God’s Story

God’s Story  Gods Story

A review by Stuart Brogden

 

This book is subtitled, A Student’s Guide to Church History. As one who has greatly benefited from studying church history, I was most eager to read this book as I think all Christians would learn much that is helpful by such a study. In the introduction, Brian Cosby says “knowing church history helps explain our identity … helps explain the present … guards us from repeating mistakes … testifies to God’s powerful working as HIS STORY.” Studying church history done well will have much in common with the historical narratives in Scripture – showing the brute truth about God’s people: redeemed sinners who still struggle with sin and obey with less than perfection.

 

In chapters 2 – 10, our author provides a quick overview of the history of God’s people from Genesis through the Great Awakening, giving details that should whet the appetite of any young – or older Christian – to discover more about the providential care for His people in all ages.

 

The last couple of chapters provide a warning to all who might be drawn aside from the study of the Scriptures. Church history shows that those who do not cling to the Bible as the Word of God inevitably drift to using human wisdom to determine eternal outcomes. In the 11th chapter (they are not numbered), Cosby details four categories of abandonment of Scriptures as the rule for life and godliness, with shipwrecks of faith being the inevitable outcome. First, he describes revivalism, headlined by Charles Finney – who gave us altar calls and myriad “new measures”. Dispensationalism arrived at about the same time. Second, Cosby tells us about liberalism – which denies the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture. This leads professing Christians to deny the virgin birth, the creation account, and pretty much anything essential to the Christian faith. He names people so we will recognize them when we read other documents, so we are properly warned. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is known as the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology” and had many followers, including Henry Ward Beecher, Adolf von Harnack, Albrecht Ritschl, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, John Hick, and John Shelby Spong.

 

The third abandonment of Scripture is cults, which are typified by the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both of these cults have a heretical view of Jesus and the trinity, each has their own twisted version of the Bible. These factual departures from the Word of God does not stop millions of people from following these cults and leading many to a certain doom apart from Christ. The fourth and last category is evolution. I was happy to see this listed, as I have come to see this view as particularly incompatible with Christianity, yet accepted by many Christians who are too impressed by what men call science. There is no evidence of any evolutionary change in kinds – from non-dog to dog, etc. All the “proof experiments” document that environmental adaptation (known as micro-evolution) is common. Change in kind (macro-evolution) has never been documented, much less has evolution been shown to be the cause for the origin of any species.

 

The last chapter is a review of four influences in the 20th century that have encouraged or derailed many Christians: fundamentalism (reaffirming the essentials of the Christian faith), neo-orthodoxy (the Bible becomes the Word of God when used by God to draw a sinner to faith), Pentecostalism (a focus on experience rather than Truth), and evangelicalism (emphasizing the historic Protestant theological convictions). This last also brought a mixture of revivalism and new measures as churches experimented with different forms of entertainment worship.

 

This excellent book finishes with an exhortation from the author that should encourage every Christian, young or old:

 

As we look back through the history of the Christian church, we see God’s faithfulness to preserve his people in spite of their sin and rebellion against his truth. We see a great cloud of witnesses, generations of those who have embraced Christ by faith, beckoning us onward as we will one day be translated from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant. And until that day comes, we pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

 

I say amen!

 

This is a very good book, easy to grab hold of. Parents should put this in front of their children, read it with them and discuss the attributes of God and the sinfulness of man that are always on display. This latter ought remind that none but Jesus does helpless sinners good. Flee to Him. This book shows us the way.

Active Spirituality

Active Spirituality  Active-Spirituality

A review by Stuart Brogden

This is an uncommon book – the format is that of personal letters from the author, intended to provide pastoral guidance to the issue of sanctification. I was reminded of a couple of books I read in high school that were letters from a father, one to his son and the other to his daughter. I passed these along to my son and daughter as they grew into young adults. Brian Hedges’ belief is that this format will be more personal and effective – as our spiritual journey is not linear, but (as was the Exodus) “circuitous and roundabout, with lots of detours and obstacles, punctuated by backtracking, rest stops, and significant delays on the side of the road.” (page 14) I think the author succeeds in this regard, as each letter reads as a warm personal communication. I appreciated the author’s repeated reference to various works by John Bunyan, but was less enthused by his somewhat frequent use of quotes from C.S. Lewis and references to “the seven deadly sins” – a concept the Bible knows nothing about (sex outside of marriage and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit are more serious than other sins), taught by the Roman Catholic Church, based primarily on the list in Proverbs 6:16-19 but not taught therein as a special list of “deadly sins”. That being said, this book is a most excellent look at various aspects of everyone’s spiritual journey, with solid biblical counsel we can all benefit from.

Throughout this easy-to-read but thought provoking book, Hedges gives the reader biblical exhortations to walk in the light, to examine one’s self, to stay focused on Christ. He puts good works in their place (post-redemption works empowered by the Holy Spirit) and presses the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Late in the book (page 94), he gives us a word picture of a stool with four legs, each leg being an essential part of what God gives as assurance of our standing with Him.

  1. Faith in the gospel promises of salvation
  2. Evidences of God’s grace in the transformation of the heart and life
  3. The testimony of the Holy Spirit
  4. The fruit of love in relationship with other believers

He cites the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is accurate in the doctrine of salvation, for the first three of these legs; pointing us to 1 John 3:14 for the fourth. Our author provides a concise paragraph for each leg, demonstrating from Scripture each one and urging us to know the Word of God that we be not deceived by emotions or lies or, as the next chapter puts it – self-trust.

I will leave you with a short excerpt from the last letter in this book. Throughout, Hedges has given us solid biblical counsel, with many examples from Scripture and theological tomes. He contrasts grace and law, justification and sanctification, lawlessness and true trust in Christ. And in this last letter, we are given a solid comparison between the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints. Often, reformed folk are accused of relying on works for salvation or for perseverance. This is a contentious issue, but is helpfully summed up by the phrase, “We are saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone.” One who has been spiritually raised from the dead by the same power (the Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the tomb will exhibit signs of life. He has no life before being made alive by God, so there’s no way his works can contribute to his redemption. Yet once made alive, the child of God will naturally grow in grace and the fruit of the Spirit as He works in us.

