Feb 28, 2010

Divine Interrogatives

"And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?" (Genesis 3: 9)

"And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" (3: 11)

"And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." (3: 13)

"And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?" (Genesis 4:6)

"And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" (4: 9)

There are those who argue that the Lord, in the Bible, asks questions because he does not know the answer. However, this is false. In the above divine interrogatives, God is acting as a prosecutor, and desires that the defendents answer his questions. Man is on trial and God demands answers.

Sometimes the Lord asks questions because he desires that the one being questioned see the answer for himself, or to make confession. Teachers are familiar with this method of teaching and call it the Socratic method. The Bible is full of questions that God asks of us. Again, not because he does not know the answer, but because he desires that we see it for ourselves, and make confession of it.

"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do." (John 6: 5, 6)

Jesus asks Philip a question, but the text is clear - Jesus alreadly knew the answer, already knew what Philip would answer. But, he asks in order that he might prove or test Philip. So too does the Lord ask of us.

Study the divine interrogatives! Learn from God's questioning of us!

Feb 27, 2010

Piper's Regeneration

John Piper in the recent video on the ordo salutis, compared regeneration and faith to electricity zapping a person and that person experiencing the effect of that zapping. He compared the zapping of the electricity to God's work of regenerating a soul, and the experiencing of the electricity to faith. The problem with all this is that Piper defines regeneration as the act of God, or to the cause alone, but not to the activity of the one zapped, or to the effect. This is an error. Notice what Archibald Alexander wrote:

"Evangelical repentance, conversion and regeneration, are substantially the same. They all signify a thorough change of views, affections, purposes and conduct; and this change is every where declared to be essential to salvation."

"Sometimes regeneration is considered distinctly from the acts and exercises of the mind which proceed from it, but in the Holy Scriptures the cause and effect are included; and we shall therefore treat the subject in this practical and popular form. The instrumentality of the word can never derogate from the efficient agency of the Spirit in this work. The Spirit operates by and through the word. The word derives all its power and penetrating energy from the Spirit. Without the omnipotence of God the word would be as inefficient as clay and spittle, to restore sight to the blind."

See here

A man cannot be said to have been zapped (regenerated) by electricity until he has experienced the effects of it. It is that simple.

See here for the rest of Alexander's words.

John Stott or John Stock?

In the video by John Piper regarding the "ordo salutis" and I John 5: 1, referred to in my last posting, Piper pours praise upon Anglican leader, John Stott, saying this about him:

"John Stott is a level-headed expositor," one who is a "no nonsense" expositor, and one who "says it like it is" and who "never gets caught up on any theological system," for he is a "faithful expositor."

Is that so? Then why is he Anglican? Why does he promote, in his writings, the baptizing of infants? Why does he believe that eternal punishment is annihilation?

It seems to me that Piper would do well to heap praise on John Stock, as did Charles Spurgeon, who said this regarding the relationship of faith to regeneration (and endorsed by Spurgeon).

Chapter 8 - "The New Birth"

Stock writes:

"It is unprofitable to dispute as to which mental faculty is the first to feel the converting influence, whether the intellect or the affections. Into the metaphysics of regeneration we decline to enter. It is enough to know that the Divine Spirit operates upon the whole mental and moral man. Besides, though we speak of the faculties of the soul, we must not forget that the soul itself is one. It is a simple, indivisible spirit. It is not, like the body, compounded of various elements, and possessed of va1ious members. Hence the regeneration of the soul involves the regeneration of all its powers—of the whole soul."

"In these and in other parallel passages, regeneration is ascribed to the truth which the Holy Spirit leads us to receive. It is in connection with the hearing, reading, or remembering of the Word of God, or of the general truths which it makes known, that the Holy Ghost puts forth His power. It is to induce us to receive this truth that the Divine Spirit is imparted. Hence it is that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The word is the occasion of the new birth. The Holy Spirit works by the truth. The Word of God is His sword (Ephes. vi. 17). It is the fire with which He burns up our dross, and the hammer with which He breaks our rocky hearts in pieces (Jer. xxiii. 29)."

"The great difficulty in this doctrine, however, yet remains; we mean the question whether regeneration precedes faith in the Saviour, or faith in the Saviour precedes regeneration, or whether the two are simultaneous —Two things are clear.

