Chapter 1:Scripture/Chapter 2:Trinity/Chapter 3:Decree/Chapter 4:Creation/Chapter 5:Providence/Chapter 6:Fall/Chapter 7:Covenant/Chapter 8:Mediator/Chapter 9:Free Will/Chapter 10:Calling/Chapter 11:Justification/Chapter 12:Adoption/Chapter 13:Sanctification/Chapter 14:Faith/Chapter 15:Repentance/Chapter 16:Works/Chapter 17:Perseverance/Chapter 18:Assurance/Chapter 19:Law/Chapter 20:Liberty/Chapter 21:Worship-Sabbath/Chapter 21:Worship-Sabbath2/Chapter 21:Worship-Sabbath3/Chapter 22:Lawful Oaths and Vows/Chapter 23:Civil Magistrate/Chapter 23:Civil Magistrate Part 2/Chapter 24: Marriage and Divorce/Chapter 24: Marriage and Divorce Part 2/Chapter 24: Marriage and Divorce Part 3/Chapter 25: Of The Church/Chapter 26: Of The Communion of Saints/Chapter 27: The Sacraments – Spirit Baptism Part I

These audio files are Pastor Booth’s Sunday School lessons on the Westminster Confession of Faith that have been (and continue to be) recorded during our Sunday School hour following morning worship.

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture – Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, this lesson was not recorded.

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 1: Holy Scripture

What’s the Big Deal?

“Christianity is a revealed religion, constructed not on the basis of speculative philosophy, but in response to what God Himself has made manifest.”[1]

One of the convictions widely held by Presbyterians is that anyone who is accepted by Jesus as one of His children must be accepted as a member of the church. Therefore, Presbyterians don’t require individuals to agree with our Confession in order to become members of our churches. The membership vows of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are intended to be vows that every Christian (who is old enough) can and should make. Why then do we require those making a public profession of faith to answer yes to the following question: “Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?”

  1. To believe God is to believe His word.
  2. The Bible is God’s word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”
  3. Therefore: To believe God is to believe the Bible.

Let’s look at this issue from a Christ centered standpoint:

  1. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12).”
  2. Jesus commissions the Apostles as ambassadors who will serve as authoritative witnesses to who He is and what He has done. “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me (Matthew 10:40).”
  3. Both Jesus and the Apostles regularly treat Scripture as being the very words of God even in the smallest details (Matthew 5:18-19; John 10:35; 1 Thess 2:13; 4:8).

Necessity of Revelation: Paragraph 1

  1. There was never a time when mankind was without both general and special revelation (NB: Humanity had special revelation before sin entered the world. Special revelation is not only about the plan of redemption. We were created to be in relationship with the LORD and relationships involve communication).
  2. Note that the Confession affirms a cessessionist position regarding new revelation intended for the whole Church.

The Sufficiency of Scripture: Paragraph 6: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

  1. See 1 Timothy 3:16-17 above.
  2. NB: The Confession teaches the sufficiency of Scripture for God’s “own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.” The Bible does not teach us about physics or the circulatory system. We should not embrace ignorance of the natural sciences as a corollary to the sufficiency of Scripture.
  3. The challenge of forming the canon of Scripture. The Confession recognizes that there are many things that point to the Bible being God’s word – but those pointers don’t make it God’s word. Suppose you were visiting England and someone were point out a man in the crowd and tell you that he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. That statement may provide you with helpful information (if it happened to be accurate) but the statement would have absolutely no impact at all on whether or not he really was the Archbishop.
  4. The challenge of ignorance. The sufficiency of Scripture is only made evident when we are intimately engaged in meditating on God’s word (Psalm 1).
  5. The challenge of unfaithfulness. The Scriptures only prove to be sufficient when we actually try to put God’s word into practice.

Translating Scripture: Paragraph 8

 

  1. The importance of making God’s word available to all of His people. Note that the LXX (an ancient translation of the OT into Greek) was frequently used by the Apostles. When the NT retains Jesus speaking in Aramaic it sometimes translates these words into Greek (e.g. John 20:16).
  2. “Different English translations sometimes translate the same verse in incompatible ways, and so at least one must be in error. … The confession affirms in section 8 the right (actually the Confession affirms the obligation) to translate the Bible into the languages of the people, because the truth to be learned from those translations far exceeds the occasional error.”[2]
  3. The inescapability of our dependence upon each other.

Sola Scriptura: Paragraph 12: “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

 

  1. NB: “The Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”
  2. The challenge of Tradition and traditions.
  3. The challenge of treating Christ’s Church like a private club.
  4. The challenge of making man the measure.

[2] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, p. 27.

 

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Chapter 2: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity – Unfortunately, due to technical difficulites, this lesson was not recorded.

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 2: The Holy Trinity

 

“The doctrine of God as set forth in historic Reformed theology is not particularly distinctive. … Paradoxically … the most distinctive characteristic of Reformed theology, which sets it apart from all other theologies, is the Reformed doctrine of God. This is so because Reformed theology, more than any other theology, consistently applies its understanding of God to every other doctrine in its theological system, making it altogether theocentric (“God-centered”) from start to finish.”[1] – R.C. Sproul

 

Note how much of this chapter is drawn directly from statements of Scripture.  For example:

  1. Exodus 34:6-7: “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, ….’”
  2. Ephesians 1:11: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will …”
  3. Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those diligently who seek him.”

By the term TRINITY we mean that God is ONE BEING[2] and THREE PERSONS.

  1. Unity of God/Strict Monotheism: Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
  2. The tri-personality of God is revealed by the fact that the different persons of God relate to each other as persons.  For example, the Son prays to the Father (John 17).  The Father speaks from heaven and declares that Jesus is His beloved Son while the Holy Spirit descends upon Him (Mark 1:10-11). The Father and the Son together send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26). This is contrary to Modalism[3] which teaches that the One God simply appears in different modes. Modalism is sometimes called patripassionism because it would mean that the Father was crucified on the cross.

INCOMPREHESIBILITY OF GOD (paragraph 1). It is important when doing theology to remember that God is much bigger (in fact infinitely bigger) than we are. A God who was small enough for you to exhaustively understand would not be big enough to be everything you need. Thankfully, because God has revealed Himself to us, we can truly apprehend many aspects of His nature and character.  Deuteronomy 29:29![4]

 

The Confession like the Scriptures teach a strict monotheism and not merely henotheism.[5] Sometimes people draw the wrong conclusion from the English translation of the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Hebrew words which have been translated “before” in this text does not refer to priority (as though it would be o.k. to acknowledge other gods so long as Yahweh always has the top priority). Instead “before” has a spatial dimension meaning “in my presence.”

 

THE IMPASSIBILITY OF GOD (“God is without passions”). This important truth of orthodox theology has frequently been misunderstood and is under regular attack in our day. “Without passions” does not mean that God has no emotions or that He doesn’t truly care.  The expression means that God is never overwhelmed by emotions or outside forces.  It “means that He does not experience mood swings or become depressed, not that He has no cares. Yet, Scripture plainly teaches that God has an emotive side: He takes delight in things, He loves, He regards us with affection. God is not an abstract force, but a personal being.”[6]

 

ECONOMIC vs. ONTOLOGICAL: The expression “ontological Trinity” refers to God as He is in Himself while the expression “economic Trinity” refers to God as He has revealed Himself to us in the history of redemption.  While there has been a great deal of speculation regarding the “ontological Trinity” the Bible tells us remarkably little about God in Himself. The vast majority of orthodox theologians have, historically, simply assumed that the way God reveals Himself in the economy of redemption reflects the way God is ontologically.

  1. Sometimes this connection is well grounded.  For example, for the Father to eternally be “the Father” the second person of the Trinity must have eternally been “the Son”.[7]
  2. Sometimes this connection is pretty speculative. The Confession follows virtually the entire orthodox tradition by asserting that “the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” There is no reason to deny this, but there is little Biblical basis to affirm it either.

HETERODOXY AS REBELLION: Since so much of this chapter is so plainly drawn from Scripture, why wouldn’t every professing Christian agree with it?

  1. Most Christians do agree with most of this chapter. As Dr. Sproul observed, “The doctrine of God as set forth in historic Reformed theology is not particularly distinctive.”
  2. Objections to this chapter flow precisely out of applying the truths of this chapter to our lives.  Since God is God that means that you and I are not. Teachings, such as Open Theism, flow from the desire of the creature to escape the exhaustive sovereignty, holiness, and immutability of our LORD. Open Theism teaches that God doesn’t know everything, in particular that He doesn’t know the future, and that He learns and grows over time (i.e. He isn’t immutable).  What are some of the problems with this point of view?

[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, p. 33.

[2] Also referred to as “one essence” or “one substance”.

[3] One of the popular ways that people try to illustrate the Trinity (comparing God to water which can be in three different states a. Water Vapor; b. Liquid Water; and c. Ice) actually teaches this error.

[4] “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

[5] Among Bible scholars, the term “henotheism” refers to a people who follow only one God themselves while not denying the existence of other gods.

[6] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, p. 37.

[7] Note that Isaiah 9:6 speaks of the Son being sent.  This means that the second person of the Trinity did not become the Son at the Incarnation.  This is why theologians speak of eternally begotten.

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Chapter 3:

Of God's Eternal Decree     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 3: Of God’s Eternal Decree

 

The Kingdom of God is not a Democracy

  1. “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; …”
  2. Ephesians 1:11-12: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
  3. Acts 4:27-28: “…for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Concurrence: This is a critical issue in dealing with the “problem” of evil.

  1. “… yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
  2. We are responsible for our actions. But if some of our actions are evil, how can God foreordain them without participating in our evil (Romans 9:14: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”)?
  3. Genesis 50:18-20: “His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.’”
  4. Acts 2:22-23: ““Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

God’s Decree is not mere Prescience

  1. Perhaps the most common view among American evangelicals is that God’s work of predestination simply reflects His seeing in advance the choices which we are freely going to make. Among other things, this flatly contradicts the meaning of predestination (to determine the destination beforehand).
  2. Romans 9. Pay particular attention to verse 11.

