Legalism is, by definition, an attempt to add anything to the finished work of Christ. It is to trust in anything other than Christ and His finished work for one’s standing before God. The New Testament refutation of legalism is primarily a response to perversions of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The majority of the Savior’s opponets were those who believed that they were righteous in and of themselves and commitment to the law of God. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes exemplified, by their words and deeds, doctrinal legalism in the days of Christ and the Apostles. While they made occasional appeals to grace, they self-righteously truncated and twisted the Scriptural meaning of grace.
Contrary to what you may have been taught, the world was made to be known and you were made to know it. Contrary to what you may have been told, the world around you, though corrupted by sin, is not an illusion and evil is not winning. Believe your eyes and ears but do not believe everything you read and hear. You can and should, however, trust that God’s Word is reliable and true, that Christ is the Saviour, that he really came, that he was really raised, and that he is really coming again to make all things right again. Until that time you and I have a great calling to trust Christ with all our heart and out of that confidence to serve him in this world by loving God and our neighbour. Find a true church where the gospel is purely preached, where the sacraments are purely administered, and where they love the people enough to practice loving, gracious discipline.
Via 1517 The Legacy Project, who add:
If the Ten Commandments were not impossible enough, the preaching of Christian behavior, of Christian ethics, of Christian living, can drive a Christian into despairing unbelief. Not happy unbelief. Tragic, despairing, sad unbelief. (It is not unlike the [unhappy] Christian equivalent of “Jack Mormons” – those who finally admit to themselves and others that they can’t live up to the demands of this non-Christian cult’s laws, and excuse themselves from the whole sheebang.) A diet of this stuff from pulpit, from curriculum, from a Christian reading list, can do a work on a Christian that is (at least over the long haul) “faith destroying.”
The blessing of the Christian life is Christ. Everything else is hogwash.
For all of you who have been given morality lessons instead of the Gospel, hear how Dr. Rod Rosenbladt succinctly presents Christianity as first and foremost a genuine truth claim about Christ as our righteous substitute, instead of a never ending list of popular religious recipes for personal success.
How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.
John Owen suggests four ways in which the Spirit and the serpent are to be distinguished:
The leading of the Spirit, he says, is regular, that is, according to the regulum: the rule of Scripture. The Spirit does not work in us to give us a new rule of life, but to help us understand and apply the rule contained in Scripture. Thus, the fundamental question to ask about any guidance will be: Is this course of action consistent with the Word of God?
The commands of the Spirit are not grievous. They are in harmony with the Word, and the Word is in harmony with the believer as new creation. The Christian believer consciously submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked by struggle, pain, and sorrow. Christ’s yoke fits well; His burden never crushes the spirit. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The “motions” of the Spirit are orderly. Just as God’s covenant is ordered in all things and secure, (2 Samuel 23:5) so the promised gift of that covenant, the indwelling Spirit, is orderly in the way in which He deals with us. Restlessness is not a mark of communion with the Spirit but of the activity of the evil one. Perhaps Owen had particular members of his congregations in mind when he wrote:
We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”
The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.
How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.
Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit-understood biblically-brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.
This excerpt is taken from The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair Ferguson. It appeared on the Ligonier website on November 17, 2014.
The death of Christ on the cross, and the fact that his tomb was empty come Easter Sunday morning, and that his dead and decaying body was never brought forward by any of his opponents is one of the best attested historical facts of the time. That Christ died, and was raised again gave hope to the scattered, dejected and demoralized apostles.
Because of the fact of the empty tomb, all but one of the apostles died horrific martyrs’ deaths for their faith. Even the Apostle Peter, who was so frightened he denounced Christ to a young a girl on the night of Christ’s betrayal, spent the rest of his life, after that tomb was empty, preaching Christ and him crucified until he too was crucified upside down.
The Apostles were nourished by their knowledge of Gospel, that Christ died for their sins. This same idea, remembering and proclaiming the Lord’s death until he returns, is what feeds us in the Lord’s supper.
The Christian doctrine of assurance is like a three legged stool. All three of the legs support the stool, and without even one, the stool cannot stand.
One of the legs of the stool is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Romans 8:16 says, “16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” This is just like Galatians 4:6 wherein the Spirit cries out from within us, “Abba, father!”
The second leg is of the stool of assurance is evidence of spiritual fruit in the life of the believer. 1 John 2:3 says of this leg that, “3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” As we God transforms us to be more like Christ, we will keep more and more of his commands. Not because we have to, but out of our ever growing love and thankfulness for what we’ve been freed from.
