Jan 20, 2012

Owen on Sealing

"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1: 13, 14)

In the debate over the ordo salutis, or whether regeneration precedes faith, or vice versa, this verse becomes a matter of debate.  Those who insist that men are born again before faith will affirm that this sealing of the Spirit cannot be connected with being born again because the sealing occurs when one believes and thus make the sealing some post regeneration experience.  Others, who do not insist that regeneration precedes faith will have no difficulty equating this sealing with the new birth.  Those who say that this sealing with the Spirit is not to be equated with regeneration will say that this sealing is the giving of assurance of salvation to the one already saved.

The great Calvinist theologian John Owen wrote these words about the nature of this sealing.

"Wherefore, God's sealing of believers with the Holy Spirit, is his gracious communication of the Holy Ghost unto them, so to act his divine power in them, as to enable them unto all the duties of their holy calling, evidencing them to be accepted with him both unto themselves and others, and asserting their preservation unto eternal salvation. The effects of this sealing are gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in and upon believers; but the sealing itself is the communication of the Spirit unto them. They are sealed with the Spirit."

"(2.) This is that whereby he giveth believers assurance of their relation unto him, of their interest in him, of his love and favour to them. It hath been generally conceived that this sealing with the Spirit, is that which gives assurance unto believers; and so indeed it doth, although the way whereby it doth it, hath not been rightly apprehended. And therefore, none have been able to declare the especial nature of that act of the Spirit whereby he seals us, whence such assurance should ensue. But it is indeed not any act of the Spirit in us that is the ground of our assurance, but the communication of the Spirit unto us. This the apostle plainly testifieth; 1 John iii. 24. 'Hereby we know that he ahideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.' That God abideth in us and we in him, is the subject-matter of our assurance: 'this we know/saith the apostle; which expresseth the highest assurance we are capable of in this world. And how do we know it? Even by the Spirit which he hath given unto us. But it may be, the sense of these words may be, that the Spirit which God gives us doth by some especial work of his, effect this assurance in us; and so it is not his being given unto us, but some especial work of his in us, that is the ground of our assurance, and consequently our sealing. I do not deny such an especial work of the Spirit, as shall be afterward declared; but I judge that it is the communication of the Spirit himself unto us that is here intended. For so the apostle declares his sense to be; chap. iv. 13. 'Hereby know we that we dwell in God, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.' This is the great evidence, the great ground of assurance which we have, that God hath taken us into a near and dear relation unto himself, because he hath given us of his Spirit; that great and heavenly gift which he will impart unto no others. And indeed on this one hinge depends the whole case of that assurance which believers are capable of. If the Spirit of God dwell in us, we are his; 'but if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his ;' Rom. viii. 9. Hereon alone depends the determination of our especial relation unto God. By this, therefore, doth God seal believers; and therein gives them assurance of his love. And this is to be the sole rule of your self-examination whether you are sealed of God or no."  (pgs. 218-22 "The works of John Owen," Volume 4 See here)

Jan 18, 2012

The Beauty of Christ

The following are some of my notes for a message I recently gave to my home church.

In Phil. 4: 8 Paul said:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

If we are to think deeply upon what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy, and of good report, then we will certainly want to think upon the Lord Jesus Christ, for he is all these things.  No one is as true as Jesus, who said "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  (John 14: 6)  No one is as pure, honest, and virtuous as Jesus, for he was "without sin" and spoke only truth and did only good.  No  one is as "lovely" and beautiful as Jesus. 

In focusing our attention on the beauty of Christ we will be doing what Paul commanded, for we will be thinking and musing upon the one who is superlatively lovely, who is most beautiful, and we will be doing just what the Lord wants.  We will be pleasing both God and ourselves.  Is it not pleasurable to behold what is beautiful?  Does beauty not delight and bring joy?  It is the nature of beauty to draw attention and to inspire adoration, praise, and compliment.  Beauty turns heads, as they say.  Beauty pleases the eyes and in looking upon the Lord with the eyes of our minds, with the eyes of faith, we will be beholding he who is gloriously beautiful.  But, beauty is not simply for the eyes, but also for the ears, and is why we speak of beautiful music. 

