Nov 19, 2015

Calvin on Gospel Invitations

Wrote Calvin (emphasis mine):

"Christ began His sermons thus, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel. First of all he declareth that the treasures of mercy are set open in Him. Secondly, He requireth acceptance. Lastly, confidence in God's promises. 'To what end,' some will ask, 'do exhortations tend?' Why are not men rather left to the conduct of the Holy Spirit? Why are they solicited by exhortations, since they can only comply with them so far as the Holy Spirit enables them? This briefly is our answer: The sinner cannot impute the hardness of his heart to any one besides himself, and oh man, who art thou that wouldst impose laws on God? If he choose to prepare us by means of exhortations to receive that very grace to obey those exhortations which are addressed to us, what hast thou to object to this conduct of the Lord, and what is there in it which thou canst justly condemn?"  ("CALVINISM AND HYPER-CALVINISM: Mr. J. E. Cracknell's Reply To Mr. Wale's LETTER ON "MINISTERIAL APPEALS TO THE UNCONVERTED."")  (see here)

John Owen on Gospel Invitations

John Owen was a Calvinist, but he was no Hyper Calvinist, as the following citations show.

Wrote Owen (emphasis mine):

"Wherever there is a declaration of the excellencies of Christ, in his person, grace, or offices, it should be accompanied with an invitation and exhortation unto sinners to come unto Him. This method Christ himself first made use of (Matthew xi. 27, 30. John vii. .37, 38,) and consecrated it unto our use also. Besides, it is necessary from the nature of the things themselves; for who can dwell on the consideration of the glory of Christ, being called therewith to the declaration of it, but his own mind will engage him to invite lost sinners unto a participation of him?"

In the following we have his method of dealing with the unconverted sinner:

"Jesus Christ yet stands before sinners, calling, inviting, encouraging them to come unto Him. This is somewhat of the word which He now speaks unto you,—Why will yc die?—Why will ye perish?—Why will ye not have compassion on your own souls? Can your hearts endure or your hands be strong in the day of wrath that is approaching? It is but a little while before all your hopes, your reliefs, your presumptions, will forsake you and leave you eternally miserable! Look unto me and be ye saved. Come unto me and I will ease you of all your sins, sorrows, fears, burdens, and give rest unto your souls. Come I entreat you, lay aside all procrastinations, all delays, put me off no longer, eternity lies at the door. Cast off all cursed self-deceiving reserves, do not so hate me, as that you will rather perish than accept of deliverance from me. These, and the like things doth the Lord Christ continually declare, proclaim, plead, and urge on the souls of sinners as it is fully declared (Prov. i, 20, 34). He doth it in the preaching of the word as if He were present with you, stood amongst you, and spake personally to every one of you. And because this world does not suit His present state of glory, He hath appointed the ministers of the gospel to appear before you, and to deal with you in His stead, avowing as His own the invitations that are given you in His name (2 Corinthians, v. 19, 20)."  (Owen's Glory of Christ, page 535)

Mr. J. E. Cracknell's Reply To Mr. Wale's LETTER ON "MINISTERIAL APPEALS TO THE UNCONVERTED."")  (see here)

Oct 25, 2015

Tyrants of Faith

"Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand." (II Corinthians 1: 24 KJV)

"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. " (I Peter 5: 2, 3 KJV)

It has been said - "God's people are like sheep, not cattle. They can only be "led," not "driven." Ideally, this is true, but, practically, it is often not so, at least with many professing Christians. Some, in respect to their "faith," are "driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1: 6 KJV) These have no firm "anchor," and so, like a ship without one, in rough seas, is "driven" and "tossed about."

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." (Ephesians 4: 14 KJV)

The community of believers has always had trouble with those who desire to be little "lords" among them, men like Diotrephes who "loved to have the preeminence among the brethren." (III John 1: 9) These want to be "lords" and autocratic rulers in the church.

"A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment." (Proverbs 28:16 NIV)

A "tyrant" is one who is despotic, harsh, cruel, unjust, oppressive, dictatorial, fascistic, totalitarian, brutal, domineering, lordly, autocratic, and bossy.

"This is the portion of a wicked man from God, And the inheritance which tyrants receive from the Almighty." (Job 27: 13 New American Standard Bible)

Tyrants will be judged by Lord God, be they political tyrants, or ecclesiastical tryants.

