Pastor's Blog

How Did the Son of God Uphold the Universe by the Word of His Power Even as a Babe in the Manger?

Posted under: Doctrine,Scripture — by Richard Hensley

This is a thought provoking post on the natures of Christ.  Let your mind try to grasp the picture of an infant in a manger, sovereignly upholding the universe by His Word (Heb 1:1-3).  Or, consider Christ as Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Immutable diety dying on a Cross.  How do we make sense of these things.  Perhaps this will challenge your categories of thought a little bit.

Posted By Justin Taylor On October 9, 2012 @ 11:56 am In Uncategorized | No Comments

If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and if “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) such that “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)—then how was this happening when he was crying in a manger, or when he was a toddler and didn’t know how to read or write?

First, we have to remember that when the Son of God was incarnate, his divine attributes—immutability, immensity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence—were not given up or diminished (even if they were veiled). The incarnation involves addition or multiplication, not subtraction or division.

But if this is the case, then his divine nature could not be limited to his human body.

The opposite, though is not true. As William G. T. Shedd explain, “The divine nature of Christ is present with his human nature wherever the latter may be, though his human nature is not, as the Lutheran contends, present with is divine nature wherever the latter may be” (Dogmatic Theology, 3d ed. [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003], 656).

In critiquing Calvin’s understanding of this, that the Son’s divine nature also exists outside of [Latin, extra] his body, Lutherans labeled this view the extra Calvinisticum. But the doctrine was hardly a Calvinist invention. In fact, it could also be called the extra Patristicum or extra-Catholicum, as it was the standard teaching of the church throughout the century. (For a book-length study of this doctrine, including analysis of quotes from the early church on, see E. David Willis, Calvin’s Catholic Christology: The Function of the So-called extra Calvinisticum in Calvin’s Theology (Leiden: Brill, 1966).

Here are some quotes from Calvin, building on Chalcedonian Christology and the fathers.

Calvin, Institutes II.13.4:

They thrust upon us as something absurd the fact that if the Word of God became flesh, then he was confined within the narrow prison of an earthly body. This is mere impudence! For even if the Word in his immeasurable essence united with the nature of man into one person, we do not imagine that he was confined therein. Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world as he had done from the beginning!

Institutes II.13.4.

But some are carried away with such contentiousness as to say that because of the natures joined in Christ, wherever Christ’s divinity is, there also is his flesh, which cannot be separated from it. . . .

But from Scripture we plainly infer that the one person of Christ so consists of two natures that each nevertheless retains unimpaired its own distinctive character. . . . Surely, when the Lord of glory is said to be crucified [1 Cor. 2:8], Paul does not mean that he suffered anything in his divinity, but he says this because the same Christ, who was cast down and despised, and suffered in the flesh, was God and Lord of glory. In this way he was also Son of man in heaven [John 3:13], for the very same Christ, who, according to the flesh, dwelt as Son of man on earth, was God in heaven. In this manner, he is said to have descended to that place according to his divinity, not because divinity left heaven to hide itself in the prison house of the body, but because even though it filled all things, still in Christ’s very humanity it dwelt bodily [Col. 2:9], that is, by nature, and in a certain ineffable way. There is a commonplace distinction of the schools to which I am not ashamed to refer: although the whole Christ is everywhere, still the whole of that which is in him is not everywhere. And would that the Schoolmen themselves had honestly weighed the force of this statement. For thus would the absurd fiction of Christ’s carnal presence have been obviated.

And here are a couple of quotes from the fathers.

Augustine, Letter to Volusian (137), 22-23.