And this leads to the right understanding of the perseverance of the saints. Hedges tells us that perseverance and preservation are “really talking about the same doctrine, but from two different perspectives. If perseverance has to do with our responsibility to continue in faith and holiness, preservation highlights God’s work in strengthening and sustaining our faith.” Scripture tells us the Christ intercedes for us with the Father and the Holy Spirit prays for us when we know not how to pray. We will persevere because God is faithful! Our Lord declared He would lose none of the sheep given to Him by the Father. We are told that His Spirit is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Our author points us to Hebrews 7 to see how the Lord Jesus provides for us in His sacrifice and His intercession.

In His sacrifice, Christ our High Priest offered himself for us once and for all (Hebrews 7:27. This is his finished and completed work. But now, he continues to apply this work to us through his ongoing intercessory prayer. And this guarantees complete salvation!” (See Hebrews 7:24-25)

Dear saints, know this: you have died with Christ and are seated in the heavenly realm with him. How we can we go on living for the flesh, knowing it will perish like the grass? Our Lord is the faithful witness who has gone to prepare a place for us – where Abraham lives, in the city whose builder is God. Jesus will return to gather His sheep to Himself. Have faith in Christ! This book is a great help in reminding us He is sufficient.

The Roman Catholic Eucharist

Why the Catholic (and Emerging Church) “Eucharist” Does Not Line Up With Scripture

By Roger Oakland    Pope

The Catholic Church teaches that once a Catholic priest has consecrated the wafer of bread during Communion, the wafer turns into the literal and real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.1 Therefore, the Communion Host is no longer bread but Jesus, under the appearance of bread and is therefore worthy of adoration and worship. The Catholic Catechism states succinctly:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.”2

The Church and the world have a great need for Eucharistic worship. Jesus awaits us in this sacrament of love. Let us not refuse the time to go to meet him in adoration, in contemplation full of faith, and open to making amends for the serious offenses and crimes of the world. Let our adoration never cease.3

 

What Does the Bible Teach About the Lord’s Supper?

We have documented [in Another Jesus] what the Catholic Church teaches concerning the Eucharist. But what does the Bible teach? The Bible encourages believers to study “all the counsel of God”(Acts 20:27) and to “[p]rove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). And as believers, we are admonished to:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

With these instructions in mind, let us search the Scriptures to determine what the Bible teaches concerning the Lord’s supper.

The Last Supper was celebrated by first century Christians in obedience to Jesus’ words “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). This observance was established by the Lord at the Last Supper when He symbolically offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb of atonement. His actual death the next day fulfilled the prophecy. Only Paul uses the phrase “Lord’s supper” (I Corinthians 11:20), while the Church fathers began to call the occasion the Eucharist meaning thanksgiving from the blessing pronounced over the bread and wine after about A.D. 100. Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Supper regularly as a sign of the new covenant sealed by Christ’s death and resurrection.4 Today, the Eucharist means far more than simply thanksgiving.

 

This is My Body

To what exactly did Jesus ordain during the Last Supper? The Bible states:

[Jesus] took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22: 19-20)

Proponents of the Catholic Eucharist point to Jesus’ words recorded in John 6. Though this chapter does not deal with the Last Supper, Jesus’ words, which are taken to relate to the Communion meal, are as follows:

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (John 6:51-55)

Just what do these Scriptures mean? The answer to that can be found in our examination of the Word of God itself.5

 

Metaphors and Similes

Throughout the Bible, context determines meaning. Bible-believing Christians know to take the Bible literally, unless the context demands a figurative or symbolic interpretation. Before exploring Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 and elsewhere, let’s review a few examples of symbolism in the Scriptures. All scholars would agree that the following verses are metaphorical. An explanation follows each verse:

O taste and see that the LORD is good. (Psalm 34:8; Try to experience God’s promises to find if they are true.)

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14; For those who receive the gift of salvation, Christ’s Spirit shall dwell in their souls assuring them of everlasting life.)

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. (Ezekiel 3:1, 2; Receive into your heart, internalize, and obey God’s Word.)

And I could go on and on with one example after the next. At one point Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews thought He spoke of the literal temple in Jerusalem, but if we keep reading, we find that Jesus was referring to His body (John 2:20-21). On another occasion, Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). Of course, we know that Jesus did not mean that He was a literal grape vine twisting around a post. When the Bible says God hides us under His wings (Psalm 91:4), we know that God is not a bird with feathers. God is the source of all life and our provider and protector, and these figures vividly illustrate this.

Throughout the Bible, figurative language is used to compare one thing to another so that the listeners can easily understand. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus regularly used parables to figuratively describe one thing as something else (Matthew 13:34).Jesus Himself stated, “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs” (John 16:25). The Bible should always be interpreted literally unless the context demands a symbolic explanation. So what does the context of John’s Gospel and the other Gospels demand?

 

John Chapter 6: The Bread of Heaven

If we read the entire sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, we not only get the context, but also some startling insights into what Jesus meant when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. John 6 begins with the account of Jesus feeding five thousand, followed by the account of Jesus walking on water. On the following day, people were seeking Jesus for the wrong reasons, which we understand from Jesus’ words in verses 26 and 27:

Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.

These verses begin to frame the context of the verses that follow, specifically, that Jesus emphasized the need for them to seek eternal life. Jesus goes on to explain to them how to obtain eternal life. And in verse 28, when the people ask Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Jesus replies, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (vs. 29).

Here Jesus specifies only one work that pleases God, namely, belief in Jesus. Jesus reemphasizes this in verse 35 when he states: “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Notice the imperative is to “cometh to me” and “believeth on me.” Jesus repeats the thrust of His message in verse 40 where He states:

And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Jesus could not be clearer—by coming to Him and trusting in Him, we will receive eternal life. At this point in the narrative, the Jews complained about Him because He said: “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (vs. 41). Jesus responds to their murmuring when He states that He is indeed the “living bread” and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood to obtain eternal life (vs. 42-58). However, let’s remember the context of this statement. First, Jesus contrasts Himself with the manna that rained down on their fathers and sustained them for their journey. But their fathers have since died. But Jesus now offers Himself as the living, heavenly bread, causing those who eat of Him to live forever.

Jesus is not the perishable manna that their descendants ate in the wilderness—He is the eternal bread of life that lives forever. Only by partaking in His everlasting life can we hope to live with Him forever. This contrast strengthens His main message, where Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (vs. 47). Notice, Jesus said that as soon as we believe in Him we have—present tense—eternal life. It is not something we aim at or hope we might attain in the future, but rather, something we receive immediately upon accepting Him by faith.