"Can the prey be taken from the mighty man, Or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?" Surely, thus says the LORD, "Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away, And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued; For I will contend with the one who contends with you, And I will save your sons." (Isaiah 49: 24, 25 New American Standard Bible)

No one can be "lord" over the faith of the believer other than Christ. The above verses teach the right of each individual to come to his own conclusions about faith matters without coercion from others, even from the church. No group of believers has any right to lordship or tyranny over the consciences of individual Christians. Each believer is a priest to God and needs no earthly mediator. Beware of those who use tyrannical practices, such as do the "cults," to enslave your minds and consciences.

Father, help those whose minds are enslaved to cult dictators. Keep our own minds free of the tyranny of others.

(From my blog My Daily Bread)

Jun 7, 2015

Shocking Hermeneutics

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."  (Heb. 6: 4-6)

Who Are They?

1. Once for all enlightened
2. Tasters of the heavenly gift
3. Made partakers of the Holy Spirit

4. Tasters the good word of God
5. Tasters the powers of the world to come
6. Renewed unto repentance

According to some Calvinists, these descriptions are of unregenerate people.  That is shocking hermeneutics indeed!

"Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."  (Acts 26:17-18)

Who Are They?

1. Eyes closed
2. Turned to darkness and away from light
3. Turned to Satan and away from God
4. Unforgiven of sins
5. No inheritance among the sanctified

According to some Hyper Calvinists, such as the Hardshell Baptists, these descriptions are of regenerated people!  That is also shocking hermeneutics indeed!

Jun 3, 2015

Hardshells & Expository Preaching II

The Following are some of the leading questions to be addressed in the remainder of this series.


1. Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do expositional preaching and teaching?

2. Should this "verse by verse" model be the only method used by preachers?

3. What method did Christ and the first new testament preachers use?

4. What method have the great pastors and evangelists primarily used in the past?

5. Are there more than three methods?

6. Is the expository method of preaching, as Bradley has defined it, a way for Hardshells to have seminaries and Sunday Schools?  When one sits Sunday after Sunday and hears lecturing and commentating, is he not sitting in a kind of Bible class? 

7. Is the expository method best for the main Sunday services?

8. Is the main purpose of Sunday morning services to simply impart scripture knowledge?

9. Is it the best kind of preaching to build up a church?

10. Are most preachers able to do "expository preaching" as Bradley defines it?

8. Will this method force Hardshells to deal with difficult passages that they would normally ignore?

9. Will it force them to do honest exegesis?

10. What are the negatives of expositional preaching?

11. Do we need a better definition?

12. Can one do expositional preaching using textual, topical, and other methods?

What is "Expositional Preaching"?

Is verse by verse preaching through books of the Bible the only way to do "expositional" preaching and teaching?  In "A Caution for Expository Preaching", well known author Iain Murray wrote (emphasis mine):

"In a number of circles today “expository preaching” is in vogue, and it is being urged on preachers as the way to preach. If this means that the preacher’s one business is to confine himself to the text of Scripture, and to make the sense plain to others, there is nothing more to discuss; who can disagree save those who do not know that the Bible is the word of God."

Murray is attacking the view of some of the so-call expository preachers, like Bradley, who think that those who do not go verse by verse through a book of the Bible are not doing "expository preaching."  And, as I showed, such a definition leads Bradley to condemn all the preaching of the great Baptists of the past as being inferior, and to condemn most of his own preaching for some fifty years as also been inferior.  Did Bradley not do expositional preaching when he gave textual and topical sermons during that time?  Did he not "confine himself to the text of Scripture" (which is the true definition of "expositional preaching")?  Did Spurgeon?

Murray also wrote:

"But “expository preaching” has often come to mean something more. The phrase is popularly used to describe preaching which consecutively takes a congregation through a passage, or book of Scripture, week by week. This procedure is compared with the method of preaching on individual texts that may have no direct connection with each other from one Sunday to the next. The latter is discouraged in favour of the “expository” method."

This is what Murray, others, and I are fighting.  It is not expository preaching but the definition that some are giving to "expository preaching."  It is the view that topical and textual preaching are not expository.  It is the new definition which limits expository preaching to those who go verse by verse through a book of the Bible.

To show how others, like Bradley, are defining "expository preaching" in this way, I will cite the definitions of others.

In "Topical, Textual or Expository Sermons – What is the best method?" by D. Goodmanson (Sep 12, 2006 - see here) the writer says:

"An expository sermon is following a book of the Bible, passage-by-passage to allow the text to determine the point." 