In Song of Sol. 5: 16-19 a question is put forth by the daughters of Jerusalem, "What is your beloved more than another beloved?" The spouse answers, "He is the chief among ten thousand" and "altogether lovely."  There is nothing disagreeable in him, and there is nothing lovely without him.

Fairest Lord Jesus

Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer,
who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling, starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
than all the angels heaven can boast.

All fairest beauty
heavenly and earthly,
wondrously, Jesus, is found in thee;
none can be nearer,
fairer or dearer,
than thou, my Savior, art to me

If we look into the mirror of scripture and ask - "who is the fairest of them all?" - we will have to say that Jesus is fairest of them all!  "Thou art fairer than the children of men."  (Psalm 14:2)

King David said: 

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple."  (Psa. 27: 4)

David was awestruck with the "beauty of the Lord."  He had seen it and desired to remain focused upon it all the days of his life.  He wanted to dwell in the house of the Lord, in that place where the beauty and glory of the Lord are revealed.  It is my desire that all who are here tonight might be blessed to behold the Lord, our God and King, in his beauty. 

Just as we sing about the old rugged cross, saying that it has a "wondrous attraction," so we say of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is a wondrous attraction in Christ. Let us focus our attention then on "The Attractiveness of Christ," on his glorious beauty and splendor.  Christ is magnificent.

It is said that "beauty attracts and ugliness repels."  It is also said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  Or, is it?  Sometimes people call that ugly which is actually beautiful, just as they often call evil good.  Some people simply lack the eyes to see and appreciate what is beautiful.  A man with a very poor vocabulary will hardly appreciate attractive prose. A color blind man cannot see the richness in nature's beauty. Wrote Isaiah:

"In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel." (Isa. 4: 2)

The Lord Jesus Christ, in his divinity, has always been beautiful and glorious.  But, this verse respects Christ in his incarnation, of "God manifest in the flesh," of Christ as the God-man.  "In that day" primarily refers to the time of Christ's second coming, to the day of his coronation as King of kings, and to his wedding day, when he is forever and perfectly joined to his spouse.  How beautiful and glorious will Christ then appear! 

It certainly may be applied to that day when Christ walked on the earth, when he, as Peter said, "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil."  (Acts 10: 38)  But his beauty and glory were not so much revealed then as it will be when he returns the second time. 

When Jesus was on the Mt. of Transfiguration, the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ radiated from him.  The record says that Christ "was transfigured before them" that is, before Peter, James, and John, and that "his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."  (Matt. 17: 2) Christ radiated excellent glory and beauty.  He was truly a "sight to behold."  Peter, writing of this incident, said:

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount."  (II Peter 1: 16-18) 

Notice from Peter's words how this manifestation of excellent honor, glory, majesty, and beauty is connected with the second coming of Christ, with "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."  This is "that day" that Isaiah chiefly had in mind when he said - "in that day shall the Branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious."  But, it was also true on that day when Peter, James, and John, beheld him in his transfigured state on the holy mount of transfiguration.  But, if he today blesses your eyes, you may even get a glimpse now of the beauty and glory of Christ, a preview.  Christ is truly a coming attraction.

Paul says that the incarnate Christ is "the brightness" of the Father's "glory," and the "express image of his person."  (Heb. 1: 3)  This is a beautiful and glorious "brightness," a radiation of supreme majestic excellency. 

Isaiah says that Christ, the Branch, will be beautiful and glorious for a "remnant," for those that are "escaped" of Israel and of the nations.   We know that the elect are referenced in scripture as being the remnant, being those who escape the wrath and judgment of God.  So Paul said - "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace."  (Rom. 11: 5)  It is the elect, God's remnant, who are predestined to behold the beauty and glory of the Lord "in that day." 

