Christ Gaining Our Trust, Being Present in Places He Hates

‘You must learn that Christ is no mere censor, but a Saviour who saves us by gaining our trust and confidence more and more, and letting us live our total life in Him. He is much more concerned about where we are going, than about how far on we have got.’ This chap’s Christ was a drill sergeant and he thought that was what I was advocating. No: I was thinking of a Christ who would be with him when he went off the deep end and betrayed his fallen self and made an ass of himself, and, in private, denied his own, true, holy nature. A Christ who was always kindly, always there, not to his sin, but to him. Who was willing to be dragged to places and into thoughts that He hated, because He loved him and would not let him go.

-William Still, The Work of the Pastor, Kindle Loc. 553

This is probably one of the best quotes in the book. An appropriate text is 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!”

Since we are united to Christ as believers, Christ is said to dwell in us, and us in him. Hence, he is ever-present with us. Hence, he goes places with us that he himself hates. This will cause you to react in one of two ways – either to run from him, or to run away from where you are trying to take him.

And all the while, says Still, he is teaching us more and more to trust him. All the while he is teaching us to confide in him – seeking our confidence. This is how he sanctifies us.

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The Ten Predicaments

Therefore Peter Martyr did well resemble the Decalogue to the ten Predicaments, that, as there is nothing that has a being in nature, but what may be reduced to one of those ten; so neither is there any Christian duty, but what is comprehended in one of these, that is, consequentially, or reductively.

-Anthony Burges, A Vindication of the Moral Law, Kindle Loc. 161.

Everything boils down to the 10. This idea lines up nicely with Samuel Bolton’s contention that all of the Levitical laws serve as appendices to the 10 Commandments.

The Mortification of Sin by Looking to Jesus

Here’s another talk I gave recently if you’d like to hear me discuss my take on the doctrine of sanctification. What role does the Law play in sanctification? How do we put sin to death? How do we become more holy?  Listen and you’ll hear what I believe to be the Bible’s answer:

Charles Hodge: Mosaic Covenant as ‘Renewed Proclamation of the Covenant of Works’

Besides this evangelical character which unquestionably belongs to the Mosaic covenant, it is presented in two other aspects in the Word of God. First, it was a national covenant with the Hebrew people. In this view the parties were God and the people of Israel; the promise was national security and prosperity; the condition was the obedience of the people as a nation to the Mosaic law; and the mediator was Moses. In this aspect it was a legal covenant. It said. “Do this and live.” Secondly, it contained, as does also the New Testament, a renewed proclamation of the original covenant of works. It is as true now as in the days of Adam, it always has been and always must be true, that rational creatures who perfectly obey the law of God are blessed in the enjoyment of his favour; and that those who sin are subject to his wrath and curse. Our Lord assured the young man who came to Him for instruction that if he kept the commandments he should live. And Paul says (Rom. ii. 6) that God will render to every man according to his deeds; tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil; but glory, honour, and peace to every man who worketh good. This arises from the relation of intelligent creatures to God. It is in fact nothing but a declaration of the eternal and immutable principles of justice. If a man rejects or neglects the gospel, these are the principles, as Paul teaches in the opening chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, according to which he will be judged. If he will not be under grace, if he will not accede to the method of salvation by grace, he is of necessity under the law.

These different aspects under which the Mosaic economy is presented account for the apparently inconsistent way in which it in spoken of in the New Testament. (1.) When viewed in relation to the people of God before the advent, it is represented as divine and obligatory. (2.) When viewed in relation to the state of the Church after the advent, it is declared to be obsolete. It is represented as the lifeless husk from which the living kernel and germ have been extracted, a body from which the soul has departed. (3.) When viewed according to its true import and design as a preparatory dispensation of the covenant of grace, it is spoken of as teaching the same gospel, the same method of salvation as that which the Apostles themselves preached. (4.) When viewed, in the light in which it was regarded by those who rejected the gospel, as a mere legal system, it was declared to be a ministration of death and condemnation. (2 Cor. iii. 6-18.) (5.) And when contrasted with the new or Christian economy, as a different mode of revealing the same covenant, it is spoken of as a state of tutelage and bondage, far different from the freedom and filial spirit of the dispensation under which we now live.

-Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 375

Hodge’s statement eloquently sets forth the traditional Reformed understanding of the Mosaic covenant as being a part of the Covenant of Grace while at the same time setting forth a proclamation of the Covenant of Works. This is similar to the argument I make HERE (with Samuel Bolton, Matthew Henry, and Herman Ridderbos), that the statement in Romans 8:2 “the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death,” refers to one law. The Law is a law of sin and death to those outside Christ, but it is the law of the Spirit of life for those in Christ. It is our orientation toward the law that determines how we will relate to it.

Law and Liturgy

Liturgies of the Western Church, by Bard Thompson, has been invaluable to me over the past few years as I consider the worship of the church. One of the more interesting things I gleaned from this book, with the help of a professor, comes from the liturgy of John Calvin’s churches in Strasbourg and Geneva.

Calvin, following Bucer, emphasized what has come to be known as the ‘third use’ of the law in worship:

In the main, however, as one can see in the liturgy of Grund und Ursach, Bucer used the law as Calvin also used it in worship: not to accuse sinners, but to bring the faithful to true piety by teaching them the divine will and exhorting them to obedience (p. 164).

Likewise,

In his Strassburg text, Calvin appointed the Ten Commandments be sung after Confession, even as Bucer had suggested in Grund und Ursach. Here he employed the Law according to its ‘third and principle use’; not to accuse and convict the sinner (in which case the Commandments would likely precede Confession) but to bring the penitents to true piety by teaching them the will of God and exhorting them to obey. ‘In this way the saints must press on’ (Institutes 2:7:12) (p. 191).

This seems like an insignificant point, but it had a marvelous effect on me. My home-church, for years, had a practice which has recently been changed. I really wish it hadn’t been changed; and I fear the reason it was changed was out of ignorance to this point. Let me explain.

During a service that involved the Lord’s Supper, we would recite the Apostles’ Creed followed by the Ten Commandments. Having learned the intentionality of Calvin’s liturgy, this bore a certain weight with me. I would reflect each service on the glory of faith before obedience, of accepting the gospel as the sole enabling for the keeping of the law, and as the sole source of forgiveness in my constant failure to do so.

The problem lies in the fact that many only see the law as either a) condemning and pointing us to Christ or b) something we can keep in our own strength. The Creed before the Law emphasizes that it is faith in Christ that leads to sanctification; that the gospel enables us to keep the law; that all our power for obedience is derived from what Christ has done for us. It drives us to Christ for forgiveness to be sure, but it also drives us to him to gain strength for obedience.

Calvin’s liturgy began with a confession of sin, yet the creed was sung before the law. This reflects a note that is missing in the modern church: the law condemns us and drives us to Christ, but once it has done so, faith in Christ now empowers us to new obedience. As John Flavel, Samuel Bolton, and others have said: the law sends us to Christ to be justified, and then Christ sends us back to the law to frame our way of life. But he never bids us keep the law under our own power. It is only Holy Spirit-wrought faith in him, living, dying, rising, that will empower us.

This is the indicative before the imperative played out in worship: to confess the faith before reciting the law; to confess our sins, to confess our faith, and then to confess the law anew as believers in Christ. Reciting the law before faith and reciting the law after faith are two totally different things.

My Savior’s Obedience and Blood

A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.

-Augustus Toplady, A Debtor to Mercy Alone

Amazing Ebook on Sanctification

Last week I came across an ebook put out by the fine folks over at Monergism. It is a compilation of classic works on sanctification along with some more recent articles on the same subject. It is available for free in epub and mobi, so you can read it on your Kindle or other electronic reading device. It also has a working table of contents, which is a major plus.

Get the ebook HERE. Do it! It is books and compilations like this that make having a Kindle (or other e-reader) worth it – and amazing.

Anyhow, I cannot recommend this little compilation more highly. Some of the books it contains have been highly influential and helpful in my own life; I am looking forward to rereading a couple of things and reading others that I haven’t yet read. Here is the full table of contents:

Table of Contents

The eReads

Preface
Sanctification Via Union with Christ by John Hendryx

Part I: Articles
The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers
The Saint’s Call to Arms by William Gurnall
Preacher of Good Tidings Dr. R. B. Kuiper
The Christian in Romans 7 – Arthur W. Pink
Christ our Surety by Richard Sibbes
Growth in Grace by J. C. Ryle
Justification and Sanctification: How do they Differ? by J. C. Ryle
Sanctification in Christ by Marcus Peter Johnson
The Nature of Sanctification and Gospel Holiness by John Owen
Mortifying Sin: Bringing Your Lust to the Gospel by John Owen
Works of the Self-Righteous by Martin Luther
Sanctification by Louis Berkhof
Strength Against Sin by Horatius Bonar
Sanctification by Abraham Kuyper
Holy Raiment of One’s Own Weaving by Abraham Kuyper
Sanctification by B. B. Warfield
Definitive Sanctification by John Murray
The Moral Law as a Rule of Obedience by Samuel Bolton
True Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton
Sanctification by Thomas Watson
Sanctification and Good Works by R. L. Dabney
Sanctification by A. A Hodge
Sanctification by Dr. William Ames
The Sanctification of the Saint by Francis Turretin
Sanctification by John Bunyan
The Doctrine of Mortification by A. W. Pink
Entire Sanctification by B. B Warfield

Part II: Books
The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall
On the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen
The Doctrine of Sanctification by A. W. Pink
Holiness by J. C. Ryle
The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks
Appendices
The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 13
Are We Basing Justification on Sanctification by John Hendryx
Does Sin Make You Worry if You Are Really Saved? by John Hendryx
What Does the Phrase “Dead in Sin” Mean? by John Hendryx
Our Ongoing Need of Redemption as Christians by John Hendryx
To Cut Off the Sinner from All Hope In Himself by John Hendryx
Christ Vs. Moralism by John Hendryx
Will Nice People Be Saved? by John Hendryx
Growing in Grace & Conscious of Sin by John Hendryx

A Theology of the Sabbath (4): John Owen on Hebrews 4:9-10 and the New Covenant Sabbath as a Sign of Christ’s Finished Work

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of GodFor the One who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

The Law Written on the Tablet of the Heart: Image from Samuel Bolton, True Bounds of Christian Freedom (Banner of Truth)

The Law Written on the Tablet of the Heart: Image from Samuel Bolton, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom (Banner of Truth)

This is the fourth installment in a four-part series. See Part 1 (the Sabbath as Moral and Mosaical) HERE,  part 2 (the Sabbath in the Covenant of Works) HERE, and part 3 (Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath in the Covenant of Works and its Mosaical Elements) HERE. For a summary list of quotations by Owen see HERE. All Owen quotations are from John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews: Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Baker), Reprinted 1980.

John Owen’s doctrine of the Christian first-day sabbath hinges largely on his interpretation of Hebrews 4, and more specifically Hebrews 4:9-10: “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of GodFor the One who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” Owen understands “the one” of verse 10 as a reference specifically to the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s dig a little into Hebrews 4 and see if that interpretation can be justified.

First, Hebrews 4:1-3a makes the case that the Israelites failed to enter into God’s rest because they lacked faith (and therefore obedience), while believers, through faith, do indeed enter into that rest. Second, in vv. 3b-4, the author grounds the original promise of rest in the work of God in creation. Third, in vv. 5-8, the author makes the case that Joshua, as the head of Israel, was not able to secure the promised rest; and that David, another head of Israel, acknowledged this in his own day as evidenced by Psalm 95:7-8. All of this is the author of Hebrews’ case that Sabbath remained relevant for believers under the New Covenant. This appears to be an essentially biblical-theological argument that Jesus Christ is the greater Israel/greater Joshua who has truly procured ‘rest’ for those who rest and trust in him by faith.

Next, we come to vv. 8-9. First (v. 8), since true ‘rest’ was never realized under the old covenant, the Sabbath promise of rest still stands. Therefore it would appear legitimate to infer, in v. 9, that Christ is the One who has truly entered into God’s rest. It therefore makes sense that vv. 14ff pick up on the theme (beginning with the word ‘therefore’ in v. 14) of Christ as the resurrected ‘Great High Priest’ who has entered into the heavens into the very presence of God.

Let’s take a moment to look at v. 9 in a bit more detail:The Greek verbs in v. 9,  εἰσελθὼν (he who has entered [God’s rest]) and κατέπαυσεν (he who has rested), are both aorist, masculine, singular verbs. As masculine, singular verbs, the strict translation is “he who has entered” and “he who has rested.” The question that remains is, Is this a generalized ‘he’ referring to all believers, or a specific ‘he’ referring to Christ. Owen takes the latter view and my opinion is that the evidence bears this out. Next, the aorist tense indicates a past action with present ramifications. This rest has already been entered, and therefore he has already rested from his works in like manner to the original rest of creation. But, as the original rest of God had continued ramifications for his people, so this newly entered rest continues to have ramifications.