He says further:

"Most conservative churches would argue that expository preaching is the only way to preach.  Reformed churches stress lectio continua (preaching through whole books of the Bible in course).   Timothy Keller summarizes the sentiment as he writes why conservative churches feel non-expository preaching is theologically inferior; "1) First, other forms of preaching are considered 'man-pleasing' because we are choosing texts we prefer rather than preaching through the 'whole counsel of God' as God provides it in the Bible.  2) Second, other forms of preaching are more open to abuse since your thesis is not being controlled directly by the text.  3) Thirdly, other forms of preaching do not show as much honor to the text of Scripture.  The expositor focuses on the Biblical passage itself in a way that the others do not."

Thus it is clear what is at stake in this debate over just what constitutes "expository preaching." Such a definition limits "expository preaching" to those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, in a lectio continua way. By this definition, Spurgeon did not do expository preaching when he preached on individual texts, nor any other great preacher.  Spurgeon was man-pleasing when he gave textual and topical sermons.  His preaching was theologically inferior.  He did not by this method preach the whole counsel of God.  He did not focus on Biblical passages by his textual and topical preaching.

In "Four Kinds of Expository Preaching" (March 01, 2006 - see here) Ed Stetzer wrote:

"There are many different kinds of expositional preaching. The four most common are: verse-by-verse, thematic, narrative, and topical."

He says:

"Verse-by-verse preaching is the systematic reading and explanation of a biblical text. In involves a unified book of Scripture and its piece-by-piece analysis."

He says:

"Thematic preaching is an excellent form for preaching Bible doctrine. The speaker can focus on everyday topics by expounding a specific biblical text. The pastor can focus on Bible sayings on any relevant subject by a careful study and exposition of relevant biblical passages. Thematic expository preaching generally appears in a sermon series over several weeks and introduces many Scriptures focused on the same theme. Thematic messages may include as many as 10 or 12 Scripture passages in each sermon. Since the Bible tends to provide teachings on themes dispersed through different books, this form of preaching is a good way to preach the "whole counsel of God." This method also introduces new believers or unschooled unbelievers to general themes and patterns that appear throughout the Bible."

He says: 

"Narrative preaching presents the biblical text in the form of story and follows that story to completion. A narrative sermon functions as a lengthy illustration that uses a biblical text as its beginning and end.

When using this form, the speaker shares a story from the gospel such as that found in the account of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (John 4). In telling the story, the preacher asks the listener to join in the narrative."

"Narrative preaching will grow more popular in the coming years. This is good news as long as the narratives remain consistent with biblical texts. Jesus demonstrated the value of narrative preaching by his use of parables."

Concerning topical expository preaching he says:

"Of the four forms of exposition, I recommend this form the least. Its weakness grows out of the limits of time and the speaker's inability to include enough biblical text about the topic in one sermon. Although I discourage this form, it is helpful at times.

Topical exposition generally revolves around one passage, centering on one theme. It is topical because it is usually a single message on a single subject. It is expository because it uses the biblical text as its source.

Most preachers use this form on special occasions such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Easter, but topical preaching does not provide adequate time to address the whole counsel of God as other methods do. Topical preaching limits opportunities for presenting proper understandings of the context as opposed to verse-by-verse preaching. In addition, the topical approach does not offer the opportunity to use the graphic and powerful images of narrative preaching. The church planter will probably use topical exposition, but it should be used sparingly.

(Ed Stetzer is vice president of LifeWay Insights for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is visiting professor of Research and Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, visiting research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has taught at 15 other colleges and seminaries. He also serves on the Church Services Team at the International Mission Board. He coauthored Transformational Church with Thom Rainer.)
Stetzer is correct in showing that verse by verse preaching is not the only way to do "expository preaching."

Murray wrote:

"Why has this view of “expository preaching” become comparatively popular? There are several reasons. First, it is believed that the practice will raise the standard of preaching. By a consecutive treatment of a book of Scripture, it is said, the preacher is taken away from any hobby-horses, and congregations are more likely to be given a broader, more intelligent grasp of all Scripture. The preacher is also delivered from a constant search for texts—he and the people know what is before them."

Is the verse by verse method of expository preaching a safe way to get Scripture perverters to stop twisting Scripture?  To come to see their errors and heresies?  Will this method force Bradley and the Hardshells to deal with passages they have historically ignored and failed to properly exegete?  Will it force the Hardshells from off their theological hobby-horses?  As Spurgeon would say, "I trow not." 

