Archive for May 2011

Calvin as Gadfly: Those who contend with God

30 May 2011 by Frank Turk

Those who govern might therefore learn what their job is, for they are not to rule for their own interest, but the public good. They are not given limitless power, but are restricted to doing what's right for those who are governed. In short, they are responsible to exercise their authority for God's sake, and for men's sake. Because they are sworn in, as it were, by God to do His business, they will also be accountable to Him.  Then the duties and work which God wants them to do keeps people in mind, so the ruler has a responsibility to those he rules over as well. And in that way, those who are not in government but are governed also should remember that is it by God's own goodness that they are defended by those who handle the implements of war, and by governors and principals who guard them against the work of wicked men.

It is another part of the role of the governor that they ought to forcibly put down and subdue men who have no regard for the law -- those who willingly put off the law and work as if it does not apply to them -- so that they are punished in the way God says they ought to be punished. God says it specifically that those who are doing this should be well-armed -- not for show or ceremony, but because they need to strike at the evil doer, and kill him if necessary. He says they should be an avenger, one who executes God's wrath.

This is a remarkable passage because it says that, in God's view, the government has a right to bear arms. See: the Lord has equipped the magistrate with the sword, and commits him to use it for justice's sake. He may even bring death to the guilty, which is ultimately God's vengeance on the law-breaker, because this is God's command. So those who think it's wrong to bring violence against wicked men have to contend against God.

--Calvin, Commentary of Romans, 13:5-6

Catechism Buzz: Much Better

18 May 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created.

Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

So God creates Adam in the state of innocence, puts him in paradise, gives him liberty to eat from the entire garden save the Tree of Life, and provides a helper, so that he won't be alone. And man repays God, not by "continuing in the estate wherein he was created," but rather by transgressing God's command and bring destruction upon himself and his posterity.

That's history. The now is the sinful state, where the earth is the domain of darkness, and the creation itself groans and waits for redemption. Yet we who believe are in an intermediate state. We are actively setting aside the old sin nature, though our work in this life will never be complete.


Our ultimate destination, however, is not back to the garden. Paradise that it was, something greater awaits those who love God and are called according to His purpose. At the end of this life, a paradise awaits us that John the Revelator describes as heaven and earth remade, where there is no sun needed, because light is from the glory of God, and where praise is heaped upon the Father and the Son day and night.

Yes, man was created in an estate of innocency, in paradise, and no, he did not remain in that estate, but fell from it. But the second paradise, like the second Adam, is much better, and so we wait with anticipation for the day that is to come.

Potent Prooftext: Certainly to Us

17 May 2011 by David Kjos

Q. 21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A. Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God in eating the forbidden fruit; and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created.

Q. 22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.

Q. 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. —2 Corinthians 11:2–3

The catechism question has a simple answer: No, they sinned. The end. Write it down in history, for the record, Genesis 3. Next question.

But we need to pause here to consider the implications for us. Does this have relevance for the New Testament Christian, or are we, in Christ, safe from the wiles of the serpent? Paul answers in the negative. Not only are we now sinners in the line of Adam, but potential dupes in the line of Eve. And by “we,” I am talking to us, all of us, including Christians, to whom Paul addresses his concern. Paul is worried that, like Eve, we — you and I — might be taken in by sophisticated rhetoric and deceived. Our trust in the pure gospel of Jesus Christ might be compromised.

This text brings a warning to our fallen minds: You are not immune to deceit; you can be fooled. If it could happen to Adam and Eve, who were created without sin and walked with God in the cool of the day, it can happen to us. If it could happen to the Galatians, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified,” it can certainly happen to us.

The text also displays the gracious disciplining hand of God. While we are susceptible to the seductive lies of the enemy, God is faithful to protect us from ourselves — in this case, through the loving words of the Apostle. Or we might require the harsher, after-the-fact rebuke: “You foolish Galatians!” One thing is certain: whether by warning, rebuke, or chastisement (Hebrews 12:6), God will save his saints. Otherwise, we would surely fall.

Understanding this will cause us to fall to our knees, bereft of all pride and self-sufficiency, before the Lord who is righteously jealous for our love and devotion, in daily repentance and faith, with the simple and pure devotion that Christ so zealously demands.

Potent Prooftext: He Did What?

13 May 2011 by Brad Williams

"It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:12).

Once, there was a united brotherhood of angels, glorious beyond imagining. They all shined with the radiance of the omnipotent God-King, for they were all his sons, and the King loved them. The grandest of them all was Lucifer, the Bringer of Light, he was the arch-angel and chief of all his brethren. Of all the sons of God, Lucifer was the most magnificent.

