Tag Archives: Baptist Calvinism

Misunderstanding Calvinism? A Very Lively (and Sometimes Ugly) Facebook Exchange

Recently there was a very lively exchange on my Facebook page about Calvinism. I will reproduce the conversation for you here, removing unrelated comments:

ME: Just completed my first church meeting at my new church home! Even my Presbyterian and CHBC friends would have been impressed. I only have seen as much love in a church meeting at Reformation Alive Baptist Church.

FB Friend1: Hm-m, I’ve never seen love at a reformed church; only coldness and pride.

FBF1: But since Calvinists deny that Jesus died for most people, then I can see why I haven’t found love at a Reformed church.

FBF2: That’s interesting. I go to a Reformed church and it is one of the most loving and caring places I’ve been in. I think it’s kind of cold and prideful to judge a church based on past experiences.

ME: (FBF1), may I apologize for my cold brethren? Calvinists should be the holiest, happiest, most humble, and most grateful people in the world. A simple reading of Tit. 3:1-8 should lead any Calvinist to the greatest humility. If you are ever in DC, come experience loads of love at New Canaan Baptist Church. I have been blessed by real love at this church.

FBF1: LOL. They sure do pride themselves on their humility…and everything else. :) That’s their downfall. “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” Indeed. :)

ME: (FBF1), not “they,” but “some.” :-)

FBF1: All 5 pt. Calvinists and “all’ means “all” like Jesus being the Savior of ALL men. ;) 1 Tim. 4:10. :)

ME: (FBF1), that’s funny! But not all Calvinists are proud; not one believer is as meek as Jesus.

FBF1: Sorry, Eric, but any group of people who disagrees with God that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world are ruled by pride because they think they know better than God does.

FBF1: So stay away from the Reformed church. What they’re showing you is not real love any more than any cult shows true love even though the cult members see it as love.

ME: (FBF1), that would be pride! But I have met many, many humble and loving Calvinists. I am sorry you have met proud Calvinists.

FBF1: Eric, they are preaching a false gospel. Since they deny that Jesus died for most people, they can’t even preach repentance or salvation! And since they don’t know who Jesus DID die for then they can’t preach repentance to ANYONE without lying to most people. But that’s what heresy does; it backfires on the heretics the most. So just stick to the bible, Eric. You seem like a great guy and I don’t want to see you brainwashed. take care. :)

FBF3: (FBF1), Calvinists neither deny that Jesus is the Savior of all, nor do they deny that he is especially the Savior of all who believe (1 Tim. 4:10). Calvinists understand that everyone’s salvation depends on God’s kindness, philanthropy, mercy and grace, not on works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:3-7). This divine initiative kills our pride, so that our boast is in God alone, and we walk humbly with God and others.

ME: Thanks, (FBF1), for your loving concern for me! I am grateful. I will try not to get brainwashed. I will stay open to views and opinions of others with discernment but not rigidity. I am glad Jesus died for us. I will stay aware of the sort of Calvinist you mentioned. May the Lord grant you a chance to run into one who loves people with the love of Christ. Blessings!

FBF4: (FBF1), what ‘Calvinists’ have YOU been in contact with? What you describe is a strawman (at least in terms of theology and evangelism). I’ve been Reformed for a bit o’ 12 years now and I’ve met arrogant Calvinists, arrogant and argumentative non-Calvinists who seek out Calvinists to argue with, as well as humble folk who only seek to know and do what the scriptures say we are to do and believe.

FBF1: Let’s see, CH Spurgeon, AW Pink, John Piper, John MacArthur, and every other 5 pt. Calvinist who denies that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. I’ve already blocked hundreds of them on FB. :)

FBF1: But like all cults, Calvinists love their false teachers because their teachers are the one[s] who gave them that false gospel because the bible says the opposite. :) But actually, it’s not a “gospel” at all that they preach because the word “gospel” means good news. And it’s definitely NOT good news to claim that Jesus didn’t love most people. :)

FBF4: Yet, you have Eric, Mark Dever, Justin Taylor and others on your friends list. LOL. Have a nice night (FBF1). Methinks you’re kidding around. LOL

FBF5: (FBF1), your rant should have ended with Prof. Redmond’s 1st or 2nd Response… now you are becoming a stumbling block and offending people…. aside from the issue of doctrine.

