Posted by: Grover Gunn | January 20, 2010

Thoughts on the Westminster Shorter Catechism

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with its classic statement that humanity’s main purpose is glorifying and enjoying God. These are joint purposes which reinforce each other. We can’t really glorify God if our efforts at doing so are merely the joyless fulfillment of a perceived duty. We can’t really enjoy God if we have no sense of His matchless wonder and majesty which inspire praise.

According to WSC Q3, the Scriptures, which direct us how to glorify and enjoy God, mainly teach us what humans are to believe concerning God and what duty God requires of humans. After Q3, the catechism summarizes these two broad areas in order. The catechism’s teaching is classic Calvinism which accepts without compromise the Scriptures’ teaching on both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. In the section on human responsibility, the catechism teaches humanity’s responsibility to obey God’s moral law (40-41) and fallen humanity’s responsibility to obey the gospel (85). This teaching implies that humans are free agents whom God rightfully holds accountable for their own actions. At the same time, the section on God teaches that God has foreordained everything which comes to pass (7) and that God governs every action of every creature (11). True to its Calvinism, the catechism does not compromise any of these Scriptural teachings in an effort to construct a system that is completely comprehensible to the finite mind.

The catechism’s section on God explains salvation from the perspective of divine sovereignty. In His sovereign works of providence, God established first the covenant of life, more commonly called the covenant of works (12). This first covenant with its implied promise of life upon the condition of Adam’s perfect obedience was a voluntary condescension of the eternal Creator to Adam the finite creature (WCF 7.1-2). Adam broke the covenant of life by sinning against God and fell into an estate of sin and misery (13-17). All humans descending from Adam by ordinary generation sinned in Adam and fell with him (16). This, of course, does not include Jesus, who descended from Adam but not by ordinary generation. God then established the covenant of grace in order to deliver the elect out of their fallen estate through the work of Jesus, the only Redeemer of God’s elect (20). This second covenant went beyond a voluntary condescension to a merciful work of salvation (WCF 7.3). Through His priestly death, Jesus satisfied divine justice and reconciled the elect to God (25). The Holy Spirit applies to the elect the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work by working faith in them and thereby uniting them to Christ in their effectual calling (29-30). In effectual calling, the Holy Spirit convinces the elect of their sin and misery, enlightens their minds in the knowledge of Christ and renews their wills. The Holy Spirit thus persuades and enables the elect to embrace Jesus Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel (31). We see here that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. All those united to Christ through effectual calling partake of justification, adoption and sanctification and the benefits which accompany these in this life, at death and at the resurrection (32-38).

The catechism’s section on the duty which God requires of man explains salvation from the perspective of human responsibility. From the very beginning, God gave humanity His moral law as a rule which humanity is responsible for obeying (40). After Adam’s fall through an act of sin, no mere man has been able perfectly to keep these commandments but instead daily breaks them (82). This, of course, does not include Jesus, who is fully man but not a mere man. The punishment which every sin deserves is God’s wrath and curse both in this life and that which is to come (84). To escape God’s wrath and curse due to humans for sin, God requires faith in Jesus (85). Those who believe receive and rest upon Christ alone for salvation as He is offered to them in the gospel (86). Saving faith necessarily bears the fruit of repentance and new obedience, especially the diligent use of the word, sacraments and prayer, all of which God makes effectual to the elect for salvation (85,87,88). We see here that saving faith never exists alone in the one saved but always bears its necessary fruit.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | January 19, 2010

The Movie Avatar

See the review of the movie Avatar on InsideOut #64 at

http://www.truthxchange.com/

Posted by: Grover Gunn | April 8, 2009

Sophie Scholl – The Final Days

The German movie Sophie Scholl – The Final Days is now available on instant view at Netflix.com. I highly recommend this movie based on a true story.

There is some helpful background information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Scholl. If you plan on watching the movie, you might want to do so before reading this article or before reading my comments below.

The Christian character of the Scholl family is movingly demonstrated in the scene in which Sophie meets with her father and mother. The Nazi criminal investigator tries to convince Sophie of the rightness of his brave new world which has no place for God or the individual conscience. He  confidently asserts that the law of the state is the highest law, and yet he wrestles with his own conscience as he tries to act consistently with this conviction. He wants to spare Sophie but she will not cooperate by compromising her convictions. The hateful and arrogant judge who presides over the trial shows the hardening effect of godless philosophy. The inspiring courage of this young Christian lady stands in obvious contrast to the cowardice of many others.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | March 27, 2009

Listening to the Westminster Shorter Catechism

I have recorded the Westminster Shorter Catechism and saved it in MP3 format. There is a link to this on the sidebar at http://www.jacksongrace.com. I have also written an outline to help one think through the WSC.

I doubt I could memorize the WSC solely by listening to a recording of it. Yet I have found this helpful for working on the exact wording and for reviewing. The recording is about 31 minutes. I would suggest listening to it when exercising or when driving on longer trips.

I have found the following observations on wording helpful in memorizing the WSC.

The words “wherein” and “whereby” are often used in the WSC, but I have found it helpful to take note of the following usages of these two words. The word “wherein: is used in the answers to these questions:

  • Q.33. What is justification?
  • Q.92. What is a sacrament?
  • Q.94. What is baptism?
  • Q.96. What is the Lord’s supper?

The word “whereby” is used in the answers to these questions:

  • Q.7. What are the decrees of God?
  • Q.31. What is effectual calling?
  • Q.34. What is adoption?
  • Q.35. What is sanctification?
  • Q.86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
  • Q.87. What is repentance unto life?

In the commentary on the ten commandments, expressions using either forms of the word “other” or forms of the word “neighbor” are used to express applications regarding one’s fellow human. Forms of the word “other” are used in the answers to the following two questions and forms of the word “neighbor”  are used everywhere else:

  • Q.68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
  • Q.74. What is required in the eighth commandment?

The WSC uses four different sets of three words to refer to the threefold division between what one thinks, says and does:

  • The expression “thoughts, words, or works” is used in Q.61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
  • The expression “heart, speech, and behavior” is used in Q.71. What is required in the seventh commandment?
  • The expression “thoughts, words, and actions” is used in Q.72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
  • The expression “thought, word and deed” is used in Q.82. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

The third member of the Godhead is sometimes referred to as the Holy Ghost and sometimes as the Holy Spirit or Spirit. “Holy Ghost” is used in the following:

  • Q.6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
  • Q.22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
  • Q.36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
  • Q.94. What is baptism?

“Holy Ghost” is used in naming the three members of the Godhead (Qs. 6 & 94), in explaining Jesus’ conception (Q. 22), and in the expression “joy in the Holy Ghost” (Q. 36). “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit” is used  elsewhere (Qs. 24,29,30,31,89,91).