God Ordains the Means as well as the Ends

  1. “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto.”
  2. 2 Thess 2:13: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

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Chapter 4:

Of Creation     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 4: Creation

 

This Chapter deals with creation in general and with the creation of man in particular. Because there is so much controversy on this subject, we are going to cover it in the course of two weeks so as not to let the controversial keep us from discussing things that are of greater importance.

 

CREATION IN GENERAL

A key word to remember when thinking about the doctrine of creation is: sovereignty. Consider what Genesis 1 and 2 would have meant to their original audience. The Hebrews were leaving Egypt and its “gods” to go to a land that none of them had ever seen. Would “their” God be able to actually deliver them? What about the gods who were already in the land of Canaan? Genesis 1 and 2 make it clear that YHWH is the Creator of all things and therefore is absolutely sovereign over His creation. This same application holds for us today. It is important for us to remember that Genesis 1 and 2 were not written as the introduction to a geology or to a biology textbook. They were written as the introduction of a covenant document which reveals the relationship between the God of the universe and His chosen people.

The Confession teaches that:

  1. The world is not self-existent. Only God is self-existent.
  2. God made all things from nothing (ex nihilo).
  3. God declared that creation was good. Modern evangelicalism, particularly of the dispensational variety, tends to treat the planet as a disposable resource. This is not a Biblical view (Correspondingly, some environmentalists seem to want to worship the planet. This must also be clearly rejected).
  4. God created everything for His own glory. Many views of God, even in the Church, act as though God exists for the good of the creation. The Confession, following Scripture, rightly puts it the other way around.

A plea for humility: There have been numerous attempts to explain the Biblical and scientific evidence in a single unified theory of origins. No explanation yet offered seems to explain all of the data. This shouldn’t be entirely surprising given the immense complexity of the various disciplines involved. The danger surfaces when someone, looking at only some of the data, arrives at a clear explanation of that limited data and then treats everyone who disagrees with him as an idiot or ethically compromised. Let’s not do this.

 

“The church has always taken the position that all truth meets at the top, and that science should never contradict Scripture. Scientific discoveries, however, can correct the theologian’s faulty understanding of Scripture, just as biblical revelation can correct faulty speculations drawn from the natural order.”[1] Remember Copernicus![2]

Four of the major approaches taken within the Church have been:

  1. Instantaneous Creation. Largely because this was the view of Saint Augustine, it was a very prominent view within the Church for 1,000 years.[3]
  2. The Day-Age Theory. This view suggests that the days of Genesis 1 reflect long and undefined periods of time. This view came into existence when some scientists began to suggest that the world was much older than previously believed. It was fairly common in nineteenth century American Protestantism and around the time of the founding of the OPC. This is also the dominant view today in the Free Church of Scotland. The great contemporary systematic theologian Donald Macleod holds this position.
  3. The Framework-Hypothesis. This is very recent view which didn’t exist until the Twentieth century. It originated with Nicholas Ridderbos but has achieved a degree of popularity in our circles because it was taught by the OPC Minister and Seminary Professor Meredith Kline.
  4. Six-Day Creationism. This view holds that the six days of Genesis 1, while extraordinary on anyone’s account, should be thought of as “ordinary in length”. A common view among conservative American evangelicals (including in the OPC). This view has gained very little traction outside of North America.

All of these views (and more!) are considered acceptable for Ordained Officers within the OPC. If you would like to know more, the OPC has a study paper on the views of creation.[4]

It is worth noting that our confession takes no position on how old the earth is. G.I. Williamson, a six-day creationist and well known commentator on the Confession and Catechisms writes: “… the Bible is as indefinite about the length of time which has followed creation as it seems to be definite about the length of time required by creation.”[5] R.C. Sproul, in a similar vein, writes: “Although the Bible clearly says that the world was created in six days, it gives no date for the beginning of the work. It would be a mistake to become embroiled in too much controversy about the date of creation.”[6]

It may be helpful to understand how our denomination interprets and applies our Confession in evaluating a man’s fitness to serve as an Ordained Officer in the OPC: A Latin expression can be helpful: animus imponentis refers to the intention of the body that is imposing the oath. In the case of officers in the OPC, this refers to the intent of the denomination as a whole in adopting our subordinate standards.

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume One, p. 121.

[2] Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon (among many others) all condemned Copernicus’ heliocentric theories. Almost two centuries later, in 1633  Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church for following the position of Copernicus and was placed under house arrest for the remainder of his life.

[3] Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, John Hammond Taylor, trans. (New York: Newman

Press, 1962) 1.125

[4] http://opc.org/GA/CreationReport.pdf

[5] G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, p. 42.

[6] R. C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume One, p. 121.

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 4: Creation – Part II

 

This Chapter deals with creation in general and with the creation of man in particular. Because there is so much controversy on this subject, we are going to cover it in the course of two weeks so as not to let the controversial keep us from discussing other matters of theological importance

 

THE FIRST HUMAN COUPLE IS A DIRECT CREATION OF GOD

  1. Note the qualitative difference between mankind and animals.
  2. Adam and Eve were created with righteousness and holiness.
  3. Mankind is not simply physical. We have an immaterial aspect to our nature. Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  4. We are renewed in Christ after this righteousness and holiness (We are also re-created in Christ after righteousness and holiness. cf. Eph. 4:24).

HUMANITY (MALE & FEMALE) IS CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

Key Passage: Genesis 1:26-28:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

 

  1. What does it mean to be in the image of God? Are there two different items “image” and “likeness” or only one?
  2. Roman Catholics have tended to see “image” and “likeness” as referring to different things. “Rome takes the position that the words refer to distinct aspects of our humanity: image to our rational capacity as reasonable creatures, and likeness to a particular virtue that is a special, added gift of original holiness.”[1]
  3. Protestants have tended to see these two terms as a hendiadys which refers to a single idea. As Bruce Waltke points out, “The important addition of ‘likeness’ underscores that humanity is only a facsimile of God and hence distinct from Him. Whereas the image of the deity is equated with the deity itself in the ancient Near East, the word likeness serves to clearly distinguish God from humans in the biblical worldview.”[2] Being in the image of God does not mean that we participate ontologically in God’s being.
  4. “In What sense are we like God? For one thing, we have reasonable … souls. That is, we have the capacity to think rationally, to make deductions. We are not limited to responding to external stimuli, but can work through syllogisms and think in a cognitive, logical manner.”[3] Other animals are created after their kinds. Only man is created in the image of God.
  5. God is not “wholly other” as Islam and Karl Barth suggest.
  6. When the Confession speaks of man being created with immortal souls, it does not mean that our souls are intrinsically immortal. It means that they are designed to live forever by the decree of God.
  7. Notice that Dominion is given to “them”, that is to mankind, and not merely to males.
  8. The Fall did not cause man to stop being in the image of God but it did distort our faithfulness as image bearers.

MANKIND ALWAYS HAD REVELATION FROM GOD

  1. General revelation: The law written on our hearts. This is more of a derived doctrine from the totality of Scripture than one taught in detail by any particular proof text. The proof text given with the OPC Standards (nb: Proof Texts are not part of our denomination’s Constitution) is questionable. Romans 2:14-15 may be speaking of Gentile believers who have the law written on their hearts because they are members of the New Covenant.
  2. Special revelation: The Confession cites the command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It is worth remembering that this isn’t the only command that Adam and Eve received. Gen 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Note that the word translated “keep” in the ESV is the basic Hebrew word for “guard”. Translators have probably been reluctant to give this word its common translation of “guard” because nothing has been mentioned yet that the garden would need to be guarded against. Nevertheless, once Satan is introduced in Gen 3, the translation of “guard” alerts us to the responsibility Adam had not only for himself but also for all of creation.

ADAM AND EVE HAD THE ABILITY TO OBEY OR TO SIN

  1. See Human Nature in its Fourfold State by Thomas Boston for the classic treatment of this doctrine.
  2. The idea of this scheme, which goes back at least as far as Saint Augustine, is that there are four different possible ways in which we can be related to Sin (note – not sins). Many people have found this scheme to be helpful:
  1. Man can be capable of sinning and capable of not sinning. This is the state of humanity prior to the fall.
  2. Man can only be capable of sinning. This is the state of humanity apart from receiving God’s grace.
  3. Man can be capable of not sinning in individual cases without anyone having the ability to be completely free of sin. This is the state of redeemed man prior to being glorified.
  4. Man can be in a state where it is no longer possible for him to sin. This will be our state once we are glorified.

[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, p. 135.

[2] Bruce Waltke, Genesis, p. 66.

[3] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, p. 136.

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Chapter 5:

Of Providence     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 5: Providence

 

As G.I. Williamson has observed, this section of the Confession is concerned with ruling out two common errors in thinking about history: (1) Everything happens by chance; and (2) Everything happens by blind mechanical necessity or fate.

 

Providence is closely related to the idea of provision. The first example of this in the Bible is found in Genesis 22 where the LORD provided a goat in place of Isaac. This was not merely some sort of cosmic accident.

God is not merely the key figure in history – He is the author of history.

  1. What is chance?
    1. Chance is a way of talking about forces that we don’t understand or are unable to calculate without additional equipment. For example, when I flip a coin I am unable to tell with my unaided eye exactly how much force has been applied to the edge of the coin and at what angle, etc … We therefore describe whether or not it will come up heads or tails in terms of chance. But “chance” didn’t make the coin do anything, because chance is not a thing. Another way to say this is that chance is nothing. Even when we use very sophisticated probability models we should remember that chance isn’t causing anything.
    2. Hume is often wrongly thought to have argued that effects don’t need to have causes. Actually, that would be nonsense. What Hume argued against was the idea that we know for sure what the cause of any particular effect is (i.e. we confuse correlation with cause).  BTW – Politicians try to convince us that correlation = causation all the time. When something good happens in the economy you can be sure that some politician is linking that to a policy he or she supported (correspondingly, when something bad happens in the economy that will be linked to the policies of his or her opponents).
    3. God sustains all things. Hebrews 1:3: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
    4. God exercises complete control over every aspect of creation. Psalm 135:6: “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” See also Acts 17:25-28.
    5. This control extends to creatures and their actions and not merely to events in the natural world.
      1. Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
        he turns it wherever he will.”
      2. Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
      3. “We cannot, of course, explain how God exercises this absolute control over genuinely free agents. We only know that He does.”[1]
      4. The goal of everything is the manifestation of the glory of God.