FBF6: Wow!! Read the dialogue and still I’m taken back a few steps. 5 point Calvinism I guess you gave in on that fifth point? If that’s what I’m taking from the dialogue.

FBF7: “He who is spiritual” is the one who seeks his brother’s repentance. He who is angry has their own plank to repent of… I suppose the shock of some at Limited Atonement causes many to bristle up. However, to be unloving and to call people names and at the same time to call a whole group of people unloving, generalizing them, is inconsistent. Hatred in the heart is murder (FBF1). Smug smiley faces don’t help either. Truthfully, everyone limits the atonement except for Universalists, either in its intent or in its application. I don’t know if or where (FBF1) may have gone to seminary, but pray for her, that she would see the truth and that the love of God would bring her to love her fellow man. (FBF1), I forgive you. You obviously don’t understand what Calvinists believe.

FBF1: (FBF4), I have MANY on my friend list to witness to.:) Calvinists and other false teachers need to hear the truth from SOMEONE! So as usual, a Calvinist has made a false judgment. :)

FBF1: I’m becoming a stumbling block to false teachers, (FBF5). So far not ONE person besides me has discussed what Scripture says about what Calvinists believe because most people don’t care if they blaspheme God; they’re just out to defend themselves, not Scripture. Like the Pharisees, one of the mottos of Calvinists is; “Let’s defend ourselves, not Scripture.” :) And you guys are only confirming that. :)

FBF8: (FBF1) — sister (assuming you are a sister in Christ), this is one of the most unloving, wrongly aggressive, fight-picking series of comments I’ve ever read on FB. I would encourage you to repent of this ungodly insistence on being “right” on a matter that sincere, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed on for the last 1,60 years. I would think this is one of the very things you would accuse Calvinists of.

FBF1: Well, since it’s not a sin to correct and rebuke people who blaspheme God, (FBF8) (2 Tim. 3:16), I have nothing to repent for. :) The people who should repent are the ones who could care less about what Scripture says but only seek flattery and praise. That would be the ones on here who are angry that I exposed the heresy of Calvinism. But at least I haven’t called them snakes and a brood of vipers yet like Jesus called the Pharisees, but I probably will if I listen to them defend their blasphemy any longer. So I’ll bow out from this thread now. Good day. :)

FBF5: The thing about it was that I did not see Prof. Redmond claim the attributes you prescribed to a Calvinist, so why defend something he does not endorse. I’m not a Calvinist so I’m not speaking on it. I’m purely speaking on your approach, which isn’t helping anyone on this post. As you can see they have rejected your words; might I say it is probably because they are w/o salt.

FBF9: Its interesting that this post was about a man rejoicing in the unity that he experienced in a church meeting, which is a sign of the presence on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the comment stream is a sign that there will always be opposition even when there’s unity.

FBF1 de-friended me on Facebook immediately after the exchange.

Calvinism often takes a bad rap, and sometimes it is deserved. The theology is God-honoring, but we, the ardent supporters, sometime display that we all are sinful people when we are arguing for Calvinism’s precious truths. How grateful, therefore, I am for Kenneth Stewarts’, Ten Myths About Calvinism. (Kenneth graciously signed a copy for me while I was visiting Covenant College this past week.) Ken addresses several of the concerns that contribute to wrongful ideas about Calvinism. Earlier this year I noted how helpful is Greg Forster’s, The Joy of Calvinism, in this same vein.

I think it is important to give a fair hearing to positions we oppose by reading primarily literature by those holding the opposing view(s). If you have been wounded by a Calvinistic congregation, a self-proclaiming Calvinist, or the way in which Calvinist theology has been taught, I would encourage you to read about the richness of this tradition from its own writers. Then evaluate it on its own merits, and on whether or not your experience is reflective of what Calvinism actually teaches. Please also forgive my fellow Calvinists and me where we have erred in our treatment of you and others. I am sorry for our lack of love on some occasions.

