I’m compiling a list of resources on the book of Hebrews. This post will serve as a repository for those items as I find commentaries/audio/etc.
I’m compiling a list of resources on the book of Hebrews. This post will serve as a repository for those items as I find commentaries/audio/etc.
I listened to a sermon last week on the nature of faith and works. The preacher was concerned that so many have been led to sinner’s prayers without making a firm commitment to follow Christ and was advocating that believers present a fuller gospel to prospective converts in order to press upon them a necessary willingness to reject sin and follow Christ. This idea has some merit, but it comes all to close to the errors of John MacArthur’s so-called ‘Lordship Salvation’ where a person is saved (in part) by making a pre-conversion commitment to good works in order to receive salvation (or at least his views can easily be confused this way).
The most popular opposing view to this doctrine is that of another dispensationalist group – the Grace Evangelical Society. Their view is that since salvation is all of grace (and not of works), no pre-conversion commitment to follow Christ (a good work) is necessary. In fact, no good works are necessary at all (!!) – even after conversion. One may be in a state of justification with seemingly no change of nature or visible sanctification at all.
The problem with both of these views is that they are man-centered. Salvation is not of man, salvation is of the Lord! It is His work through and through. On the one hand, it is certainly not a commitment to Christian cross-bearing that saves us, it is Christ’s cross-bearing that saves us. On the other hand, it is not possible that the Holy Spirit washes one, takes out his heart of stone, writes God’s law on his heart, makes him a new creature for whom all old things (life of sin) are passed away, and seals him with the Holy Spirit of Promise, and all this can make no impact or change on him whatsoever.
In the sermon I heard, the preacher at one point made the mistaken statement that works are the ‘basis’ for our salvation. I certainly don’t think he meant exactly what he said – he was not being careful. But oh what confusion we cause when we are not careful in what we say! We must understand, of course, that works ARE NOT the ‘basis’ of our salvation, but are the ‘necessary evidence’ of our salvation. This may sound like a mere semantic distinction, but the difference between the two is the difference between sound doctrine and heresy!
Below is an examination of the key passage of Scripture bearing on the nature of faith, grace, and good works – Ephesians 2:8-10.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Paul begins here by telling us that our salvation is ‘BY GRACE’ … ‘Not of works’. In matter of fact, our salvation is wholly of works. No one is saved apart from sinless perfection. What makes salvation gracious is that when we rebelled (in our father Adam) and lost all ability to obey God or do anything to please him, He sent his son to bear away our sin and live a life of sinless perfection on our behalf. Yes – salvation must be merited, but it is merited by Christ for us! There is so much comprehended in that simple phrase “By Grace…”.
So how do we attain this gracious gift? By making a firm commitment to our own sub-par and ineffectual good works? By pure force of will or intellect? No! This grace comes to us simply through the instrumental means of faith. A simple child-like faith that trusts in Christ and his merit receives life-giving (and sustaining) grace from God.
But is that act of faith itself a good work? Paul tells us that it is not – “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”. Paul teaches us that faith is far from being a human effort – it is a gift given by God. Even the very pleading for mercy is not a capacity the hardened sinner possesses. God Himself gives the desire to reach out to him for mercy and grace.
The reason you or anyone is saved is not because of ANYTHING you have done – NOT your willingness to exercise your own man-made faith or a commitment to clean living. The application of this is “lest any man should boast”. There is nothing that distinguishes one from another in God’s Kingdom, except God’s free dispensing of grace – “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Rom 12:30)
So what is the result of our salvation – good works – a changed life that glorifies God, the mortification of sin. One is not saved based on a pre-commitment to good works, but for the one who is regenerated, good works necessarily follow.
I think the reason there is so much confusion in the church about this issue is because those who share the gospel are confused about 1) how much content they need to impart to the hearer for the hearer to make a sound decision, and 2) how much commitment is required from the hearer before we consider the conversion legitimate. This is the wrong approach! We should be concerned with presenting as much gospel truth as we are capable of and have time for and leave the converting work to the Holy Spirit. Preachers should strive to teach the whole counsel of God – those given faith to believe will take hold of it (perhaps slowly). Those who simply have not been given the gift of faith will drift away. True believers will evidence fruit in their life by the power of the holy spirit – public profession in Baptism, hatred for and rooting out of sin, desire to know God and to seek His face, etc.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
These are my thoughts… put yours in the comment section below.