And we think that something impossible to believe is told to us about the omnipotence of God, when we are told that the Word of God, by whom all things were made, took flesh from a virgin and appeared to mortal senses without destroying His immortality or infringing His eternity, or diminishing His power, or neglecting the government of the world, or leaving the bosom of the Father, where He is intimately with Him and in Him.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word:

For he was not, as might be imagined, circumscribed in the body, nor, while present in the body, was he absent elsewhere; nor, while he moved the body, was the universe left void of his working and providence; but, thing most marvelous, Word as he was, so far from being contained by anything, he rather contained all things himself; and just as while present in the whole of creation, he is at once distinct in being from the universe, and present in all things by his own power—giving order to all things, and over all and in all revealing his own providence, and giving life to each thing and all things, including the whole without being included, but being in his own Father alone wholly and in every respect—thus, even while present in a human body and himself quickening it, he was, without inconsistency, quickening the universe as well, and was in every process of nature, and was outside the whole, and while known from the body by his works, he was none the less manifest from the working of the universe as well.

For a helpful discussion in Paul Helm’s chapter “The Extra” in John Calvin’s Ideas [1] (New York / Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 58ff.

There is much mystery here—not a puzzle to solve, but a reality to worship!

 

Excellent Message on Church Membership

Posted under: Christian Living,Doctrine,Scripture,The Church,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

I am very please to recommend an audio presentation by Jonathan Leeman from Capitol Hill Baptist Church and Nine Marks Ministry.  It is the most concise, meaty, clear presentations on the importance of church membership that I have ever heard.  Jonathan Leeman has written two books on church membership, that are the source of this great message.  The first is The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love.  The second is a shorter version of the book entitled:  Church Membership,  To listen to the concise audio presentation on Church Membership by the author himself, click here.

 

Biblical Courtship, Pt. 4

Posted under: Christian Living,Courtship,Marriage,Scripture — by Richard Hensley

The Role of Parents in the Process of Preparation for Marriage

The Bible has ordained parents, especially fathers, to protect and guide their sons and daughters (especially daughters) in preparing for marriage.  Rejecting this means of protection is perilous.

Consider Numbers 30:3-16:

3 “If a woman vows a vow to the LORD and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears of her vow and of her pledge by which she has bound herself and says nothing to her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. 5 But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the LORD will forgive her, because her father opposed her. 6 “If she marries a husband, while under her vows or any thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself, 7 and her husband hears of it and says nothing to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her pledges by which she has bound herself shall stand. 8 But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the LORD will forgive her. 9 (But any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself, shall stand against her.) 10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house or bound herself by a pledge with an oath, 11 and her husband heard of it and said nothing to her and did not oppose her, then all her vows shall stand, and every pledge by which she bound herself shall stand. 12 But if her husband makes them null and void on the day that he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning her pledge of herself shall not stand. Her husband has made them void, and the LORD will forgive her. 13 Any vow and any binding oath to afflict herself, her husband may establish, or her husband may make void. 14 But if her husband says nothing to her from day to day, then he establishes all her vows or all her pledges that are upon her. He has established them, because he said nothing to her on the day that he heard of them. 15 But if he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear her iniquity.” 16 These are the statutes that the LORD commanded Moses about a man and his wife and about a father and his daughter while she is in her youth within her father’s house.

Notice very carefully who the vow is to…the Lord (v.3).  Notice the authority of the father to nullify the vow.  This is not a matter of authoritarianism, but godly protection.  If the father can nullify a vow to the Lord, how much more a vow to a potential suitor.  Voddie Baucham gives a good example of this kind of protection: A young woman commits to the mission field in a particular country at 15 years old.  The father nullifies the vow, saying, “The Lord will guide you when the time is right.”  Because he knows that she might meet a young man preparing for the mission field in a different country. In another example, a woman vows to remain single and the father responds, “Well, I don’t see that gift in you at this point.  Let’s not make that vow.”

Notice also, that it appears that there is no intermediate authority between father and husband in the young woman’s life.  However, both a widow and a divorced woman are accountable for their own vows (v.9).  This is because they were under the authority of their husbands before the death, or divorce, respectively.

