If You Do Not Believe the Scriptures to be Inerrant or Even Authoritative…

Then why appeal to them at all?

This has something that has always ruffled the feathers a bit. I have never understood why/how logically a person can hold that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were put together by men with an agenda and sometimes men with no real purpose (other than of course to make conservatives look foolish 20 centuries in the future) and yet still when asked why they believe x,y, or z they appeal to the Scriptures as if they have authority.

For example.

Person A is in a discussion with Person B.

Person A is a person arguing for a religious solution from a liberal perspective.

Person B is a person who holds a contrary position.

Let us say they are discussing feeding the poor.

Person A says the Civil Magistrate should redistribute wealth in order to pay for feeding homeless person A and needy person B.

Person A cites Isaiah 1:17 in defense of their position.

Person A believes “Isaiah” was written by as many as 4 different persons (or more) and certainly is post-exilic and was definitely not written by some “prophet” named “Isaiah”. Person A may even believe “Isaiah” was a partisan-piece written for Israelite zealots.

So the question is how can Person A cite Isaiah as in any sense authoritative in making their argument?

Series on Limited Atonement

As I am still recovering from the new one I am not going to be posting new material for a little while so the conclusion to the posting series on the second commandment will be delayed for a little bit. So for your reading pleasure I will be posting articles on a defense of Limited Atonement (particular redemption I have also heard it called) which has always been the hardest pill to swallow of all of the 5 points of TULIP. First is a two-part article by Greg Bahnsen.

Limited Atonement” Part 1
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

A very unhealthy notion that plagues the fundamentalist church is the idea that Christ laid down his life for each and every individual; that he went to the cross to save all men without exception. Such a view is not consistent with Biblical Christianity. Sometimes a person will acknowledge the total depravity of man, unconditional election of God the Father, prevenient grace of the Spirit and yet deny the particular redemption of Christ; such a position is known as “fourpoint Calvinism” and is as inconsistent as it is unorthodox.

If it be said that before creation the Father singled out in election those whom He destined to save and that the Spirit’s activity of bringing men to repentance and faith is operative (to that extent) only in the lives of God’s elect and yet that Christ offered up His life for the purpose of saving every single individual, then the unity of the Trinity has been forsaken. For in such a case Christ clearly sets out to accomplish what God the Father and Spirit do not intend to do; Christ here would be out of harmony with the will and purpose of the other two persons of the Trinity. Hence anyone who expounds “four-point Calvinism” has inadvertently destroyed the doctrine of the Trinity (by dissolving its unity) and is logically committed to a polytheistic position.

It should also be noted that the doctrine of particular redemption is necessary to the orthodox view of Christ’s substitutionary atonement; the only alternatives to it are universal salvation or salvation by works (both are unbiblical). If Christ atoned for the sins of all men then all men will be saved, for a righteous God cannot condemn a man twice; if the man’s sins have been atoned, he cannot be sent to Hell on the basis of them. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Christ through his sacrifice made a full and actual (no potential) redemption; “who gave himself to us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a peculiar (chosen) people” (Titus 2:14); “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; “he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking … his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

It is clear that Christ presented an actual and not potential redemption on the cross; the gospel is good news, not good advice, it tells us what has been accomplished, not what might come about. Upon the cross Christ cried out “It is finished”; nothing was left to be done, for full atonement had been made. Hence, if Christ (as it is suggested) died for every man, all men shall be saved without exception; yet scripture clearly does not teach universal salvation. And if (contrary to scripture) it is responded that Christ’s redemption is only potential, to be made actual when the sinner believes, then salvation is said to depend finally on something the sinner does. And that is tantamount to salvation by works (as well as being based on an erroneous view of Christ’s atonement.

