assigned to represent him as part of his Body and Kingdom is not dependent on the subjective and secret state of one’s heart in relation to Christ and salvation. Paul knows that not all of his readers may not be regenerate. That is not his business. He doesn’t bring it up until the appropriate time: Church discipline after repeated chances to repent (see 2 Corinthians 13.5).

God works through the body of Christ, his visible church with visible members who function therein. And how does Paul know that his readers are members of the Church?

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

What if this why, if a pastor apostatizes from the Faith, we don’t have to rebaptize anyone whom he has baptized. They were truly baptized into Christ by God. Here is the Westminster Larger Catechism again with the prooftexts:

Q. 161. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

1 Peter 3:21. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 8:13, 23. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done…. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 1 Corinthians 12:13. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

What does this mean?

First of all, it means that you can take God’s warnings against unbelief seriously. This is good news. Paul warns the Corinthians as a father reproves his children. This is how the elect persevere in faith.  As Charles Hodge wrote about one of these warnings in his commentary on First Corinthians:

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (First Corinthians 10.12).

…There is perpetual danger of falling. No degree of progress we may have already made, no amount of privileges which we may have enjoyed, can justify the want of caution. Let him that thinketh he standeth, that is, let him who thinks himself secure. This may refer either to security of salvation, or against the power of temptation. The two are very different, and rest generally on different grounds. False security of salvation commonly rests on the ground of our belonging to a privileged body (the church), or to a privileged class (the elect). Both are equally fallacious. Neither the members of the church nor the elect can be saved unless they persevere in holiness; and they cannot persevere in holiness without continual watchfulness and effort. False security as to our power to resist temptation rests on an overweening self-confidence in our own strength. None are so liable to fall as they who, thinking themselves strong, heedlessly run into temptation (p. 181, Banner of Truth, emphasis added).

By warning you, Christ is showing that he loves you. Jesus even assured the Laodicean Church of this love:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

To respond to these warnings, as well as being drawn to the positive promises, is simply the exercise of saving faith. As the Westminster Confession states, in addition to “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace,” Faith

believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come (chapter 14).

Secondly, we can be confident that God is ministering to us in the Church, no matter what the secret spiritual state of others, even ministers and elders. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the preached word, the prayers for the sick, and all the other ways in which God has established the Church to care for you do not depend on the piety or intention of the other members of the Church. You are as much the beneficiary of the grace of God as much as any blind man who was given sight by Judas.

I hope you are not in a situation where you need this kind of comfort, but there it is. The visible church is an objective ministry of the Triune God. Whether or not someone is regenerate does not obstruct Christ’s body.

Thirdly, it means you are called to care for others in the Church in self-sacrificial ways. Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20.28). He appeals to the Corinthians, “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died (1 Corinthians 8.11). None of this works with us wondering who really counts as the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t think we should wonder. He thinks we know who they are and we need to start treating them better!

And of course, none of this is inconsistent with real calvinism. As Charles Hodge wrote on 1 Corinthians 8.11:

There is great power and pathos in these words. Shall we, for the sake of eating one kind of meat rather than another, endanger the salvation of those for whom the eternal Son of God laid down his life? The infinite distance between Christ and us, and the almost infinite distance between his sufferings and the trifling self-denial required at our hands, give to the apostle’s appeal a force the Christians heart cannot resist.

The language of Paul in this verse seems to assume that those may perish for whom Christ died. It belongs, therefore, to the same category as those numerous passages which make the same assumption with regard to the elect. If the latter are consistent with the certainty of the salvation of the elect, then this passage is consistent with the certainty of the salvation of those for whom Christ specifically died. It was absolutely certain that none of Paul’s companions in shipwreck was on that occasion to lose his life, because the salvation of the whole company had been predicted and promised; and yet the apostle said that if the sailors were allowed to take away the boats, those left on board could not be saved. This appeal secured the accomplishment of the promise. So God’s telling the elect that if they apostatize they shall perish, prevents their apostasy. And in like manner, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died shall perish if they violate their conscience, prevents their transgressing, or brings them to repentance. God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end. If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent (pp. 148-149).

There is, however, a sense in which it is scriptural to say that Christ died for all men. This is very different from saying that he died equally for all men, or that his death had no other reference to those who are saved than it had to those who are lost. To die for one is to die for his benefit. As Christ’s death has benefited the whole world, prolonged the probation of men, secured for them innumerable blessings, provided a righteousness that is sufficient and suitable for all, it may be said that he died for all. And in reference to this obvious truth, the language of the apostle, should any prefer this interpretation, may be understood, “Why should we destroy one for whose benefit Christ lay down his life?”… (p. 149).

The doctrines of double-foreordination, absolute predestination, unconditional election, and monergistic salvation are all taught plainly in Scripture, and are essential to understanding God’s sovereignty and mercy in our lives. But whenever they are used to undermine the reality of the Visible church, those doctrines are being misused. I pray the Reformed tradition will be known for people who are confident in God’s objective work in their lives through His Church, in his love for them, and in the need to reject unbelief and continue in faith.

Madame Folly applied

The woman Folly is broadcast;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat at all the mortgage groups and car lots,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Ninety days is the same as cash,
and you can afford all the new house that you deserve.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.