Consider Deuteronomy 22:13-21

13 “If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14 and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15 then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16 And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17 and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him, 19 and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

What is the father responsible for?  He is responsible to produce the linens from the wedding night to prove his daughter’s purity.  Why is the daughter stoned at the father’s door?  This shows culpability on the part of the father.  It also shows the ultimate responsibility of the daughter.  But some will challenge that these are laws that we are no longer accountable to.  It is true, we cannot apply these laws, for then we would have to apply others as well.  However, are there any principles that we can learn from here that we see replicated in the NT, or at the very least lend toward wisdom and prudence?  Here are some universal principles:

1)      God is concerned about purity to the utmost!  Therefore, so should we also (1 Cor 6:18-20; 1 Thess 4:3-7).

2)      God has ordained parental authority and involvement (Eph 6:1-4; Luke 20:34-35)

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:1-4)

3)      At the very least, parental involvement is clearly commended as biblical wisdom…especially in the most important decision of one’s life (Prov 1:8-9; 4:1-4; 5:1-2; 6:20; 30:17).

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.    Prov 1:8-9

a)      Surely the sanctity of marriage and the potential for both good and harm, should cause us to seek every manner of wisdom, counsel, and accountability.

 We will look at more examples of the role of parents in the process of courtship and preparation for marriage next time.  At the very least, we have learned that the modern practice of involving parents in wedding plans and preparations only at the end of the process, when the decisions have already independently been made, violates the normal pattern and wisdom of Scripture.

 

Biblical Courtship Series, Pt. 3

Posted under: Christian Living,Courtship,Holiness,Marriage,Scripture — by Richard Hensley

What is so wrong with Modern Dating?

First, Modern Dating leads toward temptation not away from it. This is not just any temptation, it is one of the strongest and most compelling temptations man knows.  It is the temptation to commit sexual immorality.  Alone time is a normal and regular part of the Modern Dating process.  How many believe that it is a good idea for even strong Christians of the opposite sex to be alone for extended periods of time?

“It is impossible to be alone with someone of the opposite sex for an extended period of time and not fall into some sort of immorality.”            Paul Washer, Sermon on Biblical Courtship

The lust of the heart is hard to resist when it is so near so often.  The maturity level of most who start dating renders them all the more susceptible to these temptations. The Bible tells us to guard our hearts and minds, not to trust them.

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  Prov. 4:23 (ESV)

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”      Prov. 28:26 (ESV)

The Bible also commands us to avoid such temptations.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  1 Cor 6:18-20 (ESV)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.    1 Thess 4:3-7 (ESV)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Eph 5:1-3 (ESV)

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.    James 1:14-15 (ESV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.     Matt 5:27-30 (ESV)

The Bible tells us to “stand firm” against the devil with the armor of God (Eph 6:10-20).  Interestingly, it also tells us to “flee sexual immorality” and to avoid temptation, like the plague…especially the temptation to lust (Matt 5:27-30).  So, we are called to resist the devil, but to flee from sexual immorality?  Our resistance against sexual immorality must be rather low.

Someone might say, “That is fine for the young and the immature, but what about the mature Christian?  Aren’t they able to handle these kinds of temptations?”  Paul Washer uses a good illustration to help us think through these kind of questions: What would you do if you went to visit a young lady in the church, the door was open and you walked in and heard strange noises and giggling coming from the kitchen, only to find this young lady alone in the kitchen with your pastor?  They were only making cookies, it was clear.  But what would you say to your pastor?  Unwise or wise?  Right or wrong?  Should he be alone with a young lady?  Surely he has a lot more to lose than a young immature young man.  He has a wife, children, and a ministry.  And surely he is more mature than a young person with raging hormones.  If it is unwise for a more mature man to be alone with a young woman…how much more the one who is less mature, less equipped, and more susceptible to falling into sin?

The only way to avoid sexual immorality is to never be alone, unchaperoned with a person of the opposite sex.  See Scott Croft Articles: Biblical Dating: An Introduction and Biblical Dating: To Kiss or Not to Kiss for good discussion on inappropriate physical intimacy.  A good rule of thumb is to follow the family metaphor in 1 Tim 5:1-2, regarding how to treat fellow members of the body of Christ.  What level of physical intimacy is appropriate for a “sister” or a “brother”?  Doug Wilson comments, “We sometimes think a godly Christian is one who can pre-heat the oven without cooking the roast.” [1]  Modern Dating involves private, exclusive relationships, in which two people of the opposite sex are regularly alone.