Isaiah prophesied that Christ would “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied”; yet if Christ went to the cross with the intention of saving every individual, he certainly has been defeated and cannot be satisfied. But our Lord is not defeated; all power has been given to him in heaven and earth. His sufferings do accomplish what he intends, for the salvation he provides is not abstract and universal, it is particular and personal. Christ died for his people, the elect (Matthew 1:21). “All that the Father gives me will come to me … for I came down from heaven to … do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:37, 38); “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (not the goats) … I know my own … and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14-18); “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish (John 10:24-29); “glorify the son … since thou hast given him power over all flesh, so that he might give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. I (have) accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:1-4); “feed the church of the Lord which he obtained for himself with his own blood” (Acts 20:28); Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Ephesians 5:25-27); “who gave himself … to purify for himself a chosen people of his own” (Titus 2:14).

Those holding to the indefinite atonement of Christ will often appeal to scriptural passages which speak of salvation in terms of “the world,” or “all men,” “all nations, etc.” However, in most instances these words were used by the N.T. writers to emphatically correct the mistaken Jewish notion that full salvation was not for the Gentiles. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (not all men without exception). If the referent of “world” in 2 Cor. 5:19 (“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself”) were taken to be every single individual, then that verse teaches that Christ’s work was to the effect of reconciling every man to God (i.e. universal salvation) — which is clearly unscriptural. The general evangelistic call goes out to all men in our preaching, while it is only the elect who are moved by the Holy sp8irit to respond with repentance and faith to that redemption accomplished for them by Christ.

If redemption were indefinite and potential, then none would be saved. For man, who is dead in sin and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God (cf. Eph. 2:1; I Cor. 2:14), would never be able to appropriate that potential redemption for himself. No man is able to come to Christ except that Father draw him (John 6:44). The sinner drinks iniquity like water and does not seek God (Job 15:16; Rom. 3:11), so he can no more choose to come to Christ and gain for himself the benefits of the atonement than a leopard can change his spots (Jer. 13:23). Praise be to God who did not make only partial atonement for the sins of his people, who did not allow the salvation of His elect to be thwarted by leaving it up to them to respond, who fully saved us by having His Son actually obtain salvation for His sheep!

Particular redemption is the only triune, monotheistic, substitutionary, personal, effectual, and biblical (hence, orthodox) doctrine of Christ’s atonement; all else (including fundamentalism’s redemption for every individual) are doctrines pleasing to men but unsatisfactory in their Theology, anthropology, and soteriology. Sola Scriptura!

The Second Commandment and Images of the GodHead, Part 2

1. What do the Magisterial Reformers Have to Say Concerning Images?

John Calvin

Institutes of Christian Religion, Bk. 1, Ch. 11 , Sect. 1,

1. As Scripture, in accommodation to the rude and gross intellect of man, usually speaks in popular terms, so whenever its object is to discriminate between the true God and false deities, it opposes him in particular to idols; not that it approves of what is taught more elegantly and subtilely by philosophers, but that it may the better expose the folly, nay, madness of the world in its inquiries after God, so long as every one clings to his own speculations…But God makes no comparison between images, as if one were more, and another less befitting; he rejects, without exception, all shapes and pictures, and other symbols by which the superstitious imagine they can bring him near to them. 2. This may easily be inferred from the reasons which he annexes to his prohibition. First, it is said in the books of Moses (Deut. 4:15), “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude in the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire, lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure,” &c. We see how plainly God declares against all figures, to make us aware that all longing after such visible shapes is rebellion against him. Of the prophets, it will be sufficient to mention Isaiah, who is the most copious on this subjects (Isaiah 40:18; 41:7, 29; 45:9; 46:5), in order to show how the majesty of God is defiled by an absurd and indecorous fiction, when he who is incorporeal is assimilated to corporeal matter; he who is invisible to a visible image; he who is a spirit to an inanimate object; and he who fills all space to a bit of paltry wood, or stone, or gold. Paul, too, reasons in the same way, “Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device,” (Acts 17:29). Hence it is manifest, that whatever statues are set up or pictures painted to represent God, are utterly displeasing to him, as a kind of insults to his majesty. And is it strange that the Holy Spirit thunders such responses from heaven, when he compels even blind and miserable idolaters to make a similar confession on the earth?

