July 15, 2009
In a recent discussion with Bruce Ware I had shared that John Owen understood the mortification of sin to be relative and not absolute. Dr. Ware quickly added that there is one thing, however, that is absolute, namely, the removal of sin’s dominion in the life of a believer. I agreed and added that Owen agreed as well. Yesterday, I read the following in Owen’s work on the Holy Spirit, in which he has a brief chapter on the mortification of sin: “Who or what shall have the principal conduct of the mind and soul (chap. 8.7-9) is the matter in question. Where sin hath the rule, there the Holy Ghost will never dwell. He enters into no soul as his habitation, but at the same instant he dethrones sin, spoils it of its dominion, and takes the rule of the soul into the hand of his own grace. Where he hath effected this work, and brought his adversary into subjection, there he will dwell, though sometimes his habitation be troubled by his subdued enemy.”
John Owen, The Holy Spirit, The Works of John Owen vol. III, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1850-53, reprint 2000), 551.
July 13, 2009
July 13, 2009
I was humored that the primary opposition to the motion for a Great Commission Resurgence Taskforce was that it was the work of Calvinists and Calvinist “sympathizers.” While opposing a motion calling for attention to greater efficiency and effectiveness to make disciples of all nations, one man accused the authors of the motion of being Calvinists who do not concern themselves with the conversion of sinners. He stated that the reason Southern Baptists are not reporting as many conversions as in the past is because there are so many Calvinists arising within the denomination; and everyone knows that Calvinists don’t evangelize the lost. At least he was certain of this, himself. He seemed to imply that a Great Commission Resurgence will only come with a Great Calvinist Purge. (I hope that this man came to his understanding of Calvinists through dialogue with Arminians, and not through first hand encounters with Calvinists.)
Andrew Fuller and William Carey also called for a “Great Commission Resurgence” among Baptists in their day. Their solution, however, was not to purge the church of Calvinism. Instead, they argued that the Reformed faith, being biblical, was an impetus for just such an endeavor. In a letter to Dr. Ryland, Andrew Fuller quoted certain propositions from the Synod of Dort to demonstrate his agreement with Calvinism. He quoted the following: “The promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life; which promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought promiscuously and indiscriminately to be published and proposed to all nations and individuals to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.”
Could it be that the resurgence of the Doctrines of Grace and the centrality of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ are an impetus for a renewed zeal for missions?
July 11, 2009
Spurgeon once said that if he could have only two books in his possession that he would have the Bible and William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armor. I have not read this work in its entirety, but have seen some of what Spurgeon esteemed so highly. Here is a sample.
God gives his choicest mercies and greatest salvations to his people, in such a way that he lays the scene of his providence, so that when he hath done it may be said, Almighty power was here. And therefore, God commonly puts down those means and second causes, whjich if they stood about his work would blind and hinder the full prospect thereof in effecting the same. ‘We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we might not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead,’ (2Cor. 1:9). Christ stayed while Lazarus was dead, that he might draw the eyes of their faith more singly to look on his power, by raising his dead friend, rather than curing him being sick, which would not have carried so full a conviction of almightiness with it. Yea, he suffers a contrary power many times to arise, in that very juncture of time, when he intends the mercy to his people, that he may rear up the more magnificent pillar of rememberance to his own power, in the ruin of that which contests with him. Had God brought Israel out of Egypt in the time of those kings which knew Joseph, most likely they might have had a friendly departure and an easy deliverance, but God reserves this for the reign of that proud Pharaoh, who shall cruelly oppress them, and venture his kingdom, but he will satisfy his lust upon them. And why must this be the time, but that God would bring them forth with a stretched-out arm? The magnifying of his power was God’s great design. ‘In very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth,’ (Exod. 9:16).
July 10, 2009
With the growing number of “Calvinists” in the Southern Baptist Convention, some may believe that Calvin’s greatest influence on SBC life are the Doctrines of Grace. It is a fact that many of our founders, such as James P. Boyce, Basil Manly, and John Broadus, preached, taught, and lived these doctrines. And many, especially younger pastors, are embracing them today. Yet it seems that Calvin has left an even larger legacy to Southern Baptists–the plain teaching of the Word. Both in the Institutes and in his commentaries, Calvin labored to expose the plain meaning of the text of Scripture. The Institutes were not an exercise in speculative theology, but a systematic exposition of the teaching of Scripture on the essentials of Christian faith and practice. This work was intended to supplement his commentaries, so that his commentaries could be brief and clear, unencumbered by lengthy theological discourse. When an important doctrine is addressed in a commentary, Calvin refers the reader to the Institutes for a more complete exposition that systematizes the teaching of the whole Bible.
His preaching was expository in the truest sense of exposing the meaning of the text and applying that meaning to the Christian life. His commitment to expository preaching through books of the Bible is illustrated in the fact that when he returned to Geneva after being exiled by the city council his first message began where his last message had ended in the Scriptures.
He wrote the Institutes and his commentaries as tools for pastors, to aid them in practicing faithful exposition. They are not technical works designed for professional theologians. His plain, straightforward style complements the profound depth of his thinking, giving his works an enduring quality.
Danny Aiken’s repeated call at the convention this year to this kind of expository ministry speaks of Calvin’s influence on this generation, perhaps even more than the rise in five-point Calvinists. As an alumnus of both SEBTS and SBTS I have witnessed many entering the ministry with competence and commitment to expositional, Christ-centered, redemptive preaching through books of the Bible.
On this 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, I want to pause and meditate on the outcome of his way of life and imitate his faith — his faith in the power of God’s Word to convert sinners and edify the saints.
Soli Deo Gloria