Murray wrote:

"The argument that the “expository” method is the best means to cover most of the Bible is too largely connected with the idea that the foremost purpose of preaching is to convey as much as possible of the Bible. But that idea needs to be challenged. Preaching needs to be much more than an agency of instruction. It needs to strike, awaken, and arouse men and women so that they themselves become bright Christians and daily students of Scripture. If the preacher conceives his work primarily in terms of giving instruction, rather than of giving stimulus, the sermon, in most hands, very easily becomes a sort of weekly an end in itself. But true preaching needs to ignite an ongoing process."

"In our view, however, it is time that the disadvantages of this view of preaching are at least considered."

When Murray speaks of the disadvantages to "expository preaching," he is speaking of it as it is narrowly defined by men like Bradley.  There is no disadvantage to doing expository preaching when it is properly defined, which then would include topical and textual types of sermons.

In "Seven Qualities of Expository Preaching" By Wayne McDill (see here), the author writes:

"Among evangelicals, the term expository preaching has come to stand for authentic biblical preaching. However, exactly what constitutes expository preaching varies from writer to writer and preacher to preacher.

I have talked with preachers who described themselves as “expositors,” and I believed them until I heard them preach. For many, exposition seems to mean taking a text and preaching on the subject the passage seems to address. For others exposition means defining some of the words in the text. For others expository preaching seems to mean giving a history lesson on a text with most of the sermon in the past tense."

Again, what is being opposed by Murray, and by me in this series, is the way "expository preaching" is defined, which excludes any preaching that is not part of a series in which a book of the Bible is being examined verse by verse and line by line.

In "What is expository preaching?" a writer says:

"Expository preaching is typically defined in terms of the length of the Bible passage used. Andrew Blackwood's definition: "Expository preaching means that the light for any sermon comes mainly from a Bible passage longer than two or three consecutive verses."1 The passage is often a Bible paragraph or chapter, sometimes an entire book. The most valid definition, however, would deal less with the length of the passage treated and more with the manner of treatment.

Our definition of expository preaching in its strictest, most narrow sense: Expository preaching is preaching based on a significant Bible passage so that the sermon's principal lessons originate in Scripture and are applied to a present human need. In its broad est sense, expository preaching is simply biblical preaching."

This is why I like Stetzer's outline concerning types of expository preaching.

In "What expository preaching isn't" another author wrote:

"It isn't springboarding. Our perpetual temptation is to use the Bible as a springboard from which to jump into a discussion of our own thoughts. The Scripture is adjusted to fit our thinking, rather than our thinking adjusted to fit the Scripture. We use the Bible as a sermon resource, but it is not the sermon's real source.

It isn't lecturing, if lecturing means including everything in the passage in detail. It isn't a verse-by-verse commentary on an entire passage, nor is it a word study. It isn't giving a lot of facts with no more unifying purpose than a page from the dictionary. Rather, it must focus on one principal proposition found in the passage and either omit or pass lightly over every thing else.

It isn't just teaching. Expository preaching emphatically includes teaching, but it is teaching not for the sake of knowledge alone but for the sake of using that knowledge to move the listener's will to do the will of God."

These words are worthy of consideration in this discussion.  The same author wrote:

"We can define expository preaching in its broadest sense as genuinely Bible-based preaching; textual, biographical, or topical sermons, if truly biblical, could be considered variations of expository preaching. The topical approach, although fraught with the obvious danger of lifting texts out of context, is almost essential to doctrinal preaching. To learn the whole truth on any subject, the whole Bible needs to be studied. If topical preaching is belittled, doctrinal preaching will likely be neglected."  (see here)

Well, amen to that!

May 25, 2015

Hardshells Adopting "Expository Preaching"

Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church, pastored by Lasserre Bradley Jr., has a web page ( and one of the links leads one to the question and answer section.  These answers were given by reps of the church under the heading "Questions and Answers With Our Pastors."  One of the questions was "What is expository preaching and why do you do it?"  Elder Bradley gave the audio reply.

Bradley first defines "expository preaching" as

"...selecting a book of the Bible and going through it verse by verse to draw from the text the message that is there."

He says that some of the advantages of "expository preaching" is that it forces people to face difficult texts, "texts which they can't ignore."

To his credit he did say that it is justifiable to preach on topics or short texts sometimes, saying "there are relevant issues that are needed at a particular point.  For example, we have done a series on money."

Types of Sermons

In this discussion it is taken for granted that sermons have been categorized into textual, expository, and topical.  (For instance see Broadus in his "Preparation and delivery of sermons")  All do not agree on the definition of these categories, but Bradley's definition of "expository preaching" is defective, as I shall show.

It is also to be noted that not everyone defines these categories exactly alike nor that sermons cannot be a mixture of the above categories.

