February 2015

Augustine on Free Grace

The human will is so divinely helped in the pursuit of righteousness, that he [the believer] receives the Holy Spirit, by whom there is formed in his mind a delight in, and a love of, that supreme and unchangeable good, which is God. By this gift to him of the down payment, as it were, of the free gift, he [the believer] conceives a burning desire to cleave to his Maker. A mans free will, indeed, does not help at all except to sin, if he does not know the way of truth. And even after he begins to know his duty and proper aim, unless he also takes delight in and feels a love for it, he neither does his duty, nor sets about it, nor lives rightly. Now, in order that such a course may engage our affections, Gods love is shed abroad in our hearts, not through the free will which arises from ourselves, but through the Holy Spirit, who is given to us [Rom 5: 5].


What is grace? That which is freely given. What is “freely given”? Given, not paid. If it was due, wages would be given, but grace would not be bestowed. But if it was really due, then you were good. But if, as is true, you were evil but believed on him who justifies the ungodly (What is, “who justifies the ungodly”? the ungodly is made righteous), consider what by right hung over you by the law and you have obtained by grace. But having obtained that grace by faith, you will be just by faith—”for the just lives by faith.”


"In some places God requires newness of heart [Ezek 18:31]. But elsewherre he testifies that it is given by him [Ezek. 11:19; 36:26]. But what God promises we ourselves do not do through choice or nature; but he himself does through grace."-

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:00 -- john_hendryx

The Spirit as Regenerator of the Church

It is particularly John, following the teaching of his Lord, who is in a unique sense the ‘theologian of the birth from above.’ It is he who records Jesus’ ‘birth from above sayings’ in his discourse with Nicodemus in John 3:1–15; 3:3, 5, 7, 8: ‘I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again [ἄνωθεν], he cannot see the kingdom of God … I tell you the truth, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God … You must be born again [ἄνωθεν]. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’

In every other place in the Gospel where it occurs, 3:31; 19:11, 23, ἄνωθεν means ‘from above.’ I would urge therefore that ἄνωθεν means ‘from above’ in the ‘new birth’ passages where it occurs (3:3, 7). That is to say, strictly speaking, Jesus is not talking about ‘new birth’; he is talking about ‘birth from above,’ that is, from God.

When Jesus teaches that only those who have been ‘begotten from above’ (ἄνωθεν) can ‘see’ and ‘enter’ (figurative expressions for ‘faith activities’) the kingdom of God, he surely intends that regeneration is essential to faith as the latter’s causal prius. This is brought out quite clearly in John 1:12–13:

  ‘… to all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—those not of natural descent [born], nor [born] of human will or a husband’s will, but born of God.’

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 15:04 -- john_hendryx

The Diagnosis and Cure for an Angry Heart by Brian Hedges

Of the seven daily sins, wrath may be the most difficult to acknowledge as sin. We’re miserable in envy, depressed by sloth, and embarrassed by gluttony and lust. Those sins may be hard to admit to others, but not usually to ourselves. Wrath is different. We can be deeply angry without fully realizing we’re sinning because anger usually feels so right. Wrath is a chameleon adept at disguise, quickly adapting its color to a variety of background reasons and rationalizations.
Of course, there is a kind of anger that is not sinful (see Eph. 4:26). Aristotle praised the person “who gets angry at the right things and with the right people, and also in the right way and at the right time and for the right length of time.” The word Aristotle used to describe this kind of person is the same word found in Scripture for meekness or gentleness. A meek or a gentle person is a person whose anger is rightly ordered: directed at the right things and expressed in an appropriate manner. Sometimes it is right to be angry. When wicked people prey upon the weak and helpless, love for the victims demands anger and the pursuit of justice. But sinful wrath is what Dorothy Sayers called the “love of justice perverted to revenge and spite.”
Tue, 02/24/2015 - 12:50 -- john_hendryx

A New and Thoroughly Revised Reformation Study Bible in the ESV

We wanted to give you all a heads up on an amazing new resource. A new edition of the Reformation Study Bible has been carefully crafted to provide an unparalleled reading and discipleship experience in its design, commentary, and supplementary features.