But Lucifer became filled with pride, and in his foolishness, he forgot that his glory was borrowed. He shook his fist at God rebelled. In his madness, he swept many of his brothers into a prideful fury, and the heavens shook. The God-King thundered from his throne, and threw Lucifer down from heaven. He landed on Earth, a twisted an broken thing, still bent on defying the Lord of Heaven.

God also created another creature called "man". He named the first man Adam, and he gave Adam a wife named Eve. Together, they would tend the paradise that God had made for them, and they would glorify God for his mighty works. But Lucifer, that Old Serpent, told them cunning lies, and he swept the man into his rebellion against God.

Those angels that did not fall, those that remained faithful to God, heaved a collective sigh. Man, God's brilliant and glorious creation, was in ruins. Surely, God would destroy the pitiful man and his wife and utterly wipe them off the face of the Earth.

And so all of heaven held its breath as the King went to confront his man in his sin. But as they listened, they heard no thundering. They heard his judgement, which they had seen before, but this time they heard something new, and they marvelled. They heard mercy, and they heard a promise. God would give man a seed, a hope, a child who would crush the Serpent. Through this child, God would deliver man from his sins. This child would be the Son of God himself. God would become man, and he would save his beloved, rebellious creature.

And so the angels watch as God unfolds his promise to the man. Every time God delivers a man from his sin, all the angels marvel and worship God. They praise him for the mercy that their brothers will never know.

Catechism Buzz: strange judgment

11 May 2011 by Neil

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.





Angels
We
Have
Heard
on
High
We
follow
not
arrogant
fallen
cherubs
Have
not
those
desires:
Demonoid...
strange!
Heard
arrogant
desires:
God
Executed
Judgment
on
fallen
Demonoid...
Executed
Wrath
by
High
cherubs
strange!
Judgment
by
Almighty

Catechism Buzz: the greatness of their fall

10 May 2011 by Matt Gumm

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

There are a few things in the Bible which have always bothered me a bit. I might go so far as to say they struck me as unfair, at least from my finite, human perspective. One of those things is, as the Catechism puts it here, the willful and irrecoverable fall of some of the angels into sin and damnation. Frankly, I have always wondered just a bit why it is that I as a mere human have a chance to be redeemed, while these angels do not.

As my theological views have shifted, the question of fairness has drifted away from those who are punished to those who are saved. If God is just and holy, how is it that anyone is saved? And of course, God's answer is Jesus.

But my answer to my own question about angels is this: I can be thankful that, while I was God's enemy, He took steps to save me. My salvation is all the more a miracle of grace when I know that these immortal beings, created by God as His messengers, described in the Scriptures as full of knowledge and glory, made the choice to reject God, and it was irrevocable, while my own sinful choices, daily compromises and rejections of God's truth, will not permanently separate me from my Savior, when I truly repent.

Hebrews 2:16 talks about Jesus our High Priest helping the offspring of Abraham, but not angels. So when I think about them, and the greatness of their fall, it is with both sadness for their loss and thankfulness for my gain, which is the surpassing greatness of Jesus my savior.

Housekeeping

09 May 2011 by Frank Turk

To our loyal readers:

I wish that I was well-organized enough to say that today marks the "X" milestone of this little blog, but really I just had a moment to reflect on the last 4 months and the contributions of my friends here to the spillway of internet content which you could choose from. I just wanted to give a general state of the blog for everyone.


First of all, I'm proud of the guys who volunteered to be my support and content drivers for this site for three reasons: first, the content has been consistently stellar -- weighty without being egg-headed, serious without being maudlin, and human without being too far fallen. Hat's off to the guys for coming to the table with a decent dish to pass around every time.

Second, I'm grateful that they are sticking it out. Their time is valuable and their contributions are voluntary, so they have far outpaced my expectations.

Third, we are reaching places that blogs I have contributed to have rarely reached well. We have a consistent readership in Asia (both India & China), and a surprisingly-strong readership Brazil. In fact, the blog is now receiving over 5,000 readers per month, which is genuinely a strong start for a blog which is not trolling the universe with cross-posts and gratuitous link-mongering. (with due respect to the link-mongers who, let's face it, are seen as the big dogs)

So that said, this would be a good time for you, our loyal readers, to tell your friends about this blog if you're enjoying it. We're not going to run banner ads, and the only link to sell stuff is for the Calvin poster you see in the sidebar. We're not going to run a blog roll, and we're not going to ask to be linked by you unless we write something you can't find anyplace else -- like David's paraphrase of Genesis 1, or Brad's categorically-brilliant post about God's providence, or David Kjos' exceptional reflections on the proof-texts of the Catechism.