Listed below are several other works I have found helpful for explaining Calvinism (but not Calvinists):

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

Charity and Its Fruits

For Calvinism

Whosoever He Wills

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Killing Calvinism

Here is a helpful way to whether Calvinism teaches what Scripture teaches:

1. Year 1: Read through the whole of Scripture over the course of a year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and working through a confession like the Westminster or Westminster Shorter.

2. Year 2: Follow that year by working through the whole of Scripture for another year, while also working with a solid devotional on Scripture, and work through Calvin’s Institutes (with a reading plan, and some encouragement).

3. Year 3: Take a third year to work through the whole of Scripture for another year, while working with a solid devotional on Scripture, rereading the Institutes, and working through one book of the Bible utilizing one of Calvin’s commentaries (like Psalms or Acts). I would suggest you work through a book from which your Pastor is preaching that year so that you do not feel overwhelmed by too much study.

Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, Part 6

From Tom Ascol’s blog, reprinted by permission:

Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, Part 6

[Part 1 of this series]

[Part 2 of this series]
[Part 3 of this series]
Could W.A. Criswell have signed this statement?
[Part 4 of this series]
[Part 5 of this series]

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.
Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2

I appreciate the claims of exclusivity and efficacy that are made for the atonement in this article along with its affirmation of penal substitution. I also agree with the first sentence of the denial. No one is saved without responding (to the gospel) with repentance and faith. Beyond these points of agreement, however, I find some of the language confusing and imprecise and simply disagree with authors on what actually happened on the cross.

The positive affirmation makes two claims for the penal substitution of Christ: 1) it is “the only available…sacrifice for the sins of every person” and 2) it is “the only…effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.” The exclusivity of Christ as the only Savior that anyone in the world has available is an important point to express in this day of ideological pluralism and theological inclusivism. Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5-6 plainly teach this. But the authors clearly mean to say more than this.

By coupling “effective” with “available” the article affirms that Christ has effectively provided a penal, substitutionary atonement for “the sins of every person.” In other words, this statement affirms universal atonement–that Christ actually paid for the sins of every person. The first sentence of the denial shows how the signers avoid actual universalism (the belief that everyone will be saved) because it states that the effective sacrifice (atonement) will not result in salvation “without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.” While I am glad for this rejection of universalism, I am left wondering what exactly is the nature of the atonement’s efficacy. In what sense is the penal substitution of Christ an “effective sacrifice for the sins of every person” if it does not effectively (actually) save? Would you call a mission “effective” that did not accomplish what it claimed to accomplish? I wouldn’t. I would say its effectiveness was limited by the response of the people for whom it was intended.

The debate over the extent of the atonement has a long history among evangelical Christians. The Baptist Faith and Message allows room for both the Calvinistic and Arminian view of atonement when it states in article II that “in His substitutionary death on the cross He [Jesus] made provision for the redemption of men from sin.” I have no illusions that in this forum I will convince the proponents of universal atonement that what Christ accomplished on the cross was objective, definite and intended actually to save particular sinners rather than merely make salvation possible for all sinners. What I would like to point out, however, is that everyone “limits”or particularizes the atonement in some way, unless true universalism is affirmed. Either the atoning work of Jesus is limited in its scope–that is, intended only for particular people–or it is limited in its efficacy–that is, not able to save the very people for whom it was intended.

The framers of this document have plainly declared themselves to be in the latter camp. While asserting that the death of Christ is “an effective sacrifice for every sin of every person” they go on to deny that it actually saves every sinner. They have a purportedly “effective” sacrifice that does not actually save some of the people for whom it was made. Their view of Christ’s atonement limits its power.

In John 10:11 Jesus describes himself as “the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for his sheep.” He later says to the Jews who were around him, “You do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (John 10:26). In John 6:38-39 Jesus says that He came to do the Father’s will, “and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” All that Jesus was entrusted to do–including his atoning work on the cross–was to be effectually accomplished. The question must be asked then, “Did Jesus do the Father’s will?” “Was He successful in his mission?” I believe that he was and that this is exactly what he meant when he said from the cross, “It is finished!”

Wisdom from Spurgeon on this point might be helpful. In his sermon entitled, “Particular Redemption” (#181), he made the following remarks.

