Justification Already: How Reformed Eschatology Helps Us In Current Controversies

Even our standing at the Final Judgment is by faith alone, since in Christ we have already received all that we will need for that Day which is not yet here.

The debate over faith and works at the Final Judgment has been steadily brewing for awhile now. Launched by John Piper’s controversial “Does God Really Save Us By Faith Alone?“, the article has received a steady back and forth from Mark Jones (The Calvinist International) and Scott Clark (Heidelblog), as well as important contributions from other confessional voices (see here [With Heart and Mouth] and here [Kyle Borg | Gentle Reformation]). Now that the heat of these articles has died down some (I saw too much personality and not enough careful reading), I think one more observation is worth making. I bring this up not because it is original to myself (the rest of this post merely elaborates others’ ideas), but simply because I haven’t seen much of the eschatological nature of Reformed soteriology brought up.

Eschatology of Justification
Many New Testament scholars have pointed to the “already/not yet” pattern in Scripture, where God’s future blessings are already experienced by believers now, even though the fullness is not yet experienced. A classic example of this in Scripture in Jesus’ work with the Kingdom of God. In Christ’s first coming, the Kingdom has already been inaugurated among us (“the kingdom is in your midst,” Luke 17:21), but we await the day when the Kingdom will come in its fullness (“Your Kingdom come,” Matthew 6:10). Scripture repeatedly points to an eschatological fulfillment of present realities.

What if this eschatological fulfillment was also applicable to justification? Throughout Scripture, we often see the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as being responsible for this eschatological character. So we should not be surprised when “justifying” language and the Spirit come together in Scripture to point to an eschatological character, even for justification. We see I Timothy 3:16 stating that Jesus was “justified” or “vindicated in the Spirit” (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι). Clearly Jesus did not have a need to be justified like sinful humanity does, so understanding the eschatological role the Spirit plays in Christ’s vindication/justification is important for understanding this passage. Continue reading

Risk In Missions, Love, and Evangelism

Mission_10.40Window_600Following Christ can be dangerous. But as John Piper argues in Risk is Right, the ephemeral dangers are completely obliterated in the light of the unspeakable rewards that await those who risk all for Christ.

This was brought home to me in two ways. First, Nancy Writebol quoted the words from Risk is Right that speak these truths so eloquently:

There are a thousand ways to magnify Christ in life and death. None should be scorned. All are important. But none makes the worth of Christ shine more brightly than sacrificial love for other people in the name of Jesus. If Christ is so valuable that the hope of his immediate and eternal fellowship after death frees us from the self-serving fear of dying and enables us to lay down our lives for the good of others, such love magnifies the glory of Christ like nothing else in the world.

What makes this amazing is that Nancy is an ebola survivor; she took a huge risk to help others through Christ’s love to her own personal safety.

But the second way was that I was reminded of Nancy’s statement by a missionary that we support at Zion. Continue reading

How Does Sarah, Submissive Obedience, and Fear Fit?

Have you ever done this? A wife wants counseling on dealing with a frustration she has with her husband. I Peter 3 brings God’s truth to godly wives (dealing with unbelieving husbands), encouraging them to trust God by submitting, adorning their hearts with righteous beauty, and to act as Sarah’s spiritual daughters. I’ve often thought of Sarah as a fantastic example of this, what with Abraham’s penchant for dropping her off in various royal harems (cf. Genesis 12 and 20). It turns out, most commentators see it this way too: Sarah shows remarkable faith and fearlessness in the face of Abraham’s abdicating husbandry.

But as we’re preaching through the Abraham toledot in our Lord’s Day sermons, I was struck by the fact that Genesis 18 is the only place Sarah refers to Abraham as her “lord” (Hebrew: adon, Greek: kurios). What is more, Peter exhorts godly wives to “not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:6). Sure enough, the only time we’re ever told Sarah feared something is also in Genesis 18. The links are striking, and even Proverbs 3 comes into play. The following chart helps to lay it out (ESV and LXX below):

Genesis 18:12, 15 I Peter 3:6 Proverbs 3:25
So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord (κύρίος μου) is old, shall I have pleasure?” as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord (κύριον).  
But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid (ἐφοβἡθη). do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (μὴ φοβούμεναι μηδεμίαν πτόησιν). Do not be afraid of sudden terror (οὐ φοβἡθησῃ πτόησιν) or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes

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Logos March Madness

Logos – tagging along with another March Madness – has rigged up a fun tourney that lets you vote for your favorite theologians and pastors. Here’s my brackets:I realized as I was filling out the bracket that this was basically a popularity contest, and that I was heavily favoring Reformed and pastors over evangelical and scholars. There were some pretty difficult decisions. How do you pick between Owen and Calvin?! Continue reading

Edwards’ Resolutions

Of all things penned by the inestimable Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758), his “Resolutions” is one of the more widely known works alongside “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” As we come into a new year (2012), it is helpful to revisit his ideas, his zeal, and his resolutions for considering how we will conduct our own lives in the time God grants to us.
Penned in a span of two years, when Edwards was himself barely out of the teenage years and just embarking on adulthood, these words stir our souls and challenge us to behold God’s grace work powerfully in our own lives.

Briefly, Desiring God lists the Resolutions according to topic and with subheadings. Steve Camp gives us a good perspective on how Edwards viewed these Resolutions as a mature man and seasoned Christian later in life.  Without any further ado, the Resolutions.

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Edwards’ Resolutions (1722 – 23)
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. Continue reading

Pastors, Manhood & Ministry

The Desiring God 2012 Pastor’s Conference is entitled “God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.”

This year’s speakers are:
Doug Wilson
Darrin Patrick
Crawford Loritts
Ramez Atallah
John Piper

The conference, which takes place from January 30 – February 1, is on a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, so I’m very excited to hear some of these men’s thoughts. I’m secretly hoping Doug Wilson will get drug into a justification/covenant debate in the Q&A, that Piper’s bio on J.C. Ryle will be excellent, and that there will be some sort of “fire sale” in the bookstore just when I walk in (preferably on the NIGTC commentary series!).

Here’s a clip where Piper invites pastors – and elders! – to the conference: Continue reading

Its A Small World

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I was clearing out some old files, and came across this picture with Brian Eaton and his family from the last DG Pastor’s Conference. Brian, who is Executive Director of Children Desiring God, also has a connection with my hometown and the Ev. Free Church I grew up in. This was the first time I had the privilege to meet their son (Isaiah, I think?) and I’m grateful for these small providences to reconnect!

Resources on Regeneration

I’m hoping to do some extended thinking (and preaching?!) on regeneration in the next few weeks/months, and I was thinking I should line up a list for reading and meditating on this important doctrine. Unfortunately, it can be a little difficult to find extended discourses on the topic of regeneration. I attribute that to a variety of factors:

  • In the history of doctrine, regeneration has been something of a moving target, especially for Calvin’s successors, where regeneration can mean anything from conversion, repentance, sanctification, or the newer clarification of speaking exclusively of the (initiation of) spiritual life.
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Just In Case You Missed ‘Em

With the overwhelming influx of information available, discerning readers must become selective in what they give their time to read. Just in case you missed ‘em, here are some links I found valuable, and hope you will also.

Horton’s Recent Chapter on Scripture
Dr. Rev. Michael S. Horton contributed to Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction with his chapter “Theologies of Scripture in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation: An Introduction.” Download it from the link above.

Before Rob Bell, There Was David Swing
PCA pastor-scholar Sean Lucas reminds us of the liberalizing David Swing, and why the most popular pastor of the biggest church in Chicago is no longer there.
Continue reading