A Commentary on Acts

A Commentary on Acts 415ueiiJyrL._SS300_

A review by Stuart Brogden

Writing a commentary on any book of the Bible is a daunting task. Especially, I think, a New Testament book. We tend to be more familiar with the New Testament and the theological divisions within the realm of Christianity are daunting. And we have much less commentary and interpretation by the Apostles of the New Testament than we have of the Old. And, as with any study of God’s Word, we all bring our presuppositions with us and have to conscientiously focus to seek the true meaning of Scripture rather than merely defend what we’ve been taught by others. Guy Prentiss Waters has spent untold hours to provide us a study commentary on the book of Acts.

Right up front, Mr. Waters makes it clear the perspective from which he views Scripture, which will delight his fellow paedobaptists but ought to give Baptists a bit of caution. Here, from the Introduction, page 9: “This commentary is Reformed in its orientation. It proceeds from the conviction that the Westminster Standards are the best summary of the Bible’s teaching in the church’s possession. It believes that Reformed theology and sound exegesis are not mutually exclusive alternatives, but the very best of friends.”

Many Baptists claim to be Reformed, but do not hold to the Westminster Confession. And putting any man-authored document as the lens through which to read Scripture is contrary to the very essence of being Reformed, which relies on the never-ending journey of Semper Reformanda, Always Reforming to Scripture for the glory of God. Some Baptists are just as guilty as some of our Presbyterian brothers.

That said, I think that Mr. Waters has written a very good commentary, focused on the redemptive story that holds all of Scripture together. This being a 600 page book, it’s not possible to give you a comprehensive review; so I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of passages in Acts chapter 2.

In a section titled, Promise Explained (page 84), our author does an excellent job explaining why Peter’s sermon (which Luke summarized for his account) points to Jesus as the promised son of David, pointing out: “First, David had ‘both died and was buried’ in Jerusalem. Second, David was a ‘prophet.’ Third, David had received the promise of God, on oath, ‘to seat one from the fruit of his loins upon his throne’ (Ps 132:11, cf 2 Sam 7:1; 1 Chr 17).” And just a few pages later, Waters leans (in a footnote) on the Westminster Longer Catechism to claim baptism as “a sign and seal of the forgiveness of sins that is granted alone through faith in Christ.” (page 89) There is no Scripture referenced and there is no Scripture that can be brought to defend this idea. It is conjecture conjured up by paedobaptists to support paedobaptism. One can argue from Scripture that circumcision of the heart or the Lord’s Supper or both are signs and/or seals of the New Covenant – which is what provides that forgiveness of sins (Luke 22:20 and Rom 2:29, respectively). Later on page 89 and onto page 90, Waters refers to Acts 2:39 and again allows his confessional tradition to influence his understanding of Scripture:

In Acts 2:39, Peter makes an important statement concerning the reach or scope of the promise of which he has been speaking. The promise pertains to three groups of people. First, it is ‘for you’, that is, the Jews – not simply these particular Jews gathered in Jerusalem, but for all Jews within reach of the gospel. Second, it is ‘for your children’. God had specially extended his promises to the offspring of believers under the Old Covenant, and will continue to do so under the New Covenant (Gen 17:7). Third, it is ‘for all who are afar off.’” Waters’ second point is one of the key areas that paedobaptists must not honestly examine, because the actual meaning of this Scripture undermines the foundation of their system. The promise given to Abraham in Gen 17:7 was not one that brought the offspring of Jewish children into the New Covenant. The other side of this covenant given to Abraham, described in Gen 17:9 -14, is what brought Jewish offspring into the Mosaic Covenant community – not the New Covenant. Most importantly, God’s Word tells us the proper interpretation of the promise in Gen 17:7: Galatians 3:16 (ESV) Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. The promises were to Abraham and his seed – not seeds; to include Christ and His body in the New Covenant, not unregenerate Jewish or Presbyterian children.

But, the paedobaptist says, Scripture clearly says “the promise is for you and your children!” Two things must be observed from this passage in God’s Word. First, this verse cited in part by Waters and most paedobaptist defenders – For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. That little phrase at the end qualifies everything that precedes it in this sentence. Only those children that are called by the Lord our God to himself will be saved and, therefore, included in the New Covenant. Secondly, the promise mentioned in verse 29 does not refer to the Abrahamic covenant, as paedobaptists claim in their effort include their biological seed in the New Covenant. Context reveal no mention of Abraham in Peter’s sermon. Starting in verse 22 and continuing to verse 36, Peter describes how Christ Jesus is the heir to God’s covenant with David as fulfillment of God’s promise to David to raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

No matter how you slice Acts 2, you will not find Abraham’s covenant nor a promise by God to include all the children of a group of people in the New Covenant.

As with all things written by man, there is error in this book of which the reader must be wary. But there is much good, as well. Many Baptists and Presbyterians agree vigorously on how sinners are saved – it is a monergistic work of God. This view of soteriology shines brightly throughout this commentary and ought to be an encouragement to many.

