Biblical Theology in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos approaches the Bible as an organic drama of God's unfolding revelation through history. In distinction from doctrinal or systematic theology, biblical theology follows the progressively unfolding revelation of God's words and deeds through history. This linear aspect of revelation unites each revelatory event and proclamation both retrospectively and prospectively. Vos described the organic continuation of revelation in history as a flower expanding from bud to blossom. The blossom is retrospectively united to the bud; the bud is prospectively united to the blossom. One of the tasks/privileges of the interpreter of Scripture is to draw out these organic prospective and retrospective relationships. At the center of this organic unity is the person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even as our Risen Lord related all of Scripture retrospectively and prospectively to himself (Luke 24:27), so Reformed biblical theology is preeminently Christocentric. We seek to display Christ in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
by Martin Luther
“When I am converted by the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is present. He takes me as clay and makes of me a new creature, which is endowed with a different mind, heart, and thoughts, that is, with a true knowledge of God and a sincere trust in His grace.
To summarize, the very essence of my heart is renewed and changed. This makes me a new plant, one that is grafted on Christ the Vine and grows from Him. My holiness, righteousness, and purity do not stem from me, nor do they depend on me. They come solely from Christ and are based only in Him, in whom I am rooted by faith, just as the sap flows from the stalk into the branches. Now I am like Him and of His kind. Both He and I are of one nature and essence, and I bear fruit in Him and through Him. This fruit is not mine; it is the Vine’s.
Thus Christ and the Christians become one loaf and one body, so that the Christian can bear good fruit—not Adam’s or his own, but Christ’s. For when a Christian baptizes, preaches, consoles, exhorts, works, and suffers, he does not do this as a man descended from Adam; it is Christ who does this in him.
The lips and tongue with which he proclaims and confesses God’s Word are not his; they are Christ’s lips and tongue. The hands with which he toils and serves his neighbor are the hands and members of Christ, who, as He says here, is in him; and he is in Christ.
Behold, with the words ‘He who abides in Me, and I in him’ (John 15:5) Christ wants to indicate that Christianity is not brought in from without; it is not put on like a garment, nor does it consist in the adoption of a new manner of living, which, like monasticism and self-chosen sanctity, is concerned with works.
N. T. Wright explains why he denies the doctrine of imputed righteousness:
"If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths or conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." N. T. Wright, What Paul Really Said, pg. 98
Michael Reeves Responds:
"But if Christ takes our sin and we take his righteousness because we are united to him, then all those difficulties melt away. As Calvin would argue: " We do not, therefore, contemplate him (Christ) outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body - in short, because he deigns to make us one with him." - Calvin, Institutes 3.11.10. If Christ and the believer are made one then the sin-righteousness swap is as unobjectionable as what happens in a marriage when a man and woman become one. It is as if a rich husband were - at his own cost to pay off all his wife's debts and then share with her his enormous wealth.
Source: What the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester,
More Resources on Union with Christ
The 2017 Greenville Seminary Spring Theology Conference commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
The following files are in MP3 format. To download, right click and save to your hard drive.
01 - Sola Scriptura by Dr. Joel Beeke
02 - Luther's Providential God by Dr. Robert Kolb
03 - Question & Answer 1 by Dr. Robert Kolb
04 - Sola Gratia by Joseph A. Pipa Jr.
05 - Luther's Preaching on the Parables by Dr. Robert Kolb
06 - Solus Christus by Cliff Blair
07 - Sola Fide by Carl Robbins
08 - Panel Discussion by Joseph A. Pipa Jr.
09 - Soli Deo Gloria by Dr. L. Michael Morales
10 - Law as Friend and Foe in Luther's Theology by Dr. Michael Whiting
11 - Luther on Life without Dichotomy by Dr. James E. McGoldrick
by John Frame
The doctrine that God foreordains and directs all events is generally regarded as Calvinistic, and I am not embarrassed to be called a Calvinist. However, other Christian traditions also accept this doctrine, sometimes in spite of themselves. Take Arminianism for example. The Arminian makes much of human "free will," insisting that our free decisions, especially those of religious significance, are not foreordained or otherwise determined by God. He seeks thereby to reinforce the doctrine of human responsibility (a doctrine with which, in itself, the Calvinist has no quarrel). But the Arminian also recognizes (1) that God foreknows the future exhaustively, and (2) that He has created the world knowing what the future will bring. For example, before the foundation of the world, God knew that Joe would make a free decision to become a Christian. Somehow, then, before Joe was born, God knew of his free decision. So even at that time, Joe's free decision must have been inevitable. Why was it inevitable? Not because of Joe's free will, for Joe was not yet born. Not because of God's predestination, because the Arminian denies that possibility from the outset. It would seem that the inevitability in question had some source other than either Joe or God.
[Frame's Note]: That is a scary possibility! In rejecting "divine determinism," the Arminian in effect embraces a determinism coming from some mysterious other source -- another god? the Devil? world history? impersonal laws? In any case, this idea certainly does not leave much room for free will.]
I have always loved Deuteronomy. In fact the Lord used this book as a key instrument in my own conversion. Deuteronomy is a book of the Law and reveals the holiness of God. Reading it will instill the deep fear of the Lord in a person.
