December 31, 2007 § Leave a comment
But while I write to you like this about N. N., something else occurs to me about which there is reason enough urging me to write you, both by way of inquiry and also to state my own opinion. As I do this with all freedom, so will it be up to you whenever you have leisure to indicate your own opinion. I do not press for an answer, being well aware that you are overwhelmed by important matters.
Men do not all agree concerning the communion which we have with the body of Christ and the substance of his nature; for what reason, I suppose you will hear. It is so important that he that is Christ’s should understand the mode (ratio) of his union with him.
First, it seems to me that he was pleased (as is said in the Epistle to the Hebrews [2.14] to communicate with us, in flesh and blood, by the benefit of his incarnation. ‘Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same’.
But unless some other kind of communion were offered us, this would be very general and feeble; for the whole human race already has communion with Christ in this manner. They are in fact men, as he was man.
So besides that communion this is added, that in due season faith is breathed into the elect whereby they may believe in Christ. Thus are they not only forgiven their sins and reconciled to God (in which the true and solid method of justification consists) but further there is added a renewing power of the spirit, by which our bodies also–flesh, blood and nature–are made capable of immortality, and become daily more and more in Christ’s form (Christiformia) as I may say. Not that they cast aside the substance of their own nature and pass into the very body and flesh of Christ, but that they no less approach him in spiritual gifts and properties than at birth they naturally communicated with him in body, flesh and blood.
Here, then, we have two communions with Christ (duas communiones cum Christo), the one natural, which we draw from our parents at birth, while the other comes to us by the Spirit of Christ. At the very time of regeneration we are by him made new according to the image of his glory.
I believe that between these two communions there is an intermediate one which is fount and origin of all the heavenly and spiritual likeness which we have with Christ. It is that by which, as soon as we believe, we obtain Christ himself our true Head, and are made his members. Whence, from the Head himself as Paul says [Eph. 4.16] his Spirit flows and is derived through the joints and ligaments into ourselves as his true and legitimate members. Wherefore this communion with our Head is prior, in nature at least though perhaps not in time, to that later communion which is introduced through regeneration. And here, it seems to me, natural reason helps us. We are taught that in things engendered the heart itself is formed first in infants. From it by a certain vein a spirit flows from the heart and in some way pierces the prepared matter of the living creature and there shapes the head. Thus by that vein through which spirit proceeds from heart, the head is joined to the heart. Again, by another vein spirit flows from the head and afterwards forms the liver, an organ that communicates with head and heart, by the arteries or veins which knit together. From the liver, moreover, and the other principal members there are other arteries or veins reaching to the other parts of the whole, by which the same engendering spirit passing through, fashions the other members. Thus it happens that they all communicate together, and are joined especially to the heart, that is to the fountain of life-not indeed in place or immediate contact (as they call it) but because from thence they draw the quickening spirit and life, by the wondrous workmanship of the highest artificer.
Peter Martyr Vermigli (A.D. 1499-1562)
Peter Martyr, “Calvin, Strasbourg 8 March 1555,” in The Life, Early Letters & Eucharistic Writings of Peter Martyr, ed., by J.C. McLelland and G.E. Duffield (Sutton Courtney Press, 1989), pp., 345-347.
March 19, 2007 § Leave a comment
Psa 5:4&5, “4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.”
God’s purpose for man is that he be the image bearer of God, that he mirror God’s own glory. The glory of God is of supreme worth and is that which God himself values supremely. The bible tells us that the Son is the brightness of the Father’s glory (Hebrews 1:3), so we can understand why the bible also tells us that the Son is the chief object of the Father’s love (John 3:35).
The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3 asks this question,
Q6: Did God create man thus, wicked and perverse?
A7: No, but God created man good and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness; that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.
The evildoer offends the glory of God directly because he profanes the very image of God that was his intended purpose to reflect. So when the man exchanges the glory of God for that which is profane (Romans 1:22-25), God’s wrath is kindled proportionately to the degree that He values the glory that the man was intended to mirror .
God, out of His love for his creation, the creation who’s purpose is to mirror His own glory, sent His Son as a man to die the death deserved by all those who have profaned the glory of God. Providing a salvation common and suitable to the whole human race, thus offering this life to the world as pictured in the manna given in the wilderness to the children of Israel (John 6:32-36). But, even in light of this profound and immeasurable grace and mercy offered in Christ, the evildoer because of his hatred for the glory of God, despises and rejects the very life found in the bread from heaven, and will not, of his own will, partake of Christ.
So, for those who obey not the gospel and do not know God, Christ upon his return will inflict vengeance upon these and punish them with eternal destruction away fro the presence of God (2 Thess. 1:8&9).
The evildoer will know in that day the full severity of God’s hatred against his profaning of the glory of God and his despising the privilege of being the image bearer of God.
What a unfathomable grace it is to be in union with Christ and be saved from that dreadful day of judgment!
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
March 19, 2007 § Leave a comment
Joh 3:16&17 “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
What is the motive for God’s love to the world? We see clearly in this text that God’s love is the foundation for his desire to save, it is the reason for the sending of His Son into this fallen and condemned world. But do the scriptures not also say that God hates the evildoers (Ps. 5:5)? So, how do we reconcile this seeming contradiction?
