Misconceptions about the Reformer Jean Calvin (1509-1564)

The 16th century French Reformer Jean Calvin wrote what was arguably the most important work of the Reformation period in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and was superbly talented at exegeting, preaching, and teaching the Scriptures, as evidenced by the wealth of biblical commentary and published sermons that he left to posterity. However, despite popular misconception, there are several things he didn’t do:

1. Start or found a new church.

2. Wield civil power in Geneva. (As a non-citizen, he couldn’t even vote.)

3. Teach new doctrines.

4. Lead a network or presbytery of churches.

5. Function as the only or clearly most influential voice among pastors in the Reformed churches of his day.

6. Come up with the doctrine of predestination or the “five points.”

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What is a Christian in the USA to do after Obergefell v. Hodges?

What to do in the wake of Obergefell vs. Hodges, what is a Christian to do in the United States of America?

1. Strengthen Marriages

Your witness for the truth of God’s word, and the sanctity of marriage, isn’t very convincing to a confused and hurting world if you are busy not loving your wife, secretly watching pornography, flirting, or disobeying your husband. Make God the center of your marriage, among other reasons, to prove to your children and neighbors that you mean what you say, and to guard against compromise. If we are so disgusted with a perversion of marriage, what are we doing to assert the true definition, and more than that, to persuade others that it’s the way to go? Lead first by example.

2. Teach children in the Lord

Give your children, or use your gifts to help parents in your church to give their children, an education in the Christian faith. Teach them the Scriptures. Teach them to pray and to read the Scriptures for themselves. Make use of the Shorter or Heidelberg Catechism as an introduction to the Christian faith. If at all possible, keep them out of the public schools where they will not only be bombarded, but be tempted to compromise with the world and all its false doctrine at an early and vulnerable age. It’s not like when many of us went to public school. Conscientious dissent in the name of religion will no longer be tolerated. Teach them that they will be hated for the sake of Christ, experiencing persecution much worse than you did in your lifetime, but to rejoice in tribulation, that if they persevere to the end they will receive a crown of glory in heaven.

3. Strengthen the Church

If you’ve been dating the church, marry her now. Join a faithful Bible-believing and preaching church. She needs you as much as you need her. Sure, she has warts, but be an encouragement and not a criticizer. Treat your brothers and sisters in Christ as family, loving them unconditionally, because you are family. And all you have in this world is one another. This world is not our home. We are a holy nation in exile like Israel in Babylon. Let’s not forget Jerusalem but cultivate her fellowship and distinctive ways constantly by investing time, resources, and relationships to strengthen her. As Theodore de Bèze said, “the church is an anvil that has worn out manny a hammer.” America will pass away, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is preeminently manifested through Church on earth, endures forever.

4. Keep the main thing the main thing.

Political battles, hobbies, careers, will try to suck up your time. It takes money to live on, and we can still vote for as long as we still have the vote, but focus more on being a witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Seek opportunities to bring up the gospel in conversation instead of the 2016 presidential elections, or the Supreme Court. The latter will vanish like smoke in the wind, but our Lord Jesus Christ reigns forever, and we are his ambassadors laboring in this earthly kingdom of darkness. Let’s be found doing principally that which he sent us to do.

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Review of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard

0617152145aThis book offers a breakdown and historical overview of what the author refers to as the 11 distinct ethno-geographical nations that make up the US and Canada. His broad history and analysis is mostly correct. You may be surprised at how well the history of colonial settlement, migrations, and assimilation connects and translates to today in a way that helps explain the socio-political characteristics and traits of the different American regions. Today’s political battles and cultural differences are direct product of the history of settlement and migration in the various regions of North America.  The author is writing from a secular perspective, and is left-leaning politically, although it doesn’t affect his analysis too much until the last chapters. I would recommend this book first of all for Americans to understand better what national culture they grew up in, based on where they are from, and how and why other American nations differ in their social and political habits. I’d also recommend it for those traveling or moving to a different location in the US or Canada. I’ve lived in several different parts of the US, and always noticed cultural differences of attitude, behavior, and treatment of outsiders, but I feel like I understand better where the lines are drawn and how they developed to what they are now after reading this book. (Hint, it doesn’t normally coincide with state borders.)

The author does an especially good job explaining the fascinating history of how the distinct colonial nations of the east coast expanded west and maintained many of their distinctive features in a new location, whether in the midwest or on the west coast.  He shows how the patterns of settlement determine the social and political characteristics of western states today.