When Jesus said these words, He was in the synagogue in Capernaum, and He had neither bread nor wine. Therefore Jesus was either commanding cannibalism, or He was speaking figuratively. If He was speaking literally, then He would be directly contradicting God the Father: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat”(Genesis 9:4). Therefore, because Jesus Himself said, “[T]he scripture cannot be broken”(John 10:35), He must be speaking metaphorically. And that is exactly how He explains His own words in the subsequent verses.

 

The Flesh Profits Nothing

After this, in verse 60 (of John 6), we find that many of His disciples said: “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” Jesus was aware of their complaints and He responded saying:

Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. (vs. 61-64)

Wait a minute, the flesh profits nothing! I thought Jesus said we must eat His flesh? Yet, if the flesh profits nothing, Jesus must be speaking in spiritual terms. And that is what He says: “[T]he words that I speak unto you, they are spirit.

Jesus uses the exact same Greek word for flesh (sarx) as He did in the preceding verses. Therefore, He is emphatically stating that eating His literal flesh profits nothing! If the Lord Himself sets the context of the dialogue, we would do well to hear Him. He said that the words He speaks are spirit and that the flesh profits nothing. In other words, Jesus has just told us He has spoken in a metaphor, so we need not guess at it.

If that isn’t clear enough, Peter’s words add further clarity. Immediately following the dialogue with the Jews, in which some disciples left, Jesus said to the remaining twelve apostles, “Will ye also go away?” (vs. 67). Peter’s response is profound:

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (vs. 68-69)

Amazing! Peter did not say we have come to believe that we must eat Your flesh to live. He said that we know You are the Christ, and we have come to believe in You as the Christ. This is the confession of faith that leads to eternal life, not eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood. It also agrees with the totality of Scripture.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

[W]hat must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. (Acts 16:30, 31)

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life. (John 3:36)

To understand more fully the Catholic Eucharist versus biblical communion and salvation, read Roger Oakland’s book, Another Jesus.

Solid Food for God’s Children

Bible Revival

A review by Stuart Brogden41UQyMEDWAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

There are so many bad Christian books on the market these days that there is a good reason to shout PRAISE THE LORD! when one comes across a good Christian book. Such is the case with Kenneth Berding’s very good book, Bible Revival. This is a small book, in format and length – coming in at just over 100 pages. The premise of Berding’s jewel of a book is that we have a plethora of Bibles, with multiple good translations and formats in paper and digital so that we can have God’s Word with us virtually everywhere, all the time. And yet so many professing Christians are ignorant of and apathetic towards the Scriptures. Poor substitutes (there can be no other kind of substitute for the very Word of God) are things easily assimilated, such as mystical experience or religious video; not much thought or personal discipline required.

This too-short book is divided up into 6 chapters:

 

  1. A Revival of Learning the Word
  2. A Revival of Valuing the Word
  3. A Revival of Understanding the Word
  4. A Revival of Applying the Word
  5. A Revival of Obeying the Word
  6. A Revival of Speaking the Word

 

Each of these chapters does a very good job of stepping on the toes of the reader – for whom of us has any one of these critical traits properly developed and practiced? Each chapter has a section for digging deeper; this is where we are led to drink deeply of the Word.

 

In the opening chapter, Berding tells us what we know but would rather not acknowledge – we don’t learn the Word of God because we have other stuff we would rather learn. In days gone by, before the Internet and cheap books, people of God knew the Bible. Schools used it to teach children how to read and churches used it as teaching material as well as preaching material – long before programs replaced both in too many churches. Our author tells us of a time when Israel was under God’s judgment and His written word was withheld from them (Amos 8:11-12). He says, “In Amos they want it, but are not permitted it. In our case, although we have unlimited access, we often don’t want it. The irony is intense.” Massive understatement! He rebukes those who say since we don’t practice all we currently understand of the Bible that we should not read and study the Scriptures until we are fully in line. This pathetic perspective fails from the start because it assumes a perfection that we will be able to attain during this age. Our minds and our bodies are unable to practice all we know and the insight into the character of both God and ourselves contained in the Bible are beyond our finding out completely. And we commanded in Scripture to never stop growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18 is on-going process, not a one-time academic accomplishment). When we read and regard the Bible in the same way we do a newspaper (are those still printed?) or novel, we reveal something ugly of our priorities. We reveal that God’s Word is no more valuable than a cheap novel and His wisdom is no more useful than Doctor Phil’s – and that speaks louder than Oprah. Contrary to this common, unspoken perspective, the Bible is the revelation from Creator God about His redemptive plan for sinners – what is more important?

 

In the 4th chapter, about applying the Word of God, our author gives us a short list of questions to guide us in applying Scripture rightly.

 

  1. What does this passage illustrate about the character of God? (Rom 15:4-6)
  2. How does this passage point out sin? (Rom 3:20; 7:7)
  3. How does this passage lead to Christ? (Gal 3:24)
  4. Are there any other biblical themes this passage illustrates? (Matt 23:23)

 

In the “digging deeper” of this chapter, Berding advises, “The Bible itself holds out hope that there will be a transformation and renewal of our minds as we saturate ourselves in the things of God (Rom 8:5-8; 12:2). It is true that our interests affect how we approach the Bible, but we need to allow the Scripture itself to renovate our concerns so that our special interests become more and more like the interests found in the Bible.” (Italics mine) This insightful idea warrants our close attention – our “special interests” ought to reflect the Word of God, not the system of the world. This is a prime battleground for every Christian, for as the Spirit of God Who dwells within each of us never sleeps nor rests, neither does the evil trinity of our flesh, Satan, and the system of this world. We do not battle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. The Word of God, with illumination by its Author is our only defense. While men will mislead us and lie to us, the Spirit of the Living God will never guide us contrary to God’s will or His special revelation given to us in the Scriptures. We are limited and warped by sin – the Bible is not nor is its Author!

 

In discussing our obedience to the Bible, we read, “If no evidence exists in your life that your faith is showing itself in your actions – that unforgiveness is increasingly being displaced by forgiveness, that anger is being out by love, that passivity toward the Scriptures is being replaced by a love and commitment to the Scripture – then you probably don’t know Him.” And He likely “never knew you.” Ouch! He goes on – “Passivity toward the Word of God is a serious spiritual matter.” Amen! Let us comfort no professing Christian who displays a greater love for the world than for the Word of God, even if that person is loved one, even if it that person is self.