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk I, Ch. 11, Sect. 12

We think it unlawful to give a visible shape to God, because God himself has forbidden it, and because it cannot be done without, in some degree, tarnishing his glory. And lest any should think that we are singular in this opinion, those acquainted with the productions of sound divines will find that they have always disapproved of it. If it be unlawful to make any corporeal representation of God, still more unlawful must it be to worship such a representation instead of God, or to worship God in it. The only things, therefore, which ought to be painted or sculptured, are things which can be presented to the eye; the majesty of God, which is far beyond the reach of any eye, must not be dishonored by unbecoming representations. Visible representations are of two classes—viz. historical, which give a representation of events, and pictorial, which merely exhibit bodily shapes and figures. The former are of some use for instruction or admonition. The latter, so far as I can see, are only fitted for amusement. And yet it is certain, that the latter are almost the only kind which have hitherto been exhibited in churches. Hence we may infer, that the exhibition was not the result of judicious selection, but of a foolish and inconsiderate longing. I say nothing as to the improper and unbecoming form in which they are presented, or the wanton license in which sculptors and painters have here indulged (a point to which I alluded a little ago, supra, s. 7). I only say, that though they were otherwise faultless, they could not be of any utility in teaching…

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk I, Ch. 11, Sect. 11

11. I am not ignorant, however, and I have no wish to disguise the fact, that they endeavor to evade the charge by means of a more subtle distinction, which shall afterwards be fully considered (see infra, s. 16, and chap. 12 s. 2). The worship which they pay to their images they cloak with the name of εἰδωλοδυλεία (ιδολοδυλια), and deny to be εἰδωλολατρεία (ιδολατρια). So they speaks holding that the worship which they call δυλια may, without insult to God, be paid to statues and pictures. Hence, they think themselves blameless if they are only the servants, and not the worshipers, of idols; as if it were not a lighter matter to worship than to serve. And yet, 100 while they take refuge in a Greek term, they very childishly contradict themselves. For the Greek word λατρεύειν having no other meaning than to worship, what they say is just the same as if they were to confess that they worship their images without worshipping them. They cannot object that I am quibbling upon words. The fact is, that they only betray their ignorance while they attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the simple. But how eloquent soever they may be, they will never prove by their eloquence that one and the same thing makes two. Let them show how the things differ if they would be thought different from ancient idolaters. For as a murderer or an adulterer will not escape conviction by giving some adventitious name to his crime, so it is absurd for them to expect that the subtle device of a name will exculpate them, if they, in fact, differ in nothing from idolaters whom they themselves are forced to condemn. But so far are they from proving that their case is different, that the source of the whole evil consists in a preposterous rivalship with them, while they with their minds devise, and with their hands execute, symbolical shapes of God.

Sermon: January 20, 2008, "The Ministry of the Word"

Scripture Lesson Isaiah 49:1-7

I would like this morning to focus specifically on verse 2 of the 49th Chapter of the Book of Isaiah that Jane read for us this morning. But before I do that I want to share with you a story of a Martyr of the Christian faith. I feel that it is vital that we understand that we exist in this Church not in a vacuum unaffected by those that came before us but that we owe our very presence in this sanctuary today to those who have been willing to lay down their life to give us the tranquility to Worship the Lord our God in peace this morning.