So that said, thanks for finding us, thanks for reading us, and thanks for making us feel like this work isn't entirely vain.

Catechism Buzz: Tender Plans

06 May 2011 by Brad Williams

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.


I have known providences both bitter and sweet, and I am certain that so many more unknown providences have passed me by that they could not be counted by even my active imagination. I know that God's plans for me are tender, and I know that he has ordained all my going out and coming in for my good. In this post, I will recount only one particular providence because, as John once said, if I were to write of all God's kindnesses towards me, all the books in the world would not be sufficient to contain them.



My parents were in the process of divorce while I was still in the womb. I have no memory of my parents being together. The only picture I have of all three of us was taken on the day of my college graduation. I grew up having never known what it was like to see one's parents in love, much less did I know the beauty of a Christian marriage.

Flash forward from that picture to my attending a good friend's wedding. Of all the marvelous gifts I saw there, the greatest gift I saw was his parents and hers, both godly and together, praising the Lord for their children and their future union. I prayed, "Oh God, let this be my gift to my children: that their mom and dad will still be together and in love when they marry." It was a rather bold, if not presumptuous prayer. At the time, I had neither wife, nor even a prospect of a wife, much less the prospect of children.

By God's sweet providence, God has given me both wife and children. I strive to love their mother as Christ loves the church, not only because it delights the Lord, but also because I am keenly aware of the great gift we are giving to our precious children. They do not know the value of our nightly family devotions. They do not know the sweetness of our husband and wife flirtations, and I am delighted to know that our affection for each other will only serve to gross them out as they grow into teens.

One day, I hope to toast my son and his bride to be, and I hope to give away my daughter to a good husband. And I pray, that on that day, my wife will be smiling beside me. I want my son and daughter to seek marriage for the same reason that I want them to seek Christ, and that is, in the sweetness that has been my marriage, my children will have tasted something of God, that they will have grown up close to the warm embrace of the graciousness of Christ in my marriage.

And why do I long for this so greatly? Why do I dream of it and pray for it? Because of only one bitter providence -- that picture of me and my mom and my dad.

Catechism Buzz: a God Thing

05 May 2011 by David Regier

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.


And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, "Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today." And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. [Achan said, “Hey, God’s in control” and breathed his last.]
(Joshua 7:24-25 ESV, Amplified)


And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people who carried the tribute. But he himself turned back at the idols near Gilgal and said, "I have a secret message for you, O king." And he commanded, "Silence." And all his attendants went out from his presence. And Ehud came to him as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, "I have a message from God for you." And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and [Eglon gurgled, “Wow. That was a God thing”].
(Judges 3:18-22 ESV, Amplified)


But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he [said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future!” and] fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
(Acts 5:3-5 ESV, Amplified)

Aimee had to be at work in five minutes; her first day at Charlotte Russe. The mall was packed, and tempers in the parking lot were flaring. Just as she turned into the row by the door, two cars in, an Expedition began backing out. She put on her blinker, but as the SUV pulled out, a rusty minivan was behind it with its signal on too. Aimee lifted her hands to the harried mother and motioned her to go ahead, but for the look on the lady’s face, she might as well have been the pope giving a blessing.

Aimee thought for a moment about the fish on the back of her car, and then she said to herself, “I’ll leave a little earlier tomorrow.”

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Potent Prooftext: He Watcheth Me

02 May 2011 by David Kjos

Q. 18. What are God's works of providence?
A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.

Q. 19. What is God's providence towards the angels?
A. God by his providence permitted some of the angels, willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins, to his own glory; and established the rest in holiness and happiness; employing them all, at his pleasure, in the administrations of his power, mercy, and justice.

Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.



Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. —Matthew 10:29–31

What a comfort this passage is. This surely is not the deist’s god, who watches from a distance while the world runs itself. This is the one true God: the God of the Bible; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ — our God! Our God is no passive observer. He is personally involved in the smallest, most insignificant events. Take heart! You are not alone. “His eye is on the sparrow,” and you are certainly more precious to him than any number of sparrows.

But the sparrow does fall — this cannot be overlooked. The Lord gives us no promise of earthly comfort or safety. Hard times will come. We will suffer. We will die. Like the sparrow, we will fall. But, as the sparrow flies or falls only by the will and providence of its creator, so we also live, suffer, and die in his hand. He has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20), to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19), to limit our temptations and provide our escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and to work trials for our good (James 1:2–4). He has promised, in the end, “the crown of righteousness … to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

These are God’s works of providence: to carry us through, from beginning to end, in his hand. “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”