 

Lastly, we are encouraged to teach the Bible. “Don’t worry if you don’t feel like you know the Bible very well. … Besides, there is no quicker way to learn the Bible than to teach it to someone else!” (This is in the context of parents teaching their children.) In talking about our conversation in the world, Berding encourages us to be purposeful in talking to other about Jesus rather than trusting our behavior to draw them into asking us. Further, our public walk must line up (with the inevitable failures to be acknowledged humbly and contritely) with the Gospel we are proclaiming. He debunks the apocryphal notion attributed to Francis of Assisi, that one should witness at times, using words when required. This is an unbiblical perspective because the Gospel is a verbal proclamation of what Jesus has done to redeem sinners – it cannot be communicated by our actions. But our actions (and speech) must not contradict the godly message we should be telling to people who are perishing.

 

This book started its life as sermon series on the need to have a Bible revival. While only the Lord can bring revival, our dear brother Kenneth Berding has done us good by bringing this volume into our hands. It can be grasped by people of all ages and reading abilities. It is solid food for God’s people. And we should thank Him.

The Sabbath Complete

THE SABBATH COMPLETESabbath

a review by Stuart Brogden

The latter half of the 20th century has brought a growing interest in Reformed Theology, in striking contrast to the growing apostasy that has gripped many evangelical denominations. Many of my fellow Baptists aggressively and happily embraced the doctrines of grace and the great theological truths about God’s sovereignty and man’s true nature. I am a grateful Baptist who was introduced to this theological construct in the ‘90s and have come to see as foundational to the Christian faith the doctrines of the Reformation, especially the reliance on Scripture Alone for all things having to do with life and godliness and For the Glory of God Alone to keep us focused rightly in all we think, say, and do. And the mostly forgotten doctrine of our forefathers – Semper Reformanda – Always Reforming, because none of has it all together nor will we get it all together while we inhabit these tents of flesh. This brings me to this remarkable book – The Sabbath Complete, by Terrence D. O’Hare. This book is the result of our author “attending an Orthodox Presbyterian Church where various Sabbath-keeping applications were stressed.” (page xi) Prompted by his pastor, who urged his congregation to examine personal motives in religious practice, he decided to study the concept of the “Christian Sabbath”, which is widely popular in churches which hold to 17th century confessions such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. O’Hare’s study lasted as decade, producing this comprehensive analysis of this contentious issue. His desire, and mine, is that people on both sides of this issue acknowledge the human tendency to cling to traditions (some of which, he shows, are fine and biblical), which can lead to traditions displacing true worship of God and Christ. The thesis of this book is “that Sabbatarianism is a form of traditional pietism and that the acceptance of the fully ceremonial nature of the Sabbath, though shocking to some, is actually Christ-honoring.” (page xiii)

The Sabbath Complete is organized into 12 chapters which examine various aspects of the Sabbath – prototypes, initial practice, law, feasts; how it prefigures Christ in the rest He earned, the Gospel He preached, His resurrection; and a historical review of the practice which has come to be known in the confessions as the “Christian Sabbath.” Coming in at more than 350 heavily footnoted pages, this book is thorough, enlightening, and thought provoking. It is my prayer to whet your appetite enough so that you will buy this book and study it. May the Lord be our wisdom and His glory our goal.

In his examination of the Sabbatic prototypes given to us in Genesis, O’Hare observes (page 1) that “God’s provision for our physical rest is but a token of a more transcendent remedy for our spiritual privation” and follows up (page 6) thusly: “Though God’s rest after creation is a type of everlasting rest yet to come, it is more certainly a type of Jesus Christ, who has come, in whom the faithful rest in salvation.” This snippet shows O’Hare’s focus on Christ – His provision and sufficiency, which is a constant, welcome, perspective throughout this book. As an expression of God’s sovereignty and redemptive revelation, our author reminds us (page 7), “Jonah did not just happen to be engulfed by a great fish and later ejected as a random biological event, but this occurred as designed by the Lord to shadow forth the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Likewise, the seventh day rest was not a random terminus of creation but a purposed end point to shadow forth the inevitable results of God’s work in redemption.” This sets the stage for a book that is best read slowly, with an open Bible and notepad.

In addition to each Christian studying the Bible for himself, learning from credible sources of church history is very helpful as this sheds light on when and by whom our beloved traditions were started. O’Hare has helpful advice in chapter 9, wherein he reviews the shift to calling Sunday the “Christian Sabbath.” One of the earliest post-apostolic apologists, Justin Martyr, sheds light on the common-place view of Christians in the second century:

And on the first day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”

For this most ancient brother, the Lord’s Day was on the first day not as a new instance of the Jewish Sabbath, but in concert with a remembrance of God’s creation and Christ’s resurrection – wherein we have the promise of having our decaying bodies made new like His. Our author laments how Christian traditions were often started not on the Lord’s revelation to us as New Covenant saints, but by imagining connections to Jewish traditions – “such as circumcision giving way to baptism and the Lord’s Supper approximating the Passover, came the forced and fanciful system of religious holidays common in the Roman Catholic Church.” (page 222) He then provides a lengthy quote from famous Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas, explaining his support for these practices and then comments (page 223), “This teaching blurred the differences between the old and new covenants and paved the way for works orientation. … It was fitting for a better covenant to have fewer ordinances: one, performed only once that identifies the child of God as an heir to the kingdom, and the second, a recurring and sustaining ordinance of remembrance of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Again, similarity does not connote identity. Baptism is not a Christian circumcision, and communion is not a Christian Passover, neither is the Lord’s Day a Christian Sabbath. This is as absurd as calling the new covenant the “Christian old covenant.”” Did I mention that a Presbyterian wrote this book? He goes on to say, “It is plain that the circumcision of the Christian is spiritual and not ritual, and that it is actually the death of Christ, which was His circumcision, into which we were spiritually baptized.” In response to several sabbatarian authors (such as Walter Chantry) who press the “Christian Sabbath”, in part, as a means to restrain evil and provoke (coerce?) Christian worship, O’Hare rightly observes (page 225), “If Christ can raise up rocks to sing His praises (Matt 3:9), why would it be so difficult for Him to raise up His beloved, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to worship at the appointed time (Ps 116:18-19, 122:1-2)?” Amen! Saints of the living God don’t need a command to gather together for worship and fellowship – we, by definition, love Him, are drawn to Him, and we love the brotherhood!