Posted by: Grover Gunn | October 4, 2008

F.F. Bruce and Blogs

I yesterday happened upon a statement by the late F.F. Bruce which makes me wonder what he would think about the world of blogs which developed after his death in 1990. Here is the quotation:

“Another factor for which perhaps we should be grateful is that printing is so much more expensive nowadays. A couple of generations ago it was all too cheap and easy to engage in a prolonged pamphlet-warfare which might do untold harm by spreading a local or personal difference far and wide and enlisting partisan support on either side. I have a considerable collection of such polemical pamphlets, and I regard it as a great mercy that we see so little of this sort of thing today.” (page 166, Answers to Questions)

I also thought that the following statement, taken from the same paragraph, was helpful:

“It is all too easy to interpret orthodoxy as meaning ‘what I think’ and heterodoxy as meaning ‘what the other man thinks.’”

Posted by: Grover Gunn | September 26, 2008

Thoughts on Free Will

The concept of free will needs to be discussed on two levels, the ultimate level and the more proximate level. The ultimate reality is that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass and is in exhaustive sovereign control of the historical process. This is how God knows the future without referring to anything or anyone outside of Himself. At the same time, God has created free agents who, though dependent upon God for their existence and sustenance, make spontaneous choices for which they and not God are rightly responsible. We know these facts about divine sovereignty and human responsibility because God has revealed them to us in Scripture. Understanding fully the relationship between these two revealed truths is beyond the intellectual capacity of the finite creature. The apparent irrational tension between an ultimate determinism and creaturely freedom has a rational resolution in the eternal perspective possessed only by eternal God. 

The more proximate issue is the relationship of the will to the free agent. The immaterial part of the human is an integrated, organic whole. It does not consist of a collection of isolated and encapsulated entities which function independently of each other. The intellect and the will are merely functional distinctions within the human spirit or soul. Any action of the will is an expression of the character of the free agent:

  Matthew 7:15-20
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16  “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 
17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
   
  Matthew 12:33-37
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.
34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
   
  Matthew 15:17-20
17 “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?
18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
20 “These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Whenever the will acts, it does so based on what the intellect has ultimately determined to be best for the free agent according to the free agent’s standards. When a free agent wills to do evil, no matter how evil the evil may be or how obviously against the real interests of the free agent, the free agent in his most ultimate judgment has judged the act to be to his greatest good. No free agent ever wills anything which he has, in his last judgment, judged as bad for himself, even though he may recognize this on other levels. Because of this, the decisions, choices and actions of a free agent are a measure of his moral character and a revelation of his moral standards. The fallen free agent always has on some level a knowledge that his evil actions are contrary to the moral standard of absolute good and thus remains responsible for his actions.

The free agent acts as a free agent whenever he spontaneously wills something based on his final understanding of the good and his own best interest. The free agent acts well as a free agent only when his final understanding of the good and his own best interest is rightly informed through faith in God’s revelation. Only then is the free agent’s understanding in conformity with absolute factual truth and absolute moral standards.

Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence in which they looked in faith to God as their ultimate reference in determining the good and their best interest. They also were created with the ability to change their faith reference from God to self. In innocence, they had no inner inclination to do so, but did so under the influence of an external tempter. After shifting their ultimate faith reference from God to self, they saw the apparent short term advantages of what God had forbidden and judged it to be to their best interest to disregard God’s warnings and to partake of what God had forbidden in disobedience to God’s command. They continued to act as free agents, but they no longer acted well as free agents.

As a result of the change in their faith reference, Adam and Eve were no longer innocent in terms of either their legal standing or their moral condition. With a heart corrupted by making self the ultimate reference, they did not understand the true sinfulness of their sin nor the true misery of their new situation. With their new autonomous faith reference, they could not recognize that it was to their best interest to make God once again their faith reference. This moral inability resulting from their autonomous faith reference was a just penalty for their transgression.  Their descendants, who were begotten in Adam’s moral image, also had this autonomous faith reference. This was a just legal judgment upon Adam, who was the sole material source of the human race and who acted as the legal representative of the human race during his period of probation in paradise. After the fall, the human’s autonomous reference distorted all his understandings and inclined all his decisions toward disobedience to God’s revealed will. This noetic distortion and volitional inclination to sin dominated and characterized his life. In an act of mercy, God restrained the consistency of the human’s conformity to his autonomous faith reference to prevent self-destruction and to enable secular civilization.

When Adam rejected God as humanity’s faith reference, God had a right to abandon humanity as sustainer. Had God done so completely, creation would have descended into chaos and collapsed. To the degree which God did withdraw as sustainer, chaos and curse came upon creation, including sickness and physical death. This was a just judgment upon Adam’s sin. 

With an innocent heart, Adam had changed his faith reference from God to self under the influence of an external tempter. With a corrupt heart, the fallen human would need more than a righteous example, teacher and exhorter to enable him to change his faith reference back to God. He would need a strong Redeemer who paid the necessary ransom price. The only such Redeemer is Jesus Christ. When Jesus redeems an individual, He gives him a perfect legal standing before God and makes God again his dominate faith reference, yet without totally eliminating at this time the autonomous faith reference. The result is that the redeemed human lives a life that is dominated and characterized by righteousness, and yet sin still touches all that he does. He also has the potential for slipping back temporarily and partially under sin’s dominance. God through specific means of grace combined with the work of the Spirit strengthens the redeemed person’s faith and thus enables him to die more and more unto sin and to live more and more unto righteousness. Thus God in salvation progressively restores the free agent’s ability to act well as a free agent.

The soul is made perfect in holiness at death, and the total person is made perfect in holiness at the resurrection on the last day. At this point, God enables the redeemed to return to God as their faith reference with absolute consistency. The human is from this point forward in an environment free of all external tempters and temptations. Glorified humanity will then live as spontaneous free agents in a permanent condition of perfect holiness with no internal motivation or external temptation for changing the faith reference point. Though perfect in holiness, glorified humanity will engage in an everlasting progression of learning and development as they build a new civilization on the new earth. This will be the highest state of freedom and happiness because humans will spontaneously and perfectly choose to do what is right and good and in their best interest as measured by the absolutes rooted in God’s nature.

The PCA report on the Federal Vision twice quotes the concluding statement of Chapter III, Section VI of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

“Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

The second of the nine declarations in this PCA position paper also uses similar language:

“The view that an individual is ‘elect’ by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this ‘election’ includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his ‘election’ if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

Some have criticized the use of this language as a critique of the Federal Vision because this language lists salvific benefits without specifying whether they refer to individual or corporate salvation. Yet an examination of the Westminster Assembly’s usage of this language as a critique of Amyraldianism suggests the appropriateness of using this language in a critique of the Federal Vision.