If you are a fan of the Westminster system of theology, you will enjoy this book more than us Baptists. But we can all learn and benefit from it as it will cause the serious reader to dig into Scripture to see if these things be so.

The Glory of a True Church

Now available! A book by Benjamin Keach that has been out of print for more than 100 1425078955676-1024x1024years. Brought to you by Free Grace Press. Check it out, see who recommends it – for pastors and all saints.

Benjamin Keach was one of the best and most well-known baptist, puritan theologians of the 1600s. He was instrumental in introducing hymns into the church’s worship, and also was one of the framers of the 1689 London Baptist Confession. He also had a profound love for the church. He began preaching at 18, and pastoring at 28 and his ministry was tremendously blessed by God with growth in truth and defense against error. He was despised by the authorities of the Church of England and often persecuted for his faith. – See more at: http://www.freegracepress.org/products/the-glory-of-a-true-church-by-benjamin-keach/#sthash.7vwpKTyb.dpuf

Battle Plans

Battle Plan Battle Plan

A review by Stuart Brogden

David W. Saxton’s God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is a tightly-packed synthesis of Puritan thoughts on biblical meditation from more than 3 dozen books. In twelve chapters, he covers several important topics, such as defining the difference between biblical mediation and unbiblical meditation. But first, he wants to show us the joy of developing the habit of meditating on the Word of God and throughout the book he shows the pitfalls of being negligent and the nourishment to our souls we gain by persisting in getting the most of our relationship with our Lord and Savior.

What does it mean to meditate? It means to think personally, practically, seriously, and earnestly on how the truth of God’s Word should look like in life.” (page 2) That is helpful in our world in which so many endorse and practice pagan meditation. Saxton reminds us that God has designed us and ordained His Word to be compatible – we find comfort and relief when we are close to Him; we find our Who He is and how we draw close in His Word. “God has chosen primarily to help us deal with discouragements and sin by applying divines truth to our minds. … Biblical meditation on Scripture acts as a believer’s medicine because God’s Spirit always uses the balm of His truth to provide lasting comfort and help.” (page 3) If believers do not spend time and effort in the Word of God, contemplating its truth and application to him, he will be drawn aside to lesser things and be weakened rather than strengthened.

On page 8, our author quotes Philippians 4:8-9 as an example of how God shows proper biblical meditation. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (ESV) He then tells us (page 9), “This passage pronounces a blessing not on those who merely know God’s will, but rather on those who have put His will into everyday practice by dwelling on God’s truth.”

One aspect of this book that grew somewhat tedious for me is the sheer quantity and concentration of quotes from the Puritans. Many pages have 6 to 8 quotes, with sentences and paragraphs peppered with footnotes; often taking more space than Saxton uses. While it is good to read the thoughts of these long-gone saints, it is a bit distracting for so many quotes to be used in short space. But let’s get on with the book!

In advocating biblical mediation, Saxton (pages 28 & 29) tells us that the Bible is full of admonitions for God’s people to remember – as a form of mediation. “Revelation 2:5 demonstrates that this kind of meditation is actually the first step towards evangelical repentance: “Remember therefore from when thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove they candlestick out of his place – unless thou repent.” “Remember” is the word mnamoneuo, which means “to recall information from memory.” The word does not suggest that a person has actually forgotten. Rather, it commands the believer to recall or to think about again.” I would add that this word also conveys the notion of being told to not forget something, to bear in mind – as when your mother would you to remember to bring your coat home from school. Still on page 29, we are given Thomas Hooker’s definition of biblical meditation, one I think worth meditating on: “Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it upon the heart.” While I think this is an excellent definition, I am weary of present day duality of heart and mind – as if one’s heart (pointing to the chest) is what the Bible means by this term, rather than “heart” being a Hebrew metaphor for the seat of one’s being – the soul, which includes our mind.

In chapters 4 and 5, Saxton explores “occasional meditation” and “deliberate meditation”, showing from the Puritans and the Word of God how unplanned, near-spontaneous contemplation of some attribute of God is as valuable as planned study and prayer and pondering the Word. Occasional meditation ought to fill our minds during the day, rather than our routine absorption of cultural media and the attending thoughts it stimulates. We are cautioned to be on guard against the mystical practice of Rome and others with regards to occasional meditation, but also to persist in training ourselves to think on and ponder the Word of God and how it applies to our daily lives throughout our days. We are urged to memorize Scripture as a safe guard for our thought-life. That’s good advice – I dare most of us are not taking it! Deliberate meditation is pressed on us as necessary for spiritual life – if we do not make plans to read, study, pray over, and ponder God’s Word, our sinful minds will fill us with fleshly desires. I am an advocate of making time early in the day, the calibrate my thinking with the Scriptures before I engage the world. Many of the Puritans agree with me, but they also recognize the danger of dictating specifics to others – some may function better later in the day. So each man must be convinced in his own mind.

