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Abraham Kuyper – Particular, Covenant, and Common Grace

8 Jun

1837-1920. Dutch pastor, theologian, politician, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Particular grace deals with the individual, the person to be saved, with the individual entering glory. And with this individual, as child of God, we cannot wrap the golden chain of redemption around his soul unless that golden chain descends from personal, sovereign election.

For that reason, the almighty sovereignty of God, who elects whom he will and rejects those to whom he does not show mercy, remains the heart of the church, the cor ecclesiae, which the Reformed churches must hold firmly until the return of the Lord. The consequence of forsaking this truth would be their vanishing from the earth, even prior to the Maranatha. This doctrine is and remains, therefore, the heart of our confession. This is the testimony that, on the authority of God’s Word, sealed by our personal experience, we shout aloud for all to hear: grace is particular.

Nevertheless, that same child of God is something other than an isolated individual limited to himself. This individual is also part of a community, member of a body, participant in a group identity, enclosed within an organism. The doctrine of the covenant emphasizes and does justice to this truth.

Without the doctrine of the covenant, the doctrine of election is mutilated, and the frightening lack of the assurance of faith is the valid punishment resulting from this mutilation of the truth. If separated from the confession of the covenant, election in isolation attempts to take hold of the Holy Spirit without honoring God the Son. The Third Person in the Trinity does not allow that violation of the honor of the Second Person. Christ himself testified that the Holy Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you” [John 16:14]. Anyone who presumes to trample upon this divine ordinance will not escape the severe anguish with which this unshakeable ordinance wreaks its misery of soul.

Therefore, in Holy Scripture this sovereign, personal election never appears in any other manner but within the context of covenant grace. The individual, this single soul, must experience being incorporated into the community of the saints. We are elected personally, but together we are branches of the one Vine, members of the same body. For that reason, the confession of particular, personal grace is untrue and unscriptural unless it arises within the context of the covenant.

However, this is not the end of the matter.

The divine covenant in the Mediator in turn has its background in the work of original creation, in the existence of the world, and in the life of our human race. As individuals God’s children belong to the community of the saints. But that community of saints also consists of the children of men, born of a woman by the will of man. Consequently they are interwoven and interconnected with all of human living that originated in paradise and continues in its misshapen form even after humanity’s fall from God.

Neither our election nor our attachment to the community of saints negates our common humanity, nor removes our participation in the life of family, homeland, or world.

Therefore, we need to consider not two, but three aspects: first, our personal life; second, our incorporation into the body of Christ; and third, our existence as human beings (that is, our origin by human birth, our membership in the human race).

~Abraham Kuyper~

Common Grace, Volume 1: God’s Gifts for a Fallen World: The Historical Section. Edited by Jordan J. Ballor, Melvin Flikkema, and Stephen J. Grail. Translated by Nelson D. Kloosterman and Ed M. van der Maas. Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Acton Institute, 2015), 2-3.

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Herman Bavinck – Theology and Real Life

23 Jan

Every science, actually, has to take account of the demands of life. Similarly, theology does not occupy a position high above real life but is situated in its midst, in the life of the Christian community. The distorted relation that everywhere exists today between the church and theology is a disaster for both.

~Herman Bavinck~

Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 616.

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Thomas Watson – Lovers of God Love His People

3 Jan

9. If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves….

(b) We love a saint, though he has many personal failings. There is no perfection here. In some, rash anger prevails; in some, inconstancy; in some, too much love of the world. A saint in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him. A saint is like a fair face with a scar: we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scar in it. The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest stars their twinklings, and the best of the saints have their failings. You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?

~Thomas Watson~

The All Things for Good (Edinburgh, Scotland; Banner of Truth Trust; 1986) Chapter 5: The Tests of Love to God; 9. If we are lovers of God, we love what God loves

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George Whitefield – Let Our Practice Correspond to Our Profession

3 Dec

Only permit me to ‘stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance’, and to exhort you, ‘if there be any consolation in Christ, any fellowship of the spirit,’ again and again to consider, that as all Christians in general, so all members of religious societies in particular, are in an especial manner, as houses built upon an hill. And that therefore it highly concerns you to walk circumspectly towards those that are without and to take heed to yourselves, that your conversation, in common life, be as becometh such an open and peculiar profession of the gospel of Christ, knowing that the eyes of all men are upon you, narrowly to inspect every circumstance of your behaviour and that every notorious wilful miscarriage of any single member will, in some measure, redound to the scandal and dishonour of your whole fraternity.

Labour, therefore, my beloved brethren, to let your practice correspond to your profession. And think not that it will be sufficient for you to plead at the last day, ‘Lord have we not assembled ourselves together in thy name and enlivened each other, by singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs?’ For verily, I say unto you, notwithstanding this, our blessed Lord will bid you depart from him, nay, you shall receive a great damnation, if in the mists of these great pretensions you are found to be workers of iniquity.

