I am currently reading "Complete in Him: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Gospel" by Michael P.V. Barrett. I have been describing it as an "entree" book... there is no salad or appetizer; only meat. The preface and introduction are both rich in reformed theology and orthodoxy, which blends with Scripture passages throughout the entire book, but this is no scholarly text. While it is rich in doctrine, it is designed to enrich the spiritual lives of the readers by educating them. The theological implications of biblical doctrine are to be chewed, digested and properly applied. Here is an excerpt from my notes:
CHAPTER 3: Conversion (The Response to the Gospel)
"How the needy sinner responds to the gospel of Jesus Christ is a matter of life and death." (p.51)
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6, KJV)
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12, KJV)"Sinners must meet the terms and conditions of the gospel if they are to enjoy personally the benefits of Christ." (p. 51)
Old Testament evangelistic message
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7, KJV)
"Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11, KJV)
"...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15, KJV)
"...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..." (Acts 16:31, KJV)
"the Bible teaches that regeneration precedes and gives impetus to saving faith and repentance." (p. 51)
"...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV)
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Colossians 2:13, KJV)
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Corinthians 2:12, KJV)
The Baptist Confession of Faith
"The grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe, so that their souls are saved, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily brought into being by the ministry of the Word..." (Chapter 14, Section 1)
The Westminster Larger Catechism
"Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God..." (Question 72)
Express statements from Scripture:
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:30-31, KJV)
"When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18, KJV)
"And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace" (Acts 18:27, KJV)
Saints are those "who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places," (Ephesians 1:19-20, KJV)
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8, KJV)
"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29, KJV)
I am currently reading Chapter 4: Regeneration (New Life in the Gospel)... which I will most likely add some of the notes in the near future.
The North Pointe Baptist men's study is currently reading "Introducing Christian Doctrine" by Millard J. Erickson and it is a weekly encouragement to wake up at the crack of dawn on Fridays and discuss systematic theology. We are currently discussing the doctrine of the humanity of Christ; we just finished the doctrine of the deity of Christ. Here are my notes:
CHAPTER 24: The Deity of Christ
"our understanding of the person and work of Christ grows directly out of the doctrines of humanity and of sin." (p.216)
The Biblical Teaching
"His angels" (Matthew 13:41)
The angels of God... the kingdom of God = "His Kingdom"
Ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5)
"the exercising of a divine prerogative... the power to actually forgive sins." (Robert Stein)
Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28)
Relation to the Father (John 10:30)
"If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." (John 14:7, KJV)
Preexistence (John 8:58)
"a mode of being which has a definite beginning..." contrasted with "one that is eternal" (Leon Morris)
Trial and Condemnation (John 19:7)
"...the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?" (Matthew 26:63-68, KJV)
Acceptance of deific attribution (John 20:28)
Juxtaposition with the Old Testament (Matthew 5:21-28)
"Jesus is claiming to have the power in Himself to lay down teaching as authoritative as that given by the old testament prophets." (p. 218)
Power over life and death (John 5:21
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25, KJV)
Jesus' applied expressions (John 5:2-18)
The Gospel of John
"The prologue particularly expresses this idea John says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.' He has both identified the Word as divine and distinguished the Word from God. It is not a simple monotheism of modalistic monarchianism that he is describing here. The remainder of the Gospel supports and amplifies the thrust of the prologue." (p. 218)
"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, 'Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?' Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 'He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.' These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him." (John 12:37-41, KJV) [see also Isaiah 6:8]
The Epistle to the Hebrews
"...the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3, KJV) [see also Romans 11:36]
"the Son is superior to angels (1:4-2:9); Moses (3:1-6); and the high priests (4:14-5:10)." (p.218)
The Pauline Epistles
2 Timothy 4:1 [see also 2 Corinthians 5:10]
Philippians 2:5-11 ("form" = "morphé" (the set of characteristics which constitutes a thing what it is)
Historical Departures from Belief in the Full Deity of Christ
Ebionism: A sect of heretical Jewish Christians who denied the real deity of Christ.
According to Ebionists, "Jesus was... an ordinary man possessed of unusual but not superhuman or supernatural gifts of righteousness and wisdom." (p. 220)
They denied the virgin birth (Joseph was Jesus' biological father).
Arianism (condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD)
[JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ARE ARIANISTS]
"A central conception in the Arian understanding of Jesus is the absolute uniqueness and transcendence of God [NOTE... GOD THE FATHER]. God (the Father) is the one source of all things, the only uncreated existent in the whole universe. He alone possesses the attributes of deity. Everything other than God has come into being through an act of creation by which He called it into existence out of nothing." (p. 221).