Each chapter of this book delves into history and Scripture to determine the meaning and origin of the various aspects mentioned in the first paragraph. Each is compelling and enlightening. Chapter 4 – Sabbath Law, examines the Jewish laws and traditions tied to their Sabbath and points out inconsistencies in the practice of modern Christian sabbatarians. In nearly every chapter, the diligent reader will be awed by the realization of how detailed the Jewish religion is as given to them by God and how it is much, much more than merely a quaint religion for those people long ago. The Jewish religion, as the book of Hebrews tells us, is mainly a means of communicating God’s eternal plan of redemption to the people He called out of the pagan nations, to protect the promised seed and make His name known around the world. These two priorities – to glorify the Lord and declare the gospel – are consistently the highest order for us humans. This becomes more and more clear as each chapter is consumed.

To keep this review from running 20 pages or more, I will restrict myself to chapter 10 – The Sabbath in Church History. This will put the “Christian Sabbath” practice so aggressively promoted and protected into its proper context. My desire aligns with the author’s – to have readers of this book see the first day of the week in its biblical context, stripped of the accumulated baggage of 20 centuries of religion.

Chapter 10 begins with the apostolic teaching, with O’Hare stating (page 244), “There are three crucial distinctions between Christianity and its roots in Judaism: holy things, the law, and the customs.” He sees some continuity and some discontinuity in the connection between the old religion and the new, acknowledging the law is good, and “Yet these ceremonial laws isolated the Jews from their pagan neighbors, became the point of contention and ridicule, and represented a wall of separation between the two peoples. This was meant by God to display the isolation between sinners and Himself – the Jew included – so when Christ abolished the ceremonies of Judaism, the gospel of peace and the law of moral commandments would become the unifying theology and practice for Jew and Gentile alike (Eph 2:14-16). … At the beginning of the Christian Church, it was a stumbling block to require Gentiles to observe Jewish rituals: “to whom we gave no commandment.” (Acts 15:24)”

The review of the Didache (50 – 120 AD) reveals no evidence of Sabbath-keeping by Christians; the review of Ignatius’ writings (page 247) shows “he clearly distinguishes between Jewish conduct on the Sabbath and Christian conduct on the Lord’s Day, to indicate the superiority of being a disciple of Christ.” He walks us through the records of Mathetes (130 AD), Justin Martyr (114 – 165 AD), Irenaeus (120 – 202 AD), Tertullian (160 – 225), Origen (185 – 254), Eusebius (265 – 340), Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (314 – 335), the council of Laodicea (364); all of which provide no support for the “Christian Sabbath” and often denounce the idea as being a Jewish encroachment in the church.

By the time Gregory I was installed as pope of the then-emerging Roman Catholic Church, traditions now associated with that religion “were already taking root, such as the liturgical mass, a monastic life, symbolic outfits, ecclesiastical hierarchy, and declaration of days to honor saints.” (page 261) O’Hare provides a lengthy excerpt from a letter to Roman citizens in which Gregory I calls those who forbid work on Sunday (which he called the Sabbath day) “preachers of Antichrist” and sums up: “Gregory’s core understanding is that the Sabbath is a fulfilled ceremonial law that should no longer be literally applied.” (page 262) O’Hare quotes R.J. Bauckham’s claim that Peter Comester (a contemporary of Aquinas and Chancellor of Notre Dame in Paris) was the “first exegete to apply the Sabbath commandment literally to Christian observance of the first day”. (page 263) Our author reminds us (same page) that “While it is helpful to acknowledge the scattered, yet progressive, acceptance of a physical rest on Sunday, it is more important to understand the bases for these practices in empiricism and religious authoritarianism.” History tells us what happened and provides evidence as to motives. The Roman Catholic Church explored ways and means to better influence her subjects, working with the legal authorities to provide a day off work and advocating Christian observance of Sabbath principles. “Their expectation that all citizens attend Mass in this church-state led to the need to force compliance through the appeal to Sabbath law.” Thomas Aquinas further developed this line of thought, “asserting that the old law contains moral (emanating from natural law), judicial (laws regarding justice among men), and ceremonial (laws touching on worship, holiness, and sanctification) precepts; and that these three can be distinguished in the Decalogue as well.” (page 264) This appears to be the first teaching of what is now cherished reformed doctrine – that the Law of Moses can be separated into these three categories and dealt with appropriately for new covenant saints. There should be no denying these three elements are found in the Law of Moses, but, as O’Hare shows us with Aquinas, determining what is ceremonial and what is moral is the rub. Aquinas recognized a moral teaching in the Sabbath commandment – people should worship God; he also recognized the ceremonial component, specifically the date upon which such worship is to be given. “At this juncture, Aquinas took the first step toward Sabbatarianism by moralizing a ceremonial command” by asserting the moral necessity of giving time to God. (page 265) Aquinas agreed with Augustine that moral laws are revealed by nature, so all men are without excuse. But in order to get man to be at mass and give to the church due obeisance, Aquinas saw value in elevating that which had been rightly considered ceremonial to moral status.

We will step quickly through the early reformers to show how this idea progressed. Philip Melancthon is quoted as saying, in 1530, “Those who consider the appointment of Sunday in place of the Sabbath as a necessary institution are very much mistaken, for the Holy Scriptures have abrogated the Sabbath and teach that after the revelation of the Gospel all ceremonies of the old law may be omitted.” (page 274) “Luther vacillates between his definitions of the Sabbath as a ceremonial law bearing no external application for Christians and a binding law incurring God’s judgment if disobeyed.” (page 279) John Calvin also had trouble being consistent in his view on this matter. In asserting “that the Sabbath was ceremonial and is moral leaves us open to problems concerning the nature of its existence – it is both abrogated and legally binding. This was further complicated by the church-state relationship that sought to mimic a theocratic Israel and by Calvin’s misconception that the biblical Sabbath required all Israelites to assemble at the synagogue.” (page 281) In his commentary on the Heidelberg Confession, written in 1563, O’Hare lists eight failures on the part of reformers that led them to embrace the “Christian Sabbath” (page 288):

  • Failure to familiarize themselves with the teachings of the early church fathers regarding the Sabbath.

  • Failure to expand the understanding of how the Lord’s advent fulfilled each specific Sabbath command beyond “resting from one’s sins.”

  • Failure to be consistent in the treatment of ceremonial laws and types.

  • Failure to satisfactorily explain why the ceremonial Sabbath was placed with the body of the Ten Commandments.