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the first books that one might hand a new believer (or newly maturing believer). In thinking through this issue, it occurred to me that the topic areas relevant to an immature believer are the same as those for a seasoned follower of Christ – the difference may only be the depth of coverage.
For a model for teaching ‘mature believers’, I consulted the Reformed Baptist Seminary of Grand Rapids Prospectus for prospective students. I noted the theological categories that are used to govern the topics taught to aspiring pastors and have put a few thoughts into how this could make an outline of study for a new Christian.
According to the prospectus, the encyclopedia of theology encompasses:
Not every subject touched upon in a Seminary curiculum is appropriate for a discipleship program, but for the Protestant who holds to the priesthood of the believer, the Christian faith is the same faith for the pastor as the parishioner. Perhaps the average Bible student doesn’t need the same depth of study as a man who is specially called to be a teacher of God’s Word, but from the ‘Man in the Pew’ to the ‘Presbyter’, the faith (and that Standard of faith – the Bible) is the same and the same basic core of fundamental doctrines should be understood and confessed.
Below are a few notes on how these fundamental areas of theology may be used in a discipleship setting:
Exegetical theology is the science and art of understanding the scriptures in their literal, grammatical, historical, and theological context ( all while understanding that the whole was ultimately written by the Holy Spirit and comprises one whole and complete Word of God).
Being able to intelligently read and understand the Bible is the supreme area of importance for the new believer. The ability to intelligently read and understand God’s Word is key to growth and spiritual maturity.
The new believer who is not trained to read the Bible while understanding the larger scope of God’s overall Story of Redemption, and the role any given passage plays in this unfolding story, is confined to a Bible ‘only’ full of disconnected moralistic ‘stories’ and inspiring sayings and maxims.
Without the ability to understand how each scripture relates to the whole, and how the whole relates to each scripture, the new believer is a victim to anyone who is able to wrap heresy in a few simplistic proof texts. This is the area of theology that sheds light on all the others. If a disciple learns this critical skill, he is on the proper path to understanding the other tenants of theology as well
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby…” (1 Pet 2:2)
Where the exegetical theology student is trying to understand how to read and understand the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, the systematic theology student is trying to understand what the Bible, as a whole, teaches about very important areas of doctrine, such as: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, the nature and attributes of God, the fallen-ness and sinfulness of man, God’s Plan of Salvation for fallen mankind, angels, demons, the afterlife, etc.
As exegetical theology teaches the believer how to learn about God, systematic theology answers the question “what do you believe about God?” It is the collection of Bible doctrines that are essential for salvation and growth. It is the church’s and believer’s confession of faith. It is the store of basic Bible doctrine that governs the believers thoughts and actions.
“…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet 3:15)
If Systematic Theology is for the believer “what to believe”, practical theology is “how to live in light of that belief.” Practical theology encompasses the majority of books found on the bookshelves of the local ‘christian’ bookstore and encompass areas such as: prayer, overcoming sin and temptation, marriage issues, contentment, joy, suffering, etc.
Often, these are the first types of books given to new believers, but with solid grounding in Biblical studies and basic Bible doctrine, the new believer is apt to believe anything sprinkled with Bible verses. Much of the Puritan writings are very helpful in this category, most of what is found on tv, radio, and the bookstore is NOT!
History is often neglected by believers, but may be very edifying. History teaches us how we came to be, and how we came to believe what we believe. It gives us a rich appreciation for our Bibles and our faith, and though not as important as the other areas, it is not to be neglected
In looking at the RBS Perspectus, I found the following break-down for the number of hours of classroom teaching in the various categories listed above.
EXEGETICAL THEOLOGY: 42 HOURS
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: 31 HOURS
PRACTICAL THEOLOGY: 22 HOURS
HISTORICAL THEOLOGY: 10 HOURS
Not surprisingly, ministers of the Word of God spend most time studying how to study and teach the Scriptures. Next, they are indoctrinated in the core beliefs of their faith. Next, practical issues related to the Christian life and leading a local church. Finally, they study historical topics related to the history of doctrine, the church, and their denomination.
In conclusion, a good discipleship syllabus would include, first of all, some basic teaching on the structure of the Bible as a whole and how to read and understand it in light of what it reveals about God’s Plan of Redemption. A good curriculum would include, of course, basic teaching on those Bible doctrines that are of fundamental importance – those which define the essence of Basic Christianity. It would include some solid practical aspects of particular importance to the growing, maturing believer. And, it would include a brief Christian history primer that gives a broad perspective on what God has done for our over 2,000 years of church history.
“Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matt 28:19 ASV)
“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. ” (2 Pet 3:18)
Some notes upon re-reading Chapter 3 of Pascal Denault’s “The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology”…
The Covenant concluded between God and Israel in the Sinai desert was a progression of the covenant of circumcision [i.e. the Covenant of Promise with Abraham]. The Sinaitic Covenant was specifically concluded with the physical posterity of Abraham for the accomplishment of the carnal land/seed promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. The natural posterity of Abraham was to inherit the Promised Land and the Sinaitic Covenant was made to this end.
But, did the Covenant serve a fuller purpose?
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; …But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Gal 3:19-24)
According to the Apostle Paul, the law (i.e. the Covenant made at Sinai) was given to guard against sin until the Promised Seed of Abraham would come. The Old Covenant had a distinct role in preserving and keeping the Hebrew people separate so they could fulfill their mission of bringing the Messiah into the world.
Paul also states that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Jesus Christ. The law teaches us our failures and short-comings. The law teaches the justice of God and our need of a sacrifice, a priesthood, and a mediator. By giving the Hebrews a picture of the offices and roles of Christ, it taught them to weary of their rites and sacrifices and to despair of the priesthood and to seek mercy and grace, no longer under types and signs, but in its fullness in Christ.
The Apostle continues…
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Now that the Gospel of Grace has been revealed, we no longer require the ordinances, types, and shadows of the Old Covenant. There is no longer a distinction between Jew and Greek required. The Promises made to Abraham are not to be passed from generation to generation through the physical seed of Abraham. The Seed of Abraham has come and fulfilled the promise and received all it’s blessing. Those that are united to Christ are heirs of the promises, and with Christ, the heirs/seed of Abraham.
Brother Denault’s analysis, from his reading of 17th Century Particular Baptist works, is that the historic Baptist position is that goal of the Sinai Covenant was achieved in three ways:
Given that Resurrection Sunday is 3 weeks from today, it might be a good time to be reading from the gospels as you meditate on the Atonement and Resurrection over the next few weeks.
Since we have 21 days until the celebration of the resurrection, and since the Gospel of John has 21 chapters, you could commit to reading a chapter a day!
Following this schedule, you will read about Jesus triumphal entry just a few days before Palm Sunday. And between Palm Sunday and Easter, you will read about the last supper, upper room discourse, Jesus and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, the betrayal, arrest, trial, beating, and Crucifixion. On Good Friday you will read of the empty tomb and on the day before Easter you will read of Jesus showing himself to his disciples and his ascension to glory.
For much in the early paragraphs of this chapter we are indebted to an able discussion of the character of the Sinaitic covenant by Robert Balfour, which appeared in the British and Foreign Evangelical Review of July 1877.
After much searching, I was able to find this particular journal article, linked below, at archive.org. The article begins on journal page 511, which is roughly page 521 of the scan. Give it a read to find out what brother Pink found so remarkable.
Balfour, Rev. R. G. (1877). The Sinai Covenant. The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, XXVI, 511-526.
Notes on Sinaitic Covenant from my own thought after reading some of AW Pink’s Divine Covenants
The covenant with the Hebrew people made at Mount Sinai:
6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry [Christ has a more excellent ministry than Moses], by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant [The New Covenant is better than the Old (Sinaitic Covenant)], which was established upon better promises [The promises of the New Covenant are eternal - those of the Old Covenant were temporal]. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. [Jeremiah 31:31-34] 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
This passage is a great corrective to Reformed Covenant theologians and Dispensationalists alike. The Covenant Theologian must take note that the New Covenant is founded upon better promises and is “not according to the covenant” that was made with Moses. It is not merely a new administration of one covenant, it is entirely new and distinct from the old and temporary one. Also note that every member of this New Covenant is converted – a regenerate church is assumed.
The Dispensationalist must note the passing of the levitical priesthood and the temple. These have no future in God’s plan. They were a “shadow of heavenly things“; that is types to serve until the anti-type has come. Also note with whom the Covenant will be made – Israel. Jehovah has dis-regarded the disobedient Hebrews, but He has found favor in one Hebrew – the Messiah. Those that are Messiah’s are the people of God, a holy nation (1 Pet 2:5), fellow citizens of Israel (Eph 2:19), and en-grafted ‘unnaturally’ into the tree of Israel (Rom 11).