Work began on this new edition several years ago when Dr. Sproul put together a theological and pastoral “dream team” to thoroughly revise this vital resource for the church using the best conservative and Reformed biblical scholarship available. Publishing a study Bible representing what we believe to be a reliable consensus of centuries of Christian thought has been a monumental task accomplished by skilled, thoughtful, and careful editors and contributors. The new edition has thirty-two percent more pages and the commentary alone has grown by forty-four percent over the original edition. Along with new book introductions and archaeologically current maps and visual aids, there are theological notes and articles from Dr. Sproul and other faithful theologians. Below you can watch a brief video highlighting why Ligonier produced this new edition.

A Bible Study Reformation from Ligonier Ministries on Vimeo.

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:39 -- john_hendryx

Reflection on Jesus' Agricultural Metaphors

"Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. (Matt 7:16-18)

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. " (Matt 12:33- 35)

Does Jesus tell us these stories in order that we may learn more about plant life? Was He here to teach us about botany? If not, what is Jesus saying here in these stories? Jesus is not teaching us about botany, but is speaking rather plainly about us, about the human condition after the fall.

Thorn bushes, he says, do not produce grapes and thistles do not produce figs. Due to a plant's DNA such an outcome is an impossible supposition. He is communicating for our benefit, via parable, that persons ONLY produce fruit in accord with their nature. He was not teaching us botany lessons here. What you are, he explains, determines what you think and what you do. It cannot be otherwise. By nature we are all like thorn bushes. Apart from the supernatural work of the Spirit to change us, our heart is like fallow ground. Only as God plows up the fallow ground do we have hearts which can receive the seed of the gospel. The church casts the seed but only God causes the growth.

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 15:33 -- john_hendryx

10 Things You Need to Know About the Bible and Slavery

Graham Veale

“The ideal type of the slave is the socially dead chattel, ripped forcibly from organic ties of kin and community, transported to an alien environment there to be treated as merely a piece of property or as a factor of production to be used and abused at will, an animate tool or beast of burden with no sense of self other than that allowed by the slave owner and no legal, let alone civic, personality whatsoever. Societies with large numbers of such slaves, let alone societies based on them, have been very few. The City of Athens and central Roman Italy for periods in antiquity, and in modern times the slave states of the American Old South, the Caribbean, and Brazil, are the only known instances.” Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization (OUP:1998) p670

1) The Old Testament texts are historical documents; when studying history we must remember that the passage of time creates chasms between cultures and societies. Every feature of the past must be interpreted in its own historical context. The experience of a black slave in the Confederate states was not the experience of a slave in ancient Israel. We can’t assume that Israel would have tolerated the slavery of the American Old South, or that the Slave States would have found the slavery of the ancient Israelites profitable or useful.

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 15:58 -- john_hendryx

Collective Ethics - Morality by Consensus

Comment: As an atheist, it is true that it wouldn't be reasonable to believe that there's such a thing as an absolute, universal morality. Society plays a large part in deciding what's right and wrong. Well, what's so bad about that? Society is made up of people, and I trust our collective opinions to advise me in ethics more than I trust a two-thousand-year-old book written by several different authors ... Plus, it's not like society has it so bad compared to God's opinion that we shouldn't use it. Society in general thinks that killing and slavery is wrong, and God supposedly thinks that murder isn't such a good thing (despite all the 'accounts' in the Bible in which he blatantly murders people), so I guess we're not so different after all.

Response: Thanks for your comment ... So then according to your logic, it seems to me you would have to believe slavery wasn’t wrong until there was a consensus that it was wrong. In other words, slavery wasn’t wrong in the 1700s, because at that time the collective opinion declared that such things were acceptable? So in response to this if you were to tell me that slavery WAS still wrong in 1700s even though most people didn't feel that way, then I think you probably believe in moral absolutes. But if you tell me that it WASN'T wrong in the 1700s then it simply demonstrates the reality that slavery is not inconsistent with atheism.