Isaiah also wrote: 

"In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people."  (Isa. 28: 5)
Isaiah says that the "Branch" of the Lord is beautiful and glorious "in that day."  And, one again he identifies "that day" with the day when the Lord is crowned, when Christ receives the "crown of glory" and the "diadem of beauty."  And, he again identifies that group which will see him as such on that great day, saying that they are "the residue of his people," or the remnant

When the Great Tribulation is finished, the ones who will be "left standing," the ones who will have "escaped," will be God's elect, the residue and remnant.  Solomon said - "But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it."  (Prov. 2: 22)  So it was in the great first judgment of God upon the wicked world in the days of Noah, for God "took away" all the "world of the ungodly" so that only the righteous were left. 

Isaiah prophesied - "Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left."  (Isa. 24: 6) 

Jesus, in speaking of the coming day of judgment and tribulation that shall come upon all the word, said:

"I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left."  (Luke 17: 34-36)

Those who are "taken away" are not the righteous, as many suppose, but are the unrighteous, as in the days of Noah.  The ones who remain, who are left, the remnant, are the ones who have escaped God's wrath.  They are the righteous, not the unrighteous.  Isaiah says that Christ, the Branch of Jehovah, will be beautiful and glorious "in that day" to those who are the chosen of God, who are part of the remnant few.

In scripture God is said to be 1) Spirit ("God is Spirit"), and 2) Light ("God is light"), and 3) Love ("God is love").  It is also scriptural to say that God is Beauty.  In some respects this may be deduced from the proposition that "God is love," for if he is love, then he is lovely, and if lovely, then beautiful.

Of course, God is invisible, being omnipresent spirit.  So, when we say that God is beautiful we are not referring to a deity of material substance or physical form of being.  Yet, though he is essentially invisible, he often manifests himself in physical form to physical eyes.  Such manifestations of the presence of God to physical eyes is called "beatific vision."  It is "seeing God," or "seeing him who is invisible."   Jesus promised - "blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." 

Job saw the Lord in beatific vision.

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed withinother; though my reins be consumed within me."  (Job 19: 25-27)

So too did Isaiah behold the Lord in his beauty and glory.

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple."  (Isa. 6: 1)

The Israelites too saw the Lord.

"And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness." (Exo. 24: 10)

John, on the isle of Patmos, also saw the Lord.

"And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.  And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald."  (Rev. 4: 2, 3)

"Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen."  (I Tim. 6: 16)

God dwells in beautiful and glorious light and yet is invisible.

"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible."  (Heb. 11: 27)

This seems to be somewhat of a contradiction.  How can one see him who cannot be seen?

All beauty is of God

Wrote Solomon:

"He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." (Eccl. 3: 11)

All beauty in nature is but a reflection of the divine beauty.

What is it that is beautiful and attractive about Jesus in his incarnate state? 

We shall see that it consists in his wisdom, in his holiness, in his love and affection, in his courage and strength, in his goodness and kindness, and in his excellent spirit.  Simply put, he is beautiful in his heart, soul, mind, and spirit.

When we say that Christ is beautiful and attractive, we do not mean that he was so as a man, according to his physical appearance, for the prophet Isaiah said - "he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isa. 53: 2)  In his bodily appearance Christ was ugly, he had "no comeliness" and "no beauty."  Christ was not physically attractive and all pictures of him that picture him as physically beautiful and lovely are pictures of a false Christ.  Isaiah says that there is nothing in the external appearance of Christ to cause anyone to "desire" him, even though he is "the desire of all nations."  (Hag. 2: 7) 

No one has ever been drawn to Jesus by simply beholding his physical appearance.  To truly see the beauty and comeliness of Jesus is to see past his outward appearance and to see into his soul and spirit, into the heart and mind of Christ.  Christ's glory and beauty are like that of "the king's daughter," in Psalm 45: 13, who is said to be "all glorious within."  This is unlike the self righteous Pharissees, however.  Jesus said to them:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."  Matt. 23: 27)

"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised." (Prov. 31: 30)

"As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion."  (Prov. 11; 22)
Sinners they think are beautiful people, being narcissists, and they trust in their own spiritual beauty.