The Christian martyr William Tyndale was born in a small country town called Cheltenham near the English western coastal town of Bristol around the year 1490. He was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, the Yale and Harvard of England in those days. William Tyndale was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ, as it seems that many are, by the reading of Paul’s word to the Romans while studying at Cambridge. Tyndale was so moved by his reading of God’s word that he felt called by his Lord Jesus to translate the entire Bible into the English language. For we must remember at this time, over 500 years ago, the Scriptures that you use and that sit in the pew in front of you were not to be found in any language in the West other than the Latin of the Roman Catholic church. Now I do not know about you but I cannot read Latin. I once took Latin in High School and my teacher came to me about halfway through the Semester and said that I translated Latin about as well as an illiterate Roman soldier. Always the smart-alic I quipped back that well if I was a Roman Soldier why would I need to translate Latin anyway? The Priests, Monks, and scholars of William Tyndale’s day were the only ones who could read Latin. For the common man could barely understand English let alone read Latin. It is almost unimaginable in our eyes to think that the congregations and people in the pew in that day had no access to the Holy Scriptures. Tyndale however would find great persecution in his work; it was not legal in that day for the Holy Bible to be in any other language than Latin. He was exiled from England; Tyndale had to work on his translation while being hunted down by the authorities. Eventually Tyndale was able to finish a translation of the New Testament into English but unfortunately Tyndale would be caught before he could begin work on the translation of the Old Testament. He would spend the next six years in a dungeon prison, for the first four able to work on his translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to English. The last two he would spend with daily whippings and beatings. Finally in the year 1536 at the tender age of 52 William Tyndale was burned at the stake. William Tyndale died so that we may have the Word of God in our native tongue. William Tyndale endured great suffering so that we may have the Holy Scriptures by our side and with us as go about our daily life. So as we look at the passage today from the Prophet Isaiah keep in mind what the martyrs of our faith have done so that we may have this Scripture today.

Isaiah in the Scripture that we read for this morning speaks to the power that William Tyndale knew that was manifested in the Holy Scriptures. I would like for you now to open your Bibles or the Bible in the rack in front of you, open to the Word of God given to the prophet Isaiah chapter 49 starting at verse one, found on page of your pew Bibles and keep it open as we read the Word of God. Isaiah has been in the previous chapters speaking to the people of Israel, after having been delivered by the Lord our God from captivity in Babylon. Isaiah has been warning the Israelites that because of their sin they were cast into exile and it was not because of their own righteous conduct, rather in spite of it, that they were brought back to the land of their ancestors but only that the Mercy of God may be shown through them. Isaiah is also telling the Israelites that there deliverance from the land of oppression and subjugation is but an illustration for the greater liberation that is to come. If you take look back into Chapter 48 verse 17 we learn who it is that speaks the Scripture we read this morning, verse 17, “This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says,” moving to verse one of chapter 49 “Coastlands, listen to me; distant peoples, pay attention. The LORD called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.” The focus has changed, now the Redeemer has begun to speak to the Gentiles, to us today. Listen to Me the Redeemer says, but who is this Redeemer? Who is this voice that says the Lord our God has named him in his Mother’s womb? Saint Matthew writes in his Gospel that the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” The Lord our God has named him from his Mother’s Womb, Our Redeemer has been named, his Name is Jesus Christ who has come to deliver us from the oppression and subjugation of sin, to redeem us through his work as the Son of the living God on the Cross at Calvary.