All Christians hold that Christ died to redeem, but all Christians do not teach the same Redemption! We differ as to the nature of Atonement and as to the design of Redemption. For instance, the Arminian holds that Christ, when He died, did not die with an intent to save any particular person. And they teach that Christ’s death does not, in itself, secure beyond doubt the salvation of any man living. They believe that Christ died to make the salvation of all men possible, or that by the doing of something else, any  man who pleases may attain unto eternal life! Consequently, they are obliged to hold that if man’s will would not give way and voluntarily surrender to Divine Grace, then Christ’s Atonement would be worthless! They hold that there was no particularity and specialty in the death of Christ. Christ died, according to them, as much for Judas in Hell as for Peter who mounted to Heaven! They believe that for those who are consigned to eternal fire, there was as true and real a Redemption made as for those who now stand before the Throne of the Most High! Now we believe no such thing! We hold that Christ, when He died, had an objective in view and that objective will most assuredly and beyond a doubt, be accomplished! We measure the design of Christ’s death by the effect of it. If anyone asks us, “What did Christ design to do by His death?” We answer that question by asking him another—“What has Christ done, or what will Christ do by His death?” We declare that the measure of the effect of Christ’s love is the measure of the design of it! We cannot so belie our reason as to think that the intention of Almighty God could be frustrated or that the design of so great a thing as the Atonement can by any way whatever, be missed of. We hold—we are not afraid to say what we believe—that Christ came into this world with the intention of saving “a multitude which no man can number.” And we believe that as the result of this, every person for whom He died must, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be cleansed from sin and stand, washed in His blood, before the Father’s Throne. We do not believe that Christ made any effectual Atonement for those who are forever damned! We dare not think that the blood of Christ was ever shed with the intention of saving those whom God foreknew would never be saved—and some of whom were even in Hell when Christ, according to some men’s account, died to save them!…

Now, beloved, when you hear any one laughing or jeering at a limited atonement, you may tell him this. General atonement is like a great wide bridge with only half an arch; it does not go across the stream: it only professes to go half way; it does not secure the salvation of anybody. Now, I had rather put my foot upon a bridge as narrow as Hungerford, which went all the way across, than on a bridge that was as wide as the world, if it did not go all the way across the stream.

While the authors of the document do not want to be described as Arminians, and I want to honor that desire, their view of the atonement does have more in common with Arminianism (as Spurgeon illustrates) than with the understanding of the churches and leaders who founded the Southern Baptist Convention in1845.

The second sentence of the denial highlights two of the issues that are a recurring problem for me in this document: “We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will.” First, beyond the whole of “Article Eight: The Free Will of Man,” the entire document seems to be more concerned to protect the integrity of man’s free will than to defend the glory of God. In fact, one will search in vain for any reference to the glory of God in the Preamble or articles. Obviously, this does not mean that the authors and signers have no regard for the glory of God but it does suggest how out of alignment with the great emphasis of Scripture their thinking is at this point.

I cannot imagine the Apostle Paul submitting for public review his understanding of salvation while failing to emphasize, much less mention, the glory of the God who saves. A cursory reading of his symphony on salvation by grace in Ephesians 1:4-14 underscores this.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace…7 In him we have redemption through his blood…11 [and] have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory…[and we have been] 13 sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…14 to the praise of his glory” (emphasis added).

The second recurring concern that I have with the document is what seems to be a confusing of categories and imprecise language. For example, where in Scripture do we read of God ever “imposing or withholding” atonement from someone? “God put [Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood” (Romans 3:25). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). These two verses are representative of the whole New Testament’s teaching that the atoning work of Jesus on the cross is finished. It happened. It is the accomplishment of salvation.

I could possibly understand speaking of God “imposing or withholding” salvation, or even more specifically, forgiveness, from someone. Paul even entertains the prospect that God might withhold repentance from some who oppose the ministry of the gospel in the church (2 Timothy 2:25). But to use such language when speaking of the atonement is confusing. It does, however, highlight one reason that I believe theological discussion in general and regarding salvation in particular can be difficult to engage profitably. We need to have a careful definition of terms and make sure that we are reading out of the same dictionary. To the degree that we can do that with biblical, theological and historical terminology, mutual understanding will be promoted.