God’s Providence and the Choices of Men and Women

  1. God’s absolute sovereignty does not destroy the integrity of man’s liberty.
    1. This truth stands against two questions: “If God sovereignly ordains all things, how can He hold me responsible for my sin?”
    2. Remember the doctrine of Concurrence where men and God are at work in the same events but with different motives.  As Joseph said to His brothers: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
    3. The second question that this teaching stands against is: “If God sovereignly ordains all things, won’t they turn out the same no matter what I do?”
    4. The mistake in the above question is that it assumes we can see things from the standpoint of God’s decree. Unless God has revealed it to us, His decree is hidden to us. What has been revealed to us, for example, is that we will be saved only if we believe in Jesus Christ.
    5. God’s sovereignty does not negate secondary causes. See Acts 27:24-44: “and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. …31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.”
    6. God is free to work apart from, or even against, the ordinary means of secondary causes. What distinguishes a miracle from ordinary providence is not God’s involvement. He is equally involved in both instances. Something can be called a miracle because of the impact it has on the person or people experiencing it. “Normally” this is because it appears to be contrary to the ordinary operation of secondary causes.

“To summarize the matter: Because God controls the universe, chance is ruled out, and because it is God who controls the universe, fate is ruled out.”[2]

 

WCF V.5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.

 

This is a reminder that our short term comfort is neither God’s goal nor our ultimate good.

 


[1] G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, p. 46.

[2] G.I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes, p. 47.

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Chapter 6:

Of the Fall of Man     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 6: The Fall, Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

 

FEDERALISM

1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin, God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.

2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.

3. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

Acts 17:26: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, …”

Romans 5:12, 15-19: “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— …

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 49: “21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. … 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

RADICAL CORRUPTION (Total Depravity)

4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

As R.C. Sproul puts it, “Radical corruption means that the fall from our original state has affected us not simply at the periphery of our existence. It is not something that merely taints an otherwise good personality; rather, it is that the corruption goes to the radix, to the root or core of our humanity, and it affects every part of our character and being. The effect of this corruption reaches our minds, our hearts, our souls, our bodies — indeed, the whole person.”

Romans 3:9-20:

9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

 

JUSTIFIED BUT NOT YET GLORIFIED

5. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

6. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.

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Chapter 7:

Of God's Covenant with Man     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 7: The Fall, Sin, and the Punishment Thereof

COVENANT OF WORKS

1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

The basic structure of Biblical Covenants (less the Nohaic Covenant) is:

Provision è Stipulations è Consequences

The reason why we call this covenant with Adam a Covenant of Works is not because Adam and Eve were to earn their way up into a relationship with God. Adam and Eve were created in relationship with God who provided for them everything they needed. Provision came first! The term “Covenant of Works” is shorthand for the fact that the consequences of this covenant were to be determined by whether or not Adam, Eve, and there posterity maintained personal and perfect obedience to everything that God commanded.

One interesting verse related to the Covenant of Works is from Hosea 6:7:

But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;

there they dealt faithlessly with me.

Who is responsible to keep the covenant of works?

CONSEQUENCES & GOD’S GRACE

3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

Requirement of Faith: John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The Gift of Faith: Acts 13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Ezekiel 36:26-27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.”1 Corinthians 12:3: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”

THE COVENANT OF GRACE

4. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

This paragraph contains an infelicitous expression that everyone recognizes as wrong, yet, being reluctant to amend the Confession except where necessary – has yet to be corrected. Quite obviously, the Scriptures do not frequently speak of the covenant of grace in terms of it being a testament. Of course, this wording has no impact on our systematic theologies.

5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

Romans 4:11-12: “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

1 Corinthians 10:1-4: “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory, yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the new testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.

 

Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

 

Jeremiah 31:33-34: “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’”

 

Please note that the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace do NOT correspond to the Old and New Covenants (which are administrations of the one Covenant of Grace).

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Chapter 8:

Christ the Mediator     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator

 

Why a Mediator?

  1. REPRESENTATION: It is possible to have a mediator simply as a representative. There is a sense in which Adam was to serve in all three mediatorial offices of prophet, priest, and king even though there was no alienation between God and Creation prior to sin entering the world.
  2. ALIENATION: We are going to focus, for obvious reasons, on Christ as God’s appointed mediator between a Holy God and sinful people.

Holy God and Sinful Men

  1. ESTRANGEMENT: “Mediation presupposes an estrangement, a falling-out between two or more parties who now oppose each other.”[1]
  2. Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Ephesians 2:1-3: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
  3. DIVINE INITIATIVE: WCF 8:1: “It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, …”

Christ = Messiah = The Anointed One. The three anointed offices in the Bible are that of Prophet, Priest, and King. Jesus as the Mediator serves in all three roles.

LC Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Only God could pay for the sins of all the elect and still raise Jesus up: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22-24).”

LC Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

  1. As man, Christ fulfills the Covenant of Works: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal 4:4-5).”
  2. As man, Christ demonstrates God’s complete sympathy for our weaknesses: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).”
  3. Only as man, could Christ die: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28).”

WCF VIII.2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

The reality: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, … (Romans 1:1-4).”

LC Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

WCF VIII.7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

Notice that Christ does not merely accomplish our peace. He is our peace: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV).”

We are reconciled to each other only as we are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 1, p. 232.

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Chapter 9: Of Free Will- Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, this lesson was not recorded.

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 9: Free Will

 

DEFININING “FREE WILL”

People often speak of free will as though everyone knows what they are talking about. This has led to a great deal of confusion on this subject. To simply say: “I believe that man has free will” without defining the term “will” is not very helpful. To illustrate this point, consider the titles of two great works on the subject: Martin Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will and Jonathan Edwards wrote The Freedom of the Will. Which of these two titans of Christian thinking had it right? Actually, they were both arguing for the same position!

Edwards defined the will in terms of “the mind choosing”. By that definition, freedom simply means that the mind chooses what it wants to. In this sense the mind is necessarily free because it always chooses what it wants to.

By contrast, Luther and the Confession of Faith focus on how man is bound by his fallen nature. Prior to Adam’s fall, mankind had the freedom to choose what pleased the LORD:

1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

After the corruption of mankind by sin, it was no longer possible for man to choose that which pleased God:

3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

  • Romans 8:7-8: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
  • John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (the word translated “draw” (e`lku,sh|) is very strong. It does not mean to “attract” or “woo” but to compel. It is the same word used in Acts 16:19: “But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.”
    • Colossians 2:13-14: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”
    • 1 Corinthians 2:14-16: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

  • John 8:34-36: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”
  • Galatians 5:16-17: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
  • Romans 7:14-25: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.

  • 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
  • 1 John 3:2: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

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Chapter 10:

Effectual Calling     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 10: Effectual Calling

 

“When God created the universe in the first place, he did it by his sovereign, omnipotent power and authority. He did not simply invite the stars to shine, saying ‘Please, stars, shine, and please sun, warm the earth.’ He did not woo the lights to come on. He said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light (Gen 1:3). He called it into being. How effective was that divine imperative? How effectual was that call? When God, through his creative agency, called the world into being, it came into being.”[1] – R. C. Sproul

 

The Confession is addressing a basic and pressing question: Why do some people who hear the gospel respond in faith while others refuse to truly embrace Christ as He is presented in the gospel? Is the reason why some believe and others don’t to be found in the individual (a type of Pelagianism), God (monergism/Augustinianism/Calvinism), or in both God and man (semi-pelagianism/Roman Catholicism/Arminianism)? The consistent answer of Scripture is the difference is to be found in God alone. For example, Ephesians 2:8-10 declares:

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

The Shorter Catechism gives us a concise definition of Effectual Calling:

 

Q. 31. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

 

The Confession develops and applies this definition in greater detail.

1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by his almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

  • Acts 13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Notice the order.
  • 2 Timothy 2:13-14: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Ezekiel 36:26: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

  • 2 Timothy 1:9: “ … who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, …”
  • Romans 9:11: “…though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— …”

3. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

4. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And, to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.

  • Matthew 13:20-21: “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”
  • Hebrews 6:4-5: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” NB: This passage describes people who are not saved as having “been enlightened”; having “tasted the heavenly gift”; having “shared in the Holy Spirit”; and having “tasted the goodness of the word of God.” This is one reason why I don’t like the terminology “internal” and “external call”. This passage is making it clear that the so-called “external call” actually can penetrate quite deeply into a person.

[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume 2, p. 16.

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Chapter 11:

Justification     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 11: Justification

Justification involves the language of the courtroom. In order for a sinner to be saved, the just Judge of all mankind must declare that he or she is in the right. The problem is that, left to ourselves, we are in the wrong. The verdict we deserve, unless God acts on our behalf, is guilty. Nearly all of the debates about the doctrine of Justification have to do with this question: What exactly has God done on our behalf that we may be justified?

 

1. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

 

With this paragraph, our Confession of Faith is clearly setting the Biblical basis for justification over against the Roman Catholic understanding. Sometimes Protestants slander the Roman Catholic Church by suggesting that it teaches salvation by human works apart from grace while Protestants teach that salvation is by grace alone. This is not true. The Roman Catholic Church clearly teaches that grace is necessary for salvation. Yet, there are two clear differences between official Roman Catholic teaching and the Scriptures. (1) First, the Roman Church teaches that we are justified because of God’s grace in transforming us. That is, justification is dependent upon our sanctification. In the Roman scheme, God declares us to be just because He has in fact made us righteous. What practical problems does this cause in the life of a believer? (2) Second, Roman Catholic theology chokes on the Protestant insistence on the word alone (We are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone).