On pages 138-144 of his book The Westminster Assembly and Its Work, B.B. Warfield discusses the history behind the inclusion of this very sentence, the last sentence in Chapter III, Section VI, in the Confession of Faith. Warfield says,

“This debate, begun Wednesday morning, October 22, [1645,] and continued at least to October 31, constitutes one of the most notable debates reported in the Minutes, and certifies us that the closing sentence of the sixth section is one of the most deliberate findings of the Assembly.”

The debate reveals that there was a small group at the Assembly whose views on the extent of the atonement had been influenced by Cameron and Amyraut. The confessional statement that “neither are any other redeemed by Christ … but the elect only” was a reference to the redemption accomplished at the cross, an affirmation of the doctrine of limited atonement and a denial of the hypothetical universal atonement affirmed by the Amyraldians.

According to the original Amyraldianism, God decreed for Christ to die for everyone without exception with a universal, hypothetical atonement conditioned on faith, and God decreed for the Holy Spirit to work faith only in the hearts of the elect. This is basically an effort to combine an Arminian view of the accomplishment of the atonement through the work of Christ with a Calvinistic view of the application of the atonement through the work of the Spirit. There are a number of problems with this approach. The Arminian view of the atonement contradicts those Scriptures which teach a definite substitutionary atonement that infallibly saves all those whom God intended it to save. This view also denies that the cross pays the price to redeem the elect from unbelief and purchases for them the gift of faith, and thus cuts the direct link between the objective accomplishment of the atonement and its effectual subjective application. The Amyraldian perspective disrupts the economic unity of the Trinity with the Father first sending Christ to accomplish the atonement for all without exception and then together with the Son sending the Holy Spirit to apply that atonement only to the elect.

According to Warfield, the Amyraldian view represented at the Assembly was a modified version in which Christ died for the elect with an effectual, saving atonement and for the non-elect with a hypothetical atonement conditioned on faith. This modified view results in Christ’s dying in different senses for different people: in a definite saving atonement for the elect and in an indefinite hypothetical and conditional sense for the non-elect. Their position that Christ died in a hypothetical sense for the non-elect conditioned on faith together with their acceptance of the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity and their teaching that the Holy Spirit regenerates and thus works faith in the hearts of only the elect has the same practical outcome as the regular Calvinistic teaching that God passes by the non-elect and has ordained them to dishonor and wrath for their sin (WCF 3.7).

The only apparent motivation for this confusing doctrinal complexity is the notion that one must have an atonement that is not only infinite in value but also in some sense decretively intended for all without exception in order to justify the free offer of the gospel. What this effort is really doing is improperly mixing the decretive and the preceptive aspects of God’s will. In His decrees, God has unconditionally foreordained for His own glory whatsoever comes to pass. In His revealed will, God offers promises which He will fulfill when specified conditions are met. When one views the atonement from the perspective of God’s decrees, one sees a definite atonement which will save everyone whom God has decreed for it to save. When one views the atonement from the perspective of God’s revealed will, one sees an atonement of infinite saving value which God freely, genuinely and sincerely offers indiscriminately through the gospel message. These two views of the atonement are complimentary and not contradictory. God sincerely desires obedience to His revealed will and is sincerely grieved by disobedience to His revealed will, including the gospel command and offer. Yet God’s greatest obligation is to the greatest good, which is His own glory, and this is what He has consistently decreed.

Again, a few Westminster Divines held to this modified Amyraldianism, and this resulted in an extended debate when the Westminster Assembly was working on the confession of faith. Warfield says the following regarding the debate on the concluding statement of Chapter III, Section VI of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

“The result of the debate was a refusal to modify the Calvinistic statement in this direction — or perhaps we should say the definitive rejection of the Amyraldian views and the adoption of language which was precisely framed to exclude them.”

So according to Warfield, the following confessional statement “was precisely framed to exclude” the modified Amyraldianism:

“Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

If the language of this statement was appropriate for excluding the view that Christ provided for all the non-elect a hypothetical salvation conditioned on a faith which they will never exercise, then this language is also appropriate for excluding the view that Christ provided for some non-elect a corporate salvation conditioned on a perseverance which they will never exercise. The criticism that this confessional language is not relevant to any Federal Vision teaching because it does not use the appropriate qualifiers would also make this language irrelevant to modified Amyraldianism, the very doctrine which, according to Warfield, it was framed to exclude. Such criticism must be misguided because it proves too much.

In the earlier days of the Federal Vision, some proponents made statements which seemed to define the corporate salvation experienced by everyone in the visible church as the common product of an undifferentiated, homogeneous grace in which the elect persevere and the non-elect do not. This is analogous to the original Amyraldian position. In one, there is a hypothetical redemption for all without exception conditioned on faith; in the other, there is a corporate salvation for all in the visible church head for head conditioned on perseverance.

Later some Federal Vision proponents made clear that the differing outcomes (perseverance for the elect and non-perseverance for the non-elect) must indicate differences in the corporate salvation experienced by the elect and the non-elect in the visible church. This more refined view is analogous to the modified Amyraldianism discussed above. One teaches a definite atonement for the elect; the other teaches a corporate salvation with the seeds of perseverance in it for the elect in the visible church. One teaches a hypothetical atonement for the non-elect conditioned on a faith which the non-elect will never exercise; the other teaches a corporate salvation without the seeds of perseverance for the non-elect in the visible church conditioned on a perseverance which the non-elect will never exercise. In contrast to these Federal Vision and Amyraldian views, the confession teaches that “neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” According to the confession, both the elect and the non-elect in the visible church may experience the outward privileges of the church and the common operations of the Spirit.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | July 18, 2008

FV Theology and the Credible Profession

I recently “happened upon” an Internet statement which strongly criticizes as too lenient the action which the 35th PCA General Assembly took on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision.  The report of the Ad Interim committee, using the judgment of charity after the example of the Apostle Paul, stated that the committee viewed the NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ. The Internet critic disagrees strongly with this judgment of charity. In contrast to this critic, I believe that a person can have a credible profession and yet lack in his theology the clear and precise distinction between justification and sanctification that is found in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

I am reminded of a paragraph I recently read in the document found here: http://www.bbmhp.org/neatby/neatby.pdf :

A friend, extremely well acquainted with Irish affairs, related that a conference was held between the Walkerites and the Kellyites to discuss terms on which a union between the two communions might be effected. The negotiations were broken off by the absolute refusal of Kelly and his friends to entertain a term of fellowship on which the other side peremptorily insisted. The article of belief to which the Kellyites declined to commit themselves was “that John Wesley is in hell.”