I think we must start at the beginning. Man is the special creation of God’s own hand. Mankind is the image bearer of God. Genesis 1:26 & 27 says,
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Mankind is designed specifically to mirror the Triune God’s own character. So, God’s love for His creation is in relation to His love for His own glory, which this mere creature is intended to mirror. So, as I said before, we are the work of His own hand, and because it remains true even after the fall into sin that mankind still retains this image, though severely marred and corrupted by sin, that God’s purpose for his special creation has not changed. John Calvin says this,
“But as the Lord wills not to destroy in us that which is his own, he still finds something in us which in kindness he can love. For though it is by our own fault that we are sinners, we are still his creatures; though we have brought death upon ourselves he had created us for life.” (Institutes Book 2, Chapter 16, Paragraph 3)
God’s love for his special creation flows from that purpose for which He created this man. He created him to be His image bearer. Therefore, seeing that this purpose is inherent in the existence of all mankind then this foundation for God’s love towards his creation never fails anymore than the purposes of God can fail. But, men have rebelled against the purpose of God and has exchanged the Glory of the Creator for that like unto their own sinful desires and have worshiped the creature rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:22-25) Therefore God’s hatred for the evildoer is proportionate to the degree that men fail to reflect His own glory in disobedience and sin. Calvin quotes Augustine in the same book and chapter as the previous quote, but in paragraph 4,
“Incomprehensible and immutable is the love of God. For it was not after we were reconciled to him by the blood of his Son that he began to love us, but he loved us before the foundation of the world, that with his only begotten Son we too might be sons of God before we were any thing at all. Our being reconciled by the death of Christ must not be understood as if the Son reconciled us, in order that the Father, then hating, might begin to love us, but that we were reconciled to him already, loving, though at enmity with us because of sin. To the truth of both propositions we have the attestation of the Apostle, ‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,’ (Rom. 5:8). Therefore he had this love towards us even when, exercising enmity towards him, we were the workers of iniquity. Accordingly in a manner wondrous and divine, he loved even when he hated us. For he hated us when we were such as he had not made us, and yet because our iniquity had not destroyed his work in every respect, he knew in regard to each one of us, both to hate what we had made, and love what he had made.”
The gloriousness of the gospel is that God is not willing that His purpose for His creation come to naught, so, God sent His own Son, who is the image of the Father, in the likeness of sinful flesh to redeem His creation and reconcile us back to Himself. We read in John chapter 1 that the Creator of the world came into the world, He came to His own as one of us. John Calvin says this,
“Luke goes still farther, showing that the salvation brought by Christ is common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of salvation, is descended from Adam, the common father of us all.” (Institutes Book 2, Chapter 13, paragraph 3)
In the same Chapter of John, verse 29, we have John the Baptist’s declaration that Jesus was the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”. The salvation found in Christ is suitable to and offered to the whole human race, for Christ came as one of the human race and fulfilled all that Adam, the natural representative of the whole human race, which is his posterity, failed to do. Christ the God-man fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant of works (Romans 5:17&18). Thus removed all the legal/covenantal obstacles that prevents the reconciliation of men to God.
As a reward Christ has received, from the Father, for accomplishing this work, a people to bear his image (Romans 8:28-39). Thus fulfilling God’s purpose in the creation of mankind, His image bearer.
What a glorious promise and assurance we have, who have been brought into union with Christ by faith, that God will give to us with Christ all that is promised to Christ. So, as the Apostle Paul teaches use, in Romans 8, nothing can separate use from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
March 14, 2007 § Leave a comment
The punishment of the wicked must consist in eternal misery, because the creature, by nature, can never offer that which will fully satisfy the justice of an infinitely Holy God. The Holiness of God being the object that is offended, and the weight of guilt placed upon the creature being in direct proportion to the intrinsic value of the object that is offended, it necessarily follows that the creature can never offer that which can equal the value of the object he has offended, for the Holiness of God is of infinite value.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West
March 9, 2007 § Leave a comment
Genesis 1:26-27, 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all F2 the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the single most important doctrine in Christianity. Without the doctrine of the Trinity there is no Christianity. The tri-personal relationship within the triune God of scripture provides the foundation for the ideas of love, mercy, grace, justice, and any others within the framework of personal relationships. Without the triune God as the ultimate example, these ideas become distorted or mere human conventions.
Let us take the institution of marriage as an example and contrast it with another “monotheistic” religion.
In Islam, the Koran teaches that Allah is one person, a monad, with no equal with whom to fellowship. In light of this let me ask the following questions. 1. Can such a being know love? 2. Is there someone who Allah can value supremely? 3. Is there someone who can return such affection equally to Allah to his own satisfaction? The answer to these questions is, no. Therefore, is it a surprise then, that in an Islamic worldview marriage is not seen as a union of equals founded upon a mutual love?
By contrast, the bible teaches us, in Hebrews 1:3, that the Son is the exact representation of the person of the Father, that he posesses the same nature as the Father, exampled by the Son upholding all things by the word of his power, (or in other words, the Son is all-powerful just as the Father is all-powerful). The bible also teaches us that the Son is the chief object of the Fathers love, which logically follows since the Son reflects back to the Father the same glory, the Son being the brightness of the Father’s glory. So we see that the Father and the Son fellowship as equals, with the person of the Holy Spirit proceeding forth as the expression of that love to God’s creation and in the hearts of his people. So, we find that in the Trinity we have the ultimate example of the love upon which marriage is founded, in a Christian world view, as a union of equals sharing a mutual love.
Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West