Theology Propper

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Mercy and Grace: God’s Grace

Grace: grace is really a different thing altogether. We can define it as “getting something that you don’t deserve.” The man in Matthew 18 did not technically receive grace, all that happened was that his account returned for zero. His debt removed. But grace goes further, it then gives the debtor credit. It not only wipes out the unpayable debt but then adds currency into the account so that his balance is positive. A different analogy, a school child who has spent the whole day messing around, being disruptive, and doing no work. This person has wasted the class’s time, the teacher’s attention is divided and time is wasted on trying to get this kid to behave. Also the child has wasted his own time and his parent’s money spent on his education. At the end of the day, the teacher, dismissing the rest of the class keeps that child back.

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The teacher then, instead of dressing the kid down and giving out punishment, buys him a Coke, and spends time helping him catch up on work missed and time squandered. The kid didn’t deserve anything but punishment, and punishment more than the loss of a day’s work. Instead he got a bonus, something he absolutely didn’t deserve.

What this means for the Christian is that, when God saves him, he doesn’t just have his slate cleaned, he is given a full and inexhaustible measure of righteousness earned for him by Christ at the cross. (Romans 10:12, Ephesians 1:18, etc.)

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, Ephesians 1:18

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Another aspect of God’s grace is that it is put in stark contrast to works. Some examples are Ephesians 2:8-9 and 2 Timothy 1:9 as well as the following:

So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. Romans 11:5-6

Not the first verse everyone thinks of when we think of grace, but it makes an interesting point. Paul is discussing the relationship between the Jews and the gentiles. The remnant he refers to in verse 5 is those few Jewish believers in Jesus Christ and Paul is comparing them to the 7000 who did not bow the knee to Baal during Elijah’s day. But Paul’s point is hammered home in verse 6. If by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works. Works and grace are polar opposite as far as salvation is concerned. Either you can be saved by grace, or by works, but NEVER both. And the problem with being saved by works is that it never possible, you have to be perfect, and none of us are (Romans 3:23). So grace is our only option. The problem is, and this is what Paul addresses in Romans 7, is that many Christians try to maintain and earn their salvation by works. If you’ve ever thought (as a Christian) thoughts similar to this: “I’ve committed that sin again, I can’t be a Christian, a Christian wouldn’t do that…” then you’ve made the mistake of trying to be saved by works. Now the Christian life is not without good works (read James and 1 John), a Christian is not, can not, and can never be saved by works.

Elijah-MtCarmelThis is a mistake made by other religions and pseudo-christian groups. For example the Roman Catholic Church is very adamant that works are required for salvation. Consider this quote from the council of Trent

“If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema” (Sixth Session, Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24). (Read more quotes at this website).

But ever more a Christian, a believer is Christ, is saved by grace, and grace alone.

Finally I have an admonition. Mercy and grace are two of the most wonderful aspects of God. They are gifts from the Lord and are at the center of our hope. But we have to remember that both mercy and grace are attributes of God, that is, they are a part of who He is. The danger for us is, on the one hand, to think of His grace and mercy as simply things we receive, gifts from God (which they are) which we are to spread around. This doesn’t go far enough. Our God is merciful; He is gracious. He is those things. On the other hand, the second ditch we fall into is that of thinking of Mercy and Grace, simply as doctrines. They are doctrines, but like all doctrines do, they describe the reality, our God is merciful; He is gracious. He also shows mercy and gives us grace. If you don’t go farther than the paper on which the doctrine is written, you’ve missed the point.

So mercy is not getting what we do deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We deserve hell for our sin; those sins are removed. We certainly don’t deserve heaven, He freely and graciously grants us access to His heavenly throne.