The report states that nine doctrines which some NPP or FV proponents may believe, are contrary to the Westminster standards. This means that those who hold these doctrines do not qualify for ordination in the PCA. This does not mean that someone who holds any of these doctrines cannot possibly be a Christian.

In his sermon “Free Will — A Slave,” Spurgeon gave the benefit of the doubt regarding their salvation to some whose preaching contained error:

Ah, when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out, they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | April 28, 2008

The Movie Documentary “Expelled”

I have today submitted the following letter to the local newspaper:

“The movie documentary ‘Expelled’ was excellent. I thought the key point was that modern microbiology has discovered that the biological cell is not a simple gel but an organic factory far more complex than any human invention. This new data exposes the inadequacy of the naturalistic Darwinian model for explaining the origin of species. To use the language of Thomas Kuhn, we are witnessing the early stages of a scientific paradigm shift on the level of the  Copernican revolution. As to be expected, the establishment is stubbornly clinging to its old familiar model and is desperately resisting the ‘survival of the fittest’ in the realm of scientific explanations.”

 

Posted by: Grover Gunn | November 10, 2007

William Heth Whitsitt on the History of Baptism

William Heth Whitsitt was the third president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, from 1895 to 1899. As an historican, he wrote a study arguing that English Baptists did not baptize by immersion until 1641. The book was published in 1896 while he was still president of the seminary. I found his book on the Internet at

http://books.google.com/books?id=V68OAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=WIlliam+Heth+Whitsitt#PPA34,M1

The book gives evidence that almost all early Anabaptists baptized by pouring or sprinkling and that immersion as a mode of baptism was not introduced to English Baptists until the year 1641.

 For a short biography of Dr. Whitsitt, go to

http://archives.sbts.edu/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID325566%7CCHID717900%7CCIID1978900,00.html

Posted by: Grover Gunn | October 1, 2007

Conditions, Obligations and the Center of the Road

There is a ditch on each side of the road. Christ was crucified between two thieves. You can fall out of the saddle on either side of the horse. The point of all these illustrations is that the truth usually has an error on either side of it, each error taking part of the truth to an opposite extreme.

Another area of controversy in the Federal Vision debate is the difference between fulfilling the conditions of the covenant of works and fulfilling the obligations of the covenant of grace. Regarding this issue, I think that there are indeed two ditches, an error on each side of the truth.

In the ditch on one side of this road, people deny that the covenant of grace has any necessary obligations associated with it. Those in this ditch usually do acknowledge that a person has to believe in Christ to be saved, but they limit saving faith to trusting Christ for salvation from hell. They teach that trusting Christ for deliverance from sin’s dominating power is desirable but not necessary for salvation. They regard as legalistic the teaching that repentance and new obedience are in any sense necessary Christian obligations. This ditch is often called easy believism or carnal Christian theology or Savior only salvation as opposed to Lordship salvation.

The ditch on the other side of the road is the teaching that a person is saved by his meeting the conditions of the covenant of works. In the Federal Vision movement, this is usually expressed by saying that the covenant of grace under which people are saved today is the same covenant Adam was under before his fall into sin. Those in this ditch teach that salvation before Adam’s fall into sin was by grace through faithful obedience to God, and that this is still true today. This is sometimes called monocovenantalism because it teaches that God’s saving covenant was substantially the same both before and after Adam’s fall into sin.

Now here is what I think is the center of the road. On the one hand, there are necessary obligations related to the covenant of grace. The obligations of the covenant of grace are faith, repentance and new obedience. Faith is necessary as the instrumental means of one’s relationship with Christ. Saving faith is not the working hand demanding wages nor the full hand offering payment but the empty hand pleading for mercy. The moment we are in a faith relationship with Jesus, we begin to experience deliverance from our sins as part of our salvation. Thus repentance and new obedience are necessary fruits of saving faith and not merely optional additions to saving faith. In this sense, they along with faith are obligations of the covenant of grace.

The obligations of the covenant of grace are not conditions in the sense of provisions that one can fulfill and thereby in some sense put God into one’s debt or cause God to owe one something. These obligations are not means through which one can somehow earn wages from God or attain merit before God. They are responsibilities before God which no lost sinner has the moral ability to fulfill. The only way a sinner enslaved by sin will meet these obligations is as a consequence of the Holy Spirit’s sovereignly baptizing him into a saving union with Jesus and thus imparting spiritual life and a heart disposition toward saving faith. Saving faith as a heart disposition is a gift from God based on God’s sovereign special grace. Saving faith as an act is the inevitable response of this heart disposition to the gospel message. Saving faith as an act is also the instrumental means through which the elect experience their salvation through their union with Christ. The other obligations of the covenant are the necessary fruits of a genuine faith relationship with Jesus. If a person’s professed faith does not bear the fruit of repentance and new obedience, this is evidence that his professed faith is not genuine saving faith and that he is not really in a saving union with Christ.

On the one hand, there are necessary obligations related to the covenant of grace. On the other hand, sinners are never saved through their meeting the conditions of the covenant of works. Sinners are never saved on the same terms with which God was dealing with Adam before his fall into sin. The difference between Adam’s situation before the fall and our situation after the fall are profound.

To begin with Adam had an innocent nature. When God finished creation, He proclaimed it all very good, and that included His creation of Adam. There was no propensity toward evil in Adam. His heart propensity toward good was not so ingrained that Adam could not fall into sin when influenced by a temptation from an evil alien source. Yet Adam in his innocence before the fall had the moral capability of obeying God’s law perfectly. He could obey God without any sinful motives or purposes or impure thoughts clinging to his obedience. Perseverance in such perfect obedience was the condition which God stipulated in His covenant of works with Adam. If Adam had persisted in perfect obedience, then God would have rewarded him with eternal life. This was gracious in that God through creation had given Adam his innocent nature through which Adam had this moral ability. This was gracious in that God through providence sustained Adam’s existence moment by moment. This was gracious also in that God did not as a matter of justice owe Adam anything as a reward for his perfect obedience. God owed Adam something only in the sense that God had voluntarily bound Himself to give such a reward as a provision of the covenant of works. If Adam had kept the conditions of the covenant of works by persisting in perfect obedience, then he would have merited the promised reward not in terms of absolute justice but in terms of meeting the conditions to which God had voluntarily and graciously bound Himself. The basis for Adam’s meeting the conditions of the covenant of works would have been his own perfect personal obedience.