Romans 4:5-8: “But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, Or who acquits, or who justifies Jn 3:33; Rm 3his faith is credited for righteousness. Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the man God credits righteousness to apart from works:
How joyful are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered!
How joyful is the man the Lord will never charge with sin!”

 

2 Corinthians 5:19-21: “That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world2Pt 2:20 to Himself,Tit 2:11 not counting their trespasses against them, …
He made the One who did not know sin 1Jn to be sin Or be a sin offering for us,Rm 8:3; Gl 3:13; 1Pt 2:24 so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

 

Jeremiah 23:6: “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. Dt 33:12This is what He will be named: YahwehOr The Lord; the personal name of God in Hebrew; “Yah” is the shortened form of the name. Our Righteousness.”

4:7-8Ps 32:1-2; 2”

2. 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.

Romans 3:28: “For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.Ac 13:39; Rm 9:31; Eph 2:9; Jms 2:20,24,26

 

3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them; and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.

Galatians 3:13: “Christ has redeemed The deliverance from bondage by a payment (or ransom); Mk 10:45; 1 Pt 1:18-19. us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, 1Pt 2:24because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.”

 

Romans 8:1-4: “Therefore, no condemnationRm 5:16; 8:34 now exists for those inRm 8:9-10 Christ Jesus, Other mss add who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the SpiritRm 8:11,39; 16:3
because the Spirit’s law of life1Co 15:45 in Christ Jesus has set you Other mss read me free from the law of sin and of death.Jn 8:32,36; Rm 6:14,18; 7:4
What the law could not doAc 13:39;Heb 10:1-2 since it was limited  Or weakby the flesh,Rm 7:18; Heb 7:18 God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like oursPhp 2:7; Heb 2:14,17; 4:15 under sin’s domain, Lit in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering,Lv 5:6-7,11; 14:31; Isa 53:10
in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplishedLk 1:6; Rm 2:26 in us who do not walk A term often used in a figurative way to mean “way of life” or “behavior” according to the fleshGl 5:16 but according to the Spirit”

 

4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.

It is important that we do not use the doctrine of election to swallow up redemptive history. God not only foreordains everything before time, He also carries out His plan in time. While some of the truly great minds of the Church have embraced the doctrine of “eternal justification”, our Confession seems to be on rather solid ground in declaring that we are justified (declared righteous) in time.

 

For example, notice that each one of these items in Romans 8:29-30 seems to form a sequence (sometimes called the golden chain of redemption): “For those He foreknew He also predestinedRm 9:23; 1Co 2:7; Eph 1:5,11 to be conformed to the image of His Son,1Co 15:49; Php 3:21; Col 3:10; 1Jn 3:2 so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.Col 1:18; Heb 1:6
And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified;1Co 6:11 and those He justified, He also glorified.”

 

Galatians 3:8: “Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith …” Notice that Paul didn’t write “… that God had justified the Gentiles …”

 

Ephesians 2:3: “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshlyPhp 3:3 desires, carrying out the inclinationsMt 21:31; Lk 12:47; 23:25; Jn 1:13; 1Co 7:37; 2Pt 1:21 of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrathRm 2:5; Rev 6:16 as the others were also.

 

5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

6. The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.

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Chapter 12:

Adoption     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 12: Adoption

All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation. – Confession of Faith, Chapter 12

The Reality of Adoption

It is an astonishing privilege to be adopted into God’s family. Remarkably, this is a privilege that we tend to take lightly. The liberal church historian, Adolf von Harnack, tried to boil down the essence of Christianity to two principles: (1) The universal fatherhood of God; and (2) The universal brotherhood of man. Biblical Christianity sharply denies both of these assertions. Nevertheless, the very fact that von Harnack would make these assertions shows how lightly we esteem being God’s children. Many Americans think that it is entirely natural. Why wouldn’t God want all of us as His sons and daughters?

In fact, once you come to see something of the truth of who God is and who we are the idea that we could be members of God’s family seems preposterous. One prominent NT scholar, “Joachim Jeremias, studied the concept of the fatherhood in Judaism. He described how the children of the Jews were taught to memorize several appropriate titles that they might use when addressing God in prayer. Noticeably absent from that list was ‘Father’. Jeremias could not find a (non-Christian) Jewish person in any extant literature who addressed God directly as ‘Father’ until the tenth century.”[1]

Yet, astonishingly, when Jesus taught us to pray, he said: “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father … (Matthew 6:9).”

Ephesians 1:5: “…       he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, …”

Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

The Privilege of Adoption

Romans 8:15-17: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The LORD Has Compassion on His Children

Psalm 103:13: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”

The LORD Protects His Children

Proverbs 14:26: “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”

The LORD Provides for His Children

Matthew 6:3-32: “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

1 Peter 5:7: “ … casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Chastisement not Wrath

Hebrews 12:6: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

“God loves his children enough to chasten them, but notice the character of that chastening: and chastened by Him as  by a Father: yet never cast off. … His hand can be heavy upon us at times, but it is the pressure of holy, fatherly, gracious love. It is not the punitive wrath that is received by the ungodly. This is one of the most important distinctions in theology, the distinction between the corrective wrath of God and the punitive wrath of God. Those who are in Christ never have to fear the punitive wrath of God. That has been taken for us by Christ on the cross. However, we still face the corrective wrath of God when He chastens us.”[2]

Sealed for All Eternity

Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

In Christ we Have Been Made Heirs of God

Hebrews 6:11-12: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

1 Peter 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume 2, p. 69.

[2] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume 2, p. 73.

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Chapter 13:

Sanctification     

Editor’s Note: The recording on Sanctification starts a few minutes into the lesson…

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 13: Sanctification

“The term sanctify is employed in Scripture in two senses: (a) to consecrate or set apart to a sacred service or use: ‘Whom the Father has sanctified and sent’ (John 10:36); ‘the temple that sanctifies the gold’ (Mat.23.17; and (b) to purify and make holy: ‘But you were washed, you are sanctified’ (1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 13:12); ‘sanctify them through your truth’ (John 17:17). The latter is the sense in which it is taken when the doctrine of salvation is discussed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism.”[1]

Q. 35. What is sanctification?
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

It is useful to remember that the two senses of Sanctification are actually related. All too often Christians view sanctification in abstract and dry moralistic terms. Yet, the basic idea of holiness is being set apart to God. So, the definitive legal declaration that you have been set apart to God is the first sense in which the Bible uses the term sanctification. The second sense involves your increased conformity to the end for which you have been set apart. This can be thought of under two heads: Sanctification is (a) Becoming more fully human (in terms of what men and women were created and re-created to become); and (b) Becoming more pleasing to God.

WCF 13:1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

  1. John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
  2. Romans 8:13-14: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
  3. Romans 6:6-14: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. … Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
  4. Galatians 5:24: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

WCF 13:2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.

WCF 13:3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Sanctification is not complete in this life. 1 John 1:8-10

SPIRITUAL WARFARE BEGINS WHEN WE ARE CONVERTED

  1. Galatians 5:17: “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
  2. Romans 7:23: “…but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

CHRIST GUARANTEES THE CHRISTIAN WILL ULTIMATELY PREVAIL OVER SIN

  1. Romans 6:14: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
  2. 1 John 5:4: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

WHAT CAN WE DO TO WORK TOWARDS OUR OWN SANCTIFICATION?

  1. Since “sanctification is the work of God’s free grace”, is there anything that we can do to advance or hinder our progress in sanctification?
    1. Sanctification is an active pursuit. The Bible does not teach that we are “to let go and let God”. “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  (Philippians 3:12).”
    2. Do not let the world press you into its mold! “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).”
  2. God’s word, applied by the Holy Spirit, is the primary means by which we are sanctified:
    1. John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
    2. Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  3. What we do also shapes us. This can be thought of as our activities shaping what our minds know:
    1. NEGATIVE: Practicing sin can sear your conscience. “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, … (1 Timothy 4:1-2)”
    2. POSITIVE: You can maintain a tender conscience by repenting quickly from known sins.
    3. POSITIVE: You can learn to trust God by trusting Him (Not all ways of learning involve abstract reasoning.  If you want to learn about ice cream, it may be helpful to read technical articles about it and to study the equipment that makes it; but it would be foolish to try to learn about ice cream without actually sampling some. Likewise, you can know that a chair will support you by studying the mechanics of the chair but you can also gain confidence that a chair will support you by sitting in it).
  4. We become like that which we worship:
    1. NEGATIVE: 2 Kings 17:15: “They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.
    2. NEGATIVE: Psalm 115:8: “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
    3. POSITIVE: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).”

[1] William G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Third Edition, p. 803.

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Chapter 14:

Of Saving Faith     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 14: Of Saving Faith

1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

Faith is a Work of God: Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, …” This doesn’t mean that you aren’t actively involved in believing. It is really you who really are believing in God. What we can’t do is provide the origin of our faith.

As R.C. Sproul points out that this simple statement from Ephesians 2:8 is “the deathblow to all forms of semi-Pelagianism.”

Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,…”

Ordinary means: Romans 10:14-17: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:21: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

Can be increased: 1 Peter 2:2: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation …”

2. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

What is believed? Everything God says! 1 Thess 2:13: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

Acts 24:14: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, …”

This is what theologians mean by the term “Implicit Faith”:

An implicit faith is the automatic acceptance of whatever a particular source says, simply because that source is considered trustworthy. Because God is omniscient and incapable of lying or being deceived, we know that whatever he says is true. Since he is completely trustworthy, we can believe whatever he says implicitly. When the Bible talks about a childlike faith, it does not mean a childish faith; rather, as a child trusts the parent implicitly, so we are to come before God in a spirit of humility, saying, “Oh Lord, your word is true, and we will live by every word that proceeds from your mouth.”[1]

A fundamental difference between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism is that Protestants believe that implicit faith should only be given to the Word of God while Roman Catholics insist that implicit faith must also be given to the Church.

 

SC 86: “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

Galatians 2:15-16: “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

3. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

Romans 14:1-2: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.”

Matthew 8:10: “When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.”