"But thou didst trust in thine own beauty..." (Eze. 16: 15)

"Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." (Eze. 28: 17)

When the Lord opens your eyes to see his beauty you will immediately see how spiritually ugly you are, and you will suffer deep conviction of sin.  Wrote David:

"When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah." (Psa. 39: 11)

Conviction of sin accomplishes this.

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified." (Isa. 61: 3)

Conversion accomplishes this.

We should all pray:

"And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." (Psa. 90: 17)

Inner beauty is of much greater importance than outer beauty.  The beauty of the soul is vastly more important than the beauty of the body.
We only see Christ now, as it were, "through a glass darkly," or "through the veil."  Paul calls the flesh and body of Jesus the "veil." (Heb. 10: 20)  The Temple veil was a type of the body of Christ.  Paul says that we should "go through the veil."  How do we get into the most holy place, the place of God's presence, the place where the Lord's beauty and glory are seen?  The place where the mercy seat is found?  The place where pardoning is found?  "Honour and majesty are before him: strength and beauty are in his sanctuary." (Psa. 96: 6)

To get into the most holy place with your mental vision, you will have to see beyond the bodily appearance of Christ and look into his soul, into his person and character.  The beauty of Christ is like the tabernacle, which had little external attractiveness.  The outside of the tabernacle was of badger's skins, but the inside was filled with beauty, so also is Christ externally unappealing, but in his inner person is exquisitely beautiful. 

The beauty and glory of Christ was concealed by his physical form, but it often shined through the covering veil of his flesh.  The apostle John said "we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father."  (John 1: 14)  Though cloaked by his physical appearance, nevertheless the glory and beauty of Christ radiated from his inner being and shown through the covering veil.  In every good deed and act of kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ, his inner beauty and glory shot forth its beams.  In every act of mercy and every act of power, his excellency and majesty radiated through the veil of his flesh.    

It is because Christ offered his body as a sacrifice for sin that anyone is able to see through the veil into the holiest place to behold the beauty and glory of the Lord.  But, it takes eyes to see, and only he can give you eyes. "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them."  (Prov. 20: 12)  So Jesus said to his disciples - "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."  (Matt. 13: 16)  It requires faith, faith which only God can give.  It requires God's removing the veil that obscures the vision of lost sinners.  Paul said:

"But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away."  (II Cor. 3: 16)

When people are saved, the veil is removed, then Christ is seen, appreciated, and adored.  Jesus promised salvation to those who "see" the Son.  "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."  (John 6: 40)  When the veil is taken away, Christ is seen, and when he is seen, he is appreciated and adored, and trusted.  Those who do not adore and admire Christ show that they have never truly seen him with the eye of faith.

An unbeliever's heart, eyes, and mind are covered as with a veil and cannot therefore see the beauty of Christ. Believers, however, have had their eyes unveiled, have had the veil removed from their hearts and minds.  Of lost men, Paul says that a "veil covers their hearts."  (vs. 15)  Christians, on the other hand, "are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing" the radiating beauty and glory of God in the face of Moses.  Paul says that this signified that they could not see "the end (purpose or reason) of what was passing away." (vs. 13)   Christians do not have a veil on their faces, nor over their hearts and eyes. 

Look then, not with your physical eyes, but with the eyes of your soul and mind, with the eye of faith, to the Beautiful One, the Desired One, to the glorious Branch of the Lord, to the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ!  Pray that God removes the veil over your eyes. 

In Proverbs 8:11, Solomon said of wisdom that is "is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it." Christ is the true Wisdom of God. (I Cor. 1: 30)  Nothing you can desire, therefore, can be compared with Christ, who is not only the Wisdom of God, but the very Beauty, Power, and Glory of God.  God is is light.  And, God is love.  But God is also beauty.  And, that beauty is revealed in the person of the incarnate Son of God. 