William Bridge taught that meditation on the Word should be divided into four parts. The believer must consider the exactness of the commandment, the faithfulness of the promise, the terror of the threatening, and the weightiness of the examples.” (page 62) This I see as excellent counsel. Far too many Christians have a casual attitude towards the Word of God, actually caring not for various passages that do not conform to their presuppositions. Encouraging Christians to ever trust God, Saxton sums up a Puritan view: “In His wise and perfect dealings, the Lord sometimes causes His people to experience unusual times of joy, sorrow, decision, or change. These are all His divine gifts to turn the believer’s heart to seriously consider God’s dealings to gain His perspective from His Word.” If we grasp the truth of the sovereignty of God, we will embrace this idea – nothing we encounter is “happenstance”; all is God’s providential care, an expression of His kindness towards us. There is excellent teaching on choosing subjects to meditate upon – from sin and death to eternity to hell, and God’s rescue of His people. Our author quotes Thomas Watson (page 93): “Meditation on hell would rejoicing in a child of God … Christ Himself has felt the pain of hell for you. The Lamb of God being roasted in the fire of God’s wrath, by this burnt-offering the Lord is now appeased toward His people. Oh how may the godly rejoice!” Do we see the Lord in this light? Do we begin to comprehend how blessed we are by NOT having to face God’s wrath?

As with all things, Saxton and the Puritans see the main focus of meditation being to bring glory to God. How much of our prayer life is fleshly? Physical healing is always needed – but how often at church prayer meetings do we hear moans and weeping over spiritual matters? Is the eternal destiny of our family and friends as important as losing 10 pounds or getting a higher paying job? Do we recognize how desperately we need God’s grace this day? He quotes Henry Scudder (page 100) – “when you arise and dress yourself, lose not that precious time (when your mind is freshest) with impertinent and fruitless thoughts…. This is a fit time to think about why you have need of apparel.” The Fall affects everything in this age. I heard a pastor remark that every time a dog barks, he is reminding us that our race caused him and all creation to be cursed. We messed it up – not the dogs that God was kind enough to give us as companions. Do we admit to being Adam’s offspring, in need of the last Adam’s righteousness and thankful for His submission to the Father in all things? That is a good thing to meditate upon!

In chapter 10 we are given the benefits of meditation: it deepens repentance; increase resolve to fight sin; inflames heart affection for the Lord; increase growth in grace; provides comfort and assurance to the soul; creates a life of joy, thankfulness, and contentment; deepens and matures a Christian’s experience; and improves the knowledge and retention of God’s Word. That’s quite a list! Any one of these benefits is more than enough to show any child of God that he should spend more time and mental energy consuming and pondering the Word of God and how, now, he should live. None of us has “arrived” nor will any of us do so in this age. Brothers and sisters – we need these benefits and others who have gone before us bid us drink deeply from the fount of God’s Word to gain them. If you and I are honest, we admit we have no excuse for our negligence in pursuing godliness. Saxton calls upon the Puritans to speak to this in chapter 11 – Enemies of Meditation.

But there are a couple things in chapter 10 that must be highlighted, showing us that neither Saxton nor his beloved Puritans had it all together, either. First up, a short quote from Thomas Watson, a very credible witness for the Lord – but not perfect. Saxton quotes Watson from Heaven Taken by Storm (pages 106 – 107): “If only people meditated on the damnableness of sin … they would break off … sinning and become new creatures.” This is cobbled together from a short paragraph from Watson’s pen:

Meditation produceth reformation, Psalm cxix. 59. ‘I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.’ Did but people meditated on the damnableness of sin; did but they meddled with it, there is a rope at the end of it, which will hang them eternally in hell, they would break off a course of sinning, and become new creatures. Let all this persuade us to holy meditation. I dare be bold to say that if men would spend but one quarter of an hour every day in contemplating heavenly objects, it would leave a mighty impression upon them, and, through the blessing of God might prove the beginning of a happy conversion.

First, let’s all agree that spending time humbly before God as revealed in Scripture will cause reformation within the Christian. But can pondering sin and stopping any one or several of them actually cause a child of wrath to be born again and adopted by God? Mr. Watson had this backwards! God is the One who works transformation by raising a spiritually dead person to new life, becoming a new creature in Christ – not by any works on the part of the creature, for then we would have cause to boast in our flesh! God works reformation in the lives of His people, as we all are on a journey of becoming more conformed to Christ and need His Spirit working within us to make it so. These two things are not the same. From other things written by Watson, I think he knew this – but his writing and thinking (like mine) is not perfect. And he errs in this instance.