Of course, Adam sinned and failed to keep the conditions of the covenant of works. After Adam’s fall into sin, no sinner has been morally capable of fulfilling the conditions of the covenant of works. The sinner is born under the curse of the covenant of works because of the imputed guilt of Adam’s first sin. The sinner is born unable to fulfill the condition of perfect obedience for even a moment because of his inherited sin nature. The only one who has been able to meet the conditions of the covenant of works after the first Adam’s disobedience has been the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

In the covenant of grace, God graciously permitted Jesus as the second Adam to act as a substitute for the elect and to fulfill the conditions of the covenant of works on their behalf. Jesus paid the penalty for the elect’s sins by His finished sacrifice, and He established a perfect legal record for them through His life of perfect obedience. Because of His humanity, His atoning work is an appropriate payment for human sins. Because of His divinity, His atoning work has infinite value and thus more than merits the salvation of God’s elect in terms of fulfilling the conditions of the covenant of works.

The unsaved sinner has a heart dominated by a sinful rebellion against God. He is morally unable to come to Christ in faith for salvation because he does not want to be delivered from his sinful way of living. When God regenerates the sinner’s heart, God gives that heart an irresistible inclination toward trusting in Jesus for salvation. God does not at this point totally free his heart from indwelling sin, and sin still clings even to his saving faith. What saves the regenerate believer is not a sinless perfection in his faith but the sinlessly perfect object of His faith, Jesus Christ and His saving work.

This is all profoundly different from Adam’s situation before the fall.

  • Adam in his innocence was morally able to obey God’s law but could also choose to disobey it. In contrast, the unregenerate sinner is morally unable to obey the gospel through faith, and the regenerate sinner can do no other than obey the gospel through faith and persist in that obedience.
  • Adam in his innocence was morally able to obey with a perfect obedience. In contrast, the regenerate sinner cannot do anything in this life in sinless perfection.
  • Adam was required to obey the entire moral law as a condition of the covenant of works. In contrast, the obligations of the covenant of grace involve obeying the gospel, which is believing in Christ unto salvation.
  • If Adam had fulfilled the conditions of the covenant of works, Adam would have done so based on his own perfectly sinless personal righteousness. In contrast, God accepts the believing regenerate sinner based totally on Jesus’ fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant of works. Jesus alone merits anything in the sense of fulfilling the conditions of the covenant of works.
  • If God had rewarded Adam under the covenant of works, the reward would have been eternal life as a promised payment for his meeting the conditions of the covenant of works. In contrast, God gives the Christian eternal life as a gift purchased by Jesus through His perfect fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant of works in the place of believing sinners.
  • If God had rewarded Adam’s obedience under the covenant of works, this would have been due to God’s having voluntarily bound Himself to this in the covenant of works.  In contrast, God has not bound Himself by the covenant works to reward a Christian’s good works. The Christian’s good works are not perfectly holy; Jesus as Priest must cleanse them of clinging sin before presenting them to God. The reward for a Christian’s good works is not eternal life itself but rather special blessing in this life and in the life to come. God rewards the Christian’s good works as a voluntary act of free grace.
  • When Adam obeyed God, he was acting as a free agent who was in a condition of innocence without being enslaved to that innocence. In contrast, when the regenerate sinner obeys God, he is acting as a free agent who has been delivered from slavery to sin unto slavery to Christ, which is the highest freedom. God enables the regenerate sinner’s obedience in a way in which He did not enable Adam’s obedience before the fall.


The Christian’s repentance and obedience are never sinlessly perfect in this life, and they do not fulfill the conditions of the covenant of works. They instead are fruits of a faith relationship with Jesus, and they testify to its genuineness. Jesus as the believing sinner’s substitute is the one who fulfills the conditions of the covenant of works for him. That is what I consider to be the center of the road regarding the obligations of the covenant of grace and the conditions of the covenant of works. By the center of the road, I mean the true teaching which avoids the ditch of error on either side.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | September 4, 2007

Sola Fide

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.  Westminster Confession of Faith 11.2


I like Turretin’s illustration about the eye as the lone instrumental means of sight for the body. The word “lone” in this context doesn’t meant that eye must be ripped out of the body and isolated in order for it to function as the lone instrumental means of sight. The functioning eye always remains in its organic connection with the rest of the body. Yet there is no other member in the body which sees, and that is the sense in which the eye is the lone instrumental means of sight. The same is true of faith as the lone instrumental means of justification. Faith never exists torn from its organic relationship with its fruits, but the fruits are not instrumental means of justification.

The fruit comes from the Christ our faith unites us to, not from the faith itself. Faith is the branch’s abiding in the Vine in a vital, effective sense. From the perspective of divine sovereignty, faith is our experience of the mystical union with Christ effected and maintained by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. From the perspective of human responsibility, saving faith is our duty and something we do.

Every creature lives in terms of faith because of his creaturely limitations. Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and only God sees everything. In eternity, we will live by sight and not by faith, but that is a relative statement, not an absolute statement. We will see much in eternity that is invisible to us now, but we won’t then see everything. Even in eternity, we will be creatures with limited knowledge and thus beings of faith.

The distinguishing factor in saving faith is its object, which is Christ. Apart from any psychological effect, the effectiveness of faith is based on its object, not its subjective strength. A weak faith in a reliable object is effective, and a strong faith in an unreliable object is not.
 See the sermon, “Sola Fide: The Alone Instrument of Justification” at http://grovergunn.net/andrew/gal307.pdf.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | September 1, 2007

Federal Vision and the Apostasy Argument

The apostasy issue raises the question of what is the most an apostate may have once possessed and have now lost. Painting with a broad brush, there are three possible answers to this question: nothing, something and everything.

 Here is why this issue can get confusing.

  1. Some FV proponents have made statements which appear to say that the apostate in all cases once possessed everything and has now lost everything.
  2. Many FV critics believe that the apostate may have once possessed something (but only something and not everything) and so may have now lost something; some FV proponents may agree with this.
  3. A few FV critics appear to believe that the apostate in all cases has lost nothing of any real spiritual significance because he never possessed anything of any real spiritual significance.

Let me define nothing, everything and something in the context of the question, What is the most an apostate may have once possessed and now lost?