Eph 6:16: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; …”

Hebrews 12:2: “… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Christian Apologetics. Apologetics is often presented as an important aspect of evangelism. In a way it is, but not directly. What apologetics largely does is help Christians be confident in their faith by showing that there are reasonable answers to the charges of the skeptics. This in turn does aid evangelism by giving Christians more confidence in sharing the gospel.

Encouragement. Christians would benefit by taking the etymology of “encouragement” more seriously. We are to help each other be more courageous.

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 2, p. 123-124.

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Chapter 15:

Of Repentance Unto Life     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 15: Of Repentance unto Life

1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace,a the doctrine whereof is to be preachedb by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

“We see a crisis in the modern church, in which cheap grace has achieved the upper hand. People are told that God loves them unconditionally, and that we are acceptable to God no matter what we have done. No mention is made of the necessity of repentence.”[1]

 

a. Acts 11:18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified

God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

 

b. Luke 24:47. … and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached

in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

 

2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.

Contrition vs. Attrition

 

Hebrews 12:15-17: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”

 

2 Cor. 7:10. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the

sorrow of the world worketh death.

 

Repentance is not about turning from being bad to being good. Rather, it is about turning from yourself to Christ/God.

 

Penance vs. Repentance

 

  1. The importance ministers knowing the original languages. Penance developed and was reinforced by a bad translation in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.
  2. Erasmus: “be turned to me”

3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.

 

1 Thess. 1:9. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.

 

Luke 13:3, 5. I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.…

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

 

4. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

Rom. 6:23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Gal. 3:10. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

 

Matt. 12:36. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

 

5. Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavor to repent of his particular sins, particularly.

 

1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

6. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy; so, he that scandalizeth his brother, or the church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession, and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended, who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him.

Matthew 5:23-24: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Volume II, p. 136.

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Chapter 16:

Of Good Works     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 16: Of Good Works

This chapter of the Confession is particularly frame over against Roman Catholic teaching regarding good works. Yet, it is also a helpful bulwark against the notion that good works are not possible for Christians.

1. Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men, out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention.

The Medieval (and modern Roman Catholic) doctrine of penance required that a person provide satisfaction for his or her sins. This leads to an obvious question: Exactly what works count as providing satisfaction? An amazing variety of such “works” were invented from undertaking pilgrimages, to saying the rosary, to giving money to the Church. Frequently, the idea of abstaining from things that God calls good or intentionally seeking suffering has been treated as meritorious. But,

 

Matthew 15:9: “… in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Colossians 2:20-23: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.”

2. These good works, done in obedience to God’s commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

3. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, beside the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit, to work in them to will, and to do, of his good pleasure: yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them.

John 15:4-6: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned”

Philippians 2:13: “… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Practical Observation: We don’t perform good works by focusing on good works. We perform good works when, by God’s grace, we focus on God and on other people.

4. They who, in their obedience, attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate, and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.

According to Roman Catholic Theology the Church can credit merits to the accounts of individual believers. Such “merits” are stored in the Church’s treasury of merits:

This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.[1]

The merits in this treasury are made up excess merits of Christ and the saints. That is, some Christians live such holy lives that they have merits left over that can be reckoned to those who live less holy lives.

5. We cannot by our best works merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come; and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom, by them, we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins, but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit; and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled, and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection, that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.

But Jesus says, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’ (Luke 17:10).”

6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.

Matthew 25:21-23: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

7. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: yet, because they proceed not from an heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God: and yet, their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God.

Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

 


[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1477, promulgated in 1994.

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Chapter 17:

The Perseverance of the Saints     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints

This chapter deals with the OBJECTIVE reality that all those and only those who are redeemed by Jesus Christ are ultimately saved. The next chapter of the Confession deals with the related issue of the SUBJECTIVE reality of the believer’s assurance of salvation.

It has become increasingly common for Reformed Christians to speak of the Preservation of the Saints rather than the Perseverance of the Saints. These are in fact two sides of the same coin. Each description emphasizes something that is important to hear at different times in Church history. In my judgment, the tendency to emphasize the Preservation of the Saints flows from fighting yesterday’s battles and we need to place particular emphasis on the Perseverance of the Saints in our own day and age.

PRESERVATION OF THE SAINTS: The description Preservation of the Saints emphasizes that it is God who ensures the final salvation of all His elect from beginning to end. Ultimately, it is God’s grip on us that truly matters.

  1. The Confession grounds perseverance in “the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father.” Put simply, God’s sovereign plans are never frustrated. Ephesians 1:11-12
  2. The Confession grounds perseverance “upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ.” Luke 22:31-32; John 17:11, 24; Romans 8:33-39; and Hebrews 7:25
  3. The Confession grounds perseverance upon the gift of the Holy Spirit. Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 4:30
  4. The Confession grounds perseverance upon the nature of the Covenant of Grace. Jer. 32:40
  5. God’s grip upon His people is unshakeable. John 10:28-29

PERSEVEARANCE OF THE SAINTS: The description Perseverance of the Saints emphasizes that God’s work of bringing His people to ultimate salvation is not cosmic fire insurance. Whenever the LORD saves anyone, He makes that person a disciple of Jesus Christ.

  1. Matthew 10:19-22: “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
  2. Revelation 2:9-11: “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’”
  3. Hebrews 10:35-39:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,

and the coming one will come and will not delay;

but my righteous one shall live by faith,

and if he shrinks back,

my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

A FLY IN THE OINTMENT: If you have been a Christian for an extended period of time, you have probably witnessed someone who made a credible profession of faith who later went on to deny Christianity all together. What do we do with that?

  1. We need to recognize that the profession of faith and the possession of faith are not the same thing. 1 John 2:19
  2. Dealing with a particularly hard passage: Hebrews 6:1-12 Apostasy is real, but it is a falling away from privilege and not from genuine saving faith.

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Chapter 18:

The Assurance of Grace and Salvation     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Faith

ASSURANCE IS IMPORTANT

“The lack of assurance has often been a serious problem for Reformed Evangelicals. Not only have we lacked assurance: we have even tended to cultivate the lack of it. … It is all too easy to assume that lack of assurance reflects real humility and, conversely, that assurance is a mark of spiritual pride. … (Assurance) bears very directly on the quality of our Christian lives. Without assurance it becomes very difficult to serve the LORD. Without assurance it is hard to cultivate sanctification or to mortify sin. Without assurance there is no joy in our discipleship, and joy, remember, is the lubricant of obedience.”[1]

“The Shorter Catechism, when defining the benefits which flow from justification, lays down at the very head of the list ‘assurance of God’s love (Q/A 36). It is a remarkable tribute to our tendency to disjoin theology from experience that generations of Scottish Christians reared on the Shorter Catechism thought it spiritual pride to have peace of conscience, assurance of God’s love and joy in the Holy Spirit!”[2]

FALSE ASSURANCE IS POSSIBLE

It is interesting that the Confession begins by acknowledging that there are unregenerate men who wrongly have an assurance of salvation. We will try to untangle the potential problems this truth raises at the end of today’s discussion.

TRUE ASSURANCE IS POSSIBLE

1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

  1. It is important to observe that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament offers extensive evidence of true believers who are wrestling with whether or not they really are God’s children. When men, like the Philippian jailor, cry out “what must I do to be saved” – this is because they realize that they have not yet been saved.
  2. God is a good Father. As a good Father He does not leave His children twisting in the wind wondering whether or not they truly belong to Him.
  3. 1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
  4. Hebrews 6:17-18: “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”

ASSURANCE IS NOT FOUNDED UPON A GOOD GUESS

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

  1. Romans 8:15-16: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, …”
  2. Ephesians 1:13-14: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
  3. 1 Corinthians 2:12: “  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.”

TRUE BELIEVERS CAN LACK GENUINE ASSURANCE

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

  1. 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.

THE FLY IN THE OINTMENT

If false assurance is possible, how do I know that my assurance is not a false assurance?

  1. Counterfeit money does not demonstrate that there is no such thing as legitimate currency.
  2. Given that there is such a thing as true assurance, we need to ask how someone can have come to the place of false assurance:
    1. People can come to a false-assurance by holding to a faulty basis for how a person can be right with God.
    2. People can come to a false-assurance by wrongly thinking that they have fulfilled the right basis for how a person can be right with God.
    3. “Spurious assurance is always accompanied by spiritual pride. It is always based on something egotistical and personal. In its very essence it is legalistic.”[3]
  3. The way to gain true assurance is by looking to Christ alone for salvation. Study and meditate upon what He has done. As we saw last week, God is committed to keeping every single person who trusts in Christ to the very end. Assurance flows from trusting His promises and in His grip upon you rather than your grip upon Him.

[1] Donald Macleod, A Faith to Live By, p. 149.

[2] Ibid, p. 12.

[3] Ibid, p. 150.

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Chapter 19:

The Law of God     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 19: The Law of God

THE LAW IS GOOD

David exults:Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97).”

“Law” has quite a wide semantic range in the Old Testament. Part of the reason for this is that most English versions translate more than one Hebrew word as “law”. For example, “torah” often carries the idea of instruction while “mizvot” normally means commandments. This is not an absolute division as the meaning of these terms overlaps. This chapter of the confession is focused on the Law as commandments.

1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

 

2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

CEREMONIAL LAW

3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

 

Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

 

Hebrews 9:9-10: “According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.”

CIVIC LAW

4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

Two divergent erroneous views have cropped up with respect to the obligation of modern civil governments enforcing Biblical Civil laws:

  1. THEONOMY.
  1. Theonomy = God’s Law. Since God’s word is perfect this should be an applause word. Nevertheless, modern usage has filled this term with connotations that fail to do justice, in my opinion, to the whole counsel of God’s word.
  2. The key phrase to understanding Theonomy from the point of view of its most able exponent, the late Greg Bahnsen, is “The abiding validity of the Law in exhaustive detail.”[1]
  3. A Falsifying Test-Case: The Law of Jubilee.
    1. BIBLICAL CIVIL LAW HAS NO BEARING ON MODERN STATES. Some Reformed Christians, in part as a response to Theonomy, virtually assume that Christians in government need to lock away their Bibles in kryptonite lined boxes whenever they consider the affairs of the State.