 Second, Modern Dating encourages intimacy before commitment, thereby working against commitment.  In a book on courtship, the authors assert that “according to the Bibles’ perspective, if you are dating you are not just holding hands, you are holding hearts.”[2]  When two people are alone they begin to share their hearts.  This often occurs early on in the Dating Process, when there is no real commitment.  Intimacy is realized through sharing.  Then hearts become knit together.  Doug Wilson calls this a drift into “the zone of vulnerability…that place where one cannot leave the relationship without being hurt…a married couple is as far inside this zone of vulnerability as they can get.”[3]

The problem is that most Christians have had five serious relationships prior to being married.  Five times they have given much of their hearts to another.  Even if there is zero physical intimacy, they will have left pieces of their hearts with five other people.  And when they get married, they will be bringing five others with them into the relationship, so to speak.

Intimacy with someone of the opposite sex is a natural desire of both men and women.  Emotional intimacy is an especially strong desire in women.  This leads many women to allow more and more physical intimacy as they seek greater emotional intimacy.  Women will often seek to give more physical intimacy to try and gain more commitment.  Biblically, however, commitment precedes intimacy (Gen 2:24).  This kind of intimacy should characterize marriage, not multiple relationships before marriage.  Josh Harris calls this “pre-marital divorce”.  Others call it “serial monogamy”.  Michael and Judy Phillips believe this is one of the factors leading to increasing divorce rates. [4]  A comfort level with initiating intimate emotional relationships and then breaking them before marriage, makes it easier to break the intimacy of the marriage relationship when things do not go as well as expected.  Modern Dating usually establishes a pattern of high intimacy, low commitment, and frequent fractures in relationships.  This is devastating baggage to bring into a marriage.

Third, Modern Dating tends to hide true character rather than reveal it.  It is hard to get to know the character of a person.  It is even harder in a system designed to impress the other, create memorable moments, and  foster a romantic atmosphere.  The dating process is often very artificial and does not produce the kind of dynamics that expose the heart and character of a person.  What could be more important than having an accurate understanding of the character of the person you intend to spend the rest of your life with?

 Fourth, Modern Dating encourages independence rather than much needed parental involvement.  Dating typically discards parental involvement in relationship intimacy and commitment decisions, until funds are needed for a wedding and a checkbook needs to be opened.  Decisions are left to the two individuals who are actually least capable of making level-headed, unemotional, wise decisions.  The young man and young woman.

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”  Prov. 28:26

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Prov. 13:20

“We live in an age where the god independence rules.”[5]

In part 4 of this series we will look at the importance of the role of parents in the process of preparation for marriage.



[1] Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World, Canon Press (Moscow, ID: 1997), p. 12.

[2] Richard D. Phillips and Sharon L. Phillips, Holding Hands Holding Hearts, P&R Publishing Co. (Phillipsburg, NJ: 2006).

[3] Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage, p. 8.

[4] Michael and Judy Phillips, Best Friends For Life: An Extraordinary new approach to dating, courtship and marriage—for parents and their teens, Bethany House Publishers (Minneapolis, MN: 1997).

[5] Ibid., p.31.

 

Bible Reading Plans

Posted under: Christian Living,Scripture,Uncategorized — by Richard Hensley

As we come to the end of 2011 and look forward to the coming year, many goals and resolutions are made. Sadly, many of these goals and resolutions fade after the first month of diligence. We need some help and accountability and perseverance. Do not let your goals for reading Scripture fade. Establish accountability with another person, or with a group. Establish a time of discussion of the passages you will be reviewing. The first step is to find a good Bible Reading Plan. Justin Taylor has several very good reading plans to choose from.