Woodard could have done a better job tracing the changes in religious belief and how the nations were impacted and altered by those changes, especially “Yankeedom.” He doesn’t seem to have a firm grasp on that aspect, not drawing a line between the public Christianity of the puritan fathers and the social activism of liberal churches and post-Christian New England, to mark when and how the change came about, and what impact it had on the nation. He seems to think that the Puritans deemphasized individual Christian faith, although of course those who know the Puritans know that if anything they are often perceived as being too introspective about their faith. And New England was also the birthplace of the Baptists in America, an offshoot of the puritans, who later made such inroads in the Deep South.

All in all it’s a very useful book.

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Does Revelation 22:17 Teach Arminianism?

“And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17b KJV

New Testament Greek text:

ὁ θέλων λαβέτω ὕδωρ ζωῆς δωρεάν SBL

My literal translation: “May he who wills receive the water of life for free.”

“May…receive” (λαβέτω) This verb is in the subjunctive tense. It expresses a wish, hope, or desire. The author is expressing a desire that those who are willing will receive the water of life free of charge, IOW without payment.

“the water of life” (ὕδωρ ζωῆς), this is a picture of the grace of God in Christ, that water that Jesus spoke of at the well, which if anyone drinks, he will never thirst again. It’s the promise of eternal life in happiness with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“he who wills” (ὁ θέλων)—In greek this is literally a participle with the definite article, such as you have if it were just like this in English: “the willing.” But of course we don’t write or talk like that in English, so the KJV adds what is implied “whosoever will” and I have supplied, “he who wills”

The idea really isn’t about telling us who has a will to receive, or who is able to have the will, or might possibly have the will to receive what is offered. It’s simply stating that having the will to receive the free gift of the water of life is a condition to receiving it. God has limited the recipients of eternal life to only those who have the will to receive it. No one will get it who does not will to receive it.

This verse does not say that everyone has the will to receive it. This verse does not tell us how those who have the will, got the will to receive it. It doesn’t tell us who is and is not able to have the will to receive it, based on the condition of their own heart. It doesn’t even tell us that only those whom God has chosen and made new then have the will to receive it (although other passages tell us that.) It simply states that it is those who have the will who will receive.

My position is that no one has the will to receive, until the Holy Spirit makes them new in the new birth aka regeneration, a miracle from above, and then and only then do they have the will to receive the eternal life which is offered upon condition of having the will to receive it. This verse just says that those who do receive it, must have the will to receive it, or they won’t receive it. I agree with that, obviously. So this verse is entirely compatible with my definition of free will.

(The foregoing is extracted from an email to a relative of mine)

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Illegal Immigrants from the US, and the partitioning of the El Norte nation

In the early 1800’s Mexico was inundated with illegal immigrants from the United States, who were seeking land and opportunity there. Many were concerned about the immigrants’ resistance to learning the Spanish language and to assimilate and Mexicanize, and also their distinct practices like slavery, which was illegal in Mexico but not in the US. But despite these concerns, Mexico decided to grant the illegal US immigrants legal rights and citizenship in Mexico if they would cooperate and follow the law. In the end the immigrants decided to fight to become an independent state. They were joined in their struggle by nortenos, Mexicans from the northern parts of Mexico where the immigrants had settled. The result of wars with Texas patriots, and with the US, was that Mexico lost a third of its territory to the United States. In these areas, many nortenos still reside. They are not immigrants. They were there before the US Americans were, members of a distinct culture and nation/ethnicity called El Norte, which straddles both sides of the Rio Grande river, is distinct from the nation/culture of central Mexico, and has always had closer economic, cultural, and social ties and similarities with the US to the north than it has to Mexico City to the south. The US/Mexico border essentially cuts through the center of the El Norte nation. How might this historical perspective inform the immigration debate?

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The Jewish Feast of Pentecost and Its Meaning for the Church

It was less than a week after Christ was ascended to heaven, where he was seated on the right hand of the Almighty. The apostles and perhaps others gathered on the first day of the week. The narrative is as follows:

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Luke’s narrative in the Acts of the Apostles says that the disciples were gathered with one accord on the feast day of Pentecost. The feast of Pentecost was a Jewish festival marking the LORD’s giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (Henry), on the 50th day after the Passover, which was the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt. This feast of Pentecost was that feast which Moses had explained to Pharaoh that the LORD had commanded his people to make in the desert. It was to be kept, not with unleavened bread as the Passover, but with leavened bread.  It was a festival of thanks for God’s provision, when the new grain of the harvest was to be baked into leavened loaves of bread and waived before the LORD, together with animal sacrifices (lambs, bull, rams, goat) for burnt offerings, a sin offering, and peace offerings.

