Atonement and Common Grace

August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dr. R. Scott Clark has written and article on this very subject that has been published in Table Talk.
It is worth a read.

If anyone is interested in reading on this subject more, a large amount of primary source material can be found at the following website.

Terry W. West

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Childlike Faith – For to Such Belongs the Kingdom of Heaven

March 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Matthew 19:13-14, “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,but Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Trinity, my little five year old, came to me today and said, “Daddy, I want to live forever and ever. I don’t want to die.” I told her that when you belong to Jesus you will live forever and ever. I told her that’s what God promises her in her baptism. She said, “But Daddy, when I get one hundred years old I will die.” I told her yes, but you will go to be with Jesus, and when he returns he will bring you with him and you will get your body back and will live with him forever and ever. Her eyes got real big and she smiled ever so big and went running through the house saying, “Yea! I get to live forever and ever because Jesus has promised me that I will!”

Why the majority of the Reformed world will not let such a little child as my Trinity come to the communion table and eat the bread and drink the wine where this very promise is renewed each Lord’s Day is beyond me. I marvel at such childlike faith.

Blessings in Christ,
Terry W. West

Worth Quoting – James Montgomery Boice on Common Grace to All Persons

August 16, 2008 § Leave a comment

I have spoken of “common grace” in the sense that God’s genuine affection has been poured out upon all persons regardless of who they are or what wrongs they may have done. As Jesus said, God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45). Common grace? Yes! But in another sense, it is not at all common. It is most uncommon. It is extraordinary, and it leads us to the most uncommon or extraordinary love of all. We find it in Romans 5:6-8: “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

James Montgomery Boice (A.D. 1938-2000)

Worth Quoting – John Davenant on God’s Love to Mankind

August 11, 2008 § Leave a comment

“The general love of God towards mankind is so clearly testified in holy scripture, and so demonstrated by the manifold effects of God’s goodness and mercy extended to every particular man in this world, that to doubt thereof is infidelity, and to deny it plain blasphemy.”

John Davenant (A.D. 1572-1641)

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 35 – Of the Gospel

August 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

I just recently discovered that my denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has to extra chapters added to it’s version of the Westminster Confession of Faith. I was pleasantly surprised by the language of chapter 35 “Of the Gospel”. The same two chapters were amended to the WCF in 1903, but as far as I can tell the ARP has not adopted 1903 version of the WCF, but rather has just amended to it’s WCF chapters 34 and 35. The other amendments to chapters 16, 22, and 25 that are in the 1903 WCF are not present in the ARP’s version. Below is the text of ARP’s chapter 35 “Of the Gospel”:

Chapter 35

Of The Gospel

I. GOD in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, as way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.

Rev. 22:17. I John 2:1-2. John 3:16. Acts 2:38-39. Matt. 11:28-30. Heb. 2:9. II Cor. 5:14-19. Luke 24:46-47. Tit. 2:11.

II. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.

Matt. 28:19-20. Acts 13:38-39, 48. Acts 4:12. II Pet. 3:9. John 6:37-40. Matt. 11:28-30. John 17:3. Mark 1:14-15. Acts 16:31. Acts 17:30. Acts 2:38. Rev. 22:17. Gal. 2:16-20. Ezek. 33:11. Rom. 1:16-17. Isa. 1:18. Rom 4:5. Luke 13:34.

III. It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions; and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.

Heb. 2:3. Matt. 10:32-33. Heb. 12:25. Luke 12:47-48. Acts 13:46. Heb. 10:29.

IV. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the word of God, Christ hath commissioned his church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.

Acts 4:12. I Cor. 16:1-2. Matt. 28:19-20. Matt. 9:36-38. Acts 1:8. Acts 13:2-4. Rom. 10:13-15. Col. 3:16. Heb. 10:19-25. Rev. 22:17. Gal. 3:28. Col. 1:28-29.

Worth Quoting – John Calvin on John 3:16

May 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world.

“Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits….”

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish.

“It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father — that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ.

Still it is not yet very evident why and how faith bestows life upon us. Is it because Christ renews us by his Spirit, that the righteousness of God may live and be vigorous in us; or is it because, having been cleansed by his blood, we are accounted righteous before God by a free pardon? It is indeed certain, that these two things are always joined together; but as the certainty of salvation is the subject now in hand, we ought chiefly to hold by this reason, that we live, because God loves us freely by not imputing to us our sins. For this reason sacrifice is expressly mentioned, by which, together with sins, the curse and death are destroyed. I have already explained the object of these two clauses,

which is, to inform us that in Christ we regain the possession of life, of which we are destitute in ourselves; for in this wretched condition of mankind, redemption, in the order of time, goes before salvation.”

John Calvin (A.D. 1509-1564)

The Imago Dei: For God So Loved the World

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

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