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Mercy and Grace: God’s Mercy

Many Christians use this phrase interchangeably, “Thank you Lord for your grace, You are so merciful to us”. That prayer certainly isn’t wrong, a Christian can certainly lay claim to those exact words, but don’t forget, mercy and grace are not the same thing. Christians understand that God’s grace and mercy are separate aspects of God’s character and nature. Lets define the two:

Mercy, simply put, is not giving a person what they do deserve or from the perspective of the first person, not getting what you deserve. A debtor who is unable to pay his debts, he knows what mercy is. He begs the man he’s indebted to and if offered a reprieve, or better yet, having his debt simply written off, that is mercy as far as he is concerned. This is actually a biblical illustration, as found in Matthew 18:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. Matthew 18:23-34

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Notice the man has an unpayable debt. According to this website, a day’s wage is 1 Denarus, and one talent is worth approximate 6000 (that’s right, six thousand) Denarii. Or approximately 16 years wages, and that’s just 1 talent. Ten thousand talents is so utterly unpayable that its almost a ridiculous number. 600 million days wage. The high number is key to this parable because it tells the listening audience two things: 1. that the man is utterly incapable of paying, and 2: that the forgiveness that comes is not just an arbitrary thing between friends. It means that the master is incurring a huge financial loss, this is not something that can be undertaken without consideration. Now it was that ungrateful servant, who after being shown great mercy, violently refuses to show any to the man who, owning a fair amount but not unpayable of money, 100 denarii, earns the wrath of the master for being totally unmerciful after being show so much mercy.

Remember our definition, that  mercy is when a person doesn’t get something they deserve. The man, for his unpayable debt deserved some kind of punishment, and in the first century, that would be prison, yet the master showed him mercy, and withheld punishment. We see later he withdrew that mercy because of the cruelness of that man.

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Tomorrow I will post on the doctrine here, God Grace. 

You Shall See Greater Abominations Than These

One of the websites that has helped me very much is gracegems.org. They send out a free daily email with a quote, usually of a Puritan. Each quote is an excellent little gem of truth and well worth signing up for. I have collected a large number of these emails and thought I would promote them by posting one each week. Again sign up today at gracegems.org.

“You shall see greater abominations than these!” Ezekiel 8:15

The prophet had no idea of the extent of Israel’s wickedness; nor have we any adequate idea of the depravity of our hearts! We may have discovered much–but there is more concealed, than has yet been revealed. The work of the Holy Spirit is to . . .

reveal these abominations to us,
to humble us on account of them,
to lead us to the blood of Jesus to be cleansed from them,
and to set our hearts against them.

To see all the evils that are in our heart at once–would plunge us into black despair! Therefore it is only little by little, that the great depth of depravity is opened up to us. Herein we see God’s mercy. Hereby we should be kept humble, watchful, prayerful, and daily exercising faith in the precious blood of the Lord Jesus.

No one knows the depths of our depravity, or the variety of abominations that are in our hearts–but God! If any other person knew the abominations of our heart–he would hate us on account of it! But God knows all–and yet loves us! This is Godlike. This is being full of compassion, abundant in goodness, and plenteous in mercy. May we be humble before God, hoping in His mercy.

James Smith, “Daily Bible Readings for the Lord’s Household”

God’s Child

One of the websites that has helped me very much is gracegems.org. They send out a free daily email with a quote, usually of a Puritan. Each quote is an excellent little gem of truth and well worth signing up for. I have collected a large number of these emails and thought I would promote them by posting one each week. Again sign up today at gracegems.org.

“I will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

Tried Christian, you are not an orphan! You have a Father! God, in all the glory of His nature and perfections, is your Father! He has adopted you for his own. He has regenerated you by his Spirit. He has called you out of the world, and has promised to do a father’s part unto you. He says, “I will be a Father unto you!”

Do you need advice? Consult your Father.

Do you need supplies? Ask them of your Father.

Are you tormented with cares? Cast them on your Father.

Are you alarmed at foes? Cry unto your Father.

Do your difficulties appear insurmountable? Appeal to your Father.

We should . . .
exercise confidence in His love;
trust in His Word;
appeal to His paternal heart;
look for our supplies from His hand.

He loves to see His children . . .
confide in His care,
rely on His word,
expect His communications,
and acquiesce in His will.

Believer,
whatever trials may befall you,
whatever troubles may come upon you,
whatever enemies may rise up against you,
whatever changes may take place in your circumstances,
one thing can never befall you–you can never be fatherless; therefore you can never be friendless. You are God’s child, however poor your circumstances, or trying your path.

What an unspeakable mercy!