The Joy of Calvinism!

I am enjoying The Joy of Calvinism immensely! The book’s analysis of the complexity of God’s love is enlightening, fulfilling, and refreshing. I would highly encourage you to get a copy. From the Westminster Bookstore website:

Greg Forster on “The Joy of Calvinism” – An Interview by Justin Taylor from Crossway on Vimeo.

Publisher’s Description: The Bible’s command to “rejoice continually” seems impossible and, frankly, unreasonable. Yet despite the apparent difficulty in fulfilling this commandment, Gregory Forster argues that Calvinism holds the key–namely that “real Calvinism is all about joy.”

Forster passionately holds to this belief, and systematically demonstrates it by addressing popular misconceptions of what Calvinism is and is not. Dismantling negative expressions of Calvinist theology, Forster positively reiterates its fundamental tenents, showing how God’s love is the driving force behind every facet of Calvin’s doctrine of salvation.

Written accessibly, The Joy of Calvinism is an important addition to the conversation surrounding Calvinism and its advocates. Skeptics and those who have had negative perceptions of Calvinism, as well as Calvinists themselves, will find this a helpful resource for clearing up the controversies and grasping the winsomeness of the doctrines of grace.

An Interview with the Author:
Greg Forster on The Joy of Calvinism – An Interview by Justin Taylor fromCrossway on Vimeo.

208 Pages
Published February 2012

About the Author(s): Greg Forster (PhD, Yale University) is the author of five books and numerous print articles, and a regular contributor to First Thoughts, The Public Discourse, and Jay P. Greene’s Blog. His writing covers theology, economics, political philosophy and education policy. He is also a program director at the Kern Family Foundation and a senior fellow at the Friedman Foundation.

 

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 19 Q. 174: Sabbath, Sanctification and Rest

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 19 Q. 174: Sabbath, Sanctification and Rest

 

174. Is  this to be done only one day a week?
This is to be done continually. After we have once begun, we must continue all our life.

 

 
The Catechism continues to probe the question of spiritual rest by recognizing its role in our sanctification, not simply in our justification. In justification, we rest from attempts to work before him or merit his favor. Instead, we wholly depend on Christ for rest, for it is through him that God declares us righteous: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Mt 11:29). The ability to find salvation as rest stands on Jesus’ ministry of providing the work of salvation. In contrast, for us, “This is the work of God, that [we] believe in him whom he has sent,” (Jn 6:29).

In addition to resting in justification, we are also called to rest in our sanctification. In our continuous obedience to him and his making of us holy, we are not to think that it is our effort that achieves his holiness and blessing. It is not our faithfulness before him that sanctifies us, but the faithful work of Christ to make us faithful before him even when we are faithless and unfaithful (cf. I Thess 5:23-24; 2 Tim 2:13). In weakness and frailty of righteousness, we rely on Christ by the power of the Spirit. The only other alternative his to accomplish good and evil works in the power of our own human effort—that is, without crucifying the flesh, (see Q. 173).

However, unlike the one time act of resting in him for justification before God, the rest of sanctification continues (with no pun intended). We are to rely on the power of the Spirit continually, denying the remnants of our Adamic nature continually, doing so with holy warfare daily until we finally rest in him eternally. In this war for rest, Scripture and prayer must attend to us daily and unhurriedly, as these are the means by which the Spirit accomplishes his work in us. Scripture provides words of rest, for we hear words from a God who is true and we are thusly assured that he will keep his promises to us. Prayer – which is the means of drawing upon the Spirit, as God is pleased to respond in mercy – provides the power of rest—release from ourselves and reliance upon him alone. The rest of Scripture and the Spirit cannot await the Sabbath. For without these we tire in our nature and are too worn to be holy before him on any given day.