Secondly, after quoting Jonathan Edwards (page 110), Saxton says, “Meditation causes believers to grow in grace because it allows the word of His grace to minister a genuine building up of the soul.” (emphasis mine) We must always be on guard with how we characterize the Creator. He does not need our permission or cooperation to work His grace in our lives. He does instruct and equip us to cooperate with Him in this endeavor, but we do not allow Him to work His grace in our lives. Our brother would serve us better by saying that meditation promotes the Word of His grace to build up our soul.

Sanctification (which all of what this book discusses fit within) is a curious process. Unlike justification, sanctification is not monolithic. And while we are encouraged to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our ongoing sanctification, there are times in each believer’s life that He sanctifies us without our cooperation. Praise the Lord that He does not grow weary or negligent in His work, though we may be from time-to-time! But note this – apart from the Spirit working in us, we cannot sanctify ourselves. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Game, point, match.

Last gripe – in the last chapter, careless language once again inserts an unbiblical image that has been promoted and abused by many, though I do not think this is Saxton’s intention. On page 130, Saxton tells us: “Our deceitful hearts seek to convince us that we have the innate ability to live the Christian life in our own power. Only humble prayer can drive out that evil spirit.” Two things are evident in this short quote: He contradicts himself, telling us rightly we cannot live the Christian life in our power, then telling us how to do so! Then he tells us that sin in us is an evil spirit. Accepting this image without realizing God’s truth leaves us open to being misled. Bob Larson has made untold sums of money playing on the fears of those who do not know the Lord or who are ignorant of the fact that if the Spirit of the living God indwells us, no evil spirit can therein abide. Though our flesh is affected and afflicted by indwelling sin, our soul is perfectly righteous and “possessed” by the Spirit of God. Only lost persons can have an evil spirit within them. That should make us thankful yet again to be found in Christ!

To conclude (lest I go on too long, as is my wont), this is a most excellent book, much needed in every church and by every child of God – for who does not need more grace and closeness with our Lord? Saxton tells us (page 131), “normal Christian growth can be a messy, painful, and imperfect struggle. Yet, just the same, it is a struggle worth fighting.” In his conclusion, he tells us, “The believer’s ultimate purpose is to glorify God through becoming more life Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-30; 2 Cor 3:18). … This process of progressive sanctification is all of the Lord’s grace, yet it is a duty in which God’s people are responsible to participate.” “Find your greatest delight in life in the presence of Christ though His Word.” (page 137)

Man of Sorrows

Spurgeon’s Sorrows Sorrows

A review by Stuart Brogden

Zack Eswine has written an easy-to-grasp overview of a condition many Christians and pastors spend too little time understanding. Some because they’ve bought into the lie that being healed by the stripes of Christ is a temporal healing, and we should have no sickness if our faith is strong enough. Some because they do not understand mental problems and do not trust psychiatrists. Eswine studied Charles Spurgeon, who suffered with depression and wrote about it, and he brings the Word of God and the words of men to bear to clear the air and give us hope. My hope is to bring to light a few of the good insights this book has to offer and help my fellow Christians better understand this issue so that we might be used to do good to our brothers and sisters who are suffering with depression.

So let’s sample this book, see how Spurgeon dealt with it, and how our Creator advises us.

Chapter 3

Conversion to Jesus isn’t heaven, but its foretaste. This side of heaven, grace secures us but doesn’t cure us.

“Though substantial healing can come, Charles reminds us that often it waits till heaven to complete its full work.

“We do not profess that the religion of Christ will so thoroughly change a man as to take away from him all his natural tendencies; it will give the despairing something that will alleviate that despondency, but as long as that is caused by a low state of body, or a diseased mind, we do not profess that the religion of Christ will totally remove it. No, rather, we do see every day that amongst the best of God’s servants, there are those who are always doubting, always looking to the dark side of every providence, who look at the threatening more than at the promise, who are ready to write bitter things against themselves …

“Therefore we sufferers of depression in Christ may grow terribly weak, even in faith, but we are not lost to God.

“It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that He is so.”

This is critical for us to grab hold of – our position as children of God, His redemption and righteousness is not based on or determined by how we feel. It is based on His work to earn His place as the Lamb of God, taking our sin upon Himself, and imputing His righteousness to us. These facts and the promises of God are what determine our standing before Him. Our emotions are given to us by God but we are prone to being dragged away from Truth by them.

Chapter 4

“Religion offers both a challenge and a help to those who suffer mental disorders. This challenge surfaces when preachers assume that depression is always and only a sin.”

The author goes on to identify the hope is, as studies which indicate people who are part of a religious community do better with mental health (citing Lauren Cahoon, “Will God Get You Out of Your Depression?” (ABC News, March 19, 2008))

Depression for the Christian is often based on the perception that God has abandoned him. This is a very tangible example of how our theology matters and how our faith must rest in Christ and not our perceptions of His love for us. No doubt, this is easy to say and terribly hard to find comfort in when one is captured by his emotions. Our author quotes saints of old often and here, he shows us they did not neglect Satan. The devil doesn’t cause depression but he certainly is eager to encourage it! At this point, the Christian must fight.