James Smith, “Our Father and Comforter”

Creation, Why This Doctrine Is Important

We have already looked at how God made the world, as well as why He did so, but now, let us turn our attention to a question that is often raised when Creationism and its implications are discussed. I have the privilege of lecturing a group of biology students on this subject each year and the question is often raised. The question is usually phrased like this:

“I understand what you saying, but why can’t we (if the asker is a believer) focus on the core issues like Jesus dying on the cross, or (if they are not a believer) surely I can believe in evolution and that God exist, that he made the place then let evolution happen?”

Basically, they see no particular importance to the doctrine of God creating the world. But I would like to content that this doctrine, while not a central salvific doctrine, is nevertheless very much a key cornerstone of the Christian faith.

  1. Roots of the FaithIf the bible is inaccurate in the beginning, we have no real reason to trust the rest of it. This may sound a bit extreme but the fact is, it is the reality. Lets look at an example: the day. Now many people would claim that the wordday (Hb: yom) in Genesis isn’t in fact a 24 hour day, but rather a long period of time, but as I already showed in my how post, this is not possible, shown both from Hebrew grammar rules, and authorial intent, as well as common sense which says that if God had meant millions of years He would have said so.Here is the rub, the bible makes a time frame claim about other events. Jesus was in the tomb 3 million years days. Jonah in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights, or was it 3 unknowable periods of time. Or did the Israelite wonder the desert for 40 billion years? No they did not, it was 40 years. This is my point, nobody when reading the bible assumes that the word day means anything other that what it clearly means. Except Genesis 1 for some reason.We believe that God inspired the writing of the bible (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Tim 3:16), and that His inspiration covers the whole bible. The whole of it is therefore inspired, infallible, inerrant and sufficient. Is it possible that the bible is accurate in every respect except… about how it begins?And this is my point: If the bible is untrustworthy in the beginning, how then can it be trustworthy in the middle or end. How do we know that the atonement, Christ’s life and sacrifice, and everything else the bible talks about (but especially salvation) is accurate and true? If Genesis is inaccurate, then you have completely undermined the roots of the rest of the bible. I assert that the bible is accurate in the middle and end. It is also accurate in the beginning from the first verse.
  2. Doctrines of ScriptureThe atonement and other central doctrines stem straight from creation. Lets work through this backwards. Why is Christ returning? To rule and reign, and to judge all those not saved by Him on the cross. Why did He need to die on the cross? Because people sinned. Why do people sin? Genesis 3. The book of Genesis is the foundations of every major doctrine found throughout the bible. Some examples:
    -Doctrine of sin: Genesis 3:6
    -Doctrine of the curse: Genesis 3:17-19
    -Doctrine of Salvation: Genesis 3:15
    -Doctrine of Divine Judgement: Genesis 6:5-7 et al
    -Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement by blood: Genesis 3:21; Genesis 4:3-5
    -Doctrine of Sovereignty & God’s Power: Genesis 1; Genesis 2
    -The order of the universe, of days, months, years etc.: Genesis 1
    -The order of creation – man being higher than animals: Genesis 1:27I think my point is clear, especially in terms of sin, and judgement which originate here. We wouldn’t have half the understand sin and its consequences if we didn’t see what happened when sin began. And we would miss out of the first great promise of salvation, the Messiah to come who would crush Satan’s head. (Gen 3:15)
  3. Trust in GodIt is a matter of trust. My last point is this, in these modern times with so many alternate theories to how the world came into existence, we have an opportunity to trust God. He understands the pressures on us to believe what the popular culture believes, but He says to us, in His word, how He did it. That He spoke the world into existence, how He created, ordered and placed the stars, how He created the plants, animals and finally people. He would know, He was there. He gives us an eye witness account as it were. We can choose to trust Him, that He knows what He is talking about, or we can trust the scientists, most of whom hate God and wish to get rid of Him entirely. We can trust the bible, or we can trust man. I trust the scriptures.

So in conclusion, you have the option either of undermining and destroying the roots of your faith, or else to trust God. He made the world; He tells us how He did it. Its for us to believe His word.

I Will Be Their God!

One of the websites that has helped me very much is gracegems.org. They send out a free daily email with a quote, usually of a Puritan. Each quote is an excellent little gem of truth and well worth signing up for. I have collected a large number of these emails and thought I would promote them by posting one each week. Again sign up today at gracegems.org.