  • Failure to recognize the limitations of the Ten Commandments as a means to inculcate Christian ethics.

  • Failure to differentiate the biblical Sabbath from the tradition of the synagogue.

  • Failure to emphasize the authority of the apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to institute a new order of congregational worship.

  • Failure to distinguish the Sabbath from the Lord’s Day.”

In what may be the keystone paragraph in the entire book, O’Hare explains the meaning of the Sabbath commandment (page 289).

The Mediator is on the first table (of the Decalogue) because, unlike Moses, Christ truly comes from God and is fully God. Yet Christ, by becoming fully man, joins with man to make him complete. Man cannot become complete simply by keeping the law, but he must experience through faith a life-altering union with Christ. The ceremonial Sabbath is the evangelion within the Ten Commandments that addresses the redemption of man. It is Christ Himself who takes the place of the Sabbath in the Decalogue. The Lord’s Day is not a continuum of the Sabbath or its replacement; it is a fresh ordinance for the church of God based upon the completion of redemption that was twice sealed by the Lord, first by His resurrection and second by the descent of the Holy Spirit.”

This puts the Decalogue in the absolute best light for new covenant saints to understand it and relate to it. (Scripture never calls the Decalogue “The Ten Commandments”, but only and always “the ten words” – hence the term Decalogue. But “Ten Commandments” are much weightier in the mouths of religious overlords than are “ten words”. I would have liked O’Hare to address this aspect of the creeping incrementalism of religious lordship in the church.)

It was during this time that the early reformers also broke with the clear teachings of Scripture and the church fathers by beginning to teach the Sabbath as the product of a creation ordinance. This was taught by Ursinus who “may have adopted the theory of the Reformed Englishman John Hooper, who, in his widely published book, Declaration of the Ten Holy Commandments (1548), claimed that God instituted the Sabbath from creation. … So, only 300 years after Aquinas and fifty years after Luther, the admixture of the Sabbath and Lord’s Day developed into a general concept that the Lord’s Day is the Sabbath, fostering the idea that the Sabbath remains a viable force in Christian living.” (page 290) This creation-ordinance based “Christian Sabbath” was a major element used by state-churches on both sides of the Atlantic to coerce Sunday worship – just as Rome had learned to do, using the same unfortunate logic.

In 1973, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church published a report from a committee that had been formed to study the relationship of the Westminster Confession of Faith to the fourth commandment. In part, the committee reported:

The weekly Sabbath is an eschatological sign. This truth, central to the teaching of Hebrews 3:7 – 4:13 as well as fundamental to the entire biblical revelation concerning the Sabbath, does not find expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. The reason for this would appear to be that the Standards mention the Sabbath commandment primarily in terms of its bearing on the more specific matter of public and private worship.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith was not changed to reflect the eschatological import of the fourth commandment. O’Hare, having taught in this book the nature of moral law (unchanging and universal), observes “If the Sabbath is not ceremonial or typological, it is not eschatological.” “Where”, he asks, “”can it be shown that the Ten Commandments summarize the moral law given to Adam? Where can it be demonstrated that the Sabbath commandment is purely moral?” (page 291) “Was the fourth commandment, as God gave it to Israel, about the Christian Sabbath or the Jewish Sabbath? Was there anything else in the fourth commandment that was abrogated than merely the day of the week on which it fell? Where can it be shown that God abrogated the Jewish Sabbath and installed a Christian Sabbath in its place? … So, besides omitting fundamental truths about the Sabbath, the Westminster codified interpretive errors that budded with Aquinas and blossomed with early Reformers.” (page 292)

In closing this very provoking chapter, O’Hare shows us that the fourth commandment not only commanded rest, it commanded work for six days. The Hebrew word in this commandment is in the Qal imperfect tense, which implies an on-going action – “you work”. “But, if the fourth commandment moralizes the example of God for man to obey, then it is as much a sin to work on the day of rest as it is to rest on the days of work. … if someone completes their (sic) work in three days and does nothing more for three more days, what exactly are they ceasing from on the seventh day?” He instructs us on two types of rest: “1) God’s rest signifies the promise of eternal life, and 2) Israel’s rest signified her faith in God alone. God’s work is redemptive, so man’s work is meaningless apart from that redemption.” (page 309)

The early church correctly believed that the Sabbath was a ceremonial command and welcomed the ordination of the Lord’s Day as a commemoration of the Lord’s resurrection. However, the ascension of church power through the state and the influence of rationalism allowed the medieval church to begin to associate the fourth commandment with the Lord’s Day. The Reformed church, by perpetuating the error of Aquinas, eventually expanded the scope of applications of Sabbath law and increased its moral muscle, forcing the church to practice Sunday Sabbatarianism.” (page 311)

He gives us eight conclusions which are supported by Scripture and history (page 311):

  • The creation account is not about the Sabbath. It is about the primal peace with God that was lost through sin because of a lack of faith. The pattern of creation – six days of God’s work and the ensuing rest – reverberates through Scripture to demonstrate God’s sovereignty in effecting the work of redemption by grace through the faith of man.

  • When Israel left Egypt they were given the Feast of Passover; a few weeks later in the wilderness they were given the Sabbath. At Mount Sinai, Israel received her full calendar of feasts. The Lord devised this new system of shadow laws to prefigure the person and work of the Messiah.

  • The Ten Commandments are a summary of the Mosaic laws and therefore contain both moral and ceremonial laws.

  • Christ in His earthly ministry was born under the law and obeyed the ceremonial laws as well as the moral laws.

  • Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. His work of redemption – His incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection – is the fulfillment of all shadow laws, even though some of them are yet to be manifested in their entirety.

  • The redemption of Jesus Christ initiated the new covenant. It is the fulfillment of what the former covenants forecasted.

  • The apostles had divine warrant to establish first-day worship. Scripture unfolds the transition from things Jewish to things Christian. First-day weekly worship was the normative practice of the early church, it did not move the Sabbath to Sunday.

  • While there is no explicit scriptural mandate for this transition, we have scriptural foreshadowing and history of first-day significance, and rationale. Christ’s resurrection and the inaugural descent of the Holy Spirit – the most important events of the church age – occurred on the first day of the weeks in fulfillment of Israel’s shadowy calendar laws.”

There is much, much more in this book than I can even hint at in these few pages – which are too many for most, I fear. Buy the book. Study the topics, challenge the author (I found a few places where I consider him to be in error), challenge yourself – for none of us has arrived any more than did any of the Reformers.