The Confession of Faith, along with the Catechisms provides a better model for understanding the relationship between Biblical civil law and modern states. I call this a “wisdom hermeneutic”.

 

5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Three uses of the Law:

i.            The Law drives us to Christ.

ii.            The Law restrains sin.

iii.            The Law is a guide for what is pleasing to God.

 

6. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

The Law and Legalism

  1. Loving the Law is not legalism. Despising the Law is sin.
  2. There are two main types of legalism:
    1. The first type of legalism comes about when we try to use God’s law as a means of establishing our righteousness before Him.
    2. The second type of legalism is substituting man-made rules for God’s law. People do this because it is much easier to; for example, avoid consuming alcohol than it is to stop coveting. By keeping their manmade rules they imagine (or hope others will imagine) that they have somehow attained to a level of righteousness. It is important to remember what the Bible says about this: “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23).”

7. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.

 


[1] This is the title of chapter 2 of Theonomy in Christian Ethics by Greg L. Bahnsen. The title comes from Matthew 5:17-19. Theonomy in Christian Ethics originated as a Th.M. thesis at Westminster Theological Seminary. It does not represent Dr. Bahnsen’s more mature work as a Christian philosopher and an apologist.

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Chapter 20:

Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 20: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

1. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the new testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— …”

 

Colossians 1:13: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, …”

 

Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

 

John 7:38-39: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

 

2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

James 4:12: “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

 

Romans 14:4: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

 

1 Corinthians 7:22-23: “For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”

 

Matthew 15:1-6: “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God,’ he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”

LIBERTY NOT LICENSE

3. They who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

 

1 Peter 2:16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

 

4. And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretense of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the church.

 

1 Peter 2:13-16: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

Hebrews 13:17 (see also Romans 13:1-8): “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Romans 13:1-8: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

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Chapter 21:

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day

Worship that is Pleasing to God

1. The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

  1. Romans 1:20: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
  2. Deuteronomy 12:32: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
  3. Exodus 20:4-6: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
  4. Leviticus 10:1-3: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ And Aaron held his peace.”

God Alone is to be Worshipped

2. Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature: and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.

  1. Colossians 2:18-19: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”
  2. Revelation 19:10: “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’ For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Prayer that Pleases God

3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship, is by God required of all men: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of his Spirit, according to his will, with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and, if vocal, in a known tongue.

4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful; and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter: but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.

  1. What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ name”?
  2. The Confession is directly addressing the Roman Catholic practice of praying for the dead. Why is that practice illegitimate?
  3. How does God’s word circumscribe what constitutes lawful prayer?
  4. Is praying “until you have peace about it” a legitimate way to discover God’s will for your life?

Worship According to the Regulative Principle

5. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

  1. Elements and circumstances of ordinary worship.
  2. Elements and circumstances of occasional worship.

There is No Sacred Space in the New Covenant

6. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.

John 4:21-24: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’”

SABBATH: Divine Rest in the Midst of our Human Restlessness

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

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Chapter 21b:

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day Part 2     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 21: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day – Part II

Worship According to the Regulative Principle

5. The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear, the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith, and reverence, singing of psalms with grace in the heart; as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God: beside religious oaths, vows, solemn fastings, and thanksgivings upon special occasions, which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.

  1. Elements and circumstances of ordinary worship.
  2. Elements and circumstances of occasional worship.

The Public Reading & Preaching of Scripture in Worship:

  1. Luke 4:16-17: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, …”
  2. Acts 15:21: “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
  3. Colossians 4:16 (see also 1 Thess. 5:27 & Rev. 1:3): “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”
  4. 2 Timothy 4:2: “… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Public Prayer: Oddly, the Confession does not mention prayer as an ordinary element of worship in paragraph 5 but assumes it in paragraph 6.

  1. Acts: 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
  2. This one text shoes the threefold emphasis of the early church in worship: (1) Apostolic teaching; (2) The Lord’s Supper; (3) The prayers. Note that the definite article suggests these may have been set prayers or, at least, prayers according to particular format governed by the leadership  of the church.

Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper:

  1. Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  2. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The broader context, beginning at verse 17, suggests that the Corinthians celebrated the Lord’s Supper every time they met for corporate worship.

There is No Sacred Space in the New Covenant

6. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.

John 4:21-24: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’”

SABBATH: Divine Rest in the Midst of our Human Restlessness

7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

  1. Genesis 2:2-3: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” It is helpful to realize that the Sabbath day is a pattern that God Himself established in creation and that it is not simply part of the Mosaic ceremonial law.
  2. Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Sabbath observance is one of the Ten Commandments which the majority of the Christian Church has seen God’s universally binding moral law.
  3. Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

The Apostolic Pattern was to hold Corporate Worship on Sunday not Saturday

  1. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2: “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
  2. Acts 20:7: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

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Chapter 21c:

Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day Part 3     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 21 – Part III: The Sabbath Day

Divine Rest in the Midst of Human Restlessness

  1. Genesis 2:2-3: “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Since God doesn’t get tired, what does it mean to say that He “rested”?
  2. The gift of Divine rest is a reminder that we are not on a treadmill.

SABBATH: An Abiding Gift and Obligation

WCF 21.7. As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

Sabbath: An Abiding Gift

  1. The Sabbath is a creation ordinance. That is, God established a pattern of Sabbath rest for man prior to Adam’s fall into sin and prior to the Mosaic Law.
  2. Interestingly, the Sabbath is reiterated to Moses and the people of the Exodus prior to (Exodus 16:23-30) the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). That the Sabbath is reintroduced in the context of God giving manna (“food from heaven”) to Israel is a reminder that Sabbath is primarily God’s gracious gift.
  3. The Sabbath is included in the Ten Commandments which have generally been understood throughout Church History as being part of God’s eternally binding moral law. It would be odd to imagine that the other nine commandments are permanent but the fourth commandment is temporary.

The Danger of Reducing the Christian Life to Rules

 

Matthew 12:1-14: At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

 

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”- so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

 

The Danger of Reducing the Christian Life to Lawlessness

We are called not only to rest from our worldly cares but to rest in the LORD.

 

8. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

NB: The Confession calls us to prepare our hearts and to order our common affairs prior to the Sabbath. Few things will help you delight in the Sabbath as much as preparing for it the night before.

Continental and Puritan Views of the Sabbath (both Reformed). R.C. Sproul writes:

 

“The Puritans believed that that Sabbath day was to be taken up in worship, in the study of the things of God, and in doing errands of Mercy. It was not to include things like going on picnics, paling badminton, swimming, or any of the recreational activities that are commonplace on the Sabbath day in our culture. The Continentals believe that though, indeed, the Sabbath day should be given principally to worship, there still was an opportunity for restful ‘re-creation’. The whole idea of recreation was that the body was re-created by having rest and fellowship on the Sabbath day. To see how these views collided, imagine the consternation of John Knox, who was expelled from England during the reign of bloody Mary, and first sought refuge in Germany and finally went to Geneva, Switzerland, under the auspices of John Calvin.  Knox was shocked when he arrived in Geneva and found Calvin, with his family, lawn bowling on the Sabbath day.”[1]

 

Cultivating a right attitude toward the LORD and His Day (Isaiah 58:13-14):

 

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,

from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the Sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall take delight in the LORD,

and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. 2., p. 342.

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Chapter 22:

Lawful Oaths and Vows     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 22 – Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

We notice something odd right off the bat: If the OPC or NAPARC were going to write a new Confession of Faith today, it is inconceivable that one of the chapters would be dedicated to Oaths and Vows. At the time of the Westminster Assembly, however, there were two historical issues that made this worthy of inclusion in the Church’s official doctrinal position:

  1. First, there was still a great deal of concern about Roman Catholicism and the issue of monastic and other religious vows; and
  2. Second, some Anabaptists had responded to Medieval Catholicism by banning the practice of taking oaths or making vows altogether.

Before we look at the historical issues, and how they impact us today, some definitions and illustrations are in order:

OATHS: An oath is a commitment to people with God being invoked as the solemn witness. It is interesting that God frequently takes oaths in the Bible.

  1. Deuteronomy 7:8: “… but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
  2. Joshua 2:7: “The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear.”
  3. Weddings: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God and of these witnesses to unite this man and this woman in the holy bonds of marriage.”

VOWS: A vow is a commitment made directly to God.

  1. Leviticus 7:16: “But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten.”
  2. Acts 18:18: “After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.”

The Problem: Psalm 116:11: “I said in my alarm, ‘All mankind are liars.’”

1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth.

2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.

  1. A. Deuteronomy 10:20: “You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.”
  2. B. Jeremiah 5:7: “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods.”
  3. C. Only the LORD is God: “I can swear on my mother’s grave, on the pulpit, or on the Bible, but none of those things have any power to enforce my promise. … The only One who has the power to enforce that promise or to punish me if I break it, ultimately, is God. If I swear an oath by anything less than God, I am attributing divine dimensions to it, which is idolatry.”[1]

3. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform.

  1. A. Leviticus 19:12: “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.”
  2. B. Ecclesiastes 5:2- 5: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.

Psalm 15:1-4: “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; …who swears to his own hurt and does not change; …”

Joshua 9:18-19: “But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.’”

 

5. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

Numbers 30:2: “If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

6. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

1 Samuel 1:11: “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.’”

7. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

Mark 6:26: “And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.”

Judges 11:30-40

 


[1] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol. II, p. 352-353.

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Chapter 23:

Of The Civil Magistrate     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate
1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.

Speaking of civil government, R.C. Sproul writes: “What is government? The simplest, most basic definition is this: government is legal force.”

Almost every word in this paragraph is against the way most Americans think about civil government. Notice how it compares with this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …”

According to the Confession, there are two primary reasons for civil government:
1. God’s glory:
2. Our good:

God has granted civil government both the right and the responsibility to use force “for the punishment of evildoers.”