“We plead not ourselves, but the promises of Jesus; not our strengths but His; our weaknesses yes, but His mercies. Our way of fighting is to hide behind Jesus who fights for us. Our hope is not the absence of our regret, or misery or doubt or lament, but the presence of Jesus. “Doubting Castle may be very strong, but he who comes to fight with Giant Despair is stronger still!”” (a quote from Charles Spurgeon, “Christ Looseth From Infirmities,”)

He goes on to cite “three tough words” from Spurgeon. First, he defends those who suffer by pointing them to Christ. Secondly, he cautions them not to haunt themselves on purpose with the dreaded notion that somebody somewhere might be happy. Thirdly, Spurgeon would – when he thought it necessary, be direct with those who refused to fight their depression. His sermon, A Call to the Depressed, is cited as a prime example of this tactic. “Perhaps in this sermon, we see Charles the human being trying imperfectly to administer help to sorrows not easily diagnosed. In his earnest and fragile attempts to help, we see our own.”

Chapter 6

“Jane Kenyon’s remarkable poem, “Having it out with Melancholy,” poses two “God” problems associated with depression and our attempts at care. First, depression ruins our “manners toward God” because it teaches us “to exist without gratitude,” and tempts us to answer the purpose of our existence as “simply to wait for death,” since “the pleasures of earth are overrated.” Second, depression tempts our friends to offer the following advice: “You wouldn’t be so depressed if you really believed in God.””

This chapter provides the reader with biblical counsel for those who are depressed, who, our author points out, “lean on metaphors” to describe how they are feeling. Mental problems are hard to convey to those who have not experienced them, so abstract descriptions rarely suffice. The Bible communicates mental anguish via metaphor: Ps 88:3-7, 69:15, Job 13:25, Prov 18:14, et. al.

Three ways metaphors are sufficient to communicate to those in depression:

“(1) Metaphor leaves room. It does not propose to cover every angle, understand every possibility or to explain every detail. It does not require only one possible explanation. Language that proposes to do this with depression exposes its ignorance of the situation at hand.

“(2) Metaphor allows for nuance and difference. Since each person’s experience with depression differs, metaphor allows for diverse expression. Formulaic prose or platitudes immediately reveal their lack of realism regarding how depression damages someone.

“(3) Metaphor requires further thought and exploration. It is a word of invitation more than destination which, we observed earlier, is crucial for gathering up the debris of depression.”

The Bible communicates a creator God Who completely understands His creatures and the plights we face.

“A larger story about God exists that possesses within it a language of sorrows so that the gloomy, the anguished, the dark-pathed, and the inhabitants of deep night are given voice. Such a god-story is neither cruel nor trite. Such a story begins to reveal the sympathy of God.”

Divine sympathy is your teacher, dear caregiver; your ally and friend, dear sufferer. Let His sorrow’s language help you.

Chapter 7

Four ways we can make things worse:

“1. We judge others according to our circumstances rather than theirs. “There are a great many of you who appear to have a large stock of faith, but it is only because you are in very good health and your business is prospering. If you happened to get a disordered liver, or your business should fail, I should not be surprised if nine parts out of ten of your wonderful faith should evaporate.” Jesus teaches us about those who lay up heavy burdens on others but do not lift a finger to help (Matt. 23:4).

“2. We still think that trite sayings or a raised voice can heal deep wounds. A person “may have a great spiritual sorrow, and someone who does not at all understand his grief, may proffer to him a consolation which is far too slight.” Like a physician who offers a common ointment for a deep wound, we “say to a person in deep distress things which have really aggravated him and his malady too.” In this regard, Charles teaches us the Scriptures, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25:20).

“3. We try to control what should be rather than surrender to what is. We must not “judge harshly, as if things were as we would theoretically arrange them, but we must deal with things as they are, and it cannot be questioned that some of the best believers are at times sorely put to it,” even “to know whether they are believers at all.” The Scriptures teach us about Job’s friends who struggled at this very point.

“4. We resist humility regarding our own lack of experience. “There are some people who cannot comfort others, even though they try to do so, because they never had any troubles themselves. It is a difficult thing for a man who has had a life of uninterrupted prosperity to sympathize with another whose path has been exceedingly rough.” The Apostle Paul teaches us to comfort others out of the comfort that we ourselves have needed and received (2 Cor. 1:4).

“According to the Bible, when we encounter someone who weeps, we too are meant to weep (Rom. 12:15). When someone encounters adversity they are meant to reflect and meditate, and we with them (Eccles. 7:14). Without this together-sympathy our attempts to help others can lose the sound of reality. The loss of this sound of reality forges the larger reason for our harshness.”