At the end of it all, why doesn’t this book, or anyone else, show from Scripture why the Jewish Sabbath command is not meant for the new covenant church? This is the wrong starting point. We look to Scripture to see what is, what God has revealed to us; not to prove a point. What we see in Scripture about the Decalogue is that is was an integral part of the Mosaic Covenant and the testimony or witness of that covenant (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:27 – 29). This key aspect of the Decalogue being a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel is further developed in Ex 25 and 26, with the ark being the “ark of the testimony” (see Ex 25:22 for emphasis). This is reminiscent of Ex 16:33 – 34 when Moses was commanded to put manna in a jar as a testimony God’s promise of provisions, seen in Ex 16:4 – 5. These are the most (only?) explicit statements in the Bible regarding the reason and purpose for the tablets and the ark – as a testimony of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mt. Sinai. Ezekiel 20:12 tells us the Sabbath is a sign between God and the Hebrews – marking their exodus from Egypt. It is not listed as a sign for the church, any more than water baptism is a sign and seal of that New Covenant. The burden is on the backs of those who say the Jewish Sabbath was, as the confessions say, abolished and re-established on the first day of the week, given to the church as the “Christian Sabbath.” That assertion, is found in paragraph 22.7 of the Second London Baptist Confession, yet established by no Scripture. Yet we do see in God’s Word the admonition for Christians to be understanding and accepting of brothers who lean on the practice of old religion (Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8) as well as stern rebukes for those who want Christians to practice old religion as a requirement (Acts 15).

The Sabbath Complete provides a comprehensive review and analysis of myriad aspects of the Decalogue and the Sabbath; examining the Word of God, the languages, and the historical context. Let the reader humbly go before Holy God and plead for understanding rather than rely on his own “wisdom” or unexamined presuppositions that we all hold too closely. Remember those who went before us – they knew they were fallible, yet many of them acted as if they were complete in their understanding of God’s Word. Yet they stood under the banner of Sufficiency of Scripture and all for the glory of God – as we must. But let these slogans of an bygone era be not merely nifty phrases we use to show our credentials, let each of us also acknowledge that we must be reformed and reforming for the glory of God, for He alone sees and understands perfectly.

This book is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher, at a competitive price.

The Papacy

A few years back, a dear friend who has since ceased his war with the flesh commented to me that he did not papacyunderstand why anyone would call himself a protestant. The Reformation was over – what were we protesting? I implored him to consider the Council of Trent – nothing therein has been retracted. And therein, all who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are considered heretics and beyond “salvation” – according to Rome.

In this book, written in the mid-19th century, J.A. Wylie examines the history of the papacy, the dogma of the papacy, the genius and influence of the papacy, and the policy and present prospects of the papacy – all in little more than 300 pages.

As did most reformers, Wylie considered the papacy to be a work of Satan and man. He portrays Satan as the master deceiver and gives us this look at how he worked in the Roman Catholic Church over the years. Here are three short excerpt from this valuable work, which can be read in its entirety here. Let each man who claims Christ stand on the Word of God alone and may God keep us from error.

This antagonist Satan could confront with but his old policy. That policy took a new form, to adapt itself to new circumstances: its edge was finer, its complications greatly more intricate, and its scale of operation vastly larger; still it was the old policy, radically, essentially unchanged, beneath its new modifications and altered forms. Satan presented over again to the world the COUNTERFEIT; and he succeeded once more in persuading the world to accept the counterfeit and to banish the real. The great primal truth of God’s unity and supreme and exclusive government was supplanted in the old world by the device of making men adore inferior deities, not as God, but as representatives and vicegerents of God. So in the modern world the leading Christian truth respecting Christ, and the oneness of his mediation, has been supplanted by the device of other mediators, and of another Christ,–Antichrist. Popery is the counterfeit of Christianity,–a most elaborate and skilfully contriven counterfeit,– a counterfeit in which the form is faithfully preserved, the spirit utterly extinguished, and the end completely inverted. This counterfeit Church has its high priest,–the Pope,–who blasphemes the royal priesthood of Christ, by assuming his office, when he pretends to be Lord of the conscience, Lord of the Church, and Lord of the world; and by assuming his names, when he calls himself “the Light of the World,” “the King of Glory,” “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,”[1] Christ’s Vicar and God’s Vicegerent. This counterfeit Church has, too, its sacrifice,–the mass, which blasphemes the sacrifice of Christ, by virtually teaching its inefficiency, and needing to be repeated, as is done when Christ’s very body and blood are again offered in sacrifice by the hands of the priests of Rome, for the sins of the living and the dead. This Church has, moreover, its Bible, which is tradition, which blasphemes the Word of God, by virtually teaching its insufficiency. It has its mediators,–saints and angels, and especially the Virgin; and thus it blasphemes the one Mediator between God and man. In fine, it blasphemes the person and the office of the Spirit as the sanctifier, because it teaches that its sacraments can make holy; and it blasphemes God, by teaching that its priests can pardon sin, and can release from the obligations of divine law. Thus has Popery counterfeited, and, by counterfeiting, set aside, all that is vital and valuable in Christianity. It robs Christ of his kingly office, by exalting the Pope to his throne; it robs him of his priesthood in the sacrifice of the mass; it robs him of his power as Mediator, by substituting Mary; it robs him of his prophetical office, by substituting the teachings of an infallible Church; it robs God the Spirit of his peculiar work as the sanctifier, by attributing the power of conferring grace to its own ordinances; and it robs God the Father of his prerogatives, by assuming the power of justifying and pardoning men.

In the second place, the pontiffs claimed to be the successors of the apostles. This was a more masterly stroke of policy still. To the temporal dominion of the Caesars they added the spiritual authority of the apostles. It is here that the great strength of the Papacy lies. As the successor of Peter, the Pope was greater than as the successor of Caesar. The one gave him earth, but the other gave him heaven. The one made him a king; the other made him a king of kings. The one gave him the power of the sword, the other invested him with the still more sacred authority of the keys. The one surrounded him with all the adjuncts of temporal sovereignty,–guards, ambassadors, and ministers of State,–and set him over fleets and armies, imposts and revenues; the other made him the master of inexhaustible spiritual treasures, and enabled him to support his power by the sanctions and terrors of the invisible world. While he has celestial dignities as well as temporal honours wherewith to enrich his friends, he can wield the spiritual thunder as well as the artillery of earth, in contending with and discomfiting his foes. Such are the twin sources of pontifical authority. The Papacy stands with one foot on earth and the other in heaven. It has compelled the Caesars to give it temporal power, and the apostles to yield it spiritual authority. It is the ghost of Peter, with the shadowy diadem of the old Caesars.