Perhaps a definition of "sermon" might also require some attention.

Problem #1 - The Definition

According to brother Bradley's definition, we have to conclude the following:

1.  Only those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, fully explaining its meaning (doing exegesis), are doing "expository preaching."  Thus,

2.  Those who are not doing "expository preaching" by this definition are not doing the best kind of preaching.  Thus,

3.  All the Hardshells of the past, and 99% of the present, are not preaching in the most profitable way.

4.  Elder Bradley himself has spent most of his years as a textual or topical preacher and so confesses that he did not do his best preaching then.

5. Elder Bradley is also affirming that his preaching style, recently adopted, is superior to not only the preaching style of his forefathers, and of his own former preaching, but that of Spurgeon, whom he admires.

Of course, people like Spurgeon, who take texts, either short or long, do "exposition."  But, Bradley's definition implies that only those who go verse by verse, Sunday by Sunday, through a chosen book of the Bible, do "expository" preaching.

In this posting I will look at the negatives of this style of preaching and recommend how the three types of sermons can be utilized.  But, before doing this, I would like to ask - "why is this method being adopted by Bradley and some others of his ilk?" 

A Remedy?

It is an old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Obviously Bradley and other Hardshells think something is defective in traditional and historical Hardshell preaching (as well as in the preaching style of other textual preachers as Spurgeon).  They know that they are dying as a denomination.  Each year 100 churches go out of existence for every one that comes into existence.  Most of the churches that remain today only have a handful and these are mostly old people.  But, Bradley's church seems to be working hard to stay alive.  Over recent years they have added Bible classes, schools, programs for the young, missionary work, etc.  And, it seems, that it has helped to keep them from death.  Now it seems that the Cincinnati church wants to adopt the Reformed Baptist trappings, which includes their insistence on what they call "expository preaching."  One wonders, however, whether this latter experiment will yield the results intended and hoped for.  Has it, or will it, increase the growth of the church?  As we shall see, in part two of this mini series, the track record of those who promote "expository preaching" is not good.

Oct 15, 2014

Is The Atonement a Commercial Transaction?

David Allen, professor of theology, in writing against "limited atonement" said, in answer to a question:

"In a nutshell, you are assuming that the atonement is a commercial transaction rather than a penal transaction, as Scripture teaches. In a commercial transaction, if the debt is paid, it cannot be paid for again. If so, then an injustice is done."  (SEE HERE)

Allen repeats what those who believe in unlimited and indefinite atonement often say.  They say that those who believe in special (or limited) atonement make the error of seeing the atonement as "a commercial transaction."  He then says that the truth is that the atonement is a "penal transaction."

In response, I object to Allen implying that men like John Piper (who Allen is critiquing) reject the idea that the atonement was a "penal transaction."  He implies that one cannot believe that the atonement is BOTH a commercial and penal transaction. 

Further, the atonement being a penal transaction poses the same difficulty for Allen as does the atonement being a commercial transaction.  Further, there is in Scripture a mixing of these two concepts, so that they are not mutually exclusive as Allen imagines.  When a criminal is being punished for his crimes (penal), he is at the same time "paying his debt" to the state whose laws have been transgressed.  Jesus likened sin to debt when he told us to pray "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." 

Just as it would be wrong to collect a debt twice (commercial transaction) so it would be wrong to punish two men for the same crime (penal transaction), or punish one whose legal debt has been satisfied.

Allen admits that the commercial view of the atonement poses problems for Allen and his universal atonement view, so he rejects it, though the Scriptures support it.  What Allen needs to realize is that even his "penal transaction" view gives him the same difficulty.  It is "double payment" versus "double jeopardy."

Oct 2, 2014

Christ the Capstone

The following citations are from that chapter "THE PYRAMID AND CHRIST" by J. A. Seiss, and from his book "Miracle in Stone" (SEE HERE)

Seiss holds that it is wrong to think that when the Scriptures speak of Christ as being "the chief cornerstone" or "head of the corner," that it refers to one of four corners at the base of a building. But, this is wrong, as Seiss shows. Let us notice his words (emphasis mine).

"But then we would expect it (the great pyramid - SG) also to refer to Christ and redemption. The great subject of (p. 121) all sacred Revelation is the Christ and his glorious kingdom, and we can hardly suppose this pillar Divine if it has not something on this point. Men may well sneer at the idea of a special revelation to old Cheops or his architects to teach the diameter, density, and temperature of the earth. Something of mightier moment to mankind must be involved when Jehovah thus interposes. Such claims need to be tried by the pre-eminent theme of all inspiration. But even on this high ground the Great Pyramid sustains itself full as grandly as in the sphere of cosmic facts and geodetic measures."