Says AW Pink:
Observe carefully what is said in Hebrews 8 to be the characteristic difference between the new and the old economies: “I will put my laws into their minds and write them in their hearts” (v. 10). No promise in any wise comparable to this was given at Sinai. But the absence of any assurance of the Spirit’s internal and effectual operations was quite in keeping with the fact that the Mosaic economy required not so much an inward and spiritual, as an outward and natural obedience to the law, which for them had nothing higher than temporal sanctions. This is a fundamental principle which has not received the consideration to which it is entitled: it is vital to a clear understanding of the radical difference which obtains between Judaism and Christianity. Under the former God dealt with one nation only; now He is manifesting His grace to elect individuals scattered among all nations. Under the former He simply made known His requirements; in the latter He actually produces that which meets His requirements.
Notes on Sinaitic Covenant from AW Pink’s Divine Covenants -
AW Pink recommends a close reading, and re-reading the words of Thomas Scott on these matters. He says that the following quotation “contains the most lucid, comprehensive, and yet simple analysis of the Sinaitic covenant which we have met with in all our reading. It draws a clear line of distinction between God’s dealings with Israel as a nation, and with individuals in it. It shows the correct position of the everlasting covenant of grace and the Adamic covenant of works in relation to the Mosaic dispensation.”
The national covenant did not refer to the final salvation of individuals: nor was it broken by the disobedience, or even idolatry, of any number of them, provided this was not sanctioned or tolerated by public authority. It was indeed a type of the covenant made with true believers in Christ Jesus, as were all the transactions with Israel; but, like other types, it ‘had not the very image,’ but only ‘a shadow of good things to come.’ When, therefore, as a nation, they had broken this covenant, the Lord declared that He would make ‘a new covenant with Israel, putting His law,’ not only in their hands, but ‘in their inward parts’; and ‘writing it,’ not upon tables of stone, ‘but in their hearts; forgiving their iniquity and remembering their sin no more’ (Jer. 31:32-34; Heb. 8:7-12; 10:16, 17). The Israelites were under a dispensation of mercy, and had outward privileges and great advantages in various ways for salvation: yet, like professing Christians, the most of them rested in these, and looked no further. The outward covenant was made with the Nation, entitling them to outward advantages, upon the condition of outward national obedience; and the covenant of Grace was ratified personally with true believers, and sealed and secured spiritual blessings to them, by producing a holy disposition of heart, and spiritual obedience to the Divine law. In case Israel kept the covenant, the Lord promised that they should be to Him ‘a peculiar treasure.’ ‘All the earth’ (Ex. 19:5) being the Lord’s, He might have chosen any other people instead of Israel: and this implied that, as His choice of them was gratuitous, so if they rejected His covenant, He would reject them, and communicate their privileges to others; as indeed He hath done, since the introduction of the Christian dispensation” (Thomas Scott).
This perspective on the Old Covenant steers a path between the Dispensationalists who see the Old Covenant as a way of salvation by law keeping and the Reformed who see it as an administration of the Covenant of Grace. C
For the last 7-8 years the Particular Baptists have had a strong and growing presence in the blogosphere. Now the ladies are joining in on the fun! Introducing Reformed Baptista – a new new blog for “Baptist Women of a 1689 persuasion“.
A brief welcome below from the “Reformed Baptista” team -
A few months ago I was browsing several Christian blogs. There are outstanding blogs out there written by women, but personally I wanted something that would focus the lens to a Confessional Reformed Baptist viewpoint. Not much appeared on my Google radar, so my husband suggested I start one, thus the creation of Reformed Baptista. My goals for this blog are to work through the 1689, explore a bit of Baptist history, and provide edification and encouragement for women. Links to online sermons, papers, and other media may also pop up from time to time. If there’s anything you would like to read about, let me know.
Ultimately I hope this blog will cause you to consider Christ, search the Scriptures, and praise the triune God. To Him be all the glory.
Given the recent re-publication of Hercules Collins‘ Orthodox Catechism, there is some renewed interest in his writings and works. In this light, our friends at Particular Voices have published a small snippet from “The Temple Repaired” which contains Collins’ recommended reading list for “those inclined to the ministry“:
I’ve collected below links to locations where these works can be found today:
(This is part 2 of 2…)
Well, there’s the list…
I found at least author’s names and full titles to each work. Some authors were just too prolific to list each work here. Many of these, although not all, are presently available for free. With these links, you have at your fingertips a theological library that would be the envy of almost every 17th Century Puritan pastor.
Please feel free to send me your updates and I will continue to update the list.