Tag Archives: John Calvin

Our Union with Christ

 

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Rom. 6:5 ESV

Our Union with Christ is the revelation that Christ’s death was our deliverance from sin, his burial was our putting away of sin, his resurrection our triumph over sin, and his ascension the removal of our separation from God caused by sin. Through faith, The Holy Spirit creates this bond by penetrating, indwelling, immersing, and pervading our hearts.

As long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. For this reason, he is called ‘our Head’ (Eph. 4:15), and ‘the first-born among many brethren’ (Rom. 8:29).

We also, in turn, are said to be ‘engrafted into him’ (Rom. 11:17), and to ‘put on Christ’ (Gal. 3:17); for . . . all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. It is true that we obtain this by faith. Yet since we see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ that is offered through the gospel, reason itself teaches us to climb higher and to examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.i.1, ed. Ford Lewis Battles (Westminster John Knox, 1960), I. 537.

HT: Of First Importance 

Pastors Boldly Dare

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

1 Cor. 1:22-23

Preaching has fallen on hard times. Multi-media presentations, internet viral videos, smart phone apps, and movies streaming to our computers; all these media platforms engage and distract our attention. We have constant electronic stimuli ready and available for our time and entertainment. By comparison, many find preaching boring and tedious. Yet, preaching is the instrument that God has ordained to win souls, to impart grace to the faithful, and to release the Holy Spirit as encouragement to hurting hearts.

Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God . . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan’s reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God.

John Calvin, Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians, p. xii.

HT: Credo Magazine

If We Seek . . .

If We Seek , We Will Find Christ 

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [i.e., Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

Scripture reveals that our whole salvation and all its benefits are obtained in Christ. If we seek victory over sin: freedom from fleshly oppression is found in Christ. If we seek to fill our empty longing: fullness of life is found in Christ. If we seek love, a love that is enduring, gracious, and abiding: a true lasting love is found in Christ. If we seek healing in the midst of the fallout of the Fall: Christ is our balm of Gilead, the true healer of our souls. Christ is our all in all for what we seek.

If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is ‘of him.’ If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

John Calvin, Preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

HT: Between Two Worlds Blog

Reformed Catholicity

Catholic Not Roman Catholic

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

1 Tim. 3:16

Catholicity was and is a mark of both the true church and the embodiment of truthful doctrine, both catholicity and the church catholic are considered one and the same. The church catholic is not confined to a particular location, but every local church is a full expression of the entire church. The church catholic is not limited by time: it indestructibly moving through the centuries by the power of the Spirit defeating all its foes. The church catholics’ membership is comprised of those who have trusted in Christ: both those who have died in Christ and those who are currently serving Christ in this life.

Distinctive doctrines of the church catholic include apostolic succession, episcopacy, Eucharistic life, liturgical worship, Trinitarian faith, sacramental worldview, and creedal commitment. Catholicity is Spirit empowered, Christ exalting, and liturgically centered: thereby, charismatic, evangelical and sacramental.

Patristics scholar, D.H. Williams defines further, “Genuine catholicity is that which pertains to everything necessary for the justification and sanctification of the believer. It is a wholeness of faith that offers the complete counsel of God to all people in all times and places.” [D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 225.]

What would it look like to restore the Trinitarian core to Reformed Christianity? Such a Christianity would understand that the gospel itself has a Trinitarian logic: as sinners, it is not until we encounter Jesus Christ that we know that God is a gracious Father who pardons our sin; by faith, we are united to Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who forms us deeper and deeper into the image of Christ. When we come together for worship, we are not simply giving God his “due,” or acting in obedience to the divine command (though we are also doing that), we are encountering life as it really is: we are sinners who find ourselves gratuitously adopted, freely taken by God, filled with the Spirit, participating in Christ. We confess our sins, receive the nourishment of the Word and Sacrament, and go out to love God and neighbor in gratitude. In all of these, we are empowered by the Spirit to partake of Christ, to encounter a gracious, pardoning Father and simultaneously go and serve the neighbor and the stranger.

