Original and Actual SinFebruary 5, 2015 in Baptism, Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Matthew, Bible - OT - Genesis, Newsletter, Regeneration, Sin
This week one of the questions we recite from the Westminster Shorter Catechism concerns our sinfulness:
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Grace and MeritJanuary 13, 2015 in Augustine, Election, Justification, Quotations, Regeneration, Sanctification
“[G]race…is not given according to any merits, but is the cause of all good merits…”
Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, NPNF, V:499.
The Sign and the Thing SignifiedSeptember 30, 2014 in Baptism, Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, John Calvin, Justification, Quotations, Reformation, Regeneration, Sacraments, Sanctification
When Peter writes “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh” (1 Pet 3:21) in reference to baptism, “he speaks not of the naked sign, but that the effect must also be connected with it… the external symbol is not sufficient except baptism be received really and effectually…
“But the fanatics…absurdly pervert this testimony, while they seek to take away from sacraments all their power and effect. For Peter did not mean here to teach that [baptism] is vain and inefficacious, but only to exclude hypocrites from the hope of salvation, who, as far as they can, deprave and corrupt baptism. Moreover, when we speak of sacraments, two things are to be considered, the sign and the thing itself. In baptism the sign is water, but the thing is the washing of the soul by the blood of Christ and the mortifying of the flesh. The institution of Christ includes these two things. Now that the sign often appears inefficacious and fruitless, this happens through the abuse of men, which does not take away the nature of the sacrament. Let us then learn not to tear away the thing signified from the sign. We must at the same time beware of another evil, such as prevails among the Papists; for as they distinguish not as they ought between the thing and the sign, they stop at the outward element, and on that fix their hope of salvation. Therefore the sight of the water takes away their thoughts from the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit. They do not regard Christ as the only author of all the blessings therein offered to us; they transfer the glory of his death to the water, they tie the secret power of the Spirit to the visible sign.
“What then ought we to do? Not to separate what has been joined together by the Lord. We ought to acknowledge in baptism a spiritual washing, we ought to embrace therein the testimony of the remission of sin and the pledge of our renovation, and yet so as to leave to Christ his own honour, and also to the Holy Spirit; so that no part of our salvation should be transferred to the sign.”
John Calvin, Commentary on the First Epistle of Peter, pp. 118-119.
External Members of the CovenantJuly 28, 2014 in Baptism, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Ecclesiology, Federal Vision, Quotations, Regeneration
“So as with the other covenants, it is possible for someone to join the new covenant community externally without the new heart that defines that covenant. He may be baptized and profess Christian doctrine. But if he lives a life of sin, he shows that he does not have the new heart that is the mark of the new covenant. He has wrongly entered the covenant community and ought to be disciplined by the body. He has become a Christian externally, but without inward change.”
John Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 81.
I would add that we should read “wrongly entered the covenant community” as “entered the covenant community deficiently” not that he shouldn’t have entered the covenant community at all. Baptism welcomes us as legitimate members of the covenant community – but, in the case of an unconverted covenant member, his membership is belied by his lack of a new heart. But it wasn’t wrong to baptize him and admit him to the covenant community – for it is not our place to read the heart but to evaluate words and actions to the best of our ability.
Covetousness and the Heart of the LawApril 6, 2014 in Bible - OT - Exodus, Covenantal Living, Heart, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Mosaic Law, Regeneration, Ten Commandments
Following up the reading of Doug Wilson’s Against the Church, the following excerpt from the Second Helvetic Confession emphasizes the mixed nature of the visible church and the need for personal faith.
The Ship in the Ocean or the Ocean in the Ship?February 28, 2014 in Book Reviews, Church History, Ecclesiology, Regeneration, Sanctification
“God effects and expects a moral distinction between His people and the world. And when the world starts to flood into the church (in the form of unconverted professors of faith), this line starts to blur. The church is in the world the way a ship is in the ocean, and that is the way it should be. But bad things start happening when the ocean gets into the ship.”
Douglas Wilson, Against the Church, p. 96
Against the ChurchFebruary 27, 2014 in Baptism, Book Reviews, Federal Vision, John Calvin, Reformation, Regeneration, Sacraments
I just finished reading Against the Church by my friend Doug Wilson. I found Doug’s book extremely helpful and think that all those concerned about the Federal Vision controversy will profit from it. Doug emphasizes repeatedly here the absolute necessity of individual regeneration, rebirth, effectual calling for those inside, outside, and beside the covenant. You must be born again. You must move from death to life, from slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness, from tares to wheat, from darkness to light not only objectively but personally. All these things Doug has said repeatedly before but some have insisted that he must not really be saying that because why would sacraments and liturgy still be important? Thom Notaro did us a great service years ago clarifying in his book Van Til and the Use of Evidence that Van Til’s critiques of the wrong use of evidence didn’t mean that Van Til was completely opposed to the use of evidences in the right way. Hopefully Doug’s book Against the Church will serve a similar function to dispel the myth that an emphasis on the objectivity of the covenant, an emphasis on the significance of baptism and the Supper, does not entail a repudiation of the necessity for personal rebirth, faith, and righteousness. Rather the two go are to go together. Pick it up here.