 

I will be their God–and they will be My people!” Hebrews 8:10

So has Jehovah purposed in reference to all the chosen of His love! In this gracious and holy purpose, is wrapped up all present and future blessedness. He who has God to be his God–cannot lack any good thing; but he who has not God for his God–lacks everything really and truly good.

If Jehovah is your God–then all His glorious perfections are engaged and employed for your welfare:
His mercy will supply all your needs;
His power will conquer all your foes;
His wisdom will direct your way;
His faithfulness will answer your prayers;
His justice will maintain your cause; and
His infinite love and grace will be displayed in all His dealings with you!

If God is your God, then . . .
His promises–are your heritage,
His precepts–are your rule,
His doctrines–are your present paradise,
His Son–is your Saviour and King,
His Spirit–is your Sanctifier and Tutor,
and He Himself–is your everlasting portion!

If God is your God, then He will freely confer on you all good things at present–and crown you at last with everlasting glory. He will . . .
guide you continually,
chasten you occasionally,
receive you graciously,
and bless you indeed!

If God is your God, then all things are yours; things present, things to come; life, death, the world–all are yours!

If God is your God, then all the resources of eternity and all the treasures of time–will, if necessary, be employed in your spiritual and eternal benefit. This is the highest point of blessedness and honour–and this honour have all His saints.

(James Smith, “The Believer’s Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble” 1842)

Creation, Why God Made The World

In Part 1, we examined how God made the world, now I move onto the next question, why? The fact is, God is totally self sufficient and self satisfied in Himself as trinity. He certainly did not need to create a universe let alone fill it with creatures who rebel against him at every turn. So why did He?

The bible tentatively answers the question in the following way.

  1. The ultimate answer to this and every other question is For His Glory. This is the complete overarching tenant of scripture. The end for which all things happen is to ultimately give God glory. Ultimately, I believe that everything in the universe is created and will inact itself out such that God receives the maximum amount of glory possible.

    For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

  2. The next reason that God created the world is For Jesus Christ.

    For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for
    him. Colossians 1:16

    The verse pretty much says it all. One of the reason’s that the Triune God created the world was for Christ, but not only for Him, but also by Him.

  3. The final reason so that God can demonstrate His attributes. This is probably the most specific reason and the one that will take the most explanation.

    But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

    God has many attributes, holiness, grace, love, mercy, wrath, justice, omniscience, omnipotence etc. Now some of these can be clearly seen regardless of creation, however some can only be seen in the context of creation. Take the attribute of love, as described in the verse above. In one sense, God can show love within Himself as Trinity, but the love He has for us is a different love, it is a love for a father to his utterly rebellious son. A clearer example is the attribute of God’s justice. God cannot demonstrate justice unless there is something to be judged. Same with grace. If nobody had sinned, nothing could ever perceive or receive God’s grace. Also read about God’s call to Moses in Exodus 6 & 7 

    So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD. Ezekiel 38:23

    God created the universe so that His attributes could be seen and ultimately He would get more glory.

A Question Mark

This is a very quick look into the ‘why’ of creation. In a sense the bible is a bit quiet on the subject. Like many things, it never comes out and just says: “the reason for such-and-such is…” Now, in part, it is true that it would be a little idle to speculate on a subject the bible is directly silent on. God knows what He is doing and that should be enough for us. Yet, the bible is not completely silent. We can piece together a theology of “Why God…” from various clues left in scripture. Just be careful however. It   is never wise to speculate further than what is clearly written down in the text.

For a little more reading on this subject, I recommend this excellent alternate source at CARM

Creation, How God Made The World

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

Text of Gen 1

Genesis is the book of the beginnings, indeed that is what the word means. And it truly is an apt name. It contains a list of beginnings and origins. It begins with the beginning of the universe and in 50 chapters, it describes how God creates the earth; everything on it; the beginnings of human beings; of marriage; of sin and the separation of God from man and indeed the beginnings of God’s judgement on sin. Its also the beginnings of God’s redemptive plan and the beginnings of his means of carrying this out, that is the Nation of Israel.