J. Todd Billings, “The Promise of Catholic Calvinism”

 

 

 

Drink From the Fountain

The Fountain Filled With Blood

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Rom. 5:7-8 NLT

I’ve been visiting the county jail a good bit recently. Reaching out to those who find themselves at the end of themselves. When in prison one thing is exposed that for all of us is true, we all have broken the law. Whether man’s law or God’s law, we are all in need of forgiveness. The message of a fountain filled with blood that when drawn cleanses us from sin is a message welcomed in the darkest dankest prison. The message of the Cross still frees the prisoner whether the prisoner is literally behind bars or suffers internal bondage from sin’s chains. We are all called to drink of the fountain of forgiveness that is the Cross and there find forgiveness abundant and free (Isa.55:1-3; 55:6-9).

We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth.

For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.19.

HT: Ray Ortlund

The Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper

Christ Present, Not Absent, at His Table

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:19-20

In Roman Catholic and Protestant discussions on the nature and meaning of the Lord’s Supper, Roman Catholic polemicists often criticize Evangelicals for dumbing down the nature of the sacraments by making them mere symbols. They lump all Protestants together as Memorialists: Christians who honor Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross by reenacting the Last Supper meal without faith that Christ is actually present. True some Protestants obey Christ’s command to practice the Lord’s Supper as an attempt to simply remember Christ’s work on the cross (Luke 22:19). These groups or denominations descend theologically from the reformed movement of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531). Zwingli adhered to a figurative understanding of the words of Jesus, “This is [signifies] my Body.”

However, the Reformed branches (i.e., John Calvin) and the Wesleyan/Arminian branches (i.e., John Wesley) of Evangelicalism believe that Christ is present in the bread and wine by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin stated that if Christ is not present then “this holy sacrament [is] frivolous and useless.”

We begin now to enter on the question so much debated, both anciently and at the present time—how we are to understand the words in which the bread is called the body of Christ, and the wine his blood. This may be disposed of without much difficulty, if we carefully observe the principle which I lately laid down, viz., that all the benefit which we should seek in the Supper is annihilated if Jesus Christ be not there given to us as the substance and foundation of all. That being fixed, we will confess, without doubt, that to deny that a true communication of Jesus Christ is presented to us in the Supper, is to render this holy sacrament frivolous and useless—an execrable blasphemy unfit to be listened to.

John Calvin, A Short Treatise on the Lord’s Supper

John Wesley preached that where Christ is present, grace is present, and where grace is present, strength to live the Christian life is present.

The grace of God given herein confirms to us the pardon of our sins, by enabling us to leave them. As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our souls by these tokens of the body and blood of Christ. This is the food of our souls: This gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection.

If, therefore, we have any regard for the plain command of Christ, if we desire the pardon of our sins, if we wish for strength to believe, to love and obey God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord’s Supper; then we must never turn our backs on the feast which our Lord has prepared for us.

John Wesley, “The Duty of Constant Communion”

HT: Euangelion

Heavenly Worship (Part One)

Lifted Up With the Ascended Christ

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Rev. 4:2

Heavenly worship occurs during the celebration of the ancient liturgy as the people of God are lifted up to heaven with the ascended Christ as they partake of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship recognizes that the line between the physical reality of earth and its three dimensions and the spiritual reality of heaven and its angelic worship will become blurred as we enter the presence of the Lamb of God , slain yet standing, on the altar of God.

The worship that we experience on earth should be an experience of the worship that is presently occurring in heaven. Not only should heavenly worship be our experience, but our models of worship should reflect those elements of worship used in heaven.

Biblical instruction directs the people of God to worship following the model and practices of heaven. Earthly worship is to mirror heavenly worship in “spirit and in truth” (Ex. 24:9-11; Isa. 6:1-5; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:9-14; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 4:1-5:14).

In order that pious souls may duly apprehend Christ in the supper, they may be raised up to heaven . . . and for the same reason it was established of old that before the consecration the people should be told in a loud voice to lift up their hearts.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36.

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Worship, for the Orthodox Church, is nothing less than “heaven on earth.” The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the liturgy is one and the same—one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the “heavenly places”; in every place of worship when the holy sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation is present, but the church universal—the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself.

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, “The Earthly Heaven,” Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed., Daniel Clendenin (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 12.

Without the Gospel . . .

Without the Gospel Everything is Useless and Vain

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

1 Cor. 15:13-14

The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has come into the world and by his life, death, burial, and resurrection has conquered our greatest enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil. This gospel calls forth a response of faith and repentance where upon we receive Christ’s righteousness and are granted right standing in the Father’s sight. Our response allows the Holy Spirit to transform our entire beings making us new creations in Christ.

