3.30.2010

PERKINS ON THE NECESSITY OF THE LAW AND GOSPEL DISTINCTION

William Perkins (1558-1602) believed that if one confuses or rejects the distinction between the law and the gospel, it will be to the most certain ruin of the gospel. Perkins didn't just believe this, he actually saw it happen, with Rome. As they say, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.....

Here is Perkins on Galatians 3:12,

When Paul says, the law is not of faith, he sets down the main difference between the law and the gospel.  The law promises life to him that performs perfect obedience, and that for his works.  The gospel promises life to him who does nothing in the cause of his salvation, but only believes in Christ; and it promises salvation to him that believes, yet not for his faith or for any work else, but for the merit of Christ.  The law then requires doing to salvation, and the gospel believing, and nothing else.

Objection 1:  The Gospel requires repentance, and the practice of it.  Answer:  Indeed the law does not teach true repentance; neither is it any cause of it, but only an occasion.  The gospel only prescribes repentance, and the practice thereof--yet only as it is a fruit of our faith, and as it is the way to salvation in which we are to walk, and no otherwise.

Objection 2: The law requires and commands faith.  Answer: The law requires faith in God, which is to put our affiance in him.  But the gospel requires faith in Christ the Mediator, God-man, and this faith the law never knew.

Objection 3: In the gospel, there are promises of life, upon the condition of our obedience.  Romans 8:13, "If by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live"; 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them."  Answer: The promises of the gospel are not made to the work, but to the worker; and to the worker not for his work, but for Christ's sake, according to the work.  As for example, promise of life is made not to the work of mortification, but to him that mortifies his flesh, and that not for his mortification, but because he is in Christ, and his mortification is the token evidence thereof.  And therefore it must be remembered that all the promises of the gospel that mention works, include in them reconciliation with God in Christ.

Objection 4: Faith is a virtue, and to believe is a work; therefore one work is commanded in the gospel, and is also necessary to salvation.  Answer:  The gospel considers not faith as a virtue or work but as an instrument or hand to apprehend Christ.  For faith does not cause, effect, or procure our justification and salvation, but as the beggars hand, it receives them, being wholly wrought and given of God.

This distinction between the law and the gospel must be observed carefully.  For by it we see that the church of Rome has erroneously confounded the law and the gospel for these many hundred years.  The law of Moses (say they) written in tables of stone, is the law; the same law of Moses, written in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, is the Gospel. But I say again, that the law written in our hearts is still the law of Moses. And this oversight in mistaking the distinction of the law and the gospel, is and has been the ruin of the gospel...believing and doing are opposed in the article of our justification (William Perkins, The Workes: Galatians Vol. II (John Legatt: London, 1635) 236-7). 


See this related post on Perkins' important distinction

3.29.2010

ORDO SALUTIS & The Messianic Entrance Upon a DONKEY--Just what is this?

How is Someone Saved?  A Brief Lecture on the Order of Salvation





For years I heard it explained that Christ came riding on a donkey into Jerusalem to demonstrate his humility. This is certainly true, but I always wondered if there was something more to this?  I never felt like I was getting a good explanation of why he chose to ride on a donkey.  Was it just humility?  Did it demonstrate kingship?  Was it merely a signal of a new day dawning when he would speak peace to nations?  Was it merely done to provide a contrast between the first and second comings?  Zechariah 9 certainly becomes a crucial text in this connection, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey."  


But just what does this mean that he is "just" and having salvation...riding on a donkey"? I believe there is something much more happening here than what has traditionally been assumed. If we compare carefully Genesis 22, we find that Abraham took “two men”, saddled up his donkey, and rode with his son Isaac to Mount Moriah–the very place where the temple would later be built. The donkey and the two men are then left behind as Isaac is taken to the Mount and placed on the altar.  Abraham's firstborn son Isaac is mercifully spared due to the substitution of the sacrificial ram. Something similar occurs again when Moses rode into Egypt setting his sons on a donkey and riding to the place of the execution of the firstborn while Israel is spared by the blood of the Passover lamb. Both accounts foreshadowed Christ's substitutionary atonement for us, and the donkey was the means of transport.


Now all of this comports with Exodus 13 in the law of the firstborn in the close identification of donkeys and firstborn male sons. The firstborn clean animals could not be redeemed, but a specific unclean animal is mentioned that could be redeemed, namely, a donkey. In the very next breath, the Lord says that along with the donkey, their firstborn sons could also be redeemed. With what? A lamb without spot. This was designed to teach Israel that their righteousness was like that of an unclean donkey (unclean garments), and that they needed redemption. 