"When Zerubbabel and Jeshua were engaged rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple on the return from the great captivity, they had in hand a work of extraordinary greatness, difficulty, and discouragements. So important was it in itself, and so bound up in history and type with another and greater restoration, that it was made the occasion and subject of special Divine communication through Zechariah the prophet. And in those prophecies that work and all that it typified is set forth under the image of the building of the Pyramid. A "great mountain" of worldly power and difficulty was in the way, but God said it should (p. 122) become "a plain before Zerubbabel," as the Gizeh hill was levelled to receive the Great Pyramid. As despite all hindrances the Pyramid was successfully carried forward to completion, even to the laying of the peculiar corner-stone of its apex amid the songs of "the morning stars" and the shouts of "all the sons of God," so was Zerubbabel and he whom Zerubbabel typified to succeed in their Divine work, even to the "bringing forth of the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, 'Grace, Grace unto it.'" (Zech. 4: 6, 7.) The pyramid idea is absolutely essential to an intelligible and consistent interpretation of this imagery. The picture is an exact parallel to the one in Job, only transferred from nature to grace, from geologic to Messianic territory.

By necessary implications of Holy Scripture then the Great Pyramid is immutably linked with the building of the Church of which the adorable Jesus is "the headstone," "the chief corner-stone."

"It is also a clear and outstanding fact that the Scriptures continually make the pyramid capstone the type and symbol of Christ, both in the Old Testament and in the New. Who heeds to be reminded with what brilliant diction Moses likens Jehovah to a rock, and how (p. 123) triumphantly he asserts against all the heathen world, that "their rock is not as our rock, even our enemies themselves being judges!"

"He is not only such a rock as that which yielded thirsty Israel drink, or as that which gives the weary traveller shelter from the scorching sunshine or beating storm, or as that which the prudent builder seeks whereon to found his house securely, but especially such a rock as that which forms the apex of the Pyramid—a rock which is the head and crown of all the works of Providence and grace—the unique bond in which the whole edifice of time is united—the headstone of redemption lifted high above all other rocks, "that in all things he might have the preeminence." So David conceived of him when he sung, "The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner," or "the head corner-stone," as the Septuagint renders it. (Ps. 118: 22.) So Peter being (p. 124) "filled with the Holy Ghost," conceived of him when he said to the Jews who had condemned and crucified him, "This is the stone which was set at naught by you builders which is become the head of the corner." (Acts 4: 11.) Hence, also, he wrote to his scattered brethren in the faith as having come to Jesus, "as unto a living stone disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious," in whom they also "as lively stones were built up a spiritual house," according to the saying of God, "Behold I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious," even "the stone which the builders disallowed," but which now "is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence even to them which stumble at the word." (1 Pet. 2: 4-8.) So Paul conceived of him when he wrote to the Ephesians, Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit." (Eph. 2: 20-22.) And the same conception Jesus applied to himself when he said, "Did ye never read in the (p. 125) Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected the same is become the head of the corner? And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder." (Matt. 21: 42-44.)

All these are great central passages of the Divine word, and not one of them will interpret without the Pyramid, whose light alone brings out their full significance and beauty. It is absurd enough when men speak of a river's head at one end of it., and its mouth at the other end; but it is unbearable to represent the Holy Ghost treating of the head of a thing as in its toes. Interpreters may put such absurdities in the Bible, but its author never does. The head is not the foot nor the foot the head in any consistent or intelligible use of language. So the head corner-stone cannot be the foot or foundation corner-stone. Where there are four alike, to regard one as chief is a mere conventionalism without reality in fact, and such as the Bible never employs. Common architecture furnishes no one pre-eminent corner or corner-stone. There is no head corner without the Pyramid. That alone has such a head at the head, or a cornerstone uniquely and indisputably the chief. It (p. 126) has the usual four at the base, alike in shape, place and office, but it has a fifth, different from all others and far more exalted. It is at the top, and properly the head one. It is the last to come into place and so may be long rejected while the building still goes on. The base corner-stones must be laid at the beginning. Work cannot proceed while either of them is disallowed. They are also of such regular shape as renders them capable of being worked in as well at one place as at another. They furnish no occasion to be disallowed. Not so the head corner-stone. The shape of that is altogether peculiar. It is five-sided and five-pointed. From foundation to summit there is no place at which it will fit till everything else is finished and its own proper place is reached. Till then it is naturally enough rejected by the builders. They have no place for it. To those ignorant of its purpose it is only in the way—"a rock of offence and a stone of stumbling." With one sharp point always sticking upwards, any one falling on it would necessarily "be broken." And when on its way to its position hundreds of feet in the air were it to fall on any one it would certainly "grind him to powder."