Chapter 8

I wrap up with the author’s review of how our Savior relates to us. The common passage, Hebrews 4:14-16 (Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.) emphatically tells us that Jesus has suffered temptation and is able to sympathize with us – and He bids us come to Him! He is the cure what ails our souls and minds. This is not, as we are told, only in the here-after – the Lord is our comfort in this age. For in this age we are hated by the world, attacked by our flesh, and wearied by all the effects of sin that inhabit us and our environment. Jesus is our ever present helper and that’s where I want to end.

Yet Still Stinking

Dear readers,

We live in a day and age where false doctrine and heresy becomes more and more rampant within the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In any and every way possible, the evil one seeks to undermine the Scriptures with the oldest question in all of history spoken to the minds of people of all walks of life, but particularly to those who claim the name of Christ.

“Yea, has God really said?”

sinlessperfection

In this excellent video by Pastor John MacArthur, he deals with the false teaching propagated by many in mainline evangelical denominations and by those who in the Charismatic movements. This message entitled, “Spiritually Living, Yet Still Stinking” he deals with the false teaching of sinless perfectionism and that we can live a fully sanctified life before being redeemed from this corrupt flesh. This form of Arminianism was taught and spread by false teachers such as Charles G. Finney, who is considered the father of modern-day revivalism.

From MacArthur’s message found in the video below:

It was J.C. Ryle in his marvelous epic book written in 1879 by the title of Holiness who said, “Sudden instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see anywhere in the Bible.” And the reason J.C. Ryle didn’t see them is because they’re not there. That was an utterly unbiblical concept. He knew what all accurate theologians know, that justification and sanctification are inseparable. They both come at the instant of salvation. Justification is immediate and sanctification is progressive, but they cannot be separated. And sanctification is not some experience subsequent to salvation.

Paul claimed to be the chiefest of all sinners, and 1 John is clear that if anybody says he or she is not a sinner, then they are calling God a liar.  We will never achieve sinless perfection in this life. However, we can give thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that one day He is coming back and He will change our corruptible bodies into that which is incorruptible. What a glorious day that will be.

Arminianism: The Road to Rome

Arminianism: The Road to Rome

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778)

hymnwriter and theologian

Whose Voice Do You Hear? toplady3

“My sheep, saith Christ, hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. O, most worthy Scriptures! which ought to compel us to have a faithful remembrance, and to note the tenor thereof; which is, the sheep of Christ shall never perish.”Doth Christ mean part of his elect, or all, think you? I do hold, and affirm, and also faithfully believe, that he meant all his elect, and not part, as some do full ungodly affirm. I confess and believe assuredly, that there shall never any of them perish: for I have good authority so to say; be- cause Christ is my author, and saith, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Ergo, it is not possible that they can be so deceived, that they shall ever finally perish, or be damned: wherefore, whosoever doth affirm that there may be any (i.e. any of the elect) lost, doth affirm that Christ hath a torn body.”1

The above valuable letter of recantation is thus inscribed: “A Letter to the Congregation of Free-willers, by One that had been of that Persuasion, but come off, and now a Prisoner for Religion:” which superscription will hereafter, in its due place, supply us with a remark of more than slight importance.


John Wesley, A Friend of Rome?

To occupy the place of argument, it has been alleged that “Mr. Wesley is an old man;” and the Church of Rome is still older than he. Is that any reason why the enormities, either of the mother or the son, should pass unchastised?

It has also been suggested, that “Mr. Wesley is a very laborious man:” not more laborious, I presume, than a certain active being, who is said to go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it:2 nor yet more laborious, I should imagine, than certain ancient Sectarians, concerning whom it was long ago said, “Woe unto you Scribes, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte:”3 nor, by any means, so usefully laborious, as a certain diligent member of the community, respecting whose variety of occupations the public have lately received the following intelligence: “The truth of the following instance of industry may be depended on: a poor man with a large family, now cries milk, every morning, in Lothbury, and the neighbourhood of the Royal Exchange; at eleven, he wheels about a barrow of potatoes; at one, he cleans shoes at the Change; after dinner, cries milk again; in the evening, sells sprats; and at night, finishes the measure of his labour as a watchman.”4


The Quarrel is With the Wolf

Mr. Sellon, moreover, reminds me (p. 128.) that, “while the shepherds are quarrelling, the wolf gets into the sheep fold;” not impossible: but it so happens, that the present quarrel is not among “the shepherds,” but with the “wolf” himself; which “quarrel” is warranted by every maxim of pastoral meekness and fidelity.

I am further told, that, while I am “berating the Arminians, Rome and the devil laugh in their sleeves.” Admitting that Mr. Sellon might derive this anecdote from the fountain head, the parties themselves, yet, as neither they nor he are very conspicuous for veracity, I construe the intelligence by the rule of reverse, though authenticated by the deposition of their right trusty and well-beloved cousin and counsellor.