In Mark 11, Jesus sends "two disciples" to unleash this donkey. The donkey is said to be unbacked and young, as John records, most likely indicating that it was a redeemed donkey according to the law of the firstborn. The disciples then cast their garments “upon” the donkey to illustrate exactly what Exodus 13 taught in the law of the firstborn, namely, that they as sinners identify with the uncleanness of the donkey, and are in need of redemption by a lamb with out spot. Christ is then “set” on this donkey (see Matthew and Luke), a graphic presentation of the true Lamb of God presented who takes away the sin of the world. Christ then rides as the pure Lamb, the only begotten son of God, with the goal of ascending the temple mount (keep in mind as he enters Jerusalem, Josephus records there were 256, 500 lambs brought in for the Passover celebration).  


The crowds before and behind him sing Psalm 118, the Egyptian Hallel, celebrating God's deliverance of the Jews from Egypt with the blood of the lamb.  Here Christ is being presented before God as the worthy Lamb who with clean hands and a pure heart is able to ascend Zion's Holy Hill for sinners (Ps 24).  Christ then enters the temple “alone” and looks around; soon he will be sacrificed and fulfill everything that temple represented. Through the blood of the Lamb, those who look to him for new garments, renouncing their own garments as pictured in Mark 11, these will be given access to the Most Holy Place through the pure Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Therefore, what we call the triumphal entry is really a grand sort of parable of the salvation of Christ meriting for sinners all that they need to have access into the Holy Place.


These are just some Monday thoughts after preaching Mark 11. I always felt something crucial was missing in the traditional explanation of the donkey, it never went far enough in explaining just what it means that Christ is riding on a donkey having salvation.   CJG

3.25.2010

CHRIST-CENTERED CHRISTIANITY Conference--FREE AUDIO Lectures by Dr. W Robert Godfrey

As promised, here are FREE MP3 lectures from our 2009 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference on Christ-Centered Christianity in an Age of Spiritual Chaos featuring Dr. W Robert Godfrey of Westminster Seminary California.  The conference lectures by Dr. Godfrey are truly worth your time, and they are free!

Right click and then click 'save as' to download to your preferred file.
Christ At the Center of the Church--Dr W Robert Godfrey
Christ At the Center of Worship--Dr. W Robert Godfrey
Christ At the Center of Preaching--Rev. Christopher J Gordon
Christ At the Center of Salvation--Dr. W Robert Godfrey

WESTMINSTER WEEKEND on ABOUNDING GRACE RADIO

Beginning Friday April 2, 2010 we launch Westminster Weekend on Abounding Grace Radio.  We have the privilege of airing discussions of the faculty of Westminster Seminary California.  You can listen to the programs prerecorded or go to the KARI550 AM website and listen on Friday mornings at 8:30 AM--commute time!

Here is the intro program featuring Dr. R.Scott Clark, but beginning on Friday April 9, 2010, the format will change slightly as we hear from many of the faculty members of Westminster Seminary California.

Friday April 2, 2010WestminsterWeekend 

3.24.2010

RAIDERS of the Lost MARK--Discipline ABOUNDING GRACE RADIO

UPDATES:  Check out our new Intros by our very own Michael S Smith.  Also, we have a new program airing on Fridays called Westminster Weekend with the faculty of Westminster Seminary CA featuring RS Clark.  Be sure to listen as these will be posted weekly.
Listen Live 8:30 AM M-F 550 AM WORD RADIO

Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts March 29-April 2, 2010

Monday March 29, 20101 Cor 5 The KEYS of the KINGDOM
Tuesday March 30, 20101 Cor 5 The KEYS of the KINGDOM
Wednesday March 31, 20101 Cor 5 The KEYS of the KINGDOM
Thursday April 1, 20101 Cor 5 The KEYS of the KINGDOM
Friday April 2, 2010

3.16.2010

Abounding Grace Radio

Later this week I will be posting all of the lectures from our Christ at the Center of Preaching Conference with Dr. W Robert Godfrey. Here is a section of my lecture that I aired on Abounding Grace Radio this week.

Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts March 15-19, 2010
Monday March 15, 2010Christ at Center of Preaching-Conference Lecture
Tuesday March 16, 2010Christ at Center of Preaching-Conference Lecture
Wednesday March 17, 2010Christ at Center of Preaching-Conference Lecture
Thursday March 18, 2010Christ at Center of Preaching-Conference Lecture
Friday March 19, 2010Christ at Center of Preaching-Conference Lecture

3.13.2010

FRASER VALLEY REFORMED CONFERENCE on EVANGELISM


I will be speaking at the Fraser Valley conference on April 8-9, 2010.  If you are in the area, you are invited to attend.