"But though rejected to the last, it finally (p. 127) turns out to be the very thing required, and reaches a place to which it alone fits; a place above all others, where it sublimely finishes out and binds together everything in one glorious whole. It is itself a perfect pyramid, the original model of the edifice which it completes and adorns. It is emphatically the head stone of the head corner. It is at the head and not at the feet. It has its own peculiar angles and they are the angles of the entire structure. There is but one stone of that shape and it is the shape of the pyramid complete. It is the stone which stands toward Heaven for every other in the building. Every other stone in all the mighty construction stands in it, and has place with reference to it, and is touched by its weight and influence, as well as sheltered under its lines, and honored and perfected by its presence. It is indeed the "all in all" of the whole edifice. To its angles is "all the building fitly framed together." And in it every part and particle that belongs to the structure from foundation to capstone has its bond of perfectness, its shelter, and its crown."

"About such imagery there should be no question. In all the richness of the Scriptures there is not a more luminous, expressive, (p. 128) and comprehensive picture of the Christ, in himself, in his experiences, in his relations to his friends or foes, in his office and place in all the dispensations of God toward our race, than that which is given in these texts when studied in the light of the Great Pyramid. These passages alone consecrate and sanctify it forever. In them the Holy Ghost takes hold of it, traces in it a sacred significance, and assigns to it relations and connections, the truth and beauty of which cannot be disputed. And thus by the highest authority known to man it is rendered impossible to be thoroughly true to the utterances of inspiration, and yet regard this venerable monument as nothing but the profane tomb of a pagan despot."

Sep 29, 2014

Fuller against Modalism

Andrew Fuller, that great Baptist theologian, wrote on the trinity, saying (emphasis mine):

"An economical trinity, or that which would not have been but for the economy of redemption, is not the trinity of the Scriptures. It is not a trinity of divine persons, but merely of offices personified;  whereas Christ is distinguished from the Father as the express image or character of his person, while yet in his pre-incarnate state." ("The complete works of Rev. Andrew Fuller," Volume 2, page 505, SEE HERE

I have had posted in this blog a series of writings against Sabellianism and Modalism. I have had to confront Sabellian "Baptists" over the past several years and studied the subject in that time period more exhaustively than ever before. In my Old Baptist Test blog, where I write against Hardshellism, I have shown how some of the first leaders of the newly created "Primitive Baptist" church (1832) were Sabellian Modalists, denying the historic teaching of the trinity, that God is an ontological trinity, not merely an economic trinity.

In writing against those who denied the eternal sonship of Christ, and against those that deny that his sonship equates to his divinity, Fuller wrote (emphasis mine):

"The sacred Scriptures lay great stress on the character of Christ as "the Son of God." It was this that formed the first link in the Christian profession, and was reckoned to draw after it the whole chain of evangelical truth. "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." From this rises the great love of God in the gift of him: "God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son "—the condescension of his obedience: "Though he was a son yet learned he obedience —the efficacy of his blood: "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"—the dignity of his priesthood: "We have a great High Priest Jesus the Son of God"—the greatness of the sin of unbelief: "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God"—the greatness of the sin of apostacy: "Who have trodden under foot the Son of God." The incarnation, resurrection, and exaltation, of Christ declared, but did not constitute him the Son of God; nor did any of his offices, to all which his Sonship was antecedent."

Fuller continued:

"God sent his Son into the world. This implies that he was his Son antecedently to his being sent, as much as Christ's sending his disciples implies that they were his disciples before he sent them. The same may be said of the Son of God being made of a woman, made under the law. These terms no more express that which rendered him a Son, than his being made flesh expresses that which rendered him the Word. The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil; he must therefore have been the Son of God antecedently to his being manifested in the flesh. I have heard it asserted that "Eternal generation is eternal nonsense." But whence does this appear? Does it follow that, because a son among men is inferior and posterior to his father, therefore it must be so with the Son of God? If so, why should his saying that God was his own Father be considered as making himself equal with God? Of the only-begotten Son it is not said he was, or will be, but he is in the bosom of the Father; denoting the eternity and immutability of his character. There never was a point in duration in which God was without his Son: he rejoiced always before him. Bold assertions are not to be placed in opposition to revealed truth. In Christ's being called the Son of God, there may be, for the assistance of our low conceptions, some reference to sonship among men; but not sufficient to warrant us to reason from the one to the other."

