Reformed Theology

The Importance of Knowing Christ

There is little doubt that almost all Christians are content to have won Christ and thus to have received the gift of eternal life. But how many are equally concerned to know him? How often we cut Jesus in half, wishing to know that we are saved and that all is well with our destiny, but forgetting that to be truly saved means we must truly know him! On the gravestone of the Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford (d. 1661), we read of his passion to know Christ:

True godliness adorned his name,
He did converse with things above,
Acquainted with Emmauel’s love…
Most constant he did contend
Until his time was at an end.
Then he won to the full fruition
Of that which he had seen in vision.

Such words describing him at death correspond well with what he wrote in life in his Letters:

Put the beauty of ten thousand thousand worlds of paradises, like the Garden of Eden, in one. Put all trees, all flowers, all smells, all colors, all tastes, all joys, all sweetness, all loveliness, in one. Oh, what a fair and excellent thing would that be! And yet it would be less to that fair and dearest Well-beloved, Christ, than one drop of rain to the whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths.

Put all the pleasures of life such as family, job, recreation, music, sports, entertainment, cuisine, and technology in one. Oh, what excellent joys they are! Yet such joys pale in comparison with the delight of knowing Jesus and basking in communion with his person, not just his work! Is Christ the ‘drop of rain’ or is he the ‘whole seas, rivers, lakes, and fountains of ten thousand earths’?

– Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, pp. 2-3 (emphasis mine).

Spurgeon on Divine Sovereignty

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.

On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties.

They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the evermoving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth, and we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.

– Charles H. Spurgeon

Sermon Text for June 11th – Ephesians 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

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Created to Know God

What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 9:23). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. “I desire … the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” says God (Hosea 6:6).… Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.

– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 29.

Concerning the Nature of Scripture

bible
We must avoid the one-sidedness of intellectualism and that of mysticism, for they are both a denial of the riches of revelation. Since both head and heart, the whole person in being and consciousness, must be renewed, revelation in this dispensation is continued jointly in Scripture and in the church. In this context, the two are most intimately connected. Scripture is the light of the church, and the church the life of Scripture. Apart from the church, Scripture is an enigma and an offense. Without rebirth no one can know it. Those who do not participate in its life cannot understand its meaning and its point of view.
Conversely, the life of the church is a complete mystery unless Scripture sheds its life upon it. Scripture explains the church; the church understands Scripture. In the church Scripture confirms and seals its revelation, and in Scripture the Christian—and the church—learn to understand themselves in relation to God and the world, in their past, present, and future.
Scripture, accordingly, does not stand by itself. It may not be construed deistically. It is rooted in a centuries-long history and is the fruit of God’s revelation among the people of Israel and in Christ. Still, it is not a book of times long past, which only links us with persons and events of the past. Holy Scripture is not an arid story or ancient chronicle but the ever-living, eternally youthful Word, which God, now and always, issues to his people. It is the eternally ongoing speech of God to us. It does not just serve to give us historical information; it does not even have the intent to furnish us a historical story by the standard of reliability demanded in other realms of knowledge. Holy Scripture is tendentious; whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope [Rom. 15:4].
Scripture was written by the Holy Spirit that it might serve him in guiding the church, in the perfecting of the saints, in the building up of the body of Christ.In it God daily comes to his people. In it he speaks to his people, not from afar, but from nearby. In it he reveals himself, from day to day, to believers in the fullness of his truth and grace. Through it he works his miracles of compassion and faithfulness.
Scripture is the ongoing rapport between heaven and earth, between Christ and his church, between God and his children. It does not just tie us to the past; it binds us to the living Lord in the heavens. It is the living voice of God, the letter of the omnipotent God to his creature. God once created the world by the word, and by that word he also upholds it [Heb. 1:2,3]; but he also re-creates it by the word and prepares it to be his dwelling. Divine inspiration, accordingly, is a permanent attribute of Holy Scripture. It was not only “God-breathed” at the time it was written; it is “God-breathing.” “It was divinely inspired, not merely while it was written, God breathing through the writers; but also, whilst it is being read, God breathing through the Scripture, and the Scripture breathing Him [He being their very breath].” Having come forth from revelation, it is kept alive by divine inspiration and made efficacious. It is the Holy Spirit who maintains both prophecy and miracle, Scripture and church, joining them together, thus preparing the parousia.
Some day when being and consciousness are completely renewed, revelation will end and Scripture will no longer be necessary. Divine inspiration will then be the portion of all God’s children. They will all be taught by the Lord and serve him in his temple. Prophecy and miracle have then become “nature,” for God dwells among his people.
– Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (HT: AB)