Isaiah also wrote:

"Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off."  (Isa. 33: 17)

People address kings as "his excellency."  They are heard to say - "your most excellent majesty."  But, to Christ, the King of kings, does this title and description superlatively apply.  God called upon Job with this challenge - "Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty."  (Job 40: 10)  This put Job into his rightful place, for he was not "decked with majesty and excellency," nor was he "arrayed with glory and beauty."  But Christ, unlike Job, is one who is indeed clad with majesty and exellency and arrayed with glory and beauty

The beauty of Christ is seen in many things, but I wish to focus upon 1) the beauty of his wisdom, and 2) the beauty of his holiness, and 3) the beauty of his loving heart, and 4) the beauty of his courage, and 5) the beauty of his spirit, and 6) the beauty of his mind

The Beauty of Wisdom

Solomon said that a "man of understanding is of an excellent spirit."  (Prov. 17: 27) 

This is superlatively true of Christ, for he is, above all, a "man of understanding," one in whom "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."  (Col. 2: 3)  In Ezekiel 28: 7 there is reference to "the beauty of" Israel's "wisdom," which would be the object of attack from Israel's enemies.  Foolishness is ugly but beauty is connected with wisdom.  And, in this respect, no one is more beautiful than the Lord Jesus Christ.  Beauty involves excellency.  Of the prophet Daniel we read that he was a man of "an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding...were found in the same Daniel..." (Dan. 5: 2) But, in this, Daniel is but a type of the "excellent spirit" and "excellent wisdom and knowledge" of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head." (Prov. 20: 29)  The beauty of old men is their wisdom and experience, signified by the white hair.  Thus, in the visions of Daniel the prophet we see Lord God with white woolen hair and called the "Ancient of days."  (Dan. 7: 9)

What an "excellent spirit" did Jesus possess as a "man of understanding"!  When Luke addressed his gospel, he addressed it to the "most excellent Theophilus."  (Luke 1: 3)  But, Christ is preeminently and superlatively the "most excellent."  Paul spoke of "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."  (Phil. 3: 8)  He also said that Christ has "a more excellent name" than anyone, either angel or man.  (Heb. 1: 4)  Of the "spirit" of Christ, Isaiah wrote:

"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD."  (Isa. 11: 1, 2)

In Eph. 1: 17 Paul spoke of "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ."

By "spirit" I mean his inner state of mind, his disposition, his character.  When we say that a person is in such and such a "spirit," we mean that such a person is characterized by a stated quality.  It often denotes a mood or state of emotion, as well as to a mental state.  It is part of our depraved nature to have a hateful spirit, a bad spirit, a fearful spirit, a "spirit of heaviness" and grief, a proud spirit, a jealous spirit, etc.  John spoke of "the spirit of truth," versus "the spirit of error."  (I John 4: 6)  When the disciples lacked compassion for unbelievers, and wanted to destroy them with fire from heaven, after the manner of Elijah, Jesus said to them - "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."  (Luke 9: 55) 

"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish...But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."  (James 3: 15, 17)

Christ superlatively possessed the "spirit of wisdom."  But, it was not an earthly, sensual, and devilish wisdom, but a heavenly wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle and placable, and full of mercy and good fruits.  The wisdom of Jesus is good looking.

Beauty of Christ's Excellent Spirit

In Ephesians 4: 23 Paul referred to "the spirit of your mind."  The spirit of wisdom was an essential part of the spirit of the mind of Christ.  Paul wrote to Timothy and exhorted him to "be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity."  (I Tim. 4: 12)  Be an example in spirit.  Be an example in your attitude and disposition, in your mental and emotional state.  Who can be a better example of what to be "in spirit" than our Lord Jesus Christ?  Paul also wrote to Timothy, saying:

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but (spirit) of power, and (spirit) of love, and (spirit) of a sound mind."  (II Tim. 1: 7)

Christ possessed a courageous and fearless spirit, and a spirit of power, wisdom, love, the spirit that Isaiah described in a sevenfold manner.

The Beauty of Holiness

Christ is called "the Holy One."  And, beauty is connected with holiness.  We read in scripture of the "beauty of holiness."  (Psa. 29: 2; 96: 9)  In Romans 1: 4 Christ is proven to be the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, because of his holiness.  Said paul:  "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."  What is holiness? 