But according to the Text, did Israel receive God's favor because they were obedient to the Law and deserved it? No, God declared to the Israelites three times that the "Lord your God is NOT giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for (He said) you are a stubborn people." But rather the reason the He says He blesses them is to confirm the word of promise and grace that the Lord swore to to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deut 9:5-6)
And while the first 28 chapters of the book give God's holy law and declares that they will be blessed and righteousness if they obey but cursed if they disobey. Yet were they able to obey it? No, as Joshua said, they will not obey because God is holy. (Joshua 24:19) Furthermore, in Deuteronomy 29:4, after the giving of the law, God declares, "But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear." So what were they to do? Not only was God's promise based on the favor he showed to Abraham but also He promised them that "the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live." (Deuteronomy 30:6) It is grace that would make the children of promise willing to obey, apart from which, there would naturally be only stubborn hardness of heart.
by J. C. Ryle
I. To the question “what Evangelical Religion is? ” the simplest answer I can give is to point out what appear to be its leading features. These I consider to be five in number.
( a ) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture , as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy.
Its theory is that man is required to believe nothing, as necessary to salvation, which is not read in God’s Word written, or can be proved thereby. It totally denies that there is any other guide for man’s soul, coequal or co-ordinate with the Bible. It refuses to listen to such arguments as “the Church says so,”—“the Fathers say so,”—“primitive antiquity says so,”—“Catholic tradition says so,”—“the Councils say so,”—“the ancient liturgies say so,”—“the Prayer-book says so,”—“the universal conscience of mankind says so,”—“the verifying light within says so,”—unless it can be shown that what is said is in harmony with Scripture.
Here is my response to a meme I came across today which attempts to critique the Calvinist who says an Arminian's choice of following Jesus can be grounds for boasting before God.
Salvation is a gift, in its entirety. Jesus provides EVERYTHING we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Ezek 36:26; Eph 2:8). Your meme presumes that the new heart to believe is not part of God's gift to us but that faith is something that can naturally spring from our unregenerated human nature, apart from grace, apart from God's gift. Your meme wrongly assumes that the captives do not need liberating from their love of darkness, hatred of the light and unwillingness to come into the light (John 3:19; 1 Cor 2:14) ... since their wills are already good. That this Spirit wrought change of heart is not part of God's grace but that the unhardening of our own heart is something we are naturally willing and able to do on our own. But just like a seed needs rain from heaven to grow so the seed of the gospel needs the Holy Spirit to be germinated. 'No one says Jesus is Lord apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3).
Likewise Jesus declared, "the Spirit quickens, the flesh counts for nothing... that is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me grants it." John 6:63. 65
Yet your position forces you to believe that a person can come to faith in Christ even if the Father DOES NOT grant it, or willing to come even if the Spirit DOES NOT quicken, and so your position by default presumes that the flesh DOES indeed count for SOMETHING, contrary to the bible.
by Herman Bavinck
Both for unbelievers and believers, the doctrine of election is a source of inexpressibly great comfort. If it were based on justice and merit, all would be lost. But now that election operates according to grace, there is hope even for the most wretched. If work and reward were the standard of admission into the kingdom of heaven, its gates would be opened for no one. Or if Pelagius’s doctrine were the standard, and the virtuous were chosen because of their virtue, and Pharisees because of their righteousness, wretched publicans would be shut out. Pelagianism has no pity. But to believe in and to confess election is to recognize even the most unworthy and degraded human being as a creature of God and an object of his eternal love. The purpose of election is not—as it is so often proclaimed—to turn off the many but to invite all to participate in the riches of God’s grace in Christ. No one has a right to believe that he or she is a reprobate, for everyone is sincerely and urgently called to believe in Christ with a view to salvation. No one can actually believe it, for one’s own life and all that makes it enjoyable is proof that God takes no delight in his death. No one really believes it, for that would be hell on earth. But election is a source of comfort and strength, of submissiveness and humility, of confidence and resolution. The salvation of human beings is firmly established in the gracious and omnipotent good pleasure of God.
by C. H. Spurgeon
“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man” —Galatians 1:11
A gospel which is after men will be welcomed by men; but it needs a divine operation upon the heart and mind to make a man willing to receive into his inmost soul this distasteful gospel of the grace of God. My dear brethren, do not try to make it tasteful to carnal minds.
Hide not the offense of the cross, lest you make it of none effect. The angles and corners of the gospel are its strength: to pare them off is to deprive it of power. Toning down is not the increase of strength, but the death of it.
Why, even among the sects, you must have noticed that their distinguishing points are the horns of their power; and when these are practically omitted, the sect is effete. Learn, then, that if you take Christ out of Christianity, Christianity is dead.
If you remove grace out of the gospel, the gospel is gone. If the people do not like the doctrine of grace, give them all the more of it. Whenever its enemies rail at a certain kind of gun, a wise military power will provide more of such artillery.
A great general, going in before his king, stumbled over his own sword. “I see,” said the king, “your sword is in the way.” The warrior answered, “Your majesty’s enemies have often felt the same.” That our gospel offends the King’s enemies is no regret to us.
From Charles H. Spurgeon, “Galatians 1:11 - Our Manifesto.” Preached on April 25th, 1890, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.