Nothing: The non-elect in the church have their names on the church roll and are subject to the church’s outward administration. They do not possess the promise of the covenant. Their baptism with water is not a sign and seal of the promise of the covenant but is strictly a sign and seal of their coming judgment. As non-elect, they are under no obligation to fulfill the obligations of the covenant (faith and its necessary fruits), and God has no desire rooted in His revealed will for them to do so and no sorrow when they apostatize.
Everything: The non-elect in the church have not only the promise of the covenant but the salvation God has promised to those who meet the obligations of the covenant. They are meeting the oblitations of the covenant, although they will do so only temporarily. Their baptism with water was efficient unto salvation. They have all of Christ. They are just as much in union with Christ as are the regenerate elect, although only temporarily.
Something: The non-elect in the church have the promise of the covenant, which is genuine, sincere and precious. God has not given them the gift of spiritual life which inevitably enables the fulfillment of the obligations of the covenant. For this reason, they never receive the salvation promised. They never are in that vital spiritual union with Christ which truly saves. They never bear that spiritual fruit which comes from abiding in the Vine. They do have the privilege of frequent exposure to the means of grace. They may have experienced the resistible common operations of the Spirit. They may have been “almost persuaded.” They may have escaped the pollutions of this world for a season through some degree of the knowledge of Christ. They may have received some spiritual gifts or abilities, as did Judas. To forfeit through apostasy what they do have is a great loss to them, and the fault is theirs alone. God is sincerely grieved by their foolish disobedience and its consequences, even though He foreordained this and is working it to the glory of His justice.


I believe that the correct answer is “something.” In some cases the apostate may have been a total hypocrite but 2 Peter 2:20 does refer to those who had in some sense and for a season “escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Also, there are indications in the Bible that one can possess a spiritual gift without necessarily possessing the graces. For example, see Matthew 7:21-23 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-2. The Holy Spirit works irresistibly in the hearts of the elect, but He can also work a resistible work in the hearts of the non-elect (Acts 7:51).

There is some evidence that some of the FV proponents have reacted to those who give the “nothing” answer. Yet they have over-reacted if their response is the “everything” answer. Those who have “everything” cannot lose what they have. Those who do apostatize thereby demonstrate that they were never in a vital saving union with Christ. That is a relationship which cannot be lost.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | August 31, 2007

The Rich Young Ruler


Salvation is by grace through faith unto good works. Salvation is a free gift, but a part of that gift is a new life. We are saved through faith alone, but the faith that saves bears the fruits of repentance and new obedience. We know that faith is genuine when we see its bearing fruit in the lives of those who profess to have it.

The rich young ruler came to Jesus thinking he could pay the price for salvation. He thought he could purchase salvation by keeping the law. He left Jesus aware that much less than being able to pay the price for salvation, he was not even willing to pay the consequences of being saved. A faith relationship with Jesus would necessarily result in freedom from his bondage to greed and materialism, and he did not want to be freed. He left Jesus sorrowful and still in bondage to his sin.

Let me put this a different way using some classic theological terms. The rich young ruler came to Jesus thinking he could meet the conditions of the covenant of works. He left Jesus aware that he couldn’t even fulfill the obligations of the covenant of grace. The obligations of the covenant of grace are faith and faith’s inevitable and necessary fruits, repentance and new obedience.

No one can look into his own heart and see his faith. No one can look into heaven and see if his name is indeed written in the Book of Life. Yet anyone can look at his life and see if there is any evidence of faith’s necessary fruits. Is there repentance? Is the a pursuit of new obedience? These do not save us, but they do give evidence that we know the Savior. If we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit. Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
——

For the full sermon, go to http://grovergunn.net/andrew/andrew.htm and choose the sermon on Matthew 19:16-30. 

Posted by: Grover Gunn | August 31, 2007

Covenant Children and Baptism


All who are in what we call the visible church have what we call the promise of the covenant. The promise of the covenant is that we will receive the blessings of the covenant if we meet the obligations of the covenant.  The most basic obligation of the covenant is saving faith in Jesus. This means resting upon Jesus alone for salvation, which consists of both forgiveness of sins and deliverance from sin. Being in a saving relationship with Jesus through faith is inevitably going to bear certain fruit in a person’s life. This inevitable, necessary fruit is summarized as repentance and new obedience. These also are obligations of the covenant, not as something we do to be saved but as something which results from our genuinely being saved through a faith relationship with Jesus. Those who meet the obligations of the covenant (i.e., those who have a genuine faith relationship with Jesus) have not only the promise of the covenant but also the salvation promised in the covenant.

The promise of the covenant which belongs to the church is also offered to the world in what we call the free offer of the gospel. There is a similarity but a difference between the world’s receiving the free offer of the gospel and the church’s possessing the promise of the covenant. Perhaps we can describe the difference using the imagery of the olive tree in Romans 11:16-24.

In this imagery, the olive tree represents the visible church, which is the covenant community in history. In Paul’s imagery in Romans chapter eleven, the world is represented by two entities. First, the world is represented by the wild olive tree which cannot bear any good fruit. Secondly, the world is represented by the stacked pile of fruitless branches which have been broken off of the good olive tree in judgment. The promise of the covenant belongs to the branches on the good olive tree, and the promise of the covenant is offered to the world as represented by both the wild olive tree and the pile of broken off, fruitless branches.

In the free offer of the gospel, the wild olive shoots on the wild olive tree of paganism are challenged to confess Christ so that they may be grafted onto the good olive tree of new covenant Israel. Sometimes the wild olive shoots confess Christ and are grafted into the church. Often they refuse and remain on the wild olive tree. In the free offer of the gospel, the broken off fruitless branches are challenged to confess Christ so that they may be re-grafted onto the good olive tree of new covenant Israel.


Romans 11:23
23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.


Sometimes the broken off branches confess Christ and are re-grafted into the church. Often they refuse and remain on the stacked pile. That is the free offer of the gospel.

The promise of the covenant is more than offered to our covenant children. The shoots on the olive tree, which represent members of the visible church, are those who possess the promise of the covenant. Yet only the shoots who have a regenerate heart and thus truly abide in the tree in faith bear fruit. The fruit is our meeting the obligations of the covenant through our having a genuine faith relationship with Jesus. Only those shoots on the olive tree which bear this fruit have the salvation promised.

It is wonderful to know that our covenant children are little shoots on the olive tree of new covenant Israel and are not shoots on the wild olive tree of paganism and not fruitless branches in the pile of judgment. Their baptism with water is the sign and seal that they possess the promise of the covenant. They are a part of that assembly which gathers on the Lord’s Day to worship the living and true God, that assembly to which Jesus gave the promise that He would be there in their midst when gathered together in His name. They are there exposed to the means of grace, especially the Word which is able from infancy to make one wise unto salvation. There the faithful pray for them and their salvation. There they are exposed to examples of genuine faith and sheltered from the evil company which corrupts good habits. We are grateful indeed for all these blessings and benefits, and we recognize their significance.