In this series I intend to look at what the bible says specifically regarding regarding creation. This is one of the clearest and most clearly articulated doctrines in the bible, yet it seems to have attracted the most fierce attacks and disagreement from both the world and unfortunately within the church also.

God created the WorldFirst thing we need to know is that God created the world. This may so
und a bit redundant but given the popularity of atheistic evolution even within the church, it needs to be said. The world in which we live was created by God, by His means and for His purpose (Genesis 1:1). There is not the slightest hint in the text that evolution by means of natural selection had even the slightest roll in this process.

Next we see that God created the world ex nihilo. This means that He did not use existing materials to create the world, but rather created all matter out of nothing. This is unlike anything man has ever created, because man has always relied on preexisting materials in order to do anything.

The third thing we see about how God made the world is that, with the exception of man, He spoke everything into existence. Read Genesis 1:3; 1:6; 1:9; 1:11; 1:14; 1:20; and so on. Have you noticed a common phrase? It is the words “And God said ‘Let there Be’“. God spoke, and it happened. All of creation obeys He tells stars to exist, and to be in such and such a place, and they obey. The only two exceptions are Adam, which God formed out of the dust (Gen 2:7, and Eve, which He used one of Adam’s ribs (Gen 2:21-22).

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

Fourthly God did a good job. This is no small understatement! But God even states as He completes each task, that He “saw and it was good“. The when all His creative works are done, He looks over everything and calls it very good. When God says something is good, that means that the work done, and the things created were good, and most particularly, unblemished. This is important because it is popular among some circles to say that Satan fell and sin began between verses 1 and 2 of Genesis 1. But this is impossible if each act of creation is ‘good’ thereafter, and especially if on day six, God looks at everything He has made (this must include Satan) and call it very good.

Picture from Answers In GenesisThe next thing to know about the creation of the world is that it happened within a literal 24 hour week. Throughout Genesis 1, we have the ‘first day’, the ‘second day’ and so on, until the seventh day, when God rests from His creative works. A popular theory about these ‘days’ is that they are actually long periods of time. This is however utterly unjustifiable from the text. The text is written as an account, not as an allegory or similar type of literature. Genesis 1, describes an overview of the creation week and Genesis 2 & 3 give an in depth description of the events of Day 6 and the time period following. On top of that, using good biblical hermeneutics, a person would never read anything other that a literal 24 hour day. On top of this, there are some Hebrew grammar rules that come into play. The Hebrew word for day is “yom“. While this world could also mean a time period longer than 24 hours, in most instances where it occurs, it means 24 hours. But those grammar rules makes the case doubly sure. Basically what they are is that when yom is used in conjunction with a number or time word, it always means 24 hours. (For an in depth look at those rules, read this article by Answers in Genesis). We have the first day, a number, preceded by evening and morning a time phrase; ergo the word day in Genesis chapter 1 means a literal 24 hour day. In part 3 of this series I will examine in great depth why this is important.

So to sum up:

  1. God created the universe and the earth
  2. He created it out of nothing
  3. He created it out of nothing, and He formed everything except man by speaking.
  4. Everything that God made was good, the totality of it was very good.
  5. Finally God created the universe in a literal 6 day week and rested on the seventh day. After this week was completed, His creative process was complete.

Passive And Active Gratitude

I was thinking about this, this morning, and it occurred to me that we have two points of perspective in which to be grateful to God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Firstly from the passive point of view. We are grateful that God has not given us what we deserve. In a plain word, we deserve hell. For our many and consistent sin and rebellion against God, breaking His law and spurning the sacrifice of His son for so long, we deserve hell.

And from that perspective, the fact that we were not sent to hell before and are not in hell now, is an excellent reason to be very grateful to God. This passive gratitude corresponds with the idea of God’s mercy. Mercy is where we don’t the punishment we deserve.

Then from the active point of view. He gives us many many blessings beyond count. He gives us forgiveness of our sins, a clean conscience, abundant life and at the end of the day heaven to be with Christ forever. What a reason to be grateful, He gives us blessings, even despite our sin. This active gratitude corresponds with God’s nature of grace. Grace is getting the blessings we don’t deserve

Both the active and the passive parts are what God does for us. And it compels us to have an attitude of complete gratitude.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, Romans 6:17

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

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