This is the end of the systematic theology notes, but I want to include the Westminster Confession's articulation of the deity of Christ:
"The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man." (The Westminster Confession of Faith; Chapter 8, Section 2)
I am also currently going through discipleship with one of my elders... we are studying Psalm 119. This last week we were discussing verses 113-120. Along with my notes, I have included some reformed commentary...
113 I hate the double-minded (vain thoughts), But I love Your law.
"Those who are of opinion that the word seaphim, the first in the verse, and which is rendered crooked thoughts, is an appellate noun, translate it, those who think evil; but it is more correct to understand it of the thoughts themselves, and this interpretation is very generally adopted. The noun, saeph, properly signifies a branch, but it is applied metaphorically to the thoughts, which, growing out of the heart, as branches from the trunk of a tree, spread themselves in every direction. As there is no doubt that in this passage the term is taken in a bad sense, I have added the epithet, crooked, which the etymology of the word requires. As the branches of a tree shoot out transversely, entangled and intertwined, so the thoughts of the human mind are, in like manner, confusedly mingled together, turning and twisting about in all directions." (John Calvin)
"O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved.How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?" (Jeremiah 4:14, ESV)
"the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.." (James 1:6-8, ESV)
Whoa... hold on. Doesn't Jesus say to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27,35)? How can the Psalmist say he "hates the double-minded"? There is a difference between our enemies and God's enemies. Let's look at a few commentaries on these passages in the gospel accounts...
"...he who shall bring his mind to love those who hate him, will naturally refrain from all revenge, will patiently endure evils, will be much more prone to assist the wretched. Christ presents to us, in a summary view, the way and manner of fulfilling this precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. For no man will ever come to obey this precept, till he shall have given up self-love, or rather denied himself, and till men, all of whom God has declared to be connected with him, shall be held by him in such estimation, that he shall even proceed to love those by whom he is regarded with hatred... We learn from these words, how far believers ought to be removed from every kind of revenge: for they are not only forbidden to ask it from God, but are commanded to banish and efface it from their minds so completely, as to bless their enemies. In the meantime, they do not fail to commit their cause to God, till he take vengeance on the reprobate: for they desire, as far as lies in them, that the wicked should return to a sound mind, that they may not perish; and thus they endeavor to promote their salvation. And there is still this consolation, by which all their distresses are soothed. They entertain no doubt, that God will be the avenger of obstinate wickedness, so as to make it manifest, that those who are unjustly attacked are the objects of his care. It is very difficult, indeed, and altogether contrary to the disposition of the flesh, to render good for evil. But our vices and weakness ought not to be pleaded as an apology. We ought simply to inquire, what is demanded by the law of charity: for, if we rely on the heavenly power of the Spirit, we shall encounter successfully all that is opposed to it in our feelings." (John Calvin; Matthew 5:44)
"God said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour; and by neighbour they understood those only of their own country, nation, and religion; and those only that they were pleased to look upon as their friends: yet this was not the worst; from this command, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, they were willing to infer what God never designed; Thou shalt hate thine enemy; and they looked upon whom they pleased as their enemies, thus making void the great command of God by their traditions, though there were express laws to the contrary (see Exodus 23:4, 5; Deuteronomy 23:7)." Matthew Henry; Matthew 5:44)
Christ was simply correcting the false teaching of the Pharisees in these passages. The "neighbor" in "Love your neighbor as yourself" included enemies as a subgroup, much like friends would be included. Those of a different nationality (even if your country is at war with them), those of a different race (even though there might be racial tension or a historical tragedy)... those different than you; "the other" are still considered neighbors and we are to love them (not explicitly emotional love... but biblical, dutiful love). They are still made in the image of God and we must share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. It is my observation that we should love those "temporal" enemies in a true sense: biblically; we are commanded to do so and it is our duty to speak the truth in love and share the gospel with them so they may be won to Christ (we should also love them practically with good works and tangible service). However, we should hate those "spiritual" enemies with a holy hatred... the unregenerate are our friends and enemies. Ephesians 2 says that they are "dead in trespasses and sins... following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air... carrying out the desires of the body... by nature children of wrath." They are slaves to sin, doing the work of their master... Satan. We hate them in the sense that they blaspheme God; they are idolaters... they serve the prince of the power of the air, but (we must remember, lest we be proud) we too were once like them. We love them in the sense that they are dead and unable to revive themselves... as we were. They are blind to the truth and only God can resurrect them by the Spirit. We love them by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them... the evangelical call that we pray leads to an effectual call. We must also take into consideration that there are the reprobate, but since we do not know who is elect/reprobate... we share the gospel with everyone, knowing it is of the power of God's spirit that elects people to faith in Christ Jesus.
"The LORD knows the days of the upright, And their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the LORD, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away." (Psalm 37:18-20, ESV)
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word.