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

John Calvin, preface for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s 1534 French translation of the New Testament

HT: Tony Reinke

Is the Woman Caught in Adultery Story True? (John 7:53-8:11)

Is the Story Scriptural or Not?

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

John 8:8 (NKJV)

This Sunday, the Gospel reading in the Roman Catholic Lectionary will be the famous story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” (John 8:1-11). Some scholars and a few pastors, both liberal and conservative, have questioned the veracity of this unique and beautiful story of God’s mercy and love. This blog post is my feeble attempt at defending the historical truthfulness and canonical faithfulness of this encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

You will notice in your modern translations that brackets have been placed around the text with some type of footnote. The note explains that early Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not contain this story and that this narrative when found is placed in different sections of the Gospel. The note seems to cast doubt on the reliability of “The Woman Caught in Adultery Story” causing many readers confusion.

To add to the confusion even some Bible-believing pastors have stopped preaching this famous story of testing, hypocrisy, and forgiveness. In another state, a pastor was teaching through the Gospel of John, as he worked through the text, the pastor came to the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story found in 7:53-8:11. He wrote in the church newsletter that this famous story was not reliable and should not be considered inspired of the Holy Spirit: “Why are we skipping over this passage? Simply put, because it is my suspicion, based on the evidence given by numerous textual scholars, that this story is not part of the inspired canon of Scripture.” Therefore, the pastor concluded that he would not be teaching this famous story. To say the least, the pastor’s decision caused no small stir within that congregation.

Below, I list several reasons for the continued inclusion of the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story (John 7:52-8:11) in the canon of Scripture. Consequently, the story should be understood as inspired by the Holy Spirit and worthy of being taught to the Christian faithful.

1. Church Tradition: The Church has accepted the woman caught in adultery story for two thousand years, why stop teaching the passages now? “Throughout the history of the church, it has been held that, whoever wrote it, this little story is authentic.” [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 779]. The story resonates with the spirit and attitude of the Ancient Church toward those who have fallen and need Christ’s mercy and grace.

2. Attestation: Contrary to this pastor’s newsletter article, writings during the Patristic period do refer to this story: Papias (Eusebius, HE 3.29.17), Apostolic Constitution (2.24), and Didymus the Blind. The woman caught in adultery story is not cited in the writings of the Greek fathers, but in the West, Ambrose (397), Ambrosiaster (350) and Augustine (430) refer to the pericope, or story-unit, in their sermons and commentaries. Jerome found the text in early Greek codices and thus translated the story into the Latin Vulgate (fourth century).

Also, during the fourth century, the woman caught in adultery story was accepted into the Sunday lectionary of the Greek East.

“It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”

[John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 284.]

3. Reliability: The text may not be the actual writing of the Apostle John, but the story does reflect the writing style of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Many scholars acknowledge that adultery story does not belong at the end of chapter seven, but the passages do reflect the concerns, attitude, and teaching of Jesus.

“On one hand it seems clear that the weight of evidence mitigates against the originality of the story. That is, this brief account is probably not original to the Fourth Gospel. On the other hand, the story has every suggestion of historical veracity, suggesting that it was indeed an event that occurred in the life of Jesus and was a story worthy of collection and recitation.”

[Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 238].

4. Complexity: “Although this narrative is included in the sequence of the outline, it can hardly have belonged to the original text of this Gospel. It is absent from most of the oldest copies of the Gospel that precede the sixth century and from the works of the earliest commentators. To say that it does not belong in the Gospel is not identical with rejecting it as unhistorical. Its coherence and spirit show that it was preserved from a very early time, and it accords well with the known character of Jesus. It may be accepted as historical truth; but based on the information we now have, it was probably not a part of the original text.”

[Merrill Tenney, John, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [CD-Rom] (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984).]

Even though a problem exists with the manuscript history of the story of the woman caught in adultery, that complex history is not enough to deny its truthfulness.

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the Apostle John wrote this story or an editor added it later, there is every reason to believe that the story was an actual event in the life of Jesus. No suspect doctrine is present in this text, and the story is certainly represents the manner in which Jesus dealt with Pharisees and sinners.