Leviticus 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. 17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.n 18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. 19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. 21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

This was the day on which the nation of Israel was constituted, in which it became a nation constitutionally and was sent out in the name of YHWH to travel to the land of Canaan and conquer in his name. What is the significance of this Jewish feast day to the Pentecost event that occurred in Acts 2? The Old Testament Pentecost is a foreshadowing of the New Testament Pentecost in several ways:

1. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ was constituted as a holy nation unto the Lord.

Christ, in response to a question from some of his apostles as to when the restoration of the kingdom of Israel would be, commanded them to wait until Pentecost, when they would receive power from on high, Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Christ here taught his apostles, in his answer to their question, that there were be a re-ordering of the outward form of the spiritual nation of Israel, which they were to await. At Sinai the covenant of grace was expressed to the children of Israel in terms of God’s gracious deliverance of that nation from slavery in Egypt. Exodus 20:2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. In the New Testament there is a change of the order of things in keeping with the fulfillment of all the Messianic promises. Now the covenant of grace is expressed in more clear terms, since Christ is come and fulfilled the salvation which was promised, though the same covenant had always been the essence and root of the covenant that God made with Israel. In the Old Testament the grace of God in Jesus Christ which gathers his elect people of every nation was prefigured in the types and shadows that God had commanded through Moses, such as the priesthood and feast days when animal sacrifices would be offered for sin and as an offering procuring peace with God. Now at Pentecost the nation of Israel, having as a whole rejected the Messiah and crucified him, was being restored in a new form. Just as the law of Moses was what constituted the gaggle in the desert to be the restored people of Israel fresh out of bondage in Egypt, so the constituted Church of Jesus Christ was formed by the power of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost event based on the constitution of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which though it had not yet been written down, had been received from his own mouth by those very apostles, in preparation for their task of proclaiming it to all the nations of the world. Significantly, proselytes v. 10 were among those gathered who heard the apostles speak in their tongues. That same spiritual people which had been reconstituted at Sinai in the terms of the law was reconstituted in a new form, now not restricted to ethnic Jews, based on the definitive revelation of God in the gospel. This gospel is the constitution of the Church of Jesus Christ, that which forms us together to be a people for God’s own peculiar possession.

2. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ experienced her first harvest.

Pentecost in the Old Testament was a feast day to give thanks to God for the harvest that had been partially gathered in. It was an acknowledgement of the mercy of God in providing food for the Israelites to eat, of confessing sins committed despite his grace, and procuring his continued favor and blessing. In Acts 2, Pentecost was the first harvest, when around 120 souls (Ewart) received the initial harvest of three thousand souls added to the Church in one distinct blast of the rushing mighty wind which is the Holy Spirit. Imagine one of our little churches growing by a factor of 30 in one day! As amazing as that first harvest was, he is still at work today. It is the Holy Spirit that brings in the harvest of souls, as our Lord had said that the fields were white for harvest. Myriads of people the whole world over are still coming to Christ, despite the all the contempt the world can muster. The harvest continues, wherever the Holy Spirit draws people from every nation under heaven, where the good news of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God is preached by his appointed emissaries. He feeds us daily of his word, through the Scriptures read and preached. Let us give thanks to God for the harvest of souls that continues to come into the Church of Jesus Christ, for his continual provision of spiritual nourishment, and pray that God will continue to bless this earth with showers of gentle dew preparing the hearts of people all over the world to hear and heed the good news, to repent of their sins and lay hold upon eternal life in Jesus Christ.

3. At Pentecost the Church of Jesus Christ was sent forth to conquer the nations by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The nation of Israel was constituted on Sinai as a conquering nation. It was to travel the long journey from Sinai to the land of Canaan and there wrest the land from its previous inhabitants by the power of the sword and shield. Observance of the feasts is connected with the conquering of the promised land. In Exodus 23 the feast of Pentecost is referred to as the feast of harvest.

Exodus 23:16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.
17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God.
18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his other’s milk. 20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. 25 And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. 26 There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. 27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.