Calvin Catechism Addendum: The Institutes on the Sabbath

Institutes of the Christian ReligionIn association with the Catechism section on the Fourth Commandment (see previous post), I encourage the reader to consider Calvin’s Institutes, Book II.8.28-35 on the Fourth Commandment, one of the greatest sections of the Institutes. Here is a sample from the section:

 

“The purport of the commandment is, that being dead to our own affections and works, we meditate on the kingdom of God, and in order to such meditation, have recourse to the means which he has appointed. But as this commandment stands in peculiar circumstances apart from the others, the mode of exposition must be somewhat different. Early Christian writers are wont to call it typical, as containing the external observance of a day which was abolished with the other types on the advent of Christ. This is indeed true; but it leaves the half of the matter untouched. Wherefore, we must look deeper for our exposition, and attend to three cases in which it appears to me that the observance of this commandment consists. First, under the rest of the seventh days the divine Lawgiver meant to furnish the people of Israel with a type of the spiritual rest by which believers were to cease from their own works, and allow God to work in them. Secondly he meant that there should be a stated day on which they should assemble to hear the Law, and perform religious rites, or which, at least, they should specially employ in meditating on his works, and be thereby trained to piety. Thirdly, he meant that servants, and those who lived under the authority of others, should be indulged with a day of rest, and thus have some intermission from labour… Indeed, there is no commandment the observance of which the Almighty more strictly enforces. When he would intimate by the Prophets that religion was entirely subverted, he complains that his sabbaths were polluted, violated, not kept, not hallowed; as if, after it was neglected, there remained nothing in which he could be honoured. The observance of it he eulogises in the highest terms, and hence, among other divine privileges, the faithful set an extraordinary value on the revelation of the Sabbath…. All this tends to celebrate the dignity of the mystery, which is most admirably expressed by Moses and Ezekiel. Thus in Exodus: “Verily my sabbaths shall ye keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that does sanctify you…. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever,” (Ex 31: 13-17). Ezekiel is still more full, but the sum of what he says amounts to this: that the sabbath is a sign by which Israel might know that God is their sanctifier. If our sanctification consists in the mortification of our own will, the analogy between the external sign and the thing signified is most appropriate. We must rest entirely, in order that God may work in us; we must resign our own will, yield up our heart, and abandon all the lusts of the flesh. In short, we must desist from all the acts of our own mind, that God working in us, we may rest in him, as the Apostle also teaches, (Heb 3: 13; 4: 3, 9).”  (John Calvin, “Fourth Commandment,’ Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.4.28-29,  http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.ix.html, accessed June 14, 2009, emphasis added.)

Calvin Catechism: Sat June 13 Q 168 Christ the End of the Sabbath

Sat June 13 Q 168  Christ the End of the Sabbath
168. Does He thus forbid us all work one day a week?
This commandment has a particular reason, for the observance of rest is part of the ceremonies of the ancient Law, which was abolished at the coming of Jesus Christ.

 

The Fourth Commandment, seemingly, is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament (cf. Mt. 5:21; 15:4; 19:18; Mk. 10:19; Rom. 7:7; 13:9; Eph 6:2; Ja. 2:11). It may be that I Tim. 1:3-10 is an application of the Ten Commandments for contemporary “lawbreakers.” If so, the Fourth Commandment would be behind the words of the application, “for the unholy and profane” (1:9).  Otherwise, it is goes unmentioned.

One longstanding view on why it is unmentioned is that Christ fulfilled the Sabbath regulations. It must be asked, however, in what sense Christ fulfilled the Sabbath, and how it differs from his fulfillment of other commandments if in fact the other commandments are repeated in the New Testament but also fulfilled in Christ. For certainly Christ came to fulfill the Law, and in his active obedience he fulfilled all things perfectly (cf. Mt. 5:17; Jn 19:20).

The Sabbath was about giving the land rest, as well as people and beasts, for the length of Israel’s relationship with her King. It was the sign of the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 31:13, 16-17). Keeping the Sabbath signaled that the member of Israel intended to keep the law, in a relationship with the Lord. It was also the sign of a lasting covenant. That covenant was broken and replaced with the New Covenant. It remains for Israel to be judged under the Law and receive the land according to the stipulations of the law (Josh 23:4-5, 12-13; Jdg 1:19, 21, 27-35, Ezek 47:13-48:35). Yet the Sabbath promises are given to Israel in Christ through the New Covenant, which he mediates and offers to the believers and brothers who share in his inheritance (Hebrews 7-9).