We also want our covenant children to possess the salvation promised, the salvation which belongs to those who meet the obligations of the covenant. We pray that God will work faith in their hearts and thus give them ears to hear and eyes to see. We pray that God will enable them to abide in the Vine and thus bear that spiritual fruit which gives evidence of spiritual life. We pray that the genuine faith which first dwelt in us will also dwell in them. We pray with hope and expectation because the assembly of the faithful is where God often works in hearts and gives the gift of faith.

Paul reminds us in Romans nine that “they are not all Israel which are of Israel” and mentions specifically the sad example of Esau. For such sad occasions, the Apostle Paul gives us these words of wisdom:

Romans 3:3-4a
3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?
4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. … 

Posted by: Grover Gunn | August 12, 2007

The Visible Church as the Saints

Another issue in the Federal Vision debate is what Paul means when he writes to a church and refers to the members as the saints. Now we know that not every member on every church roll is going to end up in heaven. Some of those who call themselves Christians are going to fall away. As we read in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” If that is the case, then what does Paul mean when he refers to all the members of a local church as saints?

The answer consistent with Reformed theology is that Paul was addressing everyone in the church according to their outward profession. He assumed in general that people’s outward profession was consistent with their true inner spiritual condition, but he knew this wasn’t always true in every case. The members of the visible church are saints in the more significant sense of the word if indeed they truly do have the saving faith relationship with Jesus which they profess to have.

The new answer some Federal Vision proponents are giving is that everyone in the visible church really is saved. Every member on the church roll, head for head, without exception, is elect, regenerate, justified and adopted. Yet not all will persevere in this salvation. Some will fall away and lose their election, their regeneration, their justification, their adoption.

Which is it? Are only the individually elect in the local church ever truly regenerate? Or are all in the local church regenerate, and only the individually elect among them will persevere in their regeneration? Let’s see if we can find out by examining Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Paul wrote to those at Rome whom he referred to as the beloved of God called to be saints. He thus addressed each of them as the Christian each person professed to be. Then in Romans 8:9, Paul said that those to whom he was writing were not in the flesh but in the Spirit, and then he made a qualification. He didn’t say that everyone in the church without exception was “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” with the qualification that only some would persevere in this condition. He said they were not in the flesh but in the Spirit “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

So here is one example. I can’t say that everyone in the visible church without exception is not in the flesh but in the Spirit. This is true only of the regenerate in the visible church. I believe that this same basic pattern also holds for the justification mentioned in Romans 8:30, the ordo salutis passage. Paul there says that all who are justified will be glorified. If everyone in the visible church without exception has a Romans 8:30 justification, then everyone in the visible church without exception is going to be glorified.

Romans 8:30 also mentions calling. The same word is also used in Scripture to refer to all who hear the gospel. Some who are called in that sense are never even members of the visible church. Here is a case where the same word in the Bible can be used in reference to different theological concepts. So instead of saying that everyone in the visible church is called with the same calling with only the elect persevering in that calling, we should say that everyone in the visible church is called with an external calling but only the regenerate in the visible church have been called with an efficacious internal calling.

We could analyze other words relating to salvation and discuss the word’s meaning as a theological term and the various meanings of the word in the New Testament in various contexts. For example, the word sanctify and its cognates can refer to the covenant child’s membership in the visible church or to the Spirit’s progressive work of deliverance from sin in the regenerate heart or perhaps even to the legal concept of justification.

The major point, however, is that not everyone in the visible church has the same salvation with the difference between the elect and non-elect being that only the elect will persevere in that salvation. No, the non-elect never have the same salvation, even temporarily, which the elect possess. Again, as we read in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Posted by: Grover Gunn | August 11, 2007

Election, Covenant and the Center of the Road

There is a ditch on each side of the road. Christ was crucified between two thieves. You can fall out of the saddle on either side of the horse. The point of all these illustrations is that the truth usually has an error on either side of it, each error taking part of the truth to an opposite extreme.

One of the major issues in the current controversy over the new Federal Vision theology is the relationship of the eternal decree of election to the historical administration of the covenant of grace. Regarding this issue, I think that there are indeed two ditches, an error on each side of the truth.

In the ditch on one side of the road, people define the historical administration of the covenant in terms of election. Some teach that baptism is a sign and seal of the promise of the covenant only for the elect. Some teach that only the elect among the covenant people possess the promise of the covenant. In other words, when Peter made the statement to the Jewish crowd on Pentecost, “The promise is to you and to your children,” he was addressing only the elect among them.

In the ditch on the other side of the road, people define election in terms of the historical administration of the covenant. In other words, if you are a part of the covenant people, a member of the visible church, then you are elect, regenerate, justified, adopted, sanctified, but only as long as you remain in the covenant. Everyone in the visible church, head for head, possesses not only the promise of the covenant but also the salvation promised.

On one side, people teach that only the elect in the church possess the promise of the covenant of grace. On the other side, people teach that everyone in the visible church without exception has not only the promise but also the salvation promised.

Now here is what I think is the center of the road. The elders try to administer the church not in terms of the decree of election but in terms of God’s revealed will. Yet we also acknowledge that the Holy Spirit does not share this human limitation; He works in hearts in terms of the decree of election. The promise of the covenant belongs to everyone in the covenant community. Yet only those who meet the obligations of the covenant receive the promised salvation. The obligations of the covenant are saving faith in Jesus and that faith’s inevitable and necessary fruit, repentance and new obedience. The minister regularly exhorts all the covenant people to believe in Christ, to repent of sins, to obey God. Faith is not a one time act but a way of life. “As you have received Christ, so walk in Him.” The minister’s passion for all to fulfill the obligations of the covenant mirrors God’s desire for obedience rooted in His revealed will. The minister treats each one in the church as the Christian he professes to be. He treats the covenant children this way with the qualification that he doesn’t expect them to profess their faith or to take upon themselves certain responsibilities until they reach the point in their spiritual and mental development where they can do so meaningfully and responsibly. The minister also regularly challenges all the covenant people to examine themselves that they are indeed inwardly what they profess to be outwardly. When people meet the obligations of the covenant, the minister points them to God’s sovereign grace and exhorts them not to boast but to praise God, who has enabled them to meet the obligations of the covenant. When people fail to meet the obligations of the covenant, the minister points them to their own responsibility. God has shined the light of the gospel message upon them. They have seen the power of the gospel at work in the church. They have perhaps themselves escaped for a season the pollutions of this world through the knowledge of the Lord. Yet now they are turning away from the light, and the responsibility is fully theirs. They love the darkness and don’t want to be delivered from their sins. God is genuinely and sincerely grieved by their disobedience, even though He ordains all that happens and will work their disobedience to the glory of His justice. People who thus fall away manifest that they never had inwardly what they at one time professed to have.