First—That the reception of Christ by the sinner is ascribed to a divine influence. Hence faith is styled "the gift of God" (Ephes. ii. 8), and "a fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. v. 22); "the heart is opened" to receive Christ (Acts xvi. 14); "flesh and blood do not reveal Jesus to the soul, but our Father who is in heaven" (Matt. xvi. 17 ); "God reveals these things unto babes" (Matt. xi. 25); "They are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). But another truth is as clearly asserted in Holy Scripture, viz. :

Secondly—That until a man has received the Saviour he has no life in him. Thus our Lord testified, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, ye have no life in you" (John vi. 53). Until a man by faith receives the sacrifice of Christ, he has no life, not even its first elements, in his soul. There are several other passages which are in the same strain. "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John i. 12). "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. iii. 26). "If a man eat of this bread he shall live for ever" (John vi. 51). "He that eateth Me shall live by Me" (John vi. 57). Thus Christ is emphatically our life, while without faith in Him we have no life.

Here, then, is the difficulty; if men receive a divine influence in order to believe in Christ, are they not made alive to God by this influence, and are they not consequently regenerated before receiving Christ into the soul? But if they are regenerated before believing in the Saviour, and if they were to die in this state, they would assuredly go to heaven (for no regenerate soul can be lost), and would thus obtain eternal life without having believed in Christ, which is contrary to one of the first principles of revelation. Our Lord emphatically says that, except we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have No life in us.

Besides, regeneration is the implantation of a holy life, and no man can become holy until he has believed in Jesus. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. xi.6). No action can be holy until it is performed under the influence of love to Jehovah; and no sinner can be brought to love the whole character of God, until he has learned to look upon that character as it is revealed in the death of Jesus. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. v. 19). Hence, as no man can love God without faith in Jesus, no man can be holy without faith in Jesus, for love to God is the essential principle of holiness. As, then, without faith in the Saviour, we cannot be holy and cannot please God, it is manifest that without faith we cannot be regenerated.

The explanation of this grave difficulty we apprehend to be simply this : The influence by which men are awakened and convinced, and made to see their need of Jesus, is only preliminary to regeneration.—We are not regenerated or made holy until we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Then we receive Christ, "who is our life." To those who receive Christ He gives the privilege of becoming instantly the sons of God (John i. 12). We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. iii. 26). Faith purifies the heart (Acts xv. 9), overcomes the world (1 John v. 4), and works by love (Gal. v. 6). "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John v. 1). The preparatory influence, though not regeneration, is absolutely necessary to its production.

Many are awakened by natural conscience who are never converted, and the only decisive evidence that our convictions are of God, is their leading us to a hearty reception of the gospel plan of redemption. Out of Christ there is no salvation (Acts iv. 12); but if men are regenerated who have never been to Christ, they are in a state of salvation without faith in that precious name. The influence by which we are regenerated is the sovereign grace of the Holy Ghost; but the influence by which we are regenerated is one thing, regeneration itself is another. It is confounding the efficacious cause with the blessed result that has created the difficulty now under consideration. All the elect shall infallibly receive this life, and the influences necessary to its production. None of them shall die in a state of nature, or even in one of mere conviction, but all shall be brought to Christ by faith, shall live in Him (Gal . ii. 20), die in Him (Rev. xiv. 13), sleep in Him (1 Thess. iv. 14), rise in Him (1 Cor. xv. 49), and be for ever with Him (1 Thess. iv. 17). The sovereign influence may extend over a long period of awakening and conviction before it ends in regeneration; while in other cases it may lead the vessel of mercy gently to Christ, almost at the outset. The influences of the Spirit are not regeneration, but are simply the mighty power by which that stupendous work is wrought. In short, we are not regenerated until we believe; and we never believe until led to do so by the gracious and almighty influences of the Eternal Comforter, the glorifier of Christ in the hearts and consciences of men. Thus regeneration is, from beginning to end, the effect of the Spirit's power; though the change is wrought in us at the instant of closing in with the Messiah as the hope of Israel.

There is no evidence of the new birth in the mere dread of hell. The fear of punishment is an instinct of human nature. Many ungodly men are at times most terribly alarmed on account of the prospects lying before them. But, obviously, there is no moral excellence, and, consequently, no evidence of a renewed state of mind, in a mere conviction that the effects of our sins will be ruinous.