Five Marks of True Faith

  1. Faith is a Christ-prizing grace, it puts a high valuation on Christ. ‘To you that believe he is precious.’ 1 Peter 2:7. Paul best knew Christ. ‘Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?’ 1 Corinthians 9:1. He saw Christ with his bodily eyes in a vision, when we was caught up into the third heaven; and with the eye of his faith in the Holy Supper; therefore he best knew Christ. And see how he styles all things in comparison of him. ‘I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ.’ Philippians 3:8. Do we set a high estimate upon Christ? Could we be willing to part with the wedge of gold for the pearl of price? Gregory Nazianzen blessed God he had anything to lose for Christ’s sake.

  2. Faith is a refining grace. ‘Mystery of faith in a pure conscience.’ 1 Timothy 3:9. Faith is in the soul as fire among metals; it refines and purifies. Morality may wash the outside, faith washes the inside. ‘Having purified their hearts by faith.’ Acts 15:9. Faith makes the heart a sacristy or holy of holies. Faith is a virgin-grace: though it does not take away the life of sin, yet it takes away the love of sin. Examine if your hearts be an unclean fountain, sending out the mud and dirt of pride and envy. If there be legions of lusts in thy soul, there is no faith. Faith is a heavenly plant, which will not grow in an impure soil.

  3. Faith is an obediential grace. ‘The obedience of faith.’ Romans 16:26. Faith melts our will into God’s. It runs at God’s call. If God commands duty (though cross to flesh and blood) faith obeys. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed.’ Hebrews 11:8. Faith is not an idle grace; as it has an eye to see Christ, so it has a hand to work for him. It not only believes God’s promise, but obeys his command. It is not having knowledge that will evidence you to be believers; the devil has knowledge, but wants obedience, and that makes him a devil. The true obedience of faith is a cheerful obedience. God’s commands do not seem grievous. Have you obedience, and obey cheerfully? Do you look upon God’s command as your burden, or privilege; as an iron fetter about your leg, or as a gold chain about your neck.

  4. Faith is an assimilating grace. It changes the soul into the image of the object; it makes it like Christ. Never did any look upon Christ with a believing eye, but he was made like Christ. A deformed person may look on a beautiful object, and not be made beautiful; but faith looking on Christ transforms a man, and turns him into his similitude. Looking on a bleeding Christ causes a soft bleeding heart; looking on a holy Christ causes sanctity of heart; looking on a humble Christ makes the soul humble. As the chameleon is changed into the color of that which it looks upon, so faith, looking on Christ, changes the Christian into the similitude of Christ.

  5. True faith grows. All living things grow. ‘From faith to faith.’ Romans 1:17.

– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 218-219.

Willingness a Mark of God’s People

A people in covenant with God are a willing people; though they cannot serve God perfectly, they serve him willingly. They do not grudge God a little time spent in his worship; they do not hesitate or murmur at sufferings; they will go through a sea and a wilderness, if God call. ‘Thy people shall be a willing people:’ Psalm 110:3: ‘a people of willingness.’ Heb. This spontaneity and willingness is from the attractive power of God’s Spirit: the Spirit does not impellere, force, but trahere, sweetly draws the will; and this willingness in religion makes all our services accepted. God does sometimes accept of willingness without the work, but never the work without willingness.

– Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 157.