"The Holy Spirit is not the grand object of ministerial exhibition; but Christ, in his person, work, and offices. When Philip went down to Samaria, it was not to preach God the Holy Spirit unto them, but to preach Christ unto them. While this was done, the Holy Spirit gave testimony to the word of his grace, and rendered it effectual. The more sensible we are, both as ministers and Christians, of our entire dependence on the Holy Spirit's influences, the better: but, if we make them the grand theme of our ministry, we shall do that which he himself avoids, and so shall counteract his operations. The attempts to reduce the Holy Spirit to a mere property, or energy, of the Deity, arise from much the same source as the attempts to prove the inferiority and posteriority of Christ as the Son of God; namely, reasoning from things human to things divine. The Spirit of God is compared to the spirit of man; and, as the latter is not a person distinguishable from man, so, it has been said, the former cannot be a person distinguishable from God the Father. But the design of the apostle, in 1 Cor. ii. 11, was not to represent the Spirit of God as resembling the spirit of man tn respect of his subsistence, but of bis knowledge; and it is presumptuous to reason from it on a subject that we cannot understand. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you, and your affectionate brother —A. F."

Sep 25, 2014

Agreeable Comments on the Atonement's Extent

The following are some citations from Dr. B. H. Caroll in which he is discussing the extent of the atonement. I think they are worthy observations on this subject and I would like to present them here with some of my thoughts on Caroll's observations. (SEE HERE):

Carroll, in commenting upon the commentary of J. P. Boyce, wrote:

"What is the difference so far as Christ’s work is concerned? Does not the difference come in the Spirit’s work in connection with the application of the atonement and the ministry of reconciliation? Do election and foreordination become operative toward atonement or toward acceptance of the atonement? These questions are submitted for consideration in the realm of the study of systematic theology. The author does not dogmatize on them."

What I like about this comment is the fact that he says that he "does not dogmatize on them."

I think it is wrong for some Calvinists to think it is heresy to believe that the atonement was, in some sense at least, general or universal.

My own view aligns more with Boyce, whom Carroll thought was possibly the ablest theologian of his time. I believe that "election and foreordination" become operative towards BOTH atonement and acceptance of the atonement.

Carroll said:

"While he has only a very moderate respect for philosophy in any of its departments as taught in the schools, and prefers rather to accept every word of God without speculation, and believes it true and harmonious in all its parts, whether or not he is able to philosophically explain it, yet he submits merely for consideration along with other human philosophizing on the atonement the philosophy of Dr. Wm. C. Buck on this matter. It is found in his book, The Philosophy of Religion. On the question of general or limited atonement he takes this position, as I recall it: Jesus Christ through his death repurchased or bought back the whole lost human race, including the earth, man’s habitat. The whole of it and all its peoples passed thereby under his sovereignty. What debt they once owed to the law they now owe to him, the surety who paid the debt. From his mediatorial throne he offers to forgive this debt now due him to all who will accept him. But all alike reject him. The Father, through the Spirit, graciously inclines some to accept him. Thus those really saved are saved according to the election and foreordination of God, not operative in the atonement which was general, but in the Spirit’s application which was special. Those thus saved were originally promised by the Father to the Son. He dies for the whole world as the expression of the Father’s universal love. He died for the elect, his church, as his promised reward."

I cannot find anything wrong with Buck's view, except possibly in the way in which the atonement is general. I have often argued much the same way over the years. Further, Carroll seems willing to accept the view of Buck.

Carroll wrote:

"Let us do with this or any other philosophy what we will, but let us not hesitate to accept all that the Scriptures teach on this matter. When we read John 10:14-16; 11:26-29; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 5:25-32, let us not abate one jot of their clear teaching of Christ’s death for the elect and their certain salvation. And when we read John 1:29; 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2; Ezekiel 33: 11; Matthew 28:19; 1 Timothy 2:4, let us beware lest our theory, or philosophy, of the atonement constrain us to question God’s sincerity, and disobey his commands. There are many true things in and out of the Bible beyond our satisfactory explanation. Let faith apprehend even where the finite mind cannot comprehend."

I think these words of Carroll are quite agreeable.

The above citations as given on the web page link are from Carroll's “Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews” in, An Interpretation of the English Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978), 86-92.