Moving to verse two of Chapter 49, “He made my words like a sharp sword; He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me like a sharpened arrow; He hid me in His quiver.” The Redeemer here says four things about his character. The Redeemer first testifies to the power of his Word. His Word is like a sharp sword and a polished arrow. The Apostle Paul quotes this passage in his letter to the Ephesians in chapter 6 verse 17 when he describes the Armor of God that each believer and follower of Jesus Christ is to wear to protect them from schemes of the Devil. To remind each of us as to the purpose of these implements Paul says in verses 10-17 of chapter 6 that we are to gird our loins with Truth, put on the breastplate of righteousness, wear the shoes that move us to proclaim the Good News of Christ, take up the shield of faith, place on our heads the helmet of Salvation, and finally Paul tells us to bear the Sword of the Spirit which is what? The WORD OF GOD!!! The Word of God that William Tyndale was burnt at the stake for translating. The Word of God that it is our duty to know and learn. For how can the Word be a sword for our protection if we do not even know what it says? How good would a sword be to a knight if he never picked it up and practiced with it? Brothers and Sisters we are called by Peter, the rock upon whom Christ gave the keys to the kingdom to, “…Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give account for the hope that is in you…” The Apostle Paul makes it quite clear in the closing to the 6th chapter of Ephesians that we are in perilous times, times when we will need to have this Armor for our protection as the Apostle Paul says in verses 12 and 13, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this dark age, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” We have not reason to fear this world, for our Redeemer has come with his Word to protect us spiritually and this protection is what the Redeemer of Isaiah 49 speaks of next. Looking back again in verse two we get quite a different set of characteristics, much more Pastoral than the implements of War given in Ephesians. In reading these two distinctives we are reminded of the imagery of the Shepherd that holds the little lamb in his arms. The Redeemer says that, “He is hidden in the shadow of [the Lord’s] hand” and that “[the Lord] has hidden me in his quiver.” What does this mean? Why would the Redeemer need hidden by the Lord? What this expresses is not that the Redeemer needs hidden but think of the portrait that being hidden in the “shadow of the hand” of God the Lord and hidden in “the quiver” of the Lord articulates to us and for the Gentiles, to whom Isaiah is speaking. This communicates to us a picture that says both that the Redeemer is currently being prepared for his task because his time has not yet come and that the Lord our God and the Redeemer have such an intimate relationship that the Lord our God holds the Redeemer in his hand, protecting him from harm, like a Father protects a Son. Here the Redeemer whose Word is like a sword, whose Word is like an Arrow polished for precise work, says that he also needs the protection that his Father’s love gives. Brothers and Sisters if even our Redeemer, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ needs the protection and love of his Father how much more so do we? The Lord our God has sent his Son, His Word, our Redeemer to show forth his love for us.

Again we see this as we turn back to Isaiah chapter 49 and verse three. The Lord says to the Redeemer, “You are my Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show my Glory”, John Calvin in his commentary on this passage says this about the use of Israel here so we are not confused by it, “It is of great importance to connect this verse with the preceding, because this shows that [Isaiah] now speaks not only of a single man, but of the whole nation…When the whole body of the Church is spoken of, Christ is brought forward so as to include all the children of God.” So if both Christ and the Church are being brought to the fore here, we know how God’s Glory is shown through Christ our Redeemer but how is the Church supposed to show forth this Glory? Well for the answer to that we need to focus on what the Church can do today, in the here and now.

First what the Church can do today is to remember the next four verses of Isaiah 49 and what they teach, read with me verses 4-7, “But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.” And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.” As I have said previously God has chosen to show his Glory through his Son, who is our Salvation, and through the work of his Church. Look at verse 4 again in your Bibles. What does it say? It says Christ’s reward is in with the Father. In other words though Christ has come, tarried among the people, shown wonders and signs, so much so that people traveled from east and west to see this great man, which is not where Jesus’ Glory is found. We like to focus on the miracle stories but that was not why the Redeemer was born of a virgin and died on a cross. His Glory is found in his Death and Resurrection because he knows that by his death he will bring his people to him. Christ says in John chapter 10 verse 12, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus’ reward is us. Again Jesus says this again in John chapter 6 verse 65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.” We are this glory that has been promised to the Redeemer. Christ died and was raised from the dead so that we may be his.

As we go out into a world that has denied Christ. That seeks in all that it does to hide from the Word of God. Let us not forget to put on the Armor of God, let us not forget the example given by William Tyndale and Isaiah, and I dare say like Jesus and seek out the lost and downtrodden, the one who is despised, to the one abhorred by people, to the servants of rulers, and to the Kings themselves. Let us share the Word of God with them, so that they can be part of the reward given to the Son by the Father, so that they can be saved and brought into the flock, as we are in the flock, protected by our Redeemer, our Shepherd who is the Christ, the Chosen one of Israel, who has paid the price for his children, so that we can one day be with the Father in Heaven. For we abrogate our responsibility as Christian Men and Women if we do not have an answer for the hope that is within us. Let us be not afraid to be protected by the power of the Word of God. Let us not be afraid to be changed by the Word. For remember the opening verse of Johns Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.