"Preservation of life is entirely owing to the protection of God" (John Calvin)
"David, when Saul pursued him, often betook himself to close places for shelter; in war he guarded himself with his shield. Now God was both these to him, a hiding-place to preserve him from danger and a shield to preserve him in danger, his life from death and his soul from sin. Good people are safe under God's protection. He is their strength and their shield, their help and their shield, their sun and their shield, their shield and their great reward, and here their hiding-place and their shield. They may by faith retire to him, and repose in him as their hiding-place, where they are kept in secret. They may by faith oppose his power to all the might and malice of their enemies, as their shield to quench every fiery dart." (Matthew Henry)
"...you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3, ESV)
"You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance." (Psalm 32:7, ESV)
"In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16, ESV)
115 Depart from me, you evildoers, For I will keep the commandments of my God!
"Those that resolve to keep the commandments of God must have no society with evil-doers; for bad company is a great hindrance to a holy life. We must not choose wicked people for our companions, nor be intimate with them; we must not do as they do nor do as they would have us do." (Matthew Henry)
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14, ESV)
"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity." (Ephesians 4:17-19, ESV)
"Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Ephesians 5:11, ESV
"Depart from me, all you workers of evil..." (Psalm 6:8, ESV)
Jesus echoes the words of the Psalmist in one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament...
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?' I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.' (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)
Psalm 119:115 also brings to mind Joshua's final address to Israel...
"Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15, ESV)
116 Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope
"...true stability is to be found no where else but in the word of God; and that no man can steadfastly lean upon it but he who is strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must therefore always beseech God, who alone is the author and finisher of faith, to maintain in us this grace." (John Calvin)
"those that hope in God's word may be sure that the word will not fail them, and therefore their hope will not make them ashamed." (Matthew Henry)
"...the righteous shall live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4, ESV)"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16, ESV)"I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me." (1 Timothy 1:12, ESV)
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV)
117 Hold me up, and I shall be safe, And I shall observe Your statutes continually.
"It is the true wisdom of faith to consider all his benefits as the result or fruit of his promises, of which, if we make no account, the enjoyment of all his good things will be of little advantage to us, or rather will often prove hurtful and deadly." (John Calvin)
"If God's right hand uphold us, we must, in his strength, go on in our duty both with diligence and pleasure." (Matthew Henry)
118 You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, For their deceit is falsehood.
"God overthrows all the despisers of his law, and casts them down from that loftiness which they assume to themselves... the wicked gain nothing by their wiles... they are rather entangled in them... The word remyah, signifies a subtle and crafty device. Interpreters, indeed, often translate it thought; but this term does not sufficiently express the propriety and force of the Hebrew word. The prophet means, that, however well pleased the wicked are with their own cunning, they yet do nothing else than deceive themselves with falsehood." (John Calvin)
"All departure from God's statutes is certainly an error, and will prove a fatal one. These are the wicked of the earth; they mind earthly things, lay up their treasures in the earth, live in pleasure on the earth, and are strangers and enemies to heaven and heavenly things. Now see how God deals with them, that you may neither fear them nor envy them... He resists the proud and will triumph over those that oppose His kingdom. Proud persecutors trample upon His people, but, sooner or later, He will trample upon them." (Matthew Henry)
"We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things." (Romans 2:2, ESV)"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5, ESV)
119 You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross; Therefore I love Your testimonies.
"the vengeance of God against the wicked is not all at once manifested, so that they completely perish, or are exterminated from the earth; but as God, in rooting them out one after another, shows himself to be the judge of the world, and that he is purging the earth of them." (John Calvin)
"So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous" (Matthew 13:59, ESV)
"Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness." (Proverbs 25:4-5, ESV)
120 My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments.
"We require to be subdued by fear that we may desire and seek after the favor of God. Since fear, then, is the beginning of love, the prophet testifies, that he was awakened by a heart-felt fear of God to look well to himself. Nor is the mortification of the flesh so easy a matter, as that every one should consent to enter upon it, without the constraint of violent means; and, therefore, it is not wonderful if God struck his servant with terror, that, in this way, he might bend his mind to a holy fear of him." (John Calvin)
"Good men have need to be restrained from sin by the terrors of the Lord, especially when judgment begins at the house of God and hypocrites are discovered and put away as dross." (Matthew Henry)
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)
Well... that is it for now. Please take a look at these links:
Matthew Henry's Method of Prayer (an online resource edited & revised by Ligon Duncan)
Theological Foundations (Reformed Theological Seminary course on iTunes U... taught by Derek Thomas)
Reformed Perspectives Magazine (click here and sign up to receive free reformed theology articles in e-mail)