Now, the third leg of the stool is the Gospel of Jesus and all of God’s promises related to it. John 1:12 says, “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
And although the stool of assurance has three legs, and will not stand if even one of the legs are missing, the third leg is nothing like the other two. It is huge, it is solid, and it will not falter. If in your coming week you can’t find your inner witness, if God seems far from you, or you are truly depraved and find no spiritual fruit in yourself, think back to the Lord’s Supper. Think of what it represents. Remember that just a surely as you eat the bread and drink the cup, Christ died for sin, and through him you are right with God.
In Song of Solomon 4 verses 7, Christ says of his bride the church, and of you the believer:
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
You are beautiful because of Christ, not because of who you are or what you do.
Based on the title above, you might be wondering whether this is an article that will include practical counsel on time management and how to best maximize your schedule; or, you might wonder whether it will be a defense of the BC/AD dating system of human history (as over against the BCE/CE modern attempts at revision); or, you may be wondering whether it is a theological treatment of the liturgical calendar (i.e. a structuring of worship services according to the redemptive-historical events in the Scriptures). While all of those things are worthy of consideration, this article is written to those who long for spiritual renewal and restoration in Christ as we enter into a New Year ahead. As we recognize our need for spiritual renewal, we often fail to realize that one of the most important biblical truths about the spiritual renewal of believers is that Jesus has redeemed the calendar of our lives. This is one of the most foundational truths in Scripture-and yet one that we all too frequently pass by. So how does Jesus redeem the calendar of our lives?
We all love new beginnings. When we enter a new year, most of us tend to think back on the year past-we look back at the accomplishments and failures and wonder if the forthcoming year will yield more progress and a better sense of achievement. When we make New Year’s resolutions, we are reacting to regrets that we have had over the past year’s activities and events. Usually, it is physical or financial failures with which we are most dismayed. It is not altogether wrong for us to have such regrets. There is something good about self-assessment and self-examination. But, more painful than admitting our lack of self-control in diet, exercise and spending is facing up to our lack of self-control and zeal in the realm of spiritual life and devotion.
We all feel the guilt and shame of our sin. We are dismayed by how little we gave ourselves to reading the Scriptures and to prayer. We know that we should have used our God-given gifts to build up His people in a much greater way than we did through the year. We recognize that we could have given more of our time and energy to care for those in our church and reach out with the Gospel to our neighbors and co-workers. We admit that we could have opened our homes to those we don’t know well in our church and to our neighbors more than we did for the sake of the Gospel. We are frustrated that we repeatedly gave into particular sins, scarred our consciences, and grieved the Holy Spirit by whom we were sealed. All of this remorse weighs heavily on our hearts-and it is right that it does. But is there no hope of restoration and renewal for us as we enter into a New Year? There is hope for us-and more than we could ever imagine-in the Gospel.
As we search the Scriptures we find the glorious truth that Jesus made us part of His new creation through His death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:14). When Christ stepped out of the tomb, He did so as the first-fruits of the New Creation. His bodily resurrection guaranteed the spiritual (John 5:25) and bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-22) of all those united to Him-and secured the ultimate restoration of all things at the end of time (Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:12-13). In His resurrection from the dead, Jesus redeemed our calendars. He forgave us all of our sin. He gave us power to die to self and live to righteousness this year and all the years of our lives.
In this sense, every day is New Year’s Day for the believer. All of this is unfolded for us in marvelous typological detail in the record of the Passover and the Exodus. God not only redeemed Israel from the bondage of Egypt-He realigned their calendar at the Exodus (Exodus 12:1) to give them an anticipation of the new creation that He would bring about through the death of His Son-the true and greater Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:5).
It’s important for us to realize that the institution of the Passover occurred between the 9th and the 10th plagues. God differentiated between His church and the world. He kept His plagues from falling on His people (Exodus 9:4; 11:7). However, when God pronounced the 10th and most severe plague, He did not differentiate between the church and the world. Members of the Old Covenant church were, thereby, shown that they deserved judgment as much as the Egyptians. We all deserve judgment for our sin and rebellion against God. Our failures are not merely imperfections in our goals or character. They are acts of rebellion against the infinitely holy God who made us. In the tenth plague, God taught Israel that all men-Jew and Gentile-deserve judgment. Phil Ryken explains this so well when he writes:
The Israelites must have been shocked to discover that their lives were in danger. All the previous plagues had left them unscathed because God had made a distinction between his people and Pharaoh’s people. While chaos engulfed their oppressors, the Israelites had watched from the safety of Goshen. From this they learned that they were God’s special people. This may have tempted them to believe that they were more righteous than the Egyptians, indeed, that they could do no wrong. But the truth was that they deserved to die every bit as much as their enemies. Indeed, if God had not provided a means for their salvation, they would have suffered the loss of every last one of their firstborn sons. The Israelites were as guilty as the Egyptians, and in the final plague God taught them about their sin and his salvation.