Many men who know this well enough persist in hugging the sins which are sinking them to hell. There is no proof of regeneration until we have learned to abhor and forsake sin at the foot of the cross. We must not confound a mere dread of the punishment of sin with the turning of the heart from sin itself. Conviction of sin, even when wrought by the power of the Spirit, is not to be confounded with the new birth, though all the people of God have to pass, more or less deeply, through this preparatory discipline. Some are much more powerfully agitated with these terrors than others, but all alike pass from death unto life, when through grace they believe in Jesus, "to the saving of the soul" (Heb. x- 39).

"We close this chapter with the confession that the regenerating grace of the Spirit is undoubtedly a great mystery. The fact of its existence we believe, but the mode of its operation we cannot explain. We receive it as a fact, upon the testimony of revelation and our own consciousness; but we confess our inability to unravel many questions arising out of its existence. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth : so is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John iii. 8). The influence is real, positive, and direct, notwithstanding its mysteriousness. The unlettered rustic, who is in perfect ignorance of all the physiological phenomena of inspiration and expiration, knows, nevertheless, that he breathes, and that by breathing life is sustained."

See here

Thus, Piper would have done better to have cited John Stock rather than John Stott.

Feb 26, 2010

White on Piper & I John 5: 1

Recently James White posted a short clip of a recent message by John Piper regarding I John 5: 1 and the "ordo salutis" wherein Piper insists that the initial act of believing in Christ is the result of the new birth. See here

In this message, after citing the passage, Piper says this:

"whosoever believeth" - present tense, ongoing action. "Has been born again" - perfect tense. Tenses are all important for understanding how this works. John is saying that if you are a believer, you are a believer because you have been born of God." He then cites John Stott (?) who says - "it comes as God-given, clear-headed, conscious embrace of historical person, historical events, and the historical meaning as described in the story of the gospel. That's the way God saves sinners." Piper then says:

"The upshot of all this - God's action (act) of bringing about the new birth is the creation of a believer." He says that "The Holy Spirit" does this "in the channel of the gospel," or "in and through the gospel," being "born through the word," and that there is "no time lapse" between being born again and being made a believer.

I have previously written about the inconsistency of Piper on this point. See




While I am glad that Piper insists on the means of the gospel in regeneration and new birth, and that he does not allow for any gaps between being made "alive" and being made a "believer," I am nevertheless disappointed that he insists that this is the typical way that the Bible presents the relationship. I have written on this verse previously and shown how the reasoning of White and Piper and other "Reformed" brethren is wrong.

See here

I find it an error to interpret I John 5:1 in such a way as to make the apostle John to contradict other statements of his on the subject. For instance, notice these two statements from his gospel.

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20: 31)

"And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5: 40)

In these two passages, John clearly puts coming to Christ and believing on him before receiving life (rebirth). Will White and Piper deny that the life here is new life in new birth? And, that the life follows the coming and the believing? Will they make John to contradict himself?

It is interesting how Piper, in the message referred to by White, felt it necessary to insist on regeneration through the gospel after having affirmed that regeneration precedes belief in Christ. Why did he feel it necessary? Is it not because the placing of regeneration before faith leads to denying that the gospel is a means?

Now, it is clear that White and Piper will insist that justification and forgiveness comes after believing while at the same time insisting that regeneration comes before believing, and I have repeatedly shown the doctrinal mess this creates in various writings here in the Gadfly.

White said that he would follow up with comments about Piper's comments. It would be nice if he would try his hand at harmonizing his views on I John 5: 1 with John 5: 40 and 20: 31.

I have shown how this was not insisted upon by Spurgeon and how Spurgeon endorsed the views of Abraham Booth and John Stock who both, as Calvinists, did not put the new birth prior to faith. See





Feb 15, 2010

Does God Forget?

"Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God." (John 16: 30)

"He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." (John 21: 17)

"For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." (I John 3: 20)

These verses clearly teach that God is omniscient, that he is all knowing. God is not ignorant of anything.