The evangelism committees of the Canadian Reformed Churches in the Fraser Valley are hosting an Evangelism Conference, featuring Pastor Christopher Gordon of the Lynden United Reformed Church.  


Pastor Gordon will be speaking on the evening of Thursday, April 8th on the topic: "Why Proclaim His Name?" and on the evening of Friday April 9th on the topic: "How to Proclaim His Name!".

The Thursday evening speech will be at the Langley Canadian Reformed Church.
21804 52nd Avenue, Langley, B.C--7:30 PM

The Friday evening speech will be at the Abbotsford Canadian Reformed Church.
33947 King Road, Abbotsford, B.C.--7:30 PM

3.10.2010

WORSHIP, SERMON & MARKETING: Going Off-Roading with God--CRITIQUE #2

Please see Part 1 & Part 2--& what is legalism.

Worship & Sermon:

As stated before, this review should not be viewed as an attack on NCCTK per se, but as a critique of what has become an accepted model (Saddleback) of worship that thousands of churches are trying to implement on some level in their own communities.  I care very much for my brothers and sisters in the community and sincerely want us all to honor the Lord's commands.  So I trust people will appreciate a sincere attempt to be a Berean (Acts 17). No matter what church body we are a part of, every member has a responsibility to evaluate whether practices and beliefs are in accord with the Word of God.


In the last review, we looked at how music is often used to manipulate people’s emotions. The wrong assumption is being made that real uplifting worship elevates us to God first through music, instead of God graciously condescending to us in Word and Sacrament.  We saw that music is not a means of grace; it is a means of our response to the grace given in God’s nearness to us in the Word spoken. 

The sermon series that night was Going Off Roading With God: Satisfaction Guaranteed. As stated, there was a lot of reference to the people of Haiti in the service due to the recent earthquake.  The concerns were legitimate. But how do you think the people in Haiti would connect if the same service and props were set up in Haiti--a Suzuki Samurai 4X4, bright lights, cool camping equipment, an espresso bar, et al?  Any Hatian who is at all discerning is going to see the disconnect between these props and their own experience in living under the curse in a fallen world.  There is just too much rubble that we cannot “off-road” over in our 4wds. These practices are just too American, suburban, narcissistic, and  masking of the “rubble” that fills our own hearts.  And herein lies the problem. 

Two Faulty Premises:

There are two very serious errors here that were evident throughout the service, especially in the message itself—a wrong view of God and a wrong view of man.  The first error, a wrong view of God, was a denial of the Creator/creature distinction.  In this denial, God's revelation of himself in his distinctness from his creatures is rejected as he is refashioned into those things that make us feel comfortable about him.  Simply stated, if God created us his image, we have returned the favor and created him back into a fallen image that we feel comfortable with. 

John Calvin once lamented the problem of people corrupting the knowledge of the true God by refusing to submit to a proper fear and reverence of him.  He writes, “for them wish nothing to be lawful for God beyond what their own reason prescribes for themselves.” J Gresham Machen stated the problem this way:

But the liberal conception of God differs even more fundamentally from the Christian view than in the different circle of ideas connected with the terminology of fatherhood. The truth is that liberalism has lost sight of the very center and core of the Christian teaching. In the Christian view of God as set forth in the Bible, there are many elements. But one attribute of God is absolutely fundamental in the Bible; one attribute is absolutely necessary in order to render intelligible all the rest. That attribute is the awful transcendence of God. From beginning to end the Bible is concerned to set forth the awful gulf that separates the creature from the Creator.


Well, what do you think makes sinners feel uncomfortable about a pure Spirit who is infinitely perfect?  It’s not hard to discern. Any attribute that speaks of his transcendence—his justice, his holiness, his righteousness—will be viewed as something of an affront to a lifestyle driven by narcissism. 

Using Machen’s phrase, how do you think a conception of going off-roading with God comports to his “awful transcendence”? How does it fit the principle of true worship: “By those who come near me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified (Lev 10:3)?” Nothing about the service gave us any sense of God’s transcendence.  There was an imaginary casual conversation with God who was presented as if he were one of us.  People were obviously prompted to dress down, enjoy the videos, and frequent the espresso stand. Putting this all together, it doesn’t take much to discern what is happening today; people are running.  People are escaping from the way God has revealed himself in his Word, in order to find a God that meets their own felt needs in a non-threatening way.  