That is what I consider to be the center of the road regarding decretive election and the historical administration of the covenant of grace. By the center of the road, I mean the true teaching which avoids the ditch of error on either side.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | August 3, 2007

The Trinity, Truth and Love

A challenge of the Christian life is to live simultaneously in terms of truth and love. This is a challenge because truth and love appear to contradict each other and to work against each other. Truth divides and love unites. Truth values principles and love values relationships. Truth draws lines and love erases lines. Yet the reality is that truth and love are equally ultimate and equally important because they are equally rooted in the very nature of God.

Truth is rooted in the sovereign oneness of God. If there were many gods with limited, competing sovereignties, then there would be many competing versions of truth and many competing definitions of the moral and the good and the logical and the beautiful. We would be living in a pluralistic, relativistic world. There is, however, only one God, and He is sovereign over all. Therefore God’s thoughts are true truth, God’s reasonings are true logic, God’s values are true justice, God’s kindnesses are true goodness, God’s tastes are true beauty. Qualities such as these are not impersonal abstractions with an independent existence more basic than God’s. They are personal expressions of the very nature of God. As such, they function as absolute definitions and ultimate standards to which all are accountable.

Love is rooted in the personal threeness of God. Within the oneness of God’s being, there are personal distinctions between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Because they are personally distinct, they can have genuine personal relationships with each other. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit, the Son loves the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. Love, especially love for one’s peers, is thus an essential attribute of God. A solitary deity would be either an impersonal sovereign deity with no need for fellowship or a limited personal deity dependent upon his creatures for fellowship. The living and true God is one but not solitary and sovereign but not impersonal. Therefore we can say with the Apostle John, “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16).

Truth and love are rooted in the very nature of God. The clearest revelation of the divine nature is Jesus Christ. The closest possible union between the divine and the human is the incarnation of Jesus. Thus Jesus simultaneously lived out the truth rooted in the oneness of God and the love rooted in the threeness of God.

In salvation, we are progressively conformed to the image of Christ and thus progressively enabled to live in terms of truth and love. As we are sanctified, we come to realize that truth and love complement each other rather than contradict each other. They work together rather than against each other. Loving truth is the only true truth, and truthful love is the only loving love. We are to speak the truth in love, and we are to love with a love that is grounded in truth and not in fantasy.

Love without truth is a sentimentality more concerned with good feelings than with the true welfare of others. There is nothing loving about accepting another’s errors as if they were true and tolerating another’s immoralities as if they were right. There is nothing loving about actions toward others which contradict God’s truth and thus are merely invitations to sin. Doing unto others as I would have them do unto me makes sense only in a world where what is truth for me is also truth for all others.

Truth without love is an intellectualism which does not understand the nature and demands of truth. The moment we treat truth as merely a detached specimen to examine and analyze, we have missed it. Truth is from God and thus involves a personal element. Apart from a love relationship with God, we cannot truly know ourselves or the world in which we live. God, who is not only true but truth, demands our love and has created a world where relationships are more important than things.

Only in Christ can we know and live both truth and love.

Posted by: Grover Gunn | July 28, 2007

Today’s Cultural Replacement for the Bible

The book From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun (New York, NY: Perennial, 2001) is an 800 page summary of the history of western culture from the Protestant Reformation to the beginning of the second millennium. On pages 27-28, the book points out that after the Protestant Reformation, whole populations developed a common culture based on a common knowledge of the Bible. There was a time when the Bible was often the only book in a house and when prayer and Bible reading were frequent family experiences. What was once common is now rare. The author considers what has replaced the Bible as a universal printed point of reference for today’s secular culture. He states that the only replacement in this role which one can think of in today’s world is the daily newspaper comic strip. What an interesting commentary on the decadent state of our society today! Pray for a time of spiritual refreshing from the Lord that the Bible may again become the foundation of our culture, the glue of our culture, the touchstone of our culture.

 Pastor Grover

Posted by: Grover Gunn | July 24, 2007

Dispensationalism and Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy

On July 19, 2007, I received an encouraging e-mail from a lady who had read my critiques of dispensationalism found at http://grovergunn.net/andrew/andrew.htm.  In subsequent communication, she asked me about my understanding of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophey, especially Daniel 9:27.

Daniel 9:24-27
24 “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
25 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”

In case any of you have similar questions, here is an  edited version of the response I sent this kind lady: 

Daniel 9:27 is a key verse. Dispensationalists teach that the tribulation is a seven year period after the rapture and before the second coming, that an antichrist will arise and make a treaty with the modern nation of Israel allowing them to rebuild a temple, and that he will break this treaty in the middle of the seven years of the seventieth week, prohibit the offering of sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem and demand that only he be worshipped. Their sole proof text for the breaking of this treaty in the middle of the tribulation is Daniel 9:27, which is a difficult verse to interpret. Reading their system into this verse and then citing it as the sole proof of this aspect of their system is begging the question.

Let me quickly give you my opinion on the seventy weeks. The beginning of the seventy weeks was at the end of the seventy years of exile when Cyrus decreed that the Jews had his permission to return to Jerusalem. The seventy weeks consisted of 490 consecutive years. Under the Mosaic ceremonial law, there was to be a jubilee the year after seven sabbaths of years, and 490 years is ten of those 49 year periods. We cannot establish an exact correspondence between the prophesied 490 years and the chronologies of secular history because the chronology of the Persian period is one of the most uncertain chronologies of ancient history. The end of the sixty-ninth week and the beginning of the seventieth week were marked by the coming of Messiah the Prince. This was the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, His baptism by John the Baptist when the Holy Spirit came upon Him as a dove (the anointing of the Most Holy). He came to confirm the covenant with the many in Israel, the elect within Israel who would believe in Him. In the middle of this week, three and one half years after His baptism, Jesus was crucified as the true sacrifice which atones for the sins of God’s people. The veil in the temple was split from top to bottom, and the bloody sacrificial rituals of the old covenant were no longer valid ceremonial laws. For a time, the gospel continued to go primarily to the Jews with the emphasis upon the church at Jerusalem. The end of this period is probably the martyrdom of Stephen. After this came the persecution of the Jewish church, the preaching of the gospel in Samaria, the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, the conversion of Saul/Paul, who was to become the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius. After the martyrdom of Stephen, the emphasis shifted to the new Gentile churches and the preaching of the gospel to the nations.

 Forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Jerusalem was destroyed by idolatrous Roman soldiers in fulfillment of the prophecy of the Olivet discourse. This is the idolatrous abomination which destroys or desolates: the abomination of desolation.

Pastor Grover

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