The only thing that would make a difference for Israel was the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorposts of their homes. Every Israelite who acted in faith according to God’s promise and put the blood on the doorpost was delivered from the judgment of the destroyer, and their first-born sons were spared. This was, of course, because God’s judgment fell on the substitutionary Passover Lamb. In this way, God was pointing His people to the Person and work of Christ.
The Passover Lamb was given to God’s people as an annual reminder of the need that they had to feed on the Lamb by which they were redeemed. All of the instructions about the observance of the feast were given to reflect something of the redemption that we have in Christ. He was roasted under the fire of God’s wrath. He commands us to feed upon His flesh and blood by faith. He is a sufficient meal for the souls of His people. Even the relationship between the substitutionary lamb and the 10th plague were not incidental. The first-born sons were spared on account of the blood of the Passover Lamb because God would not spare His own first-born-Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:5; Romans 8:32).
All of this was prefaced in the institution of the Passover when God said, “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” The redemption that Israel experienced in the blood of the typological Lamb turned the clocks back to the first day of the first month of the first year. It was as if God was taking everything back to creation again. He was taking His people back to the time before there was sin-and was pointing them forward to the day when He would fully and finally make everything new. In the redemption that we have in Christ we have experienced new creation in our souls. In His death on the cross and in His resurrection, Jesus was the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:5) and brought about the greater Exodus (Exodus 9:31).
The true Exodus is experienced in its full import through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. This truth is applicable to the daily lives of believers in the New Covenant. For example, in Colossians 2:20-3:4, the Apostle Paul tells us that we have died with Christ, been raised with Him and that our lives are now hidden with Him in God (Col. 3:1-4). In light of that truth we do not turn to rigid asceticism for godliness (2:20-23); rather, we recognize that we have been made new creatures by virtue of our union with Christ in His death and resurrection. We are then told that we are to put off the old and put on the new (Col. 3:5-17). So much of our Christian life, and the power we long for, comes from knowing our position in Christ, namely, that He has made us to be spiritually resurrected beings-part of the new creation.
Many of us see the New Year as an opportunity to do better. We long for a fresh start. Often, this results in wishful or sentimental “New Year’s resolutions.” At the core of our being, we do not need New Year’sresolutions-we need a “New Year’s Theology;” we need a theology of new creation. We need to know that we have been made new creatures if we are to live in newness of life for Christ. More than anything else in this year ahead, we continually need to hear the voice of the One who cried out, “Behold, I make all things new.” May God grant us the grace to live as those who have been made new creatures and have had our calendars redeemed by the One who lived and died and rose again for us.
This past week, Ken Pritchett and Dane Carlson had the pleasure of attending the Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastor’s Conference in La Mirada, California at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church.
At the conference Dr. G. K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, lectured on the topic of Christology in the Book of Revelation. The following videos include a sampling of the content they feasted on.
Following the conference, Dane and his family stayed and worshipped on Reformation Sunday with the congregation at Trinity. Dr. Sam Waldron taught on Augustine’s conversion in Sunday School and preached from Matthew 16:18 during church.
by Adam Ford.
Why are we here? What is the purpose of this life? The Bible explains that we aren’t just a random collect of molecules thrown together by chance, but that we were created in the image of a holy God. It also teaches that our primary purpose, our reason for being, is to give glory to God. Glorifying God means to acknowledge his greatness and give him honor by worship, because he, and he alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped.
Psalm 86, says:
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
1 Chronicles 16:28-29 describes how we are to give glory to God:
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
Giving glory to God is an act of worship. In these verses, we see that the act of glorifying God has two parts: First, we are to “ascribe,” or give glory to him because is deserves it. Secondly, we are to “bring and offering” to glorify him as part of our worship. This offering involves our agreement, obedience and submission to him. Glorifying God means agreeing with everything he has said, both about himself and us in the Bible. Because he is holy, and perfect, his word is holy and perfect and we glorify God by listening to, agreeing with, and living in submission to his will as revealed in the Bible.
Worship should cause us to reflect on the majesty and graciousness of Jesus Christ, in contrast to our own unworthiness. Our preaching, praying, singing, reading and communion are designed by God to bring us closer to him and to cause us to think more like he thinks, and to become more like him. James 4:8 tells us to, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
Originally published in the Mariposa Gazette on August 22, 2013.