The command to conquer Canaan has been expanded to include the entire world. That nation gathered at Sinai was reconstituted in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but no longer are the weapons of its warfare carnal. No longer conquering by sword and shield, the Church of Jesus Christ, which is the New Israel, is commanded to subdue the nations, bringing them to loyal obedience to the King of Kings Jesus Christ by the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. That word is nothing else but the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of forgiveness of sins and new life toward God, the covenant of grace which declares freely to all persons of every nation that eternal life is assured them if they will repent of their sins and bow the knee to Jesus Christ our King who sent us to declare his reign.  And our success is as assured as it is promised, for the power that conquers is not of our own strength, but of that same rushing mighty wind that brought 3,000 souls to loving subjection to King Jesus on that feast day of Pentecost. If the Holy Spirit be for us, who can be against us? Let us go forth boldly as the Church of Jesus Christ, knowing that victory is assured by him who said, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20b

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6 Ways to Deal With Encroaching Wickedness

Originally posted on Mountains and Magnolias:

I have mentioned before that I have spent the last several weeks reading Thomas Boston and today I am in a sermon from 2 Kings 2:14 where he is expounding on the lack of piety and the growth of sinfulness in his day in Scotland (ca. 1713). Towards the end Boston gives six helpful examples of ways the individual Christian can work to help erase this attack by the Lord’s help. I will list them with some commentary.

1) Stir Yourselves Up to Repent and Reform. (Rev. 3:2)

This is key. Much like Daniel in Babylon the Christian must begin with his own sin and need for personal growth in holiness before he can call upon his brethren to likewise move forward in sanctification. This is the heart of Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 7. It is the height of hypocrisy to demand others to bend away from their lusts if…

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Rollock on the Scripture

We have no need simply of any other light, or of any one special evidence to demonstrate this matter, but that very light which is in Scripture. For the Scripture (being the first and immediate word of God) is of authority sufficient in itself (autopistos), and so likewise of itself most clear and evident…For like as the light of the sun is not perceived nor to be seen by means of any other light, for that it so far exceeds all other bodily and external light, so, that spiritual light of the Scripture hath no need in itself of any other light…for of all the spiritual lights that enlighten the mind withal, it is the most bright and most beautiful in the world.

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Was Eric Liddell a Legalist?

Originally posted on Building Old School Churches:

Chariots of Fire is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies. It tells the story of two runners who competed in the 19liddell-chariots-daughter24 Paris Olympics. One of those runners was a man by the name of Eric Liddell, a man dubbed the “Flying Scotsman” because of his nationality and astounding speed. But in addition to being a superlative runner and all around athlete, Eric Liddell was a man of deep Christian convictions. The son of missionaries, born in China, Eric’s vision was always to return to the mission field to do the essential work of spreading the gospel. But Eric also felt that God had given him a great gift in his athletic abilities and he was determined to put these gifts to good use. To that end he trained hard for the Olympics in the event in which he had already set a record in Britain –…

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A reason for optimism about the future state of the Church

The winds of cultural change have amassed to a very hostile wind that seems to blow against the Church of Jesus Christ. She may very well shrink in numbers and in wealth over the coming decades, as the social cost of being a Christian rises, and there may come a point when she is taxed on donations and offerings. But make no mistake, there is plenty of reason for optimism. The trend of individual sexual self-determination, an anything goes “ethic” where people define themselves as their sinful flesh leads them to, will hurt a lot of people. They will be shackled to the ball and chain of their own lusts until they long for the liberty that is in Christ. Then we will be there to show them a better way. The sexual ethic of Christianity, which is now a justification for the world’s ire against us, will be the oasis of truth and light that beckons weary and wounded sinners from afar, showing that humans do indeed have value and dignity, and are not meant to be mere slaves to perverse sexual pleasures. The hypocrites and nominal Christians will be long gone by then, and new wheat will spring up to take their places, and then some.  Then, as in the Roman Empire of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries A. D., many souls will be won to Christ because of and not in spite of the 7th commandment standard and the undefiled institution of holy matrimony. Like a dip in stock price that allows an investor to buy more shares more cheaply before the price rises again, this seeming ebb in the influence of the Church of Christ will turn into a tremendous gain of new converts to Christ not so very far down the road, as souls created by God are made new by the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the law and gospel, showing them that they do not have to be slaves to sin any longer, and offering them the glorious liberty of the children of God.

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