 

Instruments in the Redeemers Hands

We are starting a series based on the seminar conducted by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane.  This seminar, which is available on DVD, is based upon Paul Tripp’s excellent book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.  Starting Sunday, October 16th, from 9:00 – 10:15 A.M., we will be sharing this material.  “The 12-session seminar applies the principles in the Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands Study Guide and offers an overview of the process of biblical change that will transform the way you think about helping others.”  The purpose of this time of training is to equip and edify the body of Christ at GTCC to be better able to minister to one another, to our families, and to other relationships, in a biblical Christ honoring way.  Each of us has struggles with relationships in some capcity and we need Christ, the Word of God, the Spirit of God and the manifestation of grace and truth in one another, in order to thrive in the complexeties of relationships.  You can order the study book here.  Hope to see you there!

 

Divine and Human Action in Salvation

Posted under: Doctrine,Scripture,Sin,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

We are preaching through Romans 9, which deals with the doctrine of election rather heavily.  This might be a helpful review on the idea of God’s initiative in salvation and human responsibility.

Divine and Human Action in Salvation

 It is with great caution that we tread upon waters that have been cause for much confusion and, sadly, division in God’s church.  It is not helpful for us to draw up sides based on particular theologians and their systematic theological works.  We are Christians, first and foremost, not Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Calvinists, or Arminian.  Though we find great help and are enriched by a study of great theologians of the past, let us be sure to make Christ our hero and Rabbi, above all else.

 We must also recognize that in speaking of eternal salvation and the sovereignty of God, we enter a realm where our understanding is limited, at best.  Let us listen well to the exhortation of Paul, after he meticulously teaches on these matters when he states,

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His counselor?”  ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” Rom 11:33-35

 Better yet, let us listen to the words of God Himself, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isa 55:9).”  We would do well to approach these subjects with great humility.  For in the end, the finite mind cannot fully grasp the infinite.  We, who are bound in time, cannot fully understand the One who is outside of time.  We who are subjects, cannot fully comprehend infinite sovereignty.  And finally, we who are still in corrupt flesh, cannot perfectly understand the One who is pure.  There are some mysteries remaining for the believer.

 To the question of divine and human action in salvation, we must recognize some very simple truths evident in Scripture:

 First, man must believe upon Christ and His finished work to be saved.  The Scripture is replete with examples of this very simple truth.

  • “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16b)
  • “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (Jn 6:47b)
  • “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43b)
  • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)
  • “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:11-13)
  • “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 Jn 3:23)
  • “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 Jn 5:1a)

 Second, God clearly calls upon man to come to Him for salvation.  This is seen even in some of the passages above, but is also evident in many others:

  • “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” (Isa 45:22)
  • “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isa 55:6)
  • “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek 33:11)
  • “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)
  • “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt 22:14)
  • “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jn 7:37-8)
  • “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev 22:17)

 Third, man, after the fall, is naturally unable to seek God.  Again, this is a consistent message in Scripture.

  • “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” (Rom 3:10-12)
  • “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)
  •  “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)
  • “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1)
  • “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:17-18)
  • “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:42-4)
  • “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” (Rom 6:17)

As far as we can discern in Scripture, only Adam and Eve were naturally able to seek God.  They were unhindered by a fallen nature.  They were not darkened in their understanding.  They were not slave to sin.  They were not initially at enmity with God.  They were not dead in their trespasses before the fall.  But, we, as a result of their free will choice to sin, now inherit a sinful nature that is in bondage to sin and at enmity with God (Romans 5:12-21). 

 Fourth, God initiates salvation in man.  Since man is unable to seek God, salvation is dependent upon God’s initiative.  Once again, this truth is plainly seen in Scripture.