The Sabbath is not repeated in the New Testament because we find rest not in the Law of works, but the grace of law of Christ. Christ fulfilled and abolished the Sabbath in his death and resurrection, so that we await a lasting Sabbath Rest upon his return.

Calvin Catechism: Fri June 12 Q 167 Six Days of Labor Commanded

hammock167. Does He order us to labour six days a week that may rest on the seventh?
Not precisely, but in allowing us to labour for six days, He excepts the seventh, on which it is not right to be engaged.

 

The intention of the Fourth Commanded comes to question as to whether it is a command with the intention of making rest a privilege or a mandate. The Catechism places emphasis on the privilege of the seventh day—that it is provided as a respite from the six days of labor. However, it would seem that the command has a background in a mandate—that the believer must rest as God rested (see Question 166).

The mandate recognizes that the six days of labor and work are pushing the believer toward the rest of the Sabbath. That is, the one who would faithfully work six days should long for rest, long for the Sabbath. No member of Israel was to miss the day provided for rest and Sabbath. The exclusive nature of the command argues for its nature as mandating the day of rest.

Yet even with the mandate, that rest could never be fully achieved. The six days would make the believer long for rest, only to have the cycle repeated weekly without a longing fulfilled perpetually. It would seem that eventually the six days of work would make one long for a rest greater than a day—a rest that could be a Sabbath without end.

Work intends to point the people of God toward rest. Neither the sluggard nor workaholic understands this. The command is given to make us long for a rest on a Sabbath that only God can provide when his people have ceased from their labors as he has from his. It would therefore not be right to be engaged in work when one should be resting in the rest-Sabbath God provides. He mandates that we enjoy his rest by ceasing from our labors. The grace of the six days is that it reminds us that in both rat-race and law, our work is done, for it is Christ who provides us with rest.

Calvin Catechism: Fri May 14 Q 139 The Priority of the First Commandment

Fri May 14 Q 139 The Priority of the First Commandment

139. Why does He mention this at the beginning of His law?
To remind us how much we are bound to obey His good pleasure, and what gratitude it should be on our part if we do the contrary.

 

After leaving the application of the typology of the Exodus deliverance to the church – and that with reference to the necessity of our obedience to the Exodus Deliverer – the Catechism turns to the order of the commandments. In particular, it seeks to draw out the significance of the placing first in order both the identity of the Deliverer and the priority of the deliverer in the law of the lives of God’s people. As common in the earlier English understanding of the structuring of the commandments, the identity of the Lord as Deliverer is considered to be part of the first commandment.

The Catechism is right to wed the two ideas of identity and priority together, and also to recognize their placing in the Decalogue. For the priority – you shall have no other gods before Me – is based on the work of the Deliverer. The one providential over all is the same who redeemed his people from bondage and is leading them to a place of promise. He is sovereign, merciful and faithful toward his people, freeing them from a bondage of which they could not free themselves, and taking them to a place of pleasure of which they have never seen nor could imagine, nor are able to obtain on their own (cf. Dt. 6:10-11). To worship another god rather than this God would be wrong in light of his salvation and possession of them, and his promises to them. To worship another god also would have been detrimental to Israel, for they would move away from a relationship with sovereign, redeeming, merciful and faithful god, replacing him with gods who are not gods and attempting to live life without the backing of the power and love of the covenant-keeping God.

Moreover, all of the other commandments flow from the first. Israel could not live in peace, obtain the promises, or have the orderly structuring of the ceremonial, cultic, familial, or civil aspects of their society without the proper worship of their Savior. Without God above all, and thus an awareness of accountability to him, there would be no fear of taking his name in vain, no concern for keeping the personal and land Sabbaths, no need to honor father and mother, and no warrant for protecting the life, property, marriage, or  testimony of their brother or alien. The worshipper could then seek earthly pleasure in the amoral freedoms offered under the systems of the idols of the nations. Again, however, this would be to the detriment of individual and community: There would be no hope of rest, no harmony in their homes, no regard for life, ownership or truth, and no protection from vigilante justice or savagery. When God is removed from first place, a situation is produced in which society gravitates toward the survival of the fittest and the rise of “superman” (übermensch).