Once more: I am charged with “excessive superciliousness, and majesty of pride:” and why not charged with having seven heads and ten horns, and a tail as long as a bell-rope? After all, what has my pride, or my humility, to do with the argument in hand? Whether I am haughty, or meek, is of no more consequence either to that, or to the public, than whether I am tall or short: however, I am, at this very time, giving one proof, that my “majesty of pride” can stoop; that even to ventilate the impertinences of Mr. Sellon.


Arminianism at Home in Rome

But, however frivolous his cavils, the principles for which he contends are of the most pernicious nature and tendency. I must repeat, what already seems to have given him so much offence, that Arminianism “came from Rome, and leads thither again.” Julian, bishop of Eclana a contemporary and disciple of Pelagius, was one of those who endeavoured, with much art, to gild the doctrines of that heresiarch, in order to render them more sightly and palatable. The Pelagian system, thus varnished and paliated, soon began to acquire the softer name of Semipelagianism. Let us take a view of it, as drawn to our hands by the celebrated Mr. Bower, who himself, in the main, a professed Pelagian, and therefore less likely to present us with an unfavourable portrait of the system he generally approved. Among the principles of that sect, this learned writer enumerates the following:

“The notion of election and reprobation, independent on our merits or demerits, is maintaining a fatal necessity, is the bane of all virtue, and serves only to render good men remiss in working out their salvation, and to drive sinners to despair.   “The decrees of election and reprobation are posterior to, and in consequence of, our good or evil works, as foreseen by God from all eternity.”5

Is not this too the very language of modern Arminianism? Do not the partizans of that scheme argue on the same identical terms? Should it be said, “True, this proves that Arminianism is Pelagianism revived; but it does not prove, that the doctrines of Arminianism are originally Popish:” a moment’s cool attention will make it plain that they are. Let us again hear Mr. Bower, who, after the passage just quoted, immediately adds, “on these two last propositions, the Jesuits found their whole system of grace and free-will; agreeing therein with the Semipelagians, against the Jansenists and St. Augustine.”6 The Jesuits were moulded into a regular body, towards the middle of the sixteenth century: toward the close of the same century, Arminius began to infest the Protestant churches. It needs therefore no great penetration, to discern from what source he drew his poison. His journey to Rome (though Monsicur Bayle affects to make light of the inferences which were at that very time deduced from it) was not for nothing. If, however, any are disposed to believe, that Arminius imbibed his doctrines from the Socinians in Poland, with whom, it is certain, he was on terms of intimate friendship, I have no objection to splitting the difference: he might import some of his tenets from the Racovian brethren, and yet be indebted, for others, to the disciples of Loyola.


Papists and Predestination

Certain it is, that Arminius himself was sensible, how greatly the doctrine of predestination widens the distance between Protestantism and Popery. “There is no point of doctrines (says he) which the Papists, the Anabaptists, and the (new) Lutherans more fiercely oppose, nor by means of which they heap more discredit on the reformed churches, and bring the reformed system itself into more odium; for they (i.e. the Papists, & etc.) assert, that no fouler blasphemy against God can be thought or expressed, than is contained in the doctrine of predestination.”7 For which reason, he advises the reformed world to discard predestination from their creed, in order that they may live on more brotherly terms with the Papists, the Anabaptists, and such like.

The Arminian writers make no scruple to seize and retail each other’s arguments, as common property. Hence, Samuel Hoord copies from Van Harmin the self same observation which I have now cited. “Predestination (says Samuel) is an opinion odious to the Papists, opening their foul mouths, against our Church and religion:”8 consequently, our adopting the opposite doctrines of universal grace and freewill, would, by bringing us so many degrees nearer to the Papists, conduce to shut their mouths, and make them regard us, so far at least, as their own orthodox and dearly beloved brethren: whence it follows, that, as Arminianism came from Rome, so “it leads thither again.”


The Jesuits and Predestination

If the joint verdict of Arminius himself, and of his English proselyte Hoord, will not turn the scale, let us add the testimony of a professed Jesuit, by way of making up full weight. When archbishop Laud’s papers were exam- ined, a letter was found among them, thus endorsed with that prelate’s own hand: “March, 1628. A Jesuit’s Letter, sent to the Rector at Bruxels, about the ensuing Parliament.” The design of this letter was to give the Superior of the Jesuits, then resident at Brussels, an account of the posture of civil and ecclesiastical affairs in England; an extract from it I shall here subjoin: “Father Rector, let not the damp of astonishment seize upon your ardent and zealous soul, in apprehending the sodaine and unexpected calling of a Parliament. We have now many strings to our bow. We have planted that soveraigne drugge Arminianisme, which we hope will purge the Protestants from their heresie; and it flourisheth and beares fruit in due season. For the better prevention of the Puritanes, the Arminians have already locked up the Duke’s (of Buckingham) eares; and we have those of our owne religion, which stand continually at the Duke’s chamber, to see who goes in and out: we cannot be too circumspect and carefull in this regard. I am, at this time, transported with joy, to see how happily all instruments and means, as well great as lesser, co-operate unto our purposes. But, to return unto the maine fabricke:–OUR FOUNDATION IS ARMINIANISME. The Arminians and projectors, as it appeares in the premises, affect mutation. This we second and enforce by probable arguments.”9