Furthermore, morality has been very cyclical through human history and does not always progressively get better as time goes on. what if you saw the consensus about slavery eroding? On what basis, then, could you argue that the emerging new consensus is wrong, since, in your view, something is only wrong if there is a consensus that it is wrong?

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 15:18 -- john_hendryx

Is It Because Christians Are Now More "Progressive" That We Don't Put Law Breakers to Death?

Visitor: You are pretending Christians are progressive and infallible in 2015. Keep up with Uganda? How about Russia? The treatment of LGBT doesn't really count, because they're  wrong right? You know you can get away with killing somebody for being gay in Uganda because it's justified by the Bible? Don't be hypocritical and don't rationalize.

Response: Regarding your comment about putting homosexuals to death being justified by the Bible ... you seem so focused on your own cause that you seem wholly unaware that there are a VAST array of sins which were punishable by death in Old Testament Law.  The list of capital crimes is so comprehensive that justice required in the Old Testament would likely sweep up everyone on earth. When I read those laws I know that I personally deserve to be among those who are put to death. Here are just a sampling of acts punishable by death in the Old Testament: Cursing Parents (Leviticus 20:9); Working on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15); Premarital Sex (Deuteronomy 22:20); Disobedience to Parents (Deuteronomy 21:18); Child Sacrifice (Deut 18:10); Witchcraft (Exodus 22: 18); Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16); Apostasy and Enticement to others to worship false gods (Deuteronomy 12:6); Homosexual acts (Leviticus 20:13); Adultery (Leviticus 20: 10-12) ...the list goes on and on (and includes even some seemingly lesser offenses).

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 09:28 -- john_hendryx

Justice Delayed and Understanding the Gospel by John Hendryx

Visitor: Monergism said, "How many people are being killed by Christians right now? If none then why bring it up? It seems his concerns are wildly misplaced." (a line from essay Are Evangelicals Upset with Obama for Accurately Recounting History?)

Proof you are too busy keeping tabs on Muslims and pretending Christians are progressive and infallible in 2015. If you took a closer look, you'd see the damage Christian philosophy (as a religion, not the teachings of Christ) are doing. Keep up with Uganda? How about Russia? The treatment of LGBT doesn't really count, because they're wrong right? You know you can get away with killing somebody for being gay in Uganda because it's justified by the Bible? Don't be hypocritical and don't rationalize. There are Christians who are peaceful, and there are Muslims who are peaceful- and there are others from both who are dangerous. It's not just beheadings and bombings that do damage to society. And also, Christians weren't completely central to the change in civil rights and revolution- there were a lot of progressive non-believers as well, but take all the credit for that too.

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 14:47 -- john_hendryx

Whose Covenant Faithfulness?

If you are looking to your covenant faithfulness, your performance or to your obedience for your acceptance before God, then by the grace of God, repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose covenant faithfulness, performance and obedience FOR US is our only acceptance before God.

Visitor Response: "You are saved [by Christ's covenant faithfulness], if you hold fast the Word [i.e. are faithful to the covenant]" (1 Cor. 15:2) There is always a requirement on our part of the covenant, and that is: Faith. To say that Christ fulfills our whole side of the covenant and that we don't need to also have faith is an error. God still has a requirement we are to live up to, and it is "faith", and now by the Holy Spirit "we fulfill the righteous requirements of the law" (Rom. 8:4). Whereas before, in our flesh, we could not keep faith, now by the Spirit we can. Take away faith as a necessary requirement for salvation and you've created a cult. Now, you must ask yourself, what is the definition of true and saving faith? Is it mental assent? No, it can't be since even the demons believe and tremble. What then is faith? It is partly what the protestant reformers coined, "Fiducia", which means commitment. So then, if faith is our part of the covenant which we must fulfill in order to obtain salvation (and no one would argue that you can be saved without faith), and if "Faith" is partly "commitment", then it follows that if we will not be faithful/committed (i.e. have faith) towards Christ then we cannot be saved. His perfect covenant faithfulness makes up for, or redeems the shortcomings of, those who uphold their own end of covenant faithfulness, as it is written: "He redeems THOSE WHO SERVE HIM" (Psalm 34:22).

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 11:20 -- john_hendryx


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