We are bound to obey the Lord’s good pleasure. If not, we do so to our own peril. We should make it our aim to have no gods before our Redeemer, who elected us from eternity past and purchased us at the Cross by his blood. The first commandment establishes him in first place. He alone must be our priority, for he alone is our good and our God.

Calvin Catechism: Fri May 1 Q 123: Means of Acceptable Works

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Fri May 1 Q 123: Means of Acceptable Works
123. By what means, the, are they made acceptable?
It is by faith. That is to say, that a person is assured in his conscience that God will not examine him harshly, but covering his defects and impurities by the purity of Jesus Christ, He will regard him as perfect.

 
When I was a teenager, my father allowed me to earn money for free spending by washing his car. It was a simple task, but one I could not ever seem to complete perfectly, (and the same could be said for cutting the lawn). For after I finished my washing, my father would come to inspect the car and find spots that I had not cleaned well, or sometimes, not at all (i.e., between the bottom of the front fender and the front door). The problem was not that my dad was a stickler, but that I was not a professional car detailer! Dad was trying to encourage me to be faithful. However, in the Lord’s grace, I also came to understand the need for humility in thinking a job was done perfectly.

Each believer needs humility about his own works, always saying, “not I, but grace” (I Cor 15:10; cf. Rom. 7:25; 12:6; 15:15; I Cor 3:10; 2 Tim 2:1). The catechism is correct to remind us that our assurance of the acceptability of our works before God – works wrought by the power of the Spirit, no less! – rests in the Father’s acceptance of Christ and his perfect, sinless, fully obedient work alone (Jn 8:29; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:20-21). We have this assurance by faith (cf. Gal 5:6). Never will our works be perfect in the sight of God. Even attempts to use “perfect” to describe exceptional athletic play or a sermon derived from a very meticulous and sound exegesis of a text of Scripture are out of place. For the “perfect” game might be riddled with mistakes only visible to the coach’s eye and player’s mind; the “perfect’ sermon might come with pride from the preacher – unseen to the preacher and the audience – about his own exegetical or theological skill, and/or a misapplication of the correct concept behind the tense or aspect of a Greek verb that is noticed only years later. There are no perfect dates, perfect school choices, or perfect meals; neither is there any perfect leading of worship services, perfect ministry to a widow in need, or perfect counseling sessions. All of our works are tainted with sin, inadequacy, pride, and meaninglessness (cf. Eccl 1:2-3). They might be complete, but never are they righteous. Only Christ alone acted in perfection before the Father and is accepted as such. We are accepted in him (2 Cor 5:21; Eph 2:10).

The good thing about my dad is that after he would go back and wipe over a spot I had missed, he would still pay me for my incomplete job now made complete by him. I am grateful our Heavenly Father will do even greater for sinners on the basis of Christ’s blood and his sin-washing work on the Cross.

 

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Calvin Catechism: Fri Apr 24: No Merit at All

failing-grade

Fri Apr 24 Q 116: No Merit at All

 


116. But are all our works so reprobate that they cannot merit grace before God?
First, all that we do of ourselves, by our own nature, is vicious, and therefore cannot please God. He condemns them all.

 

I have yet to meet the person who is glad and eager to be told how bad he is of himself. It is our very badness that causes us to reject wanting to be told the true nature of our badness—which itself reveals the true nature of our badness, our evil, our reprobation. “No one who does good,” (Rom 3:12). We are so evil inherently that we cannot see how bad we are and do not wish to be told how bad we are. All that we do is vicious, extremely evil, for it comes from people who have evil hearts. Visibly we might do works that are good on a comparative scale of human measurement; some of our works might be compassionate toward those in need. However, before God, our works are the works of evil people. Our works cannot please God.

 

Grace, by nature, removes the need for merit. While some theological systems offer an oxymoronic “meritorious grace,” such a concept of grace differs vastly from the biblical concept of favor that comes as a gift that also enables us to do his will. It is that sort of grace that comes through Christ – because the Father honors his work on the Cross – which we need. For any so-called works of merit would still be classified as “vicious works of merit” or “works of vicious merit.” Works of that type do not merit grace; they need simply for grace to be grace. For whether they are works or meritorious works, they earn nothing before God when they come from creatures that are vicious by nature, for God condemns them and finds no merit in them at all.