Those who deny the omniscience of God, such as the Open Theists (and some others with whom I have recently engaged in discussion), affirm that God is "willingly ignorant" of certain things, saying that the above verses merely affirm that God simply knows all that he wants to know, and affirming that there are things that God has chosen not to know. They cite scriptures that on the surface seem to teach that God does not know all things. For instance, they cite such verses as these:

"And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (Jeremiah 31: 34)

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8: 12 & 10: 17)

"Therefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence." (Jeremiah 23: 39)

But, clearly such verses are not to be taken in an absolute or universal sense. To do so would lead us into denying the verses cited above, that affirm God's omniscience. It would also lead us into the absurd position that says that creatures know things the Creator does not know. For if I know that I told a lie yesterday, but God, having forgiven me of the sin, does not know it any longer, then I can affirm that I know things that God does not know. It would lead us to affirm that God is ignorant.

But, that the above verses are not to be taken in an absolute sense is obvious, for God does know that we have sinned, even though he says he will not remember it. Notice these words of Paul.

"Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." (I Tim. 1: 13)

Paul had been forgiven of the sins he enumerated. Yet, God the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to recall his former sins. Ergo, though God forgave Paul of the sins mentioned, yet he did not cease having knowledge of them.

Here is what Stephen Charnock wrote on this matter in his classic work on the nature and attributes of God.

"And though God be said to forget in Scripture, and not to know his people, and his people pray to him to remember them, as if he had forgotten them, Ps. 119: 49, this is improperly ascribed to God. As God is said to repent, when he changes things according to his counsel beyond the expectation of men, so he is said to forget, when he defers the making good his promise to the godly, or his threatenings to the wicked. This is not a defect of memory belonging to his mind, but an act of his will. When he is said to remember his covenant, it is to will grace according to his covenant; when he is said to forget his covenant, it is to intercept the influences of it, whereby to punish the sin of his people; and when he is said not to know his people, it is not an absolute forgetfulness of them, but withdrawing from them the testimonies of his kindness, and clouding the signs of his favour; so God in pardoning is said to forget sin, not that he ceaseth to know it, but ceaseth to punish it. It is not to be meant of a simple forgetfulness, or a lapse of his memory, but of a judicial forgetfulness; so when his people in Scripture pray, 'Lord, remember thy word unto thy servant,' no more is to be understood, but, Lord fulfil they word and promise to thy servant." (page 194, emphasis mine)

Feb 5, 2010

What Vessel?

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God..." (I Thess. 4: 3-5)

Recently I had a discussion with another on whether the "vessel" mentioned in this passage should be interpreted to mean "wife" or "body." Clearly, it cannot mean "wife," as Barnes noted in his commentary. To make the word "vessel" to refer to a wife would restrict the exhortation to only married men in the assembly of the Thessalonians, but Paul says "each one of you," whether married women, or single men and women.

Barnes Notes

Verse 4. That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel. The word vessel here (\~skeuov\~) probably refers to the body. When it is so used, it is either because the body is frail and feeble, like an earthen vessel, easily broken 2 Corinthians 4:7, or because it is that which contains the soul, or in which the soul is lodged. Lucret. Lib. iii. 441. The word vessel also, (Heb. \^HEBREW\^ Gr. \~skeuov\~,) was used by the later Hebrews to denote a wife, as the vessel of her husband Schcoettg. Hor. Heb. p. 827. Comp. Wetstein in loc. Many, as Augustine, Wetstein, Scheettgen, Koppe, Robinson (Lex.), and others, have supposed that this is the reference here. Comp. 1 Peter 3:7. The word body, however, accords more naturally with the usual signification of the word, and as the apostle was giving directions to the whole church, embracing both sexes, it is hardly probable that he confined his direction to those who had wives. It was the duty of females; and of the unmarried among the males, as well as of married men, to observe this command. The injunction then is, that we should preserve the body pure. See Barnes "1 Corinthians 6:18-20". (emphasis mine)

Feb 4, 2010

Blog Update

I have been busy with biblical and Greek studies over the past couple months and have had little time to continue with my writings. I hope that I can get back into work completing some of the books I have begun, particularly finishing the book on Job. I also hope that our seminary will be making my recent debates available on line in the near future as we add this capability to the web page together with other improvements.

I also continue to struggle financially during this economic downturn but trust that the Lord will supply our needs. Our country certainly is in a great time of testing.