  • “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:44)
  • “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philip 1:29)
  • “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)
  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
  • “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim 1:8-9)
  •  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
  • “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
  • “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)
  • “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37-38)
  • “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)
  • just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:4-5)
  • “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.  The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples” (Deut 7:6-7)
  • “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.” (Isa 45:4)
  • “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
  • “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Rom 11:5-6)
  • “Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’”  (Matt 16:16-17)
  • “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)

 Many more statements could be said of the nature of divine and human action and in salvation.  But these simple truths help us to avoid the error of assaulting the nature of God in our understanding of salvation.  From them we can discern a very simple statement:

 Our salvation, including the faith that we have in Christ, is totally the result of God’s love and grace, which manifests His glory.  His work is initiatory and ours is dependent.

 This reality makes it just as important that we call people to faith in Jesus Christ.  It makes it just as important that we call people to repent of their sins.  We affirm that those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior are saved.  We simply recognize that God, in a mysterious way, is sovereign over this whole transaction.  Man’s faith, man’s repentance, man’s love for God are all the result of God’s initiatory action in the human heart.  “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  A good picture of this tension is found in John 1:12-13.

  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Notice that those who believed “He gave the right to become children of God”.  But also notice that they were not born of their own will, but of the will “of God”.

 Why is this distinction important?  What does it matter?    It matters because errors in this area lead to man-centered evangelistic methods, rather than God-centered ones (we try to engender a response, rather than trust in God’s Word, His Spirit, and His sovereignty).  It matters because errors in this area have led to and will continue to lead to false conversion and false assurance (the emphasis on man-centered methods often equates decisions, sinners prayers, and altar trips with salvation).  Errors in this area come dangerously close to impugning the very character of God (e.g. His eternality, His sovereignty, His immutability).

 So, let us uphold God as the author of salvation while we plead with men to believe in Christ!

 

Gospel Centered Marriage Conference

Posted under: Christian Living,Courtship,Marriage,Scripture,The Church,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

Some families from the church are planning on attending this conference.  Here is some information if you are interested.  Some very good speakers and very good topics are planned.

Gospel Centered Marriages


Designed to bring parents and their marriage age children together to consider the biblical doctrine of marriage with the aim of God-centered marriages, this conference will seek to reset our thoughts about marriage and prepare the rising generation for marriages that glorify God.

While all family members are welcome, our main focus will be directed toward parents and their marriageable, unmarried children. We also recognize that parents should not wait until their children are old enough to marry to begin to prepare them, so we encourage whole families to participate in this exciting blend of lecture and fellowship.

We will cover the following subjects:

  1. Marriage as a the picture of the gospel
  2. The implications of the dominion mandate for marriage
  3. Protecting purity before marriage
  4. Marriage as the foundation for society and future generations – Leaving a legacy of freedom of one generation to the next
  5. The role of a husband
  6. The role of a wife
  7. How fathers should treat suitors
  8. How fathers should qualify suitors
  9. What is the role of love, romance, and emotions
  10. Principles of courtship versus the rules of courtship
  11. The differences between courtship, betrothal, and marriage (virgin, betrothed, marriage, widowhood). Biblical terminology regarding marriage.
  12. Equal yoking
  13. How to split a church through your courtship (the history of courtship and war) How many wars have been started through failed courtships gives insight on how explosive this can be. Enter with caution.
  14. What is your marriage teaching your children about marriage? Your marriage as preparation – modeling marriage is the best preparation
  15. Preparing a two-year-old for marriage
  16. Redeeming the time with your children
  17. What Christ and His Church have to do with earthly marriage
  18. How young men and women should treat one another in the church
  19. Courtship in the community – 1 Thessalonians 3 :Mind your own business
  20. How to talk to the couple, how should bystanders react, handling diversity, when you announce, when it is in process, when it ends
  21. Issues, concerns, and answers regarding early marriages
  22. Wedding ceremonies and covenants
 

Biblical Courtship Series, Pt. 2

Forgive for the delay in getting the second part of the Courtship series on the blog.  No excuses.  Here is the second installment.

 THE OBSTACLES TO GOD GLORIFYING MARRIAGES

 There are a number of obstacles to God glorifying marriages.  And since this should be the goal of parents for their children and young men and women, as they look to their future, we ought to look at some of these obstacles.