God says - "Be ye holy as I am holy."  (I Peter 1: 16)  The Greek word is "hagios."  It means to be the object of veneration, to be unique and special, to be separate, especially from what is evil and ugly, and to be pure.  Thus, God calls us to be separate and pure.  "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."  (II Cor. 6: 17)  This is a description of what it means to be holy or sanctified.  It is to be separate, to not be in touch with what is unclean.  It involves being pure and clean.  In the vision of Peter holiness was defined as being special, or uncommon.  It is also to be clean.  "What God has cleansed, call not common or unclean."  What is holy is special and clean, what is separate.  So of Christ it is said that he was "holy, harmless, separate from sinners."  (Heb. 7: 26)

Thus, the beauty of Christ is seen in his unique and superlative wisdom and holiness.  But the beauty in the mind, spirit, and heart of Christ are also seen in:

1. The love, affection, and passion of Christ
2. The compassion and tenderness of Christ
3. The meekness and gentleness of Christ
4. The good-natured spirit of Christ

Let us focus then upon the love and affection of Christ, of his attitude towards a fallen humanity. 

The Beauty of Christ's Heart

Christ had a heart full of love for both God and man.  Paul prayed that Christians -

"May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."  (Eph. 3: 18, 19)

The love of Jesus is wonderfully attractive.  Jesus said to the people - "For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them."  (Luke 6: 32)  But, the love of Jesus is much more beautiful than the love of sinners, for he loves those who by nature love him not.  Paul says that the love of Christ for his neighbors, and for sinners, is unfathomable, of great breadth, of great length, of great height and depth.  It "surpasses knowledge." 

This love of Christ is seen in the mercy and compassion that he showed to men, even to men who despised and rejected him.  He was always ready to "turn the other cheek."  It is further seen in his meekness and gentleness.  "Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," said Paul to the Corinthians.  (II Cor. 10: 1)  Jesus said of himself - "I am meek and lowly in heart."  (Matt. 11: 29)  Concerning Christ, in this regard, Peter wrote:  "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."  (Peter 2: 23)  Jesus, as we showed, was both "holy" and "harmless."  He possessed, above all others, a "a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."  (I Peter 3: 4)  He possessed what Paul called the "spirit of meekness." (I Cor. 4: 21)

This does not mean that Christ was a sissy, or a coward, or weak and timid.  No, no, he was rather a man of great strength, and of the greatest courage.  He was the bravest of the brave.  Christ was no bully and needed not show his strength and courage in that manner.  Though he could have destroyed all who spoke a word against him, yet he suffered it, and was compassionate and longsuffering towards all who bullied him. 

The Beauty of the Goodness of Christ

"For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty!"  (Zech. 9: 17)

The goodness of Christ is another thing that is beautiful about Jesus.  Peter preached to the house of Cornelius and said that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" and "who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him."  (Acts 10: 38)  A rich man came to Jesus and called him "good master" and Jesus said to him - "why do you call me good?  there is none good but God."  (Mark 10: 18)  Jesus was not denying that he was good, but simply wanted to 1) demonstrate that the man was simply giving flattery, and 2) that he did not really understand what he was saying, for if he had, he would either have to acknowledge that Jesus was God or that he was not good. 

The beauty of the mind and spirit of Christ.  We should have his mind and spirit.

"we have the mind of Christ."  (I Cor. 2: 16)

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."  (Phil. 2: 5-7)

Wonderful Words of Life

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life;
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty,
Teach me faith and duty:


Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life, G
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.

Christ, the blessed One gives to all
Wonderful words of life.
Sinner list to His loving call,
Wonderful words of life.
All so freely given,
Wooing us to heaven;

Sweetly echo the gospel call,
Wonderful words of life.
Offer pardon and peace to all,
Wonderful words of life.
Jesus, only Saviour,
Sanctify forever;

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"  (Isa. 52: 7)

How beautiful are the feet of Christ!  How beautiful his words!  His message.