We take first the doctrine of infallibility. Can anything be conceived more fitted to crush all intellectual vigour than such a doctrine? As an infallible Church, Rome presents her votaries with a system of dogmas, not a few of which are opposed to reason, and some of them even to the senses. These dogmas are not to be investigated; the person must not attempt to reconcile them to reason, or to the evidence of his senses; he must not attempt even to understand them; they are simply to be believed. If he demands grounds for this belief, he is told that he is committing mortal sin, and perilling his salvation. Here is all action of the mind interdicted, under the highest sanctions. The person is taught that he cannot commit a greater crime than to think; that he cannot more grievously offend against his Creator than by using the powers his Creator has endowed him with. Thus, while the first effect of Christianity is to quicken the intellect, the first effect of Romanism is to strike it with torpor. She inexorably demands of all her votaries that they denude themselves of their understandings and their senses, and prostrate them beneath the wheels of this Juggernaut of hers. While the Protestant is occupied in investigating the grounds of his creed, in tracing the relations of its various truths, and in following out their consequences, the mind of the Roman Catholic is all the while lying dormant. As the bandaged limb loses in time the power of motion, so faculties not used become at length incapable of use. A timid disposition, an inert habit, is produced, which is not confined to religion, but extends to every subject with which the person has to do. His reason is shut up in a cave, and infallibility rolls a great stone to the cave’s mouth.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

Some books are a chore to read – because of content and/or style and/or the author’s competence as an author. Some books are a joy to read – the content is excellent, the style is engaging and the book is well written and Holy Spiritorganized. This book is such a book – joy unspeakable! Yet about this book, I will speak.

I received this book from a friend who manages a library at a Christian Seminary and wanted someone to read and review it. He got first peek at the review, ya’ll get it as a close “second”.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology

edited by Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas

One area many reformed theologians tend to ignore is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is a legitimate concern by most preachers about exalting the Lord Jesus and being faithful to His gospel, but no preaching or evangelism or Bible study would be worthwhile if the Spirit of the living God did not faithfully attend each of these. This book – a compilation of articles on various works of the Holy Spirit, written by 9 Baptists and 9 Paedobaptists – is a wonderful examination of the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was written in tribute to the work He has done in the life Geoff Thomas, a faithful gospel minister who has served half a century in the local church our Lord called him to. I have personally benefited greatly from Geoff Thomas’ commentary on Daniel and was most eager to read this book.

The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology is divided into four sections – Geoff Thomas: Faithful Instrument of the Spirit in part I; Salvation and the Spirit of Christ in part II; Growth and the Spirit of Holiness in part III; and Ministry and the Spirit of Counsel and Might in part IV. As you can see from the section titles, the authors recognize and highlight myriad functions and characteristics of the Holy Spirit. The reader will come away from this book with a heightened sense of the power and majesty of the third person of the Holy Trinity.

I will highlight one chapter to give you a taste of the quality and penetrating theology the authors provide. Fred Malone’s chapter, #6, is titled The Holy Spirit and Human Responsibility – a topic I think many Christians fail to properly comprehend. Malone opens with an observation from Geoff Thomas’ book, The Holy Spirit: Man is fully responsible for his behavior and God is fully sovereign in His work to conform man to the image of His dear Son. In stark contrast to the “higher life” movements which advocate a theology of “let go and let God” and the self-improvement psychology, a biblical view of sanctification acknowledges the tension Thomas proclaimed.

Infamously promoted by the Roman Catholic Church is the conflation of justification and sanctification, leading to confusion about both doctrines. Justification is completely monergistic – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Sanctification involves man’s effort, so it is not the monergistic work of God alone – yet neither is it rightly called synergistic. This term conveys a process which depends on both elements – in the case of sanctification those are God and man. The truth of biblical sanctification is this: man cannot sanctify himself apart from the indwelling work and power of the Spirit of God; but the Holy Spirit can and does sanctify man without the man’s cooperation, though this should not be our aim. Our responsibility before God is to work with the Holy Spirit, not grieve Him.

In outlining this concept, Malone tells us, “Man does not regenerate himself; God does not repent and believe for man.” Sinners are made able and willing to repent and believe by the Spirit’s work of regeneration. Our nature is changed and we then “choose Christ” – because He first chose us. Our author points to Philippians 2:12-13, saying it “presents the earthly pursuit of Christlikeness as one hundred percent a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit who works with us and also one hundred percent the work of man with his new God-given ability. If this two hundred percent sum sounds illogical, then we must bow to God’s Word, not man’s logic.” Let all the saints say, Amen!

Malone gives the reader a couple of wonderful paragraphs on the individual’s role in sanctification, with many Scripture passages (pages 76 and 77) and follows up with a short warning: “We cannot blame God for our lack of conformity to Christ.” He explains, “Every step we take forward in Christlikeness brings one hundred percent glory to God alone. However, if we are lacking in that conformity, we must take one hundred percent of the responsibility for that failure and press on by faith.” If this exhortation does not convict as it encourages us to trust all the more in the Lord, then “let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith.”

This chapter ends by proclaiming the critical nature God’s Word plays in the justification and sanctification of God’s saints. As is pointed out elsewhere in this book, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, equipped the men who put the Word into print, accompanies the reading and preaching of the Word to do His unique work in each predestined child who awaits (unknowingly) his redemption. “So Christians must give full attention to learning the Word of God to grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2).” Christian, do you value the Word of God? By this, I ask, do you read it with a humble heart seeking to meet with your maker and judge and Savior? I leave you with one more quote from Malone – “to the degree we live believing the indicatives of grace revealed in the Word – the love of God for us in Christ’s salvation, the unfailing faithfulness of God to His promises to work in us – so we grow in obeying the imperatives of the Word unto further sanctification and Christlikeness.”

Dear reader, the Holy Spirit is God and He works in and through His Word, to raise spiritually dead men to new life, to give them a new nature that loves rather than hates God, to cause us to want what is good and hate what is evil. This book provides a most valuable look at the depth and breadth of His work, highlighting what He does mostly in secret because His role is to bring honor and glory to the Father and the Son. Praise Him!