 Poor discipleship at home.  If children are not taught a biblical godly perspective on marriage and the roles of men and women in marriage, they are likely to fail. 

  1. Rejection of parental and godly authority, counsel, and wisdom.  A parent can train a child, teach a child, and correct a child, but the child may still reject this means of God’s grace.  And sadly, rebellion of God’s ordained means of protection and grace has led to many less than God glorifying marriages.
  2. The neglect by parents to guide and protect their children through the process of preparing for marriage.  Father’s and Mother’s who leave the process of finding a spouse solely up to their older children, with little input and accountability, cannot expect good things to happen.  God has designed parents to give godly counsel, accountability, and protection during this time.
  3. All of this has led to worldly modern practice of Recreational Dating.
    a.  We have accepted this practice hook line and sinker.
    b.  It is probably not coincidental that as sexual immorality, cohabitation, and divorce have sky rocketed, along with the practice of Modern Recreational Dating.

 LET’S START WITH OUR VIEW OF GOD AND HIS WORD

 We have to start with a right view of Scripture.  Without a foundation, we have no basis to make decisions and live our lives.  We will be, as the title of one book suggests, like the relativist with our feet firmly planted in mid-air.

  1.   God is sovereign and we are submitted to His authority (Matt 11:28-30; James 4:7; 2 Cor 10:5; Rev 4:11).  If we cannot understand God’s authority, then we will not understand his delegated authority to parents.
  2. His Word is authoritative and sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4; Luke 16:31).  If we believe this to be true, then it should drive us to God’s Word to address all issues, especially the issue of marriage and preparing for marriage.

 MODERN DATING IS UNWISE AND PERILOUS

Modern Recreational Dating: The process of engaging in relationships with the opposite sex for mutual enjoyment, without parental involvement, with the hope that a suitable marriage partner will one day be found.

Is Modern Recreational Dating Biblical?

  1. At best, modern dating is biblically unwise.  At worst it is plain rebellion.
  2. “But, I know many people who have good marriages who have dated!”
    a.  First, you do not know their private details, stories, and regrets.
    b.  Second, surviving a process does not necessitate commending the process.

1)  Children have survived broken families, but we don’t commend them.
2)  People have survived airplane crashes, but as Douglas Wilson illustrates, we don’t commend flying on poorly maintained aircraft.

So, whether by ignorance, or clear-minded stubborn choice…there is little to commend Modern Dating, biblically.

NEXT ENTRY:  Part 3: What is so wrong with Modern Dating?

 

Biblical Courtship Series, Pt. 1

Posted under: Christian Living,Courtship,Holiness,Marriage,Scripture — by Richard Hensley

Recently we held a seminar on the topic of Biblical Courtship, for our church and those interested in the surrounding area.  I will be posting component parts of the seminar on this blog over the next few weeks.  If you would like to listen to the seminar online, just follow this courtship link

 In today’s culture the word courtship has very little meaning and if anything it conveys a prudish, stodgy, and anachronistic alternative to the normal accepted practice of dating.  But the issue that we are dealing with as a culture is not primarily about dating versus courtship, but rather preparing for God glorifying marriages built on Christ and biblical wisdom versus following the normal worldly system of marital preparation, which has led to destruction of marriages and families in the past few generations.

 CONSIDER THE STATE OF OUR CULTURE

Statistics are not everything, but they can give us a glimpse of the health of a society.  Approximately 40% of our children are born out of wedlock in the United States today.  The divorce rate for professing Christians is almost the same as the divorce rate of the rest of the culture.  In a Barna study in 2008, out of 4,000 interviews:

  • 33% of those who have been married responded that they have been divorced.
  • 32% of all born again Christians responded that they have been divorced.
  • 28% of Catholics responded that they have been divorced.
  • 26% of Evangelical born again Christians responded that they have been divorced.[1]

Notice that there is only a 1% difference between all respondents (33%) and born again respondents (32%).  One-third of the people who were married also experienced divorce.  It is slightly encouraging to see that the percentage of professing “Evangelical born again Christians” is lower.  But still, the numbers are quite alarming.  The Americans For Divorce Reform have stated, “Probably, 40 or possibly up to 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.”[2]  This means that approximately half our children live in single parent or blended families.