We cannot even begin to touch upon all of those ramifications here, but we will focus on the primary point picked up by Owen. Owen’s primary deduction from this passage is that Jesus Christ, having fulfilled the Covenant of Works in behalf of his people, and voluntarily taken the curse of covenant disobedience, for them, upon himself, has fulfilled the original import of the Sabbath. The original intent of the Sabbath, as revealed in creation, according to Owen, was that God promised Adam perfect rest and blessedness in his presence (think heaven) upon condition of obedience – work and then rest. After Adam’s failure, this principle of work before rest stays in force and is re-articulated by Moses in the Mosaical instructions regarding Israel’s sabbath. Yet Israel, like Adam, could not find rest on account of disobedience.

In the New Covenant Christ himself has finished the ‘work’ of the Covenant of Works perfectly; he has also finished the work of satisfying the demands of God’s justice in his death on the cross (hence ‘It is finished). Having done so, in his resurrection, he enters into a state of perfect rest and blessedness at the right hand of the Father. Yet there remains a sabbath-rest (or sabbatism) for the people of God.

This rest is ultimately realized as we, in Christ, rest from our own works. This entails a repudiation of our own righteousness as ‘filthy rags’ (to use Isaiah’s language) and a resting, by faith, in Christ as our substitute (both positively, in law-keeping, and negatively, in receiving God’s curse). We therefore, by faith, begin with rest and perform our works of obedience in light of what Christ has already accomplished in our behalf. The paradigm has been inverted: it is no longer work before rest, but rest before work. This is the principle of the ‘new creation’ which Christ has wrought in his resurrection.

This, says Owen, is the reason that the actual ‘day’ of rest is changed:

Now, as God’s rest, and his being refreshed in his work, on the seventh day of old, was a sufficient indication of the precise day of rest which he would have observed under the administration of that original law and covenant, so the rest of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his being refreshed in and from his works, on the first day, is a sufficient indication of the precise day of rest to be observed under the dispensation of the new covenant, now confirmed and established (pp. 409-410).

Therefore, it is fitting that the apostles should make it a practice to meet on the first day of the week rather than the last, since that is the very day when Christ himself entered into his perfect rest (Matt. 28:1ff, Mark 16:2ff, Luke 24:1ff, John 20:1ff, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, 1 Cor. 16:2).

In summary, for Owen, the institution of Sunday as the Christian sabbath, flowed from a contrast between the Covenant of Creation (or Covenant of Works) and the Covenant of New Creation (or New Covenant). In the first covenant, rest is entered into after the work of obedience has been completed. In the New Covenant, this work of obedience has been completed by a Representive – the Lord Jesus Christ. And Christ, having entered into that rest in our behalf, and as our Mediator, calls us to observe the first day of the week as a visible, weekly manifestation and reminder of his triumph over sin and the grave in the resurrection. We enter into rest in and by him alone, and therefore begin the Christian life with a principle of rest; and that principle is visibly manifested, one could almost say ‘sacramentally,’ in the observance of solemn, public worship on the first day of the week.

Owen’s own summary is this:

What account can we give to ourselves and our children concerning our observation of this day holy unto the Lord? Must we not say, nay, may we not do so with joy and rejoicing, that whereas we were lost and undone by sin, excluded out of the rest of God, so far as that the law of the observation of the outward pledge of it, being attended with the curse, was a burden, and no relief to us, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, undertook a great work to make peace for us, to redeem and save us; and when he had so done, and finished his work, even the erecting of the “new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness,’’ he entered into his rest, and thereby made known to us that we should keep this day as a day of holy rest unto him, and as a pledge that we have again given to us an entrance into rest with God? (p. 450).

Christ calls us to come to him and find rest (Matt. 11:28-29). He takes the heavy yoke of the Law of God upon himself so that our burden might be light in him. He has done the heavy lifting so that we may enter rest. We are privileged to celebrate his mighty work as we begin each new week. May this law of God be written on all our hearts.

We will make a few applications in a follow-up post.