~George Whitefield~

The Sermons of George Whitefield (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2012) Sermon 8: The Necessity and Benefits of Religious Society

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Jonathan Edwards – Mount Zion

16 Oct

This city of Jerusalem is therefore called the holy city; and it was the greatest type of the church of Christ in all the Old Testament. It was redeemed by David, the captain of the hosts of Israel, out of the hands of the Jebusites, to be God’s city, the holy place of his rest for ever, where he would dwell. So Christ, the Captain of his people’s salvation, redeems his church out of the hands of devils, to be his holy and beloved city. And therefore how often does the Scripture, when speaking of Christ’s redemption of his church, call it by the names of Zion and Jerusalem! This was the city that God had appointed to be the place of the first gathering and erecting of the christian church after Christ s resurrection, of that remarkable effusion of the Spirit of God on the apostles and primitive Christians, and the place whence the gospel was to sound forth into all the world; the place of the first christian church, that was to be, as it were, the mother of all other churches through the world; agreeable to that prophecy, Isa. ii. 3, 4. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem: and he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people,” &c. Thus God chose mount Zion whence the gospel was to be sounded forth, as the law had been from mount Sinai.

~Jonathan Edwards~

The Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol. 1 (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc; 2007) p. 554. A History of the Work of Redemption

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Herman Bavinck – Scripture Founded the Church

31 Aug

While the church as the community of believers is the context within which the Spirit’s testimony is confirmed, Scripture’s authority is not granted by the church’s decision. The opposite is true: Scripture founded the church. Through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, Scripture is self-authenticating.

~Herman Bavinck~

Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 562.

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Beware of Traditional Religionists

13 Aug

Any notion that Christianity is mainly the result of something that we do is always completely, fatally wrong. We must cast off any idea that the Christian church is the result of our action and that we are perpetuating some tradition. If that is our view of Christianity, it is false. That was the curse of the Jews who finally crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. They were traditional religionists, and such have always been-and are today-the greatest enemies of the true church and of the true Christian faith and message. But how much of so-called Christianity is just this!

~Martyn Lloyd-Jones~

Studies in the Book of Acts – Vol. 1: Authentic Christianity (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2000) p. 21-22

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Charles Hodge – Prayer: A Common Cause

10 Jul

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, – Ephesians 6:17-18

The conflict which the apostle has been speaking about is not just a single battle between the individual Christian and Satan, but also a war between the people of God and the powers of darkness. No soldier entering battle prays for himself alone, but for all his fellow soldiers also. They form one army, and the success of one is the success of all. In a similar way Christians are united as one army and therefore have a common cause, and each must pray for everyone else. Such is the communion of saints, as set out in this letter and in other parts of Scripture, that they can no more fail to take this interest in each other’s welfare than the hand can fail to sympathize with the foot.

~Charles Hodge~

Crossway Classic Commentaries – Ephesians (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 1994) Commentary on Ephesians 6:18

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones – Does Church Member = Christian?

4 Jun

This idea that because people are members of the church and attend regularly that they must be Christian is one of the most fatal assumptions, and I suggest that it mainly accounts for the state of the Church today. So we must be very careful at this point.

~Martyn Lloyd-Jones~

Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan; 2011) p. 161

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Herman Bavinck – Tradition and Scripture

2 Jun

At no time is the church in the OT and the NT ever directed to anything other than the always avaiilable Word of God, either written or unwritten. By it alone human beings can have a spiritual life. The church finds all it needs in the Scripture available to it at a given time. Subsequent Scriptures presuppose, link up with, and build upon, preceding Scripture. The prophets and psalmists assume the Torah. Isaiah (8:20) calls everyone to the law and to the testimony. The NT considers itself the fulfillment of the OT and refers back to nothing other than the existing Scripture. Even more telling is the fact that all that lies outside of Scripture is as firmly as possible ruled out. Traditions are rejected as the institutions of human beings (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:3,9; 1 Cor. 4:6). The tradition that developed in the days of the OT prompted the Jews to reject the Christ. Over against it Jesus posited his “but I say to you” (Matt. 5:27, 32, 34, 38, 44), and against Pharisees and scribes he again aligned himself with the Law and the Prophets. The apostles appeal only to the OT Scriptures and never refer the churches to anything other than the word of God proclaimed by them. Inasmuch as in the early period tradition sought to be nothing other than the preservation of the things personally taught and instituted by the apostles, it was not yet dangerous. But the Roman Catholic tradition has utterly deteriorated from that level. It cannot be demonstrated that any doctrine or practice is of apostolic origin except insofar as this can be shown from their writings. The Roman Catholic tradition, which gave rise to the mass, to Mariolatry, to papal infallibility, and other Roman distinctives, is nothing but a sanctioning of tha actual state of affairs of the Roman Catholic Church, a justification of the superstition that has crept into it.

~Herman Bavinck~

Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 1: Prolegomena (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic; 2003) p. 489-490.

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