The United States Welfare System and Tax Code seems to reward out of wedlock births, rather than discourage them.  It appears that our government is trying to take over for Dads.  Women can get welfare help, such as Government Housing, Food Stamps, etc…as long as there is no responsible male figure in the household.  This has created an endemic of fatherlessness in our culture.

Broken families have consequential effects on the children.  Studies in the early 1980’s indicated that children in repeat divorces earned lower grades and their peers rated them as less pleasant to be around.   Teenagers in single-parent families and blended families are three times more likely to need psychological help within a given year.  Compared to children from homes disrupted by death, children from divorced homes have more psychological problems.  Did you catch that?  Children have adjusted better to the loss of a parent in death than they have to divorce.  A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious, and insecure.”  Seventy percent of long-term prison inmates grew up in broken homes.[3]  In short, marriage and family are in a free-fall in our culture.  The bedrock of a thriving civilization is cracked and failing.  Something needs to be done.  We have to ask ourselves why?  We have to reestablish what the goal is in raising children and preparing for marriage.

OUR GOAL

Part of the problem in the debate over courtship and dating is that the wrong goal has been in view.  All of our effort has been in abstinence education, maintaining purity, and the need to protect our children from Cassanova.  Well, purity is vital, as we will see later.  Abstinence is essential.  But our goals are more far-reaching than that.  Our goal should be: Marriages that glorify God and yield a righteous generation! This should be the goal of parents for their children and young men and women for themselves.

For parents, your responsibility is not just to get them married and out of the house!  We laugh, but this appears to be the attitude of far too many parents.  Some believe that there is something magical about the age of 18, which releases parents from any further responsibility in the direction their children head.  That may be true legally, but as we will see, it is not true biblically. Parents need to have a vision that extends beyond being comfortable in our empty nest years, seeking fruit that abounds long after we leave this earth.  It is the fertile environment of God glorifying marriages that will produce such rich and enduring fruit in the generations to come.

For young men and women, your responsibility is not merely to find someone attractive that is fun to be around and makes your heart go pitter patter.  It is not merely to find a professing Christian.  It is to prepare for a God glorifying marriage that will yield a righteous generation.

Our goal will be dependent on our view of marriage.  Marriage is a sacred institution!   In Matthew 19:6, Jesus affirms the sanctity of marriage, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  So often the emphasis on this passage is placed on the so-called “exceptions,” when the overwhelming emphasis of Christ is on the sanctity and covenantal nature of the institution of marriage.

Marriage depicts the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:22-33).  Marriage depicts the oneness of the Triune Godhead (Gen 1:26; 2:24; Deut 6:4; John 17:20-21).  Marriage even  depicts our future glorification (Rev 19:9).  Marriage is a picture of a future marriage, a future reality, and a future blessedness.  It demands our careful attention and preparation, so that the image is not so marred that it reflects nothing of the reality.

It is crucial that we do all in our power to get this right!  Our children’s future is at stake.  Our grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on…will be affected.  The Church will be affected by it.  Society will be affected by it. 

We prepare for many things.  Above all, let us be prepared for this.  We prepare for tests, research papers, college and career.  How much more, for that which will have far reaching generational repercussions, either for God’s glory or for worldly ill. This is why we must evaluate the modern practices that lead to marriage.  In our day, it is called dating.  Is it biblical?  Is it helpful or harmful?  We’ll look into these as we study further.


[1] Barna Group, March 31, 2008: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/15-familykids/42-new-marriage-and-divorce-statistics-released

[2] The Americans for Divorce Reform: http://www.divorcereform.org/results.html

[3] 18 Shocking Statistics About Children and Divorce: http://www.marriage-success-secrets.com/statistics-about-children-and-divorce.html

 
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