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

A. The Confession was responding to some Anabaptists who argued that Christians should not dirty themselves with the business of government and that Christianity required pacifisism.
B. Contrary to the Anabaptists, God calls the civil magistrate His ministers: “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing (Romans 13:8).” Furthermore, when soldiers come to John the Baptist asking what they must do – John doesn’t tell them that they are to leave the military: “Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages’ (Luke 3:14).”
C. There is no such thing as a war in which both sides are just.
D. We should have a strong default toward peace remembering that politicians, like the rest of us, have a tendency to justify ourselves even when we are engaged in clearly immoral activites.

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

This paragraph is a substantial alteration and expansion of the original WCF: “The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”

The changes obviously reflect the fact that the original Westminster Assembly was a committee of Parliament and the American version was self-consciously separating itself from the idea of having a State Church.

R.C. Sproul writes:

I once asked Francis Schaeffer what his biggest concern for America was at that time. He said his biggest concern for the church and for the people was statism, the increasing encroachment and dominion of the federal government in the lives of people: in the school, in the community, in the church, in all areas. One could not turn around without bumping into the federal government. That was his major concern, and since then the intrusion of the federal government in the lives of people has greatly increased.

Broadly, as a matter of principle, God has given civil magistrates task of imposing negative sanctions (“the sword”) while He has given the Church the responsibility of imposing positive sanctions (“the keys”). WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! – We need to recognize our tendency to read into Scripture the political and economic theories that we have embraced apart from Scripture. The American version of the Confession naturally seems right to us even before we have looked at all the evidence. We are. after all, Americans.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

Christians are commanded to pray for and to honor our civil magistrates. It is easy to be moved away from honoring our civil magistrates when our culture encourages making politicians the butt of jokes. We should observe that honoring our government leaders does not mean we cannot be critical of both their policies and their personal examples.
When should Christians disobey civil magistrates? Only …
A. When the civil government commands us to do something which God forbids; or
B. When the civil government forbids us from doing something that God demands.

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Chapter 23:

Of The Civil Magistrate Part 2     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Chapter 23: Of the Civil Magistrate – Part II
3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.

This paragraph is a substantial alteration and expansion of the original WCF: “The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven: yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administered, and observed. For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.”

The changes obviously reflect the fact that the original Westminster Assembly was a committee of Parliament and the American version was self-consciously separating itself from the idea of having a State Church.

Changes to our Confession of Faith remind us that we are committed to Sola Scriptura. Sometimes Presbyterians treat anyone suggesting that the Confession could be improved as automatically being a heretic. Remembering that the Confession has been modified in the past should serve as a guard against this overreaction.

Historical Situation: The American version did not come about because of long sustained debate and Biblical exegesis (neither did the original version!). The changes were proposed in Philadelphia while the Constitutional Convention met. This doesn’t make them wrong, but an awareness of how they came about may keep us from assuming they were the result of a careful study of the Scripture.

A question of Theological method: How can we decide whether the original or the American version of the WCF is more biblical?

Some practical advantages of radically separating civil and ecclesiastical governments:

1. Civil governments and politicians are frequently not-Christian.
2. When a civil government supports the Church, opposition to that government will virtually automatically become opposition to the Church (e.g. the French Revolution).
3. When the involvement of civil governments in ecclesiastical matters is perceived as advantageous to the Church, this normally distorts the Christians loyalties. The 20th century problem of excessive nationalism (American Christians rather than Christians who are also Americans) becomes worse when the civil government is promoting the mission of the Church.
4. Civil rulers who become involved in ecclesiastical government virtually always overstep the bounds of their offices (e.g. the city of Geneva deciding who would or would not be excommunicated).
5. Given the history of power being increasingly concentrated in the U.S. Federal Government since the Civil War, we should be cautious about asking the government to do more for us. R.C. Sproul writes:

I once asked Francis Schaeffer what his biggest concern for America was at that time. He said his biggest concern for the church and for the people was statism, the increasing encroachment and dominion of the federal government in the lives of people: in the school, in the community, in the church, in all areas. One could not turn around without bumping into the federal government. That was his major concern, and since then the intrusion of the federal government in the lives of people has greatly increased.

Broadly, as a matter of principle, God has given civil magistrates task of imposing negative sanctions (“the sword”) while He has given the Church the responsibility of imposing positive sanctions (“the keys”). WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! – We need to recognize our tendency to read into Scripture the political and economic theories that we have embraced apart from Scripture. The American version of the Confession naturally seems right to us even before we have looked at all the evidence. We are, after all, Americans.

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

Christians are commanded to pray for and to honor our civil magistrates. It is easy to be moved away from honoring our civil magistrates when our culture encourages making politicians the butt of jokes. We should observe that honoring our government leaders does not mean we cannot be critical of both their policies and their personal examples.
When should Christians disobey civil magistrates? Only …
A. When the civil government commands us to do something which God forbids; or
B. When the civil government forbids us from doing something that God demands.
Why would the Roman Catholic Church teach that the Pope has the authority to free citizens from their obligation to obey civil magistrates? Does the Church have any role to play in declaring that a civil government is legitimate or illegitimate?
For a challenging case study, consider churches in Virginia and New York during the American Civil War.

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Chapter 24:

Marriage and Divorce     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Chapter 24: Marriage and Divorce
Malachi 2:13-16: “And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. ‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.’”
1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.

A. “The Old Testament gives many examples of otherwise godly men who had multiple wives – … what are we to make of this? It doesn’t mean that God sanctioned polygamy in the Old Testament. Polygamy never received God’s positive sanction. Rather, we see God’s forbearance and longsuffering with His people, despite their flagrant disobedience of Him.” It is worth adding that there is no example of a happily married polygamous union in the Bible – not one.
B. Jesus, in Matthew 19:4, says that “the two (not the 3, 4, or 5, etc …) shall become one flesh”.
C. 1 Timothy 3:2: “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, …” In giving this standard for Elders, Paul is not saying that it is o.k. for the rest of us to live lives that can be reproached.

2. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

A. Genesis 2:18: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”
B. “Uncleanness” = 1 Corinthians 7:2,9: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. …To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

A. 1 Timothy 4:1-3: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
B. 1 Corinthians 7:39: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
C. 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

4. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.

A. “Consanguinity” has to do with blood relationships while “affinity” has to do with relationships established by marriage or adoption.
B. Leviticus 18:6ff: “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. …”
C. Mark 6:18: “For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’”

5. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

A. Matthew 1:18-20: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
B. Matthew 5:31-32: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
C. Romans 7:2-3: “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”
D. 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”

6. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.

A person does not have to be sinless/blameless in order to be the party in the right (“innocent”) with respect to getting divorced.

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Chapter 24:

Marriage and Divorce Part 2     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Chapter 24: Marriage and Divorce – Part II
Malachi 2:13-16: “And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. ‘For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.’”
1. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.

A. “The Old Testament gives many examples of otherwise godly men who had multiple wives – … what are we to make of this? It doesn’t mean that God sanctioned polygamy in the Old Testament. Polygamy never received God’s positive sanction. Rather, we see God’s forbearance and longsuffering with His people, despite their flagrant disobedience of Him.” It is worth adding that there is no example of a happily married polygamous union in the Bible – not one.
B. Jesus, in Matthew 19:4, says that “the two (not the 3, 4, or 5, etc …) shall become one flesh”.
C. 1 Timothy 3:2: “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, …” In giving this standard for Elders, Paul is not saying that it is o.k. for the rest of us to live lives that can be reproached.

2. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

A. Genesis 2:18: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’”
B. “Uncleanness” = 1 Corinthians 7:2,9: “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. …To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

3. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

A. 1 Timothy 4:1-3: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”
B. 1 Corinthians 7:39: “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.”
C. 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

4. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.

A. “Consanguinity” has to do with blood relationships while “affinity” has to do with relationships established by marriage or adoption.
B. Leviticus 18:6ff: “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. …”
C. Mark 6:18: “For John had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’”

5. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

A. Matthew 1:18-20: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
B. Matthew 5:31-32: “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
C. Romans 7:2-3: “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.”
D. 1 Corinthians 7:15: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.”

6. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.

A person does not have to be sinless/blameless in order to be the party in the right (“innocent”) with respect to getting divorced.

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Chapter 24:

Marriage and Divorce Part 3     

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Chapter 25: Of The Church

I’m sorry,but it seems as if this was not recorded…

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 25: Of The Church

1. The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

Eph 1:9-23: “…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth …. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

2. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

  1. In classic dispensationalism a sharp distinction is made between the Kingdom and the Church. Why is that a mistake?
  2. Col 1:13-14: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
  3. The glory of Christ’s Church can be glimpsed through the titles that the Bible gives to it: (1) Kingdom; (2) House; and (3) Family of God. Other titles include (4) Bride of Christ; and (5) Temple.
  4. Eph 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, …”
  5. “In St. Cyprian’s formulation[1] it was as necessary to be in the visible church in order to be saved as it was for the people in Noah’s day to be physically inside the ark to be saved from the flood.”[2] Augustan and the Reformers modified this expression slightly by adding the word “ordinarily”.

3. Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.

  1. Eph 4:11-14: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
  2. It is common in contemporary North American Protestantism to think of the Church almost exclusively in terms of the Invisible Church. Rampant individualism has led many to view a local churches’ fencing of the Lord’s Table, for example, to be judgmental and legalistic. After all, such individuals have already determined for themselves that they are members of the Invisible Church.

4. This catholic church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible. And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.

  1. Romans 11:3-5:
  2. See Christ’s letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3.
  3. From at least the time of the Council of Nicaea in the Fourth Century, the true Church has been identified as having the following four marks: (1) One; (2) Holy; (3) Catholic; and (4) Apostolic. At the time of the European Reformations in the Sixteenth Century a dispute arose over what makes a particular local church “Apostolic”. The Lutherans and the Reformed added three points which are really a commentary on the original fourth point: (1) Right preaching and teaching of the Word of God; (2) Write administration of the sacraments; and (3) Biblical Church discipline.[3]
  4. The expression “more or less” pure can be very helpful. This expression can keep us from thinking we have to label congregations as being either virtually perfect or Synagogues of Satan. A practical application of this comes when deciding to leave a church. Some people, in order to justify why they left a local church, end up declaring that it was an entirely false church. It is better to say: “I believe that the church was in error in significant ways and I was unable to reverse this situation” or “The shortcomings of that particular church were harmful to my or my family’s growth in Christlikeness.”

5. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth, to worship God according to his will.

  1. Matt 13:24-43 – Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
  2. Matt 23:37-39: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
  3. Rev 2:9: “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

6. There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.

  1. Matt 23:8-10: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant.”
  2. 1 Peter 5:2-4: “… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

[1] Extra ecclesiam nulla salus = Outside of the Church there is no salvation.

[2] R.C. Sproul, Truths We Confess, Vol III, p. 1.

[3] The Reformed have historically been explicit about Church Discipline being a mark of a true church while the Lutherans have tended to subsume Church Discipline under the other two points.

 

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Chapter 26:

Of The Communion of Saints     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 26: Of The Communion of Saints

1. All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.

  1. Who are the saints?
  2. It is an amazing thing that Christ would so radically identify Himself with His Church: “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ (Acts 9:1-4).”
  3. 1 John 1:3: “…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
  4. Romans 6:5-6: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
  5. 1 Corinthians 12:7-13: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
  6. Colossians 2:19: “…and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”

2. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

  1. 1 Thess 5:11-14: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. … And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
  2. Romans 1:11-14: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”
  3. Galatians 6:10: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
  4. Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
  5. 1 John 3:17: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

3. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous. Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.

  1. Colossians 1:18-20: “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
  2. Hebrews 1:6-9: “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

Of the angels he says,

‘He makes his angels winds,

and his ministers a flame of fire.’

But of the Son he says,

‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’”

 

  1. Exodus 20:15: “You shall not steal.”
  2. Acts 5:4: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

 

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Chapter 27:

The Sacraments - Spirit Baptism Part I     

The Faith Confessed by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Chapter 27: The Sacraments – Children of the Promise & Covenant Baptism

Covenant Baptism vs Profession of Faith Baptism

The debate over who should be baptized is normally imprecisely described as “believer’s” vs “infant” baptism. Yet, Baptists are not denying that some of their children may be genuine believers nor that some of those baptized had made spurious professions of faith. They are baptizing the individual on the basis of a credible profession of faith (this is the same standard that the OPC applies to admitting individuals to the Lord’s Supper). Likewise, Presbyterians don’t believe in baptizing infants we believe in baptizing the members of the Covenant Community which includes the children of at least one believing parent.

Our Confession of Faith puts it like this: “Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized.”

Understanding the Challenge We Face

  1. The Apostolic Church was already practicing baptism for two decades by the time the NT began to be written. Since they all knew whether or not the children of believers were baptized there was no need to address the problem in any of the letters – because there wasn’t any problem!
  2. The debate over who should receive the sacrament of baptism must be settled on the basis of a necessary consequence of what the Bible explicitly says. This is not an insurmountable problem. As the first chapter of the WCF puts it: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” We often do this without even realizing that we are doing so. For example, the NT never explicitly tells us that women should receive the Lord’s Supper yet this is a good and necessary consequence of understanding the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and the place of women within the body of Christ.[1]
  3. Both parties to the debate will have an emotional attachment to their own experiences. Although this takes significant effort, we must be willing to set aside our emotional attachments and seek to be faithful to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us in Scripture.

 

Our Approach

  1. We will start by looking Baptist arguments in favor of restricting baptism to those making a profession of faith. This is actually much more challenging than when we addressed Baptist arguments for immersion because few Baptists even attempt to offer a positive argument for their position. Baptist apologetics has primarily focused on attempting to demonstrate that the arguments for covenant baptism are not sufficiently compelling.
  2. We will look at some of the arguments in favor of covenant baptism (DV – next week).
  3. We will conclude by comparing the problems faced by those who hold to each of these two positions.

 

Arguments for Restricting Baptism to Professing Believers

The first argument, which I have divided into two parts, is not a very good argument. You wouldn’t expect Al Mohler or Mark Dever to make such an argument.[2] Yet, this is probably as much of an argument as most of our Baptist brothers and sisters will offer for their practice.

Argument 1A: Since baptism is a testimony of the faith of the person being baptized, obviously only those professing faith and repentance should be baptized.

 

RESPONSE: This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what baptism is. God Himself is the primary actor in baptism. The person being baptized is the object and not the subject of baptism.

 

Argument 1B: Yes, but there are passages in Scripture that link repentance and/or faith with baptism. For example, at Pentecost Peter says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).”

 

RESPONSE

  1. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church joyfully practices this form of credo-baptism. Within the past few years we have baptized Jack Billetter and Johnny Morimizu following their professions of faith.
  2. We wish that you would keep reading and notice that “this promise is for you and your children (v. 39), but we will come to that later.
  3. The fact that baptism is a sign and seal of promises that must be received by faith is no objection at all to applying such a sign to the children of believers. In fact, this is precisely what God Himself did with circumcision:
    1. What is the meaning of circumcision? Romans 4:11 tells us that Abraham “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”
    2. Yet, you are assuming that if the sign and seal is related to the righteousness that comes through faith then it can only be applied to those who have received this righteousness by faith. But the LORD commanded Abraham to apply this sign and seal to his children. So, Abraham received circumcision after he believed while Isaac received it before – and both by the express command of God.

 

The other argument which Baptists offer in favor of restricting baptism to those making a profession of faith actually developed as a response to covenant baptism, but we will treat it as though it were a positive argument under three heads. At its core, this argument is that circumcision and/or the Old Covenant had a physical dimension while baptism and/or the New Covenant are entirely spiritual.

 

Argument 2:  Circumcision was about physical promises. Baptism is about spiritual promises.

 

RESPONSE: Circumcision was a Sign of Life: The Spiritual Nature of Circumcision

  1. Deuteronomy 10:16: “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
  2. Deuteronomy 30:6 “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”
  3. Romans 2:28-29: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
  4. Ephesians 2:11-12 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”
  5. Romans 4:1-12. This is perhaps the most important passage in the Bible for understanding circumcision. In verse 11, Paul tells us what circumcision means: “(Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, …”

 

Argument 3: A more nuanced version of “Argument 2” is offered by Paul King Jewett: “Circumcision signified both physical blessings (properly belonging to all Jews) and spiritual blessings (belong to believers only); and thus circumcision was properly given to the physical offspring; but baptism to believers only.”

 

RESPONSE: This objection misunderstands the nature of both the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant.

  1. Those who argue like Jewett seem to be comparing the Mosaic Covenant to the New Covenant. What they miss is that circumcision was given to Abraham.
  2. The texts given in RESPONSE #2 above all remind us that circumcision was primarily spiritual in its orientation.
  3. The only “physical” promises given to Abraham were the Promised Land and that he would have a vast number of descendents. Yet, where Paul King Jewett sees discontinuity between these promises to Abraham and those of the New Covenant the Apostle Paul sees continuity:
    1. LAND: “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:13 ESV).” Jesus, of course, taught the very same thing: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”
    2. LAND: The effort to detach the land promise from faith in God also leaves those who make this argument with no explanation for the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles.
    3. SEED: “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised (Romans 4:11; Romans 4:12 ESV).”
    4. SEED: The promises were always made to Christ. “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise (Galatians 3:16-18).”
    5. SEED: Only the children of promise were ever counted as the offspring of Abraham. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Romans 9:6-8 ESV).”

 

Argument 4: Jeremiah 31 teaches that the New Covenant will be made with only believers: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

 

RESPONSE: While time will not allow us to engage in a full exposition of Jeremiah 31, we can quickly show that this assertion lacks force in favor of limiting baptism to those who make a credible profession of faith.

  1. The first entirely appropriate response is to scratch our heads and ask, “Really?” As Professor Robert Strimple put it: “Is the great blessing of the New Covenant mediated by Christ for which the writer to the Hebrews rejoices simply enrichment of blessing by redefinition and exclusion? Is God merely saying through Jeremiah the prophet that one day he will wonderfully bless his people by redefining his covenant people and getting rid of the children?” Just try to imagine the very first Christians going through Jerusalem after Pentecost proclaiming: “Good news! Good news! Your children are no longer special to God! They are now aliens to His covenant promises!”
  2. This argument engages in over-realized eschatology. Because ultimately there will only be the saved and the lost, it assumes that there can only be two categories of people right now. What will take place at the Second coming; those making this argument assume to have happened at the first. But, …
    1. Baptists (thankfully) cannot live with the logic of this assertion. For example, most Baptist parents teach their children to pray without forbidding them to call God “Father”. Furthermore they teach their children to pray as though God will actually listen to their prayers (I have, again thankfully, never heard a Baptist parent tell his or her children that their prayers are a stench in the nostrils of God). Our Baptist brothers and sisters do this because the Bible clearly teaches us that the children of believers are not in the same relationship to God as the pagans are.
    2. We will develop this more fully next week, but the NT teaches that a family is set apart to God because of the presence of one believer in that family. This is not something that God brought to an end with the resurrection of Jesus or at Pentecost. For example, 1 Corinthians 7:14 tells us: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

 

Where are we? We have not yet made a positive case for infant baptism. Lord willing, we will do so next week. What we have attempted to do is show that: (1) Both baptism on the grounds of covenant membership and on the grounds of profession of faith depend on deducing what is the necessary consequence of what Scripture says; and (2) The arguments offered for baptism on the basis of a profession of faith are not compelling.

 

Lord willing, we will demonstrate that covenant baptism rests on much stronger footing next week.


[1] The paradigmatic nature of Biblical Law made this an everyday practice for ancient Jews. They were expected (as we are also expected) to reason from the prohibition of murder in the Ten Commandments to our obligation to work for the physical well being of both our neighbors and ourselves.

[2] Al Mohler is the President of Southern Seminary and Mark Dever is the Senior Minister of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

 

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