The Sovereign Drug Arminianism

The “Sovereign drug, Arminianism,” which said the Jesuit, “we (i.e. we Papists) have planted” in England, did indeed bid fair “to purge our Protestant Church effectually. How merrily Popery and Arminianism, at that time, danced hand in hand, may be learned from Tindal: “The churches were adorned with paintings, images, altar-pieces, & etc. and, instead of communion tables, alters were set up, and bowings to them and the sacramental elements enjoined. The predestinarian doctrines were forbid, not only to be preached, but to be printed; and the Arminian sense of the Articles was encouraged and propagated.”10 The Jesuit, therefore, did not exult without cause. The “sovereign drug,” so lately “planted,” did indeed take deep root downward, and bring forth fruit upward, under the cherishing auspices of Charles and Laud. Heylyn, too, acknowledges, that the state of things was truly described by another Jesuit of that age, who wrote: “Protestantism waxeth weary of itself. The doctrine (by the Arminians, who then sat at the helm) is altered in many things, for which their progenitors forsook the Church of Rome: as limbus patrum; prayer for the dead, and possibility of keeping God’s com- mandments; and the accounting of Calvinism to be heresy at least, if not treason.”11


Arminianism From the Pit

The maintaining of these positions, by the Court divines, was an “alteration” indeed; which the abandoned Heylyn ascribes to “the ingenuity and moderation found in some professors of our religion.” If we sum up the evidence that has been given, we shall find its amount to be, that Arminianism came from the Church of Rome, and leads back again to the pit whence it was digged.


ENDNOTES:

1. Strype, u.s.
2. Job 1:7 with 1 Peter 5:8.
3. Matt. 23:15.
4. Bath Chronicle, for Feb. 6, 1772.
5. Bower’s Hist. of the Popes, vol. 1, p. 350.
6. Bower ibid.
7. Arminius, in Oper. P.115. Ludg. 1629. (See book for Latin.)
8. Hoord, In Bishop Davenant’s Animadversions, Camb. 1641.
9. Hidden works of darkness, p. 89, 90. Edit. 1645.
10. Tindal’s Contin. of Rapin, vol. 3 octavo, 1758.
11. Life of Laud, p. 238.

Accidental Discipleship

Change. All of us want to – need to – change in some way. We try all sorts of tactics, theories, imagesand drugs. All of which are shortcuts, focused on defeating the desires of our flesh. Too seldom do we seek God’s wisdom, thinking His way takes too long, requires too much effort.

But change is the wrong goal. It’s what the flesh wants and it’s a shortcut that will lead to disappointment or destruction. Knowing Jesus is the correct goal. In Him we are complete (Colossians 2:10). Whatever change is truly needed in our lives will be wrought by the Spirit of God if we abandon our plans for self-justification and pursue Christ. Not improvement, not change for the better, not relief from our pain; just Jesus.

Pursuing the wrong objective – a better life, defeating a habitual sin – is like attacking a heavily defended fortress (a stronghold) with toy weapons. We will be defeated. When we focus on the enemy, the sin, the stronghold that assails you – you are drawn away from the narrow path that Christ calls His brothers to walk. Only by keeping your eyes focused on your Guide can you keep from straying from the narrow way.

Christ is more than our goal. He is our creator, example, savior, teacher, brother, and King. All battles against sin will be – and can only be – won by making a determined, get-up-when-you-fall, faith-based pursuit of Jesus the Christ. When you or I fail to pursue Him, we grow complacent and disenchanted with Him. The allure of the flesh entices (James 1:14 & 15) and we fall – or jump – into sin. Why didn’t God stop us? Why didn’t He prevent it? He gave us His Spirit and His Son – and the choice to walk in Him or walk in the desires of our flesh. He gives us the promise that if we walk in Him, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). The flip side of that coin is also true: if we walk in the flesh we will not fulfill the desires of His spirit, but of our flesh.

Seek to know Him. Paul told the church at Corinth, “I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) Christ alone – good enough for the Apostle Paul. Is He enough for you? If not, it’s not because He is lacking – it’s because you and I choose wrong and fail to be thankful for Him. Choose Christ – above all else – regardless of your emotions.

As Jesus was deliberate in coming to Earth (Philippians 2:5 – 11) to seek and save you and me, we who are redeemed by His blood must be deliberate in seeking His will, His Word – Him.

If a man expects to drift into spiritual obedience or maturity, he is mightily deceived. This is what Satan would have God’s children believe – that we can mature to Christ-likeness by going with the flow.

Remember: The path of least resistance makes both men and rivers crooked. Choose to pursue Christ and he we will make your path straight. (Psalms 27:11)