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Two cautions for the study of God

February 26, 2014 Leave a comment

The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn things pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt.

J.L. Dagg, Manual of Theology

The Bible is not a dead document to be once and for all mastered and deposited in the reservoir of academic achievement. The Word of God is alive and powerful, and it must be owned and studied reverently and faithfully in every generation. Theology is a discipline of faith that must be pursued arduously but not dispassionately in the service of the church to the glory of God, its gracious and sovereign Object. From this perspective every act of biblical exposition is once an act of prayer.

Timothy George, in his introduction to the Galatians component of the New American Commentary.

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Martin Luther on justification by faith

February 26, 2014 1 comment

This doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough. If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost and perishes at the same time. But if it flourishes, everything good flourishes—religion, true worship, the glory of God, and the right knowledge of all things and of all social conditions. There is clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions. It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public.

Martin Luther, in the preface to his commentary on Galatians

John Owen prefacing Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I hope I may own in sincerity that my heart’s desire unto God, and the chief design of my life in the station wherein the good providence of God has placed me, are that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God; that so the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things: for the compassing of which end, if this little discourse (of the publishing whereof this is the sum of the account I shall give) may in anything be useful to the least of the saints, it will be looked on as a return of the weak prayers wherewith it is attended by its unworthy author.

— John Owen, Preface to Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers

Oh, that this would be my heart for those whom I teach and would be the heart of those who teach me and all the saints.

Bernard Mandeville on academic charity

December 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I shall leave this subject with what is not common among divines of different opinions, a bright example of moderation and humanity, which it is the interest of every country, all clergy men should follow. Melanchton was the head of the Synergists, a sect of German divines in the sixteenth century, who thinking, that Luther’s hypothesis about free-will was too hard, taught, that men are not converted by God’s grace, without the concourse of their will. Every body knows how absolute a predestinarian Calvin was, and what clamors were raised against him on this head, that he was represented as having broached the most monstrous doctrine, and made God the author of sin in the most execrable manner.

Yet Melanchton had a sincere value and friendship for Calvin, and wrote in defense of him on several occasions. He knew, that that great man abhorred the impieties that were laid to his charge, and that in none of his works he had ever ascribed any thing to God, but what was just and holy; but well, that he had taught, that the conduct of God surpassing finite capacities, was not too narrowly pried into; that his judgments are a mysterious abyss we ought not to meddle with, and that his ways are incomprehensible. This Melanchton demonstrated to the other’s enemies, always extolling the piety and good intention of Calvin, notwithstanding the disagreement of their opinions.

Calvin believed, that the supreme Empire of God, and the rights of a providence worthy of the infinite being, required an absolute predestination. Melanchton believed that the goodness, holiness and justice of the supreme being required we should be free in our actions. These were their principles. Both aimed at the same thing, the greatest glory of God. The candid Melanchton being convinced of this, as well as the difficulty and the inexplicableness of the matter they differed about, was always ready to do Calvin justice, admired his vast parts and erudition, and owned him for his fellow laborer in the ministry of the gospel.

Bernard Mandeville, Free Thoughts on Religion, the Church, and National Happiness

John R.W. Stott on contending for the truth

December 1, 2012 Leave a comment

We seem in our generation to have moved a long way from this vehement zeal for the truth which Christ and his apostles displayed. But if we loved the glory of God more, and if we cared more for the eternal good of the souls of men, we would not refuse to engage in necessary controversy, when the truth of the gospel is at stake. The apostolic command is clear. We are “to maintain the truth in love,” being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance.

John R.W. Stott, Christ the Controversalist

 

John Owen on communion with God through doctrine

December 1, 2012 Leave a comment

When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth,—when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us,—when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts—when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for—then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men.

John Owen, The Glory of Christ

J.I. Packer on the quality of faith rooted in its object

November 25, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the unhealthiest features of Protestant theology today is its preoccupation with faith: faith, that is, viewed man-centeredly as a state of existential commitment. Inevitably, this preoccupation diverts thought away from faith’s object, even when this is clearly conceived—as too often in modern theology it is not. Though the Reformers said much about faith, even to the point of calling their message of justification “the doctrine of faith,” their interest was not of the modern kind. It was not subject-centered but object-centered, not psychological but theological, not anthropocentric but Christocentric. The Reformers saw faith as a relationship, not to oneself, as did Tillich, but to the living Christ of the Bible, and they fed faith in themselves and in others by concentrating on that Christ as the Saviour and Lord by whom our whole life must be determined.

J.I. Packer, “Sola Fide: the Reformed Doctrine of Justification by Faith”

J.I. Packer defines faith

November 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Faith is a conscious acknowledgment of our own unrighteousness and ungodliness and on that basis a looking to Christ as our righteousness, a clasping of him as the ring clasps the jewel (so Luther), a receiving of him as an empty vessel receives treasure (so Calvin), and a reverent, resolute reliance on the biblical promise of life through him for all who believe. Faith is our act, but not our work; it is an instrument of reception without being a means of merit; it is the work in us of the Holy Spirit, who both evokes it and through it ingrafts us into Christ in such a sense that we know at once the personal relationship of sinner to Saviour and disciple to Master and with that the dynamic relationship of resurrection life, communicated through the Spirit’s indwelling. So faith takes, and rejoices, and hopes, and loves, and triumphs.

J.I. Packer, “Sola Fide: the Reformed Doctrine of Justification by Faith”

November 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Those who believe in God’s Word have been grasping at the same superficial solutions that liberalism has adopted. Relevance, respectability (whether intellectual or social), and especially unity have become the aims of God’s people with the hope that these will revitalize a weakened church. ‘If only all Bible-believing people join together, the world will sit up and listen,’ thinks the church. ‘Let’s merge our mission boards to pool our funds and our personnel. Let’s join giant evangelistic projects. If every evangelical joins in a common organization, we can have greater depth of evangelism.’ Thus organizational unity becomes the aim of gospel churches. Having accepted the theory that unity is all-important for world evangelism, both the church and the individual must lower their estimate of the value of truth. In a large congress on evangelism, we could not insist on a truth of God’s Word that would offend any brother evangelical. Thus we must find the lowest common denominator to which all born-again Christians hold. The rest of the Bible will be labeled ‘unessential’ for missions. After all, unity (among Christians) is more essential than doctrinal preciseness. It is just for this reason that mission societies have been unwilling carefully to examine the root problem in preaching. Mission boards are hesitant to answer the question, ‘What is the gospel?’ Thoroughly to answer that would condemn what many of their own missionaries preach. It would destroy the mission society, which is a federation of churches who have differing answers to that question. To adopt the position of one church would be to lose the support of five others. The whole system built on unity and generality would crumble. The local church may not get too specific about truth either. It may affect its harmony with the denomination or association. To define the gospel carefully will bring conflict with the organizations working with teenagers. It will prompt irritating problems with mission boards and embarrassing disagreement with missionaries supported for years. It may condemn the whole Sunday School program. Giving too much attention to the content of the gospel will mean friction with other evangelicals. And unity is the key to success.

Walter Chantry

 

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I standing vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people who this week could go over the edge whether they are ready to or not. I will be called to account for what I said there.

That’s what I mean by preaching.

John Piper, source

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