He has a beautiful heart and mind.  Beautiful spirit.  Beautiful hands and feet.  Beautiful eyes. Beautiful face.  Beautiful lips.  Beautiful character.  Beautiful life.

Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all;

He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.

When I am sad, to Him I go, no other one can cheer me so;

When I am sad, He makes me glad, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, my Friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and He gives them over and o’er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain, He sends the harvest’s golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, and true to Him I’ll be;
O how could I this Friend deny, when He’s so true to me?
Following Him I know I’m right, He watches o’er me day and night;
Following Him by day and night, He’s my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me, I want no better Friend;
I trust Him now, I’ll trust Him when life’s fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a Friend, beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy, He’s my Friend.

Jan 16, 2012

Actively Came Forth?

"And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go."  (John 11: 43, 44)

"Came forth" is from the Greek word "exēlthen" (from ek and erchomai) and is third person second aorist indicative active.  Why is this in the active voice?  Is not being resurrected supposed to be all passive?  Any comments?

Jan 12, 2012

Spurgeon on Ordo Salutis

"The new LIFE enters the soul in and through BELIEVING, and is the same life which we shall exercise for ever at the right hand of God, even as Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

(MTP, Volume 47, page 662).

Benjamin Keach on Ordo Salutis

Benjamin Keach was one of the signers of the second London Baptist Confession of Faith and a pastor of the church later pastored by John Gill and Charles Spurgeon. He was one of the greatest Particular Baptist apologists. He believed that men were begotten by faith in the gospel.

This is important to realize because some "Reformed" or "Hyperist" Calvinists claim that the London Confession upholds the notion that men are born again or regenerated before they can and do believe the gospel. Clearly, Keach did not hold this view. We can expect that the Confession reflects the views of Keach. Keach did not hold to the "born again before faith" error.

Keach wrote (emphasis mine - SG):

"The work of conversion itself, and in particular the act of believing, or faith itself, is expressly said to be of God, to be wrought in us by him, to be freely given unto us from him; the Scripture saith not that God gives us ability or power to believe only, namely, such a power as we may make use of, if we will, or do otherwise, but faith and conversion themselves are said to be the work and effect of God.

Object. But it may be objected that every thing which is actually accomplished is in potentia before. There must therefore be in us a power to believe before we do so actually.

Ausw. 1. The act of God working faith in us, is a creating work, "For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus," Eph. ii. 10, and "he that is in Christ is a new creature." Now the effects of creating acts are not in potentia any where but in the active power of God, so was the world itself before its actual existence...all these preparatory works of the Spirit of God which we allow in this matter, there is not by them wrought in the minds and wills of men such a next power, as they call it, as should enable them to believe without further actual grace working faith itself. Wherefore with respect to believing, the first act of God is to work in us to will; so Phil. i. 13, "He worketh in us to will."

And again:

"It might be further demonstrated by considering how conversion, with the manner how it is effected, is set forth in the Holy Scripture; "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart," etc. Deut. xxx. 6. What is this but the putting off the body of sin? Col. ii. 11. This is the immediate work of the Spirit of God, no man ever circumcised his own heart. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you, aud will take away the stony heart," Ezek. xxxvi. 26, that is, impotency and enmity which is in our hearts unto conversion."

And again:

"1. Gospel grace is glorious, because, when received in truth, it delivers the soul from bondage, it breaks the bonds. For the soul is not set at liberty by the here shedding of Christ's blood, without the application of it by the Spirit or infusion of grace into the heart.

2. The Gospel through the grace of it when received in truth, opens blind eyes, it makes them see, that never saw, in a spiritual sense, before; it opens their eyes that were bom blind; how blind was Saul till the Gospel grace shone upon him, or rather in him?

3. The Gospel through the grace of it, when received in truth, raises the dead soul to life. It is hereby we come to be quickened, the flesh profiteth nothing, it is the Spirit that quickeueth; that is, the human nature without the divine cannot accomplish salvation for us; nor shall any soul receive any saving benefit by the flesh, or death of Christ, unless he be quickened by the Spirit.