If you take the subtitle of the sermon, Satisfaction Guaranteed, what is the assumption being made here?  The basic assumption here is that if you try out God, he will work for you.  Now I am used to this “guarantee” language when I buy a product at the grocery store and expect that the money I have invested in the product will earn me some positive result in my life. For instance, the other day I saw this very claim advertised on a teeth whitening product, satisfaction guaranteed.  I was interested because prolonged coffee drinking has darkened my teeth.  So the first thing I did was check the price.  That stuff is expensive.  If they really want to sell me the product, the prices have to be slashed; I’m looking for the Safeway card discount.  Further, I expect it to work for what I have determined is my need. As a consumer, I reign sovereign over my need and my purchase.

Now since this marketing strategy is so common in the church, we should ask what happens when God himself is marketed this way?  What are the consequences of this?  And what does this presume is my greatest need?  Think about the suggestion: If you go off-roading with God, we guarantee satisfaction. How do you guarantee satisfaction? As the marketer, you have to please the customer. And if God and his church are being marketed like a product, you have to sell both. As stated above, you cannot identify them with any of those things that the consumer might find offensive or unattractive; both have to packaged for their use—because, well, that is how products sell.

So what happens? If the customer is sovereign over what he is “buying” with regard to God  he certainly will not select a view of God that emphasizes His justice, holiness, or righteousness.  The attribute(s) that is most pleasing to the customer will drown out all the rest, and in today’s church market, it is the single attribute of love by which God is defined to the demise of all the rest, especially his justice.  

Further, if the customer is sovereign over what he is “buying” when it comes to the church, anything formal, serious, structured, churchy, are things viewed as hindrances to the perception of God that has already been created.  In other words, if God has been made only into a God of love, you cannot have practices that conform to any of those attributes of God that you dislike—this would create a perceived inconsistency between what you are trying to sell and what your product looks like.  So what goes? Humility, formality, seriousness, reverence, awe, fear, trembling, even formal dress, are all viewed as hindrances to the way you have refashioned God in your imagination.  And now, since God has been refashioned this way, certain practices once appropriate to a proper view of God in viewing all his perfections as simultaneously true of him, do not correspond to what the marketer is marketing to the people. The practices out of accord with your redefined view of God have to be shed at all costs to keep your market.

Therefore, if God has been marketed only with those attributes that are non-offensive to us, we have to rid ourselves of all the other practices that conform to those very attributes of him that we dislike. In this scenario, it’s no wonder worship services are turned into a theater—it corresponds to the God we have created in our own imagination.

So where does this lead us?  If you have ridded God of those attributes that you dislike, what happens to your view of what you need and who you are?  To be certain, we will never be in pursuit of the gospel. Why? Because the only way the Christian gospel has any real meaning is when there is a proper appreciation for God’s holiness and justice.  The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and, therefore, are under his just wrath (Rom. 3:23). The only way anyone escapes the wrath to come is by faith alone in Christ, whose righteousness is freely imputed to all who heartily trust in him for salvation.  But it is only when we are properly confronted with our misery in the face of God’s justice that we are prepared to submit ourselves to what he says is our greatest need. 

Now if we are treated as the consumers, refashioning God into our image, what then becomes of our need?  If things aren’t all that bad suggesting that our major problems are just the "road-bumps" of life, the extent of the solution becomes just some practical applications to help us stay on the path.  This is exactly what happened in the sermon.  We were given three “off-roading observations” calling us to stay focused in life. Abraham made some bad decisions along the way, he is an example for us, and we should learn from this as we check our attitudes so that we don’t get too far off the path of life.  

Do you see what has happened? There is no “life-giving” power in this because Christ as a savior from sin is absent.  As Michael Horton has stated, “the cure is only as radical as the disease."  If our greatest problem is just getting derailed from life's path, all we need is a new moral compass.  But this does not reconcile needy sinners to God.  I heard nothing of Christ and him crucified in the message, and yet this message is God's expressed chosen power to save. The apostle was clear about this to the Corinthians when he said “that his speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that their faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  Couldn’t we paraphrase this by saying, when I came to you I did not use Suzuki 4wds, love videos, espresso bars, dramas, bands, liturgical dances, et al; and I did not use these things purposely so that your faith should not be in the marketing of men, but in the power of God? 

It is God who identifies for us in his Word who he is, who we are, and what we need.  God is not product to be used, nor is his gospel.  No one has ever been manipulated into the kingdom by gimmicks. As David Wells states, “the gospel calls us not to use it but submit to the God of the universe through his son…when we accept Christ he is not there for our use but we are there for his service.” It's tragic to state that we are in desperate need of going back to the basics, understanding and submitting to what God has revealed of himself, and of us. As Hosea lamented in his day, "My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6)." Whose people? It’s my prayer that all Christians today would appeal to the Lord's mercies and remember what he prayed: And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  

More on how this occurs in the next post, thoughts...?