4. The Gospel in the grace of it, when received in truth, casts out that cursed enmity that is in the heart against God, and thereby reconciles the sinner to the blessed Majesty of heaven.

5. The grace of the Gospel works regeneration, makes the sinner another man, a new man. It forms the new creature in the soul.

The Gospel is glorious in respect of the tenders and offers made therein to the sons of men."

Question - What is tendered?

Answ. Repentance is tendered, pardon is tendered, peace is tendered, bread and water of life is tendered, perfect righteousness is tendered, adoption is tendered, glorious liberty is tendered; in short, God is offered, he makes a tender of himself. Christ is tendered with all his benefits, who is the Pearl of great price, worth millions; yea, more than ten thousand worlds; a marriage with Christ is tendered, the Spirit is tendered with all the blessings of it, a kingdom is offered in the Gospel, a crown is offered, a crown of endless glory, a crown that fadeth not away, eternal life is tendered."
("Tropologia: a key to open Scripture metaphors")

See here

Jan 7, 2012

Born Again by Faith - Calvin & Luther

In his commentary on Galatians, Reformed theologian Martin Luther said this on Galatians 3: 26 - "For we are all the children (sons) of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

"The law then maketh us not children of God, and much less do men's traditions. These cannot beget us into a new nature, or a new birth; but it setteth before us the old birth, whereby we were born to be children of wrath; and so it prepareth us to a new birth, which is by faith in Jesus Christ. "For ye are all the sons of God by faith." Faith in whom? In Christ, who maketh us the sons of God, and not the law. St. John also witnesseth to the same, "To as many as believed Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (St. John 1: 12; Rom. 8: 16, 17)."

In his commentary upon I Peter 1: 3, Luther wrote:

"But how or by what means does this new birth take place? "By the resurrection," Peter says, "of Jesus Christ from the dead;" as if he should say, God, the Father, has begotten us, not of corruptible (as he himself will explain later) but of incorruptible seed, namely, of the word of truth, which is the power of God. It begets new life and makes all alive and blessed who believe in it (Rom. 1: 16). What kind of a word then is that? Even that which is preached among you concerning Jesus Christ..."

"He is born again, that is, created anew after the image of God, receives the Holy Spirit, knows God's gracious will, has a heart, mind, courage, will and thoughts, which no work-righteous person or hypocrite has."

In commenting upon verse 23, Luther wrote:

"Through a seed we are born again...But how does this take place? After this manner: God lets the word, the Gospel, be scattered abroad, and the seed falls in the hearts of men. Now wherever it sticks in the heart, the Holy Spirit is present and makes a new man. Then there will indeed be another man, of other thoughts, of other words and works. Thus you are entirely changed."

John Calvin wrote the following in commentary on the verses in John 1: 12, 13:

"On the contrary, the Evangelist repeats the same thing in a variety of words, in order to explain it more fully, and impress it more deeply on the minds of men. Though he refers directly to the Jews, who gloried in the flesh, yet from this passage a general doctrine may be obtained: that our being reckoned the sons of God does not belong to our nature, and does not proceed from us, but because God begat us WILLINGLY, (James 1:18,) that is, from undeserved love. Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift. It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God.

It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption.

Another solution, still more plain and easy, may be offered; for when the Lord breathes faith into us, he regenerates us by some method that is hidden and unknown to us; but after we have received faith, we perceive, by a lively feeling of conscience, not only the grace of adoption, but also newness of life and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit. For since faith, as we have said, receives Christ, it puts us in possession, so to speak, of all his blessings. Thus so far as respects our sense, it is only after having believed — that we begin to be the sons of God. But if the inheritance of eternal life is the fruit of adoption, we see how the Evangelist ascribes the whole of our salvation to the grace of Christ alone; and, indeed, how closely soever men examine themselves, they will find nothing that is worthy of the children of God, except what Christ has bestowed on them." (Calvin, Commentary, John 1:13)

In his comment on 1 Corinthians 13:13, Calvin says, "In fine, it is by faith that we are born again, that we become the sons of God -- that we obtain eternal life, and that Christ dwells in us."